It is time to stop quivering in our boots in pointless fear of the future and just roll up our sleeves and build it.
- Ray Pierrehumbert

Monday, August 16, 2010

Energy Collective Jumps the Shark

A completely worthless article is running on The Energy Collective. Almost every fact it quotes is wrong.

I have removed their logo from my blog for now. If I see another example this bad, I will ask them to remove my name from their contributors' list.

The point of curation is to keep the worthless crap out of view. If a multi-author site can't do that, it provides no service that Google and blogs can't.

Update: I received a friendly and concerned letter from the moderator/community manager which had the opposite of the intended effect. It further convinced me that The Energy Collective is not useful. I won't quote the whole thing but here's my reply which quotes the disappointing part:
I might write an article, but it will not be a rebuttal of his point of view.

There are people with whom I vehemently disagree whose opinions I read, and there are some with whom I largely agree that I ignore. This is not about agreement. This is about competence.

Garnet's point of view is irrelevant because it is based on purported facts that are wrong. The purpose of a site like yours is to provide a place for a variety of informed opinion to contend. This article makes me very concerned that you don't have the capacity to distinguish between informed opinion and bar room bluster. There is no shortage of the latter, and if your site provides that, it is not useful.

I think web community manager is an important role; I go to SXSW Interactive; I have been to a couple of community manager sessions. I understand the complex balance you are trying to navigate. But a lot of what is talked about in such sessions is not relevant to the sort of web product that interests me, which is where the product is expertise, not opinion, not enthusiasm, not personality, not humor.

I will be watching TEC closely to decide if I am willing to be associated with it. If I find articles which are based on confusion about facts, I will conclude that you provide no useful service and will withdraw.

I am sorry to be so harsh. Unfortunately I have no choice.

If you are paid to moderate a largely technical discussion and don't have the expertise and experience to do so, you are in a difficult spot. I really do sympathize. But you either can or can't perform the curatorial job that is needed to make an effective site of this type, no matter how well designed, promoted, and coded the site may be.

You say

> "it presented a particular view on a controversial subject, neither of which has been
> frequently presented on the site, and it is our belief that it's important
> to encourage all points of view, especially on issues as critical as our
> climate."

If that's all you think there is to it, I can't help you and you can't help me. If you were hired to fly a plane (presuming you have no pilot training) I would feel sorry for you but I still wouldn't get on the plane.

4 comments:

rustneversleeps said...

I had noticed that article on the weekend and just said "wtf????".

He says: "More specifically, it has been shown that atmospheric CO2 has been perhaps twice higher than now in the not too distant past (some 250,000 years ago.) So what caused it to drop to as low as it was around 1850?" (In editting the article, he has now mangled his words here, but there is no doubt that initially he stated that between 75,000 and 250,000 years ago, atmospheric CO2 concentrations were 2x to 3x higher than present... See the comments section.)

No reference whatsoever. How does that nonsense reconcile to this?: Last Time Carbon Dioxide Levels Were This High: 15 Million Years Ago, Scientists Report
"'The last time carbon dioxide levels were apparently as high as they are today — and were sustained at those levels — global temperatures were 5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit higher than they are today, the sea level was approximately 75 to 120 feet higher than today, there was no permanent sea ice cap in the Arctic and very little ice on Antarctica and Greenland,' said the paper's lead author, Aradhna Tripati, a UCLA assistant professor in the department of Earth and space sciences and the department of atmospheric and oceanic sciences".

You're right. An embarrassment.

Patrick said...

Speaking on mitigation our man andre garnet claims that:

"all ... attempts (will be) futile given that so much CO2 has already accumulated in the atmosphere that even if we ended all CO2 emissions today, global warming would probably continue to increase unabated."

I do wish that he would provide citations. It would be nice to know on what basis he makes his claim.

Mark Lynas was inspired by the November 2000 Nature article "Acceleration of Global Warming Due to Carbon Cycle Feedbacks in a Coupled Climate Model" which so alarmed him, that he researched and wrote "Six Degrees." In that article Peter Cox and his co-authors tell us that

"We find that under a 'business as usual' scenario, the terrestrial biosphere acts as an overall carbon sink until about 2050, but turns into a source thereafter. By 2100, the ocean uptake rate of 5 Gt C yr-1 is balanced by the terrestrial carbon source, and atmospheric CO2 concentrations are 250 p.p.m.v. higher in our fully coupled simulation than in uncoupled carbon models2, resulting in a global-mean warming of 5.5 K, as compared to 4 K without the carbon-cycle feedback."

All of this is cause for concern. I have heard the talk that at some level of warming a number of feedback tipping points exist which could greatly amplify our ongoing climate experiment, to a degree which would have extreme concequences. To date I have not heard the news that we have passed these tipping points yet. I am not thinking of the polar ice cap, which in all probability will continue on its current summer time melting trend regardless of how agressively we act. As such his premise is without merit.

In fact from begining to end I found myself mumbling beneath my breath the mantra of Climate Sight:

"Citation Needed!"

Vostok data:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Vostok_420ky_4curves_insolation.jpg

ftp://ftp.ncdc.noaa.gov/pub/data/paleo/icecore/antarctica/vostok/co2nat.txt

This essay is an amazing example of bad scholarship.

Patrick said...

Oddly Mr Garnet has an education in chemistry and biochemisty. In addition he claims to be some sort of stock analyst. I would have guessed by looking at his educational background that he would have done some research into his premises before posting the essay the he did.

Weird.

Patrick said...

http://epa.gov/climatechange/emissions/usinventoryreport.html

I read the summary of this EPA report while thinking about the Andre Garnet essay. I learned a thing or two.

In a related EPA article (Human Related Sources and Sinks of CO2) it is said that:

"The process of generating electricity is the single largest source of CO2 emissions in the United States, representing 41% of all CO2 emissions."

If we but had the will. It seems that there is a whole lot of low hanging fruit on the mitigation tree.