Wednesday, December 9, 2009

So why do you want intrusive government?

When you look at this administration's major actions, it is difficult to find one that is targeted at the problem it alleges to address. TARP was supposed to buy the underwater assets of banks but has instead turned out to be a gigantic slush fund. Cap and trade was intended to save the earth from global warming. But most experts agree that it will do little if anything to reduce global temperatures. Rather it will also be a gigantic slush fund where the government choses who to tax and who to subsidize. Financial reform has nothing to do with the mortgage problem and asset bubbles. Rather it creates an all powerful single federal czar to oversee consumer laws and regulates hedge funds which had nothing to do with the crises. Health care reform was based on accessibility, the uninsured and costs. The legislation before the congress addresses none of these issues. Rather it allows the government to seize one sixth of the economy. The stimulus package was to stop the rise in unemployment. However, again it was nothing but a big slush fund that had no impact on unemployment. Get the picture? Its like Orwell's 1984 in which the government agencies are mislabeled, e. g., the Ministry of Peace conducts war and the Ministry of Information is the propaganda arm of the government. All of the efforts of the Obama administration are likewise mislabeled. The only thing that is consistent is that each is intended to expand the reach and power of the federal government. Personally I do not understand how anyone could endorse such an approach that has only demonstrated failure throughout history. The government is neither efficient, compassionate, understanding or even remotely consumer-friendly. Its one-size-fits-most rules are the opposite of what is produced by the market. From what I can gather, there are two types who favor the expansion of government. The first are those who think that they will be the rule makers and can impose their superiorness upon the great unwashed. The second is the group that benefits from the government's largesse. Those who receive more in transfer payments than they pay in taxes. However, the vast majority of us are not in either group. We are the ones who are imposed on, who pay for all of this, and who find our standards of living declining. The majority of the American people understand this and are opposed to the government increasing its reach. The result of the government imposing itself on us raises the bottom by pushing down the top. Yet by discouraging productivity and innovation, the economy as a whole becomes worse off with less growth and ultimately less revenues. Lastly what all the pro-government people don't seem to realize that one day those in the government may not be sympathetic to the liberal causes and start sending the favors over to those who are currently being punished by the liberals. Remember "what goes around comes around."

Friday, December 4, 2009


I am not a climate scientist. However, I do know models since that is what I do for a living. In my profession, models are proffered and explored and criticized. I know of no "settled science". Constantly, we read of the consensus of economists predicting what inevitably turns out to be wrong. Yet economists are not vilified and go on to mis-predict the next event. One of the pieces of research commonly cited as evidence of mortgage pricing discrimination is so replete with errors that I use it in my doctoral seminar as an example of how to lie with statistics. Yet somehow, with global warming there is supposed to be "settled science". Well as I have written often, that alone made me a skeptic. The more I read, the more skeptical I became. This was before the email blowup at East Anglia. Now comes the following piece from Prof. Richard Lindzen of MIT who is an expert. So I ask you true believers again: Do you still believe in global warming?

OPINIONNOVEMBER 30, 2009, 7:44 P.M. ET
The Climate Science Isn't Settled
Confident predictions of catastrophe are unwarranted.

Is there a reason to be alarmed by the prospect of global warming? Consider that the measurement used, the globally averaged temperature anomaly (GATA), is always changing. Sometimes it goes up, sometimes down, and occasionally—such as for the last dozen years or so—it does little that can be discerned.

Claims that climate change is accelerating are bizarre. There is general support for the assertion that GATA has increased about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit since the middle of the 19th century. The quality of the data is poor, though, and because the changes are small, it is easy to nudge such data a few tenths of a degree in any direction. Several of the emails from the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit (CRU) that have caused such a public ruckus dealt with how to do this so as to maximize apparent changes.

The general support for warming is based not so much on the quality of the data, but rather on the fact that there was a little ice age from about the 15th to the 19th century. Thus it is not surprising that temperatures should increase as we emerged from this episode. At the same time that we were emerging from the little ice age, the industrial era began, and this was accompanied by increasing emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2, methane and nitrous oxide. CO2 is the most prominent of these, and it is again generally accepted that it has increased by about 30%.

The defining characteristic of a greenhouse gas is that it is relatively transparent to visible light from the sun but can absorb portions of thermal radiation. In general, the earth balances the incoming solar radiation by emitting thermal radiation, and the presence of greenhouse substances inhibits cooling by thermal radiation and leads to some warming.

That said, the main greenhouse substances in the earth's atmosphere are water vapor and high clouds. Let's refer to these as major greenhouse substances to distinguish them from the anthropogenic minor substances. Even a doubling of CO2 would only upset the original balance between incoming and outgoing radiation by about 2%. This is essentially what is called "climate forcing."

There is general agreement on the above findings. At this point there is no basis for alarm regardless of whether any relation between the observed warming and the observed increase in minor greenhouse gases can be established. Nevertheless, the most publicized claims of the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) deal exactly with whether any relation can be discerned. The failure of the attempts to link the two over the past 20 years bespeaks the weakness of any case for concern.

The IPCC's Scientific Assessments generally consist of about 1,000 pages of text. The Summary for Policymakers is 20 pages. It is, of course, impossible to accurately summarize the 1,000-page assessment in just 20 pages; at the very least, nuances and caveats have to be omitted. However, it has been my experience that even the summary is hardly ever looked at. Rather, the whole report tends to be characterized by a single iconic claim.

The main statement publicized after the last IPCC Scientific Assessment two years ago was that it was likely that most of the warming since 1957 (a point of anomalous cold) was due to man. This claim was based on the weak argument that the current models used by the IPCC couldn't reproduce the warming from about 1978 to 1998 without some forcing, and that the only forcing that they could think of was man. Even this argument assumes that these models adequately deal with natural internal variability—that is, such naturally occurring cycles as El Nino, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation, etc.

Yet articles from major modeling centers acknowledged that the failure of these models to anticipate the absence of warming for the past dozen years was due to the failure of these models to account for this natural internal variability. Thus even the basis for the weak IPCC argument for anthropogenic climate change was shown to be false.

Of course, none of the articles stressed this. Rather they emphasized that according to models modified to account for the natural internal variability, warming would resume—in 2009, 2013 and 2030, respectively.

But even if the IPCC's iconic statement were correct, it still would not be cause for alarm. After all we are still talking about tenths of a degree for over 75% of the climate forcing associated with a doubling of CO2. The potential (and only the potential) for alarm enters with the issue of climate sensitivity—which refers to the change that a doubling of CO2 will produce in GATA. It is generally accepted that a doubling of CO2 will only produce a change of about two degrees Fahrenheit if all else is held constant. This is unlikely to be much to worry about.

Yet current climate models predict much higher sensitivities. They do so because in these models, the main greenhouse substances (water vapor and clouds) act to amplify anything that CO2 does. This is referred to as positive feedback. But as the IPCC notes, clouds continue to be a source of major uncertainty in current models. Since clouds and water vapor are intimately related, the IPCC claim that they are more confident about water vapor is quite implausible.

There is some evidence of a positive feedback effect for water vapor in cloud-free regions, but a major part of any water-vapor feedback would have to acknowledge that cloud-free areas are always changing, and this remains an unknown. At this point, few scientists would argue that the science is settled. In particular, the question remains as to whether water vapor and clouds have positive or negative feedbacks.

The notion that the earth's climate is dominated by positive feedbacks is intuitively implausible, and the history of the earth's climate offers some guidance on this matter. About 2.5 billion years ago, the sun was 20%-30% less bright than now (compare this with the 2% perturbation that a doubling of CO2 would produce), and yet the evidence is that the oceans were unfrozen at the time, and that temperatures might not have been very different from today's. Carl Sagan in the 1970s referred to this as the "Early Faint Sun Paradox."

For more than 30 years there have been attempts to resolve the paradox with greenhouse gases. Some have suggested CO2—but the amount needed was thousands of times greater than present levels and incompatible with geological evidence. Methane also proved unlikely. It turns out that increased thin cirrus cloud coverage in the tropics readily resolves the paradox—but only if the clouds constitute a negative feedback. In present terms this means that they would diminish rather than enhance the impact of CO2.

There are quite a few papers in the literature that also point to the absence of positive feedbacks. The implied low sensitivity is entirely compatible with the small warming that has been observed. So how do models with high sensitivity manage to simulate the currently small response to a forcing that is almost as large as a doubling of CO2? Jeff Kiehl notes in a 2007 article from the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the models use another quantity that the IPCC lists as poorly known (namely aerosols) to arbitrarily cancel as much greenhouse warming as needed to match the data, with each model choosing a different degree of cancellation according to the sensitivity of that model.

What does all this have to do with climate catastrophe? The answer brings us to a scandal that is, in my opinion, considerably greater than that implied in the hacked emails from the Climate Research Unit (though perhaps not as bad as their destruction of raw data): namely the suggestion that the very existence of warming or of the greenhouse effect is tantamount to catastrophe. This is the grossest of "bait and switch" scams. It is only such a scam that lends importance to the machinations in the emails designed to nudge temperatures a few tenths of a degree.

The notion that complex climate "catastrophes" are simply a matter of the response of a single number, GATA, to a single forcing, CO2 (or solar forcing for that matter), represents a gigantic step backward in the science of climate. Many disasters associated with warming are simply normal occurrences whose existence is falsely claimed to be evidence of warming. And all these examples involve phenomena that are dependent on the confluence of many factors.

Our perceptions of nature are similarly dragged back centuries so that the normal occasional occurrences of open water in summer over the North Pole, droughts, floods, hurricanes, sea-level variations, etc. are all taken as omens, portending doom due to our sinful ways (as epitomized by our carbon footprint). All of these phenomena depend on the confluence of multiple factors as well.

Consider the following example. Suppose that I leave a box on the floor, and my wife trips on it, falling against my son, who is carrying a carton of eggs, which then fall and break. Our present approach to emissions would be analogous to deciding that the best way to prevent the breakage of eggs would be to outlaw leaving boxes on the floor. The chief difference is that in the case of atmospheric CO2 and climate catastrophe, the chain of inference is longer and less plausible than in my example.

Mr. Lindzen is professor of meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Copyright 2009 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved
This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. Distribution and use of this material are governed by our Subscriber Agreement and by copyright law. For non-personal use or to order multiple copies, please contact Dow Jones Reprints at 1-800-843-0008 or visit

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Spread the wealth?

Remember when Joe Biden said that we needed to "spread the wealth?" My reaction was don't we do enough of that already with over $4 trillion going into poverty programs since LBJ? What Biden and his ilk actually mean is that they want to further confiscate more of the wealth of Americans and reallocate it, thereby increasing the power of politicians. I have always considered the measure of a society in how well off were its poor. That wealth is a combination of income, possessions, and income transfers. By any measure, America is a success for its poor would be considered middle class in most of the world. Mark Perry documents this in his blog ( when he shows not only are the rich getting richer but so are the poor. The liberals envision s fixed pie where in order to gain, one has to take from another. This is contrary to the pie growing lifting all boats.

Consider the findings of Robert Rector (

The following are facts about the 12 million persons defined as "poor" by the Census Bureau, taken from various gov¬ernment reports:
• Forty-three percent of all poor households actu¬ally own their own homes. The average home owned by persons classified as poor by the Census Bureau is a three-bedroom house with one-and-a-half baths, a garage, and a porch or patio.
• Eighty percent of poor households have air conditioning. By contrast, in 1970, only 36 percent of the entire U.S. population enjoyed air conditioning.
• Only 6 percent of poor households are over¬crowded. More than two-thirds have more than two rooms per person.
• The average poor American has more living space than the average individual living in Paris, London, Vienna, Athens, and other cities throughout Europe. (These comparisons are to the average citizens in foreign countries, not to those classified as poor.)
• Nearly three-quarters of poor households own a car; 31 percent own two or more cars.
• Ninety-seven percent of poor households have a color television; over half own two or more color televisions.
• Seventy-eight percent have a VCR or DVD player; 62 percent have cable or satellite TV reception.
• Eighty-nine percent own microwave ovens, more than half have a stereo, and more than a third have an automatic dishwasher.
As a group, America's poor are far from being chronically undernourished. The average consump¬tion of protein, vitamins, and minerals is virtually the same for poor and middle-class children and, in most cases, is well above recommended norms. Poor children actually consume more meat than do higher-income children and have average protein intakes 100 percent above recommended levels. Most poor children today are, in fact, supernour¬ished and grow up to be, on average, one inch taller and 10 pounds heavier than the GIs who stormed the beaches of Normandy in World War II.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Still believe in global "warming"? Redux

Wall Street Journal
NOVEMBER 27, 2009, 7:02 P.M. ET
Rigging a Climate 'Consensus'
About those emails and 'peer review.'

The climatologists at the center of the leaked email and document scandal have taken the line that it is all much ado about nothing. Yes, the wording of their messages was unfortunate, but they insist this in no way undermines the underlying science. They're ignoring the damage they've done to public confidence in the arbiters of climate science.
"What they've done is search through stolen personal emails—confidential between colleagues who often speak in a language they understand and is often foreign to the outside world," Penn State's Michael Mann told Reuters Wednesday. Mr. Mann added that this has made "something innocent into something nefarious."
Phil Jones, director of the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit, from which the emails were lifted, is singing from the same climate hymnal. "My colleagues and I accept that some of the published emails do not read well. I regret any upset or confusion caused as a result. Some were clearly written in the heat of the moment, others use colloquialisms frequently used between close colleagues," he said this week.
We don't doubt that Mr. Jones would have phrased his emails differently if he expected them to end up in the newspaper. He's right that it doesn't look good that his May 2008 email to Mr. Mann regarding the U.N.'s Fourth Assessment Report said "Mike, Can you delete any emails you may have had with Keith re AR4?" Mr. Mann says he didn't delete any such emails, but the point is that Mr. Jones wanted them hidden.
The furor over these documents is not about tone, colloquialisms or whether climatologists are nice people. The real issue is what the messages say about the way the much-ballyhooed scientific consensus on global warming was arrived at, and how a single view of warming and its causes is being enforced. The impression left by the correspondence among Messrs. Mann and Jones and others is that the climate-tracking game has been rigged from the start.
According to this privileged group, only those whose work has been published in select scientific journals, after having gone through the "peer-review" process, can be relied on to critique the science. And sure enough, any challenges from critics outside this clique are dismissed and disparaged.
This September, Mr. Mann told a New York Times reporter in one of the leaked emails that: "Those such as [Stephen] McIntyre who operate almost entirely outside of this system are not to be trusted." Mr. McIntyre is a retired Canadian businessman who checks the findings of climate scientists and often publishes the mistakes he finds on his Web site, He holds the rare distinction of having forced Mr. Mann to publish a correction to one of his more famous papers.
As anonymous reviewers of choice for certain journals, Mr. Mann & Co. had considerable power to enforce the consensus, but it was not absolute, as they discovered in 2003. Mr. Mann noted in a March 2003 email, after the journal "Climate Research" published a paper not to Mr. Mann's liking, that "This was the danger of always criticising the skeptics for not publishing in the 'peer-reviewed literature'. Obviously, they found a solution to that—take over a journal!"
Mr. Mann went on to suggest that the journal itself be blackballed: "Perhaps we should encourage our colleagues in the climate research community to no longer submit to, or cite papers in, this journal. We would also need to consider what we tell or request of our more reasonable colleagues who currently sit on the editorial board." In other words, keep dissent out of the respected journals. When that fails, redefine what constitutes a respected journal to exclude any that publish inconvenient views.
A more thoughtful response to the emails comes from Mike Hulme, another climate scientist at the University of East Anglia, as reported by a New York Times blogger:
"This event might signal a crack that allows for processes of re-structuring scientific knowledge about climate change. It is possible that some areas of climate science has become sclerotic. It is possible that climate science has become too partisan, too centralized. The tribalism that some of the leaked emails display is something more usually associated with social organization within primitive cultures; it is not attractive when we find it at work inside science."
The response from the defenders of Mr. Mann and his circle has been that even if they did disparage doubters and exclude contrary points of view, theirs is still the best climate science. The proof for this is circular. It's the best, we're told, because it's the most-published and most-cited—in that same peer-reviewed literature. The public has every reason to ask why they felt the need to rig the game if their science is as indisputable as they claim.

Copyright 2009 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved
This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. Distribution and use of this material are governed by our Subscriber Agreement and by copyright law. For non-personal use or to order multiple copies, please contact Dow Jones Reprints at 1-800-843-0008 or visit