Wednesday, February 24, 2016

What a childish mind! Michael Mann's scientific conclusions were changed by pretty pictures

Michael Mann has just given an interview in which he says his belief in global warming arose when he saw temperature differences represented in color.  The numbers had not influenced him until that point.  See below.  To us real scientists, the numbers are everything but not to the 4-year-old mind of Michael Mann.

So what could cause an adult mind to be so childish?  I am a psychologist so I should be able to ansewer that, right?  Right.  I can.  It's a matter of salience.  When you are dealing with global 20th century temperature records, the numbers are completely salient.  You can't dodge anything about them.  And the most obvious thing about them is how uniform they are. They differ  only by tenths of one degree Celsius. They show that we live in an era of exceptional temperature stability

But when you display the tiny differences as colors, what you see are relativities rather than absolutes.  The absolute magnitude of the differences is no longer salient. It fades into the background. The colors treat as significant differences that are in fact tiny.  The colors do no doubt have a numerical code to go with them but that is only a minor detail of what you see.  Mann wanted to believe so all that had to happen was for small differences to be represented as dramatic ones.  Pathetic!

I am rather amazed that he admitted as much.  He must have been lulled into a false sense of security by an interviewer treating him as a hero

Mann’s PhD examined the natural variation in climate to establish whether this might be at least a partial cause of recent global warming. “So I went into climate research more from the standpoint of somebody who was more on the sceptical side. Some of my early work was actually celebrated by climate change deniers,” he explains.

But then something changed his mind.

Mann started doing research with Saltzman and another of the professor’s former students. This was Robert Oglesby, a postdoctoral researcher who is now with the University of Nebraska working on general circulation modelling (GCM).

Colour Maps

The scientists had privileged access to the very latest technology—including modelling software and even a colour printer.

“This was in the early days of computer printers. So to get a colour printout you had to get special paper, and you would go up to the third floor to the special colour printer, so there was a certain drama. Until you printed it out in colour on paper you couldn’t really appreciate the results.”

They printed out world maps which had been colour-coded to show the rise in temperatures for each of the decades, moving through light yellows for little change to reds for the occasional spot where there had been a significant rise.

These maps are now ubiquitous in climate research and reporting, but this was the first time Mann had produced or even seen one like this.

Discernible Influence

“We were just looking decade by decade where there’s been maps of temperatures: 1900, 1910s, 20s, 30s, all the way to the 70s. And if you compare the 70s map to the 1900s map, there isn’t much of a difference,” Mann remembers.

“But once you get to the 1980s, it's like 'bam!' The map turns bright yellow and red. It was in that moment that I actually think that all of us, including Barry I think, crossed over into weighing more on the side that there is a discernible human influence on climate. This is before the IPCC reached that conclusion in 1995 with the publication of the second assessment report.”

In a single moment, Mann abandoned his scepticism about the reality of human-caused climate change. As it happens, he would dedicate the rest of his working life to understanding the true scientific meaning and implications of those red smudges on an early colour printout.

There were three scientists in the room that day. No politicians, no ideologues, no closet Communists tampering with the ink cartridges.


Mann points out: “The important thing to understand there is that our views on this issue were led by the science we were doing, which is the way it should be. The science that we were doing was not influenced by our views on the climate change issue.”

The colour maps formed part of Mann’s first climate change publication, with colleagues, in a peer-reviewed paper. He then set about trying to place modern climate change in a larger context.

What he found, and what he wrote, would throw him headfirst into a sometimes vicious and soul-destroying battle with the climate sceptics who had previously celebrated his work.

Next time, we look at how the dynamic Professor Bob Watson became chairman of the IPCC in 1997 amidst a groundswell of political activity.


Climate Change Rears Its Head on the Tibetan Plateau

Indeed it does.  But why?  The Greenie emptyhead below says it is due to global warming.  But since global warming in recent times has been minuscule, that is unlikely.  The real explantion is straightforward.  Solar activity has a well documented effect on Tibet.  Times of low solar activity have regularly been correlated with drought in Tibet.  See  here and the graph below

We are at present in Solar Cycle 24. It began on January 4, 2008, but there was minimal activity until early 2010. It is on track to be the Solar Cycle with the lowest recorded sunspot activity since accurate records began in 1750

Tsesong, a 61-year-old Tibetan herder, has been tending livestock successfully on the vast Qinghai-Tibet Plateau since he was a small child. But this year has been unusually difficult; after a late-June rain, it didn't rain again for two months.

"More than 100 livestock have died because of starvation so far this year," Tsesong said, a strong, dry wind blowing against the tough wrinkles on his face.

"The grass was thicker before, now it is thinner," he said, pointing his toes at the ground, where yellow grass adheres to mud, too sparse to cover the whole land.

His remaining 50 yaks and 200 goats drift across the plateau, searching in vain for greener grass, growing thinner and less vital each day.

The weight of one yak dropped on average between 20 and 30 kilograms this year, or as much as 18 percent of its normal weight. With yak meat typically selling for $12 per kilogram, a herder like Tsesong stands to lose hundreds of dollars with each malnourished yak.

Tsesong's pasture is in Zhidoi County in Yushu, Qinghai Province. It's an area where the Yangtze, Yellow, and Mekong Rivers all originate -- called the Three Rivers Headwater Region, or because of its high altitude, the "Water Tower of China."

The region has been steadily warming. From 1961 to 2012, the temperature here increased 1.9 degrees Celsius, and continues to rise, according to Qinghai Meteorological Authority. The increased temperatures have brought on deteriorating environmental conditions including rising snow lines and more extreme weather, affecting not only the water runoff, but also the lives of more than one million of the area's herders and villagers.

The one good thing that climate change has brought about, Tsesong said, is that it is warmer now, so he wears fewer clothes, and his ears don't become as badly frostbitten as before. "But it can't make up for the loss of my livestock," he said bitterly.

A changing environment

That global warming is the leading cause of environmental damage in the Three Rivers region has not always been widely accepted, even by Chinese climate scientists.

In the past, more scientists held the opinion that over-grazing was the main cause of increased arid land. The government even launched a grazing ban 10 years ago, enclosing some pastures for protection and relocating more than 55,000 nomadic herder families to a nearby town.

But over-grazing was a story that was more relevant in the 1970s, according to environmental activists. Lü Zhi, founder of the Shan Shui Conservation Center, an NGO that has worked on protecting the Three Rivers Headwater Region, told Chinese media that the number of livestock in Yushu reached its peak in 1979, steadily declining since then.

In a recent study, scientists from the Northwest Institute of Plateau Biology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences conducted an experiment to test whether climate change was indeed causing the drought instead.

They set up a glass room equipped with a temperature controlling device on the plateau, in an environment similar to the Three Rivers, and they turned the temperature 2 degrees higher than the natural one. The land became more lush for the first two years, because it was warmer. But starting in the third year, the level of biodiversity deteriorated because of a large-scale evaporation that caused drought.

The experiment, conducted in an environment without human activity, proved that warming could cause drought and a deteriorating environment, the scientists concluded.

Provincial efforts

In recognition of the region's growing environmental problem, the Qinghai Meteorological Authority set up in 2008 a center to monitor climate change within the province. The center was also responsible for conducting cloud seeding to make artificial rains when there is drought, especially in the Three Rivers region, according to Xinhua News Agency.

The government has also strived to adapt to climate change in other ways. In 2005, Qinghai Authority started the "Ecological Protection and Construction Project in the Three Rivers Headwater Region" under the guidance of the state council. The first phase of the project included measures like placing a grazing ban in some areas, providing cloud seeding, and prioritizing wetlands restoration.


Nobody cares about climate change in the 2016 U.S. election

Frustrated that nobody seems to care about climate change, “the country’s biggest individual political donor during the 2014 election cycle,” has pledged even more in 2016. Tom Steyer spent nearly $75 million in the 2014 midterms, reports Politico. He intends to “open his wallet even wider” now.

But just what do his millions get him in this “crucial election”? Based on history, not much.polar vortex globe

In 2014, his NextGen Climate Action group specifically targeted seven races. Only three went his way — to Democrats.

In Iowa, the group “invested in billboards and television and radio, newspaper and web ads,” to target Republicans and “agitate for more conversation about the topic in debates.” According to Politico, NextGen “attempted to convince Iowans to caucus for a candidate based on that candidate’s energy plan.” They “identified over 42,000 voters in the state who tapped climate change as a voting priority”…“over 1,500 were registered Republicans.” With 357,983 people participating the Iowa caucus, Steyer’s efforts reflect just 11.7 percent of voters and less than 1 percent of Republicans.

Steyer’s millions were spent trying to get people to vote based on “energy plans.” Only one candidate’s energy policy got any real media coverage: Ted Cruz’s opposition to the Renewable Fuel Standard, also known as the ethanol mandate. He won the Republican caucus, ahead of Donald Trump who pandered to the powerful lobbying group: America’s Renewable Future. (Since then, Archer Daniels Midland, the biggest proponent and producer of ethanol, may be scaling back, which according to the Financial Times, “suggests the reality for this industry has changed.”)

Perhaps Steyer needs to realize his reality has changed.

On February 11, Politico released survey results from “a bipartisan panel of respondents” who it claims are “Republican and Democratic insiders”…“activists, strategists and operatives in the four early nominating states” who answered the questions anonymously. The results? As one Republican respondent from South Carolina (SC) put it: “Climate change is simply not a front burner issue to most people.” A Nevada Democrat agreed: “I don’t believe this is a critical issue for many voters when compared to the economy and national security.”

One SC Republican said that no “blue-collar swing voter” ever said: “I really like their jobs plan, but, boy, I don’t know about their position on climate change.” Over all, the Republicans don’t think that opposing public policy to address the perceived threats of climate change will hurt their candidates. The topic never came up in the recent SC Republican debate.

Steyer sees that on the issue of climate change, “the two parties could not be further apart.” However, the “insider” survey found that Democrats were split on the issue. When asked if “disputing the notion of manmade climate change would be damaging in the general election,” some thought it would, but others “thought climate change isn’t a major issue for voters.” One SC Democrat pointed out: “the glut of cheap energy sources makes green technology less of an immediate priority for Congress, investors and the voting public.”

While we are far from the days, of “drill, baby drill,” when asked about increasing production, Republicans see that their pro-development policies are unaffected by “price fluctuations.” A SC Republican stated: “Most Republicans view this issue through a national security lens. Low prices might diminish the intensity, but GOP voters will still want America to be energy independent regardless of oil prices.”

On February 12, Politico held a gathering called “Caucus Energy South Carolina” that featured several of the SC “insiders” among whom the host said are “influential voices,” who offer “keen insight into what’s going on on the ground.”

There, Mike McKenna, who has consulted a wide variety of political and corporate clients with respect to government relations, opinion research, marketing, message development and communications strategies, and who has served as an external relations specialist at the U.S. Department of Energy, declared: “Energy is a second tier issue. Climate change is fifth tier. Nobody cares about it. It is always at the bottom.”

The climate change agenda has been the most expensive and extensive public relations campaign in the history of the world. Gallup has been polling on this issue for 25 years. Despite the herculean effort, fewer people are worried about climate change today than 25 years ago. Pew Research Center has repeatedly found that when given a list of concerns regarding the public’s policy priorities, respondents put jobs and economy at the top of the list, with climate change at the bottom. Polling done just before the UN climate conference in Paris, found that only 3% of Americans believe that climate change is the most important issue facing America.

Even Democrat Jane Kleeb, an outspoken opponent of the Keystone pipeline, acknowledged that climate change, as an issue, doesn’t move people to act.

David Wilkins, a former U.S. Ambassador to Canada who has worked on issues such as energy, national security, and the environment, said that voters are “not going to let the environment trump the economy.” He believes there will be a reapplication for the Keystone pipeline and that eventually it will be built. Another insider, Democrat Inez Tenenbaum, disagreed, saying: “people don’t want to be energy dependent.” To which Wilkins quipped: “All the more reason to get oil from our friends.”

When it comes to energy, there are clearly differences between the parties, but strangely both agree that climate change isn’t “a major issue for voters.”

But don’t tell Steyer — or Senator Bernie Sanders. Steyer has praised Sanders for his public stand on climate change saying that he’s brought it up “repeatedly,” calling it a “national security issue” and “the number one issue facing Americans” — despite the fact that polling indicates otherwise.

As if he were channeling Steyer, in his New Hampshire victory speech, Sanders declared: “We will not allow back into the White House a political party … that cannot even acknowledge the scientific reality of climate change.” He continued: “The debate is over. Climate change is real. It is caused by human activity, and it is already causing devastating problems in this country and around the world. We have a moral responsibility to work with countries throughout the world to transform our energy system away from fossil fuels to energy efficiency and sustainable energy.”

Since nobody cares about climate change in the 2016 presidential campaign, except for Sanders and influential Democrat billionaire donor Steyer (who stands to gain financially from his advocacy), unfortunately one can easily guess where a chunk of his millions will go. Sanders will no longer be able to claim that all his donations are small.


Bjorn Lomborg : The Paris climate deal won’t even dent global warming

Two months after the Paris climate-treaty negotiations concluded with fanfare, the world is figuring out it was sold a lemon.

A diplomatic triumph? More like a p.r. coup. The Paris Treaty is rich in rhetoric, but it’ll make little change in actual temperature rises.

Increasingly, that fact is being recognized, even by some of the biggest proponents of climate action.

Jim Hansen, a former NASA scientist and advisor to Al Gore who was the first to put global warming on the public radar in 1988, wasn’t fooled. “It’s a fraud really, a fake,” he said in December. “It’s just worthless words.”

And this month, 11 climate scientists signed a declaration stating that the Paris treaty is crippled by “deadly flaws.”

The problem with the deal is simple, and was obvious from before it was even signed. The Paris agreement talks a big game. It doesn’t just commit to capping the global temperature increase at the much-discussed level of 2°C above pre-industrial levels. It says that leaders commit to keeping the increase “well below 2°C,” with an effort to cap it at 1.5°C.

But this is all talk.

My own peer-reviewed research, published in the journal Global Policy, shows that all of the treaty’s 2016-2030 promises on cutting carbon-dioxide emissions will reduce temperatures by the year 2100 by just 0.05°C. Even if the promised emissions cuts continued unabated throughout the century, the Paris agreement would cut global temperature increases by just 0.17°C. Scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology reach a similar conclusion.

And that’s assuming countries actually live up to their promises: The treaty’s nonbinding.

This is reminiscent of another non-binding pact also signed in Paris. The Kellogg-Briand Pact was drafted in 1928 and signatories included the United Kingdom, United States, France, Germany, Japan and Italy. Leaders agreed to outlaw war. The treaty scored its architect, Secretary of State Frank Kellogg, a Nobel Peace Prize. But after barely a decade, global war broke out.

By the United Nations’ own reckoning, the treaty will only achieve less than 1 percent of the emission cuts needed to meet target temperatures. So instead, signatories point to the fact that beginning in 2020, countries will be asked to lay out more ambitious targets every five years. In other words, 99 percent of the problem is left for tomorrow’s leaders to deal with.

Paris won’t solve global warming. What will? In the Copenhagen Consensus on Climate project, 28 climate economists and a panel of experts including three Nobel laureates found that the best long-term climate strategy is to dramatically increase investment in green R&D, with every dollar spent on green R&D avoiding 100 times more climate change than money spent on inefficient wind and solar.

For 20 years, we’ve insisted on trying to solve climate change by mainly supporting solar and wind power. This approach puts the cart in front of the horse: Green technologies aren’t competitive yet. Instead of production subsidies, governments should focus on making renewable energy cheaper and competitive through research and development. Drive down prices through innovation, and everyone will switch.

And we need to acknowledge that much-maligned fracking must be a part of our shorter-term solution to climate change. Natural gas is far more environmentally friendly than coal. Gas emits less than half the CO2, and it emits much lower amounts of other pollutants.

Though it doesn’t provide the ultimate answer to global warming, shale gas is greener than the alternatives.

After the self-congratulatory party in Paris has come an awakening: This deal isn’t going to solve climate change. It’s time to focus on what will.


Age, gender, race? Climate scepticism is predominantly party political

Because conservatives don't like the power grabs that such scares tend to legitimate

It appears the adage that climate change sceptics are typically conservative white men is only partly true, with a new study finding the political party you support to be a much stronger marker of where you line-up on global warming than gender, age and race.

But if you do accept the scientific evidence humans are causing climate change by burning fossil fuels and cutting down forests, the same research also suggests that does not mean you lead a greener private life.

In an effort to tease out what shapes individual views and actions on climate change, Australian researchers analysed almost 200 studies and polls covering 56 countries.

They found that political affiliation was a much larger determinant of a person's willingness to accept humanity's role in climate change than other social fault lines. Conservative voters were more likely to be sceptical, while progressive voters typically believed the science.

A person's broader political ideology, such as whether they saw themselves as conservative or liberal, also had a notable effect, albeit weaker than party support.

Other variables such as age, gender, education, income and race had a much lower, and often negligible, impact. The same was also true for individual experiences of extreme weather events.

"Although a 'conservative white male' profile has emerged of climate change sceptics in the United States, our analysis of polls across multiple nations suggests that the 'conservative' part of that equation would seem to be more diagnostic than the 'white male' part," finds the paper, which was published in the journal Nature Climate Change on Tuesday.

Matthew Hornsey, a psychology professor at the University of Queensland and one of the authors of the study, said climate science was far too complex for the vast majority of people to be totally across, meaning for most it was a matter of trust.

Some have an implicit trust in scientists and their methods, he said, but others turned to "gut feelings that are largely about their values, their politics, their world view".

"Age, sex and race aren't the issue: it's your deeper philosophies about the free market, about big versus small government, about individualistic versus socialistic ways of responding to societal problems, about whether or not you have a moral suspicion of industry," Professor Hornsey said.

The finding from the studies included in the analysis, almost half of which came from the United States, echoed recent dedicated Australian polls. Last year an analysis of five CSIRO climate surveys - a program now axed - found barely a quarter of Coalition voters accepted humanity was mostly responsible for climate change, as opposed to 59 per cent of Labor voters and 76 per cent of Greens supporters.

But accepting climate change did not necessarily make you greener, at least in your home life, the study also found.

While those who accept human's role in climate changes were more likely to take more public action, such as signing petitions or joining demonstrations, that was not necessarily replicated in private action, such as cutting energy use at home and using public transport over the car.

Professor Hornsey said this was partly about barriers to action, such as not having access to public transport. But there were a group of people who believed in climate change and wanted something done about it, but saw it as a global responsibility rather than an issue of individual sacrifice.

"In Australia it was striking how concern about climate change coexisted with resentment about paying the [now defunct] carbon tax," Professor Hornsey said.


Australia: That dreaded land clearing again

Below is another Greenie lament about land clearing.  Most of the world lives on land that has been cleared of its native vegetation but that precedent cuts no ice with Greenies. I said a lot more about that issue last month so will not pursue it again.

The rant below is totally one-eyed, as we have come to expect.  Their basic objection to clearing is species loss and water pollution.  And their only response to those problems, if they are problems,  is "Stop everything".  The authors are senior academics but you would never guess it.  It is all just hand-waving, with nothing scholarly about it.

A scholarly article would do a survey of the major species, research how many there are, give some argument for why they are important and study how many are needed to maintain a viable population.

Why do that?  Because there are conflicting claims on land use.  One side cannot have it all to themselves, though Greenies would clearly like to.  In the Anglosphere, conflicting claims are customarily resolved by compromise.  Arrangements are worked out that allow both sides to get what is most important to them.

And what is most important to Greenies is clear enough:  Species preservation.  So we need to know just how much land is needed for species preservation and how much can be released for food production.  So if we took the scholarly steps above, a compromise suitable to both sides should be possible.  But a mature response like that is beyond Greenies.  Their only policy is "winner take all", with themselves as the winner.

That rightly causes others to dig their heels in and the Greenies may in the end get very little of what they want -- probably less than they could have got via compromise.

And they are far too myopic to see what has been happening in the last couple of years.  When a conservative Queensland government lifted a whole lot of Leftist restrictions on land use, landowners went for broke.  They have busily been clearing as much land as they can before restrictions hit them again.  Much land may have been cleared that need not have been cleared if more moderate land use restrictions had been probable.

Just some excerpts below as it is all so brainless and predictable

Land clearing has returned to Queensland in a big way. After we expressed concern that policy changes since 2012 would lead to a resurgence in clearing of native vegetation, this outcome was confirmed by government figures released late last year.

It is now clear that land clearing is accelerating in Queensland. The new data confirm that 296,000 hectares of bushland was cleared in 2013-14 – three times as much as in 2008-09 – mainly for conversion to pastures. These losses do not include the well-publicised clearing permitted by the government of nearly 900 square kilometres at two properties, Olive Vale and Strathmore, which commenced in 2015.
The increases in land clearing are across the board. They include losses of over 100,000 hectares of old-growth habitats, as well as the destruction of “high-value regrowth” – the advanced regeneration of endangered ecosystems.

These ecosystems have already been reduced to less than 10% of their original extent, and their recovery relies on allowing this regrowth to mature.

Alarmingly, our analysis of where the recent clearing has occurred reveals that even “of concern” and “endangered” remnant ecosystems are being lost at much higher rates now than before.

While this level of vegetation loss and damage continues apace, Australia’s environmental programs will fall well short of achieving their aims.

Land clearing affects all Australians, not just Queenslanders. Australia spends hundreds of millions of dollars each year trying to redress past environmental damage from land clearing. Tens of thousands of volunteers dedicate their time, money and land to the effort.

But despite undeniable local benefits of such programs, their contribution to national environmental goals is undone, sometimes many times over, by the damage being done in Queensland.

Species cannot recover if their habitat is being destroyed faster than it is being restored. But under Caring for our Country and Biodiversity Fund grants, the extent of tree planting to restore habitat across Australia reported since 2013 is just over 42,000 hectares - an order of magnitude less than what was cleared in Queensland alone in just two years.

And it will be many decades before these new plantings will provide anything like the environmental benefits of mature native vegetation.

Land clearing between 2012 and 2014 in Queensland is estimated to have wiped out more than 40,000 hectares of koala habitat, as well as habitat for over 200 other threatened species. Clearing, along with drought (which is also made worse by clearing), is the major cause of an 50% decline in koalas of  south-west and central Queensland since 1996.

The loss of remnant habitat, especially from forests along waterways, means more habitat fragmentation. This is a further threat to many species of wildlife, and it hampers our ability to adapt to a rapidly changing climate.

The current Palaszczuk government in Queensland has repeated its election promise to re-strengthen native vegetation protections. The amendment bill is due to be introduced to parliament within weeks.

But the minority government relies on the votes of cross-benchers to pass its legislation–so for now, the future of some of Australia’s most precious environmental assets remains uncertain.



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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