The Fiske Fiskers

Susan Fiske, a professor of psychology at Princeton University recently wrote a longish rant about critics of research who operate out of social media platforms and blogs. This has people like Andrew Gelman and neuroskeptic quite excited (see their respective articles here and here)

Why am I dinging these excellent bloggers, you ask? After all, their response to Fiske who accuses bloggers of ‘methodological terrorism’ and as being ‘destructo-critics’ contains a number of valid points.

Both Gelman and neuroskeptic have seen the work of Stephen Lewandowsky. They had every opportunity to examine his work thoroughly and reach their conclusions. Both chose to stand in support of Lewandowsky.

Gelman has not commented on Lewandowsky’s papers directly but nonchalantly promoted one of his opinion pieces with Dorothy Bishop. The paper was on methods of efficient gate-keeping and preventing methodological terrorists (bloggers) from getting published . neuroskeptic’s attitude toward Lewandowsky’s methods can only be described as a form of aggressive ignorance, as he promoted the now-retracted ‘Recursive Fury’ paper, which retailed labeling the same methodological terrorists as ‘conspiracists’.

In other words, what mattered was who was being disparaged and labeled. When the critics were climate skeptics, they’ were ok. When it appears as though Fiske’s open-ended vague attack might include bloggers like them, they are unhappy.

This simply shows acceptance or serious consideration of criticism of scientific results depends not merely on the validity of the points being made, but on the social context, the packaging and the channels through which it arrives. Gelman and neuroskeptic are no more immune to wild rants, ideological blind-spots and irrational thinking against ‘methodological terrorism’ than Susan Fiske is.

They would do good to stop preaching to her.

 

Climate Brexit in three tweets

Exhibit 1 is from Michael Mann drawing a connection between climate change and Brexit. That’s right, you guessed it: Brexit was caused by climate change

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In reality, ‘climate change’ is a news headline parasite. Whatever issue is making headlines is either a cause of climate change or is caused by it. The rule is far simpler, easily remembered, and probably true.

Exhibit 2 is from Gavin Schmidt drawing a parallel between Brexit supporters and vaccine-averse parents.

vaccination

Anyone who has a different opinion than Schmidt is an idiot, an anti-vaxxer, ‘racist’ or a Holocaust denier. Even if they constitute >51% of the voting British public.

Exhibit 3 is from James Annan, according to whom the Brexit vote must simply be thrown away.

sane1

That’s right. The final outcome of a referendum, with only two possible results as outcomes, happens to be something that needs to be rejected. Why did they even hold the referendum in the first place? 

[minor edits]

The attack of the Watts parasito-clones

Anthony Watts has spawned numerous clones and reaction blogs over the years. The worst is probably ‘Sou Bundanga‘. Sou does not write original material. Instead, every post is a reaction to a WUWT post appended to color commentary and comments lifted wholesale from WUWT itself.

Sou probably is consumed by intense hatred when writing her WUWT reaction blogs. How else can  you explain something like this? Reacting to a Watts post on the hypocrisy of climate scientists Sou goes ballistic. Drawing a parallel between Watts’ posts and the shock killing of UK Labour politician Jo Cox, she says:

postscript

This is unhinged.

If you are someone who thinks people who read Anthony Watts’ blog—’his nutters’ as she calls them— are capable of murdering scientists and will actually carry it out, you have reached the end of the line. You have no business  critiquing, analyzing and dissecting what he writes.

As with Gavin Schmidt it is obvious between Sou and Watts who got carried away politicizing an act of violence.

Go home safe, Sou, you are lost.

Gavin Schmidt: Brexit would lead to more than street killings of MPs

Yesterday British MP Jo Cox was killed by an attacker while going about meeting people in her constituency. The shocking incident set off a train of thoughts in Gavin Schmidt, who is from Britain.

A sudden crisis nearly always brings out hidden currents, which may have otherwise never surfaced. In his string of tweets Schmidt appears to blame ‘Brexit’ for the killing. His tweets followed the incident so closely in time there was no reliable information on motive.

The only possibility, then, is Schmidt was influenced by early reports that said the killer shouted “Britain first!” or the Guardian’s Polly Toynbee who wrote a long article squarely laying the blame for the murder at Brexit’s feet.

Schmidt pulls the trick climate activists have been resorting to, for decades:

schmidt copy

This is an incredible giveaway, isn’t it? Here we have an activist climate scientist, in the throes of a heated crisis, capitalizing on an event to attribute blame for murder on his political opponents, and going beyond, that if his side is defeated — in a fair election no less — more such incidents would occur.

It is speculation, wrapped in plausible deniability, capped off with a threat. How does he know the incident had anything to do with ‘Leave’?

Rremember, reliable information available on the killer’s motive was next-to-none at the time he wrote this. Yet Gavin Schmidt was quick off the bat.

Why wouldn’t I think he does the same with climate, and weather? ‘While no single weather event can be attributed to anthropogenic global warming, more such disasters would occur in a climate-changed world’ — how many times have we heard this from activists and scientists alike?

It is a reflexive exploitation of a crisis – you ascribe blame on your target, and while you cannot be fully sure it was what caused it, you nevertheless proceed to forecast more of the same, investing the threat with a cloak of probabilism.

Note: I wrote this originally on Medium. Only slightly modified here.

A La Jolla RICO Junta true story

The football coaches, assistant coaches and game strategists were distraught. They had gathered in the most idyllic of resorts in La Jolla for brainstorming.

‘Look, we’ve been playing game after game, not a single win’.

‘Not a win in years’.

Soccer coach Banton Pants stood up. ‘Guys, guys, relax’, he said.

‘In soccer, we used this trick. A player would run straight into the center-forward, collide, fall down injured and cry out loud.’

‘And then..’, cried Namory Goreskes, breathlessly. A football historian by trade, she knew nothing about soccer.

‘What else? ‘The referee would swoop in, pull out the red card and hold it up, the star player would be kicked out. The whole stadium would boo the guy on his way out – for cheating.’

‘We won several matches this way’.

The group went silent. The implications sank in. ‘Wow’, said Goreskes eventually as she clapped slowly. ‘A wonderful idea … such an inspiring template.’

Football_584

‘So … you’re saying, you run in there, right in front of Exxon, crumple violently throwing up all these old documents culled from a local library into the air, and the referee Attorney General shows up and dismisses Exxon?

‘Yeah and you get unlimited downs after that. And lots of money too’ – concluded Pants.

The coaches left La Jolla energized. They decided to write a report on their meeting, specifically and clearly documenting their plan to use the ‘fake injury red card’ learned from soccer to get opponents kicked out of future American football games.

References:

InsideClimate: NY AG Started RICO Planning Before Any InsideClimate Stories Were Released. Katie Brown, Energy In Depth, June 7, 2016

There are no parallels between the tobacco industry and the oil industry

One sells a product that causes many documented, scientifically provable harms but provides pleasure to its users. The other sells a product that causes harm that exists only in the minds of climate activists, but is otherwise essential for modern life, including those of activists.

Nobody buys gas for their car because they are ‘addicted’ to it. Unlike cigarettes, if you give up gasoline and quit cold turkey you will still need to find another source of energy to do the same job. Cigarettes you can quit, it won’t kill you. A substance that serves an essential function of modern life is not an addiction.

The moral template of addiction, abstinence and sin does not apply to fossil fuels.

Climate activists have been thrashing about for decades, fitting their cause into pre-existing societal moral conundrums. Successful moral conundrums seize the imagination of a public, elicit outrage and legislation and create a change in mores. Latching on to one could catapult the cause because there are pre-existing social mechanisms and a thirst for moral action to produce trajectories.

Which is why you see the activists in turn talking about pollution, polar bears, grandchildren, slavery and the third world. Unfortunately, their nonsense doesn’t fit anything. How can one tell? Ask the question: in all the years and years of climate campaigning, has there ever, been a bonafide popular uprising or political movement solely in the name of the climate cause? Everyone’s heard their crap a million times, and no one buys it.

 

The New York Times: Wrong on the La Jolla RICO Junta

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There is a puff piece for the Oreskes/UCS/CAI RICO racket written by John Schwartz who is ‘science writer for The New York Times.’

Schwartz says the Oreskes/UCS/CAI – labeled the La Jolla junta – have been accused of fomenting a conspiracy when their actions have been out in the open all along. They published their plans in a report. So, no conspiracy he declares.

‘Conspiracy’ has become an easy smear word for too many people. Don’t like your critics?  Paint them as people who believe in ‘conspiracies’.  ‘Conspiracy’ is the rhetorical sledgehammer of the day.

Look at the activists plan carefully. The group wanted to prosecute the fossil fuel industry in order to imitate tobacco control activists and create ‘public outrage’. This came first. To do this, they needed incriminating documents that fit the RICO legal template. They had none at the time they hatched their plans. Members of the junta worked with state attorney generals who initiated investigations and issued subpeonas to Exxon.

The public narrative is the opposite: InsideClimateNews discovered documents that proved ‘Exxon knew’. This moved the environmentally conscientious attorney generals to launch investigations.

The junta had no reason, no locus or starting point to go after Exxon to begin with. They were conjured up to fit the template of the tobacco court cases. After having decided on the type of documents that were needed, they were ‘found’. Using these, legal summons for further confidential documents were issued – just like it was planned.

This is the very definition of a conspiracy. The fact that the La Jolla junta wrote a report about it doesn’t change the arrow of causality. Dragging companies to court for the express purpose of promoting your environmental cause is a conspiracy.

 

The US Govt #Knew the dangers of global warming. Yet it funded John Christy?

The US government has known about the dangers of global warming since the first IPCC report.

Yet it has funded the research of scientist John Christy.

In collusion with Roy Spencer, another notorious scientist

Christy is a notorious ‘pro-fossil fuel and anti-scientific consensus’ ‘climate misinformer’ . With continued support, Christy has performed science that casts doubt on global warming.

Christy casts doubt on the tropospheric hot spot, a proven feature of climate models

He even maintains a satellite temperature record that shows no global warming for the past 18 years.

Climate scientists have said he is ‘providing legitimacy to those who refuse’ to accept global warming.

The US Department of Energy (DOE) knew this. Yet they funded his work, right up to 2014.

The DOE must be investigated by the DOJ for racketeering.

Why does the ‘climate debate’ drag on?

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Here’s why: there are a number of people applying a host of wrong techniques to attack.

Take an example: Say your cousin Vinny developed an abscess (ouch). Nothing too big and it’s just starting off. But what if – instead of going to a doctor  who would probably lance the boil – you both decide to treat it with antibiotics?

Now, instead of the fleeting pain and subsequent cure, Vinny’s abscess shrinks a bit but walls off. There’s no way to get it out, and it takes forever to resolve.

Take for example, this article on the Paris accord that appeared a while ago in the American Interest.

It has a very promising and intriguing title: “Twilight of the Climate Change Movement”

Wow – you think. Everyone’s celebrating ‘Paris’ in the climate world and here’s someone who thinks it might actually be a disaster for the movement? How interesting.

Drawn in by the premise, you read on, and the author declares:

The climate change movement faces big trouble ahead. Its principal propositions contain two major fallacies that can only become more glaring with time

What are these two fallacies?

First

…in stark contrast to popular belief … the science on which the dire predictions of manmade climate change is based is nowhere near the level of understanding or certainty that popular discourse commonly ascribes to it.

We know that. Anyone with half a working brain knows that, so good.

Second:

… the movement’s embrace of an absolute form of the precautionary principle distorts rational cost-benefit analysis, or throws it out the window altogether.

Here lies the problem.

What makes the author Mario Loyola think the climate movement has anything to do with ‘rational cost-benefit analysis’?

If it were, you could say ‘Yes, these people are hamming it up. they’re not doing a good job’. The issue of a bad cost-benefit analysis comes up only if the thing was a question of cost-benefit analysis.

Has the author never in his studies encountered power-seeking, profiteering, political and personal ambition wrapped up as ‘environmentalism’? Calculating finances to pay for Catholic indulgences might have taken some hard math too, but it takes special talent to get cracking with the calculations but be blind to the charade.

The climate movement is not in trouble because the ‘rationality’ of their cost-benefit analysis is ‘distorted’ by the precautionary principle. The climate movement is a distortion that uses the appearance of cost-benefit analysis to pass itself off as rational.

 

Loyola recognizes that the climate movement’s agenda is essentially “anti-industrial”.

If one knows this, the way is simply clear: stop taking the impact of estimates of ‘equillibrium climate sensitivity’ on the anti-industrial agenda seriously. The ECS analyses of Nic Lewis’ are interesting but why pretend they have any bearing at all on Bill McKibben’s next move?

There are lots of people in the climate debate who take the quantitative questions thrown up by the voodoo premises of the climate movement quite seriously and analyze them with great effort. The lukewarmers certainly belong in this class.

They have definitely contributed to prolonging humanity’s climate pain.

 

 

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Low CO2 is toxic?

Blair King of A Chemist in Langley made some claims about CO2 in a conversation I got into. Specifically, he said

that 1000 ppm of CO2 can cause people to have complaints:

that an afternoon in 2000 ppm of CO2 would cause crushing headaches:

He was quite assured as he spoke from experience:

I expressed skepticism at the stated effects of CO2 at such low concentrations. Blair ended up writing a post summarizing the human effects of ambient CO2 at different concentrations.

Here’s the passage on low CO2 concentrations from his blog post. Basically, he repeats his claims:

We all know that at atmospheric concentrations it is essentially harmless, but what about concentrations between atmospheric (400 ppm) and the problematic doses (over 10,000 ppm). Well the answer is that it varies. The literature is clear that your body will adapt to those concentrations and will quickly adapt back once the exposure is reversed. As for what happens in the meantime, well there is an entire academic field on “sick building syndrome” that gives a pretty clear indication of what happens. The following references all discuss how elevated carbon dioxide concentrations (Apte et al, 2000, Wargocki et al, 2000, Seppanen, Fisk and Mendall, 1999) effect human health. All point out that a proportion of the human population reacts poorly to daily variations in carbon dioxide concentrations. This is understandable since, as a vasodilator, it would be expected to have particular effects on people prone to migraines or headaches.

What does he say?

  1. The literature on sick building syndrome says what happens when humans are exposed to CO2
  2. The listed papers discuss the effects on elevated CO2 on human health
  3. CO2 is a vasodilator and causes headaches so the above is understandable, i.e, there is a biologic mechanism to underpin the epidemiologic and experimental observations

The problem is, many of these things are wrong.

[1] Sick building syndrome is a constellation of symptoms and findings occurring in people in indoor environments that is thought to be related to air quality, among other things.

The exact cause of sick building syndrome (SBS) is not known. But ventilation and renewal of indoor air ameliorate the syndrome in many instances. Because the entities present in indoor air thought to cause SBS are numerous, and unknown in specific cases, researchers have used ambient air CO2 concentrations as a proxy for air quality.

Indoor CO2 increases in buildings where people live and work. Ventilation refreshes indoor air volumes, removes any causative factor present and removes CO2 that builds up in the same indoor environment. Which means CO2 becomes an effective proxy for air quality and adequate ventilation and does away with the need to identify and measure the offending substance in each instance.

Blair appears to have confused the role played by CO2 in SBS research to its causative agent.

Look at the abstract of Apte et al 2000, one of the papers cited:

Higher indoor concentrations of air pollutants due, in part, to lower ventilation rates are a potential cause of sick building syndrome (SBS) symptoms in office workers. The indoor carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration is an approximate surrogate for indoor concentrations of other occupant-generated pollutants and for ventilation rate per occupant …

[2] You can examine the literature on sick building syndrome. They are the result of work examining different causative agents – bioaerosols, mold, bacteria, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), temperature, humidity, particulate matter, building dust, paper, printer ink, and so forth.

Studies that examine ventilation efficacy, using CO2 as a proxy, cannot be used to infer the health effects of elevated CO2. The studies are observational and the several potential causative factors – as listed above – simultaneously co-vary with CO2.  The human effects of elevated CO2 – whatever they might be – are confounded in these studies.

[3] CO2 has central nervous system vasoactive actions in a linear fashion. Vasodilation-mediated headache is reliably seen starting between 2-5% inhaled CO2 whereas 2000 ppm corresponds to 0.2%, a value 10 times lower. Reports of headaches occurring in concentrations lower than 2% certainly exist but are anecdotal.

In fact, literature on the effects of low CO2 concentrations of the 0.2-2% range (not SBS studies) is sparse. A recent review by NASA (Stanovic et al 2016) examined 76 studies and reported headache to be a common physiologic symptom. But many, if not most of them looked at concentrations much higher than 1000-2000 ppm CO2 – typically in the 3-7.5% range.

What about effects other than headache?

One outlier set of studies that demonstrated dramatic effects for low indoor CO2 on mental performance come from Usha Satish and co-authors.

You can incur brain damage by reading Thinkprogress hype on one of the studies from the group:

Romm Hype CO2 Cognition

The Thinkprogress article makes the same  error as Blair but goes well beyond in typical Romm fashion pinning 20 years worth of low ‘productivity, learning, and test scores’ in SBS studies on CO2:

All of this new research is consistent with — and actually helps explain — literally dozens of studies in the past two decades that find low to moderate levels of CO2 have a negative impact on productivity, learning, and test scores. See here for a research note and bibliography of some 20 studies and review articles.

On the other hand if one actually reads the research note Romm links to, it simply reviews the SBS literature with studies examining every known indoor pollutant – from new office furnishings emanating VOCs and old carpets giving off mold.

As noted, no categorical statement/s about effects of CO2 can be made from such studies.

A similar rush to judgment and loose methodological  language blaming indoor CO2 is seen in literature examining classroom performance of children in schools. Many are observational in design with indoor CO2 co-varying with other ambient constituents. Nevertheless, the measurement proxy is turned into the offender.

The heights of low low-CO2 junk science hysteria are unsurpassed in a self-published review by  Phil Bierwirth of the Australian National University, in whose hands everything from kidney stones, cancers, neurological diseases, viral infections to mental incapacitation to extinction of the human race is brought about by low CO2

If allowed to persist, problems such as kidney calcification could lead to renal
failure. In the extreme case lifespans could become shorter than the time required to reach reproductive age. This would result in extinction of the species

One doesn’t have look too far to decode this  CO2-demonizing madness:

The main aim of this paper was to explore the question of toxicity for human breathing at levels of CO2 that could be attained with the continued unabated rise in atmospheric CO2 associated with climate change.

Back in the real world, what the results of the Satish-associated studies mean is not clear as their low CO2 findings are not yet reproducibly observed.

As Stanovic et al note:

On the other hand, several investigations have contradicted these observations entirely, finding no consistent relationships between CO2 exposure and either cognitive or motor functioning, in terms of speed, accuracy, or throughput.

The authors conclude:

While many studies have thus far addressed the impact of CO2 concentration on cognition, the inconsistent and contradictory nature of current findings limits the ability to draw firm conclusions about the impact of elevated CO2 exposure on sleep, cognition, and psychomotor performance.

In conclusion, the effects of low CO2 – in the 1000 ppm range – are mild, inconsistent, and mostly nonexistent in adapted individuals as almost all people working indoors are bound to be.

More importantly, they are not enough to label CO2 as being toxic at such concentrations.

Lastly it shouldn’t require to be pointed out causal inferences cannot be drawn from observational studies when confounders are present, especially when the studies themselves make this clear.

References:

1. Apte MG, Fisk WJ, and Daisey JM. Associations Between Indoor CO 2 Concentrations and Sick Building Syndrome Symptoms in US Office Buildings: An Analysis of the 1994-1996 BASE Study Data. Indoor air 2000.
2. Bierwirth P. Effects of rising carbon dioxide levels on human health via breathing toxicity – A critical issue that remains unapprehended. 2014.
3. Brian JE. Carbon dioxide and the cerebral circulation. Anesthesiology 1998.
4. Burge PS. Sick building syndrome. Occupational and Environmental Medicine 61: 185-190, 2004.
5. Daisey JM, Angell WJ, and Apte MG. Indoor air quality, ventilation and health symptoms in schools: an analysis of existing information. Indoor Air 13: 53-64, 2003.
6. Law J, Watkins S, and Alexander D. In-flight carbon dioxide exposures and related symptoms: association, susceptibility, and operational implications. NASA Technical Paper 2010.
7. Ramalho O, Wyart G, Mandin C, Blondeau P, Cabanes P-A, Leclerc N, Mullot J-U, Boulanger G, and Redaelli M. Association of carbon dioxide with indoor air pollutants and exceedance of health guideline values. Building and Environment 93: 115-124, 2015.
8. Satish U, Mendell MJ, Shekhar K, Hotchi T, Sullivan D, Streufert S, and Fisk WJ. Is CO2 an indoor pollutant? Direct effects of low-to-moderate CO2 concentrations on human decision-making performance. Environmental health perspectives 120: 1671-1677, 2012.
9. Stankovic A, Alexander D, Oman CM, and Schneiderman J. A Review of Cognitive and Behavioral Effects of Increased Carbon Dioxide Exposure in Humans. NASA Technical Paper 2016.
10. Wargocki P, Wyon DP, Sundell J, and Clausen G. The effects of outdoor air supply rate in an office on perceived air quality, sick building syndrome (SBS) symptoms and productivity. Indoor Air 2000.

 

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