Editors’ personal opinions

27/10/2011

Climate Change – News and Comments

Nature muddies the water

As a science writer I’m well used to picking my way through the minefield of embargoes on papers not yet published. I know, too, of possible risks to scientists as well as journalists, when quoting from preprints or even reporting results presented at a conference. Publication can be cancelled.

You’d expect clear guidance from leading journals on that subject. How bewildering then, to read an editorial “Scientific climate” in today’s Nature (vol. 478, p. 428). It’s on the subject of the Berkeley Earth / Richard Muller furore noted in my recent posts. The editorial’s sub-heading is:

Results confirming climate change are welcome, even when released before peer review.

… Where “climate change” is to be understood, I suppose, as “catastrophic manmade global warming”. Other points from the editorial are, as I construe them:

  • The welcome is the stronger because the Muller results can be used against the Republicans in the USA.
  • But Muller really should not have publicised his work as he did.
  • Muller is wrong to claim that Science and Nature forbid the discussion of unpublished results – Nature only opposes pre-publicity.
  • All that said, it was fine for physicists to give pre-publicity to apparent evidence of neutrinos travelling faster than light.

What on earth does all that mean, to scientists and journalists who are just trying to tell their stories promptly? Here are three extracts from Nature’s instructions to authors concerning embargoes, which can be seen in full here http://www.nature.com/authors/policies/embargo.html

Material submitted to Nature journals must not be discussed with the media, except in the case of accepted contributions, which can be discussed with the media no more than a week before the publication date under our embargo conditions. We reserve the right to halt the consideration or publication of a paper if this condition is broken.”

The benefits of peer review as a means of giving journalists confidence in new work published in journals are self-evident. Premature release to the media denies journalists that confidence. It also removes journalists’ ability to obtain informed reactions about the work from independent researchers in the field.”

… communicate with other researchers as much as you wish, whether on a recognised community preprint server, on Nature Precedings, by discussion at scientific meetings (publication of abstracts in conference proceedings is allowed), in an academic thesis, or by online collaborative sites such as wikis; but do not encourage premature publication by discussion with the press (beyond a formal presentation, if at a conference).”

What the new editorial means, in my opinion, is that the politicisation of science has now penetrated right through to the workaday rituals of publication. On no account must you publicise your new work prematurely, unless you do it to bash the climate sceptics or the Republican Party or supporters of Special Relativity or anyone else the editors happen to dislike today. In that case they’ll forgive you.

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Hoodwinked by Berkeley Earth

22/10/2011

Climate Change – Notes and Comments

Propaganda Tito style

My previous post was too polite about Berkeley Earth. I’d not figured out Richard Muller’s game. The mainstream media have have portrayed him as a repentant climate sceptic who has wonderful new evidence confirming man-made global warming. To see how the story is playing, look for Richard Muller Berkeley on Google News (139 reports and counting).

Normally I try to stick to the science, without being naïve about the politics. Posted earlier on this blog is the text of a talk I gave called “Global Warming is Just Propaganda”, which you’ll find here https://calderup.wordpress.com/2010/06/07/tradecraft-of-propaganda/

Muller

Tito

It compares the behaviour of the warmists with the tradecraft of propaganda during the Second World War. And the latest bout from Berkeley and the media reminds me, belatedly, of a manipulation of British propaganda in the Balkans in the early 1940s. For global warming read Stalinism and (at the risk of grossly overstating his importance) for Richard Muller read Tito.

Hoodwinking Churchill: Tito’s Great Confidence Trick, by the TV producer and military historian Peter Batty, was published earlier this year. Helped by a Communist mole filtering messages in the British team in Cairo, Tito fooled the West into thinking that he was the hero of the fight against the Italian and German forces in Yugoslavia. In fact he was subverting other guerrilla bands, doing deals with the Germans, and keeping his forces safe for a postwar Communist takeover of Yugoslavia. As Batty relates, Tito secured his 35-year dictatorship by butchering the non-Communist guerrillas who had been the real fighters in the occupied Balkans.

When Richard Muller, leader of the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperatures (BEST) project, gave testimony to the US Congress back in March, he called for the creation of an ARPA-like agency for climate issues. ARPA, more correctly nowadays called DARPA, is the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, a mighty organization with a $3 billion budget. Climate ARPA (CARPA?) might offer a promising niche for a 67-year-old astrophysicist.

But if that’s the aim, catastrophic man-made global warming must stay high on the political agenda. How better to go about making sure about that than to call yourself a sceptic, just as Tito pretended to be on Winston Churchill’s side. When the time came to show himself in his true colours Tito was celebrated in the Communist world. Similarly Muller has become an instant hero for the warmists.

Scientifically grotesque was the blurring in the Berkeley press release, as well as in the media, of the meaning of Muller’s main graph, shown in my previous post. Invited to comment by New Scientist, I said:

What do they mean by ‘global warming is real’? The graph of global land temperature changes associated with BEST’s announcement neatly confirms by their independent method that the warming stopped about 15 years ago. The Sun’s recent laziness has apparently cancelled any effect of ever-increasing man-made greenhouse gases.”

The interviewer commented:

I take your point about the reduced warming trend over the last 15 years, but this study is focused on the long-term warming trend which covers a century. How do you account for this long-term warming trend?”

My reply (which wasn’t reported by New Scientist) was:

Increased activity of the Sun, of course, from 1950 to the early 1990s as signalled most strikingly by the decline in ionizing cosmic rays at the Earth’s surface. See the red curve (ion chamber) in the attached figure.”

This is a coloured version of a graph in Henrik Svensmark, Physical Review Letters, 81, 5027-30,1998.

The message about Muller in the media, that “the science is settled (again)”, is completely at odds with the evidence.

Reference

Hoodwinking Churchill: Tito’s Great Confidence Trick, by Peter Batty, Shepheard Walwyn (London) 2011.


The long pause in warming confirmed

20/10/2011

Climate Change – News and Comments

Nice research, curious rhetoric

Just dis-embargoed at noon PST (8 pm BST) on 20 October are a press release and associated papers from the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperatures (BEST) project. A team led by Richard A. Muller has been asking whether the histories of land surface temperatures from the likes of NOAA, NASA and the Hadley Centre are to be trusted. Clever statistics glean and process raw data from 39,000 weather stations world wide – more than five times as many as used by other analysts.

The short answer is that the other histories are broadly validated, as seen in this graph from one of the new papers.

If your eye can trace the black line of the BEST study, based on a random selection of weather stations, you’ll see that the average temperatures of the land correspond quite well with the other series.

What’s very odd is the rhetoric of the press release. It begins:

Global warming is real, according to a major study released today. Despite issues raised by climate change skeptics, the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature study finds reliable evidence of a rise in the average world land temperature of approximately 1°C since the mid-1950s.

Global warming real? Not recently, folks. The black curve in the graph confirms what experts have known for years, that warming stopped in the mid-1990s, when the Sun was switching from a manic to a depressive phase.

Elsewhere the press release first begs the question by calling the past 50 years “the period during which the human effect on temperatures is discernible” and then contradicts this by saying, What Berkeley Earth has not done is make an independent assessment of how much of the observed warming is due to human actions, Richard Muller acknowledged.”

Let me say there is interesting stuff in the material released today, particularly in the paper on Decadal Variations, tracing links with El Niño and other regional temperature oscillations” — a subject I may return to when I have more time.

It hasn’t escaped my attention that BEST is today gunning mainly for Anthony Watts and his Surface Stations project in the USA, but he’s well capable of answering for himself. See wattsupwiththat.com/2011/10/20/the-berkeley-earth-surface-temperature-project-puts-pr-before-peer-review/

Added 21 October: See this rather uneasy comment from Judith Curry, a member of the Berkeley teamhttp://judithcurry.com/2011/10/20/berkeley-surface-temperatures-released/

And later: New Scientist quotes me saying something similar to what’s above – followed of course by the usual grossly biased and poorly informed attempt at a put-down http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn21074-sceptical-climate-scientists-concede-earth-has-warmed.html

References

The BEST home page, with downloadable press release and papers, is here www.BerkeleyEarth.org

The graph shown above is Fig. 1 in “Decadal Variations in the Global Atmospheric Land Temperatures,” Richard A. Muller et al., unpublished


Big Cheer for CryoSat-2

30/06/2010

Pick of the pics and Climate Change: News and Comments

Let’s Hear a Big Cheer for CryoSat-2

An early result from ESA’s CryoSat-2 mission detects a “scoop”, or drop, near the edge of Antarctica’s Ross Ice Shelf, probably due to melting at the base of the 400-metre thick slab of floating ice. There are also clear indications of the variable thickness of sea ice in the adjacent ocean. The vertical scale appears to be very different over the shelf and over the sea.

No branch of climate physics has been more befuddled by propaganda than the monitoring of the Earth’s cryosphere. Ordinary melting at glacier snouts that has happened every spring for thousands of years is nowadays captured by TV cameras and presented as evidence of runaway global warming. Dutiful journalists report reductions in Arctic sea ice but ignore increases in Antarctic sea ice. And scientists argue about how thick the sea ice is.

Thank goodness that the European Space Agency’s CryoSat-2 satellite is at last commissioning in orbit. Duncan Wingham of University College London, leader of the project, released the Ross Ice Shelf image yesterday at ESA’s Living Planet Symposium in Bergen.

The mission had a difficult history, with the original CryoSat being lost on launch in 2004, and CryoSat-2 going into an incorrect orbit in April of this year. But now we can expect much more accurate radar measurements of ice altitude over land and ice shelves, and of “freeboard” in the case of sea ice, which is a measure of its thickness. Perhaps we’ll soon begin to get the hard facts about “polar melting”. They’re long overdue.

For another take on “polar melting”, see my history of the Greenland ice sheet at https://calderup.wordpress.com/2010/05/06/warming-of-greenland/


Malthus with a computer

24/06/2010

Predictions Revisited

Malthus with a Computer”

Take a model that purports to predict the future and just run it back to the past. The result are sometimes salutary. Ross McKitrick of Guelph (celebrated for his role in trashing the warmist’s Hockey Stick) has done that with a model from the Canadian Medical Association.

The model predicts a shocking loss of life from air pollution. As reported last week by Peter Shawn Taylor in Canada’s Financial Post, McKitrick put 1960s levels of air pollution into the model and found that the deaths it attributed to pollution in the Toronto area reached more than 100% of all the people who actually died. As McKitrick said, “It just doesn’t make sense.”

The story rang a bell with me, about a famous computer model of the early 1970s, which spawned the best-seller The Limits to Growth from Donella H. Meadows and her colleagues at MIT. It predicted industrial pollution growing out of control and a global population crash in the 21st Century. That may sound familiar, but four decades ago the pollution wasn’t greenhouse gases but good old-fashioned smog and poisonous wastes from industry and agriculture.

Here is the “standard” projection in The Limits to Growth 1972. It runs from 1900 to 2100. You can see the global population climbing and outstripping food production, so that food per capita falls, bringing the population down with it. Meanwhile natural resources, starting high in 1900, are being rapidly exhausted at the end of the century, and converted into steadily rising industrial output and accelerating pollution. Everything unravels in the early 21st Century, with agriculture and industry collapsing, and billions of people dying.

As I noted in my book 1984 and After, Sam Cole and Ray Curnow of SPRU (the Science Policy Research Unit at Sussex University) ran the Limits to Growth model backwards. It told them that, before 1880, the world’s population was infinite. Again: “It just doesn’t make sense.”

A book of essays rebutting The Limits to Growth, produced by SPRU (see the Cole reference),  pointed out that a moderate rate of discovery of new resources, combined with slow progress in pollution control, would completely avoid the predicted disasters. Chris Freeman, SPRU’s director, called his own critique ‘Malthus with a computer’.

There’s a sub-plot in this story, about the Club of Rome that funded the original Limits to Growth study. Aurelio Peccei, an Italian industrialist, and Alexander King, a British scientific civil servant, founded it in 1968. King tried hard to seduce me with the idea that international technocrats should rule the world. I’m sorry to say I can see some influence on my writings in the late 1960s. But Limits to Growth brought me to my senses. What if the technocrats’ expectations are completely wrong?

Nowadays the Club of Rome is seen by some as the spider that spun the web of authoritarian environmentalism, which then promoted the global warming scare two decades later. I leave that as a googling exercise for the readers to pursue if they wish. Better to end, perhaps, with a limerick that I learnt from Chris Freeman of SPRU.

A trend is a trend is a trend

But when and how does it bend?

Does it rise to the sky,

Or lie down and die,

Or asymptote on to the end?

References

Shawn Taylor’s article in the Financial Post is here: http://opinion.financialpost.com/2010/06/15/junk-science-week-the-missing-smog-dead/

Donella H. Meadows, Dennis L Meadows, Jørgen Randers and William W. Behrens, The Limits to Growth, New American Library, 1972

Nigel Calder, 1984 and After, Century Publishing, 1983.

H.S.D. Cole, Christopher Freeman, Marie Jahoda and K.L.R. Pavitt, Thinking About the Future: a Critique of the Limits to Growth, Chatto & Windus for Sussex University Press, 1973


Wiki Witch of the West

12/06/2010

Predictions Revisited and Climate Change: News and Comments

The Wiki Witch of the West

A pingback comes from Lamont County Environment, which I guess must be Lamont County, Alberta, Canada, where birds throng in summer on the nature reserve of Beaverhill Lake. http://lce.folc.ca/2010/06/11/propaganda-history-and-global-warming/

That item quotes my recent Tradecraft of Propaganda post https://calderup.wordpress.com/2010/06/07/tradecraft-of-propaganda/ and also the entry about me in Wikipedia. Added comments defend me from a perceived bias in Wikipedia. But that entry really isn’t too bad, compared with three years ago, when it first picked up on a climate prediction of mine made in 1980.

Here’s the story told in a plain-text email sent in April 2007 to CCNet (Cambridge Conference Network) run by Benny Peiser of Liverpool John Moores University, who’s now director of the Global Warming Policy Foundation.

THE WIKI WITCH OF THE WEST STRIKES AGAIN

Dear Benny

It’s one thing to be held to account for daring predictions made nearly 30 years ago, another to have them perversely rated. Last year a blogger on the Vanity Fair website, Jim Windolf, reported that he had found in a junk shop “a worn-out copy of The Book of Predictions, a compendium of ‘4,000 exclusive predictions’ edited by the family team of David Wallechinsky, Amy Wallace, and Irving Wallace”. Among the gems from 1980 for his readers to chortle about, Windolf picked out the following:

British science journalist Nigel Calder wrote that, by 2000, ‘the much-advertised heating of the earth by the man-made carbon-dioxide ‘greenhouse’ fails to occur; instead, there is renewed concern about cooling and an impending ice age.”

A thought policeman who uses Wikipedia to promote the man-made global warming hypothesis has now added that quote to my biography, with the comment: “After his prediction was proven wrong, Calder participated in the polemic documentary film The Great Global Warming Swindle. He also co-authored The Chilling Stars.”

Read the rest of this entry »


Nutshell

01/05/2010

The Svensmark hypothesis in a nutshell

Illustration from Svensmark, “The Adventurous Journey of Spaceship Earth” DTU Yearbook 2009

  • Cosmic rays, high-energy particles raining down from exploded stars, knock electrons out of air molecules.
  • The electrons help clusters of sulphuric acid and water molecules to form, which can grow into cloud condensation nuclei – seeds on which water droplets form to make clouds.
  • Low clouds made with liquid water droplets cool the Earth’s surface.
  • Variations in the Sun’s magnetic activity alter the influx of cosmic rays to the Earth.
  • When the Sun is lazy, magnetically speaking, there are more cosmic rays and more low clouds, and the world is cooler.
  • When the Sun is active fewer cosmic rays reach the Earth and, with fewer low clouds, the world warms up.
  • The Sun became unusually active during the 20th Century and as a result “global warming” occurred.
  • Recently (2006-2010) the Sun has been unusually lazy and “global warming” seems to have gone into reverse, as expected by the Svensmark hypothesis.
  • Coolings and warmings of around 2 deg. C have occurred repeatedly over the past 10,000 years, as the Sun’s activity and the cosmic ray influx have varied.
  • Over many millions of year, much larger variations of up to 10 deg. C occur as the Sun and Earth, travelling through the Galaxy, visit regions with more or fewer exploding stars.

For objections to the Svensmark hypothesis and answers to them, see Falsification tests

Nigel Calder