April 24, 2014

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Copenhagen Update: The Emperor Has No Clothes—Or, Critics 2, IPCC 0

By E. Calvin Beisner, Ph.D.

Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, delivered a highly touted lecture on global warming at the University of Copenhagen Tuesday evening, which I attended.

Pachauri’s lecture was a typical rehearsal of all the main talking points of global warming alarmists, showing absolutely no awareness of the hundreds of refereed studies that have contradicted pretty much every significant factual claim he made. I actually found it a little embarrassing.

At the end of the lecture, Pachauri took a few—a very few—questions. Actually, he didn’t take as many questions as there were people called on. Several simply gave him praise. But two asked serious questions.

The first was Marc Morano, of www.climatedepot.com (about whom see here). His question related to a video Pachauri had shown at the end of his lecture, the thrust of which was that it was wonderful to provide solar lanterns to poor Indians who lacked electricity for their homes so that they could have light at night by which to study, cook, and do other such things. The lanterns had been pretty obviously poor light sources, but better, surely, than nothing, or than candles and kerosene lamps—and cleaner.

Morano, though, nailed Pachauri with a question about why Pachauri would rather have Indians stuck with the solar lanterns when inexpensive electricity from fossil fuel or nuclear generating plants could give them far more electricity at far lower prices, and electricity not just for a little bit of light but for lots of light plus refrigeration, air conditioning, water heating, clothes washing and drying, etc.

Pachauri’s answer was a classic case of the logical fallacy of false choice. He accused Morano of preferring that these poor people stick with their candles or kerosene lamps. Why shouldn’t they have the solar lanterns instead?

Of course, that hadn’t been Morano’s point at all. The choices aren’t limited to candles and kerosene lamps or solar lanterns. There’s another option: electricity from a grid, generated by a cheaper means.

Morano’s point had been that the cost per lumen for the solar lamps is much, much higher than the cost for the same lumens from standard light bulbs using electricity from a grid. That meant that pushing the solar lanterns on these people would use up more of their money in exchange for less light and leave them still without all the other services electricity could provide. And because it would use my more of their money, it would postpone even longer the time when they could afford the electricity and its other uses. I.e., Pachauri’s recipe is for deprivation, not solution.

As Dr. Cornelis van Kooten points out in A Renewed Call to Truth, Prudence, and Protection of the Poor (in the chapter on economics), the cost per kilowatt-hour of electricity generated by solar photovoltaic technology is about six to eight times that of electricity generated by nuclear or fossil fuels. Forcing the poor to use “cleaner” solar power instead of “dirtier” fossil-fuel generated power means in practice forcing them to stick with much dirtier fuels like wood and dung for more years until they’re able to afford the much more expensive solar.

That, of course, was Morano’s point. And it’s a point that Pachauri missed completely—or at least avoided.

The second serious question came from Lord Christopher Monckton of Brenchley, a member of the British House of Lords and a former science advisor to former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Monckton pointed out that one of the graphs Pachauri had shown in his presentation (similar to the first one below) had committed what is called the “endpoint fallacy”—a common trick in statistics designed to make trends appear certain ways by picking particular start and end points conducive to what one wants to argue but without any proper criteria for using those as endpoints.

Pachauri had argued from the graph that the rate of warming over the last 160 years was increasing, from a mild rate over the last 150 years (red line), to a more rapid rate of the last 100 years (purple line), to a very rapid rate over the last 50 years (orange line), to a even more rapid rate over the last 25 years (yellow line). (The actual graph Pachauri used in his presentation didn’t break the time down into this many periods, but its effect was the same, and it clearly used the same data.)

Monckton pointed out that, because there were periods of both warming and cooling over the entire 160 years, a more logical means of measuring warming rates was to look at the slopes of the warming periods themselves—not of the combination of warming and cooling periods. The result is this graph:

[Source for the graphs]

As you can see, the three warming periods have almost identical slopes—i.e., there has been no increase in the rate of warming over the 160 years, contrary to Pachauri’s claim.

Monckton went so far as to charge Pachauri with dishonesty.

Pachauri’s answer was . . . not. That is, he didn’t answer, at least not substantively. He gave a little rhetorical flourish about picking endpoints at random, but he clearly had no clue how to rebut Monckton’s charge.

Monckton had handed Pachauri a letter before the lecture with the charge, the graphs, and the explanation. Now we shall see whether Pachauri and the IPCC he heads have the integrity to admit the error and retract the graph—for it is one used not only in Pachauri’s lecture but also in several IPCC publications. It’s an excellent demonstration of either the dishonesty or the statistical incompetence of the IPCC’s chairman and those reviewers who must have seen the graph and approved its publication.

Score for the night: Critics 2, IPCC 0.