Wednesday, January 28, 2009

How did we miss this?

Popular Science runs an annual competition for the worst jobs in science. Among the contestents this year is

If global-warming predictions are right, as many as a quarter of mammals now alive could be extinct in our lifetime; in other groups of plants and animals, casualties could be as high as 40 percent. Considering that humankind doesn’t have the money or know-how to save them all, some scientists are calling for ecological triage—choosing which critters to preserve and which to abandon.
From their, 2007 worst jobs in science, at number 2 we get
Number 2: Oceanographer
Nothing but bad news, day in and day out

Scientists estimate that overfishing will end wild-seafood harvests by 2048 and that Earth´s coral reefs will be rubble within decades. About 200 deoxygenated "dead zones" dot the world´s coasts, up from 149 in 2004. Meanwhile, a vortex of plastic the size of Texas clogs the North Pacific, choking fish and birds; construction is destroying coastal habitats; and countless key marine species are nearly extinct. To top it all off, if global warming goes the way scientists predict, the uptick of carbon dioxide levels in the seas will acidify the water until little more than jellyfish can live there.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

A song for Tamino

More Sid the Science kid video's at YouTube and his lab at PBS
Follow the bouncing line. . .Comments?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Wisdom from the Danish

Over at Tamino's the nature of denialism is under discussion in the comments at a couple of places. Among the convenient claims from the other side was

No serious skeptic believes that extra CO2 does not come from humans. Just like no serious skeptic believes that that CO2 is a GHG that will cause some warming. The real questions are how much warming and whether warming is necessarily bad.
Eli pointed to a few dozen. In the other J summed up

Is the project still going on, or has it basically ended? How many stations per week are being surveyed? I believe during the first six months of the project, it was averaging 15-20.

It looks like participation in the project almost evaporated once John V. posted his results a year ago.

My impression is that a lot of people were only interested in the project because they thought it would blow a hole in GISTEMP. When it became clear that it would more likely confirm the validity of GISTEMP, people basically stopped surveying stations.

but recently another swam into view by happenstance. The Rabett was poking around in places where his name was taken in vain, and virtue. Occasionally he can (with the help of language tools) read the stuff. Recently he stumbled on a post from Christoffer Bugge Harder on the Danish Klimaendringer (Climate Debate) site describing how a blogger who was working on a "new" theory showing Arrhenius wrong, was smoking some strange weed: (freely translated)
But you are driven to continue along your chosen path and without trouble you can almost certainly get Anthony Watts, Junk Science or co2science to present your "definitive repudiation" of Arrhenius when finished. There you can find odiments that lack context, logic and consistency and the kind of people whose only ambition is to show that one particular theory simply must be wrong. There will also be 100 comments from strange little men to thank you for having confirmed their suspicions that the whole thing is a big fraud.

If you're happy with this, it's fine with me. And you may also like to believe that you:
..... have lots of experience, have unusual views and deserve your self-confidence.
Rabett Run, the go to place for multilingual internet climate snark agglomeration.

Monday, January 19, 2009

John Fleck is right

OK, Eli is obsessed with Roger Jr. A charter member of the Pielke fan club even. It's been obvious for years that Ethon is a hungry bird, and the seed is really good over there. John shouldn't complain given that he too is a bird watcher. Eli has to admit that the feathered folk are eating him out of house and home too. Hopefully Ms Rabett will not discover how much it costs to feed the guys but sometimes there is a tasty morsel in Boulder.

The latest is a letter to Roger from Eberhard Faust of Munich Re. The Re stands for Reinsurance, the guys who accept offloaded risk from your smaller insurance companies, like Geico, All State, etc. Naturally they are like hawks on what is happening, and have long recognized the risk inherent in climate change. Faust has several presentations on the web, including this recent one. He also holds that hurricane and other natural weather related disasters are increasing in frequency, this does not endear him to Roger Pielke, who went off on this subject and got a long letter in response.

Bunnies can go RTFL, and most of you, (no Dano, not you) can even comment over..there, but what caught Eli's eye was this graph

Figure caption: Percentage change of global annual counts assuming that the 1980 values represent 100% (according to the linear trend extrapolation).

Faust argues that the trend in geophysical effect frequency (Eli assumes mostly earthquakes) is much less than the increase in bad storms like hurricanes, floods and temperature extremes. Since the former is not connected to climate change and all of the latter are, there are some fish swimming in the milk**. Munich Re has a lot of money riding on this which tends to concentrate the mind.

UPDATE: Pielke is playing the three card street game again, accusing Munich Re of exaggerating the science. In the comments here, Magnus points to a post by Ivan Schneider on Ecotech that reinforces the point

The reinsurance game doesn't rely on scientific consensus.

The burden of proof in science has been set impossibly high. Scientists can propose, argue and refine theories, but the scientific process never quite arrives at an absolute statement of truth. . . .In business, insurers don't have the luxury of waiting until there's a broad scientific consensus until they write policies. . . . .

Höppe never claimed that he had explicit scientific proof that the "weather machine" is increasing losses, and nor would he in an actuarial context. Instead, my understanding of his remarks is that they've built a proprietary model of the weather machine based on underlying assumptions about greenhouse gases and climate change, along with actual information about the tendency for modern economies to concentrate wealth along coastal areas.

Considering that the model was uncannily accurate at predicting actual losses using previous data, there's reason to believe that it would continue to have predictive value for 2009 and beyond.

** old line, finding fish swimming in the milk is pretty good evidence that someone watered it.


Nominations are open

HE Taylor has long helped those of us who "sip from the internet firehose",** providing a weekly listing of all the climate blogging and news fit to read. This appears on Coby Beck's Illconsidered, as well as HET's own site. What could be better than the page title:

Another Week of Climate Disruption News
Information overload is pattern recognition

This week he introduces a new category
We have a new entry in the unofficial stick-n-stones call-a-name contest -- Denier-Industrial-Complex Kooks (DICKs), which joins such fine entries as septics, greenhouse mafia, permanently uninformed, carbon lobby, denialist, fossil fools, climate contrarian, biostitutes, the Slick 60 Climate Change Denial Gang, delusionists, climate cranks, bellignorant, delusionosphere, denyosphere and Warmocaust Collusionists:
Eli rather prefers the dignified denialist, pushing this for the last 10 years or so.

Michael Tobis has a sighting

Have at it bunnies.

** Coby's description

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Foreign Policy on Climate Change

Foreign Policy is pretty much the DC nomenklatura in magazine form, so when they feature an article on Climate Change by Bill McKibben, things are moving in the right direction. McKibben sums the situation up in a very straightforward manner

“Scientists Are Divided”

No, they’re not. In the early years of the global warming debate, there was great controversy over whether the planet was warming, whether humans were the cause, and whether it would be a significant problem. That debate is long since over. Although the details of future forecasts remain unclear, there’s no serious question about the general shape of what’s to come. . . .

“We Have Time”
Wrong. . . .

“Climate Change Will Help as Many Places as It Hurts”
Wishful thinking. . . .

“It’s China’s Fault”
Not so much. . . .

“Climate Change Is an Environmental Problem”
Not really. . .

“Solving It Will Be Painful”
It depends. . . .

“We Can Reverse Climate Change”
If only. . . .

That's the tease, the details are in the article. Follow the link, comment here. RTFR

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Statistical Denial

Watts with that you ask? Everyone knows how statistical denial has become, why it almost shrieks for auditing stuff you can put up on a blackboard, and Eli's friend, Simon Donner, over at Maribo has taken up the realist's burden. Simon has constructed the skeptical media coverage index, showing indeed, that when skepticism transmuted to denialism, the media lost interest. Subject to some random variation, of course.

However, Eli had a few additional thoughts

US elections increase denialism. No doubt about it.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Rabett droppings

The kami-kazi nature of modern media, where you no sooner slay an idiocy, than another idiot posts with the same idiocy leads to some shortness of temper.

The end - -

Read on the checkout line

The latest ignorance spreading through the denialsphere is a provocation published in Pravda by a 9-11 truther (he believes that George did it) with the handle Fegel. This is pretty much standard stuff, Al Gore is FAT* and introduced the now broken hockey stick curve**, CO2 lags warming coming out of an ice age***, etc. As Tim Lambert puts it, remember when right wingers didn't trust Pravda? Pravda appears to have made the jump from Communist Party rag to supermarket checkout line rag without stopping for a rest in the middle. The wonders of the market.

The bottom line in this provocation though is Fegel's propagation of ignorance

The main flaw in the AGW theory is that its proponents focus on evidence from only the past one thousand years at most, while ignoring the evidence from the past million years -- evidence which is essential for a true understanding of climatology. The data from paleoclimatology provides us with an alternative and more credible explanation for the recent global temperature spike, based on the natural cycle of Ice Age maximums and interglacials.
There is a chapter in every IPCC report on paleoclimate, which considers what we know about ice ages in detail. The AR4 chapter concludes (very long download, don't do this on your dial up line):
It is virtually certain that global temperatures during coming centuries will not be signifi cantly influenced by a natural orbitally induced cooling. It is very unlikely that the Earth would naturally enter another ice age for at least 30 kyr.
VIRTUALLY CERTAIN is reserved for such things as the sun will rise in the morning. Science bunnies are very cautious. Besides labeling Fegel for wingnut of the week, we need to dig a bit deeper into this. It has been covered a few places, in a somewhat indirect way, which assumes that the reader has some background. Two are a delicious comment in Deltoid by William Hyde, which ends with

So here we see a denialist using a rejected idea of the early 1970s, which other people in his camp use as an example of bad climate science, as good science which "refutes" AGW.

As it turns out this interglacial looks more like the anomalous stage eleven interglacial, which was of approximately double normal length. By one calculation the "on ramp" for the next ice age occurred 800 years ago, and we missed it. The next one isn't for eleven thousand years.

Come to think of it, that was also discussed in Imbrie and Imbrie. Guess he didn't get to the last chapter.

and Eli will find the other one soon (same point tho).

To really understand why this is such a sure thing (bet the bunnies on it if you can find a long lived sucker) the dedicated reader should go read Imbrie and Imbrie, maybe the last chaper, the AR4, TAR, etc. However, the classic Rabett take is that small orbital changes decrease the amount of sunlight striking the Earth and lead to summers in which ice persists over large areas of the Northern Hemisphere. Ice sheets can therefore grow over time driven by positive feedbacks including changes in the albedo. Taking all this into account the AR4 authors conclude. When Will the Current Interglacial End?

There is no evidence of mechanisms that could mitigate the current global warming by a natural cooling trend. Only a strong reduction in summer insolation at high northern latitudes, along with associated feedbacks, can end the current interglacial.

Given that current low orbital eccentricity will persist over the next tens of thousand years, the effects of precession are minimised, and extremely cold northern summer orbital configurations like that of the last glacial initiation at 116 ka will not take place for at least 30 kyr (Box 6.1). Under a natural CO2 regime (i.e., with the global temperature-CO2 correlation continuing as in the Vostok and EPICA Dome C ice cores), the next glacial period would not be expected to start within the next 30 kyr (Loutre and Berger, 2000; Berger and Loutre, 2002; EPICA Community Members, 2004). Sustained high atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations, comparable to a mid-range CO2 stabilisation scenario, may lead to a complete melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet (Church et al., 2001) and further delay the onset of the next glacial period (Loutre and Berger, 2000; Archer and Ganopolski, 2005).
Bottom line, we don't have a year 10K problem, we may have a year 30K problem assuming that there remains any ice in the Arctic. Don't bet on that the way things are being driven.

UPDATE: Inel has attracted the Fegel hisself

* Al Gore is stout
** The hockey stick curve was introduced by Mann, Bradley and Hughes in 1998, and since then, although the statistical methodology has been challenged, every other paleoclimate study has shown a similar behavior with improved statistic.
*** The way it works is that orbital changes(Milankovitch cycle) lead to a small amount of warming coming out of the ice ages (that is a so called forcing, something external to the Earth's climate that affects it). The system responds by releasing more greenhouse gases, CO2 (fizzy coke effect) and higher water vapor and melting ice which changes the albedo. If you do it nature's way this takes a couple of thousand years. In that case the CO2 functions as a positive feedback which complete the warming.

Although the primary causes are different, this is completely consistent with increasing CO2 concentrations by any means leading to a warmer atmosphere and surface. The only difference is that we have forced, a ~33% increase in CO2 over 100 years, very fast for geological processes. This is a forcing, because it came from outside the climate system, but the effect is the same. It's very basic stuff. As a matter of fact you expect that CO2 will lag warming coming out of an ice age, because ice ages end not because of initiating CO2 increases, they are accelerated by them

Real Climate goes into more detail

Figure is from the AR4 paleoclimate chapter Box 6.1

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Wisdom from USENET

USENET has an extremely deserved reputation as a refuge for nasty, cranky, crazy and porn, still there are prescient voices of wisdom and good information to be had. Eli would like to point out that the recently "discovered" idea that one has to take into account the asymmetry of possible outcomes from climate change is an old one to those who used to practice on such groups as sci.environment, and not a recent discover of Weitzman, newly taken up by Anthoff, Tol, Yohe and others. True this offers them an elegant out so they don't have to say Stern was right and we were wrong. Michael Tobis, yes, that guy, put it best:

Newsgroups: sci.environment
From: (Michael Tobis)
Date: 1999/06/23
Subject: Re: Problems with the "man made" global warming debate

My beliefs regarding the costs and benefits of climate change:
1) Global mean temperature is a mere proxy measure of change, and very large climate shifts with very small global mean temperature change are admissible, while the opposite case is meaningless. So focusing on mean temperature shifts already has a neutral to overly optimistic outcome.
2) As everyone is constantly pointing out, current understanding of climate as embodied in dynamic climate models is relatively crude. The result is indeed that the models are unreliable. However, contrary to what I have seen anywhere in the popular press, this means that the models are biased to produce results similar to contemporary climate using contemporary boundary conditions. They therefore tend to be undersensitive to perturbations. Again, this implies that the median modeling result may be an underestimate.
Another problem is that the real world has more degrees of freedom than any model, so modes not accounted for in models may be excited in reality. Again this causes model projections to be conservative regarding change estimates.
3) As has been stated recently, human institutions are built around prevailing conditions. Therefore any change occurring more rapidly than the optimum replacement time for these institutions has considerable costs. The example of building near sea level is the most obvious, though here it seems that the relevant time constants are long (several centuries rather than several decades). Regarding climate change itself, the dominant time constants are those of the atmosphere and the upper ocean, respectively a month or so (effectively instantaneous) and roughly 20 to 30 years. So the non-sea-level related changes are not imponderably distant in time.
4) It is clear enough that a change of 20 C would be cataclysmic, whether that change is a warming or a cooling. It is also clear enough that a change of 0.2 C is of little consequence, and may be on net beneficial. There is no reason to believe that this function is linear. The contemplated changes (~2 C) are large enough that we can not have total confidence that the impacts will not be catastrophic.
5) There is no plausible argument that any particular climate change will have a beneficial impact comparable to the worst plausible case negative impact.
6) The risk-weighted cost of unrestrained anthropogenic perturbation must therefore be dominated by the fact that the plausible worst cases have more cost than the plausible best cases have benefit.
7) I believe that resources should be dedicated not only to best models of current climate but to explorations of plausible worst case scenarios, precisely because these dominate the risk-weighted cost. This is the main way in which science can directly relate to the rational mitigation response strategy, if there's a sensible way to do it. I have heard of no efforts in this direction. Climate science as currently performed can provide much more of use to adaptation strategies, which are local, than to mitigation strategies, which are global.
8) The magnitude of the best estimate temperature climate sensitivity to anthropogenic inputs is not likely to change unless new global scale processes become active. The current global temperature sensitivity is well understood barring such changes, despite what you read in the press.
Point 2 above implies that at longer time scales, model changes are more likely to be underestimates than overestimates. For the foreseeable future the global picture is not likely to change.
9) Most of our knowledge points to the changes being larger than appear in nature. Meanwhile our ignorance prevents us from knowing at what level these changes become intolerable. The potential risk is enormous. The potential benefit is modest.
10) There is no *guarantee* that the climate shift will not be advantageous. There are reasons to suspect otherwise. There are *strong* reasons to suspect that *sufficiently rapid* changes are disadvantageous and it's perfectly obvious that *sufficiently large* changes are disadvantageous. The most important point, though, is that plausible negative outcomes have much larger costs than plausible positive outcomes have benefits.
11) The correct level and strategy of response are difficult to establish, and intelligent and vigorous discussion is warranted. Delay is not. The time constants of the human system that causes the perturbation and the time constants of the climate response don't offer any zone of comfort. Indeed it is difficult to eliminate the prospect of very serious consequences of the perturbation that has already taken place or will unavoidably occur before effective policies can be implemented.
12) The most likely time for catastrophic consequences not involving sea level change is in the next century. This is neither in the typical political time frame nor so far in the future that the matter can be treated as merely theoretical.

OK, this is sort of cheating, but as far as Eli can see Michael has not put this up on Only in it for the Gold and it needs to be repeated again and again. We can negotiate if he wants to put it up on

The Smiling Lomborg

Simon Donner had Bjorn pegged when he described how it's done

Climate change “skepticism” began with an industry-funded effort to question the science. It has since morphed into questioning whether the effects of climate change would really be so bad, a move I call the Smiling Lomborg.
If you look at the act the first thing you see is the constant smirk. Myles Allen found a good way of dealing with Lomborg, use simple ways of stating the problems and challenge Lomborg on his basic economics/political science, in other words, don't let him duck out on the "But I am not a scientist", but confront him on what he claims to be. Lomborg really doesn't know the science. (Well Bjorn, as you say, you are not a scientist. That's real clear cause you just stepped in it again and why did you use that crazy stuff). He also has a very superficial understanding of economics, and as the economists move away from him he looksincreasingly foolish, but you do have to press him.

You can't go at Lomborg straight on, he will just laugh, look cool and leave you sputtering. Joe Romm would get his teeth handed to him by Lomborg. Michael Berube could. To paraphrease we need a way of dealing with Lomborg that does not give him what he wants: namely, (1) important concessions or (2) outrage. He feeds on (2), of course, and uses it to power the Copenhagen Consensus and Massive Persecution Complex he runs out of Denmark; and most of the time, we give it to him by the truckload. Realists need to try (3), mockery and dismissal, and thereby demonstrate that when someone tries to blame poverty and maleria on Al Gore having a large house, that person needs to be ridiculed and given a double minor for unsportsmanlike bullshit.

A day or so ago John Mashey posted a thorough deconstruction of Lomborg. This grows out of an earlier long exchange (references at the link) which also should be read by anyone who needs to be filled in on what is going on. However, by itself it is not effective because it treats Lomborg as serious rather than self-promoting. Think Bernie Madoff in a black shirt. They both smile a lot.


Someone FINALLY gets it right

At the still dark Deltoid:

Eli Rabbet - now THERE'S a trusted name in scientific thought. Another Isaac Newton!

Everyone ought to pay heed to what Eli has to say.

Posted by: Brian G Valentine
Yep. No need for anything more

Saturday, January 03, 2009

The baseline game
Ethon came flying in from Boulder for the New Year. He brought news of the second coming of Willis Eschenbach. You might remember Willis, he is the guy who, as Tim Lambert gently put it used some slight of hand on the Hansen 1988 prediction

Well, there are only two things you can do to make Hansen look bad -- you can misrepresent the results of his model, or you can misrepresent the instrumental record.
Willis took door two over at Climate Fraudit when he drew in the HADCRUT3 data.
"The trick Eschenbach used was to use a single year for the baseline (1958-ER) instead of the thirty year average that is normally used (Hansen used 1951-1980-ER). Yes, it's another version of the disingenous baseline game that produced all those bogus "global warming ended in 1998" claims. Given the year to year variability of climate, by choosing the right year to use as a baseline you can manufacture almost any result you want."
If you use the same thirty year average for the baselines, you get the temperature anomaly graph on the right. (Since Hansen et al. 1988 used 1951-1980 and HADCRUT3 used 1961-1990 you do have to be a bit careful). Lambert has a much sexier way of showing this, but Eli is only a humble hare.

There was lots of patting on the back over at CA, Willis was the hero of the day and then he made the mistake of getting into it with the crew at Deltoid and starting to blather about forcings and scenarios. It was pretty amusing when it turned out that he was using greenhouse gas growth scenarios from a 2006 Hansen paper and ascribing them to the 1988 one. Quite cross with Eli he was.

If you thought that was a class act, look at what Roger Pielke Jr. has done to address the question if global warming has stopped

Will someone go over there and mention that his act is wearing very thin.

UPDATE: Roger, points to a letter he got into Nature in April 08 with another version of his graph, one at least that uses the right baseline. . . . . . . except for the 2007 IPCC report which starts in 1990 about 0.05 oC above the others. If you move the green line down, Eli did, it lies just about on the 2001 IPCC projection which is fairly good. Roger, of course, only stated the 2007 projection in 2000. You can blow this figure up to see it better by clicking on it.

Oh yes, you can buy Ethon T Shirts over at the Miserable Shop of Prometheus. Tell em Eli sent you. If you are in Boulder, wear them to class.


Friday, January 02, 2009

Hansen writes to Obama

Jim and Anniek Hansen (husband and wife) have released an open letter that he wrote to the Obama's, both of them, it starts:

29 December 2008
Michelle and Barack Obama
Chicago and Washington, D.C.
United States of America

Dear Michelle and Barack,

We write to you as fellow parents concerned about the Earth that will be inherited by our children, grandchildren, and those yet to be born.
Barack has spoken of 'a planet in peril' and noted that actions needed to stem climate changehave other merits. However, the nature of the chosen actions will be of crucial importance.

and it is quite long. You can find it at the Guardian and on Hansen's Columbia web site. The web site also has a revision of Hansen's position paper on climate policy

The recommendations are:
(1) Moratorium and phase-out of coal plants that do not capture and store CO2. This is the sine qua non for solving the climate problem. . .

(2) Rising price on carbon emissions via a "carbon tax and 100% dividend".

(3) Urgent R&D on 4th generation nuclear power with international cooperation.

Energy efficiency, renewable energies, and a "smart grid" deserve first priority in our effort to reduce carbon emissions. With a rising carbon price, renewable energy can perhaps handle all of our needs. However, most experts believe that making such presumption probably would leave us in 25 years with still a large contingent of coal-fired power plants worldwide. Such a result would be disastrous for the planet, humanity, and nature.

4th generation nuclear power (4th GNP) and coal-fired power plants with carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) at present are the best candidates to provide large baseload nearly carbon-free power