Doomed Planet

Best of Climes, Worst of Climes

flimflanneryDickens could have been writing about this land of milk, honey, handouts and magic-pudding salespersons, where debt and deficits now stretch as far as the pie in the sky.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period…… (Charles Dickens, 1859, A Tale of Two Cities)

Fifty Shades of Grey is a box-office hit. So it surely must be the best of times? Yet medicos say the titillating tale is driving a ten-fold surge in hospital emergencies. In the financial-space, it is surely the best of times? Yet while bankers celebrate, ‘ridiculously cheap’ money inflates asset prices to unsustainable GFC levels. Savers ignore market risk and join the yield-chasers.

For at least one pesky pessimist in the political-space, however, it is clearly the best of times. Beaming Bob Brown’s brand new book, Optimism, is said to be selling well — quite possibly in Greenland, where the locals could use a little cheer after hearing the former Greens leader say for so long that their humble homes would be swept away by melting glaciers.

But elsewhere the Climate Council of Australia Ltd insists it is the worst of times. Folk will be even hotter under the collar in 2050. How could it be otherwise if — as recently suggested here and here – agency data ‘homogenisation’ and other tricks of the trade are creating dodgy warming trends?

The Council’s latest report, Quantifying the impact of climate change on extreme heat in Australia, prepared by Professor Will “hug-a-climate-scientist”  Steffen, was released on February 5. New ‘ground-breaking scientific research’ apparently ‘can now tell us just how much of an influence climate change has on a single heatwave or heat records. In just nine pages of text, Steffen uses that purportedly oracular insight to urge ‘strong action on climate change.’

 “While it has been clear for many years that climate change is a major factor in intensifying heat, recent scientific advances now allow us to understand the extent of the impact on individual extreme events. Climate change has significantly worsened recent extreme heat events in Australia.”

Readers unfamiliar with climatespeak should note that ‘climate change’ no longer means the natural variations that have been going on ever since planet Earth acquired an atmosphere. It has become alarmist argot for today’s cause macabre — dangerous or catastrophic human-induced (anthropogenic) climate change (DACC) or global warming (DAGW).

Professor Tim Flannery, the Council’s chief proselytiser, also claims scientists can now quantify the effect of human impact on extreme weather events.

“It gets down to the issue of responsibility,” he said. “Who or what is responsible for these extreme weather events that we’ve been seeing in Australia, particularly the heatwaves?”

“This report tells us that we are responsible, that we need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions if we hope to have a better climate into the future.”

But does it?

Once upon a time, prophets promised the keys to everlasting life. Heaven, however, has morphed into the notion of a Goldilocks climate – not too hot, not too cold, so just right and perfect for everyone everywhere.

In our epoch of incredulity, an international climate bureaucracy – not God – believes it can legislate into existence a new atmospheric destiny for humankind. Determined to extract ‘climate reparations’ from the developed world en route to Paris 2015, it is also keen on ‘transforming the global economic development model’, according to Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

ABC coverage of the report’s release referred to a statement ‘by a spokesman for Environment Minister Greg Hunt’. It apparently ‘drew on research conducted and published by the Australian Government.’ While not on the Minister’s media releases site, the statement reportedly said “the Government believed clearly and categorically in the science, and was committed to achieving its carbon emission reduction targets”.

Other media sites were quick to amplify the Council’s alarmism. If climate change is not addressed, SBS told viewers, ‘unbearable heat by 2090’ will ‘render societies unviable’.

But what exactly is this ‘ground-breaking scientific research’? Perhaps discovery at last of genuine laws of climate change with verifiable predictive power? The Council’s alarmist case, however, is built merely on the latest manifestation of climate-porn – the attribution study – now the holy grail of every climate modeller, DACC proselytiser and numerical sadomasochist. That controversial research appeared as a Special SupplementExplaining Extreme Events of 2013 from a Climate Perspective – to the American Meteorological Society journal in September last year. (Twenty different research groups explored the causes of 16 different events.)

But rend the veil of authority and slip behind the curtain of complexity, where one enters a realm of no black or white – only fifty shades of grey. The modelling-truth claims promoted so emphatically in chapter three of the Steffen report (and elsewhere) are speculative — not ‘settled’ — science.

It sounds so easy. All one has to do to link

Individual heat events to climate change is to analyse mathematically the likelihood that such events would occur in the absence of the additional greenhouse gases, primarily carbon dioxide, in the atmosphere from human activities. Scientists use state-of-the-art climate models to simulate temperature changes due to the internal variability of the climate system and to natural forcings such as solar variability and aerosols from volcanoes. They then run the climate models again, this time adding in the additional greenhouse gases from human activities.

Such a process might work like a charm if, inter alia, Steffen’s scientists had complete knowledge of climate variability, if their ‘state-of-the-art models’ were based on established laws of climate change, had verifiable predictive power and so on. But this is not the case.

“In theory,” US baseball legend Yogi Berra is reputed to have said, “there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.” Why, for example, has the ‘simulated temperature trend’ over the past two decades not ‘followed closely the temperature rise we’ve actually experienced’; constellating a host of ad hoc hypotheses – currently 66 shades of grey – claiming to identify where the so-called ‘missing heat’ has gone?

Welcome to the realm of FAR-out science and ‘simulated risk’. Here is Council’s coup de theatre.

“The influence of climate change is often expressed mathematically as “fraction of attributable risk” (FAR) – the fraction of risk of exceeding a particular climatic threshold that can be attributed to a particular cause, in this case climate change. For example, what is the FAR due to climate change that 2013 would break the 2005 record for the hottest year in Australia? In only 1 year out of over 12,300 years of model simulations without human forcing was the 2005 record exceeded (Lewis and Karoly 2014). That is, without the human influence on climate, the record temperature Australia experienced in 2013 would occur only once in 12,300 years. So the FAR is effectively 100%; the 2013 record would not have occurred in the absence of climate change.”

Reading the four-page paper by Sophie Lewis and David Karoly, both from Melbourne University’s Centre for Climate System Science, confirms one’s worst fears. We are asked to accept – without qualification – that the ‘roles of anthropogenic climate change and natural variability’ can be assessed accurately using multiple simulations from nine global climate models. “Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast,” as Lewis Carroll put it and might do so again, were he around to witness science throiugh its current looking glass.

Has the Council been economical with the truth by steering clear of the fifty shades of grey here?  Nowhere is it mentioned that the Lewis and Karoly analysis – as they admit at the end of  their paper – ‘necessarily assumes that the statistics of modelled temperature distributions are equivalent to the statistics of observations on long timescales’; that ‘calculation of meaningful FAR values depends on the validity of the forced response of the models to the observed forced response’, and so on.

Albert Einstein once said “so far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain. And so far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.” Perhaps the same observation can be applied to the black art of climate modelling.

No mention, either, of this multi-authored admission in the Special Supplement’s two-page introduction.

“But, with natural variability playing a substantial role in individual events and given the complexities of the weather and climate processes involved, many challenges still need to be overcome to authoritatively assess how climate change has affected the strength and likelihood of individual extremes. These difficulties go beyond the science per se. Appreciating the value and applications of such science and how to communicate results effectively also provides a considerable and ongoing challenge.”

So here is another reason why it is the worst of times. When conflicted climate catastrophists trumpet the (attributive and predictive) infallibility of model outcomes in the public domain and do so without a murmur from the profession or the media, it is a black day for the integrity of science. This is spin, not communication.

Not since the age of astrology has there been such a crafty case of obscurum per obscurius: attempting to explain what is obscure about the planet’s climate by appealing to something even more obscure. Instead of the astrologer’s imaginary wheels and cogs, climate-model uncertainties allegedly can be resolved by creating imprecise probability distributions and resorting to fuzzy logic. Fifty shades of fuzziness begin where traditional logic ends.

One can go further. Both modellers and astrologers (i) exploit public anxiety about weather and climate; (ii) have their high priests and sacred texts; (iii) derive authority from obscure relationships that few understand; (iv) claim attributive power; (v) make alarmist predictions; (vi) urge governments and individuals to take action to avoid destruction; (v) gain financially from their prognostications; and sometimes (vii) crown kings, disrupt kingdoms and win Nobel (peace) prizes.

Commenting this week on the Australian Academy of Science’s revised Science of Climate Change, Garth Paltridge (here) hit a big nail on the head.

“The international gurus of climate change have become very good at having their cake and eating it too. On the one hand they pay enough lip service to the uncertainties of global warming to justify continued funding for their research. On the other, they peddle a belief — this with religious zeal, and with a sort of subconscious blindness to overstatement and the cherry-picking of data — that the science is settled and the world is well on its way to climatic disaster.”


2 thoughts on “Best of Climes, Worst of Climes

  • en passant says:

    The fact that the Minister for Astrology, Greg whatsit can state with such assurance that “I believe! I BELIEVE!!” is an indication that we need to spend more on mental health than we do on education. Science and Propaganda are now aligned, just as Orwell predicted.
    Once the politicians have been fooled there is no unfooling them so they stay the course, ignoring reality until their pensions are secure.

    • Steve Spencer says:

      @ en passant
      If I may borrow a little of your comment and paraphrase, “Once the climatologists have learned how to fool us, they stay the course, ignoring reality until their funding (and pensions) are secure.”

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