Thursday, March 16, 2017

Yet more reason to be skeptical about the results of scientific research

Just out in JAMA is the latest article by John Ioannidis, the man who first blew the whistle on "non-reproducibility" in scientific research.  Read it here.

It makes doleful reading. New, absolutely scrupulous efforts to repeat the results of previous studies failed 3 out of 5 times. There was actually no trace of the previous findings. See the operational paragraph below:

Note that the research concerned was in the field of cancer studies.  In such a critical area, one would expect the greatest level of care from the word Go. Yet, despite that, subsequent findings completely contradict the initial findings.

Such a result undermines confidence in all scientific research results.  What, then, are we to conclude?  I think Ioannidis draws the only possible conclusion:  That trying to apply apparent lessons from the research to real-life situations is a very shaky enterprise indeed.  Scientific results cannot confidently be translated into public or clinical policy.  Attempts to "apply" the results of research are built on sand and are therefore mostly bound to fail.

If that is true in clinical research, how much more so is it applicable in climate research?  Climate researchers actually hide details of their research, making it impossible to examine its repeatability. On precedent, however, we have to conclude that it is almost 100% rubbish. It is basically not science at all.

Even on the details Warmists do give of their research, what they find is often on the hilarious side.  See here, for instance. How much more risible would the research be if we had full details of it? -- JR.

Global warming: Fake news becomes no news

For decades, we've heard the Chickens Little cry that the sky is warming.  Then, in 2009, a hack of climate researchers' emails at the University of East Anglia indicated that things weren't quite on the up-and-up, science-wise.  Climatologists had massaged global temperature records to bolster their claims of man-made global warming, and they had destroyed emails to skirt FOIA requests.  "Climategate," as it came to be called, suggested that many of the alarming reports about global warming had been fake news.

It happened again about a month ago.  On February 4, Dr. John Bates, "senior scientist" at NOAA's temperature data center (until his retirement in late 2016), reported that his own organization had not quite been on the up-and-up, science-wise.  He alleged that Thomas Karl, director of the temperature data center (until his own retirement earlier last year), had "breached [NOAA's] own rules on scientific integrity when [he] published [a] sensational but flawed report" and rushed it into print in order to influence global leaders at the U.N. Climate Conference in Paris in 2015.

That paper, called the "Pausebuster," cited new data purporting to show that the hiatus in global warming since 1998 had not occurred.  According to Dr. Bates, however, Dr. Karl had put his "thumb on the scale" by releasing new data that were "misleading" and "unverified."  Furthermore, it is unlikely ever to be verified: Dr. Bates also reported that the computer used to process the data "had suffered a complete failure."  Hello, Climategate 2.0!

Oh, you'd never heard of it?  I bet you've heard a lot about the 2015 Paris Climate Accords that were agreed to in part because of the fake "Pausebuster" data.  But the mainstream media have little interest writing stories that refute liberal assumptions, so fake news becomes no news.  To hear about Climategate 2.0, you'd have to follow alternative sources like Manhattan Contrarian (where I first learned of it), or Judith Curry, or Watt's Up with That?, or the U.K.'s Daily Mail.

This pattern of fake news followed by no news has been repeated throughout the era of climate change fabulist fear-mongering.  In 1989, according to the Associated Press, a director of the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) predicted that "entire nations could be wiped off the face of the earth by rising sea levels ... by the year 2000."  This was followed by no news about no nations being covered by the sea in 2001.

In 1990, Michael Oppenheimer, Princeton professor and Al Gore adviser, predicted that by 1995, the greenhouse effect would be "desolating the heartlands of North America and Eurasia with horrific drought, causing crop failures and food riots."  No news in 1996 brought Oppenheimer's error to public attention.

In 2005, UNEP warned that by 2010, some 50 million "climate refugees" would be fleeing low-lying Caribbean and Pacific islands inundated by rising seas.  No news in 2011 calmed islanders' fears.

In 2007, Al Gore predicted that the North Pole would be ice-free by the summer of 2013.  No news in the fall of 2013 reminded readers that the North Pole was covered in snow that summer.

I could continue at length.  Every pseudo-scientist who puts a thumb on the scales of the research he pretends to revere finds cover from agenda-driven news editors who give thumbs down to any story that challenges their liberal presumptions.  (The Washington Post was offered but declined to print Dr. Bates's report.)  There seems no end in sight for fake news and no news.

But then there is the fact that the Congressional Committee on Science, Space, and Technology is following this story.  The committee has subpoenaed NOAA for the data that supported the Pausebuster paper, and NOAA has refused to comply.  Fireworks may ensue.


Europe's Lesson Teaches Us: Don't Go Green

If you listen to the media narrative on climate change and “clean energy,” you’d think that the rest of the world has moved smartly and seamlessly toward 21st century green energy while the U.S. is the high-polluting laggard that just won’t get with the program to save the planet.

Think again. The green energy revolution around the world has turned into a big green meltdown, with many nations sprinting away from “renewable” energy with the speed of Usain Bolt.

Here are a few of the latest news flashes from Europe and Asia. In Germany, the world leader in green energy, electricity prices have now reached a level triple those paid in the United States. Imagine the anger here if middle-class Americans saw a tripling of their utility bills each month.

In Britain, to comply with renewable energy requirements, power stations are burning hundreds of millions of pounds of wood pellets (pellets imported from the U.S.). Environmental experts confirm that burning wood is much worse for the environment than burning natural gas or even coal.

Australia, another “green energy” leader, saw its electricity prices skyrocket this past winter. According to an analysis by the Institute for Energy Research, power costs surged unbelievably — from $100 per megawatt hour to $10,000 per megawatt hour. This was because of heavy dependence on an unreliable renewable energy program. The government had to reopen one of its shuttered natural-gas plants to keep prices from further exploding.

Sweden announced a decade ago that it was all-in on green energy, and the government launched a wind-power program. Embarrassingly, Swedish politicians now have had to acknowledge the program has become so expensive and inefficient that the government will phase out the subsidies lavished on the industry.

In each of these cases, the economies and local factories have taken a big hit. According to the Institute for Energy Research analysis of Australia: “The government has found that its electric system that is heavily reliant on wind power (40 percent comes from intermittent renewable sources) cannot cope without reliable power from traditional generation sources. The fallout is that Australia is finding that its energy-intensive businesses are relocating to Asian countries that provide stable regulation and costs, lower taxes, cheaper wages, and less red tape.”

So, very quietly, Europe and other nations aren’t going so green anymore. The European Union spent an estimated $750 billion on green-energy handouts over the past decade, and all it’s bought them is a doubling of power costs. This has given American steel, auto manufacturers, light manufacturers, agriculture businesses and technology firms a big competitive edge in world markets.

It’s no wonder that European nations and Australia are desperate for the U.S. to move to the same dimwitted green energy policies that they have adopted.

What would that mean for America? One study by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimated that if America were to adopt the same mandates for renewable energy, the total cost to American consumers would be more than $600 billion and our industries would pay out at least $30 billion more.

By the way, the U.S. already provides subsidies to wind and solar power. And according to a 2016 American Action forum study, these subsidies are five times greater per unit of energy produced than subsidies given to nuclear power and 20 times more generous than those given to fossil fuels. Yet despite all the money spent on them, wind and solar power still account for less than 5 percent of American energy output. Why not just eliminate all American energy subsidies and let the free market decide?

Thankfully, Donald Trump has made it known that adopting more of the policy quackery of Europe — at a time when the U.S. has more recoverable shale oil and gas and more clean coal than any other nation on the planet — is no way to make America great again. Europe is running away from the fantasy of green energy, and this is one rare instance when America may want to follow their lead.


“I simply don’t care’ about climate change

An interesting letter to the editor from Shane Traveller

Because I’m the expert on pretty much everything, people ask me my opinion on “global warming” or “global climate change” or whatever I’m supposed to call it now. I’ve thought long and hard about the subject. I’ve listened to the scientists, read the studies and decided that I simply don’t care. I’m not being trite — I honestly don’t care.

I’ve seen the map that shows the projected land mass if all the ice caps melted. I’m OK with it. There’s nothing lost that I can’t live without and nothing we can’t build inland. Yes, many areas of productive farm land may become deserts. But that just means it will be perfect weather somewhere else. Maybe it’s time for Siberia to finally get a chance to grow something besides gulags and vodka. But I’m not really sure what the “right temperature” for the earth really is.

Over the past few billion years the planet has warmed and cooled fairly often. In fact, we had a “ice age” from 1300-1850 and 10,000 years earlier ice was everywhere. In the 1970s scientists claimed we were all going to freeze and now we’re all going to fry. Yawn. A few degrees either way isn’t going to stress me out much. Definitely not enough to drive a Prius.

My biggest issue is that there is no room for a dissenting opinion. Scientists are CERTAIN of global warming and insist it’s manmade. No alternative opinions, data and research are even tolerated. Scientists also once thought the world was flat and that the sun revolved around the earth. Galileo was jailed for disagreeing. My point is that valid science can withstand a dissenting opinion. Scientific advancement happens when the status quo is challenged.

I’m all for breathing clean air. And I applaud reasonable measures to protect the environment. Coal scrubbers, wind power, solar—all nice. But frankly I’d rather endure a little fracking and the possibility of an occasional pipeline leak rather than throw more money at the Middle East. Unless your home is off grid and made of mud, you ride a bike, never fly, and grow your own veggies, you’re part of the problem. You’ve sacrificed the environment for the sake of convenience just like me. Our planet is an amazing organism. It’s perfectly capable of shrugging its shoulders once in a while to rid itself of any pesky dandruff.

Remember that, my friends. We’ve been the apex for a few thousand years. Dinosaurs ruled for a hundred million. Earth will eventually tire of us and one good plague, eruption, asteroid, corona mass ejection, polarity flip later “climate change” will be the last thing we’re worried about.


Battery storage may have its place but this isn’t it

South Australia’s emergency power plan proves that battery storage is a fringe response rather than a durable solution to the state’s electricity woes.

Silicon Valley billionaire Elon Musk has milked South Australia’s problems for plenty of publicity to coincide with the launch of his new Powerwall 2 battery in Australia.

But Musk’s money-back guarantee always was on meeting a 100-day installation deadline rather than actually fixing South Australia’s problems caused by its over-reliance on intermittent wind and solar.

To the dismay of armchair electrical engineers, Premier Jay Weatherill yesterday confirmed the solution to South Australia’s blackout problems would overwhelmingly be gas.

Showing the hide of a rhinoceros, Weatherill cast the blame for South Australia’s predicament far and wide.

But the cost of the latest instalment in a decade of electricity adventurism will be paid by South Australian taxpayers and long-suffering electricity users.

Sure, South Australia will deploy a big bank of batteries to smooth out the peaks in demand — equal to several minutes of total state requirements, but the heavy lifting will be done by a new taxpayer-owned peaking gas plant and a raft of state impositions. Electricity consumers will be forced to buy a set ­portion of state-generated gas-fired power rather than cheaper coal-fired power from Victoria.

This is supposed to encourage private investment in more gas-fired power in the state.

To get the gas, South Australia will give a share of taxpayers’ royalties to landholders where the gas is drilled.

More state regulation will mandate that new gas stays in South Australia.

This all adds up to an expensive fix and slippery slope to further ­nationalisation.

With the heavy emphasis on peaking power, it still begs the question of what will happen when doldrum conditions again strand wind turbines for long periods over summer?

Batteries may have their place, but this is not it.

The incredulity shown by a new army of battery fetishists to the South Australian plan’s emphasis on gas shows how tough it will be to find a durable fix for energy ­policy nationally.



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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