Tuesday, December 28, 2010



I'm not much of a legal expert, so I really can't offer much of an opinion on whether or not the recent release by WikiLeaks of over a hundred thousand classified documents constitutes a prosecutable violation of law. However I will say that anyone with half a brain should realize that hundreds of thousands of communications on domestic and international affairs among government officials are bound to include more than a few embarrassing observations, and we should all have the good sense to put these into context.

That said, out of curiosity I did a little checking into what the usual conservative and liberal pundits are saying about this whole WikiLeaks episode. And it comes as no surprise to me that on cue, the conservatives are calling it treason, while at the same time offering all sorts of explanations and excuses for what was said in the most contentious documents. For their part, most of the liberal pundits don't even mention treason and have begun to point fingers and draw conclusions.

And what an amazing irony this is! A little over a year ago, some unknown person hacked into the Hadley CRU, stole and then released to the public thousands of private e-mails - and the shoes were on the other feet. Then, conservative pundits absolutely ignored the ethical considerations of privacy and jumped immediately to pointing fingers and drawing conclusions. Liberals cried foul and started looking for explanations. Does this teach us anything?

I think so. If you want to believe something, somewhere among the thousands of private opinions expressed by imperfect men you're going to find something to bolster that belief. But you know, God help us if tomorrow, by some miracle, we should be privy to everything our "friends" have said about us in private. If this was true, none of us would have any friends.


Saturday, December 18, 2010

Merry Christmas!



'Tis the season!

All year long, people of abundant faith and bottomless doubt, curmudgeons and positivists, Christians, atheists, men and women of every conceivable spiritual and philosophical stripe, the fearfully intelligent and the woefully stupid, the young, the old, those claimed by the insensate providence of dogma and those who struggle against it (in short, all of us), have wasted our time pounding against walls. And yet...

Those walls won't ever come down. Our bloody fist prints might decorate them briefly after we are gone, but in time they will fade as generations after us rage on.

Steve, we started this blog a little over a year and a half ago. And, oh yes, we've raged. We've raged at different things for different reasons, and most times confronted each other, sometimes rancorously, sometimes politely, with our differences.

Yet always, always, the comforting remainder is that we have raged together.

If there is anything about this season, anything that is, which all of us, regardless of what we believe, unites us, it is that now is the perfect time catch our breath and give thanks for this magnificent gift of life and the brilliant minds God gave us.

So, thanks. I wish I could express to you how much I've enjoyed our debates, not to mention our odd forays.

And please, don't run for office. I can't tell you how embarrassed a liberal I would be to explain why I voted for such a regressive libertarian as yourself!



Thursday, December 16, 2010

I buy you books and all you do is chew the covers...


First off, thanks for replying to my comment and question regarding the "missing hot spots". As you may have surmised, I had already checked on this phenomenon and was wondering what your interpretation of it was. At issue, for me in any case, was your conclusion that this condition comprises a "logical flaw" in the theory of AGW. What bothers me most about this is the tendency to claim any conundrum or enigma in climate science generally to be a disproof, specifically, not just of AGW, but of global warming altogether. Follow me here.

The "missing hot spots" were first identified in the late 90's by Willie Soon and Sallie Baliunas. Later in 2004, they re-surfaced in a "bombshell" paper which Patrick Michaels announced was going to "knock the stuffing out" of the IPCC's position on climate change. Yet nothing of the sort happened. The paper was almost universally panned as being the product of poor research, while most of the discrepancies between satellite and surface station measurements were resolved (you may recall our own discussion of this in private correspondence). Now come the same authors (Douglass, Pearson and Singer, with the addition of John Christy) with a new and vastly more limited claim. The assertion now is that the rate of warming in the tropical troposphere only (not, mind you, the existence of warming there - which is not disputed), as measured by satellite and radiosonde, are not consistent with the rate of warming as measured on the ground. Thus, in roughly ten years, the more or less blanket assertions of Soon and Baliunas have been whittled down to a single and much more limited discrepancy, regarding which, as you rightly point out, climate scientists are working hard to resolve.

In any case, why would one immediately assume this whole problem constitutes a "logical flaw" in the theory of AGW? Certainly it represents a problem either in the mechanics of temperature measurement, or in our understanding of what is happening in the tropical troposphere, or most likely, a little of both. But this would be a problem whether the theory of AGW is valid or not. Or, to say this another way, this whole issue progresses from a "logical flaw", to the bare claim that, because scientists don't know everything there is to know about climate science, all of their theories and predictions are worthless.

It doesn't take a lot of brains or ingenuity to stand on the sidelines, as persons like Joanne Nova do, and claim, vociferously, that every problem or disagreement among climate scientists wrecks the whole enterprise. But that's exactly what they do. Nowhere in their literature is the barest hint of appreciation for the notable successes which climate scientists have achieved, or of the thousands of hours of patient observations made by real professionals who have spent most of their lives studying a science not one person in a hundred understands.

Sure, in climate science, as in all scientific disciplines we need, desperately, an environment which fosters honest skepticism and robust debate. But this kind of constant, ignorant back-biting from agenda driven amateurs is poisoning the well. Steve, the place for climate scientists is in the field or the laboratory, not in front of a computer answering perfidious FOI requests or trying to defend themselves from charges of political bias.

And, for the last time, climate science doesn't have all the answers. But for Pete's sake Steve, nuclear physics is riddled with unsolved mysteries. Yet that hasn't stopped nuclear physicists from successfully designing safe and effective nuclear reactors. Similarly, what we know about cancer is dwarfed by what we don't know, yet this hasn't prevented medical researchers from designing treatments which in turn have saved many lives.

This leads me to the remainder of your post.

I gather you personally are unsure of how climate models are constructed, how they are checked for accuracy, and to what extent climate scientists employ them to make predictions about climate change. What mystifies me most about this is how, after months of rendering judgements, you turn around and ask where you can find the source material on that which you are judging! Are you kidding me?
Forgive me for saying this, but frankly, what you're saying here is that you've been repeating the most common skeptical arguments without taking the obvious and rational first step of going to the source documents and checking them out for yourself. In other words, you're allowing others to do your thinking for you.
Either (a), You are so entranced by your own conspiracy theories that you have denied yourself huge repositories of useful information because you assume, a priori, they are all the work of ideologues, or (b), you simply don't know these repositories exist. I don't think I can do much about (a). The central burden of a conspiracy theory is that it usually compels one to search, not for enlightenment but confirmation. Regarding (b) however:
Back in July, I posted links to 4 separate sites: NOAA, NASA, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, and The National Science Foundation, where you can find a wealth of information about the science behind climate change. In December of last year, I wrote a post specifically about climate modeling, with helpful links to UCAR's Community Climate System Model (CCSM), which reviews in some detail how one of today's most powerful climate models has been put together and how it is checked for accuracy. In separate correspondence, I sent you links to the IPCC, where you can read for yourself all the current reports, along with supporting material (By the way, the volume by Working Group 1, "The Physical Science Basis", includes an extensive discussion of climate models - along with a copious list of references.).
Are you reading any of this stuff?
Not to complain, but every time you've mentioned some new argument, I've gone to the source you referenced, read it, and done the necessary checking. Here's how that works. Some time ago in private correspondence you cited some Anthony Watts material on the unreliability of surface station temperature readings. I went to the source, found one of the stations Mr. Watts said was unreliable, and checked it out by comparing readings (available at the NOAA) from that site with two nearby sites. I overlaid the readings from the three sites and sent you back a graphic which clearly demonstrated that the readings from the station Mr. Watts was questioning were almost in perfect agreement with nearby sites - which would be virtually impossible if any or even all of the sites were reporting false readings.
What troubled me then is the same thing which troubles me now. Anthony Watts (one of the critics you apparently rely on) was telling his readers that certain surface stations were giving false or unreliable readings, yet didn't take the elementary, and easy step of verifying this claim with freely available data. But then again, neither did you. Darn it, I, a boob, easily and independently discovered a means to determine the Watts' claim was nothing more than what comes from the south end of a north bound horse. Why wouldn't you have done the same thing?
To me, this example perfectly characterizes the shoddy nature of the "scholarship" of your primary sources of information on climate change. But more importantly, it indicates that you yourself are not subjecting this material to the same standards of proof you demand from qualified and legitimate climate scientists. By all means, all theories, not just those of science, usually stand or fall based entirely on the results of repeated attempts to disprove them. Certainly they do. That's how science works. But for heaven's sake, shouldn't you demand at least some scientific rigor from your sources? In other words, how much time do you spend checking the other side of the argument before you accept an accusation as true?
I get the impression you consider climate models to be some sort of voodoo. Stop thinking that way. Climate models are really nothing more than very large algorithms which allow climate scientists to correlate millions of bits of raw data. What do you expect them to use, black boards and slide rulers? I noted in an earlier post that NASA saved millions in the design of the Mars Landers by using sophisticated models to anticipate the effect of the Martian atmosphere on the entry capsules and parachutes. Similarly, all the major aerospace companies across the globe successfully employ computer models to test aircraft designs at a fraction of the cost previously required by the testing of full scale mock-ups. Now that I think of it, computer models have saved diverse industries billions of dollars in design costs, not to mention having made a major contribution to our own safety and comfort.
How silly do you think these industries would be if they declined to use computer simulations because they are not perfect?
Anyway, enjoy.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Colors of the Wind


Pointing out logical flaws in the theory is NOT "spreading disinformation". Private *OR* Government money in support of an advocacy group (or in support of a group with a vested interest) is not Good Science. Period. Yes, that happens on both sides. If the science is *really* settled, there would be NO question that the theory, using its reported data, holds up to careful examination BY ANYONE. (It doesn't. I'll point to JoNova's "missing hot-spot" as just one example. There are others.)

According to your definition, I would certainly consider the IPCC an "advocacy group", if for no other reason than the fact they promote an agenda-driven "solution" which cannot be verified or monitored with a sufficient accuracy to determine if the steps required are having ANY measurable effect ON THE PROBLEM.

If AGW is a "problem" which actually exists, doesn't it make sense to be CERTAIN we can accurately monitor and measure the results of ANY action taken to "solve" it? (No, we can't: not yet.)

YES - There has been a lot of research done. Various theories have been proposed. Proper peer-review consists - among other things - of a careful study of the reported results. The goal of the reviewer is to FALSIFY (disprove) the theory *not* support it. If the data holds up, it holds up. If it doesn't, it doesn't. It doesn't (or shouldn't) matter if the reviewer agrees or disagrees with the theory itself. And it certainly doesn't matter who or what organization is funding the review, but to be safe, I want as many different reviewers as possible, from all sides and from all scientific disciplines.

OK - Where can we start? With the models (because that's the basis for all these predictions).The FACT that those models have been PROVEN TO BE INACCURATE over a reasonably short period of time (e.g. a single decade) doesn't provide very much reassurance they will be accurate in predicting conditions a hundred years in the future. But let's set that aside and talk about the models themselves. And BEFORE we get anywhere close to what the effects of the actions of mankind may/may-not be... Consider:

Sunlight reaches the earth. Sunlight energy is the single greatest component that affects global temperatures - hard not to agree on that. Some of that light energy is reflected back to space, the rest heats the surface, which in turn affects the temperature levels of the atmosphere. Have we accurately calculated the differences in absorption of sunlight energy between land mass and water? (Probably.) Also, about 70% of the surface is water, so one would suspect the effect on water and from water is much greater than the effect of land absorption, but is that true? (If not, why not?) How does the model account for the differences between them? How is an "average" temperature for the entire planet determined? To what degree of accuracy (1 degree, 0.1 degrees)? How are differences between land surface temps and ocean water temps balanced? How does this average balance the very real differences in (annual) temperature reports from various locations on the planet? Do we have an accurate method for determining sun cycles and strength which in turn affects the energy levels of radiant warming? Does the calculated average temperature consider the changes in radiant heating which occur over time? How do the models handle that? How much of the sunlight energy is absorbed by the atmosphere on the way in? And on the light that is reflected back FROM the surface, how much is absorbed? Is there an adjustment based on the change in orbital angles (i.e., seasonal rotational positions between the Sun-Earth)? Since water is the major energy absorbing unit, it's logical to assume that such absorption will produce water vapor - the largest component of greenhouse gases. How much water vapor is produced by ranges of solar energy levels? How much of the remaining energy is absorbed by CO2? How much *more* energy would be absorbed if the current CO2 levels, say... doubled? What would be the effect of doubled CO2 levels - regardless of source - on that "global average temperature"? (what does the historical record show?) Have we precisely measured the annual amounts of atmospheric CO2 from *all* significant sources? Just how much is truly "man-made"? (Be aware that ANY doubling *could* occur from NON-man-made sources.) And while we're at it, "What is the 'optimum' level of CO2 in the atmosphere supposed to be?" (and exactly how did we arrive at that value?)

And now, the key question, which I've raised before: "Have we back-checked those calculations, using the model itself, against historical records?" In other words, What are the results from the models, using available historical data from, say 1850-1900, when predicting observed conditions in 2000? How accurate is the prediction for 2000 using data from any randomly selected 50-year period of historical data? How about a random 20-year period?

Chris, this isn't about a review of "who" or "how many" agrees the model results (counting noses is not science), or who is paying the bills. I'm talking about the effect of SUNLIGHT on the ecosystem, and you've got to start at the beginning. If we can't figure out the effects of the largest single component in the equation, why are we obsessing over the suspected impact of a even smaller piece of the puzzle?

Surely, since "the science is settled" all these basic, straight-forward OBVIOUS questions are clearly and fully discussed at length and has been subject to careful peer-review for pure scientific accuracy with NO GUESSING ALLOWED. That means get rid of the 'assumptions' in the model. (If it's "A Fact", you can't be 'guessing', now can you?)

Heck, all these points are probably covered as part of undergraduate-level ecosystem studies required by all those climate scientists we're turning out... Right? Explanations and equations should be easily found on the 'net and elsewhere and should be presented in a form where an person of slightly-above-average intelligence can comprehend it with a reasonable amount of study (that describes all those college students, and both you and I)...

Where is it? Seriously. I'd like to see it. Especially that back-checking of the climate models.

Have I made my point?

- Steve

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Color Me Confused


I found your comment on my last post more than a little confusing. Is it me?

With regards to funding, you are comparing apples to avocados. This makes no sense, since however much funding comes from "government organizations", none of it is spend on political campaigns and lobbying. Furthermore, there is no equivalency, repeat, none, between government financing of climate research and private funding of disinformation. On the one hand, research consists of going out in the field, accumulating data and then trying to put it all together. I was making the point that while the fossil fuel industry spends billions on research, none of that money is spent for research into global warming. And why is that?

Fred Singer doesn't conduct any research into global warming, neither does Willie Soon, Stephen Milloy, Sallie Balliunas, or any of the rest of them. Yet these are the kinds of people the industry pays to spread disinformation about the scientists who actually do genuine research. See the difference?

Finally, the funding of climate research - not to mention education - is without doubt an important and necessary function of government. If you take the time, as I have, to look into where this money goes, you will find that not one penny funds an advocacy group or "think tank". In fact, most of the money is spent on people and equipment to study the Earth's atmosphere, a subject about which global warming is only a small part.