Editors and Policy on Climate Change: An Open Letter

There have been a couple of remarkable turnarounds in the mainstream media of late. For example, Bishop Hill has noticed the significant change of perspective of Geoffrey Lean at the Telegraph:

When even zealots like Lean are in retreat it’s fair to say that something significant has changed. One can only wonder whether this change of tune is a function of the Economist’s coverage of the issue or of what Lean’s contacts are whispering to him about the Fifth Assessment Report.

The important point is that Lean is accepting that climate sensitivity to carbon dioxide might not be as high as previously considered. The economist article is undoubtedly an influence, and again represents a major shift of position from alarmism. I think this is an interesting shift in the reporting of climate change. However, I am not sure that the New Zealand media are catching up yet, so I thought I would ‘pen’ and open letter to the media. I have no idea whether anyone from the media reads this blog, but I thought it was at least worth a try.

Open Letter

I start this letter with a simple point. The success of your newspaper is entirely dependent upon your credibility. I do not mean whether celebrity ‘x’ really had an affair with celebrity ‘y’, but on the substantive issues in the news. For the former, no doubt, the public are forgiving but, for the latter, they will be less so.

Many years ago, a group of scientists started making startling claims that humans were warming the planet due to emissions of carbon dioxide. They made predictions for temperature rises and, along with the rise in temperature, started predicting catastrophe. It was a hot news story. It was a story which could energise people into the ever so noble cause of ‘saving the planet’. With such a noble cause, it was inevitable that the cause would create passionate advocacy. Governments were caught up with the passion too, and commenced a flood of new and often expensive legislation to ‘save the planet’. Passions were raised, and you were part of that process.

We can now jump forwards to the present. The predictions of the scientists are not working out. The warming has stopped. There are also worrying evidence that the climategate scandal was revealing of a simple truth; the feet of the alarmist climate scientists are made of clay. Most recently, another hockey stick temperature chart was produced, and was hailed as a new ‘smoking gun’ for humans driving the climate into oblivion. It did not take long for the claims of the paper and the authors’ claims to the press to be dissected. It seems that they grossly manipulated the data, and the work could be characterised as grossly incompetent at best or fraudulent at worst. It is just the latest in a long line of scandals. You are not reporting on this, or the pause in temperature rise, or the implications of the pause for the climate models on which climate alarmism is founded.

I now return to the point with which I started this letter. Your reporting of climate alarmism has stoked passions, and has played a part in pressuring politicians to act to ‘save the planet’. If this alarm is a false alarm, what will this do to your credibility with your readers?

In particular, there have been a large number of credible scientists who have, for many years, either been questioning the idea of catastrophic global warming, or asking that the science of climate change acknowledge the many uncertainties in the science. As the predictions of catastrophic warming are failing to materialise, these sceptical scientists are starting to be vindicated. Up until now, you have ignored them, or in the worst case, called them ‘deniers’ of the science.

You can continue to promote the alarmism, as you have done up until now. If you do so, and the evidence of the real world continues to contradict the models of climate science alarmism, you are going to look very silly. You see, the trouble is this. It seems that some of the outlets that have previously promoted alarmism (e.g. the Economist) are starting to backtrack a little already. In doing so, they have started the process of protecting their credibility. Just as the tide of climate alarmism rapidly rose, it might just as quickly recede. To use a metaphor borrowed from a financier; you do not want to be the person who is wearing no swimsuit when the tide goes out.

You should start to now think about retaining your credibility. A first step, for those media outlets that do so, is to stop using terms such as ‘denier’. A second step is to acknowledge the uncertainties in climate science, with Professor Judith Currie as an exemplar of this position. You need to acknowledge that there is no consensus on the science. In particular, start reporting the IPCC as what it actually is, which is a fundamentally political institution. You do not have to take a sceptical stance, but simply started restoring balance to your reporting. In doing so, if the tide does indeed go back out, you will not be left exposed as wearing no swimsuit.

The New Hockey Stick

First of all, please accept my apologies for not posting for so long. I have been writing a paper based on some research, and have been working 7 day weeks on it for a long period. It is a challenging piece of work, with some results which undermine a body of theory. In order to get it published I have had to be more thorough, and go into depth that would not normally be required, and still it will be a fight to get it published. This is the nature of challenging the orthodoxy.

On the other hand, if you write something that is in line with the orthodoxy it is relatively easy to publish, even if the standard of the work is not very impressive. This brings me to the subject of this post, which is the Marcott et al (2013) paper, with the abstract as follows:

Surface temperature reconstructions of the past 1500 years suggest that recent warming is unprecedented in that time. Here we provide a broader perspective by reconstructing regional and global temperature anomalies for the past 11,300 years from 73 globally distributed records. Early Holocene (10,000 to 5000 years ago) warmth is followed by ~0.7°C cooling through the middle to late Holocene (<5000 years ago), culminating in the coolest temperatures of the Holocene during the Little Ice Age, about 200 years ago. This cooling is largely associated with ~2°C change in the North Atlantic. Current global temperatures of the past decade have not yet exceeded peak interglacial values but are warmer than during ~75% of the Holocene temperature history. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change model projections for 2100 exceed the full distribution of Holocene temperature under all plausible greenhouse gas emission scenarios.

I typed in the word ‘Marcott’ into Google News search, and the first headline that greeted me said ‘We’re Screwed: 11,000 Years’ Worth of Climate Data Prove It’. I don’t think it is possible to be more ‘alarmist’ than this. The article is found in the Atlantic, and the article lifts the following diagram from the Marcott et al paper:

marcott-A-1000.jpg

The article goes on to say that:

Back in 1999 Penn State climate scientist Michael Mann released the climate change movement’s most potent symbol: The “hockey stick,” a line graph of global temperature over the last 1,500 years that shows an unmistakable, massive uptick in the twentieth century when humans began to dump large amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. It’s among the most compelling bits of proof out there that human beings are behind global warming, and as such has become a target on Mann’s back for climate denialists looking to draw a bead on scientists. [emphasis added]

The article goes on to propose that the Marcott et al paper vindicates Michael Mann’s long discredited hockey stick chart. The hockey stick chart of Mann has always been a key plank of the alarmist argument, as it is the ‘evidence’ that the warming that took place in the 20th century was unprecedented; it was the ‘smoking gun’. In particular, it removed two key elements from the temperature record, which were the medieval warm period, and the little ice age which followed in the wake of the medieval warm period. In a post in Climate etc., Rud Istvan explains it thus:

The MWP has progressively ‘disappeared’ over the course of  the IPCC reports. FAR and SAR showed it to have been much warmer than the present—and nothing to do with CO2. By TAR the MWP was gone, leading to the hockey stick controversy and climategate.

While the MWP did not completely disappear in this new paper, it turned into a <0.1°C blip colder than 1961- 1990. This is quite curious. The MWP was not a blip for the entire northern hemisphere, as illustrated by this figure adapted from a 2010 paper by Ljungvist.

The diagram referenced is given below:

Ljungqvist 2010

As is evident in the Atlantic article, the media bandwagon has started rolling on the findings of Marcott et al, but the problems are already starting to appear. The data used for the paper was made available (which is certainly a positive), but this has allowed others to look closely at the findings. For example, at Suyts blog, Hank ‘discovered that only nine of the 73 proxies contained data that extended to 1950. Of those nine, only two contained data that extended to 2000′ [and] Starting at 1,500 before present (BP), I graphed the nine proxy datasets. And here’s what I got:’

clip_image004

The hockey stick is not apparent, and this is why:

This new 73 proxy study has alarmists convinced that this is an independent verification and vindication of Mann’s hockey stick. It isn’t. The hockey stick blade at the end of the reconstruction is resulting from an adjustment of the proxy data to agree with Mann’s treemometer study. That, or it is an outright splice of Mann’s data directly.

Inevitably, Steve McIntyre, who played a key role in discrediting the Mann hockey stick, has weighed in. In what Bishop Hill calls an ‘astonishing’ post, McIntrye observes that:

Marcott, Shakun, Clark and Mix did not use the published dates for ocean cores, instead substituting their own dates. The validity of Marcott-Shakun re-dating will be discussed below, but first, to show that the re-dating “matters” (TM-climate science), here is a graph showing reconstructions using alkenones (31 of 73 proxies) in Marcott style, comparing the results with published dates (red) to results with Marcott-Shakun dates (black). As you see, there is a persistent decline in the alkenone reconstruction in the 20th century using published dates, but a 20th century increase using Marcott-Shakun dates. (It is taking all my will power not to make an obvious comment at this point.)

The graph comparing the two is given below:

alkenone-comparison

There is plenty more to the critical analysis of the work, for example the absence of the hockey stick in Marcott’s thesis, or the lack of resolution of the proxy data. As a headline from Wattsupwiththat put it, ‘Tick, tick, tick – how long will the new Marcott et al hockey stick survive?‘ My purpose is not to review the many gaping holes appearing in the Marcott et al paper but to consider why this paper has appeared now. The first point to note is that the data was released with the paper. This is important, as it is an admission that hiding data is no longer acceptable practice. However, this presents a problem for alarmists who present questionable work; they are damned if they do not release the data and damned if they do.

As the data comes under increasing scrutiny, it is becoming very apparent that this paper is extremely problematic, and that the conclusions trumpeted by alarmist media sit upon extremely shonky foundations. The authors, unless very naïve, must have been aware that there paper would not hold up to close scrutiny. However, in having a paper accepted in the peer reviewed literature, they have managed to potentially reinstate the hockey stick – and this might now appear in the next IPCC report. In publishing this work, the authors may have sacrificed their credibility to some degree, but in doing so, they have gained membership of the faction in climate science that dominates the literature (see here for why this matters).

The publication of this paper has been important for the alarmist position as the science of climate change, and the alarmist position, is bumping up against the harsh wall of reality. In particular, the models that are so important in the alarmist case are having trouble with the recent stall in warming; they cannot explain it. There is a very good summary of the problems created by the stall in a report issued by the Global Warming Policy Foundation, written by David Whitehouse. This is from the executive summary, but I recommend reading the whole report (about an hour to read):

The standstill observation was first made in 2006; the global annual average temperature had not increased for the previous five years, even though many climate scientists, and the media, were talking about an ever-warming planet powered by strong anthropogenic global warming. The initial debate was couched in cautious scientific terms but, because it ran counter to popular opinion, many dismissed it and questioned the motives of those pointing out these observational facts. But to the amazement of many, and the obvious annoyance of some, as the years passed all the major global temperature datasets showed no warming throughout the first decade of the 21st century and beyond. As this report shows, as the statistical significance of the standstill increased, the debate about its potential importance grew among many branches of science, even though many prominent scientists and institutions, and almost all of the media, were steadfastly looking the other way.

The problem for the alarmist position is that, as David Whitehouse points out, even some of the most prominent alarmists such as Hansen are now having to accept the reality of the stall, albeit they are using various dubious methods to deflect attention away from it. When crying that the world is heading for catastrophe, it is more than a little problematic when the world does not conform to the narrative. As such, it becomes ever more important to shift focus away from the harsh reality of the evidence that contradicts the narrative, and refocus attention on something that might support the narrative.

Perhaps I am wrong, but it is possible that Marcott et al have made ‘a pact with the devil’ (just a metaphor!). In return for creating the right narrative, they join a privileged elite of alarmist climate scientists, but do so at the cost of selling their scientific souls as the price. They have provided a paper which may be highly questionable, appears not to stand up to scrutiny, but have provided the material that is needed by both the media and IPCC to continue an alarmist narrative – in the face of evidence that is increasingly problematic for the alarmist case. In career terms, Marcott et al may have won from this. Their future work will undoubtedly be looked upon kindly by the gatekeepers of climate science.

However, only Marcott et al know their own motives, and I can only speculate on them here. On the one hand, there is a possibility (and one I would like to believe, even if I do not) that they think their paper is ‘sound’ but, in light of the problems in the paper, and the way it has been presented this would be hard to believe. On the other hand there is the possibility they made the trade-off. I can only wish that the former is true, because the latter is just depressing.

Note: The new batch of climategate emails are starting to cause a new stir. I am very pleased that the use of the emails has (so far) been cautious, and attention has been given to preventing non-climate science related emails being kept out of the public domain. We will undoubtedly find some interesting new insights as the tedious task of going through the emails progresses.

Marcott, S. A., J. D. Shakun, et al. (2013). “A Reconstruction of Regional and Global Temperature for the Past 11,300 Years.” Science 339(6124): 1198-1201

The BEST Article Finally Published – Sort of….

I have just found a post on Watts Up With That (WUWT) reporting that the BEST paper has finally been published. For those who are unaware of it, the ‘preview’ of the paper is given below:

We report an estimate of the Earth’s average land surface temperature for the period 1753 to 2011. To address issues of potential station selection bias, we used larger sampling of stations than having prior studies. For the period post 1880, our estimate is similar to those previously reported by other groups, although we report smaller error uncertainties. The land temperature rise from the 1950s decade to the 2000s decade is 0.90 ± 0.05°C (95% confidence).

This is what WUWT said about the publication:

After almost two years and some false starts, BEST now has one paper that has finally passed peer review. The text below is from the email release sent late Saturday. It was previously submitted to JGR Atmospheres according to their July 8th draft last year, but appears to have been rejected as they now indicate it has been published in Geoinformatics and Geostatistics, a journal I’ve not heard of until now.

(Added note: commenter Michael D. Smith points out is it Volume 1 issue 1, so this appears to be a brand new journal. Also troubling, on their GIGS journal home page , the link to the PDF of their Journal Flier gives only a single page, the cover art. Download Journal Flier. With such a lack of description in the front and center CV, one wonders how good this journal is.)

Well, I thought I would do a quick confirmatory check, and took a look for the journal in ISI Web of Knowledge Journal Citation Reports, and check whether this is in any way an established journal. ISI JCR is probably the most important of all of the citation tools:

Progress in science is driven by the publication of novel ideas and experiments, most usually in peer-reviewed journals, but nowadays increasingly just on the internet. We all have our own ideas of which are the most influential journals, but is there a simple statistical metric of the influence of a journal? Most scientists would immediately say Impact Factor (IF), which is published online in Journal Citation Reports® as part of the ISI Web of Knowledgesm (www.thomsonreuters.com/products_services/scientific/Journal_Citation_Reports).

The result of my search Geoinformatics and Geostatistics was:

***** No matching journals were found. *****

For those who are unaware of the way journals work, you should know that anyone can establish a journal. Anyone. As an academic, I quite often receive spam invitations to submit to journals which are entirely without repute, and where they charge a ‘publication fee’ or ‘review fee’. The journals are real, but they have no reputation, and will get no reputation. It might be noted that even some reputable journals charge fees (which is outrageous but not the subject of the post), although I am lucky that this is not the case in my field. However, there are also periods during which a new and serious journal has no reputation, and it takes time to build that reputation.

The interesting thing about this new journal is the publisher. I took a look at the other journals that they list as their own publications, and typed all the journal names listed under ‘A’ into the ISI JCR, and all of them returned the same result:

***** No matching journals were found. *****

I was more than a little surprised, and thought that perhaps it was a problem with the database, so typed in ‘Geophysical research letters’, but it came up with a result (57964 citations). If the sample of journals beginning with the letter ‘A’ is indicative of the standing of the publisher, then this is indicative of a very poor or not yet established academic publisher. I also took a look for journals from my field, and found only one in a related area, and had not heard of it, and this also was not included in the ISI database.

Bearing all of this in mind, we have two options to explain the publication. One is that the BEST group got together, and because they could not get published, decided to simply create their own journal in conjunction with a few allies. The choice of publisher is telling if this is the case. Having a new journal with a launch article that will undoubtedly be cited might help raise the publisher’s profile. For BEST, they can then say that their paper has been peer reviewed and published, but it is all very dubious. The other option is that this is a genuinely new journal seeking to fill a gap in the literature. Again, as the BEST paper will guarantee citations, it will help give the journal an ‘impact factor’ from the start, something which is hard to achieve. In this case, it would be very much in the interest of a new journal to publish such an article.

In both cases, it is all a little dubious. If a study is of a high quality, and is important, it is most unusual that anyone would choose an unknown journal. I know that, in my field, there are the important ‘go to’ journals, and I select from the most prestigious where it has a chance of publication, and with the best fit for my work. This is the same with everyone I know. I am not in a position to judge the article itself, as it is out of my area of expertise, but I can say that the choice of journal and publisher is most odd if the paper is sound and important. Most odd.

The Halt in Warming

For those that read widely on the subject of climate change, you will no doubt be aware that there has been a long halt in warming temperatures and even James Hansen has accepted this as fact. One interesting thing about the story is the way that the story has been treated. For example, David Rose wrote about the halt in the UK’s Daily Mail back in October of last year, only to create a storm of indignation:

Last week The Mail on Sunday provoked an international storm by publishing a new official world temperature graph showing there has been no global warming since 1997.

The figures came from a database called Hadcrut 4 and were issued by the Met Office and the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at East Anglia University.

We received hundreds of responses from readers, who were overwhelmingly critical of those climate change experts who believe that global warming is inevitable.

But the Met Office, whose lead was then followed by climate change campaigners, accused The Mail on Sunday of cherry-picking data in order to mislead readers. It even claimed it had not released a ‘report’, as we had stated, although it put out the figures from which we drew our graph ten days ago.

The Met Office response referred to can be found here. In response to the hail of criticism, David Rose responded with a question at the head of an article; ‘so who are the “deniers” now?’ and it is a very apt question. He writes about the criticism of his article before saying (emphasis added):

But then last week, the rest of the media caught up with our report. On Tuesday, news finally broke of a revised Met Office ‘decadal forecast’, which not only acknowledges the pause, but predicts it will continue at least until 2017. It says world temperatures are likely to stay around 0.43 degrees above the long-term average – as by then they will have done for 20 years.

This is hugely significant. It amounts to an admission that earlier forecasts – which have dictated years of Government policy and will cost tens of billions of pounds – were wrong. They did not, the Met Office now accepts, take sufficient account of  ‘natural variability’ – the effects of phenomena such as ocean temperature cycles – which at least for now are counteracting greenhouse gas warming.

Surely the Met Office would trumpet this important news, as it has done when publishing warnings of imminent temperature rises. But there was no fanfare. Instead, it issued the revised forecast on the ‘research’ section of its website – on Christmas Eve. It only came to light when it was noticed by an eagle-eyed climate blogger, and then by the Global Warming Policy Foundation, the think-tank headed by Lord Lawson.

Then, rather than reporting the news objectively, Britain’s Green Establishment went into denial. Neither The Guardian nor The Independent bothered to report it in their paper editions, although The Independent did later run  an editorial saying that the new forecast was merely a trivial ‘tweak’. Instead, they luridly reported on the heatwave and raging bushfires in Australia.

For those of you who do not read widely on the subject, this halt in warming might come as something of a surprise. For example, I did a search of the New Zealand Herald, and there was lots of reporting of alarm, but no article that seemed to cover the halt. I say ‘seemed’, as I only looked at the headline and summaries for most of the articles. However, I did look at some in more depth, such as this editorial, from which I will provide a quote:

In a review of climate study this week, we reported that New Zealand might fare quite well under the predicted 4C increase in average global temperatures. Here the expected rise is 3C.

Victoria University’s Dr Jim Renwick, a lead author of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel’s next report, said the North Island’s climate would be closer to Queensland’s and the South Island would have the North Island’s conditions. It does not sound so bad.

Melting polar ice caps would raise sea levels a metre, and droughts would be more frequent in eastern regions of New Zealand.

It remains wiser to contribute what we can to international efforts that might reduce or at least slow the rate of warming.

The next IPCC report will examine engineering responses to climate change, such as extracting carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and sending sun-reflecting particles into the stratosphere.

It is something to ponder as we bask in another hot, sunny weekend. And spare a thought for Australia where temperatures are predicted to set records this weekend.

If this is a symptom of global warming we are all in it together.

Oddly, there is no mention of the halt in warming. At least one thing is to their credit; although they tenuously link climate change to the recent heat wave in Australia in the quote, at least they suggest in the introduction that ‘Heat waves in Australia and NZ may not be a symptom of climate change’. This is at least a little better than the reporting elsewhere, including in one of their other articles, which clearly linked recent heatwaves to global warming, and also included this:

And Australia won’t be the only country to suffer from rising temperatures.

A recent study done by Britain’s Met Office showed that 2013 is on course to be the hottest ever globally.

This is odd, as the UK’s Met Office is actually predicting several years of a pause in warming. In fact, when all is said and done, the reporting of the halt in warming is distinctly odd. Very odd. Or rather the absence of headlines is odd. As David Rose suggests, it should be trumpeted. It should be headline news.

The Significance of the the News

The real significance of the news is in what it confirms about the state of the science, and in particular about climate models. For example, GWPF have helpfully translated a Spiegel article, and it includes these comments (emphasis added):

Scientists previously thought 14 years without further warming could be brought into line with their forecasts – but not “15 years or more,” as NASA scientists stated four years ago in the journal “Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society”. In an email to colleagues a renowned scientist wrote on 7 May 2009, at a time when the warming standstill had already lasted for eleven years: “the ‘no upward trend’ has to continue for a total of 15 years before we get worried.”

[and they ask scientists for their views]

However, climate models do not represent stratospheric water vapour “very well”, admits Marotzke. The forecasts remain vague.

[and]

Thus there are plenty of plausible explanations for why global warming has temporarily slowed down. However, the number of guesses also shows how inexact the climate is understood. Could La Niña, for example, continue to have a cooling effect? “The jury is still out on this”, NASA explains.

The article includes several theoretical explanations for the halt, but none of them are given as firm explanations but are instead competing unconfirmed theories lacking in evidential support.

Does this look like the science is settled? It looks far from settled, and only serves to highlight that the climate models used by researchers are, at best, incomplete. Now at this point, you would expect that this would be a cause for celebratory headlines. After all, the story so far is that ‘we are all doomed’, and this narrative is derived from the very same models that are demonstrably inadequate. So what is the reaction of the alarmists to this? The Huffington Post calls the Met Office’s revisions a ‘distraction’ and simply asserts:

Our focus must at all time be on debating and researching new technologies and efforts to tackle climate change – repeated debates about whether climate change is happening or not are extremely unhelpful and distracting at this critical point in time. The argument should be long gone now!

I really like the exclamation mark at the end! The distraction that is being referred to is whether the science is settled. I picked the Huffington Post as an exemplar, as it is arguing that:

[...] climate sceptics are constantly looking for gaps in how climate science is being reported in order to exploit them and fundamentally question whether climate change is actually happening.

It is not gaps in the reporting that are interesting to skeptics, but the gaps in the science. In this case, the failure of the models used to predict catastrophic global warming to predict the climate. They are not working. There are gaps in the science, and these reflect in the models. If the models are wrong, then the output of the models cannot and should not be trusted, at least not at present.

There is nothing to say that the models cannot be improved, but when there are competing and debated explanations for the current halt in warming there are some tough questions that need to be addressed. What is very apparent in the Spiegel article is that there are some very fundamental questions about climate science and this will reflect in the models as they stand. However for the future, assuming that any of the theories are correct, which one goes into revisions of the models? Each of the explanatory theories is different, and the use of each will therefore create a very different model. Each theory is contested or lacks evidential support. Or perhaps the models should use more than one of the explanatory theories but how will they be used together?

And this is exactly why this news should be headlines. Climate scientists cannot even agree on the explanation for the halt in warming. We have been told that the science is settled, that there is consensus on the science, that the debate is settled…and on and on….but it is not settled, and there is no consensus.

Instead, there is uncertainty, unknowns and debate over theory. Furthermore, when being told all these tales of certainty, we were being lied to. Faced with the failure of their models, they have been forced to admit the critical gaps in the science. Yes, they will update their models, perhaps using one, or a combination of the theories (hopefully with some evidence in place by then). The models might even improve. But will this change the tune that is sung? I very much doubt it. Instead, the media will continue to pour out the lie that the ‘science is settled’. This will be promoted by the very same scientists who have been falsely claiming that the science has been settled up to this point in time.

For all of the scientists who have claimed that the science is settled, there is a very basic question; why should be believe you in the future, when it is apparent that you have lied? In other words, the scientists who have claimed consensus, that the science is settled, and even described skeptics as ‘deniers’, have a problem with credibility. ‘Trust us, we’re scientists’ has been the underlying refrain but they have lied to us, and they have been caught lying. There never has been the certainty that they have promoted and there never has been a consensus, not even amongst those who have supported the catastrophic warming theory. It was all lies. After all, if they cannot explain and agree on the recent absence of warming, where is the consensus and certainty?

Greenland and the Medieval Warm Period

Amongst all the debate, sometimes, just sometimes, messages that run contrary to the global warming scare penetrate even in the most ‘green’ of countries and in a ‘green’ media outlet. A story from Spiegel online manages to break one of the great taboos of the global warming scare, when discussing the abandonment of the Viking colony in Greenland. I will quote some excerpts that grabbed my attention:

The descendants of the Vikings had persevered in their North Atlantic outpost for almost 500 years, from the end of the 10th century until the mid-15th century. The Medieval Warm Period had made it possible for settlers from Norway, Iceland and Denmark to live on hundreds of scattered farms along the protected fjords, where they built dozens of churches and even had bishops.

[and]

As the research shows, hunger could hardly have driven the ancestors of the Vikings out of their settlements on the edge of the glaciers. The bone analyses prove that, when the warm period came to an end, the Greenlandic farmers and ranchers switched to a seafood-based diet with surprising rapidity. From then on, the settlers focused their efforts on hunting the seals that appeared in large numbers off the coasts of Greenland during their annual migrations.

When settlement began in the early 11th century, only between 20 and 30 percent of their diet came from the sea. But seal hunting played a growing role in the ensuing centuries. “They ate more and more seal meat, with the animals constituting up to 80 percent of their diet in the 14th century,” explains team member Jan Heinemeier, a dating expert from the University of Aarhus, in Denmark.

His fellow team member Niels Lynnerup, an anthropologist and forensic scientist at the University of Copenhagen, confirms that the Vikings of Greenland had plenty to eat even as the climate grew colder. “Perhaps they were just sick and tired of living at the ends of the earth and having almost nothing but seals to eat,” he says.

One can imagine the catastrophic warming advocates spluttering into their coffee as the heresy is absorbed. Medieval warm period? But surely that was long ago banished by Saint Michael Mann? Sadly for the alarmists, it seems that the archaeologists and historians investigating this are simply not on message.

 

Apologies: This post originally had Iceland in the title. Oops.

The Chaos of German ‘Renewable’ Energy

I have been detailing the disaster of Germany’s dash for renewables, and the problem is now spilling over to Germany’s neighbours. I picked up this story from a translation of a Die Welt article at GWPF:

Germany considers itself the environmental conscience of the world: with its nuclear phase-out and its green energy transition, the federal government wanted to give the world a model to follow. However, blinded by its own halo Germany overlooked that others have to pay for this green image boost and are suffering as a result.

For example, Germany’s ‘eco-miracle’ simply used the power grids of neighboring countries not only without asking for permission but also without paying for it. Now Poland and the Czech Republic have pulled the plug and are building a huge switch-off at their borders to block the uninvited import of green energy from Germany which is destabalising their grids and is thus risking blackouts.

The problem is detailed further here, under the catchy title of ‘German Renewables Run Amuck’:

Germany allows any family to put a solar power unit on its roof and start feeding its output into its own house and thereby replace public power supply. Initially, the panels on the roofs fed cheap electricity into the grid and brought down the costs. But soon there were too many. On bright, sunny days, those families were generating anything up to 30 gigawatts of electricity and feeding it into the grid. The result was massive surges in the grid. There was not enough demand for the power, and Germany exported power to Poland at such times. That destabilised the Polish grid, and Poland is now installing equipment to stop power inflows from Germany. In Germany itself, the midday surge in power reduced the demand for power from conventional plants, which are no longer profitable, so no one is prepared to invest in conventional power plants.

And more detail again here:

One impact from rising intermittent German wind power generation in the north of the country is of electricity spilling into neighboring networks en route back into southern Germany or Austria, called loop flows.

Another is of rising exports of cheaper, intermittent power, undercutting the economics of baseload power in Germany’s neighbors.

The interesting point here is that the undercutting has been spun as being a result of cheaper German energy prices as a result of them shifting to renewables:

Moreover, by blocking the German access to their grid, they prevent Germany companies from selling their electricity, which is cheaper than that of the Central Europeans, to Austria.

“This is what it’s really all about,” says Rainer Baake, director of the think tank Agora Energiewende and former high-ranking official in the German environmental ministry. “Germany’s increase in clean energy has led to Germany’s wholesale electricity prices becoming cheaper and cheaper. Now it’s less expensive to import electricity from Germany than to produce it in coal fired power plants in Eastern Europe – let alone to build new nuclear power plants.”

I took a look at a translation of the Agora website, and they are a think tank dedicated to advocacy for renewable energy. This is the situation of German energy costs in relation to the rest of Europe:

The global average for the cost of one megawatt hour of electricity is around 23 euros ($31). In Germany, the same runs about 45 euros ($60) – making electricity here the second-most expensive in Europe (after Denmark).

As a note, Denmark has also rushed into wind energy. So it not that Germany is creating cheap electricity, but rather that intermittent energy leads Germany to simply dump their excess on their neighbours, as they absolutely have to remove it from their own grid, or risk a collapse of their own grid. This then exports the problem to other countries, who then have to deal with the consequences of power peaks from Germany, as well as the impact of their dumping on the economics of their own energy sector. It is no wonder that these neighbours are up in arms over the issue. It is a very simple issue; they are importing problems of intermittency that are not of their own making. It seems that if Germany wants to go down their own mad route to renewables, those who are following their own policy of generating reliable energy should not pay the price.

In addition to the fundamental problems of renewables again becoming evident, the reaction of renewable energy advocates is revealing. The claim that the reason for the problems being ‘cheap’ German renewable energy is simply laughable. Nevertheless, it appears in a report on the issue without any reference to the sky high energy prices within Germany. The high energy prices in Germany are now really starting to develop acute problems for the German economy. This is a passage from one of the articles cited earlier:

The path toward an energy policy that everyone can agree on is a bumpy one, which particularly economists are increasingly worrying about. The German industrial sector accounts for 24 percent of the gross domestic product; many of its businesses have high electricity consumption.

Every second one of these businesses associates the ongoing energy sector with a decline in competitiveness, according to Hans-Heinrich Driftman, a businessman and head of the Federation of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce.

Driftman said almost all businesses should expect higher electricity bills for 2013, compared to 2012. He said passing on to the consumers the costs for funding renewable energies his company’s bill will increase from 300,000 euros ($398,000) to 450,000 euros ($598,000).

“With these amounts of money, as a businessman I have to think about where I can make some cuts,” Driftman said.

Indeed, I have posted on this subject several times. In many of the posts, it is apparent that there is increasing alarm over the cost of Germany’s renewable energy policy by businesses in Germany. I recently posted on renewable cost exemptions being made to certain businesses, but this just hides the kind of business closures that garner headlines, rather than the gradual erosion of competitiveness that comes with renewable energy. For every Euro not paid by the exempted businesses, someone somewhere is making up the difference:

Since Spenner’s company is registered as an “energy-intensive business,” his electricity bill is exempt from the rollover costs of renewable energy production. These costs are made up of government-guaranteed reimbursements to the energy producers based on the amount of electricity they feed into the grid coming from renewable sources.

These extra costs, which shall be passed on to consumers, are estimated to amount to 23 billion euros ($31 billion) for 2013. This means that each electricity consumer will pay an extra 5.28 cent per kilowatt hour.

But Spenner wonders how long the government can afford sticking to its promise of exempting businesses such as his from the extra costs. “We’re worried when we see how private households are being maneuvered into opposing energy-intensive sectors. This should not be the case, because if we weren’t exempt, we’d be facing an existential problem.”

In addition to Germany facing problems, the problems are broader than Germany. The push towards renewable energy and the anti-fracking policies throughout Europe are now seeing interest from European companies to relocate to the US, where the fracking revolution has seen diving energy costs. This from the New York Times:

LONDON — On Dec. 19, Voestalpine, an Austrian maker of high-quality steel for the auto industry, announced that it would build a plant in North America that would employ natural gas to reduce iron ore to a kind of raw iron that would then be used in the company’s European blast furnaces.

Asked whether he had considered building the plant in Europe, Voestalpine’s chief executive, Wolfgang Eder, said that that “calculation does not make sense from the very beginning.” Gas in Europe is much more expensive, he said.

High energy costs are emerging as an issue in Europe that is prompting debate, including questioning of the Continent’s clean energy initiatives. Over the past few years, Europe has spent tens of billions of euros in an effort to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. The bulk of the spending has gone into low-carbon energy sources like wind and solar power that have needed special tariffs or other subsidies to be commercially viable.

“We embarked on a big transition to a low-carbon economy without taking into account the cost and without factoring in the competitive impact,” says Fabien Roques, head of European power and carbon at the energy consulting firm IHS CERA in Paris. “I think there will be a critical review of some of these policies in the next few years.”

Both consumers and the industry are upset about high energy costs. Energy-intensive industries like chemicals and steel are, if not closing European plants outright, looking toward places like the United States that have lower energy costs as they pursue new investments.

Germany has now grabbed the lead in the transition to renewable energy. Unlike a country like New Zealand, they have been able to export their problems to their neighbours, at least for the moment. New Zealand has no such neighbours. However, in addition to Germany’s neighbours bearing the price of the intermittency of German energy, they have to deal with their own problems; an increasingly uncompetitive energy industry in Europe overall. This is down to the ‘green’ objections to fracking and renewables policies, and they will pay a price in jobs and their manufacturing output.

As I have said in previous posts, the ‘green’ renewables future is not now just in the future, but is becoming a reality. That reality is very straightforward. It is an increase in the cost of living and a declining economy. It is folly beyond belief, and New Zealand is endorsing this madness in its own dash for ‘renewable’ expensive, intermittent, and economically damaging energy. When is the New Zealand government going to wake up from its disastrous and politically correct dash for renewables? I simply despair.

Jo Nova and the ABC

Jo Nova has just posted for the second time on her interview with ABC. For those unfamiliar with Jo Nova, she is the most well known Australian skeptic, and her website attracts considerable attention. As a result, the Australian ABC chose her, and her husband, to represent the skeptical side of the climate change debate. Having seen other skeptics abused in the editing process, Jo asked for an independent cameraman to film the interview as insurance against bad editing. I forget her exact words, but it was something along the lines of ‘protecting our reputations’. Jo has now published the full copy of the interview, and contrasts it with the way that their views were presented by ABC. Jo gives an account of what was used from 2 hours of interview for herself below:

Jo:                Carbon dioxide.

Jo:                There’s some small immeasurable amount.

Jo:                The data says –

Joanne:      (Laughs)

Jo:                The planet is not going to be destroyed.

Jo summarises how they presented their argument thus:

David and I made it absolutely clear that we held our positions because of the evidence (between us we mentioned the word “evidence” nearly 100 times). But this wouldn’t have fitted with the theme later in the show where Smith and Nasht get psychologists to explain that it’s really all about “ideology”, and skeptics are skeptics because they’re old white males. (Like Jo right?) An honest doco would have taken care to at least let David and I explain our position. David showed four pieces of evidence that showed the models are wrong, yet the editors completely removed any reference to three of the four key pieces of evidence. This is despite the graphs being filmed twice, and referred to repeatedly by both David and myself in preps and in the filming. Indeed, I mentioned “28 million radiosondes” five times (a reference to the missing hot spot).  Later, David pointed out that ignoring the poor siting of thermometers is one way the modelers conceal the failure of their models. The editors jumbled these two aspects together with tricky snipping to suggest that the photos of thermometers were one of our “two” key points of evidence for the failure of the models.

That number is important: we clearly presented four pieces of evidence (1. models overestimated air temperatures from 1990, 2. models overestimated ocean warming since when we started measuring it properly in 2003, 3. models predict a pattern of atmospheric warming — responsible for most of the warming in the models — that is entirely missing from copious weather balloon measurements, and 4. models predict outgoing radiation increases with surface rising surface temperature when satellite measurements show the opposite). But they moved David’s words around (by cutting and pasting) to make it appear he said he presented two pieces (which he never said), and to make it appear as if the dodgy land thermometers were one of those two pieces of evidence. Net result: they actively concealed from the audience, by trickery, the evidence that mattered and that we presented four independent sets of data in support of our position.

In looking at the transcript and video, it is very apparent that they were, in no way, presented fairly in the ABC documentary. Indeed, an emphasis on the evidence by Jo and her husband David was the main theme of their argument. In response, the interviewer instead continually pointed to authority (e.g. the IPCC) instead of actually engaging with the argument based upon the evidence, or turned the subject to smears regarding funding. There were a few exceptions, but these simply highlighted the interviewer’s poor knowledge of the science in question.

Overall it is a very shabby incident. For those who are new to the climate change debate, I would strongly recommend taking a look at the video of the interview. It delves into some technicalities which are difficult if you are unfamiliar with the climate change debate, so parts of the interview may be hard going. However, if you can take the time to watch it, note how the debate plays out; the presentation of observational evidence that contradicts the climate models, the refusal of the interviewer to engage with that evidence (mostly), and the switches to appeals to authority and ad hominem attacks. In the final edit for the documentary, the arguments put forward by Jo and David are distorted, and the result is, by any reasonable standard, an extremely biased presentation. If you have any doubts, the transcript of the broadcast can be found as a link at the bottom of the page here, annotated by David.

I highlight this as it is a good illustration of the problems with the portrayal of the skeptical case. There are no startling revelations in the interview, but a presentation of the skeptical case based upon evidence. To those familiar with the debate, there is nothing new, but for those unfamiliar with the debate, it gives an opportunity to see how a media outlet may be in thrall to alarmist arguments, and seek to hide/distort the skeptic view. It is important for this reason alone; for those unfamiliar with the debate, it shows that much of the media cannot be trusted on this issue.