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Posts Tagged Climate science

Carbon News 15/12/14: smoke and mirrors Gareth Renowden Dec 16

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English goes silent on carbon deficit costs


The Government is refusing to discuss what impact a 2030 carbon deficit will have on the economy – despite warnings from Treasury. Finance Minister Bill English has confirmed to Carbon News that Treasury is predicting carbon prices of between $10 and $165 a tonne between 2021 and 2030, but he has not answered questions on what that will cost New Zealand.

Climate expert: It’s all smoke and mirrors, Mr Groser


New Zealand is using smoke and mirrors to meet its 2020 emissions reduction target, when it could get there by using clean heating and transport technologies, says one of our leading scientists. Climate Change Minister Tim Groser told Radio New Zealand National this morning that while New Zealand faced some big hurdles in cutting emissions, the country was on target to meet its pledge to cut emissions to 5 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020.

Climate talks off on the rocky road to Paris


A deal struck in Lima between 196 nations today leaves open the possibility of saving the planet from dangerous overheating. But its critics say the prospects of success are now slim.

Fossil fuel probe under way as NZ goes exploring


New Zealand is expanding oil and gas exploration at the same time as Britain probes the likely cost of stranded fossil-fuel assets.

What did the Romans ever do for us? They left a water warning


As all good Monty Python fans know, water technologies feature large in the legacy of benefits left by Roman civilisation.

Carbon trade in Beijing tops 100 million yuan


Carbon trade volume in Beijing has reached 105 million yuan ($NZ21.8 million) since a carbon emissions trading scheme was launched in the city a year ago.

UN launches new coalition to promote renewable energy


The launch of a new coalition spearheaded by the United Nations Environment Programme will focus on boosting renewable energy usage around the world.

Australia takes action on energy market reform


The Australian Government is leading a new focus on reforms to put downward pressure on electricity prices and give Australian consumers greater power over their energy bills.

Our new energy mix is a game-changer, says India


While the political spotlight focused on the world’s two biggest polluters − China and the US − in the run-up to the Lima climate talks, pressure is mounting on India to set emissions targets to help to prevent the planet overheating.

Bank of England probes risk of fossil fuel assets


In a move that’s likely to cause consternation in some of the world’s most powerful corporate boardrooms, the Bank of England has disclosed that it is launching an inquiry into the risks fossil fuel companies pose to overall financial stability.

On the web: Meet the world’s greatest climate wrecker … Australia

  • Welcome to Planet Oz: Julie Bishop’s speech to Lima climate talks
  • Change of heart: Abbott government commits $200m to Green Climate Fund
  • Cutting carbon a good business opportunity, private sector told
  • EU court nails Austria, Poland over breaches to green energy rules
  • Scots’ renewable energy offsets a million tonnes of CO2 every month
  • How to harvest energy from everything that moves

Eels worth the effort, says environment watchdog


New Zealand needs to put more effort into protecting long-fin eels, or tuna, says the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment.

Spotlight turns on roadway illumination


Local authorities are out to halve the energy and cost involved in lighting public roads.

Spot NZUs hit two-year high


Carbon ended the week slightly down, though prices remain above $5 with spot NZUs closing at $5.40 on CommTrade, OMFinancial reports.

Special offer for Hot Topic readers: Carbon News has kindly agreed to offer Hot Topic readers personal (ie single user) subscriptions to their news service — and full access to the CN database of over 7,500 stories published since 2008 — at a substantial discount to normal pricing. Three month subs are $110 (code HT3), six month subs $200 (code HT6), and full year subs $360 (code HT12) – a saving of $140 on standard pricing. If you want to take advantage of these prices, register at Carbon News and enter the relevant code when signing up. This offer will expire at the end of the year.

Is earth’s temperature about to soar? (No pause, no hiatus, only warming) Gareth Renowden Dec 10

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This is a guest post by the statistician who blogs as Tamino, cross-posted from his Open Mind blog with his permission. It’s important reading…

A recent blog post on RealClimate by Stefan Rahmstorf shows that when it comes to recent claims of a “pause” or “hiatus,” or even a slowdown in global surface temperature, there just isn’t any reliable evidence to back up those claims.

TempCP3

Yet for years one of the favourite claims of those who deny the danger of global warming has been “No global warming since [insert start time here] !!!” They base the statement on the observed data of earth’s surface temperature or its atmospheric temperature. Then they claim that such a “pause” or “hiatus” in temperature increase disproves, in one fell swoop, everything about man-made climate change.

They seem a bit worried lately because it is very likely that the data from NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) will record this year as the hottest on record; we won’t know, of course, until 2014 is complete. A single year, even if the hottest on record, has only a little to do with the validity of such claims, but a lot to do with how hard it is to sell the idea. Perhaps they dread the prospect that if the most recent year is the hottest on record — in any data set — it will put a damper on their claims of a “pause” in global warming. If they can’t claim that any more, it deprives them of one of their most persuasive talking points (whether true or not). Still the claims persist; they’ve even begun preparing to ward off genuine skepticism spurred by the hottest year on record.

I seem to be one of very few who has said all along, repeatedly and consistently, that I’m not convinced there has been what is sometimes called a “pause” or “hiatus,” or even a slowdown in the warming trend of global temperature — let alone in global warming.

And it’s the trend that’s the real issue, not the fluctuations which happen all the time. After all, if you noticed one chilly spring day that all that week it had been colder than the previous week, you wouldn’t announce “No more summer on the way! No more seasons since [insert start time here]!!!” You’d know that in spite of such short-term fluctuations, the trend (the march of the seasons) will continue unabated. You wouldn’t even consider believing it had stopped without some strong evidence. You certainly wouldn’t believe it based on weak evidence, and if the evidence is far too weak …

Why am I not convinced? Because the evidence for claims of a “pause” or “hiatus” or even slowdown is weak. Far too weak.

Let me show you just how weak their case is.

Rahmstorf’s post is based on a mathematical technique known as “change point analysis” (with the kind assistance of Niamh Cahill, School of Mathematical Sciences, University College Dublin) applied to data from GISS (NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies). The result is that the most recent change point (the most recent change in the trend) which is supported by the data happened back in 1970, nearly 45 years ago. As for a change in the trend more recently than that (which is the basis of claims about a “pause”), there’s just no evidence that passes muster.

Of course, the data from GISS isn’t the only well-known data for global surface temperature; there’s also the aforementioned NOAA data, the HadCRUT4 data (from the Hadley Centre/Climate Research Unit in the U.K.), the data from Cowtan & Way (an improved — in my opinion — version of the HadCRUT4 data), the CRUTEM4 data which cover only earth’s land areas (also from the the Hadley Centre/Climate Research Unit), and the land-only Berkeley data (from the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project). There’s also data covering, not earth’s surface but its lower atmosphere (often called “TLT” for “temperature lower-troposphere), one from UAH (University of Alabama at Huntsville), another from RSS (Remote Sensing Systems).

With so many data sets to choose from, sometimes those who deny the danger of global warming but don’t like the result they get from one data set will just use another instead, whichever gives the result they want. Then again, some of them might accuse Rahmstorf, in his blog post, of choosing the NASA GISS data because it was most favourable to his case; I don’t believe that’s true, not at all. We can forestall such criticism by determining the result one gets from different choices and compare them. In fact, it’s worth doing for its own sake.

Let me state the issue I intend to address: whether or not there has even been any verifiable change in the rate of temperature increase — and remember, we’re not talking about the up-and-down fluctuations which happen all the time, and are due to natural factors (they’re also well worth studying), we’re talking about the trend. If there’s no recent change in the trend, then there certainly isn’t a “pause” or “hiatus” in global warming. I’ll also apply a different technique than used in Rahmstorf’s post.


First a few notes. Those not interested in technical details, just skip this and the next paragraphs. For those interested, I’ll mention that to estimate the uncertainty of trend analysis we need to take into account that the noise (the fluctuations) isn’t the simple kind referred to as white noise, rather it shows strong autocorrelation. I’ll also take into account that the noise doesn’t even follow the simplest form of autocorrelation usually applied, what’s called “AR(1)” noise, but it can be well approximated by a somewhat more complex form referred to as “ARMA(1,1)” noise using the method of Foster & Rahmstorf. This will enable me to get realistic estimates of statistical uncertainty levels.

I’ll also address the proper way to frame the question in the context of statistical hypothesis testing. The question is: has the warming rate changed since about 1970 when it took on its rapid value? Hence the proper null hypothesis is: the warming rate (the trend, not the fluctuations) is the same after our choice of start year as it was before (basically, since 1970). Only if we can contradict that null hypothesis can we say there’s valid evidence of a slowdown.


Spoiler alert: there’s no chance whatever of finding a “slowdown” that starts before 1990 or after 2008. Therefore for all possible “start of trend change” years from 1990 through 2008, I computed the best-fit statistical model that includes a change in trend starting at that time. I then tested whether or not the trend change in that model was “statistically significant.” To do so, we compute what’s called a p-value. To be called “significant” the p-value has to be quite small — less than 0.05 (i.e. less than 5%); if so, such a result is confirmed with what’s called “95% confidence” (which is 100% minus our p-value of 5%). Requiring 95% confidence is the de facto standard in statistics, not the universal choice but the most common and certainly a level which no statistian would find fault with. This approach is really very standard fare in statistical hypothesis testing.

So here’s the test: see whether or not we can find any start year from 1990 through 2008 for which the p-value is less than 0.05 (to meet the statistical standard of evidence). If we can’t find any such start year, then we conclude that the evidence for a trend change just isn’t there. It doesn’t prove that there hasn’t been any change, but it does lay bare the falsehood of proclamations that there definitely has been.

I’ll also avoid criticisms of using some data set chosen because of the result it gives, by applying the test to every one of the aforementioned data sets, four for global surface temperature, two for land-only surface temperature, and two for atmospheric temperature.

I can graph the results with dots connected by lines showing the p-values for each choice of start year, with the results from different data sets shown in different colours. The p-values are plotted from highest (no significance at all) at the bottom to lowest (statistically significant) at the top, with a dashed line near the top showing the 5% level; at least one of the dots for at least one of the data sets has to rise above the dashed line (dip below 5%) to meet the “Statistical Significance for Trend Change” region in order to claim any valid evidence of that (think of it as “You must be this tall to go on this ride”). Have a look:

Pvals

In no case does the p-value for any choice of start year, for any choice of data set, reach the “statistically significant” range. Therefore, for no choice of start year, for no choice of data set, can you make a valid claim to have demonstrated a slowdown in warming. As a matter of fact, in no case does the p-value for any choice of start year, for any choice of data set, get as low as the 10% level. To put it another way, there’s just no valid evidence of a “slowdown” which will stand up to statistical rigor.

Bottom line: not only is there a lack of valid evidence of a slowdown, it’s not even close.

But wait … there’s more! Imagine you roll a pair of dice and get a 12 in some game where that’s the only losing roll. You might suspect that the dice are loaded, because if the dice were fair then the chance of rolling a 12 is only 1 out of 36, or 2.8% (hence the “p-value” is 2.8%). You can’t prove the dice are loaded, but at least you’ve got some evidence.

Now suppose you roll the dice 20 times, and at least once you got a 12. Do you now have evidence the dice are loaded? Of course not. You see, you didn’t just roll once so that the p-value is 2.8%, instead you gave yourself 20 chances to get a 12, and the chance of rolling a 12 if you get to try 20 times is much much higher than the chance of rolling a 12 if you only get to try once. In fact the chance is 43%, so the p-value for all the rolls combined is 43%. That’s way way way higher than 5%. Not only do you have no valid evidence based on that, it’s not even close.

In the above tests, we didn’t just test whether there was valid evidence of a trend change for a single start year. We did it for every possible start year from 1990 through 2008, 19 choices in all. That means that the actual p-value is much higher than the lowest individual p-value we found — it’s just too easy to get results that look “significant” when you don’t take into account that you gave yourself many chances. The conclusion is that not only is there a lack of valid evidence of a change in trend, it’s nowhere near even remotely being close. Taking that “you gave yourself multiple chances” into account is, in fact, one of the strengths of change point analysis.

I repeat: not only is there a lack of valid evidence of a slowdown, it’s nowhere near even remotely being close. And that goes for each and every one of the 8 data sets tested.

A hottest-on-record for 2014 will dampen the enthusiasm of those who rely on “No global warming since [insert start time here] !!!” Yet, in my opinion, this never was a real issue because there never was valid evidence, even of a slowdown, let alone a “pause” or “hiatus.”

Based on the best estimate of the present trend, using the data from NASA GISS (as used in Rahmstorf’s post), this is what we can expect to see in upcoming years:

Giss2

Of course there will still be fluctuations, as there always have been. But if future temperature follows the path which really is indicated by correct statistical analysis, then yes, Earth’s temperature is about to soar.

Does the data prove there’s been no slowdown? Of course not, that’s simply impossible to do. But the actual evidence, when subjected to rigorous statistical analysis, doesn’t pass muster. Not even close. Those who insist there definitely has been a “pause” or “hiatus” in temperature increase (which seems to include all of those who deny the danger from man-made climate change) either don’t really know what they’re doing, or — far worse — they do know what they’re doing but persist in making claims despite utter lack of evidence.

I will predict, however, with extreme confidence, that in spite of the lack of valid evidence of any change in the trend, and even if we face rapid and extreme warming in the near future, there’ll be no “pause” or even slowdown in faulty claims about it from the usual suspects.

Carbon News 8/12/14: NZ’s multi-billion carbon blowout Gareth Renowden Dec 09

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We’re facing a $3b carbon crisis … and it could be worse

New Zealand has a $3 billion carbon headache looming – and Treasury says that’s the conservative estimate. Carbon emissions in the period 2021 to 2030 could cost the country as much as $52 billion. Official briefings to the incoming Government acknowledge that the costs of meeting emissions reductions targets after 2020 were likely to rise significantly because “our emissions are forecast to increase and carbon prices are likely to be higher”.

The country needs a carbon budget, says pressure group

A climate change lobby group is calling for a national carbon budget and legally binding emissions reduction targets. The Sustainability Council’s paper comes as it releases figures showing New Zealand is facing a carbon liability of between $3 billion and $52 billion by 2030. Drawing on Government documents and its own work, the research and advocacy trust paints a picture of a country running a creative carbon accounting process, in which carbon liabilities have been shunted off to a time when carbon prices are predicted to be much higher.

Groser has a cunning plan (but he won’t say what it is)

Climate Change Minister Tim Groser says New Zealand will “push the envelope” on post-2020 emissions reductions. But he still won’t say what that means. New Zealand has to announce its 2021-2030 emissions reduction target before the negotiations for a new international climate treaty in Paris late next year. Groser, who is now in Lima for UN climate talks, told TV’s The Nation at the weekend that the target didn’t have to be settled until the middle of next year.

Ocean heat drives surge to global warming record

It’s official, even though it won’t be conclusive for a few months yet: if present trends continue, 2014 will be one of the hottest years on record − and quite possibly the hottest of them all.

Investors back clean coke with close on $700,000

New Zealand clean-tech pioneer CarbonScape raised nearly $700,000 through its crowd-sourcing campaign.

Why our ‘silent ally’ soils are on the endangered list

The world is not paying enough attention to its soil – our silent ally – says the United Nations.

Outlook bright for UK’s solar power potential

Solar energy is sometimes dismissed as a fanciful idea with little to offer so far in such a cloudy country as the United Kingdom, but a new report says power from the sun could thrive in Britain in barely five years’ time − without the need for any subsidy.

It doesn’t take much to turn up the temperature

Start the car, turn on the gas under the kettle, shovel some coal on the fire. Each time that happens, another pulse of carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere.

Australia should export more ideas and fewer greenhouse emissions

As climate negotiators meet at the US-China climate deal United Nations’ Lima summit, which comes hot on the heels of the landmark

Paper mill sets new benchmarks for best practice

Manufacturing benchmarks achieved by a rural South Australian factory are being shared and instituted across the world by global manufacturing giant Kimberly-Clark.

Environment projects win financial boost

A travelling caravan collecting environmental pledges, an inner-city school creating an ecological island, and a university study monitoring landslides are the 2014 recipients of the Canon Environmental Grants programme.

Lines company loves its electric cars

Auckland lines company Vector says its electric vehicles are proving to be immensely popular with staff.

On the web: ‘They say that in 30 years maybe Kiribati will disappear’

  • Adapting to a warmer climate could cost almost three times as much as thought, says UN report

  • German government approves €80 billion climate package
  • Local buddy scheme to help boost renewables and energy efficiency
  • Global emissions scheme talks renewed
  • Major new study confirms wind farms do not harm human health

Spot NZUs maintain recent highs

Spot NZUs closed Friday at $4.95 on volumes of just over 100,000 tonnes, a rise of 50 cents, OMFinancial reports.

NZ: pushing the world to go beyond 2 degrees cindy Dec 05

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head-in-the-sandNew Zealand is coming under increasing scrutiny in Lima, not least because it’s our turn to be reviewed by the UNFCCC process.

Early next week our representatives will have to defend our position and our lack of action to 190 governments in our first “multilateral assessment.”

Already, there have been some tough questions, coming especially from the EU and China. New Zealand’s answered them, but will have to more to defend itself than these carefully fudged answers.

Our negotiators have been trying to promote our position around the meeting, including a botched attempt in a science discussion yesterday, when they were interrupted halfway through a blatant PR presentation. They were told to get back to the issue at hand (science, not promotion of a country’s so-called “efforts”), after a number of governments objected to our highjacking the agenda.

Right now, our ballooning emissions are on track to be at least 36% above 1990 levels – instead of the 5% below 1990 that we’ve promised, and they’re going to continue going up. In short, we’re in trouble. And we’re going to get hammered for this next week.

But let’s turn for a minute to our efforts to actually solving this problem at the global level.

At the centre of NZ’s proposal for the Paris agreement is the notion that while elements of the global deal should be legally binding, targets for cutting emissions should not be legally binding.

Everyone should just add up what they feel like doing, put them in a schedule, and the sum total should be the agreed global target. And the national targets should not be legally binding.

This proposal drew praise from Obama’s climate envoy Todd Stern a few weeks back, and the idea is also supported by a band of the most recalcitrant countries on climate change: Australia (where “coal is good for humanity”) and Canada, home of the tarsands, who have, like NZ, walked away from the Kyoto Protocol.

On the other hand, the EU, in their first press conference in Lima this week, were unequivocal in their opposition to the idea. Elina Bardram, head of the EU delegation told reporters that:

 “The EU is of the mind that legally binding mitigation targets are the only way to provide the necessary long-term signal, the necessary confidence to the investors … and provide credibility in the low carbon transition worldwide.”

This is the EU’s negotiating position on a global deal. The EU is one of the few who have actually put a target on the table – with a cut of 40% below 1990 levels by 2030, so they are backing this with action at home.

But here’s a funny thing about New Zealand’s proposal.

NZ’s “unconditional” target is to cut emissions by 5% by 2020 (below 1990). We have spelled out a specific set of conditions under which we’d improve this to 10% – or even 20%, although these two improved targets tend to cause hysterical laughter if one looks at our emissions projections.

Nick Smith told the UNFCCC on 31 January 2010 that, among other conditions, this agreement must:

“…[set] the world on a pathway to limit temperature rise to not more than 2˚C.”

That seems reasonable, right? On the face of it, it looks like NZ’s keen to keep to this globally agreed temperature limit (even though we know 2˚C of warming will wreak a fair level of havoc on the planet).

However, there appears to be a discrepancy between our conditions – and what we’re actually proposing for a Paris agreement. And this discrepancy has been pointed out by none other than the New Zealand Treasury.

Treasury’s advice to the incoming Climate Minister in November went to great lengths to explain our proposal, explaining in detail how we should only do our “fair share” – a line that is Tim Groser’s mantra, yada yada yada. But even Treasury admits:

“This may mean that the level of action is less than is required to limit global warming to two degrees, but negotiators have chosen to prioritise participation at this point in time.”

So let me get this right:

We are holding out on increasing our international commitment to climate action because we want to see a strong 2020 agreement that keeps the world on a below 2˚C pathway.

Yet even Treasury says our proposal for the Paris agreement will not achieve this.  Have our negotiators had a brainfade? Did they forget what they agreed just a few short years ago?

Or do they have instructions to do their best to avoid a 2˚C pathway so that we don’t have to increase our target?   Perhaps next week’s questioning could focus on this issue. I look forward to the event.

But one thing is clear: our Government has its head firmly planted in the sand on climate change, as activists across the country will be pointing out on Sunday.

Solid Treadgold, easy action (NZ still warming fast) Gareth Renowden Dec 03

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It’s time to return to the delusions harboured by New Zealand’s little coterie of climate cranks about the NZ temperature record. Readers may recall that — somehow — the men who lost a court case against NIWA and then folded the charitable trust they’d used to bring the case in order to avoid paying costs, managed to get their “reconstruction” of the NZ temperature record through peer review and into the scientific literature. To no-one’s surprise, they found that warming in NZ was only one third of that found by NIWA and a generation of NZ climatologists. To do that, they had to torture the data beyond endurance, as I showed at the time.

Equally unsurprising is that Richard Treadgold, prime mover of the whole fiasco, felt moved to respond in a number of typically prolix posts at his blog. His first, What Mullan actually says, purports to lay out the disputed points:

…I think these are the debating points he’s trying to make, lined up with the passages in which he makes them.

One small problem. This is not a debate. The facts are what the facts are, just as the temperature data is what it is. No amount of handwaving — or appeals to judicial authority — can change the facts of this matter. What can change is the interpretation placed on those facts, and that’s where Treadgold et al went wrong on day one.

In 2010 they decided — and explicitly told the world — that NZ’s climate scientists had been cooking the books. Everything they’ve done since has been a part of building a false narrative, a silly superstructure of misinterpretation and misdirection clumsily bolted together, designed to fool anyone sympathetic to their position. The new paper, by de Freitas, Dedekind & Brill 2014 (dFDB 2014) is just the latest effort to prop up that tottering edifice.

I have no intention of wasting time by playing along with Treadgold et al’s narrative. There are so many misdirections and misunderstandings on display in his sequence of posts that it would take a magnum opus to deal with them all. If I thought that by doing that I might change their minds — win them over to the world of climate rationality — then I would be happy to do it, but Treadgold et al are not what I would describe as rational actors. They admit no facts that are inconvenient to their world view, and show no sign of educability on climate science.

I will confine my response to a few simple points. In his “debating points” post, Treadgold’s point 8 is:

The de Freitas et al. (2014) paper should have discussed the relevant literature, including Mullan (2012).

The response (one presumes from Dedekind) is:

Mullan (2012) is not relevant literature.

I fell off my chair with laughter on reading that bald statement. A paper that explicitly deals with the statistical techniques described in the paper dFDB 2014 claims to base its reconstruction on, as applied to the temperature data dFDB 2014 uses, is somehow “not relevant”!

Let’s be blunt. Any peer-reviewed paper discussing the NZ temperature record should refer to all the recent published literature on NZ temperatures. We’re not talking about a field so crowded with publications that some selection might be necessary. Even more importantly, because Mullan (2012) explicitly points out the correct application of the techniques that dFDB claim to apply, they really had no option but to deal with that in their paper — at least, if they wanted to be taken seriously.

That dFDB 2014 did not even cite Mullan (2012) tells us two things: that the peer reviewers were not familiar with the local literature or they would have insisted the authors address the points raised by Brett Mullan’s paper, and that dFDB were keen to avoid dealing with inconvenient arguments.

Treadgold’s point 4 is:

In compiling Mullan et al. (2010) minimum/maximum data were looked at as well as the mean data used for the publication. These calculations were supplied to BOM.

This misses my point, even though he quotes my post above his summary. If you are going to insist that you will only adjust series if there is a statistically significant difference between sites, then you have to consider the significance of maximum and minimum temperature changes, not just look at the mean. Dedekind tries to hand wave his way around this crucial point:

Min/max records are useful on occasion, but it is the mean that is adjusted up or down and therefore it is the effect on the mean that is of interest to readers. This is why all 170 pages of M10 discuss adjustments to the mean data and only mention min/max data in passing (in relation to Albert Park station).

It is of course possible to prepare a full adjusted minimum or maximum chart along with the adjusted mean temperature chart, but our purpose in the paper was to prepare a mean temperature reanalysis.

A very telling comment. Their “purpose” was not to look at the data — all the data — and see if adjustments were necessary. They were not interested in trying different approaches to test the sensitivity of their approach — something any real scientist would do, and which was explicitly a part of the Rhoades and Salinger method as described in their 1992 paper.

Again, let’s be blunt. If you are going to use statistical significance as your break point for applying an adjustment, then you have to consider maximum and minimum temperatures, not just look at the mean, or you will exclude adjustments that should be made. Surely that wasn’t what they were aiming for?

Treadgold’s point 3:

All of Jim Salinger’s original calculations for the 1992 version were made available during discovery in the High Court proceedings.

His reply (presumably from Barry Brill) is a classic of its kind:

NIWA’s discovery process was a classic example of the “blizzard of documents” trick. Barry Brill, NZ Climate Science Coalition chairman and solicitor for the NZCSET, was led into a mid-size room at NIWA’s Wellington premises where climate data spreadsheets were stacked 2-3 cartons deep around all the walls, to a height of about 5 feet. However, he found some cartons marked “Salinger” which he was told had been sitting in Jim Salinger’s office for untold years.

He finally came across one that seemed to relate to the MetService work. It was a total mess. There was no way in the world anybody could have found data relating to the seven stations, let alone identified the adjustments or the calculation techniques. The only reference to adjustments were updates done by Maunder and Finkelstein. The lack of adjustment calculations is unsurprising. Salinger92 says they “set the computers rolling” rather than do them manually.

Presumably Brill was unable to locate the manila folders clearly labelled with the station names — one or more folder for each of the 24 stations homogenised in Salinger et al (1992). If he had opened those folders, he would have discovered computer printout headed up “Program Adjust”, with site cross-correlations, adjustments, standard errors, and phrases like: “12 months used before and after each change”. Then, next page: “24 months used before and after each change”, and on the next page: “48 months used before and after each change”. Perhaps Brill, a lawyer and former politician with no apparent interest in climate science until taking over the chairmanship of the NZ Climate “Science” Coalition, having called NIWA scientists incompetent and dishonest, found it difficult to ask for their assistance in interpreting the information there for him to examine.

Whatever happened in that room at NIWA, it is clear that Brill failed to inform himself and his clients about what was really in those boxes piled so deep. Had he done so, it would have been clear that the narrative they had constructed was untenable when tested against the facts — something the judge in their failed court case was able to spot. Worse, it makes it clear that the central contention of dFDB 2014 — that theirs is the first application of the Rhoades and Salinger techniques to the long term NZ temperature record — is a straightforward falsehood.

There is more — much more — that I could write about dFDB 2014 and the pathetic attempts by Treadgold, Dedekind and Brill to defend their actions and their shoddy paper, but as I said earlier, life really is too short to enter their alternate universe and deal with it on its own terms — especially when that universe is sorely lacking in entertainment or intellectual stimulation. Nevertheless, I suspect dFDB 2014 will get a further response in due course where it belongs — in the peer-reviewed literature. That will put the matter to rest in the real world, but in the tough little epistemic bubble inhabited by Treadgold, Dedekind, de Freitas and Brill, there will be a wailing and moaning and gnashing of teeth — but very little else will change.

[T Rex]

Getting it Wright on sea level rise Gareth Renowden Nov 27

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Sea level rise of up to 40cm around New Zealand by the middle of this century is already locked in and will cause significant problems for coastal communities and infrastructure, according to a new report just released by Dr Jan Wright, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment. The report — Changing Climate and Rising Seas: Understanding the Science [pdf] — provides an overview of why sea levels are currently rising and why they are expected to continue rising over the rest of this century and beyond. A follow-up report due next year will “show in some detail which areas of the coastline around the country are most vulnerable to sea level rise and assess the risk to infrastructure in those areas”.

Introducing the report, Dr Wright said that the scientific evidence is now irrefutable. “The climate is changing and causing the sea to rise”.

“A rise of 30 cm may not sound much, but its impact will be very costly for many landowners. Damaging coastal floods will become increasingly frequent. The insurance industry is becoming aware of, and responding to, the increased flooding risk. Some councils and communities have already started to face hard questions.”

Commenting on the report for the Science Media Centre, Associate Professor Nancy Bertler of the Joint Antarctic Research Institute, Victoria University of Wellington/GNS Science, said:

The report provides an excellent summary on the current knowledge of past and future sea level rise including the main drivers and the regional patterns. Dr. Wright highlights the concern of the scientific community on the possibility of substantial and abrupt future contributions from the West Antarctic ice sheet.

Additional important considerations are that: worldwide over 200 million people live within one metre of sea level. The last time atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration was at 400 ppm (3-5 million years ago) the associated global temperatures caused the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets to catastrophically collapse – raising global sea level by around ten to twenty metres.

The rate at which sea level will rise has important implications on our ability to adapt. New research suggests that sea level could rise as quickly as 4 metres per 100 years (or 1 metre per 25 years). Assuming even a modest global sea level increase of 50 cm by 2100 (IPCC scenario RCP 4.5), the frequency of coastal inundation in New Zealand is predicted to increase by a multiplier of 1000 times.

Under such a scenario, an annual event becomes a daily event, a ‘100 year’ event occurs several times per year. As an approximation: every 0.1m rise triples the frequency of inundation events.

Dr Wright focusses on the near term implications for New Zealand, a sensible choice given the tendency to dismiss sea level rise as a problem for the distant future, but in my view she misses an opportunity to spell out the strong relationship between atmospheric CO2 levels and equilibrium sea level. The last time CO2 stood at 400 ppm, global sea level was about 20m higher than today. That’s where we’re heading, unless we can get greenhouse gas levels down, and it has very important implications for emissions policy. But I’m nit-picking…

Changing Climate and Rising Seas is a very readable introduction to the science of sea level rise, and gives a very clear picture of the state of current knowledge. It’s a welcome addition to what passes for national discourse on the inevitability of climate change and the necessity of adapting to what it brings. Next year’s report on regional impacts will be even more important.

This year’s (super) model: visualising atmospheric CO2 Gareth Renowden Nov 20

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Here’s a superb high resolution supercomputer visualisation from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center of the flows of CO2 in the atmosphere around the planet. Apart from being beautiful to look at, it shows the major sources of CO2 emissions in the northern hemisphere, and the seasonal change in CO2 levels as the northern hemisphere summer plant growth makes the planet “breathe in”. All the major features of the flow of weather around the planet are shown in great detail. The visualisation was produced by a new very high resolution global climate model called GEOS-5. The NASA press release explains:

…the visualisation is part of a simulation called a “Nature Run.” The Nature Run ingests real data on atmospheric conditions and the emission of greenhouse gases and both natural and man-made particulates. The model is then is left to run on its own and simulate the natural behaviour of the Earth’s atmosphere. This Nature Run simulates May 2005 to June 2007.

It is a very high resolution model:

The resolution of the model is approximately 64 times greater than that of typical global climate models. Most other models used for long-term, high-resolution climate simulations resolve climate variables such as temperatures, pressures, and winds on a horizontal grid consisting of boxes about 50 km wide. The Nature Run resolves these features on a horizontal grid consisting of boxes only 7 km wide.

With high resolution comes the need for a lot of computing power:

The Nature Run simulation was run on the NASA Center for Climate Simulation’s Discover supercomputer cluster at Goddard Space Flight Center. The simulation produced nearly four petabytes (million billion bytes) of data and required 75 days of dedicated computation to complete.

More info — including a closer look at some parts of the globe — here.

[Mr Costello & His Attractions]

Crowdfunding Thin Ice: the final push Gareth Renowden Nov 19

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The Kickstarter campaign to get climate documentary Thin Ice shown on public TV in the USA is closing in on its target. At the time of writing, the total pledged stands at NZ$21,199 — just over 75% of the way to the $27,500 needed with 4 days to go. The film’s producer, professor Peter Barrett, is pleased with the progress:

We are enormously grateful to our 156 supporters thus far. It’s proving to be a challenging journey, but it will be worth it if we can get Thin Ice tailored for American Public TV for the most influential people in the world on this issue.

For an idea of just how good Thin Ice is, have a look at the video above — scientists talking about why they do science. Dave Harwood defines science, Nancy Bertler and Ros Rickaby talk about what turned them on to it, Wally Broecker says what’s important for him, Liz Sikes explains why she enjoys it, and Ray Pierrehumbert gives some reasons for trusting the scientific process.

If have any spare cash for a good cause, get over to Kickstarter and make a pledge. And spread the word: there’s not far to go, but there are only 4 days left to hit the target. Let’s make it happen!

National Business Review: last bastion of climate denial in NZ pushes de Freitas tosh Gareth Renowden Nov 18

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The National Business Review — New Zealand’s biggest-selling business weekly — provides a happy media home for climate deniers of all stripes. Columnists like former ACT Party leader Rodney Hide and right wing spin doctor Matthew Hooton1 are given free rein to rant and rave about climate issues, but occasionally editor Nevil Gibson offers its august platform to others so that they can spout fatuous piffle. Last week’s issue featured an opinion column by Chris de Freitas, in which he waxes lyrical about his recent paper on the NZ temperature record — the shonky one that claims to find warming to be only one third of what real experts calculate.

The NBR hides most of its material behind a paywall, so I can’t link directly to the text — but the less scrupulous chaps at the NZ Climate “Science” Coalition2 are happy to host a pdf lifted from the NBR site.

As you might expect, de Freitas doesn’t restrict himself to narrow concepts of truth and factual accuracy. He mentions the cranks’ court case…

The High Court ruled against the trust and ordered it to repay court costs.

… but neglects to point out that the trust has since failed to pay those costs. It has of course been put into receivership, thus allowing the trustees to escape the $90,000-worth of financial consequences of losing their crackpot case.

de Freitas also misrepresents the membership of the trust.

The trust was suspected of hosting global warming sceptics, which was clearly not the case, as the group was not asserting climate warming does not exist. Rather it represented the view of those who are sceptical of alarmist claims that dangerous human-caused global warming is taking place.

The trustees were Bryan Leyland, Terry Dunleavy and Doug Edmeades, with Barry Brill acting as their lawyer. Leyland, Dunleavy and Brill are men with long track records as “global warming sceptics” — not least Leyland, who is on record predicting imminent global cooling.

The rest of de Freitas’s op-ed repeats the misdirections that can be found in the text of his paper, mostly dealt with in my first post on the matter a couple of weeks ago, but there are two I can’t let pass:

The newly published work aimed to apply the method set out by Rhoades and Salinger exactly as they describe, without adjusting it in any way.

dFDB 2014 chooses to interpret the methods suggested by Rhoades and Salinger in a very particular way — one that has the effect of reducing the apparent warming trend. If those methods are properly applied, as in Mullan 2012, the warming reappears3.

de Freitas also attempts to justify the whole farrago:

National temperature trends are widely used for a large number of societal design and planning purposes and it is important that they should be as reliable as modern methods allow.

This is transparent nonsense. Historical temperature trends are interesting, but they play no useful part in future planning. To plan in the face of rapid climate change, we need good regional projections for temperature changes, sea level rise and increases in weather extremes. Those will come from climate models, not temperature records.

de Freitas’s paper is nothing more than a political exercise — a part of the climate cranks long running campaign against NIWA. It’s dressed up as an academic paper — but like the Emperor’s new clothes, the finery is only visible to the cranks themselves.

The NBR, meanwhile, confirms its position as the last bastion of climate denial opinion. As I’ve said before, it could be argued that the business community gets the journalism it deserves. It would appear New Zealand’s business community continues to be in deep, deep trouble.

  1. Hooton’s last column on climate matters appeared two weeks ago, and managed to be a spectacular home goal. But then he’s no stranger to those.
  2. Let’s not forget that they are quite happy to register a charitable trust to bring a court case against NIWA, and then fold it so that the trustees can escape the financial consequences of their actions, so the fact that they are happy to disrespect the NBR’s paywall should come as no surprise.
  3. There will be more on this in future posts at HT on the dFDB 2014 paper and the desperate attempts by the authors to justify their conclusions.

Carbon News 17/11/14: G20 climate action Gareth Renowden Nov 17

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Minister knows of water woes, but public information tap is turned off

Finance Minister Bill English has been told something about fresh water — but the public isn’t allowed to know what it is. Last month, Ministry for the Environment officials were forced to admit they were wrong to say that the quality of our waterways is “stable or improving”.

Deal or no deal — can China and the US deliver?

It’s been called an historic agreement — a game changer in the battle to combat climate change. But can China and the US fulfil the promises in their announcement of plans to cut carbon emissions?

Does this climate deal let China do nothing for 16 years?

“As I read the agreement it requires the Chinese to do nothing at all for 16 years while these carbon emissions regulations are creating havoc in my state and around the country.” — US Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell, November 12, 2014.

Crowd-funders get behind CarbonScape

Kiwi cleantech company CarbonScape has hit its crowd-funding equity target.

We can cut carbon and pollution at no cost, says China

China can achieve economic development, energy security and reduce pollution at the same time, according to a major new study.

Green groups want say on Ruataniwha changes

Environmental groups want to have their say on a late tweak to the conditions imposed on the proposed $230 million Ruataniwha dam in Hawke’s Bay in a High Court challenge.

G20 climate challenge calls for a rethink of economics

Focusing on growth, the Brisbane G20 leaders’ summit has not grappled with three key issues – how much more growth the planet can survive, how poorer nations can raise their living standards to parity with the developed world, and how can a fairer distribution of the benefits of growth be realised?

Expand climate portfolio, says Mahuta

The Cabinet portfolios of agriculture and climate change should be given to the same person, says Labour Party leadership hopeful Nanaia Mahuta.

Lakes expert to spotlight water quality

An American water quality expert who has studied and modelled the effects of nutrients in American lakes will be sharing his knowledge at a public forum in Rotorua this week.

Launchpad jury likes wilding pines project

Taking an environmental problem and turning it into a commercial success has seen a Queenstown social enterprise team taken under the wing of a business incubator.

New Australian report debunks coal industry myths

The coal industry has many friends in high places, and none more so than Tony Abbott, Prime Minister of Australia — one of the world’s major producers of a fuel that earns the country billions from exports.

UK ignores pledge to end fossil fuel support

Despite promises to phase out subsidies to the coal, oil and gas industries, a new report says the UK and other G20 governments are still providing them with massive financial help.

On the web: coal industry costs Australia $8 billion in medical bills

  • New Commission floats first ‘kill list’ of green EU laws
  • India feels heat as pressure mounts to deliver climate target
  • Global meat demand ploughs up Brazil’s ‘underground forest’
  • Giant batteries connected to the grid: the future of energy storage?
  • Hyundai, Kia to triple range of green cars by 2020

Diet’s effects on emissions give food for thought

American researchers confirm that a shift to vegetarian, Mediterranean or fish-based diets would cut greenhouse gases, conserve forests and savannah, and have a big impact on obesity-linked health problems.

Designer dumps leather and heads for greener pastures

An eco-conscious Kiwi designer is saying goodbye to leather.

Australia’s green building review adds more uncertainty

Australia’s Commercial Building Disclosure programme is the latest federal environmental policy to be placed under review.

Spot NZUs close week at $4.35

NZUs traded $4.35 on Friday with reasonable volumes traded, OMFinancial reports.

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