New Climate Presentation (From the RCRC Climate Debate)

I have finally been able to publish a video of my presentation at the climate debate held by the Regional Council of Rural Counties last September.  The entire video is about an hour long.  As usual, I am offering several ways to view it.  First, it has been posted on YouTube but had to be broken into seven parts.  The playlist of all seven parts is below:


The playlist link is here:  RCRC Climate Debate (Skeptic's Side)

Unfortunately, YouTube crushes the resolution so many of the charts are hard to read.  You can download the full resolution windows media version (about 96MB) as long as my bandwidth holds out by right-clicking and downloading form this link:  Download RCRC Climate Debate (wmv)

Also, you can stream higher resolution version of this film (and all my other climate films) at this site.  The resolution is not as good as the downloadable version but is much better than YouTube.  Again, bandwidth pending.

Finally, you can download the actual powerpoint presentation shown in this video here or you can view the presentation online here.

In the future, all of my videos and presentations will be available via the links just under the banner at Climate Skeptic.

Posted on December 1, 2008 at 09:58 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)

Explaining Temperature History

I post most of my more detailed climate work over at my other blog.  But I wanted to repost here something I wrote in response to a number of request for a brief version of what is driving global temperatures.

My sense is that medium to long scale 20th century temperature trends can be explained mostly through three drivers:

1.  A cyclical variation driven by multi-decade oceanic cycles like the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO):

Pdo

2.  Changes in solar output, either directly as increased heating or indirectly via a variety of theories on things like cosmic rays and cloud formation:

Sunspot2

3.  A long term trend of up to +0.05C per decade that may include a CO2-warming component. 

I am willing to posit a CO2 impact net of feedbacks of perhaps 0.5-1.0C over the next century.  This may appear low, but is the only scale of number reasonably supported by history.  Any higher number would result in temperatures way too high historically.  And even assuming a number this high runs into the following problem:  There was probably a trend of about this magnitude emerging from the little ice age 200+ years ago and extending into the 20th century.  You can see it in the glacier numbers below:  (source)

Glacier_length_2_2

Those that want to assign the temperature trend, once the sun and the PDO are removed, post-1950 to CO2, need to explain what effect was causing the nearly exact same trend from 1800-1950, and why that trend conveniently switched off at the exact moment man's CO2 takes over.  In the context of the glacier chart, what was causing the glaciers to retreat in 1880, and why is that effect not the one at work today?

With evidence that the PDO has reversed to its cool phase and that the sun may be shifting into low gear, I think it is reasonable to posit warming no more than 0.5-1.0C over the next century.  For those who have not seen it, Roy Spencer has a new paper on the PDO, clouds and temperature history.   My video on why climate models overstate future warming through absurd assumptions of high positive feedbacks is here.

Posted on November 11, 2008 at 11:22 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)

Good. Now We Have It On The Table

I am happy to see that Barrack Obama is not entirely in reality-avoidance mode with his climate policy:

You know, when I was asked earlier about the issue of coal, uh, you know — Under my plan of a cap and trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket. Even regardless of what I say about whether coal is good or bad. Because I’m capping greenhouse gases, coal power plants, you know, natural gas, you name it — whatever the plants were, whatever the industry was, uh, they would have to retrofit their operations. That will cost money. They will pass that money on to consumers.

To folks with any kind of background in economics, this has to be the case.  Reducing the total output of current power plants, and thereby obsoleting all that investment and squeezing supply, at least in the medium term until new capacity of other types can be built, can only lead to a) rationing through blackouts or b) higher prices to ration the shorter supply.  The cost of option a is so high that price is going to have to be the rationing mechanism.  Skyrocket is actually pretty close to what would happen to rates if Obama sticks by his plan of limiting greenhouse gasses to 1990 or earlier levels.  (His explanation is actually pretty poor for the mechanism - pass-through of retrofit costs would likely be minor to the supply / demand balancing effect of shaving 20/30% off supply in a short period of time.

I think a frank discussion of the dangers of a "pollutant" vs. the cost of abatement is a fair one.  I personally think the threat of CO2 is wildly exaggerated, and the cost of doubling or tripling electricity costs will hurt Americans far worse than a few tenths of a degree of warming. 

But don't get too excited.  Obama is still living in economic never-never land on other related issues:

yes, there is going to be some increase in electricity rates on the front end, but that over the long term, because of combinations of more efficient energy usage, changing lightbulbs and more efficient appliance, but also technology improving how we can produce clean energy, the economy would benefit.

Sorry, but this is way wrong.  Obsoleting perfectly good infrastructure and wholesale replacing it with trillions of dollars of new infrastructure does not help the economy any more than if a massive earthquake had destroyed the plants.  This is the broken windows fallacy on steroids.  The only benefit from all this cost will be whatever climate benefit we accrue from the CO2 reduction.  For there to be such a benefit, one must assume a) substantial future warming and b) that the current temperature happens to be the best possible temperature we could ever be at.  But that, as they say, is a whole other blog.

Posted on November 2, 2008 at 07:13 PM | Permalink | Comments (9)

More of the Carbon Offset Folly

A while back, in relation to a company called Terrapass that sells carbon offset certificates (or smugness coupons, as I called them) I observed:

My guess is that TerraPass, when it sells the electricity from these projects to customers, is selling it on the basis that it is earth-friendly and causes no CO2 emissions.  This lack of emissions is likely part of the "bundle" sold to electricity customers.  But note that this would be selling the same lack of emissions twice -- once to TerraPass certificate holders, and once to the electricity customers. I am sure they are both told they are avoiding X tons of emissions, but it is the same X tons, sold twice (at least).

We are starting to see this all over now.  From the WSJ, via Tom Nelson:

America's garbage dumps are reaping a windfall from the fight against global warming. But their payday might not be doing much to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

For more than a decade, the landfill here has made extra profit simply by collecting methane given off by rotting trash, and selling it as fuel. Last year, the landfill learned that doing this also qualified it to earn hundreds of thousands of dollars via a new program that pays companies to cut their greenhouse-gas emissions.

Eliminating methane lets dumps sell "carbon credits" to environmentally conscious people and companies. The long-term goal of trading credits -- basically, vouchers representing reductions in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases -- is to reduce global pollution by encouraging others to cut emissions when the buyers of the credits can't or won't cut their own.

"It seemed a little suspicious that we could get money for doing nothing," says Charles Norkis, executive director of the Cape May County Municipal Utilities Authority, which has raised $427,475 selling credits since February, or 3% of the authority's projected solid-waste revenue for the year.

The sale of credits by these landfills undermines a premise of the global fight against climate change. The credit system was designed to encourage pollution cuts that wouldn't have happened without a financial incentive. But the credits aren't helping the environment if they're merely providing extra profit for cleanups already made. And dumps already have an incentive to capture methane because selling it can be profitable.

More on this same carbon offset issue in the European / UN system here.

Why a carbon tax, if we really feel we must limit CO2, is better than cap-and-trade / offset system here.

Posted on October 20, 2008 at 06:35 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)

Proof Positive Legislators Don't Understand Even the Basics of Economics

OK, actually, this could also just be proof positive that legislators know exactly what they are doing and want legislation that panders to powerful interest groups without actually doing anything.  Democrats in Congress have proposed a new nationwide CO2 emissions / permitting system.  The point is to allocate permits for something less than current emissions, forcing Americans to either cut back to their permit level or trade permits around. 

So I thought this provision was hilarious:

The bill tries to address the economic concerns by excluding small businesses and increasing the number of permits when prices spike.

So when permit prices go up, they will increase the number of permits.  But permit prices will necessarily go up if they are doing their job of limiting emissions below current levels.  So, in effect, they are saying that if the permit process really does start limiting emissions, new permits will be issued to to allow more emissions. 

Posted on October 10, 2008 at 08:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)

Fake but Accurate -- Now Coming to the Hard Sciences

Most of us remember the famous "fake but accurate" defense of Dan Rather's story on GWB using forged National Guard documents.  If the post-modernism movement were to have an insignia, their tag line  (their "E. Pluribus Unum') could well be "fake but accurate." 

I have written for a while that post-modernism seems to be coming to the hard sciences (I differentiate the hard sciences, because the soft sciences like sociology or women's studies are already dominated by post-modernist thinking).  For example, I quoted this:

For those of you who cling to scientific method, this is pretty bizarre stuff. But she, and many others, are dead serious about it. If a research finding could harm a class of persons, the theory is that scientists should change the way they talk about that finding. Since scientific method is a way of building a body of knowledge based on skeptical testing, replication, and publication, this is a problem.

The tight framework of scientific method mandates figuring out what would disprove the theory being tested and then looking for the disproof. The thought process that spawned the scientific revolution was inherently skeptical, which is why disciples of scientific method say that no theory can be definitively and absolutely proved, but only disproved (falsified). Hypotheses are elevated to the status of theories largely as a result of continued failures to disprove the theory and continued conformity of experimentation and observation with the theory, and such efforts should be conducted by diverse parties.

Needless to say postmodernist schools of thought and scientific method are almost polar opposites.

So here is today's example of fake but accurate in the sciences, not surprisingly also from climate science:

While the critic's advice - to use trained statisticians in studies reliant on statistics - may seem too obvious to need stating, the "science is settled" camp resists it. Mann's hockey-stick graph may be wrong, many experts now acknowledge, but they assert that he nevertheless came to the right conclusion.

To which the critics, and doubtless others who want more rigourous science, shake their heads in disbelief. They are baffled by the claim that the incorrect method doesn't matter because the answer is correct anyway. With bad science, only true believers can assert that they nevertheless obtained the right answer.

A huge number of physicists and geologists who actually take the time to look into the details of climate science come away being shocked at the scholarship.  Take a world class physicist, drop him into a discussion of the details of the Mann hockey stick analysis, and in an hour you will have a skeptic.

Crazy?  Remember the words of from National Center for Atmospheric Research (NOAA) climate researcher and global warming action promoter, Steven Schneider:

We have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we have. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest.

Posted on October 7, 2008 at 11:19 AM | Permalink | Comments (15)

Climate Presentation

One of the reason my posting has been light of late is that I was working on a climate presentation for the California Regional Council of Rural Counties.  That's behind me now, but you can read a brief report on the meeting and download my presentation here.

Posted on September 25, 2008 at 10:27 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Global Warming Eye Test

I have an interesting global warming eye test up at Climate-Skeptic.   The two graphs below are both scaled exactly the same, and are each 51-year periods from the global temperature record of the last 150 years.  The only difference is that one period of warming is described by scientists as "natural" (1895 to 1946) and the other is described as "man-made" (1957 to present).

  Periodb       Perioda_3

Which is which?  Which is man, and which is mother nature?

Kind of makes the claim that "current warming is unprecedented" ring kind of hollow, huh?

Posted on August 26, 2008 at 09:34 AM | Permalink | Comments (8)

Some Thoughts on Peer Review

Some thoughts on the obsession with peer review as the gold standard guarantee of climate science goodness, from Climate Skeptic:

One of the weird aspects of climate science is the over-emphasis on peer review as the ne plus ultra guarantor of believable results.  This is absurd.  At best, peer review is a screen for whether a study is worthy of occupying limited publication space, not for whether it is correct.  Peer review, again at best, focuses on whether a study has some minimum level of rigor and coherence and whether it offers up findings that are new or somehow advance the ball on an important topic. 

In "big boy sciences" like physics, study findings are not considered vetted simply because they are peer-reviewed.  They are vetted only after numerous other scientists have been able to replicate the results, or have at least failed to tear the original results down.  Often, this vetting process is undertaken by people who may even be openly hostile to the original study group.  For some reason, climate scientists cry foul when this occurs in their profession, but mathematicians and physicists accept it, because they know that findings need to be able to survive the scrutiny of enemies, not just of friends.  To this end, an important part of peer review is to make sure the publication of the study includes all the detail on methodology and data that others might need to replicate the results  (which is something climate reviewers are particularly bad at).

In fact, there are good arguments to be made that strong peer review may even be counter-productive to scientific advancement.  The reason is that peer review, by the nature of human beings and the incentives they tend to have, is often inherently conservative.  Studies that produce results the community expects often receive only cursory scrutiny doled out by insiders chummy with the authors.  Studies that show wildly unexpected results sometimes have trouble getting published at all.

 As I read this, it strikes me that one way to describe climate is that it acts like a social science, like sociology or gender studies, rather than like a physical science.  I will ahve to think about this -- it would be an interesting hypothesis to expand on in more depth.  Some quick parallels of why I think it is more like a social science:

  • Bad statistical methodology  (a hallmark, unfortunately, of much of social science)
  • Emphasis on peer review over replication
  • Reliance on computer models rather than observation
  • Belief there is a "right" answer for society with subsequent bias to study results towards that answer  (example, and another example)

Posted on August 6, 2008 at 02:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (21)

Advice to Climate Alarmists

If you are going to lecture skeptics on science, it is probably a good practice not to begin with an analogy that gets the most basic physics incorrect (hint:  the fact that falling objects of different masses fall at the same rate has been "settled science" since the late 1500s).  Also, using the children's book "If you give a mouse a cookie..." as proof of the existence of positive feedback loops will not be very persuasive to practitioners of big-boy physical sciences and other non-post-modernist researchers.

Posted on July 30, 2008 at 11:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)

Today's Science Experiment

(Cross posted from Climate Skeptic)

Using this chart from the NOAA:

Marchmay2008conus

Explain how larger than average midwestern flooding in 2008 is due to global warming.  For those who wish to make the argument that global temperatures, not just US temperatures, matter because the world is one big interelated climate system, you may use this chart of global temperatures instead in your explanation:

Rss_may_08520

For extra credit, also blame 2008 spike in tornadoes on global warming.  Don't forget to explain how global warming caused the late onset of Spring this year and the especially heavy snowfalls over the winter.  Thanks for charts to Anthony Watt.

Posted on June 22, 2008 at 10:40 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

I'm Not Sure the Data Means What You Think It Means

Over at Climate Skeptic, I discuss a recent claim by ABC that year-to-date tornado frequency has nearly doubled vs. 2007, and that this is because of global warming.  I will take their word for it that tornado frequency is up, but there is one tiny problem:  The US in Jan-Apr of this year was almost a full degree cooler than last year.  So if tornado frequency is up, and ABC is correct that yearly changes in this metric are due to changes in global temperature, then it can only mean that global warming reduces, rather than increases, tornadoes.

Posted on May 12, 2008 at 09:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

From Now On I Must Be Addressed as "Award winning Filmmaker" Coyote

Here is the public announcement of my second prize in a climate video contest.  I am pretty sure I am not a kid, though, nor do I remember portraying myself as such. 

By the way, for those who don't know me well, the title of this post is a joke.  I often deride people for adopting titles like "award-winning X" when the award in question is often unknown or even, like as not, a product of a paid PR effort. 

Posted on April 28, 2008 at 11:27 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

What We Learn About Climate and Public Policy from Y2K

Remember Y2K?  If you took the media and politicians seriously, this sure did seem like it was going to big a big apocalyptic deal (see survey in the postscript about economic depression and civil insurrection).  Until it wasn't.

Odd Citizen points to an interesting study on this topic.  The author links this Australian study looking retrospectively at the Y2K scare, trying to understand why an irrational collective hysteria developed that allowed for no skepticism (seem familiar).  The whole thing is interesting, but here is the money quote:

From the perspective of public administration, the two most compelling observations relate to conformity and collective amnesia. The response to Y2K shows how relatively subtle characteristics of a policy problem may produce a conformist response in which no policy actors have any incentive to oppose, or even to critically assess, the dominant view. Moreover, in a situation where a policy has been adopted and implemented with unanimous support, or at least without any opposition, there is likely to be little interest in critical evaluation when it appears that the costs of the policy have outweighed the benefits.

The article is written without any reference to current climate issues, but wow, does this sound familiar?  It is a dead-on description of what is occurring with global warming. 

The author also goes on to discuss public choice theory and why it is not necessarily a good explanatory model for the Y2K scare.  He argues that a better explanation was the asymmetry of blame:

Individuals and groups who argued for a 'fix on failure' approach stood to benefit only modestly if this approach avoided unnecessary costs, but faced the risk of blame in the event of significant system failures attributable (accurately or otherwise) to Y2K related problems. Conversely, it was evident in advance that there was little risk of loss to individuals who advocated comprehensive remediation. The absence of any serious Y2K problems could always be attributed to the success of the remediation program.

The asymmetry of incentives was amplified by the possibility of litigation, particularly in the United States and, to a lesser extent, in other English-speaking countries. The reliance of the United States on tort litigation as a method of compensating those experiencing adverse outcomes of various kinds produces a strong bias in favour of 'defensive' expenditures. In particular, jurors have been highly unsympathetic to individuals and organisations that have chosen to disregard known low-probability risks.

The special characteristics of the Y2K problem were ideally suited to produce this kind of reaction. On the one hand, the problem was both widespread and comprehensible to non-experts, such as potential jurors. On the other hand, if 'embedded systems' are disregarded, the Y2K problem differed from most other computer 'bugs' in that a complete solution was feasible, though very expensive.

In these circumstances, litigation against organisations that had failed to undertake comprehensive Y2K remediation, and experienced any form of system breakdown in early 2000, was virtually guaranteed of success. By contrast, the risk of blame being allocated to organisations that overspent on Y2K remediation was perceived to be minimal. The absence of litigation or other processes for the allocation of blame in the aftermath of the Y2K non-event shows that this perception was accurate.

A rough parallel to this in the global warming world is the apparent ease of assigning blame for CO2 emissions to energy producers and car manufacturers (despite the fact that it is all of us who uses this energy and buys these cars) vs. the reluctance of media and others to quantify and assign blame for reductions in wealth and economic prosperity that might result from CO2 limitations.

Postscript:  One other thing that is interesting to me as a libertarian:  I often point out that the political parties are a joke, a mish-mash of shifting political positions that has little to do with deeply held theories of government and more to do with branding and populist electioneering.  The Y2K-Climate comparison caused me to find a good example.  In 1999, it was the Republicans using the Y2K issue as a club on the Democrats, arguing that the Clinton Administration, and Al Gore in particular, were ignoring this critical end-of-the-world crisis and that the government needed to be doing more.  Really.  Just check this out from Dec, 1999:

Last year, The National Journal devoted an entire issue to the subject, with headlines such as "The Big Glitch" and "Sorry, Al, This Bug’s for You." In the special issue, Neil Munro cites a survey of industry and government executives and programmers concerning potential fallout from the millennium bug, showing that 70 percent anticipated a negative effect on the economy, with 10 percent of respondents not ruling out the possibility of economic depression and civil insurrection.   

With a technology problem of this magnitude on the national horizon, where was the leadership of the nation’s No. 1 techno-nerd and self-proclaimed creator of the "information superhighway," Vice President Al Gore?   

Gore’s familiarity with and personal interest in technology, specifically computer technology, makes suspect his long silence on the Y2K issue.   

In his biography, "Gore: A Political Life," Bob Zelnick writes that Gore "had nothing to say during the first five-and-a-half years of his vice presidency about the biggest problem in the history of high-tech America."

Let the record show that I was a Y2K skeptic before I was a climate skeptic.

I may be making common cause with some Republicans on the climate issue at the moment, but I don't trust them.  In fact, already we see McCain jumping on the climate bandwagon (as he does with every populist issue -- he believes in nothing) and I have a strong sense GWB may dive into the climate fray quite soon.

Posted on April 15, 2008 at 09:36 PM | Permalink | Comments (10)

The Keystone Issue of Global Warming

Cross-posted from Climate Skeptic.  I believe this to be an extremely important issue.  Catastrophic global warming forecasts are driven not by greenhouse gas theory, but by the theory that the Earth's climate is dominated by positive feedback.  This post discusses these issues:

It is silly to argue whether CO2 in the atmosphere can cause global warming: It clearly does.  The issue is not "if" but "how much".  The warming from man's CO2 might be 8 degrees in a century, as Al Gore might argue, in which case man's CO2 would be incredibly disruptive.  Or it might cause just a few tenths of a degree of warming, which might be unnoticeable within the noise of natural climate variation.

Interestingly, the key to understanding this issue of the amount of warming does not actually lie in greenhouse gas theory.  Most scientists, skeptics and alarmists alike, peg the warming directly from CO2 at between 0.3 and 1.0 degrees Celsius for a doubling in CO2 levels  (this notion of how much temperatures would increase for a doubling of CO2 levels is called climate sensitivity).  If this greenhouse gas warming was the only phenomenon at work, we would expect man-made warming over the next century even using the most dire assumptions to be less than 1C, or about the same amount we have seen (non-catastrophically) over the last century.  Warming forecasts of this magnitude would not in any way, shape, or form justify the draconian economic impacts of many current government carbon reduction proposals.

The key, as I have written before (and here), lies not in greenhouse gas theory itself but in the theory that the earth's climate is dominated by positive feedback.  This theory hypothesizes that small changes in temperature from greenhouse gas increases would be multiplied 3,4,5 times or more by positive feedback effects, from changes in atmospheric water vapor to changing surface albedo.

Let me emphasize again:  The catastrophe results not from greenhouse gas theory, but from the theory of extreme climactic positive feedback.  In a large sense, all the debate in the media is about the wrong thing!  When was the last time you saw the words "positive feedback" in a media article about climate?

Christopher Monckton has an absolutely dead-on post at Roger Pielke's blog about this feedback theory that I want to excerpt in depth.

This chart is a good place to start.  It shows the changes in the IPCC's estimate for climate sensitivity to CO2 and how it has changed over the course of the reports.  More importantly, he splits the forecast between the amount due directly to Co2, and the amount due to the multiplicative effect of positive feedback.  The green bar is the direct contribution of Co2, and the pink is the feedback.

Fig3

We can observe a couple of things.  First, the IPCC's estimate of the amount of warming due to CO2 directly via the greenhouse gas effect has actually been going down over time.  (Note that there are those, like Richard Lindzen, who suggest these numbers are still three times too high given that we have not observed a difference in surface and lower troposphere warming that greenhouse gas theory seems to predict).

Second, you will see that the IPCC's overall forecasts of climate sensitivity have been going up only because their estimates of positive feedback effects have gone way up.  The IPCC assumes that feedback effects multiply warming from CO2 by three.  And note that the IPCC's forecasts of feedback effects trail those of folks like James Hansen and Al Gore. 

So how confident are we in these feedback effects?  Well, it turns out we are not even sure of the sign!  As Monckton writes:

The feedback factor f accounts for at least two-thirds of all radiative forcing in IPCC (2007); yet it is not expressly quantified, and no “Level Of Scientific Understanding” is assigned either to f or to the two variables b and κ upon which it is dependent....

Indeed, in IPCC (2007) the stated values for the feedbacks that account for more than two-thirds of humankind’s imagined effect on global temperatures are taken from a single paper. The value of the coefficient z in the CO2 forcing equation likewise depends on only one paper. The implicit value of the crucial parameter κ depends upon only two papers, one of which had been written by a lead author of the chapter in question, and neither of which provides any theoretical or empirical justification for the IPCC’s chosen value. The notion that the IPCC has drawn on thousands of published, peer-reviewed papers to support its central estimates for the variables from which climate sensitivity is calculated is not supported by the evidence.

Given the importance of feedback to their forecasts, the treatment in the latest IPCC report of feedback borders on the criminal.  I have read the relevant sections and it is nearly impossible to find any kind of discussion of these issues.  A cynical mind might describe the thousands of pages of the IPCC report as the magician grabbing your attention with his left hand to hide what is in his right hand.  And what is being hidden is that ... there is nothing there!  Feedback is the pivotal point on which the whole discussion of drastic carbon abatement should turn and there is nothing there. 

Monckton goes further, to point out that hidden in the IPCC numbers lies an absurdity:

if the upper estimates of each of the climate-relevant feedbacks listed in IPCC (2007) are summed, an instability arises. The maxima are -

Water vapor 1.98, lapse rate -0.58, surface albedo 0.34, cloud albedo 1.07, CO2 0.57, total 3.38 W m-2 K-1.

The equation f = (1 - bκ)-1 becomes unstable as b → κ-1 = 3.2 W m-2 K-1. Yet, if each of the individual feedbacks imagined by the IPCC is increased to less than the IPCC’s maximum, an instability or “runaway greenhouse effect” is reached.

Yet it is reliably inferred from palaeoclimatological data that no “runaway greenhouse effect” has occurred in the half billion years since the Cambrian era, when atmospheric CO2 concentration peaked at almost 20 times today’s value

Positive feedback can be weird and unstable.  If there is enough of it, processes tend to run away (e.g. nuclear fission), which is what Monckton is arguing that some of the IPCC assumptions lead to.  Even when feedback is less positive, it still can cause processes to fluctuate wildly.  In fact, it is fairly unusual for long-term stable processes like climate to be dominated by positive feedback.  Most scientists, when then meet a new process, would probably assume negative feedback until proven otherwise.  This is a particular issue in climate, where folks like Michael Mann have gone out of their way to argue that the world temperature history over the last 1000 years before man began burning fossil fuels is incredibly stable and unchanging.  If so, how can this be consistent with strong positive feedback?

Anyway, there is a lot more numerical detail in Monckton's post if you want to dig into the equations.

I would add one thing to his analysis:  If you look at the last 100 years of history, the change in temperature given the observed change in CO2 levels comes no where close to a climate sensitivity of 3 or more, even when you assign all historical warming to CO2 rather than other effects like the sun.  In fact, as I showed in this analysis, climate sensitivity appears to be 1.2 when one assigns all past warming to CO2, and something well less than that if one accepts the sun and other effects also play a role.  These historical analyses would point to feedback that is either zero or negative rather than positive, more in line with what one would expect from complex natural systems.

You can see a discussion of many of these topics in the video below:

Posted on April 8, 2008 at 02:57 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)

Math Geek Humor

In his analysis of his hockey stick temperature reconstruction, Michel Mann claimed that his results were robust to changes in certain weighting factors.  Humorously, Steven McIntyre demonstrates that it is robust because when you do the math, the weighting factors actually cancel out of  all the equations.  In effect, Mann was saying that y =3x/x  gives the answer "3" robustly for all values of x (well, except zero).  True, but scientifically meaningless.  But worrisome when a scientist has to run numerous simulations to discover the fact.  I presume he thought his weighting factors were actually doing something in his model.

Reason #4163 to be really, really confident in those climate models these guys are building.

Posted on April 6, 2008 at 04:52 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

Is the Global Warming Hysteria Killing Environmentalism?

Of late, I have been getting the strongest sense that the global warming hysteria is sucking all the oxygen out of the rest of the environmental movement.  Quick, what is the last environment-related article you read that didn't mention global warming?

Here is an example:  I give a lot of my charity money to groups like The Nature Conservancy, because I personally value preservation of unique areas and habitats and I don't sit around waiting for the government to do it for me.  But it has become almost impossible of late to drum up enthusiasm from contributors for such causes, unless the land can be labeled a carbon-sink or something.  In fact, the global warming hysteria has really been a disaster for private land conservation because it has caused politicians to subsidize ethanol.  This subsidy is bringing much more wild land into cultivation in this country and has been the single biggest driver for deforestation in the Amazon over the last decade. 

Or take China.  China's cities are an unhealthy mess.  But focus on global warming has led environmentalists to take the position with China they have to stop coal combustion and growth in auto-miles entirely.  This is a non-starter.  There is no WAY they are going to do this.  But it is much more achievable to start getting China focused on a Clean-Air-Act type of attack on vehicle and coal plant emissions of real pollutants like SO2.   China could be made much more healthy, as the US has done over the last 30-60 years, but instead of working with China to get healthier, the focus is on getting them to shut down their growth altogether.

The UPI published a survey of people's environmental priorities:

  1. drinking water
  2. pollution of rivers, lakes, and ecosystems
  3. smog
  4. forest preservation
  5. acid rain
  6. tropical rain forests
  7. national parks
  8. greenhouse emissions
  9. ozone layer
  10. nature around "my" home
  11. urban sprawl
  12. extinction.

I feel like #1 is overblown based on a lot of media scare stories, but most of the top 6 or 7 would all be things I would rank well above global warming fears as well.  There are still real issues to be dealt with in these areas which can have far more of a positive impact on health and quality of living than CO2 abatement, but they are being suffocated by global warming hype.

Posted on March 31, 2008 at 11:19 AM | Permalink | Comments (6)

No Bias Here

Via Tom Nelson comes this interview with climate "scientist" Dr. Kate Rawles:

Greenbang: What do you think is wrong with the debate on climate change?

Dr Kate: It hasn’t really got to grips with the fundamental problem, which is that Western, industrialised lifestyles are literally unsustainable. Climate change is just one symptom of this. WWF famously calculated that if everyone on earth were to enjoy the lifestyle of an average Western European, we would need three planet earths.

Not even the most optimistic believers in technology think that we can technofix this problem so that 6 billion people (let alone the projected 9 billion) can enjoy a western lifestyle without ecological meltdown. It follows that we urgently need to rethink what we currently mean by a ‘high standard of living’ and move away from materialistic versions of this to an understanding of quality of life that could be enjoyed by everyone, without causing environmental mayhem. This is about values, not just about technology.

To a large extent, understanding the passion of climate alarmists is a chicken and egg problem.  Normally, scientists identify a problem and then we seek to solve it.  But, as you can see with this woman, climate science works in reverse.  The debate began with people who believed that technology and economic growth needed to be diminished, and then found global warming as a conveniently manufactured "problem" that pointed to their already preferred solution. 

This, by the way, is her complete answer to the question about what is wrong with climate debate.  You can see her answer to this climate science question has nothing to do with climate, but everything to do with her pro-poverty position.  She actually states her position as anti-western-standard-of-living, because that plays better with the soccer moms, but this is exactly the same as pro-poverty.  And get a load of this great scientist quoting WWF advocacy press releases as if they were peer-reviewed science.

By the way, I personally believe that the world could easily sustain 6 billion people in a western standard of living, and love humanity enough to root for this to occur, so here statement is untrue  (by the way, why are people who advocate for universal poverty like this person considered "sensitive" while folks like me who would love to see all the world wealthy considered evil and cold-hearted?)  I don't know exactly how this will happen, but if I stood in the year 1908 I would not know how (or probably believe) even a single person could  enjoy what we call a western standard of living today, but billions do.  The human mind is a wonderful thing, and can achieve a lot, at least when scientists pursue new possibilities rather than simply shrieking that we need to turn the clock back.

Update:  Here is one faulty assumption she is making:

Current levels of consumption in industrialised societies are too high - as the three planet earth analysis clearly shows. This presents a major problem for current economic thinking, which is premised on growth, and which requires us all to keep consuming more, not less. Clearly we can’t grow infinitely, and consume infinitely, on a finite planet.

Her assumption is that the Earth is somehow at capacity.  How do we know that?  If a scientist bases all of her beliefs on an assumption like this that has never been proven and the scientist is perfectly comfortable taking on faith, can we really call her a scientist?  Or do we call her a religionist? 

Posted on March 27, 2008 at 09:18 AM | Permalink | Comments (11)

The Rent-Seekers Ball

From Steven Milloy:

The audience -- a sold-out crowd of hundreds who had to apply to be admitted and pay a $3,500 fee -- consisted of representatives of the myriad businesses that seek to make a financial killing from climate alarmism. There were representatives of the solar, wind, and biofuel industries that profit from taxpayer mandates and subsidies, representatives from financial services companies that want to trade permits to emit CO2, and public relations and strategic consultants to all of the above.
    
    We libertarians would call such an event a rent-seekers ball -- the vast majority of the audience was there to plot  how they could lock-in profits from government mandates on taxpayers and consumers.
    
    It was an amazing collection of pseudo-entrepreneurs who were absolutely impervious to the scientific and economic facts that ought to deflate the global warming bubble.

    In the interlude between presentations by the CEOs of Dow Chemical and Duke Energy, for example, the audience was shown a slide -- similar to this one -- of the diverging     relationship between atmospheric CO2 levels and average global temperature since 1998. That slide should have caused jaws to drop and audience members to ponder why anyone is considering regulating CO2 emissions in hopes of taming global climate.

    Instead, it was as if the audience did a collective blink and missed the slide entirely. When I tried to draw attention to the slide during my presentation, it was as if I was speaking in a foreign dialect.

    The only conclusion I could come to was that the audience is so steeped in anticipation of climate profiteering that there is no fact that will cause them to reconsider whether or not manmade global warming is a reality.

But of course we all know that it is the skeptics that are corrupted by money ;=)

Posted on March 20, 2008 at 04:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

Climate Thought for the Day

Via Climate Skeptic:

The catastrophe that Al Gore and others prophesy as a result of greenhouse gases is actually not, even by their admission, a direct result of greenhouse gas emissions.  Even the IPCC believes that warming directly resulting from manmade CO2 emissions is on the order of 1 degree C for a doubling of CO2 levels in the atmosphere (and many think it to be less). 

The catastrophe comes, not from a mere 1 degree of warming, but from the multiplication for this warming 3,4,5 times or more by hypothesized positive feedback effects in the climate.   Greenhouse gas theory gives us warming numbers we might not even be able to find amidst the natural variations of our climate;  it is the theory of strong positive climate feedback that gives us the apocalypse.

So, In a large sense, the proposition that we face environmental armageddon due to CO2 rests not on greenhouse gas theory, which is pretty well understood, but on the theory that our climate system is dominated by strong positive feedbacks.  This theory of positive feedback is almost never discussed publicly, in part because it is far shakier and less understood than greenhouse gas theory.  In fact, it is very probable that we have the sign, much less the magnitude, of major feedback effects wrong.  But if we are considering legislation to gut our economies in order to avoid a hypothesized climate catastrophe, we should be spending a lot more time putting scrutiny on this theory of positive feedback, rather than just greenhouse gas theory.

Posted on March 16, 2008 at 09:26 AM | Permalink | Comments (6)

Update on the Science Project

We're having a lot of fun with the post of my son's science project measuring the Phoenix urban heat island.  The original post has nearly 60 comments and at least five long updates.  Go back and read it all, its like a whole new post.

Commenters are slamming my son for having an R-squared that is insufficient (only 84%!)  I have challenged them to post the R-squared of their vinegar and baking soda volcano they did in eighth grade.

Posted on February 26, 2008 at 04:43 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

The More Things Change....

Professor Lance Endersbee, via Tom Nelson:

In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries the climate in Europe was cold and unpredictable. Crops failed. Famine followed famine, bringing epidemics.  There was a belief that crop failures must be due to human wickedness.

But who were the wicked ones? 

It was believed that there must be some witches who are in the grip of the devil. Witches were named, Inquisitors tested their faith, and a large number of poor souls were condemned and burnt at the stake. For decade after decade, fires burned in most towns in Europe.

Fast-forward to our "enlightened" society today:

Every time a child dies as a result of floods in Bangladesh, an airline executive should be dragged out of his office and drowned,” for causing global warming, rants UK firebrand George Monbiot. Government leaders “should go to jail” for failing to act more quickly to prevent planetary climate cataclysm, insists Canadian eco-zealot David Suzuki. These assertions range from simplistic and outrageous to straight out of Lewis Carroll.
...
Eco-alarmists tell impoverished Africans that global warming is the greatest threat they face – when Al Gore uses more electricity in a week than 100 million Africans together use in a year. Those people rarely or never have electricity and must burn wood and animal dung, resulting in lung diseases that cause millions of deaths annually. Yet alarmists oppose fossil fuel power plants, as well as nuclear and hydroelectric projects – guaranteed that Africa’s poverty and death toll will continue.

Posted on February 26, 2008 at 08:17 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)

Measuring Urban Heat Islands

My son finished his science fair project to measure the Phoenix urban heat island, the effect the IPCC swears is too small to have an effect on surface temperature measurements.  See all his results at Climate Skeptic.

Posted on February 22, 2008 at 01:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

San Francisco City Government Outspends Exxon on Climate Advocacy

A bunch of media outlets credulously ran a Greenpeace press release as a news story last year, hammering on Exxon for donating a cumulative $2 million dollars to "skeptical" climate researchers.  Never mind that no one could explain what was so ominous about an American company exercising its free speech rights.  I and other pointed out that this $2 million was a trivial amount of spending compared to the billions that had been routed to global warming activists. 

This week, we get a great example.  While over a period of a decade, the great Satan ExxonMobil spent $2 million on climate issues, it turns out one city government, in San Francisco, spends this much each year on global warming activism:

In his quest to make San Francisco the greenest city in the nation, Mayor Gavin Newsom recently created a $160,000-a-year job for a senior aide and gave him the ambitious-sounding title of director of climate protection initiatives.
...
But officials in the Newsom administration say that even 25 people working on climate issues is not enough and that having a director in the mayor's inner circle is necessary to coordinate all the city's climate initiatives."

If there are 25 people working on climate protection issues for the city, that's a good start," Newsom spokesman Nathan Ballard said. "Ten years ago [when the "globe" was still "warming"], there probably weren't any. It's smart policy to have one point person at the highest level of city government to coordinate all 25 of them."

The city has a climate action plan, issued by Newsom after he took office in 2004, that aims to cut the city's greenhouse emissions by 2012 to 20 percent below 1990's level.

In addition to the director of climate protection initiatives in Newsom's office, San Francisco has an Energy and Climate Program team of eight people in the Department of the Environment, who combined earn more than $800,000 a year in salary and benefits, including a "climate action coordinator." At least 12 San Francisco Public Utilities Commission staff members work on climate issues related to water and energy, including a $146,000-a-year "projects manager for the climate action plan."

Also in the name of climate control, the Municipal Transportation Agency has a "manager of emissions reductions and sustainability programs" who works on making Muni's bus fleet greener, and the San Francisco International Airport has a "manager of environmental services" who oversees such projects as the installation of energy-efficient lighting and solar panels.

The list doesn't include the scores of staff members who work on broader environmental policies, like the recently hired $130,700-a-year "greening director" in Newsom's office, or Jared Blumenfeld, who earns $207,500 a year in salary and benefits as the head of the city's Environment Department, which has a staff of 65 and annual budget of about $14 million.

It borders on journalistic malpractice that nearly every article on skeptics delve into their funding sources but no reporter ever seems to have ever asked climate alarmists about their funding sources nor delved into these funding issues.

Posted on February 20, 2008 at 11:52 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)

Climate Rorschach Test

Over at Climate Skeptic, I have what could be called a climate Rorschach test.  Look at these two images below.  The left is the temperature plot for Lampasas, Texas, a station in the NASA GISS global warming data base.  On the right is the location of the temperature station since the year 2000 (the instrument is in the while cylinder in the middle of the picture under the dish).  Click either picture to expand

Lampasas_tx_ushcn_plot_2   Lampasas_tx_ushcn

So here is the eye test:  Do you read the warming since 2000 as man-made global warming due to CO2, or do you read it as a move of the temperature instrument to a totally inappropriate urban site to which the instrument was moved in 2000, contaminated with hot asphalt, car radiators, nearby buildings, air conditioning exhaust, etc?

You should know that NASA's GISS reads this as man-made global warming, and reports it as such.  Further, NASA actually takes the raw data above and in their computer model lowers temperatures in 1900 and 1920, actually increasing the apparent warming trend.  For the record, the GISS opposes this kind of photo survey as worthless and argues that their computer algorithms, which correct for urban warming at this site in 1900 but not in 2007, work just fine with no knowledge of the specific site location.

Posted on February 18, 2008 at 10:19 AM | Permalink | Comments (13)

Bush is a Total Failure

James Hansen is a climate scientist at NASA.  He has accused the Bush administration of exerting too much political control of government scientists and of censoring him.  If so, the Bush administration is doing a really horrible job, as demonstrated by this chart:

Hansen_in_the_news_2

As a libertarian, I am the first to believe that government funding of science is corrupting.  Mr. Hansen should consider leaving the government immediately for one of the many universities who would eagerly have him on their faculty.

Unfortunately, I suspect it is not free inquiry that Mr. Hansen wants.  I suspect he treasures his position of government power.  He does not want a position of equality in a free exchange of ideas, he wants a position of power from which he can dictate without accountability.  He wants government power without the check of accountability and criticism.  He wants someone paying his bills but he doesn't want a boss.  Well grow up.  If you don't like working for the Bush administration or the scrutiny that comes with accepting public funding, and I certainly would not, then leave.

Posted on February 14, 2008 at 10:04 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

In Case You Thought Thought Global Warming Was Really About Climate

Fortunately, after years of skeptics trying to warn folks about this, the global warming folks are doing us the favor of being honest about their goals.  From the catalog description for the book "The Climate Change Challenge and the Failure of Democracy."

In this provocative book, Shearman and Smith present evidence that the fundamental problem causing environmental destruction--and climate change in particular--is the operation of liberal democracy. Its flaws and contradictions bestow upon government--and its institutions, laws, and the markets and corporations that provide its sustenance--an inability to make decisions that could provide a sustainable society. Having argued that democracy has failed humanity, the authors go even further and demonstrate that this failure can easily lead to authoritarianism without our even noticing. Even more provocatively, they assert that there is merit in preparing for this eventuality if we want to survive climate change. They are not suggesting that existing authoritarian regimes are more successful in mitigating greenhouse emissions, for to be successful economically they have adopted the market system with alacrity. Nevertheless, the authors conclude that an authoritarian form of government is necessary, but this will be governance by experts and not by those who seek power. There are in existence highly successful authoritarian structures--for example, in medicine and in corporate empires--that are capable of implementing urgent decisions impossible under liberal democracy. Society is verging on a philosophical choice between "liberty" or "life."

By the way, for a description of why this technocratic fascism by the experts never works, read here.  By the way, when you see this...

Nevertheless, the authors conclude that an authoritarian form of government is necessary, but this will be governance by experts and not by those who seek power.

...it means "We support fascism as long as we are the fuhrer." 

Posted on February 9, 2008 at 08:15 AM | Permalink | Comments (11)

Tornadoes

It is incredible to me that anyone could treat Senator Kerry seriously at this point, but a credulous media seems to be lapping up his accusations that recent tornadoes represent an increase in such storm activity caused by global warming. 

I am way too tired of refuting this stuff over and over to repeat the whole post I put up a while ago about tornado frequency, but you can find it here.  But here is the short answer for those to tired to click through:  Apparent increases in tornado frequency are an artifact of improved technology that can detect more tornadoes.  If one corrects for this by looking only at tornadoes of the larger sizes (3-5) that were consistently detectable with 1950's technology, there has actually been a small decreasing trend in tornado strikes in the US.

This is drop-dead obvious to anyone who knows anything about weather.  However, since it keeps coming up, the NOAA has an explanation quite similar to mine plastered all over their site.

With increased national doppler radar coverage, increasing population, and greater attention to tornado reporting, there has been an increase in the number of tornado reports over the past several decades. This can create a misleading appearance of an increasing trend in tornado frequency. To better understand the true variability and trend in tornado frequency in the US, the total number of strong to violent tornadoes (F3 to F5 category on the Fujita scale) can be analyzed. These are the tornadoes that would have likely been reported even during the decades before Dopplar radar use became widespread and practices resulted in increasing tornado reports. The bar chart below indicates there has been little trend in the strongest tornadoes over the past 55 years.

My daughter when she was 9 years old was able to more accurately portray this fact in a class project than did Mr. Kerry.

Posted on February 8, 2008 at 11:14 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

Warmer and Richer

Over at Climate Skeptic, I discuss a Cato study that finally gets at an issue I have tried to press for years:  That even if one accepts the worst of the IPCC warming scenarios (which I do not) the cost of CO2 abatement, particularly in terms of lost economic growth, is far higher than the cost of rising temperatures -- ESPECIALLY for the poor. 

Hurricanes are a great example.  The world is probably warming a bit due to man's CO2, but likely less than the catastrophic rates one sees in the press.  This warming may or may not increase hurricane severity.  But let's assume it does.  Let's say Asia faces an extra cyclone or two each year from global warming. 

Over time, trends in deaths from hurricanes and severe deaths have shown no correlation with storm frequency or severity.  Death rates from storms track nearly perfectly with wealth:  As wealth has increased in the US, severe storm deaths have dropped to nearly zero;  Where countries are less wealthy, they experience more death.  Bangladesh is not the site of some of the deadliest storms on record because they get hit by the worst storms, but because they are poor.  (figure source)

Figure1

As a result, if we really face this tradeoff (which I doubt) the world still is better off richer with 10 hurricanes than poorer with 8.

Posted on February 6, 2008 at 09:20 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Understanding What Going Green Means

This photo (via Maggie's Farm) shows life in the United States during a time when the US emitted more CO2 than Hillary Clinton, Barrack Obama and other greens want to set as the new emissions cap.  In 1940, the US emitted about 33% of 1990 levels of CO2, vs. the green's target of 20%.
Cartandwagonga1940s

Posted on February 5, 2008 at 08:04 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)

Clintons: Welcome to 1905

Bill Clinton is at least honest to some extent in saying that cutting back on CO2 emissions will requires us to throttle back the economy:

In a long, and interesting speech, he [Bill Clinton] characterized what the U.S. and other industrialized nations need to do to combat global warming this way: "We just have to slow down our economy and cut back our greenhouse gas emissions 'cause we have to save the planet for our grandchildren."

But how much?  Activists try to make the average person feel like the amount is "not much" by spinning out rosy stories of 3rd graders fighting global warming by recycling.  But in fact Bill's wife Hillary makes the degree of cuts clearer:

...[Clinton's] plan would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent from 1990 levels by 2050 to avoid the worst effects of global warming...

And recognize, this is the typical figure being cited by global warming catastrophists for "necessary" US cuts.  So how much is 80%?  With current technology, an almost unimaginable cut.  Its hard to get good Co2 data, but here is a chart from some place called the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center that purports to show US historic CO2 production from man-made sources:
Usaco2_2
The chartsmanship sucks here, but 1990 looks like about 1.35 billion metric tons.  20% of that would be 0.27 billion metric tons.  That appears to be the level we hit in about ... 1905.  So, apparently without using nuclear power (since Clinton opposed nuclear expansion in one of the debates, I think in Nevada)  she wants us in the next 42 years to get back to the energy production of about 1905.  Now this is a bit unfair, since efficiencies and GDP per ton of CO2 have improved substantially since 1905.  So to be fair she may only want to take us back to about 1930.

While this is scary, what Clinton and other global warming crusaders want to do to the third world is even scarier.  Right now, close to a billion people who have been in poverty forever are posed, via growth in China, India, and SE Asia, to finally exit poverty.  Global warming crusaders want this to stop.  For example, here is the former World Bank chief economist Nicholas Stern says that India must stay poor:

Mr Stern, the former chief economist of the World Bank, sends out a very clear message: “We need to cut down the total amount of carbon emissions by half by 2050.” At current levels, the per capita global emissions stand at 7 tonnes, or a total of 40-45 gigatonnes. At this rate, global temperatures could rise by 2.5-3 degrees by then. But to reduce the per capita emissions by half in 2050, most countries would have to be carbon neutral. For instance, the US currently has, at 20-25 tonnes, per capita emissions levels that are three times the global average.

The European Union’s emission levels stand at 10-15 tonnes per capita. China is at about 3-4 tonnes per capita and India, at 1 tonne per capita, is the only large-sized economy that is below the desired carbon emission levels of 2050. “India should keep it that way and insist that the rich countries pay their share of the burden in reducing emissions,” says Mr Stern.

No cars for these folks either!

Posted on January 31, 2008 at 01:08 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)

The Critical Flaw with Catastrophic Global Warming Theory

I began with an 85-page book.  I shortened that to a 50-minute film, and then a 9-minute film.  With that experience, I think I can now pull out and summarize in just a few paragraphs why we should not fear catastrophic global warming.  Here goes:

Climate catastrophists often argue that global warming theory is "settled science."  And they are right in one respect:  We have a pretty good understanding of how CO2 can act as a greenhouse gas and cause the earth to warm.  What is well agreed upon, but is not well communicated in the media, is that a doubling of CO2, without other effects that we will discuss in a moment, will heat the earth about 1 degree Celsius (plus or minus a few tenths).  This is not some skeptic's hallucination -- this is straight out of the IPCC third and fourth assessments.  CO2, acting alone, warms the Earth only slowly, and at this rate we would see less than a degree of warming over the next century, more of a nuisance than a catastrophe.

But some scientists do come up with catastrophic warming forecasts.  They do so by assuming that our Earth's climate is dominated by positive feedbacks that multiply the initial warming from CO2 by a factor of three, four, five or more.  This is a key point -- the catastrophe does not come from the science of greenhouse gases, but from separate hypotheses that the earth's climate is dominated by positive feedback.  This is why saying that greenhouse gas theory is "settled" is irrelevant to the argument about catastrophic forecasts.  Because these positive feedbacks are NOT settled science.  In fact, the IPCC admits it does not even know the sign of the most important effect (water vapor), much less its magnitude.  They assume that the net effect is positive, but they are on very shaky ground doing so, particularly since having long-term stable systems like climate dominated by positive feedback is a highly improbable.

And, in fact, with the 100 or so years of measurements we have for temperature and CO2, empirical evidence does not support these high positive feedbacks.  Even if we assign all the 20th century warming to CO2, which is unlikely, our current warming rates imply close to zero feedback.  If there are other causes for measured 20th century warming other than CO2, thereby reducing the warming we blame on CO2, then the last century's experience implies negative rather than positive feedback in the system.  As a result, it should not be surprising that high feedback-driven forecasts from the 1990 IPCC reports have proven to be way too high vs. actual experience (something the IPCC has since admitted).

However, climate scientists are unwilling to back down from the thin branch they have crawled out on.  Rather than reduce their feedback assumptions to non-catastrophic levels, they currently hypothesize a second man-made cooling effect that is masking all this feedback-driven warming.  They claim now that man-made sulfate aerosols and black carbon are cooling the earth, and when some day these pollutants are reduced, we will see huge catch-up warming.  If anything, this cooling effect is even less understood than feedback.  What we do know is that, unlike CO2, the effects of these aerosols are short-lived and therefore localized, making it unlikely they are providing sufficient masking to make catastrophic forecasts viable.  I go into several reality checks in my videos, but here is a quick one:  Nearly all the man-made cooling aerosols are in the northern hemisphere, meaning that most all the cooling effect should be there -- but the northern hemisphere has actually exhibited most of the world's warming over the past 30 years, while the south has hardly warmed at all.

In sum, to believe catastrophic warming forecasts, one has to believe both of the following:

  1. The climate is dominated by strong positive feedback, despite our experience with other stable systems that says this is unlikely and despite our measurements over the last 100 years that have seen no such feedback levels.
  2. Substantial warming, of 1C or more, is being masked by aerosols, despite the fact that aerosols really only have strong presence over 5-10% of the globe and despite the fact that the cooler part of the world has been the one without the aerosols.

Here's what this means:  Man will cause, at most, about a degree of warming over the next century.  Most of this warming will be concentrated in raising minimum temperatures at night rather than maximum daytime temperatures  (this is why, despite some measured average warming, the US has not seen an increase of late in maximum temperature records set).  There are many reasons to believe that man's actual effect will be less than 1 degree, and that whatever effect we do have will be lost in the natural cyclical variations the climate experiences, but we are only just now starting to understand.

To keep this relatively short, I have left out all the numbers and such.  To see the graphs and numbers and sources, check out my new climate video, or my longer original video, or download my book for free.

UPDATE: Based on a lot of comment activity to this post at its mirror at Climate Skeptic, I wanted to add a bit of an update.  It is sometimes hard to summarize without losing important detail, and I think I had that happen here.

Commenters are correct that positive feedback dominated systems can be stable as long as the feedback percentage is less than 100%.  By trying to get too compact in my arguments, I combined a couple of things.  First, there are many catastrophists that argue that climate IS in fact dominated by feedback over 100% -- anyone who talks of "tipping points" is effectively saying this.  The argument about instability making stable processes impossible certainly applies to these folks' logic.  Further, even positive feedback <100% makes a system highly subject to dramatic variations.  But Mann et. al. are already on the record saying that without man, global temperatures are unbelievably stable and move in extremely narrow ranges.   It is hard to imagine this to be true in a climate system dominated by positive feedback, particularly when it is beset all the time with dramatic perturbations, from volcanoes to the Maunder Minimum.

To some extent, climate catastrophists are in a bind.  If historic temperatures show a lot of variance, then a strong argument can be made that a large portion of 20th century warming is natural occilation.  If historic temperatures move only in narrow ranges, they have a very difficult time justifying that the climate is dominated by positive feedbacks of 60-80%.

The point to remember, though, is that irregardless of likelihood, the historical temperature record simply does not support assumptions of feedback much larger than zero.  Yes, time delays and lags make a small difference, but all one has to do is compare current temperatures to CO2 levels 12-15 years ago to account for this lag and one still gets absolutely no empirical support for large positive feedbacks.

Remember this when someone says that greenhouse gas theory is "Settled."  It may or may not be, but the catastrophe does not come directly from greenhouse gasses.  Alone, they cause at most nuisance warming.  The catastrophe comes from substantial positive feedback (it takes 60-80% levels to get climate sensitivities of 3-5C) which is far from settled science.

Posted on January 24, 2008 at 10:43 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)

Video Update

Many of the feed readers out there grabbed my feed before I had fixed the video links in my post on my new climate video.  The links are fixed in the original post, but if those fixes are not reflected in your feed, the correct links are below.  Right click on the links to save:

Sorry about that.

Posted on January 24, 2008 at 12:22 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

New Climate Short: Don't Panic -- Flaws in Catastrophic Global Warming Forecasts

After releasing my first climate video, which ran over 50 minutes, I had a lot of feedback that I should aim for shorter, more focused videos.  This is my first such effort, setting for myself the artificial limit of 10 minutes, which is the YouTube limit on video length.

While the science of how CO2 and other greenhouse gases cause warming is fairly well understood, this core process only results in limited, nuisance levels of global warming. Catastrophic warming forecasts depend on added elements, particularly the assumption that the climate is dominated by strong positive feedbacks, where the science is MUCH weaker. This video explores these issues and explains why most catastrophic warming forecasts are probably greatly exaggerated.


You can also access the YouTube video here, or you can access the same version on Google video here.

If you have the bandwidth, you can download a much higher quality version by right-clicking either of the links below:

I am not sure why the quicktime version is so porky.  In addition, the sound is not great in the quicktime version, so use the windows media wmv files if you can.  I will try to reprocess it tonight.  All of these files for download are much more readable than the YouTube version (memo to self:  use larger font next time!)

This is a companion video to the longer and more comprehensive climate skeptic video "What is Normal -- a Critique of Catastrophic Man-Made Global Warming Theory."

Posted on January 24, 2008 at 12:03 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

Antarctica

On Sunday, CBS claimed that Antarctica is melting.  In fact, once small portion of the Antarctic peninsula is warming and may be losing snow, while the rest of Antarctica has not been warming and in fact has been gaining ice cover.  The show visits an island off the Antarctic Peninsula which has about as much weather relevance and predictive power to the rest of Antarctica as Key West has to the rest of the United States.  Absolutely absurd.

Unfortunately, I have a real job and I don't have time to restate all the rebuttals to the CBS show.  However, I took on the Antarctic issue in depth here, and this post at NC Media Watch has more.

Posted on January 22, 2008 at 09:35 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Don't Say I Didn't Warn You -- The Environmentalist Case for Fascism

Our (mostly free) society has survived many challenges.  But will it be able to withstand gentlemen like this waving around immensely flawed climate science:

Liberal democracy is sweet and addictive and indeed in the most extreme case, the USA, unbridled individual liberty overwhelms many of the collective needs of the citizens. The subject is almost sacrosanct and those who indulge in criticism are labeled as Marxists, socialists, fundamentalists and worse. These labels are used because alternatives to democracy cannot be perceived! Support for Western democracy is messianic as proselytised by a President leading a flawed democracy

There must be open minds to look critically at liberal democracy. Reform must involve the adoption of structures to act quickly regardless of some perceived liberties. ...

We are going to have to look how authoritarian decisions based on consensus science can be implemented to contain greenhouse emissions. It is not that we do not tolerate such decisions in the very heart of our society, in wide range of enterprises from corporate empires to emergency and intensive care units. If we do not act urgently we may find we have chosen total liberty rather than life.

He has great admiration for how China does things

The [plastic shopping bag] ban in China will save importation and use of five million tons of oil used in plastic bag manufacture, only a drop in the ocean of the world oil well. But the importance in the decision lies in the fact that China can do it by edict and close the factories. They don’t have to worry about loss of political donations or temporarily unemployed workers. They have made a judgment that their action favours the needs of Chinese society as a whole.

Don't say I didn't warn you.

By the way, here is a little "tip."  The author says this:

Unfortunately it seems increasingly likely that the IPCC underestimated the speed of climate change and failed to recognise the likely effect of a range of tipping points which may now be acting in concert.

I believe that man is having a warming effect on the earth, but that effect is small and non-catastrophic.  There are reasons I may be wrong.  BUT, you should immediately laugh out of the room anyone who talk about "a range of tipping points" in a system like the earth's climate that has been reasonably stable for tens of millions of years.  When used by climate catastrophists, the word "tipping point" means:  Yeah, we are kind of upset the world is not warming nearly as fast as our computer models say it should, so we will build an inflection point about 10 years out into the forecast where the slope of change really ramps up and we will call it a "tipping point" because, um, that is kindof a cool hip phrase right now and make us sound sophisticated and stuff.

Postscript:  Anyone who makes this statement is WELL grounded in reality:

All this suggests that the savvy Chinese rulers may be first out of the blocks to assuage greenhouse emissions

LOLOLOL.  They are building a new coal plant, what, every three days or so in China?

Postscript #2: Quiz for older folks out there:  How long ago was it that environmentalists were encouraging us to use plastic bags over paper because it saved a tree?

HT:  Tom Nelson

Posted on January 16, 2008 at 07:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (22)

Irony Alert

Over at Climate Skeptic, I take a quick look at the most recent Gavin Schmidt PR piece in the Washington Post, claiming that 2007 was, you know, really hot.

But I wanted to share two funny bits with you.  First, from the climate crowd who claims to have their science so buttoned down that we skeptics should not even be allowed to talk about it any more, comes this:

Taking into account the new data, they said, seven of the eight warmest years on record have occurred since 2001

What new data?  That another YEAR had been discovered?  Because when I count on my own fingers, I only can come up with 6 years since 2001.

Second, comes this bit of irony:  There are many reasons why satellites gives us a potentially better measure for world temperatures than surface temperature instruments.  They give us full global coverage (except the poles) and are free of urban and other biases.  So I have always wondered if the only reason that climate scientists defend the surface temperature record over satellites is merely because they don't like the answer satellites are giving (they show less warming than do surface temperature records).

But here is the irony:  The person who is arguably the strongest defender of land-based measurement over satellites, and who maintains what neutral observers feel is the most upwardly-biased surface temperature record, is Gavin Schmidt, who is ... wait for it ... head of the Goddard Institute of Space Studies at NASA.

Posted on January 13, 2008 at 12:11 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)

Another Climate Rorschach Test

Take the 10-second test at Climate Skeptic.

Posted on January 10, 2008 at 09:37 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Rorchach Test

Over at Climate Skeptic, I administer a 20-second Rorchach test on a sea ice chart.

Posted on January 7, 2008 at 10:24 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

False Sense of Certainty

Over at Climate Skeptic, I dissect the UK Met office's forecast a year ago for 2007 that the mean global temperature anomaly would be .54C and that we were 60% certain to exceed the 1998 record of .52C.  These two points allow me to infer a normal distribution for their forecast, and I find that the actual temperature anomaly for 2007 was in the bottom 0.00003% of the Met office's implied range of outcomes.

Posted on January 6, 2008 at 09:14 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

More on Burying Christmas Trees

A few weeks ago I argued that if we really thought that CO2 was the biggest threat to the environment (a proposition with which I do not agree) we should not recycle paper or Christmas trees - we should wrap them in Saran Wrap and bury them.  Earlier I wrote this:

Once trees hit their maturity, their growth slows and therefore the rate they sequester CO2 slows.  At this point, we need to be cutting more down, not less, and burying them in the ground, either as logs or paper or whatever.  Just growing forests is not enough, because old trees fall over and rot and give up their carbon as CO2.  We have to bury them.   Right?

I was being a bit tongue-in-cheek, trying to take CO2 abatement to its illogical extreme, but unfortunately the nuttiness of the environmental movement can outrun satire.  These folks advocate going into the forests and cutting down trees and burying them:

Here a carbon sequestration strategy is proposed in which certain dead or live trees are harvested via collection or selective cutting, then buried in trenches or stowed away in above-ground shelters. The largely anaerobic condition under a sufficiently thick layer of soil will prevent the decomposition of the buried wood. Because a large flux of CO2 is constantly being assimilated into the worldas forests via photosynthesis, cutting off its return pathway to the atmosphere forms an effective carbon sink....

Based on data from North American logging industry, the cost for wood burial is estimated to be $14/tCO2 ($50/tC), lower than the typical cost for power plant CO2 capture with geological storage. The cost for carbon sequestration with wood burial is low because CO2 is removed from the atmosphere by the natural process of photosynthesis at little cost. The technique is low tech, distributed, easy to monitor, safe, and reversible, thus an attractive option for large-scale implementation in a world-wide carbon market

Its a little scary to me that I can anticipate this stuff.

Posted on January 6, 2008 at 08:34 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

The Catastrophe Stems Completely From Feedback

Over at Climate Skeptic, I dissect climate models to show that the future warming in the models from CO2 alone is not much more than 0.5C.  All the catastrophe comes from positive feedbacks that modelers assume dominate the climate, an odd assumption for such a long-term stable system.  I summarize as follows:

  • Climate sensitivity is the temperature increase we might expect with a doubling of CO2 to 560 ppm from a pre-industrial 280ppm
  • Nearly every forecast you have ever seen assumes the effect of CO2 alone is about a 1C warming from this doubling.  Clearly, though, you have seen higher forecasts.  All of the "extra" warming in these forecasts come from positive feedback.  So a sensitivity of 3C would be made up of 1C from CO2 directly that is tripled by positive feedbacks.  A sensitivity of 6 or 8 still starts with the same 1C but has even higher feedbacks
  • Most thoughtful climate scientists will admit that we don't know what these feedbacks are -- in so many words, modelers are essentially guessing.  Climate scientists don't even know the sign (positive or negative) much less the magnitude.  In most physical sciences, upon meeting such an unknown system that has been long-term stable, scientists will assume neutral to negative feedback.  Climate scientists are the exception -- almost all their models assume strong positive feedback.
  • Climate scientists point to studies of ice cores and such that serve as proxies for climate hundreds of thousands of years ago to justify positive feedbacks.  But for the period of history we have the best data, ie the last 120 years, actual CO2 and measured temperature changes imply a sensitivity net of feedbacks closer to 1C, about what a reasonable person would assume from a stable process not dominated by positive feedbacks.

Posted on January 2, 2008 at 10:54 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Climate Socialism

The climate catastrophists are starting to show their true socialist colors in Bali.

Posted on December 12, 2007 at 11:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)

Your UN At Work

These are the guys trying to take over the world economy in the name of environmentalism:

...But after a full week of attending plenary sessions and contact groups I can see why the process can be frustrating. I sat in a session about Carbon Capture and Storage last Thursday that exemplified the kind of frustration I think they were referring to. After 45 minutes of discussing how the discussion should take place, the facilitator noted that time was up and dismissed the meeting. Seriously? I was reasonably appalled at the productivity with which such an important part of the global conference was conducted.

Posted on December 11, 2007 at 03:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Really? You Mean CO2 Reduction Has Costs?

New today from the new Australian government, who to date have placed themselves solidly in the catastrophic camp:

PRIME Minister Kevin Rudd last night did an about-face on deep cuts to greenhouse gas emissions, days after Australia's delegation backed the plan at the climate talks in Bali.

A government representative at the talks this week said Australia backed a 25-40 per cent cut on 1990 emission levels by 2020.

But after warnings it would lead to huge rises in electricity prices, Mr Rudd said the Government would not support the target.

The repudiation of the delegate's position represents the first stumble by the new Government's in its approach to climate change.

Posted on December 6, 2007 at 01:51 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

Answer: Because the Climate Models Have All Been Fudged

The Question, as asked (surprisingly) by a global warming believer:

One curious aspect of this result is that it is also well known [Houghton et al., 2001] that the same models that agree in simulating the anomaly in surface air temperature differ significantly in their predicted climate sensitivity. The cited range in climate sensitivity from a wide collection of models is usually 1.5 to 4.5 deg C for a doubling of CO2, where most global climate models used for climate change studies vary by at least a factor of two in equilibrium sensitivity.

The question is: if climate models differ by a factor of 2 to 3 in their climate sensitivity, how can they all simulate the global temperature record with a reasonable degree of accuracy. Kerr [2007] and S. E. Schwartz et al. (Quantifying climate change–too rosy a picture?, available at www.nature.com/reports/climatechange, 2007) recently pointed out the importance of understanding the answer to this question. Indeed, Kerr [2007] referred to the present work and the current paper provides the ‘‘widely circulated analysis’’ referred to by Kerr [2007]. This report investigates the most probable explanation for such an agreement. It uses published results from a wide variety of model simulations to understand this apparent paradox between model climate responses for the 20th century, but diverse climate model sensitivity.

Much more here at Climate Skeptic

Posted on December 3, 2007 at 10:31 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

New Unified Field Theory

Albert Einstein's dream is now a reality.  We have a new unified field theory:  Global Warming causes everything bad.   Via Tom Nelson and American Thinker, comes this list by Dr. John Brignell of links to articles in the media attributing various bad things to Global Warming.  Currently, his list has over 600 items!  Some excerpts:

Agricultural land increase, Africa devastated,  African aid threatened, Africa hit hardest, air pressure changes, Alaska reshaped, allergies increase, Alps melting, Amazon a desert, American dream endamphibians breeding earlier (or not)ancient forests dramatically changed, animals head for the hills, Antarctic grass flourishes, anxiety, algal blooms, archaeological sites threatened, Arctic bogs melt, Arctic in bloom, Arctic lakes disappear, asthma, Atlantic less salty, Atlantic more salty...

itchier poison ivy, jellyfish explosion, Kew Gardens taxed, kitten boom, krill decline, lake and stream productivity decline, lake shrinking and growing, landslides, landslides of ice at 140 mph, lawsuits increase, lawsuit successful, lawyers' income increased (surprise surprise!), lightning related insurance claims, little response in the atmosphere, lush growth in rain forests, Lyme diseaseMalaria, malnutrition,  mammoth dung melt, Maple syrup shortage...

wheat yields crushed in Australia, white Christmas dream ends, wildfires, wind shift, wind reduced, wine - harm to Australian industry, wine industry damage (California), wine industry disaster (US), wine - more English, wine -German boon, wine - no more French winters in Britain colder, wolves eat more moose, wolves eat less, workers laid off, World bankruptcy, World in crisis, World in flames, Yellow fever.

All I can say is:

Dont_panic_earth_300w

Posted on November 29, 2007 at 10:12 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)

A Window into the Reality-Based Community

Dont_panic_earth_160w Kevin Drum links to a blog called Three-Toed Sloth in a post about why our climate future may be even worse than the absurdly cataclysmic forecasts we are getting today in the media.  Three-Toed Sloth advertises itself as "Slow Takes from the Canopy of the Reality-Based Community."  His post is an absolutely fabulous example how one can write an article where most every line is literally true, but the conclusion can still be dead wrong because one tiny assumption at the beginning of the analysis was incorrect  (In this case, "incorrect" may be generous, since the author seems well-versed in the analysis of chaotic systems.  A better word might be "purposely fudged to make a political point.")

He begins with this:

The climate system contains a lot of feedback loops.  This means that the ultimate response to any perturbation or forcing (say, pumping 20 million years of accumulated fossil fuels into the air) depends not just on the initial reaction, but also how much of that gets fed back into the system, which leads to more change, and so on.  Suppose, just for the sake of things being tractable, that the feedback is linear, and the fraction fed back is f.  Then the total impact of a perturbation I is

J + Jf + Jf2 + Jf3 + ...

The infinite series of tail-biting feedback terms is in fact a geometric series, and so can be summed up if f is less than 1:

J/(1-f)

So far, so good.  The math here is entirely correct.  He goes on to make this point, arguing that if we are uncertain about  f, in other words, if there is a distribution of possible f's, then the range of the total system gain 1/(1-f) is likely higher than our intuition might first tell us:

If we knew the value of the feedback f, we could predict the response to perturbations just by multiplying them by 1/(1-f) — call this G for "gain".  What happens, Roe and Baker ask, if we do not know the feedback exactly?  Suppose, for example, that our measurements are corrupted by noise --- or even, with something like the climate, that f is itself stochastically fluctuating.  The distribution of values for f might be symmetric and reasonably well-peaked around a typical value, but what about the distribution for G?  Well, it's nothing of the kind.  Increasing f just a little increases G by a lot, so starting with a symmetric, not-too-spread distribution of f gives us a skewed distribution for G with a heavy right tail.

Again all true, with one small unstated proviso I will come back to.  He concludes:

In short: the fact that we will probably never be able to precisely predict the response of the climate system to large forcings is so far from being a reason for complacency it's not even funny.

Actually, I can think of two unstated facts that undermine this analysis.  The first is that most catastrophic climate forecasts you see utilize gains in the 3x-5x range, or sometimes higher (but seldom lower).  This implies they are using an f of between .67 and .80.  These are already very high numbers for any natural process.  If catastrophist climate scientists are already assuming numbers at the high end of the range, then the point about uncertainties skewing the gain disproportionately higher are moot.  In fact, we might tend to actually draw the reverse conclusion, that the saw cuts both ways.  His analysis also implies that small overstatements of f when the forecasts are already skewed to the high side will lead to very large overstatements of Gain.

But here is the real elephant in the room:  For the vast, vast majority of natural processes, f is less than zero.  The author has blithely accepted the currently unproven assumption that the net feedback in the climate system is positive.  He never even hints at the possibility that that f might be a negative feedback rather than positive, despite the fact that almost all natural processes are dominated by negative rather than positive feedback.  Assuming without evidence that a random natural process one encounters is dominated by negative feedback is roughly equivalent to assuming the random person you just met on the street is a billionaire.  It is not totally out of the question, but it is very, very unlikely.

When one plugs an f in the equation above that is negative, say -0.3, then the gain actually becomes less than one, in this case about 0.77.  In a negative feedback regime, the system response is actually less than the initial perturbation because forces exist in the system to damp the initial input.

The author is trying to argue that uncertainty about the degree of feedback in the climate system and therefore the sensitivity of the system to CO2 changes does not change the likelihood of the coming "catastrophe."  Except that he fails to mention that we are so uncertain about the feedback that we don't even know its sign.  Feedback, or f, could be positive or negative as far as we know.  Values could range anywhere from -1 to 1.  We don't have good evidence as to where the exact number lies, except to observe from the relative stability of past temperatures over a long time frame that the number probably is not in the high positive end of this range.  Data from climate response over the last 120 years seems to point to a number close to zero or slightly negative, in which case the author's entire post is irrelevant.   In fact, it turns out that the climate scientists who make the news are all clustered around the least likely guesses for f, ie values greater than 0.6.

Incredibly, while refusing to even mention the Occam's Razor solution that f is negative, the author seriously entertains the notion that f might be one or greater.  For such values, the gain shoots to infinity and the system goes wildly unstable  (nuclear fission, for example, is an f>1 process).  In an f>1 world, lightly tapping the accelerator in our car would send us quickly racing up to the speed of light.  This is an ABSURD assumption for a system like climate that is long-term stable over tens of millions of years.  A positive feedback f>=1 would have sent us to a Venus-like heat or Mars-like frigidity eons ago.

A summary of why recent historical empirical data implies low or negative feedback is here.  You can learn more on these topics in my climate video and my climate book.  To save you the search, the section of my movie explaining feedbacks, with a nifty live demonstration from my kitchen, is in the first three and a half minutes of the clip below:

Posted on November 27, 2007 at 11:42 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Over at Climate Skeptic

Ending the Human Race to fight global warming

Taking the world back to the 19th century
, very much in the same theme as this earlier post here on Coyote Blog.

The UN admits that their science has been corrupted by the desire to garner political and financial support
.

I have also be reworking the site design because nearly everyone complained that the old color scheme was brutal on the eyes.

Posted on November 23, 2007 at 10:04 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Analysis of "New" UN Climate Warming

Under mounting pressure from climate catastrophists to ignore uncertainties in the science and to produce definitive statements that can be used as calls for government interventionism, the UN will apparently release a new "warning" this week:

Global warming is destroying species, raising sea levels and threatening millions of poor people, the United Nations' top scientific panel will say in a report today that U.N. officials hope will help mobilize the world to take tougher actions on climate change.

The report argues that only firm action, including putting a price on carbon-dioxide emissions, will avoid more catastrophic events.

Those actions will take a small part of the world's economic growth and will be substantially less than the costs of doing nothing, the report says.

For the first time, the UN is trying to argue explicitly that the cost of CO2 abatement is lower than the cost of doing nothing.  They are arguing that a cooler but poorer world is superior to a warmer and richer world.  I am glad they are finally arguing this point.  Because while we can argue about the truth of how much the world has warmed and how much is due to man, the UN is DEAD WRONG on this point.  The cost of aggressive CO2 abatement is far, far higher than the cost of doing nothing.

The report presumably will be released by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, who demonstrated his stunning ignorance of climate science, geology, and geography on a recent climate-junket to Antarctica.  Let's take it line by line.

Is man destroying or threatening species?  Absolutely.  Is this threat from CO2 and warming? No, and I have read every inch of the UN IPCC report and you can find no evidence for this proposition. But saying this rallies the environmental base (the hard core environmentalists don't really care about poor people, at least when their interests conflict with animals).  Most of the evidence is that species thrive in warmer weather, and polar bears have survived several inter-glaciation periods where the north pole melted entirely in the summer.

Are sea levels rising?  Yes.  In fact, they have been rising for at least 150 years, and in fact have been rising steadily and at roughly the same rate since the last ice age.  We have seen absolutely no acceleration of the underlying sea level rise trend. Further, the UN's IPCC does have a forecast for sea level rise over the next century.  Even using temperature forecasts I consider exaggerated, the UN does not forecast more than about a foot of sea level rise over the coming century, only a bit more than what the sea level has risen over the last 150 years.  This is a great example of the disconnect between the UN political climate reports and the science underlying them.  The guys writing the summary know that their report says only a few inches of sea level rise, so they just say it is rising, and then let the crazies like Al Gore throw around numbers like 20 feet.

Here is an interesting thought:  If I say the sea levels will rise 0" over the next 100 years, the UN will call me out and say I am wrong.  However, when Al Gore said sea levels will rise 20 feet in his movie An Inconvenient Truth, no one at the UN or the IPCC called him out, despite the fact that my forecast was only a few inches off from theirs and his was 19 feet off the mark.

And of course, there are the poor.  The number one biggest losers in any effort to abate CO2 emissions will be the poor.  In wealthy countries like the US, the poor will be the hardest hit by $10 or even $20 gas prices that would be necessary to rolling CO2 production back to 1990 levels.  In the third world, nearly a billion people just starting to emerge from poverty will have no chance of doing so if their economies are hamstrung with CO2 limits.  The poor will be devastated by aggressive CO2 limits.

Weighed against this economic disaster would be, what? How would rising world temperatures hurt the poor?  Well, its not at all clear.  A foot of sea-level rise is very unlikely to hurt many poor people, though it might inconvenience a few rich owners of beach-front luxury homes.  Here is a clarifying question I often ask people -- would you rather fifteen Atlantic hurricanes each year, or sixteen hurricanes each year and Carribbean economies that are twice as rich and therefore have twice the resources to handle hurricanes.  This is the colder and poorer vs. warmer and richer choice.  We see this in Bangladesh today.  Why do orders of magnitude more people die in Bangladesh cyclones than class 5 hurricanes on the US shore?  Because they are poor, not because of anything having to do with global warming.

It is often claimed that global warming will cause droughts, but in fact warmer world temperatures will vaporize more water in the atmosphere and should net increase rain, not drought.  And many of the farmers in the northern hemisphere would enjoy longer growing seasons and thereby more food production.

Glaciers and ice caps are melting at a rapid rate; animals and plants are shifting their range to accommodate warmer air and water; and planting seasons are changing, the report said.

Yes, land-based ice is melting in the Northern Hemisphere.  This is 15% of the world's ice.  85% of the world's ice is in Antarctica, which is increasing. Seriously.  I know you don't believe this if you trust the media, but the ice that is melting in Greenland is tiny compared to the ice that is increasing at the South Pole.  In fact, the IPCC gets most of its prjected sea rise from thermal expansion of warmer oceans, not from ice melting.  And don't you love the "planting seasons are changing."  That sounds like its scary, or something, until you recognize the truth is that planting seasons are changing, becoming longer and more beneficial to food production!

On many occasions, I have discussed the bad science that goes into these apocalyptic forecasts.  But that science is of top quality compared to the economics that must have gone into the statement that:

The most stringent efforts to stabilize greenhouse gases would cost the world's economies 0.12 percent of their average annual growth to 2050, the report estimates.

This is absolute, unmitigated crap. Though I have not seen specifics in this report, the UN's position has generally been that emissions should be rolled back to 1990 levels (the target embodied in the Kyoto treaty).  Such a target implies reductions of more than 20% from where we are today and well over 50% from where we will be in 2050.  These are enormous cuts that cannot be achieved with current technology without massive reductions in economic growth. The world economy is inextricably tied to the burning of fossil fuels. And, unlike ancillary emissions like SO2, CO2 emissions cannot be limited without actually reducing carbon combustion since it is fundamental to the combustion chemistry.  Even supporters of legislation such as the Bingaman-Specter bill admit that as much as a trillion dollars will need to be spent to reduce global temperatures about 0.13C.  And that is a trillion for the first tenth of a degree -- the law of diminishing returns means that each additional tenth will cost more.

Lets look at history as our guide.  Most of the European countries and Japan signed onto the Kyoto Treaty to reduce emissions to 1990 levels.  They have taken many expensive steps to do so, implemented many more controls than in the US, and have gas prices as much as double those in the US.  During the period since 1990, most of these countries, unlike the US and China and India, have been in a deep and extended economic recession, which tends to suppress the growth of fossil fuel consumption.  Also, the CO2 numbers for countries like Russia and Germany benefit greatly from the fall of the old Communist Block, as their 1990 base year CO2 numbers include many horribly inefficient and polluting Soviet industries that have since been shut down.  And, given all this, they STILL are going to miss their numbers.  These countries have experienced reductions in economic growth orders of magnitude greater than this 0.12 percent quoted by the UN, and that still is not enough to reduce CO2 to target levels.  Only outright contraction of the world's economy is going to suffice [note: A strong commitment to replacing coal plants with nuclear might be a partial solution, but it will never happen because the people calling for CO2 controls are the same ones who shut down our nuclear programs. Also, technological change is always possible.  It would be awesome if someone found a way to roll out sheets of efficient solar cells like carpet out of Dalton, Georgia, but that has not happened yet.]

The UN has gotten to such low cost estimates for their government controls because they have convinced themselves, much like the promoters of building football stadiums for billionaire team owners, that they will get a huge return from the government CO2 controls:

"There is high agreement and much evidence that mitigation actions can result in near-term co-benefits, for example improved health due to reduced air pollution, that may offset a substantial fraction of mitigation costs," said the report, which summarizes research over five years of more than 2,000 of the world's top climate-change scientists...

The U.N. panel embraced the arguments of British economist Nicholas Stern, who concluded last year that the cost of taking tough measures to curb pollution will be repaid in the long run.

Nicholas Stern?  Haven't we heard that name before?  Why, yes we have.  He is the man that said that all of the world's climate problems would go away if we forced all the western economies to look just like India.

Mr Stern, the former chief economist of the World Bank, sends out a very clear message: “We need to cut down the total amount of carbon emissions by half by 2050.” At current levels, the per capita global emissions stand at 7 tonnes, or a total of 40-45 gigatonnes. At this rate, global temperatures could rise by 2.5-3 degrees by then. But to reduce the per capita emissions by half in 2050, most countries would have to be carbon neutral. For instance, the US currently has, at 20-25 tonnes, per capita emissions levels that are three times the global average.

The European Union’s emission levels stand at 10-15 tonnes per capita. China is at about 3-4 tonnes per capita and India, at 1 tonne per capita, is the only large-sized economy that is below the desired carbon emission levels of 2050. “India should keep it that way and insist that the rich countries pay their share of the burden in reducing emissions,” says Mr Stern.

Which, by the way, is exactly my point.  I very much hope Mr. Stern continues to make this clear in public.  One of the ways catastrophists support their cause of massive government interventionism is to try to portray the answer as little cutsie actions, like your 5-year-old helping with the recycling.  This is not what is require to meet these targets. What is required is ratchet down the US economy until we are all about as wealthy as the average Indian.  I guess that would at least take care of the outsourcing "problem."

One of the ways that the UN gets away with this is that no one has the time to read the detailed scientific report, and so reporters rely on the summaries like these.  Unfortunately, the same people who write the scientific sections are not the people who write the summaries.  Careful language about uncertainties, which are still huge, in the science are replaced by summaries written by politicians that say:

The near-final draft, approved Friday by representatives of more than 140 governments meeting in Valencia, Spain, said global warming is "unequivocal" and said man's actions are heading toward "abrupt or irreversible climate changes and impacts."...

"This will be viewed by all as a definitive report. It is the blueprint for the Bali talks," said Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., who will be at the Indonesian U.N. meeting beginning Dec. 3 as part of a U.S. senatorial delegation.

Another technique used by the UN that we see in play here is their willingness to cherry-pick one author that follows the UN narrative to refute a whole body of science that is contrary to the narrative.  Thus, the UN latched onto Michael Mann's hockey stick to overturn a consensus that there was a Medieval warm period, and now they have latched onto Nicholas Stern to overturn the opinion of, approximately, every other economist in the world who think CO2 mitigation will be really expensive.

As always, you are encourage to view my movie What is Normal:  A Critique of Catastrophic Man-Made Global Warming Theory or check out my book (free online) called A Skeptical Layman's Guide to Anthropogenic Global Warming.

By the way, in the title I put "new" in quotes.  Here is why.  I just read a presentation by Dr. Richard Lindzen from 1992 that shows that catastrophists were declaring the debate "over" as early as 1989, before any real research had even been performed:

By early 1989, however, the popular media in Europe and the United States were declaring that "all scientists'' agreed that warming was real and catastrophic in its potential.
...
In the meantime, the global warming circus was in full swing. Meetings were going on nonstop. One of the more striking of those meetings was hosted in the summer of 1989 by Robert Redford at his ranch in Sundance, Utah. Redford proclaimed that it was time to stop research and begin acting. I suppose that that was a reasonable suggestion for an actor to make, but it is also indicative of the overall attitude toward science. Barbara Streisand personally undertook to support the research of Michael Oppenheimer at the Environmental Defense Fund, although he is primarily an advocate and not a climatologist. Meryl Streep made an appeal on public television to stop warming. A bill was even prepared to guarantee Americans a stable climate

Posted on November 18, 2007 at 10:48 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)

My Interview at All American Blogger is Up

The podcast audio of Duane Lester's interview of yours truly about climate issues is now up here.  You can decide for yourself if this is true.

Posted on November 13, 2007 at 08:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Anatomy of A False Panic

I am trying to keep most of my long climate posts off this site and over at Climate Skeptic.  However, I have cross-posted this one because it is a good example for laymen of just what crap gets put forward in the media today about global warming.  It demonstrates the gullibility of the media, the gross exaggerations that exist in nearly every climate catastrophe article, and, as an added bonus, demonstrates the scientific incompetence of the man who leads the UN, the organization that has taken onto itself the role of summarizing the state of climate science. 

OK, here is a great example of the media blithely accepting panicky catsrophism where none is warranted (Link HT to Maggies Farm)

Scientists welcomed Ban Ki Moon to Antarctica with a glass of Johnny Walker Black Label served “on the rocks” with 40,000-year-old polar ice. But the researchers delivered an alarming message to the UN Secretary-General about a potential environmental catastrophe that could raise sea levels by six metres if an ice sheet covering a fifth of the continent crumbles.

The polar experts, studying the effects of global warming on the icy continent that is devoted to science, fear a repeat of the 2002 collapse of the Larsen B ice shelf. The 12,000-year-old shelf was 220 metres (720ft) thick and almost the size of Yorkshire.

“I was told by scientists that the entire Western Antarctica is now floating. That is a fifth of the continent. If it broke up, sea levels may rise as much as six metres,” Mr Ban said after being briefed at the Chilean, Uruguayan and South Korean bases during a day trip to King George Island, at the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. ...

Eduardo Frei Montalva Air Force Base, a year-round settlement of corrugated-iron cabins belonging to Chile, lies in one of the world’s worst “hot spots” – temperatures have been rising 0.5C (0.9F) a decade since the 1940s.

I don't even know where to start with this.  So I will just fire off some bullets:

  • Over the last 30 years, satellites have found absolutely no warming trend in Antarctica  (from UAH via Steven Milloy):

South_pole_temperatures

  • The tail is measuring the dog.  The Korean station couldn't possibly be more irrelevent to measuring Antarctic temperatures.  It is on an island labelled 26-34 north of the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula in the map below.  One might as well declare she is measuring temperatures in the continental US from Key West.

Antarcticastationsmap1s

  • It is well known that the Antarctic Penninsula, representing 2% of Antactica's area, is warming while the other 98% is cooling.  I discussed this more here. Al Gore took the same disingenuous step in his movie of showing only the anomolous 2%.  The Antarctic Penninsula in the first graph below shows warming.  The rest of Antarctica shows none  (click to enlarge)

Antarc35_2 Antarc34 Antarc33_2

  • The IPCC (run by the Secretary General and his organization) predicts that with global warming, the Antarctic penninsula will see net melting while the rest of Antarctica will see net increases in ice.  The penninsula is affected more by the changing temperatures of sea currents in the surrounding seas than in global climate effects.  For most of Antarctica, temperatures will never concieveably warm enough to melt the ice sheets, since it is so cold even in the summer, and ice sheets are expected to expand as warming increases precipitation on the continent.
  • Scientists studying Antarctica have been there at most a few decades.  We know almost nothing about it or its histroy.  We certainly don't know enough about "what is normal" to have any clue if activities on the Larson B ice shelf are anomolous or not.
  • The UN Sec-gen said that this ice shelf represented a fifth of the continent.  Here, in actuality, is the Larsen ice shelf.  The red box below greatly exaggerates Larsen's size, and Larsen-B is only a portion of the entire Larsen shelf.

Antarctic_map_larson_b

  • The statement that the entire Western Antarctic is floating is just absurd.  God knows what that is supposed to mean, but even if we ignore the word "floating", we can see from the map above we aren't even talking about a significant portion of the Antarctic Pennninsula, much less of Western Antarctica.  Here are actual pictures of the 2002 event.  (by the way, if ice is really "floating", presumably in sea water, then it's melting will have zero effect on ocean levels)
  • Such a feared collapse already happened 5 years ago, and sea levels did not budge.  But the next time it happens, sea levels are going to rise 20 feet??  Even the UN's IPCC does not think sea levels will rise more than 8-12 inches in the next century due to their overblown temperature forecasts.
As always, you can consult my my book and my movie (both free online) for more details on all these topics.

Posted on November 12, 2007 at 10:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (7)

Podcast Tonight

I will be on the All American Blogger podcast tonight, live here at 10PM, or of course any time after that through miracle of MP3 here.  Never tried this format before with call-in questions and stuff, so it should be interesting.  I will be discussing climate and catastrophic man-made global warming theory.

Posted on November 12, 2007 at 09:44 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

I'm on the Front Page, But Don't Bother to Look

The Arizona Republic had a stealth hit piece on skeptics in the paper today and, unfortunately, I inadvertently helped.  My kids woke me up at 7:00 this morning (Yuk!) to tell me I was on the front page of the Arizona Republic.  I was quoted a couple of times in an article on climate change skeptics.   I have a couple of thoughts about an article that really has me depressed today.  If you want to know what I really think about climate, see my book and in my movie (both free online).

  • After interviews, I am always surprised at what the writers chose to quote, and this article is no exception. 
  • I spent most of the article trying to explain this simple data exercise, but I guess newspapers today are science-phobic and would rather write he-said-she-said articles than actually get into the numbers.  Unfortunately, the article leaves the impressions that we skeptics have problems with catastrophic global warming theory  "just because."
  • The article is not about the skeptics' position, because it is not really stated.  In fact, more space is spent on refuting skeptics than is even given to skeptics themselves.  Here is the best test:  The skeptic's position would have been better served by not publishing this mess at all.
  • Almost my entire discussion with the reporter was about the forecasts.  I said man is causing some warming, but there are simple tests to show it likely won't be catastrophic.  I even said that it was the catastrophists tactic not to argue this point, but to shift the debate to whether warming exists at all, where they have a much stronger argument. Despite this whole discussion with the reporter, the reporter allowed the catastrophists to shift the debate again.  They want to argue whether things are warmer, where they are on strong ground, and not about how much it will warming the future and whether this will justify massive government intervention, where they are on weak ground.

This article really frustrates me, and may pretty much spell the end for my ever giving an interview on the subject again (I will do a podcast on Monday, which I will link soon, but that is different because they can't edit me).  Despite it being an article about skeptics, the catastrophists are the only one that get any empirical evidence whatsoever into the article (however lame it may be).  This really ticked me off in particular:  I spent an hour giving specific empirical reasons why there were problems with forecasts and the theory.  The reporter then just printed a few quotes from me that made me look like an uninformed idiot, saying "just because."  Then they print this:

"There is clearly a group of thought that says because we're not seeing debate now, it never happened in the scientific community," Huxman said. "That is simply wrong. It did happen, and it's over. The debate now is over the idiosyncrasies, the internal workings."

Incredibly, they also credulously reprint the absurd Newsweek ad hominem attacks on skeptics

What also got my attention was the companion article on an ASU professor who is a climate skeptic.  Incredibly, in the whole article, not one sentence is dedicated to explaining why the professor is a skeptic.  What is the empirical evidence he relies on, or the analysis he finds most compelling?  We never find out.  All we get is an article on dueling motivations.  For example, the Republic writes:

Despite his notoriety as a hero of the skeptic crowd, Balling's research and lifestyle contain some surprising contradictions.

He is in charge of climate studies at the Decision Center for a Desert City, an ambitious ASU program that looks at how drought will affect the Valley.

He's a registered independent and lives a lifestyle that the hardiest environmental activist would recognize as green....

If there was a competition for living green, "put the cards on the table, and I'll beat 99 percent of the faculty here," Balling said.

He avoids driving and  doesn't own a cellphone.

He would even have liked to see Al Gore win the presidency in 2000.

So?  Why is this surprising?  Should we all naturally expect that skeptics all eat children for dinner?  And, of course, an article on a leading skeptic would not be complete without this:

Critics have assailed Balling's ties to industries.

Balling received more than $679,000 in research funding from fossil-fuel-industry organizations between 1989 and 2002, according to figures provided by ASU. He served as a scientific adviser to the Greening Earth Society, a public-relations organization founded by the Western Fuels Association to promote the benefits of global warming.

Uh, OK.  Here is a Coyote Blog challenge:  Find me one article in a mainstream newspaper or news weekly that even once checks the sources of funding for climate catastrophists.  This focus on funding and motivation and political affiliation for skeptics only is scandalously asymmetric.  But take a quick look at the article - 85% of it is related to motivation, either how good his green credentials are or how much money he gets from oil companies - and not any discussion of what he actually thinks. 

This final bit is especially funny.  Think of all the wacko professors out there that are warmly accepted by their universities and the academic community.  We're talking about folks all the way up to and including men who have gone to prison for torturing and murdering women.  But apparently having a climate skeptic on the faculty is just too much:

But his climate work has garnered the most national attention, which bothers some colleagues at ASU.

"For ASU, having Balling as such a prominent figure in the climate debate has been awkward, not so much because of his positions but because we have lacked scientists of similar stature whose work supports more widely held, opposing views," Jonathan Fink, director of ASU's Global Institute of Sustainability, wrote in an e-mail. "Hence we have been viewed as somewhat of a fringe institution in the world of climate-change research."

Wow, its terrible to see such ill-repute brought to America's #1 Party School.  And by the way, what the hell kind of strategy is this?  We want to make a name for ourselves in climate research, so to do so we think we should be just like all the other schools -- that's the way to differentiate ourselves!

I will post links to my podcast that is coming up Monday night.  After that, I am not sure.  I am pretty depressed about the state of the media on this issue.  I have a lot of interests and more than enough to do with my time that I may take a break from climate for a while.

Posted on November 11, 2007 at 12:13 PM | Permalink | Comments (17)

The Graft Problem

Over at Climate Skeptic, I discuss the problem of graft.  No, not bribery (though I do have a beef with the industry cabal that supposedly funds all skeptics for not coming through with my check).  In this case, I discuss temperature reconstructions that graft one data series onto another, and try to draw conclusions about the inflection point which, suspiciously, occurs exactly at the spot the two series are spliced.

Posted on November 10, 2007 at 08:06 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Don't Panic!

Over at Climate Skeptic, I post my single best argument why you shouldn't be panicked about anthropogenic global warming.

Posted on November 7, 2007 at 11:34 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Let's Emulate India!

Over at Climate Skeptic, we can see Nicholas Stern, former chief economist of the World Bank, argue that the only way to really abate CO2 is for all the world's countries to be just like India.  I kid you not.  And, in fact I agree with him that if we really wanted to eliminate CO2 emissions with current technology, exactly this kind of poverty promotion program would be required.  I just don't think it's necessary that we adopt such a goal. 

As a postscript, I take on Mr. Stern's temperature forecasts of 2.5-3 degree C rise by 2050 and show why they make absolutely no sense in light of the last 100 years of empirical data.

Posted on November 5, 2007 at 11:40 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Email of the Day

Email I received with subject line "Climate Skeptic"

"How stupid are you"

Outstanding.  I love scientific discourse.

Posted on November 2, 2007 at 10:03 AM | Permalink | Comments (8)

More Ways to Watch My Climate Video

There has been a lot of interest in my new climate video.  Already we have nearly 450 1500 views at Google video and over 200 700 downloads of the video.  I am now releasing the video through YouTube.

YouTube requires that all videos be under 10 minutes, so I have broken the film into six parts.  If you want to just preview a portion, the second half of the fourth film and the first half of the fifth are probably the most critical.

A Youtube Playlist for the film is here.  This is a cool feature I have not used before, but will effectively let you run the parts end to end, making the 50-minute video more or less seamless. 

The individual parts are:

Climate Video Part 1:  Introduction; how greenhouse gases work; historical climate reconstructions
Climate Video Part 2:  Historical reconstructions; problems with proxies
Climate Video part 3:  How much warming is due to man; measurement biases; natural cycles in climate
Climate Video Part 4:  Role of the sun; aerosols and cooling; climate sensitivity; checking forecasts against history
Climate Video Part 5:  Positive and negative feedback;  hurricanes.
Climate Video Part 6:  Melting ice and rising oceans; costs of CO2 abatement; conclusions.

You may still stream the entire climate film from Google Video here. (the video will stutter between the 12 and 17 second marks, and then should run fine)

You may download a 258MB full resolution Windows Media version of the film by right-clicking here.

You may download a 144MB full resolution Quicktime version of the film by right-clicking here.

Posted on November 1, 2007 at 10:06 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)

Climate Video Release!

My first climate movie, What is Normal?  A Critique of Catastrophic Man-Made Global Warming Theory is now available for free download.  If you have the bandwidth, I encourage you to download the full 640x480 version as Windows Media Video, but be forewarned that the file is 258MB.  This is actually a pretty small file for a 50+ minute movie, and the full resolution version looks much nicer than the streaming version.

Right-Click Here to Download Climate Movie in Full Resolution

Right-Click here for full resolution 144MB .mov quicktime version of Climate Movie

Make sure you turn up your volume -- I think I recorded this with a pretty low audio level.

If you are bandwidth-challenged, or you can't view a .WMV file, you may stream the video from Google video or download a reduced resolution version here.  Unfortunately, to make the video stream effectively, the resolution is cut to 320x240, but having watched it, it still looks surprisingly good streamed. 

Note, on the streaming version, the video stutters between the 12 and 17 second marks in the movie, but runs fine after that.  By the way, thanks to all the commenters who gave me some good alternatives to using my own fairly week narration voice.  I decided for this first release I wanted to see what I could achieve with a pure solo effort.  Many thanks to Adobe Premier Elements, which made this effort possible.

Finally, you can stream the reduced resolution Google video version below:

 

Posted on October 28, 2007 at 09:50 PM | Permalink | Comments (10)

Video Release

Please check back Monday morning, as I will be releasing my new video, "What is Normal:  A Critique of Catastrophic Man-Made Global Warming Theory."  As with my global warming book, which began as a ten page summary and ended up as an 85-page manuscript, the video started at a goal of 15 minutes and eventually ended up at 50 minutes.  However, unlike other global warming-related videos I will not name, it is all climate science, with no self-congratulatory segments on my childhood.

Posted on October 26, 2007 at 08:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Warming and Drought

"It's hot in the desert, so therefor warmer temperatures must cause drought."  That is the logical fallacy I address today over at Climate Skeptic, where we find evidence that, if anything, global warming is making things wetter rather than drier.

Posted on October 25, 2007 at 09:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

It Really is a Smaller World

Anthony Watt has a pointer to a nice presentation in four parts on YouTube by Bob Carter made at a public forum in Australia.  He walks through some of the skeptics' issues with catastrophic man-made global warming theory.

What caught my attention, though, were the pictures Mr. Carter shows in his presentation about about 1:30 into part 4.  Because I took the pictures he shows, down at the University of Arizona, as part of Mr. Watts project to document temperature measurement stations.  Kind of cool to see someone I don't know in a country I have (sadly) never visited using a small bit of my work.  Part 4 is below, but you can find links to all four parts here.

Posted on October 22, 2007 at 10:03 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Al Gore and the Peace Prize

Several readers have asked for my comment.  This is what I posted over at Climate Skeptic:

This morning I was all fired up to write something petty, like "Al Gore now has made the same contributions to peace as have previous winners Yassir Arafat and Henry Kissinger."  Later, I considered a long and drawn out post on the inaccuracies of "An Inconvinient Truth", but I really have already done that in long form here and in short form here. In truth, the Peace prize process has for years been about a group of leftish statists making a statement, and often it has been about tweaking the US, rather than a dispassionate analysis of true contributions to peace made with the benefit of some historic distance (as is done with the scientific prizes).  Further, most folks I argue with don't really care about the specific inacuracies in Gore's movie, their response typically being something in the "fake but accurate" line of reasoning.

So instead I will say what I told a reader by email a few hours ago.  I tend to be optimistic about the world, and believe that we are approaching a high water mark (so to speak) for the climate catastrophists, where we will look back and see their influence peak and start unwinding under the presure of science and the reality of the enormous cost to abate CO2.  Gore's Peace prize, in the same year as his Oscar and that global warming music festival no one can even remember the name of 3 months later, feels to me like it may be that high water mark.   The Peace Prize certainly was the high water mark for Jimmy Carter's credibility, not to mention that of Henry Kissinger and a myriad of others.  Think of it this way -- if the guys who made the peace prize decisions were investors, and you knew what they were investing in, you would sell short.  Seriously, just look at the group.  Well, they just invested in Al Gore.

Update:  One thing many commenters have not pointed out is that Al Gore is really manuevering the US and China and India (and the rest of the developping world) into a position that, if he has his way, conflict is going to occur over who gets to grow and develop, and who does not.  CO2 catastrophism has the ablility to be the single most destabalizing issue of the 21st century. This is peace?

Posted on October 12, 2007 at 08:51 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

Nevermind

Up until now, the retreat of Arctic ice to 30 year lows has been credited, without proof, to global warming.  This never made a lot of sense to me, since at the same time Antarctic sea ice was hitting an all-time high.  Over at Climate Skeptic, I discuss a new NASA study that proposes that Arctic sea ice melting over the last decade has been due mainly to shifting wind patterns that basically push the ice into warmer waters where it melts faster.

Posted on October 4, 2007 at 09:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)

Are Lies OK if They Are "For The Children?"

Over at Climate Skeptic, some investigation by the folks at SPPI have shown that in her new children's climate propaganda book, Laurie David actually reversed the legend on a key chart showing the 600,000 year history of CO2 and temperature.  Recent analysis has shown, and most all scientists accept, that temperature increases actually preceded CO2 increases by 800 or more years in many of the past glacial cycles.  Since this did not fit her story, David reverses the chart legend, making CO2 precede temperature the way David wants it.  Going right to David's cited source, we find:

On page 103 of their book, David and Gordon cite the work of Siegenthaler et al. (2005), for their written and graphical contention that temperature lags CO2. However, Siegenthaler et al. clearly state the opposite:

“The lags of CO2 with respect to the Antarctic temperature over glacial terminations V to VII are 800, 1600, and 2800 years, respectively, which are consistent with earlier observations during the last four glacial cycles.”

(Siegenthaler et al., 2005, Science, vol. 310, 1313-1317)

More, including the graphs themselves, before and after tampering, at climate skeptic.

Posted on September 28, 2007 at 05:09 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Duh

From Megan McArdle:

Matt may be right that I haven't harangued people about climate change recently, so here goes: dude, if you're still a climate change skeptic, it's time for a rethink. When the science correspondent for Reason magazine comes over to the reality of anthropogenic global warming, it's safe to say that the skeptics have lost the debate. Not only the vast majority of the scientific community, but even most of the hard-core skeptics at conservative magazines, have abandonned the hope that we are not warming up the climate.

There's still debate about the effects of the warming, and what we should do about it. But there's not much question that it's happening.

Duh.  The vision of the skeptic community denying that the world is warming at all is a straw man created by the climate catastrophists to avoid arguing about the much more important point in her second paragraph.  What I can't understand is McArdle's, and many intelligent people I meet, seeming unintrest in the degree of man-made impact.

The chief debate really boils down to those of us who think that climate sensitivity to CO2 is closer to 1C (ie the degrees the world will warm with a doubling of CO2 concentrations from pre-industrial levels) and those who think that the sensitivity is 3-5C or more.  The lower sensitivity implies a warming over the next century of about a half degree C, or about what we saw in the last century.  The higher numbers represesent an order of magnitude more warming in the next century.  The lower numbers imply a sea level rise measured in inches.  The higher numbers imply a rise of 1-2 feet  (No one really know where Al Gore gets his 20 foot prediction in his movie).  The lower numbers we might not even notice.  The higher numbers will certainly cause problems.

The other debate is whether the cost of CO2 abatement should even be considered.  I have talked to many people who say the costs are irrelevant - Gaia must come first.  But steps to make any kind of dent in CO2 production with current technologies will have a staggering impact on the world economy.  For example, there are a billion Asians poised to finally to enter the middle class who we will likely consign back to poverty with an aggressive CO2 reduction program.  With such staggering abatement costs, it matters how bad the effects of man-made global warming will be. 

There are many reasons a 1.0 climate sensivity is far more defensible than the higher sensitivities used by catastrophists.  My argument a lower climate sensitivity and therefore a less aggresive posture on CO2 is here.  Cross-posted at Climate Skeptic.

Update: Sure, we skeptics debate the degree of past warming, but it really can't be denied the earth is warmer than 100 years ago.  The problem catastrophists have with defending their higher climate sensitivities is that these sensitivities imply that we should have seen much more warming over the past 100 years, as much as 1.5C or more instead of about 0.6C.  These scientists have a tendency to try to restate historical numbers to back their future forecast accuracy.  We skeptics fight them on this, but it does not mean we are trying to deny warming at all, just make sure the science is good as to the magnitude.

One other thought - everyone should keep two words in mind vis a vis CO2 and its effect on temperature:  Diminishing Return.  Each new molecule of CO2 has less impact on temperature than the last one.  Only by positing a lot of weird, unlikely, and unstable positive feedbacks in the climate can scientists reach these higher sensitivity numbers (more here).  A good economist would laugh if they understood the assumptions that were being made in the catastrophic forecasts that are being used to influence government action.

Posted on September 24, 2007 at 10:59 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

Is NASA The Largest Source of Global Warming?

Cars made by GM and fuel produce by Exxon may be responsible for a lot of CO2, but no one is creating as much global warming as James Hansen and NASA do just sitting at their computers.  An example, showing a cooling trend in New Zealand before their adjustments, but a strong warming trend after NASA is through with the data, is posted at Climate Skeptic.

Posted on September 24, 2007 at 03:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Signal to Noise Ratio in Measurement

Over at Climate Skeptic, I discuss Anthony Watt's preliminary findings as to the quality of measurement in the surface temperature installations that are used to measure global warming.  If we call global warming "the signal", then the signal is currently thought to have been about 0.6C over the last century.  However, Watt has good reason to estimate that 85% of the US Historical Climate Network has installation biases that create errors from 1-5C,or about 2-8 times the signal.  And these are not random biases that cancel out, but tend to all bias the numbers higher, leading to systematic over-estimation of temperature increases.

Posted on September 12, 2007 at 01:42 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Antarctic Sea Ice Advancing

I am sure everyone has heard that Arctic sea ice is, as the National Geographic described it, at an "all-time low."  Of course those would expect the words "all-time" to mean just that will be disappointed to learn that they really mean "since 1979 when we started measuring it by satellite."

At Climate Skeptic, I write that it has come to my attention that the earth has two poles, and it's odd no one talks about the other one.  Maybe they forgot?  Well it turns out that Antarctic sea ice is at an all time high (using the term in the same way that National Geographic does). 

As an end note, I also discuss Glacier Bay, Alaska.  It turns out the glaciers there are retreating, but about 99% of the retreat occurred between 1793 and 1907

Posted on September 12, 2007 at 09:19 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Does the US Matter?

After NASA was forced to restate its US temperature data downward, James Hansen argued that the US doesn't matter.  After it was observed that long-term temperature measurement is flawed in South America and Africa, James Hansen agreed and argued that South America and Africa don't matter.  Since oceans cover 75% of the globe and we have no long-term temperature record for these oceans or for Antarctica, I ask the question at Climate Skeptic:  What does matter?

Posted on September 11, 2007 at 09:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Good News: Hansen Releases the Temperature Code

Good news this week:  James Hansen and NASA have now deigned to release for scrutiny their taxpayer-funded temperature aggregation and adjustment code.  I go in more detail and explain why this matters over at Climate Skeptic.

By the way, if you are wondering why I have calmed down a bit on climate of late here at Coyote Blog, it is because I have decided that my climate work really was diluting what I want to do here at Coyote Blog, and it really deserved its own home and audience.  I have begun archiving old posts over at Climate Skeptic, and I will do most of my new posting on climate there.  Those interested in the climate issues are encouraged to bookmark the new site and/or subscribe to its feed.

For a little while, I will still mirror the headlines over here at Coyote Blog (after all, the paint is still so wet over at Climate Skeptic that I don't think Google has found me yet -- a few blogrolls wouldn't hurt, hint, hint.)

Also, in the next few weeks I plan release my own video on issues with catastrophic anthropogenic (man-made) global warming theory.  The core of this video will be based on this skeptics summary post and my 60-second climate overview as well as my free 80-page skeptics primer, of course.

Posted on September 9, 2007 at 10:11 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

The Perfect Political Bludgeon

I am often asked, "why, if the threat of global warming is really so overstated, does the issue have such legs with politicians, media, and activists?"

Answer:  Because it is the perfect political bludgeon.  One of the reasons I felt like high school debate really was broken (I don't know if it has been fixed since) was because every single debate eventually devolved into which side was more likely to cause a nuclear war.  It didn't matter if you were arguing about energy policy or the presidential primary system, no good debate case stopped short of blaming the other side for nuclear war.

Today, with nuclear weapons mostly forgotten (unfortunately not gone), global warming is the new nuclear war. It doesn't matter what you are arguing about:

There was Clare Short, a member of the British Parliament and Secretary for International Development under Prime Minister Tony Blair until she resigned in 2003 over the Iraq war. Claiming that Israel is actually "much worse than the original apartheid state" and accusing it of "killing (Palestinian) political leaders," Ms. Short charged the Jewish state with the ultimate crime: Israel "undermines the international community's reaction to global warming." According to Ms. Short, the Middle East conflict distracts the world from the real problem: man-made climate change. If extreme weather will lead to the "end of the human race," as Ms. Short warned it could, add this to the list of the crimes of Israel.

Posted on September 4, 2007 at 07:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

Why the NASA Temperture Adjustments Matter

NASA's GISS was recently forced to restate its historical temperature database for the US when Steve McIntyre (climate gadfly) found discontinuities in the data that seemed to imply a processing error.  Which indeed turned out to be the case (store here).

The importance of this is NOT the actual change to the measurements, though it was substantial.  The importance, which the media reporting on this has entirely missed, is it highlights why NASA and other government-funded climate scientists have got to release their detailed methodologies and software for scrutiny.  The adjustments they are making to historical temperatures are often larger(!) than the measured historical warming (here, here, here) so the adjustment methodology is critical. 

This post from Steve McIntyre really shows how hard government-funded climate scientists like James Hansen are working to avoid scientific scrutiny.  Note the contortions and detective work McIntyre and his readers must go through to try to back into what NASA and Hansen are actually doing.  Read in this context, you should be offended by this article.  Here is an excerpt (don't worry if you can't follow the particular discussion, just get a sense of how hard NASA is making it to replicate their adjustment process):

If I average the data so adjusted, I get the NASA-combined version up to rounding of 0.05 deg C. Why these particular values are chosen is a mystery to say the least. Version 1 runs on average a little warmer than version 0 where they diverge ( and they are identical after 1980). So why version 0 is adjusted down more than version 1 is hard to figure out.

Why is version 2 adjusted down prior to 1990 and not after? Again it’s hard to figure out. I’m wondering whether there isn’t another problem in splicing versions as with the USHCN data. One big version of Hansen’s data was put together for Hansen and Lebedeff 1987 and the next publication was Hansen et al 1999 - maybe different versions got involved. But that’s just a guess. It could be almost anything....It would be interesting to check their source code and see how they get this adjustment, that’s for sure.

A basic tenant of science is that you publish enough information such that others can replicate your work.  Hansen and NASA are not doing this, which is all the more insane given that we as taxpayers pay for their work.

Hansen cites the fact that Phil Jones gets somewhat similar results as evidence of the validity of his calculations. In fairness to Hansen, while they have not archived code, they have archived enough data versions to at least get a foothold on what they are doing. In contrast, Phil Jones at CRU maintains lockdown anti-terrorist security on his data versions and has even refused FOI requests for his data. None of these sorts of analyses are possible on CRU data, which may or may not have problems of its own.

Posted on August 30, 2007 at 10:34 AM | Permalink | Comments (6)

Contributing to Science, Follow-up

My photo survey of the Tucson USHCN climate station is still creating a lot of discussion.  Discussion, for example, is here, here, and here.

And you too can have the satisfaction of contributing to science.  All you need is a camera (a GPS of some sort is also helpful).  I wrote a post with instructions on how to find temperature stations near you and how to document them for science here.  Believe it or not, for all the work and money spent on global warming, this is something that no one had done -- actually go document these sites to check their quality and potential biases.

Posted on August 30, 2007 at 07:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Problems With Catastrophic Global Warming Shown in Two Charts

OK, I understand that perhaps my worst flaw in trying to make a point is in being too loquacious.  In a previous post, I showed why estimates of climate catastrophe were overblown by using the earth's experience over the last 100 years as an empirical guide.  Today, I shall try to make the same point with fewer words and just two charts instead.

Scientists have a concept called climate sensitivity which refers to the amount of global warming in degrees Celsius we might expect from a doubling of CO2 concentrations from a pre-industrial 280ppm to 560ppm  (we are currently at about 380ppm today and will reach 560ppm between 2065 and 2100, depending on how aggressive a forecast you want to adopt).

A simple way to estimate sensitivity is from experience over the past century.  At the same time CO2 has gone up by 100ppm, global temperatures have gone up by at most 0.6 Celsius (from the 4th IPCC report).  I actually believe this number is over-stated due to uncorrected urban effects and other surface temperature measurement issues, but let's assume 0.6ºC.  Only a part of that 0.6ºC is due to man - some is likely do to natural cyclical effects, but again to avoid argument, let's assume man's CO2 has heated the earth 0.6 Celsius.  From these data points, we can project forward:

Sensitivity1

As you can see, the projection is actually a diminishing curve.  For reasons I will not go into again (you can read much more in my original post) this relationship HAS to be a diminishing curve.  It's a fact accepted by everyone.  True climate consensus.  We can argue about the slope and exact shape, but I have chosen midpoint values from a reasonable range.  The answer is not that sensitive to different assumptions anyway.  Even a linear extrapolation, which is clearly wrong scientifically, would only yield a sensitivity projection a few tenths of a degree higher.

What we arrive at is a sensitivity of about 1.2 degrees Celsius for a CO2 doubling (where the blue line crosses 560ppm).  In other words, we can expect another 0.6ºC increase over the next century, about the same amount we experienced (and most of us failed to notice) over the last century.

But, you are saying, global warming catastrophists get so much higher numbers.  Yes they do, with warming as high as 9-10C in the next century.  In fact, most global warming catastrophists believe the climate sensitivity is at least 3ºC per doubling, and many use estimates as high as 5ºC or 6ºC.  Do these numbers make sense?  Well, let's draw the same curve for a sensitivity of 3ºC, the low end of the catastrophists' estimates, this time in red:

Sensitivity2

To get a sensitivity of 3.0ºC, one has to assume that global warming due solely to man's CO2 (nothing else) would have to be 1.5ºC to date (where the red line intersects the current concentration of 380ppm).  But no one, not the IPCC or anyone else, believes measured past warming has been anywhere near this high.  So to believe the catastrophic man-made global warming case, you have to accept a sensitivity three or more times higher than historical empirical data would support.  Rather than fighting against climate consensus, which is how we are so often portrayed, skeptics in fact have history and empirical data on our side.  For me, this second chart is the smoking gun of climate skepticism.  We have a lot of other issues -- measurement biases, problems with historical reconstructions, role of the sun, etc -- but this chart highlights the central problem -- that catastrophic warming forecasts make no sense based on the last 100+ years of actual data.

Global warming catastrophists in fact have to argue against historical data, and say it is flawed in two ways:  First, they argue there are positive feedbacks in climate that will take hold in the future and accelerate warming; and second, they argue there are other anthropogenic effects, specifically sulphate aerosols, that are masking man-made warming.  Rather than just repeat myself (and in the interest in proving I can actually be succinct) I will point you to my original post, the second half of which deals in depth with these two issues. 

As always, you can find my Layman's Guide to Skepticism about Man-made Global Warming here.  It is available for free in HTML or pdf download, or you can order the printed book that I sell at cost.  My other recent posts about climate are here.

Posted on August 28, 2007 at 09:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)

Must...Not...Make...Ad...Hominem...Attack

A couple of weeks ago, Newsweek published a front-page article demonizing ExxonMobil for given $10,000 honorariums to researchers likely to publish work skeptical of catastrophic man-made global warming.  If $10,000 is corrupting and justifies such an ad hominem attack, what are we to make of $100 million (pronounced in Dr. Evil voice with pinkie to lips) a year in pro-catastrophe spending:

That's right, $100 million per year. Al Gore, who seems to think it is sinister for other people to spend money in order to communicate their ideas about sound public policy is going to outspend the entire mass of climate policy critics tenfold in order to spread his message of environmental catastrophism to the public.

Speech:  OK for me, but not for thee.

Postscript:  By the way, I fully support Mr. Gore and his donor's efforts to let their viewpoint be heard.  I just wonder why they don't extend me the same courtesy.

Posted on August 27, 2007 at 04:47 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

Reality Checking Global Warming Forecasts

I know I have deluged you with a lot of climate change posts of late.  I think this particular post is important, as it is the clearest single argument I can make as to why I am skeptical that man-made global warming will rise to catastrophic levels.  It is not comprehensive, it took me 80 pages to do that, but it should get anyone thinking.

It turns out to be quite easy to do a simple but fairly robust reality check of global warming forecasts, even without knowing what a "Watt" or a "forcing" is.   Our approach will be entirely empirical, based on the last 100 years of climate history.  I am sensitive that we skeptics not fall into the 9/11 Truther syndrome of arguing against a coherent theory from isolated anomalies.  To this end, my approach here is holistic and not anomaly driven.  What we will find is that, extrapolating from history, it is almost impossible to get warming numbers as high as those quoted by global warming alarmists.

Climate Sensitivity

The one simple concept you need to understand is "climate sensitivity."  As used in most global warming literature, climate sensitivity is the amount of global warming that results from a doubling in atmospheric CO2 concentrations.   Usually, when this number is presented, it refers to the warming from a doubling of CO2 concentrations since the beginning of the industrial revolution.  The pre-industrial concentration is generally accepted as 280ppm (0.028% of the atmosphere) and the number today is about 380ppm, so a doubling would be to 560ppm.

As a useful, though not required, first step before we begin, I encourage you to read the RealClimate simple "proof" for laymen that the climate sensitivity is 3ºC, meaning the world will warm 3 degrees C with a doubling of CO2 concentrations from their pre-industrial level.  Don't worry if you don't understand the whole description, we are going to do it a different, and I think more compelling, way (climate scientists are a bit like the Wizard of Oz -- they are afraid if they make things too simple someone might doubt they are a real wizard).  3ºC is a common number for sensitivity used by global warming hawks, though it is actually at the low end of the range that the UN IPCC arrived at in their fourth report.  The IPCC (4th report, page 798) said that the expected value is between 3ºC and 4ºC and that there was a greater chance the sensitivity was larger than 6ºC than that it was 1.5ºC or less.  I will show you why I think it is extraordinarily unlikely that the number is greater even than 1.5ºC.

Our Approach

We are going to derive the sensitivity (actually a reasonable range for sensitivity) for ourselves in three steps.  First, we will do it a simple way.  Then, we will do it a slightly harder but more accurate way.  And third, we will see what we would have to assume to get a number anywhere near 3ºC.  Our approach will be entirely empirical, using past changes in CO2 and temperature to estimate sensitivity.  After all, we have measured CO2 going up by about 100 ppm.  That is about 36% of the way towards a doubling from 280 to 560.  And, we have measured temperatures -- and though there are a lot of biases in these temperature measurements, these measurements certainly are better than our guesses, say, of temperatures in the last ice age.  Did you notice something odd, by the way, in the RealClimate derivation?  They never mentioned measured sensitivities in the last 100 years -- they jumped all the way back to the last ice age.  I wonder if there is a reason for that?

A First Approximation

OK, let's do the obvious.  If we have experienced 36% of a doubling, then we should be able to take the historic temperature rise from CO2 for the same period and multiply it by 2.8 (that's just reciprocal of 36%) and derive the temperature increase we would expect for a full doubling.

The problem is that we don't know the historic temperature rise solely form CO2.  But we do know how to bound it.  The IPCC and most global warming hawks place the warming since 1900 at about 0.6ºC.  Since no one attributes warming before 1900 to man-made CO2  (it did warm, but this is attributed to natural cyclical recovery from the little ice age) then the maximum historic man-made warming is 0.6ºC.  In fact, all of that warming is probably not from CO2.  Some probably is from continued cyclical warming out of the little ice age.  Some, I believe strongly, is due to still uncorrected biases, particularly of urban heat islands, in surface temperature data. 

But let's for a moment attribute, unrealistically, all of this 0.6ºC to man-made CO2 (this is in fact what the IPCC does in their report).   This should place an upper bound on the sensitivity number.  Taking 0.6ºC times 2.8 yields an estimated  climate sensitivity of  1.7ºC.  Oops.  This is about half of the RealClimate number or the IPCC number! And if we take a more realistic number for man-made historic warming as 0.4ºC, then we get a sensitivity of 1.1ºC.  Wow, that's a lot lower! We must be missing something important!  It turns out that we are, in this simple analysis, missing something important.  But taking it into account is going to push our sensitivity number even lower.

A Better Approximation

What we are missing is that the relation between CO2 concentration and warming is not linear, as implied in our first approximation.  It is a diminishing return.  This means that the first 50 ppm rise in CO2 concentrations causes more warming than the next 50 ppm, etc.  This effect has often been compared to painting a window.  The first coat of paint blocks out a lot of light, but the window is still translucent.  The next coat blocks out more light, but not as much as the first.  Eventually, subsequent coats have no effect because all the light is already blocked.  CO2 has a similar effect on warming.  It only absorbs certain wavelengths of radiation returning to space from earth.  Once the absorption of those wavelengths is saturated, extra CO2 will do almost nothing. (update:  By the way, this is not some skeptic's fantasy -- everyone in climate accepts this fact).

So what does this mean in English?  Well, in our first approximation, we assumed that 36% of a CO2 doubling would yield 36% of the temperature we would get in a doubling.  But in reality, since the relationship is a diminishing return, the first 36% of a CO2 doubling will yield MORE than 36% of the temperature increase you get for a doubling.  The temperature increase is front-loaded, and diminishes going forward.   An illustration is below, with the linear extrapolation in red and the more realistic decreasing exponential extrapolation in blue.

Sensitivity

The exact shape and equation of this curve is not really known, but we can establish a reasonable range of potential values.  For any reasonable shapes of this curve, 36% of a CO2 doubling (where we are today) equates to from 43% to 63% of the final temperature increase over a doubling.  This would imply that a multiplier between 2.3 and 1.6 for temperature extrapolation  (vs. 2.8 derived above for the straight linear extrapolation above) or a climate sensitivity of 1.4ºC to 1.0ºC if man-made historic warming was 0.6ºC and a range of 0.9ºC to 0.6ºC for a man-made historic warming of 0.4ºC.  I tend to use the middle of this range, with a multiplier of about 1.9 and a man-made historic warming of 0.5ºC to give a expected sensitivity of 0.95ºC, which we can round to 1ºC. 

This is why you will often hear skeptics cite numbers closer to 1ºC rather than 3ºC for the climate sensitivity.   Any reasonable analysis of actual climate experience over the last 100 years yields a sensitivity much closer to 1ºC than 3ºC.  Most studies conducted before the current infatuation with showing cataclysmic warming forecasts came up with this same 1ºC, and peer-reviewed work is still coming up with this same number

So what does this mean for the future?  Well, to predict actual temperature increases from this sensitivity, we would have to first create a CO2 production forecast and, you guessed it, global warming hawks have exaggerated that as well.  The IPCC says we will hit the full doubling to 560ppm around 2065 (Al Gore, incredibly, says we will hit it in the next two decades).  This means that with about 0.5C behind us, and a 3 sensitivity, we can expect 2.5C more warming in the next 60 years.  Multiply that times exaggerated negative effects of warming, and you get instant crisis.

However, since actual CO2 production is already below IPCC forecasts, we might take a more reasonable date of 2080-2100 for a doubling to 560.  And, combining this with our derived sensitivity of 1ºC (rather than RealClimate's 3ºC) we will get 0.5C more warming in the next 75-100 years.  This is about the magnitude of warming we experienced in the last century, and most of us did not even notice.

I know you are scratching you head and wondering what trick I pulled to get numbers so much less than the scientific "consensus."  But there is no trick, all my numbers are empirical and right out of the IPCC reports.  In fact, due to measurement biases and other climate effects that drive warming, I actually think the historic warming from CO2 and thus the sensitivity is even lower, but I didn't want to confuse the message. 

So what are climate change hawks assuming that I have not included?  Well, it turns out they add on two things, neither of which has much empirical evidence behind it.  It is in fact the climate hawks, not the skeptics, that need to argue for a couple of anomalies to try to make their case.

Is Climate Dominated by Positive Feedback?

Many climate scientists argue that there are positive feedbacks in the climate system that tend to magnify and amplify the warming from CO2.  For example, a positive feedback might be that hotter climate melts sea ice and glaciers, which reduces the reflectiveness of the earth's surface, which causes more sunlight to be absorbed, which warms things further.  A negative feedback might be that warmer climate vaporizes more water which forms more clouds which blocks sunlight and cools the earth. 

Climate scientists who are strong proponents of catastrophic man-made warming theory assume that the climate is dominated by positive feedbacks.  In fact, my reading of the IPCC report says that the climate "consensus" is that net feedback in the climate system is positive and tends to add 2 more degrees of temperature for every one added from CO2.  You might be thinking - aha - I see how they got a sensitivity of 3ºC:  Your 1ºC plus 2ºC in feedback equals 3ºC. 

But there is a problem with that.  In fact, there are three problems with this.  Here they are:

  1. We came up with our 1ºC sensitivity empirically.  In other words, we observed a 100ppm past CO2 increase leading to 0.5ºC measured temperature increase which implies 1ºC sensitivity.  But since this is empirical, rather than developed from some set of forcings and computer models, then it should already be net of all feedbacks.  If there are positive feedbacks in the system, then they have been operating and should be part of that 1ºC.
  2. There is no good scientific evidence that there is a large net positive feedback loop in climate, or even that the feedback is net positive at all.  There are various studies, hypotheses, models, etc., but no proof at all.  In fact, you can guess this from our empirical data.  History implies that there can't be any large positive feedbacks in the system or else we would have observed higher temperatures historically.  In fact, we can go back in to the distant historical record (in fact, Al Gore showed the chart I am thinking of in An Inconvenient Truth) and find that temperatures have never run away or exhibited any sort of tipping point effect.
  3. The notion that a system like climate, which has been reasonably stable for millions of years, is dominated by positive feedback should offend the intuition of any scientist.  Nature is dominated in large part by negative feedback processes.  Positive feedback processes are highly unstable, and tend to run away to a distant endpoint.  Nuclear fission, for example, is a positive feedback process

Do aerosols and dimming imply a higher sensitivity?

Finally, the last argument that climate hawks would employ is that anthropogenic effects, specifically emission of SO2 aerosols and carbon black, have been reflecting sunlight and offsetting the global warming effect.  But, they caution, once we eliminate these pollutants, which we have done in the West (only to be offset in China and Asia) temperatures will no longer be suppressed and we will see the full extent of warming.

First, again, no one really has any clue the magnitude of this effect, or even if it is an effect at all.  Second, its reach will tend to be localized over industrial areas (since their presence in the atmosphere is relatively short-lived), whereas CO2 acts worldwide.  If these aerosols and carbon black are concentrated say over 20% of the land surface of the world, this means they are only affecting the temperature over 5% of the total earth' s surface.  So its hard to argue they are that significant.

However, let's say for a moment this effect does exist.  How large would it have to be to argue that a 3.0ºC climate sensitivity is justified by historical data?  Well, taking 3.0ºC and dividing by our derived extrapolation multiplier of 1.9, we get required historic warming due to man's efforts of 1.6ºC.  This means that even if all past 0.6ºC of warming is due to man (a stretch), then aerosols must be suppressing a full 1ºC of warming.   I can't say this is impossible, but it is highly unlikely and certainly absolutely no empirical evidence exists to support any number like this. Particularly since dimming effects probably are localized, you would need as much as 20ºC suppression in these local areas to get a 1ºC global effect.  Not very likely.

Why the number might even be less

Remember that when we calculated sensitivity, we needed the historical warming due to man's CO2.  A simple equation for arriving at this number is:

Warming due to Man's CO2 = Total Historic Measured Warming - Measurement Biases - Warming from other Sources + Warming suppressed by Aerosols

This is why most skeptics care if surface temperature measurements are biased upwards or if the sun is increasing in intensity.  Global warming advocates scoff and say that these effects don't undermine greenhouse gas theory.  And they don't.  I accept greenhouse gases cause some warming.  BUT, the more surface temperature measurements are biased upwards and the more warming is being driven by non-anthropogenic sources, the less that is being caused by man.  And, as you have seen in this post, the less warming caused by man historically means less that we will see in the future.  And while global warming hawks want to paint skeptics as "deniers", we skeptics want to argue the much more interesting question "Yes, but how much is the world warming, and does this amount of warming really justify the costs of abatement, which are enormous."


 

As always, you can find my Layman's Guide to Skepticism about Man-made Global Warming here.  It is available for free in HTML or pdf download, or you can order the printed book that I sell at cost.  My other recent posts about climate are here.

Posted on August 27, 2007 at 12:31 AM | Permalink | Comments (13)

Um, Whatever

James Hansen, NASA climate scientist and lead singer in the climate apocalypse choir, responded to his  temperature data revisions a week ago:

What we have here is a case of dogged contrarians who present results in ways intended to deceive the public into believing that the changes have greater significance than reality. They aim to make a mountain out of a mole hill. I believe that these people are not stupid, instead they seek to create a brouhaha and muddy the waters in the climate change story. They seem to know exactly what they are doing and believe they can get away with it, because the public does not have the time, inclination, and training to discern what is a significant change with regard to the global warming issue.

The proclamations of the contrarians are a deceit

Um, whatever.  Remember, this is the man who had large errors in his data set, used by nearly every climate scientist in the world, for years, and which were only recently discovered by Steven McIntyre (whom Hansen refuses to even name in his letter).  These errors persisted for years because Mr. Hansen refuses to allow the software and algorithms he uses to "correct" and adjust the data to be scrutinized by anyone else.  He keeps critical methodologies that are paid for by we taxpayers a secret.  But it is his critics who are deceitful? 

In particular, he is bent out of shape that critics' first presented the new data as a revised ranking of the hottest years rather than as a revised line graph.  But it was Hansen and his folks who made a big deal in the press that 1998 was the hottest year in history.  It was he that originally went for this sound byte rather than the more meaningful and data-rich graph when communicating with the press.  But then he calls foul when his critics mimic his actions?  (Oh, and by the way, I showed it both ways).

Hansen has completely ignored the important lessons from this experience, while focusing like a laser on the trivial.  I explained in detail why this event mattered, and it was not mainly because of the new numbers.  In short, finding this mistake was pure accident -- it was a bit like inferring that the furniture in a house is uncomfortable solely by watching the posture of visitors leaving the house.  That's quite an deductive achievement, but how much more would you learn if the homeowners would actually let you in the house to inspect the furniture.  Maybe its ugly too.

So why does Hansen feel he should be able to shield himself from scrutiny and keep the details of his database adjustments and aggregation methodology a secret?  Because he thinks he is the king.    Just read his letter:

The contrarians will be remembered as court jesters. There is no point to joust with court jesters. … Court jesters serve as a distraction, a distraction from usufruct. Usufruct is the matter that the captains wish to deny, the matter that they do not want their children to know about.

Why do we allow this kind of secrecy and spurning of scrutiny in science?  Is it tolerated in any other discipline?

Steve McIntyre has his response here.  McIntyre still has my favorite comment ever about Hansen and his gang:

While acolytes may call these guys “professionals”, the process of data adjustment is really a matter of statistics and even accounting. In these fields, Hansen and Mann are not “professionals” - Mann admitted this to the NAS panel explaining that he was “not a statistician”. As someone who has read their works closely, I do not regard any of these people as “professional”. Much of their reluctance to provide source code for their methodology arises, in my opinion, because the methods are essentially trivial and they derive a certain satisfaction out of making things appear more complicated than they are, a little like the Wizard of Oz. And like the Wizard of Oz, they are not necessarily bad men, just not very good wizards.

Update:  If you have a minute, read Hansen's letter, and then ask yourself:  Does this sound like what I would expect of scientific discourse?  Does he sound more like a politician or a scientist?

Posted on August 20, 2007 at 02:44 PM | Permalink | Comments (11)

Balanced on the Knife Edge

OK, obviously I am not going to be able to stop posting on climate.  TigerHawk has a nice article on the global cooling panic from the April 28, 1975 issue of Newsweek.  However, rather than highlight the fact that climatologists have reversed themselves on cooling vs. warming, because that sometimes happens in science, I want to highlight what they described as the effects of global cooling: 

They begin by noting the slight drop in over-all temperature that produces large numbers of pressure centers in the upper atmosphere. These break up the smooth flow of westerly winds over temperate areas. The stagnant air produced in this way causes an increase in extremes of local weather such as droughts, floods, extended dry spells, long freezes, delayed monsoons and even local temperature increases – all of which have a direct impact on food supplies.

So cooling will cause more droughts, floods, extreme weather, and even local temperature increases.  And we have been told constantly that warming will cause more droughts, floods, extreme weather, and even local temperature decreases.  So does this mean that we are currently balanced on the knife edge of the perfect climate, and any change cooler or warmer will make it worse?  Or could it be that the weather-disaster-hype-machine has a defined playbook and these are its elements?

Posted on August 16, 2007 at 09:42 AM | Permalink | Comments (6)

Cities and Global Warming

OK, I lied.  I have one more post I want to make on global warming now that Steve McIntyre's site is back up.  I suspect I tend to bury the lede in my warming posts, because I try to be really careful to set up the conclusion in a fact-based way.  However, for this post, I will try a different approach.  Steven McIntyre has reshuffled the data in a study on urbanization and temperature that is relied on by the last IPCC report to get this chart for US Temperature data.
Peters27

Conclusion?  For this particular set of US temperature data, all the 20th century warming was observed in urban areas, and none was observed in rural areas less affected by urban heat islands, asphalt, cars, air conditioning, etc.

If it can be generalized, this is an amazing conclusion -- it would imply that the sum of US measured warming over the last century could be almost 100% attributed to urban heat islands (a different and more localized effect than CO2 greenhouse gas warming).  Perhaps more importantly, outside of the US nearly all of the historical temperature measurement is in urban areas -- no one has 100 year temperature records for the Chinese countryside.  However much this effect might be over-stating US temperature increases, it would probably be even more pronounced in measurements in other parts of the word.

OK, so how did he get this chart?  Did he cherry-pick the data?  First, a bit of background.

The 2003 Peterson study on urban effects on temperature was adopted as a key study for the last IPCC climate report.  In that report, Peterson concluded:

Contrary to generally accepted wisdom, no statistically significant impact of urbanization could be found in annual temperatures.

This study (which runs counter to both common sense and the preponderance of past studies) was latched onto by the IPCC to allow them to ignore urban heat island effects on historical temperatures and claim that most all past warming in the last half-century was due to CO2.  Peterson's methodology was to take a list of several hundred US temperature stations (how he picked these is unclear, they are a mix of USHCN and non-USHCN sites) and divide them between "urban" and "rural" using various inputs, including satellite photos of night lights.  Then he compared the temperature changes over the last century for the two groups, and declared them substantially identical.

However, McIntyre found a number of problems with his analysis.  First, looking at Peterson's data set, he saw that the raw temperature measurement did show an urbanization effect of about 0.7C over the last century, a very large number.  It turns out that Peterson never showed these raw numbers in his study, only the numbers after he applied layers of "corrections" to them, many of which appear to McIntyre to be statistically dubious.  I discussed the weakness of this whole "adjustment" issue here.

Further, though, McIntyre found obviously rural sites lurking in the urban data, and vice versa, such that Peterson was really comparing a mixed bag with a mixed bag.  For example, Snoqualmie Falls showed as urban -- I have been to Snoqualmie Falls several times, and while it is fairly close to Seattle, it is not urban.  So McIntyre did a simple sort.  He took from Peterson's urban data set only large cities, which he defined as having a major league sports franchise  (yes, a bit arbitrary, but not bad).  He then compared this narrower urban data set from Peterson against Peterson's rural set and got the chart above.  The chart is entirely from Peterson's data set, with no cherry-picking except to clean up the urban list.

Postscript:  Please don't get carried away.  Satellite measurement of the troposphere, which are fairly immune to these urbanization effects, show the world has been warming, though far less than the amount shown in surface temperature databases.

Update: To reinforce the point about global sites, Brazil apparently only has six (6) sites in the worldwide database.  That is about 1/200 of the number of sites in the continental US, which has about the same land area.  And of those six, McIntyre compares urban vs. rural sites.  Guess what he finds?  And, as a follow up from the postscript, while satellites show the Northern Hemisphere is warming, it shows that the Southern Hemisphere is not.

Posted on August 15, 2007 at 11:43 AM | Permalink | Comments (15)

Done with Climate for a While (I think)

Sorry for the slew of climate-related posts.  I really don't want to turn this into a climate blog, but over the last 6 or 7 days I have been getting tons of climate-related traffic from a number of links.  I am going back to working on the next version of my climate book, and will try to put most of my material there and get this blog back to finance and economics topics.

Of course if something comes up....

Posted on August 14, 2007 at 01:38 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)

Denier vs. Skeptic

We all know why Newsweek and many others (like Kevin Drum) choose to use the term "denier" for those of us who are skeptical of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming:  These media folks, who are hesitant to use the word "terrorist" because of its emotional content, want to imply that we skeptics are somehow similar to Holocaust deniers.

But beyond just the issues of false emotional content, the word denier is incorrect as applied to most skeptics, including myself, and helps man-made warming hawks avoid a difficult argument.  I try to be careful to say that I am a skeptic of "catastrophic man-made (or anthropogenic) global warming theory." 

  • So, does that mean I think the world is not warming?  In fact, the evidence is pretty clear that it is warming (though perhaps not by as much as shown in current surface temperature databases).
  • So does this mean that I think that human activities are not causing some warming?  In fact, I do think man-made CO2 is causing some, but not all the current 20th century warming trend.  I also think that man's land use  (urbanization, irrigated agriculture, etc) has effects on climate.

Where I really get skeptical is the next proposition -- that man's burning of fossil fuels is going to cause warming in the next century that will carry catastrophic impacts, and that these negative effects will justify massive current spending and government interventions (that will have their own negative consequences in terms of lost economic growth, increased poverty, and reduction in freedoms). 

Strong supporters of catastrophic man-made global warming theory do not usually want to argue this last point.  It is much easier to argue points 1 and 2, because the science is pretty good that the earth has warmed (though the magnitude is in question) and that CO2 greenhouse effect does cause warming (though the magnitude is in question).  That is why skeptics are called deniers.  It is in effect a straw man that allows greenhouse supporters to stay on 1 and 2 without getting into the real meat of the question.

Here is a quick example to prove my point.  Follow me for three paragraphs, then ask yourself if you have ever heard any of this in the media or on any RealClimate-type site's FAQ.

Anthropogenic global warming hawks admit that the warming solely from the CO2 greenhouse effect will likely NOT rise to catastrophic levels.  So how do they get such big, scary forecasts?  The answer is positive feedback.

Almost every process you can think of in nature operates by negative feedback, meaning that an input to a system is damped.  Roll a ball, and eventually friction and wind resistance bring it to a stop.    Positive feedback means that an input to the system is multiplied and increased.  Negative feedback is a ball in the bottom of a bowl, always returning to the center; positive feedback is a ball perched precariously at the top of a mountain that will run faster and faster downhill with a tiny push. Positive feedback breeds instability, and processes that operate by positive feedback are dangerous, and usually end up in extreme states -- these processes tend to "run away" like the ball rolling down the hill.  Nuclear fission, for example, is a positive feedback process. 

Current catastrophic man-made global warming theory asserts that our climate is dominated by positive feedback.  The last UN IPCC report posits that a small increase in temperature from CO2 is multiplied 2,3,4 times or more by positive feedbacks like humidity and ice albedo.   So a modest degree or degree and a half of warming from the greenhouse effect becomes a scary five or eight degrees of warming in the next century once any number of hypothesized positive feedbacks are applied.  Add to this exaggerated, sometimes over-the-top visions of possible negative consequences, and that is how global warming hawks justify massive government action.

OK, that is a very brief description of what I consider a sophisticated reason to be skeptical:  Most catastrophic warming forecasts depend on positive feedback loops, feedbacks for which we have little or no evidence and which don't tend to dominate in other stable systems.  So how many times have you seen this issue discussed?  Zero?  Yeah, its so much easier just to call us deniers.

If you are interested, here is slightly longer version of my skeptic's point of view.  Here is my much longer version.  Here is the specific chapter that discusses feedback loops.  Here is Roy Spencer discussing problems with studies trying to measure these feedbacks.

Postscript:  By the way, it is in this context that the discussions about restating temperatures and problems with historical surface temperature measurements are important.  Exaggerated historical warming numbers leave more room to posit positive feedback loops.  Lower historical numbers, or evidence past warming is driven by non-man-made sources (e.g. solar activity), leave less room to justify positive feedback loops.

Update:  RealClimate has posted their six steps to explain catastrophic warming from CO2.  Seems have buried the feedback issue.  Note that forcings mentioned here include feedbacks, they are not from CO2 alone but from CO2 + positive feedback.  Strange they didn't mention this.

Posted on August 14, 2007 at 10:25 AM | Permalink | Comments (5)

A Temperature Adjustment Example

I won't go back into all the details, but I have posted before about just how large the manual adjustments to temperature numbers are (the "noise") as compared to the magnitude of measured warming (the "signal").  This issue of manual temperature corrections is the real reason the NASA temperature restatements are important (not the absolute value of the restatement).

Here is a quick visual example.  Both charts below are from James Hansen and the GISS and are for the US only.  Both use basically the same temperature measurement network (the USHCN).  The one on the left was Hansen's version of US temperatures in 1999.  The one on the right he published in 2001.
Hansen_1999_v_2001

The picture at the right is substantially different  than the one on the left.  Just look at 1932 and 1998.  Between the first and second chart, none of the underlying temperature measurements changed.  What changed  were the adjustments to the underlying measurements applied by the NOAA and by the GISS.  For some reason, temperatures after 1980 have been raised and temperatures in the middle of the century were lowered.

For scientists to apply a negative temperature adjustment to measurements, as they did for the early 1930's, it means they think there was some warming bias in 1932 that does not exist today.  When scientists raise current temperatures, they are saying there is some kind of cooling bias that exists today that did not exist in the 1930's.  Both of these adjustments are basically implying the same thing:  That temperature measurement was more biased upwards, say by asphalt and urbanization and poor sitings, in 1932 than they are today.  Does this make any freaking sense at all?

Of course, there may be some other bias at work here that I don't know about.  But I and everyone else in the world are forced to guess because the NOAA and the GISS insist on keeping their adjustment software and details a secret, and continue to resist outside review.

Read much more about this from Steve McIntyre.

Posted on August 13, 2007 at 09:22 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Some Final Thoughts on The NASA Temperature Restatement

I got a lot of traffic this weekend from folks interested in the US historical temperature restatement at NASA-GISS.  I wanted to share to final thoughts and also respond to a post at RealClimate.org (the #1 web cheerleader for catastrophic man-made global warming theory).

  1. This restatement does not mean that the folks at GISS are necessarily wrong when they say the world has been warming over the last 20 years.  We know from the independent source of satellite measurements that the Northern Hemisphere has been warming (though not so much in the Southern Hemisphere).  However, surface temperature measurements, particularly as "corrected" and aggregated at the GISS, have always been much higher than the satellite readings.  (GISS vs Satellite)  This incident may start to give us an insight into how to bring those two sources into agreement. 
  2. For years, Hansen's group at GISS, as well as other leading climate scientists such as Mann and Briffa (creators of historical temperature reconstructions) have flaunted the rules of science by holding the details of their methodologies and algorithm's secret, making full scrutiny impossible.  The best possible outcome of this incident will be if new pressure is brought to bear on these scientists to stop saying "trust me" and open their work to their peers for review.  This is particularly important for activities such as Hansen's temperature data base at GISS.  While measurement of temperature would seem straight forward, in actual fact the signal to noise ration is really low.  Upward "adjustments" and fudge factors added by Hansen to the actual readings dwarf measured temperature increases, such that, for example, most reported warming in the US is actually from these adjustments, not measured increases.
  3. In a week when Newsweek chose to argue that climate skeptics need to shut up, this incident actually proves why two sides are needed for a quality scientific debate.  Hansen and his folks missed this Y2K bug because, as a man-made global warming cheerleader, he expected to see temperatures going up rapidly so he did not think to question the data.  Mr. Hansen is world-famous, is a friend of luminaries like Al Gore, gets grants in quarter million dollar chunks from various global warming believers.  All his outlook and his incentives made him want the higher temperatures to be true.  It took other people with different hypotheses about climate to see the recent temperature jump for what it was: An error.

The general response at RealClimate.org has been:  Nothing to see here, move along.

Among other incorrect stories going around are that the mistake was due to a Y2K bug or that this had something to do with photographing weather stations. Again, simply false.

I really, really don't think it matters exactly how the bug was found, except to the extent that RealClimate.org would like to rewrite history and convince everyone this was just a normal adjustment made by the GISS themselves rather than a mistake found by an outsider.  However, just for the record, the GISS, at least for now until they clean up history a bit, admits the bug was spotted by Steven McIntyre.  Whatever the bug turned out to be, McIntyre initially spotted it as a discontinuity that seemed to exist in GISS data around the year 2000.  He therefore hypothesized it was a Y2K bug, but he didn't know for sure because Hansen and the GISS keep all their code as a state secret.  And McIntyre himself says he became aware of the discontinuity during a series of posts that started from a picture of a weather station at Anthony Watts blog.  I know because I was part of the discussion, talking to these folks online in real time.  Here is McIntyre explaining it himself.

In sum, the post on RealClimate says:

Sum total of this change? A couple of hundredths of degrees in the US rankings and no change in anything that could be considered climatically important (specifically long term trends).

A bit of background - surface temperature readings have read higher than satellite readings of the troposphere, when the science of greenhouse gases says the opposite should be true.  Global warming hawks like Hansen and the GISS have pounded on the satellite numbers, investigating them 8 ways to Sunday, and have on a number of occasions trumpeted upward corrections to satellite numbers that are far smaller than these downward corrections to surface numbers. 

But yes, IF this is the the only mistake in the data, then this is a mostly correct statement from RealClimate.org..  However, here is my perspective:

  • If a mistake of this magnitude can be found by outsiders without access to Hansen's algorithm's or computer code just by inspection of the resulting data, then what would we find if we could actually inspect the code?  And this Y2K bug is by no means the only problem.  I have pointed out several myself, including adjustments for urbanization and station siting that make no sense, and averaging in rather than dropping bad measurement locations
  • If we know significant problems exist in the US temperature monitoring network, what would we find looking at China? Or Africa?  Or South America.  In the US and a few parts of Europe, we actually have a few temperature measurement points that were rural in 1900 and rural today.  But not one was measuring rural temps in these other continents 100 years ago.  All we have are temperature measurements in urban locations where we can only guess at how to adjust for the urbanization.  The problem in these locations, and why I say this is a low signal to noise ratio measurement, is that small percentage changes in our guesses for how much the urbanization correction should be make enormous changes (even to changing the sign) of historic temperature change measurements.

Here are my recommendations:

  1. NOAA and GISS both need to release their detailed algorithms and computer software code for adjusting and aggregating USHCN and global temperature data.  Period.  There can be no argument.  Folks at RealClimate.org who believe that all is well should be begging for this to happen to shut up the skeptics.  The only possible reason for not releasing this scientific information that was created by government employees with taxpayer money is if there is something to hide.
  2. The NOAA and GISS need to acknowledge that their assumptions of station quality in the USHCN network are too high, and that they need to incorporate actual documented station condition (as done at SurfaceStations.org) in their temperature aggregations and corrections.  In some cases, stations like Tucson need to just be thrown out of the USHCN.  Once the US is done, a similar effort needs to be undertaken on a global scale, and the effort needs to include people whose incentives and outlook are not driven by making temperatures read as high as possible.
  3. This is the easiest of all.  Someone needs to do empirical work (not simulated, not on the computer, but with real instruments) understanding how various temperature station placements affect measurements.  For example, how do the readings of an instrument in an open rural field compare to an identical instrument surrounded by asphalt a few miles away?  These results can be used for step #2 above.  This is cheap, simple research a couple of graduate students could do, but climatologists all seem focused on building computer models rather than actually doing science.
  4. Similar to #3, someone needs to do a definitive urban heat island study, to find out how much temperature readings are affected by urban heat, again to help correct in #2.  Again, I want real research here, with identical instruments placed in various locations and various radii from an urban center  (not goofy proxys like temperature vs. wind speed -- that's some scientist who wants to get a result without ever leaving his computer terminal).  Most studies have shown the number to be large, but a couple of recent studies show smaller effects, though now these studies are under attack not just for sloppiness but outright fabrication.  This can't be that hard to study, if people were willing to actually go into the field and take measurements.  The problem is everyone is trying to do this study with available data rather than by gathering new data.

Postscript:  The RealClimate post says:

However, there is clearly a latent and deeply felt wish in some sectors for the whole problem of global warming to be reduced to a statistical quirk or a mistake.

If catastrophic man-made global warming theory is correct, then man faces a tremendous lose-lose.  Either shut down growth, send us back to the 19th century, making us all substantially poorer and locking a billion people in Asia into poverty they are on the verge of escaping, or face catastrophic and devastating changes in the planet's weather.

Now take two people.  One in his heart really wants this theory not to be true, and hopes we don't have to face this horrible lose-lose tradeoff.  The other has a deeply felt wish that this theory is true, and hopes man does face this horrible future.  Which person do you like better?  And recognize, RealClimate is holding up the latter as the only moral man. 

Update:  Don't miss Steven McIntyre's take from the whole thing.  And McIntyre responds to Hansen here.

Posted on August 13, 2007 at 12:25 AM | Permalink | Comments (17)

Computer Models In Complex Systems

Apparently, there are some dangers with getting too confident about your computer modeling of complex systems:

Computers don't always work.

That was the lesson so far this month for many so-called quant hedge funds, whose trading is dictated by complex computer programs.

The markets' volatility of the past few weeks has taken a toll on many widely known funds for sophisticated investors, notably a once-highflying hedge fund at Wall Street's Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

Global Alpha, Goldman's widely known internal hedge fund, is now down about 16% for the year after a choppy July, when its performance fell about 8%, according to people briefed on the matter.

This kind of reminds me of another kind of computer modeling of complex systems.

Posted on August 9, 2007 at 11:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (7)

Letter to Newsweek

Editors-

Oh, the delicious irony.

As a skeptic of catastrophic man-made global warming, I was disturbed to see that Newsweek in its August 13, 2007 issue (The Truth About Denial) had equated me with a Holocaust denier.  There are so many interesting scientific issues involved in climate change that it was flabbergasting to me that Newsweek would waste time on an extended ad hominem attack against one side in a scientific debate.  I was particularly amazed that Newsweek would accuse the side of the debate that is outspent 1000:1 with being tainted by money.  This is roughly equivalent to arguing that Mike Gravel's spending is corrupting the 2008 presidential election.

However, fate does indeed have a sense of humor.  Skeptics' efforts of the sort Newsweek derided just this week forced NASA-Goddard (GISS) to revise downward recent US temperature numbers due to a programming mistake that went unidentified for years, in part because NASA's taxpayer-paid researchers refuse to release their temperature adjustment and aggregation methodology to the public for scrutiny.  The problem was found by a chain of events that began with amateur volunteers and led ultimately to Steven McIntyre (he of the Michael Mann hockey stick debunking) calling foul.

The particular irony is that the person who is in charge of this database, and is responsible for the decision not to allow scientific scrutiny of his methodologies, is none other than James Hansen, who Newsweek held up as the shining example of scientific objectivity in its article.  Newsweek should have been demanding that taxpayer-funded institutions like NASA should be opening their research to full review, but instead Newsweek chose to argue that Mr. Hansen should be shielded from scrutiny.

Warren Meyer

Posted on August 9, 2007 at 11:14 AM | Permalink | Comments (14)

Breaking News: Recent US Temperature Numbers Revised Downwards Today

This is really big news, and a fabulous example of why two-way scientific discourse is still valuable, in the same week that both Newsweek and Al Gore tried to make the case that climate skeptics were counter-productive and evil. 

Climate scientist Michael Mann (famous for the hockey stick chart) once made the statement that  the 1990's were the warmest decade in a millennia and that "there is a 95 to 99% certainty that 1998 was the hottest year in the last one thousand years." (By the way, Mann now denies he ever made this claim, though you can watch him say these exact words in the CBC documentary Global Warming:  Doomsday Called Off).

Well, it turns out, according to the NASA GISS database, that 1998 was not even the hottest year of the last century.  This is because many temperatures from recent decades that appeared to show substantial warming have been revised downwards.  Here is how that happened (if you want to skip the story, make sure to look at the numbers at the bottom).

One of the most cited and used historical surface temperature databases is that of NASA/Goddard's GISS.  This is not some weird skeptics site.  It is considered one of the premier world temperature data bases, and it is maintained by anthropogenic global warming true believers.  It has consistently shown more warming than any other data base, and is thus a favorite source for folks like Al Gore.  These GISS readings in the US rely mainly on the US Historical Climate Network (USHCN) which is a network of about 1000 weather stations taking temperatures, a number of which have been in place for over 100 years.

Frequent readers will know that I have been a participant in an effort led by Anthony Watts at SurfaceStations.org to photo-document these temperature stations as an aid to scientists in evaluating the measurement quality of each station.  The effort has been eye-opening, as it has uncovered many very poor instrument sitings that would bias temperature measurements upwards, as I found in Tucson and Watts has documented numerous times on his blog.

One photo on Watt's blog got people talking - a station in MN with a huge jump in temperature about the same time some air conditioning units were installed nearby.   Others disagreed, and argued that such a jump could not be from the air conditioners, since a lot of the jump happened with winter temperatures when the AC was dormant.  Steve McIntyre, the Canadian statistician who helped to expose massive holes in Michael Mann's hockey stick methodology, looked into it.  After some poking around, he began to suspect that the GISS data base had a year 2000 bug in one of their data adjustments.

One of the interesting aspects of these temperature data bases is that they do not just use the raw temperature measurements from each station.  Both the NOAA (which maintains the USHCN stations) and the GISS apply many layers of adjustments, which I discussed here.  One of the purposes of Watt's project is to help educate climate scientists that many of the adjustments they make to the data back in the office does not necessarily represent the true condition of the temperature stations.  In particular, GISS adjustments imply instrument sitings are in more natural settings than they were in say 1905, an outrageous assumption on its face that is totally in conflict to the condition of the stations in Watt's data base.  Basically, surface temperature measurements have a low signal to noise ratio, and climate scientists have been overly casual about how they try to tease out the signal.

Anyway, McIntyre suspected that one of these adjustments had a bug, and had had this bug for years.  Unfortunately, it was hard to prove.  Why?  Well, that highlights one of the great travesties of climate science.  Government scientists using taxpayer money to develop the GISS temperature data base at taxpayer expense refuse to publicly release their temperature adjustment algorithms or software (In much the same way Michael Mann refused to release the details for scrutiny of his methodology behind the hockey stick).  Using the data, though, McIntyre made a compelling case that the GISS data base had systematic discontinuities that bore all the hallmarks of a software bug.

Today, the GISS admitted that McIntyre was correct, and has started to republish its data with the bug fixed.  And the numbers are changing a lot.  Before today, GISS would have said 1998 was the hottest year on record (Mann, remember, said with up to 99% certainty it was the hottest year in 1000 years) and that 2006 was the second hottest.  Well, no more.  Here are the new rankings for the 10 hottest years in the US, starting with #1:

1934, 1998, 1921, 2006, 1931, 1999, 1953, 1990, 1938, 1939

Three of the top 10 are in the last decade.  Four of the top ten are in the 1930's, before either the IPCC or the GISS really think man had any discernible impact on temperatures.  Here is the chart for all the years in the data base:
New_giss

There are a number of things we need to remember:

  • This is not the end but the beginning of the total reexamination that needs to occur of the USHCN and GISS data bases.  The poor correction for site location and urbanization are still huge issues that bias recent numbers upwards.  The GISS also has issues with how it aggregates multiple stations, apparently averaging known good stations with bad stations a process that by no means eliminates biases.  As a first step, we must demand that NOAA and GISS release their methodology and computer algorithms to the general public for detailed scrutiny by other scientists.
  • The GISS today makes it clear that these adjustments only affect US data and do not change any of their conclusions about worldwide data.  But consider this:  For all of its faults, the US has the most robust historical climate network in the world.  If we have these problems, what would we find in the data from, say, China?  And the US and parts of Europe are the only major parts of the world that actually have 100 years of data at rural locations.  No one was measuring temperature reliably in rural China or Paraguay or the Congo in 1900.  That means much of the world is relying on urban temperature measurement points that have substantial biases from urban heat.
  • All of these necessary revisions to surface temperatures will likely not make warming trends go away completely.  What it may do is bring the warming down to match the much lower satellite measured warming numbers we have, and will make current warming look more like past natural warming trends (e.g. early in this century) rather than a catastrophe created by man.  In my global warming book, I argue that future man-made warming probably will exist, but will be more like a half to one degree over the coming decades than the media-hyped numbers that are ten times higher.

So how is this possible?  How can the global warming numbers used in critical policy decisions and scientific models be so wrong with so basic of an error?  And how can this error have gone undetected for the better part of a decade?  The answer to the latter question is because the global warming  and climate community resist scrutiny.  This weeks Newsweek article and statements by Al Gore are basically aimed at suppressing any scientific criticism or challenge to global warming research.  That is why NASA can keep its temperature algorithms secret, with no outside complaint, something that would cause howls of protest in any other area of scientific inquiry.

As to the first question, I will leave the explanation to Mr. McIntyre:

While acolytes may call these guys “professionals”, the process of data adjustment is really a matter of statistics and even accounting. In these fields, Hansen and Mann are not “professionals” - Mann admitted this to the NAS panel explaining that he was “not a statistician”. As someone who has read their works closely, I do not regard any of these people as “professional”. Much of their reluctance to provide source code for their methodology arises, in my opinion, because the methods are essentially trivial and they derive a certain satisfaction out of making things appear more complicated than they are, a little like the Wizard of Oz. And like the Wizard of Oz, they are not necessarily bad men, just not very good wizards.

For more, please see my Guide to Anthropogenic Global Warming or, if you have less time, my 60-second argument for why one should be skeptical of catastrophic man-made global warming theory.

Update:
Nothing new, just thinking about this more, I cannot get over the irony that in the same week Newsweek makes the case that climate science is settled and there is no room for skepticism, skeptics discover a gaping hole and error in the global warming numbers.

Update #2:  I know people get upset when we criticize scientists.  I get a lot of "they are not biased, they just made a mistake."  Fine.  But I have zero sympathy for a group of scientists who refuse to let other scientists review their methodology, and then find that they have been making a dumb methodology mistake for years that has corrupted the data of nearly every climate study in the last decade.

Update #3:  I labeled this "breaking news," but don't expect to see it in the NY Times anytime soon.  We all know this is one of those asymmetric story lines, where if the opposite had occurred (ie things found to be even worse/warmer than thought) it would be on the front page immediately, but a lowered threat will never make the news.

Oh, and by he way.  This is GOOD news.  Though many won't treat it that way.  I understand this point fairly well because, in a somewhat parallel situation, I seem to be the last anti-war guy who treats progress in Iraq as good news.

Update #4: I should have mentioned that the hero of the Newsweek story is catastrophic man-made global warming cheerleader James Hansen, who runs the GISS and is most responsible for the database in question as well as the GISS policy not to release its temperature aggregation and adjustment methodologies.  From IBD, via CNN Money:

Newsweek portrays James Hansen, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, as untainted by corporate bribery.

Hansen was once profiled on CBS' "60 Minutes" as the "world's leading researcher on global warming." Not mentioned by Newsweek was that Hansen had acted as a consultant to Al Gore's slide-show presentations on global warming, that he had endorsed John Kerry for president, and had received a $250,000 grant from the foundation headed by Teresa Heinz Kerry.

Update #5: My letter to the editor at Newsweek.  For those worried that this is some weird skeptic's fevered dream, Hansen and company kind of sort of recognize the error in the first paragraph under background here.  Their US temperature chart with what appears is the revised data is here.

Update #6: Several posts are calling this a "scandal."  It is not a scandal.  It is a mistake from which we should draw two lessons:

  1. We always need to have people of opposing opinions looking at a problem.  Man-made global warming hawks expected to see a lot of warming after the year 2000, so they never questioned the numbers.  It took folks with different hypotheses about climate to see the jump in the numbers for what it was - a programming error.
  2. Climate scientists are going to have to get over their need to hold their adjustments, formulas, algorithms and software secret.  It's just not how science is done.  James Hansen saying "trust me, the numbers are right, I don't need to tell you how I got them" reminds me of the mathematician Fermat saying he had a proof of his last theorem, but it wouldn't fit in the margin.  How many man-hours of genius mathematicians was wasted because Fermat refused to show his proof (which was most likely wrong, given how the theorem was eventually proved).

Final Update:  Some parting thoughts, and recommendations, here.

Posted on August 8, 2007 at 11:58 PM | Permalink | Comments (75)

Food Miles Stupidity

Via the New York Times:

THE term “food miles” — how far food has traveled before you buy it — has entered the enlightened lexicon.

Which should tell you all you need to know about the "enlightened."

There are many good reasons for eating local — freshness, purity, taste, community cohesion and preserving open space — but none of these benefits compares to the much-touted claim that eating local reduces fossil fuel consumption. In this respect eating local joins recycling, biking to work and driving a hybrid as a realistic way that we can, as individuals, shrink our carbon footprint and be good stewards of the environment.

Actually, most recycling, with the exception of aluminum which takes tons of electricity to manufacture in the first place, does nothing to reduce our carbon footprint.  And I must say that I often enjoy buying from farmers markets and such.  But does "food miles" mean anything?  And should we really care?  Well, here is an early hint:  The ultimate reduction in food miles, the big winner on this enlightened metric, is subsistence farming.  Anyone ready to go there yet?  These are the economics Ghandi promoted in India, and it set that country back generations.

Well, lets go back to economics 101.  The reason we do not all grow our own food, make our own clothes, etc. is because the global division of labor allows food and clothing and everything else to be produced more efficiently by people who specialize and invest in those activities than by all of us alone in our homes.  So instead of each of us growing our own corn, in whatever quality soil we happen to have around our house, some guy in Iowa grows it for thousands of us, and because he specialized and grows a lot, he invests in equipment and knowledge to do it better every year.  The cost of fuel to move the corn or corn products to Phoenix from Iowa are trivial compared to the difference in efficiency that guy in Iowa has over me trying to grow corn in my back yard.  Back to the New York Times:

On its face, the connection between lowering food miles and decreasing greenhouse gas emissions is a no-brainer.

Sure, if you look at complex systems as single-variable linear equations.  Those of us who don't immediately treated the food mile concept as suspect.  It turns out, for good reason:

It all depends on how you wield the carbon calculator. Instead of measuring a product’s carbon footprint through food miles alone, the Lincoln University scientists expanded their equations to include other energy-consuming aspects of production — what economists call “factor inputs and externalities” — like water use, harvesting techniques, fertilizer outlays, renewable energy applications, means of transportation (and the kind of fuel used), the amount of carbon dioxide absorbed during photosynthesis, disposal of packaging, storage procedures and dozens of other cultivation inputs.

Incorporating these measurements into their assessments, scientists reached surprising conclusions. Most notably, they found that lamb raised on New Zealand’s clover-choked pastures and shipped 11,000 miles by boat to Britain produced 1,520 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per ton while British lamb produced 6,280 pounds of carbon dioxide per ton, in part because poorer British pastures force farmers to use feed. In other words, it is four times more energy-efficient for Londoners to buy lamb imported from the other side of the world than to buy it from a producer in their backyard. Similar figures were found for dairy products and fruit.

All I can say is just how frightening it is that the paper of record could find this result "surprising."  The price mechanism does a pretty good job of sorting this stuff out.  If fuel prices rise a lot, then agriculture might move more local, but probably not by much.  The economies to scale and location just dwarf the price of fuel. 

By the way, one reason this food-mile thing is not going away, no matter how stupid it is, has to do with the history of the global warming movement.  Remember all those anti-globalization folks who rampaged in Seattle?  Where did they all go?  Well, they did not get sensible all of a sudden.  They joined the environmental movement.  One reason a core group of folks in the catastrophic man-made global warming camp react so poorly to any criticism of the science is that they need and want it to be true that man is causing catastrophic warming -- anti-corporate and anti-globalization activists jumped into the global warming environmental movement, seeing in it a vehicle to achieve their aims of rolling back economic growth, global trade, and capitalism in general.  Food miles appeals to their disdain for world trade, and global warming and carbon footprints are just a convenient excuse for trying to sell the concept to other people.

A little while back, I posted a similar finding in regards to packaging, that is worth repeating here for comparison.

Contrary to current wisdom, packaging can reduce total rubbish produced. The average household in the United States generates one third less trash each year than does the average household in Mexico, partly because packaging reduces breakage and food waste. Turning a live chicken into a meal creates food waste. When chickens are processed commercially, the waste goes into marketable products (such as pet food), instead of into a landfill. Commercial processing of 1,000 chickens requires about 17 pounds of packaging, but it also recycles at least 2,000 pounds of by-products.

More victories for the worldwide division of labor.  So has the NY Times seen the light and accepted the benefits of capitalism?  Of course not.  With the New Zealand example in hand, the writer ... suggests we need more state action to compel similar situations.

Given these problems, wouldn’t it make more sense to stop obsessing over food miles and work to strengthen comparative geographical advantages? And what if we did this while streamlining transportation services according to fuel-efficient standards? Shouldn’t we create development incentives for regional nodes of food production that can provide sustainable produce for the less sustainable parts of the nation and the world as a whole? Might it be more logical to conceptualize a hub-and-spoke system of food production and distribution, with the hubs in a food system’s naturally fertile hot spots and the spokes, which travel through the arid zones, connecting them while using hybrid engines and alternative sources of energy?

Does anyone even know what this crap means?  You gotta love technocratic statists -- they just never give up.  Every one of them thinks they are smarter than the the sum of billions of individual minds working together of their own free will to create our current world production patterns.

Postscript: There is one thing the government could do tomorrow to promote even more worldwide agricultural efficiency:  Drop subsidies and protections on agriculture.   You would immediately get more of this kind of activity, for example with Latin America and the Caribbean supplying more/all of the US's sugar and other parts of Asia providing more/all of Japan's rice.

Posted on August 8, 2007 at 10:46 AM | Permalink | Comments (19)

Storm Frequency

I already discussed Newsweek's happy little ad hominem attack on climate skeptics here.  However, as promised, I wanted to talk about the actual, you know, science for a bit, starting from the Newsweek author's throwaway statement that she felt required no proof, "The frequency of Atlantic hurricanes has already doubled in the last century."

This is really a very interesting topic, much more interesting than following $10,000 of skeptics' money around in a global warming industry spending billions on research.  One would think the answer to this hurricane question is simple.  Can we just look up the numbers?  Well, let's start there.  Total number of Atlantic hurricanes form the HURDAT data base, first and last half of the last century:

1905-1955 = 366
1956-2006 = 458

First, you can see nothing like a doubling.  This is an increase of 25%.  So already, we see that in an effort to discredit skeptics for fooling America about the facts, Newsweek threw out a whopper that absolutely no one in climate science, warming skeptic or true believer, would agree with.

But let's go further, because there is much more to the story.  Because 25% is a lot, and could be damning in and of itself.  But there are problems with this data.  If you think about storm tracking technology in 1905 vs. 2005, you might see the problem.  To make it really clear, I want to talk about tornadoes for a moment.

In An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore and company said that global warming was increasing the number of tornadoes in the US.  He claimed 2004 was the highest year ever for tornadoes in the US.  In his PowerPoint slide deck (on which the movie was based) he sometimes uses this chart (form the NOAA):

Whoa, that's scary.  Any moron can see there is a trend there.  Its like a silver bullet against skeptics or something.  But wait.  Hasn't tornado detection technology changed over the last 50 years?  Today, we have doppler radar, so we can detect even smaller size 1 tornadoes, even if no one on the ground actually spots them (which happens fairly often).  But how did they measure smaller tornadoes in 1955 if no one spotted them?  Answer:  They didn't.  In effect, this graph is measuring apples and oranges.  It is measuring all the tornadoes we spotted by human eye in 1955 with all the tornadoes we spotted with doppler radar in 2000.   The NOAA tries to make this problem clear on their web site.

With increased national doppler radar coverage, increasing population, and greater attention to tornado reporting, there has been an increase in the number of tornado reports over the past several decades. This can create a misleading appearance of an increasing trend in tornado frequency. To better understand the true variability and trend in tornado frequency in the US, the total number of strong to violent tornadoes (F3 to F5 category on the Fujita scale) can be analyzed. These are the tornadoes that would have likely been reported even during the decades before Dopplar radar use became widespread and practices resulted in increasing tornado reports. The bar chart below indicates there has been little trend in the strongest tornadoes over the past 55 years.

So itt turns out there is a decent way to correct for this.  We don't think that folks in 1955 were missing many of the larger class 3-5 tornadoes, so comparing 1955 and 2000 data for these larger tornadoes should be more apples to apples (via NOAA).

Well, that certainly is different (note 2004 in particular, given the movie claim).  No upward trend at all when you get the data right.  I wonder if Al Gore knows this?  I am sure he is anxious to set the record straight.

OK, back to hurricanes.  Generally, whether in 1905 or 2005, we know if a hurricane hits land in the US.  However, what about all the hurricanes that don't hit land or hit land in some undeveloped area?  Might it be that we can detect these better in 2006 with satellites than we could in 1905?  Just like the tornadoes?

Well, one metric we have is US landfall.  Here is that graph  (data form the National Weather Service -- I have just extrapolated the current decade based on the first several years).


Not much of a trend there, though the current decade is high, in part due to the fact that it does not incorporate the light 2006 season nor the light-so-far 2007 season.  The second half of the 20th century is actually lower than the first half, and certainly not "twice as large".  But again, this is only a proxy.  There may be reasons more storms are formed but don't make landfall (though I would argue most Americans only care about the latter).

But what about hurricane damages?  Everyone knows that the dollar damages from hurricanes is way up.  Well, yes.  But the amount of valuable real estate on the United State's coast is also way up.  Roger Pielke and Chris Landsea (you gotta love a guy studying hurricane strikes named Landsea) took a shot at correcting hurricane damages for inflation and the increased real estate value on the coasts.  This is what they got:

Anyway, back to our very first data, several scientists are trying to correct the data for missing storms, particularly in earlier periods.  There is an active debate here about corrections I won't get into, but suffice it to say the difference between the first half of the 20th century to the latter half in terms of Atlantic hurricane formations is probably either none or perhaps a percentage increase in the single digits (but nowhere near 100% increase as reported by Newsweek).

Debate continues, because there was a spike in hurricanes from 1995-2005 over the previous 20 years.  Is this anomalous, or is it similar to the spike that occurred in the thirties and forties?  No one is sure, but isn't this a lot more interesting than figuring out how the least funded side of a debate gets their money?  And by the way, congratulations again to MSM fact-checkers.

My layman's guide to skepticism of catastrophic man-made global warming is here.  A shorter, 60-second version of the best climate skeptic's arguments is here.

Update:  If the author bothered to have a source for her statement, it would probably be Holland and Webster, a recent study that pretty much everyone disagrees with and many think was sloppy.  And even they didn't say activity had doubled.  Note the only way to get a doubling is to cherry-pick a low decade in the first half of the century and a high decade in the last half of the century and compare just those two decades -- you can see this in third paragraph of the Scientific American article.  This study bears all the hallmarks -- cherry picking data, ignoring scientific consensus, massaging results to fit an agenda -- that the Newsweek authors were accusing skeptics of.

Update #2:  The best metric for hurricane activity is not strikes or numbers but accumulated cyclonic energy.  Here is the ACE trend, as measured by Florida State.  As you can see, no upward trend.

6a00e54eeb9dc1883400e553bfddf188338

Posted on August 7, 2007 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (5)

I Was Teenage Warming-Denying Werewolf

Update:  My post on breaking news about downward revisions to US temperature numbers is here.

Well, I finally read Newsweek's long ad hominem attack on climate skeptics in the recent issue.  It is basically yet another take on the global-warming-skeptics-are-all-funded-by-Exxon meme.  The authors breathlessly "follow the money to show how certain scientists have taken as much as $10,000 (gasp) from fossil-fuel related companies to publish skeptical work.  Further, despite years of hand-wringing about using emotionally charged words like "terrorist" in their news articles, Newsweek happily latches onto "denier" as a label for skeptics, a word chosen to parallel the term "Holocaust denier" -- nope, no emotional content there.

I'm not even going to get into it again, except to make the same observation I have made in the past:  Arguing that the global warming debate is "tainted" by money from skeptics is like saying the 2008 presidential election is tainted by Mike Gravel's spending.  Money from skeptics is so trivial, by orders of magnitude, compared to spending by catastrophic warming believers that it is absolutely amazing folks like Newsweek could feel so threatened by it.  In my Layman's Guide To Man-Made Global Warming Skepticism, I estimated skeptics were being outspent 1000:1.  I have no way to check his figures, but Senator Inhofe's office estimated skeptics were being outspent $50 billion to 19 million, which is about the same order of magnitude as my estimate.

Given this skew in spending, and the fact that most of the major media accepts catastrophic man-made  global warming as a given, this was incredible:

Look for the next round of debate to center on what Americans are willing to pay and do to stave off the worst of global warming. So far the answer seems to be, not much. The NEWSWEEK Poll finds less than half in favor of requiring high-mileage cars or energy-efficient appliances and buildings....

Although the figure is less than in earlier polls, A new NEWSWEEK Poll finds that the influence of the denial machine remains strong.39 percent of those asked say there is "a lot of disagreement among climate scientists" on the basic question of whether the planet is warming; 42 percent say there is a lot of disagreement that human activities are a major cause of global warming. Only 46 percent say the greenhouse effect is being felt today.

It has to be the "denial machine" at fault, right?  I can't possibly be because Americans think for themselves, or that they tend to reject micro-managing government regulations.  The author sounds so much like an exasperated parent "I kept telling my kids what's good for them and they just don't listen."

Yes, I could easily turn the tables here, and talk about the financial incentives in academia for producing headlines-grabbing results, or discuss the political motivations behind Marxist groups who have latched onto man-made global warming for their own ends.  But this does not really solve the interesting science questions, and ignores the fact that many catastrophic climate change believers are well meaning and thoughtful, just as many skeptics are.  The article did not even take the opportunity to thoughtfully discuss the range of skeptic's positions.  Some reject warming entirely, while others, like myself, recognize the impact man can have on climate, but see man's impact being well below catastrophic levels (explained here in 60 seconds).  Anyway, I don't have the energy to fisk it piece by piece, but Noel Sheppard does.

For those of you who are interested, I have a follow-up post on the science itself, which is so much more interesting that this garbage.  I use as a starting point the Newsweek author's throwaway statement that she felt required no proof, "The frequency of Atlantic hurricanes has already doubled in the last century."  (Hint:  the answer turns out to be closer to +5% than +100%)

Posted on August 7, 2007 at 09:07 AM | Permalink | Comments (6)

Adjusting Data to Get the "Right" Answer

On several occasions, I have discussed how much of the reported temperature increases worldwide in the last century are actually the results of adjustments to the actual gauge measurements.  These upward adjustments in the numbers by climate scientists actually dwarf measured increases.

Thanks to reader Scott Brooks, here is another such example except this time with measurement of sea level increases.  Dr. Nils-Axel Morner is the head of the Paleogeophysics and Geodynamics department at Stockholm University in Sweden.  He has studied sea-level changes for 35 years (emphasis added).

Another way of looking at what is going on is the tide gauge. Tide gauging is very complicated, because it gives different answers for wherever you are in the world. But we have to rely on geology when we interpret it. So, for example, those people in the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change], choose Hong Kong, which has six tide gauges, and they choose the record of one, which gives 2.3 mm per year rise of sea level. Every geologist knows that that is a subsiding area. It's the compaction of sediment; it is the only record which you shouldn't use. And if that figure [for sea level rise] is correct, then Holland would not be subsiding, it would be uplifting.

And that is just ridiculous. Not even ignorance could be responsible for a thing like that. So tide gauges, you have to treat very, very carefully. Now, back to satellite altimetry, which shows the water, not just the coasts, but in the whole of the ocean. And you measure it by satellite. From 1992 to 2002, [the graph of the sea level] was a straight line, variability along a straight line, but absolutely no trend whatsoever. We could see those spikes: a very rapid rise, but then in half a year, they fall back again. But absolutely no trend, and to have a sea-level rise, you need a trend.

Then, in 2003, the same data set, which in their [IPCC's] publications, in their website, was a straight line suddenly it changed, and showed a very strong line of uplift, 2.3 mm per year, the same as from the tide gauge. And that didn't look so nice. It looked as though they had recorded something; but they hadn't recorded anything. It was the original one which they had suddenly twisted up, because they entered a correction factor, which they took from the tide gauge. So it was not a measured thing, but a figure introduced from outside. I accused them of this at the Academy of Sciences in Moscow I said you have introduced factors from outside; it's not a measurement. It looks like it is measured from the satellite, but you don't say what really happened. And they ans-wered, that we had to do it, because otherwise we would not have gotten any trend!

That is terrible! As a matter of fact, it is a falsification of the data set. Why? Because they know the answer. And there you come to the point: They know the answer; the rest of us, we are searching for the answer. Because we are field geologists; they are computer scientists. So all this talk that sea level is rising, this stems from the computer modeling, not from observations. The observations don't find it!

I have been the expert reviewer for the IPCC, both in 2000 and last year. The first time I read it, I was exceptionally surprised. First of all, it had 22 authors, but none of them  none were sea-level specialists. They were given this mission, because they promised to answer the right thing. Again, it was a computer issue. This is the typical thing: The meteorological community works with computers, simple computers.

Geologists don't do that! We go out in the field and observe, and then we can try to make a model with computerization; but it's not the first thing.

I am working on my next version of a layman's guide to skeptics arguments against catastrophic man-made global warming, which you can find here.

Posted on August 4, 2007 at 12:16 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Steve McIntyre Comments on Historical Temperature Adjustments

Steve McIntyre, the statistician than called into question much of the methodology behind the Mann Hockey Stick chart, has some observations on adjustments to US temperature records I discussed here and here.

Eli Rabett and Tamino have both advocated faith-based climate science in respect to USHCN and GISS adjustments. They say that the climate “professionals” know what they’re doing; yes, there are problems with siting and many sites do not meet even minimal compliance standards, but, just as Mann’s “professional” software was able to extract a climate signal from the North American tree ring data, so Hansen’s software is able to “fix” the defects in the surface sites. “Faith-based” because they do not believe that Hansen has any obligation to provide anything other than a cursory description of his software or, for that matter, the software itself. But if they are working with data that includes known bad data, then critical examination of the adjustment software becomes integral to the integrity of the record - as there is obviously little integrity in much of the raw data.

While acolytes may call these guys “professionals”, the process of data adjustment is really a matter of statistics and even accounting. In these fields, Hansen and Mann are not “professionals” - Mann admitted this to the NAS panel explaining that he was “not a statistician”. As someone who has read their works closely, I do not regard any of these people as “professional”. Much of their reluctance to provide source code for their methodology arises, in my opinion, because the methods are essentially trivial and they derive a certain satisfaction out of making things appear more complicated than they are, a little like the Wizard of Oz. And like the Wizard of Oz, they are not necessarily bad men, just not very good wizards.

He goes on to investigate a specific example the "professionals" use as a positive example, demonstrating they appear to have a Y2K error in their algorithm.   This is difficult to do, because like Mann, government scientists maintaining a government temperature data base taken from government sites paid for with taxpayer funds refuse to release their methodology or algorithms for inspection.

In the case cited, the "professionals" also make adjustments that imply the site has decreasing urbanization over the last 100 years, something I am not sure one can say about any site in the US except perhaps for a few Colorado ghost towns.  The "experts" also fail to take the basic step of actually analyzing the site itself which, if visited, would reveal recently installed air conditioning unites venting hot air on the temperature instrument.   

A rebuttal, arguing that poor siting of temperature instruments is OK and does not affect the results is here.  I find rebuttals of this sort really distressing.  I studied physics for a while, before switching to engineering, and really small procedural mistakes in measurement could easily invalidate one's results.  I find it amazing that climate scientists seek to excuse massive mistakes in measurement.  I'm sorry, but in no other branch of science are results considered "settled" when the experimental noise is greater than the signal.  I would really, really, just for once, love to see a anthropogenic global warming promoter say "well, I don't think the siting will change the results, but you are right, we really need to go back and take another pass at correcting historical temperatures based on more detailed analysis of the individual sites."

Posted on August 3, 2007 at 08:36 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)

More Thoughts on Historic Temperature Adjustments

A few posts back, I showed how nearly 85% of the reported warming in the US over the last century is actually due to adjustments and added fudge-factors by scientists rather than actual measured higher temperatures.  I want to discuss some further analysis Steve McIntyre has done on these adjustments, but first I want to offer a brief analogy.

Let's say you had two compasses to help you find north, but the compasses are reading incorrectly.  After some investigation, you find that one of the compasses is located next to a strong magnet, which you have good reason to believe is strongly biasing that compass's readings.  In response, would you

  1. Average the results of the two compasses and use this mean to guide you, or
  2. Ignore the output of the poorly sited compass and rely solely on the other unbiased compass?

Most of us would quite rationally choose #2.  However, Steve McIntyre shows us a situation involving two temperature stations in the USHCN network in which government researchers apparently have gone with solution #1.  Here is the situation:

He compares the USHCN station at the Grand Canyon (which appears to be a good rural setting) with the Tucson USHCN station I documented here, located in a parking lot in the center of a rapidly growing million person city.   Unsurprisingly, the Tucson data shows lots of warming and the Grand Canyon data shows none.  So how might you correct Tucson and the Grand Canyon data, assuming they should be seeing about the same amount of warming?  Would you average them, effectively adjusting the two temperature readings towards each other, or would you assume the Grand Canyon data is cleaner with fewer biases and adjust Tucson only?   Is there anyone who would not choose the second option, as with the compasses?

The GISS data set, created by the Goddard Center of NASA, takes the USHCN data set and somehow uses nearby stations to correct for anomalous stations.  I say somehow, because, incredibly, these government scientists, whose research is funded by taxpayers and is being used to make major policy decisions, refuse to release their algorithms or methodology details publicly.  They keep it all secret!  Their adjustments are a big black box that none of us are allowed to look into  (and remember, these adjustments account for the vast majority of reported warming in the last century).

We can, however, reverse engineer some of these adjustments, and McIntyre does.  What he finds is that the GISS appears to be averaging the good and bad compass, rather than throwing out or adjusting only the biased reading.  You can see this below.  First, here are the USHCN data for these two stations with only the Time of Observation adjustment made (more on what these adjustments are in this article).
Grand_12
As I said above, no real surprise - little warming out in undeveloped nature, lots of warming in a large and rapidly growing modern city.  Now, here is the same data after the GISS has adjusted it:

Grand_15

You can see that Tucson has been adjusted down a degree or two, but Grand Canyon has been adjusted up a degree or two (with the earlier mid-century spike adjusted down).  OK, so it makes sense that Tucson has been adjusted down, though there is a very good argument to be made that it should be been adjusted down more, say by at least 3 degrees**.  But why does the Grand Canyon need to be adjusted up by about a degree and a half?  What is biasing it colder by 1.5 degrees, which is a lot?  The answer:  Nothing.  The explanation:  Obviously, the GISS is doing some sort of averaging, which is bringing the Grand Canyon and Tucson from each end closer to a mean. 

This is clearly wrong, like averaging the two compasses.  You don't average a measurement known to be of good quality with one known to be biased.  The Grand Canyon should be held about the same, and Tucson adjusted down even more toward it, or else thrown out.  Lets look at two cases.  In one, we will use the GISS approach to combine these two stations-- this adds 1.5 degrees to GC and subtracts 1.5 degrees from Tucson.  In the second, we will take an approach that applies all the adjustment to just the biases (Tucson station) -- this would add 0 degrees to GC and subtract 3 degrees from Tucson.  The first approach, used by the GISS, results in a mean warming in these two stations that is 1.5 degrees higher than the more logical second approach.  No wonder the GISS produces the highest historical global warming estimates of any source!  Steve McIntyre has much more.

** I got to three degrees by applying all of the adjustments for GC and Tucson to Tucson.  Here is another way to get to about this amount.   We know from studies that urban heat islands can add 8-10 degrees to nighttime urban temperatures over surrounding undeveloped land.  Assuming no daytime effect, which is conservative, we might conclude that 8-10 degrees at night adds about 3 degrees to the entire 24-hour average.

Postscript: Steve McIntyre comments (bold added):

These adjustments are supposed to adjust for station moves - the procedure is described in Karl and Williams 1988 [check], but, like so many climate recipes, is a complicated statistical procedure that is not based on statistical procedures known off the island. (That’s not to say that the procedures are necessarily wrong, just that the properties of the procedure are not known to statistical civilization.) When I see this particular outcome of the Karl methodology, my impression is that, net of the pea moving under the thimble, the Grand Canyon values are being blended up and the Tucson values are being blended down. So that while the methodology purports to adjust for station moves, I’m not convinced that the methodology can successfully estimate ex post the impact of numerous station moves and my guess is that it ends up constructing a kind of blended average.

LOL.  McIntyre, by the way, is the same gentleman who helped call foul on the Mann hockey stick for bad statistical procedure.

Posted on July 31, 2007 at 08:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

An Interesting Source of Man-Made Global Warming

The US Historical Climate Network (USHCN) reports about a 0.6C temperature increase in the lower 48 states since about 1940.  There are two steps to reporting these historic temperature numbers.  First, actual measurements are taken.  Second, adjustments are made after the fact by scientists to the data.  Would you like to guess how much of the 0.6C temperature rise is from actual measured temperature increases and how much is due to adjustments of various levels of arbitrariness?  Here it is, for the period from 1940 to present in the US:

Actual Measured Temperature Increase: 0.1C
Adjustments and Fudge Factors: 0.5C
Total Reported Warming: 0.6C

Yes, that is correct.  Nearly all the reported warming in the USHCN data base, which is used for nearly all global warming studies and models, is from human-added fudge factors, guesstimates, and corrections.

I know what you are thinking - this is some weird skeptic's urban legend.  Well, actually it comes right from the NOAA web page which describes how they maintain the USHCN data set.  Below is the key chart from that site showing the sum of all the plug factors and corrections they add to the raw USHCN measurements:
Ushcn_corrections
I hope you can see this significance.  Before we get into whether these measurements are right or wrong or accurate or guesses, it is very useful to understand that almost all the reported warming in the US over the last 70 years is attributable to the plug figures and corrections a few government scientists add to the data in the back room.  It kind of reduces one's confidence, does it not, in the basic conclusion about catastrophic warming? 

Anyway, lets look at the specific adjustments.  The lines in the chart below should add to the overall adjustment line in the chart above.
Ushcn_corrections2

  • Black line is a time of observation adjustment, adding about 0.3C since 1940
  • Light Blue line is a missing data adjustment that does not affect the data much since 1940
  • Red line is an adjustment for measurement technologies, adding about 0.05C since 1940
  • Yellow line is station location quality adjustment, adding about 0.2C since 1940
  • Purple line is an urban heat island adjustment, subtracting about 0.05C since 1950.

Let's take each of these in turn.  The time of observation adjustment is defined as follows:

The Time of Observation Bias (TOB) arises when the 24-hour daily summary period at a station begins and ends at an hour other than local midnight. When the summary period ends at an hour other than midnight, monthly mean temperatures exhibit a systematic bias relative to the local midnight standard

0.3C seems absurdly high for this adjustment, but I can't prove it.  However, if I understand the problem, a month might be picking up a few extra hours from the next month and losing a few hours to the previous month.  How is a few hour time shift really biasing a 720+ hour month by so large a number? I will look to see if I can find a study digging into this. 

I will skip over the missing data and measurement technology adjustments, since they are small.

The other two adjustments are fascinating.  The yellow line says that siting has improved on USHCN sites such that, since 1900, their locations average 0.2C cooler due to being near more grass and less asphalt today than in 1900. 

During this time, many sites were relocated from city locations to airports and from roof tops to grassy areas. This often resulted in cooler readings than were observed at the previous sites.

OK, without a bit of data, does that make a lick of sense?  Siting today in our modern world has GOT to be worse than it was in 1900 or even 1940.  In particular, the very short cable length of the newer MMTS sensors that are standard for USHCN temperature measurement guarantee that readings today are going to be close to buildings and paving.  Now, go to SurfaceStations.org and look at pictures of actual installations, or look at the couple of installations in the Phoenix area I have taken pictures of here.  Do these look more grassy and natural than measurement sites were likely to be in 1900?  Or go to Anthony Watts blog and scroll down his posts on horrible USHCN sites.

The fact is that not only is NOAA getting this correction wrong, but it probably has the SIGN wrong.  The NOAA has never conducted the site by site survey that we discussed above.  Their statement that locations are improving is basically a leap of faith, rather than a fact-based conclusion.  In fact, NOAA scientists who believe that global warming is a problem tend to overlay this bias on the correction process.  Note the quote above -- temperatures that don't increase as they expect are treated as an error to be corrected, rather than a measurement that disputes their hypothesis.

Finally, lets look the urban heat island adjustment.  The NOAA is claiming that the sum total of urban heat island effects on its network since 1900 is just 0.1C, and less than 0.05C since 1940.  We're are talking about the difference between a rural America with horses and dirt roads and a modern urban society with asphalt and air conditioning and cars.  This rediculously small adjustment reflects two biases among anthropogenic global warming advocates:  1)  That urban heat island effects are negligible and 2) That the USHCN network is all rural.  Both are absurd.  Study after study has show urban heat island effects as high as 6-10 degrees.  Just watch you local news if you live in a city --  you will see actual temperatures and forecasts lower by several degrees in the outlying areas than in the center of town.  As to the locations all being rural, you just have to go to surfacestations.org and see where these stations are.  Many of these sites might have been rural in 1940, but they have been engulfed by cities and towns since.

To illustrate both these points, lets take the case of the Tucson site I visited.  In 1900, Tucson was a dusty one-horse town (Arizona was not even a state yet).  In 1940, it was still pretty small.  Today, it is a city of over one million people and the USHCN station is dead in the center of town, located right on an asphalt parking lot.  The adjustment NOAA makes for all these changes?  Less than one degree.  I don't think this is fraud, but it is willful blindness.

So, let's play around with numbers.  Let's say that instead of a 0.2C site quality adjustment we instead used a -0.1C adjustment, which is still probably generous.  Let's assume that instead of a -0.05C urban adjustment we instead used -0.2C.  The resulting total adjustment from 1940 to date would be +0.05 and the total measurement temperature increase in the US would fall from 0.6C to 0.15C.  And this is without even changing the very large time of observation adjustment, and is using some pretty conservative assumptions on my part.  Wow!  This would put US warming more in the range of what satellite data would imply, and would make it virtually negligible. It means that the full amount of reported US warming may well be within the error bars for the measurement network and the correction factors.

While anthropogenic global warming enthusiasts are quick to analyze the reliability of any temperature measurement that shows lower global warming numbers (e.g. satellite), they have historically resisted calls to face up to the poor quality of surface temperature measurement and the arbitrariness of current surface temperature correction factors.  As the NOAA tellingly states:

The U.S. Historical Climatology Network (USHCN, Karl et al. 1990) is a high-quality moderate sized data set of monthly averaged maximum, minimum, and mean temperature and total monthly precipitation developed to assist in the detection of regional climate change. The USHCN is comprised of 1221 high-quality stations from the U.S. Cooperative Observing Network within the 48 contiguous United States.

Does it sound defensive to anyone else when they use "high-quality" in both of the first two sentences?  Does anyone think this is high qualityOr this?  Or this?  Its time to better understand what this network as well as its limitations.

My 60-second climate skepticism argument is here.  The much longer paper explaining the breath of skeptic's issues with catastrophic man-made global warming is available for free here.

PS- This analysis focuses only on the US.  However, is there anyone out there who thinks that measurement in China and India and Russia and Africa is less bad?

UpdateThis pdf has an overview of urban heat islands, including this analysis showing the magnitude of the Phoenix nighttime UHI as well as the fact that this UHI has grown substantially over the last 30 years.

Uhi1

Update2: Steve McIntyre looks at temperature adjustments for a couple of California Stations.  In one case he finds a station that has not moves for over one hundred years getting an adjustment that implies a urban heat island reduction over the past 100 years.

Posted on July 30, 2007 at 11:09 PM | Permalink | Comments (16)

Air Conditioning Is Causing Global Warming

Yep, I admit it, air conditioning may indeed be causing us to measure higher temperatures.  Here is the historic temperature plot of Detroit Lake, MN, one of the thousand or so measurement points in the data base that is used to compute historical warming in the US.
Detroit_lakes_gissplot

Look at that jump in the last 10 years.  It must be global warming!  Can't possibly be due to these air conditioning units installed around 2000 and venting hot gas on the temperature instrument (in that round louvered thing on the post).
Detroit_lakes_ushcn_2
More from Anthony Watts, who is leading the effort to document all these stations. You too can help.  The odds are you live less than an hour from one of these stations -- take your camera and add it to the data base.  Its fun!

Incredibly, the global warming community still argues that documenting the quality of the installations used in the official global warming numbers is unnecessary.  More air conditioners blowing on official temperature measurements hereWorst temperature installation found to date here, "coincidently" at the site with the highest measured 20th century warming.

Posted on July 26, 2007 at 10:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)

Phoenix Envy

Today I read one of the most bizarre articles I have read in quite a long time.  Murray Whyte of the Toronto Star (HT: Junk Science) seems to have developed a fantasy that climate change will drive people out of Arizona and back to Cleveland, Buffalo and Toronto.  Uh, yeah.  The article is laden with shoddy science, gross contradictions, bad economics, and a recurrent envy of wealth and success.  The article is so much of a mess that I just can't resist fisking it in detail, despite its length. 

Before I begin, though, I am not necessarily a huge Arizona booster.  Phoenix works pretty well for me at this point in my life, but I have lived in many great places.  And I am the last one to criticize anyone who decides that they just can't live in a place where it is 110F for 6 weeks straight.  That being said, lets get into it.  The article is titled: 

Climate Change Herald Mass Migration:  Concerns raised as the U. S. Southwest grapples with historic drought, water supply depletion and the creeping sense that things can only get worse.

We will get into all this later, but you gotta love the "creeping sense that things can only get worse."  Who has this sense, other than the author?  Phoenix is one of the most optimistic and positive places I have ever lived.

The state of Arizona has more than 300 golf courses, a booming economy, endless sunshine and, at last count, at least five Saks Fifth Avenue department stores — in short, nearly everything the well-heeled sybarite would need.

He sets the tone right up front.  This article is not about climate or rain or anything else.  It is about envy and a distaste for other people's wealth and success.

There’s just one thing missing: rain.

For the past month, not a drop has fallen in Maricopa County, home to greater Phoenix, the state’s economic engine and fastest-growing hub. Over that period, temperatures have hovered five to seven degrees above the 30-year average, at one point holding steady at over 43C for 10 straight days, while hundreds of brush fires burned statewide.

Its the freaking Sonoran desert!  We go months without rain.  We are supposed to go months without rain.  We average like 8 inches a year.  This county went months at a time without rain long before human beings burned their first molecule of fossil fuels.  If we got much more rain than this, all of our Saguaro cactuses would die.

And 43c is 109F.  We almost always go 4-6 weeks with temperatures over 109.  And he is saying this is 6C (10F) more than normal.  Get real!  I can't remember any June or July we ever went even 5 straight days under 100F during this part of the summer. By the way, Arizona's highest June temperature was recorded in 1994, its highest July temperature in 1905, and its highest August temperature in 1933. So much for record highs of late. (Maybe one reason it seems to be getting hotter is that they are measuring the temperature of asphalt parking lots).

"And they're still building billion-dollar houses, right in the middle of the desert," says Paul Oyashi, incredulous. "It doesn't seem rational, does it?"

Holy Crap!  Billion dollar houses!  Our retractable roof football stadium didn't cost a billion dollars, Canadian or US.  Oh, and you see that having gone 4 paragraphs without being snide about wealth, he needed to get back to this topic.  And who the $%@!! is Paul Oyashi?

In a word, no. Rational, some would say, would be a mass migration from the drought-ravaged American southwest, where Southern California just experienced its driest 12-month period in recorded history, to more verdant climes.

One such place? Cleveland, the battered hub of Cuyahoga County, where Oyashi sits as director of the department of development. "We don't have earthquakes, we don't have brush fires, we've got all the fresh water you could ever want," Oyashi says. "That's logic. But the problem is, it flies in the face of reality."

So this Oyashi guy is the development guy for Cleveland?  Who made the Toronto Star a shill for the Cleveland chamber of commerce?  Is it really this writer's premise that we are on the verge of a reverse migration from Phoenix to Cleveland?  My sense is that we are not on the verge of such a reverse migration, and this is a chance for everyone in the Rust Belt to lament that fact.

At first glance, the crises of the rust belt and the Southwest would seem unrelated. They are, in fact, inexorably linked. Each has what the other does not. In Phoenix, tremendous affluence; in Cleveland, and in Detroit, Toledo, Youngstown, Buffalo, Rochester, Thunder Bay and Sault Ste. Marie, abundant, near-endless water – in the Great Lakes alone, as much as 25 per cent of the world's supply.

Note the writer implicitly accepts the zero-sum wealth fallacy -- in his eyes, wealth is a natural resource just like water.  Cleveland has water, Phoenix has wealth.  I won't get into this fallacy much here, but suffice it to say wealth is not something that springs magically from a well.  More here.  For a hundred years, Cleveland was a wealth-creation machine.  To the extent they are not today, they might check their tax and regulatory policies.

And as the Southwest and parts of the Southeast grapple with historic drought, water supply depletion – earlier this year, Lake Okeechobee in Florida, a primary water source for the Everglades, caught fire – and the creeping sense that, with climate change, things can only get worse, a new reality is dawning: that logic, finally, will have a larger role to play in human migratory dynamics, continent-wide. With it come not just doomsday scenarios, but for certain urban centres left for dead in the post-industrial quagmire, a chance at new life.

Wow, where to start?  Anyone note the irony of Cleveland pointing fingers at someone because their lake caught on fire?  Not that he bothers to explain why a lake catching on fire is related to climate change or even drought.  And why on an article on the Southwest is the only example of water shortage taken from Florida?

But what you really need to note is the arrogant technocratic bent of the author.  He is saying that all you idiots in Phoenix are defying reality, and that finally maybe you will start making the right choices.  This is typical elitist crap.  In the author's world, anyone who makes a choice the author would not is making a wrong choice.

"Sticking a straw in the Great Lakes is not a solution to Phoenix's water problems," says Robert Shibley, director of the Urban Design Project at the State University of New York at Buffalo. "Maybe it's time to really think about what constitutes need and stop spending money to build carrying capacity in places that don't have it by nature, and start investing in places that do."

Shibley has long been a champion of Buffalo's dormant potential – a potential reduced by half or more through the latter part of the 20th century, as the population fell below 300,000 from a historic high of more than 700,000.

OK, now we quote a second guy about problems in the American Southwest.  This guy is from Buffalo, New York and is a promoter of the city of Buffalo.  Why is the Toronto Star giving these guys paid advertising for their causes under the guise of a news article?  And who the hell ever suggested sending water from the Great Lakes to Phoenix?  This is a "straw" man if I ever heard one.  Even if we started building pipelines east, there would be no reason to go past the Missouri or Mississippi.

And I love this "investing in carrying capacity" thing.  What the hell does that mean?  Yeah, we have to build infrastructure when the city grows.  We have to look for water, you have to pay for snow plows.  To build in the desert, we have to pipe in water to survive.  So what?  Buffalo and Toronto and Cleveland have to truck or pipe in coal and heating oil in the winter to survive.  What's the difference?

He suggests that in the Great Lakes basin, where less than half a per cent of the world's population sits within easy reach of a quarter of the planet's fresh water, the opportunity for harmony exists. In a perfect world governed by reason, Shibley says, the only robust economic centre in the region would serve as its heart. And that would be Toronto.

Oh my God, what a statement.  Humanity's last hope to live in harmony with nature is to move to the Rust Belt, home of a disproportionate number of America's Superfund sites and the burning Coyahoga River.  These are cities that still use the Great Lakes as a toilet, dumping tons of raw sewage out in the lakes every day.

That's an issue for international bureaucrats to solve. But the reality is this: according to the U.S. government, the population of the United States is expected to reach 450 million by 2050 – an increase of almost 50 per cent. The predicted pattern of settlement for these new citizens will take them to the seven most built-out regions of the country – Arizona, Texas, Florida and California among them.

Have you seen Arizona?  Is this guy really arguing that Arizona is more built-out than Michigan, New York, and Ohio?

"You're going to have 150 million people living in at least seven of the major regions that don't have water, don't have carrying capacity, can't feed themselves," Shibley says. "It's an ecological disaster waiting to happen. So there's a good reason to think that people should come back to the Northeast, where we have the carrying capacity, and have the water."

First, we have water.  We don't even have rationing here in Phoenix, and have not in my memory.  What does "have no water mean?"  The issue with Phoenix water is that we have about the cheapest water in the country.  Any overuse (whatever that means) of water here is because politicians pander to citizens and set the price very low.  So yes, I have a big lawn that seems nuts in the desert, but that is because my water bill here is less than half of what it was in Seattle(!)  Raise the price, and I would probably xerascape my lawn.

And what city in the Great Lakes area "feeds itself?"  No one in American cities feeds themselves.  Its called division of labor.

Some have already taken notice. Last year, The Economist ranked Cleveland the most liveable city in America (26th in the world) based on five categories: stability, health care, culture and environment, education and infrastructure. Among the booming cities of the Southwest, only Los Angeles and Houston cracked the top 50. Phoenix didn't make the list, falling behind Nairobi, Algiers and Phnomh Penh among the world's top 126 urban centres.

LOL.  I love it, we're behind Nairobi in some survey.  Look, there is a huge disconnect in this whole argument.  If Cleveland is really more liveable, then people will move there.  But the author is saying that people are moving to Phoenix instead.  So the theme of the article is that, what?  Phoenix has a problem with too many people moving in and has a problem with too many people moving out?  This is back to the technocratic elitism.  The author is just upset that ordinary people don't do what journalists tell them they should do.

Water is a factor. It is already a significant issue in the major regions Shibley mentions which, not coincidentally, depend on the same diminishing source for much of their hydration.

In 1922, seven states – many of them, like Nevada, Arizona, Texas and California, desperately arid – signed the Colorado River Compact, which divvied up the mighty waterway's seemingly abundant flow.

But recent observation of the river is alarming. Only two per cent of the river's water makes it beyond the U.S. border, where large Mexican cities dependent on its bounty are left with a trickle – much less than they need. With climate change, river flow has been dwindling, due, among other things, to decreasing snowfall and less consequent spring runoff, which forms a significant part of the Colorado River basin's lifeblood.

The river is the main water source for more than 30 million people stretching from Colorado in the north all the way down to the U.S.-Mexico border. By the end of the century, inflow to the river (which includes runoff and tributaries) is expected to drop by as much as 40 per cent.

First, who is saying that climate change is affecting the flow of the Colorado River?  Annual variations certainly affect it, but no one, and I mean no one, has created a climate model with the resolution to say that if there is substantial global warming in the future,the effect on the Colorado River flow will be X or Y.  Even the IPCC admits it really doesn't have a clue how world temperature changes might affect river flows, or the water cycle in general.  People always want to assume that hotter means drier, but hotter also means a lot more ocean evaporation which can translate into more, not less, precipitation. 

The problem with the use of the Colorado is not climate, but price.  As mentioned above, Phoenix has among the lowest water prices in the country.  In addition, farmers in Arizona and Southern California, who use most of the water despite the snide remarks about golf courses and billion dollar homes, get rates subsidized even lower.  Letting water prices rise to a real supply/demand clearing price that matches demand to river flow would solve the water "crisis" in about five minutes.

At the same time, climate change projections show temperatures in the most parched regions of the Southwest increasing between five and seven degrees. That would make Phoenix's hottest days well over 54C.

Five to seven degrees C are at the high, worst case end of the IPCC projections, which are themselves grossly overstated for a number of reasons I wrote here and here.  Also, much of the warming would be winter nights -- you just can't add the global warming projections to the daytime maximums -- this is plain ignorant.   One thing I agree with -- if our daytime temperatures were to reach 54C, which is over 129F, I will be moving. 

In Arizona, though, these warnings seem to fall on deaf ears. "The Greater Phoenix region continues to bust at the seams," says Christopher Scott, a research professor of water resource policy at the University of Arizona in Tucson. "People look at this and think, `This can't go on, can it?'"

But it does, and faster than anywhere else in America. From 1990 to 2005, the population of Greater Phoenix grew 47.7 per cent. In Scottsdale, a posh, affluent corner of Greater Phoenix that, despite the lack of moisture, has more golf courses per capita than anywhere else in America, growth was 72.1 per cent over the same period.

Altogether, Greater Phoenix will likely crest at 4 million people some time this year, making it the fourth-largest metropolitan area in America. By mid-century, some estimates suggest it will reach 10 million, leaving Phoenix and Tucson fused in the desert. "We'll basically be one massive urban corridor," Scott says.

Hey, he quoted a guy from west of the Mississippi!  This is the same kind of language that every anti-growth person uses in every city.  And by the way, there is that class thing again -- "posh, affluent."  And what does "bust at the seams" mean?  Phoenix has some of the least-bad traffic of any major city, we have sufficient water, sufficient power, lots of raw land, etc.

Phoenix receives water from the Colorado through canals hundreds of kilometres long, pumped through parched landscapes and small communities along the way that take their fill. It is, essentially, a city that shouldn't be there, so distant is the water supply.

"Shouldn't be there," by what definition?  Here is what that means:  "I, the author, don't think there should be a city there."  OK, don't live here.  Couldn't I write this sentence instead, "Cleveland receives petroleum from Texas and the Middle East in pipelines hundreds of miles long to provide needed heat in their cold winters.  Its is, essentially, a city that shouldn't be there, so distant is its energy supply."  Jeez, why is it we can have a global economy and division of labor and move resources around the world, but we have to build cities right next to water sources.  What about Aluminum, oil, gold, bauxite, lead, zinc, and iron?  Must we only build cities where all these are near by as well?

Scott, who has studied water supply issues from India to Mexico to West Africa, has seen no end to water-appropriation schemes in development-crazy Arizona. "Piping in sea water from the Sea of Cortez in Mexico, desalinating it, and then piping the salty brine back into the ocean – that's the kind of hare-brained notion I've heard here," he says. "Do I consider these things tenable? Not at all. But these are proposals people are talking about seriously, in public, and they're getting a lot more play."

Scott worries that technology may well make such things possible, but at a destructive energy cost that simply exacerbates the problem. "We're already starting to ask questions about the larger issues associated with pumping in all that water along those canals – the energy costs, and the carbon impact associated with it," he says. "They may solve the water issue short-term, but they pull the sustainability rug out from under you in the process."

We now see the author's real position.  He is not really lamenting the lack of water in the Southwest - he likes it.  He wants to drive people out.  We see he and professor Scott here actually lamenting the fact that technology might solve the water problem.

As to the sustainability issue, its absurd.  I will admit I don't know the figures, but I would be shocked if moving water around was even 0.1% of US energy use.  And besides, we move everything else around the world, moving water is trivial.

Finally, I don't really want to accept the author's premise that CO2 reduction is so critical, but if I were to accept it, I might point out that most of our electricity in Phoenix is provided by America's largest nuclear plant supplemented by natural gas, while mid-Western cities are fed mostly by big old honkin coal burning plants.  I would put our electric generation carbon footprint up against most any Rust Belt city.

The long-term solution, of course, is to relocate people where they can comfortably exist. (Oyashi certainly knows a place where you can get a decent house on the cheap.) In a free society, of course, forced migration isn't really an option.

Do you get the sense he says the last line with a frustrated sigh, lamenting the fact that he can't force people to live where he thinks they should live?

But as the sustainability crisis worsens, "usually economic forces will do it for you," says Robert McLeman, a professor of geography at the University of Ottawa. "When cities have to build new infrastructure and to jack up taxes to cope, when the cost of running a household becomes prohibitive, people will move."

Fine, but I will bet you a million dollars our taxes in Phoenix are a lot lower than they are in Toronto. And I know for a fact, since I almost moved there once, that our cost of living is a lot lower.  So maybe this infrastructure and sustainability crisis in Phoenix is a chimera?  Maybe its just wishful thinking?

..."Once the heat becomes unbearable, they may find the freezing cold a little more bearable–especially if it's not quite so freezing cold as they remember."

It won't happen without help. In Buffalo, Shibley speaks of a federal urban sustainabilty plan that funnels federal money to the Great Lakes region to help draw population back. It's been more than 30 years since the U.S. had a comprehensive national urban plan. Looming ecological crises in burgeoning urban centers more than justify a revival. "Cities don't grow by topsy, it's not a thing of nature – it's a function of public policy," he says.

Oops, we seem to be abandoning the whole "free society" thing above.  Sure looks like they want to use federal law and tax policy to drive migration where they want it to go, against where people are moving currently of their own free will.  Oh, and city growth is NOT a function of public policy.  Cities grew up and evolved long before government ever took a heavy hand in their development.

But a significant piece is missing, McLeman warns. "These cities will have milder climates, be easier to live in, and cheaper," he says, "but ultimately, they'll have to have the jobs to go with them."

Oyashi is painfully familiar with the concept. Cleveland may have a surfeit of cheap, liveable housing and an abundance of fresh water, but its problems are legion. Abandoned industrial sites litter the area, too big or too expensive to put to other purposes. Small victories pale in the face of greater challenges, like trying to convince Ford not to close two of its three plants in the region. "We've got some dinosaurs walking around here," he says.

Speaking of public policy and taxation, you don't think that different public policy choices in Cleveland vs. Phoenix might have a teensy bit to do with this?

But those problems, endemic rust-belt-wide, are just the most visible. High crime rates, languishing schools and spiralling urban poverty plague Cleveland, too. Phoenix, for all its money, can't make it rain any more than Cleveland, with all its water, can print the money it needs....

Gee, the relative growth in Phoenix vs. the lack thereof in Cleveland sure is a head scratcher.  Its incredible that people would tolerate long transportation distances for water just to escape things like high crime rates, languishing schools and spirally urban poverty.

He lays the responsibility at the federal government's door. "It's not like we have a policy that says, `You know, we should have a national policy that provides incentive for people to live in ecologically sustainable areas,'" he says. "What we have here is `Go wherever you want, do whatever you want, and the government will follow with its chequebook.' You get this haphazard checkerboard of winners and losers, rather than directed development in the regions that can sustain it. It's crisis management."

Yes, its just awful that the government lets people live wherever they want and then puts infrastructure in the places people choose to live.  So haphazard!  People are doing things that are not controlled or directed!  Eek!Clearly the author thinks the government should build the infrastructure wherever it wants to, and then force people to live in those places.   We elites know better!  We will tell you where you should live!  And by the way, who in the hell anointed the Rust Belt with the title of "most sustainable area."  And what is sustainability?  Couldn't I argue that all those midwest cities are sitting on valuable cropland or forest land, and that Phoenix is the most sustainable because we are just building on empty desert?  And if there is such a thing as sustainability in city development, who decided that the proximity of fresh water was the #1 be-all end-all component?

So, I will make a counter-proposal.   Rather than focusing on cities, let's focus on agriculture, because water IS a be-all end-all component to agriculture.  Much of the water we use in the Southwest is for agriculture, and I don't think that agriculture would be here without huge subsidies. Frankly, the sustainability problem of agriculture in the desert is orders of magnitude worse than that of cities here.  So here is the plan:

1) Sell water in Arizona for a price that better matches supply and demand

2) Stop subsidizing water for agriculture

3) Stop sending farm subsidies, such as for cotton, to people to grow crops in the desert.

This would relieve a taxpayer burden AND it would likely shift farming out of the Southwest to places like the Midwest.    As a result, you would get a migration of farmers and agriculture back east and you would free up a lot of water in the southwest so more people can live here, where they really want to live.    But of course, this is not what the author wants.  He wants more people in the cities, paying absurdly high Detroit property and income taxes.  Well, good luck.

Update:  Large follow-up post to this one, including research on Arizona water use and how the Rust Belt treats the Great Lakes like a toilet here.

Posted on July 23, 2007 at 06:33 PM | Permalink | Comments (17)

Contributing to Science

I got to make a real contribution to science this weekend, and I will explain below how you can too.  First, some background.

A while back, Steve McIntyre was playing around with graphing temperature data form the US Historical Climate Network (USHCN).  This is the data that is used in most global warming studies and initializes most climate models.  Every climate station is not in this data base - in fact, only about 20 per state are in the data base, with locations supposedly selected in rural areas less subject to biases over time from urban development (urban areas are hotter, due to pavement and energy use, for reasons unrelated to the greenhouse effect).  The crosses below on the map show each station.

He showed this graph, of the USHCN data for temperature change since 1900 (data corrected for time of day of measurement).  Redder shows measured temperatures have increased since 1900, bluer means they have decreased.
Usgrid80

He mentioned that Tucson was the number one warming site -- you can see it in the deepest red.  My first thought was, "wow, that is right next door to me."   My second thought was "how can Tucson, with a million people, count as rural?"   Scientists who study global warming apply all kinds of computer and statistical tricks to this data, supposedly to weed out measurement biases and problems.  However, a number of folks have been arguing that scientists really need to evaluate biases site by site.  Anthony Watts has taken this idea and created SurfaceStations.org, a site dedicated to surveying and photographing these official USHCN stations.

So, with his guidance, I went down to Tucson to see for myself.  My full report is here, but this is what I found:
Tucson1

The measurement station is in the middle of an asphalt parking lot!  This is against all best practices, and even a layman can see how that would bias measurements high.  Watts finds other problems with the installation from my pictures that I missed, and comments here that it is the worst station he has seen yet.  That, by the way, is the great part about this exercise.  Amateurs like me don't need to be able to judge the installation, they just need to take good pictures that the experts can use to analyze problems.

As a final note on Tucson, during the time period between 1950 and today, when Tucson saw most of this measured temperature increase, the population of Tucson increased from under 200,000 to over 1,000,000.  That's a lot of extra urban heat, in addition to the local effects of this parking lot.

The way that scientists test for anomalies without actually visiting or looking at the sites is to do some statistical checks against other nearby sites.  Two such sites are Mesa and Wickenburg.  Mesa immediately set off alarm bells for me.  Mesa is a suburb of Phoenix, and is often listed among the fastest growing cities in the country.  Sure enough, the Mesa temperature measurements were discontinued in the late 1980's, but surely were biased upwards by urban growth up to that time.

So, I then went to visit Wickenburg.  Though is has been growing of late, Wickenburg would still be considered by most to be a small town.  So perhaps the Wickenburg measurement is without bias?  Well, here is the site:

Wickenburg_facing_sw

That white coffee can looking thing on a pole in the center is the temperature instrument.  Again, we have it surrounded by a sea of black asphalt, but we also have two building walls that reflect heat onto the instrument.  Specs for the USHCN say that instruments should be installed in an open area away from buildings and on natural ground.  Oops.  Oh, and by the way, lets look the other direction...

Wickenburg_facing_se

What are those silver things just behind the unit?  They are the cooling fans for the building's AC.  Basically, all the heat from the building removed by the AC gets dumped out about 25 feet from this temperature measurement.

Remember, these are the few select stations being used to determine how much global warming the US is experiencing.  Pretty scary.  Another example is here.

Believe it or not, for all the work and money spent on global warming, this is something that no one had done -- actually go document these sites to check their quality and potential biases.  And you too can have the satisfaction of contributing to science.  All you need is a camera (a GPS of some sort is also helpful).  I wrote a post with instructions on how to find temperature stations near you and how to document them for science here.

For those interested, my paper on the skeptics' arguments against catastrophic man-made global warming is here.  If that is too long, the 60-second climate skeptic pitch is here.

Posted on July 22, 2007 at 07:56 PM | Permalink | Comments (25)

Offset Sellers Only Double-Dipping?

From Steven Malloy:

Congress began investigating the carbon offset industry this week. The inquiry could produce some "inconvenient truths" for Al Gore and the nascent offset industry.

Carbon offsets ostensibly allow buyers to expunge their consciences of the new eco-sin of using energy derived from fossil fuels. Worried about the 8 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted each year by your SUV? Similar to the indulgences offered by Pope Leo X in the 16th century, you can absolve yourself of sin by purchasing $96 worth of CO2 offsets – typically offered at $12 per ton of CO2 emitted – from offset brokers who, in turn, supposedly use your cash to pay someone else to produce electricity with low or no CO2 emissions....

A Capitol Hill staffer told me that the congressional inquiry would look into the possibility of “double-dipping” in the offset industry.

Only double-dipping?  Earlier, I argued that the purveyors of offsets may be triple dipping:

  1. Their energy projects produce electricity, which they sell to consumers.  Since the electricity is often expensive, they sell it as “CO2-free” electricity.  This is possible in some sates -- for example in Texas, where Whole Foods made headlines by buying only CO2-free power.  So the carbon offset is in the bundle that they sell to electricity customers.  That is sale number one. 
  2. The company most assuredly seeks out and gets government subsidies.  These subsidies are based on the power being “CO2-free”.  This is sale number two, in exchange for subsidies. 
  3. They still have to finance the initial construction of the plant, though.  Regular heartless investors require a, you know, return on capital.  So Terrapass finances their projects in part by selling these little certificates that you saw at the Oscars.  This is a way of financing their plants from people to whom they don’t have to pay dividends or interest —just the feel-good sense of abatement.  This is the third sale of the carbon credits.

Posted on July 20, 2007 at 09:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)

The 60-Second Climate Skeptic

I was trying to think about what I wanted to do for my last post in my recent orgy of global warming writing.  My original attempt to outline the state of the climate skeptic's case ballooned into 80+ pages, so there may be many people who rationally just have no desire to tackle that much material.  So I decided for this last post to try to select the one argument I would use if I had only 60 seconds to make the climate skeptic's case. But how do you boil down 80 pages to a few simple statements?

I'm not that interested in the Sun or cosmic rays -- they are interesting topics, but its dumb to try to argue we overestimate our understanding of man's impact on climate only to counter with topics we understand even less.  One of the reasons I wrote the paper in the first place was because I thought recent skeptical documentaries spent too much time on this subject.  And I would not get into tree rings or ice cores or other historic proxy data, though there is a lot happening in these areas.  I wouldn't even delve into the hysterical treatment of skeptics by man-made climate advocates  -- these are ad hominem issues that are useful to understand in a more comprehensive view but don't make for strong stand-alone arguments.

Anyway, here goes, in a logic chain of 8 steps.

  1. CO2 does indeed absorb reflected sunlight returning to space from earth, having a warming effect.  However, this effect is a diminishing return -- each successive increment of CO2 concentrations will have a much smaller effect on temperatures than the previous increment.  Eventually, CO2 becomes nearly saturated in its ability to absorb radiation.  The effect is much like painting a red room with white paint.  The first coat covers a lot of red but some still shows through.  Each additional coat will make the room progressively whiter, but each successive coat will have a less noticeable effects than the previous coat, until the room is just white and can't get any whiter.

  2. In the 20th century, the UN IPCC claims Earth's surface temperatures have increased by about a 0.6 degree Celsius (though there are some good reasons to think that biases in the installation of temperature instruments have exaggerated this apparent increase).  To be simple (and generous), let's assume all this 0.6C increase is due to man-made greenhouse gasses.  Some may in fact have been due to natural effects, but some may also have been masked by man-made sulfate aerosols, so lets just call man-made warming to be 0.6C. 

  3. Since the beginning of the industrial revolution, it is thought that man has increased atmospheric CO2 concentrations from 0.028% of the atmosphere to 0.038% of the atmosphere.  Since scientists often talk about the effect of a doubling of CO2, this historic rise in CO2 is 36% of a doubling.

  4. Using simple math, we see that if temperatures have risen 0.6C due to 36% of a doubling, we might expect them to rise by 1.67C for a full doubling to 0.056% of the atmosphere.  But this assumes that the rise is linear -- and we already said (and no one denies) that it is in fact a diminishing return relationship.  Using a truer form of the curve, a 0.6C historic rise for 36% of a doubling implies a full doubling would raise temperatures by about 1.2C, or about 0.6C more than we have seen to date (see chart below).   This means that the magnitude of global warming in the next century might be about what we have seen (and apparently survived) since 1900.

  5. Obviously, there is some kind of disconnect here.  The IPCC predicts temperature increases in the next century of 4-8 degrees C.  Big difference.  In fact, the IPCC predicts we will get a 0.5C rise in just 20 years, not 70-100.  Whereas we derived a climate sensitivity of 1.2 from empirical data, they arrive at numbers between 3 and 4 or even higher for sensitivity.  The chart below shows that to believe sensitivity is 3, we would have to have seen temperature rises due to man historically of 1.5C, which nobody believes. 

    So how do they get accelerating temperatures from what they admit to be a diminishing return relation between CO2 concentration and temperature? And for which there is no empirical evidence?  Answer:  Positive feedback.

  6. Almost every process you can think of in nature operates by negative feedback.  Roll a ball, and eventually friction and wind resistance bring it to a stop.  Negative feedback is a ball in the bottom of a bowl; positive feedback is a ball perched precariously at the time of a mountain. Positive feedback breeds instability, and processes that operate by positive feedback are dangerous, and usually end up in extreme states -- these processes tend to "run away" like the ball rolling down the hill.  Nuclear fission, for example, is a positive feedback process.  We should be happy there are not more positive feedback processes on our planet.  Current man-made global warming theory, however, asserts that our climate is dominated by positive feedback.  The IPCC posits that a small increase in temperature from CO2 is multiplied 2,3,4 times or more by positive feedbacks like humidity and ice albedo.

  7. There are three problems with these assumptions about positive feedback.  One, there is no empirical evidence at all that positive feedbacks in climate dominate negative feedbacks.   The 20th century temperature numbers we discussed above show no evidence of these feedbacks.  Two, the long-term temperature record demonstrates that positive feedbacks can't dominate, because past increases in temperature and CO2 have not run away.  And three, characterizations of stable natural processes as being dominated by positive feedback should offend the intuition and common sense of any scientist.

  8. An expected 21st century increase of 0.5 or even 1 degree C does not justify the massive imposed government interventions that will be costly both in dollars and lost freedoms.  In particular, the developing world will be far better off hotter by a degree and richer than it would be cooler and poorer.  This is particularly true since sources like an Inconvenient Truth wildly exaggerate the negative effects of global warming.  There is no evidence tornadoes or hurricanes or disease or extinction are increasing as the world warms, and man-made warming advocates generally ignore any potential positive effects of warming.  As to rising sea levels, the IPCC predicts only a foot and a half of sea level rise even with 4 or more degrees of warming.  Sea level rise from a half to one degree of warming would be measured at most in inches.

OK, so that was more than 60 seconds.  But it is a lot less than 80 pages.  There is a lot of complexity behind every one of these statements.  If you are intrigued, or at least before you accuse me of missing something critical, see my longer paper on global warming skepticism first, where all these issues and much more (yes, including tree rings and cosmic rays) are discussed in more depth.

Posted on July 13, 2007 at 12:25 AM | Permalink | Comments (76)