27 Nov 2009

WSJ Catches Up to Murphy

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George Melloan points out that interventions into the financial sector have squeezed lending to small businesses and other non-politically-connected businesses. (HT2JOD) You heard it from me first on Kudlow’s show, where I was dismissed as a crank (not by Kudlow). Thanks to the eagle-eyed von Pepe for digging up the CNBC video, as the YouTube has been taken down.

27 Nov 2009

Yet More on ClimateGate

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Wow this stuff just gets worse and worse. Let me clarify two things before proceeding:

1) I personally have no problem whatsoever with the guy who said he wanted to beat the cr** out of Pat Michaels (besides my pacifism). That alone didn’t faze me at all; of course academics are going to get feisty in private emails and crack jokes like that. Ditto for the thing about being glad that one of the skeptics died. Who cares? Such statements don’t give me any view as to the quality of the work these people are doing.

2) I asked my two climate scientist associates–one who is a definite skeptic, the other not (but who is a huge Ron Paul fan)–and neither of them thought ClimateGate would change their views of the science. On the one hand, I guess it’s not so surprising that the skeptic wasn’t surprised; presumably he already had his doubts about CRU techniques etc. and their limitations. But I was surprised that the other guy said to me, “I haven’t been following this, I’m working on my paper.”

OK let me move on to relay the two most damning things that have come to light so far, in my amateur opinion. The “hide the decline” email of course is the most blockbuster, but in fairness if you don’t really know the context, it’s hard to evaluate it.

However, check out this analysis of the so-called “HARRY_READ_ME.txt” file. (HT2 savecapitalism from a previous thread on this blog.) Far more than any one-off statement (perhaps one made with humor) in an email, this saga definitely suggests that the CRU people can’t replicate some of their own reported results, and maybe that’s why they are so jealously guarding their data and code. (“Don’t let it fall into the wrong hands” etc.)

But now here is the single biggest smoking gun, as far as I’m concerned. (HT2 Dan Simmons) So that you don’t have to do a handstand, I’ll put the relevant emails in chronological order, and the bolding is mine:

======================================

From: [PhD student]

To: “Stephen H Schneider”

Sent: Sunday, October 11, 2009 10:25:53 AM GMT -08:00 US/Canada Pacific

Subject: BBC U-turn on climate

Steve,

You may be aware of this already. Paul Hudson, BBC’s reporter on climate change, on
Friday wrote that there’s been no warming since 1998, and that pacific oscillations will
force cooling for the next 20-30 years. It is not outrageously biased in presentation as
are other skeptics’ views.

[7]http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/8299079.stm

[8]http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/damianthompson/100013173/the-bbcs-amazing-u-turn-on
-climate-change/

BBC has significant influence on public opinion outside the US.

Do you think this merits an op-ed response in the BBC from a scientist?

[PhD candidate]

——————————-

PhD Candidate,

Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources (E-IPER)

Stanford University

On Oct 12, 2009, at 2:32 AM, Stephen H Schneider wrote:

Hi all. Any of you want to explain decadal natural variability and signal to noise and
sampling errors to this new “IPCC Lead Author” from the BBC? As we enter an El Nino
year and as soon, as the sunspots get over their temporary–presumed–vacation worth a
few tenths of a Watt per meter squared reduced forcing, there will likely be another
dramatic upward spike like 1992-2000. I heard someone–Mike Schlesinger maybe??–was
willing to bet alot of money on it happening in next 5 years?? Meanwhile the past 10
years of global mean temperature trend stasis still saw what, 9 of the warmest in
reconstructed 1000 year record and Greenland and the sea ice of the North in big
retreat?? Some of you observational folks probably do need to straighten this out as my
student suggests below. Such “fun”, Cheers, Steve

Stephen H. Schneider

Melvin and Joan Lane Professor for Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies,

Professor, Department of Biology and

Senior Fellow, Woods Institute for the Environment

Michael Mann wrote:

extremely disappointing to see something like this appear on BBC. its particularly odd,
since climate is usually Richard Black’s beat at BBC (and he does a great job). from
what I can tell, this guy was formerly a weather person at the Met Office.

We may do something about this on RealClimate, but meanwhile it might be appropriate for
the Met Office to have a say about this, I might ask Richard Black what’s up here?

mike

Kevin Trenberth wrote:

Hi all

Well I have my own article on where the heck is global warming? We are asking that here
in Boulder where we have broken records the past two days for the coldest days on
record. We had 4 inches of snow. The high the last 2 days was below 30F and the normal
is 69F, and it smashed the previous records for these days by 10F. The low was about
18F and also a record low, well below the previous record low. This is January weather
(see the Rockies baseball playoff game was canceled on saturday and then played last
night in below freezing weather).

Trenberth, K. E., 2009: An imperative for climate change planning: tracking Earth’s
global energy. /Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability/, *1*, 19-27,
doi:10.1016/j.cosust.2009.06.001. [PDF]
<[1]http://www.cgd.ucar.edu/cas/Trenberth/trenberth.papers/EnergyDiagnostics09final.pdf>
(A PDF of the published version can be obtained from the author.)

The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a
travesty that we can’t. The CERES data published in the August BAMS 09 supplement on
2008 shows there should be even more warming: but the data are surely wrong. Our
observing system is inadequate.

That said there is a LOT of nonsense about the PDO. People like CPC are tracking PDO on
a monthly basis but it is highly correlated with ENSO. Most of what they are seeing is
the change in ENSO not real PDO. It surely isn’t decadal. The PDO is already reversing
with the switch to El Nino. The PDO index became positive in September for first time
since Sept 2007. see
[2]http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/GODAS/ocean_briefing_gif/global_ocean_monitorin
g_current.ppt

Kevin

Tom Wigley wrote:

Dear all,

At the risk of overload, here are some notes of mine on the recent

lack of warming. I look at this in two ways. The first is to look at
the difference between the observed and expected anthropogenic trend relative to the pdf
for unforced variability. The second is to remove ENSO, volcanoes and TSI variations
from the observed data.

Both methods show that what we are seeing is not unusual. The second

method leaves a significant warming over the past decade.

These sums complement Kevin’s energy work.

Kevin says … “The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment
and it is a travesty that we can’t”. I do not agree with this.

Tom.

On Oct 14, 2009, at 10:17 AM, Kevin Trenberth wrote:

Hi Tom
How come you do not agree with a statement that says we are no where close to knowing where energy is going or whether clouds are changing to make the planet brighter. We are not close to balancing the energy budget. The fact that we can not account for what is happening in the climate system makes any consideration of geoengineering quite hopeless as we will never be able to tell if it is successful or not! It is a travesty!
Kevin

Michael Mann wrote:

Kevin, that’s an interesting point. As the plot from Gavin I sent shows, we can easily
account for the observed surface cooling in terms of the natural variability seen in
the CMIP3 ensemble (i.e. the observed cold dip falls well within it). So in that sense,
we can “explain” it.
But this raises the interesting question, is there something going
on here w/ the energy & radiation budget which is inconsistent with the modes of
internal variability that leads to similar temporary cooling periods within the models.
I’m not sure that this has been addressed
–has it?

m

From: Kevin Trenberth
To: Michael Mann
Subject: Re: BBC U-turn on climate
Date: Wed, 14 Oct 2009 08:36:36 -0600
Cc: Tom Wigley , Stephen H Schneider , Myles Allen , peter stott , “Philip D. Jones” , Benjamin Santer , Thomas R Karl , Gavin Schmidt , James Hansen , Michael Oppenheimer

Mike
Here are some of the issues as I see them:
Saying it is natural variability is not an explanation. What are the physical processes?
Where did the heat go? We know there is a build up of ocean heat prior to El Nino, and a
discharge (and sfc T warming) during late stages of El Nino, but is the observing system
sufficient to track it? Quite aside from the changes in the ocean, we know there are major
changes in the storm tracks and teleconnections with ENSO, and there is a LOT more rain on
land during La Nina (more drought in El Nino), so how does the albedo change overall
(changes in cloud)? At the very least the extra rain on land means a lot more heat goes
into evaporation rather than raising temperatures, and so that keeps land temps down: and
should generate cloud. But the resulting evaporative cooling means the heat goes into
atmosphere and should be radiated to space: so we should be able to track it with CERES
data. The CERES data are unfortunately wonting and so too are the cloud data. The ocean
data are also lacking although some of that may be related to the ocean current changes and
burying heat at depth where it is not picked up. If it is sequestered at depth then it
comes back to haunt us later and so we should know about it.
Kevin

===================================

OK people have already jumped all over the “Where the heck is the warming?” stuff, but Gavin Schmidt et al. are just blowing that off by saying he was concerned about dotting all the i’s and crossing all the t’s in their energy budgets; there is no threat to the “consensus” here.

But hold on just a second. In the follow-up email–after Michael Mann Tom Wigley said he disagreed with him–Kevin Trenberth (who is no slouch in the field) says that their ignorance is such that they couldn’t even tell if geoengineering techniques were working. (!!) To me, that is a stunning admission. If they wouldn’t be able to judge the potency of a suggested cure, doesn’t that necessarily mean they don’t really understand the severity of the disease?

Let’s step back and remind ourselves of something: Most of the derided “skeptics” who are actually trained in these areas don’t deny that human activities are warming the globe. Rather, they deny that the climate sensitivity is as high as the IPCC says. So in that context, Trenberth’s admission (to me at least, as an acknowledged amateur) is simply stunning.

Last point: Note the dates on the emails above. This isn’t uncertainty expressed eight years ago, this is RIGHT NOW.

26 Nov 2009

Yet More on the CRU "Hack"

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* Gavin Schmidt (climate modeler for NASA) has done a good job providing his version of events, and he tries to defuse the most “shocking” emails here.

* CEI is threatening a lawsuit if Schmidt’s employer (NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, or GISS) doesn’t comply with some FOIA requests. The one part I found a bit much was where they seem to be threatening to sue because Schmidt wasn’t fair in his comment moderation at RealClimate.org during work hours–and hence he was impeding science “on taxpayer time.” C’mon.

* I originally did not refer to this incident as a “hack” because I thought it was an inside job. For one thing, that was the first report I read. But I also thought that an outside hacker wouldn’t have known where to look to grab all this stuff. An anonymous poster at a previous Free Advice thread sums up my view well:

If this is the result of a hack we are dealing with the best hacker the world has ever known hands down. When a hacker enter a system, they have a short amount of time to rake in whatever they can find and then GTFO! This is a very comfortable package that has taken a conciderable amount of time to assemble and not something that was done in the span of a hack. Then the hacker should have worked for months, infiltrating, analyzing and collecting. A server is a HUGE filesystem. Those who believe that this is the result of a hack, will have to similarly believe that you can indeed find not 1, not 2, not 10 but 100+ needles in a haystack the size of Kansas. Either the “hacker” knew exactly what they came for and was able to navigate through the filesystems and find all the relevant individual parts which points towards an insider, or the hacker new exactly what package to get. This itself raises questions. who then packed this package and from where did the hacker know what to look for and where? The last suggestion is pure luck, but then again…who compiled the package of data? I think it was an insider job and like many others I think it may be “Harry” who either did it, or compiled the package and then told someone where to look. No evidence for this, but the sheer amount of luck required by a random hacker to come upon this package is just unacceptable.

Now I don’t really know enough about computers to say whether the above is true, but that’s where I was coming from when I initially attributed this to a whistleblower. Or are we saying that there was so much skullduggery going on at CRU, that a randomly grabbed chunk of emails contained a handful of zingers?

25 Nov 2009

Potpourri

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* I deconstruct Brad DeLong’s stimulus accounting.

* My former student Gennady Stolyarov II reviews my Depression book. I don’t think he is accusing me of confusion but I can’t be sure.

* I don’t really see what the big deal is here. The White House has announced that it will formally pledge to commitments that it doesn’t have the authority to make, on the condition that Congress passes legislative targets that everyone already knew Obama supported.

* In a similar vein, it is apparently newsworthy that the White House has announced that it will announce a decision on Afghanistan. Could we bump it an even higher level? What if they had said, “Next week we will announce our deadline for announcing our deadline for announcing our Afghanistan strategy”?

* Some paranoid holiday thoughts: Notice how lately the government has been springing stuff on us during the weekend? If the central bankers of the world have a scheme up their sleeve involving gold and the USD, the long Thanksgiving weekend would be a great time to implement it. (Apparently the dollar tanked during Thanksgiving 2006. Not sure if that’s relevant.)

25 Nov 2009

I Am Thankful That I Bought a Bunch of Gold Last Year

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I have in-laws arriving in town as I type, so I won’t be blogging much over the next few days. I just wanted to drop a note alerting my more Ivory Tower readers that gold smashed into new territory (again) today. Right now it’s $1,186.10 / oz.

Also let me link to this great EPJ deconstruction of the jobless numbers. As Free Advice readers are well aware, I have spent surely a ridiculous amount of time harping on the seasonal adjustments and other tricks that I think government officials (and the press) use to paint a false picture of falling prices. Wenzel shows that they may be doing something similar to paint a false picture of a recovering job market.

This is partly why I think there could be an absolute crash in the next few months, and that this stuff isn’t going to just sloooowly deteriorate. As obvious as it is to me that we are getting hyperdepression (stagflation squared), I think the average guy on Wall Street thinks, “Yeah they’re spending a lot, but things are turning around and we just have to rein in the deficits in a few years. And Bernanke will eventually have to suck out the liquidity once real estate rebounds. Fortunately with unemployment this high, we don’t have to worry about inflation anytime soon.”

Riiiiight.

24 Nov 2009

Potpourri

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* Oops, that reported 3.5% real GDP growth in the 3q is more like 2.8%. (So they exaggerated it by 25%, big deal.) I liked this line: “That was a touch below market expectations for a growth pace of 2.9 percent.” Does that mean investors were forecasting that the government had exaggerating the initial reading by that much? Did some new data come in? I don’t really know the mechanics of how they issue the different estimates.

* Guess how much FDIC has left in its coffers to bail out depositors whose banks fail? Go ahead, guess. If you said negative $8.2 billion, you’d be right. But don’t worry, the FDIC is fine, it will insist that the big banks prepay three years’ worth of insurance. I think I will do the same with my consulting services. Honey, we’re having steak again tonight!

* Bob Roddis sends this elitist article on the dumb Americans. Because they have the audacity to think that the deficit needs to shrink, it is evidence of their “illiteracy.” Seriously, just skim this thing. It’s incredible how condescending the Keynesians are. The guy thinks Americans must not even understand what a deficit is, since that’s the only possible explanation of their worry over trillion-dollar plus deficits.

23 Nov 2009

CNBC Casually Discussing Gold-Backed World Currency

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You might think, “Ah sweet! That’s what we want, right?”

Well, yeah, sort of, except the reason we’ll get there is through a dollar collapse, not a Rothbardian revival.

MercedesRules sent me the below clip; start watching around 6:45. (And I forget how to get rid of the blank spaces below…)


23 Nov 2009

Dean Baker or Dean Martin on Government Interest Payments?

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(I know that post title is weak; I got nothin’.)

The Keynesians (e.g. Krugman and DeLong) have been high-fiving Dean Baker over his response to the NYT article which has the audacity to say that the federal government’s $1 trillion+ deficits may come with some strings attached. (BTW I like Baker; I debated him on the San Fran NPR outlet on Easter Sunday earlier this year.) So here’s Baker’s take on the NYT deficit fear-mongering:

In Just a Decade the U.S. Interest Burden Could Be as High as It Was in 1992!!!!!!!

That might not sound scary to most people, but this was the punch line of a front page NYT news story that included all sorts of unsupported assertions about the crisis posed by the government debt.

The fourth paragraph asserts that:

“Even as Treasury officials are racing to lock in today’s low rates by exchanging short-term borrowings for long-term bonds, the government faces a payment shock similar to those that sent legions of overstretched homeowners into default on their mortgages.”

No, this is wrong. There is no evidence presented in this article that the rise in interest rates will place the U.S. government in a situation where it will be unable to pay its bills and no one cited in this article makes such a claim.

The article is also completely unbalanced in not presenting the views of any economist who could put the deficit/debt issue in perspective for readers.

None of the Keynesians explains where Baker got that figure. If you look at the NYT article, it says early on:

With the national debt now topping $12 trillion, the White House estimates that the government’s tab for servicing the debt will exceed $700 billion a year in 2019, up from $202 billion this year, even if annual budget deficits shrink drastically. Other forecasters say the figure could be much higher.

So presumably Baker is looking at $700 billion divided by the estimated GDP in 2019, and the resulting percentage is about the same as it was back in 1992. I haven’t verified that this is what Baker did, but that’s my guess.

Here’s my question: How can that be possible? The federal debt held by the public [.pdf] (which is what everyone is bandying about, I believe) was 48.1% of GDP in 1992. The CBO projects that the debt will break 80% of GDP by 2019.

Since the NYT article’s scenario involves interest rates “that are sure to climb back to normal,” how can it cost the same to finance 80% indebtedness as it did to finance 48.1%?

Again, I’m not accusing Baker of doing something fishy here, I think really what’s going on is that the projected interest payments of $700 billion must be assuming interest rates lower than what the government had to pay in 1992. (I am especially confident of this statement, since Baker didn’t pick the year with the highest debt/GDP ratio in recent vintage. 1993 and 1994 had higher ratios, for example. So presumably Baker picked the year with the highest interest payments as a share of GDP.)

In fact, if you check out the yields on 10-year constant maturity Treasurys, you’ll see that they were falling throughout the early 1990s and then spiked in 1994. So when the NYT talks about interest rates returning to “normal,” I think they mean, “The abnormally low yields of the 2000s.”

Final point: Don’t our Keynesian friends realize that they more they go nuts about “deficit phobia” etc., it will thereby neuter them all the more effectively when President Palin says we need to spend $1 trillion beefing up the military?