Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Cherrypicking is bad  -- except when I do it

That seems to be the Warmist idea.  The amusing Phil Plait has praised to the skies a long article by Tamino, an inveterate Warmist, which sets out incontrovertible evidence that global warming is real.  So I had a look at that article.  Tamino says:

"The satellite data for temperature in the troposphere is what senator Ted Cruz likes to use when he claims global warming isn’t happening. But he doesn’t show all of it — just the part after 1997. That way, he can start his graphs with that big fluctuation in 1997-1998, so that fluctuation will look like it’s part of the trend. It isn’t. But Ted Cruz wants you to think it is, so he won’t show you what happened before that — proper context would reveal how shallow his argument is."

So it's bad to choose  your starting points for a graph.  But Tamino himself does exactly that. His first graph starts from 1880 and his next one starts in 1970.  And so it goes.   He has many graphs and many different starting points for them.  They start wherever he needs them to start to make his case.  I won't reproduce anything further from his article but you can log on and see for yourself.

Tamino is very good at lying with statistics.  It would be amusing to see him start all his graphs from 1880.  In fact, if you look at his graph that does start from 1880, you can clearly see that warming levelled out from around the year 2000.  There was a rise last year but that was  due to the El Nino weather cycle. So there was some slight warming in C20 but none in the present century.  Will it resume?  Nobody knows.

Global warming levels masked by aerosols: study

This is just a whole heap of modelling, guesswork in other words

There was a silver lining to the sulfur pollution in our atmosphere late last century – it offset some of the warming effects of greenhouse gases. And now we're cleaning up our act, the Arctic has suffered. Amy Middleton reports.

High levels of aerosols, spewed from coal- and gas-powered power plants, cooled our atmosphere, masking up to a third of global warming caused by greenhouse gases last century.

And when Europe cleaned up its sulfur emissions, it inadvertantly gave Arctic warming a boost.

A study led by geoscientist Trude Storelvmo at Yale University and published this week in the journal Nature Geoscience bypassed climate modelling and instead observed temperature, greenhouse gas levels and surface radiation from 1,300 surface sites from across the globe from 1964 and 2010.

For the first 30 years or so, less sunlight reflected from Earth back into space, a phenomenon known as “global dimming”.

Sulfate aerosols in the atmosphere pointed the finger at human involvement. When coal is burnt, for instance, sulfur dioxide (SO2) molecules released into the atmosphere form tiny aerosol particles. These particles are particularly effective at bouncing sunlight back into space.

But around the turn of the century, this global dimming eased, gearing instead towards “global brightening”. Today, European sulfur emissions are less than a quarter of their peak in the 1970s, writes Thorsten Mauritsen, a climate scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, in an accompanying News and Views article.

The researchers then analysed changing temperatures in relation to levels of solar radiation and greenhouse gas concentrations.

The findings suggest “about one-third of potential continental warming attributable to increased greenhouse gas concentrations has been masked by aerosol cooling during this time period”.

A second study in Nature Geoscience looked at the effects of European air pollution on Arctic warming.

Researchers at Stockholm University used regional models of aerosol levels to highlight a reduction in Europe’s air pollution since 1980, and SO2 in particular. But the Arctic warmed faster during this period.

“Our study shows that the SO2 emission reductions in Europe since the 1980s have contributed significantly to the enhanced Arctic warming,” the paper reads.

The paper suggests that, in light of ever-fewer aerosols, “the recent trend of amplified Arctic warming will be further strengthened”. The focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions is more important than ever.


Progressives Admit Global Warming Alarmism Is Fading

TV news cares less about global warming than ever before.

Despite all the hype around the United Nations conference in Paris last December, TV news airtime devoted to global warming by major news networks fell by 5 percent from 2014 to 2015, according to research published Monday by liberal outlet Media Matters.

The research found that ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox collectively aired approximately 146 minutes of global warming coverage on their evening and Sunday news shows in 2015, which was eight minutes less than the networks aired in 2014.

The network with the most significant decline in coverage was ABC, which devoted a mere 13 minutes to discussing global warming in 2015. This is a 59 percent decline from 2014 and far less coverage than any other network provided in 2015. Global warming coverage from CBS dropped from 56 to 45 minutes. Meanwhile, the only channel which substantially increased coverage of global warming was Fox, which is mostly skeptical of the issue.

The majority of global warming coverage that did occur was about the Paris conference, the Pope’s actions or the Keystone XL oil pipeline — all of which will likely not be significant issues going forward. Even the potential investigation of Exxon for its skeptical stance on global warming couldn’t make headlines.

Of particular concern to Media Matters are arguments that global warming is causing terrorism haven’t been picked up by mainstream TV networks or other media outlets. Even Vermont Sen. and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders blaming the rise of ISIS on global warming failed to generate coverage and was even labelled “mostly false” by the liberal fact-checking site PolitiFact.

Other progressive and green outlets, such as Climate Home, are openly worrying that other issues have “knocked global warming off the front pages”or that “[c]limate change has dropped off the political radar.” The effect isn’t limited to media either. Yale University’s Climate and Energy Institute is shutting down. Even the internet isn’t a safe-haven for alarmists, with websites such as starting to go offline.

Green stalwarts, like former Vice President Al Gore, have sold off media assets because the public simply isn’t interested in global warming anymore.


Cancer Rates Spiked After Fukushima. But Don’t Blame Radiation

Bjorn Lomborg

Some people actually might have had to worry about radioactive iodine being sucked up into their thyroids: the families (especially kids) living near the Fukushima Daiichi plant. And indeed, kids in the region were screened for thyroid cancer in the years following the disaster. A piece in Science last week walks through the history of this screening, and the lessons it offers are instructive—for any human being who ever requires medical care.

On its face, as Dennis Normile describes, the initial finding from screenings in Japan was super alarming. Almost half (half!) of those screened had nodules or cysts (which can potentially be or become cancerous) on their thyroids.

Nuts, right? And a Japanese epidemiologist named Toshihide Tsuda published a paper in 2015 saying that the rate of thyroid cancer in those Fukushima kids was more than 600 per million—way higher than the 1 to 3 cases per million kids that you would expect. But! As Normile writes, that comparison wasn’t quite fair. The Fukushima survey used advanced ultrasound devices that can detect tiny growths, while the older data came from plain old clinical exams. Oops. You have an apples to oranges thing going on there, in terms of your diagnostic instruments.

Indeed, when other scientists screened kids elsewhere in Japan using the fancy ultrasound devices, rates of cancer were anywhere from 300 to 1,300 per million. What the ultrasound devices find, then, is a whole lot of turtles.

Turtles are part of what H. Gilbert Welch, a professor of medicine at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, calls the barnyard pen of cancers. The barnyard has three animals, turtles, birds, and rabbits. “The goal of early detection is to fence them in,” he says.

You can’t fence in the birds. They’re the super aggressive lethal cancers that are beyond cure. The rabbits, you can maybe do something about if you can spot them and treat them. (Treatments that, by the way says Welch, have gotten better and better.) “But for the turtles,” he says, “you don’t need fences because they’re not going anywhere anyway. And the thyroid is full of turtles.”

The breast and the prostate are full of turtles too, and just as the thyroid-scanning ultrasound devices are more likely to find little nodules there, an upsurge in mammography has led to a corresponding upsurge in something called ductal carcinoma in situ. Basically cancers that most of the time would just sit around and do nothing if you left well enough alone. In other words, they’re indolent (great word), not malignant. Whether or not we treat them (or even look for them) has been a matter of great debate in recent years.

It’s very hard to know when upticks and outbreaks are quite what they appear. Even infectious disease outbreaks can sometimes be attributed to more-sensitive screening methods. The rise in whooping cough cases has multiple causes of course, but one of them is improved screening methods. Gene-based tests called PCR assays can inflate the number of actual diagnoses, according to a piece by epidemiologist James Cherry in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Which is to say, if you start looking for something carefully, and if you use better methods to see what you’re looking for, you will often find it.

Welch points to an example from the ’70s, when some employees at Lawrence Livermore National Labs (who deal with nuclear stuff all day long) were diagnosed with melanoma. Cancer cluster! But no—it was something else.

What happened, Welch writes in his book Should I Be Tested for Cancer, is that one person probably got sick. Then, other people in the lab started getting checked for moles. Some were funky, so that leads to biopsies, which leads to, in some cases, an actual diagnosis. Then people start really getting worried. The lab kicks off an awareness campaign, so more people go in for checks, leading to more biopsies. “The whole epidemic looked subsequently like it was a pseudoepidemic,” he says. “It was an epidemic of diagnosis.” The melanomas were mostly turtles.

In South Korea, checking more thoroughly has absolutely led to more diagnoses of thyroid cancer. In the late ‘90s, doctors in South Korea started screening people for thyroid cancer (it was an add-on test to the national cancer screening program), and cancer cases took off. “There was a 15-fold increase,” says Welch. “There was nothing like it in the world!” Now, he says, thyroid cancer is the most common cancer in Korea—more common than breast, and colon, and lung.

Here’s the really pernicious part. People get checked for thyroid cancer, doctor finds a little nodule, does a biopsy, there’s some cancery stuff in there, so they remove the thyroid, and the person—saints be praised!—the person lives. (Because of course they lived, they just had a little thing that would never have been a problem in the first place.) They live (without their thyroid) and now they are a survivor and the survival rates for thyroid cancer in South Korea are now really high. Great, right? No. “Once you understand the problem of turtles, you understand you’re giving credit to finding the cancers that don’t matter,” says Welch.

How did South Korea combat this surge in cancer cases? A group of doctors (including Welch) wrote a letter in 2014 discouraging screening with ultrasonography. Poof. Thyroid operations dropped by 35 percent in a year. Because the best test “isn’t one that finds the most cancer,” he says. “The best test is one that finds the cancers that matter.”

So, will the kids who lived near the Fukishima plant suffer more thyroid cancer than their peers elsewhere? Well, yes. Probably. They are going to be screened more than most other kids, after all, and those screenings will turn up more thyroid cancer, just by virtue of the fact that people are looking for it. And even though a paper in the Journal of the American College of Radiology recently suggested that thyroid nodules below a certain size should be left alone, clinicians might not pay attention. Yes, it would be comforting to think that doctors and patients could resist the temptation to look for problems … or in some cases (when the data supports it) to ignore or merely watch what they find.


Energy Wasted on “Efficient” Energy

A trade association calling itself Advanced Energy Economy (AEE) has petitioned the courts to side with the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed restrictions on carbon dioxide. The agency’s edict, a feature of its “Clean Power Plan,” would favor “low-emission, energy-efficient” companies at the expense of traditional energy producers—benefitting the former by up to an estimated $20 billion per year through 2030. The trade group’s efforts are both harmful to the economy (especially to energy innovation) and morally outrageous, according to Strata Research Associate Michael Jensen and Independent Institute Senior Fellow William F. Shughart II.

“This politically bestowed windfall comes as coal and even some natural gas electricity producers get booted to the sidelines by the visible foot of government rather than by the invisible hand of the market,” Jensen and Shughart write.

The basic unfairness of AEE’s efforts, Jensen and Shughart argue, is akin to salad vendors lobbying city officials to ban hot dog sales on city sidewalks. You might agree that people should eat more salads and fewer hot dogs, but you would likely recognize that banning hot dogs would have numerous undesirable consequences—including constituting an assault on the principle of individual choice. As for favoring green energy at the expense of fossil fuels, Jensen and Shughart write: “Unfettered competition, not heavy-handed government intervention, is what will best address our energy needs and climate change concerns.”


California Democrats Brutalize Their Own Over Global Warming
A man dressed as a polar bear stands ot the front of thousands of protesters at the "Walk Against Warming" march through the streets of central Sydney December 12, 2009. Thousands took to the streets of Australia  

California Democrats have launched a campaign to dislodge an incumbent state lawmaker who refused to support Gov. Jerry Brown’s push to cut oil use in half by 2030.

Cheryl Brown, a democratic state lawmaker from San Bernardino, fought Brown’s global warming plan to sharply increase taxes on gasoline. California’s EPA claimed that the tax increase would reduce gasoline use and help fight global warming. Brown argued that the governor’s agenda would cause harm to low income families by increasing energy costs. She ultimately succeeded in watering down the legislation.

“That’s fine if you live in San Francisco and can afford a Tesla,” John Husing, an assemblywoman Brown supporter and economist, told The Los Angeles Times. “It’s not fine if you’re a poor family living in downtown San Bernardino.”

Brown’s events have been disrupted by protesters wearing polar bear costumes who held up signs reading “People over Profits” and calling her a “corporate hack.”  She has even been attacked for her links to the oil industry by an online campaign.

The assemblywoman is now facing a brutal reelection slug-fest from a progressive challenger, attorney Eloise Reyes. Reyes has been endorsed by key members of California’s Democratic establishment. Labor unions that previously endorsed Brown have seemingly switched their allegiance and renounced the lawmaker’s policy stances.

Reyes has capitalized on this by making global warming and environmentalism  a centerpiece of her campaign, even though polls show that voters in the district don’t care much about those issues.

“There is a difference between Cheryl Brown and myself, and the future I see for my district,” Reyes told The Los Angeles Times. “I want a safer environment, I want a cleaner environment, I want protections for our workers.”

The California Democratic establishment takes global warming extremely seriously. Last July, Gov. Jerry Brown has even claimed that global warming could cause humanity to go extinct.



For more postings from me, see  DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC and AUSTRALIAN POLITICS. Home Pages are   here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  

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