Category Archives: Uncategorized

Commenting here instead of… there

Sorry to trouble you, but because I’m banned at And Then There’s Physics, this will have to serve as my forum for comments I would normally post there.

And Then There’s Physics has the mandatory Kill Lomborg post up, which every Konsensus blogger is required to do twice a year. Lomborg, of course, is the evillest person on the planet because he thinks helping the poor is more important than stopping all fossil fuel emissions.

One of the major criticisms is ATTP’s abhorrence that Lomborg has not publicized anything he has done to help the poor, despite writing that helping the poor should be a high priority.

One example of Lomborg’s indifference to the poor is Roger Pielke’s attendance at a party. For Konsensus idiots, that actually works.

On April 8, ATTP had a post, “No More Flying?” in which he agonizes over whether or not climate scientists should quit flying.

ATTP writes, “To be honest, I’m in two minds about this whole idea. … However, I’m not sure about the whole idea that climate scientists should be setting some kind of example. ….However, I do still worry that we’re expecting an awful lot from those who are really just the messengers, not the decision makers. … I’m just not convinced that we should be expecting climate scientists specifically to publicly change their behaviour. This is a global, societal issue and we should all be considering how we can help to both highlight the issues and reduce our emissions. We shouldn’t be leaving it only to climate scientists, simply because their research is most closely related to the topic. It’s not that hard for the rest of us to understand the significance.

Physics vs. Biology–Thinking Out Loud

I would like to try and develop a topic on the fly, writing down my thoughts pretty much as they occur and seeing where they lead. This topic is the relative weight placed on physics in determining the extent of global warming, its impacts and the constraints on our options to deal with it, and the relative discounting of biological processes that may make the inputs to physical equations harder to determine.

In this I need to acknowledge the impact of my recent reading of work by and about Freeman Dyson. Dyson is a theoretical physicist and quite possible the second smartest person on the planet. (Possibly the smartest, Stephen Hawking, is on the other side of the fence from Dyson regarding global warming. Hawking is far more concerned about it than Dyson.) However, Dyson worked in the field of climate science for 15 years and has consistently made the point that while we roughly know the relative sizes of the major carbon sinks (ocean absorption, ocean plant life, atmosphere, vegetation and topsoil), at least to the ‘right number of zeroes’, we don’t know enough about how they interact.

Carbon Sinks and Sources

Most criticism of climate models involves uncertainty about cloud cover and aerosols. But attempts to respond to this criticism has been about doing better physics. I submit that doing better biology would be a precursor to getting better answers. Clouds and aerosols have biological properties as well as influencing outward radiation at certain frequencies. Those biological properties may well be important. Vegetation, as Dyson recently pointed out, has increased by 7% globally in recent years. This was not something the physics-based scientific community anticipated. More importantly, I don’t see anybody discussing the possible effects of significantly more vegetation. That’s a lot of photosynthesis happening.

Similarly, vast changes in land use and land cover obviously change the albedo of the earth’s surface. But perhaps too obviously. Are we convinced that albedo is the only, or even primary change that should be considered? (To be fair, physicists also look at the vast vertical columns of air that are displaced by such changes–but even that begs the question, when we change the properties of the land, we are changing the biology–the plants that we grow for food change the climate and the topsoil as well.

If this is not quickly shown to be arrant nonsense, I hope that people will engage with this. Certainly I would like to see papers showing that the biology of the biome is appropriately considered in the delicate dance of climate change. But I also would like to hear thoughts on how it could be better integrated into our discussions. Of course, then will come the chemists…

Cook’s MOOC–or is it an RPG?

I’m afraid further reporting on Bart Verheggen’s survey will have to wait, as earth-shattering news has appeared on Real Climate.

John Cook, major contributor to Skeptical Science and author of one of the most frequently cited papers since Calvin and Hobbes, will be offering a Massive Open Online Course on the ‘Science of Climate Denial.’ He says ‘thousands of students’ from over 130 countries’ have already signed up, so you’d better move fast. The course is free and I’m certain it will be worth every penny.

I do have a few questions regarding this. First, since there is now a science of climate denial, what is the null hypothesis? Would it involve natural variation, unnatural deviation or cosmic transmigration?

Second, since Cook twice labels climate deniers a ‘small but vocal minority’, why are they worth studying? I thought the 65 papers out of the 12,000 he studied proved conclusively that 97% of all living creatures worshipped at the Konsensus Altar and spit on climate deniers in the street? Why do we need more of a focus on them?

Third, I’m afraid this passage at Real Climate needs clarification: “Several strands of research in cognitive psychology, educational research and a branch of psychology called “inoculation theory” all point the way to neutralising the influence of science denial. The approach is two-fold: communicate the science but also explain how that science can be distorted.”

If climate deniers are a small minority, why do they need to be neutralized? Wouldn’t neutering be almost as effective–and cheaper? And if we are to be blessed with the fruits of cognitive psychology, why isn’t Cook trumpeting the participation of Stefan Lewandowsky who managed to turn 10 respondents into convincing evidence that climate deniers believe that OJ Simpson is hiding on the moon? Surely the unfortunate fact that he had to withdraw his recent paper on climate denier as conspiracy ideationist would not affect Cook’s long-standing partnership?

It’s really helpful that you provide a graphic representation of the evils of climate deniers. I like the acronym FLICC–now if you could find a companion acronym BICC, the possibilities for word play are endless:

However I fear these icons may be misconstrued as road signs and lead to unfortunate incidents on our cities’ streets. And why is the gentleman suffering from conspiracy theories wearing a condom on his head that is radiating Ns? Moreover, why is the red herring represented in your graph not red? What exactly is being magnified in your picture of the magnified minority? And is the figure jumping to conclusions or falling? The world wonders…

I ask these questions here because I am sure the moderator at Real Climate is overwhelmed:

Thomas Fuller says:

Your comment is awaiting moderation.

Excuse me, but why is the red herring not red? And why is the conspiracist wearing a condom on his head?

– See more at: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2015/04/an-online-university-course-on-the-science-of-climate-science-denial/comment-page-1/#comment-628865

Back to more important questions, however. Such as, when you interviewed David Attenborough at the Great Barrier Reef, were you both above water?

Did your long and fascinating conversation with Michael Mann focus on his more recent works, such as Blackhat and Texas Killing Fields, or did you probe his motivation for earlier masterpieces such as Starsky and Hutch and Miami Vice?

Were your students from 130 countries assessed by citizen scientists for eligibility and purity of thought? Did the opinions of the assessors match each other?

Finally, is it true that weapons will be issued and the final grade based in part on providing the remains of expired climate deniers?

Verheggen Survey and Sensitivity

Yesterday we discovered that climate scientists think that human emissions of greenhouse gases are warming the world. Stop the presses!

Today we’ll look at what 1,868 practicing climate scientists think of sensitivity.

Verheggen and the PBL asked them, ‘What is your estimate of equilibrium (Charney) sensitivity, i.e., the temperature response (degrees C) to a doubling of atmospheric CO2? Please provide both a best estimate and a likely range (66% probability interval.

Slightly under half (49%) of the scientists provided a best estimate. (Wow. More than half the climate scientists surveyed refused to give an estimate for sensitivity?)

The average sensitivity given was about 2.7 C. (The IPCC provides a range of 1.5C to 4.5C.)

Fewer scientists were willing to provide upper and lower bounds.

852 scientists (46% of the total surveyed) provided a lower bound for sensitivity. The average was about 1.6C.

831 scientists (44% of the total)  provided an upper bound for sensitivity. The average value was about 4.3C.

Those whose best estimate of sensitivity was below 2.5C were asked to indicate why their estimate was lower than the IPCC’s best estimate of 3.0C. 271 scientists had given a low best estimate, 14.5% of the total.

Respondents were free to offer more than one answer and many did.

44% said ‘natural variability has been underestimated.’

33% said ‘models overestimate current warming.’

31% said ‘cloud cover acts as a negative feedback.’

29% said ‘the effect of natural forcings is underestimated.’

22.5% said ‘positive cloud cover feedback is overestimated.’

22.5% said ‘positive water vapor feedback is overestimated.’

21% said ‘natural aerosols act as a negative feedback.’

20% said ‘energy balance calculations show climate sensitivity is small.’

A similar follow-up question was asked of those who indicated they felt the best estimate of sensitivity was higher than 3.5C. However, the data has not yet been made available for this follow up question.

Bart Verheggen’s Survey of Climate Scientists

In the Spring of 2012, the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency PBL held a survey among 1868 scientists studying various aspects of climate change, including physical climate, climate impacts, and mitigation. The main results of the survey were published in an article in Environmental Science and Technology (ES&T) in August 2014: “Scientists’ views about attribution of global warming”. It showed that there is widespread agreement regarding a dominant influence of anthropogenic greenhouse gases on recent global warming. This agreement is stronger among respondents with more peer-reviewed publications.” That should not be surprising–there’s no question that most climate scientists feel that way. While I question the extent of dominance of AGW on overall warming, if it turned out to be 50% I would not be overly surprised.

However, there are other areas covered by the survey that are well worth exploring. A supplemental report detailing the findings has been recently released.

First, as a professional market researcher I would like to compliment the research team on their methodological choices and execution of the survey. As one who has been very sharply critical of other research on climate scientists (in particular Lewandowsky, Cook, Anderegg, Prall et al), it is refreshing to see someone taking care to get it right. In that respect, Verheggen, PBL et al is a return to good primary research as exemplified by von Storch, Bray et al in 2008. The results from the two surveys have a lot in common and should be considered mutually reinforcing.

On to the survey findings. Starting with the sexiest topic first, the question of attribution was explored in the survey. 66% of the respondents said that 50% or more of global warming since the mid-20th century can be attributed to human induced increases in greenhouse gases. As 19% responded ‘don’t know’ or ‘unknown’, it is clear that only a small minority has the opinion that GHGs caused less than 50% of recent warming. In fact, only 12% indicated that GHGs caused between zero and 50% of warming since the middle of the 20th century.

An interesting follow-up question was asked of those who felt AGW caused more than 50% of recent global warming. “What confidence level would you ascribe to the anthropogenic GHG contribution being more than 50%?” Similarly, those who ascribed less than half of recent warming to GHGs were asked about their level of confidence.

Those who think GHGs caused more than half of recent warming are far more confident in their perceptions than those who think GHGs caused less than half the warming.

Eighty-nine percent (89%) of those who attribute more than half of recent warming to GHGs said it was ‘virtually certain,’ ‘extremely likely’or ‘very likely’. In sharp contrast, only 45% of those who felt that GHGs had caused less than half of recent warming expressed similar levels of certainty.

I hope to continue with this analysis in subsequent posts. For now, I would suggest that it is fairly clear that there is a very real consensus among climate scientists about the role of human emissions of greenhouse gases in warming since 1945 and that those scientists who form the consensus are far more confident in their perceptions than those who doubt it.

Another One Bites The Dust–And an Ecomodernist Manifesto

Keith Kloor has announced he is abandoning Collide-a-Scape for more fruitful pursuits. I’m going to miss him. I was a faithful reader for two years and a frequent commenter as well. I hope he saves the archives some place. Lots of quotes to be mined and somebody’s dissertation some day in the future will be greatly enriched by his posts and commentary.

Not to keep harping on the subject, but the climate blogosphere seems to be thinning out. Pielke Jr.–gone. Planet 3–gone. Collide-a-Scape–gone. The Way Things Break–gone. Deltoid–gone.

Lots of other bloggers have certainly slowed down production–The Air Vent, The Blackboard–even Real Climate seems to be slowing down.

Of course it’s the commenters’ fault. (Just kidding…).

the-new-imperialism-64-638

I actually don’t know if this is a good or bad thing. A week in which I read for the first time ‘An Ecomdernist Manifesto‘ is definitely a week that shows that good and original thinking about environmental issues has not gone away. And there are new blogs, such as Jose Duarte, Climate Nuremberg and And Then There’s a Phsyique (sp?. It’s not like climate talk has disappeared.

But it seems as though there’s a changing of the guard, both among bloggers and commenters. I suppose that’s inevitable, natural, sign of vitality, something… But I’m going to miss Keith’s blog.

An Ecomodernist Manifesto is a remarkable document. It captures much of what I think and feel about the environmental struggle. It is an advance on earlier writings that I really like–Lomborg, Hartwell, The Rational Optimist.

The org has their website here. They’ve got some heavy hitters from the Breakthrough Institute, that no doubt being the reason Joe Romm went all hysterical. Can’t have sane people getting press! As further proof that irony is dead, Joe Romm declares somebody else’s writing to be a waste of time. After agreeing with much of what they say, Romm dismisses them because they don’t get on board with his preferred policies, notably cessation of new fossil fuel infrastructure by 2017. Geez, Romm–when you come back with India’s and China’s signature on that, let’s talk. In the meantime, hope you’re saving your pennies–You’re going to owe me and Les Johnson $1,000 in just five more years.

Echoing Romm is And Then There’s Physics, who after offering tepid support for the Manifesto’s goals, just has to get the alarmist dig in: “I’m still a little cynical and have a suspicion that this is a manifesto that acknowledges the problems we might face, but that is still really just proposing that we don’t do anything specifically to address them; we simply rely on our inate (sic) ingenuity to find solutions that will be ready when we need them.” The comments there are illuminating, if a bit disgusting. Lowlight: “…the most insidious and subtle exercise in corporate propaganda I have yet encountered. ”

I think it’s brilliant and I hope it serves as a base for further discussions about all aspects of the environment, including climate change.

Enough from me. Go read the Ecomodernist Manifesto. Report back on what it makes you think, feel and prepared to do.

A President I Admire Greatly Is Completely Wrong On Climate Change

I voted twice for Barack Obama and would cheerfully do so again if offered the opportunity. Maybe he can be senator from California some day.

He took office when the U.S. was in great disarray following 8 years of what I consider mismanagement, entangled in two wars and facing the worst recession since the Great Depression. Barack Obama has done a superb job in helping the U.S. recover. Sometimes it was through active policies, such as Obamacare. Sometimes it was by just staying out of the way, such as with fracking.

A President I greatly admire is completely wrong on climate change. “President Barack Obama used his weekly address on Saturday to put the reality of climate change in particularly stark terms.

“Today, there’s no greater threat to our planet than climate change,” Obama said. “Climate change can no longer be denied, or ignored.”

Mr. President, you’re mistaken. Climate change happens continuously. That’s why we measure it. Nobody denies that climate changes.

And very few deny that humans have contributed to changes since 1945. We have gone from 5 million cars to 2 billion wheeling around this planet. We have thousands of coal fired power plants where once we had hundreds. We have farms fit to feed 7 billion souls where once we struggled to feed 1 billion. We have cut down forests, burned them, paved over native grasses for strip malls and freeways.

But our actions constitute a nudge, not a shove. We are learning more about the sensitivity of the atmosphere to our actions and it turns out the climate is pretty resilient.

The scientists you say you trust on climate change do not forecast disaster. They estimate it will take between 1% and 5% of global GDP to manage the adaptations we will have to make to deal with the worst projected consequences, that 0.23% of our land will succumb to sea level rises, that the number of hurricanes may well diminish and that overall, global precipitation may increase by about 5%.

The Greenland Ice Sheet will not melt into the oceans, although many glaciers around the world may disappear. The East Antarctic Ice Sheet is accumulating ice, as are the oceans around Antarctica. Malaria, recently thought to be poised to spread back to regions that had eliminated it, is now thought to be destined for eradication.

Global warming still continues to be most pronounced in winter time, at night, in the northern latitudes. Our CO2 will constitute a burden for our grandchildren to deal with, but in the meantime it has helped vegetation grow by 7% on this planet we share.

Mr. President, when you say, “2014 was the warmest year on Earth ever recorded. The 14 hottest years on record, meanwhile, have all fallen within the last 15 years,” I agree. But do you realize that conflict deaths have declined during that period, that there has not been a wave of climate refugees during that period, that mortality, poverty, malnutrition and infectious disease have all declined during this plateau of temperatures at record levels?

People concerned about the environment can be easily distracted by global warming, when in fact the major threats are over-hunting and over-fishing, pollution, loss of habitat and the introduction of alien species.

You can serve as witness for the dangers of distraction. Attribution of causes is of paramount importance. For many endangered species, the other causes comprise 99% of the threat and global warming 1%. When global warming activists try to reverse the percentages, they cheapen the debate and soil the science.

When you assign global warming responsibility for your daughter’s asthma, you provide a convenient alibi for two far more likely causes of her ailment–an allergy to peanuts being one and the presence of a parent who smoked being another. This is not to deny that global warming has occurred–temperatures have risen about 0.8C over the past century or so. But attributing all our problems to global warming is focusing on the tail, not the dog.

barack-malia

Your advisor Brian Deese was quoted as saying “The most salient arguments around climate change are associated with the health impacts and are ones that meet people where they are, and that requires making an argument around how climate is affecting local communities and individuals.”

As of now, the health impacts of climate change are benign. We are experiencing far fewer deaths from cold than any rise in heat related deaths. Whatever temperatures have done, they have not stopped our progress in reducing morbidity and mortality overall.

Climate change will rise in importance as developing countries continue to use more fossil fuels. Many of the remarks you make will be salient when applied to the period beyond 2040, when the IPCC predicts impacts from climate change will be more pronounced.

What a tragedy it would be if exaggerating the present state of our climate led us to ignoring what we will need to do in the future.

I am not a skeptic regarding climate change. I support tougher EPA regulations on coal fired plants. I will not be sorry on the day the last coal plant shutters its doors. I strongly believe in energy efficiency, better CAFE standards and many other no regrets options. I support a revenue neutral carbon tax and increased investment in renewable energy.

But blatant disregard for what the science is telling us about our climate today serves nobody’s purposes. You damage the credibility of your office and dilute efforts to prepare for the future.

I ask you to reconsider, not your stance on many of the issues surrounding climate change, but the over-blown rhetoric you and your administration employ in advancing your agenda.

Revisionist History at ATTP

Over at And Then There’s Physics, ATTP himself blogs, “One of the motivations behind yesterday’s post was the sense that we will start to see people, who might be regarded as contrarians (or mitigation skeptics, as Victor might say), starting to adjust their views to be more consistent with that of those who’ve been arguing for action.”

This conveniently overlooks that fact that those he is writing about have been clear and consistent for over a decade. Rather than Lukewarmers such as The Breakthrough Institute or Steve Mosher moving in ATTP’s direction, what in fact we’re starting to see are signs that some of the saner people on the alarmist side are beginning to consider what Lukewarmers have been proposing since Day 1.

quote-hypocrisy-is-the-homage-vice-pays-to-virtue-francois-de-la-rochefoucauld-155988

Of course, what ATTP is really after becomes quickly clear: “I suspect, however, that if they do so, they will not acknowledge the role that they may have played in delaying action, will attempt to portray these ideas as new and their’s, and will probably do so with the goal of controlling the narrative and marginalising those who’ve already been speaking in favour of action.”

The Breakthrough Institute, so despised and reviled by Konsensus warmongers like Joe Romm and Michael Tobis, was founded in 2003. Their operating premises, goals and strategies have not changed in the past 12 years. They’re not slyly modifying their hymn sheet to sound more like the Konsensus. They were the ones who tried to find common ground between U.S. Republicans and Democrats, bringing together the liberal Brookings Institute and the conservative American Enterprise Institute to publish the report Post-Partisan Power, which calls for increased federal investment in innovation in order to make clean energy cheap.

ATTP singles out Steven Mosher, who in a previous post had said the time is ripe for horsetrading on climate policy, as one of those who is now slyly trying to curry favor with those right-thinking alarmists to salvage his reputation. Michael Tobis, who commented several times on ATTP’s thread, forgot to mention how unlikely it is that Mosher would be kissing up.

Mosher had written at Tobis’ blog, “I’m on the record from my first appearance on the web in 2007 at RC that the GCMs are the best tools we have for understanding future climate. I’m on the record at CA showing people how to download ModelE results and generally praising its fidelity. I’m on the record noting some of the improvements gavin has made in the documentation. I’m on the record extolling the virtues of MITs model and their approach of including software developers. Im on the record arguing that the IPCC should use the best of breed models. On the record saying that the models and the data as it stands gives us enough cause for action. NOW.
None of those positions on the SCIENCE and on the Need for ACTION, is inconsistent with my views on open data and open source and on best practices. Global warming is true. we should act now. AND hiding data and code is a short sighted tactic. Hiding the decline and other silly chartsmanship games are bad tactics. And I want my tean to STOP employing bad tactics. We’ve got the science on our side, there is no need for us to compromise our dedication to transparency or our dedication to the highest quality science.”

To which Tobis replied, “I understand you want to air the dirty laundry. You understand that I don’t, but you don’t seem to understand why I don’t.

“Let me explain why. It is not because I am a pusillanimous chickenshit, Mosher. It is because the fucking survival of the fucking planet is at fucking stake. And if we narrowly fucking miss pulling this out, it may well end up being your, your own fucking personal individual fucking self-satisfied mischief and disrespect for authority that tips the balance. You have a lot of fucking nerve saying you are on my “side”.

“Unless and until you find it within yourself to understand that you have major fucked up, big time, by throwing big juicy meat to the deniers to chew on and spin paranoid fantasies about for years, even decades, I’ll take wild-eyed Frank who is inclined to start to hate me for exchanging a word with you, and gasbag Randy Olsen and the stunningly demoralizing Bill McKibben, and everybody, I’ll take all of them, on my “team” before I will pass the ball to you, because I have no way of knowing which way you will decide to kick it.”

Bjorn Lomborg has not changed his opinions since the publication of The Skeptical Environmentalist in 2001. He has always stated that global warming is a pressing problem that needs to be addressed, but that it needs to be placed in context with the other problems facing humanity. For this he was attacked viciously and repeatedly–and the attacks have never stopped.

Roger Pielke Sr., one of the first scientists to call for using ocean heat content to quantify global warming, has not changed his opinions. He believes the global warming is a pressing problem that needs to be addressed, but that it needs to be placed in context with other anthropogenic forcings on the climate system, such as land use/land cover, etc. For this he was ridiculed and marginalised by many of the people piously sucking their teeth at ATTP’s thread, edged out of future contributions to the IPCC, had projects rejected for funding and was caricatured in a cartoon drawn up by Konsensus idiots who actually called themselves scientists.

As I wrote yesterday, I have been calling for adoption of no-regrets policies, bottom up approaches, investment in energy technology, $100 billion in aid to developing countries, a revenue neutral carbon tax and much more since 2008.

It never occurred to me that I should suck up to the smarmy hypocrites comprising the Konsensus. They’ve attacked me just as they’ve attacked the people mention above. They have attacked me, not despite my support for those policies, but because of it. Because I do not call for drastic emission cuts, it doesn’t matter what else I advocate. I am become Denier, slayer of worlds.

But I’m not surprised that as their efforts to impose ineffective policy from the top down fails, they would start the tapdancing.

The Konsensus has long acted as if they truly hated Lukewarmers far more than skeptics, much as priests hated those who have left the fold far more than adherents to other religions. If this is a ‘Come to Jesus’ moment, it won’t be lukewarmers saying they’ve seen the light. We saw it long ago.

Postscript: Over at ATTP, where the blog owner continues to insist I am not banned, we see this:

Your comment is awaiting moderation.

Fast Mitigation, No Regrets, Geoengineering, Bottom Up Approach to Mitigation

A couple of years ago a lightbulb went on in the heads of some climate scientists and they figured out that black soot floating up to the Arctic was actually a very potent factor in global warming. It dirties the snow, reducing its albedo and helps it melt more quickly, further reducing planetary albedo.

This was about the same time that discussion was ongoing regarding geoengineering to pull CO2 out of the atmosphere. (Geoengineering is not a new idea. In 1965, when President Lyndon Johnson received the first-ever U.S. presidential briefing on the dangers of climate change, the only remedy prescribed to counter the effects of global warming was geoengineering.) The most popular options being discussed were Carbon Capture and Sequestration at source and dusting the ocean with iron, fertilizing the ocean with nutrients that would allow plankton to grow faster and thus absorb more carbon.

We were talking about geoengineering because the concept of ‘no regrets’ options had been pooh-poohed for over a decade as distracting from the need to drastically cut emissions and providing a false sense of accomplishment.

No regrets options leaned heavily on investment in energy efficiency and R&D on better solar and wind, better storage, rationalizing flight paths and including direct descent options, etc.

Paul Kelly and I were busy commenting over at Bart Verheggen’s blog that a bottom-up approach would be a useful kickstart to mitigation efforts, for which we both were roundly ridiculed. Nobody ever responded to our basic points, though. If I buy a hybrid car or put solar on the roof, it obviously won’t stop global warming (although if I convince a friend to do likewise, and she convinces a friend…).

However, a bottom-up approach serves as a signalling device. Politicians do look at the number of green purchases made across categories, from cars to solar panels to ground source heat pumps to triple paned windows. And it influences both legislation and regulation. Lobbyists and NGOs follow that information like baseball stats gurus, obsessing over trends and totals. Perhaps most importantly, manufacturers and retailers live and breathe this stuff. If you have ever talked with a business analyst working inside a consumer packaged goods company, you will be amazed by the level of detail they follow and the connections they make between categories.

So now a new concept enters the scene. Fast Mitigation, the idea that we focus our efforts on areas we can actually impact. I don’t know who started it, but Veerabhadran Ramanathan, Mario Molina and Durwood J. Zaelke explain it pretty well here.

“Can any strategy produce such fast results? To answer this we need to review the underlying climate science, to understand that there are two main levers we can pull to slow climate warming. The first lever is the one that reduces the carbon dioxide emitted when we burn from fossil fuels like coal, oil, and gas. To insure long-term climate stability we need to pull this lever, now, as hard as possible, promoting energy efficiency, low carbon fuels, and clean energy sources. But we also need to understand that pulling back the carbon dioxide lever will produce climate cooling very slowly: by mid-century an aggressive effort to reduce carbon dioxide can avoid 0.1° Celsius of warming, out of an expected 2° Celsius or more of warming by 2050 under business as usual.

We also need to pull back the lever to reduce the short-lived climate pollutants. These pollutants include black carbon (soot) air pollution, tropospheric ozone (the principal component of smog), methane, and several HFCs, which are factory-made gases used in air conditioning and refrigeration. Pulling this lever to cut the short-lived climate pollutants can avoid 0.6 ° Celsius of warming by mid-century, six times more than the carbon dioxide lever can produce. At the end of the century, the avoided warming from cutting the short-lived climate pollutants is 1.5° Celsius compared to 1.1° Celsius for carbon dioxide. Both strategies are essential at this point.”

I’m happy to endorse this initiative, but I’d like to offer a word of warning to those thinking of joining. The Klimate Konsensus will crucify you. When Freeman Dyson suggested that planting trees (and if necessary changing the genetics of trees to help them take up more carbon dioxide) was an effective strategy for dealing with our excess of CO2, he was labeled a senile denier. The Konsensus asked what a theoretical physicist could possible know about climate change. When informed that he had worked for 15 years on climate science, they said he was still a senile denier.

When The Breakthrough Institute tried to introduce common sense about mitigation and adaptation, they were damned and double damned and vilified by the Konsensus, for whom Klimate Purity allows only one solution–drastic emission cuts now. When George Bush the Elder had his team come up with the concept of ‘negawatts’, energy efficiency as a tool for mitigation, he was called a tool for fossil fuel companies.

When Paul Kelly and I offered our own modest proposals, we were called delayers, deniers and much worse.

In a rational world, we would be pursuing George Bush’s negawatts, planting trees, encouraging signaling devices such as green consumer activity, researching the potential of geoengineering and vigorously working on that part of the problem amenable to our actions–black soot, pollution, HFCs, methane and any others we can think of.

But the Klimate Konsensus has ruled that anything other than emission cessation is evil. So those of us who actually want to do something about climate change know who our enemy is. Fulminators like Joe Romm (“I want to trash them (the authors of Superfreakonomics) for this insanity and ignorance.” and Michael Tobis (“emitting CO2 is the same as mugging an old lady”) will come out in force and enforce Klimate Purity.

The Klimate Konsensus (entirely separate from the very real, if narrow, scientific consensus) is the enemy of effective action on climate change. I hope to have the time and energy to continue confronting their insanity.

perfectenemy

India, Greenpeace and Coal

Over at my companion blog 3000 Quads, I recently wrote “This analysis shows that India can potentially shift its fuel portfolio slightly in a ‘greener’ direction, but meeting the economic needs of its people will almost certainly mean continued use of large quantities of coal.”

Sometimes I hate being right. India is cutting off funding to the Indian offices of Greenpeace, freezing seven bank accounts and proceeding with their long battle against the Green NGO. I’m not a big fan of Greenpeace. I believe they ignore the poor in their quest for environmental Jerusalem and I certainly do not consider them to have a balanced or even sane view of climate change. India does not want Greenpeace interfering with their new plans to mine more Indian coal instead of buying it from Australia and Indonesia. Although I understand the government’s actions, I somehow wish a reasonable debate could take place between the government and somebody–maybe not Greenpeace, but somebody–about how to meet India’s energy needs without killing millions of Indians.more indian coal But India needs fuel to run its power plants and coal is the fuel they have access to. Coal is the fuel used to provide 44% of India’s energy needs–and right now they are importing 42% of their coal despite having huge amounts of coal in India. Regulations, corruptions and Byzantine corporate practice make it very difficult to get coal out of the ground in India, something their new prime minister is trying to change.

There are 167 million families in rural India that don’t have access to electricity. Although I’m a big fan of rural solar electrification programs to get some power to the people quickly, in all honesty India needs large scale power plants and the only fuel they can afford today is coal. This is a mortal pity, because India is just as polluted as China–it just goes mostly unnoticed.

There is a solution. Really.

What Greenpeace could do is lobby intensively for Western countries to provide at no cost the scrubbing technology needed to make India’s inevitable dash for coal as clean as possible.

They won’t, of course. Scrubbing technology doesn’t reduce CO2 emissions.

Coal is much, much better for Indians than burning dung or firewood. It’s better for their health, better for their environment, and, dirty and emissive as coal is, is a major improvement on the kerosene used for heating and cooking today.

It would be wonderful if India could skip a rung or two on the energy ladder and go straight to hydropower, nuclear, wind and solar. And they are working very hard to bring those fuels online. But today, Old King Coal is still the answer to India’s energy crisis. It would be nice, if a bit fairy tale-ish, if our Green organizations could find a way to help them make it work. But I guess there’s a whale to save somewhere, or an archeological treasure to trash.

Kibitzing on Klimate Konversations

Since my time is somewhat short these days, I am having to narrow my focus here. Instead of looking at major themes and events I’m going to try and take advantage of my predilection for snooping in comment threads at places where I’m banned.

kibitzer

One such is And Then There’s Physics, a Klimate Konsensus blog run by and for true believers. I was banned there before even making an appearance, due to what the blog owner said was my ‘nastiness’. Okay. Of course, then he said he didn’t ban me, his co-blogger said she did, and my comments weren’t allowed up (and everything I’ve written there or in emails to the blog owner have been scrupulously polite and on-point). As I’ve had comments moderated for quoting was was said about me in comments that were approved, I’m forced to assume that nastiness, like the tallness of aunts, is a discretionary matter.

But I go there to read the comments. (The actual posts are not very useful. If And Then There’s Physics has a lot to say, it certainly isn’t about physics. His thought for today was apparently “as far as climate science is concerned, physics + logic beats statistics. I don’t have an issue with people delving into the details of some analysis to try and understand what was done, or trying to improve some analysis. However, at the end of the day, this is a physics problem and applying complicated statistics doesn’t mean that the result makes any sense, or finding some technical statistical fault with an analysis doesn’t mean the result is completely wrong. The day that Steve McIntyre and Nic Lewis recognise this, is the day I’ll take them more seriously. I’m not holding my breath.”

At some point, someone should take him aside and gently point out that since climate scientists including physicists do attempt to make statistical comparisons of climate, related data, other studies and even the occasional meta study, it would help to use good statistical practices rather than bad. Or even emphasize that not only does McIntyre not try to use statistics to trump climate science, he supports the broad sweep of the multidisciplinary findings, saying in front of a group of skeptics that he would listen to the IPCC recommendations. But when scientists like Michael Mann misuse statistics to emphasize a narrative they have already decided on, good statistics trump bad statistics.

When another commenter remarked “I know you don’t want to talk about Mann, but that is another example where statistician involvement at the onset could certainly have saved a lot of wasted energy” ATTP replied, “I doubt it would have made any difference. I don’t believe that the attack on MBH98 was motivated by a desire to do sound statistics. You can live in your fantasy world where you believe that to be the case. I’ll remain in the real world where people appear to attack anything that present results that they perceive to be inconvenient.”

And this is what I’ve encountered time and time again in the conversations held on weblogs about climate change. It is clear that ATTP is not familiar with what he is discussing. He clearly does not know what Michael Mann did. He does not know what Steve McIntyre wrote in response. Most importantly, although he clearly does not know why McIntyre has done what he has done, he imputes a base motive to Mac–that he is only attacking Mann’s work because he doesn’t like the results.

Far from it: “Similarly, the Oxburgh report, cited by Mann (Pl.’s Resp. at 19) as evidence of his “exoneration,” examined only the conduct of East Anglia Climate Research Unit scientists, not Mann. Nonetheless, the panel concluded that it was “regrettable” that tree-ring proxy reconstructions “by the IPCC and others” neglected to emphasize “the discrepancy between instrumental and tree-based proxy reconstructions of temperature during the late 20th century.” See Pl.’s Resp., Ex. 5 at 5 ¶ 7. Prof. David Hand, the head of the Royal Statistical Society and a member of the panel, subsequently singled out Michael Mann’s research for criticism, noting that Mann’s used “inappropriate methods” that “exaggerated the size of the blade at the end of the hockey stick.”

…[Hand] said the strongest example he had found of imperfect statistics in the work of the CRU and collaborators elsewhere was the iconic “hockey stick” graph, produced by Michael Mann of Pennsylvania State University in University Park. The graph shows how temperatures have changed over the past 1000 years (see graphic, right). Hand pointed out that the statistical tool Mann used to integrate temperature data from a number of difference sources – including tree-ring data and actual thermometer readings – produced an “exaggerated” rise in temperatures over the 20th century, relative to pre-industrial temperatures. That point was initially made by climate sceptic and independent mathematician Stephen McIntyre.”

And in this he is wrong. And this error cheapens whatever ATTP could possibly hope to bring to the debate.

Part of ATTP’s current popularity is due to his presentation of himself as an academic physicist, above the fray and beyond partisanship. However, he started his blogging peradventures by authoring another weblog that spent most of the time attacking Anthony Watts and his wildly popular blog Watts Up With That. As ATTP’s blog failed to get any traction or traffic, he cast about for another forum to use for promoting his preferences regarding climate change.

ATTP is unpleasant to those he disagrees with, but probably has a contribution to make to the climate debate. However, his current efforts insure that he will be preaching to the choir–and of course, the occasional kibitzer such as myself.

More on Freeman Dyson

If you saw either of the videos on yesterday’s posts, I’m sure you’ll agree that Freeman Dyson is special. He talks the way Bertrand Russell wrote–clear, to the point, logical and… well… kind. (I hope someone can help me explain what I mean by that–but compassion comes through in the communications of both Dyson and Russell.)

dyson

It’s not often that one of the great minds of the century can communicate in clear, plain English. You don’t need to be a climate scientist to understand what this climate scientist (for 15 years) thinks. You don’t need to understand biotechnology to understand his vision of a future that is propelled by that science.

I would argue that the principal failing of the consensus of climate scientists has been their inability to produce someone of Dyson’s gravitas who can communicate clearly what the position is. Michael Mann just doesn’t cut it. James Hansen was closer, prior to his retirement, but his tendency to exaggerate and excoriate lessened his effectiveness.

As for the Klimate Konsensus, those NGOs, lobbyists and self-styled ‘climate communicators’, if I could I’d strap them in and make them watch Dyson over and over. Instead, they created a page for him in their Denier Database and looked for every opportunity to denigrate him or to complain, as Michael Tobis did, that he’s ‘getting too much press.’

Gee. I wonder why he gets so much press?

In 1951 he joined the faculty at Cornell as a physics professor, although still lacking a doctorate, and in 1953 he received a permanent post at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey—where he has now lived for more than fifty years.[18] In 1957 he became a naturalized citizen of the United States and renounced his British nationality. One reason he gave decades later is that his children born in the US had not been recognized as British subjects.[5][6]

Dyson is best known for demonstrating in 1949 the equivalence of two then-current formulations of quantum electrodynamics—Richard Feynman’s diagrams and the operator method developed by Julian Schwinger and Sin-Itiro Tomonaga.[19] He was the first person (besides Feynman) to appreciate the power of Feynman diagrams, and his paper written in 1948 and published in 1949 was the first to make use of them. He said in that paper that Feynman diagrams were not just a computational tool, but a physical theory, and developed rules for the diagrams that completely solved the renormalization problem. Dyson’s paper and also his lectures presented Feynman’s theories of QED (quantum electrodynamics) in a form that other physicists could understand, facilitating the physics community’s acceptance of Feynman’s work. Robert Oppenheimer, in particular, was persuaded by Dyson that Feynman’s new theory was as valid as Schwinger’s and Tomonaga’s. Oppenheimer rewarded Dyson with a lifetime appointment at the Institute for Advanced Study, “for proving me wrong”, in Oppenheimer’s words.[20]

Also in 1949, in a related work, Dyson invented the Dyson series.[21] It was this paper that inspired John Ward to derive his celebrated Ward identity.[22]

Dyson also did work in a variety of topics in mathematics, such as topology, analysis, number theory and random matrices.[23] There is an interesting story involving random matrices. In 1973 the number theorist Hugh Montgomery was visiting the Institute for Advanced Study and had just made his pair correlation conjecture concerning the distribution of the zeros of the Riemann zeta function. He showed his formula to the mathematician Atle Selberg who said it looked like something in mathematical physics and he should show it to Dyson, which he did. Dyson recognized the formula as the pair correlation function of the Gaussian unitary ensemble, which has been extensively studied by physicists. This suggested that there might be an unexpected connection between the distribution of primes 2,3,5,7,11, … and the energy levels in the nuclei of heavy elements such as uranium.[24]

From 1957 to 1961 he worked on the Orion Project, which proposed the possibility of space-flight using nuclear pulse propulsion. A prototype was demonstrated using conventional explosives, but the 1963 Partial Test Ban Treaty (which Dyson was involved in and supported) permitted only underground nuclear testing, so the project was abandoned.

In 1958 he led the design team for the TRIGA, a small, inherently safe nuclear reactor used throughout the world in hospitals and universities for the production of medical isotopes.

A seminal work by Dyson came in 1966 when, together with Andrew Lenard and independently of Elliott H. Lieb and Walter Thirring, he proved rigorously that the exclusion principle plays the main role in the stability of bulk matter.[25][26][27] Hence, it is not the electromagnetic repulsion between outer-shell orbital electrons which prevents two wood blocks that are left on top of each other from coalescing into a single piece, but rather it is the exclusion principle applied to electrons and protons that generates the classical macroscopic normal force. In condensed matter physics, Dyson also did studies in the phase transition of the Ising model in 1 dimension and spin waves.[23]

Around 1979, Dyson worked with the Institute for Energy Analysis on climate studies. This group, under the direction of Alvin Weinberg, pioneered multidisciplinary climate studies, including a strong biology group. Also during the 1970s, he worked on climate studies conducted by the JASON defense advisory group.[18]

Dyson retired from the Institute for Advanced Study in 1994.[28] In 1998, Dyson joined the board of the Solar Electric Light Fund. As of 2003 he was president of the Space Studies Institute, the space research organization founded by Gerard K. O’Neill; As of 2013 he is on its Board of Trustees.[29] Dyson is a long-time member of the JASON group.

Dyson is a regular contributor to The New York Review of Books.

Dyson has won numerous scientific awards but never a Nobel Prize. Nobel physics laureate Steven Weinberg has said that the Nobel committee has “fleeced” Dyson, but Dyson himself remarked in 2009, “I think it’s almost true without exception if you want to win a Nobel Prize, you should have a long attention span, get hold of some deep and important problem and stay with it for ten years. That wasn’t my style.”[18]

In 2012, he published (with William H. Press) a fundamental new result about the Prisoner’s Dilemma in PNAS.[30]

Freeman Dyson

Hi, everybody. I note that this video has been linked to by a number of climate blogs–forgive me if this amounts to yesteday’s news. But it’s important enough that I want it here too.

Freeman Dyson may be the second smartest person on this planet. He could probably even give Hawking a run for his money.

He’s a theoretical physicist, but spent 15 years working in the field of climate science. “Around 1979, Dyson worked with the Institute for Energy Analysis on climate studies. This group, under the direction of Alvin Weinberg, pioneered multidisciplinary climate studies, including a strong biology group. Also during the 1970s, he worked on climate studies conducted by the JASON defense advisory group.[18]

Dyson retired from the Institute for Advanced Study in 1994.[28] In 1998, Dyson joined the board of the Solar Electric Light Fund. As of 2003 he was president of the Space Studies Institute, the space research organization founded by Gerard K. O’Neill; As of 2013 he is on its Board of Trustees.[29] Dyson is a long-time member of the JASON group.”

In this video, he repeats his basic message of the past decade–that climate models are great for understanding the climate, but horrible for forecasting it. That the planet is getting appreciably greener, in part due to our emissions of CO2 and that in all likelihood the benefits of this increased greenery are greater than the costs of climate change, which he says are dramatically overstated.

Dyson has been featured on this subject quite often. I like this one best.

Clean Water and Saving Energy

We often get into a tug of war about prioritizing any assistance we provide developing countries. We present choices as black and white–they can have energy (from fossil fuels) and the Utopia of energy availability it brings or condemn those in developing countries to candle light and kerosene. The reality is a bit more nuanced.

Probably the second biggest benefit we could provide many in the developing world is access to clean water. Believe it or not, that could for many be more important than access to electricity. Dirty water kills even more than indoor air pollution. The effects of water-borne illnesses are even more debilitating than the lack of power.

Water pollution India

If you don’t think it’s a current issue you are not paying attention. Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce site, has about 3,000 different types of water treatment plant for sale, most of them small scale but with some fairly high capacity units thrown in.

Of course, clean water costs money. The other problem is that clean water uses energy. A lot of it. In the developed world it can comprise 10% of a city’s municipal budget and 35% of the same city’s energy consumption.

Which is why it’s important to note that there is huge variation in energy consumption in water treatment facilities. The much-maligned EPA has a useful document for city managers about how to reduce energy consumption in water treatment here: http://www.epa.gov/statelocalclimate/documents/pdf/wastewater-guide.pdf

More importantly, perhaps we can spend some time talking about how we can make solutions for Problem A contribute to solving Problem B.

I would submit that starting with the point of view of the end-user (okay, my background screams at me to use terms like ‘consumer-centric’) and look at all the challenges they face.

A village in India has multiple needs. They are far from an electricity grid, so they aren’t going to get connected soon. Rural electrification can help them somewhat, but a few solar panels will not rocket them into the fourth dimension of modernity.

Low cost refrigeration can give that village vaccines and medicines that need cold storage. Low cost water treatment can prevent diarrhea and work to combat malnutrition. Solar power might not provide 24/7 access to electricity, but it can charge cheap batteries and help with food storage.

Perhaps USAID and Greenpeace wouldn’t be so hostile to funding a fossil fuel power plant for the developing world if it was combined with a state of the art, hyper efficient water treatment facility and the last mile of a Cold Chain that kept medicines at a proper temperature. Of course the more rabid environmentalists would look at that as a ploy worthy of tobacco executives, but the more rabid environmentalists are doing a fairly good job of marginalizing themselves right out of serious conversation.

And as Eli Rabett noted over at Rabett Run, low-power fans can be a quicker and more acceptable solution to indoor air pollution than over-engineered solar stoves and high tech ovens.

The old saw about hammer and nail can be pretty accurate (and pretty damning) when it comes to aid efforts for the developing world. A portfolio approach to addressing multiple needs might work better.

It’s worth a try.

Comparing What Science Says To What The Konsensus Says, Part 1: The Hockey Stick

As I hope to show, there is a very real difference between what mainstream science says and what members of the Krazy Klimate Konsensus spout at every opportunity.

The Hockey Stick and Michael Mann

The Hockey Stick Chart showed a picture of stable temperatures over the past millenium, changing in modern times to a sharp rise, something laid at the doorstep of global warming, in part due to anthropogenic climate change.

Criticism of the Hockey Stick does not involve the recent rise. That is not disputed and is pretty much indisputable. But the regularity of the shaft is remarkable–and very much open to question. Michael Mann, a lead author for the IPCC AR3, defended his work against attacks from colleagues, opponents such as Steve McIntyre and other scientists.

Hockey_stick_chart_ipcc_475_tcm4-650054

Scientific American quotes Gavin Schmidt, one of the most respected leaders of the Konsensus. (Mann and Schmidt are also practicing scientists, rare among the Konsnesus.) “Although questions in the field abound about how, for example, tree-ring data are compiled, many of those attacking Mann’s work, Schmidt claims, have had a priori opinions that the work must be wrong. “Most scientists would have left the field long ago, but Mike is fighting back with a tenacity I find admirable,” Schmidt says.”

I must say, although the Hockey Stick graph has been defended by other scientists, I didn’t find much in the way of support for Michael Mann. Scientists who replicated his procedure using his data also got a hockey stick shape for temperatures over the past few hundred emails. However, more reconstructions focusing on the shaft found evidence of a medieval warming period, which Mann’s chart had disappeared, and a little ice age, also missing from Mann’s work.

Other scientists hold different views. Physicist Richard Muller: the graph was “an artifact of poor mathematics”, summarising the as yet unpublished comment including its claim that the principal components procedure produced hockey stick shapes from random data. He said that the “discovery hit me like a bombshell”.

In May 2007, Hans von Storch reviewed the changes in thought caused by the hockey stick controversy writing:

In October 2004 we were lucky to publish in Science our critique of the ‘hockey-stick’ reconstruction of the temperature of the last 1000 years. Now, two and half years later, it may be worth reviewing what has happened since then.
At the EGU General Assembly a few weeks ago there were no less than three papers from groups in Copenhagen and Bern assessing critically the merits of methods used to reconstruct historical climate variable from proxies; Bürger’s papers in 2005; Moberg’s paper in Nature in 2005; various papers on borehole temperature; The National Academy of Science Report from 2006 – all of which have helped to clarify that the hockey-stick methodologies lead indeed to questionable historical reconstructions. The 4th Assessment Report of the IPCC now presents a whole range of historical reconstructions instead of favoring prematurely just one hypothesis as reliable.
What is remarkable now is the level of revisionist history regarding the Hockey Stick Chart.  For example, the blog DeSmogBlog says, “His opponents constantly raise allegations against Mann, without ever mentioning the half dozen or so investigations into his academic work and conduct that have concluded his work and conduct to be sound.”
Chris Mooney, writing in the Atlantic, says “Climate deniers threw everything they had at the hockey stick. They focused immense resources on what they thought was the Achilles Heel of global warming research–and even then, they couldn’t hobble it. (Though they certainly sowed plenty of doubt in the mind of the public.)”
But DeSmogBlog and Mooney aren’t scientists. They are full-fledged, full-throated members of the Konsensus.
With the passage of time, mainstream scientists have been more open in their criticisms of Mann and his Hockey Stick.
CRU scientist Keith Briffa, whose work on tree rings in Siberia has been subject to its own controversies, emailed Edward Cook of Columbia University: “I am sick to death of Mann stating his reconstruction represents the tropical area just because it contains a few (poorly temperature representative) tropical series,” adding that he was tired of “the increasing trend of self-opinionated verbiage [Mann] has produced over the last few years .??.??. and (better say no more).”
Cook replied: “I agree with you. We both know the probable flaws in Mike’s recon[struction], particularly as it relates to the tropical stuff. Your response is also why I chose not to read the published version of his letter. It would be too aggravating. .??.??. It is puzzling to me that a guy as bright as Mike would be so unwilling to evaluate his own work a bit more objectively.”

In yet another revealing email, Cook told Briffa: “Of course [Bradley] and other members of the MBH [Mann, Bradley, Hughes] camp have a fundamental dislike for the very concept of the MWP, so I tend to view their evaluations as starting out from a somewhat biased perspective, i.e. the cup is not only ‘half-empty’; it is demonstrably ‘broken’. I come more from the ‘cup half-full’ camp when it comes to the MWP, maybe yes, maybe no, but it is too early to say what it is.”

The Climate Consensus vs. The Klimate Konsensus

Those who stand in opposition to the popular madness that is the climate debate have spent a lot of time identifying the differences we have with each other. Hence we Lukewarmers look carefully at where we differ from full-throated skeptics and how far we really are from the consensus science, while skeptics proudly identify how they are different from Lukewarmers.

We haven’t spent enough time looking at the differences between those on the other side of the issue and that inattention has not helped us.

konsensus

If the proposition is worded carefully and conservatively, about 80% of scientists working in the various fields of climate science agree with the statement that the globe is warming and that human emissions of CO2 have contributed to this warming.

Many skeptics and almost all lukewarmers would agree with such a statement as well.

But because careful wording to reach this high level of agreement must leave out speculation about the future extent and impacts of global warming, this very real consensus is mostly ignored by NGOs and activists pushing for extensive action to reduce emissions in the very short term. They are the Klimate Konsensus.

As discussed here and at many other places, these NGOs, activists and some political figures have worked hard to create an image of a much higher level of consensus, not only on the current state of the climate but on the notion that the extent of future global warming will be dramatic and the impacts both significant and negative.

To do this, the NGOs, activists and political figures make stuff up. There is no kinder way to characterize the literature reviews conducted by Naomi Oreskes, John Cook et al and Anderegg, Prall et al. All of these published papers rely on a strategy of carefully constructing search strings that hide an existing diversity of opinion instead of capturing it, mischaracterizing the thrust of published papers and arriving at surreal levels of 97% agreement, which in their papers they (incorrectly) say describes published literature but on their websites they claim represents the opinions of scientists.

Where the very real consensus acts carefully and conservatively (with scientists like von Storch and Bart Verheggen actually conducting very careful surveys that arrive at the 80% consensus figure mentioned above) the Konsensus tribe clings to the nonsensical 97% number and trashes hard-working scientists like von Storch.

Where the very real consensus looks carefully at the recent pause in the rise of global temperatures and tries to understand why it has occurred, the Krazy Klimate Konsensus denies that it has happened at all and accuses their opponents in the discussion of manufacturing it.

The very real and careful consensus creates a forum for discussion of issues,such as Climate Dialogue. The Konsensus creates propaganda sites like Skeptical Science, which combines accurate reporting of the basics of climate change with slanted and hyperbolic descriptions of current climate events. The Konsensus decided deliberately not to debate their policy opponents, preferring to lie about their connections to Big Oil and Big Tobacco and coming up with the phrase ‘climate change deniers’ to characterize all their opponents, creating an Alice In Wonderland world where Nobel Prize winners and distinguished professors with hundreds of published peer-reviewed papers are accused of denying climate science and quite deliberately associated with skinhead thugs who deny the Holocaust ever occurred.

Scientists belonging to the very real and conservative consensus have largely kept their silence regarding the abhorrent behavior of the Klimate Konsensus, as the Konsensus has shown itself perfectly capable of throwing scientists under the bus if they dare to oppose the media blitz and hateful propaganda the Konsensus employs on a daily basis. This lack of courage is lamentable, if understandable, and has left the public stage to the Konsensus.

However, the Konsensus is unlikeable, arrogant and short-sighted. They are often seen to brag about that, saying ‘I’m sure (insert name of opponent) is a nice human being but it doesn’t matter in the face of the coming catastrophe.

This has led to the wider public acknowledging the very real and conservative truth about recent climate change without being persuaded to take concerted and effective action to confront it.

The Krazy Klimate Konsensus is wrong on the science. It is wrong on its approach to the scientific community. It is wrong on the approach and the facts used in the public debate. When confronted with uncomfortable facts, the Konsensus hides behind the more sober consensus science that it ignores the remainder of the time.

The consensus is concerned about future impacts of climate change, but quite properly assesses the risk to be expensive but manageable. The Konsensus exaggerates real science and creates iconography of doomed polar bears, Himalayan glaciers and the Amazon rainforest.

The careful and conservative consensus takes recent studies showing lower sensitivity seriously, incorporating these new studies into their thinking and projections. The Konsensus ignores these studies when it can and fulminates against them when they can’t.

The consensus needs to come up with an effective way of dealing with the harm the Konsensus is causing. Skeptics and Lukewarmers cannot do this for them. Until then, the polarized camps cannot agree on action, despite broad agreement on the consensus science. The Konsensus won’t let it happen.

The true enemy of the very real and conservative consensus on climate change and its causes is not the skeptic brigade. It is not Lukewarmers. The biggest threat to climate science is the Klimate Konsensus. Viscount Monckton is not a threat. Marc Morano is not a threat. The Koch Brothers are not a threat. They are all obstacles–something science has to overcome on every big issue.

What’s killing climate science is the Konsensus.

The Klimate Konsensus in one Komment

In case you are wondering what the difference is between the consensus of mainstream science on climate change and the Krazy Konsensus hyperventilating about doom that no-one predicts, I thought I would share an example of the Konsensus here. I may share more later….

It had to come from BBD, of course. And it’s fitting it’s in response to the hyper-reasonable Pekka Perilla. And it’s delicious that it appears on ‘And Then There’s a Physique.’

Pekka

Climate science can make quantitative projections for the temperature development with wide confidence limits, but estimating the net benefits of specific decisions or policies is very much more difficult, and impossible on objective quantitative level.

BBD says:

While strictly true, this is a formula for justifying inaction and therefore generally false.

Various

First off, let me apologize for light blogging both here and at 3000 Quads. Lots of personal stuff going on–nothing out and out bad, but all requiring lots of time and attention.

I doubt if I have been much missed, as the climate blogosphere motors relentlessly onwards (or around in circles, depending on your perspective). Interesting posts by Steve McIntyre, Judith Curry, Bishop Hill and others have kept the non-consensus side coming back for more. Konsensus posts at Real Climate, Rabett Run and Stoat are keeping the stormtroopers pacified, if not occupied. But after a few days away from the keyboard I feel a bit like an outsider looking in.

outside.looking.in

A special edition of Nature published today says that “Global warming could bring about a resurgence in the Earth’s dragon population,” meant to be an April Fool’s Day jest. Sadly it just gets in line with the other hyperbolic claims about mosquitos taking over the world, the Amazon being reduced to matchsticks, the Himalayan glaciers turning into a water slide and global warming being discovered as the root cause of World War II. My own opinion is that global warming is turning GMOs toxic and mutating vaccines so that they cause autism, but that’s idle speculation, don’t you think?

The Guardian has published a story on California’s drought, complete with commentary from Michael Mann and Peter Gleick. The Guardian says California’s current drought is its worst in a millenium, which is not strictly true, but why let that stand in the way of a good story? Mann and Gleick make a good comedy team in their commentary, noting that there are four different definitions of drought before offering their own: “drought, most simply defined, is the mismatch between the amounts of water nature provides and the amounts of water that humans and the environment demand.” Perhaps someone should mention to Mann and Gleick that the population of California has doubled in the past few decades, which has caused the demand for water to rise correspondingly. Guys–California is a desert, for the most part. We have been making the desert bloom artificially for quite some time now, but drought is a frequent visitor to the Golden State. This one ain’t nothin’ special.

The Calgary Herald reports that more Albertans believe in Bigfoot than global warming. As they have ever been photographed together, I submit that in fact they are one and the same.

And finally, “WORCESTER, Mass., April 1, 2015 /PRNewswire/ — Access Fixtures, a leader in commercial and sports lighting, today announced a “Global Warming Sale” on metal halide wall packs. The one day sale features 10% savings on wall packs with the older, inefficient lighting technology. The sale is designed to promote global warming and help melt this season’s extraordinary levels of snow.

“Scientists have warned about global warming for years, and it’s clear many just aren’t listening,” said Access Fixtures CEO, Steven Rothschild. He added, “When the wind’s blowing at gale force, there’s no point in sailing against it.”

Last month Access Fixtures announced a price drop on an energy-efficient 26w LED wall pack, making it less expensive than the 70w metal halide wall pack it is designed to replace.  However, many buyers still demand the metal halide light fixtures, including contractors working on specified jobs, medical marijuana growers, and many individuals who just want to live closer to a beach.

Mention GLOBAL WARMING to your Access Fixtures lighting specialist to apply discount. Due to local restrictions, discount is not valid in Florida.”

Have a wonderful Wednesday. Who needs April Fools when the fools in town are on your side?

And Then There’s a Physic

noun
1. a medicine that purges; cathartic; laxative.
2. any medicine; a drug or medicament.
3. Archaic. the medical art or profession.
4. Obsolete, natural science.
Well, after whining about Richard Tol’s takedown of Cook et al, And Then There’s Physics is now whining about Bishop Hill. Go figure.
ATTP used to just be focused on whining about Watt’s Up With That. I suppose it’s good news that he’s broadened his horizons.
But when he calls Montford (Bishop Hill’s real name) a ‘pseudo-skeptic’ for saying he thinks warming will come in at the low end of the IPCC range’ ATTP is acting as a pseudo critic.
Much in the same way Michael Tobis used to whine about any coverage of non-Konsensus approved material in the media, ATTP just can’t seem to bear the idea that someone can disagree with him. Or that someone  can be right and he can be wrong.
With the abandonment by its host of Deltoid and the retirement of Planet 3, I guess an ecological niche opened up for something like And Then There’s Physics. It is a safe place for Konsensus Kommenters to insult opponents and commiserate over the ever-worsening state of the planet due to the planet not following their muddy-eyed dreams of disaster. Plus they can continue posting YouTube videos of Bart Simpson and Monty Python, showing that relevance is not really important to true believers.
However, the climate blogosphere is not improved by the addition. Some years ago, when open debate was still possible at places like Bart Verheggen’s blog or Collide-a-Scape, the debate was actually vigorous and while nobody changed sides, many learned important things.
In 2015, there does not seem to be such a venue. Here at The Lukewarmer’s Way, traffic is too light to even propose it as such a place. Although many people arrive here from Konsensus blogs, they don’t comment. Macintyre has been ‘classified’ as a skeptic blog and few opponents show up. The same is gradually happening over at Judith Curry’s blog.
I don’t see much debate happening at all. What is see is…
We’re not better off because of it.
 

Sigh… Cook Again

Update 2: Below in comments, someone named Rachel who helps ATTP moderate the blog And Then There’s Physics, informed me that she had done what I attributed to the blog owner and further, that she did not inform the blog owner immediately.

Update: Well, And Then There’s Physics doesn’t really like to talk with people who don’t agree with him. He said I was rude and appealing to authority when I entered Mike Hulme’s quote (see below).

And the following comment was censored:

“Gee. I’m sorry. Where was I rude? I’d like to know your definition of rude, as I am a guest here and do not wish to offend. Please, can you point out instances?

Was it “To what category does “garbage” belong?” Oh–sorry, that wasn’t me.

Was it “Some people can’t read”? Oh–sorry, that wasn’t me.

Was it “Has I was just going to ask if Thomas Fuller is testing how trollish he can be before his comments are moderated. ” Oh–sorry, that wasn’t me.

Was it “As Groundskeeper Willie says in his political hit job…” Oh–sorry, that wasn’t me.

Was it “then write a f*****g social science paper on it Tom. I’m sure you’ll be seriously influential in the faculty tea room.” Oh–sorry, that wasn’t me.

As for appealing to authority, I thought instead I was finding support within the scientific community for Pekka’s position. I do most humbly apologize.”

 

Welcome to Groundhog Day, climate style. There’s more to say about Cook, but most of it will sound very familiar.

groundhog day

Richard Tol has a new assessment of Cook et al’s 97% purity paper–I mean consensus diatribe. Regular readers of this space will remember that I dealt with the topic here and here. Those wanting to get a more complete picture might also look at Jose Duarte’s treatment here, Poptech here, and Andrew Montford (also known as Bishop Hill) here.

The climate blog And Then There’s Physics is now busy regurgitating the feeble defenses offered on behalf of Cook’s contribution to junk science since the day it came out. It is here.

They have resuscitated the zombie arguments used before, none of which address Tol’s two new additions to the many, many criticisms of the paper, nor any of the older criticisms that are at least as damning if not more so.

Tol writes, “First, U Queensland claimed data cannot be released because of a confidentiality agreement. There is a confidentiality agreement, but it does not cover the requested data. John Cook claimed data cannot be released because they were never collected. They were.

Second, the not-collected-data-that-somehow-do-exist-nonetheless (aka time stamps) reveal the sequence of the research: Data were collected and analysed. More data were collected and analysed. The classification of the data was changed, and more data were collected before the final analysis. Going back to collect data, and collect data differently, is a big no no in experimental design, particularly if those who analyzed the preliminary data also collect the data.”

ATTP (the blog host) calls Tol’s statements ‘deceitful’, but does not say how or what the truth of the matter is.

Typical of the comments is “Tol strikes me as someone who would not drink his own pesticides.” That’s the level of intelligence mustered in defense of Cook’s paper.

For those who have forgotten (or those who simply would like to forget), (and quoting myself) “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)

When I noted at ATTP that “from Andrew Montford’s analysis of the paper: “There was also apparently a problem with the number of papers processed by raters, with one participant getting through no fewer than 765 abstracts in a 72-hour period” the reply was “In a world where most abstracts are a foolscap page in length.”

Okay. I’ll admit that it is possible to review 765 abstracts in 3 days. I’ll just maintain that you can’t do it well.

When I noted from the paper’s Methods that “Abstracts were randomly distributed via a web-based system to raters with only the title and abstract visible. All other information such as author names and affiliations, journal and publishing date were hidden. Each abstract was categorized by two independent, anonymized raters.” and then quoted from the raters’ discussion board: “FYI, here are all papers in our database by the author Wayne Evans:”

and

“I was mystified by the ambiguity of the abstract, with the author wanting his skeptical cake and eating it too. I thought, “that smells like Lindzen” and had to peek.”

The reply was that since the forum’s contents had been taken from Cook’s website (where they were posted in plain view), that I was “Yes, arguing based on criminally obtained private communication.”

Cook is a curious mixture of junk science and propaganda.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. There is a scientific consensus on a narrow definition of anthropogenic contributions to global warming. Several surveys have put scientific agreement at about 80%.

I am part of the consensus (although I’m not a scientist). I believe global warming is real, is a threat and should be addressed in the present day.

And I don’t like pseudoscience and puppeteers spouting propaganda that confuses the public, angers their legitimate opponents and further sinks climate science into a muddy morass that makes action less likely.

Sleight of Hand–Now You See It, Now You Don’t

Scientific American has a slideshow on their website calling our attention to eleven ‘natural wonders of the world’ that will soon disappear or be forever changed by climate change.

Or does it? Let’s ask the Fynbos.

fynbos

The first ‘natural wonder’ is the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica. It is indeed threatened–it has been predicted to break off and sail into the Antarctic sunset since 1922, if not before. As that predates most of our contributions of greenhouse gases, I’m not sure it’s fair to blame human contributions to climate change (although I’m sure they don’t help).

The second example is the Doñana wetlands. Okay, but what’s the threat? Oh. Pollution and loss of ground water due to farming.

The WWF says, “Considered one of the most valuable wetlands in Europe, Spain’s Coto Doñana, located where the Guadalquivir River reaches the Atlantic Ocean, is a sanctuary for millions of migratory birds and endangered species like the imperial eagle and Iberian lynx. However, mining, farming, tourism and infrastructure development all pose a serious threat to the area.”

Up third on Scientific American’s list is the glacier atop Mount Kilmanjaro. One would think they would have learned from Al Gore’s experience with that snow-topped peak. “Kilimanjaro is a grossly overused mis-example of the effects of climate change,” said University of Washington climate scientist Philip Mote, co-author of an article in the July/August issue of American Scientist magazine. …Kilimanjaro has seen its glaciers decline steadily for well over a century — since long before humans began pumping large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, Mote points out.”

Next is the Great Barrier Reef. And again… after the obligatory tip of the hat to global warming they say, “It is also the acidification of the surrounding oceans. In addition, human pollution is exacerbating disease in the reef ecosystem, and dredging and sewage are burying sections of the reef in sediment and sludge.”

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority lists climate change as a threat to the treasure, along with extreme weather. But they also list declining water quality, coastal development, illegal fishing and outbreaks of starfish. A recent “assessment found the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area’s outstanding universal value remains largely intact and the Reef is one of the world’s most resilient tropical marine ecosystems.” The assessment does mention rising sea temperatures as a factor, but spends far more time talking about changes to the land supporting the Reef, disease, introduces species, pests and identify four ‘drivers of change’ impacting the condition of the GBR: economic growth, population growth, technological development and societal values.

We then come to the Arctic, one natural wonder indeed impacted by climate change to date. Scientific American writes, “Mysterious craters in Siberia, drunken trees in Alaska, gas plumes burning above Canadian lakes—all speak to the same thaw of the Arctic. This rapid warm-up in the Earth’s northerly air conditioner will mean even faster global warming as more of the greenhouse gas methane enters the atmosphere and darker earth or open waters replace reflective white snow and ice. Summertime sea ice may become a memory, and even the iconic white polar bear may brown as it interbreeds with the bears moving north into warming climes.”

I have absolutely no argument with Scientific American when it comes to climate change and the Arctic. But I guess an article with just one example (two, if you count the next one) would be… a bit short.

Then S.A. moves to another true natural wonder that truly does seem to be changing in reaction to a changing climate: Costa Rica’s Monteverde rain forest. “This tropical rainforest some 1,700 meters above sea level in the volcanic mountains of central Costa Rica gets its name from living among permanent clouds. The humidity is often 100 percent. But as the warming climate drives those clouds further up and even off the mountainsides, their ascent is exposing the lower reaches of the cloud forest to higher temperatures and drier conditions.”

But then they return again to less fruitful material, writing about the Amazon, “Logging and fire have returned to threaten the Amazon Rainforest, which sprawls over 5.5 million square kilometers in Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Bolivia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Suriname and Venezuela, currently. After years of reduced human impacts, agribusiness, farmers and loggers have begun to eat away at the forest anew, according to the most recent statistics and satellite images. Less forest means less rain, a problem that may be exacerbated as the climate changes and dries out the world’s largest remaining rainforest.”

National Geographic lists the main threats to the Amazon:

  • Logging interests cut down rain forest trees for timber used in flooring, furniture, and other items.
  • Power plants and other industries cut and burn trees to generate electricity.
  • The paper industry turns huge tracts of rain forest trees into pulp.
  • The cattle industry uses slash-and-burn techniques to clear ranch land.
  • Agricultural interests, particularly the soy industry, clear forests for cropland.
  • Subsistence farmers slash-and-burn rain forest for firewood and to make room for crops and grazing lands.
  • Mining operations clear forest to build roads and dig mines.
  • Governments and industry clear-cut forests to make way for service and transit roads.
  • Hydroelectric projects flood acres of rain forest.

Next on their list is the Boreal Forest: “his vast global forest, dominated by conifer trees, covers much of Canada, Russia and Scandinavia. But as the northern regions continue to warm, the southern edge of the boreal forest will give way to grasslands, and the forest as a whole could shrink by half. Meanwhile, wildfires and new insect threats—like the pine beetle eating enormous swaths of forest land to death today—will plague the remnant.” They neglect to mention that “Model simulations performed by the scientists of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) indicate that alpine tundra will lose ground to boreal forest spreading northward. According to their estimates, between one- and two-thirds of the current tundra will likely be replaced by boreal migrants.”

Nor do they mention: “Major industrial developments in the boreal ecoregion include logging, mining, and hydroelectric development. These activities have had severe impacts on many areas and these will face increasing pressure for resource exploitation in the coming years. Approximately 90% of all logging that occurs in this region is by clear cutting, using heavy, capital-intensive machinery. The “high mineral potential” in this region is also very problematic. Specific concerns include the disposal of acidic effluent from tailings, containment of radioactivity and the effects of emissions from processing plants. Some of the problems that the Boreal regions face are:

  • air pollution from smelters and power plants
  • radioactivity from atomic power and weapons testing
  • water pollution & disruption of habitats if commercialization of a northern shipping routes become a reality
  • adverse impact of new mineral and oil/gas extraction
  • new threats to endangered species”

Scientific American then looks at mangrove forests: “One of the largest of the remaining mangrove forests may drown. Mangroves once covered much of the coastlines of Africa and Asia, but these places where rivers meet sea under the shelter of swampy trees are under threat from a variety of human activities, including coastal development—despite providing valuable shelter from tropical cyclones and even tsunamis. In Madagascar, rising sea levels and temperatures may overwhelm the Mahajamba Bay mangroves even before humanity has a chance to replace them with shrimp farms.”

Apparently they didn’t read the 2013 article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science that said, “Fewer deep freezes, attributable to Earth’s warming climate, have caused mangrove forests to expand northward in Florida over the past three decades, new research suggests.”

Or the report from the Center for International Forestry Research that says, “Where tropical forests meet the sea, you’ll often find mangroves, which harbor unique wildlife and store large amounts of carbon. A project conducted by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) seeks to show how they could also be protecting our coastlines against rising sea levels. As climate change leads to global sea-level rise, mangroves’ adaptability could be hugely beneficial. Yet, despite playing a key ecological role in climate change adaptation, mangroves are being lost at a loss rate equivalent to more than 45,000 football pitches each year.” Once again, humans are doing what is attributed to climate.

We turn then to the atolls that are scattered across the Pacific and Indian oceans. “The small atolls that litter the Pacific face stronger storms like Typhoon Pam, which justdevastated Vanuatu. Sitting barely above sea level, these islands also face saltwater incursions into freshwater supplies—as seen in Kiribati, Tonga and Ontong Java Atoll in the Solomon Islands—among other ill effects of swelling oceans as a result of global warming. It is not just Pacific isles that are under threat: low-lying islands like the Maldives in the Indian Ocean face similar challenges.”

Again, there’s one thing they leave out: Sea levels around Vanuatu have been falling since 2008. What’s been rising is the rate of subsidence and vertical lift from earthquakes. Again, a paper from PNAS: “Our data show that the Torres GPS station subsided by 117 þ ∕ − 30 mm (9.4 þ ∕ − 2.5 mm∕yr) from 1997 to early 2009. This is one of the highest measured interseismic subsidence rates on Earth [along with northwest Malekula Island (1) and West Sumatra. …Island nations such as Vanuatu are concerned about natural hazards and ways to reduce or mitigate risks. In recent years, many of the risk mitigation plans have been carried under the general umbrella of “climate change adaptation.” However, in the case of the Torres Islands, interseismic and 1997 coseismic subsidence is much larger than the climate-induced sea-level rise. On a scale of thousands of years and more, the Torres Islands are less threatened by climate-induced sea-level rise than are many other islands.”

We then come to the 11th Natural Wonder of the World that may disappear due to climate change. the fynbos. Now, don’t pretend you don’t know what that is.

“This 90,000-square-kilometer strip of scrubland in the Western Cape of South Africa hosts a greater array of unique flowers than anywhere else on the continent. Its distinctive proteas, such as the king protea that is South Africa’s national flower, evolved in the cooler climate of the geologic past and are therefore especially susceptible to rising temperatures, which may also bring increased wildfires.”

Now that I do know what they are, they are fascinating. You should read more about them. I did. Here’s the WWF on fynbos: “Constantly under threat from invading plant species, particularly wattle and acacia trees from Australia, as well as from urban expansion and land conversion for agriculture, WWF is committed to protecting the biodiversity of the Cape floral kingdom through a number of conservation projects and by supporting the Cape Action for People and the Environment programme. ”

And you know, that’s enough. Scientific American should have thought this through a bit more thoroughly.

Biodiversity in general is threatened by humans. Our hunting, overgrazing (and overfishing) pollution and our nasty habit of introducing new species into territories has put many, many species and entire ecosystems under severe pressure. For some, climate change may prove to be the straw that broke the camel’s back.

But to focus all our attention on climate change when it comes to threatened species is madness. As I wrote on Bart Verheggen’s blog in 2011,”

“I think that recent efforts to mitigate the potential impacts of climate change are important, but more because potential global warming can serve as a ‘last straw’ for certain portions of a beleaguered environment if it happens too fast.

However, 99% of stress on environments has other causes, most man-made, and addressing global warming in a mad and expensive rush without ameliorating our other impacts is madness, like treating a woman with cancer using a facial cleanser.

The environment, as Jeff Id alluded to, has thrived at times in warmer climates, and if warming happens slowly enough it could do so again.

Just as the alarmists forget (functionally, when talking of impacts and mitigation) that the climate always changes, some participants in yesterday’s thread seemed determined to ignore that our biosphere constantly changes too. For some species, warming will be a blessing, especially if warming happens to come in at a lower sensitivity of the atmosphere to a doubling of CO2 concentrations. For some it will not. But that kind of lottery has been occurring for a couple of billion years.

My main concern is exemplified by warmists hijacking iconic examples of negative effects caused by human activity and attributing the stress felt by or threats to, for example, polar bear populations and saying the major problem is global warming or climate disruption.

Climate is disruptive. It always has been. But species either adapt to the changes or make way for others that can. Our contributions to the disruptive nature of climate will not be welcomed by some species. However global warming is the least of their worries now, and is likely to remain so for the next century.

So how we use this century is critical. And my policy preferences are, just as with the human element affected by global warming, to make communities more resilient and able to withstand climate changes that we cannot control, to get off their backs with thoughtless development, pollution and dramatic changes in land use without environmental consideration.”

And on the same thread, commenter Sidd pointed out, “Mr. Bernard J. kindly posted a link to Hoffman et al. In the paper.From the abstract:

“…main drivers of biodiversity loss in these groups: agricultural expansion, logging, overexploitation, and invasive alien species. ”

To check Mr. Fuller’s guess about 1% loss to climate change:

fig S7 allow one to estimate the fraction of deteriorating species (of the IUCN list of 25780 endangered species) due to climate change or extreme weather and fire regime changes, as well as several other factors:

For birds: total number of deteriorating species=433, those due to climate change or severe weather, 8, those due to fire regime change, 1
The corresponding numbers
For mammals:: 171,3,7
For amphibians: 456, 5,1

Slightly above 1%.”

 

Perhaps The Most Cogent Essay On Climate Change I Have Read In Recent Months

George Schultz was Secretary of State for Ronald Reagan’s administration from 1982 to 1989.

I voted against Reagan twice, having lived in California while he was governor and not being impressed with the results. Reagan went on to become a conservative hero. George Schultz is one of the reasons why.

Here’s a picture of him with a friend:

gshultz-nreagan_tx700

From Wikipedia: “George Pratt Shultz (born December 13, 1920) is an American economist, statesman, and businessman. He served as the United States Secretary of Labor from 1969 to 1970, as the director of the Office of Management and Budget from 1970 to 1972, as theU.S. Secretary of the Treasury from 1972 to 1974, and as the U.S. Secretary of State from 1982 to 1989. Before entering politics, he was professor of economics at MIT and the University of Chicago, serving as Dean of the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business from 1962 to 1969. Between 1974 and 1982, Shultz was an executive at Bechtel, eventually becoming the firm’s president. He is currently a distinguished fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

George P. Schultz has an article in the Washington Post about climate change. (Thanks, Marty, for bringing it to our attention.) It is perhaps the most cogent and common-sensical article I have read about the subject this year (sadly including my own writings… sigh…)

Schultz is not a starry-eyed liberal. Heck, he’s now with the Hoover Institution. He’s a hard-nosed economist, pragmatic and solutions-oriented.

As a Lukewarmer, most of my ‘opinion’ pieces are about the harm done to the goal of understanding climate and climate change by lobbyists and NGOs who exaggerate the threat of CO2 and focus on it to the exclusion of all else.

Often lost in my tweaking the noses of these people (who very badly need their noses tweaked) is the very real fact that the globe is warming and despite a recent ‘stall’ (as James Hansen characterized it), there is no indication that our planet’s climate is ready to cool off.

Our changes to land cover, the black carbon from our smokestacks, our production of cement, all are causing artificial changes to our climate.

So are our emissions of CO2.

Even with lower calculations of sensitivity of our atmosphere to a doubling of the concentrations of CO2, our emissions, added to our other impacts on the climate, point towards a problematic future–not a Waterworld, not a catastrophe, but an expensive and time consuming adaptation to new conditions.

It could cost trillions of dollars over the course of this century.

As Schultz points out in his article, there are things we could do to lessen our impact on the climate and its subsequent impact on our children’s lives.

We could spend more on research into energy storage and distribution. We could help China get scrubbers on all their coal plants. We could remove many–even most–of the regulations for nuclear power plants and settle on a standard design allowing mass production.

Over there in the U.S. (I’m writing from Taipei), many have reduced the climate conversation to a partisan political issue–and there’s no doubt that part of the impact of Schultz’s article stems from his stature, but also from his standing on the conservative side of the political fence.

Those opposed to any action on climate change who also happen to be Republicans, if your opinion on this issue is based on study of the climate, I have no problem with you. However, for those who side with the skeptics because they are true conservatives or anti-Democrats, I urge you to at least see what some on your side of the fence have to say.

 

Sunday Jog Through The Climate Blogosphere

stock-footage-fit-and-healthy-young-couple-walks-through-the-park

There are some interesting stories regarding climate science and politics.

Most of them are linked at Judith Curry’s Week In Review, so I’ll just send you over there rather than lift them wholesale. Most of them are from actual news stories, so I’ll focus on that limited part of the blogosphere that forms my daily reading fare.

Both Curry and Steve McIntyre hosted a guest post by Nic Lewis on a recent paper by Bjorn Stevens. The paper essentially reports that aerosols do not have as strong an effect on climate as has been assumed. Check the comments section on both Curry and McIntyre for discussion.

McIntyre also notes that scientists he has criticized in the past have been sneaking corrections into their work–corrections Mac has called for. He notes that they manage to use his corrections without mentioning his name. Not the first time that has happened to McIntyre. He spent the rest of the week picking apart a man called Weaver, guilty of showing the homage vice pays to virtue…

Real Climate has a guest post by Kerry Emanuel titled ‘Severe Tropical Cyclone Pam and Climate Change‘. The thrust being that climate change contributed to the intensity of the storm…. which he says was very intense. But not as intense as other storms. And the record only really goes back to 1980. Where’s Roger Pielke Jr. when we need him?

Oh. He’s here, plugging his new book ‘Disasters and Climate Change‘. If he sent me a review copy I’d review it, hint… hint… I think Pielke and Emanuel could have a fruitful discussion of Tropical Storm Pam.

Rabett Run seems to have run out of ideas this week, with Josh Halpern doing his monthly slime of Bjorn Lomborg (it’s in his contract with his fossil fuel funders, doncha know?) maundering a bet on climate (not as sexy as my bet with Joe Romm) and mistakenly titling one entry ‘Immature Post of the Day’, which wasn’t–it actually was his hit job on Lomborg. Fellow blogger and rudemeister William Connelly also couldn’t find anything worthwhile to blog about, but had to put up three posts anyhow.

Neven’s Arctic Sea Ice Blog had a couple of posts up about Arctic Sea Ice, amazingly enough. The winter maximum may have been reached and it may be lower than in recent years, although the jury’s still out. One of the less edifying aspects of the Konsensus bloggers is how excited they are by the occasional bad news–anything that justifies their gloom and doom prophesies seems to delight them.

A quiet week, overall. Bjorn’s paper is interesting, as is Kerry Emanuel’s article, but much of this week could have been more profitably spent on the funny papers.

I wonder what a slow news day looks like in other fields?

slow news day

 

Respect Ability

In 2015 it is starting to appear as though the Lukewarmer view of climate change is winning. At least if what I read out there reflects a) reality and b) the political state of play.

Remember the Lukewarmer position can be characterized very succinctly (and has been by Steve Mosher on more than one occasion): Given the over/under bet on atmospheric sensitivity to a doubling of concentrations of greenhouse gases at 3C, Lukewarmers will take the ‘under.’ We don’t quarrel (much) with the science–believe it or not, Michael Mann has said many true things about climate science and climate change–I hope some day he extends that rigorous honesty to his own work product…

The last year has been full of papers analyzing observations of our climate that indicate that sensitivity is not only below 3C, and not only below my own estimate of about 2.1C, but around 1.7C.

It’s not that I am claiming that Lukewarmers have finally climbed to a position of respectability.

Scientists have questioned the Consensus view of the various aspects of global warming and it would appear that their findings and analysis will carry weight going forward.

I’m arguing that they should be acknowledged for their contributions.

respectability

We have been reminded once again that climate science is even now discovering very basic and important elements that need to be considered, such as the impact of black carbon or the varying effects of aerosols. But the core message–that temperatures are rising and our emissions of greenhouse gases contribute to this warming–is not really questioned. The questions remain ‘how much’ and ‘so what?’

I personally think that the ‘how much’ is answered best by ‘more than we would really like’ and the ‘so what’ by the reply ‘for most of my readers the consequences will be minimal, but for those in the developing world it will pose a big problem–not their biggest, but certainly enough to make their climb towards a developed status much more difficult.

What I haven’t seen are the hundreds of papers being released with the ‘It’s Worse Than We Thought’ motif. There are some, of course. But not the incredible flurry that characterized previous years.

It’s not that the political faction of the Klimate Konsensus has abandoned their struggle. They are still harassing their opponents, from Congressional inquiries into funding to psycho-babble-analysis from pseudoscientists like Stefan Lewandowski.

But to say now in 2015 that atmospheric sensitivity may well turn out to be less than 3C is now, if not acceptable, at least no longer absurd.

What that means going forward is that the people who are arguing with Lukewarmers will gradually quit being the legitimate holders of the Consensus (which is dramatically different from the Kilmate Konsensus), and start to include many of the skeptics with whom we’ve gotten along so well during these last years in the wilderness. This is something Steve Mosher has been finding out over the past two years–when arguments over politics and process get put aside, much of the consensus position is sound.

At least those disagreements will be more good-natured, as most skeptics are overall much more congenial in conversation than the lunatics who have been carrying sandwich boards pronouncing our doom…

In The Huddle

We are in another period, hopefully brief, where the differing sides in the climate debate are not even talking to each other.

Since the Konsensus (different from the scientific consensus) has decided not to debate their opponents, communication was always circumspect, indirect and at the margins–but there were still attempts at communication. At the moment, with Congress harassing scientists, the Konsensus highlighting funding issues and no major scientific announcements in the recent past, it seems that the different sides are talking to each other about next steps. Perhaps after every play (Grijalva throws deep going for it all, but Pielke bats the ball out of the outstretched hands of the receiver…) people just need to go back to the huddle.

huddle

It’s not the first time this has happened, but it’s a little disconcerting to see.

It’s not just the major players–Congress, the major societies and organizations, even the major institutions, such as the recently recapitated IPCC–that are spending more time talking within their groups than across the walls. It is of course reflected in the blogosphere as well.

I take a tour of many of the climate blogs almost every day, and those which list recent comments as a guide to who’s participating in the discussion are most helpful. When I look at them, I recognize many of the names and in this current environment the homogeneity of commenters is as good a guide to the atmosphere in the debate as the nature of the posts.

Nick Stokes still comments at Climate Audit, JimD at Climate Etc., and a few skeptics still lob their comment grenades over the wall at Konsensus blogs, but overall we’re preaching to the choir and living in an echo chamber as a result. More typical was a glance this morning at And Then There’s Physics, where the commenters were long time Konsensus militants like Steven Sullivan, dhogaza, etc., while over at Bishop Hill the story is the same, just with regulars from the skeptic corner talking to each other.

The funny thing is that it is obvious from both posts and comments that we’re all reading each others’ stuff–a theme will surface on either side and will be written about shortly thereafter–but no attempts at communication.

It all makes for a very sterile environment and it reduces the very real pleasure of watching the to and fro of the climate debate. I hope this period is short.

I’m very luck that at my other blog (3000 Quads), I have concrete things to write about at this point in time, what with the Department of Energy having just released their Annual Energy Report. If you want something more concrete from me during this rather fallow period of the debate, that’s where you’re likely to find it.

Toxic China and Climate Change

The overwhelming response by Chinese people to the release of the documentary ‘Under the Dome’ shows how potent an issue pollution is in that heavily polluted country. Again, if you have time the video is really worth a look. It has English subtitles.

The Chinese censors took it down, but not before 200 million Chinese saw the video.

Pollution in China is a big deal, just as it became a big deal in Western countries the minute they crawled out of poverty, something that happened much later than people realize–as late as 1948, half of Americans were poor. When that changed, people began to have time to express dissatisfaction with pollution and just 25 years later Richard Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency. It took about the same amount of time to clean up London’s skies and water–somewhat longer for Italy (well, okay, they’re still struggling with it, but that’s more because the Mafia got involved than anything else.)

Parents are now sending their children out of the country, ostensibly for schooling but they cheerfully admit that in fact it’s to get them out of danger from China’s polluted air, water and soils.

The Chinese leadership well recognizes that this is a hot button issue. They have made it a priority. They have the tools to address it and probably will.

What does this mean for China’s efforts to combat climate change?

Not as much as the most committed advocates would like, of course. China wants to get away from coal–but they’re unable to right now. Currently 69% of their energy comes from coal and their plan is to drop that to 65% by 2050.

They can make it a lot cleaner of course. Many Chinese coal plants have scrubbers–many of those scrubbers are not in use. There’s a lot of room for improvement.

They’re building lots of nuclear power plants in China–I think their current schedule is to bring two online every year through 2050. But that won’t even keep up with forecast increased consumption during that timeframe, something I discuss at my other blog, 3000 Quads.

And although they are finally using some of their world leading manufacture of solar panels and wind turbines for domestic use, but it will still amount only to an asterisk in percentages by 2050.

China would love to use more natural gas–they’ve discovered a lot of it amenable to fracking. However, the arid nature of China’s climate means they can’t spare the water to frack it out of the ground.

They’re importing oil and gas from Russia–why not build another pipeline and use it to import water?

Far more than other countries, China would benefit most quickly from a dash to gas–they need to find a way to get the water to make that practical.

Another New-ish Voice

Okay, now I’ve got to update my blogroll. I’m going to add some new blogs and take off the retired ones.

My motivation is to gain exposure for the funniest blog I have seen in a very long time–Climate Nuremberg.

I don’t recall the last time I laughed out loud about climate change (well, maybe while reading Lewandowsky…)

comedy

If you are already familiar with the site you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t seen it yet you’re in for a treat.

So–the floor’s open for other nominations. I’m going to add Ben Pile, Jose Duarte and a couple of others that escape me at the moment. Your picks? (I was going to add And Then There’s Physics but he said I was nasty… sigh…)

EcoTerrorism, EcoMadness

Those trying to establish policy in the field of climate change need to understand why environmentalism became so popular and what has been done to damage its standing.

The environmental movement at one point enjoyed more widespread support and respect than religions in the 20th Century. I remember Earth Day as a great coming together of diverse people to express their commitment to reducing pollution, repairing damage done by previous development and working towards a day when once again food, water and air were safe.

What happened?

Wikiepedia has an entry on eco-terrrorism: “Eco-terrorism is a [1]term used to refer to acts of violence committed in support of ecological or environmental causes, against persons or their property. Eco-terrorism is defined by the Federal Bureau of Investigation as “the use or threatened use of violence of a criminal nature against people or property by an environmentally oriented, subnational group for environmental-political reasons, or aimed at an audience beyond the target, often of a symbolic nature.”[4] The FBI credited eco-terrorists with 200 million dollars in property damage between 2003 and 2008, and a majority of states within the USA have introduced laws aimed at eco-terrorism.”

From today’s headlines I would say eco-terrorism looks like this:

green_terrorist

Suspected ‘eco-terrorists’ have threatened to poison baby formula in New Zealand unless authorities ban a particular agricultural pesticide.

Anonymous letters have been sent to a national farmers’ group and to Fonterra, the world’s largest dairy exporter, containing samples of infant formula laced with the poison known as 1080.”

Looking back at headlines we see this: “Peru will seek criminal charges against Greenpeace activists who it says damaged the world-renowned Nazca lines by leaving footprints in the adjacent desert during a publicity stunt.”

this… “If you’re one of those who have spent their lives undermining progressive climate legislation, bankrolling junk science, fueling spurious debates around false solutions, and cattle-prodding democratically-elected governments into submission, then hear this: We know who you are. We know where you live. We know where you work. And we be many, but you be few.”

this… “Two million children a year are dying, and every year it is delayed, another two million kids are dying. The blood of that is on the hands of the people who have made it impossible to make an exception for golden rice.” Greenpeace has campaigned against golden rice for more than a decade, saying that it is an unnecessary diversion from the real causes of vitamin-A deficiency.

this… “Any attempt to hinder or undermine world agreement to eliminate DDT under the Stockholm Convention would obstruct attempts to break the current cycle of misery related to the use of DDT for malarial vector control.”

the very existence of a group like this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earth_Liberation_Front

Or this: “On New Year’s Eve in 1999, for example, arson caused about $1 million in damage to Michigan State University’s architectural landmark Agriculture Hall, damaging offices involved in a project intended to enhance the use and commercialization of crop genetic engineering in developing countries. The Earth Liberation Front, which claimed responsibility for the attack, said that it was “in response to the work being done to force developing nations in Asia, Latin America and Africa to switch from natural crop plants to genetically altered sweet potatoes, corn, bananas, and pineapples.” (The research, under the direction of Professor Catherine Ives, actually was intended to enhance the nutritional value of African staple foods like sweet potatoes.)  A U.S. Attorney in Michigan condemned the act as domestic terrorism.”

As I said above, those trying to establish policy in the field of climate change need to understand why environmentalism became so popular and what has been done to damage its standing.

Environmentalism became a strong movement because environmental damage was easy to see, widespread and had real and measurable impacts.

Crimes committed in the name of (but without permission or even support from) the general population stepped on the message, trashed the brand and sent millions away from the movement.

Since 2000, there has been a slight increase in the percentage of Americans claiming to be active participants in the movement, from 16% to 19%, but a noticeable decline of 13 percentage points in those claiming to be sympathetic to the movement. The result is a 10-point drop (from 71% to 61%) in the overall percentage of Americans holding a positive orientation toward the environmental movement over the past decade.”

I support the broader (and earlier) goals of the environmental movement, just as I support well-considered action to reduce future human contributions to climate change and to also reduce the impacts of climate change whatever the cause.

But just as I despise the criminals who have trashed environmentalism, so too I despise those who have resorted to criminal and unethical actions to coerce the world into adopting their preferred regime of policy responses to global warming.

Peter Gleick, stealing and forging documents kills the fight against climate change. Naomi Oreskes, Jim Prall, John Cook and Stephan Lewandowski, making up numbers to create an imaginary unanimity of opinion of scientists kills the fight against climate change. Greenpeace, trashing archeological remains to call attention to climate change just puts you in the same league as ISIL or the Taliban, both of whom do exactly as you do.

I’m not talking about the pranks and deceptions that are common to any highly charged policy issue–the No Pressure video, the photoshopped polar bear crisis, or even advocacy of one-sided reports, such as those about Syrian drought, Amazonian rainforests or African agriculture. Not even Himalayan glaciers.

The Argentinian couple that killed their child and then themselves in despair over climate change should be lesson enough that your hysteria is counter-productive. What more do you need in the way of a lesson?

In September 2010 one person, the late James Lee walked into the Discovery Channel armed with a gun and a bomb demanding that Discovery changed it’s programming to the content of an 11 point Green manifesto that Lee had published on the Internet, after an explosion Lee was shot dead by a SWAT sniper.

The Infant Science

I don’t want to sound overly critical of climate science, as the news coming out is much better being reported than ignored. I’m glad research is uncovering new and important things–maybe we really are getting our money’s worth, even if the sums spent on climate research seem very high.

When it was announced two years ago that black carbon had been determined to be one of the largest forcings of climate change (the soot from chimneys in the North fall on snow, changing the surface’s albedo and hastening its melt, which… also exposes the ground below, further changing the albedo), I wrote that it was remarkable that the second largest component of climate change was discovered so late.

I put it down to climate studies being an example of an ‘infant science’. I got a lot of flack for that, as people equated ‘infant’ with juvenile behavior or something similar. But it’s a professional term that has been used before to describe fields of study in the initial stages, where everything is new and exciting and those working in it are finding important things rather than refining at the margins.

ScienceMorningNSB

Recent news reinforces my impression–Watt’s Up With That refers us to a study in Geophysical Research Letters asserting that the new generation (CMIP 5) of climate models have programmed in a rather large error in calculating how solar radiation is calculated at the top of the atmosphere, with unsurprising large impacts on the results of these models.

Those with a consensus view of climate science have been resisting skeptical criticism of model performance ever since temperatures plateaued 15 or so years ago. If the findings of this paper hold up, those defences may become a bit more strained.

Almost at the same time, Climate Etc. refers us to another paper that includes an inherent critism of model performance in measuring planetary albedo, which the paper finds to be symmetrical between the northern and southern hemispheres, but is treated differently by climate models.

It is good for climate science to keep improving and I want to applaud these papers. It makes climate science better and we all want that.

However, that matters of such (apparent–it’s early days) magnitude with regard to their impacts on our understanding of both climate and climate change are being discovered now only emphasizes how far we have to go before climate science is settled in any sense of the word.

We are still learning more about some of the basics. Let’s keep doing it, but let’s also remember this before we assume an authoritarian tone in discussing the ramifications of human caused climate change, okay?

Syria, Drought and Global Warming

I will argue that it was not the drought per se, but rather the government’s failure to respond to the ensuing humanitarian crisis that formed one of the triggers of the uprising, feeding a discontent that had long been simmering in rural areas.” Francesca De Châtel, Middle East Studies, Jan. 2014.

That’s what I will argue too. There is an argument going on about whether anthropogenic climate change is impacting the current climate. Alarmists have been insisting that any extreme weather event includes an ACC component. Opponents have been citing numbers showing that case cannot be made for storms. Members of the Consensus have been using droughts and floods as counter examples. However, there is the familiar double jump required to reach the same conclusion as held by the alarmists–first, the simple one, that this particular drought was a contributing factor in the Syrian civil war, which is not too hard to swallow. The second is that climate change either caused or intensified or lengthened this particular drought.

An article dated March 9 in the Guardian also questions the new fashion for blaming all conflict on climate change. “Humans have fought over resources for millennia, so recent studies indicating a link between severe drought and the civil war in Syria shouldn’t have come as a complete surprise. That said, some researchers warn we might be jumping to conclusions a bit too quickly.”

The money quote comes from Andrew Solow, senior scientist at the Wood Hollow Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts. “I’ll put this in a crude way: no amount of climate change is going to cause civil violence in the state where I live (Massachusetts), or in Sweden or many other places around the world,” Solow says. “If we want to reduce the level of violence in other places, then it would be more efficient to focus on these factors: to bring people out of abject poverty, to provide them with the technology that loosens the connection between climate and survival, to reduce corruption, and so forth, rather than on preventing climate change. I sometimes have the feeling that some people only care about human suffering if it can be traced to climate change.”

A 2012 article in Nature (Sheffield et al,) is in fact titled, “Little Change In Global Drought Over Past 60 Years.”  It opens with the sentence “Drought is expected to increase in frequency and severity in the future as a result of climate change, mainly as a consequence of decreases in regional precipitation but also because of increasing evaporation driven by global warming.” However, the purpose of the paper is to note that corrections should be made to estimates drawn from the Palmer Drought Severity Index for technical reasons, and that when those corrections are applied there in fact appears to be no upward rising trend in drought.

This paper was quickly replied to by the Honor Guard of the Consensus Brigade, including Kevin Trenberth, Phil Jones and Keith Briffa, in a paper that is sadly paywalled but titled “Global Warming and Changes in Drought.” Since Kevin Trenberth is one of the most prominent advocates of the thesis that climate change is now a component of all weather, it is safe to surmise that the paper does not agree with Sheffield et al.

Syria is in the middle of both drought and armed conflict and members of the climate consensus have linked the two, saying that the drought is a contributor to the conflict. There’s some logic to this–the drought started before the civil war and farmers did move into the cities as a result. This could have resulted in additional tension that triggered the civil war.

However, one would have to be blind or monomoniacal at least to say that global warming had more than a trace effect on what happened in Syrai. And in fact Peter Gleick, the climate consensus’ resident thief and forger, is one of the prominent advocates of blaming the civil war on climate change.

In a paper titled “Water, Drought, Climate Change and Conflict in Syria“, published in the journal Weather, Climate and Society, Gleick tips his hat at other causes in the abstract, saying “The devastating civil war that began in Syria in March 2011 is the result of complex interrelated factors. The focus of the conflict is regime change, but the triggers include a broad set of religious and sociopolitical factors, the erosion of the economic health of the country, a wave of political reform sweeping over the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and Levant region, and challenges associated with climate variability and change and the availability and use of freshwater.”

However, Gleick goes on to note “water and climatic conditions have played a direct role in the deterioration of Syria’s economic conditions.” In an article in Huffington Post published to publicized the paywalled paper, Gleick writes “Many factors influenced the civil war in Syria, including long-standing political, religious, and ideological disputes; economic dislocations from both global and regional factors; and the consequences of water shortages influenced by drought, ineffective watershed management, and the growing influence of climate variability and change.”

If you want to add the current drought as one of the factors contributing to the current conflict, I would shrug my shoulders and concede it as a possibility, although orders of magnitude less important than discontent with the regime, the examples of the Arab Spring in other countries, the doubling of the Syrian population from 12 to 24 million in just 25 years, etc. Sure, the drought didn’t help.

But Syrians have suffered a reduced capability to deal with drought. Turkey has built dams syphoning off water that Syria used to have access to. As I mentioned, the population has doubled. A drought of the same intensity as previous droughts would have a greater effect on Syrians.

But Gleick’s paper is about climate change. In Huffington Post Gleick continues, “Assessing the role of climatic changes in altering water availability finds growing evidence that drought frequency and intensity in the Levant/Eastern Mediterranean region have changed from historical climatic norms.”

And this is where Gleick departs from what I consider reality. In 1870-1871 the ‘Levant/Eastern Mediterranean’ he describes suffered from a drought so severe that there was actually zero precipitation for two years. In 2200 BC the region experienced 300 years of arid climate. The Middle East is the poster child for drought–deforestation and overgrazing are the staple topics of scientists discussing environmental degradation leading to arid landscapes prone to drought, and Syria is a prominent example of both.

The 1999-2001 drought was the worst in four decades, seriously affecting crop and livestock production in the Syrian Arab Republic, which, in turn, had serious repercussions on the food security of a large segment of the population as incomes fell sharply, particularly among the rural small farmers and herders (FAO, 2004a; ESCWA, 2005). For example, in 1999, drought played a role in forcing approximately 47,000 nomadic households (329,000 people) to liquidate their livestock assets, which was a primary source of long-term income (De Pauw, 2005). Therefore, many families in the rangelands (Badia) eventually required food aid during the drought years (FAO, 2004a).

And yet, this severe drought did not lead to civil war or mass migration.

As Francesca de Chatel writes, ” I will argue that it was not the drought per se, but rather the government’s failure to respond to the ensuing humanitarian crisis that formed one of the triggers of the uprising, feeding a discontent that had long been simmering in rural areas. Drought forms an integral part of Syria’s (semi-)arid climate and is not an exceptional phenomenon. Syria has experienced 7 severe (Type 2) droughts since 1978 without civil conflict–and the number and severity of droughts in that period is not unusual.

Countries in the region such as Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and Palestine were also affected by drought in 2007/8, but only Syria experienced a humanitarian crisis, with large-scale migration of populations and widespread malnutrition.

I will argue that this can be explained by the fact that the humanitarian crisis in fact predated the drought. Similarly, climate change per se – to the extent that its predicted effects would already be visible – did not drive Syrians into the street in protest; it was the Syrian government’s failure to adapt to changing environmental, economic and social realities. While climate change may have contributed to worsening the effects of the drought, overstating its importance is an unhelpful distraction that diverts attention away from the core problem: the long-term mismanagement of natural resources.”

The Middle East is prone to drought. And yet it has thrived for thousands of years, including drought years, because people adapted to conditions, combining pastoralism with agriculture and staying flexible about where they pitched their tents and built their houses. The Middle East has suffered terrible shocks in the last millenium–repeated invasions from Crusaders, Turks and Central Asian invaders had a devastating effect on populations–and some of those invasions occurred during times of drought. Some weren’t. The climate was secondary in importance.

“The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations’ Near East Region comprises 32 countries in Central and Western Asia and Northern Africa.  The Near East Region is one of the most water-scarce regions in the world, with a regional annual average of 1,700 cubic meters (m3 ) of water available per person in 2005 (FAO, 2007). This compares to the worldwide average of 8,411 m3 per person. However, the amounts in the region varied from a low of 8 m3 per person in Kuwait to as much as 7,134 m3 in Kazakhstan in 2005.

Precipitation plays a major role in the availability of water in many of the countries; accumulations range from as little as 51 mm/yr in Egypt to 691 mm/yr in Tajikistan in the more water-rich eastern portion of the Near East Region. In terms of climate, most of the region is classified as a hot, arid desert according to the Koppen-Geiger climate classification scheme (Kottek et al., 2006).

There are four different types of drought:

Meteorological drought refers to a deficiency of precipitation, as compared to average conditions, over an extended period of time.

Agricultural drought is defined by a reduction in soil moisture availability below the optimal level required by a crop during each different growth stage, resulting in impaired growth and reduced yields.

Hydrological drought results when precipitation deficiencies begin to reduce the availability of natural and artificial surface and subsurface water resources. It occurs when there is substantial deficit in surface runoff below normal conditions or when there is a depletion of ground water recharge.

Socio-economic drought occurs when human activities are affected by reduced precipitation and related water availability. This form of drought associates human activities with elements of meteorological, agricultural, and hydrological drought.

Drought and famine have also been recurrent features in West Asian countries, such as Iran. Heydari (2005) synthesized several studies that had collected accounts of ancient droughts in the works of historians, geographers, travelers, foreign diplomats, traders, and other writers. According to researchers, some of the earliest writings are from the Accamedian King Darius’ scroll (522-485 B.C.), in which he prays for protection over Persia from three things: enemies, drought, and lies.

Tabari’s History also later records that Persia was stricken by a severe drought and famine for seven consecutive years during the reign of King Firouz, which caused water sources to dry up, vegetation to wither, animals to perish, and the king to suspend all taxes and levies when the River Tigris dried out. Beihaghi’s History also recounts famine in 1032 A.D. when “rainfall abstained in most of the settled quarter, a dire famine came, and a universal cholera infected every soil”. Famine was said to be so severe in Khorasan that the survivors were unable to bury all of the dead.

Heydari (2005) goes on to describe a long chronology of famines in regions of Persia. For example, in Isfahan, numerous famines were recorded throughout history, including: 1051, 1192, 1350, 1668, 1708, 1722, 1723, and 1752. At the national level, the 1871-72 drought resulted in a famine that is claimed to be the deadliest disaster in the last two centuries. The famine took the lives of more than 1.5 million people across Iran. Most of the subsequent famines in 1885, 1899, 1900, 1903, 1906-7, and 1918 were also reportedly caused by drought and caused great social hardships for the people in the region.”

In 2012 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published a special report called “Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation.” They take drought seriously–the word ‘drought’ occurs 717 times in the report.

In it they write “A changing climate leads to changes in the frequency, intensity, spatial extent, duration, and timing of extreme weather and climate events, and can result in unprecedented extreme weather and climate events. Changes in extremes can be linked to changes in the mean, variance, or shape of probability distributions, or all of these. Some climate extremes (e.g., droughts) may be the result of an accumulation of weather or climate events that are not extreme when considered independently.”

They continue, “Global-scale trends in a specific extreme may be either more reliable (e.g., for temperature extremes) or less reliable (e.g., for droughts) than some regional-scale trends, depending on the geographical uniformity of the trends in the specific extreme. ”

Later they write, “There is medium confidence that some regions of the world have experienced more intense and longer droughts, in particular in southern Europe and West Africa, but in some regions droughts have become less frequent, less intense, or shorter, for example, in central North America and northwestern Australia.”

“There is medium confidence that droughts will intensify in the 21st century in some seasons and areas, due to reduced precipitation and/or increased evapotranspiration. This applies to regions including southern Europe and the Mediterranean region, central Europe, central North America, Central America and Mexico, northeast Brazil, and southern Africa. Elsewhere there is overall low confidence because of inconsistent projections of drought changes (dependent both on model and dryness index). Definitional issues, lack of observational data, and the inability of models to include all the factors that influence droughts preclude stronger confidence than medium in drought projections.”

Syria is not observed to have experienced more intense or longer droughts. It is among the regions where stronger droughts are expected.

Syria’s problems stem from autocratic and opporessive government, the example of the Arab Spring that showed the possibility of political change, a doubling of population, the withdrawal of water from Turkey and ongoing religious tension.

Was drought a factor? Maybe at the margins. Was this drought caused by or intensified by climate change? It is impossible to say. Syria has had many droughts that were worse than the current one. It has had many droughts that lasted longer than the current one. Anyone who insists that anthropogenic climate change is a major factor in the Syrian civil war is using a different instrument to measure it.

dowsing1

 

 

Under The Dome

More than 100 million Chinese people watched this video before the censors took it offline.

As someone who lived and worked in China and who has reported on energy subjects for more than ten years, I can say that this video is honest, important and has the potential to change not just China, but all of the developing world.

If you’ve got the time go see it. I’m linking to the version on The Atlantic’s website because it has a good English translation and shows the whole documentary in one go.

Click here.

Impacts of Modest Global Warming

What will happen if our planet’s atmosphere warms 2 degrees Celsius during this century? I don’t know. I haven’t seen studies of warming to that extent (and I would welcome any links to studies that exist.)

global-warming-impacts

What we’ve seen is mostly media reports of what will happen if temperatures rise much higher and most of those reports are pretty over-dramatic. But a careful study of modest temperature rises would be useful–after all, even if temperatures do climb higher, they will pass through the 2C range and perhaps stay there for quite a while.

The impacts that I have seen discussed are mostly on an unspecified gradient, which may be the best climate science can do at present. At some point between temperature rises of 1C and 4C, disruptions of large scale weather phenomena, such as the monsoon cycle, are expected to occur. But we don’t know at what point.

Similarly, although CO2 helps plants to grow and to use less water, there is a drop off effect–after a certain point CO2 doesn’t help as much. At what level of warming will we see the break point for CO2?

We really haven’t seen the projected climate refugees or climate deaths so far this century, but I would tend to assume that the hiatus in global warming is at least one plausible explanation for our good fortune. But I haven’t seen a linking between specific levels of warming and deaths or conflicts. Is any warming certain to cause people to flee their homes due to drought, storm or flood? Is any warming enough to cause the next Syrian refugee crisis? Or are there threshold levels? If so, what are they?

Are impacts expected to be linear? Are there step changes? I’ve read all the IPCC reports and still don’t have an answer to any of these questions. Perhaps I read too casually. If so, again, please point out to me where I should continue my investigation.

This stuff matters.

Global Flooding Trends

Earlier this year I published my own ‘State of the Climate’ for 2014, looking at the global conditions for a variety of issues, for want of a better word, that have been projected to worsen due to climate change. The issues I previously examined were conflict deaths, overall climate deaths, climate refugees, recent trends in agricultural production, biodiversity (well, polar bear populations) and crude mortality indexes, and a look at trends for the planet’s major ice aggregations, sea level, major storms and drought. (I was unable to get to complete data sets for many of the indicators, showing some U.S. only figures and data for previous years for some categories.)

Before I turn to an examination of flooding trends, the quick summary of those previous posts is that if climate change is going to have an impact on any or all of these factors, it has not shown up yet in the data.

  • Conflict deaths have fallen by two different measures
  • The total number of refugees has risen, but they are pretty clearly conflict refugees, not climate victims
  • Polar bear populations appear to be in rude good health
  • Roger Pielke Jr. is right in saying that there is as yet no discernible climate signal in data regarding storms
  • Sea level is rising at 3 mm / year, (an increase from previous measurements of 2 mm / year. The current rate would amount to one foot of sea level rise this century if maintained
  • Arctic ice is one standard deviation below its 30 year average, while Antarctic sea ice is two standard deviations above.

However, complacency on the part of some due to this flow of encouraging news is perhaps unwarranted, as the most dangerous ‘natural disaster’ seems to be occurring more frequently and taking more lives. The region most affected is Southeast Asia.

flood-500-4

So, on to floods. As with drought, I am as yet unable to get data past 2009, so this is actually a review of part of what is called the ‘recent warming period’ that includes 14 of the 15 highest temperature years, all of which came after 2000.

Floods are the leading cause of natural disaster deaths worldwide and were responsible for 6.8 million deaths in the 20th century. Between 1980 and 2009 there were almost 540,000 deaths due to flooding. Part of the increased mortality (but certainly not all) is due to rapid population growth in areas vulnerable to flooding. Pakistan, which had severe flooding a few years ago, has grown in population from 32 million to 187 million when the flood occurred in 2010. Low lying coastal areas in SE Asia are perhaps the most vulnerable areas in the world–and that is precisely where populations have been increasing rapidly.

The Dartmouth Flood Observatory maintains a database that currently holds records for 3,704 significant floods worldwide from 1985 through August of 2010. (The DFO database provides a comprehensive list of flood events recorded by news, governmental, instrumental, and remote sensing sources from 1985 to 2009. Inclusion criteria are: significant damage to structures or agriculture, long intervals since the last similar event, or fatalities. Flooding specifically related to hurricane storm surge and tsunamis were excluded.)

The number of reported floods has increased dramatically. However, much of the increase is a statistical artifact due to increased availability of information–more floods are happening, certainly, but also more floods are being reported. I don’t want this to sound weaselly–floods are more common now than in the early 80s. But I don’t know how much more common.

Floods-figure-3-300x163

Source: http://currents.plos.org/disasters/article/the-human-impact-of-floods-a-historical-review-of-events-1980-2009-and-systematic-literature-review/

Looking at impacts for two periods–from 1985 to 2000 and from 1998 to 2009 (which is part of the period that has 14 of the warmest 15 years on record), we see:

Deaths 1985 – 1998 -246,077

Deaths 1999 -2009 – 374,324

The peak year between 1985 and 2009 for the global incidence of major floods was 2003, with 290 reported floods.

1985 – 69

1986 – 46

1987 – 46

1988 – 111

1989 – 111

1990 – 103

1991 – 124

1992 – 110

1993 – 99

1994 – 107

1995 – 110

1996 – 103

1997 – 156

1998 – 184

1999 – 101

2000 – 102

2001 – 170

2002 – 261

2003 – 290

2004 – 200

2005 – 167

2006 – 232

2007 – 244

2008 – 172

2009 – 167

 

There is a Consensus on Climate Change. There is also a Klimate Konsensus

Two reputable surveys (von Storch et al 2008 and Verheggen et al 2014) found that about 80% of scientists involved in climate science or closely related fields support a fairly narrow consensus–the obvious points being the operation of greenhouse gases and their ability to contribute a warming effect to the climate, and they agree that the recent warming period indeed had a contribution from human effects including massive emissions of greenhouse gases.

There however exists a Klimate Konsensus, a group of NGOs, social commentators and blog enthusiasts who are on a mission to elevate the importance of combatting climate change to the level of religious fervor.

Jekyll-and-Hyde-Speakoutloud.net_

The Klimate Konsensus has had little luck in alarming the public. The public agrees with the scientists about global warming–poll after poll shows this. But the public has rightly rejected the hair-pulling, screaming at the top of your lungs hysteria coming from the KK. Good for the general public!

The Klimate Konsensus is underhanded, goes for cheap shots and never admits error. They slime scientists on the other side. They insist that those in opposition are funded by fossil fuel interests. When that is shown not to be true, they change the argument and say opponents are using tactics and strategies stolen from the tobacco wars.

Consensus scientists mostly keep their mouths shut about all of this. Which shows that most scientists have good sense. They can see what has happened to the few scientists who have dared to step forward.

So, let’s offer a representative sample of Klimate Konsensus hooligans who have intruded on a scientific debate and turned the debate auditorium into a schoolyard after lunch brawl, complete with food fights.

Joe Romm of Climate Progress.

Josh Halpern, who blogs as Eli Rabett at Rabett Run.

Michael Tobis, who has returned to his blog Only In It For the Gold.

Tim Lambert of Deltoid.

In a lot of the media back and forth, there is an attempt to distinguish ‘real’ ‘sceptics’ from ‘phony’ ‘skeptics.’ That discussion is as political in nature as everything else in current discussions of climate change, adaptation and mitigation.

There are skeptics who are crazily wrong, politically motivated or who are clearly not the brightest lights in the building.

There are also Nobel prize winners, people who have spent their life advancing climate science and people who today are putting forward legitimate questions and offering reasoned objections to some of the malarkey being put out.

The real dichotomy is between the legitimate scientific consensus and a Krazy Klimate Konsensus attempting to piggyback on top of it for their own political reasons, to advance their own societal goals.

Nominate Judith Curry as the next Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change

Update: In the first 16 hours of this petition’s life, 525 signatures were obtained. The challenge from the administration is to get 100,000 signatures in 30 days, at which point they will ‘consider’ it. It’s  great progress for the first day–but there’s a long way to go. If you haven’t signed it, do so now. If you have, tell a friend. Heck, tell a fiend.

https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/nominate-judith-curry-next-chair-intergovernmental-panel-climate-change/2PYxtyQF

WE PETITION THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION TO:

Nominate Judith Curry as the next Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an organization created by the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environmental Programme, will elect a new chair this year. The post is currently being filled by an interim chair following the resignation of Rajendra Pachauri.

The United States has currently nominated Dr. Chris Field. We petition the current administration to withdraw his nomination and instead nominate Judith Curry.

Judith A. Curry is an American climatologist and former chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Her integrity, understanding of the science and related policy issues make her a better choice, for the IPCC and American interests as well.

Published Date: Mar 04, 2015

SIGNATURES NEEDED BY APRIL 03, 2015 TO REACH GOAL OF 100,000

99,999

The Brigati Verde–How To Win A Klimate Konversation.

Update: In the comments section below there is a long discussion of Cook’s 97% ‘paper’. In the comments I rely heavily on material scraped from Poptech, Jose Duarte’s blog and Andrew Montford’s critique at the GWPF. Because commenting is quick and messy, I didn’t put the sources in as religiously as I ought to have. Sorry!

Billy Connelly is a very funny comedian from the UK. He’s really good.

He has an almost namesake in the climate world, William Connolley. He’s not funny at all. He runs a blog called Stoat (a weaselly type animal–I call him the Miserablist Mustelid in honor of his title). He’s one of three veterans of the Klimate Konsensus Team, joining Michael Tobis and Eli Rabett as hard-nosed enforcers of message purity and all-out war on opponents of their religion. Where the Brigati Rossi terrorized Italy for a decade, these three are key parts of the Brigati Verde, a green brigade of blog snipers, best at vitriol and doing anything to evade the weaker parts of the very real climate consensus, a consensus they claim to support but do nothing but undermine with their tactics.

Connolley yesterday had a post up and I was commenting there. He has the nasty habit of putting his comments in the middle of yours, and the nastier habit of eliminating comments he doesn’t like. Which he has done with me…(I don’t claim to be pure in this regard–I’ve banned two commenters and removed all their comments here, although I hope I had better justification than W.C., whose initials tend to express best my opinion of him.)

Connolley in one of his precious edits applauded another commenter’s claim that I never talk about the science. So I was surprised, to say the least, when another commenter (a certain Marco) asked me to show why I have such a low opinion of John Cook’s claim that 97% of climate scientists are on the side of the Klimate Konsensus–and Connolley vanished my comment down the memory hole:

..and Then There’s Physics

2015/02/28

Matt,
You might enjoy Tom’s recent “The perils of Great Causes” post which covers Peter Gleick and Al Gore and then ends with the classic

Oh for the days when we talked about science.

[I saw that. The mocking self-irony would be poetic, were it not unknowing -W]

 

  1. Marco

    2015/03/02

    Fuller, your “error” is the result of your willingness to accept any factoid that suits your beliefs and makes a good story. For example, I am certain you will never be able to provide any evidence that “Cook did cook the books”, but it fits what you already believe to be true. Since you generally cannot prove a negative, you can also maintain your belief that “Cook did cook the books”, because it is so much more easy to believe *that*, then to accept that the people you hang around with are wrong and contemptible human beings for making such false claims without evidence.

  2. #60Tom Fuller

    Taipei

    2015/03/02

    Marco (yawn)

    https://thelukewarmersway.wordpress.com/2015/01/14/cooking-the-consensus/

    “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)

    And the comment that Connelly didn’t dare print?

    “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.

    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%.

    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.”

    So, Connolley, when you refuse to allow conversation about the data used in a peer-reviewed paper purporting to advance our understanding of climate science, you’re left–I surmise–with your toadies and a circle of jerks basically congratulating each other on the purity of your thoughts.

    Your blog’s motto is ‘Taking Science By The Throat.’ Perhaps I may speak on behalf of science and request that you quit squeezing.

Homilies and (ad) Hominems

I have recently published posts on a number of consensus ‘players': Most recently Rajendra Pachauri, accompanied by Naomi Oreskes, Jim Prall (inter alia), John Cook, Stefan Lewandowski, while earlier I wrote about Peter Gleick, Micheal Tobis and I’m sure I have criticized other members of the Klimate Konsensus within other posts.

Free press can, of course, be good or bad, but, most certainly without freedom, the press will never be anything but bad.
–Albert Camus (1913-1960) French novelist, essayist and dramatist

It would be nice to see something similar from the other side, a list of skeptical papers and skeptics, with quotes from them and quotes from those who dispute their findings and explain in a pithy paragraph why they are wrong. If climate change is the challenge of our century, surely something like this would be of use. It would at least offer the benefit of discussing science when we want to talk science and people when we want to talk people.

All of us who professionally use the mass media are the shapers of society. we can vulgarize that society. We can brutalize it. Or we can help lift it onto a higher level.
–William Bernbach, of DDB Needham Worldwide, 1989.

What I’ve found on the other side of the fence is the opposite of what I am hoping for.  DeSmogBlog maintains a database of ‘global warming deniers.’ It’s a hit list and a black list of political opponents to DeSmogBlog’s political position. It lists many scientists as climate deniers, so the overall logic of it escapes me. (“DeSmog does at least get its funding from only the highest moral authority, right? Well, wrong again. DeSmog was founded with $300,000 from its chief benefactor John Lefebvre. Lefebvre is a convicted Internet fraudster currently out on bail awaiting conviction after pleading guilty in the NETeller multi-million dollar online pay system scam”. – See more at: http://www.energytribune.com/6994/desmog-debunked#sthash.f5yk7lrw.dpuf)

But where I describe the objections I have to the people I write about, the DeSmogBlog database has entries like this, for their first victim, Arun Ahluwalia.

Stance on Climate Change

“Man indeed may be a pygmy before nature and incapable of causing or reversing a global warming or climate change. To err on the side of caution let us presume man may be contributing a minor fraction towards warming of the earth. The planet has a great resilience we must not however forget.” [3]

Key Quotes

“The IPCC has actually become a closed circuit; it doesn’t listen to others. It doesn’t have open minds… I am really amazed that the Nobel Peace Prize has been given on scientifically incorrect conclusions by people who are not geologists.” [4], [11]

Note that this quotation may have been used out of context to make Ahluwalia’s position more skeptical, as in his original speech (see here, beginning at 21:20) he mentions that we should remain “on the side of caution” with regards to the potential for climate change. [5], [6]

Pretty thin gruel as a base for equating a scientist with skinhead thugs who deny the Holocaust occurred. Especially one who has 29 published and peer-reviewed papers and 3 books to his credit.

Since the Klimate Konsensus (very different from the group that forms a consensus on climate science, the first group being wild-eyed alarmist thugs bent on stifling discussion, the second being the sober scientists trying to understand more about our climate and our effects upon it) have spent the better part of a week trying to cover up Rajendra Pachauri’s problems by hyperventilating about Willie Soon’s funding issues, I am curious if there does exist a list of people on the skeptic side who really have had their work investigated and, for want of a better word, ‘debunked.’  I have seen individual criticisms of individual papers, such as Lindzen’s ‘Iris Theory’, but is there a credible list from a credible source? (DeSmogBlog is apparently paid propaganda–if you object to Marc Morano, you should object equally to DeSmogBlog.)

I’ve written before that I would expect the level of skeptical science to be below that of the Consensus (not Konsensus–most of their work is pathetic). Mostly that’s because I broadly agree with the Consensus and the areas where skepticism can power investigatory research are not amenable to effective publications at this time.

The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.
— Thomas Jefferson
letter to Edward Carrington, 1787.

But I don’t recall seeing a compendium of criticism of failed papers. Can anyone help me on that?

Monsieur l’abbé, I detest what you write, but I would give my life to make it possible for you to continue to write.”
–Voltaire
letter to M. le Riche, 6 February 1770, cited in A Book of French Quotations (1963),

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?