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Mark Steyn: Warm-mongers and cheeseburger imperialists

Even when we don’t do anything: In the post-imperial age, powerful nations no longer have to invade and kill. Simply by driving a Chevy Suburban, we can make the oceans rise and wipe the distant Maldive Islands off the face of the Earth. This is a kind of malignant narcissism so ingrained it’s now taught in our grade schools. -Mark Steyn

Bill Dembski asked me to do a riff on this but I think the points are so self-evident commentary isn’t really needed…

Mark Steyn: Warm-mongers and cheeseburger imperialists

MARK STEYN
Syndicated columnist

Something rather odd happened the other day. If you go to NASA’s Web site and look at the “U.S. surface air temperature” rankings for the lower 48 states, you might notice that something has changed.

Then again, you might not. They’re not issuing any press releases about it. But they have quietly revised their All-Time Hit Parade for U.S. temperatures. The “hottest year on record” is no longer 1998, but 1934. Another alleged swelterer, the year 2001, has now dropped out of the Top 10 altogether, and most of the rest of the 21st century – 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004 – plummeted even lower down the Hot 100. In fact, every supposedly hot year from the Nineties and this decade has had its temperature rating reduced. Four of America’s Top 10 hottest years turn out to be from the 1930s, that notorious decade when we all drove around in huge SUVs with the air-conditioning on full-blast. If climate change is, as Al Gore says, the most important issue anyone’s ever faced in the history of anything ever, then Franklin Roosevelt didn’t have a word to say about it.

And yet we survived.

So why is 1998 no longer America’s record-breaker? Because a very diligent fellow named Steve McIntyre of climateaudit.com labored long and hard to prove there was a bug in NASA’s handling of the raw data. He then notified the scientists responsible and received an acknowledgment that the mistake was an “oversight” that would be corrected in the next “data refresh.” The reply was almost as cool as the revised chart listings.

Who is this man who understands American climate data so much better than NASA? Well, he’s not even American: He’s Canadian. Just another immigrant doing the jobs Americans won’t do, even when they’re federal public servants with unlimited budgets? No. Mr. McIntyre lives in Toronto. But the data smelled wrong to him, he found the error, and NASA has now corrected its findings – albeit without the fanfare that accompanied the hottest-year-on-record hysteria of almost a decade ago. Sunlight may be the best disinfectant, but, when it comes to global warming, the experts prefer to stick the thermometer where the sun don’t shine.

One is tempted to explain the error with old the computer expert’s cry: That’s not a bug, it’s a feature. To maintain public hysteria, it’s necessary for the warm-mongers to be able to demonstrate that something is happening now. Or as the Fort Worth Star-Telegram put it at the end of 1998:

“It’s December, and you’re still mowing the lawn. You can’t put up the Christmas lights because you’re afraid the sweat pouring off your face will short out the connections. Your honeysuckle vines are blooming. Mosquitoes are hovering at your back door.

“Hot enough for you?”

It’s not the same if you replace “Hot enough for you?” with “Yes, it’s time to relive sepia-hued memories from grandpa’s Dust Bowl childhood.”

Yet the fakery wouldn’t be so effective if there weren’t so many takers for it. Why is that?

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24 Responses to Mark Steyn: Warm-mongers and cheeseburger imperialists

  1. The climateaudit.org site has been down for some time. Other blogs are speculating either a DOS attack or overwhelming traffic arising from a mention by Rush Limbaugh of McIntyre’s findings.

  2. Steyn is a gem. It’s his columns that should be read in school.

  3. Steven McIntyre is temporarily posting at Watts Up With That?

  4. 4

    This is just fantastic news.

  5. Steven McIntyre’s other claim to fame is in critiquing the “hockey stick” temperature graph.

    Hockey Sticks, Principal Components, and Spurious Significance Geophysical Research Letters, Vol 32(3), Feb 12 2005

    For details see: The M&M Project: Replication Analysis of the Mann et al. Hockey Stick; the Nature saga: M&M Update Sept 2004; and
    Hockey Stick Controversy

    Steve McIntyre’s post “Lights Out Upstairs”, showed how Hansen had previously made a 0.6°C correction to US GISS data for 1934 vs 1998. McIntyre similarly showed that a 0.4°C reduction had been made in the 1937 and 1938 Arctic data.
    The significant changes and / or errors that McIntyre has identified appear to call for:
    1) an independent review of ALL the “adjustments” and “corrections” made to the raw data.

    2) publication of all the raw data.

    3) Post dated version numbers on all processed data.

    4) Report the uncertainty on all data.

    5) All climate models identify which data set was used to calibrate them.

    For perspective, Hansen et al. (2001) A closer look at United States and global surface temperature change stated:
    “The U.S. annual (January-December) mean temperature is slightly warmer in 1934 than in 1998 in the GISS analysis (Plate 6). This contrasts with the USHCN data, which has 1998 as the warmest year in the century. (Sic.) In both cases the difference between 1934 and 1998 mean temperatures is a few hundredths of a degree. The main reason that 1998 is relatively cooler in the GISS analysis is its larger adjustment for urban warming. In comparing temperatures of years separated by 60 or 70 years the uncertainties in various adjustments (urban warming, station history adjustments, etc.) lead to an uncertainty of at least 0.1°C. Thus it is not possible to declare a record U.S. temperature with confidence until a result is obtained that exceeds the temperature of 1934 by more than 0.1°C.”

    For those seeking official publications, NASA provides GISS Surface Temperature Analysis: References.

    ———————

    Following are some interesting excerpts from realclimate.org discussing McIntyre’s blogs:

    37 Robert Burns (10 August 2007 at 10:21 pm) . . . “IMHO, it would be better if GISS released all their raw data, the rational and code for any and all adjustments, and any other data that is revalant to the the temprature record. This would allow everyone to inspect the data. If there are additional errors, they could be found and corrected. By releasing this data, the confidence in the record could be improved.”

    45. . . .[Gavin: “. . .The error on the global mean anomaly is estimated to be around 0.1 deg C now, increasing slighty before 1950 or so and a little larger in the 1880s. The global mean changes of around 0.7 deg C and significantly higher. - gavin]”

    51. Patrick: ““More importantly for climate purposes, the longer term US averages have not changed rank. 2002-2006 (at 0.66 ºC) is still warmer than 1930-1934 (0.63 ºC – the largest value in the early part of the century)” So recent 5 year temps in the US have been a mere 0.03C greater than in the 1930s? Fascinating.”
    ——————
    It is important to identify the rotten logs, but not to loose sight of the forest.

  6. 6

    This is not my blog, so I can only suggest, but I suggest you create a separate blog to discuss global warming.

    This issue has become widely associated with ID, not only in this blog but worldwide, even though it really has nothing to do with ID. Of course I understand the similarities: in both cases we have a scientific majority that is more driven by politics or philosophy than science, that has convince the main-stream media that the debate is over, when it is obviously not over, and uses heavy-handed tactics to root out dissent.

    However, there is one very important difference: the is a slight chance the majority might be right on the global warming issue; there is no chance they are right on the other issue. The theory of Intelligent Design has been held back for many years by its past association with unrelated, wrong ideas, and only began to make great progress when it jettisoned this baggage and focused only on the real issue. Even now, the opposition is successful to the degree they are able to convince people that we really secretly hold these old beliefs.

    Global warming is an important issue, and I suspect that the “scientific consensus” is wrong on this issue also, but (except for the bullying tactics used) it is unrelated to ID, and I don’t think it is healthy for us to associate ID so closely with this unrelated idea. What if we are wrong on global warming?

  7. Global warming is an important issue, and I suspect that the “scientific consensus” is wrong on this issue also, but (except for the bullying tactics used)

    Granville, if it bullies it’s not science.

  8. 8

    Although I still think it’s important not to tie the two issues together, I’ll admit there are some interesting parallels here. In the global warming debate, there are really two seperate questions: 1) is the global temperature significantly rising and if so, 2) what is the cause? There is room for reasonable doubt even on the first question, but the second is far more difficult to answer. The political left focuses on the first issue and has managed to convince a gullible public–which is awed by the achievements of science and doesn’t understand the differences between “hard” and “soft” science–that evidence in support of their answer to question one should be tacitly taken as evidence for their conclusions on question two, even though there is no logical justification for this jump. The parallels to the ID debate are obvious.

    So I can understand why this issue always seems to tag along in the ID debate. However, as I said in my previous comment, there is one extremely important difference. While I find it intuitively more plausible that solar activity is the primary cause of any global warming that may be occurring, it is does not seem completely impossible that human activity could be the cause. In other words, it is possible we are wrong on this issue; it is not possible that we are wrong on the other. So we need to be careful.

  9. Granville
    You have a good point that I understand to be:

    Highlighting abuse of science in global warming is misconstrued to falsely accuse ID proponents of being “climate deniers” and contrary to science.

    That perception is reinforced by gleeful responses to errors revealed.

    Is a new blog the best solution with occasional links from UD to major stories there?

    Is there someone who would want to champion that?

    What best to call it?
    GalileoScience?

  10. Always enjoys Mark Steyn…

    Granville’s points are valid.

    But I myself was guilty of noting a global warming issue here several times – mainly due to bad science and to point out Dave’s earlier thoughts on Asian soot being vindicated.

    GW fanaticism shows how consensus science driven by MSM mania can discourage good, open scientific debate. GW may be happening, but is human input the overwhelming catalyst for change, on such a large scale as to warrant such drastic predictions? Or, is our system rolling thru routine solar cycle similar to the past that saw Greenland green? Along with China’s new industrial upstarts?

    Not sure how this blog wants to handle it, but the GW issue shows how often 1) sheep will follow w/o thinking, and 2) people in charge of the data “correction” and extraction make glaring mistakes not just once in this case but twice(and the world followed it, up to UN IPCC), and finally 3) the stifling, derisive, obnoxious putdowns and fanatical jestoring against anyone who dare question, dare speak in favor of being careful, debating the issues and reviewing the data before we go off spending trillions in some grand global scheme where everyone pays, but China and India.

    Oh yes, and talk about World Coming to an End? Just go to any Green site, they have the signs out. Doom, Despair and Death – the end is near if we do not act now. People are acting out irrationally over this issue.

    I think its good to point out bad science being done across all areas that form a pattern across media and into our daily lives. Maybe there should be a column category on GoodSci/BadSci basics to point out these issues. How do they relate to Lucy? JunkDNA? Homo Hablis? GuessWorkScience of how materialist answer Behe’s IC in bacteria flagellum? By 20 or more guesses as to what “may have happened” in the past? That is worse than Global Warming science. At least they have raw data past and present that was measured. The scientist trying to knock down IC, are guessing about what “random” data did in the past without a clue. Yet, they will get the same MSM time and quality that GW gets without questions from reporters, that then feeds down into the population that blindly trust talking heads on the morning or evening shows.

    There are certainly parallels here, not just in science, but in the MSM’s unskeptical look at the materialist “skeptics” who routinely trot out fairy tales as to how monkeys can type Hamlet – given “enuf time” so they say.

    ID = Pattern Recognition. I see a whole lotta bad patterns in science these days from the so-called “skeptics” repeated incessantly at will, without bounds and very small skeptical looks from the media. If not for the blogs like this, or a few brave souls in the media, litte would be said about the huge mistakes in science, like ohhhh, the 1% DNA difference fallacy between man and chimp.

    On a related literary note of excellence…

    A contemporary of Stein, Victor David Hanson has a review up at his site of A Meaningful World: How the Arts and Sciences Reveal the Genius of Nature by Benjamin Wiker & Jonathan Witt.

    The review is by Terry Scambray, originally published, April 2007, The New Oxford Review.

    UD may have posted the original and I missed it. It points out the issues very well much like global warming and how if anyone were to look at the claims with true “skepticism” they would find much wrong about the interpretation of the data.

    of monkeys and one man…
    http://www.victorhanson.com/ar.....72907.html

    “…Richard Dawkins, and his claim that a monkey with a Mac can write Hamlet. But, as it turns out, Dawkins’ hagiographic monkeys are all too monkey-like. For when six monkeys had a computer placed in their cage in an experiment at Plymouth University in England, they defecated on the keyboard when they weren’t “bashing the hell out of it with a stone”, being apparently “less interested in leaving their marks on literature than in leaving their marks on the computer.” They did manage long uninterrupted pages of single letters — “Ss” or “Gs”! — a genre of avant-garde poetry or aesthetic happening that, no doubt, the rest of us can only aspire to appreciate once our petty bourgeois sensitivities are eaten away by the liberating acids of scientific materialism that Dawkins promotes in book after redundant book.”

    Great review…

    Not sure how you guys should handle the GW issue here, but the parallels involved in shotty sciencework are overwhelmiing and good for comparison.

    You might try popping Comments section up into a new window, and allowing for more frontage on the page for distinct areas of articles, basic science, philosophy, etc., that aid in teaching the public what to look out for in bad science, repeated dogma, distrations from truth, etc., so that those who visit here, learn more as well in the art of language and verbal fencing.

    Creation Safari calls it the baloney detector.

    Here? I’d call it Baloney Skeptics.

  11. The theory of Intelligent Design has been held back for many years by its past association with unrelated, wrong ideas, and only began to make great progress when it jettisoned this baggage and focused only on the real issue.

    I second Granville’s idea about a separate blog.

  12. I think one common aspect between ID and GW skepticism is how those of us who are IDists or GW skeptics treat those with whom we disagree.

    If someone were to develop a computer simultion or posit a theory defending neoDarwinism or GW, would any of us here try to use, or advocate using, political means to censor him?

    I suspect not and I suspect most of us would defend anyone facing such censorship.

    OTOH, we can’t say that about the advocates of neoDarwinism or GW, which leads a lot of us to suspect that both are something other than science, and something inherently dishonest since they claim science as their authority.

  13. Regarding a second blog, cast me as a no vote. There are only a handful of articles a day posted on this one as it is.

    And it seems most of the GW articles come in spurts, and that the ones that are posted aren’t posted because of GW but because they are powerful evidence of institutional dishonesty.

  14. OFF TOPIC:
    Anybody notice this:
    Dawkins taking on the paranormal

    Q: Who does this guy this he is anyway?
    A: god

  15. Oh yes, and talk about World Coming to an End? Just go to any Green site, they have the signs out. Doom, Despair and Death – the end is near if we do not act now. People are acting out irrationally over this issue.

    “On the one hand, as scientists we are ethically bound to the scientific method. … On the other hand, we are not just scientists but human beings as well. … To avert the risk (of potentially disastrous climate change) we need to get some broad based support, to capture the public imagination. That of course means getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up some scary scenarios, make simplified dramatic statements and little mention of any doubts one might have. …Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective, and being honest.”

    –Stephen H. Schneider, author of the book Global Warming (Sierra Club), in an interview in Discover Magazine, October 1989.

    http://stephenschneider.stanford.edu…etroitNews.pdf

  16. Good Science/Bad Science or Scientific Fascism are important issues to follow relative to the trials and tribulations of ID, rather than Global Warming per se.

    The other common thread is detecting intelligent causation, in this case anthropogenic climate change and the impact of human activity on climate.

    Recommend focusing on those two issues rather than global warming per se.

    Recommend adding policy / rules to focus on these issues in such posts.

  17. I tend to come down somewhere in the middle on the relevance of global warming myself.

    I think the jury’s still out on global warming and the human contribution thereto, BUT there’s no question that global warming is being sold to the public like hell-and-damnation at a tent revival.

    For example, I was warned earlier this year to expect a horribly hot, sticky summer in Toronto, on account of global warming, with freak thunderstorms.

    This summer was in fact cool and dry, and I was praying for those thunderstorms because I hate pouring drinking water on plants.

    Yes, yes, it’s true that the globe could be warming even if Toronto’s summer is unexpectedly cool – just like a failing business can make money over Christmas even if it is doomed.

    So agreed, the big picture is what counts. But that leads us back to Dr. McIntyre. What exactly IS the big picture?

    With GW, as with ID, there is a concerted effort to make the public put its faith in something that isn’t there.

    With GW, we are supposed to put our faith in unusually sweltering summers. With ID, we are to put our faith in the miracle of Darwinian evolution that produces intelligence from mud (or, more often now, the “intelligence” is seen as merely an illusion on the part of us mud).

    My suggestion, here and elsewhere, is that we focus on the way in which the global warming apocalypse is sold to the public, and its lessons for ID. Most of us (me especially) are not qualified to evaluate the raw data on which a real science controversy depends. So we are stuck, for better or worse, with Al-Gore-ithms, and must make what sense we can of them.

    P.S.: Yes, the 1930s were horribly hot. My late grandparents spoke of them with a shudder. Their area of my birth province, Saskatchewan, had no rain for three years, and was spiralling into Third World conditions. People would have starved, except that the other provinces sent so much help. – d.

  18. Hi Denyse,
    Just in case you didn’t leave too early to get it in your blood … Go ‘Riders!

  19. granville

    Might the earth’s climate be intelligently designed? An awful lot of unlikely factors conspire to keep it in a range conducive not just to life but to an industrial civilization of 6 billion (and growing) large mammals. Every time we think we can’t feed ourselves something good happens – like now – CO2 levels are rising into a more productive and water-efficient growth regime for crops, growing seasons are getting longer, and formerly frozen land is becoming arable.

  20. Dave, and others who are interested, particularly those who are good at physics, have a look at this.

    Falsification Of The Atmospheric CO2 Greenhouse Effects Within The Frame Of Physics.

    By G. Gerlich (Institut für Mathematische Physik Technische Universität Carolo-Wilhelmina) and R.D., Tscheuschner.

    In summary, there is no atmospheric greenhouse effect, in particular CO2-greenhouse effect, in theoretical physics and engineering thermodynamics. Thus it is illegitimate to deduce predictions which provide a consulting solution for economics and intergovernmental policy.

  21. Here’s the abstract:

    The atmospheric greenhouse effect, an idea that authors trace back to the traditional works of Fourier 1824, Tyndall 1861, and Arrhenius 1896, and which is still supported in global climatology, essentially describes a fictitious mechanism, in which a planetary atmosphere acts as a heat pump driven by an environment that is radiatively interacting with but radiatively equilibrated to the atmospheric system. According to the second law of thermodynamics such a planetary machine can never exist. Nevertheless, in almost all texts of global climatology and in a widespread secondary literature it is taken for granted that such mechanism is real and stands on a firm scientific foundation. In this paper the popular conjecture is analyzed and the underlying physical principles are clarified. By showing that (a) there are no common physical laws between the warming phenomenon in glass houses and the fictitious atmospheric greenhouse effects, (b) there are no calculations to determine an average surface temperature of a planet, (c) the frequently mentioned difference of 33 ºC is a meaningless number calculated wrongly, (d) the formulas of cavity radiation are used inappropriately, (e) the assumption of a radiative balance is unphysical, (f) thermal conductivity and friction must not be set to zero, the atmospheric greenhouse conjecture is falsified.

  22. Hi J:

    I have begun to look.

    he is right that “consensus” is a political term not strictly a scientific one, though of course there is a question that he majority of qualified practitioners on a topic will be expected to get basic facts straight and have an idea of the relevant laws, models and issues.

    Archiv, where the paper appears, is a free-for all posting physics site, so wait on the responses to see where the dust falls. I think he has some points but there is more than one side tot he story, e.g. in principle we CAN make a statistical average global temp at any given time and over any given period, but an average itself is a fictional typical value, thus inert causally.

    However, it may be connected to other factors and trends that are not fictions, and have causative force, thus in models it may have material bearing on what is going on.

    Thereby hang many debates and many issues.

    GEM of TKI

  23. PS Gotta go nowish, so I note that up to p 40 or so, he has addressed the greenhouse effect in a car and in a classic expt from 1909, using rock salt and glass.

    He correctly hihglights that there are questions on too close parallels form glass houses to the atmosphere, given the role of convection in the latter and the implications of the glazing imposing a relatively effective barrier to such a dispersing of heat acquired effect in a car etc.

    But, responsible, pro AGW discussions of GHE also do that, and men like Lindzen do not dispute teh basic physics involved relative to radiative forcings, but ask on the feedback loops and positive/negative feedbacks. (Negative feedbacks would stabilise the atmosphere against change; if positive ones predominate, a runaway effect can occur.)

    The crucial matter is the question of the balance of factors in the atmosphere , which of course has major convective systems of flow. I suspect that his analysis is distinctly in a minority view, and that there are all sorts of subtleties that need to be addressed.

    Haughton’s GW Briefing, 1994, makes this distinction between the effects.

    In the more technical Phys of Atmospheres, 1995, Ch 2, he analyses radiation effects and goes to a grey atmposphere, then argues tot he centrl importance in teh process of atmospheric dynamics on the scale of months or more, of radiative effects. He then factors in the issue of a positive feedback through enhanced creation of water vapour [which is where the Lindzen debate over cloud formation vs greater humidity comes in], contrasting to our case the situation of Venus.

    to those effects and issues, if I have time I will turn, others may wish to look also.

    But the authors Janice links are correct that major scientific claims need to be audited relative to the underlying physics.

  24. Janice:

    Follow-up on Global Warming issues:

    Steve Schwartz of Brookhaven Nat Labs has a very interesting analysis — HEAT CAPACITY, TIME CONSTANT, AND SENSITIVITY OF EARTH’S
    CLIMATE SYSTEM — here.

    I highly recommend a read. I find myself more comfortable with this critical assessment and its recommendations on a way forward, than with the one I was looking at above on your request.

    One thing is clear, the science in question is simply not cut and dry, “settled.”

    GEM of TKI

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