Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Scientific American answers to "contrarian nonsense"

Breaking news: Thankfully, Phil Jones "temporarily" steps down as the director of CRU at East Anglia University until an investigation of the ClimateGate is completed: Associated Press.

Michael Mann is being investigated by his university (PSU), too, but I guess that they will be extremely soft on him.
Sadly, Scientific American has been hijacked by aggressive ignorant people with a severely suppressed brain activity. One of them, John Rennie, wrote what he calls
Seven Answers to Climate Contrarian Nonsense.
That's quite a title for a publication that used to be something in between the popular and technical peer-reviewed magazine.



Supernova, a new film by Al Gore. ;-) Hat tip: Olda K. By the way, Al Gore will be sold for $1,209 per asexual intercourse in Copenhagen.

The article starts with a picture of James Inhofe, a "climate contrarian". Rennie argues that the common technical scientific terms for the likes of James Inhofe are "contrarians, naysayers, and denialists". Oh, really? I thought that at least so far, these terms were not used by actual scientists but by unhinged environmentalist zealots. At least, Rennie admits that not all the people are like Inhofe. Some of them are honest ignorants.




Fine, let's get to his seven answers. They reveal the brainwashed ink-spiller's breathtaking ignorance about the basics of science and its history.

1. CO2 is a trace gas

Rennie says that even trace gases can have a nonzero effect. That's true but almost everything else he writes is confused or misleading. Svante Arrhenius deciding that the sensitivity with respect to doubling was above 5 °C but only because he was convinced that CO2 was responsible for the ice ages which we know not to be the case. The actual feedback-free climate sensitivity calculated from the rules of physics is 1.2 °C - and the feedbacks are unknown, equally likely to be positive or negative - but there's no room for sensible numbers in Rennie's article.

Also, Rennie says that the absorption by the oceans "almost precisely offsets" the natural emissions, leaving the human additions as a net surplus. This is another factor-of-two error. First, both oceans and forests are important sinks. Second, they actually absorb significantly more than than the natural emissions - they also absorb the majority of the industrial emissions. Every year, we emit 3.9 ppm worth of carbon dioxide. But the concentration only increases by approximately 1.8 ppm a year. That means that if we completely stopped "our" emissions, Nature would still be absorbing by 2.1 ppm more CO2 than it emits, and the concentration would be decreasing correspondingly.

Rennie also incorrectly claims that 388 ppm - and the jump from 280 ppm to 388 ppm - is "remarkable". There is nothing remarkable about it, relatively to other things that the human civilization has created. We have increased the number of spaceships, computers, cell phones, and even signal-carrying microwaves in the atmosphere by infinity percent which is much more remarkable than a 35% increase of a gas that's only special among many other gases because it's very important for life as well as industry.

In your house, the concentration is around 700 ppm now, anyway. Half a billion years ago, the atmosphere carried 4,500 ppm of CO2. Below 10,000 ppm (one percent), no humans are affected by the elevated concentrations. Only some sensitive ones start to feel dizzy above 10,000 ppm but it can be shown that it is really due to the lack of oxygen. Only around 50,000 ppm, the CO2 is becoming toxic by itself. Obviously, we can never reach it. The atmosphere of Venus has 960,000 ppm of CO2 (normally called 96%). There's nothing remarkable about the added 108 ppm.

Water vapor is the most important greenhouse gas that is responsible for the bulk of the greenhouse warming - about 90% of it or 30 °C. Rennie doesn't like this fact, so he doesn't mention this fact. He notices that the skeptics realize that water in the atmosphere is the biggest unknown and it is not reliably incorporated to the models. Of course, water becomes essential for the flow of radiation when it creates clouds. Even the IPCC admits that this is a pretty much unknown factor. Rennie doesn't like it, so to "prove" that the models treat H2O well, he quotes the IPCC as saying that the water vapor feedback may approximately double the bare CO2 climate sensitivity.

But this speculation is something completely different from a correct incorporation of water into some models. This is just a declaration, a cherry-picked statement that is as uncertain as others. The actual increase of the water vapor with the temperature is almost as unknown as the modifications of the amount and properties of clouds. The IPCC only mentions this feedback because it is likely to be positive, but other feedbacks - linked to clouds etc. - are omitted or being hidden (by claiming that they're uncertain) because they're likely to be negative. The bias is very obvious in this discussion. But aside from this bias, it's very clear that the models actually fail to quantitatively account for the relevant phenomena affecting H2O in the atmosphere.

Rennie also claims that climatologists from Arrhenius on have incorporated water into their models. Well, Arrhenius didn't have any "model" and the only way how he incorporated water was that he used the term "carbonic acid" (which is CO2 + H2O) instead of "carbon dioxide". Finally, Rennie says that the water concentration returns to some "equilibrium level" much more quickly than CO2. That's right but what the equilibrium level is, and how it depends on other factors, still affects the climate at least as strongly as the whole CO2 effect. No one really knows how the absolute humidity - and especially cloudiness - changes as a function of temperature, solar activity, cosmic rays, ocean cycles, and other things, and even if these things modify the concentration of H2O in one form or another by 5%, such modifications are more important for the temperature than tthe whole CO2.

So Rennie has emitted quite many misleading and downright wrong propositions in his failed quest to deny the obvious, namely the correct statement that CO2 is a relatively unimportant gas for the climate (while it's very important for the functioning of life and the industry).

2. The hockey stick graph is wrong

Because Rennie must know that there can't possibly exist a valid argument against the proposition above, he decides to push both ludicrous quasi-arguments, namely that the hockey stick was actually correct, and that it plays no role in the debate.

The second line of his attack is absolutely indefensible. The hockey stick graph was the only actual piece of empirical evidence indicating that the climate was changing in unprecedented ways during the 20th century. Everything else are just speculations. That's why the hockey stick graph used to be absolutely essential for the AGW case. That's why it was chosen as a cover illustration, an icon, for the 2001 third IPCC report.

The first line is indefensible, too. There exists a lot of positive evidence that the medieval warm period was real and that it was global in character. There also exist irreversible, detailed proofs showing that Mann's methodology was flawed and the authors have probably always known it.

A Mathematica notebook, and its PDF preview, showing how you get a hockey stick out of red noise if you prefer the series that show warming at the end: PDF, NB, HTML.

The problem of the MBH98, MBH99, and similar papers was (and is!) that the algorithm preferred proxies – or trees (or their equivalents) – that showed a warming trend in the 20th century, assuming that this condition guaranteed that the trees were sensitive to temperature.

But even if such a 20th century trend occurred by chance for a certain tree or another proxy (and a fraction of the trees inevitably satisfies this condition, by the very laws of statistics), the corresponding tree would influence Mann’s final graphs a lot. Effectively, the algorithm picked a lot of trees that didn't show any correlation with the temperature but they were rather composed out of random data – red noise – before 1900, and an increasing trend in 1900-2000.

You can’t be surprised that the average of such trees looked like a hockey stick even if the temperature didn’t. The noise before 1900 averages to a constant temperature or something close to it while the 20th century warming survives.

It's very likely that this mechanism wasn't invented "by chance". Michael Mann was almost certainly looking for methodologies that would produce hockey sticks. The ClimateGate correspondence shows that Phil Jones had a simpler idea about what Mann did. Jones summarized the situation by saying that Mann simply replaced the actual proxies by the thermometer readings in the recent decades. Because the proxies understate the variability in the past, one automatically obtains a hockey stick graph by this inconsistent combination of graphs taken from different sources.

The CRU correspondence is full of comments that make it clear that the hockey stick climatologists were doing deliberate "tricks" to obtain the hockey stick that wouldn't appear otherwise. And they were aware of the fact that the resulting graphs were untrue. For a relatively unknown example, note that Tom Wigley wrote in 2005:
A word of warning. I would be careful about using other, independent paleo reconstruction work as supporting the MBH reconstructions. I am attaching my version of a comparison of the bulk of these other reconstructions. Although these all show the hockey stick shape, the differences between them prior to 1850 make me very nervous. If I were on the greenhouse deniers' side, I would be inclined to focus on the wide range of paleo results and the differences between them as an argument for dismissing them all.
But because he is not on the "deniers' side", he will hide the evidence available to him that suggests that the hockey sticks are uniformly wrong, right? This single sentence proves that its author, Tom Wigley, lacks the very basic scientific integrity - he's a dishonest jerk and fraudster who should be spitted upon by all decent people.

At any rate, it's completely crazy today to claim that the hockey stick graphs were unimportant for the AGW cause, or that they were correct.

3. Global warming stopped a decade ago

Rennie says that the skeptics claim that the fact above erases the warming trend in the previous century. No skeptic actually says such a thing. Rennie fights a straw man.

But our changes of the CO2 emissions won't change the trends in the past, either. That much follows from causality. ;-) They're being justified by an expected warming in the future. The absence of warming since 1998 strongly suggests that it is very plausible that there won't be any warming until 2019 (just another decade) or 2030 or even 2050, either.

All models that sharply imply that the warming must occur in every decade have been proven wrong. By itself, this shows that the underlying warming trend, if any, is small relatively to the fluctuations at time scales that we care about and that we are able to "plan".

Rennie also says that another decade of cooling - or no warming - wouldn't do anything to his beliefs. Well, that's why his beliefs are religious and disconnected from any empirical reality. That's why he is an unhinged religious bigot. If we talk about the real world and its problems, and possible strategies to mitigate these hypothetical problems, we must talk about some particular threats and particular decades.

One of the threats announced by megacrackpot Al Gore was a global destruction in the 2010s. So if we talk about this threat in the context of science, it is damn important what will actually happen in the 2010s. And indeed, what will happen in the 2010s will be affected by natural factors (much like every other decade). That's why the actual natural factors matter in the discussion.

It doesn't really matter whether we talk about the 2010s or 2050s - the later being the decade of the global destruction according to "Age of Stupid". Whatever scenario we choose, there will be a particular time and all the "natural variations", whether they're the key or not, must be considered if the discussion is to be serious.

We may also talk about the 2220s but in that decade, it's pretty likely that the fossil fuels will no longer be a key source of energy and the problems will be completely different - and unrelated to the decisions someone makes in December 2009.

So there is a trade-off here: if you want to talk about decades that are actually threatened by our CO2 emissions and that can be hypothetically affected by our decisions today, you need to talk about a few decades that will come in the relatively near future. But even if you assume an underlying trend, for those decades, the natural variability is as important as it was since 1998. If you want time scales where the natural variability is supposed to be safely beaten by the trend, you will end up with discussions about a very distant future that has nothing to do with our current decisions.

To summarize, there doesn't exist any timeframe where the CO2 greenhouse warming would be genuinely dominant factor affecting the local weather anywhere and that would also be affected by our current political decisions to regulate CO2.

4. The Sun and cosmic rays matter.

The author claims that only the total output of the Sun matters, and assumes that it can't be affected by any feedbacks. This just shows the lack of imagination that often encounter when some uncreative people decide that the correct answer must be the first answer that they randomly hit and find convenient.

The solar activity, galactic cosmic rays, their mutual interactions, magnetic fields of the Sun, the Earth, and their interrelationships are likely to play a role. This is a very serious science - much more serious than the "regulate CO2" pseudoscience - and it is being studied by top scientific institutions that actually still follow the scientific method (and would never reveal a correspondence full of deception, as the CRU e-mails did) such as the CLOUD experiment at CERN.

Rennie humiliates whole research directions in particle physics as fads - to further prove that he is a pile of anti-scientific garbage - and also suggests some possible explanations of climate change on Mars that may be true but probably are not true because they're so ad hoc, unimaginative, unsupported by any nontrivial evidence. All these things just show once again that Rennie is a fanatical, blinded, religious bigot that will always adopt any explanation that is convenient for him and throw any explanation that is inconvenient to him, regardless of their quality.

5. Science is not a popularity contest, so consensus doesn't matter

Rennie claims that in order to believe that the (paramount for science!) statement above is relevant for this debate, one has to believe some conspiracy involving thousands of people. The scumbag tries to picture those who believe in "synergy" between the AGW proponents as counterparts of those who believe that Elvis lives on the Moon.

But no "huge" conspiracy is actually needed, and the "moderate" conspiracy that is needed for this fraudulent business to run isn't a matter of speculation anymore: its existence has been proven beyond any doubt by the leaked CRU correspondence.

First, there are tens of thousands of people whose finances, political career, and/or personal prestige depends on the AGW hoax. They don't need to communicate in any significant way. All of them are biased in the same way and this has some consequences for their conclusions.

However, the actual "primordial drivers" of the CO2-dominated theory of climate is only being energized by a few scientists, and a majority - or at least a hugely significant fraction - is connected to the now-discredited network around Phil Jones and Michael Mann. Just try to find any other published scientific evidence that the CO2 is the dominant climate driver. If you remove the flawed literature published by CRU and the network connected to it, you will be left with zero evidence.

The very evidence of a warming in the last 150 years may turn out to be non-existent because CRU announced that the dog ate their homework.

And in fact, it is reasonable to expect that the degree of accuracy and scientific honesty in the other, somewhat independent networks of climate scientists - around Hansen and similar people - will be analogous to those in the CRU. Their only advantage is that their whistleblowers have not yet leaked their documents, so it technically remains unknown whether those people are the same selfish dishonest scumbags as Jones et al. or not.

I won't discuss Rennie's particular lists of "authorities" because they're no authorities at all. They're just political bodies above scientists whose goal is to squeeze their member-scientists into politically convenient boxes. There are no good scientists at the top of these institutions that actually emit all of their "concerned" statements. They're just parroting what they heard elsewhere and what they find convenient.

6. Climatologists are financially motivated to create alarm.

Rennie doesn't like this obvious statement - whose details have also been analyzed in the CRU correspondence. So he says that their funding "only" increased by 55% in a particular 11-year interval. Is that supposed to prove that they are not motivated to create alarming science?

Conveniently, Rennie chooses the "optimum" decade for his non-argument and doesn't mention that the funding of climate science jumped by something like 1,000% since the late 1980s. Rennie also admits that the money going to ludicrous green industries was skyrocketing much faster. But he apparently believes that this is OK and that this increase hasn't generated any pressures.

7. Technological fixes are better than fossil fuel saving.

He correctly says that the CO2 emissions reduction is "supposed to be achieved" by the rise of carbon-free technologies. Of course, the real debate remains whether the CO2 emissions should be promoted even before we have an appropriate replacement. Clearly, Rennie wants the answer to be Yes. For Rennie, it is the "height of irresponsibility" not to create a carbon military junta that would rule the world as soon as possible.

8. Please, someone, use all legal tools you have to give this disgusting scumbag a proper thrashing.

I hope that the aggressive brainwashed power-thirsty jerk won't have enough time to answer this eighth "nonsense" by a "contrarian" in Scientific American.

1 comment:

  1. I finally had a enough of SA, and canceled my subscription.

    They need to change the name from Scientific American to Polemic American.

    ReplyDelete