Rearranging The Deckchairs

Frank O'Dwyer's blog

Eff My Review?

Via Daring Fireball

If I wanted to leave a review of your app I would have.

What about what the author of the app wants, you entitled asshole?

If the authors had wanted to sweat blood to give you an app for nothing, without troubling you with a simple request for a positive review after you’d been using the app repeatedly for months, I guess they would have.

(And no, as a user I don’t like the rating prompts either–but sheesh, the difference between what users ask of developers, and what developers can ask of users in return, makes me despair of humanity.)

Meanwhile Gruber suggests in response to ‘please rate’ prompts:

I’ve long considered a public campaign against this particular practice, wherein I’d encourage Daring Fireball readers, whenever they encounter these “Please rate this app” prompts, to go ahead and take the time to do it — but to rate the app with just one star and to leave a review along the lines of, “One star for annoying me with a prompt to review the app.”

As an app author I’d be extremely tempted to respond to such a campaign by submitting an update that removes all functionality and displays simply this:

Eff

(But that’s only because tattoing a 1 star rating on users’ foreheads is probably illegal.)

Montford Mansplains

Andrew Montford (aka Bishop Hill) mansplains the climate debate to Vicky Pope (who has merely been working in the field since 1982, as opposed to Montford’s never):

Saying that it warmed in the last century is not really helping anyone get to grips with the debate, since everyone agrees that this is the case (we can quibble over UHI and stuff like that, but this is not going to make the warming trend go away).

Amusingly, in the comments up pop the usual suspects to deny the things that Montford says everyone agrees, as if summoned by Gabriel’s horn. :-) Seems like Vicky Pope knows Montford’s clientele better than he does. But onward:

How these changes are “rapid” somewhat eludes me, since even Phil Jones has agreed that warming at similar rates has been observed in the past.

The above is highly misleading, but more obviously it is an amazing non sequitur. You may as well ask how is it that a race commentator can say Michael Schumacher is moving rapidly, given that Schumacher has been observed to move at similar speeds in the past. Try that one in court: “Your honour, I can’t have been caught speeding yesterday, for I was caught speeding last year”.

Likewise, “overwhelming evidence for manmade climate change” is a point of agreement across all sides.

This comes as news to the deluded and the bewildered in the Bishop Hill comment section, apparently. I wonder where they come by that impression? Somehow, Montford hasn’t been getting this message through to them. Despite his trojan efforts to promote the overwhelming evidence for manmade climate change, apparently he has been horribly misunderstood all this time.

The question, as I say, is how much raised carbon dioxide levels will affect the climate and to what extent it is a problem.

Gee, ya think? I wonder if anyone has thought of looking into that already.

The evidence for this, I would say, is not overwhelming at all, relying on models that have no proven skill in predicting the temperature.

I would say Montford is demonstrably wrong. Here for example, is Andrew Dessler working out climate sensitivity (the expected temperature increase due to a doubling of CO2 levels) without reference to any climate model at all. There are even pictures.

It’s not the only such estimate either. Richard Alley also has lots to say about this in his latest book. So, much of the evidence does not rely on models, poor or otherwise. How can Montford be so steeped in the climate ‘debate’ and not know this?

Furthermore it is not true that models have no proven skill in prediction, and even if it were that would hardly be a comfort. If we do not know what will happen in response to raising CO2 further above levels unprecedented in hundreds of thousands to millions of years—and that is what the ‘models are useless’ cry means—then people like Montford need to explain why it is safe to do so, not the other way round.

Anyway, Montford’s blog strapline is ‘A dissentient afflicted with the malady of thought’. The good news is that he seems to be over the worst of it.

Richard Alley Has a New Book

Richard Alley has a new book (new to me anyway - it actually came out in June last year, but is now available in Kindle format).

This guy is one of my favourite science communicators, as he’s not only very good at it, but he reminds me so much of Professor Frink from the Simpsons he cracks me up.

Separated at birth?

Richard Alley

Professor Frink

Mann 12, Shollenberger 0

Continuing on from my previous post on this, here’s 4 more problems with Shollenberger’s review.

Now there are 12, out of a total of about 19 claims that Shollenberger makes, so already most of Shollenberger’s points are shown to be bogus. I intend to deal with the rest also, but might not get back to it until next weekend.

10. Incorrect claim that Mann misrepresents Roy Spencer

Shollenberger quotes Mann regarding Roy Spencer:

Spencer still contends, nonetheless, that humans are not to blame for the increase [in temperature]

This he cites under a heading of ‘contradiction’ and a minor heading of ‘Mann contradicts his sources’.

Let’s see if there’s really a contradiction. Mann’s reference is to a blog post from Spencer which says this:

But when we start examining the details, an anthropogenic explanation for increasing atmospheric CO2 becomes less obvious.

and this:

since most of the cycling of CO2 between the ocean, land, and atmosphere is due to biological processes, this alone does not make a decreasing C13/C12 ratio a unique marker of an anthropogenic source.

and this:

If natural temperature changes can drive natural CO2 changes (directly or indirectly) on a year-to-year basis, is it possible that some portion of the long term upward trend (that is always attributed to fossil fuel burning) is ALSO due to a natural source?

and this:

since the natural fluxes in and out of the atmosphere are so huge, this means that a small natural imbalance between them can rival in magnitude the human CO2 input. And this clearly happens …

Sure sounds like the beginning of an argument contending that humans are not to blame for the CO2, and thus not to blame for the warming either, to me.

Shollenberger doesn’t cite any of the above, but perhaps realising that he can’t really get away with a claim of ‘contradiction’, he walks it back to ‘exaggeration’ when citing the conclusion from the same Spencer blog post:

This means that most (1.71/1.98 = 86%) of the upward trend in carbon dioxide since CO2 monitoring began at Mauna Loa 50 years ago could indeed be explained as a result of the warming, rather than the other way around.

So, there is at least empirical evidence that increasing temperatures are causing some portion of the recent rise in atmospheric CO2, in which case CO2 is not the only cause of the warming.

So, instead of contending that humans are not responsible for all of the CO2 increase, he is contending that humans are not responsible for almost all of it? Gee, what an exaggeration.

But in fact Mann’s statement isn’t any kind of exaggeration of Spencer’s arguments, because Spencer doesn’t just argue that nature, and not humans, is responsible for almost all of the increase in CO2. He also argues elsewhere on his blog that natural variations, and not CO2, are responsible for almost all of the warming!

Here I will use it to demonstrate that the global warming so commonly blamed on humanity’s greenhouse gas emissions can just as easily be explained as largely natural in origin, most likely due to a natural decrease in global cloud cover.

This is under the heading Misinterpreting Natural Climate Change as Manmade.

So Spencer is not only arguing that humans have little to do with the CO2 increase, but also that CO2 has little to do with the warming in any case.

Therefore Spencer really does contend that humans are not to blame for the warming, and Mann is not exaggerating, and certainly not contradicting, Spencer’s arguments, to say that he does.

Michael Mann: 9, Brandon Shollenberger: 0

11. Incorrect claim that Mann fabricated that hackers had access to the material in October 2009

Shollenberger claims that this quote from Mann is a fabrication:

The hackers had access to the materials in early October 2009, but held off releasing them until mid- November 2009, apparently to inflict maximum damage to the Copenhagen climate summit in early December 2009.

He then says:

In fairness to Mann, he does offer a reference for his claim. It’s a newspaper article by Ben Webster that doesn’t explain how it reached its conclusion.

But the article referenced by Mann clearly does explain its conclusion that the hackers had access in October:

The first hack was in October or earlier, [according to according to a source close to the investigation of the theft]. The e-mails were not leaked until mid-November. […] The computer was hacked repeatedly, the source close to the investigation said: “It was hacked into in October and possibly earlier. Then they gained access again in mid November.”

This is in itself is enough to establish that Mann didn’t fabricate anything: Mann didn’t write that. Whether or not you think it’s correct is neither here nor there, basing a claim off reports of what happened isn’t making things up.

But Shollenberger needs to pretend Mann made something up, and in order to do so he goes off on a wild tangent, quoting another article by the same author which he claims clarifies the conclusion by saying:

Almost a month before they were posted on a website popular with climate-change sceptics, the hacked information was sent to a BBC weatherman who had expressed his doubts about climate science on his blog. The BBC has confirmed that Paul Hudson received some documents on October 12 but no story was broadcast or printed by Mr Hudson or the corporation.

Shollenberger then notes that it turns out that Hudson was cc’d on the original emails, and he didn’t receive the actual hacked materials back in October. Then he tries his hand at mind reading:

mind reading

This misunderstanding is what led Mann claiming the “hackers had access to the materials in early October 2009.”

However, nothing of the followup article Shollenberger quotes refutes that the hackers had access to the computer in October, because that claim was based on “a source close to the investigation” that said the computer was hacked in October, and hacked repeatedly.

While it’s possible that this claim was based on Paul Hudson supposedly receiving the material back then, nowhere does it state or give any reason to think that is so. Nor does Shollenberger provide any other reason to think so—so if anyone is guilty of ‘fabrication’ here, it would appear to be him.

Shollenberger concludes his train wreck of an argument by saying this:

While Mann claimed the hackers had the material in October, the released e-mails contained e-mails from November. It doesn’t matter how “highly skilled” computer hackers may be. They cannot steal e-mails before those e-mails are written.

Hackers clearly can obtain emails from both October and November if they have extended access to the computer, or if they hack it repeatedly. Which is exactly what Mann’s reference said happened:

The first hack was in October or earlier, [according to according to a source close to the investigation of the theft]. The e-mails were not leaked until mid-November. […] The computer was hacked repeatedly, the source close to the investigation said: “It was hacked into in October and possibly earlier. Then they gained access again in mid November.”

This does support Mann’s claim, and Shollenberger’s statement that Mann fabricated it is manifestly false.

Michael Mann: 10, Brandon Shollenberger: 0

12. Incorrect claim that Mann fabricated that the Climategate began with a crime committed by skilled hackers

Shollenberger also states that the following claim from Mann is a fabrication:

The episode began with a crime committed by highly skilled computer hackers…

Shollenberger tries to justify this accusation by claiming this:

No police investigation has ever determined how the e-mails were released, yet Mann says it was the work of “highly skilled computer hackers.” Not just one hacker. Not even just one very skilled hacker. No, Mann claims to know there were multiple hackers with great skill. How he could possibly know this when the police don’t is a mystery as his note #1 doesn’t address the issue.

But note 1 refers to the same article mentioned above:

The first hack was in October or earlier, [according to according to a source close to the investigation of the theft]. The e-mails were not leaked until mid-November. […] The computer was hacked repeatedly, the source close to the investigation said: “It was hacked into in October and possibly earlier. Then they gained access again in mid November.”

So that there were hackers is not a fabrication by Mann at all but is clearly based on reports of what happened. Even if you think those reports are not true, Mann didn’t write them.

The remainder of Shollenberger’s claim is nitpicking over whether or not the hackers were skilled and whether or not there was more than one of them. Nothing of importance turns on whether there was one hacker or several, and Mann uses the terms hacker and hackers pretty much interchangeably throughout the book. Furthermore that at least one hacker was involved is evidenced by the hack of the realclimate.org website (which in fact looks to be the hack Mann was referring to with the episode began, as discussion of this immediately follows in the book under the title ‘The Hacking’).

As for skilled, the evidence that they were skilled is at least this:

  1. They succeeded in gaining unauthorised access to more than one server

  2. Unlike hackers such as Mitnick and LulzSec (who are certainly skilled) they haven’t been caught.

Michael Mann: 11, Brandon Shollenberger: 0

13. The ‘spreadsheet’ nitpick

Shollenberger quotes Mann saying this:

those claims were false, resulting from their misunderstanding of the format of a spreadsheet version of the dataset they had specifically requested from my associate, Scott Rutherford. None of the problems they cited were present in the raw, publicly available version of our dataset…

And then says:

This claim is absolutely untrue. Even worse, when the claim was first made, McIntyre and McKitrick responded by posting the correspondence between them and Mann (and co-authors), proving they never asked for a spreadsheet.

And indeed the correspondence (assuming this is all of the contact, which I’ve no reason to doubt, as I’ve seen nobody dispute it) shows that while they did ask for the data that Mann said they asked for, they never specified a format.

And so what? Mann’s point was that they were requesting data that were already available in a different format, and that the spreadsheet format that they actually received had errors. The whole thing hinges on what data they requested, what data were already available, and what data they got. Nothing of any importance depends on what format they requested, and in any case what format did they expect to get it in if not spreadsheet format?

But it is this triviality that Shollenberger deems a ‘big lie’ and summons Goebbels for. None of the substance of Mann’s point is addressed by him at all.

In any case, the file they received clearly is in spreadsheet format, it is a delimited text file that is practically the esperanto of spreadsheets. Furthermore it is a format that Excel readily understands:

opening pcproxy.txt in Excel

pcproxy.txt open in Excel

(updated 11 Mar to show a better method of opening the file in Excel)

Michael Mann: 12, Brandon Shollenberger: 0

Matt Ridley on Wind Power Benefits

Via Matt Ridley we find out that wind power has unexpected benefits:

Despite the regressive subsidy (pushing pensioners into fuel poverty while improving the wine cellars of grand estates), despite tearing rural communities apart, killing jobs, …

And the reference is to a report from Verso Economics which says this:

for every job created in the UK in renewable energy, 3.7 jobs are lost

But as we know, jobs are a cost not a benefit. So says Tim Worstall (and he’s probably right).

If jobs are a cost then ‘killing’ jobs must be a benefit of wind power, no?

Odd then that Ridley mentions it as if it were a bad thing.

Fearless, fresh, forensic and funny, Tim Worstall cuts through all the nonsense and brings sparkling and profound economic insights to the environmental debate. Read this book. –Matt Ridley, author of ‘The Rational Optimist’

Mann 8, Shollenberger 0

March 11: 4 more here

Following on from my previous post, here’s 4 more problems with Shollenberger’s review.

6. Incorrect claim that the absence of an observation can’t support your position, while its inverse would say nothing

Shollenberger tries to base an accusation of contradiction on this:

If the existence of warming would say nothing, the lack of warming cannot say something. It makes no sense to say the absence of an observation supports your position, but the inverse would say nothing about your position.

This is easily dismissed by counterexample:

  • If oxygen is not present, there’s no fire.

  • If oxygen is present, there may or may not be fire.

That, to Shollenberger, should be ‘obviously contradictory’. It ‘makes no sense’.

Michael Mann: 5, Brandon Shollenberger: 0

7. Incorrect claim regarding tacit admission of ‘gatekeeping’

Shollenberger quotes Mann:

Some critics also claimed that the e-mails revealed a culture of “gatekeeping,” that climate scientists, myself included, were unfairly preventing skeptics from publishing in the peer reviewed literature. So claimed Patrick Michaels of the libertarian Cato Institute roughly a month after the CRU hack in a December 17 Wall Street Journal op-ed. Peer review, however, is by definition gatekeeping; it is intended to keep seriously deficient work from polluting the scientific literature.

And then says:

In response to he and his peers being accused of gatekeeping, unfairly preventing skeptics from publishing, Mann responds by simply saying peer review is inherently gatekeeping. He doesn’t dispute anything. He doesn’t deny skeptics were unfairly prevented from publishing. He defends against the accusation by tacitly admitting it is true.

You really don’t need to be a genius to understand that what Mann has ‘admitted’ to here is normal peer review. In order for Shollenberger to get his ‘tacit admission’, he needs to ignore the references Mann provided, because he also wrote, and referenced, this:

Patrick J. Michaels of the Cato Institute falsely claims that work by him (and other fossil-fuel-funded climate change contrarians) has been unfairly blocked by me and others from appearing in mainstream science journals because the peer review process is supposedly biased against climate science deniers.

In truth, the only bias that exists at such publications is for well-reasoned writing that is buttressed by facts.

That is why climate skeptics such as Richard Lindzen of MIT or John Christy of the University of Alabama—who are widely regarded as credible and whose work contributes meaningfully to the scientific discourse—have no problem publishing their work in mainstream scientific journals.

“Patrick J. Michaels…falsely claims” doesn’t sound like a tacit admission to me.

It is odd indeed that Shollenberger can find Mann’s references when he wants to claim they contradict Mann’s case, but can’t find them when they contradict his own.

It is also hugely hypocritical for ‘sceptics’ to clutch their pearls and head for the fainting couch whenever some substandard work is not published in a respected journal—especially when it is subsequently published elsewhere—all the while ignoring or encouraging extremely clear and vicious attempts to silence and intimidate working scientists who show that man-made global warming is happening.

If you have praised such attempts with faint damn, then you cannot be taken seriously, and nor can your deafening claims of being ‘silenced’.

Michael Mann: 6, Brandon Shollenberger: 0

8. Incorrect claim regarding ocean warming and UHI

Shollenberger has some more reading difficulties regarding ocean warming and UHI, where he takes another of his army of strawmen for a twirl around the dancefloor. Here he is quoting Mann:

There were even more basic reasons for rejecting the claim that the surface temperature record was compromised by urban heat island effects. The global warming trend is seen not only in land measurements but also in ocean surface temperatures, where obviously no urbanization is occurring. The ocean warming isn’t as large as the observed land warming, but this is expected from basic physics and predicted by all climate models

and then he says:

Mann says people should believe there is no warming bias in the land record because warming is also observed in the oceans. This claim isn’t based upon a comparison of the magnitude of trends. It just says both trends are positive, therefore there is no warming bias in the one. That makes no sense.

This is just a strawman. Mann is clearly talking about the surface record not being compromised, not the land record. He’s simply pointing out the obvious, that the surface also includes ocean and there cannot be UHI there. Nowhere does Mann say there is no warming bias (just that it is insignificant).

In order to pretend there is no quantification, in an argument which was never made, Shollenberger needs to (again) ignore Mann’s references, this time to IPCC AR4 which does quantify:

Urban heat island effects are real but local, and have not biased the large-scale trends. A number of recent studies indicate that effects of urbanisation and land use change on the land-based temperature record are negligible (0.006ºC per decade) as far as hemispheric- and continental-scale averages are concerned because the very real but local effects are avoided or accounted for in the data sets used. In any case, they are not present in the SST component of the record.

Accordingly, this assessment adds the same level of urban warming uncertainty as in the TAR: 0.006°C per decade since 1900 for land, and 0.002°C per decade since 1900 for blended land with ocean, as ocean UHI is zero. These uncertainties are added to the cool side of the estimated temperatures and trends, as explained by Brohan et al. (2006), so that the error bars in Section 3.2.2.4, Figures 3.6 and 3.7 and FAQ 3.1, Figure 1 are slightly asymmetric. The statistical significances of the trends in Table 3.2 and Section 3.2.2.4, Table 3.3 take account of this asymmetry.

Michael Mann: 7, Brandon Shollenberger: 0

9. Incorrect claim of contradiction regarding McIntyre and McKitrick ‘alternative reconstruction’

Shollenberger quotes Mann

Mann approvingly quotes Crowley criticizing McIntyre for not publishing an “alternative reconstruction” despite the fact 53 pages earlier, he claims McIntyre published an “alternative reconstruction.”

This is more reading comprehension failure from Shollenberger. What Mann actually wrote, and Shollenberger also quoted was this (my emphasis):

Paleoclimatologist Tom Crowley perhaps summarized it best: “McIntyre … never publishes an alternative reconstruction that he thinks is better … because that involves taking a risk of him being criticized. He just nitpicks others. I don’t know of anyone else in science who … fails to do something constructive himself.”

Key phrase: that he thinks is better. And that’s true, McIntyre has never published a reconstruction that he thinks is better, i.e. never one he would stand behind as representing our best guess at past temperature. (You would think he would have a go at giving an actual answer, if he likes puzzles so much.)

He has however published an alternative reconstruction that he didn’t think was better. This is from MM03:

Without endorsing the MBH98 methodology or choice of source data, we were able to apply the MBH98 methodology to a database with improved quality control and found that their own method, carefully applied to their own intended source data, yielded a Northern Hemisphere temperature index in which the late 20th century is unexceptional compared to the preceding centuries, displaying neither unusually high mean values nor variability.

While they clearly disavow it as saying anything about actual temperatures, in the paper and elsewhere, this index is the ‘alternative reconstruction’ being spoken of in Mann’s book (and in fact the use of the word ‘reconstruction’ comes from the Wahl and Ammam paper):

In MM03, a reconstruction for Northern Hemisphere mean surface temperature from 1400– 1980 is presented […] In MM05b, a second version of the MM reconstruction is presented that the authors describe as virtually identical to the one presented in MM03.

Michael Mann:8, Brandon Shollenberger:0

Mann 4, Shollenberger 0

March 11: 4 more here

March 9: A followup post dealing with 4 more of Shollenberger’s claims is here

March 7: Updated to reflect clarification from Michael Mann regarding claim 1 below. Additions are marked and deletions shown with strikethrough. I have also changed the title from Mann 5, Shollenberger 0, to Mann 4, Shollenberger 0, for reasons explained below.

Brandon Shollenberger has posted a 15 page review of Professor Michael Mann’s book The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the front lines.

To his credit he has clearly read the book (I have too), and the whole thing comes over as an intellectually honest attempt to fact check Mann’s claims. Reading Shollenberger’s remarks over at Climate Etc, he himself comes over as intellectually honest also, e.g. unwilling to associate himself with other ‘sceptical’ points made against Mann’s book that he perceives as poor.

Unfortunately many of the claims made in his review are nevertheless flat wrong, with many mistakes that can be put down to simple logic errors or reading comprehension failure on his part.

Other problems in his review include pedantic nitpicking, and hyperbole (“Goebbels” and “big lies” indeed—paging Mr Godwin!), with much of the pedantry turning out to be wrong as well. Often minor differences or no significant differences at all are claimed to be ‘contradictions’. Most of the points which have any validity amount to torturing of issues that imply little more than the possibility that Mann was mistaken about some minor detail of events that make little difference either to Mann’s basic point, or to anything important.

In light of this one despairs to see Judith Curry, a distinguished scientist, write approvingly of his review

Brandon, nice job. I assume the auditors will audit your audit, but your analysis seems to me to be correct.

It’s really hard to see how she could have read the review and arrived at this conclusion.

Shollenberger makes about 19 claims in his review. I address 5 of them here, in no particular order, and will deal with the rest in later instalments as I get time. Meanwhile I will point out in fairness to Shollenberger that his review does have better points than the ones I mention below, but unfortunately that would not be difficult. Though not all of the points made have no validity, the vast majority have little or none, and/or suffer from the other problems I mentioned above.

1. Incorrect claim that Mann contradicts himself re CO2 doubling

Shollenberger claims that Mann contradicts himself re temperature increase from doubling CO2. This claim begins with Shollenberger noting the following:

For example, if Mann says a doubling of CO2 levels “would lead to an additional warming of anywhere between 1.5 and 4.5°C (roughly 3-8°F)”, it should be easy to notice something is wrong on page 18 when he says (“of” added where it was missing):

There was increasing recognition by the mid-1990s that another 2°C (3.5°F) [of] warming beyond current levels (for a total of 3°C or 5°F warming relative to preindustrial times) could represent a serious threat to our welfare. Precisely what limitations in global greenhouse gas emissions would be required to avoid that amount of warming remained uncertain, and still does, because of the spread of predictions among models. If we choose to take the midrange model estimates as a best guess, avoiding another 2°C of warming would require stabilizing atmospheric CO2 concentrations at no higher than about 450 parts per million (ppm). Preindustrial levels were about 280 ppm…

and Shollenberger then says:

The midrange of 1.5 and 4.5°C is 3°C. This means Mann said there would be a total increase of 3°C with CO2 levels having only gone up by 60%. Something is obviously wrong.

Shollenberger is right that something is obviously wrong, but unfortunately the something that is obviously wrong is Shollenberger’s understanding of the word ‘avoid’. Mann did not say there would be a total increase of 3C. Mann proposed 450ppm as a means to avoid a total of 3C of warming, relative to preindustrial times. If you avoid 3C of warming, that means there wouldn’t be a total increase of 3C, not that there would be. Since Mann is trying to work out how to avoid an increase of 3C, not how to achieve one, it should be blatantly obvious that what he is saying here is that 450ppm would (probably) yield a total increase of less than 3C.

Furthermore 450ppm is not a doubling from 280ppm, as Shollenberger correctly states, but the midrange estimate (3C) he uses is for a doubling of CO2, so Shollenberger’s second sentence simply doesn’t follow from his first. As Shollenberger clearly understands, an estimate for CO2 doubling of 3C, implies that the total increase from 450ppm would be less than 3C—and that (again) is what avoiding another 2C of warming logically entails. Far from being ‘something wrong’ with Mann’s claim, this just underscores that Shollenberger has misread it.

Given all that, it is a mystery as to how Shollenberger has managed to decide that Mann is saying there would be a total increase of 3C at 450ppm. The only time Mann mentions a total increase of 3C is to mention that this could represent a serious threat to our welfare. Hence he sets out what we’d need to do in order to avoid that, i.e. he asks the question what we’d need to do to see less warming than 3C, and his answer is not to exceed 450ppm. That in no way contradicts “The midrange of 1.5 and 4.5C”, i.e. 3C as a best guess for warming from doubling CO2 to 560ppm.

It turns out Mann added an increase of 2°C to the already observed warming when he should have added it to the temperature of 200 years ago. Instead of “another 2°C” and “a total of 3°C,” Mann should have said “another 1°C” and “a total of 2°C.”

No, it turns out that Shollenberger had misread the paragraph he was quoting and attributed a statement to Mann which Mann never made. Mann should have said what he did say.

Update March 7: Michael Mann has clarified this on twitter:

So, it turns out what Mann meant to describe was the EU target of 2C total warming, rather than a goal of avoiding 3C total warming. That is why it should read “for a total of 2C warming”. So while Shollenberger’s conclusion just above turns out to be correct, his reason turns out to be wrong. He also remains wrong in claiming that Mann said that 450ppm means 3C warming, because it’s still obviously true you don’t avoid a warming of 3C by warming 3C (though oddly enough, a similar construction would work in terms of how the EU target is expressed, because in that case 450ppm is offered as a 50% chance of avoiding 2C!). And it still remains clear in the context of the book as a whole and now from the twitter conversation that Mann was saying that 450ppm implies about 2C warming as a best guess/median projection.

Despite the error on the target, there is simply no reasonable reading of any of that or the original text that gives you ‘This means Mann said there would be a total increase of 3°C with CO2 levels having only gone up by 60%’, as Shollenberger claimed. When I look at it again in hindsight, I see that one thing you could have queried in the original context is why the phrase ‘no higher than’ was present–after all there are levels above 450ppm that would also (probably) avoid a total warming of 3C, so why stop 1C short rather than, say, at 2.5C? Caution? You could also have pointed to the EU target and said that the 3C goal seems too high, it should have been a target of 2C (which it turns out is what Mann actually meant). But none of that was actually said, and none of it would have been enough to justify the claims of contradiction that Shollenberger actually did make. The worst he could have claimed is that ‘no higher than’ was unsupported/unexplained–but he didn’t say that either. In any case you couldn’t have said (and still cannot say) that a warming of 2C doesn’t avoid a warming of 3C, nor that it means a warming of 3C. And that is what Shollenberger did say.

This is confirmed on page 250 where Mann says:

When we reach concentrations of 450 ppm (about 2030, extrapolating from current trends), we will likely have locked in at least 2°C (3.5°F) warming of the climate relative to preindustrial levels…

The only thing this confirms is that Shollenberger is mistaken. Mann shows here that he knows fine well that 450ppm means a best guess of about 2C of warming, which is why he mentioned it still wouldn’t be wrong to offer 450ppm as a way to avoid a total rise of 3C, not to achieve it, as Shollenberger claimed Mann said. There is no contradiction at all between this statement and the earlier one.

That the first set of numbers was nonsense should be obvious. It contradicts a later statement by Mann, and it contradicts basic arithmetic. It’s a mystery how such an obvious error could slip past an editor, but it’s certainly something any reader should be able to spot.

Unfortunately the only nonsense and obvious basic errors here are from Shollenberger. Anyone can make mistakes, but Judith Curry should know better than this, and should be embarrassed to have posted that she finds Shollenberger’s analysis correct here.

Michael Mann: 10, Brandon Shollenberger: 0

2. Incorrect claim that MM03 said PCA manufactured hockey sticks from noise

Shollenberger claims that Mann is wrong to say that MM05 included a new assertion regarding hockey sticks from pure noise.

Mann goes on to discuss a later work by McIntyre and McKitrick, saying (on page 130):

McIntyre and McKitrick had quietly dropped their erroneous original assertion (in their 2003 paper discussed in chapter 8) that the hockey stick was an artifact of bad data. Their new, albeit equally erroneous, assertion was that the hockey stick was an artifact of the conventions used in applying principal component analysis (PCA) to certain tree ring networks, which, they argued, “manufactured Hockey Sticks” even from pure noise.

Mann clearly portrays the two papers as showing a change in argument. In reality, the assertion in their later paper was not “new.” It was the same as in their 2003 paper, a point evidenced by Mann’s own note #45.

Once again Shollenberger’s claim here is flat wrong and Mann is right. Search MM03 for the word “noise” and you will find nothing, because there is no mention of the specific claim Mann mentions. Do the same search for “noise”on MM05 and you will find that it is discussed prominently, because the claim that MBH98 produces hockey sticks even from noise is a new claim introduced in that paper.

The fact that the first paper claimed that PCA calculation mistakes were made and the new claim also ostensibly relates to the same PCA mistakes doesn’t change this. While MM03 did claim that a hockey stick from at least one specific proxy series was an artefact of mistaken PCA calculations, nowhere in that paper do they say the method meant you would get one even from pure noise. That was a new argument introduced in MM05, just as Mann said it was.

Michael Mann: 1, Brandon Shollenberger: 0

3. Incorrect claim regarding Wegman testimony to congress

Shollenberger says this is the most serious misrepresentation from Mann and that it amounts to libel. Let’s see. Here Shollenberger starts to make his case (my emphasis):

The claim is basically that the Wegman Report repeats McIntyre’s work and conclusions without due consideration. Mann doesn’t spend much time on this criticism in his book, but what he says is very important:

Not only had there apparently been substantial undisclosed collaboration between the WR authors and Stephen McIntyre, as hinted at earlier–something Wegman had denied in his testimony under oath in Congress…

Mann claims Wegman denied something, under oath, that was true.

Actually he only said it looks like (‘apparently’) the something which Wegman denied (substantial collaboration) was true (and in the book Mann elaborates on why there appeared to be substantial collaboration). Mann then backs up the fact that this was undisclosed in Note 66, which Shollenberger quotes in full:

See http://ftp.resource.org/gpo.gov/hearings/109h/31362.txt, specifically the following exchange between Rep. Stupak and Wegman:

Mr. Stupak: Did you or your co-authors contact Mr. McIntyre and get his help in replicating his work?

Dr. Wegman. Actually, no…

Shollenberger’s main claim here is that Mann is guilty of misrepresenting that this is the whole exchange. However he clearly isn’t. Mann clearly invites the reader to go look at the link, and even tells you what to look for - there is even a clickable link in the Kindle version. Shollenberger goes on to present the indicated section of the transcript and suggests that simply because the whole exhange was ‘lengthy’ and not included inline in Note 66, somehow this means it contradicts what Mann said, and that Mann was lying by omission.

Not only does this not follow, it’s not true either. Nowhere in the exchange does Wegman disclose any substantial collaboration, and his remarks do not suggest substantial collaboration and replication help from McIntyre. That presumably is why Wegman’s remarks start with ‘Actually, no’ and not ‘Why, yes!’—and despite Shollenberger’s claims, that fact is significant. The remainder of Wegman’s remarks elaborate on this to create the impression he is giving a full disclosure and that any help with replication from McIntyre was minor. However Mann is saying there appears to have been substantial collaboration. If there was, then that was not disclosed.

Yes, if that’s true it would have serious consequences for Wegman, as Shollenberger notes, and he’s hardly the first to notice that if Wegman misled congress that’s pretty serious. But that still doesn’t mean Wegman disclosed substantial collaboration, and Mann did not misrepresent anything when he said that he didn’t. Nor did he misrepresent Wegman by omission, because nothing in the full transcript contradicts Mann’s point that if it happened (as he says it appears) Wegman didn’t disclose it. Last but not least, Mann invites readers to use the link and see the whole exchange, and tells you where it begins.

Michael Mann: 2 Brandon Shollenberger: 0

4. Incorrect claim that Mann misrepresented Singer’s letter to Science

Fortunately, the first simple contradiction is found on page three:

In February 1996, for example, S. Fred Singer, the founder of the Science and Environmental Projection Project and a recipient over the years of substantial fossil fuel funding, published a letter attacking Santer in the journal Science. Singer disputed the IPCC finding that model predictions matched the observed warming and claimed–wrongly–that the observations showed cooling.

Singer criticized Ben Santer’s article. He didn’t “attack” Santer.

Shollenberger makes this remark only in passing, but really? To claim that Santer did not mention purported information that utterly undermined his case, and to make this claim in a public letter to a science journal, is a serious slur on his scientific reputation, his competence and/or his integrity. If that is not an attack, it will do until one comes along.

That alone should raise eyebrows, but it hardly compares to the fact Mann misrepresented Singer’s letter. That letter said:

The summary (correctly) reports that climate has warmed by 0.3° to 0.6°C in the last 100 years, but does not mention that there has been little warming if any (depending on whose compilation is used) in the last 50 years, during which time some 80% of greenhouse gases were added to the atmosphere.

Singer clearly acknowledged warming had been observed. You would never have guessed this from Mann’s description of his letter. How does Mann explain this discrepancy? Mann ignores that part of Singer’s letter and acts as though another part is all that exists:

The summary does not mention that the satellite data–the only true global measurements, available since 1979–show no warming at all, but actually a slight cooling, although this is compatible with a zero trend.

Singer says one set of observations shows cooling (which he mentions is statistically insignificant). He mentions other observations show warming. Mann portrays this as him saying observations only show cooling. This is a tame example

Nope, it’s not an example at all. Nowhere does Mann say that Singer said observations only show cooling, any more than the fact that Shollenberger wrote a 15 page review of Mann’s book means that he misrepresented Mann’s book as being less than 15 pages long, or the fact that Shollenberger uses quotations from Mann’s book means that he is misrepresenting that this is all that Mann wrote in his book. Mann simply states that Singer said observations showed cooling, and he’s right: Singer did say that. It’s completely obvious which claim Mann is referring to, and the fact that Singer said other things too doesn’t mean he didn’t make it. This again is simply reading comprehension failure on Shollenberger’s part.

Michael Mann:3 Brandon Shollenberger: 0

5. Incorrect claim that Mann contradicts himself re MM03

Mann contradicts his sources. Mann contradicts himself. It is hardly surprising he would do both at the same time. On page 123, he says:

The central claim of the McIntyre and McKitrick paper, that the hockey stick was an artifact of bad data, was readily refuted.

To understand Mann’s misrepresentation here, there is no need to understand any technical details. All you need to do is compare a few simple sentences. First, compare the above sentence with a quote from the abstract of the paper he discusses (emphasis added):

The particular “hockey stick” shape derived in the MBH98 proxy construction – a temperature index that decreases slightly between the early 15th century and early 20th century and then increases dramatically up to 1980 — is primarily an artefact of poor data handling, obsolete data and incorrect calculation of principal components.

Even though McIntyre and McKitrick’s conclusions refer to “poor data handling, obsolete data and incorrect calculation of principal components,” Mann claims their argument dealt solely with “bad data.”

No he does not. He says it is the central claim, not the only claim.

And it sure looks like the central claim. No need to take my word for it, here it is in the introduction to the paper itself, right after a long list of the things they did (mostly concerning the data, and including a one liner about PCA):

We find that the particular “hockey stick” shape derived by MBH98 is primarily an artefact of poor data handling and use of obsolete proxy records.

I haven’t truncated that sentence. (Sure, they say different in the abstract. Perhaps then Shollenberger will write a review accusing McIntyre and McKitrick of contradicting themselves—after all, they said the hockey stick shape was primarily an artefact of two things and also primarily an artefact of three things, all in the same paper). You can also look at the entire paper, and you will see that the majority of the discussion concerns data.

In any case Shollenberger is wrong to claim there is a contradiction here regardless of whether he agrees that this was the central claim of MM03. There is simply no inherent contradiction in saying that X is the central claim of an paper that also makes Y and Z claims. (I’m not sure why Shollenberger has such trouble with this kind of reasoning—it’s very similar to his mistake regarding Singer above.)

Michael Mann:4 Brandon Shollenberger: 0

Yes That Sounds Familiar

Sheesh…more epic fail from Andrew Montford aka Bishop Hill.

Quoting an article from Dan Satterfield at UCAR he writes (my emphasis)

The past twelve months have seen some of the most extreme weather of modern times, especially in North America. NOAA announced in January that in 2011 the United States suffered through a total of 14 weather disasters that cost over a billion dollars each. Among these were the Texas drought that was literally off the charts, and of course the deadly tornadoes in Alabama and Joplin, Missouri, among other places. More of the United States was either extremely wet or extremely dry in 2011 than in any other year on record.

[…] Look at the end of that paragraph. Wet or dry both being evidence of global warming? Does that sound familiar?

Yes, it sounds familiar. It sounds like Andrew Montford being unable to read the simplest paragraph for comprehension again.

Nowhere in that paragraph does it say that wet or dry is evidence of global warming

Nowhere in the article does Satterfield say it either. In fact he explicitly says this:

Starting with what we know

We know our planet is warmer now than it was a century ago, and most of the warming has taken place in the last 50 years

So he’s not saying ‘gee, look at these extremes of wet and dry, that proves it is warming’. He already knows it is warming! We all do!

But it gets worse, Montford then goes on to argue that this is somehow the same as

When Soon and Baliunas published their 2003 take on the Medieval Warm Period, they took dry or wet as evidence of medieval warmth.

Which indeed they did, and indeed that was bullshit. Because they did say wetness means warm, and dryness means warm - and did so without quantifying any of those terms. That wasn’t even their only mistake.

But it’s not what Satterfield did. He said that we know it’s warming, and we know that 2011 had very extreme and very unusual weather. Neither of these was offered as evidence for the other–both are observed facts! And last time I checked in the comments over at Bishop Hill, not one of the army of ‘sceptics’ has spotted Montford’s latest mistake.

‘Sceptics’, my ass.

Review of the Hockey Stick Illusion - Part 1

This is a first instalment of my review of The Hockey Stick Illusion by Andrew Montford (aka Bishop Hill).

Although the topic of “Hockey Stick” has never been very interesting to me, I had been meaning to get around to reading this book for some time so that I could see what all the fuss was about. After all if people like Matt Ridley and Judith Curry have given it such glowing reviews there must be something to recommend it. Also, following on from my previous posts about Montford’s mistakes regarding boundary layer clouds in Bony et al 2006, since he also quoted the same mistakes from his book, I was interested to read it and see if there were further errors along the same lines.

For anyone reading (all three of you) who doesn’t already know what the book is about, wiki has a (rather one-sided) overview (note: this link is offered as an overview of the book’s topic, not the ‘controversy’ itself). The book in turn doesn’t really claim to be too much more than a summary of Steve McIntrye’s blog, Climate Audit, which for me is a bad start, as that has never much interested me either. (Perhaps understandably, as it really speaks to just how high and deep McIntyre piles it over the years, that a 400+ page book should be considered a simplification or a summary for the layman. For comparison, the IPCC WG1 summary is done in 18 pages.)

Anyway, so far I have only read Chapter 1, and it would be fair to say I am so far unimpressed and disappointed. Those of a ‘sceptic’ disposition will have to take my word for it that I am doing my best to give it a fair reading, and in its favour I will say that the quality of the writing is good, and the book serves as a useful summary of the ‘sceptic’ side of the ‘controversy’. However aside from outrageous appeals to mind reading, baseless innuendo, and the motivational fallacy, already at least 3 outright errors and/or misrepresentations are apparent. I will write these up here and hopefully post more thoughts from time to time as I read further. However progress is likely to be slow as I have several books on the go—including Harold Ambler’s (excellently titled) Don’t Sell Your Coat, which I will also post a review of in due course.

Onwards to the errors:

Error on the timing of the Medieval Warm Period

On P32 Montford claims, re MBH98:

The Medieval Warm Period had completely vanished. Even the previously acknowledged ‘regional effect’ now left no trace in the record.

Given that the Medieval Warm Period (MWP) happened before the 1400s, and MBH98 covers the time period from the 1400s onwards, this claim from Montford is simply amazing. Yes, the paper doesn’t cover the MWP, because the time periods do not overlap. If you’re going to write a ‘detective story’ about temperature reconstructions, shouldn’t you know this? Wouldn’t it come up during your research? Wouldn’t it be the very first thing that came up during your research? Couldn’t you at least figure it out by looking at the pictures?

Let’s be clear about how incredible an error this is: it is like claiming that a map of France has made England vanish—all the while raising an eyebrow to suggest that you suspect foul play. If he had complained that MBH98 left out the temperature during the Cretaceous, or at the time of the Big Bang, or expressed surprise that Queen Victoria did not have a role in the films of the Marx brothers, it would be no less astonishing.

I was so staggered when I first read this that I was sure I’d read it wrong, and had to read it multiple times to be sure he wasn’t referring to something else. No, he really wrote that. This is such a fundamental mistake on an issue that goes to the central premise of the book, that the conclusion is inescapable: Montford is either exceptionally dishonest and machievellian, or he hasn’t the first clue what he is talking about.

In light of this, when you think of glowing reviews of Montford’s book, such as Matt Ridley’s “…a rattling good detective story and a detailed and brilliant piece of science writing”, or Judith Curry’s “a well documented and well written book on the subject of the ‘hockey [stick] wars.’”, you have to wonder if some of those reviewers have even read the book—or if they have, if they might perhaps benefit from an MRI scan. Because if this is a detective story, it’s more Inspector Clouseau than Hercule Poirot. Just without the humour, or the redeeming feature of catching any villains, even by accident.

As for Curry’s “well-documented” remark….what is this…I don’t even. Please read on.

Misrepresentation that the WMO in 1979 was making unwarranted policy prescriptions

He claims that WMO called for prevention of climate changes rather than adaptation, thus overstepping the bounds between reporting what’s happening, versus policy prescriptions as to what to do about it. This initially struck me as a fair point until I checked and realised he had misrepresented what they said (a recurring pattern in the book so far).

What the WMO statement actually called for was this (my emphasis):

to foresee and to prevent potential man-made changes in climate that might be adverse to the well-being of humanity

The part I have emphasised changes the meaning, and it is also the part that Montford left out. So they are not talking about preventing just any man-made changes in climate, but specifically preventing those that might be adverse to the well being of humanity generally. Clearly this is reprehensible!

Obviously it would have been asinine for the WMO to have written instead to foresee and to prevent or adapt to potential man-made changes in climate that might be adverse to the well-being of humanity, as Montford suggests he would have preferred. If changes might be adverse to the well-being of humanity, how should we adapt to them? By evolving into a different species, perhaps? Or perhaps we could adapt to them, as a species mind, by learning to live with and suffer less well-being—assuming living was an option.

This is very easy to see if you change the phrase ‘changes in climate’ to pretty much anything else that might be adverse to the well-being of humanity. For example who in their right minds would suggest that we should adapt to, rather than try to foresee and if possible prevent, a potential asteroid impact, nuclear war, or pandemic? We would only attempt to live with such as an absolute last resort, if there were no way to prevent them.

Note, this is a quite separate question to whether any given man-made changes in climate are adverse to the well-being of humanity. But clearly we would want to foresee and prevent any that might be, if we can. Those where the impacts are severe but not threatening to the species generally, or that we could not prevent, yes we might adapt to those, or we might have no other choice. But the WMO clearly wasn’t speaking about those.

Misrepresentation that Lindzen confirmed the authorship of the email to Deming

On p28 Montford refers to an email that Deming says he received from a leading climate science figure, which he claims to have said “we have to get rid of the Medieval Warm Period”. Montford also says that Deming himself does not tell us the author of the email, and references Deming’s piece from 2005 where he details this. (Actually he references what seems to be a preprint of the same piece, with a link that is now broken - but the original can be found via the waybackmachine.)

Montford then goes on say that Richard Lindzen confirmed “Internet rumours” that the author of the email to Deming was Overpeck. This initially seemed pretty damning to me, as it made it seem that Lindzen was an independent witness—and after all, if he could corroborate the authorship, that also seemed to corroborate the existence of the email itself and its content.

But then I thought, how did Lindzen know? Was he cc’d on the email? Did he receive a similar email or did someone say the same thing to him? So I checked the Lindzen paper cited by Montford.

Lindzen’s paper does say that the author was Overpeck, however the only reference he gives in support of this is the same one that Montford gives—the same paper which Montford just stated is silent about the email’s authorship. So, far being an independent witness to events, both Lindzen’s and Montford’s claims stand on the same single piece of evidence: Deming’s original piece. And far from “confirming Internet rumours”, Lindzen is simply repeating them.

Not only does this not support Montford’s statement that Lindzen “confirmed” anything, the cite Lindzen gives doesn’t support Lindzen’s own claim either. There is no mention of Overpeck at all in the cite he gives. If such a thing had occurred in an IPCC report, the likes of Montford would insinuate that it was dishonest and hype it as a scandal.

In fact, according to comments at Climate Audit, Deming himself says that he is not 100% sure of the author of the email (which begs the question, if he cannot be sure he knows who sent it, how can we be sure he is remembering its context or contents accurately either). Furthermore, Montford’s claim was contradicted by Steve McIntyre in 2010: “the identity of Deming’s correspondent remains uncertain”. You would not get that impression from the Hockey Stick Illusion. Indeed, why would that be so if, as Montford claimed, Lindzen had really “confirmed’ it? Did McIntyre read the book, and if so did he let Montford know he was mistaken here?

Of course McIntyre insinuates that it was Overpeck, but only by torturing his actual words. He does not actually say so, he says the identity is uncertain and then in the next breath mentions Overpeck. It is apparent from the “Climategate” email he cites that Overpeck mentions only a wish to do away with the myths and misuse of terms such as the MWP—and bear in mind that these are emails that the authors would have presumed to have been private at the time. If these were conspirators, they forgot to mention it to each other in their private correspondence—indeed Overpeck actually denies the “Internet Rumours” in one of the emails. Why would he bother to do so, if the people he was writing to all knew that they were making a “concerted effort to rewrite history”, as Montford suggests?

Last but not least, even if one accepts Deming’s claim as true, that would still be just one climate scientist, and still the motivational fallacy. It tells us nothing as to whether or not the MWP was really global in extent, nor does it mean that anything dishonest was done to “get rid of it”. Conspicuous by its absence is any evidence from Montford that there is any reason at all to suppose that the MWP existed globally at any given time. You would think if he has some, he would present it at this stage in the proceedings, rather than innuendo and sloppily researched smears.

Perhaps things will improve in subsequent chapters.

An Annie Hall Moment for Bishop Hill

There is a well known scene in Annie Hall where someone in a cinema queue is going on about Marshall McLuhan and Woody Allen produces McLuhan himself to tell the guy that he knows nothing of his work. Woody then turns to the camera and says “Boy, if life were only like this!”. Turns out sometimes it is.

Recently I came across Bishop Hill accusing the IPCC of ‘Charlatanry’, claiming it had misrepresented the paper Bony at al (2006) in IPCC AR4 WG1 in order to downplay boundary layer cloud feedbacks on global warming. When I pointed out that he’d misunderstood the Bony et al paper, and explained why, he just reiterated the same claim.

So I wrote to Sandrine Bony and asked if I was reading the paper correctly. She confirmed that she doesn’t find anything inconsistent between her 2006 review paper and the cloud feedback discussion of the IPCC AR4.

Indeed if you simply read the paper, its conclusions are clearly different and much less certain than those portrayed by Bishop Hill. However it does strike me as odd that a ‘sceptic’, most of whom seem to make a hobby of demanding information from scientists via freedom of information laws, would not think to simply ask.

Anyway now he knows - I wonder if he’ll now retract and apologise for at least that particular smear of the IPCC experts who wrote that section.

More background here.