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Nov 01, 2012

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Dan Anderson-Little

Mike,

I agree that this is a problem--we use scientific data to support our agendas and use emotion when data doesn't necessarily line up. One of the issues that we must all do a better job with is discriminating between what is data and what is propaganda. An example: a little over a week ago you had a post that about why climate change hasn't been an issue in this presidential campaign. You suggested that because there hasn't been much movement in the data, people don't feel like there is urgency. You then linked to an article from the conservative Daily Mail in England citing an inconvenient truth about stable global temperatures. Because the article didn't sound right to me, I forwarded to a friend who is an earth scientist at a major research university (his specialty is seismology not climate, but he is widely read on the subject of global climate change). He stated that the article in the Daily Mail is simply wrong: This is an old approach. Doctor the data to fool people. High temperature records have been breaking all over the place. The decade from 1995 to 2005 showed the highest increases in global temperatures EVER. The last few years have continued that pattern. Please look at any one of a large number of National Research Council documents on this (the NRC is the face of the National Academy of Sciences). This is so clearly a hoax/fraud - the curve doesn't match any of the many, many global temperature curves that have been produced by reputable organizations. So sourcing is vital and agreeing on what is valid science and what is not is also vital.

The other issue is that we need to realize that we are not always arguing about the same things. Take nuclear power. Certainly, it is cleaner than fossil fuels--that is good for the environment; but there is also the terrible problem of nuclear waste. Our nation alone has veritable cesspools of nuclear waste waiting for more permanent storage--with no viable solution in sight. I think that is part of what disturbs some environmentalists--it does me. This is not to say that we shouldn't have nuclear power (too late for that regardless of what we think), but I do think that oftentimes different people think they are debating the same thing when in reality they are not. And to be sure, there is a strong streak of the value of being "natural" which can dominate our thinking and believing and create a lot of fuzzy thinking.

Now that I think about it, I think the bigger issue is that we can't agree what science is and what it is for. It is amazing to me that we still have debates about evolution and creationism. One is science-based (or is it ;-) ) and the other is faith-based (or is it ;-) ). Or GM foods are killing us or GM foods are saving us. We can't even agree what is science and what is feeling. And when there is power, influence and money at stake, I wonder how far we will ever get.

Thanks for another provocative post.

Dan

Michael W. Kruse

Dan, you raise a number of important issues here.

First, sources. There are no objective sources, especially when it comes to news reporting. Prior to the early 20th Century we had newspapers like Waterbury, CT’s, “Republican American” or Rochester, NY’s, “Democrat and Chronicle.” There was no pretention of journalistic impartiality. The informed person read from different newspapers. With 20th Century consolidation of the newspaper industry, the monopoly of radio/TV networks, and Modernist mythology about being able to objectively identify truth and report it. The mythology of having a central objective authority has collapsed and we now have, IMO, a more healthy opportunity to learn from competing sources. All that is to say that I am conscious of the perspective of sources I use and I do try to check them out before I use them, but I do not dismiss any source out of hand simply because it is has an obvious. I look at the merits of the story.

Second the Global Mail story. Here is the link:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2220722/Global-warming-The-Mail-Sunday-answers-world-warming-not.html

Part of the confusion here is semantics. It is possible both of the following two things to be true:
A. The earth has not warmed for the past 16 years.
B. Global warming is underway.

The concern is about global warming over the long term … over decades. The earth warmed over the 20th Century but there were three 10-20 year periods where temperatures declined. One was during the 1960s and 1970s leading some to worry about a coming ice age. Had you asked anyone at those times if the earth was warming they would have said no and been correct. But long-term global warming was occurring. What irritated Met Office was the Global Mail reporter saying the Met Office report of data showing “A” above meant that “B” was no longer true. Met Office insists the plateau is temporary.

Here is the graph from the Met Office Hadley Center using their HadCrut 4 data. It is the same data used for the Global Mail article (though the article appears to have used monthly data instead of annual as in this graph.)

http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/hadobs/hadcrut4/diagnostics.html

I couldn’t find a graph by the National Research Council but here is the graph from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA):

http://www.krusekronicle.com/Global-and-land-mean-temperatures-January-through-December.png

Hadley and NOAA are the two most widely used temp data sources I know of. The end of the graphs show that warming has plateaued, confirming the claim made in the article.

Here is the controversy the article raised. The Met Office site had said that periods of 15 years without warming were highly unlikely based on computer models. Dr. Judith Curry (“ … a former US National Research Council Climate Research Committee member and the author of more than 190 peer-reviewed papers.”) is raising the question that if there has now been sixteen years without warming, what does this mean for the models? Climate scientists insist several natural events have developed that have temporarily halted warming. That prompts Curry to ask how good the models are if they ruled unlikely recent natural events. That isn’t a repudiation of long-term warming on her part but part of the scientific back and forth to continuous improvement of their work. Meanwhile, I’m sure the Global Mail wants this to mean that long-term global warming is erroneous. But the article itself refutes that making that kind of definitive statement is warranted.

So here is my response to your friend’s response:

“He stated that the article in the Daily Mail is simply wrong.”

If by this he means that the attempt to say that the sixteen year plateau is definitive evidence that long-term global warming models are wrong, then I would agree.

“This is an old approach. Doctor the data to fool people.”

The data is from the Met Office Hadley Center. They don’t dispute the data. They dispute the inference.

“The decade from 1995 to 2005 showed the highest increases in global temperatures EVER.”

True. It is also true that 1995 was an outlier year with uncharacteristically cool temps while 1994 and 1996 were both much warmer. But even with either of those beginning years the global temps warmed by 2005. But 2005 was seven years ago. The debate was about the last sixteen years based on predictions made at that time.

“The last few years have continued that pattern. Please look at any one of a large number of National Research Council documents on this (the NRC is the face of the National Academy of Sciences). This is so clearly a hoax/fraud - the curve doesn't match any of the many, many global temperature curves that have been produced by reputable organizations. So sourcing is vital and agreeing on what is valid science and what is not is also vital.”

Only 2010 was warmer than 2005. http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/news/releases/archive/2012/hadcrut-updates Data to date does not suggest that this year will be warmer. If someone can point me to NRC data that would contradict this I would welcome it. I couldn’t find readily in google.

In the post you are referencing, I wrote:

“First, recent reports that there has been no significant warming in the past sixteen years (The REALLY inconvenient truths about global warming) decreases a sense of urgency. A plateau doesn't necessarily invalidate climate change models (as models have never predicted a linear ascent) but it can dissipate a sense of urgency.”

I stand 100% behind that statement.

So here is my push back concern. The article I referenced came from the Global Mail. They clearly have a political slant. That gives us pause. It should. Our b s detector should be in full gear. But using our b s detector is not the same as reflexive dismissal of an article because it comes from a source that may be contrary to our general outlook. I think your friend has done that here. I did not link this article without reflection and some background checking. I don’t always get it right but I think in this case the story illustrates well the point I was making.

As to nuclear, I understand the concerns about waste. There have been three generations of nuclear technology. A fourth is in development. Third generation offers significant improvement in efficiency and safety over Gen 2 plants, like the one at Fukushima. As the brief article at Wikipedia says, Gen 4 will offer:

Nuclear waste that remains radioactive for a few centuries instead of millennia
100-300 times more energy yield from the same amount of nuclear fuel
The ability to consume existing nuclear waste in the production of electricity
Improved operating safety

It is still 10-20 years away. Who knows what will happen as more decades of research unfold. If we are to embrace the worst scenarios of climate change prediction, then it seems to me that nuclear is a far less troublesome path.

Dan, I’m not sure the issue is that we can’t agree on what science so much as it is about how it connects to public policy. And this goes back to my post on October 29th

http://www.krusekronicle.com/kruse_kronicle/2012/10/The science of predicting the future

Anyway, that is probably far more than you wanted but there it is. Thanks for asking such probing questions!

Dan Anderson-Little

I love this blog! Thanks Mike!

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