Thursday, March 12, 2009

Misreporting of the Heartland conference by Andrew Revkin in the NYT

Below is part of an email to Andrew Revkin from Marc Morano

Thanks for your response. I am not trying to critique your entire career, just your woeful article on the Heartland climate conference you wrote for paper edition of NYT on March 9, 2009. In fact, I publicly praise you for your NYT Dot Earth Blog today featuring Geologist Dr. Don Easterbrook at the Heartland Conference.

But there is more evidence you failed to accurately report on the scientists you quoted. You may want to consider a correction or a "clarification" of your original March 9 article. ( My original analysis of your reporting is here: Andrew Revkin's attempt to smear skeptics detailed!)

MIT's Dr. Richard Lindzen has already publicly complained that you were not fair to him in your quotes. Lindzen wrote to you on March 9 and asked: "I specifically asked you not to quote me out of context. Why did you decide to do so?" You have not yet publicly responded to Lindzen's reasonable question.

Lubos Motl dissects Revkin's motivations

By email []

Let me also write a few words about Andrew Revkin (AR) - if he kindly allows (or if he doesn't) - who became a phenomenon in our circles. ;-) If you're not interested in these ideas, please press "Delete" now.

People like Anthony Watts say that AR is mysterious. Others are offended by his text about the conference in NYT and they see a difference from his DotEarth blog.

I may be wrong but I don't see any mystery here. AR seems to replicate the survival strategies that 95% of people in Czechoslovakia and other advanced socialist countries were doing during the totalitarian era. And I am intimately familiar with those. He is pretty much playing both sides, and which side is being played is determined by the immediate context and a cost-and-benefits analysis of the advantages and disadvantages.

You know, I consider NYT to be the leading U.S. newspapers as far as many things, such as the interactions of science and politics, go. It is surely biased in the left direction (but in many cases, this bias is more acceptable than the bias of some competitors in stupid directions). And there are certainly many people in NYT who exert significant pressure on Revkin because even if you may find him insufficiently realistic and insufficiently skeptical, he is almost certainly more neutral and sensible than most of his NYT colleagues.

I am thus not surprised by one article that may be viewed as unflattering towards the skeptics. Moreover, I think that what he writes has a true core, whether you like it or not. The emotional labels and interpretations of this core are often hypocritical but the core is still partially true.

For example, Revkin explains that something is wrong with the skeptics because Exxon is not paying them. That's cute because in the past, similar people have criticized the skeptics for being funded by Exxon (which was never really the case, at least not when you compare the financial flows to the Gore-like 100-million-dollar and Kyoto-like trillion-dollar fraudulent money flows falsely justified by the climate alarm).

So Dr Revkin, what is the morally superior situation? To be paid by Exxon or not to be paid by Exxon? Is there a unique answer to this question that you can give us, or does the answer depend on which of them is better to advance your career?

While the interpretation of the Exxon's lunatic and self-destructive behavior is internally inconsistent and propagandistic in character, Revkin's very observation that fashionable PC alarmist whackos are taking over companies like Exxon is surely correct. Does anyone dispute it? The managers etc. have become detached from the actual purpose of the companies. They can easily imagine themselves switching sides and working in the green industry, for which they are already preparing doors. They're traitors of their industry and traitors for their consumers who actually need the products, they should be ashamed. But their positions are real.

Similar comments apply to Revkin's observations about disunity. Their basis is surely correct but the colors added to this observation are irrational. Disunity is also called a "diversity", it suggests that the opinions have been reached independently, and this feature is often cherished by liberals like Revkin (especially when it comes to relatively irrelevant, superficial things such as skin color or the geometry of genitals). But when it is inconvenient for their careers, the diversity becomes a "disunity". ;-)

But this disunity or diversity is surely there, too. Much like I am irritated by the people who emit nonsense about the "catastrophic" threats for the climate caused by our CO2 and who want to fight non-existing dragons for billions of dollars, I am also irritated by some of the "radical skeptics" who say e.g. that the increase of CO2 has nothing to do with the industrial activity or that the greenhouse effect fundamentally violates the energy conservation law.

Do I have the right to be irritated by both? You bet. That's what we have been officially allowed to do in Czechoslovakia since 1989 again, and many of us did so before, too.

One can create a "box" with all skeptics but it is an artificial construction. People have different levels of knowledge, interests, goals, motivation, and so on. What unifies all climate skeptics is only their knowledge of the ultimate fact that huge investments to such a "crisis" are a waste of money and a deep reorganization of the society justified by such threats is rationally unjustified.

That's the final result and pretty much all skeptics end up with this correct final result. But there are many possible procedures to obtain this result and the intermediate results differ for different people. Do I care about these differences? Well, if the key matter is to decide whether the society should adopt a new kind of communism, the crucial answer is No and I don't care much how the result was obtained. I don't really care whether someone thinks that the Earth was warming by 0.6 deg C, by 0.0 deg C, or cooling by 0.6 C in the last century, or whether the man-made greenhouse effect has added 0.3 deg C or strictly nothing. The practical implications are clearly isomorphic: there is nothing to be solved by politicians or governments here.

Obviously, the people who want the society to be protected against the alarmist lunatics are the good people, my allies, when it comes to the questions at the level of the society, its laws, freedoms, and budgets.

If the discussion were about the ways how detailed scientific research should be done, of course that the people who claim that CO2 hasn't been added by the industry couldn't be my allies (or allies of at least equally serious skeptics). They would deserve the label "crackpots" at this point. There are still many more crackpots in the alarmist circles (and among the doomsayers between Jehovah's Wittnesses, even though the latter got more sensible recently), I guess. There can be and there are crackpots among loud people identified as climate skeptics, too. That shouldn't be shocking. Being a skeptic doesn't make one a perfect, omniscient god. What a surprise.

What is worse about alarmism is that some of the worst crackpots like Al Gore are the very leaders of that movement. The hierarchy in the skeptical circles seems to be more meritocratic.

If I return to AR, I can easily imagine him in the first months or years after this global warming virago collapses - because I can map him to effectively similar people in Czechoslovakia transitioning from communism to freedom. He will surely be painting himself as one of those more courageous people who was oh so badly suppressed by the evil alarmist aparatchiks in the New York Times - but he was still boldly writing almost the right stuff on his Dot Earth blog. And of course, people will be buying it because many of them have been, let's admit, even less courageous than Andrew Revkin. ;-) Most people simply see the alarmist whackos infiltrating all important places in the society, including Exxon, so they will surely respect the party line, won't they?

This is a line of reasoning that must be thought about seriously by the skeptics, too. You know, many of us are the ultimate "dissidents". But even when we're proven right and when our basic answer to the question "Is there a crisis?" is generally adopted, it won't mean that the former dissidents are going to influence everything in this social-scientific arena. The strategies that many of us have been using will continue to be questioned, and so on, and people like AR will almost certainly continue to be allowed by the atmosphere in the society to write about things like the environment. That's how it works.

So I would expect the skeptics to be more realistic about the abilities and desires of AR. It seems that many skeptics expect AR, because of some vague hints, to become a full-fledged skeptical convert and they're irritated that this dream of theirs is not going perfectly well. I don't expect AR to get transformed in this way. Instead, with all the immense respect to him, I see him as a typical member of the "merry coward" category that we have known in socialist Czechoslovakia. ;-)

Such people are playing the games so authentically that it's not possible to operationally distinguish what they mean seriously and what they don't: they may not know it themselves and you shouldn't spend too much time trying to answer this ill-defined question, either. But don't expect them to behave as 100% skeptics until the alarmist regime completely and safely collapses.

Please, plan your interactions with AR assuming reasonable expectations about his diversity of viewpoints in different contexts. ;-) You can get an OK stuff with him but you will never get it against his interests or career in NYT. Don't expect any extraordinary courage unless there is a reason to expect that AR thinks that the courage would pay off to him in some way.

I hope that Andrew Revkin is grateful that I have identified him to be what he is, instead of forcing him to play additional games about being something that he is not :-), and I am also sure that he understands that the "merry coward" category is not a real insult because it is just a description how relatively average people from the moral viewpoint - well, opportunist people - in all social classes - typically behave.

What Planetary Emergency?

Dispatch from day two of the International Conference on Climate Change in New York

Assume that man-made global warming exists. So what? That was the premise of a fascinating presentation by Indur Goklany during the second day of sessions at the International Conference on Climate Change. Goklany, who works in the Office of Policy Analysis of the U.S. Department of the Interior and is the author of The Improving State of the World: Why We're Living Longer, Healthier, More Comfortable Lives on a Cleaner Planet, made it clear that he was not speaking on behalf of the federal government.

Goklany's talk looked at three common claims: (1) Human and environmental well-being will be lower in a warmer world than it is today; (2) our descendants will be worse off than if we don't stop man-made global warming; and (3) man-made global warming is the most important problem in the world. Goklany assumed that the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) consensus view on future temperature trends is valid. For his analysis, he used data from the fast track assessments of the socioeconomic impacts of global climate change sponsored by the British government, the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change, global mortality estimates from the World Health Organization (WHO), and cost estimates from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

From the Stern Review, Goklany took the worst case scenario, where man-made global warming produces market and non-market losses equal to 35 percent of the benefits that are projected to exist in the absence of climate change by 2200. What did he find? Even assuming the worst emissions scenario, incomes for both developed and developing countries still rise spectacularly. In 1990, average incomes in developing countries stood around $1,000 per capita and at aroud $14,000 in developed countries. Assuming the worst means that average incomes in developing countries would rise in 2100 to $62,000 and in developed countries to $99,000. By 2200, average incomes would rise to $86,000 and $139,000 in developing and developed countries, respectively. In other words, the warmest world turns out to be the richest world.

Looking at WHO numbers, one finds that the percentage of deaths attributed to climate change now is 13th on the list of causes of mortality, standing at about 200,000 per year, or 0.3 percent of all deaths. High blood pressure is first on the list, accounting for 7 million (12 percent) of deaths; high cholesterol is second at 4.4 million; and hunger is third. Clearly, climate change is not the most important public health problem today. But what about the future? Again looking at just the worst case of warming, climate change would boost the number of deaths in 2085 by 237,000 above what they would otherwise be according to the fast track analyses. Many of the authors of the fast track analyses also co-authored the IPCC's socioeconomic impact assessments.

Various environmental indicators would also improve. For example, 11.6 percent of the world's land was used for growing crops in 1990. In the warmest world, agricultural productivity is projected to increase so much that the amount of land used for crops would drop to just 5 percent by 2100, leaving more land for nature. In other words, if these official projections are correct, man-made global warming is by no means the most important problem faced by humanity.

Next up on the impacts panel was Paul Reiter, head of the insects and infectious disease unit at the Institut Pasteur in Paris. Members of the global warming fraternity frequently worry that climate change will exacerbate the spread of tropical diseases like malaria. Reiter began his talk by pointing out that malaria was endemic in Yakutsk, the coldest city on earth, until 1959. In 1935, the Soviets claimed that malaria killed nearly 4,000 people in Yakutsk, a number that dropped to just 85 in 1959, the year that the disease was finally eradicated, in part by using the insecticide DDT.

Reiter then described a vast new research program that he is participating in, the Emerging Diseases in a Changing European eNvironment, or EDEN project. Sponsored by the European Union, the EDEN project is evaluating the potential impacts of future global warming on the spread of disease in Europe. The EDEN researchers have been assessing outbreaks of various diseases to see if they could discern any impact climate change may be having on their spread.

Reiter cited a recent analysis of the outbreak of tick-borne encephalitis in the early 1990s in many eastern European countries. The epidemic occurred shortly after the fall of communism, when many former Soviet bloc countries went into steep economic decline. After sifting through the data, it became apparent that the tough economic situation forced many eastern Europeans to spend more time in forests and farms trying to either find wild foods or grow more food on farms and in gardens. This meant that their exposure to deer ticks increased, resulting in more cases of encephalitis. Since the epidemic was coincident with the fall of the Soviet empire and the end of the Cold War, one of Reiter's colleagues quipped that it was caused by "political global warming." Reiter noted that 150 EDEN studies have been published so far and that "none of them support the notion that disease is increasing because of climate change."

Finally, Reiter pointed out that many of the claims that climate change will increase disease can be attributed to an incestuous network of just nine authors who write scientific reviews and cite each other's work. None are actual on-the-ground disease researchers and many of them write the IPCC disease analyses. "These are people who know absolutely bugger-all about dengue, malaria or anything else," said Reiter.

The final presenter of the panel was Stanley Goldenberg, a meteorologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Hurricane Research Division in Miami, Florida. Again, he stressed that his views were his own, not that of any government agency. Goldenberg is particularly annoyed by former Vice President Al Gore's repeated claim that man-made global warming is making hurricanes more numerous and/or more powerful. For example, at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Poznan, Poland in December, Gore flat out stated, "The warming ocean waters are also causing stronger typhoons and cyclones and hurricanes."

Goldenberg acknowledged that hurricanes have been more numerous in the North Atlantic in the last decade. But when one looks at the data from the 20th century, two factors stand out. First, the number of hurricanes has increased So have sea surface temperatures. QED: global warming causes more hurricanes, right? Not so fast, says Goldenberg. The perceived increase in the number of hurricanes is actually the result of observational biases. With the advent of satellites, scientists have become much better at finding and identifying hurricanes. In the first half of the 20th century, he pointed out, if a storm didn't come close to land, researchers would often miss it.

The second factor is that researchers have identified a multi-decadal pattern in the frequency of hurricanes in the North Atlantic. There was a very active period between 1870 and 1900, a slow-down between 1900 and 1925, another active period between 1926 and 1970, a period of fewer storms between 1970 and 1995, and the beginning of a new active period around 1995. According to Goldenberg, this new active period will probably last another 20 to 30 years. Goldenberg was a co-author of a 2001 study published in Science which concluded:
Tropical North Atlantic SST [sea surface temperature] has exhibited a warming trend of [about] ) 0.3øC over the last 100 years; whereas Atlantic hurricane activity has not exhibited trend-like variability, but rather distinct multidecadal cycles....The possibility exists that the unprecedented activity since 1995 is the result of a combination of the multidecadal-scale changes in the Atlantic SSTs (and vertical shear) along with the additional increase in SSTs resulting from the long-term warming trend. It is, however, equally possible that the current active period (1995-2000) only appears more active than the previous active period (1926-1970) due to the better observational network in place.

Since this study was published, much more data on hurricane trends has been collected and analyzed. "Not a single scientist at the hurricane center believes that global warming has had any measurable impact on hurricane numbers and strength," concluded Goldenberg. He also suggested that some proponents of the idea that global warming is exacerbating tropical storms have backed off lately. Clearly the former vice president hasn't gotten the news yet.


Many Democrats doubt Gore

Since 1997, Republicans have grown increasingly likely to believe media coverage of global warming is exaggerated, and that trend continues in the 2009 survey; however, this year marks a relatively sharp increase among independents as well. In just the past year, Republican doubters grew from 59% to 66%, and independents from 33% to 44%, while the rate among Democrats remained close to 20%.

Actually, if you look at the above graph the percent of Democrats who believe that the seriousness of global warming has been exaggerated is at 22% this month, versus only 15% just weeks after An Inconvenient Truth was released at the Sundance Film Festival on January 24, 2006. That represents a 46% increase in three years. Read all the data at Gallup.


Flying ice crushes US homes

Greenhouse or icehouse?

Spectacular footage has been captured of dozens of beachside properties being hit by large chunks of flying ice during a wild storm in the US. Gale force winds of up to 50km/h swept the ice from the sea and sent it crashing into homes around Bay County, Michigan, US media reported. Local police said massive mountains of ice had smashed windows and penetrated close to 4m deep inside some homes.

Authorities have so far evacuated 36 homes since the ice started building up on the shorefront on Sunday. Resident Tim Boutell told local media he and his wife had heard the screech of "metal on metal" as walls of ice pushed toward their home along the waterfront bay. "At about 9pm my wife, Beth, heard some noise and I kind of disregarded it until she went downstairs to peek outside, and she obviously screamed. "And then I looked out and saw the ice piled up and moving toward the house," Mr Boutell said.


Cold winds blow for future of green energy

They call North Dakota the "Saudi Arabia of wind energy".

The howling prairie gales that blow almost continually across this flat and empty state could, it has been estimated, light up a quarter of America. If there was one industry whose bright future looked assured, it was green energy, and particularly wind, which is widely regarded as the most promising alternative to fossil fuels. However, just as its fortunes soared last year, so they are on the wane now.

Encouraged by Barack Obama's support for green power and by soaring demand, DMI Industries, one of the world's two biggest manufacturers of wind turbine towers, undertook a $30 million expansion of its West Fargo factory last summer. But just months later, in a dramatic turnaround that has been repeated across the renewable energy industry, DMI had to lay off 20 per cent of its 430 staff after the credit crunch hit its customers and orders dried up to a trickle.

Rich Mattern, West Fargo's mayor, said he wouldn't have been surprised if the town's other major employer, a maker of construction vehicles, had been forced to sack staff, but not DMI. "They did the lay-offs on a Sunday afternoon. I knew some of those who lost their jobs and, quite frankly, I was shocked," said Rich Mattern, West Fargo's mayor. "It never dawned on me that a company like that would have lay-offs. I really believed this industry was bulletproof."

The 40,000-sq ft DMI factory, one of three run by the company, last year made more than 500 towers. Huge two-inch thick steel sheets are rolled into 15ft diameter cylinders and then welded into 270-ft high, cone shaped towers strong enough to cope with all weather conditions. The 130ft long fibreglass blades which are attached to each tower are made at another North Dakota company, which has also had to lay off workers.

Some of the DMI workforce had barely finished their training before they were fired. "This hit us fairly suddenly," said Phillip Christiansen, the general manager. Stefan Nilsson, DMI's Swedish president, stressed that every company in the wind power industry had suffered job losses. "It's just a question of whether it's been announced," he said. He would not say how much his company's order book had been damaged but said he said could understand why outsiders were so shocked at the layoffs. "So many positive things have been said about renewable energy, but when the banks have problems, it has an impact on us too," he said. Of the job losses, he said: "It's not something you want to do. We spent a lot of time hiring people and training them."

The recent rise and fall of wind and solar power (solar panel makers have also been hit badly) is as dramatic as in any area of the economy. After the US wind industry's capacity grew by 50 per cent - and some $17 billion - in 2008, trade organisations are now predicting it could shrink by 30 to 50 per cent this year. Around 18 banks and other lenders were financing wind and solar projects before the economic meltdown. Now, there are only four.

Both wind and solar power depend on subsidies. Barack Obama has called for a doubling of America's renewable energy production in three years and has earmarked a significant chunk of his $787 billion stimulus package for investment in clean fuel or energy efficiency. However, there is some unease as to whether he will be able to make good his intentions while industry experts say that green energy tax credits will only offset the worst effects of the orders freeze. The economic slowdown has dried up investment in cleaner energy to the point that analysts now say that its growth is no longer on track to save the world from the worst impacts of climate change.

Mr Nilsson said it was too early to tell whether the US president would "go cold on his passion for green fuel" but he conceded that politicians tended to pay more attention to his industry when oil prices were high. North Dakota, a conservative state bordering Canada whose population come from Nordic and German stock, has much riding on alternative energy. The second biggest corn-producing state, many of its farmers switched to ethanol only to be hit hard by falling oil prices.

Everyone in West Fargo is optimistic that investors will return and that, when they do, wind power will still be the energy of the future. "In the stimulus package, there's money for alternative energy - everybody realises that it's the way to go," said Mayor Mattern. "It's not like the Carter years when oil prices went down and they all forgot about renewable energy," he said. "Everybody, from my local university to Congress, has gone too far to let it drop."


Climate concerns fading in Australia as economy dives

Concern about climate change is slipping away as the economic crisis continues to bite, a poll shows. The proportion of people concerned about climate change has fallen from 90 per cent two years ago to 73 per cent, the poll found. While worries about global warming fade, anxiety about job security and falling asset prices is very high, the poll of 1,000 people found.

It also found the federal government faces an uphill battle in selling its emissions trading scheme, its main weapon in the fight against climate change. More than a third of those surveyed had not even heard of it, and fewer than one in 10 said they had a good understanding of the scheme. Just under half of the respondents, 49 per cent, said they had no understanding of emissions trading.

The poll was conducted in February by strategic consultancy firm Mobium Group.



For more postings from me, see DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


No comments: