Delusionists demolished

The presentation of The Great Global Warming Swindle on ABC TV was a huge success, but not of course for the delusionists who pushed for it, notably including Michael Duffy. Tony Jones comprehensively demolished Martin Durkin, doing an excellent job of covering the critique from all angles including
* Durkin’s past history of fraud
* The fraudulent history and Big Tobacco links of people like Singer and Seitz (Lindzen got a passing hit on this later on)
* The bodgy qualifications of many of the so-called experts on the show
* Dodgy and doctored graphs dating back 20 years or more
* The Wunsch misrepresentation
* The absurdity of the conspiracy theory central to the show
* The drastic shortening of the version we saw, reflecting the deletion of the most outrageous lies

Of course, he only covered a fraction of the lies, and while the panel discussion pointed to even more (the ice core stuff) a film like this takes longer to refute than to watch. I’ve already linked to some replies and I understand that the Federation of Australian Science and Technology Societies will have more.

After all this, Michael Duffy got the first chance to respond and Jones asked him straight out whether he backed the film. Of course, Duffy couldn’t defend it, so he dodged into a tu quoque about the Stern Review. His only subsequent contribution was to flash some props meant to back the conspiracy theory he was unwilling to endorse out loud. Bob Carter was similarly evasive, launching into a rambling postmodernist thought experiment that apparently showed that there is no such thing as truth so it doesn’t matter if Durkin lied. Later he dragged out his 1998 cherrypicking line. By contrast with these two, Ray Evans was refreshingly straightforward in his wrongness, making even more explicit claims of fraud and repeating all the old stuff (satellite data, the hockey stick and even urban heat islands).

Overall, a good night for science and the environment and a bad night for delusionists, including those in government ranks, such as Nick Minchin, who will doubtless be regretting his endorsement.

UpdateI didn’t bother watching the audience discussion section, but the comments I’ve seen (and the cheers when silly things were said by Carter and Evans) indicate the presence of a strong contingent of obviously unhinged delusionists. So much the better, I’d say.

Further update There’s video here “Unhinged” doesn’t begin to describe it. Even Ray Evans, representing the lunar right Lavoisier Group, has his head in his hands as Tony Jones fields a string of increasingly bizarre questions/statements from LaRouchites, several of them cunningly disguised as ordinary people. Carbon-14, Kepler, Plato, and of course the Royal Family’s plot to wipe out most of humanity all get a run.

120 thoughts on “Delusionists demolished

  1. Quiggin: It’s striking looking at the TGGWS show, how small is the gap between LaRouche and Lavoiser, and how small the gap between Lavoiser and (the more Neanderthal sections of) the Liberal Party.

    Actually you don’t need to take that route. Denis Jensen, the MP for Tangney and the most qualified scientist in the Liberals have, quotes La Rouche sites to support his denialist positions. I doubt he is the only one. Moreover, it’s likely like he’ll be on the front bench post election (he’s one of the few whose seat will withstand the landslide polls are predicting).

  2. Ian Castles – “Ender, I asked you twice whether you thought that the peer-reviewed work of (say) William Nordhaus “was less worthy of inclusion in IPCC Assessments than IPCC press statements, government reports, etc.â€? In your reply you said “I will say neither yeh or ney. As someone else said on this thread it was up to the individual chapter writers.â€? Those are your exact words and I don’t understand how can you argue that you didn’t say them.”

    I didn’t say whether it was worthy or not and refused to be drawn on a straw man argument. I simply repeated Roger Jones who said that what was included was up to the chapter authors. I have not checked that this is correct. I do not care whether Nordhuas was worthy of inclusion or not as this is a clear straw man when the main argument was about MM03.

  3. Ian Castles – “Am I supposed to be grateful to the IPCC for issuing a press statement that was specifically and exclusively devoted to brushing aside the critique I had developed with David Henderson? We were both identified, by name, as purveyors of “disinformationâ€? – yet you accuse ME of slandering people.”

    It is not really a defence to say “They did it first” That is just childish. You accused the lead chapter authors of self promotion. In your opinion the authors have been selective however others have different opinions. Prof Quiggin took you you to task here on this blog on the PPP question as his area of expertise is much the same as your own.

    This sort of childish behaviour is characteristic of Climate Audit and is exactly why I never read it. I am sure that you have forgotton in the last 10 minutes more that I will ever know about economics however that does not give you the right to judge the scientists in charge of the chapters of AR4.

    I do apologise for the sorry arse comment however I do get annoyed when people that are I am sure have only the best interests of science in mind are treated in this manner by people that should know better. If someone called you “purveyors of disinformationâ€? then that is their problem not the lead IPCC authors.

  4. Stephen L: I didn’t know about Jensen. His Wikipedia entry says:

    Dr Jensen is a skeptic of human induced global warming and, on behalf of the Lavoisier Group, organised the release of a book [1] entitled Nine Facts About Climate Change by former mining CEO Ray Evans [2]. In February 2007 during a Parliamentary sitting, Jensen quoted the IPCC Vice Chairman Yuri Izrael who stated that “there is no proven link between human activity and global warming”.[3]

  5. Ender, It was the IPCC that called David Henderson and me purveyors of disinformation, and not one of those 2500 authors objected.

    No Roger, I didn’t mean the “Nordhaus, W.D. 2005â€? item that you cite, which isn’t in fact a paper but appears to be the WGIII Technical Support Unit’s paraphrase of Nordhaus’s remarks as recorded in the Report of the Expert Meeting. I’d already mentioned that citation in my comments above (July 16, 12.30 pm), where I noted that the Reference list for Chapter 3 of WGIII includes “statements made by experts during discussions at the IPCC Expert Meeting on Emissions Scenarios in Washington DC in January 2005 (e.g., NORDHAUS, 2005; Timmer, 2005; and Worrell, 2005)â€? (EMPHASIS added). I’d gone on immediately to say, and I now reaffirm, that “I do not believe that any of these … interventions were peer reviewed.â€?

    The sentence that you quote from the WGIII Report is immediately followed by the statement: “In contrast, Timmer (2005) actually prefers the use of MER-data in long-term modelling as data is better available, and many international relations within the model are based on MER.â€? It doesn’t seem to me to be very sensible to use the wrong data because the right data isn’t readily available – and in any case there is no way of knowing whether Hans Timmer actually said this because Timmer did not provide an extended abstract of his paper for incorporation in the report of the IPCC meeting.

    Professor Nordhaus did provide an extended abstract, which is not cited in the WGIII Report. More importantly, Nordhaus published his full paper (as I said, of about 10,000 words) on his website soon after the meeting. The following comments from the Report of the Select Committee of the House of Lords on Economic Affairs on Nordhaus’s paper provide a rather striking contrast to the sentence that you quoted from the IPCC Report:

    “Professor Nordhaus’s paper to that [IPCC] conference seems to us to be particularly important. First, he shows why using MERs is categorically the wrong procedure for aggregating world income. He remarks ‘estimates of output or income at MER are simply wrong – they are constructed on an economically incorrect basis’, and ‘Incomes estimated at MER are fundamentally wrong because they use the prices of a non-reprentative bundle of goods to compare the different countries.’ Second, … Professor Nordhaus demonstrates that the error in using MER can be very large compared to the use of correct PPP measures. Third, economic growth rates should also be computed using PPP data …â€?

    Ken Miles unwittingly reveals a good deal about what is wrong with the IPCC process with his remark that if the lead authors felt that a paper wasn’t up to scratch “they should ignore it.� Obviously the Lords Committee, which included several professors of economics and other eminent people from across the political spectrum, felt that the paper WAS ‘up to scratch’ and was ‘particularly important.’ And the Organising Committee for the meeting, which included most of the lead authors, presumably invited Nordhaus to give the keynote speech because of his high reputation in the long-term modelling field. It seems fair to conclude that his views were inadequately reported by WGIII for no other reason that that the lead authors disagreed with them.

    Roger Jones says that, “In all, Chapter 3 cites four of Nordhaus’ papers.� The first of these was published in 2000, and was cited by the IPCC team in support of their dismissive rejection of the Castles and Henderson critique (Nakicenovic et al, E&E, vol. 14, nos. 2 & 3: 192-93). BUT PROFESSOR NORDHAUS HAS WITHDRAWN FROM THE POSITION THAT HE TOOK ON THE PPP/MER ISSUE IN 2000. In his paper quoted by the Lords Committee and now published in Energy Economics, 29 (2007) 349-372 (“Alternative measures of output in global economic-environmental models: Purchasing power parity or market exchange rates?�), Nordhaus refers to global economic model-building for climate change being reliant primarily ‘until recently’ on MER accounts and then says, in a footnote, “The present author pleads guilty to having followed this incorrect convention in the RICE models� (n. 6, p. 353).

    In his 200-page study “The Challenge of Global Warming: Economic Models and Environmental Policy� (version of 7 June 2007), Nordhaus reports that “The conceptual basis for outputs has been changed from market exchange rates to purchasing power parity (PPP) rates� and cites his detailed paper on the subject (p. 13). He also says that “The DICE model projections are developed completely independently and using different methods and more recent data (the SRES were developed approximately a decade earlier)�. And he repeats in his conclusions (p. 137); and that “all dollar values in the text, tables, and graphs represent 2005 US dollars and measured in purchasing power parity exchange rates.�

    I admire Professor Nordhaus for having acknowledged that his earlier position was mistaken, and hope that I would be ready to do the same. And I was very pleased to receive an email message from him on 2 February 2006, which included the following:

    “I am personally and professionally extremely grateful for your role in raising the issue of proper measurement of output in the context of global economic modeling and global warming. It is clear to me that your intervention will be seen as playing a pivotal role in changing the way modeling is done in this area. I have always used MER accounts in my own modeling. I was aware of the controversy over the last few years, and my inclination was that MER accounts were theoretically preferable because energy and carbon are tradable goods. It was only when I made a careful study of your papers and the broader literature, particularly the index-number theory in this area, that I realized that my earlier thinking was wrong. I am cautiously confident that, over time, models will migrate to appropriate PPP accounts, perhaps something like superlative PPP accounts, but definitely away from MER accounts. The credit for the initial insight is yours. Bravo!�

    Regrettably, however, the MER fallacy has a good long way to run yet. The US Climate Change Science Program has just published new reference scenarios from three modelling groups, all of which use MER conversions to construct estimates and projections of GDP and energy intensities. The same is true of the scenarios produced for Australia by the Energy Futures Forum, which was initiated by CSIRO and ABARE.

    It is ironic that, in the course of dealing with a challenge that is widely expected to require unprecedented levels of international cooperation, the IPCC and many national governments have disregarded the internationally-agreed statistical conventions for measuring output and ignored or disregarded the views of their national statistical agencies.

    The IPCC’s rearguard action is especially inappropriate for an organisation that rightly presents itself as a scientific body. I find it amazing that all of those authors, expert reviewers and national governments can solemnly approve of a document that says that “the general recommendations are to use PPP WHERE PRACTICALâ€? (EMPHASIS added), and then proceed to quote the recommendation of the Statistical Commission of the United Nations (welcomed and approved unanimously by the Commission when I was Australia’s representative) that says that “data in national currencies MUST be converted … by means of purchasing power parities and NOT exchange ratesâ€?, and that “Exchange rate converted data MUST NOT … be interpreted as measures of the relative volumes of goods and services concernedâ€? (EMPHASES added).

    The context of the WGIII Chapter 3 reference to “Nordhaus 2006� (the paper in PNAS about Nordhaus’s GEcon project) is a list of ten researchers who in six different papers “have indicated different opinions on this [PPP v. MER] issue or explored it in a more quantitative sense� (p. 19). I don’t know what this is supposed to mean, or why the IPCC authors think that the GEcon project has any particular connection with the PPP/MER issue.

    In the course of the discussion in the WGIII Warwick McKibbin is twice spelled “McKibben�, and the publisher of one of his papers is reported as “Lowy Institute for International Policy Centre for Applied Macroeconomics, ANU, Brookings Institution, Sydney�.

    I suppose some readers of the blog will object to me picking up these errors when the IPCC work is all done on a volunteer basis. I find this argument pretty thin. Unlike David Henderson and me, most of the IPCC lead authors and reviewers are in well-paid positions in areas of research that are relevant to their IPCC tasks. And most of those who attended the meeting convened by the Australian Greenhouse Office to discuss Australian Government nominations seemed ready enough to allow their names to be put forward.

  6. “It’s pretty clear who the postmodernists and social constructionists are in this debate, as in the debate over creationism.”

    You see JQ, inductive approaches lead you directly to assumptions.

    The post modernist view of science is that of the “paradigm’s”, Kuhns “structure of scientific revolutions”, is a bit of a bible to them!
    more here.

    I think the main difference between popper and kuhn, is that the later describes science as it is done (with plenty of error) and popper describes science how it should be done. There is little doubt in my mind with regards to AGW we are dealing with big science, with too much vested interest in the paradigm.

    As for social constructionist, I think its you how wants trillions spent on “reducing” the world thermostat, I am the conservative one that wants money spent on development which will lead to a lower and more stable world population which would be desirable regardless of AGW. I suggest Lomberg has some good things to say on the issue.

    As for creationism, unlike you I am not a secular fundamentalist, I recognize that science can only answer the question HOW, not WHY, as Einstein himself pointed out. And as I pointed out in a earlier post, Darwins theory of evolution is MORE than a theory, AGW is still just a theory.

    AS for the title of your thread “Delusionists demolished” one of the guys on TGGWS was a guy called Piers Richard Corbyn, at the begining of this English summer he was on SKY tv giving his forcast ( using sunspots and making a shed load of money in weather bets to boot ) a forecast that went directly against the “AGW” forecast of the met office, a indifferent summer with plenty of rain…… right he was and is. :0)

  7. Ian, could you try to keep your comments short and to the point. A comments thread is not the place for editorial corrections on reports published elsewhere.

  8. Wilful, I agree that it’s a mistake to “teach the controversy� but I have a soft spot for mugwump (and his previous incarnations such as dogz).

    I keep changing my mind over this. On one hand, most delusionists have closed their mind down to the point where no new evidence or point will change their mind. When you start with the weird conspiracy theories you’ve lost it.

    However, many delusionist arguments sound convincing on face value. Prior to TGGWS playing in Australia, the Australian’s science journalist Leigh Dayton made the point that you need advanced knowledge of climatology to see through the garbage which TGGWS throws out. However, because the ABC and David Karoly attacked the scientific content head on, TGGWS and its supporters came out looking like a absolute joke. While the hardcore skeptics won’t change their mind, it should have (hopefully) a strong effect on the undecided.

  9. I forgot to include the Dayton quote in my above comment, so here it is:

    Given that Aunty put Swindle to air, after previously telling The Australian that it wasn’t even for sale, I’d normally say: watch and make up your own mind. But that’s impossible. Without detailed knowledge of advances in climate change research it’s impossible to sort facts from distortions, outmoded findings, spurious graphics and outright falsehoods.

  10. This is an old argument, but..

    mugwump: “The problem is, Mann’s hockeystick is not robust to removal of the Bristlecone series..”

    Actually, it is robust to the removal of the Bristlecone series as far back as 1450 (to 1428 if you want to do some more calculations). Indeed MBH99 freely admits that the hockeystick is not robust to removing this series before 1400.

    “and it turns out the Bristlecones are actually lousy temperature proxies.”

    According to Steve McIntyre. But somehow, in spite of being a “lousy proxy”, the Bristlecone-dependent proxy network (i.e. the “1400” network) gives very good agreement with more extensive networks that don’t go back as far into the past. McIntyre tried to argue at one point that the Bristlecone series is no good because there is a well-understood CO2-growth bias in the last 200 years but gave up and jumped to another argument. Whenever pursued, his arguments get dropped and a new one is thrown up.

    “As for McIntyre’s credibility: call me old-fashioned, but for me it stands on the quality of his work.”

    Good joke. Love the irony.

    “Read his papers.”


    “Read his blog.”


    “He is very good at what he does.”

    Sure, if you say so.

  11. Unfortunately, Chris, at about this point in the debate, mugwump/proust always seems to disappear. But your point about McIntyre “Whenever pursued, his arguments get dropped and a new one is thrown up” is exactly my experience, and is true of delusionists more generally.

    Urban heat islands, satellite data, the Medieval Warm Period and so forth have all failed them, but they don’t revise their conclusions, just make the minimal possible concession and move on to something new like cosmic rays. And if you leave anything alone long enough, they start again (for example, McIntyre now seems to be reviving UHIs).

  12. Unfortunately, Chris, at about this point in the debate, mugwump/proust always seems to disappear.

    I went on vacation. Laptop was left behind.

    Accept for the sake of argument, everything claimed by M&M. The result is that we don’t know about the MWP one way or the other. So, an argument based on the premise that the MWP was as warm as today is built on sand.

    Indeed. But McIntyre never claims the MWP was as warm as today, just that the current research does not show it wasn’t.

    An argument based on the premise that the MWP wasn’t as warm as today is built on the same sand. Gore, IPCC TAR, and many “intelligent laypeople” I have spoken to all claim/believe the hockeystick is definitive proof of AGW.

  13. Overstatement of the importance of the hockey stick is no doubt prevalent on both sides of the debate -a long stretch of Durkin’s film was based on the claim that the MWP was warmer than today . Hockey stick obsesssion is more prevalent on the delusionist side, since the other major claims (UHI, satellite data and so on) have failed so comprehensively, and we’re reduced to pathetic spectacles like Carter and others saying GW ended in 1998.

    But we both know that the case for AGW does not depend on the MWP , and that the IPCC makes no such claim.

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