Friday, February 18, 2011

The debunking of the Antarctic warming scare

In the science blogs there is currently a serious bust up between Eric Steig, author of a paper claiming that the Antarctic was warming (and therefore, in his view, putting the final nail in the sceptics' coffin) and Ryan O'Donnell, who, with Steve McIntyre, has published a challenging rebuttal. The story is taken up in the UK Spectator this week. The main story is subscription only, but the editorial makes very interesting reading:

In January 2009, Nature magazine ran the a cover story conveying dramatic news about Antarctica: that most of it had warmed significantly over the last half-century. For years, the data from this frozen continent - with 90 percent of the world’s ice mass - had stubbornly refused to corroborate the global warming narrative. So the study, led by Eric Steig of the University of Washington, was treated as a bit of a scoop. It reverberated around the world. Gavin Schmidt, from the RealClimate blog, declared that Antarctica had silenced the sceptics. Mission, it seemed, was accomplished: Antarctica was no longer an embarrassment to the global warming narrative.

He spoke too soon. The indefatigable Steve McIntyre started to scrutinise his followings along with Nicholas Lewis. They found several flaws: Steig et al had used too few data sequences to speak for an entire continent, and had processed the data in a very questionable way. But when they wanted to correct him, in another journal, they quickly ran into an inconvenient truth about global warming: the high priests do not like refutation. To have their critique (initial submission here, final version here) of Steig’s work published, they needed to assuage the many demands of an anonymous ‘Reviewer A’ - whom they later found out to be Steig himself.

Lewis and Matt Ridley have joined forces to tell the story in the cover issue of this week’s Spectator. It’s another powerful, and depressing tale of the woeful state of climate science. Real science welcomes refutation: with global warming, it is treated as a religion. As they say in their cover story:
“Nature’s original peer-review process had let through an obviously flawed paper, and no professional climate scientist then disputed it - perhaps because of fear that doing so might harm their careers. As the title of Richard Bean’s new play - The Heretic - at the Royal Court hints, young scientists going into climate studies these days are a bit like young theologians in Elizabethan England. They quickly learn that funding and promotion dries up if you express heterodox views, or doubt the scripture. The scripture, in this case, being the assembled reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.”

They went through 88 pages of correspondence in their battle to have their critique published.
“So has Antarctica been warming? Mostly not - at least not measurably. Retreat of the floating Antarctic ice shelves is a favourite story for the media. But, except in a very few peripheral parts, Antarctica is far too cold to lose ice by surface melting.”

As Lewis & Ridley say in their closing paragraphs:
“Papers that come to lukewarm or sceptical conclusions are published, if at all, only after the insertion of catechistic sentences to assert their adherence to orthodoxy. Last year, a paper in Nature Geosciences concluded heretically that `it is at present impossible to accurately determine climate sensitivity to carbon dioxide’ (high sensitivity underpins the entire IPCC argument), yet presaged this with the (absurd) remark: `Earth's climate can only be stabilized by bringing carbon dioxide emissions under control in the twenty-first century.’

Likewise, a paper In Science last month linking periods of migration in European history with cooler weather stated: `Such historical data may provide a basis for counteracting the recent political and fiscal reluctance to mitigate projected climate change.’

Sceptical climatologist Pat Michaels pointed out that the sentence would make more sense with `counteracting’ removed.

Science as a philosophy is a powerful, but fragile thing. In the case of climate, it is now in conflict with science as an institution.”


Obama's Closed-Door Dinner with Clean Energy Allies Could Escalate his War on Fossil Fuels

President Obama traveled to the West Coast today to tout his 2012 budget and possibly rally support from Silicon Valley business leaders who support his clean energy agenda.

News reports indicate the President will be meeting behind closed doors with tech giant executives from Google, Apple, Oracle and Facebook, among others, at the home of venture capitalist John Doerr the evening of February 17.

"It seems Obama, who once promised transparency in governing, is meeting behind closed doors with 'The Usual Suspects' CEOs to rally support for his political agenda. Since some of these executives, including former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and John Doerr, have actively supported legislative efforts to restrict the use of fossil fuels, it's likely the real purpose of this trip is a recruitment effort to rally support for Obama's war on fossil fuels," said Deneen Borelli, full-time fellow with the African-American leadership group Project 21.

Deneen Borelli notes that Silicon Valley business leaders and environmental activist groups contributed about $30 million to defeat California Proposition 23 - a voter initiative that would have delayed implementation of the state's onerous global warming law. Eric Schmidt's wife contributed $500,000 to defeat the measure while Google board member John Doerr and his wife added over $ 1.2 million.

Renewable energy is an example of a policy issue that merges the confluence of political and business interests. West Coast business leaders have invested huge sums of money betting on a renewable energy future and the failure of laws such as cap-and-trade to pass Congress has put the viability of renewable energy in jeopardy. The price of traditional forms of energy must be increased through government action to make renewable energy cost-competitive.

"Obama's clean energy goal essentially transfers wealth from working class citizens to the pockets of billionaires such as John Doerr. It's outrageous that Obama is choosing to enrich the political and business elite at great cost to working Americans," added Deneen Borelli.

"President Obama's clean energy goals are in direct alignment with the business interests of the social and political elite. It's a marriage of political and financial convenience. For example, John Doerr, Al Gore's venture capital business partner, has bet heavily on renewable energy and he needs Obama to come through with laws to bailout those investments," said Tom Borelli, Ph.D., director of the National Center for Public Policy Research's Free Enterprise Project.

"I hope Obama's networking with the left-wing elite wakes up the executives from the coal, oil and natural gas industries. Obama's "California Dream Team," is waging war on their industry and, not surprisingly, they are not invited to dinner. The executives from the fossil fuel industry were outspent by about 3 to 1 over the CA proposition 23. Unless they initiate an massive effort to defend their business these companies will be on the endangered list," added Tom Borelli.

The National Center For Public Policy Research is a conservative, free-market non-profit think-tank established in 1982. It is supported by the voluntary gifts of over 100,000 individual recent supporters, and receives less than one percent of its revenue from corporate sources.


House GOP to Eliminate Climate Change Science Budget

Three members of the new House GOP have proposed eliminating NASA’s climate change research capability entirely. The targeted budget cuts would do more to accomplish the conservative goals of the party than actually cut the budget. The cost of climate change research is a subset of all earth science research which itself gets only 7.5% of NASA’s entire funding, which totals 0.6% of the US Federal budget.

Representatives Bill Posey (R-FL) and Sandy Adams (R-FL) and Rob Bishop (R-UT) are the three that have proposed entirely axing the funding for climate change research.

NASA is one of the three top climate change research organizations worldwide, and the ability of the world to gather data will be impacted.

But with no funding, future taxpayers will no longer have to hear from scientists like James Hansen, lead author in 2007 of a study which concluded: “If global emissions of carbon dioxide continue to rise at the rate of the past decade, this research shows that there will be disastrous effects, including increasingly rapid sea level rise, increased frequency of droughts and floods, and increased stress on wildlife and plants due to rapidly shifting climate zones.”

The total savings by eliminating any research on climate change? A subset of a measly $1.4 billion for all earth sciences that goes to study climate.


Even Revkin of the NYT is getting critical

See below. He is still a Warmist, of course, but he doesn't like claims of certainty where there is none

I posted a quick riff overnight on new research, published in Nature, that links human-driven global warming and rising instances of extreme precipitation in observed parts of the Northern Hemisphere over the last half of the 20th century. (There’s a second related paper, focused on heavy flooding in England in 2000, but I’m confining this discussion to the broader analysis.)

The research is important because, as Gavin Schmidt noted this morning on Realclimate, it digs in on one of the most daunting tasks in climate science — attributing a specific change in climate conditions to the long-term global heat-trapping influence of accumulating greenhouse gases. It adds to vast volumes of work devoted to this question.

But is it big news? From the burst of coverage (including in the news pages of The Times), sure. And that’s no surprise given the core conclusion, with nary a caveat, in the opening summary of the paper:
Here we show that human-induced increases in greenhouse gases have contributed to the observed intensification of heavy precipitation events found over approximately two-thirds of data-covered parts of Northern Hemisphere land areas.

In scientific literature you rarely see statements so streamlined and definitive. For climate science, this is the equivalent of a smoking gun. News indeed. Add in the extreme floods last year (a period not included in the study) and you have more relevance, although Roger Pielke Jr. this morning notes the importance of distinguishing between analysis of certain kinds of extreme precipitation events and disastrous flooding.

The problem is that the Nature paper is not definitive at all, as you’ll see below.

None of this detracts from the importance of this work, or the overall picture of an increasingly human-influenced climate, with impacts on the frequency of gullywashers.

But this does raise big questions about the standards scientists and journals use in summarizing complex work and the justifiable need for journalists — and readers — to explore such work as if it has a “handle with care” sign attached. This is not about “ false balance.” This is about responsible reporting.

A previous instance occurred in 2006, when a paper in Science on frog die-offs in Costa Rica included this firm and sobering statement: "Here we show that a recent mass extinction associated with pathogen outbreaks is tied to global warming".

Things were far more complicated, of course, as you can read in my 2008 piece on Vanishing Frogs, Climate and the Front Page.

In the policy arena, the eagerness to trim away caveats is even more pronounced, as was the case when climate treaty negotiators in CancĂșn erroneously oversimplified the core finding of the 2007 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In that instance, the error was fixed.

So what’s the issue with the new study of bad storms and warming? It opens with an extraordinary summation, which is echoed in the news release disseminated by the journal:
Here we show that human-induced increases in greenhouse gases have contributed to the observed intensification of heavy precipitation events found over approximately two-thirds of data-covered parts of Northern Hemisphere land areas.

Just in case there’s any doubt in the scientific community, this is the news element in this otherwise creditable, but unremarkable[*], work.

At the tail end of the full paper, capping a paragraph about a weak spot in the analysis — that the observed trend in extreme precipitation events exceeds what is produced by various climate models — comes a sentence about uncertainties: "There are, however, uncertainties related to observational limitations, missing or uncertain external forcing and model performance".

There’s no indication that those caveats (which included links to 9 cited papers) apply to the grand conclusion. Did the authors stress the uncertainties in discussions with journalists? It sure doesn’t look that way. Should the journalists have pushed harder when confronted with definitive language? To my mind, yes.

As I wrote recently, there seems to be an inverse relationship between the definitiveness of an assertion and its credibility. This doesn’t mean that everything definitive is wrong (only Joe Romm could find a way to interpret it thus). It means that a reporter, or citizen, confronted with a flat statement on a tough issue would do well to dig a bit deeper.


Correlation is a NECESSARY condition for causation

Yet: Atmospheric CO2 was up in January and temperatures down

The latest, January 2011, temperature date is displayed in our updated Climate Bet graph at right. Neither our graph representing the period of the bet, nor the full satellite temperature series graph compiled by Roy Spencer provide evidence of alarming warming.

Does that mean that atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations are falling, as would be consistent with the Al Gore’s and the IPCC modelers’ previously expressed beliefs? Well, no.

(They did tell us that people need to reduce their CO2 emissions in order to stop the global average temperature from increasing dangerously, didn’t they?)

NOAA’s data shows that atmospheric CO2 increased in January, as it has been for the duration of the NOAA record.

We suggest that disinterested and unbiased observers will wonder whether CO2 changes are really such an important influence on climate as Mr Gore would like to have us believe. They might further wonder how costly policies to reduce CO2 emissions can possibly be justified.

SOURCE (See the original for links and graphics)

Don't overreact to so-called global warming

There's a new book out, something called "Hot." The author worries how his little girl will suffer if something isn't done about global warming, says a New York Times reviewer confiding that the concern broke his heart.

Here's something that should also break his heart. If we do the wrong thing about the climate, we might do far more harm than global warming ever could, maybe killing children.

It's utterly amazing that so many journalists and others inundate us regularly with scare stories demanding that the United States take fierce anti-warming action while scarcely ever pausing to mention the possible futility of it all -- or the costs.

Those costs will get us if we don't fight back, and those saying so aren't just radio hosts of the kind that make leftists urge censorship. They are people like William Nordhaus, a Yale economist who thinks man-made warming is real and dangerous. He has calculated what would happen in the long haul if the world were to implement an anti-warming plan like Al Gore's and has some numbers to share: Costs would outweigh benefits by $21 trillion.

One possible meaning of that figure for undeveloped countries would be that they remain impoverished, sticking with old-fashioned energy sources such as human brawn and maybe a windmill tossed in occasionally. Think of famine. Think of widespread disease. That would be the story unless developed countries gave them hundreds of billions despite recessions, high unemployment and their own Third World trajectories, all induced by the senselessness of cap-and-trade overreach.

Nordhaus does think some strategies could be effective, but there are reasons any effort might be of little avail. If India and China do not join the parade, nothing is accomplished by any American program, and the Chinese have not been spotted signing up. If the warming trends aren't bad, it's all a lot of hollering about very little, and some climatologists say the trends are mild.

One of them is Patrick Michaels who was at the University of Virginia for 30 years. His study convinces him nothing disastrous lies around yonder bend. Another is Richard Lindzen of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He believes gloomy computer simulations are bogus, that the climate changes we are seeing could be more natural than man-made and, like Michaels, that no intolerable warming lies ahead.

While some fanatically vile environmental activists try to make it sound as if anyone disagreeing with their conjectures is on the take, uncertainties abound about human-caused, calamitous climate change. And that's true despite what you may be reading about the accumulating evidence from such commentators as a New Yorker writer upset about reduced presidential alarmism even though he does notice the EPA is preparing an assault. My promise is it will be nasty, destructive and pointless.

A better answer is to adopt one sane course of action that Mark Hertsgaard, the author of "Hot," recommends: adaptation. Another answer if climate does veer in ruinous directions could be along the lines of something the famed physicist Freeman Dyson has suggested. In not too many more years, he suspects, we will have bioengineered plants capable of absorbing huge amounts of the atmospheric carbon dioxide believed by some to be the devil behind a coming hellfire.

The main thing is to avoid what happened with DDT. Because of a ban to protect wildlife from the pesticide in this country, it became more scarce, various kinds of pressures helped restrict its use anywhere, and a consequence was its being employed sparingly if at all in wildlife-safe, indoor spraying to combat malaria in Africa. Though not always, DDT can be enormously effective in stopping the disease while posing minimal if any threats to humans. The estimate is that millions of African children died because of misplaced values and overreactions.

That's worse than heart-breaking.



For more postings from me, see DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, 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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