Monday, November 30, 2009


Clarification on Climategate

If you want to follow this stuff on the cutting edge, the site to visit is ClimateAudit, which is run by Steve McIntyre, the intrepid outsider who caught Mann with his pants down on the "hockey stick" graph. (Actually ClimateAudit is overwhelmed right now with new visitors because of Climategate, and so McIntyre is placing his new posts at a mirror site, here.)

The problem with McIntyre is that he shares Ludwig von Mises' expectations on the knowledge of the reader. Just as Mises would make one-off comments about Bohm-Bawerk's capital theory or the Weber-Fechner physiological law, so too does McIntyre assume all of his thousands of readers are totally familiar with the history of climate science and just want McIntyre to give them the actual freaking computer code to replicate Jones graph from 1999. (!!)

So anyway, that's why you have me here. Lately my purpose has not been to invent new material but to translate the work of other giants into a version that you, the unwashed masses, can understand...

Now that I've made the opening funnies, let's get down to business. I had been aware of this (vaguely) but it didn't really hit me until a commenter at ClimateAudit said it explicitly. To set the context, PaulM first said:
Steve I really think you need to explain things more clearly for the thousands of new readers who are now reading your blog. Most of them will not understand this. I’ll have a go, please correct:

The green line is tree-ring data on the left. On the right it has been smoothly merged into temperature data. This is Michael Mann’s trick, that he falsely claims is never done. The reason they do it is to hide the fact that otherwise the green tree-ring data curve would go down in the late 20th century rather than up, showing that the tree-ring data is useless at representing temperature. Hence “hide the decline”.
Then to endorse this take (which I endorse as well, for what that's worth), Calvin Ball said:
Paul, that’s my take. And I agree that this is important for the masses to get; the popular interpretation of “hide the decline” is somehow concealing the lack of warming over the past decade. This is completely wrong, but it’s catching on.
Does everybody get what he's saying? When Jones said in the infamous CRU email that he used "Mike [Mann]'s Nature hide the decline," he was NOT talking about a decline in actual global temperatures that thwarted the claims of global warming.

On the contrary, he was talking about a decline in the proxy for global temperatures based on tree ring observations. So what happens is that from 1960 on, the proxy starts dropping while the actual temperatures go up. (See the divergence in this post.) Ironically then, if actual global temperatures had NOT risen in the last half of the 20th century, then there would be less of a problem to "hide."

Now you might ask, "Huh? Why do they need to hide the decline in a proxy of temperature, when we already know the actual temperature post-1960?"

Good question; I'm glad you asked. The answer is that to make the claim that the warming of the 20th century is unprecedented in the last x years (I don't remember the actual number the alarmists use, but it's big)--meaning it must be due to human activity and not natural variability--we need to know what the global temperature was, say, 800 years ago. And unfortunately all the educated people back then were busy copying the Bible by hand, rather than setting up temperature stations (and being careful to filter out the Monastery Heat Island effect).

So in order to demonstrate that the 20th century warming is unusually rapid, the climate scientists have to construct a proxy of global temperatures going back before the period of modern instrumentation. One of these series is based on tree rings.

Now you see the problem. If the tree-ring proxy diverges sharply from actual recorded temperatures from 1960 onward, then we can't trust it when it tells us that temperatures have been fairly stable before modern economic growth. Hence the claims of the alarmists are undercut.

In conclusion, Jones was not trying to "hide" the lack of global warming since 1998, as many people are probably concluding. So the problematic phrase in his email is "hide," not "the decline."

(I am pretty sure my explanation above is correct, but by all means if someone thinks I have botched a particular point please bring it to my attention.)


Two Honest Opponents on Climate Alarmism

Part of why I am skeptical of some of the loudest proponents of large-scale government intervention to fight climate change is that, even on their own terms, the suggested remedies won't stave off disaster.

However, a few of the people on the other side of this issue seem very sincere to me. I still disagree with them, but I think it is truly an intellectual disagreement. One is George Monbiot, who reiterates his feeling "alone" in condemning the leaked CRU behavior. He writes:
I have seldom felt so alone. Confronted with crisis, most of the environmentalists I know have gone into denial. The emails hacked from the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia, they say, are a storm in a tea cup, no big deal, exaggerated out of all recognition. It is true that climate change deniers have made wild claims which the material can't possibly support (the end of global warming, the death of climate science). But it is also true that the emails are very damaging.

The response of the greens and most of the scientists I know is profoundly ironic, as we spend so much of our time confronting other people's denial. Pretending that this isn't a real crisis isn't going to make it go away. Nor is an attempt to justify the emails with technicalities. We'll be able to get past this only by grasping reality, apologising where appropriate and demonstrating that it cannot happen again.

It is true that much of what has been revealed could be explained as the usual cut and thrust of the peer review process, exacerbated by the extraordinary pressure the scientists were facing from a denial industry determined to crush them. One of the most damaging emails was sent by the head of the climatic research unit, Phil Jones. He wrote "I can't see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report. Kevin and I will keep them out somehow - even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!"
[Jones'] message looks awful. It gives the impression of confirming a potent meme circulated by those who campaign against taking action on climate change: that the IPCC process is biased. However good the detailed explanations may be, most people aren't going to follow or understand them. Jones's statement, on the other hand, is stark and easy to grasp.
When it comes to his handling of Freedom of Information requests, Professor Jones might struggle even to use a technical defence. If you take the wording literally, in one case he appears to be suggesting that emails subject to a request be deleted, which means that he seems to be advocating potentially criminal activity. Even if no other message had been hacked, this would be sufficient to ensure his resignation as head of the unit.
The crisis has been exacerbated by the university's handling of it, which has been a total trainwreck: a textbook example of how not to respond. RealClimate reports that "We were made aware of the existence of this archive last Tuesday morning when the hackers attempted to upload it to RealClimate, and we notified CRU of their possible security breach later that day." In other words, the university knew what was coming three days before the story broke. As far as I can tell, it sat like a rabbit in the headlights, waiting for disaster to strike.

When the emails hit the news on Friday morning, the university appeared completely unprepared. There was no statement, no position, no one to interview. Reporters kept being fobbed off while CRU's opponents landed blow upon blow on it. When a journalist I know finally managed to track down Phil Jones, he snapped "no comment" and put down the phone. This response is generally taken by the media to mean "guilty as charged". When I got hold of him on Saturday, his answer was to send me a pdf called "WMO statement on the status of the global climate in 1999". Had I a couple of hours to spare I might have been able to work out what the heck this had to do with the current crisis, but he offered no explanation.

By then he should have been touring the TV studios for the past 36 hours, confronting his critics, making his case and apologising for his mistakes. Instead, he had disappeared off the face of the Earth. Now, far too late, he has given an interview to the Press Association, which has done nothing to change the story.
But the deniers' campaign of lies, grotesque as it is, does not justify secrecy and suppression on the part of climate scientists. Far from it: it means that they must distinguish themselves from their opponents in every way. No one has been as badly let down by the revelations in these emails as those of us who have championed the science. We should be the first to demand that it is unimpeachable, not the last.
Exacto-mundo. Those people who have been citing the "peer-review process" and "the science is settled" for years should have been shocked by ClimateGate. They don't have to say, "Wow I guess it was all a hoax," but to dismiss this as taking "technical terms" out of context is absurd. You don't need to be a climate scientist to know what "delete any emails" means.

We also have James Hansen--Al Gore's mentor and head of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies--publicly saying that cap-and-trade is a phony solution (HT2 MasterResource):
Science reveals that climate is close to tipping points. It is a dead certainty that continued high emissions will create a chaotic dynamic situation for young people, with deteriorating climate conditions out of their control.

Science also reveals what is needed to stabilise atmospheric composition and climate. Geophysical data on the carbon amounts in oil, gas and coal show that the problem is solvable, if we phase out global coal emissions within 20 years and prohibit emissions from unconventional fossil fuels such as tar sands and oil shale.

Such constraints on fossil fuels would cause carbon dioxide emissions to decline 60% by mid-century or even more if policies make it uneconomic to go after every last drop of oil.

Improved forestry and agricultural practices could then bring atmospheric carbon dioxide back to 350 ppm (parts per million) or less, as required for a stable climate.

Governments going to Copenhagen claim to have such goals for 2050, which they will achieve with the "cap-and-trade" mechanism. They are lying through their teeth.

Unless they order Russia to leave its gas in the ground and Saudi Arabia to leave its oil in the ground (which nobody has proposed), they must phase out coal and prohibit unconventional fossil fuels.

Instead, the United States signed an agreement with Canada for a pipeline to carry oil squeezed from tar sands. Australia is building port facilities for large increases in coal export. Coal-to-oil factories are being built. Coal-fired power plants are being constructed worldwide. Governments are stating emission goals that they know are lies – or, if we want to be generous, they do not understand the geophysics and are kidding themselves.

Is it feasible to phase out coal and avoid use of unconventional fossil fuels? Yes, but only if governments face up to the truth: as long as fossil fuels are the cheapest energy, their use will continue and even increase on a global basis.

Fossil fuels are cheapest because they are not made to pay for their effects on human health, the environment and future climate.

Governments must place a uniform rising price on carbon, collected at the fossil fuel source – the mine or port of entry. The fee should be given to the public in toto, as a uniform dividend, payroll tax deduction or both. Such a tax is progressive – the dividend exceeds added energy costs for 60% of the public.
Cap and trade with offsets, in contrast [to a carbon tax refunded to the poor], is astoundingly ineffective. Global emissions rose rapidly in response to Kyoto, as expected, because fossil fuels remained the cheapest energy.

Cap and trade is an inefficient compromise, paying off numerous special interests. It must be replaced with an honest approach, raising the price of carbon emissions and leaving the dirtiest fossil fuels in the ground.

Are we going to stand up and give global politicians a hard slap in the face, to make them face the truth? It will take a lot of us – probably in the streets. Or are we going to let them continue to kid themselves and us and cheat our children and grandchildren?
I strongly oppose Hansen's call for a carbon tax and refund, but given his stated views, it makes sense. And in particular, if Hansen really believes we have a very short window to prevent utter climate catastrophe for our children, then he is being heroic for publicly denouncing the fraud of the Copenhagen meetings. (Or at least I think he is: For all I know he Obama secretly loves Hansen's push for an explicit carbon tax, just as Paul Krugman isn't really "speaking truth to power" when he says the stimulus is way too small.)

So I want to acknowledge that there are some climate change alarmists who at least have the courage of their stated convictions. If you really believed the computer models showed we have to wean ourselves from fossil fuels quickly to avoid disaster, then you should be mortified by the CRU emails and by the politicians' discussions of Copenhagen. On that score, I respect Monbiot and Hansen.

Sunday, November 29, 2009


More On God and Self-Ownership

Stephan Kinsella brought this article by Skyler Collins to my attention. Since we have been discussing the intersection of Christianity and libertarianism lately, I thought it would be a good thing to analyze.

I think Collins' piece is mostly correct insofar as it goes, but I also think he hasn't proved as much as he thinks he has proved. He writes:
Whether or not you believe that God exists, or that he owns our bodies, it must be understood that libertarian philosophy only concerns the relationships between mortal men. It does not concern the relationship between men and animals, or men and the earth (insofar as it unrelates to other men). And it absolutely doesn’t concern the relationship between men and God.

Don’t misunderstand me. What a man does with himself in relation to anything may or may not be God’s concern (I believe it is), but the libertarian principle of self-ownership is used to distinguish what men can legitimately do to each other. Not what God can do to man.

This quote by James A. Sadowsky is instructive,
“When we say that one has the right to do certain things we mean this and only this, that it would be immoral for another, alone or in combination, to stop him from doing this by the use of physical force or the threat thereof. We do not mean that any use a man makes of his property within the limits set forth is necessarily a moral use.”

It really says it all. The purpose of arguing for self-ownership is to understand if the actions of other men are justified. Though God may own our bodies, this fact would not alter the relationship between men. For example, I own a laptop computer. I acquired this through trade. What I traded was legitimately earned, therefore this laptop computer is legitimately my property. It is an extension of myself. If a man named John took my laptop computer without my permission, that would rightly be considered theft and a violation of my property rights to my laptop computer. God only enters the equation if John claims God told him to take the computer from me because it was his will that John have the computer instead of me. Unless God corroborates this claim to me personally, I can rightly consider it theft and a violation of my property rights.
So as I said, I don't object to the above per se, but I think Collins believes he just disposed of theocracy. I don't think he did.

First, what if "God corroborates" the claim not directly to the alleged sinner/property violator, but in a book codifying His views that even the alleged sinner/violator endorses? For example, Jewish adulterers in the time of Jesus. They couldn't honestly say, "Oh c'mon, you're telling me God doesn't want me sleeping out of wedlock? How do you know--did a burning bush appear?"

Second, I think many secular libertarians are taking this type of view to demonstrate that people trying to enforce "God's will" are necessarily committing aggression. But even if that's true, it's not a decisive end to the issue. For example, I'm sure the pagans who were slaughtered by the Israelites when they came into what they called "the Promised Land" didn't agree that the Lord owned the earth and could divvy it out to whichever people He wanted. But I doubt Collins (LDS) would say the Israelites under Joshua really should have relied on Lockean reasoning as opposed to divine revelation.

OK let me now address the obvious (and horrified) retort. "Is Bob endorsing theocracy?!" No I'm not. Let's quote from the object of Collins' critique, Gabriel Fink, who had previously written:
Libertarian theory holds that adultery is not a crime, because no forgery or robbery has taken place. If two unmarried people decide to have intimate relations, there is no property violation, and hence no crime has been committed. A law prohibiting adultery therefore would be considered unjust. If man is the rightful owner of his body, then this understanding would be correct.

As has been shown however, man is not the rightful owner of his body. One of the terms and conditions set forth by the Lord for those who chose to receive the stewardship of a physical body is that sexual relations are only authorized between a man and his lawfully wedded wife. Any person who does not adhere to this restriction has aggressed against the property of the Lord and is in violation of the principle of non-aggression.
This is how adultery was considered a crime, and is defined as such in scripture. The Lord has given man the authority to punish the crime of adultery. Civil laws which punish adultery are not a violation of the non-aggression principle. All acts of adultery however, are a violation.
OK so Collins' attempt to rebut these types of claims (both in the comments of the original piece, and his own full article) is to state that property rights deal with relations between people. I've already shown why I think that's an inadequate response, and I wouldn't expect Mr. Fink to change his views based on the argument.

However, there are all sorts of things in the Mosaic Law that are a bit...harsh. Does Fink endorse all of those too? Note that this wouldn't prove him wrong, I'm just wondering how far he takes the principle he's supporting.

No, I don't think the political authorities should punish adultery. Why not? First, I think political government is itself in violation of Christian principles. You've got the LORD's warning--in the Old Testament of all places!--of the dangers of establishing a king, and there is plenty of other Scriptural evidence in favor of Christian anarchy. (Try this, though I don't necessarily endorse everything Redford writes here.) If this is shocking to you, try this route: I think there is a strong case for pacifism based on Jesus' teachings; Tolstoy thought the same. If Jesus doesn't want us to resist evil (especially with swords), then I would argue He doesn't want us to employ men with guns to throw adulterers in a dungeon.

I find it ironic that Fink would choose adultery as his illustration, since we know exactly "what Jesus would do" when asked whether to enforce the Mosaic Law against an adulteress caught in the act.

Now you might be wondering, "Well what the heck, Bob, why are you bringing this up if you generally agree with the conclusions of the secular libertarian anti-statists?"

The reason is that a lot of libertarians use abstract reasoning to "deduce" the legitimacy of their views, and to "prove" that everyone else is wrong. If my observation about God owning people's bodies (and everything else physical) is correct, then those "proofs" are wrong and libertarians should stop invoking them.

Stephan Kinsella has responded to my point on this when I made it with Gene Callahan in our JLS critique [.pdf] of Hans Hoppe's argumentation ethics. Stephan recently wrote:

I’m not surprised you bring this up–you raised a similar notion as some sort of criticism of Hoppe’s argumentation ethics years ago in this piece. In my reply thereto, I noted:
MC introduce supposed “counterexamples” of God and slavery. … As for God – you can’t just posit that God owns everyone and “therefore” we are not self-owners. Moroever, even if God does own us, it could be that we are still self-owners vis-a-vis each other. In any event, this in no way refutes the conclusion that only the libertarian norms can be argumentatively justified in discourse.

If there is a God, since He is Good, we can assume he’s libertarian and has decreed a libertarian moral law within his universe. So even if God owns A and B, A still has a better claim to A’s body than B does.

OK two quick observations:

(1) In our article Gene and I did not "just posit that God owns everyone." We said that it was a logical possibility, and that Hoppe had not disposed of it in his proof. Since his proof concludes, "...and therefore everyone starts out as a self-owner," his proof is obviously incorrect. I would give an analogy here, except I think it would just confuse things because we'd then be arguing about why the analogy was or was not analogous. It frustrates me that Stephan still doesn't get our basic point on this.

(2) What if the parents leave the house and tell the babysitter that the 8-year-old can't use the computer? Then the 8-year-old starts using it, and the babysitter picks him up and walks him out of the room, locking the door behind him. The 8-year-old, if a fan of Kinsella, could argue, "Sure my parents ultimately own the computer and can lay down the rules of engagement, but as far as my claim on the property versus the babysitter's, I have the stronger claim--I will inherit it all eventually. For all I know my parents never told my babysitter I couldn't use the computer. So the babysitter just violated my property rights."

Yes, the 8-year-old would be right as far as he goes, but what is the proper libertarian response to all this? Does the babysitter have to slap his forehead because he didn't get a notarized letter from the parents expressing their wishes, or record it on his iPhone? No, he enforces the will of the actual property owners, and dismisses talk of "well excluding the views of the actual owner, my claim is stronger than yours" as irrelevant.

All right, I'll stop here while I still have some loyal readers. I do believe I managed to disagree with everyone who has chimed in on these matters!


Joe Romm Cuts Through the Lies of ClimateGate

The most entertaining part of ClimateGate has been to watch the folks at RealClimate and ClimateProgress spin this as a huge disinformation campaign by the "deniers." The best one I've seen so far is (not surprisingly) Joe Romm, who writes:
Michael Mann, one of the country’s leading climatologists, has coauthored a major new review and analysis of climate science since the 2007 IPCC report. much attacked by the anti-scientific disinformers because of his work on the paleoclimate “hockey stick” reconstructions of temperature over the past couple of millennia. Contrary to what the disinformers continue to say, however, the hockey stick was essentially vindicated by the National Academy of Sciences...

Since some of his email exchanges were made public by the recent illegal hack of documents from the University of East Anglia, he has also distributed a response to various members of the media and bloggers...

Misrepresentation of these emails is so common that the Washington Post issued one of the fastest retractions/corrections in its history. I had blogged on their November 25 op-ed “Climate of Denial” here...Well, one day later, they “clarified” one of their assertions about Mann...So this should be a cautionary tale to the media to go to the primary source before simply repeating what others have said.
Wow, Romm makes it sound as if the Washington Post spread baseless gossip that is totally unconnected to the hacked emails, doesn't he? I wonder what scurrilous charges the innocent scientist--just minding his own business, trying to save humanity from climate catastrophe--was accused of, before the WP had to retract their libel?

Check out the WP clarification. I don't want to spoil it. Let this be a lesson to all those who dare to criticize the world's leading climatologists!

Saturday, November 28, 2009


All ClimateGate, All the Time

* Here is George Monbiot's yes-it's-embarrassing-but-the-deniers-are-still-idiots op ed. (BTW if you don't know Monbiot, he is a leftist with a purple heart. Seriously, he has street cred. The most I ever did was write internet articles critical of Dick Cheney.)

* That HARRY_READ_ME file is actually more damning than the excerpts I previously linked to. Check out this version. Note in particular the numerous references to "avoid the decline," and not just post-1960 but in the 1940s as well. That wasn't a one-off comment in someone's email. You cannot look at this thing and tell me, "These are some unfortunate phrases taken out of context. There was no 'trickery' involved." And again, let's recall that the standard line coming from the establishment on climate science has been, "This is complicated stuff. You need to trust us that these fringe guys are making mountains out of molehills. The science is settled, we understand these issues very well, we have high confidence in our models on the important issues that the skeptics attack." Really?

* So as to be balanced, here's more of the RealClimate guys' response. Some of the comments are funny. I could be mistaken, but I think Gavin is letting more critical stuff through than he used to, for obvious reasons.

I am obviously biased and am surely not giving Gavin et al.'s explanations a totally fair shake. But it seems clear to me that Gavin is downplaying the things uncovered in the CRU leak. For a different example, try this. At Comment #51 in the thread I link above, Silke posts a link to that Eduardo Zorita who explained why he thoughts Jones et al. should be barred from the IPCC process. (Just skim the link if you didn't read it when I posted it here before.) So in response to that, Gavin says:
Response: Unfortunately, this episode is being seen as an opportunity by some to imbue their personal and professional conflicts with particular researchers with a greater importance than they have. I am not going to comment on the history of tension between certain people, nor doubt the sincerity of people's clearly deeply held views. But talk of blacklisting scientists from assessment bodies is, at best, foolish. These panels require a full spectrum of the community to take part in order to constructively come up with language that all can accept. Excluding people because they have criticised your work in the past (and vice versa) is not the way to go. Lindzen took part in the 2001 IPCC and the NAS 2002, John Christy was on the CCSP panel on tropsohperic trends - excluding them because of a history of disagreements or perceived personal failings would have been a mistake. The same goes for the scientists mentioned in the above link - especially since one of them at least has no apparent connection to any of the issues raised by these emails. This is not a topic for further discussion. Sorry. - gavin
Really? Zorita was merely saying, "Jones and Mann criticized my work in the past, so I think they should be barred from the IPCC process"? C'mon. If Gavin thinks someone leveling charges of "conspiracies, "bullying," and "intimidation," in order to "convey a distorted picture" of the hockey-stick graph, is merely complaining of criticism, then he should stop commenting on this controversy because he obviously doesn't understand the charges. I'm not saying Zorita is necessarily right, but it's nonsense to dismiss his claims as whining from someone whose work was criticized by other academics.


"By Our Powers Combined..."

Newcomers to Austrian economics often ask me about the Great Schism. Here's the short version: Almost a century ago, a dark wizard swept through the economics profession, mesmerizing almost all who came within earshot of his siren song. He and his apprentices--most notably Darth Samuelson--hunted down and exterminated almost all of the practitioners of the bright arts.

In this chaos, a good and very powerful wizard retreated to the Dagobah system, where he lived in a swamp with funding from a private foundation. There he worked on an amulet codifying the spells of the bright magic, which had the power to beat back the forces of the dark wizards.

Upon his deathbed, the old wizard handed the amulet to those gathered around him. In their jealous grasping, they fumbled the amulet and it smashed into three pieces, each going to a different lieutenant. Although the amulet's powers remain, it cannot defeat the dark wizards in diluted form.

It is prophesied that a young wizard will one day rise from the ranks and reunite all three pieces of the amulet. Then its light will burn brightly, forcing the dark wizards to cower in the shadows of Fed posts.

(For a slightly different rendition, see here.)


The Core of What Economics Teaches

Tom Woods alerted me to this. I am embedding it below to get you hooked, but if and when you decide, "Dangit I have to listen to the whole half hour!" then you should click on it and watch it in High Quality widescreen.

This is a very different speech from the kind I normally give, since the audience was (mostly) high school students. I even unveil my George Carlin impression, except I chickened out and didn't actually "do" Carlin.

(Incidentally, the YouTube commenters clearly have no taste.)

BTW here's Tom Woods' talk from the same event; I opened and he closed. The other talks were good too: Doug French on money and inflation, Floy Lilley on recycling, and Jeff Tucker on innovation and Catholic monks.

Friday, November 27, 2009



OK I really need to get back to my paying jobs... But here are two more ClimateGate posts to throw into the mix. (Both links come from ClimateDepot, which admittedly is the Drudge Report of global warming skepticism.)

* First you've got this minor IPCC contributing author arguing that big guns Michael Mann, Phil Jones, and Stefan Rahmstorf should be barred from the IPCC process. A good excerpt:
I may confirm what has been written in other places: research in some areas of climate science has been and is full of machination, conspiracies, and collusion, as any reader can interpret from the CRU-files. They depict a realistic, I would say even harmless, picture of what the real research in the area of the climate of the past millennium has been in the last years. The scientific debate has been in many instances hijacked to advance other agendas.

These words do not mean that I think anthropogenic climate change is a hoax. On the contrary, it is a question which we have to be very well aware of. But I am also aware that in this thick atmosphere -and I am not speaking of greenhouse gases now- editors, reviewers and authors of alternative studies, analysis, interpretations,even based on the same data we have at our disposal, have been bullied and subtly blackmailed. In this atmosphere, Ph D students are often tempted to tweak their data so as to fit the 'politically correct picture'. Some, or many issues, about climate change are still not well known. Policy makers should be aware of the attempts to hide these uncertainties under a unified picture. I had the 'pleasure' to experience all this in my area of research.

I thank explicitely Keith Briffa and Tim Osborn for their work in the formulation of one Chapter of the IPCC report. As it destills from these emails, they withstood the evident pressure of other IPCC authors, not experts in this area of research, to convey a distorted picture of our knowledge of the hockey-stick graph.

* Richard Littlemore of DeSmogBlog thinks that Jones et al., like Nixon, are handling their -Gate very poorly, and thinks Jones should offer to resign. Just so you know, DeSmogBlog is not exactly a friend of Big Oil. If you search for my name on their site, you learn all you need to know about me:
DeSmogBlog thoroughly investigates the academic and industry backgrounds of those involved in the PR spin campaigns that are confusing the public and stalling action on global warming. If there's anyone or any organization, ( i.e. scientist, self-professed "expert," think tank, industry association, company) that you would like to see researched and reported on DeSmogBlog, please contact us here and we will try our best.

If you need something more quickly, please let us know and we can arrange to have the process expedited for a small fee to cover research costs.
Robert P. Murphy

Murphy and the Institute for Energy Research

Murphy is listed as an economist for a Houston, Texas-based think tank called the Institute for Energy Research (IER). The IER has received over $200,000 in funding from oil-giant ExxonMobil.

The IER has strong links to other well-known industry-friendly organizations.

Robert Bradley, the president of IER, is listed as an "Adjunct Scholar" for the Cato Institute and an "Expert" for the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Listed on the IER website are Marlo Lewis of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Jerry Taylor of the Cato Institute, Tom Tanton of the Pacific Research Institute and Joel Schwartz of the American Enterprise Institute. Combined, these organizations have received over $4.5 million in funding from ExxonMobil since 1998.

Of the six listed IER Board of Directors, two are directly affiliated with IER, one is with the American Enterprise Institute and three are involved in the energy sector.

The IER operates a second site called Facts On Energy.


Talk About Making Your Boss Look Good!

Former Bush spokesperson Dana Perino may have exaggerated a bit when discussing the administration's success in keeping America safe from terrorism (HT2 Media Matters):


Hamilton vs. Krugman

It's Econbrowser in a cage match with Conscience of a Liberal. I don't have the energy to referee this one. The topic is whether we should be worried about the government's fiscal situation. Noteworthy is that Hamilton alludes to Krugman's 2003 worries about the deficit, and Krugman responds.*

* And no, the response wasn't, "I was a partisan hack back then, my bad." It's more like, "A 40% debt under Bush is scarier than an 80% debt under Obama, because Bush is stupid and evil." You think I'm kidding, don't you?


WSJ Catches Up to Murphy

George Melloan points out that interventions into the financial sector have squeezed lending to small businesses and other non-politically-connected businesses. (HT2JOD) You heard it from me first on Kudlow's show, where I was dismissed as a crank (not by Kudlow). Thanks to the eagle-eyed von Pepe for digging up the CNBC video, as the YouTube has been taken down.


Yet More on ClimateGate

Wow this stuff just gets worse and worse. Let me clarify two things before proceeding:

1) I personally have no problem whatsoever with the guy who said he wanted to beat the cr** out of Pat Michaels (besides my pacifism). That alone didn't faze me at all; of course academics are going to get feisty in private emails and crack jokes like that. Ditto for the thing about being glad that one of the skeptics died. Who cares? Such statements don't give me any view as to the quality of the work these people are doing.

2) I asked my two climate scientist associates--one who is a definite skeptic, the other not (but who is a huge Ron Paul fan)--and neither of them thought ClimateGate would change their views of the science. On the one hand, I guess it's not so surprising that the skeptic wasn't surprised; presumably he already had his doubts about CRU techniques etc. and their limitations. But I was surprised that the other guy said to me, "I haven't been following this, I'm working on my paper."

OK let me move on to relay the two most damning things that have come to light so far, in my amateur opinion. The "hide the decline" email of course is the most blockbuster, but in fairness if you don't really know the context, it's hard to evaluate it.

However, check out this analysis of the so-called "HARRY_READ_ME.txt" file. (HT2 savecapitalism from a previous thread on this blog.) Far more than any one-off statement (perhaps one made with humor) in an email, this saga definitely suggests that the CRU people can't replicate some of their own reported results, and maybe that's why they are so jealously guarding their data and code. ("Don't let it fall into the wrong hands" etc.)

But now here is the single biggest smoking gun, as far as I'm concerned. (HT2 Dan Simmons) So that you don't have to do a handstand, I'll put the relevant emails in chronological order, and the bolding is mine:


From: [PhD student]

To: "Stephen H Schneider"

Sent: Sunday, October 11, 2009 10:25:53 AM GMT -08:00 US/Canada Pacific

Subject: BBC U-turn on climate


You may be aware of this already. Paul Hudson, BBC's reporter on climate change, on
Friday wrote that there's been no warming since 1998, and that pacific oscillations will
force cooling for the next 20-30 years. It is not outrageously biased in presentation as
are other skeptics' views.



BBC has significant influence on public opinion outside the US.

Do you think this merits an op-ed response in the BBC from a scientist?

[PhD candidate]


PhD Candidate,

Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources (E-IPER)

Stanford University

On Oct 12, 2009, at 2:32 AM, Stephen H Schneider wrote:

Hi all. Any of you want to explain decadal natural variability and signal to noise and
sampling errors to this new "IPCC Lead Author" from the BBC? As we enter an El Nino
year and as soon, as the sunspots get over their temporary--presumed--vacation worth a
few tenths of a Watt per meter squared reduced forcing, there will likely be another
dramatic upward spike like 1992-2000. I heard someone--Mike Schlesinger maybe??--was
willing to bet alot of money on it happening in next 5 years?? Meanwhile the past 10
years of global mean temperature trend stasis still saw what, 9 of the warmest in
reconstructed 1000 year record and Greenland and the sea ice of the North in big
retreat?? Some of you observational folks probably do need to straighten this out as my
student suggests below. Such "fun", Cheers, Steve

Stephen H. Schneider

Melvin and Joan Lane Professor for Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies,

Professor, Department of Biology and

Senior Fellow, Woods Institute for the Environment

Michael Mann wrote:

extremely disappointing to see something like this appear on BBC. its particularly odd,
since climate is usually Richard Black's beat at BBC (and he does a great job). from
what I can tell, this guy was formerly a weather person at the Met Office.

We may do something about this on RealClimate, but meanwhile it might be appropriate for
the Met Office to have a say about this, I might ask Richard Black what's up here?


Kevin Trenberth wrote:

Hi all

Well I have my own article on where the heck is global warming? We are asking that here
in Boulder where we have broken records the past two days for the coldest days on
record. We had 4 inches of snow. The high the last 2 days was below 30F and the normal
is 69F, and it smashed the previous records for these days by 10F. The low was about
18F and also a record low, well below the previous record low. This is January weather
(see the Rockies baseball playoff game was canceled on saturday and then played last
night in below freezing weather).

Trenberth, K. E., 2009: An imperative for climate change planning: tracking Earth's
global energy. /Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability/, *1*, 19-27,
doi:10.1016/j.cosust.2009.06.001. [PDF]
(A PDF of the published version can be obtained from the author.)

The fact is that we can't account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a
travesty that we can't. The CERES data published in the August BAMS 09 supplement on
2008 shows there should be even more warming: but the data are surely wrong. Our
observing system is inadequate.

That said there is a LOT of nonsense about the PDO. People like CPC are tracking PDO on
a monthly basis but it is highly correlated with ENSO. Most of what they are seeing is
the change in ENSO not real PDO. It surely isn't decadal. The PDO is already reversing
with the switch to El Nino. The PDO index became positive in September for first time
since Sept 2007. see


Tom Wigley wrote:

Dear all,

At the risk of overload, here are some notes of mine on the recent

lack of warming. I look at this in two ways. The first is to look at
the difference between the observed and expected anthropogenic trend relative to the pdf
for unforced variability. The second is to remove ENSO, volcanoes and TSI variations
from the observed data.

Both methods show that what we are seeing is not unusual. The second

method leaves a significant warming over the past decade.

These sums complement Kevin's energy work.

Kevin says ... "The fact is that we can't account for the lack of warming at the moment
and it is a travesty that we can't". I do not agree with this.


On Oct 14, 2009, at 10:17 AM, Kevin Trenberth wrote:

Hi Tom
How come you do not agree with a statement that says we are no where close to knowing where energy is going or whether clouds are changing to make the planet brighter. We are not close to balancing the energy budget. The fact that we can not account for what is happening in the climate system makes any consideration of geoengineering quite hopeless as we will never be able to tell if it is successful or not! It is a travesty!

Michael Mann wrote:

Kevin, that's an interesting point. As the plot from Gavin I sent shows, we can easily
account for the observed surface cooling in terms of the natural variability seen in
the CMIP3 ensemble (i.e. the observed cold dip falls well within it). So in that sense,
we can "explain" it.
But this raises the interesting question, is there something going
on here w/ the energy & radiation budget which is inconsistent with the modes of
internal variability that leads to similar temporary cooling periods within the models.
I'm not sure that this has been addressed
--has it?


From: Kevin Trenberth
To: Michael Mann
Subject: Re: BBC U-turn on climate
Date: Wed, 14 Oct 2009 08:36:36 -0600
Cc: Tom Wigley , Stephen H Schneider , Myles Allen , peter stott , "Philip D. Jones" , Benjamin Santer , Thomas R Karl , Gavin Schmidt , James Hansen , Michael Oppenheimer

Here are some of the issues as I see them:
Saying it is natural variability is not an explanation. What are the physical processes?
Where did the heat go? We know there is a build up of ocean heat prior to El Nino, and a
discharge (and sfc T warming) during late stages of El Nino, but is the observing system
sufficient to track it? Quite aside from the changes in the ocean, we know there are major
changes in the storm tracks and teleconnections with ENSO, and there is a LOT more rain on
land during La Nina (more drought in El Nino), so how does the albedo change overall
(changes in cloud)? At the very least the extra rain on land means a lot more heat goes
into evaporation rather than raising temperatures, and so that keeps land temps down: and
should generate cloud. But the resulting evaporative cooling means the heat goes into
atmosphere and should be radiated to space: so we should be able to track it with CERES
data. The CERES data are unfortunately wonting and so too are the cloud data. The ocean
data are also lacking although some of that may be related to the ocean current changes and
burying heat at depth where it is not picked up. If it is sequestered at depth then it
comes back to haunt us later and so we should know about it.


OK people have already jumped all over the "Where the heck is the warming?" stuff, but Gavin Schmidt et al. are just blowing that off by saying he was concerned about dotting all the i's and crossing all the t's in their energy budgets; there is no threat to the "consensus" here.

But hold on just a second. In the follow-up email--after Michael Mann Tom Wigley said he disagreed with him--Kevin Trenberth (who is no slouch in the field) says that their ignorance is such that they couldn't even tell if geoengineering techniques were working. (!!) To me, that is a stunning admission. If they wouldn't be able to judge the potency of a suggested cure, doesn't that necessarily mean they don't really understand the severity of the disease?

Let's step back and remind ourselves of something: Most of the derided "skeptics" who are actually trained in these areas don't deny that human activities are warming the globe. Rather, they deny that the climate sensitivity is as high as the IPCC says. So in that context, Trenberth's admission (to me at least, as an acknowledged amateur) is simply stunning.

Last point: Note the dates on the emails above. This isn't uncertainty expressed eight years ago, this is RIGHT NOW.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


Yet More on the CRU "Hack"

* Gavin Schmidt (climate modeler for NASA) has done a good job providing his version of events, and he tries to defuse the most "shocking" emails here.

* CEI is threatening a lawsuit if Schmidt's employer (NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, or GISS) doesn't comply with some FOIA requests. The one part I found a bit much was where they seem to be threatening to sue because Schmidt wasn't fair in his comment moderation at during work hours--and hence he was impeding science "on taxpayer time." C'mon.

* I originally did not refer to this incident as a "hack" because I thought it was an inside job. For one thing, that was the first report I read. But I also thought that an outside hacker wouldn't have known where to look to grab all this stuff. An anonymous poster at a previous Free Advice thread sums up my view well:
If this is the result of a hack we are dealing with the best hacker the world has ever known hands down. When a hacker enter a system, they have a short amount of time to rake in whatever they can find and then GTFO! This is a very comfortable package that has taken a conciderable amount of time to assemble and not something that was done in the span of a hack. Then the hacker should have worked for months, infiltrating, analyzing and collecting. A server is a HUGE filesystem. Those who believe that this is the result of a hack, will have to similarly believe that you can indeed find not 1, not 2, not 10 but 100+ needles in a haystack the size of Kansas. Either the "hacker" knew exactly what they came for and was able to navigate through the filesystems and find all the relevant individual parts which points towards an insider, or the hacker new exactly what package to get. This itself raises questions. who then packed this package and from where did the hacker know what to look for and where? The last suggestion is pure luck, but then again...who compiled the package of data? I think it was an insider job and like many others I think it may be "Harry" who either did it, or compiled the package and then told someone where to look. No evidence for this, but the sheer amount of luck required by a random hacker to come upon this package is just unacceptable.
Now I don't really know enough about computers to say whether the above is true, but that's where I was coming from when I initially attributed this to a whistleblower. Or are we saying that there was so much skullduggery going on at CRU, that a randomly grabbed chunk of emails contained a handful of zingers?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009



* I deconstruct Brad DeLong's stimulus accounting.

* My former student Gennady Stolyarov II reviews my Depression book. I don't think he is accusing me of confusion but I can't be sure.

* I don't really see what the big deal is here. The White House has announced that it will formally pledge to commitments that it doesn't have the authority to make, on the condition that Congress passes legislative targets that everyone already knew Obama supported.

* In a similar vein, it is apparently newsworthy that the White House has announced that it will announce a decision on Afghanistan. Could we bump it an even higher level? What if they had said, "Next week we will announce our deadline for announcing our deadline for announcing our Afghanistan strategy"?

* Some paranoid holiday thoughts: Notice how lately the government has been springing stuff on us during the weekend? If the central bankers of the world have a scheme up their sleeve involving gold and the USD, the long Thanksgiving weekend would be a great time to implement it. (Apparently the dollar tanked during Thanksgiving 2006. Not sure if that's relevant.)


I Am Thankful That I Bought a Bunch of Gold Last Year

I have in-laws arriving in town as I type, so I won't be blogging much over the next few days. I just wanted to drop a note alerting my more Ivory Tower readers that gold smashed into new territory (again) today. Right now it's $1,186.10 / oz.

Also let me link to this great EPJ deconstruction of the jobless numbers. As Free Advice readers are well aware, I have spent surely a ridiculous amount of time harping on the seasonal adjustments and other tricks that I think government officials (and the press) use to paint a false picture of falling prices. Wenzel shows that they may be doing something similar to paint a false picture of a recovering job market.

This is partly why I think there could be an absolute crash in the next few months, and that this stuff isn't going to just sloooowly deteriorate. As obvious as it is to me that we are getting hyperdepression (stagflation squared), I think the average guy on Wall Street thinks, "Yeah they're spending a lot, but things are turning around and we just have to rein in the deficits in a few years. And Bernanke will eventually have to suck out the liquidity once real estate rebounds. Fortunately with unemployment this high, we don't have to worry about inflation anytime soon."


Tuesday, November 24, 2009



* Oops, that reported 3.5% real GDP growth in the 3q is more like 2.8%. (So they exaggerated it by 25%, big deal.) I liked this line: "That was a touch below market expectations for a growth pace of 2.9 percent." Does that mean investors were forecasting that the government had exaggerating the initial reading by that much? Did some new data come in? I don't really know the mechanics of how they issue the different estimates.

* Guess how much FDIC has left in its coffers to bail out depositors whose banks fail? Go ahead, guess. If you said negative $8.2 billion, you'd be right. But don't worry, the FDIC is fine, it will insist that the big banks prepay three years' worth of insurance. I think I will do the same with my consulting services. Honey, we're having steak again tonight!

* Bob Roddis sends this elitist article on the dumb Americans. Because they have the audacity to think that the deficit needs to shrink, it is evidence of their "illiteracy." Seriously, just skim this thing. It's incredible how condescending the Keynesians are. The guy thinks Americans must not even understand what a deficit is, since that's the only possible explanation of their worry over trillion-dollar plus deficits.

Monday, November 23, 2009


CNBC Casually Discussing Gold-Backed World Currency

You might think, "Ah sweet! That's what we want, right?"

Well, yeah, sort of, except the reason we'll get there is through a dollar collapse, not a Rothbardian revival.

MercedesRules sent me the below clip; start watching around 6:45. (And I forget how to get rid of the blank spaces below...)


Dean Baker or Dean Martin on Government Interest Payments?

(I know that post title is weak; I got nothin'.)

The Keynesians (e.g. Krugman and DeLong) have been high-fiving Dean Baker over his response to the NYT article which has the audacity to say that the federal government's $1 trillion+ deficits may come with some strings attached. (BTW I like Baker; I debated him on the San Fran NPR outlet on Easter Sunday earlier this year.) So here's Baker's take on the NYT deficit fear-mongering:
In Just a Decade the U.S. Interest Burden Could Be as High as It Was in 1992!!!!!!!

That might not sound scary to most people, but this was the punch line of a front page NYT news story that included all sorts of unsupported assertions about the crisis posed by the government debt.

The fourth paragraph asserts that:

"Even as Treasury officials are racing to lock in today’s low rates by exchanging short-term borrowings for long-term bonds, the government faces a payment shock similar to those that sent legions of overstretched homeowners into default on their mortgages."

No, this is wrong. There is no evidence presented in this article that the rise in interest rates will place the U.S. government in a situation where it will be unable to pay its bills and no one cited in this article makes such a claim.

The article is also completely unbalanced in not presenting the views of any economist who could put the deficit/debt issue in perspective for readers.

None of the Keynesians explains where Baker got that figure. If you look at the NYT article, it says early on:
With the national debt now topping $12 trillion, the White House estimates that the government’s tab for servicing the debt will exceed $700 billion a year in 2019, up from $202 billion this year, even if annual budget deficits shrink drastically. Other forecasters say the figure could be much higher.
So presumably Baker is looking at $700 billion divided by the estimated GDP in 2019, and the resulting percentage is about the same as it was back in 1992. I haven't verified that this is what Baker did, but that's my guess.

Here's my question: How can that be possible? The federal debt held by the public [.pdf] (which is what everyone is bandying about, I believe) was 48.1% of GDP in 1992. The CBO projects that the debt will break 80% of GDP by 2019.

Since the NYT article's scenario involves interest rates "that are sure to climb back to normal," how can it cost the same to finance 80% indebtedness as it did to finance 48.1%?

Again, I'm not accusing Baker of doing something fishy here, I think really what's going on is that the projected interest payments of $700 billion must be assuming interest rates lower than what the government had to pay in 1992. (I am especially confident of this statement, since Baker didn't pick the year with the highest debt/GDP ratio in recent vintage. 1993 and 1994 had higher ratios, for example. So presumably Baker picked the year with the highest interest payments as a share of GDP.)

In fact, if you check out the yields on 10-year constant maturity Treasurys, you'll see that they were falling throughout the early 1990s and then spiked in 1994. So when the NYT talks about interest rates returning to "normal," I think they mean, "The abnormally low yields of the 2000s."

Final point: Don't our Keynesian friends realize that they more they go nuts about "deficit phobia" etc., it will thereby neuter them all the more effectively when President Palin says we need to spend $1 trillion beefing up the military?


The "Unexpected Inflation" Will Show Up In 24 Days

For a while I've been thinking that come January, we will be over the hump of the sharp CPI declines in 4q 2008. At that point the financial press won't be able to point to year/year declines in prices, and I will be very curious to see if they finally admit we are not stuck in a deflationary trap.

But it occurred to me tonight that the December announcement might actually go positive, since a bunch of the decline happened in October and November of 2008.

I checked the numbers, and here's what I found: The arithmetic mean (i.e. what the average person means by "average") of one-month non-seasonally adjusted CPI increases in January 2009 through October 2009 was 0.28%. So let's assume that the November CPI (which comes out in December) will be 0.28% higher than the October CPI, and that the December CPI (which comes out in January) will be 0.28% higher again.

If that happens, then on December 16, the BLS will announce that the November 2009 CPI is 1.02% 2.1% higher than the November 2008 CPI. In other words, the media will have to report that the monthly figure rose 28 basis points, and year/year prices are up 2.1%. Now maybe they'll use some seasonal jujitsu, or switch to a goods basket that excludes turkey and Christmas lights, but I think it's going to be hard for them to say, "At some point down the road, Bernanke will have to think about raising interest rates to contain inflation."

Then, come mid-January, the press will report on the December 2009 CPI, which again (in our scenario) will be 28 basis points higher than the last month's. This time, however, year/year CPI will have jumped by 3.4%. Then the analysts will probably freak out and say, "Oh my gosh!! Inflation has risen by more than 50% in one month! Aaaaagh!! It must have been consumers going crazy for Kwanzaa!!"

Then it's just a matter of time before we're all using ameros.


Gold Briefly Breaks $1,170 / oz.

The quote right now is $1169.90, but the headline on CNBC said gold had broken $1,170 / oz.

Incidentally, can the Mishites (followers of Mish) explain why other commodities are doing pretty well too? I.e. my very crude understanding is that Mish is saying something like, "Our economy runs on credit. There is a huge debt overhang that needs to be worked off before you'll see prices rise. The one exception is gold, which is money, and everybody flocks to it in times of crisis. Only with my analysis could you have gotten everything right: falling prices (except gold) and falling interest rates."

OK, and the Murphy hypothesis (in equally crude terms) is: "Yeah we had (price) deflation until December. Since then we've had price inflation. It's true banks create money by advancing new loans, and those loans are way down. However, Bernanke has made sure to offset this force by holding M1 and M2 constant. We haven't seen massive price inflation yet because the banks are sitting on reserves, but we do see the dam beginning to break with the price of commodities, especially gold. Why did this huge wave of deflationary pressure stop on a dime in December 2008? Consumers have been paying down credit cards etc. since then."

I'm not being sarcastic, I would really like to know if Mish somewhere predicted back in late December that oil would more than double in price over the next 11 months. Did he?


SNL Sums Up US/China Relations

The buzz is justified: This SNL clip really is surprisingly good in terms of the political economy. It's pretty funny too. (HT2LRC)


CNBC Brushes Off One World Government

I heard about this on Glenn Beck. Check out the bombshell hedge fund manager Damon Vickers drops, and how the CNBC guy brushes it off.

A few possibilities occur to me:

(1) The guy just didn't even process what Vickers was saying; he was so tuned into financial analysis that the "crazy talk" went right by him.

(2) He couldn't believe what a nutjob they had booked, and when it was his turn to talk he decided to pretend nothing important had just happened so that most viewers wouldn't notice.

(3) CNBC is a fully briefed partner in the conspiracy to usher in the New World Order, and the anchorman forgot to feign surprise. The alien lizards ate him after the interview as a warning to the other quislings not to slip up again.

I'm leaning towards explanation (2).

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Can God Own Your Soul?

In recent weeks I have annoyed my atheist readers by declaring that God owns the universe, and I have annoyed some of my libertarian readers by declaring that ideas can't be owned. So I thought I would try to be doubly annoying today: Can God own your soul?

This question is interesting for those of us who are (a) libertarians, (b) Christians, and (c) Kinsellians on IP. I think the 3 of us will agree that thinking of God and your soul leads to some problems no matter which way you go.

In the present post I'm not going to come down on one side or the other; I just want to make some observations that a coherent theory must address.

* I loved C. S. Lewis' line: "You don't have a soul, you are a soul. You have a body." So when it comes to us being "really" free etc., I think it ultimately has to do with our wills or souls, not our physical bodies. This is part of my problem with some libertarian arguments over self-ownership; they often seem to conflate one's physical body with one's ego.

* As a Christian who believes God created the physical universe out of nothing (physical), I think He has every right to kill you with a tornado, to sit back and allow the Nazis to gas you, etc. Now we of course don't fully understand His plans and some of His decisions seem outrageous, but ultimately He has the right to do whatever He wants. He is not a monster for causing kids to get born with birth defects, anymore than a human novelist is a monster for creating characters who commit crimes.

* The anti-IP person might be tempted to say, "Ah! Ideas can't be owned. God owns your physical body, but ultimately He doesn't own you. So by opposing the notion of IP, we ensure the metaphysical freedom of the human will, which is just what God wants. Thus not only do statists enforce IP in violation of physical property rights, but they lay the principle of the supreme enslavement of our souls."

* However, if God doesn't own your soul, then what do we make of Jesus' warning? "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell."

Saturday, November 21, 2009


Steve Landsburg Says Bob Murphy Is "Way Fun"



The Skeptics Really Are Skeptics

This particular blog post does not bear on the truth of anthropogenic (manmade) global warming. I'm not going to bother pasting anything here, because the point is (if you're interested) you need to scroll through Anthony Watts' post (at a leading skeptic website) and just get the general flavor. There are tons of people saying "let's not jump to conclusions" and "if something's too good to be true..." Note it's not necessarily because they're such stand-up guys; a lot of the people are cautioning against trumpeting these CRU emails, because they think it's a trap.

So I was very pleasantly surprised by the skeptics on this. They really were skeptical, especially in the earlier comments when this was still HOT HOT HOT. Yes, Fox News et al. immediately trumpeted, "GLOBAL WARMING FRAUD" or whatever, but the actual people who care about the science (and are skeptical) were not taking the CRU emails at face value.


A Few More Awkward Emails From the CRU Hack

Regarding the hacking of the Climate Research Unit (CRU)'s webmail server: Before I begin, let me make the obligatory observation that hacking into someone's computer system is morally wrong. I thought that goes without saying, but apparently not (since everyone is going out of his way to say it). If this were about cybersex between the CRU guys and their mistresses, I certainly wouldn't be reposting the emails.

But this is about people who are providing the justification for governments around the world to take over their energy sectors (and more). CRU is the single most important storekeeper of global temperature data, and they have refused to disclose their original numbers (eventually saying they no longer have them). So when outside "skeptics" want to double check the techniques used to generate the graphs that the IPCC points to and says, "See? We need to regulate CO2," they can't reproduce CRU's techniques. We just have to take CRU's word for it that they handled the data properly.

That's why these emails (if legit) are so shocking.

OK one of EPJ's readers sent Wenzel this article, which contains a few more jaw droppers (emphasis added either by me or by the other site):
From Michael E. Mann (witholding of information / data):

Dear Phil and Gabi,
I’ve attached a cleaned-up and commented version of the matlab code that I wrote for doing the Mann and Jones (2003) composites. I did this knowing that Phil and I are likely to have to respond to more crap criticisms from the idiots in the near future, so best to clean up the code and provide to some of my close colleagues in case they want to test it, etc. Please feel free to use this code for your own internal purposes, but don’t pass it along where it may get into the hands of the wrong people.

From Nick McKay (modifying data):

The Korttajarvi record was oriented in the reconstruction in the way that McIntyre said. I took a look at the original reference – the temperature proxy we looked at is x-ray density, which the author interprets to be inversely related to temperature. We had higher values as warmer in the reconstruction, so it looks to me like we got it wrong, unless we decided to reinterpret the record which I don’t remember. Darrell, does this sound right to you?


From Kevin Trenberth (failure of computer models):

The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t. The CERES data published in the August BAMS 09 supplement on 2008 shows there should be even more warming: but the data are surely wrong. Our observing system is inadequate.

From Michael Mann (truth doesn't matter):

Perhaps we'll do a simple update to the Yamal post, e.g. linking Keith/s new page--Gavin t? As to the issues of robustness, particularly w.r.t. inclusion of the Yamal series, we actually emphasized that (including the Osborn and Briffa '06 sensitivity test) in our original post! As we all know, this isn't about truth at all, its about plausibly deniable accusations.

From Phil Jones (witholding of data):

The skeptics seem to be building up a head of steam here! ... The IPCC comes in for a lot of stick. Leave it to you to delete as appropriate! Cheers Phil

PS I’m getting hassled by a couple of people to release the CRU station temperature data. Don’t any of you three tell anybody that the UK has a Freedom of Information Act !

From Michael E. Mann (using a website to control the message, hide dissent):

Anyway, I wanted you guys to know that you’re free to use RC [ - A supposed neutral climate change website] Rein any way you think would be helpful. Gavin and I are going to be careful about what comments we screen through, and we’ll be very careful to answer any questions that come up to any extent we can. On the other hand, you might want to visit the thread and post replies yourself. We can hold comments up in the queue and contact you about whether or not you think they should be screened through or not, and if so, any comments you’d like us to include.

From Phil Jones (witholding of data):

If FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] does ever get used by anyone, there is also IPR to consider as well. Data is covered by all the agreements we sign with people, so I will be hiding behind them.

Those of you who thought these were just "cherry picked" and "out of context" emails that don't cast any suspicion at all on the noble scientists seeking to save the earth... are you still so sure? Is this what you pictured the careful scientists doing, versus the lying distorting deniers?


Glenn Greenwald On the Right Side But No Props for Ron Paul

I don't mean to be a complainer, but look at the people Glenn Greenwald credits with getting the Fed audit passed by the House Financial Services committee:
One can count on one hand the number of times that establishment attacks like this fail, but this time -- at least for now -- it did. And it reveals a winning formula: where there is a strong and principled leader in Congress willing to defy the Party's leadership and the Washington establishment (Grayson), combined with leading experts lending their name to the effort (economists Dean Baker and James Galbraith), organizations standing behind it (labor groups), and a shrewd and driven organizer putting it all together (FDL's Jane Hamsher), even the most powerful forces and opinion-enforcers can be defeated, as they were here. Those progressive advocates' refusal to be distracted by trite partisan considerations, and their reliance on substantial GOP support to pass the bill (as hypocritical as the GOP's position might have been), was particularly crucial -- and smart.
Again, I don't want to be the guy complaining about his tax bill right after he wins the lottery, but still... Would progressives have even known what the Fed was up to were it not for Ron Paul? I'm being quite serious. Nobody talked about the Fed before Ron Paul's last presidential run.

I understand that Greenwald is arguing--correctly I think--that Ron Paul alone wasn't enough, that he needed the help of the other factors Greenwald lists. But c'mon, how do you talk about this without citing the principled Congressman willing to buck party leadership etc.?

Friday, November 20, 2009


Global Warming Bombshell--or "Mushroom Cloud"?

Folks, I don't use sensational headlines too often. Also, I am in Auburn, AL after spending all day at a conference, and I'm headed out the door. So I haven't been able to carefully parse all the blogs on this issue.

Having given that caveat, this seems HUGE. The Climate Research Unit (CRU) is the world record keepers of global temperature data; it keeps the numbers that the IPCC bases its reports on. There have been some very dubious things recently where outside skeptics want the original temperature readings before CRU "smooths" them and does other things, and CRU basically stonewalled before saying, "We don't have the original readings anymore. All we have is the corrected data at this point."

So anyway, apparently a whistleblower couldn't live with him or herself anymore, [UPDATE: The official story is that the University's webmail server was hacked from the oustide, see the comments] and dumped a 61 MB file of CRU emails, data, etc. to an outside server, and now the blogosphere has gone nuts.

Some of the emails (if legitimate) are pretty amazing. I haven't been able to look at this too much, but here are the two most jaw-dropping ones I've come across so far. Note that Phil Jones is the head of CRU, and once again CRU is the group that maintains the global temperature data on which the IPCC reports are based. Also note that Michael Mann is the creator of the infamous "hockey stick" temperature graph that is so controversial. (I have bolded the parts below.)


From: Phil Jones

To: “Michael E. Mann”


Date: Thu Jul 8 16:30:16 2004

The other paper by MM is just garbage - as you knew. De Freitas again. Pielke is also losing all credibility as well by replying to the mad Finn as well - frequently as I see it. I can’t see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report. Kevin and I will keep them out somehow - even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is !


From: Phil Jones
To: ray bradley ,,
Subject: Diagram for WMO Statement
Date: Tue, 16 Nov 1999 13:31:15 +0000
Cc: k.briffa@xxx.xx.xx,

Dear Ray, Mike and Malcolm,
Once Tim’s got a diagram here we’ll send that either later today or first thing tomorrow.
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) amd from
1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline.
Mike’s series got the annual
land and marine values while the other two got April-Sept for NH land
N of 20N. The latter two are real for 1999, while the estimate for 1999
for NH combined is +0.44C wrt 61-90. The Global estimate for 1999 with
data through Oct is +0.35C cf. 0.57 for 1998.
Thanks for the comments, Ray.


Prof. Phil Jones
Climatic Research Unit Telephone +44 (0) xxxxx
School of Environmental Sciences Fax +44 (0) xxxx
University of East Anglia
Norwich Email


Now of course, the question is: Are these emails legit? Well let's turn to the RealClimate response. I'll reproduce a large portion of what they say, in light of the above bombshells (or "mushroom cloud" as Pat Michaels called it). So anyway here is how the NASA climate scientists defend their colleagues across the pond:
As many of you will be aware, a large number of emails from the University of East Anglia webmail server were hacked recently (Despite some confusion generated by Anthony Watts, this has absolutely nothing to do with the Hadley Centre which is a completely separate institution). As people are also no doubt aware the breaking into of computers and releasing private information is illegal, and regardless of how they were obtained, posting private correspondence without permission is unethical. We therefore aren’t going to post any of the emails here. We were made aware of the existence of this archive last Tuesday morning when the hackers attempted to upload it to RealClimate, and we notified CRU of their possible security breach later that day.

Nonetheless, these emails (a presumably careful selection of (possibly edited?) correspondence dating back to 1996 and as recently as Nov 12) are being widely circulated, and therefore require some comment. Some of them involve people here (and the archive includes the first RealClimate email we ever sent out to colleagues) and include discussions we’ve had with the CRU folk on topics related to the surface temperature record and some paleo-related issues, mainly to ensure that posting were accurate.

Since emails are normally intended to be private, people writing them are, shall we say, somewhat freer in expressing themselves than they would in a public statement. For instance, we are sure it comes as no shock to know that many scientists do not hold Steve McIntyre in high regard. Nor that a large group of them thought that the Soon and Baliunas (2003), Douglass et al (2008) or McClean et al (2009) papers were not very good (to say the least) and should not have been published. These sentiments have been made abundantly clear in the literature (though possibly less bluntly).

More interesting is what is not contained in the emails. There is no evidence of any worldwide conspiracy, no mention of George Soros nefariously funding climate research, no grand plan to ‘get rid of the MWP’, no admission that global warming is a hoax, no evidence of the falsifying of data, and no ‘marching orders’ from our socialist/communist/vegetarian overlords. The truly paranoid will put this down to the hackers also being in on the plot though.

Instead, there is a peek into how scientists actually interact and the conflicts show that the community is a far cry from the monolith that is sometimes imagined. People working constructively to improve joint publications; scientists who are friendly and agree on many of the big picture issues, disagreeing at times about details and engaging in ‘robust’ discussions; Scientists expressing frustration at the misrepresentation of their work in politicized arenas and complaining when media reports get it wrong; Scientists resenting the time they have to take out of their research to deal with over-hyped nonsense. None of this should be shocking.

It’s obvious that the noise-generating components of the blogosphere will generate a lot of noise about this. but it’s important to remember that science doesn’t work because people are polite at all times. Gravity isn’t a useful theory because Newton was a nice person. QED isn’t powerful because Feynman was respectful of other people around him. Science works because different groups go about trying to find the best approximations of the truth, and are generally very competitive about that. That the same scientists can still all agree on the wording of an IPCC chapter for instance is thus even more remarkable.

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.

The timing of this particular episode is probably not coincidental. But if cherry-picked out-of-context phrases from stolen personal emails is the only response to the weight of the scientific evidence for the human influence on climate change, then there probably isn’t much to it.

There are of course lessons to be learned. Clearly no-one would have gone to this trouble if the academic object of study was the mating habits of European butterflies. That community’s internal discussions are probably safe from the public eye. But it is important to remember that emails do seem to exist forever, and that there is always a chance that they will be inadvertently released. Most people do not act as if this is true, but they probably should.

It is tempting to point fingers and declare that people should not have been so open with their thoughts, but who amongst us would really be happy to have all of their email made public?

Let he who is without PIN cast the the first stone.
By all means, I encourage you to look at the Google hits yourself and draw your own conclusions. But my quick reaction after 20 minutes of reading is that this is huge. And the coverup by RealClimate is comparable to Paul Krugman dismissing it as "legal quibbling" when the Freako authors showed Joe Romm was being very dishonest with his readers.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Who Wrote It?

"I would find it very difficult to be a multimillionaire making money by denigrating people who were so desperately poor. Lou Dobbs was dead wrong about the immigration issue. He thought it would kill the country. It can now be seen as a self-inflicted wound made worse by subsidies and the Fed’s housing bubble. Perhaps we are all better off and Lou can return to his earlier venture of traveling into outer space."

What do you think? Someone from the ACLU? Maybe a group devoted to Hispanic issues? Perhaps a compassionate Cato commentator? Maybe a gregarious GMU professor?


Murphy Twin Spin

You've been working hard all year, you've been a good boy, and you just need something to kick back and relax. Today makes it all worthwhile, my friend.

* At I show that economists are actually quite hilarious. No, they don't tell rabbi jokes or ask you to pull their supply curve. Instead, they use their clever minds to come up with all sorts of defenses for the "efficient markets hypothesis" even after what just happened.

* After you wipe the tears of laughter away, you can begin shedding tears of sadness when you read about California's plans to ban (most) TVs wider than 40 inches, and to require California cars to get special tinting to fight global warming. After I explicitly criticized Schwarzenegger, he sent me the following odd note:

Dear Mr. Murphy,
Regarding your op ed in the
Orange Count Register, I think
perhaps you should
determine just how much the
environment would suffer
after we followed your
dreary market "solutions."


Car Czar Rips Free Market and Praises Mao?

I heard the audio clips on Glenn Beck a while ago, and my cousin just sent me the YouTube. The "shocking" things are quite shocking indeed, but Obama car czar (and former assistant to the president of United Steel Workers) Ron Bloom says the stuff so nonchalantly that I would like to know the context. In the YouTube below I got you at least 30 or 45 seconds before the money quotes kick in, but I still can't understand what the heck he is talking about.

Do I just need to accept the fact that Obama's got plenty of people who (a) not only believe socialism is better than capitalism but (b) have traveled in such circles that they don't even realize how shocking their views sound if stated plainly?

Or is this just a Glenn Beck hit piece, and Bloom is talking about a dream he had or something?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Just in Case You Missed It Yesterday: CNBC Considers 3.7% Annualized Inflation "Tame"

I won't bore you with the full analysis, since it's virtually the same as for yesterday's PPI figures.

So the quick version: The CNBC main page blurb says "Housing Starts Drop; Inflation Tame," yet the actual story is that (seasonally adjusted) CPI rose 0.3% from September to October.

So with rounding, that's an annualized increase of 3.7%. Is that really "tame"? And for the record, during the ten months from December 2008 to October 2009, the unadjusted CPI rose 2.8%, which translates to an annualized 3.4% inflation rate. Again, I'm not saying it's time to get out the wheelbarrows for your daily wages, but at what point are people going to stop saying we're on the edge of a deflationary cliff? If 3.4% (annualized) year-to-date inflation is tame, at what inflation rate is Bernanke going to say, "OK now we need to start doing something about rising prices"?


Geeconosphere Joke of the Month

From Zdeno in the comments at EconLib:
How many neo-keynesian economists does it take to change a lightbulb? Wait for it....

... Answer: Two. Paul Krugman learns how to do it from Scott Sumner, while Brad Delong deletes any comments that disagree with his technique. Oh no I di-int.)
Ohhhhh! Thanks for coming. Be sure to grab your tricorder and Vulcan ears on the way out.

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