Friday, June 17, 2011

Simple-Simon question still stumps the Warmists

As I noted yesterday and the day before, there is a site here which claims to have all the answers to "climate denier" arguments

But there is one question that was put to them 3 days ago now that they still have not even attempted to answer. It is a question perfectly well-grounded in fact but pushes them right off their mental tramtracks. The question reads as follows:
Hey guys!

I gather that the global temperature has risen by less than one degree Celsius in the last 150 years

That sounds to me like we live in an era of exceptional climate stability

What am I missing?

New scientific report shows no increase in precipitation over past 105 years, contrary to global warming theory

One of the central tenets of global warming theory is that warming of the atmosphere results in increased water vapor and thus precipitation, leading to alarmist predictions of increased flooding. A paper published online yesterday in the Journal of Geophysical Research counters this notion, showing that winter precipitation of the central Pacific coast has not increased over the past 105 years. Rather, a cyclical pattern of unknown etiology is found, which clearly shows no correlation to CO2 levels whatsoever.

Red horizontal line added to show zero anomaly level

Is energetic decadal variability a stable feature of the central Pacific Coast's winter climate?

The central Pacific Coast of the United States is one of the few regions in North America where precipitation exhibited a high proportion of variance at decadal time scales (10 to 20 years) during the last century.

We use a network of tree ring-width records to estimate the behavior of the observed decadal pattern in regional winter precipitation during the last three and a half centuries. The pattern was most vigorous during the mid and late 20th century.

Between A.D. 1650 and 1930, proxy estimates show a limited number of events separated by longer intervals of relatively low variance. The multicentennial perspective offered by tree rings indicates the energetic decadal pattern in winter precipitation is a relatively recent feature.

Until a physical mechanism can be identified that explains the presence of this decadal rhythm, as well as its inconsistency during the period of record, we cannot rule out the possibility that this behavior may cease as abruptly as it began.


Society being misled by proponents of human induced climate change

By Kelvin Kemm (Dr. Kemm is a nuclear physicist)

I believe that, in the future, when people look back at the history of current decades, they will wonder how a sophisticated, technological society could be so misled by proponents of human-induced climate change, when so much scientific evidence is available to show that clear logical alternatives are available to the hysterical incantations of the doom-and-gloom cult.

It is actually fascinating to watch global climate change science being mixed into the extreme green emotional blender to such an extent that the truth becomes passing fragments in the swirl of emotional and distorted public discourse.

Against this background, it is necessary to stand back and pick out the truth and form a coherent picture that stands the scrutiny of correct scientific assessment. Correct scientific assessment was pioneered by people such as Sir Isaac Newton. The process has a long history, and is composed of well-defined protocols.

In the midst of the climate debate of confusion and counterclaim, painfully few members of the public stop to ask for the real credentials of the people making dramatic public statements that seem to be scientific.

Prior to the well-known climate conference in Copenhagen, Belgium, then British Prime Minister Gordon Brown made a dramatic speech in which he said that mankind had 50 days to save the world. He was looking for political points rather than scientific truth, just as some of Sir Isaac Newton’s detractors were over 400 years ago.

In a speech delivered in October 2009, Brown said: “But the threat is not confined to the developing world. The extraordinary summer heat wave of 2003 in Europe resulted in over 35 000 extra deaths. On current trends, such an event could become quite routine in Britain in just a few decades’ time. And within the lifetime of our children and grandchildren, the intense temperatures of 2003 could become the average temperature experienced throughout much of Europe. In Britain, we face the prospect of more frequent droughts and a rising wave of floods.”

So, why did he find it necessary to refer to the summer heat of 2003, when it was 2009? He said that the high temperatures of 2003 could become the norm in Britain “in just a few decades’ time”. He had no evidence for such a statement. In the meantime, Britain and Europe have had a couple of the coldest winters ever, with airports and roads being closed owing to record snowfalls.

As I write this article in South Africa, heading into our winter, I find that our temperatures are warmer than those of the UK, which is heading into summer. Brown’s predicted curve seems to be curving away from his prediction.

But I can now make a prediction with great confidence: within 200 days, the next United Nations (UN) environment conference, the seventeenth Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change will take place in Durban, South Africa, and considerable hot air will be produced by many humans at the conference.

In the mid-1970s, prestigious journals Time and Newsweek both predicted massive global cooling, and even featured covers showing a frozen planet covered in ice. Oops! That turned out to be a bad mistake. I wonder which members of their editorial teams are now kicking themselves for that blunder.

But the media continue to quote the green alarmists and to generally bypass the more stable element of the scientific community, who ask people to look at the real science. Newsweek, once bitten, twice shy, perhaps, is now taking a second look at the current global warming claims, and has said: “Some of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC’s) most-quoted data and recommendations were taken straight out of unchecked activist brochures, news- paper articles . . . Just as damaging, many climate scientists have responded to critiques by questioning the integrity of their critics, rather than by supplying data and reasoned arguments.”

Yes, personal attacks on people who dare to try to tell the truth are becoming common. The Climategate scandal showed just how bad this has become, but, sadly, much of the media brushed the Climategate revelations aside.

When overt manipulation of the data occurred, that was bad enough, but then these people went on to hatch plans to threaten and intimidate journal editors who attempted to publish the truth.

In 2007, I was part of an original group of 400 scientists, internationally, who were invited to sign a historic climate document of the US Senate. We said that the so-called ‘consensus’ that human-induced global warming is an established fact, potentially leading to the downfall of mankind, is just plain and simply not true and is not supported by scientific evidence. We were jumped on, but, interestingly, the document has now grown to over 1 000 qualified signatories, and can be found here. Note that every signatory signs his or her name and clearly indicates where he or she comes from. The signatories can be found!

Many proponents of the alarmist cause sign no names, or make their affiliations so obscure that it is frequently difficult to actually find out who these people are. I wonder if Brown has a clear list of the various names and addresses of the people whose advice he used in 2009.

Well, let us see what comes out of Durban later this year.


Peer Review And ‘Pal Review’ In Climate Science

Publishing in the scientific literature is supposed to be tough. Submit a manuscript to a reputable journal and it will go through “peer review,” where your equals criticize your work, send their comments to a journal editor and then the editor will decide whether to accept your submission, reject it outright, or something in between.

In order to limit any bias caused by personal or philosophical animosity, the editor should remove your name from the paper and send it to other experts who have no apparent conflict of interest in reviewing your work. You and the reviewers should not know who each other are. This is called a “double blind” peer review.

Well, this is “the way it is supposed to be.” But in the intellectually inbred, filthy-rich world of climate science, where billions of dollars of government research money support trillions of dollars of government policy, peer review has become anything but that.

There is simply no “double blindness.” For reasons that remain mysterious, all the major climate journals leave the authors’ names on the manuscripts sent out for review.

Economists, psychologists and historians of science all tell us (and I am inclined to believe them) that we act within our rational self-interest. Removing the double-blind restriction in such an environment is an invitation for science abuse.

What about if my professional advancement is dependent upon climate change monies (which applies to just about every academic or government climatologist)? I’m liable to really like a paper that says this is a horrible and important problem, and likely to rail against an author who says it’s probably a bit overblown. May God have mercy on any manuscript that mentions the rather large elephant in the room, which is that we probably can’t do much about it anyway.

Such “confirmation bias” has been noted and studied for years, but the response of science in general — and atmospheric science in particular — has only been to make things worse.

Peer review has become ”pal review.” Send a paper to one of the very many journals published by the American Geophysical Union–the world’s largest publisher of academic climate science–and you can suggest five reviewers. The editor doesn’t have to take your advice, but he’s more likely to if you bought him dinner at the last AGU meeting, isn’t he? That is, of course, unless journal editors are somehow different than government officials, congressmen, or you.

Or, if you get wind that someone is about to publish something threatening your gravy train, maybe you can cajole the editor to keep it out of print for a year while you prepare a counter-manuscript.

That’s what the “Climategate” gang did with the International Journal of Climatology whn University of Rochester’s David Douglass submitted a paper. His work showed that a large warming at high altitudes in the tropics–one of the major ways in which the enhanced greenhouse effect is supposed to change the climate–isn’t happening. For the gory details, click here. The story on this one is still unfolding as the journal has declined to publish a sequel to the counter-manuscript.

Or you could simply ignore manuscripts sent to you that find problems with temperature histories.

But there has to be a gold standard somewhere, right? Perhaps the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)?

Dream on. If you are a member of the National Academy, you can submit four manuscripts a year, called “contributed papers” as long as you do the “peer review” yourself! That’s right: you send your manuscript to two of your friends, and then mail your paper along with their comments. Again, pal review.

The PNAS editor then rubber-stamps the results. In fact, the editor probably goes through quite a few rubber stamps a year, given that only 15 of the 800-odd contributed papers submitted in the last year were rejected. For comparative purposes, Nature would have accepted only about 50 out of that number.

A recent paper submitted to PNAS by National Academy member Richard Lindzen was afforded special treatment. The editor insisted that it be held to a different standard of review because of its “political implications.” Lindzen’s research found that carbon dioxide warming is likely to be much lower than what is being calculated by current climate models.

So what about the legion of alarmist papers from NASA firebrand James Hansen that PNAS publishes via pal review? Don’t they have “political implications” too? In the mind of our National Academy, apparently some political implications are more equal than others.

There’s a lot of confirmation bias working in Hansen’s favor, because it’s back to the back of the plane for ham-and-egger climate scientists if Lindzen is right. That’s where the “political implications” get personal.

There’s a lot more to this story. Lindzen eventually published his paper–which actually benefited from a real review–in an obscure journal. But the next time you think that peer review is unbiased, think of confirmation bias, pal review and Climategate, and try to figure a way out of the mess that climate science has gotten itself into.


If only Britain's politicians were on the side of the ordinary people - and not the green fanatics and council jobsworths

("Jobsworth" is British slang for an obstructive government employee, usually a local government employee who refuses some request or service on trivial or technical grounds)

About a year ago, Oxford City Council kindly gave me a slop bucket. It has sat unused outside our back door. The idea of scraping old potato peelings and fish bones into this small receptacle, inevitably creating an almighty mess and stink, was a bridge too far.

Now, however, we shall all be forced to use them. The Tory Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman has decreed that every household in England must press a slop bucket into action. This is despite the fact that in opposition she led the anti-slop bucket movement on the grounds that they created an unholy pong. Just one more broken Tory promise.

Don't get me wrong: I'm not a recycling 'denier'. The responsibility for getting rid of waste in our house has somehow largely been devolved to me, and every week I spend some time conscientiously sorting newspapers, cartons and bits of plastic into the correct wheelie bin.

Sometimes I find myself devoting a fair bit of intellectual energy to wondering whether, say, a tattered piece of cellophane is recyclable or not.

I try to ignore the newspaper reports that there are vast warehouses full of unsorted rubbish, and ships laden with the stuff on the high seas to China, where it all ends up in a landfill site as big as the Gobi Desert. I attempt to discount stories that recycled paper is sometimes rejected by paper mills because it contains shards of glass or other unsuitable materials.

We are all in this together, I repeat to myself, as I dutifully drop the right thing into the right bin.

And, in common with many of my fellow citizens, my spirits have been sustained during this melancholy process by the solemn promise made by the Tories in opposition, and indeed in government, that they would at least restore weekly bin collections.

I have looked forward to the time when visitors to our house will not hold their noses as they pass our smelly bin, emptied every fortnight.

Recently encountering a plump rat who was shamelessly sunning himself on the pavement outside our house, I comforted myself with the thought that he would have a rough time of it once Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, had fulfilled his pledge to insist on a weekly round.

Mr Pickles, whose Pickwickian girth and manner have always endeared him to me, declared in an interview with the Mail last year that 'it's a basic right for every English man and woman to be able to put the remnants of their chicken tikka masala in their bin without having to wait a fortnight for it to be collected'.

He looks as though he has consumed a good few chicken tikka masalas in his time, and therefore spoke from the heart.

Now Mr Pickles has been overruled by the bossy-sounding Mrs Spelman and is reported to be furious — though not so furious that he is thinking about resigning. And, to be fair, why should he? If a minister in the Coalition stood down every time a pledge was broken, there wouldn't be anyone left.

But I do worry that this habit of making promises to win votes, and then almost casually breaking them, is likely to be injurious to democracy.

Mrs Spelman idiotically tries to justify herself by saying that 'in opposition you don't have a chance to see the Government's books'. Surely we all knew enough to be aware that there was a gaping black hole.

Ministers say it would cost the Government £132.5million a year to restore weekly collections since cash-strapped councils do not have the money. I accept this is quite a large amount. On the other hand, there are two quangos overseeing rubbish policy that cost £50million a year. Couldn't they be closed down, and their funding be diverted? And shouldn't a promise be a promise?

My strong suspicion is that it is not primarily a matter of cash. Mrs Spelman has gone native. Like many of her ministerial colleagues she is only nominally a Tory — if by 'Tory' we mean someone who instinctively sides with the individual against the might of the State.

She likes bossing us about. She subscribes to the notion that Whitehall — or Brussels — always knows what's best for us. If you don't want to shovel fish bones into a slop bucket, tough.

In short, she has bought into the whole recycling racket, behind which stands the European Union with its Landfill Directive which has set targets for reducing the amount of waste sent to our landfill sites by 65 per cent by 2015, set against a 1995 baseline. Please don't ask what business it is of the EU to dictate what we do with our rubbish.

Most of us can agree that there is far too much needless packaging produced by our supermarkets, as well as too many plastic bags.

We don't want the earth of England to be filled with broken bottles and drink cans. Let's recycle if it works — but don't let it become a system for oppressing the individual so that the very people who pay for rubbish collection end up by being bullied, penalised and even fined.

Anyone but the most blinkered recycler can surely see that the proliferation of bins is disfiguring the urban landscape — in other words, creating a form of aesthetic pollution that in its way is quite as obnoxious as the physical pollution of landfill sites, just as swathes of wind farms promoted by green zealots are despoiling England every bit as much as the power stations they are supposed to replace, if not more.

One overmighty local authority, Newcastle-under-Lyme in Staffordshire, insists that residents use no fewer than nine separate bags, bins and buckets to satisfy its recycling requirements.

A friend of mine tells me he has to have seven. I suppose I should be grateful that our own council only demands three, though like many others it has recently started charging for the removal of garden waste, this being another way of squeezing extra cash from already hard-pressed council tax payers.

Eric Pickles has turned out to be as much use as a burst balloon. Mrs Spelman behaves as one might have expected. Instead of knocking some sense into Whitehall bureaucrats, and making councils behave in a civilised manner, she has ratcheted up the recycling nonsense one more notch by forcing us to use slop buckets. And she calls herself a Tory!

Would it be hopelessly naive at five minutes to midnight to request David Cameron to think again and honour his modest, but oft repeated, pledge? In the circumstances it does not seem much to ask.

Unlike me, I don't suppose he does much recycling these days, but there is nothing he could do more likely to re-establish his credentials as a Tory, and show that he is on the side of the ordinary people of England against the green fanatics, council busybodies and bureaucrats, than to give us back the weekly bin collections he promised.


The rise of the Green wowser

"Wowser" was originally an American term for "temperance" campaigners. It seems to have died in the USA when Prohibition was repealed. Australia never had Prohibition, however, so the term is still in common use there to decribe killjoys of all sorts

WHEN we survey some of the more controversial incidents of recent times, from the attempts to place restrictions on poker machine players to the suspension of live cattle exports to Indonesia, there is a connecting thread that almost everyone has missed. This is the return of the wowser.

Wowsers (We Only Want Social Evils Remedied) are traditionally as Australian as meat pies and Holden cars.

They were responsible for Australian institutions such as the six o'clock closing and the shutting of shops on Sundays.

One would have thought that they had receded into the annals of history as Australians became more liberal on these sorts of issues. Shopping is now very much a Sunday experience and Australians are used to the idea of civilised drinking.

But wowserism has never really gone away and, like any great tradition, has bided its time waiting for new opportunities. It has simply changed its spots. Once it had a strong religious colouring; now it is taking on an increasingly secular tone.

Wowsers want to improve people and make them better. To do so they have to prevent them from engaging in activities that they find immoral: be it gambling, eating meat, drinking alcohol, smoking or consuming junk food.

My father used to say that for such people if you were enjoying yourself there must be sin involved.

I have no doubt that behind the ruckus about live meat exports there is a vegetarian agenda, based on the idea that vegetarians are better people than meat eaters. If we limit gambling we can make people better. And, as we all know, it is a fact universally acknowledged that there is not a bogan out there who could not do with some improvement.

In days gone by, the ideals of wowserdom were often linked with those of eugenics. People could be improved if only their habits and lifestyle were changed; if only they lived a more rational way of life.

Eugenics has often been misunderstood. For one thing it was embraced in countries such as Australia by people who considered themselves to be progressive, who we would describe as being on the left. For another it was as much about changing the environment as it was about selective breeding. It was about making better people.

It was not only Nazi Germany that engaged in activities such as sterilising the unfit. Many countries, including democracies, sought to improve their populations in this way.

It was not politics so much as religion that determined whether a government would seek to go down this road. Protestants generally did, Catholics did not. Fortunately, Australia had a significant Catholic minority.

In a slightly different vein it is worth observing that Hitler and his fellow Nazis were very concerned about cruelty to animals and introduced legislation that made Germany a world leader in this area. They restricted their cruelty only to those people whom they regarded as inferior, all in the name of improving the human race.

Wowsers and eugenicists generally go together as they see the key to a better world lying in the creation of better human beings. Eradicate evils and that will be possible.

The idea that it is the task of the government to improve the people who are entrusted to their care is very dangerous. Are people who do not eat meat or play the poker machines really better than those who do? Do we want the state to attempt to create a utopia of good people who have had their bad bits excised?

It is not surprising that wowserism should come to prominence again in tandem with the growing strength of the Greens. The Greens are the latest manifestation of a sort of moralistic puritanism that has been part of Australia since the First Fleet. Australians must change their evil ways. The Greens see themselves as the enforcers who will achieve that change, thereby leading the country into the sustainable utopia.

In such a utopia the status of animals would rise and that of humans fall. It is no longer necessary to sterilise the unfit. With the advance of medicine they can be detected and disposed of while still in the womb.

The only problem is that maybe ordinary Australians do not want to be improved in this way. As in the past, they enjoy their gambling, their steaks and their booze. They simply want to enjoy life.

Wowsers are part of the Australian tradition but they have always been in the minority.

Their grand plans for the people of this country have always run up against the reality that most people are happy to be less than perfect. On that rock the Greens will ultimately founder.


World of sham carbon policies exposed

With his usual mastery of critical detail, distinguished Australian economist Henry Ergas comments on Australia's proposed carbon tax

CONTRARY to repeated assertions by the Prime Minister, the Productivity Commission did not endorse an economy-wide emissions trading scheme. Rather, its recently released report on carbon emissions policies models an ETS that applies only to the electricity sector and excludes all trade-exposed industries.

As the commission shows, current policies aimed at subsidising renewable energy incur high costs for pitifully little outcome. No surprise then that its modelling finds that scrapping those policies and imposing a carbon price of $9 a tonne on the electricity sector would cause less harm.

But that is not what the government is proposing. Despite the PC finding that "no country imposes an economy-wide tax on greenhouse gases or has in place an economy-wide ETS", its ETS will extend beyond electricity to the emissions-intensive, trade-exposed industries that are at the heart of our comparative advantage. And its carbon price will be three times that the PC models.

As the commission warns, without comparable measures in competitor countries, that could merely shift output and emissions to our commercial rivals.

Moreover, the government has no intention of removing the myriad measures that squander resources on uneconomic energy sources. Rather, it is committed to its Renewable Energy Target, with the changes it made last January further increasing the subsidy it provides. The PC suggests those changes alone will increase NSW electricity prices by 6 per cent, on top of the 4 per cent increase the RET has already caused.

It is important to understand that a carbon tax does not offset these distortions: rather, like turning up the volume on a faulty amplifier, it compounds the loss. This is because it amounts to an increase in the subsidies those schemes provide.

Assume an inefficient subsidy to buses; now impose a tax on using cars. The additional passengers who shift to buses valued cars more than those who shifted earlier, so the loss increases more than proportionately. At the same time, more must be spent meeting that demand, causing further losses as resources move from making cars to buses.

Even in such simple cases, cumulating distortions cause waste to rise exponentially.

Matters are even worse with an ETS because it affects not only what is consumed but how things are produced. As more efficient ways of producing are replaced by less efficient alternatives, a social loss is incurred on every unit supplied.

Nor is that loss trivial. According to a recent study by AGL, a strong advocate of an ETS, the running cost of a base-load gas plant is six times that of Victorian brown coal. Given those cost differentials, changing the generation mix requires swinging penalties on low-cost energy sources, with AGL estimating that a $30 a tonne carbon tax - not even enough to cause widespread substitution - would increase the running cost of brown coal plants by 10.2 times.

That 10-fold increase would not just hit struggling residential consumers. One-third of our direct emissions from electricity generation are associated with electricity use in manufacturing. Our trade-exposed industries would therefore suffer a double whammy as they were taxed both directly and through higher input costs.

The resulting losses might be worth bearing if they materially reduced the risk of dangerous climate change. But it is clear from the commission's report that current global efforts are derisory. True, the eight countries the PC analysed have more than a thousand policies in place, many focused on electricity generation. But in aggregate those policies yield barely 210 million tonnes of electricity sector abatement.

Take China, the world's largest and most rapidly growing emitter, which the Garnaut report says has "pledged large reduction targets, implemented reforms that deliver on its commitments, and set sail on a global mission to dominate new opportunities". But the PC finds China's abatement affects barely 1 per cent of its electricity emissions, while its abatement outlays, at one-third of 1 per cent of gross domestic product, are well below Australia's.

Moreover, the PC's measure of net abatement takes no account of subsidies to emissions. Recent estimates place subsidies to fossil fuel use in China at about 1.4 per cent of GDP. For each dollar spent curbing emissions, China therefore spends $4 promoting them.

Yes, some countries, notably Germany and Britain, devote substantial resources to emissions reduction. But even there, the PC finds high costs for modest impacts. Indeed, as the report notes, the Germans spend $150 to $300 a tonne of carbon securing emissions reductions that under the European Union's ETS are simply offset by increased emissions in Italy and Spain.

That may seem irrational. But the reality is that this is an area whose politics are now entirely symbolic. Notwithstanding sweeping promises in international forums, and regardless of the homilies of climate change's high priests, governments do not believe communities have any stomach to make real sacrifices for a goal that seems ever more illusory.

Trapped between the zealots and that brute fact, they resort to what are little more than bribes, buying, at absurdly high cost, a bit of abatement here, dispensing an exclusion from obligations there, and sprinkling the whole with scarcely credible claims to moral principle. Unsurprisingly, the policies born from this combination of shabbiness of motives and pretence to public spirit are as incoherent as they are socially wasteful. But that does not mean those policies are not privately profitable. Indeed, studies find even the EU ETS increased European generators' profits by some 30 to 50 per cent, as free permit allocations ensured revenues increased by more than costs. Such transfers merely increase the inefficiencies, as profits are dissipated in attempts to secure and protect rents, while those who would bear the costs throw further resources at self-defence.

Only in bad light, and even then only by the weak-sighted, could such policies be confused for meaningful efforts at tackling climate change. That is the sham the commission's spotlight exposes. But none are so blind as those that would not see. Forcing the government to face up to the PC's findings is the task ahead.



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



Anonymous said...

Copehnagen is in Denmark.

charles said...

Kemm the nuclear physicist good article but copenhagen is in Denmark!