"He's a snake in the grass, I tell ya guys; he may look dumb but that's just a disguise; he's a mastermind in the ways of espionage." Charlie Daniels, "Uneasy Rider" Confirmation bias, rent-seeking and the rush to print the latest climate science "scoop" (Lindzen-Choi) - TT's Lost in Tokyo

Confirmation bias, rent-seeking and the rush to print the latest climate science "scoop" (Lindzen-Choi)

Since I`m in Tokyo and deprived of Bob Murphy`s enviable access, via talk radio, to cutting-edge climate science, I thank him using his blog to bring it to the attention of his audience (which occasionally includes me). Says Bob (emphasis added):

Chip Knappenberger explains the significance (and remaining holes to be plugged) in the recent Lindzen-Choi paper that's got talk radio in such a tizzy. The opening sentence: "MIT climate scientists Richard Lindzen and collaborator Yong-Sang Choi soon-to-be published paper (Geophysical Research Letters, American Geophysical Union) pegs the earth’s “climate sensitivity”—the degree the earth’s temperature responds to various forces of change—at a value that is about six times less than the “best estimate” put forth by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)."

Well, well, if talk radio is covering a new article that purportedly downplays climate risks, then others who have invested time in casting doubt

I`ve blogged previously about my various conversations with Chip Knappenberger, who is employed by the self-described "advocacy" group of Pat Michaels, New Hope Environmental Services.

I went to pay a visit to his post at Rob Bradley`s pro-coal, "free market" MasterResource blog, which I have discussed on any number of occasions here - especially after Mr. Bradley unceremoniously withdrew the welcome mat for libertarian critics (yours truly) while in mid-conversation with (and without notice to) several of his guest bloggers.

I reviewed Chip`s precis of the Lindzen-Choi paper and attempted to leave comments at MasterResource, but they were "disappeared" as soon as they were posted, so I forwarded a copy of my comments by email directly to Chip, which I copy below (with minor edits):

Chip, I couldn`t resist trying to comment on your post at MR, and
checking to see if Rob still has his blog set up to automatically
exclude all of my comments. Unfortunately, he still seems to be
convinced that a principled and libertarian approach (or his clients`
needs) requires maintaining his echo chamber by excluding me.

To check the sophistication of his method, I have for the first time
just tried commenting anonymously (I have until stayed away and simply
hoped Rob would change his mind), and to my surprise the comment went
through - though it is "awaiting moderation". [update: this post has now received immoderate , "echo chamber" moderation]

I thought I would give you a head`s up on my pending comment, which I
do not expect to see published - but who knows?  Strange things
sometimes happen, such as Rob quoting with approval a link to a
comment that I have made:

My comment is below; I will wait until tomorrow before cross-posting
at my own blog.



[comment left at MasterResource]
"It is too early to tell whether Lindzen and Choi’s findings will
prove to be the end-all be-all in this debate."

But it`s not too early for you, for others who act as paid mouthpieces
for fossil fuel and others who wish to avoid policy action, to trumpet
this as yet unpublished paper all over the intertubes, is it Chip?

By the way, continuing studies on the "sensitivity" of temperatures to
GHG increases should not lead us to ignore either the problem of ocean
acidification from our accelerating CO2 build-up or the very exquisite
sensitivity of the Earth`s climate and ecosystems to the 0.6 C average
temp increase that we have experience over the past 50 years
(remaining stuck at a peak for the past 10).  The Arctic and temperate
zone glaciers continue to rapidly thaw, and other changes affecting
ecosystems and human livelihoods are still underway.

I note I have seen very preliminary remarks by James
, and by

Gavin Schmidt here.

"a waste of time and effort"

More directly, don`t you mean that such efforts would cost your clients money?

Sure, there are reasonable grounds to dispute practically any use of
government (though I note that Exxon and Margo Thorning of the ACCF
are both expressly advocating carbon taxes), but let`s not pretend to not
notice that those speaking most loudly in support of our radical, ongoing
planet-wide "experiment" on the affect of GHG emissions and albedo
changes are precisely the investors and firms (and their mouthpieces)
who benefit from the status quo (leaving all of these activities
unpriced), while it`s the world`s populations more generally who end
up with all of the risks.

This climate experiment and those paid to provide it cover are hardly
a "conservative" or "libertarian" enterprise.

I note that Bob Murphy is no climate expert, but simply posting blindly about something that he thinks cuts in the direct he wants; in a similar vein, Knappenberger also evidently is puffing the importance of a scientific article that is hot off the presses, but can`t be troubled to link to any articles providing additional context. (A recent blog post and comments by Steve McIntyre at Climate Audit also point out the difficulties in reaching conclusions from the new research.)

I also note, as I have previously, that not only Chip but Bob as well - when he has on his "economist for IER" (which is a coal and public utility front group that was de-funded last year by Exxon) hat - are, at least in part, being compensated to undercut climate change policy.

In this context, we all are prone to note evidence that fits into our existing world view, while discounting contrary information, such "confirmation bias" is readily apparent in the internet and radio coverage of this piece.  While climate change and climate policy are certainly hot topics, it doesn`t seem to me that the so-called "skeptics" are at all taking this new study skeptically, but are instead eagerly lapping it up, assume it is good news, are are loudly trumpeting it. Now who`s fooling whom?  Many "skeptics" look just like the "alarmist" "global warming cult" "believers" whom they abhor.

Unfortunately, while it`s impossible to know what Rob and Chip are actually thinking and why, it`s clear that a dangerous mix of self-deception, confirmation bias and rent-seeking permeates the tribal conflicts that we are seeing in current over the use of government, not the least in the case of climate change, which is a difficult scientific and policy issue.


Published Sat, Sep 5 2009 2:30 AM by TokyoTom


# Bob Murphy on my criticism of a rush by "skeptics" to print climate science news: "TokyoTom Moving the Goalposts?"

Friday, September 4, 2009 3:35 PM by TT`s Lost in Tokyo

Further to my preceding post, on " Confirmation bias, rent-seeking and the rush to print the latest

# re: Confirmation bias, rent-seeking and the rush to print the latest climate science "scoop" (Lindzen-Choi)

Sunday, September 6, 2009 4:42 AM by Keith Ackermann

I agree. And even if a predicted effect is observed, that is only one half of the equation. From a thermodynamics view, yes, it's pretty much inescapable that increasing the opacity of the atmosphere in the IR band will nessesarily raise the equalibrium temperature because it is in the IR band that a great deal of the re-radiated energy escapes.

However, this does not mean there are no mechanisms that can shunt the energy back into higher wavelengths, and it does not mean that some mechanism might not kick in that sinks CO2 more effectively.

Stronger, and more frequent storms would produce more lightning, and besides visible light, lightning also releases large amounts of energy in radio wavelengths, which, I believe, are easily passed out of the atmosphere.

We can handle a rise in the oceans. We can handle any of the first-order effects of a warmer earth. What is important to find out is if we can handle any feedback loops that are hypothesized. If the answer is yes, but with great hardship, then mankind can ride out earth's hysteretic regulation, and there will be a future and a clean slate.

Government simply will not address the problem if it involves plunging the world into economic ruin, no matter what. It would just begin carrying out a more orderly transition to the eventual state. If the stable state is 500 million people, then 9 of 10 people are going to go one way or the other. The government is not going to shut everything down so 9 of 10 people first have to suffer, do ugly things, and then die anyway.

The bottom line is, if there is a problem, then that problem is measured in PPM, and the earth will get that number one way or another. If it was linear, it would not be a problem. The only real danger is from a discontinuous, runaway process, no matter how short lived. If all the methane and CO2 is brought up from the bottom of the oceans and permafrost, then there will be one of those outstanding layers in some future ice core sample that showed 50 years, just a blip, of rapidly increasing temps that may have been responsible for a massive die off.

There are a heck of a lot of species that we know used to exist, and now they don't. It certainly wasn't man hunting them.