Larson C ice-shelf break-away is not human-caused but Guardian tries hard to imply otherwise

A couple of days ago the BBC had an article Giant iceberg splits from Antarctic.

The giant block is estimated to cover an area of roughly 6,000 sq km; that’s about a quarter the size of Wales.

A US satellite observed the berg on Wednesday while passing over a region known as the Larsen C Ice Shelf.

Scientists were expecting it. They’d been following the development of a large crack in Larsen’s ice for more than a decade.

The rift’s propagation had accelerated since 2014, making an imminent calving ever more likely.

After looking at various evidence the BBC concludes

“Most glaciologists are not particularly alarmed by what’s going on at Larsen C, yet. It’s business as usual.”

Researchers will be looking to see how the shelf responds in the coming years, to see how well it maintains a stable configuration, and if its calving rate changes.

There was some keen interest a while back when the crack, which spread across the shelf from a pinning point known as the Gipps Ice Rise, looked as though it might sweep around behind another such anchor called the Bawden Ice Rise. Had that happened, it could have prompted a significant speed-up in the shelf’s seaward movement once the berg came off.

As it is, scientists are not now expecting a big change in the speed of the ice.

That is the theory about a link with accelerating global warming is no longer held due to lack of evidence. But the Guardian sees things differently.

Unlike thin layers of sea ice, ice shelves are floating masses of ice, hundreds of metres thick, which are attached to huge, grounded ice sheets. These ice shelves act like buttresses, holding back and slowing down the movement into the sea of the glaciers that feed them.

“There is enough ice in Antarctica that if it all melted, or even just flowed into the ocean, sea levels [would] rise by 60 metres,” said Martin Siegert, professor of geosciences at Imperial College London and co-director of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change & Environment. 

Despite the lack of evidence for the hypothesis about accelerating ice loss due to glaciers slipping into the sea the Guardian still quotes the unsupported hypothesis. Then the article has a quote from someone who seems to extend the hypothesis to the entire continent. Inspection of their useful map of the location of Larson C might have been helpful.

Larsen C is located mid-way up the Antarctic Peninsula, which comprises around 2% of the area of Antarctica. The Peninsula has seen some rapid warming, quite unlike East Antarctica where very little warming has been detected. That is the Antarctic Peninsula is climatically different from the vast majority of the continent, where nearly all of the ice mass is located.

The article the goes on to contradict the implication with climate change, so the quote is out of context.

Andrew Shepherd, professor of Earth Observation at the University of Leeds, agreed. “Everyone loves a good iceberg, and this one is a corker,” he said. “But despite keeping us waiting for so long, I’m pretty sure that Antarctica won’t be shedding a tear when it’s gone because the continent loses plenty of its ice this way each year, and so it’s really just business as usual!”

However, the Guardian then slips in another out of context quote at the end of the article.

The news of the giant iceberg comes after US president Donald Trump announced that the US will be withdrawing from the 2015 Paris climate accord – an agreement signed by more than 190 countries to tackle global warming. 

Another quote from the BBC article helps give more perspective.

How does it compare with past bergs?

The new Larsen berg is probably in the top 10 biggest ever recorded.

The largest observed in the satellite era was an object called B-15. It came away from the Ross Ice Shelf in 2000 and measured some 11,000 sq km. Six years later, fragments of this super-berg still persisted and passed by New Zealand.

In 1956, it was reported that a US Navy icebreaker had encountered an object of roughly 32,000 sq km. That is bigger than Belgium. Unfortunately, there were no satellites at the time to follow up and verify the observation.

It has been known also for the Larsen C Ice Shelf itself to spawn bigger bergs. An object measuring some 9,000 sq km came away in 1986. Many of Larsen’s progeny can get wound up in a gyre in the Weddell sea or can be despatched north on currents into the Southern Ocean, and even into the South Atlantic.

A good number of bergs from this sector can end up being caught on the shallow continental shelf around the British overseas territory of South Georgia where they gradually wither away.

Bigger events have happened in the past. It is only due to recent technologies that we are able to measure the break-up of ice shelves, or even to observe icebergs the size of small countries.

Note that the Guardian graphic is sourced from Swansea University. Bloomberg has a quote that puts the record straight.

Although this is a natural event, and we’re not aware of any link to human-induced climate change,” said Martin O’Leary, a glaciologist at Swansea University, in a statement.

Kevin Marshall

My Amazon Review of Ladybird Book of Climate Change

The following is my Amazon review of Ladybird Book of Climate Change.

The format goes back to the Ladybird Books of my childhood, with text on the left and a nice colour picture on the right. Whilst lacking in figures and references it provides an excellent summary of the current case of climate alarmism and the mitigation policies required to “save the world”. As such it is totally lopsided.
For instance, on page 35 is a drawing of 3 children holding a banner with “1.5 to stay alive”. The central estimate of the climate consensus since the Charney report of 1979 is that a doubling of CO2 levels will lead to 3C of warming. That means a rise from 280 to 400ppm would give 1.54C of warming. With the impact of the rise in other greenhouse gas levels the 2C of warming should already of happened. Either it is somehow hidden, ready to jump out at us unawares, or the the impact of emissions on climate has been exaggerated, so policy is not required.
The other major problem is with policy. The policy proposals are centered around what individuals in the UK can do. That is recycle more, eat less red meat and turn the heat down. There is no recognition that it is global GHG emissions that cause atmospheric GHG levels to rise. If the theory is correct, constraint of global warming means global emissions reductions. That includes the 80%+ of the global population who live in countries exempt from any obligation to constrain emissions. Including all the poorest countries, these countries accounted for all the emissions growth from 1990 to at least 2012.
If people genuinely want to learn about a controversial subject then they need to read different viewpoints. This is as true of climate change as history, economics or philosophy.

Ladybird Book on Climate Change

A couple of weeks ago there was a big splash about the forthcoming Ladybird Book for adults on Climate Change. (Daily Mail, Guardian, Sun, Telegraph etc.) Given that it was inspired by HRH The Prince of Wales, who wrote the forward, it should sell well. Even better, having just received a copy in a format that harks back to the Ladybird Books I grew up with. That is on each double page words on the left and a high quality coloured picture filling the right hand page. Unlike, the previous adult Ladybird series, which was humorous, this is the first in a series that seeks to educate.

The final paragraph of the forward states:-

I hope this modest attempt to alert a global public to the “wolf at the door” will make some small contribution towards requisite action; action that must be urgently scaled up, and scaled up now.

The question is whether there is enough here to convince the undecided. Is this is founded on real science, then there should be a sufficient level of evidence to show

(a) there is a huge emerging problem with climate.

(b) that the problem is human caused.

(b) that there are a set of potential steps that can be taken to stop constrain this problem.

(c) that the cure is not worse than the disease.

(d) that sufficient numbers will take up the policy to meet the targets.

My approach is is to look at whether there is sufficient evidence to persuade a jury. Is there evidence that would convict humanity of the collective sin of destroying the planet for future generations? And is there evidence that to show that, through humanity collectively working for the common good, catastrophe can be averted and a better future can be bequeathed to those future generations? That presumes that there is sufficient quality of evidence that an impartial Judge would not throw the evidence out as hearsay.

Evidence for an Emerging Problem with Climate.

Page 8 on melting ice and rising sea levels starts with the reduced Arctic sea ice. The only quantifiable estimate of the climate change other than the temperature graph on page 6, in claiming at the end of the 2016 melt season the sea ice levels were two-thirds that of at the end of the end of the twentieth century.

Any jury would hear that there has only been satellite data of sea ice extent since 1979; that this was the end of a period known as the “sea ice years“; that the maximum winter ice extent in April was likely less in the eighteenth century than today; that ships log books suggest that general sea ice extent was the roughly the same one hundred and fifty years ago as today; and that in the Antarctic average sea ice extent increase has largely offset the Arctic decrease.

The rest about sea levels correctly state both that they have risen; that the reasons for the rise are a combination of warming seas and melting ice caps. It is also correct that flooding occurs in storm surges. But there is no quantification of the rise in sea levels (about 8-12 inches a century), nor of the lack of evidence of the predicted acceleration.

Page 10 on heatwaves, droughts, floods and storms states that they can cause disruption, economic damage and loss of life. there are also recent examples, and speculation about future trends. But no evidence of emerging trends, particularly increasing loss of life. This lack of evidence is because the evidence of the harms of extreme weather appear on the decrease. Indur Goklany has been a rich source of the counter-evidence over many years.

Page 12 begins

Threats to food and water supply, human health and national security, and the risk of humanitarian crises are all potentially increases by climate change.

The rest is just padding out this speculation.

Page 14 is on disappearing wildlife. One quote

The polar bear has come to symbolize the threats posed to wildlife by climate change….

You can probably find many images of starved dead polar bears to back this up. But the truth is that this creatures live by hunting, and as they get older slow down, so are no longer fast enough to catch seals, their main food source. Zoologist Susan Crockford has a blog detailing how polar bear numbers have increased in recent years, and far from being threatened the species is thriving.

The climate change problem is mostly human caused

The book details that emissions of greenhouse gas levels have gone up, and so have the levels of greenhouse gases. The only quantities is for CO2, the major greenhouse gas. (Page 20) There is simple diagram explaining how CO2 emissions impacts on atmospheric CO2 levels, before explaining the major sources of the net increase – fossil fuel emissions and clearing forests. There is no actual testing of the theory against the data. But Page 20 begins

The scientific evidence shows that dominant cause of the rapid warming of the Earth’s climate over the last half century has been the activities of people…

The relevant quote from UNIPCC AR5 WG1 SPM section D3 says something slightly differently.

It is extremely likely that more than half of the observed increase in global average surface temperature from 1951 to 2010 was caused by the anthropogenic increase in greenhouse gas concentrations and other anthropogenic forcings together.

The extremely likely phrase is a Bayesian estimate. It is a belief that should be updated on the best available evidence. Lack of evidence, after much searching, suggests the original guess was wrong. Therefore true Bayesians would downgrade their certainties if they cannot refine the estimates over time. But this was written in 2013. Since the Carney Report of 1979 and the previous four IPCC reports of 1990 to 2007, there has been no refinement in the estimate of how much warming will eventually result from a doubling of CO2.

But how does the evidence stack up? On page 6 there is a chart of global surface temperature anomalies. That increase in temperatures can be tested against the doubling effect of CO2. Since around the turn of century the rate of rise in CO2 emissions and atmospheric CO2 levels has accelerated. But global warming stopped  for over a decade until 2014, only to restart due to a natural phenomena. Comparing the actual data to the theory, fails to support the strong beliefs that GHG emissions are the dominant cause of recent warming. 

Policy to contain the problem

Page 34 go into the benefits of containing warming to 1.5C. Given that the central estimate from the climate community since 1979 has been that a doubling of CO2 will lead to and eventual rise in average temperature of 3C, a rise in CO2 levels from the pre-industrial levels of 280ppm to 400ppm reached in 2015 would give 1.544C of warming. With other greenhouse gases it should be nearer to 2C of warming. Either it is way too late (and the warming is lurking like the Loch Ness monster is the dark and murky depths) or the central estimate is exaggerated. So the picture of three young people holding a banner with 1.5 to stay alive is of the doomed who we can do nothing about, or false alarmism.

Page 36 has a nice graphic adopted from the IPCC Synthesis Report of 2014, showing the liquid dripping through an egg-timer. It shows the estimate that 2000 billion tonnes of CO2 have been emitted so far, 1000 billion tonnes can be emitted before the 2 C of warming is breached. This was from a presentation to summarize the IPCC AR5 Synthesis Report of 2014. Slide 33 of 35.

Problem is that this was the data up to 2011, not five years later to 2016; it was for GHG emissions in billions of tonnes of CO2 equivalents; and the 40 billions tonnes of CO2 emissions should be around 52-55 billion tonnes CO2e GHG emissions. See for instance the EU Commission’s EDGAR figures, estimating 54GtCO2e in 2012 and 51GtCO2e in 2010 (against the IPCCs 49 GtCO2e). So the revised figure is about 750GtCO2e of emissions before this catestrophic figure is breached. The Ladybird book does not have references, to keep things simple, but should at least properly reflect the updated numbers. The IPCC stretched the numbers in 2014 in order to keep the show on the road to such extent that they fall apart on even a cursory examination. The worst part is at the very top of the egg-timer, coloured scarlett is “Coal, oil and gas reserves that cannot be used“. These are spread across the globe. Most notably the biggest reserves are in China, USA, Russia, Canada, Australia, Middle East and Venezuela, with the rest of the World have a substantial share of the rest.

The cure is worse than the disease

For the rest of the book to suggest European solutions like recycling, eating less red meat, turning down the heating to 17C and more organic farming, the authors write about making very marginal differences to emissions in a few countries with a small minority of global emissions. Most of those reserves will not be left in the ground no matter how much the first in line to the Throne gets hot under the collar. The global emissions will keep on increasing from non-policy countries with over 80% of the global population, two-thirds of global emissions and nearly 100% of the world’s poorest people. Below is a breakdown of those countries.

These countries collectively produced 35000 MtCOe in 2012, or 35 GtCO2e. That will increase well into the future short of inventing a safe nuclear reactor the size weight and cost of a washing machine. Now compare to the global emissions pathways to stop the 1.5C  or 2C of warming prepared by the UNFCCC for the 2015 Paris talks.

 

The combined impact of all the vague policy proposals do not stop global emissions from rising. It is the non-policy developing countries that make the real difference between policy proposals and the modelled warming pathways. If those countries do not keep using fossil fuels at increasing rates, then they deprive billions of people of increasing living standards for themselves and their children. Yet this must happen very quickly for the mythical 2C of warming not to be breached. So in the UK we just keep on telling people not to waste so much food, buy organic, ride a bike and put on a jumper.

There is no strong evidence would convict humanity of the collective sin of destroying the planet for future generations. Nor is there evidence that to show that a better future can be bequeathed to those future generations when the policies would destroy the economic future of the vast majority. The book neatly encapsulates how blinkered are the climate alarmists to both the real-world evidence and the wider moral policy perspectives.

Kevin Marshall

 

The Climate Alarmist Reaction to a Trump Presidency

A few weeks ago cliscep had a piece Trump, climate and the future of the world that looked at the immediate reactions to the surprise victory in the US Presidential election amongst the climate community. Brad Keyes noted Jo Romm’s piece will President Trump pull the plug on a livable climate?. To support this Romm stated

Indeed, one independent firm, Lux Research, projected last week that “estimated emissions would be 16 percent higher after two terms of Trump’s policies than they would be after two terms of Clinton’s, amounting to 3.4 billion tons greater emissions over the next eight years.”

There is a little graph to sort of back this up.

Whilst Romm then states two reasons why he does not think emissions will rise so much (Trump will cause a massive recession and will not win a second term) he then states the Twitter quote:-

That said, the damage and delay that even a one-term President Trump could do will make the already difficult task of keeping total warming well below 2°C essentially impossible.

So a difference of much less than 3.4 GtCO2e over eight years will make keeping total warming well below 2°C essentially impossible.
Before looking at the evidence that contradicts this, there are even more bizarre claims made by the expert climate scientists at RealClimate. They use a different graph which is probably a couple of years old and explain:-

Here are some numbers. Carbon emissions from the United States have been dropping since the year 2000, more than on-track to meet a target for the year 2020. Perhaps with continued effort and improving technology, emissions might have dropped to below the 2020 target by 2020, let’s say to 5 gigatons of CO2 per year (5000 megatons in the plot). In actuality, now, let’s say that removing restrictions on energy inefficiency and air pollution could potentially lead to US emissions by 2020 of about 7 gigatons of CO2. This assumes that future growth in emissions followed the faster growth rates from the 1990’s.
Maybe neither of these things will happen exactly, but these scenarios give us a high-end estimate for the difference between the two, which comes to about 4 gigatons of CO2 over four years. There will also probably be extra emissions beyond 2020 due to the lost opportunity to decarbonize and streamline the energy system between now and then. Call it 4-6 gigatons of Trump CO2.
This large quantity of gas can be put into the context of what it will take to avoid the peak warming threshold agreed to in Paris. In order to avoid exceeding a very disruptive warming of 1.5 °C with 66% probability, humanity can release approximately 220 gigatons of CO2 after January, 2017 (IPCC Climate Change 2014 Synthesis report, Table 2.2, corrected for emissions since 2011). The 4-6 Gtons of Trump CO2 will not by itself put the world over this threshold. But global CO2 emission rates are now about 36 gigatons of CO2 per year, giving a time horizon of only about six years of business-as-usual (!) before we cross the line, leaving basically no time for screwing around. To reach the catastrophic 2 °C, about 1000 gigatons of CO2 remain (about 20 years of business as usual). Note that these estimates were done before global temperatures spiked since 2014 — we are currently at 1.2 °C! So these temperature boundaries may be closer than was recently thought.

RealClimate come up with nearly twice the difference made by Joe Romm / Lux Research, but at least admit in the final paragraph that whoever won would not make much difference.
There are two parts to putting these analyses into context – the US context and the global one.
In the USA emissions have indeed been falling since 2000, this despite the population growing. The rate of decline has significantly increased in the years of the Obama Presidency, but for reasons quite separate from actions to reduce emissions. First there was the credit crunch, followed by the slowest recovery in US history. Second, the high oil price encouraged emissions reductions, along with the loss of energy-intensive industries to countries with lower energy costs. Third is that the shale gas revolution has meant switching from coal to gas in electricity production.
But the global context is even more important. RealClimate does acknowledge the global figure, but only mentions CO2 emissions. The 36GtCO2 is only two-thirds of total greenhouse gas emissions of about 55GTCO2e and that figure is rising by 1-2% a year. The graph – reproduced from the USA INDC submission to the UNFCCC – clearly states that it is in million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. What is more, these are vague policy proposals, that President Obama would have been unable to get through Congress. Further, most of the proposed emission reductions were through extrapolating trends that of what has been happening without any policy intervention.
If the 1.5°C limit breached from 220 GtCO2e of additional emissions, it will be breached in the run-up to Christmas 2020. The 1000 GtCO2e for the 2°C limit was from 2011. By simple arithmetic it is now below 800GtCO2e with about 15 years remaining if (a) a doubling of CO2 levels (or equivalent GHG gases) leads to 3°C of warming (b) the estimated quantity of emissions to a unit rise in atmospheric gas levels is correct and (b) the GHG gas emitted is retained for a very long period in the atmosphere.
Even simple arithmetic is not required. Prior to the Paris talks the UNFCCC combined all the INDCs – including that of the USA to cut emissions as shown in the graph above – were globally aggregated and compared to the approximate emissions pathways for 1.5°C and least-cost 2°C warming. The updated version, post-Paris is below.

The difference Donald Trump will make is somewhere in the thickness of the thick yellow line. There is no prospect of the aimed-for blue emissions pathways. No amount of ranting or protests at the President-elect Trump will change the insignificant difference the United States will make with any politically-acceptable and workable set of policies, nor can make in a country with less than a twentieth of the global population and less that one seventh of global emissions.

Kevin Marshall

John Cook undermining democracy through misinformation

It seems that John Cook was posting comments in 2011 under the pseudonym Lubos Motl. The year before physicist and blogger Luboš Motl had posted a rebuttal of Cook’s then 104 Global Warming & Climate Change Myths. When someone counters your beliefs point for point, then most people would naturally feel some anger. Taking the online identity of Motl is potentially more than identity theft. It can be viewed as an attempt to damage the reputation of someone you oppose.

However, there is a wider issue here. In 2011 John Cook co-authored with Stephan Lewandowsky The Debunking Handbook, that is still featured prominently on the skepticalscience.com. This short tract starts with the following paragraphs:-

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.

A common misconception about myths is the notion that removing its influence is as simple as packing more information into people’s heads. This approach assumes that public misperceptions are due to a lack of knowledge and that the solution is more information – in science communication, it’s known as the “information deficit model”. But that model is wrong: people don’t process information as simply as a hard drive downloading data.

If Cook was indeed using the pseudonym Lubos Motl then he was knowingly putting out into the public arena misinformation in a malicious form. If he misrepresented Motl’s beliefs, then the public may not know who to trust. Targeted against one effective critic, it could trash their reputation. At a wider scale it could allow morally and scientifically inferior views to gain prominence over superior viewpoints. If the alarmist beliefs were superior it what be necessary to misrepresent alternative opinions. Open debate would soon reveal which side had the better views. But in debating and disputing, all sides would sharpen their arguments. What would quickly disappear is the reliance on opinion surveys and rewriting of dictionaries. Instead, proper academics would be distinguishing between quality, relevant evidence from dogmatic statements based on junk sociology and psychology. They would start defining the boundaries of expertise between the basic physics, computer modelling, results analysis, public policy-making, policy-implementation, economics, ethics and the philosophy of science. They may then start to draw on the understanding that has been achieved in these subject areas.

Kevin Marshall

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

Extreme Socialist-Environmentalist Ideation as Motivation for belief in “Climate Science”

Summary

Professors Lewandowsky, Oberauer & Gignac have now produced papers two internet opinion surveys. The “Hoax” paper was from a survey placement on pro-climate science blogs. The second was from a cross-section of the US population. Both claim evidence that the rejection of “climate science” is associated with extreme “free-market worldviews”. I find two opinion surveys do show a clear relationship between the agreement with “free-market” statements and disagreement with the “climate science” statements. But in US survey clearly shows that extreme views on both “free-market” and “climate science” statements are held by tiny minorities, with most occupying the middle ground. Conversely the blog survey is dominated by responses that are both pro “climate science” and anti “free-market”. There is no evidence from the papers that enlightened expert scientists and their supporters are trying to save the world from an avoidable catastrophe, but plenty of evidence that people with strong and dogmatic political beliefs are using “climate science” as a vehicle to foist those beliefs on everybody else.

 

Introduction

Professors Lewandowsky, Oberauer & Gignac have now produced two opinion surveys that, they claimed certain political views were behind rejection of “climate science”. In “NASA faked the moon landing:Therefore (Climate) Science is a Hoax: An Anatomy of the Motivated Rejection of Science (hereafter LOG12 (blog survey)), they say

..we find that endorsement of a laissez-faire conception of free-market economics predicts rejection of climate science.

In “The Role of Conspiracist Ideation and Worldviews in Predicting Rejection of Science” (hereafter LOG13 (US survey)), they say

Free-market worldviews are an important predictor of the rejection of scientific findings that have potential regulatory implications, such as climate science, but not necessarily of other scientific issues.

I have previously looked at the other major claim of the two studies – that conspiracist ideation leads to a rejection of science. This claim I found to be false when looking at conspiracy theories unrelated to science or policy.

In examining the relationship, I first look at the “climate science” belief against aggregate “free-market” statements. This is then put in the context of number of respondents. Then I examine the evidence presented as to whether “climate science” informs political choices of its supporters, and for the contrary view.

 

Evidence for “Free-market” views and rejection of “Climate-Science”

For LOG13 (US survey) study I have plotted the distribution of belief in “climate science” against belief in “free-markets”. With five “free-market” statements and options 1 to 5, the possible scores are 5 to 25. Please note that the X axis is reversed. That is, moving from left to right increases with the rejection of free markets. This is plotted against the rounded average response to the four “climate science” questions1. This “climate science” band I have colour-coded by a traffic light system, with red for reject, amber for neutral and green for accept.

The highest scores for “free-market” statements have a preponderance of the red and pink for net reject of for “climate science”. Conversely, strong belief in “climate science” is related to anti “free-market” statements, with those with no net belief either way on climate most thickly spread over the middle ground of political opinion.

This is shown by the “climate science” acceptance ratios2 against the “free-market” scores.

The graph clearly shows that the higher the score for free markets, the greater the rejection of “climate science”. The reverse relationship is not so clear-cut. Responses with the most extreme anti “free-market” opinions are not the strongest accepters of “climate science”. Further those who are in middle on the political scale are also net neutral on the climate issue.

The LOG12 (blog survey) has one extra “free-market” statement. This I have ignored for this study. With only were only four responses to each statement the aggregate possible scores range for five statements 5 to 20. Lack of a neutral option means lack of the amber “climate science band”.

Even allowing for the absence of a neutral amber option, the proportion of respondents taking the more extreme positions on climate appears much greater. This is clarified by the climate acceptance ratios.

Compared with the US population, in the blog survey rejection of the “free-market” is a much stronger predictor of the acceptance of “climate science”. Conversely, acceptance of the “free-market” is not quite so strongly associated with rejection of “climate science”, but it is still a strong association.

 

Numbers of Respondents

In the above I have only looked at the split belief respondents for each “free-market” score. Including the number of respondents helps clarify the picture.

 

There is a normal distribution of responses on “free-market” beliefs. Over a quarter of responses were net neutral. The most frequent “climate science” band is amber, with 423 (42%) of responses. The overall climate acceptance ratio is 0.09. That is the American public are neutral on “climate science”, with “accepters” being almost exactly offset by “rejecters”. Strong belief in climate change is the preserve of a small minority. Further, although the majority of the 44 responses on climate band 5 net reject the “free-market”, 13 are net accepters and 3 are neutral. Every indication is that the American public does not view global warming a pressing problem.

So where do those who frequent “pro-climate science” blogs stand?

Compared to the US public, the vast majority of respondents on the blog survey were strongly anti-free-market and also presented a very strong belief in “climate science”. The dark green strong accepters of “climate science” form 69% of total responses, outnumbering the strong rejecters more than 10 to 1. In all the furore over the blog survey paper, there was little mention, apart from by me, that a study was published on a group of people that were a very small minority of the total responses, and accessed only from blogs that are virulently hostile to their views. But for that very reason, it becomes a very good survey of the beliefs of the most fervent supporters of “climate science”.

So which comes first for these dogmatic supporters? Is it the evidence of science that leads to the necessary political policies? Or is “climate science” just a means to subvert the democratic process, and impose extreme political or pseudo-religious beliefs?

 

Does
Climate Science
lead or follow Political belief?

If belief in the projected harm of rising greenhouse gas levels, the policy used to combat that issue would be closely derived from it, and tailored to it. Much in the same way that cancer treatments are closely tailored to the needs of the patient, taking into account both the effectiveness and harms of the treatment. If it is the other way round, then there will be leaps of faith, and biases all over the place.

The evidence of the two papers, and the writings of lead author Stephen Lewandowsky, show the authors to be upholding political beliefs as the driver of belief in science. Examples include

  1. The LOG12 (blog survey) paper fails to reference any overwhelming scientific evidence in favour of the catastrophic global warming hypothesis. The evidence is that the vast majority of climate scientists believe in trivial propositions. There is no evidence presented of belief in extreme versions of “climate change” by the experts. Nor is there evidence that climate scientists” are free of the normal motivations for studying a subject. That is belief in the value of the subject.
  2. The use of the term “climate denial” suggests that, for the authors, “the catastrophic global warming hypothesis” is not a normal scientific hypothesis capable of falsification by the evidence, but a self-evident truth. Thus anybody who disagrees must do so from some errant thought processes. By implication, a “free-market worldview” is also based on a set of errant beliefs.
  3. The language of the LOG13 (US survey) suggests a bias. This quote from the introduction

    People who embrace a laissez-faire vision of the free market are …… than people with an egalitarian-communitarian outlook.

    The normal term for people with a “laissez-faire vision” is “libertarian”, with the antonym being “authoritarian”. The author’s outlook is more socialist and environmentalist. The authors avoid using more meaningful terms, as that would create prejudice against their conclusions.

  4. Failure to recognise bias in the questions. Three of the five “free-market” questions contrast with an “environmentalist” alternative. Therefore, it should be no surprise that a conclusion is reached that people with a libertarian outlook “are less likely to accept that anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions are warming the planet than people with” socialist- environmentalist views.
  5. Failure to acknowledge that the rejection of “climate science” on political grounds could be because no distinction is made in the public domain between science and policy. People who question policy, whether of wind farms or rising costs of energy, are accused of science denial. Further, the LOG12 (blog survey) shows that the strongest supporters of “climate science” believe the association.
  6. Failure to acknowledge that the language of “climate science” is similar to the language of politics, as opposed to the language of hard sciences or engineering. Particularly when some of the short-term prophesies have been contradicted, we get mealy-mouthed excuses and ex-poste justifications. Mike Haseler’s recent survey of opinions from sceptic blogs found

    ..that most of the 5,000 respondents were experienced engineers, scientists and IT professionals, most degree-qualified and around a third with post-graduate qualifications.

    People used to precise measurements and judging success by results will think “climate scientists” talk rubbish. On the other hand, mainstream politicians will understand it.

The overwhelming evidence for catastrophic climate change, the analysis of policy effectiveness and the guidelines for effective policy implementation are totally lacking.

 

Final Comments

What is clear from the US survey is that those with extreme belief in both climate science and socialist-environmentalist views are very few. Further, the studies present no evidence that the “scientific” views are anything more than something that those with extreme left beliefs have arrogated to push their dogmatic opinions. Yet climate mitigation means essentially removing individual freedom on certain lifestyles and democratic choice from energy policy, placing it in the hands of people with extremist and intolerant beliefs. It is not just people who oppose “climate change” who will be no longer have their opinions represented, but (in the case of the USA) the vast majority of the population.

I have found these results by various trying different hypotheses, along with comparing and contrasting between the two surveys. I have only shown my results graphically. The statistical significance of the conclusions can be calculated by others. The key relationship is in the blog survey, for the 955 responses that express overall support for the climate science statements (score 11 to 16). Magnitude of disagreement with the “free-market statements” is a strong predictor of magnitude of support for the “climate science”.

There is also a need for evaluations of the surveys by professional opinion pollsters and occupational psychologists, with experience of setting opinion surveys.

All first time comments are moderated. Please use the comments as a point of contact. I will not publish approaches in this way. All email addresses are treated as confidential. The opinions expressed are my own, and I have received no funding for this work.

Kevin Marshall

 Note – “Out of Office” until 11th Aug

Notes

  1. Climate Science Bands

    In the LOG13 questionnaire there were 5 options, from 1 for “strongly disagree” to 5 for “strongly agree”. For each respondent, the “Climate Science Band” is obtained by the rounding the average of the questions to the nearest whole number. These bands are traffic light coded as below.


    LOG12 (blog survey) did not have a neutral option, hence there is no amber.

     

  2. Acceptance Ratio

    There are two issues with using the average responses. First is that a negative response is a positive number. Second is that LOG12 had only four possible responses for each question, whereas LOG13 had five with the addition of a middle neutral, option. The Acceptance Ratio converts the responses as follows.


    Please note, that the calculation of the acceptance ratio is calculated from average responses to all the “climate change” questions and not on the average of the “Climate change bands.

     

  3. The five “Free-market” statements

    FMUnresBest     An economic system based on free markets unrestrained by government interference automatically works best to meet human needs.

    FMLimitSocial     The free market system may be efficient for resource allocation but it is limited in its capacity to promote social justice. (R)

    FMMoreImp     The preservation of the free market system is more important than localized environmental concerns.

    FMThreatEnv     Free and unregulated markets pose important threats to sustainable development. (R)

    FMUnsustain     The free market system is likely to promote unsustainable consumption. (R)

     

     

 

Labour’s Hypocrisy on Rising Energy Bills

If you go to the Labour Party’s website there is an announcement.

Clicking down will take you to energy price calculator. I found out with Ed’s policy I could save £112 per year.

Two weeks after the announcement, still no links to the actual plan, but there is a video to watch.

Just one minute and twenty-six seconds for a distinguished actor to say the following:-

How do you feel when you see your energy bill sitting at the front door and you know that it is going to be even higher than the last one?

And how do you feel when you read in the newspaper that your energy providers’ profits are up yet again?

Millions of ordinary families are struggling to keep up with bills. Bills that are rising faster than wages.

Since David Cameron became Prime Minister, he’s allowed gas and electricity to rise by an average of £300 a year and sat by as energy companies make record profits. Under this Government a privileged few come before hard-families. Ed Miliband and Labour are going to change that. Ed’s energy plan will mean a tough new regulator with the power to challenge the energy companies and keep prices down. Under Ed’s energy plan gas and electricity bills will be frozen. That’s right frozen. Under the Tories you have overpaid. Labour will fight the cost of living crisis and build an economy that works for working people.

The inference is that your bills are rising solely due to the ever-increasing profits of the energy companies. Further the nasty Tories had it in their power stop it. Along will come Labour and stop all that.

I have looked up the figures. Since the 2009, the energy regulator OFGEM has required the six big energy companies to produce financial data by five segments. That is for electricity generation, along with supply data for electricity and gas, each split between domestic and non-domestic supply. I have analysed all four years of data for the six companies, using links provided by OFGEM. There is, of course, no financial data available for 2013 as the year has yet to finish.

If Labour are correct in their inference of price rises being due to increasing profits then profits will be increasing as a percentage of sales. With the typical household’s bill rising by over 20% between May 2010 and the end of 2012, profits as a percentage of revenue would be rising sharply. The following shows the percentage components of revenue.

The narrow band in purple for profit increased from 1.8% of sales to 3.8%. It is not increasing profits that have caused the price rises. The reason for doubling is because, in total, the six major companies lost money on gas supply in 2009. Nor is there a sharp difference between domestic and non-domestic supply margins. You could claim that the energy companies are making more money on generation instead. They are not, as the full margins, by segment, by year, show below.

The total sales breakdown enhances the picture.

Although total are broadly the same in 2009 and 2012, revenue from domestic customers was 13%, whilst that from non-domestic customers was 17% lower. The reason Labour have a higher figure is they rely on OFGEM’s notional average user, who uses the same amount of energy year-in-year out. Real hard-working families have responded to rising prices by reducing consumption.

What is most important is why unit costs have risen. Labour are correct when they say it is not due to the wholesale price of energy. As already demonstrated, they are incorrect to say it is due to rising profits. The real reason is “other costs”. These rose from 32% to 40% of revenue in just four years. That is from £14.1bn to £17.7bn in just four years or a 25% increase. On declining volumes this is more significant for consumers.

These figures are corroborated by a breakdown by my energy supplier, Scottish Power.

With VAT at 5%, the Scottish power says that its charges to the domestic customer in 2013 are made up of 53% for fuel and 43% for other charges. This compares to the industry average in 2012 of 55.7% for fuel and 40.6% for “other costs” plus “amortization”. The higher proportion of other charges to domestic customers is to be expected, as small domestic customers have lower costs. The relevant domestic figures from the big six are 51.8% for fuel and 44.0% for other charges. Given the obviously rounded Scottish Power figures, they are remarkably close to the industry average.

The supply market is fiercely competitive, hence the real reason for the ability of customers to save money by switching suppliers. Therefore it is doubtful that internal costs will have risen. What has risen is the delivery of the energy to the home (National Grid, local delivery, and cost of meters), along with green levies. So it is likely over 75% of the price increases to the customer are due to factors outside of the energy supplier’s control.

Where does responsibility lie for the above-inflation price increases?

The dash for “clean” energy to save the planet is enshrined in the Climate Change Act 2008. It was pushed through the House of Commons when Ed Miliband was Environment Secretary. This accelerated the growth in green levies and the requirement for a more extensive grid network to carry the wind-generated electricity from remote turbines. Delve further in the profits on electricity generation and you will find that fossil fuel generation has margins of 10%. A price freeze will eliminate the supply profits in six months, and the generation profits in two years. The is a sure way to get a near monopoly in gas supply, and cause the rapid shut-down of three-quarters of generating capacity. It is an act of gross hypocrisy by Ed Miliband to threaten to destroy a competitive industry to remedy a problem that he is responsible for.

 

NB First time comments are moderated. The comments can be used as a point of contact.

Kevin Marshall

Lewandowsky et al. 2012 MOTIVATED REJECTION OF SCIENCE – Part 2

This post was based on the belief that the survey I took in June was the one used in the paper. I realize now this is not the case. The one I took at “Watching the Deniers” is a development of the 2010 survey. There are less questions on conspiracy theories (but “NASA faked the moon landing”, along with Diana, JFK and MLK assassinations are are still in) along with exactly the same questions on Free markets v Environmentalism. But the new survey has more on political beliefs (a good thing in my view) along with new sections on religious beliefs and GM foods. The summary I made back in June is here.

The paper Lewandowsky, Oberauer & Gignac – NASA faked the moon landing|Therefore (Climate) Science is a Hoax: An Anatomy of the Motivated Rejection of Science (in press, Psychological Science) is one of the biased and pernicious surveys I have come across. The previous posting was on the opening remarks on the validity of climate science. There are a few points where the survey deviates from a professional and balanced opinion survey.

Problems with the survey

  1. The access to the survey. It was an internet based survey, with links posted on 8 “pro-science” blogs. Five skeptic blogs were approached. As such, one would expect that “pro-science” responses would far outweigh “denialist” responses. I cannot find the split.
  2. There should have been a record kept of abandoned survey results. The survey gets more dogmatic as it progresses, and becomes far longer than originally stated (74 questions, as against 40 in 10 minutes quoted at the outset). Moderate skeptics would have quickly abandoned the survey when they realised what was being inferred. Others, as the questions became more time consuming and “weird”. See if this is a valid conclusion by first reading the questions, then my analysis.
  3. Not reported is the relationship between “climate denial” and genetically modified foods. Is the correlation the reverse? Nor is there any reporting of the section on climate change against conservative Christian religious views, or climate change against views on corporations. The survey only reported the most dogmatic results. Could it be that there is something relevant, but adverse to the desired conclusions here, or no relationship?
  4. There were also final questions on age and gender. Again, this should be reported.
  5. The main inference of the survey is that those who oppose climate change science are nut-jobs, whilst those who agree with it are pro-science. This saves having to explain the lack of any credible scientific evidence for the projected global catastrophe that we all need to be saved from.

Lewandowsky et al. 2012 MOTIVATED REJECTION OF SCIENCE – Part 1

The paper Lewandowsky, Oberauer & Gignac – NASA faked the moon landing|Therefore (Climate) Science is a Hoax: An Anatomy of the Motivated Rejection of Science (in press, Psychological Science) is one of the most biased and pernicious surveys I have come across. This posting is about the opening remarks.

The paper starts by accepting the validity of science is from beliefs of scientists.


More than 90% of climate scientists agree that the global climate is changing largely due to human CO2 emissions (Anderegg, Prall, Harold, & Schneider, 2010; Doran & Zimmerman, 2009)

The first paper simply says that of the climate scientists who are convinced of climate change arguments as far more numerous and publish far more than scientists that are unconvinced. The most positive spin you can put on this is that those who believe in and are passionate about what they are doing tend to succeed more than those who don’t. You would probably find similar proportions of within New Testament theology or Marxian economics. It says nothing about the truth and the validity of the main claim – unless we act quickly to reduce global carbon emissions, the planet is heading for catastrophic global warming.

The second paper asked two questions:-

1. When compared with pre-1800s levels, do you think that mean global temperatures have generally risen, fallen, or remained relatively constant?
2. Do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures?

It is only the second question that mentions the human element. In maths “largely” (i.e. > 50%) is a subset of “significant” (a measurable part). Neither is CO2 the only human factor causing climate change (Methane plus other gases increase the greenhouse effect, aerosols offset the warming). Further, the Doran and Zimmerman paper is (to put it charitably) is a hugely flawed survey. Reference to it in another “peer reviewed” survey shows does not bode well for the quality of the results.

Analysis of the Survey Questions here and actual questions here