Is It Soup Yet?

I’ve already commented on my general reluctance to enter into discussions of climate issues. My views remain as they have been for many years: using resources prudently is just common sense (not to mention good engineering) and I think we should be reducing emissions and our production of greenhouse gases as a matter of principle and policy. I’ve opposed policies that promote increased use of, for example, oil and favored solutions like nuclear power for decades. I favor Pigouvian taxes to compensate for the negative externalities presented by emissions production.

I did want to make one drive-by comment on this story, fallout from the revelations in the emails stolen from the East Anglia CRU:

The Met Office plans to re-examine 160 years of temperature data after admitting that public confidence in the science on man-made global warming has been shattered by leaked e-mails.

The new analysis of the data will take three years, meaning that the Met Office will not be able to state with absolute confidence the extent of the warming trend until the end of 2012.

I suppose the experience of others may vary but my experience in life has been that it takes longer to analyze bad or questionable data than it does good, solid data and that the longer the analysis, the more likely it is that the analysts are cooking the results.

A lengthy re-analysis may bolster the spirits of some but, honestly, it fills me with foreboding, reducing my confidence in the outcome rather than lifting it. I doubt that it will convince any skeptics.

11 comments… add one
  • PD Shaw Link

    There appears to be broader coalitions available that share somewhat related interests: national security, improved trade balances, energy efficiency in furtherance of industrial policy. Dare I suggest that there may be a blessing in disguise from reducing the role of AGW and its essential dependence on international action that seems unlikely to occur. A unilateralist approach might yield more practical results.

  • Brett Link

    I suppose the experience of others may vary but my experience in life has been that it takes longer to analyze bad or questionable data than it does good, solid data and that the longer the analysis, the more likely it is that the analysts are cooking the results.

    There’s a massive amount of data they have to go through (more than 100 years’ worth of temperature records of varying reliability and different place, plus other measures), so I don’t think it’s too bad. Plus, you can guarantee that the skeptics, among others, are going to demand that virtually every step in the process be available to be examined by outsiders at any time.

  • I’m much more sanguine about the prospect.

    1) Here is a chance to have a open and transparent process, to adress the many (many) limitations in the existing data set (where sometimes duplicate station reports were used, data with no reporting stations was used, etc. etc. etc.), so that more people (if not everyone) could at least agree on what the raw data says.

    2) This would then give us a baseline to begin the discussion of how best to “add value” to the data. What seems amazing about the old process – and I say “seems” because they pitched the old raw data so no one can check exactly how they “added value” in the past – is that they decided to by and large raise more recent temperature values higher then the raw data even though the most common factor that could call for such an adjustment (i.e. increased urbanization near stations) would call for lowering values, not increasing them. Now we have a chance of having these needed discussions, instead of being presented with a fait accompli and a smile that says “Trust us, we’re scientists.”

    They are asking all of us to foot a bill in the trillions and trillions of dollars, so it is outrageous for them to believe they could operate without oversight, without questioning, without criticism, and without providing ALL of the data upon which they are making their judgements. They have used every trick in the book from obfuscation & character assasination to outright fear-mongering in order to put themselves beyond scrutiny.

    They all say in effect…..

    “Look I have a chart here which proves (though I dont have the data I derived the chart from anymore) that those ‘deniers’ over there (really they are money grubbing oil company nazis you know) are going to doom the entire planet as we are nearing the tipping point (you will all die if I don’t get federal grant money!)”

    ANything will better than the past 20 years of listening to that.

  • Drew Link

    The data integrity and model robustness issues are daunting in and of themselves. But let’s get out of the trees and look at the forest.

    If you’ve ever looked at the magnitude and the rate of growth of emissions for the major industrial countries you will observe that the US has absolutely no hope, none, zip, of reducing its emissions in a sufficient amount to offset the train coming down the tracks called BRIC. And those BRIC countries have absolutely no intention of reducing the rate of growth of their emissions.

    So if you are an AGW’r, you should have chills running down your spine, because if your predictions are true we are dead. Start moving to Kansas, New Yorkers! (unless you live on the 30th floor, snicker)

    Dave makes the vital point, one I’ve made. Just because AGW is a hoax doesn’t mean you go out and do silly things. Efficient use of resources is a noble goal. We should be putting on a full force effort to use nuclear power here in the US, and elsewhere. Until that effort matures, the most economical way to produce energy is through fossil fuels. To do otherwise is national industrial suicide, and a restriction of liberty.

    We should not sacrifice the well being of the United States and its saner citizens as we correct the gross policy errors of the past anti-nuke “environmentalists” and the pols who listened to them. These are the very same philosophical kindred who are giving us this AGW hysteria today. What’s the saying? Fool me once, shame on you……….

  • I did not read this as their saying that they’d release the data and their algorithms for scrutiny but that they’d sit on the data for three years, analyzing it.

  • Dave, they do not have the raw data. I don’t think they are lying about that.

    Re-collecting the data from all of the sources scattered around the world, or with other research institutions, will take a lot of time. And they dont have to release it in one lump. As data for whole regions becomes available they should be able to release it as they go along. There is enough of the raw data in the literature for anyone to confirm it is the right stuff, and we will be able to tell right away how transparent they are actually being. It just will take three years to finish.

    (Granted, if they DID attempt to sit on all of it for three years, I would think that was pretty suspicious.)

  • steve Link

    In my experience, really good data and really bad data are quick and easy to analyze. The stuff in between takes longer. Some of this is very old and probably still on paper. In foreign languages hard to read.


  • How can you re-sample historic data, Rich?

  • Drew Link

    “How can you re-sample historic data, Rich?”

    You can’t.

    I can’t remember if I touched on this here or at OTB, so apologies in advance if this is duplicative here.

    My thesis advisor when I was about 20 yrs old about rung my neck over this issue. Raw data is the holy grail. No exceptions. Record the environment, the equipment used, the experimental data gathered. Other scientists may want to inspect.

    In an interesting twist of history, the thesis was “Sulfur Fixation During Coal Gasification.” We were testing how much sulfur could be dissolved in the iron naturally occuring in coal. (in the boiler) Said another way, we were saving the world from the horror of the day – acid rain – so we could use fossil fuels. Hey! I’m an environmentalist!!

    My thesis prof worked on the Manhattan Project. I can’t imagine that the scientific rules of data gathering and integrity have changed from then, to the time of my my thesis, to now.

    Be wary of any apologists for the current AGW data debacle. They are frauds.

  • I didn’t say “re-sample” I said “re-collect” as in “re-collect from the various countries of origin.” They all still have their data. It was only CRU that tossed their copy of it.

    Of course, given any changes in data collection, or improvements to individual nation records it will be impossible to re-create the exact set of raw data CRU used the first time, but it will be close enough.

  • Drew Link

    Re: Data

    Since this scandal has broken I’ve read and heard the argument that “other data” is still available.

    I’m certainly not an expert, but I’m not so sure. As I understand it all the data bases are crosslinked, with much of the early, crucial and foundational data coming from the British Navy and British meteorological offices. It’s that data that’s now gone. Bye, bye.

    To be a bit bawdy. The shit has hit the fan.

    Let’s set the issue of scientific protocol aside. Call me crazy, but when you have data that predicts the end of the world, you don’t throw it out just because you need some extra space on your hard drive to store salacious Tiger Woods stories. (Humor me here with a bit of largesse, people) Even the dimmest (AGW causing) bulbs understand that.

    This is just nuts.

    Speaking of nuts, Al Gore is now writing (bad) global warming poetry. Anyone want to do the moon walk away from Albert?

    Where’s odo-gaffe when you need him?

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