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Want to Know What’s Really Going on in Syria? Warning: It’ll Take You More Than 5 Minutes

By Louis Allday | CounterPunch | September 11, 2015

“Wars are complex. They come out of nowhere and all of a sudden, people you’ve never heard of are killing each other on the evening news.”

So begins this rather patronising piece on Upworthy that attempts to explain in a digestible format what is happening in Syria. Entitled ‘Trying to follow what is going on in Syria and why? This comic will get you there in 5 minutes’, the article presents a neat, but ultimately misleading and reductive narrative, which argues that drought caused by climate change is primarily responsible for the war in Syria. Somewhat regrettably, it has been shared widely over the internet since it was published last week. Presumably it is being read (and shared) by people who are confused by events in Syria and want to find an easy framework with which to understand them.

Even for a piece that is explicitly intended for the layman, it is highly simplistic, misleadingly so. There is no doubt that the major drought witnessed in Syria between 2006 and 2011 had a catastrophic environmental and societal impact on the country, but it is not the over-arching cause of the war. The article is also littered with inaccuracies and has many glaring omissions, including the central role of foreign powers in the war, notably the US. For instance, there is no mention of the US’ long-standing effort (in co-ordination with Saudi Arabia) to encourage Islamic fundamentalism and sectarianism in Syria in order to weaken the Syrian Government at any cost (as revealed by WikiLeaks) and no mention of the CIA’s enormous Syria operation that has cost at least $1bn and trained and armed nearly 10,000 fighters sent to fight in Syria since the war began. But it is something else in the piece that – due to personal experience – I found especially problematic. The piece claims that in response to the drought crisis, “Bashar Al Assad’s Government offered little help” (the word Government is omitted in the article itself, this appears to be an editorial oversight).

In 2009, when the enormous scale of the drought in Syria was becoming clear, I was a research intern at the British Embassy in Damascus. In this role, one of my responsibilities was to attend briefings and events arranged by international organisations and other embassies and report my findings back to the UK Embassy. Therefore, when I read the phrase “offered little help”, I was immediately reminded of a UN briefing that I attended in Damascus in July 2009. As soon as I consulted my original notes from the briefing, the flagrant inaccuracy – if not outright dishonesty – of this wording struck me. At this briefing, the UN Drought Joint Needs Assessment Mission (or the JNA), chaired by Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed (now the Head of the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response), reported to international (primarily western) donors the findings of a field mission that the JNA had conducted in Eastern Syria in June 2009. In his presentation, Ahmed praised the response of the Syrian Government more than once but argued that given the enormous scale of the problem, further action from it was needed. He also summarised the measures that the government had already taken, these included the following:

*A food assistance programme that was supplementing the World Food Program’s efforts. 27,000-30,000 families were guaranteed support until December 2009.

* Livestock feed had been subsidised.

* Outstanding loans of farmers had been re-scheduled and micro-credit loans offered to them.

* New teachers had been hired for affected regions.

* Establishment of a government fund specifically for agricultural subsidies and support.

Representatives of the Syrian Government appeared alongside the UN at the meeting; The Director of Planning from the Syrian Ministry of Agriculture and the Deputy Head of the State Planning Commission. Both these Syrian officials stressed the severity and unprecedented scale of the drought and stated explicitly that the government was struggling to cope with its impact. They openly asked for financial assistance (both short- and long-term) from international donors and stated that the Syrian Government’s efforts alone would not be sufficient to cope. During the briefing a number of funding options were offered to international donors by the UN. These included food distribution for 300,000 people (priced at $29.9m) and water projects including reverse osmosis units and rehabilitation of wells (priced at $2.1m). An overall aid target of $50m was set; a figure that I remember many in the room thought was wholly unrealistic since only $4m had been donated by the same countries/groups the previous year.

In light of this context, the article’s premise that the government “offered little help” is, at best, an unfair and inaccurate simplification of how the Syrian Government actually responded to the drought. At worst, it is an intentional and dishonest attempt to obscure the government’s evident attempts to solve the crisis and mitigate its impact. The reality is that the Syrian Government was simply overwhelmed by the scale of the drought (and its subsequent effects); it did not possess the ability – financial, logistical and otherwise – to respond adequately to it and did not receive sufficient funding from international donors to help account for this deficiency. After that meeting, I remember my impression of the Syrian officials was of two overwhelmed and worried government employees who were acutely aware of the scale of the emergency and the dire need for international assistance but, given the numerous enemies Syria faced, were wary of appearing overly weak in front of an international audience.

Although to some this might seem a relatively unimportant clarification, it is reflective of a much broader trend in reporting on Syria; the constant reduction of the entire Syrian Government/State to simply ‘Assad’ (also the ‘Assad regime’ or ‘Assad’s Government’) and a small group of Alawite ‘thugs’, as if Syria lacked national institutions and infrastructures that although often dysfunctional, have existed and developed over decades, and are staffed by many thousands of government employees. Leader-focused framing such as this plays a central role in legitimising the West’s aggression against entire nation-states (think Gaddafi, Saddam, Milosevic et al) and inevitably, to observe such a fact often means being labelled “pro-Assad” or “pro-Qaddafi” etc. Such is the simplistic portrayal of the ‘Assad regime’ in much of the Western media, that I am sure many in the West would be surprised to learn that Syria even had a Deputy Head of the State Planning Commission or a Director of Planning at the Ministry of Agriculture.

The media’s constant use of ‘Assad’ and ‘regime’ obscures the reality that the government is not a homogenous entity, and that many ‘regime’ officials are simply bureaucrats, technical experts and civil servants, not murderous, sectarian thugs as is so often the impression. After all, Khaled al-Asaad, the former Head of Antiquities at Palmyra who was murdered by ISIS in August was a ‘regime’ official and had been so for forty years. While his murder was unanimously condemned and al-Asaad was – rightfully so – widely mourned by the Western press, the awkward fact that he was a government employee was conveniently downplayed. In the same way, the image of Syrian Government officials in the midst of a drought crisis, outlining the bureaucratic steps taken by the government to date, expressing real concern for the future and pleading for help from international donors does not fit the narrative of ‘Assad and his regime thugs’ and so was ignored.

Ultimately, any article that purports to explain an extremely complex topic in “five minutes” should be treated with extreme scepticism and the utmost caution, and this piece is no exception to that rule.

Louis Allday is a PhD candidate at SOAS based in London. Follow him on Twitter: @Louis_Allday

September 11, 2015 Posted by | Economics, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | , , , | 1 Comment

Students protest Clinton’s speaking fee

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Press TV – June 28, 2014

Students at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas are asking former secretary of state Hillary Clinton to return the hefty speaking fee she is set to collect when she appears at the university in October.

Many Americans have criticized Clinton for her recent interview gaffes, including her defense of her six-figure speaking fees. Angered over her $225,000 speaking fee, UNLV students are now protesting her upcoming appearance at the university.

The students say if Clinton receives six figures for her speech, then she could at least donate the paycheck.

“You could give scholarships to thousands of students, benefit research on campus, give more students grants for research and studying,” Daniel Waqar, Student Relations Director for the UNLV Student Government told Ralston Reports.

Tuition is expected to increase by 17 percent at the school, so students could really use the extra financial support, he added.

“We would hope that Hillary Clinton commits to higher education … and returns part or whole of the amount she receives for speaking,” Elias Benjelloun, the UNLV student body president said.

Clinton is set to appear at the UNLV Foundation Annual Dinner in October. The event already comes with a pretty hefty price tag: individual tickets cost $200 each, while tables cost between $3,000 and $20,000.

Clinton’s office said the fee will be used to develop global initiatives ranging from climate change to women’s rights, according to The Washington Post.

June 28, 2014 Posted by | Corruption | , , , , | 2 Comments

AGW has most of the characteristics of an “urban legend”

By Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D. | Watts Up With That? | October 24, 2009

About.com describes an “urban legend” as an apocryphal (of questionable authenticity), secondhand story, told as true and just plausible enough to be believed, about some horrific…series of events….it’s likely to be framed as a cautionary tale. Whether factual or not, an urban legend is meant to be believed. In lieu of evidence, however, the teller of an urban legend is apt to rely on skillful storytelling and reference to putatively trustworthy sources.

I contend that the belief in human-caused global warming as a dangerous event, either now or in the future, has most of the characteristics of an urban legend. Like other urban legends, it is based upon an element of truth. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas whose concentration in the atmosphere is increasing, and since greenhouse gases warm the lower atmosphere, more CO2 can be expected, at least theoretically, to result in some level of warming.

But skillful storytelling has elevated the danger from a theoretical one to one of near-certainty. The actual scientific basis for the plausible hypothesis that humans could be responsible for most recent warming is contained in the cautious scientific language of many scientific papers. Unfortunately, most of the uncertainties and caveats are then minimized with artfully designed prose contained in the Summary for Policymakers (SP) portion of the report of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). This Summary was clearly meant to instill maximum alarm from a minimum amount of direct evidence.

Next, politicians seized upon the SP, further simplifying and extrapolating its claims to the level of a “climate crisis”. Other politicians embellished the tale even more by claiming they “saw” global warming in Greenland as if it was a sighting of Sasquatch, or that they felt it when they fly in airplanes.

Just as the tales of marauding colonies of alligators living in New York City sewers are based upon some kernel of truth, so too is the science behind anthropogenic global warming. But there is a big difference between reports of people finding pet alligators that have escaped their owners, versus city workers having their limbs torn off by roving colonies of subterranean monsters.

In the case of global warming, the “putatively trustworthy sources” would be the consensus of the world’s scientists. The scientific consensus, after all, says that global warming is… is what? Is happening? Is severe? Is man-made? Is going to burn the Earth up if we do not act? It turns out that those who claim consensus either do not explicitly state what that consensus is about, or they make up something that supports their preconceived notions.

If the consensus is that the presence of humans on Earth has some influence on the climate system, then I would have to even include myself in that consensus. After all, the same thing can be said of the presence of trees on Earth, and hopefully we have at least the same rights as trees do. But too often the consensus is some vague, fill-in-the-blank, implied assumption where the definition of “climate change” includes the phrase “humans are evil”.

It is a peculiar development that scientific truth is now decided through voting. A relatively recent survey of climate scientists who do climate research found that 97.4% agreed that humans have a “significant” effect on climate. But the way the survey question was phrased borders on meaninglessness. To a scientist, “significant” often means non-zero. The survey results would have been quite different if the question was, “Do you believe that natural cycles in the climate system have been sufficiently researched to exclude them as a potential cause of most of our recent warming?”

And it is also a good bet that 100% of those scientists surveyed were funded by the government only after they submitted research proposals which implicitly or explicitly stated they believed in anthropogenic global warming to begin with. If you submit a research proposal to look for alternative explanations for global warming (say, natural climate cycles), it is virtually guaranteed you will not get funded. Is it any wonder that scientists who are required to accept the current scientific orthodoxy in order to receive continued funding, then later agree with that orthodoxy when surveyed? Well, duh.

In my experience, the public has the mistaken impression that a lot of climate research has gone into the search for alternative explanations for warming. They are astounded when I tell them that virtually no research has been performed into the possibility that warming is just part of a natural cycle generated within the climate system itself.

Too often the consensus is implied to be that global warming is so serious that we must do something now in the form of public policy to avert global catastrophe. What? You don’t believe that there are alligators in New York City sewer system? How can you be so unconcerned about the welfare of city workers that have to risk their lives by going down there every day? What are you, some kind of Holocaust-denying, Neanderthal flat-Earther?

It makes complete sense that in this modern era of scientific advances and inventions that we would so readily embrace a compelling tale of global catastrophe resulting from our own excesses. It’s not a new genre of storytelling, of course, as there were many B-movies in the 1950s whose horror themes were influenced by scientists’ development of the atomic bomb.

Our modern equivalent is the 2004 movie, “Day After Tomorrow”, in which all kinds of physically impossible climatic events occur in a matter of days. In one scene, super-cold stratospheric air descends to the Earth’s surface, instantly freezing everything in its path. The meteorological truth, however, is just the opposite. If you were to bring stratospheric air down to the surface, heating by compression would make it warmer than the surrounding air, not colder.

I’m sure it is just coincidence that “Day After Tomorrow” was directed by Roland Emmerich, who also directed the 2006 movie “Independence Day,” in which an alien invasion nearly exterminates humanity. After all, what’s the difference? Aliens purposely killing off humans, or humans accidentally killing off humans? Either way, we all die.

But a global warming catastrophe is so much more believable. After all, climate change does happen, right? So why not claim that ALL climate change is now the result of human activity? And while we are at it, let’s re-write climate history so that we get rid of the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice age, with a new ingenious hockey stick-shaped reconstruction of past temperatures that makes it look like climate never changed until the 20th Century? How cool would that be?

The IPCC thought it was way cool… until it was debunked, after which it was quietly downgraded in the IPCC reports from the poster child for anthropogenic global warming, to one possible interpretation of past climate.

And let’s even go further and suppose that the climate system is so precariously balanced that our injection of a little bit of that evil plant food, carbon dioxide, pushes our world over the edge, past all kinds of imaginary tipping points, with the Greenland ice sheet melting away, and swarms of earthquakes being the price of our indiscretions.

In December, hundreds of bureaucrats from around the world will once again assemble, this time in Copenhagen, in their attempts to forge a new international agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as a successor to the Kyoto Protocol. And as has been the case with every other UN meeting of its type, the participants simply assume that the urban legend is true. Indeed, these politicians and governmental representatives need it to be true. Their careers and political power now depend upon it. And the fact that they hold their meetings in all of the best tourist destinations in the world, enjoying the finest exotic foods, suggests that they do not expect to ever have to be personally inconvenienced by whatever restrictions they try to impose on the rest of humanity.

If you present these people with evidence that the global warming crisis might well be a false alarm, you are rewarded with hostility and insults, rather than expressions of relief. The same can be said for most lay believers of the urban legend. I say “most” because I once encountered a true believer who said he hoped my research into the possibility that climate change is mostly natural will eventually be proved correct.

Unfortunately, just as we are irresistibly drawn to disasters – either real ones on the evening news, or ones we pay to watch in movie theaters – the urban legend of a climate crisis will persist, being believed by those whose politics and worldviews depend upon it. Only when they finally realize what a new treaty will cost them in loss of freedoms and standard of living will those who oppose our continuing use of carbon-based energy begin to lose their religion.

April 6, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

Solar warnings, global warming and crimes against humanity

Malaysian Realist

We’ve been seeing a lot of unexpectedly cool weather across the world. While this may be explained by local phenomenon such as the Northeast Monsoon in Malaysia and the Polar Vortex in the USA, a longer term trend of worldwide cooling is headed our way.

I say this because the sun – the main source of light and heat for our planet – is approaching a combined low point in output. Solar activity rises and falls in different overlapping cycles, and the low points of several cycles will coincide in the near future:

A) 11-year Schwabe Cycle which had a minimum in 2008 and is due for the next minimum in 2019, then 2030. Even at its recent peak (2013) the sun had its lowest recorded activity in 200 years.

B) 87-year Gleissberg cycle which has a currently ongoing minimum period from 1997 – 2032, corresponding to the observed ‘lack of global warming’ (more on that later).

C) 210-year Suess cycle which has its next minimum predicted to be around 2040.

Hence, solar output will very likely drop to a substantial low around 2030 – 2040. This may sound pleasant for Malaysians used to sweltering heat, but it is really not a matter to be taken lightly. Previous lows such as the Year Without A Summer (1816) and the Little Ice Age (16th to 19th century) led to many deaths worldwide from crop failures, flooding, superstorms and freezing winters.

But what about the much-ballyhooed global warming, allegedly caused by increasing CO2 levels in the atmosphere? Won’t that more than offset the coming cooling, still dooming us all to a feverish Earth?

Regarding this matter, it is now a plainly accepted fact that there has been no global temperature rise in the past 25 years. This lack of warming is openly admitted by: NASA; The UK Met Office; the University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit, as well as its former head Dr. Phil Jones (of the Climategate data manipulation controversy); Hans von Storch (Lead Author for Working Group I of the IPCC); James Lovelock (inventor of the Gaia Theory); and media entities the BBC, Forbes, Reuters, The Australian, The Economist, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal.

And this is despite CO2 levels having risen more than 13%, from 349 ppm in 1987 to 396ppm today. The central thesis of global warming theory – that rising CO2 levels will inexorably lead to rising global temperatures, followed by environmental catastrophe and massive loss of human life – is proven false.

(All the above are clearly and cleanly depicted by graphs, excerpts, citations and links in my collection at http://globalwarmingisunfactual.wordpress.com – as a public service.)

This is probably why anti-CO2 advocates now warn of ‘climate change’ instead. But pray tell, exactly what mechanism is there for CO2 to cause climate change if not by warming? The greenhouse effect has CO2 trapping solar heat and thus raising temperatures – as we have been warned ad nauseum by climate alarmists – so how does CO2 cause climate change when there is no warming?

Solar activity is a far larger driver of global temperature than CO2 levels, because after all, without the sun there would be no heat for greenhouse gases to trap in the first place. (Remember what I said about the Gleissberg cycle above?)

And why is any of this important to you and I? It matters because countless resources are being spent to meet the wrong challenges. Just think of all the time, energy, public attention and hard cash that have already been squandered on biofuel mandates, subsidies for solar panels and wind turbines, carbon caps and credits, bloated salaries of dignitaries, annual jet-setting climate conferences in posh five-star hotels… To say nothing of the lost opportunities and jobs (two jobs lost for every one ‘green’ job created in Spain, which now has 26% unemployment!). And most of the time it is the common working man, the taxpayer, you and I who foot the bill.

What if all this immense effort and expenditure had been put towards securing food and clean water for the impoverished (combined 11 million deaths/year)? Or fighting dengue and malaria (combined 1.222 million deaths/year)? Or preserving rivers, mangroves, rainforests and endangered species? Or preparing power grids for the increased demand that more severe winters will necessitate – the same power grids now crippled by shutting down reliable coal plants in favour of highly intermittent wind turbines?

In the face of such dire needs that can be met immediately and effectively, continuing to throw away precious money to ‘possibly, perhaps, maybe one day’ solve the non-problem of CO2 emissions is foolish, arrogant and arguably malevolent. To wit, the UN World Food Programme just announced that they are forced to scale back aid to some of the 870 million malnourished worldwide due to a $1 billion funding shortfall and the challenges of the ongoing Syrian crisis. To put this is context, a billion is a mere pittance next to the tens of billions already flushed away by attempted adherence to the Kyoto Protocol (€6.2 billion for just Germany in just 2005 alone!).

During the high times for global warmist doomsaying, sceptics and realists who questioned the unproven theories were baselessly slandered as ‘anti-science’, ‘deniers’, ‘schills for big oil’… Or even ‘war criminals’ deserving Nuremberg-style trials for their ‘crimes against humanity’!

Now that the tables are turned, just let it be known that it was not the sceptics who flushed massive amounts of global resources down the drain – while genuine human and environmental issues languished and withered in the empty shadow of global warming hysteria. Crimes against humanity, indeed.

February 23, 2014 Posted by | Economics, Science and Pseudo-Science | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

95% of Climate Models Agree: The Observations Must be Wrong

By Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D. | February 7th, 2014

I’m seeing a lot of wrangling over the recent (15+ year) pause in global average warming… when did it start, is it a full pause, shouldn’t we be taking the longer view, etc.

These are all interesting exercises, but they miss the most important point: the climate models that governments base policy decisions on have failed miserably.

I’ve updated our comparison of 90 climate models versus observations for global average surface temperatures through 2013, and we still see that >95% of the models have over-forecast the warming trend since 1979, whether we use their own surface temperature dataset (HadCRUT4), or our satellite dataset of lower tropospheric temperatures (UAH):

CMIP5-90-models-global-Tsfc-vs-obs-thru-2013

Whether humans are the cause of 100% of the observed warming or not, the conclusion is that global warming isn’t as bad as was predicted. That should have major policy implications…assuming policy is still informed by facts more than emotions and political aspirations.

And if humans are the cause of only, say, 50% of the warming (e.g. our published paper), then there is even less reason to force expensive and prosperity-destroying energy policies down our throats.

I am growing weary of the variety of emotional, misleading, and policy-useless statements like “most warming since the 1950s is human caused” or “97% of climate scientists agree humans are contributing to warming”, neither of which leads to the conclusion we need to substantially increase energy prices and freeze and starve more poor people to death for the greater good.

Yet, that is the direction we are heading.

And even if the extra energy is being stored in the deep ocean (if you have faith in long-term measured warming trends of thousandths or hundredths of a degree), I say “great!”. Because that extra heat is in the form of a tiny temperature change spread throughout an unimaginably large heat sink, which can never have an appreciable effect on future surface climate.

If the deep ocean ends up averaging 4.1 deg. C, rather than 4.0 deg. C, it won’t really matter.

~

Roy W. Spencer received his Ph.D. in meteorology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1981. Before becoming a Principal Research Scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville in 2001, he was a Senior Scientist for Climate Studies at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, where he and Dr. John Christy received NASA’s Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal for their global temperature monitoring work with satellites. Dr. Spencer’s work with NASA continues as the U.S. Science Team leader for the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer flying on NASA’s Aqua satellite. He has provided congressional testimony several times on the subject of global warming.

Dr. Spencer’s research has been entirely supported by U.S. government agencies: NASA, NOAA, and DOE. He has never been asked by any oil company to perform any kind of service. Not even Exxon-Mobil.

Dr. Spencer’s first popular book on global warming, Climate Confusion (Encounter Books), is now available at Amazon.com and BarnesAndNoble.com.

February 10, 2014 Posted by | Malthusian Ideology, Phony Scarcity, Science and Pseudo-Science | , , | Leave a comment

Senate EPW Hearing on the President’s Climate Action Plan

By Judith Curry | Climate Etc. | January 16, 2014

The hearing is now concluded, I’m on a plane flying back to Atlanta.

The testimony from each of the witnesses is now online [here].  The link for my testimony is [here].

The content of my verbal remarks is below:

I would like to thank the Committee for the opportunity to present testimony this morning. I am Chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology. I have devoted 30 years to conducting research on topics including climate of the Arctic, the role of clouds and aerosols in the climate system, and the climate dynamics of extreme weather events.

The premise of the President’s Climate Action Plan is that there is an overwhelming judgment of science that anthropogenic global warming is already producing devastating impacts. Anthropogenic greenhouse warming is a theory whose basic mechanism is well understood, but whose magnitude is highly uncertain. Multiple lines of evidence presented in the recent IPCC 5th assessment report suggest that the case for anthropogenic warming is now weaker than in 2007, when the 4th assessment report was published.

My written testimony documented the following evidence:

  • For the past 16 years, there has been no significant increase in surface temperature. There is a growing discrepancy between observations and climate model projections. Observations since 2011 have fallen below the 90% envelope of climate model projections
  • The IPCC does not have a convincing or confident explanation for this hiatus in warming.
  • There is growing evidence of decreased climate sensitivity to atmospheric carbon dioxideconcentrations
  • Based on expert judgment in light of this evidence, the IPCC 5th assessment report lowered its surface temperature projection relative to the model projections for the period 2016-2036.

The growing evidence that climate models are too sensitive to CO2 has implications for the attribution of late 20th century warming and projections of 21st century climate change. Sensitivity of the climate to carbon dioxide, and the level of uncertainty in its value, is a key input into the economic models that drive cost-benefit analyses, including estimates of the social cost of carbon.

If the recent warming hiatus is caused by natural variability, then this raises the question as to what extent the warming between 1975 and 2000 can also be explained by natural climate variability. In a recent journal publication, I provided a rationale for projecting that the hiatus in warming could extend to the 2030’s. By contrast, according to climate model projections, the probability of the hiatus extending beyond 20 years is vanishing small.  If the hiatus does extend beyond 20 years, then a very substantial reconsideration will be needed of the 20th century attribution and the 21st century projections of climate change.

Attempts to modify the climate through reducing CO2 emissions may turn out to be futile. The stagnation in greenhouse warming observed over the past 15+ years demonstrates that CO2 is not a control knob that can fine tune climate variability on decadal and multi-decadal time scales. Even if CO2 mitigation strategies are successfully implemented and climate model projections are correct, an impact on the climate would not be expected for a number of decades. Further, solar variability, volcanic eruptions and natural internal climate variability will continue to be sources of unpredictable climate surprises.

As a result of the hiatus in warming, there is growing appreciation for the importance of natural climate variability on multi-decadal timescales.  Further, the IPCC AR5 and Special Report on Extreme Events published in 2012, find little evidence that supports an increase in most extreme weather events that can be attributed to humans.

The perception that humans are causing an increase in extreme weather events is a primary motivation for the President’s Climate Change Plan.  However, in the U.S., most types of weather extremes were worse in the 1930’s and even in the 1950’s than in the current climate, while the weather was overall more benign in the 1970’s. The extremes of the 1930’s and 1950’s are not attributable to greenhouse warming and are associated with natural climate variability (and in the case of the dustbowl drought and heat waves, also to land use practices). This sense that extreme weather events are now more frequent and intense is symptomatic of pre-1970 ‘weather amnesia’.

The frequency and intensity of extreme weather events is heavily influenced by natural climate variability. Whether or not anthropogenic climate change is exacerbating extreme weather events, vulnerability to extreme weather events will continue to increase owing to increasing population and concentration of wealth in vulnerable regions. Regions that find solutions to current problems of climate variability and extreme weather events and address challenges associated with an increasing population are likely to be well prepared to cope with any additional stresses from climate change.

Nevertheless, the premise of dangerous anthropogenic climate change is the foundation for a far-reaching plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reduce vulnerability to extreme weather events. Elements of this Plan may be argued as important for associated energy policy reasons, economics, and/or public health and safety. However, claiming an overwhelming scientific justification for the Plan based upon anthropogenic global warming does a disservice both to climate science and to the policy process.

Good judgment requires recognizing that climate change is characterized by conditions of deep uncertainty. Robust policy options that can be justified by associated policy reasons whether or not anthropogenic climate change is dangerous avoids the hubris of pretending to know what will happen with the 21st century climate.

This concludes my testimony.

JC comments:   The hearing was very long; not so much because of questioning of the witnesses, but there was much pontification by the committee members (much more of this than on the House Subcommittees, it seems).

Several things struck me.  All of the members seem pretty well educated on the topic of climate change.  I cannot say the same of the administrators on the first panel.

Most of the members were there for Panel 1; only a few remained for Panel 2.

I’m fairly happy with my written testimony, but was surprised that my verbal testimony went over the time limit (have never gone over before).  The questions were fairly light weight.

Andrew Dessler did a pretty good job particularly on the verbal testimony and answering questions.

All in all, a very interesting experience, but stressful since you need to pretty much drop everything to prepare your testimony (and I have a pile of things that need to be finished before tomorrow).

So does any of this matter? We’ll see.  I felt that my previous testimony to the House Committee did have an impact.

January 18, 2014 Posted by | Science and Pseudo-Science | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

20 tips for interpreting scientific claims

By Judith Curry | Climate Etc. | November 20, 2013

This list will help non-scientists to interrogate advisers and to grasp the limitations of evidence  – William J. Sutherland, David Spiegelhalter and Mark A. Burgman.

Nature has published a very interesting comment, titled Twenty tips for interpreting scientific evidence.  Excerpts:

Perhaps we could teach science to politicians? It is an attractive idea, but which busy politician has sufficient time? The research relevant to the topic of the day  is interpreted for them by advisers or external advocates.

In this context, we suggest that the immediate priority is to improve policy-makers’ understanding of the imperfect nature of science. The essential skills are to be able to intelligently interrogate experts and advisers, and to understand the quality, limitations and biases of evidence.

To this end, we suggest 20 concepts that should be part of the education of civil servants, politicians, policy advisers and journalists — and anyone else who may have to interact with science or scientists. Politicians with a healthy scepticism of scientific advocates might simply prefer to arm themselves with this critical set of knowledge.

Differences and chance cause variation. The real world varies unpredictably. Science is mostly about discovering what causes the patterns we see. Why is it hotter this decade than last?  There are many explanations for such trends, so the main challenge of research is teasing apart the importance of the process of interest  from the innumerable other sources of variation.

No measurement is exact. Practically all measurements have some error. If the measurement process were repeated, one might record a different result. In some cases, the measurement error might be large compared with real differences. Results should be presented with a precision that is appropriate for the associated error, to avoid implying an unjustified degree of accuracy.

Bias is rife. Experimental design or measuring devices may produce atypical results in a given direction. Confirmation bias arises when scientists find evidence for a favoured theory and then become insufficiently critical of their own results, or cease searching for contrary evidence.

Bigger is usually better for sample size. The average taken from a large number of observations will usually be more informative than the average taken from a smaller number of observations. That is, as we accumulate evidence, our knowledge improves. This is especially important when studies are clouded by substantial amounts of natural variation and measurement error.

Correlation does not imply causation. It is tempting to assume that one pattern causes another. However, the correlation might be coincidental, or it might be a result of both patterns being caused by a third factor — a ‘confounding’ or ‘lurking’ variable.

Regression to the mean can mislead. Extreme patterns in data are likely to be, at least in part, anomalies attributable to chance or error.

Extrapolating beyond the data is risky. Patterns found within a given range do not necessarily apply outside that range.

Scientists are human. Scientists have a vested interest in promoting their work, often for status and further research funding, although sometimes for direct financial gain. This can lead to selective reporting of results and occasionally, exaggeration. Peer review is not infallible: journal editors might favour positive findings and newsworthiness. Multiple, independent sources of evidence and replication are much more convincing.

Feelings influence risk perception. Broadly, risk can be thought of as the likelihood of an event occurring in some time frame, multiplied by the consequences should the event occur. People’s risk perception is influenced disproportionately by many things, including the rarity of the event, how much control they believe they have, the adverseness of the outcomes, and whether the risk is voluntarily or not. 

Data can be dredged or cherry picked. Evidence can be arranged to support one point of view. The question to ask is: ‘What am I not being told?’

JC comments:  I really like the idea behind this article:

What we offer is a simple list of ideas that could help decision-makers to parse how evidence can contribute to a decision, and potentially to avoid undue influence by those with vested interests.

I suspect this article will not be appreciated by scientists who are playing power politics with their expertise, or by advocates promoting scientism with cherry-picked evidence.

I picked 10 of the 20 tips that I thought were of greatest relevance to the climate change debate.

November 21, 2013 Posted by | Science and Pseudo-Science | , , , | 1 Comment

Global warming, Typhoon Haiyan and the Philippines

By Michel Chossudovsky | RT | November 14, 2013

Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda), the strongest tropical typhoon ever recorded, has resulted in devastating consequences for the Philippines. The natural disaster took the lives of more than 10,000 people.

An estimated 615,000 residents have been displaced. Up to 4.3 million people have been affected, according to government sources.

The tragedy has become a talking point at Warsaw Climate Change Conference under UN auspices. The plight of Typhoon Haiyan has casually been assigned without evidence to the impacts of global warming.

While there is no scientific evidence that the super typhoon was the consequence of global warming, opening statements at the Warsaw summit hinted in no uncertain terms to a verified casual relationship. The executive director of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), Christiana Figueres, stated (without evidence) that the typhoon was part of the “sobering reality” of global warming.

In turn, the Philippines’ UN representative at the Climate Change talks, Yeb Sano, stated in his address at the opening session that “Typhoons such as Yolanda (Haiyan) and its impacts represent a sobering reminder to the international community that we cannot afford to procrastinate on climate action. Warsaw must deliver on enhancing ambition and should muster the political will to address climate change.”

In a bitter irony, the tragedy in the Philippines has contributed to reinforcing a consensus which indirectly feeds the pockets of corporations lobbying for a new deal on carbon trade. ‘Cap-and-trade’ is a multibillion dollar bonanza which is supported by the global warming consensus.

According to UNFCC executive director Christiana Figueres, “We must clarify finance that enables the entire world to move towards low-carbon development…We must launch the construction of a mechanism that helps vulnerable populations to respond to the unanticipated effects of climate change.”

Known and documented, cap-and-trade markets are manipulated. What is at stake is the trade in carbon derivatives which is controlled by powerful financial institutions including JP Morgan Chase. In 2008, Simon Linnett, executive vice-chairman of Rothschild, acknowledged the nature of this multibillion dollar business.

“As a banker, I also welcome the fact that the cap-and-trade system is becoming the dominant methodology for CO2 control. Unlike taxation, or plain regulation, cap-and-trade offers the greatest scope for private sector involvement and innovation,” he said, as quoted by The Telegraph.

Cap-and-trade packaged into derivative products feeds on the global warming consensus. Without it, this multibillion dollar trade would fall flat.

The humanitarian crisis in the Philippines bears no relationship to global warming. The social impacts of Typhoon Haiyan are aggravated due to the lack of infrastructure and social services, not to mention the absence of a coherent housing policy. Those most affected by the typhoon are living in poverty in make-shift homes.

A reduction of CO2 emissions – as suggested by Yeb Sano in his address at the Warsaw summit – will not resolve the plight of an impoverished population.

In the Philippines, the social impacts of natural disasters are invariably exacerbated by a macro-economic policy framework imposed by Manila’s external creditors.

What is at stake is the deadly thrust of neoliberal economic reforms. For more than 25 years – since the demise of the Marcos dictatorship – the International Monetary Fund’s “economic medicine” under the helm of the Washington Consensus has prevailed, largely serving the interests of financial institutions and corporations in mining and agribusiness.

The government of Philippine President Benigno Aquino has embarked upon a renewed wave of austerity measures which involves sweeping privatization and the curtailment of social programs. In turn, a large chunk of the state budget has been redirected to the military, which is collaborating with the Pentagon under Obama’s “Asia Pivot.” This program – which serves the interests of Washington at the expense of the Philippines population – also includes a $1.7 billion purchase of advanced weapons systems.


Deconstructing the hype on Super Typhoon Haiyan – Yolanda

By Paul Homewood | Watts Up With That? | November 13, 2013

Now we have had a few days to reflect on the terrible events of last week, we can start to piece together some of the facts.

First of all, as it is the thing that really matters above all, fatalities. The good news, if it can be termed that, is that the death toll is likely to be around 2000 to 2500, according to the Philippine President. This is much less than the 10,000 originally feared to have died.

As far as the storm itself was concerned, the official statistics from the Philippine Met Agency, PAGASA, remain the same as those issued at the time. The table below compares these with the original satellite estimates put out by the Joint Typhoon Warning Centre, JTWC, and that were subsequently used by the media around the world to claim that Yolanda was the “strongest storm ever”.

PAGASA JTWC
Sustained Wind Speed mph 147 195
Gust mph 171 235

Full article

See also:

Some historical perspectives on Typhoon Haiyan-Yolanda

November 13, 2013 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Leave a comment

What if we named hurricanes after climate change deniers? Revisited

350.org:

As scientific evidence shows that climate change is creating increasingly frequent and devastating storms, and with climate scientists declaring these extreme weather events as the new normal, we propose a new naming system. A system that names extreme storms caused by climate change, after the policy makers who deny climate change and obstruct climate policy.

Closing in on the November 30th ending of the 2013 hurricane season:

step6.02-01

Atlantic Hurricane Season Quietest in Decades

fig33
~
global_major_freq
~
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ku_IseK3xTc#t=66

October 26, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | , , , | 1 Comment

The coming crisis of climate science?

0916graphic
Figure 1.4 from Chapter 1 of a draft of the Fifth Assessment Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Initials represent the First Assessment Report (FAR) in 1990, the Second (SAR) in 1995. Shaded banks show range of predictions from each of the four climate models used for all four reports since 1990. The last report, AR4, was issued in 2007. The black squares, shown with uncertainty bars, measure the observed average surface temperatures over the same interval. The range of model runs is indicated by the vertical bars. The light grey area above and below is not part of the model prediction ranges.

By Reiner Grundmann | September 19, 2013

With the fifth assessment report soon to be released by the IPCC the pre-publication buzz is well underway. A while ago unauthorised drafts circulated in the blogosphere and now the official leaks have found their way into news editing rooms. A central question picked up by most commentators is the ‘pause in global warming’, the ‘stagnation’, or the ‘hiatus’.

An anomaly presents itself for climate science in that model projections about future temperature increases do not concur with actual temperature observations. As expected, comments align with the agendas of the commentators, depending if one wants to defend the official modelling output or criticise it. These agendas are closely linked to policy options and the question if a lower observed temperature trend provides justification for political action on greenhouse gas emissions.

On this blog Hans von Storch expressed optimism as regards the ability of climate science to deal with this anomaly: ‘Eventually, we need to evaluate the different suggestions, but that will need time. No doubt that the scientific community will achieve this.’ Others are quick to pronounce climate science bunk. David Rose wrote in the Daily Mail  ‘A leaked copy of the world’s most authoritative climate study reveals scientific forecasts of imminent doom were drastically wrong.’ Hayley Dixon in The Telegraph put it less blatant but still succinct in her opening sentence: ‘A leaked draft of a report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is understood to concede that the computer predictions for global warming and the effects of carbon emissions have been proved to be inaccurate.’

Of course, both papers are on the political right and often skeptical about efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions. It seems as if this topic is inconvenient for the left leaning papers who support action on climate mitigation. The Guardian so far is silent on the issue and prefers to write about new record lows of Arctic Ice coverage. When it looked last at this issue, Fiona Harvey bolstered the heat uptake by the oceans as explanation for the pause in global warming, thus doing away with a potential anomaly. At the same time she claims that climate scientists point out ‘that the trend is still upwards, and that the current temperature rises are well within the expected range.’ A quick glance at the graph above shows this is an illusion (the grey upper and lower bands are not part of the model prediction range).

Both the Mail and Telegraph quote Myles Allen (Oxford University) who tries to put the IPCC and its work into perspective. Says Allen:  ‘we need to look very carefully about what the IPCC does in future… It is a complete fantasy to think that you can compile an infallible or approximately infallible report, that is just not how science works. It is not a bible, it is a scientific review, an assessment of the literature. Frankly both sides are seriously confused on how science works – the critics of the IPCC and the environmentalists who credit the IPCC as if it is the gospel.’

The Mail quotes Judy Curry (Georgia Institute of Technology) saying it makes ‘no sense that the IPCC was claiming that its confidence in its forecasts and conclusions has increased. For example, in the new report, the IPCC says it is ‘extremely likely’ – 95 per cent certain – that human  influence caused more than half  the temperature rises from 1951 to 2010, up from ‘very confident’ –  90 per cent certain – in 2007. Prof Curry said: ‘This is incomprehensible to me’ – adding that the IPCC projections are ‘overconfident’, especially given the report’s admitted areas of doubt.’

Both Allen and Curry call for a radical reform of the IPCC with Curry being more specific: ‘The consensus-seeking process used by the IPCC creates and amplifies biases in the science. It should be abandoned in favour of a more traditional review that presents arguments for and against – which would  better support scientific progress, and be more useful for policy makers.’

Meanwhile in the Financial Post, Ross McKitrick wrote: ‘As the gap between models and reality has grown wider, so has the number of mainstream scientists gingerly raising the possibility that climate models may soon need a bit of a re-think. A recent study by some well-known German climate modellers put the probability that models can currently be reconciled with observations at less than 2%, and they said that if we see another five years without a large warming, the probability will drop to zero.’ (this seems to be a reference to the paper by Hans von Storch and Eduardo Zorita recently presented here on Klimazwiebel).

McKitrick goes on: ‘Judging by the drafts circulated this year, [the IPCC] is in full denial mode. Its own figure reveals a discrepancy between models and observations, yet its discussion says something entirely different. On page 9 of Chapter 1 it explains where the numbers come from, it talks about the various challenges faced by models, and then it sums up the graph as follows: “In summary, the globally-averaged surface temperatures are well within the uncertainty range of all previous IPCC projections, and generally are in the middle of the scenario ranges.” Later, in Chapter 9, it states with “very high confidence” that models can correctly simulate global surface temperature trends.’

McKitrick then makes a link between a ‘failed science’ and a ‘costly policy’: ‘since we are on the verge of seeing the emergence of data that could rock the foundations of mainstream climatology, this is obviously no time for entering into costly and permanent climate policy commitments based on failed model forecasts. The real message of the science is: Hold on a bit longer, information is coming soon that could radically change our understanding of this issue.’

This is where the crux of the matter lies. While it is indeed highly problematic to tie costly policies to flawed model forecasts the prospects of climatology are perhaps worth considering.

I chose as title for this blog post ‘The coming Crisis of Climate Science?’ The question mark is intentional and important. It could well be that in the coming year global surface temperatures pick up as expected. Existing models would be vindicated, end of story. The question is: how many more years should climatologists wait for this ‘renormalization’? It appears that mood is shifting towards alternative models and explanations. The timing of the fifth assessment report falls into this critical juncture where a lot of momentum has built up in favour of the current modelling practices which now prove so elusive. While the IPCC tries to make last minute rhetorical adjustments in order to accommodate anomalies, some of its participants, looking beyond, already indicate that this institution may have run its course. But even if the IPCC was reformed or dissolved, we still would have these questions in front of us:

How convincing is the climate science? How important should it be for climate policies? Do we need to implement climate policies, and if so, what should they be?

I can envisage an irony of history where climatology enters a period of crisis and looses its central place in public discourse about climate change, thus opening up discursive spaces for pragmatic options to deal with the problem.

Update: Global mean surface temperatures continued their sideways trajectory for the entire year of 2013 and October 2013 Arctic ice volume increased 50% from October 2012.  – (Aletho News)

September 19, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Science and Pseudo-Science | , , , , | 1 Comment

A Curious Climate Analogy – Badly Reported by the NYT

By Kip Hansen | WUWT | September 8, 2013

The AMERICAN METEOROLOGICAL SOCIETY just published a Special Supplement to the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society titled: EXPLAINING EXTREME EVENTS OF 2012 FROM A CLIMATE PERSPECTIVE edited by Thomas C. Peterson, Martin P. Hoerling, Peter A. Stott, and Stephanie C. Herring. [hereafter EEE2012].

Kenneth Chang at the New York Times reported on the findings in an article, “Research Cites Role of Warming in Extremes”, on 5 September 2013. In this piece, Chang includes the following paragraph, which was picked up and repeated in the Andy Revkin’s NY Times Opinion Page blog, Dot.Earth, filed under Climate Change:

“The articles’ editors likened climate change to someone habitually driving a bit over the speed limit. Even if the speeding itself is unlikely to directly cause an accident, it increases the likelihood that something else — a wet road or a distracting text message — will do so and that the accident, when it occurs, will be more calamitous.”

This is unfortunate, for two reasons: 

1) The articles’ editors said no such thing.

2) Even if they had, what Chang says just happens not to be true in and of itself.

Andy Revkin , doubling down on Chang, says: “Ken Chang’s news article in The Times … . includes an apt analogy used in the introduction to the studies: [followed by the paragraph quoted above].” This too is unfortunately not true, for the above two reasons, an analogy can’t be apt if it wasn’t made and isn’t true,  and the fact that the analogy being referred to appears not in the introduction, but in the CONCLUSIONS AND EPILOGUE section, written by Thomas C. Peterson, Peter A. Stott, Stephanie C. Herring, and Martin P. Hoerling.

What Peterson et al actually said was:

“To help understand the difficulty of determining the anthropogenic contribution to specific extreme events, consider this driving analogy (UCAR 2012). “Adding just a little bit of speed to your highway commute each month can substantially raise the odds that you’ll get hurt some day. But if an accident does occur, the primary cause may not be your speed itself: it could be a wet road or a texting driver.” Similarly, while climate models may indicate a human effect is causing increases in the chances of having extremely high precipitation in a region (much like speeding increases the chances of having an accident), natural variability can still be the primary factor in any individual extreme event. The difficulty in determining the precise sensitivity of, according to our analogy, driving speed on risks of accidents in particular conditions (wet roads, texting drivers) can explain why somewhat different analyses of the same meteorological event can reach somewhat different conclusions about the extent to which human influence has altered the likelihood and magnitude of the event.” [EEE2012, page 64]

Point 1: The editors said no such thing:

Notice that Peterson says nothing about speed limits, nothing about speeding, and nothing about any subsequent accident being “more calamitous” – nothing at all about any of these three points. Chang makes up his own, new and improved analogy. Why? We can’t know – as a journalist, he should have reported what was actually said.

Point 2: Even if they had, what Chang says just happens not to be true in and of itself.

It is a long term, well understood fact that the safest driving speed on America’s highways is “a bit over the speed limit” – actually, more specifically, a bit over the average speed of the traffic on the road, which is often, on a wide open road, at or just a little bit over the speed limit. This is known as Solomon’s Curve, or the Crash Risk Curve, a graph that shows the least accidents happen to those who drive just a bit faster than the flow of traffic. Note that this has nothing to do with absolute speed (for example, 55 mph vs. 75 mph) but speed relative to the other cars and trucks.

So, was what was said in EEE2012 true?

“Adding just a little bit of speed to your highway commute each month can substantially raise the odds that you’ll get hurt some day.”

If you generally drive slower than the flow of traffic, if you are a strict 55 mph’er on an Interstate that flows at 67 1/2 mph, you’ll be safer if you “add a little bit of speed”, because you be involved in fewer (statistically) accidents. However, if you are recklessly already driving 75 mph on the same Interstate, and add a little bit of speed, you’ll be increasing your risk of accident and increasing the kinetic energy of any resulting crash (the last true for the 55 mph’er too).

On its face, in a plain everyday English sense, I’d say the analogy is false as used, because, well, it depends. But I’ll leave it up to the traffic engineers and statisticians — way too much wiggle-room in the phrases “just a little bit of speed” and “can substantially raise”.

My advice to journalists: Use direct quotes, stick to the facts, don’t make stuff up (and for Andy Revkin – don’t trust other journalists to have done these things, check them yourself).

My advice to Climate Scientists: Use analogies that are proven and demonstrably true – not just ones that seem true or sound nice, stick to the facts and don’t make stuff up.

*****

EEE2012 at http://www.ametsoc.org/2012extremeeventsclimate.pdf

Chang at http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/06/science/earth/research-cites-role-of-warming-in-extremes.html

Revkin at http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/09/06/assessing-the-role-of-global-warming-in-extreme-weather-of-2012

Solomon’s Curve at http://www.econ.ucdavis.edu/faculty/fzfeens/trans/Transport-lecture4.ppt , see slides 53 and 55

September 8, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Comments Off on A Curious Climate Analogy – Badly Reported by the NYT

Professor Bob Carter torpedoes the “scientific consensus” on the climate HOAX

May 7, 2011

An excellent presentation disputing man-made global warming using nothing but pure science and statistics by Professor Bob Carter (Australian geologist). It would be very difficult to dispute his facts. In this video he pretty much proves that over 10,000 years the earth has been cooling. Looking at shorter periods of time one can find whatever they want in the numbers. There have been many periods of rapid warming and cooling over this period.

He examines the data concerning climate change, Global warming, the problems with the idea that CO2 is driving climate change and global warming, & examples of the scientific data being ignored over popularist views about CO2 causing climate change and Global warming;… the hypothesis fails the test.

June 14, 2013 Posted by | Environmentalism, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular, Video | , , | 1 Comment