Am I an Alarmist?

The following idea has been stewing around in my head for a little while now, but as I referred to it in a comment on WTD, I figure that I might write it up now.

What is an Alarmist?

Wikipedia tells us that “alarmism is excessive or exaggerated alarm about a real or imagined threat”.

So, to be an alarmist, one is said to be inflating a potential threat beyond anything realistic.

I cannot speak for all the writers out there, however I know that those who I link to, as well as the work that I provide here, are all based on the wealth of science available. Where others have referred to the 4th IPCC report, it’s even likely that potential risks in continuing mismanagement of resources and pollutants are somewhat played down. From experience with working on scientific governmental reports, I know that there is a push to find some positive spin of everything.

If you care to look through the posts on this blog or those in the blogs that I’ve linked you, you will find thoughtful, evidence rich pieces (ie. lots of references to relevant scientific literature and explanations) that lead to concern. You don’t find anyone invoking fear or rallying up the readers into outrage against some establishment.

This is quite clearly NOT the work done by alarmists.

Now, if we look at the opponents of reason; from the misinformation of WUWT or Monckton, to the rally-talk of Donna Laframboise or Jo Nova and then to all those who spread out from such resources, once sufficiently inspired, to parrot off their work in various other comment threads; we see something else.

Here, the treat is a Green Agenda. The IPCC reports, Mann and co. and over a century and a half scientific investigation are all designed to one day, shift the masses into a perpetual state of poverty, with others excelling to dizzying heights of wealth, all under a single communistic world government.

Their evidence? A few mined quotes, some confused interpretations of the data (by unrelated scientists, reporters and whatever Monckton can be called), which have continuously been shown to be wrong and most importantly – a whole heap of emotions (mainly anger).

While concern expressed at this blog and those I link to, try to remain level-headed and focused on what recent studies have revealed, our main opposition is a non-technical group who simply holds up some emails, re-interpreted IPCC graphs and insane conclusions (such as the Urban Heat Island effect or solar activity being the cause of the change to the global temperature anomaly over the past century) all while demanding that we should be angry that our free speech is at risk.

Honestly, how could the IPCC lie about the findings of so many scientists? We wouldn’t need this band, “willing to stand up [against reason, if the truth be known]” , for every single scientist involved would have made a stand against the misinterpretation of their work.

If there was a plot to take over the world, would this one small band be all that stands between democracy and oppression? Of course not (every time I think of this bloody silliness, I’m reminded of that WB’s cartoon, “Pinky and the Brain” – I can’t help but laugh).

No, quite frankly “alarmism is excessive or exaggerated alarm about a real or imagined threat” and as far as I can tell, those who label the rest of us alarmists are the only group that hold onto imagined threats. The rally style of Nova and Laframoise is nothing but excessive alarm of this imagined threat.

It’s obvious that the same group that deny the validity of the scientific evidences are the true alarmists.

Monckton and the Confusion of Stage Show Denial

I hadn’t realised, until this ever day, an interesting fact regarding the posts of the Moth Incarnate Blog. Of all the many thousands of words and various graphics that I have produced over the past nine months, by a large stretch, the posts of enduring popularity – which on lazy days can count for nearly my entire hit count – are the couple of commentary posts relating to John Abraham and Christopher Monckton. Were I a shallow, stats-driven writer (believe me, the readership here is, unfortunately, low at best), I could easily focus on more sensational spits between reason and misinformation, highly dramatising each blow sent, each eye poked and each dirty word said, or implied… but I may as well use such skills (or in truth, lack there of) for producing scripts for some brain-melting midday soap. Hell, at least I’d be getting paid, I suppose.

Is there any clearer indication that this “climate debate” is nothing more than an entertaining past-time for a large proportion of the blogosphere than that the Abraham vs. Monckton episode still works the search engines?

Anyone who still holds any delusions of Christopher Monckton’s credibility in climate science has either been living under a rock for much of 2010 or is so deep within some paranoid fantasy that Christopher seems sensible… as sensible as little green men controlling the UN to lead the world into new age of oppression, slavery and ultimately part of the spread placed out for our galactic overlords (enter L. Ron Hubbard…). In that regard, I’m a much happier bloke than I was when I set out on this blog – that people where taking Monckton seriously was incredibly disturbing to me. However, as much as many others have wasted so much time going to great lengths to untangle his lies, we see no real ramifications to Chris, personally, for his spread of misinformation. But enough of that.

Over at Watching the Deniers, in a comment stream the other day, an individual whom I can only describe as a troll said something that actually struck me as being dead right, “…the public is saturated and they don’t want to hear about it anymore. So perhaps the deniers are losing now, but the war is already won.”

Indeed, I’ve been wondering where the interest has gone. For, with the scandals debunked (ie. Climategate, exaggeration of the errors in the IPCC’s 4th report etc) and with the aggressive, self-righteous louts of denial de-fanged and dismissed, why is it that the science is now communicated to a much emptier and unenthusiastic space? Most Aussies roll their eyes when they hear about Gillard’s ridiculous climate change committee, but otherwise, few seem to want to talk about climate change at all – or even sustainability. This is incredibly concerning seeing as we’re witnessing many records being broken this year; be it ice loss, coral bleaching events, the global temperature anomaly… We’re also around the apex of peaking oil – probably the most important of the fossil fuels for current human activities. The picture should merit for more action than a simple shrug of the shoulders.

Yet, the bozo troll above most likely got one thing right about the denial movement. Many celebrated deniers probably knew, at least at a subconscious level, that eventually they would be found out – I mean, the hero of denial was a bloody puzzle maker (and what a horrid puzzle he developed to keep many great minds busy for many months). Yet the whole affair, especially over the past year, did it’s job in smothering the public in the climate debate. I think the weak will that we witnessed in Copenhagen and closer to home (Rudd’s back-flipping on tackling climate change, for instance) also helped to provide disillusionment. In short, most felt let down, confused and eventually fed-up with talking about climate change altogether.

Yet, I do not feel that we few who continue to discuss the host of challenges facing this coming century are merely beating a dead horse. A better analogy would be that we’re trying to push a stubborn mule. Sure, the blasted animal might move if it saw the dust storm on the horizon, but at that point, it would be unlikely to outrun the wall of fast approaching sand.  What we need to do is get the ol’ carrot on a stick. Again, I make the call that industry is the only major driver left capable of providing the carrot.

The prevailing paradigms all come back to fast-turnover consumerism. This exposes itself in everything – from electrical devises that have a short lifespan than a pair of shoes, well, from tires having a shorter life span that most peoples shoes if the truth be known, to excessive personal waste and poor quality housing (cheap, pretty, thin-walled suburbia that employs none of the learnt tricks of yesteryear passive heat management and durability, but instead increases the rate of sprawl and requires almost constant climate control). Buy up! Buy up fast!

There are numerous ways around this.

Would people pay more, at least over time, for higher quality, durable technology that is upgradeable and ultimately reclaimable/recyclable (may also include some reward to the user, not unlike the bottle return depots of South Australia)? I believe so.

Would people pay less (at first, possibly a small amount more, but within a decade definitely less) for locally grown produce and other produce that reduces manufacturing costs by reducing and simplifying packaging? I believe so.

If local councils, instead of forking out for new infrastructure in new development plots, paid to upgrade the infrastructure of the neighbouring developed area, promoted apartment construction, localising of industry, better public transport to other close by business districts and used that undeveloped area for minor agriculture, manicured parks and rehabilitated native environments, would they provide an area more attractive, liveable, and economically healthier than the current sprawl mentality? I believe so.

The following graphic always stuck in my mind:

The suggested energy curve of our species, but certainly a good representation of our relationship with fossil fuel oil

This also should represent the current consumerism paradigm. The ideas are already around us, but seemingly as distant to the general public as the buzz of discussions that enriched many European coffee houses of yesteryear. Unfortunately what has created this rift is a stage show, as ludicrous as Monty Python’s ‘Confuse a Cat’, that came in the form of Christopher Monckton, Anthony Watts, Jo Nova, Donna Laframbiose, Andrew Bolt and many others. Now, not only are the general public uninterested, but we who still discuss the problems facing our future seem to feel the need of going around in circles, continuously addressing the same tired lines of denial.

The troll made a valid point. We all fell for the side show of denial. It’s not a new technique; we who employ scientific reasoning encourage debate and free-speech and thus must make time for other ideas. Stephan Lewandowsky made an excellent point yesterday about the contradictions in denial and to adopt another Monty Python quote, we must “stop it! It’s just getting silly!”

It’s clear that denial is baseless and we should feel the right to ignore nonsensical arguments and instead move on to the next phase (a place that we were arguably at already a few years ago) and start asking how are we going to meet this future?

~

The Fragile World of Reason, Society and Changing Climate

“Reason has built the modern world. It is a precious, but also a fragile thing, which can be corroded by apparently harmless irrationality. We must favour verifiable evidence over private feeling, otherwise we leave ourselves vulnerable to those who would obscure the truth.” – Richard Dawkins, Enemies of Reason.

I could have probably quoted much much more from Dawkins – indeed the parallels between his noted ideological wars against reason and those against sustainability (and by this, I include climate science) are remarkable and like him, I too am staggered by such a resurgence of pre-enlightenment nonsense.

I had, until recent months, respected the private beliefs of anyone. As someone whom also went on a “spiritual journey” (which, for me, lead out into a much brighter and clearer universe of reason, without contradictory scripture and invisible spectators), I felt it important to live and let live the ideas of others. This had a few exceptions – that indoctrination is wrong (especially of children – nothing is more repugnant than the image of that child on stage in the documentary Jesus Camp, who was crying with guilt for some times questioning his faith in the absence of any reasonable evidence of the group’s imaginary friend, God – nothing else so clearly demonstrates an assault on logic), where the belief causes harm and science promotes health (such as condoms) and where the belief is used as a virtue to suppress contrary scientific evidence. However, in short, I was happy for personal views to be held by anyone regardless.

That was before watching Monckton’s presentation, when I began my work on this blog.

I was, naively, unaware of how mainstream dissent from the principles of Enlightenment actually was. That, in the 1920’s Einstein witnessed an anti-relativity movement and I know damn well that there was a strong spiritualism movement in the 19th century (mostly fortune tellers and illusionists), it is highly questionable how much Enlightenment has actually ever been embraced at large. Following on from the actual section of Enemies of Reason from which I quoted above – discussing the modern age and the internet – I find it difficult to conclude that we in fact, live in the Age of Information; for we are as much surrounded by misinformation as genuine, evidence based information.

An excellent example of a disinformation propagator is Christopher Monckton who time and time again is proven to be wrong (see this post on climate scientists finally replying in detail to Monckton’s misinformation and Barry Bickmore’s Monckton’s rap sheet for more) yet, we find no shortage of parrots to his absurd UN-Communistic-One-World-Government conspiracy. These same parrots would laugh, hypocritically, at Area 51 truthers or sunken Atlantis theories.

For those who can see where I’m going and wish to scream at me and argue that I wish to deny them their freewill (again, there is no shortage of this argument when climate change denial crumbles for the baseless nonsense that it is), the only freewill in question is the right to be misinformed or to misinform others. Misinformation has led to a resurgence of polio in developed countries, who knows how many needless deaths through AIDS, endless baseless hatred over nothing greater than a personal, unprovable belief and more recently, sheer ignorance to the impact our species is having on the world at large. That we, as a world wide group, act like a person behind the wheel of a car, with our eyes closes (presumably for comfort) and our foot to the floor, doing our best to ignore the passenger – who is watching the road and warning us of the dire situation, is abhorrent, inexcusable and a blatant spit in the face of our children.

As I have gone into much detail on the subject previously, I will only sum up that our various impacts are unsustainable and degrading to the environment that we are ultimately dependent upon. The evidence for anthropogenic climate change is compelling, but almost irrelevant; for fossil fuels will be but a short blip in the history of our species; the most important of which, oil, is soon to slip down the expensive slide of depletion and coal is too important in steel production to be burnt where other sources of energy are already available. There are no justifiable excuses to ignore the need to change our activities in ways that actually promise some longevity inherent in their approach (for more, I suggest you start with the Innovation series above).

Yet, as Mike informs us, Senator Cory Bernardi and other Aussies, are jumping on the American Heartland Institute bandwagon, to rejoice in a feel-good, business-as-usual rally in Sydney on the first of October. Bernardi’s views suggest that he too is a Monckton parrot, awoken at night by nightmares of hidden UN-communists out to take over the world. I’m ashamed to admit that enough people in my home town must support him.

The problem is, as Dawkins makes overwhelmingly clear, that private beliefs are given too much weight, as people like Donna Laframbiose exemplify, “Climate skepticism is freespeech.”

Sure, freespeech is free speech. Donna’s scepticism holds as much weight as someone else when they claim that fairies are real, that they met aliens, or that the UN are secretly plotting a communist world order. No well trained scientist gave “Climategate” a second thought, for they knew only too well that as much as a scientist can lie, the science cannot for very long, simply because of scientific protocol, such as repeatability and peer-review (much the same as Dawkins discusses with medical science). The ridiculous UN/communist conspiracy does not and cannot stand up to vigorous examination and yet is believed by enough people to, under current social paradigms, merit discussion.

To avoid hurting someone’s feelings, we automatically accept their belief as valid regardless. This is the corrosion that Dawkins speaks of. By taking the baseless belief seriously from the get-go, we in fact reinforce the belief. Jo Nova provides an excellent example, “they have finally acknowledged that… they need to call us skeptics. (They can hardly pit expertise against “deniers” eh?)”

In the same post, Jo discusses that the denial campaign is indeed working and providing questions that science apparently cannot answer. Anyone who has followed this public debate is only too aware of a the countless side steps taken to avoid conclusion – with the inevitable ending, “Well, they must be in on the plot as well!” stalemate that, in reality bares no fruit for either person, but leaves the denier confident that their belief cannot be questioned. Jo has, herself, celebrated her Handbook surviving (in her view) what was a thorough deconstruction by scientists (discussed here) which stands out as a clear example of denial.

What we risk by taking such nonsense seriously is an erosion of what science has constructed over the past few centuries and coupled with the environmental degradation already altering climate and ecosystem function, we have the most obvious threat to modern society – something that will undoubtedly lead us back to a pre-industrial society, with far too many mouths and far too little resources. This is the clear and insidious danger facing humanity and it disguises itself as a basic human right (however, it’s quite the opposite).

To be clear, freespeech is a wonderful tool, however, our world society as a whole, has yet to develop a critical mind capable of of filtering out the nonsense in the ever growing pool of information available. We need to be careful of not only how we address a changing world, but also this relatively new element of society; the internet.

Hypocrisy: The endless tool of misinformation

I’ve just realised that our friend Donna Laframboise is back from cracking her code!

Already she has provided three posts, the third of which, Conflict of Interest at the IPCC, is more mild than I was predicting in yesterday’s post, but Jo Nova has yet to comment and I’ve not even bothered with Andrew Bolt, so give it time. The other two posts, however, made me smile.

The first post, IPCC Author Profile: Alistair Woodward,was of surprising hypocrisy, made even more so by my previous comparisons (the quote below).

Donna seems horrified that in a paper co-authored by Woodward, it was suggested that doctors discuss climate change with their patients. She comments, “The day my doctor starts talking about climate change is the day I find myself a professional who understands that the purpose of a medical consultation is to discuss my issues”.

But wait; I thought climate scepticism was free speech Donna (please refer to the bottom link for more)?

Why would you not listen to a medical doctor about climate change? Donna puts her reasoning down to climate science being “unrelated to doctors’ professional lives”.

Yet, she has previously mocked others by suggesting that they say, “Only those we approve of should be heard”…. hmmmm… corrected me if I’m wrong, but that seems a little hypocritical if you ask me.

Obviously Donna feels that her non-scientifically based scepticism of climate science is worthy (or else she wouldn’t be so upset by others disregarding it), that it deserves to be shared (via the web and her soon-to-be published book) and that her untrained citizen audit of the forth IPCC report is credible, BUT a medical doctor has no right discussing a field of science that they have not been trained in.

On Monday, I wrote;

I would ask her, “If a doctor had just informed you that the tests were positive for some infection/disease, but just then a bloke off the street burst into the room, screaming that you were fine, who would you trust? The individual who has spent years studying medical science, who can explain how your symptoms fit into the problem, or some random person who argues that, although you’re feeling ill, it’s definitely NOT what the doctor says it is? Is this random person’s opinion deserving of equal consideration?”

Likewise, if a scruffy guy on a street corner held up a sign that read; THE END IS NEAR, but thousands of experts in physical chemistry, environmental science, solar physics (etc etc etc), after tens of thousands of studies stated, “Well, no, the world isn’t going to end. However, we are witnessing a change in climate averages which is adding pressure to much of the ecosystems on which we are ultimately reliant upon. We’re more than 90% certain that the observed changes to climate over the past century are the result of our activities and emissions of greenhouse gases. We would be wise to reduce our emissions as it is highly likely that life, as we know and enjoy it, will be made much more difficult the more that climate changes.”

Who would you listen to?

Which brings me to the other article, Extreme Nonsense. At first she makes a valid point, “remember that weather is not the same as climate” – although her Global Warming 101 still begs to differ (she also makes a good point in the previous post that “catastrophic” is not scientific language, however, I would argue that “tipping-point” is). Beyond here, she beings to discuss a whole range of freak weather events of recent history, stressing the word “cold” wherever she can. This demonstrates her confusion between “global warming” and “climate change” as well actually working against her argument – we would expect freak weather to become increasingly common under a changing climate (see MT – Confusing Words and Fair is Fair for more on both).

From here, Donna then moves onto the oil scare of 2008, which seems to me to be little more than a straw-man. Sure a lot went on to cause that ‘bump in the road’; it was not peaking oil, but look at the consequences. It’s not too far a jump to suggest that, with the price of all oil related goods and services (pretty much everything) increasing, the subsequent global financial crisis (GFC) was inevitable, or at the very least exacerbated. Would the GFC have happened, with such global consequences, had the cost of living not increased to a point that credit (ridiculous lending to begin with) could no longer be repaid – popping the absurdly unsustainable bubble? I’m not an economist, however, it seems an interesting couple of years there, with causes and effects certainly worthy of such analysis.

Peak oil is hard to predict – made even more so by other buffers (such as bio-fuels, coal and gas), but it is likely to occur within the decade and with it, we’ll see many similarities to what occurred in 2008-09.

Donna ends with, “professional doomsayers are nearly always dead frakking wrong.”

Professional doomsayers? The inserted quote from my post on Monday probably sums up the reality of the professional argument pretty well. It seems far from doomsaying, but rather more consistent and plausible and far less hypocritical than the nonsense one finds in Donna’s work.

For more on Donna Laframboise, see Donna Laframboise and Cloud screaming

Climate Change Hate: Is Donna “Soggy” behind the ears?

In a moment of boredom, I strolled over to Ms. Laframboise’s NOconsensus.org to see if our friend was back at attention following her brief absence to write Decoding the Climate Bible (which I never fail to chuckle over when it comes to mind) which she said would be completed by mid-August. It seems that she’s finding it a little harder than expected to crack the code – did she remember to use the dark light on the Mona Lisa?!?!

No doubt the recent developments need to be included, such as the Professional Dutch review, which came to quite a different conclusion to her band of citizen auditors. I suppose a big part of her *cough* excellent review relied on an image of a corrupt chairman – Dr. Rajendra Pachauri – which George Monbiot clearly indicates is fictitious. Chapter 1 – DELETE. Chapter 5 – DELETE. Chapter 7 – REWORD. Chapter 11 – FOCUS ON RICHARD NORTH’S LATER COMMENT. Now the conclusion is okay again! The longer she takes, the more revisions she’ll need to make to keep it up to date – too long and Donna will probably find the book has the reverse message of her original plan and will ultimately criticise her own audit!

Anyway, I noticed something I’d previously overlooked on her home page (easy to do – as it’s a minor link among the rubbish); DeSmogBlog Parody: DeSoggyBog.com. It’s only two pages – the homepage (image below) and an “expert critique” of DeSmogBlog. Now, firstly, her choice of title made me laugh. DeSmog is clever enough – they’re attempting to clear the political nonsense AND to reduce emissions, which the name covers nicely. The amateurish “DeSoggyBog” sounds similar, but offers nothing more – it’s reminiscent of the bully of year four calling me, “Love-Key” as an insult of my last name (Lubcke) – which, even within that young crowd, backfired on him. It also calls to memory Jo Nova’s wildly silly attack on PNAS when they produced a paper that was not to her liking (Mike discusses it here).

Donna's DeSoggyBog page

I became interested in reporting on this site because, like yesterday’s post, here we have an excellent example of employing fear and hate in lieu of genuine evidence. A while ago, I commented on one of Donna’s favourite arguments;

She states that, “Climate skepticism is free speech.”

True Donna, climate scepticism is free-speech, but climate science isn’t; it’s the result of millions of hours of related research and debate… Alternative points of view don’t change the reality of the situation.

As like John Griffing, which I discussed yesterday, she argues that DeSmogBlog (but also arguably anyone who is convinced by the compelling evidence behind anthropogenic climate change [ACC]) is challenging your freedom through her childish statements like, “Our views trump your freedoms”, “We decide what’s true”, and “We are the keepers of the only permissible views on global warming… You have been scanned by our X-ray vision and found to be a deliberate liar.” Excetera… On her critique page, she goes as far as to suggest that they are like the religious/secret police of Iran and other places (note the xenophobic and fascist plea?).

She makes it clear here that she resents that her opinion regarding ACC is not taken seriously. I would ask her, “If a doctor had just informed you that the tests were positive for some infection/disease, but just then a bloke off the street burst into the room, screaming that you were fine, who would you trust? The individual who has spent years studying medical science, who can explain how your symptoms fit into the problem, or some random person who argues that, although you’re feeling ill, it’s definitely NOT what the doctor says it is? Is this random person’s opinion deserving of equal consideration?”

Likewise, if a scruffy guy on a street corner held up a sign that read; THE END IS NEAR, but thousands of experts in physical chemistry, environmental science, solar physics (etc etc etc), after tens of thousands of studies stated, “Well, no, the world isn’t going to end. However, we are witnessing a change in climate averages which is adding pressure to much of the ecosystems on which we are ultimately reliant upon. We’re more than 90% certain that the observed changes to climate over the past century are the result of our activities and emissions of greenhouse gases. We would be wise to reduce our emissions as it is highly likely that life, as we know and enjoy it, will be made much more difficult the more that climate changes.”

Who would you listen to?

To repeat myself; Alternative points of view don’t change the reality of the situation. This seems to really upset Donna who clearly demonstrates her ignorance of scientific protocol, which is summed up in her statement, “We’ll equate your opinions with pollution and say you are stupid.”

No Donna, but if you think science is done in this nature, that is to say, “Free speech is over-rated”, we won’t take your opinion very seriously. For it’s not a question of free speech at all, but rather investigation. Largely, as I’ve seen it, the cast over at DeSmogBlog mock only those political and industrial members who make ridiculous (or at the least obviously erroneous) statements regarding ACC. If they’ve targeted you as well, I’m not surprised – the few posts I’ve directed at your site and blog also question your ability to understand the science.

“Ms. Laframboise believes that when activists insist their cause is more important than other people’s free speech, we all need to worry.” This is like John confusing environmentalist or “lefties” as communists. Donna gets activists mixed up with science. If there are any crazed activists out there screaming about de-industrialising the world (I’m sure there are), believe me; no-one is taking them seriously except themselves.

By grouping the strong scientific basis for why we’re highly certain of ACC, with oppressive activism (arguably hitting the fascist note of John’s article), Donna has created a rather feeble strawman argument, rather than fault the science, which she’s obviously unable to do (note – you need to watch out for slight-of-hand techniques like this). Should we take every last person’s opinion on how we should look after our personal health or simply those we trust to have a greater understanding than most?

I suggest that if this photographer/journalist wishes to have an opinion that matters in climate science, she should take the time out to learn a little about the history of the various scientific fields, the methodology, the genuine scientific debate over different approaches and also why more than 97% of the researchers actively publishing in related fields are convinced by the evidence instead of stamping her feet into the ground, demanding that someone take her seriously.

Of course, if you look at her soggy page, you’ll see that she’s also out to attack SourceWatch and ExxonSecrets, which suggests to me that she’s either uninterested who’s funding whose campaign (would you trust a doctor who gets tobacco funding to give you the truth about smoking related health-risks?), or that she’s on the oil funds herself.

In all, we can sum it up with one of her most hypocritical statements, “DeSmogBlog views environmental issues through a highly selective lens. Far worse, however, is that it aggressively repudiates free speech in the same breath that it accuses other people of undermining democracy.” As we can see above, Donna seems to not even have a lens at all on environment science – she provides nothing but fear-mongering dribble, while accusing other people of undermining democracy.

For more on Donna Laframboise, see Donna Laframboise and Cloud screaming

Honesty, Climate Change and Forgotten Rewards: Meeting a Changing World

As mentioned yesterday, uncertainty should be given more attention. It is generally argued that the general public are rightfully confused on scientific uncertainty and therefore, it is wiser to concentrate on observations in climate change. However this, I fear, is the wrong way to go and not only is a discredit to the general public, but also allows for a kind of God-of-gaps for denial to exploit. Laframboise’s idiotic criticism is an example of this, which I’ve discussed previously, but as anyone who follows comments on various blogs has probably come across, there is this constant noise by a few individuals that argue that climate models are complex and too difficult to be accurate, thus should be disregarded. Of course this is based on half truths, getting to the point of a straw-man argument.

Majda and Gershgorin (2010) derive an excellent mathematical approach to quantify model errors in the imperfect Atmospheric Ocean Science computer models suite. This, they also state, is an empirical way to improve models while actively filtering or assimilating data. From my perspective, I suggest that this should also assist with another favourite of denial arguments – that the continuous “tweaking” of models is an example of dodgy activity by scientists. Treated more empirically, there is greater transparency for a lay audience and also removes much of this assumed manual handling.

I quoted Klaus Hasselmann (2010) yesterday with, “the probability that most of the measured warming during the past 100 years was caused by human activities is so high (well above 90%), that politicians, whose job it is to make decisions in the face of uncertainty, should work on the premise that it is a fact.”

Such a language in communication, coupled with an approach, such as that developed by Majda and Gershgorin (2010) would work wonders against the denial campaign while also giving the public appropriate recognition for the general level of critical analysis demonstrated. Mike, in It’s about climate change stupid: the Australian election is a major blow to the denial movement, makes a compelling case about the awareness of climate change within the Australian public. I believe such an audience can handle uncertainty with an appropriate understanding of risk management.

Explaining the increase risk of various diseases due to smoking, through meaningful education campaigns has led to a decrease in the amount of smokers in Australia. Explaining the increase risk of fatality by not wearing a seatbelt in the event of an accident has also dramatically increased the amount of people who wear seatbelts. The majority of people understand that there is an amount of uncertainty involved – but the risk/reward scenario isn’t great enough to merit the risk. Likewise, as Klaus says, with uncertainty well below 10%, we should feel quite confident in suggesting the gamble is too great to bet against anthropogenic climate change (ACC).

However, there is a weakness here, which I eluded to with the risk/reward statement. Another situation, with should be grouped ACC is obesity. In both situations, you have the science pointing out a detrimental situation, which, if properly addressed, will have a negative effect on a major industry and is typically seen as having little to no rewards to offer if met.

Sure, you’re told that you’ll be healthier and happier for a lean diet and regular exercise, but how often have you started regular exercise only to quickly realise that you’re running on the spot for no real reason, it hurts and it’s a massive consumer of your time? How often have you got home after a long and annoying day in the office, to find a refrigerator full of fresh food, just begging you to spend the next hour, cleaning, peeling, cutting and cooking even before you can think about sitting down or eating – not to mention the amount of dishes it creates… all the while the glowing “M” or bucket or whatever glows on top of a post visibly, not too far down the street and you think, “Nope, I cannot be bothered tonight! We’re ordering take-away!”

How often does this lead to throwing away half rotten food that was continuously put off?

The same goes for climate change. Even if we successfully reported on the observations and risks with predictions, then what? It’s so much easier driving to work (and because you and your partner work on opposite directions or because of the kids, you need two or more vehicles) than to rely on public transport or ride a bicycle (think about the weather). We’re told by various people that converting to alternative energy supplies is too expensive or impractical. One regular denialist to haunt this space likes to inform me that coal can be converted into petrol (as if this is nothing short of do-nothing until desperately required and it also underestimates the value of coal). Another character that is supported – even celebrated – on another pro-ACC science blog even retorted to a simple question with, “If we develop a global nuclear economy with synthesised hydrocarbon fuels, or truly effective electric batteries for motor vehicles, why the hell not buy a bigger SUV next year?”

In both the cases of obesity and ACC, the involved industry also subconsciously (if not intentionally) induces an increased inertia against change; it’s seen as being too easy to change.

“Sure, it’s a bad situation, but the alternative sucks!” – so goes the mentality.

Interestingly, I believe both these situations can be addressed with the same answer – Transit and pedestrian orientated developments (discussed here and here). But enough of that.

I feel confident that the general perception isn’t so suck in the “sceptics” camp, that we have before us a losing battle in meeting a changing climate, power supply and natural resource supply. However it’s, at this point, one that requires far greater communication. This is increased transparency and honesty with the uncertainties. This is real risk management as well as far more discussions over the potential rewards. I believe the public deserve this and are capable of addressing the next steps forward. We may here a lot from the “sceptical” side that may tend to lead us to think that they have the majority, but I suspect that what we’ll find over the fence is a chiwawa with a loud bark – the vast majority of people are instead waiting on the sidelines.

Reference
Hasselmann, K. 2010. The Climate Change Game. Nature Geoscience. 3: 511-512, doi:10.1038/ngeo919
Majda, A. J., and, Gershgorin, B. 2010. Quantifying uncertainty in climate change science through empirical information theory. PNAS. 107(34): 14958-14963. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1007009107

Australian election of 2010: At best, a non-vote.

I tend to be a very black and white person who seeks out clarity. Ultimately this led me to pursue science rather than more creative development (I was also accepted for an arts degree, based on my portfolio of creative writing and graphic design, but in the end I chose ecology). I’m not a fan of uncertainty and am drawn to pulling things apart to better understand them. Hence, I am aware of my political ignorance, for much of it just doesn’t make sense.

As such, I in advance ask my readers to excuse the meandering fashion of my writing as I drift through the grey fog of politics. As the Australian election looms, I feel compelled to write about it, but am sure that my particular view is one devoid of much ideological understanding.

It appears to me that this election is one not on choosing the best candidate, but rather the least worse.

Tony Abbott quite clearly demonstrates a lack of historical knowledge and scientific accuracy which no doubt would lead Australia into another three years of inaction and radical right-wing conservatism. We can at least be thankful that Nick Minchin will not be part of his team; a man who has on numerous occasions stood for industrial wealth over human health and environmental stability. However, a man that informs school children that it was warmer when Jesus was alive, in my opinion, is unfit as a political leader. Sure, I will admit that Abbott has the strength required of a leader (something Kevin didn’t really demonstrate too clearly), but his dogmatic logic is appalling, to say the least, in the 21st century. It’s certainly okay for Tony to hold whatever views he wishes to within his private life, but to bring it to the public and to misinform students is unacceptable.

Julia Gillard in a lot of ways is a disappointing replacement to Rudd. What upsets me most is the uncomfortable air in her progression to the top job – it feels a little underhanded at best. Not only did the action rob the Australian community of the opportunity to demonstrate their changing views regarding gender equality by electing their first female PM, but she has since proven to be as weak on action as the PM she replaced.

Gillard has been attacked for her redundant use of the slogan, “moving forward,” and has since defended the use by saying, “I’ve used the term ‘moving forward’ because I believe it captures a spirit about Australia. We are a confident, optimistic, forward-looking people.”

However, her spirit of Australia, her forward-looking people, is a citizen consensus on climate change. A handful of randomly selected Aussies to waste a year thinking about climate change and carbon taxing. This is far from “forward-looking”, but more an open endorsement for extending paralysis for another year. Let’s ignore decades of of research and billions of dollars worth of long-term monitoring and the conclusions drawn by the vast majority of related experts and instead gauge what the Average Joe thinks about climate change.

Simply because of her position of governance, this is even worse than Donna Laframboise’s citizens audit (who quotes on her blog that, “climate skepticism is free will” – it is, as much as type two diabetes  skepticism is, but skepticism won’t change the results on an unhealthy lifestyle and family history). Appealing for a citizen consensus demonstrates a lack of  real leadership when, by the simple choice of her chosen career path, Gillard should be willing to lead. When you second-rate have writers being applauded for their unscientific and counter-environmental articles, you should rightfully question the awareness of the public and thus their ability to make informed decisions – not get them to make up your mind for you (see this post regarding Andrew Bolt for example).

So, at the heart of it, we’ve got two political leaders appealing for our votes; one that is at best a mixed bag of contradiction and awkwardness and the other is a pre-Enlightenment dogmatic ultra-conservative. We’ve got the options of either sitting on our arses while a bunch of non-scientists make up their minds over climate science and environmental management or we can choose to take a few steps backward, stick our heads in the sand and pretend that our pockets aren’t getting lighter.

Neither one is moving forward and Julia only seems the lesser of two bad options.

Denial Punching bag: moving on from this “climate game”

It seems that we go forever around in circles in comments and when looking at the misinformation published by the media. It’s also becoming increasingly apparent to me that the vast majority of criticisms used against climate science are already debunk or nonsense to begin with (thereby demonstrating scientific ignorance). For these reasons, I’ve decided to put together this post – which also has it’s own page (on which I plan to update and add questions to as the need requires). The hope is to provide a ‘cut and paste’ template that can be used to address the more mundane denial arguments, based on the science. In that respect, feel free to offer advice, point out other reference material, offer questions, paste the arguments elsewhere or link back to the independent page.

Quite frankly, I feel enough is enough. This might be entertaining for some, but the paralysis it invokes is very disheartening to many. Many of those still making denial noise have very little scientific background and have found something that they feel enables them to get quite hot-headed and angry. It’s a game to them – which many have made clear to me. If this is what they want, setting up a standard response like this more or less builds a punching bag on which they can go crazy at but will remain solid enough for the next angry individual.

This work was largely inspired by John Cook and Peter Sinclair, so I don’t claim much credit – merely compiling the sections to a ‘comment style’. Please feel free to use the following when you come across the usual denial tones.

Is the world warming?

I think that we’re largely past this question, with most people who choose to debate over climate science accepting that there has indeed been a noticeable warming trend for more than a century. NASA and NOAA provide enough data on this.

Some of the louder “sceptics” of the science argue that the warming has stopped. This is one of Jo Nova’s favourite arguments for example. They demonstrate this however, by producing a short term graph that looks only at the most recent decade.

Using the temperature graph from NASA (figure 1.), we can see that the most recent data does in fact show little warming. However, we can also see that in the 1950’s and in the 1970’s there also similar trends as we’re currently witnessing, but this doesn’t change the fact that over the past 130 years, there has been a noticeable upward trend in temperature. This has also been the warmest decade on record and it you look at the data available at AMSU, you see that 2010 has largely been above the decade average. This past decade does not prove that climate change has ended.

Global Surface Temperature

How do we know it’s not the sun or the result of the urban heating effect?

All three warming possibilities (including an increasing greenhouse effect) are differentiated by their signals.

If warming was the result of the solar activity, this would cause greater heating at lower latitudes, which would correlate well with sun spot activity, but as there is no increase in the amount of heat being trapped, much of this heat would be lost before reaching higher latitudes and also at night. Thus the greatest heating would be on summer days, at lower latitudes.

If warming trends in the records were the result of urban heating, this would be made obvious by comparing monitoring stations in good locations (ie. away from human activity) to bad sites (ie. close to human activity) and to satellite data (ie. away from everything), to demonstrate bias in those sites affected by the urban heating effect.

If warming was the result of an increasing greenhouse effect, the temperature data would demonstrate an atmosphere that is trapping more heat. This would be noticeable in more even heat transfer across latitudes, with wind patterns (thus a greater warming potential at the poles) and increasing number of warmer nights (with less heat escaping at night).

Figure 2. Adler et al. (2008)

If you pull out the global surface temperature anomaly graph (figure 2), which used NASA-GISS data from 1979-2006, from Adler et al. (2008), you can see that the greatest temperature changes over this 28 year period is largely at higher latitudes in the northern hemisphere and also does not correspond to major urban developments.

As for ground based measurements, NOAA have done a comparison of good stations against poorer station, within the US, to demonstrate that there is very little difference between the data collected (see figure 3, which came from this NOAA report).

Figure 3. weather station comparison, NOAA

If we look at warm nights, we could use;

Alexander et al. (2006)
Alexander and Arblaster (2009) (Aussie data modelled projections past 2000)
Klein Tank et al. (2006) Central and South Asia data, TN10 is cold nights, TN90 is warm nights
Tank et al. (2006) again, now a subset of stations with long data sets

The warming trend is most obviously the result an increased greenhouse effect and not due to urban interference or solar activity.

For references, see References Part 1.

How do we know the increasing greenhouse effect is in anyway related to our greenhouse gas emissions? (seems a silly question when you look at it, but I’ve heard it very often).

As like with warming, few people seem to question the increasing concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere. Ghosh and Brand (2003) explain how the different species of carbon can be identified, allowing the contribution of fossil fuel combustion to be known.

NOAA has been monitoring CO2 atmospheric concentration for over 50 years. Criticism that relates to the sites proximity to a volcano is unfounded as this is recognised and adequate methods are taken to reduce the impact (basic explanation here). Ghosh and Brand (2003) also mention CO2 monitoring at Cape Grim in Tasmania, which saw CO2 concentrations increase by 24.43 ppmv over the 25 year observation time (ending with a value of 378.50 ppmv in 2006 – see here).

In relation to this increased concentration, Harries et al. (2003) looked at the different spectra of outgoing longwave radiation measured by spacecraft between 1970 and 1997. They produced the following graph;

Harries (2001).

The changes in brightness, they noted, provided direct evidence of an increasing greenhouse effect in relation to anthropogenic related increases in concentrations of known greenhouse gases. Griggs and Harries (2007) later re-explored and added to this study and concluded with, “Using the AIRS data with data from the IRIS project allows a difference spectrum to be generated for the period 2003–1970, a period of 33 yr. Changing spectral signatures due to CH4, CO2, and H2O on decadal time scales are observed using the new AIRS data, thus adding confidence to the previous 1997–1970 study.”

For references, see References Part 2.

What does a scientific consensus mean?

In reality, this is a confusing term and like “theory” means different things to different people (and from the scientific meaning). There is a difference between consensus and scientific consensus, however, as this isn’t well understood by most and seeing as at least Donna Laframbiose and Jo Nova (and probably others) exploit this misunderstanding, it’s a pointless argument and should be avoided.

Indeed, obsessing over consensus views is as meaningless as trying to portray a raging debate within the climate science community because not all studies agree.

What is misunderstood about science is that it’s a tool – like a duster that sweeps away ignorance. When you’re working on something very big, it is likely that you won’t see the whole picture. Others might work on different areas and come to other (sometimes contradictory) conclusions. The more work is done, the better the clarity and ultimately consistency of the different findings. A better image is developed.

This is part of the peer-review process and the debate that occurs within the scientific community. Good science stands up to cross-examination. Errors are found out eventually and improvements are made. Our scientific understanding ever improves. It’s highly unlikely that most scientific arguments will ever reach 100% certainty on anything, however, as more evidence supports a hypothesis, eventually it becomes very much more likely than not. Theories are when the weight of evidence that supports the idea is so great that for all practical purposes it’s as good as certain and contrary views are incredibly implausible.

Peter Sinclair puts it excellently in one of his presentations when he concludes that there is no one single paper that removes beyond all doubt the relationship between smoking and cancer, but instead a whole body of research spanning decades that removes the doubt.

This is a good basis for a scientific consensus.

The same has been misconstrued regarding climate science.

Anderegga et al. (2010) demonstrate that the vast majority (over 97%) of researchers actively publishing in the field of climate science concur that climate change is real and is largely the result of human greenhouse gas emissions. It’s not the result of a small group of mates either – 1,372 experts were included in the study. The dusts of ignorance are being blown away and we’re seeing a very clear image of our actions.

This is also expressed in Oreskes (2004), who argues that the media largely portrays climate science as quite uncertain about change. Six years on, it seems many are still falling for this delusion of climate debate. The truth of the matter is, the vast majority of research supports anthropogenic climate change.

For references, see References Part 3.

But someone told me that this paper proves that anthropogenic climate change is a myth…

As with the argument over scientific consensus, this is a situation where popular misconception is targeted by denialists to build a strawman argument rather demonstrate how the bulk of scientific investigation has come to a false conclusion.

As Anderegga et al. (2010) demonstrated, a small number of actively working researchers (about 2%) publishing on climate science disagree with the anthropogenic climate change (ACC) findings. There are also a number of others, such as statisticians and weathermen etc, how also publish opposing arguments.

Without much effort, one could easily find papers through a Google scholar search that argue that there is no relationship between cancer and smoking. However, like the arguments against ACC, they are in the minority and when published in peer-reviewed or influential literature, really don’t stand up to cross-examination.

Outside of peer-reviewed literature, a good example is the NOAA report that addressed the report by Anthony Watts, which criticised the quality of US weather stations.

A paper that has been used to argue against ACC is Scafetta and West (2007). This is a good example of contrary studies that are published and explored. Scafetta and West (2007) do raise some good points, however, the warming trend has the signatures of an increasing greenhouse effect and does not match solar activity (Griggs and Harries, 2007).

It is certain that we do not have all the answers regarding climate change – deniers will exaggerate contrary views to distort and confuse and loudly hold claims to the papers that agree with their particular view. That said, what is equally certain is that the vast majority of research supports ACC. Contrary views either fall down to cross-examination or help to clarify the uncertainties that remain over climate mechanics, but it is at this point very unlikely that the weight of evidence could amount to suggest anything but a changing climate that is largely the result of human activity.

For references, see References Part 4.

Is there any evidence that climate warming will have a negative effect on biodiversity? I was told that warmer climates are more productive.

This is the favourite last retreat for the scoundrel. If all the typical denial calls fail, they try to turn the evidence on its head; “Sure, the climate is changing with atmospheric CO2 concentration increase, however, CO2 is important for plant growth and warmer climates are more productive and produce more precipitation. It’s all good!”

It’s amazing how often this argument ends discussions with deniers and ultimately it’s just as wrong as their previous arguments.

I could pull out a many papers that explore bio-physical indicators of change which demonstrate that biological timing, species distribution and physical events (must as weather patterns and ice melts) are changing in response to climate change. However, for simplicity, I will use Rosenzweig et al. (2008) who looked at over 29,500 data series of bio-physical responses and found that 95% of physical and 90% of biological responses were consistent with climate change. Often this meant earlier timing of events.

Deutsch et al. (2008) looked at the widening tropical belt and concluded that tropical insect species are already living near their optimal temperature while temperate species live in cooler than their optimal thermal range, meaning that as climate continues to change, tropical insect species are less likely to be resilient to the warming climate. As many insect species play keystone roles in ecosystems (pollination being the more well known) it is not a great jump to conclude that the reduction in insects will have major impacts to the ecology of tropical environments.

Heerwaarden and Hoffmann (2006) have demonstrated that fly populations are already showing genetic shifts to adapt to climate change.

Cantin et al. (2010) very recently showed increasing coral bleaching (ie. where symbiotic algae photosynthetic capacity is reduced by excessive temperature) has resulted in a 30% decline in skeletal growth since 1998 of Diploastrea heliopora.

As climate zones move poleward (see the Arbor Day Foundation for an example), species will ultimately have to adapt to the new environment of move with climate zones. As soil types will differ between old and new areas and different species have varying capacity to migrate, local biodiversity is likely to change, upsetting interspecies relationships. Biodiversity resilience to impacts is attributed to at least the persistence of key species within an ecosystem (Fischer et al. 2006), thus such shifts are likely to exacerbate species loss and biodiversity degradation.

As for CO2 being “plant food”, this is of course silly. Until the twentieth century, at no time in the whole of human history had CO2 concentration been above 300ppm. Plants did just as well; arguably they did better until our machines became efficient at deforestation.

It’s also worth noting that carbon produced by fossil fuel combustion is 13C which plant photosynthesis also seems to discriminate against (Ghosh and Brand 2003).

For references, see References Part 5.

References Part 1.
Adler, R. F., Gu, G., Wang, J., Huffman, G. J., Curtid, S., and, Bolvin, D. (2008) Relationships between global precipitation and surface temperature on interannual and longer timescales (1979-2006). Journal of Geophysical Research. Vol.113. doi:10.1029/2008JD010536
Alexander, L. V., Zhang, X., Peterson, T. C., Caesar, J., Gleason, B., Klein Tank, A. M. G., Haylock, M., Collins, D., Trewin, B., Rahimzadeh, F., Tagipour, A., Rupa Kumar, K., Revadekar, J., Griffiths, G., Vincent, L., Stephenson, D. B., Burn, J., Aguilar, E., Brunet, M., Taylor, M., New, M., Zhai, P., Rusticucci, M., and, Vazquez-Aguirre, J., L. (2006) Global observed changes in daily climate extremes of temperature and precipitation. Journal of Geophysical Research. 111. D05109. doi: 10.1029/2005JD006290.
Alexander, L. V., and, Arblaster, J. M. (2009) Assessing trends in observed and modelled climate extremes over Australia in relation to future projections. International Journal of Climatology. 29:417-435. doi: 10.1002/joc.1730
Klein Tank A. M. G., Peterson, T. C., Quadir, D. A., Dorji, S., Zou, X., Tang, H., Santhosh, K., Joshi, U. R., Jaswal, A. K., Kolli, R. K., Sikder, A. B., Deshpande, N. R., Revadekar, J. V., Yeleuova, K., Vandasheva, S., Faleyeva, M., Gomboluudev, P., Budhathoki, K. P., Hussain, A., Afzaal, M., Chandrapala, L., Anvar, H., Amanmurad, D., Asanova, V. S., Jones, P. D., New. M. G., and, Spektorman, T. (2006) Changes in daily temperature and precipitation extremes in central and south Asia. Journal of Geophysical Research. 111. D16105. doi: 10.1029/2005JD006316
References Part 2.
Harries, J., E., Brindley, H. E., Sagoo, P. J., and, Bantges, R. (2001). Increases in greenhouse forcing inferred from the outgoing longwave radiation spectra of the Earth in 1970 and 1997. Nature. 410: 355-357
Ghosh, P., and, Brand W. A. (2003) Review: Stable isotope ratio mass spectrometry in global climate change research. International Journal of Mass Spectrometry. 228:1-33.
Griggs, J. A., and, Harries, J. E. (2007) Comparison of Spectrally Resolved Outgoing Longwave Radiation over the Tropical Pacific between 1970 and 2003 Using IRIS, IMG, and AIRS. Journal of Climate. 20: 3982-4001 doi: 10.1175/JCLI4204.1
References Part 3.
Anderegga, W. R. L., Prall, J. W., Harold, J., and, Schneidera, S. H. (2010) Expert credibility in climate change. PNAS. doi:10.1073/pnas.1003187107
Oreskes, N. (2004) Beyond the ivory tower: The scientific consensus on climate change. Science. 306(5702):1686 doi: 10.1126/science.1103618
References Part 4.
Griggs, J. A., and, Harries, J. E. (2007) Comparison of Spectrally Resolved Outgoing Longwave Radiation over the Tropical Pacific between 1970 and 2003 Using IRIS, IMG, and AIRS. Journal of Climate. 20: 3982-4001 doi: 10.1175/JCLI4204.1
Scafetta, N., and, West, B. J. (2007) Phenomenological reconstructions of the solar signature in Northern Hemisphere surface temperature records since 1600. Journal of Geophysical Research. 112. Doi: 10.1029/2007JD008437
References Part 5.
Catin, N. E., Cohen, A. L., Karnauskas, K. B., Tarrant, A. M., McCorkle, D. C. (2010) Ocean warming slows coral growth in the central red sea. Science. 329(322). doi: 10.1126/science.1190182
Deutsch, C. A., Tewksbury, J. J., Huey, R. B., Sheldon, K. S., Ghalambor, C. K. Haak, D. C. And, Martin, P. R. (2008) Impacts of climate warming on terrestrial ectotherms across latitude. PNAS. 105(18): 6668-6672. doi:10.1073/pnas.0709472105
Fischer, J., Lindenmayer, D. B., and, Manning, A. D. (2006) Biodiversity, ecosystem function, and resilience: ten guiding principles for commodity production landscapes. Frontiers in ecology and the environment. 4(2): 80-86.
Ghosh, P., and, Brand W. A. (2003) Review: Stable isotope ratio mass spectrometry in global climate change research. International Journal of Mass Spectrometry. 228:1-33.
Heerwaarden, B., and, Hoffmann, A. A. (2006) Global Warming: Fly populations are responding rapidly to climate change. Current Biology. 17(1). doi:10.1016/j.cub.2006.11.035
Rosenzweig, C., Karoly, D., Vicarelli, M., Neofotis, P., Wu, Q., Casassa, G., Menzel, A., Root, T. L., Estrella, N., Seguin, B., Tryjanowski, P., Liu, C., Rawlins, S., and, Imeson, A. (2008) Attributing physical and biological impacts to anthropogenic climate change. Nature. 453(15):353-357. doi:10.1038/nature06937

Climate Denial Should Face the Microscope

Last week, I discussed some inaccuracies in the work of Donna Laframbiose, Jo Nova and Andrew Bolt when they discuss science. For some time now, Mike has also been reporting on their inaccuracies at Watching the Deniers. It’s certainly questionable whether these people are simply unaware of scientific thinking (yet feel that they have some authority to write opinion pieces on scientific matters) or deliberately misinform to promote certain agendas.

What is clear is that all three loudly screamed for blood in the wake of the stolen email event that became known as “Climategate”. Now that this event has been investigated to death, there is a growing call for a similar microscope to be used to look over those who present misinformation. The three mentioned above have quite publicly published inaccurate statements that promote inaction in regards to climate change and ecological conservation. Their efforts can be seen as counter-productive to long term standard of living and species protection. I feel that they should be held accountable for their inaccuracies which will ultimately be at the detriment to life on this planet.

A similar response has developed in the wake of Monckton’s bizarre reply to John Abraham’s rebuttal. Last Friday I made the point of how damaging Moncktonian logic is to scientific investigation. Scott A Mandia has put together an excellent post, “Turn the Tables on Monckton”, in which his supplied an example letter and nearly 60 media email addresses. He is calling for people to “email bomb” the media as Monckton has asked his fans to do to John’s university.

I feel it is time that we indeed turn the tables on such anti-science. The scrutiny that has followed climate research, both in the forms of formal investigations and citizen scientists, has largely clouded the reality of our influential impacts on climate change. Denial has been loud and has enjoyed far less prosecution than professional science.

Examples:

Many people have dismantled What’s Up With That?, Wott’s Up With That? being a good example, and yet denial continues from the former. John Cook and others put together an excellent Scientific reply to Jo Nova’s Skeptical Handbook and yet Jo celebrated that her handbook survived!?! Donna busily works on her book, “Decoding the Climate Bible”, when authoritative bodies have come to quite a different conclusion than that of her citizen audit of the 4th IPCC report. Andrew Bolt just continues being himself; falling for legend rather than facts… all the while a group of grumpy readers cheer him on. Monckton’s only response to John Abraham’s deconstruction of his presentation is an overly excited list of questions and attacks (no scientific basis at all) and when John’s presentation is shortened by 10mins, to remove some of the statements that hurt Monckton the most, Christopher’s supports cheer that Monckton wins again (see WUWT Abraham climbs down and Nova’s Abraham surrenders to Monckton. Uni of St Thomas endorses untruths), without at all addressing the fact that John’s presentation continues to demonstrate a wide range or errors in Monckton’s work (oh, wait; Nova links to his presentation as the newer but “still incorrect version” – so I guess she’s blown Abraham’s presentation out of the water just as well as she avoided the Scientific guide… hmm…).

Many of us may see how flawed the scientific basis is in this loud denial movement, however, no-one can deny that within popular media, this movement is given far too much freedom and weight. The three writers above are openly opposed to the science. In Scott’s piece he opens with fighting words and I can’t help but agree. I think we need to fight fire with fire and demand accountability where obvious misinformation is allowed to be published – both of the writer and the publishing agent. We who blog might demonstrate the inaccuracies of these writers, but unless our work goes viral, there is no way our word travels as far as their print. It’s time for denial to face the scrutiny it demanded of the science.

Monckton’s reply to Abraham and how science really works.

As I’m assure most readers will be aware, over the past day or so, Monckton’s reply to John Abraham has been getting a reasonable amount air-time (post-time?). Monckton’s reply can be found on Watts up with that; no doubt the last refuge… If you wish to see Monckton’s rebuttal, it’s here, and if you wish to add to the list of people lining up to support John, you can do so through Hot Topic, here. However, what I’m interested in is another post by Chris over at WUWT, titled, Abraham climbs down.

Reading this, you get the impression that Chris is a little hurt by John’s presentation. In his own words, “…Abraham’s lengthy, unprovoked, and widely-circulated personal attack on me.”

Firstly Monckton:

I think Chris the very last person to have the right to protest that other’s have said nasty things about him. He also hurls some mud at John, so I’d personally conclude that if it’s good for the goose it’s good for the gander. (Incidentally, this post at DesmogBlog was just published that also discusses name calling and Skeptical Science posted this which also highlights Monckton’s hypocritical name calling)

What’s funny is that, in the next paragraph Monckton discusses how John has reduced his presentation to avoid the previous speculations of Christopher’s character, while continuing to keep his presentation live; thus (in Monckton’s mind), proving his guilt while continuing to “attack” Chris. I think you’ll find that without the extra 10mins, it’s still over an hour of inaccuracies in Monckton’s presentation. He even finishes this paragraph by openly admitting that scientists were not cited – one of Abraham’s criticisms to begin with and certainly not a professional scientific habit. If he wants to present scientific data he should do so in correct scientific protocol and not in such a loose fashion that makes the evidence unclear and difficult for others to backtrack and test for themselves.

This continues through the next couple of paragraphs, also including when John asks the originating scientists for feedback on how Chris had portrayed their work. Chris write, “…Abraham rashly persists in misrepresenting me to third-party scientists, getting hostile quotations from them in response to what I had not said, and using them against me.”

But wasn’t John and the other scientists trying to illustrate that, in fact, it was the work of these researchers that had been misrepresented and that Chris had stated things that they had not concluded?

He then continues that he can prove spades of malice against John and will see him in court. In fact, I feel that John’s presentation was actually quite objective and went to great lengths to constructively find the sources and provide a logical, scientific response. If Monckton feels threatened by people replying to his baseless statements with, “you’re scientifically inaccurate in your conclusions,” well, why is he on this world wide campaign against climate science, with a presentation riddled with graphs missing citations and conclusions that don’t match up with the papers he does cite?

If I came into a room and said that a magical unicorn out on the street told me that it was an incarnation of God and commanded that I lead the people into a frenzied war against squirrels, I’d first be laughed at and secondly be questioned for evidence. Could I take those people to court for not believing me?

A while ago, I wrote this, “Trusting Monckton’s fears of a nazi world government plot instead of the voice of multi-generational farmers who have watched their lands change is like buying up home security equipment from a door-to-door salesman whose sale pitch relies on him once being abducted by aliens because his house wasn’t properly locked.”

Could he sue the family for not taking him up on his anti-alien equipment?

Of course not.

What should not be forgotten in this next wave of Moncktonian noise is that what he’s actually doing is what is all to often the response from deniers when you have them up against the wall; it’s the ad hominem tramp card. When all else fails, “they’re being mean to me!”

He has not demonstrated any real scientific evidence to back up his claims and has not demonstrated how his conclusions of the results he has reasonably differ to those original researchers. The only data that he supplies that matches his conclusions is from his own organisation. When he can demonstrate the errors in the science of John’s rebuttal, then he’ll not only have a case, he would undoubtedly be the hero that helped humanity avoid the trials of meeting a changing climate. Unfortunately this is very unlikely to happen and I’m afraid we should be doing more to adapt.

What if science worked in Monckton’s way?

It’s a terrifying idea and there is simply no way that our species would have become so tech-savvy over the past century. If just one of the advancements in medical science, chemistry or physics, for instance met with such noisy unscientific criticisms, that threatened legal action in the face of being proven wrong, where would we be? Imagine, for instance, the whole sorry affair with Dr. Semmelweiss, who demonstrated that sterilisation of hands and medical equipment could lower mortality, although he wasn’t sure of the reasons behind this. He faced a lot of criticism in Europe and his ideas took a while to be adopted – until the reason why was found. A lot of deaths no doubt occurred that otherwise wouldn’t have. However, throw in a “sceptic” who is also an excellent public speaker and is even able to pull out this graph:

This sceptic could argue that puerperal fever fluctuated wildly, there’s nothing here to prove that Semmelweiss is correct, that “we all know that it is an imbalance of the basic four humours that is responsible”, and that Semmelweiss is assisting in a plot to weaken countries to this or that attacking force (note, Europe was largely politically unstable throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries).

Now, Semmelweiss didn’t know why this was happening, but he had demonstrated that sterilisation worked. However, the sceptic would naturally only further exaggerate the establishment’s assertion that they were not wrong – this being the basis for the rebuttal. Word of this hit the US, where Oliver Wendell Holmes had previously published a similar argument to Semmelweiss, which also attracted the same level of denial. The medical community paid for this sceptic to come across and reassure them that they knew better than Holmes.

Both men faced enough criticism that was belief based and not on the evidence. Imagine just how much more the medical community could have dug its heels in if it had such an excellent speaker that opposed the new findings and could make rash conclusions that just didn’t add up. Would microscopes be smashed in a fit of denial? Where would medical science be today without such a radical change as sterilisation?

Conclusion

Luckily, papers go out to a wide audience and are challenged by a very cluey bunch. Even, as we see with climate science, people from other fields question and argue the science – which has lead to the handful of papers Nova and a few others wave wildly in the air. These counter arguments are looked at and also challenged. This tends to lead us to a clearer answer. This paper;

Anderegga, W. R. L., Prall, J. W., Harold, J., and, Schneidera, S. H. (2010) Expert credibility in climate change. PNAS. doi:10.1073/pnas.1003187107

illustrates that very point regarding climate science and that the image is becoming very clearer of our impact on the observed climate change. The scientific community has come along way in the past 160yrs and although it can be difficult for an individual or a group to admit that they were wrong, it’s not so opaque when they are. As was demonstrated quite clearly by this “controversy” labelled, Climategate: when there is wind of malpractice, it’ll hit the news stands before sundown. You can make a solid bet that if a small group of people were leading us astray, it’d be sniffed out by someone, who would start publishing rebuttal work which would catch the eye of others who would get involved with the debate. If there was any signs of one group or another deliberately misleading, well that would ruin careers. However, the truth would eventually come out and if it was interesting enough to the general public, they’d also hear about it. A handful of independent inquiries regarding this Climategate have found nothing to suggest a scandal and actually strengthen the validity of the work done.

I'm given far too many opportunities to use this graphic lately

The same goes with this situation. John Abraham looked over the presentation presented by Monckton and found lapses of scientific foundation. Conclusions apparently drawn by Chris where not reflected in the papers that he had cited. Did Chris then demonstrate how he came to these conclusions so that the scientific community can test his hypothesis to weigh up the validity of his conclusions? No, he simply questions John’s credentials and screams that John had deliberately attacked him. This is obviously not the case in John’s work and I hope is not the reflection of this piece either. Simply, Monckton’s presentation did not pass muster in a scientific sense.

What we need is clarity and foresight. I recently commented on Laframboise’s work, where she quotes Bob Carter’s book, “we can take sensible steps to protect ourselves from hazards we’re dead certain to encounter’. This, Carter concludes, relates to droughts, landslides, floods, wildfires, earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, hurricanes, tornadoes etc. We are no more certain of them in advance than we are climate change. In both cases planning is based on predictive modelling and the results are somewhat grainy (ie. “once in a century storm”, “certain percentage likelihood that temperature trends will reach this mark by this time if this emission scenario occurs” etc). Dead certainty is only in retrospect and without sensible forward planning in “likelihood” risk management policies, dead certainty takes a much stronger meaning in the wake of many of these disasters. As I’ve tried to illustrate in the Innovation series, the results of the observed climate change has already been recorded in many bio-physical processes and without proper forward planning, it is likely to have an increasingly detrimental effect on food and water security, ecology and the services that we rely on and the frequency of many of the events Carter mentions. We don’t need sceptics reassuring us until we’re 100% certain, we need sensible adaptation and governance of populations and ecosystems.