Monday, April 23, 2018

GWPF Newsletter: How Bad Is The Government’s Science?








Put-Up-Or-Shut-Up Time For The Solar-Climate Theory

In this newsletter:


1) How Bad Is The Government’s Science?

Peter Wood and David Randall, The Wall Street Journal, 17 April 2018 

2) The Irreproducibility Crisis of Modern Science: Causes, Consequences, and the Road to Reform
National Association Of Scholars, 17 April 2018


3) Science Is In Deep Trouble, GWPF Report Shows
Global Warming Policy Foundation, 31 October 2016 

4) Put-Up-Or-Shut-Up Time For The Solar-Climate Theory
James A. Bacon, Bacon's Rebellion, 12 April 2018

5) Polar Bear Specialist Mitch Taylor On Accountability In Polar Bear Science
Polar Bear Science, 15 April 2018

6) Study: Battery Storage Far Too Costly For Practical Use
The Daily Caller, 16 April 2018 

7) Forget Paris: India Slashes Plans For New Nuclear Reactors By Two-Thirds, Expanding Coal Instead
Dan Yurman, Energy Post, 16 April 2018 

Full details:

1) How Bad Is The Government’s Science?
Peter Wood and David Randall, The Wall Street Journal, 17 April 2018 


Policy makers often cite research to justify their rules, but many of those studies wouldn’t replicate

Half the results published in peer-reviewed scientific journals are probably wrong. John Ioannidis, now a professor of medicine at Stanford, made headlines with that claim in 2005. Since then, researchers have confirmed his skepticism by trying — and often failing — to reproduce many influential journal articles. Slowly, scientists are internalizing the lessons of this irreproducibility crisis. But what about government, which has been making policy for generations without confirming that the science behind it is valid?

The biggest newsmakers in the crisis have involved psychology. Consider three findings: Striking a “power pose” can improve a person’s hormone balance and increase tolerance for risk. Invoking a negative stereotype, such as by telling black test-takers that an exam measures intelligence, can measurably degrade performance. Playing a sorting game that involves quickly pairing faces (black or white) with bad and good words (“happy” or “death”) can reveal “implicit bias” and predict discrimination.

All three of these results received massive media attention, but independent researchers haven’t been able to reproduce any of them properly. It seems as if there’s no end of “scientific truths” that just aren’t so. For a 2015 article in Science, independent researchers tried to replicate 100 prominent psychology studies and succeeded with only 39% of them.

Further from the spotlight is a lot of equally flawed research that is often more consequential. In 2012 the biotechnology firm Amgen tried to reproduce 53 “landmark” studies in hematology and oncology. The company could only replicate six. Are doctors basing serious decisions about medical treatment on the rest? Consider the financial costs, too. A 2015 study estimated that American researchers spend $28 billion a year on irreproducible preclinical research.

The chief cause of irreproducibility may be that scientists, whether wittingly or not, are fishing fake statistical significance out of noisy data. If a researcher looks long enough, he can turn any fluke correlation into a seemingly positive result. But other factors compound the problem: Scientists can make arbitrary decisions about research techniques, even changing procedures partway through an experiment. They are susceptible to groupthink and aren’t as skeptical of results that fit their biases. Negative results typically go into the file drawer. Exciting new findings are a route to tenure and fame, and there’s little reward for replication studies.

American science has begun to face up to these problems. The National Institutes of Health has strengthened its reproducibility standards. Scientific journals have reduced the incentives and opportunities to publish bad research. Private philanthropies have put serious money behind groups like the Meta-Research Innovation Center at Stanford, led in part by Dr. Ioannidis, and the Center for Open Science in Charlottesville, Va.

There’s more to be done, and the National Association of Scholars has made some recommendations. Before conducting a study, scientists should “preregister” their research protocols by posting the intended methodology online, which eliminates opportunities for changing the rules in the middle of the experiment. High schools, colleges and graduate schools need to improve science education, particularly in statistics. Universities and journals should create incentives for researchers to publish negative results. Scientific associations should seek to disrupt disciplinary groupthink by putting their favored ideas up for review by experts in other sciences.

A deeper issue is that the irreproducibility crisis has remained largely invisible to the general public and policy makers. That’s a problem given how often the government relies on supposed scientific findings to inform its decisions. Every year the U.S. adds more laws and regulations that could be based on nothing more than statistical manipulations.

All government agencies should review the scientific justifications for their policies and regulations to ensure they meet strict reproducibility standards. The economics research that steers decisions at the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department needs to be rechecked. The social psychology that informs education policy could be entirely irreproducible. The whole discipline of climate science is a farrago of unreliable statistics, arbitrary research techniques and politicized groupthink.  […]

Mr. Wood is president of the National Association of Scholars. Mr. Randall is the NAS’s director of research and a co-author of its new report, “The Irreproducibility Crisis of Modern Science.

Full post
 

2) The Irreproducibility Crisis of Modern Science: Causes, Consequences, and the Road to Reform
National Association Of Scholars, 17 April 2018


A reproducibility crisis afflicts a wide range of scientific and social-scientific disciplines, from epidemiology to social psychology. Improper use of statistics, arbitrary research techniques, lack of accountability, political groupthink, and a scientific culture biased toward producing positive results together have produced a critical state of affairs. Many supposedly scientific results cannot be reproduced in subsequent investigations. This study examines the different aspects of the reproducibility crisis of modern science. The report also includes a series of policy recommendations, scientific and political, for alleviating the reproducibility crisis.

Full study
 

3) Science Is In Deep Trouble, GWPF Report Shows
Global Warming Policy Foundation, 31 October 2016 
 

London 31 October:  A new report published by the Global Warming Policy Foundation reveals the extent to which current policy-making is reliant on untrustworthy peer-reviewed research, much of which cannot be replicated and “may be simply untrue”.



“Fraudulent research makes it past gatekeepers at even the most prestigious journals,” says Donna Laframboise, the study’s author and the investigative journalist behind the 2011 exposĂ© of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) entitled: The Delinquent Teenager Who Was Mistaken for the World’s Top Climate Expert.

The report, entitled Peer Review: Why Skepticism is Essential, describes the peer-review process as “haphazard and byzantine”, raising serious questions about the state of modern science and casting doubt on policies that claim to be ‘evidence-based’.

Laframboise explains: “A policy cannot be considered evidence-based if the evidence on which it depends was never independently verified… News from the worlds of astrobiology, ecology, economics, chemistry, computer science, management studies, medicine, neuroscience, psychology, and physics all tell the same tale: ’peer-reviewed’ does not equal ’policy-ready’.”

This has striking implications for climate change policy, and particularly for the IPCC, which relies on the credibility of the peer-review process to provide support for its conclusions, and is quick to dismiss research that has not been peer-reviewed.

Laframboise describes how the now-disgraced former IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri was once asked if an Indian environment ministry report might alter the IPCC’s pessimistic view of Himalayan glaciers. The ‘IPCC studies only peer-review science’, Rajendra Pachauri replied dismissively. Until the report’s data appears in ‘a decent credible publication’, he said, ‘we can just throw it into the dust- bin’.”

Full report (pdf)
 

4) Put-Up-Or-Shut-Up Time For The Solar-Climate Theory
James A. Bacon, Bacon's Rebellion, 12 April 2018


Here’s the nice thing about the sun-spot theory: It’s a testable hypothesis. We should be able to confirm or disprove the sun-spot hypothesis within a few years.



I have frequently expressed skepticism of dire Global Warming scenarios by noting that the increase in global temperatures over the past 20 years fits the lowest range of forecasts made by the climate models. Sorry, folks, I just can’t get exercised about warming-generated calamities, no matter how many after-the-fact justifications are proffered to explain the failure of reality to conform with theory.

On the other side, the anti-Global Warming crowd has advanced an alternative explanation for climate change. The extreme skeptics suggest that solar activity — sun spots, or the lack of them — have a far greater influence on earth’s climate than the level of CO2 in the atmosphere. According to this theory, solar radiation interacts with the earth’s magnetosphere to block cosmic radiation from penetrating to the atmosphere and seeding cloud formation. Boiling the argument down to its essence, more sun spots predict higher temperatures on earth, fewer sun spots predict lower temperatures. We may have reached put-up-or-shut-up time for that theory as well.

The skeptics are getting excited now because the incidence of sun spots is crashing. Indeed, sun spots have almost disappeared. The last time the sun exhibited similar characteristics was in the 1600s, the so-called Maunder Minimum which coincided with a decline in global temperatures known to history as the Little Ice Age. If the solar warming rejectionists are correct, “global warming” could disappear in a hurry.

Writes Robert Zimmerman with the Global Warming Policy Forum:

If the solar minimum has actually arrived now, this would make this cycle only ten years long, one of the shortest solar cycles on record. More important, it is a weak cycle. In the past, all short cycles were active cycles. This is the first time we have seen a short and weak cycle since scientists began tracking the solar cycle in the 1700s, following the last grand minimum in the 1600s when there were almost no sunspots.

If the planet is entering a new solar minimum, the theory would predict falling temperatures. Perhaps not immediately — there may be buffering effects that aren’t well understood — but in not too many years.

Here’s the nice thing about the sun-spot theory: It’s a testable hypothesis. The theory states in no-uncertain terms that solar radiation as measured by sun spots is a key driver of earth’s climate. The theory says that cycles in earth’s temperatures closely match cycles in sun spot activity. We appear to be entering a phase in which sun spots are going dormant. Temperatures should drop — not just for a year or two but in a sustained matter. We should be able to confirm or disprove the sun-spot hypothesis within a few years.

If the sun-spot hypothesis is confirmed by the data and we see a decisive shift in temperature trends, the theory that posits CO2 as the driving climate variable will be dashed. Conversely, if the sun-spot model  is proven incorrect, a lot of moderate Global Warming skeptics (like me) will be more receptive to the CO2 model — although it still has to explain the two-decade-long pause. (“Pause” is not quite the right word. Global temperatures have crept higher. They just haven’t conformed to predictions.)

Perhaps I’m being naive to think that reality will settle the debate. Reality has a way of being frustratingly complex and ambiguous, and zealots are endlessly creative at devising fallback theories. We didn’t account for the effect of increased particulates in the atmosphere. Or temperatures didn’t rise as expected because the missing heat is lurking undetected deep in the ocean.

Full post
 

5) Polar Bear Specialist Mitch Taylor On Accountability In Polar Bear Science
Polar Bear Science, 15 April 2018


‘The loss of credible information is the real harm that has resulted from turning scientific inquiry into an agenda driven exercise … even for a good cause.’

Polar bear specialist Mitch Taylor emailed me and others his response to the New York Times article that appeared Tuesday (10 April) about the Harvey et al. (2018) BioScience paper attacking my scientific integrity. Here it is in full, with his permission, and my comments. Don’t miss the footnote!

ACCOUNTABILITY IN POLAR BEAR SCIENCE  BY DR. MITCHELL TAYLOR

It has become a lot more difficult to talk about polar bears since they became an icon for climate change as a cause. The information has become secondary to the mission for a number of people who were formerly chiefly concerned with research and management of polar bears. The mission is nothing less than saving the planet by saving the polar bears. Ironically the biggest obstacle to this initiative has been the polar bears themselves.

The real story has been the extent to which polar bears have managed to mitigate the demographic effects of sea ice loss so far. In retrospect this is perhaps not so surprising because polar bears have been around since the Pliocene which means they have persisted through not only glacial cycles, but also through all the natural climate cycles during the glacial periods and interglacial periods.

Did Susan misrepresent the predictions from Amstrup’s “Belief Network” [Amstrup et al. 2007]? Has she misunderstood the population estimates provided by the various technical committees and specialists groups? That is easy to check, because these papers are published. They are part of the record. I have been active in polar bears since 1978. I didn’t recognize 12 of the 14 names on the paper written criticizing Susan for publishing an article about polar bears because she does not have any direct experience in polar bear research or management. Does anyone need to point out how hypocritical this is? Since when does anyone need to tag a polar bear to compare what was predicted to what has happened, based on published information?

It is also germane that the IUCN Redbook authority was unwilling to continue listing polar bears as a “vulnerable” species based on current population estimates and Amstrup’s Bayesian Network model expectations. This was somehow not mentioned in the article criticizing Susan. Polar bears remain an IUCN “vulnerable” species, but now that is based on a Polar Bear Specialist Group (PBSG) polar bear population model that is also driven by speculation and also presented as “expert” predictive.

The new model [Regehr et al. 2016] guarantees that polar bears will decline by decoupling the model’s population projections from climate model forecasts of sea ice conditions … and just using the time-series regression of sea ice decline since 1980 to forecast sea ice (index for polar bear carrying capacity) forward.1
And the IUCN went for it.

Full post
 

6) Study: Battery Storage Far Too Costly For Practical Use
The Daily Caller, 16 April 2018 

Jason Hopkins

Exorbitant battery storage costs prevent rooftop solar installations from paying for themselves in the long run, making home energy storage an impractical use for average consumers in the foreseeable future, a new study determined.



As the renewable energy industry continues to draw more interest from environmentally conscious consumers, battery storage technology is becoming more sought after as a means to harness energy for future consumption. For example, solar panel batteries can store excess energy captured during the daytime and use that energy to keep the lights on after the sun goes down. Consumers are encouraged to purchase solar panels with promises that, in the long run, they will save money on monthly electrical bills.

However, a study released Monday by the Global Warming Policy Foundation revealed that battery storage is simply too costly to provide long-term financial benefit.

“The price of batteries is relatively high, but the possible savings from adding them to a rooftop solar installation are quite limited, particularly as a fraction of the typical electricity bill. When you add up the costs and benefits, it is quite clear that they are a waste of money,” Capell Aris, a former reactor physics specialist and a fellow at the Institute of Engineering and Technology, wrote Monday.

The study Aris conducted took into consideration typical solar panel installations and basic electricity consumption over the course of one day and consumption over one year in the United Kingdom. The variables he considered were comprehensive, factoring in weather patterns and the degradation of solar panel efficiency over time. The factors were repeated to cover a 20-year period.

The results: Solar rooftop installations are a far cry away from keeping pace with household energy consumption in the U.K. Their use would result in long-term savings for users if costs were to drop dramatically, but that does not appear to be happening anytime soon.

Full story
 

7) Forget Paris: India Slashes Plans For New Nuclear Reactors By Two-Thirds, Expanding Coal Instead
Dan Yurman, Energy Post, 16 April 2018 

India has decided to cut its planned nuclear power plant construction by two-thirds. This will further expand the country’s use of coal for electrical power generation

The Financial Express, one of India’s major newspapers, reports that the Narendra Modi government, which had set an ambitious 63,000 MW nuclear power capacity addition target by the year 2031-32, has cut it to 22,480 MW, or by roughly two-thirds.

The decision has enormous implications for expanding use of coal for electrical power generation and for release of CO2, other greenhouse gases, and for adding to India’s dire air pollution problems in its major cities.

The drastic reduction in planned construction of new reactors will diminish India’s plans to rely on nuclear energy from 25% of electrical generation to about 8-10%.
The balance of new power requirements will likely be met by use of India’s enormous coal deposits.

It appears that India’s long list of nuclear reactors, which at one time it aspired to build, is now in the dustbin. Instead, a much shorter list of 19 units composed of indigenous 700 MW PHWRs and Russian VVERs will be completed for an additional 17 GWE.

Jitendra Singh, Minister of State for India’s Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) said.“With the completion of the under construction and sanctioned projects, the total nuclear power installed capacity in the country will reach 22,480 MW… by the year 2031.”

He added. “progressive completion of the projects under construction, the installed nuclear power capacity will reach 13,480 MW by the year 2024”, which will be a little less than 14,340 MW target.

The list of 57 cancelled reactors also includes 700 MW PHWRs and Russian VVERs. […]

Greater reliance on coal is expected

The country accounts for eight percent of world’s total coal consumption. About two-thirds of India’s electricity generation comes from coal.

With a major cut in planned new construction of nuclear reactors, the country will rely more heavily on building coal fired power plants. India holds the fifth biggest coal reserves in the world. The country’s proved coal reserves are estimated at 61 billion tonnes. India accounts for about seven percent of the world’s total proved coal reserves.

India is the third biggest coal producer, after China and the US. India produces about six percent of the world’s total as officially reported but this number is undoubtedly higher. India’s coal mines are owned by the government but operated by private firms.

Full post


The London-based Global Warming Policy Forum is a world leading think tank on global warming policy issues. The GWPF newsletter is prepared by Director Dr Benny Peiser - for more information, please visit the website at www.thegwpf.com.


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