Posts tagged ‘Steven Schneider’

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.

Global Warming Book Comment Thread

I turned off comments on the published HTML version of my Skeptical Layman's Guide to Man-made Global Warming    (pdf here) to avoid spam problems.  However, it was not my intention to forgo the ability of readers to comment.  So I am going to link this comment thread from the bottom of each chapter.

I have gotten several comments back similar to what Steven Dutch says here:

So You Still Don't Believe In Global Warming?

Fine. Here's what you have to do....

  • Show conclusively that an increase in carbon dioxide will
    not result in global warming. Pointing to flaws in the climate models,
    possible alternative explanations, and unanswered questions won't cut it. We
    know carbon dioxide traps infrared and we know climate is
    getting warmer. There's a plausible cause and effect relationship there. You
    have to show there is
    not a causal link. You can do that either by
    identifying what
    is the cause ("might be" or "possible alternative"
    isn't good enough) or by showing that somehow extra carbon dioxide does

    not trap solar heat.

This might be correct if we were in a college debating society, where the question at hand was "does man contribute to global warming?"  However, we are in a real world policy debate, where the question is instead "Is man causing enough warming and thereby contributing to sufficiently dire consequences to justify massive interventions into the world economy, carrying enormous costs and demonstrable erosions in individual freedoms."  Remember, we know monetary and liberty costs of abatement with a fair amount of cerntainty, so in fact the burden of proof is on man-made global warming advocates, not skeptics, who need to prove the dangers from the man-made component of global warming outweigh the costs of these abatements.

That is why the premise for my paper is as follows:

There is no doubt that CO2 is a
greenhouse gas, and it is pretty clear that CO2 produced by man has an
incremental impact on warming the Earth's surface. 

However, recent
warming is the result of many natural and man-made factors, and it is
extraordinarily difficult to assign all the blame for current warming to

In turn, there are very good reasons to suspect that climate
modelers may be greatly exaggerating future warming due to man.  Poor
economic forecasting, faulty assumptions about past and current conditions, and
a belief that climate is driven by runaway positive feedback effects all
contribute to this exaggeration. 

As a result, warming due to man's
impacts over the next 100 years may well be closer to one degree C than the
forecasted six to eight.  In either case, since AGW supporters tend to grossly
underestimate the cost of CO2 abatement, particularly in lost wealth creation
in poorer nations, there are good arguments that a warmer but richer world,
where aggressive CO2 abatement is not pursued, may be the better end state than
a poor but cooler world.

Interventionists understand that their job is not to prove that man is causing some global warming, but to prove that man is doing enough damage to justify massive economic interventions.  That is why Al Gore says tornadoes are increasing when they are not, or why he says sea levels will rise 20 feet when even the IPCC says a foot and a half.  And I will leave you with this quote
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.

Comment away.  I don't edit or delete comments, except in the cases of obvious spam.

Update:  Here is another reason why there is an important difference between "man causes any warming at all" and "man causes most of the warming."

Look at the Pollution! Oh, its Water, Never Mind

I think most of us are familiar with the clever movie poster for An Invconvinient Truth, with the smoke from a factory swirling into a hurricane:


In fact, this same picture of a white plume coming from a factory or power plant stack is often used to illustrate articles on pollution.  Just searching the first page of images googling "air pollution" gives us these relatively similar images illustrating air pollution articles:

Ap1 Ap2 Ap3 Ap4

Ap5 Ap6 Ap7 Ap8

Here is a big Roseanne Rosanadana Emily Litella moment for all of you using these images:  The big white cloud coming out of all those stacks is steam.  Water vapor.  H2O.  Though actually a much more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2, no one has had the temerity to label water a pollutant (except in that great Bullshit! issue when Penn & Teller get environmentalists to sign a petition banning dihydrogen monoxide).  All of these guys are using big plumes of water vapor to panic people about pollution.  That is because most pollutants emitted by combustion are invisible.  Visible smoke was licked by most plants decades ago (here is the only "factory" picture in the google search I could find with actual smoke). 

Just to avoid being misunderstood, my point is not that pollution is OK because it is invisible.  My point is that these scare pictures are yet another example of how environmentalists feel its OK to ignore science to advance their agenda in public.  Sometimes they even go further, as Small Dead Animals points out, resorting to photo-shopping to make things seem worse, but the dreaded steam plumes are still there front and center.  (I noticed that several of the pictures above where photographed at sunset.  I thought at first this was to make them look prettier, but maybe they liked the effect because it made the steam look browner without photo-shopping).

I did not go too deep into the Google search, but I went far enough to award my personal favorite for a scare picture that has nothing to do with the point being made:


This one is a classic, with the sad-faced little girl and her asthma** inhaler super-imposed over a scene of "industrial pollution."  Except, the scene is from a nuclear power plant!  The unique shaped cooling tower is almost exclusively used on nuclear power plants, but the ultimate proof is the small nuclear reactor containment dome you can see to the right.  That plume, which is supposed to represent pollution, has to be 100% water.  There are no combustion products at a nuclear plant, and even if there were, given the way the cooling tower works, this can only be water vapor coming out of the cooling tower.  The really sad and pathetic thing is that this illustration is from the air pollution site at Battelle, which is a world-renowned private scientific and technical organization. 

What's my point?   I think that scientists and academics, in their increasing arrogance, have no respect for the general public.  The only way I can consistently interpret scientist's actions, for example around the global warming debate, is to hypothesize that they consider truth and facts important when talking to other scientists, but irrelevant when talking to the public because, in their mind, the public is stupid and its OK to tell them anything.  I will leave you with this
from National Center for Atmospheric Research (NOAA) climate researcher and global warming action promoter,
Steven Schneider:

[In talking to the public about the climate] 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.

** By the way, there is growing evidence that increasing reported asthma rates are not correlated with outdoor air pollution. I wrote about this here, and hypothesized that the growth in asthma has coincided with the post-70s-energy-crisis steps everyone has taken to better insulate and seal up their houses and buildings, making indoor air pollution more of a problem.

Update: I started to think the dome I was calling a nuclear containment building might be telescope dome on the top of the building below.  It's not.

Oh My God, We're All Going to Die

Headline from the Canadian, via Hit and Run:

"Over 4.5 Billion people could die from Global Warming-related causes by 2012"

In case you are struggling with the math, that means that they believe Global Warming could kill three quarters of the world's population in the next five years.  And the media treats these people with total respect, and we skeptics are considered loony?  It appears that the editors of the Canadian have taken NOAA climate research Steven Schneider at his word:

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.

However, this example is a very good one to again raise the issue of the skeptical middle ground on climate. 

The methane hydrate disaster case in this article may be extreme, but it is consistent in certain ways with the current climate theories of those who advocate various extreme warming scenarios that require massive government intervention (i.e. every climate study that the media chooses to report on).  To oversimplify a bit, their warming models work in two parts:

  1. Man-made CO2 builds up in the atmosphere and acts to absorb more solar energy in the atmosphere than a similar atmospheric gas mix with less CO2 would.  Most climate scientists agree that since CO2 only absorbs selected wavelengths, this a diminishing-return type effect.  In other words, the second 10% increase in CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere has a smaller impact on global temperatures than the first 10%, and so on.  Eventually, this effect becomes "saturated" such that all the wavelengths of sunlight that are going to be absorbed are absorbed, and further increases in CO2 concentration will have no further effect on world temperatures.  No one knows where this saturation point is, but it might be as low as plus 2 degrees C, meaning the most we could raise global temperatures (without effects in part 2 below) is less than 2 degrees (assuming we have already seen some of this rise).  By the way, though I think what I have just said fits the climate scientists' current "consensus,"  nothing in the italics part ever seems to get printed in the media.
  2. As temperatures rise worldwide due to warming from man-made CO2, other things in the climate will change.  Hotter weather may cause more humidity from vaporized water, or more cloud cover, from the same effect.  As posited in the article linked above, some methane hydrates in ice or in the ocean might vaporize due to higher temperatures.  More plants or algae might grow in certain areas, less in others.  All of these secondary effects might in turn further effect the global temperature.  For example, more cloud cover might act to counter-act warming and cool things off.  In turn, vaporizing methane hydrates would put more greenhouse gasses in the air that could accelerate warming.

    Scientists typically call these secondary reactions feedback loops.  Feedbacks that tend to counteract the initial direction of the process (e.g. warming creates clouds which then reduce warming) are called negative feedbacks.  Feedbacks that tend to accelerate the process (warming vaporizes methane which causes more warming) are positive feedbacks.  Negative feedback is a ball at the bottom of a valley that rolls back to its starting point when you nudge it; positive feedback is a ball perched on top of a mountain, where one slight nudge causes it to roll downhill faster and faster.   Most natural processes are negative feedbacks -- otherwise nothing would be stable.  In fact, while positive feedback processes are not unknown in nature, they are rare enough that most non-scientists would be hard-pressed to name one.  The best one I can think of is nuclear fission and fusion, which should give you an idea of what happens when nature gets rolling on a positive feedback loop and why we wouldn't be around if there were many such processes.

    So it is interesting that nearly every climate model that you hear of in the press assumes that the secondary effects from CO2-based warming are almost all positive, rather than negative feedbacks.  Scientists, in a competition to see who can come up with the most dire model, have dreamed up numerous positive feedback effects and have mostly ignored any possible negative feedbacks.  In other words, most climate scientists are currently hypothesizing that the world's climate is different from nearly every other natural process we know of and is one of the very very few runaway positive feedback processes in nature.

I want to offer up a couple of observations based on this state of affairs:

  • Climate science is very hard and very chaotic, so there is nothing we really know with certainty.  However, we have a far, far, far better understanding of #1 above than #2.  In fact, models based just on effect #1 (without any feedbacks) do a decent job of explaining history (though they still overestimate actual warming some).  However, models based on adding the positive feedback processes in #2 fail miserably at modeling history.  (Several scientists have claimed to have "fixed" this by incorporating fudge factors, a practice many model-based financial market speculators have been bankrupted by).  We have no real evidence yet to support any of the positive feedbacks, or even to support the hypothesis that the feedback is in fact positive rather than negative.  I had a professor once who liked to make the lame joke that it was a bad "sign" if you did not even know if an effect was positive or negative.
  • Because global warming advocates are much more comfortable arguing #1 than #2, they like to paint skeptics as all denying #1.  This makes for a great straw man that is easy to beat, and is aided by the fact that there is a true minority who doesn't believe #1  (and who, despite everything that is written, have every right to continue to express that opinion without fear of reprisal).  Actually, even better, they like to avoid defending their position at all and just argue that all skeptics are funded by Exxon.
  • However, it is step #2 that is the key, and that we should be arguing about.  Though the most extreme enviro-socialists just want to shut down growth and take over the world economy at any cost, most folks recognize that slowing warming with current technology represents a real trade-off between economic growth and CO2 output.  And, most people recognize that reducing economic growth might be survivable in the rich countries like the US, but for countries like India and China, which are just starting to develop, slowing growth means locking hundreds of millions into poverty they finally have a chance to escape.

    I am going to simplify this, but I think the following statement is pretty close:  The warming from #1 alone (CO2 without positive feedbacks) will not be enough to justify the really harsh actions that would slow CO2 output enough to have any effect at all;  only with substantial positive feedbacks from #2, such that the warming from CO2 alone is tripled, quadrupled or more (e.g. 8 degrees rather than 2) are warming forecasts dire enough to warrant substantial activity today.

So that is why I am a skeptic.  I believe #1, though I know there are also things other than manmade CO2 causing some of the current warming (e.g. the sun's output is higher today than it has been in centuries).  I do not think anyone has completed any really convincing work on #2, and Occam's razor tends to make me suspicious of hypothesizing positive feedback loops without evidence (since they are so much more rare than negative ones).

More on the skeptical middle ground hereDiscussion of things like the "hockey stick" is here.  For a small insight into how global warming advocates are knowingly exaggerating their case, see the footnote to this post.

Update:  Increasingly, folks seem to want to equate "skeptic" with "denier."  If so, I will have to change my terminology.  However, that would be sad, as "skeptic" is a pretty good word.  I accept there is some CO2 caused warming, but I am skeptical that the warming and its effects are as bad as folks like Al Gore make it out to be, and I am skeptical that the costs of an immediate lock-down on CO2 production will outweigh the benefits.  That is why I call myself a skeptic.  If that is now a bad term, someone needs to suggest a new one.