Thursday, September 29, 2016

Again About the Word Denier

Some who are called climate "deniers" resent that word (a few embrace it) because, they claim, they're being compared to Holocaust deniers. But it can't be that simple, because even the Holocaust denier David Irving resented being called a denier.

I was lead to the quote below from a New York Review of Books article about the recently released movie Denial, which is about the David Irving vs. Deborah Lipstadt and Penguin books trial in the UK in 2000.

Lipstadt had published a book in 1993, Denying the Holocaust, in which she called the British amateur historian David Irving “one of the most dangerous spokesmen for Holocaust denial.” Irving actually confronted her in the middle of a class lecture at Emory University, and went on to sue her and her publisher. But instead of sueing them in the US where the book was published, he filed his suit in the UK, where those who make potentially libelous remarks must prove they are true. The trailer is a good introduction to the film, which came out about three weeks ago.

Lipstadt's lawyers attacked Irving hard, simply on the facts, and made Lipstadt stay quiet during the proceedings. She, being Jewish, was more emotional about all of it because she considered herself to be defending her people, but her lawyers opted, no doubt correctly, that the case would be won on the facts and not on emotions.

This is from Irving's opening statement:
"The book purports to be a scholarly investigation of the operations of an international network conspiracy of people whom the Second Defendant has dubbed "Holocaust deniers." It is not. The phrase itself, which the Second Defendant prides herself on having coined and crafted, appears repeatedly throughout the work, and it has subsequently become embedded in the vernacular of a certain kind of journalist who wishes to blacken the name of some person, where the more usual rhetoric of neo-Nazi, Nazi, racist, and other similar epithets is no longer deemed adequate. Indeed, the phrase appears over 300 times in just one of the Defendants' experts reports!

"It has become one of the most potent phrases in the arsenal of insult, replacing the N-word, the F-word, and a whole alphabet of other slurs. If an American politician, like Mr. Patrick Buchanan, is branded even briefly a "Holocaust denier," his career can well be said to be in ruins. If a writer, no matter how well reviewed and received until then, has that phrase stuck to him, then he too regard his career as rumbling off the edge of a precipice.

"As a phrase it is of itself quite meaningless. The word "Holocaust" is an artificial label commonly attached to one of the greatest and still most unexplained tragedies of this past century.

"The word "denier" is particularly evil: because no person in full command of his mental faculties, and with even the slightest understanding of what happened in World War II, can deny that the tragedy actually happened, however much we dissident historians may wish to quibble about the means, the scale, the dates and other minutiae.

"Yet meaningless though it is, the phrase has become a part of the English language. It is a poison to which there is virtually no antidote, less lethal than a hypodermic with nerve gas jabbed in the neck, but deadly all the same: for the chosen victim, it is like being called a wife beater or a pædophile. It is enough for the label to be attached, for the attachee to find himself designated as a pariah, an outcast from normal society. It is a verbal Yellow Star.

"In many countries now where it was considered that the mere verbal labelling was not enough, governments have been prevailed upon to pass the most questionable laws, including some which can only be considered a total infringement of the normal human rights of free speech, free opinion and freedom of assembly."
We Americans take free speech for granted, and it's easy for us to question German and French laws against denying the Holocaust. But I'm sure we have little idea of the paroxysms and spasms that shook German society, or Europe, after the war.

Irving's attack on the word "denier" appear pompous and bombastic (as he came across in person, too). I've never seen anyone hint that their use of it was akin to "being called a wife beater or a paedophile." I see it as a word, with a definition that predated the Holocaust, that has a certain meaning that conveniently and accurately describes the cruder blunt dismissals of anthropogenic climate change -- denying the greenhouse effect, the enhancing greenhouse effect, basic measurements, ridiculing and attacking scientists, always finding an excuse to dimiss the evidence one doesn't want to hear, etc. I suspect it comes more from a mindset than anything else -- some climate deniers seem to be conservatives who disagree with the general direction of the USA & World, a mindset that has infected the GOP in the age of the Internet, or just like being contrary.

Some people deny basic climate change; wilder ones deny the Sandy Hook shootings. A few crazies still deny the Holocaust. But if Irving was so upset about the word "denier," then clearly complaints about the word don't simply spring from a simaliarity to Holocaust denial but have an earlier origin, and those now using it aren't "global warming Nazi's," a rather ironic turn of phrase.

Irving, of course, played the victim, as you can read thoughout his opening statement. He lost the case, and, on appeal a year later, the case was dismissed.
After the trial, he was asked, "Will you stop denying the Holocaust on the basis of this judgment?" Irving replied, "Good Lord, no."

Monday, September 26, 2016

NASA: Hubble May Have Detected Water Plumes on Europa

NASA just held a press teleconference (images) where they announced the possiblity of the detection of water plumes spurting from the ice on Jupiter's moon Europa. (They did not announce the discovery of life, or anything close to it, as some media irresponsibly speculated after NASA's announcement of today's teleconference.)

It's not a definite discovery. They observed Europa transiting in front of Jupiter -- an idea from what's being done with exoplanets -- in the UV, and on 3 of 10 transits saw evidence of water vapor from water plumes off Europa's southwest limb:

It's the green flares at about five thirty to nine o'clock that represent the possible plumes. Seeing this evidence on three times out of ten means the plumes may be intermittent.

If true, this could be significant, because it means access to Europa's ocean -- which is global, saline and beneath miles of ice, and could potentially host life -- would be available near the surface, without having to drill through miles of ice (which, on a foreign moon, only looks easy in the movies).

Here's an artist's interpretation of one possible scenario:

I guess you could call these Europaean fistules. But plumes sounds better.

The surface tempeature of Europa is about -160 C (-260 F) at the equator and no higher than -220 C (-370 F) at the poles. So any water is going to instantly freeze. I guess the idea is to look for signs of life -- or at least organic compounds -- in the refrozen surface ice. Unless the plumes are huge and powerful, that's going to limit any detected life to microbes and not alien tuna.

Here's another scenario that was presented, expanding on one section above, which looks more amenable to finding tuna:

A paper is coming out soon in the Astrophysical Journal -- I'll try to remember to link to it.

The scientists said they were stretching Hubble's capabilities to the limit, so this isn't a definite discovery, and they "remain cautious."

Finally, here's another image that was presented, with a self-explanatory caption:

Saturday, September 24, 2016

In Oregon Gubernatorial Debate, Now, Republican Governor Admits Climate Change

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Latest on the Not-Happening La Niña

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center say there is unlikely to be a La Niña event in late 2016.
We may be stuck with this El Nino warmth after all -- NOAA just posted the warmest August in their records, which go back to 1880. Warmer (more anomalous) than May 2016, or June '16 or July '16.

In fact, every month since May 2015 is the warmest in the record. 16 straight months now.

At this point we really have to start asking, not if AGW is true, but is it accelerating, and if so, by how much?

Deep Ocean Warming: How Much?

Since this blog likes big summed-up global results, it needs to mention the new paper by Damien G. Desbruyères et al, including Greg Johnson of NOAA, for the heating rate of the deep ocean (< 2000 m) for the period 1991-2010:

0.065  ±  0.040 W m−2 applied over the Earth's surface area.

You can read the abstract here, but deep ocean heating is only about 1/10th of total ocean heating. I guess we'll know more when deep Argo comes out, which I suspect will reduce the error bars significantly. Not sure when that will be, though.

Remember, it's only been since 2005 that Argo has been measuring the temperature and salinity of the top half (< 2000 m) of the ocean. If deep Argo happens by, say, 2020, that will be an amazing achievement -- because ocean heat content is by far the best way to measure the global energy imbalance that causes global warming.

Can 375 Great Scientists Correct Donald Trump on Climate Change?

Of course not.

But still, yesterday 375 members of the National Academy of Science published a letter saying
Human-caused climate change is not a belief, a hoax, or a conspiracy. It is a physical reality. Fossil fuels powered the Industrial Revolution. But the burning of oil, coal, and gas also caused most of the historical increase in atmospheric levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases. This increase in greenhouse gases is changing Earth’s climate.
...During the Presidential primary campaign, claims were made that the Earth is not warming, or that warming is due to purely natural causes outside of human control. Such claims are inconsistent with reality.
That's a good, strong phrase -- "inconsistent with reality."

The letter isn't addressed to anyone specific, but it's said to be directed at Donald Trump.

Unfortunately, Trump shows little interest in knowledge, and I doubt this is going to change his climate idiocy, even if he is elected.

I doubt Trump has the guts to do this, but a few of these scientists should get together and offer to go to Trump and, in one hour, present him the evidence behind manmade climate change. Like those brave scientists did for the governor of Florida. Publicize the hell out of the offer, and, if it happens, of the followup.

As it is, I wonder if a single debate moderator -- who think they are "journalists" -- is going to ask a single question of either presidential candidate about the most important topic of the 21st century.

Unfortunately, the moderators of the first debate have announced their topics, and it looks to be the usual network fluff that makes intelligent people want to vomit.

Anyway, so who do we know? Well, for me, a lot of scientists I know and/or have interviewed and/or recognize and respect a great deal. (I'm always surprised at how many great scientists I don't know, like when it comes to the Nobel Prize announcements or NAS inductions):

Benjamin D. Santer, Member, National Academy of Sciences^
Kerry A. Emanuel, Massachusetts Institute of Technology^
Phillip W. Anderson, Princeton University
Sir Michael Atiyah, University of Edinburgh
David Baltimore, California Institute of Technology
Wallace Broecker, Columbia University
Steven Chu, Stanford University
Ralph Cicerone, Professor Emeritus, University of California
Claude Cohen-Tannoudji, Laboratoire Kastler Brossel
James Cronin, University of Chicago
Paul J. Crutzen, Max Planck Institute for Chemistry
Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University
Howard Georgi, Harvard University
Sheldon Glashow, Boston University
Roy Glauber, Harvard University
Peter H. Gleick, Pacific Institute
David Gross, University of California Santa Barbara
Jim Hansen, Columbia University
Stephen Hawking, Cambridge University
Donald Kennedy, Stanford University
Wolfgang Ketterle, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Margaret Kivelson, University of California Los Angeles
Daniel Kleppner, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Jane Lubchenco, Oregon State University
Mario Molina, University of California San Diego
Jim Peebles, Princeton University
Peter H. Raven, Missouri Botanical Garden
Maureen E. Raymo, Columbia University
Martin Rees, Cambridge University
Adam Riess, Johns Hopkins University
Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research
James Simons, Chairman, Simons Foundation
Susan Solomon, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Kip Thorne, Member, National Academy of Sciences
Rainer Weiss, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Edward O. Wilson, Harvard University
Robert W. Wilson, Member, National Academy of Sciences

Personally I think Adam Riess ought to run for President. He's young, well spoken, and really smart. Just what the American people are looking for, right?


One Smart Cat

I could never trust my cats to do this -- I prefer not to think about what they do when they're out -- but as the driver says, "Spot on!"

Although actually my cats don't seem to go very far when they're out, somewhat to my surprise. They almost always come back in, in a minute or five, when I call them. Unless it's 11 pm and I want to go to bed.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Department of Oops - Another Steve Goddard Edition

Five years ago, William Connolley and Rob Dekker made a gutsy $10,000 bet about Arctic sea ice.
If both NSIDC and IARC-JAXA September 2016 monthly average sea ice extent report are above 4.80 million km^2, RD pays WMC US$ 10,000. If both are below 3.10 million km^2, WMC pays RD US$ 10,000. In all other cases the bet is null and void.
This year's September average isn't in yet, of course, but the month-to-date average for NSIDC SIE is 4.25 Mkm2, and the full month average will be about 4.3-4.4 Mkm2.

So their bet will be null and void. But here was what "Steve Goddard" (real name Tony Heller) wrote at the time:
"What a dumb bet. There is an excellent chance of 4.8, and zero chance of 3.1." 
Well, like most of what Steve Goddard writes, he was wrong.

It's worth pointing out when deniers are wildly wrong. With Steve Goddard it's pretty easy -- remember this turd, when he had to retract -- and The Register agreed, for some reason, to publish an article under a fake name -- unless Heller never told them it was false(?).

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Global Warming's Impact on Wheat Production

Another paper has been published showing that warming reduces wheat yields.

B. Liu et al, "Similar estimates of temperature impacts on global wheat yields by three independent methods," Nature Climate Change (2016).

Their conclusion, from several different angles:
With a 1°C global temperature increase, global wheat yield is projected to decline between 4.1% and 6.4%.
They write that "Global demand for food is expected to increase 60% by the middle of the twenty-first century."

Many skeptics say "but crop yields are going up!" Which is true. Here is the annual global wheat production for 1996-2014. And it's going up, though not on a per capita basis (see the graph to the right), in a world where 800 million people "do not have enough food to lead a healthy active life." (That one of of every nine people.)

Harvests can increase for several reasons:

* more acreage planted
* better fertilizers
* genetic modification
* better farming technology and techniques
* more CO2
* changes in government farming subsidies
* higher demand
* better weather
* more desirable temperatures
* more desirable precipitation
* etc.

Saying that yield has increased says nothing about why. Nor does it say anything about the influence of each factor, or whether yields are going to keep increasing. In particular, yields can (obviously) increase even while some of these factors are contributing to a decreasing sub-trend. And that's what scientists say is happening regarding climate change, like the paper above, and this 2007 paper by Lobell and Field, two recognized experts:
“For wheat, maize and barley, there is a clearly negative response of global yields to increased temperatures. Based on these sensitivities and observed climate trends, we estimate that warming since 1981 has resulted in annual combined losses of these three crops representing roughly 40 Mt or $5 billion per year, as of 2002.”
-- “Global scale climate–crop yield relationships and the impacts of recent warming," David B Lobell and Christopher B Field, Environ. Res. Lett. 2 014002 (2007).
And there's this paper:
"We also find that the overall effect of warming on yields is negative, even after accounting for the benefits of reduced exposure to freezing temperatures."
-- "Effect of warming temperatures on US wheat yields," Jesse Tack et al, PNAS 4/20/2015.
So interpreting yields is complicated. I guess we can hope that agricultural acreage and techniques keeps at least on its trend (and hopefully increasing per capita, in order to truly feed everyone), even in the face of lower yields as temperatures rise and planting zones moving towards the poles. Or we can just ignore climate change and hope it all works out.

Added: Wheat sells for about $4 per bushel, and there are e/100 bushels in a metric ton (very close!), so the value of the global wheat crop in 2014 was just over $100 billion. So a 1°C global temperature increase would cost about $40-60 million/year $5 billion/yr in lost production.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Arctic Sea Ice Has Nadired

Is "nadired" the opposite of "peaked?"

Anyway, that's what I'm going with. Arctic sea ice extent has bottomed out for the year.

JAXA:   4.02 Mkm2
NSIDC: 4.08 Mkm2

Hey, what's a difference of 60,000 km2 between friends? 

West Virginia!

(There's an old joke from where I grew up, that West Virginia would be the largest state in the Union if you flattened it out.)

For both datasets, 2016 is the 2nd-lowest extent minimum in the satellite record (1979-present), after only 2012. 

Recall this year has the lowest maximum extent (NSIDC: March 21st). But there isn't much variation in that number -- just -2.4% per decade (NSIDC data, which I'll focus on from here on out). 

Compared, the September minimum is decreasing at -12% per decade.

For the year-to-date average Arctic SIE -- through Sept. 12 -- 2016 has the lowest average extent of any recorded year, at 11.05 Mkm2

This YTD number is decreasing at -3.7% per decade.
(= overall_trend/overall_average)

Second YTD-lowest is last year, at 11.34 Mkm2. A good bit higher. 2012's value is 11.36 Mkm2.

So I would say, what we have is continued melting, though it hasn't yet reached the point where it will seriously threaten 2012's very low fluctuation due to a big summer storm in the Arctic that year.

But I remember when 2007 seemed like an unbelievable low. Though I can't find a link where I wrote about it.

The minimum extent's trend is -85,000 Mkm2/yr, which suggests it might be up to nine or so years before the 2012 minimum is...nadired. Likely, some future summer storm will send the September minimum more below the trendline by then, setting a new record low.

I guess I should put up a graph here, even though personally the numbers make more sense to me than the words or a picture (not a good quality for a science communicator):

Peter and the Farm

Even the dog is intense:

Music is Jumbo's by Protomartyr.

Variety's review.

The farm.