Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Irony, thy name is Fox News

In this video from Fox & Friends, Tucker Carlson and the host discuss a study from the Intercollegiate Studies Institute that found that college doesn't do a very good job of imparting civic knowledge. The study also found that going to college makes students more "liberal" on the issues of gay marriage and abortion. Scandalous, I know.

Not only do they misrepresent one of the study's findings (going to college does not decrease your civic knowledge), they ignore the other key finding(s) of the study, which is that greater civic knowledge is a better predictor of belief in American ideals and institutions than attending college (also not an earth-shattering finding):
1. Earning a bachelor’s degree exerts an independent, statistically significant influence on a person’s views on five of the thirty-nine survey propositions, most involving a narrow range of polarizing social and cultural issues. If two people otherwise share the same background characteristics, as well as equal civic knowledge, the one who graduates from college will be more likely than the one who does not to:
  • Favor same same-sex marriage; and
  • Favor abortion on demand.
Similarly, a college graduate will be less likely than a non-college graduate to:
  • Believe anyone can succeed in America with hard work and perseverance;
  • Favor teacher-led prayer in public schools; and
  • Believe the Bible is the Word of God.
2. Gaining civic knowledge influences a person’s views on four times as many propositions as college—twenty in all—that range across all of the six major survey themes. Civic knowledge also appears to produce a more independent frame of mind. For example, if two people otherwise share the same basic characteristics, the one who scores higher on the civic literacy exam will be more likely to agree that a person’s evaluation of a nation improves with his or her understanding of it; but also less likely to agree that legislators should subsidize a college in proportion to its students learning about America. Similarly, having more civic knowledge makes one more likely to agree that prosperity depends on entrepreneurs and free markets; but also less likely to agree that the free market brings about full employment.
3. Gaining civic knowledge—as opposed to merely graduating from college—increases a person’s belief in American ideals and free institutions. If two people otherwise share the same basic characteristics, the one with greater civic knowledge will be more likely to support:
  • America’s ideals: He or she will be less likely to agree that America corrupts otherwise good people.
  • America’s Founding documents: He or she will be less likely to agree that the Founding documents are obsolete.
  • American free enterprise: He or she will be more likely to agree that prosperity depends on entrepreneurs and free markets, and less likely to agree that global capitalism produces few winners and many losers.
  • The Ten Commandments: He or she will be less likely to agree that the Ten Commandments are irrelevant today.

But wait, there's more. Literally 30 seconds after Carlson expresses his outrage/disbelief that many students (18%) weren't able to name any of the freedoms that the First Amendment of the Constitution guarantees, and specifically says that the Constitution doesn't allow for the establishment of a national religion (the 2:00 mark in the video), the host says - and I'm not kidding - "If degrees are making students . . . less likely to support school prayer . . . how do you fix this?" (2:32)

Yes, how do you fix what isn't broken?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The most cogent argument for the existence of God yet

I interviewed the comedian Miranda Hart recently. She told me she believes in God but was nervous of being quoted on it.
"It's scary to say you're pro-God," she said. "Those clever atheists are terrifying."
"Oh, nonsense," I said. "Let them tell you it's stupid to believe in something you can't explain. Then ask them how an iPad works."
All hail Steve Jobs! We must thank the Insane Clown Posse for spawning this new generation of theologians. You can read the rest of this truly dizzying intellectual riposte on behalf of theists at the Grauniad - er, I mean Guardian:

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Heart to Heart: Polar vs. Suunto

So this post is going to be a change of pace - a brief review/comparison of heart-rate monitors.

I'm not exactly a serious athlete, but my last personal training assessment puts me in the 85-90th percentile in terms of the general Australian public (this says more about the fitness level of the average Australian than my fitness level, really). Anyway, as a casual runner and frequent cycle commuter (and hardcore geek), I've long used all sorts of telemetry accessories such as a heart rate monitor (some other examples being the Nike+ accessory for my iPod, a GPS pod for my new HRM - more on this later, bike computer, etc.).

About ten years ago, I bought a Polar S410 for - if I recall correctly - about $200 on eBay. Although you can still find them on eBay for about $170 or so, this model has since been supplanted by the Polar RS400 (MSRP $USD269.95)

Polar S410

For its time, this was a pretty cutting-edge HRM. You could set up up to 30 different time-based or heart-rate based training intervals, and have it prompt you for each interval, and it would store up to 120 heart-rate samples for a workout, while storing up to five compressed (summary) workout files that would store average HR, duration, etc. Additionally, the SonicLink function allowed you to do bidirectional transfers between the watch and a computer so that you could look get a better look at your workout data, and setup workouts on your computer to transfer back to the watch. This technology basically used the same method as those wicked acoustic coupler modems from the '80s (remember those?) - by holding the watch up to your computer's microphone, data in the form of beeps and bloops gets picked up and decoded by the software. The watch also has a built-in microphone to allow the reverse process to occur. Pretty trick - when it works.

Alas, this proved to be not only the coolest feature, but also the Achilles' heel for this HRM. The SonicLink transfer process was extremely fussy: if the watch was too close to the microphone, it wouldn't work. If it was too far from the microphone, it wouldn't work. If the distance between the two varied too much during the transfer process, it wouldn't work. Nonetheless, I managed to figure out that holding the watch close to the mic from an audioconferencing headset worked pretty well - around a 1-in-2 to 1-in-3 success rate for transfers. When the data finally gets transferred, here's what it looks like in PC Coach Lite (the Polar-supplied software):
One of the really cool things about this is the sampling rate -  it stores 120 samples total, so if you're exercising for an hour or less, you're getting at least 2 samples per minute (once you exceed 120 samples, the watch automatically averages previous samples and then reduces the sampling rate). Of course, if you wanted to be really cutting-edge, you could have bought the S610, which has/had room for 16,000 samples.

At any rate (no pun intended), eventually I tired of this game with the microphone, and bought a shiny new Suunto T4:
OK, so the great thing about Suunto is that they have a whole line of essentially universal accessories, which they call pods. There's a bike Pod, a cadence Pod, a GPS Pod, a PC Pod and a foot pod,  all of which will work wirelessly with most Suunto watches - except for the basic ones, as far as I know. I bought my T4 as a package with the GPS pod from theClymb.com at some ridiculous discount (if you want an invite, let me know and I'll hook you up :)). The GPS Pod allows the watch to monitor and store your actual speed. Unfortunately, the Finnish engineers must have been stoned out of their minds (or spent too much time in the sauna) when they designed this thing, because - get this - the GPS doesn't store position data. If there's anything more frivolous than designing a GPS device that doesn't even tell you your position, well - I'm sure it exists, but I ain't gonna buy it. This is somewhat akin to buying an iPhone for use as a pocket watch.

Luckily, however, someone even geekier than I has figured out how to hack the Suunto GPS so that it's actually useful as, you know, a GPS. I haven't actually done this yet, but it's now on my list of things-to-do.

So that gripe out of the way, how does the T4 do as a heart-rate monitor? For the most part, great! The display is big and easy to read, and having the bezel display bpms in graphical format is great for quick reference. Their "training effect" zones seem like a useful shortcut for judging workout intensity, and actually seem to have some physiological research behind them. You can also display past training logs in bar graph format on the watch itself, which is neat. Downloading data from the watch to the free supplied software (Training Manager Lite) is a snap (once you buy the PC Pod, that is). It's all wireless and takes just seconds.

But there's a downside. The logging on the T4 sucks:
That's all you get in the way of information from a 1-hour workout. Or any workout, for that matter. Your average heart rate and your peak heart rate (and, since I have the bike pod, your average speed and total distance). It doesn't store any heartrate samples. You can't tell when you were going uphill or downhill, when you were moving or when you were stopped, how long it took you to recover after an interval . . . pretty much useless, at least for a telemetry geek like me.

No, if you actually want to store beat-by-beat data, you have to step up to the Suunto T6 - which starts at $260. I managed to find one on eBay for somewhat less than that - I just don't have my hands on it yet. When it arrives, I'll report back.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Decoding the Family First platform

The Australian federal election is only a few days away, and that means that the public is being deluged with television and radio commercials, signs, billboards, and pamphlets in the mailbox. One that caught my eye recently was from the Family First Party - which, like many closet theocratic organizations, chooses to obscure their actual purpose with a meaningless platitude of a name (see also Family Research Council).

Let's decode their platform points:

“Family comes first”
Our starting point is that families come first. Families should be at the centre of our Australian way of life, not government bureaucracies. With the rising cost of living putting more and  more pressure on families they need more income to function properly and make ends meet.
Translation: Cut taxes.
“Who cares for Carers?”
Families care for the elderly, disabled, mentally unwell, unemployed, single parents and others who have fallen on hard times. Finances should be diverted from government bureaucracies to families.
Translation: Cut welfare.
“A home of your own”
We want to make sure you can own your home by the time you retire. Family First is committed to keeping the Great Australian Dream alive.
Translation: Screw the homeless.

“Choice in schooling”
A strong foundational education is critical in helping children achieve their potential and form values that will serve them for the whole of their lives. Parents increasingly choose to send their children to schools that reflect
the values that are important to them.

At Family First we are committed to choice in education. Accordingly, we support the introduction of educational vouchers allowing parents to spend the vouchers at whichever school they see fit.

We believe that both public and private schools must be adequately resourced to enable the delivery of high quality education and to ensure that the right of parents to choose is respected and supported.
Translation: teach creationism.
EMPLOYMENT - “Jobs, jobs, jobs”
People of all ages and abilities should have the opportunity to earn an income. We are committed
to removing the barriers to entry to getting a job or working more hours.
Translation: OK, I'm stumped on this one. Unless they're talking about child labour?

“Small Business”
Small businesses are family businesses. Family First is committed to getting the government off your back and out of your pocket.
Translation: Cut taxes, again.
Marriage is special”
Marriage is exclusively between a man and a woman. Family First is committed to promoting policies that support marriage and hold families together. 
Translation: Doesn't really need one, but obviously: no same-sex marriage.
“Life is precious”
Family First believes life is precious and is committed to healing, caring for and saving lives wherever possible - particularly the dignity and value of older people.
Translation: ban abortion.
"Drugs destroy lives"
Widespread illicit drug use is fuelling a plague of crime, violence and mental illness. Family First is committed to drug education, effective recovery programs and strong measures to punish those who trade in these toxic, life destroying substances.
Translation: Lock up potsmokers and throw away the key.

Friday, August 6, 2010

More context on Curry

In my previous post, I summarized the apparent meltdown of Judith Curry. In this post, I'll provide some more "historical" context by summarizing some relevant posts from Keith Kloor's Collide-a-scape.

Our story (for this post, anyway) begins over on Climate Audit on June 12, where Judith posted this comment (emphasis mine):

Michael Tobis has spend a lot of time here, he seems genuinely interested in what an “armistice” might look like. In order to understand the issues with the CRU emails, the broader hockey stick affair, and other issues of concern to the climateauditors, it takes alot of work to wade through all that stuff. It is much easier just to accept the spin from RC. I have slogged through this stuff sufficiently thoroughly on my owned to be convinced that there are some serious issues. Trying to figure all this out by wading through past CA posts is very difficult. I have found Montford’s book “The Hockey Stick Illusion” to be enormously helpful in this regard. Willis is sorting through “Only in it for the Gold,” which is good, but some sort of guide will help, it is very difficult to get the flavor and identify the most significant posts by cruising though past blog posts
As far as I can tell, Michael Tobis’ efforts here reflect an honest interest to bridge. Efforts on both sides to point to key posts and make arguments again (even though you’ve made them before somewhere else) is necessary for a productive dialogue
I guess all this makes me a “tone troll”, but from my perspective this has been a very interesting discussion with possibly some productive outcomes
Our story picks up at Collide-a-scape (again, emphasis added):
Steven, whether or not Montfort or McIntyre is “correct” in some sort of ultimate time will tell sense, I am not judging that.  I am saying that they put forth powerful arguments that are being dismissed.  Montford’s book is a serious one and an important contribution to the history of climate science, and it is receiving very good reviews.  It is being ignored by the climate establishment, see for example Gavin Schmidt’s comment at RC when i mentioned this book on the Comments on the Second CRU Inquiry Reports thread.   Has ANYONE supporting the IPCC and the consensus view read this?  If not, I would appreciate your not dismissing the book because of some ancillary statement about McIntyre or Montford that has no relevance to the substance of this book.  If you don’t want to read the book, McIntyre’s motives are very clearly stated in his recent Hearland Conference presentation.   McKittrick’s motives might be slightly more political, but attempts to identify any economic incentives from oil companies or whatever have failed (i can’t find the post on this at the moment.)
Steven Sullivan then asks (quoting Curry):
“Montford’s book is a serious one and an important contribution to the history of climate science, and it is receiving very good reviews.”
From whom?
Judith's response (egads, the Discovery Institute!?):
Re the “Hockey Stick Illusion,” here are some blogospheric reviews, not from identified “skeptics (as far as i can tell):
Seth’s Blog
NC Media Watch
Facts Plus Logic
Discovery News
Note also the reviews at Amazon.  The Amazon reviews pay tribute to how interesting and well written this is
So why hasn’t this been reviewed by any of the mainstream IPCC consensus types?

 Deltoid's Tim Lambert chimes in:
Judith says: “here are some blogospheric reviews, not from identified “skeptics (as far as i can tell):”  Except for the one at Klimazwiebel (where the author explicitly states that he is not writing a review) all of the reviewers (including Matt Ridley) are easily identified as skeptics.
As far as know, you are the only person not in the CA camp who has positive things to say about it.  I’m prepared to look at it on your recommendation, but don’t expect anything soon.
I’m surprised that you are unfamiliar with The Discovery Institute — I would take an endorsement from them as a sign that something is wrong with the book.
Slight tangent as Judy fawns over the book again (emphasis added):
So if you want to understand the ruckus, you need to understand all this, this book does a masterful job of explaining this whole issue in terms of the technical issues and the process violations in a very readable and compelling way. It will help you understand where McIntyre et al. are coming from and what their concerns are.
As I’ve said before, I don’t take everything in this book at face value, but I have not spotted any inaccuracies.  If this book is incorrect, it should be rebutted. Hasn’t happened so far, just snarky ad homs and irrelevant comments over at realclimate.
Note, the closest thing to a rebut is RC’s “Dummies Guide to the Hockey Stick Guide Controversy“written in 1995.  Montford’s account is far better argued and more compelling than the Dummies Guide.
So I am laying down the gauntlet, this really needs to discussed and rebutted by the paleo researchers and the IPCC defenders.
Tim Lambert, thank you for your intention to read this.
Still plugging the book:
Re what climate books to read, it all depends on what you have already read, what your perspective is, your interests, and your knowledge base.  With regards to my recommendation to read the “Hockey Stick Illusion,”  it is particularly relevant in terms of understanding the “ruckus” from the perspective of the “new skeptics,” i.e. citizen scientists engaged in the social computing movement.  I think it is particularly important for scientists and others supporting the IPCC consensus to read this book, to understand the source and nature of the “ruckus” and to challenge their beliefs and precepts about this whole debate.  For a newcomer to this whole issue, it is a good roadmap to this particular debate (i.e. hockeystick) but this is a very narrow slice of the overall climate science pie.
So how do people decide what to read?  Well, in the blogosphere, challenge yourself by reading a diversity blogs.  I understand the reluctance to fork out $$ to actually buy a book, let alone take the time to read it.  The Hockey Stick Illusion is pretty inexpensive.  For a “taste”, see Montford’s earlier essay on Caspar and the Jesus paper.

 Dhoghaza bringing us back on topic:
Judith Curry, do you even *look* at the sources you cite as “not being identified skeptics as far as you can tell”?

NC Media Watch

Five minutes at this guy’s site and I learn that he thinks climate science is a fraud, that NASA “makes up” climate data:

“Shock new evidence of a NASA scientist faking a fundamental greenhouse gas equation shames beleaguered space administration in new global warming fraud scandal.

Caught in the heat are NASA’s Dr. Judith Curry …”
Given that you believe this non-skeptic source to be objective and non-biased, I assume that you agree that you’ve been caught up in this scandal?
Judy falls back on a familiar tactic here - backpedaling:
Please don’t get sidetracked by the sites i listed for reviews of Montford’s book.  I have never heard of any of these other than Klimazweibel, and cited them since the authors of the reviews weren’t known skeptics (at least that I recognized).
Attack the source, attack the person, great reasoning strategy.
Dhoghaza calls her on it:
Judith Curry:
“Attack the source, attack the person, great reasoning strategy.”
You argue that favorable reviews by these people are evidence that Bishop Hill’s book is worth reading.
Rejecting a dominionist, creationist organization as being a credible source of information on scientific issues is perfectly reasonable.  Do you go to Answers in Genesis to learn about biology?

Likewise, NC Media Watch, beyond being authored by a skeptic, is authored by someone who believes all of climate science is fraudulent.  Including your work, apparently.  You really take a favorable review by this person as being evidence that Bishop Hill’s book is worth reading?
Sorry.  I have higher standards.

“Please don’t get sidetracked by the sites i listed for reviews of Montford’s book.  I have never heard of any of these other than Klimazweibel, and cited them since the authors of the reviews weren’t known skeptics (at least that I recognized).”
Now you’re suggesting that if you *had* recognized them as being skeptic sites (I’d use stronger words for the DI and NC Media Watch), that you would *not* have listed them.
Yet, you didn’t bother to spend the few moments in Google that would’ve been required to educate yourself in that regard.
Still in retreat:
dghoza, I am not interested in engaging with your “gotcha” attempts that are completely peripheral to any arguments of importance or relevance to what I guess is 99% of the people perusing this thread.

“Attack the source, attack the person, great reasoning strategy.”
You’re sloppy.  That’s not an attack, it’s a fact.
For instance, not long ago, you put forward Watts Up With That as being a credible source, for instance, and when it was pointed out to you that the site posts ridiculous misinformation (CO2 snow in antarctica, greenhouse effect doesn’t operate on Venus, etc), your excuse was that you hadn’t actually bothered to familiarize yourself with the site.
When asked to iterate those scientific points of interest brought forth at the Heartland Institute, you trotted out a list of stuff that’s mostly been debunked, after admitting that you’re not familiar with the details of much of the science being challenged.
Likewise the proxy stuff.  You say it makes your eyes glaze over, yet surely … surely … something important is being said by the denialist side and certainly their conclusions aren’t being accepted because of … “tribalism”.
And now this bit where you cite a source that accuses you of fraud!
Is it unreasonable for people to expect more of you?

“I am not interested in engaging with your “gotcha” attempts that are completely peripheral to any arguments of importance or relevance to what I guess is 99% of the people perusing this thread.”
Then what was your reason for posting those sites?  You were perfectly happy to have us “sidetracked” by them before it was pointed out to you that, um, perhaps they weren’t as unbiased as you wanted to believe.
And what is McIntyre and Climate Audit of not the crowning glory of “gotcha” attempts to discredit mainstream science?  You appear to adore their “gotchaisms”.
Alas, Curry is now on a new tack (sort of):
The Miskolczi paper is an interesting case.  There is very much to criticize in this paper, but he does make a few good points, particularly with regards to neglect of the virial theorem. Since it was published in a Hungarian journal with a minimal impact factor, mainstream scientists don’t want to bother with writing a formal reply to that journal.
There is some discussion (rather shallow, really) of this paper over atRabbett Run.  Hopefully somebody in the blogosphere will tackle this (e.g. Eli or scienceofdoom).
Note rebutting this is a much bigger job than replying to allegations made by Montford, which somebody could do in an afternoon if they were so inclined.
And, we're back:
Phil Clarke, re Montford’s book, I am primarily suggesting that people who want to understand the “ruckus” should actually read this book which provides the perspective of the skeptics.  The well argued allegations in this book, which are serious, should be refuted by the mainstream climate community involved in this research and the IPCC if they are in fact incorrect.  And if they are correct, there are serious problems with climate research and with the IPCC. As to whether someone just entering the fray and trying to understand the whole thing should actually purchase and read this book, well such a person will have to decide whether or not to read this based on what they have seen/heard about the book.  It would be counterproductive (not to mention very time consuming) for me to try to summarize all the allegations and evidence provided by Montford.  I hope that someone in the climate blogosphere will take this on, sounds like Tim Lambert actually intends to read it.  That fact that NO ONE from the mainstream climate community is commenting on this (other than a few people over at Klimazweibel) is telling, in my opinion; much of what Montford has written will not be easily refuted.

 So Montford's book - which, if we are to believe Dr. Curry - is so important that it demands attention from serious scientists, is simultaneously "not easily refuted" and rebuttable "in an afternoon"? It's too time-consuming for her to even summarize it - yet she later does exactly that in the Real Climate comments?

Next, after insisting that "it's the argument that counts" (not the source of funding), Curry then goes on to . . . attack the source of funding of climate scientists?
Tim 203:  Personal motives or the source of funding don’t particularly matter, its the argument that counts.  Stating your biases and source of funding, and providing documentation and data, should be sufficient to eliminate motive from consideration of the argument (the person examining the argument can reproduce or otherwise check the argument and dismiss any explicitly value laden statements).   The medical research field (with heavy funding from big pharma) has such guidelines in place.

Re government funding, libertarians often quote Eisenhower’s farewell address in 1961:
“Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers. 

The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present – and is gravely to be regarded. 
Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite. 
It is the task of statesmanship to mold, to balance, and to integrate these and other forces, new and old, within the principles of our democratic system – ever aiming toward the supreme goals of our free society. ”
Their concern is basically about a technochratic elite being increasingly granted priest-like powers over the laity.

There is an extra layer of concern however for something like the IPCC assessment report, which involves generating an overall integrative narrative and using expert opinion to assess confidence levels for the various conclusions.
The Penn lawyer Jason Johnson recently wrote:

“To use legal terms, is the work by the IPCC and establishment story lead scientists a legal brief – intended to persuade – or a legal memo – intended to objectively assess both sides?”
The deeply imbued belief by nearly all climate scientists participating in the IPCC assessment report seems to be reflected by Michael Tobis’ statement in #174 “. . .my insistence (along with most people who understand the situation) that the only reasonable target for net carbon emissions is zero and that vigorous pursuit of that goal is long overdue. . .”
How can a large group of scientists having such an insistence about policy be writing a legal memo and not a legal brief?  Whether they are consciously doing so or not?
Curry's next comments repeat some of the same errors that she later posted on Real Climate (I've bolded the important bit):
Tim, with regards to the North NRC Report, the supported at least of two of MM’s main points:  the PCA issue, and the bristlecone issue.  That is pretty hard to deny?  Both sides have spun the report to suit their agendas (RP Jr certaintly doesn’t have a dog in this fight, so his reaction was probably unbiased if not completely accurate).  I recall discussing the findings with a young paleoclimatologist right after the North Report was released, the paleoclimatologist thought the report was a “big blow.”  That was also an honest reaction. Since then, much spin.  But the end result of the North Report is that MM’s PCA and bristlecone critiques stand, and the 4th assessment report drew back substantially from the 3rd assessment report in its conclusions and confidence levels.

So the “vindication” seems to be of the following nature:  MM doesn’t really “matter”, the last half of the 20th century is likely the warmest in 400 years.   So exactly how does this vindicate MBH98,99, which said something very different, and “reject” MM, which pointed out errors that were fatal flaws to the analysis as far as i can tell?  Yes recent papers have improved the analysis (e.g. Wahl/Amman, Mann et al. 2008), but there are still issues, and these papers were not included in the North Report.

I bought the “consensus” vindication at the time, similar to RP Jr., but I no longer buy this interpretation.

Tim, the point is that when there are two credible arguments with opposite conclusions, then the science is highly uncertain, at the forefront of science, and confidence statements regarding one side of the argument at the “likely” or “very likely” level are inappropriate.

If you pay close attention to McIntyre’s arguments, the hockey stick has not been independently replicated, free of the centered PCA and the suspect tree ring proxies.  This is why Montford’s book is so useful, it helps sort through the arcane arguments McIntyre has been making, which are not well organized on his site.

But wait, there's more!

Robert #256, you ask a very interesting and important question, IMO.  When skeptical groups come up with lists of 17,000 (or whatever names) of scientists, many with Ph.D.s that do not believe in global warming, I used to feel justified in ignoring this “because they aren’t climate scientists,” and after all, nearly all (important) climate scientists agree with the consensus.  I no longer feel justified in ignoring this, and can recognize my former self-righteous tribalism for what it was.

“Elite” outsiders (academics from other fields) have much to contribute to the field of climate science and its assessment.  Not just from the perspective of the technical aspects (given the complexity and multi-disciplinary aspects of the field), but also from the “process” angles and the more philosophy of science angles.  Particularly with regards to the process angles, the social psychology of conducting something like an IPCC assessment needs investigating, we need help here not just from the social scientists but also from the lawyers.  How we run peer review and make our data available, acknowledge conflicts of interests, etc.  should be evaluated and assessed against the standards of other fields.  One of the reasons our field is losing respect from elite scientists in other fields is the postnormalism aspect of our field, where so many climate scientists find it impossible to separate the policy implications from the science.  Etc. Etc.  So I for one am listening, and would like to see more formal involvement of “elite outsiders” in the process, I think this recommendation is being made by a number of different people to the IPCC IAC.

Yes, that's right: Curry just invoked the OISM petition.

Monday, July 26, 2010

How the mighty have fallen

First, apologies for the absence of postings lately; I've been travelling for the past six weeks.

People who have been following the fallout of the so-called "Climategate" e-mail saga will no doubt recognize the name Judith Curry. Unlike many climate "skeptics", Curry has both bona fide climate science credentials and a strong publication record. Shortly after the theft of the Hadley CRU e-mails hit the denialist blogosphere like a tsunami, Curry jumped in with both feet on Steve McIntyre's ClimateAudit blog, opining that:
In my opinion, there are two broader issues raised by these emails that are impeding the public credibility of climate research: lack of transparency in climate data, and "tribalism" in some segments of the climate research community that is impeding peer review and the assessment process.

Her first point regarding transparency is certainly no more true of climate science than of any other aspect of scientific research; the same is true regarding "tribalism", and I have yet to see any indication that the existence of this so-called tribalism is so pervasive that it is somehow responsible for suppressing any legitimate dissent or criticism of climate science. In fact, some truly awful "skeptic" papers have made it through the peer-review process.

Lately, however (?) she's been playing the role of concern troll for the climate science community while skulking about in some of the darker corners of the Internet. Her comments on a recent RealClimate post illustrate just how far she has fallen (note that comments by Gavin Schmidt are in green) - it brings to mind the phrase "when you lie with dogs, you get up with fleas."
Judith Curry says:
JC’s grade for the review: C-
pros: well written, persuasive
cons: numerous factual errors and misrepresentations, failure to address many of the main points of the book
If anyone is seriously interested in a discussion on this book, I can see that RC isn’t the place, people elsewhere are already describing their posts not making it through moderation.
[Response: Grading on the Curry Curve perhaps?
Judith, the fact is that endless repetitions of allegations of corruption do not make them true. Really, do you think that collaborators having a 'purpose' is some terrible indictment of their research? Tamino has demonstrated clearly that Montford's book is full of errors and insinuations that have no basis in fact. And now you come along and tell us that, no those weren't the important bits at all, it's the other stuff. Which you still haven't actually described. You might find it amusing to play hunt the thimble, but excuse me if I find it a little tiresome. Please make your actual point. - gavin]
So Curry comes out swinging and makes a clear accusation that Tamino's review contains "numerous factual errors and misrepresentations". OK, so what are they?

Judith Curry says:
Once more people have read the book, and if Montford and McIntyre were welcomed to participate in the discussion, then I would be interested in participating in a more detailed discussion on this.
No answers here. 
Judith Curry says:
Although I am very busy at the moment trying to complete a paper before leaving on travel, my original drive-by is admittedly insufficient, so I am taking a few moments to clarify the weaknesses in Tamino’s review. Note, this is off the top of my head, I don’t have the HSI book with me.
First, Montford’s book clarifies three weaknesses in the paleoreconstructions, from MBH 98/99 through Mann et al 08. These include problems with tree rings, the centered PCA analysis, and the R2 issue.
[Response: Really? This is it? The PCA analysis is completely moot as has been shown in the literature Wahl and Amman (2007) and von Storch et al (2005) and above. And you think this is a big issue in 2010? Please. The 'R2' issue similarly - the NAS Chapter 9 deals with the issues there very clearly. The basic point is that when you get to the relatively sparse networks further back, the reconstructions don't have fidelity at the year-to-year variability. If that is something you care about (i.e. whether 1237 was warmer or cooler than 1238), then you are out of luck. If instead you are interested in whether the 13th Century was cooler than the 12th C, it's not the right metric to be using. And finally, 'tree rings'? A whole community is just dismissed in your mind? The community that actually pioneered community-wide data sharing in climate science? A community moreover in which the literature has openly dealt with the many issues that arise in dealing with the nature of trees and tree rings - they are the 'problem'? Again, really?
The points are even more bizarre when you actually look at the latest work that shows that reconstructions without tree rings or off-centre PCA give good reconstructions back centuries and that they aren't grossly different to the ones using tree rings. What more do you want? - gavin]
The tree ring issue is admittedly murky, but unless the dendro community becomes more objective in its analysis, tree rings will become irrelevant. The centered PCA and R2 issues are much more straightforward. The centered PCA is bad statistics, and just because no single significance test is objectively the best in all circumstances does not mean that you can cherry pick significance tests until you find one you like and ignore R2.
[Response: This is simply insulting. You have absolutely no evidence that this was the case. The RE/CE statistics are perfectly fine at describing what the authors thought were relevant and have a long history in that field (Fritts, 1976) and as we have seen the PCA issue is moot. The idea that people went looking for 'bad statistics' to fix their results is without merit whatsoever. Please withdraw that claim.]
The key points of Montford’s book that Tamino ignores are:
1. The high level of confidence ascribed to the hockey stick inferences in the IPCC TAR, based upon two very recent papers (MBH) that, while provocative and innovative, used new methods and found results that were counter to the prevailing views. Plus the iconic status that the hockey stick achieved in the TAR and Al Gore’s movie.
[Response: You are misreading the IPCC reports. The relevant claims in the SPM and Chapter 2 in TAR were that 'the increase in temperature in the 20th century is likely to have been the largest of any century during the past 1,000 years. It is also likely that, in the Northern Hemisphere, the 1990s was the warmest decade and 1998 the warmest year'. "Likely" in TAR speak was 66%-90% chance, thus better than 2 in 3, but not as good as 9 in 10. Your characterisation of 'prevailing views' is simply wrong - the paleo community had long been aware that the medieval period had been very heterogenous (Hughes and Diaz 1994 for instance) and that the peaks did not line up in different records. 'Likely' was the appropriate distinction for the 20th C warming being greater than any century-scale warming in 1000 years, since there wasn't (and isn't) any evidence to the contrary and plenty in support. The only issue that one could reasonably have is the statement about 1998 or the 1990s. Those claims were based on the fact that 1998 was by far the warmest year in the warmest decade in the instrumental record, but without direct evidence that other very warm years in perhaps not quite as warm decades did not match or exceed it. Thus I would have been happier if that part of the statement had been downgraded to 'more likely than not'.
In AR4, the relevant statement was: Average Northern Hemisphere temperatures during the second half of the 20th century were very likely higher than during any other 50-year period in the last 500 years and likely the highest in at least the past 1,300 years.. Thus the statement for the last 500 years has been strengthened (which is appropriate given the increase in multiple lines of evidence for that period), and the longer term statement has been lengthened to 1300 years at the same level of confidence as before. Again a reasonable and supportable position. The differences are in the characterisation of the 20C rate of warming, and mainly the highlighting of a specific year in a millennial context. Instead, there is Eleven of the last twelve years (1995–2006) rank among the 12 warmest years in the instrumental record of global surface temperature (since 1850), indicating a move towards a (correct) realisation that the relative warmth of individual years are harder to assess. In toto, I do not see this as a significant downgrading of the conclusions - you may disagree, but this is not the stuff of conspiracy theories.
In terms of 'iconic' status, showing the results in the SPM seems fair enough, but MBH are not to blame for how images get used or discussed in the media. At all times when the authors themselves were interviewed I have yet to see any statements that were not justified. And as for the AIT, the hockey stick only got a brief mention, and that was by mistake (he used the wrong panel from a Lonnie Thompson paper). This is irrelevant.]
2. The extreme difficulties that Steve McIntyre had in reproducing the MBH results. Any argument that defends these difficulties by saying that Steve McIntyre is incompetent or lacking in persistence is just plain counter to the evidence that Montford provides. Science needs to be reproducible. Period. And authors need to provide all of the data and metadata needed to reproduce the results, not just draft or incomplete datasets
[Response: Science is reproducible and this science was. Mann et al did not generate the underlying data themselves, they got it from public archives and from asking colleagues - and that was made public when the previously unpublished work was published. Wahl and Ammann replicated the code (as did McIntyre). There were minor errors in the data listing at Nature, but that was fixed when it was pointed out. Scientists are not obligated to hand-hold people trying to reproduce their results, especially when they have already gone public with a farrago of misstatements in non-peer-reviewed papers (try actually reading MM2003). However, you are making a big error in characterising the culture that existed in 1998. I guarantee I will not find complete public archives for every climate paper that appeared in Nature that year - are none of those papers 'science'? Nonsense. Replication is not about repetition- it's about finding new ways to address the same problem. Two ice cores are better than two teams measuring the same one.]
3. The NAS North et al. report found that the MBH conclusions and “likely” and “very likely” conclusions in the IPCC TAR report were unsupported at that those confidence levels. How the hockey team interpreted the North NAS report as vindicating MBH, seems strange indeed.
[Response: This is simply not true. There are no 'very likely' conclusions in the relevant sections of TAR (I quoted them above). The only thing they pointed out was in regards to the relative warmth of 1998 and the 1990s in the millennial context which I agree with. They did state with a 'high level of confidence that global mean surface temperature was higher during the last few decades of the 20th century than during any comparable period during the preceding four centuries' - this is equivalent to the strengthening of the statements made in AR4 concerning the last 500 years. They went on to say that the 'committee finds it plausible that the Northern Hemisphere was warmer during the last few decades of the 20th century than during any comparable period over the preceding millennium' - and in further questions, clarified that plausible was equivalent to 'likely' in IPCC-speak (i.e. less confidence than the statement about the last 500 years). The statement about 1998 and the 1990s was that "Even less confidence can be placed in the original conclusions by Mann et al. (1999) that “the 1990s are likely the warmest decade, and 1998 the warmest year, in at least a millennium” because the uncertainties inherent in temperature reconstructions for individual years and decades are larger than those for longer time periods and because not all of the available proxies record temperature information on such short timescales" which is true enough. Of course, now it is likely that the 2000s were the warmest decade.]
4. A direct consequence of the North NAS report is that the conclusions in the IPCC AR4 essentially retracted much of what was in the IPCC TAR regarding the paleo reconstructions. This is the only instance that I know of where the IPCC has reduced a confidence level or simply left out a conclusion that was in a previous IPCC report. This is discussed in the CRU emails.
[Response: Again, this is not true. AR4 did in no way 'essentially retract' much of what said in TAR - for anything substantial concerning the nature of late 20th C warmth the conclusions both in the NAS report and the AR4 report strengthened the TAR conclusions (see the statements above). Perhaps you think that the 'essential' thing is the position of 1998 as the single warmest year? Well, in that case I strongly disagree, this is not 'essential' in anything very much. Much more important in actually understanding the climate are the relations between forcings and responses both globally and spatially over this period, and none of that relies on rankings of individual years. And as for IPCC changing conclusions this has happened many times - Lindzen used to point to statements about upper tropospheric water vapour for instance that became less confident from the 1990, 1995 and 2001 reports, similarly uncertainty in aerosol indirect effects has clearly grown over time. ]
5. Even with this drawback in the AR4 conclusions and confidence level, somehow what was left was judged to hinge on the unpublished Wahl/Amman papers, one of which was having difficulty surviving peer review in GRL for a period of several years, and was finally pushed through quickly by Steve Schneider in Climate Change. IPCC deadlines were violated, and peer review in the context of the papers publication in Climate Change was a joke (all of this is described in the CRU emails). So all of these shenanigans to get these papers into the IPCC, papers that some have judged to have more methodological problems than the original MBH papers, have seriously degraded trust in the IPCC consensus, once this was illuminated in the CRU emails.
[Response: This is nonsense. The conclusions in the Wahl and Amman papers, and their published code had been public since 2005 so there was no doubt about their results. Steve Schneider was exceptional in many ways, but his journal is not the speediest in terms of turnaround of manuscripts. Weird editorial decisions with respect to the responses to the MM05 GRL paper also did not help. But the authors of the IPCC chapter knew full well that the their statement in the first draft about MM05 was not right - there weren't any unanswered questions about the impact of PCA centering on the results of MBH98. The WA07 paper was accepted in time for this to be cited (and it was an IPCC-wide decision to decide on the cutoffs, not Keith Briffa's) and it was (no IPCC deadlines were violated). If it hadn't been it would not have been the end of the world and I don't see how anything subsequently would have changed. McIntyre has had 5 years to write a comment or a new paper on the subject and he hasn't. As for Briffa talking to Wahl during the final drafting stage, I see nothing problematic with that in the slightest. The idea put forward by McIntyre and Montford that IPCC authors are supposed to sit in purdah while writing the reports has absolutely no basis in fact or in practice. Many people were talked to and many people made suggestions where their expertise was required. The fact is that the AR4 statements in the final version were more correct than in the first draft and that is something people should be happy about.]
6. The dependence of the various proxy reconstructions used in the AR4 on essentially the same datasets is described, it is difficult to judge these reconstructions as independent.
[Response: Long well-resolved paleo records are rare - I doubt that is a surprise to anyone. Should people not use what has been published to get the best characterisation of past climate change? Methods can be independent though, and since your earlier comments seem to revolve around methods, I don't quite get what point you are making.]
7. The Mann et al. 2008, which purports to address all the issues raised by MM and produce a range of different reconstructions using different methodologies, still do not include a single reconstruction that is free of questioned tree rings and centered PCA.
[Response: Absolutely untrue in all respects. No, really, have you even read these papers? There is no PCA data reduction step used in that paper at all. And this figure shows the difference between reconstructions without any tree ring data (dark and light blue) compared to the full reconstruction (black). (This is a modified figure from the SI in Mann et al (2008) to show the impact of removing 7 questionable proxies and tree ring data together). In addition, there are many papers that deal with issues raised by MM - Huybers (2005), von Storch et al, (2005), Rutherford et al (2005), Wahl and Amman (2007), Amman and Wahl (2007), Berger (2006) etc.
Judith, I implore you to do some work for yourself instead of just repeating things you read in blogs. (Hint, not everything on the Internet is reliable). ]
8. The divergence problem is clearly explained, including how the graphs in the IPCC report were misleading, and how the splicing of the historical records with the paleo records is misleading. I.e., the trick to hide the decline. Why should we have confidence in paleoproxies that show a temperate decrease in recent decades, in contrast to historical measurements?
[Response: The divergence problem is well known. And I absolutely disagree that the IPCC graphs are 'misleading'. How perchance were you misled? The picture on the 1999 WMO report cover has nothing to do with IPCC, and frankly was completely unknown until November last year. Yet an incomplete caption on a report that no-one knew about is the biggest scandal in climate science? Get real. I'm with Muir Russell on this one. There is nothing wrong per se in splicing records together to get a continuous series - for instance I have just done the exact same thing in creating a series of solar forcing functions for climate model runs - but these things should be clearly explained. The divergence issue is predominantly an issue for the tree ring density measurements (Briffa et al), and while there is some reason to think that is a unique phenomena, it remains unresolved. So, feel free to ignore the Briffa et al curve if you want. This is not a general issue and doesn't affect the MBH and Mann et al 2008 conclusions at all. ]
9. Finally, Montford asks the question as to why the scientists and the IPCC promoted the hockey stick at such a high confidence level so prematurely, and why such extraordinary efforts were made to defend it when it arguably isn’t a critical piece of the climate puzzle, rather than to learn from outside statisticians and do a credible error analysis on the data and the inferences.
[Response: Oh please. Why didn't the first multi-proxy paper deal with all issues and try all methodologies and come to all the conclusions? Because that is not the way science works. People try new things, issues arise, issues are dealt with and a more sophisticated understanding emerges. Some data is used, more data is gathered and more complete pictures arise. No single paper is ever perfect - and I'm sure if any of your papers (or mine for that matter) got the attention that has been payed to MBH98 there'd be all sorts of potential issues as well. But you are again overstating the conclusions of those early papers, and there have been no extraordinary efforts to defend them. It is quite the contrary, there have been many and multiple extraordinary attempts to discredit them (unless you think Congressional review is 'ordinary'). No-one is against efforts to learn from outside statisticians, that is just a strawman. People are against politically-driven hack jobs purporting to be analyses but that don't even bother to work out what the consequences of any different choices might be. All of the data in Mann et al (2008) is online, as is all the code - where are the outside statisticians who are clamouring to have their ideas heard? They are welcome to try and do a better job. ]
I’ve probably missed a few things, but those are the key points raised in the book that have stuck with me. I’ve tried to follow the debate by reading the journal articles and posts at both RC and CA. I was very frustrated in trying to sort all this out. Montford’s book sorted everything out into coherent, well argued and well documented arguments. There is a certain element of spin, so I wanted to see what RC had to say about all this. On the RC side, we have the outdated Dummies Guide to the Hockey Stick and Tamino’s review, plus the snarky replies to serious posters that include statistician Jean S. You need to do better than this to counter Montford’s book. Failing to do so will just push more people into the Montford/McIntyre corner of the ring. And how and why this issue has become so contentious and stayed so contentious is a serious issue in the field of climate science.
[Response: The reason this has become 'contentious' has nothing to do the MBH and everything to do with people not wanting climate change to be a problem. Icons that arise for whatever reason attract iconoclasts. Noise in the blogosphere does not correlate to seriousness in climate science. As your comments make abundantly clear, you have very little knowledge on this issue and have done no independent investigation of the wild claims being made. Yet the more smoke there is, the more you appear to want to blame MBH for the fire. A 'certain amount of spin'? Seeing conspiracies everywhere you look is not 'spin', it is paranoia. Real scientific controversies get resolved in the literature for the people who actually care about getting things right. For those that don't, continued repetition of long debunked talking points seems to be their only tactic. I, for one, am pretty tired of that and heartily bored of pointing them out.
The fact of the matter is that we are far beyond the point where people need to either s*** or get off the pot. Continuing to whine about what selection rules were used in a PCA analysis 12 years ago without coming up with any constructive alternative, continuing to complain about a centering convention that makes no difference whatsoever, continuing to moan about error analyses being inadequate without doing a single stitch of work to improve them... enough, already! Science moves forward because people do actual work. Nothing happens when people just sit in a room and [edit] complain about the state the world. The people who are actually publishing in this field are doing all of the things you seem to think are being ignored, while the people whose work you are reading are doing nothing but complain about how they are being ignored. I’m very confident about which group will make the most progress in future. – gavin]
  Aha! Some specifics. They're still wrong, but at least they're specifics!
Judith Curry says:
Gavin, the post I made in #167 was a summary of Montford’s book as closely as I can remember it, sort of a review. I did not particularly bring in my personal opinions into this, other than the framing of montford’s points. So asking me to retract a point made in a book in a review of that book is, well, pointless. your attempt to rebut my points are full of logical fallacies and arguing at points i didn’t make. As a result, Montford’s theses look even more convincing. Once you’e in a hole, you can try to climb out or keep digging. Well keep digging, Gavin. My final words: read the book.
[Response: Thanks for passing by. In future I will simply assume you are a conduit for untrue statements rather than their originator. And if we are offering advice, might I suggest that you actually engage your critical faculties before demanding that others waste their time rebutting nonsense. I, for one, have much better things to do. - gavin]
Er, ok? This isn't so much a backpedal as a "Look over there! A bird!"  Another commenter summarizes it succinctly:
dhogaza says:
I encourage people to read Judith Curry’s comment #185 two or three times.
My jaw drops closer to the floor on each re-reading.
Let’s see … since Dr. Curry was only regurgitating Montford’s arguments without stating that she agrees with them (bad news for Judith – the intranets are all hooked up like altogether like and you *have* supported his points elsewhere), Gavin’s responses are invalid because he addressed them to Judith rather than Montford.
Therefore Montford’s argument is strengthened. This is an ad hom argument – Judith attacks Gavin’s style, not substance, and without addressing a single factual point made by Gavin, claims victory for Montford as a result.
Meanwhile, though she insists she’s not stating whether or not she agrees with Montford’s points, she tells people “read the book”. Why, Judy, unless you think Montford’s claims are true?
Meanwhile my response to Judy … read your point #7. Then read Mann ‘08. Then re-read your point #7 and, if it’s still not clear to you why Montford’s lying, repeat until it sinks in.
Thank you.
 Such is the inanity of her response that many commenters are rightfully incredulous:
Doug Bostrom says:
Is there any way of knowing that Judith Curry actually authored the comment of 24 July 2010 at 7:43 AM? The author’s point #7 is so recklessly incorrect that I have a hard time believing somebody with a such a generally good reputation would commit a careless error of that type in public.
[edit - it is she. Further speculation is OT]

Neal J. King says:
Is the Judith Curry that has been posting on this topic actually the Judith Curry that is chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology?
It’s really hard to believe that someone in that position thinks that regurgitating conclusions from a book constitutes a “review”. The way I think about it, the term “review” implies that some critical intelligence has been applied to evaluate the significance and import of the book; which she states that she has NOT done. A “review” is not the same as a “summary”.
This entire sequence of postings reminds me of the zombie movie, “Night of the Living Dead”: Scientists are falling asleep and waking up as apologists for denialist blogs.
For shame, Judith! For shame!

Eli Rabett says:
To Peter Webster,
To repeat, Judith Curry first states that Tamino’s review contains (IN HER OWN WORDS) “numerous factual errors and misrepresentations, failure to address many of the main points of the book”.
Now some, not Eli, he hastens to add, would think that an eminent scientist, expert in closely related matters, making such an accusation would have an excellent grasp of the background material.
And indeed, when challenged Prof. Curry provides a list of many points, which most, not Eli, he hastens to add, would think were her views of what these factual errors are. Indeed, she characterized her actions by “so I am taking a few moments to clarify the weaknesses in Tamino’s review”
Yet, when challenged, Prof. Curry demurrs that none of these reflect her personal opinion but were rather points that Montford made in his book, on which, of course, she has no opinion, but since gavin and tamino chose to rag on the rich dish she put on their plate, why, of course, Montford must be right.
And, you, of course, chime in saying that Gavin was mean.
Sorry Peter, but that is a bit much. There comes a point at which the dissembling is no longer amusing, and Prof. Curry is rapidly approaching that point. Were Eli Gavin, which he is not, both hasten to add, he would not have withdrawn a word.

Jen says:
Heavens. As a Ga Tech grad from EAS (years before Judith Curry was there), I am embarrassed. This thread is simply distressing. I know Judy is an intelligent scientist – so this repetition of misinformation is simply baffling. I suspect she needs time to cool off and then will hopefully take time to (re)read the papers and reports. Perhaps she can post a retraction in the near future and try to repair some of the damage? Facts are facts are facts, and a careful, quiet analysis beats rhetoric every time.

Steve Metzler says:
This turns out to be the most… interesting thread I have read on RC to date. Wherein Judith Curry is caught out on regurgitating denialist trope without bothering to even cursorily verify the veracity of the claims, and turns out to be nothing but a tone troll. For the record, I already formed this opinion several months back from her last drive-by here.
I don’t expect this comment to make it through moderation. But it had to be said.
If for some reason this comment doesn’t die an electronic death, I’d like to bolster the argument that the MBH98 proxy reconstruction isn’t the only one out there by reminding people of this article:
Hey Ya! (mal)
Funny how, except from the borehole one which finds an increase of +1 deg C in the last 500 yrs, all the other proxies mysteriously arrive at an anomaly of around +0.7 deg C. Must be a conspiracy, huh?
jo abbess says:
I have been reading some of your replies to Judith Curry and I have to say I’m pleased at how polite, calm and informational you are being, in the face of what appears to be extreme provocation.
Despite vindication after vindication, and corroboration after corroboration of Michael Mann et al.s’ work, she appears to be unable to read a simple graph and accept the natural conclusions.
I keep asking myself, is she actually a real person ? And if she is for real, is she for real ? I mean, does she really believe what she is saying ?
If I had the chance to chat with Judith, I’d probably say something like “You’ve got to get some headspace for the blindingly obvious correlations and probabilities, follow the big ticket trends, and stop getting bogged down with spuriosities !”

Those who are expressing shock and dismay that Judith Curry is uncritically repeating long-debunked talking points and disinformation haven’t been following her comments elsewhere in the blogosphere, e.g. Collide-A-Scape. It’s become an unfortunate and oft-repeated pattern:
She regurgitates a claim made elsewhere by sources of dubious credibility without giving them even a cursory fact-check. She is subsequently shown refuting evidence and called out on it. She either ignores the criticism or claims that those rebutting the claims aren’t addressing the “real” issues, whichever they happen to be after the ones she raised initially are shot down. Rinse and repeat. She’s done this with claims by McIntyre, Pat Michaels, Montford to name a few.
And lest anyone believes that she’s been unnecessarily and unfairly persecuted merely for disagreeing with RC, the IPCC, etc., it seems to me that the majority of criticism being directed her way is intended to help her gain some modicum of awareness of her own patterns of behavior. Her actions are about as diametrically opposed to skepticism as I can imagine, and it’s more than a little sad to witness.

ScaredAmoeba says:
Re: Judith Curry @ 168 & 185
When a scientist makes false assertions such as yours: you discredit yourself; your university; and science itself. You should be deeply ashamed.

#168 Judith Curry
#190 dhogaza I second that.
Judith, just to clarify your stance. You are basing your ’scientific’ opinion on what you read at “both RC and CA”.
Have you, or have you not properly read the scientific papers related to your opinions as expressed?
If you have not, and as you have said, you’ve only “tried to follow the debate by reading journal articles and posts”, and I think “tried” is your operative word; then from a scientific point of view, are not then your opinions more in the ‘less likely’ or ‘very unlikely’ category of confidence, from an objective or qualitative argument perspective?
In other words, your perspectives on this matter seem to be more a part of the smoke, or shadows of the smoke? I wonder what Plato would say about your perspective. . . shadows generated by shadows that originated from shadow generators, that relied on shadows, not the light in the back of the cave?
#185 Judith Curry
Waste of time though it may be . . .
You’re saying Gavin is committing a logical fallacy in the very same paragraph you commit a huge factual fallacy?
YOU presented the POINTS as if they were YOUR opinion. To claim otherwise is to claim misrepresentation by inference.

That sound you heard was Judith Curry's credibility getting flushed down the toilet.

But you can't keep a good woman down:

Judith Curry says:
In case anyone has missed it, Steve McIntyre has posted on this issue over at climateaudit http://climateaudit.org/2010/07/25/the-team-defends-paleo-phrenology/. It would be interesting for RC to rebut McIntyre’s points, which are far more detailed and documented than the points i made in my review of Montford’s book.
One has to wonder at this point whether Curry is just McIntyre's press agent.

In the end, Dr. Curry picks up her ball and goes home. The vivisection continues over at Climate Progress.

Turns out I'm a day late here - Coby over at ScienceBlogs just posted about the same thing.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Scientific American falls prey to denialist memes

The May issue of Scientific American just landed in my mailbox, and an article in the "News Scan" section entitled "IPCC Errors Prompt a Review on Climate Science Data" caught my attention.

The opening sentence reads:
African crop yields wither, along with the Amazon rain forest; Himalayan glaciers disappear by 2035. These are the erroneous predictions ascribed to the most recent report from the UN IPCC [...] So do the few errors in a report exceeding 3,000 pages merit a revision of IPCC processes?
OK, fair enough - except that only one of the three predictions were actually "erroneous". The IPCC WG2 report said:
In other countries, additional risks that could be exacerbated by climate change include greater erosion, deficiencies in yields from rain-fed agriculture of up to 50% during the 2000-2020 period, and reductions in crop growth period (Agoumi, 2003). [...]However, not all changes in climate and climate variability will be negative, as agriculture and the growing seasons in certain areas (for example, parts of the Ethiopian highlands and parts of southern Africa such as Mozambique), may lengthen under climate change, due to a combination of increased temperature and rainfall changes (Thornton et al., 2006). Mild climate scenarios project further benefits across African croplands for irrigated and, especially, dryland farms.
As RealClimate reported, the only "scandal" here is that grey literature was referenced for the 50% claim. The figure isn't factually incorrect - as far as I know - and there's certainly no policy or rule that prevents the IPCC  (especially Working Group II, which focuses on climate change impacts on society and ecosystems) from using grey literature reports. Of course, that didn't prevent Jonathan Leake - perhaps the most inept (or dishonest) science reporter to still hold a job - over at the Sunday Times from turning this into "Africagate".

The second claimed error concerns the IPCC reporting that the Amazon rainforest could react rapidly to a drying climate:
Up to 40% of the Amazonian forests could react drastically to even a slight reduction in precipitation; this means that the tropical vegetation, hydrology and climate system in South America could change very rapidly to another steady state, not necessarily producing gradual changes between the current and the future situation (Rowell and Moore, 2000).
Again, the alleged scandal here is that the Rowell and Moore reference is gray literature (a WWF report). But is it wrong? No. The WWF report cited a 1999 Nature paper, and the author of that paper has confirmed that the figure is correct. RealClimate, Island of Doubt, and Deltoid discuss this in more detail.

To top it off, the SciAm article goes on to say:
. . . one of the IPCC errors came as a result of information provided directly by the Dutch government about the percentage of the Netherlands that lies below sea level and is therefore vulnerable to flooding from rising seas. The government corrected the percentage in a subsequent statement, from 55 to 26 percent of the country as lying below sea level. [emphasis added]
So let me get this straight: the Dutch government made the mistake, and somehow this is an IPCC error?

It's disappointing that a publication as reputable as Scientific American would uncritically repeat these denialist memes.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Volcanic Predictions

With the eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland, I'd like to make two predictions about the climate denial blogosphere:
1) If the dust and sulphur dioxide result in a global cool spell, climate denialists will once again proclaim the death of global warming.
2) If this year's Arctic ice melt demonstrates either a faster-than-usual rate of decline, and/or sets a new ice minimum record this September, climate denialists will chalk it up entirely to this eruption.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Connect the dots . . .

In earlier posts, I pointed out the parallels in tactics between the creationist movement and climate denial movement. Now you can add a third piece to the puzzle: anti-vaccination loonies.

The Discovery Institute, best known for its efforts to promote "Intelligent Design" as a "scientific" alternative to evolution, is not only on board with the climate denial movement - it's now throwing its hat in with the vaccines-cause-autism loonies.

Particularly telling is this paragraph, which was later removed:
Maybe the studies were valid. By all means, let's find out. In fact, a thorough and independent public investigation is imperative. Since the Center for Disease Control's money was involved, surely the CDC should not be the only body looking into this matter. Meanwhile, tell us again why scientists who dissent from the "consensus" in this scientific field, or any other, must be silenced.

Conspiracy. Money-hungry scientists. Cover-up. Consensus. It's all there.

Orac at ScienceBlogs has the full story.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Usual Suspects

I've put together a list of some of the "all-stars" of the climate denial movement, what their area of expertise is, and what their publication record is (if it exists at all). I've been fairly liberal in my inclusion of publications; although I've excluded comments on papers and articles in popular magazines such as Scientific American and New Scientist, I haven't excluded publications in fringe journals such as Energy and Environment; nor have I excluded climate-related publications in non-climate related publications such as the Journal of the American Medical Association (Singer) or the Pipeline and Gas Journal (Spencer). In Seitz's case, I may have overestimated the total number of publications, since there's another physicist named F. Seitz.

The methodology was pretty simple - just search Scopus for the following names as author (not just first author), weed out non-peer reviewed publications, comments, and responses to comments, then count-up how many publications remained, and how many of those actually pertained to climate science. I admit that I may have missed a few publications by not using other literature databases (like Web of Science), but this wasn't intended to be an exhaustive search. In some cases, a judgment call was required as to whether a publication counted as climate-related or not, but generally I gave them the benefit of the doubt and counted rather than discounted the paper if there was any uncertainty.

Name Affiliation Background Total # of Peer-Reviewed Publications # of Peer-reviewed Climatology Publications
David Bellamy NZ Climate Science Coalition Botanist 130
Bob Carter Institute of Public Affairs Geologist <60 11
John Coleman KUSI-TV Weatherman 0 0
Joe D'Aleo Science and Public Policy Institute Meteorologist 0 0
Richard Lindzen MIT Atmospheric Physicist 111 ~78
Bjorn Lomborg Copenhagen Consensus Political scientist 9 0
Stephen McIntyre Climate Audit Mathematician/Economist 2 22
Ross McKitrick Fraser Institute Economist 28 83
Patrick Michaels Cato Institute Environmental Scientist 55 0
Christopher Monckton Science and Public Policy Institute Journalist/Politician 0 0
Roger Pielke, Jr. Breakthrough Institute Political scientist 524 0
Roger Pielke, Sr. University of Colorado Mathematician/Meteorologist 3214 300+
Ian Plimer Institute of Public Affairs Mining Geologist 63 0
Fred Seitz (deceased) George C. Marshall Institute, Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, Science and Environmental Policy Project Physicist 1185 0
Fred Singer Science and Environmental Policy Project Physicist 1466 107
Roy Spencer Heartland Institute, George C. Marshall Institute Atmospheric Scientist 59 438
Anthony Watts WattsUpWithThat.com Weatherman 119

Key to colour codes:
Red: Denies that the earth is warming at all, and/or denies that carbon dioxide is linked to warming. Analogous to young-earth creationists.
Yellow: Admits that the earth is warming, but believes that it is a natural effect, or admits that some warming is due to human GHG emissions, but believes that the effect will either be positive or not worth worrying about. Alternatively, waffles between arguments that either admit or deny the human role in climate change.
Green: Admits that human GHG emissions are linked to rising temperatures but believes that the climate sensitivity is much lower than IPCC estimates and/or negative feedbacks will predominate. Somewhat analogous to intelligent design advocates (coincidentally - or perhaps not - Roy Spencer actually is an intelligent design advocate).

1 - Published in Energy & Environment - a journal of rather ill-repute, to put it kindly; it's not even listed in the ISI.
2 - Both of these were co-authored with Ross McKitrick.
3 - Six of the eight climate-related publications are in Energy & Environment
4 - Somewhat difficult to completely tease apart Pielke Jr. and Pielke Sr.'s publications since they not only have the same middle initial, they also share some institutional affiliations, and don't always specify Junior or Senior in the author list.
5 - Likely an overestimate; there's a German physicist by the same name.
6 - Singer's publication record takes a turn for the crazy around 1970, when his papers start opining on the issues of abortion, overpopulation, nuclear winter, sewage treatment, and ozone depletion.
7 - Including Energy & Environment, and the Journal of the American Medical Association (!).
8 - Of which, perhaps 3 actually have any bearing on human influence on the climate.
9 - This is being exceedingly generous, given that Watts was one of 39 authors in an Essay in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, which amounted to handwaving over the quality of the U.S. Historical Climatology Network (concerns which, as it turns out, were unfounded).

A few names stand out here on the basis of their publication record: Pielke (Sr.), Lindzen, and Spencer. I haven't filtered any of the climate-related publications to see how many of the papers actually contain a contrarian viewpoint, but it's safe to say that none of them are in any danger of overturning the fundamental principles of AGW, namely:
1) That CO2 is a greenhouse gas.
2) That CO2 concentrations are increasing because of human activity.
3) That global temperatures are increasing as a result.

Lindzen (and, to a lesser extent, Spencer) is basically betting the farm on his "iris hypothesis": that increased sea surface temperatures lead to a decrease in cloud cover, and thus an increasing in outgoing infrared radiation. Support for this hypothesis ranges from weak to equivocal.

Pielke Sr. is perhaps the most credible scientist on the whole list, and it should come as no surprise that he's also the least contrarian of the bunch. In fact, Pielke says the following:
Humans are significantly altering the global climate, but in a variety of diverse ways beyond the radiative effect of carbon dioxide. The IPCC assessments have been too conservative in recognizing the importance of these human climate forcings as they alter regional and global climate. These assessments have also not communicated the inability of the models to accurately forecast the spread of possibilities of future climate.
As I have summarized on the Climate Science weblog, humans activities do significantly alter the heat content of the climate system, although, based on the latest understanding, the radiative effect of CO2 has contributed, at most, only about 28% to the human-caused warming up to the present. The other 72% is still a result of human activities!
This relatively non-controversial position is reflected in his publications - none of which appear, at least upon cursory examination, to be paradigm-changing.

Spencer sort of nibbles around the edges, either by trying to poke holes in the satellite temperature record (which constitutes nearly all of his relevant publication record), or coming up with dubious estimates of climate sensitivity, which he does in less formal settings.

In summary, what does this table tell us? Several things:
1) The most extreme skeptics (akin to young-earth creationists) have no scientific credentials or credibility.
2) The Journal of the American Medical Association will apparently accept manuscripts on climatology. Who knew?
3) There's no apparent conspiracy to keep climate skeptics out of the literature, as evidenced by Lindzen, Pielke, and Spencer's publication records . . .
4) Unless you believe that the conspiracy has been successful at keeping the truly revolutionary papers out of the publication record altogether. If this is the case, the conspiracy has also been amazingly successful at preventing this information from being leaked through other channels.

In an upcoming post, I'll look at how incestuous the connections between these contrarians and the organizations they stump for actually are.