Friday, April 28, 2017

Cold Comfort from Ice Core Records of Climate

The attempt to defend Warmism below would appear to have solved a problem -- but not the problem they think it solved.  The big problem for Warmists is to show synchrony between CO2 levels and temperature.  There is so little synchrony in modern times that their only recourse has been to look at paleoclimate -- the climate of many thousands of years ago -- as estimated from ice-cores etc.  And when they do that, they appear to find the synchrony they need.   CO2 and temperature seem to go up and down roughly in tandem.

Skeptics however have always made the point that synchrony is not enough.  Following David Hume's notion of causation, you cannot say that X caused Y unless you can show that X PRECEDED Y.  And that is where Warmists became unglued.  If you looked closely at the paleoclimate record, you found that the causation was the other way around:  Warming preceded and hence probably caused CO2 increases, not the other way around.  Pesky!

A small puzzle was that the warming seemed to precede CO2 rises by a lot.  There was a gap of, for example, 800 years between a warming event and a CO2 event.  So the CO2 event and the temperature event were not connected at all.  They were not part of one continuous process. There seemed in fact to be NO causal relationship between the two variables. Skeptics didn't bother too much about that, though.  It was sufficient to show that the sequence required by Warmism did not occur in the record.

But that gap did of course burn Warmist up a bit in their rare moments of honesty and some recent research has gone into getting the timing of the various events precisely right.  The paleoclimate record is very imprecise so I was always possible that more precise measures of it might not show that pesky gap.

And so it seems to have happened. The report below from one of the few Warmist sites that tries to make a scientific case for Warmism lists several studies that essentially eliminate the gap. They find that warming events and CO2 rises were roughly synchronous.  And I am going to take that as read.  I am not going to take a critical look at the studies concerned.

And one of the reasons why I am going to take the "discovery" as read is that it makes sense.  Warming and CO2 levels SHOULD be pretty synchronous.  Warming should cause the oceans to outgas CO2 and thus should produce, more or less immediately, higher levels of CO2 in the atmosphere.

So the new data do nothing to support the Warmist case.  Rather than show that CO2 causes warming, they are perfectly compatible with warming causing an atmospheric CO2 rise.  Warmists still have no proof anywhere that atmospheric CO2 rises cause terrestrial temperature rises.

It is always a bit of a thrill for me to look at posts on "Skeptical Science", from which the report below comes.  They always seem so sound and solid in their conclusions at first glance.  So it is a challenge to spy out the fast and loose bits that their arguments depend on.  Usually, they simply omit contrary evidence but on some occasions their fault is simply a fault of logic -- as below

When it comes to climate change imagery, the ice core record is kind of a rock star. Graphs of ice core data have become as common as pictures of polar bears and traffic-jammed Los Angeles freeways. And it’s easy to see why- atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, the most important long-lived greenhouse gas, and reconstructions of temperature at the core sites track each other beautifully. As ice cores have been pulled from deeper beneath the surface of polar ice sheets (the longest, in Antarctica, reaching nearly two miles down) the synchronized movement of temperature and greenhouse gases grows more compelling, stretching back more than 800,000 years into the past. In 2006, the ice core record made its big screen debut, with a sizable role in the documentary An Inconvenient Truth. Al Gore showed two lines, CO2 in red and temperature in blue, moving faithfully together across millennia. Matching peak for peak, dip for dip. The effect was mesmerizing. Suddenly, CO2 skyrockets almost straight up, the result of our modern emissions. The implication for future temperature is clear. Gore characterized the pairing this way:

The relationship is very complicated. But there is one relationship that is more powerful than all the others and it is this. When there is more carbon dioxide, the temperature gets warmer, because it traps more heat from the sun inside.

As the profile of the ice core record increased, it became the subject of attacks from those seeking to cast doubt on the reality of human-driven climate change. Some dismissed the data because they disagreed with older methods of estimating past levels of CO2, such as fossilized plant stomata. Others claimed that the coring process caused degassing that corrupted the data. Eventually, many contrarians seized upon a line in a paper (Caillon et al., 2003) published a few years before AIT to claim the entire premise of global warming, the whole enchilada, was wrong. They had found, or at least believed they had found, a loophole. An out. And they had it in writing.

They claimed that temperature and CO2 might move together, but rather than CO2 driving changes in temperature, changes in temperature actually preceded the changes in CO2. It said so, right there in the paper, “the CO2 increase lagged Antarctic deglacial warming by 800 ± 200 years”. And since effect can’t precede cause, CO2 can’t possibly be responsible for changes in planetary temperature. If CO2 “lags”, the contrarians said, it can’t lead. That big CO2 increase Al Gore showed in his movie? It was nothing to worry about. If CO2 was doing the leading now, temperature wasn’t going to follow, period. The contrarians were triumphant.

This “lag not lead” claim was echoed across blogs and online forums, made its way around the News Corp media empire, and appeared in a widely-watched anti-climate-science polemic The Great Global Warming Swindle. It was even championed by Congressman Joe Barton, former Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. It remains one of the most common objections to the reality of man-made climate change to this day.

Climate scientists tried, vainly, to rebut this line of attack. They were quick to point out that, just as Gore noted, the CO2-temperature relationship is complicated. Greenhouse gases weren’t the initial cause of the temperature increases over the ice core record; subtle variations in the Earth’s position relative to the sun (called Milankovitch cycles) were. These orbitally-driven temperature variations eventually triggered changes in greenhouse gases, which then greatly boosted the initial temperature change. CO2 can be both a cause and a response- a forcing and a feedback, in the vernacular of climate science- depending on the circumstances. They also noted that there was still an enormous amount of uncertainty in the exact timing of the changes recorded by the ice cores, so that it wasn’t clear there even was a lag as large as the contrarians claimed. But more to the point, the physics of the greenhouse effect are well-understood and entirely uncontroversial. A guy named Joseph Fourier had it pretty much figured out all the way back in the 1820s (Pierrehumbert, 2004). This is about as solid as science can get, the climate scientists insisted. Our present increase of greenhouse gases will result in increasing temperature, and no amount of arguing about ice cores can negate that. You can’t cheat physics. The contrarians, convinced of their out, were unpersuaded. The arguments in comments sections of blogs and news articles raged on.

And then a funny thing happened- the lag disappeared.

Jeremy Shakun and some of his colleagues had an idea. Noting that the temperature data “leading” the CO2 in the ice core record were an estimation of local conditions near the core site in the Antarctic interior, they set out to reconstruct regional and eventually global temperature change as we thawed out of the Last Glacial Maximum (what most people call “the ice age”). Last year, they published a paper showing that global temperature change followed changes in CO2 rather than the reverse (Shakun et al., 2012). Milankovitch cycles initiated warming of the Northern Hemisphere, which melted a great deal of freshwater previously locked up in ice. This freshwater melting disrupted a global oceanic heat pump, resulting in a cooling of temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere and warming in the Southern Hemisphere. This hemispheric heat switcheroo is known as a “bipolar seesaw”. As the Southern Ocean warmed during this seesaw, it released CO2 into the atmosphere. This increase in CO2 then warmed the rest of the globe. CO2 was driving warming globally, even though it wasn’t the initial trigger. Shakun et al. further found that the Southern Hemisphere warming and CO2 increase were closely coordinated, happening within a few hundred years at most, and possibly simultaneously.

A few months later, a group of researchers led by Joel Pedro published a paper on the lag issue looking at another perspective. Noting the large uncertainty in timing associated with the longer ice core records from the interior of Antarctica, they turned to ice core records from the Antarctic coast (Pedro et al., 2012). These records don’t reach as far back into the past as the records from the interior, but were able to be dated more precisely. Like Shakun’s team, Pedro and colleagues found that the changes in Antarctic temperature did not lead changes in CO2 by 800 or 1,000 years, but rather the two changed pretty much together. This March, a third group of researchers led by Frédéric Parrenin independently confirmed this finding. Parrenin et al. attacked the lag issue from still another angle. Instead of reducing uncertainty in the timing of events by looking in other regions, they used the behavior of atmospheric nitrogen isotopes in settling within snowpack prior to freezing to better constrain the age of the existing data (Parrenin et al., 2013). In doing so they found, like Pedro and colleagues, there was essentially no lag between Antarctic temperature increases and CO2 increases.

These multiple lines of independent evidence were telling the same story- more or less what climate scientists had been trying to explain all along. Local temperature and CO2 increased together, a consequence of the orbitally-triggered warming up north and a resulting bipolar seesaw, while CO2 then drove warming globally. The greenhouse effect endures, vindicated and implacable.

The coupling of CO2 and temperature in the ice core record is a reminder that some technicality buried in the pages of a journal isn’t going to divorce our actions from their consequences. There is no loophole when it comes to physics. As we continue to drive CO2 levels ever higher, that’s something all of us- not just contrarians- should keep in mind.

More HERE  (See the original for links, graphics etc.)

Carbon tax proposals

The article below is by Jerry Taylor, a one-time libertarian and climate skeptic.  It is not clear why he eventually went over to the dark side but I suspect that when his hair began to grey, he found that his good looks could no longer pull in the chicks so he felt that he needed a boost to his social acceptability.  What he proposes below is certainly more rational than the thicket of regulations and policies that presently surround climate policies.  So he is a good critic of such policies.  I won't reproduce the whole of his post below as he simply takes global warming as read.  He gives no evidence for it at all. He is just playing establishment games

On April 11, I was invited by the Electricity Consumers Research Council (ELCON) to debate carbon taxation with the Manhattan Institute’s Oren Cass at their Spring workshop in Washington, D.C. Although the debate was not recorded, it is worth discussing. Cass is one of the most prominent and serious “anti-carbon-taxers” on  the right. His opinions, moreover, track those of Bill Gates, one of the most influential thought leaders in this field.

Our debate was a confrontation along increasingly familiar lines: Does the world need a clean energy moonshot to address climate change, or do we have the cost effective technology to do so right now? My opening remarks follow, after which I will spend a bit of time reflecting on Cass’s rebuttal.

Opening Remarks: The Dangers We Face, the Question of Uncertainty, and the Case for a Carbon Tax

Too many conversations about carbon taxation are bereft of any serious discussion about the underlying problem that we’re trying to address. So let’s begin with a quick review of our present situation, which is far more serious than Cass’s recent essay in Foreign Affairs (“The Problem with Climate Catastrophizing: The Case for Calm“) would have us believe.

According to a new study from MIT, the planet is presently on track to experience a warming of 3-5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels by 2100. The range reflects our uncertainty about how quickly the planet will respond to anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions (a concept known in the profession as “transient climate sensitivity”). MIT’s central estimate, however, is that a 4 degrees Celsius warming is the most likely outcome in 2100.

Happily, Cass—unlike most opponents of climate action—accepts the findings of mainstream science and, in his Foreign Affairs essay, accepts the 4C warming projection for 2100. Turning up the global thermostat by 4 degrees Celsius (7 degrees Fahrenheit) is a very big deal. To put that warming into perspective:

Global temperatures during the last ice age were only 4C cooler than pre-industrial norms.

Increasing the global thermostat by 6 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels has in the past delivered unto earth its most epic hothouses (think “Age of the Dinosaurs”).

The last time the atmosphere had today’s high concentrations of greenhouse gases was during the late Pliocene Epoch, some 3 million years ago. Temperatures then were only 2°C to 3.6°C above pre-industrial levels. Under those conditions, there was no Arctic ice cap and sea levels were 30-65 feet higher.

4 degrees Celsius is not the endpoint of our warming under business-as-usual. It is simply a way-point. If we manage to stabilize atmospheric CO2 from then on, inertial warming of the climate will continue beyond 2100. It isn’t until anthropogenic emissions hit zero that we will begin to plausibly reverse course on global temperature.

The MIT report indicates that global emissions in 2100 will still be larger than they are today.

We have little idea how, precisely, the planet will respond to such an unprecedentedly rapid increase in atmospheric greenhouse gases. There are literally no data points either in human or pre-human experience to inform our analysis. Nassim Taleb’s parade of black swans is marching down the street. A long list of socio-economic shocks is plausibly on the horizon.

Given the uncertainty regarding transient climate sensitivity, where the various tipping points lie for warming-related climate shocks, what the economy will look like decades hence, and how that economy will respond, we cannot say with confidence what warming will cost us by the year 2100. Here are the best (if imperfect) guesses:

William Nordhaus’s updated DICE model finds that 4C warming will reduce global GDP by 3.6%. The majority of economists who publish in the peer-reviewed literature on this matter, however, suspect that his forecast is too conservative. They believe that 3C warming will reduce global GDP by 5-10%.

If it turns out that warming affects output growth rates rather than output levels, the cost of warming will increase by many orders of magnitude (for more on this, see economists Robert Pindyck and Geoffrey Heal and Jisung Park). A recent deluge of econometric analyses of temperatures and growth rates shows this could very well be the case. Incidentally, 78% of the economists who publish in the peer-reviewed literature in this field believe that climate damages will affect growth rates.

When those same economists were asked about the chances of low-probability, high-impact outcomes from climate change reducing global GDP by 25% or more (economic losses, in other words, on the order of the Great Depression), they put the odds of that happening at 10-20% given a 3C warming.

Cass has asked me to be concrete about the carbon tax I’m advocating. My preference is for an economy-wide $45 per ton carbon tax, rising 2% above inflation every year.

The tax would be applied or rebated at the border (as necessary) so that U.S. manufacturers are not rendered uncompetitive with imports from non-acting states or exports to the same.

Federal regulatory authority to address greenhouse gas emissions would be eliminated in sub-sectors of the economy where the tax is applied.

I am agnostic about how the federal government uses carbon tax revenues (about $2 trillion over ten years) for the purpose of this discussion. The immediate need is to reduce emissions to hedge against climate risks. How revenues from that undertaking are spent is an entirely separate (fiscal) matter.

Among possibly attractive uses are offsets for corporate income tax rate cuts, providing lump-sum rebates to households to compensate them for rising energy prices, paying down the national debt, offsetting expenditures for national infrastructure, investing in low-carbon energy R&D, and investments in climate adaptation (better that polluters rather than victims of pollution pay that bill).

The tax I propose would reduce U.S. emissions by around 40% relative to business-as-usual by the mid-to-late 2020s. That would put us on a path to reduce U.S. emissions by 50-80% by 2050 (relative to 2005)—the goal that would allow us to play our part in keeping global warming from going above 2C.


The Liberal Crusade to Redefine Science

It seems every weekend brings a march for one cause or another in D.C. Last weekend, folks marched for science. Or did they?

In his preface to “Mere Christianity,” C. S. Lewis explains what happens when words lose their original meaning. Take the word “gentleman.” Once upon a time, Lewis writes, a gentleman was “one who had a coat of arms and some landed property. When you called someone ‘a gentleman,’ you were not paying him a compliment, but merely stating a fact.”

Gradually, however, “gentleman” evolved into just that—a compliment. A true gentleman was no longer someone who met the objective qualifications, but a person whom the speaker liked. Thus, concludes Lewis, “gentleman” became a useless word.

I think another important word is undergoing this same redefinition. That word, alas, is science.

There was a time when “science” meant the systematic pursuit of knowledge through experimentation and observation. But it’s rapidly becoming a synonym for progressive politics and materialist philosophy.

To be labeled a “science-denier” in 2017 often just means you’ve upset someone who insists on teaching strict, Darwinian orthodoxy in schools, or who advocates particular climate legislation, or who supports ethically fraught research on embryos.

In contrast, being “pro-science” has become a shibboleth for supporting progressive ideology. Think of a recent ad by National Geographic with the caption, “Stand behind the facts. Stand with science. Stand for the planet.” But just weeks prior, National Geographic had run a cover depicting a nine-year-old boy dressed as a girl. Because, as we know, they stand with science.

But if there were ever going to be a ceremony inaugurating this new and useless definition of science, it’s got to be last weekend’s “March for Science” in the nation’s capital, co-chaired by Bill Nye, “the science guy.” Nye, a children’s TV host from the nineties with no formal training as a scientist, has recaptured the spotlight with his videos on climate change, abortion, women’s rights, and other topics.

To say his arguments in some of these videos are embarrassing is being kind. For instance, in one odd and rambling speech promoting abortion, Nye claimed that because many lives end through natural causes before they leave the womb that it’s okay for us to kill the unborn ourselves. That’s like saying it’s okay to kill adults, because millions die of natural causes. That does not stop Nye’s supporters from honoring him as a champion of science.

But not all of the marchers are fans. After issuing several revisions to his massive “Statement on Diversity and Inclusion,” the organizers of the March for Science are fending off critics who complain that Nye is a white male whose fame is the result of privilege. One wonders who, exactly, was in charge of this debacle. An official tweet, which has since been deleted, declared that “Colonization, racism, immigration, native rights, sexism, ableism, queer-, trans-, intersex-phobia, & econ[omic] justice are scientific issues.”

Heather Wilhelm at National Review got it right when she wrote that the whole event was collapsing into a civil war of competing left-wing agendas.

I hope someone—anyone—who still believes science has a definition independent of politics will speak up. Because whether it’s the denial that life begins at conception, the denial of sex and gender as biological facts, the denial of decades of research proving that children do best with their father and mother, or the denial of dissenting voices on Darwinism, the left has proven quite capable of ignoring science.

Language is powerful. Words matter. And “science”—real science—is too important a word for us to let go the way of “gentleman.”


The March for Science Fiction

One of the asinine yet oft-repeated phrases in the modern progressive lexicon is “settled science,” an oxymoron that is the antithesis of the scientific method. The literal definition of the scientific method is “a method of procedure … consisting in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses.” Modification means alteration or change. Meaning that in science, many, many things are never “settled.”

Among the most well-known theories that have been debunked over time are that the world is flat, that the solar system is geocentric (it is heliocentric), that the physical world is made up of four elements (rather than more than a hundred currently known elements, including four new elements discovered just last year), and that atoms are the smallest units of matter. Each and every one of these was once universally accepted as infallible truth.

This makes the recent “March for Science” in Washington, DC, not only ludicrous, but an indictment of those marching while claiming to believe in science. It was not about science, but about publicly rebuking President Donald Trump behind the thin patina of ideology masquerading as science. The leftist mainstream media played its part well, praising the event while ignoring dissent from actual scientists.

With scathing wit, Jeremy Faust, an emergency medicine physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and a clinical instructor at Harvard Medical School, exposed the hypocrisy and lunacy of the march — in the lefty rag Slate, no less. He observed, “Being ‘pro-science’ has become a bizarre cultural phenomenon in which liberals (and other members of the cultural elite) engage in public displays of self-reckoned intelligence as a kind of performance art, while demonstrating zero evidence to justify it.”

Instead of elevating the quality of, and respect for, actual science, says Faust, this march “revealed the glaring dissonance of opposing that trough of ignorance by instead accepting a cringe-worthy hive-mind mentality that celebrates Science as a vague but wonderful entity. … There was an uncomfortable dronelike fealty to the concept — an oxymoronic faith that information presented and packaged to us as Science need not be further scrutinized before being smugly celebrated en masse. That is not intellectually rigorous thought — instead, it’s another kind of religion.”

Indeed, progressive Democrats claim to be the “Party of Science” yet, mind-bogglingly argue that sex/gender is determined by how one “feels” rather than by DNA and plumbing. They accept man-made global warming (now known as “climate change” to free themselves of the pesky fact that the Earth stopped warming for nearly two decades) as inarguable fact. These are the same people who chain themselves to trees to protest the “destruction” of Mother Earth, but refuse to acknowledge that a baby in utero is a living human being.

In short, they are modern-day pagans, worshipping “Gaia” while denying observable truths that conflict with their secular religion, and seeking punishment for the heretics who dare challenge their belief system with something so coarse, so crude and as unenlightened as mere facts.

The ultimate goal of the progressive religionists is to force compliance with their worldview, either through the coercive power of rigid, politically correct orthodoxy, or through punishment such as jail time for “climate change dissenters/deniers,” a position embraced by leftist celebrity and fake TV scientist Bill Nye “The Science Guy.”

CNN, in an interview with Nye and an actual scientist, physicist William Happer of Princeton, inadvertently displayed the truth behind the march with a caption that read “March for Science: Scientists Rally for EPA, Govt Funding and More.” Climate change hysteria is a big business. If you are a scientist, you have access to billions of dollars in federal grants so long as you produce “research” that proves the claims of the alarmists. Politicians pushing climate hysteria can usurp tremendous power over the lives of hundreds of millions of people in the name of saving the world from cataclysmic disaster.

The reality is that “science,” across a broad spectrum of disciplines, is not nearly as “settled” as its advocates would have us believe. In fact, the most-repeated claims have a habit of turning out to be spectacularly wrong. For example, as we’ve noted previously, leftist climate alarmists have been trying to scare us into giving up the abundant energy and higher standard of living that comes with industrialization. They warned that “civilization will end within 15 or 30 years” (Harvard biologist George Wald, 1970), and that (due to scarce food supplies), “The death rate will increase until at least 100-200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next ten years” (Paul Ehrlich, 1970), and that by 1980 “urban dwellers will have to wear gas masks to survive air pollution.”

They are often insanely wrong in their predictions, and are so wedded to their ideology that they can’t even identify fake science even when it is specifically written to be obviously wrong. Time after time, robotically generated “gibberish papers” were accepted in supposedly peer-reviewed journals.

As amusing as this can be, it’s actually dangerous. The beauty of science is that it is ruthless. It cares not for sex, race, education or socio-economic status. It cares only about replicable fact. But when science — actual science — is hijacked by partisans and ideologues, and propaganda is passed off as science, it undermines our faith in science, and therefore the truth.

And that is never a good thing.


UK foreign office cut climate staff in half under Tory government

The UK foreign office has almost halved the staff it devotes to climate change over the term of the past two Conservative-led governments.

Staffing records, released by the foreign office under freedom of information laws, show the previous Labour government more than trebled the amount of time devoted by foreign office staff to climate and energy issues between 2007 and 2009.

As the world built momentum towards ultimately calamitous 2009 climate talks in Copenhagen, foreign secretary David Miliband headed an army of climate staff, the equivalent of 277 full time jobs.

No such recruitment effort took place under the Tory government of David Cameron – who came to power promising an environmentally friendly agenda under the slogan “Vote Blue, Go Green” – in the build up for the decisive talks that took place in Paris six years later.

On the contrary, over the six years of Cameron’s government, the amount of time foreign office staff spent on climate and energy fell by 46%.

When the Paris agreement was struck, the foreign office had between 149 and 158 full time equivalent jobs in climate-related roles worldwide.

The UK is a self-styled key advocate for greater ambition at climate negotiations. In the months leading up to the Paris conference, the foreign secretary’s special representative for climate change David King helped to develop Mission Innovation, a collaboration between 22 countries and the EU to double public funding for clean energy research and development investment over five years.

Foreign office embassy staff and UK-based officials also provide support for the energy department, which leads UK negotiations at UN climate conferences.

A spokesperson from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) said: “Climate change and energy work is a network-wide priority. The FCO works closely in partnership with departments across Whitehall on the international climate change agenda.”

As campaigning begins for the UK’s June election, the Labour Party’s spokesperson on climate change Barry Gardiner said the “staggering cut in the number of FCO staff working on climate change shows that the Government is not serious about implementing the Paris Agreement”.

He referred to a report in the Times this month that prime minister Theresa May plans to “scale down” concern about climate change in order to win new trade partners post-Brexit.

“How can the public have any respect for politicians who are all too happy to sit there for the photo at the signing ceremony but then don’t deliver what is in the agreement? Theresa May has done the same on UK emissions and renewables. The implementation plan that was due last July has now been delayed indefinitely,” said Gardiner.

“Under Labour the UK led the world in climate policy. We need a Labour government that will transform our country at home into a low carbon high value economy; and abroad will give the resources and the leadership required to deliver the Paris Agreement.”



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   main.html 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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