The Week That Was: February 1, 2020, Brought to You by www.SEPP.org
By Ken Haapala, President, Science and Environmental Policy Project
Quote of the Week: “”Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclination, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” —John Adams (1770)
Number of the Week: 60% Rule
Scientific Integrity: In his 1974 commencement address to graduating students of Caltech, Nobel Laurate in physics and brilliant teacher Richard Feynman chose the topic of “Cargo Cult Science: Some remarks on science, pseudoscience, and learning how to not fool yourself.” He began with:
“During the Middle Ages there were all kinds of crazy ideas, such as that a piece of rhinoceros horn would increase potency. (Another crazy idea of the Middle Ages is these hats we have on today—which is too loose in my case.) Then a method was discovered for separating the ideas—which was to try one to see if it worked, and if it didn’t work, to eliminate it. This method became organized, of course, into science. And it developed very well, so that we are now in the scientific age. It is such a scientific age, in fact, that we have difficulty in understanding how witch-doctors could ever have existed, when nothing that they proposed ever really worked—or very little of it did.”
Feynman describes the scientific method by describing ideas or fads that didn’t work. He describes the Cargo Cult of inhabitants in the South Seas who built the forms of a landing strip, with apparent communication equipment made of wood. But planes loaded with cargo did not land. Though Feynman did not say this, the Cargo Cult lacked the ability to communicate to planes through invisible radio waves.
To avoid poor science, or a cargo cult science, the rigorous follower of the scientific method must try to give all of the information regarding the researcher’s work to help others to judge the value of his contribution; “not just the information that leads to judgment in one particular direction or another.”
In short, there is no easy way of recognizing what does not work without utter and complete honesty in reporting the results of research. Through recognition of failure, one can hope to correct the errors in past research. A goal of TWTW is to look beyond what is presented and focus on what is omitted.
For the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) the omission is clear. It has omitted trying to explain the natural variation over the past 2.6 million years, the Quaternary Period. During this period the earth may have had more than 60 periods of glacial expansion interspersed with brief warm periods. During the last glacial period which reached a maximum about 22,000 years ago, ice covered about 30 percent of the earth’s surface.
Without understanding natural variation, we cannot hope to understand the human influence during this current warm period.
The IPCC has a bureaucratic excuse for its omission, understanding natural variation is not part of its charter. US entities under US Global Change Research Program had no such excuse. Their legal mandate stated:
“USGCRP was established by Presidential Initiative in 1989 and mandated by Congress in the Global Change Research Act (GCRA) of 1990 to develop and coordinate ‘a comprehensive and integrated United States research program which will assist the Nation and the world to understand, assess, predict, and respond to human-induced and natural processes of global change.’” Boldface added. https://www.globalchange.gov/about/legal-mandate
To date, the USGCRP has ignored its legal mandate to understand, assess, and predict the natural processes of global change. A search of current activities of USGCRP shows nothing newer than the FY2019 President’s Proposed Budget of $2,013,000,000. Apparently, nothing was enacted for FY2019, which ended on September 30, 2019, and here is no indication of activity in FY2020.
Given the failure of the USGCRP to meet its legal mandate to pursue rigorous science as described by Feynman, perhaps the disappearance of the USGCRP into a bureaucratic black hole is appropriate. See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy.
The Concept of Time: “The Global Risks Report 2020” produced by the World Economic Forum (WEF) can be considered an excellent example of cult science. Figure III shows that the impact of climate change is similar to, or greater than, the impact of weapons of mass destruction, and indicates that the likelihood of the former is far greater.
During the last ice age retreating about 18,000 years ago, massive ice sheets covered Manhattan. Such an ice sheet would utterly destroy Manhattan, but it would take tens of thousands of years to develop.
During the last interglacial period, about 127,000 to 116,000 years ago, sea levels may have been 20 to 30 feet (6 to 9 meters) above present sea levels. The current elevation of Manhattan ranges from about 7 feet to 265 feet (2 to 30 meters) above sea level today. A sea level rise of 20 to 30 feet (6 to 9 m) would make commerce in lower Manhattan impossible and create difficulties elsewhere. However, at the current rate of 7 inches of sea level rise per century (questioned by others as being too high or too low) a 7-foot rise would require 12 centuries or 1200 years.
The 50 megaton Tsar Bomb detonated by the Soviet Union over 50 years ago would demolish Manhattan in seconds. Yet, the World Economic Forum does not consider the concept of time of seconds to tens of thousands of years important in its assessment of risks. See links under Defending the Orthodoxy.
The Pacific Ocean Is So Acidic: Another example of cult science appeared in headlines by CNN: “The Pacific Ocean is so acidic that it’s dissolving Dungeness crabs’ shells.” This eventually linked to a paper on issues in the development of Dungeness crab larva, which may be the result of changing pH during upwellings of the Pacific Ocean along the US seaboard. Additional checking raised additional questions among them:
- Changes in ocean upwelling along the west coast of South America have been known since the 18th century. Such changes of ocean upwelling change the pH of the sea water along the coast.
- The measured pH is 7.48. It is alkaline not acidic.
- The change in pH trend over 20 years in the report was established by a regression model, not measurement. Anyone familiar with regression can design a model that demonstrates an upward or downward trend to a sine curve – but a sine curve is a continuous wave with no such trend.
- The crab shells were magnified 11,000 times. An infant’s butt magnified 11,000 times would show abnormal skin. The researchers did not establish what is normal for larval Dungeness crabs magnified 11,000 times.
See links under Defending the Orthodoxy.
Out of Africa: Our species evolved in the tropics of Africa over the past several hundreds of thousands of years, during periods of significant climate change. Not necessarily warming and cooling of the tropics but shifting rainfall patterns. A major issue was how did the species migrate from the moist tropics, across the arid Sahara, and across the arid Arabian Peninsula.
John Kutzbach, professor emeritus of atmospheric and oceanic sciences of the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and his team may have hit on an explanation. After his career studying how changes in Earth’s movements through space – the shape of its orbit, its tilt on its axis, its wobble – and other factors, including ice cover affect its climate, his team trace changes in climate and vegetation in Africa, Arabia, and the Mediterranean going back 140,000 years. The article sates:
“For instance, the [Kutzbach] model shows that around 125,000 years ago, northern Africa and the Arabian Peninsula experienced increased and more northerly-reaching summer monsoon rainfall that led to narrowing of the Saharan and Arabian deserts due to increased grassland. At the same time, in the Mediterranean and the Levant (an area that includes Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and Palestine), winter storm track rainfall also increased.
“These changes were driven by Earth’s position relative to the sun. The Northern Hemisphere at the time was as close as possible to the sun during the summer, and as far away as possible during the winter. This resulted in warm, wet summers and cold winters.”
There are still questions, but the research seems be filling some of the blanks in explaining the migration of our species. The greening and drying of the Sahara were noted in the pioneering work of H.H. Lamb. The 2008 NIPCC report showed a very tight correlation, both moving in the same direction at the same time, between monsoons in Oman and changing cosmic rays, both measured by proxies. It is not mentioned in the Kutzbach work, but it is interesting to speculate, that changing activity of the sun shifts the monsoons. See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy – NIPCC and Changing Climate.
Hope for US Weather Prediction: The US Numerical Weather Prediction System is considered third rate. Meteorologists rank the US global prediction model, GFS, behind the European Center and the UK Met Office, and often no better than the Canadian model. A frequent critic, meteorologist Cliff Mass says there is hope in a new entity, EPIC: The Environmental Prediction Innovation Center. Mass writes:
“The Bottom Line
“From all my experience in dealing with this issue, I am convinced that an independent EPIC, responsible for producing the best weather prediction system in the world, might well succeed. It is the breakthrough that we have been waiting for.
“Why? Because it can simultaneously solve the key issues that have been crippling U.S. operational numerical weather prediction centered in NOAA: a lack of single point responsibility, that complex array of too many players and decision makers, and the separation of the research and operational communities, to name only a few.
“A NOAA-dependent virtual center, which does not address the key issues of responsibility and organization, will almost surely fail.
“And let me stress. The problems noted above [in the main part of his essay] are the result of poor organization and management. NOAA and NWS employees are not the problem. If anything, they have been the victims of a deficient organization, working hard to keep a sinking ship afloat.
“The Stars are Aligned
“This is the best opportunity to fix U.S. NWP I have seen in decades. We have an extraordinary NOAA administrator (Neil Jacobs) for whom fixing this problem is his top priority (and he is an expert in numerical weather prediction as well). The nation (including Congress) knows about the problem and wants it fixed. The President’s Science Advisory (Kelvin Drogemaier) is also a weather modeler and wants to help. There is bipartisan support in Congress.
“During the next month, the RFP (request for proposals) for EPIC will be released by NOAA. We will then know NOAA’s vision for EPIC, and thus we will know whether this country will reorganize its approach and potentially achieve a breakthrough success or fall back upon the structure that failed us in the past.”
To this, TWTW would add that it is critical keep the climate modelers out of the effort. Based on the analysis presented in last week’s TWTW, they are more aligned with promoting the IPCC’s effort with its ignorance of the natural influences on climate, than with integrity to the scientific method as described by Feynman. See links under Models v. Observations
Diversity Needed: One of the more amusing examples of cult science appeared in a press release by the Earth Institute at Columbia University stating, “Wine regions could shrink dramatically with climate change unless growers swap varieties.” Although traditional, the wine industry is one of the most diverse and experimental industries in the world.
The traditional European and Middle Eastern species is Vitis vinifera, possibly first cultivated about 8,000 years ago in the South Caucasus (Armenia and Georgia) between southeastern Europe and western Asia. The Phoenicians and the Greeks took vinifera throughout the Mediterranean. The Romans took vinifera throughout the Empire, including York in England and northern Germany. The vineyards thrived in the north until the Little Ice Age.
There are thousands of varieties of vinifera today. The grapes can be green, red or purple (black). In addition, there are thousands of clones of the popular varieties such as Pinot Noir.
Efforts to expand wine production in the mid to late 1800s almost destroyed it. High yielding American species (such as Vitis labrusca) were imported into Europe bringing a sap-sucking insect related to aphids, phylloxera, which almost wiped out vinifera word-wide. Fortunately, scientists hit upon the idea to graft the vinifera vine onto American rootstock such as Vitis aestivalis. Those who appreciate excellent European style wine can thank these scientists and the wine growers who adapted to using American rootstock, and Canadian rootstock to survive cold winters.
European style wine grapes are grown from the hot climates of Israel to the cold climates of Canada. But the Earth Institute at Columbia University is warning that wine producers must adapt? See links under Defending the Orthodoxy.
Number of the Week: 60% Rule: According to Tony Heller, in the Soviet Union Pravda (the official newspaper of the Communist Party) had a 60% rule, meaning that 60% of its news stories had to be credible in order to get people to accept their propaganda. Is this what is meant by “good enough for government work?” See links under Communicating Better to the Public – Use Propaganda.
1. The Davos Crowd Embraces Big Global Government
‘Stakeholder capitalism’ empowers unaccountable elites at the expense of free-market nationalism.
By Richard Shinder, WSJ, Jan 26, 2020
TWTW Summary: The financial services executive begins with:
“These are difficult days for the elites caricatured as ‘Davos men.’ But one might not know it reading the strident remarks coming out of the World Economic Forum last week. Perhaps the globe-trotters in Switzerland ought to ponder what has run amok with today’s version of ‘globalism,’ and there are lessons from history that may help them.
“Salesforce chairman and co-CEO Marc Benioff said on Tuesday that ‘capitalism as we have known it is dead, and this obsession that we have with maximizing profits for shareholders alone has led to incredible inequality and a planetary emergency.’ This is in keeping with the Business Roundtable’s recent advocacy for ‘stakeholder capitalism,’ which aims to make customers, suppliers, vendors, and so on equal with shareholders. Stakeholder capitalism is supposed to be the natural successor to the model of maximizing shareholder value.
“The call for corporate advocacy comes as nationalism and populism are emerging across the West, with events such as Brexit and Donald Trump’s 2016 triumph. This dichotomy suggests that citizens of Western democracies face a choice between a globalist economic and political order—of which stakeholder advocacy is a part—and a retreat into mercantilism, nativism and cultural stasis.
“This is a false choice. The advent of stakeholder capitalism as a replacement for shareholder value is in many ways a microcosm of the current globalist project, and its flaws illustrate the tension between today’s globalism and nationalism. But it also shows how to resolve them.
“Globalism touts the supremacy of supranational bodies and accords—the United Nations, the Paris climate agreement and the like. The officials who enter into these pacts often aren’t accountable to those who are governed by such arrangements. This amounts to a technocratic and anti-democratic rule by elites who think they know better, such as the global political, commercial, NGO and investor class so richly pilloried as ‘Davos man.’
“This in turn fosters paternalistic tendencies among large commercial organizations, whose great size, cross-border reach and profile allow them to act as independent entities on the world stage. Traditionally, only governments play so large a role, and this new phenomenon further erodes democratic accountability. [Boldface added.]
The irony is that many aspects of today’s globalism—or at least its promotion of market economies, capital mobility, and mostly free trade—aren’t in conflict with nationalism. In one sense of the word, the greatest ‘globalist’ age in history was the period before World War I. Trade among western European countries increased to 10% of the region’s GDP in 1900 from 1% in 1830. Supply chains extended across the globe, and capital and labor flowed freely across borders.”
After a further discussion of history of economic development the author concludes:
Nationalism as a response to a collectivist and unaccountable globalism—whether in dealing with a ‘climate crisis,’ ‘inequality,’ or something else—need not be nativist or protectionist. Our own recent economic history demonstrates this. While nationalism may be a dirty word among elites in Switzerland, the nation-state remains the most successful vehicle for advancing liberty, economic advancement and individual achievement in the history of the world.
2. Microsoft Strives for a Carbon-Free Future. A Setback in Fargo Shows the Hard Reality.
Software giant ran diesel generators to power its North Dakota campus due to forces it couldn’t control on the day of its bold climate pledge
By Russell Gold, WSJ, Jan 30, 2020
TWTW Summary: The article discusses how Microsoft needed diesel generators to provide power when power from the grid was cut off. This reliable power was needed to keep the Microsoft facility running for about five hours to keep the lights and heat on for 1,600 employees. The disruption in power is due to privileged rates from the local power company gives Microsoft, also given to other big companies in the Fargo region. Then the author discusses the core issue:
“Lucas Joppa, Microsoft’s chief environmental officer, said he is confident the company can meet its goals but understands it will be difficult. He expects stumbles along the way.
“‘The power situation means Microsoft is far from its goal in Fargo,’ Mr. Joppa said. ‘The company hopes to sign long-term deals to purchase wind or solar energy, but greening the grid can be difficult when the company doesn’t own the power grid or the electric generation, he acknowledged.
“’What we want is to just plug into the grid and have 100% of the electrons that enter our facilities be 100% from renewable sources, 100% of the time,’ he said. ‘We are trying to operate within the constraints or the parameters the system has dealt us,’ he added.”
TWTW Comment: Microsoft chose where it built its facility. It can build its own grid. There is no reason for the general consumers to subsidize Microsoft. The key issue is Microsoft wants indirect subsidies from general consumers to provide reliable power when it needs it from the grid.