Posts tagged ‘hockey’

Good Money After Bad

I was absolutely astounded several years ago when the city of Glendale (a suburb NW of Phoenix) agreed to shell out $180 million to build an arena to try to keep a pro hockey team (the Coyotes) in town.   Now, they are considering doubling their investment:

Will the Glendale City Council vote to shell out nearly $200 million in a deal aimed at keeping the Coyotes in town for at least 30 years?

But there is nothing simple about the decision facing elected officials in the West Valley city that has yearned to build its reputation as a sports and entertainment hot spot.

The deal involves Glendale taxpayers giving $100 million to Matthew Hulsizer, a Chicago businessman poised to buy the Phoenix Coyotes from the National Hockey League.

And, the Arizona Republic's Rebekah Sanders reports that "Glendale would pay Hulsizer $97 million over the next 5 1/2 years to manage the arena, schedule concerts and other non-hockey events."

Unbelievable.  The value destruction here is amazing.  A few years ago, the Coyotes were only valued at $117 million.  So the government will have subsidized an entity worth just north of $100 million with $400 million in taxpayer dollars?  Nice investment.  Of course they have a BS study about net economic impact of the Coyotes, with a sure-to-be exaggerated figure of $24.5 million a year.  But even accepting this figure, they are spending $400 million for at most $24.5 million in economic impact, which at best maybe translates into $2-3 million a year in extra taxes.  That works, how?

Losing more than 40 major events, that is hockey games, per year at the arena would be a punch-in-the-gut to bars, restaurants and retail shops that also call Westgate home.

Here is a hint:  I pretty much guarantee the buyout value or moving cost of these businesses is less than $200 million.  But here are the most amazing "economics"

that would only further jam up Glendale, which counts on sales tax revenues those businesses generate to pay off the debt it has amassed in trying to build its sports empire.

So we are going to spend $200 million to make sure we can keep up the debt service on the previous $180 million?  So where does the $200 million come from.  I am increasingly buying into Radley Balko's theory that the media is not liberal or conservative, just consistently statist.  Here is the comment on the Goldwater Institute's legal challenge

City officials also may face a legal challenge from the Goldwater Institute over the conservative think-tank's belief that the deal Glendale has cooked up violates state laws that prohibit government subsidies to private entities.

That, of course, means that the city will rack up untold legal fees to defend their deal.

Waaaaa!  More legal fees.  Is that really their biggest concern?  How about the strong possibility that Goldwater is correct, or a mention that they have won in court recently in similar cases.  But we will end with this happy thought:

Now, if they say yes to the $200-million giveaway, they may keep the team in town but are only piling on to that massive debt.

And as their initial deal with the team and previous team owners has proven, there are no guarantees that the $200 million will be enough.

Postscript: Local papers have never seen a sports team subsidy or new stadium they did not love.  Given the quality of their news departments, local sports teams sell newspapers.

PS#2: Long ago I wrote a post on subsidies for business relocations and the prisoners dilemma.

A Really Bad Idea

Regular readers will have no doubts about my skepticism of the theory of catastrophic man-made global warming.  In particular, in these pages and at Climate Skeptic, I have repeatedly criticized the details of Michael Mann's work on the hockey stick.  I won't repeat those issues today, though some of the past articles are indexed here.

That being said, efforts by Republicans in Virginia to bring legislative or even criminal action against Mann for his work when he was at the University of Virginia is about the worst idea I have heard in quite some time.  Though nominally about forcing public disclosure (something I am always in favor of from state entities) the ultimate goal is to drag Mann into court

Cuccinelli has said he wants to see whether a fraud investigation would be warranted into Mann's work, which showed that the earth has experienced a rapid, recent warming

[As an aside, this is actually NOT what Mann's hockey stick work purports to show.  The point of the hockey stick is to make the case that historic temperatures before 1850 were incredibly stable and flat, and thus recent increases of 0.6-0.8C over the last 150 years are unprecedented in comparison.   His research added nothing to our knowledge about recent warming, it was on focused on pre-industrial warming.   The same folks that say with confidence the science is settled don't even understand it].

For those frustrated with just how bad Mann's work is and upset at the incredible effort to protect this work from criticism or scrutiny by hiding key data (as documented in the East Anglia climategate emails), I know it must feel good to get some sort of public retribution.  But the potential precedent here of bringing up scientists on charges essentially for sloppy or incorrect work is awful.

Bad science happens all the time, completely absent any evil conspiracies.  Human nature is to see only the data that confirms ones hypotheses and, if possible, to resists scrutiny and criticism.  This happens all the time in science and if we started hauling everyone into court or into a Senate committee, we have half of academia there  (and then likely the other half when the party in power changed).  Team politics are a terrible disease and the last thing we need is to drag them any further into science and academia.

Science will eventually right itself, and what is needed is simply the time and openness to allow adversarial scrutiny and replication within academia to run its course.  Seriously, are we next going to drag the cold fusion guys in to court?  How about all the folks in the geology field that resisted plate tectonics for so long.  Will we call to account the losers in the string theory debate?

If legislators want to help, they can

  • Make sure there are standards in place for archiving and public availability of any data and code associated with government funded research
  • Improve the governments own climate data management
  • Ensure that state funding is distributed in a way to support a rich dialog on multiple sides of contested scientific issues.

Climate Interview

Last week I did a very enjoyable interview Stefan Molyneux of FreeDomain Radio. My presence was almost superfluous, as Stefan was incredibly well-informed as well as passionate on climate topics. Our discussion hits on many critical topics related to the science of the skeptics position, from positive feedbacks to urban heat biases to hockey sticks. The interview is embedded below, but I encourage you to check out his site, he seems to get a lot of interesting interviews of which I appear to be the most pedestrian.

Another Example of Hosing Creditors in Bankruptcy?

I am not at all a bankruptcy expert, but I have watched the Administration's efforts to evade bankruptcy law in favor of the UAW and at the expense of secured creditors with great interest.

I am wondering now whether something similar might be going on in the Phoenix Coyote's hockey team bankruptcy.  The Coyotes are in bankruptcy, and the former owner (there is actually an interesting question as to whether he still is the owner) has solicited an offer of $212.5 million for the team from Jim Balsillie, contingent on Jim moving the team to Canada.   This amount would pay off some but not all the creditors and would not leave the stadium authority whole on their lease (though I have limited sympathy there, as I begged and pleaded for our local governments not to subsidize hockey in Arizona).

Now, the league is demanding an extra $100+ million to be paid to the other team owners by Balsillie as a relocation fee for the team as an adjunct to the sale.  There is some sense that this is a poison pill to kill the deal, because the league is mad that a) this sale is happening without its involvement and b) they sense the team has not done enough to keep the team in Arizona.

Nevertheless, if Balsillie were to agree to pay the extra $100 million, isn't this a total ripoff of creditors?  In effect, he will be paying $312.5 for the team, but structuring the transaction so NHL team owners, rather than Coyote's creditors, get $100 million of the transaction.  Am I missing something?

Disclosure:  Jim Balsillie and I were section-mates at HBS.

Phrase That Needs to Be Expunged From The Political Lexicon: "Peer Reviewed"

Yesterday, while I was waiting for my sandwich at the deli downstairs, I was applying about 10% of my conciousness to CNN running on the TV behind the counter.  I saw some woman, presumably in the Obama team, defending some action of the administration being based on "peer reviewed" science.

This may be a legacy of the climate debate.  One of the rhetorical tools climate alarmists have latched onto is to inflate the meaning of peer review.  Often, folks, like the person I saw on TV yesterday, use "peer review" as a synonym for "proven correct and generally accepted in its findings by all right-thinking people who are not anti-scientific wackos."

But in fact peer review has a much narrower function, and certainly is not, either in intent or practice,  any real check or confirmation of the study in question.  The main goals of peer review are:

  • Establish that the article is worthy of publication and consistent with the scope of the publication in question.  They are looking to see if the results are non-trivial, if they are new (ie not duplicative of findings already well-understood), and in some way important.  If you think of peer-reviewers as an ad hoc editorial board for the publication, you get closest to intent
  • Reviewers will check, to the extent they can, to see if the methodology  and its presentation is logical and clear -- not necesarily right, but logical and clear.  Their most frequent comments are for clarification of certain areas of the work or questions that they don't think the authors answered.
  • Peer review is not in any way shape or form a proof that a study is correct, or even likely to be correct.  Enormous numbers of incorrect conclusions have been published in peer-reviewed journals over time.  This is demonstrably true.  For example, at any one time in medicine, for every peer-reviewed study I can usually find another peer-reviewed study with opposite or wildly different findings.
  • Studies are only accepted as likely correct a over time the community tries as hard as it can to poke holes in the findings.  Future studies will try to replicate the findings, or disprove them.  As a result of criticism of the methodology, groups will test the findings in new ways that respond to methodological criticisms.  It is the accretion of this work over time that solidifies confidence  (Ironically, this is exactly the process that climate alarmists want to short-circuit, and even more ironically, they call climate skeptics "anti-scientific" for wanting to follow this typical scientific dispute and replication process).

Further, the quality and sharpness of peer review depends a lot on the reviewers chosen.  For example, a peer review of Rush Limbaugh by the folks at LGF, Free Republic, and Powerline might not be as compelling as a peer review by Kos or Kevin Drum.

But instead of this, peer review is used by folks, particularly in poitical settings, as a shield against criticism, usually for something they don't understand and probably haven't even read themselves.  Here is an example dialog:

Politician or Activist:  "Mann's hockey stick proves humans are warming the planet"

Critic:  "But what about Mann's cherry-picking of proxy groups; or the divergence problem  in the data; or the fact that he routinely uses proxy's as a positive correlation in one period and different correlation in another; or the fact that the results are most driven by proxys that have been manually altered; or the fact that trees really make bad proxies, as they seldom actually display the assumed linear positive relationship between growth and temperature?"

Politician or Activist, who 99% of the time has not even read the study in question and understands nothing of what critic is saying:  "This is peer-reviewed science!  You can't question that."

Fake but Accurate -- Now Coming to the Hard Sciences

Most of us remember the famous "fake but accurate" defense of Dan Rather's story on GWB using forged National Guard documents.  If the post-modernism movement were to have an insignia, their tag line  (their "E. Pluribus Unum') could well be "fake but accurate." 

I have written for a while that post-modernism seems to be coming to the hard sciences (I differentiate the hard sciences, because the soft sciences like sociology or women's studies are already dominated by post-modernist thinking).  For example, I quoted this:

those of you who cling to scientific method, this is pretty bizarre
stuff. But she, and many others, are dead serious about it. If a
research finding could harm a class of persons, the theory is that
scientists should change the way they talk about that finding. Since scientific method is a way of building a body of knowledge based on skeptical testing, replication, and publication, this is a problem.The tight framework of scientific method mandates figuring out what would disprove the theory being tested and then looking for the disproof.
The thought process that spawned the scientific revolution was
inherently skeptical, which is why disciples of scientific method say
that no theory can be definitively and absolutely proved, but only
disproved (falsified). Hypotheses are elevated to the status of
theories largely as a result of continued failures to disprove the
theory and continued conformity of experimentation and observation with
the theory, and such efforts should be conducted by diverse parties.Needless to say postmodernist schools of thought and scientific method are almost polar opposites.

So here is today's example of fake but accurate in the sciences, not surprisingly also from climate science:

While the critic's advice - to use trained statisticians in studies
reliant on statistics - may seem too obvious to need stating, the
"science is settled" camp resists it. Mann's hockey-stick graph may be
wrong, many experts now acknowledge, but they assert that he
nevertheless came to the right conclusion.

To which the critics,
and doubtless others who want more rigourous science, shake their heads
in disbelief. They are baffled by the claim that the incorrect method
doesn't matter because the answer is correct anyway. With bad science, only true believers can assert that they nevertheless obtained the right answer.

A huge number of physicists and geologists who actually take the time to look into the details of climate science come away being shocked at the scholarship.  Take a world class physicist, drop him into a discussion of the details of the Mann hockey stick analysis, and in an hour you will have a skeptic.

Crazy?  Remember the words of from National Center for Atmospheric Research (NOAA) climate researcher and global warming action promoter, Steven Schneider:

have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements,
and make little mention of any doubts we have. Each of us has to decide
what the right balance is between being effective and being honest.

Math Geek Humor

In his analysis of his hockey stick temperature reconstruction, Michel Mann claimed that his results were robust to changes in certain weighting factors.  Humorously, Steven McIntyre demonstrates that it is robust because when you do the math, the weighting factors actually cancel out of  all the equations.  In effect, Mann was saying that y =3x/x  gives the answer "3" robustly for all values of x (well, except zero).  True, but scientifically meaningless.  But worrisome when a scientist has to run numerous simulations to discover the fact.  I presume he thought his weighting factors were actually doing something in his model.

Reason #4163 to be really, really confident in those climate models these guys are building.

Chapter 4: The Historical Evidence for Man-made Global Warming (Skeptics Guide to Global Warming)

The table of contents for the rest of this paper, . 4A Layman's Guide to Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) is here Free pdf of this Climate Skepticism paper is here and print version is sold at cost here

I mentioned earlier that there is little or no empirical
evidence directly linking increasing CO2 to the current temperature changes in the
Earth (at least outside of the lab), and even less, if that is possible, linking man's contribution to CO2
levels to global warming.  It is important to note that this lack of
empirical data is not at all fatal to the theory.  For example, there is a
thriving portion of the physics community developing string theory in great
detail, without any empirical evidence whatsoever that it is a correct
representation of reality. Of course, it is a bit difficult to call a theory
with no empirical proof "settled" and, again using the example of string
theory, no one in the physics community would seriously call string theory a
settled debate, despite the fact it has been raging at least twice as long as
the AGW debate.

One problem is that AGW is a fairly difficult proposition to
test.  For example, we don't have two Earths such that we could use one as
the control and one as the experiment.  Beyond laboratory tests, which
have only limited usefulness in explaining the enormously complex global
climate, most of the attempts to develop empirical evidence have involved
trying to develop and correlate historical CO2 and temperature records.
If such records could be developed, then temperatures could be tested against
CO2 and other potential drivers to find correlations.  While there is
always a danger of finding false causation in correlations, a strong historical
temperature-CO2 correlation would certainly increase our confidence in AGW

Five to seven years ago, climate scientists thought they had
found two such smoking guns:  one in ice core data going back 650,000
years, and one in Mann's hockey stick using temperature proxy data going back
1,000 years.  In the last several years, substantial issues have arisen
with both of these analyses, though this did not stop Al Gore from using both
in his 2006 film.

Remember what we said early on.  The basic "proof" of
anthropogenic global warming theory outside the laboratory is that CO2 rises
have at least a loose correlation with warming, and that scientists "can't
think of anything else" that might be causing warming other than CO2.

The long view
(650,000 years)

When I first saw it years ago, I thought one of the more compelling charts
from Al Gore's PowerPoint deck, which was made into the movie An Inconvenient
, was the six-hundred thousand year close relationship between
atmospheric CO2 levels and global temperature, as discovered in ice core
analysis.  Here is Al Gore with one of those great Really Big Charts.

If you are connected to the internet, you can watch this segment of Gore's
movie at YouTube
.   I will confess that this segment is
incredibly powerful -- I mean, what kind of Luddite could argue with this
Really Big Chart?

Because it is hard to read in the movie, here is the data set that Mr. Gore
is drawing from, taken from page 24 of the recent fourth IPCC report.

Unfortunately, things are a bit more complicated than presented by Mr. Gore
and the IPCC.  In fact, Gore is really, really careful how he narrates
this piece.  That is because, by the time this movie was made, scientists
had been able to study the ice core data a bit more carefully.  When they
first measured the data, their time resolution was pretty course, so the two
lines looked to move together.  However, with better laboratory procedure,
the ice core analysts began to find something funny.  It turns out that
for any time they looked at in the ice core record, temperatures actually
increased on average 800 years before CO2 started to increase.
When event B occurs after event A, it is really hard to argue that B caused A.

So what is really going on?  Well, it turns out that most of the
world's CO2 is actually not in the atmosphere, it is dissolved in the
oceans.  When global temperatures increase, the oceans give up some of
their CO2, outgassing it into the atmosphere and increasing atmospheric
concentrations.  Most climate scientists today (including AGW supporters)
agree that some external force (the sun, changes in the Earth's tilt and
rotation, etc) caused an initial temperature increase at the beginning of the
temperature spikes above, which was then followed by an increase in atmospheric
CO2 as the oceans heat up.

What scientists don't agree on is what happens next.
Skeptics tend to argue that whatever caused the initial temperature
increase drives the whole cycle.  So, for example, if the sun caused the
initial temperature increase, it also drove the rest of the increase in that
cycle.  Strong AGW supporters on the other hand argue that while the sun
may have caused the initial temperature spike and outgassing of CO2 from the
oceans, further temperature increases were caused by the increases in CO2.

The AGW supporters may or may not be right about this two-step
approach.   However, as you can see, the 800-year lag substantially
undercuts the ice core data as empirical proof that CO2 is the main driver of
global temperatures, and completely disproves the hypothesis that CO2 is the
only key driver of global temperatures.  We will return to this 800-year
lag and these two competing explanations later when we discuss feedback loops.

The medium view
(1000 years)

Until about 2000, the dominant reconstruction of the last
1000 years of global temperatures was similar to that shown in this chart from
the 1990 IPCC report:


There are two particularly noticeable features on this
chart.  The first is what is called the "Medieval Warm Period", peaking in
the 13th century, and thought (at least 10 years ago) to be warmer
than our climate today.  The second is the "Little Ice Age" which ended at
about the beginning of the industrial revolution.  Climate scientists
built this reconstruction with a series of "proxies", including tree rings and
ice core samples, which (they hope) exhibit properties that are strongly
correlated with historical temperatures.

However, unlike the 650,000 year construction, scientists
have another confirmatory source for this period: written history.
Historical records (at least in Europe) clearly show that the Middle Ages was
unusually warm, with long growing seasons and generally rich harvests (someone
apparently forgot to tell Medieval farmers that they should have smaller crops
in warmer weather).  In Greenland, we know that Viking farmers settled in
what was a much warmer period in Greenland than we have today (thus the oddly
inappropriate name for the island) and were eventually driven out by falling
temperatures.  There are even clearer historical records for the Little
Ice Age, including accounts of the Thames in London and the canals in Amsterdam
freezing on an annual basis, something that happened seldom before or since.

Of course, these historical records are imperfect.  For
example, our written history for this period only covers a small percentage of
the world's land mass, and land only covers a small percentage of the world's
surface.  Proxies, however have similar problems.  For example, tree
rings only can come from a few trees that cover only a small part of the
Earth's surface.  After all, it is not every day you bump into a tree that
is a thousand years old (and that anyone will let you cut down to look at the
rings).  In addition, tree ring growth can be covariant with more than
just temperature (e.g. precipitation);  in fact, as we continue to study
tree rings, we actually find tree ring growth diverging from values we might
expect given current temperatures (more on this in a bit).

Strong AGW supporters found the 1990 IPCC temperature
reconstruction shown above awkward for their cause.  First, it seemed to
indicate that current higher temperatures were not unprecedented, and even
coincided with times of relative prosperity.  Further, it seems to show
that global temperatures fluctuate widely and frequently, thus begging the
question whether current warming is just a natural variation, an expected
increase emerging from the Little Ice Age.

So along comes strong AGW proponent (and
founder) Michael Mann of the University of Massachusetts.  Mann
electrified the climate world, and really the world as a whole, with his revised
temperature reconstruction, shown below, and called "the Hockey Stick."


Gone was the Little Ice Age.  Gone was the Medieval
Warm Period.  His new reconstruction shows a remarkably stable, slightly
downward trending temperature record that leaps upward in 1900.  Looking
at this chart, who could but doubt that our current global climate experience
was something unusual and unprecedented.  It is easy to look at this chart
and say "“ wow, that must be man-made!

In fact, the hockey stick chart was used by AGW supporters
in just this way.  Surely, after a period of stable temperatures, the 20th
century jump is an anomaly that seems to point its finger at man (though if one
stops the chart at 1950, before the period of AGW, the chart, interestingly, is
still a hockey stick, though with only natural causes).

Based on this analysis, Mann famously declared that the 1990's were the
warmest decade in a millennia and that "there is a 95 to 99% certainty
that 1998 was the hottest year in the last one thousand years." (By
the way, Mann now denies he ever made this claim, though you can watch him say
these exact words in the CBC documentary Global
Warming:  Doomsday Called Off
   If this is not hubris
enough, the USAToday
published a graphic
, based on Mann's analysis and which is still online as
of this writing, which purports to show the world's temperature within .0001
degree for every year going back two thousand years!

To reconcile historical written records with this new view of climate
history, AGW supporters argue that the Medieval Warm Period (MWP) was limited
only to Europe and the North Atlantic (e.g. Greenland) and in fact the rest of
the world may not have been warmer. Ice core analyses have in fact verified a MWP
in Greenland, but show no MWP in Antarctica (though, as I will show later,
Antarctica is not warming yet in the current warm period, so perhaps Antarctic
ice samples are not such good evidence of global warming).  AGW
supporters, then, argue that our prior belief in a MWP was based on written
records that are by necessity geographically narrowly focused.  Of course,
climate proxy records are not necessarily much better.  For example, from
the fourth IPCC report, page 55, here are the locations of proxies used to
reconstruct temperatures in AD1000:

As seems to be usual in these reconstructions, there were a lot of arguments
among scientists about the proxies Mann used, and, just as important, chose not
to use.  I won't get into all that except to say that many other climate archaeologists did not and do not agree with his choice of proxies and still
support the existence of a Little Ice Age and a Medieval Warm Period.
There also may be systematic errors in the use of these proxies which I will
get to in a minute. 

But some of Mann's worst
failings were in the realm of statistical methodology.  Even as a layman,
I was immediately able to see a problem with the hockey stick:  it shows a
severe discontinuity or inflection point at the exact same point that
the data source switches between two different data sets (i.e.  from
proxies to direct measurement).  This is quite problematic.
  Syun-Ichi Akasofu makes the observation that when you don't try to
splice these two data sets together, and just look at one (in this case,
proxies from Arctic ice core data as well as actual Arctic temperature
measurements) the result is that the 20th century warming in fact
appears to be part of a 250 year linear trend, a natural recovery from the
little ice age  (the scaling for the ice core data at top is a chemical
composition variable thought to be proportional to temperature).

However, the real bombshell was dropped on Mann's work by a couple of
Canadian scientists named Stephen McIntyre and Ross McKitrick (M&M).
M&M had to fight an uphill battle, because Mann resisted their third party
review of his analysis at every turn, and tried to deny them access to his data
and methodology, an absolutely unconscionable violation of the principles of
science (particularly publicly funded science).  M&M got very good at
filing Freedom of Information Act Requests (or the Canadian equivalent)

Eventually, M&M found massive flaws with Mann's statistical approach,
flaws that have since been confirmed by many experts, such that there are few
people today that treat Mann's analysis seriously (At best, his supporters
defend his work with a mantra roughly akin to "fake but accurate."  I'll
quote the MIT
Technology Review
for M&M's key finding:

But now a shock: Canadian scientists Stephen
McIntyre and Ross McKitrick have uncovered a fundamental mathematical flaw in
the computer program that was used to produce the hockey stick. "¦

[Mann's] improper normalization procedure tends to
emphasize any data that do have the hockey stick shape, and to suppress all
data that do not. To demonstrate this effect, McIntyre and McKitrick created
some meaningless test data that had, on average, no trends. This method of
generating random data is called Monte Carlo analysis, after the famous casino,
and it is widely used in statistical analysis to test procedures. When
McIntyre and McKitrick fed these random data into the Mann procedure, out
popped a hockey stick shape!

.  Recently, a US Congressional Committee asked a group of
independent statisticians led by Dr. Edward Wegman, Chair of the National
Science Foundation's Statistical Sciences Committee, to evaluate the Mann
methodology.  Wegman et. al. savaged the Mann methodology as well as the
peer review process within the climate community.  From their findings:

It is important to note the isolation of the
paleoclimate community; even though they rely heavily on statistical methods
they do not seem to be interacting with the statistical community.
Additionally, we judge that the sharing of research materials, data and results
was haphazardly and grudgingly done. In this case we judge that there was too
much reliance on peer review, which was not necessarily independent. Moreover,
the work has been sufficiently politicized that this community can hardly
reassess their public positions without losing credibility. Overall, our committee
believes that Dr. Mann's assessments that the decade of the 1990s was the
hottest decade of the millennium and that 1998 was the hottest year of the
millennium cannot be supported by his analysis.

In 2007, the IPCC released its new climate report, and the
hockey stick, which was the centerpiece bombshell of the 2001 report, and which
was the "consensus" reconstruction of this "settled" science, can hardly be
found.  There is nothing wrong with errors in science; in fact, science is
sometimes advanced the most when mistakes are realized.  What is worrying
is the unwillingness by the IPCC to acknowledge a mistake was made, and to try
to learn from that mistake.  Certainly the issues raised with the hockey
stick are not mentioned in the most recent IPCC report, and an opportunity to
be a bit introspective on methodology is missed.  M&M, who were ripped
to shreds by the global warming community for daring to question the hockey
stick, are never explicitly vindicated in the report.  The climate
community slunk away rather than acknowledging error.

In response to the problems with the Mann analysis, the IPCC
has worked to rebuild confidence in its original conclusion (i.e. that recent
years are the hottest in a millennium) using the same approach it often
does:  When one line on the graph does not work, use twelve: 

As you can see, most of these newer analyses actually outdo
Mann by showing current warming to be even more pronounced than in the past
(Mann is the green line near the top).  This is not an unusual phenomenon
in global warming, as new teams try to outdo each other (for fame and funding)
in the AGW sales sweepstakes.  Just as you can tell the newest climate
models by which ones forecast the most warming, one can find the most recent
historical reconstructions by which ones show the coldest past. 

Where to start?  Well, first, we have the same problem
here that we have in Mann:  Recent data from an entirely different data
set (the black line) has been grafted onto the end of proxy data.  Always
be suspicious of inflection points in graphs that occur exactly where the data
source has changed.  Without the black line from an entirely different data set grafted on, the data would not form a hockey stick, or show anything particularly anomalous about the 20th century.  Notice also a little trick, by the way "“ observe how
far the "direct measurement" line has been extended.  Compare this to the
actual temperatures in the charts above.  The authors have taken the
liberty to extend the line at least 0.2 degrees past where it actually should
be to make the chart look more dramatic.

There are, however, some skeptics conclusions that can be
teased out of this data, and which the IPCC completely ignores.  For
example, as more recent studies have deepened the little ice age around
1600-1700, the concurrent temperature recovery is steeper (e.g. Hegerl 2007 and
Moberg 2005) such that without the graft of the black line, these proxies make
the 20th century look like part of the fairly linear temperature
increase since 1700 or at least 1800.

But wait, without that black line grafted on, it looks like the
proxies actually level off in the 20th century!  In fact, from
the proxy data alone, it looks like the 20th century is nearly
flat.  In fact, this effect would have been even more dramatic if lead
author Briffa hadn't taken extraordinary liberties with the data in his
study.   Briffa (who replaced Mann as the lead author on this section
for the Fourth Report) in 2001 initially showed proxy-based temperatures falling
in the last half of the 20th century until he dropped out a bunch of
data points by truncating the line around 1950.  Steve McIntyre has
reconstructed the original Briffa analysis below without the truncation (pink
line is measured temperatures, green line is Briffa's proxy data).  Oops.











Note that this ability to just drop out data that does not
fit is NOT a luxury studies have in the era before the temperature record
existed.  By the way, if you are wondering if I am being fair to Briffa,
here is his explanation
for why he truncated

In the absence of a substantiated
explanation for the decline, we make the assumption that it is likely to be a
response to some kind of recent anthropogenic forcing. On the basis of this
assumption, the pre-twentieth century part of the reconstructions can be
considered to be free from similar events and thus accurately represent past
temperature variability.

Did you get that?  "Likely to be a response to some
kind of recent anthropogenic forcing."  Of course, he does not know what
that forcing on his tree rings is and can't prove this statement, but he throws
the data out none-the-less.  This is the editor and lead author for the
historical section of the IPCC report, who clearly has anthropogenic effects on
the brain.  Later studies avoided Briffa's problem by cherry-picking data
sets to avoid the same result.

We'll get back to this issue of the proxies diverging from
measured temperatures in the moment.  But let's take a step back and ask
"So should 12 studies telling the same story (at least once they are truncated
and "corrected') make us more confident in the answer?"  It is at this
point that it is worth making a brief mention of the concept of "systematic
error."   Imagine the problem of timing a race.  If one feared
that any individual might make a mistake in timing the race, he could get say
three people to time the race simultaneously, and average the results.
Then, if in a given race, one person was a bit slow or fast on the button, his
error might be averaged out with the other two for a result hopefully closer to
the correct number.  However, let's say that all three are using the same
type of watch and this type watch always runs slow.  In this case, no amount
of extra observers are going to make the answer any better "“ all the times will
be too low.  This latter type of error is called systematic error, and is
an error that, due to some aspect of a shared approach or equipment or data
set, multiple people studying the same problem can end up with the same error.

There are a couple of basic approaches that all of these
studies share.  For example, they all rely heavily on the same tree ring
proxies (in fact the same fifty or sixty trees), most of which are of one species
(bristlecone pine).  Scientists look at a proxy, such as tree rings, and
measure some dimension for each year.  In this case, they look at the tree
growth.  They compile this growth over hundreds of years, and get a data
set that looks like 1999- .016mm, 1998, .018mm  etc.  But how does
that correlate to temperature? What they do is pick a period, something like
1960-1990, and look at the data and say "we know temperatures average X from
1980 to 1990.  Since the tree rings grew Y, then we will use a scaling
factor of X/Y to convert our 1000 years of tree ring data to

I can think of about a million problems with this.
First and foremost, you have to assume that temperature is the ONLY driver for
the variation in tree rings.  Drought, changes in the sun, changing soil
composition or chemistry,  and even CO2 concentration substantially affect
the growth of trees, making it virtually impossible to separate out temperature
from other environmental effects in the proxy.

Second, one is forced to assume that the scaling  of
the proxy is both linear and constant.  For example, one has to assume a
change from, say, 25 to 26 degrees has the same relative effect on the proxy as
a change from 30 to 31 degrees.  And one has to assume that this scaling
is unchanged over a millennium.  And if one doesn't assume the scaling is
linear, then one has the order-of-magnitude harder problem of deriving the
long-term shape of the curve from only a decade or two of data.  For a
thousand years, one is forced to extrapolate this scaling factor from just one
or two percent of the period.

But here is the problem, and a potential source for
systematic error affecting all of these studies:  Current proxy data is
wildly undershooting prediction of temperatures over the last 10-20
years.  In fact, as we learned above, the proxy data actually shows little
or no 20th century warming.  Scientists call this "divergence"
of the proxy data.  If Briffa had hadn't artificially truncated his data
at 1950, the effect would be even more dramatic.  Below is a magnification
of the spaghetti chart from above "“ remember the black line is "actual," the
other lines are the proxy studies.





In my mind, divergence is quite damning.  It implies
that scaling derived from 1960-1980 can't even hold up for the next decade,
much less going back 1000 years!  And if proxy data today can be
undershooting actual temperatures (by a wide margin) then it implies it could
certainly be undershooting reality 700 years ago.  And recognize that I am
not saying one of these studies is undershooting "“ they almost ALL are
undershooting, meaning they may share the same systematic error.  (It
could also mean that measured surface temperatures are biased high, which we
will address a bit later.

The short view (100

The IPCC reports that since 1900, the world's surface has
warmed about 0.6C, a figure most folks will accept (with some provisos I'll get
to in a minute about temperature measurement biases).  From
the NOAA Global Time Series:


This is actually about the same data in the Mann hockey stick chart -- it
only looks less frightening here (or more frightening in Mann) due to the
miracle of scaling.  Next, we can overlay CO2:


This chart is a real head-scratcher for scientists trying to
prove a causal relationship between CO2 and global temperatures.  By
theory, temperature increases from CO2 should be immediate, though the oceans
provide a big thermal sink that to this day is not fully understood.
However, from 1880 to 1910, temperatures declined despite a 15ppm increase in
CO2.  Then, from 1910 to 1940 there was another 15ppm increase in CO2 and
temperatures rose about 0.3 degrees.  Then, from 1940-1979, CO2 increased
by 30 ppm while temperatures declined again.  Then, from 1980 to present,
CO2 increased by 40 ppm and temperatures rose substantially.  By grossly
dividing these 125 years into these four periods, we see two long periods
totaling 70 years where CO2 increases but temperature declines and two long
periods totaling 55 years of both CO2 and temperature increases. 

By no means does this variation disprove a causal relation
between CO2 concentrations and global temperature.  However, it also can
be said that this chart is by no means a slam dunk testament to such a
relationship.  Here is how strong AGW supporters explain this data:
Strong AGW supporters will assign most, but not all, of the temperature
increase before 1950 to "natural" or non-anthropogenic causes.  The current
IPCC report in turn assigns a high probability that much or all of the warming after
1950 is due to anthropogenic sources, i.e. man-made CO2.  Which still
leaves the cooling between 1940 and 1979 to explain, which we will cover

Take this chart from the fourth IPCC report (the blue band
is what the IPCC thinks would have happened without anthropogenic effects, the
pink band is their models' output with man's influence, and the black line is
actual temperatures (greatly smoothed).

Scientists know that "something" caused the pre-1950
warming, and that something probably was natural, but they are not sure exactly
what it was, except perhaps a recovery from the little ice age.  This is
of course really no answer at all, meaning that this is just something we don't
yet know.  Which raises the dilemma: if whatever natural effects were
driving temperatures up until 1950 cannot be explained, then how can anyone say
with confidence that this mystery effect just stops after 1950, conveniently at
the exact same time anthropogenic warming "takes over"?  As you see here,
it is assumed that without anthropogenic effects, the IPCC thinks the world
would have cooled after 1950.  Why?  They can't say.  In fact, I
will show later that this assumption is really just a necessary plug to prevent
their models from overestimating historic warming.  There is good evidence
that the sun has been increasing its output and would have warmed the world,
man or no man, after 1950. 

But for now, I leave you with the question "“ If we don't
know what natural forcing caused the early century warming, then how can we say
with confidence it stopped after 1950?
  (By the way, for those of you
who already know about global cooling/dimming and aerosols, I will just say for
now that these effects cannot be making the blue line go down because the IPCC
considers these anthropogenic effects, and therefore in the pink band.
For those who have no idea what I am talking about, more in a bit).

Climate scientist Syun-Ichi Akasofu of the International
Arctic Research Center at University of Alaska Fairbanks makes
a similar point
, and highlights the early 20th century
temperature rise:

Again, what drove the Arctic warming up through 1940?
And what confidence do we have that this forcing magically went away and has
nothing to do with recent temperature rises?

Sulfates, Aerosols,
and Dimming

Strong AGW advocates are not content to say that CO2 is one
factor among many driving climate change.  They want to be able to say CO2
is THE factor.  To do so with the historical record over the last 100
years means they need to explain why the world cooled rather than warmed from

Strong AGW supporters would prefer to forget the global
cooling hysteria in the 1970s.  During that time, the media played up
scientific concerns that the world was actually cooling, potentially
re-entering an ice age, and that crop failures and starvation would
ensue.  (It is interesting that AGW proponents also predict agricultural
disasters due to warming.  I guess this means that we are, by great coincidence,
currently at the exact perfect world temperature for maximizing agricultural
output, since either cooling or warming would hurt production).  But even
if they want to forget the all-too-familiar hysteria, they still need to
explain the cooling.

What AGW supporters need is some kind of climate effect that
served to reduce temperatures starting in 1940 and that went away around
1980.  Such an effect may actually exist.

There is a simple experiment that meteorologists have run
for years in many places around the world.  They take a pan of water of
known volume and surface area and put it outside, and observe how long it takes
for the water to evaporate.  If one correctly adjusts the figures to
reflect changes in temperature and humidity, the resulting evaporation rate
should be related to the amount of solar irradiance reaching the pan.  In
running these experiments, there does seem to be a reduction of solar
irradiance reaching the Earth, perhaps by as much as 4% since 1950.  The
leading hypothesis is that this dimming is from combustion products including
sulfates and particulate matter, though at this point this is more of a
hypothesis than demonstrated cause and effect.  The effect is often called
"global dimming."

The aerosol hypothesis is that sulfate aerosols and black carbon are the
main cause of global dimming, as they tend to act to cool the Earth by
reflecting and scattering sunlight before it reaches the ground.  In
addition, it is hypothesized that these aerosols as well as particulates from
combustion may act to seed cloud formation in a way that makes clouds more
reflective.  The nations of the world are taking on sulfate and
particulate production, and will likely substantially reduce this production
long before CO2 production is reduced (mainly because it is possible with
current technology to burn fossil fuels with greatly reduced sulfate output,
but it is not possible to burn fossil fuels with greatly reduced CO2
output).  If so, we might actually see an upward acceleration in
temperatures if aerosols are really the cause of dimming, since their removal
would allow a sort-of warming catch-up.

Sulfates do seem to be a pretty good fit with the cooling
period, but a couple of things cause the fit to be well short of perfect.
First, according to Stern,
production of these aerosols worldwide (right) did not peak until 1990, at
level almost 20% higher than they were in the late 1970's when the global
cooling phenomena ended. 

One can also observe that sulfate production has not fallen
that much, due to new contributions from China and India and other developing
nations (interestingly, early drafts of the fourth IPCC report hypothesized
that sulfate production may not have decreased at all from its peak, due to
uncertainties in Asian production).  Even today, sulfate levels have not
fallen much below where they were in the late 1960's, at the height of the
global cooling phenomena, and higher than most of the period from 1940 to 1979
where their production is used to explain the lack of warming.

Further, because they are short-lived, these sulfate dimming effects really only can be
expected to operate over in a few isolated areas around land-based industrial areas, limiting their effect on global temperatures
since they effect only a quarter or so of the globe.   You can see this below, where high sulfate aerosol concentrations, show in orange and red, only cover a small percentage of the globe.


Given these areas, for the whole world to be cooled 1 degree C by aerosols and black carbon, the areas in orange and red would have to cool 15 or 20C, which absolutely no one has observed.  In fact, since as you can see, most of these aerosols are in the norther hemisphere, one would expect that, if cooling were a big deal, the northern hemisphere would have cooled vs. the southern, but in fact as we will see in a minute exactly the opposite is true -- the northern hemisphere is heating much faster than the south.  Research
has shown that dimming is three times greater in urban areas close to where the
sulfates are produced (and where most university evaporation experiments are
conducted) than in rural areas, and that in fact when you get out of the
northern latitudes where industrial society dominates, the effect may actually
reverse in the tropics.

There are, though, other potential explanations for
dimming.  For example, dimming may be an effect of global warming
itself.  As I will discuss in the section on feedback processes later,
most well-regulated natural systems have feedback mechanisms that tend to keep
trends in key variables from "running away."  In this case, warming may be
causing cloud formation due to increased evaporation from warmer oceans.

It is also not a done deal that test evaporation from pans
necessarily represents the rate of terrestrial evaporation.  In fact,
research has shown that pan evaporation can decrease because surrounding
evaporation increases, making the pan evaporation more an effect of atmospheric
water budgets and contents than irradiance.

This is a very important area for research, but as with
other areas where promoters of AGW want something to be true, beware what you
hear in the media about the science.  The IPCC's fourth report continues
to say that scientific understanding of many of these dimming issues is
"low."  Note also that global dimming does not "prove" AGW by any means,
it merely makes the temperature-CO2 correlation better in the last half of the
20th century.  All the other issues we have discussed remain.

The Troposphere
Dilemma and Urban heat islands

While global dimming may be causing us to under-estimate the
amount of global warming, other effects may be causing us to over-estimate
it.  One of the mysteries in climate science today has to do with
different rates of warming on the Earth's surface and in the troposphere (the
first 10km or so of atmosphere above the ground).  AGW theory is pretty
clear "“ the additional heat that is absorbed by CO2 is added to the
troposphere, so the troposphere should experience the most warming from
greenhouse gasses.  Some but not all of this warming will transfer to the
surface, such that we should expect temperature increases from AGW to be larger
in the troposphere than at the surface.

Well, it turns out that we have two ways to measure
temperature in the troposphere.  For decades, weather balloons have been
sent aloft to take temperature readings at various heights in the
atmosphere.  Since the early 70's, we have also had satellites capable of
mapping temperatures in the troposphere.  From Spencer and Christy, who
have done the hard work stitching the satellite data into a global picture,
comes this chart of satellite-measured temperatures in the troposphere.
The top chart is Global, the middle is the Northern Hemisphere, the bottom is
the Southern Hemisphere

You will probably note a couple of interesting things.
The first is that while the Northern hemisphere has apparently warmed about a
half degree over the last 20 years, the Southern hemisphere has not warmed at
all, at least in the troposphere.  You might assume this is because the
Northern Hemisphere produces most of the man-made CO2, but scientists have
found that there is very good global mixing in the atmosphere, and CO2
concentrations are about the same wherever you measure them.  Part of the
explanation is probably due to the fact that temperatures are more stable in
the Southern hemisphere (since land heats and cools faster than ocean, and
there is much more ocean in the southern half of the globe), but the surface
temperature records do not show such a north-south differential.  At the
end of the day, nothing in AGW adequately explains this phenomenon.  (As
an aside, remember that AGW supporters write off the Medieval Warm Period
because it was merely a local phenomena in the Northern Hemisphere not observed
in the south "“ can't we apply the same logic to the late 20th
century based on this satellite data?)

An even more important problem is that the global
temperature increases shown here in the troposphere over the last several
decades have been lower than on the ground, exactly opposite of predictions
by AGW theory,

In 2006, David Pratt
put together a combined chart of temperature anomalies, comparing satellite
measurements of the troposphere with ground temperature measurements.  He
found, as shown in the chart below, but as you can see for yourself visually in
the satellite data, that surface warming is substantially higher over the last
25 years than warming of the troposphere.  In fact, the measured anomaly
by satellite (and by balloon, as we will see in a minute) is half or less than
the measured anomaly at the surface.

There are a couple of possible explanations for this
inconsistency.  One, of course, is that there is something other than
CO2-driven AGW that is at least partially driving recent global temperature
increases.  We will cover several such possibilities in a later chapter on
alternative theories.  One theory that probably does not explain
this differential is global dimming.  If anything, global dimming should
work the other way, cooling the ground vs. the troposphere.  Also, since
CO2 works globally but SO2 dims locally, one would expect more cooling effect
in the northern vs. the southern hemisphere, while actually the opposite is


Another possible explanation, of course, is that one or the other
of these data sets has a measurement problem.  Take the satellite
data.  The measurement of global temperatures from space is a relatively
new art, and the scientists who compile the data set have been through a number
of iterations to their model for rolling the measurements into a reliable
global temperature (Christy just released version 6).  Changes over the
past years have actually increased some of the satellite measurements (the
difference between ground and surface used to be even greater).  However,
it is unlikely that the quality of satellite measurement is the entire reason
for the difference for the simple reason that troposphere measurement by
radiosonde weather balloons, a much older art, has reached very consistent
findings (if anything, they show even less temperature  increase since

A more likely explanation than troposphere measurement
problems is a measurement problem in the surface data.  Surface data is
measured at thousands of points, with instruments of varying types managed by
different authorities with varying standards.  For years, temperature
measurements have necessarily been located on land and usually near urban areas
in the northern hemisphere.  We have greatly increased this network over
time, but the changing mix of reporting stations adds its own complexity.

The most serious problem with land temperature data is from
urban heat islands.  Cities tend to heat their environment.  Black
asphalt absorbs heat, concrete covers vegetation, cars and power sources
produce heat.  The net effect is that a city is several degrees hotter
than its surroundings, an effect entirely different from AGW, and this effect
tends to increase over time as the city gets larger.   (Graphic
courtesy of Bruce Hall)

Climate scientists sometimes (GISS "“ yes, NOAA -- no)
attempt to correct measurements in urban areas for this effect, but this can be
chancy since the correction factors need to change over time, and no one really
knows exactly how large the factors need to be.   Some argue that the
land-based temperature set is biased too high, and some of the global warming
shown is in fact a result of the UHI effect.   

Anthony Watts
has done some great work surveying the problems with long-term temperature
measurement (some of which was obtained for this paper via Steve McIntyre's Climate Audit blog).
He has been collecting pictures of California measurement sites near his home,
and trying to correlate urban building around the measurement point with past
temperature trends.  More importantly, he has created an online database
at where
these photos are being put online for all researchers to access.

The tennis courts and nearby condos were built in 1980, just
as temperature measurement here began going up.  Here is another, in
Marysville, CA, surrounded by asphalt and right next to where cars park with
hot radiators.  Air conditioners vent hot air right near the thermometer,
and you can see reflective glass and a cell tower that reflect heat on the
unit.  Oh, and the BBQ the firemen here use 3 times a week.

So how much of this warming is
from the addition of air conditioning exhaust, asphalt paving, a nearby
building, and car radiators, and how much is due to CO2.  No one
knows.  The more amazing thing is that AGW supporters haven't even tried
to answer this question for each station, and don't even seem to care. 

As of June 28, 2007, The documentation effort received a setback when the NOAA, upon
learning of this effort, removed surface station location information from
their web site. The only conclusion is that the NOAA did not want the shameful
condition of some of these sites to be publicized. 

I have seen sites like RealClimate arguing in their myth
busting segments that the global temperature models are based only on rural
measurements.  First, this can't be, because most rural areas did not have
measurement in the early 20th century, and many once-rural areas are
now urban.  Also, this would leave out huge swaths of the northern
hemisphere.  And while scientists do try to do this in the US and Europe
(with questionable success, as evidenced by the pictures above of sites that
are supposedly "rural"), it is a hopeless and impossible task in the rest of
the world.  There just was not any rural temperature measurement in China
in 1910.

Intriguingly, Gavin Schmidt, a lead researcher at NASA's
GISS, wrote
Anthony Watts
that criticism of the quality of these individual temperature
station measurements was irrelevant because GISS climate data does not relay on
individual station data, it relies on grid cell data.  Just as background,
the GISS has divided the world into grid cells, like a matrix (example below).

Unless I am missing something fundamental, this is an
incredibly disingenuous answer.  OK, the GISS data and climate models use
grid cell data, but this grid cell data is derived from ground measurement
stations.  So just because there is a statistical processing step between
"station data" and "grid cell data" does not mean that at its core, all the
climate models don't rely on station data.  All of these issues would be
easier to check of course if NASA's GISS, a publicly funded research
organization, would publicly release the actual temperature data it uses and
the specific details of the algorithms it uses to generate and smooth and
correct grid cell data.  But, like most all of climate science, they
don't.  Because they don't want people poking into it and criticizing
it.  Just incredible.

As a final note, for those that think something as seemingly
simple as consistent temperature measurement is easy, check out this theory
courtesy of Anthony

It seems that weather stations shelters known as Stevenson Screens (the
white chicken coop like boxes on stilts housing thermometers outdoors) were
originally painted with whitewash, which is a lime based paint, and reflective
of infra-red radiation, but its no longer available, and newer paints have been
used that [have] much different IR characteristics.

Why is this important? Well, paints that appear
"white" and reflective in visible light have different properties in
infrared. Some paints can even appear nearly "black" and absorb a LOT
of infrared, and thus bias the thermometer. So the repainting of thousands of
Stevenson screens worldwide with paints of uncertain infrared characteristics
was another bias that has crept into the instrumental temperature records.

After running this test, Watts actually ran an experiment comparing wood
that had been whitewashed vs. using modern white latex paint.  The
whitewashed wood was 5 degrees cooler than the modern latex painted wood.

Using Computer Models to Explain the Past

It is often argued by AGW supporters that because the
historic warming is so close to what the current global warming models say
historic temperatures should look like, and because the models are driven by
CO2 forcings, then CO2 must be causing the historic temperature increase.
We are going to spend a lot of time with models in the next chapter, but here
are a few thoughts to tide us over on this issue.

The implication here is that scientists carefully crafted
the models based on scientific theory and then ran the models, which nearly
precisely duplicated history.  Wrong.  In fact, when the models were
first built, scientists did exactly this.  And what they got looked
nothing like history.

So they tweaked and tuned, changing a constant here, adding
an effect (like sulfates) there, changing assumptions about natural forcings,
until the models matched history.  The models match history because they
were fiddled with until they matched history.  The models say CO2 caused
warming because they were built on the assumption that CO2 causes
warming.  So, unless one wants to make an incredibly circular argument,
the models are useless in determining how much CO2 affects history.  But
we'll get to a lot more on models in the next chapter.

The table of contents for the rest of this paper, . 4A Layman's Guide to Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) is here Free pdf of this Climate Skepticism paper is here and print version is sold at cost here

The open comment thread for this paper can be found here. 

In Any Other Context, This Would Be Quackery

I am reading a speech by Michael Mann, the author of the now famous climate hockey stick, which has been criticized by statisticians and climatologists alike.  In particular, I am fascinated by the claim that "there is a 95 to 99% certainty that 1998 was the hottest year in the last one thousand years."

Forgetting the problems with his analysis, and forgetting all the other evidence that we have that in the Medieval warm period, the earth was probably hotter than it was today, just look at that sentence on its face.  Is there any other context where we would take a scientists near certainty about the value of a climate variable 500 years before man even started measuring it as anything but quackery?  If there was a way to reasonably bet against the proposition that 1998 was the hottest year of the millennium, I would do so even as a 1:1 proposition, but would leap at the chance to take the bet at 20:1 or 100:1 odds, which is essentially what Mann is proposing when he says he is 95-99 percent certain.

Am I Anti-Science?

I promise, cross my heart, this is my last post on climate change for a while.  I thought my series of posts last week about the funny math of carbon offsets was the last, but Joe Miller at Catallarchy wrote something that caused me some introspection:

Just one caveat, though: I'm really, seriously, profoundly uninterested
in your skepticism about man-made global warming. Personally, I think
that the debate is just about as fruitful as a discussion of the
relative merits of evolution and Genesis as models of the origins of
the universe. It's called scientific consensus, people. You seem to
like it well enough for every other subject. And even if that
overwhelming scientific consensus turns out to be wrong, it's not like
a debate here is going to help with that. When scientists are wrong,
it's up to, you know, like, other actual scientists to settle
the question. A bunch of non-scientists googling studies that say what
we like them to say isn't accomplishing much, really.

Certainly I have always been in favor of facts and science over hysteria.  I criticized the rampant breast implant litigation in the face of science that showed no real long-term harms.  Ditto vaccinations.  So am I being a Luddite by, as an amateur, being skeptical of the scientific "consensus" on global warming?  Certainly climate change hawks want to paint my positions as "holocaust denial."  I had a few thoughts:

  • For what it is worth, I have actually read much of the 2001 IPCC climate report (not the management summary, which is a worthless political document, but the report itself).  Courtesy of, who has posted some of the 2007 report, I have read key parts of that report as well.  So I have at least informed myself beyond random Google searches.  My original university training was as a scientist, and later an engineer, though neither in climate (physics and mechanical engineering).
  • The media has been known to declare a consensus ahead of its actual existence.  One example that comes to mind is a recent letter that a number of economists wrote supporting a Federal minimum wage increase, which much of the media spun into a "consensus" among economists that a minimum wage increase would be desirable and would not reduce employment.  I don't know Mr. Miller, but my bet is that some of the folks at Catallarchy might dispute this particular scientific consensus.
  • To even imply that there is a single consensus on something as complex and multi-faceted as anthropomorphic global warming is facile.  I will take the movie "An Inconvenient Truth" as a fair representation of what the media perception of the consensus is  (the IPCC report actually does not agree in full, but we will get there in a minute).  Taking that movie as our straw man, the "consensus" or hypothesis is as follows:
  1. The world has been warming for a century, and this warming is beyond any historical cycles we have seen over 1000 years  (ie, the hockey stick)
  2. The last century's warming is almost all due to man's burning of fossil fuels and other releases of greenhouse gasses
  3. In the next 100 years, CO2 produced by man will cause a lot more warming
  4. Positive feedbacks in the climate, like increased humidity, will act to triple the warming from CO2
  5. The bad effects of warming greatly outweigh the positive effects, and we are already seeing them today (polar bears dying, glaciers melting, etc)
  6. These bad effects, or even a small risk of them, easily justify massive intervention today in reducing economic activity and greenhouse gas production

I believe this is a mostly fair representation of the media reporting of the scientific "consensus", with the exception that the media never really goes into step #4, and assigns all the blame for 6-8 degree temperature rise forecasts to CO2.  But this split between #3 and #4 is important to understand the science at all, and is included in the IPCC report, so I will make it. 

This is a complicated string of logic, with multiple assumptions.  I hope you see why declaring a scientific consensus on all points of this hypothesis is facile.  So where is there a scientific consensus on all of this?  My interpretation from the recent IPCC report and other sources is:

  1. The world has been warming for a century, and this warming is beyond
    any historical cycles we have seen over 1000 years  (ie, the hockey
    There is a strong consensus on the first half.  We can argue about urban heat island corrections and ground vs. satellite all day, but the earth has pretty clearly warmed for a hundred years or so, after cooling before that.  The second half of the proposition is trickier.  The 2001 report relied on the Mann hockey stick to make the point that the 20th century is not just warmer but uniquely warmer.  I sense the 2007 report backing off this -- the Mann analysis has a lot of problems, and ongoing climate research continues to point to the great variability and cyclicallity of climate over time.  There is too much historical evidence, for example, of a warm middle ages for Mann to dismiss it with a few tree rings.
  2. The last century's warming is almost all due to man's burning of fossil fuels and other releases of greenhouse gasses.   The 2001 IPCC report implied about half of the century's warming was man-made.  The new report seems to put more of the blame on man.  My sense is this will move over time back to half and half -- the evidence today of increased solar activity is becoming too strong to ignore as a cause along with man-made CO2.  However, I recognize right now that I am out of step with the IPCC and perhaps the "consensus" on this.
  3. In the next 100 years, CO2 produced by man will cause a lot more warming.  CO2 production by man will cause more warming.  How much is the subject of models, which any economist or businessperson can tell you are notoriously flaky.  However, here is one fact that is part of the scientific consensus but you never hear in the media -- the relationship between atmospheric CO2 concentration and warming is a diminishing return.  In other words, the next doubling of CO2 in the atmosphere will have less impact on temperatures than the last doubling.  At some point, the effect of CO2 maxes out, and further increases in CO2 have no effect on temperatures.  My reading of the newest IPCC seems to imply that if the models predict about 6 degrees of warming over the next 100 years, of which about 2 is directly from CO2, while the rest are from positive feedbacks (discussed next)
  4. Positive feedbacks in the climate, like increased humidity, will act to triple the warming from CO2.  OK, this strikes me as the key point in the scientific consensus.  Hypothesized positive feedback loops in the climate are what take the IPCC models from results that are warmer but probably manageable to results that appear catastrophically warmer.  Their models assume that as the world warms a bit from CO2, other effects take hold, and the world will warm even more.  For example, they posit that if the world is warmer, more water evaporates into water vapor in the atmosphere, which is a strong greenhouse gas, which accelerates the warming.  I think it is absurd to say there is a consensus on this point, which is adding 2/3 or more of the warming.  The notion of positive feedbacks in nature offends my intuition --  there are just not that many such processes in nature, or else nothing would be stable -- but then again Einstein's intution was offended by quantum mechanics and he was wrong.  However, using the IPCC's own findings (starting in section 8.6 here) the IPCC admits to there not even being a consensus on the sign (ie if it is positive or negative feedback) of what they describe as by far the strongest feedback process (cloud cover)!  I don't know how you can declare a consensus if you admit you don't even know the sign of the largest effect.
  5. The bad effects of warming greatly outweigh the positive effects,
    and we are already seeing them today (polar bears dying, glaciers
    melting, etc) 
    It would be absurd to declare a consensus here because no one has really done much definitive work.   Most folks, including me, presume that since substantial warming would take us beyond the temperature range for which our bodies and our civilization has been adapted, the net effect would be bad.  But there are positive offsets to the negative effects (e.g. oceans rising) that you never really hear about in the press (longer growing season, for one) but which are in the IPCC report.  Climate scientists themselves have admitted there is no consensus on what effects that we are seeing today are due to warming.  Part of Antarctica (about 2%) shown in Al Gore's movie is warming, but most scientists now think that this may be due to cyclical variations in ocean currents, while most of Antarctica has actually been cooling of late.  Greenland is warming, but glaciers may not be receding as fast as once feared.  Polar bear populations, despite reports to the contrary, are increasing.
  6. These bad effects, or even a small risk of them, easily justify
    massive intervention today in reducing economic activity and greenhouse
    gas production. 
    Many climate scientists express an opinion on this, often definitively, but if one argues that I am not qualified to test the consensus as a layman on global warming, then certainly climate scientists are far from qualified in drawing any conclusions on this topic.  The effects of a worldwide rollback on CO2 production at current technologies could be catastrophic, particularly for a billion people in India and China just on the verge of emerging from poverty.  Even in some of the most dire forecasts for warming, it is a very open question with little consensus as to whether a cooler but poorer world is better.  In fact, one can argue that even the pious Kyoto-signing countries are voting with their actions, rather than their words, on this issue, since they have resisted taking the hard economic steps necessary to meet their targets.

OK, that is more than I meant to write.  My point is that the word consensus is an absurd word to apply to the topic of anthropomorphic global warming.  Some things we understand pretty well (the world is warming, in part due to man-made CO2) and some we understand less well (the effect of feedback loops).  And some issues, like whether the harms from climate change are worth the cost of avoiding them, are entirely outside the purview of climate science.

Update: Strata-Sphere has a funny bit of related snark:

Global warming on Neptune's moon Triton as well as Jupiter and Pluto, and now Mars has some scratching their heads over what could possibly be in common with the warming of all these planets....

I still don't know. Could there be something in common with all the
planets in our solar system that might cause them all to warm at the
same time?

On a serious note, he has some nifty graphs of historic earth temperature reconstructions (including Mann) vs. sunspot activity reconstructions (sunspot activity generally being a proxy for solar output).  Short answer:  Sunspot activity at historical highs, at the same time as historical highs in temperature. 

Immigration Opponents Depend on Bad Public Schools

I have been spammed several times with messages breathlessly telling me I have to watch this video about why the free flow of people from poorer nations into the US looking for opportunity is so disastrous.  I had nothing else to do in my hotel room, so I watched a bit.

The video clearly relies on the fact that American students have had crappy education into US history.  He uses the period of 1925-1965 as his base period, to show how much higher immigration rates are today than in these years.  To try to make current immigration seem out of line, he gives us the first real whopper of the video - he actually calls 1925-1965 the "golden age of American immigration", implying it was an era of free and open immigration and representative of a high rate of immigration.  Anyone with any sort of history education should be able to smell a rat - after all, wasn't the late 19th and early 20th century the real period of immigration into this country? 

In fact, 1925-1965 was, on the metric of immigration as a percentage of US population (the correct way to index the number) the LOWEST and most restrictionist period of immigration in our entire history.  In fact, 1925-1965 was the golden age of xenophobic restriction laws (aimed mainly at that time at southern and eastern Europeans).

So, after the lecturer began his talk by saying that white is black, I was obviously not really interested in the rest  (not to mention the fact that he for some reason reminded me of across between Rutger Hauer and Crispin Glover playing a creepy takeover-the-world villain).  He tries to take an environmental approach, I guess to try to lure the Left into the nativist camp.  I will say his upward sloping population charts are pretty funny, given that they have absolutely no relationship to any credible forecast.  He seems to take the global warming modeler's approach to shifting assumptions to get that big hockey stick.  His argument is ridiculous, though.  If you believe that a unit of population brings with it a measure of environmental harm, then immigration doesn't really change the net harm to the globe, it only moves its effects around.  And I would argue that the US with its wealth and attention to environmental matters is in a far better position to mitigate these effects than say Mexico.  I addressed this conservative retread of Paul Ehrlich population bomb panic here.

A Skeptics Primer for "An Inconvenient Truth"

Update:  Please enjoy this post; however, I have published a (free) more comprehensive guide to the skeptics arguments concerning man-made global warming.  You can find the HTML version here and a free pdf download here.

A few days ago, my wife announced to me that she wanted me to take her to
"An Inconvenient Truth", the recent movie vehicle for communicating
Al Gore's views on climate change.  I told my wife that I found the
climate issue incredibly interesting -- I have always had a passion for
inter-disciplinary science and climate requires integration of bits not just
from climate science but from economics, statistics, biology, and more.  I
told her I would love to see a true documentary on climate change, but I was as
interested in seeing a "science" film from the group that put this movie
together as I presume she was in seeing a "even-handed" movie on
abortion produced by the Catholic Church.

Never-the-less, she has insisted, so I put together a skeptic's primer for
her, which I will also share with you.  Note that I am not actively involved in climate research myself, so the following is my admittedly incomplete understanding of all the issues.  It is meant to raise issues that you may not find discussed in most global warming accounts.

Overview:  The earth has warmed by 2/3 of a degree to as much as a degree (all temperatures in Celsius)
over the last 100 years, of which man may be responsible for no more than half
through CO2 emissions.  The poles, which are important to all the global
deluge scare scenarios, have warmed less than the average.  Man's CO2
emissions will warm the earth another degree or so over the next 100
years.  There is a possibility the warming will be greater than this, but
scary-large warming numbers that are typical of most climate reports today
depend on positive feedback loops in the climate that are theoretical and whose
effect has not yet been observed.  The effects of warming will be a mix of
positive and negative outcomes, recognizing that the former never seem to get
discussed in various media scare stories.  If the effects of warming are a
net negative on mankind, it is not clear that this negative outweighs the costs
in terms of lost economic growth (and the poverty, disease, and misery that
comes with lower growth) of avoiding the warming.  In other words, I
suspect a warmer but richer world may be better than a cooler but poorer world.

The Hockey Stick:  The Hockey Stick graph as become the emblem,
the sort of coat-of-arms, for the climate change intelligentsia.  Until
recently, the climate consensus for the last 1000 years, taken from reams of
historical records (things like the history of X river freezing in winter or Y
region having droughts) was this:


This chart is from the 1990 IPCC climate report, and in it you can see
features that both historians and scientists have discussed for years -- the
warm period during the Middle Ages and the "little ice age" of the
late 17th century.  Of course, this chart is barely better than a guess,
as are most all historical climate surveys.  For example, 3/4 of the earth
is water (where few consistent observations were taken) and only a small percentage of the rest was "civilized" to
the extent of having any historical records.  In addition to historical
records, scientists try to use things like ice cores and tree rings to get a
sense of long-term global climate patterns.

This long-held consensus changed with Mann, et. al., a study that created a new climate
picture for the last millennia that has immediately caught the fancy of nearly
every advocate of climate Armageddon.


For obvious reasons, this graph is called "the hockey stick" and
it is beloved by the global warming crowd because it hammers home the following
message:  Climate has been incredibly steady over the past 900 years with a flat to declining temperature trend until
man came along and caused a dramatic shift.  Based on this analysis, Mann
famously declared that the 1990's were the warmest decade in a millennia and
that 1998 was the hottest year in the last 1000 years.  (For real hubris, check
out this recent USAToday
, which purports to know the world's temperature within .001 degree
for every year going back two thousand years)

In fact, what Mann's chart shows for the last 100 years is about what I said in my overview - that
the world has warmed a degree and that man maybe has contributed up to half of
this.  Notice that tacked onto the end of the previous consensus view, the
last 100 years seem like it might just be the start of another natural cyclical
climate variation.    Not necesarily a reason for panic.  Ah,
but Mann's chart!  That's a chart that anyone eager to have the government
intervene massively in the economy is bound to love. It says that we are currently entering an unprecedented anomoly, and that the chief suspect for creating this change must be human civilization.

So is Mann right?  Well, a couple of things to note.  First, its
instructive to observe how eagerly the climate community threw out its old
consensus based on years of research in favor of Mann's study.  It's
unusual for a healthy
scientific community
to throw out their old consensus on the basis of one
study, especially when no one had replicated its findings independently.
Which no one has ever been able to do, since Mann has refused to share his
models or methodology details.  In fact, it took a US Congressional subpoena
to get any of his underlying models into the public domain.  This behavior
by a scientist would normally engender ENORMOUS skepticism in the community --
normally, I mean, except for in climate science, where mountaintop revelation without 3rd party repeatability
is OK as long as it supports a dire man-made climate catastrophe model.
In short, climate change advocates wanted the study to be true, because it was such a
powerful image to show the public.

Despite Mann's reticence to allow anyone to check his work, skeptics still
began to emerge.    Take that big temperature bulge in the Middle
Ages shown in the previous concensus view.  This bulge was annoying to climate
interventionists, because it showed that large variations in temperature on a
global scale can be natural and not necessarily the fault of modern man.
But Mann made this whole medieval bulge go away.  How?  Well, one of
the early revelations about Mann's work is that all the data before 1450 or so
comes from studying the tree rings of one single tree.  Yes, that's one tree
(1).  Using the evidence of this one tree, Mann flattened the temperature
over the 500 year period from 1000-1500 and made the Medieval warm period just go poof.  Wow!

The bigger criticism of Mann has come from statisticians.  Two Canadian
statisticians began questioning Mann's methodology, arguing that his
statistical approach was incorrect.  They demonstrated that Mann's
statistical approach was biased towards creating hockey sticks, and they showed
how the Mann model could be applied to random noise and produce a hockey
stick.   The climate change establishment did not take this criticism
well, and tried their hardest to rip these two guys up.  In fact, you might have believed that the two had been molesting little boys or declaring the world is flat rather than just questioning another scientist's statistical methodology. 

Recently, a US Congressional Committee asked a group of independent statisticians led by
Dr. Edward Wegman, Chair of the National Science Foundation's Statistical
Sciences Committee, to evaluate the Mann methodology.  Wegman
et. al. savaged the Mann methodology
as well as the peer review process
within the climate community:

It is important to note the isolation of the paleoclimate community; even
though they rely heavily on statistical methods they do not seem to be
interacting with the statistical community. Additionally, we judge that the
sharing of research materials, data and results was haphazardly and grudgingly
done. In this case we judge that there was too much reliance on peer review,
which was not necessarily independent. Moreover, the work has been sufficiently
politicized that this community can hardly reassess their public positions
without losing credibility. Overall, our committee believes that Dr. Mann's
assessments that the decade of the 1990s was the hottest decade of the
millennium and that 1998 was the hottest year of the millennium cannot be
supported by his analysis.

Further, Wegman concurred on almost every point with the Canadians, coming to the conclusion that the hockey stick was deepfly flawed.  In most other scientific communities, the Mann analysis would have been sent
to the dustbin along with cold fusion and Archbishop James Ussher's dating of
the earth to October 23, 4004 BC.
The problem is that the Mann chart has become too politically important.  Prominent men
like Al Gore have waved it around for years and put it in his books.  No
one in the core of the climate community can back away from the hockey stick
now without the rest of the world asking, rightly, what else is wrong with your
analyses?  If I seem too hard on the climate science community, then
consider this
from National Center for Atmospheric Research (NOAA) climate researcher and global warming action promoter,
Steven Schneider:

We have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements,
and make little mention of any doubts we have. Each of us has to decide what
the right balance is between being effective and being honest.

Now you know why, for all its flaws, you will continue to see the hockey
stick in the press.  Because it is not about the facts, but about "scary scenarios" and "dramatic statements".

Has Man Been Causing the Warming?

Yes, some of it.  But its a little more complicated than the global
warming community lets on.   First, note the last 100 years of the
hockey stick.  The big upwards spike begins in 1900, long before any large
man-made concentrations of CO2 were put into the atmosphere.  In fact,
even those most fanatical about assigning maximum blame for climate change to
man don't blame man-made effects for most of the first half of the 20th century
temperature spike. 

Which begs the question, what caused the 1900-1940 spike of about 1/2 a
degree?  Answer:  Nobody really knows.  Which begs the follow-on
question:  If we don't know what caused the 1900-1940 run-up, how do we
know that this same force is not responsible for some of the run-up since
1950?  Answer:  We don't.  As I will explain below, climate
scientists trying to validate their models have reasons for wanting the
post-1950 temperature rise to be all man-made.  But just because they
assume it to be due to man-made rises in atmospheric CO2 concentrations does
not make it so -- correlation does not equal causation.

Well, what else could be causing this increase?  It could at least partially be
cyclical variations in climate that we don't really understand.
Or it could be something more obvious, like, say, the sun was brighter.  I
can imagine your reaction -- no way it could be just a brighter sun,
Coyote.  I mean, that's the first thing the climate scientists would check
if earth temperatures were rising, right?


This chart compiled from data by Judith Lean of the Naval Research Library
and charted from her data at NOAA by
shows that interestingly, the sun's output does appear to be higher today than they have been in many, perhaps hundreds of years.  Would such increased activity be
expected to result in higher earth temperatures?  I don't know, but if you
think it odd that scientists talk about global warming without mentioning how
hot the sun is, well, welcome to the world of climate science.   Its kind of like scrambling to find out why your room is too hot without first checking to see where the thermostat on the furnace is set.  More
on the sun's variance
and climate change here

Future Warming:  The key question, of course, is about future warming - i.e.,
based on man's economic growth and projected output of CO2, how much can the
world be expected to warm, say over the next 50-100 years.  I don't know
what the movie "An Inconvenient Truth" will claim until I see it, but
most recent studies have shown warming from 2-8 degrees (consistent with what is depicted by the
USAToday graphic linked above).

There are lots of issues with these forecasts that occasionally might even get
mentioned in the popular press.  Some issues are unavoidable, like the
inherent complexity and unpredictability of climate.  Some issues probably
could be avoided, like the egregiously bad economic forecasting that drives CO2
output forecasts in many of these models.  I won't delve into these issues
much, except to say that we are dealing with massively complex systems.
If an economist came up with a computer model that he claimed could predict the
market value of every house in the world in the year 2106 within $10,000, would
you believe him?  No, you would say he was nuts -- there is way to
much uncertainty.  Climate, of course, is not the same as housing
prices.  It is in fact, much, much more complex and more difficult to

All these forecasts are created by a pretty insular and incestuous climate
science community that seems to compete to see who can come up with the most
dire forecast.  Certainly there are financial incentives to be as aggressive
as possible in forecasting climate change, since funding dollars tend to get
channeled to the most pessimistic.   The global warming community spends
a lot of time with ad hominem attacks on skeptics, usually accusing them of
being in the pay of oil and power companies, but they all know that their own
funding in turn would dry up rapidly if they were to show any bit of skepticism
in their own work.

Leaving aside all the other modeling problems and focus on one fact:
Most climate scientists would agree that if you focus narrowly just on the
effects of CO2 on warming, that even under the most extravagant assumptions of
CO2 production, the world will not warm more than a degree or two in total,
some of which we have already seen.  The reason is that the effect of CO2
concentration on global temperature is logarithmic.  This means that
increasing concentrations of CO2 have diminishing returns on temperature.
For example, if the first doubling of CO2 concentration raises temperatures by
a degree, then the next doubling may only raise it by a tenths of a
degree.  This is because CO2 only absorbs sunlight and energy in certain
frequency bands and this ability to absorb energy gets saturated, much like a
pot of water can only dissolve so much salt before it is saturated.

There is fair amount of argument over just how saturated the CO2 layers are
in terms of energy absorption, but most scientists will agree that at some
point, in isolation, additional CO2 added to the atmosphere by man stops having
any significant effect on global temperature.

So how do we get these dire forecasts of 6, 7, 8 degrees of warming?
Well, I was careful to say the effect of CO2 in isolation maxes
out.  To get to higher levels of warming, scientists posit "positive
feedback loops" that augment the warming effect.  Positive feedback generally means that once a process gets going in a direction, there is some force that will accelerate the process
faster or farther in the same direction.  Negative feedback means that
once a process is moving there is some force that tends to try to slow the process back down.
Positive feedback is a boulder balanced on the top of a mountain, where one
push will cause it to roll down the mountain faster and faster; Negative
feedback is a boulder in a valley, where despite lots of effort, the rock will
keep coming to rest back where it started.

In global warming models, water vapor plays a key role as both a positive and a negative feedback loop to climate change.  Water vapor
is a far more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2.  It comes into play because CO2 driven warming will
put more water vapor in the atmosphere, because greater heat will vaporize more
water.  If this extra vapor shows up as more humid clear air, then this in
turn will cause more warming as the extra water vapor absorbs more energy and
accelerates warming.  However, if this extra water vapor shows up as
clouds, the cloud cover will tend to reflect energy back into space and retard
temperature growth. 

Which will happen?  Well, nobody knows.  And this is just one
example of the many, many feedback loops that scientists are able to posit but
not prove. And climate scientists are coming up
with numerous other positive feedback looks.  As one skeptic put it:

Regardless, climate models are made
interesting by the inclusion of "positive feedbacks" (multiplier
effects) so that a small temperature increment expected from increasing
atmospheric carbon dioxide invokes large increases in water vapor, which seem
to produce exponential rather than logarithmic temperature response in the
models. It appears to have become something of a game to see who can add in the
most creative feedback mechanisms to produce the scariest warming scenarios
from their models but there remains no evidence the planet includes any such
effects or behaves in a similar manner.

So, is it reasonable to assume these feedback loops?  First, none have
really been proven empirically, which does not of course necessarily make them
wrong.  More damning is the fact that models using mostly positive feedback
loops do a terrible job of modeling the last 100 years.  It is a perfectly
reasonable back check on any model to see if it predicts history.   Most of the aggressive climate models (ie the ones that tend to get quoted in the press) turn out to predict a warming for the
last 50 years far above what we have actually observed, which of course might make one
suspicious of their ability to predict the future.  A while back, I said
that climate scientists had a strong incentive to "claim" as much of
the 20th century warming as possible and attribute it to man.  This is
why:  The need to validate models that predict a lot of manmade warming
over the last 50 years that hasn't shown up.  Scientists will tell you
that they have fixed these problems, but we skeptics are fairly certain they have done it by adding artificial
fudge factors of dubious scientific merit  (I will confess to my embarassment that I have done exactly this when I have created industry models for a consulting client).

But one can also answer these questions about positive feedback loops from a
broader perspective.  Positive feedback loops are not unknown in nature
but are much rarer than negative feedback loops.  The reason is that
positive feedback loops lead to runaway processes that we seldom see in
nature.  Atomic fission is one of these thankfully rare process, and one can see that it is
probably lucky our universe is not populated with many such positive feedback
processes.  In our daily lives, we generally deal with negative
feedback:  inertia, wind resistance, friction are all negative feedback
processes.  If one knew nothing else, and had to guess if a natural
process was governed by negative or positive feedback, Occam's razor would say
bet on negative.  So, what about climate?  The evidence is equivocal,
but to be fair there is an example in our near universe of a runaway global
warming event - on Venus - though it occurred for reasons very different than
we are discussing with man-made climate change.

Negatives (and Positives) of Warming: While I have some trouble with
the science employed by global warming activists up to this point, it is on the
topic of the effects of global warming that the science really gets
flaky.  Now, certain effects are fairly likely.  For example,
hurricane activity will likely increase with warmer ocean temperatures.
Warmer ocean temperatures will also cause sea levels to rise, even without ice
melting, due to thermal expansion of the water.  And ice will melt, though
there is a really broad range of forecasts.

One reason that the ice
melting forecasts are hard
is because while me may talk about the world
warming a degree, the world does not warm evenly.  Most climate models
show the most warming on dry winter nights  (Siberian winters, for
example, get a disproportionate share of the warming).  An extra summer
degree in Arizona would suck; an
extra winter degree in Siberia would probably be
welcomed, and would likely extend growing seasons.

And it is here that you get the greatest silence from warming
fanatics.  Because
it should be self-evident that warming can be good and bad
.  Warming
can raise ocean levels and lead to droughts.  It can also extend growing
seasons and increase rain.  It all depends on where you are and what
forecast you are using.  The only common denominator is that most official
warming reports, such as those from the UN, spend an inordinate amount of time
discussing the negatives and very little time, if any, mentioning positive
offsets.  One of the reasons for this is that there is a culture in which
every environmental activist has been steeped in for years -- that man always
ruins nature.  That everything man does is bad.  Growth is bad.
Technology is bad.  To be fair, its not that many environmental scientists
are hiding the positive offsets, it's that they have been programmed for years to be
unable to recognize or acknowledge them.

Shouldn't We Fix it, Just to Be Safe:  If you get beyond the
hard core of near religious believers in the massive warming scenarios, the
average global warming supporter would answer this post by saying:
"Yes there is a lot of uncertainty, but you said it yourself: 
Though the doomsday warming scenarios via positive feedback in the climate
can't be proven, they are so bad that we need to cut back on CO2 production
just to be safe."

This would be a perfectly reasonable approach if cutting back on CO2
production was nearly cost-free.  But it is not.  The burning of
hydrocarbons that create CO2 is an entrenched part of our lives and our economies.
Forty years ago we might have had an easier time of it, as we were on a path to dramatically cut back on CO2 production
via what is still the only viable technology to massively replace fossil fuel
consumption -- nuclear power.  Ironically, it was environmentalists that
shut down this effort, and power industries around the world replaced capacity
that would have gone nuclear mostly with coal, the worst fossil fuel in terms
of CO2 production (per btu of power, Nuclear and hydrogen produce no CO2,
natural gas produces some, gasoline produces more, and coal produces the most).

Just halting CO2 production at current levels (not even rolling it back)
would knock several points off of world economic growth.  Every point of
economic growth you knock off guarantees you that you will get more poverty,
more disease, more early death.  If you could, politically, even
make such a freeze stick, you would lock China and India,
nearly 2 billion people, into continued poverty just when they were about to
escape it.  You would in the process make the world less secure, because
growing wealth is always the best way to maintain peace.  Right now, China can become wealthier from peaceful internal growth than it can from trying to loot
its neighbors.  But in a zero sum world created by a CO2 freeze, countries
like China would have much more incentive to create trouble outside its borders.  This
tradeoff is often referred to as a cooler but poorer world vs. a richer but
warmer world.  Its not at all clear which is better.

One final  statement:  I have lost trust in the scientific
community on this.  There are just too many statements floating around like
this one
that make it clear that getting people converted to the global
warming cause is more important than getting the science right.  Mann's
refusal to share his data so that his results can be validated (or invalidated,
as seems more likely now), the refusal
to consider any dissenting views
in its "scientific" conferences,
the sloppy
uncovered, the willingness to absurdly blame
every natural event on global warming
  -- all these create the
impression that global warming is a religion with doctrines that can't be
questioned, rather than what it actually is -- a really, really chaotic and complex area
of science we have only just begun to understand.

For other reading, probably the first place to look is the Skeptical Environmentalist by Bjorn
. Lomborg in this book has probably the best counter-case to the
enviro-disaster stories filling the media. He has become an object of absolute
hatred among the anti-growth anti globalization fanatics who have latched onto climate
change as the key to advancing their anti-technology and anti-capitalist
political agenda. The attacks on him have become nearly as edifying about what
drives the environmental movement as his book itself. The Economist has
a nice article about his book and about the wild-eyed furious reaction of
environmental activists to it. The Economist also editorializes
, and you can follow all the criticism and response here on Lomborg's site.

The site is
invaluable, in fact with a better compendium of data on climate than most
climate sites.  A good
place to start is this article

Other sources: This paper is
a good roundup of all the issues I have addressed. Cato has a lot of other
material here
as does the Heartland
and at The
  A great post from Silflay Hraka that is much more eloquent
(and concise) than I am is linked here.

Update:  I have published a (free) more comprehensive guide to the skeptics
arguments concerning man-made global warming.  You can find the HTML version here and a free pdf download here.

Penalty Kick Stupidity

Well, yet another key international soccer match, this time the most important game of all, the World Cup Finals, was decided by penalty kicks.  Penalty kicks are the most absurd way to determine a championship that I can imagine.  They are barely one step removed from a coin toss in terms of their ability to really determine who the best team is.   Its like giving up on a baseball game in the 12th inning and settling it with a home run derby.

I understand that in regular matches and probably in pool play, logistics require that games not go on for hours and penalty kicks make sense.  But by the time you get to the quarterfinals, and certainly the finals, why can't they just play the freaking game until someone wins?  That's what they do in the Stanley Cup, and in US pro football -- each have ways of settling ties quickly for regular season games, but once crunch time comes, they play until there is a winner.  In Wimbledon, they settle sets with tie breakers but come the fifth set, they play until someone wins.  Its not like the stadium is booked for anything else the rest of the day.  And do they really think anyone in the stands is going to get tired and go home?  Pro hockey fans will tell you there is no more compelling time in their sport than overtime in a Stanley Cup Final.  How great would it have been to have just left the two teams on the field until one was a winner, even if that took two more hours?  I mean, they have waited four years for this moment, they can't put in a few more minutes on the field?

As an American non-soccer guy, I have really given this World Cup a chance.  I was in England for much of the tournament, so I not only watched but got to experience some of the excitement of the populous.  And I have, excluding the silly play-acting fake injury thing, mostly enjoyed the games.  But they lost me right at the end.  Settling their once-every-four-years world championships with ridiculous penalty kicks demonstrates to me that soccer types have no respect for their own game.  After just 30 minutes of overtime, they give up on their own game and have teams play a different game to determine a winner. So if they don't have respect for their own game, why should I have any?  Americans are never going to fall in love with a game that decides its championships with the moral equivalent of a coin flip.

Update:  First, though this post was applied to soccer, its not just a soccer rant.  I went on the same rant several years ago when the Olympic ice hockey gold was awarded with a shootout.

Second, I get it that the athletes are tired.  I'm not going to put my toe in the water on the "what sport requires the most athleticism" debate, except to say that soccer is right up there, with its 45 minutes of continuous play each half.  (But I will say that, having personally played rugby for years, rugby is right up there too -- one thing soccer aficionados don't acknowledge is how much physical contact and going down on the ground frequently -- for more than just a fake injury -- takes out of you above and beyond just continuous running.)

My point is that shoot-outs are a different game - they are not real soccer.  Yes they use the same equipment and have roughly the same goal (to get the ball in the net) but by that definition "horse" is real basketball.  Anyone up for settling an NBA finals after two overtimes with a game of horse?  The beauty of soccer is in the passing and the assists, in the clever footwork, in the wing trying to use his speed to turn the corner.  Where are those in a shootout?

If athletes are getting exhausted, it just increases the likelihood that someone will score and end the game, since it is as true in soccer as any other sport that fatigue hurts defense more than offense.  And this might stop teams that play a defensive game in overtime, who are clearly playing for the shootout.

And think of posterity.  No one is going to remember this World Cup final game except to say that Italy beat France on penalty kicks.  But what if the game went 3-1/2 hours in a grueling test of endurance before France finally punched it in, all the players too exhausted to celebrate.  People would talk about the match for years.  I'm not saying you play this way for every run of the mill international competition.  But wouldn't it be nice once every four years to actually decide the championship actually playing soccer, rather than horse?

Update #2: Per a couple of commenters, nothing in this post is meant to imply that sports that are more popular in the US are not without their flaws.  Silly set-piece fist fights in hockey and the unfairness of overtime rules in football (putting too much emphasis on winning the coin toss) come to mind immediately.

The Source of Wealth

I was stuck in the airport at Salt Lake City on Sunday for a bit due to a large snowstorm** and I was trapped watching the CNN airport channel (which certain airports make unavoidable -- you can't get away from the TV's in a way reminiscent of a variety of distopian novels).  Anyway, I heard some discussion about differences between poor and rich nations, and all the usual easy-to-prove-false memes came out to explain the differences.  Natural Resources:  So why do resource-rich Russia and sub-Saharan Africa do so poorly?   Colonialism:  How do you explain Hong Kong, Australia, and Canada?  Exploiting labor:  So why aren't the most populous countries the richest?  Luck:  How do countries like Haiti have so consistently bad luck for over 200 years?

So here is Coyote's First Theorem of Wealth Creation, first expounded in this post on the zero-sum economics fallacy:

Groups of people create wealth faster in direct proportion to the degree that:

  1. Their philosophical and intellectual
    culture values ordinary men (not just "the elite", however defined) questioning established beliefs and social patterns.  This is as opposed to having a rigid orthodoxy which treats independent thinking as heresy.
  2. Individuals, again not just the elite, have the ability through scholarship or entrepreneurship to pursue the implications of their ideas and retain the monetary and other rewards for themselves.  This is as opposed to being locked into a rigid social and economic hierarchy that would prevent an individual from acting on a good idea.   

China, for example, just by cracking open the spigot on #2, however inadequately, has gone from a country with mass starvation in three or four decades to one where the worry-warts of the world are scared of juvenile obesity.  To a large extent, this theorem is really just a poor restatement of Julian Simon's work.  Simon's key point was that the only relevant resource was the human mind, from which all wealth flows.  All I have done is break this into two parts, saying that to create wealth a society has to value the individual's use of his mind and has to allow that individual free reign to pursue the products of his thinking.

One of the applications where I think this is useful is to explain the great millennial hockey-stick curve.  No, not the temperature hockey stick, which purports to show acceleration of global warming, but the wealth curve.  The world's growth of per capita wealth was virtually flat for a thousand plus years, and then took off in the 19th and 20th centuries.  I previously explained this hockey stick using my wealth creation theorem:

Since 1700, the GDP per capita in places like the US has
risen, in real
terms, over 40 fold.  This is a real increase in total wealth, created
by the human mind.  And it was unleashed because the world began to
change in some fundamental ways around 1700 that allowed the human mind
to truly flourish.  Among these changes, I will focus on two:

  1. There was a philosophical and intellectual
    change where questioning established beliefs and social patterns went
    from being heresy and unthinkable to being acceptable, and even in
    vogue.  In other words, men, at first just the elite but soon everyone,
    were urged to use their mind rather than just relying on established
  2. There were social and political changes that greatly increased
    the number of people capable of entrepreneurship.  Before this time,
    the vast vast majority of people were locked into social positions that
    allowed them no flexibility to act on a good idea, even if they had
    one.  By starting to create a large and free middle class, first in the
    Netherlands and England and then in the US, more people had the ability
    to use their mind to create new wealth.  Whereas before, perhaps 1% or
    less of any population really had the freedom to truly act on their
    ideas, after 1700 many more people began to have this freedom. 

So today's wealth, and everything that goes with it (from shorter
work hours to longer life spans) is the result of more people using
their minds more freely.

The problem (and the ultimate potential) comes from the fact that in
many, many nations of the world, these two changes have not yet been
allowed to occur.  Look around the world - for any country, ask
yourself if the average
person in that country has the open intellectual climate that
encourages people to think for themselves, and the open political and
economic climate that allows people to act on the insights their minds
provide and to keep the fruits of their effort.  Where you can answer
yes to both, you will find wealth and growth.  Where you answer no to
both, you will find poverty and misery.

Update:  This article from Frank Moss, linked at Instapundit, takes these same concepts forward into the future.

What role will startups play in the future?

I see tremendous economic growth from startups from 10 years ago.
Entrepreneurs will go from the 1,000 startup ventures funded in the
last 10 to 20 years to ideas coming from people working together in
network-based environments, using computers to dream up innovations in
a way they never did before. It could be people in developing countries
with low-cost computers.

You talk about education and the bottom-up effect that millions
more people will play in societal advances. How do you see this

We will undergo another revolution when we give 100 million kids a
smart cell phone or a low-cost laptop, and bootstrap the way they learn
outside of school. We think of games as a way to kill time, but in the
future I think it will be a major vehicle for learning.

Creative expression (is another area). No longer will just a few
write or create music. We will see 100 million people creating the
content and art shared among them. Easy-to-use programs allow kids to
compose everything form ringtones to full-fledged operas. It will
change the meaning of creative art in our society.

We are already seeing early signs of it in blogs. The source of
creative content is coming from the world. That revolution will go well
outside of the written word to all forms of visual and performing arts.


** Kudos by the way to the SLC airport - when I drove in, I couldn't see 10 feet in front of me on the road due to the snow, and I was sure that I would be trapped for the day.  Living in Phoenix, where air traffic is backed up if someone sneezes on the runway, I didn't think any planes would be landing and taking off for hours.  In fact, operations continued right through the blizzard, and my flight was delayed less than an hour, including de-icing time.  Amazing.  Now if only the SLC airport could increase their security capacity - its only been, what, 4.5 years since 9/11 and most airports seem to have licked this problem.

More Prosecutorial Abuse

As I suspected in this post last week, it is increasingly clear that Wayne Gretzky's name was leaked by the NJ Police and/or prosecutors in order to raise the profile of their investigation, and therefore their work.  For those not following the case, initially they accused one or more B-list hockey players of running an illegal bookmaking business.  When that failed to get their investigation on the front page, they leaked the fact that they had tapes of Wayne Gretzky proving he knew about the alleged illegal activity. 

Well, that helped them achieve their goal.  They got their investigation on the front page everywhere, and set up a feeding frenzy as the media tried to climb all over each other to throw mud at one of the heretofore last unsullied great names in sports.  Now, as I suspected, we find out that they really had nothing on Wayne, and misrepresented what they had to get themselves headlines:

One of Canada's all-time great
heroes may get the change to keep that title, after a long week in an
ugly spotlight. The heat's being taken off Wayne Gretzky.

Gretzky was
beaten down by the media spotlight since early February, when his wife
and assistant coach were implicated in an alleged illegal gambling
ring. Gretzky was pulled into the fray a couple of days later, when
sources suggested he was in the loop on the whole thing. But there's
new information on a wiretap conversation between Wayne Gretzky and
Rich Tocchet, which seems to support Gretzky's contention that he had
no prior knowledge of an illegal gambling ring allegedly involving

It turns out the conversation on how Gretzky's wife
could avoid being named as a participant was recorded last Monday, the
day after Janet Jones allegedly won money betting on the Super Bowl.
Also, Gretzky's wife Jane was alleged to have laid a half million
dollars in bets -- but that also appears to have been false
information. It's believed she only bet about a fifth of that.

OMG, I guess they told the truth -- they did have tapes that showed Wayne Gretzky knew about the abuses.  Of course, what they did not say last week was that the tapes were made AFTER the whole mess became public.  OK, I confess, I too knew about the bettin scandal after it became public.  There goes my reputation.

Unfortunately, our country is increasingly being operated as if we have a inalienable right to be titillated that trumps stuff like, oh, due process.  I made a similar observation in response to leaks of grand jury testimony on steroids.  I also recently posted on prosecutorial abuses in the Enron trials.

Update:  Apparently, NJ prosecutors are now saying that the bets Janet Gretsky allegedly made are not even illegal in the state of NJ.  So they leaked damaging information about both the Gretsky's "involvement", then 2 weeks later let the other shoe drop and made it clear they really didn't do anything illegal.  It couldn't be clearer that the police and prosecutors released the Gretsky's names to the press to grab the front-line headlines they were not getting with their B-list targets.

Libertarianism, the Environment, and Kyoto: Part 2

This is the second part of a two part post. Part 1, with more general background on my libertarian point of view on the environment, is here.

Because hell is freezing over today, and because the Russions just ratified the Kyoto Treaty, apparently putting it over the top for it to get started, I wanted to talk more specifically about the Global Warming and the Kyoto Treaty.

First, recognize that, whatever one's views are of Global Warming, Kyoto is a flawed treating from the United State's perspective. Leaving out the validity of global warming or the cost-benefit issues (which we will discuss below) the Kyoto treaty is a thoroughly anti-American document, crafted by other countries to put the vast vast majority of the cost on the US.

Why? Well, first, and most obviously, the entire developing world, including China, SE Asia, and India, are exempt. These countries account for 80% of the world's population and the great majority of growth in CO2 emissions over the next few decades, and they are not even included. If you doubt this at all, just look at what the economic recovery in China over the past months has done to oil prices. China's growth in hydrocarbon consumption will skyrocket over the coming years.

The second major flaw is that European nations cleverly crafted the treaty so that among developed nations, it disproportionately affects the US. Rather than freezing emissions at current levels or limiting growth rates, it calls for emissions to be rolled back to 6-8% below 1990 levels. Why 1990? Well, a couple of important things have happened since 1990, including:

a. European (and Japanese) economic growth has stagnated since 1990, while the US economy has grown like crazy. By setting the target date back to 1990, rather than just starting from today, the treaty is effectively trying to roll back the economic growth in the US that other major world economies did not enjoy. This difference in economic growth is a real sore spot for continental Europeans.
b. In 1990, Germany was reunified, and Germany inherited a whole country full of polluting inefficient factories from the old Soviet days. Most of the factories have been closed in the last decade, giving Germany an instant one-time leg up in meeting the treaty targets, but only if the date was set back to 1990, rather than starting today.
c. Since 1990, the British have had a similar effect from the closing of a number of old dirty Midlands coal mines and switching fuels from very dirty coal burned inefficiently to more modern gas and oil furnaces.
d. Since 1990, the Russians have an even greater such effect, given low economic growth and the closure of thousands of atrociously inefficient communist-era industries.

A third flaw is that Kyoto refused to accept increases in CO2 absorption as an offset to CO2 emissions. For example, increasing the amount of forest cover in a country can have the same effect as reducing emissions, since the forests lock up atmospheric carbon. The only logical reason for disallowing this in Kyoto is that it is an area where North America has a real advantage. Contrary to what most people might guess given all the doom and gloom environmental talk about sprawl and deforestation, the acres of forested land in the US has been steadily increasing since the 1920s.

It is flabbergasting that US negotiators could allow us to get so thoroughly hosed in these negotiations. Does anyone really want to roll back the economic gains of the nineties, while giving the rest of the world a free pass? Anyway, as a result of these flaws, and again having little to do with the global warming argument itself, the Senate voted 95-0 in 1997 not to sign or ratify the treaty unless these flaws (which still exist in the treaty) were fixed Note that this vote included now-candidate John Kerry and previous enviro-candidate Al Gore.

These gross and obvious flaws in Kyoto could let us off the hook from arguing the main point, which is, does global warming justify some sort of international action like Kyoto. So lets assume that Kyoto was all nice and fair and some reasonable basis was arrived at for letting countries share the pain. Should we be doing something?

To see if a treaty like a modified-to-be-fair-Kyoto makes sense to sign and adhere to, one must evaluate at least five questions:

1. Has the world been warming, and is this due to man's activities and specifically CO2(rather than natural cycles)
2. Do increasing CO2 levels lead to global warming in the future
3. Are man-made actions substantially increasing CO2 levels, and what kind of temperature increase might this translate into
4. How harmful will the projected temperature increases be
5. How much harm will CO2 limitations create and how do these stack up against the harms of global warming.

Continue reading ‘Libertarianism, the Environment, and Kyoto: Part 2’ »