Posted by: Barry Bickmore | April 15, 2012

“Greatest Snow on Earth” Disappearing

Judy Fahys at The Salt Lake Tribune has a great story about how Utah is losing it’s snowpack due to climate change.  The story is based on a new scientific paper by Rob Gillies, Utah’s state climatologist, and colleagues at Utah State University.  This is very bad news in a state so well known for its ski industry, and even worse news in an arid region with a fast growing population.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | April 12, 2012

Reporter Pwns John Christy

John Christy, a climatologist who is Roy Spencer’s contrarian buddy at the University of Alabama Huntsville, just published a paper showing that there has been no statistically significant decrease in snowfall in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  Ok.  But what happened next has become a familiar story.  Christy went to the media with a press release claiming that his study proves that standard climate models are wrong.  The story was picked up by James Taylor, a Heartland Institute operative who blogs for Forbes and by a few other media outlets.  (Remember that James Taylor was the same guy who broke the story “New NASA Data Blow Gaping Hole in Global Warming Alarmism“–you know the one about the study in which Roy Spencer had left out a bunch of data he said he analyzed, but that completely undercut his conclusions?  That’s the kind of thing James Taylor writes about when he’s not trying to convince people that second-hand smoke is actually good for you because nicotine delays Alzheimer’s onset.)  Well, a reporter at the Reno Gazette-Journal not only interviewed John Christy about his paper, but checked out what Christy said with other climatologists.  It turns out that Christy might just have been exaggerating the significance of his results a teensy bit.  And by “a teensy bit” I mean that almost all the standard climate models projected essentially the same thing that Christy reported in his paper.

The RGJ article is a great example of what reporters can do when they decide to go beyond “he said, she said” and actually check facts.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | March 29, 2012

A Republican Meteorologist on Climate Change

Paul Douglas, a Republican and a meteorologist, has written a nice piece about how he changed his mind about climate change.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | March 28, 2012

Daily Mail Wrong Again on Climate

Back in January, I wrote this:

Here’s a rule of thumb for you.  If you ever read anything about climate change in The Daily Mail, the odds are excellent that it’s nonsense.

Turns out my rule of thumb is working quite well so far.  Read Peter Sinclair’s Climate Denial Crock of the Week post about how a Syracuse University scientist is complaining that The Daily Mail printed a story saying that his research showed human-caused global warming is a hoax, when his research was really about a single site in Antarctica.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | March 27, 2012

Will Happer is Truth-Challenged

A few months ago, I gave a talk at Utah Valley University entitled, “How to Avoid the Truth About Climate Change” (click here for video).  In the talk, I introduced the concept of “truth-challenged individuals”–people who are better than the rest of us at ignoring evidence that contradicts what we want to believe–and gave a few examples.  Well, it’s time to add another such individual to the list–Prof. Will Happer, a physicist at Princeton.

In 2010, Prof. Happer testified before a committee of the U.S. House of Representatives, “Over the past ten years there has been no statistically [significant] global warming. This is not at all what was predicted by the IPCC computer models.”  The problem was that the IPCC models DO predict there will be whole decades of less rapid warming or even some cooling as the temperature gradually rises.  But since the weather is “chaotic” in the short term, exactly WHEN these short-term dips in the temperature trend will occur is hard to predict, so different models (or even the same models run with slightly different starting conditions) will project the dips at different times.  This FACT is clearly evident in the following graph, taken from Fig. 10.5 of the IPCC AR4 Working Group 1 Report.   It shows climate model temperature projections for the A2 emissions scenario, with the individual lines representing individual models or averaged groups of models.  Just look at some of the more squiggly lines, which represent individual models.  They go up for several years, then they go down for several years, but in the long term the trend is up.

IPCC AR4 model projections for the A2 scenario. Individual lines represent output from individual models or groups of models. The output is subjected to a 3-year running average.

Oh, I’m certainly not the first one to point this out about Happer’s false testimony.  Ben Santer and his colleagues published a paper in the Journal of Geophysical Research last year, in which they showed, “Claims that minimal warming over a single decade undermine findings of a slowly-evolving externally-forced warming signal [e.g., as in Investor’s Business Daily, 2008; Happer, 2010] are simply incorrect.”  (Click here for a free pre-publication version of Santer’s paper.)

Well, now Happer has made the same claim again in the Wall Street Journal.

If anyone can point out where Prof. Happer has dealt with Santer’s refutation of his (obviously) false testimony, please do so in the comments.  To me, it looks like he’s simply ignoring it.

[UPDATE:  In 2011, Happer apparently wrote an article making similar claims in First Things.  Climate scientist Mike McCracken did a point-by-point rebuttal here.]

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | March 26, 2012

The Monckton Files: Squealing Tires

Last month I wrote a post about how Peter Hadfield, an experienced science journalist and YouTuber, seemed to be cornering Lord Monckton into a debate.  Here’s an excerpt from that earlier post.

Several months ago I wrote a post here about how Lord Christopher Monckton’s handler, Bob Ferguson, had tried to get me to do a live debate with Monckton.  I declined, because I felt that live debates favor people who, well… make up whatever they want.  Instead, I proposed a written online debate, in which we would have time to check each other’s sources.  This proposal was flatly refused.

Well, it appears that Monckton may have been forced into a written debate by an experienced science journalist, Peter Hadfield.  Or at least he’s been forced into looking very, very bad if he doesn’t accept Hadfield’s challenge.

Hadfield, who goes by the handle “Potholer54″ on YouTube, produces a high quality series of videos that debunk common climate myths.  Some months ago he produced five videos debunking various claims made by Monckton.  (Lord Monckton Bunkum Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5).  Much of it was simply a matter of checking Monckton’s sources and comparing what they actually say to the claims Monckton used them to support.  In other words, Hadfield did a John Abraham, but with video clips to back up his assertions about what Monckton had said.  Monckton posted a “response” to the video series on the Watt’s Up With That? blog, in which he dropped a bunch of insults on Hadfield and tried to squirm out of the charges by essentially denying everything.  Hadfield responded back with a two-part video series (Part 1,Part 2), which was, to be frank, devastating, because Monckton was on video saying all those things he now denies having said.

But here’s where the story gets really good.  Anthony Watts, a former weatherman and proprietor of the Watt’s Up With That? blog, has now posted a written response by Hadfield right under Monckton’s post.

Apparently, Monckton had promised to answer Hadfield’s criticism, but he has now responded to Hadfield’s requests by saying that he all of a sudden has far too much other stuff to do, and so he can’t possibly be expected to address such “inconsequentialities” as whether he misrepresented his sources to make all the major points in his public lectures.  This is quite amusing to Monckton watchers like myself, because for years His Lordship has been touting the fact that Al Gore refuses to debate him.  Al Gore would likely refuse to debate Jessica Simpson or the guy who played Screech on Saved by the Bell, too, but the fact is that Monckton has very publicly criticized certain points in Gore’s movie, An Inconvenient Truth, and many, many people repeat those criticisms.  In my opinion, most of the criticisms are absurd, but I don’t think Gore would be remiss in assigning a staffer to do some kind of written response.  I’m all for ignoring fringe figures, but when fringe figures are testifying before the U.S. Congress as “expert” witnesses, maybe it’s time to take notice.  Here is Monckton throwing down the gauntlet for Al Gore on Fox News (video here):

I want you to face me in a debate about global warming, and if you don’t dare, I want you to remain silent about that subject forever, from now on.

As I noted, however, the sort of debate Monckton wants is the kind where you can say anything you want and nobody can check your sources.  So now that he has been cornered into a debate ABOUT his sources, with video clips and photographs of paragraphs in the papers he cites, I think it’s a bit uncomfortable for him.  Hadfield has followed up with an open letter to Monckton, which he has posted on his YouTube channel, challenging Monckton to continue with the debate.

Will Monckton respond?  I doubt it, but he has no excuse for it.  Peter Hadfield had this to say with respect to Monckton’s “I don’t have time” excuse.

Let me address the first excuse first. I understand you are currently on a busy tour, but you promised Anthony Watts you would respond when you returned from your last tour, and you did not. Meanwhile I note that you have had plenty of time to respond to a university newsletter that criticized you, and you spent two hours talking on skype to a small classroom of students. I fail to see why these are “priorities”, while my 57,000 subscribers and the hundreds of thousands of subscribers to wattsupwiththat are not deserving of an answer from you concerning clear evidence that you seriously misled your audiences over a period of several years. The people watching this debate have watched you vacate your chair, and are still expecting to see you to re-appear from backstage at any moment with some incisive rebuttal after checking my evidence. I am sure they will be as shocked as I am to hear the squealing of car tyres as you make good your escape.

As the sound of Monckton’s squealing tires fades into the distance, the real question is this.  If Monckton refuses to debate Hadfield, will he “remain silent about [climate change] forever, from now on”?


Posted by: Barry Bickmore | March 15, 2012

Ann Coulter: GOP Has Problem with “Con Men and Charlatans”

Conservative commentator and provocateur, Ann Coulter, recently gave a talk at the Lincoln Day dinner for the the Indian River County, FL Republican Party.  (See the video below.)  When an audience member asked about the prospect of a brokered convention, she first took a dig at Sarah Palin.

Yes, and one of the ones promoting that is Sarah Palin, who has suggested herself as the choice.  I think as long as it’s between us girls — I’ve been observing something about her. I don’t think it’s likely to happen. I don’t know what these people are cheering for. I mean, as I wrote in a column a few weeks back, who is this dream candidate we’re hoping to get from the convention, because Rick Perry used to be the dream candidate. Could we see them in a debate first?

Then Coulter went on to say what she thought the larger problem in the GOP is.

And just a more corporate problem is I think our party and particularly our movement, the conservative movement, does have more of a problem with con men and charlatans than the Democratic Party….  The incentives seem to be set up to allow people…as long as you have a band of a few million fanatical followers, you can make money….  The Democrats have managed to figure out how not to do that.  I mean, Dennis Kucinich is a nut, he has millions of fanatical followers–he doesn’t get a show on MSNBC….   No, no, no, no, no.  You embarrass us, and drag this thing out–you are finished in the Democratic Party.

This is nowhere more evident than in the climate policy debate.  The Republican Party is beset by “con men and charlatans” whose specialty is to convince people that there is no climate change problem.  And why do we believe them?  Because for people who think we should try to solve problems with as little government regulation as possible, it’s always easier to deny there is a problem at all.  Figuring out non-invasive strategies for tackling society’s problems is difficult, after all, and it’s even more difficult to sell them to a public that wants the government to “do something” when a problem pops up.  And so we desperately want to believe that big problems are overblown or nonexistent.  Whenever a group of people “desperately wants to believe” something, there will always be someone willing to tell them what they want to hear, whether the opportunists are charlatans or simply nutjobs.

When conservatives fall for this, however, we are breaking one of our own cardinal rules–the Law of Unintended Consequences.   That is, one of the standard conservative arguments against the growth of government regulation is that purposeful actions always have unintended consequences.  For instance, if we intend to set up a universal health care system, there may well be unintended consequences for the national debt and the economic health of small business.  But couldn’t we anticipate the same thing if we elect conspiracy theorist nutjobs?

Related Post:  Republican Scientist:  I. WILL. NEVER. VOTE. SANTORUM.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | February 29, 2012

Roy Spencer’s Junk Science

Roy Spencer recently posted an article on his blog called “Ten Years After the Warming,” in which he argues that there’s no excuse for a decade without much warming, because the radiative forcing is supposedly higher than it’s ever been.  Steve Milloy has also reposted the article on his aptly titled blog,  (In case you don’t remember, Steve Milloy is a Fox News commentator who goes about labeling as “junk science” any environmental issues that might precipitate some government regulation.  Yes, that includes links between second-hand smoke and cancer.)  Spencer’s main point is this:

You cannot simply say a lack of warming in 10 years is not that unusual, and that there have been previous 10-year periods without warming, too. No, we are supposedly in uncharted territory with a maximum in radiative forcing of the climate system. One cannot compare on an equal basis the last 10 years with any previous decades without warming. Read More…

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | February 28, 2012

Market Crash, Climate Crash: Will the Wall Street Journal Warn Us?

Following is a guest post by Bob Fischer, a Wall Street quantitative analyst (“quant”) turned climate scientist.  He is now working as a post-doc at NASA.  An earlier version of this essay (somewhat different) appeared on the Planet 3.0 blog.

It should surprise no one that the WSJ has posted yet another climate change denial op-ed.  What is surprising is that anyone might actually believe them.  Why?  Of course science is not their thing.  But more importantly, the WSJ, along with most of Wall Street, has done a poor job of accurately predicting ECONOMIC calamity in the past — something that SHOULD BE their thing.

Let’s review some recent history.  Before becoming a climate scientist, I was a Wall Street Quant for a decade.  In that time, I worked for a hedge fund, a proprietary trading desk and an options trading firm.  From the fascinating vantage point of the neve center of our economy, I was privileged to experiece first-hand so many of the recent market shocks: the Dot-Com Bubble, the Dot-Com Bust of 2000, the Mutual Fund Scandal of 2003, the Housing Bubble, the Sub-Prime Decline of 2007, the total market meltdown of 2008, the Flash Crash of 2010, and others.  Many of these events affected me professionally, financially and personally — one even cost me my job.  I also witnessed various responses to the events: by other Wall Street professionals, by Federal regulators, by the financial media, and by the nation at large.  The year 2008 was particularly fascinating: I watched highly respected corporations fall apart and vanish in an instant, and the rest write off hundreds of billions of dollars in bad assets.  I even got to watch as my co-workers ended up with mountains of illiquid toxic assets on their books.

Unfortunately, the financial press has been remarkably poor at predicting market shocks, or even of warning the average reader of growing market dangers.  Where was the WSJ to warn us of the dot-com crash in March 2000, when the average stock was selling for a P/E ratio of 47.2?  Where was the WSJ to warn us of a long-term glut of housing in 2007, a year in which home construction vastly outpaced any rational increased demand for housing?  Where was the WSJ to do some investigative journalism on widespread mortgage fraud or inflated securities ratings, before it became painfully apparent to everyone in 2008 and beyond?  Where was the WSJ to warn us of the folly of buying opaque mortgage-backed securities, with no information of who was going to pay them or what the risk of default might be?  Where was the WSJ to suggest that personal debt has gotten out of line?

America today is mad at Wall Street, and rightfully so.  The actions of “the Street” as a whole have left our nation today with high unemployment, deflated retirement savings and housing that we don’t need.  People who are supposed to be our financial experts and leaders have failed us.  The fact that many on Wall St. continued to collect princely sums for their services in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 only adds insult to injury for the average American.

In the face of such massive failures in foresight, money managers typically excuse themselves.  “We couldn’t see the bubble,” “everyone else was doing it,” or “hindsight is 20/20.”  And then they move on to the “next big thing,” telling themselves <a href=”“>This Time is Different</a>.  And the cycle repeats.

Why is Wall St. so bad at predicting upcoming calamity?  It’s not like NOBODY was aware of the dangers.  For example, <a href=>Robert Shiller</a> accurately predicted the recent housing bubble long before it burst — but he was regularly dismissed in the press.  Vanguard Funds <a href=”“>avoided buying toxic assets</a> because they investigated themselves, rather than relying on rating agencies — but few of their corporate peers followed suit.  These rational voices did not have to use rocket science to come to their conclusions.  Rather, they based their warnings of fundamental economic principles that anyone can understand: namely supply and demand, and reversion to the mean.

But there’s an old saying that Wall St. is ruled by greed and fear.  And in 2007, Greed was King.  People had a hard time thinking rationally about the long term when they believed they could flip their asset for 50% profit in a few months’ time.  Meanwhile, a majority of Wall Street professionals were happy to oblige because they make money on every trade, regardless of whether or not it’s profitable: brokers, investment bankers, real estate agents, mortgage companies, etc.  As long as these professionals weren’t left holding the hot potato, they could profit today off of someone else’s future loss.  Opaque mortgage-backed securities provided a perfect vehicle for passing off the hot potato.

In my time on Wall Street, worked on the “buy side” (hedge funds), meaning I only got paid if we made money for our clients.  But there was still great pressure to chase short-term profit in exchange for future losses.  Why?  Because we got paid a yearly bonus based on that year’s profit.  If the hedge fund blows up next year, we would be out of a job.  But we would still get to keep last year’s bonus.

Losing your job is rarely much of a problem on Wall Street, especially for an experienced Quant.  We learned to save up during the good times for the next big shock (and pink slip): many Quants go a year or more “on the beach” between jobs.  And some of the people who have lost the largest sums of money for their clients still manage to attract mountains of capital for their next attempt.  Maybe it didn’t work out last time, but the sure-fire road to riches is just around the corner!  Magical thinking never goes out of style.

So the boom-and-bust cycle of the financial markets continues, and will continue, as long as there are markets to go bust.  We knew that nothing we did was sustainable — no investment strategy, arbitrage scheme or market making system.  Over time, ever-increasing competition and market efficiency always whittle away any edge we had.  And we also know that nothing (eg the economy) can grow exponentially forever.

Thus, we lived on a mining mentality: get all you can get today, so you have the resources to mine the next pot of gold tomorrow — a pot that will probably require increased sophistication and infrastructure for smaller returns.  We never worried too much about predicting market crashes, just how to survive them (and maybe even make a profit).  When things went bust, we would sow our seeds and hope that next year would be better, like an ancient tribal society doing the rain dance.  We lived for the moment, with a sincere belief in human ingenuity.  This is Darwinian Optimism: the belief that the best and brightest will always somehow find a way to adapt.

So what about climate change?  Climate science is warning us of dire consequences that could threaten the habitability of our planet over the next 100+ years.  The science suggests that the changes might overwhelm our ability to adapt.  But Wall Street, with its millisecond view of the market, quarterly earning statements and belief in infinite human adaptability, has no concept or ability to think 100 years into the future.  Heck, we rarely even though 1 year into the future.  And the Street certainly cannot imagine a future in which people (the best and brightest) don’t, somehow, come out on top.

All the Street sees is the fact that there are billions to be made TODAY through continued exploitation of fossil fuels.  So what if our grandchildren get flooded out?  For Wall St, a climate crash would be not so different from a regularly scheduled market crash.  “We didn’t see it coming.”  “We thought this time is different.”  “We were just doing what we thought was right at the time.”  And in the end, SOMEONE will make a buck.  Speculators will buy up future beachfront property even as today’s beachfront is washing out to sea.

America and world beware.  This is the industry that, in pursuit of short-term profit, has again and again failed to predict calamity. Instead of showing financial leadership for the health of the nation, it has brought us toxic assets, acres of unnecessary houses, a foreclosure crisis and high unemployment.  Just to name a few.  America is rightly angry at this industry.  Its track record on disasters is so bad, it has absolutely no authority to speak about potential upcoming climate disasters.  Things will always look rosy to those few working up in the Gold Tower of Wall Street.  But that view does not extend to the rest of the world.  If we listen to these voices in the climate change policy debate, we should not be surprised at the likely outcome: short-term profits in exchange for long-term loss, while the rich get richer.  Let’s hope our grandchildren view us charitably.

Copyright (c) 2012 by Robert Fischer.  All rights reserved.

*** Bob Fischer was a Wall Street Quant for ten years, a time during which he worked with a number of interesting, smart people. He is now a climate scientist.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | February 24, 2012

Water Vapor Feedback Infographic

A common contrarian argument is that “water vapor is a more important greenhouse gas than CO2, but we don’t regulate evaporation”.  For instance, Roger Helmer, a British member of the European Parliament put it this way.

But the Warmists have the bizarre idea that only CO2 matters.  Certainly CO2 is a greenhouse gas, but it’s not even the most important one.  That’s water vapour, and there’s nothing we can do about it (as long as the wind blows over the ocean).

You can read a good rebuttal about this over at Skeptical Science, so I won’t reinvent the wheel here.  However, I made a nice infographic about why this “argument” is ridiculous… if you know any physics.  Here it is, and use it however you like.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | February 23, 2012

Republican Scientist: “I. WILL. NEVER. VOTE. SANTORUM.”

Now that Rick Santorum has overtaken Mitt Romney in the polls, I have to start asking myself whether I could vote for Santorum if he wins the nomination.  What is a Republican scientist to do?

Politically, I think I am probably somewhere around the center of the Republican party on most issues, but unfortunately, this hasn’t been a good couple of years for “moderate” Republicans.  This is certainly the case for Mitt Romney, at the moment.  Oh, I know he is presently on the stump preaching about how conservative he is, but the fact is that he doesn’t have the most conservative of records.  Another relevant fact is that he is a Mormon, so Romney does significantly worse in localities that have a higher percentage of Evangelicals, who often call the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints a “non-Christian cult”.  All of this makes him a tough pill to swallow for the “Tea Party” wing of the party,  which is dominated by ideological purists and Evangelical Christians.

Santorum doesn’t have the most conservative record on some issues, either, but he has consistently been on the extreme right with respect to social issues.  He’s also a Roman Catholic, and Catholics generally aren’t viewed as unfavorably as Mormons by most Evangelicals, in my experience.

And then there’s the issue of climate change.

While Romney once backed emissions caps, he has now at least become more wishy-washy in his public statements about the issue.  That is, while he once said that he “believed” humans were causing some of the global warming we’re seeing, he now says he “doesn’t know” what is causing it.  While he once said that we should try to limit emissions, he now says it’s not the right time to be spending “trillions of dollars” on it.  He sounds different, but in fact he hasn’t really contradicted anything he said previously.  Maybe he still “believes” humans are causing global warming, but doesn’t “know” it, and “believes” that we ought to do something about the issue, but has in mind a price tag in the “billions of dollars” range.  I have no idea, but I can imagine Romney’s updated language still sounds a bit suspicious to Tea Party activists, who overwhelmingly reject the evidence that humans are causing significant climate change.

Santorum has never had a moment’s doubt about climate change, however.  According to Politico, Santorum recently claimed that global warming is a “hoax”.

Now, to some extent I can understand the belief that “the science of man-made global warming” is too uncertain, because there’s always uncertainty involved with any scientific theory.  And the fact is that a few years ago I thought the uncertainty was too much for any drastic action, as well.  My problem is that I’m a geoscientist with areas of expertise that overlap quite a bit with those of many climate scientists.  When I decided to study climate change in depth, I fairly quickly found that even given all the uncertainty, there’s only a miniscule chance that human-caused climate change is such a minor problem that we don’t have to worry about cutting our emissions.  When I looked into charges that climate scientists were guilty of conspiracy, I found the scientists’ critics had taken their words badly out of context, and the conspiracy would have had to be so vast as to be utterly impossible to sustain.

I’ll be blunt.  The climate change conspiracy theories aren’t just untenable–they’re idiotic.

Now, I’m really not that picky about the political candidates I vote for.  As long as they seem to mostly align with my policy views, and to generally be reasonable people who have some kind of moral compass, I don’t have a problem voting for them.  But that part about being “reasonable” is a sticking point, here, because I don’t consider people to be reasonable who believe and promote wacko conspiracy theories.

Lately, conspiracy theories seem to have gained a lot of traction on my side of the political fence.  Back in 2010, one poll showed that 46% of Republicans believed Barack Obama was a Muslim, and last year a poll of likely Republican primary voters showed that 51% were “birthers”.  So what is someone like me supposed to do, when people like these are picking the Republican candidates?  The ultra-right keeps telling me that nominating a moderate Republican like Romney is a recipe for failure, because there won’t be enough of a “contrast” with Obama, and such a candidate wouldn’t be able to “mobilize the base”.  Even if they’re right, if Santorum is nominated I will be faced with a choice between 1) a guy who seems fairly reasonable, but disagrees with most of my policy preferences, and 2) a guy who agrees with most of my policy preferences, but is a conspiracy theorist.

If the ultra-right wing wants to draw a line in the sand and tell us that “the base” won’t show up to vote for a moderate Republican, all I can do is counter with my own line in the sand.


I just can’t make myself do it.  I can’t put someone like that in charge of the most powerful military force on the planet–no matter what a second term for Obama might mean for the economy or the make-up of the Supreme Court.  This is where my loyalty to the Republican team ends.  I encourage like-minded Republicans to show up to the primaries and Just Say No to Conspiracy Theorists.

If you’d like to read more about the frustrations of Republican scientists about their party’s stance on climate change, see “GOP Not Listening to Its Own Scientists on Climate Change” by Katherine Bagley at InsideClimate News.  [UPDATE:  Steve Milloy, Fox News commentator and owner of the website, has called me and the other scientists featured in this story RINOs (Republicans In Name Only).  Given that Milloy also thinks that things like the links between second-hand smoke and various health problems are “junk science,” I will take this as a compliment.  Let’s just say that I don’t have a very high opinion of his intellect.]

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | February 22, 2012

Response to Wall Street Journal 16

The Wall Street Journal posted yet another op-ed by 16 scientists and engineers, which even include a few climate scientists(!!!).  Here is the editor’s note to explain the context.

Editor’s Note: The authors of the following letter, listed below, are also the signatories of“No Need to Panic About Global Warming,” an op-ed that appeared in the Journal on January 27. This letter responds to criticisms of the op-ed made by Kevin Trenberth and 37 others in a letter published Feb. 1, and by Robert Byer of the American Physical Society in a letter published Feb. 6.

A relative sent me the article, asking for my thoughts on it.  Here’s what I said in response.

Hi [Name Removed],

I don’t have time to do a full reply, but I’ll take apart a few of their main points.

1. The WSJ authors’ main point is that if the data doesn’t conform to predictions, the theory is “falsified”.  They claim to show that global mean temperature data hasn’t conformed to climate model predictions, and so the models are falsified.

But let’s look at the graph.  They have a temperature plot, which wiggles all over the place, and then they have 4 straight lines that are supposed to represent the model predictions.  The line for the IPCC First Assessment Report is clearly way off, but back in 1990 the climate models didn’t include important things like ocean circulation, so that’s hardly surprising.  The lines for the next 3 IPCC reports are very similar to one another, though.  What the authors don’t tell you is that the lines they plot are really just the average long-term slopes of a bunch of different models.  The individual models actually predict that the temperature will go up and down for a few years at a time, but the long-term slope (30 years or more) will be about what those straight lines say.  Given that these lines are supposed to be average, long-term slopes, take a look at the temperature data and try to estimate whether the overall slope of the data is similar to the slopes of those three lines (from the 1995, 2001, and 2007 IPCC reports).  If you were to calculate the slope of the data WITH error bars, the model predictions would very likely be in that range.

That brings up another point.  All climate models include parameters that aren’t known precisely, so the model projections have to include that uncertainty to be meaningful.  And yet, the WSJ authors don’t provide any error bars of any kind!  The fact is that if they did so, you would clearly see that the global mean temperature has wiggled around inside those error bars, just like it was supposed to.

So before I go on, let me be blunt about these guys.  They know about error bars.  They know that it’s meaningless, in a “noisy” system like global climate, to compare projected long-term trends to just a few years of data.  And yet, they did.  Why?  I’ll let you decide.

2. The WSJ authors say that, although something like 97% of actively publishing climate scientists agree that humans are causing “significant” global warming, there really is a lot of disagreement about how much humans contribute to the total.  The 97% figure comes from a 2009 study by Doran and Zimmerman.

So they don’t like Doran and Zimmerman’s survey, and they would have liked more detailed questions.  After all, D&Z asked respondents to say whether they thought humans were causing “significant” temperature change, and who’s to say what is “significant”?  So is there no real consensus on the question of how much humans are contributing?

First, every single national/international scientific organization with expertise in this area and every single national academy of science, has issued a statement saying that humans are causing significant global warming, and we ought to do something about it.  So they are saying that the human contribution is “significant” enough that we need to worry about it and can/should do something about it.  This could not happen unless there was a VERY strong majority of experts.  [UPDATE:  Here is a nice graphic to illustrate this point. H/T Adam Siegel.]

But what if these statements are suppressing significant minority views–say 20%.  We could do a literature survey and see what percentage of papers published question the consensus.  Naomi Oreskes (a prominent science historian) did this in 2004, surveying a random sample of 928 papers that showed up in a standard database with the search phrase “global climate change” during 1993-2003.  Some of the papers didn’t really address the consensus, but many did explicitly or implicitly support it.  She didn’t find a single one that went against the consensus.  Now, obviously there were some contrarian papers published during that period, but I’ve done some of my own not-very-careful work on this question (using different search terms), and I estimate that during 1993-2003, less than 1% of the peer-reviewed scientific literature on climate change was contrarian.

Another study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2010, looked at the consensus question from a different angle.  I’ll let you read it if you want.

Once again, the WSJ authors (at least the few that actually study climate for a living) know very well that they are a tiny minority.  So why don’t they just admit that and try to convince people on the basis of evidence, rather than lack of consensus?  Well, if their evidence is on par with the graph they produced, maybe their time is well spent trying to cloud the consensus issue.

3. The WSJ authors further imply that the “scientific establishment” is out to quash any dissent.  So even if almost all the papers about climate change go along with the consensus, maybe that’s because the Evil Empire is keeping out those droves of contrarian scientists that exist… somewhere.

The WSJ authors give a couple examples, both of which are ridiculous, but I have personal experience with the Remote Sensing article by Spencer and Braswell, so I’ll address that one.  The fact is that Spencer and Braswell published a paper in which they made statistical claims about the difference between some data sets without actually calculating error bars, which is a big no-no, and if they had done the statistics, it would have shown that their conclusions could not be statistically supported.  They also said they analyzed certain data, but then left some of it out of the Results that just happened to completely undercut their main claims.  This is serious, serious stuff, and it’s no wonder Wolfgang Wagner resigned from his editorship–not because of political pressure, but because he didn’t want his fledgling journal to get a reputation for publishing any nonsense anybody sends in.

The level of deception by the WSJ authors and others like them is absolutely astonishing to me.


[UPDATE:  Here is a recent post at RealClimate that puts the nonsense about climate models being “falsified” in perspective.  The fact is that they aren’t doing to badly, except that they severely UNDERestimate the Arctic sea ice melt rate.]

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | February 17, 2012

Deniergate Breaks

This has been going on for a couple days, but I have been too swamped to write anything about it.  Here’s the scoop.  The indefatigable John Mashey has spent months tracking down documentation, and has put together a package of info showing that the Heartland Institute and a couple of related outfits, all 501(c)(3) charities, have been engaging in lobbying and other activities that 501(c)(3) organizations are not supposed to do by IRS regulations.  In case you don’t know the Heartland Institute, they put on a big climate contrarian conference every year, and for decades have been pushing pseudoscience to combat the scientific consensus that second-hand smoke causes health problems, and that humans are causing significant climate change.

Mere hours after Mashey sent his documentation to the IRS, an anonymous person dropped a bunch of purloined Heartland documents on the laps of a number of climate bloggers and reporters.  These documents confirm much of what Mashey found out by other means, but also name names and contain a few embarrassing turns of phrase.

My favorite articles on this so far are from Seth Borenstein at the AP and Suzanne Goldenberg at The Guardian.

Get popcorn.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | February 10, 2012

Wagging the Dog

Over at the Washington Post, Ezra Klein blogs about a new study of attitudes toward climate change.  Here’s a teaser.

You might think opinions on climate change are driven by news stories, or extreme weather events, or, if you’re really optimistic, publicly available scientific research. But it turns out that politicians affect the way that Americans view the issue more than almost anything else, according to a new paper in the journal Climatic Change.

Which is yet another reason why my fellow Republicans should start taking care not to elect so many  frothing ideologues, e.g., Rick Santorum, who is really proud that he has never believed in global warming, and thinks it’s a big hoax.  

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | February 9, 2012

The Monckton Files: Cornered?

It’s a beautiful day.

Several months ago I wrote a post here about how Lord Christopher Monckton’s handler, Bob Ferguson, had tried to get me to do a live debate with Monckton.  I declined, because I felt that live debates favor people who, well… make up whatever they want.  Instead, I proposed a written online debate, in which we would have time to check each other’s sources.  This proposal was flatly refused.

Well, it appears that Monckton may have been forced into a written debate by an experienced science journalist, Peter Hadfield.  Or at least he’s been forced into looking very, very bad if he doesn’t accept Hadfield’s challenge.

Hadfield, who goes by the handle “Potholer54” on YouTube, produces a high quality series of videos that debunk common climate myths.  Some months ago he produced five videos debunking various claims made by Monckton.  (Lord Monckton Bunkum Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5).  Much of it was simply a matter of checking Monckton’s sources and comparing what they actually say to the claims Monckton used them to support.  In other words, Hadfield did a John Abraham, but with video clips to back up his assertions about what Monckton had said.  Monckton posted a “response” to the video series on the Watt’s Up With That? blog, in which he dropped a bunch of insults on Hadfield and tried to squirm out of the charges by essentially denying everything.  Hadfield responded back with a two-part video series (Part 1, Part 2), which was, to be frank, devastating, because Monckton was on video saying all those things he now denies having said.

But here’s where the story gets really good.  Anthony Watts, a former weatherman and proprietor of the Watt’s Up With That? blog, has now posted a written response by Hadfield right under Monckton’s post.  Hadfield picks apart Monckton’s evasions handily, just like he did in the videos, and in the process lays down this challenge.

This is why he dislikes detailed examinations of his sources. While he takes every opportunity to debate on stage, where his speaking skills are essential and his assertions can’t be checked, an online debate is far tougher, because every paper and fact CAN be checked. So come on, Mr. Monckton, let’s debate this on WUWT to see which of us has correctly read your sources.

This is exactly what Monckton can’t handle, and I predict that he will either ignore the challenge or give another blustering reply in which he gratuitously insults Hadfield, drops a few Latin phrases to impress the rubes, and pretends that his words were taken out of context (all video evidence to the contrary).  If he follows his usual M.O., he might even back off some of his wilder claims, all the while pretending that’s what he was saying all along.

But every time Monckton dodges challenges to debate his errors, and the more meticulous climate realists are about documenting his fabrications and general wackiness (like pretending to be a member of Parliament and claiming to be able to cure HIV, MS, herpes, Graves’ Disease, influenza, and the common cold,) the more he loses credibility, and the more those who have supported him lose credibility, too.

The fact that Anthony Watts, of all people, would post Hadfield’s response might be a sign that some Moncktonites are quietly trying to back away from His Lordship.  Watts has a long history of posting Monckton’s nonsense along with some pretty sycophantic comments.  See this recent post, in which I criticized Watts for his utter lack of quality control–posting Monckton’s latest claims about why he really is a member of Parliament, even though Parliament says he isn’t, as well as Joe Bastardi’s complete nonsense about how the greenhouse effect violates the Law of Energy Conservation.  And those aren’t even the most nonsensical guest posts Watts has allowed.  (See this classic in crackpottery, for instance.)  Once, when I posted on my own blog a response to one of Monckton’s pieces that was published on WUWT, I submitted a comment on the WUWT page in which I simply announced that I had written a response and gave a link.  The moderator (presumably Watts) deleted my innocuous comment and inserted something about how I could take my “personal crusade” against Monckton elsewhere.  In other words, Watts has been an avid Monckton supporter in the past, to put it mildly.

Now, I don’t want to be too hard on Watts.  If he’s backing away from Monckton, I certainly won’t fault him for that, but let’s not forget how easy it was for someone like Monckton to take Watts in.  Why?  I think everyone has a tendency to give the benefit of the doubt to those who tell us things that fit our biases, and I’m certainly no exception, but to my mind Monckton’s longevity as one of the key players in the climate change contrarian community is really telling.  Nobody but a complete ideologue would hang onto Monckton this long in the face of the detailed evidence that he plays it fast and loose with the facts.


Posted by: Barry Bickmore | January 29, 2012

The Daily Mail Prints Climate Nonsense

One of my students asked me about a new article just printed in The Daily Mail, a right-wing newspaper in the U.K.  The article’s title is, “Forget global warming – it’s Cycle 25 we need to worry about (and if NASA scientists are right the Thames will be freezing over again)“.  Here’s a rule of thumb for you.  If you ever read anything about climate change in The Daily Mail, the odds are excellent that it’s nonsense.  Anyway, here is what I told my student.

Hi [Name Removed],

This is why I’ve gone all militant on these guys.

Solar activity is explicitly incorporated in climate models.  It’s difficult to predict what the Sun will do in the short term, though, so projections based on the models make some assumptions about that, but at least you can incorporate measured values when you are “hindcasting” the models.

Anyway, here is the Met Office press release about the paper they are probably referring to.  Now, let me show you how people like this Daily Mail reporter manipulate the public.

1. They cite a reputable source, the UK Met Office, but they don’t actually quote the paper or anyone from the Met Office.  Why?  Because “climate” is about long-term averages and trends, so real climatologists don’t go about announcing that “there hasn’t been any global warming in (fill in the blank with a number less than about 30) years”.  The weather is a chaotic system, so in the short term you can get just about any trend you like.

2. All you have to do to get the trend you want is to “cherry-pick” the start and end dates.  In this case, they pick 1997 and 2011.  (They also cherry-pick the dataset, even though the press release I linked gives different results for the NASA and NOAA datasets.  The one from the Met Office, HadCRUT, doesn’t include the polar regions, so it usually gives a little less steep warming trend than the others.)  The problem is that the overall trend for the last 30-40 years is between about +0.15 and +0.2 °C per decade, but the interannual variability is about +/-0.2 °C PER YEAR.  So you can definitely see a distinct trend if you go back far enough, but the random noise can give you all sorts of results in the short term.  Let me illustrate.  I calculate that the trend in the HadCRUT data from 1997-2011 is about +0.01 °C per decade, and not statistically significant.  (In this case, a statistically significant result is one where the 95% confidence interval does not overlap zero.)  What happens if we change the start and end dates by just one year, from 1996-2010?  Then the trend is 0.10 °C/decade, and still not statistically significant.  Do you see how you can use the random noise, e.g., from El Niño and La Niña oscillations, to get the trend you want in the short term?

3. Next, they launch off into their nonsense about how the flat temperature trend is all because of a decrease in solar activity, and we’re heading into a new Little Ice Age.  The press release the Met Office put out just prior to the one I already mentioned was entitled, “Decline in Solar Output Unlikely To Offset Global Warming“, but the Daily Mail reporter says that these findings are “fiercely disputed by other solar experts,” and quotes Henrik Svensmark.  I could name a couple other solar guys who agree with Svensmark, but that’s all.  He’s definitely on the fringes.  Svensmark has an interesting theory about why changes in Solar output might exert a much greater influence on climate than the models give it credit for, but the problem is that the statistics don’t pan out.

4. But wait!  Just in case people didn’t buy the Solar connection, let’s completely switch gears and blame the whole thing on ocean circulation!  The ridiculous thing is that the standard climate models DO incorporate ocean circulation AND variations in Solar output, and these things DO affect the temperature projections so that any given model will predict periods of several years where there might even be overall cooling.  The models just differ about when these “pauses” in global warming will happen, because the system is chaotic and the timing of these things are incredibly sensitive to initial conditions and the model details.

5. If the scientific consensus doesn’t agree with what you want to hear, the Daily Mail reporter knows that you can always get some D-list fringe scientists to make it all better.  E.g., take a look at Nicola Scafetta, who thinks that Jupiter and Saturn are affecting the climate to create a 60-year cycle, which Judy Curry also apparently buys into.   Yep.  But don’t ask Scafetta or Curry what Jupiter or Saturn are supposed to be doing that affects the climate, because they can’t give any physical mechanism.  Maybe that’s why the Daily Mail calls Curry “one of America’s most eminent climate experts.”  Whatever.  Also, take a look at Benny Peiser, who is a social anthropologist too ignorant to properly read the scientific literature on climate change.

Now, take a step back and look at what has been done to the public.  Most people have no idea about statistical cherry-picking, and even those who do wouldn’t necessarily suspect anything.  Most people would have no idea that the Daily Mail is quoting a bunch of fringe scientists, and they would have no idea why the views of these scientists are dismissed by the others.  It turns out that Svensmark WAS taken seriously, but his hypothesis hasn’t panned out.  It turns out that Scafetta’s ideas are little better than curve-fitted astrology, at this point.  It turns out that climate models DO account for ocean circulation, but there is no convincing evidence that this does much outside timescales of a few years.

Like I said, this is why I’ve gone militant on these guys.  I think they are patently dishonest.

[UPDATE:  The Met Office has now responded to the Daily Mail article.  They said essentially the same thing I did.]

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | January 22, 2012

Naomi Oreskes: The Verdict is in on Climate Change

Naomi Oreskes has just published a fantastic op-ed in the LA Times.  She draws an analogy with our jurisprudence system to show why “keeping an open mind” about climate change is the wrong approach.  People tend to treat the community of climate scientists as the prosecuting attorney, but in fact, they are the jury.

In a similar vein, several months ago I tried to explain to Senator Orrin Hatch why his insistence on “keeping an open mind” was inappropriate in this case–i.e., he was just using it as an excuse for intellectual laziness.

Since the only reason anyone gets worked up about climate change is that we might need to do something about it, people who insist on “keeping an open mind”, no matter how much evidence they have to ignore, are in the same boat as those who outright deny the science.  In both cases, the conclusion is that we shouldn’t do anything.  How convenient.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | January 12, 2012

Please, Not the Super-Intelligent Reptiles!

First we find out that global warming will cut into my chocolate, and now we find out that it’s going to produce super-intelligent reptiles.  Can we PLEASE do something about this?

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | January 5, 2012

Pacific Institute: Climate B.S.* of the Year Awards

Peter Gleick of the Pacific Institute has just issued the latest “Climate B.S.* of the Year Awards”.  (* B.S. stands for “Bad Science,” of course.)  Our pals Roy Spencer, Rush Limbaugh, and the field of Republican presidential contenders figure prominently.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | December 29, 2011

SkS: A Thoughtful Conservative Perspective on Climate

… by Tom Smerling at Skeptical Science

Peter Wehner has impeccable conservative credentials, having served under Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and most recently, as deputy assistant to Pres. George W. Bush.  He resides at the “Ethics & Public Policy Center,” a neo-con think tank.

After a long look at the evidence, Wehner concluded that the scientific consensus on climate is correct.    He wrote two interesting posts titled “Conservatives and Climate Change,” in the neo-con magazineCommentary, which prides itself in intellectual conservatism.

Read more at Skeptical Science.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | December 16, 2011

The Monckton Files: Inspector Monckton Looking for a Clue

Now that the authorities have confiscated the computers of a few contrarian bloggers to see whether they can find evidence of who hacked the University of East Anglia’s e-mail servers, Lord Monckton is incensed!  INCENSED, I tell you!  He says he’s going to go after the climate scientists whose e-mails were stolen and have them prosecuted for fraud.  Why him?  Because the bumbling police don’t know much about climatology, so they need help to understand the “fraud”.

You’re probably thinking this is just another stupid political stunt, but don’t worry.  Monckton said last year that he was going to have Rajendra Pachauri jailed for fraud and… well, I’m sure he’ll get around to it, sometime.  He also said he was going to sue John Abraham for libel many moons ago, and he assures us the investigation is still underway.  So if there’s one person we can count on to follow through on bombastic legal threats, it’s the 3rd Viscount of Brenchley.

Inspector Monckton appealed to his readers on Climate Depot to send him any evidence of fraud regarding climate issues.  Does this count?  (Note to Monckton:  I did not just accuse you of “fraud”.  I merely asked for legal advice, so please refrain from contacting my administration again to threaten legal action for suggesting that your fake data is “fraudulent”.)  I encourage anyone in a position to do so to e-mail Monckton such information, because if there’s one thing he needs, it’s a clue.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | December 6, 2011

New Method for Modeling Clouds

U.S. News and World Report has an interesting article on a new method some climate modelers are using to simulate the effects of clouds in a realistic way.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | December 5, 2011

Bickmore’s Laws updates

I made a few updates to my “Bickmore’s Laws” page.  If any of you have any suggestions for other “laws”, put them in the comments.  If I like them, I may put them in an addendum on the page.  The theme of the “laws” is the difference between rationality and pseudo-rationality.

Bickmore’s First Law of Being Reasonable

Reasonable people understand that good arguments can sometimes lead to false conclusions, and bad arguments can sometimes lead to true conclusions.

Bickmore’s Second Law of Being Reasonable

Reasonable people resist bad arguments, even if they agree with the conclusions.

Bickmore’s First Law of the Box

“Thinking outside the box” requires being capable of recognizing “the box.”  (Ignorance kills true creativity.)

Bickmore’s Second Law of the Box

“Thinking outside the box” is only laudable when “the box” is not rationality.

Bickmore’s First Law of Being Biased

Bias makes you human.  Unckecked bias makes you stupid.

Bickmore’s Second Law of Being Biased

Nitpicking others’ arguments is not the same thing as “critical thinking.”  That involves nitpicking your own arguments.

Bickmore’s First Law of Being Open-Minded

Failing to make critical decisions based on incomplete information is called “spinelessness,” not “open-mindedness.”

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | December 5, 2011

Global Warming and the Mobs, Part 2

I did a follow-up post on my last one over at By Common Consent.  It turns out the guy I was critiquing actually came around and apologized for slandering Jonathan Overpeck.  My response gets at some of his remaining concerns about the latest batch of stolen e-mails.

I learned some interesting things.  E.g., I found out that Phil Jones had discussed the problems of onerous FOI requests, proprietary data, and so on, before the scandal broke in 2009.  In other words, all that stuff the panels investigating “climategate” said about why Jones dodged some FOI requests and didn’t release all of his raw data… was right there in the stolen e-mails, too.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | December 2, 2011

Global Warming and the Mobs

Meridian Magazine (a Mormon-themed publication) published an opinion piece by some guy who not only quoted out-of-context snippets from the new batch of stolen e-mails, but actually MISquoted them.  I went after him in a guest post on By Common Consent.  If you’re not Mormon, maybe you don’t understand the reference to “the Mobs”.  The Mormons got kicked out of 4 states, and a number of us were killed, essentially due to mob action.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | December 2, 2011

Poll: Republicans Coming Around on Global Warming

U.S. News and World Report has a story out about this.  Money quote:

Less than a third of conservative Republicans say there is solid evidence for global warming, but 63 percent of moderate or liberal Republicans said they believe there is solid evidence for global warming, a 22-percentage-point jump from 2009.

And this is why I think Jon Huntsman is the most influential Republican presidential candidate, even if he doesn’t end up winning.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | November 30, 2011

Roy Spencer the Anti-Scientist

Over on The Panda’s Thumb, someone going by the handle “ksplawn” made a fairly detailed argument for the proposition that Roy Spencer represents an almost perfect convergence of two anti-science strains–creationism and climate change contrarianism.  Here is the post.

Seeing both currents of denialism converge and gain strength under a single party’s political banner over the last few years has been like watching half of the US turn away from reason itself because it didn’t align with their preferred set of sound bite-driven platitudes. It didn’t have to be this way. The reason Stephen Colbert can quip about reality’s “well-known liberal bias” is because in important issues the political right is moving further away from reality. The political climate has made accepting well-vetted scientific findings in certain areas a complete anathema to electability.

I learned a lot about science itself when I was exposed to the manufactroversy over evolution and Creationism. Years of absorbing knowledge and watching exchanges between scientists and anti-evolutionists was tremendously fascinating and educational for me. Familiarizing myself with real science and the anti-science tactics used by evolution deniers has stood me in good stead when it came to evaluating the merits of mainstream climate science and the rhetoric of denialists. That there is much overlap between the two denialist sets has been sadly unsurprising, as they often require the same kinds of fallacies to be accepted.

As an example of the overlapping requirements for climate and evolution denialism, I offer not a politician, but in fact a real live climate scientist. Roy Spencer is one of the two principal researchers behind the development of the University of Alabama Huntsville lower troposphere temperature record, gleaned from a network of satellites that interpret the signals of radiant energy coming through the atmosphere and out into space. For years he’s been a very capable scientist and has many peer-reviewed publications under his belt. But lately he’s been diverging away from the climate science mainstream by suggesting that some key forcings have been misunderstood widely by his colleagues, mostly related to clouds. He firmly believes that they have the relationship between cloud cover and climate trends backwards. He believes that climate sensitivity to increasing greenhouse gases is extraordinarily low, and so anthropogenic GHG emissions can’t be driving the current warming trend anywhere near the extent it’s commonly accepted to by his peers, and that warming won’t be a problem for the future. Well, that’s all well and good, right? Disagreements are a fact of life even (especially!) in the sciences.

But rather than work through the issue in the peer-reviewed literature, the bulk of his efforts have been spent in convincing the public of his side through his blog and books, largely not engaging the rest of the climate scientists. It’s not that he hasn’t tried period, but sometimes his papers are rejected; he’s convinced that this is due to a real conspiracy against him by a small cabal of “alarmists,” to keep his work out of the literature and keep dissenting opinions from circulating. Not unlike attempts by anti-evolutionists to smear the scientific establishment and accuse them of being censorious gatekeepers, rejecting any paper that criticizes evolution. For the last few years he has intentionally avoided submitting his work to rigorously peer-reviewed outlets in favor of a faster-turnaround, refereed Letters-type journal, because of his imagined conspiracy. We see a similar retreat from peer-review when researchers adopt an anti-evolution mindset.

Other troubling signs of losing his grip on scientific methods include a diminishing willingness to criticize his own ideas. He apparently ranks his own expertise very highly, to the point that the introduction to his popular book included musings that either he is smarter than all of the rest of his peers, or they must be dishonestly avoiding the conclusions he has reached (he favors the latter). He did not mention that he could simply be mistaken. He’s been fond of criticizing climate models because he believes them to be largely exercised as curve-fitting without real physical merit, but that didn’t stop him from attempting to create a simple model which turned out to be an exercise in curve-fitting without real physical merit. Despite several deep criticisms of his approach, he continued to develop the model in all the wrong ways. (When a paper based on an earlier model was held up in review, and then not given much attention immediately afterwards, he took it as evidence that his message was being censored and suppressed instead of any kind of issue over the paper’s validity). How many times have Dembski, Sewell, Behe, and so on. pushed papers that they claimed demonstrated evolution as impossible and Design a superior explanation by using a bogus model of information, complex systems, 2LoT, etc.? Even after being called out over the fatal flaws, they either dismiss the criticisms or attempt to “fix” the model by changing something other than what was criticized?

When anti-evolutionists want to publish a paper in a peer-reviewed venue, they often choose journals with weak reviews, friendly editors, or even inappropriate expertise. Sewell’s papers about evolution and 2LoT were arguably such subversion of peer-review. Spencer’s last peer-reviewed paper (Spencer and Braswell 2011) was published in the small, young journal Remote Sensing. Immediately after it came out, Spencer penned a press release that lied about what the paper contained and this misleading picture was quickly picked up by certain politically-aligned elements of the media with wildly misleading headlines and coverage. This prompted the Editor-in-Chief of the journal to investigate the matter and what he found was such flagrant abuse of the review system that he resigned almost immediately, leaving a damning account of the peer-review failure (prompting Spencer to claim that he was really forced out by IPCC conspirators). The paper has since been disemboweled with a peer-reviewed response (PDF) and by heavy scrutiny on scientist-run blogs. The whole thing was disaster; the paper’s arguments were not strong, didn’t support the claims Spencer had made to the press, it was revealed that data used in the study contradicted their findings, and so on. The whole thing was different from peer-review subversion by anti-evolutionists only in the amount of public attention it received. Spencer still maintains that the EiC was ‘Expelled’ as it were, and that there is no problem with the paper.

Where the overlap becomes most obvious in Spencer is that he has become an outspoken endorser of Creationism over evolution. He’s lent his reputation as a scientist to the claim that a Special Creation account is more scientific than evolution. Granted, it’s not uncommon for a scientist in one field to be deeply wrong about the state of a totally different field, however most don’t pin their credibility as practitioners of science to such opinions as blatantly as Spencer has. Taking this even further into the realm of anti-science, Spencer is a member of the Cornwall Alliance, a religious organization that holds as its central belief the idea that God wouldn’t create a world so fragile that humans could seriously muck it up. He has signed theirEvangelical Declaration on Global Warming which outlines the faith-based nature of their conviction that recent warming is not us, and is nothing to worry about. This is tantamount to admitting that his stance on anthropogenic global warming is now a matter of religious faith, not a properly scientific view with all the tentativeness and provisional nature that implies.

So in Spencer we have the following: A) belief in a conspiracy to suppress his dissenting opinion and censor the literature to align with their agenda, B) distancing his work from peer-review, C) an overriding uncritical belief in his own abilities such that him being correct and everyone else being wrong doesn’t raise a warning flag, D) an inability to distinguish between legitimate science and pseudoscience despite claiming to have looked into the matter dutifully and using his expertise as a practicing scientist, E) a religious Statement of Faith revealing that he has abandoned proper scientific skepticism. The overlap between AGW denialism and evolution denialism has never been so well embodied. The same kinds of misconceptions and shortcomings that are needed for one to accept the cdesign proponentsists’ narrative now seem to be compromising Spencer’s performance in his own area of expertise. This is clear evidence that anti-evolutionism is anti-science, period. One doesn’t need a political platform to draw these denialist currents together, but as we can see it certainly does help.

Sorry for the length and links, but I believe in being thorough when making this kind of case against a person.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | November 25, 2011

Contrarians File for Intellectual Bankruptcy

As a recovering climate change contrarian, I remember well the kinds of things that most impressed me as I went through the process of changing my mind.  It’s true that the mainstream scientists had some arguments that I thought were pretty difficult to get around, but just as important was the utter lack of intellectual rigor I detected in most of the contrarian arguments.  So many of their arguments were obviously absurd, and yet I noticed that many contrarians were absolutely incapable of seeing any problem with them.  To me, this was a strong indicator of a movement well on its way to intellectual bankruptcy. Read More…

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | November 22, 2011

New Stolen E-mails Released

It looks like the B-list of stolen e-mails have now been released by the people who hacked the University of East Anglia’s server.  They originally released the ones with the really juicy candidates for out-of-context quoting, and now, magically just in time for the next big international climate conference, the hackers have released the benchwarmers.

I remember when the first batch of stolen e-mails from the University of East Anglia came out, and I was talking about it with my father-in-law.  He was upset about some of the quotations that were coming out, and so was I, but I had a somewhat different point of view.  It didn’t bother me at all that the scientists involved said some nasty things about their critics.  As an academic scientist, I knew that this kind of thing was perfectly normal, and that the saving grace of modern science is that when all of us are beating up on each other, the end product usually comes out better than it would otherwise have been.  So who cares if they said they thought certain papers and contrarian scientists were idiotic?  Likewise, I wasn’t too concerned about the out-of-context quotation about “Mike’s Nature Trick” and “hiding the decline,” because that just seemed like regular water-cooler talk for working scientists, rather than anything sinister.  (Turns out I was right.)

No, what bothered me at the time was Phil Jones’s remarks that they would find a way to keep a couple papers they thought were stupid from being discussed in the next IPCC Report by “redefining the peer-reviewed literature.”  If the rule was that they were supposed to discuss all the peer-reviewed papers about the subjects covered, then this would be unethical, and harmful to the science in the long run.  Well, it turned out that my worries were unfounded, because those two papers WERE discussed in the next IPCC Report, so obviously the e-mailing scientists did the right thing.

Now the dust has settled, and several independent panels have cleared the scientists involved of cooking their data, or any other serious infraction.  The worst thing anyone found is that some of the CRU scientists felt like they were being harassed with ridiculous FOI requests, so they tried to ignore them.  The temperature reconstructions in question have been replicated umpteen times, so that only seriously damaged individuals still have serious questions about whether they are approximately correct.

This time around, as I peruse the out-of-context quotations provided by climate change contrarian bloggers, I’m not even getting a minor change in heart rate.  The quotations (even out of context!) are that boring.

Hopefully the media will see this for what it is–a pathetic attempt to distract the public from the fact that the contrarians don’t have a scientific leg to stand on.


Posted by: Barry Bickmore | November 22, 2011

The Monckton Files: Lawyering Up

The saga continues….

Lord Monckton was essentially laughed out of Australia after the Clerk of the Parliaments in the UK posted an open letter asking the 3rd Viscount Monckton of Brenchley to stop saying he’s a member of Parliament and stop using their logo.  His Lordship isn’t taking it lying down, though!  He’s found a lawyer to write an opinion that agrees with his assertion that he really is a “member of the House of Lords without a seat or vote”.  Are you just as shocked as I am that he could find a lawyer who would argue his case?  What’s more, Monckton is threatening some kind of legal action against the Clerk of the Parliaments!  Are you just as shocked as I am that Monckton is threatening legal action against someone who has expressed disagreement with his views?  (Note:  If you really are shocked that Monckton would threaten legal action, read this.  It should cure you.)

The issue is that most of the “Lords” (people with hereditary titles or “peerages”) in the UK used to be members of the House of Lords, which is the upper house of Parliament (like the Senate in the USA).  Monckton’s grandfather and father (the 1st and 2nd Viscounts Monckton of Brenchley) were members of Parliament, but then in 1999 (seven years before Christopher Monckton inherited his hereditary title), Parliament passed the House of Lords Act, which kicked out most of the hereditary peers (including Monckton’s father) from the House of Lords.  That is, they were still “Lords,” but not members of the legislative body called “The House of Lords,” which is a house of Parliament.  The House of Lords Act says this:

No-one shall be a member of the House of Lords by virtue of a hereditary peerage.

But wait!  Monckton claims that he IS “a member of the House of Lords by virtue of a hereditary peerage.”  Normally, one would think that would be a direct contradiction, but you can always count on a lawyer to explain why “member” doesn’t mean “member”, or a politician to quibble over the meaning of “is”.  Let’s do a quick dissection to see how this astonishing feat is accomplished.

Much of The Lawyer’s opinion is a smokescreen.  E.g., the Clerk of the Parliaments said in his letter to Monckton that “No-one denies that you are, by virtue of your letters Patent, a Peer. That is an entirely separate issue to membership of the House.”  And yet, a large part of The Lawyer’s opinion is about how anyone who is a British “lord” can be called, figuratively speaking, part of the “House of Lords”.  Since Monckton has explicitly claimed to be a member of Parliament, not just a generic “lord,” all of this is meaningless.

The real meat of the matter is simply the question of whether there is anything to being a “member of the House of Lords” beyond “sitting and voting” in that House.  The Clerk of the Parliaments said this.

I must repeat my predecessor’s statement that you are not and have never been a Member of the House of Lords. Your assertion that you are a Member, but without the right to sit or vote, is a contradiction in terms. No-one denies that you are, by virtue of your letters Patent, a Peer. That is an entirely separate issue to membership of the House. This is borne out by the recent judgment in Baron Mereworth v Ministry of Justice (Crown Office) where Mr Justice Lewison stated:

“In my judgment, the reference [in the House of Lords Act 1999] to ‘a member of the House of Lords’ is simply a reference to the right to sit and vote in that House … In a nutshell, membership of the House of Lords means the right to sit and vote in that House. It does not mean entitlement to the dignity of a peerage.”

The Lawyer quotes a couple members of Parliament who said that, in the House of Lords Act, “membership” referred specifically to the right to sit and vote.  But curiously, The Lawyer couldn’t seem to come up with any quotations in which anyone important said that those deprived of “membership” in that sense were still “members” of Parliament in any other sense.  The Lawyer notes that for a few years after 1999 the expelled peers kept their passes that allowed them to enter the building and… I don’t know… eat in the cafeteria, or something.  But how does that make one a “member of Parliament” any more than the staff?  In any case, the official “Explanatory Notes” for the House of Lords Act explain this issue as follows.

The Act deprives excluded hereditary peers of all the privileges of membership of the House of Lords, including the privileges they enjoyed as members of Parliament. Parliamentary privileges cover various matters, many of which relate to the House of Lords as a whole (such as punishing improper conduct within the House itself), but include some that are personal to individual peers. One of the most important personal privileges is that no action can be taken against a peer for what he or she may say in Parliament. Hereditary peers excluded by the Act also lose the right to be paid allowances and to use the facilities of the House that are available to members, such as its library, research and restaurant facilities. The removal of these rights does not prevent the House from deciding to grant some rights to use the facilities of the House to a hereditary peer under the exercise of its own authority.

The intent of the Act, therefore, was to remove ALL privileges of membership, even though the House of Lords retained the right to give whomever they wanted access to the facilities.

The Lawyer then pulls out his trump card.  He cites the very case, Mereworth v Ministry of Justice, that the Clerk of the Parliaments cited to prove his case!

Lord Mereworth brought a declaratory action by which he sought orders allowing him essentially to exercise the right to sit and vote in the House of Lords notwithstanding the Act. While various authorities were cited in the claim there is no mention of the important Mayhew judgment, discussed earlier. The claim was unsuccessful. However, Lord Mereworth won one point that is crucial to the present discussion. The Court held that the Act, though it had deprived the excluded Hereditary Peers of the right to sit or vote, had not revoked the Letters Patent that created those Peerages and the consequent membership of the House of Lords.

Note the careful… one might even say “lawyerly”… language.  The judge said that the House of Lords Act did not revoke the “letters patent” that created hereditary titles “and the consequent membership in the House of Lords.”  In other words, back when titles like Monckton’s were granted, membership in the House of Lords was a “consequence” of the grant.  But nobody seems to have ever claimed that the House of Lords Act revoked such letters patent–only that the Act revoked this particular “consequence” that used to go along with them.  Clearly, this is another red herring.

In fact, as the Clerk of the Parliaments noted, the judge in the Mereworth case said, “In a nutshell, membership of the House of Lords means the right to sit and vote in that House. It does not mean entitlement to the dignity of a peerage.”  Was the Clerk reading the judge’s opinion wrong?  Did the judge really mean (but fail to explicitly say) that one could still be a “member” of the House of Lords in some other sense?  I can’t read his mind, but I can offer the following excerpt from the case summary by The Incorporated Council of Law Reporting for England and Wales.

[S]ection 1 of the 1999 Act intended to remove the right to receive a writ of summons which alone would entitle a hereditary peer to sit and vote and hence be a member of the House of Lords. The reference to “a member of the House of Lords” was simply a reference to the right to sit and vote in that House, it did not mean entitlement to the dignity of a peerage.

Did you catch that?  The “and hence” means that the right to sit and vote in the House is what makes one a member of the House of Lords.

I’m guessing that none of this will ever make it to court, and if it does, Monckton will get thrown out on his ear, just as Lord Mereworth was.  But that’s not really the purpose, is it?  Monckton feels that he simply must, at all costs, keep up the appearance that he is the victim of a political vendetta, and not, well… off his nut.

The sad thing is that he doesn’t really need to go to all the trouble.  Monckton can always get away with this sort of thing among his constituency, meaning the likes of Anthony Watts and the denizens of his blog, who actually listen to His Lordship.  Their gullibility is nearly limitless.  Watts writes, for instance, that those who have criticized Monckton for being a fake member of Parliament “didn’t like the message, so they attacked the man,” ignoring the fact that it was Monckton who first presented himself as “a member of the Upper House of the United Kingdom legislature” to pad his résumé as someone to be taken seriously in the political debate about climate change.  If a fake doctor appeared in court as an expert medical witness, would the opposition be out of line for pointing out the fake credentials?

When I became about the fourth scientist (including one climate change contrarian) to point out that Monckton had been (among other things) using fake temperature projections to discredit the IPCC, Monckton responded on Watts’s blog,

Some have said that the IPCC projection zone on our graphs should show exactly the values that the IPCC actually projects for the A2 scenario. However, as will soon become apparent, the IPCC’s “global-warming” projections for the early part of the present century appear to have been, in effect, artificially detuned to conform more closely to observation.  In compiling our graphs, we decided not merely to accept the IPCC’s projections as being a true representation of the warming that using the IPCC’s own methods for determining climate sensitivity would lead us to expect, but to establish just how much warming the use of the IPCC’s methods would predict, and to take that warming as the basis for the definition of the IPCC projection zone.

You read that right.  He actually defended his misrepresentation of IPCC temperature projections by claiming that it was ok for him to ignore “the values that the IPCC actually projects” and instead recalculate them based on “the IPCC’s own methods”.  But of course, I had already shown that he wasn’t using “the IPCC’s own methods”.  He was using the wrong equation (not meant for time-series projections) and feeding in the wrong data (he miscopied the IPCC’s CO2 projections).

When John Abraham meticulously went through the references in one of Monckton’s presentations,  writing to the authors of the literature cited and asking whether Monckton had fairly represented their work, these authors uniformly wrote back saying that Monckton had misinterpreted them.  Watts posted a number of Monckton’s rebuttals, which included Nazi references and insults about John Abraham’s appearance.  But aside from a few minor points about Abraham’s wording, the only really substantive thing Monckton has managed to say about the affair was summarized in an interview he gave to to a New Zealand TV station.

I’d given him 18 pages of refutation, including example, after example, after example, after example, of him lying to 3rd party scientists about what I had said, then getting understandably hostile comments back, saying, “Well he said that–you know, he’s talking nonsense,” and then using those statements against me.

Great!  Ok, Lord Monckton, can you provide an example where you wrote to one of these scientists, explaining what you really said, and they wrote back to confirm that you had cited their work responsibly?  (Crickets chirping….)  Because that was really the genius of John Abraham’s presentation.  Instead of merely arguing technical points in front of an audience who mostly would not have understood, he just asked the scientists in question whether they had been fairly represented.  Wouldn’t it be easy for Monckton to counter Abraham by doing the same thing?  It would, but I doubt he ever will.

Still, Monckton’s typical deluge of BS was more than enough to convince Watts and his followers, because they are the sort that are really impressed by big words, opaque jargon, and Latin phrases.  Witness Watts’s toadying comment about Monckton’s bombastic threats toward the Clerk of the Parliaments.  “Lord Monckton is quite skilled in oratory skewering. Thus, I had to look up ‘defalcating’.”

Well said, Anthony.  Well said.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | November 16, 2011

Rustlings From Republican Environmentalists

Let’s face it–it’s a bad year for Republican Environmentalists like me.  About half of the field of Republican presidential candidates once promoted the idea of addressing climate change in some way, but all but Jon Huntsman have backed off this stance to one extent or another.  Even Huntsman hasn’t suggested doing anything about climate change in the near term, and in any case, he’s consistently polled at 1-2%.

How are we supposed to respond?  There is a clear scientific consensus, based on clear scientific evidence, that humans are causing climate change, and this poses significant risks.  And yet, it’s become a litmus test for Republican candidates to either deny or express agnosticism about human-caused climate change.  Republican “environmentalists,” by definition, aren’t a single-issue kind of people.  If that were the only issue we cared about, we would clearly not be Republicans, so we often have to hold our noses and vote for candidates that don’t fit all our ideals.

The thing about people like us is that, since we sort of straddle the fence on some issues and can see some truth in alternative points of view, we are more likely to set aside ideology and vote for candidates that seem like they have some modicum of integrity and are, well… capable of abstract thought.  But in the current GOP presidential race, who are our choices?  We’ve got Huntsman, who seems pretty good (and was a great governor,) but who has no chance in the Primary.  We’ve got Romney, who isn’t so terrible, but badly needs to grow a spine.  We’ve got Rick Perry, who comes across as a dumb jock who is real proud he can name Galileo, but we’re not sure he knows much beyond the name.  (Prove me wrong, Rick!  Tell us three new things about Galileo!  I want you to go out there in that next debate and give 110%!!!  “And the third thing is… uh… uh… oops.”)  We’ve got Newt Gingrich, whose recent conversion from being a sleazy hypocrite is less than convincing, and who alternates between sounding intelligent and like Archie Bunker.  We’ve got Michelle Bachmann, who comes across as a saucer-eyed devotee of a UFO cult… and unutterably stupid.  (Being a Mormon, I find this amusing.  Go into any Evangelical Christian bookstore, and you will find countless books on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints that ask whether we are “Christian or Cult”.  For many Evangelicals, anyone who isn’t an Evangelical belongs to a “cult”.  Ok, I completely understand that many LDS beliefs sound weird to outsiders–what religion doesn’t sound weird to outsiders?  But just look at the GOP presidential candidates, and if you want to tell me that Bachmann and Perry come across as more sane than Huntsman and Romney, I’ll politely mumble something as I back away.)  We have Herman Cain, who is very likely a groper, is ridiculously uninformed, and who now answers all uncomfortable questions with “999”.  No, I’m serious.  Frankly, I don’t know anything about Tim Pawlenty except that “T-Paw” looks like a total pansy in debate.  Makes me want to pants him and shove him in a locker.  [UPDATE:  I realized just after I posted that it’s Rick Santorum who’s still in the race, rather than Pawlenty.  Nobody cares.]  And Ron Paul… I’m at a loss for words.

Maybe there aren’t very many of us, but we’re beginning to hear some rustlings from Republican environmentalists.  The Salt Lake Tribune reported today that Tim DeChristopher, who is in jail for obstructing the sale of resources on sensitive government lands (even though these sales were later deemed improper,) would support Jon Huntsman for president, because he had showed some integrity on environmental issues while in office as Utah governor.  DeChristopher describes himself as “a lefty activist felon in prison,” but the article also quoted me.  Here’s what it said:

Brigham Young University geoscientist Barry Bickmore, a Republican who speaks out on the importance of dealing with climate change, said he also would back Huntsman in sticking with the science.

Like DeChristopher, Bickmore said he would like to put climate change at the top of the agenda for more voters.

But the GOP, with candidates like Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich backing away from the issue, it appears as though the GOP is becoming an anti-science party and imperiling its own future as a result, Bickmore said.

“If the Republicans don’t get together and stop pretending the problem doesn’t [exist],” he said, “in a couple of decades it will become so apparent that we were in denial about this that the party will be gutted, we’ll be turned out on our ear.”

Huntsman has warned much the same thing in recent debates.

Meanwhile, an article in The Boston Globe quotes several environmentalist Republicans in New Hampshire, who are not too happy with the current field of GOP candidates.  Here’s an excerpt.

On Thursday, Farrell Seiler, a Republican-leaning independent, and Republican Antonius Blok will host a workshop in Portsmouth, N.H., examining the impact of climate change on the Seacoast. They also will officially launch a new group, “New Hampshire Republicans for Climate.”

The subject line of their e-mailed press release says it all: “NH Republicans Hosting a Climate Conference? Really.”

Seiler said: “There needs to be an opportunity for enlightened conservative Republicans to raise their hands and say you can’t deny what the science is telling us. We don’t share the anti-science denial-ism of six and a half of the eight Republican candidates who are in New Hampshire running in the primary.”

Former Republican EPA officials – including the agency’s first administrator, Bill Ruckelshaus, and former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman – have begun to respond to use their national platforms to rebut the candidate criticism.

I hope more of us start speaking out, making the consequences of the GOP’s current trajectory clear.

[UPDATE:  Be sure to watch my seminar on “How to Avoid the Truth About Climate Change.”  See below.]

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | November 11, 2011

How to Avoid the Truth About Climate Change

I gave a talk called “How to Avoid the Truth About Climate Change” for the College of Science and Health at Utah Valley University.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with me, I am a Republican and a geochemist who, until a few years ago, was quite skeptical about the idea that humans are causing significant climate change.

In the presentation, I briefly talked about how I had made the transition from being a climate change “skeptic” to being an outspoken advocate of mainstream climate science.  I then discussed how it is that people like me can so effectively avoid the truth about climate change.

Please pass this video along!  I am actually writing a book with the same title, but there’s no way I can get it published before the Republican primaries.  Hopefully this kind of thing can influence a few people toward the center on this issue.

[UPDATE:  If the embedded video below doesn’t have sound, try a direct link to the video on YouTube:]

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | November 1, 2011

Climate Change: What We Know and How We Know It

I did an informal presentation for the LDS Earth Stewardship group, which is now on YouTube.  If you can’t stand watching me talk, believe me–I understand.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | October 19, 2011

The New Gold Standard in Monckton Comedy

Peter Sinclair posted a link to this video from an Australian television show, The Hamster Wheel.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | October 16, 2011

Climate Censorship in Texas, Virginia, and Utah

The Guardian has a nice article on the Perry administration’s censorship of a scientific report that mentioned the effects of climate change on the state of Galveston Bay in Texas.  Turns out that all 200 scientists who authored the report are asking that their names be taken off.  The piece also mentions Ken Cuccinelli’s climate witch-hunting in Virginia, and Rep. Mike Noel’s attempt to get Rob Davies fired at Utah State University.

Here’s the money quote from one of the Texas officials who censored the report.

Mother Jones has tracked the changes. The agency has defended its actions. “It would be irresponsible to take whatever is sent to us and publish it,” Andrea Morrow, a spokeswoman said in an emailed statement. “Information was included in a report that we disagree with.”

She said Anderson’s report had been “inconsistent with current agency policy”, and that he had refused to change it. She refused to answer any questions. Campaigners said the censorship by the Texas state authorities was a throwback to the George Bush era when White House officials also interfered with scientific reports on climate change.

Did you catch that?  Current science is “inconsistent with current agency policy”.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | October 14, 2011

Texas Administration Censors Climate Science

This is a really blatant example, folks.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | October 14, 2011

The Daily Herald Publisher Still Deliberating

The day after the publisher of The Daily Herald, Rona Rahlf, told me she would take my complaint about their editors under advisement, I sent her this note.

Hi Rona,

Any decisions, yet?  Here are the facts of the case:

What the leader of the CERN team, Jasper Kirkby, said about their conclusions:  ”At the moment, it actually says nothing about a possible cosmic-ray effect on clouds and climate, but it’s a very important first step.”

What the Daily Herald editorial board said about the CERN team’s conclusions:  ”Scientists there have concluded that cosmic rays play a much larger role than previously thought in creating clouds on earth.”

If the Daily Herald corrects errors of fact, is there any way to get around the need to correct this?

Note that I’m not asking you to fire Randy and Jim.  They seem like regular guys, who maybe need to take a peek outside the bomb shelter once in a while.  I just want a retraction.

Barry Bickmore

If you are similarly disgusted by a “news” organization that can’t deal with simple fact corrections, please e-mail Ms. Rahlf.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | October 12, 2011

Carbon Price Implemented in Australia

They called in Christopher Monckton once more, but this time His Lordship got his clock cleaned by the Australian media.  They were sharpening the knives even before his plane took off.  And this time, at least, Monckton and his troupe of people-who-have-a-hard-time-telling-the-truth lost.  Australia just put a modest price on carbon emissions.  (NOTE TO MONCKTON’S LAWYERS:  Notice how I didn’t say “liars”.  I have no idea whether Monckton really believes he’s a member of Parliament, and believes that all those scientists he cites really agree with how he uses their work.  I just know that neither is true.)  Graham Redfearn has the story.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | October 12, 2011

The Daily Herald Reaches South Africa

A climatologist from South Africa sent the following letter to Rona Rahlf, publisher of the Daily Herald.  If anyone else wants to chime in, please do.

Dear Ms Rahlf: I suspect this email from South Africa may come as a bit of a surprise.  However, in my reading on the web I felt prompted to send you a letter.

In my job as a Professor of Climatology, I keep tabs on the blog discussions around the issues of climate change, and follow both sides of the debate (which is most polarized into rhetoric in the USA) in order to stay aware of the trends in the public view.  In doing so I came across a posting by Barry Bickmore (

As I operate in a continent that is comprised of “developing nations”, I am particularly sensitive to deception and manipulation of messages, because of the implications and consequences for the society are magnified where many live with significant vulnerability.

The article in the Herald that is discussed by Barry Bickmore, and the email communications he cites with the journalists, are extremely disturbing.  I confirm the error of the initial newspaper articles, but more to the point, I find the ethics of the authors to be worrying.  Aside from the snide and condescending tone taken in the personal emails to Bickmore, there is a clear and apparent disregard for truth at the expense of promoting a personal agenda.  It is clear that the journalists have a strong bias of opinion, and that they are letting this significantly twist the integrity of their journalistic objectivity.

Climate change at it’s heart is an ethical issue; the decisions of humans brought us to this point, and the decisions of humans will determine our experience of the future.  The journalism portrayed in this case is a contribution to a breakdown of ethics, and communicates a message that is a contribution to the decisions of the future.  That the journalist states in his email to Bickmore “I very much doubt that what either the Daily Herald or Barry Bickmore writes will make a measurable difference in the political outcome” is actually neither here or there — ethical principles are not about the scale on ones relevance.

Thus, I wanted to let you know that even on the far side of the world, your newspapers reputation is suffering.  Quite aside from any personal views on climate change, there is a responsibility to not deceive people; all the more so when one speaks from a position of power as a newspaper does.  The responsibility in this case lies firstly with the journalist, then with the editor, and now with yourself.

I hope you will take a serious and hard look at the veracity of facts in the articles, and the measure of objectivity portrayed therein.



Prof. Bruce Hewitson

DST Research Chair in Climate Change

Climate System Analysis Group

Dept. Environmental & Geographical Sc.

University of Cape Town

If you do write to Ms. Rahlf, please note the following contrast.

What the leader of the CERN team, Jasper Kirkby, said about their conclusions:  “At the moment, it actually says nothing about a possible cosmic-ray effect on clouds and climate, but it’s a very important first step.”

What the Daily Herald editorial board said about the CERN team’s conclusions:  “Scientists there have concluded that cosmic rays play a much larger role than previously thought in creating clouds on earth.”

I’m a little disappointed that it’s taken Ms. Rahlf more than 10 minutes to consider this issue.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | October 11, 2011

Will the Daily Herald Print a Retraction?

Given that the editors (Randy Wright and Jim Tynen) seem ok with the idea of publishing errors of fact that they know to be errors, I decided to give the publisher, Rona Rahlf a try.  Here’s what I wrote:


Dear Rona,

I am a long-time subscriber to the Daily Herald, and a political conservative.  However, I am also an associate professor of geological sciences at BYU, so I have enough Earth science background to discern that human-induced climate change is likely to be a big problem, no matter how inconvenient that fact is for my political ideology.  For about 1 1/2 years, I’ve corresponded on and off with Randy Wright and Jim Tynen about their constant stream of editorials that have presented an enormous number of base distortions about the state of climate science.

I fully understand that people (even people like me) have biases, and we make stupid arguments from time to time.  I think you understand that, too, which is why this statement on your Contact webpage is so minimalist.  “The Herald corrects errors of fact appearing in its news and opinion columns.”  I’m fine with that as a strong statement of the bare minimum required with respect to standard journalistic ethics.  As the late Senator Moynihan is said to have put it, “Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but they are not entitled to their own facts.”

Your editors flout that minimalist ethic, however.

On Aug. 28, 2011, you published an editorial called “Huntsman’s Blind Trust in Global Warming,” in which you said,

A paper in the prestigious journal Nature reported on findings from Europe’s CERN Laboratory, the most advanced particle accelerator in the world. Scientists there have concluded that cosmic rays play a much larger role than previously thought in creating clouds on earth. Obviously, cloud cover has a huge effect on temperatures. Which means that all warming theories have been knocked into a cocked hat.

On Sept. 1, I wrote Jim Tynan and Randy Wright to inform them that the lead author of the study in question, Jasper Kirkby, had explicitly stated that their experiments did NOT yet say anything about cosmic rays and climate.  He told Scientific American magazine, “At the moment, it actually says nothing about a possible cosmic-ray effect on clouds and climate, but it’s a very important first step.”  Here’s the link, if you want to look it up.  The article also has a good summary of why that experiment isn’t enough to make any sort of case for cosmic rays being a major climate driver.

An experienced science journalist, Peter Hadfield, made a nice video that explains the same thing here, with some additional background.

Jim Tynan wrote back to say, in part, this:

I don’t think I have special insights into the physics  — I just think Kirkby is talking politics, not science (as is too often true in this debate).

To me, when a scientist in his position tries to downplay the results, it’s actually confirmation: He obviously would like for this study to disappear, but  the data were so powerful that they couldn’t be swept under the rug, at least not now.

And PR and journalistic spin are in my domain. Spinmeister’s rule no. 2:  When there’s an inconvenient truth too obvious to be outright denied, try to find some distraction or some way of minimizing the impact.

No, the report doesn’t say in so many words that “warming is a crock.” But it gives hard evidence that cosmic rays affect cloud cover. And it’s obvious that affects climate,.

Notice what he said.  He knew full well that Jasper Kirkby had denied that his experiment led to any such conclusion, but Jim Tynan could report that Kirkby and his team “have concluded that cosmic rays play a much larger role than previously thought in creating clouds on earth” because Jim Tynan could read Kirkby’s mind and find out what he REALLY meant.  Oh, there’s no wiggle room here.  The editorial didn’t say that the Daily Herald editorial board had concluded, based on Kirkby’s data, that cosmic rays play a much larger role, etc.  The editorial said that the CERN scientists had concluded this, which the lead author explicitly denied.

I decided to drop the issue, for the time being, because I was convinced that Jim Tynan really believed he could read Jasper Kirkby’s mind.  But then this Sunday you published another editorial that made the same claim, in the same words!  I e-mailed Randy and Jim about it again, wondering if I could write an op-ed exposing their deception, or whether they would simply write some kind of retraction, or admission that their source was the voices in Jim’s head.  Here was Randy’s response.

Dear Mr. Bickmore —

Sunday’s piece was intended to be our signoff on this subject — at leastfor some time. I think we want to wait to see what happens next in both science and politics. If climate change wins in either arena, we will be glad to publish a column by you on the subject of “I told you so.”  Alternatively, we would also accept an “I was wrong” column.

There are two possibilities: Either climate change will win out politically, with a massive shift of dollars into investments, regulations and foreign aid that will, at best, deliver minuscule change in C02; or climate change and the massive redistribution of wealth desired by many third-world governments, climate scientists and Al Gore will not occur, owing to lack of votes.

I very much doubt that what either the Daily Herald or Barry Bickmore writes will make a measurable difference in the political outcome. I rather suspect our combined influence will be even less than the most optimistic reduction of carbon that might be purchased by mortgaging my great-great-grandchildren and dooming them to a future of insufficient and expensive energy.

You are a good Mormon, I presume, judging from your position. So I don’t know why the prospective death of Planet Earth seems to bother you so much.  Doom will come eventually, one way or another. Isn’t the earth supposed to pass away and be renewed? And won’t heaven pass away and another rise to take its place? If you hold this religious view with as much fervor as you hold your view on man-made climate change, you might someday sit back with a bemused smile when you find that our political system has made a decision that shortens the planet’s life.

Given a general lack of persuasive evidence and the bad economics that attend virtually all corrective choices, I rather expect the political outcome will be disappointing to alarmists. In the final analysis, it’s going to come down to policy votes, and today I’ll wager that climate change will not prevail.

We should have more definitive answers to all this in, say, 40 years, at which time we can consider publishing your proposed column. After all, the intelligence gained in the four decades since the early 1970s has been quite helpful in deciding what to do about the dire scientific predictions of the onset of a new ice age. A good time to evaluate the scientific consensus on climate change would be around 2051.

On one item I have no doubt, however: By 2051 there will be a scientific consensus that Randy Wright is dead.


Jim Tynen had been quite prescient about this.  Remember how he said, “And PR and journalistic spin are in my domain. Spinmeister’s rule no. 2:  When there’s an inconvenient truth too obvious to be outright denied, try to find some distraction or some way of minimizing the impact”?  That’s what Randy did.  He and Jim both knew, going into this last editorial, that the CERN scientists had said no such thing, and in fact had said the opposite.  But instead of addressing the elephant in the room, he tried to cloud the issue by bringing in all sorts of other points about scientific uncertainty, and so on.  No matter how uncertain the science is, it is certain that Jim and Randy knowingly printed false information, and they refuse to acknowledge it in any way.

So my questions to you, Rona, are these.  I imagine you are on the editorial board, so how do you feel about having printed blatantly false information under your name?  How do you feel about Jim and Randy printing the same false information a second time, after Jim had admitted that he knew Jasper Kirkby had said no such thing?  How do you feel about their evasion of the issue of retraction, when your website specifically states, “The Herald corrects errors of fact appearing in its news and opinion columns”?  Are you going to print a retraction, or are you going to take Jim’s line of thinking, and rationalize that you know what those scientists were really thinking?

If you would like to see the full correspondence between me and your editors, just let me know.


Barry Bickmore

Orem, Utah
Rona Rahlf sent back a reply saying, “Thank you Barry for the feedback.  I’ll take it under advisement.  R”
We’ll see, I guess.
Posted by: Barry Bickmore | October 10, 2011

More Fun With the Daily Herald Editors

I’m convinced that one reason people just can’t fathom the depths of ideological brain-mush we conservatives have willed upon ourselves with respect to climate change is that the scale of it is just too unbelievable.  Who could suspend their disbelief in a novel character like Christopher Monckton, for instance?  He pretends to be a member of the British Parliament, says he’s developed a miracle cure for most known diseases, repeatedly gets caught telling falsehoods about climate research… and gets invited to testify before the U.S. Congress?  Rrrrriiiiiigggghhhht.  Well, I’m starting to see the editors of the Daily Herald, my local paper, in the same light.  If I were to tell my neighbors my experiences with these guys, would they believe me?  I sort of doubt it.

In my last post, I wrote about how the DH editors had written an opinion piece about climate change, in which they said that scientists at CERN “have concluded that cosmic rays play a much larger role than previously thought in creating clouds on earth.”  They had said that before, and I had pointed out to them that the study’s lead author, Jasper Kirkby, had emphatically denied this, but Jim Tynan had told me that he knew how to read between the lines (i.e., read Kirkby’s mind and determine that he meant the exact opposite of what he said.)

Back then, I had also asked if they would print an op-ed by me about the errors in their piece, but they declined, just as they had a few times before.  Well, when I blogged today about their latest fib-telling spree, I sent the link to the editors, Randy Wright and Jim Tynan, and then sent them this follow-up message

Just for kicks, I decided to ask whether you guys would print an op-ed by me about how you printed false information… or at least information that originated with Jim Tynen’s ability to read the minds of scientists and tell when they mean the exact opposite of what they say.  You see, with the number of words allowed in an op-ed, I could throw in big quotations from Jim’s e-mail, where he admitted that Jasper Kirkby didn’t actually say that his experiment proved any significant link between cosmic ray flux and climate, but claimed that he could tell what Kirkby really had in mind about it.

You’ve never agreed to print an op-ed by me before, when I’ve asked, so I wasn’t going to bother.  I have reconsidered because this is one of the worst cases of intellectual dishonesty (or insanity?) I’ve ever seen.  Nevermind that Randy promised to investigate Monckton’s fake data, and never followed up.  Nevermind that you keep repeating the same idiotic line about water vapor being a more important greenhouse gas than CO2, even though it is explicitly accounted for in the standard theories.  All that can be chalked up to ideology-fueled, willful ignorance.  But this is something different, because in this case Jim either knowingly printed false information, or he actually thinks he can read minds.  If the latter, he at least should have informed readers that he was getting his information from the little voices in his head.

So what do you think?  Will you let me spill the beans on your pages, or will you pretend it never happened?  Here’s another idea–maybe you could write an editorial where you lay out the facts in this case, even if you admit no fault.  Sort of a “Truth in Advertising” push, so to speak.

What say ye, gentlemen?

Barry Bickmore

Randy Wright responded with this message.

Dear Mr. Bickmore —

Sunday’s piece was intended to be our signoff on this subject — at least
for some time. I think we want to wait to see what happens next in both
science and politics. If climate change wins in either arena, we will be
glad to publish a column by you on the subject of “I told you so.”
Alternatively, we would also accept an “I was wrong” column.

There are two possibilities: Either climate change will win out politically,
with a massive shift of dollars into investments, regulations and foreign
aid that will, at best, deliver minuscule change in C02; or climate change
and the massive redistribution of wealth desired by many third-world
governments, climate scientists and Al Gore will not occur, owing to lack of

I very much doubt that what either the Daily Herald or Barry Bickmore writes
will make a measurable difference in the political outcome. I rather suspect
our combined influence will be even less than the most optimistic reduction
of carbon that might be purchased by mortgaging my great-great-grandchildren
and dooming them to a future of insufficient and expensive energy.

You are a good Mormon, I presume, judging from your position. So I don’t
know why the prospective death of Planet Earth seems to bother you so much.
Doom will come eventually, one way or another. Isn’t the earth supposed to
pass away and be renewed? And won’t heaven pass away and another rise to
take its place? If you hold this religious view with as much fervor as you
hold your view on man-made climate change, you might someday sit back with a
bemused smile when you find that our political system has made a decision
that shortens the planet’s life.

Given a general lack of persuasive evidence and the bad economics that
attend virtually all corrective choices, I rather expect the political
outcome will be disappointing to alarmists. In the final analysis, it’s
going to come down to policy votes, and today I’ll wager that climate change
will not prevail.

We should have more definitive answers to all this in, say, 40 years, at
which time we can consider publishing your proposed column. After all, the
intelligence gained in the four decades since the early 1970s has been quite
helpful in deciding what to do about the dire scientific predictions of the
onset of a new ice age. A good time to evaluate the scientific consensus on
climate change would be around 2051.

On one item I have no doubt, however: By 2051 there will be a scientific
consensus that Randy Wright is dead.


Did you notice where he addressed the charge that they had knowingly printed a falsehood?  Neither did I.  I just sent them this reply.

Dear Randy (and Jim),

You guys crack me up.  It’s no wonder you like Monckton so much, because he is the undisputed master of throwing out an enormous cloud of smoke when he is (frequently) caught telling demonstrable falsehoods.  I point out that you have printed an outright falsehood, and that I have Jim Tynan on record saying that his source is his personal intuition about what Jasper Kirkby REALLY meant to say (i.e., the exact opposite of what he did say,) and you respond with… what, exactly?

I’ll paraphrase.

“Well, we weren’t going to open up that can of worms again for a while, anyway, and really, what difference does it make?  You may be right about climate change, or we may be right, but who can tell, what with space-age materials and such?  And after all, the whole thing is going to end someday, right?  Mormons believe in the end of the world, right?  So why don’t you behave like a pitchfork-waving psychopath and try to bring it about as soon as possible?  But, given my tough-minded journalistic nature, I’m betting the climate won’t change much, because all that evidence they talk about (the stuff I haven’t bothered to read or understand–see our nearly continuous stream of editorial comments about water vapor) isn’t very convincing.  I mean, there were a few scientists 40 years ago who thought we were headed into an ice age!  I didn’t actually try to find out whether there might have been even more scientists, even back then, who were worried about global warming due to increasing greenhouse gas concentrations, but… where was I?  Oh, yeah.  We should wait until I’m dead to decide who’s right or wrong.”

Since I’m a mind-reader, with abilities at least as great as Jim’s, I’ll paraphrase what you REALLY meant to say.

“We don’t care that we printed a claim we knew to be false.”


Apologies in advance to my friends who disapprove of my tendency toward sarcasm.  I’m trying to stop.  Really.  But in this case, I think God will make a special allowance because I am totally unprepared to stop myself in the face of this kind of thing.  Rest assured that I will feel kind of guilty later.

UPDATE:  Ok, so I did feel a little bad about the sarcasm in the morning, so I sent Jim and Randy this note.

Dear Randy and Jim,

I’m sorry I let myself get a little too sarcastic in the last message I sent.

However, I still find it unbelievable that you would respond to the charge that you had knowingly printed a falsehood with, “I very much doubt that what either the Daily Herald or Barry Bickmore writes will make a measurable difference in the political outcome.”  In other words, it’s ok you lied, because it won’t make much difference, anyway.  If there’s one thing that journalists should care about, it’s accurate reporting of facts.  Anyone can accidentally leave out important facts, or spin them according to some bias or other.  But when you report a fact, there is no question that you should check it’s accuracy, and that if an obvious inaccuracy is pointed out to you, you should care enough to write a retraction.  That’s the kind of ethic expressed on the Daily Herald’s contact page.  “The Herald corrects errors of fact appearing in its news and opinion columns.”

But you don’t care, because your journalistic ethics take a backseat to your ideology.

Barry Bickmore

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | October 10, 2011

The Daily Herald Editors Can Read Minds

My local newspaper is The Daily Herald, and let’s just say that this particular paper fits well into the “reddest county” of the “reddest state” in the nation.  Since I’m politically conservative, I actually agree with many of the editorial points of view expressed in the paper, but on the subject of climate change, the Herald’s editors are WAAAAAYYYYYY out in fantasyland.  That is, I’m pretty sure they think they can read minds.  No, I’m not joking.  I’ve corresponded with the editors, Randy Wright and Jim Tynan, for over a year about their constant stream of climate nonsense, but it’s become clear that there is no reasoning with these people on this issue.

Last year, Lord Monckton came to town, and Jim Tynan gushed over how he had provided a “dazzling tour of the science,” speaking out for freedom and liberty, blah, blah, blah.  In an e-mail conversation with Randy Wright, I informed him that I could prove that Monckton had made up some of the data he used to bash the IPCC.  (You can read about it here.)  Here’s what Randy said, in part.

You should know that we don’t take anything on faith (including Monckton). When my mother says “I love you,” I check it out.

In a subsequent e-mail, Randy said,

I’m simply an enemy of pretention in all it’s forms — including Monckton’s, or yours if applicable. We’re looking at Monckton in more detail, as I mentioned.

So what was the result of their hard-nosed investigative journalism into Monckton’s claims, you ask?  I have no idea.  Somehow, Randy never got back to me on that.  But yesterday Jim Tynan published a 2/3 page rant about “The Phony ‘Consensus’ on Climate Change,” the print version of which had a large photo of Monckton giving his lecture.

Oh, they had all the usual stuff.  They attacked Doran and Zimmerman’s study of Earth scientists opinions about climate change because they thought the sample of actively publishing climatologists was too small.  I actually calculated the margin of error on their results, and it turns out that instead of just saying 97.4% of actively publishing climatologists believe humans are significantly affecting global climate, they should have said something more like 93.8-99.9%.  Yeah, a bigger sample size might have totally changed their conclusions.  Of course, Tynan didn’t provide any alternative polling data.  Instead, he gave us the Oregon Petition and Senator Inhofe’s 1000 scientists who disagree with the IPCC.  Nevermind that the Oregon Petition could be signed by anyone who claimed to have even a bachelor’s degree in any science, engineering, medical, or math field, and that it was probably more likely that a urine sample technician signed than a real climate researcher.  Nevermind that Inhofe’s report included mostly non-specialists in climate, and although he touted a few IPCC authors in the bunch, they amounted to less than 1% of the total number of IPCC authors.

I could go on ad nauseum, e.g., Tynan cited Craig Idso, who apparently doesn’t understand how water vapor acts in the climate system.  But the Grand Poobah of them all was this claim.

Moreover, a recent paper in the prestigious journal Nature reported on findings from Europe’s CERN Laboratory, the most advanced particle accelerator in the world. Scientists there have concluded that cosmic rays play a much larger role than previously thought in creating clouds on earth.

Of course, Jim had claimed the same thing in an editorial just a few weeks ago.  At that time, I wrote to him to inform him that the lead author of the CERN study had told Scientific American, “At the moment, it actually says nothing about a possible cosmic-ray effect on clouds and climate, but it’s a very important first step.”  So why is Jim still claiming that the CERN scientists have concluded something far beyond what they say is possible to conclude from their experiment?  Jim’s reply to me from a few weeks ago is quite revealing, in that respect.

I don’t think I have special insights into the physics  — I just think Kirkby is talking politics, not science (as is too often true in this debate).

To me, when a scientist in his position tries to downplay the results, it’s actually confirmation: He obviously would like for this study to disappear, but  the data were so powerful that they couldn’t be swept under the rug, at least not now.

And PR and journalistic spin are in my domain. Spinmeister’s rule no. 2:  When there’s an inconvenient truth too obvious to be outright denied, try to find some distraction or some way of minimizing the impact.

No, the report doesn’t say in so many words that “warming is a crock.” But it gives hard evidence that cosmic rays affect cloud cover. And it’s obvious that affects climate.

That’s right!  Jim Tynan, the hard-nosed, iconoclastic journalist, is too wily and sophisticated to be fooled by scientists who downplay the importance of their results.  In fact, Kirkby’s denial that his experiment is proof of a strong cosmic ray-climate connection is actually proof of such a connection!

It would be easy, at this point, to call Jim Tynan a liar, but I’m convinced that he actually believes he can read Jasper Kirkby’s mind.  It would be nice, however, if in the future Mr. Tynan would inform his readers that the source of his information is ESP.

If you would like to see a good explanation for why the CERN experiment couldn’t possibly prove what Jim Tynan says it proves, see the following video by an experienced science journalist, Peter Hadfield.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | October 7, 2011

Peter Gleick Hits Where It Hurts

Climate change will adversely affect chocolate production?  That’s it.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | October 3, 2011

Republicans Going Against the Tide

Here are some recent articles about Republicans who are trying to get the party to reverse course on climate change denial.

1. Retired Republicans Quietly Try to Shift GOP Climate-Change Focus, National Journal.

2. D. R. Tucker, Confessions of a Climate Change Convert, Frum Forum.

3. D. R. Tucker, Dawn of the Deniers.

The second piece by Tucker was especially hard-hitting.  Consider this bit:

However, I realize now that I was also wrong on this point. When it comes to epistemic closure, American progressives are rank amateurs compared to American conservatives. The negativity I received from the right for accepting climate science was unlike anything I have ever experienced—but I’m actually glad to have experienced it, since it forced me to confront some inconvenient political truths.

Looking back, my disputes with the left gave me the fortitude I needed to deal with the right’s aggressively enforced epistemic closure. The progressives who gave me grief for supporting President Clinton’s impeachment and John McCain’s White House bid gave me the best training possible to deal with a far more pernicious, and far more pervasive, form of ideological intolerance.

Being branded a “RINO” and a “warmist” by the close-minded conservative class was the wake-up call I needed. In a weird way, I want to thank the conservatives who condemned my conversion on climate change. They helped me realize that a “warmist” is merely someone who accepts scientific reality instead of denying it—and that a “RINO” is another word for a Republican with an IQ above room temperature.

Is this really where we want to go?  Making conservatives who respect science choose between voting for candidates who disagree with them about many fiscal and social issues, or voting for candidates who are incapable of dealing with reality?

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | September 26, 2011

Bob Inglis: How GOP Should Engage Climate Science

Bob Inglis, former Republican congressman from North Carolina, has a great column in USA Today.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | September 16, 2011

Two Parties, One Approach to Climate Science

Two climate scientists of opposite political persuasions encourage our politicians to get it together with respect to climate change action.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | September 16, 2011

Remote Sensing Publishes Rebuttal

Remote Sensing just published a rebuttal to Spencer and Braswell’s latest paper.  The rebuttal, written by Kevin Trenberth, John Fasullo, and John Abraham, is mostly based on an earlier RealClimate post by Trenberth and Fasullo, but tidied up and updated for publication.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | September 13, 2011

Deseret News Article on L’Affaire Spencer

The Deseret News has published an article on Wolfgang Wagner’s resignation over the Spencer and Braswell paper Remote Sensing published.  Since it’s a local paper, which always highlights any local angles, the article highlighted my review of Spencer’s book, The Great Global Warming Blunder, and whatever it might have contributed to Wagner’s decision–which is speculation, since he didn’t mention any specific sources of criticism that might have contributed to his decision.  (In my opinion, any contribution I might have made was probably overhyped.  I told the reporter all about what had happened, but emphasized that the main critique of S&B’s paper before the resignation was Trenberth and Fasullo’s, and they just mentioned my earlier critique as an example of how Spencer has a habit of abusing statistics to squeeze a low climate sensitivity out of a 1-box climate model.  I did, however, note that Spencer was up to some of the same old tricks in the paper, e.g., he was using a weird value for the ocean mixed layer depth, which affected his results.)

The article actually made me feel some sympathy for Roy Spencer.  Reporters are generally not trained in any science, so it really is a stretch for them to boil a science story down to a level the general public can understand.  If you don’t have a significantly deeper understanding to begin with, the “boiling down” process inevitably leads to some errors.  When Roy was criticized for feeding the media frenzy over his paper, he said,

I had nothing to do with James Taylor’s article. It might have been a little over the top on interpretation (but not necessarily wrong).

In this case, I don’t think the Deseret News reporter did a bad job, but I wouldn’t have written exactly the same thing.  She made some errors here and there.  (E.g., she misidentified Roy’s book that I critiqued–I’ve never read Climate Confusion.  Trenberth and Fasullo’s blog post came after S&B’s paper, not before, but the blog post mentioned a paper by Trenberth, Fasullo, O’Dell, and Wong that was published previously and should have been addressed by S&B.  Also, I don’t think my quoted statements were always exactly right, or at least the context was sometimes a tiny bit blurry.)  But then, I’m sure she was going on hastily written notes, and at least she e-mailed me to clarify a few things before she went to press.

In the end, the reporter got across that I thought S&B were playing fast and loose with their statistics, and that I had previously demonstrated that Roy had repeatedly done something similar in the past.

So what should I do?  If I were to refrain from saying anything, or act as if the newspaper article were 100% accurate, I’m sure I would be lambasted on many a contrarian blog.  (I’m sure I will be, in any case.)  At the same time, I don’t want to be too critical of the reporter, who was pushed into the deep end and really tried to get the facts straight before her deadline.  Certainly I think she got across a message that her audience needed to hear, especially since the Deseret News recently published an article in which they used the S&B paper to illustrate the point that human-induced climate change is still “controversial” among climate scientists.

So there you have it.  I’ve seen a lot worse, and I think the core message was on target, but there were a few problems.  If anyone has any problem with something I was quoted as saying in the article, please comment below, and I’ll provide more context.


Posted by: Barry Bickmore | September 7, 2011

Roy Spencer Responds With More Excuses

In my last post, I gave some of the details of Andrew Dessler’s latest paper, which criticizes a recent paper by Roy Spencer and Danny Braswell.  One of the criticisms I highlighted was the charge that S&B said they had analyzed output from 14 climate models, but only compared 6 of the models to the data–the 3 with the least, and the 3 with the greatest, climate sensitivity.  They argued that the 3 least sensitive models did a slightly better job (on average) than the 3 most sensitive ones, but none of them were very good at reproducing the data, so maybe that indicates the real climate is less sensitive than ANY of the models.  They also used the temperature series (there are several) that gave the most marked difference from the data.  I provided a number of links to show that Spencer has a history of botching his statistics, and noted that in the past he has simply brushed off criticisms of his statistical abuse, relying on the statistical naïveté of his core audience. Read More…

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | September 6, 2011

Roy Spencer Persecuted By Own Data

Summary:  Roy Spencer’s latest paper, published in Remote Sensing, supposedly “blew a gaping hole” in the standard theory of climate change.  A new paper by Andrew Dessler shows that this is just another in a long string of Roy’s faulty claims to prove that climate sensitivity is lower than previously thought.  The main problem in all of these attempts has been rampant abuse of statistics.  Typically, Roy would brush off such criticisms, relying on the statistical naïveté of his core audience and the media, and claim he is being persecuted by the “IPCC gatekeepers”.  In this case, one of Dessler’s figures shows very clearly how Spencer and his co-author Danny Braswell left out of their analysis all the data that didn’t fit with their hypothesis.  It’s so clear that even people who don’t know much about statistics can see the problem.  There is no running from this one–no claiming that Spencer is being persecuted–unless he wants us to believe he’s being persecuted by his own data. Read More…

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