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Climate scientists speak to us. What is their consensus opinion?

19 February 2014

Summary: Senator Kerry kicked off the Obama administration’s campaign for policy action to fight climate change. He referred to the oft-cited 97% consensus of scientists. Since it is the basis for large and expensive policy proposals, we should know exactly what is the consensus. Here we look at the studies producing that widely cited number.

The Consensus Project

The second line is false, “a” cause not “the” cause.

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Secretary of State Kerry provides a clear example what is by now a standard play by US leaders: attempting to spark public action by exaggerating  a threat.  In this case, global warming and the resulting climate change. He gave a common but inaccurate description of the current state of climate science — exaggerating the certainty of scientists ab0ut the imminence and magnitude of the threat.

Here we compare Kerry’s words with the actual research showing the consensus. They do not match closely. The graphic at the right shows an example. Global warming is happening, but these surveys do not show agreement that “we are the cause” (rather, we are “a” cause).

However, Kerry’s misrepresentations probably will not matter. Generations of such propaganda have left the American public apathetic, our spiritual adrenal glands exhausted from over-stimulus. Only a generation or so of cold unvarnished truth can restore our ability to adequately see and assess threats. Restoring confidence in the honesty of our leaders will take longer.

“Mr. President, if that’s what you want there is only one way to get it.  That is to make a personal appearance before Congress and scare the hell out of the country.”

— Senator Arthur Vandenberg’s advice to Truman about starting the Cold War.  On 12 March 1947 Truman did so.  From Put yourself in Marshall’s place, James P. Warburg (1948); in 1941 Warburg helped develop our wartime propaganda programs.

Time: Global Warming

A slight exaggeration by Time, 9 April 2001

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Remarks on Climate Change
by Secretary of State John Kerry
Jakarta, Indonesia 16 February 2014

Excerpt:

So when thousands of the world’s leading scientists and five reports over a long period of time with thousands of scientists contributing to those reports – when they tell us over and over again that our climate is changing, that it is happening faster than they ever predicted, ever in recorded history, and when they tell us that we humans are the significant cause, let me tell you something: We need to listen.

When 97% of scientists agree on anything, we need to listen, and we need to respond.

  1. These scientists agree on the causes of these changes and they agree on the potential effects.
  2. They agree that the emission of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide contributes heavily to climate change.
  3. And they agree that, if we continue to go down the same path that we are going down today, the world as we know it will change – and it will change dramatically for the worse.

There is no basis for much of this, as Kerry grossly exaggerates the extent of the consensus among climate scientists. Most of these assertions appear in the IPCC’s reports, but with widely varying confidence levels.  Stating these as certainties converts them from conclusions of scientific research into Leftist propaganda, made truth in their followers’ minds through endless repetition.

Let’s look at one claim, in a sense the foundation for the speech. What is the basis for the 97% number Kerry cites?

First, a reminder of the actual consensus of climate scientists. The surveys shown below show strong agreement with this key statement by the IPCC; none show agreement beyond it.

Read more…

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Tom Perkins tells us about the 1%’s vision of a New America

18 February 2014

Summary: Every day the New America grows on the ruins of the America-that-once-was. Every day our apathy weakens the Republic. Every day powerful people — each wielding wealth greater than millions or tens of millions of other Americans — add new brinks to the new plutocracy that will govern our children and their children. They’re doing so openly. To minimize our fear and guilt we laugh at them. They smile at our folly; the Founders cry silently.

The oligarchy club

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Content

  1. Telling us about the coming New America
  2. Tax rates on the wealthy at post-1930s lows. They’re not grateful…
  3. America’s exceptional inequality
  4. For More Information

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(1)  Telling us about the New America

Tom Perkins’ big idea: The rich should get more votes“, CNN, 14 February 2014 — Tom Perkins speaking at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco. Everybody has words to live by, that justify their actions. Perkins shared his with us. He’s not joking, and their increasing power brings his vision closer to fruition every day, as the 1%’s command of all levels, all parts of the governing mechanism means that our votes have less effect than his dollars.

Listen, and be afraid. Unless we develop backbones and cohesion, Perkins vision will come true.  One way or another.

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Tax rates on the wealthy are at post-1930s lows. They’re not grateful…

Read more…

How America can survive – even prosper – in the 21st century

17 February 2014

Summary: This is one chapter a series about America’s grand strategy, ways America can survive – even prosper – in an age of new rivals, where 4th generation warfare (4GW) is the dominant mode of war. Ideas that have worked in the past might guarantee failure today. See links at the end for the full series to date. This is a revised version of a post from 14 June 2008. It’s still useful, since our geopolitical strategy has not changed since then.

World in the palm of my hand

Madness. We do not hold the wold in our hand.

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Contents

  1. Can we do a grand strategy?
  2. The baggage in our minds
  3. Simple recommendations
  4. More friends; fewer enemies. Strengthen friendships; weaken enemies
  5. Don’t gamble. Adopt slow but sure tactics.
  6. Survive until we win.
  7. For more information

(1)  Can we do a grand strategy?

Perhaps American cannot successfully implement large and complex geopolitical strategies, as discussed in “The Myth of Grand Strategy.” Perhaps this is weakness inherent to democracies. Athens also had difficulty executing complex long-term plans, even in the face of catastrophic defeat.

Read more…

How much did we warm in January?

16 February 2014

Summary:  As the pause in the warming of the world’s surface temperature enters its 15th year (or 17th), activists hide this by focusing on areas of the world with record warm weather (areas with cold weather are un-news). We need not fall for this propaganda. NASA funds a monthly report of global temperature measured by satellites — a consistently high-quality data set going back to 1979 (roughly the end of the previous mini-cooling cycle). Also see the sections putting this in a vital long-term context.  The truth is out there for people willing to see it.

“It is extremely likely (95 – 100% certain) that human activities caused more than half of the observed increase in global mean surface temperature from 1951 to 2010.”
— conclusion of the IPCC’s AR5 Working Group I

Pure alarmist propaganda

Pure alarmist propaganda

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Contents

  1. Status report: what do satellites tell us about global warming?
  2. The UK Met Office shows the long-term history of warming
  3. Who produces this satellite data & analysis?
  4. About The Elusive Absolute Surface Air Temperature (SAT)
  5. A few key things to remember about global warming!
  6. For More Information

To the right is a typical over-the-top image to arouse fear, about a world now less than one °F warmer than the 30-year average.

(1) Status report: what do satellites tell us about global warming in January 2014?

Satellites provide the most comprehensive and reliable record of the atmosphere’s warming since 1979.

The January 2014 Global Temperature Report
by the Earth System Science Center of the University of Alabama in Huntsville
(Blue is cold; red warm}. Click to enlarge.

UAH Global Temperature Report: January 2014

Earth System Science Center of the University of Alabama in Huntsville

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See the equivalent graph from the surface temperature stations of the Climate Anomaly Monitoring System (CAMS) of the Climate Prediction Center (CPC) at the U.S. National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP).

Key points from the UAH report (prepared under contract for NASA), which show a world that has warmed since 1979, but only slightly (few alarmists know this; fewer admit it):

  • Global composite temperature in January: +0.29°C (0.52°F) above the average for January during 1981-2010.
  • Global climate trend of temperature starting in 16 November 1978: +0.14°C (0.3°F) per decade.
  • Compared to seasonal norms, in January the coolest area on the globe was in upper peninsula of Michigan near Iron River, where temperatures in the troposphere were about 3.9°C (7.0°F) cooler than seasonal norms.
  • The warmest area was in northeastern Greenland by the Arctic Ocean, where tropospheric temperatures were 6.2°C (almost 11.2°F) warmer than seasonal norms.
  • Anomalies are computed per the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) recommended method, comparing the current temperatures vs. a 30 year base period ending with the latest decade.

For more detail see Global Temperature Update Through 2013, James Hansen, Makiko Sato and Reto Ruedy, 21 January 2014.

(2)  The vital context: a longer-term temperature history

(a)  A graph by Roy Spencer, principal scientists on the UAH team (at his website) shows the full record of satellite data (started in 1979). Two decades of cool weather, followed by 15 years of warm weather. Wide swings in temperature; a relatively flat trend since 1998 – 2000. For more about the pause see links to climate research in Section 5.

Read more…

Seeing the world through conservative eyes

15 February 2014

Summary:  Propaganda is an ancient tool of government. Its perfection during the world wars created a new world. Today’s political polarization results in part from a population whose extremes literally see different worlds.  Epistemic closure, carefully limiting ones vision to see only confirmatory information, rules many people’s minds and makes communication difficult (or impossible). After our long series looking at the world through the Left’s eyes (apocalypse real soon), today we see how it works on the Right.

Obama as Mao

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What do right-wing people read? Even ignoring the usually ludicrously false email strings, many conservative’s information diet consists to a frightening extent of paranoia and delusion. It’s a vision in which America is constantly under attack, at risk of defeat, with enemies everywhere. We never attack (except in self-defense), always with pure motives. Belligerence is the only good response.

Such people see a manichean world, in which seldom can be found a trace of grey — or uncertainty.

Here are selections from one week of Milinet, a free daily email.  Note the prevalence of far-right sources, more op-eds than news. Imagine the effect of reading little but such material, day after day. Step by step, inch by inch, away from reality towards a world of interlocking delusions.

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Quite mad:  “Special report: The cyberwar threat from North Korea“, Fox News, 14 February 2014

Excellent agitprop: “Expert: Iran ships a dry run for later nuclear/EMP attack; humiliate Obama“, The Washington Examiner, 14 February 2014 — The “expert” is Peter Pry, long-time alarmist about EMP; expert at fantasizing about EMP threats. What is the threat to Iran of the US carriers stationed off its shores?

Best agiprop of the week: “Four al Qaeda Groups Gunning for the United States“, David Francis, The Fiscal Times, 13 February 2014 — The groups mentioned here are insurgencies in Africa, purely local. None show any interest in “gunning for the United States”. The article does not even attempt to show that US national interests are at stake. However it does show that we’re using US military power to attack them. If they were to attach us as we have them, we’d scream “terrorism”.

Read more…

This week’s Mailbag: great letters to the Editor (and replies).

15 February 2014

Here are last week’s comments.  They are excellent! My thanks to everyone who sent these.

Letters To The Editor

Send in your comments! Use the contact form, or email to Editor at FabiusMaximus.com (note the spam-protected format). Those of general interest will be posted (anonymously on requested) in the weekly mailbag posts.

Why no comments on posted to the FM website? It’s the same reason others have no comments. Click here to learn more.

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(1) From H___

The point of view here is that the US is taking a bad turn in a historical / political (and economic) sense. What historical cases stand out as exemplars for “almost-happened” wrong turns? I suppose a growing class division and loss of effective democracy are identifying characteristics. Could you give a short list of peaceful “cultural revolutions” (OK, poor choice of phrase)?

Reply from the Editor:

That’s a fascinating point, and one I’ve long thought provides a useful and optimistic perspective on our problems.

Most peoples’ history, even successful ones, consist of alternating good an ad periods (also, marriages are also like this). The US is one of the most successful nations in our world. We have two hundred years of economic success, social progress, all under the same political regime.

Yet we have had some dark periods. The civil war, of course. The post-civil war era was one of a failed reconstruction (the South’s successful counter-revolution), oppression of labor, and frequent recessions and depressions (no food stamps and unemployment insurance). Ditto in the 20th century, albeit not on the same scale.

Ditto for England.

(2)  From Michael Pugh

I have never commented on your website (although I have thought to do so many times) because I feared that that would be putting myself on some governmental list for daring to talk openly about the things that you post about. I realise now that no matter what I do, I’m on those lists anyway, as is everybody with a phone, internet ready computer or voting registration entry in at least the UK and US, if the media reports that we have heard and read (mostly not through mainstream media it must be said) are to be believed.

I felt it time though to write to you, privately, as your frustration is earnest and palpable and I felt that I should at least say this.

Read more…

Magical theories of science, and how they influence us

14 February 2014

Summary: Today we have an article by Professor Judith Curry that goes to the heart of the climate science debates, about epistemology (the philosophy of knowing) and the process of science. As we see here, we can do it better — and must in order to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

Science & magic

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Magical theories

by Judith Curry, at her website Climate Etc
13 February 2014

Posted here under her Creative Commons license

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[W]e have a field of sort-of-science in which hypotheses are treated as facts because they’re too hard or expensive to test, and there are so many hypotheses that what journalists like to call “leading authorities” disagree with one another daily.

– Gary Taubes, op-ed in the New York Times, 8 February 2014

Why nutrition science is so confusing

Gary Taubes has an op-ed in the NY Times “Why nutrition is so confusing” {8 February 2014}, which has some interesting parallels with climate science.  Excerpts:

Since the 1960s, nutrition science has been dominated by two conflicting observations. One is that we know how to eat healthy and maintain a healthy weight. The other is that the rapidly increasing rates of obesity and diabetes suggest that something about the conventional thinking is simply wrong.

In total, over 600,000 articles have been published purporting to convey some meaningful information on these conditions. It would be nice to think that this deluge of research has brought clarity to the issue. The trend data argue otherwise. The more we learn, the more we need to know.

Because the nutrition research community has failed to establish reliable, unambiguous knowledge about the environmental triggers of obesity and diabetes, it has opened the door to a diversity of opinions on the subject, of hypotheses about cause, cure and prevention, many of which cannot be refuted by the existing evidence. Everyone has a theory. The evidence doesn’t exist to say unequivocally who’s wrong.

In nutrition, the hypotheses are speculations about what foods or dietary patterns help or hinder our pursuit of a long and healthy life. The ingenious and severe attempts to refute the hypotheses are the experimental tests — the clinical trials and, to be specific, randomized controlled trials. Because the hypotheses are ultimately about what happens to us over decades, meaningful trials are prohibitively expensive and exceedingly difficult.  And before any of this can even be attempted, someone’s got to pay for it.

Without such trials, though, we’re only guessing whether we know the truth. [A]dvice to restrict fat or avoid saturated fat has been based on suppositions about what would have happened had such trials been done, not on the studies themselves.

Read more…

We live in the America Bush Jr created. Understand that before looking forward.

13 February 2014

Passing years make it ever more clear that Bush Jr was one of the few transformative Presidents in US history, decisively changing the course of both domestic and foreign policy.

Consider just a few of his major policy initiatives. The roots of these policy changes lie in the past, but he brought them to maturity.

  • His tax laws shifted shifted much of the burden of Federal taxes from the rich to the middle-class (only slightly rolled back by Obama; State and local taxes were already regressive).
  • He shifted the US from its post-WWII policy of containment and support for international law (largely a US-driven creation) to one of militaristic aggression (quite mad for a world in which new power centers are arising).
  • He decisively broke with the New Deal patterns, putting the regulatory apparatus for corporate profits — against other interests, such as unions and the environment.
  • He decisively broke with legal precedents generations old (e.g., torture, preemptive war, indefinite detention without trial) or centuries-old (e.g., use of mercenaries).

Bush on Mt Rushmore

As with many such key moments in time, historians only slowly recognized the change in course, and even more slowly explore the factors that made it happen. In the New York Review of Books Mark Danner continues his work reviewing books about this remarkable story (the NYRB should be on everybody’s subscription list). Here we examine the person most responsible for crafting America’s new grand strategy. The origins of Bush’s domestic policies remain to be explored.

Excerpt from “In the Darkness of Dick Cheney

New York Review of Books, 6 March 2014 (red emphasis added)

Read more…

Four views of exciting new climate research. See the difference.

12 February 2014

Summary: The debates about climate science have divided us, which is nothing new. And it has provided a gift, showing how our vision of the world can be distorted by the apparatus (social mechanisms) through which we see the world. We have an opportunity to learn from these early years of a new century so that we do better during the rest. Today we see the same story told three times, in three different ways — one theory about the cause of the pause in surface temperature warming, and one of the forecasts for its duration — among the most important research of our time.

Clearly see the world

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Contents

  1. Boosting the narrative
  2. Telling the story, but in context
  3. More accurate reporting
  4. Science
  5. For More Information

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(1)  Boosting the narrative

Global warming ‘pause’ due to unusual trade winds in Pacific ocean, study finds“, The Guardian, 9 February 2014 –“Study shows sharply accelerating trade winds have buried surface heat underwater, reducing heat flowing into atmosphere” Opening:

The Guardian

The contentious “pause” in global warming over the past decade is largely due to unusually strong trade winds in the Pacific ocean that have buried surface heat deep underwater, new research has found.

A joint Australian and US study analysed why the rise in the Earth’s global average surface temperature has slowed since 2001, after rapidly increasing from the 1970s. The research shows that sharply accelerating trade winds in central and eastern areas of the Pacific have driven warm surface water to the ocean’s depths, reducing the amount of heat that flows into the atmosphere. In turn, the lowering of sea surface temperatures in the Pacific triggers further cooling in other regions.

The study, which is published in the journal Nature Climate Change, calculated the net cooling effect on global average surface temperatures as between 0.1C and 0.2C (0.2-0.4F), accounting for much of the hiatus in surface warming. The study’s authors said there has been a 0.2C gap between models used to predict warming and actual observed warming since 2001.

The findings should provide fresh certainty about the reasons behind the warming hiatus, which has been claimed by critics of mainstream climate science as evidence that the models are flawed and predictions of rising temperatures have been exaggerated.

(2)  Telling the story, but in context

Read more…

Have we prepared for normal climate change and non-extreme weather?

11 February 2014

Summary: The climate always changes, with or without our intervention. The political struggle over climate-related public policy has left much of America not only vulnerable to anthropogenic extreme climate change, but also to normal climate variations. Another in our series about how America sees the world, and prepares for change.

“We don’t even plan for the past.”
— Steven Mosher, comment posted to “UK floods in context” at Climate Etc

Greenpeace artwork about sea levels

Greenpeace is not helping with its silly propaganda

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Contents

  1. Normal climate change
  2. The long rise of global sea levels
  3. The rise continues, at roughly the same rate
  4. Projections of future sea levels
  5. Preparing for the future
  6. Send in your comments!
  7. For More Information

(1)  Normal climate change

The climate has changed endlessly since the day the Earth was born, and will until the day it dies. Alarmists advocate radical public policy changes changes in the hopeless quest to freeze the world’s climate in its status quo (quite different than the advice of the IPCC and major climate agencies).

While the Left and Right quarrel over equally specious visions of the future, we make inadequate preparations for the inevitable. We build cities in the Southwest, ignoring  the region’s history of mega-droughts. We build suburbs on fragile Atlantic barrier islands, sand bars destined to be swept away by storms. And, the subject of today’s post, cities like New York and New Orleans lie like sleeping dogs on the highway, to be wrecked by quite ordinary storms.

The world has been warming since the early 19th century, and the the average sea level has been rising since the late 19th century. Global warming will accelerate this, a little or a lot — depending on the amount of warming during the 21st century. Here we look at this creeping danger. It’s a slow threat, but one we can prepare for.

(2)  The long rise of global sea levels

Here is a graph showing the long rise of the oceans: the yearly average global mean sea level (GMSL) from various sources — Figure 13.3 from Chapter 13 of the IPCC’s Working Group I of AR5:

Read more…

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