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Danger Dedekind! Heartbreak Ahead (still wrong, still digging, NZ still warming fast) Gareth Renowden Nov 05

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Over last weekend, my post criticising the new paper by Chris de Freitas, Manfred “Bob” Dedekind and Barry Brill that claims warming in New Zealand’s temperature records is only one third of that calculated by the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) attracted a flurry of attempted ripostes at Richard Treadgold’s Climate Conversation blog. One — by Bob Dedekind — sets out to be a rebuttal of my original post. Sadly for Bob and his co-authors, he has only managed to dig himself into an even deeper hole.

For the sake of the record, therefore, I have taken the time and trouble to deal with each of his points in detail. The results of my researches do not make pretty reading for De Freitas, Dedekind, Brill, or the editorial team, reviewers and publishers of Environmental Modelling and Assessment.

Pal review

Dedekind kicks off his attempt to deal with my criticisms by repeating the silly claim — made on the basis of a very selective parsing of some emails stolen from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in 2009 — that climate scientists had colluded to get an innocent Chris de Freitas fired from his position as an editor at Climate Research in 2003.

Unfortunately for Dedekind, the truth of the matter — extensively documented by John Mashey in his 2011 Pal Review document — is that de Freitas spent years abusing his position at the journal by ushering poor papers by his climate sceptic mates, notably Patrick Michaels, through to publication by subjecting them to weak or inadequate peer review. CdF’s behaviour eventually led to a mass resignation by other editors, and ultimately his own resignation. Here are the main points uncovered by Mashey’s diligent research:

  • From 1990 to 1996, Climate Research published no papers by any of the following sceptic “pals”:

    Sallie Baliunas, Robert Balling, John Christy, Robert Davis, David Douglass, Vincent Gray, Sherwood Idso, PJ Knappenberger, Ross McKitrick, Pat Michaels, Eric Posmentier, Arthur Robinson, Willie Soon, and Gerd-Rainer Weber.

  • de Freitas became an editor at CR in 1997 and then accepted 14 papers in the period up to 2003 from authors with whom he had close ties via US far right lobby groups and climate denial organisations.
  • Papers from the “pals” accounted for half of his editorial workload.
  • de Freitas acted as editor on seven papers by Patrick Michaels, half of Michaels’ publication record over the period. Mashey describes Michaels as “king of the pals”.
  • After de Freitas resigned his editorial role in 2003, publications from the pals stopped appearing in Climate Research.

Given de Freitas’ track record, it is unsurprising that I queried the peer review process at Environmental Modelling and Assessment. Dedekind may choose to live in a parallel universe where white is in fact black, but the rest of us will accept the colours we see at face value.

Source of 7SS

One of the straightforward falsehoods in dFDB 2014 that I pointed out in my original post is this, from the abstract:

Current New Zealand century-long climatology based on 1981 methods produces a trend of 0.91 °C per century. Our analysis, which uses updated measurement techniques and corrects for shelter-contaminated data, produces a trend of 0.28 °C per century.

Dedekind fulminates:

Suffice it to say that there is zero evidence to show that the pre-2010 7SS was ever based on a correct application of RS93, apart from the assertions of some at NIWA.

Let me pose a question. What does Dedekind think Rhoades and Salinger were doing in their 1993 paper? Indulging in a purely theoretical exercise? In fact, they developed their techniques by working on what became the Seven Station Series (7SS), and from 1992 onwards the 7SS was compiled using RS93 methods properly applied.

At least one of the authors of dFDB 2014 should be aware of that simple fact. During the discovery process before the High Court proceedings, Barry Brill and Vincent Gray examined a set of storage boxes at NIWA — dubbed the “Salinger recall storage boxes” — that contained (amongst other things) all of Jim Salinger’s original calculations for the 1992 reworking of the 7SS.

Perhaps Brill and Gray didn’t look at Salinger’s calculations, or if they did, didn’t realise what they showed.

Two other critical references that prove that between 1992 and 2009 the 7SS was based on RS93 properly applied, are given below in the section on “Periods for comparison”.

Ignoring NIWA’s work

Here Dedekind goes completely off the rails:

Difficult to untangle the confusion apparent on this one. Firstly, the current 7SS uses the old technique, based on Salinger’s 1981 thesis. We applied a new technique (RS93) to it for the first time.

As I’ve just shown, that simply isn’t true, and Dedekind and his co-authors should be aware of that fact because they were given access to the “Salinger recall storage boxes” and should have read and understood the papers referring to the RS93 method’s application to the 7SS post 1992.

Further proof that dFDB 2014’s authors should have known that the latest 7SS does not use “old” techniques comes from the “Technical Notes” behind each station report prepared by NIWA’s scientists. These are not secret, but they are very technical and NIWA has judged them not suitable for putting on its website — but they were all supplied to Barry Brill in July 20111. The Technical Notes are basically just tables of intermediate calculations with very little contextual explanation, but they show without any doubt that:

  • Shifts to maximum and minimum temperatures were calculated by NIWA for the 2010 Review;
  • The statistical significance of all shifts was calculated too. The significance tests were done relative to each comparison (reference) site, rather than evaluating an overall significance level after combining sites as RS93 did.

The Technical Notes were also supplied to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology climate team in 2010 as part of the peer review process and BOM’s scientists would have had no trouble understanding them. The same may not be true for the authors of dFDB 2014.

Dedekind should, therefore, be well aware that NIWA did not use “old” techniques for the new 7SS, and that they calculated adjustments for maximum and minimum temperatures as well as mean temperatures. If Dedekind has not seen these Technical Notes, then he should ask his co-author Barry Brill why these inconvenient truths were withheld from him.

Workings or SI

I shall bow to the views of Steve McIntyre (yes, that Steve) at Bishop Hill2 on dFDB 2014’s lacklustre support for anyone wishing to reproduce their results:

I strongly recommend that the authors provide turnkey code showing their results.

[…]

Some readers, if not most readers, are only semi-interested in the controversy, but insufficiently interested to try to code the results and figure out how to access the data from NIWA. The authors should place the NIWA versions as used in their own FTP location and provide the code by which they obtained their results. The advantage of placing the code online is that interested readers can see exactly what was done without having to parse and interpret the methodology in the article – though clear methodology is equally important in seeing what was done.

Nor is it a sufficient reply for the authors to complain about their own prior mistreatment by NIWA. Most of the climate community will be sympathetic to NIWA and unsympathetic to the authors. So they need to go the extra mile.

Quite so. Extraordinary claims — and lets be clear, dFDB 2014’s assertion that warming in NZ is one third of that previously calculated by experts is an extraordinary claim — require extraordinary proof.

Periods for comparison

Dedekind makes the following statements:

Any assertion that makes the claim that RS93 does not use one or two year periods is false. Any assertion that RS93 uses four year periods is false.

Of course, it’s more than likely that Gareth’s vision is somewhat blurry on this point. Perhaps he is confused whether it’s two years before and after a change or four years in total? Who knows? But if he wants to wriggle out via that tunnel, then he should be aware that he would be confirming the two-year approach.

As for the claim that no professional working in the field would use a shorter period, then is Gareth now claiming that Dr Jim Salinger (the co-author of RS93) is not a professional, since he clearly uses it in section 2.4 of RS93? What about Dr David Rhoades? Should we write and tell them that?

Just to be clear, when I said in the original post that the use of one or two year periods is not adequate, I was using the RS93 terminology of k=1 and k=2; that is, k=2 means 2 years before and after a site change (so 4 years in total, but a 2-year difference series which is tested for significance against another 2-year difference series).

Dedekind claims that NIWA never considered k=4. He is wrong, and should know he is wrong, because he has certainly had sight of the following documents:

  • Page 3 in the 1992 NZ Met Service Salinger et al report (single page scan here). The final paragraph clearly states k=2 and k=4 were used. The full paper (pdf here) was available to the NZCSET, but was not amongst the “exhibits” supplied to support their evidence to the High Court. One wonders why not…?
  • Top of page 1508 in Peterson et al 1998: “Homogeneity adjustments of in situ atmospheric climate data: a review”, International J. Climatology, 18: 1493-1517 (pdf here). Clearly states k=1, 2 and 4 were considered. The paper is cited in dFDB 2014. Perhaps the authors didn’t read it.

Direct evidence that calculations based on k=4 were made is also in the “Salinger recall storage boxes” inspected by Brill and Gray.

Minimum and maximum temperatures

As I pointed out in my original post, dFDB 2014’s failure to consider maximum and minimum temperature adjustments is the paper’s most critical flaw. Dedekind — as is becoming all too clear — is simply wrong when he states:

If this is the most critical flaw in our analysis, then why, in NIWA’s Review of the 7SS, did they not do this? Why did they use the mean, as we did? We followed their lead, after all.

By the way, nothing in anything we’ve done precludes NIWA doing their own RS93 analysis. Why have they not done this yet?

As I’ve already shown above Dedekind should be aware that NIWA did consider max and min temperatures — which is essential if you are only going to apply adjustments if they achieve statistical significance. The evidence is there in the Technical Notes supplied to his co-author Barry Brill two years before dFDB 2014 was submitted to EMA. It’s even in the 7SS Review document NIWA produced explaining the process they used to create the latest 7SS. The Review may emphasise the mean temperature shifts but NIWA obviously had to have calculated the max and min shifts for the Review to mention them at all. Mullan (2012) also considers max and min temperatures when applying RS93, and shows why it is important to do so.

Missing data

Dedekind takes issue with my comments on his infilling of missing temperature data for May 1920 in Masterton:

We use the average anomaly from surrounding reference sites to calculate our missing anomaly. So if Gareth wants to criticise our paper’s technique, he criticises NIWA at the same time.

Estimating anomalies is certainly the correct approach in place of using climatology. But it doesn’t appear Dedekind has done this for Masterton in dFDB 2014. Table 3 in the paper shows no adjustment made for the 1920 site move, but if you apply RS93 k=2 — their preferred method — this would change to -0.3ºC and have to be applied because it meets their statistical significance test. Unfortunately this would lead to a doubling of the current NZCSC trend for Masterton and therefore might not be ideologically acceptable.

The 11SS

Dedekind tries hand wave away the 11SS as having been “thoroughly debunked elsewhere”, but doesn’t link to any debunking. The fact is that the raw station data from rural sites with long records that require no adjustments show strong warming. In other words, the warming seen in the 7SS is not an artefact of site changes or urban warming. That is an important matter, and should have been addressed in dFDB 2014.

Mullan 2012

In my original post, I noted that Brett Mullan’s 2012 paper Applying the Rhoades and Salinger Method to New Zealand’s “Seven Stations” Temperature series (Weather & Climate, 32(1), 24-38) deals with the correct application of the methodology described in Rhoades and Salinger’s 1993 paper. It is not cited in dFDB 2014 — itself a sign of shoddy scholarship in a paper claiming to make the first use of that methodology with respect to the 7SS. In his attempted rebuttal to my post Dedekind makes this odd statement:

“Mullan (2012) is far from a refutation of RS93.”

Well, no, since it is entirely about the proper application of Rhoades and Salinger’s methodology — but it is a direct problem for what dFDB 2014 calls RS93 — a misapplication of that methodology.

At the very least, dFDB 2014 should have addressed the existence of Mullan’s paper, and explained why the application of RS93 in that paper is not preferable to their interpretation of it. Making no reference to the paper is a sign of either not knowing the basic literature of the field in which you are attempting to publish (one of academe’s greatest sins), or it’s a sign of trying to avoid uncomfortable issues. In either case, it is a clear example of how the peer review process at EMA failed. Knowledgeable reviewers would have insisted that the authors address the issues raised in Mullan 2012.

Sea surface temperatures (SST)

Dedekind makes much of the fact that the paper does refer to one paper on SSTs around New Zealand — but skips over the essential point: that the SST evidence confirms that warming is occurring faster than they calculate. A hand wave from the authors to “there is low confidence in the data in the crucial pre-1949 period” is hardly a serious argument — especially given the strong warming shown in the raw station data, and corroborating warming seen on offshore islands and in the loss of ice in the Southern Alps.

Parting shot

Dedekind closes with a little snipe at me for pointing out that he had no publication record. Perhaps I should have added “relevant” or “in the field” to the sentence in my original post, but in making an appraisal of his expertise I was greatly assisted by Justice Venning’s judgement on the matter in NIWA v Cranks:

Mr Dedekind’s general expertise in basic statistical techniques does not extend to any particular specialised experience or qualifications in the specific field of applying statistical techniques in the field of climate science. To that extent, where Mr Dedekind purports to comment or give opinions as to NIWA’s application of statistical techniques in those fields, his evidence is of little assistance to the Court.

Dedekind and Treadgold’s reaction to my criticism of dFDB 2014 — and their whole approach to NIWA and the NZ temperature record — demonstrates just how divorced from reality the climate crank position has become over the five years of their attack on NIWA. Their whole campaign only makes sense in a strange world where New Zealand’s climate scientists have been conspiring to create the impression of warming where none exists. Remember Treadgold’s impassioned bleat when he launched their effort in November 2009?

We have discovered that the warming in New Zealand over the past 156 years was indeed man-made, but it had nothing to do with emissions of CO2—it was created by man-made adjustments of the temperature. It’s a disgrace.

Now that dFDB 2014 has been published, and the NZCSC’s partial and political misapplication of climate statistics has been revealed, the enormous mismatch between the little fantasy world they’ve lived in for the last five years and the harsh reality of a world that’s warming fast has become all too obvious. Such is the nature of cognitive dissonance, however, that we cannot expect reason to prevail in their camp. The deluded will continue in their delusion, and continue to try to twist the world to match their own expectations. And they will continue to fail, miserably.

[The Marvelettes, Danger! Heartbreak Dead Ahead.]

  1. Hint: If anyone wants copies of these Technical Notes, all they have to do is ask. If you want them quickly, ask a NIWA climate scientist, and don’t mention the Official Information Act. I asked, and as an example you can download the Notes for the Dunedin adjustments here [File updated 9-30am, 6/11 with improved formatting.]. If you don’t mind waiting, then ask for them under the OIA — the request will go straight to the lawyers (it’s the legal requirement for Crown Research Institutes).
  2. Comment on Nov 2, 2014 at 12:58 PM.

TVNZ pushes Leyland’s climate lies Gareth Renowden Nov 04

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In an appalling lapse of editorial judgement, TVNZ has given notorious Climate “Science” Coalition propagandist Bryan Leyland four minutes of airtime this morning [TVNZ page removed: but available here.] to rubbish the work of the IPCC. Yes, that’s right, the nation’s public broadcaster presented a man way out on the crank fringe who has made a late-life career out climate denial, against one of the largest scientific undertakings of all time — the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report. The IPCC, lest we forget, warned yesterday that world faces “severe, pervasive and irreversible” damage from climate change unless we cut emissions steeply.

Leyland was allowed to lie about about computer models and modellers, present a shonky graph, claim that increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was a “huge benefit” to agriculture, and completely misrepresent the scientific consensus on the reality of warming. The presenter, Rawdon Christie, did try a little scripted pushback early in the piece, but was woefully underprepared to deal with a Leyland obviously gleeful at his opportunity to spout nonsense to the nation.

Here a list of Leyland’s lies, roughly transcribed from the video:

“Everything’s based on computer models – they’re programmed to show warming”

No they’re not. One of the oldest climate lies on the block, and Leyland uses it shamelessly. Worse, he’s allowed to get away with it by a woefully underprepared presenter.

Models predicted warming and it hasn’t happened [with graphic1]

Warming continues: ice melts, sea levels rise and oceans warm

No indications of rate increase in sea level rise

Sea level rise has accelerated, and is expected to accelerate further as warming continues and ice sheets disintegrate.

Computer modellers are a small group — everyone else just goes along with them.

Absolute nonsense. This is a childish and overtly conspiracist misrepresentation of reality.

We’re entering a cooling period.

Another piece of wild nonsense from Leyland, betraying his parlous relationship with reality, and allowed to pass unchallenged by the presenter.

Increasing CO2 has been a huge benefit to plant growth — “not doing us any harm”

More completely made-up nonsense, allowed to pass unchallenged by Christie.

None of this is unexpected from Leyland. He has a long track record of persuading the more gullible NZ media to give him a platform to mislead, misrepresent and play fast and loose with the facts. TVNZ must have been aware of his notoriety, which makes their decision to present him on screen as “a renewable energy expert” grossly misleading and very likely a breach of broadcasting standards2.

But the biggest editorial lapse of all was the decision to put him on the show at all. Leyland is a lonely man out on the crank fringes of climate denial. To suggest that he has any sort of valid view on the reality of climate change — to set him up against the work of thousands of scientists around the world and the entire NZ scientific community — was outrageous. Climate change is far too serious an issue for the planet for a responsible broadcaster to play silly false balance games. They must broadcast an immediate correction and apology, and in future treat the issue with the seriousness it deserves.

[Update 5pm: It appears TVNZ have pulled the video of Leyland’s interview and the accompanying news story from their site in response to the many formal and informal complaints they have received. However the full interview can be seen (for the time being, at least) on Youtube. And the TVNZ News Facebook post about Leyland’s interview is still there.]

  1. Leyland’s shonky graph:

    TVNZLeyland

    It appears to be a thinly-disguised and uncredited reworking of a graph that first appeared in the Wall Street Journal in February of this year, accompanying an op-ed piece by John Christy — itself a tidying up of a long-debunked graph created by Roy Spencer.

  2. Should you wish to make a complaint against the programme, you may do so here.

NZ cranks finally publish an NZ temperature series – but their paper’s stuffed with errors Gareth Renowden Oct 31

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You can’t teach old dogs new tricks, it seems — certainly not if they’re gnawing a much loved old bone at the time. The lads from the NZ Climate Science Coalition — yes, the same boys who tried to sue NIWA over the New Zealand temperature record and lost, and who then folded a trust to avoid paying court-ordered costs — have finally found a learned journal gullible enough to accept and publish their shonky reworking of NZ’s temperature record. Earlier this month Environmental Modelling and Assessment published A Reanalysis of Long-Term Surface Air Temperature Trends in New Zealand by CR de Freitas & MO Dedekind & BE Brill (DOI 10.1007/s10666-014-9429-z).

My attention was drawn to dFDB 2014 by an NZCSC press release, and yesterday Richard Treadgold, the man who kicked off the whole sad affair five years ago, posted a disingenuous and misleading article about the paper at his blog. As you might expect given the authors, the paper does not call for an upward revision in the amount of warming NZ has experienced over the last century. The abstract concludes with the following:

Current New Zealand century-long climatology based on 1981 methods produces a trend of 0.91 °C per century. Our analysis, which uses updated measurement techniques and corrects for shelter-contaminated data, produces a trend of 0.28 °C per century.

As you might also expect, given the authors and their respective track records, the paper is riddled with schoolboy howlers and outright misrepresentations. It would probably never have seen the light of day without the assistance of Chris “Pal Reviewde Freitas and his undoubted ability to steer tosh to publication.

Here’s a partial list of the errors, misdirections, misrepresentations and shoddy scholarship in the paper, and in the approach taken by de Freitas, Dedekind and Brill (dFDB 2014).

dFDB 2014 repeats the old canard that NIWA’s Seven Station Series (7SS) before the 2010 review was based on the adjustments made in Jim Salinger’s 1981 thesis. This was a key claim in the NZ Climate Science Education Trust‘s evidence to the High Court and so transparently at odds with written reports and papers from 1992 onwards that it was easy for NIWA to refute. As one close observer of the case told me:

Judges may not understand maths, but they are pretty good at English, and take a dim view of litigants who wilfully and perversely misrepresent simple English sentences.

dFDB 2014 derives a warming rate of +0.28ºC per century, by claiming to apply a method published by Rhoades and Salinger in 1993 (RS93). It claims to create a new benchmark record by reapplying an old technique — essentially ignoring all the work done by NIWA in deriving the current 7SS. Unfortunately, the paper is based on a misapplication of the very method it claims to rely on, and includes numerous errors.

The paper as published contains no workings or supplemental material that would allow reproduction of their results, but it appears to be essentially identical to an “audit’ of NIWA’s Seven Station Series conducted by the NZCSC, and which was offered as evidence in their trust’s attempt to sue NIWA.

As such it contains mistakes that were pointed out in NIWA’s evidence to the High Court — evidence which was extensive, thorough and damning, but is not (yet) available in the public domain.

dFDB 2014 claims that RS93 mandates the use of one year and two year periods of comparison data when making adjustments for a station change, but RS93 makes no such claim. RS93 uses four year periods for comparison, in order to ensure statistical significance for changes — and no professional working in the field would use a shorter period.

The choice to limit themselves to one and two year comparisons seems to have been deliberately made in order to limit the number of adjustments made in the reconstructed series. Limiting the comparison periods makes it harder for adjustments to reach statistical significance, leading dFDB 2014 to reject adjustments even in cases where the station records show site moves or changes!

The effect of that is to reduce the warming trend because, as Treadgold’s first venture into this field showed, a naive reconstruction of the raw data shows not much warming.

But perhaps the most critical flaw in dFDB 2014 — one that should have been sufficient to prevent publication in any self-respecting journal operating a credible peer review process — is that their method ignores any assessment of maximum and minimum temperatures in the adjustment process. This was pointed out to the authors in NIWA’s evidence in the High Court. One of these adjustments will almost always be larger than that for the mean, and if that change is significant, then the temperature record will need to be adjusted at that point – it doesn’t matter if the mean temperature adjustment is statistically significant or not.

Silly mistakes in the application of their version of RS93 appeared in the “audit”, were pointed out in NIWA’s evidence to the High Court, but appear to be uncorrected in dFDB 2014. For example, in the “audit”, they infill a month of missing data (May 1920 in the Masterton series) by choosing an unrealistically warm temperature based on an average of years around the adjustment date. This ignores the fact that May 1920 was one of the coldest Mays on record, at all sites involved in the adjustment calculation.

The dFDB 2014 infill has the effect of reducing the statistical significance enough to reject an adjustment — despite the station record clearly showing that an adjustment is required! Any other approach — skipping the month, making a reasonable estimate based on surrounding stations, or even leaving the unrealistically warm guess at the start of the new series but looking at three years instead of limiting it (wrongly) to two years would make an adjustment necessary.

Throughout dFDB 2014, the analytical choices made by the NZCSC team have the effect of reducing the warming trend, and thus minimising the appearance of the very real warming NZ has experienced over the last century. Very convenient choices given their ideological stance on climate change, a cynic might note.

Quite apart from the methodological issues — which are undoubtedly huge — dFDB 2014 makes no reference to the Eleven Station Series (11SS) derived by NIWA from temperature sites that need no adjustments, presumably because it tracks warming at the expected level1 — that is, three times faster than dFDB 2014 finds.

One might speculate that if they had chosen to “audit” the 11SS — which has a strong warming trend in the raw station data2 — they would have been desperate to find adjustments to reduce that trend.

dFDB 2014 fails to acknowledge the existence of or address the issues raised by NIWA scientist Brett Mullan’s 2012 paper in Weather & Climate (the journal of the Meteorological Society of NZ), Applying the Rhoades and Salinger Method to New Zealand’s “Seven Stations” Temperature series (Weather & Climate, 32(1), 24-38), despite it dealing in detail with the method they claim to apply. Perhaps this is because it points out most of the egregious mistakes they made in their “audit”.

dFDB 2014 also fails to make any reference to sea surface temperature records around the country and station records from offshore islands which also support warming at the expected level — as does the well-documented reduction in ice volume in the Southern Alps.

Beyond any doubt, dFDB 2014 is a model of shoddy scholarship. How on earth did it get accepted for publication by Environmental Modelling and Assessment? An earlier version of dFDB 2014 was submitted to a much more relevant journal, Theoretical and Applied Climatology, but was sent back to the authors for substantial revision at least twice before being rejected. One can surmise that in that case peer review was an uncomfortable process for de Freitas, Dedekind and Brill because the peers being consulted were professional climatologists who understand the nitty-gritty of station adjustments.

At EMA, de Freitas seems to have found a more compliant editor and friendlier reviewers — so friendly that they were happy to allow an obviously and critically flawed paper through to publication. A few simple checks by the editors and reviewers should have raised warning flags.

They should have noted that de Freitas presents himself as lead and corresponding author, yet has no publishing track record in climate records and their homogenisation. He acts as front man for Dedekind and Brill — two men with no relevant academic affiliations or any publication track record — effectively prostituting his position at Auckland University to usher yet another rubbish paper through to publication3. If that wasn’t enough, then competent reviewers should have noted the obvious critical flaws and demanded changes.

As an example of ideologically-driven data torture, A Reanalysis of Long-Term Surface Air Temperature Trends in New Zealand is hardly unusual in the world of climate denial. What makes it stand apart is that such a poorly put together and politically-inspired effort has made its way into the peer-reviewed literature. That is a sign of a gross editorial failure by Environmental Modelling and Assessment, and it should be immediately withdrawn. Meanwhile, the NZ temperature record will continue to show what it always has – substantial and highly significant warming over the last 100 years.

  1. The level demonstrated by NIWA’s re-working of the benchmark Seven Station Series, 0.91ºC per century since 1909
  2. A powerful argument why there should also be one in any homogenised 7SS.
  3. See “Pal Review“, and the Maclean, De Freitas & Carter saga for other examples of de Freitas playing fast and loose with the accepted conventions of scientific peer review.

Carter in Dunedin: Otago Uni provides platform for climate crank plagiarist Gareth Renowden Sep 11

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For reasons best known to themselves, Otago University’s senior management this week provided climate denier and serial plagiarist Bob Carter with no fewer than two opportunities to spread his misinformation and misrepresentation of the state of climate science. The first, a public lecture on Tuesday evening (poster on left), gave Carter the chance to spruik his Heartland-funded and partially plagiarised “NIPCC” report. The second — given to the geology department of which he was a member from 1964 to 80 — was titled Has environmentalism become anti-scientific? Four Australian case studies. Given that Carter now represents himself as an “emeritus fellow” of the Institute of Public Affairs, Australia’s home-grown version of the far-right US lobby group the Heartland Institute, his conclusions in either presentation are not difficult to guess.

At Tuesday’s public lecture he was not given an easy ride, as an on-the-spot reporter confirmed to Hot Topic. Carter was welcomed by the local branch of the Flat Earth Society. Every five or ten minutes there were cries of “We love you Bob Carter” (in a West Indian accent, my source confides) from outside the lecture theatre.

Proceedings started politely, with Carter presenting the usual careful selection of data:

There was the usual slide comparing the ensemble of GCM models with “actual data”, the latter from Spencer (radiosonde and satellite). At question time, a student asked if this data was truly global or just for the tropics, and Carter lied by insisting it was global.

Being a geologist, Carter loves the “it’s happened before, so it can’t be us” misdirection, and offered one new to our correspondent:

He showed CO2 levels over the last 500 Myr, which makes clear the uptake of CO2 from about 10-15 times current levels from the formation of coal deposits during the Cretaceous. He then argued that all we are doing is digging it up and putting the carbon back where it came from. What can be the harm in that? Probably not much if you are dumb enough to think that humans could survive in a Carboniferous climate.

Question time was a little bumpier for Carter.

Alan Mark in particular was quite scathing of Carter’s views. One questioner gave a thorough description of his involvement as a lead reviewer for IPCC and challenged Carter’s allegation that the IPCC was political. Carter did not explain the difference between the WG reports themselves and the Summary for Policy Makers (for which the bureaucrats do have input). By contrast, NIPCC was completely independent and not conflicted in any way, he alleged. That drew a few sneers from the audience, and a question about where the NIPCC funding came from. Some family trusts, he said. Which family trusts? Not going to tell you, he said.

For the record, let us note that Carter is paid by Heartland for his role in the NIPCC, which is a “panel” put together by Fred Singer and the Heartland Institute purely as a propaganda publication. Any relationship between the NIPCC and real science is entirely accidental, and Carter is up to his neck in the fossil-fuel funded extreme right wing campaign to delay action on climate change.

Quite why Otago University chose to give Carter a platform remains a mystery. The University obviously has an extremely broad definition of what constitutes an academic contribution to public debate. No doubt we can look forward to further university-sponsored lectures from anti-flouride activists and chemtrails enthusiasts — both delusions with as much credibility as Carter’s Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change.

Carter — a proven plagiarist who never saw an argument against action on climate change that he wasn’t willing to promote if paid enough — has lived up to expectations. Otago University has failed to meet them.

Brill’s bills still unpaid, but Barry’s off to Vegas Gareth Renowden Jun 19

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The attempt by a small group of climate cranks to bring a legal case against the New Zealand temperature record will leave the taxpayer to pick up a bill likely to run into hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to Radio NZ News yesterday. Efforts by the National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) to recover court-ordered costs of $90,000 from the NZ Climate Science Education Trust (CSET) are virtually certain to fail according to the official liquidator, leaving the bill to be met by taxpayers. The Trust has no assets, and the prospects of any pay out are rated “unlikely”. But despite initiating the legal case and orchestrating the trust’s attempts to avoid meeting its liabilities, Barry Brill, the retired lawyer and former National Party politician who chairs the NZ Climate “Science” Coalition, is flying off to Las Vegas to speak at the latest climate crank networking event organised by far-right US lobby group the Heartland Institute.

The latest report from the official liquidator (pdf) makes it obvious that the CSET was formed with the express intention of bringing the court action and as a cover to protect the litigants from the financial consequences of failure. It also raises serious questions about the way that the case was funded. The evidence is damning:

  • The CSET’s statement of claim against NIWA was filed with the High Court on July 5th, 2010.
  • The CSET’s deed of trust is dated July 30th – more than three weeks after the case was filed in its name.
  • The CSET was not officially registered as a trust until August 10th, 2010.
  • The CSET did nothing except bring an action against NIWA.

In addition, according to the liquidator’s report, the CSET had no assets, did not receive or disburse any monies, and did not keep any financial records. But CSET trustee Bryan Leyland told the Sunday Star Times in January:

We spent a large amount of money on the court case, there were some expensive legal technicalities.” Funding had come “from a number of sources, which are confidential”.

The statements made to the liquidator tell a different story:

The trustees were questioned about how the charitable trust funded the legal proceedings against NIWA. They advised that all legal advice and representation was provided on a pro bono basis and Mr Brill paid for the court fees personally.

Leyland’s comments to the SST are clearly not compatible with the statements made to the official liquidator. If a “large amount of money” was spent on the case, but legal representation was provided pro bono, where was the money spent and why was it not channeled through the trust and properly recorded in the CSET’s accounts? Either Leyland was misleading the Sunday Star Times, or he was misleading the official liquidator.

It’s worth recalling that Brill’s original presentation of the CSET’s arguments was so bad that the trust had to call in a barrister — Terry Sissons — to lick their arguments into shape, and present the case in the High Court. Did Sissons represent the CSET pro bono? On the face of it, that seems unlikely. If he did not, was he paid by Brill, the trustees or a third party, and why was that not recorded by the Trust as expenditure on their activities?

It is clear that Brill and the trustees have serious questions to answer regarding the management and funding of their legal action, and their misuse and mismanagement of a charitable trust.

Meanwhile, Brill is off to the Heartland Institute’s 9th “conference” on climate change. Readers with long memories may recall that the last time Brill addressed the world’s assembled cranks1 he was pushing legal action against national temperature records as something that should be tried all over the world.

Brill’s travel expenses are likely to have been funded by Heartland — who have a history of funding NZ climate crank organisations. He is set to appear on a panel2 discussing “international perspectives on climate change”, along with potty peer Christopher Monckton and Sebastian Luning from Germany.

I think we can safely assume that Brill will not be describing the failure of his much vaunted legal action, or passing the hat round in order to help the New Zealand taxpayer meet the costs of his stupid, self-serving and politically-motivated legal action.

  1. In Washington in 2011, see footnote 2 here.
  2. From 4pm to 5pm on Tuesday , July 8, full schedule here.

Postcards from la la land: David Archibald and the four horsemen of the cooling apocalypse Gareth Renowden Apr 30

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A day or two ago, my interest piqued by a link that popped up in a news feed, I started to investigate the strange climate world of Australian oil man David Archibald. It was a weird journey down the rabbit hole of climate denialism, and the further down into the dark I went, the stranger the things I encountered. According to Archibald, rapid cooling caused by the sun going to sleep is going to usher in a biblical apocalypse of starvation, war and mass death. Even worse, we all have a moral duty to give up eating Chinese food. Sod climate cooling, I will bow to no man in my love for Peking Duck and hoisin sauce. This is serious stuff Archibald’s preaching.

The four horsemen of Archibald’s apocalypse are severe, solar-driven cooling, which will cause food shortages and population collapse in the Middle East (enter horseman two), energy supply changes driven by high oil prices (horseman three), and cantering in fourth place just before the denouement, Pakistan’s nuclear weapon programme going rogue. Then, with the horses out of the way, things start to get seriously weird…

Here’s an excerpt from a lecture he gave in Washington DC a few weeks ago (full text here and a video here):

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse come from the Book of Revelation, the last chapter of the Bible. The Book of Revelation also warns of another beast with these words:

And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.

What has seven heads? The Standing Committee of the Chinese Communist Party. In 2012, the number of members of that committee was reduced from nine to seven, no doubt to properly align with Biblical prophecy.

Here’s another revelation: China is going to invade Japanese territory in the next couple of years and start a shooting war, and the only way we can stop it is by boycotting China and Chinese products.

To be completely morally virtuous, you will have to make the effort required to make sure that nothing of Chinese origin ever enters your possession. If you slip in that regard, have momentary lapses in checking labels perhaps, you will contribute to the death of a Japanese, or a Filipino, or even a US serviceman.

When our souls are all weighed in the balance, those who boycotted China in 2014 will sit at the right hand of God and those who persisted in feeding the Beast will be cast into the outer darkness.

So far, so unhinged. Can it get any worse? Oh yes… At the bottom of his lecture notes, Archibald helpfully provides a link to a distinctly amateurish web site he’s created called www.boycott-china.net, wherein he writes:

…anyone who loves peace and abhors war should do their utmost to avoid buying Chinese-made goods. Beyond that, avoid giving custom to businesses that stock Chinese-made goods. Even avoid Chinese food. Make that a rule for living.

You’ll have to prise my Chinese-made iMac, iPad and iPhone out of my cold, dead fingers after I’ve gorged myself to death on Peking Duck and pork buns before that’ll happen round here. Or in the USA, I should imagine, because it’s not just Apple products that are designed in California and made in the land of the seven headed red dragon.

Luckily that will not be necessary, because the the first of the four sorry nags that Archibald builds his case around is not even a non-starter, it’s in the horse box on the way to the knackers yard. Archibald’s theories about a coming severe cooling hold no water — as Skeptical Science patiently and carefully explains here — but he appears not have noticed. He makes grandiose claims to have “founded the field of solarclimatology which uses solar cycle length to predict climate up to 25 years in advance”, and — shades of the brilliant, if as yet unrealised medical discoveries of the discount Viscount, Christopher Monckton — also claims to have invented a treatment for benign prostatic hyperplasia1.

Archibald has — of course — written a book elaborating his thesis, and he’s promoting it for all he’s worth. Titled Twilight Of Abundance – Why Life In The 21st Century Will Be Nasty, Brutish And Short, it was published last month by right wing US publisher Regnery2. The cover describes Archibald as a “visiting fellow” of the Institute Of World Politics (IWP), a neocon “graduate school of national security and international affairs” in Washington DC that has strong links with right wing think tanks. Archibald even managed to get a slot on Fox News to push his cooling barrow.

In a sane world, Archibald’s absurd theories would see him dismissed out of hand as a crank, yet he’s being touted around the American right as someone worth listening to. His perverse mixture of end times imagery and dog-whistled “yellow peril” racism clearly finds some sort of audience amongst the people trying to shape Republican opinion and policy. One can only hope that no-one who takes him seriously gets anywhere near US policy-making. For my part, I’m going to be stocking up with several years supply of hoisin sauce…

  1. You might suspect he’s taking the piss, but I couldn’t possibly comment…
  2. Regnery also publishes such paragons of climate denialism as James Delingpole and Christopher Horner.

How to become a climate change denier (in 4 easy steps) Gareth Renowden Apr 24

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Cakeburgerdenial

Cartoon drawn by Joshua Cakeburger Drummond as a contribution to the High Water Project, and rooted in bitter experience, I suspect…

AAAS “What We Know” Initiative: Same Denial, Different Issue – From Ozone Depletion to Climate Change cindy Mar 20

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Dr Mario Molina  (c)  Centro Mario Molina

Dr Mario Molina
(c) Centro Mario Molina

(Cross-posted with permission from Polluterwatch.com)

It must be like Groundhog Day for Mario Molina, the scientist who has presided over the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s new report and publicity drive aimed at convincing Americans about the urgency of what’s happening on climate change.

The normally reticent AAAS has taken a highly unusual step. There’s no new science in it.  Instead, it summarises “what we know” on climate science, highlighting the 97% consensus on the issue and calling for action.

Why did they do it? The AAAS says it’s becoming alarmed at the American public’s views on climate change, stating in the opening paragraphs:

 “Surveys show that many Americans think climate change is still a topic of significant scientific disagreement.  Thus, it is important and increasingly urgent for the public to know there is now a high degree of agreement among climate scientists that human-caused climate change is real.”

They’re right:  the latest Gallup Poll published this month shows that climate change is low on Americans’ priority list, with 51% saying they worry about climate change very little – or not at all.   And 42% said they believe the seriousness of the issue was “generally exaggerated.”

Here’s one of their videos:

The AAAS report also stated:

“It is not the purpose of this paper to explain why this disconnect between scientific knowledge and public perception has occurred.”

That’s not their job.  But I bet they’d like to. Especially Mario Molina.

The reason for that American disconnect between scientific and public views on global warming is simple:  it’s the result of a 20-year campaign funded by the fossil fuel industry that profits from the very products causing it – oil, coal and gas.   It’s got nothing to do with science per se.

A brief history of that campaign is outlined in a report I wrote last year: “Dealing in Doubt” that catalogues the attacks on climate science, the IPCC and on the scientists themselves.

But what’s that got to do with Mario Molina?  Molina, now 70, was one of the researchers who discovered the chemistry around ozone depletion. He and two other scientists received the 1995 Nobel Prize for chemistry for their work.   20 years ago, he faced a remarkably similar campaign to what the climate scientists face today.

In 1992, Molina was at a gathering of scientists in Brazil, ahead of the Rio Earth Summit, and about to present a 30-minute talk on ozone depletion.  He was dumbfounded when the presenter before him told the assembled scientists that the ozone depletion theory was a sham. He later told the AAAS’s Science magazine(full text here):

“Given enough time I could have carefully rebutted his objections.  They sounded reasonable but they were only pseudoscientific.”

At the time, in the face of increasing scientific certainty, there was a (successful) push to strengthen the Montreal Protocol, to further regulate CFCs to stop ozone depletion.  The fight was on.

The Science article went on to outline how talk show host Rush Limbaugh was leading the charge against the ozone science, labeling the issue a “massive conspiracy” promulgated by “dunderhead alarmists and prophets of doom.”

Limbaugh claimed the only reason scientists were working on ozone depletion was because “they always want more funding, and today that means government funding.  What could be more natural than for [NASA], with the space program winding down, to say that because we have this unusual amount of chlorine in the atmosphere, we need funding.”

This is one of the main mantras of the climate science deniers today – they’re only in it for the funding.  They also get labeled “alarmists” and “doomsayers” amongst other things.  Same arguments, different subject.

Enter S Fred Singer, a serial denier who cut his teeth on tobacco science, before moving on to ozone depletion and global warming.  In a 1995 article, he said this on ozone depletion:

“The facts are that the scientific underpinnings are quite shaky: the data are suspect; the statistical analyses are faulty; and the theory has not been validated… The science simply does not support this premature and abrupt removal of widely used chemicals—at great cost to the economy.”

It’s telling that one of Singer’s early articles, “My adventures on the ozone layer,” can be found today on the Heartland Institute website.  This is the same Heartland Institute that last year employed Singer to help work on its “NIPCC” report, designed to confuse a casual observer with the similarity to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) while using debunked arguments to suggest there isn’t a problem – which couldn’t be farther from the truth.

In 1996, Singer told a House Committee there was no scientific consensus on ozone depletion. He went on to use the high-cost argument, and brought in a new theme that is very much prevalent in today’s anti climate arguments: that it would hurt the developing world.

“We are flying blind on this issue, at a huge cost to the U.S. economy and ultimately to every American household. In less developed countries, absence of low-cost refrigeration–for food preservation and vaccines–could, unfortunately, exact an even higher price in human lives.”

Two years later, Singer was even advocating putting mirrors in the sky to stop ozone depletion. That article can be found on another think tank website, theCompetitive Enterprise Institute.  The CEI set up the Cooler Heads Coalition. But its extensive ExxonMobil funding was dropped in 2007 because the company said their campaign “diverted attention” from a real conversation about how to tackle climate change.

Meanwhile, over at the Marshall Institute, Fred Seitz and Sallie Baliunas had also picked up the cause, with Baliunas arguing that it was the sun and other natural factors causing the problem:

“Scientific findings do not support an immediate ban on CFC’s. Both global and Arctic measurements point to natural factors as the main cause of recent ozone fluctuations. Ozone levels change primarily as the result of natural factors such as the ultraviolet output of the sun, oscillation of upper stratosphere winds and El Nino conditions.”

Sunspots is one of the main denialist arguments used against global warming today, notably by Baliunas’s colleague, Willie Soon.  A later Marshall Institute report about global warming, ozone depletion and tobacco science was picked up and pushed by Phillip Morris.

No consensus, science unsettled, the sun, El Nino, in it for the funding, doomsayers, solutions will hurt the poor, natural variations:  all these arguments are run today around global warming science by, amongst others, the Heartland Institute, the CEI, the Marshall Institute, S Fred Singer, Baliunas, Limbaugh and others.

The late Steve Schneider described the problem as being “caught between the exaggerations of the advocates, the exploitations of political interests, the media’s penchant to turn everything into a boxing match and your own colleagues saying we should be above this dirty business and stick to the bench.”

The AAAS appears to have gotten off of that bench, not least because they’re worried about Americans sleepwalking into climate chaos, cheered on by industry.

But the bottom line, as the AAAS has stated in no uncertain terms, is this:  “human-caused climate change is happening, we face risks of abrupt, unpredictable and potentially irreversible changes, and responding now will lower the risk and cost of taking action.”

Perhaps our elected leaders might also like to spend some time reading it.

Is misinformation about the climate criminally negligent? Gareth Renowden Mar 14

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This powerful article by Lawrence Torcello, assistant professor of philosophy at Rochester Institute of Technology, first appeared at The Conversation here. It examines the potential legal liabilities that should attach to deliberate misinformation campaigns to delay action on climate change.

The importance of clearly communicating science to the public should not be underestimated. Accurately understanding our natural environment and sharing that information can be a matter of life or death. When it comes to global warming, much of the public remains in denial about a set of facts that the majority of scientists clearly agree on. With such high stakes, an organised campaign funding misinformation ought to be considered criminally negligent.

The earthquake that rocked L’Aquila Italy in 2009 provides an interesting case study of botched communication. This natural disaster left more than 300 people dead and nearly 66,000 people homeless. In a strange turn of events six Italian scientists and a local defence minister were subsequently sentenced to six years in prison.

The ruling is popularly thought to have convicted scientists for failing to predict an earthquake. On the contrary, as risk assessment expert David Ropeik pointed out, the trial was actually about the failure of scientists to clearly communicate risks to the public. The convicted parties were accused of providing “inexact, incomplete and contradictory information”. As one citizen stated:

We all know that the earthquake could not be predicted, and that evacuation was not an option. All we wanted was clearer information on risks in order to make our choices.

Crucially, the scientists, when consulted about ongoing tremors in the region, did not conclude that a devastating earthquake was impossible in L’Aquila. But, when the Defence Minister held a press conference saying there was no danger, they made no attempt to correct him. I don’t believe poor scientific communication should be criminalised because doing so will likely discourage scientists from engaging with the public at all.

But the tragedy in L’Aquila reminds us how important clear scientific communication is and how much is at stake regarding the public’s understanding of science. I have argued elsewhere that scientists have an ethical obligation to communicate their findings as clearly as possible to the public when such findings are relevant to public policy. Likewise, I believe that scientists have the corollary obligation to correct public misinformation as visibly and unequivocally as possible.

Many scientists recognize these civic and moral obligations. Climatologist Michael Mann is a good example; Mann has recently made the case for public engagement in a powerful New York Times opinion piece: If You See Something Say Something.

Misinformation and criminal negligence

Still, critics of the case in L’Aquila are mistaken if they conclude that criminal negligence should never be linked to science misinformation. Consider cases in which science communication is intentionally undermined for political and financial gain. Imagine if in L’Aquila, scientists themselves had made every effort to communicate the risks of living in an earthquake zone. Imagine that they even advocated for a scientifically informed but costly earthquake readiness plan.

If those with a financial or political interest in inaction had funded an organised campaign to discredit the consensus findings of seismology, and for that reason no preparations were made, then many of us would agree that the financiers of the denialist campaign were criminally responsible for the consequences of that campaign. I submit that this is just what is happening with the current, well documented funding of global warming denialism.

More deaths can already be attributed to climate change than the L’Aquila earthquake and we can be certain that deaths from climate change will continue to rise with global warming. Nonetheless, climate denial remains a serious deterrent against meaningful political action in the very countries most responsible for the crisis.

Climate denial funding

We have good reason to consider the funding of climate denial to be criminally and morally negligent. The charge of criminal and moral negligence ought to extend to all activities of the climate deniers who receive funding as part of a sustained campaign to undermine the public’s understanding of scientific consensus.

Criminal negligence is normally understood to result from failures to avoid reasonably foreseeable harms, or the threat of harms to public safety, consequent of certain activities. Those funding climate denial campaigns can reasonably predict the public’s diminished ability to respond to climate change as a result of their behaviour. Indeed, public uncertainty regarding climate science, and the resulting failure to respond to climate change, is the intentional aim of politically and financially motivated denialists.

My argument probably raises an understandable, if misguided, concern regarding free speech. We must make the critical distinction between the protected voicing of one’s unpopular beliefs, and the funding of a strategically organised campaign to undermine the public’s ability to develop and voice informed opinions. Protecting the latter as a form of free speech stretches the definition of free speech to a degree that undermines the very concept.

What are we to make of those behind the well documented corporate funding of global warming denial? Those who purposefully strive to make sure “inexact, incomplete and contradictory information” is given to the public? I believe we understand them correctly when we know them to be not only corrupt and deceitful, but criminally negligent in their willful disregard for human life. It is time for modern societies to interpret and update their legal systems accordingly.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

The Conversation

TDB Today: through the looking glass into the world of climate denial Gareth Renowden Feb 26

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In my post this week at The Daily BlogInvestigating climate change deniers and their spin against global warming — I take a look at the PR campaign being run against action on climate change and one of their most important tactics, creating a smokescreen to hide the reality of climate change:

The resulting exchanges provide an object lesson in life through the looking-glass, that alternative world where warming isn’t happening, climate scientists are colluding in a giant hoax, and the poor old free market is being threatened by gangs of rampant watermelons — great wagon loads of fruit against freedom, leeks against liberty, and carrots against capitalism.

As seen on blogs everywhere, all the time, produced by the willing foot soldiers of climate denial.

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