Is Climate Science on trial again?

The climate debate is entering a new state of confusion that will at least bring some of the fascinating technical issues into the popular press.     The first time this happened was during the congressional hearings featuring the “Hockey Stick” debates where critics suggested that some key math and research supporting “unprecedented global warming” was seriously flawed.   Although leading statisticians agreed with the critics the situation is probably best characterized as a stalemate with both sides claiming vindication and little change in the way others have addressed the issues at hand.

The technical issues sound obscure but they impact every man, woman, and child on earth in almost incalculable ways because many nations are preparing to forego a lot of GDP in the interests of climate mitigation, and this has substantial economic consequences.

I do believe in warming and believe it’s human caused.  However  I  don’t think we can afford to do all that much about it and also don’t think the consequences are nearly as severe as advertised.    Therefore I’m not reasonably called a “climate skeptic” .

Many bright people are skeptics however and everyone should resent that they are called “climate denialists”, a bizarre term used to conjure up images of  the ignorance and malice of  holocaust denial.

I am concerned that climate science, especially with respect to mathematical modelling and long term temperature reconstructions, has been compromised by egos and cognitive biases.    I don’t think climate science has been compromised enough to reasonably suggest that human caused warming is “unlikely”, but it’s been compromised enough to suggest climate alarmists, rather than the unfairly branded “denialists”, are the ones often standing on thin ice.

Here’s a comment I tried to post at but it appears to have been rejected:

It’s unfortunate to see so many insults and tired talking points rather than *key issues* such as:

Is Yamal robust?

Why does proxy selection in papers like Yamal, Kaufman seem to include more proxies with stronger GW signals than a randomized proxy selection process?

Why isn’t there a randomized proxy selection process or at least a well structured one as was suggested (but appears not implemented) in the Kaufman Arctic lakes study?

Why does it take so long to properly archive data and why is there a single shred of resistance to totally transparent archiving of source code and data?

To what degree is observed global warming the product of human activity?

To what degree is the modern warming trend unprecedented?

Role of the Medieval Warming Period and why is there so much disagreement about temps at that time? (another proxy selection issue!) Simply asserting that these questions “have been answered many times” isn’t only wrong and insulting, it’s counterproductive if you sincerely want to challenge the growing mainstream view that climate science has been compromised by cognitive biases and ego. I’m staying open to your insistence that the science has not been compromised at all and McKintyre is just a slinging mathematical mud, but posts like this don’t provide much support for that idea.

When Climate Scientists ATTACK

After a few years following some of the technicalities of discussions about global warming I’m glad to report that there’s FINALLY a really nice guantlet thrown and accepted by the authors of two of the key blogs in the discussion, Climate Audit and RealClimate.

Generally both blogs tend to discuss many of the technical issues in a way that makes it hard (for me at least) to identify clear and specific points of contention where somebody without a degree in math could conclude “this is wrong”.

However the latest round of attacks  should lead to a richer discussion than usual regarding one of the key technical points of contention in climate – climate proxy selection and validity.   Proxies are things like tree rings, ice cores, or sediment patterns that allow a reconstruction of past climate.   If the proxies used in key studies are poorly representative of climate realities, as Climate Audit often suggests and RealClimate always denies, climate scientists have more than a little’ ‘splainin’ to do.

However the shoe’s on the other foot if  ClimateAudit’s concerns are more along the lines suggested by Real Climate’s PhD and NASA crew:

… the conflation of technical criticism with unsupported, unjustified and unverified accusations of scientific misconduct. Steve McIntyre keeps insisting that he should be treated like a professional. But how professional is it to continue to slander scientists with vague insinuations and spin made-up tales of perfidy out of the whole cloth instead of submitting his work for peer-review? He continues to take absolutely no responsibility for the ridiculous fantasies and exaggerations that his supporters broadcast, apparently being happy to bask in their acclaim rather than correct any of the misrepresentations he has engendered. If he wants to make a change, he has a clear choice; to continue to play Don Quixote for the peanut gallery or to produce something constructive that is actually worthy of publication.

Now THAT is  some hot science commentary that you can really sink your teeth into!     Who ever said climate science was technical and boring – it’s almost a contact sport…..  Gentlemen, put those Hockey Sticks UP!!

The Hockey Stick Controversy …

You are well advised to avoid the globally frustrating mistake of getting interested in the underpinnings of climate science as it relates to global warming, climate models, paleoclimate reconstructions, the IPCC, Al Gore, and the academy awards.

However if you fall into the trap of actually looking at the science you’ll be interested in an excellent lay summary of the hockey stick controversy by Bishop Hill. I wish he’d left out the perjorative stuff because I think he’s done a nice job of documenting some of the irregularities that seem to shape the modern debates among scientists, statisticians, and political forces.

Here’s a harder to read but perhaps more objective review of the Hockey Stick at Wikipedia.   This debate is important more from a political view than a scientific one as the graph is a key cornerstone for global warming activism even though it is NOT a cornerstone for the science, which to most experts clearly indicates human caused global warming is a problem.

Although warming is clear and human causes are likely, a reasoned review of the science hardly suggests catastrophe is looming.   This is the advanced debate which is only just beginning – given that we have warming caused by humans, how aggresssively should we work to stop it?   At what cost should we work to keep CO2 from rising?

I remain confused about how much problematic math and insider politics within the climate scientist community should affect our perception of global warming’s threat to the planet, but no reasonable observer can maintain that pristine science has shaped the current debate over global warming.    Spend an hour at reading the defense of the film “An Inconvenient Truth” by several internationally prestigious climate scientists to see what I mean.

Ironically as the scientific debate becomes far more nuanced than it was even a few years ago, the *political debate* is effectively over.   The political/alarmist camp says that Global warming is destroying earth and we need to make drastic changes … yesterday … to avoid climate castastrophes of greater-than-biblical proportions.

Catastrophe isn’t looming, but it’s also true that we are damaging things possibly beyond repair.  That does not mean we should spend trillions trying to fix these problems while greater problems loom so large on earth, but it suggests we should do every cheap thing we can and find better ways to pull energy from our environment.

Corporation as psychopathic? Nonsense!

RealClimate offers some great science and discussion but also reveals a lot of the unvarnished bias you get when true believers discard reason for hyperbole and nonsense.  (thx to JCH for this caveat about caution when confusing a blog with the comments).

This little nugget emerged from a regular commenter:

I called the corporations psychopaths, not those running them, and for a very good reason: they are legally bound to consider only maximising shareholder value. Damage to the environment? No. Deaths among employees, customers or third parties? No. So long as such deaths or damage do not break the criminal law, and will increase profit, that’s what they are legally bound to do. That’s why I said capitalism created these psychopaths…

I’m seeing this bizarre view appear more and more and I’m not sure where it comes from, but probably the film I have yet to see about corporations and how evil they are.    I think it’s called “The Corporation”.

One can easily make the case that corporations *emphasize* profit.  They should do that within legal means – that is the *whole point*.   American style socialist (ie heavily taxed) capitalism is the reason we live large while those in less corporate driven societies struggle just to keep fed and keep healthy, often failing in both measures.

Almost *every single corporation* will typically factor in a variety of environmental and social factors in the interest of the greater good,  the good of employees, and the prevailing cultural and ethical standards.   This is in part due to the laws and prevailing cultural standards as is almost every type of collective behavior, but it is also because contrary to the assertion above, corporations that act psychopathically

In the USA these factors generally make big businesses a great place to work.  Yahoo, for example, has extensive ‘green’ initiatives.  Google not only pays a small fortune in stock and salaries but pays for all the meals and does the laundry…free.  You’ll say these are the exceptions but good stewardship is the corporate rule which is why the west enjoys such high living standards.  That prosperity sure didn’t come from the bureacracy – it came in spite of it.   This is why your rules are better applied to enterprises run by those who generally despise US style multinational corporations.

My challenge to corporate critics is to randomly pick 10 companies from S&P 500. Assign either “mostly psychopathic activity” or “mostly morally acceptable activity” to each and also do that on the “mostly exploits those in developing world” or “mostly helps those in developing world”. In most cases 9 of those 10 will pass both tests if you answer these rationally and reasonably without cherry picking from the companies or company histories as CL has done above.

Here’s a list of the S&P 500 – clearly a good list of companies that powerfully represent a globalized capitalist vision and experience:

Now let’s grab ten of these.  Presumably the first letter should not bias the sample so I’ll grab the first and last five on the Wikipedia S&P 500 list:

Abbott Labs
Abercrombie & Fitch Co.
ACE Limited
Adobe Systems

XTO XTO Energy Inc. reports Energy
YHOO Yahoo Inc. reports Information Technology
YUM Yum! Brands Inc reports Consumer Discretionary
ZMH Zimmer Holdings reports Health Care
ZION Zions Bancorp reports Financials

OK so now the questions to apply to each are whether they are “psychopathic” or not, and whether they are “exploiting more than helping”.     My test allows only ONE to fail either test.

—– to be continued after I get some real work done ——–

—– Ouch, Karma injection alert?   Just after posting I was trying to get Bank of America to credit my card for the Beijing Scam I was conned with in China.   After charge dispute sent me away claiming that becaue I signed the paper it was out of their hands, fraud said (incredibly) that even if they had changed the number it would not be a fraud case – fraud is basically only reserved for stolen numbers.  I’m not sure this makes Bank of America a psychopathic corporation but it’s also true that they are helping perpetrate scams all around the globe by failing in follow up.   Given that I *cancelled my card number* after this they should assume I’m not just ranting without cause.   But backwards Karma injection: Super low interest for one year will save far more than my $85 ripoff from the Tea House.

——– back to work! ————

Hey, double karma reinjection –  B of A eventually refunded my Tea Scam payment.   Would a psychopath have done that?