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Science Marchers, Secretary Perry’s Memo and Bill Nye’s Optimism

By Planning Engineer | Climate Etc. | April 24, 2017

On April 14th, 2017 Rick Perry wrote a memo headed “STUDY EXAMINING ELECTRICITY MARKETS AND RELAIBILITY” calling for study to investigate how long term energy trends my impact the grid.

My “sciencey” friends on social media are linking to this article, “Energy Secretary Rick Perry Wants to Know if Solar is Eroding the Electricity Supply” and reacting with incredulity and derision. Overall the comments mostly are insults such as wondering if this is really an article from the Onion, to questioning if he were dropped on his head as a baby. As far as substance I have not seen much that has gone beyond asserting that various places with more solar and/or wind resources have better reliability and lower outage rates. If the later sort of comments were the start of a dialogue, that would be a good thing. Unfortunately they seem to be a way to emphasize the discussion is over and dismiss any concerns around renewables. Why does any potentially critical examination around the capabilities of renewable energy engender such outrage?

What is contained in the memo?

It starts out reasonably enough:

At the most recent G7 Energy Ministerial, my colleagues discussed the need for an energy transition utilizing greater efficiency and fuel diversity. There was also notable concern about how certain policies are affecting, and potentially putting at risk, energy security and reliability. It impressed upon me that the United States should take heed of the policy choices our allies have made, and take stock of their consequences.

A reliable and resilient electric system is essential to protecting public health and fostering economic growth and job creation. The U.S. electric system is the most sophisticated and technologically advanced in the world. Consumers utilize heating, air conditioning, computers, and appliances with few disruptions. Nonetheless, there are significant changes occurring within the electric system that could profoundly affect the economy and even national security, and as such, these changes require further study and investigation.

Discussing a need for an energy transition with greater efficiency and diversity sounds like a positive step and it is prudent to consider impacts on energy security and reliability. Clearly we should look at what other nations are doing. We do have a great electric system but there are changes underway that could profoundly impact the power system. It should be obvious we need further study and investigation.

Baseload power is necessary to a well-functioning electric grid. We are blessed as a nation to have an abundance of domestic energy resources, such as coal, natural gas, nuclear, and hydroelectric, all of which provide affordable base load power and contribute to a stable, reliable, and resilient grid. Over the last few years, however, grid experts have expressed concerns about the erosion of critical baseload resources.

Could not agree more. See my posting, Renewables and Grid Reliability, from January of 2016 for a full treatment of such emerging issues.

Specifically, many have questioned the manner in which baseload power is dispatched and compensated. Still others have highlighted the diminishing diversity of our nation’s electric generation mix, and what that could mean for baseload power and grid resilience.

Renewable resources are leaning on the power system. These are mainstream concerns that have increasingly been articulated in various forums. For more detailed treatment see, All megawatts are not equal and More renewables? Watch out for the Duck Curve.

This has resulted in part from regulatory burdens introduced by previous administrations that were designed to decrease coal-fired power generation. Such policies have destroyed jobs and economic growth, and they threaten to undercut the performance of the grid well into the future. Finally, analysts have thoroughly documented the market-distorting effects of federal subsidies that boost one form of energy at the expense of others. Those subsidies create acute and chronic problems for maintaining adequate baseload generation and have impacted reliable generators of all types.

I think coal fired-generation within the US has taken a hit which it is unlikely to recover from. Policies may have hastened the retirements of various coal facilitates, which if left alone might still be operational and contributing to the grid today. However with the cost of gas and its associated infrastructure it is too costly to bring back or construct new coal generation for the foreseeable future. I would not spend too much time crying over spilt milk.

Each of these and other related issues must be rigorously studied and analyzed, and the Department of Energy is uniquely qualified for the task. The results of this analysis will help the federal government formulate sound policies to protect the nation’s electric grid. In establishing these policies, the Trump Administration will be guided by the principles of reliability, resiliency, affordability, and fuel assurance-principles that underpin a thriving economy.

I’m glad to see the attention given to these important considerations. I would prefer the last sentence read, “In establishing these policies, the Trump Administration will be guided by the principles of reliability, resiliency, affordability, respect for the environment and fuel assurance-principles that underpin a thriving economy.” As argued here before (Balance and the Grid), energy policy must balance economics reliability and public responsibility. However I expect that in this case the Secretary may be trying to emphasize the major components that have suffered from a lack of attention.

I am directing you today to initiate a study to explore critical issues central to protecting the long-term reliability of the electric grid, using the full resources and relationships available to the Department. By Wednesday, April 19, 2017, present to me an implementation plan to complete this study 60-days from that date, that will explore the following issues:

  • The evolution of wholesale electricity markets, including the extent to which federal policy interventions and the changing nature of the electricity fuel mix are challenging the original policy assumptions that shaped the creation of those markets;
  • Whether wholesale energy and capacity markets are adequately compensating attributes such as on-site fuel supply and other factors that strengthen grid resilience and, if not, the extent to which this could affect grid reliability and resilience in the future; and
  • The extent to which continued regulatory burdens, as well as mandates and tax and subsidy policies, are responsible for forcing the premature retirement of baseload power plants.

I have committed to the President that this report will not only analyze problems but also provide concrete policy recommendations and solutions. I also committed to the President that I will do everything within my legal authority to ensure that we provide American families and businesses an electric power system that is technologically advanced, resilient, reliable, and second to none.

Certainly such information would help drive policy decisions. In closing he makes a strong commitment to advancing technology and providing resilience and reliability. This appears to be a perfectly reasonable request and commitment for the US Secretary of Energy to make. As mentioned earlier, perhaps this memo would include some commitment for environmental responsibility. But understand that in the United States we have multiple departments and agencies with often competing interests that are designed to provide balance. The Secretary of Energy will not operate in isolation and perhaps it is a good thing that he is primarily focused on “Energy” issues as his agenda will be balanced by other competing interests within our political process.

Reactions to the Memo

I struggle to find anything much of significance that anyone within the grid expert community would take issue with. Of course we will have to wait and see how the study comes out and examine its findings and conclusions. There may be problems at that point, but at this time it is just a call for information. Yet many “science fans” find Secretary Perry’s actions threatening, preposterous and ridiculous on the surface. Why is that?

The “science” support community as represented by recent marchers puts a lot of faith in what is seen as the consensus of climate experts. Evidently this respect for “experts” does not extend to grid experts. They tend to accept that there are no proper grid concerns because of assurances by those in the renewable industries, as well as those with strong self-promotional interests.

Does Mr. Nye have the answer?

I see “science fans” applauding and promoting Bill Nye’s call for 100% renewable generation by 2050.  One might think if one endorsed Mr. Nye’s plan it would also be prudent to encourage studies such as the one advocated by the Secretary of Energy. Certainly Mr. Nye is not a power systems expert, nor have I seen him reference any when he is explaining how such a transition can be accomplished. We should all be at least somewhat skeptical about the potential consequences of such a significant endeavor.

What I may be missing is the role of “optimism” which Mr. Nye assures us is a necessary ingredient for this transition. I’d seen hints of this before and perhaps what is happening is that far too many people obstinately reject any criticism regarding renewables because they believe that optimism is crucial if the planet is to be saved. Consequently no one should utter a disparaging word about any of the potential “preferred” renewable solutions. The view seems to be that we must get started now and we will work out the distracting details as we go along.

Perhaps this explains why those who view climate with extreme alarm often show no tolerance for criticism of renewable energy? Otherwise, why are grid experts not trusted? Grid experts have academic credentials, share a common body of knowledge, and continually build and alter their understandings based upon empirical evidence. Individually and collectively they work to be innovative and develop new approaches and challenge older perspectives. Grid experts have a proven track record of success. As I’ve argued before, grid experts do not for the most part have a strong vested personal interest in the status quo. An ambitious, aggressive transfer to greater renewables would increase the demand and likely compensation for most all existing grid experts.

Bill Nye says, “You are not going to accomplish anything unless you are optimistic”. Could it just boil down to a belief in optimism that causes the self-identified “science support community to recoil and scoff at projected potential risks to the grid? Is this the drive for so much anger and derision? Will increased knowledge and experience shrink the division? Certainly virtue signaling is going on, surely there is an element of tribalism, undoubtedly group think and cognitive dissonance play a part as well, but in the end is it just about optimism?

Hopefully it would go without saying, but let me be clear – The power system is a complex, crucial critical infrastructure that has overarching societal importance and benefits. Avoiding critical reflection while attempting to transition to something new, in order to maintain optimism with vague hopes that innovative solutions will somehow appear when needed is a ludicrous idea that will not only serve to harm us all, but will also work to retard the advance of future beneficial renewable technologies.

April 25, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | , | Leave a comment

What The IPCC Said About Glaciers In 1990

By Paul Homewood | Not A Lot Of People Know That | April 25, 2017

When we talk about glaciers retreating, it is worth recalling what the first IPCC Report in 1990 had to say about the matter:

 

image

http://www.ipcc.ch/ipccreports/far/wg_I/ipcc_far_wg_I_full_report.pdf

 

In other words, glaciers began receding in the second half of the 19thC, and the fastest rate of retreat was 1920-60, before CO2 emissions could have had any significant impact.

 

The IPCC also added the following chart showing how, on a range of glaciers, rapid retreat began in the 19thC.

image

 

They also added:

image

 

And:

image

April 25, 2017 Posted by | Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | | Leave a comment

“Strike Two” Against Canadian Radioactive Waste Dumpsite Proposal

By John Laforge | CounterPunch | April 21, 2017

Nuclear power supporters like to say, “Nuclear waste disposal is a political, not a scientific problem.” Scientists refute this slogan every day.

A case in point is the Canadian Environment Minister’s second “do over” order issued to Ontario Power Generation regarding the company’s waste dump idea. The 15-page order, issued April 5, rejected the company’s sophomoric answers to a previous “not good enough” finding by Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna.

OPG wants to bury 7 million cubic feet of radioactive waste in a deep hole less than a mile from Lake Huron, on its own property on the Bruce Peninsula, northwest of Toronto. It’s there that OPG runs the world’s biggest rad’ waste production complex — the Bruce Nuclear Station — eight old power reactors in varying states of repair and disrepair.

The company proposes digging 2,231 feet down into part of its 2,300-acre compound on Lake Huron, and burying all sorts of radioactive material (everything except waste fuel rods), including a “significant amount” of carbon-14, a cancer agent with a deadly radioactive “life” of 57,300 years — i.e. ten 5,730-year radioactive half-lives. After two years of public hearings into the question of placing long-lasting poisons next to a major source of drinking water, a federal Joint Review Panel in 2015 recommended approval of the project to Minister McKenna.

McKenna was to make a decision by March 1, 2016, but instead demanded better work from OPG. On Feb. 18, 2016, the Minister ordered the company to produce details about alternate dump sites. OPG submitted shockingly shabby generalizations Dec. 28, 2016, and McKenna’s April 5 reply is an understated denunciation of OPG’s obfuscations and evasions. Beverly Fernandez, founder of Stop the Great Lakes Nuclear Dump, told Clinton, Michigan’s The Voice, “OPG has been given a failing grade on its most recent report regarding burying its radioactive nuclear waste less than a mile from the Great Lakes. OPG has now been issued a strong set of new challenges to answer.”

For example, the company has the nerve to [state] that, “All underground facilities (office, tunnel, emplacement room) will be constructed in accordance with the seismic requirements of the latest edition of the National Building Code at the time of the construction.” In fact, as the Minister’s rejection of OPG’s attempted snow-job pointed out, “There are no specific seismic requirements in the National Building Code for underground facilities…. Provide a revised version…”

A public servant doing her job

In requiring a study of alternate potential sites for deep disposal, Minister McKenna ordered OPG to make “specific reference to actual locations.” Instead, OPG tried to get away with citing two enormous geological regions that it said might be suitable. As Jennifer Wells and Matthew Cole reported in the Toronto Star, OPG’s “actual locations” covered an area of 726,052-square-kilometres — about 75% of the Province of Ontario. This blatant attempt at scamming the government didn’t fool McKenna, a public servant who is actually doing her job.

In one of OPG’s more garish displays of environmental racism, the company’s Dec. 2016 report failed to analyze or even acknowledge the land use Treaty Rights of Indigenous or First Nation peoples. Minister McKenna’s April 5 rebuke rightly demands that OPG provide “a description of the land and resource uses for the alternative locations that highlight the unique characteristics of these locations from the perspective of Indigenous peoples.

McKenna’s lengthy critique amounts to “strike two” against OPG, and the Minister’s refutation was praised by community leaders and watchdogs around the Great Lakes. So far, 187 cities, townships, counties, states and provinces in the Great Lakes Basin have passed resolutions opposing the dump. Columnist Jim Bloch in The Voice asked, “How many swings will the Canadian government give Ontario Power Generation before the firm strikes out in its request to build a nuclear waste dump on the shores of Lake Huron?” The answer may be “no more.”

As befits questions of persistent cancer agents and how to package and keep them out of drinking water for thousands of years, McKenna’s April 5 rebuke lists 23 complex and technically dumbfounding dilemmas that could doom the Lake Huron dump plan. Professor Erika Simpson at the University of Western Ontario reviewed McKenna’s critique and wrote April 7, “It will take OPG perhaps a decade to come up with all the information that is now required … given all the overwhelming problems identified.”

Beverly Fernandez summed up the opposition as well as anyone. “Given the overwhelming opposition to this plan and the potential for massive consequences to the Great Lakes, no responsible government would approve a plan that endangers the drinking water of 40 million people, and a $6 trillion Great Lakes economy.”

John LaForge is a Co-director of Nukewatch, a peace and environmental justice group in Wisconsin, and edits its newsletter.

April 21, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Environmentalism, Nuclear Power, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | , , | Leave a comment

Reflections on Mark Steyn’s ‘A Disgrace to the Profession’ about Dr. Michael Mann

a-disgrace-to-the-profession

By Rick Wallace | Watts Up With That ? | March 29, 2017

Mark Steyn’s A Disgrace to the Profession is a compilation of scientific commentary on Michael Mann and his work and is a valuable antidote to the idea that questioning or criticizing this particular researcher is an overt admission of ignorance, let alone an “attack on science”. What I will argue in this essay is that Steyn has done serious students of the AGW hysteria an even greater service. In fact, this work reveals some features of the hysteria that are, I think, critical for understanding it in depth. The present essay, which will elaborate on this point, is intended as a contribution to the study of what one of those quoted in Steyn’s book called “pathological science”.

For those who aren’t familiar with the work, Steyn’s book is a collection of highly critical comments by scientists of varying degrees of eminence concerning Michael Mann and his (in)famous “hockey stick” temperature graph. The book emanated from a still-ongoing lawsuit that Mann filed against Steyn for writing in a National Review Online article that the hockey stick was fraudulent. Steyn was struck by the fact that, when it came time to file third-party amicus briefs, no one filed a brief in Mann’s defense. So he began combing the Web and other resources, and found a plethora of critical comments that he collected into one volume.2,3 In fact, by now almost everyone, skeptic or warmist, has backed away from this very flawed piece of evidence.

Together, the comments in Steyn’s book suggest that even in the midst of a great social hysteria like AGW much of the field of climatology is functioning more or less normally. Also, one finds the usual range of opinion that one finds in any science, although in this case it is somewhat muted, in part because of the possibility of intimidation from the more enthusiastic warmists and their followers. (Examples of this are mentioned below.)

The same conclusion can be drawn from the compendia of research results that Kenneth Richard has contributed to the NoTricksZone website. In a series of posts, Richard has reviewed a wealth of data drawn from the contemporary technical literature that in various ways runs counter to and therefore undermines the standard AGW narrative.4

In some respects, then, the field of climatology still has a pluralistic cast. On the other hand, the treatment of Prof. Lennart Bengtsson after it was announced that he was joining the Global Warming Policy Foundation and the recent comments by Judith Curry on her (I take it) premature retirement show quite clearly that even apart from certain individuals, the situation in this field is not particularly healthy. What I think the latter incident shows is that someone like Dr. Curry simply has a lower tolerance of double standards than do many other more or less serious practitioners – moreover, she has been unwilling to remain silent.

When they are read together, the quotations and commentary in Steyn’s book also shed more light on the Michael Mann phenomenon. For one thing, they show that his behavior over time has been quite consistent. There is, for example, the tendency to play fast and loose with methodology. This is shown most clearly in the methods that gave rise to the original hockey stick. Over time and thanks to the perseverance of a few, the puzzle of how it was derived is now pretty well understood. Steyn touches on all of the major points, each one a little story in itself.

In the first place, in collecting data for the hockey stick graph, Mann and his co-workers chose a very problematical proxy. Tree ring dimensions are subject to a number of factors that affect tree growth: “soil nutrients and structure; light variations; carbon dioxide; competition from other trees; disease; predators; age; rainfall” (Steyn, 28, quoting from testimony of A. Trewavas). Moreover, the bristlecone pine, which was a major proxy source in the original study is a particularly unreliable basis for temperature estimates since it is very responsive to factors such as carbon dioxide regardless of temperature.

Having chosen a problematic proxy, Mann et al. then went on to make a series of other dubious decisions. For example, in the original work the tree ring data were correlated with average temperatures for the Northern hemisphere rather than for North America, although the trees in question all came from North America. This was because the latter didn’t match the results obtained with their proxy data. This leads to a rather peculiar state of affairs. As one scientist put it:

“The logical conclusion [from their study] is that Northamerican trees respond better to global average temperatures than to local temperatures.” (Steyn, xiii)

In addition, their methods served to impose a peculiar form of proxy weighting, which was in fact crucial for obtaining their results (in addition to sometimes double counting the only tree/trees used from a location outside the bristlecone sites). According to Steve McIntyre,

“The effect is that tree ring series with a hockey stick shape no longer have a mean of zero and end up dominating the first principal component (PC1) [the main factor obtained from the analysis]; in effect, Mann’s program mines for series with a hockey stick shape. In the crucial period of 1400-1450, in the critical PC1 of the North American network, the top-weighted Sheep Mountain series, with a hockey stick shape gets over 390 times the weight of the least weighted series, which does not have a hockey stick shape.” (Steyn, 69-70)

Steyn sums it up:

“So his [Mann’s] hypothesis that it [the temperature record] looks like a hockey stick is confirmed only because a tree ring that produces a hockey-stick shape is given 390 times the weight of a tree ring that does not.” (Steyn, 5)

In all of this it is also telling that people with statistical expertise were never consulted about any of the sampling and weighting procedures.

And then we arrive the pièce de résistance of the 1999 effort. Because despite all this finagling, Mann et al. were still stuck with a basic problem. This was that the proxy data showed a decline after 1980 – at the same time that the global average temperature showed a marked rise. Their solution was bold and straightforward: truncate the proxy record at the year 1980 and for the remaining years in the 20th century use the record derived from thermometers. Clearly, this gives us the best of both worlds. So what’s not to like?

However, there were some doubting Thomases who took issue with this procedure, especially after it was properly understood (cf. below). The simplest argument is the most telling: if the proxy records don’t match the temperature record during the last decades of the 20th century, where both kinds of record are available, why should one assume that the former accurately reflects actual temperatures during the past millennium?

It is also telling that, according to Steyn (p. 53), it was not until 2014, sixteen years after the publication of the original hockey stick paper, that all these methodological details were adequately understood. This is because the issues involved could only be resolved by a detailed perusal of the original materials and methods. And Mann’s response to requests for the necessary information served to deter inquiries of this sort. For a long while he and his co-workers refused to share their data or allow anyone to examine the program that performed the analysis.

“Mann declined – for years – to release the elements needed to reproduce his stick. In evidence before the House of Commons in London, Professor Darrel Ince noted Mann’s refusal to cough up his computer code, and said that he would “regard any papers based on the software as null and void”. His stick could be neither proved nor disproved – and, as Professor Vincent Courtillot reminded European climatologists, if “it’s not falsifiable, it’s not science”.” (Steyn, 6)

Along with the discrepancies uncovered in connection with the early hockey stick papers, Mann’s later work is littered with a succession of questionable actions, or “mistakes” (once again showing how consistent people really are across time). These include reassigning “an instrumental precipitation record from Paris to New England”, and later “a Spanish data set to Tanzania” (Steyn, 198). In another instance it was found that a “South Carolina gridcell [had been transferred] to Toulouse” and another shifted from Philadelphia to Mumbai (ibid.). Then there was the case of the upside-down graph: a curve of temperatures based on sediment proxies was effectively turned upside down, thus inverting the data for the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age. This was used to press the point that “the average temperatures in the Arctic are much higher now than at any time in the past two thousand years” (Steyn, 208). In another instance of dyscopia, Mann et al. rotated a climate data set 180 degrees “when interpolating … [it] onto a different grid”, “so that model data that should be located on the Greenwich Meridian were erroneously placed at 180 degrees longitude”. And so forth …

And throughout all this, there has been a perpetual refusal to acknowledge wrongdoing of any sort – or even any errors at all. So, when the flipped sediment curve was brought to his attention in a letter to Science, Mann “dismissed “the claim that ‘upside-down’ data were used as “bizarre”” (Steyn, 208; Notice the wording, which is strictly speaking correct; evidently it was the program that did the inversion). And even after corrigenda were published in Nature and Geophysical Research Letters in 2004, the authors maintained their original stance. The climatologist M. Leroux had this to say:

“After describing their errors, they still considered (2004) that “none of these errors affect our previously published results”! The corrigenda issued by Mann et al are “a clear admission that the disclosure of data and methods… was materially innaccurate.” (Steyn, 249, quoting from Leroux’s book, Global Warming: Myth or Reality?)

And as another scientist put it,

“… the original hockey stick still used the wrong methods and these methods were defended over and over despite being wrong … He [Mann] fought like a dog to discredit and argue with those on the other side that his method was not flawed. And in the end he never admitted that the entire method was a mistake.” (Steyn, 72)

This vehement defensiveness has been accompanied by continual attacks on opponents and even colleagues who question any of his methods; such people, including prominent people who are actually warmists of a sort such as Judith Curry and Craig Loehle, have earned epithets like “#AntiScience” and of course the dread word “denier”. There have also been concerted attempts (along with members of the UK Climate Research Unit) to discredit the editors of journals who published skeptical articles or who publically questioned the hockey stick. In one case this actually led to the resignation of the editor of the journal Climate Research.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Mann has made extensive use of the new social media in the service of “the cause”. (In fact, one could almost say that Michael Mann and Twitter were made for each other.) This has led to a cascade of spiteful johnny-one-note tweets such as these:

“Crypto-denier #BjornLomberg… #climatechange denier #JudithCurry… #MattRidley in the London Times, ‘My Life as a Compensated Climate Change Denier’ (I tweaked the title…) #ClimateChnage denier #Roy Spencer… #AnthonyWatts climate change denier extremist…” (from Steyn, 232)

This style of aggressive counterattack has continued even to the point of publishing a book that defends his work and belittles his critics. And as we all know, it has also spilled over into actual lawsuits on at least two occasions. And in each of these, once legal proceedings are under way, the case seems to sputter and stall – because of failure to produce the data relevant to the case and for other reasons. This certainly suggests that the original suits were a form of bullying, i.e. attempts at intimidation rather than actions made in good faith.5

Along with this is the constant self-aggrandizement. This was on display in the Steyn case, where the original complaint said that Mann was suing Steyn and others for ”defamation of a Nobel Prize recipient” (Steyn, p. iii, quoting from the legal statement). Later this claim had to be withdrawn. And of course there is his self-assumed role of “defender of science”.

I will note parenthetically that there is an interesting similarity to the case of Sigmund Freud. Like Mann, Freud had an almost incredible capacity to convince himself of cherished fantasies that fit into his overall conceptions. (If you doubt this, read the “Wolfman” case.) And like Mann, he showed considerable antagonism toward anyone who questioned any aspect of his doctrines (although SF may have been more indulgent regarding questions regarding specifics). And, of course, for a long time Freud’s tactics were wildly successful, so much so that he still has his adherents and his champions.

One problem in getting a proper perspective on this case is that Mann seems to fit the role of the villain all too well. Because in all of this it is essential to remember that people do not have to have malevolent intentions to wreak tremendous havoc on the world. This is even true for the case at hand. I, for one, do not think that Mann’s intentions are malevolent, however bizarre and extreme his behavior; in fact, by his own lights he is probably well-intentioned, whatever that may mean in this case.6 By the same token I do not think that Al Gore is malevolent, and based on the account given by Anthony Watts of a meeting with him, neither is Bill McKibben. And this is certainly not true of our beloved Prince of Wales. But does anyone doubt the capacity of these people for wreaking havoc?

All this goes to show that OTT people like these are often the cause of real excesses and disasters. But I would go so far as to suggest that, as such, they are symptomatic of deeper problems that otherwise might not have been revealed – or that might have only become evident when the degree of damage had become much greater. So now let’s turn now to a consideration of the latter.

Given all these problems as well as the extreme behavior of the protagonist, it is astonishing how rarely questions have been raised about the hockey stick, especially in the public arena. In fact, many people seem to have blinded themselves to the facts on display – and this is part of the larger phenomenon that we are dealing with. Such behavior is particularly striking (and out of place in a field of science), given that the hockey stick represented a radical make-over of the standard view of the temperature changes over the previous millennium:

“The Medieval Warm Period – when Greenland got its name and was extensively farmed, and vineyards flourished in much of England – was a matter of uncontroversial historical record. But once you’ve decided to “repeal“ it, it’s amazing how easy it is.” (Steyn, 33)

“[The earlier account of past temperatures] was simply expunged from the 2001 IPCC report, much as Trotsky and Yezhov were removed from Stalin’s photographs by dark-room specialists in the later years of the dictator’s reign. There was no explanation of why both the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age, very clearly shown in the 1990 report, had simply disappeared eleven years later.” (Steyn, 10)7

These failures went hand in hand with a questionable level of peer reviewing:

“”The hockey stick is an extraordinary claim which requires extraordinary evidence,” wrote Oxford physicist Jonathan Jones. Nature never asked for any and, when it fell to others to demonstrate the flaws of the stick, the journal declined to share their findings with its readers. Mann and a few close allies controlled the fora that mattered, and banished any dissidents. “It’s a completely rigged peer-review system,” concluded Cal Tech’s Dr David Rutledge.” (Steyn, 6)

Another significant fact is that, despite the partial eclipse of the hockey stick in recent years, the AGW bandwagon has continued on its merry way without a hitch or backward glance, as far as I can tell. And at the same time the general field of climatology continues its business, some of it in concert with the AGW doctrine, but much of it more or less independent of this idea, as shown by Richard’s postings that were referred to above.

I think that the lesson to be taken away from all this is that there is a backdrop in addition to the central characters. Given this, it is impossible to ascribe the entire AGW affair to a few main actors alone. Put more strongly, there is not a single overarching ‘design’ or intention in the AGW hysteria that is simply carried through, in the sense of all the myriad facets being the result of a single guiding hand. On the other hand, there is a coherence to the movement that does require explanation.

I would argue that the processes that gave rise to the AGW movement were to a large degree – perhaps even essentially – bottom-up in character (despite there being major players behind the scenes). This resulted in a collective ‘machine’ whose function is to produce a particular output: namely, evidence and argumentation in support of CAGW. In other words, the overarching intentionality that in some sense is present has the character of a “group mind”.

Thus, conspiracies – while they do exist – are only part of the picture. In fact I strongly suspect that full-fledged conspiracies are often (perhaps always) emergent phenomena that issue from more fundamental processes.

Again, the point is that one person could not do this alone (not even Maurice Strong).

The point I am trying to make is reflected in a statement by the physicist Jonathan Jones that is included in Steyn’s book:

“My whole involvement has always been driven by concerns about the corruption of science.”

“Like many people I was dragged into this by the Hockey Stick. I was looking up some minor detail about the Medieval Warm Period and discovered this weird parallel universe of people who apparently didn’t believe it had happened, and even more bizarrely appeared to believe that essentially nothing had happened in the world before the 20th century.” (Steyn, 31)

Now, what this book shows – by means of collective quotations – is that this “parallel universe” exists within a larger world of more-or-less sane science (and sane scientists). And as those of us who have been following the AGW saga are aware, there are cases in which people with less knowledge of the subject (and probably less wisdom) than Prof. Jones have been swept up into this parallel universe, but were later able to break free of it once they had delved into the subject and realized what a house-of-cards the AGW thesis really is.

In this connection, one of the most striking features of the Climategate emails is the comparative insularity of the Team.8 In fact, their entire correspondence has a certain claustrophobic character. There is no discussion of large-scale coordination with other parties (despite some interaction with people like Andy Revkin). And they were certainly not getting instructions from any UN bureaucrat. While here and there one finds a fleeting reference to “the cause” (by guess-who?), the overwhelming impression is that of a small coterie defending its scientific positions. And yet, as we know, this coterie was at the same time central to a much larger social movement.

These reflections are also pertinent to another significant question: whose voice carries – and why? For example, Tim Ball, Fred Singer and others have been countering the AGW meme for a few decades, but to little avail. But why is this? Why haven’t their voices carried? And, conversely, why was The Team so successful in getting their message out? Was it because, possibly for quite other reasons, there was already a receptive audience at hand? That there was an existing matrix of attitudes and beliefs to which the AGW belief system could adhere? And this matrix served to amplify some messages while it filtered out other, conflicting messages.

It should be emphasized that the perspective I am describing in no way rules out or even diminishes the importance of institutionalization of doctrines. Clearly, this is a powerful mechanism for promulgating doctrine as well as suppressing antagonistic ideas. And here we must acknowledge the brilliance of Mr. Strong in recognizing the possibility of an institution whose main purpose would be to promote the AGW doctrine and in realizing the goal of creating such an institution. Without this achievement, I doubt that global warming would have become the world-wide force that it has been for the last twenty or thirty years.

This account also suggests the manner in which AGW will fail. One fine day we will wake up and find that the discrepancies and contradictions and dubious claims have accumulated to the point where the basic thesis cannot be sustained by anyone outside the inevitable fringe who will keep banging away before an ever-diminishing audience of true believers. At that point, because much of the field is more-or-less normal science, most researchers will simply put the excesses of the few behind them. In doing this, they will already have grounds for plausibly denying that they were involved in the hysteria in any serious fashion. And at that point the atmosphere of hysteria that now casts a pall over the entire industrialized world will vanish like the morning haze.

But there will be one hitch. The institutions that Mr. Strong and others have created together with all those over-busy government agencies will still be with us. And how all that will turn out is something I really can’t foretell. What does result when mastodons like these have been let loose to roam the countryside?

*******

The present perspective naturally brings to mind the meme idea. However, I don’t think the selfish gene/replicator form of this hypothesis (à la Dawkins) is adequate, and it may not even be relevant. Instead, a kind of structure of activities has been built up that is grounded in an existing set of attitudes and beliefs.

A meme account of the usual sort also omits a particularly important factor (And so do all the other explanations that I’ve seen proffered.) This is a factor that, nonetheless, can be described in ‘Darwinian’ terms. This is that the whole business requires certain personalities who are willing to engage in questionable or even fraudulent activity. Where do they come from? How do they fit into the picture? (Specifically, how do they find their roles in the comedy as it is played out?)

In this connection, let me consider a case that is also discussed by Steyn (pp. 179-182), but has since undergone further developments. This is the saga of a ‘second hockey stick’, derived by Joëlle Gergis and coworkers for the Southern hemisphere. As many readers will recall, this work was also eviscerated by Steve McIntyre and others, to the extent that the original submission was retracted. A few years later it was resubmitted. At this time Gergis made a point of describing the problem(s) with the original paper as “a typo”.9 Now, in addition to this being wildly disingenuous, there is a certain shallowness and even a vulgarity of mind in evidence that I find difficult to associate with someone speaking as a scientist. (How can a problem that led to retraction have been a typo? It’s as if a casual, out-of-thin-air characterization was made rather unadroitly with the expectation that no one should question it, and more generally, as if it was an unnecessary bother to have to deal with criticism at all.) So I have to ask, what is such a person doing in a field of science in the first place? And isn’t this kind of personality the perfect material for embracing dubious doctrines and spreading them further?

Perhaps what is happening is that a type of social niche has been constructed where such personalities can thrive. In other words, the entire phenomenon involves a kind of niche construction in the sense of Odling-Smee et al.10 But this is happening at the social rather than the biological level.

Now, let me return to the hockey stick and in particular to the blindness to its obvious faults on the part of a large segment of the scientific community. This seems to me to be in large part a matter of ego-defense, as such evasion often is. But this also suggests that without this kind of pervasive ego-defense, Mann & Co. wouldn’t have gotten to first base. One could even think of Mann as a kind of surfboarder who had the ‘right stuff’ to ride the reality warp that had come into being. But the key question is this: is this a case of a personality type that is somehow pre-adapted for such situations? Is there a real sense in which this personality type found an appropriate niche?

The apparent consequence of all this is that when there are enough people like these who have worked their way into a particular field of science, then you have a quorum that can effectively further “the cause”. But this, in turn, requires an appropriate environment. In any case, we seem to have travelled light years from a time when someone like William James could say quite unselfconsciously:

“I have to forge every sentence in the teeth of irreducible and stubborn facts.”

But how could all this have come about? (And this is a question I will leave for another day.)

To return to a point made earlier, note that most of this is quite independent of Maurice Strong. Strong didn’t subvert the CRU directly, and he didn’t ensure that people like Ben Santer and Michael Mann got Ph.D.’s in climatology (although once they were on the scene someone clearly had the wit to take advantage of this in order to fill some key slots in IPCC committees). And he certainly didn’t bring into being groups like 350.org. (In fact, he had left the stage long before they made their entrance.) Instead, to me it seems very much as if the daemon acclaimed by Adam Smith has an evil twin.

*******

To recapitulate, there are a few basic ideas that I think are implicit in the work under discussion and that I think merit a great deal of further study:

  • The emergence and evolution of social organizations, partly top-down but also partly bottom-up, a process that I suspect can be formulated in computational terms, although in this essay I have done nothing more than throw out a few suggestions.
  • The ‘selection’ (which in this case is a social rather than a natural selection in its usual sense) of certain personalities who perform requisite roles, which themselves are emergent in character. Usually these people take positions in existing institutions, whose direction they then influence.
  • The resultant intermingling of real science and faux science, the former even serving as a kind of cover for the latter – for outsiders and even for participants. A major factor here is ego-defense, which allows the faux elements to work within a community populated by more balanced and better-intentioned scientists. (Another theme worth exploring in this context is that of parasitic strategies.)

It will be appreciated that if the basic processes described here (group mind effects, social selection, etc.) do take place, they must do so in both normal and pathological cases. The differences lie in the basis for organization, the basis for selection, and so forth. (But, again, I have to defer the task of filling in the necessary details to the future.)

*******

At first blush, the AGW phenomenon for all its Sturm und Drang seems a far cry from the crude, widespread destruction of an entire field of science that occurred during the Lysenko episode in the USSR.11 In that earlier affair, whole research institutes were shut down, legitimate geneticists were ousted from their positions, and some even died in prison or the Gulag. Also, Lysenkoism arose in a milieu in which scientists were under the thumb of political types who were often deeply antagonistic to what they viewed as “bourgeois science”. To keep genuine scientists in line, Bolshevik officials were ‘elected’ to Academies of Science where they had a controlling influence, and scientific institutes were under constant surveillance by secret police, to the extent that the NKVD had an office in nearly every institute.12

At the same time, there are important parallels. People have been vilified (as noted above), and some like, William Gray, lost their funding, which severely hampered their research efforts. And we know (from a former member of NOAA) that there has been pressure from above (i.e. from politicians) to produce evidence in keeping with the desired narrative. Also, Lysenko was a bullying character, much like the chief subject of this essay.

Moreover, in spite of sometimes repeated setbacks, some scientists in the USSR still kept going, so that work of scientific value continued to be produced. But at the same time, most went along with Party dictates, at least on the surface, while a proportion even leapt on board the bandwagon. In the words of one author:

“People like Dmitri Pryanishnikov, Pyotr Kapitsa and Andrei Sakharov, who publicly raised their voices in defense of their arrested colleagues, were rare among the majority of compliant scientists who followed Party orders in exchange for their elite positions in Soviet society.” (Birstein, p. 45)

Another common feature is the failure among otherwise estimable people to face up to what was really going on. In part this is the result of minds of greater refinement being unwilling to descend to the level of their accusers. But, again, it seems to me that there is also a large aspect of denial, which goes hand in hand with the typical scholar’s reliance on conventions of ‘good-will’ to see one through, and which is in fact a form of evasion. In the Soviet situation this was often used by the higher powers to their own advantage.

Another interesting aspect of the affair that has some parallels with the present case is the way that Lysenko made repeated, heartfelt claims of calumny against the doctrines he was espousing and the people who espoused them. Here is one example out of many (which, incidentally, was directed against the author of the volume in which it is cited):

“Lately a voluminous memorandum compiled by Zh. Medvedev, full of dirty inventions about our biology, has been circulated about. … Substituting marketplace gossip for facts, Medvedev, with one stroke of the pen, crosses out the achievements of Soviet breeding in the creation of new varieties of plants and breeds of animals. … Along the way, in a haughty, mocking manner he “overthrows” the theoretical tenants of Michurinist biology. All these fabrications and fairy tales would appear as an empty farce if the author, in his lampoon of Michurinist science, had not resorted to political slander which can only provoke anger and disgust. …13

“The slanderous attacks against Michurinist biologists, the attempts of individuals to defame the attainments of Michurinist biology are not only insulting to Soviet scientists but also damage the development of biology. They are the grist for the mill of those interested in weakening the materialistic positions of Soviet science. … (Medvedev, p. 219-20)

In addition to the well-modulated display of moral indignation (which I think T. D. manages more adroitly than contemporary warriors for “science” and social justice), the reader should take note of the way in which Lysenko claims to be defending the ‘corporatist’ entity known as “Michurinist science” (named after an early agronomist), so that he can appear to be “defending Soviet science” and not just himself and his followers. (Does this ring any bells?)

Now, let me return to the ideas discussed above concerning the way in which certain personalities seem to mesh with certain social situations, which they go on to exacerbate. Here, too, there are some very curious and instructive parallels. Lysenko was an ill-educated agronomist who clearly harbored resentment against professional (and genuinely talented) scientists. Thus, he meshed perfectly with the anti-“bourgeois” attitudes that were prevalent among the Bolshevik elite. In a similar way, Mann seems to have been well-suited by nature to mesh with the growing AGW hysteria. In both cases, these aggressive characters took advantage of another aspect of scientific practice. A field of science is typically guided and managed through a set of gentlemanly conventions. But under special conditions, it may be possible for someone in a position of prominence to flaunt these conventions (at least for a while), which since they are conventions of restraint, put their sincere adherents at a disadvantage.14

A major difference that I see is that there appears to be much more internal support among scientists and other academics in the present situation. And if one follows the history of members of The Team and their activities back into the early 1980s (and this holds for other groups as well), one encounters a great deal of autonomous action in favor of the fashionable doctrines. This seems in marked contrast to the situation vis a vis Lysenko. In fact, the present situation clearly is in part a “revolt of the elites” rather than a revolt against them.

Another interesting difference, that curiously enough favors the Soviet government, is that after it had first emerged it took almost 20 years for Lysenkoism to become official doctrine (in 1948). It seems clear that there was a long period during which the government, not being entirely certain about the status of Lysenko’s claims, was hedging its bets. In striking contrast, nearly all politicians in the West (and some in other places) leaped on board the global warming bandwagon almost as soon as it left the gate.

In large part, this difference must be due to the magnificent orchestration of the IPCC, especially the succession of reports that eventually ran on for 2,000 pages at a pop.15 That certainly gave political types, especially those on one side of the aisle, more than enough cover to make their move – which was the wholesale embrace of a Green (carbon-free) Economy. In contrast, Lysenko was a rather primitive charlatan, who in addition made wilder and wilder claims about a field whose principles were already grounded in fairly refined studies and whose central idea (that of the gene) was (by the 1940s) being elucidated at the molecular level. It’s hard for sophistry even aided by intimidation to keep making headway against that.

*******

At the beginning of this essay I said that “by now almost everyone, skeptic or warmist, has backed away from this very flawed piece of evidence.” Interestingly, this does not apply to certain ‘defenders of the creed’, who, as soon as Steyn’s work was made available, leapt into the arena to begin a full-throated assault on it and to defend the hockey stick. In doing so, they showed a remarkable indifference to the reservations expressed by their betters.

First off the blocks was a blogger named Greg Laden, whose post appeared in June of 2015.16 The tone is set in the opening sentence:

“There is a new attack by an anti-science and anti-environment talking head on a well respected climate scientist and his work. Mark Steyn is self publishing a book of quotes by scientists that allegedly disparage Dr. Michael Mann and the “Hockey Stick.” If the three examples Steyn provides to advertise his book are representative, Steyn’s book is unlikely to impress.”

Then it gets really interesting (these sentences follow immediately in the same paragraph):

“Like previous attempts to separate a key individual from the herd,17 Steyn’s latest money making scheme could make him a few bucks (his fans seem gullible) but in the end will destroy anything that happens to be left of his credibility and, possibly, his legal argument that he is not actively and maliciously attempting to defame an individual.”18

Mind you, this is being written in 2015, a decade after the critical articles by McIntyre and McKitrick, and five years after Montford’s book reviewed all the desperate twists and turns that had been taken to defend the Stick. Here, the stage is set as if none of this had ever happened.

Note also that Laden hadn’t actually read the book, but is relying on the three quotes which apparently were part of the original publicity campaign for the new volume.

We then get a rundown of the original result, and subsequent work that has purported to verify it, presented in an authoritative tone which one comes to recognize as typical of the genre. And on the face of it, it is impressive – provided one is unaware of all the vagaries involved, many of which are recounted in the (actual) book, as I have indicated.

This is brought out if we follow a link that Laden provides – to an article that summarizes “a landmark study known as the PAGES 2K project”. The link is to a 2013 article by Rahmsdorf, which in turn refers to a then-recently published paper by a group called the “PAGES 2K Consortium”. This appeared in the journal Nature Geoscience as a “progress article”, a category I had never heard of before. Later I found that, once again, the ever-vigilant Steve McIntyre had played cat to their mouse and ferreted out the fact that progress articles were meant to review material in fields that were not yet mature enough for a full peer-reviewed article on the topic. In other words, the paper was another ‘trick’ to get something in the literature in support of now-controversial claims without being subjected to a thorough review. (It’s also interesting that the consortium included the aforementioned Jöelle Gergis and thus incorporated material that had led to problems elsewhere.)

In referring to MBH98 itself, Laden writes, “there was some controversy but the work was good and over subsequent years it was verified by other research”. Apparently he is comfortable with:19

  • “unjustified truncation” of three of the original data series
  • copying values from one series into others
  • displacement of series
  • use of seasonal temperatures for annual temperatures
  • “listing of unused proxies”
  • idiosyncratic transformations of the original data prior to performing the principal components analysis, which results in the PC algorithm “mining the data for hockey stick patterns”.

as well as other vagaries. One wonders what it would take for something to qualify as bad research in Laden’s eyes.

After making the case for the stick, Laden proceeds to try to discredit the three quotations he has seen – and here, again, to my mind he makes a reasonably convincing job of it – if one hasn’t delved into the details. (And this (i) is a significant fact, (ii) that skeptics generally do not face up to, (iii) which is also a significant fact.) To properly assess his arguments, one needs to have the book at hand so one can look up the quotes and see how they’re actually presented. The first quote taken up is:

“Did Mann et al get it wrong? Yes, Mann et al got it wrong.”

–Simon Tett, Professor of Climate Science, University of Edinburgh

First, it should be noted that in the book itself we do get the context of the quotation; in addition, there is an additional piece that follows right after: “How wrong is still under debate …”. We also find out that this is part of a response to a query from someone in the UK Department of Environment in October, 2004 concerning the M&M critique. And it’s clear from this and other quotes that Tett is somewhat diffident about Mann’s work, so he clearly isn’t on board to the extent that Laden makes him out to be. Laden ends his arguments with a flourish (that one somehow feels was preordained):

“So. That’s settled. Steyn got it wrong.”

The second quote considered is one that on the face of it looks even more damning:

“Michael Mann, Phil Jones and Stefan Rahmstorf should be barred … because the scientific assessments in which they may take part are not credible any more.”

–-Eduardo Zorita, Senior Scientist at Germany’s Institute for Coastal Research

In this case, Laden assembles a genuinely impressive counterargument. He first admits that Zorita has in the past expressed “concerns about the way some of the research is conducted”, and he lauds this kind of cautious assessment. Then he asks rhetorically, “But is Zorita a Hockey Stick denier like Mark Steyn implies he is?” In reply, he first notes that Zorita was one of the authors of the above-mentioned PAGES consortium paper. And he describes Zorita’s present position, based on a conversation he had with him. Zortia had told him that the quote was accurate and reflected his concern that Climategate might affect the perception of the IPCC, that he thought that “the Hockey Stick was something of a public relations mistake”, and that the case for AGW does not depend on it.

The only issue here is that in the (actual) book, Zorita’s position is made clear – with a longer quote from the same Web post. So despite Laden’s claim that there couldn’t be “a worse choice to list as a person criticizing the hockey stick”, in the (actual) book, the quote does fit into the texture of the overall argument.

The third quote, by J. Jones (who was quoted earlier) is one that the author stood behind when queried, so Laden has to concede this one. So he concludes that Steyn got one out of three correct.

The final sentence of the piece is also worth quoting:

“I’m thinking that this is not going to be a very big book. Certainly not a very good one. Maybe Steyn is counting on a lot of pre-orders.”

Hard on the heels of this article, a short piece was posted at the Daily Kos under the byline “ClimateDenierRoundup”. Here are some excerpts:20

“He’s now self-published a book that is supposedly a collection of criticisms of Dr. Mann by other scientists.” (italics added; I suspect that the “self-published” bit was borrowed from Laden, since it’s such a nice extra jab.)

“For all his quote mining, it seems like the best Steyn could do when it came to finding criticisms from Mann’s peers is write up two quotes from scientists who agree with Mann’s findings and one from someone who’s not a climate scientist at all.” (italics added; notice how Laden’s more carefully qualified suppositions in this author’s hands almost become matters of fact)

This writer in fact cites Laden’s article (which probably prompted the Daily Kos posting) as his main reference. That’s perfectly reasonable, of course, but it’s still interesting to observe how the daisy chain develops (cf. below).

Another post appeared around this time on a blog called Hot Whopper :21 This is a brief cut-and-past account of the scientific evidence followed by a lengthier polemic against “deniers”. Strangely enough, the author later added an “addendum about the contents of the book” in which several links are given (including a link to Laden’s post) followed by what is essentially an admission that the author still hadn’t read it: “I can’t imagine there is anything in it that would damage Michael Mann, but I do expect it will have a lot of material that will damage Mark Steyn.”

I think it is fascinating, and extraordinarily revealing that in each case the writer seized upon a few quotes extracted from a 300-page text, as if undermining these was sufficient to refute the entire work. Why did they assume they could write an adequate commentary on the basis of promo quotations (which are likely to be abbreviated, and are necessarily taken out of context)? And why couldn’t they wait to make their critical (and in some cases derisive) comments? Why did they come off the blocks almost as soon as the title was announced? What does this imply about these people?

It is also telling that none of these articles mentions the situation that inspired the book. Instead, it is treated as another malevolent “denier” attack, which must be discredited at once. (Laden uses his Serengeti hypothesis as part of the explanation, but this still assumes some form of mindless malevolence (after all, it’s just about strategy), and it’s telling that he doesn’t even attempt to support his idea with particulars from the present case.)

At this point let us recall some context surrounding the lawsuit and the book. If the hockey stick were valid and Mann had been vindicated, then there should have been dozens of amicus briefs filed in his defense at the trial (including, one would have thought, briefs from Messrs. Tet and Zorita). Moreover, as some of the quotes in Steyn’s book make clear, the hockey stick flies in the face of a body of evidence supporting the occurrence and world-wide scope of both the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age, both of which were more or less obliterated by the flat handle of the hockey stick. In addition, despite some of Mann’s (amazing) protestations, the stick itself is an enjambment of proxy-based temperature derivations (the handle) and direct surface temperature records (the stick). One reason that this was done was that proxy data for the 20th century did not match the actual temperature record.

The important point is that none of this is reflected in any of this commentary. It is as if all these problematic facts, all these warning signals, have simply glanced off the minds of these people, as the saying goes, like water running off a duck’s back.

Not once do these writers speak to the actual arguments of McIntyre and others. Not once. Instead, they put together parallel arguments, much like someone plastering up a new billboard sign to cover the one underneath. In short, they never connect. Instead, what is achieved is a kind of cognitive closure (using the latter term in the sense given to it by Gestalt psychologists). One could also call it dissonance reduction. Or more simply, evasion.22

Along the way, some clever ideas are proffered, like Laden’s Serengeti Strategy, which is, again, a made-up explanation that doesn’t have any relevance to the actual situation or to the actual controversy. Instead, it seems to have the status of a fond belief that serves to embellish the argument. And, of course, it goes hand in hand with the above-mentioned cognitive closure.

I wonder why none of these people filed an amicus brief. Where were they when the Mann needed them most? In fact, there is also a disconnect between what these people wrote at the time (and I gather are still saying) and subsequent legal developments. One has the impression that they are living in a walled-off world, that they have fashioned their own reality.

One other thing strikes me very strongly in these articles: it doesn’t seem possible for these people to write about a subject like this without descending into scurrilous innuendos. Together with the disconnect from the actual contents of the book, this makes it obvious that these are not genuine reviews and therefore deserve to be called hit pieces.

In their efforts to defend the Hockey Stick, Laden, the Hot Whopper writer, et al. also demonstrate that not only do they not know much about climatology, they know little or nothing about how science is actually carried out – and why. Theirs is essentially a paint-by-numbers view of science. Under this view, one simply gathers and arranges ‘facts’, and this is sufficient to make one’s case.

If only it were so simple. One of the most insightful statements I have ever read about empirical science (unfortunately I have not been able to locate the reference, which was a magazine article probably written by a physical scientist about some dubious activity being billed as “science”) is this:

“Science is not like going to the supermarket.”

But isn’t a presupposition like this precisely what informs these people’s actions? Aren’t they in effect collecting facts as if they were supermarket goods and then arranging them into superficially impressive displays?

Also, around this time a book review appeared on Amazon, authored by a Russell S(eitz).23 It includes the following:

“Cabaret artiste Mark Steyn and the unfunniest cartoonist in England’s grim north have combined forces to show how little they have learned as PR-flacks in the Climate Wars.

“It is a sign of their side’s decay that it looks to ninety year olds and non-entities with few real connections to climate science as scientific authorities, while ignoring the sensible works of climatologists less ideologically entangled than themselves …

“Steyn’s highly elliptical (and often self-contradictory) quote mining is so absurdly polemic that this collection may well backfire in favor of the very UN climate bureaucrats at which it aims.”

“Russell” also tendered some comments under a posting at the Bishop Hill website.24 In one comment he cites four papers that he says support the idea that “the weight of the scientific evidence [for MBH98 and the hockey stick] is enormous and ever growing”. Looking these up, I found that the first, by Baille and McAneney (2015), has to do with the evaluation of tree ring evidence for volcanic eruptions by comparing it with ice cores, and doesn’t seem to bear on the matter at hand (other than indicating that tree rings including Bristlecone pines can be useful for some purposes in paleoclimatology, which is a non sequitur). The second paper, by Vinther et al. (2006) is about comparing ice core records from different locations; its main finding is the specification of the end-date of the Younger Dryas. A paper by Sigl et al. (2013) is mostly about dating volcanic events (with an eye toward assessing their effects on climate); it contains some long-term temperature records, but these do not have a hockey stick blade (!). The last paper, by Sigl et al. ad infinitum (Nature, 2015), is also about volcanoes and ice core indicators; it includes a hockey stick graph, but this is taken from the PAGES 2K project discussed above. So this sounds like another exercise in paint-by-numbers science.

A few days after this, a “warrenlb” posted a comment on a thread at the present site under a short review of Steyn’s book.25 His opening barrage went like this:

“Steyn chose three quotes as promo material to represent the book’s contents. One of the scientists has recently co-authored a paper confirming Mann’s hockey stick graph, and notes that his quote only appears damning because it lacks all context. A second has worked on a major paper that also confirmed Mann’s hockey stick graph, and has stated that the attacks on Mann “have no justification.” The third quote is from a physicist who doesn’t work on climate change, so he can’t accurately be described as one of Mann’s scientific peers.

“For all his quote mining, it seems like the best Steyn could do when it came to finding criticisms from Mann’s peers is write up two quotes from scientists who agree with Mann’s findings and one from someone who’s not a climate scientist at all. Looks like Steyn’s efforts here fell as flat as the handle on Mann’s hockey stick.”

From the quotations included above, it can be seen that this writer is cribbing from the attacks on Steyn’s book that were posted previously. The first paragraph paraphrases Laden’s discussion, while the second is taken directly from the Daily Kos posting. So we have here a nice example of the way that earlier comments tend to be recycled without attribution. (I wonder if in coming years it will be possible to carry out a two-degrees-from-Greg-Laden exercise in the manner of Russell Cook.)

Perhaps the most important lesson to take home from all of this is that there seems to be a large number of such people on the fringes of the AGW controversy, an army of water carriers ready and willing to aid “the cause”. If one regards the AGW phenomenon from a social-computational perspective, then these people are a significant part of the movement – even if they cannot be considered ‘major players’. So they are worth studying closely.

First, let me note that these people are reasonably proficient writers, and they know how to craft an argument. In fact, as is usually the case at this level of discourse, the problem is what is left out of their arguments, not the quality of argumentation per se. (To put the matter crudely in order to make this point clear, if their arguments were translated into predicate calculus form, a logical proof checker would probably pronounce them just as valid with respect to the logical inferences made as the arguments in, say, Steyn’s book.)

Without delving into this matter further in an already lengthy essay, the flaws in these arguments involve issues like vagueness of reference or failure to include material that is relevant. And these are pretty deep issues in the study of discourse and argumentation. In fact, this gets us into yet another layer of analysis and explanation if we wish to really understand the AGW phenomenon. (Add another bullet point to the list above.) But now I want to turn to another consideration.

Looking up Laden’s biographical details, I find that his background is in anthropology, and he has taught this subject at several universities. He has also been or is currently a free-lance science writer, with several articles in the Smithsonian magazine. All this I find estimable and, indeed, rather impressive. Similarly, I assume that Russell Seitz has had a worthy career as professor in a university physics department. And I suspect these cases are representative. So many people with better-than-average talents leading reasonably productive lives, performing useful tasks in society …

And then the gods set them a test – in the form of a new scientific doctrine. And perhaps because there was some flaw, some critical deficiency hidden within their outwardly impressive personalities, they have failed that test. Not only that; they have done so in a quite spectacular fashion – in part, I suspect, because they couldn’t imagine such a thing ever coming to pass. In fact, they have failed to such an extent that in some respects they have been turned into a force for evil.

And as part of the test, the gods sent them Michael Mann. And in a move that is reminiscent of the way that 19th century Frenchmen made Esterhazy a Hero of France, they have transmogrified him into St. Michael, a martyr for science.

There is a sense in which these people were betrayed by their own personas. Or one could say that in finding their own zone of comfort, they did not recognize all the implications of this mode of existence.

In light of these reflections, another question obtrudes. To what degree is AGW being championed by a certain kind of elitist ne’er-do-well, scientific or otherwise? Is there a status enhancing function involved in all of this? And is this one of the receptive surfaces that the AGW doctrine fits into (like a key fitting into a lock), making them part of a great social-computational machine?26

The Hockey Stick may eventually be seen as an extraordinary natural experiment that served to expose paint-by-numbers thinkers, causing them to be hoist by their own bien-pensance, as it were. (And of course, this is true of the entire AGW doctrine as well.)27

*******

Returning to the major players, I think that what a social-computational perspective suggests is that not only are specific individuals like Michael Mann (and Maurice Strong) not sufficient to explain the AGW phenomenon, there is a sense in which they are not even necessary. That is to say, if these particular people had not come on stage and taken the roles they did, then others would have emerged and taken on essentially similar roles. The details of the story would be different, of course, but in its broad contours the course of events would have been much the same.

Let me put this a different way. We all know the old adage, if so-and-so did not exist, then it would have been necessary to invent him. According to the conception that I am adumbrating in this essay, if Michael Mann did not exist then he very likely would have been ‘invented’.

One final comment. While preparing this essay, I was rereading Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago. Sometime after reading the chapter where Solzhenitsyn gives an account of those whom he calls Communist “loyalists”,28 it occurred to me that the mentality of people like Greg Laden and Russell Seitz bears some resemblance to the people described in that chapter. At the same time, I had the odd thought that in the AGW drama we skeptics are in some ways like the Soviet Gulag’s zeks. Of course, we aren’t really entitled to call ourselves by that name just yet. But are many of us perhaps cut from the same cloth? In any case, I don’t think that these analogies are entirely fanciful – and if they aren’t, then a strange sort of pattern may be manifesting itself once again.


References:

1 M. Steyn, “A Disgrace to the Profession”, Stockade, 2015. (When specific passages in this work are quoted or cited, they are flagged by the author’s name and a page number.)

2 In fact this is intended to be the first volume in a series, since only a portion of the quotations that Steyn collected are included.

3 For a more detailed account of the book itself, see A. May, “A detailed review of the book: ‘A disgrace to the Profession’, by Mark Steyn”, https://wattsupwiththat.com/2015/08/28/a-detailed-review-of-the-book-a-disgrace-to-the-profession-by-mark-steyn/. And see footnote #23 below.

4 See, for example, “35 scientific papers: Global sea levels were 1-2 meters higher than now for most of the last 7,000 years” (6 February, 2017); “17 new (2017) scientific papers affirm today’s warming was not global, unprecedented, or remarkable” (26 January, 2017); “The hockey stick collapse: 60 new (2016) scientific papers affirm today’s warming isn’t global, unprecedented, or remarkable” (22 December, 2016).

5 A curious feature of these lawsuits is that it almost seems as if Mann stumbles into them, since he seems completely unprepared to handle the ensuing court cases. Instead, he acts as if he expected that the larger world would simply acquiesce to his claims. And when it doesn’t, he is left high and dry. There is an insularity in all of this that is quite wonderful. (And although it may be an extreme case, I do not think for a moment that this case is not part of a larger population; nor do I think it’s even an outlier.)

6 My take on Mann (although this is only an armchair assessment) is that he is an extremely bright guy who comes up with some clever ideas, such as new ways to handle proxies, but does not have the deep concern for getting things right that would keep him out of trouble. And of course he tends to get carried away with his brilliant ideas. Ironically enough, he would have benefited from an association with someone like Steve McIntyre; perhaps then he would have produced something of lasting value. However, it’s not possible to put such a charitable interpretation on a failure to share the code behind the proxy analysis or the hide-the-decline maneuver. Nor to avoid noticing that such failings are all too common in this community. Although I haven’t yet read C. Lasch’s The Culture of Narcissism, I can’t help thinking that it may apply here (in this connection, see also G. W. S. Trow’s My Pilgrim’s Progress).

6 Here, Steyn may have been a little too casual. At least according to some accounts, the curve in the 1990 IPCC report was based on a sketch drawn by H. Lamb, so it was not unreasonable to question it and to try to come up with something more substantial. So this may be to some extent a case of “dueling graphs”. It needs to be borne in mind that this is a game that both sides can play.

8 S. Mosher and T. W. Fuller, Climategate. The CRUtape Letters, Quire/St. Matthew, 2010.

9 J. Nova, “Gergis Australian hockeystick is back: how one typo took four years to fix”, http://joannenova.com.au/2016/07/gergis-australian-hockeystick-is-back-how-one-typo-took-four-years-to-fix/

10 F. J. Odling-Smee, K. N. Laland, & M. W. Feldman, Niche Construction, Princeton, 2003.

11 To appreciate the force of this comparison, one must really read something about the Lysenko affair. The classic reference for the Lysenko affair is Z. A. Medvedev, The Rise and Fall of T. D. Lysenko, Columbia, 1969 (orig. 1962, 1967). More recently, the entire episode was reviewed and discussed by David Joravsky in The Lysenko Affair, University of Chicago, 1970. For the record, while Medvedev was a good Soviet citizen and seems to have been a devout Marxist-Leninist, his simple honesty shines though on nearly every page. In contrast Joravsky is a NYRB-type of modern intellectual who, although he states the main facts of the case clearly enough, seems at times to be trying to partially exonerate Lysenko. Although in some quarters this might be interpreted as providing a more measured, broad-minded treatment, I find it deeply meretricious – especially when placed beside Medvedev’s account (which I read afterwards). Further useful references are V. J. Birstein, The Perversion of Knowledge, Westview, 2001; E. Pollack, Stalin and the Soviet Science Wars, Princeton, 2006.

12 Birstein, pp. 70-78. Here, I will remark that anyone trying to understand this or other aspects of intellectual life the Soviet Union must read works by dissident Soviet scientists. As Birstein himself says, the typical Western scholar tends to downplay the suffocating political/ideological atmosphere that pervaded every aspect of this world, as well as failing to give a proper account of the apparatus of repression that supported it.

13 In the next few sentences Lysenko dissociates himself from the harsh punishments that had been meted out to a number of geneticists and plant scientists.

14 Moreover, in our time the conventions themselves have come under fire, as (generally scurrilous) people claim they are “sexist”, “racist”, “patriarchal” and so forth. Needless to say, when such mechanisms of restraint are weakened in this way, as they have been, then all manner of dubious characters can take advantage. (Incidentally, it also says something about the quality of Mann’s judgment that he went outside this community when he chose to attack a figure like Mark Steyn, who isn’t going to be as inclined to follow the community’s rules of decorum in resisting such attacks.)

15 It would not be inaccurate to regard the IPCC reports as a kind of collective “Bellesiles strategy”, the latter referring to the work Arming America whose outlandish thesis, that frontier America did not have a gun culture or even many firearms, was buttressed by 150 pages of references, all or most of which turned out to be bogus. This in a way is the thesis of Donna Laframboise’s Delinquent Teenager book.

16 http://scienceblogs.com/gregladen/2015/06/22/mark-steyns-newest-attack-on-michael-mann-and-the-hockey-stick/

17 Here, Laden is referring to a pet idea of his that he calls the Serengeti Strategy (see http://scienceblogs.com/gregladen/2015/ 01/21/the-serengeti-strategy/) wherein he likens the attacks on Mann to a hyena pack’s strategy of going after the leader of a herd in order to demoralize and disrupt the organization of the herd as a whole.

18 I will not delve into this further in this essay, but it is worth noting how readily the author brings in the idea that ultimately It’s All About Money. In doing this, he becomes the warmist twin (or doppelganger) of those skeptics who demonstrate their sagacity by repeating the formulaic phrase, “Follow the money”. By now, such maneuvers on both sides are almost as predictable as the actions in a Kabuki play.

19 Items listed and quotations are from S. McIntyre & R. McKitrick, “Corrections to the Mann et. al. (1998) proxy data base and northern hemispheric average temperature series”, Energy & Environment, 2003, 14: 751-771, except for the last entry, which is from S. McIntyre & R. McKitrick, “Hockey sticks, principal components, and spurious significance”, Geophysical Research Letters, 2005, 32: L03710.

20 http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/6/23/1395870/-Steyn-s-Peer-Review-of-Mann-Backfires

21 “Vicious attack on Michael Mann: More smears from Mark Steyn and Anthony Watts’ lynch mob” http://blog.hotwhopper.com/ 2015/08/vicious-attacks-on-michael-mann-more.html

22 In fact, if you want to experience reality-distortion to the point of vertigo, I recommend reading Steyn’s book and immediately afterwards reading Greg Laden’s piece attacking it.

23 The byline used is “Russell” or “Russell S., but from his website and from various other commenters at the URL cited next, it seems clear that Seitz is the author. Some commenters indicated that he was also the warrenlb referred to in citation #23, but of that I can’t be sure.

24 http://www.bishop-hill.net/blog/2015/8/11/a-disgrace-to-the-profession-by-mark-steyn-now-available.html

25 A. Watts, “A review of Steyn’s scathing new book about Michael Mann: “A Disgrace to the Profession” WUWT, August 15, 2015. https://wattsupwiththat.com/2015/08/11/a-review-of-steyns-scathing-new-book-about-michael-mann-a-disgrace-to-the-profession/

26 These remarks may also apply to the authors of Web blogs such as “And then there’s physics” and “Deep Climate”, although their commentary is generally more sophisticated than the examples given. They were not discussed in the main text because I didn’t see anything that dealt directly with Steyn’s book.

27 Of course, this does not exhaust the catalogue of believers, but since this essay is concerned with aspects of the movement that relate to Steyn’s book, this subject will not be dealt with further.

28 A. Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago. Volume II, Collins and Harvill, 1975.

April 2, 2017 Posted by | Book Review, Corruption, Deception, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | 3 Comments

Top British universities found producing ‘fake research’

RT | March 27, 2017

Hundreds of allegations of “fake research” conducted at some of the UK’s top universities were reported between 2011 and 2016, figures show.

According to figures released by 23 of Britain’s 24 Russell Group universities following Freedom of Information (FoI) requests submitted by the BBC, the scale of fraudulent research is much higher than official Research Councils UK (RCUK) statistics suggest.

The figures reveal at least 300 allegations including plagiarism and fabrication.

Official data, however, suggests about 30 cases were reported between 2012 and 2015.

In response, the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee has launched an inquiry to reassure the public that its monitoring system is “robust.”

Committee Chairman Stephen Metcalfe stressed the importance of reassuring people that public funds are being invested in accurate and trustworthy research.

“Where research has been found to be fraudulent at a later point it has a big impact on the public – it leads to mistrust,” he told the BBC.

“What we want to do is to investigate how robust the mechanisms are for ensuring that research is ethical, it is accurate, it is, to a degree, reproducible.”

According to the new data, around a third of allegations for plagiarism, fabrication, piracy and misconduct were upheld, while over 30 papers were withdrawn.

Although Metcalfe said the BBC’s findings must be balanced against the overall number of research papers, he said transparency is essential to build trust.

“We do need to have accurate figures that are available so we can all have confidence that the research is being conducted properly, and when it’s not, there is a system that challenges that,” he said.

It is thought that the inaccuracy and sloppiness in academic papers is due to researchers rushing through their copy in order to get grants to carry on with their work.

A spokesman for the Russell Group, however, said it takes “integrity” into thorough account.

“Our universities take research integrity seriously and work continuously to help staff and students maintain high standards of research,” he said, according to the BBC.

“The UK has a global reputation for the quality of our scientific research.

“This is not least because our members are rigorous in their approach to research integrity.”

Deliberate research fraud seldom occurs, but when it does take place it comes with severe risks, such as undermining public health or losing trust in the eyes of the public which funds it.

There are calls for a UK regulatory body to oversee publicly-funded research. Although Metcalfe said the idea could be looked into, he claimed there is currently “no appetite for that in the wider community.”

Under a concordat, to which UK universities signed up back in 2012 to guarantee transparency in reporting allegations of research misconduct, higher education institutions are still not obliged to release figures on allegations of fraudulent research.

According to an audit by vice-chancellors group Universities UK, only 35 out of 131 universities released figures on research misconduct to the public.

Co-founder of Retraction Watch, Dr. Ivan Oransky, backed the BBC findings and said the number of research misconduct cases being reported falls short of the real extent of the issue.

“We do not have a good handle on how much research misconduct takes place, but it’s become quite clear that universities and funding agencies and oversight bodies are not reporting even a reasonable fraction of the number of cases that they see,” Oransky told the BBC.

April 2, 2017 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | | Leave a comment

House Science Committee Hearing on Climate Science

By Judith Curry | Climate Etc. | March 29, 2017

My testimony at the House Science Committee Hearing on Climate Science: Assumptions, Policy Implications and the Scientific Method.

The text of my written testimony is here [Curry house science testimony mar 17]. I really enjoyed preparing this testimony, it provided me an opportunity to reflect on my writings over the past 7 years and synthesize them into an essay on the philosophy of climate science, including what went wrong and why, and some suggestions for fixing these problems.

I realize that this essay is a bit esoteric, but in my opinion these are the kinds of issues that need to be understood and confronted.

My verbal testimony attempted a simplified synthesis. The text of my verbal remarks:

I thank the Chairman and the Committee for the opportunity to offer testimony today.

Prior to 2010, I felt that supporting the IPCC consensus on human-caused climate change was the responsible thing to do. That all changed for me in November 2009, following the leaked Climategate emails, that illustrated the sausage making and even bullying that went into building the consensus.

I came to the growing realization that I had fallen into the trap of groupthink in supporting the IPCC consensus. I began making an independent assessment of topics in climate science that had the most relevance to policy. I concluded that the high confidence of the IPCC’s conclusions was not justified, and that there were substantial uncertainties in our understanding of how the climate system works. I realized that the premature consensus on human-caused climate change was harming scientific progress because of the questions that don’t get asked and the investigations that aren’t made. We therefore lack the kinds of information to more broadly understand climate variability and societal vulnerabilities.

As a result of my analyses that challenge the IPCC consensus, I have been publicly called a serial climate disinformer, anti-science, and a denier by a prominent climate scientist. I’ve been publicly called a denier by a U.S. Senator. My motives have been questioned by a U.S. Congressman in a letter sent to the President of Georgia Tech.

While there is much noise in the media and blogosphere and professional advocacy groups, I am mostly concerned about the behavior of other scientists. A scientist’s job is to continually challenge their own biases and ask “How could I be wrong?” Scientists who demonize their opponents are behaving in a way that is antithetical to the scientific process. These are the tactics of enforcing a premature theory for political purposes.

There is enormous pressure for climate scientists to conform to the so-called consensus. This pressure comes from federal funding agencies, universities and professional societies, and scientists themselves. Reinforcing this consensus are strong monetary, reputational, and authority interests. Owing to these pressures and the gutter tactics of the academic debate on climate change, I recently resigned my tenured faculty position at Georgia Tech.

The pathology of both the public and scientific debates on climate change motivated me to research writings on the philosophy and sociology of science, argumentation from the legal perspective, the policy process and decision making under deep uncertainty. My analyses of the problems in climate science from these broader perspectives have been written in a series of posts at my blog Climate Etc. and also in 4 published journal articles. My reflections on these issues are summarized in my written testimony.

The complexity of the climate change problem provides much scope for disagreement among reasonable and intelligent people. Why do scientists disagree about the causes of climate change? The historical data is sparse and inadequate. There’s disagreement about the value of different classes of evidence, notably the value of global climate models and paleoclimate reconstructions. There’s disagreement about the appropriate logical framework for linking and assessing the evidence. And scientists disagree over assessments of areas of ambiguity and ignorance.

Policymakers bear the responsibility of the mandate that they give to panels of scientific experts. In the case of climate change, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change framed the problem too narrowly. This narrow framing of the climate change problem essentially pre-ordained the conclusions from the IPCC assessment process.

There are much better ways to assess science for policy makers than a consensus-seeking process that serves to stifle disagreement and debate. Expert panels with diverse perspectives should handle controversies and uncertainties by assessing what we know, what we don’t know, and where the major areas of disagreement and uncertainties lie.

Let’s make scientific debate about climate change great again.

This concludes my testimony.

March 30, 2017 Posted by | Science and Pseudo-Science | , | Leave a comment

Is Europhysics News announcing it will censor science papers on political grounds?

Follow up to Jones et al

OffGuardian | March 15, 2017

A few months back, Europhysics News, the science journal that published the new study “On the Physics of High Rise Building Collapse”, by Jones et al (republished here on OffG), published an interesting range of follow up letters to the editor. Less widely publicised has been an announcement in the same edition from its editors that reads like a declaration of political censorship.

The small collection of “letters to the editor” published in a recent edition of Europhysics News as a follow-up to the Jones et al paper “On the Physics of High Rise Building Collapse” is revelatory on several levels. Not only for the range of views expressed, but also, and perhaps most significantly, as a statement on the level of censorship and self-censorhip currently deemed acceptable in academia.

The letter that received most attention in the alt media is from a “member of the NIST technical staff during the period 1997 – 2011,” and alleging “the more I investigated, the more apparent it became that NIST had reached a predetermined conclusion by ignoring, dismissing, and denying the evidence.” He calls on NIST to “openly share all evidence, data, models, computations, and other relevant information unless specific and compelling reasons are otherwise provided.” Which seems an eminently rational and reasonable demand.

Thoughts from a former NIST employee

I was a member of the NIST technical staff during the period 1997- 2011. I initially joined the High Performance Systems and Services Division and later became a member of what was, at the time, the Mathematical and Computational Sciences Division of the Information Technology Laboratory. My fellow NIST employees were among the finest and most intelligent people with whom I have ever worked.

I did not contribute to the NIST WTC investigation or reports. But in August of this year, I began to read some of those reports. As I then watched several documentaries challenging the findings of the NIST investigation, I quickly became furious. First, I was furious with myself. How could I have worked at NIST all those years and not have noticed this before? Second, I was furious with NIST. The NIST I knew was intellectually open, non-defensive, and willing to consider competing explanations.

The more I investigated, the more apparent it became that NIST had reached a predetermined conclusion by ignoring, dismissing, and denying the evidence. Among the most egregious examples is the explanation for the collapse of WTC 7 as an elaborate sequence of unlikely events culminating in the almost symmetrical total collapse of a steel-frame building into its own footprint at free-fall acceleration.

I could list all the reasons why the NIST WTC reports don’t add up, but others have already done so in extensive detail and there is little that I could add. What I can do, however, is share some thoughts based on common sense and experience from my fourteen years at NIST.

First, if NIST truly believes in the veracity of its WTC investigation, then it should openly share all evidence, data, models, computations, and other relevant information unless specific and compelling reasons are otherwise provided. For example, would the release of all files and calculations associated with the ANSYS collapse initiation mod- el jeopardize public safety to an extent that outweighs the competing need for accountability?

Second, in its reports, NIST makes a great show of details leading to collapse initiation and then stops short just when it becomes interesting. The remainder of the explanation is a perfunctory statement that total collapse is inevitable and obvious. It is easy to see through this tactic as avoid- ance of inconvenient evidence. In response to any challenges, NIST has provided curt explanations from its Public Affairs Office. There were many contributors to the NIST WTC investigation: Why not let them openly answer questions in their own voice with the depth of knowledge and level of detail that follows from the nuts and bolts of their research?

Lastly, awareness is growing of the disconnect between the NIST WTC reports and logical reasoning. The level of interest in “15 years later” is a good example. Due to the nature of communication in today’s world, that awareness may increase approximately exponentially. Why not NIST blow the whistle on itself now while there is still time?

Truth is where our healing lies.

Peter Michael Ketcham, USA

The 9/11 Truth community has, understandably, promoted the above letter as evidence for the crumbling of NIST’s official position on 9/11. But we think the following announcement is in many ways the most relevant to our current time. In the era of “propornot”, campus censorship and the promotion of “anti-free-speech” as the new badge of the Left, below is the official statement by the editors of Europhysics News itself (our emphasis):

The editors respond

It is the policy of EPN to publish by invitation. Prospective authors are suggested by members of our Editorial Advisory Board, who cover various disciplines and come from different countries.

This particular Feature article ‘On the physics of High Rise Building Collapses’, followed the same route. We expected this topic to be of wide interest to our readers and thus invited the suggested authors to submit their manuscript. EPN does not have a formal review/rejection policy for invited contributions.

In the present case we realized that the final manuscript contained some speculations and had a rather controversial conclusion. Therefore a ‘Note from the editors’ was added, stressing that the content is the sole responsibility of the authors and does not represent an official position of EPN.

Since some controversy remains, even among more competent people in the field, we considered that the correct scientific way to settle this debate was to publish the manuscript and possibly trigger an open discussion leading to an undisputable truth based on solid arguments. Therefore we asked NIST, as principal investigator of the WTC collapse, to send us a reaction to the article. Their response can be found elsewhere on these pages.

It is shocking that the published article is being used to support conspiracy theories related to the attacks on the WTC buildings. The Editors of EPN do not endorse or support these views.

In future, prospective authors will be asked to provide an abstract of the proposed article, as well as an indication of other related publications to allow the editors to better assess the content of the invited articles.

It’s hard to read this as anything but a wholesale rejection of its own decision to publish this “controversial” paper, and an announcement that all future papers will be vetted for political content as well as scientific validity, and that certain authors and/or dissenting opinions will be suppressed. Whatever your opinions on 9/11, and however you view the Jones et al paper, this must disturb you.

We did email Europhysics News to ask them for some clarification. We’ll let our readers know when/if they respond.

March 15, 2017 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | , | Leave a comment

Scott Pruitt’s statement on climate change

By Judith Curry | Climate Etc. | March 11, 2017

My analysis of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s recent statements on climate change, and the response to his statements.

Last week, there was a controversial interview of Scott Pruitt on CNBC. A sampling of the headlines reporting on his interview:

New Yorker :  Scott Pruitt rejects climate change reality.  A relatively thorough summary of the interview with Scott Pruitt.

Washington Post :  On climate change, Scott Pruitt causes an uproar — and contradicts the EPA’s own website.

CNBC:  Scott Pruitt’s climate denial is dangerous and out of step.

Guardian : EPA head Scott Pruitt denies that carbon dioxide causes global warming.  Subtitle:  Trump adviser shocks scientists and environmental advocates with statement that negates EPA policy and ‘overwhelmingly clear’ evidence on climate change

David Robert at VoxScott Pruitt denies basic climate science. But most of the outrage is missing the point. Subtitle:  It’s not about Pruitt and it’s not about facts. Excerpt: The right’s refusal to accept the authority of climate science is of a piece with its rejection of mainstream media, academia, and government, the shared institutions and norms that bind us together and contain our political disputes.

A number of scientists have responded in various venues regarding their opinion on Scott Pruitt’s statements.  Here I include the ‘official’ statement from the AGU:

AGU Responds to Statements from EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt on Climate Change.  Excerpt: The position statement of the American Geophysical Union regarding climate change leaves no doubt that increasing atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide resulting from human activity is the dominant source of climate change during the last several decades.

You may recall my concerns about the AGU policy statement on climate change [link]

What Scott Pruitt actually said

Listen to what Scott Pruitt actually said on CNBC and then compare it to the portrayal in the media.  Here is the key text:

I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do and there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact, so no, I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.  But we don’t know that yet.  We need to continue the debate and continue the review and the analysis.

Can you square what Pruitt actually said with the distorted quotes and headlines about this?  I can’t.

I think that these two statements made by Pruitt are absolutely correct:

I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do and there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact

We need to continue the debate and continue the review and the analysis.

The other two statements give slightly conflicting messages:

I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.  But we don’t know that yet.

The main statement of controversy is:

I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.

You can interpret this in two ways:

1.Pruitt is denying that CO2 is a primary contributor to recent global warming

OR

2.Pruitt is saying that he does not accept as a ‘fact’ that CO2 is a primary contributor because we simply don’t know.

Since his subsequent statement is “But we don’t know that yet”, #2 is obviously the correct interpretation.

I think he is saying that he is not convinced that we know with certainty that humans have caused 100% of the recent warming (which is what some climate modelers are saying, see recent tweets from Gavin Schmidt), or that humans have caused ‘more than half’ of the recent warming (which was the conclusion from the IPCC AR5.

JC reflections

If I am interpreting Pruitt’s statements correctly, I do not find anything to disagree with in what he said: we don’t know how much of recent warming can be attributed to humans. In my opinion, this is correct and is a healthy position for both the science and policy debates.

Exactly what the Trump administration intends to do regarding funding climate science, energy policy and the Paris climate agreement presumably remain as subjects of debate within the administration.  Looking at every little leak and quote out of context as a rationale for hysteria simply isn’t rational or useful.

The most interesting reaction to all this is David Robert’s Vox article:

The right’s refusal to accept the authority of climate science is of a piece with its rejection of mainstream media, academia, and government, the shared institutions and norms that bind us together and contain our political disputes.

The ‘problem’:  a change of administration and party after 8 years, mainstream media no longer has a lock on the media’s message (given all of the new news sources on the internet), academia’s profoundly liberal bias is being challenged, and the consensus that has been negotiated and enforced by certain elite scientists is being challenged.

Three cheers for democracy, the internet and the scientific process.

March 12, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Science and Pseudo-Science | , | Leave a comment

In a society of “believers” & “deniers” we all become Inquisitors

By Catte | OffGuardian | March 11, 2017

The two minute hate redefined for the Facebook age

Light often arises from a collision of opinions, as fire from flint & steel”Benjamin Franklin, 1760

“The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.” John Stuart Mill

The “collision of opinion” so endorsed by enlightenment thinkers, is not currently encouraged. If someone says something stupid or blatantly false our first response is no longer to try to prove them wrong – it’s to silence them. To quote Jonathan Pie we focus on “stopping debates instead of winning them.” A good recent example of that is the bizarre trial-by-media of Polish right-wing MEP Janusz Korwin-Mikke.

Let’s be clear. JKM seems to hold a pretty reactionary and unpleasant set of views, about women and much else. Speaking as a woman, I’m not a fan of that. Here is the gentleman, talking about the gender pay gap, in the discourse that ignited the current eruption of outrage:

His English is broken, his reasoning shaky and his conclusions pretty flawed. He’s a self-created straw man, waiting to be knocked over by any reasonably intelligent or astute opponent. But what has the response in the media been?

Yes, that’s right, not a series of rational refutations, but a chorus of offended people hurling abuse and demanding the clown be censored.

Piers Morgan, who invited Korwin-Mikke on to Good Morning Britain did little more than exchange playground insults with the man. Korwin-Mikke says his opinions are based on “scientific studies”. Did Morgan bother to ask what these “studies” might be? Did he offer counter-evidence that proves the nonsense Korwin-Mikke is talking?

No. He just called him “stupid” and a “sexist pig”. Ok, maybe JKM is both those things, but that’s not the point. If he’s wrong he should be shown to be wrong, with rebuttal, not ad hominem. What Morgan did, and was lauded for, isn’t debate, it’s an ignorant brawl, or the two-minutes hate. The fact the hate-figure on this occasion is some man with unpleasant ideologies and dodgy data does not make it a great day for democracy.

The call is mounting for Korwin-Mikke to be “kicked out” of the European parliament. The Soros-funded fake grassroots group Avaaz is leading this campaign, and lying about him into the bargain, publishing photos of him doing a Nazi salute, without bothering to tell anyone he was, as the Independent grudgingly confirms in its text, doing this as a derogatory commentary on current German policies, and not as a tribute to Hitler (yes, it was still inappropriate, but that doesn’t justify a blatant falsehood being propagated in pursuance of a witch hunt). Avaaz’s campaign already has over 700,000 signatories. And indeed Korwin-Mikke is going to be dealt with by the EP itself, who have promised:

… a penalty commensurate with the gravity of the offence”

Offence? Is it actually illegal now to say untrue things about women? We’re going to punish this guy, not prove him wrong?

So, who cares, right? So, one misogynistic fool gets falsely maligned and hounded in the tabloids and maybe even “kicked out” of parliament, who is any the worse for it?

To which the obvious reply is – do you really think it will end there? Do you think the neoliberal press and toxic propagandists such as Avaaz are busy fostering this atmosphere of anti-intellectual intolerance just so they can deal with a handful of women-haters or other nasties?

The point is, once you have installed the culture of suppression, you can use it in any way you like.

The insidious new meme being developed in “progressive” places like the Guardian, and other neoliberal strongholds is that free speech is all very well, but has its limits. Not, you understand, the already established limits defined by law which make it clear free speech does not include the right to threaten, defame or incite violence. No, these are new and woolly limits that involve misty concepts like “hate” (not hate-speech, which is also defined by certain laws, but “hate”, which isn’t), and “consensus facts.” We are told that people who transgress these vague new limits need to be stopped – for the good of society. We are told we are living in a time of unprecedented “hate”, even though prosecutions for hate-crime are dropping. We are told we need to take a stand, “stamp out” this “hate” and make a statement of zero tolerance.

On the surface that’s a reasonable thing. No one sane wants to encourage hate or to be a “hater”. But what we may not notice is that the “progressives” advocating this approach never say exactly what they mean by “hater”. “Hater” of what exactly? Ethnic minorities? Women? Trans people? White men? Oligarchs? Israel? Corrupt politicians? The NSA? What if the corrupt politician is a woman? What if the NSA spokesman is black?

And exactly how far can we go to stamp out “hate”? Is it acceptable – for example – to rescind an elected representative’s right to sit in the European Parliament if he’s branded a “hater”? Who would be empowered to make this decision? The parliament itself? Oligarch-funded pressure groups with hordes of unverified signatories? What are the exact definitions? Where is the line drawn? We aren’t told, and that’s probably not an oversight.

“Denier” is another word like “hater.” “Deniers” are the boogeymen to sell us the idea that free speech is dangerous, not just for minorities, but also for the preservation of truth. The same people who talk about “haters” frequently ask how we can allow “deniers” to keep muddying the argument about [insert contentious issue here], when the world/human health/the future of the universe is at stake.

The starting point is always the fallacy that we can establish truth to a degree that makes further discussion of evidence unnecessary and doubt a sort of crime. Once we know the Truth, the argument goes, we don’t really need free speech any more. In fact free speech in a time of established Truth becomes a regressive force, since it will enable those who don’t believe the Truth, or who are paid to besmirch it, to lead the unwary from the path of certainty into darkness and doubt.

If that sounds like religious fundamentalism it’s because essentially that’s what it is. It’s the fundamentalism of a post-deist world. Just as anti-rational, just as anti-factual, just as atavistic as any other expression of certitude that requires unqualified acceptance as the first article of faith. But this particular “fundamentalism” is being used cynically as another way of levering public opinion away from real free speech and toward “modified” free speech, where the right to air your opinion is conditional upon a lot of poorly defined, and often faith-based ideas about public health and social responsibility.

Let’s pause for a moment and evaluate.

Why do so many of the same neoliberals who support environmental disasters such as global wars and nuclear energy, also swarm the issue of climate change, and so vocally agitate for the silencing or denigration of “deniers”? Why when the absolutely not “denialist” IPCC is openly admitting there can at present be no certainty about the extent or direction of longterm global temperatures, is any kind of demurring from the belief that manmade climate change is not only real but deadly, presented to us in the liberal media as something malign or insane that should not be given airtime?

If the IPCC’s 2013 report on everything from the net warming potential of C02 to the true extent of ice-loss in the Arctic, is a long list of best guesses ranging from “high probability” to “low probability”, with no mention of certainty, how do we even begin to justify dismissing and demonising people whose views of these probabilities may be different?

Note, I’m not saying “why do people believe in the reality of manmade climate change”? I absolutely understand why they do. It’s a very reasonable thing to believe. I’m asking specifically why we are being encouraged to consider doubt or even nuance is invalid and should be expunged, when the IPCC and scientists on both sides acknowledge that doubt and nuance of varying degrees, and indeed complete absence of knowledge, inevitably goes with the territory?

Is the demand for the exclusion of certain points of view based on a) the fear the public may get confused by conflicting viewpoints and accidentally let the planet burn up, or b) the recognition this is a nice thin end of a very thick wedge?

Just as no one sane wants to encourage hate, no one rational wants to destroy the planet. It’s a pretty easy sell to persuade us that we shouldn’t listen, or give air time, to lunatics or shills who apparently want to let the oceans swallow the land and the skies boil. I mean, I don’t want that to happen, do you? Faced with a stark alternative, where we either censor the bad guys or let them usher in the end of the world, which side are we going to pick? Green David versus Goliath the Oil Monster, is a no-brainer, add in George Monbiot, or someone, pointing to the undeniably egregious suppression of the connection between smoking and lung cancer as proof that narrow special interests can confuse arguments and hinder progress, and we’re sold. Let’s silence the pesky deniers and save the planet.

The argument is superficially persuasive because it’s partly true. Big Tobacco did use its clout to suppress inconvenient research and pay off scientists to lie or obfuscate, and this had a very negative impact on public health over many years. It’s reasonable to want to avoid that in future.

But let’s stop and think for a moment. How, in heaven’s name, is the fact Big Tobacco managed to suppress research and manipulate the debate an argument for censoring anyone? What this case proves is the need for more openness and debate, not less. It proves that good science will win out over false representation, when both sides are given equal opportunity to be heard. It was Big Tobacco’s big bucks that kept the truth from coming out, not the principle of free speech. Imagine, forty years ago, Philip Morris International had been able to not simply suppress and distort but to label its critics “tobacco deniers” and demand their voice be banned from the airwaves for the good of humanity?

Are we supposed to believe this kind of suppression is a step forward, just because right now the perceived “good guys” are doing it? Or that the new age of “consensus-driven”, Avaaz-sponsored grass-roots endorsed censorship would only be used by the weak against the strong, truth against lies? Are we supposed to believe, once we have set a precedent of denying the “deniers” and the “haters” their platform, the neoliberal media won’t pretty soon be labeling anyone their bosses don’t like a “denier” or a “hater” and demanding they be silenced or sent to jail? And, if we can be persuaded to stop listening to one side of this argument can’t we most likely be persuaded to stop listening to one side of any argument.

Are we supposed to overlook the fact that while Goliath the Oil Monster certainly does fund climate skeptics, “Green David” is backed by some of the richest and most influential people on the planet?

No, once again, I’m not saying manmade climate change isn’t real. I’m saying, quite specifically, that the current drive to politicise and censor this debate has nothing to do with protecting truth or saving the planet and everything to do with attacking the most important principle of freedom. I’m saying Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, George Soros, Richard Branson, Reid Hoffman, Tom Steyer, the UN, NASA, NOAA, the IPCC, the EU, the Democratic Party et al can probably compete on equal terms with Big Oil. I’m saying their message is getting across and the idea that manmade global warming is some underfunded grassroots campaign that needs special pleading to defend its corner is just another way of persuading people that censorship can be progressive. I’m saying let’s stop buying that schtick.

I’m saying we need to reassert the fact that truth doesn’t require to be defended by censorship, government prosecution, or simplistic one-sided arguments. Truth thrives in open debate and the exchange of ideas. It dies when one side is denied a voice because “If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.”

And that is only more true when the truth may have a dozen billionaires and the entire neoliberal establishment advocating for it.

I’m saying that in a society of “believers” and “deniers” we all become Inquisitors, of each other and ourselves. We are currently encouraged by our betters to be Brown Shirts, dumb as a bag of hammers, zero-tolerant and proud of it, beating down unacceptable minority views with a big populist stick. We are urged, not to arrive at opinions through analysis, but to just know what’s true, because the right people say so, because our Facebook friends give it a lot of likes, because it just is ok? We don’t engage with different opinions we scream at them until they go away or get put down.

I’m saying that as a modern day Milgram experiment this push to get intelligent, caring people to act like Salem witch hunters is interesting, demonstrating that the smartest, sanest person can be enjoined to act against their deepest ideals and even common sense, if given the proper cues.

We’re forgetting that the point of free speech is it guarantees a voice to the weaker party, the oppressed, the otherwise disenfranchised. And in the age of the internet this principle can be put into practice to a degree unimaginable.

This is why the powerful and the wealthy are currently trying to persuade us to fear and distrust each other. To hate in the name of anti-hate, silence in the name of progress. Bit by bit. Voice by voice. Until the only sound left is the dispossessed lunatic scream.

The horrible thing about the Two Minutes Hate was not that one was obliged to act a part, but that it was impossible to avoid joining in. Within thirty seconds any pretence was always unnecessary. A hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness, a desire to kill, to torture, to smash faces in with a sledge hammer, seemed to flow through the whole group of people like an electric current, turning one even against one’s will into a grimacing, screaming lunatic. And yet the rage that one felt was an abstract, undirected emotion which could be switched from one object to another like the flame of a blowlamp George Orwell, 1984

PS: Just once again and to be quite sure any skim-readers get the message – No, I am still NOT saying man made climate change is a lie.

March 12, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Science and Pseudo-Science | , , , | Leave a comment

An Opinion or Two on Climate Change

By Norman Pilon | Taking Sides ~ Thinking Through and Against Received Opinion | June 5, 2016

As a person who is neither a scientist nor well-versed in the minutia of climatology, it is interesting to survey the field of contentions over AGW, but in particular, how, on the one hand, the IPCC (sold to the public as a body of bona fide climate scientists solidly united in a singular consensus) publicly professes 95% certainty on the issue of AGW, while, on the other hand, measured observations and disagreements between highly credentialed climatologists belie both the professed ‘certitude’ of and the ‘consensus’ over ‘anthropogenic global warming.’

The imputations of deviousness leveled by the faithful of either side of the debate against the blasphemies of the other are also interesting: those who either deny or question AGW are accused of being in league with Big Oil or other such business interests.  And those who ardently affirm the AGW hypothesis are accused of being extortionists who understand how to use fear to exact funds from terrified publics.  Each side is right and each side is wrong, of course: some who deny AGW are indeed doing it at the behest of some political and business interests, but not all; and some who ardently affirm AGW as undeniably and catastrophically upon us are doing it also as cynical professionals intent upon eking out a comfortable living for themselves, but not all.  Regardless of the side of the debate on which you stand, money is always a great temptation.  And yet not everyone feels starved enough to compromise themselves in their honesty, whether in denying or affirming AGW to any degree of certitude.  There are genuine holdouts: some climate specialists are skeptical of the AGW only because their method of approach to the data of climactic phenomena does not yield much support for the ‘attribution;’ other equally competent specialists, working from a different set of assumptions, ‘know’ that the data sets, properly understood, ‘must’ confirm AGW, and they ‘know’ this in all sincerity.

And then to add more muck to the embroilment, there is this propensity that we ‘all’ share, which is simply to talk one another into this or that consensus of opinion, rightly or wrongly.  Everyone knows that consensus is not science, and yet it is both reasonable and possible for a group of people, collaborating in a spirit of critical thinking with one another, to come to a consensus of opinion on the basis of scientifically rigorous methods of analysis and investigation, as inherently dangerous and misleading as any kind of group consensus may be, scientific or otherwise.

Therefore, what sometimes appears to be bad faith, whether in an act of agreement or disagreement, is merely a manifestation of the ‘social’ nature of what ‘we’ are as humans in cultural terms, intellectually and cognitively.  We cannot ‘think’ alone but under the discursive influence of others, many of whom with which on many things we come to agree, although we must at the same time, for the sake of finding our collective way forward to a more adequate understanding of ourselves and our world, be wary of deriving too much comfort from thinking too much as others do, that is to say, conventionally, however astute and sophisticated that general outlook or mindset might be.

If consensus is not science, the scientist cannot always avoid being under its sway and, moreover, if the ‘truth’ is eventually to win out over our collective cultural benightedness, it must eventually tempt and enthrall the reasoning assent of more than just a few and thereby itself become the basis of a consensus.  If consensus is not science, science cannot for all that dispense with it.

The ‘global warming’ debate, then, is fractiously multidimensional in its appeals and interests.   The political dimension itself bifurcates into at least two phyla or subspecies: the politics of competing for research funds and the politics of which business interests stand to gain or lose from policies that might be elaborated and instituted on the basis of the prognostications of ‘climate science.’  Most of what appears of the debate for broad public consumption is driven by these two highly politicized ferments.

On the one hand, scientific research must go begging for the resources it needs to further its inquiries, and it secures these resources to the degree that it can persuade prospective patrons or backers of the usefulness or necessity of its initiatives.  Depending on who is being wooed as a prospective supporter, his understanding of the ‘usefulness or necessity’ of the initiatives being proposed can be very different from that of another, because different ‘interest groups’ do have different and often conflicting interests.  What is ‘useful and necessary’ from a public policy standpoint is not always what is ‘useful and necessary’ from a business standpoint, and even between business interests, what may be an opportunity for one sector of the economy may portend catastrophe for another.  One only has to think of the economic implications of serious curtailments of CO2 emissions for, on the one hand, hydrocarbon intensive industries and, on the other, the burgeoning ‘green technology’ business consortia.  It is not to be wondered at that Big Oil and related business interests and foundations – assuming that reductions in emissions would negatively impact their bottom lines, which is not necessarily the case, as ‘climate alarmism’ can be turned to account by even these industries, if only by providing a pretext for creating conditions of ‘scarcity’ in hydrocarbon markets – will want to seek out and support ‘climate scientists’ skeptical or incredulous of the claim that COis the main or sole driver of climate change.  Likewise, ‘green technology’ interests will find their natural allies to be ‘climate scientists’ who are pushing the AGW line, sincerely or otherwise.

‘Climate scientists’ who manage to sell their theses to the wealthiest or politically most powerful patrons will receive the most by way of research dowries, but perhaps also more importantly, will be the ones whose ‘viewpoints’ will come to dominate public opinion, or at least appear to do so, since the uniformity of public opinion (through the mechanisms of the corporate media and universal education, tightly under the control of the dominant sources of funding in our society) is also a phenomenon under the sway of the wealthiest and most powerful patrons in our midst.

Consequently, the ‘truth’ or ‘untruth’ of the hypothesis of AGW has little to do with its dissemination and acceptance in a broad cultural sense.  That dissemination and acceptance is predominantly determined by ‘political’ factors, by who control the main channels of information distribution.  In our society, regardless of which position on the issue of ‘global warming’ becomes prominent, that control ultimately rests with the corporate capitalist cartels.  One can therefore expect that irrespective of the scientific validity or invalidity of the AGW hypothesis, the version deemed most propitious to advancing both the short- and long-term interests of the ruling elite will also be perceived to be, whether in ‘fact’ or not, the dominant ‘scientific consensus.’

The ‘truth value’ of this politically generated ‘consensus,’ then, whatever it may be, is and will continue to be incidental, largely arbitrary and coincidental, in a word, an accident, like so much else that is characteristic of our age and era.

It remains, however, whether ‘global warming’ is actually happening, and if so, whether it is being driven by an anthropogenically induced accumulation of CO2  in the atmosphere.

Apparently, most climatologists agree that in the last 150 years or so, there has been a measurable increase in the mean global temperature.  But to say that the increase in that mean is measurable is to say nothing about its magnitude or its actual relevance for determinate changes in climate.

NOAA estimates that the global mean temperature of the earth has increased by about 0.85ºC, allowing for a probable error of 0.2ºC. [NOAA]  [Lindzen] But as Richard Lindzen observes, this measurable increase in the mean global temperature is actually so small as to be invisible in its effects in either local weather or climate events: it is simply impossible, given the extreme inherent variability of climate and weather events, to determine the impact of an increase of 0.85ºC in the mean global temperature in any one location or area on the surface of the planet. [Lindzen If the effect of a measurable increase in the mean temperature of the earth is in any real sense inappreciable, it is as if it hasn’t happened.  With confidence, climatologists can say that coinciding with the rise of industrialization and the exponential increase in CO2 emissions, a warming of the planet has indeed occurred.  But it is so far very slight and remains well beneath instrumental notice in its actual local climactic effects.

But is CO2 a greenhouse gas?  According to climate scientists on all sides of the debate, it is.  Is the increase in CO2 concentration in the atmosphere for which we are responsible in the last 150 years or so the reason why the earth’s mean temperature has risen by roughly 0.85ºC?  To my mind, this is highly improbable as well as unprovable.  For to make that claim is by implication also to claim that over the last 150 years, in the absence of our COemissions, the mean global temperature would have remained more or less stable.  Is there a climatologist anywhere who claims as much and on what grounds?  To confidently state as much would entail knowing all of the relevant cumulative factors terminating in the measure we call ‘the mean global temperature.’  Furthermore, it would entail knowing not only that the cumulative effects and interactions of these factors had to have been stable for the last 150 years, but all of the mechanics of that stability in detail.  But this is simply impossible, not merely on account of the intractability of the complex interactions that go into generating climate and weather on our planet, but because many phenomena that we suspect implicate important weather generating mechanisms and climate effects have yet to be properly deciphered.

One such suspected phenomenon or correlation (and keeping in mind that it only takes one anomalous observation to falsify a theory) is the one being investigated by the teams of Henrik Svensmark and Jasper Kirkby: the apparent synchronicity between solar magnetic cycles and cycles of global warming and cooling.  Svensmark has established that when the solar magnetic field peaks in strength, the surface temperatures of our planet tend to be markedly warmer; and when the solar magnetic field ebbs to its weakest, the surface temperatures of our planet tend to be markedly cooler.

Svensmark’s hypothesis for explaining these correlations is that cosmic rays raining down on our planet from disparate parts of the sky play a crucial role in building up the particulate aerosols necessary to the genesis of clouds.  The denser the flux of cosmic rays raining down on us, the denser become the cloud forming aerosols in our atmosphere, and the more clouds we have overhead to counter our sun’s radiative heat emissions.  And the density of the incoming cosmic flux, given its ionized and therefore electrically charged state, varies according to the intensity of the sun’s fluctuating magnetic field: the more intense the solar magnetic field, the more attenuated, because deflected, the cosmic flux will be, and conversely.

It remains for the Svensmark hypothesis pertaining to the influence of cosmic rays on aerosol formation to be confirmed or disproved.  ‘The Cloud Experiment’ at CERN being conducted under the supervision of Jasper Kirkby intends to do just that.

Now consider that if Svensmark’s speculations find corroborative support from Kirkby’s experiments, climate and weather events on earth will be shown to be influenced by distant cosmic events.  Such events lie beyond the scope of any reliable weather or climate forecasting methods we currently possess.  If it is demonstrated that distant cosmological events and cycles are themselves a source of significant climactic ‘forcing,’ climate forecasting becomes at least in part dependent on being able to forecast astronomical events such as, for example, super novae, but not only that, but also on being able to predict or map the probable paths of interferences of the cosmic rays generated by those events.  Suddenly, if Svensmark turns out to be right, a whole other layer of confounding complexities superimposes itself on an already incredibly complex system of energy redistributions.  At this point, though we actually would have arrived at a better understanding of the “what and how” of weather and climate, forecasting climate on a scale measured in years would become what perhaps it currently is and will forever remain, little more than the occult reading of signs and auguries.

If experiments are being conducted to better determine the role of cosmic rays in cloud formation, it is clear that ‘climate science’ is not at an end or complete, and it cannot possibly be stated with any high degree of confidence as yet that, in the absence of anthropogenic CO2, the mean global temperature of our planet would not have increased by 0.85ºC over the last few hundred years.  Svensmark’s theory about cloud formation is but one of what must surely be many examples of pivotal questions yet to be resolved by climate science.

I think, then, that it can reasonably be asserted with a certitude of 95% that ‘climate science’ remains a very long way off from being able to assert with 95% certainty that ‘global warming’ is already upon us and that its consequences will be nothing short of catastrophic, and that mankind and mankind alone will have been the cause of that catastrophe.

To my mind, because our world and its weather systems are so complex, and because our knowledge of those systems will always be a lot less than perfect, the most that we can aspire to in terms of understanding our planet’s climates is akin to what we can aspire to in terms of understanding the evolution of earthly life: though we have a pretty good grasp of the underlying mechanics, because the diversity of life on the planet is so sprawling, because the drivers of mutations are so numerous and random, our comprehension of evolution as a process, as profound as it may be, must remain for the most part spectatorial or contemplative.  Mutations, inherently random as they are in and of themselves, and even more so in their heritability, cannot be predicted in terms of the actual diversity of species that they will surely generate in the future that remains to life on this planet.  Likewise, because of its intractable complexities, though we may eventually understand a great deal more about them than we currently do, the emergence and distribution of climate patterns years into the future will remain largely beyond our measure, as is certain that they currently do.

March 8, 2017 Posted by | Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | | Leave a comment

Exactly what are scientists marching ‘for’?

By Judith Curry | Climate Etc. | March 5, 2017

The smartest people on the planet want to oppose Trump & the best they can come up with is a march in support of themselves? – Roger Pielke Jr

A mega March for Science has been planned for Earth Day (April 22) in Washington DC. The web site states:

The March for Science demonstrates our passion for science and sounds a call to support and safeguard the scientific community. Recent policy changes have caused heightened worry among scientists.

The mischaracterization of science as a partisan issue, which has given policymakers permission to reject overwhelming evidence, is a critical and urgent matter. It is time for people who support scientific research and evidence-based policies to take a public stand and be counted.

Of course, the poster child for partisan ‘mischaracterization of facts’ is statements by members of the Trump administration regarding uncertainty surrounding the causes of climate change.  President Obama and his Call Out the Climate Deniers campaign apparently elicited no concerns about partisan mischaracterization of facts from the science establishment.

Scientists fear  what ‘might’ happen under the Trump administration — they are working from rumors, leaks and a few public statements by individuals connected with Trump’s transition teams.  These are the same scientists pushing for ‘evidence based’ policies  — go figure.

The American Geophysical Union (AGU) – which is joining the March – had a blog post describing the positions on climate change and science of important individuals in the Trump administration: Mick Mulvaney, Rick Perry, Wilbur Ross, Scott Pruitt, Ryan Zinke. Read the blog post. To me, Trump’s team looks like it has a healthier attitude to science than did Obama’s team, who sought to scientize policy debates and politicize science debates.

The scientists’ big concern is ‘silencing of facts’. This concern apparently derives from their desire to have their negotiated ‘facts’ — such as  the ‘consensus’ on climate change — dictate public  policy. The scientists who are marching seem not very interested in science as a process based on continually evaluating evidence and reassessing conclusions through reasoning and impartial habits of mind.

The scientists are not just out to defend ‘facts’ — they fear funding cuts and limits to immigration. They also seem very attached to safeguarding the academic scientific community and the elite institutions that support it.

Some sentiments from scientists supporting the March:

Caroline Weinberg: “[I]t is not possible to ignore policy when it affects not just your jobs but the future of your field.” [link]

Dr Jacquelyn Gill: “A lot of scientists are realizing that the institutions that fund and support and science in this country . . .are under direct attack.” Trump, she said, “not only doesn’t value our institutions, he doesn’t seem to value evidence-based decision making at all. That is alarming to us.” [link]

Other scientists are very concerned about the March:

Professor Jim Gates,  former adviser to Barack Obama, told journalists that the march appeared to lack an end goal – a prerequisite for political action – and would simply be perceived as “science against Trump”. “At least as far as I can detect, there is no theory of action behind this,” he said. “This bothers me tremendously. “To have science represented as this political force I think is just extraordinarily dangerous.” [link]

Robert Young wrote that the march would be perceived as a protest of President Trump and “trivialize and politicize the science we care so much about.” “Trying to recreate the pointedly political Women’s March will serve only to reinforce the narrative from skeptical conservatives that scientists are an interest group and politicize their data, research and findings for their own ends.” [link]

Tactics in want of a strategy

So, exactly what do scientists expect to accomplish with this March, and how do they plan to go about it? Well, I am still at a loss to understand what they expect to accomplish, but there have been some interesting suggestions on how they might go about it.

Jonathan Foley in the Scientific American on how to defeat those who are waging war on science: portray an inclusive vision; get political; don’t fall into the culture war trap; balance facts with meaningful stories; be forceful.

Roger Pielke Jr in the Guardian To counter Trump’s administration, scientists need counter-propaganda, evidence-based alternative policies and political representation. The scientific community needs to eschew old habits that have manifested themselves in the march: calling for more funding and waging political battles through science.  

Kristy Henschel in Science : hold webinar viewing parties; host science policy seminars; design a science advocacy workshop; organize a State Hill day; invite your government representatives for a lab tour; host a science cafe; share your voice on twitter.

The most provocative suggestion comes from an editorial in Nature :  Researchers should reach beyond the science bubble. Excerpt: Scientists in the United States and elsewhere ought to address the needs and employment prospects of taxpayers who have seen little benefit from scientific advances. As they ponder their next move in response to the election of Trump, science organizations — universities, funders, supporters and the rest — should look harder at social problems and opportunities, and seek ways for science to help.

JC reflections

So far, the March for Science seems to be shaping up as a self-serving navel gazing exercise for scientists — sort of a ‘we don’t like Trump’ tantrum. The impression that this will have on policy makers and the public will be to cement scientists as a politicized special interest group, just like any other lobbying group. In short, I very much fear that this March will do more harm than good.

It’s not too late to turn this around. We need to rethink the contract between scientists and government, and develop a new model for the the 21st century. Here are some recommendations:

  • Embrace science as a process, not a collection of ‘facts’; invite the public to engage in the process of science.
  • The institutions of science need to reform themselves, and scientists need to get out of the ivory tower and engage with the real world [link]
  • Universities need a new business model and incentive structure for faculty members that doesn’t rely on massive federal research grants but rewards faculty for educating students at all levels and serving the needs of society.
  • Scientists need a much better understanding of the policy process, the role that science plays, and how complexity, pluralism and uncertainty in science is accommodated in the policy process. Evidence-based policy making is a good political slogan, but not a good description of the policy process. [link]
  • Scientists need to stop using science to support desired political outcomes.
  • Scientists need to do more than push back against flawed arguments and bad policy. We need to engage the public, and, even more, invite the public, across the political spectrum, to engage with science. [link]

March 6, 2017 Posted by | Corruption, Science and Pseudo-Science | | 2 Comments

Antarctic Record Temperature Con

By Paul Homewood | Not A Lot Of People Know That | March 2, 2017

image

https://twitter.com/greenpeace/status/837005520313679872

Today’s fake news story comes from Greenpeace.

The supposed record comes from Esperanza. As Jim Steele at WUWT points out, Esperanza is at the northern tip of the Antarctic peninsula, at a latitude of 63.4S, just about as far outside the Antarctic Circle as you could get.

https://i1.wp.com/voices.lafayette.edu/files/2015/04/esperanza-base-300x300.jpg

And as WUWT also points out,  the temperature was purely the product of a fohn wind.

The temperature of 63.5F was actually set in March 2015, but has only just been officially confirmed by the WMO. As the Capital Weather Gang at the Washington Post noted at the time, the previous record of 62.8F was also set at Esperanza as far back as 1961.

The implication now is that “balmy” temperatures of 63F are unheard of Antarctica, which is clearly nonsense.

And as we can see, monthly average temperatures in March 2015 were not in the least unusual. Indeed, the hottest March was in 1965.

image

https://data.giss.nasa.gov/cgi-bin/gistemp/show_station.cgi?id=301889630008&dt=1&ds=14

 

None of this information is mentioned by either Greenpeace, or media outlets such as MSN, who also carry the story.

But the really dishonest part is that photo of two poor penguins stranded at the top of a melting lump of snow.

As Joe has discovered, exactly the same photo appeared in December 2013, in an article by the International Science Times, which was about record cold temperatures in Antarctica. The picture is actually on Cape Denison, as the report makes clear:

image

When it’s late February and you’re complaining about the winter dragging endlessly on, take comfort in the fact that you’re not on the East Antarctic Plateau, where scientists have measured the coldest temperature on earth. At negative 135.8 degrees Fahrenheit, the August 10, 2010, temperature was “tens of degrees colder than anything ever seen in Alaska, Siberia or Greenland,” said Ted Scambos of the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colo., the group that made the discovery.

http://www.isciencetimes.com/articles/6506/20131210/scientists-locate-coldest-place-earth-east-antarctic-plateau.htm

March 2, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | , , | 1 Comment