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Weather & climate change: how to interpret our past in order to prepare for our future

2 April 2014

Summary: Nate Silver’s new 538 project has started with a bang by featuring Roger Pielke Jr telling us about the research showing the trends in damage from natural disasters. It’s an important issue, reminding us of our infrastructure’s vulnerability to weather — weather of the kind we’ve seen in the past, and the probably worse we’ll see in the future. Previous posts discussed the hostile response by activists, illustrating how the debate about the public policy response to climate change has collapsed into a cacophony. Here’s an attempt to understand the issues Pielke has raised.

Meanwhile, climate science moves on. We will get definitive answers eventually, but perhaps to late for effective policy action. Hence the debate.

“History doesn’t always repeat itself. Sometimes it just screams, ‘Why don’t you listen to me?’ and lets fly with a big stick.”
— John W. Campbell Jr.

Certainty Channel

The IPCC switches away from this channel


  1. Introduction to the battle, now in progress
  2. Larger lessons for us from this debate
  3. About Judith Curry
  4. What does the climate science literature say?
  5. For More Information
  6. Important things to know about climate change


(1) Introduction to the battle, in progress

The rounds in the fight so far.

  1. A summary of the literature, consistent with the IPCC (but disappointing to the alarmists): “Disasters Cost More Than Ever — But Not Because of Climate Change”, Roger Pielke Jr (Prof Environmental Studies, U CO-Boulder), 538,  19 March 2014
  2. Following Up on Disasters And Climate Change“, Roger Pielke Jr, 21 March 2014 — Answers to questions from the comments
  3. Summary of the Left’s reaction to their darling Silver giving space to a non-alarmist: Nate Silver goes from hero to goat, convicted by the Left of apostasy 25 March 2014
  4. The smears and misrepresentations flow: The Left stages a two minute hate on Nate Silver, Roger Pielke Jr (& me), 29 March 2014

Lots of chaff has been tossed into the air to hide the peer-reviewed literature on thiis subject, which largely confirms Pielke’s analysis. Also seldom mentioned by Pielke’s critics is what the IPCC has to say on the subject.

(2)  Larger lessons for us from this debate

Evidence of absence versus absence of evidence

by Judith Curry, at her website Climate Etc
1 April 2014
Posted here under her Creative Commons license


Does global warming make extreme weather events worse?

The IPCC SREX found limited evidence of global warming worsening extreme events. Nevertheless, there are a lot of climate scientists that think global warming is worsening extreme events.



(a)  RealClimate

A post at RealClimate:

The most common fallacy in discussing extreme weather events + Update“,
by Stefan Rahmstorf, 25 March 2014
He is a Professor of Physics of the Oceans at Potsdam U; Wikipedia bio), — Excerpt:

Here is the #1 flawed reasoning you will have seen about this question: it is the classic confusion between absence of evidence and evidence for absence of an effect of global warming on extreme weather events. Sounds complicated? It isn’t.

The two most fundamental properties of extreme events are that they are rare (by definition) and highly random. These two aspects (together with limitations in the data we have) make it very hard to demonstrate any significant changes. And they make it very easy to find all sorts of statistics that do not show an effect of global warming – even if it exists and is quite large.

The fundamental issue here is not even one of attribution -– rather it is detecting a meaningful change.  For record high temperatures, it is fairly straightforward to expect more records as average temperatures increase.  But this is much more difficult for drought, hurricanes and other extreme weather events.  The RC post argues that physical reasoning is sufficient, e.g. warmer sea surface temperatures drive more intense hurricanes.  The RC post concludes:

Read more…

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Auto loans are a driver of the expansion, but might be running out of gas

1 April 2014

Summary:  Modern history consists to a scary extent of boys with toys. Powerful tools used irresponsibly: Atomic weapons, nuclear power plants, debt, and (God help us, genetic engineering). The decades of the Cold War featured several terrifying close calls with nukes. Now we’re suffering the effects of imprudent debt accumulation, and are likely to for another decade. Today we look at auto loans (a follow-up to our November post). Along with student loans they’re a hot front in the household debt crisis.

Consumer debt head volcano



  1. The secret to rising auto sales
  2. The bad news about those loans
  3. Perhaps the slowdown has already begun
  4. For More Information


(1)  The secret to rising auto sales

November’s post pointed to a disturbing Bloomberg article about auto loans: “Good Job Is Good Enough as Subprime Car Buyers Lift Sales“.  Car loans are being made with an average maturity of 62 months and high loan-value levels (80%), so that a high fraction will have no equity if they default. And to make that more likely, lenders were boosting sales by increasing lending to sub-prime buyers. During the past 5 months the problem has grown worse.

Why is this important? Because auto sales have been one of the major drivers of the recovery. As shown by Atif Mian and Amir Sufi in “Another Debt-Fueled Spending Spree?“, at their website, 31 March 2014:

House of Debt: auto sales

House of Debt: auto sales, 31 March 2014

With little growth in real wages for most Americans since 2009, how have we managed to splurge on new cars? Mian and Sufi show the answer: a surge in auto loans:

Read more…

The IPCC releases its advice on “Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability”. To be attacked from both sides.

31 March 2014

Summary:  A draft has been leaked of the just-approved Working Group 2′s report to the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (WG2 of AR5), about II: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. I see each working group as a step down in scientific rigor and increase in utility in making public policy (one of the unfortunately commonplaces of life). As such I focus on WG1 — The Science of Climate Change — while politicians and journalists focus more on WG3. So now attention turns to the new report of WG2.


Certainty Channel

The IPCC switches away from this channel


  1. Draft of the new IPCC AR5 WG2 Report
  2. About the author
  3. For More Information
  4. Important things to know about climate change


IPCC AR5 WG2 Report – draft SPM

by Judith Curry, at her website Climate Etc
30 March 2014
Posted here under her Creative Commons license


The WG2 Report will be officially released on Monday.  Here is what people are saying about a leaked version of the Summary for Policy Makers.

Donna LaFramboise has made available the latest version of the draft Summary for Policy Makers of the WG2 report that is currently being discussed in Yokohama (note: informed by Twitter that the SPM and full Report have just been approved).

The AR5 WG2 SPM has some startling differences and substantial additions relative to the AR4 version, and is in many ways a much better report. However, the AR4 WG2 Report is a low bar indeed, with the infamous Himalayan glacier error, and the substantial criticisms leveled by the IAC regarding treatment of uncertainty.

Chris Field, WG2 co-chair, has made this statement, excerpts:

The report itself is scientifically bold. It frames managing climate change as a challenge in managing risks, using this characterization as a starting point for two of the report’s core themes. The first is the importance of considering the full range of possible outcomes, including not only high-probability outcomes. It also considers outcomes with much lower probabilities but much, much larger consequences. Second, characterizing climate change as a challenge in managing risks opens doors to a wide range of options for solutions.

One of the things I like most about the report is that it combines cold, analytical realism, with a careful look at a broad range of possible solutions. This mapping of not only the serious and admittedly sometimes depressing “problem space” but also the exciting and potentially uplifting “solution space” allows the report to assess not only the impacts and challenges but also the opportunities and synergies. Truly, much of the material in the WGII report is as much about building a better world as it is about understanding serious problems.


The best overview that I’ve seen so far is by {environment writer} Fred Pierce:  New UN Report is Cautions on Making Climate Predictions.  Excerpts:

Read more…

The Left stages a two minute hate on Nate Silver, Roger Pielke Jr (& me)

29 March 2014

Summary: This week many on the Left served a banquet of snark on Nate Silver and his new 538 website for the sin of posting an article by Roger Pielke Jr (Prof Environmental Studies, U CO-Boulder). An article well-supported in the climate studies literature, and consistent with the work of the IPCC (they conceal these things from their followers; least they ruin the narrative). These posts demonstrate the ineffectual tactics that have drained away the Left’s support during the past 3 decades, and after 25 years of work produced no gains in their highest-profile public policy initiative. See other posts in this series, listed below.

“Insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results.”

— The basic text of Narcotics Anonymous). People who know all about personal dysfunctionality.

Two Minute Hate



  1. The two minute hate
  2. The road not taken:  another response to Pielke
  3. A larger perspective
  4. For More Information

(1) The two minute hate

The Left runs a Two Minute Hate on Nate Silver, his 538 website, Roger Pielke Jr (Prof Environmental Studies, U CO-Boulder) resulting from their publication of  “Disasters Cost More Than Ever — But Not Because of Climate Change”. And me, based on Nate Silver goes from hero to goat, convicted by the Left of apostasy. Read the following, and feel the hatred flow.

  1. Thursday Idiocy: Fabius Micromus” posted at Loyal to the Group of Seventeen, 27 March 2014. I posted a brief analysis in the comments. Quite interesting, in a silly way. He posts the comment thread with DeLong. He considers it “idiocy”, but doesn’t say why.
  2. Brad DeLong (Prof Economics, Berkeley) applauds. Again, he doesn’t explain. True believers don’t ask questions during the Two Minute Hate.
  3. The Launch of and Climate Change Disaster Weblogging: (Trying to Be) The Honest Broker for the Week of March 29, 2014“. By “honest broker” he means misrepresenting what I said, and substituting his judgement for the peer-reviewed literature about this issue. Plus lots of smears.

These are mostly silly in style and content, but rich in insights about the Left. Here are a few thoughts; post your thoughts in the comments.

(a)  They show how the politics of climate change has become a cacophony, both poisonous and ineffectual.  Smears, more rhetoric than reason. Clickbait for believers, firing up opponents, ignored by those in between. Which is fine for the Right, who wants nothing done, but defeat for the Left.

(b)  The Left now often ignores the relevant peer-reviewed literature and work of the IPCC, substituting big talk from amateurs and quotes from activist climate scientists (usually from the same small pool). When confronted with it, as in my post, they respond with smears.

(c)  This is the opposite of grass-roots organizing. Two minutes hate sessions build internal cohesion, but tend to repel outsiders. And they make enemies. It’s the opposite of John Boyd’s first rule of strategy: gather and empower allies.

Read more…

America swings to the Right. The Left loses. How has the Left dug itself into this hole?

28 March 2014

Summary: Today we look at one of the defining political trends of our time — America’s movement to the Right. Like most political evolutions in our history, it’s bipartisan. Previous posts have examined how the Right has won. Today and tomorrow we look at how the Left has accomplished this (it didn’t just happen), and how they have responded to this long series of defeats. These are just sketches about vast and complex trends. At the end see links to other posts in this series.


America has been moving to the Right since roughly 1980. Not in all things. The 1% cares about power and money; as a class it does not care who marries who. The US health care system’s decay, and the Right’s indifference to reform, allowed the Left to pass ObamaCare.

But the overall trend has been to the Right. A few examples…

  1. Defunding public colleges.
  2. Cutting taxes on the rich and businesses, shifting the tax burden down (as the GOP is doing in the States today).
  3. Reducing the safety net (e.g., . Reducing the minimum wage (in real terms), Clinton “ending welfare as we know it” in 1996).
  4. Crushing private sector unions.
  5. Deregulation of corporations, especially banks.
  6. Eroding away the 1970s reforms on the military and intelligence agencies.

We can debate the wisdom of these changes (I’m mostly against them all), but let’s leave that debate for another day. How has the Left responded? Today we’ll see how the Left has worked to gain public support — and failed. Tomorrow we’ll examine how they addressed the equally important (in an operational sense) task of maintaining internal cohesion during their long defeat.

The Left fights back

The Left responded its efforts on use of two tactics.

(a)  Legal leverage

The Left used its strength in the Courts to effect public policy measures they could not do through democratic means. Most notably, expansion of environmental protections, plus expanded rights to abortion and same-sex marriage. Although this produced some wins, the long-term effect has been catastrophic for the Left.

The focus on legalistic tactics led to an atrophy of grass-roots organizing, and a loss of legitimacy for the agenda. Legitimacy in the political sense, people’s acceptance of governmental authority. From bussing to abortion to closing logging in the NW to save the spotted owl, court-driven policy measures produce powerful backlashes unless supported with deep measures to gain public support — which step the Left has often skipped. An increasing fraction of the public believes the Left uses anti-democratic (even authoritarian) means to change public policy.

Now the real weakness of this strategy appears, as the increased strength of the Right results in more conservative judges at all levels. Judicial activism works just as well for the Right as the Left. Indeed for most of American history the Courts have been a conservative, even reactionary force. We might return to this old normal.

(b)  Gaining strength by sounding alarms


Read more…

The Ukraine crisis gives us a peak behind the curtain into the workings of our government

27 March 2014

Summary: Every geopolitical crisis provides us with information about our nation and our world. They provide peeks into the machinery hidden behind the government’s secrecy and journalists’ narratives. The Crimean crisis, a small area inside Russia’s sphere of influence, hyped by our hawks into a world-shaking incident, provides a rich lode for mining insights. Helping us, doing the heavy lifting, is one of our top defense analysts, Chuck Spinney. See the last section for links to other useful articles about this.

Military spending


Ukraine: Manna From Heaven for the Green Line and Beyond Crowd

Franklin “Chuck” Spinney

From his website, The Blaster
26 March 214

Posted with his generous permission


Most Americans know very little about the immediate origins of the crisis in the Ukraine and their government’s involvement in it. They know even less about its deeper roots, that reach back into Russian view of American duplicity in breaking its verbal promises not to expand NATO and the European Union eastward (useful summaries can be found here and here).

These promises were interpreted quite reasonably by the Russians as a quid pro quo for Mikhail Gorbachev’s agreement to

  1. the unification of Germany,
  2. the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, and
  3. the withdrawal of Soviet forces from eastern Europe.

Gorbachev’s dream of a common European Home was always fanciful, but today, Ukraine proves it is in tatters.

If one is to believe the reportage in the mainstream media, the duly elected but decidedly corrupt government of the Ukraine was overthrown by a spontaneous revolt of the freedom-seeking Ukrainian people. But it is also clear from leaked recordings of phone conversations and the bloviations of U.S. “pro-defense” legislators that members of the U.S. government were at least tangentially involved, as were Ukrainian neo-fascists.

There is much more, however.


Read more…

Richard Koo gives a “Post-QE forecast: sunny, cloudy, or stormy?”

26 March 2014

Summary: Prosperity, perhaps even survival, in the 21st century might require learning which experts we should listen to. In economics its a short list, if we limit it to people who have understood large aspects of the great recession and the aftermath.  Richard Koo certainly deserves to make that short list. Here he tells us what to expect next.



“Post-QE forecast for leading economies:
sunny,cloudy, or stormy?”

Richard Koo, Chief Economist
Nomura Research Institute

25 March 2014



{People} were roiled by Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s first press conference last Wednesday, where she suggested a rate hike could come as soon as next spring. The fact that {people} reacted so much led some in the media to question her communication skills, given her predecessor’s skill in this area.

{People} also appear to have been surprised and disappointed that the supposedly dovish Ms. Yellen indicated the possibility of a tightening of policy. “This wasn’t supposed to happen” seemed to be the general reaction.

Marketsand media unaware that US is in QE trap

Nevertheless, it was easy enough to predict that the Fed would have to move in this direction when it began normalizing policy after years of quantitative easing. The media’s criticism of her dialog and {people’s} complaints about the lack of further accommodation tells us that most of them have yet to realize the US economy has fallen into the QE trap. Their ignorance is of far greater concern, in my view.

{People} and members of the media simply do not understand that an economic recovery in a country that has undertaken QE is going to be very different from a recovery in a country that has not.

Read more…

Nate Silver goes from hero to goat, convicted by the Left of apostasy

25 March 2014

Summary: The climate refuses to warm as predicted, the IPCC refuses to endorse claims of extreme climate, public supports fades, and the Left grows desperate. So they use their influence in the media to punish any deviance from their orthodoxy. Nate Silver and Roger Pielke Jr are the latest to feel their wrath. See the links to other posts in this series in section 8.

Paraphrasing an ancient legal aphorism:

When the facts are against you, argue the theory.
When the theory is against you, argue the facts.
When both are against you, loudly smear your opponent.

Truth in science

Designed by Idea Tree Inc


  1. Introduction
  2. The arbiter of good journalism speaks
  3. A typical attack from the Left
  4. Krugman is loyal to his tribe, not science
  5. A rare, brave defender speaks out
  6. A climate scientist looks at the commentary
  7. Update: peer-reviewed research on this issue
  8. For More Information

(1)  Introduction

Pity Nate Silver. Hero of the Left for his successful take-down of GOP’s election forecasts, shooting down their delusions about Romney’s chances of victory. Good Leftists like Brad DeLong and Paul Krugman heaped praises on Silver, catapulting him into a sweet gig at ESPN. The poor guy thought the applause was for his use of numbers in pursuit in truth, when it was purely tribal. Their applause were just tribal grunts — we good, they bad — in effect chanting…

“Two legs good. Four legs bad.”

Right out of the box at his new venture, ESPN’s FiveThirtyEight, Silver committed apostasy, and the Left reacted with the fury true believers mete out to their betrayers. He posted “Disasters Cost More Than Ever — But Not Because of Climate Change” by Roger Pielke Jr (Prof Environmental Studies, U CO-Boulder), 19 March 2014. Also see his follow-up article, with more detail.

(Note that Brad DeLong was originally mentioned above in error. He praised Silver’s election reporting, but had not written about Pielke Jr’s 538 article at the time of this post. He has since joined the Left’s lynch mob, displaying their indifference to the climate science literature.)

(2) The arbiter of good journalism speaks

FiveThirtyEight’s disappointing science section“, By Alexis Sobel Fitts, Columbia Journalism Review, 2014 — ” Science journalism could use an infusion of analysis, but FiveThirtyEight isn’t yet doing it rigorously or objectively.”

The internet hates Nate Silver today — at least the small quotient closely following the launch of his new site, FiveThirtyEight, this week—and with ample reason. When Silver wrote, “It’s time to make news a little nerdier,” in his site-launch manifesto, he was issuing a call to arms against the mainstream press. Because by nerdier, he really meant better. “Plenty of pundits have really high IQs, but they don’t have any discipline in how they look at the world,” he told New York magazine last week, promising to produce a site free of such “bullshit.”

But it’s always risky to bite the hand that publicizes you …

Read more…

What did we learn from our intervention in Libya?

24 March 2014

Summary:  As the cries for war rise again in America, let’s reflect on the consequences from our last several interventions. We bomb foreign nations hoping to build better societies; repeated failure doesn’t discourage our hawks. Third in a series about lessons learned from our wars after 9-11.

Three years ago:

“Yesterday, in response to a call for action by the Libyan people and the Arab League, the U.N. Security Council passed a strong resolution that demands an end to the violence against citizens. It authorizes the use of force with an explicit commitment to pursue all necessary measures to stop the killing … We have made clear our support for a set of universal values, and our support for the political and economic change that the people of the region deserve.”

Speech by President Obama, 18 March 2011

Libya war cartoon



  1. An important moment in time
  2. Assessing the results
  3. Lessons learned
  4. Other posts in this series
  5. For More Information


(1)  An important moment in time

Before our intervention in Libya, I cautioned that it likely would have bad — perhaps horrific — results. A well-known expert in military and foreign affairs disagreed, advocating humanitarian military action. Here is his rebuttal to my analysis:

You just have not seen enough people bleed to death.

As I wrote before Obama’s speech, that’s an emotionally compelling response.  It claims the moral high ground, seeking to preserve life and end tyranny.  It claims authority through the speaker’s military experience, since we believe that Yoda was wrong and wars do make us great.  If said loudly and firmly to a crowd it evokes applause (to American audiences; probably not so much in Europe or Asia).

Now the echoes of our bombs have died away. Our special operations forces have mostly left. Now we can tally the results. Now begins the vital task of learning from our experience. My first conclusions is that America’s foreign policy will continue to be a series of failures so long as views such as this are heard without revulsion.

We don’t own the result in Libya. There is no “pottery barn rule” (believe nothing Thomas Friedman says). The people of Libya have agency, and have the final responsibility for their nation. But as a superpower we have great power. For both our future and the world’s we must learn from our experiences.

So what has followed our intervention in Libya, which we were told was almost certain to produce great results?

(a) Political Killings Still Plaguing Post-Qaddafi Libya“, New York Times, 11 March 2014 — Excerpt:

Libya has suffered widespread bloodletting in the aftermath of the 2011 revolution. Over 1,200 people have been killed nationwide in the last two years, victims of revenge, power clashes and spiraling crime.

Political divisions within the elected General National Congress, with groups backed by rival militias, have rendered the appointed government almost powerless. The power struggle kept Prime Minister Ali Zeidan under threat of dismissal for months before he was voted out of office on Tuesday, and left the country without an interior minister since August, when the last one resigned.

No place has been harder hit than the country’s second-largest city, Benghazi, the birthplace of the Libyan uprising. More than 100 prominent figures, senior security officials, judges and political activists have been assassinated in two years, and the wave of killings is decimating local leadership and paralyzing the government and security forces.

Read more…

A warning about the end of the world (doomster scenario #137)

23 March 2014

Summary: It’s time for yet another warning of doom. As usual, based on a flimsy foundation of data and analysis. As usual, the news media eats it up. And the public, mostly on the Left, applaud. No matter how often these predictions prove false, the Left uncritically believes the next. Too bad for them that the public no longer cares.

Only One World



  1. The trumpets of doom sound again
  2. NASA pushes back
  3. What’s the fascination with doom?
  4. Articles debating the study
  5. Scientists comment on the study
  6. For More Information about dooms
  7. This would be doom!

(1)  The trumpets of doom sound again

The blog post that went viral: “Nasa-funded study: industrial civilisation headed for ‘irreversible collapse’?“, Nafeez Ahmed (journalist, director of Institute for Policy Research & Development), blog of the Guardian, 14 March 2014 — “Natural and social scientists develop new model of how ‘perfect storm’ of crises could unravel global system.”

It’s based on this paper: “Human and Nature Dynamics (HANDY): Modeling Inequality and Use of Resources in the Collapse or Sustainability of Societies“, Safa Motesharrei, Jorge Rivas, & Eugenia Kalnay, Ecological Economics, in press.

There are widespread concerns that current trends in resource-use are unsustainable, but possibilities of overshoot/collapse remain controversial. Collapses have occurred frequently in history, often followed by centuries of economic, intellectual, and population decline. Many diff erent natural and social phenomena have been invoked to explain speci fic collapses, but a general explanation remains elusive.

In this paper, we build a human population dynamics model by adding accumulated wealth and economic inequality to a predator-prey model of humans and nature. The model structure, and simulated scenarios that off er significant implications, are explained. Four equations describe the evolution of Elites, Commoners, Nature, and Wealth. The model shows Economic Strati cation or Ecological Strain can independently lead to collapse, in agreement with the historical record.

The measure “Carrying Capacity” is developed and its estimation is shown to be a practical means for early detection of a collapse. Mechanisms leading to two types of collapses are discussed. The new dynamics of this model can also reproduce the irreversible collapses found in history. Collapse can be avoided, and population can reach a steady state at maximum carrying capacity if the rate of depletion of nature is reduced to a sustainable level and if resources are distributed equitably.

A provocative piece of early-stage research in an important (if immature field), greeted by the public (especially the Left) as the latest chapter in the endless series of doomster porn. It’s the end of Life!  Again.


(2)  NASA pushes back

If NASA expects the world to end soon, I’ll book passage on a trip to somewhere else!

Nafeez Ahmed and the media ech0-chamber focused on the “NASA-sponsored” aspect to give the study undeserved emphasis. The push-back was fast:  “NASA Statement on Sustainability Study“, press release from NASA, 20 March 2014 — Excerpt (red emphasis added):

“{the paper} was not solicited, directed or reviewed by NASA. It is an independent study by the university researchers utilizing research tools developed for a separate NASA activity. As is the case with all independent research, the views and conclusions in the paper are those of the authors alone. NASA does not endorse the paper or its conclusions.”

The National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC), at which one of the study’s authors works, elaborates further on NASA’s role (red emphasis added):

Read more…


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