Tuesday 11 September 2012

That Day They Wounded New York

New York 216

As always, click for the music

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Wednesday 30 November 2011

Auditing Climate “Science”

It is a long story why, but I was recently appointed to manage all the quality auditing within the company I work for, and of our suppliers. This is considered a vital role, for which I require training, and although I have been auditing for a while after an introductory course this week I am on a full Quality Manager’s course.

Learning to audit is eye-opening stuff, and very interesting that auditing is a general skill, not specific to the activity of the company; in fact the practice audit we completed was of the only part of our type of operation about which I know little, and it was no more difficult for me than it was for the guy who works in that area.

Also surprising is how vital auditing is to all activity if it is to be done well, how easily any organisation, even with the most competent and professional staff slips in quality. Any company of any size really should have a quality department, and typically companies involved in safety-related work are required to do so, either by a regulating authority or by their insurers (for the record, I believe insurance companies make the best regulators; that is the free-market libertarian in me).

The final surprise was that a good external audit will find about what is going wrong even the best-run organisation. The hosts for our audit were great, a very good company with an excellent auditing system of their own and frequent outside audits. Yet I still made findings.

So what does that have to do with climate research?

Publically-funded science is way behind commercial enterprise and even many government organisations in quality auditing. There is very little and what exists is done badly. Very badly. As in almost always breaking fundamental principles of auditing. Some of the requirements are listed here.

  1. Auditing should be to objective questions which query whether stated, objective aims are being achieved.
  2. Auditing should be carried out by independent people with training in quality auditing.
  3. The auditor should be able to present objective evidence of compliance or non-compliance for which:
    • the auditor should be able to state that any processes are suitable and are followed;
    • the auditor must have access to samples of all information used or produced, selected by the auditor.

The only external auditing carried out in government-funded science, certainly in British universities, is in the peer review of the resulting papers and the post-publication study by interested parties. This is an audit because it is an examination and verification of the paper, and the science behind the paper.

So I will consider that in respect to climate “science”.

  1. I am suspicious about the actual aims of climate science; I think they aim to prove that human activity causes climate change. A few of them start talking about “post-normal science”, which is by definition subjective. For those who still recognise science, an objective aim can be assumed, however if they are not honest about that aim, then they should fail every audit.
  2. The “scientists” complain vociferously when independent scientists are used for peer review. After publication their papers are studied by independent minds, although they have not been conspicuously grateful when gaping flaws are found.
  3. Objective evidence is where peer review falls down as an audit process within climate “science”:
    • the processes are not available in full to the reviewer. The authors of the papers refuse to allow their computer code to be provided to reviewers, let alone to interested readers post-publication;
    • the climate scientists conspire to break the UK Freedom of Information Act and Environmental Information Regulations in order to keep the data they use secret.

So peer-review and study of papers post-publication is not sound auditing.

Without auditing no-one (not even the researchers themselves, I must stress) knows whether the results have any merit whatever.

It is certain that they don’t know if the data sources are reliable. They don’t know if the initial data are sound. They don’t know if the processes are correct. They don’t know if the processes have been followed. They don’t know if the published results bear any relation to the output of the process.

I will go out on a limb here, from my experience with being audited and with auditing. For every paper written by climate “scientists” some, and often all, of those aspects behind a new paper will be flawed. Some of those flaws will be serious.

So what is the quality of those papers?

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Sunday 27 November 2011


If any warmist ever mentions that “emails have been taken out of context” you might do worse than point them to Ross McKitrick at Climate Audit.

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Saturday 26 November 2011

Escalation of Climategate

Something has struck me about he new “Climategate” emails, as they are gradually being mined for interesting and relevant comments.

These are worse, these are more damning even than the 2009 release.

Yes 2009 had the data, with the harry_readme.txt file which cast suspicion on the data. It had “hide the decline”, which despite all excuses was a terrible indictment of the whole process, if interpreted correctly and as broadly as I viewed it. But that is the point. It was up for interpretation; the excuses were sort of believable; you could accept that each one piece of evidence was only relevant to the sender, or occasionally the sender and recipient.

This new lot is dynamite. It is unequivocal. The web of deceit is much clearer.

I cannot possibly do it justice, I simple don’t have the time, so I am grateful to those that do. If you read Watts Up With That, Bishop Hill blog, Roger Pielke Snr, Roger Pielke Jnr and Junk Science then you can get a fair impression, although there are many other sources out there.

So we have a puzzle. This has been mentioned by others. What is the leaker’s motive? What is his aim? Considering these two questions, what is his intention?

There is another huge file there. It is encrypted. The leaker has released some embarrassing emails and data that the climate-change alarmists could, and did, cope with. Phil Jones was side-lined a little. No-one else really suffered more than a red face. Two years later (this man is more patient than my wife is, I’ll tell you that) more emails are leaked. The surprise is less, but the emails are more damning. A different league. If any real notice is paid to them there is no way that all the people involved are going to get away with this.

So why? With what aim? Considering perhaps close to 250,000 emails not yet released, with what intention?

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My cutest picture post yet …


A beautiful kitten, an Istanbul stray. I love the song at the link; there are not many songs about cats that are not sickly, but the “cute punk” style makes up for the slightly unformed lyrics.

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Friday 25 November 2011

Climate change conspiracy went further

Someone just replied to a comment I made on another blog over two years ago. That generated an email to inform me of the reply, so I went and looked. The blog author had expressed scepticism of the idea that there was a conspiracy at the heart of the global-climate-change industry.

I am quite pleased with my judgement. This was before even the original “Climategate” release.

But there is a conspiracy in Global Warming (sorry, it’s called climate change isn’t it, now the globe has stopped warming?). Those in the conspiracy have all but admitted that there is a conspiracy to keep the data on which the scare is based away from researchers who might challenge their interpretation of it.

As for undisclosed affiliation, what about the people who favour climate change panic? Well the scientists need to ensure their funding. There is far more money, by orders of magnitude, in claiming AGW than in refuting it.

So with the 2009 release of emails and data, and the 2011 release of emails from the CRU, further evidence of these conspiracies emerged, exactly along the lines I had stated, but also far further. What I commented on was only one of a web of conspiracies.

Did I underestimate the scope of conspiracy, or was I just commenting on those parts for which there was, at the time, evidence? I think a little of both. I certainly would not have guessed that the World Bank would be at the centre of things, but the involvement of a BBC reporter and at least some BBC management is not quite so unexpected.

[Update: edited to add extra hyperlinks]

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Tuesday 22 November 2011

Classic error in science – Climategate 2.0 (the revenge)

A quote from Phil Jones in the recently-released emails:

I too don’t see why the schemes should be symmetrical. The temperature ones
certainly will not as we’re choosing the periods to show warming.

You can say what you like about context, but my doubts are very slight that Mr Mann is making that classic scientific error, in cherry-picking data. Many erroneous scientific conclusions have been drawn in the past from scientist who found an excuse to disregard data that did not fit. Many theories have only stood after they should have been disproved as scientists ignored results showing they were wrong. Theories stood until some brave soul comes along willing to dispute the consensus.

Only it is not an error in this case, is it? This looks very much like blatant dishonesty. I look forward with great interest to the excuses Mr Mann and any recipient of this email can make.

To whom does “we” refer?

[Edited to correctly attribute the email]

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The BBC lies – whichever side you take

The anonymous BBC “reporter” who wrote an article “No let up in greenhouse gas rise” either does not understand the subject or is dishonest.

The article claims that carbon dioxide is “the major contributor to climate change”. It is a lie not claimed by any scientist, but of course most people think this.

That is because they have been told that human generation of CO2 is causing a catastrophic rise in temperatures. What they have not been told is that this claim is based on an assumption of positive feedback, not only that but feedback that must have greater influence than the CO2. Heat trapping by CO2 just isn’t enough to support the claims of the warmists, and they randomly add large positive feedback to models. So even according to climate hysterics the carbon dioxide itself is not the major contributor, the putative feedback mechanism is.

This is not a trivial falsehood. How many times have we read that this is “basic physics”, and that “carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas” so must be causing the rise in average temperatures? How rarely do the people who tell us this admit that without positive feedback CO2 cannot explain most of the warming since the 1970s? How many state that all the nightmare scenarios claimed in the press require a lot of feedback?

Feedback is very important to a lot of what I have studied and taught. It comes into a lot of physics, into geology and in aviation theory in the principles of flight (stability of an aircraft is determined entirely by feedback). What I can say is that positive feedback is that it is rare in natural systems and essentially unheard of in a stable system [correction: essentially unheard of in a non-linear system which shows long-term stability]. Positive feedback is the cause of instability.

Which thought brings us to an interesting place. Either the temperature has positive feedback, and is likely to be unstable, or else temperature is stable and shows little or negative feedback. The whole climate panic is based on the assumption that the temperature is stable (and so the recent fluctuations are unusual) but that temperature response to carbon dioxide shows positive feedback …

Update: thanks to an anonymous commenter for a useful correction. The comments now contain a brief discussion on stability.

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Monday 21 November 2011

Faster Than Light

I no longer read the New Scientist regularly. How can anyone trust a magazine that promotes “consensus” yet claims to be about science?

However if a particle can travel faster than the speed of light, or even if scientists can contemplate the idea that this is possible, then the bizarre notion of science by consensus disappears rather rapidly.

Where are the articles demanding silence from the dissenters? Where are the scientists condemning this research, claiming it must be funded by some random special-interest group (which is, conversely, actually funding consensus research)? Where are the politicians, the socialist journalists, the polemicists condemning the very suggestion that neutrinos might travel at more than c?

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Saturday 12 November 2011

Carl Sagan Part II : Climate “Science”

Well Carl Sagan’s comments on pseudo-science fit remarkable well with the methods and attitudes of the climate scientists. So what about the claims of the CAGW researchers that what they are doing is science? What does Sagan’s book say about science, and how does that fit with CAGW claims?

Every time a scientific paper presents a bit of data, it's accompanied by an error bar - a quiet but insistent reminder that no knowledge is complete or perfect. It's a calibration of how much we trust what we think we know.

We will always be mired in error. The most each generation can hope for is to reduce the error bars a little, and to add to the body of data to which error bars apply. The error bar is a pervasive, visible self-assessment of the reliability of our knowledge.

This is exactly what the climate guys don’t want us to know. They have so often ignored error bars, or been accused by reputable statisticians of poor error handling that I think they have forgotten that their data are not perfect. Considering some of the problems found in their original data … that is not promising.

I keep talking about the “idea” of catastrophic climate change being caused by human activity. That is because I have never seen it categorised, except in the vernacular as a theory.

… scientists are usually careful to characterize the veridical status of their attempts to understand the world - ranging from conjectures and hypotheses, which are highly tentative, all the way up to laws of Nature which are repeatedly and systematically confirmed through many interrogations of how the world works. But even laws of Nature are not absolutely certain. There may be new circumstances never before examined … where even our vaunted laws of Nature break down …

So in the scientific sense is CAGW a theory? An hypothesis? What? I would call it conjecture, but it is certainly not a law. Yet as Sagan says here even a law is not known to be immutable. How can anyone say the debate is over?

But our climate scientists are the great experts, are they not? Surely we should uncritically accept what they say, regardless of the complete lack of evidence.

One of the great commandments of science is, 'Mistrust arguments from authority'. (Scientists, being primates, and thus given to dominance hierarchies, of course do not always follow this commandment.) Too many such arguments have proved too painfully wrong. Authorities must prove their contentions like everybody else.

Ah. So Carl Sagan says specifically that we should mistrust anything we have ever read in the mainstream press or heard on television about human activity, and CO2 in particular, being an overwhelming factor in global climate. Every one of those pieces is an argument from authority. Not a single one is a presentation of evidence, because there is no evidence.

That I am asserting from authority, my authority as a graduate in Earth Sciences who has been following the media avidly for over two years on the issue. You should therefore distrust my assertion, and look for yourselves. Seek an article that discusses empirical evidence (not models, certainly not discredited models; not data twisted to show human influence as a statistical artefact) that humans cause significant climate change. If you find a single one, please post here. Free gig tickets, concert of your choice to the first to link such an article in the comments (my dear wife is in the music business, so I can usually acquire VIP or even AAA passes).

So what about the response in climate “science” to sceptics? Is calling the man who disagrees with your conclusion a “denier”, to link him with neo-Nazis and to avoid having to answer his substantive points good science?

Every scientist feels a proprietary affection for his or her ideas and findings. Even so, you don't reply to critics, wait a minute; this is a really good idea; I'm very fond of it; it's done you no harm; please leave it alone. Instead, the hard but just rule is that if the ideas don't work, you must throw them away. Don't waste neurons on what doesn't work. Devote those neurons to new ideas that better explain the data. The British physicist Michael Faraday warned of the powerful temptation to seek for such evidence and appearances as are in the favour of our desires, and to disregard those which oppose them . . . We receive as friendly that which agrees with [us], we resist with dislike that which opposes us; whereas the very reverse is required by every dictate of common sense.

So that’ll be a no then.

… I maintain that science is part and parcel humility. Scientists do not seek to impose their needs and wants on Nature, but instead humbly interrogate Nature and take seriously what they find. We are aware that revered scientists have been wrong.

Oh. Surely that can’t be right. The revered climate “scientists” have never been wrong, have they? Surely climate “scientists” need not be humble?

Of course not! Sagan is, of course, talking about real scientists, not climate “scientists”. Sagan did not know about post-normal science.

We are constantly prodding, challenging, seeking contradictions or small, persistent residual errors, proposing alternative explanations, encouraging heresy. We give our highest rewards to those who convincingly disprove established beliefs.

Again, I think the problem is that Sagan died too early to hear about post-normal science. I am sure he would have sought fewer alternative explanations if he was alive today.

However Sagan did have some distinctly odd ideas.

In diverse ways, many other physicists are testing General Relativity, for example by attempting directly to detect the elusive gravitational waves. They hope to strain the theory to the breaking point and discover whether a regime of Nature exists in which Einstein's great advance in understanding in turn begins to fray.

These efforts will continue as long as there are scientists. General Relativity is certainly an inadequate description of Nature at the quantum level, but even if that were not the case, even if General Relativity were everywhere and forever valid, what better way of convincing ourselves of its validity than a concerted effort to discover its failings and limitations?

This is one of the reasons that the organized religions do not inspire me with confidence. Which leaders of the major faiths acknowledge that their beliefs might be incomplete or erroneous and establish institutes to uncover possible doctrinal deficiencies? Beyond the test of everyday living, who is systematically testing the circumstances in which traditional religious teachings may no longer apply? … What sermons even-handedly examine the God hypothesis?

Is Carl Sagan, the quintessential scientist, saying that climate “science” has a lot in common with religion? Surely he would never have written this if he knew that a new science would rise, one whose leaders do not “…acknowledge that their beliefs might be incomplete or erroneous and establish institutes to uncover possible doctrinal deficiencies”. A science that refuses to “systematically [test] the circumstances in which [its] teachings may no longer apply”. A science that refuses to “even-handedly examine the [CAGW] hypothesis”, or even acknowledge that such even-handed treatment could have any validity.

A science, no less, that is closer to a god, that we can worship, with sins, penance and the sale of indulgences, taxing people, paying the high priests to live in luxury while they interpret the world by declamation.

So we come to the bible, the great revelations of science. For centuries Christianity hid the “revelations of God” in the bible from common folk, by insisting it could only be published in Latin (and of course murdering the first man to publish it in a language commoners understood). Only a priest could interpret the word of God, and to ensure this remained so the common people would not be permitted to even read it or have it read to them by a literate friend.

Climate “scientists” also seem rather reluctant to part with the information they interpret. They hide their data, in the case of UEA breaking two completely separate laws to avoid disclosure. They openly declaim that this is so others cannot challenge their conclusions. Surely this is a normal part of science?

Science thrives on, indeed requires, the free exchange of ideas; its values are antithetical to secrecy. Science holds to no special vantage points or privileged positions.

That’ll be another no then. Not sure, but I think I’ll just have to put this one down to post-normal science too.

So I have in two posts shown some of Carl Sagan’s opinions on pseudo-science and then on science. I am convinced by these sections that Sagan would have seen today’s climate “science” as more akin to pseudo-science that to science.

I have provided no citations or page reference simply because this is an essay not a research paper. As such I want it to flow, and stimulate further reading rather than prove the case beyond reasonable doubt. I know that I have seen all the poor science and pseudo-science I claim in print from climate “scientists”. If you feel differently, look for evidence. If you can find any to the contrary, or cannot find the types of errors and claims I assert then post a comment, I will give more detail as to what I mean. If you want to know more about Carl Sagan’s views on science, read the book. It’s very good.

[Update from Climategate II] It's funny how the climate hysterics are bent on proving everything said against them. Remember what I said about error bars?

...any method that incorporates all forms of uncertainty and error will undoubtedly result in reconstructions with wider error bars than we currently have. These many be more honest, but may not be too helpful for model comparison attribution studies. We need to be careful with the wording I think. (Wilson)

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