Tuesday, July 16, 2013

What drives Sir Paul Nurse?

Sir Paul Nurse is an expert on the genetics of yeast and is also the current President of the Royal Society  in Britain.  He is a poor boy made good.  His birth was illegitimate at a time when that mattered.  With his background it would have been difficult for him to gain acceptance in the upper echelons of British society but a good brain has got him a long way.

And I suggest that his difficult background helps explain why a geneticist has become a furious defender of global warming.  He is striving for acceptance and global warming is an accepted view among most of his colleagues and contacts.  Scientific integrity takes a second place to his personal ambitions.

The meticulous Steve McIntyre has a very detailed and extensive summary of correspondence with Nurse about global warming and there is much there that is discreditable to Nurse.  I reproduce just the last part of it to give a flavor of the way Nurse is consumed with hostility to skeptics.  At the point where the excerpt starts the book "Nullius in Verba" by Montford is being discussed.  "Nullius in Verba" ("Don't trust words") is the historic motto of the Royal Society and the book is a critique of where the Royal Society is today.

Given the negligible empirical support for the global warming prophecy, I think that most of those who  support it must be suspected of personal motives but the motives of Nurse would seem particularly clear.  The last paragraph below, in particular,  depicts a classic case of psychological insecurity.

I write of course as a much published psychologist, specializing in political psychology, but there are nonetheless grounds on which my analysis of Nurse could be held to be improper.  I may note however that derogatory analyses of conservatives by Leftist psychologists go back at least to 1950 so I write with much  precedent before me

If one re-examines Nurse’s New Scientist editorial, it seems to be exactly what Montford described: “an attack on what [Nurse] saw as ‘anti-science’ attitudes in the US Republican party”. I happen to share Nurse’s disdain on many points, though I thought that his concern that U.S. scientists were about to decamp for the UK, China and India was somewhat overheated.

However, given that there were many able Americans speaking out on the matter, one might wonder whether this was an issue that actually required the attention of the President of the UK Royal Society or whether Nurse’s priorities might be better directed towards scientific misunderstandings by UK politicians, such as, arguably, their belief in wind and solar policies.

Nor did Montford’s sentence (which seems to be accurate on its face) imply in any way that either Montford or the GWPF endorsed the views that Nurse criticized in his New Scientist editorial.

Nurse had originally alleged that the GWPF had published “named personal attacks on four successive Presidents of the Royal Society”. When challenged, Nurse failed to produce any evidence, instead claiming that Nullius in Verba gave “support for absurd anti-science views”, an unfounded allegation that GWPF denied and which turns out to be founded on nothing more than the above Montford sentence.

Nurse’s thin-skinned and consistently incorrect characterization of Nullius in Verba reminds me of Lucia’s warning about Gavin Schmidt (to which I referred recently in connection with mischaracterization by CRU and Schmidt himself):

    "I might suggest that you are assuming that people asked the questions Gavin says they asked, and that Gavin’s answer to their questions is adequate because Gavin tells us his answer is adequate."

It also seems to me that there is also a tinge of Gleick and Lewandowsky in Nurse’s remarks and ill-informed attitude towards skeptics. The term “anti-science” occurred in Gleick’s forgery and was one of the words that tipped Mosher that it was a forgery. And rather than Nurse’s New Scientist editorial suggesting output from a “policy quango”, as Montford had suggested, it seems far more similar to an editorial that might have come from the US National Center for Science Education, to which Gleick had been nominated as a director in January 2012 (though the nomination was withdrawn after Gleick’s fraud and forgery were revealed.)

In respect to the vituperativeness of Nurse’s response both to the sentence in paragraph 121 (page 36) of Nullius in Verba and to Lawson’s letter, one is also reminded of another Lucia suggestion:  "put on your big boy pants."

Indeed, according to an incident recounted in Nicholas Nassim Taleb’s Antifragile (discussed at Bishop Hill here), it seems that Nurse believes that he wears extra-special big boy pants. Taleb writes:

    "As I was writing this book, I overheard on a British Air flight a gentleman explain to the flight attendant less than two seconds into the conversation (meant to be about whether he liked cream and sugar in his coffee) that he won the Nobel Prize in Medicine “and Physiology” in addition to being the president of a famous monarchal academy. The flight attendant did not know what the Nobel was, but was polite, so he kept repeating “the Nobel Prize” hoping that she would wake up from her ignorance. I turned around and recognized him, and the character suddenly deflated. As the saying goes, it is hardest to be a great man to one’s chambermaid."


China questions climate consensus

The world’s most populous nation is officially openly debating whether fears of anthropogenic global warming are justified by science. In May 2013, the Chinese Academy of Sciences translated and published the reports of NIPCC (Non-governmental International Panel on Climate Change). While providing a platform for discussion of climate issues, the CAS does not necessarily agree with the NIPCC’s conclusions—which are contrary to those of the UN-IPCC (Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change). Rather, the CAS demonstrates a commendable willingness to encourage open discussion of important scientific questions. It may well be a first; no such discussion has ever been permitted by the UK’s Royal Society or by the US National Academy of Sciences.

However, there seems to be a division of opinion within the Chinese Academy, as is evident from the fact that their (Beijing) June 15 Workshop featuring the NIPCC conclusions is to be followed by a September symposium that clearly supports the IPCC point of view. I hope that internal debate of the science will allow the CAS to reach a considered opinion on whether Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) is a danger to human welfare, as has been claimed by alarmists. [Some pertinent questions are listed at the end of this article.]

But there is more involved here than just debate about climate science. Many personal factors enter in, as they do for scientists everywhere. Once part of the IPCC process, a scientist will typically attend many workshops and symposia during the year, usually at exotic locations (Bali, Cancun, Marrakesh), staying in first class resort hotels. There’s also the camaraderie of being part of an international scientific effort, making interesting contacts and forming scientific and personal friendships. And then there is a certain prestige attached to international efforts, often reflected in professional advancement, increases in salary, prizes and honors—not to mention lucrative research grants from compliant government agencies and generous private donors (that often include ‘Big Oil’!).

Finally, there’s the feeling that the scientific efforts may help to determine important national policies that “save the climate” and advance human welfare. At least that seems to be the opinion which is current in the United States and Europe. But it would be rash to assume that this idealistic hope is really true. One cannot imagine that important decisions about the future of economic growth and national development in China would be held hostage to purely scientific opinions. If anything, national policies tend to be fairly conservative and skeptical about the supposed danger of AGW. In China, such decisions are probably made by the National Development and Reform Commission, which has also handled international negotiations related to the Kyoto Protocol (to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases). China has opposed Kyoto—and the US, unlike other OECD nations, has never ratified the Protocol.

In support of this view, one can consider the agreement between President Obama and the Chinese president, at their recent meeting in Hawaii, to reduce the emission of HFCs (hydro-fluorocarbons), used in refrigeration as a replacement for CFCs. Their communiqué said nothing about Carbon Dioxide, the most significant greenhouse gas, released in creating energy from fossil fuels, vital for economic growth.

One can of course cite as a counter-example the recently announced climate policy of President Obama, which seems to be driven by fear of AGW—or, more likely, by fear of losing the political support of climate alarmists. Though a small segment of the US population, the alarmists do include a large fraction of the media and other influential opinion-makers. Mr. Obama has promised what amounts to a “war on coal,” the most plentiful and cheapest fuel for generating electricity. But there’s every indication that the White House policy is politically motivated and not driven by science. A good indicator of the real motive is the possibility that Obama will veto the Keystone-XL pipeline, which is to bring Canadian tar-sand oil to Texas refineries. As everyone realizes, such a veto would simply be a sop to environmental activists, since it will hardly affect the decision of the Canadian governments to recover the oil from the tar sands.

On the other hand, China has just said they will experiment with Cap-&-Trade policies. But I suspect the aim here is not simply to reduce the emission of CO2 but to use it as a driver to improve the efficiency of old coal-fired power plants, which is as low as 11%.

For comparison, most US power plants have efficiencies of at least 35%—i.e., converting 35% of the heat generated in the combustion of coal into useful electricity. The “super-critical” coal plants now coming into use are capable of efficiencies of 55%. This means that China can build coal-fired electric generating plants producing five times as much power (with the same amount of fuel) as the old types now in use—certainly a worthwhile goal. But it will do little if anything for the global climate and should not be considered as climate policy.

Some questions for IPCC:

As mentioned earlier, the Chinese Academy of Sciences is planning a September symposium in Beijing to rally the pro-IPCC arguments and try to convince their government that humans make an important contribution to global warming. In anticipation of this symposium, one would like to ask the organizers the following kinds of questions:

    Can you explain why there has been no significant warming observed in the last 15 years—in spite of a rapid increase in the atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide?

    Can one explain why the tropical atmosphere has shown no warming between 1979 and 2000 (ignoring the 1-yr long temperature spike of 1998, caused by a Super-El-Nino), and then again between 2002 and 2012-while models predict that the atmosphere should warm faster than the surface?

    Can one explain why the Antarctic has been cooling, with Antarctic sea Ice growing steadily-while models predict a global warming with most of the effects at high latitudes?

    Why is there is a striking difference in observed temperature trends between Northern and Southern hemispheres, not exhibited by climate models?

    There is also a striking disparity between observed and modeled latitude dependence of clouds and of precipitation. Why is that?

    Can one explain what caused the observed strong warming between 1910 and 1940? It is unlikely to be anthropogenic, since the level of greenhouse gases was quite low before World War-II.

    Can current climate models account for the observed Multi-decadal Oscillations of the Pacific and Atlantic oceans?

    Finally, can one explain the existence of the so called Little Ice Age, between about 1400 and 1800 AD, and the apparent coincidence of extreme cold with low sunspot numbers?

It is clear that the climate models cannot explain what is actually being observed. Yet it is a principle of science that observations must always take precedence. Models have not been validated by actual observations and therefore should not be used to make predictions about the future. The IPCC’s most recent report claims that models and observations do agree; but these claims are clearly questionable.

The Chinese Academy of Sciences has taken an important step in trying to answer questions essential for a rational climate policy. The world will watch their pioneering efforts with great interest.

A quick word about carbon dioxide: It is an odorless, non-toxic natural constituent of the Earth’s atmosphere. As the basic food for all plants, it is absolutely essential for maintaining life on our planet. CO2 should not be called a “pollutant.” In the geological past, its level has been ten times or more higher than its present value; in fact, our major food crops developed when CO2 levels were about five times higher. China is now the world’s largest emitter of CO2 and thereby making an important contribution to increasing agricultural yields at a time when much of the global population is still hungry. The world should be grateful to China.


‘Gasland’ scandal ignited at EPA

When the anti-fracking hoax-fest “Gasland Part II” premiered on HBO July 8, eco-filmmaker Josh Fox probably wasn’t expecting explosive emails to surface exposing his fakery and how the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency colluded with him in a campaign to destroy “fracking,” the hydraulic fracturing technology that’s making America energy independent.

Here are the facts:

In January, 2011, Josh Fox requested an interview with Dallas, Texas-based EPA regional director Alfredo Armendariz, who told his press secretary:

“It was good working with him for Gasland, and we try to keep in touch every so often. … Let’s propose to him an outdoor interview in FW [Fort Worth, Texas] somewhere, at a place where he can get good background shots.”

For Armendariz to play assistant producer on Fox’s deceptive shams is not surprising. He came to the EPA from WildEarth Guardians with rabid anti-hydrocarbon allegiances clearly sworn in advance.

This week, Washington Free Beacon’s Lachlan Markay filed a story that helped me link the EPA to Fox and a group of his followers. The story explained how Fox, in his 2010 film Gasland, deceptively portrayed longtime natural methane seepage as a product of fracking.

“But a dramatic scene in ‘Gasland Part II’ was entirely contrived in an effort to falsely inflate the dangers of hydraulic fracturing,” Markay told me.

HBO viewers thought they saw Steve Lipsky, a Parker County, Texas, home-owner, holding his garden hose belching fire from his methane-contaminated water well. The flaming water was terrifying and “Gasland Part II” blamed it on fracking done by Range Resources, a Fort Worth-based shale gas driller.

What viewers actually witnessed was Lipsky holding a hose secretly connected to a gas vent, not a water line. This fraud came out in a lawsuit filed by Steven and Shyla Lipsky against Range for $6.5 million in the 43rd State District Court of Texas. The Lipskys claimed two Range natural gas wells contaminated their water well with methane.

Transcripts of that trial and the order of District Court Judge Trey E. Loftin unfolded an incredible web of conniving and conspiracy between Fox’s followers and the EPA. Their idea was not just to attack Range with a lawsuit, but to crush it with litigation and an EPA shutdown.

Lipsky made the false video under advice of anti-fracking consultant Alisa Rich of Wolf Eagle Environmental, who called it a “strategy.” Lipsky came to know Rich and Sharon Wilson of the Oil and Gas Accountability Project through Fox’s Gasland website.

The OGAP is a project of the Washington, D.C.-based Earthworks ($1.3 million 2011 income, according to its latest IRS 990 tax return), and was merged into Earthworks by Seattle software millionaire Paul Brainerd’s foundation ($27.9 million in assets in 2011).

Rich, Wilson and Armendariz were long-time acquaintances who previously worked together. Lipsky sent the EPA his phony flaming hose video, while Wilson coordinated a propaganda surge against Range. Wilson also recruited other Big Green allies for the effort.

On Dec. 7, 2010, Armendariz issued an emergency EPA order against Range, contending that two of its Barnett Shale gas wells “caused or contributed” to contamination of water wells belonging to Lipsky and a neighbor. Armendariz informed his activist allies before telling Range.

OGAP’s Wilson sent Armendariz a jubilant “Yee haw! Hats off to the new Sheriff and his deputies!” She copied her email to the Environmental Defense Fund, WildEarth Guardians and Public Citizen.

Range fought the EPA for a year and a half before it was settled, but not before Armendariz resigned for boasting that he “crucified” drillers to make them an example, like the Romans allegedly did in newly conquered provinces.

It all fell apart when Judge Loftin dismissed the Lipsky case, ruling that Range was the victim of a conspiracy.

I asked Range Resources General Counsel David Poole about the ordeal:

“Fortunately, EPA headquarters eventually looked at the overwhelming facts and fully withdrew the order, which was the right thing to do and we commend them for it. Unfortunately, the actions of the former administrator probably frightened a lot of people and Parker County deserves better.”

So does the rest of America.


Short Meteorological Memories‏

By Alan Caruba

I am giving thanks this week, despite the heat wave, that I have not read, nor heard, a single claim that it is proof that global warming has arrived and we are all doomed.

By the time the global warming hoax was in its final days, we were being told that mid-winter blizzards were signs of it. Now the charlatans have switched their message, calling it “climate change” and this is so bogus that it defies description.

Of course the climate changes! It has done that from the billions of years before the first man climbed down out of the tree to stand upright; just in time to learn how to run like hell from whatever creature thought he would make a tasty snack.

I live in the Northeast and residents in the tri-state area face an entire week of temperatures in the upper 90s. The National Weather Service predicts the heat index (what it feels like outside) could hit 105 degrees. In 2006, about forty people died from heat stroke in New York during a heat wave from late July to early August. Most lacked air conditioning.

Curiously, the Earth is actually the farthest away from the Sun during our summer months. The way the National Geographic explained it the “Earth's elliptical orbit means there will be a point each year when the planet is closest to the sun, called perihelion, and a point when it is farthest away, known as aphelion.” The aphelion was reached on July 5.

By contrast in January of this year Australia was undergoing a historic heat wave complete with wildfires in five of its six states. It set new records hitting 104.6 degrees Fahrenheit; summer in Australia runs from December to February. Far to the north, however, this summer has been the coldest on record in the Arctic and it is forecast to get even colder there towards the end of the month.

What I always find interesting is the way much of the population seems to have absolutely no memory of any previous heat wave or, for that matter, a major blizzard. Either way the news media goes bananas, usually seeing it an apocalyptic scenario. No, it’s just a perfectly normal heat wave or blizzard.

It’s a good idea to keep in mind these and other events are the “weather”, not the “climate.” The climate is measured in terms of centuries or, at the very least, decades. The climate is a trend. The weather is what’s happening outside today.

These weather extremes can be quite dramatic. Wikipedia notes that by 1851, half the population of England was living in towns while London had already grown into a major city. “Modern toilets appear on the scene before modern infrastructure, turning the Thames into an open sewer. In June 1858, a heat wave hit London and baked the river into a fetid mess.” A newspaper reported that “Gentility of speech is at an end—it stinks; and whoso once inhales the stink can never forget it and count himself lucky if he lives to remember it.” The result was that Parliament moved upstream and anyone who could afford it left town.

In June 1976, England sweltered for fifteen straight days of heat in the ninety degrees and parts of the southwest went without rain for forty-five days. Forest fires destroyed trees and crops.

In August 1948 in the northeast, New York, Philadelphia, and other cities saw the temperature hit a hundred degrees and people flocked to air-conditioned movie theatres or to the airy beaches like Coney Island. I am old enough to recall the pre-air conditioned times before they became a common appliance in people’s homes and apartments. Electric fans provided what little relief there was to be found.

You don’t have to live in a city to endure a heat wave. During the Great Depression the 1936 heat wave that hit the Midwest turned farms into dust bowls and farmers lost their summer crops. It is estimated that some 5,000 people died. Chicago was hard hit and as far north as Toronto. The scene was repeated in 1995 in Chicago when an estimated 500 people died from heat-related deaths.

By the end of the week, Al Gore is sure to issue another one of his boring claims that the current heat wave is “proof” of global warming. Ignore him.


Sun’s bizarre activity may trigger another ice age

Latest data shows solar activity has been falling steadily since mid-1940s

The sun is acting bizarrely and scientists have no idea why. Solar activity is in gradual decline, a change from the norm which in the past triggered a 300-year-long mini ice age.

Three leading solar scientists presented the very latest data about the weakening solar activity at a teleconference yesterday in Boulder, Colorado, organised by the American Astronomical Society. It featured experts from Nasa, the High Altitude Observatory and the National Solar Observatory who described how solar activity, as measured by the formation of sunspots and by massive explosions on the sun’s surface, has been falling steadily since the mid-1940s.

The sun goes through a regular 11-year cycle with a maximum, when sunspot activity is at its peak, followed by a minimum when sunspot numbers are reduced and are smaller and less energetic. We are supposed to be at a peak of activity, at solar maximum.

The current situation, however, is outside the norm and the number of sunspots seems in steady decline. The sun was undergoing “bizarre behaviour” said Dr Craig DeForest of the society.

“The sun’s current maximum activity period is very late and very weak, leading to speculation that the sunspot cycle itself could be shutting down or entering a dormant phase,” he said before the teleconference.

Irish solar science specialist Dr Ian Elliott, formerly of the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, quoted from figures released by Nasa on July 1st. It had asked an expert group to predict sunspot activity using models, with an upper limit and a lower limit.

The predictions suggested the monthly average sunspot total should range between 90 and 140, but in fact the present monthly average is only 67, Dr Elliott said. A typical average at maximum during much of the early 20th century was about 200.

“It is the smallest solar maximum we have seen in 100 years,” said Dr David Hathaway of Nasa. We are currently in solar cycle number 24 which is about half as active as cycle 23, but cycle 25 is likely to be smaller again due to changes in the magnetic flux on the sun’s surface,” he said.

Dr Giuliana de Toma of the High Altitude Observatory acknowledged the clear signs that solar activity was in decline but this did not mean the earth was heading for another “Maunder Minimum”. This was a time between 1645 and 1725 when solar activity was extremely low or nonexistent, a situation which caused a mini ice age.

The fall-off in sunspot activity still has the potential to affect our weather for the worse, Dr Elliott said. Research by Prof Mike Lockwood at the University of Reading showed how low solar activity could alter the position of the jet stream over the north Atlantic, causing severe cold during winter months. This was likely the cause of the very cold and snowy winters during 2009 and 2010, Dr Elliott said.

“It all points to perhaps another little ice age,” he said. “It seems likely we are going to enter a period of very low solar activity and could mean we are in for very cold winters.”

And while the researchers in the US said the data showed a decline in activity, they had no way to predict what that might mean for the future.


Why nobody ever calls the weather normal

by: Matt Ridley

WHEN the history of the global warming scare comes to be written, a chapter should be devoted to the way the message had to be altered to keep the show on the road. Global warming became climate change so as to be able to take the blame for cold spells and wet seasons as well as hot days. Then, to keep its options open, the movement began to talk about "extreme weather".

Part of the problem was that some time towards the end of the first decade of the 21st century it became clear that the Earth's average temperature just was not consistently rising any more, however many "adjustments" were made to the thermometer records, let alone rising anything like as rapidly as all the models demanded.

So those who made their living from alarm, and by then there were lots, switched tactics and began to jump on any unusual weather event, whether it was a storm, a drought, a blizzard or a flood, and blame it on man-made carbon dioxide emissions. This proved a rewarding tactic, because people - egged on by journalists - have an inexhaustible appetite for believing in the vindictiveness of the weather gods. The fossil fuel industry was inserted in the place of Zeus as the scapegoat of choice. (Scientists are the priests.)

The fact that people have short memories about weather events is what enables this game to be played. The long Australian drought of 2001-7, the Brisbane floods of 2009-10 and the angry summer of 2012-13 stand out in people's minds. People are reluctant to put them down to chance. Even here in mild England, people are always saying "I have never known it so cold/hot/mild/windy/wet/dry/changeable as it is this year". One Christmas I noticed the seasons had been pretty average all year, neither too dry nor too wet nor too cold nor too warm. "I have never known it so average," I said to somebody. I got a baffled look. Nobody ever calls the weather normal.

So it is deeply refreshing to read the new book called Taxing Air: Facts and Fallacies About Climate Change by the internationally respected geologist Bob Carter and illustrated by the cartoonist John Spooner, which puts climate change exactly where it should be - in perspective. After demolishing many other arguments for carbon taxes and climate alarm, Carter runs through recent weather events, showing that there is nothing exceptional, let alone unprecedented, about recent droughts, floods, heat waves, cyclones or changes to the Great Barrier Reef.

How come then that last week the World Meteorological Organisation produced a breathless report claiming that "the decadal rate of increase (of world temperature) between 1991-2000 and 2001-2010 was unprecedented"? It took professor Ed Hawkins of Reading University a short time to point out that this was no longer true if you compared 1993-2002 and 2003-2012 - ie, if you took the most up-to-date records. In that case, the latest decade showed a smaller increase over the preceding decade than either of the preceding decades did. In other words, the temperature standstill of the past 16 years has begun to show up in the decade-by-decade data.

And this is even before you take into account the exaggeration that seemed to contaminate the surface temperature records in the latter part of the 20th century - because of urbanisation, selective closure of weather stations and unexplained "adjustments". Two Greek scientists recently calculated that for 67 per cent of 181 globally distributed weather stations they examined, adjustments had raised the temperature trend, so they almost halved their estimate of the actual warming that happened in the later 20th century.

Anyway, by "unprecedented", the WMO meant since 1850, which is a micro-second of history to a paleo-climatologist like Carter. He takes a long-term perspective, pointing out that the world has been warming since 17,000 years ago, cooling since 8000 years ago, cooling since 2000 years ago, warming since 1850 and is little changed since 1997. Consequently, "the answer to the question 'is global warming occurring' depends fundamentally on the length of the piece of climate string that you wish to consider". He goes on: "Is today's temperature unusually warm? No - and no ifs or buts."

Carter is a courageous man, because within academia those who do not accept that climate change is dangerous are often bullied.

Indeed, Carter, who retired from James Cook University before he got interested in the global warming debate but remains an emeritus fellow, recently found himself deprived of even an email address by colleagues resentful of his failure to toe the line. As the old joke goes: what's the opposite of diversity? University.




Preserving the graphics:  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 or here


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