Wednesday, February 08, 2017
Politics and science are a toxic combination
Rt. Hon. Viscount Ridley
Alternative facts have no place in climate-change research. Greater integrity is essential if the scandals are to stop
Back in December, some American scientists began copying government climate data onto independent servers in what press reports described as an attempt to safeguard it from political interference by the Trump administration. There is to be a March for Science in April whose organisers say: “It is time for people who support scientific research and evidence-based policies to take a public stand and be counted.”
Well, today they have a chance to do just that, but against their own colleagues who stand accused of doing what they claim the Trump team has done. Devastating new testimony from John Bates, a whistleblowing senior scientist at America’s main climate agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, alleges that scientists themselves have been indulging in alternative facts, fake news and policy-based evidence.
Dr Bates’s essay on the Climate Etc. website (and David Rose’s story in The Mail on Sunday) documents allegations of scientific misconduct as serious as that of the anti-vaccine campaign of Andrew Wakefield. Dr Bates’s boss, Tom Karl, a close ally of President Obama’s science adviser, John Holdren, published a paper in 2015, deliberately timed to influence the Paris climate jamboree. The paper was widely hailed in the media as disproving the politically inconvenient 18-year pause in global warming, whose existence had been conceded by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) two years earlier.
Dr Bates says Mr Karl based the “pausebuster” paper on a flawed land-surface data set that had not been verified or properly archived; and on a sea-surface set that corrected reliable data from buoys with unreliable data from ship intakes, which resulted in a slightly enhanced warming trend. Science magazine is considering retracting the paper. A key congressional committee says the allegations confirm some of its suspicions.
Dr Bates is no “denier”; he was awarded a gold medal by the US government in 2014 for his climate-data work. Having now retired he writes of “flagrant manipulation of scientific integrity guidelines and scientific publication standards”, of a “rush to time the publication of the paper to influence national and international deliberations on climate policy” and concludes: “So, in every aspect of the preparation and release of the data sets leading into [the report], we find Tom Karl’s thumb on the scale pushing for, and often insisting on, decisions that maximize warming and minimize documentation.”
This is more than just a routine scientific scandal. First, it comes as scientists have been accusing President Trump and other politicians of politicising science. Second, it potentially contaminates any claim that climate science has been producing unbiased results. Third, it embarrasses science journalists who have been chronicling the growing evidence of scientific misconduct in medicine, toxicology and psychology, but ignored the same about climate science because they approve of the cause, a habit known as noble-cause corruption.
Colleagues of Mr Karl have been quick to dismiss the story, saying that other data sets come to similar conclusions. This is to miss the point and exacerbate the problem. If the scientific establishment reacts to allegations of lack of transparency, behind-closed-door adjustments and premature release so as to influence politicians, by saying it does not matter because it gets the “right” result, they will find it harder to convince Mr Trump that he is wrong on things such as vaccines.
Besides, this is just the latest scandal to rock climate science. The biggest was climategate in 2009, which showed scientists conspiring to ostracise sceptics, delete emails, game peer review and manipulate the presentation of data, including the truncation of a tree-ring-derived graph to disguise the fact that it seemed to show recent cooling (“hide the decline”). The scientists concerned were criticised by two rather perfunctory inquiries, but have since taken to saying they were “exonerated”.
There was the case of the paper the IPCC relied upon to show that local urban warming was not distorting global data sets, which turned out to be based partly on non-existent data from 49 Chinese weather stations; the Scandinavian lake sediment core used “upside down” to imply sudden warming; the chart showing unprecedented recent warming that turned out to depend on a single larch tree in Siberia; the southern hemisphere hockey-stick chart that had been created by the omission of inconvenient data series; the Antarctic temperature trend that turned out to depend on splicing together two weather station records.
Then there was the time when a well known climate scientist, Peter Gleick, stole the identity of a member of a think tank so he could leak confidential documents along with a fake one. Stephan Lewandowsky had to retract a paper about the psychology of climate scepticism that seemed to be full of methodological flaws and bizarre reasoning.
And don’t forget Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the IPCC for 13 years and often described as the “world’s top climate scientist”. He had to retract his “voodoo science” dismissal of a valid finding that contradicted claims from Dr Pachauri’s own research institute about Himalayan glaciers, which had led to a lucrative grant. That scandal resulted in a highly critical report into the IPCC by several of the world’s top science academies, which recommended among other things that the IPCC chairman stand down after one term. Dr Pachauri ignored this, kept his job and toured the world while urging others not to, before resigning over a personal scandal allegation.
I have championed science all my adult life. It is humankind’s greatest calling. That is why I deplore those who drag down its reputation by breaching its codes of conduct for political reasons, and I have no time for those excusing these enormities. They foment anti-intellectualism and play directly into the hands of people such as Mr Trump. Under the Obama administration,” says Professor Judith Curry, Dr Bates’s colleague, “I suspect that it would have been very difficult for this story to get any traction.” Yikes.
Dr Bates calls for more ethics teaching in science and for “respectful discussion of different points of view” — which we were emptily promised after climategate. It is time for the many brilliant scientists who are discovering great insights into quasars and quarks, Alzheimer’s and allergies, into neurons, fossils, telomeres and ice ages, to “take a public stand and be counted” against the politicisation of some science within their own ranks.
Big new German coal-fired power plant going ahead
The German Muenster district court on Thursday granted an emission-control permit to Datteln 4, a hard-coal fired power station under construction by utility Uniper that has been held up by an intense legal battle with environmentalists.
Uniper said it aims to begin supplying electricity and district heating from the 1,050 megawatts plant in western Germany in the first half of 2018.
The project goes back to 2009, aims to replace ageing installations taken offline by Uniper, and initially was aimed to start producing in 2011.
Japanese government planning to build 45 new coal fired power stations to diversify supply
The Japanese government is moving ahead with its plans to build up to 45 new coal fired power stations. The power plants will utilise high energy, low emissions (HELE) technology that use high-quality black coal.
Japan is the largest overseas market for Australian coal producers, taking more than a third of all exports.
Tom O'Sullivan, a Tokyo based energy consultant with Mathyos Global Advisory, said in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011, Japan started importing more liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Australia.
But he said the move to more coal fired power was because coal was cheaper than LNG, and the energy security was priority for the government.
"Japan needs to import 95 per cent of all its energy sources," he said. "So it's trying to diversify its fuel sources and it doesn't want to be too reliant on any one market."
Japan has ratified the Paris Climate Agreement and committed to a 26 per cent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2030.
But Mr O'Sullivan said Japan was yet to price carbon emissions. "Although Japan spent $US36 billion dollars on commercial solar power last year, and is planning much more, there is no carbon price," he said.
"So at this stage there is no incentive to not build coal fired power station, unlike other countries and states that can have a price as high as $US35-40 per tonne of carbon dioxide emitted."
Mr O'Sullivan said while community and environmental groups had expressed concerns about the construction of a major coal power station, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was firmly behind the plans.
He said the decision would ensure the use of coal in Japan would continue well into the middle of the century. "These guys [private companies] are not going to go ahead and [put money into] in large capital investments unless they have a 30-year depreciation period," he said. "So if they're building these coal power plants now it is reasonable to expect them to be still on the books by the end of 2050."
Australia’s Chief Scientist labels Trump’s censoring of environmental data as ‘Stalinist’
He ignores the blatant dishonesty of the American climate establishment that motivates Trump's attempt to stem the flow of Green/Left fake news. In typical Green/Left style, he tells only half the story. He has outed his own politics
Australia’s Chief Scientist has likened US President Donald Trump’s censoring of environmental data to Soviet Dictator Joseph Stalin.
Dr Alan Finkel was speaking at the Chief Scientists’ roundtable discussion at the Australian National University on Monday when he said “science is literally under attack”, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.
"The Trump administration has mandated that scientific data published by the EPA must undergo review by political appointees before they can be published,” Dr Finkel said during the discussion.
Adding that the Trump administration’s decision to bar the EPA from sending out press releases or placing new content on its website was “reminiscent of political officers in the old Soviet Union”.
"Every military commander there had a political officer second guessing his decisions,” he said, making a reference to Joseph Stalin and Trofim Lysenko, a soviet agrobiologist.
“Stalin loved Lysenko's conflation of science and Soviet philosophy and used his limitless power to ensure that Lysenko's unscientific ideas prevailed."
He also stated modern science had no room “for political control” and expressed his gratitude that no Australian political figure had ever tried to censor him.
"Frank and fearless advice - no matter the views of the political commissars at the EPA,” he said.
Global cooling? Snow falls in Kuwait for 'first time ever'
Snow fell on Kuwait on Thursday morning for the first time in the country's history, pictures sent to Middle East Eye show.
Footage sent to MEE showed snow flakes falling in the Gulf state, where temperatures have plummeted in recent days.
Temperatures in Kuwait soar up to 50C in the summer months and even in winter 20C is the norm. However, on Thursday the temperature was as low as 3C.
There is no record of snow having fallen in Kuwait before, although the emirate has experienced hail and frost in the past when temperatures have fallen in the winter.
A Kuwaiti told MEE that Thursday's snow was a first for the country.
"I asked my grandfather, he said there has never been snow before," they said, preferring to remain anonymous. "Everyone is surprised."
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Posted by JR at 1:25 AM