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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?

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Climate Change

2008/11/21 9 comments

(yes, it has already been used: here, here, here, here, here)

Will human civilization survive the giant climate shifts that will be caused by our SUVs (or by any other cardinal sin brought about by the comforts of modern life)? And what about humanity?

Who knows?

But one thing I am now more sure of. The biosphere will do just fine. Plenty of animals and plants and bacteria and archeas and viruses will prosper if the world will get warmer, if it will get cooler, or if it will continue as before (whatever the meaning of “continue as before” is).

And it’s all written loud and clear in scientific, peer-reviewed literature. For example:

Jeffrey P. Severinghaus and Edward J. Brook, “Abrupt Climate Change at the End of the Last Glacial Period Inferred from Trapped Air in Polar Ice“, Science, 29 October 1999: Vol. 286. no. 5441, pp. 930 – 934 DOI: 10.1126/science.286.5441.930 (Abstract)

The last glacial period was terminated by an abrupt warming event in the North Atlantic ~15,000 years before the present, and warming events of similar age have been reported from low latitudes […] the Greenland Summit warmed 9 ± 3°C over a period of several decades, beginning 14,672 years ago […]

Jørgen Peder Steffensen et al., “High-Resolution Greenland Ice Core Data Show Abrupt Climate Change Happens in Few Years“, originally published in Science Express on 19 June 2008, Science 1 August 2008: Vol. 321. no. 5889, pp. 680 – 684 DOI: 10.1126/science.1157707 (Abstract, free Full Text)

The last two abrupt warmings at the onset of our present warm interglacial period, interrupted by the Younger Dryas cooling event, were investigated at high temporal resolution from the North Greenland Ice Core Project ice core […] A northern shift of the Intertropical Convergence Zone could be the trigger of these abrupt shifts of Northern Hemisphere atmospheric circulation, resulting in changes of 2 to 4 kelvin in Greenland moisture source temperature from one year to the next.

Let’s also keep in mind that 8 ice ages and 8 warm ages have happened during the last 800,000 years.

What can we conclude?

  1. Abrupt climatic changes happen quite often
  2. There is a sizable amount of evidence of climate changes more abrupt than anything experienced in recorded human history. In other words, present-day temperature changes are neither special nor unprecedented
  3. All existing species have gone through several rounds of those abrupt climatic changes. ADDENDUM: And since there is no evidence for periodic widespread extinction episodes linked in any way to the changes in climate, we can rest assured that the overwhelming majority of species adapt to cooler and warmer environments
  4. With or without humanity, another climate change is bound to happen. And another. And another. (etc etc)

Hence, there is very little sense in all the cries about global warming being the destroyer of life on Earth, or of any species in particular.

Note that Humanity itself has survived everything that has been thrown at it. If anybody is seriously worried, rather than overcomplicated and resultless negotiations on carbon emissions, they should dedicate all their efforts to mantaining civilization (=adaptation).

And if we take the LIA into account: who can seriously think that present-day humanity has feebler defences than 1650’s?

On Feyerabend, or…With AGW Believers Like These, Who Needs Climate Skeptics?

2008/11/21 14 comments

Curious choice of preferred “philosopher of science” for Real Climate’s Gavin Schmidt: Paul Feyerabend.

Who he? According to Schmidt:

Feyerabend had what I consider a better appreciation of how science actually works and the difficulty of trying to assign a methodology to what it is that scientists actually do

Why Feyerabend? Most likely, because Popper can’t do. Climate models cannot be falsified, you know. Much easier to stick with them if one believes that “science is an essentially anarchistic enterprise“…

But there’s plenty of more surprises behind Schmidt’s statement (why limit oneself to Wikipedia…). In a 1983 article on The New York Times (“New Attack on Galileo Asserts Major Discovery Was Stolen“), William J Broad writes:

In his 1975 book ”Against Method,” Dr. Feyerabend argued, using Galileo’s grand eloquence and reputed corner-cutting as key examples, that all progress in science depended not only on rational argument but on a mixture of subterfuge, rhetoric and propaganda.

Let’s hear it from the horse’s mouth, in a letter by Feyerabend, published on The New York Review of Books on Oct 11, 1979:

Discussing the rise of Western rationalism I pointed out that the transition created more problems than it solved, that most of the problems are still with us, that they do not occur in Homer, that Aristotle was aware of this advantage and therefore adapted philosophy to common sense.

That letter is a scathing attack against a June 28, 1979 review by David Joravsky of several books, including two by Feyerabend: “Science in a Free Society” and “Against Method: Outline of an Anarchistic Theory of Knowledge” (the one mentioned by Broad above). Joravsky replies himself quoting from “Against Method”:

[Feyerabend writes that] “Galileo the mountebank” used “deception,” “trickery,” and outright “lying” to promote views he knew he could not prove by rational argument with available evidence; and that’s the way that science develops.

Finally, two excerpts from a website allegedly publishing the whole Analytical Table of Contents from “Against Method:

[…] Galileo prevails because of his style and his clever techniques of persuasion, because he writes in Italian rather than in Latin, and because he appeals to people who are temperamentally opposed to the old ideas and the standards of learning connected with them […]

[…] Thus science is much closer to myth than a scientific philosophy is prepared to admit. It is one of the many forms of thought that have been developed by man, and not necessarily the best. It is conspicuous, noisy, and impudent, but it is inherently superior only for those who have already decided in favour of a certain ideology, or who have accepted it without having ever examined its advantages and its limits. And as the accepting and rejecting of ideologies should be left to the individual it follows that the separation of state and church must be supplemented by the separation of state and science, that most recent, most aggressive, and most dogmatic religious institution […]

In summary: it can be argued that according to Feyerabend’s “appreciation of how science actually works

  1. Science relies on a mixture of subterfuge, rhetoric and propaganda
  2. Rationalism should be adapted to common sense
  3. Science commonly develops with deception, trickery and lying, especially when one doesn’t have rational arguments or evidence to promote one’s views
  4. A scientific point of view may as well prevail through persuasion and by becoming more fashionable
  5. Science is inherently superior only for those ideologically believing in it
  6. State and Science should be separated

Yikes! Points #1. #3 and #4 describe what many have accused RealClimate of doing. Points #2 and #5 refute the prevalence of climate models over real-world observations. Point #6 is incompatible with the very existence of the IPCC as intergovernmental entity in charge of assessing the science of climate change.

Is that really the way Gavin Schmidt wanted to describe his field of work? Perhaps he should have checked one thing or two about Feyerabend first. Because with AGW believers like these, who needs climate skeptics?

ps no, I do not think all of Feyerabend work was incoherent rubbish

Jack Schmitt on Computer Models vs. the Real World

2008/11/20 2 comments

Astronaut, Moonwalker, NASA Advisor, former Congressman, and accomplished scientist, writer and public speaker Harrison “Jack” Schmitt has left the Planetary Society for a variety of reasons, apparently including global warming:

As a geologist, I love Earth observations. But, it is ridiculous to tie this objective to a “consensus” that humans are causing global warming in when human experience, geologic data and history, and current cooling can argue otherwise. “Consensus”, as many have said, merely represents the absence of definitive science. You know as well as I, the “global warming scare” is being used as a political tool to increase government control over American lives, incomes and decision making. It has no place in the Society’s activities.

A couple of perhaps not-well-known explanations are in order.

First of all, Schmitt is referring to the recent, pretty dumb decision by The Planetary Society (of whom I am a longtime member myself), of jumping onto the Climate Change bandwagon, to the point of dedicating a rather uncharacteristically clueless issue of “Planetary Report”, the Society magazine.

Another indication about the reasons for Schmitt’s decision can be found in this pre-lecture Q&A video from April 2008. At 23m 19s into the recording, Schmitt says

the first major important scientific discovery…when I stumbled across the..”orange soil”..and that is still a thorn in the side of the people who believe that the moon formed by a giant impact here on Earth. that hypothesis comes from computer modeling. models are great but they still have to agree with the real world. one big part that the model cannot explain in that hypothesis is how do you get the material that is in what is called the non-glass component in that soil. that material is very rich in volatiles…and just doesn’t fit…the debris [from the impact, would have experienced] very high temperatures.

Perfectly and very personally aware of the limitations of computer models, Schmitt cannot just take them as the ultimate Truth in Climate stuff just as he cannot, in Geology stuff.

Anybody wanting to bet if a person as accomplished and as scientifically renowned and respected as Schmitt will be called a denialist, with people figuratively dancing on his grave were a deadly disease to kill him?

Climate Change Will Cause LOLs, ROTFLs and BWLs

2008/11/19 7 comments

I immediately renege my pledge about writing mostly on unsung Climate Change stories, to point to this extremely funny video “Global Warming: The List” apparently based on the well-known Numberwatch list.

WARNING: DO NOT WATCH THIS VIDEO ON TRAINS OR PUBLIC PLACES INCLUDING THE OFFICE. Not everybody appreciates apparently uncontrollable bursts of laughter.

Is The President of the Maldives Serious About Climate Change?

2008/11/18 7 comments

Plenty of publicity for the new President of the Maldives, Mohamed “Anni” Nasheed, after his proposal to buy land somewhere to resettle the population in case the low-lying islands get submerged. Is that something to take seriously? I don’t think so.

  1. The Economist dedicates one of its Leaders to the topic, but the article rapidly descend into banter: “[…] if the Maldivians are looking for an island, Iceland is said to be going cheap. But they may be spoilt for choice: think of all the tiresome bits of territory that other countries would like to offload. The snooty English, for instance, have long disparaged Wales […]
  2. The issue has monopolized the discussion for a few days in the INT-BOUNDARIES mailing list (you can start reading from here), with no final consensus on all the aspects of something that may very well be legally unprecedented. Couple of interesting links about how to deal with disappearing inhabited islands in this post. All in all it does look like President Anni’s idea has not been thought through in the necessary details as yet…
  3. Finally, is there any indication that the Maldives are actually sinking? I am not sure.

Check in fact the NASA data for “Trend of Sea Level Change (1993-2008)” as measured by the Topex/Poseidon satellite and then Jason-1 (via Accuweather’s Global Warming blog):

from NASA

Trend of Sea Level Change (1993-2008)

Where are the Maldives? South-West of the Indian Subcontinent, of course (map from Wikipedia).

Location of the Maldives

Location of the Maldives

And what is the trend in sea level change there, according to NASA? Something they define as “moderate”, that is between 1 and 3 millimeters per year (right at the limit of resolution, by the way. It may as well be zero: note the light-blue areas peppered around):

Trend in Sea Level Change Near the Maldives

Trend in Sea Level Change Near the Maldives

Going for a 2 mm/year trend, it’s 3 centimeters in the last 15 years.

Using Wikipedia: given the average height of 1.5 meters above sea-level, if trends could be extrapolated the Maldives would be doomed around 150/.2=750 years from now

(in truth, sea levels at the Maldives may have dropped as much as 30 centimeters around 1970).

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President Nasheed’s election must surely be celebrated, as he had been arrested several times for his ideas under the Gayoom regime. But his first foray into the climate change debate, won’t do much to help him build credibility as his nation’s leader. Unless his true goal is to extract money from rich countries, no matter how baseless the stated need appears to be.

The Pointlesseness of Climate Data

2008/11/16 4 comments

Brett Anderson of Accuweather links to a Nov 5, 2008 Earth Observatory article by Rebecca Lindsey, “Correcting Ocean Cooling“, examining how Josh Willis “determined that there were errors” in his “Recent Cooling of the Upper Ocean” work.

(both the 2007 correction and 2006 original are available at this link)

Brett explains that:

“After applying a correction, the historical record shows a relatively steady increase (ocean heat content) in line with what’s shown by climate models”

I am sorry but it does sound fishy that all the hard digging was done only because the data were too cool. One is left with the lingering feeling that no such an effort ever materializes for data that shows warming (talk about WARMING BIAS there…)

And in fact: taking the Earth Observatory article at face value, one can indeed figure out the real reason behind Willis’ revisiting of his original data. At the time of publication of the original article (2006):

Willis described the [original] results as a “speed bump” on the way to global warming

Apparently, he soon convinced himself his data was not right. In February 2007, Willis said to his wife:

“I think ocean cooling isn’t real”

Why? Because:

In fact, every body was telling me I was wrong

And what was Willis’ own “tipping point”?

It wasn’t until that next year of data came in that the cooling in the Atlantic became so large and so widespread that Willis accepted the cooling trend for what is was: an unambiguous sign that something in the observations was “clearly not right.”

In all likelihood, had the original data shown warming, and/or the “next year of data” shown widespread warming, few if anybody would have told Willing that he was “wrong“. Chances are he would not have re-analysed anything at all.

The real irony can be extracted from the end of the EO piece:

We need multiple, independent, overlapping sets of observations of climate processes from space and from the Earth’s surface so that we can create long-term climate records—and have confidence that they are accurate. We need theories about how the parts of the Earth system are related to each other so that we can make sense of observations. And we need models to help us see into the future.

But for years, Willis has been stressing that

Argo data show no warming in the upper ocean over the past four years, but this does not contradict the climate models

Now, obviously the corrected data do “not contradict the climate models” either.

And so it really does look like there is no need for “multiple, independent, overlapping sets of observations“. Any and every data is always unable to “contradict the climate models“.

Why do people still bother to measure anything related to climate when the end result is pre-ordained, one wonders.

Two-Mile-Deep Antarctic Ice Core Reveals Stupidity of AGW Catastrophism

2008/11/16 37 comments

(per la versione italiana cliccare qui: “La CO2 Non E’ D’Accordo Con I Catastrofisti – Articolo su Svipop“)

The extraordinary conclusions of the Epica 2008 “Quaternary Climate” scientific conference (Nov 10-13, Venice, Italy) have elicited little interest in the media.

It’s anybody’s guess if that’s related to the fact that those results clearly and evidently show that

  1. the Earth’s climate has been wildly oscillating between cold and warmth for at least 800,000 years, long before any sizable man-made intervention
  2. during that period, the record minimum has been reached around 20,000 years ago (10C less than today’s); that’s before agriculture
  3. the record maximum still belongs to around 120,000 years ago (+5C more than today’s); and that’s before agriculture, too
  4. the concentrations of CO2 have depended on the amounts of iron in dust, with higher availability of iron resulting in lower amounts of atmospheric CO2
  5. and whilst temperatures have been at times warmer than today’s, and at other times much colder, corals, mammals, birds, trees and the rest of the biosphere have chugged along nicely (in a relative way)

AGW-related catastrophism is going the way of the dodo. Alas, so far there’s been no space to mention that in the vast majority of mainstream newsmedia.

Dome C ice-core results

Dome C ice-core results

I have to admit, I would have known nothing about Epica 2008 were it not for Italian climate blog “Climate Monitor” by Major Guido Guidi, weather and climate expert of the Italian Air Force. One can only thank Guidi, and Turin newspaper “La Stampa”‘s science supplement “Tuttoscienze” for deciding to mention the results of the analysis of a 3,230-meter ice core extracted at “Dome C”, 75S 123E’s Concordia Base in Antarctica.

(in the picture: green for temperature variations in degrees C; orange for iron fluxes, in milligrams per square meter; red for CO2 concentrations in ppmv; years are in thousands before-present (B.P.))

That’s the deepest ice core ever extracted.

The full article by Gabriele Beccaria is available in Italian at this link. Epica 2008 organizer Prof. Carlo Barbante, of University of Venice and Italian National Research Council’s Environmental Process Dynamics Institute, is quoted as saying that the ice core has been taken from

an area where snow accumulates…25 millimeters per year

According to the data, Earth has gone through 8 ice ages and 8 “warm ages” during the past 800,000 years. Barbante says

“we are now in one of the ‘warm’ phases. It started 10,000 years ago and, comparing it to what there’s been [in the past], it can be seen that it’s anomalous, because it has been lasting a long time and temperatures have been very stable”

Still, Beccaria points out that between 120,000 and 100,000 years ago, temperatures have been up to 5C warmer than today’s, at the upper end that is of the IPCC’s more catastrophic scenarios (or predictions). And just 20,000 years ago, the Earth was up to 10C colder (a negative record for the past 800,000 years, apparently). Barbante again:

“The cyclical nature [of temperatures] provides us with the right perspective concerning the climatic changes observed at the moment: if we don’t make the effort towards reaching a better understanding of the natural mechanisms [of climate change], it will be useless to keep trying to patch up predictions on what will happen in a century or two.”

Paleoclimatologists to the rescue then, cajoling to recover at least part of their past relevance after being outclassed by climate modelers as the main reference group able to talk to the politicians.

But there is more (apart from the confirmation of human-related pollution, in terms of methane, nitrogen oxides, chloride, sulfates, nitrates, and heavy metals). Barbante:

“in the core we have measured…the flux of iron in the dust. [Iron] is a biologically-active metal, as it underlies…the conversion of CO2 and nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus in organic compounds. [We know now that] during glacial intervals iron increases and the biological pump works at its best, whilst during the interglacials like today’s, that process is less efficient and CO2 increases.”

With iron availability near zero at the moment, it is therefore little surprise that CO2 has been increasing, admittedly to record levels compared to the past 800,000 years. In other words it may be not just a matter of human emissions, but also of momentarily-inefficient present-day “carbon sinks”.

Beccaria concludes that next step is to investigate the “warm periods” in order to find clues about the present situation.

============

For me the above demonstrates how stupid AGW catastrophism like Mark Lynas’, Al Gore’s and Jim Hansen’s is and has been for many years.

“Stupid” in the sense of hurting the rest of the world (by impeding an appropriate analysis of the history of climate change and past “warm” phases, thereby spreading blindness towards probable causes and possible effects); whilst hurting its own cause (by convincing people the magnitude of the challenge is so great, there isn’t much that can be done).

The most they can show is a cursory series of conferences leading to little promises for 10 years in the future, and grand promises for 50 years (so Governments have “only” 49 years to renege on their big promises).

On second thought, that may truly be a good thing.

Prayer to God: on the Climate Debate…

2008/11/13 1 comment

…please protect me from my friends. I can defend myself from my enemies

(original quote attributed to Voltaire, Claude-Louis-Hector de Villars.  or Jean Hérault, sieur de Gourville)

Just to point out a disastrous attempt at demonstrating the lack of scientific consensus about Global Warming. The attempt, by a group including

Dr. Frederick Seitz, now deceased, and […] now led by Dr. Arthur Robinson and his son, Dr. Noah Robinson, both members of the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine (OISM)

is torn apart decisively and conclusively by Gary J. Whittenberger Ph.D. in this week’s eSkeptic, the weekly newsletter the Skeptics Society.

As Roger Pielke, Jr. wrote a few days ago:

What is it about the climate change debate that causes previously excellent scholars to go absolutely insane and disregard all standards of research integrity? 

Yes, one should always call things for what they are, independently from which side the person saying them is. Otherwise there is no chance to learn anything, and it’s not even a debate, but some kind of stupid shouting match.

Hats off to William Connolley then for doing the same with Naomi Oreskes et al.’s  “wrong, or overblown” attack against William A.(Bill) Nierenberg.

RealClimate, or The Biggest Molehill In History

2008/11/12 8 comments

A “molehill“, says Gavin Schmidt on a RealClimate blog regarding a giant GISS temperature error in Northeastern Russia. A “glitch“.

Too bad it was a “molehill” in need of the 1,117 words of Schmidt’s blog.

There are two very reasonable replies to such a monumental self-declared waste of an effort, in the Climate Skeptic blog’s “Sorry Dr. Schmidt, But I am Not Feeling Guilty Yet (Part 1)” and “Responses to Gavin Schmidt, Part 2“.

For my part, I can only make reference to a basic principle of mine. Whatever you need to show, you are not. There is no need for me for example to wear a tag saying “male”: it’s rather obvious from the way I look.

There is not even a need to show I’m Italian, as anybody listening to my accent will immediately find out.

So I won’t spend 1,117 words to show either of that.

And therefore, what should one make of the fact that Gavin Schmidt felt compelled instead to argue the following?

No heads will roll, no congressional investigations will be launched, no politicians (with one possible exception) will take note

Molehills truly are mountains for very little people.

UPDATE NOV 14: Nice to see Lucia at The Blackboard make a very similar point (among many others)

Gavin does seem hellbent on turning the molehill into an even bigger mountain. If he keeps this up, maybe the mountain can turn into a volcanic eruption of Krakatoa like proportions which would then lower the GMST. . .

On Climate Change, Hands off Phil Plait!

2008/11/10 6 comments

I find them silly in the extreme, those global warming skeptics taking it upon themselves to send insults to people like Phil Plait for the one reason that the author of “Bad Astronomy: Misconceptions and Misuses Revealed, from Astrology to the Moon Landing ‘Hoax’” and “Death from the Skies!” is not exactly a passionate campaigner against that extremely poorly thought-out of scientific theories, anthropogenic global warming (AGW).

For one thing, Plait (whom I met personally in London a few months ago) has studied and debunked many, many kinds of hoaxes, so it is all very natural for him to consider AGW skepticism as “denial” if he sees in climate change skeptics the same pattern of behavior as in those believing in UFOs and a global conspiracy around the “Apollo Moon hoax” (first and foremost, a barrage of insults).

Secondly, from his very words it is clear that Plait is not interested in the study of weather and climate really, and his stance on AGW is what most persons will have: that is, follow the experts (emphasis in the original)

[experts have] been studying [greenhouse warming] a long, long time. It’s a very difficult field of research, fraught with hidden variables, difficult measurements, and political landmines. But chances are they know more about this than you and I do. There’s a reason they’re called experts, folks.

It must be noted that Phil Plait is a very active representative of a large community of Skeptics, alongside the likes of Michael Shermer and James “The Amazing” Randi. Their collective motto is well described by the following words by the Skeptics Society:

the key to skepticism is to continuously and vigorously apply the methods of science to navigate the treacherous straits between “know nothing” skepticism and “anything goes” credulity“

Interestingly, plenty of time is devoted by Skeptics to debunk silly astrological and creationist claims.

For some reason though, even if Plait may still think otherwise, “global warming skepticism” is considered as belonging to a whole different category than pseudoscience. For example, the Skeptics Society’s “Skeptic” magazine has recently provided plenty of space to Patrick Frank to state the following (“A Climate of Belief“, Vol.14, no.1, May 2008):

the claim that anthropogenic CO2 is responsible for the current warming of Earth climate is scientifically insupportable because climate models are unreliable

I recommend Phil Plait and all to read Frank’s article, if only as evidence that it is illogical to call “global warming skeptics” as “deniers”: because rational skepticism is the informed reader’s proper response to AGW claims.

In the words of Patrick Frank:

[…] The proper response to adamant certainty in the face of complete ignorance is rational skepticism […] It is critical to keep a firm grip on reason and rationality, most especially when social invitations to frenzy are so pervasive. General Circulation Models are so terribly unreliable that there is no objectively falsifiable reason to suppose any of the current warming trend is due to human-produced CO2, or that this CO2 will detectably warm the climate at all. Therefore, even if extreme events do develop because of a warming climate, there is no scientifically valid reason to attribute the cause to human-produced CO2. In the chaos of Earth’s climate, there may be no discernible cause for warming.

Who knows? Perhaps one day Phil Plait will make the final connection between the flimsiness of AGW theory and the Mark Twain quote below, from his old website’s homepage.

“In the space of one hundred and seventy-six years the Lower Mississippi has shortened itself two hundred and forty-two miles. Therefore … in the Old Oolitic Silurian Period the Lower Mississippi River was upward of one million three hundred thousand miles long… seven hundred and forty-two years from now the Lower Mississippi will be only a mile and three-quarters long… There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.”

In the meanwhile, it’d sure help if nobody’d insult him.

Private Adult Entertainment Against Global Warming

*WARNING: MAY CONTAIN OFFENSIVE MATERIAL. DO NOT CLICK ON THE FACEBOOK LINK BELOW IF YOU ARE EASILY OFFENDED BY WRITINGS OF A SEXUAL NATURE*

People power against climate change“, says Lord Puttnam on the BBC? Well, I am pretty certain he didn’t have this Facebook group for the “WBJD” in mind…

And no, I am not joining it… 😉

Gnostepistemological Critique of Anthropogenic Global Warming

2008/11/09 3 comments

gnosis: the direct experiential knowledge of the supernatural or divine
epistemology: the branch of philosophy that studies the nature, methods, limitations, and validity of knowledge and belief

What an amazing coincidence…

In our day and age: just as soon as we have managed to build the FIRST computers able to provide plausible estimates of future climates; and just as soon as we have launched the FIRST satellites to observe the evolution of polar ice and the Earth’s atmosphere as a whole…it is RIGHT NOW that we have discovered Global Warming and/or Climate Change. And it is RIGHT NOW that we have to undergo major social and personal upheavals, during the upcoming few years, otherwise the planet will be in peril.

An incredible stroke of luck? Way too many well-minded people trying to make use of just-acquired knowledge, in an evermore “medicalized” society built around narrow technical expertise?

Or perhaps, the definitive proof of Providence, and therefore of God.

Amen.

(many thanks to geoff chambers for reminding me of this post I had written last August, but only in Italian)

Keeping Cool about President Obama’s Climate Change Policies

2008/11/06 3 comments

Recently Anthony Watts posted his concerns about Barack Obama’s energy (and therefore climate, or vice-versa) expected policies and their consequences.

Personally, I am not too worried. Of course, President Obama will talk about climate change, push for some kind of Kyoto-like committment, embrace world leaders at the 2009 Copenhagen Conference, etc etc. That is, he’s bound to go through the motions.

But then what? I contend that the AGW message (“Humanity is to blame!“) is incompatible with the Obama message (“Change we can believe in!“).

First of all, one cannot be positive about humanity’s capacity for change and negative about humanity’s role in the planet’s well-being.

Furthermore, Climate Change has been explicitly presented time and again as “THE challenge for the present generation” by the likes of Al Gore. Well, Barack Obama’s “Change” is enough of a generational challenge in itself, much bigger than Climate Change and perfectly capable to outlive it.

In all likelihood, it’ll be the President’s outlook on political life that will carry the day. If that’s the case, AGW as we know it will slowly wither away, ironically under an AGWer President just as it kept on growing during the 8 years of an anti-AGW White House Resident.

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