I recently noted that a reasonable prediction indicates that Trump could enter the Republican National Convention a mere 8 delegates short of a lock. (See this.)
But now, Ted Cruz may have changed that math a bit, by announcing that Carly Fiorina as his vice presidential running mate. She was one of the least popular of the candidates when she was running as one of the clowns in the GOP clown car earlier this year. One could even argue that she wasn’t merely unpopular, but did so much damage to her own credibility among the Republican voters that she left the race in the negative popularity range.
This could easily be worth 8 delegates for Trump. Don’t you think?
Last December, the United States Senate subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness, headed by Ted Cruz, held a hearing to which they invited a gaggle of climate change deniers and one good guy to testify about how the science on climate change is all wrong. I wrote about it here. The strangest aspect of this hearing was probably shock jock Mark Steyn’s use of the venue to argue his case in a civil law suit pertaining to his apparently libelous behavior. But there was another feature of this hearing worth noting. Both the deniers, in particular John Christy, and Senator Cruz focused on a set of data that they construed to indicated showed that global warming is not really happening.
The oceans are warming significantly. The Earth’s surface, as measured by thermometers as well as direct and indirect measurements of the sea surface, is warming significantly. The only people who doubt this are those who are either very badly misinformed or politically or financially motivated to deny reality.
But among the data are satellite based measurements of the troposphere. These data also show warming if properly analyzed, but some forms of these data can be used to make a graph that might give the impression that the warming we clearly see is not happening, or at least, not happening much.
So what is going on here? Are these satellite data telling the Real Truth, contrary to what all the other data show, or is this just a bad data set, or are these data being abused by contrarians?
Most of the satellite data in question come from a set of birds that are deployed for use in weather prediction, but secondarily measure the temperature of the Troposphere. They have sensors that collect microwave energy emitted by Oxygen molecules to estimate temperature. This technique has certain advantages and certain disadvantages, and is fairly easy to deploy.
How one goes from these microwave signals to a temperature measurement is actually very complicated. This has been further complicated by the failure of some of the instruments, and the fact that over time the satellites, in a polar orbit, lose altitude over time, which changes how the readings must be calibrated. Also, the satellites are supposed to pass over the Earth at nearly noon and nearly midnight (on opposite sides of the planet) as the Earth rotates beneath. But this synchronization goes off over a period of time as well.
And that is the simple version.
There have been many studies of these data, and attempts to adjust for all of the problems in this methodology. The experts do not all agree on how to correct the data. There are two approaches commonly used to produce potentially usable data (known as RSS and UAH) and each has advantages and disadvantages.
Skeptical Science has a set of three discussions, couched in less or more technical terms, of how this all works. If this is of interest to you, check it out.
Tamino, at Open Mind, addressed Ted Cruz’s misuse of the satellite data and concludes,
When Ted Cruz said that both satellites and balloon data fail to show warming, he was just plain wrong. When he said these data sets were the best evidence of whether warming is occurring, he was just plain wrong. Together, those two claims make up point number 4 of the 7 things he called “facts” — but he was wrong about their being facts. They’re just claims, claims which are just plain wrong.
Ted Cruz also didn’t seem able to keep straight how many of his so-called “facts” he listed. There were 7, but he repeatedly referred to 8. I guess when it comes to counting anywhere near as high as 10, Ted Cruz is again likely to be just plain wrong.
I watched most of yesterday’s Senate hearings live (ironically titled Data or Dogma? Promoting Open Inquiry in the Debate over the Magnitude of Human Impact on Earth’s Climate), and what I missed, I sampled via the magic of recorded video. I considered fisking the hearings, in particular, the closing statement by Senator Ted Cruz (and his next-day interview on NPR). But I was distracted by work on Ikonokast, a new podcast Mike Haubrich and I are starting up (our first guest, taped yesterday, is Shawn Otto). And, many others had responses out on the internet quickly enough that my contribution was clearly not necessary (I’ve got some links below pointing to some of those commentaries).
But even after that I’m left with a few impressions worth noting.
Obviously this was a partisan hearing designed to insert a bunch of climate science denial into the Congressional Record. One part of the hearing, though, failed in that respect, because minority members are allowed to invite a witness or two. The minority wisely chose Admiral David Titley, a climate scientists and meteorologist and an excellent communicator. To give a flavor of Admiral Titley’s contribution, check out this segment in which he discusses satellite data collection and interpretation:
Cruz’s closing statement and interview were astonishing to me, rather unexpected. Every point he tried to make was out of the denialist playbook. That might seem to make sense. But the key points in the denialist playbook are old, tired, discredited, debunked, so easily dismissed that they can’t possibly be taken seriously any more. One would have thought he would have come up with something more effective. But he didn’t. Possibly because there isn’t anything.
Which brings us to this not-to-miss segment of the hearing, a statement by Senator Ed Markey and the denier’s (Curry and Steyn) reactions to that statement. Senator Markey made the poignant and relevant point that the empaneled witnesses represent the last redoubt of climate denialism, a strong contrast with the fact that every country in the world was at the same time busy in Paris trying to address climate change on the assumption that the world’s scientists have made a clear and honest case that global warming is the existential issue of the day. Watch the clip. The whole clip. Interesting things happen. If by the end of it you don’t want to have Senator Markeys baby, you might be a climate science denialist.
Note the contemptuous last stand of Mark Steyn and Judith Curry (starting about 8:20). I didn’t know it was OK to talk to Senators that way during a hearing. I also didn’t know it was OK to lie to Congress.
I said several months ago that we were at or near Peak Denial. Peter Dykstra seems to feel the same way (Commentary: Will we reach peak denial soon?). That was a somewhat risky statement at the time. It no longer is.
This afternoon in Washington DC, Texas Republican Ted Cruz, who does not believe in global warming yet is chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness, will convene a hearing called “Data or Dogma? Promoting Open Inquiry in the Debate over the Magnitude of Human Impact on Earth’s Climate.” The purpose of the hearing appears to be to reify the false debate of the reality and importance of anthropogenic global warming, and is yet another step in the current McCarthyesque attack on legitimate climate scientists and their research.
This is an important moment in the history of bullshit.
Among the “experts” giving testimony will be the Canadian conservative shock jock Mark Steyn. Steyn’s relationship to global warming is similar to, say, Rush Limbaugh’s relationship to women’s rights. He is a bloviating ignoramus who treats the truth like so much dog poo on the bottom of his shoe. If he actually knows anything about climate science, he is doing a very good job of hiding it. His major contribution to the discussion is a continuous attack on climate scientists based mostly on cherry picked quotes. In fact, he recently self published a book made up, apparently, of cherry picked quotes and related material in an effort to discredit top climate scientists. For a flavor for what he has done, check out this analysis of the quotes he used of several established climate scientists.
I have a copy of Steyn’s testimony. Steyn is being sued for defamation by scientist Michael Mann. I won’t go into the details of that suit, but a very large part of Steyn’s testimony before the Senate is about that law suit or related issues. It appears that the Republicans on the Senate science subcommittee are allowing an anti-science Canadian citizen to use the Senate hearing room to argue his side of a civil law suit. (Part of his argument, by the way, is to say several insulting things about the judicial branch hearing this case, and the judge. Entering these comments into the congressional record.)
One of the interesting things Steyn does is to define a set of “experts” whom he claims make the case against global warming, and whose work has been either ignored or discredited by mainstream climate science. This set includes the recently turned Judith Curry; John Christy, one of the only climate scientists to believe that the Earth’s system is relatively insensitive to increases in greenhouse gas concentration; Meteorologist Lennart Bengtsson, famous for briefly joining the science denier organization “Global Warming Policy Foundation,” only to quit a short time later in what seemed to be a ploy to accuse mainstream science as being McCarthyistic (so yes, there will be irony in Washington DC today); Lord Nigel Lawson, a blue-blood non-scientist science denier which I’m pretty sure is a category (including Lord Christopher Monckton and coal baron Lord Viscount Matt Ridley); the economist Roger Pielke Junior, who is famous for being drummed out of the statistico-rationalist site FiveThirtyEight after he represented his research attempting to show that hurricanes aren’t really a problem, but accidentally let a bunch of actual statistics experts see what he was up to; and the recently discredited Harvard-Smithsonian not-a-professor soft money guy Willie “The Sun Did It” Soon.
Roger is a real life academic who has climate change impacts wrong, in my opinion (and I’m not alone) and has stepped into a fight he was regrettably unprepared for. But otherwise he’s just some guy with a faculty job. Until now. Now, according to Congressional Testimony, he is part of a set that includes a handful of crazy anti-science rantologists. John Cristy and Judith Curry are both testifying today, along with Steyn. Curry was a legit climate scientists who, much to the horror and chagrin of her colleagues, has slid farther and farther into the anti-science abyss, who rarely makes sense any more, and who is probably the last established academic anyone would want to give testimony about such an important issue. But she is apparently very excited about giving this testimony.
The point of these associations? Mark Steyn, who is a spiritual leader of the anti-science movement, has placed a couple of people who might not have wanted to be classified with discredited scientists and ranting yahoos into the same boat with said individuals. Maybe fairly, maybe not. I wonder how they feel about this.
Now, to be fair, Steyn’s testimony, which is mostly him pleading his side of the law suit, is not entirely inappropriate for this particular hearing. The hearing is about the meta-context in which the science is being done, and the law suit is about nefarious accusations made by a guy who looks a lot like a bought and paid for science denier against Michael Mann. Steyn isn’t so much the problem here, but rather, the hearing itself, and the subcommittee, is the problem. Steyn is merely the poster boy.
For those just tuning in, one of the things Steyn will yammer on about today (or at least, enter into the record) is this deal about Michael Mann and the Nobel Prize. According to Nobel, “The Nobel Peace Prize 2007 was awarded jointly to Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Albert Arnold (Al) Gore Jr. for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change.” Mike Mann and others who were on that panel rightfully were credited, thusly, with winning the Nobel Prize. And they did. But technically, the Nobel Committee does not actually use that nomenclature. They say that the panel, not the people on it, won the prize. Once this semantic detail was made clear, the people on the IPCC appropriately adjusted their language to reflect the Nobel construction of things. But Steyn has been yammering about this since, claiming that his arch nemesis, the actual scientist Mann, claimed something that was not true. Apparently Steyn will continue this yammering this afternoon for the benefit of our Senate, and we the taxpayers will be paying for this.
The highlight, I say non-sardonically, of the hearings may be the testimony of Rear Admiral David Titley, a PhD in Meteorology who has made significant contributions to understanding and communicating about climate change. I assume he was invited by the minority party. If you haven’t seen Rear Admiral Ditley’s TEDx Talk, you should. He was a climate skeptic, then he looked into it, and realized that climate change is one of the most important issues of the day. He is a great communicator and an honest interlocutor. He’ll be swabbing the deck with the likes of Steyn and Curry.
Steyn’s testimony has the climate science wrong. I am pretty sure the minority members of the committee will be aware of this, and will address these issues in a well informed manner. But the truth is, with Republicans in control in the Senate, and with the current McCarthyesque attack on climate scientists well under way, this hearing will largely be a circus.
In my opinion, the following statement by Steyn, from his written testimony, should be first, because it is the most important thing he has to say:
In that respect, let me close by turning to my area of expertise. I am not a climate scientist, but I am an acknowledged expert in the field of musical theatre
In response, the chair of the subcommittee would appropriately say, “Oh, excuse me, then, Mr. Steyn, we obviously invited you by accident. You may now return to Canada. Thank you for your time.”
Photograph from here, “Protesters gather near the office of [Florida] Senator Marco Rubio to ask him to take action to address climate change. Photograph: Joe Raedle/Getty Images”