Lack of Environment

A blog on the politics and psychology underlying the denial of all our environmental problems

Archive for the ‘Richard Lindzen’ Category

AGU continues complicit support for Merchants of Doubt

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http://www.desmogblog.com/2016/04/18/scientists-asked-boycott-major-conference-after-agu-votes-retain-exxonmobil-ties

Scientists Asked to Boycott Major Conference After AGU Votes to Retain ExxonMobil Ties

This is not surprising given the AGU’s failure to discipline Richard Lindzen for academic misconduct, hypocrisy, and the denegration of fellow AGU members, but, as reported via DeSmogBlog recently:

Scientists are being asked to boycott the next major meeting of the world’s biggest earth sciences organisation after it voted to retain relationships with ExxonMobil.

The American Geophysical Union last week rejected calls from members to break ties with ExxonMobil over the oil giant’s history of funding and supporting climate science misinformation.

AGU members have been voicing their dismay at the decision, which ignored the concerns of more than 200 scientists, many of them AGU members, calling for the relationship to end.

AGU’s board said it would accept sponsorship from ExxonMobil for a breakfast event at its Fall Meeting in December – an event the oil company had previously sponsored.

But Professor Charles Greene, of Cornell University, told DeSmog: “This is far from over. There can be little doubt that this will lead to the biggest shake up in AGU’s history. There is a lot more at stake here than $35,000 for a graduate student breakfast.”

Greene has called on scientists to boycott the December meeting held by AGU – an influential organisation with about 60,000 members in 139 countries.

In a statement Greene said: “At what level does the behavior of a corporate sponsor become sufficiently reprehensible for AGU to refuse its support? I guess that a corporation like ExxonMobil, which has deceived the general public for decades while placing human society at great risk, has not achieved that level.

“The only conclusion to be drawn is that AGU will accept money from just about any corporate entity, no matter how unethical its behavior. I certainly will not attend an ExxonMobil-sponsored Fall Meeting, and I hope that every AGU member who feels the same way about this lapse in judgement will consider sending a similar message.”

ExxonMobil is facing investigations from several attorneys general, led by New York, over allegations the company misled shareholders and the public about the risk of climate change caused by fossil fuel burning.

The probes were sparked by investigations from Inside Climate News and the Los Angeles Times, which highlighted internal Exxon documents showing in the 1970s the company’s own scientists were aware of the clear risks of burning fossil fuels.

Over the years Exxon is known to have spent tens of millions of dollars funding dozens of organisations that have worked to mislead the public about the science linking greenhouse gas emissions to global warming.

Check out DeSmog’s research into ExxonMobil’s Funding of Climate Science Denial.

In the run up to AGU’s decision, more than 100 AGU members signed an open letter alongside other scientists asking for their organisation to end the relationship with Exxon.

Some members also issued a detailed dossier to the board claiming the organisation’s relationship with ExxonMobil violated its own organizational support policy, agreed in April 2015.

That policy states that AGU “will not accept funding from organizational partners that promote and/or disseminate misinformation of science, or that fund organizations that publicly promote misinformation of science.”

The dossier included numerous examples of Exxon funding organisations, including the American Enterprise Institute, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the National Black Chamber of Commerce, that have underplayed and disparaged the science linking fossil fuel burning to dangerous climate change.

Scientists are also pressing the AGU leadership group to release more details of how the board came to its decision, including their deliberations over the dossier.

In announcing the decision, AGU president Margaret Leinen wrote that “it is not possible for us to determine unequivocally whether ExxonMobil is participating in misinformation about science currently, either directly or indirectly.”

She said it had been decided AGU’s acceptance of ExxonMobil sponsorship did “not constitute a threat to AGU’s reputation.”

ExxonMobil also funds meetings of ALEC – a lobby group with strong corporate ties that creates template bills for legislators that block attempts to cut greenhouse gas emissions and slow the development of renewable energy.

Stephen Moore, a member of ALEC’s advisory council alongside ExxonMobil government affairs manager Cynthia Bergman, told an ALEC meeting last year: “The biggest scam of the last 100 years is global warming!”

Professor Nathan Phillips, of Boston University, said: “What was called for was an exercise of judgment. Instead, the AGU avoided taking a principled stand by claiming it is not possible for it to make a judgement. The leadership seems prepared to accept some loss of membership, but what it may not be prepared for is the redoubled commitment of members who won’t relent in shining an even brighter light on the inconsistency of the AGU’s mission of a sustainable planetary future with its endorsement of ExxonMobil’s past and current activities.”

ExxonMobil’s company position on climate change says: “The risk of climate change is clear and the risk warrants action. Increasing carbon emissions in the atmosphere are having a warming effect. There is a broad scientific and policy consensus that action must be taken to further quantify and assess the risks.”

The AGU is holding two conference calls this week where members can ask questions of AGU President-elect Eric Davidson, CEO Christine McEntee and Leinen.

Image courtesy of Natural History Museum

Polite suggestion for Bjorn Lomborg and Tony Abbott

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Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has announced that Australian taxpayers are now going to finance attempts to disprove the need to decarbonise our global power generation systems as fast as possible (see yesterday’s article on the Guardian website).  However, Lomborg’s position is very confused (and confusing):

Lomborg: “Natural science has undeniably shown us that global warming is manmade and real. But just as undeniable is the economic science which makes it clear that a narrow focus on reducing carbon emissions could leave future generations with major costs, without major cuts to temperatures.”

Reality: Natural science has undeniably shown us that global warming is real and predominantly manmade. Just as undeniable is the economic assessment that any further delay in reducing carbon emissions will make it harder and more expensive to mitigate and/or adapt to increases in global temperatures.

My suggestion to both Lomborg and Abbott is that they should take time out to read the assessment of the formerly-skeptical Yale Professor of Economics, William D. Nordhaus:
Why the Global Warming Skeptics Are Wrong’ by William D. Nordhaus (2012).

Writing in response to an article in the Wall Street Journal signed by sixteen fossil fuel-funded ‘Merchants of doubt’ (including Richard Lindzen), Nordhaus began thus:

I have identified six key issues that are raised in the article, and I provide commentary about their substance and accuracy.  They are:
— Is the planet in fact warming?
— Are human influences an important contributor to warming?
— Is carbon dioxide a pollutant?
— Are we seeing a regime of fear for skeptical climate scientists?
— Are the views of mainstream climate scientists driven primarily by the desire for financial gain?
— Is it true that more carbon dioxide and additional warming will be beneficial?

As I will indicate below, on each of these questions, the sixteen scientists provide incorrect or misleading answers. At a time when we need to clarify public confusions about the science and economics of climate change, they have muddied the waters. I will describe their mistakes and explain the findings of current climate science and economics…

Therefore, if anyone is inclined to think Bjorn Lomborg’s position on climate science has any credibility, I would suggest that they need to read (or if necessary re-read) what Nordhaus wrote over three years ago.

Why Table 12.4 of IPCC AR5 should not be trusted

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At the end of September, Working Group 1 (WG1) of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published the first part of its Fifth Assessment Report (AR5).  This report, entitled ‘Climate Change 2013: Physical Science Basis’, now has its own website, from where the Summary for Policy Makers (SPM) and Full Report (chapter-by –chapter) can be downloaded (as PDF files).

Observers of contrarian cyberspace will have noticed that a certain Table in the full report (Table 12.4) has been widely touted as proof that climate change is no longer the problem “alarmists” think it is.  Even high profile professional people (who ought to know better) have demeaned themselves by publishing guest posts on unscientific websites: e.g. ‘Understanding the IPCC AR5 Climate Assessment’ by Professor Richard Lindzen on WattsUpWithThat.

AR5 Table 12-4

The problem with such a mis-reading of the speculative data in Table 12.4 (summarising ‘Components in the Earth system… susceptible to abrupt or irreversible change’ on page 12-78) is that it completely contradicts the historical data in Table SPM.1 (summarising ‘Observed Changes in the Climate System’ on page SPM-23).

AR5 Table SPM-1

Whereas Table 12.4 suggests climate scientists consider it improbable that a variety of catastrophic tipping points will be passed in this Century, Table SPM.1 indicates that they have generally high confidence that we are already witnessing increased frequencies of various unusual weather events.

Thus, trying to use Table 12.4 to suggest that anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD) is not the massive problem the IPCC has confirmed it is (with 95% confidence), is one of the most shameful pieces of cherry-picking I think I have ever seen.  As with his mis-use of graphs in his presentations to the already-sceptical, this suggests that Lindzen knows what he is doing and is deliberately trying to mislead and or misdirect people.

As I would not just want anyone to take my word for it, I have reproduced within this post both tables and the text that accompanies them in their respective reports.  However, rather than start with Lindzen’s shameless cherry-picking of Table 12.4 and attempted inversion of the IPCC’s position, which would only confuse people (as I suspect is his intention), perhaps I should have started with the facts as presented in the SPM.  If so, I can only apologise and now attempt to redress the situation.

As is the way with everything else, the SPM has been reduced to a series of Headline Statements (PDF available here).  However, such sound bytes are very useful and, in the current context, the most relevant are as follows:

  • Over the last two decades, the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have been losing mass, glaciers have continued to shrink almost worldwide, and Arctic sea ice and Northern Hemisphere spring snow cover have continued to decrease in extent (high confidence).
  • The rate of sea level rise since the mid-19th century has been larger than the mean rate during the previous two millennia (high confidence). Over the period 1901–2010, global mean sea level rose by 0.19 [0.17 to 0.21] m.

I should also wish to draw your attention, noting that a gigatonne (GT) is roughly equivalent to a cubic kilometre of ice,  to the following sound bytes from section B.3 of the SPM regarding the Cryosphere (page SPM-7):

  • The average rate of ice loss from glaciers around the world, excluding glaciers on the periphery of the ice sheets, was very likely 226 [91 to 361] GT/yr over the period 1971−2009, and very likely 275 [140 to 410] GT/yr over the period 1993−2009.
  • The average rate of ice loss from the Greenland ice sheet has very likely substantially increased from 34 [–6 to 74] GT/yr over the period 1992–2001 to 215 [157 to 274] GT/yr over the period 2002–2011.
  • The average rate of ice loss from the Antarctic ice sheet has likely increased from 30 [–37 to 97] GT/yr over the period 1992–2001 to 147 [72 to 221] GT/yr over the period 2002-2011.  There is very high confidence that these losses are mainly from the northern Antarctic Peninsula and the Amundsen Sea sector of West Antarctica.

As noted on page SPM-7, 100 GT/yr of ice loss is equivalent to about 0.3 mm/yr of global mean sea level rise (SLR).   It is perhaps also worth noting, here,  that SLR is currently 3.0 mm/yr (and accelerating all the time).

If your head is already spinning with all this data, just try to focus on one fact:  The SPM contains two numbers for decadal average melting rates in Greenland, namely 34 GT/yr in 1990s and 215 GT/yr in 2000s.  As we shall see, these numbers not only bring into question the cherry-picking of Table 12.4; this six-fold increase in ice loss in just 10 years suggests that the conclusions stated in Table 12.4 are incompatible with what is already happening.

As every teenager knows, you cannot confidently draw a straight line through anything less than three points on a graph.  However, we are not dealing with a linear relationship here and, if we were, the above numbers (i.e. 34 and 215) would imply Greenland had been gaining ice prior to the 1990s (which it wasn’t).  This therefore gives us even more confidence that the annual rate of ice mass loss in Greenland has accelerated.

Indeed, perhaps the person who compiled Table 12.4 should have consulted Wikipedia:

  • 1961 to 2003:   +25 to –60 GT/yr => 1982, –18 GT/yr
  • 1993 to 2003:  –50 to –100 GT/yr => 1998, –75 GT/yr
  • 4/2002 to 11/2005: mean 215 GT/yr => 2004, –215 GT/yr
  • 3/2002 to 9/2012: total ~2900 GT => 2007, –276 GT/yr
  • 2008 to 2012: mean 376 GT/yr => 2010, –367 GT/yr

Table 12.4 expresses high confidence that the disintegration of Greenland ice sheet is exceptionally unlikely in this Century.  This may be because the total volume of ice (i.e. If 2,850,000 km3) is so large.  However, at what point does the accelerating ice loss become catastrophic (especially if it is already irreversible in any timescale relevant to human civilisation)?

It must be accepted that the accelerating ice mass loss will eventually reach a maximum rate (due to the finite amount of solar radiation (etc) and then decline as surface area declines.  However, it would seem unwise to assume we have reached that point already.  That being the case, the disintegration of the Greenland ice sheet is already happening.  In my opinion, this is a catastrophe – we just haven’t had to deal with the consequences yet.

Either way, how can the IPCC ignore the fact that the melting of the Greenland lcesheet is already accelerating?  As it is almost certainly already beyond our capacity to stop it, this makes the relevant entry in Table 12.4 seem counter-factual.

Given what Joe Romm has called the ‘planned obsolescence’ of the AR5 – as a result of systematically ignoring the effects of positive feedback mechanisms that are already observable – I suspect that the same is true for all the other entries in Table 12.4.

Given all of the above, it is even more ludicrous to try – as Lindzen and others have done – to  use Table 12.4 to falsify the basic position of the IPCC, which is that ACD is already happening and already accelerating; and the longer we wait the harder it will get to stop it.

Written by Martin Lack

3 November 2013 at 00:02

To mark Australia’s return to the anti-science wilderness!

with 35 comments

It looks like Australia is just about to elect the most anti-science government outside of North America:  ‘Tony Abbott to win Australian election, final polls show’ (i.e. on UK’s Telegraph website).

To mark this latest ‘victory’ for those duped by conspiracy theory explanations for climate science in particular (and the stupidity of libertarian ideological blindness in general), I have decided to reproduce below my response to my most recent reality-challenged follower, called ‘freedomfan’, who has suggested that Richard Lindzen’s beliefs are a good reason to think humanity is not sleepwalking into an environmental catastrophe.

Richard Lindzen may be a meteorologist but he is not well-respected. He shredded his scientific credibility a long time ago as a result of being willing to appear as an expert witness for tobacco companies trying to dispute the reality of inconvenient science. Sadly, he learnt nothing from doing this and has repeated his mistake with the fossil fuel industry.

For someone who is gambling the future habitability on low climate sensitivity (when every time the issue is revisited the consensus view is that Lindzen is wrong), you seem remarkably confident in your own wishful thinking. This seems even more ill-judged when you consider that the International Monetary Fund, the International Energy Agency and the US Department of Defense all agree that anthropogenic climate disruption is happening; and that it is significant, bad, and worth preventing. Are they all in on the conspiracy to perpetuate scientific research funding; and/or justify higher taxes and authoritarian government? Quite frankly, it is more likely that the Moon Landings were faked (e.g. that flag was blowing in a breeze after all, right?).

If there is no positive feedback mechanism (and/or massive inertia in the climate system), why have the glaciers, ice caps, ice shelves and sea ice all continued to melt? If there is no positive feedback mechanism, why is the Keeling Curve a curve (rather than a straight line)? Positive feedback mechanisms are everywhere in Nature (very few things are linear); because Nature is biological – and we are part of it.

Here are 10 positive feedback mechanisms, which Guy McPherson has identified, that all need to be “disappeared” before your ambivalence towards the veracity of climate science becomes anywhere near being anything other than ideological blindness:
– Methane hydrates are bubbling out the Arctic Ocean.
– Warm Atlantic water is defrosting the Arctic Ocean.
– Siberian methane vents are increasing in size.
– Amazonian drought/fires released more CO2 than USA in 2010.
– Peat decomposition in boreal forests is accelerating.
– Methane is now being released from seabed in the Antarctic.
– Wildfires are increasing in frequency and scale.
– Increased CO2 is accelerating glacier disintegration.
– Exposure to sunlight is accelerating the thawing of the permafrost.
– Arctic drilling is being fast-tracked by Western governments.

For links to data sources, see: What on Earth are we doing (19 February 2013).

Anyone in any doubt about Lindzen, should read the large number of posts on this blog in the ‘Lindzengate’ category.  However, anyone in a hurry should start with:  Lindzen is either negligent, incompetent, or deceitful (6 July 2012).

My book compared to Merchants of Doubt

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merchantsofdoubtIn the Preface to my book, The Denial of Science: Analysing climate change scepticism in the UK, I make clear that it was reading Merchants of Doubt, by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway, that prompted me to do the research that my book summarises.

Therefore, I am delighted here to reproduce the review of my book by Vice-President of the Geological Society, Dr Colin Summerhayes, now published on Amazon.co.uk, in which this comparison is made. Although Dr Summerhayes has asked me to stress that his review his solely a statement of his personal opinions, he agreed that it would be appropriate for me to highlight the expertise that perhaps make his opinions significant: Dr Summerhayes is a marine geologist and oceanographer with a particular interest in the Antarctic. As such, since 2010, he has been an Emeritus Associate of the of the Scott Polar Research Institute (SPRI) – a part of Cambridge University. Prior to that, Dr Summerhayes was Executive Director of the International Council for Science’s Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) and, as such, was also one of the editors of the Antarctic Climate Change and the Environment report published by SCAR in 2002. For the record, Dr Summerhayes was also, to my knowledge, the only other non-sceptical person in the audience when Professor Richard Lindzen gave his now infamous talk in a Committee Room of the Palace of Westminster in February 2012 (which I refer to as Lindzengate).

However, without further ado, here is the review posted on Amazon by Dr Summerhayes:

—————-

In 2010, Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway did a service to science when they documented the manufacture of doubt about human-caused global warming by many of the same people who brought us ‘safe’ cigarettes. Most of their book focussed on doubt generated in the USA. The attack on the science of global warming remains shrill, and it comes from within the UK as well. Martin Lack has provided much the same service as Oreskes and Conway by documenting the UK’s sources of doubt about this socially important topic. Lack starts out by addressing the philosophical roots of scepticism, its misappropriation for ideological reasons and the psychological causes of denial. He lists the main UK organizations, scientists, economists, journalists, politicians and others promulgating ‘denial’ of the science of human-induced climate change. Rather than labelling these ‘agents’ ‘deniers’, Lack prefers to label them ‘sceptic’ or ‘contrarian’, citing Robert Henson’s definition of the climate change contrarian position (in the 2008 second edition of “The Rough Guide to Climate Change”) as: “The atmosphere may not be warming; but if it is, this is probably due to natural variation; but if it isn’t, the amount of warming is probably not significant; but if it is, the benefits should outweigh the disadvantages; but if they don’t, technology should be able to solve problems as they arise; but if it can’t, we shouldn’t wreck the economy to fix the problem”. Scientific scepticism is healthy and widespread within the climate science community, the group of people who actually know what they are talking about when it comes to human-caused climate change. Their collective view could be called ‘scientific consensus, or scientific authority, or conventional scientific wisdom’. It is this ‘mainstream’ view that is attacked by the contrarians. Their common argument is that this or that particular point is wrong, hence the whole edifice is wrong. Such an approach displays a fatal misunderstanding of what Karl Popper meant by falsification. Read Lack and learn.

—————

My book is now available in electronic form – search any online bookstore website for the ISBN 9781481783989 – and if it does not show up on Amazon.com please pester them until it does.

Lindzengate – one year on

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Today is the first anniversary of my trip to London to hear a certain Professor Richard S. Lindzen give a talk to an invited audience of climate change “sceptics” in a Committee Room inside the Palace of Westminster.

Having sat through a highly misleading presentation I was one of those who put up my hand to ask a question.  However, having been invited to speak by the chair of the meeting, I attempted to address some of the misrepresentation of fact that I had just witnessed.  I was then interrupted by Professor Lindzen and, having self-identified myself as a non-believer, was not allowed to ask a question.

This sequence of events has been the subject of much pedantic debate, on this blog and elsewhere, so the video (of the Q & A session following Lindzen’s talk) is embedded to provide proof of my version of events.  To just see me not ask a question view from about 5:26 onwards.

Once the Question and Answer session was completed, I approached Professor Lindzen who, obviously confident he could rebut anything I said, kindly invited me to email my questions to him.  This I did and, the rest, as they say, is history.

Although I would advise against following links without first reading to the end of this post, for those of you that are unfamiliar with this particular history, it may be summarised as follows:

1. I sent Professor Lindzen 3 emails and never received any substantive answers to my questions.  All I ever got was a perfunctory response in which Lindzen (1) feigned indignation at my suggestion that he had once helped the tobacco industry defend itself against the claim that smoking causes lung cancer; and (2) warned me not to publish my email.  I ignored him.

2. In failing to answer any of my original questions, Lindzen has, in particular, failed to explain why he uses the same tactics he claims others use to mislead people (i.e. graphs whose axes have been stretched or compressed in order to make two correlating data sets appear not to correlate – as appended below).

3. Having failed to get Lindzen to answer my original questions, I submitted a formal complaint to Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) because his behaviour was likely to bring climate scientists and/or MIT into disrepute.  Without addressing the above very specific piece of hypocrisy from Lindzen, MIT refused to take any action.

4. I therefore complained to the American Geophysical Union (AGU), who astonishingly, admitted they had no code of conduct against which they could judge and/or censure Lindzen for what he had done.

5. Consequently, Professor Lindzen has continued to travel around the World giving talks and writing letters to Newspapers – repeating the same message:  A message that reveals that he is either being wilfully deceptive of is so blinded by ideology that he cannot see how wrong he almost certainly is about climate sensitivity.

If any or all of this comes as a surprise to any readers, I would recommend that, before you dive into the links above, you start by reading this brief summary of exactly what it was I was unhappy about.   You can then follow links from there (or here) depending on your level of curiosity.

Other than that, from the above-referenced brief summary, I have here extracted the image of the graph from Lindzen’s presentation (whose absence from the PDF version on the Internet has never been satisfactorily explained), with my caption explaining why it destroys any veil of objectivity that Lindzen might otherwise be able to hide behind.

Misrepresentation of data?

Steeply inclined Keeling curve versus apparently non-correlating temperature – if you stretched the temperature axis enough it would appear to correlate quite well. Therefore slide neither proves not disproves anything.

There is, however, one final thing to note about this graph; something that has only become clear to me in the last few months: It has clearly been generated using the Wood for Trees website, which was set up by a non-climate scientist who admits that his website has repeatedly been used by climate sceptics to manipulate data to support invalid conclusions. So much so, in fact, that the home page now includes a warning against people doing this. Therefore:

What does it say about Lindzen that he would use a graph like this – obtained from such a website – in his presentation?

———–

Further reading:

https://lackofenvironment.wordpress.com/2012/07/06/are-you-negligent-incompetent-or-complicit/

https://lackofenvironment.wordpress.com/2012/08/16/and-then-there-were-three/

The Sceptics’ Creed

with 6 comments

For this spoof of the Anglican version of the Nicene Creed I apologise to all those who lack a sense of humour:

———-

[All stand]

We believe in some gods,
like Professor Ian Plimer,
writer of ‘Heaven and Earth’,
of all that is mean and not green.

We believe in some lords; John Christy
and in Richard Lindzen.
Endlessly they are proven wrong and yet still,
from their shite we recite,
true lies from sad guys,
opinions, not facts,
of one thing we are certain,
through them all truths were made.

For us and for our salvation
they came down from science:
by the power of our human folly,
they became embedded in ideology,
and made their plan.

For our sake they were crucified by climate scientists;
they suffered ‘death’ and were ‘buried’.
On the third day they rose again
in accordance with the sceptics;
they returned to their jobs,
and are seated in academic tenure.

They will come again in future to fudge the reason and the facts,
and their soapbox will have no end.

We believe in the wholly spurious, our god, the slither of doubt,
which precedes our judgement of evidence.
With the money and the vice it is worshiped and glorified.
It is supported through the profits…
We believe in one wholly cynical and irrational church.
We acknowledge one purpose; for the pursuance of greed.
We look for the perpetuation of growth,
and the life of the World to shun.

Amen.

[Please be seated]

Copyright © Martin Lack 2013

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