The Rubber Duckies 2

The Financial Post has announced the winners of its annual Rubber Duck Awards for junk science.

It reports:

FP Comment’s 12th annual Junk Science Week comes to a triumphant close with today’s 2nd annual Rubber Duck Awards to recognize the scientists, NGOs, activists, politicians, journalists, media outlets, cranks and quacks who each year advance the principles of junk science. Junk Science occurs when scientific facts are distorted, when risk is exaggerated or discounted, when science is adapted and warped by politics and ideology to serve another agenda.

Among the winners we are delighted to see this one:

The Rubber Duck award in the climate category goes to Lord Oxburgh, who gave “peer review” a whole new meaning in rushing out the first whitewash of the Climategate scandal. He headed an inquiry into the scientific integrity of the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia, from which the emails emerged, and concluded in record time that there was nothing to see here. Move along please.

Lord Oxburgh’s skimpy survey — which was carried out by a group distinctly free of skeptics — found in the CRU little more than a “small group of dedicated if slightly disorganized researchers.” His Lordship found the CRU’s “loss” of data infinitely excusable, as also was its lack of statistical sophistication, even though its field was “fundamentally statistical.”

We were a little surprised, and felt a little foolish, when we heard about this one , because we’d been taken in by the claim:

There’s a great deal of chatter in the press and online about the tremendous US$1-trillion-dollar mineral “discovery” in Afghanistan headlined by The New York Times recently.  Few … seem to be questioning the value of the so-called discovery…  The US$1-trillion-dollar figure, at best, cannot be anything more than the wildest of hopeful guesses. …

When geologists find outcropping mineralization, or other signs that an economic deposit of minerals may be present, that is not called a discovery. Even if the signs come from the latest scientific equipment flown over the country, as the U.S. government appears to have used, the result is still just an anomaly: a hopeful indication of where to look. …

Once an anomaly is identified, it takes extensive and very expensive field work to determine the best locations for drilling holes in the ground, which you have to do to calculate a volume of mineralized rock, from which you can estimate the metal contained. …

But even after you drill off a deposit, and know how big it is, how deep it is, and roughly what’s in it, you still don’t know what it’s worth. For that, you have to conduct extensive testing on the mineralized material, not just to quantify the metals or other desirable minerals within but also to see if there are contaminants, or other elements present that can complicate, or even make impossible the economic recovery of the valuable mineral. …

Now, back to Afghanistan. A “small team of Pentagon officials and American geologists” cannot possibly have drilled off these deposits, let alone done the engineering required to value them. At very best, they’ve spotted some outcrops and taken some samples. This is not a discovery — no serious exploration geologist would call anything a discovery until enough holes have been drilled into it to outline a significant volume of potentially economic material.

Where do they get the trillion-dollar figure? … They cannot have done the work necessary to generate any reasonable estimate. It’s worth pointing out that the vast majority of mineral outcroppings and other anomalies never lead to economic discoveries, much less mines. Even a very rich vein sticking right out on surface can turn out to be the last dregs of a system that has been eroded away, leaving nothing but a tease behind. For gold, the odds of an anomaly leading to an economic discovery are often cited as being on the order of 300 to one, against.

Note that this doesn’t mean the minerals are not there — Afghanistan has, for obvious reasons, not seen any modern exploration, or even antiquated exploration, for decades. It is, in all likelihood, a terrific place to look for minerals. But … it will take time for any real discoveries to be made …

And the great global warming hoax was recognized again:

Every country on Earth is still officially committed to catastrophic man-made warming as a reality that demands a draconian policy response. The erection of such a massive commitment on such shaky foundations begs for explanation, and must be put in both a larger political and psychological context.

Hubristic overestimation of human significance … may be the fundamental reason for broad acceptance of man-made climate change theory. The notion that man’s sinful and selfish ways will be punished goes back to the myth of the Flood. In many ways this belief in climate apocalypse reflects similar moralistic disapproval of “materialist” Western society

This quasi-religious belief is particularly appealing to the political and bureaucratic classes, because it provides new justifications for intervention to correct the imperfections and ongoing inequities of perpetually demonized capitalism. In a classic example of psychological “projection,” however, alarmists claim that it is their opponents who are tainted by “greed” and “self-interest.”

For most modern liberals, including many scientists, the market sun still goes round the government Earth, and it’s a paradigm they are reluctant to change. Policy skeptics, by contrast, who are still trying to establish the revolutionary and counterintuitive insights of Adam Smith, point out that carbon rationing, green industrial strategy and aid transfers under the aegis of “clean development” are — whatever the science — economic junk.

  • morpheus

    I have heard many arguments made regarding Global Warming, but what is your primary argument regarding how it is exaggerated? Five main points, perhaps? I would appreciate it.

    • C. Gee

      For evidence that the land temperature record showing warming is exaggerated, please see Anthony Watts’ website, Watt’s Up With That. Many thermometers are placed in hot locations, or are otherwise giving misleading data. There is also a lot of discussion showing that temperature proxies – tree rings – are not accurate and have been “tricked” to show increases.
      For evidence that the recent “unprecedented” warming as shown by Michael Mann’s hockey stick graph is methodologically in error, please see Steve McIntyre’s website at Climate Audit.
      Both of those websites expose many manipulations of data.
      The website Climate Debate Daily is up to date on both warmist and skeptic views.
      And for how numbers may be exaggerated out of sheer stupidity, see this article on the how the Royal Society has embarrassed itself: