Friday, June 18, 2010

Richard Lindzen's Fantasies (1)

Some weeks back (April 22) MIT Prof Richard Lindzen wrote an article appearing in The Wall Street Journal entitle ‘Climate Science in Denial’. He basically argued that, in a nutshell, “global warming alarmists have been discredited”, and the whole global warming science establishment of more than 100,000 was taken down by “Climate gate” the puffed up pseudo-scandal involving hacked emails from The University of East Anglia. My earlier blog on the issue can be found at this link:

Never mind the hackers committed an act of cyber-terrorism and are still at large, all the focus went to the researchers, such as Michael Mann of the University of Pennsylvania and Phil Jones of East Anglia (director of the CRU or Climatic Research Unit).

But Lindzen is known for writing intellectually dishonest articles in the mainstream media, and this one merely adds to his dossier.

Let’s take first his allegations of “unambiguous evidence of the ethical suppression of information and opposing viewpoints in the emails” and “collusion with other prominent researchers” (by the CRU at East Anglia)

The assertion of ethical suppression is totally specious. Morever, the largest organization of climate scientists in the world, The American Geophysical Union, issued a statement that they found "it offensive that these emails were obtained by illegal cyber attacks and they are being exploited to distort the scientific debate about the urgent issue of climate change."

They also reaffirmed their 2007 position statement on climate change "based on the large body of scientific evidence that Earth's climate is warming and that human activity is a contributing factor. Nothing in the University of East Anglia hacked e-mails represents a significant challenge to that body of scientific evidence"

Interested readers can find that statement here:

Lindzen's assertion of a collusion is nonsense. The vast majority of the emails related to four climatologists: Phil Jones, the head of the CRU; Michael E. Mann of Pennsylvania State University (PSU), one of the originators of the graph of temperature trends dubbed the "hockey stick graph";Tim Osborn, a climate modeller; and Mike Hulme, director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. The four were either recipients or senders of all but 66 of the 1,073 emails, with most of the remainder of the emails being sent from mailing lists. A few other emails were sent by, or to, other staff at the CRU. Jones, Briffa, Osborn and Hulme had written high-profile scientific papers on climate change that had been cited in reports by the IPCC.

Evidently not on Lindzen's radar (conveniently) East Anglia announced on March 22nd the composition of an independent Science Assessment Panel to reassess key CRU papers which have already been peer reviewed and published in journals. The panel didn't seek to evaluate the science itself, but rather whether "the conclusions reached by the CRU represented an honest and scientifically justified interpretation of the data." The university consulted with the prestigious Royal Society in establishing the panel. It started its work in March, 2010 and released its report on April 14. During its inquiry, the panel examined eleven representative CRU publications selected by the Royal Society that spanned a period of over 20 years, as well as other CRU research materials. It also spent fifteen person days at the UEA carrying out interviews with scientists.

The panel’s conclusions confirmed that nothing in the emails proved wrongdoing, and dismissed the allegations. Independent reviews by FactCheck and the Associated Press said that the emails did not affect evidence that man made global warming is a real threat, and said that emails were being misrepresented to support unfounded claims of scientific misconduct. They also concluded that there were disturbing suggestions that scientists had avoided sharing scientific data with sceptical critics.

Penn State reviewers, in their (independent) inquiry into allegations of misconduct found: “the so-called 'trick' was nothing more than a statistical method used to bring two or more different kinds of data sets together in a legitimate fashion by a technique that has been reviewed by a broad array of peers in the field.” The Parliament of the United Kingdom select committee inquiry concluded that : "the 'trick' appears to be a colloquialism for a "neat" method of handling data," and "[hide the decline] was a shorthand for the practice of discarding data known to be erroneous."

As noted in a New Yorker sidebar piece on the findings, the climate emailers, Mann et al, were mainly taken to task for being careless with their use of language as well as with their computer security. They were not upbraided or disciplined for any "shenanigans" as Lindzen's febrile imagination appears to imply. All in all, as the New Yorker noted, it was all a "tempest in a teapot" designed by the denier -Flat Earth battalion to build up pseudo-morale for its troops, and again - try to sway the public mind.

Indeed, the statistical device employed by Mann was no where near as egregious as the tactic employed by Willie Soon and Sallie Baliunas (two well known deniers) in a 2003 paper published in Climate Research- a known denier journal. (One of the journal's editors, Chris de Freitas of the University of Auckland, has frequently editorialized in the New Zealand press against the overwhelmingly accepted conclusions of the IPCC.)

In the case of Soon and Baliunas, they simply excised quality data at higher resolution (30 –year intervals) to conceal the emergence of a warming signal, so their paper could ignore it. Their choice of using 50-year data increments (when the IPCC scientists already disclosed anthropogenic warming appears at 30 -year levels), would have seen the paper quashed in any proper peer review, by any referee remotely knowledgeable of statistics. In effect, Baliunas and Soon exploited what we call a 'selective effects filter' to exclude ab initio the data they preferred not to address. But did any brouhaha erupt on the scale of the bogus climate email flap? Not on your life! It never even reached the radar of the mainstream media.

Lindzen’s next bit of boneheaded nonsense emerges when he writes:

"the (IPCC) observations are consistent with models only if emissons include arbitrary amounts of reflecting aerosols, particles (arising for example from industrial sulfates) which are used to cancel much of the warming predicted in models"

But he has this exactly backwards. We've already known for decades about the degree of the ambient cooling factor from these pollutants, which were originally investigated by Gerry Stanhill, an English scientist working in Israel. Prof. Stanfill compared sunlight records from the 1950s with current ones, and was astonished to find a 22% drop in solar radiation. Intrigued, he searched out records from all around the world, and found thesame story almost everywhere he looked, with sunlight falling by 10% overthe USA, nearly 30% in parts of the former Soviet Union, and even by 16% inparts of the British Isles.

Stanfill called the effect "global dimming" in research published in 2001, and of course met with a barrage of skepticism. The reason is that validation of his work would confirm that aerosols and sulfates are already accounted for in the "arbitrary coolants" factor balance sheet for climate change - but not in a way desired. That is, since major pollutant reduction via legislation such as the Clean Air Act in the early 70s, it means that global warming has actually been concealed by a factor of up to 30%. In other words, Lindzen's arguments are turned on their head: the reduction of aerosols and sulfates in the atmosphere since the 70s means that now warming is ramping up with the dimming factors abated.

As things stand, CO2 levels are projected to rise strongly over coming decades, whereas there are encouraging signs that particle pollution is at last being brought under control. According to Dr Peter Cox, one of the world'sleading climate modellers.:

"We're going to be in a situation, unless we act, where the cooling pollutant is dropping off while the warming pollutant is going up. That means we'll get reducedcooling and increased heating at the same time and that's a problem for us".

Contrary to Lindzen's foolishness, this implies that even the most pessimistic forecasts of global warming may now have to be drastically revised upwards. That means a temperature rise of 10°C by 2100 could be on the cards, giving the UK a climate like that of North Africa, and rendering many parts of the world uninhabitable. That is unless we acturgently to curb our emissions of greenhouse gases.

Next: Lindzen's "Positive Feedback" Foolishness.

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