Home > Environment, Media > Science the victim of dishonest attacks

Science the victim of dishonest attacks

March 13th, 2010

That’s the title of my Fin column for Thursday 11 March 2010, which naturally picked out The Australian newspaper as a prime vehicle for these attacks. The Oz replied next day, with characteristic mendacity, pointing out that, on the same day they

ran an opinion piece by climatologist James Hansen, the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies chief who also happens to be known rather snappily as the “father of global warming”.

Only problem was, they weren’t running Hansen to defend science against their attacks, but because his policy views (he opposes an ETS and supports nuclear power) could be used in their continuing wedge campaign. The piece (can’t find it to link ran under the headline “”Only carbon tax and nuclear power can save us”

Anyway, here’s my piece

Science the victim of dishonest attacks

It is a commonplace to observe that Australia’s scientific institutions and organizations, have played a central role in promoting Australia’s prosperity and in maintaining our country’s place as a leading contributor to the growth of knowledge.

In city and country alike, we rely on the predictions and analysis of the Bureau of Meteorology, predictions that have grown steadily more accurate over time. The prosperity of our rural sector has been built to a substantial extent, on the work of the CSIRO and other organizations devoted to agricultural science and natural resource management.

Universities have also played a crucial role. My own University of Queensland includes among its alumni such great scientists as Peter Doherty, whose work on immunology won him the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1996.

In recent years, science and scientific institutions have come under increasingly vociferous attack, with accusations of fraud, incompetence and even aspirations to world domination becoming commonplace. These attacks have mostly focused on environmental and public health issues, but they are gradually coalescing into an attack on science itself

A few examples

* In November 2003, Quadrant magazine published an article by Ted Lapkin blaming environmentals scientists for a supposed ban on DDT that had, he claimed cost millions of lives. DDT was never banned in anti-malarial use, and the claim Lapkin repeated had been cooked up by a tobacco lobbyist, who sought to put pressure on the World Health Organization, then campaigning against smoking in the Third World.

* On March 5 2006, Miranda Devine wrote that ‘Environmentalism is the powerful new secular religion and politically correct scientists are its high priests … It used to be men in purple robes who controlled us. Soon it will be men in white lab coats. The geeks shall inherit the earth.’

* On March 26th 2009, Jennifer Marohasy, then a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Public Affairs, accused the Bureau of Meteorology of tampering with weather data to fake evidence of global warming

* Andrew Bolt of the Sun-Herald has repeatedly asserted that climate scientists are conscious frauds, motivated by a desire for government grant money, most recently a few days ago in a blog post entitled ‘That buys a lot of Baas’.

* The Australian newspaper has campaigned against science and scientists so consistently that picking a single example would be misleading. Blogger Tim Lambert, who maintains a running series on The Australian’s War on Science is now up to instalment 46

All of this has reached a crescendo in the wake of the so-called Climategate affair in which a group of ‘sceptics’ harassed climate scientists at the University of East Anglia with a campaign of deliberately vexatious form-letter Freedom of Information demands, hacked the University’s email system to obtain the email files generated in response and then published distorted versions of those supposedly proving that global temperature records had been fudged in a ‘trick’ to ‘hide the decline’. Subsequent inquiries showed that the selectively quoted phrases referred to perfectly legitimate methods of data analysis, but the enemies of science had a win in the media.

Scientists have been constrained in fighting back by the fact that they are ethically constrained to be honest, whereas their opponents lie without any compunction. A striking example was the response of Phil Jones, the main target of the Climategate hack, when presented with deliberately loaded question about the statistical significance of global warming trends over short periods.

Jones answered honestly, and proceeded to explain the problem with this kind of analysis. The Daily Mail promptly ran a headline stating ‘Climategate U-turn as scientist at centre of row admits: There has been no global warming since 1995’

As the Economist observed, this was a flat-out lie, noting that ‘anyone who has even a passing high-school familiarity with statistics should understand the difference’ That did not stop dozens of anti-science commentators from passing it on.

Now, however, science is pushing back, at least in Australia. Along with other scientific institutions, Universities Australia is organizing a national policy forum on climate change to be held in Parliament House next week which will not only restate the findings of science on this issue but respond to the stream of attacks on science.

Australia can, if need be, do very well without Quadrant, the Institute of Public Affairs and The Australian. We cannot do without science and scientists. The time has come to make a choice.

Categories: Environment, Media Tags:
  1. Chris O’Neill
    March 22nd, 2010 at 13:29 | #1

    @Neil Fisher

    One example of such is MBH98 – the “hockey stick” paper. Several people, including SM, have shown that the method used is a data mining technique, but that the statistics used do not take this into account; that one can feed trendless red noise into the algorithm and it will generate a trended output.

    The method used in MBH98 produced less than 0.1°C of hockeystick bias as subsequent independent methods showed.

    If you care for arguement from authority, then Wegman has examined the issue and agrees with SM – impeach Wegman’s statistical knowledge at your own peril. Yet this paper has not been withdrawn, there has been no correction published

    That’s probably because its methods are superceded by, for example, Proxy-based reconstructions of hemispheric and global surface temperature variations over the past two millennia — PNAS. MBH98 is no longer relied upon for judgements about past climate. Any genuine interest in it is just historical. People who keep banging on about it like you and SM are just suffering from some obsessive-compulsive disorder.

  2. Neil Fisher
    March 23rd, 2010 at 07:52 | #2

    @jquiggin

    The article you cited shows that what I’ve said is true – that there is no statistically significant trend since 1998. I was already aware that by moving the starting date, that can change – never disputed that. That was, in fact, my point – that if someone gave you the data, as per the article you supplied, but only> the data since 1998, you would agree that there was no statistically significant trend in that data. You are saying that Wegman is being misleading by saying that this is true. In the larger scheme of things, that may be true. Perhaps if you took the time to read the actual statement that Weman “signed up to” as you put it, that this was the actual question asked, or that this was what he was agreeing to. Without knowing the exact circumstances and the exact question asked (or statement asked to be endorsed – whatever) it is simply wrong to suggest Wegman is being misleading. In other words, you are saying that in the larger context, Wegman is wrong without considering the larger context of what Wegman saying – you are cherry-picking a one-liner and basting him for something he might not have done once this larger context is taken into account. More on this in my reply to Freelander.

    John, in the main text of your article, you suggested that “your side” was constrained by being honest, and while I don’t doubt that you are being such, it is simply not true to suggest that all people on “your side” never exagerate or cherry pick. And neither do all skeptics – some people are so invested in their chosen “side” that they will do anything to promote their agenda. I believe that to complain about this from the “other side” without recognising that it happens on “your side” and not saying anything when it does, you are also guilty of “spinning” to present the best possible face for “your side”. That’s not to say that I think you are a slavering monster that will do anything you feel is required to advance your agenda or anything like that, but if you are being honest and fair, you should point out flawed arguements from both sides and not remain silent because you think that while a particuar statement is not true, it may help to align public opinion with what you think needs to be done – you can’t claim to be an “honest broker” of information if you actively seek out and debunk false claims from one side of the debate and ignore false claims from the other side.

    @Freelander and if, as journalists are wont to do, they kept hammering him with the question “Has there been any statistically significant warming since 1998, yes or no?”, he would eventually – as anyone would – say “No”. And that would be the headline. And it would be picked up by those with an agenda to support their case – rightly or wrongly. That’s life – people “spin” statements to suit what they want them to say. It’s not just skeptics that do so in the climate debate either – for instance, RC had a post up some time ago entitled “The Antartic is cold – yeah, we knew that” or something similar. In that article, the terms “cold” and “cooling” were conflated for the casual reader – Steig et al had yet to be published and the consensus was that antartica was indeed cooling, yet the casual reader would have been misled into believing the opposite, and many were. Or that RC once claimed to show that antarctic cooling was predicted by the “the models”, then when Steig et al came out, said “the models” showed it warming. This may even be technically true – since the models cover such a large spread, it wouldn’t be difficult to find a subset that shows what you want, warming or cooling.
    And that’s where I – like many others – have a difficulty with this sort of thing. If we can take subsets of the data (real or modelled) and use it to support one side of the debate, then there is no reasonable objection you can make that this is not also a valid technique for the other side. And as I said to John, if you want to decry the use of such techniques by skeptics and claim that they are being dishonest, then you should also call out those believers who use such tactics.

  3. Chris O’Neill
    March 23rd, 2010 at 12:24 | #3

    @Neil Fisher

    Without knowing the exact circumstances and the exact question asked (or statement asked to be endorsed – whatever) it is simply wrong to suggest Wegman is being misleading.

    Here is what Wegman signed up to:

    there has been no net global warming since 1998

    As a statistician, Wegman should have known this was a misleading strawman.

    By the way, you have not yet disputed your several pieces of disinformation.

  4. Freelander
    March 23rd, 2010 at 12:42 | #4

    Neil Fisher :
    @jquiggin
    The article you cited shows that what I’ve said is true – that there is no statistically significant trend since 1998. I was already aware that by moving the starting date, that can change – never disputed that. That was, in fact, my point – that if someone gave you the data, as per the article you supplied, but only> the data since 1998, you would agree that there was no statistically significant trend in that data. You are saying that Wegman is being misleading by saying that this is true. In the larger scheme of things, that may be true.

    If you throw enough data away you see nothing. If you close your eyes you see nothing. If you want to rely on someone who makes ignorance their objective, and wants to say “I see nothing” to support their case, or if you too want to make ignorance your objective fine. I am happy to leave you to it. If you ignore enough facts, all of them, then, yes, there is no evidence left. Happy now?

  5. Freelander
    March 23rd, 2010 at 12:50 | #5

    @Neil Fisher

    Wegman wasn’t ‘cherry picked’. He picked the cherries himself and fed them by hand to the journalists. He knew what he was doing. He is just another dishonest denier. One of the few amongst the denier camp who actually has some authority from doing real science. Using the authority he gained by doing real science to push untruth. Rather sad really. But he isn’t the first to go down that path.

  6. Chris O’Neill
    March 23rd, 2010 at 13:07 | #6

    @Neil Fisher

    It’s not just skeptics that do so in the climate debate either – for instance, RC had a post up some time ago entitled “The Antartic is cold – yeah, we knew that” or something similar.

    i.e. Antarctica is Cold? Yeah, We Knew That, I presume.

    In that article, the terms “cold” and “cooling” were conflated for the casual reader – Steig et al had yet to be published

    No they weren’t. The only mention of “cooling” was:

    The pioneer climate modelers Kirk Bryan and Syukuro Manabe took up the question with a more detailed model that revealed an additional effect. In the Southern Ocean around Antarctica the mixing of water went deeper than in Northern waters, so more volumes of water were brought into play earlier. In their model, around Antarctica “there is no warming at the sea surface, and even a slight COOLING over the 50-year duration of the experiment.” (4) In the twenty years since, computer models have improved by orders of magnitude, but they continue to show that Antarctica cannot be expected to warm up very significantly until long after the rest of the world’s climate is radically changed.

    The only person conflating “cold” and “cooling” in this context is Neil.

    since the models cover such a large spread, it wouldn’t be difficult to find a subset that shows what you want, warming or cooling. And that’s where I – like many others – have a difficulty with this sort of thing. If we can take subsets of the data (real or modelled) and use it to support one side of the debate

    You’re missing the whole point about Antarctica. It’s change in temperature is very slow because it’s surrounded by so much ocean. Just because the global warming signal there is very weak compared with the noise doesn’t mean the global warming signal is weak everywhere.

    If this is your best example of climate science “spin” then you have no argument at all.

  7. wilful
    March 23rd, 2010 at 13:29 | #7

    Neil fisher, kudos for coming back for more. I did read your personal note about trying to stick to the arguments and avoiding excessive ad hom attacks, which you’ve done very well. So my compliments.

    However, there remains the central point. On a decadal scale, the continent and the globe are unequivocally warming. Nobody can sensibly debate that fact. Also, oceans are becoming slightly less basic, CO2 levels are creeping up, sea levels are rising. There are records of biological changes going back hundreds of years taht all point in the same direction. What is the point of denying all of these independently derived lines of evidence, when there is a robust hypothesis, well defended by basic physics and chemistry, that tells us what is the most likely cause?

    Cliamte change as a hypothesis has been around since 1824! It’s the only internally consistent explanation for what we see around us that we have. There are plenty of quibbles within the edifice, but not one primary argument has been disputed. Let me run through it again.

    1. Atmospheric CO2 traps heat.
    2. Humans have caused increases in CO2 levels.
    3. The planet warms.
    4. We observe that warming.
    5. We can’t find another decent explanation for the warming.

  8. Neil Fisher
    March 24th, 2010 at 07:10 | #8

    @Freelander

    If you throw enough data away you see nothing. If you close your eyes you see nothing. If you want to rely on someone who makes ignorance their objective, and wants to say “I see nothing” to support their case, or if you too want to make ignorance your objective fine.

    My point is that there is more than one way to look at what happened. You can take the view that Wegman was being deliberately misleading (as you and most posters here do), or you can take the view (as I do) that when there are people argueing about some trviial aspect of the subject (and you seem to agree that it is trivial, if wrong) and an “authority” (which Wegman is seen as) is asked a very specific question or asked to do a very specific analysis they will do exactly and precisely what is asked of them and make sure that what they say and the question accurately. It seems to me that is exactly what Wegman did. It may be meaningless (and I’m sure that Wegman is aware of how much meaning can be be applied in this case), but that is a case of not asking the right question. If the questions asked is at the centre of such a large and public barney, why would you do anything other than answer the question as asked. If people then ask another question, such as “In the larger context of the time series in total, is this significant?” then you could answer that question too, but why would someone who was being asked to referee the answer to the question in such circumstances supply anything other than the answer to what has been asked? As a completely off-topic (and meaningless) example, it’s like you and I argueing over which is a better football team – Paramatta or Brisbane, and we decide to ask John – who answers with “Penrith”. We’d be upset he didn’t answer our question – we’d ask him to choose between to two options we gave. If he gave an answer, one of us would be upset and call him “biased” or “a fool”, while the other would crow about how they had the support of an “expert”. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? What you fail to recognise is that I am not suggesting that Wegman’s answer means AGW is false, or a scam, or whatever – I am saying that it is a true and accurate description of an easily verified fact, despite the fact that it may be misleading, and that it is not Wegman’s fault if someone elses ignorance leads them down the garden path, and it’s certainly not his fault that people ask him pointless questions.

  9. Neil Fisher
    March 24th, 2010 at 07:59 | #9

    @Neil Fisher

    Neil fisher, kudos for coming back for more. I did read your personal note about trying to stick to the arguments and avoiding excessive ad hom attacks, which you’ve done very well. So my compliments.

    Thanks – it’s not easy sometimes. Thanks for doing the same in return. I hope we can both learn something from it, and I hope that we can also both debunk some popular myths on our respective sides of the arguement – that is to say, I hope to learn some “denier” myths and to be able to debunk them on denier blogs, and I hope you can learn some believer myths and debunk them on believer sites too (and I have no doubt they exist on both sides). I have already done this several times in several places (for denier myths, just to be clear), but there is always more to learn.

    However, there remains the central point. On a decadal scale, the continent and the globe are unequivocally warming. Nobody can sensibly debate that fact.

    Well, people can (and I do) dispute the magnitude, but in general terms, yes that’s true.

    Also, oceans are becoming slightly less basic, CO2 levels are creeping up, sea levels are rising. There are records of biological changes going back hundreds of years taht all point in the same direction. What is the point of denying all of these independently derived lines of evidence, when there is a robust hypothesis, well defended by basic physics and chemistry, that tells us what is the most likely cause?

    As I’ve said before it’s very difficult to pin down what is natural variability (and therefore what is anthropogenic) simply because we do not have a long enough period of suitably accurate temperature data. For instance, the Roman and Medieval warm periods are evident in many (but by no means all) proxy records, and historical data (which is patchy) backs it up. Certainly if these were anthropogenic in nature (which seems doubtful to me, but anyway) they were highly unlikely to be caused by anthropogenic CO2. If these were natural events, then it’s rather difficult to tease what may be similar drivers during the current warm period out of the data – if the trend is inside our confidence of what is natural variability, we do not have even good evidence of anthropogenic causation.

    Cliamte change as a hypothesis has been around since 1824! It’s the only internally consistent explanation for what we see around us that we have. There are plenty of quibbles within the edifice, but not one primary argument has been disputed. Let me run through it again.

    1. Atmospheric CO2 traps heat.
    2. Humans have caused increases in CO2 levels.
    3. The planet warms.
    4. We observe that warming.
    5. We can’t find another decent explanation for the warming.

    There are so many holes in the data sets we would all like to have to pin this down, I just don’t see a convincing arguement. For instance, your point 5: changes in cloud cover albedo of just a few percent would do it. We have virtually no data on this for most of history untill just a few years (decades?) ago. Spencer (whatever you may think of him personally) has argued cogently that what many see as a feedback may in fact be the forcing in this respect. He may be wrong, but he also may be right – we can’t tell at this stage, simply because we do not yet have enough data. But it most certainly is another plausible explaination for the temperature rise. And as above, what of past variability too – combine these aspects, and I don’t see how you can make the claim that there is no other decent explaination. There are likely other plausable explainations that you and I are unaware of as well. Anthropogenic CO2 is certainly plausible too – don’t get me wrong – but it’s hardly the only one, just the most popular. I was under the impression that popularity was not the arbitor of truth in science though. ;-) Certainly it is the way to bet – it always has been and always will be, but it is not certainty, and if history is any guide, there may be another theory that comes along to overthrow it and no-one will have any clue what it is or what it means for several decades. Then again, maybe not.

  10. wilful
    March 24th, 2010 at 09:20 | #10

    OK, while I still respectfully disagree with you, you are accepting that the theory of anthropogenic climate change has some legs.

    Putting aside the fact that people with far more specialist knowledge in this field than you or I put the likelihood of the theory being true at greater than 90 percent, can you please take the time to review this video and give me your thoughts: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zORv8wwiadQ

  11. Freelander
    March 24th, 2010 at 09:38 | #11

    @Neil Fisher

    That is not what Wegman did. If you choose to ignore the facts, or choose to have your own then there is no point in further discussion.

  12. Neil Fisher
    March 24th, 2010 at 10:09 | #12

    @Freelander
    Is it not? Are you privy to how many people had asked his opinion on the matter? Do you know how much time he had to waste answering such questions over and over? Perhaps he said what he said because he was sick and tired of having to answer such questions and it was easier to simply make a statement that he can show is true and have done with it – let others argue over what it means, just get it over with. It may not be that way – you might be right and he is deluded, I dunno. I think this is a plausable explaination of why he acted the way he did. You are free to disagree of course.

  13. Donald Oats
    March 24th, 2010 at 10:19 | #13

    If for sake of argument, cloud cover was the “forcing” (not my expression), then why have clouds decided to change their behaviour lately as they must have in order to be the forcing?
    It is a pity that cloud variability wasn’t better known back in the 1800s and first half of the 1900s, but we’ve got the data we’ve got. Mind you, clouds must have decided, so to speak, to push in one direction mainly, over the last thirty to fifty years, if they are to be a forcing. Given both hemispheric and latitudinal variations in rate of temperature rise, for example the Antartic versus the Arctic it seems to me that a distinctly non-random set of changes to cloud cover would need to occur to produce what we are seeing in the last 50 years or so of global and regional climate data. Not impossible. But Spencer needs to elaborate the mechanism behind this. And that doesn’t explain the rise in man-released GHGs, or their contribution to global changes. At the very least Spencer needs to explain the manner in which clouds respond to GHG changes, both natural and human contributions, for his argument to go anywhere. I think Spencer is whistling in the dark on this one…

    Off for a coffee in the sun, sans computer.

  14. Freelander
    March 24th, 2010 at 10:20 | #14

    And you are free to have your own facts and to be as crazy as you desire. I don’t disagree with you at all.

  15. Freelander
    March 24th, 2010 at 10:22 | #15

    Neil that is.

  16. Neil Fisher
    March 24th, 2010 at 12:54 | #16

    @wilful

    OK, while I still respectfully disagree with you, you are accepting that the theory of anthropogenic climate change has some legs.

    I have no issue with your disagreement – I would be foolish not to expect it, given the venue. And yes, anthropogenic climate change certainly does have legs, although narrowing that to anthropogenic CO2 forced climate change is a different issue that I feel is yet to move beyond speculative, as outlined previously.

    It’s good, I think, to find out what we can agree on and where disputes exist so we can focus on the areas of dispute instead of bickering about what we all agree is true or resorting to name calling and other such unhelpful activities. As I said, I’d prefer to focus on that facts and the data, as well as the claims based on them, than on the personalities or agendas of those making the claims – if only because the latter are completely subjective, while the former are much more likely to be objective. Oh – and it saves on the aggrivation and blood pressure too. ;-)

    Putting aside the fact that people with far more specialist knowledge in this field than you or I put the likelihood of the theory being true at greater than 90 percent,

    and others – equally qualified – disagree. Anyway…

    can you please take the time to review this video and give me your thoughts: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zORv8wwiadQ

    I will attempt to do so, although I’ll likely need to do this on a weekend, so please be patient.

    Since you are giving me a “homework assignment”, I would like your opinion on the following post at Jo Nova’s blog: this one.

    While I most certainly do not vouch for the accuracy of the claims having not investigated it myself, if I make the assumption that it’s accurate (and suitably ignore those who say this is unwise, because I currently do not know, have not checked etc etc – it’s an assumption, OK?) then it would be an example of the “alarmist” side (hey, you say “denier”, I say “alarmist” – damn, just doesn’t scan as well as the original, does it? ;-) ) performing the very same act that several people here have derided as dishonest when deniers perform them. If it should turn out that Jo has made an accurate claim (by no means a certainty, just an assumption), how many here will make as much noise about it as they do for Wegman’s claim? I would like to think most, but I suspect at least some will claim that in this case it is OK because of some moral imperative and/or other evidence and/or some other, equally lame, excuse – these are people who show their thrue colours as activists with an agenda (once again, if my assumptions listed above are true) and should be ignored. Equally, those who downplay this (the assumptions, remember the assumptions) as an honest mistake would need to closely examine their own sense of fair play and honesty, especially if they have ever made a fuss about some denier claim that, like the current issue over Wegman, is “true, but misleading”.

  17. Chris O’Neill
    March 24th, 2010 at 13:02 | #17

    @Neil Fisher

    when there are people argueing about some trviial aspect of the subject (and you seem to agree that it is trivial, if wrong)

    Au contraire. Stating a misleading strawman is far from trivial.

    and an “authority” (which Wegman is seen as) is asked a very specific question

    You just don’t get it, do you? (Or you don’t want to get it.) We’re not talking about Wegman’s answer to a question, we’re talking about a statement that Wegman signed. Your claims mean nothing in THAT context.

    This Neil Fisher makes a bizarre claim about where most of the excess CO2 from anthropogenic emissions has ended up, a plainly wrong claim about the ratio of CO2 in the oceans to CO2 in the atmosphere, a gross misrepresentation of GISS’s claims about their temperature estimates, tries to smear scientists in their statements about Antarctic climate change and then tries to claim that Wegman was innocently answering a question when he was actually making a statement and to top it off claims that it’s other peoples fault if they don’t know enough to realize Wegman’s statement (which Neil calls an answer) was a strawman. Neil is nothing but a dishonest troll.

  18. Chris O’Neill
    March 24th, 2010 at 13:05 | #18

    and an “authority” (which Wegman is seen as) is asked a very specific question

    The above should have been a quote in my previous post. Preview doesn’t work properly in my OS.

  19. Neil Fisher
    March 24th, 2010 at 13:18 | #19

    @Donald Oats

    If for sake of argument, cloud cover was the “forcing” (not my expression), then why have clouds decided to change their behaviour lately as they must have in order to be the forcing?

    Perhaps Svenmark’s theories are appropriate here. Yes, I am aware of the arguement(s) against this, as I am also aware of the arguements against the arguements against it, and so on ad nauseum.

    It is a pity that cloud variability wasn’t better known back in the 1800s and first half of the 1900s, but we’ve got the data we’ve got.

    Agreed.

    Mind you, clouds must have decided, so to speak, to push in one direction mainly, over the last thirty to fifty years, if they are to be a forcing.

    True enough. However, the changes required appear to be small, and may require little more than “weather noise” and some non-linear effects near the cusp (so to speak) to be true. Without more extensive data, it’s hard to make a judgement. Then there are differences between low and high cloud, precipitation, land use / land cover changes that Pielke Snr has published on, and so on and so forth.

    Given both hemispheric and latitudinal variations in rate of temperature rise, for example the Antartic versus the Arctic it seems to me that a distinctly non-random set of changes to cloud cover would need to occur to produce what we are seeing in the last 50 years or so of global and regional climate data.

    I’m certainly glad you mentioned arctic vs antarctic trends, because that is one area where deniers make great inroads, IMO – ignoring Steig et al (which goes against the body of evidence in the literature), they appear to be going in opposite directions. That’s odd, because apart from some speculatative papers on the matter, I am not aware of any “proven” reason why this would be so, if we assume CO2 is the driver. I am tempted to suggest that this is actually support for Svenmark – one major difference after all is the magnetic polarity it each site. I won’t go there though – too much to do already without having to defend that (I’m not even sure I should even try to defend it, to be honest)

    Not impossible. But Spencer needs to elaborate the mechanism behind this. And that doesn’t explain the rise in man-released GHGs, or their contribution to global changes. At the very least Spencer needs to explain the manner in which clouds respond to GHG changes, both natural and human contributions, for his argument to go anywhere. I think Spencer is whistling in the dark on this one…

    Would you be happy with this: it’s not just CO2 and it’s not just cloud cover, but some combination. Add in Pielke Snr’s LULC and boundary layer stuff, Watts’ temperature measurement issues, and perhaps several others that currently escape my immediate attention, and you can perhaps see my point that it’s possible to suggest that it’s a little more equivicable than it is commonly proposed by some to be.

    Off for a coffee in the sun, sans computer.

    Lucky dog! ;-) Hope you enjoy it. Don’t forget the slip, slop, slap will you?

  20. Neil Fisher
    March 24th, 2010 at 13:36 | #20

    @Chris O’Neill

    Neil is nothing but a dishonest troll.

    See here @Neil Fisher . I am not trolling, I simply have a different set of starting assumptions than you (and the majority here). If you wish to continue making such claims, I will ignore you. As I said previously, I think that you lot benefit more from someone like me being here than doing without – if you want to preach to the choir, that is your affair, but it hardly seems helpful to me. If you find me offensive, ignore me – I’d much rather talk to someone like Donald Oats on such matters anyway. Not because he agrees with me (he doesn’t appear to), but because he actually listens and if as and when he disagrees, he does so without resorting to calling me names. I believe that in talking to someone like him, I can persuade and be persuaded by data, logic and reason – qualities which I judge from your postings here that you lack the ability to even comprehend, let alone command.

    Sorry – that was personal and ad-hom. Uncalled for. My bad. My only excuse if frustration. I will try to do better in the future.

  21. Chris O’Neill
    March 24th, 2010 at 13:40 | #21

    A few quotes from Wegman’s signed statement:

    It is not possible to stop climate change,

    Plainly wrong when it’s caused by human-generated CO2.

    a natural phenomenon that has affected humanity through the ages.

    A strawman.

    carbon dioxide (CO2), a non-polluting gas that is essential to plant photosynthesis.

    A strawman.

    not evidence for abnormal climate change, for none of these changes has been shown to lie outside the bounds of known natural variability.

    A strawman. The Eemian with 7 metre higher sea level was natural but highly undesirable.

    The average rate of warming of 0.1 to 0. 2 degrees Celsius per decade (for 3+ decades) recorded by satellites during the late 20th century falls within known natural rates of warming and cooling over the last 10,000 years.

    They have no basis for making that claim.

    Consistent with this, and despite computer projections of temperature rises, there has been no net global warming since 1998.

    A strawman.

    That the current temperature plateau follows a late 20th-century period of warming is consistent with the continuation today of natural multi-decadal or millennial climate cycling.

    The have no basis for making that claim.

    many scientists recognize that both climatic coolings and warmings are realistic possibilities over the medium-term future

    The climate scientists who subscribe to those claims could be counted on the fingers of one hand.

    Yours faithfully, ………..

    Edward J. Wegman et al

  22. Fran Barlow
    March 24th, 2010 at 14:04 | #22

    @Chris O’Neill

    Most of the strawmen to which you refer Chris would be better described as examples of misdirection (red herrings).

    For example, that CO2 is part of the calvin cycle leading to the production of plant sugars is hardly news and not in contest. So it is not a strawman. But so what? The juxtaposition of “a non-polluting gas” implies that the claim about photosynthesis is the foundation for its “non-polluting” character. Yet the two claims have no logical connection. Any agent that disrupts a biome can be classed as a pollutant, and since we humans are the definers of pollution, any agent that lowers the quantity or value of ecosystem services to us is a pollutant. Copper (Cu) is an essential nutrient to humans which will kill us if we consume it in more than micro quantities. Ditto iron (Fe) and a host of other naturally occurring things. too much O2 would be a really bad thing, and it is worth noting that the oxygen-rich environment that arose about 800,000,000 years ago both facilitated life as we know it and is the reason some of us develop pernicious free radicals which lead to cancer. CO2 is both essential to life and a pollutant.

    The problem with “natural variability” claims is that it argumentum ad nihilo. Again we may say so what?. Sure there is natural variability. Sometimes the Earth is farther from the sun that at other points in geological time. Volcanic eruptions and and meteor strikes and the placement of continents affected climate over geological time frames. Unless someone can show us the “natural variability” driving the current climate anomaly they are at best waffling. They might asd well say “Gee whiz … sometimes it goes up and sometimes it doesn’t.” Scientists want to know why so that we can look after human needs. Appealing to nature doesn’t relieve them of the need to explain what is happening, and if they don’t have a natural mechanism that maps to the data, then it follows that something non-natural must be driving it, because it is happening. We have a perfectly adequate non-natural driver for this anomaly — anthropogenic CO2. “Natural variability” along with its non-identical twin “coming out of the LIA” are simply red herrings designed to sound scientific without explaining anything at all.

  23. Freelander
    March 24th, 2010 at 17:58 | #23

    In reference to the data from 1998 onwards, the honest thing to say is that there is no statistical evidence that the warming trend has in any way decreased. Or if you want it another way, there is no statistically significant evidence (in the data from 1998 onwards) of a decrease in the rate of warming. When you get more data that doesn’t say anything in itself, and is not inconsistent with all that went before, the hypothesis you ought to maintain is the one you already had the best evidence for.

  24. Chris O’Neill
    March 24th, 2010 at 23:37 | #24

    @Neil Fisher

    I am not trolling,

    Iwonder what a troll would say about what they’re doing?

    I simply have a different set of starting assumptions than you

    Utter garbage. Statements like:

    With the top several km of the worlds oceans holding more CO2 than the entire atmosphere by around 3 orders of magnitude

    and

    There is no explaination for why around 60% of anthropogenic CO2 emissions have been absorbed, sequestered or whatever term you prefer and do not appear to be currently in the atmosphere

    are not different starting assumptions. They are bare-faced lies.

    If you wish to continue making such claims, I will ignore you.

    The issue is the claims you are making. You can ignore me all you like and I can continue pointing out your lies.

    If you find me offensive, ignore me

    I might find lies offensive but that’s hardly justificaton for ignoring them.

    he does so without resorting to calling me names

    I’m not calling you names. I’m stating the name for your behaviour, i.e. someone who tells lies is dishonest. You’re just pretending to be reasonable in an attempt to diguise your dishonesty.

  25. Neil Fisher
    March 25th, 2010 at 07:48 | #25

    @Chris O’Neill

    A few quotes from Wegman’s signed statement:

    It is not possible to stop climate change,

    Plainly wrong when it’s caused by human-generated CO2.

    Indeed – although that is based on the postulate that CO2 is the main driver of the observed changes. Clearly Wegman does not feel it is. The evidence, such as it is, is hardly conclusive, and IMO, as it currently stands, Wegman’s interpretation is a valid one given the available evidence. Others can, and certainly do, disagree.

    a natural phenomenon that has affected humanity through the ages.

    A strawman.

    It is not, because what is natural variability (which is poorly constrained over even historical timescales, let alone longer) needs to be known in order to specify anthropogenic CO2 changes.
    You left out this bit (thanks for the link, BTW):

    Geological, archaeological, oral and written histories all attest to the dramatic challenges posed to past societies from unanticipated changes in temperature, precipitation, winds and other climatic variables.

    carbon dioxide (CO2), a non-polluting gas that is essential to plant photosynthesis.

    A strawman.

    Perhaps, but in any case hardly relevent to ourdiscussions.

    not evidence for abnormal climate change, for none of these changes has been shown to lie outside the bounds of known natural variability.

    A strawman. The Eemian with 7 metre higher sea level was natural but highly undesirable.

    Indeed – if that was what he was refering to. It does not appear that he was, given the other snippet I’ve just posted above. Congratulations – it’s a strawman you created.

    The average rate of warming of 0.1 to 0. 2 degrees Celsius per decade (for 3+ decades) recorded by satellites during the late 20th century falls within known natural rates of warming and cooling over the last 10,000 years.

    They have no basis for making that claim.

    He has every basis for making that claim – perhaps you can examine the data and see for yourself.

    Consistent with this, and despite computer projections of temperature rises, there has been no net global warming since 1998.

    A strawman.

    Let’s ignore the actual statistics and let me ask you this: if warming is accelerating as many claim, if things are “worse than we thought”, then that should be evident in the temperature record, right? Yes, I know the claim is that 30 years is required for “climate”, but that is a convention not a hard and fast limit – 29 years of data doesn’t prove it but 30 does is ridiculous. In that context, 12 years of data is worthy of note, even if hardly conclusive.

    That the current temperature plateau follows a late 20th-century period of warming is consistent with the continuation today of natural multi-decadal or millennial climate cycling.

    The have no basis for making that claim.

    If one accepts the LIA as a real event, then it’s a reasonable conclusion. If one starts from the premise that the change is natural variability, then such a plateau is indeed consistent with that.

    many scientists recognize that both climatic coolings and warmings are realistic possibilities over the medium-term future

    The climate scientists who subscribe to those claims could be counted on the fingers of one hand.

    According to RC, several models project a cooling – indeed, the model spread is even used to show that the recent plateau which Wegman mentions does not show the models to be wrong.
    As reported by New Scientist (which is firmly of the opinion that AGW is real and a problem, BTW) several have recently suggested that we will see several decades of cooling. True, they also say the warming trend will return after that, but that’s reasonably more than “medium term”.

    It seems to me that your objections all seem to be that the noted point is not relevent (curious that you noted it then), or that there is no basis for the claim, or that he’s wrong. In the cases where you say he’s wrong, you do not cite evidence to show it. In cases where you say he has no basis to make the claim, you ignore the evidence he suggests exists to show it and certainly do not provide a cite that disputes the evidence is as he claims. This does not mean you are wrong, but your arguement is no more compelling than you feel Wegman’s is – he doesn’t supply specific evidence either, I might add, although he does describe it in general terms such as “oral and written history” etc.

    You also said

    You’re just pretending to be reasonable in an attempt to diguise your dishonesty.

    in another post (the rest of which I intend to ignore as unhelpful). Obviously, I do not agree. But I will leave it to others to make their own mind up and would prefer that you (and they) do not simply label me as a denier because I do not completely agree with everything you say, rather leaving such judgments until such time as they feel I have posted enough material to understand my position a little better. I feel that is even more important in my case, because you already know that my position is dissimilar to yours and it is very easy to slag off those who disagree with you rather than consider their arguement on it’s merits, especially given the oftem heated debate that happens on this subject.

  26. Freelander
    March 25th, 2010 at 09:48 | #26

    You’re just an annoying nitwit. We register that you don’t agree. You are a denier and are even in denial about that. Sad. Your arguments have been considered on their merits. They have none. As you don’t have anything sensible to say or worth replying to, please just go away.

  27. Neil Fisher
    March 25th, 2010 at 12:50 | #27

    @Freelander
    “please just go away.”

    Ok fine, I will – enjoy your echo chamber where everyone agrees and those “others” who don’t are all fools and liars. I think you are making a mistake in taking such an attitude, but that is your concern – by painting the issue in such black and white terms and ignoring the uncertainties and doubts plaguing others, you have clearly tied your colours to the mast and tossed away all pretence of logical thought in favour of activism and political point scoring. I predict it will bring you undone, as it has and continues to do for the IPCC, and yes, even those deniers who take things a bridge to far. Time will tell and history will judge you as surely as will me – I hope you are prepared for it, but you do not appear to be. My apologies to those such as Donald Oats who do not appear to hold similar views to those you so obviously do – I regret I am unable to continue here, much as I would like to, as it is simply too stressful. I am somewhat thick skinned, but I have my limits, as everyone does. Perhaps you would learn why if you were to do as I have and attempt reasonable conversation at the heart of the enemies fortress – I wish “enemies” were not an accurate description, but alas it appears to be. That is indeed sad – that reasonable people attempting to reconsile different opinions are prevented from doing so by fanatics. It happens at denier sites too, so don’t think I’m somehow elevating my “side” above yours. I had hoped that the cries from the alarmist side that they were somehow above such petty and destructive actions was true, but it does not appear to be here and neither is it evident at RC. Alas for logic and reason. Alas for civilised debate. Alas for evidence based science. Because even should you “win”, you will lose.

  28. Fran Barlow
    March 25th, 2010 at 13:14 | #28

    @Neil Fisher

    The simple problem for you Neil is that there simply is no case for doubting the basic science, and all attempts to persist in suggesting there is must trade on spurious or specious grounds. One discuss this politely or uncivilly but in the end, the problem persists.

    After a while, we tire of listening to the same old ssame old reiterated nonsense and tend to regard those pushing it as not showing good faith.

    Nor are we idly discussing horses or the football. This is humanity’s interest we are considering. That always heats stuff up because it is existential

  29. Chris O’Neill
    March 25th, 2010 at 18:57 | #29

    @Neil Fisher

    You also said

    You’re just pretending to be reasonable in an attempt to diguise your dishonesty.

    in another post (the rest of which I intend to ignore as unhelpful).

    Neil continues on his merry Gish-galloping way making unsupported and dishonest assertions. He got one thing right. The comments he ignored were very unhelpful to his credibility as we’d expect from seeing his lies put on display.

    But I will leave it to others to make their own mind up

    I’ll do that too. I’ll let others decide for themselves what they think of Neil’s lies, just a couple of which I quote below:

    With the top several km of the worlds oceans holding more CO2 than the entire atmosphere by around 3 orders of magnitude

    and

    There is no explaination for why around 60% of anthropogenic CO2 emissions have been absorbed, sequestered or whatever term you prefer and do not appear to be currently in the atmosphere

    By the way, I’m not calling Neil anything in this post. I’m describing his actions.

  30. Alice
    March 25th, 2010 at 19:00 | #30

    I thought we had stopped trying to educate the education intolerant Mr Fisher ….absolutely posts ago.

    But Chris – I admire your intestinal fortitude.

Comment pages
1 3 4 5 8427
Comments are closed.