Monday, October 26, 2009

Recent global cooling isn't in the statistics

A nice article from Seth Borenstein, one of the better climate science reporters, tries to explain how, statistically, there is no such thing as recent global cooling.
The case that the Earth might be cooling partly stems from recent weather. Last year was cooler than previous years. It's been a while since the super-hot years of 1998 and 2005. So is this a longer climate trend or just weather's normal ups and downs?

In a blind test, the AP gave temperature data to four independent statisticians and asked them to look for trends, without telling them what the numbers represented. The experts found no true temperature declines over time.

"If you look at the data and sort of cherry-pick a micro-trend within a bigger trend, that technique is particularly suspect," said John Grego, a professor of statistics at the University of South Carolina.
I love the idea of the AP asking 4 statisticians to just analyze a time series without giving the source of the numbers.

I don't know why the satellite data is labeled by Borenstein as "preferred by skeptics". They used to like it when an incorrect analysis suggested it contradicted model predictions. Not so much after the mistake was corrected.

The gist of this article is that, in statistics, you can't just throw out the data you don't like. That's what deniers are doing when they choose to only look at the last few years or so and say: "the data says the globe is cooling". But they have no way of knowing if that is temporary or permanent. The honest thing to do is to look at all the data and that data says its warming.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Now on twitter

I'm joining the twitterati. Hopefully micro-blogging will be easier then actual blogging.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Apollo or Manhattan project for energy won't work.

On the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the first men landing on the moon, there's more talk about establishing an Apollo-scale project for solving the energy/climate crisis.
Lloyd Alter at Treehugger throws some cold water on that idea:
And [the Apollo project] was a marvelous accomplishment. But as a model of design and engineering, it was a one hit wonder, an extravagant waste of materials, and not a model for anything we should be doing today.

He links to an older article by Dan Greenberg at The Chronicle Review who sums it up nicely:
As handy metaphors for all-out government concentration on a clearly identified technological goal, Manhattan and Apollo are winners. But care should be taken in extrapolating their success to today’s energy problems. The big difference is that Manhattan had one customer, the U.S. Army, and Apollo also had only one, NASA (with a pork-happy Congress cheering it on). The goals were clear: Beat the Nazis to the bomb and the Soviets to the moon. Financed with blank checks, run by chiefs appropriately referred to as “czars,” and unimpeded by diverse political and economic interests, the two projects decisively proceeded to their successful conclusions.

In contrast, our energy and climate-change problems originate more in political, economic, and cultural entanglements than in technological deficiencies.
Sure, laboratory wizardry is needed to make do with less and cleaner energy sources, but the reality is that superior technologies remain undeployed because of the aforementioned impediments.

I would add that its more than just one customer that made those projects successful. Its that they were focused on building one physical thing: an atom bomb and a rocket to the moon. They had a much more well defined problem then "solve the energy crisis." As has been pointed out multiple times, there is no "silver bullet", no one machine to build, that can solve the climate/energy crisis. You have to do a lot of things: efficiency, transportation infrastructure, renewable energy production. There's some well-defined engineering problems to work on but those will do fine within the current research structure, provided they are adequately funded. The political and cultural work to be done is greater.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Waxman-Markey an ok bill

I have mixed feelings about the Waxman-Markey bill. On the one hand, its a solid cap-and-trade program with a good target: emissions should be 83% below 2005 levels by 2050. That's basically a carbon-free economy. But there's an offset provision which could make the law useless. (Which makes we want to call it Waxman-Malarkey) A good summary of the pros and cons of the bill is here.

Also its not law yet. It still has to go through the Senate where I expect a weaker bill to emerge, if any. But its important to note, as others have, that this is the first time the House voted on any climate legislation and they did well.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Suppressed EPA report suppressed for a good reason.

(I'm going to stop making grand claims about restarting this blog. Posting will continue to be irregular. That's life.)

I saw an interesting story on Huffington Post about an EPA report skeptical of global warming that has been "suppressed".

Realclimate has the rundown on this report. A sample:
So in summary, what we have is a ragbag collection of un-peer reviewed web pages, an unhealthy dose of sunstroke, a dash of astrology and more cherries than you can poke a cocktail stick at. Seriously, if that's the best they can do, the EPA's ruling is on pretty safe ground.
What's missing is a timeline. I wonder if this report was commissioned by the previous administration?

Friday, January 16, 2009

Obama's Science Team

(Happy New Year everyone! Let me clear out the cobwebs on this blog once again.)

I'm pretty happy with the appointments Obama has made to the the various science agencies. It will be very interesting to see how climate science is changed over the next few months and few years.

One agency with no official appointment yet is NASA. Here's was Robert Park has to say about that and the other appointments:
After eight years of continental drift in science policy the science community urged president-elect Barack Obama to act swiftly to fill science positions. But who expected a much admired professor of physics to be nominated as science advisor before Christmas? Or a Nobel laureate to be Secretary of Energy? No scientist could refuse the President’s call to serve their country and the world. Do we only now have a leader who understands this? The members of the Obama team are linked by their commitment to the environment. Only the position of NASA Administrator remains to be filled. It was no secret that Michael Griffin wanted to keep the job, but as NASA head he consistently ignored environmental concerns to push a hopelessly outdated space-cadet program of manned rockets and islands in space. The great environmental observatory DSCOVR was left locked in solitary confinement. Obama will name USAF Maj. Gen. Scott Gration, Ret. to head NASA, possibly today. We know virtually nothing about Gration’s position on the issues, but Obama presumably knows; he spent a lot of time with Gration on a trip to Africa, where Gration was born to missionary parents. This is the sort of person you put in charge when you want to sever the shackles of outdated tradition and totally reexamine its reason for existing.

Emphasis added on that last sentence. We live in interesting times....