Sunday, January 01, 2017

How To Tell Who's Lying To You: Climate Science Edition

If you are a reasonably intelligent person, and you are willing to spend a few hours on an issue, there is a very workable method to discern which side of a debate is not playing straight with you.  This method is the same method generally used by judges and juries in deciding which side is going to win a trial.  The method is this:  look to which side has and provides the best answers to the hard questions posed by the other side.  If one side refuses to answer hard questions, or is evasive, or refuses to provide the underlying methodology by which it came up with its answers, then that side has a problem.  And rightfully so.

I'll give just a few examples of this phenomenon relevant to the climate change issue.

(1) The Hockey Stick graph.  The so-called Hockey Stick graph first appeared in a paper by Mann, Bradley and Hughes that was published in Nature magazine in 1998.  It purported to show a reconstruction of worldwide temperatures from the year 1000 to present, in which the temperatures had remained almost completely stable for the first 900 years (the "shaft" of the Hockey Stick), and then suddenly shot up in the twentieth century in the time of human CO2 emissions (the "blade").  This reconstruction effectively repealed the prior accepted version of climate history, in which temperatures had been warmer than the present at least in the so-called Medieval Warm Period of about 1000 - 1300, and probably also in the Roman Warm Period around the year 0.  When the UN's climate-evaluation body, the IPCC, issued its next Assessment Report in 2001, the Hockey Stick graph had suddenly become the icon of the whole endeavor, appearing multiple times in the Report.  The Hockey Stick seemed like the perfect proof of the proposition that global warming must be caused by humans, because anyone could see from the graph that the warming had all occurred in the era of human use of fossil fuels.

Unfortunately for Mann et al. and the IPCC, numerous people -- those nefarious "skeptics" --promptly began to ask questions about the source of the information behind the "shaft" of the stick.  Thus these skeptics were questioning the ideas that temperatures had remained essentially stable for a millennium and that there had been no Medieval Warm Period.  The most famous of the skeptical researchers was a Canadian named Stephen McIntyre.  McIntyre began a blog called Climate Audit, and started writing many long posts about his efforts, all unsuccessful, to replicate the Mann et al. work.

Requests to Mann et al. for their data and methodologies were met with hostility and evasion.  Over time, McIntyre gradually established that Mann et al. had adopted a complex methodology that selectively emphasized certain temperature proxies over others in order to reverse-engineer the "shaft" of the stick to get a pre-determined desired outcome.

The coup de grace for the Hockey Stick graph came with the so-called Climategate emails, released in 2009.  These were emails between and among many of the main promoters of the climate scare (dubbed by McIntyre the "Hockey Team").  Included in the Climategate releases were emails relating specifically to the methodology of how the graph was created.  From the emails, skeptical researchers were then able to identify some of the precise data series that had been used by Mann et al.  Astoundingly, they discovered that the graph's creators had truncated inconvenient data in order to get the desired depiction.  A website called Just the Facts has a detailed recounting of how this was uncovered.  As a key example, consider this graph:

The bright pink represents data that was deleted from the Mann et al. reconstruction because, obviously,  it would have thrown off the nice, flat "shaft" of the stick, while also revealing that this particular "proxy" had totally failed at predicting the twentieth century rise in temperatures.  Most would call this kind of data truncation "scientific fraud."

Note that the revelations that came out of the Hockey Stick controversy do not prove that the human-caused global warming hypothesis is wrong.  However, those revelations did show beyond doubt that the leading promoters of the hypothesis had resorted to fraud in the effort to get the public to accept their position.  Once that was established, why would you believe anything else they say?

Even today, the Wikipedia write-up of the Hockey Stick controversy takes a position favorable to Mann et al.  If you are willing to devote some time to this issue, read that article next to the write-up at Just the Facts linked above.  I would call the Wikipedia article evasive in the face of highly credible allegations of fraud.  See if you agree.

(2) Adjustments to the instrumental temperature record.  World temperature records based on ground-based thermometers date back to about the late 19th century in most cases.  These records are far more accurate than what we have from earlier times (which are mostly "proxies," like tree rings and ice cores); but the ground thermometer records still have plenty of problems.  As examples, the location of a ground station could have been moved over time, sometimes multiple times in over 100 years; the physical surroundings of a station could have changed (trees could have grown up, or an adjacent parking lot could have been built); the type of instrument could have changed; and so forth.  Most would agree that some sorts of adjustments to the record, known as "homogenization," are appropriate to make the earlier data comparable to the more recent data.  However, here the adjustments are in the hands of small numbers of people who are committed to the global warming cause.  Most of the adjusters are government employees working for weather agencies like NASA and NOAA in the U.S., and comparable agencies in other countries.

As with the Hockey Stick graph, independent researchers interested in the topic have gone to work at their own expense to try to understand the government's adjustments and evaluate if they are appropriate.  Notable among these researchers are Tony Heller at the website Real Climate Science and Paul Homewood at Not a Lot of People Know That.  What these researchers find is that, in literally every case, earlier temperatures have been adjusted downward, and to a lesser extent, later temperatures adjusted upward.  Obviously, such adjustments can create warming trends where they do not exist in the raw data, and enhance what otherwise might be small warming trends to make them look significant and even scary.  Here at Manhattan Contrarian, I have covered this issue in a now ten part series called The Greatest Scientific Fraud of All Time.  All ten articles are collected, along with others, here.

And literally every time anyone looks at raw temperature data, and compares it to current "final" version temperature data, the same phenomenon is found.  Just this week at Watts Up With That, an Australian meteorologist named Brendan Godwin reports that Australia is subject to the same pervasive corruption as other places:

The Australian Climate Observations Reference Network–Surface Air Temperature (ACORN-SAT) Technical Advisory Forum released a report in 2015 confirming that the Surface Air Temperatures were being adjusted, confirming the process is called Homogenization, confirming that other weather monitoring institutions around the world are making these same adjustments and purporting to justify why the adjustments are being made. Observing practices change, thermometers change, stations move from one location to another and new weather stations are installed. They refused to release their complex mathematical formula used to make the adjustments.

Go to the link to see how a slightly declining temperature trend at Rutherglen, Australia, has been turned into a more-than-one-degree-C-per-century increasing trend through supposed "homogenization" adjustments.  Huh?

But the most important part of this story is not the suspicious nature of the adjustments themselves, but rather the flat refusal of the adjusters to reveal the methodology by which the adjustments have been made.  Real, honest scientists would gladly provide the full, unedited computer code that made the adjustments, and would answer any questions that would help an independent researcher to replicate the results.  Yet read through posts of people reporting on the adjustments, and you will universally find that they have been rebuffed in their attempts to find out what is going on.

For example, as I reported in this post in July 2015, a heating consultant in Maine named Michael Brakey, who was just trying to get accurate temperature data to inform his business, stumbled on major recent downward adjustments of earlier temperatures in that state.  Attempting to get the details of the adjustments, the best that NOAA would give him was this vague and preposterous statement:

“…improvements in the dataset, and brings our value much more in line with what was observed at the time. The new method used stations in neighboring Canada to inform estimates for data-sparse areas within Maine (a great improvement).”

All you need to do is read my series of posts on this topic, and/or some of the many links found in those posts, and you will know that what is going on is not remotely honest.  You don't need any specialized scientific training to figure this out.

(3) Hottest [week/month/year] ever.  Readers of my series on The Greatest Scientific Fraud of All Time are aware that our government bureaucrats at NASA and NOAA regularly put out breathless press releases announcing that some given month, or series of months, or year, was the hottest such period on record.  For example, in this post from August 2015, I reported on government press releases as to March, May and July 2015, declaring them each to be the "hottest ever" on some or another criterion.  That post also reports on how the press releases are then picked up and repeated, more or less word for word, by every news source going under the banner of "mainstream": CNN, Bloomberg, Washington Post, USA Today, BBC, AP, LA Times, CBS News, and many, many more.

But does any one of these press releases, or any one of these news sources, so much as mention that these so-called "records" are based on temperature records that have been "adjusted" to enhance warming trends?  Given how widespread is the information on unexplained warming-enhancing "adjustments," it is almost incomprehensible that not one of these news sources would even ask the question, "How much of the warming is in the raw data and how much is in the adjustments?"  But if such a thing exists, I can't find it.

I could give many more examples, but undoubtedly you are getting the picture.  A reasonably intelligent person who investigates the situation will quickly find that the promoters of the global warming scare refuse to reveal their detailed methodology, refuse to allow independent researchers to try to replicate their work, and refuse to answer any and all hard questions.  (By contrast, when, for example, skeptical scientists a few months ago released a major Research Report claiming to invalidate all the bases for the EPA's Endangerment Finding, all data and methods were released simultaneously.)  This is all you need to know to make up your mind.


A Republican snake in the grass

Ohio Gov. John Kasich vetoed a bill pushed by Republican lawmakers to extend a freeze on the state’s green energy mandate on electric utilities.

Kasich, who failed to win the GOP presidential primary in 2016, said delaying Ohio’s green energy mandate another two years would be bad for jobs and investment. Ohio law forces utilities to get 12.5 percent of their energy from green sources, like wind and solar.

“It is apparent that Governor Kasich cares more about appeasing his coastal elite friends in the renewable energy business than he does about the millions of Ohioans who decisively rejected this ideology when they voted for President-elect Trump,” Republican State Sen. Bill Seitz said in a statement.

Republicans have been trying for years to get rid of the state’s green energy mandate, only to be vetoed by Kasich. Republican’s latest bill would have delayed the law another two years and made complying with it voluntary.

“Ohio workers cannot afford to take a step backward from the economic gains that we have made in recent years,” Kasich said in a veto statement.

The law was passed in 2008 by a Republican-controlled state legislature, but it has been scaled back in recent years as Ohio underwent a natural gas boom due to hydraulic fracturing. Natural gas production in Ohio has increased 1,000 percent since 2006.

The mandate first required utilities to get 25 percent of their energy from green sources by 2025, but that was decreased to 12.5 percent by 2027 by lawmakers in 2013. Republicans voted to freeze the law in 2014.

The green energy freeze ends this year, and utilities will be required to meet 2017 goals. Utilities will still have to get 3.5 percent of their energy from green sources or buy green energy credits to comply with state law.

Nearly two-thirds of Ohio’s electricity comes from coal-fired power plants, while another 23 percent comes from natural gas and 14 percent comes from nuclear energy. About 1 percent of Ohio’s electricity came from green sources in September 2016, according to federal data.

Environmentalists have backed green energy mandates in dozens of states to boost wind and solar power.

Proponents of so-called “Renewable Portfolio Standards” (RPS) say they’re necessary to diversify energy portfolios, but opponents say such policies force high-cost electricity onto residents.


What Rick Perry Could Do to Prevent Future Solyndras

Departing Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz has announced a conditional loan guarantee for a fossil fuel project—a blatant, taxpayer-backed subsidy of up to $2 billion for Lake Charles Methanol, LLC.

Such federal government meddling in the energy sector is the exact wrong approach to America’s energy policy. By contrast, incoming Energy Secretary Rick Perry has called for the abolition of the Department of Energy. A good place to start would be the abolition of the loan guarantee program.

The Department of Energy’s loan guarantee program provides taxpayer-backed loans to politically favored clean technologies that are “typically unable to obtain conventional private financing due to high technology risks.”

Lake Charles Methanol, for example, is building the world’s first methanol plant using carbon capture technology for enhanced oil recovery.

The risk involved is likely a factor increasing their financing costs. Too much risk is often a reason why projects do not receive financial backing. Or, companies may have better options for their investment dollars.

There’s a long list of reasons why projects do or don’t receive investment funding, but it’s not a legitimate function of government to fill the void for projects that do not.

The Department of Energy’s loan program is a double-edged sword for the American economy. Either the government subsidizes likely-to-fail projects, thus throwing away taxpayer dollars, or they provide corporate welfare, keeping politically favored activities alive while diminishing the innovative role of the entrepreneur and private investment. It’s a lose-lose proposition.

In the first case, the federal government has lent out taxpayer dollars to projects that could not survive even with policies trying to prop up favored technologies.

Solyndra is the poster child for the government’s failure as an investment banker, but the loan program has several other black eyes with other currently struggling companies.

In the second case, the Department of Energy has awarded money to very profitable, well-established companies. In fact, some of the more successful projects in the agency’s loan portfolio have backing from some of the largest companies and financiers in the world.

Neither these nor any other companies should be allowed to hedge their bets on the backs of taxpayers. If they’re willing to risk some of their own money, they should pony up the full amount if they truly believe the technology is promising and worth the risk.

In almost every instance, the company receiving the loan guarantee also stands to benefit from the plethora of federal, state, and local subsidies at their disposal. Their current and long-term success depends on more subsidies. Whether the company ultimately succeeds financially or goes belly up, the policy itself is a loser.

At the bottom of the heap are American entrepreneurs competing against the gargantuan federal government for investment. Because capital is in limited supply, a dollar loaned to a government-backed project will not be available for another project.

This means that the higher-risk, higher-reward companies that drive innovation and bring new services and technologies into the marketplace may not get support, while companies with strong political connections or those that produce something that politicians find appealing will get support.

During his eight-year tenure in office, President Barack Obama railed against fossil fuel subsidies, some of which weren’t even subsidies but broadly available tax credits.

In discussing the elimination of oil subsidies in his 2012 State of the Union speech, Obama said, “It’s time to end the taxpayer giveaways to an industry that’s rarely been more profitable.”

But now he’s risking taxpayer dollars for a fossil fuel project as he walks out the door.

The next administration should do as Obama said, not as he did—the federal government shouldn’t be dolling out taxpayer giveaways to the fossil fuel industry, or any energy technology for that matter.

We have a robust energy market that efficiently supplies Americans with their energy needs. If we want to drain the swamp, Congress and the next administration need to drain the Department of Energy’s investment bank account.


Doing the right thing at EPA

The boss-to-be says he’s against federal overreach, not for dirty air and water

Scott Pruitt, the attorney general of Oklahoma and Donald Trump’s nominee for director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, calls himself “a national leader in the cause to restore the proper balance of power between the states and the federal government.” He established a first-ever Federalism Unit in the Office of Solicitor General in Oklahoma to combat “unwarranted regulation and overreach” by the federal government. Federalism is the new shorthand for “states’ rights.”

That’s what commended him to the president-elect, because nowhere else in the vast federal bureaucracy is overreach so out of control as in the Environmental Protection Agency. Nowhere else is the panic in the Washington swamp so pervasive. “At the risk of being dramatic,” says Dan Pfeiffer, a onetime senior adviser to President Obama and a man willing to take the risk, “Scott Pruitt at EPA is an existential threat to the planet.”

Mr. Pruitt and his fellow state attorneys general, who have gone to court to stall the EPA’s regulatory excesses, have rejected the childish slander that because they question the EPA’s excesses they’re for “dirty air and dirty water.” This is odd, because the attorneys general drink the water and breathe the air everybody else does, and have never shown a taste for suicide.

But what they actually oppose is the bureaucracy at the EPA doing things they know they have no legal or statutory mandate from Congress to do. They think the ends, sometimes good and sometimes not so good, justify the means. The left tried that argument, with all the accompanying pressure they could muster, to harass the Electoral College to abandon its moral and legal obligation to vote for the man who fairly carried their states.

Mr. Pruitt earned the enmity of the radicals by organizing the coalition of state attorneys general to block the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, the Obama administration’s costly and cumbersome policy to reduce the greenhouse-gas emissions, so called, in the electricity sector, and to block the EPA’s scheme to curtail the emissions of methane in oil and gas production.

“What concerns the states is the process, the procedures, the authority that the EPA is exerting, that we think is entirely inconsistent with its constitutional and statutory authority,” he told The Washington Post. “The overreach is that the statutes do not permit [EPA officials] to act in the way they do.”

The 1970 Clean Air Act, under the auspices of which the EPA claims to be acting, is long overdue for an overhaul by Congress. If Congress wants the EPA to have the authority it clearly covets, it could expressly and explicitly say so.

Contrary to the hysteria on the left, Mr. Pruitt, who is from a major oil- and natural gas-producing state, is not pro-pollution. “Some people believe we don’t need an EPA, that they don’t have any role at all,” he told an interviewer for National Public Radio three years ago. “I’m not one of those folks. I think the EPA can serve — and has served, historically — a very valuable purpose.” But he wants to hold the EPA to do the right thing in the right way.

That’s a big difference, one lost on Gina McCarthy, the current EPA administrator whom Mr. Pruitt is poised to replace. She promised after the election to make the transition as difficult for her successor as she could, reminding her agency: “We’re running — not walking — through the finish line of President Obama’s presidency.” But in less than a month there will be another finish line.


Obama Couldn't Win a Third Term, Because He Would Have To Own His Global Warming Policy

In March 2010, the New York Times reported that President Obama “dropped all mention of cap and trade from his budget.” That summer, after a cap-and-trade bill died in the Senate, several sources in the Senate and in the environmental community privately complained to ClimateWire’s Evan Lehman that the Obama administration “failed to take a leadership role.” During his 2012 re-election campaign, President Obama ran to the right of Mitt Romney on energy policy, and he studiously avoided talk of climate change on the campaign trail.

The message was loud and clear: climate change is loser electoral politics.

After gaining re-election, upon which he no longer faced electoral accountability, President Obama pivoted hard to climate change. It became his legacy issue. In July of 2013, Obama announced his “Climate Action Plan.” In the speech, the president struck a far different tone than he did during the re-election campaign. When he was trying to win a popular vote, the President wouldn’t touch climate change policy with a ten foot pole. However, at the announcement of his signature climate plan, Obama presented global warming as an existential threat to our children. At one point, he asked whether “we will have the courage to act before it’s too late.” In August 2015, President Obama unveiled his marquee climate policy. It’s called the Clean Power Plan, and it is a cap-and-trade program. That is, it’s the very policy that died in the Senate in 2010, reportedly due Obama’s reluctance to lead.

The upshot of all of this is that I strongly doubt that President Obama would win a third term, as he claimed yesterday. This is in no way an endorsement of Donald Trump. It is, rather, a statement of my belief that Obama took electoral poison when he made climate change his big legacy issue.



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.  

Preserving the graphics:  Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere.  But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases.  After that they no longer come up.  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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