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Archive for November, 2008

Climate Change Activism’s Wreck of a Train

Observationally, they have nothing to show to support their claims of upcoming climate disasters. Scientifically, they got it mixed up and regularly distort what Science is and is not showing. In practice, they are using persuasion tools developed to save pandas and the Hudson river, and those are the wrong ones because Anthropogenic Global Warming is not a species in peril now or a river polluted at the present, but a risk for the end of the century.

No wonder then, Climate Change activists have been fighting a mostly political battle for at least two decades. And the main objective appears time and again to force their solutions upon us, and to stifle all forms of dissent.

In desperation, what else have they got?

Nothing to Show: AGWers’ Big Stumbling Block

2008/11/27 16 comments

UPDATE NOV 29: William M Connolley says he is not impressed by Romm’s list either

There’s an underlying feeling of desperation in Joe Romm (ClimateProgress)’s “What are the near-term climate Pearl Harbors?, a list “of what might drive action strong enough to avoid the worst“.

The list includes the Arctic “ice-free before 2020“, “superstorms like Katrina“, “a heatwave as bad as Europe’s 2003” , and the 2012 IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (perish the thought it might be less catastrophiliac than the Fourth Assessment Report…).

Note that Romm’s blog has been echoed by Heliophage, on Andrew Revkin’s Dot Earth, and in Nature’s Climate Feedback. An unwise move, if you ask me: one wonders what people would make if they knew that those claiming to work towards saving Planet Earth, are actively hoping disasters of all sorts befall upon us.

Talk about striving for unpopularity!!!

The desperation is evident in the fact that a person allegedly as well-informed on climate stuff as Romm, comes up with wholly inappropriate examples. Katrina was a big storm but not more superstorm than other hurricanes (Romm even acknowledges this point), and the destruction of New Orleans was evidently a matter of bad engineering and incompetent relief management. Didn’t he have anything better to put forward?

Likewise for the European heatwave of 2003. And even more importantly: neither Katrina, nor the European heatwave, can be linked to Climate Change and/or Global Warming. And so if, say, another heatwave will materialize, it will tell us absolutely nothing about Climate Change and Global Warming.

Actually, looking at the list of 9 items posted by Romm, the only ones that may provide ammunitions to the AGW cause may be the ice-free Arctic, and “accelerated mass loss in Greenland“.

Most likely, Romm is simply and perhaps unwittingly acknowledging the fact that for all the huffing and all the puffing, there is very little that AGWers can show to support their claims.

Look at when Revkin (a journalist I am grudgingly but steadily learning to respect) makes a very clear point to Romm:

As I [Revkin] wrote in 2006 (”Yelling Fire on a Hot Planet“) problems that get people’s attention (and cause them to change) are “soon, salient and certain” and the dangerous aspects of human-forced climate disruption remain none of those things

In other words, the dangers of AGW are not about to happen, they are not strikingly conspicuous, and they are not sure or inevitable.

And what has Romm got to reply to that? Very little. Actually, almost nothing: he spells out some kind of humanitarian deathwish, a desire for a big climate crisis; makes a critical point against journalists (who doesn’t); and decries how he understands things but most people don’t:

Multi-hundred-billion-dollar-sized government action happens only when there is a very, very big crisis […] labeled as such by very serious people who are perceived as essentially nonpartisan opinion leaders […] bad things must be happening to regular people right now […]

Better journalism would help. […] We simply don’t have a critical mass of credible nonpartisan opinion leaders who understand the nature of our energy and climate problem.

Revkin’s “soon, salient and certain“, by the way, is a quote originally from “Helen Ingram, a professor of planning, policy and design at the University of California, Irvine.

Won’t Prof. Ingram be excited upon hearing that salience is not a problem, but persons not being bright enough is…

The supreme pinnacle of irony, in the Romm/Revkin exchange, lies in the former’s misunderstanding of the latter’s point about “certainty“. In 2006, Revkin noted that:

Projections of how patterns of drought, deluges, heat and cold might change are among the most difficult, and will remain laden with huge uncertainties for a long time to come […]

While scientists say they lack firm evidence to connect recent weather to the human influence on climate, environmental campaigners still push the notion […]

Romm’s reply? Another accusation, refusing to acknowledge Revkin’s first point (emphasis in the original):

You [Revkin] understand this but you don’t convey this to your readers: Doing nothing or doing little eliminates the uncertainty.

Romm’s near-term climate Pearl Harbors post, actually, does look suspiciously as a way of “pushing a notion” the non-scientific notion of connecting recent weather to (future?) climate change.

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The above doesn’t look very promising for the AGW movement.

I am actually starting to think that the problem is in the fact that most AGWer haven’t grasped the nature of the issue they are concerned about. And so they use the tools learned to protect pandas or clean up the Hudson river. And for most intents and purposed, they fail: because, as Revkin has realized, Anthropogenic Global Warming, aka Climate Change, truly is a completely different beast.

Climate News Confusion At The National Geographic Society

2008/11/26 1 comment

Just sent to the National Geographic Society newsdesk

Subject: Acidic oceans…are you out of your mind?

Dear Newsdesk

Who dreamed up the title for the “Oceans Ten Times More Acidic Than Thought” story?

It is absurdly misleading.

What the scientists have reported is that “the acidity INCREASED ten times QUICKER than climate models predicted” (my emphasis). It is written in the second sentence of that same article.

Do check it out with all major media organizations: they all reported something along the line of “Oceans Becoming Acidic Ten Times FASTER Than Thought” (again, my emphasis)

Please correct the title of the story at the earlies opportunity. This is too big a mistake to leave untouched.

There are other obvious issues with the original scientific article but I’ll talk about them in a later blog…

A “Scientific Ombudsman” To Avoid a Scientific Schism

The Scientist” reports about University of Cambridge biologist Peter Lawrence‘s (and others’) complaint against Cell, “one of the most cited scientific journals” according to Wikipedia.

Improper citation, disregard for antecedent research, and shoddy experimentation – those are just a few of the allegations levied against a recent research paper […]

Lawrence wrote in a letter to Cell that the paper was “seriously flawed both scientifically and ethically […]” Lawrence’s letter was not published in Cell, but he sent it to The Scientist. […]

Editors at Cell did not respond to an email request for comment in this story. However, the journal’s senior scientific editor, Connie Lee, did respond to Lawrence’s letter [but] declined his request to publish a minireview, instead offered Lawrence the opportunity to post his comments on Cell’s website. […]

Lawrence, however, would like to see action taken to address the issue of scientific scoopsmanship on a broader level. “There should be some kind of scientific ombudsman that people could contact when they feel they’ve been wronged,” he said. “At the moment, there’s nothing.”

It is said that scientific peer-review is like Democracy: full of flaws, but there isn’t anything better (I do have indirect experience with asinine comments by ignorant reviewers taken as Truth by editors of scientific journals with a purpose). But Democracy has been evolving and dare I say improving itself with time, whilst peer-review is somehow considered too saintly to be touched.

This has the unfortunate consequence that there are now people explicitly asking for its “overhaul”.

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UPDATE NOV 26: The Scientist has today another article praising peer-review as it happens today, and a few comments critical of it.

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The risk there is for a major Scientific schism, with some sticking to their little ivory towers of mutual peer-review; and others deliberately abandoning any attempt to publish in peer-reviewed journals, consigning their work to the Internet masses.

Whole areas of research may descend into “scientific wars” full of mutually-incompatible claims about the world we all live in. That will leave everybody unfamiliar with the field at a complete loss on what is, and what is not known.

This may have already happened, in Climatology, leading to Intergovernmental Panels etc etc.

I’d rather prefer a scientific ombudsman, thank you very much.

The “Argumentum ad Timorem” and the Failure of Climate Models

2008/11/25 2 comments

Fellow netizen LM reminds me about Mark Buchanan’s “Thesis” op-ed in Nature Physics: “Less reticence on nonlinear climate change” (May 2007, Vol. 3, p. 291). A few extracts:

“…There are so many factors involved [in global climate] that no one can be absolutely sure […]
[Computational models] always seem open to legitimate criticism given the number of parameters they contain […]
The latest and biggest model may be ‘the best’, in some sense, but that doesn’t mean it is any good […]
What we shouldn’t be reticent about are the inherent dangers of strongly disturbing a highly nonlinear system that we’re not close to understanding, and on which our lives depend. We may not know the future, but we can have confidence that it won’t unfold gradually and predictably. There will probably be plenty of surprises, driven by instabilities and positive feedbacks. Precaution would seem very well-advised.”

(by the way: a trip to the local Library and a few days of wait for that magazine to be delivered there are in order…nice to see how “Nature” opts for the milking of $32 out of its readers rather than the free and full dissemination of articles on an issue about which they claim “time is running out“…)

Buchanan’s point is as interesting as it is flawed. And it is interesting because it can be used:

  1. to argue that climate skeptics have been right all along: climate models are no good, and
  2. to illustrate yet another example of out-and-out catastrophism, taking “change” as synonym of “bad”, and
  3. to elucidate the flawed reasoning behind appeals to fight Climate Change in the name of the Precautionary Principle, with the Argumentum ad Timorem of accepting AGW as a given, out of fear for its consequences.

BYE-BYE MODELS
Wittingly or otherwise, Buchanan is suggesting that all the work done to model the global climate has been futile at best:

  1. Models have inherently flawed results “no one can be absolutely sure” of (actually, that’s an euphemism). We can’t even tell if the best model is “any good”
  2. Model have brought us nowhere in our quest to grasp the evolution of climate, “a highly nonlinear system that we’re not close to understanding”
  3. Models can’t tell us much or anything at all about the future they purport to be describing. We can only have confidence in the fact that “there will probably be plenty of surprises”

No need to spend millions of dollars to figure out the above: even RealClimate acknowledges that climate models are “scenarios” and not “predictions”. It is not just a matter of building more powerful computers: no model will ever be able to take into consideration a future volcanic eruption, for example, as the actual start and end dates cannot be fathomed in advance by any computer we can dream of.

Everything considered, in Buchanan’s view models become a big waste of time, and of money, with the situation made all the worse as models are what politicians refer as predictive tools, when trying to conjure up ways to prevent a climate catastrophe.

Climate skeptics, wondering for years what the value could be in a multidecadal computer simulation with no chance of direct verification, truly may feel vindicated.

CHANGE IS ALWAYS BAD (DON’T TELL OBAMA)
Buchanan takes it for granted that climatic reactions will always be bad. And he brings his reasoning to its logical conclusion:

[…] Talk of a catastrophic shutdown of the North Atlantic Conveyor, or of possible ‘runaway’ global warming, isn’t irresponsible hysteria; it’s plausible speculation that is consistent with everything we know about nonlinear sysems. […]

Cue troublemaking “instabilities” and ominous “positive feedbacks”.

Yet, if we can only expect that in the future “there will probably be plenty of surprises”, why wouldn’t positive surprises be just as likely to happen as negative ones? For example: a more benign global climate, more rain in the deserts, fewer/weaker hurricanes, etc etc.

It’s exactly because we do not understand the climate, that everything and anything can happen in the short-, medium- and long-term.

FLAWED REASONING BEHIND THE ARGUMENTUM AD TIMOREM
Upon casual reading, models appear pretty much irrelevant in Buchanan’s description: the real point of climate change worry is not the uncertain stuff the models indicate, rather that we shouldn’t be “strongly disturbing” the climate because we do not know how it might react. That’s a good example of the Precautionary Principle: don’t do it if you have the remotest chance of hurting/killing some human (or animal) in the process.

And it’s also an “Argumentum Ad Timorem”, a reasoning based on fear: don’t touch anything, it might break!

In other words, Buchanan recommends precaution in face of admitted, abject ignorance and outright fear of what could happen. Note how the phraseology implies that Homo Sapiens is an extraneous body to the rest of the Biosphere. Quadrillions of microorganisms can “breathe” in and out as they please, yet it’s the animal called human that is singled out as the Strong Disturbance.

And how can we define what “strongly disturbing” means, in order to avoid doing that? After all there are many ways in which we (as individuals, and as a species) interact with the highly nonlinear system we live in. It’s not just CO2 emissions: people cut trees, replant forests, build roads, turn on stoves, cover green fields with industrial estates. One feels that unless the human race is trimmed down to 10,000 or less by tomorrow, we are bound to be “strongly disturbing”, whatever we do. Alternatively, by opting for voluntarily holding one’s breath, again we can stop disturbing (within a few minutes) whatever we have been disturbing so far.

Often, the Precautionary Principle appears as unassailable as it is paralyzing. But there is a way out, in matters of Climate Change.

In fact: why is Buchanan worried about CO2 emissions? Because climate models suggest that emissions may lead to changes in global climate. But at the same time, those same models are not good enough to make Buchanan limit his worrying.

With an understanding far from complete, and little clue on how the system will actually evolve, Buchanan finds himself fearing any “strong disturbing” of a system that we have been living with for thousands of years. Hence the Argumentum ad Timorem, whose actual source is in the models, not in the “disturbing”. Like a cancer test reporting too many false positives, worrisome-yet-too-uncertain models are less than useless: they are dis-useful: effectively, harmful.

Remove the models, and the very bases for the Precautionary Principle and the Argumentum ad Timorem go with them. And didn’t we show a few lines back, that climate models are a big waste of time, and of money?

Barbecued Climate Stations: Reality Catches Up With Fiction

For a bit of Sunday fun, compare the picture of the official NOAA USHCN climate station of record in Fairbury, NE (from WUWT’s “How not to measure temperature, part 75” of Nov 20, 2008) with the cartoon published on WUWT’s “Grilling the Data” of Sep 19, 2007

Official NOAA USHCN climate station of record in Fairbury, NE

Official NOAA USHCN climate station of record in Fairbury, NE

How do you want that data?

How do you want that data?

They have substituted a tree for the happy “I love UHI” chap and the sausages…perhaps the NOAA USHCN people are starting to get inspiration from WUWT jokes to locate their climate stations?

NASA Study Confirms Climatic Impact of Weather Station Relocation

2008/11/22 6 comments

UPDATE NOV 25: Anthony Watts did cover the mentioned LA weather station in a March 24, 2008 post. I was looking for the Earth Observatory link, while he mentions the JPL one. Still, my blog below adds to the story, by providing links to the original Poster Presentation and pointing out that many stations were moved around 1998-1999.

Perhaps there is a good reason why the study below is not mentioned in Watts Up With That or at surfacestations.org. Perhaps it’s just me unable to use Google properly. Or for some reason I am the first one making the connection.

So in full glare of all my ignorance I point to this Poster Presentation at the 16th Applied Climatology Conference, American Meteorological Society, Jan. 14-18, 2007, San Antonio, TX (joint with the 14th Symposium on Meteorological Observations and Instrumentation):

Patzert, W.C., S. LaDochy, J. K. Willis, and T. Mardirosian, 2007: Will the real Los Angeles stand up: Impacts of a station move on climate records (and record weather) (short Abstract) (long Abstract)

Some may remember seeing that study mentioned on NASA’s Earth Observatory (EO)’s “A Tale of Two Sites: Impacts of Relocating L.A.’s Weather Station” (Jan 17, 2007).

Since it’s a Poster Presentation, a brief note about the authors is due, to check their trustworthiness (you wouldn’t believe what is presented nowadays as “poster” in many scientific conferences):

“Mardirosian Mystery” aside: what is that they’ve found?

In August, 1999, the National Weather Service (NWS) moved the official downtown Civic Center weather station to the University of Southern California (USC) campus, a 3.78 miles (almost 6 km) distance to the southwest of its previous location near city center at the Department of Water & Power (DWP) […]

By moving the official LA downtown weather station location, weather is now recorded as cooler, drier and less extreme than at its original DWP location […] there appears to be a discontinuity in the records. Maximum and mean temperatures are cooler, especially Tmax. Minimum temperatures are similar for the two sites. DWP also records higher rainfall amounts, although there is great variability monthly and inter-annually. Extremes occur less often at USC than DWP. […]

Moving a weather station away from the city resulted in cooler, drier, and less extreme weather. And in a “discontinuity in the records”. That appears to vindicate all the work done by Anthony Watts and surfacestations indeed.

Consequences? For example:

[…] In the 2004-5 water year (July 1-June 30), the USC rain total was 37.25” (946.2 mm), second only to 1883-84, which had 38.18” (969.8 mm). However, DWP recorded 38.32 (973.3 mm), which would have been the wettest year on record for downtown Los Angeles had not the station moved […]

[…] At USC, the all-time record for highest temperature minimum for the date June 4th was set with 68oF (previous record being 66F in 1997). At DWP, the Tmin was 70F. […]

We are talking 973.3-946.2=27.1mm and 70F-66F=around 1C overestimated in downtown LA compared to the new site. In the first case, we would have heard about “yet another climate record” having been broken. In the second case, we would have been told a temperature value that is more wrong than the total estimated temperature increase from 1850 to today.

And it’s just one station, where they were “fortunate in that the original location (DWP) is still in operation and can be compared to the new site“. Sounds ominous doesn’t it? It means that most of the time, a new station’s measures are simply attached to the previous one’s, with no time provided for suitable medium-term comparison.

Actually, it’s worse. From the EO:

The National Weather Service moved the station [in 1999] as part of a nationwide effort to locate all official weather stations on ground-level sites in natural settings

In other words, there are many weather station records that are for all intents and purposes useless for comparing recent data to measure done before around 1999.

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And before somebody says that the above would have resulted in a spurious cooling trend for LA: it doesn’t matter. What matters is always the quality of the data.

And if NASA says that many weather stations have poor quality records, doubts on the very existence of an ongoing, potentially worrying global warming can only increase.

Has anybody noticed how the “warming trend” has almost stopped…exactly since 1999?

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