Wednesday, May 27, 2015
A debate in Canada -- A consensus about consensus?
Canada's "National Post" recently published a critique by Ross McKitrick of the Warmist 97% claim. That appears immediately below. The paper also gave John Cook a chance to reply, which he did. It is here. The reply, as usual, was heavy on appeals to authority but does not answer the basic challenge that his own data show that only a small minority, not 97%, were clear Warmists. Under Cook's sloppy methodology, I could be classed as in the 97%! So Cook's reply amounts to saying that there is a consensus about consensus! McKitrick also did a brief rejoinder to Cook which is also reproduced below
The con in consensus: Climate change consensus among the misinformed is not worth much
In the lead-up to the Paris climate summit, massive activist pressure is on all governments, especially Canada’s, to fall in line with the global warming agenda and accept emission targets that could seriously harm our economy. One of the most powerful rhetorical weapons being deployed is the claim that 97 per cent of the world’s scientists agree what the problem is and what we have to do about it. In the face of such near-unanimity, it would be understandable if Prime Minister Harper and the Canadian government were simply to capitulate and throw Canada’s economy under the climate change bandwagon. But it would be a tragedy because the 97 per cent claim is a fabrication.
Like so much else in the climate change debate, one needs to check the numbers. First of all, on what exactly are 97 per cent of experts supposed to agree? In 2013 President Obama sent out a tweet claiming 97 per cent of climate experts believe global warming is “real, man-made and dangerous.” As it turns out the survey he was referring to didn’t ask that question, so he was basically making it up. At a recent debate in New Orleans I heard climate activist Bill McKibben claim there was a consensus that greenhouse gases are “a grave danger.” But when challenged for the source of his claim, he promptly withdrew it.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change asserts the conclusion that most (more than 50 per cent) of the post-1950 global warming is due to human activity, chiefly greenhouse gas emissions and land use change. But it does not survey its own contributors, let alone anyone else, so we do not know how many experts agree with it. And the statement, even if true, does not imply that we face a crisis requiring massive restructuring of the worldwide economy. In fact it is consistent with the view that the benefits of fossil fuel use greatly outweigh the climate-related costs.
One commonly-cited survey asked if carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas and human activities contribute to climate change. But these are trivial statements that even many IPCC skeptics agree with. And again, both statements are consistent with the view that climate change is harmless. So there are no policy implications of such surveys, regardless of the level of agreement.
The most highly-cited paper supposedly found 97 per cent of published scientific studies support man-made global warming. But in addition to poor survey methodology, that tabulation is often misrepresented. Most papers (66 per cent) actually took no position. Of the remaining 34 per cent, 33 per cent supported at least a weak human contribution to global warming. So divide 33 by 34 and you get 97 per cent, but this is unremarkable since the 33 per cent includes many papers that critique key elements of the IPCC position.
Two recent surveys shed more light on what atmospheric scientists actually think. Bear in mind that on a topic as complex as climate change, a survey is hardly a reliable guide to scientific truth, but if you want to know how many people agree with your view, a survey is the only way to find out.
In 2012 the American Meteorological Society (AMS) surveyed its 7,000 members, receiving 1,862 responses. Of those, only 52 per cent said they think global warming over the 20th century has happened and is mostly manmade (the IPCC position). The remaining 48 per cent either think it happened but natural causes explain at least half of it, or it didn’t happen, or they don’t know. Furthermore, 53 per cent agree that there is conflict among AMS members on the question.
So no sign of a 97 per cent consensus. Not only do about half reject the IPCC conclusion, more than half acknowledge that their profession is split on the issue.
The Netherlands Environmental Agency recently published a survey of international climate experts. 6550 questionnaires were sent out, and 1868 responses were received, a similar sample and response rate to the AMS survey. In this case the questions referred only to the post-1950 period. 66 per cent agreed with the IPCC that global warming has happened and humans are mostly responsible. The rest either don’t know or think human influence was not dominant. So again, no 97 per cent consensus behind the IPCC.
But the Dutch survey is even more interesting because of the questions it raises about the level of knowledge of the respondents. Although all were described as “climate experts,” a large fraction only work in connected fields such as policy analysis, health and engineering, and may not follow the primary physical science literature.
Regarding the recent slowdown in warming, here is what the IPCC said: “The observed global mean surface temperature (GMST) has shown a much smaller increasing linear trend over the past 15 years than over the past 30 to 60 years.” Yet 46 per cent of the Dutch survey respondents – nearly half – believe the warming trend has stayed the same or increased. And only 25 per cent agreed that global warming has been less than projected over the past 15 to 20 years, even though the IPCC reported that 111 out of 114 model projections overestimated warming since 1998.
Three quarters of respondents disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement “Climate is chaotic and cannot be predicted.” Here is what the IPCC said in its 2003 report: “In climate research and modelling, we should recognize that we are dealing with a coupled non-linear chaotic system, and therefore that the long-term prediction of future climate states is not possible.”
Looking into further detail there are other interesting ways in which the so-called experts are unaware of unresolved discrepancies between models and observations regarding issues like warming in the tropical troposphere and overall climate sensitivity.
What can we take away from all this? First, lots of people get called “climate experts” and contribute to the appearance of consensus, without necessarily being knowledgeable about core issues. A consensus among the misinformed is not worth much.
Second, it is obvious that the “97 per cent” mantra is untrue. The underlying issues are so complex it is ludicrous to expect unanimity. The near 50/50 split among AMS members on the role of greenhouse gases is a much more accurate picture of the situation. The phony claim of 97 per cent consensus is mere political rhetoric aimed at stifling debate and intimidating people into silence.
The Canadian government has the unenviable task of defending the interest of the energy producers and consumers of a cold, thinly-populated country, in the face of furious, deafening global warming alarmism. Some of the worst of it is now emanating from the highest places. Barack Obama’s website (barackobama.com) says “97 per cent of climate scientists agree that climate change is real and man-made…Find the deniers near you — and call them out today.” How nice. But what we really need to call out is the use of false propaganda and demagoguery to derail factual debate and careful consideration of all facets of the most complex scientific and policy issue of our time.
Claim that 97% of scientists support climate alarm cannot be supported
In my column I pointed out that people who invoke the 97 per cent consensus often leave vague what is actually being agreed upon. John Cook does this too: Note that his wording is consistent with a range of interpretations, including that greenhouse gases definitely cause only a tiny bit of global warming.
He cannot claim that 97 per cent of scientists believe greenhouse gases cause a lot of warming and that this is a big problem, since the surveys either didn’t ask this, or did but didn’t find 97 per cent support.
Cook, being a PhD student in psychology with a background in communication studies, is hardly in a position to dismiss the membership of the American Meteorological Society as “fake experts.” As to fakery, I would refer readers to the analysis of Cook’s work by social psychologist Jose Duarte, noting that the word “fraud” appears 21 times in that essay alone, and it is not even the harshest of Duarte’s essays on Cook’s discredited methods. Economist Richard Tol has also published detailed excoriations of Cook’s work at as well as in the peer-reviewed literature, as have others.
The Illinois study asked 10,257 Earth Scientists “Do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures?” The question was vague to the point of meaninglessness. It only refers to “a,” not “the,” factor; it only refers to “human activity” in general, thus conflating land use change, conventional air pollution emissions and greenhouse gases; and it only refers to “changing” mean temperatures (since 1800), without specifying a portion of the total observed. So someone who thinks greenhouse gases caused only a small fraction of the warming would answer Yes, as would someone who thought they drove it all.
The Illinois authors received 3,146 responses. After seeing the answers they selected only 77 as being relevant, and of these 75 (97 per cent) said Yes. What puzzles me is why two answered No. And why the authors asked 10,257 experts for their views when they only considered 77 qualified to answer.
The Princeton study started with 1,372 experts and found that 97 of the ones they deemed the top-100 publishing scientists in the climatology field were also contributors to the IPCC or had signed statements supporting the IPCC position. Hence 97 per cent yadda yadda. But this study design may simply be a circular argument, since the top climatology journals are not double-blind, so it can be difficult for critics of the IPCC to get their papers published. In other words, this result might simply be a measure of the level of clique-citation and group think in the sample they selected. In this regard it is quite noteworthy that the AMS and Netherlands surveys were anonymous and they found nowhere near 97 per cent support for the IPCC conclusion.
Official Australian research organization is censoring its own scientists
And they lie to cover up the censorship
During my tour of Australian capitals last year, speaking about climate change, I was always eager to share a bright spot of news about the world’s driest places.
Your very own CSIRO, in collaboration with the Australian National University, had published a study in the journal Geophysical Research Letters in 2013 that deserved wide acclaim. Very few people in my audiences were aware of it, despite the fact the CSIRO had published a synopsis of the paper on its own website titled “Deserts ‘greening’ from rising CO2”.
The paper reported on the work of Randall Donohue of the Land and Water division of the CSIRO and his colleagues who had conducted an 18year study of global vegetation from satellite observations. They determined that from 1982 to 2010 the fertilisation effect from increased CO2 levels in the atmosphere had resulted in an 11 per cent increase in foliage in arid regions across the globe.
This includes large areas of Western Australia, subSaharan Africa, India and the Great Plains of North America. You would think with all the talk of drought and climate crisis this would have made the front page of every newspaper in Australia, and the world for that matter. But no, it appears to be a case of inconvenient truth.
So inconvenient that when the CSIRO revamped its website a few weeks ago it decided to delete the page on the greening deserts in Australia and around the world. I reported this omission to my friend and colleague Paul Evans, of Sydney, who runs communications for the Galileo Movement, the group that helped organise my tour of Australia last October.
He made an inquiry of the CSIRO and received this reply: “Dear Paul, You may be wondering why we changed our website ... The web page “Deserts greening from rising CO2” was published in 2013, and our new website is focused on our current research and services, not on past research and outcomes.”
Does this not beg the definition of current? So 2013 is now ancient history, sort of like alchemy and astrology from the 15th century? And it’s not as if the “greening” has ended. It continues apace and will accelerate as CO2 levels finally rise from near plant starvation levels before the Industrial Revolution to levels that provide a decent meal for our best friends, the photosynthetic plants we depend on for our existence.
This research is critical to our understanding of the actual effect of increased CO2 as opposed to the hypothetical effect.
One could assume from CSIRO’s reply that all references to science done before 2013 have now been purged from the superuptodate CSIRO website. But a quick look tells us otherwise. All you need do is go to the CSIRO page that contains the 2014 report State of the Climate. There you will find that, of the 146 science papers listed to support the concern for changes in the climate, none of them are more recent than 2013 and nearly all of them are older.
The climate report is complete with the usual “homogenised” temperature records and warnings about ocean acidification.
Clearly a double standard has been applied and clearly the CSIRO is effectively censoring its own scientists for daring to find a positive result from increased CO2.
The Australian public, and in particular its science institutions, should demand that this study be reinstated on the CSIRO website with a link from the home page. It is a brilliant piece of work and demonstrates that CO2 is food for plants and that our agriculture and forestry will benefit greatly from increased levels in the air.
During the first 15 years of this century, ever-increasing emissions of CO2 have not produced any statistically significant warming, while they have accelerated the growth of plants, especially in arid regions. The reason higher CO2 is resulting in increased plant growth is because during the past millions of years it had steadily declined to levels too low for plants to realise their full potential.
Higher levels of CO2 have been the norm throughout the history of life. It has been only during recent times (the past few million years) that CO2 had sunk to such low levels that it slowed the growth of plants significantly. Then humans began to put some of it back where it came from in the first place.
People don’t stop to think that the fossil fuels we are burning today are made from plants and plankton that took CO2 from the atmosphere as food for themselves, using solar energy to convert the CO2into sugars. Fossil fuels are 100 per cent organic, were made with solar power, and the byproduct of burning them is food for plants.
The CSIRO’s reply refers to the study of CO2’s fertiliser effect as “past research and outcomes”. Does this mean it has not only deleted the study from its website but also have discontinued this important work? One fears this to be true.
Australians should not only demand that the study be fully reinstated on the website but that the CSIRO be instructed to put it back on its agenda, perhaps this time with a strong focus on how CO2 is benefiting Australian forests and farming.
It’s time to stop demonising CO2 and to recognise it as the giver of life that it is.
The Australian of May 23rd.
Envirofascists fail in bid to revoke GOP senator’s degree
A Washington state senator has survived a campaign by Western Washington University students who demanded their school revoke his master’s degree because he’s not radical enough on global warming.
Doug Ericksen, a Republican and chair of Washington’s Senate Energy, Environment and Telecommunications Committee, has blocked efforts to force businesses and residents to go green, but he supports voluntary compliance. He opposes mandated cap-and-trade programs and low-carbon fuel standards.
But the effort to yank Ericksen’s degree — he earned his MA in political science and environmental policy at WWU — met with a stiff rebuke last week from the university’s president.
“We appreciate the good work of Senator Doug Ericksen on behalf of Western Washington University,” said WWU President Bruce Shepard. “Senator Ericksen, a Western alumnus, has proven to be a friend to Western and a strong advocate … The strength of our democracy is that all citizens, including students and leaders like Senator Ericksen, have the freedom of expression to take positions with diverse viewpoints.”
Shepard dismissed “any notion that we might seek to penalize a graduate for the positions they express” as “a disturbing misunderstanding of the intellectual freedoms any university worthy of the name must stand for. And, protect.”
Ericksen’s critics could not be reached for comment and did not appear to have any formal name or structure. Their crusade was profiled in a local newspaper, the Bellingham Herald.
“Sen. Doug Ericksen is welcome to have whatever political views he wants, but by misinforming the public on the science of climate change, he is undermining the credibility of our own degrees and reflecting poorly on the caliber of education students receive here,” the students said in a statement to the Herald.
The students acknowledged they weren’t trying to change Ericksen’s mind on the issue.
“We’re framing it in a more radical way,” students said of the effort to revoke Ericksen’s degree. “We’re not just trying to have a conversation with him or hold him accountable. We’re trying to revoke his degree and get people to pay attention.”
The group called Ericksen a “climate denier” on a Facebook page that is now deleted,
In a podcast, Ericksen said he felt sorry for the students.
“They’re being fed such a line of propaganda, and it’s such a heavily partisan atmosphere,” he said. “They are Western students, so I guess they can do whatever they want. I’ve tended to ignore it. It’s not a serious issue. I think there’s three of them up there who have been advocating for this. It is what it is. You can respect their right to have their opinion.”
Ericksen has been targeted by environmentalists since 1998, when he first won a seat in the Washington House of Representatives. He was elected to the senate in 2011 and reelected last year. Steyer invested $1 million in the state races, with his primary goal of unseating Ericksen.
Canada: Harper’s emission cuts are pie-in-the-sky
Why is Prime Minister Stephen Harper promising a meaningless reduction target for Canada’s industrial greenhouse gas emissions by 2030?
Last week, he pledged a 30% cut from 2005 levels by 2030. In 2009, he promised a 17% cut from 2005 levels by 2020. Today, Canada’s emissions are 3% below 2005 levels, meaning Harper would have to destroy our economy to meet even the less ambitious target.
The same holds true for this latest promise. It’s not going to happen because Canada is a big, cold, northern, sparsely-populated country with huge oil and natural gas reserves, which relies on fossil fuel energy for our first world standard of living.
The government is also considering carbon trading to meet its target and while it promises to be vigilant in doing so, carbon trading is a global cesspool of fraud and corruption.
It’s as if Harper is in a race with U.S. President Barack Obama to announce unrealistic emission targets.
Last year, Obama made a ridiculous, non-binding pledge to lower U.S. emissions by 26% to 28% below 2005 levels by 2025, even though U.S. emissions, according to its Energy Information Administration, will rise in every year of his second term of office, ending in early 2017.
With U.S. emissions now 10% below 2005 levels, Obama’s successor would have to cut them twice as fast as Obama to achieve Obama’s pie-in-the-sky target.
Former prime ministers Brian Mulroney and Jean Chretien both promised to reduce Canada’s emissions to 20% below 1988 levels by 2005, then did nothing to achieve this.
Later, Chretien promised to reduce emissions to an average of 6% below 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012, knowing he couldn’t achieve it.
When Chretien’s successor, Paul Martin, was tossed from power in 2006, the Liberals were 30% over Chretien’s target and the only way Harper could have met it would have been by undermining our economy.
It’s time for this nonsense to stop.
It’s time for political leaders to stop announcing unrealistic emission reduction targets they know they are never going to meet.
Such political dishonesty — coming from all the federal parties — does nothing to help the environment, cool the planet, or lead to honest efforts to reduce man-made climate change.
Record snow in New Zealand -- and its still only autumn there
More bitterly cold nights are on the way, as the storm that brought snow as far as Napier is replaced by calmer weather.
The wintry blast closed roads and schools in the South Island as snow fell across many parts of the country, with flurries in Southland, Fiordland and Central Otago, through to a dusting for Wellington, Hawke's Bay and Taupo.
Night time minimum temperatures of -3 degrees Celsius are being predicted for Christchurch on Wednesday and Thursday, with Blenheim dropping to -1C for the next few nights, and Taupo dropping to zero for two nights. Auckland is expected to drop to 6C on Wednesday, with Wellington down to 4C on Monday night.
"I've lived in Napier all my 64 years and I can't recall ever having seen snow in Napier and it was snowing in my yard this morning," Mayor Bill Dalton said.
Dalton pointed out that while it was windy with sleety snow in the air at 7am, by late morning it was a "magnificent, clear, sunny, dead-still" day.
Napier MP Stuart Nash commented on the snow on his Facebook page, complete with a picture. "Possibly hard to see, but it's actually snowing in Napier. Haven't seen this for a while. Not cold enough to settle."
MetService meteorologist Richard Finnie said Napier was among the most northerly places where snow had been reported on Monday.
Snow in Napier was "fairly unusual" but there had been reports of snow there before, he said.
"There was a band of heavier precipitation that came across there during the night and early morning."
Because it was so heavy it had enabled the snow to come down a bit lower than usual "just for a short period of time".
Had the precipitation come across during the day, snow would probably not have fallen to such low levels, Finnie said. "It's harder to get snow down that low during the heating of the day."
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Posted by JR at 12:36 AM