Sunday, February 03, 2008

Greenies attack a scientific conference

There are all sorts of conferences with all sorts of purposes and the Heartland Institute is arranging a conference called "The 2008 International Conference on Climate Change" in New York. The purpose of the conference is to highlight the fact that there is a variety of views on climate change among scientists -- and to debate and discuss those views. And the Greenies seem to be afraid to participate -- knowing of course how many holes and frail assumptions there are in their arguments.

So The Greenie "Real Climate" site has slammed the conference by saying that it is not a routine general meeting for members of a scientific discipline but rather a more publicly available talking shop. It appears that according to them there is only one sort of conference! They also quite plainly imply that scientists who do not agree with them are not real scientists! A nice little circular argument implied there, I think. Below is the response (Comment 47) by James M. Taylor of the Heartland Institute to the Greenie article:
The anonymously authored Real Climate article above is a disappointing smear job - i.e., you have nothing to say substantively, so you attempt to smear your intellectual opponents. Many of the world's leading climate scientists from some of the world's most prestigious universities will be giving presentations. Rather than behaving like children and throwing mud at them, perhaps you might behave like adults and discuss the science. Of course, that will never happen because open and honest debate is what you fear most.

I never thought I would see the day when scientific debate and inquiry, conducted by some of the most credentialed scientists in the world, would be considered a bad thing. But that is what happens when people are afraid of the truth.

Al Gore in one day rakes in more honorarium money than all of our speakers combined. Nevertheless, we have offered to pay his usual honorarium to speak at our conference, but have not heard back from Mr. Gore. We have invited Real Climate's Michael Mann to come and speak at our conference, but Mr. Mann also has failed to respond to our invitation.

Unlike Real Climate, we do not attempt to stifle scientific inquiry. Instead, we encourage it. We are equal opportunity investigators of science. As the Real Climate article above notes, we have invited many members of Real Climate to come and give presentations. It is odd that Real Climate is invited to discuss the science in a professional, scholarly environment, yet throws stones from afar, where they do not have to subject their claims to scientific scrutiny.

Perhaps Real Climate will abandon their fear of public discourse, and will reconsider their decision to decline our invitation to speak at the conference. After all, isn't honest and open scientific discussion a good thing? Please send me an email at and, as my prior emails indicate, I would be happy to add you to our conference lineup.

Real Climate's Gavin Schmidt replied:
The level of chutzpah in your comment is breathtaking. Our 'substantive' additions to the scientific knowledge is well attested to by our publications in the peer reviewed literature and is subject to scientific scrutiny every day. I will even venture to make a prediction that the number of peer-reviewed papers on climate science we have collectively authored in the last 5 years will be substantially more than all of your speakers put together. Honest and open scientific discussion is greatly to be wished for, and in fact, happens all the time. I don't recall ever bumping into you at a real conference (AGU/AMS/EGU), but should you ever go, you'll see it how it works first hand. Your institute plays no role in that because your approach is the anti-thesis of scientific inquiry - your conclusions have been decided before you look at the evidence. When you decide to stop abusing the scientific process for political gain, then perhaps we can talk.

In saying: "Your conclusions have been decided before you look at the evidence" Schmidt is in fact of course describing the Greenie procedure. Good ol' Green/Left "projection" again. And getting papers published in journals where the editors and referees agree with you is both a doddle and no proof of anything. It is exposure to people who DISAGREE with you that is the real test and the Greenie scientists will not be in that. James Taylor further emailed Marc Morano as follows:
I would really prefer to keep the conversation with them constructive and professional, but the nasty, unprovoked, ad hominem attack they posted on their website against scientists who disagree with them was simply uncalled for.

By the way, I attempted to post a follow-up comment on their blog, but they have cut me off and refuse to post my comments. How typical of their tactics! If they are going to have a "closed" blog that does not allow dissent, they should at least be intellectually honest enough to identify it as such. Seeing as Gavin and company refuse to post comments from people who disagree with them, I will share my attempted post with you:
Gavin, I am disappointed, though not surprised, that you and your Real Climate fellow activists have refused our invitation to speak at the climate change conference (see 47, above). I can make a pretty good guess as to why. Less than a year ago, on March 14, 2007, Real Climate's Gavin Schmidt and two other global warming alarmists debated global warming against three skeptical scientists in front of the prestigious Intelligence Squared debating society in New York City. A poll of audience members prior to the debate found that the audience believed by a 2-to-1 margin (57 percent to 29 percent) that global warming is a crisis. After a lengthy debate in which all panelists had a chance to present their evidence and answer follow-up questions, the audience voted by a 46 to 42 percent margin that global warming is NOT a crisis.

Better for Real Climate activists to remain in your self-contained blogosphere and classlessly sling mud than to run the risk of another public embarrassment in a fair and honest scientific debate, right Gavin?

Another correspondent writes:
In my opinion, intelligence is a necessary part of a scientist's innate equipment, but intelligence alone is insufficient. Insight and character count too, for without them a scientist lacks judgment, the absence of which will eventuate in self-deception. Bad character leads to worse, until it undermines and defeats intelligence. I offer Gavin Schmidt as evidence for the validity of my opinion.

I might finally note that the Leftist "Think Progress" site has also weighed in with typical intellectual depth. They seem to feel that they have uttered a damning indictment by trotting out their usual boilerplate that the conference is funded by "Big oil". Getting the Green/Left to rise above ad hominem smears and actually debate the issues really is a Herculean task!

I also reproduce below theoretical physicist Lubos Motl's scathing comment on the matter:

Heartland Institute vs RealClimate

(Comment by Lubos Motl)

The Heartland Institute organizes a climate conference in March that is, unlike the conferences that you usually hear about in the media, open to climate skeptics and experts regardless of their political opinions or overall sentiments about the relationship between Nature and the human civilization. The organizers have sent invitations to many kinds of climate experts, including some of the well-known champions of the climate alarm. These invitations have provoked a hysterical reaction at RealClimate.ORG.

The profoundly concerned scientists describe all the scientists who will attend - before they actually know who they are - as being corrupt by the "evil" oil industry, not being scientists at all, as people being paid concrete amounts of money to fabricate papers and talks, and so on. Their talks are described as "tobacco science". RealClimate.ORG even recommends their readers conspiracy theories from two hardcore smear ecoNazi websites, ExxonSecrets.ORG and SourceWatch.ORG, that pre-emptively throw mud at very concrete people who might (or might not) attend.

What about the remaining 450 scientists at the updated Inhofe's list? Are the environmentalist whackos fast enough to create a similar Goebbelsian web page about every scientist who says the obvious, namely that the dangerous global warming orthodoxy is a hoax? Do they actually believe that they can eliminate the opposition as completely and effectively as NSDAP did without actually having police and other arms under its control?

The RealClimate "group" explains that the participants are not scientists at all - before they actually know who is attending - and they encourage the participants to skip the talks and enjoy a nice hotel in New York instead. They wouldn't hear any science at all, so it is important that the participants can't hear the talks...

Their smear job is so blatant, hateful, and inconsistent with any kind of a reasonable, balanced, open-minded, or scientific analysis of a question that I can't really believe that there exist people who are intelligent enough to learn how to read but moronic enough to be influenced by this incredibly cheap propagandistic porn.

The Heartland Institute conference is clearly not designed as a cutting edge conference that is expected to lead to some revolutionary scientific results. No truly groundbreaking discoveries have been made in climate science for many decades and it is unlikely that some of them will occur in a foreseeable future. Climate is just too messy and there are too many moderately important small insights about it. On the other hand, there are scientists - such as Richard Lindzen, Roy Spencer, Henrik Svensmark, and numerous others - who understand the climate much better than most people, including many active participants of the "climate debate", and who have a lot of things to teach others.

The real problem here is a political one - there exist powerful forces that don't want other people to learn what is actually known about the climate, not even some of the basic results and numbers. There exist organizations and their ad hoc unions that prefer constant lies to be promoted by the media and myths to thrive among ordinary people.

They have certain reasons to make people believe that the temperature of the second millenium looked like a hockey stick - even five years after the papers were shown to be bunk and their main author a crackpot in statistics. They want everyone to believe that the carbon dioxide was driving temperature during the ice ages and interglacials - many years after it became absolutely clear that the causal relation behind the correlation goes in the opposite direction.

They want everyone to believe that small changes of the temperature can exterminate polar bears and other species even though the actual scientific evidence shows that it can't, that the Solar activity doesn't have any impact on the terrestrial climate even though there is extensive evidence that it does, that small warming creates catastrophic hurricanes even though all links of this type have been shown erroneous. They want everyone to believe that there is a scientific consensus about this scientific discipline and this consensus can settle the debate and justify arbitrarily oversimplified conclusions - even though there is clearly no consensus and even if there existed one, it wouldn't mean anything and it would certainly not justify any oversimplification.

Indeed, the official goal of the organizers of the conference is a political one - to inform the world about the real state of affairs, namely that many qualified experts who have carefully thought about these questions simply disagree with the global warming orthodoxy. Individual participants may have purer (or, on the contrary, more material) reasons to attend. At all conferences, it is always like that, to one extent or another, and the "group" is simply not saying the truth if they pretend that pure scientific curiosity is behind all of their conferences. But I think that it is good that the Heartland organizers honestly state what is their goal because the goal of analogous alarmist conferences is also political (while many of their attendees have material reasons to attend) but this fact is being routinely obscured.

There is another difference that RealClimate.ORG points out: that the preferred speakers are recommended by the organizers or sponsors while it is usually a scientific committee that does it at "ordinary" conferences. Unlike RealClimate.ORG, I am not so sure which of these two arrangements is superior.

I have learnt a great deal about the work in committees - most of them were impotent, constantly stuck bodies composed of people driven by their extremely narrow-minded personal interests and desire to look politically correct and coincide with whatever opinion is felt to be dominant according to the wind that is just blowing right now. Whenever the question was whether an adjacent discipline would be allowed an extra funding or job, the dominant argument was always the pockets of the participants. 90% of the arguments offered at certain committees' meetings were driven either by material interests of participants or the creation of their fake "nice" image.

Yes, with these memories in mind, I would probably prefer a semi-informed CEO of ExxonMobil to make the choice but I am not sure whether he or she is actually the person who will do it. ;-) In fact, I doubt it.

At any rate, I recommend all big shots and medium shots ;-) regardless of their position within the environmentally political spectrum to attend, learn a lot, and teach others - climate realists and climate alarmists alike - a lot.


Sun's low magnetic activity may portend an ice age

The Canadian Space Agency's radio telescope has been reporting Flux Density Values so low they will mean a mini ice age if they continue.

Like the number of sunspots, the Flux Density Values reflect the Sun's magnetic activity, which affects the rate at which the Sun radiates energy and warmth. CSA project director Ken Tapping calls the radio telescope that supplies NASA and the rest of the world with daily values of the Sun's magnetic activity a "stethoscope on the Sun". In this case, however, it is the "doctor" whose health is directly affected by the readings.

This is because when the magnetic activity is low, the Sun is dimmer, and puts out less radiant warmth. If the Sun goes into dim mode, as it has in the past, the Earth gets much colder.

Tapping, who was originally from Kent, says that "Typically as you go through the ten or eleven year solar activity cycle you see the numbers go up or down. The lowest number is 64 or 68. The numbers 71 or 72 are very low, but they usually start to go up. We are at the end of a cycle, but the numbers still haven't gone up. We have been joking around coffee that we may be seeing the Sun about to shut down." (To date Tapping has been far more concerned about global warming.)

According to NASA, "early, well-documented records indicate that the Sun went through a period of inactivity in the late 17th century" from about 1645 to 1715, during the Maunder Minimum.

"This period of solar inactivity also corresponds to a climatic period called the Little Ice Age when rivers that are normally ice-free froze and snow fields remained year-round at lower altitudes." It was called the Maunder Minimum, after Edward Maunder, a British accountant who saw a sunspot "like a tack in the Sun" while he was walking home, and subsequently made counting and analyzing sunspots, rather than money, his life's work. There have been other Minimums. The Dalton Minimum of 1800 to 1810 was that period when Napoleon had his unfortunate encounter with the Russian winter.

If the Sun's magnetic activity does not increase, and it goes dim for an extended period, it will get quite chilly. In the meantime the Canada Space Agency, the Royal Observatory Greenwich and the US Air Force Solar Optical Observing Network are all keeping an eye on the Sun.


Republicans critical of carbon offset purchases by Congress -- calling them "snake oil"

Top Republicans have called for an investigation into the recent purchase of carbon offsets, which were part of the Democratic leadership's "Green the Capitol" initiative. In a letter sent Thursday, Reps. Joe Barton (R-Texas) and John Shimkus (R-Ill.) asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to look into "questionable purchases of carbon offsets" reported this week in The Washington Post.

Republicans are criticizing the venture, which paid farms in the Midwest $89,000 to take steps to reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere and was intended to compensate for the possible pollution that members of Congress contribute to the environment. Thursday's letter was the second request sent this month to GAO Comptroller General David Walker regarding the carbon offsets purchases from Barton, the ranking member on the Energy and Commerce Committee, and Shimkus, ranking member on the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee. "The investigation should look at relevant spending authorities, financial controls, and related due-diligence behind the purchases, and whether this taxpayer outlay will actually reduce greenhouse emissions," they said in the letter....

The congressmen's first letter this month, sent on Jan. 14, called the relatively new field of purchasing carbon offsets "good faith transactions," saying there are "no proven safeguard(s)" to make sure offset companies, like the Chicago Climate Exchange that the House used, fulfill their promises. "We don't want carbon offsets to become the 21st century version of snake oil and patent medicine," Barton and Shimkus wrote.


Pachauri on Recent Climate Trends

Pielke could have added to his comment below that if the 8 years of recent global temperature stability is too small a slice of time to justify reliable generalizations, the roughly two decades of warming in the late 20th century is also too short a time-period to tell us anything. Yet it is that period which the Greenies have repeatedly hung their hat on.

Last week scientists at the Real Climate blog gave their confirmation bias synapses a workout by explaining that eight years of climate data is meaningless, and people who pay any attention to recent climate trends are "misguided." I certainly agree that we should exhibit cautiousness in interpreting short-duration observations, nonetheless we should always be trying to explain (rather than simply discount) observational evidence to avoid the trap of confirmation bias.

So it was interesting to see IPCC Chairman Rajendra Pachauri exhibit "misguided" behavior when he expressed some surprise about recent climate trends in The Guardian:
Rajendra Pachauri, the head of the U.N. Panel that shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, said he would look into the apparent temperature plateau so far this century. "One would really have to see on the basis of some analysis what this really represents," he told Reuters, adding "are there natural factors compensating?" for increases in greenhouse gases from human activities.

He added that sceptics about a human role in climate change delighted in hints that temperatures might not be rising. "There are some people who would want to find every single excuse to say that this is all hogwash," he said.

Ironically, by suggesting that their might be some significance to recent climate trends, Dr. Pachauri has provided ammunition to those very same skeptics that he disparages. Perhaps Real Climate will explain how misguided he is, but somehow I doubt it.

For the record, I accept the conclusions of IPCC Working Group I. I don't know how to interpret climate observations of the early 21st century, but believe that there are currently multiple valid hypotheses. I also think that we can best avoid confirmation bias, and other cognitive traps, by making explicit predictions of the future and testing them against experience. The climate community, or at least its activist wing, studiously avoids forecast verification. It just goes to show, confirmation bias is more a more comfortable state than dissonance -- and that goes for people on all sides of the climate debate.



Civil wars to a significant extent

It is ironic that Europe, which likes to think of itself as the center of environmental correctness and the green revolution, should now be the scene of a sharp political struggle over its ambitious emissions targets. Indeed, few EU proposals have aroused quite such a chorus of complaint and derision. "This is a historic plan to make Europe the first economy on the post-carbon age," EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso told the European Parliament.

The EU is to require its 27 member states to cut their greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by the year 2020, to ensure that 20 percent of its energy comes from renewable resources like wind and solar. The EU also aims to have biofuels power at least 10 percent of its transport. There will also be a bolstered Emissions Trading Scheme, in which the right to pollute will be auctioned. And if the world's big polluters like the United States and China do not join in, then the EU may either give these emissions trading rights free to European firms, or even apply special "green" tariffs to "dirty" imports.

The predictable results included a strike among Belgian steelworkers, protests from politicians in almost every EU country, storms in the media, angry threats from Washington and other countries, and -- less predictably -- anger from environmental groups.

Europe's Greens pointed out that biofuels may not be the blessing the EU thought it would be. Biofuels can raise food prices by taking up arable land and encourage deforestation. It also seems that when the carbon emissions of the fertilizers and tractors and soil-turning are all included, biofuels can be just as polluting as gasoline. "Most biofuels now appear to be worse for the climate than oil," said Friends of the Earth Europe's Sonja Meister. "The European Commission's failure to act on the many warnings is shockingly irresponsible," said Corporate Europe Observatory spokeswoman Nina Holland.

The Belgian steel workers were equally blunt. "You could call this the first carbon dioxide industrial action," said Fabrice Jacquemart, a spokesman for the FGTB union. "There is something utterly absurd about a policy that creates more unemployment in Europe."

The EU announcement came as Jeroen van der Veer, chief executive officer of Shell Oil, released the startling warning that "the world's current predicament limits our room to maneuver. We are experiencing a step-change in the growth rate of energy demand due to rising population and economic development. After 2015, easily accessible supplies of oil and gas probably will no longer keep up with demand."

These are the opening shots in what will be a long war, as the world fails or succeeds over the course of this century in surmounting the threat of global warming. Barroso claimed these measures would cost less than $100 billion a year, or about 0.5 percent of the EU's gross domestic product. As insurance, he claimed, this was cheap at the price, and the cost of inaction would be many times higher.

That is not the way the media saw it. In Britain, the Daily Mail, the Daily Telegraph, the Sun, the Daily Express and the Evening Standard all gave prominence to a report by the Open Europe think tank that the EU's drive for renewable energy would cost the average family about $1,500 a year. Others noted the warning from the Greens that the biofuels policy would make things even worse for the world's poorest people in the developing world.

Usually sympathetic to the EU and to environmental causes, the Guardian sniffed that "bits of the plan are disappointing. Why does the EU insist on wasteful biofuels being used for road transport? It is hard to see it as anything other than yet another sop to European farmers."

In Germany, the news magazine Der Spiegel put the headline "A Total Disaster" on its assessment of the EU's biofuels policy. It reported: "Paul J. Crutzen, who won the 1995 Nobel Prize for chemistry, estimates that biodiesel produced from rapeseed can result in up to 70 percent more greenhouse gas emissions than fossil fuels. Corn, the preferred biofuels crop in the U.S., results in 50 percent more emissions, Crutzen estimates."

The United States has already warned of the dangers inherent in a proposal to impose "green tariffs." At last month's meeting in Bali, Indonesia, that agreed a road map to negotiate the next phase of the Kyoto protocol against global warming, U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab warned the Europeans that this cold "backfire." "Restricting imports easily leads to covert protectionism, undermining both environment and economic standards," she said. "Trade restrictions that seek to force actions can backfire and lead to tit-for-tat."

The Americans were not the only ones alarmed. Ujal Singh Bhatia, India's ambassador to the World Trade Organization, said: "If the countries imposing such measures invoke GATT provisions to justify them, the dispute settlement mechanism in (the) WTO would face serious challenges and create divisions along North-South lines."

While the EU's intentions were evidently high-minded, the result has been an object lesson in the difficulties the world will face in agreeing on mechanisms to reduce the threat of global warming.

The EU is not the only body that is mulling this kind of "green tariff" to force other countries to abide by tough targets to cut carbon emissions. The U.S. Senate is considering two bills with similar effect. The bills have strong backing from both the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and from the giant American Electric power group. The bills are likely to face similar objections from India and China in the WTO, just as U.S. farm subsidies for the production of ethanol from corn have aroused growing opposition from the Green lobbies.

The award of last year's Nobel Peace Prize to former U.S. Vice President Al Gore and the scientists of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change symbolized the degree to which there is now a broad consensus that climate change is a realty, that human activity is a major cause and that its implications are so dangerous that dramatic measures will be needed to alleviate its effects. But the reaction to the EU's proposals showed just how hard and contentious that will be.



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