Global Change Links du Jour March 19 2012

The hot news has to be the big Science article about sustainability and global governance by Biermann et al. Biermann also has an op-ed in the Guardian along with Steven Bernstein. The Beeb reports as well. Crickets from the mainstream press in North America. Any whispers of this where you live?

Naturally, the Black Helicopter folk are all over it. It seems nobody has ever heard of the WTO.

There is a new North American polluter/pollutant database. Press release here, and data exploration tools here.

The UK renewables community, notably featuring Richrad Branson and many other signatories, has issued a brief open letter to PM Cameron in rebuttal to 101 conservative Members of Parliament who argued against wind power.

Jim Prall’s compendium of major climate scientists with an estimate of their position regarding the consensus, for those who came in late. The force was strong on this one, as the denialists naysayers went into full-throated apoplexy. Here, for example, is Tom Fuller calling Stephen Schneider “dumb” in response to Schneider’s appearing as a coauthor on publication of that list.

The Elsevier boycott is gaining steam.

A solution to overfishing is found. You might think it was to fish less. But in real life it’s complicated.

Did you know that there is a Canadian Hurricane Centre? Forward-looking, we Canadians, or at least we used to be. Did you know that the French for hurricane is “Ouragan”? I sure didn’t.

Not enough? There’s a highly remarkable compendium of recent news at Eli’s, not to be missed.

(borehole items)



  1. Dr. Tobis, you seem to be trolling at your own blog.

    I never called Steven Schneider dumb. I have praised him more frequently than you have. Please correct your mis-statement. I wrote of his participation in Anderegg, Prall et al that putting his name on a paper that Spencer Weart rightfully qualified as unfit for publication on the day it was published was a sad coda to a brilliant career.

    You promised a year ago that you were going to quit using the word denialists. Yet you have not.

    I am not a denialist. Being called a denialist may affect my chances for publication, employment or advancement. Please correct your mis-statement.

    Finally, I told you a year ago that if you did not want to see me in the comments section of your weblogs, all you need to do is quit writing about me.

    Writing a short post with several mis-statements of fact might seem a bit unfortunate to Mr. Bostrom, who is upset with Mr. Lindzen for the same reasons.

  2. Flavors of denial, Tommy. It's sort of like Baskin-Robbins. You're a denialism enabler careful to maintain, um, deniability. To be entirely clear, your particular brand seems to be one of a number of variations on the theme of "It's not that bad, so delay is OK" or maybe "It's not so bad that we don't have plenty of time to try to impede a response via tone-trolling of the scientists." Technically it might be argued that that's denial of the implications of the science rather than the science itself, but whatever (although you have been happy enough to argue about the science from time to time, since that serves your larger goal of expanding the cloud o' ink). Let me know if you need any other help with the relevant taxonomy.

  3. Fuller's points have some merit. I was sloppy.

    I am wondering if it is worth the effort to collect all these links. I wish it were, but given our current level of traffic it probably isn't, except that it keeps me informed. But unless we can make P3 take off, that won't achieve much for me or anybody else.

    However, it is probably a good idea to sit on the word "denialist" as much as possible. That said, I am planning some actually intentional Godwin violations soon. I think I can claim special dispensation.

    But honestly, I don't know where I got the word "dumb". I can't find it. People should apologize when they get something wrong. I apologize.

    This is not to say that the critiques of Anderegg, Prall and Schneider made any sense. They didn't.

  4. Anderegg, Prall, et al violates ethical standards:

    "When you do research with or about human beings, you take on certain responsibilities. The primary one, as is recognized by every research association and is codified in the American Sociological Association's Code of Ethics, is to prevent harm coming to those human beings as a result of the research being performed.

    The Blacklist Paper, authored by Stephen Schneider et al, had as its intention the separation of climate scientists into two groups--one they called 'credible', based on the number of publications and citations of those publications, and one called 'climate deniers', which would be less credible because the way they set up the analysis guaranteed they would have fewer publications and citations. (We'll go into depth on how they did this in the next article in this series. For more on this, see here, here and here.)

    ..."The scientific paper is tagged Climate Deniers. Now, so are they.

    Let's use an analogy to explain the gravity of what the researchers did.

    Back in the 80s I worked in a bank in San Francisco. Many of my colleagues had AIDS. Some got fired just as their medical bills took off, despite that being illegal. Some took their own lives. It was very much like the movie Philadelphia, with Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington.

    Many of us signed letters and petitions to stop this mistreatment of human beings whose only crime was to be dying of AIDS. Many of these letters and petitions were made public--that was part of the point, and we had no expectation of privacy, obviously.

    But if a year or two later some fundamentalist thinktank had gathered these letters and petitions and done a phony research study (with bad data and horrible analysis) and said that signatories to those petitions were atheist lovers of Sodom and Gomorrah, they would have a) been wrong and b) been evil.

    The paper is poorly done, as I've explained elsewhere. They used Google Scholar instead of an academic database. They searched only in English, despite the global nature of climate science. They got names wrong. They got job titles wrong. They got incorrect numbers of publications and citations.

    The analysis was simply wrong. As RomanM put it at,

    "Was this particular paper peer-reviewed?

    Unfortunately, there seem to be a number of technical shortcomings in the paper. Several of these induce biases in virtually every aspect of the analysis of the data.

    The samples were not a random selection from a larger population, but rather the selection included the AR4 working group (over 600 of the 903 CE group subjects) who themselves had been chosen for their prolific publication and citation records. The UE group were chosen from individuals who had expressed opinions regarding the evidence for global warming. the numbers in the two groups do not properly represent the relative numbers in the population.

    There was no control for the actual number of authors on each paper. Thus, if there were 10 authors on a particular publication with 100 citations, each author received credit for both the publication (total of 10) as well as the citations (total 1000) that the paper received. If the mean number of authors is higher for one of the groups, then this biases the results in favor of that group and exaggerates the extreme high values of the most prolific authors. Furthermore, because the counts are not independent, it puts into question the validity of using the Mann-Whitney test for analyzing that data.

    Figures 1 and 3 reflect the disparity in size of the two samples by graphing counts rather than percentages.

    However, there is also a major statistical error on page 2:

    We examined a subsample of the 50 most-published (highest expertise) researchers from each group. Such subsampling facilitates comparison of relative expertise between groups (normalizing differences between absolute numbers). This method reveals large differences in relative expertise between CE and UE groups (Fig. 2). Though the top-published researchers in the CE group have an average of 408 climate publications (median = 344), the top UE researchers average only 89 publications (median = 68; Mann–Whitney U test:W= 2,455; P < 10−15). Thus, this suggests that not all experts are equal, and top CE researchers have much stronger expertise in climate science than those in the top UE group.

    If one were to take two samples of sizes 903 and 472 randomly from the same population, order them by size and then take the largest fifty from each, it is a virtual certainty that the average (and/or median) of the 50 from the larger 903 subject group will be greater than that for the smaller sam0ple group. The exact amount (which may be very large) will depend on the distribution of the values from which the samples were selected. The analysis, the MW test statistic and p-value are meaningless here and the conclusion is unwarranted.

    Perhaps a correction to the paper might be warranted."

  5. "Anderegg, Prall, et al violates ethical standards"

    Then, just a paragraph later:

    "The Blacklist Paper,"

    And so, completely off the rails and into the woods, as it were. It might seem odd on the face of it for someone attacking someone else for a purported lack of fairness to engage in it himself, but of course that's no problem for the co-author of the "CRUtape Letters" or his intended audience, the latter of whom just want to be told what they already know is true.

    I look forward to the day when the scientific establishment figures out how to deal with the likes of Lindzen and Christy, although the de facto response of forcing them into more and more obscure publications does seem to be helping somewhat. Steve Schneider worked hard to speed that process along, for which he deserves much continuing thanks.

    In the meantime most people will continue to want to do nothing, which will work fine right up until they start getting hit over the head, hard. If there's any justice, Fuller and most most of his largely geezer audience will not have already passed on when that starts to happen, although they'll have no problem justifying themselves by blaming the scientists for not having been sufficiently clear and credible.

  6. ... [ elided, see borehole -mt]

    From the last two pages of Climategate: The CRUTape Letters:

    "Warming might be beneficial to humans--certainly to some of them. Most of the warming observed to date consists of a reduction in the number of unusually cold days and nights in January in the northern hemisphere—We doubt if many will complain about that. But if CO2 is a major contributor to increased warming, the next wave will come elsewhere. It plausibly could turn some developing countries into deserts with no agriculture, and others into flood-and-drain combination hellholes where agriculture is the last thing on peoples' minds. Because global warming really doesn't exist. It's expressed as regional warming, and it's unpredictable where it may strike and how quickly temperatures will rise. We believe global average temperatures will rise about 2 degrees Celsius. But it won't be even, and it won't happen smoothly over the rest of the century. It will hit some places like a ton of bricks and leave others untouched. A slow motion tornado that picks and chooses. clearly as we are able to see the truth, we have written it here. Global warming is real and it is a problem, if not the catastrophe they want you to believe. It needs our attention. CO2 is a contributor, along with other factors, some natural and some manmade. And yes, we do need to do something about it."

  7. OK, I can't resist. Is this "Tom Fuller" dude for real? I can't seem to find an actual photo of him that's not a blurred thumbnail. And last I remember, his profile hyperlink on Google Blogs went to a web site about some JavaScript AI engine. Hey, it's not a crime to speculate, is it?

    And here's something that's not speculation: "Tom Fuller" did a massive copy-and-paste of 19 paragraphs above. Notice the missing hyperlinks in this little snippet?

    (We'll go into depth on how they did this in the next article in this series. For more on this, see here, here and here.)

    But hey, this "Tom Fuller" gets to accuse others of "ethical violations". Or maybe he (it?) doesn't actually mean what he (it?) says, and it's all just meaningless manipulations of strings of letters.

    Which proves once more that idea capitalism works, because it creates the best online personas that money can buy, or something.

    -- frank

  8. Frank, please.

    That does not constitute a rebuttal. I thought it was clear that the text was pasted and it didn't bother me. It wouldn't bother me that much if it were less clear. This doesn't rise to Wegman-style mis-misattribution.

    What bothers me is the idea that windmills kill people, as opposed to economic policies that may or may not have windmills in them. What bothers me is that people are being trained to hate windmills. This is the sort of thing that is very hard to reverse. Propagating this idea is contemmptible. I'd like to say "criminal" but I don't mean that literally. I don't know how to build a free society where it is impossible to construct malicious lies. But I don't have to like malicious lies.

    Fuller has been hanging around with people who hate climate scientists, in ways that are based on nuggets of actual truth but are blown up into absurd paranoid fantasies. Those people's paranoid fantasies are fed by malicious people with axes to grind that have nothing to do with science. Meanwhile, modern science is beset with structural and social problems that modern science is ill-equipped to address. The enemies of progress seize upon these to distract people, just as they get people all worked up about incredibly marginal issues of windmill-death and windmill-noise and windmill-bird-slaughter, as if windmills had any disadvantages over coal besides visibility. It's dripping with evil.

    People like Fuller fail to see it, and misplace their outrage. It is a sorry state of affairs. And Fuller is not always the clearest thinker in the world, though in my view he is better than some. But he is a real human being, and the rules here are that you treat with dignity. We will not make any progress through hatred and contempt. If you can't handle it, take it someplace else.

    Say how much you dislike the ideas, and why, but don't tell us why you don't like the person. We're not interested. It's not important.

  9. But he is a real human being, and the rules here are that you treat with dignity. We will not make any progress through hatred and contempt. If you can’t handle it, take it someplace else.

    Spammers are human beings too, but should I treat every spamvertisement "with dignity" and focus only on why I "dislike the ideas"? Am I guilty of "hatred and contempt" if I start mocking spamvertisements?

    My point is, Tom Fuller isn't acting like "a real human being". He (or it) is acting more like a spambot.

    Oh, and here's more copypasta from Tom "a real human being" Fuller.

    -- frank

  10. Michael, the bird kill concern is real, notwithstanding that it's being abused to an extent. Note that the groups legitimately concerned with it (Audubon, CBD, Sierra Club) are also in favor of wind power expansion, and so mainly want to see the industry making sincere efforts to reduce the kill. Much of the problem here, similar to solar in desert tortoise habitat, is that the Bush adminstration's neglect of the issue guaranteed adjustment problems down the line.

  11. You all seem to be laboring under the delusion that 'to dispute' is semantically equal to 'to refute.' You seem to think you will advance your arguments by wholesale rejecting news that arrives from sources you don't like, such as the Daily Mail or Telegraph, while embracing without examination news from sources that share your philosophy, such as the BBC or Guardian. I advise you that that way lies danger for your thinking and defeat for your arguments.

    As it happens, and as I mentioned on CaS, I knew people experiencing fuel poverty in the UK. One died of pneumonia after not being able to feed her coin-operated meter. I was told at the time that this was not unusual.

    So when I bring forth for your analysis articles from the BBC, the Guardian and the Independent that show that:

    Fuel poverty exists
    It has proven fatal to thousands
    That green policies have contributed to energy price increases

    It surprises me that some of you seem to play games much as the Moncktons and Moranos do with inconvenient truths.

    In longer threads I have discussed the caveats that need to be associated with these facts. It is obvious that there is more than one cause of fuel poverty. Actual poverty in the UK is a serious issue. So is the dilapidated state of council estate housing stock. So is the rapacious behaviour of energy providers.

    But government policy in the UK has contributed to the rise in energy costs. That policy has been to subsidize wind power both directly and indirectly. This has contributed to the increase of people that have fallen into fuel poverty. Some of them have died.

    Disputing (not refuting--you can't as it's true) these simple points really does not help you, as those of us engaging or reading discussions like this will remember the mental and moral blank spots that your position requires.

  12. So we now know that Tom "a real human being" Fuller wholeheartedly agrees on the need for global warming mitigation measures -- except those measures that are being concretely proposed.

    That's nice to know, isn't it?

    -- frank

  13. It appears to be true the UK has excess winter deaths worse than comparable countries.

    "That green policies have contributed to energy price increases"

    This is exactly the point in dispute. Clearly energy prices have risen dramatically. Most earthlings have noticed.

    Clearly "green policies" have associated costs. In some countries those may be passed on to consumers.

    The issue at hand is which dominates in the UK. A case has been made that it is the forces within the conventional fuel markets that have been the main factor.

    "Disputing (not refuting–you can’t as it’s true) these simple points really does not help you, as those of us engaging or reading discussions like this will remember the mental and moral blank spots that your position requires."

    That is putting the cart before the horse, isn't it? Who decides what is irrefutable? This is an old issue in our part of the world. We see irrefutable items attacked all the time; far more irrefutable than your claim, which as far as I can see is not actually justified. In that light, isn't your closing ad hom yet another pot/kettle incident? In any case, please tone that sort of thing down.

    By the way, I'd appreciate it if someone from Britain could enlighten us on coin-operated meters inside households.

  14. Frank Swifthack:

    For someone who has been dining out on his attacks on Steve Mosher and myself for two years now, you display an appalling (but all too typical, given what you write on other topics) ignorance of what I advocate, which I have published on numerous internet venues as well as in the book you so love to hate.

    If you had any intention of conversing rather than indulging in your rabid attack syndrome, you would find out rather quickly that I in fact endorse public subsidy of renewable energy and have done so consistently since I began writing on energy issues. I do not object to the UK supporting alternative energy. I object to how they are doing it and in how their deliberate lack of transparency regarding their policies and effects have served to give more cause for offence to skeptics.

    If you had the investigative fervor to match your bile, you would have already seen before attacking me that I support:

    1. Carbon tax
    2. Regulation of emissions
    3. Large scale support of alternative energy in developing countries

    etc., etc., etc.

    Your old school thinking, symbolized beautifully on this thread by attacks on Paul Kelly (talk about wholeheartedly agreeing on mitigation measures except for those actually being put into place), exemplifies the increasing irrelevance of your point of view in the market place of ideas.

    That may be frustrating. But it is the tactics of people like you that have caused your own dilemma. You can blame anyone you like. You can invent a Skeptic Machine or label lukewarmers as Lenin's useful idiots. But you have brought this on yourselves.

  15. Tom, wrong thread I think.

    One amusing thing I've noticed about you through the years is your seeming inability to realize that the words you wrote before are still there. Even from a different thread, it's easy to verify that the point under dispute is

    The fact is that pensioners are freezing in cold, dark unheated flats across the UK. Some are dying. This is happening because of various governmental policies to increase the take-up of wind power.

    It's fine, once confronted with the facts, walk it back to "green policies have contributed to..." but I don't think you get to do that and accuse others of playing games.

    This is why I really can't stay mad at you. You're not particularly good at this, but you keep trying again and again.

  16. On another bat channels, one year ago, there was a discussion between the the pragmatic nuances of to refute, to rebut, to discredit and to improve:

    Perhaps we might say that grypo can be seen as an improvement on Tom's results.

  17. Lede:

    > In a time when technologically-advanced smart meters are poised to roll out to most of the UK, isn’t it about time **energy companies** dragged prepayment meters into the 21st century?

    We put our emphasis between asterisks.

  18. One thing I can say for Tom Fuller is that he inevitably livens up comment sections. It's been a bit too quiet around here lately.

    I wish I had time to write up everything I'm thinking these days. I am considering venturing into some awfully "incorrect" territory myself.

  19. Coin-operated meters, a sort of pay as you go affair, are still reasonably common in rented accomodation, particularly for students and council tenants. The electricity turns off if you don't keep feeding the slot, and the dial can go round very quickly if you've a couple of electric bar heaters on.

    In my opinion to say that rising fuel prices are responsible for winter deaths is deeply misleading and alarmist. They might contribute marginally in some cases but by far the bigger problems are things like poorly maintained and insulated housing and, probably most importantly, stretched social services. There are adequate provisions for everyone in the UK to access the heating they need but unfortunately there are some people who fall through this net for various reasons. To argue against actions that are required to begin to combat climate change because of impacts like these rather than pushing for improvements in the social security net along with them is irresponsible.

  20. PDA, I am well aware that what is written on the Internet stays there. That includes full-blown lies about people written by some participants to this thread.

    As for the statement in question, it is true. People die in the UK because of government policy in support of wind power. However, I do support for government support of alternative energy. If that seems like a contradiction to you, rest assured it is not.

    Opposing mistaken policy measures does not rule out support for enlightened policy measures.

  21. Tom,

    Read this report. It tells you what you need to know. It even breaks it down to direct climate policy.

    Government policies both increase and decrease potential energy bills and these factors impact on income groups in different ways. Products policies should reduce energy costs for all households, having the greatest proportionate effect on low
    income households. By contrast, the impact of higher prices resulting from the Government’s energy and climate change policies will be regressive. The net effect will depend on how the benefits of those policies are distributed. DECC analysis on one set of assumptions for this suggests a net cost equivalent to 0.8 percent of income for the poorest fifth of households, but break-even for the richest fifth. Whether this regressive outcome – which would tend to increase fuel poverty – occurs depends on decisions yet to be taken.

    I'm very confused about what Tom is arguing now. Is he saying that climate policies have already caused people to die? Or that they may have contributed to deaths? Is he confusing all environmental taxes together? Is it still the IPCC's fault? I'm finding no evidence of this in his references. These questions I ask are not just about argumentative caveats, they are prime in getting to the truth of the matter. Have specific climate (or windmill) taxes contributed to deaths, or is it future regressive taxes that should be the concern, as I, according to John Hills, suggest?

  22. The problem seems to be a widespread infrastructure that amounts tocoin-fed electric baseboard heaters (!!!), which is interesting and amazing, and probably unique to the UK.

    And you still go along with blaming windmills? And say it's irrefutably windmills?

    No. It's apparently soaking the poor. It's the UK equivalent to the payday loan business in the US. It should be f-word criminal.

    You were doing quite well up to now. But now it's like you accept A implies B, and you accept A, and you don't accept B. So there's little more we can achieve by discussing this particular matter.

  23. grypo, I don't find it surprising that DECC defends its policies. I've read the report (and though I linked to it above.) Having worked for various departments of the UK government, I recognize some language and even some statistics that I think they use as bulwarks for their policy recommendations rather than as objective views of reality. (And I don't mean to either criticize harshly or single them out--it's a natural tendency for bureaucracy to defend itself, especially when policies impact some in a negative way.)

    Perhaps the clearest indication of the failure of this particular initiative and its harmful results is the fact that they are now seeking to redefine fuel poverty...

  24. As for the statement in question, it is true. People die in the UK because of government policy in support of wind power.

    And we have come full circle.

    There is mere opinion, and there is dogma. Believing something when you have been shown the facts don't support it, even after yourself admitting that the facts don't support it, is dogma.

    And I agree. There's little to be gained in trying to establish the truth or falsity of religious belief.

    Eppur si muova.

  25. > That includes full-blown lies about people written by some participants to this thread.

    This declaration would deserve due diligence.

    Yet another thread where Tom ends up about talking his own character. This Kick Me Game has been seen before many times. The observation of the recurring pattern has been noted there:

    Lots of blogs rely on the Kick Me game to remain enlivened.

  26. I won't bother looking up Tommy's thinking on the famine-drought-climate change-government failure nexus, but I will note the similarity of his present arguments to Kloor's on the former. Some things are just irreducibly multi-factorial, although it is possible to establish a hierarchy of importance of the contributing factors.

    In the case of famine in East Africa, both drought and governmental failure were needed. Take one away and there's no famine, taking care not to confuse the absence of overt famine with the lack of a problem.

    In case under discussion, the lack of an adequate electricity lifeline policy is killing people, and that would be true in the absence of the feed-in tariff for windmill power.

    Big difference.

    But regardless, if one is going to chalk up deaths to the tariff, one must also take care to subtract deaths due to the avoided pollution. I haven't seen that done.

    OT: Looking for some cheap controversy, Michael? Here's some.

  27. you would have already seen before attacking me that I support:

    1. Carbon tax
    2. Regulation of emissions
    3. Large scale support of alternative energy in developing countries

    etc., etc., etc.

    You mean right before you lash out against actual "alternative energy" efforts such as wind power?

    Or perhaps you mean that alternative energy in "developing countries" is good and holy, but if alternative energy is deployed in developed countries, then for some reason the alternative energy suddenly becomes the Great Satan?

    Your old school thinking [...] exemplifies the increasing irrelevance of your point of view in the market place of ideas.

    Ooh, I hate to admit it, but sometimes "Tom Fuller" can be brutally honest as to what he's really about: The Free Market Of Ideas (q. v.)...

    If I were MT, I might write up an entire blog post devoted to this lucent flash of honesty. But I'm not MT, so I'll just point it out here.

    -- frank

  28. This report is commissioned, but independent. The guy is an academic from the London School of Economics. And the report doesn't actually defend their policies, it says they are wrong and harmful. If the DECC was looking to cover its ass it certainly picked the wrong guy considering his previous work. Or are we just back castigating academics as the governments pawns?

    A bit of timely news. I wonder what will get rid of the tax quicker, saying it hurts business, or saying it kills old people? I guess that depends on who you talk to.

  29. Let's be serious, guys. Coin operated, above market-rate electricity and electric heat in public housing? This is not a policy problem. It is an infrastructure problem and a ridiculous one.

    If the Brits don't see this as stupid, so be it. Most Americans don't see their health market as stupid either. But the rest of us should call it for what it it is, and that is ridiculous. This fine-tuning of rates and subsidies being haggled over is ridiculous.

    Poor people in public housing in a wealthy country that has cold weather should not pay for heating with coins in 2012. Isn't that obvious?

    And nobody should be using coal-fired electric heat except on a rare occasional basis. That may be slightly less obvious, but it isn't subtle: two thirds of electric energy goes to heating the plant and the transmission lines.

    I am stunned that this conversation is on the marginal utilities of a system that is jaw-droppingly broken.

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