Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Dangerous Rise of Carbon Fundamentalism

The article below from a Greenie source makes an excellent point but is wrong in one respect -- in saying that there are few scientists left who deny anthropogenic climate change completely. There are hundreds of them and more shifting to the skeptical camp almost daily

* A professor writing in the Medical Journal of Australia calls on the Australian government to impose a carbon charge of $5,000 on every birth, annual carbon fees of $800 per child and provide a carbon credit for sterilization.

* Another recent article in the New Scientist suggests that the problem with obesity is the additional carbon load it imposes on the environment; others that a major social cost of divorce is the additional carbon burden resulting from splitting up families.

* A recent study from the Swedish Ministry of Sustainable Development argues that males have a disproportionately larger impact on global warming ("women cause considerably fewer carbon dioxide emissions than men and thus considerably less climate change").

* The Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change states that those who suggest that climate change is not a catastrophic challenge are no different than Hitler (he now claims that his words were taken out of context, but the reporter who conducted the interview, Lars From, stands by it).

* E. O. Wilson calls such people parasites. Boston Globe columnist Ellen Goodman writes that "global warming deniers are now on a par with Holocaust deniers."

There are always fringe articles and unfortunate comments in areas of active public debate. But the sheer volume of articles, the vicious language and the retranslation of so many social and cultural trends -- divorce, obesity, gender conflict and much else -- into terms of carbon footprint suggests that something more fundamental is going on. Most obviously, the extreme language -- comparing academics who disagree about interpretation of data to Hitler or to Holocaust deniers -- is indicative of a profound if subtle reframing of climate change. One does not debate Hitler: the use of such language indicates a shift from helping the public and policymakers understand a complex issue, to demonizing disagreement, especially regarding policies favored by the scientific community.

The data driven and exploratory processes of science are choked off by inculcation of belief systems that rely on archetypal and emotive strength. Importantly, the extreme language is directed not against those who deny anthropogenic climate change completely, for there are few of those left (a credit to the traditional scientific debate process while it still existed in this area), but those who, while accepting the existence of the phenomenon, do not believe it is an existential and immediate crisis.

The authority of science is relied on not for factual enlightenment but as ideological foundation for authoritarian policy prescriptions which might otherwise be difficult to implement. This is reinforced by the number of articles, some verging on self-parody, that redefine more and more social and cultural phenomena in terms of carbon footprint.

It is not that each assertion may be wrong; indeed, since life at base is creating order, it is not surprising that changes in individual, social and institutional networks will have concomitant implications for coupled natural systems -- especially energy and material consumption and thus the carbon cycle.

Defining complex human behaviors and states, such as obesity or having children, in terms of carbon footprint, however, enables a new structure of good and evil to be imposed on society. Obesity is now morally questionable not for health reasons or Calvinist theology, but because it is evil in that you are destroying the world through your carbon footprint-generating gluttony. A complex public health problem is nicely converted into a simplistic moral mapping. Similarly, the Swedish article uses climate change to reinvent the ecofeminist condemnation of males as evil destroyers of the environment (the New Scientist lead on the news item read "Male eco-villians").

The campaign to create a moral universe predicated on carbon footprint, which began with anti-SUV initiatives, is now extending across society as a whole. Climate change science and policy is rapidly becoming carbon fundamentalism, an over-simplistic but comprehensive structure of moral valuation that can be applied to virtually any individual or institution. As the IPCC Nobel Peace Prize and perusal of journals reveals, many scientists are active participants in this process.

But fundamentalism of any stripe is dangerous because it oversimplifies complex problems and because it facilitates "good" versus "evil" framing that cuts off dialog and thus tends to be profoundly anti-democratic, anti-intellectual, anti-rational -- and anti-scientific.

Because science is for many people an important source of information, guidance and truth, in the short run it can provide substantial authority for carbon fundamentalism. Converting science into an authoritarian belief system is, however, dangerous not just to those whom it demonizes but, eventually, to the health of the institution itself.


Is climatology a pseudoscience?

By climate statistician Dr. William M. Briggs, who specializes in the statistics of forecast evaluation, serves on the American Meteorological Society's Probability and Statistics Committee and is an Associate Editor of Monthly Weather Review.

The short answer, I will disappoint many of you by saying, is no. Like I wrote before, climatologists are generally nice people genuinely struggling with understanding the immense complexities of the oceanic-atmospheric (and space!) system. It might be that many of them are misleading themselves by custom tailoring models to show them what they expect (or desire?) to see, but this has not reached a level where it is done with intent. Most mistakes that are made are honest ones. And it is also true that much has been learned while examining climate models. Still, while scientists are in general noble creatures, there does exists the possibility of them sliding into the abyss.

So suppose, if you are able, that significant man-made climate change is false; further, that it cannot happen, and that all changes to the climate system are due to external forcings, such as those caused by changes in solar output. Just suppose all this is true for the sake of argument.

Now put yourself in the place of a climatologist, one of the many hundreds, in fact, who was involved with the IPCC and so shared in that great validator, the Nobel Peace Prize*. You have spent a career devoted to showing that mankind, through various forms of naughtiness, has significantly influenced the climate, and has caused temperatures to grow out of control. Your team, at a major university, has built and contributed to various global climate models. Graduate students have worked on these models. Team members have traveled the world and lectured on their results. Many, many papers were written about their output, and so forth.

But something has gone wrong. The actual temperature, predicted to go up and up, has not cooperated and has instead stayed the same and even has gone down. What do to? Let's take a "What would a scientist do" quiz and find out. Your model has predicted that temperatures will go up because CO2 has, but unfortunately temperatures have gone down. Do you:

1. Abandon the model and seek a new career

2. Discover where the model went wrong; publish results admitting why and how you were wrong

3. Sit and wait: after all, the temperature is bound to increase sooner or later, hence validating your model

4. Believe that the model cannot be wrong, else so many people wouldn't believe it, and so posit some new source that is "holding back" warming, and only if that new source weren't there, your model would be perfect.

The correct answer, it should go without saying, is (2), though (1) is not a horrible option for the shy, but it is really only open for beginning graduate students or professors reaching emeritus status. And if you do go for (2), as you should, option (1) naturally follows from it. (I must remind you here that significant man-made global influence is an impossibility by assumption.)

Would anybody opt for (3)? Certainly, because it's the easiest thing to do, though not as many as you would think will go this route mostly because it would be too difficult to answer critics with a "Just wait and see!"

The slide begins with choosing (4). Nobody would, or should, abandon a well-developed model because an observation or two is not consonant with that model. Some time has to pass for enough failed predictions to mount up. How much time? That's always difficult to tell. If the best climate models over-predict global temperature for a year, this is not cause for concern. For two years, no big deal. Even three to five years would not cause undue suspicion. But more than that, then something has gone wrong.

That is the state of the art today: climate models regularly over-predict temperatures; certainly the IPCC "scenarios" are too high, and they have been for more than five years. No climate scientist yet has gone to the quiz and opted for answers (1) or (2); several, of course, have opted for (3), saying five to ten years isn't enough and that "more time" is needed. Nobody, that I know of, has said how much more time.

Has anybody gone for answer (4)? Yes. Already we are seeing papers-peer-reviewed, to be sure-that posit sources that are "masking" the true warming. So far, these papers are concentrate on aerosols, which are particles, caused by mankind naturally, that can, through various mechanisms, block incoming solar radiation and lead to cooling. Aerosol cooling only gets you so far, however, because aerosols are heavy, short-lived particles whose effects are actually easy to measure. So if models continue to over-predict, even after accounting for aerosols, some other source that "masks true warming" will have to be found.

Bob Park, physicist and resident curmudgeon at the American Physical Society, writes regularly on pseudo-science, and has identified "The Seven Warning Signs of Bogus Science." Not all of these signs now apply to climatology, but number [3], "The scientific effect involved is always at the very limit of detection" is most relevant.

Since we haven't detected the predicted warming, it must be masked or otherwise held up by something. Aerosols were one source, but an inadequate one, so another is needed. What will this source be? Of course, we cannot know for certain, but I can guess, though I blush when I do so: I predict it will be statistics.

Yes, it will not be long before we begin to hear arguments like the following: "The predicted warming cannot, of course, be detected with the naked eye. You have to use our extra-special statistical model which accounts for various factors and which shows a statistically significant warming has indeed taken place, thus our models are accurate. Oh, yes, we have a low p-value, too." These models will, in the course of things, be criticized, then modified to become more complex and opaque, but they will always lead to the same conclusion: the models, though they appear wrong, are actually right.

Not all climatologists will fall prey to these temptations; many or most will modify their models, will see that mankind is not as much trouble as originally thought, and move on to explaining, for example, the Indian monsoon. But others, because they cannot admit to being wrong or because they want it to be true, will stay the course and claim that only they and their models can detect the true warming. Here is where Park's six other signs will be found. These scientists will [1] pitch their "claim directly to the media" and say [2] "that a powerful establishment [big oil] is trying to suppress his or her work." They will [6] work "in isolation", and offer [4] "anecdotal evidence" in the form of temperature anomalies from select locations. They will claim that it was [5] always known that mankind has a harmful effect on the environment and they will propose [7] ever more complicated "new laws of nature to explain" the apparent lack of warming. And it will be at that point that climatology becomes a pseudo-science.

Don't laugh, because this sort of thing happens all the time. Some readers will be old enough to remember when paranormal research was the rage in the early 1970s. Peer-reviewed papers appeared on the subject, even in prestigious journals like Science. Just around the corner, mankind would be able harness untold power by just using his mind. Goats, for example, could be killed just by staring at them (yes, really). It was an exciting time. Early on in the work, it was obvious that man only used 10% of his brain, and that psychic events were real. Experiments were run, but most failed. New experiments, toning down the original claims were run, but these failed too. Various physical and biological mechanisms to explain psychic abilities were proposed, but none could be validated.

Test after test failed, until the number of failures was so huge that, by the mid-1980s, most people wised up and left the field. But not all did. Some claimed, through the use of "sophisticated" statistics, to find the signal that nobody else could see. Most of these statistical methods were poorly or improperly executed, and to those of us who know something about these statistical models, it was obvious that paranormal researchers were just fooling themselves (I wrote a book on this topic).

So did the parapsychologists take the scientist quiz and opt for number (2), admit they were wrong, say so, and then move on? Do I even need to answer? The idea, the allure and promise, of paranormal powers are just too powerful for some people to fight against, and so they seek patches to the theory instead of pitching it. Psychic abilities just have to be real, and it is this desire instead of empirical observations that drives current research (such as it is).

We are only just starting to see parallels with parapsychology and climatology, the most prominent now is model patching. Of course, it might turn out mankind really does significantly influence climate, so the fact the we now see model patching is not proof that mankind has no influence. But it should give us pause and should lead us to examine, in a systematic way, the deviation of model forecasts from actual observations. And remember the old saying, there's nobody so easy to fool as yourself.

*No Arafat jokes, please


Morano has another shot at the egotistical Pierrehumbert of

I am surprised you are still engaging in your smear campaign after the embarrassment of having your tactics so well exposed at the hands of the non-scientist Alexander Cockburn. But I guess you are still hopeful that one of your voluminous critiques will actually have an impact.

Your tiresome and predictable "swift-boating" of atmospheric scientist William R. Kininmonth follows your same failed critique methods. You reject Kininmonth as "unqualified" to have an opinion on man-made climate fears because he does not meet your arbitrary rule that "peer-review" is the "sole" means of determining whether a scientist is "qualified."

Maybe Kininmonth was too busy heading working as Australia's National Climate Centre chief or too busy coordinating the scientific and technical review of the El Nino event for the World Meteorological Organization to meet your criteria to be "qualified." Perhaps Kininmonth should have consulted with you first to find out what "rules" he needed to follow and what criteria he needed to meet to be "qualified" to hold an opinion on climate change.

You set all the rules of the game, serve as sole judge of which scientist is and is not "qualified," based only on your criteria, and then you declare victory. I am happy for you that you feel your critiques are "winning." I would be alarmed if you felt you were losing, given that you control the rules of YOUR game.

It must be frustrating for you. When faced with a Senate report featuring well over eight times the number of scientists who participated in the UN IPCC Summary for Policymakers, you have no option but to invent any means necessary to besmirch the skeptical scientists and their reputations. Alas, until you spend time analyzing the UN IPCC scientists' credentials with the same zeal and criteria, you will just be continuing your selective "research."

As previously requested, please take some time and really try to find an effective way to challenge the Senate report of 400-plus skeptical scientists (and growing - well over 450 now). After the years you have spent invested in activism on this issue, you owe it to yourself to craft critiques with more impact. I leave you again with Cockburn's dead-on critique of your tactics. Enjoy!

Cockburn Excerpt: Since I started writing essays challenging the global warming consensus, and seeking to put forward critical alternative arguments, I have felt almost witch-hunted. There has been an hysterical reaction. There was a shocking intensity to their self-righteous fury, as if I had transgressed a moral as well as an intellectual boundary and committed blasphemy. I really feel that; it is remarkable how quickly the hysterical reaction takes hold and rains down upon those who question the consensus. End Excerpt.

For Cockburn's full essay see here. By all means, continue with your little "qualification" games, Mr. Pierrehumbert. All I ask is that as you continue (in the words of Cockburn) to "witch-hunt" scientists please don't run for cover when your tactics are so easily stripped bare.

Source (Comment 415)

Global Warming Hoax, Just How Crazy Is Al Gore?

Just how crazy is Al Gore? That was the question that popped, once again, into my brain as I read a January 24 Agence France Press news story out of the Davos meeting of business and political elite. Gore asserted that, "the North Pole ice caps may disappear entirely during summer months within five years." I was instantly reminded of the story that ran in The New York Times in August 2000 claiming that the Pole was free of ice for the first time in 50 million years. It wasn't, of course, because people who have actually been to the Arctic quickly noted that, in the summer, some ice actually does melt there. The Times retracted it three weeks later.

This kind of apocalyptic nonsense has been ratcheting upward ever since the new century began and my theory is that lunatics like Al Gore know that they are running out of time when it comes to imposing draconian restrictions on the use of every form of energy known to mankind. This is the purpose of the global warming hoax.

The Times later published another story about Arctic ice loss, adding the equally bogus issue of polar bears dying as the result. Currently, Greens are trying to get polar bears declared an "endangered species" in order to close off all of Alaska to any exploration or the extraction of the billions of barrels of oil known to exist there. The problem with this latest ploy is that the polar bear population has risen from approximately 5,000 in 1950 to around 25,000 today as documented by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It is the same agency being asked to declare the bears endangered and, for good measure, a species of loon as well.

Speaking of loons, Gore has been spewing forth his insane forecasts since the early 1990s during which time he published "Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit." In fact, Gore blames everything that happens on Earth or in its atmosphere on humans. "Human civilization is now the dominant cause of change in the global environment."

This must surely come as news to people who pursue volcanic, oceanic, solar, and atmospheric sciences. Then there are all those large and small earthquakes going on as tectonic plates shift. What have I left out? Oh, yes. There's the tsunami in the Indian Ocean that devastated islands and parts of the mainland.

How about Hurricanes like Andrew and Katrina that rearranged the landscape enough to destroy big chunks of the human communities on it? Forest fires, anyone? Ask any Californian about them and, while you're at it, ask about the mudslides, and.well, you get the picture. These are not man-made phenomena.

Back in 2000 when the global warming folks were getting into high gear to further their theory, Dr. S. Fred Singer, an atmospheric physicist and Professor Emeritus of Environmental Sciences at the University of Virginia, paused to pen a commentary for The Wall Street Journal. Responding to The New York Times fantasy of a melting North Pole, Dr. Singer asked, "Do we believe theoretical models of the atmosphere or the atmosphere itself?"

He might as well have asked, do we believe the bloviations of Al Gore or do we take note of his lifestyle that includes a house large enough to burn through more energy than twenty average homes, the use of private jets and limousines, or any other aspect of his life that suggests he is not into bicycles or walking.

Dr. Singer stated that "It is warmer now than it was 100 years ago" at the end of the last mini-Ice Age and that "This has had an influence on polar ice, which has been slowly thinning, as it melts from beneath. And the ice will continue to thin for some time to come even though the climate is no longer warming. Moral: It takes a lot of time to melt ice."

No longer warming? Yes, that's another inconvenient truth that Al Gore ignores. When you add in the fact that the earth is at the end of a well-known interglacial cycle of 11,500 years, large portions of the planet are likely to get a lot cooler with the advent of a new Ice Age. Then Al Gore will not have to worry about a barren, rocky, ice-free North Pole. He will have to worry about a huge new glacier headed for Tennessee.


Australian government again told by adviser to relax greenhouse cuts

The Rudd Government will have to abandon plans for rigid interim targets for greenhouse gas cuts to allow its emissions-trading scheme to work properly, a senior economist has said. Warwick McKibbin, whose economic models on climate change are being used by Treasury to calculate the costs involved, yesterday added his voice to concerns that mandating a specific cut for 2020 could lift the cost of tackling global warming. "That's the problem with politicians who make promises that can't be sustained," Professor McKibbin said. "I think the Government will realise they can still be credible enough, even if they drop a few things."

Kevin Rudd has said Australia needs interim targets for emissions cuts, beyond its existing pledge to reduce greenhouse emissions by 60 per cent by 2050. The Prime Minister commissioned Australian National University economist Ross Garnaut to advise the Government on how the targets should be set. Professor Garnaut suggested yesterday it would be more efficient to use targets as a guide for allocating carbon permits, rather than as exact and enforceable cuts for specific years.

Professor McKibbin agrees, saying business should in some years be allowed to exceed the target for emissions. "It can't be all or nothing," he said. "There has to be a balance between the environmental benefit and the economic costs, and that's what's missing."

However, a spokesman for Climate Change Minister Penny Wong said the Government would not abandon its election commitment on targets. "The Government expects (Professor Garnaut) will raise a number of interesting questions and ideas for consideration," Senator Wong's spokesman said. "Of course, given Professor Garnaut is independent, his ideas may not necessarily reflect government thinking."

WWF climate program director Paul Toni warned that some companies would risk doing nothing to cut emissions if there were no binding interim targets, in the hope they could lobby future governments to soften the rules later. "Instead of the crunch coming in 10 years or five years, there will be some industries that will be asking for further support and will be able to exert pressure," Mr Toni said. "It will just postpone rent-seeking to a date further in the future." Australian Industry Greenhouse Network chief executive John Daley said he favoured less government interference and more market freedom in an emissions-trading system.

More here


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