Tag Archives: global warming

Friday follies – what happened to the “official AGW hypothesis?”

Now that the potty Peer, Christopher Monckton, is packing his bag to depart our shores, the band of climate change deniers/contrarians/pseudosceptics who micro-managed his “Freedom Tour” might be looking around for a new project.

richard1

Richard Treadgold

Richard Treadgold, whose blog Climate Conversation Group is one of the echo chamber nodes local climate change deniers/contrarians/pseudosceptics gather at, may have let slip details of a possible project. In a blog comment today he revealed:

“I referred earlier to the “AGW hypothesis” and its falsification. Astute readers will note there is officially no such hypothesis. No paper has been located (to my knowledge) which proposes one and sets it out in scientific terms. So, of course, no falsification has been possible. The entire AGW “debate” is built on shifting sand, as protagonists on all sides are at liberty to describe the theory as they please. No falsification is possible.”

Notice the word “officially” – that reminds me of the argument these character used in their attempt to get NIWA to give up their findings on the temperature record in New Zealand. They based this on a claim that NIWA did not use the “official” methodology in correcting temperatures for site changes at the weather stations.

Can’t you see it – a new case to the high court (or perhaps the International Court of Justice) demanding that climate scientists around the world stop advising their governments about climate issues because there is “no official AGW hypothesis.”

Mind you, Richard is not the only one entertaining the little group there. One of his other commenters claimed recently:

“It was in ca 1980 that James Hansen gave his famous talk to Congressmen on global warming. He picked the day of the year with the warmest average temperature and snuck into the building the night before to disable the air conditioning.”

Without these honourable gentleman to keep scientists in check just imagine what we would get up to. Sneaking into the US House of Representatives, disabling air conditionaing and gerrymandering their meeting days would be the least of it. Crikey, we might even start considering unofficial hypotheses! Ones that Richard knows nothing about!

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Potty Peer in Waikato

Well, Christopher Monckton’s “Freedom Tour” totters on. Peter Griffins has given an initial summary in his blog post Monckton’s nightmare week in New Zealand. This has links to some of the press coverage – which, as we might expect with the Potty Peer, is rather humorous.

Flate-earthers-2

Percy the Astrologer and Mavis the Comely Wench representing the NZ Flat Earth Society came to support Lord Monckton’s Waikato meetings

The good Lord was in the Waikato yesterday. He “wowed” a largely passive, and I suspect largely apathetic, “crowd’ of a couple of dozen people at his  lunchtime presentation to a student forum at the Waikato University. A high point (for me) was the applause and speeches from members of the NZ Flat Earth Society, who are, apparently, the Lord’s most enthusiastic supporters.

While Monckton was challenged on some of his cherry picking he seemed to want to hide his political message about the international conspiracy which is using climate change and scientists to impose a one world government and preparing concentration camps. I thought this was meant to be the main message of his “Freedom Tour.” But he really overdid his claim that, despite his lack of a scientific education, he was well skilled in science and had the support of most scientists. There was something about classical architecture (his education is in classics) and his skill with differential equations. People from all over the world contract him as a consultant. Bloody hell, wonder he has time for all the travelling and talking tours.

He assured us that he gets on well with scientists, works well with them, gives advice to them, and is even himself publishing peer-reviewed papers. There were just one or two individuals he seemed angry with – scientists who were “controversial” and unsupported by their colleagues. Hmm.

Poor guy, though. He wouldn’t just modestly accept the flattery from Percy the Astrologer (see photo), who listed some of Mockton’s immense achievements. He felt the need to respond in detail, repeating and describing these achievements himself. This impressed one of the bystanders who commented that the man suffered from narcissism. Had to look up that word when I got home – it describes “a generalized personality trait characterized by egotism, vanity, pride, or selfishness.” Hmm, actually seems quite correct.

A very low-key forum. Students seemed not to have heard of the guy before (except a suspicious few elderly types who heckled scientists) – one student even referred to him as “that man in the suit.” Don’t know if that is just modern student apathy, or a healthy disregard of minority personalities. Perhaps these students have a fuller life than I do.

Later in the evening Monckton spoke to a meeting sponsored by the NZ Institute of International Affairs (Waikato Branch). I think their support is just local, and I wonder if their political orientation is somewhat unrepresentative.

I didn’t bother with that meeting but followed it on Twitter. It sounded rather humorous. I have put together below some of the tweets using Storify (see Potty peer in the Waikato or follow the hashtag #MoncktonLive).

Wish I had gone now!


Some of Joshua Drummond’s tweets from Monckton’s Monday Night Waikato meeting. This was sponsored by the NZ Institute of International Affairs (Waikato Branch) – I think the support was purely local.

Of course, there was the usual cherry picking and misinformation

cakeburgerJoshua Drummond@cakeburger Drought’s nothing to worry about. That’s good. I think he should tell that to Waikato farmers. They’d laugh. #MoncktonLive
cakeburger Joshua Drummond@cakeburger Antarctic glaciers aren’t retreating, therefore glaciers aren’t retreating. #MoncktonLive

Is he still claiming he is a member of the House of Lords?

cakeburger Joshua Drummond@cakeburger I read the letter from the House of Lords at him. Audience: When did you write that? #MoncktonLive

cakeburger Joshua Drummond@cakeburger That was interesting. He didn’t like being told he wasn’t a member of the House of Lords. He says he is. #MoncktonLive

cakeburger Joshua Drummond@cakeburger .@ImperatorFish When I pressed him after event he refused to give yes or no, just repeated “learned opinion is that I am” #MoncktonLive

Seems much of the audience was pretty much in awe of the Potty Peer.What does this say about the members of the NZ Institute of International Affairs (Waikato Branch)? Is this a local libertarian coven?

cakeburger
Joshua Drummond@cakeburger Monkton on biofuels = mass death. Guy behind mutters “That’s the agenda. That’s the agenda.” #MoncktonLive

cakeburger
Joshua Drummond@cakeburger Audience member to me, after #MoncktonLive “I was very disappointed with your disrespect towards Lord Monckton.”

cakeburger
Joshua Drummond@cakeburger Things just got VERY shouty. At me, again. Now I know how poor Richard Prosser feels #MoncktonLive

This final drama sounds intriguing. Would love to see a video. or perhaps a circus presentation by clowns.

cakeburger
Joshua Drummond@cakeburger #MoncktonLive Got a brief 1-on-1 with the man himself. Ended with him grabbing my laptop, me saying “No, MY laptop. Mine. Mine.” #TrueStory

cakeburger
Joshua Drummond@cakeburger Final #MoncktonLive: Monckton says to security guard “Please escort this man [me] from the premises”.

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I was wrong about Lord Monckton

I must admit I was wrong about Lord Monckton. I thought his speaking tour of New Zealand, which started on April Fools day, would be a huge yawn. Local climate scientists have learned that debating the man may be a huge plus for Monckton’s CV, but it was a negative for their own. So what interest could there be in a speaking tour where the audiences were basically fellow climate change deniers, conspiracy theorists and extreme political libertarians – all singing from the same hymn sheet.

After all, even his own publicity makes clear that his message is political, not scientific. That he is here to tell us all about the international conspiracy of greenies, fascists, communists, capitalists, imperialists and the United Nations to impose a single world government, put us in concentration camps, etc. Those horrible climate scientists are only a small part of Monckton’s international conspiracy.

Monckton-posters

But I should have learned from Monckton’s Australian tour. His antics there managed to keep his name in the public eye – and give Australians something to laugh at. He threatened climate scientists with court action and called prominent Australians Nazis!

Well, he seems set to do the same for us. He’s only been here a few days and he is threatening (“in the first instance”) a complaint to the New Zealand Press Council (yes he is not happy with the way his beliefs are reported). He expects the press Council to investigate not only a recent Herald article about his tour but also “whether the Herald has given balanced coverage to both sides of the debate on the climate, having regard not only to the present article but to its previous record of publication on the climate “science” issue.” He expects (or demands) a lot, doesn’t he?

Monckton  also promises to invite “authorities in the United Kingdom to remove the name of one of [our] universities . . .from the list of academic institutions whose degrees are recognized in Britain.” No, he is not happy with what our climate scientists tell us about their findings (or indeed the findings themselves), or what they think of his scientific credibility. So we are all going to be punished.

It’s enough to make us shiver in our boots – he must be such a powerful man. Our scientist’s degrees won’t be recognised in the UK in future.

I think we are shivering – but out of laughter, not fear.

The man is certainly good for a laugh. I look forward to more of this humour as his speaking tour, and threats against our media, scientists and educational institutes, progresses over the next few weeks.

If you want to read his letters and threats they are recorded at VISCOUNT MONCKTON’S RESPONSE TO DENIGRATORY ARTICLE IN NZ HERALD). Looks like they will also be faithfully repeated at the Climate Conversation Group’s blog (see, for example  Herald, APNZ find Monckton no easy target).

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New “Hockey Stick” but same tired old denial

Ian Wishart is on his climate change conspiracy high horse again (see New global warming scandal hits climate science). His fevered imagination has managed to produce a “scandal” out of the publication of a scientific paper. Of course the scandal is based entirely on his climate change denial echo chamber. His denier mates have ripped into this paper. They are obviously very upset by it – more so than normal. It’s worth asking why?

I think the simplest answer lies with the word “Hockey Stick!” This phrase, together with reference to Dr Michael Mann, usually gets them foaming at the mouth. And it’s amazing what rubbish they can spout once so provoked.

This time they are reacting to a new “Hockey Stick” presented in a recent Science paper by Shaun A. Marcott, Jeremy D. Shakun, Peter U. Clark and Alan C. Mix. (see “A Reconstruction of Regional and Global Temperature for the Past 11,300 Years.”) The earlier research had extended back roughly 1,500 years, and suggested that the rapid temperature spike of the past century, believed to be a consequence of human activity, exceeded any warming episode during those years. This new work confirms that result while suggesting the modern warming is unique over a longer period.

The new work compiled the most meticulous reconstruction yet of global temperatures over the past 11,300 years, almost the entire Holocene. They used indicators like the distribution of microscopic, temperature-sensitive ocean creatures to determine past climate. The plots below compare these new results with those found by previous workers

Hockeystick-Marcott_Mann2008

The temperature reconstruction of Marcott 2013 (past 11,000 years) and a collection of reconstructions (past 1800 years) as presented by Mann 2008. (Credit: The two epochs of Marcott and the Wheelchair).

Wishart says the new paper “claimed to have validated the discredited “hockey stick” graph and proven that modern temperatures were the highest in four millennia.” He then goes on to use the authors’ simple acknowledgement that “The 20th century portion of our paleotemperature stack is not statistically robust” to claim their “story is rapidly unravelling” and that this is a “new global warming scandal.”

Bloody hell – is that all it takes to produce a scandal? For a scientist to point out limitations in part of their data (an area already extensively covered by other work)? What does Ian think – that every piece of scientific work must repeat in depth all the previous work? That no existing information can be used?

No of course not. He is just being dishonest. Using anything he can get hold of to weave a story discrediting honest science – and honest scientists. We have seen it all before in the lies he and his climate change denial mates promoted about Dr Michael Mann’s work – the work producing the original “Hockey Stick.”

For example, Wishart’s reference to “the discredited “hockey stick” graph” is a lie he promotes in his book “Con Air” (see  Alarmist con for my review) and is repeated ad nauseum in the climate denial echo chamber. But it is just not true. Far from being discredited this work has been validated again and again. It’s the critics of this work who have been discredited. Been caught lying.

I summarised this several years ago in my article Climate change deniers’ tawdry manipulation of “hockey sticks”. Have a look at that if you want details.

The climate change denial movement worked extremely hard to discredit the work of Michael Mann which produced the original “Hockey Stick.” Mann has described this campaign in his book The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines (see The truth about the hockey stick for my review of the book). Their campaign failed. This work has been discredited in one place only – the  biased mind of the committed climate change denier like Ian Wishart.

Meanwhile, if you wish to learn more about the Marcott (2013) paper and their work here are some links:

A Reconstruction of Regional and Global Temperature for the Past 11,300 Years.
Global Temperatures Highest in 4,000 Years
Response by Marcott et al.
Recent Warming Is Still Unprecedented In Speed, Scale And Cause: A Marcott Et Al. FAQ
Fresh Thoughts from Authors of a Paper on 11,300 Years of Global Temperature Changes

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Climate contrarians/deniers are cherry picking again

Cameron Slater at Whale Oil Beef Hooked  is displaying his confusion again. He’s casting doubt on the findings of climate science by reproducing extracts of a MailOnline article about the bad snow storms in the UK (see Global Warming bites Britain in the arse, freezing weather kills thousands of pensioners). He adds his own “profound” comment with:

“The warmists still insist the planet is warming, and they want us to attempt to cool it down. Meanwhile the freezing temperatures have killed an extra 2000 pensioners.

When will the f*ckwits who think climate change making the earth cooler is a good thing start to apologise. History has shown us that civilisation flourishes in warm and ebbs away in the cold. Yet they insist on pushing us down the path of cooling the planet.”

Of course this is just cherry picking on a grand scale. Climate change deniers like Slater (and his mates at the local contrarian/denier blog Climate Conversation Group) seem to spend the New Zealand summer and autumn in the northern hemisphere, intellectually anyway. They continually comment on, and lament, snow storms and freezing pensioners in the UK, Canada or the US, while the rest of us are moaning about the local record droughts and high temperatures.

And they blatantly imagine their comments on regional weather are somehow directly relevant to global trends. Well, they aren’t – and there is plenty of data showing that. Here are recent examples from Arctic News (see Huge patches of warm air over the Arctic).

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28
33

Have a look at the colour codes. Sure the UK is suffering from lower than normal temperatures (blue/purple) – but other regions suffer from higher than normal temperature (yellow/red).

Naturally Arctic News is concerned about the Arctic. The blog comments:

“Over the past month or so, huge patches with temperature anomalies of over 20 degrees Celsius have been forming over the Arctic.

The three images [above] show such patches stretch out from Svalbard to Novaya Zemlya (top), north of Eastern Siberia (middle) and over West Greenland and Baffin Bay (bottom).”

The comment further:

“Indeed, as the jet stream slows down and becomes more wavier, such patches of warm air can be expected to extend more regularly into the Arctic. The result can be a huge melt of Arctic sea ice, as well as a huge melt of snow cover in Greenland, which also dramatically lowers albedo, as occurred in 2012 and as discussed in the earlier post Greenland is melting at incredible rate.

This spells bad news for the Arctic sea ice, which may well disappear altogether this summer.”

Cameron Slater and his mates are very parochial – but during our summer/autumn months they seem to be living in a completely different hemisphere. (Some commentators suspect they actually live in a different world).

Even so, they still keep their blinkers firmly aligned.

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Extreme confirmation bias in action

How’s this for an egregious example of confirmation bias. This morning the local blog Whale oil presents this graphic to “prove” his assertions that current climate science is a “hoax’ and those who accept the science are either fools or worse (see Chart of the Day – Proof of global warming).

guide_2505022cThe chart is taken from well-known climate denying journalist Christopher Booker’s Telegraph article Look at the graph to see the evidence of global warming. Trouble is, one has to do a lot of ignoring of facts to produce such charts. In fact he has taken only two data points (and drawn a vague sort of line between them). Isn’t Booker’s little chart somewhat misleading when you see what he ignores in the total data set:

compare_datasets_new

Global near-surface temperatures from 1850 to 2012 from Met Office Hadley Centre/Climatic Research Unit HadCRUT4, NASA GISS and NOAA NCDC

I discuss this sort of cherry picking in my recent post :

“There’s a lot of noise in that graph but it does sort of support the conclusion that global temperatures have increased in the last 100 years. Mind you, if you want to create a contrary impression you can easily take a short time period – say around 1950, 1960 – 1980, 1985 – 1995 – or even the last 16 years. Cherry picking is a great thing – if your aim is to support a predetermined conclusion, and avoid (or even hide) evidence to the contrary.’

I know, I’m hardly likely to change this blogger’s position. He is operating under the completely human process of confirmation denial. Will Storr, in his recently published book The Heretics describes confirmation bias this way:

“When confronted by a new fact, we first feel an instantaneous, emotional hunch. It is a raw instinct for whether the fact is right or wrong and it pulls us helplessly in the direction of an opinion. Then we look for evidence that supports our hunch. The moment we find some, we think ‘Aha!’ and happily conclude that we are, indeed, correct. The thinking then ceases.

Psychologists know this as the ‘makes sense stopping rule’. We ignore anything that runs counter to our hunch, grab for the first thing that matches, think, Yep that makes sense, and then we rest, satisfied by the peerless powers of our fantastic wisdom. Perhaps the most embarrassing aspect of confirmation bias is the fact that we mistake the process of searching for favourable evidence as a fair survey of both sides of the argument.”

You see this psychological phenomena again and again in internet articles and comments on climate change. But what is becoming clearer and clearer is that the prejudice underlying this particular confirmation bias is an extreme right-wing political position of the sort promoted by Chris Monckton and his “Agenda 21” myth.

Perhaps the fact that these extreme distortions and misrepresentation of current climate change science is becoming so obviously associated with this sort of politics is one reason more and more people are refusing to subscribe to the “climate change hoax” myth.

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Climate change is not simple

I have said this before – but it bears repeating Climate change is complex. And I feel the need to repeat it now because of a current myth being pushed very strongly by climate change deniers/contrarians/sceptics. The claim that “there has been no global warming for 16 years.”

If you doubt climate change is complex have a look at this global temperature record from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

Fig.A2

Line plot of global mean land-ocean temperature index, 1880 to present, with the base period 1951-1980. The dotted black line is the annual mean and the solid red line is the five-year mean. The green bars show uncertainty estimates. [This is an update of Fig. 1A in Hansen et al. (2006).]

Isn’t cherry picky wonderful?

There’s a lot of noise in that graph but it does sort of support the conclusion that global temperatures have increased in the last 100 years. Mind you, if you want to create a contrary impression you can easily take a short time period – say around 1950, 1960 – 1980, 1985 – 1995 – or even the last 16 years. Cherry picking is a great thing – if your aim is to support a predetermined conclusion, and avoid (or even hide) evidence to the contrary.

So we get this sort of thing being promoted by climate change deniers (thanks to Andy for this one). Didn’t someone say a little knowledge is a dangerous thing? And isn’t cherry picking a great way of restricting knowledge?

Graph-billboard

So, just to repeat myself – here’s an extract from my post Climate change is complex. It indicates some of the scientific knowledge that climate change deniers/contrarians/sceptics ignore when they cherry pick to make this silly claims.

Natural influences just can’t explain global temperature

The figure below shows the results of simulations of global temperature from 1900 to 2005. Figure a included all the natural and anthropogenic influences.  The black line is the actual measured global temperature anomaly (obtained by subtracting the average temperature for 1901 to 1950).  The individual simulations are shown as thin yellow curves. The red line is the multi-model ensemble mean (see Figure 9.5 – AR4 WGI Chapter 9: Understanding and Attributing Climate Change).

Figure b is a similar plot using simulations which consider only the natural influences on climate. The individual simulations are shown as thin blue curves. The thick blue line is the multi-model ensemble mean.

So, climate scientist have considered both natural and anthropogenic influences. And they are unable to reproduce the global temperature changes since 1970 unless anthropogenic influences are included.

That is why the IPCC has concluded that there is a high probability (>90%) that human influences are contributing to the current observed global temperature increase.

Notice also that the experts talk about probabilities. It’s a complex field and things are rarely cut and dried. We are more certain about some influences than others. And the IPCC doesn’t hide this fact – far from it. It doesn’t make sweeping claims in the way that some of their opponents do.

Knowing what we don’t know

We can see this in another figure from the report (Figure 2.20 – AR4 WGI Chapter 2: Changes in Atmospheric Constituents and in Radiative Forcing). It shows the estimated influences of several human caused effect and solar radiation since 1750. Notice the error bars. They are much bigger in some cases than others. Notice the assessment of scientific understanding for these influences. We have a high understanding for some of them and a low understanding for others.

So, climate scientists aren’t hiding anything. They are not ignoring natural effects. They are up-front about probabilities. They acknowledge that we need more information is some areas. They are behaving like professionals.

Considering there are areas where scientific understanding is low there is clearly room for debate, discussion and more research. But deniers and contrarians who take an extreme reductionist stance, misrepresent the IPCC reports and attack honest scientists doing the research are not in a position to contribute to this.

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Global climate – and your grandchildren

I am spending some time dealing with family business so am reposting some of my past book reviews over the next few day.

Another excellent book about climate change – by a climate science who has been centrally involved from the beginning. His book provides a lot of the science, but also the history of the science..


Book Review: Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity by James Hansen

Price: US$16.50*
Hardcover:
320 pages
Publisher:
Bloomsbury USA (December 8, 2009)
Language:
English
ISBN-10:
1608192008
ISBN-13:
978-1608192007

Climate change contrarians and deniers love to hate James Hansen. He’s up there alongside Al Gore, Michael Mann and Phil Jones. And of course their hatred is no more justified in Hansen’s case than it is for the others.

Others criticise Hansen for his “activism.” His willingness to warn politicians and the population in general of the dangers we face if we continue with a “business as usual” approach to fossil fuel and CO2 emissions. They suggest this could discredit his science. Scientists must always be objective and should limit their pronouncements to the scientific facts alone.

This is not an old problem for scientists – remember their activism after the first use of nuclear weapons and the beginning of the nuclear arms race. Scientists often confront ethical issues arising out of their work.

Continue reading

Entertaining – and the science is good

I am spending some time dealing with family business so am reposting some of my past book reviews over the next few day.

I reviewed this book recently, but its worth repeating. It’s fictional, but it’s about an important issue – climate change.

It’s also written by a local science blogger Gareth Renownden


Book Review: The Aviator (The Burning World) by Gareth Renowden

Price US$4.99 (Kindle); NZ$6.00 (Epub).
File Size: 641 KB
Print Length: 341 pages
Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
Publisher: Limestone Hills Ltd (August 14, 2012)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Language: English
ASIN: B008Y0MFTM
Text-to-Speech: Enabled.

This science fiction novel is set in a post-catastrophe world – in the not too distant future. Hardly an unusual scenario but I found its approach to the question of post-catastrophe social organisation intriguing. How would society reorganise after social collapse brought on by a world-engulfing crisis? In this case one of the possible outcomes of climate change? The usual scenario is some sort of tribalism, and usually a warring tribalism. But would it be that simple? After all, humanity would still have reservoirs of knowledge. Surely that would make simple tribalism unlikely?

Gareth Renowden’s solution is simple. Consciously or not he has simply extrapolated the ideological or issue-advocacy obvious in today’s internet blogs and forums into the post-catastrophe society. Today’s digital “silos” become tomorrows tribal groups. And, yes, they are just a inward-looking, suspicious and hostile to others as today’s silo communities are. Except they have real weapons. These tribal groups, or ideological ghettos, give scope for some nice irony and humour in the book.

Renowden’s post-catastrophe societies include the inevitable fundamentalist religious communities. But also communities based on artificial intelligence, technophobia, libertarianism, cynical “green” politics and so on. And, yes, there is even a climate change denial community – actively denying the world-wide catastrophe had anything to do with human-caused climate change. In fact still warning about an imminent ice-age (naturally caused of course)!

So you can imagine the scope for irony and humour there. Especially as Gareth Renowden is an author the climate change denial community love to hate. And they don’t hold back on expressing that hate.

Author’s credentials

This is Renowden’s first venture into fiction. His earlier books include Video -The Inside Story (1982), The Olive Book (1999), The Truffle Book (2005) and
Hot Topic – Global Warming and the Future of New Zealand (2007). The last book was short-listed for the Royal Society of NZ’s inaugural science book prize. He also writes regularly about climate change issues for the influential Hot Topic blog.

I must at this stage declare a common interest in the defence of science against science deniers, and to being a fellow SciBlogger of Gareth’s. But I know a good read when I see one and believe Gareth has adjusted to a fictional style very well. (I can already see a number of jibes about this coming from the local climate change denial ghetto – if their denigration of truffle farmers is anything to go by).

An entertaining story

The story involves the hero (Lemmy) and his romantic partner (Kate) travelling the world in a high-technology blimp (hence The Aviator). Home for them is New Zealand – specifically D’Urville Island at the top end of the South Island. They encounter the ideological ghettos during their travels, mainly in the USA – or what remains of it. Many of these encounters end in conflict, and a few shoot-outs – but they form a working relationship to one rich high technology group. A group based on concepts of interaction between human and artificial intelligence and belief in the ‘singularity‘ –” a point where the exponential acceleration of technological progress, especially computing power, would bring a merging of human and machine intelligence.”

Room for some interesting concepts and adventures there. Jenny, the blimp’s autopilot – herself an artificial intelligence which may even have some scope for emotions or something similar – contributes. There are some interesting interactions between Jenny and Kate when Kate receives artificial intelligence implants during treatment after an accident. This is enhanced by Jenny’s ability to interact with Kate’s thoughts and feelings – that puts a real damper on Kate’s love life!

So there is plenty of scope there for an entertaining story. With adventure, romance and humour. All this appealed to me as I prefer hard science fiction which is reality-based. With technology and machines not too unexpected or “magic.” Not set so impossibly far into the future that its hard to relate. I really don’t like the common fantasy genre of much of today’s science fiction.

So here comes my only complaint. Part of the story-line involves a certain amount of genetic engineering (hence the goat on the cover). Not too far-fetched as New Zealand has plenty of current research in these fields. Just that I found the effects on humans by the product produced by the genetically engineered goats are bit “magic.” OK I guess if you enjoy a little fantasy, but not quite realistic science. I’ll leave that to readers and I am nit-picking as it didn’t really destroy the credibility of the story for me.

Catastrophic but not alarmist

As you might expect, Renowden has a serious message behind the adventure, humour and entertainment of his story. After all, he writes often on the issue of climate change and he starts the book with a quote from Ray Bradbury about writing Fahrenheit 451:

“I WASN’T TRYING to predict the future. I was trying to prevent it.”

He makes his message clear in a brief appendix:

“The Burning World is our planet, but not as we know it. It is one future, a place that might be born of the things we do today. As long as we carry on increasing the carbon content of the atmosphere by using it as a cheap sewer for the waste from the burning of coal and oil, and continue felling forests, then the earth will continue to warm, and some of the things that Lemmy experiences in his short life will come to pass. Not as I have written them, perhaps, but in some form and to some extent these impacts — the rising seas, the extreme weather, the melting ice, the changes in rainfall patterns — will shape the lives of everyone on this planet over the next hundred years and for millennia beyond.

The Burning World is not a prediction. It is intended as a warning, an illustration of the potential consequences of our actions. In its imagining I have tried to stay within the bounds of realistic possibility — stretched a little in the interests of the story in one or two places (or throughout, some might argue) — but most of the main climate change impacts to be found in The Aviator are grounded in things we can see today, brought forward in time. When Lemmy and Thunderbird fly over the Greenland ice sheet and note that even the highest levels are melting, at the time of writing (in 2011) I thought that might be a reasonable projection of the state of the ice twenty to thirty years hence. And then, shortly before publication I learned that it’s already happening. We can only hope the same is not true for some of the other impacts I have dreamed up.”

An important clarification – but it won’t stop Renowden’s harshest critics from calling him “alarmist.” They will do so even without reading the book.

The fact that home base for the blimp was New Zealand, and realistically so, appealed to me. I have watched New Zealand develop a respectable batch of fictional writers during my lifetime, but we are still short of science fiction writers. Hopefully this book will contribute to a growth in this genre too. The cover describes it as “The Burning World Book One” – so that looks promising.

I highly recommend this first book to science fiction fans and am certainly looking forward to the next book in the series.

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The truth about the hockey stick

I am spending some time dealing with family business so am reposting some of my past book reviews over the next few day.

I reviewed this book recently, but its worth repeating because it’s so relevant to today’s issues.


Book review: The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines by Michael E. Mann

Price: US$18.22; Kindle US$9.99; NZ$33.34
Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: Columbia University Press (March 6, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 023115254X
ISBN-13: 978-0231152549

Most readers have watched nature programmes hosted by David Attenborough. So you are familiar with scenes where predators will work together to target a single animal in a herd. If they can isolate it they will usually make a kill. If not they will go hungry.

You have seen it with Arctic wolves attacking oxen and African lions attacking zebras. Over recent years we have also seen it with politicians attacking climate scientists.

Michael Mann calls this the “Serengeti strategy:”

It “is a tried-and-true tactic of the climate change denial campaign. The climate change deniers isolate individual scientists just as predators on the Serengeti Plain of Africa hunt their prey: picking off vulnerable individuals from the rest of the herd.”

Mann is an authority on this phenomena – he has seen it from the inside, as a victim, for over a decade. Now he has written up his experiences, and the lessons drawn from them, in this new book appropriately called “The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars.”

The “Hockey Stick”

In a sense Mann was a inadvertent victim of the climate denier campaign. His work had more to do with natural climate variation than human caused effects. As he puts it: “I felt that natural climate variability might be more important than some scientists thought. Indeed, it was that very assumption that motivated my Ph.D. research topic.” But in the process of researching the history of past climate changes, earth’s paleoclimate, he produced an “icon” of the climate change wars – the “Hockey Stick.” This research was included in the 2001 IPCC Report – and the “Hockey Stick” image, a record of the global and hemispheric temperature record over the last 600 years (in its original form), made it into the Summary for policy makers.

The personalisation of attacks on Mann over the “Hockey Stick” was also misplaced because he was not making any claim about human causes of global warming:

” I was always very careful not to claim that our work could firmly establish a human role in the warming. To draw such a conclusion based on our work alone would necessarily buy into the classic logical fallacy of “correlation without causation.” We had established correlation—the anomalous warming that we documented coincided with the human-caused ramp-up in greenhouse gas concentrations—but we hadn’t established causality.”

Mann’s record was based on proxy measurements (estimations of temperature from tree rings, ice cores, etc.), as well as, for more recent times, instrumental measurements. It did show changes attributable to natural events – which you would think would make the deniers happy. But it also showed very graphically, the global warming that has occurred over the last half century. This appeared to be quite anomalous over the last 1000 years. In fact, it was most likely to be greater than that which had occurred during the so-called “Medieval Warm Period.” The deniers could not forgive Mann for that finding – they had worked hard to convey the impression that global temperatures were actually higher then than they are today. (To some extent deniers have relied on regional temperature estimates – Mann’s estimate are for hemispherical and global temperatures). The iconic “Hockey Stick” threatened the climate denier’s icon – The Medieval Warm Period!

The McKittrick/McIntyre attack

The book describes controversy around The Hockey Stick – some of it based on genuine science, some derived from contrarian and denier attacks often financed by the fossil fuel industry.

One attack, much quoted by climate change deniers and contrarians, is that of right-wing economist Ross McKittrick and Stephen McIntyre (a self described “semi-retired minerals consultant” with close ties to the energy industry). Published in a then controversial journal Energy and Environment it claimed Mann had made fundamental mistakes in his statistical procedures. Their own analysis could not reproduce the “blade” of the hockey stick – that is no recent warming could be found in the data.

As Mann explained, this was a result of their own faulty analysis and their mistake was pointed out in subsequent published and refereed replies. Inevitably Mann’s description of the statistical analysis is technical and may be beyond some readers. But he has worked hard to make his description understandable and it is worth persisting because so much undeserved credit has been placed on McKintrick and MacIntyre’s paper. The scientific rejection of their work has of course not stopped the deniers who till this day claim that the M&M paper had discredited The Hockey Stick.

This work was used to denounce Mann’s work in the US House of Representatives. Republic Joe Barton, then head of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, launched a specific investigation of Mann’s work. (Joe Barton became well known five years later for his infamous apology to British petroleum over the fact that the Obama administration was holding it accountable for the oils spill the the Gulf of Mexico).

Mann describes the political manoeuvring that went on around this House investigation. Particularly useful is his description of the Wegman report, set up by Barton to vindicate the work of McKintrick and McIntyre. It is constantly quoted by climate change contrarians – despite the fact that this report, and other work by Wegman and his students, has been criticised for plagiarism.

However Barton got a lot of political flack for his anti-science manoeuvring and Sherwood Boehlert, Republican chair of the Science Committee, commissioned the US National Academy of science to review the science behind the Hockey Stick. Their authoritative report Surface Temperature Reconstructions for the Last 2,000 Years largely vindicated Mann. Of course, have a read of climate denial books like Ian Wishart’s Air Con and you will find no mention of National Academy Report – only the Wegman’s report is used to perpetuate the lie that Man’s work was found faulty (see my review of Wishart’s book – Alarmist con).

And, as Mann points out his work has been validated by over a dozen other independent reconstructions of the paleoclimate temperature record.

I have previously discussed the way climate change deniers have lied about the Hockey Stick in Climate change deniers’ tawdry manipulation of “hockey sticks”.

“Climategate” emails

Several times in this book Mann outlines the scientific approach to understanding reality. He uses the term “good faith science” – I think it is rather descriptive in this situation. Scientists welcome good faith criticism – doubt and scepticism are central to the scientific process. But the “scepticism” and attacks on climate science by vested interests and contrarians is quite different. It is not a “good faith” criticism. It is motivated, distorted, cherry picked and very often dishonest criticism. The so-called “climategate scandal” typifies this approach. Stolen emails between climate scientists were cherry picked in an attempt to discredit the science.

The climate denier frenzy, and the investigations which cleared the scientists involved of any wrong-doing are now history. But scientists in general were rather taken aback by all this. They started to pay attention to these and other anti-science campaigns and debated the need to be proactive in communicating their science and combating the distortions and attacks.

Cuccinelli witchhunt

I think the recent legal attempts by Virginia Attorney General, Kenneth Cuccinelli, to get correspondence and emails relating to Mann and his research are one of the worst acts of the climate denial movement. Because it smacks of McCarthyism. Cuccinelli was on a “fishing trip” – which required him to assert that Mann was guilty of fraud – without any evidence. Like the McCarthy persecution this sort of mud sticks and its aim was obviously to intimidate scientists.

After a prolonged legal battle the Virginia Supreme Court has now ruled that Mann’s documents cannot be subpoenaed by Cuccinelli (see The chickens are hatching). But his attempted precipitated action from scientific bodies in defence of Mann and other scientists victimised by such persecution.

A positive conclusion

This book concentrates on Mann’s story. His research and the resulting attacks and persecution by the climate change denial political machine. It has valuable information debunking the denier mythology created around the “Hockey Stick.” There are also interesting background details clarify things like the strange position taken by the Institute of Physics at the UK parliamentary investigation of the climategate email issue (see Institute of Physics in hot seat).

But don’t expect new information on the funding of the climate denial network and links with the fossil fuel industry and politicians. Mann relies on the excellent research of others here – and references the books Doubt is Their Product by David Michaels and Merchants of Doubt, by Oreskes and Conway.
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Apart from the valuable background history the book provides I think its main value is the positive spin it provides, particularly in the final chapters. These discuss the reaction of climate scientists, and scientists in general, to the attacks on the science and the profession. The final straw appears to have come with the McCarthyist political attacks on Mann and other climate scientists. As Mann describes it – the bear has awoken. Scientists are finally recognising they cannot continue to ignore these attacks,. They are starting to fight back.

“The attacks against climate scientists by politicians like Senator James Inhofe and Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli were now being identified by prominent media outlets for the witch hunts they were. . . . I believe that the climategate attacks represented a turning point for my fellow climate scientist colleagues and how they viewed their role in the public debate. These latest attacks will fade from memory, and new ones will undoubtedly be launched to take their place. But I suspect that the change in heart among climate scientists regarding their role in the debate will be enduring.”

The book is also a good read. For anyone interested in the subject, with a bit of background knowledge, Mann’s reiteration of the public events, together with his knowledge of what was going on behind the scenes, makes the book a real page turner.

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