Thursday, June 11, 2015

On Climate, Science and Politics Are Diverging

Rupert Darwall puts it all rather politely

The good news for global-warming alarmists is that they can pretty much be guaranteed that there will always be something happening somewhere in the world to get alarmed about. “It has been a really bad week for the ice shelves of the quickly warming Antarctic peninsula,” the Washington Post’s resident alarmist Chris Mooney wrote a week ago. In a few years, a very warm summer will see the Larsen B ice shelf shatter into thousands of smaller icebergs, a researcher told him.

However, Mooney did not report that the same team that had detected Antarctic warming also said that the warming had not been reproduced by climate models. “Until the past warming can be properly simulated, there is little basis for prediction that rapid warming will continue in future,” according to the British Antarctic Survey.

Neither does the alarm extend to the total area of ice floating on the seas surrounding Antarctic and the North Pole. There was a sharp recovery from the low recorded in 2012, and global sea-ice area is currently above the 1979–2008 average. The National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) reckons that Antarctic sea ice has expanded at an average of 4.1 percent per decade since 1979. This slightly more than offsets shrinkage of the larger area of sea ice at the North Pole, which the NSIDC says has declined by 2.4 percent a decade.

Sea ice at the North Pole has long been a focus of alarm. Just after collecting his Nobel Peace Prize in 2007, Al Gore jetted off to the Bali climate conference to declare a planetary emergency, predicting that the entire north polar ice cap would disappear in as little as five to seven years. The Arctic should have been ice-free by last summer.

Predictions of an ice-free North Pole are frequently accompanied by warnings of climate-change tipping points, tripping the planet into uncharted — and, by implication, scary — climate scenarios.

A new paper by two scientists at the Scripps Institution suggests that previous concern about the irreversibility of the melting of the Arctic ice cap left out two key physical processes that had led previous studies to spuriously identify a tipping point that did not correspond to the real world.

Selecting isolated phenomena — an iceberg here, a typhoon there, even the disintegration of Syria into barbarism — is a substitute for the real thing, namely, the eighteen-plus years’ failure of average global temperature to rise in line with climate-model predictions. The pause, or hiatus, is a problem for climate scientists in the sense that nature is presenting them with something they had not anticipated and want to understand.

For climate alarmists led by President Obama, it is a bigger problem than that. “The science is indisputable,” the president said Wednesday at the Coast Guard Academy commencement address. “The planet is getting warmer,” he falsely claimed. The non-warming is rattling alarmists who are adopting two distinct coping strategies.

Nassim Taleb of black-swan fame argues that the less we understand about climate change, the more we ought to try and stop it. Climate models don’t need to tell us that pollution puts the planet into uncharted territories, he argues. Invoking the case for precaution, Taleb’s convoluted logic places the burden of proof with deniers to demonstrate absence of harm.

Twenty years ago, the political scientist Aaron Wildavsky called the precautionary principle a marvelous piece of rhetoric: “It assumes what actually should be proved.” He cited Harvey Brooks, the senior statesman of the science, technology, and policy field, according to President Obama’s science adviser John Holdren.

Brooks observed that the only proof of a negative is an impossibility theorem demonstrating that the contemplated action or reaction is contrary to the laws of nature.

Far from buttressing a reasoned policy case, Taleb’s position, in requiring climate skeptics to prove a negative, merely underscores the weakness of current scientific understanding of the climate. If temperatures had been rising faster than climate-models prediction, nature itself would have provided a stronger rationale for action than does the precautionary principle.

A second strategy is to claim that the pause is a false artifact created by vested interests and political agents hostile to regulation. “Mainstream scientific discourse has inherited, and is now extensively using, a framing that was demonstrably created by contrarians,” argue psychologist Stephan Lewandowsky and Harvard historian of science Naomi Oreskes in a new paper. The skeptic meme of the pause has seeped into how climate scientists frame their research. “Pressures of climate contrarians has [sic] contributed, at least to some degree, to undermining the confidence of the scientific community in their own theory,” the authors conclude.

Their argument that climate scientists were researching the impact of natural variability at the behest of skeptics received short shrift from Richard Betts, a climate scientist at Britain’s Met Office. The observed temperatures in the 1990s were much as had been anticipated. In contrast, the trajectory of global temperatures in the last fifteen years or so had not been specifically predicted. “This time, there is an interesting puzzle to be investigated,” Betts wrote.

In the last chapter of her book Merchants of Doubt (2010), co-written with Erik Conway, Oreskes outlined a “new view” of science. It was certainly novel. History, she claimed, showed that science does not provide certainty; it does not provide proof; it provides only “the consensus of experts, based on the organized accumulation and scrutiny of evidence.”

Oreskes’s new science jettisons the standards and methods established during the scientific revolution. Indeed, it’s a view of science that could also be applied to the study of theology or any other body of knowledge.

Global warming is preeminently a political project. On Tuesday, the leaders of France and Germany met to set a goal for the December climate summit in Paris: to fully decarbonize the world economy by the end of the century. It required, Angela Merkel and Fran├žois Hollande declared, “a profound transformation of the world economy and society.”

The role of experts is to provide a scientific consensus to support the drumbeat of alarm. When the president of America declares climate change an immediate threat to national security and accuses skeptics of “negligence” and “dereliction of duty,” scientific skepticism becomes an enemy of the state.

The shrillness of the president’s rhetoric draws attention to the weakness of the science. The true believers have given up trying to win over the undecided.



The German government appears to have abandoned the planned carbon tax on coal power plants. This is the result of a meeting on Wednesday of German Economics Minister Sigmar Gabriel (SPD) with the head of the mining union IG BCE, Michael Vassiliadis, and ministers of those states where lignite is produced.

The ministry’s original plan was to avoid emitting additional 22 million tons of CO2 by 2020. This plan was opposed by trade unions and energy companies who saw this as a  threat to Germany’s entire lignite production. These interest groups seem to have won the battle for now.

During the discussion, a different set of measures was agreed, including the promotion of co-generation. Were the coal tax to go for good, it would be a bitter defeat for Rainer Baake, a Green Party member and Economics Secretary to the ministry,  who is a strong promoter of the tax. On Tuesday, the negotiators will meet again to complete the agreement.


Obama's EPA Regulations: 6,552x As Long As Constitution; 46x As Long As Bible

Since President Barack Obama took office on Jan. 20, 2009, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued 3,373 new final regulations, equaling 29,770 pages in the Federal Register and totaling approximately 29,770,000 words, according to a count of the regulations published in the Federal Register.

The Gutenberg Bible is only 1,282 pages and 646,128 words. This means the new EPA regulations issued by the Obama Administration contain 23 times as many pages as the Bible and 46 times as many words.

The Federal Register publishes documents, including proposed rules, notices, interim rules, corrections, drafts of final rules and final rules. The tabulation included only final rules from the EPA. found 3,373 distinct rules published by the EPA since January 20, 2009 covering greenhouse gases, air quality, emissions and hazardous substances, to name a few.

To give an example, on Jan. 13, 2015 the EPA released a final rule entitled, “Definition of Solid Waste,” which totaled 122 pages and was issued to revise “recycling-related provisions associated with the definition of solid waste used to determine hazardous waste regulation.”

The Obama EPA regulations have 27 times as many words as the entire Harry Potter book series, which includes seven books with 1,084,170 words.

The EPA regulations have more than double the number of words of the Obamacare regulations, which have 11,588,500 words and are 78 times as many words as the Obamacare law itself, which contains 381,517 words.

The EPA regulations, to date, have 6,552 times as many words as the U.S. Constitution, which has 4,543 words, including the signatures; the regs also have 20,418 times as many words as the Declaration of Independence, which has 1,458 words including signatures.

Over the course of Obama’s presidency, the EPA has greatly expanded its regulatory overreach. In President Obama’s first year in office in 2009, the EPA issued 365 regulations, averaging one rule per day. In 2010, the EPA issued 454 regulations and in 2011, the EPA issued 557 regulations.

The number of rules issued during the Obama years peaked in 2012 with 646 final rules issued--76.9 percent more than issued in Obama’s first year. In 2013, the EPA issued 548 regulations and in 2014 the EPA issued 564 regulations.

So far, in 2015, the EPA has issued 241 regulations.

The EPA has issued 3,373 regulations over the 1,665 business days since President Obama took office. This means that the EPA has issued an average of about 2 regulations per work day, Monday through Friday, during Obama's presidency.

There have been 2,329 calendar days since Obama has taken office, meaning the EPA has issued an average of about 1.45 regulations per calendar day.

To get an approximate word count for the EPA rules in the Federal Register, evaluated a few random rules from the 3,373 EPA regulations published since Obama took office. In these rules, as published in the Federal Register, each page averaged approximately 1,000 words. From this, calculated that the 29,770 pages in the 3,373 new final EPA rules issued during the Obama administration equal 29,770,000 words.

This is only an approximation because some pages in the Federal Register carry more words than others, and some regulations end in the beginning or middle of a page. For example, one of the regulations was five-pages long and totaled 5,586 words, an average of 1,117 words per page.


'Independent' EPA Study Not So Independent After All

In May, a new study commissioned by Harvard and Syracuse University claimed that the EPA’s soon-to-be-released Clean Power Plan will eliminate around 3,500 pollution-related deaths annually. The celebratory reaction quickly went mainstream. The EPA, whose proposal it already posited will save lives, suddenly had the benefit of an independent verification.

Or did it? Writing in Breitbart, publisher Steve Milloy found that the researchers of said study had personally partaken in various multi-million dollar EPA-funded studies. Furthermore, one author’s assertion that the agency “did not participate in the study or interact with its authors” was found to be complete hogwash. Says Milloy, “I submitted a request to EPA under the Freedom of Information Act for email between the study authors and EPA staff. Although subsequent wrangling with agency staff gave me doubt that I would ever get anything, I received, much to my surprise, 99 pages of emails after mere weeks. The emails reveal that [the] study co-authors … were definitely in contact with key EPA staff regarding this research.”

“This issue goes deeper than mere truth-telling,” he adds. “The EPA’s controversial Clean Power Plan hinges on the notion that shuttering coal plants will save lives.” In fact, shuttering coal plants may very well cost lives. Yet EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy recently postulated, “We can speak to the science because it’s complicated and we do a lot of research and we do a lot of translation of the science into what it means for people so that the decisions can be made on the basis of real science and on the basis of a real technical understanding.” In other words, “Trust us.” But they keep giving us every reason not to.


Global Warming: The Theory that Predicts Nothing and Explains Everything

Robert Tracinski below re-runs some of the criticisms of the Karl et al. claims and then goes on to say:

I realize the warmists are desperate, but they might not have thought through the overall effect of this new “adjustment” push. We’ve been told to take very, very seriously the objective data showing global warming is real and is happening—and then they announce that the data has been totally changed post hoc. This is meant to shore up the theory, but it actually calls the data into question.

Anthony Watts, one of the chief questioners of past “adjustments,” points out that to make the pause disappear, they didn’t just increase temperatures since 1998. They also adjusted downward the temperatures immediately before that. Starting from a lower base of temperature makes the “adjusted” increase look even bigger. That’s a pattern that invariably shows up in all these adjustments: the past is always adjusted downward to make it cooler, the present upward to make it warmer—an amazing coincidence that guarantees a warming trend.

All of this fits into a wider pattern: the global warming theory has been awful at making predictions about the data ahead of time. But it has been great at going backward, retroactively reinterpreting the data and retrofitting the theory to mesh with it. A line I saw from one commenter, I can’t remember where, has been rattling around in my head: “once again, the theory that predicts nothing explains everything.”

There is an important difference between prediction before the fact and explanation after the fact. Prediction requires that you lay down a marker about what the data ought to be, to be consistent with your theory, before you actually know what it is. That’s something that’s very hard to get right. If your theory is going to be able to consistently predict data before it is gathered, it has got to be pretty darned good. Global warming theories have a wretched track record at making predictions.

But explanations of data after the fact are a lot easier. As they say, hindsight is 20/20. It’s a lot easier to tweak your theory to make it a better fit to the data, or in this case, to tweak the way the data is measured and analyzed in order to make it better fit your theory. And then you proclaim how amazing it is that your theory “explains” the data.

If this difference between prediction and explanation seems merely technical, remember that the whole political cause of global warming is based on the theory’s claim to make predictions before the fact—way before the fact, projecting temperatures for the next century. We’re supposed to base the whole organization of our civilization, at a cost of many trillions of dollars, on those ultra-long-term predictions. So exulting that they can readjust the data for the last few years to jibe with their theory after the fact is not exactly the reassurance we need.

Anyone with the slightest familiarity with science ought to be immediately skeptical of this new claim, so naturally mainstream media “science reporters” repeat it with complete credulity and even pre-emptively inoculate us against the sin of doubt. The Washington Post report/press-release-transcription has a nice little passive-aggressive twist, sneering that “The details of the data adjustments quickly get complicated—and will surely be where global warming doubters focus their criticism.” Those global warming doubters, always finding something to kvetch about! What are you gonna do?

Worse, the Post ends by passing along a criticism of mainstream scientists for even discussing the global warming pause before now.

Harvard science historian Naomi Oreskes recently co-authored a paper depicting research on the “hiatus” as a case study in how scientists had allowed a “seepage” of climate skeptic argumentation to affect the formal scientific literature. Of the new NOAA study, she said in an e-mail: “I hope the scientific community will do a bit of soul searching about how they got pulled into this framework, which was clearly a contrarian construction from the start.”

Remember that everybody’s data was showing a plateau in global temperatures, and many of the studies focused on this were attempting to uphold the global warming theory in the face of that evidence. Yet now some of the theory’s own supporters are going to be thrown under the bus for showing too much faith in the data and too little faith in the cause. They will get the message stated bluntly by Oreskes: science must never be contaminated by skepticism.

That gives us a pretty good idea of what is going on here. Because any field where people say this sort of thing is by that very fact not a field of science any longer.


Australian cities at increased risk of flash flooding as temperatures warm and deluges intensify, experts say

The headline above and the article below rather over-egg the pudding.  If you look at the underlying journal article (also below) it contains nothing about the future at all.  All that the authors found was that storms are more intense and more sudden if the temperature is warm.  Not terribly surprising. I've seen some mighty storms arrive suddenly in the tropics. We don't get much else, in fact

It's only if the globe warms that the findings might have some implications of concern.  Fortunately, the globe is NOT warming, despite the many assertions to the contrary

Conclusions published in the journal Nature Geoscience suggest peak downpours during storms are intensifying at warmer temperatures, leading to greater risk of flash flooding in urban centres.

The study's authors have pointed to recent extreme weather events in Sydney and Queensland as examples of what they have documented.

They are urging local councils to redesign sewerage and road infrastructure as a result.  "Unless you fix the sewers and the storm drainage network you will have problems," study co-author Ashish Sharma said.

"If you're having bigger floods coming along in the future, the existing infrastructure cannot handle it. It will spill over."

Civil engineers from the UNSW analysed 30 years of weather records from 79 locations across Australia.

They looked at the 500 largest storms by rainfall volume from each of these locations and measured the corresponding near-surface temperature at the time of the storm.

The research found that the most intense downpours of rain are getting more extreme at warmer temperatures, dumping larger volumes of water over less time, leading to more flash floods.

"This is the first study in the world, to our knowledge at least, that looks at what will happen within an individual storm," Professor Sharma said.

"While it uses data from Australia it is actually very global in its reach because what we have gone about doing is we have just picked data from a lot of high quality rainfall stations in Australia.

"This holds across Australia so you can expect that this change is universal. And it's a mechanism nobody has really looked at until now.  "We certainly didn't expect it to be universal across Australia, which was a big surprise, and which basically says that you should see some other types of patterns in other climate zones around the world."


Steeper temporal distribution of rain intensity at higher temperatures within Australian storms

Conrad Wasko & Ashish Sharma

The mechanisms that cause changes in precipitation, as well as the resulting storm dynamics, under potential future warming remain debated1, 2, 3. Measured sensitivities of precipitation to temperature variations in the present climate have been used to constrain model predictions4, 5, debate precipitation mechanisms2, 3 and speculate on future changes to precipitation6 and flooding7. Here, we analyse data sets of precipitation measurements at 6-min resolution from 79 locations throughout Australia, covering a broad range of climate zones, along with sub-daily temperature measurements of varying resolution. We investigate the relationship between temporal patterns of precipitation intensity within storm bursts and temperature variations in the present climate by calculating the scaling of the precipitation fractions within each storm burst. We find that in the present climate, a less uniform temporal pattern of precipitation—more intense peak precipitation and weaker precipitation during less intense times—is found at higher temperatures, regardless of the climatic region and season. We suggest invigorating storm dynamics could be associated with the warming temperatures expected over the course of the twenty-first century, which could lead to increases in the magnitude and frequency of short-duration floods.

Nature Geoscience (2015) doi:10.1038/ngeo2456


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