October 30, 2005

Global Warming: A Challenge, & Scare Tactics/Bad Science From The Left!

Not long ago, one Mark A York infested this neighborhood, this spot on the web that I call my blog. I banned said York following some rather vulger comments, and I deleted the most offensive of his verbage. I'm amazed at how trolls feel they have the right to come into your home (so to speak) and crap on your couch. At any rate, this isn't about York as much as it is about the assertion by York that Global Warming (GW) is readily accepted by the "vast majority" of scientists, and so well documented as to be incontrovertable. York "challenged" thusly:

That will a screaming good laugh at the expense of two blockhead amateurs who couldn't find their ass with both hands in this subject arena. Try me. I dare you.
"Try me. I dare you" Oh, the horror, the fear that this engenders. But, since I like a challenge, especially from a deranged lefty who imagines himself both a brain and a "scientist" ought to be fun.

The essense of many of York's arguments are 1). That GW is a proven fact without a doubt and 2.) The ice is melting and the lower laying areas of the world are about to be innundated.

Here at GM's Corner, both Woody and I have enjoyed posting on GW from a humorous point of view (here, and here). The "challenge was issued on that last post as apparantly York was incapable of understanding that the post itself was obviously a humorous post and not meant to be taken seriously by anyone, including York, but apparantly the humor was lost on York. In fact, humor is often lost on these types of people because they fall in the class of "True Believers." That is, those without a sense of whimsy, without in internal mechanism that allows them to appreciate humor or whimsy tend to take everything so seriously. But, I digress. York wants a therapist and an accountant to humor him in his challenge... Will do!

Let's take a couple of Yorks shiboleths and see if they can be looked at one at a time. First, aside from the two assertions above is that the vast majority, almost all, a heck of a big bunch, a terrific lot of and more than five (but less than 30 billion for sure) "scientists" (and here I would assume that he includes himself) agree that GW is fact. Let us look at that in it's historical context. While it is true that most scientists were wrong when they derided Pasteur and his theory of germs, they could not long overlook the evidence. It is equally true that most scientists derided Galileo for his solar centric assertions as well. Too, Hippocrates hypothesized that we (our personality and other traits) were essentially a combination of four humours: "SANGUINE, (blood);" "CHOLERIC (yellow bile);" "PHLEGMATIC (phlegm);" and "MELANCHOLIC (black bile)." This from the "Father of "MODERN" medicine. Interestingly enough, Hippocrates also is famous for what he didn't write (the Hippocratic Oath) and for being a Greek physician who laid the foundations of scientific medicine by freeing medical study from the constraints of philosophical speculation and superstition. And for close to a couple of thousand years, "the vast majority of scientists supported his assertions."

Well, that worked real well didn't it? But, the point of course is that wide acceptance is not the same as proof, any more than a high (positive or negative) correlation involves causality. If correlation was in fact the same as causality, my humorous assertion that the increasing temperature is a direct result of the decrease in the number of pirates in the world would be a major factor in the GW controversy (it is an example of a high negative correlation, as one data bit declines, the corresponding data bit rises). It's not, and correlation is not the same as causality. Anyone making even a D in elementary statistics should understand that, except perhaps for Mr. York.

So, let us look at the two issues, one at a time.


You know what? Just to make this a little more "fair" for York I will concede that GW is in fact, a fact. I also demand that he accept that Global Cooling (GC) is equally a fact and has accounted for numerous Ice Ages. But that of course begs the question. Are we in fact in a slight warming trend, a catastrophic warming trend where we will all turn into roasted homo sapiens (except those living in Alaska of course, they will become Baked Alaskans), or is this possibly a statistical anomaly? There seems to be a disagreement between these folk and these folk. At issue is a statistical interpretation of data that takes on the appearance of a Hockey Stick. Mann and his researchers first published their data in Nature in 1998. Essentially, Mann argued that because of human intervention temperatures gradually rose in a slight but not necessarily significant warming trend until the advent of the 20th Century. Then a sharply upward trend of increasing temperature produced a form called, the hockey stick because it has the shape of said stick.

hockeystick.bmpThis is the shape we are talking about. Following Mann, two "non-climatologists," one a Professor of Economics Ross McKitrickand another a mining exploration consultant Stephen McIntyre, began looking at the formulas/models and methodology of Mann for what was purely personal reasons. McIntyre because he said the hockey stick reminded him too much of the kind of graphic used to "sell" investors a stake in a mining operation. McIntyre also noted that the graphic was very much like the Dot.Com graphs and we all know where that one went.

In a lengthy article, note above and here, Marcel Crok, Natuurwetenschap & Techniek (Nature, Science & Technology) (Antwerp) Crok states (translation from the Dutch by Angela den Tex):

Few people dispute that the earth is getting warmer, but there are people – so-called “climate skeptics” – who question whether the change is historically unique and whether it is the result of human activity.These skeptics are generally outsiders, reviled by ”true” climate researchers.

On the one hand, Michael Mann, the first author of the two noted hockey stick papers (in Nature in 1998 and in Geophysical Research Letters in 1999), is the unofficial king of climate research. In 2002, Scientific American included him as one of the top 50 visionaries in science.On the other hand, the two Canadian skeptics are outsiders: Ross McKitrick is a Professor of Economics and Stephen McIntyre is a mineral exploration consultant – which Mann likes to call a conflict of interest.

Climate skeptics are most prolific on the internet, a platform for novices, the scatterbrained and the experienced alike. Not surprisingly, the climate researchers who we consulted (predominantly Dutch) presumed the work of the two Canadians to be unconvincing. Natuurwetenschap & Techniek was initially skeptical about these skeptics as well. However, McIntyre and McKitrick have recently had an article accepted by Geophysical Research Letters - the same journal that published Mann’s 1999 article.This, together with the positive responses of the referees to this article, quickly brought us around.

Full Disclosure: I'm one of those folk in the blogosphere, I'm not a climate scientist, but I can read, I can reason and I can put two and two together and consistently come up with four (we are of course, assuming a base 10 model). There is absolutely nothing inherent about being in any profession and being right all the time. Perhaps Mann hasn't learned that yet. Too bad.

Crok goes on to state:

The criticism by the Canadians is mostly technical in nature: they claim that Mann and his colleagues have misused an established statistical method – principal component analysis (PCA) – so that their calculations simply mined data for hockey stick shaped series and that Mann’s results are statistically meaningless.They have traced the problem to a simple error in a few lines of computer code.

The scientists that we consulted did not immediately recognize the implications of Mann’s eccentric method, suggesting the possibility he himself may not have been aware of the apparent mistake.However, in response to our inquiries, Mann denies any errors and rejects any criticism in strident terms.

The conclusion of McKitrick and McIntyre, after being engaged in nearly two years of heated discussions with Mann and other scientists, is alarming: there is something amiss in climate research.Have Mann and his fellow researchers committed fraud? McIntyre:“That is too strong a legal term.What we can say is that the IPCC and many paleoclimatologists have not provided their readers with ‘full, true and plain disclosure’ (to use another legal term), especially if it involves reporting results adverse to their claims.There is no excuse for anything less than complete disclosure of all data and methods and it is shocking that the authors of the major studies refuse to do so.We have found that peer review of paleoclimate journals is a very limited form of due diligence. If scientific studies are going to be used to justify policy decisions costing billions of dollars, a much more rigorous form of review is needed.”

The article referenced above is some 10 pages long and includes a mind numbing number of graphs and not a little technical jargon. But it is worth reading in it's entirety for a grasp of what McIntyre and McKitrick state are the problems inherent in Mann's methodolgy. Make the effort, the read is worthwhile!

Of course, I'm not about to predicate my arguments on single source material, no matter how complete that argument seems to be, there is also this, & this. These last two are by John Daly, a self professed climate sceptic who states that he is not a climitologist but that:

Originally from Britain, I came to live in Tasmania in 1980, settling near Launceston, and for the last 9 years have been one of the numerous `skeptics' speaking out publicly against the Global Warming scare, which makes exaggerated claims that the earth will warm by +1.5 to +6 deg. C. due to an enhanced Greenhouse Effect.

Climate and climate change has been a lifelong study of mine since my early days as a ship's officer in the British Merchant Navy. I have lived through and traced the progress of the `ice age' scare of the 1970's, the `nuclear winter' scare of the 1980s, and now the `global warming' scare of the present. All these scares have advanced the interests of what was a small academic discipline 30 years ago to become a mammoth global industry today. It is my view that this industry has, through the `politics of fear' which it has promoted, acted against the interests of the public.

Daly may not be a climatologist, but he is familiar enough with enquiry to gather materials and document his findings. But, I'm sure the climitologists will deride this saying "but he is an amateur." That's OK, it was amateurs that busted Dan Rather too.

No controversy would be worth it's salt unless the detractors had detractors. Here is the site that York has recommended, and I admit it's a good read. But, I'm not about to attempt to refute it "line by line" as York has asked, any more than he would attempt to refute Crok line by line. In Real Climate the author goes into little detail, but gives a couple of links, in particular this one in which the graph given certainly shows a hocky stick like increase. On the other hand, the compression of the graph right to left exaggerates this effect and doesn't give any real meaning as presented. The data may be correct, but the presentation seems lacking. See an example of this below:

This is chart one graphing temperature rise between 1900 and 1980 (This is false data, used for illustration purposes only)

Chart 1.png

This is chart two. The data is identical, the only difference is the compression/expansion of the size of the grid. I'm not saying the data referred to in the above link (this one) is wrong, I'm saying that it may not be presented in it's most accurate light.

chart 2.png

Moving on to the second issue

2.) The ice is melting (because of GW one presumes - and depending on one's political philosophy and the degree of paranoia that could stand for Global Warming or George W.) and the lower laying areas of the world are about to be innundated.

This one was a little harder to research, but, being fairly decent at finding things on google and other sites, I perservered and came up with a couple. The first reports on the average thickness of the ice at the artic (north pole for some of you (insert very big grin). Now, if in fact we are in a significant warming trend with a concurrent melting of ice, it would seem then that the polar ice cap in the arctic regions would get thinner, and so it was reported:
Arctic sea ice has a complex structure, consisting of different kinds of ice and different thicknesses, ranging from very thin new ice to pressure ridges up to 50 m thick. Observations of ice thickness on a basin-wide scale have been obtained from submarine-based upward looking sonars that measure sea ice draft which is a measure of the subsurface ice thickness (the total thickness also includes the above-surface freeboard). McLaren [1989] presented draft data from two cruises (1958 and 1970) showing more severe ice conditions with thicker ice in 1958. Wadhams [1990] calculated a decrease of about 15 % of the total ice volume when analyzing draft data from two years (1976 and 1987) north of Greenland.

McLaren et al. [1992] investigated six cruises from 1977 to 1990 and found a large interannual variability but little evidence of a thinning ice cover. Recently, Rothrock et al. [1999] analyzed the presently available Scientific Ice Expeditions (SCICEX) submarine cruises ('93, '96 and '97) and found that the mean ice thickness had decreased by 1.3 m when compared to similar data acquired during the 1958-1976 period. They further stated that the thinning has continued during the 1990s and estimated an overall mean decline of 0.1 m yr−1. The latter conclusion, which has been cited widely, is carefully analyzed here using the most comprehensive data set presently available to the research community.

The conclusion?

Draft data from the North Pole, the Beaufort Sea, and transects between the two areas over a 7-year period from 1991 to 1997 show no evidence of a thinning ice cover. The Beaufort Sea area shows larger variability, being closer to the marginal ice zone and sensitive to circulation type and the location of the Beaufort high. Using a more extensive data set (6 years compared to 3), the negative trend in ice thickness found by Rothrock et al. [1999] during the 1990s is not supported by the present investigation. Combining the mean drafts derived by McLaren et al. [1992] from 1986 to 1990 with those from the present study, I conclude that the thickness of the sea ice cover has remained on a nearconstant level at the North Pole during the 12-year period from 1986 to 1997. This result is also supported by Wadhams and Davis [2000] who concluded that a substantial part of the thinning between 1976 and 1996 probably took place during the
rst of those two decades.

And finally, a little logical deductioning (though it may be logical, it is not necessarily true). If in fact, there is a degree of global warming and the polar ices melts as well as the ice in mountains and glaciers, than a significant amount will be taken up in water vapor. Warm air holds more moisture than cold air does. That will also result in increased precipitation in lots of areas that currently don't get a lot of rain (the Gobi? Sahara?) and that could be a good thing. Unfortunately, the data from the Artic don't support a massive melt off, now, or in the forseeable future.

Case closed, challenge met, but the greater question is unanswered. Is there a global warming trend as a result of green house gasses, is it an artifact of man or is it a natural cyclic phenomina? I can't answer that question and neither can anyone else, I don't care what initials there are behind their names. We can make some guesses, we can find data to support both sides of the equation, but until we know, going off half cocked, spending billions and billions of dollars with the resulting economic disruption based on a guess is not good enough. The predicted improvement in greenhouse gasses is all but insignificant. Let's get some real answers first.

Update: go HERE and read it all, then come back and comment!

Linked at Mudville Gazette, TMH Baconbits

Posted by GM Roper at October 30, 2005 07:00 PM | TrackBack

Doggone good 4U, GM, bringing more attention to this. Bergbikr at my site had written a lot on this in recent months. This hoodwinking of America (not to mention the world) by "scientists" with leftist agendas needs so very much more exposure. Well done.

Posted by The MaryHunter at October 31, 2005 09:13 AM

In the conclusion of "Slander", Ann Coulter cited Global Warming as the left's big issue because it's the only thing they can come up with that'll "take the Republicans a thousand years to disprove".

Excellent post!

Posted by Seth at October 31, 2005 03:34 PM

Human induced global warming is the new religion of left-wing loonies. It's gone beyond science or economics and has become a faith that man (really America) is evil and killing "Mother Earth"--their goddess. It fits a religion, because it can't be proven by honest science, and there simply is not enough data for reliable climate models to support it. Our only hope is to outlast them and hold on until they abandon this to chase after the next avant-garde cause.

Posted by Woody at October 31, 2005 04:23 PM

As Jerry Pournelle often comments, we simply need more data, good research uncoupled from political agendas.

A couple of good discussions on his site with folks a LOT smarter than I participating:



At any rate, folks who cook the books and throw out contradictory data, refuse to look at or listen to anything that differs from their preconceptual biases are NOT doing science.

And that's what we need: some folks who will simply do the science... and a whole lotta ST[ ]U from folks who wanna shout down anyone who disagrees with them. I'm quite happy to listen to folks from the GW camp, as long as they'll return the favor. But when their Gaia religion (or whatever they are substituting for science) compels them to shout down opposing voices, they've lost my ears.

Posted by David at October 31, 2005 10:18 PM

Ahh Yes...Al Gore's pet prject GW. I have never believed it, never will unless we see The Day After in live full technocolor. I doesn't make scientific sense...and using data that isn't consistent is wrong.
The liberals really push this issue though and so many people are scared.
Great post.

Posted by Raven at November 1, 2005 05:50 AM

I followed links to an article by a Seattle paper which was a Q&A (pretty phony one at that) with "questions" selected from the public and "answers" provided by the Global Warming priests. The only problem is that the GW priests answered questions on behalf of the skeptics as well--and, didn't do a very good a job, naturally and which was intended. Shouldn't a "factual" presentation in the paper have both sides presenting their respective positions? Well, they may not have thought that another side existed, because the article started by saying that the entire scientific community accepted GW as fact now.

Posted by Woody at November 1, 2005 09:59 AM

You did a real bang-up research effort on a agonizingly complicated topic. I didn't realize that RealClimate.org was a partisan site in the GW wars.

However, I have been reading in the last month how the arctic temperature changes are approaching historic highs, along with increasing open water in the summor and permafrost melting, and might soon (or already) be entering a permanent regime change due to positive feedback cycles. The time course is still uncertain as well as the climate impact elswhere in the world. I don't know if these reports would supercede your sources, or if this is another partisan debate.

However, melting of the arctic ice sheet would have virtually no effect on sea levels since most of this ice essentially is already floating in water (remember Archimedes jumping out of his bath tub and running through the streets shouting Eureka!). The arctic danger to sea levels would be if the Greenland ice sheet started to melt in a major fashion, since that ice (like Antarctica) is over land.

Again, plaudits.

Posted by civil truth at November 1, 2005 11:58 PM

GM a lot of your "facts" are just plain wrong. For example, Galileo's work was allowed to circulate among astronomers after this trial, he just wasn't permitted to publish it. Given the Church's attitude toward heliocentrism at the time, the failure of other astronomers to openly support him (not to speak of those who toed the Church line out of self-interest) means absolutely nothing. The paper trail on his unpublished post-trial work indicates that astronomers were very interested in what Galileo had to say.

Pasteur didn't invent the germ theory of disease, it had a longish evolution and enjoyed some support -- his contribution was primarily in nailing the hypothesis.


As for how Hippocrates could have made positive contributions to medical science while promoting the Four Humors -- it's hard to think a major preindustrial scientist who didn't have some silly ideas. (Newton probably poisoned himself with his alchemy experiments, for example, and Kepler was out to prove that the solar system had a grand geometric design indicating the esthetic propensities its Chief Architect.) The tough part is proving these silly ideas wrong, in the face of a lack of good data. Until the advent of cellular pathology, there wasn't much to be done about the Four Humors anyway. Climate science has its own problems of data aquisition, but climate researchers aren't sitting around pretending that it doesn't -- they are actively trying to ferret out new data and refine it.

"But, the point of course is that wide acceptance is not the same as proof, any more than a high (positive or negative) correlation involves causality. If correlation was in fact the same as causality, my humorous assertion that the increasing temperature is a direct result of the decrease in the number of pirates in the world would be a major factor in the GW controversy ..."

But it isn't, is it? Climate scientists don't say "GHGs are going up, temperature is going up, therefore they are related." For one thing, no scientist worthy of the name looks upon a correlation as anything but suggestive. What they DO say is "green house gases cause volumes of air to warm when infrared light passes through them." (Which they indisputably do -- the Earth's oceans would freeze over if you sucked all the water vapor and CO2 out of the atmosphere overnight.) And they note that the atmosphere is composed of volumes of air. They note that human activity is increasing GHGs over their likely natural concentration. They furthermore see evidence of a global warming trend. Where they go well beyond your Pirates/Warming joke, they see not only correlation, but possible MECHANISM, a mechanism to which we owe our survival ordinarily. The question is whether that mechanism and those added contributions explain some of the correlation that wouldn't have occurred otherwise. That's where it gets complex, and difficult to prove. But that's not something you address, is it? Instead, you're basically tarring an entire profession with insinuations of committing an intellectual error to which they are far LESS prone than your average citizen: confusing correlation and cause. That you believe this is somehow the underlying cause of widespread belief among scientists in the hypothesis of anthropogenic global warming indicates that you'll entertain some pretty bizarre hypotheses yourself when they favor your biases. You want to cure us of some delusion, doctor? Physician, heal thyself.

Pirates and Global Warming is funny, if you're using it to bang the ignorant over the head. But climate scientists don't think this way anyway, so the butt of your joke must have been someone else. Who, exactly?

As for whether the subject is worth taking seriously -- one of the better climate models was recently run under the assumption that human GHG emissions stopped suddenly (clearly a ridiculous hypothesis.) The model is based as much as possible on CAUSALITY. The model predicted continued warming for about a century, before natural absorption processes moderated the effects of existing GHG accumulation. If this model turns out to be pessimistic, we can all breath a sigh of relief. If it's anywhere near accurate however, there are very serious policy implications. To pretend that there aren't is the ostrich's response to danger. To wait until proof is absolute may be to wait far too long. You might as well "theorize" that, at 4 AM, you've never seen cross-traffic at a particular intersection, and therefore it's not worth the cost of brake lining. By the time you find out that you're wrong, it will probably be too late.

Posted by Michael Turner at November 8, 2005 12:07 AM

Michael, you raise some worthwhile points, although I think that the GW/Pirates issue was and is a sideshow. I think we've all had our chuckles about it, and it does seem that all parties understand that correlation does not translate to causality.

The point that GM seems to be raising in the first section of his posting has to do with what he perceives as a scientific debate over the validity of historical data, particularly proxy date for the period around AD 1000, which happens to correspond to the most recent historical period of major global warming. The questions that I would raise would be as follows:

1) Do all (or most) climate models utilize the Mann temperature data set for their development and forward iterations? If indeed the same data set is being used, and if this data set is flawed, then similarity of results only means that the same error is being replicated.

2) How sensitive are climate models to historical temperature data?

3) What is the signal to noise ratio regarding CO2 (and CH4 and other GHGs) versus other inputs? That is, how sensitive are the models to detecting the magnitude of global temperature change in response to GHGs compared to the variability of other sources of warming (e.g. solar cycles, air-sea interactions, albedo changes)?

4) Or to put the question another way, what is the relative magnitude between GWG effects and the error bars?

5) Finally, turning to the economic implicatioins, given the GWG effects and error bars (probabilities), what are the relative costs and benefits of various actions and inactions? Can people come to some agreement as to these costs and benefits so that we can make an informed judgment through the political process as to cost effectiveness.

It does seem likely that some modest steps could produce much bang for the buck, so to speak, especially if they seem reasonable to implement on a world-wide basis. After all, China and India are rapidly increasing their GWG generation.

Historically, if you take a more incremental approach and select the right target(s), you can achieve a quite favorable trade-off on, say, your first 20%-40% reduction, after which marginal costs tend to rapidly spiral upwards.

Posted by civil truth at November 8, 2005 06:00 PM

Why don't you ask the authors of the paper? Do you dare? Why go through me, a fish biologist who concurs with Mann et al? Grow a spine man.

Posted by Mark York at November 12, 2005 10:52 PM

What a fun-read post, GM! Lots of good comments too - all but the last one above by the fishey biologist fella. "Grow a spine man." This makes me visualize the spine of human kind with our York erected as a spindle normal to the trend.

On to plotting against the hocky stick. Arcane as the M & M vs. M conflict is, I simply recommend a linearizing model graphing trick in reverse. Plot temp rise against log(years since 1900) and a remarkable turning of the corner will add gusto to really emphasize the 'hockey stick' - call it 'variable compression.'

I recommend seeking out and reading P. Michaels, M. Crichton, S.F. Singer and V.D.Hanson for a balanced tour of the Global Worming antagonists. My BaconBits archive will also yield a piece or two.

Posted by Bergbikr at November 13, 2005 11:48 AM

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