Monday, September 17, 2007

Russ Steele sits on uncomfortable comment

On Saturday I commented on this post by Russ Steele; he'd posted graphs purporting to demonstrate that there's no warming trend. Two days later my comment has still not shown up; it turns out Russ a) wants to think about how to answer it and b) is real busy, although not too busy to publish multiple posts on other matters in the meantime.

His reluctance is understandable; here, roughly, is the comment:

In case anyone wants to know what it is that Russ is showing graphs of here
(Russ, if you're trying to educate your readers rather than snow them, explaining what's being measured will help)

The upper, original graph - with the red dots marking El Nino events - is of Spencer and Christy's ("UAH") dataset for Middle Troposphere("MT") atmospheric temperature over time. (Of 3 research groups using different analyses to measure the middle troposphere, the trend S&C get is the smallest, although still showing warming over time.)

What you should know about this graph of the UAH data:
1. The presentation is misleading - it's designed to emphasize "noise" rather than "signal". It obscures the upward trend in temperature by stretching out the X (time) axis relative to the Y (temp.) axis, and by failing to provide a best-fit (regression?) line to show the trend, which is a warming trend.
2. The dataset itself has a bias. The UAH Middle Troposphere measurements (and trend) are 'contaminated' by contributions from the stratosphere, which is (known and expected to be; ozone depletion plays a role) cooling. Thus the MT actual warming trend is likely steeper than this dataset shows.
(from here: "The University of Washington (UW) versions of the UAH and RSS analyses attempt to remove the stratospheric influence from the mid-troposphere measurements, and as a result the UW versions tend to have a larger warming trend than either the UAH or RSS versions.")

Next graphs:

The four lower graphs are of:
TLT = Temperature of Lower Troposphere (closer to ground)
TMT = Temperature of Middle Troposphere (higher up)
TTS = Temperature of Troposphere / Stratosphere (still higher up)
TLS = Temperature of Lower Stratosphere (still higher up)

Note that the trend for the TLT and the TMT is upward (showing warming), despite Russ's creativity with the red pen on the TLT (temperature of lower troposphere) chart. I think that's against the rules, Russ; it's certainly unusual, and inconsistent with how the other data in same graph are treated.

As mentioned above, the stratosphere (layer furthest from the earth) is cooling, and not germane to global warming, so the TTS and TLS graphs don't tell us anything relevant.

In his use of the first (red-dots") chart, Russ
a) doesn't tell you what his graph is of;
b) fails to mention in text or show on the graph that in fact the data do show a warming trend;
c) has cherry picked the mid-troposphere data (choosing to show mid-troposphere rather than the more accurate (and more warming) lower troposphere data, and further, choosing to show the UAH data, not the RSS or the UW versions which show stronger warming)

Russ, it looks like you're trying to pull the wool over your readers' eyes.

(The upper, "red dots" graph is also addressed here at Skeptical Science.)

Readers, please, wake up - our house is burning.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Newt Gingrich shows conservatives can be pro-science

Update: The Pope and (via WorldChanging) British conservatives are in the reality-based global warming camp as well.

The time I've spent lately debunking Russ Steele's "We had nothing to do with it and anyway it's no big deal" global warming denial-and-minimization posts (and the comments from Mike M. and George Rebane, who share Russ's views) has made me a bit prejudiced about The Conservative Mind; seems to me you'd have to be from the planet Zortar to dismiss the peer-reviewed science, the climatologists' explanations, and the position statements of the American Geophysical Union, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, our National Academy of Sciences and the various science academies of the UK, France, Russia, Germany, Japan, Italy and Canada, Brazil, China and India - and get your global warming views from PR flacks instead.

But at least one conservative seems to be more local - from a news story on Newt Gingrich:
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich challenged fellow conservatives Tuesday to stop resisting scientific evidence of global warming and to propose solutions that rely on free-market incentives as an alternative to government regulation.

During a nearly two-hour debate with Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, Gingrich called for a "green conservatism" characterized by a willingness "to stand up and say, 'All right, here's the right way to solve these as seen by our value system.' "

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Global warming - resource sites, Steele and Lomborg

Update: 19 graphs showing the evidence for global warming; they're from Open Mind, a science blog that's new to me, and looks to be really, really good.

One thing I can do locally to fight global warming is to counter the misinformation being dispensed by deniers and doubters in our neck of the blogospheric woods. So I've started doing just that; if you'd like to watch or assist, please drop by Russ Steele's NC Media Watch.

Confidential to Russ: a while back I'd asked you not to comment extensively about global warming in my comments here on NCFocus; this was because I didn't want to get sucked into tracking down and debunking the claims you passed on here. Now, with the accumulated evidence that the problem's worsening much faster than anticipated, I think debunking the denialism is essential. So, I'd like to retract my earlier restriction - you're more than welcome to come over and discuss global warming in the comments here any time now.

(FYI to others - the most valuable online 'debunking' resources have been DeSmogBlog and the climatologists' weblog RealClimate, and Open Mind. Many thanks to these sites' proprietors/contributors.)

Bjorn Lomborg has a new "no need to get alarmed" book out, and I'm told he sounds great on TV, but please do not be taken in. Over at DeSmogBlog, science journalist Chris Mooney evaluates Lomborg's reasoning and finds it deficient:
Lomborg's argument isn't that global warming is a hoax--thank goodness, we're mostly past that. Instead, he merely argues that climate change is not as big a deal as some think (e.g., Al Gore)--and further, that it doesn't make good economic sense to take dramatic steps to address the problem by imposing mandatory emissions caps.
What I found [when looking at Lomborg's treament of hurricanes] is pretty consistent with what critics say about his treatment of other matters. Lomborg seems to ignore worst-case scenarios and precautionary thinking....

From the Salon review of Lomborg's book:
The glaring error in "Cool It," and the one that disqualifies the book from making a serious contribution, is that Lomborg ignores the main concern driving the debate. Incredibly, he never mentions even the possibility that the world might heat up more than 4.7 degrees. Although he claims IPCC science as gospel, in fact the scientific body gives no single "standard" estimate as its official forecast for this century's warming....

The global warming "alarmism" that Lomborg finds so distasteful is motivated by a serious, science-driven concern that hidden within our global climate system are powerful positive feedback loops. So that as we inch up from 3 to 4 and then 4 to 5 degrees of warming, we may very well cross some temperature threshold that would trigger a couple of degrees of further warming, causing a catastrophic upward spiral in global temperatures.
But give Lomborg his whole argument. Suppose, as he believes, that Kyoto-level controls will cost a cumulative $5 trillion over the next 100 years. That is about two years' worth of increase in global output. Suppose also that we ignore Lomborg's advice and in the next few years freeze global warming pollution in the rich countries. That would mean that a century hence, our descendants, living in a much richer world, would have to wait an additional two years -- until 2109 -- until a growing global economy left them as rich as they otherwise would have been in 2107.

Will they thank us? Stabilizing emissions now will open the door for deeper reductions should our kids need to make them, and send powerful signals to the marketplace about future demand for the low-carbon, low-cost technologies that will be critical to stabilize the climate by the end of the century.

The Guardian last Saturday: State inaction on climate is a grave dereliction of duty ("Government exists to achieve tasks individuals cannot tackle alone. On the environmental crisis, it has badly failed")

Sunday's SF Chronicle editorial, The Issue Of Our Time:
The world effectively lost eight years in the effort to apply a brake to climate change while the Bush administration slowly evolved from denial to foot dragging in response to a strong scientific consensus that human activity - namely, the consumption of fossil fuels - was putting life on Earth on a collision course with disaster.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Global warming - we have ten years at most, to turn it around

We are like small children, distracted by baubles, with our parents too drunk to notice that our house is burning.*

Or too sociopathic to care.

Rolling Stone on The Secret Campaign of President Bush's Administration To Deny Global Warming (June 2007)

U.S. scales back climate science via satellites ("'Overall climate program in serious jeopardy,' NOAA and NASA experts say'") (June 2007)

The Threat to the Planet, by NASA's James Hansen, saying we have at most ten years to turn this around. "Not ten years to decide upon action, but ten years to alter fundamentally the trajectory of global greenhouse emissions."
Published a year ago.

Interview with Hansen: (Apr 2007)
The average temperature is now 0.8 degrees Celsius higher than in the last century, with three-quarters of the increase happening in the last 30 years
There's another half degree Celsius in the pipeline due to gases already in the atmosphere, and there's at least one more half degree to come due to power plants which we're not going to stop immediately. Even if we decide now we've got to slow down as fast as is practical, there's still going to be enough emissions to take us to the warmest level [1.8 degrees Celsius] that the planet has seen in a million years...close to and possibly beyond what I would say is a dangerous level.

If we want to keep the planet looking close to what it looks like now, then we had better not accept an increase by more than one degree Celsius. Because if temperature goes up another two or three degrees Celsius, it will be the temperature of the middle Pliocene about 3 million years ago. That was a very different planet. There was no sea ice in the Arctic in the warm seasons, and the sea level was about 25 meters higher. We will be headed towards this situation if we continue with business-as-usual.

The polar bears.

Our house is burning.