Episode 20: Show Notes

On episode 20: Extreme weather, Wegman strikes again, conservative science vs liberal science, no science in science class, climategate still nothing to see here, blame Canada, self-debunking deniers tie themselves in knots, renewable energy and a book with John Cook, bad news from the melting arctic, and a bunch of foul-mouthed rapping climate scientists.

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Extreme weather

NASA Study Predicts More Severe Storms With Global Warming

NASA scientists have developed a new climate model that indicates that the most violent severe storms and tornadoes may become more common as Earth’s climate warms…

In the warmer climate simulation there is a small class of the most extreme storms with both strong updrafts and strong horizontal winds at higher levels that occur more often, and thus the model suggests that the most violent severe storms and tornadoes may become more common with warming.

Black Birds

Hot summers in Moscow. Year after year of flooding on the Mississippi. Huge tornado outbreaks. At what point do we get to look at the collection of weird events and say something is going on?…

The more we disturb the climate, the more excursions it will make into unfamiliar territory. As we perturb the climate, as it wobbles around more and more, it will more and more often hit these weird peaks…

The global mean surface temperature is very stable. It takes a hell of a kick to move global temperature as much as we are moving it, and the climate system is responding directly to the kick, not to the temperature change.

Tipping points on action

On Waiting for Catastrophe

The very long time scales of the climate make the likely outcome severely suboptimal. Between recognizing the necessity for a policy, the replacement of the required infrastructure, and the net impact on the cumulative nature of the carbon dioxide forcing in particular means that the gap in time from the moment we decide to take the matter seriously to actually stopping its further deterioration is perhaps forty years. The problems we see now are, roughly speaking the ones we bought in 1970, not the ones we have acquired since. Nothing we do now will have much effect until 2050 or so. If catastrophes really start in 2050, we will be looking at things getting still worse until 2090 or so.

Wegman strikes again

Retraction of Said, Wegman et al 2008, part 1

It’s been a long time coming, but there has now been an official finding in at least one of the complaints concerning the dubious scholarship of GMU professors Edward Wegman and Yasmin Said. According to Dan Vergano of USA Today,the journal Computational Statistics and Data Analysis (CSDA) has officially confirmed that Said, Wegman et al 2008, a follow up to the infamous Wegman et al report to Congress, will finally be retracted following complaints of plagiarism and inadequate peer review.

The CSDA paper, Social Networks of Author–Coauthor Relationships, was a follow up to the 2006 report to congress by Wegman, Said and Rice University professor David Scott. Both the Wegman report and Said et al claimed that the “entrepreunerial” style of co-authorship in paleoclimatology demonstrated lax peer review in the field, while the “mentor” style of an established professor collaborating with former students would be less problematic. All three of Wegman’s 2008 co-authors – Said, Walid Sharabati and John Rigsby – were former or current students

Retraction of Said, Wegman et al 2008, part 2

Early climate contrarian reactions to the retraction of Said, Wegman et al 2008have grasped at straws, holding that this does not affect the findings of the paper and the earlier Wegman report alleging inadequate peer review in climate science.

Now USA Today’s Dan Vergano, who broke the the retraction story, addresses exactly that contention in a follow up piece. Social network analysis expert Kathleen Carley of Carnegie Mellon calls Said et al “more of an opinion piece” that would have required “major revision” to render it fit for publication in an SNA journal.

And it gets worse. Computational Statistics and Data Analysis chief editor Stanley Azen “personally reviewed” the paper and sent Wegman an acceptance notice within days of submission.  Meanwhile, Virginia Tech’s Skip Garner enumerates the potential consequences of the research misconduct finding, including the possible need to investigate “ethical issues such as conflict-of-interest, haste vs. scientific rigor and bias”.

Climate study gets pulled after charges of plagiarism

Evidence of plagiarism and complaints about the peer-review process have led a statistics journal to retract a federally funded study that condemned scientific support for global warming.

The study, which appeared in 2008 in the journalComputational Statistics and Data Analysis, was headed by statistician Edward Wegman of George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. Its analysis was an outgrowth of a controversial congressional report that Wegman headed in 2006. The “Wegman Report” suggested climate scientists colluded in their studies and questioned whether global warming was real. The report has since become a touchstone among climate change naysayers.

The journal publisher’s legal team “has decided to retract the study,” said CSDA journal editor Stanley Azen of the University of Southern California, following complaints of plagiarism. A November review by three plagiarism experts of the 2006 congressional report for USA TODAY also concluded that portions contained text from Wikipedia and textbooks. The journal study, co-authored by Wegman student Yasmin Said, detailed part of the congressional report’s analysis.

Retracted climate critics’ study panned by expert

ut how good was the study? We asked network analysis expert Kathleen Carley of Carnegie Mellon to take a look at whether the CSDA study, a “bibliometric” critique of publishing links between climate scientists, was any good in the first place. “I see this paper as more of an opinion piece,” Carley says, by email.

Carley is a well-established expert in network analysis. She even taught the one-week course that one of Wegman’s students took before 2006, making the student the “most knowledgeable” person about such analyses on Wegman’s team, according to a note that Wegman sent to CSDA in March…

Q: Would you have recommended publication of this paper if you were asked to review it for regular publication — not as an opinion piece — in a standard peer-reviewed network analysis journal?

A: No – I would have given it a major revision needed.

Q: (How would you assess the data in this study?)

Data: Compared to many journal articles in the network area the description of the data is quite poor. That is the way the data was collected, the total number of papers, the time span, the method used for selecting articles and so on is not well described.

So, how did the paper get published? The journal shows the manuscript was submitted July 8, 2007 and accepted July 14, 2007, for publication. This is a very fast review of a paper. Most take months and require review by two-three outside experts.

In response to a Freedom of Information Act request last year, Wegman sent USA TODAY two emails detailing the paper’s review, to and from his friend, the journal editor, Stanley Azen of the University of Southern California:

July 8, 2007 Professor Stan Azen Editor CSDA

Dear Stan: Yasmin Said and I along with student colleagues are submitting a manuscript entitled ―Social Network Analysis of Author-Coauthor Relationships.This was motivated in part by our experience with Congressional Testimony last summer. We introduce the idea of allegiance as a way of clustering these networks. We apply these methods to the coauthor social networks of some prominent scholars and distinguish several fundamentally different modes of co-authorship relations. We also speculate on how these might affect peer review.

We think this is an interesting and provocative paper. We hope you like it.

Cheers, Ed Wegman

July 13, 2007, from Dr. Azen to Dr. Wegman:

Title: Social Networks of Author-Coauthor Relationships Computational Statistics and Data Analysis

Dear Ed: I personally reviewed your very interesting (and unique) manuscript. I think the paper is very interesting, and I could not identify any errors. So, I am pleased to inform you and your colleagues that your paper “Social Networks of Author-Coauthor Relationships” has been accepted for publication in Computational Statistics and Data Analysis.

Your paper will now be forwarded to the Publisher who will contact you soon with full details. Thank you for submitting your work to this journal.

With kind regards,

Stanley P. Azen

Co-Editor Computational Statistics and Data Analysis

Azen says he must have overseen an earlier, more extensive review of the paper involving outside reviewers. But he says he has no records of this earlier review, because his records were destroyed in an office move. “I would never have done just a personal review,” he says.

The rational right

Conservative conservationist

From a very uplifting article on the conservative website FrumForum by D.R. Tucker we get a clear, concise conservative/libertarian argument to tackle our GHG emissions:

conservatives and libertarians should strongly support regulation to reduce carbon pollution, since pollution by one entity invariably infringes upon the rights of others (including property rights), and no entity has a constitutional right to pollute.

It really is that simple.

And here is the really uplifting part:

I struggle with the urge to give in to cynicism and bitterness, to write off the American right for its refusal to recognize scientific facts. Thankfully, there’s a stronger urge—an urge to keep working until the American right recognizes that a healthy planet is required to have the life and liberty that allows us to pursue happiness.

We stand a diminished chance of being able to deal with the inevitable change that is coming if an entire wing of the political spectrum becomes detached from reality.

Kudos to D.R. Tucker for working to prevent that from happening.

Q&A: Jon Huntsman

[Q:] You also believe in climate change, right?

[A:] This is an issue that ought to be answered by the scientific community; I’m not a meteorologist. All I know is 90 percent of the scientists say climate change is occurring. If 90 percent of the oncological community said something was causing cancer we’d listen to them. I respect science and the professionals behind the science so I tend to think it’s better left to the science community – though we can debate what that means for the energy and transportation sectors.

Chris Christie Defers to the Experts on Climate Change

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uPxDnb2-aVI]

The Vatican takes on climate change: it’s cheaper to fix now

The Vatican Pontifical Academy of Sciences has just released a strongly worded report (PDF) on global climate change demanding in the strongest possible language that humans act decisively to avert a coming crisis. “We call on all people and nations to recognize the serious and potentially reversible impacts of global warming caused by the anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants,” says the report. “If we want justice and peace, we must protect the habitat that sustains us.”

The Ever Growing Partisan Divide Over Global Warming

Depressing doesn’t even begin to capture it.

On the one hand, scientists have become increasingly certain that climate change is real and human caused. They’re now saying “very likely,” a degree of certainty equivalent to greater than 90 percent.

Yet at the same time, the two U.S. political parties have grown increasingly polarized over whether to accept this fact about the world. There’s now a 30 percent gap between Democrats and Republicans in their likelihood of believing the above to be true. This gap has widened, even as scientific doubt has narrowed.

No Science in science class

Los Alamitos School Board orders global warming class to teach the controversy, push disinformation

Before Los Alamitos High School science teachers can tackle topics such as global warming, they will have to demonstrate to the school board that the course is politically balanced….

Concerned that “liberal” faculty members could skew lessons on global warming, the board of education unanimously voted to make teachers give an annual presentation on how they’re teaching the class….

Although there is a consensus among scientists, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science, that global climate change exists, the board of education said the topic is controversial enough to require a change in the district’s policy….

“We define a topic to be controversial if it has more than one widely held view,” said Assistant Superintendent Sherry Kropp.

More Climategate

U.K. Government: “Climategate” No Reason to Doubt Climate Change

Yet another scientific body has jumped in to the so-called climategate fray to dispute that the leaked documents offer any reason to doubt that human activity is warming the planet.

Back in 2009, as you may recall, a number of e-mails and documents related to climate research were leaked following a server breach at the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia (UEA) in England. Climate skeptics, poring through the correspondence, latched on to a number of emails that they claimed undermined the scientific case for human-caused climate change, including the widely publicized assessments of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The climate scientists, skeptics alleged, manipulated data and used underhanded methods to block the publication of conflicting research.

But those skeptical claims have been roundly debunked. First, UEA asked two independent review panels to assess the evidence. Both reviews were completed in 2010 and found no evidence for scientific malpractice. The panels’ reports did make important recommendations about making climate science more transparent, but as the one of those reports concluded, “we did not find any evidence of behaviour that might undermine the conclusions of the IPCC assessments.” The Parliamentary Science and Technology Committee in turn issued two reports on the UEA reviews, broadly accepting the panels’ recommendations for greater openness and transparency.

Now the U.K. government, represented by the Government Office for Science, has produced its own response. In a May 5 memo to Parliament, the government wrote: “After two independent reviews, and two reviews by the Science and Technology Committee, we find no evidence to question the scientific basis of human influence on the climate.”

Blame Canada

Canada Hides 20 Percent Tar Sands Annual Pollution Increase from UN

The Canadian federal government deliberately excluded data documenting a20 percent increase in annual pollution from Alberta’s tar sands industry in 2009. That detail was missing from a recent 567-page report on climate change that Canada was required to submit to the United Nations.

According to Postmedia News, Canada left the most recent numbers out of the report, a national inventory on Canada’s greenhouse gas pollution. The numbers are used to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions and prevent catastropic climate change. It is certainly not the first time that Canada has dragged its feet on its international climate obligations, but omission of vital information is a new low, even for them.

Anthony Watts debunks Anthony Watts

Anthony Watts contradicted by Watts et al.

Last year Anthony Watts said that it was a certainty that siting differences caused a warm bias:

“I can say with certainty that our findings show that there are differences in siting that cause a difference in temperatures, not only from a high and low type measurement but also from a trend measurement and a trend calculation.”

“The early arguments against this project said that all of these different biases are going to cancel themselves out and there would be cool biases as well as warm biases, but we discovered that that wasn’t the case. The vast majority of them are warm biases, and even such things as people thinking a tree might in fact keep the temperature cooler doesn’t really end up that way.”

Now that Watts et al has been accepted for publication we find that his paper says the opposite and gets the same result as Menne at al:

Temperature trend estimates vary according to site classification, with poor siting leading to an overestimate of minimum temperature trends and an underestimate of maximum temperature trends, resulting in particular in a substantial difference in estimates of the diurnal temperature range trends. The opposite-signed differences of maximum and minimum temperature trends are similar in magnitude, so that the overall mean temperature trends are nearly identical across site classifications.

Renewable Energy and baseload energy

Can renewables provide baseload power?

Although renewable energy does not necessarily need to provide baseload power in the short-term, there are several ways in which it can do so. For example, geothermal energy is available at all times, concentrated solar thermal energy has storage capability, and wind energy can be stored in compressed air.

Renewable energy can power the world, says landmark IPCC study

Renewable energy is already growing fast – of the 300 gigawatts of new electricity generation capacity added globally between 2008 and 2009, about 140GW came from renewable sources, such as wind and solar power, according to the report.

Climate Change Denial

Heads in the Sand

The book Climate Change Denial: Heads in the Sand, by Haydn Washington and John Cook and published by UK publisher Earthscan, is now available for sale. You can order from Earthscan, Amazon or NewSouth Books (for Australians).

The book examines the phenomenon of climate change denial. It looks at the many techniques of literal denial, where ‘skeptics’ deny the evidence for man-made global warming. It exposes denial within governments, who make a lot of noise about climate change but fail to back it up with action. And it examines the denial within most of us, when we let denial prosper. This book explains the climate science and the social science behind denial.

Climate change can be solved – but only when we cease to deny that it exists. This book shows how we can break through denial, accept reality, and thus solve the climate crisis. It will engage scientists, university students, climate change activists as well as the general public seeking to roll back denial and act.

Bad news from the melting arctic

Snow, Water, Ice and Permaforst in the Arctic (SWIPA) assessment

  1. The past six years (2005-2010 have been the warmest perio ever recorded in the Arctic Higher surface air temperature are driving changes in the cryosphere.
  2. There is evidence that two components of the Arctic cryosphere – snow and sea ice  are interacting with the climate system to accelerate warming.
  3. The extent and duration of snow cover and sea ice have decreased across the Arctic. Temperatures in the permafrost have risen by up to 2 °C. The southern limit of permafrost has moved northward in Russia and Canada.
  4. The largest and most permanent bodies of ice in the Arctic – multiyear sea ice, mountain glaciers, ice caps and the Greenland Ice Sheet – have all been declining faster since 2000 than they did in the previous decade.
  5. Model projections reported by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2007 underestimated the rates of change now observed in sea ice.
  6. Maximum snow depth is expected to increase over many areas by 2050, with greatest increases over Siberia. Despite this, average snow cover duration is projected to decline by up to 20% by 2050.
  7. The Arctic Ocean is projected to become nearly ice-free in summer within this century, likely within the next thirty to forty years.
  8. Changes in the cryosphere cause fundamental changes to the characteristics of Arctic ecosystems and in some cases loss of entire habitats. This has consequences for people who receive benefits from Arctic ecosystems.
  9. The observed and expected future changes to the Arctic cryosphere impact Arctic society on many levels. There are challenges, particularly for local communities and traditional ways of life. There are also new opportunities.
  10. Transport options and access to resources are radically changed by differences in the distribution and seasonal occurrence of snow, water, ice and permafrost in the Arctic. This affects both daily living and commercial activities.
  11. Arctic infrastructure faces increased risks of damage due to changes in the cryosphere, particularly the loss of permafrost and land-fast sea ice.
  12. Loss of ice and snow in the Arctic enhances climate warming by increasing absorption of the sun’s energy at the surface of the planet. It could also dramatically increase emissions of carbon dioxide and methane and change large-scale ocean currents. The combined outcome of these effects is not yet known.
  13. Arctic glaciers, ice caps and the Greenland Ice Sheet contributed over 40% of the global sea level rise of around 3 mm per year observed between 2003 and 2008. In the future, global sea level is projected to rise by 0.9-1.6 m by 2100 and Arcticice loss will make a substantial contribution to this.
  14. Everyone who lives, works or does business in the Arctic will need to adapt to changes in the cryosphere. Adaptation also requires leadership from governments and international bodies, and increased investment in infrastructure.
  15. There remains a great deal of uncertainty about how fast the Arctic cryosphere will change in the future and what the ultimate impacts of the changes will be. Interactions (‘feedbacks’) between elements of the cryosphere and climate system are particularly uncertain. Concerted monitoring and research is needed to reduce this uncertainty.

A bunch of foul-mouthed rapping climate scientists [NSFW]

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xFTddFk6zb8]

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