Posts Tagged ‘global warming’

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The Uncertainty Monster

January 23, 2017

Robert Tracinski writes about climate change at The Federalist. (My emphasis below.)

This is the point that Judith Curry makes when writing about climate.

Why NYT Hid The Numbers For The ‘Hottest Year On Record’

When you read a science report claiming that 2016 was the hottest year on record, you might expect that you will get numbers. And you would be wrong.

They say that mathematics is the language of science, which is a way of saying that science is quantitative. It is moved forward by numbers and measurements, not just by qualitative observations. “It seems hot out” is not science. Giving a specific temperature, measured by a specific process at a specific time, compared to other systematically gathered measurements — that is science.

So when you read an article proclaiming that, for the third year in a row, last year was the hottest year on record, you might expect that right up front you will get numbers, measurements, and a statistical margin of error. You know, science stuff. Numbers. Quantities. Mathematics.

And you would be wrong.

I just got done combing through a New York Times report titled, “Earth Sets a Temperature Record for the Third Straight Year.” The number of relevant numbers in this article is: zero.

We are not told what the average global temperature was, how much higher this is than last year’s record or any previous records, or what the margin of error is supposed to be on those measurements. Instead, we get stuff like this.

Marking another milestone for a changing planet, scientists reported on Wednesday that the Earth reached its highest temperature on record in 2016—trouncing a record set only a year earlier, which beat one set in 2014. It is the first time in the modern era of global warming data that temperatures have blown past the previous record three years in a row.
Note to the New York Times: “trouncing” and “blown past” are phrases appropriate to sports reporting, not science reporting. Except that no sports reporter would dare write an article in which he never bothers to give you the score of the big game.

Yet that’s what passes for “science reporting” on the issue of global warming, where asking for numbers and margins of errors apparently makes you an enemy of science. Instead, it’s all qualitative and comparative descriptions. It’s science without numbers. […]

It’s almost like they’re hiding something. And that is indeed what we find. I finally tracked down an exception to this reporting trend: the UK newspaper The Independent gives us the relevant numbers.

They should have been in the first paragraph, but at least they’re in the third paragraph: “This puts 2016 only nominally ahead of 2015 by just 0.01C — within the 0.1C margin of error — but….” There’s stuff after the “but,” but it’s just somebody’s evaluation. Even this report can’t give us a straight fact and leave it alone.

For the benefit of science reporters and other people who are unfamiliar with the scientific method, let me point out that the margin of error for these measurements is plus or minus one tenth of a degree Celsius. The temperature difference that is supposedly being measured is one one-hundredth of a degree—one tenth the size of the margin of error. To go back to sports reporting, that’s like saying that the football is on the 10-yard line — give or take a hundred yards. […]

When I was learning lab technique, a lot of time was spent on the importance of margin of error because that’s the limit of what you can know. In fact, I had a professor who would take credit off when people carried more decimal places in their results than the margin of error would allow.

It was one reason he preferred slide rules to electronic calculators. (Yep, it’s been a few decades.) The people with slide rules would skip those gratuitous digits because of the extra work, but people with calculators wanted to keep those extra digits because they were “free”.

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Nothing’s certain but uncertainty

October 31, 2015

Here’s an entertaining column by Mark Steyn about climate change and some reactions to his new book “A Disgrace To The Profession,” which is about what other climate scientists think of Michael Mann’s “hockey stick” graph of temperatures.

The defamation suit against Steyn by Michael Mann, inventor of the global-warming “hockey stick”, is about to enter its fourth year at the DC Superior Court.

The Certainty of Uncertainty

Nine years ago self-proclaimed “climate hawk” David Roberts was contemplating Nuremberg trials for deniers:

When we’ve finally gotten serious about global warming, when the impacts are really hitting us and we’re in a full worldwide scramble to minimize the damage, we should have war crimes trials for these bastards — some sort of climate Nuremberg.

But in his latest piece, at Vox.com, he’s singing a rather different tune:

Basically, it’s difficult to predict anything, especially regarding sprawling systems like the global economy and atmosphere, because everything depends on everything else. There’s no fixed point of reference.

Now he tells us. […]

Read the whole thing; it’s brief.


Update 11/03/15

More about those uncertainties; here’s an interesting article from the Christian Science Monitor.

Antarctica is actually gaining ice, says NASA. Is global warming over?

A new NASA study found that Antarctica has been adding more ice than it’s been losing, challenging other research, including that of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, that concludes that Earth’s southern continent is losing land ice overall.

In a paper published in the Journal of Glaciology on Friday, researchers from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, the University of Maryland in College Park, and the engineering firm Sigma Space Corporation offer a new analysis of satellite data that show a net gain of 112 billion tons of ice a year from 1992 to 2001 in the Antarctic ice sheet.

That gain slowed to 82 billion tons of ice per year between 2003 and 2008. […]

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Thoughtcrime

September 22, 2015

Here’s the start of an interesting post at Coyote blog. Read the whole thing; it’s brief.

These 20 Scientists Want to Make it A Crime to Disagree with Them

I think it is important to publicize these names far and wide:

Jagadish Shukla, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA
Edward Maibach, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA
Paul Dirmeyer, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA
Barry Klinger, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA
Paul Schopf, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA
David Straus, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA
Edward Sarachik, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Michael Wallace, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Alan Robock, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ
Eugenia Kalnay, University of Maryland, College Park, MD
William Lau, University of Maryland, College Park, MD
Kevin Trenberth, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, CO
T.N. Krishnamurti, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL
Vasu Misra, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL
Ben Kirtman, University of Miami, Miami, FL
Robert Dickinson, University of Texas, Austin, TX
Michela Biasutti, Earth Institute, Columbia University, New York, NY
Mark Cane, Columbia University, New York, NY
Lisa Goddard, Earth Institute, Columbia University, New York, NY
Alan Betts, Atmospheric Research, Pittsford, VT

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It must be nice

March 18, 2014

It must be nice to believe, as Lawrence Torcello appears to, that clarity in scientific results is as simple as clarity in communication.

Or to believe that there’s no funding bias in climate studies.

Or to believe that there’s no confirmation bias in the studies themselves.

Or to believe that all reputable climate scientists agree with the idea of catastrophic, anthropogenic global warming.

Or to believe that a professor of philosophy can reliably identify misinformation about global climate science.

And there’s the rub with his entire essay below: Who will be making these judgments about what is or is not ‘misinformation’?


Agreeing that the world climate has warmed in the recent past doesn’t imply agreement with any of these statements:

(a) That we’ve definitely identified the warming’s cause(s).
(b) That we can confidently predict future global climate by modeling.
(c) That we can prescribe methods for preventing warming.


Mr. Torcello’s example of the Italian earthquake case seems to say more about the Italian legal system than it does about clear communication of scientific opinion.

With any luck, no one in the United States will face legal prosecution for disagreeing with a scientific consensus; or for failing to gainsay a government official when he or she speaks in a misinformed manner.

Is misinformation about the climate criminally negligent?

The importance of clearly communicating science to the public should not be underestimated. Accurately understanding our natural environment and sharing that information can be a matter of life or death…

The importance of clearly communicating science to the public should not be underestimated. Accurately understanding our natural environment and sharing that information can be a matter of life or death. When it comes to global warming, much of the public remains in denial about a set of facts that the majority of scientists clearly agree on. With such high stakes, an organised campaign funding misinformation ought to be considered criminally negligent.

The earthquake that rocked L’Aquila Italy in 2009 provides an interesting case study of botched communication. This natural disaster left more than 300 people dead and nearly 66,000 people homeless. In a strange turn of events six Italian scientists and a local defence minister were subsequently sentenced to six years in prison.

The ruling is popularly thought to have convicted scientists for failing to predict an earthquake. On the contrary, as risk assessment expert David Ropeik pointed out, the trial was actually about the failure of scientists to clearly communicate risks to the public. The convicted parties were accused of providing “inexact, incomplete and contradictory information”. […]

Crucially, the scientists, when consulted about ongoing tremors in the region, did not conclude that a devastating earthquake was impossible in L’Aquila. But, when the Defence Minister held a press conference saying there was no danger, they made no attempt to correct him. I don’t believe poor scientific communication should be criminalised because doing so will likely discourage scientists from engaging with the public at all.

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Moore on AGW

March 1, 2014

On Wednesday, The Washington Times reported that Patrick Moore made a statement to a Senate committee this week.

Greenpeace co-founder says ‘no scientific proof’ humans cause climate change

A co-founder of Greenpeace told a Senate panel on Tuesday that there is no scientific evidence to back claims that humans are the “dominant cause” of climate change.

Patrick Moore, a Canadian ecologist who was a member of Greenpeace from 1971-86, told members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee environmental groups like Greenpeace use faulty computer models and scare tactics in further promoting a political agenda, Fox News reported.

Here’s Mr. Moore’s full statement (in PDF) from the Senate’s site.

Naturally, this caused some reaction on the ‘net. MediaMatters response is:

Who Is Patrick Moore? A Look At The Former Greenpeace Member’s Industry Ties And Climate Denial
Patrick Moore’s Climate Misinformation Is Nothing New

Conservative media are latching on to the climate change denial of Patrick Moore, who has masqueraded as a co-founder of Greenpeace. But Moore has been a spokesman for nuclear power and fossil fuel-intensive industries for more than 20 years, and his denial of climate change — without any expertise in the matter — is nothing new.

And at Watts Up With That, we have:

Confessions of a ‘Greenpeace Dropout’ to the U.S. Senate on climate change

Our friend Dr. Patrick Moore, co-founder of Greenpeace, went before the U.S. Senate yesterday to tell his story as it relates to global warming/climate change. It is well worth your time to read. WUWT readers may recall that since Dr. Moore has decided to speak out against global warming and for Golden Rice, Greenpeace is trying to disappear his status with the organization, much like people were disappeared in Soviet Russia.

I won’t try to argue my view of global warming since I’m no expert. It’s a very complicated topic and not all the experts agree. But I liked John Christy’s statement to the same Senate committee in August of 2012.

Christy and Roy Spencer maintain a dataset of satellite temperature measurements.

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50 to 1 project goes live

September 2, 2013

Last May, I mentioned the 50 to 1 Project. It was an indiegogo project with the goal "to document the true cost of ‘action’ on climate change" using the IPCC’s own figures. Despite the fact that the project didn’t reach its funding goal, the crew persisted and completed the work anyway.

You can find the results of their work at http://50to1.net (redirects to a page at Topher Fields’ site). There are 8 interviews there. I watched the interview of Anthony Watts, of WattsUpWithThat.com fame, and found it very interesting.

Here’s the intro video for the project.

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AGW and CFCs

June 29, 2013

Here’s an interesting theory about the causes of AGW (anthropogenic global warming). It could lead to a lot of very interesting debate about the role of ‘consensus’ in science if it turned out to be correct.

I’m taking it with the usual Correlation-Is-Not-Causation grain of salt for now. But RTWT and decide for yourself.

Global Warming Caused by CFCs, Not Carbon Dioxide, Researcher Claims in Controversial Study

May 30, 2013 — Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) are to blame for global warming since the 1970s and not carbon dioxide, according to a researcher from the University of Waterloo in a controversial new study published in the International Journal of Modern Physics B this week. […]

“Conventional thinking says that the emission of human-made non-CFC gases such as carbon dioxide has mainly contributed to global warming. But we have observed data going back to the Industrial Revolution that convincingly shows that conventional understanding is wrong,” said Qing-Bin Lu, a professor of physics and astronomy, biology and chemistry in Waterloo’s Faculty of Science. “In fact, the data shows that CFCs conspiring with cosmic rays caused both the polar ozone hole and global warming.”

“Most conventional theories expect that global temperatures will continue to increase as CO2 levels continue to rise, as they have done since 1850. What’s striking is that since 2002, global temperatures have actually declined — matching a decline in CFCs in the atmosphere,” Professor Lu said. “My calculations of CFC greenhouse effect show that there was global warming by about 0.6 °C from 1950 to 2002, but the earth has actually cooled since 2002. The cooling trend is set to continue for the next 50-70 years as the amount of CFCs in the atmosphere continues to decline.”

CFC-vs-Temp

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