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Briggs on doommongers

Matt Briggs has been reading that Fox piece on doommongers and is charmed by Messrs Erlich, Viner et al.

In a way, Erlich’s, Viner’s, and the other gentlemen’s bald assertions of faultlessness in the face of adverse actuality is charming. You have to love a guy who is never right but sticks to his guns. He does so because his core beliefs—the theories and hypotheses that drive his predictions—are just too pretty to give up. He cherishes his theories, he pets them and speaks softly to them, he lavishes gifts on them and upon others who can appreciate the same beauty he sees—and he savages those who would call them ugly. 


Telegraph letters

Two letters to the Telegraph from familiar faces today. First Bob Ward takes a pot-shot at Booker for questioning the integrity of the Climatic Research Unit.

SIR – Christopher Booker (December 26) claims that emails from the University of East Anglia “showed how the little group of scientists at the heart of the IPCC had been prepared to bend their data and to suppress any dissent from warming orthodoxy”.

Independent inquiries led by the Commons Science and Technology Committee, Sir Muir Russell, Lord Oxburgh, and the US Environmental Protection Agency found such allegations to be untrue.

Mr Booker stated that “much of the northern hemisphere” in 2007 suffered “the winter from hell”. In fact, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the average temperature in the northern hemisphere for the boreal winter in 2007-8 was the 14th highest since records began, and 0.36C above the standard reference average for 1961-90.

He also claimed that the boreal winters in the northern hemisphere in 2008-9 and 2009-10 were “colder still”, when they were, respectively, the 8th and 9th warmest on record.

Bob Ward
Grantham Research Institute
London School of Economics
London WC2

Then Tim Worstall considers yet another piece of government lunacy, this time centred around the recommendations of the Stern report.

SIR – Having read the Stern Review, the various IPCC reports and multitudes of economic papers on what to do about the entire problem, assuming we accept that there is such a problem, it is clear that the policies being recommended by those experts are: a carbon tax, or a cap-and-trade system, or subsidies to new technologies.

All of the economists say the same thing. Any one of the three are viable and whole solutions.

Cap-and-trade limits emissions; a carbon tax provides the incentive to reduce them to the needed level; and subsidies will replace emitting with non-emitting sources of energy.

So now my question: having hired Lord Stern at some expense, having analysed his recommendations at presumably greater, why is the Government now insisting at gargantuan expense in doing what Lord Stern said we should not do?

We only need to choose one of the three – rather than be charged thrice to do all of them.

Tim Worstall
Messines, Portugal


Kontradictory Kukla

Climatologist George Kukla finds evidence of an impending ice age in 1974:

When Climatologist George J. Kukla of Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory and his wife Helena analyzed satellite weather data for the Northern Hemisphere, they found that the area of the ice and snow cover had suddenly increased by 12% in 1971 and the increase has persisted ever since. Areas of Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic, for example, were once totally free of any snow in summer; now they are covered year round.

Climatologist George Kukla finds evidence for global warming in 1981

They found that the typical summer ice pack had decreased about 35 percent, by 2.5 million square kilometers, or about 1 million square miles from 1973 to 1980. The Antarctic ice cover was also found to be considerably lighter than shown in atlases published in 1957 and 1966 and in the ship reports from the 1930's. This was taken as an indirect measure of higher temperatures.

(H/T Glyn Ferguson)


Slingo on climate models

There is an interesting interview with Julia Slingo at Nature's website at the moment. No mention of climate change, but the twin spectres of Pakistan floods and Russian warmth doing service in its place as a means to drum up support for the Met Office's hoped-for new supercomputer. Scaremongering has served the weather/climate community for so long, I guess it's hard to break the habit.

What's the biggest obstacle to creating better, hazard-relevant weather forecasts?

Access to supercomputers. The science is well ahead of our ability to implement it. It's quite clear that if we could run our models at a higher resolution we could do a much better job — tomorrow — in terms of our seasonal and decadal predictions. It's so frustrating. We keep saying we need four times the computing power. We're talking just 10 or 20 million a year — dollars or pounds — which is tiny compared to the damage done by disasters. Yet it's a difficult argument to win. You just think: why is this so hard?

I'm sure I read somewhere recently that there is no guarantee that climate models at high resolution will be any better than what we have now. Can anyone recall having seen something like that?


Condensing boilers

North has an interesting piece (H/T Autonomous Mind) about the widespread failure of condensing boilers in the UK this winter and last. The problems have been caused by the condensate pipes freezing up in cold weather. Unfortunately condensing boilers seem to have been pushed hard by the government in one of their fits of eco-madness.

A few years back I discussed condensing boilers with a local plumber - an Englishman - who couldn't understand the Scottish fixation on combi boilers. Now I wonder if perhaps the Scots didn't just know something he didn't.


The Greenhouse Conspiracy

I'm sure many of my readers have seen this 1990 documentary on the greenhouse effect - sort of an early version of the Great Global Warming Swindle - but it's the first time I've seen it.

I was struck firstly by how shifty-eyed Tom Wigley and John Mitchell come across, particularly when Wigley is asked about funding at around 46 mins. If you don't want to invest the time in the full video, this is the excerpt to watch.

Then there is the clear statement by the late Reginald Newell that he had his funding cut because of he had published a paper that undermined the greenhouse theory.

It's all rather amazing how little the debate has moved on in twenty years.


The naked climatologist?

Now available for 2011, the University of East Anglia Naked Calendar.

Whether any residents of CRU have volunteered to appear is regrettably unclear. However, information on getting a copy here, although it looks like it may be unavailable except in person. Proceeds are for the St John Ambulance Society.


Veiled threats of violence

According to a commenter on the Skeptical Science website, I permit veiled threats of violence by my commenters.

Anyone know what they're talking about?


HtL on winter temperatures

Haunting the Library has dug out a wonderful statement from NASA back in 1999:

Why are winters warming up so much faster over Northern Hemisphere continents than over the rest of the globe? A new study by NASA researchers in the June 3 issue of the journal Nature is the first to link the well-documented large degree of North America and Eurasia winter warming and the associated wind changes to rising greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere.

Do read the whole thing. And when you are done, take a look at this rather wonderful article on the Fox News website, which revisits a number of alarmist claims from the past. I particularly liked this one:

By the year 2000 the United Kingdom will be simply a small group of impoverished islands, inhabited by some 70 million hungry people ... If I were a gambler, I would take even money that England will not exist in the year 2000."

Ehrlich, Speech at British Institute For Biology, September 1971.


Revkin on Steig and O'Donnell

Andy Revkin looks at O'Donnell et al's recent improvement on/rebuttal of Steig et al, the 2009 paper that suggested that the whole of the Antarctic was warming. Revkin sees the appearance of the rebuttal as reinforcing his faith in the peer review process, a marked contrast to the views of Richard Smith, which were discussed here a couple of days back.


A hundred years of freezing

Professor Mike Lockwood says that even in a warming world we could have one or two centuries of frigid winters to come here in the UK. He even says it with a straight face.


Ross Clark on winter resilience

Ross Clark has an interesting article in the Express about planning for winter in the UK. While I'm unconvinced by his idea of using wholesale gas prices as a proxy for global temperature, some of his other points are much better. Take this for example:

So why is government policy so obsessed with the prospect of hotter summers and so complacent about that of cold winters? A fortune has been spent establishing a Committee on Climate Change which last September came up with its emergency plan for adapting to higher temperatures – by fixing shutters to British homes and planting trees in the streets so we can walk in the shade.

Yet planning for cold winters has been woefully deficient. An official report into transport failures last winter concluded that, beyond building a bigger stockpile of grit, we didn’t really need to do much to cope with cold winters because they would become much rarer in future. It has taken just five months to expose the folly of basing transport policy on  predictions for climate change.


Haunting the Library

One of my regular email correspondents has started a blog. If the quality of the stories I've been fed in the past is anything to go by, Haunting the Library may well be one to watch.

I enjoyed this look back to an extraordinarily precise Hadley Centre prediction from 2003 that Scotland was going to suffer from [up to] 89% less snowfall. Even funnier is WWF's conclusion that this would make Scotland uninhabitable.


Richard Smith on peer review

I cite Richard Smith, the former editor of the British Medical Journal, a couple of times in The Hockey Stick Illusion. Smith was a pioneer of the formal study of peer review and his work has led him to believe that the technique is well past its sell-by date. He has recently published a very cogent summary of his views. Although Smith speaks naturally of the medical sciences, `Classical peer review: an empty gun' applies equally to other fields.

The article is full of good quotes. Take this for example:

Doug Altman, perhaps the leading expert on statistics in medical journals, sums it up thus: 'What should we think about researchers who use the wrong techniques (either wilfully or in ignorance), use the right techniques wrongly, misinterpret their results, report their results selectively, cite the literature selectively, and draw unjustified conclusions? We should be appalled. Yet numerous studies of the medical literature have shown that all of the above phenomena are common. This is surely a scandal'

Read the whole thing.

Classical peer review: an empty gun


HSI citations

A couple more citations of The Hockey Stick Illusion have appeared in the academic literature.

'Science at the Crossroads: Fact or Fiction?' is a review article in the Journal of Medical Biochemistry by David Goldberg of the University of Toronto. Goldberg looks at the pressures of modern science and how these can sometimes lead to misconduct.

The second citation is from Jörg Friedrichs of the University of Oxford. Entitled 'Peak energy and climate change: the double bind of post-normal science' it is in press at the journal, Futures. The abstract can be seen here.