Sunday, February 28, 2010

Framing Al Gore

Al Gore has long recognized our threats to the Earth and the necessity of intelligently modifying behavior to meet those challenges. He has been one of the most effective, if not the most effective person communicating these inconvenient truths to the world. Today he has a long commentary in the New York Times. Gore makes several important points. First,

It would be an enormous relief if the recent attacks on the science of global warming actually indicated that we do not face an unimaginable calamity requiring large-scale, preventive measures to protect human civilization as we know it. . .

But what a burden would be lifted! We would no longer have to worry that our grandchildren would one day look back on us as a criminal generation that had selfishly and blithely ignored clear warnings that their fate was in our hands. We could instead celebrate the naysayers who had doggedly persisted in proving that every major National Academy of Sciences report on climate change had simply made a huge mistake.
but, sadly no,
In fact, the crisis is still growing because we are continuing to dump 90 million tons of global-warming pollution every 24 hours into the atmosphere — as if it were an open sewer. . . .

Here is what scientists have found is happening to our climate: man-made global-warming pollution traps heat from the sun and increases atmospheric temperatures. These pollutants — especially carbon dioxide — have been increasing rapidly with the growth in the burning of coal, oil, natural gas and forests, and temperatures have increased over the same period. Almost all of the ice-covered regions of the Earth are melting — and seas are rising. Hurricanes are predicted to grow stronger and more destructive, though their number is expected to decrease. Droughts are getting longer and deeper in many mid-continent regions, even as the severity of flooding increases. The seasonal predictability of rainfall and temperatures is being disrupted, posing serious threats to agriculture. The rate of species extinction is accelerating to dangerous levels.
Gore makes an important point about why a US climate bill, although not perfect, is needed now
. . . .we should have no illusions about the difficulty and the time needed to convince the rest of the world to adopt a completely new approach. The lags in the global climate system, including the buildup of heat in the oceans from which it is slowly reintroduced into the atmosphere, means that we can create conditions that make large and destructive consequences inevitable long before their awful manifestations become apparent: the displacement of hundreds of millions of climate refugees, civil unrest, chaos and the collapse of governance in many developing countries, large-scale crop failures and the spread of deadly diseases.
Of course, this is also the reason why waiting for a technological miracle is ethically evil. When you are in a hole, stop digging, but also do what you can to get out, get started.

But, most importantly, Gore deals with the political situation
The decisive victory of democratic capitalism over communism in the 1990s led to a period of philosophical dominance for market economics worldwide and the illusion of a unipolar world. It also led, in the United States, to a hubristic “bubble” of market fundamentalism that encouraged opponents of regulatory constraints to mount an aggressive effort to shift the internal boundary between the democracy sphere and the market sphere.

This period of market triumphalism coincided with confirmation by scientists that earlier fears about global warming had been grossly understated. But by then, the political context in which this debate took form was tilted heavily toward the views of market fundamentalists, who fought to weaken existing constraints and scoffed at the possibility that global constraints would be needed to halt the dangerous dumping of global-warming pollution into the atmosphere.

Over the years, as the science has become clearer and clearer, some industries and companies whose business plans are dependent on unrestrained pollution of the atmospheric commons have become ever more entrenched. They are ferociously fighting against the mildest regulation — just as tobacco companies blocked constraints on the marketing of cigarettes for four decades after science confirmed the link of cigarettes to diseases of the lung and the heart. . .

From the standpoint of governance, what is at stake is our ability to use the rule of law as an instrument of human redemption. After all has been said and so little done, the truth about the climate crisis — inconvenient as ever — must still be faced.

The pathway to success is still open, though it tracks the outer boundary of what we are capable of doing.
Eli has long regretted the attacks on Gore from those who share his concerns, and even worse the reluctance to defend him. Gore does not understand the science as well as the best scientists, he is perhaps not the best communicator, nor is he as willing to pander as many politicians, but the entire package is unique. As many climate scientists are learning, if you are not for those who support you, they will not be able to be for you. Much time has been wasted and the denialists have built strength by supporting each other because of the illusion on our side that perfection could be demanded of allies.

While the Earth may not yet be at a tipping point, our ability to deal with environmental challenges such as climate change is.
We have overcome existential threats before. Winston Churchill is widely quoted as having said, “Sometimes doing your best is not good enough. Sometimes, you must do what is required.”

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Sister Soljah Moment

James Inhofe has a little list of scientists he wants to throw in jail.

Raymond Bradley
Keith Briffa
Timothy Carter
Edward Cook
Malcolm Hughes
Phil Jones
Thomas Karl
Michael Mann
Michael Oppenheimer
Jonathan Overpeck
Benjamin Santer
Gavin Schmidt
Stephen Schneider
Susan Solomon
Peter Stott
Kevin Trenberth
Thomas Wigley
Go read Climate Science Watch for details

This is indeed a Sister Soljah moment for the Pielkes, the Breakthrough Institute Boys, Richard Tol, Hans von Storch, Steve McIntyre, Myron Ebell, Fred Singer and even Bjorn Lomborg. Has Inhofe gone so far that even they will acknowledge and denounce his Climate McCarthy act, or not? Will they hide their ethics in the sand and do their Sgt. Schultz act? Will they try and blame this on Al Gore being fat? Will they demand to see Barack Obama's birth certificate first? Who knows, but let's ask them.


Monday, February 22, 2010

Cue Whining Stage Right

Inferno at Denial Depot opens a new front in Akermangategate

Take what John Houghton actually said in 1995:

"If we want a good environmental policy in the future we’ll have to have a disaster. It’s like safety on public transport. The only way humans will act is if there’s been an accident."

This is quite boring. He's claiming humans won't act until it's too late. We could indeed paraphrase him as saying such. But that's not blog science. That's just telling people what John Houghton said, which would be alarmist. No we need to tidy up his words before we can discredit him and the science. Let me tidy up his words a bit so that it sounds like Houghton is advocating lying:

"Unless we announce disasters no one will listen"

There we go. Now it's blog post material
Of course, Booker and Akerman are hotter than the Inferno working down in the quote mine to justify their just making it up about Sir John Houghton.

And in Toronto, Steve got disinvited from World Dendro, probably because, as one of the tree borers who woke up, was heard to say
"What concerns me even more is the preliminary list of invited speakers. I believe that plenary and keynote talks should challenge and inspire the community. However, in at least one case it appears the organizers are giving the stage to someone who would just as soon destroy our work for their own petty agenda. I sincerely hope that the organizers will reconsider their choices before making the program final."
and horrors, the Globe and Mail got quotes from Gavin Schmidt and Michael Mann

Clive Hamilton at the Australian Broadcasting Company has published part two of at least a three parter about how the denialists are cyber-bullying science. Part one featured the scatological best of our denialist friends. Not fit for a family blog. There are young bunnies here. Go over there. Part two details how the dog whisperers stir up the curs.
In Australia, a handful of denialist websites stand out. They include the blog of Herald-Sun commentator Andrew Bolt, Bolt's stable mate Tim Blair at the Daily Telegraph, the website operated by sceptic Joanne Nova (a pseudonym for Joanne Codling), and the community forum site operated by the Queensland farmers' organisation Agmates. Denialists also flock to the e-journal Online Opinion.

On these sites discussion of the "global warming conspiracy" seamlessly segues into a hodge-podge of right-wing populist grievances and causes, including defending rural property rights, the martyrdom of farming hunger-striker Peter Spencer, the errors of the Club of Rome, blood on the hands of Rachel Carson for causing DDT to be banned, the evils of Al Gore, the plan by the United Nations to dominate the world, and the need to defend freedom and democracy from these threats. Sceptics are explicitly or implicitly portrayed as freedom fighters battling attempts by scheming elites to shore up their power or impose a world government.

Recently, this stew of paranoia has been given a boost by the media exposure granted to Christopher Monckton in his recent Australian tour. Monckton propounded his extraordinary theory about climate change being a conspiracy by communists - assisted by the Hitler Youth and a craven scientific establishment - to seize power through a world government hidden in a climate treaty.
Part three threatens to be very amusing. As they say, it will follow the money.


Sunday, February 21, 2010

They Got Nothin'

Joe Romm (here and here) and Brad Johnson (here and here) are all over the deadline fillings of Virginia and Texas against the US EPA's proposed limitations on CO2 emission. Brad and Joe point to the take of climatologists at UVa and the Texas State Climatologist, John Nielson-Gammon's on the petitions. To say that they don't think much of either is an understatement. They can be accurately summed up by the conclusion of the Texas petition
Since the CRU emails first appeared on the Internet in November, 2009, there has been a parade of controversies as new examples of improprieties and erroneous information are revealed to the public. Because the Administrator chose to rely on assessments by the IPCC, USGCRP, and the NRC—the latter two of which this petition has shown relied on the IPCC—as the primary scientific and technical basis for her Endangerment Finding, the Administrator’s decision is of central relevance to the Endangerment Finding within the meaning of Chapter 307 of the Clean Air Act. Thus, in light of the serious misconduct the State has demonstrated—data manipulation, loss or destruction of information, reliance on questionable source materials, abuse of the peer review process, suppression of dissent, conflicts of interest, and failure to comply with freedom of information laws—the EPA should grant this petition and reconsider the Endangerment Finding.
EVERYONE is missing the dog that is not barking in the night. Both of these petitions are absolutely dependent on making false claims about the CRU emails and the few errors that have been dug out of the IPCC report. All the Klotzbachs, Douglass et al., Gerlich and friend, Soon, and the rest of that wallpaper has been swept into the memory hole. While Cuccinelli, the VA AG was elected in November, the Texas AG's office KNEW they were going to file this challenge as soon as the EPA proposed regulation came out, and THIS is the best they could come up with??? Even in VA, where were Pat Michaels, Chip Knappenberger, Fred Singer and Co?

It's going to be hard for Va and Texas to drag the cat into court after this weak start.

Leakeng Ship

Some might have noticed that the good ship Jonathan Leake has sprung one. Tim Lambert is all over it

In Leakegate, "not based on any research" Tim describes how Leake misrepresented Anna Gilmore's research on smoking and heart attacks

Leakegate: How Jonathan Leake concocted 'Africagate' Tim describes how Leake quote mines, stovepipes and manufactures" quotes" about the IPCC report.

Leakegate: Yes, Leake was responsible for that bogus story about the carbon footprint of Google
Tim tells us how Leake inflated the carbon cost of a Google search by 35 or more times and got his mistake into play

In Leakegate: On stovepiping and plagiarism Tim describes how the Telegraph played telephone with Leake's hagiography of Tony Watts.

In Leakegate: Leake verballed Richard Dawkins Tim descibes, well you know.

In Leakegate: Jonathan Leake caught misrepresenting another scientist Tim describes how Robert Muir Wood got the full Leake treatment

In Journalismgate Tim complains how Real Climate is getting in on his fun with Leake

In Leakegate: the case for fraud Tim describes how, well go read what he wrote, how Leake

concealed the fact that Dan Nepstad, the author of the 1999 Nature paper cited as evidence for the IPCC statement about the vulnerability of the Amazon had replied to Leake's query and informed him the claim was correct?
In Leakegate scandal gets bigger is kind of boring, with Tim telling us how Leake recycles discredited denialist papers.

In Leakegate scandal grows Tim describes how Leake scissors what he wants out of the IPCC report.

And finally, the original Leakegate

Now you might imagine that Tim has a thing for Leakes. OTOH, as far as Eli knows Tim is not of Welsh extraction, but like Eli, Tim is getting very tired of the denialists misrepresentation act. It is definitely time to hold these folk responsible and linking is one way of doing it. Tim and Eli look forward to the next meeting of the Jonathan Leake Clubbe.


Houghtongate Bites Booker

Well after Piers Akermangate went down into the quote mine to try and get out of apologizing for making up quoting from thinking he may have quoted from Benny Peiser a fabrication that Akerman attributed to Sir John Houghton, we get Christopher Booker plagiarizing Piers, and claiming that, the made up line they quoted was "just like" something else that Houghton said in an interview with the Times. Eli has gone over this ground before, and, as the Policy Lass points out one of these is nothing like the other,

Let’s play “One of these things is not like the other”

“Unless we announce disasters no one will listen”.

“If we want a good environmental policy in the future we’ll have to have a disaster. It’s like safety on public transport. The only way humans will act is if there’s been an accident.” [edited to add the rest of the quote in so that denialists the hard of reading comprehension won't lie misunderstand]

The two are not the same.

The first one — a false one — has been used by deniers to charge that the IPCC knowingly exaggerates the risks of global warming in order to hype the issue and get attention. The second states that its human nature to ignore problems until they reach critical mass.
but Booker has an interesting addition
It was also asked, through this paper, that I publish a correction, because I quoted the sentence in my recent book The Real Global Warming Disaster – although I have never done so in these pages. Like many others, I was misled by the internet into assuming the quote, attributed to a book written by Sir John in 1994, was genuine, and that it must have been removed from the later edition I used when compiling my own account of the global warming story. Naturally, in the face of Sir John's insistence that he never said it, we shall all in due course take steps to correct the record, as I shall do in the next edition of my book.
Letters have been sent, it just takes longer to get to the end of the Earth. Ely had dearly awaited hearing the mush of books being pulped, but perhaps not, still hope springs eternal, the buds are swelling and the birdies singing.


UPDATE: From the Hank Robert's Blog and interpretation:

> in the face of Sir John's insistence that he never said it,
[I haven't checked personally, but I've been forced to admit that he now claims he never wrote what we published and attributed to him]

> we shall all in due course
[We will not change the falsehood that we've printed and distributed]

> take steps to correct the record
[each step we take covers half the remaining distance toward getting it right. Please be infinitely patient with our progress]

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Waking Up Is Hard to Do

Randy Olsen has posted an interview with Mike Mann on his site, the Benshi. Among other things Mann says

RO - Do you think, post-Climategate, there’s a new realization of the seriousness of this issue of attacking scientists, and do you see any new changes happening to address that.

MM - You’re going to be surprised that I can actually give you one word answers on both — yes and yes. I think there is — perhaps a little late in the game — but better late than never — now there is an awareness that there is a war being fought against the climate science and scientists, and if others don’t step in and assist in that war, their cause could be lost.

RO - What makes you say that you see something new, other than just more talk?

MM - I have to admit, it’s nothing concrete. It’s the sense that I have in talking with colleagues and those in the environmental community who talk with scientists and those in the policy arena who talk with scientists.

RO - But this is the very problem with academics is the tendency to believe in talk rather than action.

MM - Well, yeah. And I think that the talk now needs to be translated to action. Thus far its been all talk, in large part because nobody really believed that the other side would get that nasty and dirty and dishonest, but they have. They’ve crossed that line. And now people are realizing this, and if they don’t step up and assist the scientific community, their own interest in seeing meaningful action to combat climate change could be in jeopardy.

This is a point that Eli has been trying to make for years, that people can't hide from the onslaught, nor can they "make friends" with the denialoti, the propaganda organs of the political warfare machine. Frankly as an observer who is not directly connected, but shares roots with many in the atmospheric science community, the level of naivety is astounding. They simply have not recognized that people like Lindzen, Christy, Spencer, Michaels, Douglass, Soon, Singer and others are spending most of their time bashing science while making nice at conferences, a reality that is finally beginning to get through (BTW, McIntyre has closed comments, perhaps some came in that stripped his bark, OTOH, Policy Lass has some momentum on this).

Steve was uninvited to the World Dendro Conference because of his behavior in the Yamal farago, his unethical pursuit of Briffa for not giving him the data when Steve had the data for years, his many accusations of incompetence and mendacity to dendrologists which have been shown to be whole cloth (use this list, or take a look at CB's comments in this CA thread) and his role in whipping up the crowd about the stolen CRU Emails.

Ear tip to the Green Herring for the interview link link.

UPDATE: From the comments (promoted by mt)
carrot eater said...

On a somewhat similar note, here are some thoughts about holding sceptics accountable, from a new blogger.

I agree with him. A couple minor errors buried in the IPCC report get blown up like crazy in the media, but the clowns make schoolboy errors in their blogs and columns on a daily basis. Other blogs (like this one) sometimes discuss those errors, but they get a free pass from the media. Yet the clowns have a real impact on politics in the US.

It's time for accountability for Watts, etc. If Watts' blog is influential for Republican lawmakers, then it is part of the policy-making environment. So if it's big news that the IPCC report got the <>


Friday, February 19, 2010

Would You Like Some Tapes With Those Fries?

The old programmers club has been trading big fish stories down below. One of the strangest ones about data lost and found is that of the the tapes from the Lunar Oribiter missions. The story itself has cast off its own conspiracy theories, of which more later, but a good summary is found on the Los Angeles Times. It's not exactly a secret, there are lots of links on the web, but it remains interesting in the context of data archiving. A forerunner to Apollo, the 1966-7 missions carried two fairly large telescope and images were recorded on 70 mm film which was read out on-board and sent to a NASA data center. The images, including that of the Earth, that were obtained were unprecedented. Unfortunately the data center used a rare type of military tape drive that soon became unobtainable, which meant that the tapes were unreadable.

An archivist at NASA, Nancy Evans, saved the tapes from destruction about 15 years later

She talked her bosses at JPL into storing them in a lab warehouse. "I could not morally get rid of this stuff," said Evans, 71, in an interview at her Sun Valley home.

She had no idea what she was letting herself in for. The full collection of Lunar Orbiter data amounted to 2,500 tapes. Assembled on pallets, they constituted an imposing monolith 10 feet wide, 20 feet long and 6 feet high.

This was an act of faith, because NASA had none of the 2 meter high (ever so SI we are here at Rabett Run) Ampex tape drives that were needed to read the tapes.

One day in the late 1980s, she got a call from Eglin Air Force Base in Florida: "We heard you're looking for FR-900s. We've got three of them. Where do you want us to send them?"

Having already stretched her bosses' goodwill at JPL by storing the tapes there, she reluctantly agreed to take the drives herself. Evans stored the three tape drives from Eglin and a fourth she got off a salvage list -- none of which worked -- in her own garage.

and there they sat. Over the years Evans kept applying for grants to repair the tape drives and read out the tapes to no avail. From Eli's personal experience on review panels, getting funding for archiving old data is neigh on impossible in the funding environment of the past forty years. Finally, in 2005, Evans gave a paper at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference which came to the attention of Dennis Wingo (yes, he comments on CA) and Keith Cowing. These two were able to raise some money, and get space at NASA Ames in an abandoned on base McDonalds. They also moved the tapes up from JPL. There, with the help of volunteers and Ken Zin, a NASA technician, who had worked with old tape drives they were able to salvage enough pieces from the drives to get one working (sometimes). Wingo has placed a slideshow on the web describing the project which is worth seeing.

This story has given rise to a number of INTERNET myths and amusing stories about the uses of Ebay for techno-archeology. There are some seriously crazy folk out there. Take care.


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Piers Throws Benny Under the Bus

Eli was wondering who Piers would throw under the bus, and guess what, it's Benny! Still, go over there and enjoy the fun. Tim points out that Cthulhu is on fire

Unless we misquote Houghton no one will listen.
Cthulhu (Reply) Thu 18 Feb 10 (05:27pm)

Very chicken and egg that. Akerman's incoherence is reaching new levels (watch out for editing, the original was:

It would not appear that the quotation which was sent to me and used by be in 2006 appeared at least as early as 1994 and was used by Benny Peiser - it may well be that further investigation will produce an even earlier appearance. As yet I have still not heard from Houghton, only those who still stick by the discredited IPCC. What does this say?

Piers Akerman
Fri 19 Feb 10 (11:49am)

Let us consider this carefully :)))))).
"It would not appear that the quotation which was sent to me and used by be in 2006"
"appeared at least as early as 1994 and was used by Benny Peiser"
Mr. Peiser, how do you account for those tire tracks on your tummy?
" - it may well be that further investigation will produce an even earlier appearance."
Given that the book you claimed it was published in was published in 1994 that would be a good trick.
"As yet I have still not heard from Houghton, only those who still stick by the discredited IPCC. What does this say? "
You probably have not heard from Houghton because he has better sense than to try and deal with a fool. OTOH Eli is enjoying himself, and Benny sends love.


Keep the pressure up.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Defining Denial Down

Well, you could have predicted. The quote miners, having run out of ore in misrepresenting Sir John Houghton, started making it up, claiming that he wrote in his 1994 book

"Unless we announce disasters, no one will listen,"
have gone back to what they do best, truncating something Sir John actually said

Sunday Telegraph, 10.9.95

Me and my God
Sir John Houghton talks to Francis Welch . . .

Houghton warns that God may induce man to mend his ways with a disaster. “God tries to coax and woo, but he also uses disasters. Human sin may be involved, the effect will be the same.

“If we want a good environmental policy in the future, we’ll have to have a disaster. It’s like safety on public transport. The only way humans will act is if there’s been an accident.

Piers Akerman is picking up the thin straw offered to him by others yesterday, the Denial Squad was really busy. Here are a few to get you busy.

Climate Audit - Feb 17
Clamour of the Times - Feb 17
Bishop Hill - Feb 16

Blow the whistle on the squad. Tell them to stop pulling our leg. The Policy Lass has some more specific examples of how this old mother load has been re-opened in the quote mine

Here is the beginning of my post. And here is the rest of it.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Mr. Pachauri Is Not Pleased.

In an interview with Science published January 29, Rajendra Pachauri speaking from New Dehli made a few subtle points

Q: A statement from TERI lists the number of companies you are associated with, the money which has flowed back to you and the organization: {euro}100,000 from Deutsche Bank, $80,000 from Toyota, and so forth. You don't think this is conflict of interest?

R.K.P.: Where is the conflict of interest? I am a paid employee of my institute, not of the IPCC. I don't see why I shouldn't advise anybody anywhere in the world ... as long as I am not making money out of it. [The money] is going to my institute.

Q: Some people disagree; they believe that you have to be cleaner than Caesar's wife.

R.K.P.: Yeah, but Caesar was also murdered by Brutus, wasn't he? Caesar was murdered by a group of people for their own interest,all right? So I cannot possibly be held accountable for all the lies that the media are writing about in a certain section of the U.K. press. I mean, if they are going to influence public opinion, I can assure you it is not going to last forever. I am absolutely convinced the truth will prevail in the end.

Q: You put up a brave face, but some in the scientific community feel let down. They say that you are carrying too much baggage, that it's time for you to move on.

R.K.P.: I certainly have no intention to quit. I will continue as the chairman of the IPCC till I have completed the fifth assessment report.

Q: Are you becoming a thorn in the side of vested interests—a thorn they wish to eliminate?

R.K.P.: No question about that. But I have no intentions of backing off. I am not going to tailor the truth to suit the vested interests of those who would like to continue with business as usual.
and he had a few comments on glaciers
Q: The big issue dogging IPCC this winter is the inclusion of a prediction in the fourth assessment that Himalayan glaciers would melt by 2035. IPCC has offered regret—but not an apology.

R.K.P.: We have made a mistake and we have admitted that. Our job is essentially to bring the science into our assessments from the best sources that exist. Look at the extent of the glaciology work that has been done in this country. It is pathetic. I mean, that is really where we need to come up with an apology.

Q: In a 20 January statement, IPCC still says that India's glaciers are melting away. Isn't that a tall claim?

R.K.P.: Our glaciers are under the same influences, the same temperature changes as other glaciers in the world. So you know we cannot possibly assume if all the other glaciers are melting, that for some reason we are insulated from those influences. The lay public ... can see with their eyes what is happening to our glaciers.
Eli does not recall having seen this much commented on elsewhere? Has he become dyslexic?


Monday, February 15, 2010

But There's More

Some of you younger folk have real i-phones, Eli uses i-nk and his shoe phone (accounts for his problem getting on planes), but those of you with iphones have an exciting new application, Skeptical Science is now an iphone ap. Follow the link

Say Eli sent you


There appears to be more than a bit of unworldly nonsense about how much work it is to respond to FOI(A) requests, Jules explains

Contrary to the naïve belief I read all over the internet, fulfilling an FOI can be much more work than just taking the data out of the drawer. From my own experience I can say that it can incredibly time-consuming to collect historic data. For a project at my previous job I needed to find as much interesting data as we had in our archives.

The only way to do so was literally digging in the archive and sieving out the data I could use. After I gave up looking any further, my best estimate being I managed to collect 70-80 % of all the data available. Before you go all crazy : It does not mean the other data is missing, it just means it would have been too great an effort to find them. Some of them are hidden in metres and metres of papers and reports, other are in an old database that has been out of order for years, etc.


The tools to beat back abusive FOI requests are simple. First, there should be a limit on how long a search takes before charging (full rate) those who made the request. Second, there should be a limit on how many hours per year any one person can be tied up by FOI requests.

John Mashey may remember this portable memory device



Via Deltoid, the Independent has traced down the source of Chris Monckton's favorite fabricated quote from Sir John Houghton

"Unless we announce disasters, no one will listen," Sir John was supposed to have said in 1994.
Turns out that Piers Akerman in the Australian newspaper The Sunday Telegraph was the first to publish it, but, the money line is
Sir John, who was the former head of the Met Office but is now living in semi-active retirement in Wales, said he is considering taking legal action because he feels that the continued recycling of the misquotation is doing him and his science a huge disfavour.

"It doesn't do me any good because it suggests to everyone that I have hyped things up. I've been growing aware of it now for some time. The trouble is, if I just deny it then it cuts no ice with the people who want to believe it. I have to consider legal action," Sir John said.
More fun at Media Watch who is nailing everyone's positions down including Akerman.
The Independent says it didn't receive an on-the-record response from Akerman until after it had gone to press.
And what did Piers say?

According to reporter Steve Connor:

He said that he cannot remember where he got the quote from but was going to check through some material he has. Not heard from him since.
Piers also responded to Media Watch
As I told you, there was an error in The Independent report. I have responded to The Independent
This could get expensive, with lots of books pulped. It is our duty to hunt down all of them for Sir John and ask for apologies, and oh yes, pass the popcorn it appears that Akerman is getting ready to toss someone under the bus, Eli wonders whom.


Saturday, February 13, 2010

When you forget to send a card. . .


Yesterday three people were murdered and another three seriously wounded at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. Eli, on behalf of his readers and writers, wishes to express his sadness and best wishes to the families and friends of the victims and the faculty, staff and students at UAH. Over the years Prof. Rabett has visited UAH and nearby NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center many times and benefited from their gracious hospitality. Webs of friendship at and between universities spread widely. John Christy and Roy Spencer are at UAH, and although they may not have known the victims, they work with colleagues, students and staff who have been deeply affected. Our condolences to all.

Friday, February 12, 2010


Eli has been reworking his blogroll. Unlike Belette's collection of eternally dead links, the bunny tries to keep semi up to date. Suggestions are always welcome, but he realized today that an important one was missing, Rick Piltz's Climate Science Watch. Rick is on fire with a super snarky evaluation of the current unpleasantness in DC which starts

Obama announces that he wants to get the snow plowed, but that he wants bipartisan consensus and compromise instead of unilateral action, and that instead of him pushing a particular snow-plowing policy, he wants Congress to work out the details. The Republicans, seeing that Obama is for cleaning up the snow, decide that they must be against it.
Piltz has interviews with Michael McCracken and Chris Fields on the IPCC but do read do read this one, Richard Sommerville's take on denialism. Eli will repost two of them
3. Our climate predictions are coming true. Many observed climate changes, like rising sea level, are occurring at the high end of the predicted changes. Some changes, like melting sea ice, are happening faster than the anticipated worst case. Unless mankind takes strong steps to halt and reverse the rapid global increase of fossil fuel use and the other activities that cause climate change, and does so in a very few years, severe climate change is inevitable. Urgent action is needed if global warming is to be limited to moderate levels.

5. Science has its own high standards. It does not work by unqualified people making claims on television or the Internet. It works by scientists doing research and publishing it in carefully reviewed research journals. Other scientists examine the research and repeat it and extend it. Valid results are confirmed, and wrong ones are exposed and abandoned. Science is self-correcting. People who are not experts, who are not trained and experienced in this field, who do not do research and publish it following standard scientific practice, are not doing science. When they claim that they are the real experts, they are just plain wrong.

The Low Lands

The following letter has appeared in Dutch Media and on the web. Eli is simply making the English translation available (btw Bart, it could use some work, somthing the bunny thought he would never say about anything translated into English by the Dutch)

Open letter (10 February 2010) to Netherlands parliament by Netherlands scientists on climate change and IPCC

This letter is available at Our Changing Climate

Open letter by Netherlands scientists on IPCC and errors in Climate Change 2007 report

Errors in the IPCC climate change report are being seized by some to discredit climate science. In the Netherlands parliament climate scientists have recently been depicted as 'swindlers' and 'climate mafia'. Such allegations are not supported by the facts and are unwarranted. The fact that IPCC is not infallible does not make its key findings untrue or biased. Still, IPCC should become more generous in acknowledging errors rapidly and openly.

With this open letter from the Netherlands scientific community, we aim to adjust the image that has emerged. We ask to keep the public debate more in accordance to the facts. We discuss the key messages from climate science, the IPCC procedures and the quality control mechanisms of the IPCC. Finally we explain what we will do next to contribute to improvement of the IPCC practice and to the restoration of the tarnished trust in climate science.

The climate problem

Since 1990, our knowledge on human made climate change and the understanding of its urgency have rapidly increased. Within the natural sciences, the major components of the climate system are well understood. It is a well established fact that the amount of anthropogenic greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has increased rapidly since the industrial revolution. The major influence of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere on the temperature on the ground is a matter of elementary physics. The increasing amounts of anthropogenic greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere change the heat radiation balance of the earth, which very likely leads to higher temperatures on the ground. Measurements consistently show a world wide temperature increase of about half a degree Centigrade over the past century. The measured temperature increase lags several decades behind the changes in atmospheric composition: with present day greenhouse gas concentrations the temperature is expected to further increase by at least 1°C in the coming decades.

The increase in greenhouse gas concentrations is mainly caused by the way in which coal, oil and natural gas are being used and by deforestation. Major uncertainties exist regarding future greenhouse gas emissions and their impacts. Studies by reputable research groups show that projected emissions of greenhouse gases may lead to a further warming of 1,1 to 6,4°C by the year 2100 (relative to the period 1980-1999). Given the fact that the climate system exhibits tipping points, this may lead to partly unpredictable and possibly far reaching and irreversible impacts on society and nature.

The Copenhagen Accord acknowledges that dangerous human interference with the climate should be prevented. For that reason governments agreed that global warming should be limited to 2°C at maximum (compared to the preindustrial climate). Research has shown that this is economically and technically feasible with emission reduction measures and changes in consumption patterns.

Continued after the foldThe IPCC and the Fourth Assessment Report

In 1988 the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) established the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) with the aim to provide policy makers regularly with a balanced overview of the state of knowledge on climate change. IPCC is an open network organization in which renowned scientist from all over the world collaborate. These scientists are mainly from universities – including most of the Dutch universities – and research institutes such as in our country the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI), the Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands (ECN) and the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL).

At present 194 countries participate in the IPCC, including the Netherlands. IPCC publishes an assessment report every six years. The most recent was published in 2007. This report comprises three volumes: The Physical Science Basis (Working Group I); Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability (Working Group II) and Mitigation of Climate Change (Working Group III). The 2007 report has been authored by about 44 writing teams with a total of 450 lead authors. These authors have been selected on the basis of their expertise. All 194 countries have a say in this selection. Another 800 scientists have contributed texts on specific aspects.

The whole process is supported by four Technical Support Units (TSUs) with 5 to 10 employees each.

Errors in the Fourth Assessment Report

We took cognizance of the commotion surrounding the errors that were found in the IPCC fourth assessment report, in particular in volume II. The wrong year for the projected disappearance of the Himalaya glaciers and the wrong percentage ‘land below sea level’ of the Netherlands are examples of errors that need be acknowledge frankly and need be rectified properly. However, they do not alter the key finding that human beings are very likely changing the climate, with far reaching impacts in the long run.

In heated debates that emerged around these errors, questions have been raised regarding the quality and integrity of the IPCC. The quality control procedure of IPCC has shown not to be watertight. But the suggestion that scientific data have deliberately been manipulated is not supported by the facts.

Also we strongly contest the impression that the main conclusions of the report are based on dubious sources. The reference list of the approximately three thousand page report refers to about 18,000 sources, the large majority being studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. The IPCC has transparent procedures for using non-published and non-peer-reviewed sources in their reports. In the Himalaya case these procedures have not properly been followed. In the writing of new reports the compliance with the procedure requires extra attention.

Quality control within the IPCC

The impression that the IPCC does not have a proper quality control procedure is mistaken. The procedure for compiling reports and its quality control are governed by well documented principles. These principles are reviewed regularly and amended as appropriate. On a website all steps of each chapter can be traced: the First Order Draft, the comments by many scientist on that draft, the Second Order Draft in which the comments are incorporated and the comments by experts and country representatives on that revised version. In the case of the Fourth Assessment Report, 2,500 reviewers provided together about 90,000 comments on the 44 chapters. For each comment it is documented how and why the comment
has or has not been used in the revision. Review editors guarantee that each comment is treated properly and honestly in the revision of the chapter texts. As completion of the procedure, once they are satisfied with the result, review editors sign a statement in this regard.

The IPCC principles also govern how authors have to treat non-published and nonpeer reviewed sources. These procedures acknowledge that in peer reviewed scientific journals little information can be found regarding matters such as the emission reduction potential in a given industrial sector or in a country or regarding vulnerabilities of sectors and countries with regard to climate change. Such information can often only be found in reports from research institutes, reports of workshops and conferences or in publications from the industry or other organizations, the so-called gray literature. The IPCC procedure prescribes that authors are obliged to critically assess any gray source that they wish to include.

The quality and validity of a finding from a non-peer reviewed source needs to be verified before the finding may be included in a chapter text. Each source needs to be completely traceable. In case unpublished sources are used, a copy needs to be made available to the IPCC secretariat to guarantee that it is available upon request for third parties.

We conclude that the IPCC procedures are transparent and thorough, even though they are not infallible. The writing of IPCC reports and its quality control remains the work of humans. A guarantee for an error free report is an unachievable ideal, however much an error free report is highly desired. It is however essential to continuously evaluate the IPCC principles and procedures and to amend them where appropriate and learn from errors that occurred.

What next?

Meanwhile, as a consequence of the impression that has emerged from the – in our view – disproportionate commotion, public trust in the scientific underpinning of climate policies is now tarnished. This is worrying because the climate change issue is serious and urgent. Despite the errors found, the robust key conclusions of the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report that we sketched above, remain valid.

IPCC should become more generous in acknowledging errors rapidly and openly. To this end, IPCC should put an erratum on its website that rectifies all errors that have been discovered in the text after publication. In doing so, a clear distinction needs to be made between errors and progressing knowledge. Progressing knowledge is published in new scientific journal articles and used in the next IPCC climate report; this information should not be in the errata.

Climate research and the IPCC reports on the state of knowledge provide a scientific foundation for climate policy making. We consider the quality of and balance in the knowledge delivered and the explicit communication of uncertainties to be of paramount importance, as IPCC does. Given the recent commotion we find it important to seek for ways to find a solution and restore trust in the climate change community. We will do our best to make sure that a critical evaluation of the IPCC procedure will take place – where possible in close consultation with the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW). This should lead to both a better prevention of errors in IPCC reports and a mechanism for adequate rectification of errors found after publication.
February 10, 2010

The undersigned
01. Prof. Wim Turkenburg, Utrecht University
02. Prof. Rik Leemans, Wageningen University
03. Prof. Hans Opschoor, Institute of Social Studies, Den Haag
04. Dr. Bert Metz, European Climate Foundation / former co-chair IPCC Working Group III
05. Prof. Rien Aerts, Free University of Amsterdam
06. Prof. Theo Beckers, Tilburg University
07. Prof. Frans Berkhout, Free University of Amsterdam
08. Prof. Frank Biermann, Free University of Amsterdam
09. Prof. Kornelis Blok, general director Ecofys, Utrecht / Utrecht University
10. Prof. Henk Brinkhuis, Utrecht University
11. Dr. Stefan Dekker, Utrecht University
12. Prof. Peter Driessen, Utrecht University
13. Prof. Klaas van Egmond, Utrecht University
14. Prof. Nick van de Giesen, TU Delft
15. Prof. Joyeeta Gupta, Free University of Amsterdam
16. Prof. Jan Hendriks, Radboud University Nijmegen
17. Dr. Ton Hoff, chairing director ECN, Petten
18. Prof. Bert Holtslag, Wageningen University
19. Prof. Jef Huisman, University of Amsterdam
20. Dr. Gjalt Huppes, Leiden University
21. Prof. Bart van den Hurk, Utrecht University / KNMI
22. Prof. Ekko van Ierland, Wageningen University
23. Dr. Ron Janssen, Free University of Amsterdam
24. Prof. Pavel Kabat, Wageningen University
25. Prof. Gert Jan Kramer, Eindhoven University of Technology
26. Prof. Carolien Kroeze, Wageningen University / Open University Netherlands
27. Prof. Maarten Krol, Wageningen University
28. Dr. Lambert Kuijpers, Eindhoven University of Technology
29. Dr. Lucas Lourens, Utrecht University
30. Prof. Pim Martens, Maastricht University
31. Prof. Arthur Mol, Wageningen University
32. Prof. Henri Moll, University of Groningen
33. Prof. Paul Opdam, Wageningen University
34. Prof. Paquita Perez Salgado, Open University Netherlands
35. Dr. Ad Ragas, Radboud University Nijmegen
36. Dr. Max Rietkerk, Utrecht University
37. Prof. Lucas Reijnders, University of Amsterdam
38. Prof. Jan Rotmans, Erasmus University Rotterdam
39. Prof. Paul van Seeters, Tilburg University
40. Prof. Anton Schoot Uiterkamp, University of Groningen
41. Dr. Appy Sluijs, Utrecht University
42. Prof. Geert de Snoo, Leiden University
43. Prof. Gert Spaargaren, Wageningen University
44. Prof. Jef Vandenberghe, Free University of Amsterdam
45. Prof. Anne van der Veen, Twente University
46. Prof. Pier Vellinga, Wageningen University
47. Prof. Herman Verhoef, Free University of Amsterdam
48. Dr. Pita Verweij, Utrecht University
49. Prof. Martin Wassen, Utrecht University
50. Prof. Pieter Winsemius, Tilburg University
51. Prof. Ernst Worrell, Utrecht University
52. Prof. Sjoerd van der Zee, Wageningen University
53. Prof. Bert van der Zwaan, Utrecht University

In addition two signatures were received just after closing time:

54. Dr. Rob Swart, Wageningen University
55. Prof. Karsten Kalbitz, University of Amsterdam

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Hot Water and Air

Georg Hoffmann, writing in German on Prima Klima, has an excellent post on Susan Solomon's new paper on stratospheric water vapor. Eli with permission is reproducing it in translation here. It goes down a treat with Eli's post on atmospheric methane oxidation but goes far beyond that and offers great insight into stratospheric cooling.


How water vapor in the stratosphere can occasionally halt global warming!

A paper
has appeared in a recent January issue of Science written by Susan Solomon, the former IPCC Working Group I Vice-Chair, and her colleagues, discussing the influence stratospheric water vapor. There have been a few very useful commentaries on this paper (here and here) and I will postpone until later observations on where and why it was often, but not very usefully mistreated. As usual, the latter variety of comments was in the vast majority.

OK: Water vapor in the atmosphere. Everyone is aware that it cools as you rise higher in the atmosphere and as a consequence it has to become dryer. If there was no water on earth but all the other greenhouse gases remained in the atmosphere, we would be faced with a temperature gradient of about ~ 10 °C/km (this is the so called dry adiabatic lapse rate), but as it rises water vapor condenses, liberating heat, which reduces the gradient to the observed ~ 6.5 °C/km, (the saturated adiabatic lapse rate). I'm not quite sure what exactly defines the troposphere, but a key feature is presence of the saturated adiabatic lapse rate that that holds up to an altitude of about 10-12 km.

Figure 1: Radiosonde profiles of water vapor concentrations measured with an IR laser absorption spectrometer by Georges Durry and co-workers at the University of Reims,.

But what really happens with the water vapor above the troposphere? Is there any water at all, and if so how much and is it of any significance? Colleagues from the University of Reims have periodically flown balloons carrying a laser spectrometer (you can, of course, also do this with conventional hygrometers) to find out about this. Be careful when you look at Figure 1, the concentration axis is logarithmic. The concentration of water vapor decreases from about 10,000 ppm at the ground to about 3 ppm at 15 km altitude, almost nothing. But strangely enough, the water vapor content then increases again.

Figure 2: Schematic of the processes giving rise to exchange between stratosphere and troposphere. Taken from the Heidelberg dissertation of Frank Weidner.

It turns out that water vapor in the stratosphere has two sources. The first, of course, is transport through the tropopause, the boundary layer between the troposphere and stratosphere, (see Figure 2). This sounds trivial, but it is not. The transport takes place mainly in the tropics, either through abrupt short-term events driven by very intense convection, sometimes shooting up to over 15km, or via so-called tropopause folds where neighboring stratospheric and tropospheric air masses exchange places and become intimately entwined. Figure 3 shows an example of such a lowering of the tropopause along a frontal zone in the North Atlantic. In the image where very dry stratospheric air is mixed into the troposphere the figure appears suddenly dark which corresponds to dry on the satellite false color scale. It is generally assumed that most of the water vapor found in the stratosphere passes through the tropical tropopause which is the coldest point of the troposphere, into the stratosphere.

Figure 3: Tropopause folding. The extremely dry stratospheric air is mixed into the troposphere and leads to this "black hole" in the water vapor concentration. Meteosat image from ZAMG.

The second source of water vapor is the photochemical decomposition of methane in the stratosphere which only comes into play at high altitudes, explaining the increasing concentration of water vapor at the left of Figure 1. If there were no methane oxidation, water vapor concentration in the stratosphere would remain almost constant. Whoever wants to know more about the chemistry of methane in the stratosphere, should read the post by the Godfather of all climate blogging, Eli Rabett, for details. Caution! Not for the skeptics: It’s very informative.

It is estimated the contribution of methane to stratospheric water vapor is of the order of 30% (see Figure 1) with an increase of between 4 to 5.5 ppm from the lower to the upper stratosphere. In most of the 20th century atmospheric methane concentrations have risen with expanding livestock production, growing waste dumps and increased rice cultivation. It is widely expected that the methane concentrations will continue to rise. Therefore we must expect a long-term increase in stratospheric water vapor, assuming that everything else remains the same.

But will everything else remain the same? There could be more or fewer folds at the tropopause, more or less intense convection in the tropics, but above all, could the "cold trap" warm. The "cold trap" is the extremely cold zone in the tropical tropopause through which most of water vapor has to pass to reach the stratosphere, warm. In short, we need long-term observations from the stratosphere to say something reliable. In their Science paper Susan Solomon and colleagues have combined a couple of data sets. Figure 4 shows the radiosonde water vapor data set from Boulder, which to my knowledge is the longest such record, together with various satellite records. While the Boulder, Colorado measurements have been taken at a single location this is not thought to be a big problem. As far as water vapor is concerned the stratosphere is well mixed. Thus, we can compare the point measurements from Colorado with all sorts of geographically distributed measurements from satellite observations (HALOE and SAGE). The bottom line from all this: Stratospheric water vapor increased for twenty years but since 2000 has decreased a bit.

Figure 4: Different observational datasets of stratospheric water vapor. The radiosonde data from Boulder, with two satellite data sets.

So what? One can ask this, because, God knows, the change in stratospheric water vapor is so tiny, on the order of 1 ppm. Yes, but it makes a difference. Water vapor absorbs and emits in the infrared, just like the classic greenhouse gas CO2, CH4 and N2O and a change of 20% in stratospheric water vapor as seen in Figure 4 may well have an important influence. Unfortunately, it is really complicated to address the issue of “greenhouse gases and their effect on the stratosphere ". It is a hell of technical details. When greenhouse gases increase the first thing that happens is that the amount of infrared radiation from the surface reaching the stratosphere decreases. Thus, the "primary" effect of increasing greenhouse gas is to cool the lower stratosphere. In addition, since greenhouse gases in the stratosphere also radiate, increasing their concentration more effectively cools the levels they are at by radiative cooling. This stratospheric cooling is very fast, since temperature gradients in the stratosphere are determined almost entirely by radiative transport.

But there is a second long-term effect of rising greenhouse gas concentrations. Right! Infrared radiation in the troposphere is increasingly converted into heat, which warms the troposphere, although this takes quite a long time to reach a new radiative balance (oceans, melting glaciers, sea ice, the whole rigmarole takes its time). Thus, after the greenhouse gases rapidly cool the stratosphere by shielding the infrared radiation from the bottom, they warm up the troposphere on a longer time scale (~ 10 years). This second step increases the incoming heat flux to the lower stratosphere, somewhat mitigating the first cooling effect. How much is not trivial to figure out. For that one need to a detailed line-by-line radiative transfer model.

But all this is unfortunately not everything. What I have told in the previous section on greenhouse gases holds only for CO2 where the main absorption band at 15 microns is saturated over a distance of a few meters. Because of this, in the lower stratosphere infrared radiation in the CO2 bands can only come from the cold upper troposphere. In that case, the above-mentioned shielding mechanism is how the greenhouse gases work. With methane and N2O, things are different. [ER-Because the concentrations of these two molecules are much lower] IR radiation in the regions where they absorb and emit passes directly from the warm lower troposphere to the lower stratosphere. An increased concentration of these gases has virtually no effect on the net radiative balance of the stratosphere. On the one hand, there is more IR from lower layers to absorb, on the other hand, there are more radiators.

Figure 5: Observed and calculated warming of the last thirty years. A simple climate model was used driven by the accepted history of changes in greenhouse gas concentrations (dotted line), then with the modifications taken from the stratospheric water vapor mixing ratios for the last 8 years (red) and then with the entire observational record of stratospheric water vapor since the beginning of the 80s (blue). The observations of surface temperatures (NCDC, GISS and CRU) are indicated in green.

And what about the water vapor in the stratosphere? The stratospheric water vapor will contribute as an effective radiator to increase radiative cooling of the stratosphere and warm the troposphere. Water in the atmosphere is not well mixed (obviously, see Figure 1) and each water molecule in the high troposphere or lower stratosphere, respectively, is a very effective infrared absorber / emitter. Solomon calculates a radiative forcing from stratospheric water vapor of about +0.25 W/m2 in the period 1980-2000 and ca -0.1W/m2 since. For comparison, the increase in CO2 over the same period accounts for a forcing of 0.36W/m2 for 1980-2000 and 0.26/m2 since. Solomon then throws this radiative forcing into a simple climate model to quantify its impact arriving at a stratospheric water vapor contribution of 30% to global warming since the early 80s and a contribution to the flat course of temperatures since about 2000 (see Figure 5).

This paper appeared at exactly the right moment for me. I was looking for the right punch line for a proposal which revolves around water vapor and satellite observations, and here it was. It arrived with a strong climate effect for the stratospheric water vapor and could lead to especially important open questions (always important for proposals: open questions!). Does the observed variability of stratospheric water vapor have something to do with greenhouse gases and global warming, or is it simply a natural decadal variability? At least some anthropogenic influence on stratospheric water vapor could hardly be disputed, namely, that if the amount of methane in the stratosphere increases so must its oxidation product water. But besides that? Solomon leaves this issue truly open, plenty of fodder for future research.

And the (pseudo) skeptics? And the press? Although Solomon's paper was published in Science I had not thought that the issue would interest any of the Nutters, let alone the daily press. But something is afoot. Here are some funny interpretations from Lala-land:
water vapor drives the climate, not CO2, a new study authored by Susan Solomon, could explain why atmospheric carbon is not contributing to warming significantly.
Certainly I was the most surprised to read about Solomon's work in an article in Die Zeit by Jurgen Krönig. And it was not in an article that dealt specifically with stratospheric research, but in one of many articles, in which each and every journalist who had never peeked into the IPCC report, expresses their dismay that on page 800 or whatever, the disappearance of Himalayan glaciers has been incorrectly predicted. In the midst of this discourse, which appears to discuss the abolition of IPCCs, and standing Pachauri up against the wall on the spot, to my complete surprise the following sentences appeared:
New findings could worsen the situation further. A new study published in Science, shows that role of water vapor, the main greenhouse gas, has been neglected in the IPCC’s climate models the IPCC. In the stratosphere, the concentration of water vapor decreased by 10 percent which reduced the temperature rise by 25 percent "
Did Solomon say that the climate models neglected water vapor? Sure and Roger Federer neglects his forehand. And as if by chance, Krönig refers to the period from 2000 to 2007 (with the decline of stratospheric water vapor and the corresponding forcing -0.1W/m2, see above) without further consider that, according to the same paper from Solomon the overall effect of stratospheric water vapor from 1980 until today (see Figure 5 above) is that greenhouse gas driven warming has intensified. In this way Krönig contributes mightily to the advertising campaign for January's climate shock of the month competition.


Wednesday, February 10, 2010


Zugzwang is a position in chess where where you have your choice of how to lose, but not much else. Over the past few weeks Eli has been asking Roger Pielke Jr. about his estimates of hurricane costs

Another issue, of course, is the cost of increased flood and storm protection. Muir Wood mentions this in passing, but it is a major cost imposed by increasing flood danger. Perhaps you have discussed this somewhere? If so, how does that affect your analysis?
The crickets are chirping in the background, and with about four feet of snow outside the door, those are scary crickets, especially given Roger's recent all out attacks on Nicholas Stern and the IPCC for their statements on storm damage

A while ago Roger challenged Eli to show that his writings on policy were mistaken. The Bunny took a first step, showing that Roger's "honest broker" construct was as bankrupt as Lehman Bros. and the arguments he made in his book were not very sophisticated.

This post deals with the fundamental incoherence between Roger Pielke Jr.'s policy statements on severe weather damage and adaptation to climate change. Briefly put Pielke holds that there is no evidence of any increase in the cost of hurricanes (and other severe weather) that might be attributed to climate change. This certainly is an arguable position given the data we have, although it requires qualifications. While Pielke estimates a null trend, for example, Schmidt, et al found an annual increase of 4% since 1970, but no trend if one starts in 1950. A large part of Pielke's argument consists of careful parsing of what others say, and he is quite capable of omitting important information when describing the work of others, for example Schmidt. For example, Pielke states on his blog
After a detailed look at the data they conclude quite properly:
There is no evidence yet of any trend in tropical cyclone losses that can be attributed directly to anthropogenic climate change.
They do speculate about a link based on the conclusion of IPCC 2007
while, as Eli points out, if one reads Schmidt, et al, they say
No trend is found for the period 1950–2005 as a whole. In the period 1971–2005, since the beginning of a trend towards increased intense cyclone activity, losses excluding socio-economic effects show an annual increase of 4% per annum. This increase must therefore be at least due to the impact of natural climate variability but, more likely than not, also due to anthropogenic forcings.
In parallel with Eli's ruminations, Nils Simon, has been thinking about the same issues and coming to a remarkable conclusion. Pielke in a 2008 paper states that
The normalization methodologies do not explicitly reflect two important factors driving losses: demand surge and loss mitigation. Adjustments for these factors are beyond the scope of this paper, but it is important for those using this study to consider their potential effect.
but Simon searches in vain for any such consideration as has Eli.

There are two reasons this is important

First, it is obvious even to a stuffed animal that the costs of flood control and surge barriers to limit damage from storms has increased substantially over the last fifty years. If such expenditures have NOT been included in the storm cost estimates, and the trend without them is flat, the trend WITH such costs MUST increase substantially. Any estimate that neglects these costs must be stated as a LOWER LIMIT. Neither Eli or Nils can find any such statement, not just from Roger Pielke. Therefore in true "Honest Broker" form, Rabett Run concludes that (OK, draw your own conclusions from what Roger calls others who mis-state something)

Second, and this is Nils' insight, NOT to include such costs or deal with their effect when you are aware of them, is either dishonest or a statement that such adaptation has no effect. Since we have been adapting to increased storm damage like crazy. Pielke is in Zugzwang.

The Birdie or the Birdie

Roger can choose door A, storm cost has been increasing mightily in the past century or door B, adaptation has no effect. Ethon is standing behind both doors. Which of his policy principles does he want to feed to the birdie?

However, Nils can help him. He points out that flood barriers build since 1950 in the Netherlands and northern Germany certainly have protected the coasts against flooding at similar to the destructive events of 1953. More interestingly Simon points to a NOAA study which discussed how houses could be toughened against hurricanes (Eli is eating Nils' lunch here, so if you read German, go take a look)
In North Carolina according to NOAA (PDF) 200 of 205 houses built to the proper standard directly on the coast survived Hurricane Fran in 1996 while over 500 older nearby houses were destroyed.
Further Nils points out that there has been an immense investment in hurricane observation and modeling which allows better preparation, smaller evacuations, and provides quicker and more effective responses to hurricane threats.

Not to take this into account is double entry bookkeeping. On the cost side of the ledger the lower damage expense is taken fully into account. This decreases the costs of storm damage as a function of time. On the expense side of the ledger the costs of the satellite, plane and buoy operations that track the hurricanes, the National Hurricane Center, flood control and more are not taken into account. When this is done the cost of dealing with hurricanes INCREASES. For policy purposes the proper metric is the total cost of dealing with hurricanes, not the cost of the damage

Nils and Eli eagerly await Roger's reply.


Too Good To Waste

Lucia has been trying her luck at parody over at Rank Exploits. Epic fail, but it has the mice stirred up, so Eli thought he would sing them a lullabye

You are the Denialist Army.

When we feel dissatisfaction,
We scream in a nasty way
Some people may prefer science,
For us, 50 FOI requests a day.

Blog posts don't have to be clever,
And we add extra sentences into every line.
It sounds more authentic at Rankexploits
Without any sense or rhyme

Remember the war against Phil Jones?
That's where Lucia belongs
Though he does good science,
She figures he's always wrong

So join the Denialist Army,
FOI requests the weapons we bring
To the fight against global warming
Ready! Aim! Whine!

(Apologies to TL)

Eli left a copy for Lucia.

Horatio, where art thou when we need you?

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Cthulhu Explains it All

cthulhu has left a new comment on "Steve Had a Little List":

My MP3 collection contains some copyrighted music I have purchased and some non-copyrighted music. Over the years I have forgotten which MP3s have copyright and which have not and it would now be time consuming for me to separate the two.

Out of the blue an acquaintance sends me an email asking for me to send him my MP3 collection.

I know this acquaintance runs a website where he is apt to publish the MP3s I send him. If I supply him I could get into trouble. I am not a lawyer, I just don't want this hassle.

So I send a reply back to him saying legal agreements prevent me from sending him the MP3s.

After a while he sends me another message, informing me that he talked to my Sister who admits to have been given MP3s by me in the past. Therefore how can I claim legal agreements prevent such a release? He repeats his request I send him my MP3s.

I reply that the legal agreements only allow me to send MP3s to my family. This isn't technically true I think, but giving it to someone I trust to not publish the music publically on a website is a far cry from handing them over to someone I suspect will do so.

Hearing that I only send MP3s to family members, he comically contacts my second cousin once removed and gets him to contact me and ask for the MP3s.

Knowing that this cousin is just going to forward the MP3s to my acquaintance, I refuse and go back to my original stance that legal agreements preclude the release.

He now demands I send him the legal smallprint encoded in the metadata of each MP3 to prove such legal agreements exist.

I just cannot be bothered with this. It's pathetic. If he really wanted the MP3s so much why doesn't he go and buy them himself?

I send him some smallprint anyway. He replies that some of the smallprint doesn't even say it's copyrighted. I am not entirely surprised, I didn't waste time checking all of it for the sake of someone who is simply wasting my time.

He demands I at least send him the non-copyrighted MP3s.

Do I want to sift through my collection reading small print to decide which is copyrighted and which is not? Not for this asshole.

I shoot him an email simply stating the release would harm my relations with the law.

He gets uptight at this and bad-mouths me on his website, telling his regulars how my "story has changed". Sure it has, but understandably. Nevertheless he riles up enough of his website regulars and gets dozens of them to spam my inbox with requests for MP3s.

What a bastard.
Eli accepts all contributions. Comments?

Monday, February 08, 2010

Steve Had a Little List

A list of the FOI requests received by the University of East Anglia about the CRU has been posted. Most of the Climate Audit fishing expedition were turned down, but there is one priceless one FOI 09-97 for which additional information was sought

I hereby make a EIR/FOI request in respect to any confidentiality agreements)restricting transmission of CRUTEM data to non-academics involing the following countries: [insert 5 or so countries that are different from ones already requested 1]

1. the date of any applicable confidentiality agreements;
2. the parties to such confidentiality agreement, including the full name of any organization;
3. a copy of the section of the confidentiality agreement that "prevents further transmission to non-academics".
4. a copy of the entire confidentiality agreement,
It was clear that the requests were vexatious and they were turned down.

Eli also points to a comment from MinnieMouseJon
This is simply evident for any climatologist working, for instance, in Spain. I pay for the data (even for research) and every time I buy data I have to sign a contract stating that I can't disclose data to ANY third party. Neither for research nor for any other users of the third party. Well ... why doesn't McIntyre simply buy the data to the original owner instead of requesting it from CRU? (The national weather services are the owners...)

I can't understand why this is so hard to understand.
Update: Bart Verheggen chimes in
Update: Amoeba has a request
Update: John Quiggen has a comment


Real Programmers

For Nick Barnes, Johns Mashey and yes you Michael Tobis, and the other python freaks out there, one of the bunnies, Willard, points us to what real programmers do . .

Even Unix might not be as bad on Real Programmers as it once was. The latest release of Unix has the potential of an operating system worthy of any Real Programmer-- two different and subtly incompatible user interfaces, an arcane and complicated teletype driver, virtual memory. If you ignore the fact that it's "structured", even 'C' programming can be appreciated by the Real Programmer: after all, there's no type checking, variable names are seven (ten? eight?) characters long, and the added bonus of the Pointer data type is thrown in-- like having the best parts of Fortran and assembly language in one place. (Not to mention some of the more creative uses for #define.)
It's quite old (1983), but not dated