Saturday, May 30, 2009

Their track record shows up forecasters

An email from Mark Lawson [], an editor at The Australian Financial Review. He is commenting on an emailed draft of the confident but poorly supported forecasts by enthusiastic Warmist Andrew Glikson. Glikson seems to think that a lot of pretty graphs will be enough to make his arguments convincing

As forecasts of varying quality are the bread and butter of business journalism, I believe I can offer a few comments.

Firstly, almost everyone but climate scientists have abandoned forecasting of complex systems. I would be interested to hear of any complex system in science, aside from day-to-day forecasts in meterology, where forecasting is of any use. But certainly in disciplines everywhere - demography, the social sciences, economics and in particular in business, long-term forecasting has been largely abandoned. In the exceptions in science that I know of, such as astronomy or quantum mechanics (for the later I'm talking about lab results, not forecasts as such), scientists can point to track records.

Outside of those fields it's harder. If say a business wants to forecast what might happen in its field, such as telecommunications, one of the approaches may be to construct a series of scenarios and then try and match current developments in the field with those scenarios, or wait a year of two and see what's happening.

Okay, so what's happening with the earth? If we look at the recent results from Hadley without benefit of extensive training in climatology it looks as if temperatures are coming off a peak. No tipping point in sight. Yes there is a distinct increase in temperatures in previous decades, but one of the rules of forecasting is that achievements must be measured against data unknown at the time of the forecast. In that run up, the rate of increases might have briefly touched 0.3 degrees centigrade a decade. Forecasts in 2001 and 2007 by the IPCC pointed to top range increases at the rate of 0.6 degrees and 0.45 degrees centigrade a decade respectively (in other words, an acceleration), and a bottom range of around 0.1 degrees a decade. The actual result is now well into negative territory.

In short to speak convincingly of tipping points, one has to point to a forecasting track record, and it isn't there. For that matter the climate models at the centre of all the fuss have yet to demonstrate any real success in modeling known climate changes outside the past 100 years or so.

What of all this talk about melting glaciers etc? Is any of that showing up in the figures? A glance at the sea height data compiled by the University of Colorado through various satellites doesn't show anything much, and certainly no marked acceleration.

Glikson does say this: "Given that warnings by scientists have proven mostly correct, as contrasted with watered-down reports percolating upward through bureaucracies, there is little evidence the authorities are listening to the recent dire warnings by climate scientists [16]."

What warnings have proved correct? Footnote 16 is a reference to an article in the West Australian newspaper about scientists asking a coal plant operator to shut up shop to save the planet. Before we pay much attention to Dr Glikson's erudite discussion concerning future tipping points, we need to examine what forecasts, if any, have proven correct, given that the major forecasts have failed dismally. Until there is more of a track record, I would ask him nicely not to clutter up the newsroom.

Another comment on Glikson from John C. Menzies []:

I wonder if Dr Glikson can answer the following: Dr Glikson could you please provide a statistical argument for your statement: "Since the mid-1990s the mean global temperature trend has become increasingly irregular, representing an increase in climate variability with global warming,....."

From this data temperature looks pretty irregular most of the time.

Glacial cycles unpredictable

Sounds like this guy should have got the Warmists and their "models" to do his predictions for him. They would have solved all his problems for him in two ticks

How glacial-interglacial cycles and the long-term variability of sea level depend on the amount of energy received by Earth from the Sun is unclear. Thomas et al. report results from fossil corals found in Tahiti that indicate that sea level began to rise when insolation at 65° North latitude was near a minimum, not after it had begun to rise, as predicted by the Milankovitch theory. In contrast, the timing of the last deglaciation agrees well with the Milankovitch theory. Thus, glacial cycles do not behave as simply as the Milankovitch theory suggests.


Journal abstract follows:

Penultimate Deglacial Sea-Level Timing from Uranium/Thorium Dating of Tahitian Corals

By Alex L. Thomas et al.

The timing of sea-level change provides important constraints on the mechanisms driving Earth’s climate between glacial and interglacial states. Fossil corals constrain the timing of past sea level by their suitability for dating and their growth position close to sea level. The coral-derived age for the last deglaciation is consistent with climate change forced by Northern Hemisphere summer insolation (NHI), but the timing of the penultimate deglaciation is more controversial. We found, by means of uranium/thorium dating of fossil corals, that sea level during the penultimate deglaciation had risen to ~85 meters below the present sea level by 137,000 years ago, and that it fluctuated on a millennial time scale during deglaciation. This indicates that the penultimate deglaciation occurred earlier with respect to NHI than the last deglacial, beginning when NHI was at a minimum.

Science Vol. 324. no. 5931, pp. 1186 - 1189


By Roger Pielke, Jr.

I am quoted in today’s NYT on a new report issued by the Global Humanitarian Forum which makes the absurd claim that 315,000 deaths a year can be attributed to the effects of rising greenhouse gas concentrations. Here is what I said:
Roger A. Pielke Jr., a political scientist at the University of Colorado, Boulder, who studies disaster trends, said the forum’s report was “a methodological embarrassment” because there was no way to distinguish deaths or economic losses related to human-driven global warming amid the much larger losses resulting from the growth in populations and economic development in vulnerable regions. Dr. Pielke said that “climate change is an important problem requiring our utmost attention.” But the report, he said, “will harm the cause for action on both climate change and disasters because it is so deeply flawed.”

Strong comments I know. Shoddy work on disasters and climate change is the norm, unfortunately, and something I’ve been closely following for well over a decade. I have no illusions that this latest concoction will be repeatedly cited regardless.

Below are my comments to the NYT upon reading the report (cleaned up and formatted). Caution, strong views ahead.
Let me apologize for the length of this reply. But it is important to be clear and to set the record straight.

Let me say first that human-caused climate change is an important problem requiring our utmost attention. Second, the effects of disasters, particularly in poorer countries, is also an important problem that to some degree has been overlooked, as I have argued for many years.

However, I cannot express how strongly I feel that this report has done a disservice to both issues. It is a methodological embarrassment and poster child for how to lie with statistics. The report will harm the cause for action on both climate change and disasters because it is so deeply flawed.

It will give ammunition to those opposed to action and divert attention away from the people who actually need help in the face of disasters, yet through this report have been reduced to a bloodless statistic for use in the promotional battle over climate policies. The report is worse than fiction, it is a lie. These are strong words I know.

1. Let me first start by noting that the same group that did the analysis for the UN, the Geo-Risks group in Munich Re, earlier this year published a peer-reviewed paper arguing that the signal of human-caused climate change could not presently be seen in the loss data on disasters. They wrote (emphasis added):
It should be noted when assessing the results of both this paper and Schmidt et al. (2008) that it is generally difficult to obtain valid quantitative findings about the role of socioeconomics and climate change in loss increases. This is because of criteria such as the stochastic nature of weather extremes, a shortage of quality data, and the role of various other potential factors that act in parallel and interact. We therefore regard our results as being an indication only of the extent to which socio-economic and climate changes account for the increase in losses. Both studies confirm the consensus reached in May 2006 at the international workshop in Hohenkammer attended by leading experts on climate change and natural catastrophe losses.

I co-organized the Hohenkammer workshop (referred to in the quote above) with Peter Hoeppe of Munich Re and that workshop concluded (among other things):
Due to data-quality issues, the stochastic nature of extreme event impacts, the lengths of the time series, and various societal factors present in the disaster loss records, it is still not possible to determine what portion of the increase in damage may be due to climate changes caused by GHG emissions.


The quantitative link (attribution) between storm/flood loss trends and GHG-induced climate changes is unlikely to be determined unequivocally in the near future.

On p. 84 the GHF report itself says:
However, there is not yet any widely accepted global estimate of the share of weather related disasters that are attributable to climate change.

One would think that would be the end of the story. However, to fill in for the fact that there is no accepted estimate, the report conjures up a number using an approach that is grounded in neither logic, science, or common sense.

2. Specifically, to get around the fact that there has been no attribution of the relationship of GHG emissions and disasters, this report engages in a very strange comparison of earthquake and weather disasters in 1980 and 2005. The first question that comes to mind is, why? They are comparing phenomena with many “moving parts” over a short time frame, and attributing 100% of the resulting difference to human-caused climate change. This boggles the mind. The IPCC itself says that 30 years are needed for the detection of changes in the climate system, and this time frame does not even reach that threshold. More to the point earthquakes and weather events do not have the same variability and earthquake disasters affect only a small part of the total inhabited area of the earth, whereas weather disasters occur much more widely. The assumption that weather disasters should track earthquake disasters is flawed from the outset for both geophysical and socio-economic reasons.

An alternative, more scientifically robust approach would be to look specifically at weather-related disasters, and consider the role of socio-economic changes, and to the extent possible, try to remove that signal and see what trends remain. When that has been done, in every case (US floods, hurricanes, Australia, India TCs, Latin America and elsewhere, all in the peer-reviewed literature) there is not a remaining signal of increasing disasters. In other words, the increase in disasters observed worldwide can be entirely attributed to socio-economic changes. This is what has been extensively documented in the peer reviewed literature, and yet — none of this literature is cited in this report. None of it! Instead they rely on this cooked up comparison between earthquakes and weather related disasters.

(Consider also that in no continental location has there been an observed increase in tropical cyclone landfalls, and yet this accounts for almost all of the windstorm disasters cited in the report. The increase must therefore be due to factors other than geophysical changes. This fact renders the comparison with earthquakes even more meaningless).

Munich Re’s own peer-reviewed work supports the fact that socio-economic factors can explain the entire increase in global disasters in recent decades.
Consider that in 2005 there were 11 earthquakes magnitude 7 or higher and in 1980 there were 14. by contrast, 1980 was a quiet weather year, and 2005 was very active, and included Katrina.


3. The report cites and undates the Stern Review Report estimates of disaster losses, however, in a peer-reviewed paper I showed that these estimates were off by an order of magnitude and relied on a similar sort of statistical gamesmanship to develop its results (and of course this critique was ignored):

Pielke, Jr., R. A., 2007. Mistreatment of the economic impacts of extreme events in the Stern Review Report on the Economics of Climate Change, Global Environmental Change, 17:302-310. (PDF)

This report is an embarrassment to the GHF and to those who have put their names on it as representing a scientifically robust analysis. It is not even close.


Climate smart aid is anything but

International organizations like the World Bank and the United Nations are supposed to help the world’s poor escape poverty, but fully convinced they are doing good, these development agencies are pushing an anti-development agenda.

Now here’s an inconvenient truth: curbing the planet’s carbon footprint necessarily slows economic growth, the primary engine of human well-fare. International aid organizations need to carefully consider the impact of the climate “solutions” they advocate, lest they do more harm than good.

The International Energy Agency estimates that it would cost $45 trillion through 2050 to mitigate global warming through efforts aimed at “greening” the global economy. Most of that would be spent in developing countries, to prevent them from fueling their growing economies with hydrocarbon energy sources like coal and oil. These fossil fuels are cheap and still plentiful, but burning them to create energy frees the CO² they store, contributing to climate change.

Raising hundreds of billions of dollars a year to finance a global green energy revolution is a key component of current negotiations for a successor climate treaty to the Kyoto Protocol. In fact, European Union Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas recently declared, “No money, no deal.” And clean energy aid was a topic of discussion at last month’s Major Economies Meeting, hosted by the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama.

Naturally, international aid agencies are jockeying for position to broker this wealth transfer.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that his organization is the “natural arena” for coordinated international action on climate change. To that end the U.N. operates two programs to facilitate the flow of climate mitigation aid to developing countries—the Global Environment Facility and the Clean Development Mechanism.

Not to be outdone, the World Bank recently unveiled a “Strategic Framework” for global warming and development that calls for “unprecedented global cooperation” for the “transfer of finance and technology from developed to developing countries.” The Bank established a Carbon Finance Unit and several Carbon Investment Funds to distribute climate change mitigation aid.

Besides the inefficiencies inherent to duplicative bureaucracies, there are major problems with this “climate smart” approach to development. For starters, it is unlikely that Western bureaucrats can create a green energy infrastructure in developing countries. The history of development assistance is littered with abandoned projects backed by the best of intentions. Already there is evidence that climate aid is more of the same.

Under the Kyoto Protocol, for example, companies subject to climate regulations can meet their carbon “cap” by paying for emissions reduction projects in developing countries. According to the journal Nature, the U.N. certified $6 billions’ worth of emissions “savings” for reductions in HFC-23, a potent greenhouse gas. Yet removing the HFC-23 cost $130 million. That’s a lot of waste.

There are also ethical considerations. A coal-fired power plant may offend environmentalist sensibilities, but it would be a blessing for the almost 2 billion people in the world today who use charcoal, dung, and wood to heat and cook.

In his book, Global Crises, Global Solutions, Danish statistician Bjørn Lomborg persuasively argues that humanity faces many problems that are more pressing than warming decades down the road. After all, what good is a slightly cooler planet a century from now to a child dying of malaria today? In terms of saving lives, Lomborg shows why climate change mitigation is an inferior, albeit far less ‘sexy’, investment to water sanitation and halting disease.

Aid agencies should also consider forgone economic development. The U.N. and the World Bank want to redistribute trillions of dollars to create new green energy infrastructure whereas in the free market these scarce resources would be allocated to create wealth. In a globalized world, inefficiencies of this magnitude lower the tide and all boats with it.

Slowing economic growth has very real human consequences, such as fewer schools, worse health care, and lower environmental quality. That’s why a richer-but-warmer future is better for human well being than a poorer-but-cooler future, according to Indur Goklany, author of The Improving State of the World.

Instead of economically harmful global warming policies, development agencies should concentrate their considerable institutional knowledge on advancing pro-growth policies, like trade liberalization. Today, free trade needs an influential booster like the World Bank. Energy intensive export industries in developing countries are threatened by carbon taxes imposed by rich countries, under the pretext of fighting climate change. Retaliatory tariffs would be likely, which could easily escalate into a global trade war.

That would be a tragedy. By allowing developing countries to use their comparative advantage—inexpensive labor—international free trade has proven the fastest route out of poverty for hundreds of millions of people.

To avoid giving atmospheric chemistry priority over human welfare, the aid industry should ensure that the risks of global warming policies are considered as rigorously as the risks of global warming itself.


Warmism: A vitriolic climate in the academic hothouse

By Ian Plimer, emeritus professor of earth sciences at the University of Melbourne in Australia. Plimer once again has the temerity to mention some of the "missing facts" that Warmists ignore

It is well known that many university staff list to port and try to engineer a brave new world. The cash cow climate institutes now seem to be drowning in their own self-importance. In a wonderful gesture of public spiritedness, seven academics who include three lead authors of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and a former director of the World Climate Research Program wrote to Australian power generating companies on April 29 instructing them to cease and desist creating electricity from coal.

In their final paragraph, they state with breathtaking arrogance: "The unfortunate reality is that genuine action on climate change will require the existing coal-fired power stations to cease operating in the near future. "We feel it is vital that you understand this and we are happy to work with you and with governments to begin planning for this transition immediately. "The warming of the atmosphere, driven by human-induced emissions of greenhouse gases, is already causing unacceptable damage and suffering around the world."

No evidence is provided for this statement and no signatory to this letter has published anything to support this claim.

These university staff are unctuously understanding about the plight of those who face employment extinction in the smokestack towns of Australia. They write: "We understand that this will require significant social and economic transition that will need to be managed carefully to care for coal sector workers and coal-dependent communities.". This love for fellow workers brings tears to the eyes.

The electricity generating companies should reply by cutting off the power to academics' homes and host institutions, forcing our ideologues to lead by example. Some 80 per cent of Australia's electricity derives from coal, large volumes of cheap electricity underpin employment and our self-appointed concerned citizens offer no suggestion for alternative unsubsidised base-load power sources to employ Australians.

The Emissions Trading Scheme legislation poises Australia to make the biggest economic decision in its history, yet there has been no scientific due diligence. There has never been a climate change debate in Australia. Only dogma. To demonise element number six in the periodic table is amusing. Why not promethium? Carbon dioxide is an odourless, colourless, harmless natural gas. It is plant food. Without carbon, there would be no life on Earth.

The original source of atmospheric CO2 is volcanoes. The Earth's early atmosphere had a thousand times the CO2 of today's atmosphere. This CO2 was recycled through rocks, life and the oceans. Through time, this CO2 has been sequestered into plants, coal, petroleum, minerals and carbonate rocks, resulting in a decrease in atmospheric CO2. The atmosphere now contains 800 billion tonnes of carbon as CO2. Soils and plants contain 2000 billion tonnes, oceans 39,000 billion tonnes and limestone 65,000,000 billion tonnes. The atmosphere contains only 0.001 per cent of the total carbon in the top few kilometres of the Earth.

Deeper in Earth, there are huge volumes of CO2 yet to be leaked into the atmosphere. So depleted is the atmosphere in CO2, that horticulturalists pump warm CO2 into glasshouses to accelerate plant growth.

The first 50 parts per million of CO2 operates as a powerful greenhouse gas. After that, CO2 has done its job, which is why there has been no runaway greenhouse in the past when CO2 was far higher. During previous times of high CO2, there were climate cycles driven by galactic forces, the sun, Earth's orbit, tides and random events such as volcanoes. These forces still operate. Why should such forces disappear just because we humans live on Earth?

The fundamental questions remain unanswered. A change of 1 per cent in cloudiness can account for all changes measured during the past 150 years, yet cloud measurements are highly inaccurate. Why is the role of clouds ignored? Why is the main greenhouse gas (water vapour) ignored? The limitation of temperature in hot climates is evaporation yet this ignored in catastrophist models.

Why are balloon and satellite measurements showing cooling ignored yet unreliable thermometer measurements used? Is the increase in atmospheric CO2 really due to human activities? Ice cores show CO2 increases some 800 years after temperature increase so why can't an increase in CO2 today be due to the medieval warming (900-1300)? If increased concentrations of CO2 increase temperature, why have there been coolings during the past 150 years?

Some 85 per cent of volcanoes are unseen and unmeasured yet these heat the oceans and add monstrous amounts of CO2 to the oceans. Why have these been ignored? Why have there been five significant ice ages when CO2 was higher than now? Why were warmings in Minoan, Roman and medieval times natural, yet a smaller warming at the end of the 20th century was due to human activities? If climate changed at the end of the Little Ice Age (c.1850), is it unusual for warming to follow?

Computer models using the past 150 years of measurements have been used to predict climate for the next few centuries. Why have these models not been run backwards to validate known climate changes? I would bet the farm that by running these models backwards, El Nino events and volcanoes such as Krakatoa (1883, 535), Rabaul (536) and Tambora (1815) could not be validated.

In my book, I correctly predicted the response. The science would not be discussed, there would be academic nit-picking and there would be vitriolic ad hominem attacks by pompous academics out of contact with the community. Comments by critics suggest that few have actually read the book and every time there was a savage public personal attack, book sales rose. A political blog site could not believe that such a book was selling so well and suggested that my publisher, Connor Court, was a front for the mining or pastoral industry.

This book has struck a nerve. Although accidentally timely, there are a large number of punters who object to being treated dismissively as stupid, who do not like being told what to think, who value independence, who resile from personal attacks and have life experiences very different from the urban environmental atheists attempting to impose a new fundamentalist religion.

Green politics have taken the place of failed socialism and Western Christianity and impose fear, guilt, penance and indulgences on to a society with little scientific literacy. We are now reaping the rewards of politicising science and dumbing down the education system. If book sales, public meetings, book launches, email and phone messages are any indication, there is a large body of disenfranchised folk out there who feel helpless. I have shown that the emperor has no clothes. This is why the attacks are so vitriolic.



Environment Minister Jim Prentice says Canadian industrial emitters might not face greenhouse gas limits for another six years. The government is delaying the development of regulations until next year, in order to match a proposed U.S. timetable. It's a far cry from the Conservative government's former "Made in Canada" climate change plan that was supposed to come into force on Jan. 1, 2010.

Prentice, speaking to reporters by conference call from London, said regulations for big industrial emitters will have to be harmonized with U.S. rules in order to protect Canadian jobs and investments.

The current American timetable won't see anything taking effect until between 2012 and 2016. Former Tory environment minister John Baird said last year that his government was taking real action and that rules would come into force next Jan. 1.



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: