Saturday snark: a textbook for Vincent

As Stoat points out, the IPCC has released the reviewers comments on the Working Group One second order draft report. And as you might expect, the IPCC’s favourite inexpert commenter, the New Zealand Climate “Science” Coalition’s very own Vincent Gray was busy reviewing their work. Here’s comment 1-549 from Chapter One (pdf) by Gray:

The records shown are not “observations” and they are not “temperatures”. They are also not “globally averaged. They are a set of multiple averages, subtracted from an overall average, compiled from a vaying non-standardised set of maximum an minimum temperature measurements at varying weather sations and ship measurements. They were previously treated as “Mean Global Temperature anomaly” The uncertainties attached to each figure are very great, individual temperature measurements are rarely accurate to better than one degree, so a claimed “trend” over 100 years of less than one degree has a very low level of statistical significance. [Vincent Gray, New Zealand] (all spelling from IPCC doc)

The response from the editors is a minor classic of its kind:

Rejected – The comment does not reflect the scientific understanding. The errors in individual observations are not additive; we are also doing relative analysis that eliminates many of the concerns about individual errors. The reviewer obviously has a limited understanding of the associated error evaluation for analysis of large datasets. See Chapter 2 for more on the evaluation of these datasets. Or maybe even read a basic textbook. (my emphasis)

For more on accuracy versus precision, and the statistical power of large numbers, this classic post by Tamino is well worth a read.

There are other minor gems to be found as the reviewers deal with Monckton (in the “general” section) and John McLean (seemingly everywhere). In fact McLean’s ubiquity suggests that he may have acceded to Gray’s throne as the man with most comments on a single IPCC report. But don’t expect me to add them all up, I do have a life…

36 thoughts on “Saturday snark: a textbook for Vincent”

    1. In my days as astudent stats got no teaching anywhere at school except for averaging but those people did not appear to understand even that junior primary school level stuff. Last I was teaching (about 10 years ago) more sophisticated stats was creeping in at years 7-8. Nevertheless it all remains a mystery to some people at any level. Vincent, though, is merely trying to confuse everyone that being the purpose of that group.

      1. They are *not* skeptics or even “skeptics” (as the latter can be ambiguous, meaning “I’m not conivnced.”

        I’d urge: a more accurate term, which I urge people to use, is pseudoskeptic, which has a long history of use. See also, Morton’s Demon a relative of Maxw, who take great pride in thinking that all-out rejection of science is skepticism. It’s time to take the term back.

        Carl Sagan and Martin Gardner were skeptics, as are most scientist most of the time.

        1. Is this the sceptical position on AGW:-
          “Unless our understanding of radiative physics is wrong then increased greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the air must induce some additional warming , all things being equal.

          But the climate system is constantly changing : “all things being equal” never happens.

          We do NOT KNOW to what degree human activities have altered GHG ratios in the atmosphere .

          We do NOT KNOW to what degree altered GHG ratios in the atmosphere have contributed to the present natural global warming (which is the recovery from the Little Ice Age).

          Claims that humans have or have not added to the observed global warming are equally false because nobody can know the truth of the matter in the absence of any evidence.

          What CAN be said is that, to date, there is no evidence for discernible global warming from human activities , and so any human contribution to observed global warming is trivial if it exists.” ?

          1. We are very familiar with these endlessly repeated and false aassertions of the fake sceptics so an answer to your question is “yes” but there are other varieties too. This one acknowleges warming but claims it is natural, another says there is no warming at all, yet another that yes there is a human contribution but it is insignificant and too costly to do anything about anyway – Their refusal to recognise and acknowledge evidence if it relates in any way to the use or replacement of fossil fuels is one of the underlying glues. Of course people who have no understanding of climate may be unable to perceive evidence anyway despite education and intelligence.

            If they are equiped (physics, chemistry, statistics, natural sciences etc) to recognise some of the evidence but claim there is ‘no evidence’ suggests they are or could be straight out lying and not merely mistaken or misled as many are. For my part I do not wish to give them the energy of serious attention when the ongoing science of climate demands my consideration and understanding.

            1. What would be the true sceptical position in your view Noel?

              In regard to these two statements , would you say that they are true/false or irrelevant:-

              We do NOT KNOW to what degree human activities have altered GHG ratios in the atmosphere .

              We do NOT KNOW to what degree altered GHG ratios in the atmosphere have contributed to the present natural global warming (which is the recovery from the Little Ice Age).

            2. The answer to 1) is clearly yes, we do know – it’s one of the most well-established lines of evidence.

              It’s not possible to answer 2) in your terms, since it contains false assumptions.

              What really defines the pseudoskeptic position is that they reject all evidence that points to carbon emissions as a cause, while clutching at any straw that might support their “anything but carbon” (ABC) position.

              You can, of course, draw up a hierarchy of pseudoskeptic positions from outright rejectionists to those who argue that climate change will be less than expected or less damaging than expected. But that’s like counting angels on the head of a pin – interesting if you’re so inclined, but irrelevant to the big picture.

              A more interesting question is what credible scepticism might be. The big difficulty in defining that is distinguishing between properly scientific scepticism (about climate sensitivity, for instance) and foolish optimism that everything will turn out OK.

            3. So you would hold that we know what the ratio of GHGs in the atmosphere would be in the absence of anthropogenic CO2 emissions.
              That would imply that we know with some precision the actual numbers of the carbon cycle in all its manifestations.
              Whereas some would hold that the deforestation of the planet is an important factor in determining atmospheric CO2 levels that we are unable to quantify.
              And then there’s the oceans, and the volcanoes about which we know little in terms of predicting outcomes.

              Clearly everything does not turn out OK for everybody but that is not new.
              In farming it always pays to hope for the best and to be prepared for the worst. It seems to me that the die is cast; the coal will be burnt , along with the oil and the gas. If you are sure that it’s a problem then you should prepare, for yourself , and for your descendants.

            4. Deforestation is included in the accounting, biofarmer. We don’t have perfect knowledge of the carbon cycle in all its complexity, but we do have a very good idea of what’s going on.

            5. I concur with Gareth and others that we do know what we are doing with GHGs and the second statement is merely a logic trap for the impossibly naive, deserving no attention. Now what about a “true sceptical position”? Would a true sceptic be sceptical of anything I might throw up in response? I’ve said all I mean to say before and you have probably read it but here goes;

              A sceptic is one who wants to know and thus is not one who goes around telling everyone else they are wrong. All the self professed sceptics I have personally known have had some axe to grind. A real sceptic wants to know what is right and does not accept opinions and beliefs or what everyone says and specially must beware of one’s own world view..

              Everyone has a model or description of the world mistakenly called “reality” and too readily is sceptical of anything that does not fit with it. Such bias does not constitute knowledge.

              It is said here that scientists tend to be real sceptics. Science, by definition, is a way of knowing. However, there are many people who make what they consider is science into a belief system and in its name reject anything not contained in their models of science. This attitude is known as scientific rationalism, a quite blighted state not conducive to real scepticism or science i.e. to some way of knowing.

              So I am about to quote my lifelong guide to knowing. Allow me to excite reactive ‘sceptical’ tendencies in advance by telling all that it is a widely quoted statement concerning the view of the Buddha Gautama (approx 2500 years ago – or more) on knowing and acting – I’ve quoted this before too, or part of it, though it got no response. Ye gods! I’m drawing on a religion! and one probably foreign to many here.

              Please note the positive end statement.

              “..we must not believe in a thing said merely because it is said; nor traditions because they have been handed down from antiquity; nor rumours, as such; nor writings by sages, because sages wrote them; nor fancies that we may suspect to have been inspired in us by a Deva (that is, in presumed spiritual inspiration); nor from inferences drawn from some haphazard assumption we may have made; nor because of what seems an analogical necessity; nor on the mere authority of our teachers or masters. But we are to believe when the writing, doctrine, or saying is corroborated by our own reason and consciousness. ‘For this,’ says he in concluding, ’I taught you not to believe merely because you have heard, but when you believed of your consciousness, then to act accordingly and abundantly.’ “

              With respect to our sciences there is a problem here: as individuals we cannot be fully conscious of climate for example, as compared to weather. Rather it is the group effort of climate scientists by which we are conscious of climate – a group consciousness. Being so conscious do we yet “act accordingly and abundantly”?

  1. Biofarmer, we do know how much the Earth is warming and why, as we have satellites that measure the heat coming in to the Earth and how much is leaving. We know how much CO2 is in the atmosphere and where it comes from. It is all heavily researched and it all adds up. The big numbers tell us what is happening but the fine detail does not pin the timescale down to less than ten year estimates.

  2. Biofarmer we know how much CO2 humans have added to the atmosphere with 95% certainty and we know we are altering the climate with 95% certainty. Just as they are 95% sure about the standard model in particle physics, which certainly works well.

    So if you want to ignore these things you need some powerful evidence to the contrary. If you had this evidence you would publish it, or at least submit your written thesis to some climate expert. Have you done this? How did it go?

    1. It’s not a question of ignoring: all science is interesting, to me.
      But the interest is purely academic because it is clear , to me at least, that nothing will be done quickly to reduce emissions. How many of the new coal-fired power stations , which are currently proliferating around the globe , will capture all of the CO2 ? Most of the NOx and SOx will be sequestered, one trusts.

      It’s also academic because either way , the response from sustainable agriculture does not change. resilience , diversity, redundancy are still required to deal with the extremes. And the extremes become more damaging with increasing population in my case. More city folk with houses in the flood plain = higher stop-banks = more flooding on farm.
      Weather is a risk that is dealt with as a matter of course. 150 year events don’t necessarily arrive 150 years apart; quite the opposite in fact.
      The records show that , as a result of longer climate cycles , there are clusters of adverse events, followed by extended periods of benign conditions.

      1. Its not quite as bad as that. New Zealand only has one coal fired power station which is Huntley and two of its four boilers have been converted to gas and the last two are to be converted shortly. The USA are shutting hundreds of coal fired plants. its still small but progress is being made. About ten of my friends have put in solar electric panels and instead of paying $200 a month my last bill was $10. How the power companies are going to cope with this loss of income I don’t know which is why I think they should be attacking the transport market.

        1. Global coal consumption jumped by about 55% over the past decade as demand for electricity has soared.
          That consumption is boosting global carbon-dioxide emissions, which have increased by 32% over that period, according to the BP Statistical Review.
          Relatively small reductions in carbon emissions in Europe or the U.S. won’t make a significant difference amid such rapid growth.

          Since 2005, China alone has increased its carbon-dioxide emissions by about 3.6 billion tons, or about four times the amount Germany emitted in 2012.

            1. I’ve always farmed as though AGW (or AGC) was real, and taken the steps that are within my power.
              Organic farming was always about carbon, ( organic as in the chemistry of aromatic carbon compounds) although when I started farming, back in the seventies, fossil fuel emissions were alleged to be advancing the onset of the next glaciation.
              Either way , hot or cold , the problem was the same ; the collapse of modern civilisation in many areas.

              Of course the argument that modern civilisations will not eventually implode , even if fossil fuel emissions were to cease tomorrow, is not credible.
              Populations which place too much stress on their environment, through sheer weight of numbers, eventually succumb to some climatic event, or at least undergo drastic declines.
              The creation of sustainable communities which can feed themselves is what interests me. Farms seem to be ideally placed to achieve this , come what may.
              However on a population basis sustainability remains a minority interest : no surprise there.

            2. In other words, no. So, you are happy for civilization to burn all the remaining fossil fuel in the world, and then disappear? How delightfully defeatist you are.

            3. No I would be happier if all the fossil fuels were not burnt; that seems very stupid to me.
              Re. The repeated disappearance of civilisations; there doesn’t seem to be any cure for that.
              But then a new civilisation has always arisen. You think it will not be possible ; I think it is likely.
              It doesn’t matter does it?

            4. ” although when I started farming, back in the seventies, fossil fuel emissions were alleged to be advancing the onset of the next glaciation.” Go on then, lets see your justification for this claim. Evidence please. Lets see if you can bring up anything more convincing than an article in Time Magazine misrepresenting the work of the researchers it claims to be reporting on.

            5. Did I misread the central thesis of “The Survival of Civilisation” by Hamaker and Weaver?
              Or is it memory of something that I read 40 years ago?
              I’ll investigate.

            6. ” it was increasing atmospheric CO2 that was alleged to cause colder temperatures” so you were miss remembering a claim from an old book, that has not stood up to scrutiny. Perhaps like homoeopathic treatment of livestock, your organic accreditation scheme endorses this book?

          1. And on the other side China’s commitment to renewable energy is, also increasing , citizena have recently protested against yet another coal fired power station and they well know the cost of their coal use. I’m kind of hoping they go real soft on coal before the aussies get round to dumping all that silt from the ‘biggest coal harbour’ in the world. What a poor guardian the aussie coral reef government watchdog has turned out to be, permitting the dumping of all that silt on the grounds that it’s only being dumped on dead ground anyway, somehow ignoring the fact that silt from dumping, suspended in the water column travels as much as 80 km from the dumping site cutting out light and expanding the desert over the reef.. Perhaps the biggest coal harbour in the world will become the biggest “white elephant” in the world and be a tourist attraction catering to eco-tours viewing the effects of man’s stupidity and ignorance.

            p.s. as a teenager I was tremendously impressed by the Disney film “The Living Desert” and have been suspicious of “it’s only desert” claims ever since.

        2. Bob: I’m interested in the breakdown of your solar PV system. $10 is the sum of the fixed daily charge on my bill so I presume your $10 is the bill after imports, exports, charges, GST have all been balanced up from which I deduce that uaage an solar input is pretty close to balance at the moment (summer) in your place.

          Until that electric car turns up my returns with two users are wildly out of balance. Numbers at Jan 20th (second bill):
          System PV 5 kW + solar heater
          Imported power $71.04 mainly at night, av 3.03kWh/day
          Exported power $274.86 av 23.7 kWh/d
          Solar (PV) used 3.8 kWh /day
          Generated 27.51 kWh/d

          I’m also interested to know how often you all clean your solar panels. I thought I’d given them a good clean yesterday evening but counted 21 bird poops this morning. The most persistent thing though is the development of a kind of oily aerosol scum that settles more or less evenly over the panels.

  3. Hooray, lets have a race to the bottom! Last one there is a … oh what does it matter who is last, we are all stuffed. As we will not trust our neighbours to not chuck their shit in street, and in the full knowledge that we have been filling the street with shit for several generations, lets stop worrying about the stench and typhoid deaths and just enjoy all the resources we have at our disposal having wisely avoided any investment in sanitation.

    Thankfully this has not been the history of civilisation so far.

  4. “How the power companies are going to cope with this loss of income I don’t know”

    By employing the usual tactics of monopoly industries. Herein a quote from an article in Environment360 from last September:
    “Several utilities, including Arizona Public Service and Denver-based Xcel Energy, have asked their state regulators to reduce incentives or impose charges on customers who install rooftop solar”

    No surprises there unfortunately.

    Full article here:

  5. Just to clarify the situation on Huntly. It was built with 4 coal/gas steam boilers and while they need to coal to start them, when Maui gas was abundant and cheap, it ran heavily on gas. That changed so the steam plant runs now heavily on coal. These are old inefficient steam cycle units. However 2 of those units are now mothballed (not converted to steam).
    On the huntly site, two gas turbines generators have been built (one 85MW, and one 300MW) which are way more efficient, but of course can only run on gas. If geothermal and wind increase, then we can expect further units will be mothballed. The coal units have about 10 more years of design life.

  6. Utilities:
    people sill need the grid, and will do so for a long time, especially with more intermittent sources, even as home storage devices (eventually) get economically practical. Government have to change the regulations so that utilities aren’t incented to generate as many KWh, but are encouraged to:

    a) invest in efficiency at all levels, including handling of PV and other intermittents (and some of this is nontrivial)< demand-response systems to reduce peak loads, Vehicle-to_grid (V2G) systems for using car batteries for storage, etc, etc.

    b) Get fairly paid for things like building the grid, and whatever peak capacity is needed to deal with the load (which interacts with the demand-response methods). Likewise, they must get fairly paid for fixing things when disasters hit: customers don't want to hear "sorry, wer don't have the staff or trucks to get you reconnected for 6 months." People can fairly argue about the cost and response times expected, and in fact, public utility commissions do that.

    In the US, this is usually called "decoupling." California did it a while ago, unleashing a lot of creativity by utilities, like PG&E. (OK, that’s Northern California, not necessarily typical of anything, but years ago, they were giving away CFLs to get people to think about, no longer needed, especially with the great LED lamps.)

    See Why do Californians use less electricity than everyone else?”

    Some of this is climate, but some of it is policy, including relentless pushing on energy-efficient rules for buildings, appliances (plug for NZ: we have a Fisher-Paikel washer!). The article argues against some of the usual explanations, but the bottom line is the same. If you look around US, many adjacent states have quite different energy/capita use, due to different policies.

    Much of this is *not* rocket science, just giving people price signals and rules that encourage timely investments that save money long-term. People don’t tear down buildings very often just to make them energy-efficient, but if rules cause new building and retrofits to get better, over time the building stock improves, and architects/contractors, weary at first, learn how to do it, and after a while promote their skills at it.
    I have no idea whether or not the Washington Post understands this process, but I see it happen all the time.

  7. Hi guys, I thought I would enter the discussion.

    Debating if a sceptic is a real sceptic is really straying from the core issue. If you are not convinced about any line of thinking you are a sceptic in my view. There are many sceptics that disagree with the oil exploration companies line that drilling in NZ waters is safe. I would not think they are any more genuine than climate sceptics. The science should be the battleground.

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