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Nature Magazine and the Denier Usage

Posted by greg2213 on June 23, 2012

I don’t know whether Nature’s denier article is standard policy or the opinion of one wag who has since been reprimanded for his complete abandonment of science. I’m going with the former and I imagine the Nature staff giving each other High Fives for the article and the response it’s receiving from the rational set (ie: “the deniers.”)

I expect that if the article used the same basic language, but was referring to some ethinc group that it would be labeled a “hate” piece and Nature’s reputation wold take a hit. But, since it was PC to run it and since they are now labelled heroes (my opinion) from the alarmist crowd, well, I’m sure that it’s more likely that we’ll see more of the same rather than a retraction and apology.

Fortunately, someone popped up with a rebuttal that’s far less snarky  than most of us would provide. This is from a comment on WUWT that was elevated to a post. Very well written and I th ink that it should be nailed to the door of all the “scientists” blindly supporting CAGW.

From WUWT: A response to Dr. Paul Bain’s use of ‘denier’ in the scientific literature

Dr. Robert G. Brown writes:

The tragic thing about the thoughtless use of a stereotype (denier) is that it reveals that you really think of people in terms of its projected meaning. In particular, even in your response you seem to equate the term “skeptic” with “denier of AGW”.

This is silly. On WUWT most of the skeptics do not “deny” AGW, certainly not the scientists or professional weather people (I myself am a physicist) and honestly, most of the non-scientist skeptics have learned better than that. What they challenge is thecatastrophic label and the alleged magnitude of the projected warming on a doubling of CO_2. They challenge this on rather solid empirical grounds and with physical arguments and data analysis that is every bit as scientifically valid as that used to support larger estimates, often obtaining numbers that are in better agreement with observation. For thishonest doubt and skepticism that the highly complex global climate models are correctyou have the temerity to socially stigmatize them in a scientific journal with a catch-all term that implies that they are as morally reprehensible as those that “deny” that the Nazi Holocaust of genocide against the Jews?

For shame.

Seriously, for shame. You should openly apologize for the use of the term, in Nature, and explain why it was wrong. But you won’t, will you… although I will try to explain why you should.

By your use of this term, you directly imply that I am a “denier”, as I am highly skeptical of Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming (not just “anthropogenic global warming”, which is plausible if not measurable, although there are honest grounds to doubt even thisassociated with the details of the Carbon Cycle that remain unresolved by model or experiment). Since I am a theoretical physicist, I find this enormously offensive. I might as well label you an idiot for using it, when you’ve never met me, have no idea of my competence or the strength of my arguments for or against any aspect of climate dynamics (because on this list I argue both points of view as the science demands and am just as vigorous in smacking down bullshit physics used to challenge some aspect of CAGW as I am to question the physics or statistical analysis or modelling used to “prove” it). But honestly, you probably aren’t an idiot (are you?) and no useful purpose is served by ad hominem or emotionally loaded human descriptors in a rational discussion of an objective scientific question, is there.

Please understand that by creating a catch-all label like this, you quite literally are moving the entire discussion outside of the realm of science, where evidence and arguments are considered and weighed independent of the humans that advance them, where our desire to see one or another result proven are (or should be) irrelevant, where people weigh thedifficulty of the problem being addressed as an important contributor (in a Bayesian sense) to how much we should believe any answer proposed — so far, into the realm where people do not think at all! They simply use a dismissive label such as “denier” and hence avoid any direct confrontation with the issues being challenged.

The issue of difficulty is key. Let me tell you in a few short words why I am a skeptic. First of all, if one examines the complete geological record of global temperature variation on planet Earth (as best as we can reconstruct it) not just over the last 200 years but over the last 25 million years, over the last billion years — one learns that there is absolutely nothing remarkable about today’s temperatures! Seriously. Not one human being on the planet would look at that complete record — or even the complete record of temperatures during the Holocene, or the Pliestocene — and stab down their finger at the present and go “Oh no!”. Quite the contrary. It isn’t the warmest. It isn’t close to the warmest. It isn’t the warmest in the last 2 or 3 thousand years. It isn’t warming the fastest. It isn’t doinganything that can be resolved from the natural statistical variation of the data. Indeed, now that Mann’s utterly fallacious hockey stick reconstruction has been re-reconstructed with the LIA and MWP restored, it isn’t even remarkable in the last thousand years!

Furthermore, examination of this record over the last 5 million years reveals a sobering fact. We are in an ice age, where the Earth spends 80 to 90% of its geological time in the grip of vast ice sheets that cover the polar latitudes well down into what is currently the temperate zone. We are at the (probable) end of the Holocene, the interglacial in which humans emerged all the way from tribal hunter-gatherers to modern civilization. The Earth’s climate is manifestly, empirically bistable, with a warm phase and cold phase, and the cold phase is both more likely and more stable. As a physicist who has extensively studied bistable open systems, this empirical result clearly visible in the data has profound implications. The fact that the LIA was the coldest point in the entire Holocene (which has been systematically cooling from the Holocene Optimum on) is also worrisome. Decades are irrelevant on the scale of these changes. Centuries are barely relevant. We are nowhere near the warmest, but the coldest century in the last 10,000 years ended a mere 300 years ago, and corresponded almost perfectly with the Maunder minimum in solar activity.

There is absolutely no evidence in this historical record of a third stable warm phase that might be associated with a “tipping point” and hence “catastrophe” (in the specific mathematical sense of catastrophe, a first order phase transition to a new stable phase). It has been far warmer in the past without tipping into this phase. If anything, we are geologically approaching the point where the Earth is likely to tip the other way, into the phase that we know is there — the cold phase. A cold phase transition, which the historical record indicates can occur quite rapidly with large secular temperature changes on a decadal time scale, would truly be a catastrophe. Even if “catastrophic” AGW is correct and we do warm another 3 C over the next century, if it stabilized the Earth in warm phase and prevented or delayed the Earth’s transition into cold phase it would be worth it because the cold phase transition would kill billions of people, quite rapidly, as crops failed throughout the temperate breadbasket of the world.

Now let us try to analyze the modern era bearing in mind the evidence of an utterly unremarkable present. To begin with, we need a model that predicts the swings of glaciation and interglacials. Lacking this, we cannot predict the temperature that we shouldhave outside for any given baseline concentration of CO_2, nor can we resolve variations in this baseline due to things other than CO_2 from that due to CO_2. We don’t have any such thing. We don’t have anything close to this. We cannot predict, or explain after the fact, the huge (by comparison with the present) secular variations in temperature observed over the last 20,000 years, let alone the last 5 million or 25 million or billion. We do not understand the forces that set the baseline “thermostat” for the Earth before any modulation due to anthropogenic CO_2, and hence we have no idea if those forces are naturally warming or cooling the Earth as a trend that has to be accounted for before assigning the “anthropogenic” component of any warming.

This is a hard problem. Not settled science, not well understood, not understood. There are theories and models (and as a theorist, I just love to tell stories) but there aren’t any particularly successful theories or models and there is a lot of competition between the stories (none of which agree with or predict the empirical data particularly well, at best agreeing with some gross features but not others). One part of the difficulty is that the Earth is a highly multivariate and chaotic driven/open system with complex nonlinear coupling between all of its many drivers, and with anything but a regular surface. If one tried to actually write “the” partial differential equation for the global climate system, it would be a set of coupled Navier-Stokes equations with unbelievably nasty nonlinear coupling terms — if one can actually include the physics of the water and carbon cycles in the N-S equations at all. It is, quite literally, the most difficult problem in mathematical physics we have ever attempted to solve or understand! Global Climate Models arechildren’s toys in comparison to the actual underlying complexity, especially when (as noted) the major drivers setting the baseline behavior are not well understood or quantitatively available.

The truth of this is revealed in the lack of skill in the GCMs. They utterly failed to predictthe last 13 or 14 years of flat to descending global temperatures, for example, although naturally one can go back and tweak parameters and make them fit it now, after the fact. And every year that passes without significant warming should be rigorously lowering the climate sensitivity and projected AGW, making the probability of the “C” increasinginly remote.

These are all (in my opinion) good reasons to be skeptical of the often egregious claims of CAGW. Another reason is the exact opposite of the reason you used “denier” in your article. The actual scientific question has long since been co-opted by the social and political one. The real reason you used the term is revealed even in your response — we all “should” be doing this and that whether or not there is a real risk of “catastrophe”. In particular, we “should” be using less fossil fuel, working to preserve the environment, and so on.

The problem with this “end justifies the means” argument — where the means involved is the abhorrent use of a pejorative descriptor to devalue the arguers of alternative points of view rather than their arguments at the political and social level — is that it is as close to absolute evil in social and public discourse as it is possible to get. I strongly suggest that you read Feynman’s rather famous “Cargo Cult” talk:

http://www.lhup.edu/~DSIMANEK/cargocul.htm

In particular, I quote:

For example, I was a little surprised when I was talking to a
friend who was going to go on the radio. He does work on cosmology and astronomy, and he wondered how he would explain what the applications of this work were. “Well,” I said, “there aren’t any.” He said, “Yes, but then we won’t get support for more research of this kind.” I think that’s kind of dishonest. If you’re representing yourself as a scientist, then you should explain to the layman what you’re doing–and if they don’t want to support you under those circumstances, then that’s their decision.

One example of the principle is this: If you’ve made up your mind to test a theory, or you want to explain some idea, you should always decide to publish it whichever way it comes out. If we only publish results of a certain kind, we can make the argument look good. We must publish both kinds of results.

I say that’s also important in giving certain types of government
advice. Supposing a senator asked you for advice about whether
drilling a hole should be done in his state; and you decide it
would be better in some other state. If you don’t publish such a
result, it seems to me you’re not giving scientific advice. You’re
being used. If your answer happens to come out in the direction the government or the politicians like, they can use it as an argument in their favor; if it comes out the other way, they don’t publish it at all. That’s not giving scientific advice.

Time for a bit of soul-searching, Dr. Bain. Have you come even close to living up to the standards laid out by Richard Feynman? Is this sort of honesty apparent anywhere in the global climate debate? Did the “Hockey Team” embrace this sort of honesty in the infamous Climategate emails? Do the IPCC reports ever seem to present the counterarguments, or do they carefully avoid showing pictures of the 20,000 year thermal record, preferring instead Mann’s hockey stick because it increases the alarmism (and hence political impact of the report)? Does the term “denier” have any place in any scientific paper ever published given Feynman’s rather simple criterion for scientific honesty?

And finally, how dare you presume to make choices for me, for my relatives, for my friends, for all of the people of the world, but concealing information from them so that they make a choice to allocate resources the way you think they should be allocated, just like the dishonest astronomer of his example. Yes, the price of honesty might be that people don’t choose to support your work. Tough. It is their money, and their choice!

Sadly, it is all too likely that this is precisely what is at stake in climate research. If there is no threat of catastrophe — and as I said, prior to the hockey stick nobody had the slightest bit of luck convincing anyone that the sky was falling because global climate today is geologically unremarkable in every single way except that we happen to be living in itinstead of analyzing it in a geological record — then there is little incentive to fund the enormous amount of work being done on climate science. There is even less incentive to spend trillions of dollars of other people’s money (and some of our own) to ameliorate a “threat” that might well be pure moonshine, quite possibly ignoring an even greater threat of movement in the exact opposite direction to the one the IPCC anticipates.

Why am I a skeptic? Because I recognize the true degree of our ignorance in addressing this supremely difficult problem, while at the same time as a mere citizen I weigh civilization and its benefits against draconian energy austerity on the basis of no actual evidence that global climate is in any way behaving unusually on a geological time scale.

For shame.

—End —

More links to related subjects from other people:

Here’s the WUWT post describing the original letter.

One Lord Leach responds

Dr. Bain’s letter in response (he was the original author of the letter in question.) This post also includes Dr. Brown’s reply.

A discussion on Judith Curry’s site.

JoNova’s post on the subject and E. M Smith responds to Bain in a very nice, straightforward manner.

the 26 ethical flaws of propagandists – “Neither is this, anyway, a scientific issue. The science is clear. There have been and are no untoward changes in global climate outside those which flow from natural variability. There have been no recent climatic phenomena, which do not have numerous precedents. CO2 has nothing to do with the matter.”

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Skeptic Strategy for Talking About Global Warming

Posted by greg2213 on May 31, 2011

Ira Glickstein, PhD, has posted an interesting article at WUWT on how Skeptics should discuss Global Warming with “Astute Audiences.” Based on his article, I’d label Dr. Glickstein as a “luke warmer” rather than a skeptic, but it’s well worth reading.

What should a responsible Skeptic say to an astute audience? When recently invited by the “Technology, Engineering, and Science Plus” group in my community to give a talk and answer questions, I knew I would have an attentive room of tech-savvy professionals. However, they might not be fully tuned in to the details of the Global Warming controversy. Furthermore, they were likely to have opinions closer to the supposed “mainsteam science” orientation than mine.

The Rest: Skeptic Strategy for Talking About Global Warming

So here is my 1 cent worth regarding various points. Dr. Glickstein’s comments are in bold.

I assume by “Astute Audience,” and the example above, that he’s talking about audiences capable of understanding the discussion, even though they might not be fully up to speed on it.

I distinguish their reasoned views from the far out, unscientific rantings of people I refer to as Alarmists and their equal and opposite reaction opponents, who I call Disbelievers.

If we’re talking about just the science here, then maybe this statement is Ok. However, no one on the “disbeliever” side is even remotely es extreme as those on the Alarmist side. Let’s face it, “there is no global warming” is far closer to actual fact than anything put out by the alarmists, given the size of the error bars for any measured warming.

The reaction is hardly equal or opposite. Now, if the disbelievers were arguing that we’re falling into an ice age at 2-6C per century, and demanding massive government action, etc., to fix it, then he might have a point. Actually, the warmists were arguing exactly that in the 70s. (It’s a cyclic media supported hysteria that will cycle around again in a few years.)

He attributes part of the current warming to CO2, which is probably a reasonable assumption, but first… let’s explain the prior warming periods and the catastrophic warming at the end of the last ice age, none of which were CO2 driven. Those need to be explained before the CO2 assumption is regarded as fact. The “We can’t think of anything else” argument is a poor excuse.

How much of the rise in CO2 is attributable to human use of fossil fuels is also estimated differently. Warmists would blame humans for nearly all of it, while Skeptics would say less than half.

Maybe I’m just a disbeliever, but it seems to me that a skeptic would want proof that CO2 (or any factor) drives the warming, not assumptions. That experts in the field have estimates ranging from essentially zero to 6C or more means that there is no proof. Just conjecture. It also doesn’t explain how the 30’s, the MWP, and prior periods were warmer.

If the “climate sensitivity” was several degrees then the Earth wold have burned up long ago.

I am quite sure that Global Warming is REAL

Sure, as long as we’re talking about that .6 to .8C and the flattening of temps over the last decape plus. And that the error bars of the measurements are rather large and that there is some evidence of data fudging.

However, the warming is PARTLY Due to Rising CO2 Levels and human actions are PART of the Cause.

Yeah, maybe. Prove it in regards to how the current warming is so much different from the greater (and much greater) prior warmings.

We cannot fight something with nothing, so we need something more than a passive policy of do nothing because nothing is necessary.

Say what? We need an aggressive policy of countering the amazingly bad policies being proposed by the alarmists.

Therefore, I favor reduction of the carbon footprint by efficiency, conservation, recycling, and so on, plus the introduction, if and when economically practical of so-called “Green” energy, including Nuclear, Water, Wind, Biomass and, particularly, “Clean” Coal.

Sigh… Nothing wrong with been a reasonable green. Clean air is a nice thing to have. CO2 isn’t the demon, though. Wind, as direct power generation, will probably never be practical.

If nothing else, these will do minimum harm and, if successful, will reduce US dependence upon foreign oil...

What will reduce our dependence on foreign oil is using our own resources of coal, gas, etc., until some form of nuclear/fusion power becomes available. Wind is pretty worthless for direct power generation and solar/biomass are niche projects.

The consequences of another oil embargo by disgruntled countries would be farm more damaging than Global Warming. We won’t achieve energy self-sufficiency with these cute little green ideas and Eurpoe is kindly demonstrating how economically damage a green economy is.

You may be surprised that I favor some version of a straight Carbon Tax, collected at the mine, well, and port, with the proceeds returned on an equal basis to citizens and legal residents...

Oh please. So we get to pay more so that an already grossly overfunded government can lavish more money into pet projects and then somehow tease us by offering to return some money that’s already been spent? At best any money returned will be from the IOU collection, as it is with Social Security.

To be fair, his remark on the tax wasn’t regarding Global Warming, but was to reduce our dependence on foreign energy sources. Still, I think it’s a bad idea.

As one commenter says, “The unintended consequence of a carbon tax is, that once enacted, it will never go away, but grow into another pile of tax money that will be tossed to special interests.”

Now, if it was signed into law and if it could be enforced that all of the money collected would go into, oh, say, fusion research, then I might hold my nose and reluctantly agree to it. But no, he seems to like the socialist redistribution idea.(Ooooo… I used the dreaded socialist word. Gasp! Does anyone actually believe that any of that money would go back to the people who actually paid it? After the Gov takes its cut?)

This commenter makes a good point:

I see no harm in supporting research into alternatives, but that would not require another new tax. All we would need to do is transfer the funding currently wasted on global warming modeling the derivatives based on that modeling. There’s many billions there.

Another says:

  • Increased energy prices and/or rationing are highly damaging to developing countries, which need cheap, abundant energy in order to lift their peoples out of poverty.
  • “Carbon” taxes are regressive taxes (they hit the poor more than the rich).
  • The practical social consequences of “anti-carbonism” can fairly be described as undesirable (if not downright evil). Among these consequences are increased world food prices brought about by bio-fuel policies in the USA and the EU, which cause hunger and starvation.

This one puts it well:

The science side of the AGW debate is quite simple: If the reliability of the published temperature record is open to question; and if the reliability of the General Circulation Models is open to question, then the fundamental premise of AGW is therefore open to question. (source)

Overall, the post and comments make for a fascinating discussion. I think his basic analysis of the issues is generally Ok and his solutions are…lacking. I see no value in meeting the alarmist halfway and I see no value in mitigating Global Warming until such time that it’s proven that GW is actually more damaging than beneficial and that we actually can mitigate it. Until that time I think any such monies are far better spent on improving the lot of the poor people of the world, bringing them affordable power and food.

Links to stuff:

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Google Takes Sides on the Climate Issue

Posted by greg2213 on March 19, 2011

I won’t call it a debate since their need to be at least two sides talking to each other for their to be a debate. The alarmist side has zero interest in any such discussion.

Google periodically tweaks its search algorithms to improve its results. They just did that recently with what is being called the Farmer Update (I believe the internal name was Panda.) The intent was to remove some of the “junk” cluttering up their index.

Since G is now paying 21 advocates of the alarmist message to communicate their arguments, well, it might be reasonable to conclude that G’s searches on the climate issue will be similarly tweaked. Pro CAGW stuff shows normally, skeptical stuff gets a penalty. I’m not saying that they’re doing it, just that it’s reasonable to assume that they might.

From WUWT:

Recently, you have decided to take sides in a scientific debate. That in itself is very foolish. Why would Google want to take either side when there is a disagreement between scientists? I thought your motto was “Do No Evil.” For the 900-pound gorilla to take sides in any tempestuous politically charged scientific discussion is an extremely stupid thing to do…

…In other words, Google has put into place a public relations campaign for the CO2 hypothesis … and people in your organization actually consider this a good idea?

The rest: An Open Letter to Google

Update:

A commenter remarks that Google is biased because WUWT doesn’t show as #1 for the search “climate blog.”  Well, while I’m sure that G does have it’s biases I think this is poor proof. Given what I know of SEO, not a lot, there is little reason why WUWT should rank for that term. Search on WattsUpWithThat and you’ll see a different story. Look at the words bolded in the search. Why should WUWT rank highly? Hech, it doesn’t even have “climate” in the title.

Now, if everyone links to your site with YourSiteName as the link then you will rank well for that term. If no one links to your site with some topic as the link then you will not easily rank for that term.

If nothing on your site says some topic then it will be hard to rank for that term.

If a bazillion people link to your site with the phrase some topic then you will rank well for that phrase, even if nothing on your page is related. Case in point, a few years ago the search term miserable failure would show George Bush’s bio as the #1 result, instead of the more logical definitions page. Why? Those bazillion links from a vast number of people who got in on the joke. It’s called a “google bomb” and while G has taken some steps to stop such things from happening it’s not 100%. G bases most, not all, of its search ranking for any given term on links. It’s probably impossible to eliminate google bombing.

Is google biased? Given that it leans solidly left (look at google news and similar results) and most of it’s people are staunch Dems, according to polls, I think it’s possible that results are biased appropriately.

How to fix the climate blog results? Get a bazillion people to link to WUWT with the term climate blog in the link.

Some people recommended Dogpile since it’s a meta search. Heh.Note the first three results, especially the third. By the way, WUWT is a two links below the last in this screen clip.

Dogpile results for "climate blog" search

Dogpile results for "climate blog" search

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Are the Climate Wars Ending? I Don’t Think So…

Posted by greg2213 on August 24, 2010

But I do think that the skeptics have finally worked their way into the battle. (Just to be clear, we’re talking about Al Gore Hysteria Vs. Rational Thinking here; those wars, not the “did temps increase by .65 or .66 C over the last 100 some odd years?” discussion.)

From Skeptical Swedish Scientists, this is an overview of the Climate Wars:

Hello there fellow warriors for truth, justice and the scientific method, Well, the Climate Wars are still being waged … but for how much longer?

…maybe the Global Warming Scare, after 40 years, will just slowly fade away, just like Eugenics and Lysenkoism. Let’s hope so.

There’s billions of dollars in investments (Gore, Pachauri, etc., ) to be salvaged, more bazillions on taxes and fees, 3rd world countries counting on confiscated money (from the countries that earned it) to better support the palace building projects of their dictators, and so on.

The there’s that POWER to be considered. The urge to rule over we, the mindless little peons, that’s so strongly help by so many on the left side of the “discussion.”

“The desire to save humanity is always a false front for the urge to rule it” — H L Mencken

~~~

“The only hope for the world is to make sure there is not another United States. We can’t let other countries have the same number of cars, the amount of industrialization, we have in the US. We have to stop these Third World countries right where they are.”
– Michael Oppenheimer,
Environmental Defense Fund

~~~

(more in the Quotes section.)

No, CAGW was never about warming, it was always about money, power, and ideology. Therefore the Climate Wars aren’t ending, they’re just beginning. And if it isn’t climate then our would-be masters will come up with something else.

Let’s keep in mind that most of the history of the world has been people being controlled by all-powerful government entities of some sort. Freedom is dangerous, especially to the ideologies that want to control us. Just think of the freedom of thought and speech that was permitted in the old Soviet Union. Or China. Or Cuba. Or…

Heck, even in the UK or Germany you can get tossed in the can for saying the wrong thing. Yes, the US must be taken down, freedom is dangerous.

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This Sums Up the Climate “Debate” Very Nicely

Posted by greg2213 on August 23, 2010

God Stuff from The Air Vent:

Climate Science™:  We must act now, the end of the world is coming.

Science minded individual:  That’s scary, what do you mean?

Climate Science™:  The globe is warming from CO2 emissions, glaciers will melt, storms will strengthen, droughts will become commonplace, plantlife will die, the oceans will rise, the polar ice will melt, oceans will acidify, we must act now!

Science minded individual: Wow, CO2 causes all that?  How do you know?

Climate Science™: We have dozens of lines of evidence, Models, measurements, paleoclimate data, environmental data, it’s all in agreement.  We must act now.

The Rest: Understanding Climate

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