Archive for December, 2010

Climate Science, To The Edge Of Irrelevance

2010/12/29 5 comments

After days of extremely-silly reports trying to argue that a warming world means a colder world or part of it, as if a winter or two meant anything in the context of climate (usually defined as a 30-year average), a ray of hope for the serious parts of climate science has shone at DotEarth. After all, whenever a rabid warmist claims success after having fished around for any instance of weather extreme anywhere in the world, it’s hard to tell the ensuing climate looting from any claim about Nostradamus.

The whole brouhaha about the cold weather of December 2010 actually highlights three issues that are pushing climate science towards irrelevance:

  • If somebody like Judah Cohen publishes a NYT Op-Ed focused on explaining how to “reconcile” the “snow and record cold” with “a World Meteorological Organization report showing that 2010 will probably be among the three warmest years on record“, then what exactly are climate projections for?

As every newspaper reader outside of North Korea should know by now, a warmer world is expected to be a world perhaps with more snow, perhaps with less snow, perhaps with both; perhaps with more floods, perhaps with more droughts, perhaps with both; perhaps with more cold, perhaps with more heat, perhaps with both…That covers more or less every possibility, apart from “no change at all”, hence it is similar to expecting at the roulette table any number between 0 and 14 and between 16 and 36, having seen “15” come out several times in a row. There is no need of peer-review or statistical analysis to do that. There is not even any need to model the roulette wheel and its pockets. And as any trip to the Casino can show, there is no reward at all in betting upon such an extremely-wide-ranging set of “projections”.

  • In a new blog, Revkin mentions “Jay Fein, program director in N.S.F.’s climate dynamics program” as saying “weather impacts peoples’ lives and the global economy on a daily basis

Why then should anybody care about 30-year averages? What is the meaning of spending considerable resources to mitigate or even adapt to some hard-to-tell thing that might or might happen in 2050AD when the impact of atmospheric patterns is felt “on a daily basis“? Imagine asking anybody in 1900 to put aside money for good use in 1940…

  • And even if one willingly forgets the two objections above…as mentioned here already a few weeks ago, and independently reaffirmed at Real Science, the very concept of a “global anomaly” by which we can measure a “warming planet” might be meaningless, as an unevenly-warming world might see everybody having to face a life of cold

Imagine if a cold place where the average temperature is -20C warms by 4C, and a temperate place where the average temperature is 10C cools by 2C. Obviously the resulting “average anomaly” is +2C and people can run around screaming about “global warming”. Apparently logical…and yet: the result is that people will have a choice between living at -16C or leaving at 8C, i.e. between where it’s still as cold as ever, and where it’s not warm enough any longer.

In such a situation, as in trying to build an effective policy from an extremely-wide range of expected scenarios, and as in trying to convince the people of today to suffer for something that we don’t know and might or might not happen far in the future, politicians actively applying what contemporary climate science tells them will find themselves victims of unintended consequences at best, and of complete misleading at worst. The most likely outcome? Nobody in their right mind will ever listen to a climate scientist again…


A Christmas Present From The New York Times

2010/12/23 5 comments

Not that they really wanted to be so generous, mind you…but in the printed (IHT) version of this long article about the Keelings and CO2 concentration measurements, somebody at the NYT decided to include this graph:

And so millions around the world will be able to see that temperatures have gone up and down in the past 400,000 years, with a characteristic shape (sharp increase with an even more marked peak, slow decline, then sharp increase again) that is currently being replicated (and the top temperatures of the past haven’t been reached yet). The usual reply is that in the past it’s been changes in the Earth’s orbit what drove the temperature changes: and yet, even if CO2 is the “culprit” this time there is evidently something in the Earth’s climate that:

  • Keeps temperatures from going unimaginably high
  • Counteracts the warming, whatever the CO2 concentrations
  • Mantains temperatures on average as much colder than at present

In the medium and long run, humanity should be preparing for a cooler world. Preparation means of course adaptation, the one thing nobody wants to do.

Denialism Invades the BBC, the British Antarctic Survey and the Scott Polar Research Institute

2010/12/16 5 comments

I have been insulted as a “denialist” if not “baby-eater” for far…warmer words than what has appeared last night on the BBC Science & Environment pages (as usual, one has to see things through the rather silly title of the piece).

Extract from “Polar bears can be saved by emissions cuts, study says”
by Neil Bowdler (BBC, 15 Dec 2010):

Dr Ted Maksym, of the British Antarctic Survey (Bas), said he agreed there was little evidence of “tipping points” in the Arctic.

“All the literature that has looked for a tipping point for sea ice has essentially found none. This has been drowned out a bit by the noise surrounding the 2007 minimum [for summer ice loss] and a possible ‘death spiral’ for Arctic sea ice.”

“The suggestion that if global temperature rise is kept below 1.25 degrees that polar bears will survive is encouraging; but given current trends this is not likely to be achieved. So we are by no means out of the woods.”

Professor Julian Dowdeswell of the Scott Polar Research Institute at the University of Cambridge, said such research was important, but that reality could turn out to be different – something the authors of the paper have recognised.

“To have a good physical understanding of the natural world, it’s important that we do run predictive models,” he said.

“But it’s equally important to remember that they are only models and not reality. Usually there is an envelope of possible futures, rather than one future.”

Science Should Better Do Without “Defenders of the Faith”

A comment I have posted at Scientific American’s “Cross-check” blog by John Horgan, in reply to the entry titled “The truth we’ll doubt: Does the “decline effect” mean that all science is “truthy“?“. Reposted here for future memory:

> Jonah Lehrer dismisses the notion that “The Truth Wears Off”
> implicitly undermines the status of the theory of
> evolution by natural selection and global warming,
> which are “two of the most robust and widely
> tested theories of modern science.”

I wish people were more confident in their science and less defensive on subjects that they consider “robust” and “widely tested”. To me, it is obvious that the “Truth that wore off” about evolution was Eugenics. It has all the characteristics indicated by Lehrer, including Galton’s “dramatic correlation” and a huge bandwagon that was eliminated only by the horrors of WWII.

Likewise for “global warming”: a misnomer as everybody now agrees, should be “climate change” at least, and it has evolved from simplistic claims of an increase in temperatures everywhere to a whole load of nuances and lots of studies still to be carried out at a regional (and even more, local!) level. The “Truth” that is wearing off “climate change” is the idea that it only takes a few years to properly understand the behavior in the free atmosphere of something that can be seen in the lab. Other “global warming Truths”/bandwagons that are slowly disappearing include the notions that (a) every environmental phenomenon is caused by increases in CO2 emissions, (b) we have all the technology we need to stop emitting CO2, (c) cap-and-trade is the solution to CO2 emissions, (d) it is ok to present data devoid of uncertainty for policy reasons, (e) reconstructions of past temperatures can be done without involving statisticians, etc etc.

Please do note that Evolution (in a modern form) has survived the demise of Eugenics, just like “climate change” will likely survive (in an updated form) all semi-idiotic studies forever linking it to the disappearance of mostly-cute animals.

Sometimes I feel like we have learned nothing of the useless debates of old, Newtonians vs Leibnitzians, light-is-a-particle vs light-is-a-wave, relativity vs quantum mechanics. Science shouldn’t be a place where people sacrifice themselves and their principles for pet theories, closing their minds rather than accepting the challenge: rather, Science should be an open battlefield where the truly powerful ideas don’t even need defending. But I suppose that might not chime right if the worry is the preservation of the status quo.

AGW Miracle #13 On The New York Times (Oh Gould Were Art Thou?)

What’s wrong with chinstrap penguins, fur seals, krill and leopard seals? Does anybody know?

Perhaps Elizabeth Royte, Fen Montaigne or Bill Fraser do, since it almost goes without saying that “warmer winter air and sea temperatures” around the Antarctic Peninsula are a Bad Thing because (by some quasi-magical mechanism) they negatively affect lovely Adélie penguins, leaving those other species to thrive amongst our indifference.

This is exactly what I described as “AGW miracle #13” on Oct 31:

As the world gets warmer, plenty of Bad Things proliferate whilst plenty of Good Things dwindle in number or occurrence (popular species disappear whilst unpopular ones like jellyfish expand, and so on and so forth)

Hard not to notice that (just in case readers might get their attention diverted from the rapidly-vanishing Adélies) Royte/Montaigne go as far as to suggest that the brown skuas, dependent on the Adélie colonies and therefore equally doomed, exert a “Mafia-like domination” with gruesome chick-killing feeding habits. In the meanwhile, saintly Adélies “almost cut in half by leopard seals stagger back to the colony to deliver their load of krill“.

Is that an aureola I can see radiating from the Adélies’ heads? “For Fraser, the warming has a moral dimension“, we are told. One suspects, warming has a moral dimension to Montaigne and Royte as well, and the scientific or documentary value of a book like “Fraser’s Penguins” dubious to say the least. We are basically back to the XIX century, antropocentrists, looking for moral examples that involve something as absolutely nonmoral as Nature. And Stephen Jay Gould has written wonderfully complete essays against that very idea, for nothing.

Climate Change Minister Resigns “Because Of The Extremities Of The Climate”

2010/12/13 2 comments

On the irony scale, what has just happened in Scotland is on the par with if not better (worse?) than the record cold in Cancún during COP16: because Scottish “beleaguered Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson” has resigned after an extraordinary bad series of moves making the recent “Arctic blast” hellish for thousands of people.

Wait a moment…”Transport” Minister? Not exactly. Hidden away in the BBC report, that’s where the irony strikes: Mr Stevenson‘s job was “Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and…” (YES YOU GUESSED IT RIGHT!) “…Climate Change“.

A sign that “weather” is more important than “climate”? That’s irony #1.

It goes further. You’d think the person officially in charge of an issue that is officially already bringing “more extreme weather patterns in Scotland” might have been preparing his country a little about an extreme weather pattern. Well, apparently, he hadn’t (irony #2). Neither had the person officially in charge of dealing with transportation and infrastructure issues in Scotland, including what to do in case of an early snow.

Actually, that’s the one and same person spectacularly failing in a wondrous triple-act. That’s irony #3.

And now for irony #4. In Climate Change circles, Mr Stevenson might be mostly remembered for “shepherding the Climate Change Act through the Scottish Parliament” containing “the most ambitious climate change legislation anywhere in the world“, plus a series of perfunctory speeches on the topic, a now-lost opportunity to attend the Cancún Climate Change Summit aka COP16 and a bizarre (and rebuked) attempt to talk to the USA on a par-level (so much for being world-leading).

Trouble is, even First Minister Alex Salmond, still making excuses after the news about the resignation came out, might have not fully recollected the responsibilities regarding Climate Change action he himself had bestowed upon Mr Stevenson (around 0m32s in the video):

At the end of the day, you know, no man can tether time nor tide, and certainly you can’t control the elements. I am very sad that a decent man, a competent minister has been forced to resignation because of the extremities of the climate

(the same concept is repeated in Mr Salmond’s reply to Mr Stevenson’s resignation letter)

I can sense a bit of schizophrenic Governmental behavior in there so let me dare ask: Dear First Minister: either the climate change minister HAS to resign because of his inability to deal with extremities of the climate _OR_ you should finally agree with yourself that no man, and no Government, can tether time, tide, or climate. And if “urgent action is needed to cut emissions which cause climate change“, even MORE urgent action is needed to deal with the climate (changed or otherwise) we experience in the here and now.

Two Words Summing Up The Cancún Agreement

2010/12/12 2 comments

So What Is O’Donnell et al Good For?

2010/12/12 2 comments

Andy Russell of Our Clouded Hills recently mused about Anthony Watts’ “tone” regarding the O’Donnell et al “improvements” on Steig et al 2009.

This is a comment I have left at Russell’s site, reproduced here for future memory:

Andy – comment 541991 by O’Donnell at WUWT appears to contradict your “poor form” statement

Title of the post: I do not see any misrepresentation in Anthony’s use of the word “rebuts” […] There is nothing inconsistent between ‘rebuttal’ and ‘improvement’

Given the fact that Watts has not used the term “repudiate”, what exactly are you accusing him of insinuating?

Secondly, you ask how can the new paper be “achieving something potentially useful”. Well, you’ve answered yourself:

a rapidly warming peninsula is not a good situation either and is also likely to have anthropogenic causes, albeit complicated ones.

This should be welcome news to all interested in seeing climate science progress forward at a regional level. If O’Donnell et al are right – we have a rapidly-warming region that is called Antarctic Peninsula, and it stands out against its surroundings…let’s figure out what is happening!!

If on the other hand Steig et al are right – there isn’t much to do, is there, apart from putting a few more weather stations across West Antarctica to confirm the claimed trends…especially given the fact that the Antarctic Peninsula does sport a highly positive measured anomaly, as in NASA’s Earth Observatory note for Dec 10.

D.I.Y. Climate Policy: My Official CO2 Emission Pledges (or It’s A Farce in Cancún)

2010/12/09 5 comments

I hereby declare for myself a CO2 emission reduction target of 120% by yesterday, and can happily report I have met that same target already. And if anybody doesn’t believe me, well, you have no right to monitor any of that, and there is no penalty for failure anyway.

Because, as reported by John M. Broder from COP16:

Mr. Ramesh proposed a plan for bridging the gap between the United States and China on verification, by establishing a voluntary program known as international consultation and analysis. Under the plan, also known as I.C.A., countries would declare their emissions reduction targets and provide regular reports on how they were meeting them and gauging their own progress.

There would be no international monitors or inspectors, and no penalties for failing to reach stated targets. Smaller countries would have less frequent and less detailed reporting requirements than major emitters.

Broder continues:

Mr. Ramesh’s concept has been broadly accepted here

As a poet would say, no sh*t Sherlock. Indeed none.

Is Ice Melt Causing Volcanic Eruptions? . . . Maybe So!

2010/12/09 4 comments

(guest blog by Doyle Doss, published as-received)

The recent volcanic eruptions in Indonesia may have a simple rational scientific explanation; land ice melt.

The oceans have risen 4 inches in the last 50 years ( sea level rise). Two inches of this rise is due to thermal expansion (the oceans have warmed over the same period). The other two inches of rise comes from land based ice melt; this is new water that has been added to the oceans.

A cubic foot of ocean water weighs 64.1 pounds. A 2 inch rise over one square mile (27,878,400 sq. ft. in a square mile) works out to 4,646,400 cubic feet of additional water which, when multiplied by 64.1 equals 297,834,240 pounds and then divided by 2,000 (lbs per ton), is 148,917.12 tons. Or very nearly 150,000 tons of increased water weight per square mile of ocean.

The Pacific Ocean covers 69,375,000 square miles (35% of the earth’s surface). The increase in weight of the Pacific Ocean over the last 50 years due to freshly introduced water from land ice melt is 10 Trillion 331 Billion 125 Million 200 Thousand TONS (69,375,000 X 148,917.12 = 1.03311252 × 10^13).

The Queen Mary II (one of the largest ships afloat) weighs 150,000 tons. Imagine almost 70 MILLION Queen Mary IIs evenly distributed over the entire Pacific Ocean (one for every square mile).

The Pacific Tectonic Plate lies beneath the Pacific Ocean and at 39,758,000 square miles is the largest of all tectonic plates. Now mentally “sink” the 40 Million of your Queen Mary IIs floating directly above the Pacific Tectonic Plate onto the seafloor.

The earth is not “solid” . . . the tectonic plates float on top of a molten interior. If you push downward evenly across the entire surface of a tectonic plate stress is introduced along the margins. The westward margin of the Pacific Plate is a subduction zone; the Pacific Plate is “diving” beneath the Eurasian Plate . . . as it plunges downward (under increased pressure from 40 Million QM IIs) it only stands to reason that lava from below is going to be vented upward, hence the recent Indonesian volcanic eruptions. (“Like popping a pimple,” commented a friend.)

The Earth is a closed system. Beside the occasional meteorite and continual sunlight nothing new is being added. This geologically rapid shifting of large amounts of water weight from the land masses to the oceans is creating an accumulating “out-of-balance” effect on the oceanic tectonic plates. The Earth’s tectonic plates will compensate for this “out-of-balance” condition by “adjusting” their boundaries. We are experiencing these adjustments as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and associated tidal waves

And as a footnote, this huge increase in ocean water weight may be the contributing factor in the unusual intensity of this year’s earthquakes in Chili and Haiti and probably has had an influence in the ongoing Icelandic eruptions.

(The author is a practical scientist and inventor whose website is

NASA’s Arsenicgate Vindicates Years Of AGW Skepticism

2010/12/08 4 comments

You’re unlikely to find any “mainstream science blogger” admitting it, but the backlash against NASA’s hyped-uparsenic life” press-conference-cum-discovery is not similar, rather pretty much identical (apart from a “tiny” detail I’ll talk about in a moment) to what many AGW skeptics have been saying about that other NASA’s hyped-up field, (catastrophic) climate change.

Take these words by Chris Rowan and tell me why they couldn’t be written as critique to the Hockey Stick or any other Climategate-related bodging or fudging:

[…] That’s what I consider to be real peer review. The pre-publication stuff is just a quality filter, a check that the paper is not obviously wrong – and an imperfect filter at that. The real test is what happens in the months and years after publication. Sometimes, after further research, the ideas in the paper do stand the test of time, and form a firm foundation for further research in that area. Sometimes it turns out to be wrong, but in interesting ways that increase our understanding of how that little bit of the world works. Sometimes it turns out to be simply wrong.

[…] the discussion is taking place in a much more public manner than is usually the case – something that NASA and the authors of the paper don’t seem to like very much. Well, tough cookies. You wanted the publicity. If you’re presenting your research at a NASA press conference in the wake of a firestorm of excitable media speculation, you definitely wanted the publicity. It’s a bit late to claim that you want discussion of your research limited to the peer-reviewed literature.

[…] I’ve actually written before about the real issue here: in this new media world of blogs and twitter streams, it’s much harder to control a story, because other scientists now have the tools to make their criticism just as public as your press releases.

[…] burying one’s head in the sand is counterproductive; you should robustly engage the criticisms, just as you would if it were a comment-and-reply in a journal, or a challenging question at a conference. The new reality is this: if you announce the research in a public venue, the debate should – and increasingly will – take place in that same public venue. The real challenge is how to have these debates – and report them – effectively.


So what is different? Why can’t Rowan make the link between the above and the obtuse behavior by so-called “leading climatologists” that to this day refuse to make their raw data public? Here’s why: because “climate change” is not a scientific debate, and so it is impervious to scientific skepticism. As von Storch (no climate skeptic, him) wrote more than five years ago:

The concern for the “good” and “just” case of avoiding further dangerous human interference with the climate system has created a peculiar self-censorship among many climate scientists. Judgments of solid scientific findings are often not made with respect to their immanent quality but on the basis of their alleged or real potential as a weapon by “sceptics” in a struggle for dominance in public and policy discourse.

Even The Mahatma Would Be Surprised By AGW Activism

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, aka The Mahātmā, has uttered an incredible number of quotable phrases. One of them is definitely not applicable to the case of AGW, and can be written as the following four phases:

  1. First they ignore you, then
  2. They ridicule you, then
  3. They fight you, then
  4. You win

In one of the many miracles linked to Anthropogenic Global Warming (it’s going to be number 67), phases 1, 2 and 3 never happened, and from 1979 to 1988 to 1992 to 2007-1 and 2007-2 it’s been one victory after the other for Climate Change Belief.

Or so it appeared. But what if AGW is simply going the other way around? There are several indications that it’s now time for the “fight” (phase 3), from belligerent Republican Congressmen in the USA to Tory MEPs “coming out” against the “consensus”.

It would be truly ironic if official AGW ridicule would be next (eg, at COP-17 in Durban, South Africa 2011). Thereafter, nobody will care about it anymore….

Explanation For GISS’ Global Warming Towards Cold And Snow (Aka The Half-Chicken Paradox)

2010/12/08 2 comments

If a rich man has two chickens, and a poor man none, both people are well-fed on average whilst one of them dies of starvation. Likewise for Global Warming.

This is a paradox strictly linked to the idea of working with temperature anomalies on a planetary scale. Imagine in fact if we had a Polar station with an anomaly of +15C, with average temperature going from -60C to -55C; and a Temperate-zone station with an anomaly of -5C, with average temperature going from +10C to +5C.

In those circumstances, the planetary temperature anomaly would go +10C, even if everybody would experience it quite cold. Worse: if the temperate areas had anomalies around zero, the planetary temperature anomaly would shoot to +15C, a giant number with no practical consequence whatsoever: because if the temperatures go up mostly where it’s very very cold, nobody anywhere sees any of the fabled “warming” effects linked to temperature increases.

And in case you wonder, that’s exactly what is happening, according to GISS, on planet Earth.


Is Promotion Of Environmental Causes Bad For One’s Mental And Physical Health?

Bill McKibben of stars in the latest Cancún blog plus video by Andy Revkin, with puzzling results.

  • Most interestingly, McKibben is adamantly dismissive of Andy’s concerns about an “energy challenge”, small stuff really when “whole freaking countries” are “washing away“, and “the planet right now is…disintegrating“. All of that doesn’t elicit much of a reaction from the dotEarth’s author. Does that mean Revkin fundamentally agrees with McKibben, also about statements such as “it is going to be a miserable century or an impossible one” and “the science is very clear“? I don’t think so.

Other questions:

  • If the underlying engine is “the science“, what are the scientific basis for choosing 350ppmv as the ultimate goal of any climate policy?
  • It’s also a mystery how a “long-distance climate campaigner” manages to be around Cancun rather than do the right thing, connect from afar in order to emit far less CO2 than “living strenously” implies. It would also make a lot of sense, given the lack of money keeps lamenting. What do we get instead? Latest news is a boat trip with a free dive out of Cancun, not exactly cheap stuff.
  • Finally, it’s great for McKibben to worry about the rest of the century, but by the look of it, he risks not being around for much of the rest of the century, looking quite old, tired, almost haunted (yes, Revkin _is_ older than McKibben). Is promotion of environmental causes bad for one’s mental and physical health?

ps Oh my…McKibben uses “that” WWII analogy again…Godwin’s Law alert! Godwin’s Law alert! Godwin’s Law alert! Godwin’s Law alert! Godwin’s Law alert!

pps “The most interesting thing about the pictures and everything from 350 is everybody in them almost is poor, black, brown, Asian, young“…are the Africans alright then? What about older Asians?

Either A Climate Negotiations’ Glitch, Or A New Business Opportunity for Selling A Bridge

2010/12/05 1 comment

In Andy Revkin’s “A ‘Shared Vision’ on Climate, With a Glitch“, our dear friend laments the distortion of the IPCC’s own conclusions in the Cancún “shared vision” draft, in particular in the statement:

Recognizes that warming of the climate system, as a consequence of human activity, is unequivocal, as assessed by the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change in its Fourth Assessment Report

OF COURSE, there is nothing of the sort in the IPCC AR4. Revkin writes “I’m not sure how the clause ‘as a consequence of human activity’ slipped in, but it shouldn’t be there” and concludes hoping “several [IPCC] scientists and Rajendra K. Pachauri” will “suggest a change” to correct such a “glitch“, even if “it’s minutiae“.

Here’s my comment posted at the NYT:

Andy – this is is not “glitch” #1, this must be “glitch” #267…say, have you ever tried to follow the trail from the IPCC’s 2007 statements on solar influences to what appears in newspapers and at policy conferences?

And all those “glitches” always go in the same direction. What more evidence do you need to realize that these “broken telephone” games:

  1. are biased from the start,
  2. make a mockery of climate science,
  3. undermine any effort to deal with future resource and disaster management challenges and
  4. (d) demean journalists that keep talking about them as “glitches” into the kind of people whom dodgy characters would like to sell a bridge to

More Evidence Of AGW Obsession In The UK (It’s Stephen Hawking’s Turn)

2010/12/04 2 comments

Sometimes I do wonder if I am writing too much stuff about AGW…but then what should one have to do when it pops up more or less everywhere, for inhabitants of the United Kingdom?

Take for example…Stephen Hawking’s “George’s Cosmic Treasure Hunt” (written with Lucy Hawking). It’s a great story of kids traveling from Earth to Mars to Titan to Alpha Centauri B to 55 Cancri (!) with plenty of in-depth explanations and has been for the past few weeks bedtime reading for astronomy buff “Junior” Morabito.

What would AGW have to do with all of this? Nothing at all, one would expect. And yet…as one of the subplots, the parents of one of the kids all of a sudden decide to join eco-warriors in the South Pacific in order to record the rising waves before it’s too late and other pseudoscientific rubbish of the sort. There is no obvious reason why they would be eco-warriors, and more importantly, this has no relationship whatsoever with anything else in the book. Even after one of the parents gets lost in a boat and satellites are called in for the rescue, the authors almost forget the sub-plot and merely mention the rescue itself near the end of the book.

All in all, it looks like somebody took a space-mystery-kids story and pasted in some gratuitous reference to AGW for no other reason than to mention AGW. It reminds me of those inscrutable dance routines suddenly waking up the audience in the middle of Indian movies, or of scantily-clad actresses voluptuously falling prey of mass-murderers in gory movies marketed to teenage audiences; or of a couple of authors opting for sterile mannerism and conformism, even when free to write about the whole universe.

On my part, I am not reading those chapters to Junior (well, it’s one half-chapter, plus a page or two and a couple of lines). As I said, the rest of the story is wholly unaffected, and with all the things I’d like to talk about (alien life, relativity, planetary systems, cryovolcanoes etc etc) the last thing in my mind is to divert a young mind’s attention towards worrying about maybe, perhaps, who know, are we sure sea rises in the South Pacific.

He needs to learn the tools of physics now, not the worries of a would-be science.

“Stop Lord Monckton!”

Peter Gleick of “weak thought” and “let’s-pump-up-some-controversy-exactly-when-my-book-is-published” fame has surfaced again, this time in a comment to a photograph posted by Andy Revkin on Facebook, showing Lord Monckton and Brad Johnson in Cancún.

Sadly, there isn’t much positive to report this time either.

Ironically (or exactly!), Gleick’s comment is posted exactly underneath my quote from Carl Sagan, “the cure for a fallacious argument is a better argument, not the suppression of ideas“. Here’s Gleick’s:

I cannot believe that Monckton has a booth. Astounding.

And this is my reply:

Whilst I am not surprised by Peter Gleick’s comment, exactly juxtaposed to Sagan’s quote, a quick google search identifies Lord Monckton as “advisor” to CFACT.

Therefore it is incorrect to claim that Monckton “has a booth” in Cancun.

On the… other hand CFACT describes itself as “a UN credentialed NGO [that] has been sending delegations to UN conferences for many years“. So if anybody is itching for a bit of censorship and has a problem with the UN credentials system, an email or two in the direction of that glass building in Turtle Bay are in order.

Gavin Schmidt’s CNN Mystery

2010/12/03 2 comments

This is the comment I have just left at the CNN website, in reply to Gavin Schmidt’s commentary titled “How to get scientists, policymakers to same page on climate change“. Replicated here for future reference 😉 – plus, I have added some hyperlinks

I am surprised by the topic of this commentary. Mr Schmidt has no experience and no qualification in the topic of climate policy, or of policy of any sort for that matters. Indeed, during the past few years Mr Schmidt’s forays outside of science have been a string of disasters, from the public debate lost against Michael Chrichton to an embarrassing situation regarding a data correction first identified by Steve McIntyre, to an unwise escapade in the direction of Feyerabend, not to mention a generally rather heavy hand in “controlling” the flow of comments at the Schmidt-moderated RealClimate website.

Why has Mr Schmidt been given space on CNN then, to talk about “how to get scientists, policymakers to same page on climate change“? What are we going to see next, a rocket scientist writing about how to deal with North Korea, or a livestock researcher arguing about how to design an effective EU milk policy, or an explosive expert lecturing about how to pacify Afghanistan?

Global Warming As Imperial Surrogate For The United Kingdom

2010/12/03 7 comments

I have just sent my local MP a slightly-edited version of Clive Francis’ “£400 billion” letter. (h/t Malcolm Shykles).

The UK governments’ obsession with AGW had actually been until now a bit of a puzzle really, as it covers the entire spectrum of Westminster’s opinions, apart from a few lonely voices. A bunch of fools they might be alright, but carefully selected to be in the same place at the same time, that’s unlikely.

Then I read a passage from Carl Sagan’s “The Demon-Haunted World“, and everything became clear:

The last scientifically literate President may have been Thomas Jefferson…Britain had such a Prime Minister in Margaret Thatcher. Her early studies in chemistry, in part under the tutelage of Nobel Laureate Dorothy Hodgkins, were key to the U.K.’s strong and successful advocacy that ozone-depleting CFCs be banned worldwide.

Never mind if promising to achieve an impossible target by spending an incredible amount of money makes sense or doesn’t. What matters for successive British governments really _is_ to be able to “show leadership”, i.e. be at the head of the bandwagon. Just like Mrs Thatcher was able to do: a great surrogate for a lost empire, if you ask me.

In other news: when will Mrs Thatcher or one of her scientifically-illiterate male clones finally stop being the UK Prime Minister?

We Have To Cure Ourselves From The Itch For Absolute Knowledge And Power

2010/12/02 9 comments

As I find myself repeating, AGW has been so far impossible to falsify, in the sense that nobody has any idea of what kind of observation or observations would be needed to disprove it, either as-is or in its catastrophic form.

This is no small detail, as the very existence of catastrophic AGW is used by many people in blatant violation of Cromwell’s Rule:

if a coherent Bayesian attaches a prior probability of zero to the hypothesis that the Moon is made of green cheese, then even whole armies of astronauts coming back bearing green cheese cannot convince him

How many AGWers would be able to accept the famous exhortation, “I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken“? Very very few, especially among those of an activist variety. And this brings one straight back where I started for tonight’s research, a chance view (via the concept of “scientific allegiance“) of a short, emotional clip from “The Ascent of Man” by Jacob Bronowski, author of the quote that is the title of this post.

Bronowski makes a very poignant point, inviting each and every one of us to reach out to people, instead of transforming them into numbers. And what is the accusation of “denialism” but an attempt to de-humanize anybody that is not an AGW True Believer?

The world being built anybody using the term “denialism” in an AGW context ain’t pretty. Bronowski again:

There is no absolute knowledge. And those who claim it, whether they are scientists or dogmatists, open the door to tragedy. All information is imperfect. We have to treat it with humility. That is the human condition; and that is what quantum physics says. I mean that literally.

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