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Monthly Archives: March 2011

Lewis vs. Abraham: both are right and wrong

Lewis vs. Abraham

On March 19’th, talk show host Jason Lewis wrote an opinion piece about global warming in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. His headline was entitled “Climate change is natural, and we don’t have the data to predict it”, with the contents reflecting the attitude that climate change isn’t a big deal.

On March 23, engineering professor John Abraham wrote a rebuttal to Lewis’ piece in the same paper. He claimed that Lewis was misleading readers and gave a series of bullet points explaining each error.

Who’s right? Let’s look through the article and keep a running tab of errors. Both articles had errors, and I’ll point them out.

I’m going to quote the section from Lewis’ article, then quote Abraham’s rebuttal, then explain who is right.

Lewis:

The famous “hockey stick” graph showing rapid warming in the 20th century was thoroughly debunked by Canadian researchers even before the purloined e-mails showed how global warming researchers were desperately trying to “hide the decline” in temperatures.

Abraham’s rebuttal:

Made an unsubstantiated and untrue claim that scientists hid a “decline in temperatures.” Where is the evidence of this? No scientists made any statement that they were hiding a decline in temperatures. This is a distortion of a stolen e-mail that was actually referring to increasing temperatures.

Who’s right? Abraham is. “Hide the decline” is NOT referring to temperature. For a better explanation, watch this video.

Lewis 0, Abraham 1.

Lewis:

Not long ago, the Heartland Institute asserted that NASA had “been artificially inflating U.S. temperatures by 0.15 degrees Celsius since the year 2000” and as a result erroneously reported that readings over the last decade “were warmer than the 1930s, when in fact the opposite was true.”

Eventually, agency officials did recant 1998 as the hottest on U.S. record when the data were reanalyzed showing the pre-greenhouse-gas era year of 1934 to be slightly warmer.

Abraham’s rebuttal:

Took aim at reputable institutions, including NASA. He claims that NASA has “erroneously reported that readings over the last decade were warmer than the 1930s, when in fact the opposite was true.” This statement is inaccurate, as is his claim that NASA recanted 1998 as being the hottest year in U.S. history.

Who’s right? They are both right and wrong. The 2000’s were warmer than the 1930’s, in the US and globally. One point for Abraham. However, Lewis’ claim that NASA did have to recant 1998 as the hottest year in the US is true. Abraham is wrong in saying that statement is inaccurate.

If you want proof of this look no further than a 2007 post on RealClimate by Gavin Schmidt, a scientist at NASA:

The net effect of the change [McIntyre’s found error] was to reduce mean US anomalies by about 0.15 ºC for the years 2000-2006. There were some very minor knock on effects in earlier years due to the GISTEMP adjustments for rural vs. urban trends. In the global or hemispheric mean, the differences were imperceptible (since the US is only a small fraction of the global area).

There were however some very minor re-arrangements in the various rankings (see data). Specifically, where 1998 (1.24 ºC anomaly compared to 1951-1980) had previously just beaten out 1934 (1.23 ºC) for the top US year, it now just misses: 1934 1.25ºC vs. 1998 1.23ºC.

Gavin goes on to explain how this isn’t significant. But the point is, Abraham is wrong and Lewis is right. One point for Lewis.

Lewis 1, Abraham 2.

Lewis:

In 1975, Newsweek cited the scientific consensus (heard that one before?) about the coming danger of global cooling.

Temperatures had been declining since 1940 even as carbon dioxide levels rose. Regardless of who is correct, we would do well to remember that cold is far more calamitous for mankind than the purported 0.6 degrees Celsius rise in the last century.

Abraham:

Claimed that temperatures have been declining since 1940. They have not. No scientist would agree with that statement.

Who is right? Well, Abraham is right in stating that no scientist would agree that temperatures have been declining since 1940. But Lewis didn’t say that. He was talking about the 1970’s which is obvious from the context. Had temperatures been declining from the 1940’s to the 70’s? That might depend how you define cooling, but basically yes, Lewis is right.

Lewis 2, Abraham 2.

Lewis:

And therein lies the problem. The global-warming hysteria is based on computer models, not empirical data, because the records simply don’t go back far enough.

If Climategate taught us anything, it’s that these models are subject to human manipulation.

Abraham’s rebuttal:

Alleged that climate change theory is based on models and not real data. This, too, is inaccurate. The fact that increasing greenhouse gases cause the earth to warm is known from data that go back 800,000 years. Is that a long enough record?

Who is right? This is a difficult one. Abraham claims that Lewis is stating that the theory is based on models and not data. But Lewis states that the hysteria is based on models. I think this is true, because I don’t think many people would state that the current temperature of the world demands hysteria. It’s the models which claim that the earth will warm 4 or 5 degrees that we worry about.

However, Lewis claims that we must rely on models because the temperature record doesn’t go far enough back. He might be referring to the instrumental temperature record which only is reliable back to the 1880’s or so. Abraham counters this claim by stating that we have a record of 800,000 years. This is a reference to ice core data. However, Abraham implies that this data proves AGW. Ice core data is hotly contested and to state that the record is proof of AGW is false. It shows a correlation between temperature and CO2, but as we all hopefully know, correlation doesn’t equal causation. There is also a lag versus lead issue, whether CO2 changes the temperature or the temperature changes the CO2 content.

Also, Abraham cannot dismiss the importance models play by simply stating that an ice core record exists. Climate modeling is a huge part of climate science, and it has its own problems.

I’ll call this one a tie.

Lewis:

Across the globe, the last few winters have been exceedingly harsh.

China has endured its most severe winter in 100 years, snow has fallen in Baghdad, and the United Kingdom just suffered through its coldest December since 1683, according to figures from the Met Office.

British astrophysicist David Whitehouse says that not only have temperatures leveled off since 1998, they may actually be cooling once again.

Abraham’s rebuttal:

Suggested that since 1998, temperatures have leveled off and might be decreasing now. It turns out that the hottest three years on record, according to NASA, were 2010, 2005 and 2009. It is tough to have this trend occur in a cooling world.

Who’s right? First, Lewis is citing British astrophysicist David Whitehouse for these claims, which Abraham doesn’t mention. Have world temperatures leveled off since 1998, or even cooled? Well this is a game that is played with starting and ending a trend at different points. It also depends on which record you use. If you start at the height of 1998, and go to right now, temperatures have certainly declined, especially if using the UAH record.

So technically Lewis is right, although Abraham is also right in pointing out that NASA claims 2010, 2005, and 2009 were the three hottest years. Of course those years are only hotter than others by a few hundredths of a degree, and the GISS record doesn’t match up with CRU or UAH exactly.

Phil Jones is famous for stating that there has been no statistically significant warming since 1995. World temperatures haven’t been clearly moving in any direction for over a decade now, and claims of warming or cooling, or hottest year, are just playing around with statistically insignificant numbers and data starting points and ending points.

Neither men get a point for this.

Lewis makes other points but nothing that Abraham challenges. Abraham also makes other claims, such as the following:

Someone reading this article might believe that Lewis knows more about climate science than the 97 percent of scientists who agree that humans are causing the Earth to warm.

Big-time, flat-out wrong. First, he does not make a distinction between climate scientists and all other scientists. Surveys of all scientists have found substantially less than 97% support for AGW.

Even if he had claimed that 97% of climate scientists agreed on AGW, he’d be wrong. That is based on the seriously flawed study Doran 09, or the misquoted study Anderegg 2010. Doran asked questions which nearly everyone would answer yes to (and several prominent “skeptical” climate scientists did exactly that), and Anderegg 2010 only chose certain “top researchers” to get 97%, otherwise it is 66% of researchers who believed AGW.

Well the score ended up tied. What is the tie-breaker?

Lewis is a talk show host. Abraham is an engineering professor at a St. Paul University. Also, he is famous for responding to Monckton of climate skeptic fame on a series of climate issues. One might expect that someone so involved in climate change issues and with a teaching position at a university might understand the issues a little more deeply.

I’m not saying that Lewis gets off the hook for being wrong, only that people automatically value Abraham’s rebuttal more highly because he is a professor instead of a talk show host. It seems clear to me that Abraham is equally as wrong on these issues as a local talk show host.

I won’t declare a winner, it’s more like a loss for everyone who wants to learn more about climate change by reading the Star Tribune.

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Posted by on March 28, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Is it 97% or 66% of climate scientists who believe in AGW?

The 97% claim on the "Skeptical Science" website

The claim that “97% of climate experts agree humans are causing global warming” is all over the internet. The most common study cited to support this claim is Doran 2009. However, I wrote an article about that paper which I believe shows it is fundamentally flawed. Even “skeptical” climate scientists answered the survey in such as a way as to be included in the consensus group.

Doran 09 is flawed, but it is not the only paper cited to make the 97% claim. There is one other, Anderegg 2010. This study breaks down climate scientists into two groups, those who are convinced by the evidence (CE) on anthropogenic climate change, and those who are unconvinced by the evidence (UE). Here is the abstract (emphasis mine): Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

RealClimate supports complete drivel: Trevors and Saier (2011)

Trevors and Saier

RealClimate had a post today regarding scientific ignorance. In the post, they mention a recent editorial:

There have been even more strongly worded editorials in the scientific literature recently as well. Trevors and Saier (2011)*, in a journal with a strong tradition of stating exactly where it stands with respect to public policy decisions and their effect on the environment, pull no punches in a recent editorial, describing the numerous societal problems caused when those with the limited perspective and biases born of a narrow economic outlook on the world, get control. These include the losses of critical thinking skills, social/community ethics, and the subsequent wise decision making and planning skills that lead a society to long-term health and stability…

*Trevors, J.T & Saier Jr., M.H. 2011. A vaccine against ignorance? Water, Air and Soil Pollution, DOI 10.1007/s11270-011-0773-1.

Before this paragraph they mention a Nature editorial condemning the Republicans for their anti-science antics, and after this paragraph they mention that scientific bodies are continually issuing statements about the severity of climate change. RealClimate obviously supports the Nature editorial and the statements from scientific bodies about climate change, and from the context of the article they support the Trevors and Saier (2011) editorial. I’ll refer to the editorial as TS11. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on March 25, 2011 in UN, Uncategorized

 

Worse than Chernobyl?

The focus on Japan’s nuclear reactors has been more intense than practically any issue I’ve ever seen. The amount of discourse from both pro and anti nuclear advocates could already fill libraries. I don’t have much to add to this that hasn’t been said. Instead I’m going to trace the origins and impacts of one particular phrase:

Worse than Chernobyl

Let me first state that I do not know the outcome of the nuclear problems in Japan. It is possible it will be worse than Chernobyl. It is incredibly unlikely, but possible. The design of Chernobyl was so entirely different it is like comparing a bonfire to a kerosene lamp.

However, no one else knows the outcome either. We all have the same limited information about the problems they face. Considering that we have limited information and adding the fact that Chernobyl was a totally different situation, the phrase “worse than Chernobyl” is fear mongering of the most pernicious kind. They have no basis for that claim, except the knowledge that their audience doesn’t understand the issue.

My Dad has worked in Nuclear power for over thirty years and considers the comparisons to Chernobyl absurd. I’m not going to bother giving you details about the Japanese accident or Chernobyl because there are numerous excellent sites that do that much better than I could. Anti-nuclear advocate know about the design differences, but they insist the Japan incident could still be as bad or worse because of the spent fuel pools overheating. However, that doesn’t appear to be happening.

Where did this phrase originate?

Perhaps not surprisingly, from an anti-nuclear advocate press release. On March 11’th, the same day as the earthquake, the Institute for Public Accuracy issued a press release:

AP is reporting: “Japan ordered thousands of residents near a northeastern nuclear power plant to evacuate today following a massive earthquake that caused a problem in the plant’s cooling system.”

KEVIN KAMPS
Kamps is a specialist in nuclear waste at Beyond Nuclear. Last year he was in Japan assessing the state of nuclear facilities there. He said today: “The electrical grid is down. The emergency diesel generators have been damaged. The multi-reactor Fukushima atomic power plant is now relying on battery power, which will only last around eight hours. The danger is, the very thermally hot reactor cores at the plant must be continuously cooled for 24 to 48 hours. Without any electricity, the pumps won’t be able to pump water through the hot reactor cores to cool them. Once electricity is lost, the irradiated nuclear fuel could begin to melt down. If the containment systems fail, a catastrophic radioactivity release to the environment could occur.

“In addition to the reactor cores, the storage pool for highly radioactive irradiated nuclear fuel is also at risk. The pool cooling water must be continuously circulated. Without circulation, the still thermally hot irradiated nuclear fuel in the storage pools will begin to boil off the cooling water. Within a day or two, the pool’s water could completely boil away. Without cooling water, the irradiated nuclear fuel could spontaneously combust in an exothermic reaction. Since the storage pools are not located within containment, a catastrophic radioactivity release to the environment could occur. Up to 100 percent of the volatile radioactive Cesium-137 content of the pools could go up in flames and smoke, to blow downwind over large distances. Given the large quantity of irradiated nuclear fuel in the pool, the radioactivity release could be worse than the Chernobyl nuclear reactor catastrophe of 25 years ago.”

ROBERT ALVAREZ
Alvarez is a former senior policy adviser to the U.S. Secretary of Energy and now a senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies.

HARVEY WASSERMAN, nukefree.org
Wasserman is author of Solartopia! Our Green-Powered Earth, AD 2030 (which includes an introduction by Robert F. Kennedy Jr.).

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

That’s the first mention that I could find of “worse than Chernobyl” after the Japanese earthquake. Notice that the quoted “expert” is called a “specialist in nuclear waste at Beyond Nuclear”. Alright, so what is Beyond Nuclear?

It’s an anti-Nuclear group. The header on their website says “working for a world free from nuclear power and nuclear weapons”. Not exactly unbiased. However, this fellow, Kevin Kamps, he must be some kind of expert right? Not at all. Take a look at his biography:

Kevin Kamps has served as Radioactive Waste Watchdog at Beyond Nuclear in Takoma Park, Maryland since July, 2007 (Before that, he served in a similar role, as nuclear waste specialist at Nuclear Information & Resource Service (NIRS) in Washington, D.C. since June of 1999).

Nuclear Information & Resource Service (NIRS) in Washington, D.C, that sounds official! What is it? It’s an anti-nuclear group. The man has absolutely no experience in the nuclear industry. However, maybe his education was in nuclear engineering? Let’s look at the bio again:

Kevin attended Earlham College, a Society of Friends (Quaker) school in Richmond, Indiana, as well as Kalamazoo College in Kalamazoo, Michigan, where he studied biology and chemistry, respectively.

Seriously? A Quaker college and Kalamazoo? This man is a long time anti-nuclear advocate, he is not a nuclear expert or specialist or anything worthy of quoting. In testimony before the State of Connecticut, he explains his technical background (none). In fact, he already was trashed by Penn and Teller for being an advocate (warning! that link contains language).

The damage was already done. This “nuclear expert” was quoted in a Forbes story on March 11’th. Also on the 11’th, he was interview by Fox News. Later, on the 17’th, he was quoted in an IPS story:

Radiation levels are deadly when there is not enough water to cover a spent fuel pool, said Kamps. “It will be very difficult to get close enough to cool these pools down,” he noted. “If the worst happens, and the six pools burn, it will be an unimaginable disaster. It could be worse than Chernobyl.”

Other “experts” joined in and soon the phrase was all over the internet. Googling the phrase “worse than chernobyl” and selecting only news articles in just the past week yields 2,200 results.

I’m not blaming Kevin Kamps for all of this. Forbes bloggers, Fox News analysts and journalists should know better than to call these people “experts”. They are advocates, which means they advocate certain positions. Kamps is advocating for a nuclear free world. His information is not un-biased.

When this is all over and it has been nothing even remotely like Chernobyl, will Kevin Kamps, Forbes, Fox News, and IPS apologize for fear-mongering? We’ll see…

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Posted by on March 18, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Why I Dismiss Environmentalists: a Close Reading of the TreeHugger Tsunami Article

Before I begin bashing environmentalists I want to define the term. I don’t mean anyone who cares for the environment or attempts to conserve it. I don’t mean scientists who do research about the environment. I mean people who are actively a part of the ‘green movement’ best exemplified by members of Greenpeace or websites like TreeHugger.

Generally speaking, I dismiss most everything environmentalists say. The reason is simple. I have yet to meet (or hear from) a well informed environmentalist. What do I mean by well informed? They have a deeper understanding of any issue relating to the environment than the average person does. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on March 12, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Russian Heat Wave falsely used as evidence for AGW

The Russian Heat Wave of 2010 was terrible. Tens of thousands died from the heat, ensuing wildfires, and poor air quality. The unusually high temperatures were frequently touted as evidence of AGW. I’m going to show you these false claims. First, some background. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on March 10, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Shut down Facebook to save the world?

There is an ongoing campaign pushing Mark Zuckerberg to shut down facebook for Earth Hour. You can read about it here, here, and here. Or, you can watch the video that the leader has put on youtube:

Here’s the facebook page for the campaign.

There are so many things wrong with this campaign I don’t know where to begin. Actually, I don’t think I will. I’ll just direct you to the another Facebook page:

Keep Fbook on for Earth Hour

It’s a response to the campaign. It seems fitting that this discussion would take place on Facebook….

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Posted by on March 7, 2011 in Uncategorized