Tag Archives: Climatochondria

A pessimistic world view and the media

Belgians in their 20s and 30s aren’t getting cheerful from what they see happening in the world,. This was the result from the research of sociologist Mark Elchardus (Dutch). He wrote the book ‘Voorbij het Narratief van Neergang’ (Beyond the Narrative of Downfall). It is based on 2,000 interviews with Belgians in their 20s and 30s, taken at the end of 2013. The result seems to be that they have a rather negative world view:

  • 92.1% fears more disasters caused by global warming
  • 84.8% thinks that open borders threatens our own workforce
  • 90.9% sees lowering of pensions
  • 82.8% poorer people becoming poorer and riches becoming richer
  • 68.8% fears more victims of terror

At the end, just in passing, was said that those young adults, while having a pessimistic world view, have it socio-economically at least as good as their parents and they look optimistic towards their own future. To me it sound like they are thinking these negative things will not effect them that much.

At that age, I wasn’t much different. I, and my peers, had it at least as good, maybe even better, than our parents. We also heard plenty of doom stories around us. Mostly known are the stories about an imminent overpopulation, the new ice age, acid rain, the ozone hole, the immigration wave from South Europe/North Africa, consequences of the aging of our population and many more. The topics that the current young adults worry about are rather similar to those that we had when we had at their age. Only the events differ.

It doesn’t seem if they are the last to do so. The children of today are growing up in a world with its own scares like climate scare, climate disruption, the current immigration wave from the middle East,.. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

But that wasn’t actually the thing that caught my initial attention. It was this: the contrast of their pessimistic view of the world and their optimistic view towards their own future could be explained by the news coverage in the media, according to Elchardus.

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Only one part of the story

Looking back to my previous, alarmist, self I remember seeing a lot of negativity. That should come as no surprise. The media is very busy spewing loads of negative news stories about climate onto the people. Hurricanes, droughts, floods, less rain, more rain, thunderstorms, higher temperatures, lower temperatures, failed harvests, melting (land) ice in the (West) Antarctic, declining Arctic sea ice, declining glacier on Mount Kilimanjaro, species migration, the month with the highest average temperature, the day with the highest temperature ever, the highest temperature in one weather station/area, wildfires,… Of course they are caused or connected with Global Warming and whatever happens, it is always worse than before.

When something is going worse than before it is being hyped in the media, but when something is going better again later, nothing is said about it. We were hit hard with stories about an increase in GLOBAL temperatures in the past. Yet when those global temperatures didn’t increase, what make the scientists scratch their heads, we don’t hear much about this global temperatures anymore. Sure, we still hear about the record temperature of the month, or even more ridiculous, of the day record. Or the record of a particular area. But what happened to those GLOBAL temperatures?

Who has seen the graphs of the pause? The evolution of wild fires? Hurricane activity almost at its historically lowest? The hurricanes “drought”? The increase of Antarctic sea ice, at a historically highest? The standstill of the Arctic sea ice extent? The above average global sea ice (hey, in the past we were scared about the albedo of the earth going down because of melting ice, yet when we have a high albedo, no peep)? Food production at an all time high ever and still even increasing? No wonder many people believe it is ever getting increasingly worse and still as much of an issue it seemed to be in the past.

This means that those who don’t check data will only hear the bad news and almost never the good news. Therefor they might thinking something is still really wrong and the scientists in the media were right after all when they say disasters would happen. And assuming all those bad things still apply at this moment.

Wouldn’t it be nice when ordinary people also would hear the good stories. Things that evolved positive. Then they could assess for themselves how good or bad the predictions/projections done in the past were. This of course could be more difficult then one may think. The media loves bad news stories and while scientific stories being intrinsically boring, doom and gloom stories do sell very well. So I don’t expect to see the situation changing much.

It should come as no surprise that those who don’t go and look at the data will not know the actual situation. They think that the global warming situation is only growing worse and worse, not because that is what the data says, because that is the only thing that gets through in the media.

Let me turn that around and assume, for sake of the argument, that the alarmist side is right and see how far that gets us. So we have a situation in which Global Warming is around for already more than 25 years now. We apparently feel the consequences of this in our lives via increasing storm activity, droughts, heat waves, wildfires, freak weather events and so on and so on. Extreme weather that affects our crops. Yet when we look at crop production we see no effect. When we look at hurricane numbers and see no effect. When we look at global temperatures and see no effect. More, crop production is rising. Hurricanes are decreasing in numbers. Global temperatures stays stationary in spite of CO2 being considered the main cause of rising temperatures and yet an unprecedented increase of its emissions in the last decades. If one looks only at one side of the story it makes sense. But when looking at both side, that is quite some discrepancy. That is quite some leap of faith to get there.

You just got to have faith

knmi' 14 climate scenarios

After reading some newspaper articles I got interested in Climate scenarios ’14 for The Netherlands, the new report of KNMI with four mathematical model scenarios for the future climate in the Netherlands. Subtitle is “Guide for professionals in climate adaptation”.

The optimistic look that I got from the media was making place for a more negative one. It is just an accumulation of all things negative. According to the scenarios hardly anything positive will come out of warming or just with a but as a counterweight.

The pause (KNMI calls it euphemistic the “slowed temperature increase”) was touched only briefly. They state that the failure of the models to predict the current standstill doesn’t mean the models are not fit to calculate the future climate. True, but it doesn’t mean it will fit future climate either. This just means the models, right or wrong, can’t be validated by reality until 30 years from now. So how do we know that this long term direction is correct after all if we can’t even check it? How do we know the assumptions it builds on are correct if the models diverge from reality since 20 years already?

If I read it correctly, the KNMI modelers assume this pause is just natural variation that mask our influence. That could well be, but the fact that there is a pause in surface temperatures while having U N P R E C E D E N T E D (and ever increasing) amounts of carbondioxide in the atmosphere, means that there is something not right with this global warming theory. If anthropogenic carbondioxide really is the main cause of the increase of global average temperature and we have unprecedented amounts of it in the atmosphere, then having a pause of a decade and a half doesn’t make much sense. To me it means that there are one or more elements in the system that have an influence at least as strong as the awesome power of carbondioxide and these elements are not really known, so not accounted for in the climate models.

Yet, we blindly base policies on these models. Models that can’t be validated in the near future. Models of a complex and an intrinsic chaotic system. Models that diverge from reality for already more than 20 years now. What are we thinking?

Weather is not climate, unless we say so

Plants in my garden suffering from four, euh, two months of "drought"...

Plants in my garden suffering from four months of “drought”…

Since about six months the Belgian newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws (The Latest News), seemed to be slowing climate alarmism. I first noticed this when reading their reporting on Haiyan. The reporting on it was surprisingly balanced. But yesterday they apparently couldn’t resist. They wrote an article about our warm winter and warm spring that we are experiencing now, interviewing their (alarmist) weatherwoman (from their paper edition, translated from Dutch):

[…] The weather has lost its bearings. According to official KMI terminology, it is ‘abnormally’ warm now for already five months. And except for February there was also much less rainfall than normal since December. […]
“It is no longer news that the earth is warming”, said Jill Peeters, our weatherwoman. “But when you see these numbers, then it is only becoming clearer. The average temperatures used by KMI, are over the past thirty years. If you were to compare with the start of the measurements, then the differences would be even more extreme”. […]

What happened to global warming? Belgium is roughly a whopping 0.006% of the earth. I have to admit that there are more countries than Belgium with this weather, but she forgot to mention for example the United States, where they had their coldest winter. If our warm winter is some kind of evidence that the earth is warming, why is the current cold winter in the United States or our “winter that never ended” just from last year, not evidence that the theory is not coping well? She has no problem with that (translated from Dutch):

The earth is warming up, but within that upward trend there will always be variability.

Here you have it. When it is a warm winter, apparently it is more evidence of global warming. When it is a cold winter, it is just natural variability… In that sense global warming can never be falsifiable and is always true. No matter what the observations are.

I agree that the temperatures rose in the last thirty years and even more in the last 160 years. But this doesn’t necessarily means that humans were the primary cause or that it is catastrophic in nature. It could as well be a recovery from the Little Ice Age. Looking at the longer term datasets cycles of about 60 years become visible. So her definition of 30 years for climate is only a measly half of one cycle, more specifically the upwards part of it. When one takes the satellite dataset (that should be the most accurate globally) temperatures didn’t rise much from the end of the 1970s on and it didn’t rise at all for a decade and a half now. Although we pumped an unprecedented amount of CO2 in the atmosphere during that period.

That would let the temperature rise dangerously.

By 2100.

Or so.

There seemingly wasn’t enough hyperbole until that point in the article. This is how she concludes (translated from Dutch):

The weatherwoman hopes that the weather makes a jump again. “And I’m talking mostly about the drought. If the coming months bring so little rain, then we really will really suffer a long heat wave. We should not hope for that. Nature is in full bloom, but therefor she needs plenty of water, and there is too little of that now.

While it had rained less than normal in most of those months it is not that it didn’t rain. She said that “except for February there was much less rain than normal since December”. This gives the (false) impression that it was much too dry in this period (except for one month). This is her own data:

Month Average (mm) Precipitation (mm)
December 2013 81 77.1
January 2014 76.1 70.1
February 2014 63.1 66.2
March 2014 70 18
April 2014 51.3 20.1

December 2013 and January 2014 were slightly below average, February 2014 was above average and only the two last months rainfall were well below average (before that, November 2013 was extremely wet, almost doubling the average for that month).

A couple months with below average rainfall is nothing special in Belgium. It happened before, it certainly will happen again. That is what averages are. Sometimes less, sometimes more. By the way, most projections for Belgium are about more precipitation in the future and we are told to worry about that. Now we should start worrying about droughts in the future too? Unless climate is changing within the time span of a couple months, the chance that this “drought” will last for long is very small. Even before her article went to press, a rain zone crossed our country and even more rain is forecasted for next week. So much for the drought.

I remember vividly the times that global warmers were saying that “weather is not climate” when they got stuck for an explanation. Now they even have to resort to the variability of weather to make their case…

How could the French ever survive in the South of France?

Until 2010 Belgian climatologists worried about our climate that would change into dry and arid in summer and warm and wet in winter. Additionally this rain in winter would become more extreme (meaning more precipitation per event). They worried that agriculture would become more difficult and tourism would get a blow. Who want to be in the winter resorts in the Hautes Fagnes when it is wet and there no snow anymore?

In the United Kingdom almost the same predictions were made: their wonderful rainy climate would turn into an dry climate like in the Provence. Their beautiful English gardens would turn into arid borders.

Belgium situated just across the Channel, we have a rather similar climate. So those similarities would make sense.

Although I previously believed that our country would become drier in summer and wetter in winter, I have never found this a disastrous prospect. This week I was in the South of France, near the Pyrenees. I visit this region since quite some time. The people of that region actually live in a climate in which summers are dry and arid and in winter it is cold an wet. Things are a bit more extreme here. I encountered my biggest storms here, in summer it can be grueling hot and in winter snow is not an exception. How on earth could the French ever manage to live down in the South?

But looking at tourism it seems that this is not really much of an issue. Tourists seem to keep coming and are an important income for the region. Agriculture is indeed more difficult than in our part of the globe (irrigation is important there), but crops are plentiful and of high quality. The season starts a bit earlier and some of our early fruits and vegetables coming from the South of France and Spain (which is even more arid during summer). Retirees are flocking to the South, not to the North. The South of France and Spain are record holders when it comes to people who retire abroad. Towns like Benidorm are called the retirement homes of Europe. Can we call those retirees climate fugitives? Why don’t they flock to say Oslo or Reykavik?

Should we, Belgians, worry about such a climate if this is what we would expect to get? Apparently it is not the baddest thing to have. It would definitely give quite some challenges, but also some opportunities. It would be possible to grow some other crops than we are used to. We could learn from the French (and the Spanish). We need to stay out of the sun at noon in summer, not because we are lazy, but because it would be insane to do. We need to collect more water in winter to use in summer. All quite simple and straight forward things. It would not be such a difficulty to adapt to something like this.

The point is that people live in a variety of climates, from the poles to the equator. From extreme cold places at the pole to scorching heat in the deserts. They all manage somehow to adapt to it, even in extremes. The worries of the climatologists and activists is that global warming is coming so fast it would be difficult to adapt to it. They seem to look at people/civilizations/nature as something extremely fragile that will be knocked out of balance rather easily. Sure, if climate changes and for example farmers keep growing the same crops, then that wouldn’t bode well.

Reality is a bit different tough. We adapt to new situations. Even without a drastically changed climate, there are trends in what they grow. Also in tourism things change. Tourism of a couple decades ago was quite different than tourism today. They changed without much problems to the changing needs of the people. Thanks goodness. Even in a climate with drier/arid summer and wetter/warmer winter they would find new opportunities. We can take more than what climatologists and activists assume we are capable of.

That was that, but this is now. I said they worried about this until 2010. We had a cold winter back then and climatologists began to claim that this was because of global warming. We would get more of this in the future…

When last year the United Kingdom got storms and floods, guess what: it was also because of global warming and that would just be an appetizer. They would get this more in the future too.

I am sure if we get more hail or more thunder storms (or just pick any other disastrous weather that happens to be there), climatologists would rise and say “this is no doubt something we would see more in our future because of global warming”. They accumulated quite some doom thinking stuff over the last decade and probably will continue to do so in the future.

The two faces of consensus

facesofconsensus

When searching for information to be used in previous post I found an article in randi.com about risk, emotion and global warming. Reading it, I was catapulted back to my alarmist years. It gave an accurate insight in how I was thinking only five years or so ago. It started like this:

I am not going to lie to you; I am freaked out about climate change. At least politicians today can say something to the effect of “it’s something that the next generation must face down,” seemingly abdicating their own responsibility. But I am a part of that next generation. Climate change is something that I am going to have to deal with, and I’m not sure if my generation and I can.

[…]

Moving forward I am going to assume two things. First, that global warming is happening and is human caused (as per the scientific consensus), and second, that most projections about the effects of climate change are grim. That is to say, whatever comes of climate change, it won’t be good. […]

I don’t want to throw stones at anyone. I realized that just about five years ago I was thinking exactly the same things. I can clearly feel his pain. Maybe freaking out would be a rather strong term, but at that time I found the changing climate (then mostly called “global warming”) worrying.

I also assumed that climate change was happening and that our future looked grim if nothing was done quick. This was rooted in my, at that time, unshakable belief in the scientists and the models they used. I also thought they exaggerated their findings, but that they were nevertheless correct.

At the base of it all was “the consensus”. I had other priorities and believing in a broad agreement between scientist was really reassuring. I didn’t had to check anything, didn’t need to think for myself. Just believe what was being told.

To be honest, I have no real problem with the consensus as a concept. It is an agreement of a group of scientists and therefor I can agree that in a field that was studied extensively such an agreement could exist. But I know that there is not something as a “scientific consensus”. As Einstein once said: “There only have to be one to prove me wrong”. The consensus is not part of the scientific method, nor does the consensus prove anything. To believe that the consensus is right, it is necessary to also believe that there is conclusive evidence. It is just a logical fallacy to claim that there is conclusive evidence because there is a consensus between “experts”. There is not much value in arguing about whether there is a consensus or that the consensus proves something.

I do have a problem with a consensus specific in climate science. This for several reasons.

Climate science is a rather young science and only since the last three decades detailed information was gathered. Climate is weather over a longer timespan. 30 years is only about half of a cycle. Before that there was only sparse data, not intended to use as a tool for measuring global temperatures and therefor the data is prone to interpretation. Just look at the ever changing Giss dataset.

More, how in the world can there exist a consensus in a science consisting of multidisciplinary fields studying a complex, chaotic system and sparse historical data available? The uncertainty should be high. Increasing uncertainty (for example about the role of CO2) is more likely to decrease agreement.

There is also another dimension: consensus can be used to stifle debate, close out opponents with another vision or with challenging viewpoints. It is an often heard message: “the debate is over”. If the consensus is about avoiding talking about the evidence it is also just a logical fallacy.

Last, but not least, what is the value of a consensus in a group of scientists that was selected by politicians with a special goal?

Apparently my view on the issue changed quite a lot during the last years and I found myself on the other side of the debate. That doesn’t put me in the most comfortable position, but I think this was the right way to do. Just taking things for granted undoubtedly did put me in a comfortable position, but this can’t compare with the insights gained when looking at both sides of the issue.

Does crossing (a part of) the Northwest Passage demonstrates the dramatic effect of climate change?

brokennwpassage

With interest I followed the (failed) attempt of the Mainstream Last First Expedition to row across the Northwest passage. They didn’t really stranded in the ice as I was expecting, but aborted their mission about half way their intended route. They ended in beauty before the ice stopped them in their tracks.

Flashback a couple months. This is how they heroically introduced themselves in the media titled “Four adventurers set off this summer to row the Northwest Passage”:

On July 1, 2013 four modern-day explorers from Vancouver will attempt a world first by rowing the 3,000 km Northwest Passage in a specially commissioned boat by human power alone in a single season-a feat only possible now due to the melting ice in the Arctic.

I don’t want to minimize the difficulty and effort needed to row 3,000 km, but technically the Northwest Passage is 5,600 km long from the Davis Strait to the Bering Strait. Sailing from Univuk to Pond Inlet is like climbing from base camp I to base camp II and calling it having conquered Mount Everest.

[…] This area once represented a closed door for mariners who attempted to navigate the sea route, without success due to impassable sea ice. This passage has only become semi-navigable for about three months a year in the summer months when the ice of the Arctic Ocean breaks up and melts before refreezing for the winter. The four men will take advantage of that short window to row the ice-strewn passage.

“It wasn’t long ago that the Northwest Passage was the sole domain of steel-hulled ice-breakers but things have changed,” said Kevin Vallely, lead rower.

As far as I know there were 180+ successful crossings and the earliest were even made with wooden vessels. Things have changed indeed, but things can change rapidly as they experienced themselves.

A question that caught my attention in the FAQ:

When was the last time an Arctic / NW Passage expedition such as this was conducted and by whom?
Franklin and his crew died trying in the 1845-7. Many others died too. Roald Amundsen succeeded at the first traverse between 1903-06, taking three years to do it. The Canadian Ice Breaker the St. Roche, housed at the Vancouver Maritime Museum, made the second successful crossing of the passage between 1940-42. A handful of people have sailed it in recent years (mostly under motor) and a handful of people have kayaked it over several seasons. No one has traversed it solely under human power in one season. No one has come close.

True, but a very odd selection of the facts. It gives the false impression that only ice-breakers can do the trip and just barely. The first successful crossing was done with a strengthened wooden vessel, the Gjøa. How did that vessel even got through that “closed door” and that “impassable sea ice”?

They also give only three examples: first one that didn’t make it, the second example was the first actual (multi-season) crossing and the third example the second (multi-year) crossing. He conveniently forgot to mention anything after 1942 (that are 180+ crossings). Those examples seemed to be picked for impact and give the false impression that the previous crossing were all multi year attempts. It is true that the first attempts were all multi-season crossing, but they were not just sailing trough, they were still looking for a route. They were explorers mapping the area. At the end he vaguely mentioned a handful of people in a kayak which didn’t make it in one season. According his story there was nothing in between and now the passage becomes open they will give it a try…

The first one-season crossing was in 1944 by the same St. Roch (a sail/diesel engined reinforced wooden ship). According to northwestpassage2013.blogspot.com only 19 of 185 transits (with 138 different vessels) took more than one season to complete the passage. 5 even did a return in the same season.

But I can agree there were no Northwest Passage crossing by hand power alone. With the remark that even if they would succeed rowing this route, they wouldn’t technically rowed the Northwest Passage either.

Now back to reality. On August 30, 2013 they aborted their attempt because of … too much ice ahead. The ice that shouldn’t be there because of climate change. They said that their trip would only made possible because of the lack of ice. They ended their journey about halfway the intended route, which was already half of the official Northwest passage.

[…] At many Eastern places of NWP locals have not seen this type ice conditions. Residents of Resolute say 20 years have not seen anything like. Its, ice, ice and more ice. Larsen, Peel, Bellot, Regent and Barrow Strait are all choked. That is the only route to East. Already West Lancaster received -2C temperature expecting -7C on Tuesday with the snow. […]

[…] This has been the coldest season with the most ice since we started Arctic Watch in 2000. Almost no whales. The NWPassage is still blocked with ice. Some of the bays still have not melted! […]

[…] The expedition challenged us in ways we couldn’t have imagined and we dodged a number bullets along the way. The bullets came in the form of a pan of multi-year ice intent on running us over in Franklin Bay, in the form of wind, storm and current wanting us to experience the grinding pack ice of Darnley Bay all close-up and personal, in the form of a southerly wind so strong we’re powerless as it pushes us out into the Amundsen Gulf. […]

The reality seem to be ice, ice and more ice, different straits that are being choked, low temperatures, coldest season with the most ice since 2000, some bays haven’t even melted, multi year ice threatening running them over and pack ice driven by the wind. Apparently not what they were expecting. How did they validate their belief in the opening of the Northwest-passage after their “first-hand experience”? Apparently they did not such a thing:

Our message remains unaffected though, bringing awareness to the pressing issues of climate change in the arctic.

The expedition has opened our eyes to the issues like we never imagined. We’ve experienced the arctic in a truly unique way and have had the privilege to speak with the people that live here and to hear their stories on climate change. And they’ve told us lots.

What? Suddenly that first-hand information thingy isn’t important anymore. One would expect him to be humbled in the face of reality and at least reassess the premise with this new information. In stead his information source suddenly changes from the icefree passage to the stories of the locals. The same locals that told him that climate change is happening, but also that there is ice, ice, ice. Apparently the locals told him whatever he wanted to hear.

From their presentation I had the impression they thought climate change would open the Northwest passage and they would easily get trough. It did not happen. But he was not deterred by it and went on and, surprise, surprise, claiming climate change is still alive and kicking, a belief strengthened by the new found information source.

That’s strange. Let’s look back to their original core statement in the heroic message to the press:

“Climate change is transforming the Arctic and the world. By traversing the Northwest Passage completely under human power in a rowboat, without sail or motor, the Mainstream Last First team will be able to demonstrate first-hand the dramatic effects climate change is having on our planet. Something like this has never been done before. It is only now possible due to the increase in seasonal sea ice melt and deterioration due to climate changes.”

In retrospect that seemed to be a really dangerous statement to make upfront: if the premise shows to be not true (if the passage is not navigable in this short time frame after all) could this dramatic effect still being demonstrated by this attempt? Indeed, let’s turn it around: if one states that the crossing shows the dramatic effects of climate change, the failure to do so because of blocking ice must mean the effects of climate change are less dramatic than expected, at least this year. But that is not what they are telling us now.