Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Warmist fear of debate goes back a long way

Warmists have only a Humpty Dumpty shell  of science on their side so when skeptics point them to actual climate facts, the only reply possible for them is some sort of snarl.  The snarl is of course "ad hominem" and is at least abusive of not defamatory.  It can also simply be a pack of lies.  So rather than debate the climate facts, Warmists wage a rhetorical war in which they try to defame  skeptics personally -- and block anyone from hearing them.  The Warmist response to skeptics is of course not even a simulacrum of science  -- but nor is Warmism itself.  They huff and they puff and they blow their own house down.

Below is a reproduction of an early Warmist attempt to shut skeptics up  -- JR:

(Larger version here)

Excerpt:  "It is journalistically irresponsible to present both sides as if it were a question of balance. Given the distribution of views, with groups like the National Academy of Science expressing strong scientific concern, it is irresponsible to give equal time to a few people standing out in left field.

The overall weight of evidence” of global warming “is so clear that one begins to feel angry toward those who exaggerate the uncertainty."  - Ross Gelbspan quoting Al Gore in 1992

Russell Cook comments on the clipping:

That is a scan I originally linked to in my JunkScience guest article "In Case of Heart[land] Attack, Break Glass"  (7th paragraph there), and in my comment here, which is within the comments section of my own guest post at WUWT about 'the other major problem' with the Lewandowsky paper. I also showed it in the comment I placed at the PBS NewsHour to predict the AGW backlash Watts was going to get:

My heartfelt hat tip goes to Australia's Brenton Groves for supplying me with that scan and the larger "Racing to an environmental precipice: Fear of future on deteriorating planet sets agenda for Rio de Janeiro summit" May 31, 1992 Boston Globe article containing it.

I believe there was a Gore / Schneider / Gelbspan connection at the beginning of it all. Consider that in September of 1992, Schneider said the following in a Discover magazine article "Can We Repair the Air?"  (8th paragraph):  "The White House, some business groups, and a few contrary-minded scientists had always argued that the possibility of a nasty greenhouse effect was too uncertain to justify spending billions of dollars to fix it. They (as the tobacco industry has done for decades with smoking) called instead for further studies. ..."

My thanks to you for spreading the word of how this is a 20 year boilerplate smear. It is 3 simple talking points:  "settled science" / "corrupt skeptics operating in a parallel manner to old tobacco industry shills" / "the media is not obligated to give skeptics equal balance because of the first two points". Ross Gelbspan consolidated this 3-point mantra into the successful smear it became after late 1995.


The Case of the Alternating Ice Sheets

It is giving Warmists erections all over the place that the Arctic sea ice has shrunk in recent years. They really cling to that.  And when people point out that the planet's BIG ice aggregation --Antarctica -- is not shinking at all and appears to be growing in places, they figuratively stick their fingers in their ears and say, "Can't hear you".  They are that childish.

Skeptics however suffer from no such pathology (psychologists call it "denial") so simply find the contrast interesting.  Now one asks:  Is there are long-term inverse link between the two poles?  An excerpt from an answer below:

During the Holocene Climate Optimum, around 6,000 years ago, temperatures in the Arctic were 4°C higher than today and the Arctic Ocean may have been totally ice free during the summer. That this happened before makes the melting of the Arctic sea ice not a particularly bothersome thing; even the “endangered” polar bears managed to live through this balmy period in the high Arctic.

Even if we ignore the fact that there have been warmer periods in the Holocene climate record, there is a reason to not get upset by the apparent retreat of the Arctic ice sheet. That reason is explained in a paper by Stephen Barker and colleagues, entitled “800,000 Years of Abrupt Climate Variability,” that appeared in Science in 2011. Here is the abstract:

"We constructed an 800,000-year synthetic record of Greenland climate variability based on the thermal bipolar seesaw model. Our Greenland analog reproduces much of the variability seen in the Greenland ice cores over the past 100,000 years. The synthetic record shows strong similarity with the absolutely dated speleothem record from China, allowing us to place ice core records within an absolute timeframe for the past 400,000 years. Hence, it provides both a stratigraphic reference and a conceptual basis for assessing the long-term evolution of millennial-scale variability and its potential role in climate change at longer time scales. Indeed, we provide evidence for a ubiquitous association between bipolar seesaw oscillations and glacial terminations throughout the Middle to Late Pleistocene."

According to the authors, ice core records from Greenland document the existence of repeated, large, abrupt shifts in Northern Hemisphere climate in the past. The last glacial cycle was characterized by rapid alternations between cold (stadial) and warmer (interstadial) conditions, cycles known as Dansgaard-Oeschger (D-O) oscillations. These oscillations led several scientists to propose a theory of inter-hemisphere climate linkage known as the seesaw model (see “Paleocean circulation during the Last Deglaciation: A bipolar seesaw?”).

The thermal bipolar seesaw model, first proposed by Wally Broecker, attempts to explain the observed relationship between millennial-scale temperature variability observed in Greenland and Antarctica. The speculative mechanism responsible for these oscillations is variation in the strength of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC). In trying to document the model Barker et al. encorporate orbital cycles, insolation, a number of different proxies and several mathematical techniques, yielding results shown in the figure below.

Ice core records from Greenland (GISP2) and Antarctica (EDC).

According to the seesaw model, a transition from weak to strong AMOC would cause an abrupt warming across the North Atlantic region (a D-O warming event) while temperatures across Antarctica would (in general) shift from warming to cooling. In other words, the thermal bipolar seesaw model states that there is an inverse relationship between temperatures in Greenland and the rate of change of Antarctic temperature.

“The northward heat transport associated with this circulation implies that changes in the strength of overturning should lead to opposing temperature responses in either hemisphere,” Barker et al. state. While this report is specifically about millennial cycles there are others who have proposed shorter term oscillations on the order of centuries or decades. Taking this relationship another logical step, shrinking ice in one hemisphere should imply growing ice mass in the other—the ice sheets alternate.

Is the ice mass growing in Antarctica? According to a study done by NASA scientists back in 2005 and published in Science, that is exactly what is happening down at the bottom of the world. Accumulation of snow in the interior of the continent is resulting in growth in the Antarctic glacial ice. The plot below shows the change in elevation between 1992 and 2003.

The important part of this plot is the long-term linear trend (black line), from which a steady increase in elevation since about 1995 is apparent (the red curve is an 11 year, least squares polynomial fit of questionable usefulness). The average rate of change from 1995 to 2003 is 2.2 cm/year after adjustment for isostatic uplift. This growth is even more dramatic when viewed on the map below.

Satellite radar altimetry measurements indicate that the East Antarctic ice-sheet interior north of 81.6°-S increased in mass by 45±7 billion metric tons per year from 1992 to 2003. Comparisons with meteorological model snowfall estimates suggest that the gain in mass is associated with increased precipitation. A gain of this magnitude is enough to slow sea-level rise by 0.12±0.02 millimeters per year. But it is not just the ice on the Antarctic continent that is showing signs of growth.

According to NASA's Earth Observatory, total Antarctic sea ice has increased by about 1% per decade since the start of the satellite record. “Whether the small overall increase in sea ice extent is a sign of meaningful change in the Antarctic is uncertain because ice extents in the Southern Hemisphere vary considerably from year to year and from place to place around the continent,” they report. “Considered individually, only the Ross Sea sector had a significant positive trend, while sea ice extent has actually decreased in the Bellingshausen and Amundsen Seas. In short, Antarctic sea ice shows a small positive trend, but large scale variations make the trend very noisy.”

Antarctic sea ice in winter and summer, 2011-2012

The Arctic is an ocean basin surrounded by land. The Antarctic, on the other hand, is a large continent surrounded by ocean. Because of this geography, sea ice has more room to expand in the winter. But the ice also extends to warmer latitudes, leading to more melting in summer. The Antarctic sea ice peaks in September and retreats to a minimum in February, as can be seen from the seasonal maps above.

Earth's climate engine contains cycles within cycles, operating on timescales that often exceed a human lifetime. Really long cycles leave traces in sediment and glacial ice, short-term change can be witnessed first hand, but the intermediate cycles are difficult for even scientists to appreciate. Imagine if a year took a century to unfold and you were born in the dead of winter; the coming of summer would seem a frightening change, with temperatures rising dramatically and seemingly without limit.

It is easy to understand people getting frantic over shrinking ice sheets and melting glaciers, but such events are all natural and operate on timescales we are ill-equipped to comprehend. Nature will keep its own counsel without regard for overly excitable climate scientists.


Another failed climate prophecy

Arctic To Be Ice Free In Winter By The Year 2000

Fourteen degrees of Arctic warming from 1910 to 1960, when CO2 was at super-safe levels.

SOURCE  (See the original for links)

Greenies in the service of the tobacco industry

Despite many accusations that skeptics act or have acted in the service of the tobacco industry there is no evidence of it.  The evidence the other way however ....

Matt Ridley says:  I have an article in the Spectator drawing attention to the curious fact that Rachel Carson's Silent Spring owed much to a passionate tobacco denier. It's behind a paywall, but here it is with the sources as links

Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, published 50 years ago this month, effectively marked the birth of the modern environmental movement. "Silent Spring came as a cry in the wilderness, a deeply felt, thoroughly researched, and brilliantly written argument that changed the course of history," wrote Al Gore in his introduction to the 1994 edition.

Mr Gore reprised this theme on his website earlier this year, proudly comparing Carson's call to arms over pesticides to his own campaigning on the issue of climate change. He frequently compares the resistance he meets, and Carson met, to that which impeded the battle to establish the link between cancer and cigarette smoking. He accuses industry of "sowing doubt [about global warming] even more effectively than the tobacco companies before them."

The tobacco companies, said Mr Gore last year, "succeeded in delaying the implementation of the surgeon general's report for 40 years - 40 years! In every one of those 40 years the average number of Americans killed by cigarettes each year exceeded the total number of Americans killed in all of World War II: 450,000 per year. My sister was one of them. … It was evil, evil, evil."

Mr Gore may not be aware of a startling irony here. Carson's mentor and the source for much of her case that synthetic pesticides, and DDT in particular, were devastating bird life and causing widespread cancer in people, was himself a fervent denier of the link between tobacco smoking and lung cancer.

His name was Wilhelm Hueper. An immigrant to the United States from Germany (who shook off an embarrassing but brief enthusiasm for Nazism that led him to seek a job back in Hitler's Germany) he became the first director of the environmental cancer section of the US National Cancer Institute. There he single-mindedly pursued the idea that cancer was on the increase and that the cause was largely synthetic chemicals in the environment.

He encountered resistance, however, and not just from the chemical industry. Medical scientists were growing convinced that the rise of lung cancer was being caused by a rise in smoking. Hueper would have none of it. Here he is writing a paper called "Lung Cancers and their Causes" in 1955 in CA, a cancer journal for clinicians: "Industrial or industry-related atmospheric pollutants are to a great part responsible for the causation of lung cancer…cigarette smoking is not a major factor in the causation of lung cancer."

In her book, Carson refers to the work of Hueper throughout and made it clear he was her most important source. Describing a disease in trout, she wrote: "Dr. Hueper has described this epidemic as a serious warning that greatly increased attention must be given to controlling the number and variety of environmental carcinogens. 'If such preventive measures are not taken,' says Dr. Hueper, 'the stage will be set at a progressive rate for the future occurrence of a similar disaster to the human population.' "

The Hueper-Carson warning - that an epidemic of cancer caused by chemicals in the environment was on the way - caused one of the first eco-scares to go mainstream. The ecologist Paul Ehrlich, writing in Ramparts magazine in 1970, said that as a result of chemical pesticides, life expectancy in the United States would drop to 42 years by 1980 due to cancer epidemics. This was a widespread view. To this day many people think that pesticides causes much cancer.

Yet cancer death rates, corrected for average age of the population, are falling steadily. In the 1980s, a definitive study by Sir Richard Doll and Sir Richard Peto concluded that whereas 30% of Americans' cancer was caused by smoking, pollution caused at most a mere 5%. In 1996, the National Academy of Sciences concluded that levels of both synthetic and natural carcinogens are "so low that they are unlikely to pose an appreciable cancer risk".

Rachel Carson herself had a mastectomy and radiation therapy for breast cancer while writing Silent Spring and she died within two years of its publication at the age of 56. In his 1994 foreword, Al Gore hints that she might have been a victim of the chemicals she criticized: "Ironically, new research points strongly to a link between this disease and exposure to toxic chemicals. So in a sense, Carson was literally writing for her life."

Yet the evidence that DDT, the chemical that Carson's book is all about, can cause breast cancer doe not exist. After several studies, experts concluded that "weakly estrogenic organochlorine compounds such as PCBs, DDT, and DDE are not a cause of breast cancer."

When environmentalists attack a climate sceptic these days, they often accuse him or her of being the kind of person who would have denied the role of smoking in cancer. Tobacco denial "was transported whole cloth into the climate debate," said Al Gore in Aspen last year, citing the book Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway. Oreskes herself, apparently unaware of Carson's reliance on a tobacco denier for much of her argument, told a Yale seminar she was "stunned to discover myself how much the scientific evidence confirmed Rachel Carson's precautionary approach".

In any case, the charge that climate scepticism goes with tobacco denial is false. The best example that Oreskes has produced is a 1994 paper written by the climate sceptic Fred Singer challenging some statistics about passive smoking. Yet Singer does not deny that smoking causes cancer, has served on the advisory board of an anti-smoking organization and dislikes passive smoking.

To conclude from this history that climate alarmists have more in common with tobacco deniers than climate sceptics do would be simply to repeat Mr Gore's and Ms Oreskes's egregious mistake. The true lesson is that arguments should be discussed on their merits, not tarred by tenuous association.

SOURCE  (See the original for links)

Are We Destroying the Earth?

Transforming aesthetic disputes into value-creating transactions

People often complain that mankind is destroying the earth: that insatiable consumption and relentless production have laid waste to irreplaceable swaths of our planet, and that these activities have to stop or someday it will all be gone.

Which raises the question: What does it means to “destroy” something?

When you burn a log, the log is destroyed but heat, light, smoke, and ashes remain.  It’s in that sense that physics tells us that matter is neither created nor destroyed.  Similarly, cutting down a forest destroys the forest but in its place are houses and furniture and suburbs. The real question is: Is it worth it?

Value Can Be Both Created and Destroyed

What people usually mean when they say mankind is destroying the earth is that human action causes a change they don’t like.  It sounds odd to say that my wife, by eating a piece of toast for breakfast, is “destroying” the toast.  But if I wanted that toast for myself, I might well regard her action as destructive.  Same action, but the interpretation depends on purpose and context.

When a missile obliterates a building and kills the people in it, it may serve a political purpose even though the friends and family of those killed and the owners of the building are harmed.  The perpetrator’s gain is the victim’s loss.  In the political realm, one person’s gain is necessarily another person’s loss.  You rob Peter to pay Paul; you kill Jack to appease Jill.  It’s a “zero-sum game.”

In the economic realm, however, a thing is destroyed to the extent that it loses its usefulness to somebody for doing something.  Someone may want to bulldoze my lovely home just for fun.  If she pays me enough I may let her do it and be glad she did.  When not physically coerced, a trade won’t happen unless each side expects to gain.  If it does happen, and if the people who traded are right, then all do in fact gain.  Each is better off than before. The trade has created something–value.  If they are wrong they destroy value and suffer a loss, which gives them an incentive to avoid making mistakes.

Profits and Losses Help to Minimize the Destruction of Value

In free markets gains manifest themselves in profit, either monetary or psychic.  (In the short run, of course, you can sustain a monetary loss if you think there’s a worthwhile nonmonetary aspect to the trade that will preserve the profit.)  Now, the free market is not perfect, despite what some economics professors say about the benefits of so-called “perfect competition.”  People don’t have complete or perfect knowledge and so they make mistakes.  They trade when they shouldn’t, or they don’t trade when they should.  Fortunately, profits and losses serve as feedback to guide their decisions.

There’s another source of market imperfection.  People may be capable of making good decisions but they don’t trade, or trade too much, because the property rights to the things they would like to trade aren’t well-defined or aren’t effectively enforced.  In such cases their actions or inactions create costs they don’t bear or benefits they don’t receive.  The result is that their decisions end up destroying value.

If I free-ride off the oceans, if for example I don’t pay for dumping garbage into it, then the oceans will become more polluted than they should be.  If there is a cleaner, more efficient source of energy than fossil fuels, but no one can profitably use it because the state prevents anyone from doing so (for example by prohibitions or excessive taxation), then again the value that would have been created will never appear.

Aesthetics or Economics?

Our esthetic sense of beauty is part of what makes us human.  If we wish to protect a lake or a valley from development because we think it beautiful, how do we do that?

To some extent it’s possible to do what the Nature Conservancy does, and purchase the land that we want to protect.  But that’s not always possible, especially when the land is controlled not by private persons but by the state, which makes special deals with crony capitalists in so-called public-private developments.  In any case, even the free market is not perfect.  Economic development and material well-being mean that some beautiful landscapes and irreplaceable resources will be changed in ways not everyone will approve.

Remember, though, that economics teaches us that an action is always taken by someone for something.  There are no disembodied costs, benefits, and values.  In a world of scarcity, John believes saving rain forests is more important than saving the whales.  Mary believes the opposite.  If we are to get past disagreements on esthetics–essentially differences of opinion–that can turn into violent conflict, we need to find some way to settle our differences peacefully, some way to transform them into value-creating interactions.

Imperfect though it may be, the free market has so far been the most effective method we know of for doing that.

SOURCE  (See the original for links)

Extreme weather:  Better models are needed before exceptional events can be reliably linked to global warming

We see below that "Nature" magazine has had a long overdue fit of scientific caution  -- JR

As climate change proceeds — which the record summer melt of Arctic sea-ice suggests it is doing at a worrying pace — nations, communities and individual citizens may begin to seek compensation for losses and damage arising from global warming. Climate scientists should be prepared for their skills one day to be probed in court. Whether there is a legal basis for such claims, such as that brought against the energy company ExxonMobil by the remote Alaskan community of Kivalina, which is facing coastal erosion and flooding as the sea ice retreats, is far from certain, however. So lawyers, insurers and climate negotiators are watching with interest the emerging ability, arising from improvements in climate models, to calculate how anthropogenic global warming will change, or has changed, the probability and magnitude of extreme weather and other climate-related events. But to make this emerging science of ‘climate attribution’ fit to inform legal and societal decisions will require enormous research effort.

Attribution is the attempt to deconstruct the causes of observable weather and to understand the physics of why extremes such as floods and heatwaves occur. This is important basic research. Extreme weather and changing weather patterns — the obvious manifestations of global climate change — do not simply reflect easily identifiable changes in Earth’s energy balance such as a rise in atmospheric temperature. They usually have complex causes, involving anomalies in atmospheric circulation, levels of soil moisture and the like. Solid understanding of these factors is crucial if researchers are to improve the performance of, and confidence in, the climate models on which event attribution and longer-term climate projections depend.

Event attribution is one of the proposed ‘climate services’ — seasonal climate prediction is another — that are intended to provide society with the information needed to manage the risks and costs associated with climate change. Advocates of climate services see them as a counterpart to the daily weather forecast. But without the computing capacity of a well-equipped national meteorological office, heavily model-dependent services such as event attribution and seasonal prediction are unlikely to be as reliable.

At a workshop last week in Oxford, UK, convened by the Attribution of Climate-related Events group — a loose coalition of scientists from both sides of the Atlantic — some speakers questioned whether event attribution was possible at all. It currently rests on a comparison of the probability of an observed weather event in the real world with that of the ‘same’ event in a hypothetical world without global warming. One critic argued that, given the insufficient observational data and the coarse and mathematically far-from-perfect climate models used to generate attribution claims, they are unjustifiably speculative, basically unverifiable and better not made at all. And even if event attribution were reliable, another speaker added, the notion that it is useful for any section of society is unproven.

Both critics have a point, but their pessimistic conclusion — that climate attribution is a non-starter — is too harsh. It is true that many climate models are currently not fit for that purpose, but they can be improved. Evaluation of how often a climate model produces a good representation of the type of event in question, and whether it does so for the right reasons, must become integral to any attribution exercise. And when communicating their results, scientists must be open about shortcomings in the models used.

It is more difficult to make the case for ‘usefulness’. None of the industry and government experts at the workshop could think of any concrete example in which an attribution might inform business or political decision-making. Especially in poor countries, the losses arising from extreme weather have often as much to do with poverty, poor health and government corruption as with a change in climate. The United Nations is planning to set up a fund with the aim of reducing loss and damage due to climate change, but the complexity of such issues is making negotations difficult.

These caveats do not mean that event attribution is a lost cause. But they are a reminder that designers of climate services must think very clearly about how others might want to use the knowledge that climate scientists produce. That could be a task for social scientists, who have good methods for analysing decision-making and social transactions. They need to be more involved in shaping the production and dissemination of climate knowledge.




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


1 comment:

NikFromNYC said...

Even better scan: