Graun combines typesetting and maths

The Graun is a bit rubbish at typesetting and maths, which is most aptly illustrated by one of their jokes:

At a party for functions, ex is at the bar looking despondent. The barman says: “Why don’t you go and integrate?” To which ex replies: “It would not make any difference.”


The British political establishment seems to be moving more towards climate change denial, which is worse than the previous stance of acknowledging the problem while doing virtually nothing to address it?

My, what a long title. But its a quote from RN in a comment on my IPCC 5th Assessment Review post.

And since this butts head on into something I’ve been thinking for a while, but not said, I’ll write it down. Don’t call me too bitter or cynical, please. And just for the moment, don’t demand references either – this is all stream of thought.

So: for a number of years now, starting at some unknown point – possibly around Cameroon’s ridiculous dancing-with-huskies moment, but most likely more nebulous and earlier – the British political scene went soppy green. Windmills sprouted, solar panels were subsidised, and commitments made – and even passed into law – to decarbonise the economy, with no apparent thought to the cost. I was baffled. Not only were people speaking some of the right words, sometimes even in the right order and at the right times, they were making what appeared to be hard commitments. But what they weren’t really doing was making it clear who was going to pay for it all, which I found worrying. That is, in the end, the acid test. Which we failed.

For when “hard” times came – and, having wandered today around the heart of Cambridge Christmas shopping, those times are really not very hard at all – suddenly even rather minor pledges to pay started to look expensive and the pols started backing off. The most obvious sign of this is the “green levy” or whatever its called, put on fuel bills to pay for the likes of rooftop solar panels. We got some solar panels but I was never really clear who was paying the bills – the money comes from the power companies (or will, when we get round to finishing off the forms) – but obviously these companies aren’t going to give away money for free. I had assumed it was govt (i.e., our tax) money being recycled, somehow. But no! it turns out to be a levy on everyone’s energy bills. And when bills are going up and the supposedly-reticent-and-stuff-upper-lip-but-actually-as-whiney-as-everyone-else Brits see increased fuel bills (presuambly at least some people do read their fuel bills) and ask “why are they going up” and the govt shamelessly tries to blame it on evil fuel companies, then naturally the companies fight back and throw mud in the water with “no! its your green levy wot did it” and suddenly govt support just melts away.

Get to the point

Anyway, back to my point: during the “long” boom up to, whenever, 2007, when we all felt rich and expansive, the public said they wanted greenery and the pols said “yeah!” But it was shallow. No-one thought much about the cost – well, economist types thought about costs, but economists are dull so who’s going to listen to them? Certainly no-one cool.

Public opinion wasn’t prepared for costs-vs-benefits, and suddenly costs matter again. The pols bow to the wind. In a way I’m pleased – the previous policy consensus smacked rather too much of fairyland. It was untested by any real opposition. The opposition now is facile and unthinking, if they’re dumb enough to think that attacking the IPCC is a good idea. But if the good guys can’t beat off idiots like that, how are they going to cope against competent opponents that are sane enough to look at the weak spots, rather than the strong points?


Minister to admit failure on key climate change emissions target – me 2006.

The Magnificent Disinformation Engine

A better title for this post would be “cite your sources” but I need to mirror The Magnificent Climate Heat Engine at WUWT. Guess what? Just a few days after totally missing the importance of heat transport within the climate system WE has finally noticed it. WE read my posts, of course, because several people pointed him at them in the WUWT comments, although he was careful not to engage with those. So he’s managed to learn something from me, which is good, but doesn’t have the basic honesty to acknowledge that, which is effectively plagiarism, which is expected.

Naturally, he doesn’t link this back to his previous post, because to do that would be to point out that his new discovery has totally destroyed his previous, which would be embarrassing. It will be interesting to see if any of the commentators there are both awake and bold.

Conservative groups spend up to $1bn a year to fight action on climate change?

Well, of course, this is trivially true, in the sense that $0 is “up to $1bn” and the report doesn’t suggest that it could be more than $1bn. I got this from the Graun which continues to irritate by pointlessly and stupidly failing to link to the original study. I assume they do this because, like the mediaeval church, they regard themselves as gatekeepers and priests of knowledge: we should only be allowed their interpretation, and not see the original for ourselves. But enough ranting.

There’s a note at the bottom which says This headline on this article was amended on 21 December 2013 to reflect that not all the $1bn referred to will have funded climate change work and indeed, this is the rub. The ~$1bn refers to total funding of a group of think-tanky stuff. But how much of that actually went into anti-GW-science? As far as I can see, the study doesn’t even attempt to address this question. Instead it looks at How are these organizations financially maintained? which is indeed interesting, but different. Note in passing that is Q2 in the paper. Q1 is What is the climate change counter-movement? to which the answer turns out to be entities that engage in any of a a wide variety of activities opposing any legislative attempts to enact mandatory restrictions on carbon emissions. Which is interesting, because if you were to regard cap-n-trade as a “mandatory restriction” but carbon taxes as not, then you could argue that I’m part of the CCCM! W00t, way to go.

Incidentally, I should point out that I’m confused by some of the figures, and I think the Graun is too. They say

The groups collectively received more than $7bn over the eight years of Brulle’s study – or about $900m a year from 2003 to 2010. Conservative think tanks and advocacy groups occupied the core of that effort… AEI was by far the top recipient of such funds, receiving 16% of total funding over the eight years, or $86.7m.

Well, 16% of $7bn is $1.1bn, not $86m. And dividing it by 8 doesn’t help either. I didn’t bother track down the disparity, but I think its related to identifiably sourced income – some is hidden. No matter: I’m going to use American Enterprise Institute (AEI; annual budget about $38m) as an example. First off, there are some obvious not-climate related spending items: the Prez, Arthur Brooks, gets a stonking $0.6m. We can assume that he isn’t dumb enough to spend his own good money on denialism. Cheney gets $150k, incidentally. OK, so that’s trivia. But if I look at [[American Enterprise Institute]] I see an awful lot that clearly isn’t about global warming.

One of the things it does point to is this shocking publication “Climate Change: Caps vs. Taxes” by Kenneth P. Green, Steven F. Hayward, Kevin A. Hassett, Posted: Friday, June 1, 2007, ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY OUTLOOK, AEI Online. This shameful document… errrm, pretty well says exactly what I’ve been saying recently about carbon taxes. There’s a teensy paragraph with token flings against GW but most of it says: if you want to do it, do it via carbon taxes not cap-n-trade. So of the fairly smallish fraction of AEI effort that goes into GW related stuff, not all of it is anti-GW.

There is something in the paper that gets somewhere near this problem: they say, in attempting to define the CCCM:

To develop a comprehensive roster of CCCM organizations for this study, a two-step process was used. First, a consolidated list of all of the organizations identified in prior studies was created. These organizations were then individually examined to identify those that had a substantive focus on climate change. This process identified 118 CCCM organizations.

There’s an ill-defined word in there: “substantive”. What does it mean, in this context? Clearly, it doesn’t mean “a majority of effort spent on”. There’s no doubt that the AEI are currently producing some GW denialism nowadays; but what I’m less convinced by is that its a major part of their operation.

So, while I’m sure there are indeed evil folk funding climate change denial, I don’t think the headline of “up to $1bn” is supported by their evidence. They could have written “up to a completely undetermined amount” but that wouldn’t be a very good headline. Has anyone got pointers to better studies, or is anyone prepared to wade through the supplementary material to sort the wheat from the chaff?

Note, BTW, that there’s no need for the “up to $1bn” headline. Nature World News chose to headline it “Organizations Bankrolling Climate Change Denial Revealed in New Study” which is far more supportable.

[Aaaaannddd: we’re in. Only published 10 seconds ago and already google hit #3. I never knew I was such a thought leader.]

[Update: is Andy Revkin reporting Brulle sayin “You may have seen the Guardian article on my paper: I have written to the newspaper complaining about this headline. I believe it is misleading. I have been very clear all along that my research addresses the total funding that these organizations have, not what they spent on climate activities… (and which, to be Just, came to me via WUWT).]

Climate science is interesting and fun

Having mocked the Watties I thought I’d read on, and see what they had to say lower down. And what I’ve realised is that there is some interesting climatology there, which they’ve totally missed.

Here’s the most easily understood picture:

Its CERES Top-Of-Atmosphere (TOA) radiation balance plotted against surface temperature, for ocean-only grid points. I’m not desperately familiar with CERES, but lets take it literally, as radiation inbalance, averaged over a year. Fine. What do we expect to see?

[At this point, I recommend you to stop reading for a while, and see if you can work out what you would expect to see: what relationship do you expect to see, pointwise, between surface temperature and TOA radiation balance?

Back now? Good. Onwards:]

Knowing the good old “atmospheric heat engine” type analogy, we expect to see an excess of incoming radiation in the tropics (with heat transported to the poles by the atmosphere, not shown in this pic of course (but its fig 3 in this pdf)) and then an excess of outgoing radiation at the poles. Which is to say, the tropics are colder than you’d expect, from incoming radiation alone; and the poles are warmer than you’d expect.

And this is exactly what you do see: there’s a positive balance for warm temperatures, and a negative balance for cold temperatures. There’s a fair degree of scatter, of course, because the planet is far from simple; the land-ocean differences and mountains and vegetation differences all complicate the atmospheric circulation. Still, you see the basic picture. And its relatively simple, because we’re looking at ocean-only. Note that there’s a major complication over the tropics from the ITCZ, and from the sub-solar point changing over the year, so I think you’d expect the “slope” to be less there.

Now lets look at land and ocean:

This is, of course, the same picture as before but with land points added; and not all the points are see-through. The main difference is a pile of points on land below the freezing point of seawater. These, interestingly, go “backwards” – the colder it gets, the smaller the radiative inbalance. Those parts are pretty well all over Antarctica – there isn’t much of the world that can get annual average temperatures less than -20 oC – and they’re strongly over-weighted in the picture, because the dots are on a 1×1 grid – so they get a far bigger visual impression than the area they cover. The reason for the “reverse slope” is (I think) simply that there’s less radiation about at lower temperatures: less in, less out; so while the “relative” inbalance would be even greater for these points, the absolute inbalance declines.

So there’s interesting stuff to be seen in these datasets. Interesting, but basic: none of this is new, and you’d find it in textbooks if you looked, I’m sure. The shame is that the septics are so keen to find their fantasies that they can’t see the interesting reality.

Update: Tim F gets some of the way; but WE totally misses the point. SM gets a different piece, but again WE misses the point.


* Heating Imbalances from the NASA Earth Observatory
* My post inspires a Christmas puzzle! – in Dutch, but google does a great job on it.

The fatal lure of making stuff up

Two posts in one day! You do spoil us, ambassador.

Whenever one or more denialists gather together or alone, they inevitably make something up about climatology, and then criticise climatologists for doing whatever imaginary thing it is they’ve made up. Today’s invention is linearity (but, sigh, I’m giving too much credit for novelty, of which there is none. I mean, of course, reinvention):

global climate models are all based around the idea that in the long run, when we calculate the global temperature everything else averages out, and we’re left with the claim that the change in temperature is equal to the climate sensitivity times the change in forcing. Mathematically, this is: ∆T = lambda ∆F

Linearity is indeed a useful concept, and the concept of climate sensitivity is only useful if some kind of quasi-linear relation holds between forcing and response. But as ever the denialists have it all backwards. Climate sensitivity is an emergent property not an imposed one; and the things that everyone thinks of as “global climate models” – i.e. the vast AOGCMs that contribute to the IPCC runs that we all see wiggly lines from – don’t make the linearity assumption at all. It turns out that if you study the results from the models you do indeed find this quasi-linear relationship, which is why CS is a useful concept, and why you can then use CS as a way of constructing (simpler, faster) models for other studies. But mistaking cause for effect is a stupid error.

This is rather similar to another claim – that the water vapour feedback is built in; and if the denialist is really doing well, they might manage to stumble out with “assumes constant relative humidity”. But again, this is nonsense: the AOGCMs don’t assume a RH; they calculate it. It turns out to be (an emergent property) that RH remains roughly constant with temperature change on a global scale.

I think this is yet another variation on the “dumb America” fallacy, which in this case goes something like:

* Oh dear, I have nothing to say, but I would feel worthless if people didn’t read things I write. So I’ll write something.
* Climate is interesting! I’ll write something about climate models. I know nothing about climate models, I’ll take a look…
* Oh dear, that was all a bit complicated, wasn’t it? All those thousands of lines of code, all that basic science, all those scientific papers. Understanding that would be hard, and I’m soft.
* I know, I’ll read a few blog posts and make something up. It needs to be something “controversial” but I also need to remember my target audience: don’t want to scare the horses.

And there you have it. Next?

Energy and Climate Change committee: new inquiry: IPCC 5th Assessment Review

So, da UK Energy and Climate Change committee is having an “inquiry” into IPCC 5th Assessment Review. I’m not sure why. This will be a review of a review, which could itself be reviewed, which will end in endless regress? More likely it will fizzle away into nothing. Myles Allen appears to be suggesting that the ctte are bozos (not in so many words, of course. That would be unparliamentary. Instead, he says things like the thrust of the committee’s questions does raise concerns that the committee has allowed itself to be misled in this regard or As an aside, it seems strange to ask about the economic implications of a report that is explicitly and exclusively focused on Physical Science or This question is so broad that almost any answer is possible), which may well be correct. Myles has several other rather sensible things to say, many of which reflect my concerns. For example:

The problem with IPCC’s response to criticisms of previous assessments is that the focus has been entirely on formalizing procedures, whereas the reports ultimately depend on the collective scientific judgment of IPCC authors and reviewers.

This chimes with things I’ve said – or perhaps just thought – before; and not just about the IPCC, but about life in general.

One shouldn’t take this “inquiry” too seriously. This is the sort of things pols do as part of living and breathing. For example, they’re having an inquiry into the Outcomes of Warsaw COP 19, an event so pointless that I didn’t even bother to mock it.

You can read the written submissions. Aaaaaanndd the result is: everyone has said exactly what you’d expect them to say. Some usual nutters say the usual things – bonus points for the Star Trek analogy though. Its always helpful for a committee like this, with lots of stuff to wade through, for people to write “yes, I really am a nutter” in bold type right up front, so they can ignore you more conveniently.

I can’t say I read much of it. There are fewer responses than might be expected – I suspect that many people didn’t take it seriously. I did read one of the less usual folk – Professor (aside: prof? According to the EPS he is a humble Dr, and is retired. Which wouldn’t be odd, because he’s 85 years old) Pierre Darriulat – who said (when he isn’t saying A good guide to make such a critical review is the NIPCC report; fortunately, he’s not dumb enough to say that twice):

To what extent does AR5 reflect the range of views among climate scientists? While it is easy to find a vast majority of scientists who consider that evaluating the potential danger of an excessive (whatever it means) emission of C02 is of utmost importance, they will usually recognize that our current knowledge prevents making reliable predictions and they will not see it as urgent to take decisions. However, in most cases, on the basis of their relying on the precautionary principle, they would mostly be for considering seriously ways to limit in the long term, our C02 emissions. They will agree that no decision should be taken under pressure, but should take due consideration for economic, financial, social and geopolitical considerations for which they do not claim particular competence (other than as ordinary citizens).

I’ve pulled this out not because its interesting in itself, but because it does the usual: fails to answer the question, and instead veers off into the responders pet obsession: in this case, not science, but policy.

But enough fluff. What of reality?

I’m glad you asked. All this chatter reflecting the blogospheric world doesn’t reflect the real world. In which we get responses like:

* The fundamental consensus on climate change science has not changed, and there is overwhelming evidence that supports the causal link between human activity, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and climate change.
* Climate change is a global issue, and so international collective action will be critical in driving an efficient and equitable response on the scale required to meet our climate challenges.
* EDF Energy agrees with the statement made by the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change at the IPCC launch event on 1st October 2013 that the Fifth Assessment Report “…should be a catalyst to renew efforts and meet the challenge head on.”

(Written evidence submitted by EDF Energy (IPC0043)).


* How robust are the conclusions in the AR5 Physical Science Basis report? The Government considers that the conclusions of the AR5 Physical Science Basis report are robust. The report was produced by over 850 independent expert scientists, all leaders in their fields (209 Lead Authors, 50 Review Editors and Over 600 Contributing Authors). The report took over 2 years to produce and underwent multiple rounds of expert review. It was also reviewed by the 194 governments which form the IPCC. They have all accepted the findings.
* To what extent does AR5 reflect the range of views among climate scientists? The Government understands that the IPCC Working Group I Report assessed all relevant peer-reviewed climate research and modelling undertaken since 2007. As already noted the report was produced by over 850 independent expert scientists from all over the world, many being leaders in their fields (209 Lead Authors, 50 Review Editors and Over 600 Contributing Authors). Then the author teams considered the comments of 1000 reviewers. The report reflects any lack of consensus through the use of confidence levels throughout. Thus, the Government is confident that the assessment takes into account the full range of the wealth of recent research and the conclusions of its authors, plus the full range of views of climate scientists, because of the thorough and open review process.

(Written evidence submitted by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (IPC0025)). Note, BTW, that the govt is intelligent enough to actually answer the question.

Or, put another way, “Piss off pygmies”.

Meanwhile, at the Keeling Curve

You’ll note the button for “support the Keeling Curve”. This, too, I haven’t investigated in detail (can the US Govt really be not continuing this stuff? That would be mad. Even Bush didn’t do that) but Eli assures me its a good thing.

Sea ice: oh no, not again

ohnonotagain Yay, more nonsense about sea ice: the traditional “US Navy predicts summer ice free Arctic by 201x”, where this time x=6. Does anyone actually believe this rubbish? If so, I have money just sitting around, bored, twiddling its little green fingers and waiting to take your bet. If “summer ice free” means “oh yeah, not actually ice free, but less than 1 million square km” then please form an orderly line. Even odds, let’s say £1k. Who’s first up?

Do I see Nafeez Ahmed there? Or Wieslaw Maslowski? No? How odd.

Found by the lost [*]:

* Ed Hawkins ‏@ed_hawkins: Brave prediction by Maslowski for ice-free Arctic in 2016 (+/-3) |…
* Gavin Schmidt ‏@ClimateOfGavin: @ed_hawkins do you mean ‘brave’ as in unphysical, unpublished and even at the time demonstrably unlikely?

[*] You can have a point if you can find the source for that. Hint: google won’t help you.


* When will the Summer Arctic be Nearly Sea Ice Free?
* Sea ice betting report for 2012. Yes, I know I haven’t written 2013 yet, but it was dull.
*The Future of Arctic Sea Ice Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Vol. 40: 625-654 (Volume publication date May 2012), First published online as a Review in Advance on March 8, 2012; DOI: 10.1146/annurev-earth-042711-105345, Wieslaw Maslowski,1 Jaclyn Clement Kinney Matthew Higgins and Andrew Roberts