What we learn from the APS revision

Having just read Eli being unhappy on the APS I’m struck by a thought, which is that no-one at all seems to think they might learn anything useful about actual climate change from the APS statement or its revised version. All anyone is doing is picking over it to see whether the miscellaneous physicists have managed to understand the research. So: why do these people bother have a statement at all? Would they have felt left out of the party otherwise? Its just the tedious old physcis arrogance again.


* http://physicsfrontline.aps.org/2009/11/10/aps-council-overwhelmingly-rejects-proposal-to-replace-societys-current-climate-change-statement/
* http://www.aps.org/policy/statements/07_1.cfm

Revisionism with Romm

The color of solar cells — and their short energy payback — are trivial factors when considering the huge climate benefit they provide in avoiding the release of CO2 from the combustion of fossil fuels. That was a central point I made when I broke the story on the error-riddled book Superfreakonomics…

Really? No: what JR actually said was:

“Here are the howlers in that paragraph for the record::

1. they aren’t bloack, they are blue,
2. their efficiency may be higher than 12%,
3. The biggest howler… What was the absorbtivity or emissivity of the material that the panel covered up,
4. Unparseable. Read it yourself.”

He later posted an update, after John O’Donnell pointed out that the major error is CO2. RC also made the same point. I’m not sure what the exciting “exclusive new analysis” is supposed to be, either. It looks like it covers the same ground as the RC post. But the factors that Romm has now, correctly, realised are trivial are the very ones he was promoting as major errors before.

[Update: JR is somewhat offended by my charge of revisionism and says there was no intention on my part to revise history and the current version is what I was trying to say all along. I’m not entirely sure what the differences are between the current and the original version – anybody keep a copy of the original? I’ve asked JR but no reply so far on that point – because the current version seems equally open to the criticism I first made.

His post now has a footnote NOTE: I have updated this post slightly for absolute clarity since some people might not read the first debunking post that I linked to above (click here), which lays out the timeline of how I came to include this factor of 100,000.; the footnote itself has been updated; originally it said … for absolute clarity since some blogger out in the ether failed to read my first debunking post that I linked to above (again, click here, it isn’t hard folks)… I was that “some blogger”.]

India ‘arrogant’ to deny global warming link to melting glaciers?

Says the Grauniad. Their not-very-useful article is about a Discussion Paper (as it calls itself) of Himalayan Glaciers, A State-of-Art Review of Glacial Studies, Glacial Retreat and Climate Change by V.K.Raina, Ex. Deputy Director General, Geological Survey of India.

The Telegraph of India has an opinion. No idea if it is at all representative. Maribo has a lot of sense about the report; go read that and come back here if you need any more.

Back? OK then.

0) For the science, they say (I presume correctly) All the glaciers under observation, during the last three decades of 20th century have shown cumulative negative mass balance and although there is a lot more text in the report, there isn’t really any more than that to interest the wide world outside the glacio community. Or another quote, if you like: Glaciers in the Himalayas, barring a few exceptions, here and there, have been reported to be in constant retreat, since when the observations started in midnineteenth century. There are no two views about it. It is an established fact. You could compare this the the std.IPCC view: Whereas glaciers in the Asian high mountains have generally shrunk at varying rates (Su and Shi, 2002; Ren et al., 2004; Solomina et al., 2004; Dyurgerov and Meier, 2005), several high glaciers in the central Karakoram are reported to have advanced and/or thickened at their tongues (Hewitt, 2005), probably due to enhanced precipitation.

1) Having skimmed the thing, it has the look of a whole pile of studies just thrown together without much attempt at synthesis.

2) The exec summary begins Almost a century ago, fears began to be expressed about the possible impact of the rise in atmospheric temperature on mountain glaciers. The fears led to the initiation of concerted scientifi c efforts to identify and examine the fl uctuations along the front-snout of glaciers. It was believed that such studies, over the next century or so, would enable scientists to establish the relationship between the climate change and the glacier fluctuations. That seems wrong to me, and contradicts what I thought I knew of the timeline of climate change concern.

3) The constant emphasis on the “glacier-snout” stuff reads oddly to me; I suspect this is a reflection of battles fought in the glacio community in the 50’s and being re-hashed here to an uncomprehending audience.

4) It is all observations. Observations are very nice – indeed, essential – but unless synthesised by some kind of theory they are hard to make sense of. Hence the rather plaintive text in the final “review” chapter 8 While one may not doubt the fact that the climate, by and large, does appear to be getting warmer; what, however, does tax the mind is the attempted linkage of the glacier retreat in the Himalayas to the global warming. This chap has, as it says in the intro, made epic efforts, which involved several long expeditions to remote glaciers, in trying circumstances and with limited resources, and he knows a lot about Indian glaciers, but unfortunately he hasn’t studied climate change so really he has nothing to say on the subject that everyone is keen to hear about.

5) The Grauniad reports that Jairam Ramesh, India’s environment minister, released the controversial report in Delhi, saying it would “challenge the conventional wisdom… “My concern is that this comes from western scientists … it is high time India makes an investment in understanding what is happening in the Himalayan ecosystem,” so this may be just yet more tedious nationalism; “western” science isn’t good enough, Indian glaciers must be studied with “Indian” science (you have to read the book for the link).

6) Perhaps following on for that, as an afterthought, I notice that the report is remarkably insular. It doesn’t mention IPCC even once, which is odd for a “state of the art” review (probably they were a bit pissed off with IPCC for having such a short section on Indian glaciers; the quote I gave above is just about it). The list of papers at the back looks very “Indian”, too: westerners only get a brief look-in in the early days (what happened to the likes of “Walker, H. and Pascoe, Sir, E.H. (1907): Notes on certain glaciers in Lahaul”?).

And just like that, without even a hint of a conclusion, the post was over.

[Update: oh no it wasn’t. But late to the party, and with nothing new to say, Nurture appear to have decided to waste their readers time by telling them about it. Odd]

Yet more snarking

This stuff just gets weirder; maybe you should just read Brian for some sense instead. Anyway, so as the Breakness Institute (-it all fits together, folks, with the Emeriti) point out, Romm has silently changed his headline from “Meet Trash Journalist Keith Kloor” to Meet blogger Keith Kloor. But even if you don’t remember the original you can tell he’s done it, because of the post URL. This is all very funny, because one of the first charges that Romm throws at Kloor is having his Nature post altered.

Meanwhile, over at the Dark Side, Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus try to pretend that Romm is McCarthy. This is absurd, and dull (also, presumably in an effort to wrest the irony prize away from Romm, they “out” Eli in an attempted piece of bullying). They do it, I think, not because they care, but because it serves as a smokescreen to try to defend the indefensible SuperFreako global cooling junk (reminder: I junked it here; Elizabeth Kolbert junks them in the New Yorker, if you prefer things slower and gentler. Lots of nice quotes there).

While I’m snarking, Romm recently wrote about sea ice again so I put in a comment inquiring if he wanted to increase our bet. Mysteriously, that comment hasn’t appeared. How very strange.

[Update: if you want to read utter drivel, then you could do worse than A Great Jump to Disaster? By Tim Flannery in the New York Review of Books -W]

First Look at Carbon Capture and Storage in a West Virginia Coal-Fired Power Plant?

So says Sci-Am. The article is high on pic and low on facts. Only a small percentage of the CO2 is captured – 1.5% – but that is OK, it is only a demo plant. The key question, of course, is how much extra coal is burnt to achieve this? This vital fact is not clearly provided. The 1.5% is clear And now roughly 1.5 percent of the CO2 billowing from its stack is being captured… but the other half is vague: But the primary benefits of the chilled-ammonia process for capturing CO2 are lower electricity and steam consumption, compared with other potential technologies for carbon capture, such as using amines, another ammonia compound, which can consume as much as 30 percent of the plant’s power just to run, says Shawn Black, product manager for Alstom. The goal here is to get that number down to under 15 percent. So is that 15% of 1.5%, which seems to good to be true, or 15% of the total, which seems too bad to be true?

Wiki says Capturing and compressing CO2 requires much energy and would increase the fuel needs of a coal-fired plant with CCS by 25%-40%.[2] These and other system costs are estimated to increase the cost of energy from a new power plant with CCS by 21-91%.[2] That is more in line with what I was expecting. [2] turns out to be a 2005 IPCC report. Their table SPM 3 (yes, its true, I didn’t get very far through) says that coal, sans CCS, is 0.04-0.05 $/kWh, and 0.06-0.10 with CCS and geological storage. The Sci Am article is consistent with that, saying Cleaner coal will be more expensive, too, adding at least 4 cents per kilowatt-hour to the power Mountaineer produces at roughly 5 cents per kWh. So I think they do mean 15% or 1.5%, but are probably being optimistic.

Clearly, until carbon acquires a sensible price (hopefully via a carbon tax) these plants will not be commercially viable.

In other news, Mars looks good.

Wadhams on sea ice

Nothing new, but M pointed me at Greenman on sea ice which has a quote from Wadhams (starts around 5:00, quote around 5:20 I think) that is the “the arctic will be ice free in summer in 20 years” or words to that effect (which got noted in my Arctic to be ‘ice-free in summer’?.

I still don’t believe it, not that that matters. Watch the video anyway for a glimpse of Wadham’s / SPRI’s rather haphazrd filing system.



To the city fireworks. Park in Mount Pleasant House and walk with the children to the river, when James and Emma and James and Amy are having a party. Arrive in time for the mulled wine to just run out; watch the fireworks (ooh! ahh! how long do these go on for?); tour of the boats (hello Lyra!); hello people; home.

Tiljander, again

Tiljander and od^4 refer.

Over the past few days, it has become clear to me that the entire issue of “flipping” or “upside-down-ness” of the Tiljander proxy is a red-herring.

Here’s why:

Imagine a climate proxy, accurate over the last 2kyr, that shows (for example, let us suppose) a warm period around 1000 AD and which, undisturbed, would show the recent warming. Further suppose for definiteness that this proxy is of such a nature that increases in the proxy value represent increases in temperature. Imagine this proxy is contaminated with non-climatic signal over the last 200 years, enough that the climatic signal is overwhelmed. Suppose that this contamination is of such a nature that it leads to a strong decrease in the values of the proxy over the last 200 years. Such a proxy (call it A), fed into the Mea algorithm, will be flipped over (due to its negative correlation with recent instrumental temperature) and will contribute a net cold influence around 1000 AD. How much it contributes will depend on how well it correlates to recent times.

Now imagine a similar proxy, except the nature of the non-climatic contamination is such as to add a strong increase over the last 200 years. We’ll call it B. This time, the proxy won’t be flipped over, because its correlation to recent times will be positive. But the variance into the past will be strongly de-weighted (because we’ve just added an artificially large postiive trend). So it will imply not much change around AD 1000. But now we see this, we can see that the same problem applies to series A: unless, by bizarre co-incidence, the negative non-climate signal just happens to match the true positive instrumental signal, the variance in the past will be wrong. And since we’ve had to assume that the non-climate signal overwhelms the climate one, its likely that the recent variance will be too large, so the past will be de-weighted.

So in either case we can see that the real problem is the addition of the non-climate signal. The flipping is of little relevance.

Note to the Fanboyz: the comment policy will be vigourously applied. If you don’t like it, DenialDepot is your friend. Note to everyone else: don’t bother reply to comments you know I’m going to delete ;-)]

Corbyn again

Its fish in a barrel time, but Corbyn seems to have had his International Conference. It doesn’t look very exciting. As RB says: Did the meeting live up to its billing of “refuting, totally, the CO2 theory of warming”? Hardly. Because doing that seriously doesn’t mean refuting it to my satisfaction, or yours, or that of the audience scattered about the Imperial College lecture theatre on Wednesday; it means convincing the greater community of climate scientists, and that brings us back to… publishing. What some in the sceptical camp do not appear to appreciate is that published, peer-reviewed science is not only the sole way of establishing and improving theories; it’s also, now, the only route to the policymakers they want to influence. Modern-day ministers and their scientifically-qualified advisers are absolutely not going to listen to half-developed, unpublished theories or complaints about fraud and conspiracies.