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Are Academics Cowards?

The Grip of Grievance Studies and the Sunk Costs of Academic Pursuit

By James A. Lindsay | Areo Magazine | December 4, 2018

There is much that should be said about the ways in which the dominant Social Justice ideology has negative impacts upon the university, free expression, academic freedom and, especially, the sciences. Like all rigid ideologies, Social Justice is inimical to science—not because of what it claims or concludes but because of how it goes about reaching its conclusions. Social Justice, like all rigid ideologies, is only interested in science that supports its predetermined theoretical conclusions and holds all other science suspect.

Of course, the accusation that the sciences are susceptible to the forces of Social Justice and its endless politicking may come as some surprise to those in the sciences, because they are duly confident in their own rigor. They are right to realize that, even if the Social Justice educational reformers go too far or have a frightening amount of institutional control, they cannot really influence science directly because they don’t do science. The assumption held by many, which is plausible, is that scientists will keep doing science according to rigorous scientific methodologies and needn’t worry much about the influence of politics from the more ideological sectors of the academy—including the administration.

This attitude is both laudable and quaintly naive. It is likely to underestimate the degree to which the sciences, like all disciplines, are susceptible to the influences and whims of a dominant orthodoxy. We should note that this exact concern is also what we hear from proponents of Social Justice when they attempt to encroach upon science—it’s perhaps the chorus of the siren song of feminist studies of science and technology to insist that the sciences are already biased and that their activism is a necessary corrective. These criticisms of science insist that science is already prejudiced towards the ideological assumptions of white, Western men and therefore needs to be made more inclusive. This argument, however, goes against the core and essential nature of science, which is universality. Whatever is true about the world should be discoverable by the same methods, regardless of who or what does the experiment.

Another core part of the scientific process is skepticism. This means that science, as a process, is already geared to minimize and correct for potential biases and errors, be they ideological or otherwise. Input into ways to do this more efficiently are always welcome, but Social Justice approaches do not seek to further improve the objectivity of science. Instead, they aim to introduce opposing biases, which they see as effectively counteracting existing ones. Far from being a novel or useful insight, however, concerns about the lack of objectivity on the part of any given observer or theoretician aren’t lost on any serious scientist or philosopher of science and haven’t been in decades (and appropriating Thomas Kuhn’s work here doesn’t work on the Social Justice side).

For these reasons, scientists should be deeply concerned with the possibility that people with strongly ideological and political motives, many of which are ambivalent at best and hostile at worst to the core values of scientific inquiry, might establish themselves as the body of working scientists and arbiters of what science can and should be done and for what reasons. Rigorous epistemology and a certain willingness to let the cards fall where they may and to have one’s ideas proven wrong will suffice.

The thing is, it is extremely likely that a majority of working scientists, at least outside of the social sciences, are keenly aware of the ways in which Social Justice can corrupt science, its conflict with the core values of science and science education, and its potential costs and implications. Nevertheless, it appears that they are letting it happen. Why would they do this?

There’s no real mystery in this question. Most of the scientists who see the writing on the wall and wish they could do something about it will eagerly tell you precisely why they don’t speak and act against the creeping woke hegemony they know will eventually corrupt their disciplines, possibly for generations. They’re afraid. They’re afraid they’ll be fired. They’re afraid they’ll be blacklisted from jobs, tenure and research funding opportunities. They’re afraid they’ll become thorns in the sides of the administration, especially the Grand Wizards of their institutions’ Offices of Diversity and Inclusion, and targets of the newly minted campus inquisition Bias Response Teams, and never have another peaceful day to get real work done. They’re afraid they’ll be done like Tim Hunt was done.

Outside of the academy, this attitude often gets them branded cowards. In fact, the insistence that academics are cowardly, and that’s how we got into this mess in the first place, is one that seems to have a worrying level of support lately. It’s probably true that significant numbers of academics are cowards. In the main, however, it is only true in the sense in which a person is a coward for knowing that the first few to speak out in a revolt against any hegemonic regime are going to be its first martyrs. Speaking game theoretically, she who speaks out first should always be somebody else.

On those grounds, it’s probably not correct to say that academics are cowards. We hear exhortations that they should have the courage to risk their positions by speaking out because they have options. They have PhDs for God’s sake—surely they can get another job somewhere. This is a popular myth, but the opposite is nearer to the truth. Getting a PhD often locks a person into very few options other than to toe whatever line is needed to stay in academia. If we’re going to solve many of the institutional problems facing the academic working environment, not least the creep of Social Justice ideology into these institutions, the reality of the PhD job market is going to have to be taken into account.

To understand and find a workable path forward, we need to empathize.

Imagine yourself as a relatively new PhD. Chances are that you have spent anywhere between the last three and twelve years dedicated to higher education, and you have been following a path of increasing difficulty, paired with increasingly specific and narrow focus. By definition, supposing your committee and institution were up to the task and you’re not a rather extreme outlier, you should be for about eighteen months the world’s foremost authority on some exceptionally narrow topic within a subfield of whatever field you tell people that you got your doctorate in. You’re going to be competent in other aspects of that field, of course, but it’s important to remember that you’ve spent at least the last two or three years of your program (or the entire program, depending on the country where you studied) going right to the bottom of some fairly deep rabbit hole.

Why did you do this? Passion. Love. Interest. Enthusiasm. To pursue the simple dream of doing something you genuinely love doing.

It’s virtually impossible to push yourself through a PhD program unless you truly love the subject you’re studying and want to devote your working life to researching it and teaching it—which means getting an academic job. And earning a PhD isn’t exactly a picnic. (When I did my master’s degree, my reaction was that it was a bit surprising how easy it was to earn compared to my expectations going into the program. When I finished my Ph.D., the only thing I could say was, “they don’t give those away!”) In nearly every case, it takes a great deal of dedication, interest and passion to earn a PhD, to say nothing of luck and talent.

The phrase grad student is misleading. It seems to many kind of like Easy Street. But many PhD students and postdocs work obscene hours—often in excess of eighty hours a week—to keep up with their educational, research and job duties, especially if they want to do well enough to score a tenure-track job later. They usually get summers off from coursework so that they can work even harder on their research, so there’s no real break there. They also usually do this out of passion and grit because there’s hardly any money in graduate assistantship stipends in the wide majority of fields.

And don’t get this wrong. This isn’t a poor PhD candidate story: it’s a tale of investment. A PhD program isn’t just school (or college); it is just another kind of apprenticeship like that any master tradesperson has to go through, except that it takes about a decade of insanely hard work to get through the first stage of it. To earn a PhD requires an enormous investment of time, energy, talent and resources. And what do you get in return (besides your degree and a set of wizard’s robes, complete with a hooded cape and a goofy hat)? (Note: You have to buy the robes and hat, and they’re expensive. Further, you’ll never wear them again unless you go into academia professionally.)

Pause to consider this. Chances are, if you’re looking for academic jobs, especially in the sciences, you’re coming off a postdoc or two, so you’ve literally spent the last decade or more in training for the job you hope to get. You’ve made incredible sacrifices for it. You’ve invested more into getting past the first hurdle of a future career than almost anyone else. Just imagine training at double full time, paid less than minimum wage, for a decade for a job and then being able to think it’s worth risking the career you’re working for to make a political point, even a really important or necessary one.

It’s not easy to call that cowardice when you see what it’s really about.

But you got a PhD at the end of it, so you’ve got little to worry about now, right? Wrong. By the time you earn your PhD, you will have achieved a few things, all of which contribute to why your job prospects outside of the academy border upon the mythological.

One: you’ll be hyper-competent in something pretty narrow and specific, while being generally knowledgeable about the raft of information that supports that specific set of skills. This isn’t particularly great for you, unless you get to apply that specific focus or fall into something closely related. This isn’t really a problem within the academy because it’s where your passion for researching and teaching led you—and it’s the job you trained yourself for—but if you abandon academia, it is a big problem.

Two: you will become overqualified for the vast majority of positions in the working world. For a long time, I wasn’t able to understand how overqualification is a problem, but I do now. If you are overqualified, you aren’t just worth more than many employers might want to pay; you’re worth more for a specific and important reason that matters far more than your education. Employers know that overqualified employees aren’t likely to last a long time in their jobs. It’s altogether too likely that an overqualified employee will become bored with their current job or find one more fitting to their qualifications and leave. This is a real risk for an employer, especially one who may (or may not!) already be paying you a lot more for your time than they’d pay someone rightly qualified for the work. This limits your employment options to something for which you are genuinely qualified (mostly in academia), jobs that don’t care about high turnover rates or jobs obtained through nepotism.

Three: despite having proved your capacity to learn new things and get very, very good at them, you’re likely to be essentially useless at everything else. I know this is a tough pill to swallow for a lot of PhDs, but it’s exactly how they’re seen from the outside. Even making the jump from a coding-heavy science specialty to something like commercial data mining—which you probably have the skills to adjust to quickly—isn’t an easy sell.

The result of this is the following employability portfolio. Unless something pretty fortunate happens to you (or nepotism), you can either (a) get a job in your field, which will almost certainly be in academia for most PhDs; (b) attempt to build something on your own; or (c) work somewhere that has high enough employee turnover not to care about your overqualification, for example, as a stocker in a grocery store or a barista in a coffee shop. The myth here is that (b) is easy because you have a PhD. It is, in fact, by far the most difficult of the three options. And (c) is about two notches above throwing the hardest decade of your life in a dumpster and setting it on fire.

Essentially, shooting for that job in academia—which is probably your main ambition anyway—takes a ton of work but is worth competing for because building something successful on your own takes a lot of auxiliary skills, work, time and luck, and it’s still extremely high risk. Most people who try this path fail, and there’s nothing in staying in formal educational spheres until you’re almost thirty that increases your odds at making it in the real world.

Worse, you haven’t probably had the time or resources to lay any of the tracks to pull this off if you’ve been working in academia up until this point because those jobs are usually insanely busy, especially now. That also implies that you can’t really safety net yourself in an academic job while you start building something because working in academia (especially sub-tenure) will leave you with absolutely no time to build a goddamn thing.

Because there are so many people with PhDs now and so many more in the educational pipeline, the academic jobs you’re after (both for practical reasons and because, remember, it’s probably your dream) are insanely competitive—often against people who literally cannot understand why anyone wouldn’t want to work as hard as they can for every waking moment of their lives. Therefore, these extremely demanding jobs don’t come easily, and thus there’s a lot of justifiable fear of losing one. (The applications process for academic jobs is, itself, a fairly brutal full-time job—except it doesn’t pay a cent.) This is even without factoring in the insane investment that went into being qualified for them in the first place.

It’s grimmer than that, though. Because your skill set is likely to be highly specific in your research and limited to education outside of it, there’s pretty much nothing left for you in the overqualification gulf between these options and working the back room of a big box store. And you can’t safety net there, either.

The same forces also make for another type of hypercompetitive pressure on academic jobs—you go obsolete fast. Your skills are hyper-specific, and there’s an army of people coming up behind you, with similar hyper-specific skills, which are just that little bit more fresh. Remember how I mentioned that you’ll be the world’s expert in your dissertation topic for about eighteen months? Yeah, well, take that much time off, and you’re obsolete. There’s no bridge back, at least not to a tenure-track position at a research university. After that much time has passed out of active work in your field, it will be virtually impossible for you to convince anyone that you’re marketable against the glut of hungry candidates who haven’t stepped away for a minute.

So, if you’re going to go for that academic job, you’re going to have to chain yourself to it. Your alternatives are to abandon it entirely (along with your dreams and most of the point of your hard work up to that point) and either take the great risk of building something new, completely changing course in life (probably by taking up a trade), or working in the lowest sectors of the economy, just as you could have done without ever chasing your dreams first.

So take a minute to imagine working a double-full-time apprenticeship in something you’re passionate about and want to do more than anything else in your life, doing it for a decade, and then having to give that up to serve someone coffee because you had political opinions that bucked the institutional orthodoxy. Worse, tenure is (perceived to be) little protection against the considerable inroads made by the Social Justice ideology into the academic institution’s administrative ranks, so that the further one goes in an academic career, the more one has to lose by challenging it. To lose tenure is, in a best case scenario, to have to earn it again, and if PhDs don’t come easy, tenure is far worse. It’s a grim picture.

This set of options sucks so much ass that it’s perfectly reasonable—not cowardly in the least—for so many academics to choose chaining themselves to their careers to be able to keep doing the thing they loved enough to go to college for a decade to be able to do and teach. I mean, you could go back to teaching as an adjunct, but you’re quite literally better off bartending.

In short, we don’t see most academics risking their careers to speak out against the creep of Social Justice ideology or other institutional and administrative nightmares because the risks just aren’t worth the potential rewards in most cases. This isn’t cowardice. It’s a legitimate problem to be overcome.

The thing is, there won’t be change if a few faculty members speak up. On the contrary, by putting themselves in the firing line and being summarily executed, other academics are likely to be further deterred from speaking out. To make a difference will require a critical mass action. It will require honest communication between academics for them to realize how many of them there are who see the same problem and become emboldened enough to feel safe speaking up about the institutionalization of a Social Justice orthodoxy throughout the academy and beyond. What we need now is a way for academics to connect with each other, share their concerns, discuss ways in which they can support each other and then all speak out at once.

The question comes down to what working scientists and other academics who are concerned about Social Justice ideology can do about any of this. Here are a few suggestions. Do as much as you can feel safe doing. That may mean making anonymous posts on message boards, social media or elsewhere. It may mean signing your name to the same, if you think you can. It is probably helpful to feel out the situation with your colleagues and find out whom you can talk to or to seek out similar people online. The purpose of this is to realize that many other people are concerned that the educational reformers and Social Justice busybodies have gone too far. Recognize that what these groups are after is far more than the pleasant sounding diversity, inclusion and equity and look into what those terms really mean. You may find that a great deal of what they’re after is at direct odds with your core values, and this might rouse you to want to do more about it. Most importantly, realize that you’re not alone in this, and you probably have far more colleagues who agree with you than who do not.

December 15, 2018 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance, Science and Pseudo-Science | , , | 1 Comment

Colorado energy company Xcel goes crazy green

One starts to suspect there is a lot of hype, and maybe securities fraud, going on here

By David Wojick, PhD | Watts Up With That? | December 14, 2018

Awhile back, I wrote an article about how the radical Colorado Energy Plan is actually designed to serve the gigantic Colorado utility company Xcel – not Colorado families and businesses – by beefing up Xcel’s asset base … and bottom line … with $2.5 billion worth of new generating capacity.

The kicker is that the Plan substitutes expensive, unreliable wind power for affordable, reliable coal-generated electricity, and thus is really part of a clever corporate strategy designed by Xcel.

Xcel’s plan was to get past 50% renewable. But now it has doubled down on that. The company just announced that it plans to become 100% “emissions free” by 2050. Xcel serves eight states from Colorado to Michigan, so a lot of people should be grabbing their wallets at this point.

Of course this is all based on the bogus “dangerous manmade climate change” scare, but Xcel stands to make huge profits from it. Being a regulated utility, the more it spends, the more it makes (and the more its customers pay) – while the utility gets to strut its supposed ecological virtues.

Ben Fowke, chairman, president and CEO, Xcel Energy puts it this way: “We’re accelerating our carbon reduction goals because we’re encouraged by advances in technology, motivated by customers who are asking for it, and committed to working with partners to make it happen.

I doubt the customers asking for it have any idea what it will cost them.

The Greens love it, of course. Fred Krupp, president of Environmental Defense Fund, says it is all about “carbon dioxide pollution,” which is a hoax. Here is Krupp’s claim:

“Ambitious efforts to slash carbon dioxide pollution are urgently needed. Xcel Energy’s vision will help speed the day when the United States eliminates all such pollution from its power sector, which is necessary to seize the environmental and economic opportunity of powering cars, trucks, homes and businesses with cost-effective, zero-emitting electricity.”

Keep in mind, this “carbon dioxide pollution” is what you exhale every time you breathe. It’s what animals exhale. It’s what plants inhale – and the more carbon dioxide (CO2) there is in the air, the faster and better crop, forest and grassland plants grow, using less water in the process.

Colorado’s radical green Governor-elect Jared Polis is politically ecstatic, saying: “When I launched my campaign back in 2017, we had a bold agenda for our state – to get to 100% renewable by 2040. Xcel Energy’s exciting announcement today, along with the strong climate goals communities like Pueblo, Summit County, Ft. Collins, Denver and others across the state have embraced, shows we are leading the way forward right here in Colorado – by committing to a renewable and clean energy future.”

Polis and the others are deeply mistaken in thinking Xcel means 100% renewables. That is actually impossible, because wind and solar generation are highly intermittent, as I explain here. Xcel knows this too, but hides it with the following vague statements:

Achieving the long-term vision of zero-carbon electricity requires technologies that are not cost effective or commercially available today. That is why Xcel Energy is committed to ongoing work to develop advanced technologies while putting the necessary policies in place to achieve this transition.” (Emphasis added)

Zero emissions and 100% renewables are two very different things, as I explain here in my article “100% Renewable Deception.” In fact, Xcel is planning to use enormous numbers of batteries, plus fossil-fuel generation with carbon (CO2) capture and storage. That is, both chemical and carbon-based energy.

In particular, fossil fueled generation with carbon capture and storage (CCS) means immensely more fossil fuels must be used to create and operate all of this hi-tech and largely unproven technology. And that means hundreds of millions, or even billions, of dollars in additional costs for Colorado businesses and families. All to capture and store the trace gas (0.04% or 400 parts per million of Earth’s atmosphere) that we exhale.

Note too that the supposed battery and carbon-capture-and-storage technologies do not even exist in usable form. How then does Xcel know they will be cost effective? Clearly they cannot know this. I have seen no hint of an engineering plan or cost estimate for bringing this scheme off – and doubt one exists.

Increased reliance on intermittent, weather-dependent wind power also increases grid instability and the likelihood of blackouts, brownouts and rolling outages. Customers more and more often get power when it’s available, instead of when they need it.

Also keep in mind that “emissions free” really means no emissions from electricity sources located in Colorado. The misleading claim completely ignores the massive emissions elsewhere in the world – of very real pollution, as well as emissions of plant-fertilizing carbon dioxide – in the process of mining and processing the enormous amounts of metals, hydrocarbons and other materials required to make those turbines, manufacturing the 600-foot-tall windmills, transporting and installing them, and so on.

Enormous amounts of metals and other materials are also needed for the backup fossil fuel power plants, CCS equipment, extra-long transmission lines – or massive battery arrays, if Xcel decides it’s going to use “clean, green” batteries instead of coal- or gas-fired backup power plants. Those backup systems, by the way, actually do 70-85% of the electricity generation, because the wind turbines only work 15-30% of the time. And it all impacts millions of acres of once pristine land, in Colorado and elsewhere.

One more important point, while we’re on the topic of corporate ethics and environmental virtue: A lot of those metals and minerals – especially the rare earths, lithium, cobalt, cadmium and other specialty items required in all this high-tech equipment – come from China, Mongolia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and other faraway, out-of-sight-and-mind places. Places where child labor is common, and health, safety and environmental standards are all but non-existent.

You could think of them as the renewable energy equivalent of “Blood Diamonds,” like the ones Leonardo DiCaprio dislikes so intensely that he made a movie about them – when he wasn’t driving his heavily subsidized Tesla, which also uses extensive “blood battery” technology.

(Xcel and its lawyers and environmental and political friends didn’t mention any of that? That’s really surprising, considering how often they emphasize their ethics and planet-saving virtues.)

A lot of people who buy into the climate scare invest on the basis of “greenness.” Given that Xcel is a publicly traded, stockholder owned corporation, one wonders if this “we are the greenest in the land” hype – or any of the lofty but specific promises Xcel has been making – amount to securities fraud.

Perhaps this potential fraud is something the SEC and FTC should look into.

David Wojick is an independent analyst specializing in science and logic in public policy.

December 15, 2018 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Economics, Science and Pseudo-Science | , | Leave a comment

Lessons from the failure of the climate change crusade

By Larry Kummer | Fabius Maximus | December 10, 2018

Summary: Despite thirty years of efforts by most of the elite institutions of America, US governments have done little to fight climate change. While a bout of awful weather might panic America into enacting activists’ wish list, as of today this is one of the great political failures of modern American history. It is rich with lessons for when scientists warn of the next disaster. The 21st century will give us more such challenges. Let’s try to do better.

The puzzle of the climate change crusade

Since James Hansen brought global warming to the headlines in his 1989 Senate testimony, scientists working for aggressive public policy action have had almost every advantage. They have PR agencies (e.g., the expensive propaganda video by 10:10). They have most of America’s elite institutions supporting them, including government agencies, the news media, academia, foundations, even funding from the energy companies. The majority of scientists in all fields support the program.

The other side, “skeptics”, have some funding from energy companies and conservative groups, with the heavy lifting being done by a small number of scientists and meteorologists, plus volunteer amateurs.

What the Soviet military called the correlation of forces overwhelmingly favored those wanting action. Public policy in America and the West should have gone green many years ago. But America’s governments have done little. Climate change ranks at the bottom of most surveys of what Americans’ see as our greatest challenges? (CEOs, too.) In November, Washington voters decisively defeated an ambitious proposal to fight climate change.

And not just in the USA. Climate change policy toppled Australia’s government. The Yellow Vest protests in France are the death knell for large-scale action in France. What went wrong?

The narrative gives answers

The usual answers use the information deficit model, in which the public’s skepticism about the need for radical action results from a lack of information. Thirty years of providing information at increasing volume and intensity has accomplished nothing. Pouring more water on a rock does not make it wetter.

“Insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results.”
— Ancient adage of Alcoholics Anonymous. More about that here.

Others give more complex explanations, such as “Between conflation and denial – the politics of climate expertise in Australia” by Peter Tangney in the Australian Journal of Political Science.

“This paper describes an ongoing tension between alternative uses of expert knowledge that unwittingly combines facts with values in ways that inflame polarised climate change debate. Climate politics indicates a need for experts to disentangle disputed facts from identity-defining group commitments.” {See Curry’s article for more about this paper.}

There are simpler and more powerful explanations for the campaign’s failure. Lessons giving us useful lessons for dealing with future threats.

Lesson #1: Standards are high for those sounding the alarm

“Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion.”
— A harsh but operationally accurate Roman proverb.

We have seen this played out many times in books and films since the publication of When Worlds Collide in 1932. A group of scientists see a threat. They go to America’s (or the world’s) leaders and state their case, presenting the data for others to examine and answering questions. There are two levels to this process.

First, the basis for the warnings must be evaluated by an interdisciplinary team of experts outside the community sounding the alarm. Climate models are the core of the warning about climate change. They have never been so examined. Perhaps we can end the climate policy wars by a test of the models. Whatever the costs of such reviews and tests, they would be trivial compared to the need to establish public confidence in these models.

Second, questions from the public must be answered. Of course, such warnings are greeted with skepticism. That is natural given the extraordinary nature of the threat and vast commitment of resources needed to fight it. Of course, many of the questions will be foolish or ignorant. Nevertheless, they all must be answered, with the supporting data made publicly available. Whatever the cost of doing so, it is trivial compared to the need.

Scientists seeking to save the world should never say things like this…

“In response to a request for supporting data, Philip Jones, a prominent researcher {U of East Anglia} said ‘We have 25 or so years invested in the work. Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it?’”

– From the testimony of Stephen McIntyre before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce (the July 2006 hearings which produced the Wegman Report). Jones has not publicly denied this.

Scientists seeking to save the world should not destroy key records, which are required to be kept and made public. They should not force people to file Freedom of Information requests to get key information. And the response to FOIs should never be like this…

“The {climategate} emails reveal repeated and systematic attempts by him and his colleagues to block FOI requests from climate sceptics who wanted access to emails, documents and data. These moves were not only contrary to the spirit of scientific openness, but according to the government body that administers the FOI act were ‘not dealt with as they should have been under the legislation.’” {The Guardian.}

Steve McIntyre has documented the defensive and self-defeating efforts of climate scientists to keep vital information secret, often violating the disclosure policies of journals, universities, and government funding agencies. To many laypeople these actions by scientists scream “something wrong”.

Yet these were common behaviors by climate scientists to requests for information by both scientists and amateurs. This kind of behavior, more than anything else, provoked skepticism. Rightly or not, this lack of transparency suggested that the scientists sounding the alarm were hiding something.

The burden of proof rests on those warning the world about a danger requiring trillions of dollars to mitigate, and perhaps drastic revisions to – or even abandoning – capitalism (as in Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate and “In Fiery Speeches, {Pope} Francis Excoriates Global Capitalism“).

Lesson #2: don’t get tied to activists

Activists latch onto threats for their own purposes. They exaggerate threats, attack those asking questions, and poison the debate. Scientists who treat them as allies must remember the ancient rule that “silence means assent.” Failure to speak when activists misrepresent the science discredits both groups.

For a sad example, look at “the pause.” Starting in 2006 climate scientists noticed a slowing in the rate of atmospheric warming. By 2009 there were peer-reviewed papers about it (e.g., in GRL), and it was an active focus of research (see links to these 29 papers). In 2013 the UK Met Office published a series of papers about the pause, which shifted the frontier of climate science from discussion about the existence of the “pause” to its causes (see links to these 38 papers). Some scientists gave forecasts of its duration (see links to 17 forecasts) – since a pause is, by definition, temporary.

During this period activists wrote scores, or hundreds, of articles not only denying that there was a pause in warming – but mocking as “deniers” people citing the literature about it. For example, see Phil Plait’s articles at Slate here and here. The leaders of climate science remained silent. Even those writing papers about the pause remained silent while activists ignored their work.

While an impressive display of climate scientists’ message discipline, it blasted away their credibility for those who saw the science behind the curtain of propaganda.

Conclusions

“The time for debate has ended”
Marcia McNutt (then editor-in-Chief of Science and now President of the NAS) in “The beyond-two-degree inferno“, an editorial in Science, 3 July 2015.

I agree with McNutt: the public policy debate has ended. A critical mass of the US public has lost confidence in climate science as an institution (i.e., rejecting its warnings). As a result, the US probably will take no substantial steps to prepare for possible future climate change, not even preparing for re-occurrence of past extreme weather. The weather will determine how policy evolves, and eventually prove which side was right.

All that remains is to discuss the lessons we can learn from this debacle so that we can do better in the future. More challenges lie ahead in which we will need scientists to evaluate risks and find the best responses. Let’s hope we do better next time.

For More Information

For more information about this vital issue see the keys to understanding climate change and these posts about ways to end the climate wars…

  1. Important: climate scientists can restart the climate change debate – & win.
  2. Thomas Kuhn tells us what we need to know about climate science.
  3. Daniel Davies’ insights about predictions can unlock the climate change debate.
  4. Karl Popper explains how to open the deadlocked climate policy debate.
  5. Paul Krugman talks about economics. Climate scientists can learn from his insights.
  6. Milton Friedman’s advice about restarting the climate policy debate.
  7. A candid climate scientist explains how to fix the debate.
  8. Roger Pielke Jr.: climate science is a grab for power.

December 14, 2018 Posted by | Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | | 6 Comments

Crying Wolf Over The Great Barrier Reef

By Dr Peter Ridd | The Global Warming Policy Forum | December 12, 2018

Scientists from James Cook University have just published a paper on the bleaching and death of corals on the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) and were surprised that the death rate was less than they expected because of the adaptability of corals to changing temperatures. It appears as though they exaggerated their original claims and are quietly backtracking. To misquote Oscar Wilde, to exaggerate once is a misfortune, to do it twice looks like carelessness, but to do it repeatedly looks like unforgivable systemic unreliability by some of our major science organisations.

It is a well-known phenomenon that corals can adapt very rapidly to high temperatures and that if you heat corals in one year, they tend to be less susceptible in future years to overheating. It is the reason why corals are one of the least likely species to be affected by climate change, irrespective of whether you believe the climate is changing by natural fluctuations or from human influence.

Corals have a unique way of dealing with changing temperature by changing the microscopic plants that live inside them. These microscopic plants called zooxanthellae give the coral energy from the sun by photosynthesis in exchange for a comfortable home inside the coral. But when the water gets hot, these little plants become effectively poisonous to the coral and the coral throws out the plants turning the coral white – it bleaches. But most of the time the coral will recover from the bleaching. And here’s their trick- they take in new zooxanthellae, that floats around in the water quite naturally, and can select different species of zooxanthellae to be better suited to hot weather. Most other organisms have to change their genetic makeup to deal with temperature changes, something that can take many generations. But corals can do it in a few weeks by just changing the plants that live inside them. They have learnt a thing or two in a couple of hundred years of evolution.

The problem here is that the world has been completely mislead by scientists about the affect of bleaching and rarely mention the spectacular regrowth that occurs. For example, the 2016 bleaching event supposedly killed either 95%, 50% or 30% of the reef depending upon which headline and scientist you want to believe. But the scientists only looked at very shallow water coral – less than 2 meters below the surface which is only a small fraction of all the coral, but by far the most susceptible to getting hot in the tropical sun. A recent study found that the deep water coral (down to over 40 m) got far less bleaching as one would expect. I estimate that less than 8% of the GBR coral actually died. That might still sound like a lot, but considering that there was a 250% INCREASE in coral between 2011 and 2016 for the entire Southern Zone of the GBR, an 8% decrease is nothing to worry about. Coral recovers fast.

But this is just the tip of the exaggeration iceberg. Some very eminent scientists claim that bleaching never happened before the 1980’s and is entirely a man-made phenomenon. This was always a ridiculous proposition. A recent study of 400-year-old corals has found that bleaching has always occurred and is no more common now than in the past. Scientist have also claimed that there has been a 15% reduction in the growth rate of corals. However, some colleagues and I demonstrated that there were serious errors in their work and that if anything there has been a slight increase in coral growth rate over the last 100 years. This is what one would expect in a gently warming climate. Corals grow up to twice as fast in the hotter water of Papua New Guinea and the northern GBR than in the southern GBR. I could go on with many more examples.

This unreliability of the science is now a widely accepted scandal in many other areas of study and now has a name. “The Replication Crisis”. When checks are made to replicate or confirm scientific results, it is regularly found that around half has flaws. This is an incredible and scandalous situation and it is not just me saying this – it is the editors of eminent journals and many science institutions.  A great deal of effort is now going into fixing this problem especially in the Biomedical Sciences where the problem was first recognised.

But not for GBR science. The science institutions deny there is a problem and fail to correct erroneous work. When Piers Larcombe and I wrote an article to a scientific journal suggesting we needed a little extra checking of GBR science, the response from many very eminent scientists was that there was no need. Everything is fine. I am not sure if this is blind optimism or wilful negligence, but why would anybody object to a little more checking? It would only cost a few million dollars, just a tiny fraction of what the governments will be spending on the reef.

But the truth will out eventually. The scare stories about the GBR started in the 1960’s when scientist first started work on the reef. They have been crying wolf ever since. But the data keeps coming in and, yes, sometimes a great deal of coral dies in a spectacular manner with accompanying media fanfare. It is like a bushfire on land, it looks terrible at first, but it quietly and rapidly grows back ready for the scientists to peddle their story all over again.

Dr Ridd was, until fired this year, a Physicist at the James Cook University Marine Geophysical Laboratory.

December 12, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | | 1 Comment

Fact-checking the second volume of the U.S. National Climate Assessment

By Roger Andrews | Energy Matters | December 4, 2018

This recently-issued study (the “Assessment”) was seized on by the media as proof of the massive damage the US will suffer if nothing is done about climate change. The Assessment’s conclusions are based largely on speculative model projections that aren’t amenable to checking, but it also claims that the US is already experiencing some of the impacts of man-made climate change, and these claims can be checked. This post accordingly evaluates them claim-by-claim and finds that they are rarely backed up by any hard data, that in some cases they are contradicted by disclaimers buried in the text, and that in no case is there any hard evidence that conclusively relates the impacts to man-made climate change. The credibility of the Assessment’s predictions can be judged accordingly.

The Assessment is 1,600 pages long and I doubt that anyone has read it from cover to cover – I certainly haven’t. I have obtained my information from the Summary Findings, Overview, Report Chapters and Downloads sections in the boxes that clicking on this link leads to. These sections themselves contain several hundred pages of text, much of it repetitive, but there is always the possibility that I’ve missed some critical graphic or piece of text. On the other hand, if I’ve missed it the media, who will have read the introductory sections only, will have too.

And how did the media report the Assessment’s results? Here are some excerpts:

Guardian

Climate change is already harming Americans’ lives with “substantial damages” set to occur as global temperatures threaten to surge beyond internationally agreed limits ……… The influence of climate change is being felt across the US with increases in disastrous wildfires in the west, flooding on the east coast, soil loss in the midwest and coastal erosion in Alaska

CBS News

Billions of hours in productivity will be lost. Hundreds of billions of dollars will be wiped from the economy. Tens of thousands of people will die each year. The scientific report, which was produced by 13 federal agencies, describes an American future nothing short of apocalyptic due to rising threats from climate change …. rising sea levels, disruptions in food productions and the spread of wildfires — have all come true today.

National Public Radio

Climate change is happening here and now …. It is affecting all of us no matter where we live. And the more climate changes, the more serious and even more dangerous the impacts will become.

US News & World Report

From record-breaking wildfires that destroyed more than 14,000 homes in California, to hurricanes that devastated parts of Florida and much of Puerto Rico, long-predicted impacts of climate change are here and wreaking havoc.

The media never lose an opportunity to cast climate change in the worst possible light, or fail to report it when someone else does it for them.

And what are the climate change impacts that the Assessment claims are “happening here and now”, which are the only ones we can verify, or not verify as the case may be, against observations? These excerpts identify them either explicitly or implicitly:

Glaciers and snow cover are shrinking

Increases in greenhouse gases and decreases in air pollution have contributed to increases in Atlantic hurricane activity since 1970.

America’s trillion-dollar coastal property market and public infrastructure are threatened by the ongoing increase in the frequency, depth, and extent of tidal flooding due to sea level rise

Existing water, transportation, and energy infrastructure already face challenges from heavy rainfall, inland and coastal flooding, landslides, drought, wildfire, heat waves, and other weather and climate events

Climate-related changes in weather patterns and associated changes in air, water, food, and the environment are affecting the health and well-being of the American people, causing injuries, illnesses, and death.

Rising air and water temperatures and changes in precipitation are intensifying droughts, increasing heavy downpours, reducing snowpack

Our Nation’s aging and deteriorating infrastructure is further stressed by increases in heavy precipitation events, coastal flooding, heat, wildfires

Some storm types such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and winter storms are also exhibiting changes that have been linked to climate change

After eliminating repetition and sorting the individual impacts into something resembling order we are left with droughts; floods; heavy precipitation; heat waves; wildfires; Atlantic hurricanes; tornadoes; winter storms; sea level rise; glaciers and snowpack; injuries, illnesses and death. We will review these in order of appearance:

1. Droughts

The Assessment begins by claiming that climate-change-induced droughts are intensifying in the US. Then later in the text it shoots itself in the foot:

While there are a number of ways to measure drought, there is currently no detectable change in long-term U.S. drought statistics using the Palmer Drought Severity Index

And adds a graphic to prove it, reproduced below as Figure 1:

Figure 1: US drought conditions. The Palmer Drought Severity Index is the commonly-used metric for measuring drought intensity

2. Floods

The Assessment provides no hard data to back up its claims that climate change is already causing increased flooding in the US (coastal flooding is discussed under sea level rise). The only quantitative historical data I can find on US floods are summarized in Figure 2 (data from Researchgate ):

Figure 2: Two measures of US flood damage, 1934-2000

These graphics don’t tell us whether floods in the US are on the increase or not. And the Assessment doesn’t tell us either, Not only does it fail to detect any nationwide trends, it states that it never claimed any relationship between floods and man-made climate change to begin with:

Analysis of 200 U.S. stream gauges indicates areas of both increasing and decreasing flooding magnitude but does not provide robust evidence that these trends are attributable to human influences …. Hence, no formal attribution of observed flooding changes to anthropogenic forcing has been claimed.

3. Heavy Precipitation

Since the Assessment admits that there are no detectable human-induced trends in US flooding we can reasonably assume that the claimed increase in heavy precipitation events has had no impact. But we will look at the data anyway. The Assessment presents this   graphic to back up its claim that heavy precipitation events are increasing over the US as a whole (Figure 3). As usual, the source of the data is not specified:

Figure 3: Percent of US land area with heavy precipitation events

The U.S. Global Change Research Program, under the auspices of which the Assessment was written, also produces graphics showing how heavy precipitation has changed with time and by region in the US (they may in fact be buried in parts of the Assessment I haven’t looked at). According to Figure 4 (from Globalchange) heavy precipitation events have increased over all of the US except the Southwest:

Figure 4: Increases in US total precipitation and very heavy precipitation events by region

And Huang et al (2017) produce time series showing how total precipitation and extreme precipitation in the Northeast US have both increased since about 1960 (Figure 5):

Figure 5: Increases in US total and extreme precipitation

So in this case the claim checks out against observations, or least in the northeast US. A lingering question, however, is how much of the increase in heavy precipitation was caused by man-made climate change. The Assessment implicitly assumes that all of it was, but a 2015 study by Hoerling et al. concludes that most of the changes after 1979 were caused by ocean variability:

Based on the modeling results, we conclude that anthropogenic climate change has not been a principal factor driving key characteristics of observed changes in U.S. heavy daily precipitation since 1979 …. Our results provide evidence for an alternative argument for another factor that has been operating in recent decades, namely, that statistics of U.S. heavy precipitation have been sensitive to strong decadal ocean variability since 1979

4. Heat Waves

One of the problems with heat waves is defining them (droughts and floods have the same problem). How hot does it have to get, and for how long, before a warm spell becomes a heat wave? The Assessment does not tell us. All it presents in the way of evidence for an increase in heat waves in the introductory report sections, including the 186-page “Report-in-Brief”, is this graphic (Figure 6), which shows the “heat wave season” increasing since the 1960s but not how many heat waves there were. Once again the data source is not specified, nor is the meaning of the cross-hatching:

Figure 6: Length of US “heat wave season”

The next graphic (Figure 7) is another one I added from the globalchange website. It shows an increase in daily record high temperatures in recent decades but again provides no information on the number of heat waves. How many of the record highs, for example, occurred in the winter?

Figure 7: Record daily highs in the US. The meaning of “ratio of daily temperature records” isn’t clear

The only graphic I found that provided any historic information on the incidence of heat waves was the Figure 8 plot of the EPA’s Annual Heat Wave Index. It’s not surprising that it doesn’t appear in the Assessment:

Figure 8: US annual heat wave index since 1895

5. Wildfires

The Assessment provides two graphics to support its claim that climate change is causing more wildfires. Figure 9 shows the first. Again no data source is cited, but it turns out that it comes from the National Interagency Fire Center:

Figure 9: Acres burned by US wildfires since 1987

It also shows only a fraction of the NIFC data. Figure 10, for what it may be worth, shows the complete plot. I say “for what it may be worth” because the plot comes accompanied by this disclaimer:

The National Interagency Coordination Center at NIFC compiles annual wildland fire statistics for federal and state agencies. This information is provided through Situation Reports, which have been in use for several decades. Prior to 1983, sources of these figures are not known, or cannot be confirmed, and were not derived from the current situation reporting process. As a result the figures prior to 1983 should not be compared to later data.

Figure 10: Acres burned by US wildfires. Figure 9 data carried back to 1926

Figure 11 reproduces the Assessment’s second graphic. It shows that about half of the increase in acreage burned was caused by climate change. (Note that it conflicts with the Figure 9 data, according to which a cumulative total of 173 million acres, not 23 million, has been burned since 1984).

Figure 11: Acreage burned by naturally-occurring wildfires vs. acreage burned by climate-change-caused wildfires

In this case the data source is specified. It’s a 2016 paper written by John T. Abatzoglou and A. Park Williams entitled “Impact of anthropogenic climate change on wildfire across western US forests”. How did they segregate climate change-caused wildfires from naturally-occurring wildfires? They used climate models:

We quantify the influence of ACC (anthropogenic climate change) using the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project, Phase 5 (CMIP5) multimodel mean changes in temperature and vapor pressure …. This approach defines the ACC signal for any given location as the multimodel mean 50-y low-pass-filtered record of monthly temperature and vapor pressure anomalies relative to a 1901 baseline.

Before we can accept these results as meaningful we must assume that the global CMIP5 climate models can hindcast temperatures and vapor pressures to a high level of accuracy in the US, which they probably can’t (it’s generally accepted that climate models do a poor job of simulating regional changes). We also have to assume that the numerous other variables that affect wildfires have had no impact. This is a stretch, to put it mildly.

6. Atlantic Hurricanes

In this case the Assessment supplies no data, or at least none that I can find, to back up its claim that Atlantic hurricanes have increased since 1970. So once again I have had to dig up data on my own. Figure 12 (data from the US Environmental Protection Agency) plots the number of North Atlantic hurricanes since 1880. The total number is defined by the orange line, which adjusts for undercounting before 1967, and by the green line after that. There has been an erratic overall increase since about 1970, but since 1880 there has been no clear trend:

Figure 12: Unadjusted hurricane counts, hurricane counts adjusted for undercounting and hurricanes making landfall in the US

The North Atlantic, however, is not part of the US. The important consideration is how many hurricanes have made landfall in the US. These are shown by the red line at the bottom of Figure 12. There is no clear trend since 1970 and if anything a decrease since 1880.

According to Figure 13 (data from Dr. Roy Spencer) major hurricanes making landfall in the US have also been decreasing since the 1930s:

Figure 13: Major hurricanes making landfall in the US

And according to Klotzbach et al (2018) there has been little to no increase in normalized hurricane damages in the US since 1900 (Figure 13):

Figure 14: Normalized damages from hurricanes making landfall in the US

In this case the claim broadly matches observations but conceals (probably deliberately) the big picture, which is that man-made climate change has not increased the incidence of, or the damage caused by, North Atlantic hurricanes making landfall in the US since at least the late 1800s.

7. Tornadoes

Some storm types such as … tornadoes … are also exhibiting changes that have been linked to climate change. Once more the Assessment presents no supporting data, but NOAA’s tornado counts (Figure 15) speak for themselves:

Figure 15: Total tornado and strong-to-violent tornado counts since 1954

8. Winter Storms

… winter storms … are also exhibiting changes that have been linked to climate change.

Once again there are no supporting data in the Assessment, but according to Coleman & Schwartz’s 2017 paper An Updated Blizzard Climatology of the Contiguous United States (1959–2014) the incidence of blizzards in the US has been increasing (Figure 16):

Figure 16: Incidence of blizzards in US

Is this counter-intuitive increase related to climate change? NOAA thinks it may be, although NOAA’s explanation works only in the eastern US ….

Conditions that influence the severity of eastern U.S. snowstorms include warmer-than-average ocean surface temperatures in the Atlantic. These can lead to exceptionally high amounts of moisture flowing into a storm and contribute to greater intensification of the storm. Natural variability can affect ocean surface temperatures, but as global surface temperatures increase, the temperature at any time is higher than it would have been without climate change.

…. and it doesn’t match up very well with trends in sea surface temperatures off the eastern US coast (data from KNMI Climate Explorer) ….

Figure 17: Sea surface temperatures along US east coast (30N-45N, 65W-80W)

… and according to the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report it’s going off in the wrong direction:

Changes in the frequency, severity, and duration of extreme events may be among the most important risks associated with climate change. In some parts of North America, this includes fewer periods of extreme cold, fewer snowstorms ….

Milder winter temperatures will decrease heavy snowstorms .…

This is one of the cases where the claim matches observational changes, but no conclusion as to causation can be reached until there is agreement over whether climate change causes a) more snowstorms, b) fewer snowstorms or c) both at the same time. My money is on c).

9. Sea Level Rise/Coastal Flooding

These are related phenomena, so I will discuss them under the same heading.

Once more there are no supporting data in the Assessment, so once more I had to go searching for some. This graphic from NOAA shows an increase in high-tide flooding that correlates with an increase in “coastal sea level” (Figure 18):

Figure 18: Average days/year with high-tide flooding vs. US sea level

And as shown in Figure 19 (data from EPA) the increased flooding is dominantly an east coast phenomenon:

Figure 19: Average number of tidal floods/year, 2010-2015 vs. 1950-1959

But note the fine print. These are “nuisance floods” that don’t do any serious damage. There is no accepted definition of a nuisance flood, but a maximum water depth of 10cm has been proposed. And a 10cm-deep flood is hardly a catastrophic event.

And what does sea level rise have to do with the increase in nuisance floods? Not much. The reason nuisance floods are more common along the east coast of the US is that the east coast is sinking (a result of glacial rebound*, sediment compaction and groundwater extraction) while the west coast isn’t, and the rate at which the east coast is sinking exceeds the rate at which sea levels are rising in many places. The PSMSL tide gauge record from Sewell’s Point, near the mouth of Chesapeake Bay, is an example (Figure 20). The trend line shows sea level rising at an average rate of 4.5mm/year, but according to the United States Geological Survey less than half of this – maybe less than 2 mm/year – is a result of eustatic sea level rise. The rest is caused by land subsidence:

* Glacial rebound causes the land in and immediately around the ice sheet to rise while the surrounding land, which was squeezed upwards by the ice, sinks back down again. 

Figure Figure 20: Relative sea level rise, Sewell’s Point, Virginia

10 cm nuisance floods and ~2 mm/year sea level rises also pale into insignificance beside the hurricane storm surges that have occurred in the past and which can be expected to recur in the future along the US east coast. They reached heights of eight feet at Sewell’s point during Hurricane Isabel as recently as 2003 and 18 feet along the North Carolina coast during Hurricane Hazel in 1954.

My 2016 post on Isle de Jean Charles, Louisiana describes how sea level rise routinely takes the blame for inundations it didn’t cause. The Assessment cites it as an example of climate change in action.

10. Glaciers and snowpack

North American glaciers have indeed been retreating, as the Assessment claims. But  according to Oerlemans (2005, Figure 21) they have been retreating since about 1825 and retreating rapidly after 1890, well before human-induced climate forcings became significant. This raises the question of whether the retreat has anything to do with man-made climate change:

Figure 21: Glacier retreat since 1700. The green line is North America

No data are available on snowpack, but Rutgers University publishes North American snow cover data (Figure 22). The trend line shows only a very minor decrease since 1975:

Figure 22: Snow-Covered Area in North America, 1972-2015

11. Injuries, Illnesses and Death:

Climate-related changes in weather patterns …. are affecting the health and well-being of the American people, causing injuries, illnesses, and death.

No data on illnesses or injuries are readily available, but over the last ten years approximately 25 million people have died in the US. According to Wikipedia
natural disasters of the type that commonly get blamed on climate change (hurricanes, floods, blizzards, wildfires, tornadoes) have claimed only 1,200 lives over this period.

Conclusion:

In this post I have fact-checked eleven separate climate change impacts which according to the Assessment’s summary sections are already doing damage in the US. In six of these cases (heavy precipitation, heat waves, wildfires, winter storms, sea level rise/coastal flooding and glacier retreat) there is observational evidence – most of which I have had to dig up myself – for impacts that might be related to man-made climate change, but in all of them this evidence is equivocal (e.g. wildfires) or the impacts are insignificant (e.g. nuisance tidal floods). In the other five cases (droughts, floods, Atlantic hurricanes, tornadoes, and injuries, illnesses and deaths) the observational evidence either contradicts the Assessment’s claims or the Assessment admits later in the text that the claim isn’t valid (droughts and floods).

Clearly the Assessment was conducted with little regard for the facts. A disregard for the facts, however, is necessary if one wishes to get the climate change catastrophe message across.

December 4, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

Academic Journals: High Stakes, Few Safeguards

By Donna Laframboise | Big Picture News | November 28, 2018

If a journal’s decision can make or break your career, its employees wield extraordinary power.

A week ago I discussed a paper that comes right out and says what everyone knows: most academic research eventually gets published in a peer-reviewed journal of some description. After all, there are 34,000 journals out there.

Because universities need criteria by which to award promotions and fast-track careers, it has become accepted wisdom that the most dazzling discoveries are the ones that get published in the most fashionable places. This is a hierarchy, with everyone scrambling for a spot in the high prestige journals at the top of the pyramid.

In the words of a former editor-in-chief of the British Medical Journal, “For an academic, publication in a major journal like Nature or Cell is to win the jackpot.”

As neurobiologist Bjorn Brembs observes, the “underlying assumption is that only the best scientists manage to publish in a highly selective tier of the most prestigious journals.” Where their research appears is “one of the most crucial factors determining their career.”

Government grants get distributed along exactly the same lines. Everyone knows that a scientist whose work has just been accepted by Science has a bright future.

This is an alarming state of affairs. Brilliant minds shouldn’t be sidelined by subjective, unsophisticated snobbery. For his part, Brembs demonstrates that “several lines of evidence” suggest high prestige journals may actually be publishing lower quality research than less prestigious ones.

But there’s actually an entire minefield lurking here. If a journal’s decision can make or break your career, it then follows that the people who work at these journals wield extraordinary power. They exercise that no-fooling power every day. They hold, in their hands, the lives of real people.

We all know power corrupts. We also know the stakes are incredibly high. So what safeguards are in place? What checks and balances prevent journal employees from abusing their power? What mechanisms discourage blatant corruption?

Let us not be naive. As Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, explains:

Whenever the following three conditions are met, you always have rampant cheating:

1. Cheating is easy

2. The payoff is huge.

3. The odds of getting caught are low

Western, affluent societies have placed tremendous trust in institutions of higher learning, in the scholarly publishing industry, and in entities that spend our tax dollars on scientific research.

It takes one’s breath away to comprehend the wobbly foundations on which all three of those now stand.

November 28, 2018 Posted by | Corruption, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | , | Leave a comment

Climate experts call out new federal report for hiding the decline in hurricanes

‘Were they thinking, no one would notice?’

By Marc Morano | Climate Depot | November 25, 2018

Climate expert Prof. Dr. Roger Pielke Jr. noted how the new federal National Climate Assessment report looks at hurricanes.

Pielke Jr. asked on November 24: “How it is that the 2018 US National Climate Assessment failed to include or overlooked trends in US landfalling hurricanes which would, ahem, seem pretty important in a US climate report[?]

Pielke Jr. then noted that the report ignored one of its own expert reviewers who wrote this: “National Hurricane Center going back to the 1800s data clearly indicate a drop in the decadal rate of US landfalling hurricanes since the 1960s… instead you spin the topic to make it sound like the trends are all towards more cyclones.”

Pielke Jr. continued: “Let’s observe here hurricanes are discussed at length in the report, and every hurricane that is discussed is … a landfalling storm. The failure to include trend data on US landfalling hurricanes in USNCA is a remarkable choice. What were they thinking, no one would notice?”

“Here are 2 papers on US hurricanes ignored by USNCA: 1. trends in rainfall & flooding from US hurricanes: 2. trends in US landfalling, intense hurricanes: Neither show long-term trends, but that isn’t a reason to ignore them,” Pielke added.

Dr. Pielke also previously rebuked the new federal climate report, calling it “embarrassing.” See: ‘EMBARRASSING’: CLIMATE EXPERT EXPLAINS WHAT’S WRONG WITH THE WHITE HOUSE’S NEW CLIMATE REPORT – Prof. Roger Pielke Jr.: “By presenting cherrypicked science, at odds w/ NCA Vol,1 & IPCC AR5, the authors of NCA Vol.2 have given a big fat gift to anyone who wants to dismiss climate science and policy.”

Also see:

Scientists trash new federal climate report as ‘tripe’ – ’embarrassing’ – ‘400-page pile of crap’ – Report’s key claim based on ‘study funded by Tom Steyer’

November 26, 2018 Posted by | Science and Pseudo-Science | | Leave a comment

Renowned Physicist Freeman Dyson: “Theories Of Climate Are Very Confused”… “Models Are Wrong”!

“The Uncertainty has Settled” reviewed by P Gosselin | No Tricks Zone | 16. November 2018

In his new documentary “The Uncertainty has Settled,” Dutch filmmaker Marijn Poels focuses on climate science and politics and found that the issue is in fact as controversial and as UNSETTLED as any issue could possibly get.

The science climate change is far from settled and is in fact unsettled.

The production of the film took Poels to a variety of locations from Manhattan to the Austrian Alps.

The first part of the film depicts the plight of farmers in former East Germany (Saxony Anhalt), who are struggling to practice their livelihoods under the heavy burden of German agricultural regulation and market distortion that result from bureaucrats having decided that 0.01% of our atmosphere (man-emitted CO2) is a monumental problem.

That’s the narrative the media and leading politicians keep ramming. But a number of skeptics doubt it, and so Poels investigates if this doubt is just right wind politics or if there is something really behind it. … Full review

[The most notable part of the documentary is the interview with Freeman Dyson, from 1:09:00 – 1:14:00]

[Be sure to watch Piers Corbyn at 41:45 and again at 52:20]

November 18, 2018 Posted by | Economics, Film Review, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular, Video | , | Leave a comment

Erroneous climate change study reported far and wide, corrections few and far between

RT | November 15, 2018

As the world grapples with extreme weather and wildfires, the issue of climate change is at the forefront of policy decisions, scientific research and media coverage – but bias towards alarmism is proving somewhat irresistible.

A new study recently published in the journal Nature suggested that “ocean warming is at the high end of previous estimates,” based on atmospheric data taken between 1991 and 2016. Ocean temperatures are 60-percent higher per year than the estimates offered by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2014, the authors claim.

The research was co-authored by an expert – a Princeton geoscientist no less – so the disturbing news spread like… well, wildfire across the news media, with each headline more breathless than the last. The only problem was, the numbers used to generate the conclusions in the research were off; way off.

One climate change researcher and statistician wasn’t so convinced by the study: Nicholas Lewis took a closer look at the numbers and spotted a few glaring errors in the researchers’ calculations.

“Unfortunately their work involves many assumptions where there is scope for subjective choices by the authors, so it is difficult to validate those assumptions,” Lewis told Reason.com.

In fact, the warming of the world’s oceans was overstated by approximately 30 percent, a substantial margin of error by most standards.

Lewis also questioned the “failure of the original peer review and editorial process to pick up the fairly obvious statistical problems in the original paper.”

In response, the study’s co-author and Scripps Institution of Oceanography climate scientist Ralph Keeling has acknowledged that there may be issues with the numbers, but insists that once they are rectified, it won’t affect the overall conclusion.

The issues “do not invalidate the study’s methodology or the new insights into ocean biogeochemistry on which it is based,” Keeling said in an addendum to the original news release.

While there may be less intense cause for immediate alarm about ocean warming, the entire episode does create concern over the validity of, and scrutiny placed on, research that bows to the scientific consensus rather than that which challenges it.

However, at the time of writing, only a handful of outlets have published news of the correction in comparison with the multitude who shared the original, erroneous findings. Correction coverage just doesn’t generate the clicks quite like alarmism after all.

November 15, 2018 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Science and Pseudo-Science | | Leave a comment