Monthly Archives: June 2014

Everything but the issue

When I first came across the Telegraph article The scandal of fiddled global warming data, it was unusual to say the least. The article was about blogger Steven Goddard who shows how, in recent years, NOAA’s US Historical Climatology Network (USHCN) has been “fiddling” with its records. He made the extraordinary claim that 40% of the data was “fabricated”: data was created that wasn’t measured. The effect of this has been to downgrade earlier temperatures and to exaggerate those from recent decades, to give the impression that the Earth has been warming up much more than is justified by the actual data. You don’t really find many of these stories in the mainstream media.

The real surprise were the comments. In no time the number of comments surpassed 1,000, then 5,000, then 9,000. Now there are even 12,500+ comments. They were about numerous things like: climate scientists/models being right or wrong, alternative energy, how many scientists agree or not, who does agree or not, melting of the Arctic, sea level rise, Obama, Democrats, greenhouse gases, fossil fuels, funding, all kinds of conspiracies, environmental control, Michael Mann, CAGW, the consensus, “97% of the scientists believe”, “trusted science” and so on and so on and so on.

I saw many commenters calling others loons, idiots, morons, scientific illiterates, bad spellers, demented, deluded, fraudsters, denialists,… Emotions got stirred quite a bit.

Some said that Steven Goddard was just a blogger, not a climate scientist and therefor one should not trust his analysis.

All those things could be very interesting or maybe even true, but there is one thing that I am missing in the comments. The only interesting question would be: IS IT TRUE? Does NOAA adjust(ed) the historic records downwards and the current records upwards? If so, what is the reason they do so? If NOAA didn’t do so, why was the Goddard analysis not correct? All other questions/comments are beside the point.

In science it doesn’t matter who said so. Even if it said by a farmer, priest or a lumberjack. The only thing that should matter is if he said the truth or not. The fact that someone isn’t a scientist doesn’t mean he is not telling the truth. Many historic scientific breakthroughs were made by people who weren’t scientists.

But that babble as seen as a reaction to this article is just a distraction of the real question: is what is being said in the article true or not and why?

I don’t know if the analysis of Steven Goddard is right or wrong. But would it not be more interesting to know if he is right or wrong, in stead of avoiding the issue by stating he is not a climate scientist or babble about other topics in global warming land. One can stay busy with that. 12,500+ comments long, to be exact.

Update
Apparently the extraordinary claim of Steven Goddard (who in the meanwhile also revealed his own name) seem to be correct after all. There could be a bug in the USHCN reporting system that unnecessarily calls a routine that fills in data from neighboring stations. It could be interesting to see how NOAA will react on this.

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Trust that someone did the thinking for you

Outrageous statement in de MAM-hoax

Outrageous statement in de MAM-hoax

A shockwave went through environmental thinking community. Navid Rakotofala, a Madagasy student, fooled everybody by creating outrageous anti-GMO posters which environmentalists reproduced uncritically, even when they expressed inhuman and offensive ideas.

His mentor told him that environmentalists would accept almost anything regardless of the scientific process: “they often seem more interested in promoting their views regardless of whether the science is behind them or whether people will actually be helped by what they are advocating”. Wanting to evaluate this, Navid created a blog with a fake project: “March Against Monsanto” (MAM) in which he claimed he was acting against Monsanto. He made signs with some offensive text with no factual truth in it, like the sign “I would rather go blind than eating golden rice” (golden rice is a GM rice with a higher contents of beta-carotene). Or nonsensical things like “Monsanto Kills & Eats Baby Lemurs for Profit”. He gave the signs to his friends and put the pictures online. He was surprised to see those pictures were indeed uncritically shared among each other.

Of course, it could always be a double prank, but I must admit that I understand what has happened here. It is an emotional thing. Been there too. There is no regard for the science because that is not where their interest lies.

That is not difficult to understand. People only have so many things they are willing to put their energy in. For example, I am interested in computers, so I am eager to put energy into it. Other people are more into cars and will be able to tweak and fix their car. Still others are into climbing rocks, making woodcraft, gardening and so on.
If I want a computer I buy parts and put them together. I wouldn’t mind the challenge or the time. But if I would have a car I wouldn’t even consider fixing or upgrading it. I would certainly mind putting energy into it.

Environment/climate is a complex matter and few have the willingness and time to even check basic facts. But it is also a emotional issue that moves people who aren’t willing to understand what is at hand.

The idea behind this is trust. Trust that someone looked into something and found a problem, a horrible problem, and reported it honestly to the world. Whether it being a Madagasy student who supposedly acts against GMO’s or a climate scientist who spreads doom and gloom in the media.

The masses are moved by emotions. Environmentalism and global warming, both are brought in a very dramatic format and will have a strong effect.

That is where the consensus is coming in. To reach the masses and squeeze them into action, you need their trust. When they trust they can even speak out in the name of science without having the basic background on the issue. They can for example claim the science is solid without having to understand the basics. Then you don’t need to understand the science. Just trust someone did the thinking for you.

That why the “consensus” is defended so frantically among those who are alarmed. Without a consensus no trust. Without trust no action.

A familiar story

Caleb Rossiter

Two posts ago I wrote about statistician Caleb Rossiter who saw his position with the Institute for Policy Studies suspended after he wrote an op-ed in the The Wall Street Journal which was rather skeptical about climate change. In the meanwhile he gave an interview in The College Fix about this incident and more background information how it got that far.

Reading it I found it very recognizable and heart warming. He was also a believer a decade ago, until he dived into the matter and found many holes into it… A familiar story for those who looked deeper in the global warming issue.

The interesting thing is that he is a statistician, so he should be able to assess the statistical evidence better than anybody else. What he found didn’t really impress him:

The data that support the headlines are very, very weak, very, very notional, and simply not logical.

The story how he got to be skeptical was interesting: he asked his international statistics students to analyze some topic of international affairs using statistics. One of them turned in a paper on humans’ role in global warming and he gave her an F. She came to him and complained that she really was just repeating exactly what her sources said. He replied that this was impossible because the evidence she cited was just wishful thinking and no real data. But when he looked at the cited classic article he found that they really saw their model data as evidence.

“So I became quite interested in this phenomenon,” he added. “So many of my colleagues and so much of educated America and liberal newspapers and all just believe that mathematicians have set up models that should make us very certain that the recent half-degree uptick from 1980 to 2000 was human caused – when in fact they were just playing with the models. I use models a lot, and these were pretty weak.”

And

“I am simply someone who became convinced that the claims of certainty about the cause of the warming and the effect of the warming were tremendously and irresponsibly overblown,” he said in an exclusive interview Tuesday with The College Fix. “I am not someone who says there wasn’t warming and it doesn’t have an effect, I just cannot figure out why so many people believe that it is a catastrophic threat to our society and to Africa.”

I could relate to that. Been there, done that. When I was a believer, global warming seemed so evident and incredibly logical. Yet when I discovered the many flaws, I was wondering why so many people believe in it being catastrophic. Trust has certainly to do with it, unconditional trust in the scientists in the media. Without realizing that those are not scientific messages, but political messages. We heard these simple and logical sounding messages many, many times, therefor we tend to believe them. Now I am still trying figuring out in this blog what it was that made me tick back then…

More about the inherent uncertainty of complex systems:

“You couldn’t have this many terrible effects from a half a degree rise in global temperature. It’s probable that there are some, but it gets a little boring because it’s always weak data, because that is the nature of a tremendously complex system.”

I have bickered on this in many of my posts. Sure, we emit more CO2 than before. Sure, it is a greenhouse gas. Sure, everything else being equal there will be a warming because of it. The problem is that not everything stays equal. Climate is not a static system as I thought when I was still a believer. What is the effect of CO2 and the warming on all the other variables?

And last but not least, about the (lack of) debate:

“I think they believe … that you give legitimacy to the ‘denialists’ if you debate them,” Rossiter adds. “I think that’s a terrible idea. … At IPS, like many other places, people don’t want to debate it because they have this funny statement that, and Mr. Obama repeats it every time he opens his mouth, ‘the debate is over.’ I have never heard a more remarkable statement in my life about anything.”

About how he sees teaching his students:

“I always really push them to evaluate, dig down and learn the arguments of the other side- that is part of education.”

Couldn’t agree more. That is also the leitmotif of this blog.

The lost Paradise

applebite

One of the things that changed when becoming more skeptical about global warming was my attitude towards climate. In my believers years I had a sense of (false) stability. I believed that the climate system was at its pinnacle and that we humans were adapted to it after so many centuries. But then, by emitting CO2 into the atmosphere, we added so much greenhouse gases that we are in the process of changing our climate.

Scientists in the media told us this time and time again. They are still telling it now. So why wouldn’t it be true?

Raised as a catholic this was something that sounded really familiar. We were accustomed to our specific climate and now, bang, by burning fossil fuels we were losing this safe and stable climate and we (or at least our children) will have to endure a changed, hostile climate. It has the Adam and Eve-story painted all over it. We bit the apple of emissions and now we were chased away from harmony of nature. We had it all, yet we blew it and now we have to pay for our sins.

Also from the environmental movements in the 1970s-1980s I got the image of “Mother Earth”. A poor figure collapsing under the unbearable pressure we load onto her. We humans were changing the earth. We were to blame, no doubt about that.

Another thing was my belief that the Nature was something incredibly feeble. Even a small change could knock it out of balance…

This is of course not what reality shows. I was living in an illusion. The climate is not static, it is not at its pinnacle either and it has the ability to balance. It is constantly evolving. We live in a world of extremes. The temperature difference between day and night can be dramatic. As between summer and winter. The same for other variables like precipitation. Even the climate (as an average of weather over decades) keeps on changing. It is more like a cycle than the straight line I envisioned it to be.

That poor Mother Earth image is not according to reality either. Mother Earth is also a raging mom. That feeble Mother Nature is much stronger than we are. Always have been in the past. As far as history learn us, countless (extreme) weather events killed countless humans over time. It didn’t just began to do this after we started burning fossil fuels. History is the witness we seem to neglect.

Nature and life are incredibly resilient. It should be in a ever changing world in which extreme events can and will happen. Humans have an incredible range in which they can live: from the freezing poles to the hot tropics. Gosh, there are animals and plants living there too. When looking closer, more species are living in the tropics than in the mid latitudes. The mid latitudes at its turn have more species than the poles. So I don’t really know were the fear of having less species in a warmer climate comes from. As my interest was always in Nature, I should have known such things. I guess emotions took over and abandoned reason.

In biology and ecology lessons I learned that all species live in their own niche. So even if species get extinct (happened in the past, happens now and surely will happen again in the future), those niches will be filled in by other, better adapted species.

Looking back to my not so distant past, it is no surprise that we think that by turning back the CO2 to pre-1950-levels we get back our paradise. Maybe that’s true, but that might be an illusion as well.

What is a consensus worth when thoughts can’t be expressed freely?

uitsluiting

Another one bites the dust. Not long after Bengtsson had no other choice than to leave the Academic Advisory Council of the GWPF Academic Advisory Council because of peer pressure, now it is Caleb S. Rossiter who saw his fellowship with the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) terminated because he expressed his opinion against the correct story line.

The op-ed he wrote in the The Wall Street Journal was titled “Sacrificing Africa for Climate Change – Western policies seem more interested in carbon-dioxide levels than in life expectancy.”, which was, as the title suggest, rather skeptical about climate change and more specifically about the catastrophic nature of it. After this his position with Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) was suspended because this op-ed showed them his ideas diverged significantly from theirs on this topic.

Bengtsson and Rossiter are not the only ones, they are not the first ones either. There were several editors before them, even a complete magazine, that didn’t survive a publication or a opinion of climate change skeptics. We have seen some background on this in the climategate emails where we seen a small group of scientists redefining peer review in accordance with their own views.

While his resignation is more understandable than that of Bengtsson (the IPS is a left wing organization with a known agenda), something is becoming more and more clear. All those events are a clear message: if you deviate from the story line, you put your career in danger. That is a very strong message if you ask me. I guess there isn’t much incentive of scientists in making public their skeptic opinions.

It shouldn’t be surprising that so many scientist support the story line in the media and in their papers. It shouldn’t be surprising that they start expressing their opinions on the matter mostly after they retire.

We are being told that the consensus on global warming/climate change is the holy grail and we should trust it. But what is this “scientific consensus” worth when scientists are not able to speak out freely in fear of ruining their career?

The global warming scare explained in two minutes

polarvortexin2minutes4_tbm

Remember the video in which John Holdren claimed that the polar vortex is a pattern that we expect to see more frequent because of Global Warming? Seems that the Competitive Enterprise Institure (CEI) submitted a request for correction under the Data Quality Act stating that there was no evidence for his claim that:

A growing body of evidence suggests that the kind of extreme cold being experienced by much of the United States as we speak is a pattern that we can expect to see with increasing frequency as global warming continues”

The Quality Act guidelines require to correct any published information that does not meet “basic standards of quality, including objectivity, utility, and integrity”. CEI requested that the Whitehouse Office of Science and Technology Policy takes down the “The Polar Vortex Explained in 2 Minutes”-video and removing the unsubstantiated claim that more cold weather is coming because of global warming or that the extreme cold experienced by much of the United States this winter is a pattern that we can expect to see with increasing frequency as global warming continues.

They quoted several scientists that didn’t agree with this claim and also three studies since September that dispute the global warming/polar vortex connection. Since their request was made, one other study (Ballinger, Kent State University) found that this vortex wasn’t historically unusual. Ballinger examined the polar vortex behavior across North America since 1948 and found that the 2014 polar vortex excursion into the lower 48 ranked 6th in southerly extent and 7th in total area.

This is something that I would expect. Already in the 1970s the polar vortex was used as an explanation for the New Ice Age scare.

A couple days ago they received an answer to this request. Holdren still firmly stands by his claim. More, he was simply expressing his “personal opinion” and “expert judgment” rather than any “comprehensive review of the scientific literature”, therefore not subject to the Data Quality Act.

Hey, that sounds familiar. That’s is exactly what the global warming scare is about. A lot of scary claims are sent to the public, but when examining it more closely it is nothing more than a “personal opinion”.

Of course the video was not a comprehensive review of the scientific literature. It wasn’t even about science. It was a political message. Promoting a weather event to climate. Keeping the scare alive in the view of the raising doubts against the global warming theory.

If you think about it. Three, now four papers that dispute Holdren’s claim. That seems more like “a growing body of evidence” that “suggests” that there is no connection.

At least that is my personal opinion. 😉

Energy efficiency is not the same as energy saving

MiniMetro

When I was around 20 years old I was, like many young men, interested in cars and dreaming of owning one. At that time I drove the family car: a humble Austin Mini Metro. As someone who was conscientious about the impact on our environment I found myself looking at the fuel consumption of cars to see which one was the most fuel economic.

From memory: I found that our Mini Metro had the lowest fuel consumption (4.6-4.8 liter/100 km) of them all, then came the medium cars with 5-6 liter/100 km, then the bigger ones with 7-8-9 liter/100 km. At the tail the older cars with 10 or more liter/100 km. I remember that most older cars of that time had 13 or more liter/100 km.

Forward thirty years, out of curiosity I looked into it again and came to the conclusion that not much changed during that time. The only thing that really changed is that the clunkers at the tail end weren’t there anymore. But generally the modern cars had about the same fuel consumption as the cars in the beginning of the 1980s. Even the fuel consumption of the engine of a Toyota Prius of today (when driven solely on fuel) was in the same range as the fuel consumption of that of the Mini Metro in the 1980s…

At that time it came as a complete surprise. The car manufacturers pride themselves that they are building more energy efficient engines now, but in these three decades there wasn’t much of the difference in fuel consumption of cars. Aren’t these modern engines more efficient than the old ones? Yes, they are. But the saving done by the more efficient engine was eaten up by more speed, safety and comfort. The 1980s Mini Metro was just a basic car with not much luxury. No electronics, a basic dashboard and it could barely drive 120 km/h (that was not a comfy thing to do though). Compare this to the modern cars with standard climate control and other options that add to the weight of the car or need extra energy from that engine. The engines now are much more efficient than those of thirty years ago, but they have to carry more weight, feed much more options and drive faster than the older cars. Saving would be if we put a modern engine in a Mini Metro and use the power of that engine solely to drive (if that were possible or even desirable, much of that extra weight is safety related). Or use a modern car at a lower speed, but that would not be safe in todays traffic.

This made me think of the Oxfam happening against increasing food and energy prices for the poor at the G7 meeting. This was one of their statements (translated from Dutch):

The energy efficiency should improve 40 percent by 2030, which could mean a saving of 239 billion, or 300 euro annually per household.

I have heard such statements many times before. Not only with the engine efficiency of a car, but also for example with the energy saving light bulb. It was hailed as the solution for saving electricity, but in the end this didn’t materialize.

Don’t get me wrong, saving energy with more efficiency is a noble strive. But two things are mixed here.

First are the savings done by the efficiency, which are real. If an engine is more efficient, it can do more with the same fuel. If a bulb is more efficient, it will give more light for the same electricity. If one has a house or appliances that are more energy efficient, energy will be saved.

The second thing are the economic savings. We could use an efficient engine and have the advantage of more options that makes car driving more fun, safe and/or comfortable. We could use an efficient light bulb and leave them longer on for comfort or we could make a bigger television with money of the savings. We could use more energy efficient houses and appliances and use the savings for an extra vacation by airplane.

The fact that we use more efficient things and saving money by it, doesn’t mean we are actually going to save energy. It is only saving emissions if the savings are not used for some other activity that is using fossil fuels.

The big problem with this is that the poor, who certainly could use this 300 euro, don’t have the money to buy these (more expensive) measures and therefor will not gain from these “savings”. And wasn’t that why there was a happening in the first place…