Tag Archives: Hot Topic

Deconstructing climate change, and its deniers

I presented these IPCC graphs some time back in Climate change is complex. They underline the fact that climate changes are caused by a number of factors (natural and human-caused) so any successful modelling of global temperature changes needs to take all the factors into account. The graphs show how omission of human caused factors produces model results inconsistent with measured values.

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.

These figures show how simple plots of global temperate over time cannot identify causes – a more complex investigation involving modelling was required. This enabled contributions from non-natural and natural causes to be identified.

Now the blog Skeptical science has produced a video showing a similar deconstruction of the factors causing global temperature change. The purpose was to show the falseness of recent claims by climate change deniers/contrarians/sceptics of no human contribution to climate change because they have observed no warming in the last 16 years.

Short term temperature changes are the results of several natural and human caused factors. But only the human caused emissions of CO2 is causing a steady effect which becomes clear when long-term changes are considered (even if not clear in the short term).

(Thanks to Still warming after all these years (again) at Hot Topic).

Finally, here is another graph which has the climate change deniers/contrarians/sceptics buzzing. It’s from the UK Met Office (see Decadal forecast). The buzz arises from the Met Offices revisions of “near-term’ climate prediction because of improvements in the modelling.


Observed (black, from Hadley Centre, GISS and NCDC) and predicted global average annual surface temperature difference relative to 1971-2000. Previous predictions starting from June 1960, 1965, …, 2005 are shown as white curves, with red shading representing their probable range, such that the observations are expected to lie within the shading 90% of the time. The most recent forecast (thick blue curve with thin blue curves showing range) starts from November 2012. All data are rolling annual mean values. The gap between the black and blue curves arises because the last observed value represents the period November 2011 to October 2012 whereas the first forecast period is November 2012 to October 2013.

Actually, the denier/contrairan/sceptic buzz arises because the revised (improved) predictions are a “little lower” than the previous one. This has caused them (the deniers/contrarians/etc) to claim this proves global warming has stopped, and that human-caused climate change has consequently been proven wrong!
Of course this is wishful, and motivated, thinking on their part. The predictions produced by the Met Office rely on simulations using the best and most up to date models. The models incorporate all the factors known to influence global temperatures – including that caused by human burning of fossil fuels!

It’s a strange old world. The deniers/contrarians/sceptics who wish to deny human contributions to climate change have been sucked in by the Met Office sort term predictions of global temperatures. These deniers/contrarians/etc., are now touting models in support of their claims which in fact are based on the effects of such human contributions.

They are relying on the very thing they wish to deny!

See also:
Updates to our decadal forecast
Has global warming ground to a halt?

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The story behind the High Court action

Some readers may be unaware that New Zealand SciBlogs produces a weekly podcast (usually available Friday afternoon). It’s worth listening to as it provides a Kiwi angle on current science news.

The latest podcast (Episode 37 – Science on trial) will interest everyone concerned about climate change, and particularly the recent High court case taken by a climate change denial group against NIWA. There is a long interview with Gareth Renowden, a SciBlogger who writes for Hot Topic. Gareth has published a book on climate change (Hot Topic) and is a mine of information on the science and politics of the issue. He provides an in-depth analysis of the High Court case and the people behind it. Well worth catching up with.

Also on this last podcast is an interview with James Renwick, a climate scientist working at School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences, Victoria University. He comments on the current scientific and political situation regarding climate change.

via The Sciblogs Podcast.

And if you have the time why not go back and listen to previous SciBlogs podcasts. For instance Episode 34: Digital Earth 2.0 includes an interview with yours truly discussing my blog post on the changing face of Australia’s religious affiliations.

Shy climate denier in “science team” reveals himself.

Credit: Star Phoenix Base (http://starphoenixbase.com/)

More information related to local climate change denier attacks on NIWA scientists is starting to appear. The NZCSC (NZ Climate Science Coalition – a local denier group) has listed sworn affidavits supporting their arguments to the NZ High Court requesting NIWA abandon New Zealand’s temperature record. Effectively they are accusing our scientists of scientific fraud! A very serious accusation.

Currently this case appears to be timetabled for the middle of the year.

Gareth, at Hot Topic, has already commented on a discrepancy in the affidavit from the NZCSC star witness, Dr Bob Carter (see The Carter Controversy). Carter claims “I receive no research funding from special interest organisations such as environmental groups, energy companies or government departments.” But recent exposure of internal memos from the US heartland Institute revealed that Carter is and will receive payments from them for his climate change denial work. As Gareth said: “A cynic might ask if Bob’s sworn statement to the High Court is entirely compatible with his Heartland funding.”

But my interest here is in the affidavit from Manfred Otto Dedekind. He has a B.Sc (Hons) in Physics (1986) and claims to be a computer modeller “constantly engaged with statistical analysis.”  Why am I interested? Well, he admits that he was “a co-author of the 2009 NZCSC paper “Are we Feeling Warmer Yet?” Two years ago I was denied any information on the authorship of this paper, and its scientific input, by the NZSCC and its Climate Conversation Group (see New Zealand’s denier-gate and Climate change deniers live in glass buildings). In fact I was specifically told that the “science team “ who did the work for this paper wished to remain anonymous.

It was the first time I had heard of scientists so shy about their work. But given Dedekind’s science background and admitted co-authorship of this “paper” (“Are we feeling Warmer Yet?”) I guess we have a case of a “shy scientist” (or perhaps he was their whole “science team”) reluctantly coming forward because of the impending court case.

In the affidavit he describes himself as a “physicist” and “IT professional” living in Auckland who emigrated to New Zealand after working for 10 years “for the CSIR in Pretoria.” No indication of his current employment although he claims to “work as a computer modeller.”  A search on Google Scholar produced just four engineering papers (two as senior author) published about 20 years ago.

When I requested information about their “paper” from these organisations two years ago I was directed to Richard Treadgold (who current runs the denier blog Climate Conversations) as the paper’s author. He was extremely evasive, promised me the data  and methodology they used and then refused to provide it. You can download a full record of my email correspondence with Richard – but here are  questions related to the statistical analysis and the scientific authors of the “paper.”

No statistical analysis

Treadgold and Dedekind (2009) (“Are we feeling Warmer Yet?”) claimed: “the station histories are unremarkable. There are no reasons for any large correction.”  In fact they went on to assert that NIWA scientists:

“created a warming effect where none existed.” That “the shocking truth is that the oldest readings were cranked way down and later readings artificially lifted to give a false impression of warming.” And “we have discovered that the warming in New Zealand over the past 156 years was indeed man-made, but it had nothing to do with emission of CO2 – it was created by man-made adjustments of the temperature. It’s a disgrace.

But they provided no statistical analysis to back up this claim!

Any effect, or lack of effect, of changes in location of station sites would have been easy to show by a relatively simple statistical procedure. In answer to my question “Was any statistical analysis (e.g. ANOVA) done on the raw data to test for the effect of station site?”

Richard’s answer “No.”

Now, at the time I thought that was scientifically inept. But Richard’s co-author Manfred describes himself, in his affidavit, as having “a sound grounding in the practical application of statistical technique.” So he should have known he could easily test his and Richard’s claim that adjustments for station site changes were unnecessary with the appropriate statistical analysis.

I find it hard to believe that he didn’t do this relatively simple analysis – given his “sound grounding” in the techniques. He may well have done so – but if he did I am sure he would have found it didn’t support the claims he and Richard made in this “paper.”

Anonymous “science team”

When communicating with Richard I attempted to track down the scientific authors of his paper. This was because Richard himself appeared not to understand my questions (he admits no science background) – and kept claiming he was passing them on to his “science team.” So it’s understandable that I should ask who this science team were:

“Can you tell me who the authors are? They will be the best people to ask about the statement in this paper which I, and David Winter, believe (and show with our analyses) to be incorrect. It would only be sensible, and respectful, for me to communicate with them before commenting further.”

Richard’s reply: ” I collated the study. The scientific team wish to remain anonymous.”

Later, frustrated with Richard’s avoidance,  I asked: “PS – would it be possible to discuss these directly with one of your scientists involved in the work? It would be a lot easier.”

Richard’ strange reply: “Talk to a scientist??!! Ring the Make A Wish  Foundation! No, it would be easier (for me, too!) — but so far they don’t wish to be known.”

Well, at last Manfred has put his hand up.  I am pleased to see that he and his mates have included their “paper” “Are we feeling Warmer Yet?” on their  index of exhibits for the High Court. Maybe NIWA will get the opportunity to put to him the questions I have raised. No judge will put up with the avoidance tactics dished out to me.

I guess we are all interested in seeing how the High Court reacts how the court reacts to Manfred’s request that NIWA’s temperature record “be rejected.” Actually, I am also interested in hearing what the judge has to say about the malicious nature of their request and the time wasted by the court.

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Who is funding the climate change denial groups?

Have a look at Hot Topic’s Puppets on a string: US think tank funds NZ sceptics. A nice little exposure of how some of the local climate change denier groups get finance. We need more of these sorts of investigations.

Which brings me to the Guardian’s article Climate scientists back call for sceptic think-tank to reveal backers. Who funds the Global Warming Policy Foundation, a London-based climate sceptic think-tank chaired by the former Conservative chancellor Lord Lawson? Many have been asking this. The group has been very active, and quite effective, in high publicity campaigns aimed at discrediting climate science and scientists. In particular it has attacked any real or perceived attempt by institutes to restrict availability of data.

Good on them, you might say. And who could disagree with Lawson’s 2010 statement:

“Proper scientists, scientists of integrity, they reveal, and voluntarily they wish to reveal, all their data and all their methods; they do not need a Freedom of Information Act request to force it out of them.”

And he added:

“Integrity means you show everything, absolutely.”

But he sings a different tune when asked who is funding his organisation. He just refuses to reveal the identity of his big donors. Understandably many accuse him of double standards. (I have experienced exactly the same hypocrisy from local denier groups when I have asked for copies of their data and methodology.) And so far he has had the state bodies on his side – a Freedom Of Information (FOI) request to the Charity Commission for it to make public a bank statement it holds revealing the name of the educational charity’s seed donor, who gave £50,000 when it launched in 2009, has been denied.

This Friday that decision is being appealed on the grounds that the public interest will be served by ending the secrecy around the financing of Lawson’s charity. Brendan Montague, the director of an organisation called the Request Initiative, a “community interest company that makes Freedom of Information Act requests on behalf of charities, NGOs and non-profits”, is heading the appeal. He said:

“Lord Lawson’s thinktank, which has been bankrolled by shadowy funders, is lobbying government for a change in climate policy that would affect the lives of millions of people. The privacy of wealth has so far been valued above public accountability, even by our own civic institutions. The democratic principle of transparency is breached when a former chancellor can sit in the House of Lords influencing government policy on matters as important as climate change while accepting funding for his thinktank from secret supporters.”

This appeal has won support from climate scientists around the world who have often been the target of FOI requests. Some would say they have been harrased by such requests.

There is also an on-line petition (see Tell Climate Sceptic Think Tank to Disclose Funding). It declares: “a registered charity should not be hiding who is behind it, especially when its main aim is to change public opinion. Support the scientists’ request and insist that the public learn what is actually going on.”

Reminds me of a few sayings – What’s source for the goose is sauce for the gander. And people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

I’ll keep an eye open for the judge’s ruling.

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Another local climate change denial meme

I commented in Painted into a corner? that the release of NIWA’s report of the recalculation of New Zealand’s 7-station  long term  temperature series had called the local climate change deniers’ bluff. It was time for them to apologise, withdraw their slanderous attacks on NIWA and move on.

Yeah, right! That may have been the sensible thing to do, but of course they are in it for the politics, not the science. So the attacks continue.

Gareth at Hot Topic has an excellent summary of the action (see A Christmas cracker for the cranks). And of course the denier trolls have descended on his post with quite hilarious arguments. One is their claim “this new series shows no warming has occurred here since about 1960.”

Well, of course the series shows nothing of the sort. They appear to basing this incorrect claim on a paragraph in the report which says:

“The unusually steep warming in the 1940-1960 period is paralleled by an unusually large increase in northerly [air] flow during this same period. On a longer timeframe, there has been a trend towards less northerly flow (more southerly) since about 1960. However, New Zealand temperatures have continued to increase over this time, albeit at a reduced rate compared with earlier in the 20th century. This is consistent with a warming of the whole region of the southwest Pacific within which New Zealand is situated.”

Never the less these trolls and their public spokespersons, Richard Treadgold and Brian Leyland are working hardto push this meme. And they claim support from their “eyeball” analysis of the graph in NIWA’s report.

But all the data is available (Seven station data and 11 station data) and anyone can do their own analysis to check these claims.

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A good climate change book

I have been reading Andy Reisenger’s book Climate Change 101. It’s obviously aimed at students and researchers – after all it’s subtitled “An educational resource.”

However for anyone with a scientific interest in the subject it’s certainly very readable.

I think the interested layman would find the book useful. It is an authoritative and reliable source for information. The book is based on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 4th Assessment Reports but does include some findings published since then. However, the IPCC reports are just so intimidating in their size and depth. Even the summaries are not very accessible to the layperson.

Andy Reisenger’s book has the advantage that it basically puts all this science into 300 pages. It’s structured to follow the IPCC reports so it also serves as an introduction to anyone who wants to follow up specific aspects or wants more specific detail.

I will post my review of this book later this month. From what I have read so far I recommend it to anyone seriously interested in the subject. Particularly if they want a good reference to the science.

Meanwhile it has been reviewed by Bryan Walker at Hot Topic (see Climate Change 101: an educational resource).  And if you want to immerse yourself fully in the details have a look at the IPCC reports.


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Chemistry for kids

In my day it was Tom Lehrer and his song “The Elements.” It always struck me as a humourous way of remembering the name of the chemical elements – when you didn’t have a periodic table handy.

Gareth, from Hot Topic, has passed on a modern song “Meet the elements” from the new They Might Be Giants kids’ album, Here Comes Science (see video below). Coincidentally, Damian is also recommending it on his blog And Slaters Go Plop

Sounds like the album will be great or kids – especially with Christmas coming up.


Another song from the album: “I Am A Paleontologist”

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Evidence, not lawyers

lawyer cartoon 2So, Ian Wishart, author of the book Air Con, is threatening to sue The Herald Newspaper and one of its columnists for defamation! (See Air Con author preparing to sue Herald, and Hot Topic.) The offensive sentence? “Only this week breakfast TV host Paul Henry flirted with stupi-duty by lending support to Ian Wishart’s AirCon, a book that the excellent Hot Topic (www.hot-topic.co.nz) noted ‘appears to come from another planet'” (see Chris Barton: Climate debate adrift on rising tide of lunacy). (The word “supi-duty” was a parody on a critical missive the Herald had received from a climate change denier).

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NZ entries in science blog awards

There are a total of 171 nominations for the 3 Quarks daily 2009 Science Prize for science blog posts (see Science blogging prize). Its now open for voting (until midnight June 8 NYC time)

So go along and have a look at the nominees, even vote for the ones you like. If you have a nationalistic interest be aware that two New Zealand bloggers (that I am aware of) submitted posts. Hot Topic’s post Monckton & The Case Of The Missing Curry (#63). And Open Parachute’s series on Human Morality (I: Religious confusion, II: Objective morality, III: Moral intuition, IV: Role of religion and V: The secular conscience)(#94-#98).

Science blogging prize

Phil Plait points our (A new blog prize: the Quarks!) that science blogs have been under-represented in annual blog awards. So he is welcoming the announcement from 3 Quarks Daily of four annual blog prizes. They are for Science, Arts & Literature , Politics and Philosophy.

Science is to be the first – to be announced June 21 with nominations of blog posts by Midnight (NYC time) June 1. The first place award ‘will be called the “Top Quark,” and will include a cash prize of one thousand dollars; the second place prize, the “Charm Quark,” will include a cash prize of three hundred dollars; and the third place winner will get the honor of winning the “Strange Quark,” along with two hundred dollars.”‘

There are a number of NZ science blogs now who should consider nominating a post (e.g. simon.net.nz, Science Media Centre Blog, Physics Stop, Henry, Cr!key Creek, Hot Topic, Bioblog and I apologise for those I have missed). I guess chances are remote alongside the high ranking US science blogs. But you never know. The nomination process itself may bring a bit of traffic and let people know that we have such blogs in New Zealand.

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