Saturday, November 27, 2010

The collapse of contrivance

In my presentation last week, I indicated that Climategate and Copenhagen together had combined to signal the collapse of contrivance: the use of climate change as the central narrative of environmentalist dogma and the re-distribution of wealth.

Today, on the opening of the largely irrelevant meetings in Cancun, the mainstream media (left and right) has officially declared that the collapse of contrivance is a reality:
here and here.

This collapse leaves the science of climate in somewhat of a quandary. Facing the certain collapse of their source funding, the community is finally awakening to the need to communicate more effectively with the public at large that elects the governments that supply the money that supports their research meanderings.

Judith Curry recently attempted to get her visitors to engage in an exercise intended to
raise the level of the game. Some posters got it, some, sadly, remained anchored in the arrogance of bafflement that the great unwashed does not grant anyone with a PhD in climate an automatic genuflection.

So, what is it skeptics (and the majority of the public now) don't get? Well here is a list:

  • while most everyone recognizes that the greenhouse effect exists and is necessary, they do not get how a trace gas, CO2 at 0.03% of the atmosphere, can function as the global thermostat, while water vapor at 97% of the atmosphere is just some passive feedback mechanism

  • why water vapor acts as a negative feedback on the effects of global warming, the models rely upon water vapor being a positive feedback mechanism for AGW alarmism
  • how temperatures could have exceeded today's levels as recently as 1000 yrs. ago and yet levels of CO2 were at their "historically" safe level 
  • what has fundamentally changed in the earth's atmosphere that the same trace gas that was unrelated to higher temperatures 1000 years ago, is today the principal driver of temperature change

  • we have difficulty reconciling the implied effects of CO2 with wholesale revisions and contraction of the global economy when human contributions of CO2 are but a minor component of the total

  • we don't get why science is being subordinated to political activism
The lay person may struggle with the intricacies of climate science, but they recognize political rhetoric and polemics from experience. They have no problem comprehending statist policies for centralized command and control. 

Moreover, unlike activists, scientists and politicians, they have no problem recognizing that increased centralized planning is at complete odds with the dynamics of globalization (decentralization, increased democratization of information, technology and finance).

Thus, to use the environment, and climate in particular, as the imperative for wholesale economic change requires something more than "a gut feeling". It requires transparency. It requires trust. It requires that reasonable questions of concern are answered comprehensively, not dismissively. It means acknowledging uncertainty.

The politics have damaged the science of climate decisively. And until the climate science community comes to grips with this fact, they will consigned to a central role within the collapsed contrivance. Time to Mann up, stop hiding behind the decline and get real about climate.

A reply by Gavin Schmidt in the
Curry thread indicates a start is being made, where he references this latest paper. The abstract states:
  • The relative contributions of atmospheric long-wave absorbers to the present-day global greenhouse effect are among the most misquoted statistics in public discussions of climate change.

  • With a straightforward scheme for allocating overlaps, we find that water vapour is the dominant contributor (~50% of the effect), followed by clouds (~25%) and then CO2 with ~20%. All other absorbers play only minor roles.
Unlike pervasive AGW dogma, this paper recognizes that water vapor and clouds are major variables and places the role of CO2 in context. It also presents the mainstream case in a manner that is accessible to those who are not believers in that dogma -- kinda like science. Who would have thought.

A second h/t to Curry for
this thread and her sincere attempts to move the debate forward.

Those that troll the internet however, appear to be having a hard time moving beyond the insults, the dismissals and the arrogant assertions that frustrate those who would actually discuss issues.

As Delingpole
notes in frustration:
  • ...the scientific detail is peripheral. And the reason it’s peripheral is because a corrupt, mendacious political, scientific, corporate and media establishment has rigged it that way
  • Meanwhile, the main Green war effort rumbles on regardless. Ecofascism can lose the AGW battle because – as befits the Leninist method underpinning its philosophy – AGW was never more than a convenient means to an end. Controlling the world, is what this war is ultimately about – not saving it for Mother Gaia.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Why would the IPCC lie to us?

After a class presentation and in the context of an extended discussion of why one would or would not subscribe to a belief in AGW, one of my students finally posed the central question that vexes many: "why would the IPCC lie to us?"

It is a question that many use rhetorically as if it is all that is required to re-assert the ascendancy of their axiomatic dogma:
  • you can't possibility be questioning the authority of the IPCC?
  • can you?
  • the science?
  • the scientists?

The IPCC was not established to examine climate, nor climate change.  It was established to provide a comprehensive and objective assessment of scientific, technical and socio-economic information that could lead to a better understanding of human-induced climate change.

We get the answers to the questions we ask.  The IPCC has always been a process structured and guided by the politics of environmentalism and not any science of discovery. 

Consequently, when the exaggerations, biases and mis-conducts subsumed within the IPCC process are revealed, it should not be surprising that its leading beneficiaries resort to rhetorical questions, ad hominem attacks and bluster. 

Sadly, these tactics persist and they persist at the highest levels within academia as this wonderful rebuttal by James Delingpole illustrates.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Common sense is neither skepticism, nor denial

  • Perhaps we should stop accepting the term, ‘skeptic.’ Skepticism implies doubts about a plausible proposition. Current global warming alarm hardly represents a plausible proposition. Twenty years of repetition and escalation of claims does not make it more plausible. Quite the contrary, the failure to improve the case over 20 years makes the case even less plausible as does the evidence from climategate and other instances of overt cheating.
  • In the meantime, while I avoid making forecasts for tenths of a degree change in globally averaged temperature anomaly, I am quite willing to state that unprecedented climate catastrophes are not on the horizon though in several thousand years we may return to an ice age.
This is the conclusion to Richard Lindzen's Congressional Testimony this week.  Earlier he states:

  • The evidence is that the increase in CO2 will lead to very little warming, and that the connection of this minimal warming (or even significant warming) to the purported catastrophes is also minimal. The arguments on which the catastrophic claims are made are extremely weak –and commonly acknowledged as such.
  • Our present approach of dealing with climate as completely specified by a single number, globally averaged surface temperature anomaly, that is forced by another single number, atmospheric CO2levels, for example, clearly limits real understanding; so does the replacement of theory by model simulation.
  • We see that all the models are characterized by positive feedback factors (associated with amplifying the effect of changes in CO2), while the satellite data implies that the feedback should be negative. 
One would think such testimony, based on hard science would suffice: politically we would re-frame the discussion of climate towards a proper goal of understanding and comprehending the earth's basic systems, free of ideologically driven political agendas.

O.K. so that's just way too naive. But at least one would hope the basic narrative would begin to be adjusted to better reflect scientific reality.

Even that it seems may be beyond the reach of too many committed environmental activists.  

As James Delingpole commented on the mainstream media's (lack of) response to the Climategate revelations:
  • Like the Bourbons, the watermelons of the global green movement have learned nothing and forgotten nothing from Climategate. For them, AGW has never been about science or objective truth. It has always been just a pretext. 
Many academics are scrambling to re-frame climate into a "new" broader meta-narrative of environmental politics in the hopes that it will somehow confirm and continue to justify their ongoing research unhindered by consideration of such pesky aspects as:
  • axiomatic presumptions
  • verifiable data
  • empirical measurement
  • open dialogue
  • data disclosure 
  • appropriate methodology
  • good scientific practice
Sadly, what many of these academic scientists do not realize nor accept is that the opposition they have faced has never been to the science: it has always been to the excessive, unwarranted and unaccountable use of their science within an assertive and oppressive political meme.

Good climate science is not at issue.  The politicization of science, the assertion of ideology as scientific pretext and biased academic practices are at issue.  Sadly, they remain so.

From my perspective, the responsibility for addressing this issue rests with academics, not with the politicians, bloggers or the mainstream media.  It is only when the academy determines that poor conduct and expertise politics debase the science and ceases to condone such manipulation, that it will cease.  

This does not imply censorship: rather it requires academics to do what they supposedly already are doing, but do it properly.  For example:
  • a review of a paper should not be cursory glance at the citations to see if they are "approved" but should be an audit of methodology, data and findings 
  • more dialogue of ideas should occur in real time using blogs, and
  • fraudulent behaviour and intimidation should not be sanctioned and excused by passive acceptance, academic doublespeak and an obsessive obsequiousness towards research funding.
Sadly, reading various comments this week, suggests that both the mainstream media and the majority of academics appear to be taking completely the opposite tack, seeking to re-rehabilitate those exposed by Climategate in a full-court press to re-assert the mantra of AGW dogma. 

There is no attainment of learning for the lazy. Kauthilya.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Climategate, Copenhagen and the Collapse of Contrivance

Two years ago I was invited to speak to the Senior Alumni at my host institution, the University of Western Ontario.  I spoke on the issue of Global Warming and Other Eco Myths and my talk was enthusiastically received by the audience.  It was also extensively, and accurately, covered by the campus newspaper, which made my talk its lead story for its next edition.

Well this is where things got interesting.  Another person in my department, heavily involved in the IPCC process, by the name of Gordon McBean, took it upon himself to circulate a petition condemning both my right to speak and castigating the Western News for (a) covering my talk at all, and (b) not editing their coverage with a “corrective” message reciting approved AGW dogma.

I responded to this attempt to suppress my academic freedom with a rebuttal piece which I simultaneously published here on ecomyths.

Fast forward to Fall 2009, and the leaked Climategate emails confirm that such intimidation tactics, expertise politics and bullying were characteristic of a cadre of leading figures within the IPCC sphere.  In my own small way, I felt somewhat vindicated and recognized that McBean was my own version of a warmist zealot unable to suppress their zeal for climate conformity with any comprehension of academic good conduct.

So, why this post, why revisit old wounds?  Well ahead of my planned talk November 16 to those same Senior Alumni, McBean has not even waited for me to talk, not even bothered to see for himself the text of my presentation but has been “proactive” and took it upon himself to contact the organizers and suggest that my invitation to speak is improper and should be withdrawn.

So now I am elevated into that category of speaker on topics climatic to have their invitation withdrawn.  Except that I am not.  My invite comes from the Senior Alumni of the University of Western Ontario who do not cower before bullies, are not intimidated by blowhard windbags and do not fear people who indulge in cowardly politics.

And now for the rest of the story, (as Paul Harvey used to intone so memorably) ...what McBean did not know was that when I was invited to speak, I initially declined knowing the Senior Alumni had garnered a degree of controversy from my last talk, at which time I was informed that yes indeed the organizers were fully aware of this and that was an additional reason why their membership most expressly wanted to invite me back: they liked my talk, they liked the views I expressed, wanted to hear more and if that upset the likes of McBean, well that would be just an extra bonus along the way!

I hope you too enjoy the presentation, which is now posted along side my other PowerPoint, here at ecomyths where the truth is our friend and not a political toy for intellectual toddlers.

It is dangerous to be right in matters on which the established authorities are wrong. Voltaire

Apologies to anyone trying to download the presentation, I made some changes to correct some typos and did not copy the correct file from mediafire: all is now fixed.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

you bring an academic to a tea party but you can't make him drink

Scientific American had a recent poll on the state of climate science.  The conclusions?

  • With a total of 5190 respondents, a consensus of 81.3% think the IPCC is "a corrupt organization, prone to group-think, with a political agenda" and 75% think climate change is caused by solar variation or natural processes vs. 21% who think it is due to greenhouse gases from human activity.
The shift in public attitudes is not confined to the rampant right, tea drinkers or the lunatic fringe.  Indeed, attempts by scientists to impugn opposition to AGW by inferring a lack of understanding, political motive or simple denial of science, should now be passe.

Sadly they aren't.  For every Roger Piekle Jr, who comprehends the nuances of politics as they apply to science and Judith Curry, who seeks to mirror her scientific integrity with personal integrity, there remain far too many academics who, as yet, have not 
  • publicly differentiated their personal ideology from their scientific pronouncements
  • recognized that their expertise in some aspect of climate science does not extend to an expertise in science policy
  • distinguished their personal politics from their understanding of the policy process, especially as it applies to climate, energy and sustainability
  • expressed clearly and unequivocally their disdain for those scientists who have manipulated and politicized the IPCC process, and
  • expressed their professional, unbiased assessment of alarmist pronouncements utilized by academics and universities to sell the public an ideologically driven message on sustainability, impending crises and environmental policies.
Sadly, my own university still reflects the fact that far too many academics remain myopically addicted to the kool-aid of environmental alarmism and stubbornly allergic to reformist qualities of any alternatives.