Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Stage II


You may recall some time ago I posted the 4 stages of climate change denial. To repeat:

1. Global warming isn't happening.

2. Global warming is happening but humans aren't responsible for it.

3. Global warming is happening, humans are largely responsible for it, but there isn't anything we can do about it.

4. Global warming is happening, humans are largely responsible for it, there is something we can do about, but the costs of mitigation would exceed the costs of warming.

Now it looks like with the pending peer review and subsequent publishing of Robert Muller's BEST study, denialistas will be breaking camp and moving on to stage 2. Back in April of this year I posted an article and comment on Dr. Muller's testimony before Representative Robert Hall's (R-Tx) congressional kangaroo court on climate science: a forum designed from the start to cast doubt on the science behind the theory of AGW. Dr. Muller had been called to testify simply because he had been recognized for years as a skeptic. But, low and behold, after honestly reviewing the data, Dr. Muller in sworn testimony, confirmed the existence of global warming - not only that, but the credibility of the "hockey stick". Thus, his testimony posed an embarrassment - not only for Robert Hall, but the denialist community at large - which immediately ramped up and started trying to discredit the BEST methodology.

During that episode I was most amused by the idiotic dilettante, Tony Watts. Prior to release of Dr. Muller's findings, Mr. Watts had more or less promised on his blog to abide by whatever the BEST team concluded. Yet, as soon as it became obvious the findings conflicted with his own personal dogma, he instantly back tracked and fell in with the chorus of BEST critics.

I failed to mention in that earlier post why the Watts reversal has been so exquisitely ironic. It was Mr. Watts himself who virtually pioneered the organized criticism of surface temperature records - and the computer models which are based on them. The effort culminated in the "paper", "Surface Temperature Records: Policy Driven Deception?" - - the original copy of which was as goofy a piece of flat Earth flim flam as any which has come down the pike in years. As it originally appeared, it was little more than a paste up of unsorted calumnies from a host of dubious sources. In the intervening months, Mr. Watts has painstakingly removed the most comical errors - but the paper just keeps getting flimmier and flammier. Now comes the BEST study, a thorough, well financed project which honestly pursues the objectives which Mr. Watts has been dishonestly pursuing for years. And not surprisingly, the results directly contradict the saucer of weak tea Tony Watts has been trying to pass off as genuine research.

Probably the most damning aspect of the BEST study, for Tony Watts at least, is the devastating take-down of his most cherished conspiracy theory. Namely, that the American NOAA and NASA, along with the British Hadley Centre, are purposely conspiring to drop from their data bases the temperature recording sites which give "colder" readings, while retaining sites which give "warmer" readings. You yourself made note of this in a post of your's last year. As originally conceived, the whole theory was based on Mr. Watts' total ignorance of temperature anomalies. Climate change predictions are based on anomalies at each site, as opposed to Mr. Watts' naive assumption that the readings from all sites are merely averaged: a preposterous method in which "throwing out" colder readings would have some effect.

One of the things the BEST study did was "add back" the readings from all the stations which the NOAA had dropped from the system to see if their inclusion would make any difference in the historical record.

It didn't.

As a matter of fact, the record is almost identical to that which is currently computed without the dropped stations. This should come as no surprise. For some time now, the NOAA has been trying to explain the station selection process to anyone who cares to listen. Furthermore, since all the data is freely available from the NOAA, the BEST review which incorporates dropped stations had already been performed earlier by at least one blogger - with the same results. I need hardly add that Anthony Watts himself, if he is indeed the meticulous researcher he claims to be, could have performed this same exercise with any ordinary home computer before making his profoundly dishonest accusations.

Here's the whole point of this post, Steve:

With the publication of the BEST study, the very existence of global warming is no longer in doubt. Yet, having lost their credibility as climate experts, are we supposed to believe the same pseudo-scientists who spread lies and disinformation, and promoted childish conspiracy theories about the temperature record, will now suddenly morph into experts in chemistry, oceanography, geology and physics, and then explain to us why evidence from these fields as well do not prove global warming is the product of human activity?

Steve, there isn't any conspiracy to alter the historical temperature record! There never was. Yet, now that this particular conspiracy theory has gone up in smoke, we're going to be asked to believe that scientists in fields as diverse as atmospheric chemistry and hydrology are conspiring, in an ever widening circle, to game the system and create false evidence for anthropocentric global warming. And what's more, were going to be asked to believe this by the same people who lied to us about the record of global temperature.

Pfaah! Isn't it about time we start paying attention to what real scientists are telling us about climate change? A whole bunch of them spent countless hours without remuneration to prepare AR-4, the IPCC's seminal report on climate change. Why not take a moment to visit the IPCC website, where you can review the IPCC's reports and credentials of the team members who write them. The whole process is fully transparent and backed by tons of online documentation.



Friday, October 7, 2011


By sheer coincidence I happened across a June 11th (2011) article by one Richard Glover in the Sydney (Australia) Morning Harold, "The Dangers of Bone Headed Beliefs", in which the author pokes fun of climate change denialists, mainly, but also of "green zealots", who treat the science of global warming as a sort of religion. You may not like the humor - it has the typical hard edges of British humor which some here in the Colonies find objectionable.

As it happens, the article didn't create much of a stir when it first appeared in print. However, someone posted a link to it at an American conservative website, where upon it went viral and spawned a ration of hate mail from conservative lunatics, as reported by Mr. Glover in a later article. But that's beside the point. I've no doubt liberal lunatics are as proficient at writing hate mail as conservatives are.

What caught my eye in the article was the following:

"Is it possible to get the politics out of the climate-change debate? The first step might be to acknowledge the way ideology informs attitudes to climate change on both sides.

People on the left instinctively believe in communal action, the role of government and the efficacy of international agencies such as the UN. They were always going to believe in climate change; it's the sort of problem that can best be solved using the tools they most enjoy using.

The right tended to be sceptical about climate change from the start and for exactly the same reasons. It's the sort of problem that requires global, communal action, with governments setting rules. It is a problem that requires tools they instinctively dislike using."

What I found surprising was how compactly the author was able to reduce the public's ideological divide over the science of climate change to such profoundly simple terms. Not only that, but this account makes total sense to me.

Now it is true I firmly believe in the fundamental correctness of the science which establishes global warming as an anthropocentric phenomenon. Furthermore, I've spent no little time considering the views of many in prominence who deny it - and found the criticisms to be unsupported by facts, if not downright fraudulent.

However, before I come to a review of the science, as a liberal, I have one less hurdle to get over than my conservative counterpart. I know going in that if global warming constitutes a valid threat, the solution may require some expansion of national, as well as international government. And frankly, that prospect doesn't bother me. As a liberal, I should say I'm as terrified of repressive government as you are. But, perhaps unlike you, I believe in the perfectibility of government.

This is what makes it so hard for liberals and conservatives to work together on effective solutions. To put it another way, I suppose a conservative might believe that even if the consensus view on climate change is correct, might it be that the loss of individual liberties embodied by a solution are worse than the effects of climate change in any case?

You know, I think this is a meaningful question, and possibly worth at least as much consideration as the details of the science itself. Famously, Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey - a true conservative - has stated his unequivocal trust in the consensus view on climate change. Yet, he is also on record as opposing the strategies currently favored by the left. Frum Forum has a rather nice article on his position.

Now it seems to me the whole issue of climate change could be viewed as only a part of a much larger dialogue - one in which the aims of both conservatives and liberals dovetail. Frankly, a rational, integrated, national energy policy which has the objective of supplanting fossil fuels with renewables, need not require as its prime goal the reduction of carbon emissions.

Consider Charles Krauthammer: as ardent a conservative, liberal bashing, climate change denier as ever walked the Earth. Yet, a lack of faith in the science behind global warming doesn't prevent him from writing articles like this. From the article:

"For 25 years and with utter futility (starting with "The Oil-Bust Panic," the New Republic, February 1983), I have been advocating the cure: a U.S. energy tax as a way to curtail consumption and keep the money at home. On this page in May 2004 (and again in November 2005), I called for "the government -- through a tax -- to establish a new floor for gasoline," by fully taxing any drop in price below a certain benchmark. The point was to suppress demand and to keep the savings (from any subsequent world price drop) at home in the U.S. Treasury rather than going abroad. At the time, oil was $41 a barrel. It is now $123."


"Want to wean us off oil? Be open and honest. The British are paying $8 a gallon for petrol. Goldman Sachs is predicting we will be paying $6 by next year. Why have the extra $2 (above the current $4) go abroad? Have it go to the U.S. Treasury as a gasoline tax and be recycled back into lower payroll taxes."

Let's parse this. What Charles Krauthammer is advocating, plainly, is a targeted tax on fossil fuels. What he does not advocate, characteristically, is using this tax to subsidize the production of energy with renewables. Instead, he would use this revenue to reduce payroll taxes - and allow free market mechanics to make renewables a more attractive investment.

Now there, in my estimation, is a solution we should all be able to agree on - liberals and conservatives alike. A: Tax a diminishing resource (oil), the supply of which we depend on from unstable and unpredictable foreign sources. B: Return the tax to the U.S. consumer by way of a "revenue neutral" income tax deduction. C: Allow the market to find and develop alternative energy sources without government interference.

Everybody wins: liberal tree huggers and drill baby drill neocons alike. And nobody has to fight over climatology. What do you think?