A few weeks ago Adam Vaughan wrote an article in Guardian that suggested that a report by Mark Walport had compared the risks of fracking to thalidomide and asbestos. Vaughan's contribution to the debate has now received an extremely cutting response from Sir Mark (see update at link above):
The Guardian article that linked fracking with thalidomide and asbestos is a florid example of what my report argued most strongly against. It confuses arguments about science with value propositions. It selected one sentence from one evidence paper, quoted it in part, and in doing so misrepresented both the report and indeed the evidence paper itself.
Marvellous stuff. I just don't quite understand why Sir Mark has chosen this moment to speak out about Guardian Eco playing fast and loose with the facts. They do much worse than this on an almost daily basis.
It was interested to read this article by Ed Hooper, the author of a book entitled The River. Published in 1999, this weighty tome presented an alternative hypothesis for the development of AIDS, suggesting that use of simian organs during the early trials of the polio vaccine provided a pathway for the SIV virus to make the leap to humans, where it became HIV.
The House of Commons is to hold an inquiry into the environmental risks of fracking.
Submissions of written evidence are invited addressing the following points:
- The risks from fracking operations in the UK, including potential risks to water supplies and water quality, emissions, habitats and biodiversity, and geological integrity
- Necessary environmental safeguards, including through the planning/permitting system
- The implications for our carbon emissions reduction obligations
It's being held under the auspices of the Environmental Audit Committee, so I think it's fair to say that it will be a complete farce.
This is actually from yesterday, but seems rather significant to me:
A raft of proposed new gas-fired power plants will be shelved for at least a year after failing to win Government subsidies, experts have predicted.
Some old power plants could also be at risk of closure after missing out on the payments, potentially worsening the capacity crunch in coming years, they warned.
The cost of the subsidies awarded is of the order of £1 billion per annum.
Julia Slingo is to give the Cabot lecture in Bristol on 4 February (details here). Here's the trailer:
The impact of human activity on our climate has become increasingly clear: with the IPCC stating that “Human influence on the climate system is unequivocal”. It has become clear that we are taking the planet into uncharted territory and changing the risk of extreme weather and climate events. Our exposure to these risks is also changing as a result of changes in how we live and a rapidly growing global population.
Judith Curry quotes this sentence from Peter Lee's GWPF essay on climate change and ethics
Omitting the ‘doubts, the caveats, the ifs, ands and buts’ is not a morally neutral act; it is a subtle deception that calls scientific practice into disrepute.
I couldn't help but recall the reaction from climate scientists when I said it was "grossly misleading" of Keith Shine to omit any caveats when explaining the efficacy of GCMs to parliamentarians.
I stand by what I said.
What I hope to do during the rest of the book is try to shift your belief from the [individualist] side of the global warming belief chart to the [collectivist]. Or, if you are already on the [collectivist] side of the chart, show you why your instinctive view of nature may well be correct.
Mark Maslin in Climate Change: A Very Short Introduction
John Timmer is someone I come across from time to time on Twitter. He describes himself as the "Chief science wrangler for Ars Technica" which is a publication you can find here. Timmer has a fairly yawnworthy post up here, in which he seeks to justify use of the term "denier". It's not really worth much of your time, except for one paragraph. This one:
For example, atmospheric physicist Richard Lindzen has been a prominent figure trotted out to suggest that climate scientists have gotten it wrong; but he also seems to think health authorities got it wrong with smoking.
The link is to a Newsweek article, the relevant sentence of which is this:
Updated on Dec 17, 2014 by Bishop Hill
Mark Maslin, the head of geography at UCL, has written another of those "I won't discuss the science with bad denier people" articles that adorn the left-wing press from time to time. His hypothesis is that we are simply arguing the toss because we oppose the inevitable consequence of avoiding manmade global warming, namely the introduction of international Marxism:
So in many cases the discussion of the science of climate change has nothing to do with the science and is all about the political views of the objectors. Many perceive climate change as a challenge to the very theories that have dominated global economics for the last 35 years, and the lifestyles that it has provided in developed, Anglophone countries. Hence, is it any wonder that many people prefer climate change denial to having to face the prospect of building a new political (and socio-economic) system, which allows collective action and greater equality?
Readers may be interesting in this report of the proceedings of a climate change conference in Rotterdam back in September. One of the sessions was chaired by a familiar face
BBC correspondent and conference moderator Roger Harrabin took a moment between speeches to remind all those gathered that “politics is creeping along, whereas scientists say, we need to be racing forward in order to adapt to and mitigate climate change.”
And there was a fairly vacuous contribution from Chris Rapley:
The GWPF has a new and, in my opinion, very important paper out on the subject of climate change and ethics. Here's the press release:
London, 16 December: A new paper by Dr Peter Lee and published today by the Global Warming Policy Foundation explores many of the ethical disputes that characterise climate science and policy in the twenty-first century.
“Science has spoken. There is no ambiguity in their message… Leaders must act.” These words by Ban Ki-moon, United Nations Secretary-General, welcomed the latest IPCC Report as certain and indisputable.
Richard Smith has another fascinating article about the way science has been practised in universities in recent decades, focusing particularly on The Big Fat Surprise, a book about the purported links between diet and health. It's full of quotable stuff; so much so that I barely know where to begin, but this, almost at random, gives a flavour of the thing.
[Ancel Benjamin Keys, a biologist at the University of Minnesota] studied few men and did not have a reliable way of measuring diets, and in the case of the Japanese and Italians he studied them soon after the second world war, when there were food shortages. Keys could have gathered data from many more countries and people (women as well as men) and used more careful methods, but, suggests Teicholz, he found what he wanted to find. A subsequent study by other researchers of 22 countries found little correlation between death rates from heart disease and fat consumption, and these authors suggested that there could be other causes, including tobacco and sugar consumption
Talking of Climate Models, there is another great Climate Audit post titled "Unprecedented" Model Discrepancy where Richard Betts, once again, provides cartoon inspiration in the comments.
It’s a bit like watching a ball bouncing down a rocky hillside. You can predict some aspects of it behaviour but not others. You can predict it will generally go downhill, and if you see a big rock in it’s path you can be reasonably confident that it will hit it and bounce off, but you can’t predict the size and direction of all the little bounces in between.
FiveThirtyEight has an amusing article about the competing explanations for the California drought. A bunch of NOAA scientists have reported that it's all down to natural variability, noting that they are pretty sure of their results:
This is the first study to show that a West Coast dry pattern could be triggered by warmer water anomalies in the tropical western Pacific. Seager said researchers feel “pretty confident” about the association because it shows up in all their models. (One objective of the study was to look for factors that could help predict future droughts.)
This seems to me to be a fairly hilarious example of the fallacy I lampooned in this posting a few months back.