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Sunday
Jan032010

New Year starts badly for Mann

James Delingpole has the scoop

Michael Mann – creator of the incredible Hockey Stick curve and one of the scientists most heavily implicated in the Climategate scandal – is about to get a very nasty shock. When he turns up to work on Monday, he’ll find that all 27 of his colleagues at the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University have received a rather tempting email inviting them to blow the whistle on anyone they know who may have been fraudulently misusing federal grant funds for climate research.

Read the whole thing.

 

Sunday
Jan032010

Good and bad charities

Just occasionally you start to read a book and within minutes you know you are on to an absolute winner. This is one such book:

James Tooley grabs your attention right from the very start with a deeply personal story of how he went to India to study private schools for the few and discovered a vast and virtually hidden network of private schools for the poor.

Taken aback by the sheer number of these backstreet schools, he reported what he had seen to his colleagues at the World Bank and was met with a mixture of disdain and bemusement. These schools were "ripping off the poor" it seems, despite the fact that poor parents were scrimping and saving to afford the fees they could have avoided by simply sending their children to the free state schools. Why would they do this? The answer was very simple - a survey of state schools found that "in only half was there any teaching activity at all".

Another excuse was that these schools were creaming off the elite, an story I heard just the other day about schools in the UK. Poor parents were criticised for increasing inequality - another story that will be familiar to UK readers.

What was even more amazing was Tooley's discovery that the success of the private education sector had been noted by luminaries like development economist Amartya Sen, and had been reported upon by Oxfam. And both the economist and the charity had then concluded that universal state provision was the correct way forward.

Staggering isn't it?

It is hard to escape the conclusion that development gurus like Sen and mega-charities like Oxfam are part of the problem here. The incentive of the charity workers is to keep the people poor so that the problem never goes away. This is the bad charity of the title of this post.

And the good charity? There's plenty of it in evidence in the book. Here's Tooley:

Ten-year-old Farath Sultana also attended Peace High School. Her father works as a cleaner in a mosque and earned a monthly salary of 700 rupees ($15.55), which he admitted was not enough to feed his four family members. The family lived rent free with relatives who helped them get through each month by providing food. Both the mother and the father were illiterate, but they wanted their chidren to be educated. Peace High School provided both Farath and her six-year-old brother free tuition because of their critical financial position.

Amazon.com link

Amazon.co.uk link

 

 

Sunday
Jan032010

A climategate snippet on urban heat islands

While reading the Climategate emails, I chanced upon a message to Phil Jones from a Chinese researcher, Yan ZhongWei inquiring if the great man would like to be a co-author on a forthcoming paper.

Hi, Phil,

Attached please find a draft paper about site-changes and urbanization at Beijing. It may be regarded as an extension of our early work (Yan et al 2001 AAS) and therefore I would be happy to ask you to join as a co-author.

Regarding your recent paper about UHI effect in China (no doubt upon a large-scale warming in the region), I hope the Beijing case may serve as a helpful rather than a contradictory (as it may appear so) reference.

The urbanization-bias at BJ was considerable but could hardly be quantified. I suspect it was somehow overestimated by a recent work (Ren et al 2007). Please feel free to comment and revise.

I'll check and complete the reference list, while you may also add in new references

Cheers

Zhongwei

Well if the paper appeared contradictory, showing a substantial UHI, then I wanted to know about it. This appears to be it. Here's the abstract:

During 1977-1981 the Beijing (BJ) meteorological station was at a suburban location. In 1981 it was moved to a more urban location, but in 1997 it was subsequently moved back to the same suburban location. The daily BJ temperature series, together with those from 18 nearby stations, form a unique database for studying how site-change and possible urbanisation influences affect climate changes at a local scale. The site-change-induced biases were quantified, between 0.43 and 0.95°C, based on comparisons between multi-year-mean seasonal temperature anomalies at BJ and the mean of those from a cluster of nearby stations. The annual mean urban-suburban difference was 0.81°C around 1981 and 0.69°C around 1997, indicating a growing urbanisation effect in the suburban compared to the downtown area. The linear warming trend in the adjusted (for site moves only) BJ temperature series during 1977-2006 was 0.78 °C/decade. Comparing with several rural and less-urban sites, we suggest that the BJ records include an urbanisation-related warming bias between 0.20 and 0.54°C/decade, likely about 0.30°C/decade, for the recent few decades. The climatic warming at BJ between 1977 and 2006 is likely, therefore, to be about 0.48°C/decade. Caveats for using these estimates were discussed.

 

Friday
Jan012010

Tony N on the New Year

I thoroughly recommend the thoughtful essay by Tony N at Harmless Sky for a review of where we stand on climate change at present.

Friday
Jan012010

Is it actually Tata?

A happy new year to all my readers.

I awaken this morning to a mystery - who is it that's threatening Richard North and Christopher Booker? The obvious candidate is Rajendra Pachauri, who has been on the receiving end of many pointed critiques from the two men, mainly as a result of his multiple conflicts of interest.

But perhaps not. North links to this document, a photoessay about big business misbehaving in the mining industry in India. (The download is large - I've extracted the two relevant pages here). This doesn't mention Pachauri or TERI at all. The pages North refers to mention a Tata group steelworks, where the local population was moved from their homes, without compensation, to make way for the new plant, and a list of "People’s struggles against mining projects in the eastern states of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand & Orissa". The latter again refers to several Tata projects.

Reading between the lines then, there appears to be a real possibility that it is Tata doing the threatening and not Pachauri.

Thursday
Dec312009

Leaning on North

It looks as though Pachauri may be getting nasty over North and Booker's revelations of his conflicting interests in the Telegraph. There is a very mysterious posting up at his blog now.

Spread the word.

Update:

North in the comments to his posting gives some clues to the contents of the lawyer's letter he has received:

An entertaining, four-page missive. The last paragraph reads: "Please do not mistake our client's resolve to take whatever action is necessary to protect their reputations. If we do not hear from you in the timeframe indicated, proceedings will be issued."

Ho hum! The letter is barking mad but it still needs hours of constructing a careful response, the net effect of which will be the same as two Anglo Saxon words.

 

Thursday
Dec312009

Who would be in Professor Hardaker's shoes?

As the Climategate analysis starts to flow from Steve McIntyre's keyboard, it's interesting to note the theme of "climategatekeeping" emerging from the first few posts. It seems clear that there have been multiple instances of attempts to suppress or delay sceptic papers and just as many examples of warmist papers being rushed through to print on the nod. This angle to the climategate affair has been given added impetus in recent days by the extraordinary revelations of Spenser and Christy in their American Thinker article, showing how the journal editor at the International Journal of Climatology (IJoC) conspired with Hockey Team members to delay the appearance in print of a sceptic paper (Douglass et al).

IJoC, which is a journal of the Royal Meteorological Society of the UK,

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Dec312009

Mann in the WSJ

Michael Mann has an article in the Wall Street Journal in which he describes the accusation that he plotted to keep sceptics out of the scientific literature as "false".

Society relies upon the integrity of the scientific literature to inform sound policy. It is thus a serious offense to compromise the peer-review system in such a way as to allow anyone—including proponents of climate change science—to promote unsubstantiated claims and distortions. The good news is that it is not happening today in relation to either climate scientists or the deniers of climate science.

His case is seriously undermined by his failure to explain the contradictory evidence in the emails.

 

Wednesday
Dec302009

The East Anglia publication scheme

Steve McIntyre has posted up an interesting article about the complaints made by Nature in its Climategate editorial, namely that scientists were being overwhelmed by freedom of information requests. As he points out, the actual number of requests made so far has been very small, a point reinforced by a brief perusal of WhatDoTheyKnow.com, the portal for many FoI requests to UK public bodies. Prior to Climategate, there were only ten FoI requests to UEA. This doesn't preclude there being requests made through other channels, but it does at least suggest that the problem is rather smaller in scale than Nature would have us believe.

But in many ways, this is besides the point. As well as the Freedom of Information Act, CRU information falls under the terms of the Environmental Information Regulations 2004. These require public bodies to:

(a) progressively make the information available to the public by electronic means which are easily accessible; and

(b) take reasonable steps to organize the information relevant to its functions with a view to the active and systematic dissemination to the public of the information.

As far as I can see, the University of East Anglia, in common with many other UK universities, has failed to set up the legally mandated publication scheme. In other words, the alleged burdensome level of FoI requests has only been necessary because those scientists' have been flouting the law.

A similar point is made in the comments at CA by the economist Richard Tol:

I bet that I get far fewer requests for information (2-3 a week) than my colleagues in climate science proper. I do find these requests disruptive, because it means taking your mind of the data you’re working on and focussing on data you worked on years ago. I have a simple solution for that: I post all relevant data on my website. As the data is in the public domain anyway per the various freedom of information acts that govern my work, I might as well put the data there.

So it's simple. Publish everything as you go and you not only comply with the law but you make your life simpler in the long run.

I've put in a further FoI request to East Anglia, asking what steps they have taken to ensure compliance with the terms of EIR. In the meantime, the ecowarriors at Nature might do better to direct their ire at climatologists who flout the law rather than sceptics who are forced to use FoI to unearth the information that is being withheld.

 

Sunday
Dec272009

Hope you all had a nice Christmas

I hope everyone had a nice break - it snowed here so I got rather distracted from the blogging. Higher priorities like sledging and digging the car our took precedence. So my apologies for my failure to sign off at the end of term, and thanks for all the good wishes.

 

 

 

Wednesday
Dec232009

Sonia B-C on Marr

Sonia Boehmer-Christiansen, one of the most doughty fighters against the global warming movement, has written a complaint about Andrew Marr's performance in a programme on global warming broadcast on BBC radio the other day.

There are some fascinating snippets of which I would love to know the details. For example:

  • the BBC having a financial interest in the advancement of the global warming agenda
  • ditto the Royal Society
  • the IPCC is not allowed to assess the "for and against" of global warming since it is signed up to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change which states that global warming is real and dangerous

Read the whole thing.

 

 

Wednesday
Dec232009

Richard Tol on Stern

I'm very pleased to have had a comment by the eminent economist Richard Tol (even it is was to tell me that I was wrong about the Stern Report - the report was still flawed, but not for the reasons I had put forward).

Here's what he says:

Stern managed to focus the discussion about the Stern Review on the discount rate used. The issue is not that Stern argues for a particular discount rate. That is his right as a a citizen of a democratic country. The issue is that he used a single discount rate (without performing a sensitivity analysis) and that he used a discount rate that differs from the discount rate typically used by his own, democratically-elected government. And all without alerting the reader. Stern's use of the discount rate is a clear case of manipulation.

The sloppiness of the Stern Review is perhaps best illustrated with its assessment of an optimal climate policy. (By the way, the Stern Review concludes that the previously formulated long-term target of the UK government is exactly right.) Stern's "optimum" does not meet the first-order conditions. In the optimum, marginal costs should equal marginal benefits. Stern recommends that greenhouse gas concentrations be stabilized at 550 ppm CO2eq, but at that point his (faulty) estimates of marginal costs do not equal his (faulty) estimates of the marginal benefits.

When I pressed him over this, the paraphrased reply was that Newton and Leibnitz are so passe.

The subsequent discussion is very interesting too. In essence Stern is arguing that a philosopher king should tell us what is right, while Tol is making the libertarian case - that ordinary people should choose their own way. Global warming enthusiasts should be clear, both to themselves and to the public they seek to persuade, that this is their intention.

Which brings me back to my original point: Stern should be strongly criticised for not making this clear to his readers, and Ed Stourton, one of the most senior journalists at the BBC should hang his head in shame for precisely the same reason.

 

Wednesday
Dec232009

CRU website live again

Hat-tip to a reader for pointing out that the CRU website is now live again, although the data pages do not as yet seem to be complete.

 

 

Tuesday
Dec222009

Met Office code

John Graham-Cumming reports that the Met Office has published the code for preparing the land surface records.

This is slightly odd. What appears to have been released is the code for generating the CRUTEM land temperature index, which is actually prepared by CRU. However this does tally with what we know about the data the Met Office released the other day. This was, contrary to the impression given by the Met Office press release actually the corrected data which is used as input into the CRUTEM average and also the HADCRUT global temperature index. It's the latter index that most people are interested in.

If this is confusing you, I've prepared a summary of my understanding of how it all fits together. I'm not promising this is correct

I've made everything but the data and code released by the Met Office semitransparent. As you can see, what we are looking at are intermediates in the preparation of the global temperature index. While this is welcome, the guts of the changes are in the selection of the stations and in the correction of those stations for the plethora of problems with them - urban heat islands, changes in equipment, station moves, changes in observation time and so on. So while there is a feel of increasing openness, in reality, the shutters are only open the barest crack and it's still not possible to make out what's going on inside.

Meanwhile, even this extremely limited attempt at openness is not all it seems to be. John G-C has been looking at the code and running it against the data he has. What he has found is that prior to 1855 there was no southern hemisphere data and that when you run the Met Office's newly released code, this shows up as a gap in the graph of the average. But there is no such gap in the actual CRUTEM index. John's conclusion is that what we're looking at is not the actual code used in CRUTEM, but something written especially for public consumption. In light of the scorn that many programmers have been pouring on the quality of the coding standards at CRU, this might suggest that the original code was just too awful to make available for public inspection.

Tuesday
Dec222009

Stourton on global warming

I caught most of Edward Stourton's history of global warming on Radio 4 this morning. This seems to represent something of a shift for the BBC, moving from outright cheerleading and propaganising to something slightly more balanced. Stourton even managed to include some sceptical views (Pat Michaels and Myron Ebell) without sneering or otherwise belittling them. He also managed not to mention the Hockey Stick as far as I could tell, and one wonders whether this was significant or not.

The shocker was that he covered the Stern Report without informing the listener that Stern reinvented the subject of economics in order to get to the answer he did. Let us say charitably that this is probably a case of embarrassing incompetence on Stourton's part rather than anything more sinister. Still, it is hard to credit that an organisation with the resources of the BBC could make such an oversight.

Meanwhile, no reporting of Rajendra Pachauri's conflicts of interest (latest revelations here) from our national broadcaster. I guess there are limits to how far the BBC is willing to go.