Community-driven solutions to climate change

I thought I’d write a post while AT is away which he hopefully won’t mind me doing. I feel a bit frustrated by the lack of discussion about solutions for climate change. There’s much pointless bickering about things we shouldn’t really be arguing about, like whether there’s a pause, when instead we should be discussing what we’re going to do about climate change.

A movie called 2 Degrees was recently released which highlights the failure of the international climate negotiations. Here’s a preview of this film:

 

It starts with a quote from President Obama:

Climate change will post unacceptable risks to our security, our economies, and our planet.

If we can’t rely on our leaders to make the tough decisions for the future of our children and grandchildren then what hope is there? One thing the movie suggests is that instead of looking for top-down solutions, perhaps we should be searching for solutions from the bottom: community-driven results from people like us who are concerned about climate change and want to do something about it. In the film, they follow the community of a small Australian town called Port Augusta and their fight to replace an ageing coal-fired power station with solar thermal power. It looks as though they’re close to winning the fight.

One lesson from this town’s battle is the need to get the majority of the population on board to get politicians motivated to do something. Our politicians are not going to do anything while we have 63.9% of the population who are unmoved. We need to convince these people that climate change is a serious problem and that we must take action.

How do we do that?

Posted in Climate change, Global warming | Tagged , , , , , | 109 Comments

On Holiday

I’m off on holiday in a couple of hours and, this time, won’t have much – or any – internet access. I’ll keep an eye on things if I can, but I don’t plan to post anything. So, the blog will probably be quiet for a while.

intermission

Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments

Play the Ball

Dear ClimateBall ™ player,

Me and AT have been discussing for a moment now the possibility that I help him moderate the blog. I just recently accepted, not without warning him that unintended consequences might follow. We shall see them in due time.

climateball

A comment on last thread provoked the beginning of my service as a moderator. The comment, in my opinion, contained a personal attack. Let’s recall AT’s rule:

I would like to see avoided are vitriolic, unpleasant, personal attacks. As they say, play the ball not the man/woman.

I will focus on this single rule: play the ball. Here is an example of something I would moderate:

Doug says he hopes you will research things more thoroughly – he’s probably not familiar with the style of your blog.

The first version of this post contained many examples, but the fantastically new WordPress Dashboard swept them all. I’ll try to provide more examples in the comment thread. If I’m lucky, my explanation will be as rock solid as NHL’s Department of Player Safety; cf. the videos for the explanations.

***

My main objective is to collect examples. (You know me, I like to do that.) I expect you, dear ClimateBall ™ player, to play the man even if I’m telling you to play the ball. That’s OK. I accept this, but please don’t push it. At the very least, try to abide by Doug McNeal’s rule:

If you wish to be offensive in the comments, please make it funny, or true. Preferably both.

While I acknowledge my bias toward style, your mot juste may still be deleted. In any event, other ClimateBall players might appreciate the effort before I moderate it. (No, the example above does not meet that criteria.)

Some cases are clearer, some others are less so. Most rest on a judgment call, and my decisions are definitive. I can’t promise to backup your prose: this is your responsibility. I can only promise to delete every single sentence that tries to play the ref.

This applies to this comment thread. Don’t come here to whine about something elsewhere in the blog. You can contact me via @nevaudit or via my Contrarian Matrix.

***

To finish this first post, I’ll simply pull this quote from Robert Rowland Smith:

To put it in tabloid terms, your enemy is you, or at least that bit of you you can’t stand. No wonder that we feel so attached to our enemies, that we can become so preoccupied with them. Just as hate can make you as obsessed with someone as love, having enemies is a negative form of bonding – attachment in a minor key.

ClimateBall ™ is a game. Games are supposed to be fun. Please keep that in mind next time that you, dear ClimateBall ™ player, try to side tackle your opponent.

Beware your spikes, and play the ball.

Good luck!

willard

PS: This includes you, AT.

Posted in ClimateBall | 82 Comments

We need a better class of climate “skeptic”!

When I started this blog, it was mainly to address the – mostly – scientific nonsense presented on Anthony Watts’ blog, Watts Up With That (WUWT). After a while this became a little too stressful, and the association with such nonsense became a bit too hard to take. So, I changed the name of the blog and have largely ignored WUWT since then. However, I do still sometimes comment on “skeptic” nonsense when it comes to my attention and when it seems appropriate to do so. However, even this is getting a little hard to take.

In the last week we’ve had David Rose in the Telegraph discussing the significance of the increase in Antarctic sea ice (well, it is interesting, but not in the way that he thinks it is). This article also included Judith Curry largely contradicting her own research, and included a lengthy section by Andrew Montford, possibly the person with the greatest difference between how much some think he understands this topic, and how much he actually understands it.

We’ve also had Matt Ridley (the Rational Optimist?) arguing in the Times that The BBC has lost its balance over climate change, because it has decided that inviting non-experts to talk about climate science is probably a bad idea. Today we had Ben Webster in the Times suggesting that Voices of dissent drowned out by climate change scientists, because a reviewer of a paper published 4 years ago suggested removing some comments that were not supported by the analysis in the paper. This is despite the author commenting

the reviewers who objected to the questions were technically correct because they “were not explicitly based on our results”.

The author rather spoiled it by then saying

However, he said: “We had a right to discuss it . . . If your opinion is outside the broad consensus then you have more problems with publishing your results.”

No, I think that one role of peer-review is to prevent authors from simply presenting their opinions in their papers, especially if these opinions are not actually based on the work they’re presenting. In this regard, I particularly liked this tweet from John Kennedy

Also, if the Times thinks this is newsworthy, then they really must be scraping the bottom of the barrel.

I’ve also spent the last few days playing yes, but random walk with Andrew Montford and Doug Keenan. Well, not really playing since they both largely ignored me as – apparently – I’m a troll. Today I actually read Doug Keenan’s Statistical Analyses of Surface Temperatures in the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report, which is a beautiful example of utter balderdash and includes a a discussion of Doug Keenan challenging Phil Jones to pass a statistics exam. Doug Keenan even offers to pay :

I then offered to pay £500/minute to have Jones write the examination. My offer was not accepted.

How old is Doug? Twelve? It also includes this somewhat ironic quote

People are not honest, they don’t admit their ignorance, and that is why they write such nonsense.
—Sigmund Freud

Words to live by, Doug, words to live by!

So, the problem I’m having is that this is all getting so nonsensical that I’d really rather not be associated with it in any way. In some sense, one could argue that it’s brave of these people to have the courage to look ignorant and foolish. I, however, do enough by myself to look ignorant and foolish, without looking even more ignorant and foolish by associating with them. That’s why it would be nice if there were a better class of climate “skeptics”. People who it would be worth having a serious discussion with, rather than people who resort to some form of conspiracy ideation whenever they get challenged (or, sometimes, even without being challenged).

The problem, I think, is that there is actually no sensible middle ground. If you have sufficient knowledge to understand the science and how science works, and have a sufficiently open mind, you end up largely agreeing with the mainstream position. The alternative is to simply look like a crackpot; sometimes with enough knowledge to make a fool of yourself, but not enough to know that you’re doing it. Clearly not everyone who agrees with the mainstream position agrees about everything or about all the details, but they agree about the basics and broadly agree with the IPCC projections. There are some who are seen as being on the more skeptical side of the spectrum, but most of this is healthy skepticism, rather than yes, but conspiracy theory.

So, that’s the problem I’m facing at the moment. There are certainly people with whom I can have interesting and worthwhile discussions about the science, but when it comes to people like Rose, Ridley, Montford, Keenan, Webster, it all seems rather pointless. They either don’t know enough to know that they’re wrong, or they’re being dishonest. In either case, it’s really not worth taking a discussion with them seriously. Of course, one could choose to not take it seriously, but I’m not sure I can really be bothered or have the stomach for that. All I can say is that I’m looking forward to the end of this week, when I start a two week holiday.

Posted in Climate change, Global warming, IPCC, Science | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 656 Comments

If Russell Brand can get this, you can too!

Okay, this video is a little silly and somewhat over-the-top, but – to be fair – Russell Brand is responding to something that is even sillier and even more over-the-top. To be honest, I’ve never been quite sure what to make of Russell Brand. He seems to come across as a bit of self-aggrandizing, twit. However, he seems to realise that he’s a self-aggrandizing twit and he does seem to have a bit of a habit of recognizing and pointing out things that are blindingly obvious. Of course, one does have to be a little careful of things that seem blindingly obvious as sometimes they aren’t. Sometimes, however, they are.

Anyway, if you don’t like Russell Brand, don’t watch this. However, If you do like Russell Brand, you may find it amusing. I also realise that I may be skirting my “don’t discuss conspiracy theories” policy, so if everyone could bear that in mind, it would be appreciated.

Posted in Climate change, Comedy, Global warming, Satire, Science | Tagged , , , , | 30 Comments

David Rose and the Antarctic sea ice misrepresentation?

David Rose has an article in the Daily Mail about the increase in Antarctic sea ice. The implication is that the increase in Antarctic sea ice somehow compensates for the decrease in Arctic sea ice. Well this isn’t really correct as what David Rose is referring to is the increase is sea ice area, not volume. According to Holland et al. 2014, the Arctic sea ice is losing mass/volume 10 times faster than the Antarctic sea ice is gaining mass/volume. Also the impact on our albedo of decreased Arctic sea ice in the NH summer is very different to the impact of increased Antarctic sea ice in the SH winter.

The only climate scientist who David Rose quotes with regards to the actual science is Judith Curry, who is quoted as saying

it was becoming increasingly apparent that long-term cycles in ocean temperatures were responsible for a significant proportion of the ice decline in the Arctic – a process that may be starting to reverse.

I presume that this refers to Judith Curry’s Stadium Wave idea which – as far as I can tell – is just an elaborate curve-fitting exercise. Also, I don’t think that this is consistent with what most others think is happening. One idea is that the melting of Antarctic ice sheets is adding cold, fresh water to the Antarctic ocean (Bintanja et al. 2013). Fresh water freezes more easily than salt water, and so this is one explanation for the increased Antarctic sea ice extent. There is also a chance that it is just natural variability (Swart & Fyfe 2013) but even if true, this doesn’t mean that it somehow compensates for reduction in Arctic sea ice.

The article also has an entire section devoted to the views of Andrew Montford – a UK-based climate blogger. I recently spent a couple of days commenting on his blog. Based on the comments and on what he himself says, it appears that his understanding of climate science is remarkably low. That’s also a positive interpretation. Why a journalist writing an article in a major UK newspaper couldn’t find someone more suitable is beyond me. It can’t be that hard. It, however, might be hard to find someone credible who would be willing to be quoted by David Rose, and who would not say something that fundamentally contradicted what he was trying to get across in his article.

Andrew Montford does comment that

In recent days a new scandal over the integrity of temperature data has emerged, this time in America, where it has been revealed as much as 40 per cent of temperature data there are not real thermometer readings.

This is based on some recent claims by Steven Goddard, whose real name happens to be Tony Heller. In my experience (and in my opinion) Heller/Goddard is one of the most dishonest individuals I’ve encountered – and that is saying something. I also find it remarkable that those who criticise me for using a pseudonym have no issue with someone else using a pseudonym that wasn’t obviously a pseudonym. Anyway, if you want to know why this is probably just a red herring, you could read some of Nick Stokes’ recent posts about infilling, climatology, and anomalies.

So, I find these kind of articles remarkably frustrating and really wish this kind of nonsense was called out more broadly. I’m trying to my best, but it’s pretty hard going. It’s also hard not draw some fairly uncomplimentary conclusions; namely that David Rose is either an ignorant fool or willfully misrepresenting our current understanding of climate science. I’ll leave it to the reader to make up their own mind. I will ask, however, that if you do comment, that you keep the comments civil and on the correct side of the libel/personal opinion boundary.

Posted in Climate change, Global warming, Science | Tagged , , , , , , , | 53 Comments

Adventures on the Hill

My post about Andrew Montford promoting Doug Keenan’s statistical models (well, statistical somethings), prompted Andrew to respond with a post of his own. In the spirit of harmony, I thought I might spend some time commenting there. I was pleasantly surprised by how it went; not because I achieved much, but more because it wasn’t a complete disaster. That was probably partly because my skin is thicker than it once was, and partly because the general behaviour was better than I was expecting (I’ve also learned what and when to ignore).

However, what I did encounter was a large fraction of all the standard contrarian arguments. In the spirit of Willard’s new Contrarian Matrix, I thought I might summarise as many as I can remember.

  • Isn’t energy only conserved in a closed system?

Well, it is conserved in a closed system, but really it’s just conserved. If you add energy to a system, the energy increases. If a system loses energy, the energy goes down. Ignoring quantum fluctuations, the total energy is always conserved.

  • Anders isn’t a scientist, but a corrupt activist :

This seems like a pretty standard accusation. I think Richard Betts and Myles Allen were accused of the same on B-H yesterday. Not quite sure what they think I’m campaigning for. Maybe, a better understanding of basic science. Other than that, not really much else.

  • We can’t measure the energy of the climate system with any accuracy :

I’m not actually sure if this is correct or not – if we can measure the temperature and density and know the equation of state, then I think we could determine the total energy. However, we’re not trying to measure the total energy. We’re trying to determine how it is changing, and this we can do with sufficient accuracy to establish if it is changing over some reasonable timescale (years).

  • The Feynman gambit :

There was the obligatory link to a Feynman video. I assume this was to illustrate that I’m not behaving as a scientist should, but which normally illustrates that the person who posted the video doesn’t understand what Feynman was saying.

  • We agree :

Apparently, despite all the disagreement, we actually agree. This is odd, because – if this were the case – you’d expect the other party to respond with something like “yes, I agree with you”, not “why are we arguing, you agree with me.”

  • Anders doesn’t understand what Doug and Andrew are saying :

This is again a little odd, given that I was also told I agreed with them. I think I do understand (and disagree with) what they are saying. However, those who claimed I didn’t understand what they were saying, then didn’t put any effort into explaining what they were actually trying to say.

  • Anders is fixated on radiative physics :

Well, it was hard to see why this is such a bad thing. This was, however, also combined with the standard “surface temperature depends on convection, conduction and evaporation” argument. Well, convection certainly plays a role, but radiation processes are a crucial part of setting the surface temperature and are especially important if you want to consider how adding greenhouse gases to our atmosphere might influence surface temperatures.

  • Physical models need to be verified :

This seems to be an extension of the Popper gambit. Not only must models be falsifiable, they also need to be verified. This would appear to indicate a significant confusion about the difference between engineering and basic science. Scientists use physical models to try and understand complex systems. How well the model replicates certain aspect of the system tells you something of the physical processes that control the system being studied. A model doesn’t, however, have to actually be verified before you can use it in this way.

  • Various latin quotes were bandied about :

Presumably this was intended to make the person using these quotes seem clever and intellectual. I’ll leave it up to the reader to decide if this was successful or not.

  • We can’t we be sure that it isn’t something else :

Sure, we can’t, but just because it could be something else, doesn’t invalidate our current understanding. The other issue with this argument is that if it is something else, and this something else is somehow significant, you’re counting on two unlikely outcomes. One is that something we haven’t thought of has a major influence on our global surface temperatures. The other is that our current understanding of the processes that we think do influence our surface temperatures is wrong. Anything is possible, but this seems rather unlikely.

  • You have to falsify the null hypothesis :

I clearly understand the concept of a null hypothesis. However, normally rejecting or accepting the null is a test that determines whether or not a particular hypothesis has some statistical validity or not. An issue in climate science is defining a suitable null. In this particular instance the claim was that there is only one null hypothesis and that it is an obvious null. I, however, still don’t know what it actually is.

  • I don’t believe in the power of back-radiation :

This was in response to me asking if they accepted the standard explanation for the greenhouse effect. I don’t really know if they do or don’t, but they don’t like the power of back-radiation. Well, that’s fine, because I don’t think it’s really all that relevant. Maybe some people describe the greenhouse effect using this kind of terminology, but that doesn’t mean that that is quite how they think it actually works. If you don’t like this terminology, use something different.

So, those are all of the basic arguments that I encountered on B-H. Although I don’t really like appeals to authority, and have largely avoided really describing my own credentials, I have now been studying physics or doing research for closer to 30 years, than to 20. My academic credentials are not outstanding, but they’re nothing to be ashamed of either. Given that, it is somewhat hard not to get a little irritated when someone with no (or very little) scientific experience – or credentials – tells me how science should work and why I’m wrong. This may explain why many don’t bother engaging in such discussions. To be honest, I can’t really see myself doing it too often either. I’m not even sure that writing my own blog is doing me any favours.

Something else that struck me is that Both Andrew Montford and Doug Keenan seem to be claiming that the Met Office agrees with them. Having read the Met Office’s response, it’s a little hard to see how they’ve drawn this conclusion (as it seems fairly clear that they don’t). However, I get the impression that the Met Office feels that it cannot be seen to be unduly critical of a member of the public (taxpayer). Well, I’m a taxpayer too and I don’t see how we benefit from a publicly funded, scientific organisation not making it clear whether they do or do not agree with someone’s criticism of their methods. Of course, it may be impossible to write something that wouldn’t be misinterpreted by people like Andrew Montford and Doug Keenan, but I would certainly encourage the Met Office to be a little more direct.

Posted in Climate change, Global warming, Science | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 46 Comments