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You can’t keep a good lie down

February 28th, 2005

The long-discredited Oregon petition against global warming seems to be getting another run – presumably it is circulating somewhere in the wilder reaches of the blogosphere. Miranda Devine gave it a run in yesterday’s SMH, in a piece loaded with errors and inventions.

Her basic complaint is that efforts like the Oregon petition, Lomborg’s Copenhagen Consensus and so on, are unfairly attacked by greenies. Leaving aside the fact that these dishonest stunts deserved to be attacked, Devine is the last person who has any right to complain about excessive vitriol in debate. She can dish it out, but she can’t take it, apparently.

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  1. Joseph Clark
    February 28th, 2005 at 11:29 | #1

    Sure, Oregon might have been a little on the dishonest side and Copenhagen might have been stacked to one side of the boat, but that’s not a good reason to discredit any study. Lomborg and Devine are responding to the highly motivated claim from the GW movement that there is some kind of consensus of reasonable scientific opinion that global warming exists. Ordinary people (like economists) should not worry about the details and accept the rare unity as divine fact. This amounts to saying that all (scientific) swans are white and is rightly subject to the black swan defense: 20,000 black swans from the Oregon study and a gaggle of black Nobel prize winners from the Copenhagen consensus.

  2. February 28th, 2005 at 11:47 | #2

    If you look at this website and read this article http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=121 it gives “A dummies guide to the Hockey Stick” it wll give you a better idea of what it is all about. Mann is a contributer to this site.

    The Oregan petition asked about global catastophe which no responsible scientist could say is going to happen. Nobody knows the answer to this. If the petition said ” Do you agree that higher levels of atmospheric CO2 will cause some degree of Global Warming” then perhaps it would have more meaning as most scientists, not in the pay of fossil fuel corporations, agree that the increased levels of CO2 produced by human activity will cause some warming of the atmosphere.

    The consequences of this warming could range from a Permiam extinction event to slightly higher temperatures – nobody knows for sure. However there are plenty of people making lots of money that are willing to ‘bet the farm’ on there being no effects of Global Warming.

  3. adrian
    February 28th, 2005 at 15:39 | #3

    i once read a story about the GreenHouse Effect where a pre teen kid asked his teacher how it was possible that the atmosphere could heat up when theres no glass of any kind up there, just sky. The ozone layer is not made of glass but gas the kid reasoned so he came to the conclusion that it was all bunk.

  4. February 28th, 2005 at 17:37 | #4


    What the ……..!

  5. February 28th, 2005 at 17:45 | #5

    On TV recently I have seen adds talking about global warming. The adds include silly pictures of catastrophes, and sugests that people who disagree with the doomsday scenario are idiots.

    I am waiting for Q’s attack on that advert… because I know what a strident defender of the unbiased truth Q is. 😉

  6. John Quiggin
    February 28th, 2005 at 20:16 | #6

    John H, you might have inferred from extensive reading of this blog that I don’t watch an awful lot of TV, and I tend to skip the ads. What was the ad flogging?

  7. February 28th, 2005 at 20:28 | #7

    Well, I once saw a blog post by one John Humphreys who made the extremely misleading claim that the satellite record showed cooling of 0.1 degrees C. I am still waiting for Humphrey’s correction of that post.

  8. observa
    March 1st, 2005 at 10:05 | #8

    Personally I like Tex’s comment that: Would you trust people who can’t forecast the weather next week to tell you what it will be like in 50yrs?, or words to that effect. He’s got a point, but that doesn’t alter the concern almost all of us have for continuing to replace our natural environment with the environments we do, at the rates we are. The natural environment doesn’t have lots of friends like the plethora of investors in bitumen, glass, steel and concrete are to these environments and no Kyoto protocol is going to change that fundamental axiom. Wilderness/natural environment needs exactly the same friends to invest in, grow it and maintain it, as we now have for rendered Tuscan boxes. Public sector rearguard action just won’t cut it and time is running out.

  9. Paul Norton
    March 1st, 2005 at 10:38 | #9

    “Personally I like Tex’s comment that: Would you trust people who can’t forecast the weather next week to tell you what it will be like in 50yrs?, or words to that effect. He’s got a point. . .”

    Well, I can’t tell you what the weather is going to be in Brisbane or in Hobart on Monday 18 July 2005, but I am happy to wager anyone on this site that the maximum temperature in Brisbane on that day will be warmer than the maximum temperature in Hobart. To reiterate, global warming is about climate, not weather.

  10. Ian Gould
    March 1st, 2005 at 10:43 | #10


    Similarly, while I can’t tell you what the weather will be like in Brisbane next week, I am reasonably confident the average maximum daily temperature in Brisbane in June this tear will be lower than the same figure for January next year.

  11. Katz
    March 1st, 2005 at 11:01 | #11

    I can’t tell you that playing Russian Roulette you’ll die the next time you pull the trigger.

    But I can tell you that you will be dead by the time you pull the trigger six times.

    Tex is an idiot.

  12. observa
    March 1st, 2005 at 13:45 | #12

    Actually, Tex has a valid point for me at least. Picture the scene some years before cancer cures. I’ve been put in hospital with some vague benign symptoms and I’ve got lots of learned specialists arguing over whether I might possibly have a cancer that’s going to kill me long term, while one tells the nurse to give me a cup of his favourite herbal tea. Tex pops in for a visit, sums up the situation and says toss this lot and come and have a beer, unless you want to spend the rest of your life in here sipping herbal tea with this bunch waiting for a diagnosis, let alone a cure. Now you have to admit that’s an attractive proposition, unless I also know I’m in the early stages of developing stomach ulcers.

  13. Katz
    March 1st, 2005 at 15:00 | #13


    But in your analogy, to be consistent, Tex would have to come in and say, “Sure you had some worrying symptoms last week, otherwise you wouldn’t have submitted yourself to the care of these doctors. But this week you feel better, so doesn’t this tell you there’s nothing wrong?”

    And indeed there may be nothing wrong, but you just can’t get it out of your mind that last week you were fainting, feeling feverish and bleeding from the ears. These may be benign symptoms.

    But maybe not.

  14. Paul Norton
    March 1st, 2005 at 15:06 | #14

    I would have thought alcoholics in denial might have been a more apt metaphor than cancer patients where greenhouse is concerned.

  15. drscroogemcduck
    March 1st, 2005 at 18:07 | #15

    I would of thought hypochondriacs would have been a more apt metaphor.

  16. March 2nd, 2005 at 01:16 | #16

    Q — the adds are trying to get donations for greenpeace.

    Tim, I can’t believe you’re still going on about that — especially given that you were shown clearly to be wrong. It is obviously very difficult for you to admit mistakes, which is understandable in this situation because you invested so much of your credibility in your weird attacks on me. How embarassed you must have been.

    Just to remind you. I wrote a parody, which included a fact that one measure shows temps were warmer than they had been recorded in 1980 (note: as it happens, this is no longer true). You totally misunderstood the parody, told several straight-out lies and continued to mock me even after I posted links to the facts on your page several times.

    For those who want to see Tim’s embarassment for themselves — the data is at: http://www.nsstc.uah.edu/data/msu/t2lt/tltglhmam_5.1

    And (as though it needs to be pointed out) even the data I quoted hadn’t existed, that would not make the greenpeace any better. Will you admit they went over the top and at least make a pretence at covering up your bias?

  17. John Quiggin
    March 2nd, 2005 at 07:11 | #17

    I haven’t seen the ad, but political ads, speeches and propaganda are usually dishonest to some degree, and Greenpeace often exaggerates and oversimplifies.

    I don’t “condemn” the ad, because it is, after all, an ad. And, if Lomborg and the Oregon petition organizers admitted that they were engaged in a political propaganda exercise, rather than a scientific search for truth (as claimed by Devine) I wouldn’t condemn them for dishonesty, though I’d still deplore their cause.

    As I’ve said quite a few times, it’s not Lomborg’s arguments that get my goat, it’s his self-presentation as an environmentalist.

  18. Ros
    March 2nd, 2005 at 08:51 | #18

    Interesting response JQ to the standard of veracity if the medium is an advertisment which we should allow of Greenpeace.
    The following was in Hansen’s open letter, (is he one of the good guys) which I suspect you are more au fait with than me. I found his congratulations to the Washington Post for their reporting of this useful though.
    “What it does do is remind us that climate issues are complex, far from fully understood and open to a variety of approaches. It should serve as a caution to environmentalists so certain of their position that they’re willing to advocate radical solutions, no matter what the economic cost. It suggests that the sensible course is to move ahead with a strong dose of realism and flexibility, focusing on approaches that are economically viable, that serve other useful purposes such as cutting dependence on foreign oil or improving public health, and that can help support international consensus for addressing climate change. If the Hansen report pushes the discussion in that direction, it will turn out to be good news indeed.”
    That would seem to have been a vain hope. Positions are further entrenched vitriol is greater and I suspect the public just doesn’t believe anyone now.
    Your postion re political propaganda is understaneable as many feel that Greenpeace is about the same thing on a number of occasions and thus it gets on peoples goat.
    So maybe one should merely exercise caution when concluding that greenpeace is a political organisation, but i havefound it hard to forget the wobblies they told and admitted to with the Brett Spar. Not just because it was dishonest but because they forced it’s dismantling in a way that was far more environmentally risky and knew they were. Maybe the problem is exacerbated not because Lomberg is “political” but because all the players in the end are political.
    Was Lomberg a Greenpeace person then can anyone remember.

  19. March 2nd, 2005 at 14:12 | #19

    Humphreys wrote a post claiming that the satellite record showed cooling. In fact, it shows warming. I asked him to correct his post. He responded with abuse. As you can see from his comment above, he continues his abusive responses. No, I am not lying. The satellite record does show warming and you can easily see this to be true if you click on the link in Humpreys’ comment.

    I am well aware that Humphreys’ post was a parody, designed to insinuate that mainstream science had concoted the evidence for global warming by cherry picking the data. However, he clearly stated that his statistics were true when they were not.

    As for the Greenpeace ad, I haven’t seen it, so I’m not going to comment on it.

  20. Ian Gould
    March 2nd, 2005 at 20:52 | #20

    Lomberg *claimed* to have been a member of Greenpeace. They deny it and to the best of my knowledge he’s never offered any evidence to support his claim.

  21. March 3rd, 2005 at 10:53 | #21

    Tim — I have already said that I cherry-picked my data for the sake of the parody. That was never in question. However, as I have already pointed out several times to you, the data actually backs up my story.

    1980-6 = +0.119
    2004-6 = -0.024 (which was the last number at the time of my post)

    As most readers would appreciate, 0.119 is actually a bigger number than -0.024. Further, for the sake of the parody I could have cherry-picked one of any number of dates. The exact date doesn’t matter, so if it makes you feel better I could substitute 1979-10 (0.151) or 1981-2 (0.196) or 1983-3 (0.274). The exact date matters little to the point of the parody.

    In one area you do beat me hands down — abuse, scorn and belittling people you disagree with and distortion. You clearly lied on your website about me — http://cgi.cse.unsw.edu.au/~lambert/cgi-bin/blog/science/?_start=71 — where you implied that I believed my own parody & you deliberately quote the wrong numbers. You have neither retracted that lie or apologised.

  22. March 3rd, 2005 at 16:34 | #22

    Mr Humphreys, you claimed

    Satellite and weather balloon estimates of temperature over the past 25 years are consistent with each other and provide us with the best measures of temperature change in the earth’s troposphere (the atmosphere within the first 10km of earth). They clearly show that temperatures have decreased 0.1 degrees Celsius since 1980.

    When challenged, you pointed to this page, which clearly states that the satellite record shows warming. By no stretch of the imagination can your statement about 25 years of data be interpreted as a statement about two months of data as you now contend. I did not quote the wrong numbers. I did not imply that you believed your own parody. I suggested that you were not up to date on what the satellite figures showed. Your claim that you were actually comparing two months instead of relying on out-of-date data only came after my posting.

    I think any reader of our exchange can figure out which one of us is being abusive.

  23. March 6th, 2005 at 16:23 | #23

    Our environment needs all the help that it can get.
    I look forward to the day when the bolts and devines and lombergs are jailed as environmental criminals,these people will still be claiming that white is black when the last wild animal is walking the planet and the last blue sky disappers forever.
    These stooges for industry will become another endangered species in our children’s lifetime.

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