Monday, October 3, 2016

Skewering The Spurious Global Warming Narrative Of Another "High IQ" Libertarian: Thomas Nelson

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As I predicted it wouldn’t be long before another Intertel Libertarian hack expelled his balderdash about global warming in the next “Port of Call” – now the official rag of the organization. In his fulsome gibberish entitled ‘A Brief Note On Global Warming’, Oct.-Nov. p. 1, 6) , Tom Nelson claims to have “debunked the whole scientific effort” of global warming science. To fix ideas, we're talking of over three thousand top tier climate researchers belonging to professional organizations and who regularly have peer reviewed papers published. Something I warrant Nelson has never done.

What I want to do here is begin by lambasting the last two thirds of  Nelson's semi-literate nonsense wherein he emphasizes the effects of "propaganda" and "gullibility". I promise to try to go easy on him, but I confess it will not be something that comes naturally. I have a very low tolerance level for members of high IQ societies that attack actual science in favor of cheap pseudo-science from assorted scientific whores and lackeys.

Under his header "The Propaganda Game"  (p. 6), he scribbles:

"The global warming campaign is explainable in one word: propaganda: It has been a major propaganda campaign for several years now. Its goal is the implementation of a new heavy tax called 'cap and trade''"

Let's  pause right there, and try to educate this genius- ignoramus. Most global warming researchers, and honest politicians,  have known for at least seven years that cap and trade is a fool's errand. As the MIT Technology Review puts it: "cap-and-trade, by itself, won’t make much of a dent. "
See e.g.

What WOULD make a dent - but likely would generate a hysterical Nelson and his fellow Libbies- is imposing a direct carbon tax on all oil supplies (including gasoline for autos) around the world. But the likelihood of this passing legislatures anytime soon  is about the same as Martians landing and kidnapping Trump before November 8th.  So, in the meantime, too many push "cap and trade" as a solution when it is only a Potemkin solution.

Nelson, having already screwed the pooch in his case, goes on to blabber:

"It's a clever program. The scientists who are telling us what's going on are the very people who are funded by government to give the propaganda foundation a measure of credibility."

Can anyone believe that an allegedly intelligent guy could believe this crap?  I mean, it's incredible a member of Intertel could demonstrate such profound ignorance. First, being "funded by the government" is not a priori given for any climate scientist. Yes, there are grants that provide some funding but not all scientists receive them, or the same amounts. Those likely to receive the most support are often stellar researchers like Gunter Weller - formerly of the Geophysical Institute -  or Michael Mann of Univ. of Pennsylvania.  Second, most climate researchers like Carolyn Snyder   whose research I described two blogs ago, are actually also employees of federal agencies that would ordinarily support the research of their workers anyway.

Third, scientists like many others in different fields (e.g. finance, economics,, genetic research) compete for scarce resources.  They are not about to help a competitor - say with a competing model or theory - be published merely because they propose global warming models.  Thus, if anything,  peer review is likely to be even more brutal than for deniers.

Fourth, last  I checked (maybe Nelson didn't), the "government" is not some vast, monolithic behemoth. It has branches, e.g. executive, judicial, legislative that don't  always see eye to eye. In the current cycle, last I looked, the conservative Republicans in the HOUSE have control of the purse strings, and aren't about to just dispense monies for scientific research - especially if they (like Sen. Jim Inhofe) don't like it!

Even the federal agencies, e.g. NASA, NOAA, EPA etc are not cash cows unto themselves to just dole out funds wherever (or to whomever) they want.. The House, in terms of its FY budgets, must allocate funds. Truth be told, it hasn't been too generous lately especially for critical pure scientific research including work on climate change, as well as space and solar physics.  This explodes Nelson's codswallop that "the grants and jobs depend upon their propaganda contribution". No, they depend on House budget allocations for their respective disciplines, as well as the quality of their publications - as members of professional organizations such as the American Geophysical Union.

The question now becomes, Can a guy THIS poorly informed actually be taken seriously? Or is he more like that clown king of Libertarian candidates, Gary Johnson? The dope who had an "Aleppo moment" and followed it up with another one when he was unable to name a single living world leader that he respected.

What confirms that Nelson is a total fool, never mind his writing in Intertel's PoC, is the following:

"Not surprisingly a few years ago they were caught lying in emails about the data behind their ominous predictions."

Guess Nelson never got the memo that this has been long since debunked. But like his oblivious cohort he picked this trope up from a WSJ article (Nov. 28, 2011)  by James Delingspole ('Climategate 2.0", p. A13) . Delingspole wrote at the time that a new release of mails showed that top scientists in the field fudging data, conspiring to bully, and silence opponents and displaying far less certainty about the reliability of anthropogenic global warming theory than they ever admit in public"

Delingspole  named  Phil Jones of the University of East Anglia, and Michael Mann of Penn State University. This, despite the fact that three separate independent investigations found the researchers at East Anglia to be guilty of nothing more aberrant than academic hubris, some mild snark and poor decision making. The last investigation conducted for 6 months under the severe scrutiny of Sir Muir Russell, e..g.

Climate emails and climagate : Sir Muir Russell

who found that the "rigor and honesty of the climate scientists at the Climate Research Unit (CRU) of East Anglia were not in doubt."  The Muir report panel did say the scientists'  responses for reasonable requests for information were "unhelpful and defensive". Those interested can read more of the details here for the  Muir Russell report .

The takeaway point is that NONE of the climate researchers were guilty of the "data manipulation" accusations that Delingpole hurled  - and his "hi Q" libertarian peanut gallery continues to invoke. Bad judgment on the part of Mann, Jones etc.,  yeah, maybe! Because in the end scientists are human and the CRU researchers and Prof. Mann likely suspected their work would be twisted just as the deniers did with the work of Noel Keenlyside et al in Nature back in '08. Therein the authors rendered a tentative claim for monotonic global cooling since ca. 1998. This 'jumped the shark' and become embedded into the warming skeptics' arsenal of disinfo and set real global warming science education back at least a decade in my estimation. For details of how and why the deniers were wrong in their interpretation go here:

In his next section headed "The Requisite of Gullibility" Nelson really runs off the rails of intellectual discipline showing again this Intertel Libbie lot has allowed their high IQs to run amuck like a wild stallion - dragging them into making ludicrous statements that are unsupportable. Nelson writes:

"The people who are taken in by this swindle have gullibility quotients that do fall into a Gaussian distribution. In the left tail of the curve are the severely ingenuous and plain stupid. In the right tail are the hard-headed cynics who tend not to believe anything. In the middle are the standard, statistically normalized simpletons who were also taken in by the disappearing ozone scare.."

Of course, there is no such entity or measure as a "gullibility quotient".  It appears in no statistical monograph or journal of statistics and is evidently an invention of a group calling itself "the astute bloggers".  They base their "GQ" on a highly subjective "gullibility" test with more leading questions than a KKK entrance inquisition. See :

One is thereby led to impute more than a little gullibility to Nelson.  He  places credence in a gullibility quotient but dismisses what he calls "the Ozone scare". That was no "scare" but actually an observed significant erosion of the ozone (O3) layer in the 1980s on account of chloroflourocarbons- or CFCs.  The phenomenon was as real as a heart attack and one which the late astronomer Carl Sagan took so seriously that he penned numerous popular essays on it..

See also e.g.

But see, to those who never took a serious college science course, and are invested in economic, political or general humbug,  genuine science and its methods are beyond their grasp.  In such a circumstance everything falls onto a spectrum of "belief" as opposed to QA related to evidence.  If a phenomenon doesn't jibe with their belief matrix it's a "hoax". I traced the "ozone hole is a hoax" claptrap to the same source as "nuclear winter is a hoax"-  to groupies of the political crackpot Lyndon LaRouche, e.g.

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Recall this was the nut who supported Reagan's unworkable SDI program, as well as having ties to far right groups including the Liberty Lobby.  Might Nelson be a "LaRouchie" instead of a Libbie? It is possible, but I lean to the latter because that's the direction the Port of Call editor Kort blows.

Now, as to his claimed Gaussian distribution showing the spread of the "plain stupid" to "standard simpletons" to "hard headed cynics" - where the hell is it? He provides no graphic or paper citation, say from The Journal of the American Statistical Association.  This jive turkey doesn't even provide any indication of the standard deviations separating one group from the other, say the 'cynics" from "statistically normalized simpletons".

Would this condescending Babbitt also list the Pentagon and Dept. of Defense among the global warming believing simpletons? If so, I'd suggest he look up last year's 'Defense, National Security And Climate Change Symposium' , held in Washington, D.C.  At the Symposium,  Brigadier General Stephen Cheney stepped up to the podium to discuss 'Conflict and Climate Change'. Cheney, like some other speakers- zeroed in on climate-driven migration, asserting:

"We know for a fact that climate change is already driving internal and cross border migration"

Referencing here, for example, that in Bangladesh - the 'ground zero' of global warming- rising sea levels could displace 15 million by 2050. Oxford University's Norman Myers has projected there could be as many as 200 million climate refugees by mid-century.  Cheney's presentation tagged a number of conflict climate triggers, including the desertification in the borderlands between Chad and Nigeria which "has caused a lot of migration". He also indicated that the terror organization Boko Haram "is simply taking advantage of that".

Other aspects of Cheney's talk cited beefing up military infrastructure at home and abroad to be resistant to harsher climate. The army, in fact, has adopted a 'Net Zero' initiative to make its U.S. bases water and energy independent. I'd also advise Nelson to look into all the reinsurance companies (like Munich Re) that have climate change factored into their tables, costs, plans - but given his paranoid streak he'd probably blame that on a "scheming profit motive".

Nelson claimed he "read a book some years ago called 'The Big Con'" - which "included a colorful glossary of all the terms con artists use e.g. sap, sucker, mark etc." So one can conclude from this that his Gaussian distribution for global warming "suckers" doesn't actually exist. It is really a take off on the book he read, with his own subjectively applied regions (again, no stds) superposed . In other words, Nelson pulled it out of his ass, to be blunt.

Maybe the dumbest statement of all he leaves for the penultimate:

"None of this means that global warming is not happening. Whether it is or not is as unknowable as next week's lottery."

Is he serious? Unknowable?  Is he suffering from major cognitive decline?  Or, more likely, is it a manifestation of the Dunning -Kruger Effect?   Maybe this turkey just needs to leave his  armchair and little den to venture forth into the outside world and see some of the melting ice sheets as well as receding glaciers such as we observed in  Switzerland (Sept., 2014), and in Alaska in March, 2005. E.g. this plateau scene from Jungfraujoch which we also visited in 1978:
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Note the people,  but most especially the lines of rope  tied to posts in the foreground,  in the photo taken by Janice in Sept., 2014.  None of those ropes existed when we last came in July, 1978. Unlike when we were there in 1978, the powers-that-be had roped off the entire plateau area and posted signs to warn visitors not to jump over the ropes to go beyond. With no such rope boundaries in '78,  we managed to hike far beyond those confines to the top of a steep slope nearly parallel with the Sphinx Observatory (far right). This time we observed chunks of snow and ice falling and suspected a primary reason was that global warming had rendered the snow-packed slopes more treacherous, and the risk of avalanche much greater. We'd have had to be fools to attempt what we did 36 years earlier, and in JULY at that time.

When we traveled to Alaska, in March, 2005, we saw similar unnerving sights. Many of these while we traveled in a small 'flightseeing' plane to Mount Denali. One view from the cockpit of the plane is shown below

The original deal was that we were to land on a glacier near the peak and be able to walk around and see Denali up close and personal. This was the package promised. However, after several swoops low over the area the pilot warned us he wouldn't be able to fulfill it. His 27 years of experience and trained eyes informed him the supporting snow and ice was much too treacherous to sustain even a small plane landing. Did we really want our "money's worth"? Uh,  no.  What we saw, however, was enough to show that those who denied global warming were spouting absolute bollocks. Indeed, when I was at the University of Alaska over 1985-86 it was none other than Prof. Gunter Weller who had first shown how the Arctic was warming much more rapidly than the lower continent (up to 7F more) - and this was part of his anthropogenic warming predictions. (Nelson, in a footnote, refers to only 3 or 4 degrees - no  specific units, C or F-  as a "sign of "doomsaying".)

Then there is the coral bleaching arising from higher ocean temperatures that was painfully visible to us when we took a tour-based submarine ('Atlantis II)  across Carlisle Bay in Barbados in 2012, e.g.
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The degree of bleaching and coral death was appalling. Also the increase in acidity of the oceans. See e.g.

Perhaps this "genius" is too enthralled with his own propaganda narrative on global warming to do even minimally competent investigation and googling that would have led him to actual videos of unprecedented ice sheet and glacier melting, collapse. See e.g.

Clearly, Nelson wouldn't recognize global warming if it burned his ass off and then sunk him in the next moisture-laden atmospheric driven deluge.

Now, let's go to the beginning of his "note" . He insists that for the "dire predictions" of global warming to be valid the following conditions must be met:

1)The input data must be scrupulously correct as a tiny error will be greatly multiplied by the long period of prediction.

2)The simulation modeling must be flawless for the same reason as (1)

3) There must be an absence of ‘black swans’ for the entire period.

He adds:

To promulgate dire conclusions in the absence of the above disciplines presumes a deep gullibility in the targets of the propaganda effort

In the case of (1) Nelson confuses error propagation applied to a stochastic phenomenon (like global warming) with a chaotic phenomenon, For example, any attempt to predict Jupiter's position in two million years would interject nonlinear aspects typically associated with "chaos".  Chaos, intruding via real number extra digits used in the parameters (e.g. the longitude of the perihelion),  would play havoc with the result and propagate a seriously large error.  But by virtue of being a stochastic science, no climate researcher with more than air between his ears would use such long strings of digits, say like  0.0000001133444 for the eccentricity (e) of the orbit.

The inputs that most predict the most dire effects of rapid warming then, are not so stringent nor do they have attached to them such absurd levels of accuracy. One we can name for instance is the concentration in parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere. This is currently at about 400 ppm. Attendant on that is the fact that in the historical record (analysis via ice cores) there has never been an ice age when the CO2 concentration was higher than 200 ppm (See: 'Greenhouse' by Gale Christianson).

These two quantitative indices already tell us we are in dire straits, because: 1) we have surpassed the 200 ppm threshold and by a factor 2, and 2) the concentrations are increasing. The El Nino effect alone predicted to add 0.5 - 1.5 ppm to the existing increment of 2.0 ppm/ year. (Betts et al, EOS: Earth & Space Science News (Vol. 93, No. 15, p. 5):

The temperature of the planet is currently out of balance by 0.6W/ m2  and this is almost entirely due to the annual rate of CO2 concentrations increasing. Further,  every increase in CO2 concentration by 2 ppm increases the radiative heating effect by 2 W/ m2.

The one uncertainty amongst all these numbers is exactly when  (at what threshold) the runaway greenhouse effect kicks in.  The late Carl Sagan who wrote the generalist essay "Ambush - The Warming of the World", estimated (in a CNN interview with Ted Turner in 1990) that the runaway would emerge when the mean global temperature exceeds 6 degrees Celsius. Right now, we are well on the way to reaching 4 C by 2100.  Prof. Gunter Weller estimated it would kick in when the CO2 concentration level of 600 ppm is surpassed which seems reasonable. If it is at 400 ppm now - by many conservative measures -  then doing the math (adding 2 ppm  per year and 2 W/ m2   radiative heating contribution), gives us approximately 100 years. But bear in mind all this is conservative given the inputs from El Nino are actually increasing the yearly concentrations (Betts et al). 

Now, by the 2 ppm/yr. computation we have 100 years until the CO2 concentrations reach 600 ppm, which would be by 2116. By this same time, the value for the solar insolation or constant would be effectively at 1360  W/ m2     + 100 ( 2 W/ m2   ) =  1560  W/ m2     

At that point there is no issue of "dire consequences" - they will be legion- especially the millions dying from heat deaths as heat waves make the recent one in India - reaching 110 F for several weeks - look like a "walk in the park". Expect instead months of temperatures in the 130F - 140F range, more common to Death Valley or the sands of Iraq in the summer, for most of the globe.

But really, seriously now, are we really going to quibble about how "dire" the effects are at that 600 ppm level say, compared to 550 ppm, or even 520 ppm?  The conditions in even civilized,  advanced nations will border on the horrific in the pre-runaway years.  This will range from power grids crashing from overuse, to lack of water from utilities (because power is needed to pump water for use), to the spread of diseases such as dengue fever, as well as brain infestations by worms, e.g.

Now, Nelson can choose to 'believe" any of this or not. That is his privilege and right, but as I wrote in a recent response to Kort Patterson's trash "Tolerating Dishonesty" in the latest Integra ( September, p. 11):

"Clearly, a high IQ society above all ought to be dedicated to scientific facts, not hearsay or propaganda".

I stand by that. As for Nelson's condition (2), again, for the same reasons as already given the inputs (forcing component, solar insolation at time t, CO2 concentration etc.) do not have to be "flawless". Whether we are in a 550 ppm world, or a 600 ppm one, we shall see holy hell. We already are seeing various dire effects from terrible droughts and heat waves in India (Schools had been shut down in the eastern state of Orissa and more than 100 deaths from heatstroke had been reported from across the country. These include the states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh which saw over 2,000 heat deaths last summer.  The Indian government has reported nearly 256 districts affected across India, home to nearly a fourth of the country's population - or 330m.)

Nelson's "no black swans" condition (3) is ludicrous given the whole thing is really based on a metaphor. As noted in the  Wikipedia entry:

"The black swan theory or theory of black swan events is a metaphor that describes an event that comes as a surprise, has a major effect, and is often inappropriately rationalized after the fact with the benefit of hindsight. The term is based on an ancient saying which presumed black swans did not exist, but the saying was rewritten after black swans were discovered in the wild.
The theory was developed by Nassim Nicholas Taleb to explain:
  1. The disproportionate role of high-profile, hard-to-predict, and rare events that are beyond the realm of normal expectations in history, science, finance, and technology.
  2. The non-computability of the probability of the consequential rare events using scientific methods (owing to the very nature of small probabilities).
  3. The psychological biases that blind people, both individually and collectively, to uncertainty and to a rare event's massive role in historical affairs"

The point seemingly missed by Nelson is that putative "black swans" only transpire because conscious, scientific observers have not always been around to observe them or may not have the technology to forecast them currently. (Because budget tenders won't provide the money, say in the case of tracking asteroids)  They may also not use the appropriate statistical techniques - say for the probability of "consequential rare events" like large solar flares. Does Taleb (or Nelson) even know about the Poisson distribution and statistics?  In the case of Poisson investigations, these are specifically designed for rare events amongst many other 'no events'. Thus, one typically may look at "no flare" days for particular spot classes and assess whether any null hypothesis makes the mark. The figure below shows an example for one Poisson distribution obtained by Beta-class sunspot  no flare days in 1980.

Such a Poisson process, e.g.  of the form P(t) =   exp (- l)   lt  / t!, where the Poisson mean rate of occurrence is: lm =   l Dt, with Dt  = t,  generally assumes the time interval Dt = 1d. In reality, measuring constraints (say achieving uniformly equal time intervals between successive Mt. Wilson magnetograms), will usually ensure  Dt ¹ 1d, so D¹  t thereby introducing a selection effect variability, complicating computation of P(t).

Major asteroid strikes are also inherently rare events and may be investigated using Poisson methods.

The Chicxulub  impactor event which took out the dinosaurs is a case in point. We also know that somewhere in space, right now, a planet killer asteroid is achieving orbital elements that might put it on a collision course with Earth. By the same token, solar physicists are aware that at some future time a solar CME could spell the end of civilization, all power systems, GPS too.  See

For reference, a CME in February 2013,  captured by the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, is shown below as it shot away from the Sun at 800 km/s.

 The initial prediction was that the bulk of the ejected mass would sail over the Earth’s north pole. However, warned there was still a chance of a glancing blow. The former likely meant high latitude observers on Earth would see brilliant auroras, but  experience no serious disturbance. A glancing blow possibly also meant one or more power grids knocked out such as occurred in Quebec in 1989 after a giant solar flare. As it turned out we missed the worst effects, only some SIDs.

Is this type of event a "black swan"? No, I don't believe so, because we could predict them IF we possessed the instruments and technology to track their evolution. We don't now. Currently the technology exists for the Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE) satellite which can measure the intensity and magnetic orientation of any CME that sweeps by it. The problem is that ACE is nearly on its last legs and a replacement monitor is needed, lest we become "blind" to the killer CME with our name on it.

Fortuitously, a fully -ready space craft that can undertake ACE's duties exists. The problem? This Deep Space Climate Observatory (or DSCOVR) sits mothballed in storage at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt,  Maryland. It sits idle because the Obama administration's $47.3 million budget request to refurbish and launch DSCOVR was forthwith rejected by the Republican-controlled House.

Perhaps, black swans happen because a supposedly intelligent species refuses to do the things necessary to protect itself from events which - while not totally "forseeable" - are nevertheless on the radar screens and early warning systems of the scientists who study them - including solar physicists (for CMEs), planetary astronomers (for asteroids), and climate research scientists (for climate change- global warming).

Narratives like Nelson's don't help, and are not appreciated, as they disparage the enterprise of real science while giving cover to pseudo-science, genuine propaganda - such as exposed in the fossil fuel companies' own documents e.g.

Maybe Nelson ought to wade through these phony documents and admissions by the likes of Exxon  before he next aspires to pin the "propaganda" tail on actual climate scientists!

See also:



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