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Perspective Amiss At @AmSciMag

Summary of the latest email edition of “Science In The News Weekly“, “a digest of science news stories appearing in the mainstream media. It is delivered every Monday afternoon (or Tuesday afternoon in the case of a Monday holiday) as part of Sigma Xi’s public understanding of science program area, in conjunction with American Scientist magazine

Science-y news

Another science-y news

Yet another science-y news

World to end(*)

More science-y news

More more science-y news

In particular the (*) bit is of the form:

Scientists say that if carbon dioxide emissions don’t begin to decline soon, the complex fabric of marine ecosystems will begin fraying–and eventually unravel completely.

Evidently reason takes a momentary leave of absence at American Scientist like in many other places, whenever carbon dioxide is mentioned.

BTW the link is to the study that used naturally-occurring CO2 seeps to try to figure out what might happen in 2100, an impressive collection of “might’s” if you ask me.

Humans Are Not Vermin

2012/01/23 5 comments

Letter sent to the IHT-

Dear Editors

So you’ve finally realized there’s a set of simple innovations that could save the lives of millions right now, help the environment and perhaps even slow down global warming (see John Tierney’s “A renegade climate idea that could work“, IHT, Jan 18, 2012).

The fact that those actions have been neglected thus far because of lack of “glamour” and an obsession with cutting carbon dioxide emissions tells everything one needs to know about the inhumanity sadly intrinsic to many environmental activist organizations.

Humans are not vermin. Children dying as we speak because of black carbon filling their lungs in windowless huts are not trade-offs to sacrifice in a fight to convince the world to use fewer SUVs.

Prof Roger Pielke Jr’s “iron law of climate policy” says CO2 emission cuts policies always lose against economic growth pushes. Such a rule ought to be expanded : because we’re humans, and we should remember our humanity. Therefore policies that save human lives have to take precedence over attempts at defining global environment-related treaties. Always.

If The Skeptic Society Were Not Fast Asleep On AGW (Anecdotes Do Not Make A Science)

2011/08/17 3 comments

This is what the Skeptic Society would write regarding the constant barrage of reports, blog posts, news items, peer-reviewed articles about the current and future (lack of) catastrophes related to man-made CO2 emissions – they would write it, that is, if the Skeptic Society were not fast asleep on the topic, most of the time – but not always – seeing itself as Defender of the Orthodoxy of Established Science rather than, shock! horror!, a society of skeptics:

Anecdotes Do Not Make a Science:
The ThisShouldBeWhatSkepticsAreAbout Reply
by non-Michael Shermer, non-Arthur Benjamin & non-James Randi

We realize that hour-long “Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming (CAGW) demonstrations” do not a scientific experiment make, but there is no question that you warmists present them as if it were a scientifically known fact that “we are experiencing or going to experience Catastrophic AGW” to some degree. In your blog posts and articles, in fact, you state that these “physical phenomenon” is “something that is happening to us all,” thus stating your support of the “fact” of the existence of catastrophical man-made global warming. But scientifically speaking, the “facts” of the matter are that there is no positive evidence whatsoever for the existence of any of the increase in exceptional weather you discuss, when records are compiled in controlled scientific conditions.

Even the pro-AGWers who do serious responsible research on the matter are now admitting that their entire research program, after over fifteen decades of data collection, has produced nothing statistically significant. The few “blips” in the data that appear, quickly disappear when conditions were instead expected to replicate. This is one of the beautiful components of the scientific method—its self-correcting nature. For those who are corrected, however, it may not seem so attractive.

(Of course, Mr. Warmist, if your arguments for the validity of CAGW claims are based upon religious, rather than logical, scientific reasoning, many of these arguments may not apply to your statements. In that case we are arguing about a preferred belief system rather than a provable—or disprovable—claim).

Our position is not meant to be scornful or condescending. We only want to make the point that under controlled measurements over many decades, there has never been a proper and statistically significant finding of catastrophic increase in exceptional weather events. What CAGW people have are anecdotes about hurricanes or Arctic sea ice, and anecdotes do not make a science. Anecdotes are stories related by participants: “I saw a tornado and thought ‘this is what CAGW is about’.” Or: “I spotted some maybe-dead polar bears and made a guess about how many more have died because of CAGW.” And so on.

The simple fact is that thousands and thousands of CAGW stories, as impressive as they may seem, do not make a science. Ten anecdotes are no better than one anecdote, and a hundred anecdotes are no better than ten. Actually, a hundred anecdotes are worse than ten, if you do not also have statistically significant data showing a worrisome change in weather patterns and events somewhere in the world. It is a fact, Mr. Warmist, that NO results shown so far have been adequately obvious and clear-cut. In the case of old data—and the reputation of CAGW rests almost entirely on old, dubious paleoclimate data—those requirements often cannot be applied, obviously. But if your CAGWers are able to NOW produce data, we can show you how standard statistics can be applied. We await, with interest, your response to this suggestion.

Anecdotes are only useful to illustrate a phenomenon that already has been proven scientifically, in this case, statistically. If you do not have this, and as far as we can tell you do not, then all those anecdotes indicate is that there is something else going on that has absolutely nothing to do with CO2 emissions. To repeat the six-word phrase that should be memorized by every CAGWer and skeptic (it is difficult for all of us to understand), and repeated every night before bed:

ANECDOTES DO NOT MAKE A SCIENCE.

(freely inspired to the Skeptics Society reply to the Association for Research and Enlightenment, an ESP advocacy group)

(Failure at the New York Times and ClimateWorks) Why So Many People Are So Unperturbed

2011/08/02 7 comments

It says a lot about contemporary “green” journalism when a report that links the Permian extinction to “methane burps” using a Baltimore Sun article of Dec 2004 is described as “the best job I [Justin Gillis of the NYT] have seen of explaining, in layman’s terms, why scientists keep pressing the issue“.

Perhaps we simply shouldn’t have anymore laymen writing about environmental stuff.

Anyway, here’s my comments to “The Costs of Delay” by Hal Harvey and Sonia Aggarwal for the ClimateWorks Foundation:

—-

How many times can the same concepts be regurgitated before people recognize they don’t lead anywhere?

The report says “A delay—of even a decade— in reducing CO2 emissions will lock in large-scale, irreversible change“. Ironically, this same sentence has been heard first more than TWO decades ago.

It then goes on to “Carbon “sinks” are disappearing” but “the proportion of total emissions soaked up by the oceans between 2000 and 2007 _MAY_ have declined by as much as 10 percent.” I am afraid such weaselry with words is very 2008.

the more CO2 [the seas] absorb, the more acidic they become“: a physical impossibility due to all that salt. Seawater could become less alkaline, but to call that “more acidic” is again a trite, old way of playing with words.

The pages on “impacts” only deal with future stuff that “may“, “is likely“, etc etc happen. That means it “may not”. “Estimates” are so 2008 too.

It gets even more ridiculous when the Permian extinction is linked to a “methane burpby way of a Baltimore Sun article of 2004. Is that a joke? And the authors proceed to mention two studies that depict adaptation in worse terms than even the Stern Review, thereby forgetting all the research that points in the other direction.

In conclusion the Climate Works report shows exactly why so many people are so unperturbed. The case for mitigation against climate change should be made in a less amateurish, less partisan, and decidedly more scientific way. IF that’s possible, that is.

Will CO2 Cause Bieber Fever In Fish Worldwide?

2011/06/04 4 comments

No, I am not talking about this Fish. Or that Phish. I am talking about fish of the swimming variety, recently in the news as under multiple lines of attack by (you guessed it right) increased CO2 in the atmosphere.

Poor little ocean inhabitants will run out of breath, or go deaf. Or maybe not, as both papers compensate with novelty what they lack in robustness.

In the meanwhile, though, there are some indications that, at least for now, great white sharks are into AC/DC. That could be useful news (if under threat of attack, just convince a fellow diver to burst into a watery version of “Back in Black” and you’ll be fine. You, that is, not the fellow diver).

Why stop there, though? We can combine all these pieces of evidence to come up with a realistic scenario (as realistic as anything ever written by the likes of David Suzuki or Paul R. Ehrlich, that is): with human-caused CO2 emissions apparently unstoppable, fish the world over will experience irregular heartbeats, and hearing difficulties causing a decline in musical taste.

That is, they will all suffer “Bieber Fever“.

Please help prevent such a tragedy, by reducing your CO2 emissions.

Reports of UK Demise Greatly Exaggerated – Just Don’t Trust A Word The Government Says

2011/05/16 6 comments

UPDATED with BBC News link

Pray for Britain“? UK “off a cliff“? Yesterday, I thought not.

omnologos says:

Hey, it’s the UK Government, they’ll fiddle with the figures and tamper with the reports of independent panels appointed by them, declare “victory!” and move on without having achieved any practical goal at all.

omnologos says:

the UK has a long history of bummer pledges met by creative accounting. This’ll be another example.

And in fact…the BBC flagship “Today” programme had Roger Harrabin pondering a few hours ago how the new “legally-binding” emission targets can be dependent on what the rest of EU will do (mysteriously, there’s little on the BBC website as yet). And the FT reports that it’s all going to be about a fantastic “2030 target“, and Chancellor George Osborne made it known that “nothing has been agreed“.

So the rule is as usual…especially when “targets” are involved, do not trust a word that comes out of the UK Government. Ever.

Andy @Revkin Points To The End of The Line For The IPCC And Its Lot

2011/03/27 10 comments

Thanks Andy!

Beginning in the 1980s, [University of Pennsylvania Professor Philip] Tetlock examined 27,451 forecasts by 284 academics, pundits and other prognosticators. The study was complex, but the conclusion can be summarized simply: the experts bombed. Not only were they worse than statistical models, they could barely eke out a tie with the proverbial dart-throwing chimps. […] The least accurate forecasters, [Tetlock] found, were hedgehogs: “thinkers who ‘know one big thing,’ aggressively extend the explanatory reach of that one big thing into new domains” and “display bristly impatience with those who ‘do not get it,’ ” he wrote. Better experts “look like foxes: thinkers who know many small things,” “are skeptical of grand schemes” and are “diffident about their own forecasting prowess.”

So there we have it…experts of the “big thing” called “climate change”, aggressive (to the point of hiding declines, preventing publication of competing ideas, inserting unsubstantiated critiques in the IPCC report, etc etc) and definitely “impatient” with us little humans wondering aloud about their certitudes (any post at RC, Connolley, Deltoid, Romm, etc etc keeps confirming this point).

Note how none of the above can be defined as “gross negligence” or “conspiracy”, and yet despite all the whitewashing by the Climategate inquiries, there is a scientific consensus, and the best of our scientific knowledge demonstrates, that all that bunch, and pretty much all the bigwigs around the IPCC, they ARE “least accurate forecasters”. QED.

For more discussion about “wrongology”: here and here. Read also here a critique-essay by Tetlock himself, listing a set of criteria suggested by David Freedman, author of Wrong: Why Experts* Keep Failing Us—And How to Know When Not to Trust Them as signs of claims we should be “especially wary of”

  1. dramatic (“claiming to have invented the psychological equivalent of the telescope qualifies”)
  2. a tad too clear-cut (“devoid of qualifications about when propositions do and do not hold”)
  3. doubt free (“portraying findings as beyond reasonable doubt and one’s measure as 100 percent pure”)
  4. universal (“implying that one is tapping into powerful unconscious forces that, hitherto unbeknownst to us, drive all human behavior”)
  5. palatable (“likely to appeal to one’s favorite ideological constituencies”)
  6. receiving “a lot of positive” media attention (“widely covered in the mass media and millions have visited the website”)
  7. actionable implications (“claims about what employers now need to do to guarantee true equality of opportunity in workplaces”)

Let me now make a statement that is dramatic, very clear-cut, doubt-free, universal, palatable (to most of my readers), yet likely media-ignored and hardly actionable: the “scientific consensus” on climate-change (rather, the unscientific stuff that constitutes the IPCC–led propaganda bandied about as “scientific consensus”), scores 7 out of 7 on the Freedman scale and therefore should lie at the bottom of anybody’s trust level:

  1. dramatic (having reached the computational power needed to project future climate just as CO2 emissions got to a previously-unknown “dangerous” level)
  2. a tad too clear-cut (with climate change almost completely due to a “thermostat” called CO2)
  3. doubt free (the IAC spent an inordinate amount of time complaining about the absurd IPCC policy of underplaying uncertainties)
  4. universal (everybody will feel the (bad) consequences of climate change, and everybody is guilty of it)
  5. palatable (as it happens, the usual evils of capitalism and freedoms are the underling cause of climate change)
  6. receiving “a lot of positive” media attention (shall I really comment this?)
  7. actionable implications (every ha’penny worth of a politician understands how many things can be pinned upon the bandwagon called “climate change”)

And I find one sentence by Tetlock as especially relevant to the climate debate:

Whatever may be the merits of the underlying science in the peer-reviewed literature, in the public forum, the ratio of pseudoexpertise to genuine expertise is distressingly high.

ps Yes, I might be wrong. On the other hand, I am not asking for billions of dollars for dubious research, have never attempted to restrict anybody’s liberty, don’t use the ‘net to show off my superiority complex, do let almost every comment free on this website, etc etc)

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