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Monday, July 28, 2014

Food and climate change and hypersensitive deniers at WUWT

Sou | 2:34 PM Go to the first of 24 comments. Add a comment

In my experience, prolonged exposure to severe sharp pain can make a person hypersensitive to pain, at least temporarily.  Well I'm seeing the same effect with Anthony Watts at WUWT when it comes to fear.

Studies have suggested that some people process information via the amygdala more and they are hypersensitive to fear. That goes a long way to explaining the following. In fact it explains a lot about deniers. Deniers (ie the plebs as opposed to the disinformers) do appear to react strongly against anything that causes them to be scared. Their brain gets overloaded so they claim "it can't be true". I see it time and time again at WUWT. The words "scare" and "fear" come up a lot whenever climate science is discussed, with claims like "they are just trying to scare us".

Christopher Monckton knows very well that the threshold of fear among the denialati is much lower than average. He drafted an email which traded heavily on the scaredy cat tendency, you may recall (email here, which I discussed here). Any normal person would laugh or groan or tsk upon getting an email like that. I don't know how most deniers reacted. What I do know is that he managed to attract people to his events, so it's likely there were some people who didn't consign his email to the spam or trash folder.

Two days in a row Anthony's picked on perfectly normal headlines and claimed they are "hype".

Now hype happens all the time. Editors want to attract readers so they pick a headline that will scream for attention. Yet that wasn't the case in these two situations.  Here are the two cases (click read more if you are on the home page).

Case 1:  WUWT headline: Climactic headline shifts

Anthony Watts is complaining not about the study itself, but about the different headlines of the same press release about the study (archived here).

Press release from Eurekalert with the headline: "Climate change increases risk of crop slowdown in next 20 years"

Headline from NCAR/UCAR press release about the same paper: "Climate experts estimate risk of rapid crop slowdown"

I couldn't at first figure out which headline Anthony took exception to. He wrote:
Hmm, “estimate risk” and “increases risk” are bit far apart, and the article even talks that headline down:

Well, "estimate risk" in the second headline doesn't tell us anything about what the estimated risk was. The word "increases" in the first headline tells us that the risk is greater and is associated with climate change.

The first headline is more informative than the second headline. Both are accurate. Neither is hyped. It was interesting that Anthony didn't pick on the word "rapid" in the second headline. Apparently he was satisfied with the fact that the headline didn't give a hint about the findings of the paper, only the subject matter.

The paper in ERL has the title:

"Getting caught with our plants down: the risks of a global crop yield slowdown from climate trends in the next two decades"

The abstract:
In many discussions of climate change impacts in agriculture, the large magnitudes of expected impacts toward the end of the century are used to emphasize that most of the risks are to future generations. However, this perspective misses the important fact that demand growth for food is expected to be much slower after 2050 than before it, and that the next two decades represent the bulk of growth before 2050. Thus, impacts of smaller magnitude in the near-term can be as or more consequential for food prices or food security as larger magnitude impacts in the future.
Here we estimate the risks that climate trends over the next 10 or 20 years could have large impacts on global yields of wheat and maize, with a focus on scenarios that would cut the expected rates of yield gains in half.
We find that because of global warming, the chance of climate trends over a 20 year period causing a 10% yield loss has increased from a less than 1 in 200 chance arising from internal climate variability alone, to a 1 in 10 chance for maize and 1 in 20 chance for wheat. Estimated risks for maize are higher because of a greater geographic concentration than wheat, as well as a slightly more negative aggregate temperature sensitivity.
Global warming has also greatly increased the chance of climate trends large enough to halve yield trends over a 10 year period, with a roughly 1 in 4 chance for maize and 1 in 6 chance for wheat. Estimated risks are slightly larger when using climate projections from a large ensemble of a single climate model that more fully explores internal climate variability, than a multi-model ensemble that more fully explores model uncertainty.
Although scenarios of climate impacts large enough to halve yield growth rates are still fairly unlikely, they may warrant consideration by institutions potentially affected by associated changes in international food prices.

You can read about the research at or read the paper at ERL, it's open access.

Case 2: WUWT headline: The must be Paul Ehrlich week in climate science [sic]

Anthony wrote (archived here), referring to the above:
Yesterday, in Climactic headline shifts the hype factor between two headlines on crop production and climate was pointed out, noting that there was just a small increase in risk. 

Notice how he called the drop from less than one in 200 to one in ten for maize and one in twenty for wheat - just a small increase in risk. He was confused. The increase in risk of a 10% drop in yield is at least twenty-fold for maize and at least ten-fold for wheat, which are large increases in risk. What he should have written was that the risk is still relatively low looking ahead ten or twenty years, even though the increase in risk is large.

Anthony continued with:
Today we have another similar press release, claiming that climate change (plus air ozone pollution) will cause crop production to slow down. So far, there is no indication of such a thing happening, even though Paul Ehrlich claimed for years that massive famines would happen as food production slowed.

That's a case of "because I don't think it has happened yet it won't happen". It could also be classed as the logical fallacy of personal incredulity.

The research itself is a warning, so we can take action to prevent it from happening, which is what happened following all the warnings to date about the risk of food production rates not keeping up with demand. And if Anthony thinks parts of the world haven't experienced "massive famines" then he's living on a different planet to the one I inhabit.

He's also wrong in arguing that it hasn't happened yet. The study in question shows that crops react differently to ozone and to higher temperatures. When ozone and higher temperatures combine, the effects can interact. Interestingly, the work suggests that some studies wrongly attributed yield reductions in soybeans to heat, which was actually caused by ozone. The press release at states:
While heat and ozone can each damage plants independently, the factors also interact. For example, warmer temperatures significantly increase production of ozone from the reactions, in sunlight, of volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides. Because of these interactions, the team found that 46 percent of damage to soybean crops that had previously been attributed to heat is actually caused by increased ozone.
Under some scenarios, the researchers found that pollution-control measures could make a major dent in the expected crop reductions following climate change. For example, while global food production was projected to fall by 15 percent under one scenario, larger emissions decreases projected in an alternate scenario reduce that drop to 9 percent.
Air pollution is even more decisive in shaping undernourishment in the developing world, the researchers found: Under the more pessimistic air-quality scenario, rates of malnourishment might increase from 18 to 27 percent by 2050 — about a 50 percent jump; under the more optimistic scenario, the rate would still increase, but that increase would almost be cut in half, they found.
Agricultural production is “very sensitive to ozone pollution,” Heald says, adding that these findings “show how important it is to think about the agricultural implications of air-quality regulations. Ozone is something that we understand the causes of, and the steps that need to be taken to improve air quality.”

My take is that either Anthony is very sensitive to fear or he knows his readers are very sensitive to fear or both. Given his demonstrable fear of rising sea level, I'd say he suffers from a hypersensitive amygdala.

From the WUWT comments

Bill H talks about being scared and says he doesn't believe it (my bold underlined italics):
July 27, 2014 at 10:16 am
Seems the boys in Boulder and their counter parts have been partaking of the 5 leaf weed a bit to much. (or this is a bad case of scientific perversion)
The current CO2 increase has caused 0.0 deg C rise inf temp when natural variation is considered. The Current stop in warming has cooled farming regions thus slowing production naturally and has nothing to do with Man Created Climatic Change.
Historically, the MEWP saw great crop increases even when some areas formed desert conditions as other areas became aridible and crop productions soared.
I find it hard to believe they can contain a trace gas to an area and then claim its effects in minuet micorclimates when they cant even get a simple weather prediction to pan out at greater than 24 hours at a 95% confidence level in a small area. There is so much wrong with this paper and so much gibberish eco-terroist crap in it and none of it can be supported by historical comparison.
The low information voter who can not understand simple scientific concepts will be scared that they are going to starve and that is what they wanted. As emotion increases the ability to logically reason decreases. This is intentional misdirection and lying to support an agenda.. Get them scared with lies and then have the government come in and save them with more intrusive regulations.
This is paper is nothing more than perverted science propaganda and has no scientific value. Just casually looking at it and its base claims, even I can see it is ridicules. These folks need to just come out and admit they are scientists for hire and they will produce whatever you want to the highest bidder…

Bill H reemphasises that he is quite fearful of being scared and says:
July 27, 2014 at 10:27 am
I forgot to add this article is specifically designed for a media blitz to create fear… Just what politicians losing the battle on Climate Change want. 

Bill H pops up again under the second article and says (my bold underlined italics):
July 27, 2014 at 7:29 pm
So some folks at MIT have significant comprehension issues and as their list of conjectured points, points out they dont have a clue about what they are writing on. And interestingly its is exactly the same “were gonna starve” BS we got earlier From Stanford and Boulder Co folks that is totally unsubstantiated and infact fly’s in the face of empirical data.
Don’t you just love contrived fear-mongering from the far left control wackos?
This confirms my belief that this is nothing more than a fear campaign to get CAGW back on the tracks of endless funding and political agenda pushing. Come on, what are the odds of two different Universities doing the exact same mumbojumbo? 

ladylifegrows cannot cope with reality either and says (my bold underlined italics):
July 27, 2014 at 12:25 pm
University science departments have been known to say that they can get any result you want, for a fee. Even so, this one is amazing. They managed to spin things so marvellously that they made it look like a risk of fewer crops if the temperature rises from 12C to 13C or from 57F to 59F.
You may not be farmers, but many of you have lawns. Corn and wheat are grasses. What does your lawn grass do when the temperature rises from 57F to 59F?
We have managed to get the pause across to alarmists. I think we need to get the current average temperature across to both alarmists and the public at large.
This site is full of highly intelligent people (yes, there are idiots and average people posting here, but 5-10% compared to most posts in yahoo or Grauniad, etc etc) I have noticed that the general public only comprehends 1 or 2 things at a time. So we have to emphasize this.
But even that won’t really do much good. The real fear is carbon dioxide levels harming human health. The opposite is true–we probably owe much of our increased longevity to rising carbon dioxide. If we ever get THAT across, it will be the end of the fear, and we might even be able to return science to the eager search for truth, wherever the results might lead.
Hmmmm, while writing this, I had the germ of an idea. I never understood why other people like Coca Cola and other sodas, because I happen to hate them. I think people benefit from the carbon dioxide. If I can come up with products and/or ads for products that contain the CO2 without the sugar or worse (all alternatives are worse and more fattening than sugar), we might be able to show greater vitality. Then CO2 lovers would be given a real boost in personal bodily power, and that result might communicate very effectively indeed…

Read that last paragraph again, folk!

There are some other gems, for example CD (@CD153) says:
July 27, 2014 at 8:01 am
Joel O’Bryan says: July 27, 2014 at 7:01 am “I didn’t realize corn and wheat could read political propaganda. How else would a corn plant know why it is warmer?
Exactly Joel. Do the brainless authors of this paper really expect me to believe that the corn and wheat plant (or any plant for that matter) can tell the difference between natural and manmade warming and can tell when there is a mix of the two? And do they expect me to believe the two plants will react differently and produce a varying yield depending on the warming type?
I’m not even a scientist and that notion still sets off the B.S. alarm in my head. This demonstrates the degree to which climate science has been corrupted by the politicization of it and the tax dollars flowing into it, and it is getting truly tragic.

brockway32 says:
July 27, 2014 at 8:28 am
The other thing I like about the article is the intrinsic bias. How will things go? Well, that depends on how bad the warming is. If it is simply an alarming increase in temperatures, then it will be this way, but if it is an alarming and SHOCKING increase in temperatures, then it will be that way.
Still not a hint of any author daring to say “if temperatures do not rise”.

Willis Eschenbach says farmers can always predict the weather and have a choice:
July 27, 2014 at 8:49 am
The part of these papers that always makes me laugh is that they think that farmers are idiots who will continue to plant e.g. a specific strain of corn, or corn at all, if the conditions for one kind of corn prove unfavorable.
Here’s the reality, dear boffins. Farmers change what they plant with the weather, even year by year. If it is going to be dry, or it looks like a shorter growing season because the spring is late, they plant varietals adapted to dryer weather or shorter growing-seasons, or they plant something else entirely. And of course if there is a much longer general swing in the temperature or the rainfall, they adapt to that as well.
And as a result, any projections of either yield or production which do NOT take the farmers into account are worse than useless, because they are actively misleading.
I gotta say it … pathetic. Those guys need to go live on a farm for a few years to disabuse themselves of their childish suppositions about farmers.

Yet it's Willis who doesn't understand. The paper was about yield, not about whether a crop could be planted at all or whether another variety would suit a particular season better. In fact, it's work like this that will spur plant breeding to try to get better yielding varieties that suit different localities as the local climate changes. I'd also hazard a guess that David Lobell knows one heck of a lot more about agriculture and Claudi Tebaldi knows one heck of a lot more about number crunching than Willis ever will.

David B Lobell, Claudia Tebaldi. "Getting caught with our plants down: the risks of a global crop yield slowdown from climate trends in the next two decades". Environmental Research Letters, 2014; 9 (7): 074003 DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/9/7/074003

Amos P. K. Tai, Maria Val Martin, Colette L. Heald. "Threat to future global food security from climate change and ozone air pollution". Nature Climate Change, 2014; DOI: 10.1038/nclimate2317


  1. ladylifegrows: "If I can come up with products and/or ads for products that contain the CO2 without the sugar or worse ..."

    Joseph Priestley discovered carbonated water (aka soda water) in 1767. Too late for ladylifegrows?

    1. Score one for MWS and zero for ladylifegrows. I'd love to know which university science departments claim they can get any result you like for sufficient cash as there are plenty of results they can't get regardless of income - faster than light, breaking the laws of thermodynamics, antigravity...

      Not just the idiocy of the last paragraph but the first one too. Perhaps we need a hall of fame for the most stupid comments at WUWT as this one has to be in that category.

  2. Bert from ElthamJuly 28, 2014 at 3:13 PM

    When there is no connect between the amygdala and the pre frontal cortex we call these people at best sociopaths and at worst psychopaths.

    These then damaged humans use all sorts of ruses to take advantage of stupid and/or poorly educated humans that have fear and hopelessness as their core drivers for evading the real worlds wrongfully perceived imaginary dangers.
    By railing against the reality of science they feel safe. It is just like all the primitive ignorant goat herders that had no clue!

    It has been an absolute wake up call to me Sou. There are a lot of very stupid people out there. Now I am scared! Bert

  3. Steven Goddard (not his real name) has been running around a calling people names again as well. I think it was the reports of the warmest June on record that has set them off. Just look how Steven Goddard reacted to a tweet from from Katharine Hayhoe. No telling how they will react to news reports of the heatwave in Japan.

    1. Using Bert's reference, one wonders if Steve Goddard's pre-frontal cortex is connected to anything at all.

  4. Captain FlashheartJuly 28, 2014 at 4:45 PM

    Sou, I'm not convinced by your theory about how denialists are driven by fear. Looking at your conveniently located word tracker, I can't see words like "fear","scared" or anything similar registering on that Wattmeter at all - rather, it's all words about left, power and money. How can it be that they're always talking about being afraid, but the words don't even register? The available evidence on Watty and his mates doesn't match the conclusion from those past studies. I think they are crusading against a leftist environmental ideology, not afraid at all.

    1. Bert from ElthamJuly 28, 2014 at 5:13 PM

      Do you really think that these ignorant morons are not full of fear?

      They do not know what to fear or how to fear it. They just know there is something to fear.

      They are first class morons!


    2. That's a good point, Captain Flashheart.

      I'm not convinced that fear isn't a factor in denial, though.

      The words "they are only trying to scare us" do appear time and time again in the comments. And Christopher Monckton's email was certainly trading on the fear factor.

      I don't believe it's a case of either/or. I'd also make a distinction between deniers and disinformers.

      Anthony does show signs of being very afraid of rising sea levels. It's not just that he rejects the notion it's the number of times he rejects it and the way he phrases his rejection, using words like "scaremongering".

      The topic could make a good research project for someone.

    3. Yeah well, Bert from Eltham......That would be Eltham ,Taranaki NZ ?
      So you're a farmer or a milk-tanker truck driver?

    4. Do I detect an ad hom comment? (And it comes from Mack, who rejects the greenhouse effect and thinks atmospheric CO2 cools the planet!)

      There is more than one Eltham in the world, Mack. (In any case, many dairy farmers and milk-tanker truck drivers are not ignorant of the world beyond the farm gate or beyond New Zealand.)

      IIRC, Bert from Eltham has previously indicated he is retired from a career as a scientist, among other talents he has mentioned.

    5. Captain FlashheartJuly 28, 2014 at 9:38 PM

      Sou, does your wattmeter include comments? It could be that the fear gets expressed in the comments, but is assumed (and therefore not mentioned so much) in the posts - sort of like how scientific papers assume humans cause warming, and therefore don't mention (leading to vast confusion for dimwits like Monckton).

    6. Do I detect an ad hom comment?

      I think you do! I think you could call it a strawman, fishing ad hominem as it is based on nothing at all and hoping to get a bite. Totally gratuitous and really a little bit .

      I cannot think of the right word. Any suggestions? Something that means small and insignificant that at the same time is a little bit repellant.

    7. The wattmeter does include comments, CF. The version shown in the sidebar is the ideology/politics version. There's another version too.

      It currently doesn't include words like "scare" or "fear" either. I think they show them sometimes, I'll watch out for it.

    8. I see that KarenMackSunspot still hasn't learned primary school punctuation conventions, after years of shoulder tapping. If someone is so refractory to learning at the level of a ten-year-old, they certainly don't have the nous to comment on adult science.

      Just saying...

    9. If one looks at the Wattmeter there are the words "alarm", "alarmist", "alarmists" and "CAGW", amongst other terms that indirectly imply fear.

      These words were all present on the 10th, 13th, 16th and 19th of June, so the underlying theme of alarm is a persistent one.

  5. Ha ha. Enjoyed this little gem from Monckton's e-mail:

    According to oflicial UN IPCC global temperature datasets, the length of time WITHOUT ANY MEASURABLE WARMING has been 16 Years, 18 Years, 19 Years or in the case of the most accurate satellite dataset, 23 Years (depending which oflicial UN IPCC dataset is used).

    And we all know which one has to be the 'most accurate satellite dataset', don't we? It has to be RSS, which in denier speak is by definition the most accurate because it shows the *lowest anomalies*. And even Dr. Roy Spencer disavows RSS by now, because its orbit is failing:

    On the Divergence Between the UAH and RSS Global Temperature Records

    The take-away paragraph from that article:

    Anyway, my UAH cohort and boss John Christy, who does the detailed matching between satellites, is pretty convinced that the RSS data is undergoing spurious cooling because RSS is still using the old NOAA-15 satellite which has a decaying orbit, to which they are then applying a diurnal cycle drift correction based upon a climate model, which does not quite match reality. We have not used NOAA-15 for trend information in years…we use the NASA Aqua AMSU, since that satellite carries extra fuel to maintain a precise orbit.

    (my emphasis added)

    In Deniersville, it's perfectly OK to use hopelessly out-of-date/inaccurate data. It's the way they roll. In fact, it's the only way you can play it when reality is against you :-)

    1. Metzomagic, I wouldn't dismiss RSS so easily. I haven't come across anything that explains the difference easily but I know it doesn't cover the same area as UAH, which could explain part of the difference. The RSS people give their reasons for that, partly in that the satellites don't deal with altitude at the poles well, so Antarctica is out.

      I've also read that UAH is about to go to version 6 which Roy Spencer says will bring it more into line with RSS.

      I do agree that deniers pick the data set that they think suits their purpose best. They shift and change their allegiance, depending on which shows the lowest trend at any time.

    2. For a while it was UAH. Then it was HadCRUT3 (never HadCRUT4), now the denial temperature record of choice is RSS.

      For what it's worth, I suspect that the RSS data has issues - it's really the extrema record at this point. But both satellite temperature records are likely running lower than reality, given that they reflect a lower relative amplification of warming over land than is reasonable.

      But the deniers always gravitate to whatever record is most convenient, whatever shows a short-term low trend to be (mis)interpreted. The same cherry-picking occurred with early ARGO ocean heat content data (Dr. Pielke Sr., for example) until more correct analysis showed OHC rising rapidly, or with sea level during the 2010-2012 dip (later confirmed to be due to La Nina and water retention on land, primarily Australia). And whenever additional data shows that low trend to be just a spot of noise, they move on to whatever record might be varying low at that time. When you look at all of the data, the denialist claims are nonsense.

      All of which just demonstrates how the deniers don't have the support of the evidence...

  6. One of the commenters begins with:

    "University science departments have been known to say that they can get any result you want, for a fee. "

    Ummm .... which university? Which department? When?

  7. Have you seen this new post?

    I nominate it for quote of the year:

    In fact, the months of May through September warmed at an average rate of 0.17°C/Century, while October through April increased at an average rate of 0.58°C/Century, more than 3 times higher. This suggests that the climate is not getting hotter, it has become less cold.

    1. Ha ha. Yes, you beat me to it. I also saw that Anthony covered up the article quickly with another dumb "essay" from Eric "eugenics" Worrall.

      Does Ron Clutz know that winter warming faster than summer is a sign of greenhouse effect warming?

    2. Fascinating. I used to argue that "less basic" was as odd a way to describe acidification as "less cold" would be an odd way to describe warming.

      And now they embrace the silly!

    3. The latest advice from Frank Lunz, perhaps - don't say global warming, say global less-cooling.

    4. Hmm, global climate-that's-not-as-cool-as-it-was-before-but-that's-okay-because-all-the-change-is-good-even-though-it's-not-actually-warming-it's-cooling just doesn't have a good cadence.


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