Saturday, February 20, 2010

MIT Profs Duke It Out Over Global Warming: Good Guy Wins

A few days ago, MIT prof and hurricane specialist Kerry Emanuel went out of his way to call the rascally shenanigans of the IPCC "alleged," as though IPCC officials have not already admitted to falsely threatening the world with imminent melting of the Himalayan glaciers and destruction of the rain forests due to rising temperatures, hiding the decline of global temperatures for more than a decade, and labeling the growth of Antarctic ice as "insignificant." 

More important, Emanuel claimed, are the "compelling strands of scientific evidence that have led almost all climate scientists to conclude that mankind is altering climate in potentially dangerous ways." 

Quick reality check:

"It is easy," said Emanuel,
"to be critical of the models that are used to make such predictions - and we are - but they represent our best efforts to objectively predict climate; everything else is mere opinion and speculation. That they are uncertain cuts both ways; things might not turn out as badly as the models now suggest, but with equal probability, they could turn out worse.
Emanuel is right that it "is easy to be critical of the models used to make such predictions." Far too easy. Garbage in, garbage out, as almost everybody knows, and it is no longer a secret that much of the data and computer coding that comprise the models were garbage. Where most of us non-"climate scientists" come from, putting "garbage in" does not represent "our best efforts." If this were not the case, there would be no such thing as ClimateGate. 

The real head-scratcher for me in Emanuel's statement is why we should accept a total (and totally painful) "remaking" of the world economy on the likelihood that the future might turn out either better or worse than a handful of self-proclaimed experts predict. If rapid global warming is a reality, and Siberia and Northern Canada blossom into breadbaskets for the world and Irish farmers start growing wine grapes, will that be "better" or "worse" for humankind?

Moreover, "everything else" not covered by the IPCC's model is not "mere opinion and speculation" as Emanuel claimed. IPCC officials already have admitted that a number of the tall tales they spun and then presented to world policymakers as "settled science" were, in fact, regurgetations of unproven opinions of global warming advocates (not scientists) based on speculation and hearsay, not data.

"We might begin," Emanuel concluded, "by mustering the courage to confront the problem of climate change in an honest and open way."

"Open and honest." That would be a welcome change indeed.

Perhaps that's why I was mighty glad to read this response to Emanuel by another MIT prof, atmospheric physicist Richard Lindzen (via Watts Up With That):
KERRY EMANUEL’S Feb. 15 op-ed “Climate changes are proven fact’’ is more advocacy than assessment. Vague terms such as “consistent with,’’ “probably,’’ and “potentially’’ hardly change this. Certainly climate change is real; it occurs all the time. To claim that the little we’ve seen is larger than any change we “have been able to discern’’ for a thousand years is disingenuous. Panels of the National Academy of Sciences and Congress have concluded that the methods used to claim this cannot be used for more than 400 years, if at all. Even the head of the deservedly maligned Climatic Research Unit acknowledges that the medieval period may well have been warmer than the present.
The claim that everything other than models represents “mere opinion and speculation’’ is also peculiar. Despite their faults, models show that projections of significant warming depend critically on clouds and water vapor, and the physics of these processes can be observationally tested (the normal scientific approach); at this point, the models seem to be failing.
Finally, given a generation of environmental propaganda, a presidential science adviser (John Holdren) who has promoted alarm since the 1970s, and a government that proposes funding levels for climate research about 20 times the levels in 1991, courage seems hardly the appropriate description - at least for scientists supporting such alarm.
There exist paltry computer models that can be manipulated by a handful of fallible human beings, and there exist natural systems whose powers are beyond human comprehension, but, as Lindzen pointed out, which do exhibit processes that can be "observationally tested" to challenge predictions based on computer model results.

For example, in contradiction to years and decades of global warming projections based on what Emanuel called "compelling strands of evidence," snowfall in the Northern Hemisphere has been extending farther and farther south ever since the start of the decline in temperature that the IPCC and others worked so hard to hide. Almost everyone in the Northern Hemisphere has observed this phenomena, often with snow shovel in hand. Here's the graph:

That's what I call a "compelling strand of evidence."


  1. I know the politicization of climate change is still appealing to conservatives, that which Gore started a quarter-century ago, and which the Right fought back then, correctly, with Emanuel in the lead of climate scientists telling Gore to his face in Senate hearings that, no, "not all scientists agree there is global warming."

    But you blew it.

    Gore handed the Right the best political argument the Right could have - on a silver platter: the best argument ever for nuclear power. A quarter-century ago.

    In the interim period, science advanced. Better data, more precision in data, better technology, better, faster computers with exponentially better computing power, and a far better understanding of climate change.

    Meanwhile, Emanuel and other scientists did what science does: look at the massive evidence and not ignore it. Quietly, without getting into the political fray. Emanuel accepted the evidence, while despairing at the politics of the Right still fighting Gore as if it were still 1986 and nothing had changed.

    The Right stuck its foot in its mouth and is pushing it further in as I write.

    Emanuel spoke in Stoneham, Mass a few weeks ago and stated:

    "“[The available disinformation in the public] affects the perception of climate change,” Dr. Emanuel said in a recent interview with the Sun regarding the dilemma plaguing not only himself, but the entire scientific community. “The problem is that you have on one side, scientists who by their very nature are never unequivocal about things; we’re always questioning everything. Then on the other side you have people with vested interests, who are making a lawyerly case about this or that.”

    “You put the two against each other, and it’s a very lopsided match,” he added. “Public perception has been warped by a rather deliberate campaign of disinformation. But as soon as we become advocates, we cease being scientists.”


    “It turns out that [Emanuel] has a passionate commitment to talking directly to the public about the science of climate change,” said Breithaupt in an interview. “He doesn’t believe that the science of climate change is being well-explained by the regular media, that it’s being garbled. And the issue has of course become politicized, and he thinks that scientists have a civic duty to talk directly to the public and to give them good information so that they can come to their own conclusions based on the science.”

    Emanuel did that three years ago, in an essay that barely rose an eyebrow: "Phaeton's Reins: The human hand in climate change."'s%20Reins.pdf

    Read it.

    You've bought into the politics and into confirmation bias, jumping on a respected scientist on the basis of an editorial which, if anything, should cause you to find out WHY Emanuel states what he does.

    And you can ask the Right why it failed, politically and rationally, to lead the charge to push for nuclear power generation, when Gore handed it to you, something that could have been well under construction across the country two decades ago and is now only being proposed - by Obama.

    As a conservative, you should know better. You're still wasting your time throwing pies in Gore's face. The Good Guys - all Americans - are losing.

  2. Quite Rightly: Your post stands on its merit. What jthomas has missed here is the deliberate manipulation of data by people who have called themselves "scientists," and who are supposedly charged by the world with getting it right.

    In the end, they have done neither.

    jthomas' point about having had the opportunity to have gone nuclear some time ago is well taken, but environmental fearmongers helped make the politicians reluctant to move forward on the issue.

  3. Joe missed the salient point Emanuel is making:

    " is easy to lose track of the compelling strands of scientific evidence that have led almost all climate scientists to conclude that mankind is altering climate in potentially dangerous ways."

    This is a straightforward fact that anyone can check on their own with a little effort.

    The fact remains, the Right is unconcerned with scientific evidence.

    Here is more:

    "Going Rogue on Endangerment"

  4. jt-

    The point being argued here is whether Emanuel's "salient point," as you call it, holds water.

    Emanuel says that "...compelling strands of scientific evidence ... have led almost all climate scientists to conclude that mankind is altering climate in potentially dangerous ways."

    Lindzen calls that argument "more advocacy than assessment."

    Rajendra K. Pachauri, hailed as the most powerful "climate scientist" in the world, is, by training a railway and industrial engineer (look it up). His "scholarship"--if you call it that (I don't)--has been disgraced and pressure is building for him to resign as head of the IPCC--until recently the go-to organization for information about global warming and climate change. The IPCC has itself admitted that it published as "settled science" information based on rumor and fraud. Rumor and fraud is not scientific "assessment."

    "Climate science" is not what you think. It is such a new field that universities don't offer degrees in it. Anyone, even a railroad engineer, can call himself or herself a "climate scientist." Unfortunately, until very recently, many so-called "climate scientists" based their research on the fraudulent or incorrect findings that the IPCC claimed (at the time) was "settled science." This means that, no matter how well intentioned, honest, and competent their studies were, the results of these studies are wrong. Garbage in, garbage out.

    It is correct that much new technology has been made available in recent years. It is not correct, however, to assume that "climate science" has been making use of much of this new technology. For example, the computer model used by the Climate Research Unit at East Anglia University (ground zero of the ClimateGate scandal) would not have been considered adequate decades ago, and would not be used today for any purpose that requires provable results.

    Sure, our technological ability to measure temperature accurately has increased. But, at the same time, "climate scientists" have been reducing the number of data sets collected by the improved temperature sensors around the world, measuring entire regions with just one temperature sensor where many more used to exist (look up the Canadian temperature data scandal for example). Improved technology has been weakening the global warming argument, so it hasn't been welcomed with open arms in "climate science." (There are many, many examples.)

    Many expert reviews of the "findings" of climate science can be found on the Web. I suggest you look at appraisals made by researchers in the hard sciences whose results are subject to real-world testing by actual instrumentation. These fields have been around long enough for their practitioners to have developed adequate means of "assessment" of their results, based on provable results, not merely fear that something will go wrong, one way or another. And look at what expert computer programmers have to say about climate model coding. I think you'll be shocked.

    By the way, Planet Earth always warms as it comes out of an Ice Age, and the planet has been going in and out of ice ages long before the first man ever took a step on it. Also, it may be of interest to you that the CO2 in the atmosphere today would not be nearly enough to keep dinosaurs alive. The reason? In the more CO2-rich atmosphere enjoyed by dinosaurs (and the small mammals and sea creatures alive then), plants grew much faster than they do today, and thus there was enough food on the planet to support large populations of heavy eaters. With much less CO2 in today's atmosphere, plants don't grow as fast. Think about it: slower plant growth means more hunger for people too.