Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Al Gore and the silencing of debate

Yesterday I posted a link to a story about Al Gore claiming that any expression of skepticism about global warming is to him no different than racism. Here again is what Gore said,
“There came a time when friends or people you work with or people you were in clubs with — you’re much younger than me so you didn’t have to go through this personally — but there came a time when racist comments would come up in the course of the conversation and in years past they were just natural. Then there came a time when people would say, ‘Hey, man why do you talk that way, I mean that is wrong. I don’t go for that so don’t talk that way around me. I just don’t believe that.’ That happened in millions of conversations and slowly the conversation was won. We have to win the conversation on climate.”

More than at any other time, Gore here has very successfully illustrated the differences between how climate skeptics debate the scientific questions of climate change versus how global warming advocates do it.

When climate skeptics such as I talk about climate change, we do it by bringing up and discussing recent scientific discoveries that raise questions about global warming. For example, in the past week alone I have noted two different scientific papers that illustrate how earlier climate predictions by global warming scientists have proven to be either weak or simply unsuccessful. (See “Another IPCC prediction fails” and “Another Al Gore doomsday prediction bites the dust.”)

I was not expressing my opinion in noting these results. I was relating actual research that, from my interpretation, raised serious questions about the conclusions of people like Al Gore and other global warming scientists.

At the same time I have always been willing to admit that my interpretation of this data might be wrong, that the data itself is incomplete, and that it might even be proven wrong when new data is obtained. I as well as most climate skeptics by our very skepticism recognize the present limitations of the science and are gladly willing to see new data, even if it doesn’t correspond to our own conclusions.

This one of the primary reasons I gladly allow critical and sometimes blistering criticisms of my writing to be posted as comments on my website. I could be wrong. I want the science to win, not my opinions.

What is Al Gore’s approach? He believes that anyone who expresses any skepticism of his conclusions to be no different than a racist and should shut up, or be shut up by everybody else. He doesn’t bother to refer to any science to back up his position, nor does he expend any effort to explain or counter the recent science that raises serious questions about man-made global warming.

Nor is Al Gore alone in this kind of behavior. The entire climategate scandal centered on how global warming scientists in positions of power, such as Phil Jones, head of the government-funded Climate Research Unit, and Michael Mann, inventor of the hockey stick graph that claimed that the Earth’s climate only began warming in the last hundred years, did everything they could to prevent skeptics from getting published in any scientific journal.

Rather than debate the actual science, these pseudo-scientists wanted only to silence those who disagreed with them. Or as Andrew Klavin has noted, their detailed answer to any Doubting Thomas was to say, “Shut up!”

Al Gore and the climategate scientists had come to a conclusion. They are not interested in any new data. Any new data to them was the equivalent of being a racist or a denier of reality. In fact, global warming activists repeatedly use that term, denier, when they want to attack global warming skeptics. They don’t debate the facts, they simply try to destroy the skeptics by name-calling.

There is only one good thing about this mean-spirited and Stalinesque approach to open debate: It finally illustrates for all to see that guys like Al Gore and those who agree with him haven’t the faintest idea of what science is all about.

The fact is that science is skepticism. Good science questions data at all times. You have to let the bulk of the data eventually convince you of the right conclusion. And you must always recognize that additional data could easily change that conclusion again, and again.

In order for science to function properly, skepticism and questioning of all kinds must always be permitted. For Al Gore to say that the science of climate change will somehow be helped by demanding we silence the skeptics is so foolish and counterproductive I am almost at a loss for words. Above all, it certainly discredits what Al Gore and his supporters in the scientific community have to say about this important scientific debate.

As I’ve noted repeatedly, the science of climate change is still in its infancy. Our good climate data only goes back a few decades, beginning with the space age. Moreover, we really don’t understand everything that is going on in the Earth’s very complex climate. There are enormous gaps in our knowledge, and to say that anything is settled on this subject is downright foolishness.

As a nice example of what I mean, watch this hour long lecture by Jasper Kirkby, the chief scientist behind the CERN experiment that suggests very strongly that the long-term fluctuation of interstellar cosmic rays that hit the upper atmosphere — a fluctuation caused by the solar sunspot cycle — might have a significant influence on past climate change. Before Kirkby describes his experiment, he spends about 30 minutes outlining the copious data that exists suggesting the Sun might have a much greater influence on climate change than carbon dioxide.

To Al Gore, Kirkby is therefore a racist and should be silenced. To me, his lecture contains valuable knowledge about climate science and is worth watching until the end.

On which side do you fall? Our freedom, and the fate of western civilization, actually hangs on that choice.


Warmists say that the CERN work did NOT demonstrate cloud formation. That is true. It did however demonstrate particle formation, particles of the kind that form the nuclei of clouds.

And that is all that needed to be demonstrated. There is a long-known correlation between sunspots and weather and the CERN work demonstrates a mechanism for that. The facts were known. All that was needed was an explanation. That has now been provided -- JR

ClimateGate Is Not Over?

Penn State had no issue with research by Michael Mann and, with qualifications about his 'statistical analysis techniques', the National Science Foundation cleared him as well, so why hasn't this ClimateGate thing gone away?

The University of Virginia is providing ammunition for skeptics by citing 'proprietary nature' of some material requested under a Freedom of Information Act request, forcing a court order to get it.

Mann does himself - much less the University of Virginia or his lawyers - no good by delving into law interpretation with the rigor of his statistical analysis techniques, telling Science magazine
"U.Va has not turned over emails related to discussions of research, unpublished manuscripts, private discussions between scientists about science, etc.,--i.e., any of the materials that are exempt from release by state law...U.Va has simply turned over the non-exempt emails, and many of these were turned over to ATI months ago."

He seems to be bragging that UVA has stonewalled skeptics the way the University of East Anglia did, and which got them into trouble. What law says 'private discussions between scientists about science' are exempt from a Freedom of Information Act request? None.

Mann will be cleared of literal wrongdoing again, just like the NSF did, and he should be - but he needs to shut up and stick to research. He does more harm than good for climate science by being clever with Frankenstein graphs and now playing shade tree lawyer.

If he wants to have his emails exempt, he simply has to stop taking public money. Progressives in science who cheered Greenpeace efforts to condemn and harass skeptics using FOIA requests but cheer stonewalling now are hypocrites of the highest order.

Look for resolution, or at least some progress in the fight, next month. If there is nothing to hide, UVA might be better off just handing over the emails. If they are making a conservative stand about intrusion of big government into their affairs, that is darn ironic.


Climate change/Global warming blamed for crumbling stages

Whenever something bad happens, writers get their stories published if they blame it on climate change/global warming. Now it´s about music festival stages, which have begun crumbling:
For the fourth time this summer, a stage has crumbled during an outdoor show. This time it was at the Pukkelpop Festival in Belgium. The most recent official tally seems to be three people killed and 60 injured, with 11 of those injuries serious, though reports keep varying. Earlier this month, five people were killed when the stage collapsed during the Indiana State Fair, where country group Sugarland was performing.

The Smith Westerns were on stage when it went down. They tweeted, “Stage collapsed max almost got crushed by the tress. I hope pukkelpop has insurance bc all our shit is broke” and “Praying no one got hurt. Wtf.” In addition to Pukkelpop and the Indiana State Fair, a Flaming Lips stage fell apart during a storm in Oklahoma, damaging about $800,000 worth of equipment, and Cheap Trick narrowly avoided disaster when their stage collapsed during the Ottawa Blues Festival.

Like all the other collapses this summer, Pukkelpop happened when a massive storm blew into the area. It seems like climate change, shoddy construction, or some combination of the two has made outdoor festivals downright scary and dangerous....

Is it all part of Thomas Friedman “Global Weirding” phenomenon of unusually intense weather as a byproduct of climate change?

It is, of course, sad if badly built festival stages crumble, but it has nothing to do with climate change/global warming. There have always been storms and floods, and any temporary outdoor constructions have to be sturdy enough to be able to withhold them - or, alternatively, the event has to be cancelled. It´s just as simple as that.


British government minister attacks 'short-termist' plan for pylons

Greenie versus Greenie

Liam Fox, the Defence Secretary, has said that the Government’s energy policy is “short-termist” and will blight areas of natural beauty with huge and expensive pylons.

Dr Fox is opposing plans for pylons to be built across his North Somerset constituency as part of a new transmission line from the Hinkley power station to Avonmouth.

Campaigners say that the 150-ft pylons will unnecessarily damage some of the country’s most attractive areas.

Similar transmission lines also are planned in Suffolk, Kent, Cumbria, north Wales and the Scottish Highlands, to transmit power from the new generation of nuclear power stations and new wind farms.

Dr Fox has written to Chris Huhne, the Liberal Democrat energy secretary, arguing that it would be cheaper to bury the power lines under ground, or to re-route the line under the sea.

The National Grid has said that the initial costs of burying power lines would be prohibitively expensive, but Dr Fox is arguing that in the long term, it is pylons that are more costly.

Buried lines require less maintenance than overhead lines, Dr Fox told his colleague, in a letter sent in June.

He cited calculations from independent engineers suggesting that over 40 years, the Somerset pylons would cost £1.1 billion, while a buried power line could cost half that.

“If we are to have credible green credentials then the decision needs to be taken on more than short-term economics ignoring the environmental impact in the longer term,” Dr Fox wrote.

Mr Huhne’s Department for Energy and Climate Change declined to comment. A National Grid report on the costs of alternatives to pylons is due out later this year.

Dr Fox is not the first Cabinet minister to oppose a major infrastructure project for constituency reasons.

Cheryl Gillan, the Welsh secretary, has hinted she is prepared to quit over the Government’s planned high-speed rail link, which would pass through her Chesham and Amersham seat in Buckinghamshire.


California Now Wants to Ban Your Styrofoam Containers

You can put your left overs in it. Keep your take out hot in it. Hold your drink in it. Pack your shipments in it. Put your lunch on it. You can even insulate your roof with it. But if California has its way, you will soon have nothing to do with it.

The “it,” if you haven’t guessed: Styrofoam. But only your Styrofoam containers are up for the ban at this point.

The bill, by Democratic state Sen. Alan Lowenthal, would prohibit restaurants, grocery stores and other vendors from dispensing food in expanded polystyrene containers, commonly known as Styrofoam, beginning in 2016. If signed into law, the measure would make California the first to institute a statewide ban on such containers. More than 50 California cities and counties already have similar bans.

The bill would exempt school districts and city and county jurisdictions if they implemented programs that recycled more than 60 percent of their foam waste.

Lowenthal said litter from the foam containers is one of the most abundant forms of debris found in city streets, sewers and beaches. “It’s not biodegradable, it’s not compostable, and if it’s in the water for a long time, it breaks up into small beads and lasts for thousands of years. It costs millions to clean up beaches,” he said

Opponents of the bill, however, say the move could cost business owners a lot of money, and it also doesn’t really address littering.

The Associated Press reports business owner Gary Honeycutt as saying the proposed ban would cost him thousands of dollars. And the biodegradable stuff? Doesn’t cut the mustard — or in his case cheese. “We put cheese on those omelets. And when we put the cheese on, it’s really hot and bubbly and it goes right through the biodegradable stuff,” he said.

Others say the bill fails to address the root cause of litter — the litterers themselves. Litterbugs will toss out the containers whether they’re made of polystyrene or biodegradable cardboard, said Michael Westerfield, corporate director of recycling for Dart Container. “At the end of the day, people that litter don‘t care what type of product they’re littering,” he said.

The California Chamber of Commerce has labeled the measure as one of its “job-killer bills,” saying it threatens manufacturing jobs while increasing costs for restaurants that will have to spend more on alternative containers.

And while Styrene, a chemical used to make the foam containers, was listed as “reasonably anticipated” to be a human carcinogen in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ June report on carcinogens,John Bucher, associate director of the National Toxicology Program, a division of the federal agency, disagrees: “The risks, in my estimation, from polystyrene are not very great. It’s not worth being concerned about.”

Tim Shestek, senior director of state affairs at the American Chemistry Council, agreed and said concern about negative health effects “is not supported by scientific information.” The group, based in Washington, D.C., is lobbying against the bill.

As Gawker points out, California has been on the ban-happy bandwagon these days, attempting to ban use of plastic bags, circumcision and successfully banning McDonald’s Happy Meal toys.


Health "co-benefits"

By Matt Ridley

Some years ago, presumably for having written books on genetics, I was elected a fellow of Britain’s Academy of Medical Sciences (AMS). This was a great honour and I was even more pleased to be invited to speak at one of their annual dinners.

Then, towards the end of 2010, there dropped through my letter box a newsletter from the AMS which included an item on the academy having signed up to an “international statement” on the “health benefits of policies to tackle climate change” together with other medical science academies around the world. The newsletter said that the health “co-benefits” of tackling climate change “show that climate change mitigation strategies need not be socially and economically demanding”. Since everything I was reading at the time about rising food and fuel prices driven partly by climate change mitigation policies was pointing to the opposite conclusion – namely that malnutrition and hypothermia were being increased by such policies, outweighing any health advantages – I went online to read the statement, to find out what I had been signed up to as a fellow.

I found a four-page document, devoted to expounding the good health side-effects of fighting climate change by cutting emissions. For example:
Results for the cities of London and Delhi show that a combination of substantially increased active travel, such as cycling and walking, and lower-emission motor vehicles could lead to substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and the burden of chronic diseases.

Most of the statements in the paper referred to a special issue of the Lancet, which had appeared just before the Copenhagen climate summit and which I knew had drawn a heavily critical and very persuasive reply from the independent scholar Indur Goklany. Goklany’s point was that while of course there are health benefits to climate change mitigation, there are health risks too and that any reasonable discussion must come to the conclusion that today and through the foreseeable future, many other health risks outrank global warming in terms of death and disease, and are also more easily addressed.

The IAMP statement not only ignored Goklany’s argument but failed even to acknowledge that risks might outweigh benefits. It had only a three-sentence mention of the issue of health risks that did not even address the issue of relative weight:
However, some climate change mitigation strategies have the potential to damage health. For example, if biofuels are grown on land which could support food crops they could reduce food availability and increase food prices.28 Therefore all climate change mitigation strategies should be subject to health impact assessment.

I did not think this was good enough, so I wrote to the president of the AMS, Sir John Bell, a former university friend and colleague, as follows:
I recently received through the post the Interacademy Medical Panel (IAMP) report on the health co-benefits of policies to tackle climate change. I gather this has already been signed on our behalf.

I have to say I found the document very disappointing and not up to the standards of a scientific academy like AMS.

What it lacks is balance. There is no attempt to cite evidence of the harm that may be done by rushed mitigation of fossil fuel emissions, even though these are extremely well known. There is no attempt to balance the catalogue of harmsthat can come from warming with the catalogue of harms that come from othercauses, whose mitigation might be prevented by efforts to prevent warming.

For example, the report says that `Rising temperatures may increase heat related deaths and heat stress, particularly in urban centres as a result of the urban heat island effect'. Yet there is ample evidence that cold-related deaths exceed heat-related deaths - by about five to one in most of Europe. Even the excess death toll from the 2003 European summer heatwave was dwarfed by the excess death toll from cold in most winters. Last year there were over 25,000 excess winter deaths in England and Wales alone (see http://www.statistics.gov.uk/cci/nugget.asp?id=574) and the death toll is disproportionately high among the aged who face acute problems from fuel poverty caused in part by carbon mitigation policies such as wind power subsidies, which have increased energy prices. It follows that if the world warms by 2 degrees, and that warming is greater in the far north, in winter and at night - all of which are predicted by the GCM models - then the death toll from cold stress will undoubtedly fall. It is wrong of the report not to mention these points.

As for the health cost of carbon mitigation policies, we have a perfect example of this in recent years in the effect of biofuel policies on the price and availability of food. There is now no doubt that biofuel policies, motivated substantially by concern about climate change, have caused real increases in hunger in 2008 and again this year (not to mention destruction of rain forest). You can debate how important this is relative to the threat posed by climate change, but to ignore these arguments is negligent.

Consider the case of an African family at risk from hunger, dirty water, indoor air pollution (caused by cooking over wood or charcoal fires), and malaria. These four factors are among the greatest causes of ill health in the world, killing respectively about seven, three, three and two people per minute, far more than can be attributed to global warming. What this family needs is fertilizer, clean water, kerosene and bed-nets, not policies to slow a rise in global temperatures. Indeed, you can argue that getting kerosene cooking fuel to such families is the best way to reduce deforestation and hence carbon dioxide emissions.

Keeping climate at 1990 levels, assuming it could be done, would leave more than 98 per cent of human mortality causes untouched, and would consume resources that could be far more effectively spent on combating ill health now. You will be aware that malaria has been eradicated from large parts of the world not by cooling the world down but by combating it directly. You will be aware that death rates from natural disasters are down by 98% since the 1920s not because of policies to change the climate but because of improvements in transport, medicine, communication and technology.

I append some comments on the report from Indur Goklany, a highly respected scholar who has contributed to these debates in the peer-reviewed literature. His analysis confirms my suspicions that the paper is unbalanced and misleading.

I received a courteous but non-committal reply from Sir John saying that he would pass on my comments to his colleague Dr Robert Souhami and that he welcomed by engagement with the issue.

More HERE.

All they did was duck and weave, of course. They answered none of Ridley's points and complied with none of his requests. I would be astounded by such scientific dishonesty if I had not seen much the same at work in other politically-relevant writing by academics -- JR


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 blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here


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