Posted by: climatewonk | November 30, 2009

Memes, Lies and Climategate

I’m monitoring the press coverage of Climategate and am troubled that we have headlines in the minor press (aka right-wing internet press), such as the following:

“CRU Source Code Confirms AGW Fraud From Hacked Documents” from the Canada Free Press website.

The announcer claims that the source code from the hacked documents confirms that the GCM is fraudulent, its conclusions are fraudulent, and any and all papers based on it must be written off. He goes further to claim that any other GCMs that agree with the CRU GCM must also be considered suspect simply because they agree with the CRU GCM. Of course, following that logic, any and all papers based on them must be thrown out as well.

This is why it is dangerous for the average Jo to get hold of source code and data. Not only might Jo be unable to comprehend the data and code, they might draw false conclusions about it, and then spread those false conclusions across the internet depending on their sphere of influence. Other people with little or no training or education in science or statistics or programming, unable to judge for themselves, take what they see at face value, or worse, based on pure rhetorical appeal. The false information then spreads like a fungus, picked up by advocacy groups with a point of view and spread even farther.

We currently see the meme of “Climategate” proving that AGW is a hoax perpetrated by evil climate scientists spreading across the internet, picked up and transmitted primarily via the right-wingnut press.

A true skeptic, one that has not yet drawn a conclusion or accepted what they see at face value, would say we should wait for further clarification. That some of the emails and comments in the hacked documents might appear to suggest wrongdoing at first pass, but that there may be logical explanations. A true skeptic would suggest waiting before drawing any conclusions about the meaning and intent of the emails and documents.

The fact that so many have already concluded that the emails and Harry file proves fraud and that its all a big left-wing hoax meant to create a world government and displace the USA as top dog in the world disputes whether they are real skeptics or are in fact deniers.

Posted by: climatewonk | November 30, 2009

Climate Gate: Post 1 – Some history

What follows is a very brief and inelegant history of this whole affair, with some personal observations to set the stage. Note: I am not a scientist (well, perhaps a social scientists with a BSc, MA and ABD PHD but I write this as a policy analyst, not a scientist).

I am not afraid of imputing motive or talking about politics. In fact, understanding the political motives and interests of stakeholders is a part of the policy process.

So, let’s start at the beginning.

In 1824, the theoretical underpinings for a future theory of global warming is discovered by a Joseph Fourier – the greenhouse effect.

Jump over 150 years later: scientists from around the world in many disciplines are pursing various lines of research geared to study the climate in search of evidence that global warming is occurring and that it is the result of the burning of fossil fuels and the release of greenhouse gasses — aka anthropogenic global warming.

In 1990, the United Nations Environmental Program or UNEP, working with the World Meteorological Program established the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The IPCC is a scientific body designed to “review and assess the most recent scientific, technical and socio-economic information produced worldwide relevant to the understanding of climate change.”

In 1990, the IPCC produced its first assessment report. The report stated the following:

“We are certain of the following: There is a natural greenhouse effect…; emissions resulting from human activities are substantially increasing the atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gasses CO2, methane, CFCs and nitrous oxide. These increases will enhance the greenhouse effect, resulting on average of additional warming of the earth’s surface. The main greenhouse gas, water vapor, will increase in response to global warming and further enhance it.”

The IPCC assessment reports inform the Kyoto Protocol, which advocates for global cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. Among other things, the protocols require signatories to do the following:

  • encourage reforms in relevant sectors aimed at promoting policies and measures which limit or reduce emissions of greenhouse gasses not controlled by the Montreal Protocol;
  • reduce greenhouse gasses not controlled by the Montreal Protocol (for CFCs) in the transport sector;
  • limitation and/or reduction of methane emissions through recovery and use in waste management as well as in the production, transport and distribution of energy;

You can see that this requires governments to regulate industries involved in the production, transport and distribution of energy in order to meet greenhouse gas emission targets.

That’s right — the Protocol would require signatories to reduce emissions in order to meet binding target levels through carbon markets, clean development mechanisms, and joint implementation. All of this would ultimately require some form and degree of government legislation and regulations of the industries that produce greenhouse gasses.

In 2001, with the publication of the third assessment report, or TAR, a very infamous graphic was used in the chapter on paleoclimate to represent temperature over the previous 600 years — the hockey stick graph, as it is know in climate parlance. The graph shows late 20th century warming and was based on a paper by Mann, Bradley and Hughes (1998) titled Global scale temperature patterns and climate forcings over the past six centuries.

Here’s a version of the pretty picture known as the “hockey stick”. Note the relatively long “stick”with the very abrupt “blade”:

Hockey Stick

Along comes Stephen McIntyre, owner of the skeptic blog Climate Audit, former minerals “consultant” who has undisclosed ties as a strategic advisor to CGX Energy Inc, an oil and gas exploration company. For some reason, he was suspicious of the graph, because it failed to show the Medieval Warm Period. This period of warming, which may or may not have been global in scope, had been apparent in the very first IPPC report, in a crude graphic reproduced below but superimposed on the hockey stick:

Note the huge bump in the graph between 1,000 and 1,400 in the red line and the absense of it in the other lines.

That’s what started all this.

If you compare the two graphs, you can see that in the MBH98 graph, there is no pronounced bump around the time of the MWP.

In other words, Climate Gate and controversy around the hacked Climate Research Unit emails and accounts started way back when because a retired minerals consultant with ties to the fossil fuel industry thought the new graph being used in the IPCC TAR was suspicious.

I want to start this review off with this point because it has a bearing on everything that follows — McIntyre was a businessman who founded a minerals exploration company, was a director of another, and has ties to CGX Energy Inc. His interest in climate change, his efforts to “audit” climate science, and in particular, his attacks on works used to inform the Kyoto Protocol, must be understood in this context.

His partner in many of these endeavours is Ross McKitrick, Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Guelph, Ontario Canada. A Senior Fellow at the notorious right-wing think tank The Fraser Institute, which claims to be in favor of “impartial research, greater choice, less government intervention, and more personal responsibility”. [my emphasis] One of the very first statements the Fraser Institute published on global warming was authored by Sallie Baliunas and Willie Soon, Can Climate Models Predict Future Weather? in 2001.

Baliunas and Soon were the co-authors of an article titled “Proxy climatic and environmental changes of the past 1000 years” in Climate Research that claimed global warming was not produced by greenhouse gas emissions but by the sun. The article was considered so shoddy that 13 scientists cited in the work wrote to complain about how their work was misrepresented in the piece. Half the journal’s editorial board resigned over what they considered a failed peer-review process, which allowed a sub-standard paper in because of the editor’s political position. The editor who handled the paper, Chris de Freitas, is notorious for his statements against the IPCC’s findings.

So, one of the two has ties to the petroleum industry and the other to right-wing think tank that promotes less government intervention and is critical of the Kyoto Protocol and IPCC.

You can see where I’m going with this.

More later…

Posted by: climatewonk | November 26, 2009

Climate Gate

I haven’t posted in a while, but I thought I might update this blog since there seems to be quite the scandal breaking vis a vis the hacked CRU account and some of the comments therein.  I don’t have time now to do the whole issue justice, but will be trying to write an overview for readers in the next day or so.  In the meantime, from my brief sourjourn at various blogs, both deniers and supporters of global warming science, it appears that there will be a great deal of damage control in the next while as people both rush to judge and rush to cover their asses.

A good overview at Real Climate. For a skeptical take on the issue, there are too many to mention, but of course, you could try Watts Up With That. I think it’s important to monitor both “deniers” and “warmers” as well as the media in general to see how this develops. I have many thoughts about this from a policy perspective and will post forthwith.

More later.

Posted by: climatewonk | February 25, 2009

West Antarctic Warming Greater Than Predicted

Guess deniers were wrong after all.

Posted by: climatewonk | July 9, 2008

This just in — Muzzling Science — Again

An article in the Washington Post today on how VP Cheney’s staff edited — censored — testimony of a CDC official about the health threat due to global warming.

Members of Vice President Cheney’s staff censored congressional testimony by a top federal official about health threats posed by global warming, a former Environmental Protection Agency official said yesterday.

Posted by: climatewonk | June 14, 2008

Wilkins Ice Shelf Breakup

Breakup images of the Wilkins Ice Shelf.

Nod to Hank Roberts for his link at Real Climate.

Posted by: climatewonk | June 5, 2008

Measurement Bias and SSTs in the News

According to an article in the New York Times, measurement bias had a role to play in the apparent drop in SSTs during the 1940s, but has no consequence for long term trends — abstract in Science.

Data sets used to monitor the Earth’s climate indicate that the surface of the Earth warmed from 1910 to 1940, cooled slightly from 1940 to 1970, and then warmed markedly from 1970 onward1. The weak cooling apparent in the middle part of the century has been interpreted in the context of a variety of physical factors, such as atmosphere–ocean interactions and anthropogenic emissions of sulphate aerosols2. Here we call attention to a previously overlooked discontinuity in the record at 1945, which is a prominent feature of the cooling trend in the mid-twentieth century. The discontinuity is evident in published versions of the global-mean temperature time series1, but stands out more clearly after the data are filtered for the effects of internal climate variability. We argue that the abrupt temperature drop of 0.3 °C in 1945 is the apparent result of uncorrected instrumental biases in the sea surface temperature record. Corrections for the discontinuity are expected to alter the character of mid-twentieth century temperature variability but not estimates of the century-long trend in global-mean temperatures.

Posted by: climatewonk | June 3, 2008

Muzzling Climate Science in the Bush Administration

Apparently, Jim Hansen was right. The Bush Admin was trying to obfuscate, deceive and delay.

From the fall of 2004 through 2006, the report said, NASA’s public affairs office “managed the topic of climate change in a manner that reduced, marginalized, or mischaracterized climate change science made available to the general public.” It noted elsewhere that “news releases in the areas of climate change suffered from inaccuracy, factual insufficiency, and scientific dilution.”

Officials of the Office of Public Affairs told investigators that they regulated communication by NASA scientists for technical rather than political reasons, but the report found “by a preponderance of the evidence, that the claims of inappropriate political interference made by the climate change scientists and career public affairs officers were more persuasive than the arguments of the senior public affairs officials that their actions were due to the volume and poor quality of the draft news releases.”

The political interference did not extend to the research itself or its dissemination through scientific journals and conferences, the investigators said. “We found no evidence indicating NASA blocked or interfered with the actual research activities of its climate scientists,” the report said, but as a result of the actions of the political appointees, “trust was lost, at least temporarily, between the agency and some of its key employees and perhaps the public it serves.”

Posted by: climatewonk | May 18, 2008

This just in — New ice core data

New ice core data shows that greenhouse gasses higher today than during entire 800,000 years of data.

This is why I have been absent from this blog and the climate blogosphere for the past month or so. I am so tired of the climate wars, so fed up with the denialists and their deception and outright stupidity. Of course, the persistant among them will demand to see the data, will decry that it takes too long to get it, will cast aspersions against the scientists involved and will find all manner of ways to discount this data.

I’m fed up to my craw. I guess I don’t have the heart for it. I’m going to focus on the research rather than the naysayers, for their time is past and they are nothing but a human liability. Posts from now on will only focus on evidence and research, not on the foibles of the denialists and their ilk.

Posted by: climatewonk | April 24, 2008

This just in — Arctic Ice

Arctic ice disappearing at an alarming rate, according to an article in the Vancouver Sun.

Ice was the last thing David Barber was worried about when he and an international team of scientists made plans last year to have their research icebreaker frozen into the Beaufort Sea for the winter.

But when the Amundsen sailed into the western Arctic in November, the ice that normally begins to take hold in October hadn’t even begun to gel.

“Even by mid-December, the southern Beaufort Sea was still wide open,” said Barber, a University of Manitoba sea ice physicist and chief scientist aboard the Amundsen. “That’s over a month longer than the time freeze-up normally occurs.”

Barber and his colleagues got an even bigger surprise when they sailed north into M’Clure Strait, the main channel connecting the Northwest Passage to the western Arctic. The strait is legendary as a gateway for thick, rock-hard, multi-year ice that piles in from the Beaufort Sea, but Barber and his colleagues found nothing but clear sailing.

“It was surreal,” he said. “The weeks spent on the ship were some of the most remarkable of my career. The multi-year pack ice had migrated about 150 miles (240 kilometres) north from where it has traditionally been located. So the ice-associated, high-pressure system that traditionally forms over the southern Beaufort at this time of year was displaced.

“All that cyclonic activity that was drawn in by the warm, open water not only made for some rough sailing, it also put more heat into the air, keeping the local climate warmer than usual

Deniers will point to this and argue that the models didn’t predict this much warming and so the loss of ice must be due to factors other than AGHGs. Certainly climate science does not understand the complexities of ocean circulation and all the other factors involved in arctic climate perfectly. However, this should not give us any cause to lollygag. Quite the opposite.

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