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Here is a letter I sent to the editor and deputy editor of The
A comment on the piece
by James Astill about the Berkeley temperature study. Most of the article
is a sensible discussion of a deadly dull piece of statistics that
changes nothing. But it's topped and tailed with claims that this
leaves little room for doubters, and that the warming is "fast".
Both these conclusions are badly wrong.
1. To think this will dampen doubt badly misreads what the doubt
is about. What sceptics mainly doubt is not that there has been
warming but the cause and the future projections. Here's what
Richard Muller of the Berkeley study actually says in the Wall
"How much of the warming is due to humans and what will be the
likely effects? We made no independent assessment of that."
So no change there.
2. Given that Muller used the SAME temperature station records
as the other sets, his graph is no surprise at all. About the only
thing Muller has added is a statistical attempt to find out if the
urban heat island has exaggerated the effect. He says no, but his
efforts in that regard have already been taken
apart [update, I meant dissected, not demolished] by McIntyre, Watts, Eschenbach and Keenan (the latter in email correspondence with
Astill). In any case, it turns out if you look at
the data in Muller's article, rather than the press release, he
very much does NOT get the same result. He gets a decline in the
last decade then hides it by smoothing. [Update: Eschenbach
has partly withdrawn this charge.] See Eschenbach's piece
3. Even if Muller is right, the last word of the Astill article
is "fast". Yet Muller has merely confirmed that - in his analysis -
the temperature is rising about as fast as the three surface
temperature sets. Which is at a rate SLOWER than
the zero emission prediction made by James Hansen
in the 1980s - and ten times slower than the warming rate at the
end of the ice age, by the way. Hansen told us to expect 2-4
degrees in 25 years if we continued emitting co2. Thatcher at the
Royal Society spoke of a degree per decade. Muller confirms that we
are experiencing about 0.16 degrees per decade and that's not
including the sea, so the real number is lower. That's nearly an
order of magnitude slower!!! How can that conceivably be called
fast? We are exactly on course for the zero-feedback version of
greenhouse warming - ie, a doubling of CO2 leading to a harmless
1.2C of warming. See the chart at this site.
4. The Muller study has not yet been peer-reviewed. It appears
to have been rushed into print full of errorsto suit Muller's self-publicity
machine. Nothing wrong with you writing about scientific ideas
before peer review, but I believe you should also cover
the interesting work of Nic Lewis who has proved
that the IPCC had statistically altered a chart of probability
density function of climate sensitivity in a way that fattened the
tail (from green to blue in the chart below)
5. Why does this matter? Here are two reasons. About 190,000
people probably died last year needlessly because of
policies for making motor fuel out of food. Near where I live
hundreds of jobs are about to be lost in hard-pressed south-east
Northumberland because of Huhne's carbon rationing driving RTZ's
aluminium smelter abroad. When people at Notting Hill dinner
parties talk of the need for sacrifice, that's what they mean, not
paying more for home-grown runner beans. Both these are a direct
result of carbon emissions reduction policies. If you want to
endorse the imposition of such hardships, you'd better have some
darned good evidence that the cure is less painful than the
disease. The Muller study merely confirms that the patient has the
symptoms so far of a mild cold.
The coverage of this story in the press has been abysmal - as if
somebody had written a paper saying that the euro has been
increasing in value, therefore the eurosceptics were wrong and the
media had taken them at face value. The Economist used to take
apocaholic vested interests with a pinch of salt.