Media

Science Reporting: The Worst of 2006

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The media critics at STATS pick the worst science stories of 2006.

NEXT: Reason Writers Around Town

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  1. Nice link Jesse, but aren’t you poaching on Ron’s territory?

  2. I propose an article subtitle:

    The 2006 Dubious Data Awards
    And how the national media bit on them

    My nomination would be all the folks predicting that new concealed carry laws in Kansas, Nebraska, and Ohio, and proposed but not quite passed in Wisconsin, would lead to blood in the streets and fenderbenders turning into firefights. Twenty years of making dozens of such predictions, and seeing them disproved, since the Florida concealed carry debate in the mid eighties ought to count for something.

  3. Hey, wait, the ” You’re worse off inhaling second hand smoke, so you might as well take up smoking” stories didnt make the list?

  4. Pretty lame.
    As with most George Mason University @ K Street shops, the lack of scientific bandwidth shows.

  5. You mean the GGW videos are not a vacation itinerary!?

    I’m calling my travel agent and cancelling…

  6. Notice how STATS does not include as one of their picks the scientific evidence pointing towards man-made global warming. They know that opposing it is now scientifically untenable, and so they just keep quiet about it. Very telling.

  7. Notice how STATS does not include as one of their picks the scientific evidence pointing towards man-made global warming. They know that opposing it is now scientifically untenable, and so they just keep quiet about it. Very telling.

    Very telling indeed, only not about STATS. Notice how the article is about the “…the worst science stories of 2006.” Few news stories failed to tow the offical party line about AGW. Many recycled trees were killed however, breathlessly predicting, beacause of AGW, another killer year for hurricanes.

  8. Just a couple of points: I’m not sure what Russell means by “lack of scientific bandwidth,” but most of the stories on this list refer back to pieces we did in-depth.

    As for global warming, this is just not a topic we have the resources to get into, and we have left it to other people to argue about who got what wrong. We have never opposed the thesis that man-made pollution is a factor in global warming – at least in my time as editor. I put a link to Andrew Revkin’s piece in the New York Times on the site today, because I think that captures, very well, the problems with this issue.

    Trevor Butterworth
    editor, stats

  9. Thanks Trevor!
    Keep on exposing the bunk behind the pseudo-news!

  10. Notice how STATS does not include as one of their picks the scientific evidence pointing towards man-made global warming. They know that opposing it is now scientifically untenable, and so they just keep quiet about it. Very telling.

    Ehm surely you meant POLITICALY untenable.

    From what I’ve seen there is very little scientifc evidence backing up MAN-MADE global warming to a degree where disputing it is untenable.

    I find that this whole business of MAN-MADE uttered in every breath as GLOBAL WARMING something akin to attaching piggy-back clauses to unrelated bills.

  11. val wrote:
    > From what I’ve seen there is very little
    > scientifc evidence backing up MAN-MADE global
    > warming to a degree where disputing it is
    > untenable.

    Really? Which parts of the IPCC TAR do you disagree with, and why?

  12. Really? Which parts of the IPCC TAR do you disagree with, and why?

    Hmmmm, lets see, they made the Medieval Warm Period disappear from their data for one…

    Kevin, WHY do you agree with the IPCC TAR findings?

  13. Lame answer, val. Whether today is warming or not has nothing to do with the medieval period. Besides, Mann, Bradley, and Hughes’ work has been vindicated over the last year or two.

    I believe in (mostly) man-made global warming because a quite basic calculation shows that the pre-industrial level of greenhouse gases (280 ppm for CO2) raises the temperature of the atmosphere by 15 C. (This has been known for over 100 years.) Therefore a 35% increase on top of the pre-industrial level is bound to have some effect, and a doubling of it is bound to have even more of an effect — several degrees C hardly seems out of the question.

    Or do you not believe in the greenhouse effect?

  14. “a quite basic calculation shows that the pre-industrial level of greenhouse gases (280 ppm for CO2) raises the temperature of the atmosphere by 15 C.”

    A simple calculation? Why then, do the climate modelers need all those enormous computers? Short answer; you are full of shit.

  15. FYI:

    http://questionearthority.isil.org/

    “A year behind, a year ahead
    Posted: January 2nd, 2007 by Thomas L. Knapp

    2006 will probably be remembered by environmentalists as the year that global warming went “mainstream.” After decades of suspicious skepticism, even most of the most suspicious skeptics – libertarians – seem to finally be accepting the scientific consensus: That the earth is warming, that it’s not all a matter of “cycle,” and that human activity is a factor.

    There were other landmarks, too:

    – State governments began to de-federalize environmental issues with legislation, multi-state pacts, and lawsuits.

    – Auto manufacturers made great leaps forward in hybrid and alternative fuel technology.

    – America’s “addiction to oil” finally became a major issue among politicians ? and, possibly, voters.

    What does the new year promise?

    Hopefully, not just more of the same. The market has made significant inroads to what has been, but should not be any more so than necessary, a “problem for government.” It’s time to get past significant inroads and on to great leaps.

    The longer we let government “handle” the problems of pollution and environment, the more entrenched it will become in doing so ? and it does so badly.

    Here’s to hoping that we can look back on 2007 as “the year of the REAL free-market environmentalists!””

  16. Lame answer, val. Whether today is warming or not has nothing to do with the medieval period. Besides, Mann, Bradley, and Hughes’ work has been vindicated over the last year or two.

    I believe in (mostly) man-made global warming because a quite basic calculation shows that the pre-industrial level of greenhouse gases (280 ppm for CO2) raises the temperature of the atmosphere by 15 C. (This has been known for over 100 years.) Therefore a 35% increase on top of the pre-industrial level is bound to have some effect, and a doubling of it is bound to have even more of an effect — several degrees C hardly seems out of the question.

    Or do you not believe in the greenhouse effect?

    har har, lets just downright ignore ‘scientists’ dismissing data that the rest of their calculations and theories are based on, inorder to fit their predespotisition. Lame argument my ass. That was just one of the things by the way, you are welcome to research on your own….

    But then why would you need to exercise critical thought, its a very ‘simple’ calculation

  17. val, you didn’t say if you believed in the greenhouse effect. What part of the 15 C calculation do you disagree with, and what does your own calculation show?

    pigwiggle: scientists need supercomputers to project the future climate, not calculate the basic features of the greenhouse effect. They are two entirely different things (it’s telling that you don’t realize that). The greenhouse effect calculation is basic and can be done by any undergraduate physics major. It was first done 100 years ago.

    What part of the calculation do your disagree with, and what does your own calculation show will be the effects of a 35% increase in GHGs?

  18. pigwiggle: scientists need supercomputers to project the future climate, not calculate the basic features of the greenhouse effect.

    Whoa, hold the phone. You wrote “a quite basic calculation shows that the pre-industrial level of greenhouse gases (280 ppm for CO2) raises the temperature of the atmosphere by 15 C. (This has been known for over 100 years.)”. This isn’t a ‘basic feature of the greenhouse effect’, but a quantitative statement of causation. The climate modeling is being done to investigate if and by how much atmospheric CO2 concentrations effect the temperature of the atmosphere. The very thing you claim was done a century ago. And pardon me, but that’s what’s telling. That you don’t understand the difference. You are just flat wrong.

  19. Yes, Kevin, I beleive in the greenhouse effect.
    WTF your point? You cant seriously think that the acceptance of the greenhouse effect proves man made global warming or justifies the intentional gaping holes in the IPCC TAR.

    I dont think one needs too much imagination to see how a sudden and rapid warming in the pre-industrial age would be a fair argument to suggest that current warming trends could be part of the natural cycle.

    One also would not need that much imagination to figure out why the IPCC would pick and choose data to suit its own needs and dismiss that period.

    Kevin, I’ve had discussions with enivornmental types who could make sound arguments, you sir on the other hand, are an imbecile.

  20. pigwiggle wrote:
    > Whoa, hold the phone. You wrote “a quite
    > basic calculation shows that the
    > pre-industrial level of greenhouse gases (280
    > ppm for CO2) raises the temperature of the
    > atmosphere by 15 C. (This has been known for
    > over 100 years.)”. This isn’t a ‘basic
    > feature of the greenhouse effect’, but a
    > quantitative statement of causation.

    Oh please, must you be reduced to arguing semantics? Yes, CO2 *causes* the greenhouse effect. That causes the atmosphere to be 15 C higher than it would be without GHGs.

    I’m still waiting for your own calculation and your own results. Otherwise, tell me why a 35% increase in the CO2 level *will not* lead to more temperature increase.

  21. val, are you incapable of discourse without ad hominem attacks? To me it’s a sign you feel threatened.

    You wrote:
    > I dont think one needs too much imagination
    > to see how a sudden and rapid warming in the > pre-industrial age would be a fair argument
    > to suggest that current warming trends could > be part of the natural cycle.

    Where is the proof that the current warming trend is natural? This is a scientific assertion and must be proved. I have never, ever, seen a climate skeptic prove it–or even construct their own climate model.

    Climatologists have painstakingly calculated the “forcings”–the factors that control an atmosphere: orbital, solar, volcanic, GHGs, land changes, etc. When they do this calculation they find that post-industrial GHGs are by a significant factor larger than any of the other factors. It’s in the IPCC TAR v1: http://www.grida.no/climate/ipcc_tar/wg1/212.htm

    Also see IPCC TAR, Summary for Policymakers, p 7, which shows that only natural+anthropogenic forcings can account for observations of recent past climate.

    If you assert that the current changes are natural, provide proof.

  22. Val – maybe some of these would be of interest to you. I’m still trying to find one on the economics of climate change where the author suggests hedging against some of the risky outcomes of climate change and have a diversified portfolio.

    This issue has become an emotional proxy battle for many other left vs right battles or USA vs EU battles or the like. While I don’t buy into much of the hysteria, I don’t believe the TCS people, either. The climate is changing. Just as language changes. Are there some ways of being ready to take economic advantage of the changes? Dunno.

    “The Influence of Land-Use Change and Landscape Dynamics on the Climate System: Relevance to Climate-Change Policy beyond the Radiative Effect of Greenhouse Gases”
    Piekle et al
    Philosophical Transactions: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, Vol. 360, No. 1797, Carbon, Biodiversity, Conservation and Income: An Analysis of a Free-Market Approach to Land-Use Change and Forestry in Developing and Developed Countries. (Aug. 15, 2002), pp. 1705-1719.

    and

    What Might We Learn from Climate Forecasts?
    Leonard A. Smith
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Vol. 99, No. 3, Supplement 1: Arthur M. Sackler Colloquium of the National Academy of Sciences. Sackler
    Colloquium on Self-Organized Complexity in the Physical, Biological, and Social Sciences. Feb.
    19, 2002), pp. 2487-2492.

    or:

    Discounting and Uncertainty in Climate Change Policy Analysis
    Richard B. Howarth
    Land Economics, Vol. 79, No. 3. (Aug., 2003), pp. 369-381.

    Nordhaus also has work on the economics of climate change.

    In the following, The Role of Economics in Climate Change Policy
    Warwick J. McKibbin; Peter J. Wilcoxen
    The Journal of Economic Perspectives, Vol. 16, No. 2. (Spring, 2002), pp. 107-129.

    “The second undisputed fact is that the concentration of many greenhouse gases has been increasing rapidly due to human activity” (p. 108)

    But, before you go all apeshit, check out this bit, too:

    “Although greenhouse gases can trap energy and make the atmosphere warmer… it is far from clear what those facts mean for global temperatures” (p 110)

    They talk about Svante Arrhenius, “who [back in 1895] used a very simple model with limited data to show that the presence of carbon dioxide raises the Earth’s surface temperature substantially” (ibid)

    They don’t like Kyoto, either. They appear to cut the divide nicely – neither you nor Kevin will like them! 🙂

    more:

    Changes in the Use and Management of Forests for Abating Carbon Emissions:
    Issues and Challenges under the Kyoto Protocol
    Sandra Brown; Ian R. Swingland; Robin Hanbury-Tenison; Ghillean T. Prance; Norman Myers
    Philosophical Transactions: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, Vol. 360, No. 1797, Carbon, Biodiversity, Conservation and Income: An Analysis of a Free-Market Approach to Land-Use Change and Forestry in Developing and Developed Countries. (Aug. 15, 2002), pp. 1593-1605.

    A Risky Environment for Investment
    Dinesh C. Sharma
    Environmental Health Perspectives, Vol. 114, No. 8. (Aug., 2006), pp. A478-A481.

  23. “Oh please, must you be reduced to arguing semantics? Yes, CO2 *causes* the greenhouse effect. That causes the atmosphere to be 15 C higher than it would be without GHGs.”

    Jesus, are you really this dense? I’m not arguing semantics, rather you have missed the not so subtle point. No one has shown a quantitative causal link, like you claim. Folks have been able to correlate historic CO2 levels and temperature and have postulated a causal link. And currently some are trying to demonstrate and quantify the postulated relationship with computer modeling. None of them are simple calculations. These are extremely complicated dynamical models.

    I’m still waiting for your own calculation and your own results. Otherwise, tell me why a 35% increase in the CO2 level *will not* lead to more temperature increase.

    Wait, I never said it wouldn’t result in a temperature increase, or that I could demonstrate otherwise. What I said was that you were full of shit. That, in fact, demonstrating climate forcing due to increased atmospheric CO2 levels wasn’t a simple, solved, century’s old problem. Climate change is an emergent phenomena of an incredibly complicated dynamical system. That anyone understood the climate well enough a century ago, or that the climate is so simple you could write down a trivial expression to quantify climate forcing is laughable. It is still so poorly understood that the state of the art models cannot predict the climate sensitivity to better than 50% of the average simulated temperature. And that’s perfectly understandable given the complexity of the problem. Something you don’t seem to understand.

  24. pigwiggle: You, too, seem incapable of entering a scientific debate without profanity and ad hominem remarks. What exactly do you find so scary and threatening?

    You may educate yourself on the quantative underpinnings of the greenhouse effect here:
    http://rabett.blogspot.com/2006/12/shine-on-shine-on-moncktons-moon.html . This demonstrates your “quantitative causal link.”

    You still have not offered an alternative calculation or offered your own value for the atmospheric temperature increase due to pre-industrial greenhouse gas levels. I am beginning to think that you do not have any alternative scientific explanation.

    Of course climate is a complex phenomena. But its basic underpinnings–it’s first-order calculation, if you will–is that T~log(CO2). (See Arrhenius.) This suggests that a anthropogenic increase in GHG levels will lead to higher atmospheric temperatures. Climate models, taking into account all the second-order effects, soundly back that up. As I wrote to val, the following citation shows that only by adding anthropogenic forcings can one account for the observed climate of the last several decades: IPCC TAR, Summary for Policymakers, p 7

    I am still waiting to hear about the scientific evidence for your position–that is, what your own climate model shows–or even what the climate model of any climate skeptic shows. Or what you calculate for the various climate forcings. You also need to show that your particular model successfully reproduces recent past climate.

    The planet is undoubtably warming, and you have offered no scientific explanation. Are you capable merely of critique?

  25. What exactly do you find so scary and threatening?

    I don’t find you scary or threatening, rather I find you supremely irritating. It’s as if you aren’t even reading my posts. For example …

    “I am still waiting to hear about the scientific evidence for your position–that is, what your own climate model shows–or even what the climate model of any climate skeptic shows. Or what you calculate for the various climate forcings.”

    Not once have I claimed that current models aren’t correct, or are needlessly deficient, or whatever. You project some ‘position’ on me, and then repeatedly challenge me to defend it. I’m not going to defend the position of some make believe climate sceptic that exists only in your head. My position is that you are indeed full of shit, that is, a quantitative casual link between atmospheric CO2 concentrations and mean global temperatures was not established 100 years past. Not only that, but folks are still knocking themselves out to do so today. Arrhenius? He noticed a correlation between temperature and atmospheric CO2 and produced an empirical formula. And it may be mostly correct, and it may be physically meaningful, but it’s hardly the qualitative causal link you think it is. I don’t think you understand what that even means.

    pigwiggle: You, too, seem incapable of entering a scientific debate without profanity and ad hominem remarks. … You may educate yourself on the quantative underpinnings of the greenhouse effect here:

    Your arrogant dismissive attitude is what has earned the profanity. I disagree with you so I must be ignorant or uneducated. Pretty standard for the global warming true believers. It’s enough for them to point out that the planet is warming and atmospheric CO2 has increased, the rest is self evident.

    Look, I really do know some things about how science works. Many things, maybe most things, are not intuitive. In fact, if you get the answer you expect that is probably the time to be most careful. It isn’t enough to show correlation and postulate a plausible explanation. You need to demonstrate the link, do some experiments. Unfortunately we can’t set up hundreds of planets with various CO2 concentrations an watch how they warm or cool. So, folks use computer models.

    I know something about modeling complicated dynamical systems also. They are problematic and often very limited. And, if you want your results to be taken seriously, the model should be grounded in well understood first principals. The climate is very complicated, and climate models necessarily have several approximation and dozens of empirically derived parameters. And still, there is nothing inherently wrong with any of that. However, I don’t know anyone outside of climate modelers that would have the balls to point to their models as ‘proof’ of anything. Supreme hubris.

    you have offered no scientific explanation. Are you capable merely of critique?

    I’m not a computational climatologist, or whatever they call themselves. I don’t need to help them out. Critique? That’s science kid. For every person with a new good idea there are a thousand looking to chop her head off. Good; that’s why it works so well. However, things are a bit broken in the climate modeling community right now. After years of obscurity they are now virtual celebrities in science. Now fame is at stake. That isn’t so good.

  26. pigwiggle, once yet *again* you have failed to deliver countering scientific arguments and calculations. Disagree with the 15 C calculation I referenced above? Fair enough. Then present your scientific objections and show your own calculation. Prove the T~log(CO2) correlation wrong. Prove the 15 C calculation wrong. You will get an amazing scientific publication out of it and maybe even win a Nobel Prize. We’re waiting.

    And again, you fail to point out any competing climate models advanced by skeptics that show that natural causes are behind present day warming, and you don’t even offer any reasons why we should not believe the climate models of mainstream climatologists. These models are based on the best physics possible, and they reproduce the past several decades of climate. What more do you want from a model? (Please be specific.)

    Of course no model is perfect. The never will be an exact analytical calculation of the future climate. But when all theoretical work points towards a CO2 warming problem, and when several different independently derived, scientifically based climate models point towards a CO2 warming problem–one whose forcing is greater than all natural forcings–then it is reasonably prudent to take such calculations seriously. Especially in the absence of any evidence or calculations whatsoever by scientists who have competing points of view.

  27. Short Kevin: You haven’t proven A.
    Short me: I’m not claiming A, you are missing the point. I’m telling you that you are wrong about B.
    Short Kevin: Again, you haven’t proven A, prove A.
    Short me: I didn’t say anything about A, and I’m not supporting A. Again, this is why you are wrong about B. Actually read what I wrote and then answer it with your defense of B.
    Short Kevin A! A! A!
    Short me: Kevin, you are an idiot. I might as well be talking with a brick.

    In 450 BCE Democritus suggested the atom. In Kevin’s world we should pity poor Lavoisier, Dalton, and Avagadro. They labored for a problem solved before their parents even met; born millennia too late.

  28. pigwiggle: and still yet once *AGAIN* you have failed to deliver any countering scientific arguments and calculations whatsoever. Instead you offer mere rhetoric–and not even clever rhetoric at that.

    You clearly do not know the science of what you are trying to talk about.

    I think I’ve made my point.

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