More heavy lifting with “suppressed” Alan Carlin

The kerfuffle over the EPA’s so-called “suppression” of Alan Carlin continues apace, with two new commentaries from right-wing columnists. Both syndicated columnist Mark Steyn and the Wall Street Journal’s Kim Strassel cite Carlin in support of the tired contrarian assertion that “global temperatures are on a downward trend”. (Of course, at the risk of repeating myself, this has been debunked thoroughly here, there and everywhere, as John Lennon might have put it)

But, once again, it turns out that Carlin did not write certain relevant key passages himself, and also failed to attribute them to the original author.

[Update, July 8: In another astonishing twist, I have just discovered that Marlo Lewis, the National Review columnist whose piece Carlin lifted as discussed below, is - wait for it - a Senior Fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which just happens to be the right-wing think tank that has been touting the so-called "suppression" of Alan Carlin's report. I'll have more on this soon.]

[Update, July 7: I've added a comparison of the "updated" chart of global temperature projections and observations given by Carlin, and the original found in the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (AR4). As well, an ironic twist to Steyn's quote from Carlin is noted.]

As we’ve already seen (here and here), at least four key sections in Carlin’s review of the EPA draft endangerment finding, not to mention his central premise, were lifted nearly whole from Pat Michaels’ World Climate Report climate disinformation blog, without any attribution whatsoever. If nothing else, you would think that would give pause to anyone quoting at length from Carlin, as chances do seem high that the more “quotable” sections are not his.

Nevertheless, here’s Mark Steyn, in full rhetorical flight:

Alan Carlin, in a report for the Environmental Protection Racket – whoops, Environmental Protection Agency – that they attempted to suppress, says:

“Fossil fuel and cement emissions increased by 3.3 percent per year during 2000-06, compared to 1.3 percent per year in the 1990s. Similarly, atmospheric C02 concentrations increased by 1.93 parts per million per year during 2000-06, compared to 1.58 ppm in the 1990s. And yet, despite accelerating emission rates and concentrations, there’s been no net warming in the 21st century and, more accurately, a decline.”

The problem is the analysis comes word-for-word from Marlo Lewis in the Planet Gore blog of the National Review last August (and repeated at icecap.us):

According to a study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, fossil fuel and cement emissions increased by 3.3 percent per year during 2000-2006, compared to 1.3 percent per year in the 1990s. Similarly, atmospheric CO2 concentrations increased by 1.93 parts per million per year during 2000-2006, compared to 1.58 ppm in the 1990s.

And yet, despite accelerating emission rates and concentrations, there’s been no net warming in the 21st century. It don’t add up!

[Update, July 7-8: In a particularly ironic twist, the Steyn piece now appears in the National Review. So we have one National Review columnist attributing to Carlin a quote that was apparently plagiarized from another National Review columnist. I wonder if they'll print a correction.

As noted above, Marlo Lewis also happens to be a Senior Fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the organization that originally made the accusation of "suppression" against the EPA.]

This particular paste job has an interesting and complicated history. (Once again, if you want to follow along you’ll have to download a pair of hefty PDFs, Carlin’s draft and final version).

The passage in question comes from Carlin’s section 1.3, entitled IPCC Global Temperature Projections Look Increasingly Doubtful.

The section starts with a chart from icecap.us, which is attributed to the double source (Icecap.us and Marlo Lewis).

But even here, the attribution is incorrect, as the omitted original text makes clear:

This graph, courtesy of atmospheric scientist John Christy, shows how climate models and reality diverge.

Instead, Carlin amended that to:

Figure 1-2 shows how climate models and reality diverge.

Even a cursory glance reveals some obvious problems with the chart:

  • Only the lowest rising (HadCRU) of the three commonly cited surface temperature series are shown. NASA/GISS and NOAA are omitted. [Update, July 8: The original only shows HadCRU as well.]
  • The graph has only partial averages for 2008, which were considerably below the final figures.
  • The UAH curve, which happens to be the lower of the two tropospheric satellite-based series, has been “adjusted to surface” in some mysterious, unspecified manner. Since the projections are for the surface, it should not have even been included. (It turns out the adjustment involves dividing by a factor of 1.2, which lowers all positive anomalies relative to the baseline, including all recent years – see comments below).

[Update, July 7: It's instructive to compare the "updated" chart to the original IPCC AR4 chart TS-26.

Several obvious changes have been made:

  • As previously noted, the Christy/PlanetGore/Icecap chart added the UAH tropospheric series. (It so happens that John Christy, along with Roy Spencer, produces the UAH analysis.) This series exaggerates the 1998 peak and is lower in the 2000s.
  • The "updated" version omits the previous IPCC projections.
  • The "updated" version "connected" the observation annual temperature dots, but omitted the smoothed, decadal curve.]

This last point is especially salient. For, despite large natural variations within the 2000s, the decade as a whole was significantly warmer than the 1990s, especially in the series that the Planet Gore/Icecap chart did not show. Obviously, decade-over-decade increments are more meaningful than short-term variations within a decade.

Nevertheless, this “smoking gun” (or is that non-smoking, cold gun?) was proudly displayed on Fox News as “proof” of Carlin’s contentions. (That was during the same interview where the Fox interlocutors called Carlin a “scientist” and “a man of science” and Carlin neglected to correct them each time. But I digress.)

Anyway, here is Carlin’s complete analysis immediately following the chart, with copied material in bold (note the mix of “lifted” and new material even within the same paragraph):

Figure 1-2 shows how climate models and reality diverge. The red, purple, and orange lines are model forecasts of global temperatures under different emission scenarios. The yellow line shows how much warming we are supposedly “committed to” even if CO2 concentrations don’t change according to the IPCC. The blue and green lines are actual temperatures as measured by ground-based (HadCrut) and satellite (UAH LT) monitoring systems. It is fairly evident that the IPCC projections are quite divergent from the actual experience in recent years. Yet if the GHG/CO2 only hypothesis is correct, there would be likely to be a greater correspondence.

If global temperatures are viewed as suggested in Figure 2-8 below the large downward drop in 2007-8 appears to be simply a return to the 1978-97 range and might not be particularly noteworthy. If, on the other hand, global temperatures are viewed as an increasing trend, which the Draft TSD appears to do, then the 2007-8 drop would appear to bring temperatures well outside the likely range suggested by the IPCC projections. So if the former viewpoint is taken, then the Draft TSD needs to explain how it could be that there has been such a great divergence from the IPCC projections.

What’s really rather remarkable, is that since 2000, the rates at which CO2 emissions and concentrations are increasing have accelerated. According to Canadell et al. (2008), fossil fuel and cement emissions increased by 3.3 percent per year during 2000-2006, compared to 1.3 percent per year in the 1990s. Similarly, atmospheric CO2 concentrations increased by 1.93 parts per million per year during 2000-2006, compared to 1.58 ppm in the 1990s. And yet, despite accelerating emission rates and concentrations, there’s been no net warming in the 21st century, and more accurately, a decline.

Interestingly, the Icecap/Lewis passages were in a totally different section (section 3.3) from the chart in the draft version. At that point, they had already been edited as shown above (i.e. removal of the Christy reference, and the substitution of the specific reference to Canadell et al. for the more generic PNAS reference in the original). And, of course, even at this early stage there was no attribution.

As for the Wall Street Journal’s Kim Strassel, she echoed the ridiculous trope that the muzzling of James Hansen by the Bush administration and the “suppression” of Alan Carlin’s plagirized pseudo-science were somehow equivalent. I’m not sure where she got that idiotic idea, but she did quote from a scrap of legal text that Roger Pielke Jr has been carrying around that he claims shows that the “rulemaking record” must show “the evidence relied upon and the evidence discarded.” But even that same source refers to the mandatory inclusion only of “any document that might have influenced the agency’s decision.” On the face of it, that should not apply to every unsolicited document submitted, especially one that failed internal review and clearly had no influence whatsoever on the agency’s decision, as many of the more sensible commentators have pointed out.

But in one regard, other columnists would be well advised to follow Kim Strassel’s course, rather than Steyn’s. The only direct quote from Carlin in the WSJ columnist’s piece is this:

“We believe our concerns and reservations are sufficiently important to warrant a serious review of the science by EPA,” the report read.

At least we can be reasonably certain that Carlin did write that himself.

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11 responses to “More heavy lifting with “suppressed” Alan Carlin

  1. Jim Galasyn

    Thanks for staying on top of this!

  2. “This series exaggerates the 1998 peak and is lower in the 2000s.”

    I think if you review the work on this honestly, all short term signals are amplified. You’ll also find the RSS version has a step which is out of norm for both the Radiosonde and the gisstemp datasets.

    [DC: Yes, annual peaks and valleys are amplified. But medium-term and longer trends (e.g. 2000s average relative to 1990s average, or linear fit over 20 or 30 years) are dampened in UAH relative to surface. Furthermore, the "adjustment" mentioned is also unclear. Is it a baseline adjustment or something else?

    At any rate, it's not legitimate to show this data series at all, as the projections are for the surface and the satellite tropospheric series were not shown in the original figure IPCC TS-26. The chart purports to be an "updated" version of that chart.

    Finally, the relative merits of RSS and UAH are not really germane here, although I am happy to discuss that at one of the threads I have done on the subject.]

  3. so what has the temperature done since 1900? and how can we measure the “world temp” anyhow?

  4. Deep Climate

    Jeff ID,

    A further point should be made as well. My understanding from reading various blogs like Climateaudit.org and John Christy’s congressional testimony, is that the “surface adjustment” is simply a division of the anomaly by a given factor. Since all of the years in the 2000s were at or above the baseline, the adjustment will tend to have a cooling bias in the critical recent period.

    Certainly this adjustment should be examined more closely. Perhaps I’ll get around to that some time.

  5. It’s a mess. I warned my fellow skeptics. Sigh.

    [DC: Yes, you did - right from the beginning.]

    Still am upset that you are snipping my homophobe libels. What’s the internet coming to.

    [DC: I am saving you from yourself.]

  6. Another bang up job. Keep up the great work. Maybe you can testify during Inhofe’s “investigation”.

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  8. Gordon Parish

    Deep Climate,

    I just saw your statement concerning Marlo Lewis’ affiliation… I wish I’d seen it earlier. I’m sure by now you have done your research, but just in case, about a year ago, for some reason that I do not entirely recall at present, I looked into CEI/Lewis…

    Sourcewatch.org, has a bit on Lewis under their Competitive Enterprise Institute page…

    http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Competitive_Enterprise_Institute_And_Global_Warming

    excerpt here, if I don’t get the link-pasting right, all that follows is from that page:

    “CEI was also active in opposing the 1997 international global warming negotiations in Kyoto. CEI staff including Fred Smith, James Sheehan, Jonathan Adler and Marlo Lewis featured prominently in a list of “experts” provided to reporters by the industry-funded Global Climate Coalition. “The campaign against the 1997 Kyoto global warming treaty waged by right-wing think tanks has been another area where corporate America has heavily invested in right-wing policy groups that advance its interest” noted author David Callahan in 1999.”The Competitive Enterprise Institute has been a particularly aggressive advocate of the notion that global warming is a ‘theory not a fact.” [1]

    CEI’s activism on global warming continued in 1998, with its executive director, Marlo Lewis, Jr., appearing before the Small Business Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives to testify against proposed regulatory action that would have reduced the risk of climate change. “Where per capita energy consumption is high, per capita income is also high; and where per capita energy consumption is low, per capita income is also low. Thus, if we are to rescue mankind from the perils of poverty, we must dramatically increase global energy consumption. We must push down on the accelerator,” Lewis testified. “Inflating ‘Safety First!’ from a mere rule of thumb into a categorical imperative … is a recipe for paralysis and stagnation, perhaps the riskiest condition of all.”

    –Okay now it is me again – the Sourcewatch article references the Callahan article as follows:

    David Callahan, “The Think Tank as Flack,” Washington Monthly, Vol. 31, No. 11, November 1, 1999, p. 21. Historical overview and analysis of the rise of corporate-funded think tanks as PR vehicles for corporate interests.

  9. Gordon Parish

    At the risk of rambling re: Marlo Lewis, it is also worth looking at the ExxonSecrets web site…

    http://www.exxonsecrets.org/html/personfactsheet.php?id=338

    A couple nice quotes and references there… my particular favorite is this:

    “The main incontrovertible effect of global warming to date is that it has made those severely cold regions slightly less lethal to people and other living things.”

    Source: http://www.cei.org/pdf/5288.pdf; 26 April, 2006

    I’m guessing the polar bears are most grateful…

    [DC: As a Sourcewatch contributor, that's also the first place I look, and the second is usually ExxonSecrets.org. As I've mentioned in another thread, I will be gathering background information for a future post on CEI's behind-the-scenes role in Carlin's Fox News interviews. I was unaware until now that Marlo Lewis was former executive director of CEI, so thanks for that.]

  10. Gordon Parish

    Oh… YOU’RE the Sourcewatch one… I should have recollected that… I was thinking “Things Break” was the Sourcewatch contributer… well, my face is red!

    I just saw your comment re: Lewis and thought, “Heck, I got some links because I just responded to some sort of denial line from one of my friends a year or so ago.” I figured it’d been quite some time since you had said you caught the link between CEI/Lewis, but it was just so weird that I, just sitting here on my couch drinking beer, had already known that… not that I was privy to anything arcane, but I just sort of started and thought maybe I should post the links, just in case they are helpful to you. I am REALLY looking forward to your forthcoming post on Lewis/CEI/Carlin…

    You have a very good site, and I’ve been enjoying all of your posts for the last several weeks. Keep up the good work!

    And sorry I confused you with “Things Break”…

    [DC: Well, that's a very good site too, as I recall.]

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