The Fight Over The News Window–Willie Soon vs. Rajendra Pachauri

quote-reuben-blades

It’s pretty easy to identify those who have chosen sides in the climate wars. Those railing against Willie Soon for non-disclosure of funding sources have adopted the Consensus point of view, while those highlighting Rajendra Pachauri’s resignation on charges of sexual harassment are arrayed against the consensus.

Mainstream media are obliged to acknowledge what’s happening on the other side–The Guardian, a staunch defender of the consensus, did print a story on Rajendra Pachauri and Fox News has covered the Soon controversy. But story emphasis, sources quoted and number of pieces written (or broadcast) make it easy to see.

Bloggers are more transparent. We have been pretty much frozen into our positions for years and I can’t think of a single blogger who has changed their point of view since they began using Web 2.0 to put their ideas out there.

The same is (mostly) true of readers, of course. Those who come to the blogosphere without an informed opinion seem to make up their minds pretty fast and become fans of a certain circle of blogs.

As a Lukewarmer I’m somewhat distanced from the poles of opinion. I think every scientist should disclose funding sources, but at the end of the day it’s the science that matters–if it’s valid, it’s valid no matter who paid for it.

Sexual harassment needs to be treated severely–not because of it being the most heinous crime (surely murder, rape and robbery are worse) but because it is still so prevalent. Its corrosive effects on the victims can last for decades and many careers have been abandoned because of it. It is serious and when the powerful, such as Dominique Strauss Kahn and Rajendra Pachauri are charged with it, we need to make sure the charges are investigated thoroughly.

As it happens, I don’t think Willie Soon is right regarding the influence solar variation has on our climate. As it happens, I think Rajendra Pachauri should have been booted from office for earlier misdeeds and for inattention to the office he held.

As it happens, I think the media fuss over each of them tells us more about the media (and about us) than it does about Soon or Pachauri.

Which means we have all been sucked into another media moment of intense interest that will be forgotten by next week. Have I played a part in all this? yeah, I have. Sorry!

Explaining The Witch Hunt–It Has To Be Now

Dissent is terrorism

In April of 2007, The U.S. Supreme Court agreed with Massachussetts in the state’s suit against the EPA, finding that greenhouse gases were a danger to Massachussetts, largely because of sea level rise. The EPA was compelled to regulate greenhouse gases. They lost the suit.

The EPA somewhat reluctantly took on its new responsibilities and has begun to enforce a number of regulations to limit or reduce CO2 emissions from power plants and vehicles, and to require states to develop action plans to fight emissions. A lot of legal to-ing and fro-ing has occurred in the country’s courtrooms since then and we should expect even more in the future.

However, some of what the EPA would like to do in President Obama’s remaining two years in office requires that certain benchmarks be met. That means the foundation has to be laid now so they can cite certain things as justification for regulations.

Levels of scientific agreement must be clear–dissent from respected scientists makes some regulatory actions challenge-able in court.

Some threat from global warming must constitute a clear and present danger to the health and safety of the country’s citizens. Extreme weather could constitute such a danger and actually it is the only postulated effect that could conceivably be related to the present day. Again, scientific challenges to the immediacy of the impacts of Xtreme Weather make the EPA’s task more daunting.

So when John Holdren attacks Roger Pielke Jr. regarding Pielke’s straightforward assessment that extreme weather events are not in fact detectable at present, it isn’t because of petulance or even malice. Pielke’s statements represent a potential obstacle to what the EPA has already decided to do.  At a minimum, Holdren needs to get his challenge in the media so the EPA can refer to it. At a maximum, Holdren would like Pielke to either recant or retire. And given Pielke’s recent statement that he may withdraw from research on climate issues, Holdren may be able to claim at least a partial victory.

Representative Grijalva’s witch hunt against 7 scientists who have published non-consensus findings on climate science is not just because of his beliefs or political stance. Again, the work done by folk  like Judith Curry on uncertainty threatens the legal standing for EPA findings and future regulations.

Finally, the EPA’s need for legal ‘facts on the ground’ to support further actions is apparent in the recent revival of questions about Willie Soon’s funding. These questions are not new–the were revealed in 2011 and discussed for years before that. Showing political funding for Soon’s science will allow them to ask a court to disregard it without examination. (For the record, I don’t believe Soon’s work would survive scientific examination–but that’s hardly the point.)

The EPA has been in a number of legal battles regarding the regulation of greenhouse gases. Their lawyers understand the value of having their arguments validated by people like John Holdren and having reputable opponents dissed in the media by those who support further EPA regulation.

One of those supporters of EPA regulation is myself. I believe strong regulation of coal power plants is in our best interest. I believe that good emission regulations for vehicles, especially commercial trucks, is also good for our health now and in the future.

However, the demonization of dissent is unconscionable. Holding a modern day witch hunt to further a bureaucracy’s attempts to advance an agenda (an agenda I broadly support) is not just Kafka-esque. It is an affront to the principles of democratic organization of the country’s affairs.

President Obama (who I strongly support–much more than I do EPA regulations) is constrained in his course of actions by the loss of both houses of Congress. Executive actions are the main instrument he can wield to advance his policy agenda. To a limited agree they can be a force for good. This is obviously not one of those cases.

To tear down the reputations of respectable scientists just to have a footnote in the records of the inevitable court actions regarding future regulations is unconscionable. The fact that these seven dissenters have a body of evidence to support their resistance to a rush to climate judgment isn’t a political inconvenience. It is something that the EPA, the administration and John Holdren should carefully consider.

Congressman Raul Grijalva’s Witch Hunt

Update: I now learn via Judith Curry’s blog that Pielke is not the only scientist being pursued. In addition to Pielke and Curry herself, David Legates, John Christy,  Richard Lindzen, Robert Balling,  Steven Hayward.

This is scary.

I am a registered Democrat most recently living in Nancy Pelosi’s district in San Francisco. I am more than a Democrat–I am a liberal progressive who supported Barack Obama (and who thinks he has done a very good job as president).

Some years ago I wrote an open letter to Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli regarding his investigation of Michael Mann. I told him it was a witch hunt and that absent prima facie evidence of wrongdoing he had no business going after Mann, who is someone I have criticized for getting on for a decade.

Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva is also a Democrat. Anything else we share is a mystery to me.

Witch Hunt

People get burned in modern times for being witches. McCarthyism is not such a distant memory. Persecuting scientists because you don’t like their science is not that old either–just ask about Lysenkoism, something that happened within living memory.

Grijalva is investigating 7 scientists including Roger Pielke Jr. to ascertain if they are receiving funding from sources Grijalva does not like. This is in the wake of the recent controversy over Willie Soon’s funding.

Apparently Grijalva has a particular dislike of scientists receiving funding from the Koch brothers. I assume physicist Richard Muller of BEST had best get his papers in order.

Pielke has already disclosed his funding to Congress. He receives no funding from fossil fuel interests. Even if he had received such funding, it is clear that he is being harassed because the data he presents to Congress is not welcome politically.

Pielke has researched the effects, incidence and impacts of large scale climate events. He has found consistently that, although he accepts the science of climate change, it is impossible to impute it as a cause for more or stronger weather disasters. And he is correct. Even the IPCC has said that extreme weather events would not start impacting our planet until 2030 in some cases and even later in others.

The fact that the data he presents to Congress is accurate seems not to matter. Pielke has blogged that he intends to drop all research related to climate issues.

Grijalva’s investigation is resulting in a defeat for science. It is a wicked act and a shame, not just for Democrats such as myself but for the country I love.

When Republican Cuccinelli did this I felt a little smug–my party would never stoop so low. Congressman Raul Grijalva is proving me wrong–Democrats can be as stupid, short-sighted and dirty as any other party.

This is a witch hunt. Representative Grijalva, call off your dogs. You make me ashamed of my political party.

The Peril of Great Causes

Update and correction: Several readers have pointed out to me that Al Gore was not arrested regarding his encounter with the Oregon masseuse. I regret the error.

As a Lukewarmer I cheerfully accept the science explaining how our high emissions of CO2 have contributed to the current warming period. As a liberal progressive I support large-scale (government and NGO) efforts to address the pressing problems of today. And as someone who has worked in the solar power industry and reported on green technology for over a decade, I believe that green energy can provide a partial solution to some of those problems.

But as a Lukewarmer I see flaws in what has become a Great Cause–to me it seems to often be an excuse for NGOs to ask the public for more money, for politicians to gain easy support and to replace the stock prayer from beauty pageant contestants for world peace.

Climate change is real. The political struggle over acknowledging the scope and impacts is full of unreality.

When a political cause gains traction among those in power, a curious thing happens. Conventional ideas about right and wrong slip in priority and winning becomes so important that criminal activity and sexual impropriety become forgivable by those in service to a Cause.

Addendum: I want to be clear that there are two dangers–it is a commonplace that power tends to corrupt and those who gain or seek power within any organization or group are susceptible–we’ve seen similar cases in politics, religion, lobbyists and NGOs. But the other danger is a relaxation of standards amongst the members of these organizations, a failure to hold their leaders to account, to excuse human frailty in a desire to advance a cause they believe in. This to my mind is more pernicious, as it affects so many more and is ultimately more destructive of worthwhile goals.

Peter Gleick stole documents and forged another to attack his political opponents. Despite the gravity of this crime he was welcomed back into the fold of those promoting worst-case scenarios about the impacts of climate change as if he were a hero, not a criminal. This is not unusual in political movements. The cause becomes more important.

 

Gleick

Al Gore was one of the first who promoted global warming as an imminent threat to human safety. His sybaritic lifestyle was evident from the first–private planes, living in a mansion, conspicuous consumption. None of that was sufficient to cause the Cause to disavow him. It still is unclear whether it was his arrest for pressuring a masseuse for sex encounter with a masseuse or his sale of his television channel to a fossil fuel organization was the cause of his fall from grace–but that fall was apparently temporary, as he still speaks on global warming before green groups the world over. The rules don’t apply.

And now it is the turn of Rajendra Pachauri. Women are now speaking of a decade-long pattern of sexual harassment. Even before this revelation, Pachauri was involved in misconduct, ranging from suppressing dissent to hiding the income from his foundation. He showed incredibly poor judgment in publishing a bodice ripper of a novel while head of an organization that had been criticized by the IAC–with many of those criticisms calling into question his leadership. But it doesn’t matter. He was a champion of the Cause.

Gore Pachauri

Currently, some bloggers and mainstream media sources are reviving decade-long questions about the funding of a scientist named Willie Soon, that he received funding from fossil fuel sources.

It doesn’t matter that institutions ranging from the CRU and Stanford University have received funding from fossil fuel sources, or that BEST’s Richard Muller actually got money from the Koch Brothers. It doesn’t matter that this information is old.

What matters for the Cause is that headlines of supposed misbehavior hit the news at the same time as Pachauri’s disgrace.

Because none of this is about science. It is about controlling the levers of power, making sure the right message is fed through the media channels and that funding for the right issues is uninterrupted.

Oh for the days when we talked about science.

Back to the cat fights

So what do you write about the day after you’ve written your “most important post?”

Sadly, it’s back to the observations of the foibles and idiosyncrasies of the Climate Elect, folk such as William Connolley, Eli Rabett and others who strain at gnats while swallowing camels.

camel

They have become obsessed with the funding of one Willie Soon, a scientist who has labored for years trying to show a clear correlation (and more than that, causation) between solar changes and climate changes. While I think he’s well off the mark, if he finds funding to pursue his line of research, best of luck to him.

But coincidentally, while Rabett and Connolley were writing multiple posts (joined in their outrage by the Guardian and other bastions of the Climate Consensus)  about the fact that Soon got funding from fossil fuel sources, another story was also in the news that they seem to have overlooked. In fact, one might wonder if they are deliberately focusing on the Soon story to paper over the other. Nah, that would never happen.

There are 187,000 links to the Google News search results for ‘Pachauri sexual harassment.’  One wonders what Rabett and Connnolley are reading?

Controversy over Willie Soon is not recent. The Climaterati have been witchhunting him for more than a decade. Over at Bishop Hill, the redoubtable Steve McIntyre comments,”As with Mann and Gavin Schmidt, you have to watch the pea with Russell Seitz.

Seitz writes: “12 other leading climate scientists wrote a blistering critique of Soon and Baliunas’ paper in Eos, the American Geophysical Union weekly condemning Soon & Co/s use of precipitation records to reconstruct past temperatures , a proxy they declared “fundamentally unsound.” in testimony before Congress.”

In fact, it was Mann – not Soon – who actually used “precipitation records” to reconstruct past temperatures. By yelling loudly, Mann and Seitz have tricked the public on this issue. In addition to precipitation proxies, Mann used actual instrumental precipitation records to reconstruct past temperature. Oddly, Mann’s geographic locations of his instrumental precipitation records were nearly all incorrect. Thus the rain supposedly located in Maine used the precipitation history from Paris, France. The precipitation record attributed to the Madras, India gridcell appears to come from Philadelphia.

Unlike Mann, Soon did not use precipitation to “reconstruct past temperature”, Soon examined precipitation proxies to see whether the 20th century levels were extreme (hockey stick shaped), concluding that they weren’t. Many of the proxies considered in Soon et al were later incorporated into proxy networks of Graham et al 2010, Seager et al 2007. The earliest draft of AR5, citing such studies, stated, using terminology reminiscent of Soon:

overall, multiple studies suggest that current drought and flood regimes are not unusual within the context of the last 1000 years

One of the single most despicable exchanges in Climategate in my opinion was Tom Wigley writing to Mann in the lead-up to the EOS 2003 article:

Mike, Well put! By chance SB03 may have got some of these precip things right, but we don’t want to give them any way to claim credit.

Wigley and Mann succeeded in that effort. Abetted by people Russell Seitz. The persecution of WIllie Soon by the academic community has been shameful.

There are further details on this persecution in the CG3 dossier that have not yet been publicized.”

The most important post I have ever written

So, okay. I got some blog notoriety for co-authoring a book with Steve Mosher about Climategate. I got a little more for being (I think) the first to point out that we have emitted about one third of all human emissions of CO2  since the start of the current (or recently concluded, depending on your point of view) pause in the increase of global average surface temperatures. But I’m never going to get rich or famous from my blogging activities–and that’s okay. I’m not doing this for fame or riches.

A lot of the time here I am busy tweaking the noses of the Climaterati, especially those who are outrageously wrong or who spectacularly misbehave. And it’s fun and I never seem to be at a loss for examples. It’s sort of a target rich environment.

But I’m an analyst at heart. And my analysis leads me to this post here: http://3000quads.com/2015/02/21/our-global-energy-future/

If you read nothing else I write, please read that post.

3000 Quads is the companion blog to The Lukewarmer’s Way. I have been trying for several years to make the point that we are sleepwalking into a future where we are burning 6 times as much energy in 2075 as we did in 2010, and that because we are not planning for it the odds are that we will be burning coal to get that energy.

I’m hoping someone will prove me wrong. I really am.

Coal

Pachauri and Sexual Harassment

On February 20th a 29-year old research analyst filed a complaint with the Delhi police alleging that Rajendra Pachauri engaged in a long series of sexual harassment activities. The Delhi police have registered a FIR (First Information Report) against Pachauri. The incident has been reported in two Indian newspapers, The Indian Express and The Economic Times.

Hall-of-Shame_zpsbbb7109e

Rajendra Pachauri is chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. He’s 74 years old and is also former director general of a research organization called TERI and chancellor of TERI University in India.

He’s an engineer, not a scientist and was heavily pushed for the IPCC post by the Bush administration.

He is the author of Return to Almora, a romance novel published in 2010. The novel is in the form of the reminiscences of a retired bureaucrat, once an engineering student, about his spiritual and sexual past.

I have called for Pachauri’s resignation repeatedly, albeit for reasons totally unrelated to these charges. TERI had to resubmit their accounts for auditing after large sums of undeclared income were found to have been directed to the organization.

People might remember that the IPCC was involved in a controversy regarding Himalayan glaciers, which their 4th Assessment Report predicted would disappear in 2035, a mistake that they corrected when pointed out.

Pachauri was informed of the issue long beforehand, but ridiculed the scientist who informed him, saying he was practicing ‘voodoo science.’ However, the scientist was absolutely correct. Perhaps worse, Pachauri’s TERI was at the time bidding on a consulting job to study melting ice in the Himalayas. Although TERI won the bid, the contract was withdrawn, apparently due to the controversy.

If these latest allegations prove true, it is hard to see Pachauri finishing out his final year as IPCC chairman. Perhaps he can join Al Gore in the Hall of Shame for climate opportunists, under the category of sex offender.

New Voices

next-generation

Even before Climategate, defenders of the Climate Consensus cast around frantically looking for a narrative that would advance their cause in the eyes of the world. It intensified after the scandal.

They used polar bears, glaciers, the threat of malaria, the No Pressure video, the Amazon rain forest, the threat of agricultural decline in Africa and more. They blamed famine in Egypt on climate change. They blamed drought in Russia (and in Texas) on climate change. They blamed Sandy on climate change. They told skeptics ‘We know where you live.’

The death of Stephen Schneider and the semi-retirement of James Hansen left a blank space where science used to speak. And make no mistake about it, whether you agreed with those two or not, they were scientists and they were sorely missed.

Several people tried to claim the stage–and more importantly, the microphone–to hammer home the message. But each was brought down, pretty much due to flaws in their makeup as well as their message.

Al Gore got busted with a massage parlor lady. Peter Gleick got busted for theft and forgery. Joe Romm got more or less muzzled by the Center for American Progress due to increasing hysteria. Lewandowsky was exposed as a charlatan. Anderegg, Prall et al tried to game the system and John Cook tried to cook the books.

The needle of public opinion didn’t move. Yes, they do believe that global warming is real. No, they’re not very concerned about it. Every poll for a decade has reinforced those two findings.

Finally, however, there are new voices emerging, both in science and in the media. Brand new people like Tamsin Edwards. People who have been around but are finally acting with what suspiciously looks like wisdom, such as Richard Betts. On the opposing side, folks like Jose Duarte are examining the flaws in published papers, looking a bit like a young Mac in the making.

I have repeatedly written that the climate war is a 30-year war. We have come pretty close to the halfway point. It’s really heartening to see the next cohort of scientists and communicators have learned from both successes and failures.

It gives me hope that the next round will look more like a discussion than a food fight.

Who to believe? Tobis or your lying eyes?

After the recent resurfacing of the debate about using the word ‘denier’ to describe those opposing the Climate Consensus, many consensus advocates made gestures towards either abandoning the term in the future or at least agreeing on the corrosive effect the term has had on discourse.

The discussion was primarily held here and here. I posted on it here, but it didn’t generate much in the way of discussion.

However, Michael Tobis went further. He has abandoned the floundering Planet 3.0 and returned to his former blog Only In It For The Gold. He recently put up a post called ‘The D-Word and the S-Word’ where he unblushingly states that “I don’t usually call anyone a denier or a denialist by name, though I’ve been in a lot of internet arguments and may well have slipped up a time or two.”

Update: As a courtesy I thought I’d post a comment on his blog to let him know that I am criticizing him, but Tobis has blocked me from his blog.

I have a lot of history with Michael Tobis, mostly characterized by ill-feelings on both sides. Tobis had a habit of conducting sustained smear campaigns, first against scientists (Roger Pielke Sr. and Junior, Judith Curry), journalists (Andrew Revkin, Keith Kloor and myself when I was writing at Examiner.com) and of course bloggers–especially Steve McIntyre, Lucia Liljegren and Steve Mosher. Mosher was the target of one of the most profane (if unintentionally funny) posts I’ve ever seen on a blog. Tobis wrote it. He still seems proud of it, apparently not seeing the silliness of it. He’s also proud of the hatchet job he did on Judith Curry. Apparently calling her incompetent (without taking the trouble to read anything she published) is something that Tobis thinks took courage.

His favorite tactic in his smear campaigns was to make sweeping accusations (He accused me of not knowing anything about science, which stung a bit until I saw him make the same accusations of, well, scientists…) but he never would specify any point that his targets were guilty of.

For example, with Judith Curry he wrote “We have reached a point where it is impossible to judge that Curry is in touch with the science that she is supposed to be a prominent participant in. So has she lost touch, or has she never had much scientific insight to begin with? That’s the only question any of this burbling raises.”

But in the next paragraph he wrote, “On the other hand, to be honest no paper of hers has ever come across my radar in anything I’ve investigated.”

who-you-gonna-believe-me-or-your-lying-eyes-3

As I was a frequent commenter at his blog in its heyday, his walking away from the D-Word did not really strike me as true. I vividly recall one exchange at his blog:

Blogger Tom said…
What many of us hear: … ‘You are the scummy equivalents of skinheads who deny the Holocaust ever occurred.’

January 12, 2011 at 3:37 PM Delete
Blogger Michael Tobis said… Right, Tom, that’s, um, the point.

So I thought I’d play a little game. The rules of the game were:

Find instances of Tobis using the word ‘denier’ or one of its variants.

Time limit: One hour

Only Tobis’ writing–no quotes of others using the term.

Search limited to Only In It For The Gold–no tracking down comments on the many blogs Tobis has ranted at.

Results of a one-hour search at Only In It For The Gold follow:

Update: Don’t miss Sou’s comment #15 at the Shewonk thread on the delicate balancing act of the denier sites. I hadn’t thought of this. It argues against participating.

Blogger Tom said…
What many of us hear:

(equations, rhetoric, hysteria, etc.)… ‘You are the scummy equivalents of skinheads who deny the Holocaust ever occurred.’

January 12, 2011 at 3:37 PM Delete
Blogger Michael Tobis said…
Right, Tom, that’s, um, the point.

January 12, 2011 at 3:53 PM

I believe that climate denialism is a social, not an intellectual or philosophical, movement.

Post title: What Deniers Hear

Bell uses the key technique that denialists use in debates, dubbed by Eugenie Scott the “Gish gallop”, – See more at: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2011/01/forbes-rich-list-of-nonsense/#sthash.uFgMvPwW.dpuf

“Skeptic” is hardly the name for this! “Denier” or “denialist” really isn’t bad, but in addition to rubbing some people wrong, it doesn’t capture the mindboggling recklessness of their activities.

If I bend over backwards to treat the deniers with respect on the grounds that there might be a few genuine skeptics in their ranks, meanwhile looking under every rock for any point of disagreement with people who have their heads screwed on right, my site starts to look like, well, Judith Curry’s.

It is one thing to engage, carefully and consciously. It’s another to butter up the lazy denialists and bash the diligent efforts of genuine scientists.

Remember the story on here about how the denialists made a big fuss about something perfectly reasonable

Denialist websites issue headlines like
Greenpeace Leader Admits Organization Put Out False Global Warming Data

Post Title Spot the Denier Bug

Find a typical article on a typical denialist site, and spot the biggest error!

RC has been able to generate rapid responses to denier pseudoscience

One thing an anti-Morano would do would be just to monitor Morano and take advantage of his efforts as an early-warning system for new denialist nonsense.

Morano is taking his nomination as chief denier literally

Post Title: The Opposite of Denialism

OK, the new meme among the denialists is that the tide is with them,

I don;t think this is what the denialists have in mind when they ask me what would “falsify the hypothesis”.

The denialists have picked it as one of their favorite refutations but it really doesn’t refute much of anything.

The author of the denialist-celebrated point of view, by the way, has also written a brief celebration of what he calls “post-autistic economics”,

No question that a full-blooded GCM is not for amateurs, but with this much at stake you’d think the denial camp

The article is rife with the usual denialist sleight of hand and drivel, but it is not at all clear that the author is insincere.

but it’s still frequently brought up by the do-nothingists (who don’t like to be called denialists but don’t deserve to be called skeptics).

OK, we really need a name for those people that is less respectful than “skeptic” and more so than “crypto-Nazi”, even though the latter, as an interpretation of “denialist”, is a specious back-formation.

one of the most irritating aspects of denialism

The CIA Funding Geoengineering Studies–What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

One of the reasons I’ve taken up the blogging cudgels again is that I’m in Taipei, Taiwan for a while and have free access to the internet after escaping The Great Firewall of China. Here’s a quote from a story published in the Taipei Times today:

“Alan Robock, a climate scientist at Rutgers University in New Jersey, has called on secretive government agencies to be open about their interest in radical work that explores how to alter the world’s climate.

Robock uses computer models to study how stratospheric aerosols can cool the planet in the way massive volcanic eruptions do.

He is worried about who would control such climate-altering technologies should they prove effective, he told a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Jose, California.

Last week, the National Academy of Sciences published a two-volume report on different approaches to tackling climate change. One focused on means to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, the other on ways to change clouds or the Earth’s surface to make them reflect more sunlight out to space.”

Now, I suppose the CIA might say (and even believe) that understanding the consequences of other people’s attempts to change the client is a national security interest. They might even say (and even believe) that preparing for such actions by hostile actors is important. Okay, granted.

But what scares Alan Robock and makes me more than a little nervous is the possibility that the CIA might look at geoengineering as a tool they can employ against those they consider enemies.

Contemplating geoengineering as a potential weapon to destabilize the climate of enemies real or perceived is scary, if probably premature.

Legacy of Ashes

Most criticism of the intelligence community focuses on their failures to predict important developments in the world, such as 9/11. However, arguably more important is the failure of their active attempts to shape the world.

The CIA, which has organized plots to interfere with governments from Iran to Nicaragua, has often approached destabilization a bit casually, with apparently little thought given to the effects of such programs on either the current population or knock-on effects that are the consequence of such efforts.

Writers like Stephen King have produced lots of fiction about ambitious government programs that went awry, such as King’s The Stand. But we really don’t need to look to fiction.

The Bay of Pigs went wrong in the 60s. Even before that, a CIA attempt to assassinate the Syrian leadership not only failed, it got the station chief arrested and interrogated. The CIA thought the best strategy in Iraq to counter increasing Soviet influence was to support the Baath Party. Arming the rebels to fight the Russians in Afghanistan probably seemed like a good idea at the time–but the consequences later were disastrous.

I’m not against intelligence gathering. Nations need to know what other nations are doing in secret. (However, active attempts to change the course of events usually end in tears.)

I’m not against studying geoengineering. We may find it necessary to modify some of the major processes shaping our climate–if not in response to the current warming period, perhaps we will need it for future climate change in other directions.

But the two don’t mix. Intelligence agencies are by nature focused on current problems. Their solutions last much longer. And changing the climate could be a very long term effect that lasts close to forever.

Position Statement

Update: I also write on similar matters at 3000 Quads.

Over at Climate Etc., Judith Curry is asking frequent visitors to describe their background and evolution of attitudes towards climate change. This is following Paul Matthews paper on the backgrounds of frequent visitors to Jeff Id’s blog The Air Vent. (Which started following a comment from the wonderful and now absent Kendra on a guest post that I wrote at TAV long ago.)

OurGangPic

I won’t do that here–traffic is too spotty and I feel I already know all the regulars. Oh–okay, if you want to, do so in the comments.

I’m posting what I wrote at Judith’s here. The moral of my story is Stay In School. Anybody under the age of 80 reading this–go back and get the degree. No excuses.

“I started off as a skeptic. My skepticism was a reaction to the horrible behavior by some of those in the climate community (starting off with the hounding of Lomborg) and their transparent scare tactics, from doomsday imagery to incendiary labeling to hysterical exaggeration.

I have since moved to my current Lukewarmer status, as good people (mostly but not all) in the blogosphere walked me through various elements of the science and answered a host of questions. I have no issues with the science, although it’s clear many questions still need to be answered. My continued participation in the climate conversation is focused on attribution, adaptation and impacts–and the nature of the debate itself.

Skeptics, although I consider them off base with regards to much of the science, are essentially taking brass knuckles into a knife fight. The climate consensus is playing with big budgets, close connections and no scruples in a struggle to control the language and grammar of the debate. The real struggle is political, not scientific. Scientists who have focused on WG 1 issues are doing good work in framing boundaries and I think finally we will see saner descriptions of atmospheric sensitivity and attribution of anthropogenic contributions other than CO2e gases.

But NGOs and a complaisant media are decidedly ahead on points with regards to the iconography, labeling and deligitimization of their opponents. As an illustration, Al Gore and Peter Gleick are still being listened to with regards to climate change despite offenses which would disqualify them from public discourse in almost any other field.

As for my background, I was educated in electronics and physics by the U.S. Navy (to what they claim is degree level) and studied anthropology during a brief spell at university, but left without taking a degree, one of my major regrets.”

Conflict Deaths and Global Warming

It has been claimed for more than a decade that global warming will contribute to increased conflict, primarily due to competition for scarce resources.

Global warming has been blamed for the Arab Spring, the current conflicts in Syria and Sudan, etc. They haven’t said anything about what’s going on in the Ukraine yet. A paper published in PNAS in 2009 bluntly declared that “Warming Increases The Risk of Civil War in Africa.”

The problem is that the conflicts that are cited as examples of the phenomenon are located in areas known for both frequent conflict prior to the current warming period and for historical patterns of extreme climates similar to those seen today. Attribution is everything. If places with frequent droughts have frequent conflicts, you might be able to make the case that more (and stronger) droughts will lead to more conflict. But you would have to be very careful with the numbers.

When Egypt experienced its short-lived version of the Arab Spring, people attributed it in part to climate change causing food shortages. A bit of closer examination showed that their agricultural output had increased during the years before the conflict–that perhaps population growth was a more effective explanation.

Similarly, looking at climate change as a primary contributor in Sudan, given the civil unrest, religious differences in regions, competition over large oil resources, etc., seems a bit unwise. It also would be a bit foolish not to look at the historical periodicity and intensity of drought in the region–the same being true in Syria and other places.

Some of those who have written on the subject have been suitably cautious, saying that global warming may have been a contributor along with many other factors.

However, others have been more simplistic–perhaps far too simplistic. In 2007, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon described the conflict in Sudan’s Darfur region as the world’s first climate change conflict. He was not alone. Rebecca Solnit’s article in the Guardian is headlined, “Call Climate Change What It Is: Violence.”  Tom Friedman wrote about climate change as one of the causes of conflict in the Middle East, but apparently didn’t read one of the experts he quoted in the article. “Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed, the executive director of the Institute for Policy Research and Development in London, writing in The Beirut Daily Star in February, pointed out that 12 of the world’s 15 most water-scarce countries — Algeria, Libya, Tunisia, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Israel and Palestine — are in the Middle East, and after three decades of explosive population growth these countries are “set to dramatically worsen their predicament.”

One of the problems is that both conflict and weather extremes are rare, so looking at regional patterns can’t provide adequate numbers to justify authoritative pronouncements.

So let’s look globally. The current warming period had a strong period of temperature climbs from 1976 through the present, with many claiming that 2014 was the warmest year on record. And it does seem clear that 14 of the warmest 15 years in the past 500 occurred since 2000.

What has happened to conflict during this period? Here is a chart that shows conflict from 1946 to 2013.

Conflict trends

 

Here is what happened to temperatures:

temperature anomalies

It is difficult for me to spot a positive correlation between rising temperatures and armed conflict.

What about deaths in conflict? This chart shows trends:

2007HSBrief_fig3_2-ReportedBattleDeathsStateBasedConflicts

Again, deaths begin to decline around 1987.

How about extreme weather occurrences? Here is the chart Joe Romm uses:

number_of_disasters

Here,the number of ‘disasters’ started to rise in 1990, just as the number of conflicts started their dramatic fall.

It would appear to me that those believing that climate change is a contributor to conflict may be intuitively making sense, but they do not appear to have numbers on their side.

I’ll leave you with a quote from a very interesting paper, Global Trends In Armed Conflict, published by the Center For The Study Of Civil War:   “Promoting economic growth and diversification is the best long-term strategy for reducing the risk of conflict. Natural resource-based growth requires very good resource revenue management to have positive political effects. “

Geoengineering

It’s hard to argue with the recommendation from the U.S. National Academy of Sciences–that we should study methods of artificially cooling the climate, but certainly not rush into any actual efforts to do so.

That’s certainly what I think is a prudent course of action. If climate change turns out to be (I made this up) worse than we thought (what do you think of that as a catchphrase?) we may need all the arrows we can fit in our quiver.

geo-engineering

Some of the reactions I’ve read seem a bit hysterical. For example, “Marcia McNutt, editor of the journal Science and former director of the U.S. Geological Survey, said in an interview that the public should read this report “and say, ‘This is downright scary.’ And they should say, ‘If this is our Hail Mary, what a scary, scary place we are in.'”

Michael Mann weighed in as well: “Such an idea “could do far more harm than good” and scientists should treat the Earth like doctors do their patients, abiding by the rule “first, do no harm,” said Pennsylvania State University climate scientist Michael Mann.”

Ray Pierre-Humbert said the idea was utterly, howlingly, barkingly mad and that developing albedo modification technology would be like giving a loaded gun to a child.

Al Gore called the idea “nuts” in 2013 and a lot of people who spend a lot of time telling us how bad climate change is going to be really, really don’t like geoengineering.

There’s no doubt that it would pose a risk–it might not work. It might work too well. There is the possibility of unintended consequences.

Which is why it’s smart to study it. To condemn it beforehand is just another roadblock–it seems as if they want climate change to remain forever a ‘wicked’ problem without a solution.

But global warming is only a wicked problem if we take all the solutions off the table. We could drastically reduce our impact on the climate by building enough nuclear power plants and converting our cars to electric. But nuclear cannot even be mentioned as a solution. Hydroelectric power and natural gas are considered just as evil. And now geoengineering is something we cannot even contemplate.

Which of these ‘cures’ is worse than the disease?

The C Word

Since I recently wrote about the D word (denier), it’s only fair that I follow up writing about the C word.

Like many who are labeled ‘deniers’, I have  no problem accepting the physics of climate change. CO2 is a greenhouse gas, add more of it you tend to push temperatures up. We’ve added a lot recently and temps have gone up. There is an anthropogenic component to the greenhouse gases and I think we’re responsible for a goodly bit of the warming we have seen–and that we will see in the future.

I also think that temperature rises past a certain point (and in a telescoped time frame) will pose a problem for us. Well, by ‘us’ I mostly mean developing countries that won’t have the money to prepare for or adapt to the effects of climate change. Sea walls and such are expensive.

However, in gracious and polite conversations with those who are part of the climate (No, not that C) consensus (not that C either), they get almost as miffed as I do when they use the D word. Because I tell them that although I accept the findings of science, I see no indication that anthropogenic contributions to global warming will lead to a catastrophe. There. That’s the C word.

Catastrophist

When I write about CAGW, I am referring to statements (mostly by politicians, lobbyists and NGOs) that predict or imply a real catastrophe happening on this our only planet due to global warming. Sea level rise, dramatic rise in surface temperatures, failure of agriculture or water supplies, dramatically increased number and strength of storm, drought and flood.

I do believe that sea levels will rise, temperatures as well and that there will be more and stronger storms, droughts and floods. But I don’t think any of it will be beyond our current (let alone our future) capabilities to deal with.

We could have dealt with Hurricane Katrina in 2005 using only the technology and forecasting available then. We chose not to do our best in preparing for it–I hope we’ll choose differently next time.

In this period where CAGW advocates are prematurely announcing the arrival of Xtreme Weather, talking about 1,000 year events every week, we have set records in agricultural production, reductions in the rate of mortality, morbidity and poverty–imagine where we’d be if there were no Xtreme Weather….

Many members of the Consensus are not in accord with those who are at the extreme. ( The same is true for the opponents of the consensus–for example, I’m no fan of Monckton of Blenchley, or whatever he’s calling himself now.) But unlike what I just wrote, members of the Consensus operate by Reagan’s 11th Commandment–which was never to speak ill of a Republican. Just change the name and you’ve got their strategy.

But the metamorphosis in conversations happens all too frequently. A polite disagreement on the utility of some policy or preparation suddenly transforms into ‘how do we prepare for 3 meters of sea level rise?’ To answer ‘ well, why should we when nobody thinks it’s going to happen’ typically starts a war.

So what do we do about the C word? If those supporting the Consensus feel insulted by it, I guess in all fairness we should find another term, as we are asking them to do with denier. I don’t know. What do you think of Outlier?

The Western Antarctic Ice Sheet

One of the primary threats of global warming/disruption/climate change is dramatic sea level rise over a short time span. This would be caused by sudden melting or disintegration of one of the world’s great ice sheets–Greenland, the Eastern Antarctic Ice Sheet, the Antarctic Peninsula Ice Sheet or the Western Antarctic Ice Sheet.

The first two  aren’t going anywhere any time soon. Greenland sits in a bowl and even the scientists most worried about its future say it would take more than a millenium to actually melt. The great Eastern Ice Sheet is huge, growing and stable. The Antarctic Peninsula Ice Sheet is subject to the vagaries of both weather and climate change, but is too small to pose a major threat. If it melted completely, sea levels would rise by 0.24 meters.

However the Western Antarctic Ice Sheet is considered unstable and may pose a threat to us. If all of  it were to disintegrate and move into the ocean, sea levels could rise as much as 16 feet. To be honest, though, scientists are more worried that specific sections of it might break off into the sea (with a projected 4-foot sea level rise), and by ‘sudden’ scientists mean over the course of a couple of centuries, which is some relief.

waisschem_0

This is a real possibility. So, is it time to hang all those fossil fuel executives yet, for crimes against humanity?

Well, no. People have been speculating about the threat posed by the WAIS since 1925, when The Geographic Journal published The Ross Barrier And The Mechanism Of Ice Movement, sparking an academic discussion that spanned a decade in a number of journals by a number of authors. None of them discussed climate change. What is possibly going to happen to the WAIS has happened over and over again.

Of course, the same people who link climate change to everything do say climate change is speeding up the disintegration of the WAIS. And they may have a point. If climate change is warming the waters that sweep through the bottom of the WAIS, it could be speeding it up. It’s also a real possibility.

So it’s a real shame that the alarmist community has shredded its credibility with me by linking global warming to foolishness ranging from Xtreme Weather to Himalayan glaciers that were said to disappear by 2035.

And this is what infuriates me. I’m not a skeptic of global warming. In theory, I should be on the side of scientists like Michael Mann, Trenberth, Santer and James Hansen.

So instead of manning the ramparts and trying to figure out what we might be able to do to lower eventual warming, I’m scratching my head wondering what to do with…just…another…claim.

Is it as true as this? “Over 4.5 Billion people could die from Global Warming-related causes by 2012. Runaway Global Warming promises to literally burn-up agricultural areas into dust worldwide by 2012, causing global famine, anarchy, diseases, and war on a global scale as military powers including the U.S., Russia, and China, fight for control of the Earth’s remaining resources.”

It’s a travesty.

It is possible that our contributions to global warming could accelerate the collapse of the Western Antarctic Ice Sheet and that our great grandchildren have something very real to worry about. And  yet, because of the hysteria strewn about so casually by NGOs, media types and lobbyists–and a few scientists as well, although most are properly conservative and quiet–I don’t trust their statements. But in the back of my mind I do remember…

quote-even-a-stopped-clock-is-right-twice-a-day-marie-von-ebner-eschenbach-55457

 

 

Who Is Winning The Climate War?

…and how would we know?

cagematch

A majority of the public in most countries believes that man-made climate change is real and apparently would like their governments to do something about it.

According to a recent NY Times poll, 81% of Americans believe climate change is caused by human activity. That’s up from 72% in 2011.

Big win for the Consensus.

However, climate change does not appear to be a big concern for Americans, who placed it next to last on a list of issues they worry about.

Big win for the skeptics.

But looking at public opinion may not be the best way to judge winners and losers.

Australia and Canada have both walked back from strong commitments on emissions. But the UK has doubled down and wants to get greener even quicker.

However, those three countries amount to an asterisk for CO2 emissions and will be an even smaller asterisk in the future.

The top 5 CO2 emitting countries are China, the U.S., India, Russia and Japan. They account for 58% of current emissions and according to the U.S. Department of Energy, they will account for 61% of the much larger total of emissions expected in 2040. (The second five emitters account for about 10% of the total.)

Over at my other blog (3000 Quads–check it out) I have just analyzed the energy future for India and China and come to the sobering conclusion that despite their ambitious plans for green energy, hydro and nuclear, both countries will still be very dependent on coal–almost as dependent in 2040 as they are today.

China’s dependency on coal will drop–but only from 69% to 65%. The same is roughly true of India. And they’re building the coal plants to deliver it today, even if all the headlines are about dams they’re building and nuclear power plants coming on line.

So, at the end of the day, no matter who wins the debate, we’re all going to be losers. If the CO2 don’t get us, the pollution will.

Why are we blaming solar customers instead of the utilities?

Recently I’ve seen discussion of the price non-solar residences have to pay to support those who have solar panels on their rooftops. Judith Curry links to this story and here on a previous post a couple of commenters expressed their displeasure.

The conversations make it sound as though greedy rich solar power homeowners are cackling with glee because utilities are charging their poorer non-solar homeowners for some of the utility’s costs associated with dealing with solar power

And it is true that some utilities tried (and mostly failed) to tack on a surcharge for grid connections for solar. When that didn’t work they just said they would raise rates on all customers to compensate themselves for the extra work involved in measuring and paying for microgrid solar.

But that was never part of the discussion when people started putting solar on their homes. The utilities waited 30 years before bringing it up, much the same way airlines waited until deregulation before they got the bright idea of charging for luggage.

Look–do electricity rates go down when the price of fossil fuel declines? Nope. For that matter, do electricity rates ever go down? Like telephone minutes on a prepaid card that expire every month, it’s something the company thinks they can get away with.

It’s clever for utilities to blame those with solar homes for the tragedy of charging their customers higher prices. And it’s even cleverer to introduce a little class warfare into it, insinuating that the richer solar home owners are slyly gouging their poorer neighbors without solar.

But this is a decision made by the utility. For the utility. They don’t reveal their costs for dealing with microgrid electricity. They don’t reveal manhours, paperwork, bureaucracy, anything.

People who are skeptical of bureaucracy in general are all of a sudden believing this sly story. I wonder why?

Utilities

Let It Go

Once again discussion has erupted in the climate blogosphere about the appropriateness of the term ‘denier’ as used by advocates of the Consensus position about their opponents. Science of Doom started the ball rolling, after which it got Keith Kloor to write a post on his Discovery Blog. After which HotWhopper wrote a spirited, if somewhat incoherent defence of using the term and I guess now it’s my turn.

Denier is a political term, not a description. I have seen physicists with 250 published papers to their credit classed as ‘deniers’, as well as luminaries such as Freeman Dyson, Ivar Giaevar, Judith Curry, John Christy, Richard Lindzen and others. It is obvious that they don’t deny climate science, as most of them have helped make it. So why the term?

Here’s what I wrote over at Science of Doom: “Using the ‘d’ word was a political alternative to engaging with the opponents of the consensus.

When veterans of the tobacco wars advised allies that debating climate science was a losing strategy, it left them with few alternatives to one-way messaging.

Broadcasting messages proved difficult, especially as many of the messages were not crafted by scientists. After some errors had to be acknowledged in vehicles such as An Inconvenient Truth, for example, green NGOs began creating and financing campaigns, as if climate science were a consumer product. This led to imagery such as polar bears on ice floes, close-up pictures of mosquitos, Amazon rainforests being cut down, etc. Later these were joined by more bizarre examples such as the No Pressure video.

But because they were one-way messages, those employing this strategy found it difficult to respond to those on the other side of the policy fence. Often(not always) the consensus team was right on the facts of a particular issue, but couldn’t organize a one-way message in real time.

One of the strategems to bulwark their decision not to engage with opponents was deligitimizing them. We see the results today.

It was not just the use of the ‘d’ word, by the way. Another tactic was pointing out the age of the scientists who spoke out against the consensus, using things like ‘gone emeritus’ etc.

Another was the use of carefully crafted literature searches to create the impression of an overwhelming consensus–the 97%, as opposed to merely the 81% that is closer to the truth. Oreskes, Prall, Cook–all of their signature pages were based on research designed to ignore relevant work by their opponents, not measure it.

To be clear–it is not scientists at fault for this strategy. A group of politically concerned activists took the microphones out of the hands of scientists and began insulting their opponents instead of discussing the science.

I would ask scientists (I’ve said all this to Bart Verheggen at his place of business) if it is not time to reclaim the microphone, ‘thank’ the activists for their efforts and ask them to leave the stage.”

The real argument in a nutshell can be summarized quickly at Keith Kloor’s post:

“Denier” is an accurate word for them. Why can’t it be used

  • Go ahead. Knowingly using a word like this that you know may be offensive to someone says a lot more about you than it does about them.

    Sadly, it doesn’t stop there. So I’ll give my advice to members of the Consensus who really, really want to link their opponents to skinhead thugs who deny the Holocaust occurred–but I’ll make it a bit difficult for them, as they annoy me:

 

Solar Power 2014–Still Growing, Still Niche

If lily pads on a pond double the area they cover every day, and it takes 48 days to cover the pond, how long does it take them to cover 50% of the pond? (Answer at the bottom.)

The world is still looking for cost-effective substitutes for fossil fuels. Popular opinion still is heavily against nuclear, and environmental advocates still lobby against hydroelectric installations–at least in the developed world. (They don’t like it in emerging countries either, but they don’t get listened to quite as much down south.)

What’s available is wind, biofuels and solar. Wind and biofuels are stuck in controversy, so what is acceptable is solar.

Solar is hampered by its intermittent nature, unable to dispatch energy 24/7.

However, despite its cost and intermittency, solar power continues to grow. This actually seems to frustrate those who rely on free market economic theory, as they don’t understand why people buy solar installations for their rooftop when it is more expensive than other sources of energy. They don’t seem to understand that there are more signals in a free market than price. Solar can be a vanity purchase, a hedge, a political signal a Veblen good–all of these can explain many of the purchases of solar power.

In 2014 global solar installations grew by 20%, to 42 GW, certainly not solar’s best year. Those installations, when added to those of previous years, mean that solar power is making a contribution to global totals. However, despite impressive growth, it is still an asterisk in world energy consumption.

global-solar-PV-capacity-growth

Solar can show impressive curves when measured by itself. But when you look at global totals it is not so impressive.

World_energy_consumption_by_fuel.svg

 

Solar power continues to get cheaper. Five years ago the average household income of a household buying solar was $150,000. Now households earning half that can think about solar if they choose.

Slide 1

 

Solar is still more expensive than the alternatives, however, when you look at the Levelized Cost Of Energy.

Q2-2013-global-Levelised-cost-of-electricity-Graphic-WEC

So, assuming that solar power grows at 20% a year, driven by falling prices, environmental concerns and rising utility costs (which seem to pay no attention at all to the cost of fuel), what will solar look like in the near term future?

Solar power provided about 2% of all renewable energy in 2013, or about 1.12 quads. If it continues to grow at 20% a year (which is slower than the rate at which it grew in the past two decades) its delivered energy will amount to:

2020: 4 quads

2025: 10 quads

2030: 25 quads

2035: 61 quads

2040: 153 quads

2050: 952 quads

Sure hope it works out that way.

Answer: 47 days

EEWhiteLilyPadPond_lg

Surviving Peak Population In Style–The Magnificent Seven

One of the primary drivers of climate change is population change. The world’s population is increasing–this causes us to grow more crops, cut down more forests, build more dams and burn more fossil fuels, emitting more black carbon to sit on the snows up North and down South. Whether you think any of these factors is more important than the others, humans impact the climate and more humans will impact it more.

Over at Judith Curry’s blog, Planning Engineer has a useful post that segments potential attitudes towards climate or energy policies. I recommend it highly. This post is an attempt to reconcile the different perspectives.

Thankfully population is expected to peak this century and then decline slightly. The UN revised both the time of this peak and the total peak population, but even so, at some point between 2075 and 2100 the human population will most likely reach its top number, between 9.5 and 10.5 billion souls.

The IPCC has written in the past that they expect emissions to peak around 2100, although I’ll have to look for a reference and supply the link after I finish this. (Well, you can start here: http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg3/en/ch3s3-3-5-1.html)

Our challenge here in 2015 is to chart a course that gets us to the peak of population and consumption/emission in good shape. What does that entail?

  1. Working with the developing world to lift the standard of living of all the people. This is our primary responsibility, both ethically in recognition of the worth of human life in 2015 and as preparation for the challenges through 2100.
  2. Identifying a path to success–for energy, CO2 emissions, food and water sources, pollution reduction, biodiversity and more. This has to be an integrated approach, as each element impacts all the rest.
  3. Creating consensus. There is no point being alarmed about future temperature rises if you have already vetoed the energy sources that can address CO2 emissions. There is no point in defending the sanctity of either the forests or the oceans if you do not work hand in glove with those utilizing technology to improve agriculture (yes, I’m talking about GMOs, among other factors). There will not only be politics–we will have to resurrect respect for and pride in politics and politicians. (Which may involve getting new politicians…)
  4. Setting benchmarks. As opposed to creating targets from central planning politicians, we will need to spend money identifying best practices and holding them up as examples to the world. (I submit to you that those best practices already exist today.)
  5. Allocating resources. There is no sense in telling Nigeria to simultaneously end their resource addiction to oil–oil that causes corruption, stagnation in the rest of the economy, civil strife and ground pollution–unless we are willing to commit time, energy and money to helping them do this. (As noted in point 4, other countries have successfully done this.)  There is no sense in telling Delaware that they should have some level of renewable energy generation unless we assist in creating the infrastructure (including funding) to help them get on the same road as Rhode Island.
  6. Rewarding winners, helping stragglers. We now pay African leaders $5 million USD if they leave office peacefully at the end of their term. It works. A sustainability fund that rewards progress would also work (Yes, there would be gaming of the system, corruption, false claims, etc. But it would still work.) A second fund set up to help straggling nations or regions achieve benchmarks would also work.
  7. Continuing research. It is time to shift from spending so much time measuring one particular aspect of the problem (effects of CO2) and to start funding research into solutions. Reduction of black carbon particles. Provision of denser fuels to rural households in India. Understanding which of the many reforestation programs is most effective. A deeper understanding of human impacts on biodiversity (yes, including coral reefs)

I’ve no doubt I have left many things out–and hopefully you will bring them to my attention.

It is my sincere hope that I will have time to actually propose concrete methods to address each of these 7 points.

My starting thesis is that (I hope) most people want future generations to look back at our lives and think of us as well, heroes who rose to a challenge and sacrificed to meet it, overcoming real doubts, disagreements and past fights and preconceptions to do so.

Discussing Global CO2 Emissions

To follow on and extend the discussion started yesterday, here is some interesting data taken from CDIAC. I posted earlier on my companion blog 3000 Quads that while climate change is surely a global issue, fixing it is not. The top 5 emitters will be responsible for more than 60% of CO2 emissions between now and 2040, mostly due to China and India’s increasing energy consumption.

CO2

Emissions are projected to be high. The amount of CO2 our energy use will release in the next 25 years amounts to 80% of all the CO2 we have emitted since 1750. That’s quick work.

Global human emissions of CO2 since 1750: 364,725 million metric tons of carbon, multiplied by 3.667 to get 1,337,446.5 mmts of CO2.

(To repeat the point made last year, (Don’t want to abandon my 15 minutes of blog fame), 100,883 mmts of carbon or 369,973 mmts of CO2 have been emitted since 1998. That’s 27.6% of the total.)

2010 emissions: 9,167 mmts carbon, or 33,615.38 mmts CO2. If we stabilized emissions at that level, between now and 2040 we would emit a total of 840,348.5 mmts of CO2. But of course, emissions are increasing.

Global projected emissions, 2015-2040: 1,041,892.19 mmts CO2

U.S. projected emissions CO2, 2015-2040: 143,512.3 (13.7% of global emissions)

China projected emissions CO2, 2015-2040: 342,165.91 (32.8%)

India projected emissions CO2, 2015-2040: 66,559.4 (6.4%)

Russia projected emissions CO2, 2015-2040: 48,886.96 (4.7%)

Japan projected emissions CO2, 2015-2040: 31,445.99 (3.0%)

Total top 5 emitters projected CO2, 2015-2040: 632,570.56 (60.7%)

While I spend a lot of time here criticizing those in the media and academia (and occasionally scientists) about some of the silly things they say, readers should not think I take the overall issue of AGW lightly. As these figures show, if CO2 has any effect on this planet’s climate, we are set to find out in the next 25 years.

 

CO2 Emissions 2015 – 2020

When the great and the good meet to talk about climate change, the dilemma they face is whether the bulk of the responsibility for dealing with it should lie on the shoulders of the rich nations that emitted the most in the past or those of the emerging nations that will push emissions upwards going forward.

That’s not an easy decision to make. It depends on which problem you are trying to solve.

Between 2005 and 2010, the people on this planet emitted about 189,653.5 million metric tons of CO2, according to CDIAC.

According to the DOE, the U.S. was responsible for 34,752 of those mmts, about 18%. China emitted 5,000 more mmts, 39,754, or 21%.

However, in the next 5 years the DOE projects a dramatic change. The U.S. is expected to emit fewer tons of CO2 between 2015 and 2020–only 32,386 mmts. The story is much different for China, which is expected to emit a staggering 65,158 mmts of CO2 between 2015 and 2020.

In the five years between 2015 and 2020, the world is expected to emit 211,077 mmts of CO2, not really that much more than the period between 2005 and 2010–a little more than 10%. But of that total, China will emit 31%.

China’s winning a race that shouldn’t really be run.

China winning the race

In the U.S.A. CO2 emissions peaked in 2007 with 6,000 million metric tons emitted. That has since dropped to 5,363 mmts in 2014, a drop of 10%. Those who first noticed the falling figures put it down to recession, although the DOE was clear that falling GDP only caused about a third of it. The economy has been growing for several years now and emissions kept dropping.

Well, 2014 has a slight uptick, from 5,232 mmts to 5,363, I hope the U.S. economy keeps growing strongly–let’s see what happens to emissions in 2015.

The totals per region are as follows:

Europe peaked in emissions in 2006, with 4,515 mmts. Their 2014 figure was 4,060 mmts, also about 10% down from the peak.

Just to confuse you a little, here’s the total for all OECD countries (including the U.S. and Europe): The OECD peaked in 2008 with 13,817 mmts. The OECD total for 2014 was 12,778, about an 8% drop.

Russia peaked in 2008 and is down about 10% from then. All of non-OECD Europe and Eurasia–the same.

All the growth in emissions comes from China, India, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America.

China’s emissions are up 30% since 2007. (And now are 30% of the global total.)

India’s emissions are up 20% since 2007.

The Middle East’s emissions are up more than 20% since 2007.

Sadly, Africa’s emissions are only up 10% (Like India, they need energy so badly…)

Central and South America’s emissions are up 25% since 2008.

So, assuming it is decided that CO2 emissions must drop, someone must foot the bill–whatever fuel source is decided on as replacement(s), facilities must be built and installed, maintained, etc., and the existing fleet of fossil fuel plants will need to be shut down and mothballed. Decommissioning power plants is actually pretty expensive. Shutting down coal mines–not so much.

If you are looking for climate justice, you want reparations for past actions. If you want to stop climate change, you need to change the energy choices of the emerging world. (We cannot tell them in good conscious not to consume energy. That’s just daft. We can perhaps shape their choices of fuel. That’s just common sense.)

Split it down the middle.

 

Rates of Change, Creatures of Habit

Periodically I see members of the Consensus try and vary their argument about Climate Change. Instead of warning us about the Grand Total of temperature or sea level rise, they talk about how quickly it might happen and how the rate of change is actually more threatening than the total.

That line of argument seems to be becoming more common as the Grand Totals are adjusted downward. Nobody seems to be talking anymore about the Six Degrees of Immolation that was such a popular meme a few years ago, nor about the 3 Meter Backward Somersault With Reverse Twist that sea levels were going to do. Now it’s the fact that it might happen in a few years–even less than a decade–that should alarm us. They say that we evolved in a stable climate and that rapid change can be well… almost catastrophic.

At first that might seem somewhat ridiculous–that (say for example) a quick rise of 2C in surface temperatures could truly pose a threat to an advanced civilization with our access to energy (for air conditioning) and advanced technologies for monitoring and combating sea level rise.

Sadly, that advanced civilization is really only available to the 1.2 billion of us living in the developed world. Rapid change could in fact be a real threat to those in the emerging economies that are home to the other 5.8 billion of us.

This may explain the vehemence of those who refuse to admit that there has been a pause in the climb of surface temperatures. If their argument is that temperatures can climb rapidly, even if they convince us of the possibility (and I am convinced that it is possible–it has happened in the past), that doesn’t get them anywhere unless they can also convince us that it’s happening now.

And it’s not.

Similarly with sea level rise, something like a very rapid melt of the Western Antarctic Ice Sheet could produce an almost instantaneous sea level rise that would scare the heck out of us and harm quite a few. But without any idea of when that might happen, the 3mm per year current sea level rise has no power to frighten–that’s 1 foot a (Oops.) century. Amusingly, some scientists have actually lowered estimates of sea level rise from earlier in the 20th Century–so they can then claim with a straight face that the current sea level rise is happening at double the rate of 50 or 60 years ago. Sadly, we’ve seen that story before.

Despite all that, I do give some credence to worries that accelerated impacts of climate change may prove a serious threat. This is not because we are stuck at a low level of mitigation technology–we’re far from that.

I just wonder if in the developed world 21st Century Man is as strong, adaptable and clear-headed as his forebears. I’m actually not at all worried about how people in the Philippines or Indonesia will react to quick climate change. They’re smart, quick thinking and adaptable. It’s we in the developed world who I see (with many exceptions of course) as sluggish, overly dependent and frankly out of shape.

To be clear, I see no present evidence of any acceleration of either the phenomena described as global warming nor impacts. Temperatures have plateaued at a high level–just ask consensus scientist James Hansen. Sea level rise has been a very stable 3mm a year or less for a very long time. Xtreme Weather is an alarmist myth.

And it’s a very good thing.

Backward-Evolution

 

Future Plans For This Blog and 3000 Quads

I’ve been posting quite a bit since I un-retired around the first of the year, and much of what I’ve been doing is to try and set up a clearinghouse for criticisms of the main vehicles used to promote the Second Consensus. By that I mean the consensus amongst the media and commentariat that the science is settled, the skeptics are bad, it’s going to be worse than we thought and anybody who criticizes the consensus is a denier.

When I get done with that I want to look more closely at NGO messaging, something I think has been a major factor in preventing reasonable dialogue and intelligent action. That should take me through February for The Lukewarmer’s Way.

For my companion blog 3000 Quads, I’m going to re-visit themes such as internal variability within countries regarding energy consumption, try to configure a sane fuel portfolio for major emitting countries and wait as patiently as I can for the spring release of the DOE International Energy Outlook.

I also need to make time to clean up my blogroll. Link rot is there and it is evil.

For both blogs, I am open to suggestions on topics of interest to readers. Way back when I did a guest series over at Jeff Id’s blog comparing climate blogs–one skeptic vs. one consensus blog at a time. If there’s interest, I could do something along those lines for 2015. Anybody want a side by side comparison of Jose Duarte vs. And Then There’s Physics?

Critiquing The Stern Review

I know I should probably wait another year and do it at the ten year mark, but I’ve got to scratch that itch.

“The Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change is a 700-page report released for the British government on 30 October 2006 by economist Nicholas Stern, chair of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and also chair of the Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy (CCCEP) at Leeds University and LSE. The report discusses the effect of global warming on the world economy. Although not the first economic report on climate change, it is significant as the largest and most widely known and discussed report of its kind”

The report itself can be found here, broken into bite-sized chunks.

Stern wrote, “The scientific evidence is now overwhelming: climate change presents very serious global risks, and it demands an urgent global response…The benefits of strong, early action considerably outweigh the costs.”

My previous argument against Stern’s conclusions are based on his use of an IPCC scenario that had population estimates at 15 billion by the end of the century. This is a bit below the UN’s new high variant prediction of 16.6 billion, but far higher than their (recently adjusted upward) medium variant of 10 billion.

But there are other things I disagree with in the report (it’s 700 pages long, so that’s pretty much natural). For example, Stern found that under business as usual (i.e., assuming no new policies to reduce carbon emissions), the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere could reach double the pre-industrial level as early as 2035.  That is not supported by evidence available to Stern then or the data we can look at now.

In fact, Stern said in his review that CO2 concentrations in 2006 were 430 ppm. At that time they were 381.9 ppm. “The current level or stock of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is equivalent to around 430 parts per million (ppm) CO2 1 , compared with only 280ppm before the Industrial Revolution. ”

Pre-industrial concentrations are commonly held as 280 ppm. They are now about 400 ppm. The IPCC actually projects as a high range concentration by 2035 a level of 450 ppm. This is dramatically lower than the 560 ppm used by Stern.

Stern also wrote that by the end of the century, business as usual would lead to more than a 50% chance of exceeding 5 C of warming, implying disastrous changes in natural ecosystems and human living conditions around the world.

Stern Review

In the IPCC AR4, published almost at the same time as Stern’s review, they gave different temperature rises for the end of the century for six different scenarios. Only two of those scenarios–A2 and A1F1–have temperatures rising to that level. The others range from 1.1 to 4.4C in temp rises.

The economic model used in the Stern Review finds that the damages from business as usual would be expected to reduce GDP by 5%. This is higher than most economists estimate.

In fact, most of the published criticisms raised are actually by economists.

“The extensive criticisms of the Stern Review’s economics raise three principal points:

• the discount rate is said to be too low;

• the treatment of risk and uncertainty is inappropriate; and

• the calculation and comparison of costs and benefits is done incorrectly.

“Stern’s preferred discount rate, 1.4%  is much lower than the rates used in traditional climate economic models. For William Nordhaus, “the Review’s radical revision arises because of an extreme assumption about discounting…this magnifies enormously impacts in the distant future and rationalizes deep cuts in emissions, and indeed in all consumption, today.” Nordhaus maintains that the discount rate should initially match an interest rate of about 5% above inflation.

The second major innovation in the Stern analysis is the treatment of risk and uncertainty connected to climate change. The  IPCC’s Third Assessment Report (2001) assumed that a doubling of pre-industrial CO2 concentrations would lead to warming of 1.5o – 4.5o, a range the IPCC went back to in AR5. Stern’s high climate sensitivity scenario assumes that the same doubling of atmospheric CO2 would lead to 2.4o – 5.4o.

Second, the PAGE model, used in the Stern Review, includes an estimate for the risk of an abrupt climate catastrophe, something most economic models do not use. There are three commonly accepted methods of modeling uncertainty. Each of these three methods of modeling uncertainty has an important influence on the results. Sensitivity analyses by the Stern team show that “the estimated cost of “business as usual” climate damages would be increased by 3.6 percentage points (i.e., 3.6% of global consumption) by the high climate sensitivity assumptions. Similarly, removal of the calculation of catastrophic risks would reduce estimated damages by 2.9 percentage points. Elimination of the Monte Carlo analysis, doing one run of PAGE using the most common value for each parameter (such as 1.3 for γ), would reduce damage estimates by 7.6 percentage points.24 In short, Stern’s treatment of uncertainty is comparable in importance to the discount rate in determining the outcome of the model.”

In addition to criticisms of the discount rate and the treatment of uncertainty, economists have also criticized Stern’s estimates of the expected damages from climate change, the costs of mitigating those damages, and the comparison of damages and mitigation costs.

Richard Tol and Gary Yohe believe that Stern has exaggerated throughout: “The Stern Review consistently selects the most pessimistic study in the literature for water, agriculture, health, and insurance.”

Robert Mendelsohn adds the claim that Stern has overstated the effects, or the certainty, of extreme weather events, and has downplayed the likely extent of adaptation to a changing climate. In general, Mendelsohn believes the damages from the early stages of warming to be quite small: “…there are hardly any damages associated with a 2 C increase in temperature.”

Stern wrote that temperatures would rise 2-3C within 50 years. Nine years later temperatures haven’t raised much at all. It would take a heroic rise to meet his projection.

Stern writes, “According to one estimate, by the middle of the century, 200 million people may become permanently displaced due to rising sea levels, heavier floods, and more intense droughts.” According to the UN in 2014 there were 15 million refugees who had left their country and 27 million who were displaced internally. Almost all of that was due to conflict. Most environmental refugees flee storms, floods or droughts and return to rebuild their homes when conditions improve. Storms, foods and droughts do not appear to be increasing in either number or intensity. Again, the next 40 years will have to be terrible indeed for Stern’s prediction to come true.

Stern writes, “Based on simple extrapolations, costs of extreme weather alone could reach 0.5 – 1% of world GDP per annum by the middle of the century, and will keep rising if the world continues to warm. ” Again, as none of this has even started yet, if Stern is right we’d better batten down the hatches to survive the next 40 years.

I’ll have to leave it there for today. Posts really shouldn’t be this long. Feel free to continue support or criticism of the Stern Review in the comments.

I can see how Stern can use inflated numbers to get to a scary total. What I can’t see is why it is still being used as a policy guide today.

 

Climate Commenter of the Year, 2014

It’s difficult–but important–to acknowledge quality work from the other side of the fence. It’s a bit easier with blog writers–when I awarded Gavin Schmidt Blogger of the Year a couple of years ago, nobody on the skeptic side even grumbled.

It’s tougher with commenters, as the odds are that you’ve sparred with them more than once.

Respect Your Opponent

But this year’s winner deserves the award. He comments prolifically–but doesn’t spam the same comments across the blogosphere.

He’s (usually) not vitriolic, although like all commenters (including myself when I’m at other venues) he can be a bit acerbic at times.

He’s usually on point–he doesn’t go after personalities very much. His usual tactic–asking for sources from those he opposes–is something we could use a little bit more of here in the climate blogosphere.

The gentleman’s name is Hank Roberts. I think he very much deserves the award for 2014 Climate Commenter of the Year. I hope that’s at least one thing we agree on this year.

I’ll leave you with one of his most recent comments on Real Climate, where the topic is ‘Thoughts On Ongoing Temperature Trends”.

 

  • Ah, Victor?

    Victor, did you ever talk to a reference librarian? The questions you ask are good — but asking them of the wind, or typing them into the computer, does not get you the help for which you appear to be crying out.

    Talk to someone near you who understands statistics.

    Please. Otherwise you may — as appears so far — mistakenly convince yourself that ignoramus necessarily means ignorabimus.

    At Azimuth, the topic that Jan Galkowski points to, ends with:

    Working out these kinds of details is the process of science at its best, and many disciplines, not least mathematics, statistics, and signal processing, have much to contribute to the methods and interpretations of these series data. It is possible too much is being asked of a limited data set, and perhaps we have not yet observed enough of climate system response to say anything definitive. But the urgency to act responsibly given scientific predictions remains.

 

More Bang (And Less Gas) For The Buck

While consumers are happy that oil prices have dropped dramatically in recent months, if people start driving a lot more some worry about the impacts on climate change and conventional pollution.

Since we really don’t want to control people and tell them if and when and where they should drive, this leads us directly back to building better cars that get higher mileage and emit less CO2. So how are we doing on this?

In 2012 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Richard Nixon’s legacy to the nation (well, there’s Watergate, but…) issued a report detailing improvements in automotive performance between 1975 and 2012.

Happy news! Just the one-year improvements between 2011 and 2012 were worth reporting (although I never saw it in the news…). CO2 emissions per mile declined by 7% from 2011 to 2012. Gas mileage improved by 1.2 mpg! Hooray for those in Detroit, Germany and Japan!

But looking at the improvements since 1975 is even more impressive. In 1975 the average CO2 emissions were 681 grams per mile. In 2013 they were 370 grams per mile, a drop of 45%.

Fuel economy went from 13.1 miles per gallon in 1975 to 24.0 mpg in 2013–getting close to a doubling.

You can file this in a category of ‘Good News That Goes Unreported’. In their zeal to get us to support ever more stringent controls on anything we do that emits CO2, there seems to be an earnest desire to never mention anything that is getting better.

Now of course all that efficiency can be outpaced if driving increases. In the U.S., miles driven per year in fact has increased–but slowly. Peak miles driven occurred in 2007 and Americans are driving 60 billion fewer miles right now than they were during the recession.

Good news on the technology! Good news on the environment! Good news on the behavior of the citizens of the U.S.A.!

Not bad for a Wednesday.

well_done_thumb

Wicked

Judith Curry, my Climate Blogger of the Year for 2014, has a post up about Eija-Riitta Korhola’s remarkable article regarding the change of course Korhola thinks is necessary to combat, not just climate change, but the other environmental issues that face the planet. Both Curry’s reaction and Korhola’s article are worth the time spent reading and digesting them and I recommend you read both. (Curry found the article via Roger Pielke’s site–as Korhola praises the Hartnell Dialogues which Pielke participated in, Pielke’s enthusiasm is almost as great as Curry’s–and mine, for that matter.)

Update: I continue the conversation over at 3000 Quads.

Judith’s unbridled enthusiasm for finding a like-minded soul that will be hard to discredit echoes perhaps the feelings most of us who are arrayed against the Consensus regarding climate policy felt when Judith herself started blogging. As a respected climate scientist, we lukewarmers and many skeptics felt that having her join forces against the Green Blob that managed to combine mechanical and maniacal messaging that demonized us would be enough to tip the scales against what we felt (and most still feel) works against coherent action on behalf of our planet. We didn’t anticipate how virulent the reaction would be against Dr. Curry, that the same people who slimed us unceasingly would be perfectly happy to use the same tactics against her. I only hope that they don’t do the same thing with Korhola. Vain hope, I’m pretty sure.

But this post isn’t about Curry or Korhola. It is about their description of the climate issue as ‘wicked.’ That is a characterization I wish to take issue with. I disagree.

A wicked problem is a problem that is difficult or impossible to solve because of incomplete, contradictory, and changing requirements that are often difficult to recognize. I don’t believe climate change is any of these.

To begin with, we have all the tools we need to reduce anthropogenic emissions by whatever percentage we need, should we agree on the necessity. France got to a total of 85% non-emissive energy consumption through nuclear power in 20 years. The top 5 emitters of greenhouse gases could do the same and they account for almost 60% of global emissions. If supplemented by efforts that are already ongoing to continue expansion of hydropower and other renewables the problem would not be difficult or impossible–it would be solved with current technology and no required innovation.

What I believe creates the impression of ‘wickedness’ is the continuous addition of changing requirements and political non-sequiturs by different parties to the Consensus, one of which is the demonization of both nuclear power and hyroelectric power. If you take those two off the table, meaningful progress on emissions is not just wicked, it is impossible. Bring them into the room and the issue is not even controversial–it is routine.

Another Consensus creation is the differentiation in what is asked of developing versus already developed nation states. Not that there shouldn’t be a difference–there should. But it shouldn’t be bilateral. Each country should have a different set of goals and assistance, where required, should be country specific, as opposed to block grants handed out by one authority in strict percentages to all needy countries. China is now the largest emitter of CO2. Heck, it emits 30% of all greenhouse gases. What China needs to do and what it requires from richer countries is vastly different than what is required from, say, Kenya or Nigeria.

Although the Consensus paints skeptics as a roadblock to progress, in truth it is their redefinition of the problem and their wrong-headedness in acceptance of potential solutions that in fact hampers movement towards a simple solution.

And although their attempt to create false conditions to make climate change not just wicked but insoluble is wrong-headed to the point of insanity, one can look at the Consensus and say they actually are trying to achieve something else…

 

State of the Climate 2014: Climate Deaths

This is (probably) the last in a series of posts evaluating the state of the planet’s climate and the impacts of 2014 being perhaps the warmest year on record and certainly being one of the 14 top temperatures on record, all occurring in the past 15 years. (I say probably because I may do a summary later.)

Death by climate change. Ever since the World Health Organization postulated that 150,000 people per year die because of climate change, it has been a controversial statistic. ‘Statistical deaths’ have been known to estimate more children dying of a particular disease than all child deaths that occur in a year.

Imputing an increased disease burden to climate change is a statistical exercise. I will not criticize it further here. I will instead use their criteria and look at what has happened in the past year or during the course of this century.

The WHO based its claim largely on the work discussed in a paper called Global Climate Change. The paper says there will be some slight health benefits associated with climbing temperatures, such as fewer deaths due to cold. However, over all, they estimated that in 2000 net additional deaths would be 150,000. The paper forecast 47,000 additional deaths due to diarrhea, 77,000 due to malnutrition, 27,000 due to malaria and 2,000 due to flooding. Although this only adds up to 126,000 the rest may be due to unquantified statistical deaths due to cardiovascular disease and dengue fever.

They also assumed that the number of deaths will rise from 2000, but the next year they gave figures for was 2030, so we will evaluate performance from their 2000 figures.

For diarrhea, the number of deaths decreased by 50% for children under 5 from 2000 to 2013, the latest year for which numbers are available. (Young children are the most vulnerable to death from diarrheal disease.) (In 1980 the figure was 4.6 million per year.) I am unable to find figures for the full population.

For malnutrition, the FAO estimates that 805 million people were chronically malnourished in 2014, a reduction of over 100 million from a decade ago.

For malaria, “Global efforts to control and eliminate malaria reduced mortality by 45 per cent worldwide, and 49 per cent in Africa, according to the World Malaria report 2013 published by the UN agency.

That is the equivalent of 3.3 million lives saved between 2000 and 2012, the large majority in the 10 countries with the highest malaria burden, and among the most affected age groups – children five years old and younger.”

With the direction of these major killers moving in a favorable direction for humanity, it is tempting to dismiss the statistical deaths as a fiction of alarmists.

But it would take work and scholarship to actually do so. There are two reasons why we can’t just sit back and treat the WHO projections as fantasy. First, who’s to say that progress would not have been even more dramatic in these areas absent climate change? Perhaps we would have been celebrating 1.5 million fewer deaths than the millions we are happy to see alive if there had been no climate change. We don’t know and perhaps we never will. So although it’s intuitive to say that climate change has not had an impact on deaths caused by these conditions, we cannot say for sure. Cynics will say that the way the claims are structured make that inevitable and constitute a feature, not a bug, from the point of view of those most concerned about climate change. I’m not nearly at that point yet.

The second reason we cannot dismiss the climate deaths claim is that from 2000 to 2014 there has been a pause in warming. Although warmists and alarmists are now busy saying there is no pause at all, the IPCC, James Hansen and other respected scientists were saying this during the course of the past few years. And it could be true that the reason all these conditions have improved is because the expected warming has not taken place.

I do have a problem with statistical projections of mortality. There are too many factors that can influence the course of any condition. For diarrhea, slight changes in access to clean water can have a dramatic effect. For malaria, the mobilization of efforts (due in part to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) may not have been factored in. Technology’s progress in agriculture and distribution may be an unexpected factor in  the fight against malnutrition.

Gates quote

It would be quite difficult to disambiguate the prime factors. Which is why these studies should be treated with a grain of salt in the first place.

State of the Climate 2014 Part 3: Climate Refugees

Summary for the time starved: Total refugees have increased from 42 million in 2010 to 50 million in 2014. It is difficult to classify the nature of the conditions that caused people to flee their homes. Some people appear to want to ‘claim’ refugees as victims of climate change inappropriately.

There is a logical case in theory for both the concept of and concern for climate refugees. If extreme weather events increase, more people will have to leave the areas where those events occur. Sadly, that is not the case that is being made throughout much of the media, by politicians and by organizations whose remit stands to expand if climate change is found to increase the number of refugees overall. However, if extreme weather events do increase, the number of climate refugees may be assumed to increase as well.

The logical case is simply put: “Natural disasters like Typhoon Haiyan—which devastated the Philippines in 2013—displace more people than war, according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center in Geneva. And as climate change sets off increasingly lethal natural disasters, so will the numbers of environmental refugees increase, Reuters reported.

It is a reality that governments must prepare themselves for. In 2013, some 22 million people were displaced by extreme natural disasters like typhoons, earthquakes and tsunamis, a number three times the number of those who were forced to migrate because of war, according to the IDMC.

“Many more people in a growing population live more exposed to extreme weather,” Jan Egeland, the head of the Norwegian Refugee Council, which runs the IDMC, said this week at a conference in Oslo, Norway.”

However, the topic has been warped by some. There are those who seemingly wish to relabel those fleeing a storm as those forced to move because of sea level rise or other long term impacts of climate change. Perhaps even more disturbing is the effort to classify those fleeing conflict as climate refugees, as has happened with those fleeing Syria. Some have said that climate change was the cause of the Syrian conflict–or at least a major contributor (a concept I find amazingly off-target). They then want to classify the three million who fled the war in 2014 as climate refugees. I find that appallingly cynical. (I can believe that drought exacerbates tensions. I can’t believe that this is new to the Middle East. And I don’t believe that droughts have increased in intensity or frequency there.)

climate-refugee-protest-vietnam-350

In 1988 a researcher named Jodi Jacobsen claimed there were 10 million environmental migrants and refugees. That mutated over the course of a decade to unsubstantiated claims by British environmentalist Norman Myers that there 25 million environmental refugees in the ’90s and that this would double by 2010 and perhaps reach 200 million by 2050.

However, their definition of ‘environmental refugee’ is fairly broad and includes circumstances quite different than assumed for ‘climate refugee’. The Wikipedia article on environmental migrants is actually quite good.

“The International Organisation for Migration proposes three types of environmental migrants:

  • Environmental emergency migrants: people who flee temporarily due to an environmental disaster or sudden environmental event. (Examples: someone forced to leave due to hurricane, tsunami, earthquake, etc.)
  • Environmental forced migrants: people who have to leave due to deteriorating environmental conditions. (Example: someone forced to leave due to a slow deterioration of their environment such as deforestation, coastal deterioration, etc.)
  • Environmental motivated migrants also known as environmentally induced economic migrants: people who choose to leave to avoid possible future problems. (Example: someone who leaves due to declining crop productivity caused by desertification)”

The large majority of current ‘environmental’ refugees are those forced to leave due to storms, etc. But only if extreme weather events are increasing could those be termed ‘climate refugees.’ And extreme weather events are not increasing. There are not more storms. The storms are not becoming stronger.

By more mutation, the earlier work has now transformed into claims that ‘climate refugees’ will number between 150 and 200 million by 2050, made by (of course) Stern et al 2006, several environmental NGOs and even the IPCC. In 2009, for example, an article in the Guardian labeled 20 million people displaced by natural disasters ‘climate refugees.’

But migrants are different from refugees–most of the time. They may get mixed together by some agencies, but they are not the same thing. So what about refugees?

The IOM estimated the numbers of refugees at 15.4 million internationally, with 27.5 million displaced within the borders of their native countries. However, in June of 2014 the UN marked World Refugee Day, noting that the number had exceeded 50 million for the first time since WWII. So the number has risen sharply in just four years, from 42 to 50 million.

But the UN didn’t talk about climate at all during that commemoration. “We are seeing here the immense costs of not ending wars, of failing to resolve or prevent conflict,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres. “Peace is today dangerously in deficit. Humanitarians can help as a palliative, but political solutions are vitally needed. Without this, the alarming levels of conflict and the mass suffering that is reflected in these figures will continue.” …”Overall, the biggest refugee populations under UNHCR care and by source country are Afghans, Syrians and Somalis together accounting for more than half of the global refugee total.”

So, it would appear that:

  • There are two types of refugee that are being discussed (although other types of refugees do exist).
  • Refugees who leave their homes when a hurricane, typhoon or flood occurs (most temporarily–they return when conditions return to normal).
  • Refugees fleeing conflict.
  • The total number has increased from 42 million in 2010 to 50 million in 2013.
  • Current refugee counts are clearly dominated by conflict.

Clearly, more work is needed to identify the different types of conditions causing people to flee their homes.

However, that important work is obviously not as important as getting out there and providing material assistance to those afflicted. We should accept that this ambiguity exists for a reason and learn to live with it–and deal with the ‘greyness’ of these numbers rationally.

State of the Climate 2014 Part 2

Yesterday I looked at some commonly viewed indicators of climate change–temperatures, sea level rise, drought and storms. Today I will look at some equally common indicators of climate impacts–agriculture, key species and a few others if I find the stats.

Because it’s so early in the year, 2014 statistics aren’t available for some of the indicators. Where that is the case we look at trends since 2000, comprising the period where 14 of the warmest 15 years in the temperature record have occurred.

In what may have been the warmest year in the modern temperature record, how did agriculture fare? The FAO in October reported that “Global markets for most foodstuffs are characterized by abundant supplies and less uncertainty than in recent years” in their October biannual report ‘Food Outlook‘. Their December check on prices show that prices for major foodstuffs have declined since then, an indication that the situation continues to improve. Record global production was reached for wheat, cassava and coarse grains.

Grain

Since 2000, malaria, predicted by some climate scientists to become wider spread due to warmer temperatures, has seen mortality decrease by 47% worldwide and by 54% in the WHO Africa region, where about 90% of malaria deaths occur. As for global spread, “In 2013, 2 countries reported zero indigenous cases for the first time (Azerbaijan and Sri Lanka), and 11 countries succeeded in maintaining zero cases (Argentina, Armenia, Egypt, Georgia, Iraq, Kyrgyzstan, Morocco, Oman, Paraguay, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan). Another 4 countries reported fewer than 10 local cases annually (Algeria, Cabo Verde, Costa Rica and El Salvador).”

Malaria mortality

Polar bear populations have been a political football for decades and 2014 is no different. The global population of polar bears appears to be robust. Data is not available for several key regions where polar bears are found. The bears are mobile and migrate easily to areas where their food supply goes and where ice conditions are most congenial. So, although some sectors see populations rising and some falling, it is not clear whether this is because of birth/death ratios, migrations or just bears going on temporary walkabout. The same sentence could have been written 20 years ago, not exactly a testament to modern scientific data collection. Explore for yourself: The ‘consensus’ view is here, a skeptical view here and what may be a synthesis view here. Readers are warned that I personally believe each of those views are more political than anything else. Time to find another icon–charismatic megafauna are in short supply, but certainly one could be found…

polar_bear_pop

Global economic output grew by about 3.5% in 2014 according to the IMF. Since 2000, during the period of 14 of the 15 warmest years, global GDP has tripled from $40 trillion to $120 trillion USD at PPP (Purchasing Power Parity). In inflation adjusted nominal terms, global output has almost doubled, to $74 trillion USD.

recordGlobalGDP2012455394

According to the CIA World Factbook, global mortality in terms of the crude death rate has declined from 8.37 in 2009 to 7.89 in 2013. During the period since 1950 it has declined from 19.5 per 1,000 to its present level.

World_crude_birth_and_death_rates_1950_-_2010

The point in this post and the previous one should be becoming clearer. Just as the IPCC has noted, any effects of global warming that may harm humans are for the future, not the present. Hysterical claims of extreme weather, rapid spread of disease and economic catastrophe are just that–hysterical claims. As the IPCC has noted, even with higher sensitivity, impacts on the planet will turn negative some time after 2040 (or 2070, according to a report Richard Tol wrote for the Copenhagen Consensus). If sensitivity is lower it may be even later.

In another post I will look at the twin issues of climate refugees and climate deaths.

State of the Climate 2014

Although I doubt I can match the rhetorical power of Barack Obama, herewith I submit my view of the state of the Global Climate in 2014. (Again, I’m just stalling while I make my final decision on Climate Commenter of the year, a much more important task.)

The State of our Climate is strong. (Really. That’s my  line…)

2014 was very possibly the warmest year in the current era of improved temperature records going back to about 1850. It wasn’t the warmest by much–as President Obama noted in his SOU speech, 14 of the 15 highest years were during this century. And this millenium, as a coincidence. Those 14 years are part of a plateau since about 1998, which James Hansen calls a period of ‘stalled temperature rises.’

What were the impacts of this latest year in the plateau? What is the real state of the world we live in with regards to climate and climate change?

There are, shall we say, competing strains of thought as shown by the covers of other climate reports…

State of the climate

bams-2013-front-cover

Let’s start with ice. Ice is nice.

Arctic ice had a very good year, what blogger Neven calls ‘a rebound year’, with September’s minimum volume at 6,810 km3, well above most recent years. Although encouraging for those who worry about ice-free summers, I should note that even this robust total for Arctic ice is more than a standard deviation below the average for the years since satellites began measuring it. Of course, that only started in 1979….

Nearby in Greenland, the ice sheet also had a good year, with more ice forming than melting–however, there is a caveat, as the calving of ice into the sea meant a total loss of ice of about 200 gigatons, or 0.0007% of the total.

Antarctic sea ice reached a record high, climbing above 20 million square kilometers, a record. As for the vast Antarctic ice sheet, ice continues to melt more quickly than formed in the Western peninsula of Antarctica (a phenomenon observed since the 1930s and only peripherally connected with climate change), but 95% of the ice is in East Antarctica and it continues to grow. the GRACE project finds an overall net loss of about 14 Gt, from an ice sheet that has about 150 million Gt.

Sea level rose by between 2 and 3 millimeters in 2014, a rate that if continued would produce a 1-foot sea level rise over a century. Most of that rise is steric (due to warmer water expanding).

How about tropical cyclones? Good news again here, with only 10 total landfalls, the 4th lowest total since 1970. For the U.S., we’re now approaching 3,600 days since the last Cat 3 or higher hurricane hit the U.S. This is also a record–that’s a long time between storms. If there wasn’t so much talk about weather extremes, some bright climatologist might look at the lack of extremes as a real climate signal. Just sayin’… see directly below for another example.

For U.S. tornadoes, “Similar to the past two years, tornado activity across the U.S. during 2014 was below average. During 2014, there were 831 confirmed tornadoes during the January-October period with 50 tornado reports still pending for November-December. This gives 2014 a preliminary tornado count of 881. The 1991-2010 annual average number of tornadoes for the U.S. is 1,253.”

One of the major drivers of climate is the El Nino, La Nina phenomenon. And there wasn’t a full-fledged El Nino this year, although El Nino conditions prevailed through parts of the Pacific for much of the year. This was enough to create a controversy–what isn’t enough to create a controversy these days? Those who are striving to heighten awareness of climbing temperatures were quick to point out that the (possibly) highest temperature was achieved without an El Nino (which normally works to raise temps), while those of a more skeptical bent were equally quick to note that conditions that normally produce an El Nino in fact existed. More fuel for academic discussion! Or food fights, if you prefer.

As for drought, for the U.S., the NCDC says, “The U.S. experienced a significant recovery from the major 2012 drought on a national scale during 2013, while a notable feature of 2014 was a resurgence of drought at the start of the year. The national drought area expanded during spring 2014, but was followed by a contraction later in the year. In the bigger picture, 2014 follows a trend of national recovery from the major drought of 2012.” It’s a bit too early to get global figures for drought.

I was unable to get flood stats–if a reader can show me a reference to a credible source I’ll update this post. And stories about extreme weather events are not only anecdotal, but often focus on photogenic events that the stories say are not unprecedented. Again, links will help me update this!

In short, what may have been the hottest year on record did not seem to produce records in anything else.

In another post I hope to look at other impacts–on polar bears, mosquitos, agriculture and some metrics of more immediate interest to the majority of humans who do not follow the climate debate.

Thanks for any help you can provide me!

 

 

 

Climate Blog (and climate blogger) of the Year

I know this is mostly anti-climatic for most of you who are eagerly awaiting my award for Climate Commenter of the year, but herewith we present our award for Climate Blog of the Year. (Drumroll, please… no, wait a minnit…)

Readers will remember the winner of the first award was Gavin Schmidt of Real Climate, following his bravura performance following the release of the Climategate emails. He responded politely (and to a large extent accurately) to hundreds of comments on RC in the week after the release of the emails and earned a place in blogging history books just for that.

The second winner was Climate Audit’s Steve McIntyre, who in his tenure at CA has shown persistence, patience and consistency in comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable. Paleoclimatologists may curse the day McIntyre developed and interest in their subject. However, paleoclimatology is immeasurably better because of it.

Our Blog (and blogger) of  2014 was similarly consistent and patient, enduring criticism from the opposite side of the policy fence, dealing with 109,000 comments from 750,000 visitors, posting almost daily, with almost all posts relevant to climate science and the policy issues that science entails.

This blog was one of the few I could access during my self-imposed exile in mainland China, and it was an oasis of sorts for me. I not only enjoyed it, I learned from it.

Congratulations, Judith Curry and Climate Etc.

curry_06b

Wait Till Next Year

2014 was a warm year. It is possible that it was the warmest year in the modern temperature record–maybe it was second or third. The top three years are close enough that you could legitimately call it a three-way tie.

Wait-Until-Next-Year-To-Sell-Your-Home

What does it mean? In and of itself, nothing. Since 1998 we have had a string of years that were warm and 2014 is another one. But they haven’t been much warmer than 1998. As temperatures rose dramatically between 1976 and 1998, those who are alarmed by the potential of anthropogenic CO2 to disrupt our climate were quite busy predicting that temperatures would continue climbing–the plateau since 1998 disturbs them, sometimes to the point of pretending it isn’t occurring. Those who think the alarmists are full of hot air are quite pleased with the pause.

Although (who was it–Trenberth or Santer? I honestly can’t remember) some prestigious climate scientists have said that 17 years was needed to pick out a trend in global temperatures, really you need about 38, to be confident. (Hey skeptics–you don’t believe these guys about anything else.Why would you believe them about 17 years being sufficient statistically. You know they have problems with statistics, right?)

2014 was more of the same–another year of the plateau following 1998. If you want to know what it means, you’ll probably have to wait for about another 20 years.

If temperatures went down for a couple of years, then that would be worth examining in greater detail. If CO2 concentrations dropped,even slightly, that would be worth examining. But this is more of the same ol’, same ol’.

The fact that the usual gang of alarmist subjects made a big fuss out of the possibility that this was the warmest year should have been the first clue.

2014 did not provide any answers to our questions about climate change. Wait till next year…

Emissions and Concentrations–How Closely Are They Correlated?

Update: I asked climate scientist Bart Verheggen if he could shed some light on this issue–He did down below in the comments. His explanation makes perfect sense. If I can paraphrase Bart, even if emissions decrease, if the total emissions exceed the rate at which the natural sinks can remove our contributions, concentrations will increase–but see below for his full explanation. Thanks, Bart!

Over at my companion blog I posted on some surprising hiccups in the relationship between CO2 emissions and CO2 concentrations. After commenter pottereaton called my attention to an article Alexander Cockburn wrote, (where he noted that emissions declined but concentrations rose during the great depression), I took a quick look and noticed that the same thing happened in the early ’80s.

CO2_Emissions_vs_Concentration

Of course it’s only in a fantasy world that they would move in lockstep, but it’s certainly curious that concentrations would rise 4 years in a row when emissions fell each of those four years. Well, here’s a look:

Base year 1979. Emissions in millions of metric tons of carbon (to convert to CO2, multiply by 3.667). Concentrations are in parts per million (volume). Emissions come from CDIAC. Concentrations come from NOAA.

Emissions Concentrations
1979 5,369 336.78
1980 5,315 338.68
1981 5,152 340.10
1982 5,113 341.44
1983 5,094 343.03

The total fall in emissions is small–275 million metric tons in total. But the rise in concentrations is significant–6.25 ppm. The four previous years showed a rise of only 4.73 ppm, despite emissions increasing 505 metric tons. The four subsequent years were very much the same–concentrations increased 4.36 ppm while emissions increased 513 million metric tons.

In fact, in 9 years since 1959, emissions have decreased. In every one of those years, concentrations increased. The years that Alexander Cockburn looked at were 1929-1932. Emissions fell by 30%–but concentrations rose (slightly), from 306 to 307 ppm.

Look–I can understand that the response from our climate lags behind the things we do to it (and we do a lot…). But four years of declining emissions should have some sort of an effect on concentrations, shouldn’t it?

That is, if human emissions of CO2 are the driving force behind increased concentrations….

Last year I noted that one-third of all human emissions had occurred since the current (or perhaps recently expired) pause in temperature rises. I said then that it made at least a partial argument against high sensitivity to emissions. Looking at this I begin to wonder just how much of an effect our emissions are actually having.

I’d love a scientist to come and explain this to me. By which I don’t mean being patted on the head and told that natural variability explains it all. If it is natural variability then where else do we see it, and where do we see it going in the opposite direction? Where are the cases where concentrations fall for a couple of years despite increasing emissions?

(Some of) What I Say to Skeptics

Previously I wrote about some of what I say to alarmists. It’s time to address the skeptics.

One of my original premises when I started following the global warming issue almost a decade a go was that scientists (and physicists especially) jumped into analysis of climate change using every sophisticated tool at their command.

I don’t think this served them well and my response has been to try and use ‘lower math’ to see if this explains some phenomena more effectively. Obviously I think it has worked or I probably would be too embarrassed to write about it here. (I mean, c’mon–lower math?)

It worked for me last year when I was (one of?) the first to note that one-third of human emissions of CO2 had taken place since 1998, which some label the start of the current (?) pause in global warming. I asked then and have asked since if this does not constitute a real argument against high values for atmospheric sensitivity.

But lower math also argues in favor of anthropogenic contributions to global warming. On my other blog I note that concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere are climbing more rapidly than just 30 years ago–from 1980 through 1993 I notice that the mean rise in concentrations from  has a fairly modest average of 1.45 ppm. However, the average from 1993 to 2013 jumps to 1.96 ppm. Early in the data series, there is only one year over 1.6 ppm increase. In 1994 the increase jumps to 1.75 ppm and from 1994 to 2013 there are only two years with an increase below 1.6 ppm.

CO2 is accumulating in our atmosphere and more quickly than in the past.

But to use even lower math, if I may, it’s enough to go to any of the temperature records. Any of them. (I know they are not completely independent and I know we cannot put all our faith in them. But they are what we have to work with.)

If you create an average temperature record from 1901 through 2000 and use it as a baseline and plot temperature changes against that baseline, according to the NOAA it looks like this:

Global temperature record NCDC NOAA

The lower math analysis of this says that the last time temperatures were below this average was 1978. If temperatures fluctuated randomly that wouldn’t happen. (By the way, they haven’t gone below that average since 2000, either.) That’s what–37 years without one year below average?

During that same period, human emissions of CO2 increased by about 20% (from 5,087 million metric tons to 6,765 mmt) and concentrations of CO2 increased 20%.

I personally believe man has been affecting the climate for 50,000 years, cutting down forests or burning them, clearing land for agriculture, damming rivers, etc. I believe that emitting large quantities of CO2 is an additional impact we are having on the climate. In 1945 there were about 5 million vehicles with internal combustion engines on the roads of this planet. There are now close to 1 billion. I think this has an impact. Planes, washing machines, driers, air conditioning units, etc. And power plants. The first one in New York in, what, 1881? Now there are tens of thousands.

We are  still clearing land. We are still damming rivers. We are still burning forests. Now we are also emitting industrial quantities of CO2 (and of course, conventional pollution both in the form of aerosols and black carbon, which may counteract some of that CO2).

I don’t know what atmospheric sensitivity is. Sorry–maybe the clerk at the next window can help. I do know that even without lower math, adding an additional component to human impacts on the climate looks to have an effect just by looking at the temperature record.

And I say that knowing there has been a pause in temperatures since 1998. Like James Hansen. It’s easy to see. But you know what? There have been pauses before–two in the modern temperature record–and when they finished, temperatures did not resume a random nature. They just kept climbing. The pause has been a plateau. Looking at the temperature record would have us bet (not the farm, not our livelihood, but a modest wager) that when this pause concludes temperatures will rise again.

My other blog is dedicated to showing that energy consumption is rising faster than predicted, that we will use 3,000 quads a year by 2075. For any–any–positive value of atmospheric sensitivity that should be troubling. Because we are not planning for this faster rate of consumption, the odds are good that the energy burned for most of these 3,000 quads will be coal.

This is something we need to take seriously.

And that’s some of what I say to skeptics. Happy Sunday to all!

 

A Qualitative Assessment of the Climate Blogosphere, January 2015

I revived this weblog and its companion, 3000 Quads, at the beginning of this year. I’ve been posting almost daily on each blog since. As part of a blogger’s duties is surveillance of what is happening on blogs covering the same subject, I have been visiting a variety of climate-related weblogs. I’d like to offer my assessment.

I hope this post ends up being more than strict advice to bloggers about updating the links on their page…

Each of my weblogs has a blogroll of potentially interesting websites for those seeking information and opinion about climate (for this blog) and energy consumption (for 3000 Quads). The blogrolls are more than a couple of years old–and it shows.

About one third of my links go to sites that have either slowed their publishing of new content dramatically or have stopped altogether. I looked at Real Climate and Bishop Hill, blogs on opposite sides of the climate fence and found that they also have a lot of dead links, about 27% for each of them. But as with my two blogs, these aren’t one-year totals. Some of the dead links died as far back as 2012, so it isn’t as if everybody turned the television off in 2014.

Blogging is for most a hobby. Only a handful are supported financially. And when a topic loses steam, it would be natural for blogging to decrease. Is that happening with climate change?

Blogging is also something done by very human beings–their status may change, they may get ill, die or develop differing interests. It would be difficult to attribute changes without exhaustive study. (I think the best way to gauge changes in the level of interest would be to count comments and compare with other subjects, and I’m not ready or willing to do that myself.)

For 3000 Quads, I note that the following weblogs have ceased publishing, are on hiatus or have changed status dramatically (being co-opted into larger publishing ventures, etc.)

  • The Oil Drum (stopped)
  • Roger Pielke Jr. (transferred to The Climate Fix)
  • Richard Tol’s Key Economic Sectors and Services (a blog with only one post)
  • Matthew Yglesias Moneybox (discontinued)
  • Collide-a-Scape (folded into Discovery website with tragic consequences for the old comment threads)
  • Roger Pielke Sr.’s Climate Science (inactive since 2012)
  • Climate Progress (folded into Think Progress, now mostly maintained by interns)
  • Bit Tooth Energy (changed focus to a specific technology)
  • Bart Verheggen’s ‘My View On Climate Change’ (dramatic slowdown in posting)
  • All Models Are Wrong (transferred to PLOS)

That’s 10 out of 33 blogs on the 3000 Quads blogroll, a fairly high attrition rate.

Here at The Lukewarmer’s Way, the blogroll has some repetition, of course, but there are other casualties to note:

  • Planet 3.0 (recently declared hiatus)
  • Steven Mosher’s Blog (inactive)
  • Tom Nelson (RSS feed still active but he now posts mostly on Twitter)

In addition, the status of weblogs on other blogrolls has changed as well. From Real Climate:

  • Andrew Dessler (inactive)
  • Climate Matters (inactive)
  • Climate Science Watch (slowdown)
  • Climate Conservative (slowdown)
  • Climatedenial.org (hiatus)
  •  Deltoid (monthly open thread only)
  • Deep Climate (hiatus)
  • Effets de Terre (hiatus)
  • Global Change Forum (hiatus)
  • Grist: Climate and Energy (inactive)
  • Horation Algernon (inactive)
  • Real Climate Economics (inactive)
  • Republicans for Environmental Protection (hiatus)
  • Scitizen (inactive)
  • The Global Warming Debate (inactive)
  • What On Earth (inactive)

That’s 16 websites from their blogroll of 59, or 27%

From Bishop Hill:

  • Harmless Sky (hiatus)
  • SPPI (slowdown)
  • Cameron Rose (hiatus)
  • Tom Nelson
  • Deltoid
  • Richard Tol
  • Deep Climate
  • Overmatter (slowdown)
  • Omniclimate (slowdown)
  • Barry Woods (hiatus)
  • Bernie Lewin (hiatus)
  • Harold Ambler (slowdown)
  • All Models Are Wrong
  • Doug McNeall (hiatus)
  • Numberwatch (slowdown)
  • Oversensitive (hiatus)
  • Simon Donner (slowdown)
  • Green World Trust (inactive)

The Good Bishop has 18 out of 67 links either slowing or stopped again, 27%.

I should note that there really aren’t many new climate weblogs springing up to replace those that are lost–or if there are, they aren’t making it onto the blogrolls of more established sites. Some interesting new blogs aren’t primarily climate focused–such as Jose Duarte’s site which has recently focused on sloppy research by psychologist Stephan Lewandowsky, but more because Lewandowsky is a psychologist than the fact that he’s doing shoddy research about the climate debate.

So what does this all mean? Without traffic reports it’s truly hard to say. Judith Curry reports on her traffic, Steve McIntyre and Anthony Watts have hit counters–and overall hits seem to be brisk as ever. I sense a slackening of interest from the consensus side, but that’s just an opinion–nobody talks about traffic on their side of the fence.

The main engines of the consensus blogosphere–Skeptical Science and Real Climate–have not slackened their efforts or their output. Neither have the warhorses of the anti-consensus crew–Watts Up With That, McIntyre’s Climate Audit, Judith Curry and Bishop Hill are still going strong.

All this is in preparation for my awarding Climate Blog of the Year for 2014, followed thereafter by the much-coveted Commenter of the Year. Maybe I’ll have had a chance to think about the implications of this a bit more by then.

Pseudoscience in the service of policy

This week has been an education–reviewing the work of Naomi Oreskes, Anderegg, Prall et al, John Cook et al and Stephan Lewandowsky.

Death of science

Short version–some people who were (mostly) not scientists and certainly don’t know how to do research properly conducted a series of studies that had foregone conclusions supporting their position on climate policy. For Prall, Cook and Lewandowsky the foregone nature of the conclusions was explicit–they wrote on various websites that they were conducting the studies with a predetermined end. For Oreskes it was implicit, but easy to see, as she structured her research carefully, not to show the breadth of opinion on climate change, but rather to conceal it.

I guess I should address Stephan’s potential concerns first–no, I don’t see a conspiracy in the work I’ve reviewed, even though there is a web of mutual citations in the work involved and collaboration between some of the principals.

Oreskes, the ‘purest’ scientist in the bunch, wrote the original paper (Beyond the Ivory Tower) and it served as a template (and was cited as such) for those who came after.

Her ‘original sin’ was one that has destroyed a lot of research studies unintentionally–sample bias. The literature search on which her work was based omitted relevant studies from skeptics. I say that was intentional, but that’s just my opinion. It was a trivial exercise to find numerous studies by skeptics that would have drastically changed her results. My opinion is she knew those studies were there and carefully crafted a keyword search string that would exclude them.

Anderegg, Prall et al were much sloppier and in addition to sample bias made numerous errors in data collection, analysis and other methodological choices. Their study is garbage. The same is true for Cook et al–their 97% consensus claim is utter nonsense. And when Lewandowsky tried to do in primary research what the others did with secondary research, he only introduced a new class of childish mistakes. I have worked in market research for more than 20 years and I’ve made my share of mistakes. I recognize their mistakes. The difference between these amateurs and professionals is that when professionals make mistakes they admit them and work to correct them. This crew just doubled down on their claims and hoped that nobody would dig very deeply. But when I use words like garbage and nonsense, I am not exaggerating. The quality of work that went into these studies is so bad that if anything I’m understating things.

After Climategate, the actions of those supporting the consensus have been increasingly frantic and in most cases, inept. When the marketing departments of NGOs create flawed iconography of polar bears under threat, videos of people blowing up skeptics and trash treasured archeological sites, it’s easy to dismiss these as the mistaken work of people who have adopted a religion, rather than scientific findings.

But when trash is put before the scientific community as the alleged results of research conducted within the norms of science, it is something else, something much worse. It not only damages the effort to understand how our climate is changing and what we should do about it. It damages science.

Numerous studies have shown a very real tendency for studies to be irreplicable and unreproducible. Fraud has been found as well as mistakes.

Climate change is important and will affect the lives of our children. But science is more important and trashing science to win a policy fight over climate change has the potential to do more damage to the human race than any changes we cause to the climate.

 

Lewandowsky

While Naomi Oreskes, Anderegg, Prall et al and John Cook et al tried to bolster the impression of an overwhelming consensus (and dismiss skeptics as less expert and less prominent) through the use of literature reviews, Professor Stefan Lewandowsky took a different tack in an effort to achieve the same goals. Lewandowsky tried to survey the readers of climate weblogs. However, many of the tactics he used are reminiscent of the work of Oreskes, Prall et all and Cook et al. In fact, Cook was instrumental in organizing the research Lewandowsky reported on.

In 2012 Lewandowsky et al had a paper published in the journal Psychological Science titled, “NASA Faked The Moon Landing–Therefore, (Climate) Science is a Hoax.” From the paper’s abstract: “We report a survey of climate-blog visitors to identify the variables underlying acceptance and rejection of climate science. Our findings parallel those of previous work and show that endorsement of free-market economics predicted rejection of climate science. Endorsement of free markets also predicted the rejection of other established scientific findings, such as the facts that HIV causes AIDS and that smoking causes lung cancer. We additionally show that, above and beyond endorsement of free markets, endorsement of a cluster of conspiracy theories (e.g., that the Federal Bureau of Investigation killed Martin Luther King, Jr.) predicted rejection of climate science as well as other scientific findings. Our results provide empirical support for previous suggestions that conspiratorial thinking contributes to the rejection of science. Acceptance of science, by contrast, was strongly associated with the perception of a consensus among scientists.” Lewandowsky cited both Oreskes and Anderegg, Prall et al. He was already working with John Cook.

conspiracy

Jose Duarte wrote, “out of 1145 participants, only 10 believed the moon landing was a hoax (likely including fakes.) We’ll pause here to note that 10 in this context is essentially zero, and we couldn’t validly infer links between moon hoaxism and anything else from that number. But it’s worse – a majority of these 10 reject the idea that climate science is a hoax – 7 out of the 10. Only 3 participants out of 1145 endorsed the moon hoax and the climate science hoax.

Duarte continues, “Out of 1145 participants, only 16 reject the claim that HIV causes AIDS. Out of 176 free marketeers*, only 9 reject the HIV-AIDS link that is, 95% agreed that HIV causes AIDS. There were fake participants in the study that can be identified by their response patterns – those trivial 9 and 16 figures will drop when we delete the fakes.

Out of 1145 participants, only 11 reject the idea that smoking causes cancer. Out of 176 people who endorsed free markets, only 7 rejected the claim that smoking causes cancer. 96% of them agreed that smoking causes lung cancer. (They should’ve said “increases the risk of”, because some intellectual types will be sticklers on that, might struggle with their answers – see the footnote.)

They didn’t disclose this in the paper. They didn’t tell us. Nor did they clean the fakes from their data, fakes which end up driving some of the key results. They did the opposite – they claimed effects based on these numbers, in their headline, their abstract… Their effects were artifacts of improper statistical inferences, driven by variance between “agree” and “strongly agree” answers to those science items – the opposite of “rejection”.

Well, Lewandowsky et al didn’t tell the truth about their results. But as has been the case throughout this study of consensus wishful thinking, they didn’t tell the truth about their methodology either.

The point of the survey he fielded was to get the opinions of climate skeptics. As Steve McIntyre notes, “Although Lewandowsky’s professed interest was the study of “skeptics”, Lewandowsky’s first distribution of his survey was to eight of the most stridently anti-skeptic blogs: Lambert’s Deltoid, Tamino, Skeptical Science plus five blogs with little traffic: Bickmore, Hot Topic, Scott Mandia, Ill Considered, Trunity.” McIntyre wrote a number of posts detailing a variety of problems with Lewandowsky’s ‘science’. Click here to see them all

Lewandowsky did email the operators of 5 skeptic weblogs asking them to link to the survey. But none did. So all of the participants came from blogs that attack skeptics more or less continuously. This led to several cases where survey participants seemed to be imitating skeptics. However, their data was used as if it were real.

McIntyre again: “In addition to the ordinary problems of an online survey, Lewandowsky’s decision to distribute his survey via anti-skeptic blogs had other shortcomings. Whatever anonymity the survey might have had was tainted by the association of the survey with Lewandowsky at the Deltoid, Hot Topic and (perhaps) Skeptical Science. In addition, potential respondents had already read the feedback of previous survey takers.”

One honest consensus reader of the results was Tom Curtis, who posts on the Skeptical Science website run by John Cook and Dana Nuccitelli. Curtis wrote, ”

I have been looking through the survey results and noticed that 10 of the respondents have a significant probability of being produced by people attempting to scam the survey. I base this conclusion on their having reported absurdly low (<2) consensus percentages for at least one of the three categories.

An additional response (#861 on the spreadsheet) represents an almost perfect “warmist” caricature of a “skeptic”, scoring 1 for all global warming questions, and 4 for all free market and conspiracy theory questions. There may be wackos out there that believe every single conspiracy theory they have heard, but they are a vanishingly few in number, and are likely to appear in a survey with such a small sample size.

A second respondent (890) almost exactly mirrored respondent 861 except for giving a 3 for the Martin Luther King Jr assassination, and lower values for the scientific consensus questions. Again this response is almost certainly a scam. Combined, these respondents account for 2 of the strongly agree results in almost every conspiracy theory question; and the other potential scammers also have a noticable number of strong agreements to conspiracy theories.

For most conspiracy theory questions, “skeptics” only had two respondents that strongly agreed, the two scammed results. Given the low number of “skeptical” respondents overall; these two scammed responses significantly affect the results regarding conspiracy theory ideation. Indeed, given the dubious interpretation of weakly agreed responses (see previous post), this paper has no data worth interpreting with regard to conspiracy theory ideation.

It is my strong opinion that the paper should be have its publication delayed while undergoing a substantial rewrite. The rewrite should indicate explicitly why the responses regarding conspiracy theory ideation are in fact worthless, and concentrate solely on the result regarding free market beliefs (which has a strong enough a response to be salvageable). If this is not possible, it should simply be withdrawn.”

So they were wrong in their results and suspect in their methodology. What else could go wrong?

The online survey they used presented different questions to different respondents in different order. One of the conspiracy questions about Iraq was worded so that the U.S. Congress and practically every one who follows politics would end up being labeled a conspiracy theorist. Data was not published for people to look at what was done.

Lewandowsky would later write another paper called ‘Recursive Fury: Conspiracist ideation in the blogosphere in response to research on conspiracist ideation, where he used provocative language about the first paper and called everyone who criticized both his language and his previous paper… conspiracy theorists. It was so bad that it had to be retracted. Lewandowsky then lied about the retraction, forcing the journal editor to issue a public statement saying that the paper was retracted because it revealed the names of the people it was labeling conspiracy theorists.

So we’ll tie all this up in my next post. Maybe everything that sinks below the level of credible research can converge, too.

 

 

Cooking the Consensus

false consensus

In May 2013 John Cook et al published a paper in Environmental Research Letters, published by IOP publications. The paper was titled “Quantifying the consensus on anthropogenic global warming in the scientific literature”.  In it they claim that they find a 97% Consensus on Human-Caused Global Warming in the Peer-Reviewed Literature.” The project was conceived as a ‘citizen science’ endeavor using volunteers from the Skeptical Science website.

Except they didn’t. The previous statement was published on the website of Skeptical Science, a weblog that Cook and one of his co-authors, Dana Nuccitelli, operate. (Although there is a lot of science on the website, to call it skeptical is not accurate. It is a purveyor of consensus messages, pure and simple.) But what their paper actually says is very different: “We analyze the evolution of the scientific consensus on anthropogenic global warming (AGW) in the peer-reviewed scientific literature, examining 11,944 climate abstracts from 1991–2011 matching the topics ‘global climate change’ or ‘global warming’. We find that 66.4% of abstracts expressed no position on AGW, 32.6% endorsed AGW, 0.7% rejected AGW and 0.3% were uncertain about the cause of global warming.  There is a dramatic difference between “97% Consensus on Human-Caused Global Warming” and “66.4% of abstracts expressed no opinion on AGW.”

“The ‘97% consensus’ article is poorly conceived, poorly designed and poorly executed. It obscures the complexities of the climate issue and it is a sign of the desperately poor level of public and policy debate in this country [UK] that the energy minister should cite it.”

Mike Hulme, Ph.D. Professor of Climate Change, University of East Anglia (UEA)

Like Oreskes and Anderegg, Prall et al, Quantifying the Consensus (which I will shorten to QTC going forward) consists of a literature review of published science to (in my opinion) justify their belief that the consensus view of climate warming was overwhelming. Once again for the record, I believe the majority of scientists do believe in a fairly narrow version of the consensus position–as I remarked in a previous post, two reputable surveys put the percentage of climate scientists who agree with the consensus at about 81%. But, as with Oreskes and as with Anderegg, Prall et al, 81% is not enough for Cook and his associates. So let’s see what games they have to play to get to their heralded 97%.

They clarify quickly–“Among abstracts expressing a position on AGW, 97.1% endorsed the consensus position that humans are causing global warming. In a second phase of this study, we invited authors to rate their own papers.” So, okay–out of 11,944 abstracts of papers on climate change, 3,894 endorsed the consensus position in the abstract. For some reason that doesn’t sound as dramatic… but it’s still data. Isn’t it? Well, the fact that QTC cited Oreskes three times, Stephan Lewandowsky and Anderegg, Prall et al should serve as a bit of a warning..

We saw with Oreskes and Anderegg, Prall et al that they gamed the system, stacked the deck to produce results favorable to their political position on the issue. Oreskes did it by using a search term that skeptic scientists were unlikely to use in a title (Global Climate Change), so she could ignore the many publications by skeptical scientists that in fact existed. Anderegg, Prall et al used Google Scholar instead of an academic database, searched only in English and cherry-picked their opponents from signatures to vastly different public letters on environmental issues (they could have, if they chose, labeled Linus Pauling, Jonas Salk and Norman Borlaug as ‘deniers’).

Cook and company did worse on QTC, if that’s possible. Most of their shenanigans have been chronicled at one or more of the skeptic weblogs that follow the climate debate, so they have done most of the heavy lifting for me.

First, their statement is so broad that many skeptics have already stated they agree with it. The globe is warming and humans have caused (some of) it. To be classified as endorsing the consensus position it was enough to say at some point in the abstract that ‘humans are contributing to global warming’. As Cook wrote on Skeptical Science, “We’re basically going with [a definition of] AGW = “humans are causing global warming” Eg [sic] – no specific quantification.” This is very different from what the IPCC says–that humans have caused 90% of global warming. This lower bar renders the conclusion almost meaningless.

Public figures in the climate debate ranging from Roy Spencer to Andrew Montford (Bishop Hill) quickly stepped forward and said they agreed with the statement. I honestly don’t remember reading any skeptic saying otherwise. That’s not what the climate debate is about. (It’s about how much, over what time span and what will it be and what will it do going forward.) So they fail to segment the target populations and cannot therefore differentiate between true consensus holders and skeptics.

During the study that was the basis for QTC, two teams of citizen scientist analysts classified papers using 7 different categories ranging from explicit endorsement to explicit rejection. The Cook et al study data base has seven categories of rated abstracts:
1. 65     explicit endorse, >50% warming caused by man
2. 934 explicit endorse
3. 2,933 implicit endorse
4. 8,261 no position
5. 53     implicit reject
6. 15     explicit reject
7. 10     explicit reject, <50% warming caused by man

The highest level of endorsement–“Endorsement level 1, Explicitly endorses and quantifies AGW as 50+%.(human actions causing 50% or more warming)” was assigned by the raters to a grand total of 65 out of the 12,000 papers evaluated. This certainly is a weak finding. Even combined with level 2’s 934 papers it amounts to less than 10%.

Worse yet, Many papers were not classified correctly. The errors brought to light to date are all in the same direction–papers that were described as endorsing the consensus in fact did not, according to the authors. The Skeptical Science crowd classified papers by prominent skeptics as pro-consensus and the skeptics were happy to point out the mistakes.

It gets worse. “The Cook et al. (2013) 97% paper included a bunch of psychology studies, marketing papers, and surveys of the general public as scientific endorsement of anthropogenic climate change.

“Let’s walk through that sentence again. The Cook et al 97% paper included a bunch of psychology studies, marketing papers, and surveys of the general public as scientific endorsement of anthropogenic climate change. This study was multiply fraudulent and multiply invalid already – e.g their false claim that the raters were blind to the identities of the authors of the papers they were rating, absolutely crucial for a subjective rating study. (They maliciously and gleefully revealed “skeptic” climate science authors to each other in an online forum, as well as other authors. Since they were random people working at home, they could simply google the titles of papers and see the authors, making blindness impossible to enforce or claim to begin with.” We see then that Cook and his crew adopted the same shady tactics as Oreskes and Anderegg, Prall et al to fatten their numbers and obscure the fact that the consensus is narrower and smaller than they want to project to the public.

So why am I dredging up criticisms of QTC at this late stage? We’ll see after I get through with Stephan Lewandowsky. I’ll close this post with a pertinent comment by Dan Kahan of the Yale Law School’s Cultural Cognition Project: “But it is demonstrably the case (I’m talking real-world evidence here) that the regular issuance of these studies, and the steady drum beat of “climate skeptics are ignoring scientific consensus!” that accompany them, have had no—zero, zilch—net effect on professions of public “belief” in human-caused climate change in the U.S.

“On the contrary, there’s good reason to believe that the self-righteous and contemptuous tone with which the “scientific consensus” point is typically advanced (“assault on reason,” “the debate is over” etc.) deepens polarization.  That’s because “scientific consensus,” when used as a rhetorical bludgeon, predictably excites reciprocally contemptuous and recriminatory responses by those who are being beaten about the head and neck with it.”

I’m Not Charlie. But I Still Don’t Like What Michael Mann Did

Judith Curry has a post up about the tragedy in Paris. She added a couple of points about the value of freedom of speech, saying those who support the French satirical magazine’s right to publish cartoons that offend some would find it difficult to support Michael Mann’s lawsuit against Mark Steyn (among others) for defamation of character.

On the face of it that’s pretty simple. Charlie Hebdo (the French phrase for Charlie Brown of ‘Peanuts’ fame) is a satirical magazine (think Onion but far more savage). Mark Steyn is a satirical columnist. Freedom of speech for one should imply freedom of speech for the other.

I-am-not-Charlie-I-am-Ahmed

Then all hell breaks loose, both in the comments section of Curry’s blog and on Twitter and even in chalk scrawls on the sidewalk outside! No more chim-chim cheroo for you. Some are accusing Curry of exploiting the tragic deaths of innocents in Paris to continue her evile vendetta against Michael Mann (Heat really was not only a bad movie but an extravagant waste of talent.)

I got into it with three long-time sparring partners, Joshua, Michael and Willard. I sided with Judith Curry–freedom of speech is threatened in both instances and defending the Parisian magazine would imply a defense of Mark Steyn. Joshua, Michael and Willard did not, loading this instance onto the back of long-held grievances, first with Judith and then myself.

As Judith snipped some of their comments, I offered them the chance to bring the conversation over here. We’ll see if they show up. Your opinions on this are also welcome, of course.

Maybe I’ll finally find out who Groundskeeper Willie is and what shirt ripping is all about. I honestly don’t know and Willard has been saying that about me for five years.

The Enemies List

Former President Richard Nixon had an Enemies List of people who opposed him, some of his policies, or people he just didn’t like. They were subject to surveillance, tax investigations and occasionally harassment. Some were horrified to learn they were on such a list. Others were proud.

Anderegg, Prall et al PNAS 2010 creates an enemies list. The supplementary information refers to co-author Jim Prall’s website where all are named–and most are pictured, although crosshairs are not provided.

The hypocrisy (as well as one of the many methodological flaws) is seen by the cherry-picking of signatories to the documents. Anderegg, Prall et al are happy to note the signature of Richard Lindzen to documents and use that as a means of labeling him a ‘denier’. But Norman Borlaug signed one of the same documents–why isn’t he a ‘denier’, too?

Anyone who examines the list of documents signed by these victims of Anderegg, Prall et al will quickly notice that, although some are skeptical documents, others are so innocuous that probably James Hansen and Michael Mann would have signed if offered the opportunity. The idea that signatories of all these documents are morally or ethically equal, that putting your name alongside Linus Pauling or Jonas Salk should subject you to being called less expert or less prominent than Peter Gleick is absurd.

But Anderegg, Prall et al lump them all together. If you signed any one of the 12 documents you are a ‘denier’, as their paper is tagged. Joe Romm called for signatories to be… denied… funding, promotion and attention in the media. While Romm has always acted like a thug (at least publicly), this reached a new low.

The documents cited by Anderegg Prall are very different in their purpose, language and destinations. While signing the letters to Canadian Prime Ministers past and future might be imputed to skeptic beliefs, signing others cannot. The documents have different date stamps–science was at a different stage when some of them were written and what looks like skepticism today in fact was a reasonable assessment in the past.

When added to the often-cited flaws in methodology, analysis and simple arithmetic noted by myself and many, many others, is is clear that this paper should in fact live in infamy, as an example of motivated reasoning and ill will producing a blacklist.

Anderegg, Prall et al cited Oreskes for their failed paper. Later we will look at who cited Anderegg, Prall.

 

The Ghost Paper

Update: Two commenters found an online version of the document discussed here (Thanks!). It is reproduced below. It is clearly a ‘skeptic’ document and would naturally be opposed by the ‘consensus’ side, especially non-scientists such as Jim Prall. However, one wonders why a letter that refers to the science so frequently (and is accurate as far as it goes–I would disagree with their premise, but then I’m a lib’rul lukewarmer…) would cause the signatories to be labeled as ‘deniers.’ And it really amazes me that PNAS would accept as science references to a document that the researchers did not have.

Perhaps most importantly, if Anderegg, Prall et al couldn’t find a document so readily available on the internet, should we trust their use of Google Scholar to find the information on which their paper was based?

Anderegg, Prall et al (PNAS 2010) used 12 public documents signed by various people to create their list of ‘Unconvinced Experts’ for their paper tagged ‘Deniers.’ Those 12 documents are listed in my previous post.

One of the 12 documents is an open letter to then-Canadian prime minister Jean Chretien. All 30 signatories to that open letter were used to create the list of deniers that were ‘less expert’ and ‘less prominent’ than consensus scientists (who were taken from the author list of IPCC AR4).

In my previous post I reprinted the text of the document that was signed by 4,000 people including 73 Nobel Prize winners. The text was innocuous enough that I am puzzled that it would be in any way controversial for anyone to sign.

I would love to do that with the open letter to Jean Chretien. The problem is I can’t.

Neither can the authors of Anderegg, Prall, et all PNAS 2010. They don’t have the text. As Jim Prall writes, “I downloaded this list of signers from the 2002 open letter ‘02.11.25-letter%20to%20chretien%20from%20scientists.html’ to Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien from 30 scientists, which had been hosted on http://www.nrsp.com. That site is currently unresponsive (2009-09-29 – it returns a blank green page), and I can’t locate a copy of the original declaration HTML file on http://www.archive.org (usually a lifesaver when links get broken).

For the record, I’m posting this text, consisting of the names and affiliations of the signers of the letter. Unfortunately the text of the letter is not preserved, but the upshot of it was that Canada should not ratify the Kyoto Accord or take policy action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and that human influence on climate remains unproven.”

Prall is saying that he may have read the letter at some point but can’t find it, but managed to save (very Gollum-like) the precious names of the dirty deniers who signed it. I guess the content no longer matters…

But if you’re wondering what it is in that letter that prompts the inclusion of signatories to a list of people tagged as ‘deniers’ by Anderegg, Prall et all PNAS 2010, you’re not alone. So am I.

And if you’re wondering what level of incompetence and vicious ill will it takes to prompt a charge and investigation of academic misconduct, you’re not alone. So am I.

Text of the letter:

Dear Prime Minister:

 

Climate Specialists Urge the Canadian Government to Delay Ratification of the Kyoto Accord Pending Comprehensive Science Consultations

 

Many climate science experts from Canada and around the world, while still strongly supporting environmental protection, equally strongly disagree with the scientific rationale for the Kyoto Accord. Nevertheless, the Government of Canada has yet to conduct comprehensive consultations with climate scientists in order to properly consider the range of informed opinion pertaining to the science of Kyoto. Consequently, the views of dissenting scientists have not been properly heard or considered by the government.

Therefore, we, the undersigned climate scientists, call on the Government of Canada to delay a decision on the ratification of the Kyoto Accord until after a thorough and comprehensive consultation is conducted with non-governmental climate specialists.

If the climate models are correct, the effects of implementing Kyoto will be so small as to be undetectable even a century from now. Delaying ratification for a short period so as to allow proper science consultations to take place will do absolutely no damage to Canada or the environment and is unquestionably the prudent and responsible course of action at this time. Therefore, we implore the Government of Canada to proceed with comprehensive science consultations as soon as possible.

The Tragedy of Anderegg, Prall et al PNAS 2010

I’ve written several  times  about the article published in 2010 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. Titled “Expert Credibility in Climate Change” the article was written by William Anderegg, James Prall, Jacob Harold and the late Stephen Schneider.

shame

The key premise of the paper is set out plainly in its abstract: “Here, we use an extensive dataset of 1,372 climate researchers and their publication and citation data to show that (i) 97–98% of the climate researchers most actively publishing in the field surveyed here support the tenets of ACC outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and (ii) the relative climate expertise and scientific prominence of the researchers unconvinced of ACC are substantially below that of the convinced researchers.”

In my previous criticism of the paper I have focused on different issues–as I wrote shortly after the paper was published, “The paper is poorly done, as I’ve explained elsewhere. They used Google Scholar instead of an academic database. They searched only in English, despite the global nature of climate science. They got names wrong. They got job titles wrong. They got incorrect numbers of publications and citations.

“As I’ve mentioned, the highly respected Spencer Weart dismissed the paper as rubbish, saying it should not have been published.

“But the worst part of this is the violation of the rights of those they studied. Because Prall keeps lists of skeptical scientists on his weblog, obsessively trawling through online petitions and published lists of letters, and because those lists were used as part of the research, anyone now or in the future can have at their fingertips the names of those who now or in the past dared to disagree.”

In this post I want to write about how they chose the scientists they claimed have lower expertise and scientific prominence. The paper states, “We define UE researchers as those who have signed reputable statements strongly dissenting from the views of the IPCC. We compiled UE names comprehensively from the following 12 lists:

1992 statement from the Science and Environmental Policy
Project (46 names), 1995 Leipzig Declaration (80 names), 2002 letter to Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien (30 names), 2003 letter to Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin (46 names), 2006 letter to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper (61 names), 2007 letter to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon (100 names), 2007 TV film The Great Global Warming Swindle interviewees (17 names), NIPCC: 2008 Heartland Institute document “Nature, Not Human Activity, Rules the Climate,” ed. S. Fred Singer (24 listed contributors), 2008 Manhattan Declaration from a conference in New York City (206 names listed as qualified experts), 2009 newspaper ad by the Cato Institute challenging President Obama’s stance on climate change (115 signers), 2009 Heartland Institute document “Climate Change Reconsidered: 2009 Report of the Nongovernmental Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC)” (36 authors), and 2009 letter to the American Physical Society (61 names).

1. There are 4,000 signatories to the 1992 statement from the Science and Environmental Policy Project. Why did Anderegg, Prall et al limit themselves to just 46 names from this list? Is it perhaps because they didn’t want to include any of the 73 Nobel Prize winners in their list of ‘deniers?’ James Prall runs a weblog that has pictures of those he has labeled climate deniers. For some reason I can’t find pictures of many of those who signed the 1992 statement, including Jonas Salk, Rita Levi-Montalcino, Elie Wiesel, Norman Borlaug, Linus Pauling, etc.

But what were 73 Nobel Prize winners doing signing a ‘denialist’ letter? Were they fooled, scammed, drugged into submission?

Read it yourself–maybe you’ll discover you’re a climate ‘denier’ too! I would have signed this in 1992 and I would sign it today. And I’m not even a skeptic, let alone denier…

“We want to make our full contribution to the preservation of our common heritage, the Earth. We are, however, worried at the dawn of the twenty-first century, at the emergence of an irrational ideology which is opposed to scientific and industrial progress and impedes economic and social development.

We contend that a Natural State, sometimes idealized by movements with a tendency to look toward the past, does not exist and has probably never existed since man’s first appearance in the biosphere, insofar as humanity has always progressed by increasingly harnessing Nature to its needs and not the reverse.

We fully subscribe to the objectives of a scientific ecology for a universe whose resources must be taken stock of, monitored and preserved. But we herewith demand that this stock-taking, monitoring and preservation be founded on scientific criteria and not on irrational preconceptions.

We stress that many essential human activities are carried out either by manipulating hazardous substances or in their proximity, and that progress and development have always involved increasing control over hostile forces, to the benefit of mankind. We therefore consider that scientific ecology is no more than extension of this continual progress toward the improved life of future generations.

We intend to assert science’s responsibility and duties toward society as a whole.
We do, however, forewarn the authorities in charge of our planet’s destiny against decisions which are supported by pseudoscientific arguments or false and nonrelevant data. We draw everybody’s attention to the absolute necessity of helping poor countries attain a level of sustainable development which matches that of the rest of the planet, protecting them from troubles and dangers stemming from developed nations, and avoiding their entanglement in a web of unrealistic obligations which would compromise both their independence and their dignity.

The greatest evils which stalk our Earth are ignorance and oppression, and not Science, Technology, and Industry, whose instruments, when adequately managed, are indispensable tools of a future shaped by Humanity, by itself and for itself, overcoming major problems like overpopulation, starvation and worldwide diseases.”
Here are some of the signatories. These are the men and women who are less expert and have less prominence than Michael Mann, Peter Gleick and Stephan Lewandowsky:

*Denotes Nobel Prize Winner

• Bruce N. Ames, Director, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Center, BerkeleyBiochemistry-U.S.A.

• * Phillip W. Anderson, Nobel Prize (Physics), Princeton University-Physics-U.S.A.

• * Christian B. Anfinsen, Nobel Prize (Chemistry), John Hopkins University-Baltimore-Biology-U.S.A.

• Henri Atlan, Professor, Head of Nuclear Medicine Department, Hotel Dieu, Paris-Nuclear Medicine France

• * Julius Axelrod, Nobel Prize (Medicine), Lab. Of Cell Biology Nat. Institute of Mental Health-Cell Biology-U.S.A.

• Aden Bauleiu-Inserm, Ac. of Sciences, France, National Institute of Sciences, U.S.A. Lasker PrizeEndocrinology-France

• * Baruj Benacerraf, Nobel Prize (Medicine), National Medal of Science, President, Dana-Farber, Inc.-Oncology-U.S.A.

• * Hans Albrecht Bethe, Nobel Prize (Physics), Emeritus Professor, Cornell University-Ithaca-NY Nuclear Physics-U.S.A.

• *Sir James W. Black, Nobel Prize (Medicine), Professor Of Analytical Pharmacology King’s College, London- Pharmacology-Grande-Bretagne

• * Nicholas Bloembergen, Nobel Prize (Physics), Harvard University-Physics-U.S.A.

• Sir Hermann Bondi, Emeritus Professor Of Mathematics King’s College University Master of Churchill College Cambridge-Mathematics-Grande-Bretagne

• * Norman E, Borlaug, Nobel Prize (Peace), Sc. Consult CAMWOOD, Mexico Pdt. Sasakawa African Assoc.-Agriculture-U.S.A.

• Pierre Bourdieu, College de France-Sociology-France

• * Adolph Butenandt, Nobel Prize (Chemistry), Hon. Pres. Max-Planck Institute-Chemistry-Allemagne

• * Thomas R. Cech, Nobel Prize (Chemistry), University of Colorado-Chemistry-U.S.A.

• Carlos Chagas, Academia Pontificia, WIS-Medicine-Brazil

• * Owen Chamberlain, Professor, Nobel Prize (Physics), Emeritus Professor, University Of California Berkeley-U.S.A.

• * Stanley Cohen, Nobel Prize (Medicine), Distinguished Professor, Department of Biochem., Vanderbilt University-Biochemistry-U.S.A.

• *Sir John Warcup Cornforth, Nobel Prize (Chemistry), School of Chemistry and Molecular Sciences, Brighton-Chemistry-Grande-Bretagne

• * Jean Dausset, Nobel Prize (Medicine), Ac. of Sciences, France, Pres. U.M.S.E., W.I.S., ParisImmunology-France

• * Gerald Debreu, Nobel Prize (Economy), Emeritus Professor of Economics and Mathematics, University Of California-Economy-U.S.A.

• * Johan Deisenhofer, Nobel Prize (Chemistry), University of Texas, Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas-Biochemistry-U.S.A.

• Sir Richard Doll, Emeritus Professor Of Medicine, Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford-Epidemiology-GrandeBretagne

• * Christian de Duve, Nobel Prize (Medicine), Biology-Belgique

• * Manfred Eigen, Nobel Prize (Chemistry), President of Max Plank Institute, Gottingen-ChemistryAllemagne

• * Richard R. Ernst, Nobel Prize (Chemistry), Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich-ChemistrySuisse

• * Pierre-Gilles de Gennes, Nobel Prize (Physics), Ac. of Sciences, Professor, College de France, Paris-Physics-France

• * Ivar Giaever, Nobel Prize (Physics), Institute Professor, R.P.I.-Physics-U.S.A.

• * Donald A. Glaser, Nobel Prize (Physics), Professor of Physics, University of California-Physics U.S.A.

• Francois Gros, Professor, College de France, Ac of Sciences, France, Vice President of WIS, Paris -Biology of development-France

• * Roger Guillemin, Nobel Prize (Medicine), Whittier Institute, La Jolla-Medicine-U.S.A.

• * Herbert A. Hauptman, Nobel Prize (Chemistry), Pres. Med. Found. of Buffalo, Professor of Biophysics Sc-Biophysics-U.S.A.

• Harald zur Hausen, Professor, Dr., Director of German Cancer Research Center, HeidelbergCancerology-Allemagne

• Mrs. Francoise Heritier-Auge, Professor, College de France, Pres Cons Nat. Sida Dir, EhessAnthropology-France

• * Dudley R. Herschbach, Nobel Prize (Chemistry), Baird Professor Of Science, Harvard University, Cambridge-Chemistry-U.S.A.

• * Gerhard Herzberg, Nobel Prize (Chemistry), National Research Council of Canada, Chemistry – Canada

• Benno Hess, Professor, Doctor, Honorary Senator and Former Vice President, Max-Planck Society , WIS – Biophysics-Allemagne

• * Anthony Jewish, Nobel Prize (Physics), Professor, Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge University Physics – Grande-Bretagne

• * Roald Hoffman, Nobel Prize (Chemistry), Professor Of Chemistry, Cornell University-Chemistry U.S.A.

• * Robert Huber, Nobel Prize (Chemistry), Max-Planck Institute for Biochemie, Biochemistry-Allemagne

• *Sir Andrew Fielding Huxley, Nobel Prize (Medicine), Formerly President of London, Medicine-GrandeBretagne

• Serguei Petrovich Kapitza, Professor of Sciences, Institute for Physical Problems, WIS-Physics, electrodynamics-Russie

• * Jerome Karle, Nobel Prize (Chemistry), Chief Scientist, Lab for Structure of Matter, Chemistry-U.S.A.

• *Sir John Kendrew, Nobel Prize (Chemistry), Professor, The Old Guildhall, Cambridge, Molecular Biology-Grande-Bretagne

• * Klaus Von Klitzing, Nobel Prize (Physics), Professor, Max-Planck Inst. Solid State Research, Stuttgart-Physics-Allemagne

• * Aaron Klug, Nobel Prize (Chemistry), M.R.C. Lab. of Molecular Biology, Cambridge-ChemistryGrande-Bretagne

• * Edwin G. Krebs, Nobel Prize (Medicine), Professor Emeritus, Department of Pharm & Biochem, University of Washington-Biochemistry-U.S.A.

• * Leon Lederman, Nobel Prize (Physics), Director Emeritus, Fermi Nat’l Accelerator Laboratory, Nuclear Physics-U.S.A.

• * Yuan T. Lee, Nobel Prize (Chemistry), Professor of Chemistry, University of California-Berkeley U.S.A.

• * Jean-Marie Lehn, Nobel Prize (Chemistry), Professor, College de France, W.I.S. Chemistry-France

• Pierre Lelong, Professor, Ac of Sciences, W.I.S.-Mathematics-France

• * Wassily Leontief, Nobel Prize (Economy), Professor, New York University-Economy-U.S.A.

• * Rita Levi-Montalcini, Nobel Prize (Medicine), Ac Lincei, Ac Pontificia, W.I.S.-Neurosciences-Italie

• Andr Linchnerowicz, Professor, Ac of Sciences France, Ac Lincei, Ac Pontificia, President of W.I.S., Mathematical Physics-France

*Sir. Nevil F. Mott, Nobel Prize Winner (Physics), Emeritus Professor, Cambridge University, PhysicsGrande-Bretagne

• * Joseph Murray, Nobel Prize (Medicine), Professor, Dr Surgery, Harvard Med School-Cell Biology U.S.A.

• * Daniel Nathans, Nobel Prize (Medicine), Professor, John Hopkins Un, School of Medicine, Baltimore Molecular Genetics-U.S.A.

• Daniel W. Nebert, Professor, Director, Center for Environmental Genetics, University of Cincinnati, Genetics-U.S.A.

• * Louis Neel, Nobel Prize (Physics), Physics-France

• * Erwin Neher, Nobel Prize (Medicine), Doctor, Director, Max-Planck Institute, Biophysics, GoettingenBiophysics-Allemagne

• * Marshall W. Nirenberg, Nobel Prize (Medicine), National Institutes of Health, Bethesda-Medicine U.S.A.

• * George E. Palade, Nobel Prize (Medicine), Professor, Division of Cellular & Molecular Med, Cell Medicine-U.S.A.

• * Linus Pauling, Nobel Prize (Chemistry, Peace), Professor, Linus Pauling Institute Sc and Med, Chemistry-U.S.A.

• Jean-Claude Pecker, Professor Hon, College de France, Ac of Sciences, Royal Ac of Belgium, W.I.S.- Astrophysics-France

• * Amo A. Penzias, Nobel Prize (Physics), Professor, Bell Labortories, Murray Hill-Physics-U.S.A.

• * Max Ferdinand Perutz, Nobel Prize (Chemistry), MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, CambridgeBiochemistry-Grande-Bretagne

• Julian Peto, Professor, Head , Section of Epidemiology, Institute of Cancer Research, LondonEpidemiology-Grande-Bretagne

• Richard Peto, Professor of Medical Statistics & Epidemiology, University of Oxford-EpidemiologyGrande-Bretagne

• * John Charles Polanyi, Nobel Prize (Chemistry), Professor Of Chemistry, University of TorontoChemistry-Canada

• *Lord George Porter, Nobel Prize (Chemistry), Professor, Chairman, Photomolec, Sc  Imperial College, London-Chemistry-Grande-Bretagne

• Andr Linchnerowicz, Professor, Ac of Sciences France, Ac Lincei, Ac Pontificia, President of W.I.S., Mathematical Physics-France

• Richard S. Lindzen, Professor, US National Academy of Sciences, M.I.T., W.I.S.-Meteorology-U.S.A.

• * William N. Lipscomb, Nobel Prize Winner (Chemistry), Professor Emeritus, Harvard University, Cambridge-Chemistry-U.S.A.

• * Harry M. Markowitz, Nobel Prize (Economics), Speizer Professor of Finance, Baruch College-U.S.A.

• * Simon van der Meer, Nobel Prize (Physics), Geneva-Nuclear Physics-Suisse

• * Cesar Milstein, Nobel Prize (Physiology), Dr Cambridge-Physiology-Grande-Bretagne

• *Sir. Nevil F. Mott, Nobel Prize Winner (Physics), Emeritus Professor, Cambridge University, PhysicsGrande-Bretagne

• * Joseph Murray, Nobel Prize (Medicine), Professor, Dr Surgery, Harvard Med School-Cell BiologyU.S.A.

• * Daniel Nathans, Nobel Prize (Medicine), Professor, John Hopkins Un, School of Medicine,  Baltimore Molecular Genetics-U.S.A.

• Daniel W. Nebert, Professor, Director, Center for Environmental Genetics, University of Cincinnati, Genetics-U.S.A.
• * Louis Neel, Nobel Prize (Physics), Physics-France
• * Erwin Neher, Nobel Prize (Medicine), Doctor, Director, Max-Planck Institute, Biophysics, GoettingenBiophysics-Allemagne

• * Marshall W. Nirenberg, Nobel Prize (Medicine), National Institutes of Health, Bethesda-MedicineU.S.A.

• * George E. Palade, Nobel Prize (Medicine), Professor, Division of Cellular & Molecular Med, Cell Medicine-U.S.A.

• * Linus Pauling, Nobel Prize (Chemistry, Peace), Professor, Linus Pauling Institute Sc and Med, Chemistry-U.S.A.

• Jean-Claude Pecker, Professor Hon, College de France, Ac of Sciences, Royal Ac of Belgium, W.I.S.- Astrophysics-France

• * Amo A. Penzias, Nobel Prize (Physics), Professor, Bell Labortories, Murray Hill-Physics-U.S.A.

• * Max Ferdinand Perutz, Nobel Prize (Chemistry), MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, CambridgeBiochemistry-Grande-Bretagne

• Julian Peto, Professor, Head , Section of Epidemiology, Institute of Cancer Research, LondonEpidemiology-Grande-Bretagne

• Richard Peto, Professor of Medical Statistics & Epidemiology, University of Oxford-EpidemiologyGrande-Bretagne

• * John Charles Polanyi, Nobel Prize (Chemistry), Professor Of Chemistry, University of TorontoChemistry-Canada

• * I. Prigogine, Nobel Prize (Chemistry), Professor, Director, Institute Intern. de Phys. et de Chim, Bruxelles-Chemistry-Belgique

• A. Prochiantz, Pr, Director of Research CNRS, Ecole Normale Suprieure, Paris, W.I.S.-Pharmacology France

• Ichtiaque Rasool, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena-Physics-France
• * Tadeus Reichstein, Nobel Prize (Medicine), Professor Emeritus, Org Chemistry, University of BaselOrganic Chemistry-Suisse

• * Heinrich Rohrer, Nobel Prize (Physics), IBM Research Laboratory, Physics-Suisse

• * Bert Sakmann, Nobel Prize (Medicine), Professor, Max-Planck Inst for Med. Forschung, Heidelberg Cell Biology-Allemagne

• * Abdus Salam, Nobel Prize (Physics), International Centre for Theoretical Physics, Italie

• Jonas Salk, Distinguished Pr., Dr , International Health Sciences-Biology-USA

• Evry Schatzman, Professor, Ac of Sciences-France-Astrophysics-France

• * Arthur L. Schawlow, Nobel Prize (Physics), Stanford University-Physics-U.S.A.

• G. Schettler, Professor, Director, Former President, Academy of Sciences, Heidelberg-CardiologyAllemagne

• Elie A. Shneour, Professor, Director, Biosystems Research Institute, San Diego, California-U.S.A.

• * Kai Siegbahn, Nobel Prize (Physics), Physics-Suede

• S. Fred Singer, Professor of Environmental Sciences, University of Virginia, Director of the Washington S.E.P.P, EnvironmentalSciences-U.S.A.

• * Richard Laurence Millington Synge, Nobel Prize (Chemistry), Biochemistry-Grande-Bretagne

• GP Talwar, Professor Emeritus, Nat Inst of Immunology, Ac of Sciences, India, W.I.S.-Immunology Inde

• * Jan Tinbergen, Nobel Prize (Economy), Economy-Pays-Bas

• *Lord Alexander Todd, Nobel Prize (Chemistry), Chemistry-Grande-Bretagne

• Alvin Toffler, Author-Futurist-Futurology-U.S.A.

• * Charles H. Townes, Nobel Prize (Physics), W.I.S. Professor Emeritus, Physics, University of California, Berkeley-Physics-U.S.A.

• Ren Truhaut, Professor, Pharmacology Facult des Sciences, Pharmaceutiques, Paris-Toxicology France

• *Sir John R. Vane , Nobel Prize (Medicine), Professor, Chairman of William Harvey Research Institute, London-Endocrinology-Grande-Bretagne

• * Harold E. Varmus, Nobel Prize (Medicine), Professor of Microbiology, University of California, San Francisco-Microbiology-U.S.A.

• * Thomas Huckle Weller, Nobel Prize (Medicine), Professor Emeritus, Harvard-Medicine-U.S.A.

• * Elie Wiesel, Nobel Prize (Peace), University of Boston Literature-U.S.A.

• * Torsten N. Wiesel, Nobel Prize (Medicine), Professor, Lab of Neurobiology, Rockefeller University of New York, Neurobiology-U.S.A.

• * Robert W. Wilson, Nobel Prize (Physics), Head, Radio Physics Res Department, AT&T Bell Laboratories-Physics-U.S.A.

More on this in the next post–“You’re a denier if you signed a letter I haven’t read…”

The Grand Tradition of Propaganda in Climate Releases: To Understand Lewandowsky You Must Travel A Long Road

I feel for Jose Duarte–I really do. He’s taking apart Lewandowky’s latest effort, which is not very difficult to do. Lewandowsky is not just a charlatan–he’s incompetent as well. But Duarte seems really surprised–almost shocked–at how low Lewandowsky can stoop to get his message through to the media. It reminds me of me, back in the carefree and naive days of 2011 when I was writing about Anderegg, Prall, et al. I couldn’t believe that people could engage in such blatant manipulation of data to score political points and calling it science.

Lewandowsky’s latest effort is garbage, of course. (Hint–his 27th citation is to ‘Lewandowsky S, Oberauer K, Gignac GE (2013) NASA faked the moon landing—therefore (climate) science is a hoax: An anatomy of the motivated rejection of science’, a work that lives on only in infamy. Here, Lewandowsky did (surprise!) another tainted survey and managed to find a 37,000 year old participant. And a five year old one. And managed to include them both in his results. I strongly urge everyone to read Lewandowsky’s paper, especially the introduction, where he finds that almost everyone opposes some sort of cause that is dealt with by science, many because they see a conspiracy somewhere, but conservatives oppose climate science because they are conspiracy ideationists.

But to understand the how and why of Lewandowsky, you have to go back a ways and travel a road that started in 2004 with Naomi Oreskes, continued with Anderegg, Prall et al in 2010, reached a climax with Lewandowsky’s occasional co-author John Cook (of Skeptical Science) before arriving at the anti-climax that is Lewandowsky’s contribution.

In the name of establishing what nobody disputes–that a majority of climate scientists believes that humans have contributed to the 0.8C warming the earth has experienced over the past century or so–each of these authors, not scientists themselves, have not made a real effort to quantify the consensus, but rather to cook the books to deligitimize their opponents–skeptics of the consensus.

Before we go on, I should note a couple of things. First, it is clear that a majority of scientists do indeed support the scientific consensus position on climate change (although the scientific consensus is much narrower than the political pronouncements you hear on a daily basis). Von Storch, in a survey of published climate scientists in 2008, showed that roughly 81% of published scientists agreed with most of the main consensus points and almost none disagreed in a major way with the IPCC reviews of the literature. Von Storch’s findings were supported by another survey conducted in 2012 by Bart Verheggen et al.

However, a 19% level of disagreement is apparently too much for the politicized prophets of climate doom, especially when the 19% includes some heavyweights in the climate arena, such as Richard Lindzen and in physics, such as Freeman Dyson. So a concerted effort was launched to conceal this level of disagreement and to trash those who disagree with them.

Let’s start at the beginning, with Naomi Oreskes.

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In 2004, Naomi Oreskes published a paper in Science titled “Beyond the Ivory Tower: The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change“. It purported to be an analysis of a literature search for papers with the keywords “climate change”, although she later corrected this to say the search terms used were “global climate change”. The search yielded 928 academic papers published between 1993 and 2003 in the ISI database and Oreskes’ analysis said that 75% of the papers either explicitly or implicitly supported the consensus view of climate change, while none directly disputed it. I’ve never seen what her criteria were for the six segments of belief/disbelief. If someone knows what they were I’d appreciate a reference.

Be that as it may, a number  of publications by noted skeptics during the period between 1993 and 2003 escaped Oreskes’ attention. To be fair, there may be legitimate reasons why the results didn’t turn up in her search. The words “climate change” may not appear consecutively in the title, for example. For example, skeptical scientist Richard Lindzen’s 1993 paper ‘Climate Dynamics and Global Change‘ may not have appeared in the results because Climate and Change are not together. And skeptical scientist John Christy’s 2000 paper, ‘Assessing levels of uncertainty in recent temperature time series’ doesn’t have ‘climate’ or ‘change’ in the title at all. Similarly, Nils-Axel Morner’s 2003 paper, ‘Sunspot activity, solar wind, Earth’s rotation and climate on a decadal time-scale‘ may have been missed.

But why was Morner’s controversial and widely publicized 2003 paper ‘Expected Sea Level Changes In The Next Century‘ not included? It certainly dealt with global climate change. But only ‘Change’ appears in the title…

But that’s really not the point. Oreskes was familiar with the literature and she had to have been aware that skeptics were publishing during the period in question. She should have either expanded her search to include other terms or notified her paper’s readers that there were many existing papers published during this period that opposed the consensus but did not show up in the search results.

Skeptical scientist Richard Lindzen in fact published at least 107 peer reviewed papers between 1993 and 2003. Skeptical scientist John Christy published 18 in the same time frame. Morner published numerous papers in that time frame. Garth Paltridge published at least one,  A physical basis for a maximum of thermodynamic dissipation of the climate system. Again, though, it didn’t have the magic words in the title.

Note that I haven’t searched on a number of notable skeptics, such as William Happer, Roy Singer, Soon, Balunias, etc.

The point is that Oreskes knew there were papers being published by skeptics. She chose perhaps the only search string that would keep them out of the results, misstating the search terms she used and when ‘global climate change’ was finally acknowledged as the search term, it was easy to see why only those who belong to the consensus came up–only consensus adherents would think to include those words in a paper.

Next up: I return to my old stomping grounds to take on Anderegg, Prall et al.

 

MannSteynMacFrank

Over at my other blog I’m trying to correlate variations in human energy consumption with variations in other measurables, such as GDP, CO2 emissions etc. All good fun and I love it!

But I love having a little fun, too. And what could be more fun in early January than settling down to watch the fireworks display provided by climate scientist Michael Mann and his lawsuit against conservative publications–and commentator Mark Steyn’s countersuit against Mann?

Michael Mann

Mann is suing for defamation of character after Mark Steyn contributed an article to National Review saying Mann’s Hockey Stick was fraudulent. (Mann has included the Competitive Enterprise Institute as a defendant after CEI writer Rand Simberg wrote that Mann ‘tortured and molested data.)

Steyn and Simberg did write these things. However, Michael Mann has worked very hard to become a public figure. To a C-level extent he has succeeded. Public figures should expect criticism, according to U.S. courts and doctrine. Writers should be free to use sometimes intemperate language in that criticism. Furthermore, Mann’s suit argues that he was called a fraud, when in fact only part of his work was called fraudulent. Mann himself has tossed the word ‘fraud’ around casually about other opponents of his work and used even more incendiary language at times.

Steyn defends himself here.

The inimitable Steve McIntyre has done most of the heavy lifting in showing why Mann’s lawsuit should be tossed out. If you’re interested in a more detailed account, see here.

stevemcintyre

 

I’m writing because this controversy is what introduced me to Mark Steyn, an embarrassing admission for someone who claims to read widely. I’ve been reading quit a bit of what he puts up on SteynOnline.

 

Steyn

He’s a really good writer with a talent for lampooning his opponents–Michael Mann got off lightly, at least until he filed suit. (Steyn has unloaded with both barrels since.) He’s a good wordsmith and knows how to make his case.

He’s also really, really conservative. And I’m really, really liberal. This presents me with a dilemma–and not for the first time.

Mark Steyn is correct (in my opinion) in what he writes about Michael Mann and the litigation the two are going through. Almost completely correct.

And it bothers me that my ‘side’ (progressive liberals in general) are getting it wrong on this issue while someone like Mark Steyn, who apparently thinks that Muslims will take over the West by the simple strategy of moving to western countries and out-breeding their hosts, can get it right on the politics behind the climate change controversy.

While my favorite liberal pundits (Paul Krugman, Kevin Drumm, etc.) are parroting platitudes that they must have culled from Grist, writers like Mark Steyn are skewering those platitudes mercilessly. It’s embarrassing.

Michael Mann became the darling of the Hollywood clique of eco-activists, those who want to use their celebrity to advance a ’cause’ and have found that cause in climate change. Climate change has become the favorite cause of many who don’t have the time or inclination to think through the issue.

As someone who is not a skeptic, who believes that climate change is real and something we need to address, I am hugely embarrassed at what is said about it by people ostensibly on my side.

As a progressive liberal, I am peeved that a conservative writer finds it so easy to score points and point out the flaws in what is said by my fellow liberals.

Being a liberal isn’t easy.

I’ll close this post by noting that Mark Steyn, who I think is wrong on almost everything else… also regularly writes really good prose poems about the history of popular music that are just a delight to read. It looks like 2015 is going to be the year he celebrates Sinatra–check it out.

Frank Sinatra

(Some of what) I say to the alarmists, Part 1

First, of course, the definitions. People have every right to be concerned about humanity’s effects on the climate. I certainly am, as you will see in great (mind-numbing?) detail when I talk about my response to skeptics. But there is a group of people who are dining out on exaggerated claims of the effects of human-caused climate change. Surprisingly, few of them are scientists. The vast majority are affiliated with environmental causes or have political beliefs that make the climate cause a little too congenial for them.

Global warming’ will kill most of us, and turn the rest of us into cannibals.” Ted Turner

the end is nigh 1

I call people alarmists when they take a solid premise—that human actions have a measurable effect on our climate and that this effect could bring with it negative consequences, especially in the developing world—and cheerfully exaggerate the effects of climate change, constructing scenarios that resemble a dark science fiction film or book. (In fact, there is a burgeoning sub-genre of science fiction based on disastrous climate change. It is called Cli-Fi. It is uniformly unreadable.) Many of them who have published books, articles or weblogs work for or are closely affiliated with environmental organizations such as Greenpeace, The Sierra Club, the WWF, etc.

“When we’ve finally gotten serious about global warming, when the impacts are really hitting us and we’re in a full worldwide scramble to minimize the damage, we should have war crimes trials for these bastards (global warming skeptics) — some sort of climate Nuremberg.” David Roberts, Grist Magazine

We’ll talk about the science of climate change throughout this blog (although this is not intended in any way as a primer on climate science—there are many such and I am certainly not qualified to write one myself), but let’s take a look at what science says about the effects of climate change.

The IPCC says that the science they have reviewed indicates that temperatures will climb between 1.5C and 4.5C over the course of this century. That’s a very wide range, given that the average temperature is about 14.5C. What would that mean for the world?

Obviously, a 1C rise in temperatures will not cause significant problems. Problems start cropping up when the rise gets to 2C and damages from climate change are forecast to climb steeply should temperatures rise beyond 2C. But between 2C and 4.5C of temperature rise it is muddy going to say ‘this will happen at 2.8C and this will then happen at 3.4C. So let’s cut to the chase and see what scientists and economists forecast for our world should temperatures rise by the maximum—4.5C. (There are some people who say that temperatures might rise even beyond—but I have seen no scientific studies that show that as anything other than the remotest of possibilities.)

The impacts of 4.5C can be quantified loosely—sea level rise will be at the top end (59 cm) of the IPCC’s estimates for the century. Biodiversity will suffer—the rate of extinctions can be expected to rise. And although there will be winners and losers in agriculture, the winners will likely be in the rich Northern hemisphere and the losers in the developing South. But all of these involve a fair amount of guesswork—(try searching for a global figure for land expected to be lost due to climate change, if you want to experience a frustrating afternoon—Tol and Darwin[1] came up with figures of 348,375 linear miles of coastland, as well as 335,421 square kilometers of land threatened by 50 cm of sea level rise. That’s out of a total of 149 million square kilometers of land area on the planet, so it’s about 2.5% 0.25% of the total (thanks, HaroldW). But how helpful is that figure? Rich countries would protect their land, while poor countries couldn’t afford to.) The same is true for most of the metrics involved.

We can look at the impacts of climate change economically and get a single figure. Nordhaus and Boyer, using their highly respected DICE model, estimated the costs of climate change at $5 trillion in 2000 dollars. That’s a staggering figure—but it includes all the costs that will be incurred over the 21st Century. If we decided today to put $5 trillion (adjusted for the inflation that has occurred since 1990, yielding $8.92 trillion 2013 dollars) in the bank to cover all the present and future costs of global climate change it would be 6% of the world’s GDP. On the other hand, the IPCC SRES (scenarios of possible future paths) project world GDP in 2100 to be between $235 trillion and $550 trillion just in the year 2100. So if we waited until then to pay all the costs of global warming, it would amount to between .2% and .1% of the world’s output for just that one year. Of course, in all likelihood, global warming will be dealt with on a pay-as-you-go basis, decreasing the financial impact even further.

In any event, it is clear right from the start that global warming is not projected to be a planet buster or any kind of global disaster causing widespread loss of life. It is a real problem, to be sure. It needs attention and the sooner we start dealing with it the better. But even at its worst it is manageable, well within the context and scope of other problems we are successfully dealing with today.

2011_False_Alarm_My_Bad

Contrast those figures with what Alarmists say for public consumption, ranging from predictions that humanity would be reduced to a few breeding couples living in Antarctica to half of all species disappearing by 2020, from an ice-free Arctic by the year 2000 to predictions that temperatures would rise by 2 degrees Celsius by 2010. There are actually hundreds of dire predictions, some of which have already been proven false, others that just contradict what the IPCC and mainstream science actually say. Perhaps the motivation for the barrage of scary quotes is captured in a quote from Al Gore: “I believe it is appropriate to have an over-representation of factual presentations on how dangerous it is, as a predicate for opening up the audience to listen to what the solutions are, and how hopeful it is that we are going to solve this crisis.”

[1] Estimates of the Economic Effects of Sea Level Rise, Roy Darwin and Richard Tol, Environmental and Resource Economics, 2001, Kluwer Academic Publishers

Books and blogs, Part 4

Searching for information about climate change on the internet will quickly lead you to a set of weblogs that are clearly there to promote the alarmist extreme of consensus opinion. They link to each other, post on the latest scientific papers that claim ‘it is worse than we thought’ and talk trash about those in opposition, a cast of characters they deride as either skeptics (on a good day) or more commonly as ‘denialists’, a deliberate attempt to class opponents as one with the skinheads who deny the Holocaust ever occurred.

Many of these blogs also have very good scientific information on their sites and they can be extremely valuable, especially if you skip past the diatribes and attacks on the unholy. But at the time (2007 and 2008), that was getting harder to do. The climate fight was getting fiercer just as I was getting more involved.

The climate blogosphere is complex, and different stakeholders have different views. A few years back, skeptics painted the picture like this with Watts Up With That in the center:

Climate blogs WUWT

More recently the alarmists have come out with their own version. At least it’s labeled:

climate_blogs Real Climate

Opposition, or skeptical blogs were actually not that easy to find, although they existed in respectable numbers. They were literally shunned by those advocating decisive action to limit global warming, as shown by the activists’ own map. When finally found, they were in many ways much different than the consensus blogs—they tended to focus on one individual component of climate change and hammer away at it. They were low-traffic for the most part and the scientific background of many of the bloggers (and more of their commenters) was open to question. However, overall they were much more palatable than consensus blogs, operating with more open policies that didn’t censor commenters and being more welcoming to newcomers and strangers. And I was both.

I began to comment on the climate blogs, naively convinced that what I was reading (and writing, by that time) on renewable energy was relevant to the conversation and gave me a solid technology-based background for putting forward the point of view found in this book. Briefly, what I came to think was that climate change is real. It is probable that humans contributed to the dramatic warming of the last quarter of the 20th century. One of those contributions consists of greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuels. Burning of fossil fuels will accelerate rapidly in the 21st Century. This is likely to pose a problem for continued human development, and it would be wise to take steps to reduce the emissions and prepare for the impact of future warming. However, climate change is not solely caused by human actions. Moreover, fossil fuel emissions of CO2 are not the only human contribution to climate change and may not even be the largest (deforestation, changes in land use and land cover, black carbon and preparation of cement may, taken together, have a larger effect). Alarmist scenarios of very large temperature rises and sea level increase are not supported by mainstream science. Climate change should be considered a serious issue deserving of our attention, but it is not a ‘planet-buster’. I shall go into greater detail below.

I then set up shop myself, starting a short-lived weblog called The Liberal Skeptic in 2008. It was short-lived because I started writing for Examiner.com almost immediately thereafter and switched my venue there. I quickly hijacked the title ‘lukewarmer’ from a comment thread at a very good climate blog called The Blackboard (run by the even better Lucia Liljegren) and essentially started developing a ‘climate philosophy’ starting from the title Lukewarmer and working down. I was really enjoying it, blogging on climate change once or twice a day while writing reports on solar power or trends for hydroelectric expansion in the developing world, getting praised and criticized from increasingly larger numbers of readers, until my friend Steve Mosher phoned me to say he had a CD ROM with what appeared to be 1,000 emails between some of the most politicized climate scientists working in the field. Enter Climategate.

The emails contained some controversial statements, the most incendiary being a request by Phil Jones, head of the Climate Research Unit at East Anglia University, for colleagues to delete all emails regarding an upcoming report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, as they had been requested under the Freedom of Information Act. The emails did not call the basic tenets of climate change theory into question, but they shed a lot of light on the lengths some players were willing to go to to smash the opposition, protect their personal theories and reputation and disregard most of what other scientists would regard as Ethics 101.

In December of 2009 Steven Mosher and I self-published a book about what had become known as Climategate. We wrote it in 30 days and put it up on CreateSpace, the self-publishing unit of Amazon. It was on Amazon within a few days and on Kindle a week later.

As I said, our book (Climategate—The CRU Tape Letters) was written in the 30 days following the release of the emails and it showed. In addition to two factual (if minor) mistakes, the book had typographical errors, some sloppy writing and the publication quality was substandard. Despite this, due to intense interest in the Climategate scandal, the book sold very well—in fact it continues to sell. It apparently managed to do what Steve and I set out to do, provide context for the emails and reconstruct the real world narrative in which the communications took place.

One predictable consequence of the book’s publication was a concerted effort to, if not demonize us, at least characterize us as bad apples who were either trying to grubbily profit from the troubles of the climate scientists or to contribute to the efforts of the many climate skeptics who ‘denied’ climate science. Some of that continues to this day, despite our efforts to forestall such accusations. Scathing reviews of our book were published before it was available for sale and couldn’t have been read by the reviewers, and much of the criticism we received was from people who admittedly never took the time to read the book and said they were pretty proud that they hadn’t sullied their hands with it. The simple fact that we criticized one group of climate scientists was sufficient to place us beyond the pale—in the group known as ‘deniers’, a term I have come to loathe.

Fast forward to January of 2015 and I find myself again in front of a word processor writing about climate change. A lot has happened since Climategate—but neither the email scandal nor the many events, publications and debates since Climategate have changed anybody’s mind.

My reason for writing this book is to claim a piece of territory in the climate debate—to show that there are more than the two extremes involved in the conversation. The Lukewarmer’s Way is meant, not to convince readers that our position is right—only the future history of climate will convince anybody about anything related to climate change—but to provide what I think is a sane piece of middle ground far from the Iron Sun skeptics who think that the Sun dominates recent temperature changes on the one hand, and alarmists who still are convinced that two meters of sea-level rise and 6 degrees Celsius of temperature rises will occur during this century.

Books and blogs, Part 3

Almost 30 years after reading The Descent of Woman, getting ready to move from London back to San Francisco, I was faced with a decision. As a market researcher I needed to broaden my field of focus. I had done really well for 15 years as an analyst on technology issues, but I sensed that tech was no longer enough. Some of the companies I knew well had succeeded to the point that they were almost utilities, especially in the networking arena. Pure internet plays had either died an early death or had gained a commanding market position—people had stopped asking interesting questions about them. And there was frankly too much competition from hotshot analysts, many younger and brighter than myself, in the telecommunications space.

The two sexy fields I was evaluating for a career refresh were renewable energy and medical devices. Medical devices would have been more lucrative, but renewable energy was much more accessible. It wouldn’t take me nearly as long to get up to speed on wind, solar and biofuels as it would have on the myriad categories of instrumentation used in medicine these days. So I immersed myself in green energy and within months I was busy writing reports on trends in renewables, especially solar power.

But studying renewable energy brought me into the politics of climate change, the reason renewables were being so energetically pushed.

At first contact, the climate change issue seemed almost the obverse of the situations I had read about involving Thor Heyerdahl and Elaine Morgan. Climate change caused by human emissions of CO2 was the ‘new’ theory (it was actually a century old) and seemingly attractive because it had ‘explanatory power’, but instead of receiving a baptism by fire from the scientific community it seemed to have been adopted by voice vote and become the law of the land. Academia was kind to climate change.

I found this surprising and started to look into it. So I adopted a skeptical posture at first, but the physics is actually sound—a doubling of concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere will in fact slow down the cooling of the Earth, leading to temperature warming of about 1.1 degrees Celsius if nothing else is working to counteract (or amplify) the effects of those emissions.

The scientific debate of interest was what other forces were either working with CO2 to elevate temperatures or acting as a counterbalance to the warming effect and how strong they were. That debate continues today. Those most committed to the ‘cause’ of cataclysmic climate change are convinced that the atmosphere is very sensitive to a doubling of CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere, saying that CO2 is a force for change in atmospheric conditions that causes ‘feedback’ from other phenomena. According to the theory of high sensitivity, more CO2 leads inexorably to more water vapor, also a greenhouse gas. And a little heating melts ice, which has a high albedo and reflects the sunlight back into space, exposing the darker surface underneath it which absorbs the heat from the sun, not letting it go back from whence it came. But this turns out to be a new theory, as dramatic and unexpected as Thor Heyerdahl’s theory about human travel between continents or Elaine Morgan’s ideas about early humans being the original beachcombers. And it is this specific subsection of the global warming hypothesis—the atmospheric sensitivity to greenhouse gases—that was not being examined as closely as a new theory should. Not only is the given range of sensitivity a very large range (between 1.5C and 4.5C for a doubling of CO2 concentrations), but despite decades of work that range has not narrowed at all. However, an alarming high value for atmospheric sensitivity was blithely accepted almost the minute it was posited. I cannot stress enough how unusual that is.

Early on in my background reading I found Bjorn Lomborg’s book The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring The Real State of the World, published in 2001, although I didn’t get around to it until about 6 years after its publication. I found it by following the debate about it in The Economist, which chronicled what really looked like a coordinated hatchet job on Lomborg by the scientific community.

bjorn-lomborg_1705400c

The Skeptical Environmentalist was partially a revival of ideas advanced by Julian Simon with a focus on environmental subjects. Simon had argued that the ultimate resource was the human brain and that resource constraints that worried so many (oil, precious metals, mundane raw materials) were not a problem at all—human ingenuity found workarounds when faced with shortages and contrary to the doctrines of Thomas Malthus, life had been getting better for the vast majority since Malthus’ time and was quite likely to continue to do so. Simon got more mainstream attention for a bet he had with Paul Ehrlich about the prices of 5 commodities over a decade—Simon won, predicting they would fall in price.

Lomborg’s book took Simon’s ideas and applied it to natural resources of concern to environmentalists—forest cover, water, pollution, food availability, energy, etc. And climate change. On all of the subjects, Lomborg used governmental data from publicly available sources to make the case that in almost all areas things were not as bad as people thought and getting better quite quickly. As for climate change, Lomborg wrote that he “accepts the reality of man-made global warming but questions the way in which future scenarios have been arrived at and finds that forecasts of climate change of 6 degrees by the end of the century are not plausible.” Lomborg concluded that focusing on poverty and research and development on alternative energy were a better use of the world’s limited resources.

Lomborg wrote one chapter of his book on global warming, amounting to 66 pages out of the 352 pages in my dog-eared copy. Those 66 pages caused a firestorm. In fact, the publisher was pressured severely not to bring the book out at all. The criticism was dominated by those who had become policy advocates of quick and dramatic action to forestall climate change. This shouldn’t be incredibly surprising. Lomborg repeatedly named names of scientists and journalists he felt had misled the public with exaggerated tales of coming disaster. Scientific American published in one issue a set of essays from some of the scientists Lomborg had criticized and they more than returned the favor. But Scientific American didn’t allow Lomborg to even respond at first. And whereas The Skeptical Environmentalist was in fact peer-reviewed (although critics blatantly lied, saying it was not), these attacks definitely were not—and they contained some real whoppers. Nature joined in, as did the Union for Concerned Scientists. But their criticisms, which I read at the time and reviewed before sitting down to write this preface, are mostly vague (accusing Lomborg of setting up straw men), wrong when they are specific and are in retrospect a frightening microcosm of the way the climate debate has played out ever since.

The Economist was scathing in its criticism of the scientists who attacked Lomborg and it certainly reminded me of some of the attacks I had read of on Heyerdahl and Morgan. It made me proud to be a reader of The Economist. But thinking about it, what struck me was that these attacks were in defense of the new kid on the block—the dramatic theory that attacked the null hypothesis (that being the climate change was natural and what we were busy measuring was just natural variability). That really seemed strange. With Heyerdahl and Morgan it had been the other way around. I looked for dedicated criticism of the climate change theory itself—the kind of criticism that really tested every element of the proposition in the way that Heyerdahl and Morgan—and now Lomborg—had been subject to, but I couldn’t find it. At least not in the published literature.

Then I found the climate blogs.

Books and Blogs, Part 2

I fell in love with anthropology while following the debate about Thor Heyerdahl’s struggles to legitimize pre-Columbian contact and I love it still. To my mind Heyerdahl was convincing—but I recognized even then that my natural sympathies influenced my thinking on the subject and I tried to keep an open mind. Many subsequent findings chipped away at some of Heyerdahl’s ideas, but the basic evidence remains to this day. His arguments are perhaps best summed up in Early Man and the Ocean, published in 1978. One key element of that book was Heyerdahl’s ability to empathize with his opponents. Far from despising or ridiculing them, he recognized the altruistic component that inspired the isolationist school—they were fighting to defend the intellectual and cultural abilities of Native Americans to invent and innovate without the need for the Great White Fathers to bring them civilization. I tried to be as charitable as I read about the controversy.

When I was in the Navy and looking for something to read at sea, I chanced upon a book called The Descent of Woman, written by a Welsh screenwriter named Elaine Morgan in 1972.

descent-of-woman-book

Elaine was a feminist first, or at least that is how I have always thought of her. She stumbled into a scientific controversy more or less of her own creation after getting seriously annoyed by conventional descriptions of early man living on the savannahs of Africa. These descriptions, written by men, were also centered on the male experience. Perhaps the breaking point for Morgan was a description of the evolution of the female breast as being mandated to increase woman’s attractiveness to man. Morgan would in her book somewhat archly mention that their utility to a feeding infant might have had something to do with the phenomenon as well. What if evolution wasn’t just about men? What if many—maybe most—of the radical changes in human morphology and behavior were actually about increasing the survivability of infants and their mothers?

Her irritation with the then-current state of thinking led her to discover Alister Hardy, an English marine biologist who had noted in 1930 that the fat attached to human skin in some ways resembled the blubber found in most marine mammals. He hypothesized that man may have been more aquatic in the past, although he kept his theory secret until 1960. For some reason he feared that the scientific establishment might react negatively to a new hypothesis that would fly in the face of what they were currently publishing. His nutshell summary, conveniently preserved on Wikipedia, is “My thesis is that a branch of this primitive ape-stock {hominoids} was forced by competition from life in the trees to feed on the sea-shores and to hunt for food, shell fish, sea-urchins etc., in the shallow waters off the coast. I suppose that they were forced into the water just as we have seen happen in so many other groups of terrestrial animals. I am imagining this happening in the warmer parts of the world, in the tropical seas where Man could stand being in the water for relatively long periods, that is, several hours at a stretch.”

Because humans share a variety of traits with marine mammals (bradycardia, occasional webbing between fingers and toes, relative hairlessness, the ability to control their vocal cords and a number of others, the theory had ‘explanatory power’—that is, it could at one stroke resolve a number of issues that had puzzled scientists for a long period. It captured Elaine Morgan’s attention as thoroughly as Thor Heyerdahl had captured mine.

In fact, Hardy’s theory and her own thoughts on it sort of took over her book—The Descent of Woman. The book, which is really well-written, covers a lot of territory and Morgan’s own ideas about Hardy’s theory were extensive and included some of her own that were perhaps past the bounds of probability. It was a great read and the book was a success. But Morgan ran into an academic buzzsaw when she tried to advance the theory in the scientific realm. Elaine Morgan differed from Thor Heyerdahl in one key aspect—Heyerdahl was a scientist, albeit working outside his originally chosen fields of zoology and geography. He knew how to couch his ideas in language acceptable to the scientific community. Morgan, on the other hand, was a screenwriter, used to writing for dramatic impact and not shy about making leaps of the imagination.

Academia was not kind to Morgan. Scientists from a number of fields have been very harsh with what became known as the Aquatic Ape Theory, including a cameo appearance by someone who is involved in the climate debate, a certain Greg Laden. Morgan clearly pushed all the buttons of scientists who were painstakingly trying to reconstruct a lifestyle for early humans, and coming at a time when truly junk theories such as ‘Chariots of the Gods’ were getting media attention and large volume book sales, some of their irritation is understandable. But a lot of their criticism was done without much in the way of examination or analysis and 30 years later, some of Morgan’s ideas are starting to be grudgingly allowed into mainstream discussion.

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