Lomborg: Argument today; "proof" tomorrow

Mon, 2009-09-28 18:00Richard Littlemore
Richard Littlemore's picture

Lomborg: Argument today; "proof" tomorrow

Updated to correct source of research

Bjorn Lomborg, the Disingenuous Environmentalist is at it again, taking advantage of the delusionist tendencies of the Washington Post’s opinion page editors to argue that climate change is no worries and that coal is the key to our long-term health and prosperity.

Lomborg bases this particular example of economics fiction (a less rigorous form of science fiction) on the work of the economist Richard Tol, whose previous machinations have made it obvious that he is happy to take Lomborg’s Copenhagen Consensus Center funding and feed back the conclusions Lomborg would like.

This raises a question of accountability. Lomborg starts a “Consensus Center” with seed funding from the right-wing Danish government of the day, but he doesn’t share all of details of his ongoing income. Using that anonymous funding to commission a study by Tol, Lomborg then bases his own arguments on the purported results of Tol’s work. So, we’re left looking at a study paid for, at least in part, by anonymous funders on behalf of a guy (Lomborg) whose reputation for accuracy is getting worse every time he opens his mouth.

What of this study? Well, according to Lomborg’s interpretation, it says that keeping global warming below two degrees Celsius will incur a “global price tag of $46 trillion in 2100, to avoid expected climate damage costing just $1.1 trillion.”

That $46-trillion total seems pretty big, although considering the effects of inflation, over 100 years, it’s a great deal less than, say, what the U.S. spends on adventuring in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. Lomborg and Tol also have a track record of manipulating the discount rate inflate their calculations for the costs of climate action relative to the costs of alternatives.

But it’s the $1-trillion total for anticipated climate change damage that seems, on the face of it, stone stupid. The bill for hurricane Katrina was nearly $100 billion. So we can blow almost 10 per cent of our impacts budget for the whole century in one storm. And Munich Re reported global weather-related insurance losses in 2008 at $200 billion, up from $82 billion the previous year.

Lomborg would be quick to point out that not all of those costs can be attributed solely and directly to climate change. So, throw out three quarters and forget adding an inflation factor. Then multiply by 100 and presto, we’ve quintupled Lomborg’s damage total and (not counting climate-change related disasters like what’s happening in Darfur) things really haven’t started to get bad - yet.

There are other bits of fallacious nonsense in Lomborg’s piece. For example, he tries to pin the current outbreak of global protectionism on a U.S. cap-and-trade bill that hasn’t even been passed through the Senate. But most disappointing is his failure to invoke the poor starving children of Africa and the HIV/AIDS sufferers the world over. Usually, he gives some touching pitch about how we should be giving THEM the money rather than using it to fight clmate armageddon.

This time, however, he only makes an argument for burning coal.

As I said earlier: stone stupid.

Coming back to the Post, the most bewildering part of all this is why they continue to run Lomborg’s drivel when it is so patently silly. When historians look back on this time, they will condemn Exxon, ACCCE and Lomborg as companies and people who let self-interest overwhelm logic and integrity. But, hey, it happens.

Irresponsible newspaper editors, however, should find a special place in hell. We’re supposed to be able to count on their good faith, their good will and their good judgment. As Miles Grant says at Grist, we no longer expect those qualities from Fox or the Wall Street Journal. But the Washington Post? That’s a paper that is still chock full of people who make an obvious effort to report the news - impartially and professionally. What a sad aberration the Op/Ed page seems to be.


An idea:
1) Sometimes editors are effectively anonymous, but sometimes they aren’t.
We know who writers are, but the editors are harder.

2) I’d love to see DeSmoghBlog start building a few reference pages, one per relevant newspaper, something like this:

Date, editor(s), author(s), article title & URL

Date, editor(s), author(s), article title & URL

Ideally, organized in reverse chronological order.

3) This would be especially useful for papers like WaPo, which sometimes seem schizophrenic. Even for ones that do this all the time, I’d love to have a chronicle of who is actually responsible, when that is known.

Mr Littlemore:

You state that the research paper by Richard Tol that Bjorn Lomborg refers to in his Washington Post article has not been published.

This is wrong. The paper is available for download or reading at www.fixtheclimate.com, where it has been available since mid-August. It was even written about - at the time of release - by DeSmogBlog, along with many other blogs and media organizations.

The research paper, along with the other research papers that you can find at that website, will be published next year by Cambridge University Press.

You also state that “Lomborg doesn’t share details of his ongoing income.” This is not true. The Copenhagen Consensus Center is funded by the Danish government. You could find this information by going to the Copenhagen Consensus Center website at www.copenhagenconsensus.com.

In short, this was clearly not an “imagined study paid for by anonymous funders” as you claim. Please could you correct these errors in your post.

…and yet so wrong: the Copenhagen Consensus *Conference* was funded by the Danish government. Government funding may also come in through the Copenhagen Business School, but the homepage explicitely calls for private funding:

I didn’t recognize the earlier-quoted Tol paper from this description. On the funding, Marco makes the point for me: there is more money sloshing around at the Consensus Center than that which originates only from the Danish government.

Such as how key leading climate scientists are guilty of cherry picking to get the “warming” they want:(note that in the Medieval Warming Period there were no SUVs.. ego, there is NO reason to assume anything other than natural variation in the last 40 years of climate temperature change. Of course, the CO2 warming hypothesis has already failed, but that is another story)

.per SM:

In summary, the apparent problems with Briffa’s Yamal series impact multiple other studies:
Briffa 2000, Mann and Jones 2003 (used in the recent UNEP graphic), Mann et al (EOS 2003), Jones and Mann 2004, Osborn and Briffa 2006, D’Arrigo et al 2006, Hegerl et al 2007, Kaufman et al 2009 (and of course, Briffa et al 2008).

And because of the non-robust methods used in these studies, replacing the Briffa Yamal version with a more defensible alternative (such as Esper Polar Urals either individually or in combination with the subfossil Yamal data and Schweingruber russ035w in Yamal) is going to have a material impact on the medieval-modern differential.

Who ARE you? And how much are they paying you per comment?

When you promote bogus science and deny real facts. Oh, I know, there is money to be made in scare stories, just like Al Gore, Suzuki, Weaver have done..


btw, I used to be a GW believer, until I retired and had the time to do my own digging. After 200 hours of reading, I was sure something was wrong, and after another 200 hours, I had to conclude fraud is the name of the game. It may have started out as incompetence(the hockey stick), but in order to keep the game going, fraud had to be committed.

The specific fraud is to claim “peer reviewed” when in fact no peeer review can happen without disclosure.

The hiding of data and methods is proof of intent, intent to mislead..

Any jury would put a whole raft of “warmist” scientists behind bars, if it involved stealing money, but since it is Politicians who will be stealing it, no problem.

However.. by selling a book that knowingly misleads..

You used to be an AGW “believer”, but then you retired and went senile. It certainly shows in your “arguments”. They lack any sense whatsoever and are just a rambling mess. There is no scientific credibility in them at all.

of reading, and you still can’t answer three simple questions. I presume you read really slowly.

hes quite persistent - I’m impressed. but being paid? say it aint so Ed

Possibly “el gordo” over at Deltoid? Comment #61 on this thread: http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2009/09/open_thread_33.php#comments

And the medieval-modern differential is completely irrelevant to AGW.

Moreover, Mann et al (2008) actually did the analysis WITHOUT tree-rings and still got the end of the 20th century to be warmer than any other period. Heck, even Loehle has the medieval period at best as warm as today.

“Moreover, Mann et al (2008) actually did the analysis WITHOUT tree-rings”

That is the whole point of the latest fraud scandal that McIntyre exposed.. Mann et al have been caught substituting another set of cherry picked data to achieve the previous bogus result.

I expect another round of Congressional hearings.. another Wegman report saying Mann et Al are using bogus methods, but nothing will change, because the kool aid drinkers like you will NEVER wise up. That is why it is called AGW RELIGION.

…the Yamal data ARE tree-rings, you scientific illiterate!

I agree with this:(plus some apologies from Canadian “climate” gurus like Suzuki, Weaver etc are in order.. have they not been asleep by parroting fraudulent non peer reviewed papers? Peer review REQUIRES disclosure of data and methods)

Leading UK Climate Scientists Must Explain or Resign

By Jenniffer Marohasy

MOST scientific skeptics have been dismissive of the various reconstructions of temperature which suggest 1998 is the warmest year of the past millennium. Our case has been significantly bolstered over the last week with statistician Steve McIntyre finally getting access to data used by Keith Briffa, Tim Osborn and Phil Jones to support the idea that there has been an unprecedented upswing in temperatures over the last hundred years - the infamous hockey stick graph.

Mr McIntyre’s analysis of the data - which he had been asking for since 2003 - suggests that scientists at the Climate Research Unit of the United Kingdom’s Bureau of Meteorology have been using only a small subset of the available data to make their claims that recent years have been the hottest of the last millennium. When the entire data set is used, Mr McIntyre claims that the hockey stick shape disappears completely. (Yamal: A “Divergence” Problem, by Steve McIntyre, 27 September 2009)

Mr McIntyre has previously showed problems with the mathematics behind the ‘hockey stick’. But scientists at the Climate Research Centre, in particular Dr Briffa, have continuously republished claiming the upswing in temperatures over the last 100 years is real and not an artifact of the methodology used - as claimed by Mr McIntyre. However, these same scientists have denied Mr McIntyre access to all the data. Recently they were forced to make more data available to Mr McIntyre after they published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society - a journal which unlike Nature and Science has strict policies on data archiving which it enforces.

This week’s claims by Steve McInyre that scientists associated with the UK Meteorology Bureau have been less than diligent are serious and suggest some of the most defended building blocks of the case for anthropogenic global warming are based on the indefensible when the methodology is laid bare.

This sorry saga also raises issues associated with how data is archived at the UK Meteorological Bureau with in complete data sets that spuriously support the case for global warming being promoted while complete data sets are kept hidden from the public - including from scientific skeptics like Steve McIntyre.

It is indeed time leading scientists at the Climate Research Centre associated with the UK Meteorological Bureau explain how Mr McIntyre is in error or resign.

What a laugh! The hockey stick crew have more expertise with respect to climate science in their toenails than McIntyre and Marohasy do combined. M&M are not authorities in climate science, so why are you and others relying on their nonsense instead of the real experts?

Here is a quote from SM blog re the news of cherry picking..

“I’m much more frightened by the prospect that Briffa didn’t break the rules of scientific methodology here than I am by the prospect that he did.

If a result that lets one tree on the planet have this kind of influence on just about everything *isn’t* a miscarriage of science, then wow… just wow”

One tree? How dishonest of you.

All these numbers about what climate action/inaction will cost are obviously meaningless. What will a dollar even be worth in a few years?

- but that wont stop advocates from running numbers to make the case - so what to do?

hope that green tech takes over and becomes profitable - thats the only possibility of reducing CO2 output - it could happen….but until then were stuck with the carbon and its advocates.

It is becoming increasingly clear that both the statisical methods used in the “Hockey Stick” reconstruction are seriously flawed;
a) In that the principal components analysis of the data has been shown to be unsuitable (See U.S. Congressional (Wegman) Report) in that it can generate hockey sticks from essentailly random noise (red noise to be precise an autocorrelated random dataset)
b) that the data has been selected on an “a posteriori basis”- i.e. has been “cherry-picked”. And here I direct you to a quote by Briffa (a co-author of Mann’s) who states “that the alibility to pick and chose one’s data is an advantage unique to dendroclimatology”.

I’ll say it is!

Just for one moment think what would happen if a pharmaceutical company decided to only use the “good” data from a drug trial and buried the “bad”. It has happened and products have been withdrawn and companies fined and made to pay damages.

It is called “fraud”.

The ‘hockeystick’ was also produced when the centered/non-centered PCA analysis was left out. That means the mathematical analysis was NOT the cause of the shape…but somehow Wegman never investigated that.

And ‘picking the data’ is sometimes the result of calibration. Tree-rings happen to be a problematic proxy (notably argued by McIntyre himself, until using it blindly fits his purpose) because growth is not solely related to temperature. One thus has to look careful and make sure you chose those trees/sets of trees which are most likely to be least affected by other parameters. It’s ‘odd’ that Steven McIntyre did not put one single questionmark with the Schweingruber series, considering that it shows a stable temperature and sudden drop around the 19th/20th century, because this is completely opposite to other proxies (McIntyre has frequently stated no tree-rings should be used, but now the other proxies are apparently irrelevant).
Removing outliers is a common and fully accepted practice in science.

The analogy with the pharmaceutical industry is actually of relevance here, but not in the way you propose. Not too long ago, a pharmaceutical company had its data on HPV vaccinations published on the FDA website. One tiny part of the study was ceased upon by an anti-vaccination group, as it showed a subcohort of people who reacted contrary to expectations. Other, similar subcohorts in other studies did not show this effect. While there was some concern, the FDA had no problems in accepting the results of this subcohort to be an anomaly. This has not prevented thos anti-vaccination people to continuously refer to this one single subcohort to scare people. It’s the same here with McIntyre, who is skeptic of all data, unless the data can be put in a grand scheme of claiming fraud. Then his skepticism goes straight out of the window…

Refutation of the tired old “Hockey Stick is broken” argument made by Phlogiston and all the other tired old denialists:


“…The fact is there are dozens of other reconstructions. These other reconstructions do tend to show some more variability than MBH98 (the handle of the hockey stick is not as straight), but they all support the general conclusions that the IPCC TAR presented in 2001: the late 20th century warming is anomalous in the last one or two thousand years and the 1990’s are very likely warmer than any other time in the last one or two thousand years…”

Lets see.. a broken peer review system..

undisclosed data and methods..

bogus statistical methods done by non statisticians..

bogus temperature records corrected” upwards..

Urban heat islands being referenced to fill in for deleted rural weather stations..

Satellite data for the southern oceans deleted to make this past August warmer..


anyone who is unbiased would think your “dozens” of other reconstructions are de facto bogus!

Submitted by Stephen Berg on Thu, 2009-10-01 09:06.
What a laugh! The hockey stick crew have more expertise with respect to climate science in their toenails than McIntyre and Marohasy do combined. M&M are not authorities in climate science, so why are you and others relying on their nonsense instead of the real experts?

Ah the old “appeal to authority”. It used to work, but not any longer.
Steve McIntyre’s forensic examinations of the Hockey Stick reconstructions have proved correct each and every time. What is more they are backed by INDEPENDENT review.
Which is more than can be said for Mann et al. Cooking the books can only work for so long- as Madoff found out.

Do you want an example of an appeal to authority (in terms of logical fallacies)? Try this: “How can you say Gaétan Boucher is wrong about opera? He won a gold medal in speed-skating!”

This is a reference to expertise: “Mann has been publishing on Climate Change for fifteen years, he says Steve McIntyre is misrepresenting the conclusions of climate scientists.”

See the difference? If you invoke the reputation of someone with expertise in the subject under debate you are NOT committing a logical fallacy.

Plagiarising Surrealclimate again, VJ? Tut, Tut!

Believe it of not “Denialists” read that holier than thou rubbish too.
If only just to remind ourselves just what pompous prats they are.

“Lomborg then bases his own arguments on the purported results of Tol’s work. ”

I have been reading Tols study..
It is interesting to read that Tol admits that his study is fundamentally flawed..

From the abstract:
“As the analysis ignores uncertainty and equity, one may argue for a more stringent climate policy”..

I would put that stronger..
If you ignore risk, your missing the broader point..

Mort Webster from MIT does understand the nature of the problem..
“The nature of the problem is one of minimizing risk,” explains Mort Webster, assistant professor of engineering systems, who was the lead author of the new report. That’s why looking at the probabilities of various outcomes, rather than focusing on the average outcome in a given climate model, “is both more scientifically correct, and a more useful way to think about it.”

This video also explains the nature of the problem very well.. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zORv8wwiadQ

Marco. You either miss, or misrepresent the point. The Modern-Medieval (temperature) differential is absolutely critical to the theory of AGW.

No Medieval warming period implies low natural climatic variation, hence 20th Century warming is unusual and CO2-driven modelling scenarios can replicate recent changes.

A Medieval warming period equivalent, or even close to the Modern, implies high natural climatic variation, hence 20th Century warmth is not unusual and CO2-driven modelling scenarios cannot replicate recent changes.

It is as simple as that. And it is why the Alarmist Camp and their fellow travellers will do anything to defend the Hockey Stick at all costs.

If you are replying to someone’s comment, don’t start a new thread. Are you denialists incapable of even figuring that out?

yeah Ed does that too - heads up Ed - hit reply

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