Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Trump has embraced pseudoscience and its deceptive tactics in a post-truth world (?)

Michael J.I. Brown, an Australian astronomer with a big chin, has an amusing article below.  As is usual with the Green/Left, it's only when you know what he does NOT say that you can see the hollowness of his argument. He creates a false dichotomy where the only alternatives for exploring knowledge are academic journal articles and public debate between non-scientists.

So what does that leave out:  Perhaps the most important thing is the unreliability of what is reported in the academic journals.  This is the subject of an agonized debate among academics at the moment after as many as two thirds of journal reports were found to be unreplicable.  And one of the factors in that debate is an admission that scientists sometimes deliberately fake their results to make them interesting enough for publication.  Clearly, anyone who relies on academic journal articles as a sole source of truth is leaning on a broken reed.

The second thing Prof. Brown leaves out is that not all public debates are ill-informed.  You can have fruitful public debates about a topic between people well versed in the available evidence.  That occurs routinely at academic conferences.  Such debates can be very beneficial in ensuring that all parties have a balanced view of their field. But there have been few debates of that kind over climate.  Knowledgeable skeptical scientists and scholars have repeatedly challenged Warmist believers to such debates but the Warmists run away.  They know that people like the formidably well-informed Lord Monckton will make mincemeat of them.  So if astronomer Brown is mourning the absence of such debates, he can look to his Warmist colleagues for the lack of them, not skeptics.

Monckton has even produced his own climate model, one that has better predictive skill than the pathetic GCMs used by Warmists.  Warmists have of course "replied" to Monckton's paper  but the fact that the reply is laden with ad hominems tells you how good their science is.  Even I could comprehensively debunk their reply if I had to, but some of the things I would say are here.  There is a better discussion of the paper here, including a rejoinder by Monckton.  Whatever you conclude about Monckton's model you have to see that he is in the great British tradition of the independent scholar, a category of enquiry not acknowledged by Prof. Brown.

And given that there is no monopoly of knowledge anywhere, why cannot discussion of publicly available data be fruitful?  Prof. Brown is very hostile to the way in which journalist David Rose pointed out that publicly available climate data showed a drastic recent fall in global temperature.  This threat to their beliefs energized lots of Warmists and much scorn was heaped on Roses's  article.  The findings were said to be unrepresentative.  But they were not.  Various authors have now pointed out other lines of evidence that lead to the same conclusion.

Prof. Brown below regurgitates the early criticisms of the Rose finding as if it had not been refuted. He fails in an academic's basic duty to keep up with the relevant literature on his topic.  And the relevant literature is no longer all in the academic journals.  Bodies such as NOAA and NASA regularly report climate data publicly and that data is available to anybody who wants to point out features in it.

And you don't need to look hard to see how contrary to Warmist claims some of it is.  I am only a humble social scientist but for most of this year I have been pointing out that CO2 levels observed at Cape Grim and Mauna Loa  plateaued for the entire recent warming period -- showing that the warming was due to El Nino, not CO2.  That finding has now found its way into the academic journals but  you read it here first.

It now needs to be taken into account by Warmists.  But they will ignore it as they usually do with inconvenient climate facts.  The warming concerned was a huge subject of fake news from Warmists, who almost totally ignored El Nino and preached climate Armageddon.  Prof. Brown seems to be much against fake news so how curious it is that he has ignored that bit of very fake and obviously fake news.

Brown's entire rant below is the very cherry-picking he deplores. It is a highly selective coverage of the relevant facts that ignores facts that do not suit him.  It is an extended outpouring of abuse with only the most glancing scientific references and a total lack of epistemological sophistication.  It is a polemic, a Gish gallop in fact. It is not nearly a scientific treatise.  It is Brown who has embraced pseudoscience and its deceptive tactics in a post-truth world

As a scientist, I expect the Trump presidency to have a curious familiarity.

Why? Because the relentless stream of falsehoods and character attacks of Trump’s campaign mainstreamed disinformation tactics that biologists, immunologists and climate scientists have come to know and despise.

Trump has embraced pseudoscience and its accompanying conspiracy theories. He’s tweeted that climate change is a hoax and vaccines cause autism.

Trump has met with Andrew Wakefield, whose fraudulent 1998 study kickstarted the modern anti-vaccine movement. And he has just appointed a climate change denier to lead the Environmental Protection Agency.

These pseudoscience communities are nothing new, and they haven’t even bothered to rebadge themselves as “alt-science” (yet).

It’s critical that the broader community learns from the grim experience of scientists when dealing with these attacks. Often scientists failed to appreciate that many public arguments about science are actually political battles, rather than evidence-based discussions. Raw political battle isn’t about seeking truth and reasoned argument. It’s about winning news cycles and elections.

Scientific argument is often methodical, technical and slow. Perhaps this is exemplified by the biggest scientific announcement of 2016, the detection of gravitational waves, which were predicted by Einstein a century ago.

I’m engaged in a scientific argument right now about how rapidly galaxies form stars. My key points are in a 10,000-word manuscript detailing the data, methods, comparison with prior studies, and conclusions. An anonymous astronomer is reviewing that manuscript, and I expect my article to be published in 2017.

So if commentators or politicians demand “an honest debate” about science, what are they doing?

First, don’t ignore the adjective “honest”, with its veiled implication of dishonesty. It can be the starting point for conspiracy theories, with scientists and organisations around the globe manipulating science for no good.

What kind of debate is being sought? Are both sides going to face off by undertaking years of research and submitting 10,000-word manuscripts to scientific journals? Not likely.

Often a very literal debate is being sought, either on television, radio or stage. We find such debates, with their rhetorical flourishes, provocative and entertaining but they rarely advance science.

When Albert Einstein and Phillip Lenard debated relativity in 1920, Einstein wasn’t the clear winner. Perhaps the audience and newspapers that dutifully reported the debate didn’t appreciate that Lenard’s arguments about fictitious gravitational fields were wrong.

Demands for debate – such as the recent call for one by Australian One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts – are often seeking formats where even Einstein couldn’t win an argument about relativity.

They provide theatre and column inches. And critically, they provide equal billing for scientists and those who’ve never truly engaged in science. They embrace false equivalence.

Who am I?

I’m a scientist, but on Twitter people have some strange ideas about who I am. I’ve been accused of being a “warmist” and “alarmist” who is on the “gravy train” with a “bed wetting agenda”. (For the record, I prefer people not to wet their beds.)

I’ve encountered these accusations when discussing evidence, and they’re a means of derailing discussion. “Warmist” and “alarmist” are attempts to frame scientific findings as extreme political positions. Creationists can play this game too, preferring “evolutionism” to “evolutionary biology”. This tactic falsely reframes the argument as a debate between competing and equivalent ideological positions.

It doesn’t matter if the accusations have no factual basis, embrace conspiracy theories or are insincere. That’s not the point. I’ve been accused of using neo-fascist techniques and neo-Marxist attacks on the same day. Donald Trump has never provided evidence that climate change is a “hoax”, with its accompanying global conspiracy of scientists.

This isn’t reasoned argument; it’s disrupting discussion of evidence. It’s about what needs to be true to reject scientists, not what is actually true about scientists.

Scientists slowly accumulate evidence to test their hypotheses, but in political fights evidence only needs to survive the news cycle. Robust methodology, statistics and hypothesis testing be damned.

I was reminded of this recently when the US House Committee on Science, Space and Technology tweeted a link to a Breitbart article claiming that global temperatures are falling:

Breitbart wasn’t reporting the findings of a new peer-reviewed study with new data and a compelling analysis, but rather was quoting the Daily Mail’s David Rose.

While the accumulation of data, from satellites and weather stations, shows the globe warming over decades, Rose had a different focus. He highlighted a few months of data, from a deprecated dataset, that excluded polar regions and the oceans, to suggest the “run of record temperatures are at an end”. This is misinformation, as there’s no evidence to show an end to long-term global warming.

Of course scientists picked apart Rose’s article, but by then the news cycle had moved on.

Such articles are a feature, not a bug, in the politicised climate debate. In 2008, Bjorn Lomborg in The Guardian noted “a slight drop” in sea levels, and concluded that we “urgently need balance.” In 2012, the Australian’s Graham Lloyd reported on sea level falls that supposedly “defied climate warnings.” Of course, those were blips in the long-term trend of sea level rise, but those articles did effectively spread doubt about climate science.

Trump has embraced pseudoscience and its tactics, and will be bringing it to the White House. I expect the accusations and misinformation of Trump’s campaign to continue, and like many scientists I will find it all too familiar. To argue with today’s politically expedient statements as if they’re evidence-based and carefully reasoned arguments embraces a false equivalence of fact and fiction. It is a time for true scepticism.


Look who says it all

From The IPCC  Third Assessment Report.  But you can predict "the probability distribution of the system's future possible states" apparently -- whatever that means

The Ignorant Left

Breitbart has a headline:  "When You Hear a Scientist Talk About ‘Peer Review’ You Should Reach For Your Browning"

Leftists got very huffy about it, deploring "gun violence" etc.  One of them eventually woke up that it was a quote from Goering but they still didn't really get it.  Goering was a man of some culture so was punning on the Browning pistol and the poet Robert Browning.  Either meaning is possible.  Even old jokes are lost on the Left.

Trump's best yet

The boss of Exxon, Rex Tillerson is going to be Trump's Secretary of State. Won't the Green/Left love that?  It is a fair bet to drive some of them insane.  Their chief boogeyman suddenly becomes real!

Proud Flag-Waving Communists and Socialists March in Copenhagen to Stop Global Warming

The song is "The Red Flag" (I think)

If the embed does not come up, the link is:

Don’t blame climate change for extreme weather

Bjorn Lomborg

Climate change means more extreme weather: This is a simple, powerful claim that has been pounded into our consciousness for a decade.

From Greenpeace to President Obama to Scientific American, scarcely a weather event happens without someone pointing the finger at global warming and calling for action.

But there are big problems with this simple statement, which are exposed starkly in recent peer-reviewed analysis in the journal Weather, Climate and Society by University of Manchester scientists Vladimir Jankovic and David M. Schultz.

Citing the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations’ global panel of climate change experts, Jankovic and Schultz find that "not all extreme weather events will change, nor will some of the changes — if they even occur — be detectable." They note that some extreme events are expected to become less frequent but become more intense. Some areas of the globe will benefit; others stand to lose.

The reality is very different from the sloganeering. The researchers find "the soundbite of ‘climate change means more extreme weather’ is a massive oversimplification — if not misstatement — of the true state of the science."

Global warming, in general, will mean higher temperatures. But it will increase temperatures most during winter, at night, and in cold places.

Droughts are among the most costly natural disasters and are often linked with climate change. But a comprehensive study in Nature shows that, since 1982, examples of all categories of severity of drought, from "abnormally dry" to "exceptional drought," have not increased but have actually slightly decreased.

Heat waves are another big concern, and global warming will certainly result in more of these. But it will also mean fewer cold waves. Since many more people die from excessive cold than excessive heat, it is likely that fewer people will die altogether.

Let’s look more closely at the hurricanes that drive so much of our climate conversation. In the United States, damage costs from hurricanes are indeed increasing — but this is because there are more people, with more-expensive property, living nearer to coastlines.

In Florida, Dade and Broward counties alone are home to more people today than lived in 1930 in all 109 coastal counties from Texas to Virginia, along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts. Not surprisingly, that means much more damage. If we adjust for population and wealth, hurricane damage during the period 1900-2013 actually decreased slightly.

Looking into the future, it’s likely that hurricanes will become somewhat stronger by the end of the century. They will also likely become less frequent, and societies will definitely become more robust. A respected Nature review shows that hurricane damage currently costs 0.04 percent of global GDP. Accounting for an increase in prosperity, this would drop four-fold to 0.01 percent by 2100. But the global warming factor making hurricanes fewer but stronger will mean total damage will end around 0.02 percent. This shows that global warming is a problem, but it also shows us that, even accounting for this, damages will decline.

Yet when we see a hurricane we’re told to cut CO2. As Robert Redford distills it, we need to "reduce the carbon pollution that’s fueling these storms." The problem is that we are being pointed in the wrong direction.

Climate policies will do little at a high cost. My peer-reviewed research published in the journal Global Policy shows that — even if maintained throughout the rest of the century — all of the Paris Climate treaty’s 2016-2030 promises on cutting carbon-dioxide emissions will cut global temperature increases by just 0.3 degrees Fahrenheit. Yet the cost will run from about $1 trillion to $2 trillion per year for the rest of the century.

Spending 1-2 percent of GDP on climate policies would, at best, help avoid much less than 0.01 percent of GDP lost to hurricanes. That is perhaps one-tenth of one cent back on the dollar. That is an infuriatingly bad investment.

Jankovic and Schultz warn that the overselling of climate impacts on extreme weather risks "reducing scientific credibility." It "masks the social causes of hazard and, consequently, fetishizes climate change into a sole-source danger." In short, a blinkered focus makes us forget that the vast amount of damage comes from societies being unprepared.

This matters to the unprepared communities from New Orleans to New York. We help them best by focusing on infrastructure, such as more secure levees and subway storm covers.

The stakes are much higher when it comes to poorer nations. Poverty is the biggest risk factor when it comes to hurricanes: If you’re poor, you will have a less sturdy house, and nowhere to go. A hurricane hitting Florida kills maybe dozens of people and creates some destruction. But in worse-off countries like the Philippines or Nicaragua, thousands die and the economy is destroyed.

Helping these places by cutting CO2 might feel good to rich world donors but will do almost nothing, despite the high cost. In the short run, we must help construct better shelters, levees, and seawalls, and develop better warning systems, evacuation plans, and emergency relief. We need to be more stringent about the way land can be zoned and used in coastal areas and strengthen building regulations and laws. Above all, we need to build more resilient communities.

In the long run, we should ensure that those in need emerge from poverty, so they can move from being vulnerable to being well-protected.


More methane nonsense

Methane does absorb electro-magnetic radiation in the laboratory but that does not generalize to the atmosphere, where the much more plentiful water vapour absorbs the same wavelengths and therefore pre-empts any effect that methane might have.  Methane is NOT a "greenhouse gas" in real life

A decade-long surge in methane threatens to make the fight against global warming even harder, top researchers have warned.

Levels of the the potent greenhouse gas in the air rose slowly from 2000 to 2006, but climbed ten times more quickly over the following decade, according to new research.

While previous efforts have tended to focus on carbon dioxide levels in the air, experts warn that methane emissions now needs 'urgent attention'

They say it must be measured and reduced immediately to avoid potentially catastrophic climate changes.

'Additional attention is urgently needed to quantify and reduce methane emissions,' researchers wrote in the Environmental Research Letters journal, summarising the findings of a consortium of 81 scientists.

The alarming new date comes from a study published in the journal Earth System Science Data.

The unexpected - and largely unexplained - increase was especially sharp in 2014 and 2015.

'Keeping global warming below two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) is already a challenging target,' they said, referring to the goal set in the 196-nation Paris climate pact, which entered into force last month.

'Such a target will become increasingly difficult if reductions in methane emissions are not also addressed strongly and rapidly.'

With only 1°C (1.8°F) of warming above pre-industrial era levels so far, the world has seen an uptick in extreme weather, including droughts, superstorms, heat waves and coastal flooding boosted by rising seas.

On current trends, average global temperatures are on track to jump by more than 3°C (5.4°F) by 2100, even if national carbon-cutting pledges annexed to the Paris Agreement are honoured.

Without those pledges, the increase would be much higher.

To date, efforts to keep the planet from overheating have focused mostly on the main greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, a byproduct of burning fossil fuels that accounts for at least 70 per cent of warming.

But even as CO2 output has started to plateau, methane (CH4) - which is responsible for about 20 per cent of the increase in global temperatures - is soaring.

Indeed, the pace of recent emissions aligns with the most pessimistic scenarios laid out by the UN's top science authority, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Methane is 28 times more efficient at trapping the sun's heat.

As with carbon dioxide, Earth naturally absorbs and releases methane.

But industrialisation and a surging human population have upset a long-standing natural balance, leaving an excess of both heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere.

Even if scientists agree that total emissions of methane are rising sharply, they remain uncertain as to why.

Today, some 60 per cent of methane originates from human activity, the rest coming from wetlands and other natural sources.

About a third of human-generated methane is a byproduct of the fossil fuel industry.

Researchers point to a surge in coal-generated power in China, along with leakage from the natural gas fracking boom in the United States.

'Both these regions are thought to play a role' in the sudden hike, said Marielle Saunois, lead author of the editorial as well as the review, and an assistant professor at the University of Versailles Saint Quentin.

But coal-fired plants and leaks from gas production are not sufficient, and do not fit with the dramatic increase in the last two years, she told AFP.

A more likely culprit, the study concluded, is livestock production and agriculture (especially rice paddies), which together account for nearly two-thirds of man-made methane emissions.

A third possibility is a slow-down in the natural chemical reaction in the atmosphere that breaks down methane.

A more frightening prospect - that climate change has started to unlock massive natural stores of the gas in sub-Arctic permafrost - has been set aside, said Saunois. 'Right now, it is a very minor factor,' she told AFP.

'But there's still a high degree of uncertainty, and not necessarily a consensus among scientists.'

When it comes to climate change, methane's saving grace is that it is much more short-lived in the atmosphere than CO2.



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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