Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Big U.S. Health Care Win

Every so often I have to acknowledge Matt Yglesias as an unusually perceptive blogger. He is now saying that the health care reform in the U.S. is not only a big win for Obama and other Democrats, it is almost unthinkable that it will ever be substantially repealed.

Running to the right with Goldwater lost the Republicans the 1964 election, and paved the way for the Democrats who had won a landslide to add the Great Society to the New Deal. Later Republican victories did nothing to roll back any of that--any more than Eisenhower had rolled back, or tried to roll back, the New Deal itself. (Eisenhower quite deliberately expanded Social Security to include 10 million more workers, and increased the payments that retired workers would get).

In the recent health care debate, Republicans were inclined to identify Medicare, now including Bush Junior's very expensive prescription drug benefit, as a sacred trust. They are somewhat more open to "reforming" Social Security in order to save money, but no one really thinks they have the votes for that. (Democrats seems more willing to find savings in Medicare than in Social Security; perhaps Medicare is more focussed on issues that are truly not your fault, and this makes Republicans more friendly to it; Democrats resist the distinction between the deserving poor and the undeserving poor, but want to go after Medicare because the cost really is going up dramatically).

Republican Paul Ryan"s plan seems to involve keeping Medicare intact for those over 55, more so than Social Security.

Attempts to keep welfare payments down, add work requirements etc. are more associated with Republicans than Democrats (conservatives more than others in Canada); but once in place, such limits and requirements are hard to abolish. One might say there is a bipartisan desire to prevent welfare from being or appearing more generous than low-paid, hard jobs.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The State of Play on Climate

An interview in the Guardian with James Lovelock; according to Wikipedia, famous for the "Gaia hypothesis," and known as an environmentalist as well as an independent scientist. H/t Bishop Hill.

Lovelock says he has more friends on the "warming" side than on the skeptical side, and he has not even read the CRU e-mails. "I felt reluctant to pry." He thinks the dramatic increase in man-made CO2 is likely to have some dramatic consequences--although they may take time to play out. He is not exactly pre-disposed to criticize the warmists.

This makes it all the more striking that he thinks skeptics have been doing a lot of good lately.

We do need scepticism about the predictions about what will happen to the climate in 50 years, or whatever. It's almost naive, scientifically speaking, to think we can give relatively accurate predictions for future climate. There are so many unknowns that it's wrong to do it.

Why in particular has skepticism been needed recently?

I remember when the Americans sent up a satellite to measure ozone and it started saying that a hole was developing over the South Pole. But the damn fool scientists were so mad on the models that they said the satellite must have a fault. We tend to now get carried away by our giant computer models. But they're not complete models. They're based more or less entirely on geophysics. They don't take into account the climate of the oceans to any great extent, or the responses of the living stuff on the planet. So I don't see how they can accurately predict the climate.

The great climate science centres around the world are more than well aware how weak their science is. If you talk to them privately they're scared stiff of the fact that they don't really know what the clouds and the aerosols are doing. They could be absolutely running the show. We haven't got the physics worked out yet. One of the chiefs once said to me that he agreed that they should include the biology in their models, but he said they hadn't got the physics right yet and it would be five years before they do. So why on earth are the politicians spending a fortune of our money when we can least afford it on doing things to prevent events 50 years from now? They've employed scientists to tell them what they want to hear. The Germans and the Danes are making a fortune out of renewable energy. I'm puzzled why politicians are not a bit more pragmatic about all this.

If wind turbines really worked, I wouldn't object to them. To hell with the aesthetics, we might need them to save ourselves. But they don't work – the Germans have admitted it. It's like the [EU] Common Agricultural Policy which led to corruption and inefficiencies.

I don't know enough abut carbon trading, but I suspect that it is basically a scam. The whole thing is not very sensible. We have this crazy idea that we are setting an example to the world. What we're doing is trying to make money out of the world by selling them renewable gadgetry and green ideas. It might be worthy from the national interest, but it is moonshine if you think what the Chinese and Indians are doing [in terms of emissions].

Of course, he repeats pieties that place him with the warmists, but this is still pretty remarkable stuff. One nice touch:

If you look back on climate history it sometimes took anything up to 1,000 years before a change in one of the variables kicked in and had an effect.

And if the temperature gets dramatically warmer in 1,000 years, and man-made CO2 is found to be behind it, won't the skeptics look silly?

On climate scientists themselves admitting that they don't understand the fundamentals of global climate, see here.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Training Week 15

Four weeks until race day. Everything continues to go well. I ran 29K today, felt good, and recovered well (so far). I postponed my 10K steady run Friday until Saturday, yesterday. Wednesday I did intervals for the first time (hill nights are over--I did 10 hills on March 17). Two sets of (4x400=) 1600 metres. Next week three sets, and so on.

All my runs seem a bit faster than I planned--my paces have picked up. Slow today was just over 6 minutes/km instead of 6.5; steady has become 5.5 or a bit less instead of 6.0; tempo has become consistently less than 5.5--close to race pace of 5.2. The intervals went at a pace of about 4.7 or 4.8--they may already be paying off in better speed.

I have felt confident from the beginning that I have a good training plan--John Stanton's--and I have the discipline to carry it out. If I'm healthy, the weather is OK on race day, etc., I should have a good chance of making my goal of 3:45 for a marathon. I don't want to focus too much on that, however. One piece of advice that was given to a clinic I was in was: have three goals, optimistic, middle, and pessimistic. Don't be too disappointed if for whatever reason you only make the pessimistic goal--it's still an accomplishment, and a good day.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Iraqi election

It's hard to believe it's time to start blogging on Iraq again.

I've just taken a quick look at my old blog; here and here. Chalabi and Allawi are long-time rivals for U.S. support in trying to build some kind of secular government in Iraq. Allawi was actually a Baathist, a supporter of Saddam Hussein, for a long time; Chalabi I guess never was.

Allawi's group has won the most seats--barely--but they are far short of a majority. Chalabi, as before, is working with a more Shiite fundamentalist, pro-Iran group. Maliki, who has been PM most recently, used to be in alliance with that group; they have had a bitter split, but now they will work to form some kind of coalition that can form a majority in Parliament. A quick overview by the good old BBC is here.

You have to like NRO The Corner, still generally pro-Bush.

And while too many pundits will use one candidate or another's ties to Iranian officials to suggest that person has always been under Iran's thumb, that is anachronistic analysis: The reality is that as U.S. influence wanes relative to Iran, every Iraqi politician — Chalabi, Talabani, Barzani, Maliki, and even, perhaps, Allawi — will make accommodation with the Islamic Republic in order to survive.

Er, but possibly Chalabi is among the most pro-Iran of them all. It still seems possible, indeed, that he has been an Iranian agent all along--going back to when he lobbied successfully in Washington for millions of dollars, and then used those millions to persuade opinion-makers of the necessity of invading Iraq. Generally speaking a weaker Iraq means a stronger Iran; see also Claudia Rossett's piece about Turkey leaning toward Iran.

Was it smart for Bush to invade? I don't think it's clear yet.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

More clarification for the IPCC

See Update March 29 below.

Simon Lewis of the University of Leeds tries once again to clarify his real views regarding the Amazon as reported by the Sunday Times.

Lewis said he was contacted by the Sunday Times before the article was published and told them the IPCC’s statement was “poorly written and bizarrely referenced, but basically correct”. He added that “there is a wealth of scientific evidence suggesting that the Amazon is vulnerable to reductions in rainfall”. He also sent the newspaper several scientific papers that supported the claim, but were not cited by that section of the IPCC report.

So the IPCC said "reduced rainfall could wipe out up to 40% of the Amazon rainforest," and Lewis says "the Amazon is vulnerable to reductions in rainfall." I would think the latter statement is obvious. Is there any actual evidence for the former statement? Richard North says there is no significant evidence to support the claim that drought such as in 2005 does little or no significant damage to the Amazon; on the other hand, there is a lot of uncertainty as to how much damage is done, and how long it lasts (how resilient the Amazon is). In the meantime, since 2005 there may have been more flooding than drought.

UPDATE: Bishop Hill is now on the case. ANOTHER UPDATE: Richard North again. Is there any kind of certainty as to how much rain a rainforest needs to avoid massive tree death? How much drought can be sustained, over how long a period of time, before there is massive tree death? That in fact even a modest decrease in rainfall, if it goes on long enough, could cause the destruction of 40% of the Amazon rain forest? Indeed, do experts agree as to whether climate change is likely to cause more rain or less rain in the Amazon? It seems by now that whichever happens, they will say they predicted it.

To no one's surprise by now, there is little certainty about any of this. Anyone can say that in some cases, rain forest has been turned into savannah by a lack of rain; the decrease in rainfall may not seem all that dramatic, but if it goes on long enough, it can have dramatic effects. But is there is any knowledge about where the tipping point is, either in amount of rain, duration of drought, or anything?

The most hilarious quote from Daniel Nepstad, who is one of Lewis's authorities although Lewis does not cite this particular piece:

One of the great ecological puzzles of the Amazon forests is their ability to withstand severe seasonal drought with no visible signs of drought stress.

So there is no trend today toward the Amazon disappearing because of drought--especially since there seems to have been massive rainfall and flooding since 2005. (I know, I know, they predicted it as long as it is somehow "extreme").

Maybe one observation to make is that contrary to what we are often told, the earth as a whole is not fragile--it is actually highly resilient. Bambi is fragile--he was born as a prey animal, with a big X on his chest, and he is certain to die young--compared to say a deer in a zoo. Human beings in a way are fragile, although we have adapted much better than deer to life in many different climates. Species have been wiped out--but far fewer have been wiped out by human action than you might think. Ecosystems change. But a variety of life forms have survived many changes, even what we would have to call truly catastrophic changes. Sometimes the diversity of life forms is greatly reduced, but then new life forms arise.

Movies, etc

On the weekend, thanks to Zip we got a chance to see Knowing, starring Nicolas Cage. A strange end-of-the-world movie, with Nic consulting a list of numbers that seem to predict disasters, rushing off to save people, always a bit late. The people around him try to stop him to ask what's going on, but he's often too busy and preoccupied to answer. It turns out the aliens aren't out to destroy us, they can't save us, but they can save a few children.

On Turner Classic Movies, I saw a few minutes of a pretty good western, A Big Hand for the Little Lady. Joanne Woodward is forced to join a poker game in which her husband had bet heavily. He's apparently been afflicted with some health crisis in a part I didn't see. She says she has no idea of the rules, but she's determined to win back the money her husband has wagered--it represents all their savings, etc. The men around the table explain that it is up to her to raise or fold, and they have already discussed with her husband the possibility of using various items as collateral. She asks if there is a bank nearby, and marches across the street. Some of the men naturally accompany her. She tells the banker the only collateral she has is her hand, which she shows him. He turns her town, she leads the procession back to the game. All seems over, but the banker shows up at the game, announces he has never seen a hand that good, and although he is very cautious in lending, always insisting on collateral, he will back Joanne to the hilt. Everyone else folds, she wins the pot.

This all turns out be a con, in which the banker participates because of the way he as defrauded by some of these characters years earlier. Very enjoyable.

Finally, there was a Breaking Bad marathon, and I was introduced for the first time to the skuzzy defence lawyer. Again very enjoyable.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Who's Getting Paid for Maintaining a Point of View?

In commenting on climate change, I have generally stayed away from the "coming world government" argument, from any talk of conspiracies, from stating that lefties are just trying to create bureaucracies to run our lives. For that matter, I've avoided saying temperature changes are caused primarily by the sun.

However, there are some plausible answers to the question: why would reputable people so strongly endorse the AGW theory unless there were substantial evidence that it was true?

One answer is that there is a hell of a lot more money in saying warming is here, it's man-made, and it's going to get a lot worse, than in merely saying this is all uncertain.

Richard North explains how attempts to save the Amazon in some pure form, regardless of what might benefit indigenous people, is wrapped up with pseudo-scientific claims that almost any significant climate change is likely to destroy much of the Amazon, and all of this is tied to a potentially very lucrative carbon trading scheme.

If the argument about "Big Oil" and skepticism is that money can corrupt and shape opinions, then how about the money on the warming side? North is also adding up the EU and other grants that have been given to the warming side ....

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Carbon Offsets

I'm beginning to think that every sentence that has been written about carbon offsets is funny--either intentionally, or unintentionally.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Skeptics Go Mainstream

Judith Curry of Georgia Tech, interviewed in Discover magazine. h/t Bishop Hill.

On the one hand, the skeptics have a point when it comes to sloppy work by famous climate scientists:

Where do you come down on the whole subject of uncertainty in the climate science?
I’m very concerned about the way uncertainty is being treated. The IPCC [the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] took a shortcut on the actual scientific uncertainty analysis on a lot of the issues, particularly the temperature records.

Don’t individual studies do uncertainty analysis?
Not as much as they should. It’s a weakness. When you have two data sets that disagree, often nobody digs in to figure out all the different sources of uncertainty in the different analysis. Once you do that, you can identify mistakes or determine how significant a certain data set is.

Is this a case of politics getting in the way of science?
No. It’s sloppiness. It’s just how our field has evolved. One of the things that McIntyre and McKitrick pointed out was that a lot of the statistical methods used in our field are sloppy. We have trends for which we don’t even give a confidence interval. The IPCC concluded that most of the warming of the latter 20th century was very likely caused by humans. Well, as far as I know, that conclusion was mostly a negotiation, in terms of calling it “likely” or “very likely.” Exactly what does “most” mean? What percentage of the warming are we actually talking about? More than 50 percent? A number greater than 50 percent?

Are you saying that the scientific community, through the IPCC, is asking the world to restructure its entire mode of producing and consuming energy and yet hasn’t done a scientific uncertainty analysis?

On the other hand, she still thinks something should probably be done about climate change, but she puts this in a funny way:

Should we wait to resolve all the uncertainty before taking action?
The probability of something bad happening is at least as high as the probability that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. That turned out not to be true, but we ended up going in there anyway. So we have a history of taking action on bad things that have a low probability of happening.

Great, so there's no reason why Gore shouldn't be as stupid as Bush--after all, some good may come of it. (They were the two candidates for President in 2000.)

You get a sense that Curry has gained some real respect for McIntyre, McIntrick and other leading skeptics; and rightly so. She makes a point of saying several of them disagree with each other about pretty important matters. Maybe they deserve respect because they are following questions wherever they lead, and not trying to build a consensus?

The boomers, the boomers, whatever are we going to do about the boomers ….?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Quotes from Books

Recently I bought Allan Gotlieb, The Washington Diaries, about his time as Canada's ambassador to the U.S. Quite a bit of interesting stuff about personalities and how issues are shaped and resolved. Throughout his tenure, Gotlieb faced growing protectionism in the U.S. Congress. He was convinced a new approach was needed if Canada was to minimize harm to its own position--something very much like classic Washington lobbying, using the social circuit directly to achieve political ends, etc. Probably his culminating achievement was a free trade agreement between the two countries. Canada had to get underneath the umbrella, or it was going to be rained on.

My favourite quotes:

1. On acid rain--another recurring issue. The acid that was (allegedly) harming Canadian lakes came largely from the U.S.--from such things as coal-burning electricity plants. First Trudeau, then Mulroney pushed Gotlieb hard to get some U.S. or joint action. p. 153:

The mixture of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide that produces acid rain is a curious phenomenon. There may be doubts about its environmental effect, but there certainly can't be any doubt about its political effect--the crusade to reduce acid rain is the most unifying force in Canada today.

This is the only time, I think, when Gotlieb expresses any doubt about the science. On pp. 499-500 he says Canada's Environment Minister, Tom McMillan, has screwed up badly by referring to powerful Senator Byrd from West Virginia as a "neanderthal," lobbying in a way that has been described as "illegal," and calling an official U.S. report on acid rain (the NAPAP report) "voodoo science," "although all scientists in the United States agree with it." I guess if there is a controversy about acid rain, it has to do with whether the costs of mitigation outweigh the benefits, and whether the dangers are as great as has sometimes been stated.

2. A pretty good Robertson Davies story about Lester Pearson. I've come across other versions as well. Page 454:

We agreed on everything, but especially on how Canadians like to put down achievers and people who stand out. He told me this story: In the late 1950s he was at a cocktail party in Vancouver and someone came into the room and said, "Did you hear the news? Lester Pearson was just awarded the Nobel Peace Prize." A woman at the party commented, "The Nobel Peace Prize! Lester Pearson! Who does he think he is?"

A funny thing that relates to Gotlieb's sense of humour and that of his possibly equally-famous wife, Sondra. They made some effort to identify who was "King of the Jews" in the United States.

Next, I've borrowed from the library a kind of family history by Ranulph Fiennes--some kind of cousin of a couple of actors who share this surname. The family goes back to various Norman barons--fought with William the Conqueror, went to the Crusades, etc. Some remained very French, others became very English. I think the family name would now be Twisleton if they went by male descent (the Twisleton who made money, and whose descendants were able to marry up, was known as "The Goldsmith"), but they tend to hyphenate in order to keep the more aristocratic forebears in there: "Sir Ranulph Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes."

One of the few facts or possible facts in my head about the English aristocracy dates from the time when Charles was planning to marry Diana. Genealogists were on TV explaining the family trees, etc. One helpful line was that "Diana is descended from all the English monarchs that Charles is not descended from," meaning mainly the Stuarts from Scotland. (I guess two different lines from James I of England/James VI of Scotland; the Hanovers descended from the oldest daughter, the Stuarts from the oldest son, who became Charles I of England). One genealogist also said something like: "There are very few families with either title or money today who have had them since before the Industrial Revolution. Lady Diana's is one of those families." This statement would include the Protestant "creations" of Henry VIII and Elizabeth, one of which was an ancestor of Diana's. The Tudors ended a lot of Catholic lines. The Fiennes are among the even fewer who go back centuries before that. By the time of the Stuarts, after the Tudors, leading members of the Fiennes family were among the Puritans. There is a living Fiennes who is Lord Saye and Sele--the de Saye connection is another one going back to Norman times. The family has lived for six hundred years in Broughton Castle (which is not really a castle).

Anyway, a couple of stories about the Scots.

1. A female ancestor named Celia Fiennes set out on horseback to explore England in 1697--a rather adventuresome thing for a lady to do. She barely ventured into Wales or Scotland: "Thence I went into Scotland ... all here about which are called Borderers, seem to be very poor people which I impute to their sloth ...."

2. King William IV: To the surprise of many people, became King before Victoria became Queen, and after his two younger brothers and before them the famous and infamous George III. William:

... disagreed with Wilberforce about abolishing slavery, on the grounds that the slaves he had observed whilst in the Caribbean had a higher standard of living than many Highlanders.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Science and Politics

Daniel Sarewitz in Slate: "It turns out that science contributes most to politics when nobody really cares that much about it."

The author, claims that environmental issues seem to get more intractable, not less, when there is more science, since both sides can find some science to back up their positions. He says things were better when clean air and clean water legislation went through fairly quickly. Now, Yucca mountain as a site for nuclear waste disposal is never a slam-dunk for either side. This is OK as far as it goes, but he could go farther. Aristotle said politics is the master science or pursuit, partly because it determines which others are studied, to what extent, etc. We see examples today of people apparently committed to science who would rather be morally and politically "correct" than to stick to what the science says.

Sarewitz doesn't mention that the environmental movement may have invited a backlash with high-profile campaigns like the ones against acid rain or nuclear power--there was little attention to the costs and benefits of what was proposed, which is really all that decision-makers need to know. There was an emotional appeal to the idea that human actions are screwing things up somehow, and government needs to protect both us and nature. Climate change is the mother of all such theories.

My hobby horses: health and diet issues are often driven not by science but by fashionable ideas of what is aesthetically appealing. It used to be a status symbol to be at least somewhat fat--a sign of prosperity. You had to be rich to get fat. Now in the developed world practically everyone can get fat, so the rich make it a point to stay thin. Amazingly, there is a lot of argument to the effect that skinny is healthy, a sign that you have self-respect and discipline, that it makes you all-around a good person--with little bits of science or pseudo-science thrown in. There is a widespread sense that supermarket food--our most heavily regulated industry--is probably bad for you, and something else, harder to acquire or prepare, less appetizing, more expensive, possibly available only to the rich, is better for you.

Sarewitz sensibly says the case about costs and benefits needs to be made when it comes to specific proposals to deal with climate change. He also says: "Yes, there is a robust scientific consensus that human activity is causing the atmosphere to warm up."

I don't know if this is true, and I'll probably never read the scientific journals to find out. I think adding "robust" to "consensus" is an attempt to win a debate, and "scientific consensus" isn't quite the same as "truth." To some extent a fairly small group of people has been able to establish a brand new climate science, and then decide who counts as a climate scientist, who is published, etc. My understanding is that no one has established a dramatic warming in the 20th century. Proxy data from before about 1850 is even more uncertain.

Whether any warming trend appears in the data depends to some extent on the methods that are chosen to select the most reliable monitoring stations, average them, and process or homogenize the data. Different methods yield different results, and part of the debate over CRU and IPCC have to do with whether the famous "warming" results can pass tests of statistical significance. It makes at least some difference whether there was a warming period, comparable to the 20th century, in both the medieval era and a few hundred years BCE. Those earlier warmings were presumably not man-made, and they do not seem to have been remembered as a crisis or calamity.

The most dire predictions of warming, etc. follow from the belief that there will be a feedback effect, and the temperature will increase at a much faster rate than the one claimed for the 20th century. That there is a greenhouse effect, I believe there is no doubt--likewise that man-made CO2 has increased dramatically since about 1850. But is the whole system closed in such a way that a small temperature increase can only lead to a large temperature increase? Or are there other factors at work--releasing heat, neutralizing it, or indeed causing cooling? I don't know, but I believe there is genuine debate about all of this.

When all of these questions are raised, the standard move is to refer to "obvious" developments: Arctic ice, Antarctic ice, glaciers, methane under the Arctic ocean, and Al Gore's farm in Tennessee being less lush and green than it was when he was a child. I believe each of those needs to be studied on its own. It's not clear any or all of these developments co-relate with the increase in man-made CO2. Yet for many people, it is a minimal test of sophistication and decency to say that they do. One wants to be on the right side.

Meanwhile, h/t to Bishop Hill for a reference to an abstract in a medical journal: "In the last 20 years there has been a progressive decline in the honesty of scientific communications."

Also a judge has finally ruled that thimerosal, a one-time additive to a common childhood vaccine, does not cause autism.

Whither Psychiatry?

This just amuses me: Psychiatry a floundering discipline.

The new draft of the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM): "A manual's draft reflects how diagnoses have grown foggier, drugs more ineffective."

What the discipline badly needs is close attention to patients and their individual symptoms, in order to carve out the real diseases from the vast pool of symptoms that DSM keeps reshuffling into different "disorders." This kind of careful attention to what patients actually have is called "psychopathology," and its absence distinguishes American psychiatry from the European tradition. With DSM-V, American psychiatry is headed in exactly the opposite direction: defining ever-widening circles of the population as mentally ill with vague and undifferentiated diagnoses and treating them with powerful drugs.

I don't have much to say about this, but it is troubling that with a fair bit of genuine mental illness in the world, American psychiatry (I presume Canadian as well) is becoming not more focussed and precise, but less. I've also read recently that virtually no psychiatrists any long depend primarily or solely on "talk," such as Freudian or Jungian psychotherapy that figured in so many books and movies. To satisfy funding agencies, public and private, it is more convenient to prescribe medications and then use appointments to monitor medications and adjust as needed. Such appointments can be quite short. See here.

I have a family member who I believe could have benefited from some kind of help at some point in her life. She was probably symptomatic in the 50s, but God knows what anyone would have done then. In the 60s, living in a small town, maybe some kind of talk therapy would have been available to clarify her issues, maybe not. By the 70s there would have drugs available; but would they have been prescribed in a responsible way? Would she have taken them? Who knows?

h/t Health Business Blog, Grand Rounds 6:24.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Arctic permafrost again

I blogged on Arctic permafrost before.

Now Yglesias has discovered the latest study. Here and here.

Permafrost under the Arctic ocean seems to be giving way, allowing for the release of methane gas--in its potential effects, a more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2. Already, according to the video, the concentration of methane in the atmosphere above the Arctic seems higher than at any time in the last 400,000 years. Yglesias takes some things for granted that the scientists involved are at least somewhat uncertain about:

1. Are rising temperatures the only possible reason for the permafrost to break up? There are people who think the reason for Arctic ice reaching a low point in Summer 2007 was that it was moved by ocean currents and wind to a warmer place, rather than melting in a colder place. What are the factors at work below the surface?

2. As the methane concentration increases, is there only one possible or likely outcome? Yglesias refers to a "feedback loop," implying that warmth causes more various results which then multiply the rate of warming. But what if it's not a closed system, and there are ways for greenhouse gases to be dissipated? Some people who agree that warming is happening say that there is no evidence of the feedback or multiplying effect. (Joanne Nova h/t Richard North).

3. Even if Arctic permafrost is melting, does that indicate global warming? The article in the Guardian that supposedly shows there is a "human fingerprint" on many different changes in climate, includes a map. On the map, Alaska and the nearby Arctic is a uniquely hot spot; much of the Northern hemisphere is warm, but not as warm as Alaska; much of the southern hemisphere is cool, but no area is as cool as Alaska is hot. One can generalize at a very high level and say there is more warming than cooling, but why would there be so much variation if there is one clear global trend? h/t Lubos and Bishop Hill.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Toeing the Line

The Institute of Physics made a submission to the British House of Commons' Select Committee on Science and Technology. Some key points:

1. "The CRU e-mails as published on the internet provide prima facie evidence of determined and co-ordinated refusals to comply with honourable scientific traditions and freedom of information law. The principle that scientists should be willing to expose their ideas and results to independent testing and replication by others, which requires the open exchange of data, procedures and materials, is vital. The lack of compliance has been confirmed by the findings of the Information Commissioner. This extends well beyond the CRU itself - most of the e-mails were exchanged with researchers in a number of other international institutions who are also involved in the formulation of the IPCC's conclusions on climate change."

2. There has been a lack of transparency as to the methods that were used--especially for reconstructions that go back before the era of actual temperature readings.

Then, about a week later, the IOP issued a "clarification":

In a statement issued today the institute said its written submission to the committee "has been interpreted by some individuals to imply that it does not support the scientific evidence that the rising concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is contributing to global warming."

It says: "That is not the case. The institute's position on climate change is clear: the basic science is well enough understood to be sure that our climate is changing, and that we need to take action now to mitigate that change."

So the larger statement indicates that there is substantial room for doubt about the evidence of warming, especially when it comes to reconstructions, and this doubt affects the IPCC, not only the CRU, i.e. it is doubtful whether there is a group known as "climate scientists" who have used methods which are wholly independent of those that have raised doubts. Then the short statement says: nevertheless, we are sure the climate is changing (presumably warming, and because of man-made CO2), and something must be done. So: there are doubts, but we already know the doubts don't affect the big questions? How could that be?

It sounds like an assertion of faith to me. I know the arguments to the effect that the earth orbits the sun, but I nevertheless believe as I have been taught that the sun orbits the earth.

There are questions as to who exactly wrote the long IOP document, claiming to speak for 30,000 people, but as Bishop Hill says, such questions could be raised about many documents--including IPCC reports.

More on training

I started an 18-week program, 5 runs a week, on December 18. Race Day, April 25, will be the beginning of week 19.

Tonight I did my last run for week 11; tomorrow is just a swim, then Sunday begins week 12. I'm getting there.

Sunday, Feb. 14, the beginning of Week 9, I overdid it a bit. I was scheduled to do 26K. I ran with a group for what I thought was 21, then added what I thought was 5. I was hurting by the end. I checked my distance, and I had gone close to 28. I was sore by the end of it. I wasn't fully recovered for 10K tempo on Tuesday evening; I cut that one a bit short. Partly because of soreness, partly because of fresh snow/storm/poor footing, I skipped hills on Wednesday and did them Thursday. I ran as scheduled Friday (10K steady) and Sunday, beginning of Week 10 (19K). That felt good, but I nevertheless cut back on Tuesday evening tempo run. Hills went OK Wednesday, but I skipped Thursday (once again a storm--Al Gore weather), and ran Friday. Last Sunday, beginning of Week 11, was scheduled for 29K and I did that, feeling not too bad. So this week I did all five runs, including 8 hills Wednesday. This week's total: about 60K, much more than 47 the week before that, and roughly tying 58K in week 8. Week 9, despite the problems, was 54.

What amazes me is that my right leg, which was getting quite sore, especially on uphills, could actually heal while I'm doing all this running--cutting down on my distance only slightly, keeping up hills and long runs. I said several times in 2009, when I was running half marathons, that the training works, and I'll say it again now.

I do very few stretches before a run: squatting while spreading out my knees, maybe three times, then swinging straight legs, forward and back to work the hips, 10 times each. (My sports therapist said in the fall that my hips were tight, especially my left, and this was contributing to soreness in feet and legs). After a run I do several groups of stretches, trying to culminate in pretty serious work on core muscles. I always start a shower as cold as I can stand, and hold my legs under the cold water. For a while I was doing at least one ice bath a week, but I haven't done that for a couple of weeks now.