Kids, it’s time to stop pretending you’re scientists…

Filed under: — site admin @ 10:01 am

Some things are too stupid to let pass unanswered. Some of the utter nonsense in New Scientist’s “guide for the perplexed” on climate change make one wonder if it is not a guide from the perplexed. What follows is a call-out of a few points of bad science. Not every article is covered because not every article contains bad science. Some of it is merely history.

Before we get started, let’s just look at two quotes from Richard S. Lindzen, Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology at MIT:

“In Europe, Henk Tennekes was dismissed as research director of the Royal Dutch Meteorological Society after questioning the scientific underpinnings of global warming. Aksel Winn-Nielsen, former director of the U.N.’s World Meteorological Organization, was tarred by Bert Bolin, first head of the IPCC, as a tool of the coal industry for questioning climate alarmism. Respected Italian professors Alfonso Sutera and Antonio Speranza disappeared from the debate in 1991, apparently losing climate-research funding for raising questions.”

“Picking holes in the IPCC is crucial. The notion that if you’re ignorant of something and somebody comes up with a wrong answer, and you have to accept that because you don’t have another wrong answer to offer is like faith healing, it’s like quackery in medicine – if somebody says you should take jelly beans for cancer and you say that’s stupid, and he says, well can you suggest something else and you say, no, does that mean you have to go with jelly beans?”

Now, in “Human CO2 emissions are too tiny to matter,” Catherine Brahic writes a few stupid things:

So what’s going on? It is true that human emissions of CO2 are small compared with natural sources. But the fact that CO2 levels have remained steady until very recently shows that natural emissions are usually balanced by natural absorptions. Now slightly more CO2 must be entering the atmosphere than is being soaked up by carbon “sinks”.

The fact that CO2 levels have remained steady shows nothing about this usual balance. Correlation versus causation, once removed. The carbon “sinks” that she writes of are generally plant life, but these sinks are responsive to greater levels of carbon dioxide. At 1000 parts-per-million (ppm, and we’re currently at 380ppm or so), plants can grow as much as 50% faster. At 200ppm, photosynthesis drops off significantly. Commercial greenhouses take care of this by adding carbon dioxide during the day (when photosynthesis can occur). The Earth’s carbon sinks are variable, and they respond to input. More importantly, rising carbon dioxide levels in the past do not indicate that merely natural emissions are balanced by natural absorptions, and the implication is intentionally misleading. Her later responses to ice-core data and the cooling between 1940 and 1975 are also garbage. If the last thirty years of data are enough to base our politics on (they’re not), why not the thirty before those? More on this later.
Brahic also writes:

“Ice cores show that carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have remained between 180 and 300 parts per million for the past half-a-million years. In recent centuries, however, CO2 levels have risen sharply, to at least 380 ppm.”

This sounds pretty bad. 180ppm is a low number. Indeed it is, but IPCC graphs show that CO2 levels have not been below 275ppm in the past 2500 years. My history might be a little weak, but I’m pretty sure that we’re talking about pre-industrial humanity (’cept for the alien-built pyramids…).

In “We can’t do anything about climate change,” Fred Pearce starts off with a valid point, that we have an effect on climate and can have more deliberate control. He goes on to base the entire picture of this control on CO2 emissions, which is largely predicated on the first point. There’s not much science in this one, but it’s fair to say that we are very far from demonstrating that reduction of CO2 is our best approach to reducing our effect on climate change.

In “The ‘hockey stick’ graph has been proven wrong,” Michael Le Page basically hits the mark when he writes:

“It is true that there are big uncertainties about the accuracy of all past temperature reconstructions, and that these uncertainties have sometimes been ignored or glossed over by those who have presented the hockey stick as evidence for global warming.”

The truly dangerous thing is the use of the hockey stick (which, if you look at the graph, is fairly noisy) in combination with recent CO2 numbers as evidence of CO2’s damning effects and the need to correct this. I don’t think this is dangerous for economic reasons. I think it’s dangerous to stop looking for causes. Ask me why in 30 years when we’re wondering what to do about water-vapor emissions.
It’s worth noting that what Michael Brooks writes in “Chaotic systems are not predictable” is essentially right. Climatic trends should be viewed as less subject to chaos than the daily weather. The window for this is not 20-30 years if one is to draw any concrete conclusions.

Where does one start with Fred Pearce in “We can’t trust computer models?”

He writes:
“Climate modellers may occasionally be seduced by the beauty of their constructions and put too much faith in them. Where the critics of the models are both wrong and illogical, however, is in assuming that the models must be biased towards alarmism – that is, greater climate change. It is just as likely that these models err on the side of caution.”

A model need merely treat functional or differential input as constant to be wildly out of whack. The same models that predicted a coming ice-age based on 1940-1975 data would predict the coming gas-age (unlikely) now. On top of that, the IPCC summaries regularly use numbers at the alarmist side of the error-bar.

“Major financial institutions are investing huge amounts in automated trading systems, the proportion of trading carried out by computers is growing rapidly and some individuals have made a fortune from them. The smart money is being bet on computer models.”

I can think of very few scientists who would care to bet their credibility on the validity of economic models. Computer-traders don’t trade as much when the markets get really hot, and they don’t let their computer-trading systems run wild for days at a time. They monitor these systems. The computer model is used for short term wins because of its responsiveness. Pearce’s point could only be made by someone who doesn’t actually know what he is talking about or someone who genuinely expects the reader to not know what he is talking about. Pearce may represent both.

We’ll pause there and come back to the rest later. Just because it isn’t called out here doesn’t mean that it isn’t bad science. Pointing out all of the bad science in New Scientist (or in the “Climate change” movement) would be like explicitly pointing out all of the garbage at a landfill.


It’s all commercial…

Filed under: — site admin @ 4:14 pm

I don’t normally do this, but one Lola Martinet has landed herself a highly-coveted spot in the Miss Exotic World 2007 competition. She performed there last year, and this year participates in the “Best Debut” competition. She currently performs with The Amazing, Bendable, Posable Dolls of Doom.

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