Category Archives: Climate Propaganda

Another Plea to Global Warming Alarmists on the Phrase “Climate Denier”

Cross-posted from Coyoteblog

Stop calling me and other skeptics “climate deniers“.  No one denies that there is a climate.  It is a stupid phrase.

I am willing, even at the risk of the obvious parallel that is being drawn to the Holocaust deniers, to accept the “denier” label, but it has to be attached to a proposition I actually deny, or that can even be denied.

As help in doing so, here are a few reminders (these would also apply to many mainstream skeptics — I am not an outlier)

  • I don’t deny that climate changes over time — who could?  So I am not a climate change denier
  • I don’t deny that the Earth has warmed over the last century (something like 0.7C).  So I am not a global warming denier
  • I don’t deny that man’s CO2 has some incremental effect on warming, and perhaps climate change (in fact, man effects climate with many more of his activities other than just CO2 — land use, with cities on the one hand and irrigated agriculture on the other, has measurable effects on the climate).  So I am not a man-made climate change or man-made global warming denier.

What I deny is the catastrophe — the proposition that man-made global warming** will cause catastrophic climate changes whose adverse affects will outweigh both the benefits of warming as well as the costs of mitigation.  I believe that warming forecasts have been substantially exaggerated (in part due to positive feedback assumptions) and that tales of current climate change trends are greatly exaggerated and based more on noting individual outlier events and not through real data on trends (see hurricanes, for example).

Though it loses some of this nuance, I would probably accept “man-made climate catastrophe denier” as a title.

** Postscript — as a reminder, there is absolutely no science that CO2 can change the climate except through the intermediate step of warming.   If you believe it is possible for CO2 to change the climate without there being warming (in the air, in the oceans, somewhere), then you have no right to call anyone else anti-science and you should go review your subject before you continue to embarrass yourself and your allies.

Climate De-Bait and Switch

Dealing with facile arguments that are supposedly perfect refutations of the climate skeptics’ position is a full-time job akin to cleaning the Augean Stables.  A few weeks ago Kevin Drum argued that global warming added 3 inches to Sandy’s 14-foot storm surge, which he said was an argument that totally refuted skeptics and justified massive government restrictions on energy consumption (or whatever).

This week Slate (and Desmog blog) think they have the ultimate killer chart, on they call a “slam dunk” on skeptics.  Click through to my column this week at Forbes to see if they really do.

Extrapolating From A Single Data Point: Climate and Sandy

I have a new article up at Forbes on how crazy it is to extrapolate conclusions about the speed and direction of climate change from a single data point.

Positing a trend from a single database without any supporting historical information has become a common media practice in discussing climate.  As I wrote several months ago, the media did the same thing with the hot summer, arguing frequently that this recent hot dry summer proved a trend for extreme temperatures, drought, and forest fires.  In fact, none of these are the case — this summer was not unprecedented on any of these dimensions and no upward trend is detectable in long-term drought or fire data.   Despite a pretty clear history of warming over the last century, it is even hard to establish any trend in high temperature extremes  (in large part because much of the warming has been in warmer night-time lows rather than in daytime highs).  See here for the data.

As I said in that earlier article, when the media posits a trend, demand a trendline, not just a single data point.

To this end, I try to bring so actual trend data to the trend discussion.

A Great Example of How The Climate Debate is Broken

A climate alarmist posts a “Bet” on a site called Truthmarket that she obviously believes is a dagger to the heart of climate skeptics.  Heck, she is putting up $5,000 of her own money on it.  The amazing part is that the proposition she is betting on is entirely beside the point.  She is betting on the truth of a statement that many skeptics would agree with.

This is how the climate debate has gone wrong.  Alarmists are trying to shift the debate from the key points they can’t prove to facile points they can.  And the media lets them get away with it.

Read about it in my post this week at Forbes.com

Lewandowsky et al. Proves Skeptics are Reasonable and Pro-Science

I am not sure it is worth beating this dead horse any further, but I will make one final observation about Lewandowsky.  As a reminder, the study purported to link skeptics with belief in odd conspiracy theories, particularly the theory that the Apollo 11 landings were faked (a conclusion highlighted in the title of the press release).

Apparently the study got this conclusion based on a trivial 10 responses out of hundreds from folks who self-identified as skeptics, but due to the horrible methodology many not actually have been such.

But here is the interesting part.  Even if the data was good, it would mean that less than .2% of the “skeptics” adopted the moon landing conspiracy theory.  Compare this to the general population:

 A 1999 Gallup poll found that a scant 6 percent of Americans doubted the Apollo 11 moon landing happened, and there is anecdotal evidence that the ranks of such conspiracy theorists, fueled by innuendo-filled documentaries and the Internet, are growing.

Twenty-five percent of respondents to a survey in the British magazine Engineering & Technology said they do not believe humans landed on the moon. A handful of Web sites and blogs circulate suspicions about NASA’s “hoax.”

And a Google search this week for “Apollo moon landing hoax” yielded more than 1.5 billion results.  (more here)

By Lewandowsky’s own data, skeptics are 30-100 times less gullible than the average American or Brit.

By the way, I have spent a lot of time debunking silly 9/11 theories.  Here is one example of a science-based response to the Rosie O’Donnell (a famous climate alarmist, by the way) and her claim that burning jet fuel can’t melt steel so therefore the WTC had to have been destroyed by demolition charges set by Dick Cheney, or something like that.

Assuming Your Conclusions

I haven’t had a chance to respond to Bill McKibben’s Rolling Stone article on global warming.  After hearing all the accolades for it, I assumed he had some new argument to offer.  I was amazed to find that there was absolutely nothing there.  Essentially, he assumes his conclusion.  He takes it as a proven given that temperature sensitivity to CO2 will be high, over ten degrees F for the likely CO2 increases we will see in the next century, which puts his “proven” climate sensitivity number higher than the range even in the last IPCC report.

Duh, if climate sensitivity is 11F per doubling of CO2 or whatever, we certainly have a big problem.  Spending a few thousand words saying that is totally worthless.  The only thing that matters is new evidence helping to pin down climate sensitivity, and more specifically feedbacks to initial greenhouse warming.

Ah, but its the risk you say?  Well, first, McKibben never talks of risk, this is all absolutely going to happen.  And second, if one were to discuss risks, one would also have to put value on cheap fossil fuels.   Rich nations like ours might be able to afford a changeover to other sources, but such a mandate as he desires would essentially throw back billions of people into subsistence poverty.  He talks about monetary values of the reserves being written off, as if the only cost will be to Exxon (and who cares about Exxon), but that fuel has real value to billions of people — so much so that every time prices tick up a tad, Exxon gets hauled in front of Congress to prove its not somehow holding back production.

By the way, if you want to know the cost of fossil fuel reduction, consider this.  Over the last four years, three dramatic things have happened:

  • The government has poured billions into alternate fuels, from Solyndra to ethanol
  • There has been a revolution in natural gas, shifting a lot of higher carbon coal to lower carbon natural gas
  • We have had the worst economy since the great depression

And still, we are missing the Kyoto Co2 targets.  And McKibben would argue that these are not aggressive enough.  So if Obama-type green energy spending in the hundreds of billions and a near depression only reduced our CO2 output by 5 or 10%, what will it cost to reduced it by McKibben’s 80%?

If you want to understand how McKibben can sound so sure and throw around scientific-sounding facts while missing the key scientific point, I recommend this article I wrote a while back at Forbes.  I am in the process of working on a longer video based on this article.

In the mean time, I watched a lot of this video, which was recommended to me, and it is pretty good at going deeper into the pseudo-science bait-and-switch folks like McKibben are doing:

A Response to Popular Ad Hominem, err Science, Magazine on Global Warming Skeptics

My new column is up at Forbes.com, and addresses the most recent Popular Science hit piece on climate skeptics:

I thought I knew what “science” was about:  the crafting of hypotheses that could be tested and refined through observation via studies that were challenged and replicated by the broader community until the hypothesis is generally accepted or rejected by the broader community.

But apparently “popular science” works differently, if the July 2012 article by Tom Clynes in the periodical of that name is any guide [I will link the article when it is online].  In an article called “the Battle,” Clynes serves up an amazing skewering of skeptics that the most extreme environmental group might have blushed at publishing.  After reading this article, it seems that “popular science” consists mainly of initiating a sufficient number of ad hominem attacks against those with whom one disagrees such that one is no longer required to even answer their scientific criticisms.

The article is a sort of hall-of-fame of every ad hominem attack made on skeptics – tobacco lawyers, Holocaust Deniers, the Flat Earth Society, oil company funding, and the Koch Brothers all make an appearance.

Just one example of the really shoddy journalism in this article:

Clynes mentions the story of Jeffrey Gleason and Charles Monnett, who published an observation of drowned polar bears.   The pair came under review by the Office of Inspector General for “integrity issues.”  The author uses this anecdote as an extreme example of harassment of climate scientists.  He is careful not to mention skeptics in the context of their story, but one is clearly meant to take this as an example of extreme harassment of scientists by skeptics.  Certainly skeptics have criticized their work, but Gleason and Monnett, as Clynes must surely know, came under review by the Obama Administration (certainly not a hotbed for sympathy towards skeptics) mainly for ethical lapses around reporting and use of funds.    This is extreme journalistic malfeasance — Gleason’s and Monnett’s job problems have nothing to do with skeptics but their story is included in a way meant to support the author’s thesis on skeptic harassment

Read it all

The Alarmist Bait and Switch

This quote from Michael Mann is a great example of two common rhetorical tactics of climate alarmists:

And so I think we have to get away from this idea that in matters of science, it’s, you know, that we should treat discussions of climate change as if there are two equal sides, like we often do in the political discourse. In matters of science, there is an equal merit to those who are denying the reality of climate change who area few marginal individuals largely affiliated with special interests versus the, you know, thousands of scientists around the world. U.S. National Academy of Sciences founded by Abraham Lincoln back in the 19th century, all the national academies of all of the major industrial nations around the world have all gone on record as stating clearly that humans are warming the planet and changing the climate through our continued burning of fossil fuels.

Here are the two tactics at play here:

  1. He is attempting to marginalize skeptics so that debating their criticisms is not necessary.  He argues that skeptics are not people of goodwill; or that they say what they say because they are paid by nefarious interests to do so; or that they are vastly outnumbered by real scientists (“real” being defined as those who agree with Dr. Mann).  This is an oddly self-defeating argument, though the media never calls folks like Mann on it.  If skeptics’ arguments are indeed so threadbare, then one would imagine that throwing as much sunlight on them as possible would reveal their bankruptcy to everyone, but instead most alarmists are begging the media, as in this quote, to bury and hide skeptics’ arguments.  I LOVE to debate people when I know I am right, and have pre-debate trepidation only when I know my position to be weak.
  2. There is an enormous bait and switch going on in the last sentence.  Note the proposition is stated as “humans are warming the planet and changing the climate through our continued burning of fossil fuels.”  I, and many other skeptics, don’t doubt the first part and would quibble with the second only because so much poor science occurs in attributing specific instances of climate change to human action.  What most skeptics disagree with is an entirely different proposition, that humans are warming the planet to catastrophic levels that justify immensely expensive and coercive government actions to correct.  Skeptics generally accept a degree or so of warming from each doubling of CO2 concentrations but reject the separate theory that the climate is dominated by positive feedback effects that multiple this warming 3x or more.   Mann would never be caught dead in public trying to debate this second theory of positive feedback, despite the fact that most of the warming in IPCC forecasts is from this second theory, because it is FAR from settled.  Again, the media is either uninterested or intellectually unable to call him on this.

I explained the latter points in much more detail at Forbes.com

Who Wrote the Fake Heartland Strategy Memo?

Certainly Peter Gleick is still in the running.

But as I wrote in Forbes last week, the memo does not have the feel of having been written by a “player” like Gleick.  It feels like someone younger, someone more likely to take the cynical political knife-fighting statements of someone like Glieck (e.g. skeptics are anti-science) and convert them literally (and blindly) to supposed Heartland agenda items like trying to discourage science teaching.  Someone like an intern or student, who might not realize how outrageous their stilted document might look to real adults in the real world, who understand that leaders of even non-profits they dislike don’t generally speak like James Bond villains.   Even Megan McArdle joked “Basically, it reads like it was written from the secret villain lair in a Batman comic.  By an intern.”

Now combine that with a second idea.  Gleick is about the only strong global warming believer mentioned by the fake strategy document.   I don’t think many folks who have observed Heartland from afar would say that Heartland has any special focus on or animus towards Gleick (more than they might have for any other strong advocate of catastrophic man-made global warming theory).   I would not have inferred any such focus by Heartland, and seriously, who would possibly think to single out Peter Gleick of all candidates (vs. Romm or Hansen or Mann et al) in a skeptic attack strategy?

The only person who might have inferred such a rivalry would have been someone close to Gleick, who heard about Heartland mainly from Gleick.  Certainly Gleick seems to have had a particular focus, almost obsession, with Heartland, and so someone who viewed Heartland only through the prism of Gleick’s rants might have inferred that Heartland had something special in for him.  And thus might have featured him prominently in a hypothesized attack in their strategy document.

So this is what I infer from all this:  My bet is on a fairly young Gleick sycophant — maybe a worker at the Pacific Institute, maybe an intern, maybe a student.  Which would mean in turn that Gleick very likely knows who wrote the document, but might feel some responsibility to protect that person’s identity.

The Media Bias Towards Catastrophic Fear-Mongering

Skeptics often accuse the media of being biased, arguing that a liberal bias in the media causes them to shortchange skeptical climate arguments.  But in fact, the explanation may be simpler than any political bias.  It may be just a bias and an incentive system in the media that rewards fear-mongering of all sorts.  From the WSJ:

Halloween is the day when America market-tests parental paranoia. If a new fear flies on Halloween, it’s probably going to catch on the rest of the year, too.

Take “stranger danger,” the classic Halloween horror. Even when I was a kid, back in the “Bewitched” and “Brady Bunch” costume era, parents were already worried about neighbors poisoning candy. Sure, the folks down the street might smile and wave the rest of the year, but apparently they were just biding their time before stuffing us silly with strychnine-laced Smarties.

That was a wacky idea, but we bought it. We still buy it, even though Joel Best, a sociologist at the University of Delaware, has researched the topic and spends every October telling the press that there has never been a single case of any child being killed by a stranger’s Halloween candy. (Oh, yes, he concedes, there was once a Texas boy poisoned by a Pixie Stix. But his dad did it for the insurance money. He was executed.)

Anyway, you’d think that word would get out: poisoned candy not happening. But instead, most Halloween articles to this day tell parents to feed children a big meal before they go trick-or-treating, so they won’t be tempted to eat any candy before bringing it home for inspection. As if being full has ever stopped any kid from eating free candy!

Preference Cascades

This article is eight years old, but it was just called to my attention.  It does not once mention climate, and it is in fact about people flying flags after 9/11.  But those involved with climate issues may well recognize the situation immediately:

The muting of open patriotism after the Vietnam era may have been a case of what social scientists call “preference falsification”: One in which social pressures cause people to express sentiments that differ from those they really feel. As social scientist Timur Kuran noted in his 1995 book Private Truths, Public Lies, there are all sorts of reasons, good and bad, that lead people not to show how they truly feel. People tend to read social signals about what is approved and what is disapproved behavior and, in general, to modify their conduct accordingly. Others then rely on this behavior to draw wrong conclusions about what people think, and allow those conclusions to shape their own actions.

Oh, not always – and there are always rebels (though often social “rebels” are really just conforming to a different standard). But when patriotism began to be treated as uncool, people who wanted to be cool, or at least to seem cool, stopped demonstrating patriotism, even if they felt it.

When this happened, other people were influenced by the example. In what’s known as a “preference cascade,” the vanishing of flags and other signs of patriotism from the homes, cars and businesses of the style-setters caused a lot of other people to go along with the trend, perhaps without even fully realizing it, a trend that only strengthened with the politicization of flag displays in several 1980s political campaigns.

The result was a situation in which a lot of people’s behavior didn’t really match their beliefs, but merely their beliefs about what was considered acceptable. Such situations are unstable, since a variety of shocks can cause people to realize the difference and to suddenly feel comfortable about closing the gap.

That’s what the September 11 attacks did. This time last year, you didn’t see many American flags on cars in my faculty parking garage. The people who didn’t have them on their cars weren’t necessarily unpatriotic – but displaying a flag on one’s car was associated with particular political and social categories that aren’t especially popular on campuses. After 9/11,enough people started flying flags to make other people feel safe about doing it too. Now you can see a lot of flags on the cars in that garage. Have people become more patriotic? Maybe. But more likely they’ve just become more willing to show it.

Though it does not mention climate at all, it is the best explanation I have yet seen on why Climategate got so much run.  After all, the actual science addressed in the Climategate emails mostly was about the hockey stick, which even if you ignore how bad the science is in the analysis, really does not prove anything about the effects of anthropogenic CO2 even if it were correct.  And few of the things that were revealed in the emails about alarmist scientific practices and resistance to replication came as much as a surprise to those of us who have been following climate issues for a while.  So at the time, I thought it was no big deal.

In retrospect, what Climategate did was to give the media a story that it was socially OK to run with.  The social pressures against running an article about problems with alarmist science were enormous, but a scandal allowed them to make an end run around these social norms.  Scandals and meat and potatoes for the news media, and they could run with the scandal story without feeling like they were getting a huge social black mark from their peers.  And once the scandal story ran, it was the shock that allowed many silent doubters to see that in fact they were not alone and marginalized (as they have been told time and time again in the media) but actually a sizeable population.

To this end, the Hal Lewis letter may be even more important.

Of course, none of this solves the problem of determining the Earth’s true temperature sensitivity to CO2 concentration, but it has opened the door for a freer debate.

Joe Romm Inadvertently Shows How the 10:10 Film Got Made

It was good to see Joe Romm denounce the 10:10 film for the creepy propaganda piece that it is.  But in his explanation, he inadvertently explains exactly the mindset that creates such disasters.  He writes in part (emphasis added)

None of this excuses that disgusting video.  But the difference is that those who are trying to preserve a livable climate and hence the health and well-being of our children and billions of people this century quickly denounce the few offensive over-reaches of those who claim to share our goals — but those trying to destroy a livable climate, well, for them lies and hate speech are the modus operandi, so such behavior is not only tolerated, but encouraged.

Note the statement — “for those trying to destroy a livable climate.”   Does he really think anyone, including skeptics like myself or Anthony Watt (who he specifically calls out) is trying to destroy a livable climate?  By using the word “trying,” he is assigning a motivation.   Skeptics, to him, are not working from different assumptions or readings of the science.  They say what they say because they are motivated to destroy the climate.

I suppose I could play the same game, and say that through CO2 controls Romm is trying to impoverish billions of poor people in lesser developed countries by halting development, but I don’t think that is really his motive, and it would be grossly unfair for me to write.  I think poverty is an outcome of what he advocates, just as he thinks an unlivable climate is an outcome of what I advocate, but I can distinguish between motives and assumptions, but he apparently cannot.

This attitude is EXACTLY what causes unfortunate actions like the making of the 10:10 video — it is only a small step from believing, as Romm says he does, that skeptics are “trying to destroy a liveable climate” to making a movie that jokes about killing them all (or, to be frank, to feeling justified in acts of eco-terrorism).  Is anyone else getting tired of this working definition that “hate speech” is any speech by people who disagree with me, because I have the best interest of humanity in mind so clearly those who oppose me hate the human race?

I encourage you to watch my climate video and decide if folks like me are trying to thoughtfully decipher nature or are engaging in hate speech.

I guess it is unsurprising that Joe Romm  goes to the kindergarten argument of “he started it,” arguing that the video is just the flip side of the stuff skeptics are doing all the time.  I am not sure exactly what comparable films skeptics have produced that are similar, and the only example he can cite is Anthony Watt’s blog post comments on the shooting of an eco-terrorist.  I did not even go back and look at Watt’s comments, but I generally think that lots of people are too gleeful when suspected criminals, who are innocent before the law, are gunned down by police.

Never-the-less, its seems a stretch to equate  the offhand comments in real time of an independent blogger with a film involving probably a hundred people (including those who commissioned it in the 10:10 organization), commissioned in an official and thoughtful act (after all this had to be months in the works), and funded in part by the British government.  I say stupid things in real time that I later wish I had moderated or not said at all.  That kind of communications mistake is very very different order of magnitude from a two month project involving scores of people and presumably multiple reviews by a prominent organization.  (Update:  Iowahawk makes this latter point about the number of people who were involved in this movie and reviewed it without a peep of protest here).

Al Gore’s Gory Movie

I hope this fall to get back to active posting on this site, but in the interim, I could not miss a chance to comment on this:
I suppose one cold say that climate alarmism jumped the shark years ago. But they have certainly moved to a new level, one for which there is not even a term, in this video. This video has everything – the government school teacher politically indoctrinating the kids, followed by bloody gory death dealt out to the kids who refuse to toe the government line. I am not kidding.

When I first saw it, I was sure it was a skeptic satire, ala Jonathon Swift’s ‘A Modest Proposal,’ and I am still afraid that this may be some elaborate put-on because the video and its message — that skeptics need to be killed — is so obscene. But apparently, according to this article at the Guardian, it is totally for real and includes contributions from some fairly prominent artists, as well as funding from the UK government and the 10:10 program (a plea to reduce carbon emissions by 10% per year, eerily with a name probably purposely similar to 9-11).

Our friends at the 10:10 climate change campaign have given us the scoop on this highly explosive short film, written by Britain’s top comedy screenwriter Richard Curtis, ahead of its general release….

Had a look? Well, I’m certain you’ll agree that detonating school kids, footballers and movie stars into gory pulp for ignoring their carbon footprints is attention-grabbing. It’s also got a decent sprinkling of stardust – Peter Crouch, Gillian Anderson, Radiohead and others. But it’s pretty edgy, given 10:10′s aim of asking people, businesses and organisations to take positive action against global warming by cutting their greenhouse gas emissions by 10% in a year, and thereby pressuring governments to act.

“Doing nothing about climate change is still a fairly common affliction, even in this day and age. What to do with those people, who are together threatening everybody’s existence on this planet? Clearly we don’t really think they should be blown up, that’s just a joke for the mini-movie, but maybe a little amputating would be a good place to start?” jokes 10:10 founder and Age of Stupid film maker Franny Armstrong.

But why take such a risk of upsetting or alienating people, I ask her: “Because we have got about four years to stabilise global emissions and we are not anywhere near doing that. All our lives are at threat and if that’s not worth jumping up and down about, I don’t know what is.”

The latter claim is hilarious. Over the next four years, CO2 levels will likely increase, if they stay on trend, from .0392% of the atmosphere to .0400% of the atmosphere. I would love to see these so-called science-based folks demonstrate how the next .0008% shift in atmospheric concentration triggers the point-of-no return tipping point. In actual fact, the have just latched onto the round number of 400ppm and declared, absolutely without evidence, that this number (which the Earth has crossed many times in the past) will somehow lead to a runaway chain reaction.

Anyway, I have teased it long enough, here is the video. Beware — there is gore (no pun intended) here worthy of a zombie movie.

Wow, its sure good that the world has decided that skeptics are the mindless, thuggish, anti-science side of this debate, because if that had not already been made clear, we might think that key climate alarmism groups had lost their freaking minds. It will be interesting to see if this gets any play in the US media — my guess is it will not. Magazines are happy to spend twenty pages dissecting the motives of the Koch family in funding skeptic and libertarian causes, but environmentalists get a free pass, even with stuff like this.

Lubos Motl is all over this, and has mirror sites for the video if (or more likely when) the video gets taken down. This is one of those propaganda offers that are the product of an echo chamber, with a group of like-minded people all patting themselves on the back only to be surprised at the inevitable public backlash.

Its Official: Climate is the First Post-Modern Physical Science

You can find a lot of different definitions of post-modernism.  Here is one from Wikipedia, which seems appropriate because in some sense at its very core Wikipedia adopts a post-modernist approach to truth.  Post-modernism rejects objective truth, or at least man’s ability ever to identify such truth.   As applied to science, post-modernists would say that what we call scientific “truth” in in fact the results of social, cultural, and political forces within and acting on the scientific community.

Some elements of post-modernism actually provide a useful critique of science.  Its focus on biases and resulting observational blindness to certain results that falsify ones pre-conceived notions are useful caveats in a scientific process.  But the belief that a rational scientific process is not just difficult but impossible leads to all kinds of crazy conclusions.  Many in hard core postmodern circles would argue that since objective truth is impossible anyway, scientific findings should be guided by what is most socially useful. As Steven Schneider of Stanford says vis a vis climate:

We have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we have. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest.

And speaking of Steven Schneider, he is coauthor of a recent study appearing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that has really made it plain to me that climate is becoming the first post-modern physical science.  Just note the incredible approach to his study, and how much it mirrors the precepts of post-modernism:  To decide who is right and wrong in climate science between skeptics and alarmists, the study authors have … wait for it .. counted them and measured their relative influence in academic circles.  Since the authors count more alarmists than skeptics, and judge that the alarmists are more influential in academic circles, then they must be right!  After all, truth is determined by those with the most political and cultural influence, not by silly stuff like testing hypotheses against observational data.

Postscript: I think a lot of the skeptic backlash against this study is overwrought, examples here and here.  To paraphrase another climate publication, this study is “not evil, just silly.”

Absurd Logic, But Al Gore Won An Oscar For It

It just is amazing to me that anyone can, with a straight face, advance this logic chain:

Again, here’s the situation: Mississippi homeowners sued 34 energy companies and utilities operating in the Gulf Coast for damage sustained to their property during Hurricane Katrina. The homeowners alleged that the defendants had emitted greenhouse gases, which increased the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which contributed to global warming, which accelerated the melting of glaciers, which raised the global sea level, which increased the frequency and severity of hurricanes, which caused the destructive force of Hurricane Katrina.

The attached article discusses some weird procedural hurdles, but my hope is that the court system will be better able to parse the absurdity of this logic than the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.  If every scientist in the world was dedicated to the task for 50 years, there would still be no way to assess the impact of incremental CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere on the strength of Katrina, and in turn the effect of this altered strength on property damages.

Irony

The New Scientist (“new” in most magazine titles meaning “socialist”) has yet another whole issue aimed at slamming climate skeptics.  You might start to think they felt threatened or something.

I found the cover hugely ironic:

The implication I guess is that climate skeptics are somehow trying to silence real scientists.  This is enormously ironic.  With a couple of exceptions, including the unfortunate legal crusade by the Virginia AG against Michael Mann, it is climate alarmists rather than skeptics who have generally taken the position that the other side of the debate needs to be silenced.

By the way, as I said in the intro to my last video, I have chosen to embrace the title of denier – with one proviso.  Being a denier implies that one is denying some kind of proposition, so I am sure thoughtful people would agree that it is important to be clear on the proposition that is being denied.  For example, I always found the term “climate denier” to be hilarious.  You mean there are folks who deny there is a climate?

I don’t deny that climate changes – it changes all the time.  I don’t deny there is global warming – global temperatures are higher today than they were in 1900, just as they were higher in 1200 AD than they were in 900.  I don’t even deny that man is contributing somewhat to the warming, not just from CO2 but from effects like changes in land use.  What I deny is the catastrophe — that man’s actions are leading to catastrophic changes in the climate.  I believe many scientists have grossly over-estimated the sensitivity of temperatures to CO2 by grossly overestimating the net positive feedback in the climate system.  And I think much of the work assigning consequences to even small increases in global temperatures – from tornadoes to hurricanes to lizard extinction – is frankly crap.  While I think the first mistake (around sensitivity) is an honest error, some day scientists will look back on the horrendous “science” of the consequences of warming and be ashamed.

It strikes me that a real scientific magazine that was actually seeking truth would, if it wanted to dedicate a whole issue to the climate debate, actually create a print debate between skeptics and alarmists to educate its readers.  If the alarmist case is so obvious, and its readers so smugly superior in their intellect, surely this would be the most powerful possible way to debunk skeptics.  Instead, the New Scientist chose, in a phrase I saw the other day and loved, to take a flamethrower to a field of straw men.

For those who want to watch the straw men go up in smoke, The Reference Frame has an index to the articles in this issue.

Some Thoughts From the Original Earth Day

With Lenin’s Birthday Earth Day coming up, here are some thoughts from the original Earth Day back in 1970.  How many times do alarmists have to be wrong before they stop getting such breathless press?

“We are in an environmental crisis which threatens the survival of this nation, and of the world as a suitable place of human habitation,” wrote Washington University biologist Barry Commoner for a 1970 Earth Day issue of “Environment,” a scientific journal.

He did not put an end date to his prediction. But Ehrlich did.

“Population will inevitably and completely outstrip whatever small increases in food supplies we make,” Ehrlich said in 1970.

“The death rate will increase until at least 100-200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next ten years.”

Ehrlich was an optimist compared to Denis Hayes, an aide to Nelson, the chief organizer for the first Earth Day.

“It is already too late to avoid mass starvation,” Hayes said.

“Demographers agree almost unanimously on the following grim timetable: by 1975 widespread famines will begin in India; these will spread by 1990 to include all of India, Pakistan, China and the Near East, Africa.

“By the year 2000, or conceivably sooner, South and Central America will exist under famine conditions . . . By the year 2000, thirty years from now, the entire world, with the exception of Western Europe, North America, and Australia, will be in famine.”

I am thrilled with the progress we have made on a number of real issues — including air and water pollution — since 1970.  It is unfortunate that our attention to these issues has been diverted by a 20 year obsession with trace amounts of CO2.

Science and Advocacy

I thought this was an interesting analog to some activities in climate science:

some advocates for women’s health tried to pressure The Lancet into delaying publication of the new findings, fearing that good news would detract from the urgency of their cause, [Lancet editor] Dr. [Richard] Horton said in a telephone interview.“I think this is one of those instances when science and advocacy can conflict,” he said.

Dr. Horton said the advocates, whom he declined to name, wanted the new information held and released only after certain meetings about maternal and child health had already taken place.

He said the meetings included one at the United Nations this week, and another to be held in Washington in June, where advocates hope to win support for more foreign aid for maternal health from Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Other meetings of concern to the advocates are the Pacific Health Summit in June, and the United Nations General Assembly meeting in December.

some advocates for women’s health tried to pressure The Lancet into delaying publication of the new findings, fearing that good news would detract from the urgency of their cause, [Lancet editor] Dr. [Richard] Horton said in a telephone interview.“I think this is one of those instances when science and advocacy can conflict,” he said.

Dr. Horton said the advocates, whom he declined to name, wanted the new information held and released only after certain meetings about maternal and child health had already taken place.

He said the meetings included one at the United Nations this week, and another to be held in Washington in June, where advocates hope to win support for more foreign aid for maternal health from Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Other meetings of concern to the advocates are the Pacific Health Summit in June, and the United Nations General Assembly meeting in December.

“People who have spent many years committed to the issue of maternal health were understandably worried that these figures could divert attention from an issue that they care passionately about,” Dr. Horton said. “But my feeling is that they are misguided in their view that this would be damaging. My view is that actually these numbers help their cause, not hinder it.”

“People who have spent many years committed to the issue of maternal health were understandably worried that these figures could divert attention from an issue that they care passionately about,” Dr. Horton said. “But my feeling is that they are misguided in their view that this would be damaging. My view is that actually these numbers help their cause, not hinder it.”

A Pretty Naked Threat From Greenpeace

From the Greenpeace website, via Tom Nelson:

Climate Rescue Weblog: Will the real ClimateGate please stand up? (part 2)

Emerging battle-bruised from the disaster zone of Copenhagen, but ever-hopeful, a rider on horseback brought news of darkness and light: “The politicians have failed. Now it’s up to us. We must break the law to make the laws we need: laws that are supposed to protect society, and protect our future. Until our laws do that, screw being climate lobbyists. Screw being climate activists. It’s not working. We need an army of climate outlaws.”

The proper channels have failed. It’s time for mass civil disobedience to cut off the financial oxygen from denial and skepticism.

If you’re one of those who believe that this is not just necessary but also possible, speak to us. Let’s talk about what that mass civil disobedience is going to look like.

If you’re one of those who have spent their lives undermining progressive climate legislation, bankrolling junk science, fueling spurious debates around false solutions, and cattle-prodding democratically-elected governments into submission, then hear this:

We know who you are. We know where you live. We know where you work.

And we be many, but you be few.

So one side of the climate catastrophism argument abhors open debate, refuses to allow scientific work to be shared or replicated, and openly threatens violence, and it is those of us on the other side who are anti-science?

Update: In an interesting use of words, Greenpeace has removed and hidden the original post “in the interest of transparancey” and replaced it with a fairly lame message that says that obviously I and other misunderstood words like “army,”  “break the law,” and “We know where you live” as threatening.  Um, OK.  Any, Anthony was links to the original archived here.

Update #2: This is pretty good overheated stuff, along roughly the same lines.   Because there is no better way to promote open scientific debate than threatening to jail one side:

The criteria was “The scientific and medical community’s knowledge of the relationship of smoking and disease evolved through the 1950s and achieved consensus in 1964. However, even after 1964, Defendants continued to deny both the existence of such consensus and the overwhelming evidence on which it was based.”

So they ARE criminally liable if they continue to knowingly spread misinformation after the scientific community has achieved consensus. There is scientific consensus on anthropogenic climate change and there has been for 15 to 20 years.

Insomuch as the corporate Deniers claim that they have investigated the climate science thoroughly and that there is no significant evidence it seems to me they have lied themselves into a corner. Either they are lying about having examined the science or they are lying about what the science says, but either way they are lying. This makes them liable to legal action.

We don’t have half a century to waste tolerating these disinformation campaigns. This is not a question of upholding freedom of speech, it is a matter of corporate and individual criminality. The value of these reports is not in casting doubt on the Denier arguments; those have been known all along to be nonsense. The value is that the reports present an opportunity to hold the guilty parties responsible for their crimes, and to end the disinformation campaigns with legal penalties appropriate to the magnitude of those crimes.

Next up, Fremch 19th century chemists are retroactively sued for challenging the nearly century-old consensus on the phlogistan theory of combustion.