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The 34% Consensus

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Matt Ridley brings some objectivity to an issue where it is sorely lacking- Climate Change

It is a long post and is a compilation of a few of his articles:

excerpts:

The climate change debate has been polarized into a simple dichotomy. Either global warming is “real, man-made and dangerous,” as Pres. Barack Obama thinks, or it’s a “hoax,” as Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe thinks. But there is a third possibility: that it is real, man-made and not dangerous, at least not for a long time.

This “lukewarm” option has been boosted by recent climate research, and if it is right, current policies may do more harm than good. For example, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and other bodies agree that the rush to grow biofuels, justified as a decarbonization measure, has raised food prices and contributed to rainforest destruction. Since 2013 aid agencies such as the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the World Bank and the European Investment Bank have restricted funding for building fossil-fuel plants in Asia and Africa; that has slowed progress in bringing electricity to the one billion people who live without it and the four million who die each year from the effects of cooking over wood fires.

It cannot be what is happening to world temperatures, because they have gone up only very slowly, less than one-half as fast as the scientific consensus predicted in 1990 when the global warming scare began in earnest. Even with this year’s El Nino-boosted warmth threatening to break records, the world is barely half a degree warmer than it was about 35 years ago (the surface data sets say nearly 0.6 degrees, the satellite data sets about 0.4 degrees of warming since 1979). Also, it is increasingly clear that the planet was significantly warmer than today several times during the last 10,000 years. [An excellent source of charts and data on climate is at: http://www.climate4you.com]

Nor can it be the consequences of this recent temperature increase that worries world leaders. On a global scale, as scientists keep confirming, there has been no increase in frequency or intensity of storms, floods or droughts, while deaths attributed to such natural disasters have never been fewer, thanks to modern technology and infrastructure. Arctic sea ice has recently melted more in summer than it used to in the 1980s, but Antarctic sea ice has increased, and Antarctica is gaining land-based ice. Sea level continues its centuries-long slow rise – about a foot per century – with no sign of recent acceleration.

Perhaps it’s the predictions that worry the world leaders, then. Here, as we are often told by journalists, the science is “settled” and there is no debate. But scientists disagree: they say there is great uncertainty, and they reflected this in their fifth and latest assessment for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It projects that temperatures are likely to be anything from 1.5C to 4.5C degrees warmer by the latter part of the century – that is to say, anything from mildly beneficial to significantly harmful.

The 40,000 people meeting in Paris over the next ten days are committed to the view that the weather is certain to do something nasty towards the end of this century unless we cut emissions. In this they are out of line with scientists. A survey of the members of the American Meteorological Society in 2012 found that only 52% agree that climate change is mostly man-made, and as to its being very harmful if unchecked, only 34% of AMS members agree. The rest said they think it will be either not harmful or not very harmful.

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The Publication Bias

From The Truth Wears Off by Jonah Lehrer in The New Yorker:

An excellent article on the publication bias- keep in mind that in order to be peer reviewed it has to be published- although up to a third of articles claimed to be peer reviewed in one of the IPCC report were not. IN Mann’s case 43 of the peer reviewed had also co – authored studies with him- again I question some of the peer review process.  It is supposed to be squeaky clean. If it is not then there is corruption that is quite damaging to the scientific profession.

 Jennions, similarly, argues that the decline effect is largely a product of publication bias, or the tendency of scientists and scientific journals to prefer positive data over null results, which is what happens when no effect is found. The bias was first identified by the statistician Theodore Sterling, in 1959, after he noticed that ninety-seven per cent of all published psychological studies with statistically significant data found the effect they were looking for. A “significant” result is defined as any data point that would be produced by chance less than five per cent of the time. This ubiquitous test was invented in 1922 by the English mathematician Ronald Fisher, who picked five per cent as the boundary line, somewhat arbitrarily, because it made pencil and slide-rule calculations easier. Sterling saw that if ninety-seven per cent of psychology studies were proving their hypotheses, either psychologists were extraordinarily lucky or they published only the outcomes of successful experiments. In recent years, publication bias has mostly been seen as a problem for clinical trials, since pharmaceutical companies are less interested in publishing results that aren’t favorable. But it’s becoming increasingly clear that publication bias also produces major distortions in fields without large corporate incentives, such as psychology and ecology.

Stated in another way-  97% of egg-lovers claim eggs are awesome. 97% of the Flat Earth Society believe the Earth is flat. 97% of the Labour Party believe in Labour. 97% of musicians think that people need music in their lives. 97% of climate scientists believe in anthropogenic global warming. 97% of YouTube commenters believe that they know everything. I think there’s a pattern here.

Lehrer further illuminates-

 Such anomalies demonstrate the slipperiness of empiricism. Although many scientific ideas generate conflicting results and suffer from falling effect sizes, they continue to get cited in the textbooks and drive standard medical practice. Why? Because these ideas seem true. Because they make sense. Because we can’t bear to let them go. And this is why the decline effect is so troubling. Not because it reveals the human fallibility of science, in which data are tweaked and beliefs shape perceptions. (Such shortcomings aren’t surprising, at least for scientists.) And not because it reveals that many of our most exciting theories are fleeting fads and will soon be rejected. (That idea has been around since Thomas Kuhn.) The decline effect is troubling because it reminds us how difficult it is to prove anything. We like to pretend that our experiments define the truth for us. But that’s often not the case. Just because an idea is true doesn’t mean it can be proved. And just because an idea can be proved doesn’t mean it’s true. When the experiments are done, we still have to choose what to believe. 

 

 

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A Political Project

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Rupert Darwall writes in The National Review,  On Climate, Science and Politics Are Diverging

Excerpts:

Predictions of an ice-free North Pole are frequently accompanied by warnings of climate-change tipping points, tripping the planet into uncharted — and, by implication, scary — climate scenarios. A new paper by two scientists at the Scripps Institution suggests that previous concern about the irreversibility of the melting of the Arctic ice cap left out two key physical processes that had led previous studies to spuriously identify a tipping point that did not correspond to the real world.

Global warming is preeminently a political project. On Tuesday, the leaders of France and Germany met to set a goal for the December climate summit in Paris: to fully decarbonize the world economy by the end of the century. It required, Angela Merkel and François Hollande declared, “a profound transformation of the world economy and society.” The role of experts is to provide a scientific consensus to support the drumbeat of alarm. When the president of America declares climate change an immediate threat to national security and accuses skeptics of “negligence” and “dereliction of duty,” scientific skepticism becomes an enemy of the state. The shrillness of the president’s rhetoric draws attention to the weakness of the science. The true believers have given up trying to win over the undecided.

Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/418751/climate-science-and-politics-are-diverging-rupert-darwall

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The Need for CO2

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From The Heartland Institute, Patrick Moore, a founder of Greenpeace, writes Why I am a Climate Change Skeptic

Excerpts:

Over the past 150 million years, carbon dioxide had been drawn down steadily (by plants) from about 3,000 parts per million to about 280 parts per million before the Industrial Revolution. If this trend continued, the carbon dioxide level would have become too low to support life on Earth. Human fossil fuel use and clearing land for crops have boosted carbon dioxide from its lowest level in the history of the Earth back to 400 parts per million today.

At 400 parts per million, all our food crops, forests, and natural ecosystems are still on a starvation diet for carbon dioxide. The optimum level of carbon dioxide for plant growth, given enough water and nutrients, is about 1,500 parts per million, nearly four times higher than today. Greenhouse growers inject carbon-dioxide to increase yields. Farms and forests will produce more if carbon-dioxide keeps rising.

We have no proof increased carbon dioxide is responsible for the earth’s slight warming over the past 300 years. There has been no significant warming for 18 years while we have emitted 25 per cent of all the carbon dioxide ever emitted. Carbon dioxide is vital for life on Earth and plants would like more of it. Which should we emphasize to our children?

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Political Climate

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From The Heartland Institute, Patrick Moore, a founder of Greenpeace, writes Why I am a Climate Change Skeptic

Excerpts:

Climate change has become a powerful political force for many reasons. First, it is universal; we are told everything on Earth is threatened. Second, it invokes the two most powerful human motivators: fear and guilt. We fear driving our car will kill our grandchildren, and we feel guilty for doing it.

Third, there is a powerful convergence of interests among key elites that support the climate “narrative.” Environmentalists spread fear and raise donations; politicians appear to be saving the Earth from doom; the media has a field day with sensation and conflict; science institutions raise billions in grants, create whole new departments, and stoke a feeding frenzy of scary scenarios; business wants to look green, and get huge public subsidies for projects that would otherwise be economic losers, such as wind farms and solar arrays. Fourth, the Left sees climate change as a perfect means to redistribute wealth from industrial countries to the developing world and the UN bureaucracy.

So we are told carbon dioxide is a “toxic” “pollutant” that must be curtailed, when in fact it is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, gas and the most important food for life on earth. Without carbon dioxide above 150 parts per million, all plants would die.