One observer's report on the NAS panel

I thought this was too good a report to be buried in a comment thread but deserves a wider audience:

An observer’s view of the NAS Panel presentations

Just got home from the NAS conference in Washington. I was there purely as an observer. The vast majority of people attending had some professional connection to climate science or environmental policy. I on the other hand view environmental policy as a hobby (odd but true) so please read the following, perhaps naàƒÆ’à‚⮶e, commentary in that light.

First of all, having followed the global warming controversy for the last five years, I was thrilled to meet many of the heavyweight skeptics: Fred Singer, Myron Ebell, Willie Soon, John Christy, Steve and Ross. I also enjoyed chatting with various staffers from the hill (Peter Spencer – House Energy & Commerce Committee; Paul Georgia – Senate Republican Policy Committee; John Shanahan – Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works) as well as David Douglas (Physics professor from U Rochester), the two BBC reporters mentioned in my previous post, and a post-doc from Lamont-Doherty who had studied under Henry Pollack (the first presenter — a borehole expert from U Michigan). In hind-sight I should have tried to talk to more people, especially the non-skeptics, but this being my first foray to such an event I was a bit shy.

I did spend some time talking with Doug Nychka, the statistics guy from NCAR who is on the panel. He seemed like a very fair analyst and quite open minded. In spite of his position at NCAR he did not seem to have a pre-determined point of view on the issues at hand, and in fact told me that much of his work at NCAR is related to issues outside of global warming.

I thought Ross and Steve did a good job of presenting their arguments and were well received. It was clear that they were non-climate scientists speaking into an audience consisting primarily of climate scientists. The dialogue between the panel and Steve and Ross was dynamic and I felt that the panel were at least listening to their viewpoint. Conversely, some of the presenters were clearly dismissive of Steve’s work in their presentations.

Some brief highlights of the presentations (I trust that Steve will have much more to say):

- Hans Von Storch was adamant that paleo-climate researchers must make their data available. He showed a chart suggesting that recent temperature trends were highly correlated to the level of unemployment in Germany (upstaging Steve who later showed a chart relating temperature trends to an index of dot.com stock prices)

- Roseanne D’Arrigo spoke about the necessity to “cherry-pick” trees used in tree-ring studies. Apparently this is taken for granted in the dendro community.

- Dan Schrag cited reductions in the Kilimanjaro glacier as justification for AGW theory!

- Mike Mann was not in attendance on Thursday when most of the event occurred. He gave his presentation Friday morning and then bolted during the open discussion. He was the only presenter to make himself scarce after his presentation. All the others were there for at least half of Thursday if not the whole day. Mann pointed out that the work done for MBH98 was actually done almost 10 years ago, and that the PC algorithm had been supplanted by his more recent RegEM methodology.

A few comments on the panel:
– Some of the most probing questions were asked by Kurt Cuffey of Berkeley, previously noted on this blog as having published the following:

"Mounting evidence has forced an end to any serious scientific debate on whether humans are causing global warming. This is an event of historical significance, but one obscured from public view by the arcane technical literature and the noise generated by perpetual partisans."

Cuffey also asked most of the presenters whether the science was such that we could determine the average century-scale temperature 1000 years ago within 0.5 degrees centigrade. Every presenter said “‹Å“no’ — except for Mann who claimed we know the average century-scale temperature 1000 years ago within 0.2 degrees centigrade.

- John Christy asked Mann about the r2 statistic. Mann said it was an inappropriate measure for these types of analyses. I look forward to Steve’s comments in this regard.

At the end of the first day there was an open discussion where members of the audience were invited to speak. 2 comments I found interesting:
– The chief of staff of the House Science Committee (didn’t get his name) pointed out that the defined task taken on by the committee was different from the task actually requested of NAS by the House Science Committee. Apparently NAS management altered the task. Unfortunately I don’t know where to find a description of the request from the House. The task taken on by the panel can be found on the NAS website.

- A staff scientist from Pew said he was anxious to hear the viewpoint of the committee in order to better inform his client. He seemed open minded.

With regard to the above comment by the House Science Committee chief of staff, a prominent member of the audience with much experience in the on-going AGW debate suggested to me that NAS management altered the task in order to pre-determine the outcome of the committee’s report, so as not to upset the status quo in the scientific community.

- Ned


90 Comments

  1. Posted Mar 4, 2006 at 8:19 AM | Permalink

    Ned says “a prominent member of the audience with much experience in the on-going AGW debate suggested to me that NAS management altered the task in order to pre-determine the outcome of the committee’s report, so as not to upset the status quo in the scientific community.”

    What’s a skeptic argument without rumors and innuendo of bias by the scientific community? It notable that Ned’s contacts at the meeting are a list of the loudest think-tank ideologues whose job it is to deny the reality of the role of human causes behind the ubiquitous and unprecedented warming increasingly evident around the globe, plus a few of the key politicians, who rely on the skeptics media campaign for cover to avoid dealing with the problem, and justify taxpayer giveaways to the fossil fuel industry. I guess we know what side of the debate Ned is on.

    I thought the task of the panel was a pretty good reflection of what Steve has been asking for all along. How has the task been altered to uphold the scientific status quo?

  2. John A
    Posted Mar 4, 2006 at 8:31 AM | Permalink

    What’s a skeptic argument without rumors and innuendo of bias by the scientific community?

    I’ve no idea. I’ll have to ask my ExxonMobil handler for instructions on how to reply to that.

    It notable that Ned’s contacts at the meeting are a list of the loudest think-tank ideologues whose job it is to deny the reality of the role of human causes behind the ubiquitous and unprecedented warming increasingly evident around the globe, plus a few of the key politicians, who rely on the skeptics media campaign for cover to avoid dealing with the problem, and justify taxpayer giveaways to the fossil fuel industry.

    I think the only unprecedented warming is under the collars of a few climate scientists.

    It’s clear who is in denial on this thread, though, and it ain’t me.

  3. kim
    Posted Mar 4, 2006 at 8:41 AM | Permalink

    Instead of Man disappearing from the face of the earth it’s Mann disappearing from the face of Climate.
    ================

  4. jae
    Posted Mar 4, 2006 at 8:51 AM | Permalink

    re: 3. Great line!
    re: 1. Yes, Michael, the sky is truly falling. The sceptics are all wrong. It doesn’t matter that you can prove the same thing Mann did with random numbers. No wonder Mann wouldn’t stay around the meeting!

  5. Posted Mar 4, 2006 at 9:20 AM | Permalink

    Ned:

    Thanks for taking the time to attend and to report the results. Now we can all dig into the change in task problem, and track down the what NAS was asked to do vs what they actually accomplished. I expressed my fear in a previous posts, that this meeting was designed to maintain the status quo. That is how the publish or perish and peer review process works. The process was designed to protect the status quo, years of academic work, right or wrong.

    It was clear that Mann was unable to look his peers in the eye and state his case in an open forum. First he hides his data, now he is hiding from the consequences of some faulty analysis of that data.

    I am looking forward to Steve’s and Ross’s reports. The NAS Staff’s report is predictable. Let’s hope I am wrong.

  6. jae
    Posted Mar 4, 2006 at 9:27 AM | Permalink

    I still think NAS will have a hard time white-washing Steve and Ross’ work, given all the reporters, etc. that were there. It will be really interesting just how they react.

  7. Mike Carney
    Posted Mar 4, 2006 at 9:29 AM | Permalink

    #1: This is a blog. Not everything said here has to be “settled science”. You will notice that Ned’s first reaction was to consider how to verify the comment by finding the appropriate documents. Hopefully the blog audience will be able to help in that effort and verify whether or not the comment is true. I am curious though. You characterize it as a slander against the community to even think it. If it proves to be true, will you still consider it evidence of “bias by the scientific community”? Are you willing to commit to a yes or no on that question?

  8. per
    Posted Mar 4, 2006 at 10:39 AM | Permalink

    Cuffey also asked most of the presenters whether the science was such that we could determine the average century-scale temperature 1000 years ago within 0.5 degrees centigrade. Every presenter said “no’….

    surely, this is a bit pointed ? Bar the bit where we have current temperatures, wouldn’t that range cover MBH’s entire reconstruction ? If you accept you cannot state temperature within 0.5C, are you not saying that you don’t believe the hockey-stick ?

    seeking clarity…
    per

  9. fFreddy
    Posted Mar 4, 2006 at 10:41 AM | Permalink

    re #7

    Hopefully the blog audience will be able to help in that effort and verify whether or not the comment is true.

    The NAS “task summary” thingy has been archived here
    The instructions from the House Committee on Science are here. (Thanks, Greg F.)

    The two obvious differences are :
    1) the NAS makes no specific mention of MBH, despite Boehlert’s mentioning them three times.
    2) The NAS completely ignore Boehlert’s explicit question “Has the information needed to replicate their (MBH) work been available ?”.

    I’ll say it again: if this is a turf battle between House Committee on Science and House Committee on Energy, then NAS’s avoidance of Boehlert’s questions is a very dumb move.

  10. Greg F
    Posted Mar 4, 2006 at 10:42 AM | Permalink

    From the House Committee On Science. The request to NAS appears to be Chairman Boehlert’s letter to the National Academy of Sciences (PDF file). For comparison the National Academy Project Information.

    I took the two and boiled it down to the bullet points.

    House Committee on Science request:

    1) What is the current scientific consensus on the temperature record of the last 1,000 to 2,00 years?

    2) What are the main areas of uncertainty and how significant are they?

    3) What is the current scientific consensus on the conclusions reached by Drs. Mann, Bradley and Hughes?

    4) What are the principal scientific criticisms of their work and how significant are they?

    5) Has the information needed to replicate their work been available?

    6) Have other scientists been able to replicate their work?

    7) How central is the debate over the paleoclimate temperature record to the overall scientific consensus on global climate change (as reflected in previous reports from the Academy)?

    8) How central is the work of Drs. Mann, Bradley and Hughes to the consensus on the temperature record?

    The project information from NAS:

    1) Describe and assess the state of scientific efforts to reconstruct surface temperature records for the Earth over approximately the past 1,000-2,000 years.

    2) Summarize current scientific information on the temperature record for the past 1,000-2,000 years.

    3) Describe the main areas of uncertainty and how significant they are.

    4) Describe the principal methodologies used and any problems with these approaches.

    5) Explain how central the debate over the paleoclimate temperature record is to the state of scientific knowledge on global climate change.

    6) Identifying the variables for which proxy records have been employed.

    7) Describing the proxy records that have been used to reconstruct surface temperature records for the pre-instrumental period.

    8) Assessing the methods employed to combine multiple proxy data to develop surface temperature reconstructions.

    9) Discussing the geographical regions over which proxy data can be reliably extrapolated.

    10) Evaluating the overall accuracy and precision of such reconstructions.

    Bug report for John A,

    There is a bug in the links function. Normally there are quotes around the link after the href=. The trailing quote on the NAS link was being concatenated to the link resulting in the link being:

    http://www8.nationalacademies.org/cp/projectview.aspx?key=350

    When it should be:

    http://www8.nationalacademies.org/cp/projectview.aspx?key=350

    I removed both quotes from the NAS link and it works in preview. Feel free to edit out the bug report John.

  11. Greg F
    Posted Mar 4, 2006 at 11:04 AM | Permalink

    Your to fast for me freddy! I concur on your observation regarding MBH and data archiving. In defense of NAS item #9,

    Discussing the geographical regions over which proxy data can be reliably extrapolated.

    which was not requested, is a welcomed addition. It would be to the committees’ advantage to have someone with a signal processing background (electrical engineer) on the committee. What is clear to me is the extrapolations used in climate science often violate Shannon’s sampling theorem.

  12. JEM
    Posted Mar 4, 2006 at 11:25 AM | Permalink

    No wonder Mann wouldn’t stay around the meeting!

    In other words, he couldn’t stand the heat so he left the kitchen. Oh, the irony, the delicious irony!

    Re #1: As Mike Carney says, You characterize it as a slander against the “community” to even think that what you believe to be “settled science” might not be true.

    So sue.

    Or rather, let the Manns and Jones of this world sue. I bet they never will, whatever might said about their quaint notions and the baselessness of these, because if they sue the court will require full disclosure. And all the world would see that the emperor(s) have no clothes.

    In fact, please sue!

    By the way, #1: doesn’t making wooden furniture involve cutting down trees and hence adding to AGW (according to the “community”)? And what are you going to do about it, as after all the future of the planet clearly depends on stamping out wooden furniture making in Pennsylvania?

  13. jae
    Posted Mar 4, 2006 at 11:35 AM | Permalink

    By the way, #1: doesn’t making wooden furniture involve cutting down trees and hence adding to AGW (according to the “community”)? And what are you going to do about it, as after all the future of the planet clearly depends on stamping out wooden furniture making in Pennsylvania?

    This is an all-too-common example of an environmentalist ignoring certain parts of the orthodoxy, because of personal financial opportunities. He could at least use plywood where possible, rather than solid wood, since one of those old-growth hardwood slabs he displays would make enough face veneer for thousands of square feet of fancy plywood. If he wants to help save the planet, he could stop butchering old-growth hardwoods (although I really have no objection to using the wood).

  14. John A
    Posted Mar 4, 2006 at 12:40 PM | Permalink

    Greg F:

    There’s no problem when I try to create a link, so I don’t see how to recreate the problem you have.

    To everyone:

    So the NAS Panel edited out the specific requests on the authenticity and reliability of MBH98 from Boehlert. Now if I were a suspicious person, I would suspect that Mann and Hughes refused to play ball unless those specific questions were removed. The arbitrary removal defanged the panel’s consideration of specifics and kept it to generalities.

    It certainly is a discrepancy that does not play into the NAS Panel’s favor.

    So when we have the report delivered as I expect, in a half gallon cylindrical tin with separate undercoat, then Boehlert will then have to explain why the NAS Panel did not answer his questions as asked. Oh and for the benefit of the press, the tin will be marked “Bland beige” and the caveat “nothing to see here – move along”

  15. John G. Bell
    Posted Mar 4, 2006 at 12:57 PM | Permalink

    Re #12 & #13
    Give the guy a break on the furniture. I can’t think of a better use of old-growth wood. We had a windstorm a while back and some bright guy went around clearing the old hardwood trees for free. He must have made a small fortune. If Seward talks about furniture and woodworking I’d listen with a keen ear. So long as he doesn’t quote another furniture maker.

  16. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Mar 4, 2006 at 1:02 PM | Permalink

    #8 – per, this is one of a number of remarkable outcomes. I confirm Ned’s observation. Cuffey, who was an active and probing questioner, asked every presenter formally whether we knew the temperature 1000 years ago within a half degree C. Every single one except Mann said no. Now the “two-sigma” error bar in MBH99 (used in IPCC TAR) for the 11th century was 0.489. So in effect every single presenter, except Mann, said that the error bars in IPCC TAR were wrong. An interestig outcome, n’est-ca pas?

  17. Ned
    Posted Mar 4, 2006 at 1:29 PM | Permalink

    Re #1: Michael,

    Yes, I am clearly a skeptic.

    Because AGW theory is neither proven nor disproven, us skeptics will have to deal with you AGW advocates and vice versa until such time that the science wins out one way or another and the necessity for a consensus is obviated. One thing I learned in being at the NAS shindig is that it is possible and even useful for people on opposite sides of the debate to get together and talk. I have no idea what the outcome of the NAS report will be. However, what I found useful was that a group of experts with varied backgrounds were empaneled to weigh the issues cordially. Importantly the members of the committee and the presenters were talking to and listening to each other. This is a step up from the “talking at” tone often found in places such as RealClimate and ClimateAudit.

    I am of the opinion that the majority of the people involved in the AGW debate – both scientists as well as policy types – are well intentioned. I don’t think many have evil intent. People on each side of the debate look at the data and come away with different interpretations.

    I am a skeptic based on the following interpretation of the evidence: AGW is not a significant problem; the resources being thrown at the AGW issue would be better spent addressing more important and immediate problems such as malaria, AIDS, education, clean water, etc. I also am concerned that science is developing a credibility problem. I am not at all influenced by ExxonMobil although I wish them all the luck in the world.

    Conversely, AGW advocates are not evil despite what I consider their misguided interpretations. AGW advocates are often the same people who in the past – based on scientific theories – were worried about the population explosion, about the world running out of oil, about global cooling, about the extinction of 100 species each and every day. Please note the UN now estimates that world population will peak at around 9 billion at mid-century; world oil consumption goes up every year and yet proven reserves continue to expand; global coolers have morphed into global warmers; of the 100 species allegedly extinguishing per day — name one that went extinct today — or even during the last 5 years. If AGW is disproved at some point, what will AGW advocates worry about? Let me suggest something real and immediate such as malaria, AIDS, education, clean water, etc. Also how will all of the scientists and policy analysts currently funded by climate concerns make a living? Maybe they should train for a career in oil exploration — I hear that ExxonMobil is hiring.

    Upon leaving the NAS event I realized it had been easier for me to converse with people identified as skeptics and that I missed an opportunity to talk to more people with different opinions. Interestingly, each of the conversations I had with people who were not skeptics surprised me. The BBC reporters rather than being alarmist talked about their concern about alarmism (see my earlier comments). One of the panelists I spoke with seemed entirely neutral and not pre-determined in his opinion on the issues. A climate scientist in the audience told me he felt it was unfortunate that Michael Mann had taken on such a large role as spokesman for the climate science community.

  18. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Mar 4, 2006 at 1:34 PM | Permalink

    Ned, thanks for writing this. It was a pleasure meeting you in Washington, Cheers, Steve

  19. Posted Mar 4, 2006 at 1:48 PM | Permalink

    I have mixed feelings about the change in scope of the panel, however, the changes were not necessarily bad. The scope was definitely broadened, which could dilute the issues with MBH. It seems to me that the specific questions from the House Committee on Science regarding MBH are still implied, though they might be ignored since they aren’t explicitly stated anymore. In fact, I just read an unsettling quote in Steve’s recent post (Von Storch at NAS) where the Chairman (North) expressed concern that Von Storch’s explicit answers to these questions (during his presentation) were outside the task of the Committee and that the Committee already had a large mandate. Maybe the change in scope was an attempted diversion afterall. On the other hand, they’ve opened a bigger can of worms with potentially more serious consequences should they conclude that the proxies are not reliable.

    One factor in favor of the proxy “skeptics” is the increased access to information regarding this activity via the blogs such as this one. It may be harder (though not impossible) to “white wash” any issues (if there are any). My perception is that the last NRC climate panel report in 2001 was able to get away with more than this panel will. To be fair, some of the controversial wording published with the 2001 NRC report were not approved by the committee. An account of what happened was given by Richard Linzden at his recent meeting with the House of Lords.

    http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200506/ldselect/ldeconaf/12/5012506.htm

    The brief and carefully drafted report of 15 pages was preceded by a totally unnecessary 10 page executive summary. The opening lines were appended at the last moment without committee approval.

    It seems that there may be some wiggle room in the report beyond what the panel agrees.

  20. fFreddy
    Posted Mar 4, 2006 at 2:34 PM | Permalink

    Re #14
    John, I’ve had the same problem in the last couple of days – error message about Regex and Blacklist, and a page of bumf. Have you tried it when logged in with a non-admin account ?

  21. John Lish
    Posted Mar 4, 2006 at 3:21 PM | Permalink

    #14 John A, forgive my ignorance but what benefits does the NAS report actually acquire from whitewashing the meeting and ignoring the pointed MBH questions asked by Boehlert? I’m not completely knowledgable of the ins & outs regarding Washington DC politics.

    From my reading of the comments here, it appears that there is a natural scapegoat to hang: Michael Mann. Having been involved in some quite political projects here in England, I have written more than enough reports to know how to protect ones causes by distracting the focus. Reading Greg F summary of the request from Boehlert (#10), I would have thought that points 7 and 8 were the important ones. My answers (if I was in their shoes) on the report would be the following:

    7) How central is the debate over the paleoclimate temperature record to the overall scientific consensus on global climate change (as reflected in previous reports from the Academy)?

    Answer – not very central. I would back this up by quoting alternative problematics.

    8) How central is the work of Drs. Mann, Bradley and Hughes to the consensus on the temperature record?

    Answer – again, not central. I would concentrate on the measurable 0.6C temperature rise in the 20th Century and make references to the need for ongoing research etc etc.

    If there is going to be a whitewashing, I would have thought that it would be of the backtracking from the previous prominence of the Hockey Stick. The wisest course is to marginise the Hockey Team. After all, would you want a rotten branch to infect the whole tree of AGW? There’ll not be a public flogging of Mann et al, rather the increasing sound of silence. Now that would be cynical…

  22. Louis Hissink
    Posted Mar 4, 2006 at 3:49 PM | Permalink

    #8

    Per,

    that was my initial impression with the Hockey Stick, that its total temperature variation was within +/- 0.5 dC and thus essentially statistical noise enhanced by chartmanship, rather than a real signal. The blade’s origin is also satisfactorily explained M&M and Dave Stockwell’s more recent work) as an statistical artefact rather than empirical fact.

    If that is correct then all the past historically documented climate effectively disappeared from the climate data forming the proxy used by Mann et al. If the proxy cannot even approximate known historical fact, then why use it?

    Interestingly a commentator on the Jennifer Marohasy blog inadvertently picked up on a comment by James Annan that confirms post-modernism has hijacked climate science – ie there are no objective facts. Hence the continuing squabble over the hockey stick – post-modernists cannot accept blatant contradictory facts falsifying their preconceptions, and the reason why so little progress is being made countering AGW. This fact makes it all the more difficult to employ science as an argument in this issue. (I posted that comment on Post Modernism on CS by the way).

    But discovering this allow us to change tack now having understood why our arguments seem to remain bogged down sans traction, as it were.

  23. John A
    Posted Mar 4, 2006 at 4:21 PM | Permalink

    Re #21:

    John Lish. These are important questions and so I’ll try to answer them fully.

    Disclaimer: These opinions are my own, and do not represent the views of Steve McIntyre or the policy of this blog.

    #14 John A, forgive my ignorance but what benefits does the NAS report actually acquire from whitewashing the meeting and ignoring the pointed MBH questions asked by Boehlert? I’m not completely knowledgable of the ins & outs regarding Washington DC politics.

    My problems with the NAS Panel are that their remit is overbroad and their investigation lacks any rigor to decide specific questions. If they were rigorous they’d have Mann, Bradley, Hughes, Osborn, Briffa, Jones present their cases with proper diagrams, with open lab notes, with full data registered with the panel. Then they’s have expert statisticians go through those lab books and data with a fine toothcomb. They’d have auditors, they’d have proper hearings, they’d record everything.

    If this Panel were a political stunt then its purpose would be to take the sting out of Steve and Ross’s work, give mild censure about not archiving and a slap on the wrist to Mann about his behavior.

    From my reading of the comments here, it appears that there is a natural scapegoat to hang: Michael Mann. Having been involved in some quite political projects here in England, I have written more than enough reports to know how to protect ones causes by distracting the focus. Reading Greg F summary of the request from Boehlert (#10), I would have thought that points 7 and 8 were the important ones. My answers (if I was in their shoes) on the report would be the following:

    7) How central is the debate over the paleoclimate temperature record to the overall scientific consensus on global climate change (as reflected in previous reports from the Academy)?

    Answer – not very central. I would back this up by quoting alternative problematics.

    8) How central is the work of Drs. Mann, Bradley and Hughes to the consensus on the temperature record?

    Answer – again, not central. I would concentrate on the measurable 0.6C temperature rise in the 20th Century and make references to the need for ongoing research etc etc.

    The question of whether that 0.6C warming over the 20th Century is at all worrying or alarming depends on what happened before, hence the focus on multiproxy studies to reconstruct past climate variation. If the 20th Century is not unusual, then why spend vast amounts of money trying to control climate?

    It is a truism that all wars are fought over the historical record. In climate science the question of whether it was generaly warmer 1000 years ago goes to the very heart of the notions of greenhouse warming, anthropogenic climate change and the extraordinary amounts of money spent on climate research and efforts to mitigate the effects of AGW through such economic vices as the Kyoto Protocol.

    If there is going to be a whitewashing, I would have thought that it would be of the backtracking from the previous prominence of the Hockey Stick. The wisest course is to marginise the Hockey Team. After all, would you want a rotten branch to infect the whole tree of AGW? There’ll not be a public flogging of Mann et al, rather the increasing sound of silence. Now that would be cynical…

    The problem with that is that almost of these multiproxy studies use the same proxies over and over, often borrowing conclusions and statistical treatments from each other. It’s a house of cards with MBH98 at the bottom. If that’s rotten and should be removed then there are studies that build or derive from MBH98 which are also rotten, and then there are studies which cite those…and so on. The latest incarnation of Osborn and Briffa which will form the centerpiece of the next IPPC Assessment is a clear pedigree descendent of MBH98.

    So the NAS Panel is in an invidious position, if it doesn’t come down hard on Mann and multiproxies in general, then people will question its motives given then very clear and public evidence given. But if the NAS Panel does come down hard on the multiproxy study, then the House of Cards in climate science will collapse.

    I think the NAS Panel will go the third way. It will please nobody, but they will hope that everyone keeps their jobs.

  24. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Mar 4, 2006 at 5:46 PM | Permalink

    John, I disagree that “climate science” stands or falls on the hockey stick. There are lots of important issues. I suspect that the NAS panel will be quite nuanced in whatever they say. But it would be theoretically possible for them to come down on the multiproxy studies without changing their views on AGW. For example, my guess is that Cuffey is ill disposed to tree rings as “thermometers”, but is still very serious about AGW on other grounds.

  25. John A
    Posted Mar 4, 2006 at 6:13 PM | Permalink

    Re #24

    Steve, you’re an incurable optimist. If the unprecedented warmth of the late 20th Century turns out to be a mirage, then the reality is that the whole of climate science, good, bad or indifferent will feel the consequences. That’s a political reality and a public relations disaster.

    I don’t think climate science falls by the Hockey Stick, but by the same token, it won’t exactly be helped by the smell of the rotting carcass.

  26. jae
    Posted Mar 4, 2006 at 7:23 PM | Permalink

    re: 17 Amen!

  27. joshua corning
    Posted Mar 4, 2006 at 9:31 PM | Permalink

    does anyone who goes to these things own a digital voice recorder???

  28. Posted Mar 4, 2006 at 9:56 PM | Permalink

    My guess as to the NAS report: identify the points of agreement, and the points of contention, and suggest how science might move forward – what else can they do? But many posts here share the sentiment: “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.”

  29. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Mar 4, 2006 at 10:28 PM | Permalink

    #28. Nonlinearity and questioning whether tree ring proxies reflect modern warming is alive and well in NAS-land. Where it’s going to go is really unpredictable. None of the people on the other side fared very well. It wasn’t that the panel was rough on them; it’s just that the panel wasn’t sycophantic to them and the other side (IMO) pretty much self-destructed. For example, D’Arrigo started talking about cherry-picking and explained to the panel – if you want to make cherry pie, you have to cherry pick.

    I’m writing up my notes but I’m not a great notetaker at the best of times and I was pretty keyed up on Saturday on our own stuff; plus I missed parts of sessions re-editing. I’m hopeful of getting a digital version of at least part of the proceedings. It’s too bad that it’s not all recorded. My wife told me to buy a recorder and I should have.

  30. Pat Frank
    Posted Mar 4, 2006 at 11:18 PM | Permalink

    #24 If the hockey stick goes then the “A” evaporates from GW. If 2005 isn’t the hottest year of the millennium, then all the air goes out of the doom-balloon. A millennium anyway is too small an interval to sustain claims of globally unprecedented warmth, no matter a hockey stick or not. That fact alone is enough to demonstrate that the climate debate is about politics rather than science. The science is only window-dressing to lend an air of rigor to what is in reality a religious revival. Someone said that environmentalism is the religion of modern urban atheists. I think with the demise of the hockey stick, they’re about to lose their eucharist. Tad Murty pointed out in an article of his own that governments have spent several tens of billions of dollars on climate science over the last 15 or so years.

    If there’s no hockey stick, a lot of GCM coders will be looking for work in computer gaming. The Hadley center folks and UCAR researchers will suddenly find less meaning in their lives. None of them will like it. Look, then, for some ‘Putting On the Best Face;’ coming soon to a grants panel near you. Expect to see a sudden interest in basic climate science: more research, fewer conclusions. Don’t expect much soul searching, as in ‘How could we have been so wrong?’, unless you also see the pope put on a suit and go job-hunting.

  31. Louis Hissink
    Posted Mar 4, 2006 at 11:48 PM | Permalink

    Pat,

    your reference to Tad Murty just rang a bell – wan’t it Fred Hoyle who wrote that if large amounts of money are being spent on a science problem, with large numbers of scientists, with no solution in sight, then that indicates they are more than likely not to understand the problem etc, or that the wrong questions are being asked. Usually scientific problems are quickly sorted out to become engineering issues, the remaining being essentially BS theories.

  32. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Mar 4, 2006 at 11:57 PM | Permalink

    I have no idea where the panel will go, but I sure wouldn’t want to be selling hockey sticks based on what the presenters said. Regardless of how we did, just on how the others did, I would be amazed if there is any upside for the Hockey Team.

    I also think that Ciccerone was probably too cute by half in the bait-and-switch on the terms of reference of the panel as well. That sort of stuff usually backfires. On the one hand, North (and perhaps the other panel members) might get mad at being caught in the middle and potentially being made to look bad. I’d be mad about it. On the other hand, the Barton Committee, if it’s paying attention to this, must be snickering, since Ciccerone has sandbagged the Science Committee, who will seem like they can’t shoot straight. If the panel doesn’t answer Boehlert’s questions and they were not organized to do so (and they are nice people, their interests lie elsewhere and they’d much rather answer the questions that Ciccerone gave them), then Ciccerone and the Science Committee won’t be able to complain if Barton revs up again. If I were the Science Committee, I wouldn’t pay for the study if it didn’t answer the questions that I asked. So Ciccerone might have created a real mess all the way around.

  33. Armand MacMurray
    Posted Mar 5, 2006 at 1:23 AM | Permalink

    Re:#29

    For example, D’Arrigo started talking about cherry-picking and explained to the panel – if you want to make cherry pie, you have to cherry pick.

    Did she actually use the words “cherry pick” and “cherry pie”?!

  34. Pat Frank
    Posted Mar 5, 2006 at 1:52 AM | Permalink

    #31-Louis, this is off-topic, but the problem is the ‘manhatten-projectization’ of science, when government comes along with a social problem to solve. Their solution always is to launch a big directed program, like Nixon’s “War on Cancer.” Huge amounts of money get thrown at problems prematurely.

    Scientists just go where the money is to support their research. Lots of homage gets paid to program goals all the while some of the money goes off to support other aspects of a researcher’s work. Directed money is always an inefficient way to approach science, but not engineering. When Kennedy started the moon program, the science was already in hand. It just took directed engineering.

    There can be no such thing as ‘directed science,’ because no one can precociously know from where solutions will come. There is no better way than to support curiosity-based science, and fund it generously. Worthwhile results will emerge regularly, and almost always from unexpected directions. Project funding should come to science when some solution is in view. And that certainly includes climate science.

  35. Louis Hissink
    Posted Mar 5, 2006 at 2:52 AM | Permalink

    # 34 – Pat, yes, summed up nicely. Thanks.

    Incidentally the AGWers have another problem – Economic modelling is as problematical as GCM’s. Both are trying to model non-linear phenomena and half of the IPCC model is economic prediction. Unfortunately if one is economically a Keynesian then this criticism would be strenuously objected to. Maybe another House Committee should be set up to look at the economic modelling because aren’t these assumptions part of the drivers of the GCM’s?

    Whoops I think I am getting into a circular mode here :-)

  36. John A
    Posted Mar 5, 2006 at 4:20 AM | Permalink

    Re #32

    If that is the correct answer and Gerald North is watching this space, then I’d suggest that he scrupulously answer all the questions of the Boehlert Letter, and not simply the ones of the terms of reference given him by Ciccerone. To have failed to answer those questions will not look good, to say the least.

  37. John A
    Posted Mar 5, 2006 at 4:32 AM | Permalink

    test

    Greg F: When I copied your link and linked it above it also appeared to have an extra " at the end of the URL when I moused over the preview. However when I submitted the comment, the extra " disappeared, indicating that this is a cosmetic bug in the preview plug-in (maybe I should check if there’s an update) rather than a showstopper.

  38. John Lish
    Posted Mar 5, 2006 at 5:51 AM | Permalink

    “Curiouser & curiouser” said Alice as she looked at the court on the hill. This appears to be incredibly poor political sense by Ciccerone if he felt that the waters could be muddied. Why undermine Boehlert? Its not as though the process has gone through many stages (Boehlert to Ciccerone to North). As shown above, any tom dick or harry could find the original reference for the inquiry (as demonstrated by Von Storch and M&M at the meeting). This point was also raised by the Science Committee’s Chief of Staff.

    One suspects that there will be some behind the scene conversations about the current state of affairs. I think that the NAS committee report will be written by its terms of reference (which will still be pretty damning for the Hockey Team). As for the instructions from Boehlert to Ciccerone? I think that Ciccerone could argue that it required a broader terms of reference in order to draw out the answers required by Boehlert and produces an additional document which defends AGW (I disagree John A. that the Hockey Stick underpins AGW re #23) but gently marginalises the Hockey Team. Thats the only way I can see Ciccerone & Boehlert retaining credibility. Otherwise its just stupid politics.

  39. fFreddy
    Posted Mar 5, 2006 at 7:00 AM | Permalink

    Re #38, John Lish

    I disagree John A. that the Hockey Stick underpins AGW

    Forgive my curiosity, but what else do you regard as significant proof of AGW, as opposed to GW ? What persuades you that warming is unprecedented in the last millennium ?

  40. John Lish
    Posted Mar 5, 2006 at 7:11 AM | Permalink

    I’m not persuaded fFreddie but I would merely point you to the fact that momentum was building for AGW before Mann’s infamous Hockey Stick appeared. You misread my post, I was speculating on the political positionings.

  41. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Mar 5, 2006 at 8:09 AM | Permalink

    Ciccerone could certainly argue that the matter required a broader context, but, to get there, he’d also have to ensure that the narrow issue was also covered. The problem with trying to answer big questions is also that you sometimes don’t answer anything – the House Science Committee staffer made it very clear that their objective was to at least get some answers on finite questions rather than simply adding to grand issues. Given that the Boehlert letter is referred to in the document, both von Storch and us independently looked at the letter and used it for guidance in interpreting the committee’s task. To the extent that the task does not reflect the Boehlert questions, my guess (and it’s not simply a guess) is that the committee was unaware of the discrepancies and, to that extent, sandbagged by Ciccerone. In my opinion, the committee could reasonably do likewise even with the present terms of reference. They are well and truly aware of the discrepancy right at the outset. Now they’ve got a problem. It will be interesting to see if they try to finesse it in turn or whether they deal with it in a straightforward and direct way – either by answering Boehlert’s questions or by getting very explicit instructions from Ciccerone that they are absolutely NOT to deal with the Boehlert questions so that the blood can be observed clearly to be on Ciccerone’s hands.

  42. fFreddy
    Posted Mar 5, 2006 at 8:17 AM | Permalink

    If you mean political momentum, rather than scientific momentum, then OK.

  43. kim
    Posted Mar 5, 2006 at 8:21 AM | Permalink

    Boehlert’s Baubles batted and shuttled, eh cocky?
    ================================================

  44. John Lish
    Posted Mar 5, 2006 at 8:32 AM | Permalink

    #41 it’ll be definately be interesting to see how the discrepancy is dealt with – I’m struggling to see how it can avoid ending in recriminations.

    #42 unfortunately fFreddie politics exists everywhere including in science (have you read Lindzen’s comments about the Iron Triangle of Alarmism to the House of Lords committee) but also, sometimes its just poor science.

  45. fFreddy
    Posted Mar 5, 2006 at 9:13 AM | Permalink

    Heh, good link, thank you.
    I do wish our noble friends would pull their fingers out and get this out into the public awareness.

  46. Roger Bell
    Posted Mar 5, 2006 at 7:40 PM | Permalink

    re #38 If Ciccerone thought that the committee needed broader terms of reference in order to answer Boehlert’s questions, why on earth didn’t he checke with Boehlert? I think Boehlert must be furious and rightly so.
    re #17 There’s a pretty strong consensus that we’re close to, if not at, peak oil. It’s the oil guys – Simmons, Deffeyes,… who are convincing about this as well as the reports that the companies (Shell, for example) are not finding new reserves to replace the oil they are pumping now. See also the newsletter published by the Association for the study of peak oil.

  47. Paul
    Posted Mar 5, 2006 at 8:28 PM | Permalink

    RE #40:

    There may have been evidence of GW prior to the hockeystick. However, I think that there was a desire by some (not all) to pin it on “A”. This came from the same group that preached global cooling, population disaster, etc. By pinning the “A” on GW, political force could be brought to bear to reshape the world to their political agenda.

    The whole thing smacks of too much politics than it does of real science.

  48. John Lish
    Posted Mar 6, 2006 at 9:29 AM | Permalink

    #47, Paul – I first came across AGW in the early 90s (91/92 period) but I don’t think it is political in origin. Rather, I feel that this is warped middle class guilt being projected outwards. In the past, doom would come in the form of God’s judgement so guilt was a personal thing. Now in the absence of Judgement Day, we now have AGW doomsday instead to punish humanity for its wickedness.

    “and lo, humanity created a flood to wipe the evil from the Earth”

  49. Paul
    Posted Mar 6, 2006 at 10:05 AM | Permalink

    snip Steve: c’mon. I don’t have time to clean up this thread, but let’s not get into religion.

  50. Paul Gosling
    Posted Mar 6, 2006 at 11:07 AM | Permalink

    snip

  51. Posted Mar 7, 2006 at 11:06 AM | Permalink

    Ned, re#17: Thanks for your articulate explanation for why you are a skeptic. The difference between skeptics and “believers” is fundamentally one of philosophy, which is why the debate is so contentious. But fortunately, facts still matter.

    You list several conservative philosophical tenants that lead you to be suspicious of AGW advocates. They sound reasonable on their face, but on closer inspection, they fail the test of the evidence. You say “AGW advocates are often the same people who in the past – based on scientific theories were worried about…”

    “…the population explosion”: Only 9 billion people? Overpopulation isn’t a certain number of people; rather it is when the number of people overwhelm the resources needed for their well-being. Population growth is occurring almost exclusively in the world’s poorest nations, least able to provide for the population with available resources. The world’s 50 poorest countries will triple in size by 2050, even as births in wealthy nations decline. I think it is rather facile, from the comfort of the wealthiest nation on earth, to dismiss those who have been concerned about the “population bomb”. The suffering and misery of life made difficult by limited resources is a fact of life for vast numbers of human beings, and population pressures play an increasing important role.

    “…about the world running out of oil”: Hubbert famously published a graph in 1956 predicting that US oil production would peak in the early 70s. Although ridiculed at the time, Hubbert’s predictions proved correct. Oil production continues to decline around the world. Oil production is in decline in 33 of the 48 largest oil-producing countries. The number of major new oil fields discovered around the world fell to zero for the first time in 2003. Demand is outpacing production, and demand is expected to skyrocket in years ahead. China outstripped its domestic reserves just recently, turning to world markets. At current rates of economic growth, China will be importing an amount of oil equal to total world production in only 20 years. The cost of getting oil out of the ground is increasing, the quality of that oil is declining, and new reserves are in politically unstable parts of the world. Running out of oil is the least of our problems with petroleum.

    “…about global cooling”: this has been debunked so many times, I can’t believe it is still one of the skeptic talking points. Do you think that scientific understanding may have progressed a little in the past 30 years?

    “…about the extinction of 100 species each and every day”: This is hyperbole. The facts are bad enough, there’s no need to exaggerate. Most biologists believe that we are in the early stages of a human-caused mass extinction of life on earth. 784 documented extinctions and 60 extinctions in the wild are listed by the World Conservation Union, which has compiled an inventory of threatened species. These numbers of extinct species are certainly underestimates, because the majority of species have not been described or assessed, and proving that a species is extinct can take years or decades. Recently extinct animals include the Hawaiian Crow, Black Soft-Shell Turtle, Abingdon Island Tortoise, Red-tailed Shark, Sahara Oryx, Black-footed Ferret, Mongolian Wild Horse, and the Saudi Gazelle, as well as numerous amphibian, plant, and water dwelling species. The 2004 IUCN List contains an additional 15,589 species threatened with extinction. http://www.iucnredlist.org/

    The observed rate of extinction has risen dramatically in the last 50 years; driven almost exclusively by human causes. Current extinction rates are many times higher than natural rates found in the fossil record. Biologist EO Wilson estimates that one-half of all species of life on earth would be extinct in 100 years if current rates of human destruction of the environment continue. Extinctions are a hallmark of human-caused stress on the natural world, a tragic proof of habitat loss, overexploitation, and pollution.

    Science is indeed “developing a credibility problem.” But it’s not because of trying to tease climate history out of tree rings, or misusing R2’s and principle component analysis. The damage is being done by politically motivated think tanks that are trying to “balance” credible scientific evidence with fringe rhetorical arguments designed to deny that human changes to the environment are altering the global climate. Science is developing a credibility problem because politicians and politically appointed advocates pressure scientists to silence their views, and alter scientific documents to conform to politically convenient agendas.

    The material pressure of modern society is causing demonstrable and lasting damage to the natural world. Our way of life, without changes, may well deprive future generations of the conditions necessary for their survival. Whether it is oil, population pressure, or species extinction, the facts speak for themselves.

  52. Paul
    Posted Mar 7, 2006 at 11:35 AM | Permalink

    Science is indeed “developing a credibility problem.” But it’s not because of trying to tease climate history out of tree rings, or misusing R2’s and principle component analysis. The damage is being done by politically motivated think tanks that are trying to “balance” credible scientific evidence with fringe rhetorical arguments designed to deny that human changes to the environment are altering the global climate. Science is developing a credibility problem because politicians and politically appointed advocates pressure scientists to silence their views, and alter scientific documents to conform to politically convenient agendas.

    Could be written:

    Science is indeed “developing a credibility problem.” But it’s not because of trying to tease climate history out of tree rings, or misusing R2’s and principle component analysis. The damage is being done by politically motivated think tanks that are trying to “balance” dubious scientific evidence (as demonstrated on this blog) with fanatic rhetorical arguments designed to assert that human changes to the environment are causing catastrophic global climate changes. Science is developing a credibility problem because politicians and politically appointed advocates pressure scientists to silence their views, and alter scientific documents to conform to politically convenient agendas.

    You see, Michael, it swings both ways. I’ve just finished reading Bjorn Lomberg’s response (information here and here) to the critique of his book “The Skeptical Environmentalist” in SciAm. It is very clear that those promoting the typcial “environmental” point of view are unable to keep things in perspective. Your post above also repeats many of the issue Lomberg takes up in his book (and subsequent response).

    The other issue, and I think this is an important one, is that there is the automatic assumption that if someone is a “skeptic” that they’re automatically for “dirty water, air and the raping of the earth” (no, those words aren’t in anyone’s posts, but I feel as if they’re implied in many comments).

    You say “the facts speak for themselves.” Yes, the facts do, but we’re still arguing about what the facts are. It’s not settled science.

  53. John Lish
    Posted Mar 7, 2006 at 12:08 PM | Permalink

    #51 – Michael, the UN estimate made in 2000 for total population is 8 billion in 2025, 9.3 billion in 2050 and will stabilise at just under 11 billion in 2200.

    In 2004, Joseph Chamie (UN Director Population Division) presented a report which suggests that the 2050 figure will be below 9 billion (from a base of 6.3 billion for 2004). The revision downwards isn’t a surprise as the 2000 estimate also adjusted the total population growth downwards taking a billion people off the graph on the figures from 1750-2000 during the 1990s.

    Chamie also presents some interesting figures as to population growth. The peak year for absolute growth in population was in the late 1980s (around 87 million a year). By 2004, the absolute growth was 77 million a year. By 2050, chamie gives the figure of 29 million a year in absolute growth which compares to the UN 2000 estimate of 41 million a year by 2050. So not only is the population growth slowing, it is rapidly slowing and the stabilisation figure according to Chamie will be above 9 billion by the end of the 21st century (not the 22nd century as thought in 2000).

    Does that answer your question about “only 9 billion?”

  54. jae
    Posted Mar 7, 2006 at 12:34 PM | Permalink

    51 Have you read Lomborg’s book, Michael? I doubt it very much, becuause you repeated the whole false Litany. Challenge your beliefs and read the book.

  55. Paul
    Posted Mar 7, 2006 at 12:38 PM | Permalink

    RE #51:

    Michael, I’m sure you’ve seen it, but I’d also recommend Patrick Moore’s Greenspirit site. If he doesn’t have the “environmental” credentials, I don’t know who does.

  56. jae
    Posted Mar 7, 2006 at 1:34 PM | Permalink

    What a world: we get a sermon from a rabid environmentalist that makes his living by butchering old-growth trees!

  57. Paul
    Posted Mar 7, 2006 at 1:51 PM | Permalink

    RE #56:

    I’m not sure “butchering old-growth trees” is what he said, or meant, but he certainly does make some very interesting points about how bassackwards we often seem to be.

  58. Steve Sadlov
    Posted Mar 7, 2006 at 2:01 PM | Permalink

    Go spend some time at:

    http://www.dieoff.org

    All the classics are covered there – AGW, Peak Oil, Population Bomb, etc. If you drill down on that site and it’s links, the agenda of the New Age, Gaia Worshipping, neo-marxist social democratic Western intellectual utopians becomes quite clear:
    * Wilful policy to crash world population down to the sub 1 Billion arena
    * Legalization of Eugenics
    * An attempt to create a global version of the utopian state depicted in the 1970s book “Ecotopia.”
    * Trotskyite political system
    * Gradual move from agriculture to 100% engineered food
    * Etc

    Naturally, most people would not abide by such an agenda. Therefore, it must be snuck in.

  59. Paul
    Posted Mar 7, 2006 at 2:11 PM | Permalink

    RE #58:

    Patrick Moore is saying the same things… that the environmental movement has been hijacked by people with agenda other than the environment.

    So…when we question the motiviation of many “environmental” types, it’s apparently with considerable legitimacy.

  60. Posted Mar 8, 2006 at 6:22 AM | Permalink

    John Lish # 53 You ask “Does that answer your question about “only 9 billion?”

    That wasn’t really a question. It was a comment; meaning 9 billion will be a population explosion! Half of the world’s population lives on less than $2 a day. All of the growth in population is taking place in countries least able to supply the resources necessary for minimum standards of living. The “population bomb” isn’t about numbers; it’s about the growing numbers of people who are beyond the capacity of the natural world to provide for them. Overpopulation isn’t a certain number of people; rather it is when the number of people overwhelms the resources needed for their well being. This is happening today on a massive scale around the world.

  61. Posted Mar 8, 2006 at 6:26 AM | Permalink

    Steve Sadlov re:# 58 Why should I spend time there, when there are qualified and respected scientific organizations who are doing the hard work of understanding the material reality of the natural world? Spend some time at the IUCN, if you want if you want to understand the reality of species extinction. http://www.iucnredlist.org/

    The World Conservation Union is not a New Age, Gaia Worshipping, neo-Marxist Trotskyite attempt to create a global version of a utopian state. It is the world’s largest and most important conservation organization, representing more than 800 non-governmental organizations, 10,000 scientists, and experts from 181 countries, in a worldwide effort to catalogue threatened and endangered species.

    Perhaps a movie will interest you. See http://www.darwinsnightmare.com/

  62. kim
    Posted Mar 8, 2006 at 6:40 AM | Permalink

    M, doesn’t it take about a hundred watts to run a person? If you take a couple of decimals off the energy hitting the earth you will have a figure for the theoretical maximum sustainable human population that may shock you.
    =========================================================

  63. Posted Mar 8, 2006 at 6:41 AM | Permalink

    jae re:# 56 The old growth tress have been gone from PA saw mills for a hundred years. There is virtually no old growth left at all in the Eastern United States. Only 3 percent of our national woodlands are “old growth”, and only 6% of that is protected from logging. So I butcher second growth tress, selectively harvested in a sustainable manner.
    Would you like to refute anything of substance that I’ve said, or simply hurl insults?

  64. jae
    Posted Mar 8, 2006 at 6:54 AM | Permalink

    Michael: I don’t know how you define “old growth,” but many of the “slabs” you show on your website are hundreds of years old. Now come on… You know very well that there are no “old-growth forests” in the East, but there certainly are old-growth trees. I don’t know about “selectively harvested in a sustainable manner.” Can you prove this?

    This doesn’t matter much to me, anyway. What bothers me is that you sermonize like all the other rabid environmentalists. The world is not going to Hell. Read Lomborg’s book.

  65. John A
    Posted Mar 8, 2006 at 7:17 AM | Permalink

    The “population bomb” isn’t about numbers; it’s about the growing numbers of people who are beyond the capacity of the natural world to provide for them. Overpopulation isn’t a certain number of people; rather it is when the number of people overwhelms the resources needed for their well being. This is happening today on a massive scale around the world.

    We’re not deer, Michael. You are talking nonsense.

  66. BradH
    Posted Mar 8, 2006 at 7:31 AM | Permalink

    Re: 60

    The “population bomb” isn’t about numbers

    Shows what you know – “population” is ALL about numbers. In fact, it IS a number, by definition. Can you say, “Paul Ehrlich“, Michael?

  67. Posted Mar 9, 2006 at 6:11 AM | Permalink

    Brad H, Re # 66

    I’m not referring to Erlich’s book, but to Ned’s comments (#17) about overpopulation. Overpopulation (the “population bomb”, if you will) is not a function of the number of individuals, but rather the number of individuals compared to the resources they need to survive. In other words, it is more than numbers, it’s a relationship between population and resources. Overpopulation means that population density is so great that it causes an impoverished quality of life, environmental destruction, and long-term shortages of the basic necessities of life.

    It’s worth noting that Erlich’s book raised public awareness of population and environmental issues at a time before the “pill” and the “green revolution” took hold. It’s not like these issues have been resolved. 25,000 people die of starvation every day, and more than 800 million people around the world are chronically malnourished. These conditions exist in the same countries where the population is expected to triple during the next 40 years. That looks like a bomb to me.

    So in answer to Ned, I’m saying that yes indeed, believers in AWG are often the same people who are concerned about overpopulation, species extinction, and the end of the era of cheap oil. I just disagree that these are reasons to discredit AWG. The facts clearly call out that these concerns are real, and that those who believe otherwise are mistaken. Ned’s arguments fail to conform to the facts: reason enough to be skeptical of the skeptics.

  68. kim
    Posted Mar 9, 2006 at 6:28 AM | Permalink

    Imagine the strength of the quality of life of Grandpa Hardwood with hundreds more rings than his surrounding descendants.
    =============================================================================

  69. jae
    Posted Mar 9, 2006 at 6:48 AM | Permalink

    Michael s: Have you read Lomborg’s book yet? It would help to open your eyes on the broad picture. Please, at least go to the bookstore and browse one chapter. You won’t have to buy it that way. If you go at the right time, you won’t be embarrased by some of your religious sect seeing you looking at the book.

  70. Posted Mar 9, 2006 at 4:55 PM | Permalink

    jae:

    It’s especially ironic that you would place your faith in Lomborg, since he has been roundly condemned for using misleading data, selectively discarding inconvenient results, and the using questionable statistical methods in the service of a political agenda. I thought you were opposed to these kinds of tactics?

    Lomborg is a persuasive political scientist who has a documented lack of expertise in the issues he writes about. He greatly underestimates rates of species extinction, and denies that it matters that billions of people lack access to clean water. He makes sweeping generalizations based on selective use of non-representative quotes that don’t honestly portray the mainstream thinking of the scientific community. When I read Lomborg, I see a ideological polemic argument, not an honest depiction of the facts.

    The thesis of Lomborg’s book is that the environmental movement has exaggerated the magnitude of environmental threats. I challenge you to find any facts that I have used above which are sourced to an environmental group. They are accurate numbers from legitimate, qualified, authoritative sources. Find something I’ve said that overstates the magnitude of the problem. In fact, my numbers from species extinction comes from the same source as Lomborg uses in his book! Lomborg’s attack is against environmental groups like Greenpeace, not scientific research generally. In fact he says most scientific research "generally appears to be professionally competent and well balanced.”

    Lomborg’s take on extinctions are a good example of his selective use and misuse of the research. Lomborg extrapolates extinctions from the IUCN Red List (which I used as a source for my comments) as if it were the grand total of extinctions, without mentioning that only very few known species have been assessed, and many species have yet to be described by science. For example, only about 4 percent of the world’s described plants have been evaluated, and unknown numbers are yet to be described. Lomborg deduces the rate of extinction from rates over the past 400 years, obliterating the fact that rates have been rising exponentially in the last 50 years. Is Lomborg dishonest, or just ignorant? I don’t know. Either way, it’s not very persuasive.

    Lomborg’s book predates the IUCN 2004 assessment. This more recent assessment looks worse, not better as Lomborg confidently predicted. Amphibians were not counted at all at the time of Lomborg’s book, for example. Since then, a worldwide amphibian assessment has been done. We know that at least 34 amphibian species are known to be extinct, while at least another 113 species have not been found in recent years and are thought to be extinct. 43% of amphibians are threatened with extinction, so the future for amphibians does not look very bright. This is not an environmentalist exaggeration from Greenpeace, but a scientific assessment by 520 scientists from over 60 countries working for three years in the field. Is concern about species extinction exaggerated? I really don’t think so.

    The most outrageous claim that Lomborg makes is the phony argument that environmental challenges can only be addressed at the expense of healthcare, education, and poverty programs. This argument is completely phony. Why not weigh the cost of environmental challenges against corporate subsidies and the military industrial complex, rather than against hospitals and famine relief? Here we see an exercise of Lomborg’s political agenda at work.

    Lomborg has done a disservice to the public by confusing the distinction between facts and mistakes. Lomborg portrays scientifically established assessments as nothing more than a “litany” of exaggerations by self-serving advocates. Lomborg has enabled politically sympathetic skeptics to indiscriminately lump scientifically established results with exaggerations by politicians, the media, and advocacy groups without distinction. 25,000 people die of starvation every day, and more than 800 million people around the world are chronically malnourished. These conditions exist in the some of the same countries where the population is expected to triple during the next 40 years. This is the world we live in, not some self-serving Greenpeace scare tactic.

    Lomborg is an acquired taste. He resonates to those who are politically conservative, and enrages those who think for themselves, hope for a better world, and place faith in the scientific method to help us understand the challenges that face the human race. He is a master of political rhetoric, contention and division. But his contribution to understanding the world the way it really is has been a noisy, argumentative failure.

    Your sermon about my hypocrisy is tedious, jae. Don’t you have something to say about the substance of my argument? Challenge my argument, not my character.

  71. Dave Dardinger
    Posted Mar 9, 2006 at 5:43 PM | Permalink

    Lomborg has been unfairly attacked. Nobody here has time to totally educate you on the attempt to destroy him, and Steve would get bored of it anyway, but pick one complaint against his book you think is clearly true and I’ll show you what’s wrong with it. I spent a great number of hours proving to myself a few years ago that there were none that held up (other than a few minor mistakes he gladly lists on his own website.)

  72. jae
    Posted Mar 9, 2006 at 5:55 PM | Permalink

    Another sermon from the Rabid Environmental Mount. You are EXACTLY the kind of guy that Lomborg goes after, so I understand you ire. Give me some references and specific details, man. By the way, have you read the book, or are you borrowing all that diatribe from one of Lomborg’s critics? I think the latter.

  73. Posted Mar 10, 2006 at 5:13 AM | Permalink

    Dave: Pick one complaint against his book that I mentioned above and show me what’s wrong with it.

    JAE: Find something I’ve said that overstates the magnitude of the problem, or relies on an environmental advocacy group as a source. How about making a argument against the references to his book and specific details I’ve already mentioned above, instead of asking for more.

  74. jae
    Posted Mar 10, 2006 at 6:11 AM | Permalink

    Michael: the onus is on you to prove ANYTHING you said in that emotional tome of yours. Just read the book, OK?

  75. John Lish
    Posted Mar 10, 2006 at 7:59 AM | Permalink

    Michael, you state the following:

    [Lomborg] greatly underestimates rates of species extinction…In fact, my numbers from species extinction comes from the same source as Lomborg uses in his book!

    Actually what Lomborg states in his reply to Thomas Lovejoy who criticised him on this point is the following:

    I do agree with Lovejoy that since we don’t know the absolute number of species, we have to talk in size-independent terms. But for public discussion I disagree with the use of multiples of natural extinctions and suggest instead using percentage of number of species, mainly because most nonbiologists have no sense of the “natural extinction rate’ and therefore not able to assess the overall damage of a rate 1,500 times the natural extinction rate. Such understanding comes much more easily with such description as “we are losing 0.7% of all species within the next 50 years.’ Therefore, I do not “cynically” dismiss these rates but argue that the percent-terms are more easily comprehensible.

    That hardly corresponds with your emotive claim in #70. Likewise, he doesn’t present the argument as an either/or in terms of spending but that there are opportunity costs and that response to climate change need to be considered rationally. Nor is he a denier of poverty, what he talks about is global trends (increasing life expectancy, lower birth rates etc) which are indicators of increasing wealth. I would add more but this is going wildly off-topic. What I will say, in accordance with the aims of this blog, is that data needs to be considered rationally and dispassionately in order for an informed public debate to occur (re Steve criticisms of the Hockey Stick). I recognise that you care deeply about these issues but you would be better challenging the trade protectionism and subsidised arms trade of the USA if you wanted to make a difference about poverty. This blog isn’t suitable for having those arguments though.

  76. Dave Dardinger
    Posted Mar 10, 2006 at 8:32 AM | Permalink

    Dave: Pick one complaint against his book that I mentioned above and show me what’s wrong with it.

    This is a stupid exercise as it allows me to cherry-pick your worst argument rather than you to pick Lomborg’s worst. But that’s your problem.

    He … denies that it matters that billions of people lack access to clean water.

    This is totally untrue and worse, it’s the exact opposite of what he says in his book. Indeed he explicitly states that spending the same amount of money on clean water (& sewers) rather than CO2 abatement would have a larger payoff for society as a whole and for the poor in particular.

    We’re redecorating our townhouse this week and my books are scattered and I couldn’t find Lomborg’s book in a quick look, but I know I saw it yesterday so when it surfaces again I’ll give you an exact quote.

  77. jae
    Posted Mar 10, 2006 at 9:06 AM | Permalink

    Michael: If you are going to discuss the book, you could at least read it!

  78. J. Sperry
    Posted Mar 10, 2006 at 10:23 AM | Permalink

    Re #76:
    I too thought this was M. Seward’s most outrageous (and easily refuted) claim, especially since BL says “Clean drinking water is fundamental to human health.” Here’s BL’s quote from page 6 of The Skeptical Environmentalist, in case you don’t find your copy soon.

    [I]t is a vast improvement that people both in the developed and in the developing world have dramatically increased their access to clean drinking water. Nevertheless, this does not mean that everything is good enough. There are still more than a billion people in the Third World who do not have access to clean drinking water. If we compare the world to the ideal situation, it is obvious that there are still improvements to be made. [emphasis in original]

    and page 20-21

    [I]t is true that the most important human problem with water today is not that we use too much but that too many have no access. It is estimated that if we could secure clean drinking water and sanitation for everyone, this would avoid several million deaths every year and prevent half a billion people becoming seriously ill each year…. Thus, the most important water question is whether access to water and sanitation has been improving or declining…. [after a page of facts and figures] Although there is still much left to do, especially in sanitation, the most important water problem is indeed improving.

    I could go on. He does put a positive viewpoint on the situation, but he is hardly denying that it matters.

  79. Dave Dardinger
    Posted Mar 10, 2006 at 11:02 AM | Permalink

    re # 78 Thanks for the quotes. Those were what I was going to look for.

  80. Posted Mar 11, 2006 at 8:10 AM | Permalink

    Lomborg makes many reasonable sounding arguments in his book, which you have taken the time to quote. I don’t take issue with his reasonable statements. Lomborg’s flaw is his contention that concern with global warming, species extinction, oil depletion and population pressures are little more than a litany of environmentalist exaggerations.

    The supposed trade off between clean water for the poor and global warming abatement is equally without merit. Where is the example of a clean water project that was canceled to pay for global warming abatement? As far as I can tell, that trade off exists only in Lomborg’s book.

    Ned says that:

    “AGW advocates are often the same people who in the past – based on scientific theories – were worried about the population explosion, about the world running out of oil, about global cooling, about the extinction of 100 species each and every day. Please note the UN now estimates that world population will peak at around 9 billion at mid-century; world oil consumption goes up every year and yet proven reserves continue to expand; global coolers have morphed into global warmers; of the 100 species allegedly extinguishing per day — name one that went extinct today — or even during the last 5 years.”

    Ned is simply mistaken. 9 billion people ARE a population explosion. Biologists do not claim that 100 species a day are dying. Recently extinct animals include the Hawaiian Crow, the Black Soft-Shell Turtle, the Abingdon Island Tortoise, the Red-tailed Shark, the Sahara Oryx, the Black-footed Ferret, the Mongolian Wild Horse, and the Saudi Gazelle. Oil production is in decline in 33 of the 48 largest oil-producing countries, and no new reserves were discovered for the first time in 2003. I asked you to find something I’ve said that overstates the magnitude of the problem, or that relies on an environmental advocacy group as a source. Perhaps you would prefer to reignite the well-worn debate over Lomborg because you can’t refute my facts.

    What role has Lomborg’s work played in Ned’s caricature of the AWG advocates “litany”? I don’t know, but Jae seems to think it has. His response to my list of facts contradicting Ned’s litany: “read Lomborg”. Don’t let Lomborg do your thinking for you. Look at the facts for yourself. I asked you to find something I’ve said that overstates the magnitude of the problem, or that relies on an environmental advocacy group as a source. Just saying, “read Lomborg” doesn’t amount to much of an argument against the facts.

    I don’t know where Ned gets his claims, but these mischaracterizations are clear examples of Lomborg’s pernicious influence on people’s thinking. The phony argument that Ned makes is a reflection of the misrepresentation of scientific understanding at the heart of Lomborg’s work. It convincingly illustrates the flaws inspired by Lomborg’s influence. Ned is saying that AWG believers are the same people who worry about the population explosion, oil depletion, and species extinction, as if these are phony problems. These are real problems, and AWG advocates are right to be concerned bout them.

    Rather than engage in dueling Lomborg quotes, address my arguments against Ned’s mischaracterization of AWG advocates beliefs. Acknowledge that my response to Ned was based on the facts, and Ned’s list of AWG advocates beliefs is a phony caricature, whether or not Lomborg inspires it.

  81. kim
    Posted Mar 11, 2006 at 10:01 AM | Permalink

    The reports of my blackfooted ferret’s death have been greatly exaggerated.
    ==============================================================

  82. kim
    Posted Mar 11, 2006 at 10:07 AM | Permalink

    New hydrocarbon deposits are discovered perhaps daily and the meaning of the word ‘reserve’ varies even more frequently, like the wind, with prevailing market conditions.
    ==============================================================================

  83. jae
    Posted Mar 11, 2006 at 10:28 AM | Permalink

    Micahel: refutations of ALL your arguments are in Lomborg’s book, complete with all sorts of documentation from the highest quality sources. You can read it for yourself; I can’t reproduce it here. You really are afraid to read the book, aren’t you?

  84. Posted Mar 12, 2006 at 8:55 AM | Permalink

    Score one for Kim. He/she (?) found an error in my comments. The black footed ferret is only the most endangered species in N AM, not extinct.

    But jae, you refuse to refute even one of my claims. Simply saying “read Lomborg” is a lazy way to debate. You have failed to refute any of my statements of fact in answer to Ned. Have you read Lomborg?

    Ned’s phoney portrayal of what AWG proponents believe fails to conform to the facts.

  85. kim
    Posted Mar 12, 2006 at 9:43 AM | Permalink

    Not to quibble, well only a little, but the most endangered species in North America is probably one of those going extinct today, and is probably not described.

    The black-footed ferret was described by a countryman to South Dakota wildlife agents who rediscovered it and published the news basically for the fun of it. It has a sturdy niche in an environment which is not now changing rapidly.
    =========================================================================

  86. jae
    Posted Mar 12, 2006 at 11:03 AM | Permalink

    Michael? Why should I attempt to put Lomgorg’s statements in here when you can go read them for yourself? He refutes ALL of your doomsday gaia BS. By the way, you need references for your “facts.”

  87. Mike Carney
    Posted Mar 12, 2006 at 12:19 PM | Permalink

    Michael explains why he won’t read Lomborg’s book:

    Don’t let Lomborg do your thinking for you. Look at the facts for yourself.

    Wow. Let me paraphase: Don’t read Lomborg, because he will infect you with bad thoughts — instead do all the research he did yourself. I am unclear if this applies to all books or just this one.

    Trust and how people apportion it is fasinating. Michael, your active distrust of Lomborg is undoubtly based on something you read since you did not “look at the facts for yourself” by reading the book. My trust of Lomborg is quite simple. I read the book and then checked out several of his key points. This was easily done because he gave copious footnotes. Fully one third of the book is footnotes. So I actually did “Look at the facts” for myself. I can trust Lomborg because most of his statements are easily verified. Or more specifically, I can distinguish between his conclusion and the data that led to it and judge for myself the conclusion’s validity. Further he has a website where he posts any corrections. Here is transparency. If there are any mistakes he clearly has a desire to see the record gets corrected. Michael, feel free to submit any corrections to him. Doing so will move the ball forward.

    For similar reasons I can’t trust Michael Mann. I read his work in the IPCC TAR. I accepted it at that time. He after all was a respected scientist. Then I discover that the data he used is not available for replication. Then he plays games with Steve and Ross about making some of the data available and where it is located. Then he tells a congressional committee he will not disclose the computer code because it is his proprietary property. Then he plays games with whether or not he has actually computed r2. And just recently at the NAS panel, whose original congressional mandate specifically named his study, he makes himself unavailable for most of the two days. Why is he expending so much effort hiding? If he had behaved like Lomborg then all of his data and process would be have been available when he published. If he did not think the r2 statistic was relevant, he could explain why rather than doing some combination of denial, berating, and “silly”. If he did as Lomborg did he would setup a website for corrections. Instead he setup a website that makes excuses. Deciding who to trust between Lomborg and Mann is easy because Lomborg strives for transparency and Mann is running from it.

    The fact that Mann is not trustworthy doesn’t necessarily mean that global warming isn’t a problem. It does mean his contribution needs to be discounted so we can find the right answer. Earlier he could have corrected this himself, but at this point he has spent far too much time hiding the truth rather than making it available. The ball is better carried by others.

  88. John A
    Posted Mar 12, 2006 at 12:40 PM | Permalink

    The fact that Mann is not trustworthy doesn’t necessarily mean that global warming isn’t a problem. It does mean his contribution needs to be discounted so we can find the right answer. Earlier he could have corrected this himself, but at this point he has spent far too much time hiding the truth rather than making it available. The ball is better carried by others.

    I’d almost completely agree with this except for one thing: name the “better ball carrier” in climate science.

    If hiding methodology and refusing to properly archive data were not so rife in climate science, then Mann’s behavior would be an aberration rather than a symptom.

    Actually I’ll generalize it – hiding methodology and claiming absolute ownership of data have become common problems in many other areas of science, not simply climate science. I don’t think of it as being sinister in most cases, but as part of the competition for funding, resources, facetime on journal editorial boards, and so on.

    This defeats replication of results and can lead to lots of money being wasted trying to reproduce results whose experimental setup has not been properly disclosed.

    I remember some British scientist commenting on the Hwang woo Suk affair and saying that geneticists have to go back and check that they didn’t assume something because Hwang said that was how he did it, which turned out to be false.

  89. Ned
    Posted Mar 16, 2006 at 6:06 PM | Permalink

    Response to Michael Seward:

    Many comments have already been written here about various interpretations of the data re population, oil depletion, etc. and I don’t want to dwell on the data, but on the “come-from”. I come from being concerned about people first, environment second. I want to support the environment, but not at the expense of people. (Fortunately, it can be easily demonstrated that as people improve their economic well being, they become interested in taking care of the environment as well.)

    Michael, I believe you come from environment first, people second, and this leads to much confused analysis. I wish I could be more eloquent on this ditinction, but tell me if I’m right about your “come-from”.

    A few other minor points:
    You say “‘the extinction of 100 species each and every day': This is hyperbole.” You then quote biologist EO Wilson who estimates that one-half of all species of life on earth would be extinct in 100 years if current rates of human destruction of the environment continue. It just so happens that EO Wilson is the source of the 100 species a day hyperbole and his ‘half of all species’ prediction is equally hyperbolic.

    You also say “Most biologists believe that we are in the early stages of a human-caused mass extinction of life on earth.” I have two brothers who are PhD scientists in related fields (one is actually an ornithologist / conservation biologist, researching the impact of Central American agriculture on endangered species). They do not support your mass-extinction comment.

  90. Paul Williams
    Posted Mar 16, 2006 at 7:04 PM | Permalink

    Mongolian Wild Horses and Sahara Oryx (Scimitar Horned Oryx) can be seen at Monarto Zoological Park, South Australia, among other places. That’s three out of Michael’s eight extinctions that have made a comeback.

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