Saturday, December 10, 2011

Climate change's turn

This week Jack Kelly returns to his attacks on climate science. Before I address his column directly, I wanted to make a couple of related points.

First, how come when Julian Assange gets hold of State Department cables and emails, he is is traitor who deserves to be executed, but some unnamed thug can steal University of East Anglia emails, and that is described as a leak. Kelly wants to pretend this is some whistle blower who is disturbed by what (s)he sees. I think it is some paid hacker financed by the Koch brothers or Rupert Murdoch (go ahead, prove me wrong). It's funny to me that conservatives lose all there libertarian principles when it is liberal's privacy rights being discussed.

And also, there is more involved with energy extraction and consumption than just climate change. Oil,natural gas and even coal are essentially scarce resources. We use oil not just to power our cars, but for fertilizer, plastic and I believe several other things. We still import middle eastern oil, even though doing so is involving us in a seemingly intractable set of conflicts. So switching over as much as is feasible to alternative energy systems is highly desirable. It might well be that our grandchildren would thank us, certainly our great great grandchildren would.

So, as I say Jack Kelly today gives us a gleefully gloating column announcing the "impending collapse of one of the most brazen scams in the history of the world" (climate change,in case you hadn't guessed). Kelly asserts that the participants at the climate change conference in Durban, South Africa are showing signs of sadness that their scam will be exposed. Although apparently it is possible Kelly wrote his column too soon, if we can believe an article from the Guardian shortly before midnight on Saturday.

Kelly trots out a lot of the same old evidence and a few new items. He starts with a report from Canadian Donna LaFramboise, which found that of the 18,531 references in the 2007 IPCC report, some 5,587 were from non-peer reviewed sources, such as "newspaper and magazine articles written by non-experts, unpublished theses and pamphlets produced by environmental groups".

By the way, let me pause here to say that since Jack Kelly gives us the benefit of all this great research he does, the online edition of the Post-Gazette should make these sources available as hyperlinks.

That is a really interesting claim, these 5,587 non peer reviewed theses and pamphlets. How many of each. Well, I found a website which described this effort, and as you click links, you can find the lists of references and what LaFramboise thought were peer reviewed or not. I looked at three of some 133 different reviews of references for the chapters of the IPCC report. I didn't see much in the way of pamphlets or newspaper or magazine articles written by non-experts (not that I could known whether a person is an expert or not). I saw several books on climate science and other topics in the references that were marked as not peer reviewed; I guess no one reviews books at all. I did see some tourism reports in one chapters references; evidently the chapter was discussing the impact of climate change on tourism and Stewardess Review (not an actual journal name I saw) is not peer reviewed.

So LaFramboise went through hundreds or maybe even a few thousand references on our behalf herself, right? Actually, she solicited volunteers through her climate skeptic website. So of course she assembled a team of academics well versed in the peer review process. Judge for yourself. Me, of her more than forty volunteers I count at least six "names" that are essentially anonymous (including two anonymous-s), although I will say there was at least one person who could be said to be expert in science (although probably not in the top tier of climate scientists). I might also mention that concerning people solicited through a climate skeptic blog, let's just saw I am skeptical of their impartiality.

In the references I saw, I did not see any examples of obviously bad sources. Reports from congressional hearings, working papers from conferences, the occasional unpublished paper; these did not send up any red flags. So how should we look at this? Well, LaFramboise complains that Rajendra Pachauri, the IPCC chairman has repeatedly said that the IPCC only takes information from peer-reviewed sources. Here's a list of quotes from various persons that LaFramboise provides us, judge for yourself.

Kelly also gives us various "facts" that he says few journalists have reported: "Temperatures in the lower atmosphere this October were just one- tenth of one degree Celsius warmer than in 1979, according to data from weather satellites. Temperatures haven't risen in 13 years, according to measurements from ground stations. Data from tree rings and ice cores show no warming since 1940." I tried to google the first two claims (using Kelly's words), found nothing for the first and a connection to Richard Mueller's BEST study recently completed. Notice the qualifications, satellites, a specific date and lower atmosphere in one case and ground stations in another. Judith Curry dwells on the 13 year numbers, although again I wonder about the qualifications.

Kelly mentions Curry in another context, commenting on LaFromboise's book. Scientific American did an in depth article on Judith Curry, where they assert that Curry is a skeptic in that she questions the care with which the IPCC selects, handles and presents data, but she herself believes the world is warming. This is what the selective quoting does for Jack Kelly, creating climate deniers out of people who actually believe in climate change. Instead of the positive contribution Curry could make in trying to make the IPCC better, she becomes a stooge for the Koch brothers agenda.

Kelly has this near the end of his column "There never was a consensus among scientists in support of anthropogenic global warming." Well, I haven't and do not have the ability to interview all "scientists" to find out if what Kelly says is true, but I don't think it matters. First of all, does Kelly mean among climate scientists or among all scientists? I suspect engineers, chemists and quantum physicists may not have a professional opinion about an issue outside their specific field. But I suspect all scientists have at least some professional respect for national academies of science and other professional scientific organizations. They have, as I understand it, all signed on to climate change which is caused by man. But Kelly never mentions that.

By the way, Dayvoe of 2 PJ's has a good take on this column as well, including some things I missed.
Ask him why.


Winding down said...

Does Jack Kelly know how you slice and dice his columns?

Does he benefit from your critiques?

Do you detect any change his approach to pontificating?

How come he is in the PG instead of the TR?

Good job done on your post today..

EdHeath said...

Ah WD, very kind, thank you.

I have no idea if Jack Kelly knows about what I write or not.

I think Kelly might be a little more careful about his references, naming the conservative blog when he doesn't want to be on the line for a shaky claim.

Dunno why he isn't in the Trib instead of the PG. He is in both the PG and the Toledo Blade, both Block papers. Maybe he gives the blocks some impartiality cred.