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Posts Tagged ‘national-academy-of-sciences’

Climate Skeptic Refutes Self, Confirms Antarctica Warming

Tue ,08/02/2011

If the ice on Antarctica melts, the oceans will rise several meters, inundating low islands and coastal regions.  There is a controversy about the rate at which Antarctica is warming.

The headline read “O’Donnell et al 2010 Refutes Steig et al 2009″. Wow! Steig’s work had been featured on the cover of Nature (1) when he found that over the last fifty years, the Antarctic had been getting warmer by 0.1 C per decade. I wanted to see how it was possible that Steig was wrong, but O’Donnell’s paper was nowhere to be found. My search led me to the Steve McIntyre’s ClimateAudit website. Yes, McIntyre claimed, a peer reviewed paper in J. Climate had refuted O’Donnell.  After wading through some verbiage about the failure of the scientific peer review process and the evils of “Climategate”, the truth emerged. McIntyre was one of the coauthors of the paper and had access to it, though it had not yet been published.

It is considered bad form among scientist to claim that your paper refutes another scientist’s. That is best left for other scientists to decide. It is even worse to do so before your paper is published. There is a prohibition in scientific ethics about making premature and exaggerated claims to the public. Apparently, McIntyre missed that, as he did the same thing in “Climategate” . He claimed the climate scientists were guilty of hiding data, not sharing their raw data, of colluding to keep skeptics from publishing, and of using the peer review process to keep skeptics from publishing. This is, for lack of a better name, the ” Twisted Science Theory”. Five investigations into “Climategate”  found no scientific misconduct. Apparently, McIntyre believes in getting his version of the facts “out there” before the truth can be discovered.

The Feud: But, did O’Donnell’s paper prove the Antarctic was not warming? No, not at all. The refutation claim is part of a running feud McIntyre has with Michael Mann, a coauthor of Steig’s paper. The dispute started much earlier when, after repeated complaints of scientific secrecy, Mann had released the raw data from one of his papers to Steve McIntyre. McIntyre recalculated the results and claimed to have refuted Mann’s work. McIntyre had a bit of trouble getting his work published in a peer-reviewed journal, but after much complaining, the Geophysical Research Letters finally published it. Shortly after its publication, Peter Huybers found McIntyre’s paper to have errors that, when corrected, led to results similar to Mann’s. That should have ended it, but the dispute became a political football when Congress intervened. Congress rejected the National Academy of Science’s offer to investigate the matter and instead chose Edward Wegman, a statistician from George Mason University. Wegman relied heavily on McIntyre’s work and opinions, he refused to answer scientists’ questions about his methods, and he produced a flawed report. Wegman is now himself under investigation by George Mason University for alleged plagiarism and improper research methods.

The Refutation: McIntyre should certainly get some credit for proving Sir Walter Scott’s “Tangled Web Theory”. However, by being a coauthor of a paper in a respected, peer reviewed journal, McIntyre has clearly refuted his own “Twisted Science Theory”. McIntyre’s involvement in O’Donnell’s work and his premature claims of “refutation” made me wonder if McIntyre might have introduced bias into O’Donnell’s methods. I contacted O’Donnell and asked about his funding, McIntyre’s role, and whether he considered his paper a refutation of Steig’s work.

The Scientific Controversy: O’Donnell was very honest and professional in answering my questions. He explained that the idea for the paper arose from a series of posts on McIntyre’s blog and the replies on RealClimate. He explained: “The paper would not likely have happened had I not been presented a challenge by both Dr. Steig and Dr. Gavin Schmidt at the RealClimate blog.” “None of the four of us have advanced degrees and none of our degrees are in the geosciences “. “Steve McIntyre’s function with respect to the paper was to ensure that, to the best of our ability, we made the best possible use of the available data”. The work did not have external funding and the authors contributed the work, the expenses, and even the page charges from their own pockets.

O’Donnell’s Reply was very diplomatic. Whether his paper could be considered a refutation or not, he said, depended on what you considered important about Steig’s work. The essence of his reply was:

” 1. If you consider the focus in Steig et al.’s abstract ‘Here we show that significant warming extends well beyond the Peninsula to cover most of West Antarctica, an area of warming much larger than previously reported’ – with the conclusion that the warming in West Antarctica cannot be solely explained by an increase in the circumpolar westerlies, then I feel that characterizations of either ‘refutation’ or ‘rebuttal’ are appropriate.

2.  If you consider the overall picture of Antarctica presented by Steig et al. to be the most important – e.g., overall positive trends, though not significant for East Antarctica or the continent, more warming in the Western half than the Eastern – then ‘improvement’ is appropriate.  One must exclude the seasonal analysis, however, as the seasonal differences between our paper and Steig et al. are both significant and physically important in terms of the dynamics driving Antarctic climate.

3.  If you consider the mathematical method used by Steig et al. to be the most important, then either ‘improvement’ or ‘rebuttal’ would be appropriate, though I would lean toward ‘improvement’.  There are two definite mathematical errors in the Steig analysis.  One of the errors has a negligible impact on the results; the impact of the other is significant.  However, the largest differences between the Steig et al. result and ours arise due to using objective criteria for parameter choices rather than heuristics.”

He continued,

“I always viewed the challenge as a friendly one (as, I believe, did Dr. Steig).  Dr. Steig was quite helpful in my email communication with him when we were attempting to exactly replicate his method.  Regardless of the language used by anyone, our paper is only important if it enhances the understanding of what has happened with Antarctic climate and prevents similar mathematical mistakes from being propagated.  In terms of the larger picture, the characterization of ‘refutation’ or ‘improvement’ is less important than the question of whether our paper has made a contribution.”

Steig’s Reply: Now that O’Donnell’s paper has been published (2), Eric Steig has posted an analysis of O’Donnell’s paper on RealClimate (3). He explained the differences in the two paper’s methods, gave credit where he thought O’Donnell had improved on his work, and explained where he thought O’Donnell was in error. His evaluation of the work was summed up in his statement:

” As one would expect of a peer-reviewed paper, those obviously unsupportable claims found in the original blog posts are absent, and in my view O’Donnell et al. is a perfectly acceptable addition to the literature. O’Donnell et al. suggest several improvements to the methodology we used, most of which I agree with in principle. “

Antarctica Is Warming: This reasoned debate stands in sharp contrast to McIntyre’s assertions. The exchange between O’Donnell and Steig is an excellent example of the kind of open academic debate that underlies every significant research conclusion in science. I would not consider O’Donnell’s paper a refutation, but an addition to our understanding. The significant point to me, and they both seem to agree, is that Antarctica, the coldest place on Earth, is warming.

(1) http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v457/n7228/full/nature07669.html

(2) http://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/abs/10.1175/2010JCLI3656.1

(3) http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2011/02/west-antarctica-still-warming-2/

V   Share this.        (C) 2011 J.C. Moore

Have Republicans Abandoned Conservative Values?

Wed ,01/09/2010

The truth is that conservation and environmental stewardship are core conservative values.

It is hard to imagine how someone can be considered a Conservative if they don’t want to conserve the most important thing we have, the environment. They claim that they actually do, but not just now, not in that way, or not if it might cost a little. They also try to perpetuate the myth that conservation and environmental protection are liberal causes to justify their opposition. The truth is that conservation and environmental stewardship are core conservative values. (1)

It is even harder to imagine why the Republican Party would embrace the ideals and arguments of those non-conservationists. Our past Republican leaders have been strong advocates for environmental stewardship and they were responsible for enacting some of our most significant environmental legislation. (2)

Theodore Roosevelt believed that conservation was essential for keeping America strong and he was responsible for the permanent preservation of many of the unique natural resources of the United States. As he said,

“To waste, to destroy, our natural resources … will result in undermining in the days of our children the very prosperity

Dwight Eisenhower was the first President to be so taken by the beauty of the arctic wilderness that he set aside 9 million acres as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to be protected  for future generations. The Refuge remains as one of the most pristine wilderness areas in the United States.
Richard Nixon enacted many of the nation’s landmark environmental laws, which he saw as a means of unifying the nation. The EPA was created under Nixon’s leadership. According to Nixon:

“Clean air, clean water, open spaces — these should once again be the birthright of every American.” “…we must strike a balance so that the protection of our irreplaceable heritage becomes as important as its use. The price of economic growth need not and will not be deterioration in the quality of our lives and our surroundings.”

Barry Goldwater, dubbed “Mr. Conservative”, was a gifted photographer who produced beautiful pictures illustrating his beloved Arizona landscape. He put his finger on it when he said :

“While I am a great believer in the free enterprise system and all that it entails, I am an even stronger believer in the right of our people to live in a clean and pollution-free environment.”

Ronald Reagan signed 43 bills preserving a total of 10.6 million acres of wilderness. He was instrumental in U.S. ratification of the Montreal Protocol — which dramatically reduced depletion of the upper atmosphere’s protective ozone layer. He developed a cap-and–trade system that prevented our acid rain form blowing into Canada that cost much less than even the government estimated. As he communicated:

“If we’ve learned any lessons during the past few decades, perhaps the most important is that preservation of our environment is not a partisan challenge; it’s common sense. Our physical health, our social happiness, and our economic well-being will be sustained only by all of us working in partnership as thoughtful, effective stewards of our natural resources.” “I’m proud of having been one of the first to recognize that states and the federal government have a duty to protect our natural resources from the damaging effects of pollution that can accompany industrial development.”

John McCain during his 2008 presidential campaign, proposed a pragmatic national energy policy based upon good stewardship, good science, and reasonableness. He cosponsored cap-and-trade bills in the Senate in 2003, 2005, and 2007 and, as he said then,

“A cap-and-trade policy will send a signal that will be heard and welcomed all across the American economy. And the highest rewards will go to those who make the smartest, safest, most responsible choices.” And he was right. Having to pay the true cost of fossil fuel use is fair and would create incentives for renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Cap-and-trade was once considered to be the market solution to reducing carbon emissions. When popular, a number of key Republicans, such as Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN), Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) went on record as endorsing the policy. Even Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA), only two years ago, while supporting a version of a cap-and-trade bill in the Massachusetts legislature said:

“Reducing carbon dioxide emission in Massachusetts has long been a priority of mine. Passing this legislation is an important step … towards improving our environment.” (3)

Costs: But somewhere amid lobbying, big donations from power companies, and criticisms from so called conservatives who don’t really want to conserve much, the Republicans have backed off the cap-and-trade concept. They are now claiming it would cost each U.S. household $3,100 a year, a cost that has great sticker shock but is totally inaccurate. Dr. John Reilly, the MIT economist whose work was used to get that number, has criticized Republicans for distorting his work. (4) The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the cost of the cap-and-trade program in 2020 would average about $175 per household (5) and estimates are that associated savings would reduce the federal deficit by about $19 billion over the next decade. (6). A recent report by the National Academy of Sciences details the high economic costs of inadequate environmental legislation, such as reduced streamflow, rainfall, and crop yields (7). Estimates by the World’s top economists such as Britain’s Nicholas Stern (8) are that right now it would cost about 2% of the worlds GDP to mitigate environmental damage – but if delayed, that amount could rise to 20% or more of the world’s GDP by 2050 and put us at risk of an environmental catastrophe.

The misinformation, the damage to the environment, and waste that would be caused by not acting should alarm traditional Republicans. However, according to the Republicans for Environmental Protection, the GOP establishment has lost sight of its

“core conservative values, largely due to the influence of corporate lobbies and political leaders beholden to them for campaign support, and in opposition of the willingness of populist Democrats to embrace environmental protection. The result has been a polarizing battle that is not at all about the advance of conservative principles, but rather the advance of special interest political agendas.” (1)

(1) http://www.rep.org/index.html Republicans concerned about the environment may wish to check out this Republicans for Environmental Protection website.
(2) The quotes below came from http://www.conservamerica.org/quotes.html
(3) http://www.grist.org/article/2010-06-29-remember-when-republicans-liked-cap-and-trade/
(4) http://flavcountry.blogspot.com/2009/05/mit-economist-john-reilly-calls.html
(5) http://cboblog.cbo.gov/?p=300
(6) http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/38130006/ns/politics-capitol_hill/
(7) http://www.denverpost.com/headlines/ci_15536630
(8) http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTINDONESIA/Resources/226271-1170911056314/3428109-1174614780539/SternReviewEng.pdf

The Republican Flip/Flop on Cap-and-Trade

Thu ,22/07/2010

A Winning Flip: I can remember when Republicans liked Cap-and-trade. (1) For instance, John McCain cosponsored cap-and-trade bills in the Senate in 2003, 2005, and 2007 and, during his 2008 presidential campaign, proposed a pragmatic national energy policy based upon good stewardship, good science, and reasonableness. As he said then,

“A cap-and-trade policy will send a signal that will be heard and welcomed all across the American economy. And the highest rewards will go to those who make the smartest, safest, most responsible choices.”

And he was right. Having to pay the true cost of fossil fuel use is fair and would create incentives for renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Cap-and-trade was once considered to be the market solution to reducing carbon emissions. While popular, a number of key Republicans, such as Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) went on record as endorsing the policy. Even Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), only two years ago, while supporting a version of a cap-and-trade bill in the Massachusetts legislature said:

”Reducing carbon dioxide emission in Massachusetts has long been a priority of mine. Passing this legislation is an important step … towards improving our environment.”

But somewhere amid lobbying, big donations from power companies, and criticisms from so called conservatives who don’t really want to conserve much, the Republicans are now calling it cap-and-tax, essentially making fun of what was once their own idea.

The Sticker Shock Distortion Flop: In an effort to kill the bill, Republicans such as Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) are now claiming cap-and-trade would cost each U.S. households about $3,100 a year, a cost that has considerable sticker shock. However, that number was fabricated by doing some misleading  additional math on a MIT study. Dr. John Reilly, the economist who authored the study, has criticized Republicans for distorting his work. In his words,

“It’s just wrong, It’s wrong in so many ways it’s hard to begin.” Not only is it wrong, but he said he told the House Republicans it was wrong when they asked him. “That’s just not how economists calculate the cost of a tax proposal”, Reilly said. “The tax might push the price of carbon-based fuels up a bit, but other results of a cap-and-trade program, such as increased conservation and more competition from other fuel sources, would put downward pressure on prices.” Moreover, he said, consumers would get some of the tax back from the government in some form. (2)

What Is the Uninflated Cost? The report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the entity responsible for providing Congress with nonpartisan analyses of economic and budget issues, estimates that the net annual economywide cost of the cap-and-trade program in 2020 would be $22 billion—or an average of about $175 per household. That figure includes the cost of restructuring the production and use of energy but it does not include the economic benefits and other benefits of the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and the associated slowing of climate change. Households in the lowest income bracket would see an average net benefit of about $40 in 2020 while those in the highest bracket would see a net cost of $245. Overall, net costs would average 0.2 percent of households’ after-tax income. (3) That doesn’t seem so bad, particularly as the CBO experts also estimate the climate and energy bill now stalled in the Senate would reduce the federal deficit by about $19 billion over the next decade. (4)

The High Cost of Doing Nothing: The cost of doing nothing may be unacceptably high in the long run because of resource scarcity, environmental damage, and the risk of reachng catastrophic tipping points. A recent report by the National Academy of Sciences details the high economic costs of reduced streamflow, rainfall, and crop yields (5). Estimates by the World’s top economists such as Britain’s Nicholas Stern (6) or the US’s Paul Krugman (7) are that right now it would cost about 2% of the worlds GDP to mitigate environmental damage – but if delayed, that amount could rise to 20% or more of the world’s GDP and put us at risk of an environmental catastrophe.

A Flip is Needed: What is it worth to have clean air, clean water, a more sustainable economy, and a less risky future? Can we risk doing nothing? We need a flip by our Republican leaders.

(1) http://www.grist.org/article/2010-06-29-remember-when-republicans-liked-cap-and-trade/

(2) http://flavcountry.blogspot.com/2009/05/mit-economist-john-reilly-calls.html

(3) http://cboblog.cbo.gov/?p=300

(4) http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/38130006/ns/politics-capitol_hill/

(5) http://www.denverpost.com/headlines/ci_15536630

(6)   http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTINDONESIA/Resources/226271-1170911056314/3428109-1174614780539/SternReviewEng.pdf

(7)  http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/11/magazine/11Economy-t.html

The Oregon Petition: Can 31,000 Scientists Be Wrong?

Fri ,29/01/2010

Supposedly, 31,000 outraged scientists have signed the Oregon Petition, which says that a reduction in carbon dioxide “would harm the environment, hinder the advance of science and technology, and damage the health and welfare of mankind”. (1) That is an impressive sounding number of scientists, but considering there are 23 million scientists and engineers in the U.S., that is 0.13% of them – a mere drop in the bucket. Moreover, many of those who signed were misled and many were not scientists at all.

Who circulated the petition? The Petition Project was sponsored by the little known Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine (OISM), founded by Arthur B. Robinson. Dr. Robinson was the author the infamous 1997 Wall Street Journal article headlined “Science Has Spoken: Global Warming Is a Myth” The article turned out to be a hoax. (2) Dr. Robinson was aided by Dr. Frederick Seitz, a former president of the National Academy of Science. However in the 70’s , Dr Seitz abandoned science and became a consultant to the tobacco industry. In spite of 45 million dollars of tobacco funded research, he couldn’t seem to find any link between smoking and cancer. When asked about the moral implication of taking money and shilling for big tobacco, Seitz stated, any money was good ” …as long as it’s green. I’m not quite clear about this moralistic issue.” (3)

Were all the signers scientists? In 1998, the Petition and a packet of materials was sent to thousands of Bachelor of Science students in Universities across the U.S. The packet included a copy of “Science Has Spoken: Global Warming Is a Myth”, a letter from Dr. Seitz urging action, and a supposedly “peer reviewed scientific article” claiming “increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide have no deleterious effects upon global climate”. The mailing collected 17,000 signatures. However, many of the “scientists” who signed were undergraduate students in Bachelor of Science (BS) programs. As well the sciences, one may get a BS degree in fields such as journalism, sociology, education, philosophy …. (4)

Were the materials misleading? Dr. Seitz identified himself in his letter as the past president of the NAS but did not mention his stint with the tobacco industry. The “peer reviewed scientific article” had been published in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, a journal that often publishes articles in conflict with mainstream medical opinion and certainly not a place where one would publish climatology articles. The paper had been “peer reviewed” by a board at the OISM, not by a legitimate science organization. The paper was formatted to look as if it was from the National Academy of Sciences Proceedings, which it was not. The NAS quickly responded saying the article did not come from the NAS, it had not been peer reviewed, and that “the petition does not reflect the conclusions of expert reports of the Academy.”

What about the other signatures? After the initial mailing, the Petition gained an additional 14,000 or so signature over the next ten years. The petition was on the OISM website for a time and could be signed without any form of verification. After numerous complaints about the authenticity of signatures, the OISM took the Petition off its website and is now sending the materials and a copy of the petition upon request. The site lists 35 of the signers as climatologists. However, a recent survey of scientists found: ” The strongest consensus on the causes of global warming came from climatologists who are active in climate research, with 97 percent agreeing humans play a role.” (5)

(1) http://www.oism.org
(2) http://que2646.newsvine.com/_news/2009/09/30/3334579-the-global-warming-is-a-myth-hoax
(3) http://selections.rockefeller.edu/cms/science-and-society/frederick-seitz.html
(4) http://www.sierraclub.ca/national/postings/climate-skeptic-response.html
(5) http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/americas/01/19/eco.globalwarmingsurvey/index.html