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Friday, February 11, 2005

Is Realclimate part of the "reality based" community?

Realclimate is a group blog compiled by Gavin Schmidt, Michael Mann, and other adherents to the "IPCC consensus" (their term) that the up-tick in global temperature since 1970 is human caused and can be projected forward to catastrophic warming over the next century. There is indeed solid theory and evidence that some global-warming is caused by human activity, especially greenhouse gas emissions. There is just as much evidence that some global warming has been caused by the abnormally high level of solar activity since the 1940's.

Any competent climate prediction (whatever its range of uncertainty) must account both of these likely sources of warming (along with other evidenced sources of warming or cooling). But the folks over at realclimate refuse. As far as they are concerned, solar-magnetic warming is not evidence to be accounted, but an enemy to be dismissed, however disingenuously. Check out this December 6th post on solar-magnetic warming, the only post on the site that addresses this warming theory.

[Some background for those who are not familiar: the theory is that Galactic Cosmic Rays induce cloud formation, either by ionizing the atmosphere (creating nuclei for condensation) or by affecting the atmosphere’s electrical circuit. Strong solar winds decrease the amount of GCR reaching the Earth, decreasing cloud formation, allowing more of the sun’s radiance to get through and warm the Earth. Some recent abstracts here.]

In the post, Rasmus Benestad claims that, because there has not been a downward trend in GCR over the period when warming has occurred (since the 60's) GCR cannot be the cause of the warming. But this attempt to dismiss the GCR-cloud theory is absurd on its face. Solar activity has been well above historical norms since the 40’s! It doesn’t matter what the trend is. The solar-wind is up. According to the theory, that blows away the clouds and creates warming. The wind doesn’t have to KEEP going up. It is the LEVEL that matters, not the trend. Holy cow. Benestad is looking at the wrong derivative (one instead of zero).

The issue is important because, when Gavin Schmidt and the other members of "the IPCC consensus" leave solar magnetic warming out of their models, whatever warming is actually due to this effect gets misattributed to greenhouse gases. These exaggerated greenhouse warming effects then get projected forward into the alarmist projections of catastrophic human-induced warming that appear in the newspapers regularly (three last month). A couple of weeks ago I posted a critique of realclimate/IPCC/NASA climatologist Gavin Schmidt’s lame excuses for not including solar-magnetic effects in his IPCC/NASA climate models. (My earlier post covered some of the same points as this one. I am just carrying them a little further forward here.)

When Gavin Schmidt and his cohorts leave solar-magnetic warming out of their models, they are employing the classic advocacy statistics ruse of the omitted variable. An example from a different field is the bogus income studies that compare the average hourly earnings of men and women by educational background but omit measures of career dedication (years on the job and/or hours worked per week). Without these mommy track variables, it looks as if women earn substantially less than men who have the same background. When years of work and average workweek are factored in, it turns out that women who devote themselves as much to career as men actually earn substantially more than men do, just as one would expect under a legal regime where companies can be sued if they fail to advance large numbers of women. Omitting the mommy-track variables makes it looks as if women are being cheated, when it is actually men who are being cheated. (See Warren Farrell’s new book Why Men Earn More.)

This is what the "IPCC consensus" is up to. Gavin Schmidt and the other consensoids are doing advocacy statistics, not science. Schmidt can still look like a scientist--he can run sophisticated GCM's with lots of real science in them--but so long as he is making excuses for omitting solar-magnetic warming from his assessments, it is all cover for propaganda, just like the feminists who leave mommy track variables out of their income studies.

Feminists have a motivation (sexual bigotry) and so do the global warming alarmists. The founding stone of the environmental ideology/religion is the presumption that human activity is damaging to the environment and should be curtailed. Environmentalists see man as displacing nature, and in this contest, they side with nature. As the self-appointed representatives of a natural world that cannot speak for itself, they see all human impacts on the natural world as by definition bad, and the interdiction of human impacts as necessarily good, regardless of whether the pretext for curtailing human activity is honest or dishonest. (Michael Crichton has a complimentary take on environmentalist religion. His 2003 Commonwealth Club speech here.)

A living caricature of environmental religionism is Stanford University's global-warming superstar, Stephen Schneider. In the sixties and early seventies, when global temperatures seemed to be falling, Schneider claimed that fossil fuel burning was causing global cooling and needed to be curtailed. When temperatures started rising, he switched to claiming that that fossil fuel burning is causing global warming, and needs to be curtailed. If sunspot activity falls off and cooling returns, he will presumably again claim that human activity is causing cooling, and needs to be curtailed. He starts with his preferred conclusion (human impact bad), then picks and chooses from the available reason and evidence to fashion the best case he can for this conclusion, the same behavior that Schmidt and Benestad exhibit when they make up excuses to omit solar-magnetic warming effects.

More generally, religious environmentalism must find a way to see all sources of natural variation as relatively inconsequential. If natural variation is large compared to human impacts, then we cannot say whether a particular human impact is good or bad until we know which direction natural variation is headed. Thus a staple of the IPCC consensus is that global temperatures were stable for a thousand years until the modern release of greenhouse gases by fossil fuel burning (fig. 1). The central figure behind this part of the IPCC consensus is another contributor to realclimate, the University of Virginia’s Dr. Michael Mann. His claim that the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age were local rather than global phenomena lies in shreds, but the consensus marches on.

It is interesting to think through how a religious consensoid will try to use or dismiss a particular piece of reason or evidence. A very revealing example is the theory, recently put forward by William Ruddiman, that human release of greenhouse gases in pre-historic and pre-industrial times (by such activities as deforestation) may have already staved off the next ice-age. On the one hand, this theory is a stab in the heart to the religious conviction that human impact must be harmful. It also raises the specter of natural temperature change. On the other hand, If greenhouse gases have already staved off the next ice age, and we are producing these gases at an exponentially increasing rate, then one could argue that the only thing still to worry about is warming. The cooling specter has been vanquished, right? Human impacts have been proven to be more powerful than natural variation, right? And so what if pre-historic man had a beneficial impact. It isn’t pre-historic man whose activities the consensoids want to curtail, but modern industrial man.

Gavin Schmidt has a realclimate post up that charges contrarians with inconsistency for "lining up to support" Ruddiman's theory of pre-modern anthropogenic greenhouse warming while downplaying modern greenhouse warming. "Those who argue that the current increase in greenhouse gases has no significant climate effect, now appear to believe that the much smaller changes in the pre-industrial prevented an ice age," writes Schmidt. He even gets in a funny: "This is like someone who believes the earth is flat buying a round-the-world ticket for their vacation."

Contrarians, of course, see no inconsistency. They were never trying to downplay greenhouse gas warming, only stop the consensoids from overplaying it, through such tricks as attributing solar-magnetic warming to greenhouse gases. Indeed, once one takes solar-magnetic effects into account, it is not at all implausible that a small amount of anthropogenic warming could have staved off an ice age. The little ice age and our emergence from it track closely the level of solar activity. Ruddiman's theory only requires that greenhouse gases provided enough of a temperature boost to keep the Little Ice Age from becoming self-reinforcing through albedo feedback effects (where spreading glaciation reflects away sunlight, causing glaciation to spread). The main driver of global temperature HAS to be the solar weather (if we accept that the Little Ice Age was indeed a global phenomenon). Anthropogenic greenhouse warming might have mitigated natural cooling a bit, but major cooling still occurred, and the subsequent warming, all the way till today, correlates well with solar activity.

In sum, the only reason the religionists feel confident that Ruddiman's study supports their alarmist view of human activity is because they have already covered their eyes about natural variation. If Schmidt et al would recognize solar-magnetic warming effects, they would see that Ruddiman's theory is perfectly consistent with these effects being a more powerful driver of global temperature variation than anthropogenic warming is. What is curious is how Schmidt and Mann can "line up to support" the theory that the next ice age has been averted when according to the IPCC consensus, natural temperature variation does not exist. If they don't recognize solar-magnetic warming, just where do they think the Little Ice Age came from? Talk about flat Earthers buying a round trip ticket!

If the solar weather turns cold again, as those who study patterns of solar activity project, we may want as much offset as we can get. This isn’t to say that a thicker jacket of greenhouse gases is desirable. It is saying that we don’t know. It could save us from catastrophe. It could cause catastrophe. If our goal is to avoid catastrophe--if we want to be cautious--we have no good reason at this point to favor either a lighter or a warmer jacket, making it crazy to impose severe restrictions on human activity in order to favor the lighter jacket. The religionists like to pretend that the cautious thing to do is curtail human activity, but that is just not so, as Ruddiman’s theory indicates. Only when we know where natural variation is headed can we say whether a particular human impact is good or bad.

The beat goes on. Gavin Schmidt's NASA boss, James Hansen, was quoted by Red Nova News this week saying:
There has been a strong warming trend over the past 30 years, a trend that has been shown to be due primarily to increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
Pure disinformation. The relative magnitudes of solar-magnetic and greenhouse gas warming effects are not yet known, but the prima facie evidence suggests that solar effects do the heavy lifting.

The religionists simply refuse to take anything into account that cannot be made to serve their story that human activity needs to be curtailed, and they have the power to get away with it. They control most of the hiring and the firing and the research budgets in climatology. This political power needs to be broken. There is no room for propaganda in science.

Realclimate refused to publish my criticisms in its comment section. I invite Gavin et al to comment here.

Also it must be mentioned that the solar activity affects every part of the earths system, not just climate......Anyone who thinks about it for a minute will be able to understand that the different forms of radiation undoubtedly heat the water, heat the earth and even heat the earths core and that could increase volacinic activity, just like a microwave oven would. And the different impacts of radiation on earth and the moon and other planets can cause variations in the gravity patterns and those affect earthquakes and volcanic activity....
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