Thursday, December 10, 2009

Roguette Versus Warmism

There's a slightly world's-gone-mad feel about reading an article by Sarah Palin in the Guardian of all places. The Alaskan roguette says Copenhagen is a bad thing because, though there is global warming, it's cyclical and nothing to do with human activity. This is possible but there's no evidence for it whereas there is an awful of of evidence that people are warming the planet. There is, however, evidence for disastrous groupthink at the University of East Anglia, so the Divine Sarah goes with those emails as her Exhibit A. Thus the Wasilla Ice Queen and de facto Republican Party leader is advocating a diplomatically and globally suicidal policy - a Copenhagen boycott - on the basis of an irrational conviction that most of the scientists in the world are wrong and she's right. Nothing new there then. But it does, once again, raise the question of why global warming denial is such a right wing thing. My own suspicion is that it's all part of the process than began in the eighties when the right started to abandon conservatism in favour of some very anti-conservative ideologies - notably neo-liberalism, neo-conservatism. Prior to that, it was quite natural for conservatives to be environmentally sensitive. But the brutal reductionism of the new ideologies had no time for inconvenient externalities like the planet. So now the right wears anti-warmism as a badge of ideological purity and this, in turn, encourages the left to think of warmism itself as an anti-capitalist agenda. Gaia is right to be pissed off. Humans are such idiots aren't they?


  1. Actually, Bryan, I think the right simply doesn't like being told what to do by a bunch of dubious politicos and lefties, whose previous grand plans haven't exactly been a stunning success. And being asked to pay squillions for the privilege.

  2. Again with the 'denial', by which usage you bundle a spectrum of opinions and contribute to the dichotomy you're complaining about.

    Scepticism is a right wing thing because the left seized on warming from the off and bundled it up with all their favourite anti-capitalist and lifestyle issues.

    It has spread from the Palin-ish hard right across the mainstream recently because of the paradoxical response to endless irrelevant guilt-trip haranguing about cheap flights and toilet-paper usage from rock stars and a Government we all hate.

    "You're deniers!" "You're liars!" "Boneheads!" "Tree-huggers!"

    There goes the 'debate', here comes another juvenile slanging match. Humans always do this; you're right about that.

  3. Wrong on a few counts, in my humble view. Please let's avoid the roguette (not that she's wrong, just that the personalities are nothing to do with it) and go to the heart of the matter.

    You say that there is an awful lot of evidence that people are warming the planet. The UK Met Office agrees with you but today says something far more precise: that we only have ten years to cut carbon emissions if we want to keep the global temperature rise to under 2C. This precision is somewhat reduced by their not saying (at least in the BBC report) by which date in the future they say we can be sure to avoid the target figure of 2C and by how much we need to cut emissions by before 2020 to do so. The one thing that is certain, they state, is that we know that there are ten years to go, no more, no less.

    Let me start with the Met Office more narrow claim then. It is utterly laughable that any scientist should claim to be able to predict such a simple cause and effect relationship between our CO2 emissions in the next ten years and a very abstract and difficult to calculate statistic best called GATA - the globally averaged temperature anomaly. Don't forget that in the middle of these two apparently simple numbers we are dealing with perhaps the most complex non-linear, chaotic, highly coupled system ever studied by man. The Navier-Stokes equations governing the fluid dynamics of air and ocean have no solutions, for one important detail. We have no idea how to model clouds, let alone something as commonplace and important to the climate system as a thunderstorm. Climate 'science' in not in its infancy, it is still in the womb, hoping one day to be born. So trying to kid the world that we know how to keep the rise in temperature to any limit at all, through our puny actions in controlling emissions of a very minor greenhouse gas over just ten years (I'd be open to geo-engineering in extremis, which we are certainly nowhere near at present) is way beyond laughable. It's one of the most ridiculous public statements ever made in the name of science, putting the Vatican of Galileo's day, the flat-earthers, today's youth earthers and the eager followers of Lysenko, Stalin included (and making the rest so eager) into the shade. All have nothing on the proponents of this absurdity.

  4. Note what I've just said. That the Met Office has put itself in the scientific loony bin by making this claim today - and not for the first time (but see also how the attempts to paste over the vast fissures revealed by Climategate are becoming increasingly simplistic and desperate).

    Appleyard has said something far short of this: that there is an awful lot of evidence that people are warming the planet. But, as is often the case, he implies we should listen to the scientists at Copenhagen. including the Met Office ones, Bryan?

    It's possible I grant for an intelligent person to take the view that of the 0.7C by which the earth seems to have warmed since 1900 (though be quite clear of the scandal that very serious questions about adjustments to raw temperature data in the direction of exaggerating warming have only just been able to be framed because of the leak from East Anglia) ... some of the 0.7C has been caused by our CO2 emissions. But there is in fact no evidence for this. It is a hypothesis, on the surface a pretty reasonable one, but the evidence has not been forthcoming. In particular, all the climate models and, more importantly, physical theory, predict that if CO2 is a major driver for warming that the tropical troposphere will show more and earlier warming than the rest of the atmosphere and surface. This key 'signature' of CO2-induced warming in absent from the measurements we currently have from satellites and weather balloons. There is no evidence that the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere is driving climate today.

    Beyond that, because the theoretical relationship between CO2 and greenhouse warming is a logarithmic one - that is, in the absence of any feedbacks in the climate system, which is like saying the predictions of Darling yesterday were unconnected to what six billion people choose to do in the next few years, partly influenced by what he said yesterday, as one very small input - then we have already experienced the bulk of any theoretical warming from a doubling of CO2 since the industrial revolution. CO2 being responsible for a rise of 2C in the future, even in the absence of the rest of the climate system, is extremely far-fetched. But the non-linear, strongly coupled system 'in the middle' is of the essence. We know nothing of any worth to help us predict this, let alone control it, let alone institute a programme costing tens of trillions of dollars globally, with extreme implications for the freedom of humanity and for the poorest of the poor, a mere two billion, making impossible the cheap electricity from coal that is, after clean water, surely the most important factor in their future health and development.

    It really matters getting this right. I make no apology being passionate about it.

    I'd like one day to talk about Nassim Taleb's take on it all. It seems from what I've read that he gets the analogy with finance systems wrong though he gets the rest right, as was clear from how he embarrassed David Cameron in their joint gig in London in August. But another day.

  5. I mostly agree with Brit, though I do think 'denial' not 'scepticism' is right here. There are people the argue quite rationally with parts of the science (e.g., Steve McIntyre at are not what I mean by denialists.

    Sarah palin is a perfect example of a 'denialist', having not the slightest interest in what is going on, just to grab and use whatever comes to hand that supports the conclusion she wants--that anthropological global warming is a hoax.

    Paul Krugman, reflecting on the same question recently, observed a useful symmetry in left-ist attacks (like Hansens's) on any solution that works within a capitalist framework--lining up the incentives for powerful corporations.

  6. Bryan:

    If you think for a moment about why your claim to be supported by "most of the scientists in the world" is problematic, you might better understand those of us who are reluctant to turn civilization upside down on the change that we can avoid tragedy 100 years from now.

  7. Also, I was speaking with someone who is part of the social network of heads of green NGOs and is, himself, a true Green. He says that the Green leadership has a real problem in that they are all coming to believe that global warming requires us to switch aggressively to nuclear power, but as soon as they even hint at that, they are met by howls of outrage (and withholding of dues) from their membership.

    So there's enough anti-science and clinging to pre-warmist ideology to go around.

  8. Richard,

    In which East Anglia email is there evidence that temperature figures have been tampered with?

    There is a mention of a graph in a paper not displaying tree-ring temperature data data after 1960. This is slightly disingenuous, but it merely corresponds to the well publicised fact that the tree-ring method seems to fail after 1960. Furthermore, the "trick" would be immediately obvious to anyone reading the papers in question. No one but an idiot could possibly be deceived.

    The dendrochronology problem is not some carefully hidden secret, but the subject of open research. No stolen emails were required to "reveal" it.

  9. Thanks, Hyperdeath, this is also worth reading:

  10. One might also ask, Bryan, why global warming affirmation is such a left-wing thing.

  11. "Appleyard has said something far short of this: that there is an awful lot of evidence that people are warming the planet. But, as is often the case, he implies we should listen to the scientists at Copenhagen. including the Met Office ones, Bryan?"

    If Bryan is implying that we should listen to the scientists then Bryan is very wise. But listening to them is not the same as blindly following their advice. On the issue of global warming it makes much more sense to listen to scientists than some politician from Alaska who has a degree in journalism.

  12. DDT, thalidomide, BSE, etc.

  13. Dearest hyper, in the emails released by the East Anglian whistleblower calling themselves FOIA (I wonder what he or she could have meant by that) there is a correspondence in September 2008 between Phil Jones, Kevin Trenberth and Wibjorn Karlen, in which Professor Karlen raises some serious questions about how raw temperature measurements from the Nordic countries (in which he is a specialist) but also elsewhere had been adjusted either by CRU or their friends in NOAA, before use by the likes of the IPCC. (It's still not clear whether CRU does its own adjustments. We, the people that pay the taxes, have not yet been allowed that most basic information, as I understand it. The lack of transparency is the single most important thing that needs to be fixed in climate science. All data and computer code must be published together with any output depending on them, of any kind, at all times, as I'm sure you will agree.)

    Anyhow the correspondence I refer to is one of many in the CRUtape letters, as one wag calls them. The fact that Professor Karlen seemed to have been fobbed off without proper answers caused Willis Eschenbach to start to delve more deeply. Before long he decided to focus on one small area, Northern Australia, because of some large adjustments made to raw data that seemed to have been made within it. Within that one area his attention was drawn to one temperature station, Darwin Zero. And the adjustments he found had been made to the raw data at Darwin Zero 1900-2000 are absolutely extraordinary. A decline in temperature of 0.7C per century as told by the thermometers had become an increase of 1.2C per century as told by the IPCC. For no reason that could conceivably justify such a massive reversal, that Eschenbach, I or a large number of other people who have looked at it can see.

    So, thanks for asking. I look forward to hearing your comments on this particular example. The page in question (which link I had provided but I assume was ignored) is The Smoking Gun At Darwin Zero, posted three days ago, less than three weeks after Climategate broke.

    Let's hope that there is a very good explanation forthcoming for this extraordinary adjustment that changed regional cooling to regional warming during the twentieth century. Let's hope, if not, that this pattern is not repeated everywhere else.

    None of this is offered of final proof that there has been no warming at all on this precious earth that God gave us. I think that there has been. But if raw temperature measurements have been tampered with this much - and if the high priests of the AGW cult don't even seem to care - then we have a long, long way to go. Good luck!

  14. Here are some undeniable realities that all the data fudging and politicizing can not change.

    1. Both poles are melting.
    2. Every glacier on the planet is retreating and has been for a long time.
    3. Polar seas are growing more dilute.
    4. Sea level is rising at a rate exceeding previous estimates.
    5. Precipitation is increasing world wide.
    6. Atmospheric CO2, methane and H20 concentrations continue to increase yearly as they have since careful monitoring of their concentrations began in 1954.

    It is the "rate of change" that is alarming, a rate Tim Flannery, author of "The Weather Makers," has estimated to be 30 times what it has ever been in the past.

    It has become increasingly obvious that these changes began with the onset of the Industrial Revolution and with it the burning of carbon containing fuels. As near as we can determine the changes I listed are due entirely to human activity. To question AGW just because a few overzealous proponents doctored some statistics is without foundation. I hope rational heads prevail in Copenhagen, although I do not believe we can avert catastrophe no matter what we now do. Martin Rees, astronomer and President of the Royal Society has written a pessimistic book "Our Final Century," a forecast with which I agree for somewhat different reasons.

    Man has so damaged the physiology of the planet that I do not believe it can recover until our presence has been erased or at least profoundly reduced.

    I have a thread dedicated to this subject on my web page -

  15. It's fairly typical of this debate that one lurches from the tricky details of some very weird adjustments to temperature data at one weather station in north Australia, only just uncovered as a result of an unknown East Anglian whistleblower's good offices, to the desire of some to see the presence of humanity on the planet 'erased or at least profoundly reduced'.

    John, only one of the poles is currently melting. It's winter at the north pole, you see, and the ice is increasing, as always at this time of year. Taking averages over the period from the Little Ice Age, though, I believe that you'd be right about both poles. Counting the Medieval Warm Period in, you're probably wrong about both. And so it goes, climate goes up and down, as do the arguments.

    What is unusual is for a mainstream newspaper to cover the essential scientific issues lying behind 'Warmergate', particularly the atrocious torturing of data to try to get rid of the Medieval Warm Period, as the Mail on Sunday has today. An historic breakthrough that almost makes me proud to be British (hosting the UEA not being our greatest claim to fame, as I think is going to become crystal clear in the coming months).

    Let me come off the fence on the big picture, of the kind John is trying to grapple with. I believe that the planet is resilient (which has something on the glacier situation, in passing), much more than we human beings deserve or come to believe in our guilty fear. Jesus said of his Father "He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." You're not necessarily wrong that we don't deserve to move on from six billion to seven, John, I don't think Jesus is disputing that. But the God so revealed has it seems got a lot of grace to spare, especially I would argue for what Paul Collier calls the bottom billion. And if in the top billion our focus is on the right things - how we can help the poorest and not get in the way of the growth they so need to regain hope - He might even have mercy on us too.

    Most fundamentally of all, a little gratitude never goes amiss. I made play in my blog on 26th of the fact that Thanksgiving had coincided with the revelation from Steve McIntyre of what the 'trick' to 'hide the decline' was all about, as so faithfully conveyed in the Mail today. I was very aware of the wider message: through thanksgiving we come back to our senses, leaving the paranoid pessimisms of the Stalins, Hitlers and Maos behind for good. There is a strong correlation here, I claim, but I can't show you even a doctored graph, unlike poor Keith Briffa extracting the last drops of doom from a strange Siberian larch. The trust has to come from the inside, seeing a God who is willing to take the pain even in his own body on the tree.