сряда, 30 декември 2009 г.

Favourite spin doctors of all times: The real deal Lord Christopher Monckton

Today I already had to twice give explanations for the words of an opinion maker on the subject "humans have no influence on climate", very popular recently - Lord Christopher Monckton. This is a summary.

Here is his smashing lecture on applied propaganda in front of the Minnesota Free Market Institite, a really marvelous audience. I embed it for those chosen ones who will spend an hour and a half learning some lobbying methods (wouldn't really call them good practices).

His Lordship is truly quite skilled in his field (propaganda). Interesting why most such people stand in the far-right. He gives himself as a libertarian (I think not because of the audience) and that is more of a religion than a political orientation. So if you too find that Europe is run by communists, than congrats you know your religion.

Lord Monckton definitely in many places misleads if not directly lying and gives things as facts which are not facts. Moreover in order to make himself more credible he seems to have the habit of creating foreign opinions opposing his own. Problem is he therefore reaches very definitive conclusions and such are impossible to be overtoned by scientifically accurate data and fact based tentative statements. This is why it is improbable that after reading the further comments you find what he says as wrong as it probably is.

He disputes statistical fallacies, which he uses more extensively than I have ever seen. No doubt in the literature there are some – it is quite normal that scientists also do make mistakes. However for many of the statistical fallacy examples there are other possible explanations like measurement calibrations, and data transformations which are normal scientific practices even if not directly intuitively understandable. He himself truncates datasets without mentioning that conclusions on the basis of longer periods tend to be more robust. So the robustness of many of his examples concentrating on the last 10 years is approaching 0. He accuses the datasets of doing start and endpoint fallacies, which is a well known risk normally accounted for e.g. by reiteration techniques - You get the results for a large number of random subsamples of your dataset and look at the overall mean. Surely some papers will not use that, but I would guess the most influential have such backups.

The consensus fallacies – very rudely abused point -"they (climate researchers) even don’t agree with themselves”. He insinuates that all scientists must first be on the exact same opinion before some part of it can be given out as a consensus. As far as I read and hear, most climate scientists conclude that humans probably will have an impact on climate. And there comes the trouble – it will take few more centuries before the scientific community would have some good estimate of how much an impact. Question is do we have so much time to waste. The IPCC has to give an answer to that. A political answer based on the scientific up-to-date knowledge. As much as I don’t like it the peer-reviewed approach probably wouldn’t be able to give a politically relevant answer – act or not act. So that could be one reason why IPCC doesn’t work quite in the best known scientific practices. I am really not into the work of the IPCC and there is surely stuff to be improved. However in conservation there is the precaution principle – if you suspect a possible negative effect then you try to avoid it. The only way of being totally sure is to have 40 Earths and put half of them under human CO2 treatment then wait for eternity and check for differences. Problem is we have only one Earth and already have it CO2 treated, which might not be the smarter choice.

About glaciers doing fine – that’s info from one source contradicting many other sources and by stating the number of glaciers he implies “there is a large surplus of glaciers” which is not a question since they wouldn’t melt one after the other. About ice covers it is striking how he uses the time period which he finds fitting- not kosher. About ocean acidification and corals – really incredibly ridiculous. He says 600 mln. years ago oceans were more acidic than they are now and at that time corals arised. That has no relevance for current corals, which are very different species and have 600 mln. years of evolution behind them. With the same certainty we could say – humans and other vertebrates arised in water, so Lord Monckton should not have any problem leading his life in deep ocean. However all other organisms are what they are today and they do not have the ability to evolve with lighting speed and so they can mostly not adapt to whatever rapid changes happen in their environment. So it would be smart from us to not try them (smart because these organisms together provide many more services for humans, than humans ourselves, so by losing them we inflict costs on ourselves).

He states that we don’t need more than solar activity and natural variation to explain climate fluctuations, but that still doesn’t explain how what we blast out into the atmosphere will have no effect. Next he states CO2 will have no effect on climate because it is such a small fraction of the atmosphere. This is cheap manipulation – human-produced CO2 is an even smaller part of the universe and this is exactly as irrelevant. Lord Monckton himself is only one-seven-billionth of humanity and shouldn’t have an over-average influence. But this is not the fact and neither are many other superficially logical thoughts. CO2 is the second most important greenhouse gas and humans seem to have increased its concentrations by 40% before half of humanity (China and India) even started burning.

About the IPCC, Illiois using different methods, buckets vs. satellites and so on – Ok– the results are method–limited and exactly as relevant, not meaning that they are irrelevant. We still have no ultimate methods, except for making hamburgers.

About climate being chaotic and therefore unpredictable. The trend is for that to reduce. That is what all computers and models are for - getting better at predicting and reacting. If His Lordship doesn't like this than he simply negates all what human throughout history have strived at. So while the models are far from perfect and absolutely not able “to prove DEFINITEVELY” anything, they are getting better and that is why we have a weather forecast which is sometimes nearly correct. What models do is tell how the things which we know or suspect will affect something at some point in time. It can happen that assumptions are 180° wrong (for which the Lindzen and Choi paper seems to be an example. Still this is hardly THE ultimate proof of anything as His Lordship sells it). Therefore it is a common saying for models “rubbish in- rubbish out”, but that is not the norm and so models are still very important tools. Since that is his logic, if Lord Monckton doesn’t at all like and trust human knowledge as far as we have it, he could postulate that he can fly and jump out the window.

And so based on flawed evidence and logic he reaches his triumphant conclusion being more illogical than anything heard so far – “because my interpretation is absolutely pointing to no climate change a lot of money was totally unnecessary wasted on climate research” :) No comment – well ok, some comment - this chap has absolutely no idea what fundamental research is about and how it works (or more likely connects to his public which has no idea). Results are always fuzzy because all we have of the world is models in our heads, which are but cartoons of reality. Cartoons for which we pay to get more detailed and further reaching. He on the other hand seems to communicate directly with god, has no doubts and therefore does also not need fundamental research. His Lordship has a crystal clear understanding what the real priorities are – look at his list. I like it – it reminds of the Elisabethan, Victorian and Cold War ages (where I’m afraid his thinking is stuck). His money bill looks also religion-based – it bases on the total assumption that nothing can work unless fossil fuel gets burned. Unless solar panels are witchcraft that is evidently wrong. Then he comes to the “world government” – an unelected, uncontrollable entity which will put us all in slavery – but of course! and Obama is a “secret muslin” and nazi, while God is Bulgarian, whoever didn’t know what reality we are living in –Welcome! (meaning “So long and thanks for all the fish!”) Out of nowhere he deduces the world government from the climate debt – a concept which is reasonable, because opposing to all cynicism many humans believe that we are not here to race who gets to first pollute the Earth until it gets uninhabitable, whether with CO2 or something else (Chinese government excluded). I at least have no better solution for global responsibility, which each of us owes at least to his children and co-inhabitants if not to his species affiliation. That is what Copenhagen was about and where it failed, so hopefully some of the next COPs won’t fail. At that point despite his knowledge Lord Monckton is the guy on left here in the very cliché

And just for the fun of it and not related to climate change I will briefly address his entry argument on DDT - very amusing. Next thing I would guess is to state that napalm should be sold in pharmacies. For people not into wiki-searches - napalm is used mainly in warfare, it is the stuff which makes gasoline stick better to the object to be burned, but if the object is still living it could get a bit messy. DDT on the other hand is a once commonly used insecticide e.g. to control mosquitoes. It later proved to be harmful not only to insects, but also to birds and humans and was banned. However because of its mass use DDT has caused mosquitoes to evolve a DDT-resistance. While Lord Monckton surely is aware of these facts, he doesn't mind bringing up the ridiculous "cause" of bringing back DDT simply because he addresses those who seek for the uncommon no matter how unreasonable an opinion. For them probably the road to hell is paved with good intentions, for Lord Monckton - hardly.