The Battle For Free Speech In Science Has Begun

GWPF | 24 March 2016

James Hansen Accused Of Unprofessional Behaviour And Alarmism

Galileo Galilei was tried in 1633 for spreading the heretical view that the Earth orbits the sun, convicted by the Roman Catholic Inquisition, and remained under house arrest until his death. Today’s inquisitors seek their quarry’s imprisonment and financial ruin. As the scientific case for a climate-change catastrophe wanes, proponents of big-ticket climate policies are increasingly focused on punishing dissent from an asserted “consensus” view. Intimidation is the point of these efforts. Defending First Amendment rights in these circumstances requires the resources to take on the government and win—no matter the cost or how long it takes. It also requires taking on the Climate Inquisition directly. That is why we are establishing the Free Speech in Science Project to defend the kind of open inquiry and debate that are central to scientific advancement and understanding. –David B. Rivkin Jr. and Andrew M. Grossman, The Wall Street Journal, 23 March 2016

1) The Battle For Free Speech In Science Has Begun
The Wall Street Journal, 23 March 2016

2) Boom To Bust: Europe’s Renewables Industry Falls Into Rapid Decline
The Guardian, 23 March 2016

3) David Whitehouse: Arctic Ice And Another Little Ice Age
Global Warming Policy Forum, 24 March 2016

4) Bob Tisdale: More Alarmist Nonsense About El Niño Warming
Climate Observations, 22 March 2016

5) James Hansen Accused Of Unprofessional Behaviour And Alarmism
Climate Home, 22 March 2016

6) John Merline: A New Study Shows How Climate Change Paradigm Could Be Wrong
Investor’s Business Daily, 22 March 2016

Europe’s once world-beating clean technology industry has fallen into a rapid decline, with investment in low-carbon energy last year plummeting to its lowest level in a decade. After peaking at $132bn in 2011, investment in the EU plunged by more than half, to 18% of the global total, or $58bn, in 2015. Michael Liebreich, chairman of the BNEF board, pointed to mistakes made by policymakers in member states, which he said had created a “boom-bust” cycle by initially showing strong support for renewables then rapidly rowing back as they feared the expense of successful subsidies. –Fiona Harvey, The Guardian, 23 March 2016

As country after country abandons, curtails or reneges on once-generous support for renewable energy, Europe is beginning to realise that its green energy strategy is dying on the vine. Green dreams are giving way to hard economic realities. The result of a fear-driven gamble with the Continent’s industrial future is a costly shambles that threatens to undercut Europe’s economic and political position in a world that is sensibly refusing to follow its lead. Australians would be well advised to watch this green train wreck very closely if they wish to avoid a repeat of the fiasco that is unfolding in Europe. –Benny Peiser, The Australian, 9 August 2013

Journalism, especially science journalism, can be either descriptive or analytical. Recently those articles covering climate change have been concentrating on the former to the detriment of understanding the story. –David Whitehouse, Global Warming Policy Forum, 24 March 2016

One wonders why NOAA’s scientists were “astonished” or consider the  uptick “staggering” and “astronomical” when the 2015/16 El Niño has been compared in strength to the 1997/98 El Niño for many months. It only takes a quick comparison to show that there were comparable responses in global surface temperatures to both strong El Niños. What many readers are likely finding “astonishing” and “staggering” is that NOAA’s scientists weren’t aware that global surface temperatures were going to respond as they have, given that there was a similar uptick in global surface temperatures in response to the similarly sized 1997/98 El Niño. –Bob Tisdale, Climate Observations, 22 March 2016

One of the most eye-catching climate studies of 2015 has been finalised after mixed reviews from experts. The draft by James Hansen and 18 other scientists last July outlined an alarming scenario of multi-metre sea level rise this century. In the final version published on Tuesday, the headline changed from “2C global warming is highly dangerous” to “2C global warming could be dangerous”. Otherwise, the conclusions are largely the same. Critics accuse prominent climate scientist of unprofessional behaviour and alarmism, in debate over risk of rapid ice sheet melting. –Megan Darby, Climate Home, 22 March 2016

Democrats routinely accuse Republicans of being “anti-science” because they tend to be skeptical about claims made by climate scientists — whether it’s about how much man has contributed to global warming, how much warming has actually taken place, or scary predictions of future environmental catastrophes. There’s a scientific consensus, we’re told, and anyone who doesn’t toe the line is “denier.”
Yet even as deniers get chastised, evidence continues to emerge that pokes holes in some of the basic tenets of climate change. It is certainly possible then, that today’s climate change paradigm — and all the fear and loathing about CO2 emissions — could one day end up looking as quaint as Ptolemy’s theory of the solar system or Galen’s theory of anatomy. It’s possible. And anyone who believes in science has to admit that. –John Merline, Investor’s Business Daily, 22 March 2016

1) The Battle For Free Speech In Science Has Begun
The Wall Street Journal, 23 March 2016

David B. Rivkin Jr. and Andrew M. Grossman

Galileo Galilei was tried in 1633 for spreading the heretical view that the Earth orbits the sun, convicted by the Roman Catholic Inquisition, and remained under house arrest until his death. Today’s inquisitors seek their quarry’s imprisonment and financial ruin. 

As the scientific case for a climate-change catastrophe wanes, proponents of big-ticket climate policies are increasingly focused on punishing dissent from an asserted “consensus” view that the only way to address global warming is to restructure society—how it harnesses and uses energy. That we might muddle through a couple degrees’ of global warming over decades or even centuries, without any major disruption, is the new heresy and must be suppressed.

The Climate Inquisition began with Michael Mann’s 2012 lawsuit against critics of his “hockey stick” research—a holy text to climate alarmists. The suggestion that Prof. Mann’s famous diagram showing rapid recent warming was an artifact of his statistical methods, rather than an accurate representation of historical reality, was too much for the Penn State climatologist and his acolytes to bear.

Among their targets (and our client in his lawsuit) was the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a think tank prominent for its skeptical viewpoint in climate-policy debates. Mr. Mann’s lawsuit seeks to put it, along with National Review magazine, out of business. Four years on, the courts are still pondering the First Amendment values at stake. In the meantime, the lawsuit has had its intended effect, fostering legal uncertainty that chills speech challenging the “consensus” view.

Mr. Mann’s lawsuit divided climate scientists—many of whom recognized that it threatened vital scientific debate—but the climate Inquisition was only getting started. The past year has witnessed even more heavy-handed attempts to enforce alarmist doctrine and stamp out dissent.

Assuming the mantle of Grand Inquisitor is Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D., R.I.). Last spring he called on the Justice Department to bring charges against those behind a “coordinated strategy” to spread heterodox views on global warming, including the energy industry, trade associations, “conservative policy institutes” and scientists. Mr. Whitehouse, a former prosecutor, identified as a legal basis for charges that the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO, the federal statute enacted to take down mafia organizations and drug cartels. […]

Intimidation is the point of these efforts. Individual scientists, think tanks and private businesses are no match for the vast powers that government officials determined to stifle dissent are able to wield. An onslaught of investigations—with the risk of lawsuits, prosecution and punishment—is more than most can afford to bear. As a practical reality, defending First Amendment rights in these circumstances requires the resources to take on the government and win—no matter the cost or how long it takes.

It also requires taking on the Climate Inquisition directly. Spurious government investigations, driven by the desire to suppress a particular viewpoint, constitute illegal retaliation against protected speech and, as such, can be checked by the courts, with money damages potentially available against the federal and state perpetrators. If anyone is going to be intimidated, it should be officials who are willing to abuse their powers to target speech with which they disagree.

That is why we are establishing the Free Speech in Science Project to defend the kind of open inquiry and debate that are central to scientific advancement and understanding. The project will fund legal advice and defense to those who need it, while executing an offense to turn the tables on abusive officials. Scientists, policy organizations and others should not have to fear that they will be the next victims of the Climate Inquisition—that they may face punishment and personal ruin for engaging in research and advocating their views.

Full post

2) Boom To Bust: Europe’s Renewables Industry Falls Into Rapid Decline
The Guardian, 23 March 2016

Fiona Harvey

Europe’s once world-beating clean technology industry has fallen into a rapid decline, with investment in low-carbon energy last year plummeting to its lowest level in a decade.

The plunge in European fortunes comes as renewable energy is burgeoning around the world, with China in particular investing heavily. As recently as 2010, Europe made up 45% of global clean energy investment, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), which examines the sector. But after peaking at $132bn in 2011, investment in the EU plunged by more than half, to 18% of the global total, or $58bn, in 2015.

Michael Liebreich, chairman of the BNEF board, said the global financial crisis and its aftermath were to blame only in part.

“Europe’s failure to respond [to the crisis was a factor and] global investors, scared about the survival of the euro, had plenty of reason to hesitate about putting money into euro-dominated clean energy projects,” he said. But he also pointed to mistakes made by policymakers in member states, which he said had created a “boom-bust” cycle by initially showing strong support for renewables then rapidly rowing back as they feared the expense of successful subsidies. […]

Prospects for the struggling EU clean energy industry look poor overall, said analysts. The best hope of a revival is likely to be a return of political commitment to the sector, but that looks unlikely in the short term, even in the wake of the landmark climate change agreement signed in Paris last December.

Full story

See alsoBenny Peiser (2013): Europe Pulls The Plug On Its Green Future

3) David Whitehouse: Arctic Ice And Another Little Ice Age
Global Warming Policy Forum, 24 March 2016

Journalism, especially science journalism, can be either descriptive or analytical. Recently those articles covering climate change have been concentrating on the former to the detriment of understanding the story.

Take for example the story about the Arctic sea ice extent reaching record low for this time of year. See here and here.

Sounds ominous, especially when coupled with the news that February was the warmest month on record by a long way. But look a little deeper into the data. The extent seen in February 2016 was 14.22 million sq km. This is definitely below the 1981- 2010 average by 1.16 million sq km, but only 200,000 sq km below the previous low for that month which was set in 2005. (Click on image to enlarge).
Arctic Ice 1

Looking at the graph shows that 2015 was really no different from 2011, 2007 and 2005. This means another headline for the same story could have been that this February’s ice extent is essentially the same as it was a decade ago!

Another example of where more analysis could have been done concerns the recent story based on a paper in Nature Geoscience that suggests that mankind is putting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere since the dinosaurs lived some 56 million years ago.

Dinosaur 1
A team of researchers have studied temperature-sensitive isotopes in sediments laid down during the so-called Palaeocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum – a period of exceptionally warm temperature for something like 200,000 years. It seems that during that period ocean temperatures rose rapidly and reached 5 deg C warmer than today and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached 1000 ppm (it’s 400 ppm today).

They concluded that some 4 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide was deposited in the atmosphere which is only about a tenth of today’s rate. Reports suggested that the PETM event provides a comparison with today’s events and could be useful in working out what might happen in the future and models and projections have their problems and wide errors. The problem is, of course, that the Earth was a very different place 56 million years ago. There was no ice, sea-levels were higher, the distribution of continents different which affected ocean circulation. Also there is good evidence that back then temperature rise preceded the release of carbon dioxide by about 3,000 years. Few reporters mentioned these facts.

Another Little Ice Age

Another interesting piece of research was published in Nature Geoscience. By looking at tree rings in Central Siberia over the past 2,000 years scientists found evidence for a cold period between 536 AD and 660 AD which they call the Late Antique Little Ice Age. They say it occurred partly as a response to major volcanic eruptions in 536, 540 and 547 that released aerosols that cooled the Earth. It could be the coolest period in the past 2,500 years.

LALIA 1
It was rarely mentioned in reports of this research that the LALIA highlights the importance of natural climatic variability and provides another example of the highs and lows in temperature that nature has produced in the past 2,500 years into which out modern warm period must be put into context.

Finally I come to the global temperature of that remarkable month February 2016. Two things strike me about its coverage, in addition to this GWPF video.

Firstly, I hope none of those who say that global warming has taken off, or that it’s astronomical etc will ever criticise anyone for cherry-picking data ever again.

Secondly, some analysts say the contribution to February’s temperature from the El Nino was minor and that underlying global warming contributed more. Perhaps they might reflect that background global warming has put on a spurt in the very same month that we have one of the strongest El Ninos on record. What a coincidence!

Feedback: david.whitehouse@thegwpf.com

4) Bob Tisdale: More Alarmist Nonsense About El Niño Warming
Climate Observations, 22 March 2016

In the post Alarmism Cranked Up to Absurd Level, we discussed the misleading media reports about the temporary February 2016 El Niño-related uptick in monthly global surface temperature data from the Goddard Institute of Space Studies. There have been numerous new same-topic news articles since NOAA released its February 2016 global temperature data a few days ago.

The NOAA/NCEI data show an uptick similar to the one we recently saw with the GISS data. See Figure 1. (A similar graph of the GISS data is here.)

Figure 1
Figure 1 — (Data can be found here.)

Let’s focus on the AP story Beyond record hot, February was ‘astronomical’ and ‘strange’ by Seth Borenstein. It begins:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Earth got so hot last month that federal scientists struggled to find words, describing temperatures as “astronomical,” ”staggering” and “strange.” They warned that the climate may have moved into a new and hotter neighborhood.

Let’s see to whom Seth Borenstein attributes the “astronomical,” ”staggering” and “strange.”

“Astronomical” comes from NOAA’s Jessica Blundel.  The AP article reads:

“The departures are what we would consider astronomical,” Blunden said. “It’s on land. It’s in the oceans. It’s in the upper atmosphere. It’s in the lower atmosphere. The Arctic had record low sea ice.”

The “staggering” comes from NOAA’s Deke Arndt, Chief of the Climate Monitoring Branch, at their National Center for Environmental Information (NCEI):

Scientists at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information in Asheville, North Carolina, were astonished by the “staggering” numbers, said Deke Arndt, the centers’ global monitoring chief.

One wonders why NOAA’s scientists were “astonished” or consider the  uptick “staggering” and “astronomical” when the 2015/16 El Niño has been compared in strength to the 1997/98 El Niño for many months. See NOAA’s Oceanic Nino Index, which is their “official” metric for monitoring the strengths, timings and durations of El Niño and La Niña events.  It only takes a quick comparison graph, Figure 2, to show that there were comparable responses in global surface temperatures to both strong El Niños.

Figure 2
Figure 2

What many readers of that article are likely finding “astonishing” and “staggering” is that NOAA’s scientists weren’t aware that global surface temperatures were going to respond as they have, given that there was a similar uptick in global surface temperatures in response to the similarly sized 1997/98 El Niño. If the scientists had been aware, they wouldn’t have been astronomically astonished.

Full post

5) James Hansen Accused Of Unprofessional Behaviour And Alarmism
Climate Home, 22 March 2016

Megan Darby

Critics accuse prominent climate scientist of unprofessional behaviour and alarmism, in debate over risk of rapid ice sheet melting

One of the most eye-catching climate studies of 2015 has been finalised after mixed reviews from experts.

The draft by James Hansen and 18 other scientists last July outlined an alarming scenario of multi-metre sea level rise this century.

In the final version published on Tuesday, the headline changed from “2C global warming is highly dangerous” to “2C global warming could be dangerous”.

Otherwise, the conclusions are largely the same.

That doesn’t mean they have been fully accepted by the scientific community. Thanks to the transparent approach adopted by the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, you can read all the responses.

The paper attracted more than 60 comments, an exceptional number for an open review. Leaving aside the 20 that denied the foundation of climate science – that greenhouse gases cause global warming – there were many heavyweight critiques.

Peter Thorne, climate science professor at Maynooth University, Ireland, was invited to be a referee. “The initial submission was highly political, written largely as a blog article,” he told Climate Home. “It was overly long and I had real questions as to whether the journal was the right journal.”

Nor was he satisfied with the way Hansen responded to criticism. For example, Dutch scientist Sybren Drijfhout and colleagues advised the author not to describe as “dangerous” impacts that were unlikely to occur this century.

Hansen answered: “Hmmm, yes, I guess that we should not be worried about anything that happens 85 years from now- the dickens with those characters. The Dutch can migrate to Switzerland, after all.”

That tone was “unprofessional” and “grossly inappropriate” to Thorne. “I expect this kind of thing of my kids. I do not expect this behaviour to be out there in the public domain for all to see amongst leading scientists in the field.”

As for the apocalyptic picture painted, Thorne said it was “marginally more likely than me or you buying a winning Euromillions [lottery] ticket today”.

Full story

6) John Merline: A New Study Shows How Climate Change Paradigm Could Be Wrong
Investor’s Business Daily, 22 March 2016

What could the theory of “ego depletion” possibly have to do with global warming?

Ego depletion is the idea in psychology that humans have a limited amount of willpower that can be depleted. It’s been largely accepted as true for almost two decades, after two psychologists devised an experiment in self-control that involved fresh-baked cookies and radishes.

One group of test subjects were told they could only eat the radishes, another could eat the cookies. Then they were given an unsolvable puzzle to solve. The researchers found that radish eaters gave up on the puzzle more quickly than the cookie eaters. The conclusion was that the radish eaters had used up their willpower trying not to eat the cookies.

Daniel Engber, writing in Slate, notes that the study has been cited more than 3,000 times, and that in the years after it appeared, its findings “have been borne out again and again in empirical studies. The effect has been recreated in hundreds of different ways, and the underlying concept has been verified via meta-analysis. It’s not some crazy new idea, wobbling on a pile of flimsy data; it’s a sturdy edifice of knowledge, built over many years from solid bricks.”

But, he says, it “could be completely bogus.”

A “massive effort” to recreate “the main effect underlying this work” using 2,000 subjects in two-dozen different labs on several continents found … nothing.

The study, due to be published next month in Perspectives on Psychological Science, “means an entire field of study — and significant portions of certain scientists’ careers — could be resting on a false premise.”

Engber laments that “If something this well-established could fall apart, then what’s next? That’s not just worrying. It’s terrifying.”

Actually, it’s science.

As Thomas Kuhn explained in his 1962 book “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions,” this kind of event is typical in the course of scientific progress.

A “paradigm” takes hold in the scientific community based on early research, which subsequent studies appear to confirm, but which can later collapse as findings that don’t fit the paradigm start to accumulate. Kuhn found several such “paradigm shifts” in history.

The ego depletion findings also come as scientists are starting to realize that much, if not most, of what gets published is essentially bogus because it can’t be reproduced by subsequent studies.

“By some estimates,” notes an article in Quartz, “at least 51% — and as much as 89% — of published papers are based on studies and experiments showing results that cannot be reproduced.”

The Quartz article says one reason is a bias in scientific journals to produce “exciting studies that show strong results.”

“Studies that show strong, positive results get published, while similar studies that come up with no significant effects sit at the bottom of researchers’ drawers.”
So what does any of this have to do with global warming?

Democrats routinely accuse Republicans of being “anti-science” because they tend to be skeptical about claims made by climate scientists — whether it’s about how much man has contributed to global warming, how much warming has actually taken place, or scary predictions of future environmental catastrophes.

There’s a scientific consensus, we’re told, and anyone who doesn’t toe the line is “denier.”

Yet even as deniers get chastised, evidence continues to emerge that pokes holes in some of the basic tenets of climate change.

Evidence such as the fact that actual temperature trends don’t match what climate change computer models say should have happened since the industrial age. Or that satellite measurements haven’t shown warming for two decades. Or that past predictions of more extreme weather have failed to come true.

It is certainly possible then, that today’s climate change paradigm — and all the fear and loathing about CO2 emissions — could one day end up looking as quaint as Ptolemy’s theory of the solar system or Galen’s theory of anatomy.

It’s possible. And anyone who believes in science has to admit that.

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