Saturday, October 23, 2010

"Scientific American" rediscovers science

An email from Vincent Gray [] below:

I have been a subscriber to the "Scientific American" for as long as I can remember. I have been bitterly disappointed at there persistent embrace of the climate change fraud and the publicity they have given to its promoters.

I have still kept subscribing for the occasional genuine scientific articles.

I just received the issue for November 2010 and I almost fell off my chair at two of their articles. They now admit for the first time the sceptics might be right and they invite discussion on their website here

The first article, page 8 entitled "Fudge Factor" tells of a scientist who always found the results which fitted theory when they did not, how this sort of thing happens all too frequently and includes a sentence questioning whether proxy temperatures measured from tree rings are not an example..

The second article, page 58 has a full page photograph of Judith Curry, Climate Heretic who has been consorting with the likes of Chris Landsea, Roger Pielke Sr, Steven McIntyre and Pat Michaels, who has doubts about the entire IPCC process. I had noticed her intelligent letters on the various blogs

There is a diagram showing how ridiculous the Hockey Stick becomes when you put in the uncertainties.

I have only just finished reading this so I have not so far commented, but I thought you should know that when a magazine like the "Scientific American" permits free discussion on climate change it must mean the beginning of the end.

Immediately below is the introduction to the second article that Vin Gray refers to. Note the Fascist attitude highlighted in red. Below that is an excerpt of the first article referred to. Again note the rubric

Climate Heretic: Judith Curry Turns on Her Colleagues

Why can't we have a civil conversation about climate?

In trying to understand the Judith Curry phenomenon, it is tempting to default to one of two comfortable and familiar story lines.

For most of her career, Curry, who heads the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology, has been known for her work on hurricanes, Arctic ice dynamics and other climate-related topics. But over the past year or so she has become better known for something that annoys, even infuriates, many of her scientific colleagues. Curry has been engaging actively with the climate change skeptic community, largely by participating on outsider blogs such as Climate Audit, the Air Vent and the Black­board.

Along the way, she has come to question how climatologists react to those who question the science, no matter how well established it is. Although many of the skeptics recycle critiques that have long since been disproved, others, she believes, bring up valid points—and by lumping the good with the bad, climate researchers not only miss out on a chance to improve their science, they come across to the public as haughty. “Yes, there’s a lot of crankology out there,” Curry says. “But not all of it is. If only 1 percent of it or 10 percent of what the skeptics say is right, that is time well spent because we have just been too encumbered by groupthink.”

She reserves her harshest criticism for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). For most climate scientists the major reports issued by the United Nations–sponsored body every five years or so constitute the consensus on climate science. Few scientists would claim the IPCC is perfect, but Curry thinks it needs thoroughgoing reform. She accuses it of “corruption.” “I’m not going to just spout off and endorse the IPCC,” she says, “because I think I don’t have confidence in the process.”

Whispered discreetly at conferences or in meeting rooms, these claims might be accepted as part of the frequently contentious process of a still evolving area of science. Stated publicly on some of the same Web sites that broke the so-called Climategate e-mails last fall, they are considered by many to be a betrayal, earning Curry epithets from her colleagues ranging from “naive” to “bizarre” to “nasty” to worse.

All of which sets up the two competing story lines, which are, on the surface at least, equally plausible. The first paints Curry as a peacemaker—someone who might be able to restore some civility to the debate and edge the public toward meaningful action. By frankly acknowledging mistakes and encouraging her colleagues to treat skeptics with respect, she hopes to bring about a meeting of the minds.

The alternative version paints her as a dupe—someone whose well-meaning efforts have only poured fuel on the fire. By this account, engaging with the skeptics is pointless because they cannot be won over. They have gone beyond the pale, taking their arguments to the public and distributing e-mails hacked from personal computer accounts rather than trying to work things out at conferences and in journal papers.

Which of these stories is more accurate would not matter much if the field of science in question was cosmology, say, or paleontology, or some other area without any actual impact on people’s lives. Climate science obviously is not like that. The experts broadly agree that it will take massive changes in agriculture, energy production, and more to avert a potential disaster.

In this context, figuring out how to shape the public debate is a matter of survival. If people and governments are going to take serious action, it pretty much has to be now, because any delay will make efforts to stave off major climate change much more expensive and difficult to achieve. But the COP15 climate negotiations in Copenhagen last December ended in a watered-down policy document, with no legally binding commitments for countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Following Copenhagen, the U.S. Senate was unable to pass even a modest “cap and trade” bill that would have mandated reductions. And in the wake of Climategate a year ago and widespread attacks on the IPCC and on climate science in general, the public may be more confused than ever about what to think. Is Curry making things worse or better?


Fudge Factor: Did Marc Hauser know what he was doing?

As of this writing, the precise nature of Marc Haus­er’s transgressions remains murky. Haus­er is Harvard’s superstar primate psychologist—and, perhaps ironically, an expert on the evolution of morality—whom the university recently found guilty of eight counts of scientific misconduct. Harvard has kept mum about the details, but a former lab assistant alleged that when Hauser looked at videotapes of rhesus monkeys, in an experiment on their capacity to learn sound patterns, he noted behavior that other people in the lab couldn’t see, in a way that consistently favored his hypothesis. When confronted with these discrepancies, the assistant says, Hauser asserted imperiously that his interpretation was right and the others’ wrong.

Hauser has admitted to committing “significant mistakes.” In observing the reactions of my colleagues to Hauser’s shocking comeuppance, I have been surprised at how many assume reflexively that his misbehavior must have been deliberate. For example, University of Maryland physicist Robert L. Park wrote in a Web column that Hauser “fudged his experiments.” I don’t think we can be so sure. It’s entirely possible that Hauser was swayed by “confirmation bias”—the tendency to look for and perceive evidence consistent with our hypotheses and to deny, dismiss or distort evidence that is not.

The past few decades of research in cognitive, social and clinical psychology suggest that confirmation bias may be far more common than most of us realize. Even the best and the brightest scientists can be swayed by it, especially when they are deeply invested in their own hypotheses and the data are ambiguous. A baseball manager doesn’t argue with the umpire when the call is clear-cut—only when it is close.

Scholars in the behavioral sciences, including psychology and animal behavior, may be especially prone to bias. They often make close calls about data that are open to many interpretations. Last year, for instance, Belgian neurologist Steven Laureys insisted that a comatose man could communicate through a keyboard, even after controlled tests failed to find evidence. Climate researchers trying to surmise past temperature patterns by using proxy data are also engaged in a “particularly challenging exercise because the data are incredibly messy,” says David J. Hand, a statistician at Imperial College London.


The ClimateGate Secret Meeting

Some interesting news from Portugal

A usual reader of the blog sent me yesterday an interesting news from a Portuguese newspaper. It deals with the classic Medieval Warm Period problem, in the most green Portuguese newspaper. I immediately recognized one of the worst environmental journalists in Portugal, dealing with one of my favorite issues. Interestingly enough, Ricardo Trigo, a portuguese climatologist, was trying to explain the pseudo-science behind climate change and global warming, confusing things like Greenland's vikings and Maunder's Minimum.

But what really interested me in the story was a reference to Phil Jones, the person in the center of the ClimateGate controversy. And references to a conference in Portugal, regarding the Medieval Warm Period. I spent some time trying to figure out what had happened. Turned out that I had not read the news with attention: the conference had happened a month before!

Between 22 and 24 of September, a symposium entitled "The Medieval Warm Period Redux: Where and When was it warm?" was organized in Lisbon, Portugal. The Climategate mob was here, including Phil Jones, Michael Mann, Malcolm Hughes and Raymond Bradley. I bet the main point on the agenda was how "to get rid of the Medieval Warm Period".

SOURCE (See the original for links)

The abstracts for the conference mentioned above are available here. They all recognize that the MWP happened but, as usual, try to minimize it or attribute it to ocean currents only.

That variations in solar output might affect the oceans is carefully left unmentioned. Most of the earth's surface is water so what happens there could be a major mechanism for solar influences on the climate in the rest of the world.

But, whatever its cause, the fact that the MWP happened shows that the present warm period is not unusual and is therefore unlikely to be the result of human influences. So the widespread recognition of the MWP at a Warmist conference would appear to be a major step towards the decay of climate alarmism -- JR

No more beef and cheese: Go vegetarian, by order of the UEA climate crooks

Wholesale changes to the nation’s diet, with a move towards vegetarian food and away from beef and cheese, have been recommended by Government advisers.

A report commissioned by the Food Standards Agency suggests radical changes to what we eat and even how we cook. These include eating more seasonal produce to reduce transportation and switching to microwave ovens and pressure cookers to use less energy in preparing food.

Out would go beef, cheese, sugary foods and drinks such as tea, coffee and cocoa. In would come vegetables and pulses, together with yoghurt.

The FSA says the switch is necessary as part of a move to a diet that is low in greenhouse gases (GHG), which are associated with climate change.

The report, compiled by a team from the University of East Anglia, suggests that schools, hospitals and other public bodies should be expected to lead a change in national behaviour by putting low-GHG food on their menus. The university was at the centre of allegations last year that it had manipulated climate change data to magnify the problem.

Its report, called Food and Climate Change, will be controversial given that many people may baulk at being told what they should eat in order to meet greenhouse gas reduction targets.

However, the recommendations will be welcomed by vegetarian campaigners and those who support organic farming, which is recognised in the study as producing food that is lower in GHG.

But the National Farmers’ Union has ridiculed the idea that a shift to vegetarian food will combat climate change as ‘simplistic’. A spokesman said: ‘It is simply not true that fruit and vegetables are a better climate option than meat and milk. You have to look at how these crops are produced in terms of the energy used for growing and transport.’


The British elite prefers polite Malthusianism

The American woman paying British drug addicts to stop breeding is only saying out loud what more "respectable" people normally say in code

Barbara Harris, an American mother of four children whom she adopted from a crack addict, is offering British drug users a fix with a twist: cash for sterilisation.

Harris’s North Carolina-based charity Project Prevention has already paid 3,500 Americans addicted to drugs or alcohol to have sterilisations or to get long-term birth control. Now she is bringing the initiative to Britain and has been accused of taking advantage of vulnerable people and even of acting like Hitler. She is offering to pay £200 to any drug user in London, Glasgow, Bristol, Leicester and parts of Wales who agrees to be operated on. Critics claim her brash methods may work in America, but they have no place in Britain.

In truth, Harris’s highly distasteful Malthusianism is mirrored across polite British society. There are many charities and influential spokespeople here who try to cajole people into limiting the number of children they have. The only difference is that amongst Britain’s better-educated Malthusians, the preferred method for pregnancy prevention is moral bribery rather than financial bribery. Instead of cold, hard cash, ‘Our Malthusians’ use seemingly subtle, fluffy incentives to try to control fecundity, such as telling us that having smaller families will help reduce our carbon footprints and leave a more spacious, eco-diverse planet for the next generation.

Harris’s no-BS approach may jar with British sensibilities, but in the UK many a stiff upper lip has curled at the thought of rampant procreation ruining the planet. Only the other week, for instance, John Guillebaud, an emeritus professor of reproductive health and family planning at University College London, proposed a ‘non-rigid guideline to UK couples that a two-child maximum is the greatest contribution anyone can make to a habitable planet for our grandchildren’.

Guillebaud said the world is experiencing a ‘youthquake’ and proposed that doctors encourage patients not to have more than two children. The benevolent professor admitted that enforcing a Chinese-style one-child policy or socially stigmatising unplanned pregnancies would be bad things. Still, something must be done, he said, because larger families need larger cars and houses and use up more resources.

So while Harris tells her ‘clients’ that they have a responsibility not to pass on crack addictions to their kids, the esteemed professor tells couples that they have a responsibility not to pass on their ‘addiction to stuff’ to the next generation.

Guillebaud’s proposal is far from original. Last year, the green, overpopulation-obsessed outfit the Optimum Population Trust launched a ‘Stop at Two’ online pledge to encourage couples to limit their family size. Jonathon Porritt, a patron of OPT and previously an environmental adviser to the New Labour government, said ‘every additional human being is increasing the burden on this planet which is becoming increasingly intolerable’.

Such is the deep Malthusianism of sections of the eco-lobby that some greens don’t even need a handout from an American in order to get sterilised – they are doing it voluntarily. Some British women are getting sterilised in order to protect the planet from overpopulation. One, who works at an environmental organisation, got an abortion and then a sterilisation in order, she said, to help save the planet: ‘Every person who is born uses more food, more water, more land, more fossil fuels, more trees and produces more rubbish, more pollution, more greenhouse gases, and adds to the problem of overpopulation.’

Compared to the deranged worldview of deep greens, who see every pregnant woman as harbouring an environmental-disaster-in-the-making, Project Prevention looks positively tame. The odious Barbara Harris sees only one section of humanity, the drug addicts, as giving birth to a damaged kind of life – the respectable green movement sees every birth as potentially destructive.

You might say that in targeting drug addicts, Harris is saying that some people – Them – have no right to become parents. But the overpopulation debate is also riddled with prejudice about the ‘wrong’ kind of people having too many kids, whether it’s working-class people in Britain or black and Asian families in the developing world. Harris’s organisation is only saying more explicitly what the respectable Malthusians have learned to spin in the language of saving the planet and empowering women. Here is a woman who just comes right out and says it: some people are not worthy of having children. No mollycoddling, no subtle nudging; just a couple of hundred quid, a snip, and the problem is solved.

Of course, for the mainstream Malthusian lobby, talk of sterilisation sounds too much like eugenics; campaigning for couples to have just one child sounds too much like Chinese authoritarianism; and only criticising oversized Third World families is too much like colonialism. They far prefer initiatives such as the ‘stop at two or the planet gets it’ campaign, which is seen as being completely PC and acceptable in polite society. That is, they prefer moral blackmail to financial blackmail, warning us again and again that if we don’t stop breeding, the world will become an uninhabitable place. Is such baseless fearmongering about fecundity really that much better than giving cash to junkies on a Glasgow estate? In both cases, the aim is the same: to put pressure on people to stop breeding.

Harris’s cash-for-sterilisation incentive is insensitive and cruel. But the emotional blackmail of the mainstream sustainability school of thought is even more insidious, devious and tasteless. It poses everyone who has children as selfish and irresponsible, telling us that by having kids we are creating little carbon monsters who will grow up to be as addicted to stuff as their parents were.



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Anonymous said...

I'm in agreement with virtually all you have posted here, but the statement that gases are heated only by contact (conduction) is not correct. They can certainly absorb radiant heat energy, with absorption lines typically in the infrared portion of the spectrum.
Famous examples include the absorption lines in the solar spectrum.

Douglas W. Cooper, Ph.D.

JR said...

Yes. My comment there was too brief. I have expanded it -- adding adiabatic effects as well