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Archive for August, 2008

From Chicken and Egg, to CO2 and Fuel

Which one came first…the push to consume less fuel, or the worry that CO2 could be near dangerous, climate-tipping levels?

Who knows? For certain, some statements by EU officials do make one wonder…

We do see reports of a significant change in the types of cars people are buying, but I’ve been mostly surprised at the lack of a reaction,” [towards meeting emissions control targets] said Peder Jensen, a transportation expert at the European Environment Agency, an arm of the European Union in Copenhagen. “One had hoped that these prices would deter driving, but people have coped better than we hoped they would.”

Enough With the Prostitution of Science

2008/08/29 1 comment

Dr Michael Fitzpatrick takes advantage of the publication of two new books on the lies behind much of the anti-AIDS campaigns to make a strong point about the dangerous coupling of political interests with experts’ high-minded society-changing goals:

in a 1996 commentary on the British AIDS campaign […] journalist Mark Lawson accepted that the public had been misled over the threat of AIDS, but argued that the end of promoting sexual restraint (especially among the young) justified the means (exaggerating the risk of HIV infection): as he put it, ‘the government has lied and I am glad’.

This sort of opportunism is not confined to AIDS: in other areas where experts are broadly in sympathy with government policy – such as passive smoking, obesity and climate change – they have been similarly complicit in the prostitution of science to propaganda.

A few details that may or may not sound quite close to contemporary AGW campaigning:

  • the AIDS bureaucracy [is] a ‘byzantine’ world…in which ‘money eclipses truth’.
  • the British AIDS story is an example of a ‘glorious myth’ – a tale that is ‘gloriously or nobly false’, but told ‘for a good cause’.
  • ‘estimates and projections are “cooked” or made up’.
  • [they were] manipulating statistics to maximise their scare value
  • exaggerated claims for the scale of the HIV epidemic (and the risks of wider spread) […] enable authorities to claim the credit for subsequently lower figures, as they ‘ride to glory’ on curves showing declining incidence
  • the main problem of the mendacity […] is that it leads to misdirected, ineffective and wasteful campaigns […] while the real problems […] are neglected
  • over the past decade, mainstream AIDS scientists, including most infectious disease epidemiologists, have virtually all uncritically accepted the many “glorious” myths and misconceptions UNAIDS and AIDS activists continue to perpetuate’

Alpine Melt Reveals…There’s Nothing Special About Today’s Climate

2008/08/27 3 comments

An interesting piece of news from the BBC that screams out very loud “there is nothing special about today’s climate“.

Yet, it’s all to be read between the lines, as the “greenhouse gases” are taken as the current warming’s culprit as a matter of course (i.e. without thinking).

Basically, alpine archeologists are having a field day (ha! ha!) with retreating glaciers exposing very, very ancient human artifacts. It should go without saying that if humans were up there at a time when gore-tex had not been invented and mountaineering superstores were not around, it must have been considerably warm. Also, everything buried under a glacier must have been there before the glacier trundled by.

So it must have been warm around 3,300BC and 4,500BC. How about the rest of the time? I have found this graph online. Once again, it’s in Italian, but should not be difficult to decypher. It shows how temperatures have changed in the Western Alps during the last 11,000 years (Western Swiss Alps, I understand, as the graph is supposed to be from the University in Berne):

Western Alps temperatures during the last 11,000 years

Western Alps temperatures during the last 11,000 years

Quick analysis:
  • Present temperatures are relatively high compared to the past
  • The 16C threshold has been touched, for the 5th time in 10,000 years
  • It’s the 7th time that temperatures are on the way up, even without considering the increase immediately following the last Ice Age

Furthermore: whoever put that arrow shooting skywards, must be a comedian (or an involuntary comedian). Climatechangeology is a naked science indeed.

How Is Solar Cycle 24 Doing?

2008/08/27 2 comments
Spotless Periods

Spotless Periods

This page about solar cycle 24 is in Italian but should be easy to understand. Here the rankings of cycle 24 so far, since 1849:

(a) current number of spotless days: 37 (17th longest ever, and counting)

(b) number of spotless periods longer than 20 days: 5 (5th)

(c) number of spotless days: 415 (9th)

Actually, the “spots” that have been claimed for around July 19, didn’t look like sunspots to me at all. Without them, the number of spotless days is 64, that is the third ever.

Climate Models Are Correct (And Useless)

2008/08/26 2 comments

Climate models are correct indeed. Because, as Bill Clinton would love to say, it depends on what the definition of “correct” is.

In the real world, climate models cannot be falsified by a single observation (modelists say it’s “only weather”), or by a set of short-term observations (they call it “just a specific trajectory”).

In theory, one could wait a sufficient number of years in order to statistically check if the world has actually got warmer, but in practice models don’t include volcanoes, clouds, solar activity, etc: therefore, even if observations diverge from the models, all the modelists will do is find a “culprit” that can justify the discrepancy.

For the 1940-1970 cooling climate, they say “it was the aerosols”. Never mind that it could be a made-up story.

RealClimate’s own Gavin has said in the recent past, there is no interest in verifying if models are correct or not. Instead, the “right question” appears to be: “are there analyses that will be made over the next few years that will improve the evaluation of climate models?”

It should go without saying that in such a situations, models have no predictive capability beyond chance and they are for all intents and purposes useless.

Imagine modelling a human being as a heart pump with tubes coming in and out, and then when the patient dies of tuberculosis, having the superciliousness to state “the model is correct” instead of understanding that humans have a pulmonary system too (and a lot of other systems).

AGW Disaster at the IGC Meeting?

2008/08/22 1 comment

A whole scientific conference with a session on climate has gone by, but for some reason there’s been no mention of it in any major media sources. Actually, RealClimate talks about it in non-concealed disconcerted terms.

The International Geological Congress must have been some kind of disaster for the AGW crowd.

Will it be enough to demonstrate that there is a sizable community of “climate contrarians”, that is scientists that don’t buy in the AGW disaster “consensus”? Is this list enough to stop people from saying that climate skeptics’ numbers are “dwindling”?

I guess not.

Introducing John P. Holdren, Harvard Authoritarian

2008/08/20 3 comments

In supreme case of Irony with capital “I”, and as a fitting tribute to Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s courage as a free thinker, the following articles have appeared almost at the same time:

First, selected quotes from Holdren’s raging philippic on the dangers of “unfounded skepticism about the disruption of global climate” (Holdren is “professor at the Kennedy School of Government and the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Harvard and the director of the Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts”):

The few climate-change “skeptics” with any sort of scientific credentials […] muddying of the waters of public discourse […] parroting of these arguments by […] amateur skeptics […] climate-change skeptics […] infest talk shows, Internet blogs, letters to the editor, op-ed pieces, and cocktail-party conversations […] the denier fringe […]

The extent of unfounded skepticism about the disruption of global climate by human-produced greenhouse gases is not just regrettable, it is dangerous. It has delayed – and continues to delay – the development of the political consensus that will be needed if society is to embrace remedies commensurate with the challenge. The science of climate change is telling us that we need to get going. Those who still think this is all a mistake or a hoax need to think again.

Presumably, Holdren means climate change skeptics need a good bit of re-education until they change their minds. After all, the danger they cause is because for Holdren, the only way to tackle “the challenge” is by developing an all-encompassing, literally unanimous “political consensus”.

People should just defer to the experts, and just shut up if any one of those “dangerous ideas” pop up in their heads.

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Compare the above with what The Economist has to say about Democracy, and the one aspect about which Solzhenitsyn “was wrong”:

Democracies produce a cacophony, in which each voice complains that its own urgent message is being drowned in a sea of pap. […] The cacophony is the lesser evil. Ideas should not be suppressed, but nor should they be worshipped. […] There is no sure defence against bad ideas, but one place to start is with a well-educated and sceptical citizenry that is free to listen to the notions of the intellectuals but is not in thrall to them—and, yes, may prefer the sports channel instead. The patrician in Solzhenitsyn hated this lack of deference in the West. That is one respect in which the great man was wrong

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Holdren’s “unanimous political consensus” is not a solution for climate change. It is an evil, a much larger evil than Democracy, and skepticism, will ever be: because it would mean having no defence against what could potentially be very bad ideas indeed (such as giving climate control precedence over development or fighting disease).

About Debate-Challenged Climate Scientists

2008/08/20 4 comments

A truly awful and extremely funny remark from the recent “Trip Report” by Goddard’s Climate Supremo Jim Hansen:

My guess is that scientists may not fare very well in”…”you-tube “debates” between scientists and contrarians

Why is it funny? Because what Hansen is likely trying to do is rationalize the failure of people like Gavin Schmidt to “win” any debate they are invited to.

As I have already stated, the inherent inability of Mr Schmidt and others in putting forward a cogent argument when publicly challenged, may be the reason why the RealClimate blog’s comment policy leans so much towards censorship.

Why is that statement awful? Because as a skeptic of the Carl Sagan/James Randi/Michael Shermer/Isaac Asimov variety I have followed debating scientists for more than two decades, and have seen them not just “fare very well”, but “win” hundreds of debates against believers in all sorts of fallacies, including the fakery of the Moon landings, UFOs, astrology, the paranormal, etc etc.

Why would climate scientists, and only climate scientists, be unable to survive a public challenge, whilst scientists studying evolution for example win all their debates hands down?

What is the difference? What is special about AGW?

Could the underlying problem be that, as Hansen inadvertently admits, nothing truly important has happened in terms of climate as yet, and the evidence for AGW if not for an upcoming disaster is flimsy? Direct quote from Hansen himself:

It is extremely dangerous to wait for real-world events to be so large that they overwhelm special interests and their contrarian lawyers

In other words, “real-world events” have not been large enough to justify AGW.

ps The “danger of waiting”, by the way, is exactly what some people have been claiming for many years…those people, that is, fond of carrying “The End of the World is Nigh” plaquards.

Numerical Analysis of Mark Lynas’ “Six Degrees” Claims

2008/08/19 7 comments

This is ancillary to my blog “Lynas’ “Six Degrees” of (Computed) Half Blindness“.

From Mark Lynas’ book “Six Degrees – Our Future on a Hotter Planet” I have randomly selected some pages between 3 and 241, leaving out the introduction and the “Choosing Our Future” conclusions.

These are the results in terms of number of positive, negative and catastrophic remarks (*) in each of them

Page,Positive,Negative,Catastrophic
24,0,2,3
37,2,4,1
67,0,7,0
89,7,3,0
90,2,8,1
113,2,6,5
136,0,6,3
144,0,6,0
175,0,1,6
188,0,3,1
206,0,5,1
212,0,1,3
237,0,1,3

Based on the above, for each page of Lynas’ book there is 1 positive statement, 4 negative statements and 2 catastrophic statements. There may be a trend with statements getting less and less positive, but it can be noted that the whole thing is skewed towards negativeness from the beginning.

Only one page (89) out of 13 is more positive (7) than negative (3), and the immediately following page (90) quickly brings the situation back with only 2 positives and as much as 8 negatives (plus 1 catastrophic).

(*) Examples

  • Positive remark: page 89 (two degrees): “the northern central part of the US…will become an increasingly important winter wheat-producing area”
  • Negative remark: page 67 (one degree): “severe bleaching will occur on most of the world’s reefs every 3-5 years by 2030”
  • Catastrophic remark: page 136 (three degrees): “drought may once again become perennial in this densely populated country” (Indonesia)

Lynas’ “Six Degrees” of (Computed) Half Blindness

2008/08/19 2 comments

I have decided to read debate-challenged Mark Lynas‘ “Six Degrees – Our Future on a Hotter Planet” on the basis of the surprisingly moderate review by Eric Steig on RealClimate.

Just as revealed by Steig, I must confess I tend to stay away from popular-science books that appear to overstate their argument. And Lynas’ book’s English cover does sport a giant wave crashing on top of a half-submerged Big Ben, with lightning out of a dark cloud and a citation from the Sunday Times defining the book as “terrifying” (on the back, the Financial Times describing it as “apocalyptic”).

Obviously, HarperCollins (the Publisher) thought it important for sales to make Lynas look like an incorregible alarmist with a penchant for “climate pornography”. Apparently, the author has lamented being “misconstrued” but I suspect the author doesn’t control much of what appears on the cover of a book, and how the contents are popular-pulverized in the Press.

In any case, the choice of quoting from Dante’s Inferno was all Lynas’.

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What do I make of it? I cannot say the book is “alarmist”, in the sense of trying to pump up the evidence for impending catastrophes. Lynas has obviously tried to stick to “available science”: but that’s exactly the main shortcoming of the book, that looks like a victim of the neurological condition called “neglect” (eg see “Hemispatial Neglect”.

“Neglect” happens when a patient simply cannot be made aware of something that is in front of them. For example in the case of “visual neglect”,  the patient may be able to describe in detail a whole image apart from some area or object in it, that simply do not register at a conscious level at all.

Analogously, current “available science” in Climatology, for whatever reason, consistently and invariably depicts what could go wrong in a warmer planet, “neglecting” what could go right.

Does anybody seriously believe that the current climatic conditions are some kind of “optimum”, so that even a 1C variation upwards can mainly bring bad news?

In the book, one would rather expect a rather even situation at the beginning, for a one- or two-degree change, getting worse as the chapters go by. You can see the actual figures in my blog “Numerical Analysis of Mark Lynas’ “Six Degrees” Claims“.

It’s 4 bad news, and 2 catastrophes, for every bit of good news.

Now, if Lynas, or any scientist, truly believes that a warmer planet will mean bad news will outnumber good news by 4 to 1 (or including catastrophes, by 7 to 1), a very, very good discussion of the reasons behind that would not only be welcome, but strictly needed.

Otherwise, as with so many other things in terms of climate, it will just be yet another extraordinary claim with no extraordinary evidence backing it.

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By the way…the preponderance of bad and catastrophic news makes it for a boring reading after a few pages of totally-predictable barrage. Lynas slips time and again (with no apparent awareness) in what management consultants would call a “reverse sh*t sandwich” situation: instead of hiding the bad between two goods (the classic “sh*t sandwich” of many performance feedback sections), it’s the good bits that have to survive in-between bad news.

For example, at page 37 we are told about coral bleaching, then the hope is thrown that the coral might survive after all, but the sandwich is completed with an expert stating it will be too hot for the coral to survive.

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Lynas’ solution to the problem is discussed at length but appears to pivot on the concept of “making policy by invoking survival of the species”. Having been unable to see much good in warming, Lynas shows a similar degree of intellectual neglect in trying to sweep aside every other problem there is in the world. Well, perhaps…but again, if stopping global warming by 1 or 6 degrees is more important than fighting malaria or hunger, we should be told exactly why.

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A final gem demonstrating my whole point, from page 278:

“people were better off and healthier in Britain under food rationing during the Second World War”

Where does that incredible statement comes from???

Either Lynas is training as a stand-up comedian, or he can truly be half-blind to the things of the world indeed.

Hansenspeak: Will Everyone Else Please Shut Up?

2008/08/19 2 comments

Is Jim Hansen evolving to become the worst enemy of AGW policies?

His “Trip Report” published on Aug 4 (from Accuweather’s Global Warming blog) shows the guy is so full of himself, if more people heard him and his style no AGW policy would ever see the light of the day.

Forget pages 1 to 13. Go to page 14 where a “pipe-dream” statement opens up a long foray into paternalism.

Notice how Richard Feynman is described as “leader” and “physics giant” (no prize to understand who should we compare Feynman to).

Grand finale on page 16, with a shameful tirade against “contrarians” (“befogged“, “keeping the public confused“, “were once scientists but now…lawyers“, “special interests“). And of course, ordinary people criticizing Hansen are just “parroting” the “contrarians“.

Who can talk then? Why, the “people who know what they are talking about“. The Pravda editors would have approved.

ps does Dr Hansen realize that the “people who know what they are talking about” statement disqualifies the first 10 pages of his “Trip Report”?

New BBC Climate Change Section

2008/08/15 1 comment

http://www.bbc.co.uk/climate/

Full of the usual yada-yada, but the page on skepticism is remarkably well written.

Only thing, they link skepticism to Science magazine. What are trying to imply? 😎

Ruining the Planet, One Toad At A Time

Cornelia Dean is right in pondering the risks inherent in experimenting with scientific fixes meant to save the planet from global warming but with “environmental effects impossible to predict and impossible to undo” (“Experts ponder the hazards of using technology to save the planet“, IHT, Aug 12, 2008).

Actually, that is not just an issue for the future. There are several examples from the past of enviromental cures that have turned out to be worse than the original problem. One of the biggest, and perhaps the best known, is the story of the introduction of Cane Toads to Australia.

Originary of South America, and imported to Australia in 1935 as a scientific way to control beetles that were destroying sugarcane crops, cane toads are still spreading to this day. They are harming native wildlife, poison household pets, and are unstoppably expanding their range at up to 50 kilometers (30mi) per year.

And of course the cane toads have failed to do anything to the beetles.

There is no need to repeat such a mistake on an even larger scale, by depositing sulphur in the upper atmosphere or dumping iron in the open oceans. It is high time we admit that natural systems are way beyond our control and our best bet is adaptation and the use of simple, clear technology.

The Impossible Impartiality of the BBC

2008/08/13 8 comments

I have devised a simple model explaining why the BBC is biased towards reporting pro-AGW stuff. And it does not involve a government conspiracy.

Simply, the BBC cannot report impartially on climate change or a lot of any other issues for that matters.

They will never, ever open a news bulletin by stating “Polar Ice is perfectly fine” or “There’s peace in Malawi”. The BBC journalists are bound by the way of their profession to go hunting for “bad news”: the only way global warming is going to disappear from their reports is for global cooling to kick off in some spectacular way.

I am still waiting for a news item reporting that the summer 2005 drought in the UK has finished. They (the journalists, and editors) are simply physically unable to say a word about that. And if you want an example that is completely unrelated, just look at how house prices were spoken about when they were going up (”rising property values have priced many potential first-time buyers out of the housing market”) and now that they are going down (”thousands of Britons […] have lost their homes amid spiralling repossessions by mortgage lenders”).

Even if a report mentions whale numbers are on the up, the title is “Mixed fortunes for world’s whales“. Or if a species of bird is found to be thriving under changed climate conditions, there goes in the comment “other species are likely to fare much worse than great tits as temperatures riseother species are likely to fare much worse than great tits as temperatures rise” 

“Normality” is not news and nobody will ever write about “normality”. If it gets on the BBC, it has to be bad.

A Classical Definition for Doom and Gloom

2008/08/13 1 comment

“Plutoinduced Mellonophobia”: the fear of the future for those that had never been this rich.

It defines the collective depression entrenched in contemporary European (and American) culture, manifesting itself in a series of forever gloomy expectations (peak oil, end of cheap food, catastrophic climate change, collapsing quality of life, etc)

Meanwhile in the Real World…

2008/08/12 1 comment

Bangladesh gaining land, not losing: scientists

DHAKA, July 30 (AFP) Jul 30, 2008
New data shows that Bangladesh’s landmass is increasing, contradicting forecasts that the South Asian nation will be under the waves by the end of the century, experts say.

[…] The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has predicted that impoverished Bangladesh, criss-crossed by a network of more than 200 rivers, will lose 17 percent of its land by 2050 because of rising sea levels due to global warming.

The Nobel Peace Prize-winning panel says 20 million Bangladeshis will become environmental refugees by 2050 and the country will lose some 30 percent of its food production.

Director of the US-based NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, professor James Hansen, paints an even grimmer picture, predicting the entire country could be under water by the end of the century.

But Sarker said that while rising sea levels and river erosion were both claiming land in Bangladesh, many climate experts had failed to take into account new land being formed from the river sediment. […]

Obviously AGW believers will re-iterate that the above observation does not disprove anything, yada, yada, yada. Who knows, perhaps at least one free soul among them will start to reconsider the veracity of fashionable catastrophism.

Why Climate Change is Unbearably Naked

2008/08/05 6 comments

What do I find so impossibly sloppy to bear, about Climate Change in its contemporary definition, as the result of human activities (also known as “Anthopogenic Global Warming” or AGW, and usually associated to CO2 emissions caused by humans)?

Yesterday’s incredible (counter-)discovery by Anthony Watts on CO2 measurements getting corrected upwards after having gone downwards “for the first time in history” provides an opportunity for a non-exhaustive list (I may add links to each point next week) of all that depaupers Climate Change of actual meaning:

  • Climate models are all based on forcings, something that cannot be measured. The tool has become the cause.
  • Those same models are demonstrably “right” whatever happens, either warming or cooling (once again, as all they show is that forcings are supposed to do)
  • Proponents are fixated on negativities (not just the newsmedia and the Stern Report…I have some interesting findings about a recent book on Climate Change, and I will publish them this week or next)
  • Climate change is improbably comprehensive in its effects, and yet “Attribution”, the ability to pinpoint a particular change as having something to do with Climate Change, is still up in the air
  • The IPCC itself cannot see much evidence for change in 2/3 (two-thirds!) of the planet
  • The “truth” is that temperatures are going up but if one looks at actual measurements, they are continuously adapted and adjusted. Measurement stations are not increasing in the number, and locations are far from perfect.
  • And now of course, on-the-fly upward adjustments of CO2 data appear just as values begin to go “the wrong way”.

I personally agree with Watts when he writes: “While nefarious motives may not be there, its just damn sloppy IMHO, and given this is the crown jewel for CO2 data I expect far better“.

And please don’t get me wrong…I am perfectly aware that such generalized sloppiness is part-and-parcel of modern Science, with genetists looking for Mendelian transmission of what is not Mendelian and a whole generation of Cosmologists trained on calling 96% of the Universe as “Dark Matter” and “Dark Energy”, two names for the same thing (“Total Ignorance”).

“Institutionalized Science” is of course 80% rubbish, as per the famous 80/20 rule.

But the whole Climate debate is much more than Science. And for that, there is still so much it needs to be dressed with, before it can be shown as properly thought of, and ready for being a solid basis for a revolution in societal mores.

If I read about “scientists demonstrating that train travel is impossible” I may get a laugh, as people at the time surely did. But when I see all the massive propaganda machine put in place to convince people to turn carbon-free by way of guilt, there isn’t much to be amused of.

If the keys to absolute gullibility are ever found, we may as well all turn back to live up the trees.

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