Category Archives: The ‘Consensus’

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 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.

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.

The Lewandowsky Affair

It has been impossible to miss the significant amount of attention that had been given to a paper by Lewandowsky which essentially claims that climate ‘deniers’ are a bunch of conspiracy nuts. Climate Audit has taken the research, the analysis and claims made in the paper to pieces, and pretty well all the skeptic bloggers have piled in to discuss the problems with the paper. I will ask forgiveness for not linking to the many discussions of the problems of the paper, but there is simply too much. However, I will link to one discussion which was in turn linked to from the Climate Conversation Group. The post in question is William Briggs, a statistician:

One day a terrific psychological study is going to be written on the madness and mass lunacy which arose after climate change swam into the public’s ken. I don’t mean the actions and thoughts of the man-in-the-street, which were and are no different in this area than they were and are in any political matterhe . No: the real curiosity is what happened to academia, inside departments which haven’t anything to do with climatology.

There, surrounded by people eager to agree with each other and fueled by infinite estimates of their own intelligence, great hoards of degreed non-experts, people who couldn’t derive the Omega equation if you threatened to remove their tenure and who think Vorticity is a town in Spain, lectured all of mankind on why The End Was Near, Unless…

Unless they, the non-experts, were hearkened to, esteemed, feted, moneyed, and just plain listened to, dammit.

What I really liked about the post was the idea that Lewandowsky, who is not a climate scientist, claims enough expertise to claim (in effect) that the science of climate change is settled, and settled on the ‘alarmist’ side of the debate. His argument is one which implicitly suggests that we should listen to the scientists, and just accept their findings. This is how William Briggs put the point:

  • Mistake 1: Lewandowsky is not a domain expert, and by his argument is not qualified to speak on matters climatic, yet speak he does.
  • Mistake 2: His opinion about how to consider the science of climate change is therefore no more valuable than any other non-domain expert’s (about the physics), but he considers by this act of publishing that it is.
  • Mistake 3: He conflates voting with truth. His fallacy is to suppose that because the majority of domain experts say X, X is therefore true.
  • Mistake 4: He conflates numbers with weight of evidence. His fallacy is to suppose the minority of domain experts who do not agree with the majority are not to be listened to because they are only a minority.

I actually agree with William, but I think he misses an essential point. He discusses the point about domain expertise, but is there actually a climate change domain of expertise? For example, if we look at psychology, it might have been considered a distinct discipline in the early days of study, such as when James was publishing, but it is now increasingly tangled up with neuroscience, which is in turn tangled up with other disciplines such as chemistry and so forth. A psychologist may specialise in a particular area and draw on the expertise of other related but distinct disciplines.

For example, evolutionary psychology draws on a diverse range of disciplines, such as anthropology, archaeology, and ethology. An evolutionary psychologist can reasonably claim to be an evolutionary psychologist, but their domain of expertise is fuzzy, and the title is a convenience. Some evolutionary psychologists will specialise in religion, some in kin relationships, and so forth. Each sub-specialisation in turn draws upon different fields of science to different degrees. Evolutionary psychology is a lumping together of a group of people who draw upon a range of domains to try to explain human behaviour. Whilst there is expertise in some respects, the nature of that expertise is ‘fuzzy’.

If we think of climate change scientists, it is a similar picture. It seems that many people who are given the title ‘climate scientist’ have a narrow domain of genuine expertise, but draw upon the expertise of other groups of scientists. The question that needs to be asked is where a domain of expertise starts and stops. It is a question that matters. For example, were an evolutionary psychologist to pronounce that human psychology is founded in the process of evolution, this would be a reasonably (I guess) uncontroversial thing to say. However, if an evolutionary psychologist were to pronounce with absolute certainty that all human behaviour is only the result of evolution, they might find many colleagues that disagree. Quite reasonably, the said colleagues would identify the complexities of causation of human behaviour.

Our confident pronouncer might have a particular area of expertise, and that area of expertise and their own studies might indicate the primacy of evolution in their particular area of study. Here, I am stretching somewhat, but I hope I will be forgiven as it is an analogy. However, even if finding that there is a primacy of evolution in their area, it does not qualify them to make the general pronouncement; that all human behaviour is only the result of evolution. However, the equivalent is taking place in climate science. Said ‘climate scientists’ are making these kinds of pronouncements.

A riposte might be that there is a consensus amongst evolutionary psychologists that human psychology is founded in human evolution. This is no different to the so-called scientific consensus on climate change; this is equivalent. However, even if there were such a consensus, it is not equivalent. Human behaviour is complex, and attribution of causation of behaviour is an issue of complexity. In psychology, they are self-critical over the issue of attribution. For example, Henrich, Heine and Norenzayan’s (2010) highlight that many studies that present generalisations about human psychology may be studying the narrow psychology of one culture i.e. cultural influences are being ignored. As such, in evolutionary psychology they increasingly proceed with caution. The difference with many climate scientists is that they offer no such caution, and make pronouncements with certainty in the face of equivalent complexity.

We can present a consensus that might be equivalent to the consensus in evolutionary psychology, but it is a consensus that many will not accept. In studies  of evolutionary psychology and climate, attribution and causation are complex, and uncertainties abound. In both disciplines, caution is needed before making pronouncements of certainty, regardless of what is found in the narrow domain of a particular scientist’s expertise. A real and valid equivalent to the consensus in evolutionary psychology might be something like this; carbon dioxide is a factor in determining the climate of the planet, but the complexity of climate and climate change make the degree of influence of carbon dioxide on the overall climate an open question. It seems that this is something that should forge a consensus.

So we return to the Lewandowsky affair. He commences his paper with a belief that there are a body of ‘climate scientists’ that are able to pronounce with certainty; they may be specialists in one area of climate science, but that in no way qualifies them to pronounce on the whole field of climate science. They may pronounce that, in their narrow area, they find evidence of attribution of factor x, but it is in their narrow area, and the findings of others who study climate need to be considered. That they lack this modesty and acceptance of the scope of their findings is a problem. That they can pronounce certainty in a complex system is a problem. They may be scientists engaged in the study of the climate, but the field of their study is limited and they are studying an area of complexity.

Whilst some climate scientists and their supporters claim a consensus, it is apparent that the consensus fails to acknowledge the limitations of their field of endeavour and the scope of the huge field of climate science. Moreover, it should be remembered that consensus, even if it exists, does not make science. In the case of evolutionary psychology, it is a field that has overturned the standard social science model of human behaviour in which human behaviour was seen as the product of learning and culture. Evolutionary psychology provides an exemplar; it recognises that human behaviour can be attributed to our evolution as well as culture and learning. It recognises that attribution in the face of complexity is a task that requires caution. Lewandowsky makes the error of believing that a ‘climate scientist’ might pronounce on their own field of study, but this in no way carries the weight to pronounce over such a wide domain of study.

Henrich, J., Heine, S. J., & Norenzayan, A. (2010). The weirdest people in the world? Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 33, 61–83

Update: I have just visited Jo Nova’s blog and found that it is showing that the account has been suspended. Anyone know what is going on? It is a worry, as her blog is often very good value. It is quite strident in some respects, and I wonder whether this is a hacking attack, as I am aware there has been a similar problem before.

Update 2: I just visited Watssupwiththat, and it appears that Jo’s site has been hacked again. An interesting approach to debate; seek to shut down the voice of those who disagree with you……

The Impact of Climategate II

There has been a lot of talk of that Climategate 2 has had less impact than the original climate gate. My own contribution to the revelations was to reveal the horrendous story in which the ‘team’ sought to have a journal editor sacked for allowing the publication of an article that disagreed with their views. It was a clear case of an attempt to corrupt peer reviewed science. As such, I was pleased to find an open letter in the Wall Street Journal, which is written by scientists concerned at the nature and tenor of the debate on climate change. This is the discussion of the sacking.

Although the number of publicly dissenting scientists is growing, many young scientists furtively say that while they also have serious doubts about the global-warming message, they are afraid to speak up for fear of not being promoted—or worse. They have good reason to worry. In 2003, Dr. Chris de Freitas, the editor of the journal Climate Research, dared to publish a peer-reviewed article with the politically incorrect (but factually correct) conclusion that the recent warming is not unusual in the context of climate changes over the past thousand years. The international warming establishment quickly mounted a determined campaign to have Dr. de Freitas removed from his editorial job and fired from his university position. Fortunately, Dr. de Freitas was able to keep his university job.

It is indeed very sad that association with positions  contrary to some people might be met with this kind of behaviour. However, the letter also covers some other points worth mentioning. For example:

A candidate for public office in any contemporary democracy may have to consider what, if anything, to do about “global warming.” Candidates should understand that the oft-repeated claim that nearly all scientists demand that something dramatic be done to stop global warming is not true. In fact, a large and growing number of distinguished scientists and engineers do not agree that drastic actions on global warming are needed.

In September, Nobel Prize-winning physicist Ivar Giaever, a supporter of President Obama in the last election, publicly resigned from the American Physical Society (APS) with a letter that begins: “I did not renew [my membership] because I cannot live with the [APS policy] statement: ‘The evidence is incontrovertible: Global warming is occurring. If no mitigating actions are taken, significant disruptions in the Earth’s physical and ecological systems, social systems, security and human health are likely to occur. We must reduce emissions of greenhouse gases beginning now.’ In the APS it is OK to discuss whether the mass of the proton changes over time and how a multi-universe behaves, but the evidence of global warming is incontrovertible?”

I remember reading the Ivar Giaever open letter, and should really have posted/commented upon it. I have also read about other shenanigans in which some have tried to manufacture the consensus through manipulation of statistics for support for climate alarmism (sorry, no reference to hand).

My guess is that, without the fear of career damage, the quest for grants, the dubious ‘consensus’ would look even more threadbare than it already is. For example, many years ago I heard a BBC Radio 4 interview* in which an anthropologist was researching the impact of climate change on hunter gatherers in Scandinavia. The interviewer was interested in climate change, but it was very clear that all the anthropologist wanted to do was discuss the interesting facets of the culture of the people under study. No doubt, the addition of climate change in his application for a research grant was useful.

Perhaps one day it will be possible for climate science to return to ‘normal science’ (I am aware that this is a problematic phrase, but seeking to stop contrary views is not ‘normal’ science in any reasonable interpretation). It certainly seems that the right questions are now being asked. In some ways, this may be of benefit to the wider realm of science; as anyone who is involved in critical positions on any subject will tell you, the effort of getting critiques of established thinking is always a challenge. I can only hope that, in addition to all of the negative aspects of climate science, there is a possibility that it will, in the end, raise some fundamental questions and encourage a more open approach to science.

In the meantime, sadly, the climate debate will be restricted by an oppressive system that seeks to stifle any contrary views. To be more positive, this may be on the road to change…..

*I am sorry to have two items unreferenced. For the 2nd example, it really was a long, long time ago…..

The IPCC as a Scientific Organisation?

We hear it endlessly. The IPCC uses the best scientists in the world for the compilation of the IPCC reports. The problem is that it is simply not true.

There are undoubtedly some very good scientists working for the IPCC. The problem is that many of them are not. I have been following work of Donna Laframboise in investigating the IPCC on her blog No Frakking Consensus for some time, and picked up that she has now published a book length critique of the IPCC. Donna has, for a long time, been picking through both the CVs of the IPCC contributors, as well as their processes. The result is a rather ugly picture of an institution that was supposed (and purports) to be the gold standard of science.

I wrote about one of Donna’s findings a long while ago, in which Donna wrote a piece about Dr. Sari Kovats. Kovats was awarded her PhD in 2010, but had been working as a scientist for the IPCC since 1994, and was given the role of a lead author three years before being awarded her PhD. This is but one of the astonishing examples that Donna uncovers. An equal concern is the number of key people in the IPCC that are affiliated with activist groups such as WWF, or Greenpeace. Then there is the process of peer review, or lack of it. The many tales of the conflicts of interest in the peer review process, and the lack of independent oversight make a dismal picture.

I would like to tell you that I have read the book already, but am waiting for the availability of the paper version (I hate reading on the screen, and it seems harder to concentrate on the content when I do so). However, the sample of the book on Amazon looks encouraging, and of course there has been the excellent work and investigations on Donna’s blog. As such, I suspect it will be a very good  read. Apparently the book is very well referenced and I suspect that the book will have some impact. For example,   the very fair minded Judith Currie, over at Climate etc., says the following (after a few minor critiques):

But overall, Donna Laframboise is to be congratulated for writing an important book.  Read it, it costs only $4.99 on Kindle.
So, how will this book be received by the climate establishment?  First, I suspect that they will attempt to smear Laframboise as a denier.  This is not the case.  Her prime motivation seems to be a concern about free speech; she has a long standing involvement in free speech issues in Canada.  Second, people will pick apart some of the minor points that are arguably suboptimal interpretations.
In terms of the broader audience, I have to say that I hope that this book leads to the discontinuation of the IPCC after the AR5 report (which is already well underway, and is arguably sufficiently tarnished that it is likely to have much less influence than previous reports.)

The following is a long quote lifted from a section of the book in the National Post, about some of the (ahem)….interesting CVs of IPCC ‘scientists’:

For example, Laurens Bouwer is currently employed by an environmental studies institute at the VU University Amsterdam. In 1999-2000, he served as an IPCC lead author before earning his master’s degree in 2001.

How can a young man without even a master’s degree become an IPCC lead author? Bouwer’s expertise is in climate change and water resources. Yet the chapter for which he first served as a lead author was titled Insurance and Other Financial Services.

It turns out that, during part of 2000, Bouwer was a trainee at Munich Reinsurance Company. This means the IPCC chose as a lead author someone who was a trainee, who lacked a master’s degree, and was still a full decade away from receiving his 2010 PhD.

My suspicion is that the book will just be the start. One of the key points used to promote the credibility of the global warming scare is the credibility of the IPCC as a rigorous scientific institution. Whilst there may be many good scientists working for the IPCC, I suspect this book will  lead more people to call in to question the credibility of the institution. In one sense I feel rather sorry for the scientists who have contributed in good faith, as some of the tarnish on the IPCC may eventually rub off on them. If I have time, once I get my copy, I will try to remember to do a full review. For those keen to find out for themselves, the pdf version can be purchased here, and a Kindle version on Amazon here. Please feel free to post your reviews in the comments section.