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Saturday
Jan032015

Why do good intentions in the public sector lead to evil?

The tactic of demonising dissenters from the global warming orthodoxy has a long and dishonourable history now, and I'm sure that readers scarcely need me to recount the instances of bad behaviour that have made it to the public record. I was struck by the parallels between these stories and the experiences of Professor Joseph Meirion Thomas, a cancer surgeon who had the temerity to write a series of articles questioning certain aspects of the way health services are run in the UK.

The resultant Twitter storm would have looked entirely familiar to BH readers, with GPs and nurses all over the country flinging vulgar abuse at the good professor. This probably all falls under the heading of "free speech" (although also under the heading of "bad manners"), but as ever with these things there were less reputable ideas floating around, with one GP trying to organise a complaint to the General Medical Council and, in a painful echo of Andrew Dessler's contemptible behaviour during the Bengtsson affair, a GP from Fulham asked if the professor was "unwell". A letter describing Meirion Thomas as "vile" and "evil" was circulated to doctors in the area where the professor worked.

Click to read more ...

Friday
Jan022015

Sinks and sources

Over the years I haven't really devoted much time to the carbon cycle, but I wonder if some of the attention of the climate debate will be switching to this area with the advent of the Orbiting Carbon Observatory, a satellite deployed last year to measure carbon dioxide concentrations across pretty much the whole planet.

The first maps were presented at AGU last month and the data is now publicly available:

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Jan012015

An also-ran in the climate prediction stakes

Back in 2013 I wrote a report for GWPF about the official UKCP09 climate projections and Nic Lewis's discovery that the underlying model was incapable of simulating a climate that was matched the real one as regards certain key features of the climate system. The final predictions in UKCP09 were based on a perturbed physics ensemble: a weighted average of a series of climate model runs, each with different key parameters tweaked, with the weighting in the final reckoning determined by how well the virtual climate produced matched the real one. As Lewis revealed, since the climate model output couldn't match the real one, we were effectively being asked to believe that a weighted average of unrealistic virtual climates would nevertheless produce realistic predictions.

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Dec312014

Rainfall: everything obscure

Judith Curry points us to a new paper in the journal Water Resources Research, which looks to provide some confirmation of things we have been saying here at BH for some time:

We analyze long-term fluctuations of rainfall extremes in 268 years of daily observations (Padova, Italy, 1725-2006), to our knowledge the longest existing instrumental time series of its kind. We identify multidecadal oscillations in extremes estimated by fitting the GEV distribution, with approximate periodicities of about 17-21 years, 30-38 years, 49-68 years, 85-94 years, and 145-172 years. The amplitudes of these oscillations far exceed the changes associated with the observed trend in intensity. This finding implies that, even if climatic trends are absent or negligible, rainfall and its extremes exhibit an apparent non-stationarity if analyzed over time intervals shorter than the longest periodicity in the data (about 170 years for the case analyzed here). These results suggest that, because long-term periodicities may likely be present elsewhere, in the absence of observational time series with length comparable to such periodicities (possibly exceeding one century), past observations cannot be considered to be representative of future extremes. We also find that observed fluctuations in extreme events in Padova are linked to the North Atlantic Oscillation: increases in the NAO Index are on average associated with an intensification of daily extreme rainfall events. This link with the NAO global pattern is highly suggestive of implications of general relevance: long-term fluctuations in rainfall extremes connected with large-scale oscillating atmospheric patterns are likely to be widely present, and undermine the very basic idea of using a single stationary distribution to infer future extremes from past observations.

Wednesday
Dec312014

The Greenpeace ‘archaeologist’

This is a guest post by Shub Niggurath.

When the Nazca lines fiasco broke, Greenpeace's response was to assure the world it worked with an archaeologist, taking every possible precaution:

 

 

 

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Dec312014

Gongs 

It's New Year's Honours list time once again here in the UK and as always I peruse the official list with interest looking out for familiar names from the climate debate. As with last year's list there is little that will get readers excited, with only an OBE for Tim Palmer of Oxford in the list and Palmer is is at least a member of the sensible brigade.

One other name that caused me to raise an eyebrow was someone called Stephen Stamp, whose citation explains the reason for his OBE as follows:

Operations Team Leader, Environment Agency. For services to the Environment and Flood Risk Management. (Highbridge, Somerset)

Given the shambles that led up to the flooding of the Somerset Levels last year, I'm not entirely sure that I'm comfortable with someone involved in flood risk management in that part of the world getting a gong, but it's hard to say for certain.

 

Monday
Dec292014

A salvo of silliness

The Pope, it seems, has decided to involve himself in the climate debate, apparently because he wants to ensure that the 2015 Paris summit is a success (if you can call condemning millions of people to destitution "a success"). Via Andy Revkin I also learn that the Pope's new-found enthusiasm for green issues was the result of a workshop of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences held in the middle of last year.

The proceedings of the workshop have been published online and they make interesting reading. For example, the list of attendees tells a story in itself, with familiar names such as Naomi Oreskes, Peter Wadhams, Martin Rees, Hans-Jochim Schellhuber, Jeffrey Sachs and Joseph Stiglitz. There was also Daniel Kammen, the editor at Environmental Research Letters who is threw scientific integrity out of the window in a bid to prevent John Cook's fictions from being exposed. Needless to say, there were no familar names who could be put in the "global warming not a catastrophe" camp.

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Dec282014

A parody?

When I started looking at this video by YouTuber "Veritasium" I thought it must be a parody. It just seemed so daft. But having studied the rest of his work I think he must be serious, and all the strawmen arguments, cherrypicking, out of date data, and plain old mistakes are actually his best shot at a contribution to the global warming debate.

You could almost play a game of bingo with it. See how many you can spot:

Click to read more ...

Saturday
Dec272014

Schmidt and Sherwood on climate models

Over the last week or so I've been spending a bit of time with a new paper from Gavin Schmidt and Steven Sherwood. Gavin needs no introduction of course, and Sherwood is also well known to BH readers, having come to prominence when he attempted a rebuttal of the Lewis and Crok report on climate sensitivity, apparently without actually having read it.

The paper is a preprint that will eventually appear in the European Journal of the Philosophy of Science and can be downloaded here. It is a contribution to an ongoing debate in philosophy of science circles as to how computer simulations fit into the normal blueprint of science, with some claiming that they are something other than a hypothesis or an experiment.

I'm not sure whether this is a particularly productive discussion as regards the climate debate. If a computer simulation is to be policy-relevant its output must be capable of being an approximation to the real world, and must be validated to show that this is the case. If climate modellers want to make the case that their virtual worlds are neither hypothesis nor experiment, or to use them to address otherwise intractable questions, as Schmidt and Sherwood note happens, then that's fine so long as climate models remain firmly under lock and key in the ivory tower.

Unfortunately, Schmidt and Sherwood seem overconfident in GCMs:

...climate models, while imperfect, work well in many respects (that is to say, they provide useful skill over and above simpler methods for making predictions).

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Dec232014

Who is behind the Nazca vandals?

The Guardian today is carrying another dull piece about global warming dissent, which is apparently going to become a thing of the past in 2015. One to revisit in twelve months' time I would say.

I was struck though by the fact that the author is John Sauven, the director of Greenpeace in the UK. I found it rather astonishing that a newspaper would be giving space to a group that had just caused irreparable damage to a World Heritage Site. Wouldn't a reputable publisher want to distance itself from such behaviour? Quite possibly it seems.

Click to read more ...

Monday
Dec222014

Happy Christmas!

Wishing all the BishopHill readers a great holiday and a well deserved rest.

Posted by Josh

Friday
Dec192014

Walport bashes the Guardian

A few weeks ago Adam Vaughan wrote an article in Guardian that suggested that a report by Mark Walport had compared the risks of fracking to thalidomide and asbestos. Vaughan's contribution to the debate has now received an extremely cutting response from Sir Mark (see update at link above):

The Guardian article that linked fracking with thalidomide and asbestos is a florid example of what my report argued most strongly against. It confuses arguments about science with value propositions. It selected one sentence from one evidence paper, quoted it in part, and in doing so misrepresented both the report and indeed the evidence paper itself.

Marvellous stuff. I just don't quite understand why Sir Mark has chosen this moment to speak out about Guardian Eco playing fast and loose with the facts. They do much worse than this on an almost daily basis.

Why now?

Friday
Dec192014

Deja vu

It was interested to read this article by Ed Hooper, the author of a book entitled The River. Published in 1999, this weighty tome presented an alternative hypothesis for the development of AIDS, suggesting that use of simian organs during the early trials of the polio vaccine provided a pathway for the SIV virus to make the leap to humans, where it became HIV.

Click to read more ...

Friday
Dec192014

Environmental risks of fracking

The House of Commons is to hold an inquiry into the environmental risks of fracking.

Submissions of written evidence are invited addressing the following points:

  • The risks from fracking operations in the UK, including potential risks to water supplies and water quality, emissions, habitats and biodiversity, and geological integrity
  • Necessary environmental safeguards, including through the planning/permitting system
  • The implications for our carbon emissions reduction obligations

It's being held under the auspices of the Environmental Audit Committee, so I think it's fair to say that it will be a complete farce.

Friday
Dec192014

More pressure on the capacity margin

This is actually from yesterday, but seems rather significant to me:

A raft of proposed new gas-fired power plants will be shelved for at least a year after failing to win Government subsidies, experts have predicted.

Some old power plants could also be at risk of closure after missing out on the payments, potentially worsening the capacity crunch in coming years, they warned.

The cost of the subsidies awarded is of the order of £1 billion per annum.

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