Climate Depot’s Rebuttal
If any Americans actually believe the climate claims linking ‘global warming’ to a rise in conflicts, no amount of evidence, data, logic or scientific studies will likely persuade them. But given the high profile nature of the Pentagon report, a rebuttal is necessary.
Obama has claimed that climate ‘deniers’ were a huge part of the problem. Obama explained: “Denying it, or refusing to deal with it, endangers our national security and undermines the readiness of our forces.”
Obama seems to be borrowing his claims from Rolling Stone Magazine :
But actually believing the above statements endangers our capacity for rational thought and evidence based research. Actually believing Obama and his Pentagon’s climate claims, undermines our nation’s ability to distinguish real threats from politically contrived nonsense.
UN climate treaties and EPA climate regulations will not prevent wars, conflicts or impact the creation of terrorist groups.
The President seems to believe every modern malady is due to ‘global warming.’
President Obama claimed that man-made climate change was partly responsible for the civil war in Syria. “It’s now believed that drought, crop failures, and high food prices helped fuel the early unrest in Syria, which descended into civil war in the heart of the Middle East,” Obama said.
First off, extreme weather is not getting more ‘extreme.’
Scientists reject notion that human-caused climate change led to war in Syria – ‘Human-influenced climate change impact on the drought conditions was almost certainly too small to have mattered’
Global warming is not a threat to the world, but global warming ‘solutions’ are. The estimated 1.2 billion people in the world without electricity who are leading a nasty, brutish and short life, will be the ones who “will pay” for global warming solutions that prevent them from obtaining cheap and abundant carbon based energy.
Simple historical facts undermine the President’s claims about global warming and national security concerns.
Small Sampling of evidence countering President Obama’s claims.
Lord Christopher Monckton, Former Thatcher Adviser issues point-by-point rebuttal to Obama: ‘Does the ‘leader’ of the free world really know so little about climate?’ – ‘If this Obama speech was the very best that the narrow faction promoting the extremist line on global warming could muster for their mouthpiece, then the skeptics have won the scientific, the economic, the rational, and the moral arguments – and have won them hands down.’
‘All Large European Wars Occurred With CO2 Below 350 ppm’ Via Real Science website- Most Of The World’s Wars Occurred Below 350 PPM CO2 — ‘Now that we know that war is caused by global warming, I was very surprised to discover that the vast majority of wars occurred before 1988 – including the War of 1812′
UN Climate Chief: Middle East Was Peaceful When CO2 Was Below 350 PPM — UN’s Christiana Figueres: ‘Food shortages and rising prices caused by climate disruptions were among the chief contributors to the civil unrest coursing through North Africa and the Middle East’
Scientific studies comprehensively debunk the notion that rising carbon dioxide will lead to more wars.
‘A total takedown’ of myth by the Center for Strategic and International Studies — ‘Since the dawn of civilization, warmer eras have meant fewer wars. The reason is simple: all things being equal, a colder climate meant reduced crops, more famine and instability. Research by climate historians shows a clear correlation between increased warfare and cold periods. They are particularly clear in Asia and Europe, as well as in Africa’
Scientific American : ‘Greens Should Stop Claiming More Warming Means More War’
Conflict Deaths and Global Warming – ‘The problem is that the conflicts that are cited as examples of the phenomenon are located in areas known for both frequent conflict prior to the current warming period and for historical patterns of extreme climates similar to those seen today.’
Even BBC features harsh criticism of new study: ‘Their strong statement about a general causal link between climate and conflict is unwarranted by the empirical analysis that they provide’ — BBC: Rise in violence ‘linked to climate change’ — ‘Changes in temperature or rainfall correlated with a rise in assaults, rapes and murders’
Study: Cold spells were dark times in Eastern Europe: ‘Cooler periods coincided with conflicts and disease outbreaks’ –Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences’: ‘Some of Eastern Europe’s greatest wars and plagues over the last millennium coincided with cold periods’ — ‘The Black Death in the mid-14th century, the Thirty Years’ War in the early 17th century, the French invasion of Russia in the early 19th century and other social upheavals occurred during cold spells. The team suggests food shortages could explain the timing of some of these events’
Global Conflict Not Linked to Global Climate Change — ‘Wars in Burundi, Chad, the Dominican Republic, Indonesia, Peru, the Comoros, Congo, Eritrea, Niger, and Rwanda are so numerous that I could probably make a statistical argument that one in five wars are due to the AFC winning the Super Bowl’
Remarkably sane article in Science : Warm periods are good, cold periods are bad
Time Mag reports: ‘Peaks of social disturbance such as rebellions, revolutions, & political reforms followed every decline of temperature’ — ‘Number of wars increased by 41% in Cold Phase’ — ‘Peaks of social disturbance such as rebellions, revolutions, and political reforms followed every decline of temperature, with a one- to 15-year time lag’
A UN IPCC Scientist’s New Study! ‘Global Warming Sparks Fistfights & War, Researchers Say': ‘Will systematically increase the risk of many types of conflict ranging from barroom brawls & rape to civil wars & international disputes’ — Climate Depot Responds
Science by Barbara Loe Fisher | July 22, 2015
A 2015 Pharma-driven bill blessed by the FDA seriously compromises the integrity of the vaccine licensing process and is sailing through the U.S. Congress. Act to protect vaccine safety and join http://www.NVICadvocacy.org and learn more at http://www.NVIC.org.
See also :
The 21st Century Cures Act will see some revisions before the House votes on the bill later this week. On July 2, 2015, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce released a summary of major changes to the bill that reduce the funding to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Cures Innovation Fund to approximately $8.75 billion over the next five years instead of the $10 billion that was originally proposed. The funding amount was amended “to clarify the availability of a $9.3 billion advanced appropriation for FY2016–FY2020. $110 million is made available for FDA regulatory modernization activities annually from FY2016–FY2020.”
Other changes to the proposed bill include not requiring companies that receive NIH funding to report their data, and additional changes to how drugs are reimbursed, specifically, payment amounts for branded drugs and infused specialty drugs. … continue
See also :
… “An underlying premise of the bill is the need to accelerate approval for new products, but this process is already quite efficient. A third of new drugs are currently approved on the basis of a single pivotal trial; the median size for all pivotal trials is just 760 patients. More than two-thirds of new drugs are approved on the basis of studies lasting 6 months or less – a potential problem for medications designed to be for a lifetime. Once the FDA starts its review, it approves new medications about as quickly as any regulatory agency in the world, evaluating nearly all drug applications within 6 to 10 months, an impressive turnaround for such complex assessments.” … Full article
Amazing insights into the Chicken Pox vaccine and the unintended consequences of that decision on the health of US citizens in particular.
Tony Bark, M.D.: When I was a resident in pediatrics I was told, “we’ll never promote this vaccine, this vaccine will never be a recommended or mandated vaccine because all vaccines come with risks and Chickenpox is so risk-free.”
Of course if your children died from Chickenpox, well yes, on average in the United States there were a hundred deaths per year from Chickenpox.
That’s not considered a problem, I hate to say it. Of course if it’s your child or your spouse who dies, or you, it’s a problem.
But if you look at it statistically, 100 deaths out of how many 100 million people we’ve got in the country, it was a really low rate.
Suzanne Humphries, M.D.: Most people know Chickenpox is a pretty benign entity, now we’re vaccinated for Chickenpox and, “hey, the vaccines working, we’re not seeing as much Chickenpox” right, so that seems like a good thing.
However what we’re seeing more of now is Shingles because those us adults who need to be exposed to ongoing Chickenpox through children, aren’t. So we’re not getting those natural boosters and so what happens is our immunity level starts to drop. This is happening both in children and adults now.
I don’t think this is an overall benefit. The UK is not using that vaccine, they have looked into the danger of Chickenpox and the cost-effectiveness of vaccinating the entire population and they have decided not to implement that in their vaccine schedule.
There are other countries as well who have decided not to use the Chickenpox vaccine. United States is one of the most heavily vaccinated countries,
South Korea comes close and our childhood chronic disease rates are actually also among the highest.
Tony Bark, M.D.: The problem with that vaccine is there are many more deaths from the vaccine then we would have seen from Chickenpox because now what we’ve done is we’ve shifted the burden of disease from Chickenpox to shingles.
What a lot of doctors don’t even understand is that Chickenpox, like pertussis, needs to be in the environment so we can be constantly exposed and the constant exposure maintains our antibodies which keeps us from getting Shingles. Which is why when I was a young kid the only people that got Shingles we’re very old people because they weren’t exposed to young children anymore.
If you’re out in the environment and you’re exposed to the population at large and young people, you are exposed to Chickenpox, or you were exposed to Chickenpox and it kept your antibodies adequate to suppress Shingles from coming out.
Gary Goldman, PH.D.: As the vaccine became more widespread and by year 2000, 50% of children, age less than 10 years old had been vaccinated. The boosting from children in the community with natural Chickenpox severely decreased because so many children had been vaccinated. So the young children that had natural Chickenpox no longer were receiving those exogenous or outside exposures.
As Chickenpox exposures declined, Shingles increased.
Tony Bark, M.D.: Shingles has a much greater morbidity and mortality rate than Chickenpox.
Gary Goldman, PH.D.: Yes, that’s a good point because the cost to treat Chickenpox are at 25 percent and Shingles is 75 percent of the cost. So if you eliminate Chickenpox but Shingles increases then you’ve offset the benefit that you tried to achieve.
Jim Hansen’s new paper, and his PR strategy, are raising a whole host of issues that are arguably a backfire for his objectives.
Last week, several media articles appeared about an alarming new paper by Jim Hansen, that was just being submitted to a journal and was not yet publicly available:
- Washington Post : The world’s most famous climate scientist just outlined an alarming scenario for our planet’s future
- National Observer : 2-degree target may still cause catastrophic sea level rise, James Hansen warns
- The Daily Beast : Climate Seer James Hansen Issues His Direst Forecast Yet
My first reaction was this: Why, of all the major news outlets, is only the Washington Post carrying this? No AP, etc.? Why haven’t I received a copy of this paper (usually a reporter or one of the skeptical news outlets would send me a copy). I figured the press release and paper were sent to only a few favored journalists?
The ‘favored journalists’ hypothesis quickly evaporated as articles like this then started to appear:
- The Conversation : Study predicts multi-meter sea level rise this century but not everyone agrees
- Mashable : The godfather of global warming’s frightening prediction is getting the cold shoulder
The paper is now available online, for all to evaluate:
Ice Melt, Sea Level Rise and Superstorms: Evidence from Paleoclimate Data, Climate Modeling, and Modern Observations that 2°C Global Warming is Highly Dangerous.
J. Hansen, M. Sato, P. Hearty, R. Ruedy, M. Kelley, V. Masson-Delmotte, G. Russell, G. Tselioudis, J. Cao, E. Rignot, I. Velicogna, E. Kandiano, K. von Schuckmann, P. Kharecha, A. N. Legrande, M. Bauer, and K.-W. Lo
Abstract. There is evidence of ice melt, sea level rise to +5–9 m, and extreme storms in the prior interglacial period that was less than 1 C warmer than today. Human-made climate forcing is stronger and more rapid than paleo forcings, but much can be learned by combining insights from paleoclimate, climate modeling, and on-going observations. We argue that ice sheets in contact with the ocean are vulnerable to non-linear disintegration in response to ocean warming, and we posit that ice sheet mass loss can be approximated by a doubling time up to sea level rise of at least several meters. Doubling times of 10, 20 or 40 years yield sea level rise of several meters in 50, 100 or 10 200 years. Paleoclimate data reveal that subsurface ocean warming causes ice shelf melt and ice sheet discharge. Our climate model exposes amplifying feedbacks in the Southern Ocean that slow Antarctic bottom water formation and increase ocean temperature near ice shelf grounding lines, while cooling the surface ocean and increasing sea ice cover and water column stability. Ocean surface cooling, in the North Atlantic as well as the Southern Ocean, increases tropospheric horizontal temperature gradients, eddy kinetic energy and baroclinicity, which drive more powerful storms.We focus attention on the Southern Ocean’s role in aecting atmospheric CO2 amount, which in turn is a tight control knob on global climate. The millennial (500–2000 year) time scale of deep ocean ventilation aects the time scale for natural CO2 change, thus the time 20 scale for paleo global climate, ice sheet and sea level changes. This millennial carbon cycle time scale should not be misinterpreted as the ice sheet time scale for response to a rapid human-made climate forcing. Recent ice sheet melt rates have a doubling time near the lower end of the 10–40 year range.We conclude that 2 C global warming above the preindustrial level, which would spur more ice shelf melt, is highly dangerous. Earth’s energy imbalance, which must be eliminated to stabilize climate, provides a crucial metric.
The paper is in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics Discussions, the discussion forum of the European Geosciences Union journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics [link]
Andy Revkin has two superb posts on the paper, which I will be referencing in m discussion below:
- Whiplash warning: when climate science is publicized before peer review and publication
- A rocky first review for a climate paper warning of a stormy coastal crisis
Reviews of the science
While the paper has not yet undergone formal peer review by the journal, journalists have elicited numerous reviews/comments from scientists. From the Washington Post,
Michael Mann “Their climate model scenario wherein Greenland and Antarctic meltwater caused by warming poles, leads to a near total shutdown of ocean heat transport to higher latitudes, cooling most of the globe (particularly the extratropics), seems rather far-fetched to me.” “Whether or not all of the specifics of the study prove to be correct, the authors have initiated an absolutely critical discussion.”
Kevin Trenberth, called the paper“provocative and intriguing but rife with speculation and ‘what if’ scenarios.” Trenberth objected in particular to the climate modeling scenarios used to study freshwater injection as ice sheets melt. “These experiments introduce a lot of very cold fresh water in various places, and then they see what happens.” “The question is how relevant these are to the real world and what is happening as global warming progresses? They do not seem at all realistic to me.” “There are way too many assumptions and extrapolations for anything here to be taken seriously other than to promote further studies.”
Richard Alley,“Many parts of the new paper are likely to stimulate much technical discussion and further research in our community, as we try to weave together the deep-time and recent history to provide useful projections for the future.” “This new paper is not ‘the answer,’” “Particularly, replacing the simple assumptions about doubling times of ice loss with physically based insights is a major focus of our field, but is not yet done and not likely to be ready really quickly.” Alley acknowledged that the IPCC’s sea level rise estimate “is well on the optimistic low-rise side of the possible outcomes,” and added that “the estimates in the new paper of freshening, and discussion of stabilization of the southern ocean and influences on precipitation, are interesting and important.”
From Revkin’s second post:
Tad Pfeffer: If you look at this from the point of view of somebody who’s trying to use this information for anything other than scientific satisfaction, whether or not these very, very rapid rates of sea level rise happen in the next few decades or the next few centuries makes all the difference in the world. The question of when does this start is not really addressed in this paper that I can find, and has been addressed only peripherally in most of the papers about ice sheet instability that I have seen. Ian Joughin made some statements recently [context] that I thought were pretty solid about it being a few centuries before this kind of very rapid sea level rise can take place and that makes sense to me because there are some very important things that you have to do in order to turn on the rapid response of the Antarctic ice sheet – you have to get rid of a couple of big ice shelves for starters. And it’s going to take a few centuries to do that. From a strictly geophysical, glaciological, point of view, a few centuries may not make much difference. But from the point of view of a planner, a policymaker, again these are the people who care about what exactly we’re saying. It makes all the difference in the world. And that’s the part I find missing in this paper. They have to say something about when this is going to occur. They may not be able to say with any great precision, but they have to say something. Because if this is something that’s going to happen in the next few decades, yeah, it’s something we’ve really got to wake up and pay attention about. If it’s something that’s going to happen in the next few centuries then there are a lot of other issues that we have to sort out first.
Without going into any details here, Revkin’s second post provides scientists’ comments that shows the whole section on Eemian superstorms appears to be without basis.
JC comments on the science
This is an intriguing and wide-sweeping paper that has put together a multi-disciplinary team to examine the possibility of near term catastrophic sea level rise.
For context, Hansen et al. present a much more extreme scenario than the last report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the most recent assessment in 2014 “Expert assessment of sea-level rise by AD 2100 and AD 2300.”
Should we only pay attention to UN and NAS sanctioned assessments by expert teams? Absolutely not (note I will have a follow on post in a day or two that delves into this issue). As stated in my previous post What is the plausible ‘worst scenario’ for climate change?, we should be putting extreme scenarios out there and assess whether they are plausible, possible, or essentially impossible.
The biggest issue raised by Hansen is the potential (plausible? possible?) for a catastrophic >5 m sea level rise in the 21st century. Hansen et al. have proposed a a new mechanism for faster sea level rise – can we falsify this? The collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet (WAIS) is arguably the most alarming potential impact of global warming. WAIS has collapsed before during previous interglacials, and will undoubtedly collapse again (with or without AGW), with a ~5 m sea level rise. The issue is whether the WAIS can collapse on timescales of decades to a century. Based on what we know (summarized by Tad Pfeffer above), this is a process that would take centuries.
I am not an expert on sea level rise or ice sheets, but here are a few things that frame my own understanding, including some recent research:
- Sea level has been rising for millennia. I am not convinced that there is a significant acceleration of sea level rise that can be attributed to human caused global warming (see this previous post).
- Recent research from Scripps finds that the Greenland ice sheet did not melt as much as expected during the Eemian but that may mean Antarctic ice sheets melted more than expected.
- A new paper summarized by Cato that found that the size of the Greenland ice sheet—especially the best observed portions covering the west and southwestern parts of Greenland—during the mid-Holocene was smaller than it is today—but not by a whole lot.
- Study finds surprisingly high geothermal heating beneath west antarctic ice sheet [link]
So it looks like we should be more worried about WAIS than about Greenland, and it seems that natural processes (natural climate change and geothermal processes) have caused large sea level changes in the past during interglacial periods (albeit not rapid ones) and will continue to cause sea level to changes in the future. Human contribution so far to sea level rise does not seem particularly significant, given the early 20th century rate of sea level rise is about the same as the current rate. Our ways of inferring future rates of sea level rise from ice sheet melting is crude – we can speculate but not with much confidence. The danger posed by sea level rise is a function of the rate of change far more than the actual sea level itself.
Does Hansen et al. make any contribution to all this? Well their proposed mechanism with feedbacks is of interest and should be explored further. But their conclusions regarding an alarming rate of sea level rise are at best possible (and not plausible).
The policy relevance of the Hansen et al. paper is the articulation of a possible worst case scenario of sea level rise. In robust decision making, the plausible worst case scenario informs decision making but does not necessarily dominate the decision making process.
What role does a ‘possible’ worst case scenario play, apart from clarifying what is plausible? Well, to alarm people and to help build political will to ‘act’ on emissions reductions, particularly for forthcoming Paris COP.
Regarding the policy relevance of the paper, Science Insider writes:
Whether this paper will become a key point of reference in the ongoing climate talks isn’t clear. In advance of the Paris meetings, negotiators from nearly every country in the world have provisionally agreed to the 2°C target. That there is even such an agreement in the offing seems like a victory, but whether it will be reached is still up in the air. Recognizing this, 24 academic and professional institutions in the United Kingdom yesterday issued a sternly worded joint communiqué that called on the international community to take immediate action on reducing emissions. The statement suggested that to have a chance of reaching that 2°C goal, Earth must become a zero-carbon world by the second half of the century. . . But how influential this paper will be is unclear, given its flaws.
Hansen has previously suggested that scientists are often too hesitant to say just how dire the situation is. A 2007 paper he co-authored, titled “Scientific Reticence and Sea Level Rise,” suggested that scientists felt constrained from sounding a full-fledged alarm on how high the waters will get, in part because of the cautious nature of scientific inquiry and the scientific method. But, he says in that paper’s abstract, “there is a danger in excessive caution.” The new paper, he told reporters yesterday, is “significantly more persuasive than anything previously published about just how dangerous 2°C warming would be.”
Hansen’s political agenda is evident as per Revkin’s post:
The new paper, which Hansen told me he’s been working on for eight years, was being rushed into public view with the hope of influencing negotiations at the December round of talks in Parisaimed at crafting a new global climate change agreement. You can hear from Hansen on the reasoning in the recording of his phone conference call with some reporters on Monday.
Also from Revkin regarding a passage apparently in the press release:
The paper got attention in advance because of this passage:
We conclude that continued high emissions will make multi-meter sea level rise practically unavoidable and likely to occur this century. Social disruption and economic consequences of such large sea level rise could be devastating. It is not difficult to imagine that conflicts arising from forced migrations and economic collapse might make the planet ungovernable, threatening the fabric of civilization. This image of our planet with accelerating meltwater includes growing climate chaos and storminess, as meltwater causes cooling around Antarctica and in the North Atlantic while the tropics and subtropics continue to warm. Rising seas and more powerful storms together are especially threatening, providing strong incentive to phase down CO2 emissions rapidly.
The cited criticisms of the paper all make valid points. The criticisms of Mann and Trenberth are somewhat surprising to me, since I have seen them support papers that are at least as dubious as Hansen et al. Apart from the paper’s flaws, I suspect some of the backlash from these scientists is associated with the fact that this paper has not yet been peer reviewed, and is an integrative, interdisciplinary assessment that challenges the IPCC and other established assessment reports. Revkin cites Tad Pfeffer: “One of the things that troubles me most is that the rapid-fire publication of unsettled results in highly visible venues creates the impression that the scientific community has no idea what’s going on.” There is clearly a concern that such independent assessments, especially by well known and/or reputable scientists, can undermine the authority and messaging of ‘establishment’ assessment and scientists.
Revkin provides some interesting insights into their publicity push and the media response:
But by late Tuesday, as other coverage built, so did questions about the way the study was released, and the quality of its analysis. Another sign of trouble was that, despite the publicity push, the Associated Press, The New York Times, the BBC and The Guardian (despite its yearlong push for climate action blending advocacy and reporting) were among those who steered clear of the study. Listen to the taped call to get a visceral sense of the concerns of Seth Borenstein, the longtime climate reporter at the A.P.
That portentous section above — which in many ways is the only part of the paper that is news given how it centers on the “likely” inundation of most coastal cities in this century without aggressive emissions cuts — is not in the version the journal has posted. It’s in a shorter version, lacking references, that a publicist at Glover Park told me was going into more of a lay publication.
The final draft posted for discussion has more nuanced language, in line with what those arguing for more near-term climate and coastal risk have already articulated.
Maybe we’ll all be a little slower on the draw next time when work is promoted before it is publicized or peer reviewed. There are other merits to slowing down a bit in examining an issue that will be with us for generations — long past Paris. This is a marathon, not a sprint.
I think part of the backfire is associated with having Glover Park handle the media push. Glover Park provides strategic communications campaigns for corporations, non-profit organizations and industry associations. The Group is also involved in lobbying, but it definitely seems to be non-partisan (i.e. open to pretty much all paying customers – I wonder how much Hansen paid for their services and where the funds came from).
I’m not sure I’ve ever seen publicity for a research paper being handled by such a group (Glover doesn’t seem to have prior experience with this, since they rather bungled it for Hansen). Press releases are usually issued by universities, journals or funding agencies. Advocacy groups and think tanks also issue press releases for their own reports. But what about retired or independent scientists? And for scientists whose universities won’t issue a press release? E.g., Georgia Tech declined to issue a press release on Lewis and Curry; the paper was publicized on my blog and by the GWPF. In Hansen’s case, presumably NASA or Columbia could have issued the press release. But probably not including Hansen’s most alarming statements.
In any event, it is refreshing to see the maturity shown by some journalists in handling this issue. They seem to be well trained re the ‘sanctity’ of peer reviewed papers. I am also wondering whether Hansen’s explicit policy advocacy, coupled with a scientific research paper (esp one that had not undergone peer review), contributed to distrust of the research? You would hardly expect Jim Hansen to write a paper saying AGW is less alarming than we thought.
A combination of weak/speculative science, issuing the press release prior to peer review or at least public availability of the paper, a direct challenge to establishment assessment reports, policy advocacy, and use of a professional publicity/marketing/lobbying group to handle the publicity seems to have contributed to the backfire. I doubt that this paper will have any serious influence on the Paris deliberations.
As a result of my inquiry for the article “What you didn’t know about a doctor’s stance on the HPV vaccine,” the medical journal Lancet has now issued a correction to its publication.
The correction acknowledges formerly undisclosed financial conflicts of interest between the article’s lead author and makers of the controversial human papillomavirus (HPV) cervical cancer vaccine.
The article by Dr. Sharon J. B. Hanley defended the vaccine and criticized the Japanese government’s decision to stop promoting the vaccine amid concerns about injuries. It also implied patients are incorrectly blaming the HPV vaccine for unrelated ills.
Hanley did not disclose in the original version that she receives funding from entities supported by makers of both HPV vaccines: Gardasil and Cevarix. In addition, she has previously said the vaccine makers are among those who have paid her “lecture fees.” But Hanley implied the lecture fee disclosure was not required for the recent article because Lancet only asks publishers to account for monetary gain in the most recent three year period.
Critics said it’s an example of hidden cronyism among physicians and corporations who use medical journals to influence public policy.
Read Lancet’s correction in full.
Studies show that people are gullible enough to believe anything if it appears on TV and sounds authoritative. If this is really true, upper-echelon pharmaceutical companies may be using the media to bend the public’s perception.
Giant corporations—and other entities that act as though they own the entire galaxy—have a tendency toward the chameleonic behavior of astroturfing because it works so well.
Astroturfing involves an individual or organization masquerading as a grassroots movement while hiding the true wizardly sponsor and its intentions behind the curtain. It can get even more complicated with story layers—carefully constructed narratives—that include made-up groups “false flagging” themselves and co-opting a movement mimicking or debunking myths (that weren’t even myths in the first place) in order to sway public opinion.
Astroturfing can involve a deceptive or purposely controversial method of selling products all the way up to overthrowing governments with color revolutions. All of those goals can involve the use of online comments, blogs, studies, and social media to give the appearance of an organic effort with widespread support or to create confusion that lulls the audience into belief.
How far does it really go with Big Pharma?
Investigative journalist Sharyl Attkisson explains how to keep from getting duped by the newest in expertly deceptive propaganda techniques. She calls the prevalence of astroturfing and media manipulation a “Truman Show–esque alternate reality all around you.” With a probing, astute mind like hers, is it any wonder she was essentially shut down by CBS? Check out her new book: Stonewalled: My Fight for Truth Against the Forces of Obstruction, Intimidation, and Harassment in Obama’s Washington.
The TEDx Talk description explains that
“In this eye-opening talk, veteran investigative journalist Sharyl Attkisson shows how astroturf, or fake grassroots movements funded by political, corporate, or other special interests effectively manipulate and distort media messages.”
Remember to look for these four astroturfing techniques as you encounter health-related information online:
- Inflammatory and charged language – i.e., “quacks,” “kooks,” “pseudo,” or “conspiracy theorist”
- Made up myths that are “debunked,” which can wind up on Snopes (I call them Inception stories)
- Attacking the character of people or organizations instead of addressing the facts
- Those that reserve all of their public skepticism and criticism for those exposing the wrong-doers instead of directing that skepticism to the wrongdoers themselves. A prime example Attkisson mentions is those “skeptics” who, instead of questioning authority, question those that question the authority.
After watching this, you will never again read Wikipedia, Snopes, the news, blogs, Facebook comments, or Google results without a major guard. With just ten minutes and the tips above, you, too will be better at researching and spotting hidden propaganda and bots and not falling for the appearance of skeptics—which could actually be pharma-funded attackers on legitimate exposé.
I’m often asked the question about vaccines and I can make some observations and raise more questions.
There’s interest, a lot of growing enthusiasm for the Hygiene Hypothesis.
The Hygiene Hypothesis:
A lack of early childhood exposure to infectious agents, symbiotic microorganisms and parasites, increases susceptibility to allergic diseases by suppressing the natural development of the immune system.
Societies where the children are still getting their typical infections, Measles, Mumps, Rubella, Chicken Pox. As babies and toddlers, these society’s as adults have much less autoimmunity and the presumption is that there’s some important messaging that happens between these early childhood infections that we get from bacteria, viruses and parasites that speak to our immune cells that may help regulate a healthy immune response so later in life there’s less autoimmunity.
That’s a very important hypothesis. We may be altering the maturation process of our immune cells and increasing the risk of autoimmunity.
We have some other issues that I have concerns about, the vaccines are most effective when we use a live agent but when you use a live agent there will be some individuals whose immune functions are so compromised that that live vaccine could kill them or seriously harm them. So science has in the interest of not creating harm now used a killed infectious agent but our bodies know it’s dead, we don’t really mount much of an immune response.
So again, scientists wanting to help, decided that we have to give something that’s irritating to the immune system to get it to react to this dead infecting agent. These irritating compounds are generally fairly toxic. We usually had to use some mercury components, some aluminum components but whatever components we use will have some toxic effects.
Our vaccines are studied in their clinical trials one at a time or in a small number of vaccines at a time but when their scheduled there are many more vaccines clump together and I don’t know that we’ve had studies that look at these adjuvants that are added to a killed vaccine that had really identified how much adjuvant is safe in a single day or is safe in a lifetime. I think those are un-resolved questions.
Another factor that I worry about; it’s my recollection during medical school that I had read, the government decided that vaccines made such good public health policy that they would indemnify the vaccine makers from liability because of the public health benefits and that we needed to have the vaccines produced so we created more financial incentives to decrease the financial risk for vaccine production.
The unintended consequences of that is the development of vaccines that have less immediate public health benefit in terms of mortality. As we start creating vaccines for diseases that are not fatal but are inconvenient. Most of these vaccine studies are short term, immediate safety, we don’t have any vaccine studies that look over the life span of the human.
So I think there are unknowns, there certainly are public health benefits I will not disagree with but I think there are these public health risks that have not been adequately measured and quantified.
Here is a piece of pseudo-scientific idiocy that caught my attention. This Fox News/LiveScience article tries to claim that bumblebees are disappearing because of, you guessed it, global warming!
From the article:
Climate change is causing wild bumblebees to disappear from large swaths of their historical range, which could spell disaster for pollinating crops in Europe and North America, new research suggests.
As global temperatures have risen, bumblebees have disappeared from the warmest regions they occupy, but have not spread northward to take advantage of new habitat, the study finds.
“They just aren’t colonizing new areas to track rapid, human-caused climate change,” study co-author Jeremy Kerr, a biologist at the University of Ottawa, said at a news conference.”
One minor problem: the planet has not warmed since the latter part of the 1990s.
There is another problem that should be immediately evident:
Kerr and his colleagues looked at historical records of the habitat ranges for 67 bumblebee populations in Europe and North America between 1901 and 1974, when climate warming was negligible, and between 1974 and 2010, when climate change accelerated. On its southern edge, the bees’ range has shrunk 186 miles, or about 5.6 miles every year, Kerr said.
Yet despite warming in northern latitudes, bumblebees haven’t figured out a way to take advantage of the now less-frigid northern climes. The study, which was published July 9 in the journal Science, did not show any correlation between land-use practices or pesticide use and bumblebee populations.
Bees are dying out in the southern end of their range because of the rise of extreme heat waves.
“If you imagine a car that starts running out of coolant and starts blowing steam out of the front of the hood, that’s kind of like an analogy for what bumblebees do when it gets too hot,” Kerr said..”
Hmm. I suppose that Kerr doesn’t realize that the 1930s were actually a warmer decade than any subsequent one. Kerr doesn’t bother with this technicality in his study, simply assuming it was cooler in the good old days. (See the temperature map of July 2012 compared to July 1936, for instance. Why didn’t we witness this same loss of bumblebees as a result of the natural warming at that time? Frankly, I think Kerr and the other AGW alarmists are the ones blowing steam out of the front of the hood.)
So, despite a decided lack of planetary warming and a failure of bumblebees to die off in the ’30s, we are still yet to believe they are not moving into new territory as the Arctic and Antarctic allegedly warm. Why?
Could it be that those areas aren’t actually warming?
The bumblebee – genus Bumbus, also known as Bumbini – is twenty-five to forty million years old, far older than humanity. In all of that time, was the planet cooler than it is now? It certainly was not during the Eocene:
At the start of the Eocene, the continents were close to where they are now, but the average annual temperature in arctic Canada and Siberia was a balmy 18° C (65° F). The dominant plants up there were palm trees and cycads. Fossil monitor lizards (sort of like alligators) dating back to this era have been found in Svalbard, an island north of Greenland that’s now covered with ice all year. Antarctica was home to cool temperate forests, including beech trees and ferns. In particular, our Earth had no permanent polar ice caps!
The Eocene lasted from 55 to 34 million years ago – certainly within the upper estimate for the age of Bumbini. And it was still certainly warmer during the Oligocene (34 to 24 my) than it is now, although it was much cooler than the Eocene or the even hotter Paleocene. Bumblebees developed and thrived during this period. They have done quite well. Now that their number is dropping, it is immediately blamed on “global warming,” a warming that is not happening.
It should also be pointed out that the bumbles did not die out after the retreat of the glaciers at the end of the last ice age – a serious warming period. They did not die out at the end of the Little Ice Age in the 19th century.
Maybe the bees don’t want to move north – or south – because it’s getting too cold?
Antarctic sea ice has been growing for years, as indeed so too has land ice. The Alfred Wegener Institute station in Antarctica has concluded that there has been no temperature increase anywhere near where it has been measuring.
And this paper makes it quite clear that Antarctic temperatures have dropped over recent years.
However, “Although previous reports suggest slight recent continental warming,” they declare that “our spatial analysis of Antarctic meteorological data” demonstrated “a net cooling over the entire Antarctic continent between 1966 and 2000, particularly during summer and autumn,” when ice melt would be most likely to occur. A study of temperatures and ecosystem response in the McMurdo Dry Valleys indicated a cooling of 0.7°C per decade between 1986 and 2000.
Antarctic ecosystems show clear evidence of cooling, suggesting that the temperature measurements reported by Doran et al are occurring widely.”
In fact, outside the Antarctic Peninsula – a region subject to ocean currents and weather patterns – the only Antarctic ice disappearing is in West Antarctica, and it is clear that this disappearance is caused by volcanism under the sheet.
It should be pointed out that Arctic sea ice has come back in recent years, too.
So what does it all mean? It means that the bumblebees aren’t stupid enough to immigrate to an icebox, and that this story is pure garbage, a work of fiction. That the bumbles are dying is not in dispute, but global warming clearly has little or nothing to do with it.
The point of stories like this is to politicize everything and anything to drive an agenda. The author knows that the average person won’t look past the story itself, and perhaps not past the first paragraph or two. It is intended to leave an impression, and coupled with the other stories written in the same way, it is intended to inflate the AGW meme to critical mass: “see, all the evidence is overwhelming.” It is not intended to actually stand up to close scrutiny.
Germany’s DWD National Weather Service has developed a nasty habit of putting out warmed up press releases for announcing monthly mean data, and then later very quietly revising the data downwards.
Result: the public believes that warming is happening when in fact there really isn’t any.
German skeptic site wobleibtdieglobaleerwaermung (whereistheglobalwarming) writes a post titled: “What’s wrong with the DWD? Once again a downward correction. June 2015 was 0.2° Celsius colder than reported in the press releases”.
It describes how the June 2015 mean temperature for Germany was overstated by 0.2°C in its press release. It adds:
Also in the two earlier months of May and April, and the entire spring of 2015, the press releases reported a mean temperature that was elevated 0.2°C. DWD correction: May and spring 2015 were 0.2°C less ‘warm’ than announced in the press releases – spring 2015 now 1.4°C colder than a year earlier.
The overly hasty DWD press release announcing the June 2015 data states:
”… The first month of the summer with a nationwide mean temperature of 16.0 °C was 0.6°C above the international valid reference period of 1961 to 1990. Using the 1981 to 2010 reference period the deviation was still 0.3°C…”
Here the wobleibtdieerderwaermung site also points out yet another sloppy error made by the DWD: the difference between the two reference periods for June is in fact 0.4°C, and not 0.3°C, citing a 2014 DWD press release here.
So, did the DWD issue a correction to inform the public of the true June 2015 result, that it was in fact cooler then they had claimed earlier? The wobleibtdieerderwaermung writes:
At the DWD homepage http://www.dwd.de/ one finds at a well hidden location, after a total of seven (7) clicks, the value of 15.8 °C for June in Germany – all the way down, to the right.”
In other words, the DWD made sure to bury the real results, to keep them as much out of sight from the public as they could.
wobleibtdieerderwaermung suggests that the DWD ought to issue a new press release with the following content so that the public can be properly informed:
… The first month of the summer with a nationwide mean temperature of 15.8 °C was 0.4°C above the international vaild reference period of 1961 to 1990. Using the 1981 to 2010 reference period the deviation was only 0.0°C, and thus was exactly the mean for the WMO reference period… a climate warming in Germany’s June 2015 is thus not detectable over the last 35 years.”
So what’s compelling the DWD to engage in the habitual deceptive behavior? wobleibtdieerderwaermung speculates that all this probably has nothing to do with error and has more to do with “political intentions”.
Yet another government institution that we can no longer believe. Little wonder trust in government is near an all-time low.
Groupthink: A pattern of thought charaterized by self-deception, forced manufacture of consent, and conformity to group values and ethics.
Groupthink: Collective Delusions in Organizations and Markets, by Roland Benabou, published in the Review of Economic Studies. Benabou also has a talk (ppt slides) on this subject.
First, a definition of groupthink (from the ppt slides):
Janis (1972)’s eight symptoms [of groupthink]:
- illusion of invulnerability
- collective rationalization
- belief in inherent morality
- stereotyped views of out-groups
- direct pressure on dissenters
- illusion of unanimity
- self-appointed mind guards
Sound like any groups that we know? If you are on different ‘sides’ of the AGW debate, you may be evaluating the IPCC and anthropowarmists against these criteria, or you may be evaluating the opposition against these criteria. While both groups seem to be subject to the first 4 symptoms, I would say that the IPCC and anthropowarmists have a lock on the last 4 symptoms.
Excerpts from the paper:
To analyze these issues, I develop a model of (individually rational) collective denial and willful blindness. Agents are engaged in a joint enterprise where their final payoff will be determined by their own action and those of others, all affected by a common productivity shock. To distinguish groupthink from standard mechanisms, there are no complementarities in payoffs, nor any private signals that could give rise to herding or social learning. Each agent derives anticipatory utility from his future prospects, and consequently faces a tradeoff: he can accept the grim implications of negative public signals about the project’s value (realism) and act accordingly, or maintain hopeful beliefs by discounting, ignoring or forgetting such data (denial), at the risk of making overoptimistic decisions.
The key observation is that this tradeoff is shaped by how others deal with bad news, creating cognitive linkages. When an agent benefits from others’ over optimism, his improved prospects make him more accepting of the bad news which they ignore. Conversely, when he is made worse off by others’ blindness to adverse signals, the increased loss attached to such news pushes him toward denial, which is then contagious. Thinking styles thus become strategic substitutes or complements, depending on the sign of externalities (not cross-partials) in the interaction payoffs. When interdependence among participants is high enough, this Mutually Assured Delusion (MAD) principle can give rise to multiple equilibria with different ‘social cognitions’ of the same reality. The same principle also implies that, in organizations where some agents have a greater impact on others’ welfare than the reverse (e.g., managers on workers), strategies of realism or denial will ‘trickle down’ the hierarchy, so that subordinates will in effect take their beliefs from the leader.
JC note: This last sentence highlights one of the problems of AGW advocacy statements by professional societies in terms of amplifying groupthink.
The intuition for what I shall term the ‘Mutually Assured Delusion’ (MAD) principle is simple. If others’ blindness to bad news leads them to act in a way that is better for an agent than if they were well informed; it makes the news not as bad, thus reducing his own incentive to engage in denial. But if their avoidance of reality makes things worse than if they reacted appropriately to the true state of affairs; future prospects become even more ominous, increasing the incentive to look the other way and take refuge in wishful thinking. In the first case, individual’s ways of thinking are strategic substitutes, in the latter they are strategic complements. It is worth emphasizing that this ‘psychological multiplier’, less than 1 in the first case and greater in the second, arises even though agents’ payoffs are separable and there is no scope for social learning.
Proposition 1 shows that the scope for contagion hinges on whether over-optimism has positive or negative spillovers. Examples of both types of interaction are provided below, using financial institutions as the main illustration.
Limited-stakes projects, public goods: The first scenario characterizes activities with limited downside risk, in the sense that pursuing them remains socially desirable for the organization even in the low state where the private return falls short of the cost.
High-stakes projects: The second scenario corresponds to ventures in which the downside is severe enough that persisting has negative social value for the organization. In such contexts, the greater is other players ‘tendency to ignore danger signals about ‘tail risk’ and forge ahead with the strategy — accumulating yet more subprime loans and CDO’s on the balance sheet, increasing leverage, setting up new off-the-books partnerships– the deeper and more widespread the losses will be if the scheme was flawed, the assets ‘toxic’, or the accounting fraudulent. Therefore, when red flags start mounting, the greater is the temptation for everyone whose future is tied to the firm’s fate to also look the other way, engage in rationalization, and ‘not think about it’.
The proposition’s second result shows how cognitive interdependencies (of both types) are amplified, the more closely tied an individual’s welfare is to the actions of others.
Groupthink is thus most important for closed, cohesive groups whose members perceive that they largely share a common fate and have few exit options. This is in line with Janis’ (1972) findings, but with a more operational notion of ‘cohesiveness’. Such vesting can be exogenous or arise from a prior choice to join the group, in which case wishful beliefs about its future prospects also correspond to ex-post rationalizations of a sunk decision.
A first alternative source of group error is social pressure to conform. For instance, if agents are heard or seen by both a powerful principal (boss, group leader, government) and third parties whom he wants to influence, they may just toe the line for fear of retaliation.
Self-censorship should also not occur when agents can communicate separately with the boss, who should then want to hear both good and bad news. There are nonetheless many instances where deliberately confidential and highly credible warnings were flatly ignored, with disastrous consequences for the decision-maker.
A second important source of conformity is signaling or career concerns. Thus, when the quality of their information is unknown, agents whose opinion is at odds with most already expressed may keep it to themselves, for fear of appearing incompetent or lazy. Significant mistakes in group decisions can result in contexts where differential information is important, if anonymous communication or voting is not feasible.
This paper developed a model of how wishful thinking and reality denial spread through organizations and markets. In settings where others ignorance of bad news imposes negative externalities (lower expected payoffs, increased risk), it makes such news even worse and thus harder to accept, resulting in a contagion of willful blindness. Conversely, where over-optimism has beneficial spillovers (thus dampening the impact of adverse signals), ex-ante avoidance and ex-post distortion of information tend to be self-limiting. This mechanism of social cognition does not rely on complementarities in technology or preferences, agents herding on a subset of private signals, or exogenous biases in inference; it is also quite robust. The Mutually Assured Delusion (MAD) principle is thus broadly applicable, helping to explain corporate cultures characterized by dysfunctional groupthink or valuable group morale, why willful ignorance and delusions flow down hierarchies, and the emergence of market manias sustained by new-era thinking, followed by deep crashes.
Patterns of Denial
The paper has an Appendix D: Patterns of Denial, listing 7 patterns of denial and illustrating with examples from Space Shuttle disasters and financial crises. Here I discuss these in context of the IPCC:
1. Preposterous probabilities. The 95% confidence level is arguably an example of this, although it is not exactly clear how to interpret the 95% in context of probabilities.
2. New paradigms: this time is different, we are smarter and have better tools. Every case also displays the typical pattern of hubris, based on claims of superior talent or human capital. The ‘we are smarter and have better tools’ is reflected in the extensive reliance on climate models, and labeling of anyone who disagrees as a ‘denier.’
3. Escalation, failure to diversify, divest or hedge. Wishful beliefs show up not only in words but also in deeds. The most vivid current example seems to be President Obama’s ramping up of a climate program in the U.S.
4. Information avoidance, repainting red flags green and overriding alarms. The ‘pause’, and its dismissal in the AR5 is a prime example of this one.
5. Normalization of deviance, changing standards and rationales. How do organizations react when what was not supposed to happen does, with increasing frequency and severity? An example of this is the changing goal posts for the pause. A few years ago, periods of pause/cooling longer than 10-15 yrs were not expected, which was recently bumped to 17 years by Santer et al. The start date for the pause seems to be moving towards 2001 – away from the big El Nino of 1998.
6. Reversing the burden of proof. See my essay on Reversing the Null Hypothesis for a discussion of this issue.
7. Malleable memories: forgetting the lessons of history. This one is particularly true re arguments linking AGW and extreme weather. Often ‘remembering’ back to the 1950’s or the 1930’s is all that is required.
JC comments: I find Benabou’s analysis to be very insightful. Awareness of these symptoms and patterns is the first stop towards inoculating against groupthink. Encouraging dissent is key to not falling into the groupthink trap.
While the examples provided are markets and public and private sector disasters, these ideas are broadly applicable to the different social ‘realities’ surrounding anthropogenic climate change. I’ve tried to find an analogous set of examples for the ‘denial’ of say U.S. Republicans and some oil companies, but could only come up with examples for 3, 4, 5 of the ‘patterns of denial’. Sort of changes which foot the ‘denier’ shoe fits best.
Earth is facing the prospect of a ‘mini ice age’ this century, with our sun’s activity projected to fall 60 percent in the 2030s, British astrophysicists say, based on the results of new research that they claim allows exact predictions of solar cycles.
Our planet is just 15 years from a new ‘mini ice age’ that could cause extremely cold winters characterized by the freezing of normally ice-free rivers as well as by year-round snow fields in areas that have never witnessed such climate conditions before, a group of astrophysicists claim.
The scientists could draw such a conclusion based on a new model of the sun’s activity that reportedly enables the researchers to make “extremely accurate predictions” of changes in solar activity.
Although, the fact that the sun’s activity varies within 10-12 year long cycles was first discovered almost two centuries ago, in 1843, all the previously existing explanatory models failed to fully explain the fluctuations within each cycle as well as between the cycles.
Until now, the astrophysicists thought that the variations of the solar activity depended on the dynamo caused by convecting fluid deep inside the sun.
The latest study conducted by a research team from Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, and led by Professor Valentina Zharkova demonstrated that the variations in the Sun’s activity are caused by two dynamo processes – one deep in the convection zone of the sun and one near its surface.
The research team analyzed three solar activity cycles that cover the period from 1976 to 2008 studying magnetic field activity of the sun during this time by using a technique called principal component analysis of the magnetic field observations from the Wilcox Solar Observatory in California.
The scientists discovered magnetic waves in two different layers of the Solar interior that “fluctuate between the northern and southern hemispheres of the Sun.”
“We found magnetic wave components appearing in pairs, originating in two different layers in the Sun’s interior. They both have a frequency of approximately 11 years, although this frequency is slightly different, and they are offset in time,” said Professor Zharkova.
Later, they also compared their findings concerning the intensity of the Sun’s activity with each year’s data on the average number of sunspots – a strong indicator of solar activity.
As a result, the team managed to create a very accurate model of predicting the solar activity fluctuations.
“Combining both waves together and comparing to real data for the current solar cycle, we found that our predictions showed an accuracy of 97 percent,” said Zharkova.
The study findings were presented at the National Astronomy Meeting in Llandudno on July 9 and published in the Royal Astronomical Society papers.
The model demonstrates that solar activity will fall by 60 percent by 2030 as the magnetic waves inside the Sun will become increasingly more desynchronized during the next two cycles, especially during cycle 26, which covers the decade between 2030 and 2040.
“In cycle 26, the two waves exactly mirror each other – peaking at the same time but in opposite hemispheres of the Sun. Their interaction will be disruptive, or they will nearly cancel each other,” Professor Zharkova said.
“Effectively, when the waves are approximately in phase, they can show strong interaction, or resonance, and we have strong solar activity. When they are out of phase, we have solar minimums. When there is full phase separation, we have the conditions last seen during the Maunder minimum, 370 years ago,” she added.
The Maunder minimum is a name of a period between 1645 and 1715 characterized by prolonged low solar activity as well as by extremely cold winters in Europe and North America as it also correlates with a climatic period between 1550 and 1850 called the ‘Little Ice Age.’
New York City underwater? Gas over $9 a gallon? A carton of milk costs almost $13? Welcome to June 12, 2015. Or at least that was the wildly-inaccurate version of 2015 predicted by ABC News exactly seven years ago. Appearing on Good Morning America in 2008, Bob Woodruff hyped Earth 2100, a special that pushed apocalyptic predictions of the then-futuristic 2015.The segment included supposedly prophetic videos, such as a teenager declaring, “It’s June 8th, 2015. One carton of milk is $12.99.” (On the actual June 8, 2015, a gallon of milk cost, on average, $3.39.) Another clip featured this prediction for the current year: “Gas reached over $9 a gallon.” (In reality, gas costs an average of $2.75.)