Monday, September 19, 2011

Can We Really Call Climate Science A Science?

By Paul Roderick Gregory

1). Soviet Politburo September 8, 1927

“Trotsky: Let us present our platform to the party congress. What are you afraid of?

Stalin: Comrade Trotsky demands equality between the Central Committee and his opposition group. In whose name do you speak so insolently?

Trotsky ally: Why are you trying to hide our platform? What does this say about your courage?

Stalin: We are not prepared to turn the party into a discussion club.”

2). George Orwell, Animal Farm, Chapter 7

“They had come to a time when no one dared speak his mind, when fierce, growling dogs roamed everywhere, and when you had to watch your comrades torn to pieces after confessing to shocking crimes.”

3). E-mails from Phil Jones (East Anglia University)

July 8, 2004

“I can’t see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report. Kevin and I will keep them out somehow — even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!”

March 11, 2003

“I will be emailing the journal to tell them I’m having nothing more to do with it until they rid themselves of this troublesome editor.”

There is no disagreement that the earth’s temperature has always changed over time. There are periods of warming and cooling. It appears we are in a period of warming. The debate between “warmists” and “skeptics” is about whether human Co2 emissions are the cause of warming, whether the relatively small effects of these emissions will compound into larger changes, and, if so, whether, the benefits of remediation outweigh the costs. By “warmists,” I mean Global Warming Alarmists who believe that warming is caused by humans and will have disastrous consequences for humankind if unchecked by remediation, no matter how costly.

The “warmist” consensus view of “climate science” is represented at a popular level by advocates like Al Gore and at the scientific and technical level by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), as supported by researchers at East Anglia (Phil Jones) and Penn State (Michael Mann). This panoply of people and organizations is the equivalent of the Central Committee in my Stalin dialog above. “Skeptics” (the equivalent of Trotsky above) are individual scientists and advocates who stake out positions at odds with the IPCC-Central Committee orthodoxy. They are the ones who “dare to speak when fierce growling dogs roam everywhere.”

Three recent events have brought the controversy over climate science back into the news and onto my radar screen:

First, Ivar Giaever, the 1973 winner of the Nobel Prize in physics, resigned from the American Physical Society over his disagreement with its statement that “the evidence (on warming alarmism) is incontrovertible.” Instead, he writes that the evidence suggests that “the temperature has been amazingly stable, and both human health and happiness have definitely improved in this ‘warming’ period.”

Second, the editor of Remote Sensing resigned and disassociated himself from a skeptical paper co-authored by University of Alabama Climate Scientist Roy Spencer after an avalanche of criticism by “warmists.” His resignation brings to mind Phil Jones’ threat to “get rid of troublesome editors” (cited above).

Third, the New York Times and other major media are ridiculing Texas Governor Rick Perry for saying that global warming is “not proven.” Their message: Anyone who does not sign on to global warming alarmism is an ignorant hayseed and clearly not presidential material.

What lessons do I, as an economist, draw from these three events?

First: The Giaever story starkly disputes warmist claims of “inconvertible evidence.” Despite the press’s notable silence on such matters, there are a large number of prominent scientists with solid scholarly credentials who disagree with the IPCC-Central Committee. Those who claim “proven science” and “consensus” conveniently ignore such scientists.

With his public resignation, Nobel Laureate Giaever joins a long list of distinguished “skeptics,” which includes Richard Lindzen, Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Atmospheric Science at MIT and member of the National Academy of Sciences, Hendrik Tennekes, retired Director of Research, Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, Sallie Baliunas, astronomer, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Ian Clark, hydrogeologist, professor, Department of Earth Sciences, University of Ottawa: William M. Gray, Professor Emeritus and head of The Tropical Meteorology Project, Department of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University, William Happer, physicist, Princeton University, Tim Patterson, paleoclimatologist and Professor of Geology at Carleton University in Canada, and Fred Singer, Professor emeritus of Environmental Sciences at the University of Virginia (just to name a few from a long list).

Second: As someone with forty years experience with peer reviewed journals. I can testify that the Remote Sensing editor’s resignation and public discreditation of Spencer’s skeptical paper would be considered bizarre and unprofessional behavior in any other scholarly discipline.

In all fields of scientific inquiry, journal editors base their publication decisions on reports of referees, who are supposed to be experts in the area. Presumably, in the case of the Spencer paper, referees supported its publication. Even if there had been a negative report, good editors often publish controversial papers to open a scholarly dialog. (Can anyone think of a topic that is more controversial and more in need of open scholarly dialog than global warming?). In the case of controversial papers, the editor gives credible critics space to air their objections, and the author is accorded the opportunity to respond.

In this odd case, the editor did not follow the normal procedure of publishing critical comments by specialists who disagree with the paper. He chose instead to disavow and discredit the paper himself, despite the fact that he is not an expert on the subject. Nor did the editor give Spencer an opportunity to respond to his personal disavowal. Instead, rebuttals of the Spencer paper are scheduled to be published in another journal friendly to the warmist position. Spencer will not be given an opportunity to respond in that journal. (Spencer is like the muzzled Trotsky in my quote above. Stalin will decide what others are allowed to hear).

In my field of economics, such unprofessional behavior would destroy the editor’s professional reputation and make him or her a laughing stock. Not in climate science apparently. We can see Jones’ threat to “redefine peer review” in action. Like Stalin, the climate establishment cannot allow climate science to be turned into a “discussion club.”

Third: The media is tarring and feathering Rick Perry, we now see, for agreeing with Nobel laureate Giaever and a host of other prominent scientists. I guess if Perry is a know-nothing Texas hick (or worse, a pawn of Big Oil) so is every other scientist who dares to disagree with the IPCC Central Committee. Such intimidation chillingly makes politicians, public figures, and scientists fearful of deviating one inch from orthodoxy. They want to avoid Orwell’s “watching their comrades torn to pieces after confessing to shocking crimes.” How many are willing to shoulder that burden?

I do not know whether the warmists or skeptics are right. I do know that the modeling of the climate is among the most complex of scientific tasks. In this regard, climate science and economics have much in common. We both must try to understand complicated systems with intricate feedbacks and uncertain causality. As recent experience shows, we economists have yet to find “incontrovertible truth.” We will never reach a consensus. Nor should we. Why should we expect climate science, unlike other disciplines, to reach a consensus when we do not expect this of other fields of scientific inquiry?

About a year ago, I attended a debate between a noted warmist and skeptic. They agreed only on one thing: Climate science is in its infancy. We are just beginning to understand the climate. When we look back, we will understand how little we really understood and how wrong our first findings were. This is the way science is created.

False claims of consensus and inconvertible truth reveal a political or ideological agenda wrapped in the guise of science. The incontrovertible bad behavior of the warmists has led skeptics to suspect base motives, and who could blame them?


Alarmist claim Amazon will dry up bites the dust: New paper says core of Amazon rainforest will remain stable & rainfall increase

Even the "models" can be pesky

A paper published this week in the journal Earth Interactions counters alarmist claims that 'climate change' will cause the Amazon to dry up and shrink by 85%, finding instead, "Our results suggest that the core of the Amazon rainforest should remain largely stable as rainfall in the core of the basin is projected to increase."
Will Amazonia dry out?: Magnitude and Causes of change from IPCC climate model projections

Brian Cook et al


The Amazon rainforest may undergo significant change in response to future climate change. To determine the likelihood and causes of such changes, we analyzed the output of 24 models from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report (IPCC/AR4) and a dynamic vegetation model Vegetation-Global-Atmosphere-Soil (VEGAS) driven by these climate output.

Our results suggest that the core of the Amazon rainforest should remain largely stable as rainfall in the core of the basin is projected to increase in nearly all models. However, the periphery, notably the southern edge of Amazonia and further south into central Brazil (SAB), are in danger of drying out, driven by two main processes.

Firstly, a decline in precipitation of 11% during the southern Amazonia's dry season (May–September) reduces soil moisture. Two dynamical mechanisms may explain the forecast reduction in dry season rainfall: (1) a general subtropical drying under global warming when the dry season southern Amazon basin is under the control of subtropical high pressure; (2) a stronger north-south tropical Atlantic sea surface temperature gradient, and to a lesser degree, a warmer eastern equatorial Pacific. The drying corresponds to a lengthening of the “dry season” by approximately 10 days.

The decline in soil moisture occurs despite an increase in precipitation during the wet season, due to nonlinear responses in hydrology associated with the decline in dry season precipitation, ecosystem dynamics and an increase in evaporative demand due to the general warming.

In terms of ecosystem response, higher maintenance cost and reduced productivity under warming may also have additional adverse impact. While the IPCC models have substantial inter-model variation in precipitation change, these latter two hydroecological effects are highly robust because of the general warming simulated by all models.

As a result, when forced by these climate projections, a dynamic vegetation model VEGAS projects an enhancement of fire risk by 20–30% in the SAB region. Fire danger reaches its peak in Amazonia during the dry season, and this danger is expected to increase primarily due to the reduction in soil moisture, and the decrease in dry season rainfall.

VEGAS also projects a reduction of about 0.77 in Leaf Area Index (LAI) over the SAB region. The vegetation response may be partially mediated by the CO2 fertilization effect, as a sensitivity experiment without CO2 fertilization shows a higher 0.89 decrease in LAI.

Southern Amazonia is currently under intense human influence as a result of deforestation and land use change. Should this direct human impact continue at present rates, added pressure to the region's ecosystems from climate change may subject the region to profound changes in the 21st century.


Climatic Change and Witch-hunting: the Impact of the Little Ice Age on Mentalities

In addition to objective climatic data, subjective or social reactions can also serve as indicators in the assessment of climatic changes. Concerning the Little Ice Age the conception of witchcraft is of enormous importance. Weather-making counts among the traditional abilities of witches. During the late 14th and 15th centuries the traditional conception of witchcraft was transformed into the idea of a great conspiracy of witches, to explain "unnatural" climatic phenomena.

Because of their dangerous nature, particularly their ability to generate hailstorms, the very idea of witches was the subject of controversial discussion around 1500. The beginnings of meteorology and its emphasis of "natural" reasons in relationship to the development of weather must be seen against the background of this demoniacal discussion. The resurgence of the Little Ice Age revealed the susceptibility of society.

Scapegoat reactions may be observed by the early 1560s even though climatologists, thus far, have been of the opinion that the cooling period did not begin until 1565. Despite attempts of containment, such as the calvinistic doctrine of predestination, extended witch-hunts took place at the various peaks of the Little Ice Age because a part of society held the witches directly responsible for the high frequency of climatic anomalies and the impacts thereof.

The enormous tensions created in society as a result of the persecution of witches demonstrate how dangerous it is to discuss climatic change under the aspects of morality.


Romney blasts 'ballyhooed' wind and solar

If elected US president, Republican candidate Mitt Romney would end federal government support for the solar and wind industries, and curtail the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA's) “reckless regulatory behaviour” and “war on carbon.”

Polls show Romney, 64, running a strong second to Texas Governor Rick Perry among eight declared candidates vying for the opportunity to face President Barack Obama in the November 2012 election.

Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts, is touting his 35 years in the public and private sectors as giving him the right background to turn around the country’s stagnant economy and cut its dependence on foreign oil.

In “Believe in America,” his 88-page plan for economic growth and jobs, Romney is critical of Obama’s policies that promote renewable energy and green jobs, claiming they are distorting the free market.

“We should not be in the business of steering investment toward particular politically favoured approaches,” he says in the plan. “That is a recipe for both time and money wasted on projects that do not bring us dividends. The failure of windmills and solar plants to become economically viable or make a significant contribution to our energy supply is a prime example.”

Romney calls solar and wind two of the most “ballyhooed” forms of alternative fuel, saying they remain sharply uncompetitive on their own with conventional resources such as oil and gas in most applications. “Indeed, at current prices, these technologies make little sense for the consuming public but great sense only for the companies reaping profits from taxpayer subsidies,” he claims.

According to Romney, there is a place for government investment to promote innovation in the energy industry when time horizons are too long, risks too high and rewards too uncertain to attract private capital.

“However, much of our existing energy research and development budget has been devoted to loan guarantees, cash grants and tax incentives for projects that might have gone forward anyway, “ he contends, adding as president he will redirect clean energy spending towards basic research.

He argues that government research dollars should be used to develop new energy technologies and on initial demonstration projects that establish the feasibility of discoveries. “This approach offers the best opportunity to promote innovation without distorting the market,” he says.

Romney favors doing this through the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy, or ARPA-E, the US Energy Department arm that began operation in February 2009, which he says will ensure long-term, non-political sources of funding for a wide variety of competing, early-stage technologies.

Ironically, the initial $400m in funding for ARPA-E came from the $775bn American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, better known as the economic stimulus bill, drawn up by Obama and his White House advisers. Romney says the record fiscal stimulus programme failed to resuscitate the economy or create the millions of jobs promised by Obama.

“President Obama made much of his commitment to green jobs, and his stimulus legislation was rife with provisions subsidising initiatives in these areas,” Romney says, referring to the $60bn targeted for clean energy initiatives.

He argues that funneling money in that direction was an inefficient instrument for job creation as alternative and renewable energy is capital- not labor-intensive. Federal spending could also have a marginal impact on employment as the baseline of activity in the green jobs sector is relatively low, adds Romney.

Even as Romney is urging more support for ARPA-E, his fellow Republicans in Congress want to cut its funding by half in the 2012-13 (October-September) fiscal year saying that the money could be better spent elsewhere.

Turning to the EPA, Romney accused the Obama administration of using the agency to impose a “costly and ineffective anti-carbon agenda” that failed to win support in Congress in 2009-10.

He vows to eliminate regulations put in place to curb CO2 emissions and slow refinement of technologies that burn coal cleanly, although he does not name them. Romney claims that had Congress passed Obama’s carbon cap-and-trade proposal, it would have been a crippling blow for the US economy.

Romney says that he will make every effort to safeguard the environment, “but he will be mindful at every step of also protecting the jobs of American workers.” He complains that the White House is using the EPA to blanket the US economy with regulations without allowing a proper assessment of their costs.

If there are compelling human health reasons to restrict industrial emissions, regulatory bodies must issue standards that can be achieved over a reasonable period of time, he argues.

This would afford industries fair notice and a significant window in which to invest in the development and installation of new technology that would bring their facilities into compliance.

Romney also pledges to amend the 1970 Clean Air Act to remove carbon dioxide from its purview, even though the law’s wording does not include the heat-trapping greenhouse gas that most scientists say contributes to global warming.

The US Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that EPA must regulate CO2 and other greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act if it determined that they endanger human health and welfare. EPA made its “endangerment finding” in December 2009.


Top Economist Warns Green Jobs 'Creation' Will Undermine British Recovery

One of the UK's leading energy and environment economists warns that the government's promise that green energy policies will create tens of thousands of jobs and stimulate competitive industries is an illusion.

In his report The Myth of Green Jobs, published today by the Global Warming Policy Foundation, Professor Gordon Hughes (Edinburgh University) dispels this assumption by finding that

* The government target for generating electricity from renewable energy sources will involve a capital cost that is 9-10 times the amount required to meet the same demand by relying upon conventional power plants.

* The extra investment required for renewable energy - about £120 bln - will be diverted from more productive uses in the rest of the economy.

* Increases in the cost of energy together with the diversion of investment funds means that many manufacturing firms will either go bankrupt or relocate.

* It is impossible for the UK to acquire a long-term comparative advantage in the manufacture of renewable energy equipment by any combination of policies that are both feasible and affordable.

* Policies to promote renewable energy could add 0.6-0.7 percentage points per year to core inflation from now to 2020.

* The cumulative impact of these policies could amount to a loss of 2-3% of potential GDP for a period of 20 years or more.

"Claims by politicians and lobbyists that green energy policies will create a few thousand jobs are not supported by the evidence. In terms of the labour market, the gains for a small number of actual or potential employees in businesses specialising in renewable energy has to be weighed against the dismal prospects for a much larger group of workers producing tradable goods in the rest of the manufacturing sector," Professor Hughes said.


Solyndra: a textbook example of green economic insanity

Lubos Motl tries to make sense of a malodorous boondoggle

Solyndra was a solar panel company founded in 2005 which went recently bankrupt, despite half a billion of subsidies from the Obama White House.

In early 2009, they would ask Bush Jr White House for a donation. He told them "wait, I still have to study your proposal" which is a diplomatic version of "f*ck off". It would have been much better if the undiplomatic but much more accurate reaction were used but at least, Bush Jr didn't pay a penny. The pampered parasitic solar as**ole CEOs went ballistic: how arrogant George W. Bush has to be not to simply pour a billion of dollars into their solar throats!?

However, once Obama took the office during the same month, the company whose executives raised $100,000 for the Obama campaign was suddenly bombarded by the taxpayer money. A crony feedback loop. The company was visited by Schwarzenegger as well as Obama and the latter guy gave them half a billion (and it could have been a whole billion or more): that's what you normally do to your friends whom you barely know. Ideologically colored nepotism in action.

This amount of money is insanely high because the whole revenue during 2009 and 2010 was about $100 million per year only. If you realize that there is only a tiny profit margin if any (profit is at most a small fraction of the revenue), you see that you would clearly need many decades to repay the investment. It was never going to be repaid because the company was never competitive.

These days, the media are full of people who are sure that it had always been clear that the company had to go bust, see e.g.:

Forbes: Solyndra: Yes, It Was Possible To See This Failure Coming

Fox News: Why Solyndra Failed

for two examples from recent hours. And I agree with that. But people making huge investments are often optimistic about their future. The easier it is for them to get the money, the more optimistic they may become. They may believe that a billion (which is only spent once) is something that they would easily repay in the future because the company would be producing billions, trillions, or quadrillions, or whatever other numerals these people detached from reality were capable of learning. :-)

Well, instead, reality took over. The products were self-evidently uncompetitive so they couldn't be sold for a price that would generate profit.

It's likely that if you were a careful investor and you were investing your own money, you would be a bit more careful about your billions and you wouldn't pay half a billion for such a bad investment. But Obama et al. don't have to care about details such as a billion of dollars. It's just 1/14,000 of the American GDP so why shouldn't he splash it into the toilet? It creates such a good signal and it makes such a funny sound which is worth paying. ;-)

The world of subsidies and crazy assumptions about totally different prices of things in the near future is an extremely risky world. There will eventually come new revolutions in the energy industry. But they will first take place, and then politicians will know about these revolutions. It can't be the other way around: it can't be that the politicians first know about the breakthrough, and then it inevitably happens.

Also, you may speculate that some subsidies or bans that distort the market in one country or another will help your project to become viable. But such a speculation may turn out to be invalid because the government policy may change and because someone else gets even bigger subsidies (e.g. in China or another country where it's common to subsidize and distort things) and your prices will no longer be competitive, anyway. Including subsidies and distortions of the markets into your calculations is a very risky and very dirty Al Gore rhythm to plan your future profits. People shouldn't include speculations about distortions into their economic planning.

I share the hopes that this scandal may make huge American state-organized "investments" into Al-Gore-like fraudulent industries impossible in the future. Europe and other places are learning their lessons, too. The European lessons may look less concentrated (20% unemployment in solar Spain is just a non-story) but they speak the same overall language.

The U.S. taxpayers may have lost half a billion but this loss may have good consequences, too. Tens of millions of people may finally see the light and realize that everyone who talks about the imminent demise of carbon-based energy is a crackpot who can make you completely broke within a year.

Some politicians such as Obama may think that they are able to pick the ultimate winners even though the whole markets consider them to be the ultimate losers. Obama doesn't even understand that he is 10 times more stupid, and not 10 times brighter, than the venture capitalists of the world (because he has no experience and he has passed on market tests, unlike the naturally rich investors!). And he will probably not be able to learn the lesson. But the American people may learn that they have to be more careful about the choice of politicians who are given the power to make similar decisions. When they choose badly, billions – and because this is just a tip of an iceberg, hundreds of billions – are splashed into the toilet.


Solyndra Not Sole "Green" Firm to Hit Rock Bottom Despite Stimulus Funding

Solyndra, the solar panel company whose highly publicized failure and consequent investigation by federal authorities has flashed across headlines recently, isn't the only business to go belly up after benefiting from a piece of the $800 billion economic stimulus package passed in 2009.

At least four other companies have received stimulus funding only to later file for bankruptcy, and two of those were working on alternative energy.

Evergreen Solar Inc., reportedly received $5.3 million of stimulus cash through a state grant to install 11,000 photovoltaic panels installed at 11 colleges and universities, a recycling facility and an education center in Massachusetts.

The company, once a rock star in the solar industry, filed for bankruptcy protection last month, saying it couldn't compete with Chinese rivals without reorganizing. The company intends to focus on building up its manufacturing facility in China.

SpectraWatt, based in Hopewell Junction, N.Y., is also a solar cell company that was spun out of Intel in 2008. In June 2009, SpectraWatt received a $500,000 grant from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory as part of the stimulus package. SpectraWatt was one of 13 companies to receive the money to help develop ways to improve solar cells without changing current manufacturing processes.

The company filed for bankruptcy last month, saying it could not compete with its Chinese competitors, which receive "considerable government and financial support."

On Tuesday, Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman wrote an editorial for "USA Today" in which he blamed China in part for the failure of U.S. solar energy manufacturers to compete.

"Winning will require substantial investments. Last year, for example, the China Development Bank offered more than $30 billion in financing to Chinese solar manufacturers, about 20 times more than U.S.-backed loans to solar manufacturers," Poneman wrote.

"Unfortunately, expanding production has coincided with short-term softening demand, a product of the banking crisis in Europe and its wider economic effects. The combination has had a dramatic effect on the price of solar cells, which has plummeted 42 percent in the past nine months. This has taken a serious toll on solar manufacturers everywhere, including the U.S," he continued.

On Thursday, White House spokesman Jay Carney noted that the U.S. is on track to double its renewable energy production in 2012, but it will require commitment in the U.S. to grow.

"We have a choice to make as a nation, because we will be buying renewable energy products, you know, whether it's wind, biofuel, solar, whether alternative -- rather, you know, advanced battery technology, we're going to be buying that stuff. Do we want to buy it with a stamp on it that says 'Made in America' or are we going to buy it from the Chinese or from other countries?" Carney asked.

"We have to be aggressive in competing in the global economy. And, you know, high-tech clean-energy industries are going to be key to winning this century economically."

But Republicans balk at claims that the Obama administration can decide which companies are winners or losers, and questioned a plan to approve $10 billion more in loans before the stimulus program expires.

"Solar panels have been subsidized by the federal government. States' governments are also subsidizing or giving taxpayers write-off on their tax return. And yet, these solar panels cannot make it in the competitive world without all these subsidies. And even with them, China is flooding the market with this cheap labor and the solar panels just don't make sense," House Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Subommittee Chairman Cliff Stearns R-Fla., told Fox News.

"So I think the administration is on this fervent religion of green jobs and clinging to the idea that solar panel is the answer and it is not the answer," he said.

Another winner of stimulus who ultimately lost is Mountain Plaza Inc. Despite declaring bankruptcy in 2003, the company received $424,000 from the Tennessee Department of Transportation as part of a grant aimed at installing "truck stop electrification" systems that allow idling truckers to plug-in during extended stops and turn off their exhaust-belching, environment polluting diesel engines.

Mountain Plaza had filed for bankruptcy protection again in June 2010. TDOT, which received a $2 million stimulus grant from the Environmental Protection Agency for the project, said it didn't learn about the bankruptcy until October, but it is closely monitoring the project.



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