Author Archives: Shub Niggurath

L’affaire Hunt: Impressions of prejudice beget prejudice

Climate scientist and blogger James Annan pulled a Lubos/ATTP/Sou/Realclimate — i.e., turned on moderation and started deleting comments — on his blog on Tim Hunt’s speech. Annan made up his mind against Hunt with the one-sided and selective narrative that came first. There has been much written on biologist Tim Hunt and his speech. To me what is interesting is how Annan fails to understand what constitutes evidence or reporting in a situation like the Hunt affair.

initial tweet

From Connie St Louis’ original tweet

Is a hastily typed-out paragraph constructed with selected quotes from an unrecorded speech mixed with opinion, ‘evidence’?

From Deborah Blum's Storify post

From Deborah Blum’s Storify post

Is a recounting of a speech by an observer that is constituted almost entirely by paraphrasing of selective bits, ‘reporting’?

Regardless of what one thinks about Tim Hunt or sexism the answer is ‘no’. Evidence would have been a recording/video of Hunt’s complete speech or full shorthand notes. Reporting would have been an unbiased presentation of what he said, using verbatim quotes instead of paraphrases, or an account of his overall message not just parts that appear like sexism when pulled out of context. Reporting would gather opinions from those offended by his speech and those that saw nothing wrong.

By any standard Connie St Louis‘ original tweets that started the ball rolling on l’affaire Hunt and Deborah Blum’s Storify that provided additional context fail to clear the bar for evidence or reporting.

Perhaps Hunt made a bad joke but recovered in the second half, … perhaps he redeemed himself by self-deprecatingly mocking his own love troubles. Or maybe, he damned himself to sexism hell by speaking his prejudiced mind. How would one know?

As to the Hunt question itself, Annan thinks he can be removed from honorary positions and membership of the Royal Society because who needs an ‘old’, ‘entitled’, ‘washed-up’, ‘white man’ – all Annan’s chosen descriptors of Hunt.

Make up your mind Lubos

Not too long ago, climatic blogger Lubos Motl declared:

if done right, temperature adjustments are great

Lubos said people asking questions had an ‘adjustment-phobia’ that ‘unmask[ed] their anti-scientific credentials’. (He didn’t stop there, of course, calling the questioners ‘nutjobs’, deleting comments and retrospectively editing his words.)

Now, he writes a post questioning adjustments made by Karl et al 2015 in Science, the pause-destroying paper with the devastating conclusion that adding numbers to temperatures makes them go up.

The post is actually chock-full of sensible questions about the ‘hiatus-killer’, such as:

However, the shock is that the warming trend extracted from the marine vessels was copied to the buoys time series

and

The warming trend indicated by the buoys – a project that was specifically designed by scientists to measure the temperature of the ocean – was completely erased by Karl et al.

and

If you’re not dull, you will ask: Why didn’t they do just the opposite? They could have repaired the trend from the marine vessels for them to agree with the lower trend from the buoys

I think it is time to call Lubos Motl an anti-scientific nutjob.

Paris: Route to the soft exit

One of the oft-repeated words in climate negotiation-speak is ‘ambition’. Ambition refers to how much cutting of carbon emissions (and consequently economic damage) a country is willing to commit to in negotiations (the COPs). ‘Ambition’ for Paris appears to have prematurely gone flaccid, an indicator being the irrepressible Christiana Figueres‘ plans for 2030 for a CO2-cutting treaty to avert ‘2C’.

The climate negotiation troupe is made of a trifecta of nationally-selected bureaucrat representatives, non-governmental groups, and media agencies. A cardinal point in its structure lies in each thinking the others to be responsible for ‘ambition’. But this is fundamentally irreconcilable with the parties’ individual aims and motives. Countries and blocs participate to safeguard their self-interests, NGOs and media organs contribute to noise and propagation of the pantomime. In other words, in reality, there is no ambition within the UNFCCC system. Climate activists bide their time hoping for a perfect storm of circumstance, leadership failure and true belief to precipitate a dissolution of countries’ defenses.

With the above, the real dealing, maneuvering and re-positioning take place behind-the-scenes, well in advance of the conference of parties (COPs). To get a sense, I would recommend Benny Peiser’s excellent summation of the state-of-play. Briefly, there are key indicators to suggest no ambitious outcome can be expected from Paris.

First, China has its agreement with the United States as demonstration of its ‘commitment’. The United States itself, under President Barack Obama, will no doubt valiantly present its environmental agency rules as proof. Recognizing the fiasco of its own position within the Kyoto Protocol, the EU has walked back from its traditional unilateral commitment to emissions reduction to a conditional one. The EU’s requirement for emission-reduction is conditional on a legally binding international treaty, to which China, India and the US Senate present a near-insurmountable barrier. As ever, India has re-iterated its right to development via fossil-fuel use and questioned the lack of concrete steps about their own emissions from the US and EU. The end result: a hodge-podge of national measures that individual countries can hold up en-route to a defensibly failed Paris.

Peiser’s article makes clear the constant presence of the UNFCCC has acted as an evolutionary force in international negotiations. Countries have learned to accommodate and incorporate ‘climate’ into so-called business-as-usual functioning rather than the opposite.

Blowing smoke up asses: the Paris endgame

It was thought blowing smoke up the ass could save drowned people from death. Common enough a human affliction – carrying out an earnest if comical act in the face of calamity, in order to give the appearance of doing something.

With the dissolution of Neo-Malthusianism the underpinning ideologic elements merely mapped to different domains. Formerly, too many people meant wretched existences and eventual ‘collapse’. Drought, famine and disease would stalk the land. There were ‘limits to growth’. Now there is a climatic limit to growth.

David ‘ Climate Nuremberg’ Roberts of Grist.org, who now works for a different website, has written yet another article on the 2C conundrum and Paris. To get to its conclusion, recall the progression of the climate movement:

1. First, the concept of global change blossomed and with it the question of human-influenced global climate change. How sensitive was the climate to human influence? Climate models gave answers.

2. We got a bunch of numbers for sensitivity. The Schellnhuber School for priests of climate alarm astutely realised such figures alone were not enough. Limits were needed to make the woolly climate debate concrete. 2C was invented.  Surprise, surprise, climate modelers came up with the goods – the host of bad things that were to happen. 2C it was then – the limit for human civilization, the guardrail, the safe space.

3. The world (finally) had a problem to be solved — 2C. As solutions go, killing off people (communism, nazism) and preventing them from being born (malthusianism) had fallen out of favour. Carbon taxes, trade permits, solar panels, onshore windmills and emissions trading had not. Climate mitigation models came with the answers. Surprisingly it was the same every time: with a magical combination of the above it was possible! 2C could be avoided. All that was needed was ‘political will’.

4. 2C imposed limits on everyone but cruelly and ironically on climate activists first. There was a price for saying ‘all is needed is political will’ every 5 years. The amount of carbon to be cut kept increasing and time left to come up with a plan, decreasing. The solution? More smoke-blowing. REDD, negative emissionsBECCS … all cooked via integrated assessment models. It was still possible! All that was needed was suspension of disbelief.

So, in the end, two circles of blowing smoke up policymakers’ asses with models to get them to solve problems created by two circles of smoke-blowing with models. A whole lot of smoke and contact with reality is finally lost.

For a long time the climate story remained the same: A ‘target’ would be set. It would be high enough to demand significant ‘cuts’ in emissions, by far enough a deadline to appear possible, painful enough to bring tears to the eyes and joy to the hearts of activists, and fake enough to be called off each time. Throwing up your hands and pointing fingers – at Bush, Luntz, Exxon, Inhofe, the Koch Brothers, USA or the BRICS – was enough. The Paris endgame will have no scapegoats and it is time to deliver.  The joyride is coming to an end.

ATTP: Safe space from seepage

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Richard Betts has written a long explanatory note to Stephan Lewandowsky’s ‘Seepage’. Seepage contends that invasive memes from skeptics have tricked scientists into framing the public debate their way.

Betts submitted the article to ATTP’s blog. At the surface his reasoning sounds plausible: it would be dismissed by consensusists if it were on a climate-skeptical blog:

Judith Curry evidently agrees:

It is no surprise scientists like Betts and Curry find themselves in a bind – if they speak to skeptics they are pilloried and the consensusists don’t engage. But from the perspective of the consensus, the problem is different and runs deeper. Have Betts and Curry thought about this?

In the politics of climate consensus, what is said is less important than who says it, where it is said and how it looks. The frame carries more weight than the picture. If climate activists and alarmists venture out to skeptical venues, they lay their claims open to challenge. They may be shown to be wrong, or fall to a better rhetorician. With either, they don’t come out looking good – something that is very important.

When you submit opinion you cede control. You have something the onlooker judges. When you debate, your opponent becomes your equal

A lot of the authority in consensus climate has been built by assiduous adherence to looking good, controlling the terms of the debate,  avoiding being subject to judgement and appearing beyond question. It uses climate science as a tool, and consequently hollows and fragilizes it.

ATTP bans skeptical commenters and provides a safe space for the consensusists, free from triggers. They need to be slowly drawn out and forced to engage, and not pandered to. Like Lewandowsky, ATTP has to learn – in the realm of ideas there are no safe spaces.

2C: ‘An ivory-tower view of life’

Oliver Geden‘s bold article on 2C in Nature continues in the line Richard Tol highlighted many months ago: the make-believe world of international climate negotiations is running headlong toward the terrain of the impossible.

As expected, scientivist and activist ‘communities’ wasted no time exploding in disbelief and Scientific American wasted no time collecting the reactions. Here is one of them:

Others, like Tom Burke, founding director of U.K.-based environmental group E3G, dismissed the Nature piece as “an ivory-tower view of life” that focuses on what is being said in academic literature rather than what is happening on the ground …

E3G is a climate activist organization founded by the physicist-turned-diplomat-turned-climate preacher John Ashton. (some of whose Yeats-influenced climate poetry can be seen here).

E3G celebrated its 10th anniversary in existence recently. Here are some pictures:

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Here are their sponsors…

donors

Here are their partners…

partners

Here is a full listing of sponsors:

  1. Climateworks  Foundation
  2. The Energy Foundation
  3. Greenpeace
  4. Avaaz
  5. DECC UK
  6. Planet Heritage Foundation
  7. DEFRA UK
  8. WWF
  9. EDF
  10. Esmee Fairbairn Foundation
  11. ECF
  12. Kudos
  13. NRDC
  14. Germanwatch
  15. Stiftung Mercator
  16. Rockefeller Brothers Fund
  17. Shell Foundation
  18. Zennstrom Philanthropies
  19. The Climate Group
  20. Norden
  21. Climate Strategies
  22. Arcadia
  23. Barrow Cadbury Trust
  24. RAP
  25. The Children’s Investment Fund Foundation
  26. Ecofin Research Foundation
  27. IDDRI
  28. Doris Duke Foundation
  29. The Greens in the European Parliament
  30. Trust For London
  31. Foreign and Commonwealth Office UK
  32. Oak Foundation
  33. ADB
  34. Climate and Development Knowledge Network
  35. The European Commission

The mind reels at contemplating how Tom Burke of E3G could think anyone to be dwelling in ivory-towers. E3G produces no goods, provides no services and lives on donations – academics do much, much better.

Don’t underestimate E3G though – it has housed or churned out a steady stream of climate activists who are adept in applying pressure on individuals and countries. In their colourful brochures they take credit for everything from the Kyoto Protocol to banning coal-plants in the UK.

There you have it – 2C in a nutshell – people living ivory towers and rooftop champagne-party bubbles, fighting with each other to impose costs on the rest of the world.

Low climate sensitivity : Heretical implications

The blink monkey

The wilfully blind monkey. From Kevin Anderson’s “Climate change going beyond dangerous – Brutal numbers and tenuous hope”

Let us suppose for the moment the climate works according to the ‘sensitivity-forcing’ paradigm.

Consider the effect of sensitivity on the 2C threshold used in international climate negotiations. If the climate orthodoxy wishes to initiate policy action against climate change, sensitivity needs to be high. But if sensitivity is too high political action is impossible.

Richard Tol pointed out a while back, a strict 2C target would mean “build[ing] 4,000 new nuclear power plants before 2030″ and “convinc[ing] China and India not just to stop building coal-fired power plants, but to abandon” built ones. As Kevin Anderson puts it, ‘pointless despair’ is the end-result.

Almost as a throwaway Tol stated that the 2C target could be accommodated if climate sensitivity were low.

To date, numbers for climate sensitivity and low sensitivity are not exactly in play in the domain of policy. The activists keep policymakers cooped up in the pressure-cooker of possible catastrophe, feeding them simple numbers like ‘2C’, ‘350’ and so forth.

But with global temperatures not going up rapidly, what if they awaken to the low numbers?

I am not sure climate negotiations has considered the meaning of this yet. They could finally stop, in the words of David Roberts, blowing lots of smoke up a lot of asses, and craft treaties that comply with ‘the science’. What a relief that could be. The treaty obligations need not be a guaranteed drag on economies. Developing countries can scale back on ‘renewable’ energy subsidy-gobbling monsters, developing economies can build large-scale coal plants, and island nations can adapt knowing they are not going to drown two days later.

In other words, low climate sensitivity would mean Lomborg. It would be a consensus the world can agree to.

The above must sound fantastical. Climate activists do not operate in a world where they would let a little science get in their way.

As far-fatched as it sounds, the real heretical implications lie in the climate debate itself. Outside the unreal charade of emission negotiations, low sensitivity would mean blowing smoke up asses would get increasingly difficult. If and when low-sensitivity estimates are accepted it will not be, as ATTP dreamily imagines, that skeptics and lukewarmists finally accepted the logic of climate alarmists. The outcome would rather be the opposite: the ground would shift toward skeptics and the Lindzen/Curry/Lewis school. It would be Joe ‘Dustbowl’ Romm left looking crazy, if that was possible.

With Tamsin Edwards’ latest article in the Guardian, the radical implication finally dawns on ATTP:

So, I think it’s unfortunate that Tamsin appears to have framed it in this way, as it – IMO – adds undue legitimacy to the Lukewarmer position, and largely misrepresents the alternative.

Nuccitelli rubs his eyes, he cannot believe what he sees:

… by putting ‘lukewarmers’ in the middle of her imagined spectrum, between deniers and mainstream climate scientists, she made them seem like the moderate middle ground. … She’s shifting the Overton window to put ‘Lukewarmers’ in the middle of the spectrum when actually they’re on the low (overly optimistic) end.

That’s right, Nuccitelli. If the world (ever) grasps implications of low sensitivity, it’ll be the alarmists who get pushed out the Overton Window. Believe me, it will be easy doing it to doom-mongers and 10:10 video makers who cannot get simple things straight.

Traction: Tom Fuller asks why Skeptics fail to get it

Some answers/replies for Tom Fuller’s questions to climate skeptics posted on his blog.

On Marc Morano as representative of skeptics:

Marc Morano may be on assignment from James Inhofe. But Marc makes an excellent spokesperson – he is straight, polite, and knowledgeable of scientific variables and the state of play. Climate politics is highly partisan in the US; you are not going to find someone acceptable to all parties.

“[Skeptics] don’t have a narrative that you can consistently put forward, nor a way to fit new science and climate news into your narrative”

At the surface, this is largely correct. Climate skeptics don’t have narratives, or a narrative. The world has expended a lot of fruitful energy dodging the climate activists bullets to its head. There is a story and a lesson there but it is not actively written by anybody.

The climate media/’communication’ machine takes no break. There are enough funded organizations, motivated journalists and testy news editors to keep ‘climate’ news on a slow boil, even if facts don’t co-operate. It is not possible to match these on measly budgets. Even Cook, Lewandowsky and Nuccitelli get paid to do what they do.

“Judith Curry does very well with the Uncertainty Monster theme, but she’s not a skeptic.”

That’s correct. Curry is no skeptic so she finds weaving narratives easier.

“But you do need to use a shared vocabulary that provides you with some legitimacy and answers some questions before they are asked.”

Not sure about the vocabulary, but the lack of skeptics’ organization can certainly makes things difficult. Suppose, there is a wrong climate activist paper published and the error is easily shown. The news will never get out. There is no press office or copy-writer to put out a press release. There is no money to cover costs. I bet many skeptics don’t know how press releases work.

At best you have a network of sympathetic journalists and high-profile bloggers.

Genuine skepticism in the climate debate, playing Team B, and cross-questioning climate alarmism is an expensive proposition. But climate alarmists routinely over-reach and make fools of themselves and have champagne-sipping high-flying playboys, green businessmen and unhinged activists as spokespersons. As Greenpeace gains in sophistication and wizardry in PR it is robbed of common sense and sends its activists to scrawl graffiti on ancient monuments.

People who have a position/vision/mission statement/story/narrative for what they do are those who are paid to do it.

Uncertainty Monster or Climate Monster?

Lord_Vampyre

Vampyre's_Bride

Judith Curry has written about her recent (but not new) presentation about ‘climate science and the uncertainty monster’. My sense is the analogy is pushed to the limit. No one knows what the monster is, and there are too many heads, tails and monster body parts flying around.

Curry says the monster concept is for examining the ‘response of the scientific community to uncertainties at the climate science-policy interface’.

The skeptic asks: what is this ‘climate science-policy interface’? Why should there be such an interface at all?

If you go back in time to Stephen Schneider, child of Malthus, you will encounter among his (many) books, ‘The Genesis Strategy’In the preface Schneider tells us he warns the world about ‘the dangers ahead’, and he is compelled to point out ‘the uncertain state of scientific knowledge’ … ‘does not imply there are no problems’. The ‘iceberg in the distance’ for the world-as-Titanic was ‘climate change and related misfortunes’.

The world was a different place as were circumstances. But the ‘terrible problems’ confronting it were the same as today: famine, climate change, global pollution—arranged in different configurations—along with yesteryear’s favorite bogeyman – population growth.

A significant chapter is devoted to the effect of human energy sources on the climate.

However, if global energy consumption expands greatly in the next few decades and this proves to be climatically dangerous, a great dilemma will befall the world

Sounds bad. It is. In fact, Schneider tells us, it’s so bad

… widespread climatic disruption from increased energy production could also occur as soon as the year 2000;

Sounds terrifying, but how would this happen?

Schneider lays down the case for the disruption occurring due to … heat released by power plants and urban heat islands. That’s right — not CO2 but the direct heat from coal plants and nuclear stations.

Over a span of several pages, with ‘uncertainty’ in tow, Schneider allows this industrial heat to be amplified by climate ‘feedback mechanisms’ just as with CO2 and ‘force changes in atmospheric motions that might be global’. At one point he has ‘large quantities of head added to the Gulf Stream from power parks’ finding ‘their way into the climatic system…in the subpolar part of the North Atlantic’ ready to melt Greenland ice,The Day After Tomorrow -style. In the next page, he wonders if thermal pollution from power parks could unleash tornadoes.

With climate, Schneider has no clue what will happen next. Ozone, CO2, aerosols, natural variability, supersonic transport, ‘thermal pollution’ all make their appearance in the book and they could all wreak havoc on the “steady-state”. But it doesn’t matter, there is ‘change’. ‘Change’ would cause famines in the populous third world whose citizens would consume the world’s food. There is a whole chapter on ‘The North American Grain Drain’.

genesis1

Through it all Schneider wrings his hands:  there has to be ‘decision-making with uncertain inputs’, but ‘the degree of uncertainty …should not delay consideration of actions to prevent..plausible catastrophes.’ He feels compelled to warn ‘some wolves will attack long before we are certain enough of their existence’. He even advocates ‘no-fault climate disaster insurance’, just like Curry.

Looks like he’s grappling with a monster, doesn’t it?

This monster is clearly unaffected by ‘the science’ — change of unknown kind, cooling and warming all have the same causes, produce the same effect and require the same people to be christened ‘experts’ and handed the keys to the kingdom. The monster, it now appears, is a reflection of individual activists and scientists who promote their discipline by positioning it as close to policy as possible, and insisting there is an interface. It is a reflection of pious science’s impulse and success in exploiting authority to stoke fears.

In close to 40 years since the book was published many of the problems scientists like Schneider threatened the world about have disappeared or dissipated. But climate science employs the same paradigm about ‘uncertainty’, the same bogeyman of ‘global change’ to imply the same catastrophe and demands a seat at the power table.

In the 1970s, when famine-struck India would request food supplies from other countries, donors ‘inquired about the progress of the family-planning program that India instituted’. Today, the World Bank system refuses aid to African countries for building coal plants. The Malthusian-ism and ‘lifeboat ethics’ which held sway and spawned the ‘monster’ — the will-to-power disguised as scientific probability — still reigns.

Academic freedom and hypocrisy

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They always come in twos and threes. Today, Roger Pielke Jr has an article in the Guardian asking excited climate-activist Australians to be tolerant of Bjorn Lomborg. He advises them:

Don’t seek to shut down debate and discussion. This means not seeking to prevent individuals from publishing their views or holding a job where they publish those views. It also means working to create a safe space for the open exchange of ideas, especially when there are social media or other shout down campaigns under way. …

How delightfully ironic. Not many years ago, when I published a piece on Wattsupwiththat.com critical of Pielke Jr’s ‘iron law’ hypothesis that is exactly what he did: ‘prevent individuals from publishing their views’. The article disappeared overnight: Pielke Jr had prevailed upon Anthony Watts to do the dirty deed.

Speaking of intolerance, everyone’s favourite troll ‘ATTP’ posted yet another diffusely worded tract about ‘the avoidance of the intellectual’. ATTP bemoans how ‘people who spend their lives trying to understand the world’ (i.e., academics like him) are ‘discouraged’ from taking a stand, and are ‘content to stay in their own little bubble, rather than engaging with the broader community.’

I don’t know about you but I can say with confidence ATTP’s online behaviour is exactly that of someone trying hard to ‘stay in his own little bubble, rather than engaging with the broader community’. In fact whenever the ‘broader community’ attempts contact, ATTP shrinks away into the bubble banishing the ‘contactees’. In the latest episode, moderator RachelM banned longtime climate commentator Tom Fuller without asking him first: Fuller was the kind of guy ATTP would have banned anyway.

There are other peculiarities here. In an interesting article on censorship on university campuses Nick Cohen points out how universities no longer support and nurture freedom of expression, in a form they traditionally did.

Michael Harris, a colleague on the Guardian, made the brilliant point to me afterwards that tuition fees had made students consumers. They no more felt they had a duty to uphold freedom of speech when they disapproved of a speaker, than shoppers thought they had a duty to visit M&S …

If tuition fees spurred by the corporatization of universities had made students into consumers, would lecturers and teachers who swim and survive in the environment be far behind? ATTP himself confirms the impression. He points out:

Universities are also now run more as a business than as some institution of learning that provides a service to the broader public …

Consumer students would think like corporate entities and open discussion is not a priority. Cohen says (emphasis mine):

I left thinking how too many left-wing academics were creating the ideal authoritarian types for the corporations, political parties and police forces of tomorrow. The abiding lesson of their supposedly liberal education was that they were entitled to suppress argument.

This precisely describes ATTP’s inclination and a broader tendency among academics. Despite the pious words, ATTP’s blog behavior is fundamentally corporate, and not ‘university-like’, and stems from his academic background.

In defending Lomborg, Pielke Jr says he welcomes a ‘discussion about academic intolerance’. But academic freedom and tolerance are no special breed. You either fight for it for all individuals, including those critical of your ideas, or you don’t. Academics make poor defenders of academic freedom. Despite what they tell you, that’s not what they want.

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