What do the hacked Climate Research Unit e-mails mean?
Recently, one or more of the University of East Anglia’s servers were hacked and a large number of private e-mails exchanges between researchers at Climate Research University were made public.
NASA climate scientist Gavin A. Schmidt writes on his non-NASA endorsed blog:
No doubt, instances of cherry-picked and poorly-worded “gotcha” phrases will be pulled out of context. One example is worth mentioning quickly. Phil Jones in discussing the presentation of temperature reconstructions stated that “I’ve just completed Mike’s Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) and from 1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline.” The paper in question is the Mann, Bradley and Hughes (1998) Nature paper on the original multiproxy temperature reconstruction, and the ‘trick’ is just to plot the instrumental records along with reconstruction so that the context of the recent warming is clear. Scientists often use the term “trick” to refer to a “a good way to deal with a problem”, rather than something that is “secret”, and so there is nothing problematic in this at all. As for the ‘decline’, it is well known that Keith Briffa’s maximum latewood tree ring density proxy diverges from the temperature records after 1960 (this is more commonly known as the “divergence problem”–see e.g. the recent discussion in this paper) and has been discussed in the literature since Briffa et al in Nature in 1998 (Nature, 391, 678-682). Those authors have always recommend not using the post 1960 part of their reconstruction, and so while ‘hiding’ is probably a poor choice of words (since it is ‘hidden’ in plain sight), not using the data in the plot is completely appropriate, as is further research to understand why this happens.
Jones is quoted in New York Times on the subject and confirms that that particular e-mail is real, but the university says they cannot confirm that all the material circulating on the Internet is authentic.
You can read a few quotes from the e-mails at the Telegraph.
James Delingpole at the Telegraph claims these e-mails prove there was a conspiracy to hoax the world about global warming, but in my opinion a reading of this material only proves the CRU researchers were earnest, passionate believers in their research.
(Thanks to Trevor for the Telegraph link)
Dean Baker: Massive Defense Spending Leads to Job Loss
There is a major national ad campaign, funded by the oil industry and other usual suspects, to convince the public that measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and slow global warming will result in massive job loss. This ad campaign warns of slower growth and the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs, possibly even millions of jobs, if some variation of the current proposals being debated by Congress get passed into law. [...]
However, the oil industry’s scare stories about job loss never put it in any context. In these models, any government measure that interferes with market outcomes almost by definition reduces efficiency, leading to less economic growth and fewer jobs. Efforts to slow global warming fall in this category, but so does almost everything else, and many items in the everything else category have a much larger impact.
For example, defense spending means that the government is pulling away resources from the uses determined by the market and instead using them to buy weapons and supplies and to pay for soldiers and other military personnel. In standard economic models, defense spending is a direct drain on the economy, reducing efficiency, slowing growth and costing jobs.
Truthout: Massive Defense Spending Leads to Job Loss
Indian engineer ‘builds’ new glaciers to stop global warming
Chewang Norphel, 76, has “built” 12 new glaciers already and is racing to create five more before he dies.
By then he hopes he will have trained enough new “icemen” to continue his work and save the world’s “third icecap” from being transformed into rivers. [...]
By diverting meltwater through a network of pipes into artificial lakes in the shaded side of mountain valleys, he says he has created new glaciers. [...]
So far, Mr Norphel’s glaciers have been able to each store up to one million cubic feet of ice, which in turn can irrigate 200 hectares of farm land. For farmers, that can make the difference between crop failure and a bumper crop of more than 1,000 tons of wheat.
Telegraph: Indian engineer ‘builds’ new glaciers to stop global warming
(via Ecofriend via Atom Jack)
Jeff Vail: Concluding Thoughts on EROEI and Carbon
All this boils down to some of the most poorly understood aspects of climate science: are we better off raising carbon levels now in order to better reduce them in the future, or is it more important (from the perspective of various feedback loops, etc.) to keep levels from ever going over a certain threshold, even if that means more overall emission down the road? We simply don’t have an answer to this question, but it suggests that the climate/carbon argument for a renewables transition is, at a minimum, built on a shaky and uncertain foundation. The real problem is that–much like broader discussions of the renewables transition–the uncertainty in the carbon-reduction argument for renewable energy flies under the radar because nearly all involved in the discussion use very high EROEI figures for renewables. If these figures, as I have argued, could actually be 10x lower than current estimates, then much of the current debate is off track.
None of this is to suggest that we should use uncertainty to abandon action, to stop efforts to transition to a sustainable society. However, we must accept this uncertainty in deciding HOW to best make that transition. More centralized wind and solar and a better grid might be the answer. It might not. Maybe the answer is decentralization and radical reduction in energy consumption? As I’ll address in the future, structurally self-interested participants tend to argue for the former solution–you don’t hear GE raising the uncertainties and potential socio-political pitfalls of centralized wind or solar. Unfortunately, we’ll only find out if their confidence in our ability to transition was misplaced after such efforts have conclusively failed…
Jeff Vail: The Renewables Hump 8: Concluding Thoughts on EROEI and Carbon
‘Synthetic tree’ claims to catch carbon in the air
Scientists in the United States are developing a “synthetic tree” capable of collecting carbon around 1,000 times faster than the real thing.
As the wind blows though plastic “leaves,” the carbon is trapped in a chamber, compressed and stored as liquid carbon dioxide.
The technology is similar to that used to capture carbon from flue stacks at coal-fired power plants, but the difference is that the “synthetic tree” can catch carbon anytime, anywhere.
“Half of your emissions come from small, distributed sources where collection at the site is either impossible or impractical,” said Professor Klaus Lackner, Ewing-Worzel Professor of Geophysics in the Department of Earth and Environmental Engineering at Columbia University.
“We aim for applications like gasoline in cars or jet fuel in airplanes. We are going after CO2 that otherwise is nearly impossible to collect,” he told CNN.
CNN: ‘Synthetic tree’ claims to catch carbon in the air
Climate ‘Study’ By Economist At EPA Is Right’s New Cause Celebre
Conservatives are jumping up and down over a report by an EPA analyst expressing skepticism about climate change, which, they claim, was suppressed by agency brass because it didn’t conform to Obama administration orthodoxy on global warming. The story has sparked explosive claims, on Fox News and other right-wing outlets, that the EPA censored scientific data for political reasons. And Monday, Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) called for an outright criminal investigation into the matter.
But it’s hard to blame EPA for not paying much attention to the study. And it’s more than a little ironic that DC Republicans have chosen its author as their new standard-bearer in the defense of pure science against politics. Because the author, EPA veteran Al Carlin, is an economist, not a climate scientist. EPA says no one at the agency solicited the report. And Carlin appears to have taken up the global warming topic largely as a hobby on his own time. In fact, a NASA climatologist has called the report — whose existence was first publicized last week by the industry-funded Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) — “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.”
TPM Muckraker: Climate Skeptic: “I Was Hoping People At EPA Would Pay Attention” To My Work
Skeptical Science – examining the science of global warming skepticism
Skeptical Science takes a walk through the various arguments presented by global warming doubters and skeptics. Great resource.