Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Britain's major Leftist newspaper, The Guardian, is at least good for a laugh!

Britain's Guardianistas really do take the cake. They are so wrapped up in their own little fantasy world that they have no idea how absurd they can sound to others. For example: This article blames China for the now universally acknowledged "failure" of the Copenhagen climate conclave (There's a tongue-twister for you!).

As the writer himself acknowledges, it is an unwritten rule that the holier-than-thou crowd must never blame poor countries for anything. Only the "rich West" can do wrong. But apparently China is now rich and powerful enough to have lost that protection. So our climate apostle has got daring.

But the funny bit comes towards the end of his article when he concludes in sorrow and in anger that China is not playing the Guardianista game at all. He seems surprised that he has to conclude: "This is fast becoming China's century, yet its leadership has displayed that multilateral environmental governance is not only not a priority, but is viewed as a hindrance to the new superpower's freedom of action".

China is not interested in global governance! How awful! How concerning! How disillusioning! What is left? Fancy China wanting to run its own affairs! How can those nice Communists be so awful? It's all a terrible shock to a Guardianista!

The Guardian has its flock, however. My first wife (the first of four) has always been Left-leaning and she has just emailed me to tell me that she is now very angry with China! LOL! She would once have turned a deaf ear to any criticism of China.

It reminds me of Israel. For a couple of decades after WWII, the Left were supportive of Israel. But after Israel won the six-day war, that steadily eroded and Israel is now regarded with widespread hostility among Leftists. Leftists just hate other people doing well for themselves. They only like people that they can look down on and patronize. One of the reasons I support Israel is that it gives me pleasure to see other people doing well -- but that makes me a conservative, of course. No Leftist would understand that. I even think highly of Bill Gates!

Oh, Yes, Copenhagen

by Paul Greenberg

The other day a friend asked us if I'd written about the Copenhagen conference on climate change, carbon control, environmental technology, the ecological future of Spaceship Earth, cabbages and kings, and the 101 other Very Important Things covered by that huge, long-awaited and now suddenly fizzled international gabfest.

No, I hadn't written about it. Maybe because it ended not with a bang but with a whimper heard 'round the world: a flurry of non-binding agreements, aka vague misunderstandings. It was the biggest anticlimax since Geraldo the Great Rivera opened Al Capone's vault to find little more than dust. Any actual policies to come out of Copenhagen promise to be as empty.

To sum up the essential deal made at Copenhagen: The developed world sort of promises to give the undeveloped one $30 billion over the next three years -- plus $100 billion a year after 2020 -- in exchange for its separate but equally nebulous promise not to develop too quickly. As with Obamacare, the theoretical benefits are to come first, then the real pain by some always-delayable deadline. It's more convenient that way. Just charge it to some future generation.

Besides the cocksure confidence the delegates displayed in man's ability to reset the world's thermostat, this kind of deal-making in which no one takes the deal made very seriously was the one consistent thread in the tangled web woven at Copenhagen.

There is consolation to be taken in the grand fizzle at Copenhagen. For there is something worse than the conference's failure. And that would have been its success at slowing the world's economic recovery and so dooming still more in the Third World to the bitter fruits of abject poverty: more malnutrition, more disease, and more chaos and instability in general.

Doing nothing has certain advantages over doing the wrong thing, especially on a grand and confusing scale. Besides, the failure of this lavish conference means the delegates can now anticipate many more equally elaborate confabs around the world on the public's tab, complete with equally hyped media coverage and just as inconsequential results. Nice work -- or play -- if you can get it.

Maybe I hadn't written anything of substance about the grand conference at Copenhagen because it proved so insubstantial. My long established policy is, when I have nothing to say about a subject, I try not to say it. Maybe because I've read too many editorials over the years that, having nothing to say, make the grave mistake of saying it. At length. It doesn't exactly make for fascinating reading.

There were doubtless plenty of agreements made at Copenhagen but the major ones were non-binding. Those are the kind of deals that delegates embrace enthusiastically in their speeches but take care not to sign lest their countries be held to their word. They're the kind of oral agreements that the irrepressible Sam Goldwyn, Hollywood mogul and Mr. Malaprop himself, once described as not worth the paper they're written on. Or rather not written on.

Almost coincident with the grand conference at Copenhagen a treasure trove of leaked documents appeared out of the very center of global alarmism over climate change, the Climatic Research Unit of East Anglia University at Norwich, England, which is "widely recognized as one of the world's leading institutions concerned with the study of natural and anthropogenic climate change," according to its Web site. These days it's widely recognized as a center for the suppression of any and all dissenting views about the causes of global warming. If this is science, what would dogma be?

Conspiracies to suppress scientific dissent scarcely ended with Galileo's trial, but at least the church eventually repented and begged pardon. There is little if any sign that the wannabe Al Gores at East Anglia, more politicians than scientists, have been chastened by what's come to be known as Climategate. Instead, they have adopted a variation of the Dan Rather defense: falsified maybe but accurate.

Barack Obama's appearance at the last minute was the final, flashy touch at Copenhagen as he made much ado about much of nothing. The president hasn't demonstrated his diplomatic finesse so convincingly since he went to the same city not long ago to not get the Olympics for Chicago. Which may have been a blessing in disguise, too. (The traffic in the Loop is already bad enough.)

Naturally the president and his handlers came back from Copenhagen declaring a great victory -- Carbon Control in our Time! But surely even they didn't believe it. Certainly the Europeans didn't. As soon as the Grand Conference concluded, the market for carbon-control permits on the European continent dropped dramatically, as if investors were confirming that the countries represented at Copenhagen weren't serious about controlling carbon emissions. No poll is more reliable than the market, where people put their money where their opinions are. It's a great test of sincerity.

The final accord at Copenhagen didn't specify, not in writing, how much big countries like the United States and mainland China are now supposed to reduce their carbon emissions. Nor did the conference decide precisely how much all the other countries were going to sacrifice in order to clean up the world's climate. Just about the only thing the delegates could agree on was to jet off to the next world climate-change conference, which is already scheduled for Mexico City, the one sure effect of which will be to add still more carbon to the Earth's atmosphere.


Britain's official meteorologists goof again

In line with their Warmist ideology they keep predicting warm dry seasons -- but the weather fails to oblige

Met Office predictions of a mild winter have begun to fall flat as more snow is forecast in parts of Britain tomorrow and temperatures are expected to drop to below freezing over the New Year period. With many people heading back to work after the Christmas break, drivers were warned to take extra care.

Up to four inches of snow is forecast in the Midlands, and falls of up to a foot were predicted on higher ground in Wales. Passengers due to fly from Cardiff Airport today were advised to check flights were on schedule if there was snow.

The turn of the year is set to offer no respite with freezing conditions forecast across Britain. Temperatures are expected to plunge to minus 3C in most of England and Wales on Thursday night, New Year's Eve, and minus 8C in Scotland, with widespread snow showers also predicted. New Year's Day will also be chilly, with the northern half of Britain struggling to get above freezing during the day.

In October, the Met Office predicted Britain would have a mild winter, despite the inaccuracy of its “barbecue summer” forecast which drew strong criticism, after heavy rainfall saw the wettest July for almost 100 years. It said the end of 2009 and the beginning of 2010 were likely to be “milder than last year” and that there was an 85 per cent chance of normal or above average conditions. Preliminary forecasts for December predicted that temperatures would be above the 38.6F (3.7C) average.

However, after the predictions for the summer turned out to be inaccurate, the forecasters sounded a note of caution, saying there was still a “one in seven chance” of a cold winter. A Met Office spokesman said: “That forecast was dealing with the whole of the winter. December has certainly been cold but the prediction is for December, January and February.” He believed the “climate team” was updating the prediction “perhaps over the course of the next week.” The spokesman added: “It has certainly been a cold winter so far in most parts but the seasonal forecast has not been proven one way or the other.”

He said the weather was expected to remain cold for “the next week or so” but he could not comment on the longer term....

The Met Office defended its forecast of a “barbecue summer” and said its long term prediction was mainly accurate, in particular that temperatures would reach 30C.


The "Consistent With" Fallacy: How Not to Compare Predictions and Observations

Over at Real Climate there is a misleading post up about IPCC global temperature projections as compared with actual temperature observations, suggesting success where caution and uncertainty is a more warranted conclusion.

The scientists at Real Climate explain that to compare a prediction with observations one must assess whether the observations fall within a range defined as 95% of model realizations. In other words, if you run a model, or a set of models, 100 times, you would take the average of the 100 runs and plot the 95 individual runs closest to that average, and define that range as an "envelope" of projections. If observations fall within this envelope, they you would declare the projection to be a predictive success.

Imagine if a weather forecaster said that he ran a model 100 times and it showed that tomorrow's temperature was going to be between 25 and 75 degrees, with 95% confidence, with a "best estimate" of 50 degrees. If the temperature came in at 30 degrees you might compare it to the "best estimate" and say that it was a pretty poor forecast. If the weather forecast explained that the temperature was perfectly "consistent with" his forecast, you'd probably look for another forecaster. If the true uncertainty was actually between 25 and 75 degrees, then one might question the use of issuing a "best estimate."

Gavin Schmidt explains how this works in the context of the current "pause" (his words) in the increase in global average surface temperatures over the past 11 years (emphasis added):
The trend in the annual mean HadCRUT3v data from 1998-2009 (assuming the year-to-date is a good estimate of the eventual value) is 0.06+/-0.14 ºC/dec (note this is positive!). If you want a negative (albeit non-significant) trend, then you could pick 2002-2009 in the GISTEMP record which is -0.04+/-0.23 ºC/dec. The range of trends in the model simulations for these two time periods are [-0.08,0.51] and [-0.14, 0.55], and in each case there are multiple model runs that have a lower trend than observed (5 simulations in both cases). Thus ‘a model’ did show a trend consistent with the current ‘pause’. However, that these models showed it, is just coincidence and one shouldn’t assume that these models are better than the others. Had the real world ‘pause’ happened at another time, different models would have had the closest match.

Think about the logic of "consistent with" as used in this context. It means that the larger the model spread, the larger the envelope of projections, and the greater the chance that whatever is observed will in fact fall within that envelope. An alert reader points this out to Gavin in the comments:
I can claim I’m very accurate because my models predict a temperature between absolute zero and the surface temperature of the sun, but that error range is so large, it means I’m not really predicting anything.

Gavin says he agrees with this, which seems contrary to what he wrote in the post about 11-year trends. Elsewhere Gavin says such statistics are meaningful only for 15 years and longer. If so, then discussing them in terms of "consistency with" the model spread just illustrates how this methodology can retrieve a misleading signal from noise.

About 18 months ago I engaged in a series of exchanges with some in the climate modeling community on this same topic. The debate was frustrating because many of the climate scientists thought hat we were debating statistical methods, but from my perspective we were debating the methodology of forecast verification.

At that time I tried to illustrate the "consistent with" fallacy in the context of IPCC projections using the following graph. The blue curve shows a curve fit to 8-year surface temperature trends from 55 realizations from models used by IPCC (the fact that it was 8 years is irrelevant to this example). With the red curve I added 55 additional "realizations" produced from a random number generator. The blue dot shows the observations. Obviously, the observations are more "consistent with" the red curve than the blue curve. We can improve consistency by making worse predictions. There is obviously something wrong with this approach to comparing models and observations.

What should be done instead?

1. A specific prediction has to be identified when it is being made. A prediction in this case should be defined as the occurrence of some event in the future, that is to say, after the prediction is made. For the IPCC AR4 this might generously be defined as starting in 2001.

2. Pick a quantity to be forecast. This might be global average surface temperature as represented by GISS or CRU, the satellite lower tropospheric records, both or something else. But pick a quantity.

3. Decide in advance how you are going to define the uncertainty in your forecast. For instance, the IPCC presented an uncertainty range in its forecast in a manner differently than does Real Climate. Defining uncertainty is of critical importance.

For instance, eyeballing the Real Climate IPCC Figure one might be surprised to learn that had there been no temperature change from 1980 to 2010, this too would have been "consistent with" the model realization "envelope." While such uncertainty may in fact be an accurate representation of our knowledge of climate, it is certainly not how many climate scientists typically represent the certainty of their knowledge.

If any of 1, 2 or 3 above is allowed to vary and be selected in post-hoc fashion it sets the stage for selections of convenience that allow the evaluator to make choices that pretty much show whatever he wants to show.

4. A good place to start is simply with IPCC "best estimate" One can ask if observations fall above or below that value. Real Climate's post suggest that actual temperatures fall below that "best estimate."

5. You can then ask if falling below or above that value has any particular meaning with respect to the knowledge used to generate the forecast. To perform such an evaluation, you need a naive forecast, some baseline expectation against which you can compare your sophisticated forecast. In the case of global climate it might be a prediction of no temperature change or some linear fit to past trends. If the sophisticated method doesn't improve upon the naive baseline, you are not getting much value from that approach.

The bottom line is that with respect to #4 Real Climate shows that actual temperatures are running below a central estimate from the IPCC AR4 as well as below the various scenarios presented by Jim Hansen in 1988. What does this mean? Probably not much. But at the same time it should be obvious that this data should not be used as evidence to announce the successes of climate predictions, as Real Climate does: "the matches to observations are still pretty good, and we are getting to the point where a better winnowing of models dependent on their skill may soon be possible." Such over-hyping of the capabilities of climate science serves neither science nor policy particularly well. The reality is that while the human influence on the climate system is real and significant, predicting its effects for coming years and decades remains a speculative enterprise fraught with uncertainties and ignorance.


French carbon "leadership" crumples

France's new carbon emission tax ruled illegal -- too much corruption even for France

FRANCE'S new carbon emission tax, due to have gone into effect on Friday, has been ruled illegal by the country's constitutional court on the grounds it exempted too many polluters. The Conseil Constitutionnel struck down the tax as the exemptions "create a breach of the principle of (tax) equality."

It estimated that 93 per cent of industrial emissions outside of fuel use, including the emissions of more than 1000 of the country's most polluting industrial sites, would be exempt from the tax of 17 euros ($30) per tonne of emitted carbon dioxide.

The ruling is a severe blow for President Nicolas Sarkozy as the measure was one of his flagship initiatives to cut emissions of greenhouse gasses that fuel climate change.

It also leaves the government scrambling to plug a hole of 4.1 billion euros ($6 billion) in the 2010 budget.


GROW UP, GREENS! Greenie founding father says we need nukes and G.M. crops

A BOOK REVIEW of "Whole Earth Discipline: An Ecopragmatist Manifesto" By Stewart Brand. Review by Bryan Appleyard, a journalist on 'The Sunday Times' of London

In 1968 Stewart Brand produced the first edition of the Whole Earth Catalog. It had a picture of the earth seen from space on the cover and inside were lists of useful tools for transforming the planet by distributing power to the people. I remember seeing it in bookshops. Thrilling and demanding, it called on me to join my generation. Like Woodstock, student demos, dope, tie-dyed T-shirts and improbably flared trousers, the Catalog told us we were different.

We were. But now different has become mainstream. The Catalog was, above all, Green. It treated the planet as a single, finite system whose contents could be catalogued. Now the whole world is Green and the Internet lists its contents. David Cameron and Ed Miliband believe what only doped-out freaks in sandals and Afghan coats believed in 1968. And so Stewart Brand returns to take stock.

Whole Earth Discipline is immensely entertaining, moving and slightly confusing. The confusion is twofold. First, Brand is an unreconstructed cataloguer. The book is, at one level, simply a list of developments in biotechnology, climate science, urbanisation, agriculture and so on. This tends to leave one wondering if these things do tie together in quite the way Brand says they do. Secondly, much of the book is about the author's changes of mind. He is now, for example, pro-nuclear power and genetically engineered foods. This is honourable but it does cast a slight shadow of doubt over his latest enthusiasms.

That said, the book brilliantly defines our present predicament - our need to deploy science to clean up the mess made by science. The modern world was made by burning half a trillion tons of carbon since the Industrial Revolution. The next half trillion will be burned in about forty years at present rates of increase. If that happens, then global temperatures will rise by up to 4 degrees and it is reasonable to assume, on the basis of current scientific thought, that our species' continued existence will be at risk.

As Brand, heavily influenced by James Lovelock, perceives, this means that the Greens are going to have to reverse some of their primary positions. In the giddy days of 1968, eco-awareness was an aspect of the ideological package that included resistance to the Vietnam War and to The System, often defined as the military-industrial complex. We wanted to get 'back to the garden', to a condition of pastoral simplicity. This pastoralism seemed to be the way to save Spaceship Earth and it still clings to the Green movement with its belief in organic foods, wind power and sustainability in general. None of this will work because climate change is happening too quickly.

'That means', writes Brand, 'that Greens are no longer strictly the defenders of natural systems against the incursions of civilization; now they're the defenders of civilization as well. It's a whiplash moment for everyone.'

Climate change really means Mother Nature is preparing to rid herself of humans. If we are to survive, we can no longer worship her, we must fight back with smart weapons. So we have to embrace nuclear - there is no other source of clean energy which can sustain our societies - and genetically engineered 'Frankenfoods'. Ideally, these would be synthesised in laboratories. Farming, as Lovelock has pointed out, is a planetary catastrophe, stripping out biodiversity and filling the atmosphere with the methane from cow farts.

The Green dream must thus become a very hi-tech dream rather than the muddy paradise of Woodstock. Brand's conversion to this view is the central drama of this book and it sends him off on a genial and enthusiastic safari through wild science and cool facts.

Did you know, for example, that only a tenth of the cells in your body are you? The rest are microbes - 'We are a portable swamp.' Did you know that Stora Enso in Sweden is the oldest surviving corporation? King Magnus IV granted its charter in 1347. Did you know that in a fifth of a teaspoon of seawater there are a million bacteria and ten million viruses? Well, now you do.

This is all good fun but the heart of the matter is the word 'ecopragmatist' in the subtitle. Brand's big point is that we must do what works without prejudice. Green prejudices have, in the past, often been on the wrong side of the argument. The campaign to get DDT banned because of its effects on birdlife, for example, may have cost the lives of 20 million children in Africa who were left to die of malaria. And The System we all hated in the Sixties and Seventies produced Norman Borlaug, the man behind the very capitalist Green Revolution - increased crop yields - which may have saved a billion lives.

Now the Greens are threatening to do more damage. They're suckers for anything labelled 'natural'. 'In the marketing world,' remarks Brand, '"natural" now means anything the seller wants to charge extra for or distract your attention with.'

They also resist nuclear power and persist in deluding people into thinking all we have to do is build wind farms and cycle to work. They also go on about the loss of the rainforest when, in fact, fifty-five times more is growing back each year than is being cut. Perhaps worst of all, for Brand, they advocate the Precautionary Principle which requires that any new technology has to be shown to do no harm. This is, of course, impossible. It is also self-fulfilling because it effectively prevents the testing of new technologies to establish risk. Greens have not escaped the pastoralism of their roots and thus find themselves not just on the side of nature, but on the side of nature against humans.

But Stewart Brand lives in hope and this is a very upbeat book. He plainly thinks we'll get there in the end. The Greens are going to have to grow up. This book should help get them out of the nursery.



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 are mirrors of this site here and here


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