Monday, September 10, 2012

Peer review does much less than what Warmists seem to believe

In his comments below, Brendan O'Neill rightly notes the way in which peer review has been inflated into something it is not. Along the way, however, he tends to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

Many of the papers that have been sent to me for peer review have shown a pig-ignorant unawareness of the prior literature on the subject or an extraordinarily insoucinant attitude to matters of definition and taxnomomy. When I have pointed that out, the papers concerned have usually not been published, which seems to me to be a useful filtering process.

Nonetheless many crappy papers DO get published, perhaps because the reviewers too had a a pig-ignorant unawareness of the prior literature on the subject or an extraordinarily insoucinant attitude to matters of definition and taxnomomy.

And when politics gets into the process, all bets are off. Papers may be rejected or accepted on purely political grounds. The publication of some truly awful papers in my own field can only be explained by the political desirability of their conclusions.

In recent years, the words "peer review" have taken on an extraordinary meaning.

Once upon a time, being peer-reviewed simply meant you had written something, usually a journal article, and some other people in your profession had read it and considered it fit for publication.

Not any more. Now, being peer-reviewed apparently means being wise. It means you have access to some greater truth which the rest of us, the mere mortals who make up the mass of society, are unaware of and probably incapable of understanding.

The stamp "peer-reviewed" is being turned into a mark of approval, almost into a licence to speak, a licence to hold forth before the world and have your views taken seriously.

And if you haven't been peer-reviewed? If your arguments haven't gone through that rather stale academic process of getting a nod of approval from a tiny circle of bespectacled professors? Then apparently you don't know what you're talking about and should shut up.

The makeover of peer review has been remarkable. Not long ago, the only people who knew or cared what peer review involved were academic researchers, men of medicine and white-coat wearers in the sphere of science, who were understandably keen to have their papers OK'd by a handful of their peers so that they might be published and discussed by others. Outside of the ivory towers, peer review meant little, if anything, to Joe Public.

Now, thanks largely to climate-change activists who treat peer-reviewed documents about the environment in the same way early Christians treated the gospels, peer review is all the rage.

Radical greens march behind banners declaring, "We are armed only with peer-reviewed science". At the big left-wing demo, the Rally to Restore Sanity in the US in 2010, one of the placards read: "What do we want? Evidence-based change. When do we want it? After peer review."

That's nowhere near as catchy as the chants of earlier youthful agitators, who demanded change "NOW", but it does capture how bizarrely important the process of peer review has become outside of academe.

More and more campaigners and commentators now insist that only ideas that have been peer-reviewed should be taken seriously. Everything else is bunkum, or possibly charlatanism.

Last week in The Guardian newspaper, a green campaigner described peer review as a "kitemark of quality assurance", implying that any claims about the climate or mankind's future that haven't been peer-reviewed have no quality.

She suggested that even newspapers articles written by everyday journalists should be subjected to something akin to peer review.

There should be a "system of certification", she said, where "teams of academics" would award an approving kitemark to articles that are "accurate (and that) use reliable sources and peer-reviewed studies".

Funnily enough, a few hundred years ago we had just that kind of system in the British media. It was called the licensing of the press, where only those writers whose ideas met with the approval of the king or queen and their tyrannical court would be permitted to publish, while all the rest would be branded heretics.

Fittingly, The Guardian article calling for peer review to be used in a similar way today, as a way of branding certain published ideas Good and others Bad, was headlined "Don't give climate change heretics an easy ride".

In Australia, public intellectual Robert Manne says that when it comes to climate change, only "leading peer-reviewed scientific journals" should be treated seriously. A "rational citizen has little alternative but to accept the consensual core position of climate scientists", he says. "Discussion of this point should long ago have ended."

Here we can clearly see the cultural snobbery and intellectual protectionism of the cheerleaders of peer review. Manne is effectively telling the little people to shut up and accept the Truth as revealed by their betters in academe.

What these modern-day licensers of acceptable thought refuse to recognise is that climate change, in terms of how it is framed by the green lobby, is not simply a scientific issue. It is a profoundly political one, touching on everything from economic growth to development in the Third World, from how we travel to what kind of expectations we have for our children.

Under the guise of promoting "correct science" and slamming "bad science", the priestly peer-review lobby is actually enforcing an ideological world view, using the tags "peer reviewed" and "non peer-reviewed" to distinguish between those who are politically on side and those who remain stubbornly heretical.

To see how much the process of peer review has become about raising the drawbridge on political troublemakers, consider how the British writers Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson responded to criticisms of their book The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone.

That book has become a massive talking point in Britain in recent years and has attracted some fierce criticism. Somewhat stung by this, Pickett and Wilkinson said in 2010 that from now on they would discuss their ideas only with those who had been peer-reviewed. "All future debate should take place in peer-reviewed publications", they decreed.

In one fell swoop they shut out vast numbers of people - journalists, students, the man at the bus stop who has a lot of thoughts about the equality issue - from any serious discussion of their book. Here, "peer-reviewed" is clearly code for "respectable", for those well-educated folk who can be trusted to think in an intelligent and nuanced way.

The extraordinary thing about the liberal intelligentsia's wide-eyed faith in peer review is that this academic process is actually massively open to corruption.

Much peer review involves little more than well-connected academics getting people they know or mates who owe them a favour to sign off on their latest bit of work. That is why the peer-reviewed reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have included so many factual inaccuracies and so much eco-claptrap.

In essence, huge swaths of the cultural elite are using peer review as a kind of intellectual licence, with those lucky enough to receive this stamp being treated seriously and everyone else being branded a dangerous outsider. For all the scientific pretensions of this process, it is most reminiscent of those old Vatican Councils that would get together every few years to determine what the Truth is and how it might be communicated to the pig-ignorant public.


Shriek from a panic-stricken journalist: Insufficient reporting of Warmism is ‘A Crime Against Humanity’

Bill Blakemore is a "Nature & Environment" reporter for ABC News but swallows the gospel of Hansen & Co whole. No sign of critical thought, interest in the evidence or scientific knowledge. He is a disgrace to science journalism

A number of the world’s professional climate scientists are perplexed by — and in some cases furious with — American news directors.

“Malpractice!” is typical of the charges this reporter has heard highly respected climate experts level — privately, off the record — at my professional colleagues over the past few years.

Complaints include what seems to the scientists a willful omission of overwhelming evidence the new droughts and floods are worsened by man made global warming, and unquestioning repetition, gullible at best, of transparent anti-science propaganda credibly reported to be funded by fossil fuel interests and anti-regulation allies.

As scientific reports about the speedy advance and devastating impacts of man made global warming have grown steadily more alarming, surveys have shown most mainstream American news organizations covering it less and less over the past two years.

Even during this hot summer, when inescapable bad news about the warming climate from around the United States and the world has forced its way into main stream media coverage, it has usually been reported only in a reactive and literal event-coverage sort of way.

There’s been little of the persistent probing analysis and regular coverage scientists say is urgently needed for a grave planet-wide crisis — reporting of the kind surveys show there was much more of in mainstream coverage up until two years ago.

Why this decline in persistent coverage?

It seems unlikely to last; all responsibly sourced reports from around the world — “as solid as science ever gets,” say eminent climate scientists — suggest the increasing impacts will soon force news directors to offer more coverage and explanatory reporting to a public that will appreciate getting it.

It may be that many of our mainstream news directors are, in effect, in the final stages of getting their act together as they get ready to cover this unprecedented story.

Elements that have stalled American coverage appear to include a cynical disinformation and intimidation campaign — as reported in detail by a handful of professional journalists and academics including Steve Coll, Naomi Oreskes, Erik Conway, and Ross Gelbspan (as we’ve reported before on Nature’s Edge) paid for, so the reporting says, by multinational fossil fuel companies, often based in the United States, that are fighting a rear-guard action to prevent inevitable regulation on carbon emissions as long as possible.

‘A Crime Against Humanity’

A number of climate scientists have told this reporter they agree with those, including NASA scientist James Hansen, who charge fossil fuel CEOs are thus guilty of a “crime against humanity,” given the calamity that unregulated greenhouse emissions are quickly bringing on.

But there’s another aspect of the global warming story that is challenging and upsetting everyone — fossil fuel CEOs, environmental activists, presidents, high school teachers, their students, bus drivers, economists, cartoonists, chefs, Kansas wheat farmers and Chinese rice farmers, MIT philosophers, amateur chess players… and political strategists in every party.

That aspect is its scale.

At this point in reporting this story, this reporter feels it may be helpful to simply stop for a moment and focus briefly on this one, most obvious and unprecedented aspect of this story.

It may be psychologically helpful simply to name it — to recognize the full size and complexity of this problem.

One reason — though not an excuse — for journalistic hesitation on this story may well have been that, in its unprecedented immensity, it is simply so psychologically daunting.

This reporter would respectfully suggest that any reporter who hasn’t felt this hasn’t been paying attention.

And there is still hardly a day, after eight years covering it, that I don’t find myself being pulled once again back out of natural, even healthy, denial about it.

Psychologists Charles B. Strozier and Robert J. Lifton report finding what they call a sort of pragmatic “professional numbing” in several professions that deal with traumatic or frightening events or information.

The Elephant We’re All Inside Of… and a New 4th Category of News

One metaphor I came up with when first grappling with this story eight years ago (journalists love to find a good new metaphor) was that “This isn’t the elephant in the room, it’s the elephant we’re all inside of.”

Global warming, we’re barely beginning to realize, is actually… global. [Evidence?]


The New Zealand Climate and Health Council says global warming is the no.1 threat to health

That it is COLD weather in which people are most likely to become ill seems to be overlooked. And the "no.1" threat to health? I would have thought that a doctor engrossed in his profession would name drug-resistant bacteria. But he is obviously a politician before he is a doctor

He also mentions crop failure but heat and more CO2 are good for crops. Ask any Greenhouse owner. And ocean acidification CANNOT occur if temperatures rise: A warmer ocean would outgas CO2. He sounds more like a shaman than a doctor

Spokesperson Dr George Laking says the medical profession recognises human-induced climate change as the number one threat to health this century. Health risks of climate change start with injury from heatwaves and storms, more tropical illnesses, and ultimately threaten collapse of food supplies and political insecurity from crop failure, coastal inundation and ocean acidification. Global food prices are already rising with the extreme drought affecting half of the United States.

"Yet it has been incredibly frustrating for us as medical scientists to see political action on climate change repeatedly obstructed by groups such as the NZ Climate Science Coalition and their wealthy backers, apologists for the tobacco industry and the fossil fuel and mining industry."

"It is our responsibility to decarbonise the economy right now" ends Dr Laking. "The technologies already exist. We owe it to the health of current and future generations. New Zealanders should see Justice Venning's ruling as a wake-up call, and not be lulled into complacency by the fossil fuel industry and its helpers".

More antiscience HERE

Little Ice Age: Started In The Southern Hemisphere?

Included below is an amusing example of Warmist dishonesty. Similar magniitudes of temperature change can be either "modest" and of no account or cause for great alarm -- depending on what suits the Warmist at the time

That the Little Ice Age (LIA) – a cooling centred on the 17th Century – took place is beyond doubt. What is questioned however is its spatial extent and its cause. Reading the last document produced by the IPCC on the subject of the LIA one is left in no doubt that it thinks it was a mainly European event.

It states: "Evidence from mountain glaciers does suggest increased glaciation in a number of widely spread regions outside Europe prior to the 20th century, including Alaska, New Zealand and Patagonia. However, the timing of maximum glacial advances in these regions differs considerably, suggesting that they may represent largely independent regional climate changes, not a globally-synchronous increased glaciation … hemispherically, the “Little Ice Age” can only be considered as a modest cooling of the Northern Hemisphere during this period of less than 1deg C relative to late 20th century levels."

I note that 1 deg C is a “modest cooling” in this context and that such a description is seldom used to describe the smaller amount of recent warming seen in the instrumental global temperature record. Also note that the most used reference of the strong regional variations in the timing, magnitude and character of the LIA is Jones and Mann 2004. So it is that the LIA is typically considered to be a Northern Hemisphere climate phenomenon characterised by alpine glacial advances and relatively cool temperatures observed between 15th to mid-19th centuries. There are signs however that the IPCC will have to reevaluate its stance on the extent of the LIA.

The cause of the LIA has been the subject of much debate, with explanations ranging from increased volcanism, reduced solar irradiance and ocean circulation changes. Paleoclimate records suggest that the LIA is the most recent cooling event of a series that punctuated the Holocene. Such apparent oscillatory behavior in Holocene climate has led to speculation about what role the thermohaline circulation of the world’s oceans may have played in instigating or amplifying these climate changes. No consensus has been reached on this issue and a key concern is the spatial bias toward Northern Hemisphere proxy and meteorological records. An important tool to understand the LIA must therefore be the acquisition and interpretation of Southern Hemisphere paleoclimate records, but few are currently available.

Some years ago scientists compared studies of West Antarctic ice cores to the Greenland Ice Sheet Project suggesting a synchronous global Little Ice Age. An ocean sediment core from the Bransfield Basin in the Antarctic Peninsula displays centennial events that the researchers attributed to the Little Ice Age and Medieval Warm Period (MWP) noting “other unexplained climatic events comparable in duration and amplitude to the LIA and MWP events also appear.” The Siple Dome in Antarctica also shows a climate episode whose start is coincident with that of the LIA in the North Atlantic. The Siple Dome ice core also contains its highest rate of melt layers between 1550 and 1700, due to it has been suggested to warm summers during the LIA.

An impressive new paper and Ph.D thesis by Rachael Rhodes formerly of the Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand looks at the Little Ice Age climate and oceanic conditions of the Ross Sea, Antarctica from a coastal ice core record.

Antarctic ice cores are valuable archives of past climate and only recently have been obtained with adequate temporal resolution to investigate any traces of the LIA in Antarctica. They are beginning to suggest that Antarctica did experience the LIA. If this is the case then the LIA cannot be due to fluctuations in the thermohaline circulation of the world’s oceans.

Rhodes at al 2012 obtained subannual glaciochemical records from a coastal ice core at a place called the Mount Erebus Saddle (MES) in the south-western Ross Sea. The portion of the LIA captured in the MES ice core (1446-1850 AD) shows enhanced lithophile (microorganisms that can live in tiny cracks and pores in rocks) element concentrations and a rapid decrease in lithophile element concentrations between 1848 and 1850 AD – the end of the LIA. The MES stable isotope record suggests that the Ross Sea region experienced 1.6 ± 1.4 deg C cooler average temperatures during the LIA in comparison to the last 150 yr.

The ice core record currently dates back to 1446 AD but curiously there is no sign that the onset of the LIA is captured. Rhodes points out that a frequently cited date for the onset of the LIA in the Northern Hemisphere is 1450 AD but estimates vary.

In addition recent research from the Antarctic Dry Valleys suggest that the onset of the LIA was actually earlier in the Southern Hemisphere. If verified such findings could stand our ideas about the LIA on its head.


CO2 emissions reduced by 1/770th. Yes. Not 1/7th, 1/770th

More evidence of the puniness of human endeavour compared to natural forces

"The one billionth certified emission reduction credit under the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) will be issued today, according to the UN climate secretariat (UNFCCC)...This effectively means that it has now prevented the emission of a billion tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere....

“This exciting milestone is a testament to the expanding use of the CDM,” said UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres."

But according to a NASA science site, 770 Gigatons of CO2 are emitted into the atmosphere each year by natural processes in the ocean and on land. Some people are easily excited

More HERE (See the original for links)

Are wind farms saving or killing us? A provocative investigation claims thousands of people are falling sick because they live near them

It was Uplawmoor’s tranquillity and wild beauty that drew civil servant Aileen Jackson to settle there 28 years ago. She’d had enough of life in the big city. Now she wanted somewhere quiet and rural to start a family, keep her horses, and enjoy the magnificent views down the valley and out to sea to the western Scottish isles of Arran and Ailsa Craig.

Then, two years ago, she says, it all turned sour. A neighbour with whom she and her family had been friends decided to take advantage of the massive public subsidies for ‘renewable’ energy.

He put up a 64ft-high wind turbine which, though on his own land, stood just 300 yards from the Jackson family’s home.

The sleepless nights caused by its humming were only the start of their problems. Far worse was the impact on their health.

Aileen, a diabetic since the age of 19, found her blood glucose levels rocketing – forcing her to take more insulin and causing her to develop a cataract, she says.

Her younger son, Brian, an outgoing, happy, academically enthusiastic young man, suddenly became a depressive, stopped seeing his friends and dropped out of his studies at college.

Aileen’s husband William, who had always had low blood pressure, now found his blood pressure levels going ‘sky high’ – and has been on medication ever since.

So far so coincidental, you might say. And if you did, you would have the full and enthusiastic support of the wind industry.

Here is what the official trade body RenewableUK has to say on its website: ‘In over 25 years and with more than 68,000 machines installed around the world, no member of the public has ever been harmed by the normal operation of wind farms.’

But in order to believe that, you would have to discount the testimony of the thousands of people just like Aileen around the world who claim their health has been damaged by wind farms.

You would have to ignore the reports of doctors such as Australia’s Sarah Laurie, Canada’s Nina Pierpont and Britain’s Amanda Harry who have collated hundreds of such cases of Wind Turbine Syndrome.

And you’d have to reject the expertise of the acoustic engineers, sleep specialists, epidemiologists and physiologists who all testify that the noise generated by wind farms represents a major threat to public health.

‘If this were the nuclear industry, this is a scandal which would be on the front pages of every newspaper every day for months on end,’ says Chris Heaton-Harris, the Conservative MP for Daventry who has been leading the parliamentary revolt against wind farms, demanding that their subsidies be cut. ‘But because it’s wind it has been let off the hook. It shouldn’t be.’

Wind Turbine Syndrome. Until you’ve seen for yourself what it can do to a community, you might be tempted to dismiss it as a hypochondriac’s charter or an urban myth.

In December 2011, in a peer-reviewed report in the Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society, Dr Carl Phillips – one of the U.S.’s most distinguished epidemiologists – concluded that there is ‘overwhelming evidence that wind turbines cause serious health problems in nearby residents, usually stress-disorder type diseases, at a nontrivial rate’.

According to a study by U.S. noise control engineer Rick James, wind farms generate the same symptoms as Sick Building Syndrome – the condition that plagued office workers in the Eighties and Nineties as a result of what was eventually discovered to be the Low Frequency Noise (LFN), caused by misaligned air conditioning systems.

The combination of LFN and ‘amplitude modulation’ (loudness that goes up and down) leads to fatigue, poor concentration and dizziness.

And sleep specialist Dr Chris Hanning believes it stimulates an alert response, leading to arousal episodes throug the night that make restful sleep impossible. ‘I’ve spoken with many sufferers and sadly the only treatment is for them to move away from the wind farm.’

But if the problem is really so widespread, why isn’t it better known? The short answer is money: the wind industry is a hugely lucrative business with millions to spend on lobbying.

What’s more, until recently, it benefited from the general public mood that ‘something ought to be done about climate change’ and wind power – supposedly ‘free’, ‘renewable’ and ‘carbon-friendly’ – was the obvious solution. ‘For years among the metropolitan elite it has been considered heretical to criticise wind power,’ says Heaton-Harris.

In Britain, onshore wind farms are subsidised by a levy on consumer bills at 100 per cent; offshore wind is subsidised at 200 per cent

In the last decade, however, a host of evidence has emerged to indicate it is not the panacea it was thought to be.

From economists such as Edinburgh University’s Dr Gordon Hughes we are told that wind energy is unreliable and intermittent, with no real market value because it requires near 100 per cent back-up by conventional fossil-fuel power.

From research institute Verso Economics we are told that that for every ‘green job’ created by taxpayer subsidy, 3.7 jobs are killed in the real economy.

It is said that thanks to the artificial rise in energy prices caused by renewable subsidies, expected to reach £13 billion per annum by 2020, at least 50,000 people a year in Britain are driven into fuel poverty.

And newly released Spanish government research claims that each turbine kills an average 300 birds a year (often rare ones such as eagles and bustards) and at least as many bats.

Yet still, despite collapsing share prices and increasing public scepticism, the industry continues to grow. As Matt Ridley noted recently in The Spectator, there are ‘too many people with snouts in the trough.’

Aristocratic landowners have done especially well, such as the Earl of Moray (£2 million a year from his Doune estate) and the Duke of Roxburghe (£1.5 million a year from his estate in Lammermuir Hills).

South of the border, the Prime Minister’s father-in-law Sir Reginald Sheffield makes more than £1,000 a day from the eight turbines on his Lincolnshire estates. Even smaller landholdings can generate a tidy profit: around £40,000 per year, per large (3MW) turbine, for no effort whatsoever.

The biggest winners, though, are the mostly foreign-owned (Mitsubishi, Gamesa, Siemens) firms for whom wind was until recently a virtually risk-free investment.

Much more HERE



The graphics problem: Graphics hotlinked to this site sometimes have only a short life and if I host graphics with blogspot, the graphics sometimes get shrunk down to illegibility. From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site. See here and here


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