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Earth Politics Science

New Analysis Shows Lamar Smith's Accusations On Climate Data Are Wrong (arstechnica.com) 502

Layzej writes from a report via Ars Technica: In 2015, NOAA released version 4 of their marine temperature dataset called ERSST. The new dataset accounted for a known cooling bias introduced when ocean temperature measurements transitioned from being taken in ship engine intake valves to buoy-based measurements. The warming of the last couple decades increased ever so slightly in NOAA's new analysis. This was a red flag for U.S. House Science Committee Chair Lamar Smith (R-TX), who rejects the conclusions of climate science -- like the fact that the Earth's climate is warming. Suddenly he wanted to see the researchers' e-mails and echoed the accusations of contrarian blogs about scientists' supposedly nefarious adjustments to sea surface temperature measurements. Rather than invoking scientific conspiracies, issues like this should be settled by analyzing the data. A new study, led by University of California Berkeley's Zeke Hausfather, does just that -- and Rep. Smith won't like these results, either. To test the NOAA dataset, Zeke's team created instrumentally homogeneous temperature records from sensors available only over the last couple decades. As it happens, the Argo float data, the buoy data, and the satellite data each hew closer to the updated dataset that NOAA used. The older version (3b) gives a global average that is too cool in recent years, growing to an offset of about 0.06 degrees Celsius. The researchers repeat this same analysis for two more major sea surface datasets that are used by the UK Met Office and the Japanese Meteorological Agency for their global temperature records. Both of those datasets also drift cooler than the comparison data, but less so than NOAA's old dataset.
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New Analysis Shows Lamar Smith's Accusations On Climate Data Are Wrong

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  • by mwvdlee ( 775178 ) on Thursday January 05, 2017 @09:08AM (#53609511) Homepage

    You're not going to convince an idiot by providing evidence that he doesn't understand.

    • by burtosis ( 1124179 ) on Thursday January 05, 2017 @09:18AM (#53609551)

      You're not going to convince an idiot by providing evidence that he doesn't understand.

      Due to climate science being too complicated to wrap up in one or two security blanket statements consisting of a pithy statement, we are all doomed to suffer the consequences. How many sheep carcasses, wolf tracks and turds do we need to find before people start actually doing something about the wolves, despite not seeing them personally?

      • by Ol Olsoc ( 1175323 ) on Thursday January 05, 2017 @09:51AM (#53609769)

        You're not going to convince an idiot by providing evidence that he doesn't understand.

        Due to climate science being too complicated to wrap up in one or two security blanket statements consisting of a pithy statement, we are all doomed to suffer the consequences. How many sheep carcasses, wolf tracks and turds do we need to find before people start actually doing something about the wolves, despite not seeing them personally?

        But is it really that hard to understand?

        Once you accept that the greenhouse effect is real - and grade school children have been showing this at science fairs, and greenhouse owners have proven it for years, it doesn't take an Einstein to figure out that taking the Carbon that was removed from the atmosphere and putting it back in the atmosphere is going to have some effect.

        • by silentcoder ( 1241496 ) on Thursday January 05, 2017 @10:24AM (#53609965)

          Or to quote Neil De Grasse Tyson: "It's basic physics. If you keep adding energy to a system, but you slow down the rate at which the energy can leave the system then the system gets hotter".

          • by burtosis ( 1124179 ) on Thursday January 05, 2017 @11:03AM (#53610259)

            Or to quote Neil De Grasse Tyson: "It's basic physics. If you keep adding energy to a system, but you slow down the rate at which the energy can leave the system then the system gets hotter".

            Sadly you lose most people at basic physics. I know it's hard for most slashdotters to wrap their heads around it but many people were brought up believing science and math will never amount to anything except a lack of dates and "cool" friends. Most people tune out science and all they hear is the teacher from peanuts going "whanana naaa naa whwahna".

          • Or to quote Neil De Grasse Tyson: "It's basic physics. If you keep adding energy to a system, but you slow down the rate at which the energy can leave the system then the system gets hotter".

            Neil has the best geek pick-up lines.

        • by mattwarden ( 699984 ) on Thursday January 05, 2017 @02:22PM (#53611817)

          You appear to be taking the straw man arguments too literally. Very few people say there is no effect from human greenhouse emissions. I have heard Lamar say this in hearings (something like "No one here would disagree that human greenhouse gas emissions affect climate innsome way."). Here are some questions to which we do not know the answer (though people will reply with claims that we do):

          1) How big is the effect of human greenhouse emissions compared to natural temperature variation?
          2) On climate time scale, is the net impact of human greenhouse emissions throughout all systems negative, neutral, or positive, and on what dimensions should we measure that?

          My beef with the climate change people is the attitude of omniscience about a complex topic that nobody actually understands. We have pieces of the puzzle, and the climate change folks overcompensate for uncertainty with a condescending attitude and bullshit vending. The "98% scientific consensus" talking point is a great example. It's garbage, but because climate change people feel vulnerable with normal levels of uncertainty in scientific subjects, they exaggerate and fearmonger in substitution for fact based discussion about what we do and dont know.

          There is another way to deal with this uncertainty: risk. Argue that yes, we might be wrong about our cost-benefit analysis of certain policy prescriptions because like any field of science, especially relatively new ones, there is a lot we don't know. But the risk is hugely asymmetrical. If we are wrong, we probably spent money on stupid projects and increased poverty levels and income inequality relative to what would have otherwise been. If we are right, human life will confront existential threats. So logically we should err on the side of the uncertainty that minimizes downside.

          This is the sane argument, but I won't hold my breath (pardon the CO2 emission)

      • by Maritz ( 1829006 )

        How many sheep carcasses, wolf tracks and turds do we need to find before people start actually doing something about the wolves, despite not seeing them personally?

        Too many. Specifically, an infinite amount is not enough.

      • Due to climate science being too complicated to wrap up in one or two security blanket statements consisting of a pithy statement, we are all doomed to suffer the consequences.

        The world is warming. 99.999% of scientists say so.

        There we go. Was that so hard to understand? Or are you proposing a global conspiracy reaching every corner of the globe, a conspiracy that shows not national boundaries and respects no international disagreements between nations? A conspiracy that would involve every country's scientific institutions agreeing on a common topic with only a handful of dissenters who are proven wrong time and time again by that nasty thing call math?

      • One major issue is that we're talking about global climate change. And the bulk is happening at the poles right now. One person or group of people or country even isn't going to consistently see clear evidence of climate change. It's 5F/-15C right now where I live. Last summer was mild and pleasant. Are we still trending higher year over year? Yep. But it's minor enough that we just don't notice it. This isn't "sheep carcasses, wolf tracks and turds" level impacts around here - it's a stray hair on the gro

    • You're not going to convince an idiot by providing evidence that he doesn't understand.

      Much like when you hand a Representative a copy of the Constitution...

    • by Maritz ( 1829006 )

      You're not going to convince an idiot by providing evidence that he doesn't understand.

      We're pretending that he cares about the evidence are we?

      No. Like everyone else over there, he decided it wasn't true the moment he decided he didn't like it. End of fucking story.

  • by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Thursday January 05, 2017 @09:26AM (#53609603)

    Suddenly he wanted to see the researchers' e-mails and echoed the accusations of contrarian blogs about scientists' supposedly nefarious adjustments to sea surface temperature measurements. Rather than invoking scientific conspiracies, issues like this should be settled by analyzing the data.

    Most people wouldn't understand the data if you clubbed them over the head with it. Doubly so for politicians with no scientific training. The problem in the argument is that one side of this argument isn't arguing with facts and is actually incentivized to demonize any data that contradicts their pre-determined conclusions. They see the argument in one of two ways (sometimes both). A) They see climate change data as a threat to their personal interests - usually financial ones. If you are a politician sponsored by a fossil fuel company, this threatens your self interest. B) They see the climate change argument as something coming from the Other [wikipedia.org]. It's a tribal thing - that Other group supports it ergo it must be bad. Often they frame it as a conspiracy despite the absurdity of that statement.

    So in either case you have people who have no incentive whatsoever to acknowledge the data because it threatens what they hold dear. Rationality plays no role in it. The best way to combat this is to frame the argument in such a way as to align their incentives with the data. Point out how much money there is to be made/saved by working on the problem. Put it front and center as an economic issue. Figure out how to align solutions to the problem with economic and political self interest. Until you do that you're going to have this problem of certain politically powerful factions sticking their fingers in their ears and getting in the way.

    • Wouldn't that strategy play directly into the "it's a money grab conspiracy" argument? Other fields of scientific research -- paleontology, astronomy, etc. -- don't have to sell themselves with economic windfall arguments.

      At some point, the economic strategy of limitless growth simply must come to an end. This seems the mostly likely phenomenon on which it breaks.

    • by asylumx ( 881307 )

      The problem in the argument is that one side of this argument isn't arguing with facts and is actually incentivized to demonize any data that contradicts their pre-determined conclusions.

      In other words, it's politicized. Also, I would argue that neither side is actually arguing with facts. The facts may lean to one side, but that doesn't mean that the people arguing it actually have considered those facts.

      • Arguing with facts (Score:5, Insightful)

        by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Thursday January 05, 2017 @11:51AM (#53610609)

        In other words, it's politicized.

        The climate deniers are the one's making it political. But because they have that's the reality we have to deal with. We can pretend it isn't political or we can deal with the fact that it is and get on with fixing the problem.

        Also, I would argue that neither side is actually arguing with facts.

        Nonsense. The scientists are arguing with almost nothing BUT facts. The fact that a bunch of mostly right wing fossil fuel shills are standing in the way of those facts is plain enough to see. One side has facts and scientific data. The other has economic self interest and little else. The notion that both sides aren't arguing with facts is just nonsense.

    • by radl33t ( 900691 )
      The problem is not economic. It has been shown for some time that 1) the fastest conversion to a low-carbon economy is the cheapest path and 2) most conversions will increase global economic prosperity within a generation and for all time.

      The issue is that there is no conceivable way for existing fossil fuel interests to do anything but forestall progress for their own temporary benefit. They could have been harbingers of change and subsequently vacuumed up a large controlling portion of economic prospe
  • I got some popcorn for the ensuing slashfight.

    It popped automatically in the warming ambient air! WIN!

  • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Thursday January 05, 2017 @09:43AM (#53609703) Journal

    The "fudged data" is a core belief in the Church of Climate Denial. The fact that it wasn't fudged could cause serious cognitive dissonance among some of the most devout members. Although to be fair, it won't be reported at Breitbart or InfoWars, so maybe they'll stay blissfully insulated from this information.

    It's probably for the best that they be left that way.

    • Explain how every "adjustment" manages to cool the past and warm the present. This happening one is a 1-in-6 random chance; this happening 12 times in a row is a 1-in-2.2-billion chance.
    • by moeinvt ( 851793 )

      "The fact that it wasn't fudged ..."

      Bullshit.
      I guess it depends on what you mean by "fudged". If you're claiming that the data sets being used by climate scientists are raw, non-adjusted data, then you're in denial. The data is definitely "fudged", but there are compelling reasons for this "fudging".

      They have more than 100 years of temperature measurements from various weather stations around the world. Over that time period, most of the stations have been relocated numerous times. The early data were co

      • The data sets are very deliberately adjusted/fudged to attempt to account for these differences. That doesn't necessarily mean there is some conspiracy going on to perpetuate a hoax, but questioning the methods used to do the fudging is entirely reasonable.

        Try to explain data science to a climate denier. They're totally invested in the idea that climate data is bogus because George Soros paid all the climate scientists to fake data in order to destroy freedom.

  • by beheaderaswp ( 549877 ) * on Thursday January 05, 2017 @09:55AM (#53609793)

    Interesting thought...

    What if the actual end of humanity is caused, because as an aggregate, we are smart enough to understand and avoid it, but the majority of our biomass isn't smart.

    Perhaps, we've got too much of a spread in ability between intelligent folks and those who are constitutionally incapable of understanding the complexities of a large data set. Or the mathematics needed to interpret it. Or lack the desire to do the work that leads to understanding.

    There's so many factors involved.

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