By Ken Haapala, President, Science and Environmental Policy Project
Brought to You by www.SEPP.org
Group Think: Author and journalist Christopher Booker has produced an extensive booklet for the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) applying the concept of groupthink to the climate establishment. This is not the first time the concept has been so employed. Others, such as Tim Ball, have used the concept, but Booker’s effort is the most systematic and comprehensive.
Groupthink describes systematic errors made by groups when making collective decisions. It was popularized by Research Psychologist Irving Janis in his 1982 book of that title. Janis used it to describe the poor US preparation, despite warnings, for the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and the failed US-supported invasion of Castro’s Cuba in 1961. His work suggests that pressures for conformity restrict independent and critical thinking by individuals of the group, biasing the group’s analyses.
The forward by Richard Lindzen, Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology, emeritus, of MIT, discusses how well this concept applies to the Climate Establishment and its promotion of fear of carbon dioxide (CO2)-caused dire global warming:
“…Booker’s relatively brief monograph asks a rather different but profoundly important question. Namely, how do otherwise intelligent people come to believe such arrant nonsense despite its implausibility, internal contradictions, contradictory data, evident corruption and ludicrous policy implications. Booker convincingly shows the power of ‘groupthink’ to overpower the rational faculties that we would hope could play some role. The phenomenon of groupthink helps explain why ordinary working people are less vulnerable to this defect…”
Explaining his work, Booker writes in CapX:
“Since we’ve now been living with the global warming story for 30 years, it might seem hard to believe that science could now come up with anything that would enable us to see that story in a wholly new light.
“But that is what I am suggesting in a new paper, just published in the UK by the Global Warming Policy Foundation, thanks to a book called Groupthink, written more than 40 years ago by a professor of psychology at Yale, Irving Janis.
“What Janis did was to define scientifically just how what he called groupthink operates, according to three basic rules. And what my paper tries to show is the astonishing degree to which they explain so much that many have long found puzzling about the global warming story.
“Janis’s first rule is that a group of people come to share a particular way of looking at the world which may seem hugely important to them but which turns out not to have been based on looking properly at all the evidence. It is therefore just a shared, untested belief.
“Rule two is that, because they have shut their minds to any evidence which might contradict their belief, they like to insist that it is supported by a “consensus”. The one thing those caught up in groupthink cannot tolerate is that anyone should question it.
“This leads on to the third rule, which is that they cannot properly debate the matter with those who disagree with their belief. Anyone holding a contrary view must simply be ignored, ridiculed and dismissed as not worth listening to.
“What my paper does is look again at the entire global warming story in the light of Janis’s rules, and to show how consistently they explain so much of the way it has unfolded all the way through.
“The alarm over man-made climate change was first exploded on the world in 1988 by a tiny group of scientists who had become convinced that, because both CO2 levels and global temperatures were rising, one must be the cause of the other. Unless something very drastic was done, they urged, the planet was heading for catastrophe.
“In November that year two of these fervent believers in what they called “human-induced climate change” were authorised to set up the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the IPCC. This would report to the world’s politicians on the basis of computer models programmed, according to their theory, to predict just how fast the world was likely to heat up over the next 100 years.
“With startling speed, their theory was soon proclaimed as being supported by a scientific “consensus”, backed by governments, all the main scientific journals and institutions, environmental pressure groups and the media.
“In fact right from the start, many scientists, like the eminent physicist Richard Lindzen of MIT, were highly sceptical, both of the theory itself and of those computer models. These, as Lindzen wrote, were so narrowly focused on CO2 that they were far too simplistic to allow for all the other natural factors which shape the earth’s climate.
“But such dissenters were ignored. And for nearly 20 years the ‘consensus’ rolled on, ever more extreme in its apocalyptic claims, with each new IPCC report scarier than the last. By 2006 Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth was outdoing them all.”
Booker then discusses problems the Groupthink experienced, such as Climategate and other scandals, and how the world is emerging differently from those who initiated the fear envisioned.
Interestingly, before “Groupthink” was published, in 1967, Janis was awarded the Socio-Psychological Prize by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). By its actions AAAS demonstrates that it is an example of Groupthink, as stated below. See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy and Lowering Standards.
Quote of the Week. “It is only by obtaining some sort of insight into the psychology of crowds that it can be understood how powerless they are to hold any opinions other than those which are imposed upon them.” Gustave Le Bon, The Crowd [H/t Christopher Booker]
Certainty: One of the characteristics of Groupthink is the certainty the group expresses in its work. This certainty is a characteristic of the Climate Establishment including IPCC and its followers such as the US Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) and elements of NOAA and NASA. Although not directly related to science, the February 10 TWTW linked to an excellent essay by Martin Livermore in The Scientific Alliance on “Certainty breeds intolerance.” See link at http://scientific-alliance.org/scientific-alliance-newsletter/certainty-breeds-intolerance.
Christy Testimony: We can easily see how Groupthink pervades the US Climate Establishment, including Federal government entities. On March 29, 2017, John Christy testified before the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space and Technology that global climate models continue to greatly overestimate observed temperature trends and that the overestimate is highly statistically significant. The greenhouse gas effect occurs in the bulk atmosphere (Christy uses from the surface to 50,000 feet (15km)). Yet, almost all models use surface temperature data. If surface warming is the result of greenhouse gas effect, it should be even greater in the atmosphere. The dramatic warming projected by global climate models is not occurring in the atmosphere. Thus, something is very wrong with the claim that greenhouse gases are the cause of warming shown in the models.
As Christy testified, UN IPCC knows of this disparity, earlier studies were included in the Supplementary Material of Chapter 10 of the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (AR5 2013). The analysis covered the period from 1979 to 2010. Further, the global climate models tested perform better without including human-added greenhouse gases and the models did when human-added greenhouse gases. This demonstrated that the projections from the models that human emissions of CO2 will cause dramatic global warming are not valid. The synthesis report of AR5 ignored these glaring defects. The UN IPCC is a political organization, not a scientific one, and its scientific claims should be treated as such – international politics.
Worse, after Christy’s testimony the USGCRP came out with its Climate Science Special Report – 4th National Climate Assessment, Volume I, last dated November 3, 2017. Unlike the IPCC, the USGCRP mandate is to understand both natural and human causes of climate change. The report states:
“This assessment concludes, based on extensive evidence, that it is extremely likely that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases, are the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.”
The US global climate models use surface data, yet the greenhouse gas effect occurs in the atmosphere. How a warming occurring in the atmosphere can cause an even greater warming on the surface is a logical jump that needs to be explained. Is it because atmospheric temperatures are ignored? To say that the USGCRP is infected by Groupthink is very polite. See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy, Defending the Orthodoxy and http://www.adaptationclearinghouse.org/resources/climate-science-special-report-4th-national-climate-assessment-volume-i.html
New Spencer Model: Roy Spencer who, along with John Christy, published the method of calculating atmospheric temperatures from satellite data, has proposed a simple one-dimensional model for calculating sensitivity of the climate to increasing CO2, using surface temperature measurements from the Met Office Hadley Center (UK) and the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia (UK). The dataset used, HadCRUT4, is the latest in a series providing gridded temperature anomalies for the globe with the CRU component for land and the Hadley Centre component for sea surface.
Readers of TWTW may realize that surface temperatures have significant problems, including changes in extent of coverage, instruments, measurement techniques, and highly questionable adjustments. But it is the longest instrumental global data, running from 1880 to 2018, even though coverage is far from global.
Spencer posted his model on his web site for comments. The early calculations show a low climate sensitivity to CO2 of 1.54˚C. which is at the lowest end proposed by the IPCC of 3 ˚C +/- 1.5 ˚C. This is below the lowest estimate of 2 ˚C given in IPCC AR4 (2007), which led to the UK Climate Change Act 2008 and other disruptive policies which are resulting in dramatically increasing costs of electricity and fuel in Europe. See link under Challenging the Orthodoxy.
Endangerment Finding: The group called the Concerned Household Electricity Consumers Council (CHECC) filed its fifth supplement to its petition the EPA to reconsider the EPA’s Endangerment Finding claiming that greenhouse gas emissions, mainly CO2, endanger public health and welfare. Their earlier filings focused on the EPA’s “lines of evidence” claiming to show CO2 is causing dangerous global warming. The latest supplement deals with false claims regarding heat waves, hurricanes, wildfires, droughts, floods, etc. In short, all the ills attributed to CO2 found in the popular press and in the reports by the USGCRP. Note that SEPP joined the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) in a similar petition, largely based on the testimony by John Christy that the conclusions and the models used by the IPCC and USGCRP that CO2 is the primary cause of climate change are contradicted by hard evidence. Thus, the EPA finding is erroneous. See links under EPA and other Regulators on the March.
New Fashion? As discussed in the February 3 TWTW, legal scholar Richard Epstein has stated that the California municipalities that filed action against Exxon for damages that may occur from CO2–caused global warming may have made a serious error in judgement. [This action was later joined by New York City.] These municipalities cite specific examples of significant harm that may occur. However, they failed to state such harm in securities filings when issuing bonds.
In an interview with Forbes, Epstein made clear if the Exxon case goes to court the cross examination will be brutal.
In her post of the interview, Jo Nova made the clever comment: “It’s never a good idea to launch litigation as a fashion statement or as a form of tribal warfare.”
Perhaps New York City joined as a fashion statement – preparing a theme for fall fashion week – its municipal bonds carrying the yields of junk bonds. [Fred Singer and SEPP were disparaged without evidence or justification in the New York City filing.] See links under Litigation Issues.
Alternative Facts: Science Mag, published by AAAS, has an article by Dan Ferber on what are called alternative facts, stating that: “alternative facts are not facts at all, but socially sanctioned beliefs.” Yet, the magazine should examine its own editorial policy. Shortly after publishing the important article by Roy Spencer and John Christy on how to calculate temperatures from satellite data, the magazine began to ignore or reject articles, research, and data on atmospheric temperature measurements. The atmospheric measurements did not support the IPCC. Also, Science Mag. systematically ignored articles that questioned the Groupthink of the IPCC. See link under Defending the Orthodoxy
The Miracle of Numbers: Writing in Forbes, Kaley Leetaru presents basic errors that can occur with poor data practices, even with scrupulous researchers. He states:
“In my presentation, I broke the world of bad data practice into five key themes: Honest Statistical/Computing Error, Honest Misunderstanding of Data, Honest Misapplication of Methods, Honest Failure to Normalize and Malicious Manipulation, made worse through the poor citation practices of Copy-Paste Google Scholarship.”
Unfortunately, similar errors frequently occur with application of statistical techniques. With the advent of statistical packages, various techniques are mis-applied, often unknowingly. A straight line through a set of erratic data may have no significance, but often is treated as a meaningful trend.
Polling techniques are often worse. In his simple 1952 book “How to Lie With Statistics” Darrell Huff covered some of these tricks. Editors of the journals that published the “97% of scientists…” myth would do well to read it. Huff mentioned the Miracle of Numbers – when faced with numbers (statistics) common sense is lost. The same applies to numerical models. See link under Seeking a Common Ground.
South Australia: Energy costs in the State of South Australia continue to rise, in part because politicians fail to understand a simple concept. The great electrical distribution system called the grid requires stability. Without stability it fails. Adding erratic wind and solar power creates instability. Heavy turbines powered by steam from coal and nuclear or hydro are very stable. Policies that remove stable systems from the grid create instability. Green policies add to the instability, fragility, and the costs of the grid. See Article # 2 and links under Challenging the Orthodoxy, and Energy Issues – Australia
Number of the Week – The 1% solution. Professor Mark Jacobson of Stanford University (California), et al., published a revised study rebutting critics of a prior study claiming that the world can be powered by “renewable” electricity including weather related wind and solar and “stable” geothermal, tidal and wave (not yet demonstrated), etc. Jacobson claimed that the excess power, when available, could be stored with batteries, pumped-hydro, hydrogen (not demonstrated), etc. The studies are based on two different numerical models.
Fortunately, Roger Andrews is not overwhelmed by the Miracle of Numbers, and applied the energy mix suggested by Jacobson to the clean energy mandate by the politicians in California to determine energy storage requirements. In his analysis, Andrews states:
“Battery storage” covers all storage technologies currently being considered, including thermal, compressed air, pumped hydro etc. Batteries are, however, the flavor of the moment and are expected to capture the largest share of the future energy storage market
Based on his analysis, Andrews states:
“The mandate went on to confirm that this was indeed its intention by calling for 1.325 gigawatts of energy storage without specifying how many hours the gigawatts were to last for. Apparently, this was unimportant. According to recent reports California is about to call for two gigawatts more “storage”, with gigawatt-hours again unspecified. It‘s questionable whether California even understands what energy storage is.
“Now there’s no question that high levels of intermittent renewables generation will require fast-frequency-response capabilities to ensure grid stability during the day, but what is California doing about seasonal storage, which makes up 99% of its total storage problem?
“Absolutely nothing. It has yet to recognize its existence.”
Apparently, the politicians in California fail to realize the difference between power and energy. Power is measured in kilowatts (or gigawatts), and energy is measured in kilowatt-hours. Further, and they fail to realize that seasons exist. For years, California seasonally sent surplus nuclear power to the Pacific Northwest and seasonally received surplus hydropower from the Northwest. What will happen now that the California politicians are closing the nuclear plants? See link under Alternative, Green (“Clean”) Energy – Storage.
1. For Europe, Trump Is a Blessing in Disguise
His policies promote energy independence and balance between France and Germany.
By Walter Russell Mead, WSJ, Feb 19, 2018
SUMMARY: The well-known Professor of Foreign Affairs and Humanities at Bard College writes:
“The Trump administration is turning out to be a blessing in disguise for the European Union. While many of the president’s rhetorical statements offend European sensibilities, and while dramatic acts like the withdrawal from the Paris climate accord prompt talk of a “crisis” in trans-Atlantic relations, the actual consequences of the administration’s policies are shoring up Europe’s foundations in surprising ways.
“A year ago, fears that an allegedly pro-Russia Trump administration would ditch the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and throw Europe to the wolves had delicate Europeans trembling. These days those fears seem quaint. But few in Europe have yet grasped how anti-Russian and pro-European the Trump foreign policy is at its core.
“This is partly because European reflexes, especially German ones, are so often nonstrategic. Fine words and noble resolutions are mistaken for hard facts, and the wrapping paper matters more than the gift.
“When many Europeans—and more than a few Americans—hear the word “fracking,” for example, they don’t think of the spear tip of an American energy offensive that limits Russia’s geopolitical ambitions while creating the conditions for renewed European prosperity. And when they hear about American plans to rearm and modernize its nuclear arsenal, they instinctively think about the dangers of American militarism—overlooking Moscow’s hostile military buildup that endangers the European countries closest to Russia.
After backing some of his generalizations with specifics on how fracking and Mr. Trumps actions are changing opportunities for Europe, the professor concludes:
“Mr. Trump is not about to become a European hero, but he offers Europe a historic opportunity.”
2. New England Has a Power Problem
The region is struggling to meet electricity needs and ambitious green power goals
By Erin Ailworth and Jon Kamp, WSJ, Feb 23, 2018
SUMMARY: The journalists write:
“Massachusetts officials thought they were close to securing future supplies of green energy by piping in hydroelectric power from Canada.
“But a week after Massachusetts said yes to the $1.6 billion project, neighboring New Hampshire said no, jeopardizing the 192-mile transmission line that would bring in the electricity through the Granite State.
“The rejection earlier this month marked the latest example of how hard it is to build large energy infrastructure in New England, which is pursuing aggressive renewable power goals and sometimes strains to meet current, pressing electricity needs.
“The six-state region—where electricity costs are 56% above the national average—is heavily dependent on natural gas-fired power after years of losing older, uneconomic coal, oil and nuclear plants to retirement. Gas is also in high demand for heating area homes.
The coal and nuclear plants were closed due to political pressures, including demands for major restructuring. They were economic before such regulatory demands were made. The journalists produce a graph on the “Average cost of electricity for customers in selected areas, in cents per kilowatt hour” showing New England is the most expensive area. For November 2017, the EIA table shows for all sectors: New England 16.24, Mid Atlantic 12.17, East North Central 10.10, West North Central 9.27, South Atlantic 9.92, East South Central 9.26, West South Central 8.17, Mountain 9.10, Pacific Contiguous 13.19.
Without access to more power from Hydro-Quebec, or more pipelines to the natural gas producers in Pennsylvania, New England is headed the way of South Australia.
The journalists continue:
“ISO New England warned in a February report that without some new infrastructure, “keeping the lights on in New England will become an even more tenuous proposition.” With more power plants set to retire in coming years, ISO New England said, the grid is likely to be at risk of fuel shortages and rolling blackouts.
“The region’s energy constraints and high costs are an irritant for business groups such as Associated Industries of Massachusetts, which represents several thousand businesses. It says those costs make it harder for companies to compete, putting jobs at risk.
“Energy constraints also frustrate some of the area’s politicians, including New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, who opposed his state’s decision to block the power line to Massachusetts, known as Northern Pass.
“The power line defeat ‘sends a pretty bad message out there that our process isn’t conducive to looking at new ideas,’ Mr. Sununu, a Republican, said in a radio interview earlier this month. ‘You can’t just say no to everything.’
Plans to bring Canadian hydroelectricity to Massachusetts hit a snag when neighboring New Hampshire said no to the $1.6 billion project.
“New England states have ambitious mandates to meet future electricity needs with clean energy—populous Massachusetts wants 40% of its power from clean energy sources by 2030. Those goals have spurred some renewable energy installations, including dozens of projects totaling more than a gigawatt of wind-powered capacity.
“But the large-scale energy infrastructure to meet those goals and increase access to fuel supplies in the region has been a nonstarter in recent years.”
The journalists continue by describing questionable alternative energy projects and how environmental pressure groups play down any concern.
Table 5.6.A. Average Price of Electricity to Ultimate Customers by End-Use Sector