Yet More Historical Climate Blogging

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  • 8/5/09 10:33 PMYet More Historical Climate Blogging

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    Grasping Reality with Both HandsThe Semi-Daily Journal of Economist Brad DeLong: A Fair, Balanced, Reality-Based, and More than Two-Handed Look at

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    July 25, 2009

    Yet More Historical Climate Blogging

    Sorry deniers, hockey stick gets longer, stronger: Earth hotter now than in past 2,000 years Climate Progress:

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  • 8/5/09 10:33 PMYet More Historical Climate Blogging

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    Michael Mann (2002), "Climate Reconstruction: The Value of Multiple Proxies":

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    Rich Muller emails:

    Dear Brad:

    I enjoyed skimming through your discussion of the hockey stick. I was a referee on the National Academy Report on

    the hockey stick (I am named in their report for this service), and so I am very familiar with what the report actually

    says. It is frequently misrepresented as "verifying" the hockey stick. That is very inaccurate.

    The report concluded that Mann's assertion that there was no medieval warm period was not supported by the data.

    (Mann really did have an error in his analysis.) The National Academy explicitly concluded that the most we can say

    about the last 2000 years is that we are now in the warmest period of the last 400 years. They criticized Mann for

    greatly underestimating his error bars on the data prior to 1600, and they concluded that nothing of value could be

    concluded for that period.

    The fact that we are now in the warmest period of the last 400 years was well known to everybody prior to Mann's

    work. That is not disputed. What Mann had "shown" was that there was no little ice age -- the cold period preceding the

    20th century had extended back 800 -- then 1000 -- then 2000 years. But this conclusion is not valid according to the

    NAS review.

    The NAS review said, in effect, that the hockey stick still exists, but that it extends back only 400 years. That was known

    in all the earlier IPCC reports. It was the extension to 1000 AD that lead to the dramatic metaphor of the "hockey

    stick". So some Mann supporters are still defending him. But, in fact, there is nothing left of his publications that is

    new, or that disagrees with what the IPCC was saying back in 1995.

    Mann has defended his work by claiming that the hockey stick is still there when he does the analysis after removing the

    program bug. But if you read his paper, you discover that the hockey stick component that he is claiming is no longer

    the principle component of the analysis. (I think it was the 3rd component.) The excitement over his data was largely

    over the fact that the principal component, typically the only one with small error uncertainties, was hockey stick in


    I am also amused to see that I am not considered a climate expert. I did spend over ten years of my life studying

    climate cycles, the details of the data and methods of analysis. I published a series of papers in Science, Nature, and

    elsewhere, and wrote a highly respected technical book on climate change titled "Ice Ages and Astronomical Causes."

    That is not a popular book. As I mentioned earlier, I was chosen by the National Academy of Sciences to be an expert

    reviewer on their review of Mann's work. Michael Mann, who had a major mathematical error in his published analysis,

    is considered an expert but I am not? Michael Mann, who has (I believe) not done any experimental work in the field, is

    considered an expert, but I am not? (I've analyzed Greenland ice cores for their climate record.)

    I guess some people pick their experts by looking at the conclusions first, and then eliminating the people who do not

    agree with them.


    I am definitely a believer in the Medieval Warm Period. In a middle ages in which the stone to build Norwich Castle is

    shipped by sea from France, it makes absolutely no sense to argue that high costs of transport from France made it efficient

    to grow wine grapes in England if England then had the same climate that England does today or had in the Little Ice Age.

    And I am definitely not a believer in principal components analyses like those used by Mann et al.--we economists have a

    religious faith instead in Bayesian Kalman filters.

    RECOMMENDED (4.55) by 2 people like you [How?]

    You might like:

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    2 more recommended posts

    Brad DeLong on July 25, 2009 at 05:19 PM in Science, Science: Climate | Permalink


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    "deniers" is a funny word. I initially took it for the plural of the smallest unit of account in pre-1789 France (livres; sols/sous;

    deniers). It's like "deskilling" (why not de-skilling? otherwise, we have desk-illing?) and "demister" (vs. de-mister; or, the non-

    existent, demi-ster). What is it about "de" that makes it so opaque? I have had this conversation with others, and I am not the only

    one so perplexed... though I do think many of us who find this problematic work in French as often as in English. (This leaves de-

    long to be discussed, methinks!)

    Posted by: Rebecca | July 25, 2009 at 08:21 PM

    The steepest hockey stick is the exponential price reduction of solar power since 1958, when it was $300/W of solar panel to today

    when solar panels are produced at $1/W.

    The price of solar panels has dropped 3X every decade for the last 50 years, and will reach parity with retail grid electricity from Coal,

    Oil, Nukes and Gas over the next 5 years just about everywhere on earth. In 2007, renewable energy became the majority of new

    installed capacity in the US. By 2012, wind and solar will account for 90% of all new power generation facilities on the planet.

    This entire debate over the climate has been a major waste of mental energy for all parties.

    Anyone who has followed technological development curves in IT or the DNA-world has known that solar would inevitably and soon

    be the cheapest form of energy on the planet, and at that point would begin to systematically replace all other sources just on the

    strength of basic competitive economics.

    It is perhaps the biggest irony that at the zenith of the Internet revolution, the IPCC issued their 2001 report with their emissions

    scenarios, yet failed to comprehend that the same type of relentless exponential cost reduction which has dominated our lives in the

    amount of GFLOPS of compute power per $, the amount of GB of RAM/$, GB of storage/$, bandwidth/$, is based on the exact same

    fundamental semiconductor technologies in silicon and opto-electronics and has been at work in solar power for the last 50 years

    with no slowdown in sight, in fact, only an acceleration of the rate of advance.

    The real "Deniers" are the Solar Deniers!

    The IPCC emissions scenarios will never happen, because the solar revolution is already here, and emissions are falling 40 years

    ahead of their most 'optimistic' scenario, "B1" for those who read the IPCC 2007 anti-historical report.

    The IPCC not only couldn't take into account a clear 50 year trend in solar power cost reduction of 3X per decade, but also imagined

    that somehow there would have been no economic crisis from 1945 to 2050.

    Anyone who has even lightly studied economic history can trace world-shaking, generational financial crises at regular 70-80 year

    intervals going back to the Renaissance Art Mania/bankruptcy of Bank Medici in the 1490's to the bankruptcy of Spain's monarchy in

    1557, to Dutch Tulipmania in 1637, to the British/French South Seas/Mississippi Bubbles in 1720, to the bankruptcy of the French

    monarchy in 1789, to the Panic of 1857 to Wall Street 1929, and would have seen that we were in the midst of MortgageMania already

    with an exponentially growing probability of collapse.

    I Am Using This Quote in a Manner Highly Derogatory to the Associated Press

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    The IPCC has engaged in complete denial of technological developmental history and economic history.

    "Climate change" as a slogan has played ZERO role in the development in the technology. Rather, all along, the principal driver for

    the development of solar, from the Space Race between US and USSR which started the solar march, to the responses to the oil shocks

    from the Arab Embargo and Iranian Revolution in the 1970's, to the 90's when Germany and Japan began their systematic subsidies,

    to the response to the Peak Credit oil spike in the mid-2000's has always been National Security through Energy Security .

    "Climate Change" has been a convenient cover to mobilize progressives for the narrow nationalist energy independence objectives

    that have always been paramount.

    These narrow nationalist objectives are now clearly on display with the recent American "carbon tariffs" against foreign goods, which

    India, China and today Germany have all rightly condemned as "eco-imperialism."

    The Energy Riots by the masses in Soweto, South Africa and Karachi, Pakistan against the inadequate, unreliable and expensive

    electricity situations which underlies many of their problems with water, sanitation, refrigeration, smooth running factories and

    employment, air conditioning, education, telecommunication, lighting, safety, reveal the ultimate issue of our times is not Climate

    Change, but Global Energy Equality.

    Equal Watts!

    I am writing about this and hope to have it ready later this year.

    Posted by: Joel Bellenson | July 26, 2009 at 09:51 AM

    "...yet failed to comprehend that the same type of relentless exponential cost reduction ... is based on the exact same fundamental

    semiconductor technologies in silicon and opto-electronics and has been at work in solar power for the last 50 years"

    Well, no. It isn't based on anything remotely similar. The reason Moore's Law has worked for decades is that transistors keep getting

    *smaller* every year or two, so a constantly increasing number of circuit elements could be put onto the same area of silicon. But, the

    cost of the ever-more-complex fab lines to create these tiny transistors has been increasing very rapidly as well, so only economies of

    scale have prevented us from being unable to fund those next generations of fabs.

    With solar cells there can be improvements in efficiency of converting light to electricity, and there can be improvements in

    processing techniques - but there is only so much energy falling onto a given area of silicon and thus no "exponential" cost reduction.

    Though it does get cheaper as we fall down the production curve and find slightly better conversion techniques.

    Which is all to say that yes, solar power is increasingly appealing on an economic basis, and no, it does not and cannot improve at the

    breakneck pace associated with computers, because the underlying physics are unrelated.

    Posted by: Jon | July 26, 2009 at 12:12 PM

    The phrase "Global Warming" usually means "Atmospheric Warming", and this leaves some people confused about ENSO and ocean


    If the earth is warming, the oceans must also be warming. Otherwise it's just a shifting of heat around between the air, land, sea and


    Posted by: Fred2 | July 26, 2009 at 02:06 PM

    Joel, carbon taxes will hasten the deployment of solar. You're saying solar is inevitable and coming sooner than we think. So, the

    anti-carbon camp wants what you think is inevitable. Then, why are you wasting your time scoffing at us? You should go convince the

    pro-carbon-pollution crowd that their industries are doomed anyway and, for example, that further investment in coal infrastructure

    would be malinvestment.

    If you want to scoff, you're scoffing at the wrong crowd.

    Posted by: wunsacon | July 26, 2009 at 02:15 PM


    Actually the fundamentals of computing advances are not just, or even mainly, the miniaturization of features on chip, but the

    Experience or Learning Curve, which is basis for all improvements in costs of production. And every technological generation follows

    its own S-curve until replaced by the succeeding one.

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    There has been a consistent 20% - 45% Learning Curve for Solar Panels spanning now for decades, which translates into the 3X-

    4X/decade cost reduction as the pace of doubling of installation of solar power has been at a CAGR of 45%.

    This describes the fact that for every doubling of solar panel manufacturing capacity, there is a 20% - 45% drop in the cost of


    The Learning or Experience Curve is the same general principal, but with different % that is the basis for Moore's Law in

    semiconductor manufacturing cost efficiency, and which has its complement in LED lighting with Haitz's Law.

    In a separate field, but also heavily impacted by IT and semiconductors, in which I have a great deal of experience - DNA information

    extraction - the Learning Curve has also proceeded at a breakneck speed - 10,000X/decade since the 1980's - and has very little to do

    with the scale of the chemistry,...