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Friday, November 27, 2009

IEA are "hiding the decline"

I hope that all the global warming skeptics realize how unfortunate that their choice of the accusatory phrase "hide the decline" will turn out.

To refresh your memory, publicly released private emails from climate scientists reveal internal discussions on how to present proxy warming trends in the best light. The body of climate change skeptics jumped on this, declaring that the scientists did not let the data speak for itself and essentially self-censored themselves to the detriment of the scientific process. Google "ClimateGate" and you will find more than you want to know.

Yet we have an even more egregious case of "hiding the decline" from a business-friendly group : the International Energy Agency.

Ace's World Oil Production Forecast from a few day's ago prompted me to revisit IEA's 2009 World Energy Model from WEO. The first of several astounding excerpts:
The current World Energy Model, which is comprised of nearly 16,000 equations, is the 12th version of the model. It covers 21 regions.

So it has 16,00 equations (!), yet they show a sharp slope discontinuity of global oil in the year 2015, when oil production suddenly starts increasing.

Ace pointed out the line labeled IEA WEO 2009 projects a stable or slightly falling crude output until 2015, after which it shows a slope change and starts a linear increase.

How that can happen remains anyone's guess.

I tend to think that IEA has something up their sleeve. They show a near term plateau to keep their immediate critics happy, but show the longer range growth to keep everyone else optimistic. I see absolutely no possible way that anyone can project a discontinuity like that in an extrapolation. No model based on probability considerations can show a future discontinuity, even a Black Swan can't because no one can predict when that will happen. It can only show a continuous transition, unless they plot what they wish to see in comparison to what the models tell us. I suspect that someone told them to avoid the latter and cook the books.

"there is absolutely no way that anyone can project a discontinuity like that in an extrapolation."

I agree. The IEA WEO 2009 Table 1.4 shows the following discontinuities for crude oil production from some OPEC countries:

Algeria 2008, 1.4 mbd; down in 2015 to 1.2 mbd; and up to 1.6 mbd in 2030.

Iran 2008, 3.9 mbd; down in 2015 to 3.3 mbd; and up to 4.0 mbd in 2030.

Iraq 2008, 2.4 mbd; up in 2015 to 3.0 mbd; and big move up to 6.7 mbd in 2030.

Kuwait 2008, 2.6 mbd; down in 2015 to 2.3 mbd; and up to 3.1 mbd in 2030.

Libya 2008, 1.7 mbd; 2015 also 1.7 mbd; and up to 2.3 mbd in 2030.

Saudi Arabia 2008, 9.2 mbd; up in 2015 to 10.9 mbd; and up again to 12.0 mbd in 2030.

UAE 2008, 2.6 mbd; down in 2015 to 2.5 mbd; and up to 3.0 mbd in 2030.

I agree that no way can all those pieces show such a significant correlation as they (the IEA) project it. This series of production projections all lie in spatially independent areas and should not synchronize unless they have a crystal ball.

I consider this worse data fudging by IEA than anything in ClimateGate.

Yet, apparently:

(IEA chief) Mr. Birol knows his stuff

He may know his stuff, but it always seems that his "plain-spoken" talks don't match the plainly badly-cooked content of his technical material.

During the Q&A session that followed his presentation, someone asked him what his recommendations would be if climate change turned out to be an elaborate hoax

A rhetorical question of course, as soon enough the business-as-usual (BAU) crowd will start making a case against the Peak Oil proponents. They just have to finish projecting their "AGW hoax" on the public, which may take a few more days before the mainstream media gets a hold of it.

We as oil depletion pessimists have to gird ourselves for the onslaught.

1. AGW theory has a well established science behind it, with a network of academic and government-funded research, supported somewhat by a coalition of environmental groups who can scrap together a bit of funding from charitable contributions.

2. Peak Oil theory has no organized science to speak of behind it. There exist small concentrations of research scattered throughout the world, and these get held together somewhat by ASPO. Some of the large governmental or intergovernmental organizations expend some effort, such as the IEA and EIA agencies, but their work remains shoddy, and misleading as you saw. In practice, amateurs do all of the interesting and productive work as they fact-check and disprove much of the agency work.

Corporate research will not lift a finger to pursue the verification of either AGW or PO.

AGW also has a significant network of critics, who will nitpick the science to extremes (see for example ClimateAudit). Peak Oil has a few critics, but they don't have to do much because the EIA and IEA essentially does all the work for them, and they consider debating amateurs beneath their dignity.

So we have the roles basically reversed. AGW and climate change science attracts the laymen who do most of the skeptical criticism, while Peak Oil generates most of the important projections from the laymen.

We will have to get ready to defend our work, and point out how the BAU crowd wants so bad to "hide the decline".

My model for comparison:
The following show reproductions of my oil depletion model from fall of 2007. I have a complete discovery model behind the production model so it looks more optimistic than Ace's decline. It also actually follows the IEA curve for awhile before it starts to diverge. IEA hides the decline whereas I don't. The critical premise that I add to the discussion accounts for the possibility of gray swan discoveries as a fat-tail probability model. I suggest that we need to do this so as not to make the same forecasting mistakes as in the past. Otherwise we will continue to short-sheet future discoveries due to our reliance on sharp normal statistics (just as the financial quants on Wall St always royally screw up their own projections).

Taken from Application of Dispersive Discovery -- 2800 GB URR, based on a dispersive discovery model fit to backdated data

The following isolates the above curve in the region of Ace's data, see the thick red line.

My model does not involve 16,000 equations, and actually contains just a handful. This follows from the simplicity that I described in the "Information and Crude Complexity" article available on TOD. I believe that IEA created their own complicated model to impress unsuspecting readers with their "rigor". Unfortunately, artificial complexity at this scale only makes things worse.

Somewhat puzzling, I also have noticed that at least some of the mainstream media has started to treat "amateur science sleuthing" and opinions of laymen with a bit more respect. Just like the Wall Street Journal editorial writers get impressed by ClimateAudit's Steve McIntyre's rigor :

Revenge of the Climate Laymen
Mr. McIntyre offers what many in the field do not: rigor.
So why do they print this opinion piece in the WSJ? They basically have put all their eggs in the "truth" basket now. They can't have it both ways. If the skeptics keep standing behind the truth of McIntyre, they will eventually wilt when the weight of the evidence crushes them. Mr. Bayes remains a ruthless adversary. They cannot hide the decline, Bayes will not let them. I look forward to a laymen against laymen cage match.

Closing Quotes

Part of the problem as Taleb said in The Black Swan with respect to understanding a phenomenon:
"We scorn the abstract; we scorn it with passion."
Latest Monbiot quote:
"An American scientist I know suggests that these books and websites cater to a new literary market: people with room-temperature IQs. He didn't say whether he meant fahrenheit or centigrade."

I think about the "hiding the decline" topic this way. The climate change skeptics try to marginalize all scientists to advance their own BAU agenda. To me, nothing else makes sense.


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