Michael Mann in the News

Intrepid journalism at work, presented without comment:

Megyn Kelly, Fox News: His [Mann’s] emails, or, there were emails from a University in England were released online, that’s what really got this whole thing started, because they reflected that, you know, this whole climategate and so on was being invented, or, at least, seriously question the science behind it, and suggested that he has been manipulating it, and then, but then, in Mr. Mann’s defense, apparently, he has faced investigations both by Penn State and in England, and (incredulously) both found his work to be acceptable, so, does Mr. Mann have a case?

Marc Morano
: No.


Moe’s Catch 22

The following are excerpted from a rather impenetrable article by Moe G. I think they work better standing alone.

I would call it “The Art of Controversy: Denialist Rules of Engagement” or “The Requirement of Perfect Nihilism”.

1) Rollicking dialogue [is] favored over disciplined argumentation

2) Scientists must be held to a higher standard than their critics. The critics of scientists can sink to impossible shameful depths of poor argumentation. It is off limits to point out in the critics their impossible shameful depths of poor argumentation.

3) With the critics of scientists, you must never consider the motivation of those critics (strangely, scrutinizing the motivation of the scientists themselves is encouraged).

4) Scientific facts can be contaminated by a scientist with an outcome preference or a policy preference, and the critics of scientists are under no burden to speculate on the mode of contamination. And demonstrating contamination can be a substitute for demonstrating falsehood.

5) Only certainty can motivate action, and uncertainty can never motivate action. That is why nobody ever buys homeowners insurance without getting a statement of intent from an arsonist that your home is scheduled for a fire.

4 + 5) Scientists must behave as perfect nihilists. A policy or outcome preference from a scientist, even if the logical consequence of a common humane morality of care-taking for the benefit of future generations, is disallowed. (Strangely, this requirement to be perfect nihilists only applies to scientists.) If imperfect nihilism is demonstrated, the publications affected can be discarded.

6) Scientists writing in casual forums always risk their reputation, for a certain group of scientists. Scientists writing in casual forums always have their casual statements enhanced by their reputation from scientific publication, for a certain *different* group of scientists.

7) You are not to notice that delay serves privileged groups well. So the Art of Controversy must be only seen as a Quest for Truth.

Climate Confusion Bugspotter #4

Watts and the Volcano:

Although there have been amusing comparisons between the volcano and the air traffic it displaced, let’s stipulate Steven Goddard’s calculation for the purposes of argument in “Is Fossil Fuel CO2 Different from Volcanic CO2?”:

Volcano CO2 budget (CO2 is emitted independent of ash) ~200,000 tons per day X 30 days of eruption = 6,000,000 tons of CO2.

Plane CO2 Budget – assumes half of EU planes haven’t flown for the past six days 340,000 EU tons per day X 0.5 EU shutdown X 6 days = ~1,000,000 tons of savings.

People using alternative transportation (as Anthony and the BBC pointed out) as a replacement for aircraft – cars, trains, battleships , etc. ~1,000,000 tons of extra CO2 Is a battleship more “green” than a jumbo jet?

The total gain is 6,000,000 – 1,000,000 + 1,000,000 = 6,000,000 tons of excess CO2 from the volcano. The temporary aircraft shutdown has little or no net impact on CO2 emissions, but the volcano has a large impact.

That actually seems reasonable. And as a benefit for going over there and using up Watts’s bandwidth there are some very cool videos of Ejfjljkl. But Goddard takes issue with the Guardian’s “The eruption started one month ago, and as the Guardian reports, The eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano is unlikely to have any significant impact on climate but has caused a small fall in carbon emissions, experts say.”

So let’s grant for the sake of argument that whatever CO2 emissions were suppressed by the air traffic shutdown will be made up for in the end. Consider, though, the more important question of whether the eruption will have any significant impact on climate.

Goddard plaintively asks us

“Should climate modelers start differentiating between man made CO2 and “organic” natural CO2?”

How he got to this piece of snark is pretty roundabout. But is the eruption likely to have any significant effect on climate, according to consensus science? What’s wrong with the argument?

Answer on Monday along with a new episode of Climate Confusion Bugspotter!

Answer to the Previous Bugspotter Puzzle

My answer to #3 agrees basically with jg’s but goes a little further.

The traditional way of studying releases of toxins into the environment takes the output of the weather model, embeds a model of the source event, and tracks the “tracer” particles through the prescribed large-scale velocity field. So, although a weather model is involved, it is a completely different sort of modeling that goes from weather model output to plume prediction.

And as Atmoz pointed out, the plume prediction was correct.

Arguably incorrect was the threshhold of how much volcanic dust would cause dangerous damage to airplanes. Personally, I am not convinced that the decision to fly has even been justified. But the idea that the caution not only was excessive but also was the fault of atmospheric modelers is ridiculous. Both parts of the atmosphere modeling returned correct results.

And in neither case was a climate prediction involved. This was an initial value (weather) problem; dynamic rather than statistical prediction was involved. Nobody asked what sorts of Icelandic plumes would likely be seen at this time of year (a legitimate climate problem) but rather what exact plume might be expected on this particular Wednesday of this particular week (a weather problem).

In short, it makes no rational sense to blame climate scientists, never mind “climate scientists” in scare quotes, for every scientific result you don’t like. It’s just cheap snarking, not reason.

I’ve even seen us blamed for the banking scandal, since after all a computer was involved in there somehow, wasn’t it, just like in the IPCC?

The Economist has a fine article explaining how the decisions were made, though alas it doesn’t say much about the science.

Weird Events and Social Fragility

We like to have backups for systems that we have some expectation of failing. We have RAID drives for our data, fire insurance for our houses.

Things that we consider highly unlikely, we ignore. Suppose, for instance, that all air travel in Europe were to be shut down for an extended time. Well, surely we’d travel by rail and by boat.

Well, it turns out that it hasn’t been cost effective to maintain enough boats to handle the overflow from shut-down airports. We expect air travel to be continuous. A sudden and unexpected failure of air traffic turns out to be a real blow to the system because insufficient backups are in place.

We don’t know these brittlenesses until they are unexpectedly exposed. A few years ago the Chicago River found its way into the basements of many buildings in the Loop, a risk nobody had ever considered.

I would even consider ClimateGate a brittleness. The explosion of totally unfounded accusations had a significant impact because of vulnerabilities in the press as well as within scientific institutions. The main consequences of this particular weird failure remain in the future and may yet be avoided, but the risk that a thousand generations will suffer as a consequence of some easliy misinterpreted grumbling about trash science remains real.

What can we learn from finding ourselves in a science fiction world, where we are plagued by failure modes we never even imagined? It seems to me that we are living closer to the edge than we imagined. As complexity increases, the potential for disastrous coupling between systems that aren’t conceptually linked (Icelandic vulcanism, German automobile production; coal delivery in 1906 and bridge repair in 1992) increases. How many other things will butt up against other things their users never considered?

This is what makes climate change special. To be honest, we don’t know what will go awry when and how much and how under anticipated climate change. But climate butts up against almost everything pretty much everywhere. Building practices that have never been exposed to termites will see termites. Rivers that have never had flash floods will get flash floods. Countries that have never seen hurricanes will get hurricanes. Who knows what all else will happen?

As the T-shirt says, there is no Planet B. If air traffic shuts down forever, we’ll get boats quickly and fast boats before you know it. But we have no backup plan for the atmosphere.

Spot the Error #3

Another easy one, via the anti-Gore site Planet Gore. There are several very debatable points in this brief article, but there’s a standout mistake. Can you spot it?

What Would an Economy Run by ‘Climate Scientists’ Look Like? [Daniel Foster]

“For an industry that lost $9.4bn last year and was forecast to lose a further $2.8bn in 2010, this crisis is devastating,” said Giovanni Bisignani, chief executive of the International Air Transport Association.

Bisignani also blamed the governments for overhaste in closing airspace, and costing the airline industry over $100 million a day, as a result of climate change models that proved to be flawed.

Addendum: Shall I continue this series? Should it go by its original name “Spot the Denialist Bug”?

Take Action on the Fast Half

I’m still getting press releases from these IGSD people. They seem to make sense so I see no reason not to quote them verbatim.

Take Action on the Fast Half of Climate Change

Washington, DC, April 22, 2010 – Carbon dioxide may be the primary culprit when it comes to climate change, but it’s still only half of the problem: black carbon soot, ground-level ozone, and HFCs (a group of super greenhouse gases with hundreds to thousands the global warming potential of CO2), are some of the non-CO2 gases and pollutants that make up the other half of climate change.

The benefit of addressing the non-CO2 side of climate change is not insignificant – taking action now may very well save the world from the most damaging and perhaps irreversible effects of climate change that may be only decades away. This is because cutting non-CO2 climate forcers will produce big climate benefits in a much shorter period of time. Black carbon, for example, only stays in the atmosphere for a few days to a few weeks; CO2 emissions can linger for decades. Reducing short-lived greenhouse gases and pollutants now helps protect the Earth in the near-term while global leaders continue to negotiate the best strategy for cutting CO2.

“The world is short on time when it comes to climate change,” said Durwood Zaelke, President of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development. “It is essential that we start focusing on non-CO2 now, so that we actually have a fighting chance to win the long-term battle.”

Solutions and technologies are already available to overcome the non-CO2 challenge: black carbon soot can be significantly reduced with clean-burning cookstoves and filters for diesel vehicles; ground-level ozone can also be addressed through measures that reduce transportation pollution; and HFCs (used in refrigeration and air conditioning) can phased down under the successful Montreal Protocol ozone treaty, potentially avoiding an astounding 100 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalent by 2050. Expanding biochar production to sequester carbon is another strategy that can help to limit temperature increases to 1.5˚C and bring CO2 concentrations back down to safe levels.

Reducing black carbon and ground-level ozone emissions will also produce big benefits for public health: both contribute to air pollution which kills several million people each year.

“There is no doubt that world leaders need to take aggressive action on carbon dioxide, but that doesn’t mean we can ignore the other factors that contribute to climate change,” added Zaelke. “If we hope to avoid the impacts of abrupt climate change, we need to take action on the fast half of the problem now.”

Online here: http://igsd.org/documents/PR_EarthDay.pdf


For more information, please visit:


The mission of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development is to promote just and sustainable societies and to protect the environment by advancing the understanding, development and implementation of effective, accountable and democratic systems of governance for sustainable development. The Institute brings together professionals from around the world who are committed to strengthening environmental law and institutions to promote sustainable development.

Spot the Error #2

This one’s really easy. The article consists of only one claim which is wrong.

Update: Nevertheless this is the lead story on Morano’s site. The author, by virtue of having been a volunteer reviewer of IPCC drafts, is referred to as an “IPCC Scientist”.

Morano must be running out of ammo. This is really reaching.

Uncertainties Greatly Reduced

The Geological Society of America has revised its position statement on climate change. It now states:

Decades of scientific research have shown that climate can change from both natural and anthropogenic causes. The Geological Society of America (GSA) concurs with assessments by the National Academies of Science (2005), the National Research Council (2006), and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2007) that global climate has warmed and that human activities (mainly greenhouse‐gas emissions) account for most of the warming since the middle 1900s. If current trends continue, the projected increase in global temperature by the end of the twentyfirst century will result in large impacts on humans and other species. Addressing the challenges posed by climate change will require a combination of adaptation to the changes that are likely to occur and global reductions of CO2 emissions from anthropogenic sources.

In the supporting text, despite what you may have heard elsewhere, they assert:

Scientific advances in the first decade of the 21st century have greatly reduced previous uncertainties about the amplitude and causes of recent global warming.

The statement goes on to briefly summarize the evidence in question. It also summarizes consequences as follows:

The projected changes involve risk to humans and other species:

  • (1) continued shrinking of Arctic sea ice with effects on native cultures and ice-dependent biota;
  • (2) less snow accumulation and earlier melt in mountains, with reductions in spring and summer runoff for agricultural and municipal water;
  • (3) disappearance of mountain glaciers and their late-summer runoff;
  • (4) increased evaporation from farmland soils and stress on crops;
  • (5) greater soil erosion due to increases in heavy convective summer rainfall;
  • (6) longer fire seasons and increases in fire frequency;
  • (7) severe insect outbreaks in vulnerable forests;
  • (8) acidification of the global ocean; and
  • (9) fundamental changes in the composition, functioning, and biodiversity of many terrestrial and marine ecosystems.
  • In addition, melting of Greenland and West Antarctic ice (still highly uncertain as to amount), along with thermal expansion of seawater and melting of mountain glaciers and small ice caps, will cause substantial future sea-level rise along densely populated coastal regions, inundating farmland and dislocating large populations. Because large, abrupt climatic changes occurred within spans of just decades during previous ice-sheet fluctuations, the possibility exists for rapid future changes as ice sheets become vulnerable to large greenhouse-gas increases.
  • Finally, carbon-climate model simulations indicate that 10–20% of the anthropogenic CO2 “pulse” could stay in the atmosphere for thousands of years, extending the duration of fossil-fuel warming and its effects on humans and other species. The acidification of the global ocean and its effects on ocean life are projected to last for tens of thousands of years.

How much of that did you read in your newspaper lately?