Category Archives: global warming

Does climate campaigner Michael Oppenheimer not know how much sea level has risen?

Today I read this quote from an AP story:

It is not correct to say Sandy was caused by global warming, but “the damage caused by Sandy was worse because of sea level rise,” said Princeton University climate scientist Michael Oppenheimer. He said the sea level in New York City is a foot higher than a century ago because of man-made climate change.

There’s just one problem with Oppenheimer’s statement. Sea level hasn’t risen a foot over the last century because of man-made climate change. It has risen some, but definitely not a foot. How do I know this? Because the total rise over the last century for global sea level rise is about 9 inches:

Trends_in_global_average_absolute_sea_level%2C_1870-2008_%28US_EPA%29[1]

Not only has sea level not risen by a foot, but there is a natural component to this sea level rise. That’s because sea level has been rising for the last 20,000 years.

Post-Glacial_Sea_Level[1]

(Image from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Current_sea_level_rise)

You can argue how much of the sea level rise was caused by humans, but you can’t honestly argue that a foot has been caused by humans over the last 100 years.

Michael Oppenheimer has to know this basic fact about sea level rise. He served as the chief scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund, was one of the people who began the U.N. conferences that created the Kyoto Protocol, and is on the National Academies’ Board on Energy and Environmental Studies. So why he is breathtakingly ignorant about some of the basic science about climate change?

A tail of two climate stories…

According to the International Energy Agency’s chief economist, global temperature will rise by 11 degrees Fahrenheit by 2010

According a new report from climate scientists, the climate is less sensitive to carbon dioxide than the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (which the IEA relied on) previously thought. This means that temperature won’t increase as much as previously thought.

10 Facts and Thoughts

1. Sting’s Symphonicities is a pretty good album.

2. Fact: If all of the coal in the lower 48 states were mined, it would be enough coal to last 3,800 years at current U.S. consumption levels.

3. Despite what Time thinks, trade works two directions. We get benefits not only for exports, but imports improve our lives as well.

4. Andruw Jones might be worth a few million if the Yanks decide to pick him up.

5. Installing a solid state drive as your main computer drive is a fantastic upgrade

6. NOAA says 2010 tied with 2005 for warmest year in the surface temperature record

7. NASA’s surface temperature record also sets a record in 2010

8. USA drops to 9th in the 2011 Index of Economic Freedom

9. 20% of the world’s phones use Gorilla Glass made by Corning in upstate New York

10. The Dragon Keeper by Robin Hobb starts slow

Just one more reason to be skeptical of climate scientists

Instead of remedying problems with bad apples, bad techniques, and merely admitting that some people screwed up, some climate scientists have taken a new tack—create a blacklist to indentify enemies.  Someday climate scientists with rehabilitate their disciple, but that day is not yet here.

In response to being #1 on the blacklist Roger Pielke Sr. simply wrote, “I am not a "climate skeptic". That’s a decent answer to most people, but not to these creators of a blacklist. Here’s Pielke Jr. with some advice to his Dad:

Note to Dad, there is no better evidence of your denier credentials than denying that you are a denier. Trust me — been there, done that. Far from being a skeptic, my father has long argued that the IPCC has underestimated the human influence on the climate system, which includes but is not limited to carbon dioxide, a view that is pretty mainstream these days, thanks in part to his work. Does he "try to minimize the problem, absolve humans of any major impact, or suggest there is no need to take any action"? Well, no.

What my father does do is ask questions, challenge preconceptions, advance hypotheses and test them with data and analysis, followed by publication of his work in the world’s leading climate journals for a period of decades without much regard for whether his work supports or challenges a consensus — in short, he does exactly the sort of thing that makes you one of the most published and most cited scientists of your generation. But in the bizarre world of climate science deviation from or challenge to orthodox views on science or politics is enough to get you on a list as the top bad guy.

Al Gore finally gets called on the carpet

**Updated–See Below**

Al Gore’s Oscar-winning and Nobel peace prize contributing An Inconvenient Truth contains a number of important errors. But scientists didn’t call Gore on the carpet. That experience left me with a bad taste in my mouth about the honesty of many climate scientists. Yesterday Al Gore promoted a bold claim that seemed to be quite a stretching the truth again. He claimed that polar ice may vanish in 5-7 years:

“It is hard to capture the astonishment that the experts in the science of ice felt when they saw this,” said former U.S. Vice President Gore, who joined Scandinavian officials and scientists to brief journalists and delegates. It was Gore’s first appearance at the two-week conference.

This was obviously crazy talk. Here’s a graph that shows the sea ice extent of Arctic ice for 2002 through 2009:

AMSRE_Sea_Ice_Extent[1]

The red line is 2009’s data. As you can see 2009 was a bit lower compared to 2002-2006, but there was more sea ice in 2008 than in 2007 and more ice in 2009 than in 2008. This is still lower than the 1979 to 2000 mean sea ice extent, but the data do not point to zero Arctic sea ice in 5 to 7 years.

Unlike with many of Gore’s claims, the press called him on the carpet with this distortion. The Times reports:

In his speech, Mr Gore told the conference: “These figures are fresh. Some of the models suggest to Dr [Wieslav] Maslowski that there is a 75 per cent chance that the entire north polar ice cap, during the summer months, could be completely ice-free within five to seven years.”

However, the climatologist whose work Mr Gore was relying upon dropped the former Vice-President in the water with an icy blast.

“It’s unclear to me how this figure was arrived at,” Dr Maslowski said. “I would never try to estimate likelihood at anything as exact as this.”

Mr Gore’s office later admitted that the 75 per cent figure was one used by Dr Maslowksi as a “ballpark figure” several years ago in a conversation with Mr Gore.

Hopefully journalists will do a better job of fact checking Gore’s claims in the future. A week ago he tried to defuse the ClimateGate letters scandal by saying that the most recent emails were more than 10 years old. Al Gore is just not credible when it comes to matters of science.

**Update**

It appears that Al Gore had a basis for his claim.  The claim is still nuts, but at least in this case he wasn’t just making stuff up. The paper that Gore was likely relying on is here. The graph looks like this:

Fullscreen capture 12152009 25454 PM

“One of the foundational components of the scientific method is the idea of reproducibility”

One of my concerns with some climate “science” is the lack of transparency and reproducibility of the results. For example, as two professors of computer science explain:

 One of the foundational components of the scientific method is the idea of reproducibility (Popper 1959). In order for an experiment to be considered valid it must be replicated. This process begins with the scientists who originally performed the experiment publishing the details of the experiment. This description of the experiment is then read by another group of scientists who carry out the experiment, and ascertain whether the results of the new experiment are similar to the original experiment. If the results are similar enough then the experiment has been replicated. This process validates the fact that the experiment was not dependent on local conditions, and that the written description of the experiment satisfactorily records the knowledge gained through the experiment.

The ability to replicate models and transparency is sorely lacking in in climate science. That’s the real lesson we should learn from the release of the CRU emails. Willis Eschenbach explains this well here. For example Eschenbach writes:

Science works by one person making a claim (hypothesis), and backing it up with the data and methods that they used to make the claim. Other scientists attack the work by (among other things) trying to replicate the first scientist’s work. If they can’t replicate it, it doesn’t stand. So blocking the FOIA allowed Phil Jones to claim that his temperature record (HadCRUT3) was valid science.

 

This is not just trivial gamesmanship, this is central to the very idea of scientific inquiry. This is an attack on the heart of science, by keeping people who disagree with you from ever checking your work and seeing if your math is correct.

Thomas Friedman creates a textbook straw man argument

If you look up the definition of a straw man argument, it’s not likely you will find a better one that this argument from Thomas Friedman’s article in the NY Times:

If you follow the debate around the energy/climate bills working through Congress you will notice that the drill-baby-drill opponents of this legislation are now making two claims. One is that the globe has been cooling lately, not warming, and the other is that America simply can’t afford any kind of cap-and-trade/carbon tax.

 

But here is what they also surely believe, but are not saying: They believe the world is going to face a mass plague, like the Black Death, that will wipe out 2.5 billion people sometime between now and 2050. They believe it is much better for America that the world be dependent on oil for energy — a commodity largely controlled by countries that hate us and can only go up in price as demand increases — rather than on clean power technologies that are controlled by us and only go down in price as demand increases. And, finally, they believe that people in the developing world are very happy being poor — just give them a little running water and electricity and they’ll be fine. They’ll never want to live like us.

Here’s what Ben Hale, a environmental philosopher has to say about this argument:

Screeeeeech! Say what? They believe that a mass plague is coming? That it is better for America if the world is dependent upon oil? That people in the developing world are happy being poor? He must be joking.

 

I agree that those who claim that the earth is cooling and that America can’t afford a cap-and-trade/carbon tax are making a mistake, but I wouldn’t go so far as to attribute a belief to them. For all I know, they believe almost exactly the same things I believe; they’ve just arrived at different conclusions. Maybe they’re poor reasoners.

 

(Right, I get it, his point is that such irrational beliefs are the “only possible way” of making sense of claims that the earth is cooling and that America can’t afford carbon policies, but there are better ways of making the point than redounding to absurd hyperbole. Making up beliefs of people you disagree with is a surefire way to completely misunderstand them.)

When I read Friedman’s article this morning I was irritated, so I’m glad Hale explained why Friedman’s straw man argument was so weak.

Obama’s EPA to charge a fee for cows’ flatulence?

I get a little amused when I read articles about a subject or issue I know about. Here’s a good example– Proposed fee on smelly cows, hogs angers farmers. It just so happens that I’ve been following the “cow flatulence” issue. The article initmates that EPA has proposed charging a fee on cow flatuence becuase cows (and hogs) emit greenhouse gases. The article says:

It would require farms or ranches with more than 25 dairy cows, 50 beef cattle or 200 hogs to pay an annual fee of about $175 for each dairy cow, $87.50 per head of beef cattle and $20 for each hog.

These numbers are completely accurate. What is slightly inaccurate is that EPA hasn’t formally announced they would charge cows this fee. EPA put out and Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. If EPA starts to regulate greenhouse gases under one section of the Clean Air Act (such as section 202 which regulates emissions from cars) they will be forced to regulate greenhouse gases from other sections as well–such as Title V. The fees talked about in this news article would be assessed under Title V. While EPA is not proposed to charge these fees, they are the unaviodable outcome of trying to regulate greenhouse gases using the Clean Air Act.

Obama’s top climate advisor has announced that his Administraiton will regulate greenhouse gases unsing the Air Act. This is utter folly. If you want to read my take on this, my comments to EPA are here.