Thursday, May 15, 2008

 

Part Two: Bullet-Proofing AGW

I’ve received zero response or feedback on the earlier Part One to this series, in which I asked if anyone has seen a balanced science curriculum covering climate change. I’m hoping the lack of response is due to my insignificance, rather than the non-existence of any such program.

I posed the question due to my unpleasant encounter with the propaganda that passes for curriculum these days on matters of climate change.

As part of his 6th Grade Earth Science class, my son was exposed to an uncritical viewing of, and presentation as absolute fact, Al Gore’s snake oil documentary, An Inconvenient Truth. It’s bad enough that the local school system is exponentially spreading untruth and the indirect enrichment of special and corporate interests, but far more offensive is that they are being manipulated by those interests. As I stated in Part One:
While I’m sure some school systems were eager self-starters in screening AIT and similar proselytizing, it looks like some organized non-profits have made a serious effort to create and promulgate packaged, pro-AGW curricula and get it installed in public schools. Mostly, it looks like the established curriculum consists of showing the movie and talking about Gore’s Nobel Prize. I see no such organized effort for a more balanced, even handed approach to the science, issues and public policy options behind study of climate change and possible human causation.
I’m been playing catch up these past couple of weeks on the state of controversy and debate on climate change, and I note a dismaying shift in those who would most aggressively apply the means of anthropogenic climate change (AGW) to their ends of controlling industrial production, energy consumption, and ultimately all the parts and processes of our economy.

[Aside: Controlling the means of production, to be sure, with a very green, very intrusive smiley face. One more instance of liberal fascism, no doubt. Brings to mind Alexander Dubcek’s tragic attempt at enlightened socialism in Czechoslovakia, socialism with a human face, during the Prague Spring of 1968. But then, most Modern Progressive Policy prescriptions remind me of failed socialist experiments.]

AGW Proponents are trying to make the classic shift to creating an a priori assumption that allows facts and experience to be ignored if it seems to contradict their theories. Proponents are now trying to argue that any climate change that occurs – heating, cooling, more ice, less ice, catastrophic weather event of any size, shape, frequency, duration or severity – amounts to evidence in the hardening “consensus” that man has caused climate change by pollution.

In such a way the true believers are trying to bullet-proof AGW theory.

Andrew Revkin, writing in the New York Times, explains the little do-se-do side step that AGW fund-grubbers are trying to pull off:
I have a story coming in The Times overnight that focuses on a new study forecasting some Northern Hemisphere cooling in the coming decade, even as the planet continues to warm in the long haul from the accelerating buildup of human-generated greenhouse gases.

The researchers, writing in the journal Nature, stress that this is a preliminary attempt to shift climate models toward becoming a forecasting tool, mainly by tweaking them with real-world data (in this case ocean temperatures) as they churn through their simulations.

They forecast a plateau in warming and some possible cooling over North America and Europe in the coming decade, probably driven by shifts in ocean circulation in the North Atlantic and other ocean cycles that can affect climate. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory of NASA recently reported that the Pacific Ocean appears to be reverting to a cool phase, as well.

Whether their prediction of a plateau for warming for a decade in North America and Europe is correct or not, their research may signal a shift that many climate researchers have been calling for for awhile now — toward service-oriented climate science (even as work continues to clarify how much warming will happen, how fast, from the greenhouse buildup).
Pay no attention to that cooling behind the curtain!

Chris Horner at Planet Gore offered a quick criticism:
I can't let the patent absurdity of Andrew Revkin's Dot Earth blog item from last evening go unremarked. Revkin's spin on the forthcoming Nature report is that they are predicting cooling now because they wanted to make their models more realistic. Titled "Moving from Projections to Predictions on Climate," the piece speaks for itself.

What a novel idea, "tweaking" climate models with "real-world data" so that they can forecast actual climate phenomenon. What does that tell you about what the climate models were designed to do previously?
Horner knows, models are developed and refined, not to offer predictive value – that would make them scientific models, rather than polemic ones – but to continue to buttress the flagging pseudo-scientific basis for AGW hysteria.

Climate change models have done a lousy job of predicting actual climate in the two decades or so since modelers have been at play. In Old Science Terms, that would have meant that the models proved false. In New Science, that just means they need to be adjusted some more, to account for the temporary lack of existence of warming, prior to the inevitable and irreversible warming to come. AGQ Proponents want to make sure their theories and models remain non-falsifiable, the better to gobble the public and private funding largesse, and accomplish their public policy goals.

That this is true should be amply demonstrated by modelers only now trying to get their models to comport with, well, the world as we live in it.

Here’s a more detailed technical assessment from Jim Manzi:
2. I take the spirit of your comment to be (as per Roger Pielke’s post) that the current global warming theory is non-falsifiable, since warming, cooling, or no temperature change over the next decade are all asserted to be consistent with the theory. As someone who has called for model validation on actual forward forecasts (not only "hindcasting") for some time, I have a high degree of sympathy for this view. Non-falsifiable = non-scientific is a really useful rule-of-thumb. However, I think that you need to keep a couple of things in mind. First, one needs to match the time period of the falsification test to the underlying physical theory. I have often been presented with the assertion by climate scientists that we require something like a 30-year period to distinguish signal from noise (i.e., the proper test period is at least 30 years), so one could see the events described in the paper, and still have not falsified the predictive model. Second, I don't really think that a binary "data is consistent or inconsistent with theory and model predictions" is the most productive way to think about the results of such tests. Instead, it's really the distribution of predicted-to-actual results for a series of predictions that we care about.

3. It’s a joke that the climate modeling community has not had to date — and despite the paper that you reference, doesn’t look in any danger of starting anytime soon — a disciplined program of making formal climate predictions for future years, escrowing the code used to make the predictions, and then each year applying actual emissions and other forcings data over the period since the model was built to the exact model code used to make the prediction in order to create a true distribution of model accuracy. All predictive modeling communities resist this (as all humans resist real accountability if they can get away with it) — it’s management’s job to force this issue. One known problem of not doing this is that it leads any predictive modeling community to grossly over-estimate its accuracy. Another is that by not highlighting model error, its slows the rate of model improvement.
Manzi goes on to offer some caution for those who would throw out the models with the bath water. He argues in effect that the bath water could still be considered warm, given the longer time frames that should reasonably be used to measure a model’s accuracy.

National Review recently also published an excellent essay by Deroy Murdock, highlighting some of the emerging scientific data that must alarm AGW advocates. Not alarm them about the threat of AGW, but alarm them how precarious all their theoretical constructs, given demonstrated evidence of global cooling. Hence the need to revise the AGW orthodoxy to read more like anthropogenic climate change (ACC). [Warming, cooling, doesn’t matter, as long as we’re at fault.]

Murdock quotes Dr. Phil Chapman, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) staff physicist and NASA mission scientist:
“Disconcerting as it may be to true believers in global warming, the average temperature on Earth has remained steady or slowly declined during the past decade, despite the continued increase in the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, and now the global temperature is falling precipitously.” Dr. Phil Chapman wrote in The Australian on April 23. “All those urging action to curb global warming need to take off the blinkers and give some thought to what we should do if we are facing global cooling instead.”
Chapman, it turns out, is one of those dissident scientists inclined to hold solar activity (or the lack thereof) more responsible for climate change, than human activity:
Chapman believes reduced sunspot activity is curbing temperatures. As he points out, “The reason this matters is that there is a close correlation between variations on the sunspot cycle and Earth’s climate.”
Murdock helpfully cites weather phenomena and climate anomalies as “anecdotal” as the kinds of “evidences” AGW fanatics like Al Gore use to ground their AGW theology:
Anecdotally, last winter brought record cold to Florida, Mexico, and Greece, and rare snow to Jerusalem, Damascus, and Baghdad. China endured brutal ice and snow. Dr. Oleg Sorochtin of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Oceanology advised: “Stock up on fur coats and felt boots!”
Beyond anecdote, there are some very precise data measurements that belie the commonly accepted mistruth that the planet is warming:
NASA satellites found that last winter’s Arctic Sea ice covered 2 million square kilometers (772,204 square miles) more than the last three years’ average. It also was 10 to 20 centimeters (4 to 8 inches) thicker than in 2007. The ice between Canada and southwest Greenland also spread dramatically. “We have to go back 15 years to find ice expansion so far south,” Denmark’s Meteorological Institute stated. “Snows Return to Mount Kilimanjaro,” cheered a January 21 International Herald Tribune headline, burying one of the climate alarmists’ favorite warming anecdotes.“The University of Alabama, Huntsville’s analysis of data from satellites launched in 1979 showed a warming trend of 0.14 degrees Centigrade (0.25 degrees Fahrenheit) per decade,” Joseph D’Aleo, the Weather Channel’s first director of meteorology, told me. “This warmth peaked in 1998, and the temperature trend the last decade has been flat, even as CO2 has increased 5.5 percent. Cooling began in 2002. Over the last six years, global temperatures from satellite and land-temperature gauges have cooled (-0.14 F and -0.22 F, respectively). Ocean buoys have echoed that slight cooling since the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration deployed them in 2003.”

As marine geologist Dr. Robert Carter of Australia’s James Cook University recently observed: “The real-world global average temperature...exhibits no significant increase since 1998, and the preliminary 2007 year-end temperature confirms the continuation of a temperature plateau since 1998, to which is now appended a cooling trend over the last three years.”
Contrary to media and politically driven misstatement of fact, many Scientists discount AGW, and even concerns about a warming planet, due to any natural or man-made factor:
“I don’t make climate predictions because I don’t know what the Sun will do next,” says S. Fred Singer, University of Virginia emeritus professor of environmental sciences and founding director of the U.S. Weather Satellite Service. “But analysis of the best data of the past 30 years has convinced me that the human contribution has been insignificant — in spite of the real rise in atmospheric CO2, a greenhouse gas.”
“The hypothesis that solar variability, and not human activity, is warming the oceans goes a long way to explain the puzzling idea that the Earth’s surface may be warming while the atmosphere is not,” explained Dr. David Wojick, co-founder of Carnegie-Mellon University’s Department of Engineering and Public Policy. “The public is not well served by this constant drumbeat of false alarms fed by computer models manipulated by advocates.”AccuWeather’s Expert Senior Forecaster Joe Bastardi has stated: “People are concerned that 50 years from now, it will be warm beyond a point of no return. My concern is almost opposite, that it’s cold and getting colder.”
Murdock likewise notes the article in Nature and the “warming, but colder at the moment” evasion, and observes:
In its dispatch on this devastating blow to warming fetishists, London’s Daily Telegraph reports further that computer models belonging to the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (the Vatican of “global warming”) do not include “actual records of such events as the strength of the Gulf Stream and the El Niño cyclical warming event in the Pacific, which are known to have been behind the warmest year ever recorded in 1998.”Astonishing. How can anyone believe computer models that disregard the Gulf Stream, one of the key contributors to the Western Hemisphere’s weather and climatic events? This is akin to a map of the USA with Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas cut out of it. Even worse, ignoring El Niño in 1998, Earth’s hottest year, is like contemplating the mortally wounded body of Abraham Lincoln and looking away as John Wilkes Booth flees Ford’s Theater.This is negligent “science” at best and utter flim-flam at worst.
Was there any kind of climate reporting, prior to global warming? Careful reflection of should recall now forgotten stories about El Nino and El Nina, and the weather patterns resulting from changing ocean currents and gulf streams.

It wasn’t until advocacy environmentalists grasped at nightmare scenarios, that AGW suddenly appeared as the latest self- and overwrought disaster looming. (Earlier nightmares were global overpopulation, global depression, global cooling, global pandemics.) A highly lucrative industry of grants, public and private research dollars, and politicized academic research facilities sprang up, in collusion with politicians and public policy advocates.

And all the while, the most vocal and devout AGW adherents continue to jet around the world in their private jets, buy offsets for their far from green lifestyles, and in many cases, exploit the hysteria they’ve caused for financial gain.

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