|The Week That Was
July 22, 2006
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The Week That Was (July 22, 2006) brought to you by SEPP
New on the Web: Matthew Wald (NYT) argues, not quite convincingly, that DOE plans for far-advanced nuclear schemes may interfere with the near-term deployment of available reactors.
This week’s highlight was the Congressional hearing on the Hockeystick (Item#1). The prepared statements of witnesses are worth reading. Confirming the results of McIntyre-McKitrick, Wegman explains and demonstrates in simple terms the statistical error made by Michael Mann et al. It will produce “hockeystick” shapes even if the input data are pure noise. McIntyre shows evidence for a Medieval Warming that is greater than the Modern Warming. He also discusses some shortcomings of the tree-ring method, why certain data (e.g., from bristle-cone pines) are unsuitable, and the peculiar divergence between recent tree ring data and thermometers.
Arctic aerosols, not just GH gases, may be raising Arctic temperatures (Item #2). Meanwhile, an analysis of ERS-2 satellite data by Scharroo, Laxon and Andy Ridout (University College, London) shows Arctic sea-level falling 2mm/yr ! [presented at the May 2006 American Geophysical Union Joint Assembly in Baltimore].
GW is alive and well on TV (CNN, PBS, HBO). Gretchen Randall counters the scares raised by Tom Brokaw, the formerly respected TV anchor (Item #4).
A plea for DDT use in the Third World. Please join (Item #6).
The report of the Surgeon General on “second-hand tobacco smoke” burns up the critics (Item #7)
And finally, will Gore run in 2008? It may depend on the weather (Item #8)
1. The hockeystick debacle
You may recall that Congressman Joe Barton (R-TX) was much maligned when he wrote a letter to the authors of the Hockeystick (Michael Mann et al), asking for answers about their publicly funded research. He and his US House Committee on Energy and Commerce were accused of McCarthyism, intimidation, and other crimes by Democrats, the “scientific establishment,” and by liberal Republicans. The National Academy weighed in with a report that mildly criticized the Hockeystick (see TWTW June 24 and July 1, 2006).
[I have adapted an account by John Brignell, who tells what happened next:
The House Committee appointed a group of statisticians of impeccable qualification and independence, under the leadership of Dr Edward Wegman, Professor of Statistics at George Mason University, who chairs the National Academy of Sciences’ (NAS) Committee on Applied and Theoretical Statistics. They have now produced a report that devastatingly demonstrates what we sceptics knew all along, that the hockeystick is pure nonsense. Of course, the language is much more diplomatic than that, but the effect is no less dramatic. Among the conclusions in the summary are:
Comments from Allan M.R. MacRae, P.Eng.:
So where do we go from here? First, some senior editors of scientific journals such as Nature, Science and Scientific American should resign in disgrace -- their behaviour has been unscientific and unethical. The UN's IPCC should be disbanded as biased and incompetent. Kyoto and its clones should be scrapped without delay or remorse. Finally, a full review of climate science should be conducted by a panel that includes prominent climate skeptics, and their report made public. A minority report should be included to allow both sides to be heard.
Am I angry about this global warming fraud? Yes, a bit, but more importantly, I regret the waste of scarce global resources that should have been used to solve real problems such as contaminated drinking water, which kills millions of children every year. Instead, billions of dollars were wasted on the global warming fiasco.
What a colossal conceit of the political left! It does indeed appear that they attempted to stampede the public into giving them political control over our lives by fabricating this phony global warming crisis. The evidence of conspiracy, as outlined in the measured terms of the Wegman report, is too compelling to ignore any longer.
PS: When the NAS panel said that Mann was partly correct in that the world had definitely warmed in the past 400 years (as Earth exited the Little Ice Age), it was about as disingenuous as saying that this morning was a lot brighter than last night. While the actual NAS report was not all that bad, the Summary and Press Conference were much more unclear and this enabled all sides to interpret the NAS report as they saw fit..
Letter to Edward Wegman
I want to congratulate you on yr excellent report. Its impact will reach far beyond the Hockeystick controversy, which (as you know) is largely irrelevant to the issue of anthropogenic global warming -- even though the IPCC exploited it fully in its 2001 report.
Yr report also exposes the existence of networks (of scientists, editors, administrators) that inhibit free scientific discussion and impede scientific progress. It is sure to have a great liberating effect
These same networks also attacked Congressman Joe Barton for having the temerity to question not only the science but also their efforts to prevent replication of results obtained through publicly funded research.
We are indeed grateful to you .
Best Fred Singer
Subcommittee Announces Witnesses For Hearing on Climate Change Theory
Report: "Our committee believes that the assessments that the decade of the 1990s was the hottest decade in a millennium and that 1998 was the hottest year in a millennium cannot be supported by the MBH98/99 analysis. As mentioned earlier in our background section, tree ring proxies are typically calibrated to remove low frequency variations. The cycle of Medieval Warm Period and Little Ice Age that was widely recognized in 1990 has disappeared from the MBH98/99 analyses, thus making possible the hottest decade/hottest year claim. However, the methodology of MBH98/99 suppresses this low frequency information. The paucity of data in the more remote past makes the hottest-in-a-millennium claims essentially unverifiable."
Report: "It is clear that many of the proxies are re-used in most of the papers. It is not surprising that the papers would obtain similar results and so cannot really claim to be independent verifications."
Report: "As statisticians, we were struck by the isolation of communities such as the paleoclimate community that rely heavily on statistical methods, yet do not seem to be interacting with the mainstream statistical community. The public policy implications of this debate are financially staggering and yet apparently no independent statistical expertise was sought or used."
Report: "Especially when massive amounts of public monies and human lives are at stake, academic work should have a more intense level of scrutiny and review. It is especially the case that authors of policy-related documents like the IPCC report, Climate Change 2001: The Scientific Basis, should not be the same people as those that constructed the academic papers."
Report: "With clinical trials for drugs and devices to be approved for human use by the FDA, review and consultation with statisticians is expected. Indeed, it is standard practice to include statisticians in the application-for-approval process. We judge this to be a good policy when public health and also when substantial amounts of monies are involved, for example, when there are major policy decisions to be made based on statistical assessments. In such cases, evaluation by statisticians should be standard practice. This evaluation phase should be a mandatory part of all grant applications and funded accordingly."
Report: "While the paleoclimate reconstruction has gathered much publicity because it reinforces a policy agenda, it does not provide insight and understanding of the physical mechanisms of climate change... What is needed is deeper understanding of the physical mechanisms of climate change."
Mann’s 42 co-authors
"In our further exploration of the social network of authorships in temperature reconstruction, we found that at least 43 authors have direct ties to Dr. Mann by virtue of co-authored papers with him. Our findings from this analysis suggest that authors in the area of paleoclimate studies are closely connected and thus 'independent studies' may not be as independent as they might appear on the surface." [See Fig. 5.3]
2. The Thermal Effect of Anthropogenic Aerosols in the Arctic
3. Will Sea Levels Rise 20 Feet As Gore Predicts?
4. Brokaw Bias: ex-NBC anchor distorts science on global warming
5. UK Energy Plans
The UK Gov't has just published an "energy policy" (“The Energy Challenge” Dept of Trade and Industry, July 2006) the whole premise of which is that "climate change" must be the bedrock of the UK's generation portfolio. This is bad enough. But at the same time, they believe "the market" will deliver the firm capacity needed to keep the lights on "in a timely manner", even though, within 7 years from now something like 8 GW of nuclear power will have been decommissioned by obsolescence and 8 - 10 GW of coal-fired steam plant will have been decommissioned due to environmental legislation.
There is no way can this capacity can be replaced in time by capacity of a similar "firm" quality under the trading conditions the Blair government has put into place.
This rapid capacity erosion may cause the worst of possible solutions: a panic build of gas-fired plant, throwing the country open to the "mercy" of Russia and Qatar at the very moment that the UK runs out of its own gas reserves (production is falling at the rate of 10% per year). The much-touted wind "capacity" (10 - 15 GW) will in fact provide almost no firm capacity at those times when there will be peak demand, often occurring in the middle of December/January anti-cyclones.
This 200 + page document does not mention the word ‘peak oil’ once and assumes that 2020 oil will be abundant and priced somewhere below $35/b, based on the best advice of worthies too numerous and respectable to mention. By 2020, of course, the UK will be importing most of its hydrocarbons and unless some miracle occurs, will be even more dependent on gas than it is today.
Friends of the Earth's director, Tony Juniper, described the conclusion of the Energy Review as a "huge mistake" and a "disaster." Greenpeace's executive director, Stephen Tindale, blamed the Prime Minister's personal "fixation" with nuclear power for "fatally undermining" green energy policy The Green Alliance director and former Defra special adviser Stephen Hale said the Government's support for nuclear power would deter investment in other forms of energy Even the Government's principal advisory body, the Sustainable Development Commission, chaired by Jonathon Porritt, said it was "very disappointed" by the decision to back a new nuclear programme The Green Party spokesman, Keith Taylor, said the Government was living in a "fool's paradise" in its attempt to use nuclear power to combat climate change.
By exaggerating climate threat beyond the bounds of evidence in contrast to theory and contestable model forecasts, the Greens are now faced with their worst option, nuclear. It couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of guys. As for the renewables they push so vociferously, Prof Philip Stott pours out a dose of realism.
He might have added the carbon costs of building windmills, or the costs of the backup required when the wind doesn't blow.
Swipe-card plan to ration consumers' carbon use
A radical plan to curb greenhouse gas emissions by rationing the carbon use of individuals is being drawn up by government officials. The scheme could force consumers to carry a swipe card that records their personal carbon allocation, with points knocked off each time they buy petrol or tickets for a flight.
Under the scheme, all UK citizens from the Queen down would be allocated an identical annual carbon allowance, stored as points on an electronic card similar to Air Miles or supermarket loyalty cards. Points would be deducted at point of sale for every purchase of non-renewable energy. People who did not use their full allocation, such as families who do not own a car, would be able to sell their surplus carbon points into a central bank.
6. A Plea for DDT
Physician and US Senator Tom Coburn, MD, has written European Union President Jose Manuel Barroso, seeking his support and help in a life saving effort. Many African nations want to use DDT to control malaria and save lives, but they are being told their agricultural exports could be banned if they do so. This horrible and unconscionable situation must end, Coburn says, and the EU must issue a clear and unequivocal public statement supporting the right of countries to use DDT and all other means to control this killer disease.
7. Secondhand Smoke
Smoking Busybodies Busy Again
From <GNSirkin@aol.com> [3996/174] Most Americans would probably agree that smokers would be wise to stop smoking. They would probably also agree that the decision is their private business. For busybodies the problem is how to turn private business into public business and get more regulations aimed at stopping smoking. The solution is to demonstrate that secondhand smoke (or Environmental Tobacco Smoke) is a risk to non-smokers.
In 1986, a report by the U.S. Surgeon General attempted to make the case. Though the claim that secondhand smoke causes lung cancer received much media attention, it was based on very little scientific evidence. Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona's report, The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke, a blockbuster of 727 pages announced on June 27, attempts to demonstrate that secondhand smoke is a risk to health. His evidence is not convincing. We think he does not succeed.
One of his approaches is to note that tobacco smoke contains substances that are carcinogenic (cancer-producing). A carcinogen is identified by feeding large doses of a substance to rodents to see if they produce cancer. There are 50 carcinogens in secondhand smoke, the Surgeon General reports. So what? The presence of a carcinogen is not evidence that secondhand smoke is associated with cancer. Association does not imply causation. Many ordinary foods contain carcinogens, for example milk, mushrooms, and beer, but we don't consider them risky because the dose is tiny. The huge amounts used in animal tests do not tell us anything about the effects of tiny doses on humans.
The best evidence we have is epidemiological studies, which compare persons exposed to secondhand smoke to persons not so exposed. Epidemiological evidence by itself is insufficient to establish causality. Epidemiologists observe that epidemiological evidence can establish an association but not causality. The Surgeon General's report repeatedly asserts causality, an indication of the scientific carelessness with which the report is written. For example, he concludes at page 445, "The evidence is sufficient to infer a causal relationship between secondhand smoke exposure and lung cancer among lifetime nonsmokers."
A common epidemiological approach is to compare women who have never smoked and live with a spouse who smokes, with women who also have never smoked and live with a non-smoking spouse. The incidence of lung cancer in those two groups gives the Relative Risk (RR) of exposure to secondhand smoke. An RR of one means no risk. An RR greater than one indicates that secondhand smoke is linked to risk of lung cancer or heart disease. An RR less than one suggests benefit from secondhand smoke, an implausible inference. Many in the Surgeon General's lists of studies have no statistical significance, a fact the text never mentions. (If you see a Relative Risk or a Confidence Interval of less than one, the association has come about through chance and is not statistically significant.)
Epidemiology is subject to considerable uncertainty. Relative Risk may be affected by many "confounding" variables including diet, occupation, life style, and socio-economic status. Adjustments for these extraneous factors are rough. Another uncertainty is misclassification, which occurs when classifying previous smokers as "never smokers." (The evidence comes from a questionnaire administered to the subject or a relative.) Those problems, plus the fact that the studies are generally based on small samples, lead epidemiologists to conclude that an RR of 3 or at least 2.5 is needed for finding an association.
The Relative Risk of getting lung cancer from many sources is very low. For example, the RR from drinking one glass of whole milk a day for 70 years is 1.62, which is far higher than the relative risks of 178 studies, all the Surgeon General could find, listed on p. 436 of his report. Back in 1992, the EPA, after making gross errors that might have expelled a student of statistics from graduate school, found an RR of 1.19, a pipsqueak of a risk that created a tsunami of public fear. The later WHO studies in eight European countries had the same low RRs. The huge Enstrom-Kabat study of 2003, which had better data than all other studies, being based on thousands of observations, had even lower RRs.
The Relative Risks for exposure to secondhand smoke in the workplace tend to be even lower. The reason is easy to find. Tobacco smoke when exhaled as secondhand smoke is so diluted that the harmful substances inhaled in the workplace are nearly zero. For example, an analysis by Jane Gravelle of the Congressional Research Service in 1995 found that in a smoky restaurant, the pollutants inhaled by a worker during eight hours were equivalent to smoking 1/8 of a cigarette. Does anyone believe that smoking 1/8 of a cigarette can be linked to lung cancer or heart disease. If it takes 25 years to develop heart disease or lung cancer from smoking, how can anyone believe the report when it says, "Even brief exposure to secondhand smoke has immediate adverse effects on the cardiovascular system and increases risk for heart disease and lung cancer?"
Nevertheless, people will believe it. We can expect to see a rash of terrified non-smokers running from the sight of a lit cigarette.
Did Carmona Read His Own Report?
Michael Siegel, a tobacco-control activist who supports government-imposed smoking bans, slams the Office of the Surgeon General for falsely claiming or implying that brief, transient exposure to secondhand smoke raises the risk of lung cancer, cardiovascular disease, and heart attack. The inaccurate or misleading statements appear not in the surgeon general's report on secondhand smoke but in the press release, fact sheet, and remarks by Surgeon General Richard Carmona that accompanied the report's publication.
The press release, for example, claims that "even brief exposure to secondhand smoke has immediate adverse effects on the cardiovascular system and increases risk for heart disease and lung cancer," attributing this finding to the report. Siegel, who believes that long-term, intense exposure to secondhand smoke (such as that experienced by people married to smokers for decades) can cause lung cancer and heart disease, faults the surgeon general for "distort[ing] the science in an effort to sensationalize it and increase the emotional impact of the communication":
8. An Inconvenient Possibility: Gore in 2008
Editorial in Washington Times, June 19, 2006
In releasing his movie “An Inconvenient Truth,” former Vice President (and almost-President) Al Gore has tied his political fortunes firmly to a warmer climate. And since the greenhouse effect does not seem to be all it’s cracked up to be, he should be praying for an active sun and more sunspots between now and November 2008. Of course, he is not the only one rooting for a hotter climate. Greenpeace, Environmental Defense, the Sierra Club, and dozens if not hundreds of enviro-groups around the world – all grubbing for money -- would be most distressed if the climate should start to cool, as it did for 35 years following a warming peak in 1940. Wait a moment: Hasn’t there been a cooling trend since the peak temperatures of 1998? Too soon to tell if it will continue.
In the meantime, Gore has pre-empted the topic against rivals in his own party and for certain Republicans like John McCain. He is winning the support of all those who share in the government’s five-billion-dollar-a-year climate-research bonanza. He is gaining the backing of blue-state governors, mayors, civic organizations who loudly proclaim their “war against warming” but would be the first to balk at inevitable higher prices for gasoline and electricity. As the architect of the Kyoto Treaty in December 1997 (even after the Senate turned down the idea unanimously in July 1997), Gore must be aware that it would raise energy costs sky-high -- without getting any noticeable climate results. No surprise then that Clinton-Gore never submitted Kyoto for Senate ratification.
But after the impressions of his film wear off, after people forget about the crashing ice from glaciers and the cute, computerized polar bear vainly looking for an ice floe in the Arctic ocean, some may ask: How do we know whether the current warming is really caused by human activity? The warming in the early apart of the 20th century was natural, and so was the even warmer climate around 1000AD when Vikings were establishing agricultural settlements in Greenland and the north of England produced a quite drinkable wine. There are those pesky scientists who keep doubting the validity of the mathematical climate models and point instead to the atmospheric data, which show little warming that can be traced to humans. Gore calls these skeptics “deniers” -- but his movie denies the very existence of any deniers. Kind of confusing, isn’t it?
Well, Mr. Gore had better hope for a super-warm summer in 2008, maybe even a big drought – just like the one in 1988 that started him on the road to abolishing climate change.