Tilting at Straw Men

In my Forbes article a few weeks ago, I showed how the arguments alarmists most frequently use to “prove” that skeptics are wrong are actually straw men.  Alarmists want to fight the war over whether the greenhouse gas effect of CO2 is true and whether the world has seen warming over the last century, both propositions that skeptics like myself accept.

The issue for us is whether man is causing a catastrophe (mainly due to large positive feedbacks in the climate system), and whether past warming has been consistent with catastrophic rates of man-made warming.  Both of these propositions are far from proven, and are seldom even discussed in the media.

I found a blog I had not read before on energy policy issues that had a very sensible article on just this issue

The most frustrating thing about being a scientist skeptical of catastrophic global warming is that the other side is continually distorting what I am skeptical of.

In his immodestly titled New York Review of Books article “Why the Global Warming Skeptics Are Wrong,” economist William Nordhaus presents six questions that the legitimacy of global warming skepticism allegedly rests on.

  1. Is the planet in fact warming?
  2. Are human influences an important contributor to warming?
  3. Is carbon dioxide a pollutant?
  4. Are we seeing a regime of fear for skeptical climate scientists?
  5. Are the views of mainstream climate scientists driven primarily by the desire for financial gain?
  6. Is it true that more carbon dioxide and additional warming will be beneficial?

Since the answers to these questions are allegedly yes, yes, yes and no, no, no, it’s case closed, says Nordhaus.

Except that he is attacking a straw man. Scientists (or non-scientists) who are “skeptics” are skeptical of catastrophic global warming—not warming or human-caused warming as such. So much for 1 and 2. We refuse to label CO2 a “pollutant” because it is essential to life and because we do not believe it has the claimed catastrophic impact. So much for 3. And since 4-6 don’t pertain to the scientific issue of

  • GDay ronald
    you specify “limited data” & ” tunnel vision ” yet your ” peer reviewed ” system of debate controls the paradigm .

    while the arbiter of scientific debate is peer reviewed scientific literature & does not currently
    support a role for planets in heliocentric angular separation with events that involve the sun & earth, then the science is flawed .

  • ronald

    >while the arbiter of scientific debate is peer reviewed scientific literature

    Well they are entitled to publish what they want, no? If there is a scientific community out there that thinks the position of the planets influence weather on Earth then they can establish their own scientific journal.

    & does not currently
    support a role for planets in heliocentric angular separation with events that involve the sun & earth, then the science is flawed .

    I didn’t know the scientific thinking of Tycho Brahe was making a comeback, but its noteworthy for sure that someone is following up on it.

    So what’s coming up next week?

  • Cypress

    Insane in da membrane
    Insane in the brain
    Insane in da membrane
    Insane in the brain
    Insane in da membrane
    Crazy insane, got no brain
    Insane in da membrane
    Insane in the brain

  • netdr

    Ronald

    .

    So… you think that stuff like this is the result of a cabal at Nature? Somehow I find that unlikely. Aren’t scientists just trying to use limited data in a complex system to take a stab at what’s likely in the future

    there is no cabal

    They are trying but so far they are failing spectacularly !

  • R your right , climate change is political though , the iron lady ” maggi thatcher ” pork barreled the
    the science that rubbished the coal industry in favour of north sea natural gass & it was no secret
    that money was on the table for earth warming / climate change leaning recearch .

    it would apear that D C isn’t mounting a challenge in the BIG OZZY PREDICTION COMPETETION , which leaves the way open to all & sundry to participate .

    Ronald , I hadn’t known about TYCHO Brahe until you mentioned him ,it was JOHN H NELSON that cracked the
    planet/sunspot connection code in the 1950’s while
    solving the shortwave radio wavelength problem .

  • “So… you think that stuff like this is the result of a cabal at Nature? Somehow I find that unlikely. Aren’t scientists just trying to use limited data in a complex system to take a stab at what’s likely in the future
    there is no cabal
    They are trying but so far they are failing spectacularly !”

    It’s odd that in other scientific fields financial incentive and confirmation bias are considered big issues – which is why drug company funded studies are viewed more sceptically and why double-blind testing is considered a necessary standard. Yet activists continually claim that climate scientists are exempt from such problems…

  • Who

    “Yet activists continually claim that climate scientists are exempt from such problems…”

    Who has claimed this?

  • netdr

    Who

    They claim to be able to predict temperatures in 2010 despite the fact that the climate modles are inherently biased by lack of knowledge !

    That is how thy claim it !

  • netdr

    S/B 2100

  • ronald

    >there is no cabal
    >They are trying but so far they are failing spectacularly !

    So, what’s the answer? CO2 doesn’t absorb in the infrared, increases in CO2 concentration aren’t due to human activity, increases in the CO2 partial pressure aren’t increasing temperature, increases in temperature aren’t likely to be catastrophic?

    Doesn’t the paper I cited point out the problems inherent in modelling? Most of the technical literature on the subject I’ve read includes these types of caveats. Aren’t you criticizing the wrong people?

  • ronald

    >It’s odd that in other scientific fields financial incentive and confirmation bias are considered big issues.

    Of course they are big issues. Scientists are pressured to publish and write funding in order to obtain tenure and fund graduate students. This kind of criticism could be laid at just about any field. I maintain that global warming is an important enough issue to warrant government funded study– if only to confirm that it won’t likely be a problem.

    One more thing… Is it just possible that scientists who are funded by industry and who claim that pumping CO2 in the atmosphere isn’t a problem are motivated by financial incentive?

  • ronald

    http://www.dbcca.com/dbcca/EN/_media/DBCCAColumbiaSkepticPaper090710.pdf

    Don’t scientists acknowledge the limitations of models on page 9 and the places where understanding of climate dynamics is limited?

  • Ronald, the question is not whether these models (at least those preferred by the IPCC) are perfect or not. The question that is reasonably being asked now is, are they in any way even useful?

  • Netdr

    The models are not very useful to predict future temperatures and that is what they are being [mis] used for.

  • ronald

    Will and Netdr,

    So what do you propose to use in order to predict CO2 related rises in global temperature? Is your problem with the models that the system is too complex to predict or that climate scientists are biasing the models in order to obtain the outcome they desire? Most scientists would probably agree that the former is a problem.

    You didn’t answer the last part of the question. If you think that financial incentive is a problem with climate scientists do you think that skeptical climate science is funded by oil and mining interests? What do you make of this… http://www.carbonbrief.org/blog/2011/04/900-papers-supporting-climate-scepticism-exxon-links/ for example?

  • netdr

    Last things first.

    The climate pessimists spend hundreds of times as much and get free propaganda from USA today and yet they are losing the battle. Why ? Because the climate isn’t warming ! No warming no climate change and it hasn’t warmed this century.

    Most climate pessimists don’t know that CO2 is a poor GHG and doubling it will only cause 1 degree of warming and feedbacks make it more like 1/2 degree.

    As more and more people become aware of the problems with CAGW they dismiss it.

    I know that scientists don’t understand climate well enough to predict temeratures 20 years in the future let alone 100 years.

    The inability of climate scientists to predict climate even 11 years in their future proves that their level of understanding is very low !Why spend tens of trillions based on it ?

    AR4 predictions .3 ° C warming between 2001 and today.

    http://tiny.cc/zwa7x

    Actual COOLING between 2001 and today.

    20001
    http://www.woodfortrees.org/plot/hadcrut3vgl/from:2001/plot/hadcrut3vgl/from:2001/trend
    http://tiny.cc/plt8q

    Least squares trend line; slope = -0.00610265 per year

    Don’t get hung up on positive or negative the real story is how far wrong the prediction is.

    Yes I think that both statements are true. The climate isn’t understood well enough to model it 100 years in the future and if the climate models don’t predict catastrophe the scientists will become unemployed.

    Misusing models to push an agenda is criminal, especially since taxpayer dollars are used to spread fear !

    Why do ALL MODELS PREDICT MORE WARMING THAN ACTUALLY HAPPENS ?

    Some should predict high and some should predict low without any bias present !

  • netdr

    A model which doesn’t create fear will never be published. I consider them a tool for creating jobs and not a tool to be used to predict temperatures accurately. An accurate model will never be published.

    The main purpose of models seems to me not to be to be accurate but to be pessimistic, the more the better. If Hansen had correctly predicted [in 1988] the tiny bit of warming which happened CAGW research would have never been funded.

    WHY IS IT THAT ALL MODELS ALWAYS OVER-PREDICT WARMING ?

    It is no accident !

  • netdr

    Let me be clear.

    I don’t think the climate models are a legitimate attempt to predict future temperatures particularly 100 years out. I think they are an attempt to secure funding for climate research and as a justification for CO2 policies the model’s authors favor.

    Do you notice that all models predictions curve upward in the later years when we know that CO2’s effect is logarithmic and the temperatures should therefore go flatter in the later years.

    Such an obvious error should be apparent to those who think about climate for a living. Is it possible they aren’t very good at thinking ?

  • Ronald , ” so what’s coming up next week ? ”

    ELECTRMOSEISMIC EVENTS ( ” WHEN ” )

    Planet Mercury intersects the 345 deg ” BEAM ” on
    May 11 & then the 75 deg ” BEAM ” on the 28th .

    For ” WHAT / WHERE ” consult ( Frase-Smith et al )

  • @Ronald
    “So what do you propose to use in order to predict CO2 related rises in global temperature? Is your problem with the models that the system is too complex to predict or that climate scientists are biasing the models in order to obtain the outcome they desire?”

    The problem is that the models have no predictive skill. Not sure what point you are trying to make here. The suggestion seems to be that even if the models are wrong they are better than having no models. I can’t see any logic in an argument like that, sorry.

    The other observation is that financial conflict is common in all fields, including science. That’s why drug company sponsored research is not as reliable or credible as independent research. That is why double-blind controls are important, and so on. I am always mystified when people want to claim that financial incentive does not impact on research findings when it so obviously does.

  • SCIENCE IS NEVER ENDING & NOR should IT BE .
    in my book of scientific knowledge about our solar system / the universe , is, that we are still on the asking questions page .( kindergarten )
    the very idea of government’s thinking that by funding a scientist to solve a problem, when the very moment it is solved the funding ends with it & it’s indemic with all professions :- why should the police lock up the criminals why should the doctors cure you , the way the system works at the present they & their families would die of malnutrition, so one doesn’t have to look much further than government funding to find corruption.

    THE BIG PICTURE
    storm , earthquake & volcanic events come a lowerly 6th on the ladder of cause & effect & to study ocean temperature without finding out “why” under sea volcano eruptions happen isn’t a sientific aproach in that book of mine .

    the peer review journal

    not that it was any better before our universities developed the arbitoral system of the peer review that precluded people such as ” outsiders ” from interfering in their cosy relationship with the governments of the world, but it was the last straw in that book as well .

    clue
    I must warn you guys that you may provoke your gods if you look this up on google ,for the ” arbitor of scientific debate is peer-reviewed scientific literature , which does not ” CURRENTLY ” support a role for planets in events on earth .” so your automatically locked out of probably 99.9% of the information required to solve your delemer , paul was well advanced when he did that graph but he is still one step below on the ladder of cause & effect & I’ll bet my meager pension the world’s scientists will
    never find it & stay true to their god , there , that’s the second clue I’ve given !.