ClimateGate news

Monday, January 28, 2008

It's a cold, cold world...

Not just in Canada...

  • Stormy, wet, cold weather will prevail throughout the country in the next three days. Snow will fall on Mount Hermon and possibly on mountains in the central region and the Negev. Jerusalem and the northern communities are bracing for snow while the airports have been put on special snow and storm alert.
  • The freezing cold that has gripped the eastern parts of Turkey for the last couple of weeks is now having effects on the western parts of the country as well. Due to a new cold front moving into Turkey from the Black Sea, many western cities have seen snowfall and strong winds. İstanbul is one of the cities in the clutches of the cold weather.
  • EDMONTON - Cold-man winter blew his frigid breath across Alberta and Saskatchewan on Monday, prompting extreme weather warnings as wind chills plunged toward a deadly -50 C in some communities.

Rex defends free speech in Canada

Rex Murphy muses about what might happen if Canada's Human Rights Commissions become too preoccupied with their persecutions of Ezra Levant and Mark Steyn...

Mostly I fear, if the HRCs are tied up, Canadians will be reading, unguided, what they choose to read, deciding for themselves what they like and what they don't, will discard a book or pass it to a friend, like a column or curse one - lit only by the light of their own reason.The horror! Before we know it, we'll have an unstoppable epidemic of free speech, free thought, and freedom of the press. And, surely, no one wants that. Otherwise, why would we have human rights commissions?
Via Mark Steyn.


Saturday, January 26, 2008

Bono's praise for "Father Al"

News item: Bono confesses sins to "father" Al Gore.

It has been said here many times that the current global warming hysteria is nothing more than a pseudo religion. Well Bono's rant adds credence to that theory.

Here's a transcript on the topic from Rush Limbaugh's radio show from yesterday, January 25th, 2008 [emphasis added].

RUSH: What have I always told you people? Well, I know, a lot. The global warming hoax is nothing more than a religion. If you look at global warming -- Michael Crichton made this point in a brilliant speech about it -- if you look at global warming, it has all the elements of every major religion on the planet. It has the creation of the divine; it has original sin; it has the Garden of Eden; it has penance; it has everything. The most important element that it has is faith, because the people who believe in it can't prove it. So, it is nothing more than a religion for people who have not a whole lot of foundation in their lives. They want their lives to have meaning, so they're running around and doing these inconsequential things. They're "mattering," which everybody wants to do. There have been many incidents of evidence that I am right about this, but perhaps the best one happened yesterday in Davos, Switzerland. The famous rock star Bono of U2 was at the World Economic Forum. This is a portion of his discussion of Algore.

BONO: It's not even a professorial thing, as has been cited. He's more as a rabbinical. Or like an Irish priest, you confess your sins. "Father Al, I am not just a noise polluter, I am a noise-polluting, diesel-sucking, methane-emitting, gulfstream-flying rock star." "And what are you going to do about it son? Are you going to kick the habit?" "I'm trying Father Al, but to be honest with you, oil has been very good for me. It's been very good for me. It's been very good to me. Those convoys of articulated lorries, petrochemical products, hair gel."

RUSH: Now, he's making light of it, but that's the point, Father Al, Algore, the high priest of the global warming religion.
Al Gore is more than the high priest of the global warming religion, he's the Goracle!

Related: John McCain has been an active promoter of the global warming hysteria.

The disappearing automobile door

Lets hope that the environmental extremists are unsuccessful in their efforts to make the automobile a thing of the past. At least not until I get a chance to try out one of these!

Thought police update

The ongoing battle to preserve free speech in Canada.

I don’t believe that any court in Canada should have the right to decide whether any Canadians, whether free-born Canadian citizens are entitled to read my column. I was asked whether I wanted to get off the hook, and I said no. I wanted to take the hook and shove it up the collective butt of the Canadian thought police.
Mark Steyn as quoted by Hugh Hewitt.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Scientist says Earth could soon face new Ice Age

Via Spero News:

Temperatures on Earth have stabilized in the past decade, and the planet should brace itself for a new Ice Age rather than global warming, a Russian scientist said in an interview with RIA Novosti Tuesday.

"Russian and foreign research data confirm that global temperatures in 2007 were practically similar to those in 2006, and, in general, identical to 1998-2006 temperatures, which, basically, means that the Earth passed the peak of global warming in 1998-2005," said Khabibullo Abdusamatov, head of a space research lab at the Pulkovo observatory in St. Petersburg.


By 2041, solar activity will reach its minimum according to a 200-year cycle, and a deep cooling period will hit the Earth approximately in 2055-2060. It will last for about 45-65 years, the scientist added.
Update: related...
Freak snowstorm jams up Jordan

The lone de-icing machine at Jordan's busy international airport in Amman worked frantically to clear planes for takeoff after a freak snowstorm in the desert country. Meteorologists called it the worst cold front since 1964.

Don't Panic just yet

This video is a very nicely done exposé of the serious flaws in those catastrophic global warming forecasts that you constantly hear being regurgitated by our main stream media.

Climate catastrophists often argue that global warming theory is "settled science." And they are right in one respect: We have a pretty good understanding of how CO2 can act as a greenhouse gas and cause the earth to warm. What is well agreed upon, but is not well communicated in the media, is that a doubling of CO2, without other effects that we will discuss in a moment, will heat the earth about 1 degree Celsius (plus or minus a few tenths). This is not some skeptic's hallucination -- this is straight out of the IPCC third and fourth assessments. CO2, acting alone, warms the Earth only slowly, and at this rate we would see less than a degree of warming over the next century, more of a nuisance than a catastrophe.

But some scientists do come up with catastrophic warming forecasts. They do so by assuming that our Earth's climate is dominated by positive feedbacks that multiply the initial warming from CO2 by a factor of three, four, five or more. This is a key point -- the catastrophe does not come from the science of greenhouse gases, but from separate hypotheses that the earth's climate is dominated by positive feedback. This is why saying that greenhouse gas theory is "settled" is irrelevant to the argument about catastrophic forecasts. Because these positive feedbacks are NOT settled science. In fact, the IPCC admits it does not even know the sign of the most important effect (water vapor), much less its magnitude. They assume that the net effect is positive, but they are on very shaky ground doing so, particularly since having long-term stable systems like climate dominated by positive feedback is a highly improbable.

And, in fact, with the 100 or so years of measurements we have for temperature and CO2, empirical evidence does not support these high positive feedbacks.
Via Warren Meyer at Coyote Blog.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Cold weather chills

ATLANTA (AP) — Freezing cold spread across the South and all the way to the Gulf Coast early Sunday, a day after the region got an unusual coating of snow.

Alabama bundles up for hard freeze after brief snowfall

Chicago Tribune:

It was so cold that, for much of the morning, even the polar bears at Lincoln Park Zoo stayed in their dens.

Officials activated the city's "extreme weather plan" to assist people suffering from the extreme cold, checking on seniors, directing people to shelters and answering complaints from customers without heat or water
NBC5 Chicago: Bitter, Dangerous Cold Grips Area

Maine News: The weather story for the next few days will be the bone chilling cold, with a Monday high of 18 degrees, a Tuesday high of 26 degrees and a Wednesday high of 24 degrees.


Saturday, January 19, 2008

B-r-r utal: Upper Midwest Locked In Deep Freeze

From CBS2 Chicago:

CHICAGO (CBS) ― Bitter, dangerous cold has settled across the Chicago area and its neighbors in the Upper Midwest, making just walking a block a miserable experience.

A wind chill advisory is in effect for all of northern Illinois and most of Indiana, as well as the entire states of Wisconsin and Minnesota and most of Michigan.

The forecast high for the day in Chicago is a mere 7 degrees, with an overnight low of 3 below zero. But with northwest winds at 20 to 25 mph, the wind chills will make it feel as if it were 20 to 25 below.


Media bias?

...or just a lack of basic fact checking? In an article dated Jan 19, 2008 in the Ottawa Citizen, entitled Harper's got mail, but Martin has it:

Almost a year after Stephen Harper was sworn in as Canada's 22nd Prime Minister, e-mails to his website are still addressed to his predecessor.
The story itself is pretty much a non-event, a simple IT glitch that can be easily fixed by any computer nerd. But the report's mistake is repeated.
The confusion that could arise from addressing electronic mail to a former Liberal PM when the current Conservative PM has been in place since Feb. 6, 2007, is not a matter of concern to an unidentified spokesman in the Prime Minister's Office, it seems.
At best this is just an example of very poor fact checking. Or is it a subtle attempt to make readers forget that Stephen Harper has been our Prime Minister for almost 2 years now?

Blogging Tories

Let's hope that reporter Iris Winston and his editors do a better job of basic fact checking when they are dealing with a story of some importance.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Afghan cold snap kills hundreds

via BBC News:

The number of people who have died due a cold snap in Afghanistan has risen to 200, government officials say.

Four large provinces in the western part of the country have been especially badly hit. Tens of thousands of livestock have also perished.

Local people are saying the winter conditions have been the most severe in decades. The cold spell is also affecting neighbouring countries.

Tens of thousands of sheep, vital for local livelihoods, have also perished in the cold.

At the other end of the country, the north-east, people say recent snowfalls have been the heaviest for 20 years.
Related: Snow causes many deaths in Asia (Jan 11), Dozens killed in Iran blizzards (Jan 9), Deadly Blizzards bring Asia chaos (Jan 9)

Global warming protest gets frosted

Moonbats freezing in Baltimore:

MacKenzie: Liberal plans endanger soldiers

Retired Canadian General Lewis MacKenzie was the first commander of the United Nations' Sector Sarajevo during the Bosnia civil war. He offers his reaction to some recent comments by the current leader of the Liberal Party.

Liberal leader Stéphane Dion's latest opinion on Canada's future in Afghanistan calls for us "remaining engaged" in Afghanistan with roles including "training, protection of civilians and reconstruction."

The last time I received an order regarding the "protection of civilians" was in 1992 when the UN Security Council, as is its habit, came up with its usual lowest-common-denominator direction and told the United Nation's Protection Force in Croatia to "protect civilians" without engaging in combat.

After shaking our collective heads at the idiocy of the order, we came up with a scheme to place our troops in badly sited defensive positions around the civilian concentrations so that anyone attacking them would have to pass through our positions and we could, therefore, use deadly force in our own self-defence.

In other words, rather than taking the initiative to defeat the threat to the civilians, we were forced to put our soldiers at increased risk to life and limb to appease the sensibilities of the Security Council. Any of our units given the task of protecting civilians in Afghanistan, having abandoned their "combat emphasis," would face the same dilemma.
Poor Stephane can't seem to make up his mind whether Canada should withdraw from combat or get NATO to invade a nuclear power.

The current leader of the opposition

Stephane Dion demonstrates why I like to refer to him as the current leader of the the Liberal Party of Canada and Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition:

OTTAWA -- The government of Pakistan has blasted Liberal Leader Stephane Dion for his "irrational'' suggestion that NATO intervention might be necessary in the troubled South Asian country that borders Afghanistan.

"We are dismayed by the statement of the leader of Opposition,'' the government said in a statement released late Thursday by the Pakistan High Commission in Ottawa.

"It shows a lack of understanding of the ground realities.''
h/t: to Darcy who says, "Stephane Dion grows smaller, more irrelevant" to which I would add, "every time he opens his mouth".

One day Dion wants to end Canada's Afghan mission, the next he wants to invade one of our allies. One is left to scratch his ear trying to figure this one out!

But it might help to explain this.

Update: video by Steve Janke. h/t: NB Tory Lady

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


The Federal Trade Commission is taking a close look at the carbon offset industry with a series of hearings, but it shouldn't take much scrutiny to find out that it's a scam.

Dr. Scott Armstrong on Climate Forecasting

A trend is a trend...

Part 2
and Part 3.

The Forecasting Principles site

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Carfbon tax is nonsense

Would achieve nothing but fatten gov't treasuries, says Tom Brodbeck in today's Winnipeg Sun:

Climate change alarmists have for years been urging governments to jack up taxes at the pumps, arguing the move would discourage people from driving and would reduce emissions.

Their theories have been largely discredited. Evidence in Canada has shown little relationship between higher gas taxes and pump prices and reduced driving habits.


So what would another five or 10-cent carbon tax achieve on top of the existing ones, except to fatten the already bulging treasuries of our governments?
Absolutely nothing.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Carbon tax, anyone?

An online poll at Bourque Newswatch.

The results so far. Click the image to vote.

Update: Bourque closed the voting for this poll.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Popular Technology

A couple of very useful websites:

The Anti "Man-Made" Global Warming Resource, STOP the hysteria
(forums with a gazillion links that dispel the AGW mythology)

Popular (a blog)

Lots of good stuff at both of these site, like this...

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Kangaroo Court

A Kangaroo court? In Canada you say?

Yes. There is a very real assault happening on our fundamental rights to freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression. Including freedom of the press. Please read Kangaroo Court.

This is a little off topic, I know. But Ezra Levant is carrying the torch in the struggle to preserve some of our most fundamental freedoms and needs our support.

Friday, January 11, 2008

A Spot Check on Global Warming

Source: TierneyLab at the NY Times.

Global warming

More "proof" of global warming: First snow for 100 years falls on Baghdad

The director of the meteorology department, Dawood Shakir, told AFP that climate change was possibly to blame for the unusual event.

"It's very rare," he said. "Baghdad has never seen snow falling in living memory.

"These snowfalls are linked to the climate change that is happening everywhere. We are finding some places in the world which are warm and are supposed to be cold."
Proof of global warming? Well, of course... when it's hot, blame global warming. When it's cold blame global warming.

Update: here's a video clip from Fox News:

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Environmental extremism

...must be put in its place in the climate debate, by Dr. Tim Ball & Tom Harris:

Many people are starting to realize that much of what they’ve been told about climate change by governments, the United Nations and crusading celebrities is simply wrong. Not surprisingly, the assertion that “the science is settled” in a field the public is coming to understand is both immature and quickly evolving, is triggering growing public skepticism.
RTWT at Canada Free Press.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

2008 will be the year that the climate alarmists will be discredited

Media Promotes Global Warming Alarmism by Jack Kelly at RealClearPolitics via Yahoo News:

About this time last year, Dr. Phil Jones, head of the Climatic Research Unit of East Anglia University in Britain, predicted 2007 would be the warmest year on record.

It didn't turn out that way. 2007 was only the 9th warmest year since global temperature readings were first made in 1861.

2007 was also the coldest year of this century, noted Czech physicist Lubos Motl.

Both global warming alarmists like Dr. Jones and skeptics like Dr. Motl forecast that this year will be slightly cooler than last year. If so, that means it will be a decade since the high water mark in global temperature was set in 1998.

And the trend line is down. Average global temperature in 2007 was lower than for 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002 and 2001. November of last year was the coldest month since January of 2000, and December was colder still. "Global warming has stopped," said David Whitehouse, former science editor for the BBC. "It's not a viewpoint or a skeptic's inaccuracy. It's an observational fact."

But observational fact matters little to global warming alarmists, particularly to those in the news media. "In 2008, your television will bring you image after image of natural havoc linked to global warming," said John Tierney, who writes a science column for the New York Times. "You will be told that such bizarre weather must be a sign of dangerous climate change -- and that these images are a mere preview of what's in store unless we act quickly to cool the planet."

"Global warming can mean colder, it can mean drier, it can mean wetter," said Steven Guibeault of Greenpeace. There is no dispute among scientists that the planet warmed about 0.3 degrees Celsius between 1980 and 1998. What is in dispute is what caused the warming, and whether it will continue. The alarmists say the warming was caused chiefly by emissions of carbon dioxide from our automobiles and factories, and that, consequently, it will continue at an ever increasing rate unless we humans change our behavior. The skeptics say the warming trend was caused chiefly by natural cycles, and that it is at or near its end.

"The earth is at the peak of one of its passing warm spells," said Dr. Oleg Sorokhtin of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences. It'll start getting cold by 2012, and really, really cold around 2041, he predicts.

The news media promote global warming alarmism through selective reporting. Dr. Roger Pielke of the University of Colorado noted that a paper published in an obscure scientific journal that argued there was a link between hurricanes and global warming generated 79 news articles, while a paper that debunked the connection published in a far more prestigious journal generated only three.

"When the Arctic sea ice last year hit the lowest level ever recorded by satellites, it was big news and heralded as a sign the planet was warming," Mr. Tierney wrote. "When the Antarctic sea ice last year reached the highest level ever recorded by satellites, it was pretty much ignored."

Two studies published last year which indicated the melting of Arctic sea ice was due more to cyclical changes in ocean currents and winds than to planetary warming also attracted little attention, Mr. Tierney noted.

And though the record melting of Arctic sea ice this summer was widely reported, the record growth of Arctic sea ice this fall (58,000 square miles of ice each day for 10 straight days) was not.

More than 400 scientists -- many of them members of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change -- challenge the claims of the leading global warming alarmist, former Vice President and now Nobel laureate Al Gore, said a report issued by the Republicans on the U.S. Senate's Environment and Public Works committee last month. Kailee Kreider, a spokeswoman for Mr. Gore, said there criticisms should be discounted because 25 or 30 of the scientists may have received funding from the Exxon Mobil Corp.

It's Mr. Gore who is the crook, says French physicist Claude Allegre in a new book. He's made millions in an eco-business based on phony science, Dr. Allegre charges.

Mr. Gore isn't alone, says Weather Channel founder John Coleman: "Some dastardly scientists with environmental and political motives manipulated long term scientific data to create an illusion of rapid global warming," Mr. Coleman wrote. "Their friends in government steered huge research grants their way to keep the movement going...In time, in a decade or two, the outrageous scam will be obvious."
Emphasis and links added.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Carbon Tax

News item: Government says no to carbon tax.

While I consider the imposition of a carbon tax or a "cap and trade" system to be totally unnecessary given that it is clear global temperatures are not increasing in lock step with CO2 emissions, the political pressure to introduce one or the other may become insurmountable. But either proposal would be extremely damaging to an economy that seems to be headed for a slowdown anyway, without the extra burden of a hefty carbon tax.

There may be a solution that the Canadian government should consider: How about a carbon tax that would actually work?

Well, Mr Baird?

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Changes in the Sun’s Surface to Bring Next Climate Change

A press release from the Space and Science Research Center (emphasis added):

Today, the Space and Science Research Center, (SSRC) in Orlando, Florida announces that it has confirmed the recent web announcement of NASA solar physicists that there are substantial changes occurring in the sun’s surface. The SSRC has further researched these changes and has concluded they will bring about the next climate change to one of a long lasting cold era.

Today, Director of the SSRC, John Casey has reaffirmed earlier research he led that independently discovered the sun’s changes are the result of a family of cycles that bring about climate shifts from cold climate to warm and back again.

“We today confirm the recent announcement by NASA that there are historic and important changes taking place on the sun’s surface. This will have only one outcome - a new climate change is coming that will bring an extended period of deep cold to the planet. This is not however a unique event for the planet although it is critically important news to this and the next generations. It is but the normal sequence of alternating climate changes that has been going on for thousands of years. Further according to our research, this series of solar cycles are so predictable that they can be used to roughly forecast the next series of climate changes many decades in advance. I have verified the accuracy of these cycles’ behavior over the last 1,100 years relative to temperatures on Earth, to well over 90%.”

As to what these changes are Casey says, “The sun’s surface flows have slowed dramatically as NASA has indicated. This process of surface movement, what NASA calls the “conveyor belt” essentially sweeps up old sunspots and deposits new ones. NASA’s studies have found that when the surface movement slows down, sunspot counts drop significantly. All records of sunspot counts and other proxies of solar activity going back 6,000 years clearly validates our own findings that when we have sunspot counts lower then 50 it means only one thing - an intense cold climate, globally. NASA says the solar cycle 25, the one after the next that starts this spring will be at 50 or lower. The general opinion of the SSRC scientists is that it could begin even sooner within 3 years with the next solar cycle 24. What we are saying today is that my own research and that of the other scientists at the SSRC verifies that NASA is right about one thing – a solar cycle of 50 or lower is headed our way. With this next solar minimum predicted by NASA, what I call a “solar hibernation,” the SSRC forecasts a much colder Earth just as it has transpired before for thousands of years. If NASA is the more accurate on the schedule, then we may see even warmer temperatures before the bottom falls out. If the SSRC and other scientists around the world are correct then we have only a few years to prepare before 20-30 years of lasting and possibly dangerous cold arrive.”
Via Solar Cycle 24 begins:
Solar physicists have been waiting for the appearance of a reversed-polarity sunspot to signal the start of the next solar cycle. The wait is over. Yesterday, a magnetically reversed sunspot emerged at solar latitude 30 N, shown in this photo taken by Greg Piepol of Rockville, Maryland:

For reasons explained in a recent Science@NASA story, this marks the beginning of Solar Cycle 24 and the first step toward a new solar maximum. Intense solar activity won't begin right away. Solar cycles usually take a few years to build from solar minimum (where we are now) to Solar Max (expected in 2011 or 2012). It's a slow journey, but we're on our way!
In case you missed it, I posted this quote by Phil Brennan at NewsMax the other day:
2008 will be the year when Al Gore and his forecasts of an approaching inferno will be thoroughly discredited, not by the constantly growing legion of global warming skeptics, but by none other than Mother Nature herself.
Update: more on Solar Cycle 24 at What's Up With That?

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Al Gore's Travelling Global Warming Show

Courtesy the Bob Rivers Show


How many awards can Al Gore win from his worldwide coterie of sycophants?

In the spirit of international political correctness, the former vice president was awarded the Nobel Has-Nothing-to-Do-with-Peace Prize for emitting toxic pollutants into the atmosphere from his worldwide jet-setting to lecture everyone else about halting global warming by adopting medieval lifestyles while he "offsets" his own carbon footprint by screwing fluorescent light bulbs into the foyer of his energy-hog mansion.

Don't discard your fur coats and winter boots just yet

So says Dr. Oleg Sorokhtin, Merited Scientist of Russia, fellow of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences and staff researcher of the Oceanology Institute.

MOSCOW. (Oleg Sorokhtin for RIA Novosti) – Stock up on fur coats and felt boots! This is my paradoxical advice to the warm world.

Earth is now at the peak of one of its passing warm spells. It started in the 17th century when there was no industrial influence on the climate to speak of and no such thing as the hothouse effect. The current warming is evidently a natural process and utterly independent of hothouse gases.

The real reasons for climate changes are uneven solar radiation, terrestrial precession (that is, axis gyration), instability of oceanic currents, regular salinity fluctuations of the Arctic Ocean surface waters, etc. There is another, principal reason—solar activity and luminosity. The greater they are the warmer is our climate.

Astrophysics knows two solar activity cycles, of 11 and 200 years. Both are caused by changes in the radius and area of the irradiating solar surface. The latest data, obtained by Habibullah Abdusamatov, head of the Pulkovo Observatory space research laboratory, say that Earth has passed the peak of its warmer period, and a fairly cold spell will set in quite soon, by 2012. Real cold will come when solar activity reaches its minimum, by 2041, and will last for 50-60 years or even longer.
RTWT at RIA Novosti, the Russian News and Information Agency.


Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Informational Cascade leads to a Consensus Gone Terribly Wrong

John Tierney, author of the NYT article quoted in my previous post, previously published another interesting article describing "a severe case of mistaken consensus" as exposed in a book by Gary Taubes. I'm not going to name the book just yet, because I want to focus on parallels here to the so-called consensus on anthropogenic global warming (AGW).

Let's take a look at what Taubes calls the "informational cascade":

We like to think that people improve their judgment by putting their minds together, and sometimes they do. The studio audience at “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” usually votes for the right answer. But suppose, instead of the audience members voting silently in unison, they voted out loud one after another. And suppose the first person gets it wrong.

If the second person isn’t sure of the answer, he’s liable to go along with the first person’s guess. By then, even if the third person suspects another answer is right, she’s more liable to go along just because she assumes the first two together know more than she does. Thus begins an “informational cascade” as one person after another assumes that the rest can’t all be wrong.

Because of this effect, groups are surprisingly prone to reach mistaken conclusions even when most of the people started out knowing better, according to the economists Sushil Bikhchandani, David Hirshleifer and Ivo Welch. If, say, 60 percent of a group’s members have been given information pointing them to the right answer (while the rest have information pointing to the wrong answer), there is still about a one-in-three chance that the group will cascade to a mistaken consensus.
There's more. Taubes says that wrong assumptions were made about the historical or traditional data and the current data was misinterpreted as representing an increase in occurrences of the "problem" to the point of labelling it an "epidemic". Just like with AGW, a "consensus" was soon formed and skeptics were quickly "excoriated".

The "mistaken consensus", according to Taubes's book “Good Calories, Bad Calories” (Knopf, 2007) is that a diet high in fat and cholesterol correlates to an increase in the rate of heart attacks. This correlation was first identified by Dr. Ancel Keys a half-century ago.
He became convinced in the 1950s that Americans were suffering from a new epidemic of heart disease because they were eating more fat than their ancestors.

There were two glaring problems with this theory, as Mr. Taubes, a correspondent for Science magazine, explains in his book. First, it wasn’t clear that traditional diets were especially lean. Nineteenth-century Americans consumed huge amounts of meat; the percentage of fat in the diet of ancient hunter-gatherers, according to the best estimate today, was as high or higher than the ratio in the modern Western diet.

Second, there wasn’t really a new epidemic of heart disease. Yes, more cases were being reported, but not because people were in worse health. It was mainly because they were living longer and were more likely to see a doctor who diagnosed the symptoms.

To bolster his theory, Dr. Keys in 1953 compared diets and heart disease rates in the United States, Japan and four other countries. Sure enough, more fat correlated with more disease (America topped the list). But critics at the time noted that if Dr. Keys had analyzed all 22 countries for which data were available, he would not have found a correlation. (And, as Mr. Taubes notes, no one would have puzzled over the so-called French Paradox of foie-gras connoisseurs with healthy hearts.)
The consensus was formed, not by scientists but by... by government committee:
After the fat-is-bad theory became popular wisdom, the cascade accelerated in the 1970s when a committee led by Senator George McGovern issued a report advising Americans to lower their risk of heart disease by eating less fat. “McGovern’s staff were virtually unaware of the existence of any scientific controversy,” Mr. Taubes writes, and the committee’s report was written by a nonscientist “relying almost exclusively on a single Harvard nutritionist, Mark Hegsted.”

That report impressed another nonscientist, Carol Tucker Foreman, an assistant agriculture secretary, who hired Dr. Hegsted to draw up a set of national dietary guidelines. The Department of Agriculture’s advice against eating too much fat was issued in 1980 and would later be incorporated in its “food pyramid.”
Skeptics: There were scientists who were skeptical of this new consensus, of course:
Meanwhile, there still wasn’t good evidence to warrant recommending a low-fat diet for all Americans, as the National Academy of Sciences noted in a report shortly after the U.S.D.A. guidelines were issued. But the report’s authors were promptly excoriated on Capitol Hill and in the news media for denying a danger that had already been proclaimed by the American Heart Association, the McGovern committee and the U.S.D.A.

The scientists, despite their impressive credentials, were accused of bias because some of them had done research financed by the food industry. And so the informational cascade morphed into what the economist Timur Kuran calls a reputational cascade, in which it becomes a career risk for dissidents to question the popular wisdom.

With skeptical scientists ostracized, the public debate and research agenda became dominated by the fat-is-bad school. Later the National Institutes of Health would hold a “consensus conference” that concluded there was “no doubt” that low-fat diets “will afford significant protection against coronary heart disease” for every American over the age of 2. The American Cancer Society and the surgeon general recommended a low-fat diet to prevent cancer.
Ah, the old "the science is settled" proclamation. Sound familiar?
But when the theories were tested in clinical trials, the evidence kept turning up negative. As Mr. Taubes notes, the most rigorous meta-analysis of the clinical trials of low-fat diets, published in 2001 by the Cochrane Collaboration, concluded that they had no significant effect on mortality.
Too late. The consensus was by this time gospel. But the dissidents continued to speak out but their words landed mostly on deaf ears. Tierney writes:
Mr. Taubes told me he especially admired the iconoclasm of Dr. Edward H. Ahrens Jr., a lipids researcher who spoke out against the McGovern committee’s report. Mr. McGovern subsequently asked him at a hearing to reconcile his skepticism with a survey showing that the low-fat recommendations were endorsed by 92 percent of “the world’s leading doctors.”

“Senator McGovern, I recognize the disadvantage of being in the minority,” Dr. Ahrens replied. Then he pointed out that most of the doctors in the survey were relying on secondhand knowledge because they didn’t work in this field themselves.

“This is a matter,” he continued, “of such enormous social, economic and medical importance that it must be evaluated with our eyes completely open. Thus I would hate to see this issue settled by anything that smacks of a Gallup poll.” Or a cascade.
Whether you accept the conventional wisdom on high fat diets and heart attacks or not, the point here is the process in which this theory became cemented into our culture and medical practices. There are too many similarities with the process we are currently going through with the theory of anthropogenic global warming.

To paraphrase Dr. Ahrens, this (AGW) is a matter of such enormous global social, economic and environmental importance that it must be evaluated with our eyes wide open. It must be settled on the scientific evidence, not a popular "consensus" created by an informational cascade gone terribly wrong.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Quote of the Year

I know, I know. It's only the first day of the year, but considering the source of the following, this is very significant.

Today’s interpreters of the weather are what social scientists call availability entrepreneurs: the activists, journalists and publicity-savvy scientists who selectively monitor the globe looking for newsworthy evidence of a new form of sinfulness, burning fossil fuels.

A year ago, British meteorologists made headlines predicting that the buildup of greenhouse gases would help make 2007 the hottest year on record. At year’s end, even though the British scientists reported the global temperature average was not a new record — it was actually lower than any year since 2001 — the BBC confidently proclaimed, “2007 Data Confirms Warming Trend.”

When the Arctic sea ice last year hit the lowest level ever recorded by satellites, it was big news and heralded as a sign that the whole planet was warming. When the Antarctic sea ice last year reached the highest level ever recorded by satellites, it was pretty much ignored. A large part of Antarctica has been cooling recently, but most coverage of that continent has focused on one small part that has warmed.

When Hurricane Katrina flooded New Orleans in 2005, it was supposed to be a harbinger of the stormier world predicted by some climate modelers. When the next two hurricane seasons were fairly calm — by some measures, last season in the Northern Hemisphere was the calmest in three decades — the availability entrepreneurs changed the subject. Droughts in California and Australia became the new harbingers of climate change (never mind that a warmer planet is projected to have more, not less, precipitation over all).
When the New York Times, arguably one of the most left-leaning of the major newspapers, takes on the global warming fear-mongers perhaps that is a harbinger of things to come.

h/t: Noel Sheppard

Update: as for that melting icecap in the Arctic, take note of this Dec 9, 2007 post:
"In the Northern Hemisphere, the ice and snow cover have recovered to within 1% (one snowstorm) of normal with the official start of winter still more than 12 days away."
h/t: SDA

Update #2: Thanks to Jonathan in the comments: Currently the world has more ice cover than normal. You won't hear that reported in the mainstream media. Click graph for larger image.