Category: Global warming

Weird Internet Ideas: Science isn’t Science

It is deeply saddening that the anti-science attitude has become so entrenched on the right and in the government. However, it is nice to find all your targets standing in a row.

The minor good news is that watching the presentation and recognising the names, I’d already debunked this nonsense.

Yes, this is the same warmed over nonsense I tackled when I went through a climate change denial book last year.

From the presentation:


What I found then was that Armstrong and Green, to reach a conclusion that a forecast of global cooling was more ‘accurate’ than global warming, had to make the following errors:

  • Use only ONE warming scenario
  • Use a cooling scenario smaller in magnitude to the warming scenario
  • Use a retroactive forecast using the warming scenario that does not actually correspond with the warming hypothesis (specifically using modern rates of warming for the mid 19th century)
  • Ignore more recent data (specifically from 1975)

What was even more notable was that some of these problematic steps were in violation of their own ‘principles of forecasting’.

There’s more, but I’ll come back to it later.

Swedes, Petitions, Climate & Trump

The Washington Times, that august organ of the Unification Church, has a breathless headline: Hundreds of Scientists Urge Trump To Withdraw from UN Climate Treaty:

Climate change contrarian Richard Lindzen has sent a petition to Donald Trump saying

We urge the United States government, and others, to withdraw from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). We support reasonable and cost-effective environmental protection. But carbon dioxide, the target of the UNFCCC is not a pollutant but a major benefit to agriculture and other life on Earth. Observations since the UNFCCC was written 25 years ago show that warming from increased atmospheric CO2 will be benign — much less than initial model predictions.”

Interestingly (presumably because Lindzen accepts a lot of the basic science) it doesn’t claim zero warming but rather that the warming will be ‘benign’. And Lindzen has 300 scientists to back him up! Including this guy:

RØMCKE Nils Håkon Swedish emailer who wished to sign the petition

I’m not joking. That is the literal entry. Many of the entries have no particular qualification listed (although ‘Nils’ is the only one with ’emailer’ listed as a qualification gawd bless ‘im).

Twenty of the signatories are from Sweden and another 19 are from Norway. Which is odd, given that otherwise, the petition is mainly an anglophone thing. There six French signatories (I believe – there are some people whose nationality is unclear) and three from Germany. There don’t seem to be any Danes. This disproportionate number of Swedes and Norwegians seem to be centred on a group calling itself clumsily ‘CLEXIT’ – that is ‘climate legislation exit’. Perhaps the petition started life in Sweden/Norway or perhaps it found its way there and one passionate Swede made an extra effort. I only counted eight people with obvious UK ties – and one of those was the infamous Viscount Monckton of Brenchley.

Australia manages to still maintain its own cadre of climate contrarians – 17 by my count, so still outnumbered by Swedes. One of whom is a senator for the far right, anti-immigrant party One Nation. Malcolm Roberts’s UN climate conspiracy theory was once described by rightwing commentator (and fellow climate contrarian) Andrew Bolt as ‘utterly stupid’.

Having said that, the bulk of the signatories are probably Americans. I count 200 who are either clearly from the US or at leats not obviously from somewhere else. Not that there is a problem with non-Americans petitioning the US President (e.g. I’m happy to suggest to him that he resigns) – it’s just that this petition neither does ‘US scientists’ well nor ‘World scientists well’ but is just what you might expect: the usual names and lots, and lots, and lots of padding. Even with Niles-the-Swedish-emailer, it struggles to get to 300.

Yet, be prepared for various people to cite this as evidence that scientists are rebelling or whatever against what we already know to be true: the Earth is warming, it’s because of us, and that’s bad news.

Meanwhile…Earth’s Temperature…

The January UAH Satellite temperatures are avaialble:

The fall from the El Nino highs is still slower than you might expect.

Elsewhere, the right is throwing up claims of temperature records being cooked.  Here’s four different temperature records based on different data sets from 1980 to current.


The baseline for the anomalies are different and there is some variation in exactly what they are measuring and even the trends are a bit different but the message is the same whichever way you look at it.

It is getting warmer. The whole planet. The impacts on everybody will be substantial and long lasting. Our children will inherit a very different world.


Further Down the Denial Hole

Time to wander down another global warming denial rabbit hole. I was presented with a video of Judith Curry (who’s been covered here before) bemoaning the funding of climate science. It is political, she claims, because too much goes to research into the human causes of global warming and not enough into natural causes. This is bullshit. It doesn’t even require a great deal of investigation to see that it is bullshit we just need to apply what we know about global warming science.

Let’s take her claim literally. It is true that changes in climate can occur for non-human reasons and as a result of human actions. However, Curry’s characterization requires us to imagine a bizarro world of climate research in which some people are just looking at possible human causes and others are looking at natural causes. In reality, there isn’t a great deal of mystery about human causes as such – the main one is anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions and of those the big culprit is CO2. It isn’t as if the bulk of researchers out looking for some alternative human causes (not that nobody is looking at other human impacts – it’s just not the main focus).

The reality is that people investigating anthropogenic global warming NECESSARILY investigate natural drivers of climate. You can’t investigate the one without the other. The very nature of trying to find the impact of human action on the climate involves trying to distinguish between natural variability and changes from human action PLUS the interaction between the two. Worse, Curry knows this.

Ah, but that isn’t what Curry means exactly. What she is cross about is that more money goes to researchers who think humans are impacting the climate than ones who don’t. The problem here is that what she is actually asking for is not less politics in the funding but more. After all, NORMALLY in science funding you’d expect more funding in mainstream positions and less in fringe positions. That doesn’t mean no fringe position ever becomes mainstream or that fringe positions are necessarily false – it just means that funding tends to go to places where evidence and expert opinion suggests that the answers are.

It gets worse though.We know that the bulk of active climate scientists genuinely believe that global warming caused by anthropogenic global warming is real. So to achieve the supposedly unpolitical increase in research of alternative hypotheses, Curry would need the more fringe views to receive disproportionate funding.

It gets even worse. What exactly would get funded? While proportionately small compare with climate science as a discipline, there are number of scientists of one kind or another who dispute the more generally accepted position. I’ve covered several here and given their views some airing. The problem is that while they have strong things to say about how they disagree to some extent with the anthropogenic global warming hypothesis they have very little in the way of alternative hypotheses. What these other approaches amount to tends to be very had wavy speculation and a vague appeal to more data.

Nor is the government the only source of funding. Interestingly all those conservative think tanks paying out cash on the topic global warming prefer to spend it on people claiming the data is wrong somehow rather than pooling their resources into alternative hypotheses. Some private funding from conservative sources (e.g. the Koch brothers) has helped aid some serious climate-science though, just not very often. Curry herself participated in one such project – the BEST study of the temperature record. I’ve discussed it before. It was widely promoted by conservative climate blogs when it started…but when the results came in and the BEST study confirmed that yes, things have got warming and yes it looks like we are to blame, it suddenly got less popular in certain quarters.

Don’t Forget Climate Change: The End


The final third of this dire book is entitled “The Climate Change Movement”. This arse-end of the collection is easily the most dull. The essays are either dry accounts of events or rather weak complaints about failed predictions of doom.

Chapter 13 by Rupert Darwall discusses attempts by international governments to agree to action on climate change. I guess it is supposed to be depressing reading for somebody like me and by that standard, the essay is a success.

Chapter 14 by Ross McKitrick I assume is a reprint from somewhere else. It’s is possibly the most interesting essay in this section, if you haven’t read a hundred accounts already of McKitrick’s attempts to discredit Michael Mann’s infamous ‘hockey stick’ reconstruction of past temperatures. While it was a definite success for McKitrick, the basic hockey-stick path of global temperatures has been re-confirmed multiple times since.

Chapter 15 is a pointless digression into whether people who participated in the IPCC also share in the Nobel Peace Prize that the IPCC was awarded.

Chapter 16 by Mark Steyn is a short piece laughing at the Australian expedition that got stuck in Antarctic sea-ice.

Chapter 17 by Christopher Essex is just weird. It is a protracted complaint that many journalists don’t know a lot about science. While this is true it is hard to see how Mr Essex and his chums help with that.

Chapter 18 is rather like Chapter 13 but about the IPCC history among other things.

Chapter 19 is a complaint that Australia’s peak science body, the CSIRO, gets stuff wrong.

Chapter 20 by blogger Anthony Watts feel like a relief in comparison. Watt’s argues that it isn’t clear that global warming is implicated in extreme weather events because we can’t know for sure.

Chapter 21 rounds off the book with Australian right-wing journalist Andrew Bolt complaining about other predictions of consequences of global warming that might not have occurred.

And that’s it. A giant exercise in throwing stuff at a wall and seeing what sticks. There is little actual agreement between the points raised and collectively pseudo-science credulity is mixed in with a half-baked critique of the scientific method.

The strongest chapters in the whole book were from Patrick Michaels and Richard Lindzen. Inadvertently, pointing at Khun’s concept of paradigm shifts tends to illustrate how what science there is in this book is trapped in a 1960s when it was possible to still believe that human greenhouse gas emissions would always have less impact on global temperatures than other factors.

In the final section even the half-hearted attempt to make a claim of minimal warming was abandoned (although not repudiated) for a weaker strategy of hoping that maybe bad things won’t happen.

So farewell Climate Change The Facts 2014 – you were a half-baked bunch of essays poorly edited and thrown together by an Australian right-wing think tank with literally more money than sense.