Monday, December 31, 2007

Cause Versus Effect In Feedback Diagnosis

We are told constantly that the science of climate change is settled and that the consensus requires that we act, and act fast.

Leaving aside the question of why we have to act so quickly to stem a process that has been decades (or millennia) in the making and the issue of implied consensus,
this post highlights how far the science is from being settled.

As it states:
the separation of cause from effect in the climate system is absolutely critical.

I would agree and you would think that having clarity about cause and effect would be one of those basic things that would be required before anyone claims that the science is "settled".

This thread at Climate Audit discusses Spencer's post and has some pertinent links to other key papers in the area.

This thread highlights how the science is and is not well understood and the extent to which various people are open to new constructs in the way they view data.

However virtuous, virtual science is no substitute for the real thing

Lots of science that is reported in the media suffers from two constraints:
  • it is issued by an individual or group with a vested interest in having people interpret the results in a certain way, and
  • the numbers used are the results of models or projections and not measured, observed, empirical data.
A nice commentary on this phenomenon is here. (A more humorous take is here)

As Lomborg showed, refuting such misleading data with the real facts is a long, tedious and ultimately fruitless experience: people's perspective doesn't change with the awareness of new data.

For people to change their perspective, their fundamental ideology must change. They must be willing to open up their controlling constructs to review and examination: only then when their mind is open to alternatives, do they view new data with an open mind.

Zealous advocates of the status quo seek to prevent people from exercising their faculty for independent thought by:
  • appeals to authority
  • disciplinary restriction
  • intimidation
Of course, these are not the standard protocols for science. But they are common place practices in the world of political spin, a sphere many scientists are embarrassingly naive about.

The biggest hypocrisy is those scientists who protest long and loud about people commenting on science without the "proper" qualifications, while they themselves profess vociferously in the area of political policy without any commensurate education.

Personally, I do not think that any subject is intrinsically difficult to understand if one is sufficiently motivated and engaged in the subject matter. Neither does the possession of a university degree, let alone a degree from any particular institution, confer on any individual divine intuition, insight or omnipresent wisdom on any subject.

In my experience, those with the greatest intellect are always those with great humility about the limits of what they know and an appreciation for learning from all that they meet, not just those with titles, degrees and positions of authority.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Save the Planet or the Puppy Gets It

I have been searching for a way to address the discussion of scientific consensus versus informed scepticism, especially since a list of 400 scientists who disagree with the alleged climate consensus was tabled in the US Senate (with my name on the list of those who disagree with the imposition of the consensus mantra).

Two posts from Climate Resistance fit the bill nicely. The
first draws a useful of analogy to address the misleading characterizations endorsed by ideological environmentalists who seek to re-cast the discussion in terms favourable to their assertion of authority and self-justification: which, of course, is the source of so many objections to the climate dogma by social scientists in the first place.

Yes, many who question the consensus on climate science do so not because they question the science per se, they question the selective, ideological use of that science, the politicization of science within the climate discussion: and the application of politics to, and within, science is certainly the domain of social scientists and other academics. Asserting opinion and ignoring empirical data that contradict one's hypothesis is not science: you do not need a specific specialization on any scientific discipline to identify these activities, you just need the inclination to ask the question.

The second post offers a useful deconstruction of the Bali conference, which did little except establish the timetable for the next couple of expenses-paid vacations, sorry conferences, on climate. The Bali conference was rife with hypocrisy and ideological assertions masking a real frustration that simply jumping up and down and stomping one's feet in a temper tantrum no longer seems to be working as a mechanism for garnering world focus in real political terms. And that's not science either. Sadly, neither is it particularly democratic nor enlightened, which is why the Bali conference may well turn out to be the nadir of the whole climate change debate.

update: see this post which also shows that the debate is all about politics, especially in the blogosphere

Sunday, December 23, 2007

An gift for Christmas

Courtesy of Sandy Szwarc, I have received another award for blogging.

Sandy's criteria for an excellent blog were that it be written with the qualities:
  • that it is thought provoking
  • exhibit integrity and sincerity
  • contributes quality and service
I would say that Junkfood Science epitomizes these qualities and it is an honor for me to be recognized by Sandy in this way.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Has global warming stopped?

In an interesting post in the New Statesman, David Whitehouse raises the question "has global warming stopped?" He notes that:
  • For the past decade the world has not warmed. Global warming has stopped. It's not a viewpoint or a sceptic's inaccuracy. It's an observational fact.
  • ...either the hypothesis of carbon dioxide induced global warming holds but its effects are being modified in what seems to be an improbable though not impossible way, or, and this really is heresy according to some, the working hypothesis does not stand the test of data.
  • It was a pity that the delegates at Bali didn't discuss this or that the recent IPCC Synthesis report did not look in more detail at this recent warming standstill.
The corollary to this situation is that many empirical facts that run counter to the prevailing paradigm of AGW receive scant attention in the mainstream media. For example, at the same time as Whitehouse is posing his question, a major new study has been published that confirms there is no observed linkage between hurricanes and global warming as promoted by AGW advocates: the science contradicts the fear-mongering.
Roger Pielke has returned to the blogosphere and he examines the paradox posed by the lack of media reaction to the hurricane study:
  • is the media biased in its reporting on climate change?
  • what influence does ideology have on media coverage?
  • how does spin influence media coverage of ecomyths?
Pielke quotes the work of Mullainathan and Shleifer and emphasizes the point that spin can exacerbate the influence of one-sided ideology. When the first news outlet that uncovers the story is ideological and later ones are not, the first one sets the tone and later ones reinforce this spin. This can explain why and how inside sources leak information to news outlets: their principal motivation is to control how the story is eventually spun.
Both these posts serve to highlight the fact that despite all assertions to the contrary, the science of climate change is not settled. As Revkin points out:
  • ...there are at least two areas of persistent, and legitimate, scientific debate left
  • First, there is still a lot of uncertainty about the extent and pace of warming from a particular rise in concentrations of greenhouse gases...
  • Second, there is a wider debate over what to do, or not do, about climate change, with peoples' preferences (a carbon tax, a technology push, building dikes or parasols in space) not so much a function of science as values.
Values and not science remain the primary driver of climate change. And because that is so, media, spin and ideology are central determinants of the debate, and not the science.
Ecomyths are not exorcised by reference to additional facts: they are defeated by the practise of common sense and free will overcoming the oppressive influence of dogma and the imposition of ideological conceit.

Follow up:
Since I posted this, Roger Pielke Sr. has posted this exchange prompted by Revkin's post above. His main point is that climate is not warming as predicted nor as suggested by the standard greenhouse gas hypothesis. Carbon dioxide is at best 30% of the positive climate forcing. Moreover:
  • With respect to added CO2, I am becoming convinced that its effect (threat?) is more from alterations in ocean and land biogeochemistry rather than its radiative heating. I am also convinced (and have published on this as well) that the more heterogenous climate forcings (due to aerosols and land use/land cover) have a much greater impact on climate through alterations in atmospheric and ocean circulations than do the well-mixed greenhouse gases.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Question: Will Oil Prices Stay High?

Resource management requires an understanding of both supply and demand, an assessment of the impacts of policy options and the political determination of which paths to pursue.  Two articles today from QandO illustrate the dynamics of resource management and how these various elements interact.
The first discusses the present price of oil.  Pricing is a function of demand and supply.  High demand and short supply equate to higher prices.  Sooner or later the market responds by increasing supply, developing alternative supply options or developing efficiencies to reduce demand: all acting to soften prices. 
When a free market is allowed to operate, it will adjust to high demands by increasing supply options, eventually phasing out an expensive resource with a cheaper alternative.  Limits are not real: they are a temporary economic condition which market adjustments remove long before any actual physical limit of a resource is reached. Resources are not, they become: long before any physical limit is reached, a resource will be re-defined by technological change and innovation that significantly alter the balance of supply and demand, either resulting in cheaper prices or the replacement of the resource with more efficient, economic alternatives.
At the other end of resource management are policy options to address the perceived impacts of resource utilisation.  In the case of energy resources this means climate change, and the second post refers to a list of ten questions posed by TV personality Pat Sajak on climate change.
Sajak asks:
  • what is the perfect temperature?
  • what is the average temperature of the earth?
  • what factors contributed to climate change in the past, and how do we know they are not the primary factors today?
  • why is there such a concerted effort to suppress discussion and dissent?
  • why are the predicted effects of global warming open to such wide variation?
  • can climate change be beneficial?
  • should drastic changes in public policy be based on a "what if?" proposition?
  • what will be the human impact of proposed AGW policies?
  • how will we measure success?
  • how has this movement gained such momentum?
So what are the metrics for climate change?
For resources supply and demand, the metric is simple and measurable: it is price.  The problem with hypothetical, perceived, ideological and otherwise mythical entities like global warming is there is no precise metric, no robust, scientifically verifiable, measurable value that has meaning for the real world in which people live.  Any model can establish a threshold value, just like a video game.  But real life is not a simulation.  It is not a scripted video game and computer calculations may seem sophisticated but they are still only a guess reliant upon ideology for their legitimacy and authority. 
If models were precise we could predict the price of oil next year.  We can't.  And if we can not predict the future of well-defined metrics, why would we place any reliance on imprecise, uncertain and meaningless measures such as "global mean temperature"?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Imperialism and tyranny

Then, of course, there is the direct contrast to my call in the preceding post for enlightenment and cultural understanding. And that would be in the form of the omnipresent climate change and its exemplification of contemporary eco-imperialism:
  • The debate over Kyoto made it clear that what was at issue was economic rivalry, masked as climate control. ... Openly expressed, hostility to Chinese and Indian industrial expansion would sound like self-serving hypocrisy. Dressed up as environmental concern it looked like altruism....Climate control seems to make national chauvinism acceptable.
  • The new climate deal struck at Bali seems to be about letting First World countries offset their industrial growth by persuading less developed countries to forego growth, and enlarge their forest reserves instead. In effect the West will use its financial leverage to keep the natives sitting in darkness and its own monopoly on technology intact.
And to accompany ideological tribalism, there is the self-appointed eco-tyrant: "paging Al Gore..."

  • Gore openly expressed hostility towards the democratic process.
  • Once an individual or a campaign group can pose as the mouthpiece for the needs of the planet, there is no limit to their authority. Freed from the shackles of responsibility to an electorate, and from the time and territorial restraints of democratic politics, campaigners can make sweeping declarations about the needs of the human species and about what is good for people now and in time immemorial.]
  • Airing these differences, and arguing over them, is politics itself – or it will be, once we do something about the anti-democratic, debate-phobic Al Gore and his acolytes in the environmentalist lobby.
Sustained globalization requires and reflects individual and cultural freedom.

Globalized sustainability is the hand-maiden of tyranny, globalized bureaucracy and the imposition of dogma on all.

The first explicitly recognizes the tribal nature of global culture and seeks to build communities of common interest and respect that preserve differentiation. The second, masks its disregard for differentiation behind platitudes of altruism and seeks to impose a prescribed state of enmity for all activities that are outside the dictates of its ruling dogma.

Its not about science: it is a clash of ideologies.

Tribalism vs. globalization

A question I ask of my geography students is "in an era of globalization is geography more or less relevant?". As this commentary by Kay highlights, geographic context, particularly cultural context, matters deeply in today's global society.

Sustainability is about the effective integration of environment, economy

Most people recognize that we have a global environment. Increasingly we are a globalized economy. We are far from being a global society.

Tribalism is at the heart of our societal division. But what differentiates us, need not divide us. To build an appreciation for this distinction we need to:
  • break away from dogma and its oppressive hold over culture
  • facilitate a better appreciation for fundamental value differences and constructs between cultures
  • encourage cross-cultural exchanges, dialogue and communication to better facilitate awareness and understanding
Of course, these actions are antithetical to the control that stasists seek to impose on society: thus, they often are dismissed as heresy and treated as seditious acts by those who yield power.

Perhaps for the first time in human history information technology is such that oppressive forces can no longer preclude free expression and information exchange between different cultures, and it is this belief that fuels a continued sense of optimism for future change and sustained globalization.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Don't fight, adapt

The response of those still willing to think for themselves and tackle the climate magisterium despite the continued Bali hype is this letter published today.
Adaptation, not control. 
Adaptation, adjustment, learning, sustained growth and prosperity: good goals, good political virtues and an ideological perspective actually supported by the science. 
As this summary suggests, the letter is a call to reason:
  • The points of agreement in the letter are broad and by now all too familiar. They dispute the IPCC science process, argue against the existence of consensus and reject claims of abnormal climate change. Much new climate science research has also emerged since the last IPCC reports were written, undermining the official science. The IPCC reports, they say, are "materially outdated."

    This call to reason is obviously no match for Al Gore in the global competition for attention over climate change. It contains no warning of looming Armageddon. It offers no choice between oblivion and salvation. It simply suggests that Bali and the whole IPCC process is a big mistake that will ultimately be futile.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Oppression is oppression

Went to see the movie The Golden Compass with one of my daughters this week. Found it to be an outstanding movie and one that resonated deeply with me. I especially liked the concept of our inner beings being visible and manifest as our daemons, which can change shape while we are young and determining who are but become fixed as we reach adulthood and assume responsibility for our lives.

The central theme of The Golden Compass is the battle between those who wish to exert control and power over society (to oppress) and the desire for individual freedom and empowerment that I believe is in each of us. Naturally this struck a chord with me as this quote from Heinlein is foundational to this blog:

  • Political tags - such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth - are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire.
My blog also has links to the writings of Heinlein and Orwell, and my profile lists Star Wars movies, the Matrix trilogy and Casablanca amongst my all time favourites: all films where the central theme is the fight against oppression and stasis control, whatever label is used to disguise its totalitarianism.

Now I had one great advantage in going to see The Golden Compass: I was totally unfamiliar with the book upon which the film is based, its author Phillip Pullman, his views or any other commentators interpretations of his views. In short, the only ideology that I viewed the movie through was mine.

Consequently, the movie to me was outstanding, excellently crafted and gripping in its story, its implications and its metaphorical meaning.

I was not influenced by what others want the movie to be (more religious/less religious, more fantasy/less fantasy, more science philosophy/less philosophy -- for every critic, group and blog wanting the movie to be more this or that, there appears to be another wanting it to be less). I was unencumbered by anyone's dogma. How poignant, that a movie so against the imposition of dogma should itself be subjected to so much dogmatic scrutiny and comment.

To me, oppression is oppression. It matters not what the Magisterium is: it is an allegory for all forms of dogma, stasis control and suppression within society. It is the entity that Orwell derided, Heinlein sought to replace, the Republic of Star Wars and the false world of the Matrix.

In each and every successful Christmas movie, the greedy, the oppressive, the venal in life are overcome and vanquished by the capacity for love, compassion and freedom of the individual. A movie like A Wonderful Life endures because of its message of hope, its belief in the capacity of the individual and our desire to realize those values in ourselves.

The Golden Compass is the latest movie to address these most basic of human themes:

  • What values should define our lives?
  • What is the purpose of education if it is confined by prescribed, stasis limits and dogma?
  • Why do elites feel they somehow have some divine right to dictate to others how they should live?
  • Why do stasists obviate themselves from the strictures they impose on others?
  • Why do ideas frighten stasists?
  • Why is the unknown cast as evil, other than to frighten people into the confines of stasis control?
  • Why do we not teach the unknown as wonderous, magical and an adventure waiting discovery?
Dogma is the hand-servant of oppression. The purveyors of dogma hide their intellectual deceit behind a pious wall of protestations about welfare and the public interest. What they are really stating is their own fears and inadequacies prevent them from contemplating anything that is not preordained by their dogma. The whole concept of a metaphor eludes them, as does real learning. To learn you must be willing to grow and embrace the construct that there is much we do not know: an anathema for any theocracy, whatever deity is worshiped: God, money, the State, Marx, environmentalism, no matter -- oppression is oppression.

What frightens stasist forces the most is the existence of free will, free thought and free expression of individualism. It is the dust that infuses life.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Road to Bali

A short, easy to comprehend and an accurate assessment of the Bali conference is offered here.  The central premise?
  • ...the issue is not whether humanity will succumb to a "climate crisis," or how the international community might craft a successor to the tattered Kyoto Accord (Let's call it KyoTwo). The real theme of this United Nations gabfest -- like that of its 12 predecessors, and of the hundreds, if not thousands, of related meetings --is whether globalization and trade liberalization will be allowed to continue, with a corresponding increase in wealth, health and welfare, or whether the authoritarian enemies of freedom (who rarely if ever recognize themselves as such) will succeed in using environmental hysteria to undermine capitalism and increase their Majesterium.
How did this situation evolve?  Just how did the science become so politicized to be unrecognizable as science?
Phillip Stott provides a brilliant summary in this essay where he examines the role of science in a postmodern world.  As he states:
  • Science has to learn that science no longer controls the debate, and that 'truth' will not be legitimised by science alone.
  • ...the language games of science are no longer self-legitimised, but are legitimised against the power and media relations in which they are embedded. They are, accordingly, legitimised by the social bond, which seeks out the 'science' that supports the bond, but actively rejects, and pours scorn on, the 'science' that challenges the bond.
  • The social bond has created a desire for 'global warming' to be true in order to legitimise a whole suite of pre-ordained Neo-Malthusian agendas and fears....from anti-growth to anti-Americanism. Thus, the science is also uncritically legitimised...
  • Science can no longer function in a vacuum and legitimise itself. Indeed, it is questionable whether this was ever the case. The fight for 'truth' involves, above all, the use of language, of words of power...
  • Language is everything. One mythical phrase employed by one clever media outlet can overthrow the whole edifice of science at the press of a computer key.
  • The battle ground is the social bond, not science.
  • And, paradoxically, and perhaps amusingly, this is something that 'global warming' scientists are about to learn to their cost at Bali, where a different, but equally powerful, grand narrative from the developing world could well topple the 'global warming' grand narrative of a rich and ecochondriac North.
Now, the challenge is to foster a new social bond: one that is inherently dynamist in its constructs, that empowers the individual rather than holding power over them, one that celebrates creative enterprise and not censure, and one that sustains globalization rather than the false mythology of a global sustainability.
This new paradigm is emerging.  It is evident in the blogosphere and in the advent of new media and social networks, What is needed now is a leader around which a new social bond can coalesce, take shape and gather momentum.  The times, they are a changing once again.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Progress is a risk that must be run

Growth is essential to sustainability.  Successful adaptation to change is the defining characteristic of sustainability.  So, we can either embrace the future as an opportunity for learning (dynamism), or seek to suppress and control change out of precautionary fear (stasis).  Two articles today that indicate the battle over the future often comprises one step forward and two step backwards .  A common link between both articles is the engagement of individuals to overcome stasis constraints and promote positive change and individual freedom.
In contrast, the mainstream that doesn't what the responsibility for individual thought and action, will continue to act as sheep (or goats) in response to mass media campaigns.
Stasis reaction will always have the appeal of unaccountability to complement its axiomatic solutions.  Remember, any agency charged with a certain mandate has a vested interest in acting on but not resolving the problem that led to its formation.  If the IPCC, Oxfam or the applicable Department of Unemployment solved the issue they "manage", they would no longer be necessary.  A foundational construct within any bureaucracy remains: first expand the size and mandate of your agency -- sustain your own existence. 
Bureaucracies do not solve problems, they perpetuate their continued existence. 

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Assertion is not substantiation

Simply repeating a proposition over and over, doesn't increase its veracity. Assertion is not substantiation. Substantiation requires evidence, empirical data and/or the use of logic. As this article points out, the advocacy of global warming reflects a cascade:

  • "Availability cascade" has been coined for the way a proposition can become irresistible simply by the media repeating it;
  • "informational cascade" for the tendency to replace our beliefs with the crowd's beliefs; and
  • "reputational cascade" for the rational incentive to do so.
Warmism is hyped continuously and consciously, from the Bali Conference to Gore's Nobel prize. But that still doesn't alter the facts -- may hinder some people from searching for them, but doesn't alter them.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Common sense abounds

An excellent summary of recent climate change events from this site. Keeping pace is a full time job, especially when counter-arguments are ignored and mistakes are left uncorrected. Blogs offer one media for errors and oversight to be brought to light and common sense encouraged to prevail.
And here is a good contrast in environmental message. One gets an Oscar and Nobel prize, the other, rather less hype and a lot more unseen rejection. Zealots are never open minded.
Nice to see the blogosphere spread and increase in quality in coverage at the same time. Two sites I know I will monitor from here on out.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Chavez and the intellectual fraud of "high modernism"

What is wrong with a stasist approach to management?  Well other than the suppression of freedoms and liberty, the promotion of censure and the abdication of personal responsibility, this article  on the latest project of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela clearly describes some of the key concerns. 
Stasis is all about control and the exercise of power over people.  Invariably it is fused with a notion that those in control are smarter, more enlightened and otherwise more knowing than those they exert power over.  In the name of a socialist ideal, stasis is, at its heart, an elitist ideology.  Not only is this objectionable as an ideology, it also is fundamentally flawed i that none of these dictatorial plans for socialist utopia have ever worked.
Personally, I prefer a politician from the used-car salesman school: someone who understands, or at least has experience with, the vagaries of human nature.  Much rather a salesman of limited intellect who knows who and what they are, than an academic or an intellectual with illusions of grandeur and visions of personal legacy at the expense of the populace.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Bali Hoo Is Calling

Some updates from the excellent Global Warming Politics blog of Phillip Stott.  First is a comment on the next UN Climate Conference which is upcoming soon in Bali.  (Notice these shindigs never take place in less exotic locales like Flin Flon, Barnsley or Newark: wonder why?).
Second, is a comment on climate science as it relates to sun spot activity as a proxy indicator for climate variability.  And, third, is a summary of a recently published paper that reviews climate data for the past 2000 years using proxies other than tree-rings.  These data clearly show both the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age, and the paper's authors conclude by pointing out that the data  indicate the Medieval Warm Period was indeed warmer than present temperatures by 0.3 C.  Today's temperatures are neither abnormal nor unprecedented.
And this concludes today's lesson on the global warming myth and its slow demise as the dominant environmental narrative of out time.
Wonder if this is the message the vacationers (sorry, conventioneers) will conclude in Bali.  Perhaps their air travel emissions are a last gasp attempt to get present day temperatures to peak: "if the world doesn't have a crisis, we will create the appearance of one with our actions!"

Education and change

The solution to many problems often is assumed to be education and if that doesn't work, then, more education.

Moreover, its not just education that is advocated, but education of a particular brand and type. Oftentimes, educational reform doesn't necessarily mean positive change. Sadly, new educational "initiatives" often seem to emphasize measurable metrics of performance and not real learning nor improved instructional intelligence. This happens at the elementary level, in secondary education and in higher education, where teaching remains a very poor relation to those other main enterprises: research and administration.

At all levels good teaching, good instructional practices and good administrators exist. Sadly, at all levels, they remain a minority. Moreover, as this article discusses, we seem almost pathological in our resistance to institutional instructional learning:
The biggest impediment to kids' learning to read is not biological or genetic: it's instructional. Instructional casualties account for the majority of that 50-60 percent of our poor kids who can't read.

...Does whole language work better than phonics? That's a dumb dichotomy. That's political. Science asks: For which kids are which instructional strategies most beneficial, at which developmental phases, in what classroom, and by what teachers?

We've pretty much answered those questions. But will anybody use our answers? No.

...People say, "Well, if you teach them too directly, they'll never love reading." I've never met a kid who loves something he cannot do.

The UN and AIDS

As a follow up to my last two posts on global warming and obesity, here are the latest data on the real status of AIDS: still there but not out of control nor as extensive as promoted earlier.
Key point:
  • persistent overestimates in the widely quoted U.N. reports have long skewed funding decisions and obscured potential lessons about how to slow the spread of HIV
Another example of well-meaning zealots doing more harm than good. 
When will self-appointed experts ever realize that the public can be trusted with the real data, the real science and not have to be primed with inflated, fear-inducing hype?
Oh, yes, but then those self same experts, advocates and managers would be out of a job, wouldn't they?

Monday, November 26, 2007

IPCC: separating fact from fright

Increasingly the true scientific picture around climate change is emerging.  As it does, advocated of fear are having to change their tune or risk being revealed for the hype-merchants they are.  This latest example illustrates the stark contrast between the science of the IPCC reports and the political media releases still employed to hype fear.
Advocates of AGW have long argued that people pay attention to the science.  Well now that science is no longer extreme enough in its message, those advocates are not redressing their rhetoric, toning down their invective nor adjusting their slide shows.  Instead, they are seeking a last gasp attempt to enforce drastic reactions and seeking to stoke the embers of steadily declining fire of fright they have constructed.
All that remains is for another ecomyth to emerge and take centre stage in political consciousness and the whole global warming circus will find its tent empty and another sideshow sucking up the government funding, the media attention and the political soundbites.  Won't be long now.

Fat versus Fiction

Another major study has once again concluded that being overweight does not increase your mortality.  Indeed, for cardiovascular disease and cancer, being overweight actually increases your life-expectancy.  This report has been largely ignored by the mainstream media which continues to hype the obesity and health myth.
Nothing wrong with being fit.  Nothing wrong with looking good: but that does not mean you have to be skinny.  Whatever your shape, if you're happy with it, be happy with it.
There is no scientific basis to the claims that being overweight will harm your health.  There is some evidence that being too thin is dangerous to your health.
Myths are short on science and long on projected images.

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Cult of Eco-Extremism

The article discussed here, and the concepts it expresses, would be funny if they were not expressed in such a sincere manner.  Instead, I can only marvel at such a waste of emotional commitment.  To be that passionate about something and be so fundamentally wrong about it is both stunning and sad. 
Over-population is not an environmental problem. 
Never has been and certainly is not now.  Julian Simon showed this nearly 30 years ago and despite all the posturing of the limits to growth crowd, Simon was proven right by events, time and the continued prosperity of the planet.  The field of demography does not posit over-population as a problem, yet green zealots continue to adhere to this abiding mis-conception, to which they then add piety and a warped sense of morality.
People do not die because we lack food to feed them.  People are dying because we choose not to feed them, not because food is in any global shortage.
As for space, come to Canada.  It has lots of space where there are no people: how many Hong Kong's can you fit in Canada and still have room left?  Stupid question when you think like that isn't it?  Over-population?  At what density and at what level of wealth?
Activism is great.  But activism without thought is a curse. 

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The end of the hocky stick

Often I am asked "what is the science of climate change that you are disputing?". This is a question frequently posed in a sense of exasperation, the query stemming from an adherence to the prevailing dogma I have gored in my presentation or comments. My answer is usually the same: it is in the public domain, it is most often posted in blogs but it is mostly in the interpretation of the science: science measures things, but it does not tell us what they mean. Meaning is supplied by the interpretation of facts and that interpretation is heavily influenced by ideology: most often we get the answer we are looking for.

Occasionally, ecomyths are not just about interpretation. They also are foundationed on poor science, selective science and/or incorrect science.

The major narrative in environmentalism over the past decade has been global warming. In large part, a fundamental part of that narrative has been the assertion that climate today is both unprecedented in its high temperatures and alarming in the rate of change in those temperatures. The selling of this narrative by global warming advocates relied heavily on the infamous hockey-stick graph.

That graph has been thoroughly discredited but proponents of global warming persist in denying this fact, variously reasserting that the graph is "basically still correct", "substantiated by other data" and/or seeking to downplay its role just as vigorously as they sought to promote its use when it was in vogue.

The graph that appears here comes from this post on ClimateAudit. It should forever conclude debate about the veracity of the hockey stick. For those not familiar with the issues, it comes to this:
  • the hockey stick relies heavily on one or two series of data
  • uses statistical methods incorrectly
  • presents a false representation
When the data are corrected, the false signals removed and the statistics calculated correctly, the graph that results both:
  • confirms a Medieval Warm Period comparable to today's temperatures, and
  • fails to suggest any alarming upswing in temperature this century.
The hockey stick is dead, and so is a very significant component of the AGW dogma fed to the public for the past decade.

Not only is the science not a self-evident as proclaimed, our experience does not seem to suggest catastrophic warming:
  • Global warming? Not in South America, not this year.
  • It is enough that people are beginning to question the IPCC and what it doing.
And so, finally, its not really about the science: it is all about the politics.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Trust, News and Democracy

An important criterion for an effective, free democracy is the existence of an independent media, able to comment, inform and engage people in debate about issues in society. Two articles today illustrate how this ideal is difficult to achieve in practice, even within a nominally free and progressive democracy.

The first shows the editorial manipulation of an interview to create the story the media wanted, rather than the one it got. The second illustrates the overt manipulation of media for political purposes.

Sadly, these are not isolated examples. They reflect an ethos which suborns freedom and democracy in favour of an ideology wherein the end is used to justify the means: those manipulating and/or controlling the story are so sufficiently self-convinced by their own correctness and beliefs, that a sense of paranoia pervades all their actions and expressly non-democratic activities are justified as being in the name of democratic reform.

The examples above are a graphic reminder that personal ethics and collective morality are not slogans, nor sound bites, but a habit reflected in the daily practice of life.

As Ghandi taught:
  • We do not need to proselytise either by our speech or by our writing. We can only do so really with our lives. Let our lives be open books for all to study.
  • You must be the change you wish to see in the world.
  • My life is my message.
Sometimes new items appear just at the right time. This article further underscores the point about a free media and the selectivity which the mainstream media often chooses to employ in determining what news gets reported. It also underscores how significant a role blogs have played in breaking the information monopoly mainstream media outlets used to enjoy.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Bias, the IPCC and validation

A quick cut to the key conclusions of Holland's excellent paper:

  • That the “hockey stick” should have been so comprehensively invalidated by two highly qualified, independent, peer reviewed studies and public hearings, and yet is retained in any guise by the IPCC in its latest AR4 report, indicates how insular and unscientific a body the IPCC has become.
  • Despite substantial research over the last 20 years by paleoclimatologists at significant expense to taxpayers, there is no historic temperature reconstruction that can accurately replicate the instrumental temperature record from 1860 to 2000, let alone to 2007.
  • Unless all important studies are independently verified, it cannot be said that the late 20th century warming was particularly exceptional. And especially so given that no global warming at all has occurred since 1998, a period of eight years over which atmospheric CO2 increased by 15 ppm (4%). It is crystal clear that natural causes are a possible explanation for the entire instrumental temperature record to date.
  • So far as I am aware, there is no empirical evidence published in refereed journals that invalidates this null hypothesis.
  • Wegman et al. showed that the paleoclimate field is heavily influenced by “a tightly knit group of individuals who passionately believe in their thesis.” Similar small groups almost certainly exist in other key areas of climate science, such as amongst those scientists who study the instrumental temperature series or who perform the computer model attribution studies.
  • The IPCC WGI is effectively run by small groups of inbred scientists from UCAR, CRU and the Hadley Centre, who have a strong and disproportionate influence on its processes and agenda. Rather than the consensus of thousands of scientists, the IPCC conclusions represent the passionate belief of a small number of scientists whose funding and research careers depend heavily upon continuing alarm. The belief is then shared by a much larger number of environmentally and politically motivated individuals, organisations and also businesses that have evolved to service the emission reductions that the IPCC calls for.
  • The vested interests of these groups are powerful sources of bias.
About as conclusive a summation of the case against AGW as can be made. The science does not sustain the dogma. Period.

Climate Audit - by Steve McIntyre

Congratulations to Climate Audit which took home the vote as Best Science Blog at the 2007 weblog awards (out polling even those in the Best Blog category).

Interestingly, the vote stirred up a lot of controversy, not least of which was the "science" character of Climate Audit, the tenor of which did much to illuminate both the ignorance and prejudice of those making the claims. In particular, I liked the quick way people sought to dismiss and minimize a blog that had not even read.

No matter, Climate Audit was voted #1.
The strength and value of Steve McIntryre's work and of the Climate Audit blog (with its vociferous comment section and band or regular contributors) is clearly demonstrated in these posts, here , here, and here, and are further validated by this published paper by Holland.
The Hockey Stick is broken. Temperature data are not conclusive in their support of the AGW hypothesis. And, perhaps (maybe) a greater sense of accountability and due diligence might be emerging in climate science.

All of these factors are attributable to the efforts of Steve McIntrye and Ross McKittrick, given wider awareness by the #1 Science Blog, Climate Audit.

Weather Channel founder dismisses global warming

Over at Icecap, the founder of the Weather Channel, John Coleman, has written about his views on global warming.  Calling global warming the 'greatest scam in history', Coleman goes on to explain its origins as a dominant ecomyth and does so in candid fashion.  His article is short, concise and easily understood: like a good weather report.  It also hints at a level of frustration at seeing a subject he obviously cares about being so carelessly manipulated by politicians, activists, the media and academics.
For regular readers of this blog, much of what Coleman says will be familiar.  What is significant about his comments are his own public credentials within the mainstream media and meteorology community.  As Noel Sheppard asks, how will the mainstream media react?  Will Coleman's remarks be ignored, or will they inspire some due diligence and honest reporting?
Coleman will not be easy to dismiss and may finally be the "public" figure necessary to lift scepticism about global warming into mainstream consciousness.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

The dangers of DIY humanitarianism

The situation in Africa warrants a degree of despair and, for many, the time for direct action and intervention has long since past.  However, as this article discusses, the nuances of intervention, the morality of direct action and the implications for empowerment are just as valid when the acts are by humanitarian agencies and individuals as they are when another country intervenes militarily to affect change.
Most assuredly, direct action NGOs would not contemplate casting themselves in the same light as George Bush's US troops, but morally, philosophically and conceptually, how are their actions different?  When is outside intervention justified?  Or is accountability a much better criterion?  The end never justifies the means: this construct is the first to be lost when people assume their moral position obviates them from following the "rules" of engagement.
In many ways, this latest case once more reinforces the abject failure of the United Nations to function as a global meeting place for dialogue around such central governing constructs.

Flabby claims about food and cancer

This needs to be repeated again and again: despite the headlines, there are no connections between eating certain foods and being a certain weight and preventing cancer. As Basham and Luik point out:
  • the Women's Health Initiative Dietary Modification Trial is the most recent, and one of the largest and most expensive, randomised controlled studies of the effect of diet and weight on breast cancer, colon cancer, heart disease and stroke. It studied 49,000 American women over an eight-year period. The women in the intervention group ate diets that were low fat and high fibre with six servings of grains and five servings of vegetables and fruits per day.

    There were no statistically significant differences between the intervention group and the control group in the incidence of breast cancer, colon cancer, strokes or heart attacks. Ironically, the women following the 'healthy' diet designed to reduce cancer and heart disease didn't even weigh less than they did at the beginning of the study, or less than the women in the control group who continued to eat as they always had.

Not only did the prescribed diet fail to yield any of the predicted health benefits, diet alone was shown to be ineffective as a tool for weight loss.

If not for global warming, the obesity myth would be the biggest ecomyth presently being inflicted on people.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Housing as a new ecomyth

Housing has been an issue that has perplexed both state planners and the free market for decades. Question:
  • why are there no socialist countries without an overwhelming housing shortage?  why does provision of adequate housing defy state intervention, economic control and the imposition of central planning?
  • why does every successful capitalist nation have homeless people?
Not content with being one of those endemic problems of civilization, it appears housing is now emerging as a "new" crisis for some governments, complete with newly found green overtones.
It is interesting how new governments attempt to frame issues, give the appearance of action and court the favour of public opinion in sanctioning their "targets" (I'd say policy goals, but timelines that are 10 and 15 years hence are not legitimate policy goals for any one or two-term government: therefore they are, at best, hypothetical targets for spin consumption and recycling).
Housing is now a green issue.  But will the dogma add any insight and resolution, or merely act to further confuse and obscure inaction, inactivity and mis-management?
Meanwhile, in New Orleans, at least one segment of the population managed to solve their housing crisis.  The key? Action, not talk.  Doing, not demanding.  Empowerment, ownership, personal responsibility and, most of all, community.
The key aspect of any successful, sustainable activity is community.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Media,bias and issue framing

The media play a key role in public policy debates, acting to frame issues and give direction as to how the public receives information. Now a new study from Harvard has concluded what many have suspected for some time: all forms of media show bias towards leftist politics. Moreover, media coverage tends to focus on the politics of an issue and not its substance.

This situation is exacerbated by the tendency for many issues, especially ecomyths, to be presented in terms that over-simplify science, ignore counter-evidence and present a false, dogmatic representation of scientific information. A situation based characterized as pathological.

I am often asked after a presentation disputing ecomyths how so many other scientists and experts can persist in presenting their perspective if the information I have presented is indeed true.

My answer?

It is that others
either disagree (their beliefs are different), fail to see the whole picture (their expertise is more narrowly confined) and/or they are merely operating within a dominant paradigm wherein so much that underpins ecomyths is simply accepted as axiomatic -- so self-evident that it is accepted without question. Ideas are then framed within this dominant political narrative, and issues of scientific integrity and dispute are subsumed by the larger politics of science, groupthink and a culture that discourages dissent, independent thought and individual responsibility.

We are a culture with tremendous pressure and incentives for conformity. We are quick to censure and in a pervasive culture of fear, people learn quickly to adapt to the dominant paradigm of how society perceives an issue.

Of course, society rarely perceives an issue: individuals do. But most are not operating as free-thinking individuals and their knowledge is "framed" by the manner with which the media, educators and institutions of authority present information.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Is this the state of academics today?

It might be tempting to dismiss this post as an exception.  The problem is the academic in question was not some fringe, quasi-academic: he is a Fulbright scholar and a Senior one at that.  He is a scholar pontificating on environmental issues that are way beyond his area of expertise but his also a scholar able to have his views published, lending them a sheen of authority not validated by the substance of his remarks.
What chances would someone without a Fulbright Fellowship have of similar access and standing?  Oh, yes, that's right, a TV or Hollywood celebrity.  Coming soon, the Paris Hilton climate report...

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Where cooler heads prevail

In reviewing the changes affecting consideration of climate change, Hayword opens his discussion with this excellent quote:
  • Is there really anything new to be said about climate change? Hasn't the issue become the public-policy equivalent of Groundhog Day, with the same arguments playing out in the same way every week? Perhaps there is. The weary and repetitive character of the climate-change debate is masking a number of fundamental changes now taking place that, 20 or 30 years from now, are likely to be recognized as the turning point on the issue. Despite the relentless media and advocacy-group frenzy, the case for catastrophic global warming is fraying around the edges.
    In true Groundhog Day fashion, weekly weather shifts are often portrayed through the media as evidence for climate change.  In a lovely reversal of circumstance, this year's Alpine ski season will not be cancelled as many predicted last year. 
    Reminds me of Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen signing of Vermont snow on the train in White Christmas....

    Positive globalization and plumbing

    Here is the latest in an excellent series of articles by Alvaro Llosa on the effects of globalization and the positive impacts of capitalism in effecting real change and development.
    Those who are reluctant to acknowledge this progress often resort to alleged ecomyths and crises as a rationale for curtailing the progressive march of globalization.  Lately, much has been made of the supposed "water shortage" facing the earth.  Not only is this claim patently absurd given the physical nature of the planet, it also completely misses the real question of water and poverty: why do so many people in the world still lack proper santitation?
    Forget climate change. Forget habitat destruction, deforestation, species loss and ozone levels: what the world really needs for a measurable improvement in environmental health is more plumbing.  Not nearly as sexy.  Definitely not something that requires any more study, awareness creation nor advocacy: just active intervention, application and commitment. 
    To know and not to do, is to not know.  The environment is not something to be just talked about, it is something that requires action, even if that activity is as unglamorous as providing plumbing and installing toilets.

    Wednesday, October 24, 2007

    The mechanism by which the Total State is being built

    The central thrust of today's post is to suggest that politically we are either a radical or a reactionary
    For many, that choice is being made for them by the steady, insidious march toward totalitarianism that passes for democratic thought today.  The mechanism for state control and imposition of dogma is manifest in the pronouncements of many politicians, in the actions of idealogues and in increasing imposition of "green" theocracy at all levels of society.
    It is reflected in the real world of politics in the erosion of free speech and independent thought.  In today's Brave New World, even science must conform and reflect a prescribed political consensus.  (Note this last post is satire: a style of humour once practiced to great effect by Swift but now, largely, a lost art).
    The source of much of this angst is a lack of understanding and appreciation for political philosophy.  As Feser points out in his excellent essay, we are all recipients of the legacy of John Locke and his conception of individual rights, government by consent, religious toleration, and scientific rationalitySadly, our failure to understand and appreciate the true measure of Locke, has left the general public with the impression that those imposing increasing governance "in the name of freedom" are in fact practicing freedom -- when in fact their stasis is slowly, inexorably, eroding the very freedoms and individual liberties that Locke sought to establish as the basis for democracy and contemporary society.
    To be a reactionary today is to endorse the very mechanism of state control that the radical alternatives of individual responsibility and liberty were established to supplant. 
    Its our choice.

    Thursday, October 18, 2007

    Clinical trial on healthy eating

    Science is differentiated from ideology by its respect for empirical data. Science is open to refutation and when the observed, empirical data don't fit the theory, the theory is modified. Ideology holds to its precepts and excuses contrary data as variously flawed, irrelevant or just plain inconvenient.

    Evidence of this distinction comes from two disparate areas. The first is the largest, longest randomized clinical trial of dietary habits which shows that the conventional prescription for "healthy eating" results in no appreciable health benefits. The second, is the continued promotion of a supposed scientific consensus on climate change, despite the inherent lies in such a claim. Most laughably, are the attempts to link both sets of fears.

    Furedi discusses the implication of myth perpetuation as an extension and personification of a pervasive climate of fear. What is troublesome in both the obesity myth and with global warming, is that the contradictory science that should be employed to dismiss fears is itself vilified and demonized, and not the myth makers, fear-mongers and ideologues.

    Some while ago, I remember seeing an interview with Robert Redford where he stated that early in his career he viewed the world as sane with pockets of insanity and this he reflected in his movies. Later he realized the majority of the world was lacking in sanity and that only pockets of tranquility and sanity exist, and that this motif became the defining characteristic of his later films.

    In contemplating the state of science, its use and mis-use, the prescriptive dogma of ideology that passes under the rubric of official policy and the absence of extended outrage at such abuses, I reflect more and more why I take solace from films that reflect a river running through the passage of time or a random act of kindness changing the world one moment at a time....

    Thursday, October 11, 2007

    Fat, scientific consensus and AGW

    Not much I can add to this post courtesy of QanO which links to the NY Times admission that the great fat scare is just that. Sadly, it took a lot of empirical data to supplant the myths surrounding fat, diet and health, and still much more will have to be done to offset the effect that dogma has on public consciousness.

    But science will eventually dispel ecomyths: AGW included...eventually.

    Particularly if citizen's continue to take Gore's movie to the courts before it is shown in schools. A recent test case in the UK concluded that:

    • the film must be distributed with new guidance notes for students and teachers to prevent "promoting partisan political views".
    • The judge said that Stewart Dimmock, a Kent school governor with two children and a member of a political group called the New Party, had "substantially" won his case because without new guidance to schools from the government, it would have been in breach of the law." (
    • In order for the film to be shown, the Government must first amend their Guidance Notes to Teachers to make clear that:
    1. The Film is a political work and promotes only one side of the argument.
    2. If teachers present the Film without making this plain they may be in breach of section 406 of the Education Act 1996 and guilty of political indoctrination.
    3. Eleven inaccuracies have to be specifically drawn to the attention of school children.

    The specified inaccuracies are:

    • The film claims that melting snows on Mount Kilimanjaro evidence global warming.
      The Government’s expert was forced to concede that this is not correct.
    • The film suggests that evidence from ice cores proves that rising CO2 causes temperature increases over 650,000 years.
      The Court found that the film was misleading: over that period the rises in CO2 lagged behind the temperature rises by years.
    • The film uses emotive images of Hurricane Katrina and suggests that this has been caused by global warming.
      The Government’s expert had to accept that it was “not possible” to attribute one-off events to global warming.
    • The film shows the drying up of Lake Chad and claims that this was caused by global warming.
      The Government’s expert had to accept that this was not the case.
    • The film claims that a study showed that polar bears had drowned due to disappearing arctic ice.
      It turned out that Mr Gore had misread the study: in fact four polar bears drowned and this was because of a particularly violent storm.
    • The film threatens that global warming could stop the Gulf Stream throwing Europe into an ice age
      The Claimant’s evidence was that this was a scientific impossibility.
    • The film blames global warming for species losses including coral reef bleaching.
      The Government could not find any evidence to support this claim.
    • The film suggests that the Greenland ice covering could melt causing sea levels to rise dangerously.
      The evidence is that Greenland will not melt for millennia.
    • The film suggests that the Antarctic ice covering is melting
    • The evidence was that it is in fact increasing.
    • The film suggests that sea levels could rise by 7m causing the displacement of millions of people.
      In fact the evidence is that sea levels are expected to rise by about 40cm over the next hundred years and that there is no such threat of massive migration.
    • The film claims that rising sea levels has caused the evacuation of certain Pacific islands to New Zealand.
      The Government are unable to substantiate this and the Court observed that this appears to be a false claim.

    Thanks again to junkscience for the posting and the excellent commentary.