The Republican War on Science: Tierney and Bethell

One of the big problems with talking about what Chris Mooney has called The Republican War on Science is that, on the Republican side, the case against science is rarely laid out explicitly. On a whole range of issues (evolution, passive smoking, climate change, the breast-cancer abortion link, CFCs and the ozone layer and so on) Republicans attack scientists, reject the conclusions of mainstream science and promote political talking points over peer-reviewed research. But they rarely present a coherent critique that would explain why, on so many different issues, they feel its appropriate to rely on their own politically-based judgements and reject those of mainstream science. And of course many of them are unwilling to admit that they are at war with science, preferring to set up their own alternative set of scientific institutions and experts, journals and so on.

So it’s good to see a clear statement of the Republican critique of science from John Tierney in this NY Times blog piece promoting global warming “skepticism”. The core quote is

climate is so complicated, and cuts across so many scientific disciplines, that it’s impossible to know which discrepancies or which variables are really important.
Considering how many false alarms have been raised previously by scientists (the “population crisis,� the “energy crisis,� the “cancer epidemic� from synthetic chemicals), I wouldn’t be surprised if the predictions of global warming turn out to be wrong or greatly exaggerated. Scientists are prone to herd thinking — informational cascades– and this danger is particularly acute when they have to rely on so many people outside their field to assess a topic as large as climate change.

Both this quote and the rest of Tierney’s article are notable for the way in which he treats science as inseparable from politics, and makes no distinction between scientific research and the kind of newspaper polemic he produces. Like most Republicans, Tierney takes a triumphalist view of the experience of the last thirty years or so, as showing that he and other Republicans have been proved right, and their opponents, including scientists, have been proved wrong. Hence, he argues, he is entitled to prefer his own political judgements to the judgements (inevitably equally political) of scientists.

Of course, there’s nothing new about the general viewpoint, that science is just another type of ideological system. It was until recently, widely held on the left. But it’s now far more common among Republicans, where it is now the dominant fiewpoint. Some of its surviving leftwing adherents, such as Steve Fuller, have taken the logical step and joined the Republicans, notably in the Dover case on the teaching of Intelligent Design.

I’ll point out some of the more obvious problems with Tierney’s analysis. Of the three issues he mentions, only one (the “cancer epidemic”) involves a debate in which scientific issues were central. And most proponents of a “cancer epidemic” are non-scientists who see themselves in much the same light as the global warming skeptics Tierney is promoting. The most prominent single advocate of the “cancer epidemic” story is Samuel Epstein, who describes himself as the leading critic of the “cancer establishment” consisting of the American Cancer Society, National Cancer Institute and mainstream scientific journals such as Science (also a favorite target of GW conspiracy theorists).

It’s clear that the notion of a “cancer epidemic” has never been supported by mainstream science. But, if you accept Tierney’s politicised view of science, it makes sense to lump ACS and NCI together with critics like Epstein. The scientific evidence produced by the cancer establishment has supported lots of restrictions on smoking, air pollution, the use of synthetic chemicals and so on, all of which are opposed by Republicans. In political terms, the more extreme position represented by Epstein helps the establishment defend themselves against rightwing critics.

Also noteworthy is the idea that when faced with a complex problem, the best thing to do is to fall back on your own prejudices, rather than, say, attempt a comprehensive investigation of all aspects of the problem.

Apart from Tierney, about the most comprehensive exposition of the Republican critique of science is Tom Bethell’s Politically Incorrect Guide to Science, part of the Regnery series of the same name. Here’s a summary of his position, arguing that scientists operating through journals like Science manufacture spurious problems to get research funding and that scientific research is fatally flawed because of its commitment to materialism.

Bethell has impeccable qualifications as a leading Republican commentator on science (gigs at the Hoover Institute and American Spectator, ) But I think some Republicans find he is a bit too thorough in his rejection of science, going beyond the standard topics (evolution, global warming, stem cell research) to reject relativity and embrace AIDS reappraisal.

The problem here is that Republicans are torn between a war on science and a war over science. What they would like is a scientific process that produced all the technological goodies of which they are enamoured, but could be constrained to the reliable message discipline expected of all parts of the Republican machine. Some of the time this leads them to engage in debate over particular scientific issues with a rather cargo-cultish attempt to mimic the trappings of scientific methods. At other times, they attack science more directly. But Bethell’s overt rejection of science, and embrace of obviously cranky ideas, gives the game away a bit too much.

152 thoughts on “The Republican War on Science: Tierney and Bethell

  1. Terje,

    “The utility of violating liberty in this instance is not high enough in my view”

    But that’s just it…business groups would be violating the liberties of disadvantaged minorities by not accommodating them. Do you seriously believe that if businesses were under no legal requirement to accommodate, for instance, those in wheelchairs, that if you yourself were to wind up in a wheelchair tomorrow, you would be left with any meaningful liberties at all?
    (FWIW, regulations mandating wheelchair access are a godsend to parents with strollers – and indeed wheelchair ramps and disabled access to buildings etc. are used far more by abled people than disabled people. In otherwords, they’re just a good idea full stop – but it seems wheelchair users were the only ones capable of making a case to have such regulations pushed through).

  2. Mugwump: “those who accept global warming as revealed truth”?

    Who would that be exactly? As in, who that actually matters?

  3. wizofaus, obviously my “revealed truth” remark was in the context of Ian’s snarky remark about “uncover[ing] the greatest scientific fraud of all time”.

    Please address the substantive issue. If I was wrong in my original post at #71, explain where I was wrong.

  4. This is silly. Let’s go through the steps.

    1. Models are estimated with error
    2. Given a total observed warming over some period, estimated coefficients will match this warming. There’s nothing sinister about this, any more than about the fact that the line of best fit in a regression passes through the mean of the data. The problem is to fit the entire observed series.
    3. If the estimated impact of a negative forcing increases, the estimated impact of positive forcings must increase to offset this – this is Mugwump’s “demonstration” that climate scientists are bad at stats
    4. What matters is not the elementary statistical points raised above, but the resulting range of uncertainty. If this range was great enough to allow fitting the data with any desired CO2 sensitivity (most importantly with zero or negative sensitivity), there would be a big problem with the claims made for models. Mugwump made this claim, then backed away from it.
    5. The actual situation is that, depending on how aerosols are treated, you can get a good fit to the data with estimated sensitivities to a CO2 doubling ranging from 1.5 to 4.5 C. Unsurprisingly, this is what the IPCC reports
    6. Just to complicate matters a little, James Annan argues on Bayesian grounds that standard procedures lead to an overestimate of uncertainty about both aerosol forcing and sensitivity. My own view is that this argument doesn’t take account of model uncertainty.
    7. To sum up, everyone (except, apparently, Mugump) knows and has always said that there is a good deal of uncertainty about the predictions presented in climate science models.
    8. The argument presented here is not Mugwmp’s own, but is derived from the anti-AGW quote mining industry. You can find it all around the delusionist blogosphere. In its reliance on quote mining (as noted, the article doesn’t support any of the silly claims made about it) and sniping attacks on minor issues (for example the confected hockey stick scandal) AGW anti-science models itself on the successful tactics of creationism.

  5. A typical attempt to misrepresent my claim.

    At #71, I said:

    Or just plain wrong.

    That link is to point 5 on that list: “Models are unreliable�. It shows two graphs, one with CO2 forcing removed from the models that fails to match the temperature record of the last 150 years, and one with CO2 forcing that matches the record. Conclusive? No.

    The problem is that the models are tuned to match the temperature record by adjusting the aerosol content, because aerosols are a large unknown parameter so the scientists are free to set them however they wish. So that argument tells you only one thing: the models have a built-in positive temperature feedback from CO2. It doesn’t tell you about their predictive power, because the aerosol content could be further adjusted to account for more of the warming, while still leaving a large amount of the CO2 increase out.

    Now, quiggin claims:

    4. What matters is not the elementary statistical points raised above, but the resulting range of uncertainty. If this range was great enough to allow fitting the data with any desired CO2 sensitivity (most importantly with zero or negative sensitivity), there would be a big problem with the claims made for models. Mugwump made this claim, then backed away from it.

    Where did I make this claim? That’s a pretty desperate and obvious lie.

    7. To sum up, everyone (except, apparently, Mugump) knows and has always said that there is a good deal of uncertainty about the predictions presented in climate science models.

    Oh really? Then presumably you’ll agree that the three initial graphs at the above link tell us little about the ability of the models to accurately predict the impact of CO2 on climate, which was precisely my point.

  6. Also, against quiggin’s claimed omniomniscience:

    everyone (except, apparently, Mugump) knows and has always said that there is a good deal of uncertainty about the predictions presented in climate science models

    (no, not a typo, omniomniscience is a reasonable shortening of “everyone knows and has always known”), we have Kiehl himself:

    The question is: if climate models differ by a factor of 2 to 3 in their climate sensitivity, how can they all simulate the global temperature record with a reasonable degree of accuracy. Kerr [2007] and S. E. Schwartz et al. (Quantifying climate change–too rosy a picture?, available at http://www.nature.com/reports/climatechange, 2007) recently pointed out the importance of understanding the answer to this question. Indeed, Kerr [2007] referred to the present work, and the current paper provides the “widely circulated analysis� referred to by Kerr [2007]. This report investigates the most probable explanation for such an agreement. It uses published results from a wide variety of model simulations to understand this apparent paradox between model climate responses for the 20th century, but diverse climate model sensitivity.

    So as recently as 2007 understanding the answer to this question was considered important to practitioners in the field. Fools. They could have saved themselves the effort with a quick call to quiggin (or apparently anyone else).

  7. In what remotely possible way does the second quote contradict the first? To quote from the abstract of the paper “There is considerable interest in decreasing our uncertainty in climate sensitivity.” Kiehl’s paper examines the sources of this uncertainty, which is exactly what you’d expect.

    And, coming back to the main point, all of this demonstrates science at work. Mugwump’s slurs on science in general and climate science in particular “This is the biggest problem with climate science as a whole: the statistical ability of its practitioners is mediocre at best.” have no more basis than the similar attacks routinely made on all kinds of science that Republicans find inconvenient. Look at the dispute over passive smoking to find heaps of exactly similar stuff with shills like Steve Milloy producing exactly the same kind of invective as Mugwump is recycling here.

  8. In what remotely possible way does the second quote contradict the first?

    On the one hand you are claiming my point, which uses Kiehl’s analysis, is well-understood and has been known for a long time. On the other hand we have Kiehl himself saying that until recently it was considered a “paradox” that models could simultaneously fit the temperature record yet had widely varying CO2 sensitivity.

    The point I was making was very specific, and directly related to Kiehl’s analysis: the leeway in aerosol forcing means you can conclude very little from the graphs purporting to show the veracity of CO2 forcing in the models.

    As far as I can tell, you are under the false impression that I made a much more general point about model uncertainty (and a specific point that zero climate sensitivity is plausible). I made neither.

    Mugwump’s slurs on science in general

    Really? Where have I ever slurred “science in general”? I have the utmost respect for science. But I have no respect for the politicization of science, which is why climate science comes under such fire; so many of the leaders in that field are egregious politicizers.

    Most other slurring of science is far more harmless. Eg, the intelligent designers. They have no credibility or authority. Their agenda is transparent. Everyone knows that. The only time I would bother taking them on is if they try to get equal time for intelligent design in my kids’ classrooms.

  9. “I am not claiming to have stumbled on the greatest scientific fraud of all time. Only those who accept global warming as revealed truth would think that way.”

    Really so you’re not claiming every single climate modeling team has falsified their work by imposing exogenous values for aerosols and then lied about doing so?

  10. Really so you’re not claiming every single climate modeling team has falsified their work by imposing exogenous values for aerosols and then lied about doing so?

    Of course not. They are up-front about aerosol adjustments. The problem is not that they tweak the aerosol settings, it is the impact such tweaking has on conclusions one can draw from the models.

  11. There is a big difference in my view between:-

    a) A model that accurately predicts the past.
    b) A model with a solid track record at predicting the future.

    Given that most climate models are constantly being refined (ie they are not the same model today that they were twenty years ago) then I don’t think there are any that really fit (b). This does not mean we shouldn’t use the models available but we should sure as heck be cautions about accepting their predictions.

  12. sniping attacks on minor issues (for example the confected hockey stick scandal)

    Quiggin, please read McIntyre and McItrick’s submission to the NAS panel, and then explain why the hockeystick scandal is “confected”.

    To this day, the thought leaders in climate science over at realclimate.org and elsewhere maintain their support of the hockeystick reconstructions, in spite of the now overwhelming evidence that those studies were fatally flawed.

  13. I’m not going to rehash my objections to M&M, stated many times already.

    I will point out a genuine scandal of which you may not be aware. The lead author of the supposedly independent report supporting M&M, commissioned by Republican Senator James Inhofe has revealed himself as a delusionist. It always seemed implausible that a competent independent statistician, acting honestly, could produce a piece of rubbish like the Wegman report. Now that he has shown himself willing, along with McKitrick, to sign a statement saying “global warming stopped in 1998” the problem is resolved.

  14. Your objections are simply not credible when they only ever take the form of indirect attacks. Why not read their NAS submission and point out exactly where they are wrong? After all, if they really are the charlatans you claim, it will be easy to demolish their arguments.

  15. Mugwump @ 110: Of course not. They are up-front about aerosol adjustments.

    No they aren;t – and in fact this claim is directly contradicted by the section from Kiehl I quoted earlier.

    Terje @111, neither task is trivial – no-one’s ever produced a climate model capable of successfully backcasting the climate that doesn’t incorporate carbon dioxide forcing and predict rising global temperatures.

  16. Much of the uncertainty in total anthropogenic forcing derives from a threefold range of uncertainty in the aerosol forcing used in the simulations.�

    Mugwump @ 110: Of course not. They are up-front about aerosol adjustments.

    No they aren;t – and in fact this claim is directly contradicted by the section from Kiehl I quoted earlier.

    Are you switching sides here Ian? I think you are reading more into Kiehl than is there. Perhaps the range of aerosol forcings used in the models had not been quantified prior to Kiehl, but the fact that aerosols were essentially semi-free parameters was well understood.

  17. mugwump,
    re#116, you asserted that there was “… overwhelming evidence that those [“hockey stick�] studies were fatally flawed�. When asked for evidence, you referred readers back to M&Ms submission to NAS, ignoring the fact that the NAS themselves, in their summary report on surface temperature reconstructions for the last 2,000 years, concluded that “It can be said with a high level of confidence that global mean surface temperature was higher during the last few decades of the 20th century than during any comparable period during the preceding four centuries.�(p.117) This statement would appear to me to support the existence of a “hockey stick� (a sharp upward turn in temp. in the late 20th cent.). They go on to say that “[t]his statement is justified by the consistency of the evidence from a wide variety of geographically diverse proxies�. In other words, Mann et al do not stand alone.
    I ask you: why would any non-specialist reader accept M&M’s partisan verdict on this, rather than, say, the NAS’s summary report?
    But why does this matter so much to you? The case for AGW does not rest on Mann et al and the “hockey stick� alone.

  18. peterd, Mann et al made a much stronger claim than the NAS panel conclusion: they said the last decade of the 20th century was the warmest in at least the last millennium.

    So what’s the big deal about 400 years vs 1,000? The Medieval Warm Period (MWP) happened over 400 years ago and is well documented as a historically warm period. So what? Well, if the MWP was as warm as today, it must have been the result of either natural variability or some unknown forcing; in particular it was not the result of human greenhouse gas emissions.

    So, it was very important for Climate Scientists to “get rid of the MWP”, lest it be used to ask the awkward question: “If the MWP was as warm as today, couldn’t the recent warming be at least partly attributable to causes other than human generated greenhouse gases?”.

    Mann et al delivered what the (anti-capitalist, anti-growth) elements of the climate science community wanted to hear. Unfortunately, their studies were fatally flawed.

    If you doubt M&M’s honesty, I exhort you to do the same thing quiggin should do: read their NAS submission and demolish it.

    As it stands, there’s also a wider message for the general public in the hockeystick controversy: almost to a man the climate science community have closed ranks behind Mann et al, despite their obfuscation and refusal to release data and source code that would allow their studies to be reproduced, and despite the obvious methodological flaws in their study. What does that tell you about their scientific integrity?

  19. Muguwmp, your last comment confirms the analysis put forward in the post. Thanks for this.

  20. Your position gets weaker and weaker quiggin the longer you carry on making indirect attacks without addressing the actual science.

  21. Mugwump, this post isn’t about climate science but about why rightwingers, notably Republicans, reject science on a range of issues.

    You could contribute by explaining why (if I have you right) you reject climate science but accept the epidemiological evidence on passive smoking. Both have been subject to very similar attacks, driven by closely related political and economic interests, and organized, in large measure, by the same individuals and lobby groups (Milloy, Singer, SEPP, AEI, TASSC, Cato, Fraser etc etc).

  22. Mugwump, you wrote: “Mann et al made a much stronger claim than the NAS panel conclusion: they said the last decade of the 20th century was the warmest in at least the last millennium.�
    In the summary NAS report I quoted, the NAS (p.117) also state that “[l]ess confidence can be placed in large-scale surface temperature reconstructions for the period from A.D. 900 to 1600�. They go on to state: “Presently available proxy evidence indicates that temperatures at many, but not all, individual locations were higher during the past 25 years than during any period of comparable length since A.D. 900.� So what entitles you to claim that Mann et al are “fatally flawed� in this regard?
    You claimed that the MWP “…is well documented as a historically warm period�. How warm, Mugump? You do not go so far as to claim the MWP was warmer than today. The warmth of the MWP, relative to today, is by no means as well established as you appear to think. If you look at the NAS report’s Fig. S-1, it is hard to conclude from the various proxy data shown there that the MWP was warmer than the late 20th C. The question here is the quality, scarcity, and consistency of the proxy records, which decline, the further back in time we go.
    In any case, who has ever claimed that the temperature change since the end of the LIA has been caused solely by GHGs? To the best of my knowledge, climate researchers have never suggested that natural climatic factors, including solar forcing, have had no role at all to play in affecting the temperature record of the last century. What is claimed is that we cannot explain the late 20th C. temperature increase unless we also include the anthropogenic CO2 (& other GHG) contributions.

    I also called M&M “partisan�. That they may be, but that does not mean I called them dishonest. That is your implication. A researcher can be partisan, in terms of pursuing his own beliefs, and seeking out evidence that supports those beliefs, without being dishonest. What I do find dishonest is the selective reporting of the scientific literature, and more especially the way that many climate “sceptics� (who, in my view, are insufficiently sceptical of the stuff they themselves peddle) exploit whatever they find in the literature that they think fits their position, without regard to the wider literature in the field. This happened a lot during the “ozone wars� of the 1980 and 1990s, and it not surprising to me to see it happening again over AGW.
    It is also reminiscent of the way “creation scientists� operate, and that connects nicely with the topic of this thread.
    In any event, I see little point in pursuing this kind of discussion with people who seem to regard
    the accepted knowledge (sometimes called “consensus�) in a scientific field as nothing but a conspiracy among the members of a in-group. Science does not operate this way, Mugwump.

  23. So what’s the big deal about 400 years vs 1,000? The Medieval Warm Period (MWP) happened over 400 years ago and is well documented as a historically warm period. So what? Well, if the MWP was as warm as today, it must have been the result of either natural variability or some unknown forcing; in particular it was not the result of human greenhouse gas emissions.

    So, it was very important for Climate Scientists to “get rid of the MWP�, lest it be used to ask the awkward question: “If the MWP was as warm as today, couldn’t the recent warming be at least partly attributable to causes other than human generated greenhouse gases?�.

    I’ll simply chime in here to point out that far from getting rid of the MWP, Mann’s 1999 paper suggests that they may have found evidence for the MWP. This would have been obvious to Mugs if he had bothered to read the Mann paper rather than just its detractors.

  24. This quote gives a good perspective on the early MGH work on temperature reconstructions:

    The academy essentially upholds Mann’s findings, although the panel concluded that systematic uncertainties in climate records from before 1600 were not communicated as clearly as they could have been. The NAS also confirmed some problems with the statistics. But the mistakes had a relatively minor impact on the overall finding, says Peter Bloomfield, a statistician at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, who was involved in the latest report. This study was the first of its kind, and they had to make choices at various stages about how the data were processed, he says, adding that he would not be embarrassed to have been involved in the work.

  25. In any event, I see little point in pursuing this kind of discussion with people who seem to regard
    the accepted knowledge (sometimes called “consensus�) in a scientific field as nothing but a conspiracy among the members of a in-group. Science does not operate this way, Mugwump.

    peterd, all science has some element of “conspiracy among the members of an in-group”. Scientists are human after all, and the entire peer-review process is geared towards that.

    Most science has very little political impact, so such conspiracy does not have a large adverse effect on the quality of the science produced.

    Unfortunately, Climate Science has tremendous political impact, and the modeling and hindcasting elements require relatively sophisticated statistical ability to determine which conclusions are robust, abilities lacking amongst most in the field. Hence why the leading lights in the field closed ranks behind Mann: they believed his conclusion and were not capable of seeing his errors.

    Ken Miles, Bloomfield also said:

    Our committee
    reviewed the methodology used by Dr. Mann and his coworkers and we
    felt that some of the choices they made were inappropriate. We had
    much the same misgivings about his work that was documented at much
    greater length by Dr. Wegman.

    That’s the same Dr. Wegman regularly the subject of libelous remarks by Quiggin.

    Bloomfield apparently happens to believe the overall message on Global Warming, but that is a different question.

  26. Mugwump is right as always: John Quiggin’s dismissal of Wegman – the US’ top statistician – is based on nothing more substantial than Wegman lending his name to an Open letter to the Sec Gen of the UN before the Bali conference which amongst much else stated:

    “The average rate of warming of 0.1 to 0. 2 degrees Celsius per decade recorded by satellites during the late 20th century falls within known natural rates of warming and cooling over the last 10,000 years.Leading scientists, including some senior IPCC representatives, acknowledge that today’s computer models cannot predict climate. Consistent with this, and despite computer projections of temperature rises, there has been no net global warming since 1998. 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 Open Letter’s comment here is based of course on the contrast between the decadal rises of not more than 0.2oC since 1980 with the ongoing RISING annual increases in CO2 emissions of now over 3% p.a since 2000. The question yet to be answered by the good professor is, what is the rate of change of global mean temperature with respect to the 3% p.a. annual increment in CO2 emissions since say 1998? Also interesting would be the correlation coefficient for temperature as a function of both CO2 and the non-anthropogenic determinants of climate, since any year from 1900, that even the IPCC admits do exist?

    Re Quiggin’s dismissal of the MM rebuttals of the MBH hockey stick, he seems to be unaware of subsequent work on non-tree-ring proxies (eg Loehle) that support MM and also rebut MBH and Q. Even Gore’s book’s pic of the hockey stick shows clearly how the tree ring proxy does not calibrate with the instrumental record since 1960. That is both because tree rings are poor proxies for temperature since widths vary as much due to precipitation as to heat, and because “globalâ€? surface temperatures as reported by NASA-GISS are seriously compromised by failure to adjust adequately for the UHI (the majority of allegedly rural stations in the USA are being shown to be in built-up locations). Fortuitously there is less divergence between the MBH proxy and the satellite temperature record, but Quiggin dislikes the latter because it shows less warming than NASA-GISS, especially for the SH, which apart from the El Nino spike in 1998, shows no more warmth there after 1998 than in 1980-1997.

  27. This is sad. Do you really think publications in blog comments threads or bogus journals like Energy & Environment are going to make the slightest bit of difference. If you think that the press misreported the NAS endorsement of Mann et al, and that your carefully mined quotes are the real viewpoint, why don’t you write to NAS and ask them to clarify, and maybe withdraw their statement (endorsed by every major scientific organization in the world) agreeing with the IPCC.

    I’d ask commentators to stop feeding trolls by debating the talking points raised here, and apologise for the couple of comments I made along those lines. The question of interest is not whether Republicans/conservatives are deluded opponents of science, but why.

    I’ll repeat my invitation to the GW delusionists on this thread to explain what differences, if any, they see between the debate over AGW and that over passive smoking.

  28. Mugwump, let me run through it again, from NAS: “The basic conclusion of Mann et al. (1998, 1999), was that the late 20th Century warming in the Northern Hemisphere was unprecedented during at least the last 1,000 years. This conclusion has subsequently been supported by an array of evidence that includes both additional large-scale surface temperature reconstructions and pronounced changes in a variety of local proxy indicators, such as melting on ice caps and the retreat of glaciers around the world, which in many cases appear to be unprecedented during at least the last 2,000 years.”
    And: “Based on the analyses presented in the original papers by Mann et al., this committee finds it plausible that the Northern Hemisphere was warmer during the last few decades of the 20h Cent. than during any comparable period over the preceding millennium.”

    What part of this do you not understand?

    BTW, the full NAS report can be downloaded for free from the internet.

  29. Re #129: Oops, apologies, I had not read this before I posted again.
    I will stop feeding the trolls.

  30. Yes it is sad when you cannot refute Wegman’s assessment, with his rather more impressive qualifications than those of NAS and your own in the field of statistics. Passive smoking and AGW are unrelated – the first apparently caused fewer than 1% of the deaths attributable annually in the US to active smoking as of 1992 (but smoking is rightly none the less banned from public places simply for being unpleasant), while AGW apparently requires TOTAL extinction of the human race to stop it, for as Matthews & Caldeira argue persuasively in GRL 35 (L04705, 27 Feb 08) – “our results suggest that future anthropogenic emissions would need to be eliminated in order to stabilize global-mean temperatures”. As our species not to mention our cows dogs and cats etc all emit CO2 just by being alive, we must all be “eliminated” soonest.

  31. I know I shouldn’t feed the trolls, but I would just like to point out for the record that the paper which Arthur Wall cites doesn’t contain anything which supports his dishonest strawman argument.

  32. The question of interest is not whether Republicans/conservatives are deluded opponents of science, but why.

    I suspect that there is a strong selection effect going on. If a person was a) conservative b) pro-science and c) intellectually honest, then that person would have drifted away from their “fellow travellers” along time ago.

  33. Dear Ken Miles. So what DOES that sentence I quoted mean, including its next sentence?

    “Our results suggest that future anthropogenic emissions would need to be eliminated in order to stabilize global-mean temperatures. As a consequence, any (sic) future anthropogenic emissions will commit the climate system to warming that is essentially irreversible (sic) on centennial (sic) timescales”.

    This thread is headed “The Republican War on Science”. The Matthews-Caldeira paper is as much faith based as any creationist sermon. It lacks a single verifiable statement on even centennial timescales, being entirely based on “spinning” (Matthews’ terms) unverified models for as far into the future as the year 4000. Ordinary science requires refutability now, not 2,000 years in the future.

    Amongst many other errors, the paper’s models base themselves on cumulative gross emissions, a wholly meaningless statistic even if that is the basis of Garnaut’s Interim Report, with its lack of allowance for the earthly and oceanic uptakes that currently account for over 50% of emissions, and thereby reduce the cumulative emissions by the same proportion.

    These authors also propose this equation, E = K(T’ – Tm) “where T’ is the desired future temperature and Tm is a running one-year global average of “modelled” surface air temperature, and K is a constant which represents the approximate temperature response per unit of CO2 emission… Emissions diagnosed in this way represent the total anthropogenic addition of carbon to the atmosphere…”.(p.2). Evidently the atmospheric level of CO2 as measured at Mauna Loa which of course shows the NET effect of emissions less uptakes is irrelevant in this oh!, so scientific modelling and measurement. The paper also depends on claims made by Caldeira as far back as 1993 that “declining radiative forcing per unit of CO2 increase at higher CO2 levels (the logarithmic effect previously debunked here by Prof. Q)is approximately counter-balanced by increased airborne fraction of emissions due to weakened carbon sinks” (p.3). But M&C offer no evidence that this has occurred over the 15 years since 1993, on the contrary the Mauna Loa level still grows at 0.5% p.a., a small fraction of the emission growth rate of over 3% p.a., which indicates no increase in the airborne fraction. The omission of this factor vitiates the computations shown in their Table 1 – but produces their conclusion that it is not enough merely to stop all emissions, for “in the absence of human intervention to actively (ugh!)remove CO2 from the atmosphere [how, when these authors have abolished photosynthesis?], each unit [sic – this term is never defined, is one unit 10 or 10000 GtC] of CO2 emissions must be viewed as leading to quantifiable and essentially permanent climate change on centennial timescales”. The only variables missing in this version of the Book of Revelations are the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, in the guise of Ken Miles and his friends here.

    I had asked Prof Quiggin for his best estimate of K, and Matthews-Caldiera raised my hopes for an answer, but I fear I cannot find it. Instead we have the wild claim that “each unit of CO2 emissions results in a quantifiable [but never stated] step-wise increase of global temperatures”

    In endorsing this meretricious paper, Ken has implicated himself as a troll, and I suggest the thread should be renamed the Matthews-Caldeira War on Science.

  34. I’ll repeat my invitation to the GW delusionists on this thread to explain what differences, if any, they see between the debate over AGW and that over passive smoking.

    I don’t follow the passive smoking debate, and nor am I a “delusionist”, but until you back up your continued denigration of M&M with some actual argument, (start with a demolition of their NAS submission), you’re not exactly in a position to demand an explanation of anything.

    “Based on the analyses presented in the original papers by Mann et al., this committee finds it plausible that the Northern Hemisphere was warmer during the last few decades of the 20h Cent. than during any comparable period over the preceding millennium.�

    What part of this do you not understand?

    Gee, I dunno peterd, but maybe the next sentence in the report (which you conveniently omitted) will help explain:

    The substantial uncertainties currently present in the quantitative assessment of large-scale surface temperature changes prior to about A.D. 1600 lower our confidence in this conclusion compared to the high level of confidence we place in the Little Ice Age cooling and 20th century warming.

  35. Since you’re still going, let me point out that I linked to my demolition of Wegman about 50 comments above, and I have repeatedly pointed out that the M&M “critique” consists of an ever-changing set of arguments with a fixed conclusion, an obvious indication of bad faith. I’ve pointed to numerous ludicrous errors these guys have made, and at every point you’ve ignored this. Quote-mining the NAS is not going to help you overturn their conclusions – if you think NAS found Mann et al fatally flawed, please write and tell them their message didn’t get through.

    Coming back to the main point of the post is there any issue (other than the culturally specific case of evolution vs creation) where you endorse science as opposed to Republican anti-science? If so, why is this case different from AGW? As an example, how about CFCs and the ozone layer?

  36. The thing that irritates me most about the Global Warming delusionists is that, although they’ll cheerfully accept what experts in most fields tell them (for instance, physicists on quantum mechanics or engineers on the stability or otherwise of bridges) without understanding said expert’s area of expertise, they have no hesitation at all in disgreeing violently with a climate scientist.

  37. It is obvious that mugwump is a narcistic ass, who repeats the crap he has adopted long ago in his younghood. Due to his egocentric view of the world, there is no way to convince him that he is delusional. The lurkers here can count, how many times he repeats his patently unobservable beliefs as the major components in his world view, while rejecting the observable reality all together.

    People like mugwump do not need blogs, they need a psychiatrist.

  38. I don’t think we need psychoanalysis to explain this. Delusionism is mainly a socio-cultural rather than a psychological phenomenon, though obviously some mechanisms to instil a certain degree of resistance to repeated refutation are required.

  39. It is obvious that mugwump is a narcistic [sic] ass, who repeats the crap he has adopted long ago in his younghood. Due to his egocentric view of the world, there is no way to convince him that he is delusional.

    Yes there is Petro, address the issues. Demolish M&M’s submission to NAS. Alternatively, you can can continue to insult me but that is hardly going to change my point of view. Especially as your inability to spell your insults suggests it is unlikely that you understand the science.

    I’ve pointed to numerous ludicrous errors these guys [M&M] have made, and at every point you’ve ignored this.

    Then it should be trivial for you to

    A) read their submission to NAS, and

    B) cut and paste from your numerous “pointings” to their ludicrous errors in order to demolish their submission.

    Quote-mining the NAS is not going to help you overturn their conclusions

    Another commenter (peterd) selectively quote-mines the NAS report. I point out that his quote is misrepresentative by providing the remainder of the quote, and you then accuse me of quote mining.

    Again (and honestly for the last time because this is just a waste of my time): if M&M are the “ludicrous” charlatans you claim them to be, demolish their NAS submission (which is a pretty definitive summary of their argument with the hockeystick reconstructions).

    If you don’t, then all I can conclude is that you can’t, either because you are incapable of understanding it (which I doubt), or because in fact there is nothing in there to be demolished.

  40. Mugwump, I’ve already pointed out numerous times that M&M do nothing more than offer an ever-changing litany of complaints about the MBH study. They started with a clear and testable claim that when the MBH data set was corrected and updated the results went away. When this claim turned out to be false they shifted to a whole range of different criticisms of the kind in which you specialise here – points of judgement and nuance that can be argued indefinitely or as long as is politically necessary, like what diagnostic statistics to use, or whether particular series sould be thrown out. All the while, their backers, including you, turned these technical quibbles into the basis for a gigantic conspiracy. Any readers who want to see the technique in action can look at your contributions here.

    Coming back to the point of the post, you’ve not been able to offer any counterexample to the main point, that Repubs/rightwingers (including you) reject science whenever the results don’t suit their political prejudices.

    I suppose the demonstration of this point was worth the price of a lengthy exposition of tired delusionist talking points.

  41. Quiggin, it is you who is rejecting science that does not suit your political prejudices. M&M’s arguments are not nuanced points of judgement, they are direct and testable claims. You clearly cannot refute them, for otherwise you would have done so already.

    You see the path is very easy for you: refute their NAS submission, or, given your latest tack, explicitly point out why their arguments are mere matters of opinion. I’ve given you a huge bat to beat me, and by association, other skeptics, over the head with. Why not use it?

  42. Mugwump and Prof. Quiggin: the hockey stick lutta continua. Here is the latest from Steve and Ross: Unfortunately Steve’s graph showing the outright fraudulent treatment (by Mann’s extending backwards to secure HS and forwards from after 1900 to show surge) of the Gaspe series did not come over, but it’s there on today’s Climate Audit (www.climateaudit.org). The non-Republican attackers on climate science have no shame.

    “Tamino, in his continuing effort to bring every one of Mann’s questionable practices back into the light of day, has stumbled into the treeline11.dat series, which he proclaims triumphally in his most recent post as having a hockey stick shape. This is none other than the notorious Gaspé cedar series, which was analyzed at length in MM2005 (EE).

    Tamino purports to be a data analyst capable of criticizing our published corpus. It’s pretty discouraging when a “data analyst� can’t even figure out that treeline11.dat is the Gaspé series and that there are many problems with it

    But hey, if Tamino wishes to pick at these scabs, that’s more than fine with me. The Gaspé series illustrates the problems with Team proxy reconstructions, just as well as the bristlecones. Here are some of the problems.

    First and this is a big problem. Mann adjusted the treeline11.dat series without disclosing the adjustment. In the entire corpus of 415 MBH series, only one series was extended at its beginning to enable it to avoid a cut-off point (and include it in an earlier network.) You guessed it – the Gaspé series in the AD1400 network, which was a troublesome section of the reconstruction. It is my opinion that the extension of the Gaspé series was not accidental and was done in order to affect results in the AD1400 network. Unique “adjustmentsâ€? like this are the sort of thing that financial accountants take great exception to. Rob Wilson confirmed to me that “such extrapolation is not a standard approach in the tree-ring community.â€?

    Second, the unique adjustment was not disclosed in the MBH98 footnotes. Worse, the start date of this series was actually misrepresented in the original supplementary information, which listed the series as starting at the “adjusted� start date rather than the true start date. We only noticed the extrapolation when we compared the Mann version to original data. We noted this in MM 2003, but were not then fully aware of the impact.

    Third, in the early portion of the Gaspé chronology, there is only one tree – a point that was widely publicized back in 2005. Standard chronological methods require a minimum of 5 cores and preferably more. The early portion of the Gaspé chronology did not meet quality control standards. Again, Wilson confirmed that chronologies should not be used in periods where there is only a single core. If Mann wanted a site from the Jacoby network for his AD1400 network, then one was readily available without having to “adjustâ€? anything. The archived Sheenjek River version goes back to 1186; instead of using this archived version, Mann used a “greyâ€? version. Sheenjek does not have a HS shape. Mann et al 2007 uses the same network as MBH98, not removing the “adjustmentâ€? even after it’s been discovered and not using the updated Sheenjek version.

    Fourth, the Gaspé series is a cedar chronology. There is no botanical evidence that cedars respond linearly to warmer temperatures. World experts on cedar are located at the University of Guelph, Ross McKitrick’s university. Ross and I had lengthy discussions with these cedar experts about this chronology – they said that cedars like cool and moist climate.

    Fifth, the Gasp̩ chronology was never published in formal literature. There was an informal description in Natural Areas Journal, where the HS shape was observed Рwith the caution that this shape would have to be confirmed in other sites, mentioning pending cedar sites in Maine and Michigan. Neither of these sites had a HS shape. There is another long cedar chronology in the ITRDB (Lac Duparquet Рcana106). This series was listed in the original SI as being used, but was not used, as later admitted in the Corrigendum. It does not have a HS shape.

    Sixth, and this is very troubling: an update to Gaspé was done in the early 1990s – the update did not get a HS shape (shown below). This update was never published. I happened to obtain a copy of the update which was shown at CA here. The updated version of the Gaspé series does not have a HS shape. It has never been shown publicly except here at CA. Jacoby and d’Arrigo refused to provide me with either the updated chronology or with the measurement data. D’Arrigo refused to provide the updated information on the basis that the older version was “probably superior with regards to a NH signalâ€?. The updated Gaspé information was taken over 15 years ago and has never been archived. When I objected to NSF, which funded the collection of the update, they took no action to require Jacoby and D’arrigo to archive the missing data.
    [missing graph]

    Seventh, none of Cook, Jacoby or D’Arrigo would provide this information on the location of the Gaspé cedars when I inquired, saying that I wished to re-sample the site. They claimed that the collection was done prior to GPS and that they didn’t know where it was.”

    Mugwump, I fear that in the light of the above the chances of Prof Q responding to your challenge are precisely nil.

    “The Gaspé series demonstrates in one nice package many different aspects of the problems with Team reconstructions. And yes, that’s Tamino treeline11.dat. Again I refer readers to MM 2005(EE) where the problems with the Gaspé series are discussed at length. Again, Tamino has inaccurately represented the research record.

    Posted in General | 34 Comments

  43. Further to my last: The Garnaut plan for madness now (see below) shares Prof. Q’s ignorance of basic economics. Compensating low income earners for higher prices of electricity (which were admitted by RG on ABC News and 7.30 Report just 35 minutes ago) will of course help them to keep on emitting to their hearts’ content. Name an Australian economist who knows about income effects! (I can’t)

    Here’s the ABC report:

    Garnaut outlines emissions trading proposal

    The permits could reap between $7 billion and $20 billion for the Commonwealth. (ABC News: Giulio Saggin)

    Audio: Garnaut paper fails to indicate targets, costs (PM) Audio: Garnaut may recommend emissions target (PM) Economist Ross Garnaut says low-income households should be supported in coping with the costs associated with a future emissions trading scheme.

  44. More on Garnaut (#1)

    1. “An ETS is established to reduce emissions, but the emissions limit is a decision to be made outside of the scheme itself�

    But an ETS cannot on its own reduce emissions, as each trade is necessarily a zero sum game (yet another concept alien to “economists” like Garnaut and Quiggin) since self-evidently an emission saved and sold is an emission allowed and bought.

  45. Comments on Garnaut #2

    BTW, it should already be obvious that the Garnaut ETS report should be re-titled “The Crypto-Communists’ War on Science”, leading ineluctably as it does to a world of “Government Inspectors” unimaginable even to the pre-Lenin Gogol: for example,

    “Trade-exposed emissions-intensive industries (TEEIIs): Until our major competitors have broadly similar emissions constraints, payments to TEEIIs are justified for reasons of environmental and economic efficiency”

    Happily (for the Rudd Government) this means that Australia’s biggest single emitters of GHG (Alcoa and Rio) will in effect be wholly exempt from the ETS.

  46. #3

    Garnaut’s ETS admits that auctioning of all permits will be the source of a substantial amount of government revenue. Governments will need to assess competing priorities for this revenue, which may include:..
    payments to households”.

    hallelujah!

    I can keep on emitting as now thanks to Garnaut’s dispensation, for no net reduction in emissions.

  47. And now for my first comments on Garnaut’s “The Science of Climate Change�.

    In his ineffable Review’s “Issue Papers�, #3 is largely contributed by Graeme Pearman, a bit, given his record, like asking the Pope to write an objective assessment of abortion and contraception options for limiting population growth.

    Pearman is an inveterate fibber. He claims “that over the last century the temperature of the planet has risen by about 0.7oC.� That is simply a fabrication. Nobody can know what the temperature of the “planet� was in 1900, as there were no weather stations anywhere in tropical Africa or Central America (see GISS). Thus the base year for Pearman’s statistic comprised only sub- or supra-tropical areas, and the hot tropics were unavoidably excluded, thereby producing low baseline data.
    Pearman also claims “11 of the last 12 years rank in the 12 warmest years�. This is another bare-faced deception. Even NASA-GISS now admits that more of the warmest 12 years occurred in the 1930s than in the 1990-2000s. The satellite record also shows that since 1980 there has been NO warming trend in the southern hemisphere, and not much in the northern.

    Pearman betrays his basic illiteracy and innumeracy with his claim “that there has been a rise in ocean acidification of 0.1 pH units�. Literally, that means that the ocean is already acidic not alkanine, which if true would mean there would be no need for desalinisation plants in Perth or Adelaide or Sydney. This comment shows that whatever credentials Pearman may once have had as a scientist have long since expired.

    More On Commissar Garnaut’s War on Science tomorrow!

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