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. A tidy summing up. I agree that Tony Jones did a very good job. So did Duffy, actually, in conveying accurately what a preening, narcissistic donkey he is. I’ve never heard of David Karoly, but he was excellent value.

  2. The discussion part was a bit of comic relief. Two thirds of the questioners were certifiable nutters.

  3. Good summary. To expand a bit on the “nutters”, there were a couple of the “all environmentalists are Nazis” variety, one who studied with Larouche and made some incomprehensible argument involving Keppler and a guy who rambled on excitedly about Carbon 14 who I suspect to be a creationist.
    I think Tony Jones did a good job overall.
    I was surprised that Duffy didn’t bring up the “forecasting” paper that he wrote about earlier in the week (I had a read of it and was not terribly impressed), perhaps someone was able to point out to him that it wasn’t quite the devastating critique that he thought it was.
    I was disappointed that Durkin didn’t live up to his reputation for dishing out abuse … he could have at least called someone “a big daft cock”.

  4. I watched Dunkin’s movie and the subsequent panel discussion. Concur with the summary.

    While watching this program I observed what I have observed in a different context and I wonder whether there is a manual which contains the following steps:
    1. The target (in this case climate scientists who research the role of human activity induced global warming)is falsely accused of exactly what the accuser is doing (swindle)
    2. Manufacture data (eg by omission)
    3. Link the falsehood to the metaphysical world by making out the target has an ‘attitude’ problem.
    4. Publicise the falsehoods as widely as possible (and try to make a living out of it).

  5. Ernestine,

    In marketing there is a whole school of thought built around openly attacking the market leader. Richard Branson has over the years gained loads of free publicity via exactly that method. In marketing ideas I suspect that attaching the dominant idea has similar advantages.

    Regards,
    Terje.

  6. I agree with your view that the documentary was a bunch of poor and unsubstantiated claims. I agree with the consensus view of climate scientists on global warming (or at the very least there is a strong presumption in favour of the scientific consensus and I’m hardly capable of arguing against it). However I think that it’s incredibly inappropriate that the ABC give one documentary such special attention. They have shown documentaries in the past that made serious claims but never saw fit to append a segment to the end of them that examined the character of the documentary maker nor the qualifications of the experts involved (at least in the manner they did with this film). Are they going to do this for all of their documentaries or only some?

    I suspect that the manner in which the film was presented will simply cause the sceptics to become even more sceptical. Either do the same thing with all documentaries or do it with none. The end part they tacked on (whilst completely correct) may have done more harm than good.

  7. Determined to watch, I tried, but fell into a deep sleep during the presentation. Judging by the panel discussion, the end of which I woke for, I did not miss much. What was most interesting, though, was the Lateline Wurst (if that was the guys name) interview. But even more telling was the following Myspace article which pointed to the issues of choice for the young voter. These being environment/GW, work choices issues and the cost lockout of the young from property ownership. Reading that into the general poll trend I think that Howard is facing a support implosion that, to take a line from Meet Joe Black, will lead to a “finality beyond comprehension”.

  8. As far as I could tell all but one of the denialists in the audience were La Rouchites. One openly admitted it (bad move mate) but we had one attack Prince Phillip, two go after Julian Huxley and one waffled about Kepler (one of these may have been the same person twice). All stock standard La Rouche themes.

    Basically the right in Australian politics are now so degraded they have to rely on La Rouchites as their shock troops, and many are not even embarrassed about it.

  9. I am a skeptic. The science behind AGW is shaky, and often conducted by scientists who have too little understanding of statistics to do a decent job. Even the surface temperature measurements are highly suspect.

    However, I agree that “Swindle” does more damage than good. Environmentalists, climatologists and AGW advocates are free to make any number of outrageous claims (and regularly do so) under the protection offered by the herd mentality. Skeptics have no such luxury.

  10. Yes, the audience was nutty. Often ABC audiences in these sorts of things are excruciating lefties, so it was refreshing to see Duffy et al squirm at the company they are keeping.

  11. The major flaw in the movie is not it’s clumpsy means of exposing the gaps in AGW (and there are real gaps in this puzzle) it is it the attempt to promote an alternate theory as the gospel truth. However if nothing else at least by taking an extreme view it allowed Wurst in the lateline interview to look moderate when he said that nobody “knows” what the climate will do in 20 years time.

    The risk of AGW is real enough. There is also a risk that our policy response will go too far. There is a risk that carbon trading may create a whole class of middle men that will make it difficult to base subsequent policy on a reasoned and evolved future view of risk (ie a new class of rent seekers). And whilst I am quite comfortable with a carbon tax that reduces other taxes there is a risk that many will never see any such tax as ever being high enough and will lobby endlessly for more action and higher taxes/restrictions.

    And in terms of Africa I can’t see any reasonable way that we can ask them to deploy electrical system via anything other than the cheapest means possible. Alternative energy needs to get cheaper.

  12. I’m amazed at the positive reactions here to Tony Jones’ performance. The stark contrast between his bullying “but…b.b…but” political interviewing style with Durkin and Carter to his revolting unctuousness in response to Karoly was embarrassing. If I were a GW sceptic, I would be more convinced than ever of ABC bias. As it is, it just convinced me to put the TV away for another year or two.

    And where on earth did they dig up the loony audience from?

  13. The sceptics in the audience put questions which were supposed to be clever and educated but were quite impossible to understand – however they were also long winded like the delusionist panel members. I have never heard such audience questions on any show before. The two who were keen to link the climate change argument to eugenics showed evidence of paranoia.

    The movie itself was interesting from the start which reminded one of a c grade spy movie from the 60’s based on teh music. The camera shots were also manipulative and filmed from a position to make the speaker seem powerful.

  14. I think the point of the eugenics statement was to say that both sides of the debate have some dirt in the closet. It was a somewhat weak point however akin to mentioning that Hitler was vocally against pollution.

  15. Lateline interview with Carl Wunsch
    LEIGH SALES: Well, Professor Wunsch joins us now from Boston.

    Professor, when you were contacted about appearing in Martin Durkin’s documentary, what were you told about the project?

    CARL WUNSCH, MASSACHUSSETTS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY: I was told that this was to be a film about the science of global warming, and that it would be an opportunity for me to explain that it is a very complicated problem, and I would be given an opportunity to explain particularly about the ocean, where I do have some expertise, why I thought one needed to be very careful about making any inferences based upon what we know today.

    Durkin says that I reacted to the way the film portrayed me because of pressure from my colleagues. This is completely false. I did hear almost immediately from colleagues in the UK who saw the film who didn’t berate me. They simply said, “This doesn’t sound like you, this seems to be distorting your views, you better have a look at this”.

    And having had a look at what they did with my comments in the film out of context and cutting away many of the important things that I thought were important that dealt with the science of it, it was a complete distortion of what I had told Durkin I believed.

  16. The nutters were a particularly ripe bunch. The wild-eyed youth who announced to add weight to his question that he’d studied astrophysics and the violin under the hitherto little known laureate and maestro Lyndon LaRouche sent me scurrying for the ‘off’ switch, though.

  17. The best bit of the whole evening was the excerpt from the previous Durkin doco, Storm in a D-cup.

  18. One argument that the “sceptics” make is that rises in carbon levels is a naturally occuring phenomena and it’s something that has happened before in the planet’s long history. I never understood how this was relevant as it does not address two key propositions: (i) an increase in carbon leads to potentially adverse climate change; and (ii) human activity (such as burning fossil fuels) contributes to more carbon in the atmosphere. Even if some of the carbon increase is “natural”, all the more reason to cut back on anthropogenic generated carbon, yes? So the point about natural changes in carbon levels seems neither here nor there.

    What puzzles me is why the scientists defending climate change models do not make this seemingly obvious point. Instead, their response seems to be along the lines that the climate change models do take into account natural increases in carbon levels, which seems to be an unnecessarily complicated answer. Perhaps I’ve misunderstood something?

    The only relevance I can see is that if carbon rises are naturally increasing anyway, then the earth is “doomed” regardless of how much we reduce anthropogenic generated carbon. So we might as well eat, drink and be merry. Is that what the sceptics are arguing? (If so, I think they bear the burden of showing that carbon is in fact naturally increasing and at such a level that there is no point doing anything to reduce anthropogenic generated carbon.)

  19. John, if you turned off before the audience discussion, you missed some wonderful entertainment!
    Hal9000, you’re a killjoy!
    The LaRouchies and population cranks were priceless.

  20. Environmentalists, climatologists and AGW advocates are free to make any number of outrageous claims (and regularly do so) under the protection offered by the herd mentality. Skeptics have no such luxury.

    Keep on telling yourself that Mugwump.

    Helen is right, the audience discussion was spectacular. I didn’t think that it would be possible to get so many cranks in one room. No wonder they were cheering the skeptics.

  21. Ken, how much of the science have you actually read?

    Whether AGW turns out to be an issue for humanity or not, we’re clearly in the midst of mass-hysteria.

  22. Does anyone know which of Durkin’s wingnuts was the one who advanced the theory that it was all because of Maggie Thatcher? I know it’s available on YouTube, but due to school hols, we have used up all our broadband and been busted down to Dialup. You know how it is.

  23. Mugwump, I’ve read quite a bit of the science in peer reviewed journals and have studied it at a university level. Plus, as part of my PhD in chemistry, I’ve got a reasonable understanding of much of the theory which global warming rests on.

  24. I’m not sure who started the whole global warming and Thatcher theory, but it’s been around for quite a while. John Daly has some garbage by Richard Courtney on it, so it might have been him.

    The speech by Thatcher which started these conspiracy theories can be found here.

  25. I’ve noticed a bit of criticism (here and elsewhere, such as the Oz) of Tony Jones for his “one-sided” interview with Durkin. Given that we’d just had one hour of Durkin’s unchallenged views what did they expect? Of course Jones’ job was to challenge Durkin on the content of the program.

  26. Ernestine,

    I don’t know of a manual on how to manufacture bogus controversies, but philosophy professor Daniel Dennett wrote an Op-Ed piece for The New York Times back in August 2005, discussing how the controversy over Intelligent Design has been manufactured:

    “… the proponents of intelligent design use a ploy that works something like this. First you misuse or misdescribe some scientist’s work. Then you get an angry rebuttal. Then, instead of dealing forthrightly with the charges leveled, you cite the rebuttal as evidence that there is a ‘controversy’ to teach.

    “Note that the trick is content-free. You can use it on any topic. ‘Smith’s work in geology supports my argument that the earth is flat,’ you say, misrepresenting Smith’s work. When Smith responds with a denunciation of your misuse of her work, you respond, saying something like: ‘See what a controversy we have here? Professor Smith and I are locked in a titanic scientific debate. We should teach the controversy in the classrooms.’ And here is the delicious part: you can often exploit the very technicality of the issues to your own advantage, counting on most of us to miss the point in all the difficult details….”

    The article is posted online at http://www.edge.org/documents/archive/edge166.html#ss

    The global warming denialists have used a slightly improved version of this approach. They have dredged back through the science, finding bits of evidence which, though now satisfactorily accounted for, might once have raised doubts about the extent of human influence on climate change. So some of the controversy they want taught once existed but is now obsolete. The rest has simply been manufactured as Dennett describes.

  27. MikeM – Its is interesting that the very same technique is used by Keith Windschuttle in his denialism of Aboriginal History. Jsut substitute a few key terms and we get the so called History Wars.

    “… the proponents of FABRICATION use a ploy that works something like this. First you misuse or misdescribe some HISTORIANS work. Then you get an angry rebuttal. Then, instead of dealing forthrightly with the charges leveled, you cite the rebuttal as evidence that there is a ‘controversy’ to teach.

  28. The crazy violin dude turned up when Alan Pears launched his book recently asking the same questions.

    Nobody there understood him either.

  29. The Oz cartoon today showed Tony Jones cosying up to Al Gore whilst Durkin looked on.

    On the show Tony Jones didn’t cosy up to anybody. He sat apart – although he did ask difficult questions. There were those who knew their stuff and there were those who blustered.

    The cartoon bore no reality to what had occurred and yet sent a strongly prejudicial message. This kind of inaccuracy does the paper no credit and adds nothing to the global warming debate.

  30. Ken, with your hard-science background I am somewhat surprised that you are not also appalled at the poor state of climate science. There are hundreds of examples over at climateaudit, eg: http://www.climateaudit.org/?p=1798 .

    These are not cherry-picking fringe publications. They are from the mainstream “IPCC feedstock” if you like.

    BTW, my PhD is mathematical statistics, with a reasonable publication record (eg, slightly better than our host in terms of H-index, if you believe google scholar (and if you believe anonymous claims)).

  31. BillB, a very interesting quote from your link:

    “All the graphs they [the Swindle producers] showed stopped in about 1980, and I knew why, because things diverged after that”

    “You can’t just ignore bits of data that you don’t like”

    I couldn’t agree more. But the Swindle authors are not scientists. Whatever scientific standards they are held to should apply doubly so to the IPCC.

  32. For my own existence the science, mugwump, only confirms my personal observations. The weather is changing, the ozone hole is getting bigger (I know that because I could feel the skin burn intensity increasing living in New Zealand). I know that the worlds coal and oil stocks are finite. The worlds human population is increasing. Humans use energy at an ever increasing rate. I do not have to be a genius to determine that these forces will accelerate towards a finality that could be comapared to jumping of a platform with a rope around ones kneck. I don’t give a damn about the science. Simple logic is sufficient to determine that we have to stop squandering the carbon, because when it is gone it will not be recoverable.

    From my point of view the science is a CONVENIENT truth, simply because it makes people stop and think. Basic arithmetic is all that is need to evaluate our precarious human position. The sun is the only energy source that will out persist human habitation of this planet, and I do not need a PhD to be sure of that.

  33. Mugwump, I followed your first link and it was a lengthy quibble about urban heat islands based on a single station. As was pointed out at length last night, the whole urban heat island line has long since been refuted, notably by ocean observations. And of course, the satellite data confirms the surface data, contrary to TGGWS.

    I followed McIntyre & McKitrick reasonably closely on their hockey stick stuff and the story changed every few months. First they were just correcting the data, then they were quibbling about principal components then they wanted to delete the bristlecone pine data. The only thing that didn’t change was their conclusion which was announced well in advance of doing any research.

    AFAIK, McIntyre hasn’t published anything except his work with McKitrick, so the credibility of this stuff stands on that of McKitrick, someone who denies the existence of a mean global temperature, can’t tell degrees from radians, invented his own temperature scale etc.

    If your publications are as you say, you must know this. So why do you keep making a fool of yourself, believing a bunch of shills whose claims happen to suit your ideological prejudices.

  34. jquiggin, parsimony dictates leaving one link. If you want, I can insert many more. But if you’re interested in weather stations and the dubious manual adjustments made to the temperature record by the climate modelers, I suggest surfacestations.org for starters. Then read back through McIntyre’s surface record thread.

    None of this constitutes a refutation of the AGW hypothesis. But from a hard-science/statistician’s standpoint it is all remarkably sloppy. Why don’t they just use raw data and rely on the law of large numbers to average away any local effects, rather than make dubious manual adjustments that purport to account for local effects but in reality tend to bias the historical temperature record downwards?

    As for UHI, urban transects show significant local heating. The classification of weather stations as “rural” to avoid this problem has been questioned by McIntyre for some time and is now being systematically investigated by contributors to surfacestations.org.

    Again, this does not constitute a refutation of previous “refutations of UHI”, but does show that the question is far from settled as you (and the consensus climate scientists) claim.

    As far as McIntyre and the hockeystick is concerned, the argument has been pretty constant AFAIK: tree-rings are proxies for many things – temperature, precipitation, fertilization, etc; hence to use them as proxies for temperature alone one needs to select “Temperature only” tree-ring proxies from the rest. One way to do this is to see which tree-ring series correlate with the recent temperature record (although given the questions surrounding the manual adjustments made to the temperature record, even this may be non-kosher, but since a faulty temperature record is a disaster for all prediction methods, such objections are irrelevant to the specific problems with the hockeystick). All well-and-good. The problem is, Mann’s hockeystick is not robust to removal of the Bristlecone series (ie, take out that series and you don’t get a hockeystick), and it turns out the Bristlecones are actually lousy temperature proxies.

    As for McIntyre’s credibility: call me old-fashioned, but for me it stands on the quality of his work. Read his papers. Read his blog. He is very good at what he does.

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