Bolt’s abuse of science

One of the things that gave Andrew Bolt 0 out of 10 on global warming was his misleading account of Severinghaus’ research. Crikey reports:

Severinghaus told Crikey that he doesn’t make a habit of Googling his own research, but Bolt appeared on his radar when a librarian in Brisbane wrote to him asking if “I’d really meant what Bolt said I meant”.

He didn’t. “Many, many other studies have found that carbon dioxide causes the earth to warm. This is not controversial, and to continue to deny it is akin to denying that cigarette smoking causes cancer,” Severinghaus told Crikey. “The evidence for a human-caused warming of the globe is overwhelming. The scientific debate is over, and what we are seeing now is an attempt to mislead the public.”

Severinghaus explained how Bolt had been slippery with the facts, “…Bolt omitted the key piece of information that the warmings took 5,000 years, thus misleading the reader into thinking that carbon dioxide was not warming at the same time as temperature and thus cannot have caused the warming…”

Severinghaus wrote a letter to the editor of the Sunday Mail, but it was never published. He posted a comment on Bolt’s blog but told Crikey “…effectively I have not been able to make much if any response”.

“At the very least I would like it to go on record that Bolt’s abuse of my science is not done with my approval,” says Severinghaus.

So is the professor sick of having his research misrepresented in the press? “My research actually mostly isn’t misrepresented,” he told Crikey. “But it is sometimes misrepresented on climate-denialist websites. I suspect, though do not know, that Bolt got the info from a climate-denialists website.”

Bolt responded on his blog:

Severinghaus’s research shows CO2 levels have tended to rise AFTER the globe’s temperature starts to rise – and some 5000 years afterwards at that, which is what I drew attention to. This clearly suggests, as he and others have acknowledged, that the warming at least initially may not be caused by increased CO2, but in fact cause it. Severinghaus claims there is a later feedback mechanism so that the increased CO2 in turn increases the warming (many hundreds of years later), but this does not at all dispute the point I made – especially since the warming we’ve seen has occured for less than 150 years. So what caused that initial warming in those previous warming episodes, and in this? Yes, he’s still a man-made global warming believer, and is upset that I draw attention to this curious fact he’s helped to discover, but bad luck to him. His rage and spluttering should not be allowed to obscure the central fact – that Al Gore shows slides from previous ice age that contrary to what he suggests in fact show increased CO2 concentrations initially FOLLOWING rising temperatures (by perhaps as much as 5000 years, say some researchers) and not before.

Yes, CO2 isn’t the only thing that affects climate, but Bolt mislead his readers by making it appear that the warming preceded the increase in CO2 when only a small part of it did. Severinghaus explains:

Does this prove that CO2 doesn’t cause global warming? The answer is no.

The reason has to do with the fact that the warmings take about 5000 years to be complete. The lag is only 800 years. All that the lag shows is that CO2 did not cause the first 800 years of warming, out of the 5000 year trend. The other 4200 years of warming could in fact have been caused by CO2, as far as we can tell from this ice core data. …

In other words, CO2 does not initiate the warmings, but acts as an amplifier once they are underway. From model estimates, CO2 (along with other greenhouse gases CH4 and N2O) causes about half of the full glacial-to-interglacial warming.

And Bolt’s blog post is also extremely misleading, pointing to a New Scientist story that states:

Now some astronomers are predicting that the sun is about to enter another quiet period. With climate scientists warning that global warming is approaching a tipping point, beyond which rapid and possibly irreversible damage to our environment will be unavoidable, a calm sun and a resultant cold snap might be exactly what we need to give us breathing space to agree and enact pollution controls.

Bolt’s take on this? They’ve moved on from being scared about global warming to being scared about global cooling.


  1. #1 hill billy
    October 5, 2006

    Always funny to see how many of Blots articles follow on the heels of articles that trace back to the IPA. Take [this]( ) & [this]( )

    Guess I shouldn’t be sooo paranoid…

  2. #2 Steve
    October 5, 2006

    I pointed out to Boltey that he’d mixed up the 5000 year total warming period with the 800 year lag and even provided a like to Real Climate where Severinghaus had stated this. Still, he would not change his error or admit his mistake. At least he lost some more of what little credibility he had. Funny stuff.

  3. #3 Chris Noble
    October 5, 2006

    This seems to be a common pattern in “rethinker” circles.

    “Rethinker” misinterprets paper A.

    Author of paper A hears of this and criticises misinterpretation of their paper.

    “Rethinker” claims to be able to interpret paper A better than author.

    See this example in HIV “rethinking” for comparison.

    Darin Brown on “Viral Loads”

  4. #4 Alex
    October 5, 2006

    Don’t worry, I’m sure bolt will shortly issue a correction…………

  5. #5 frankis
    October 5, 2006

    Bolt claims that Severinghaus’ comments are “rage and spluttering” yet I don’t see any of it in his actual words above. It seems more likely that Bolt is either projecting his own persona of fulsome ranting and raging at rampant greenie wickedness which threatens all that is right and good in the world today, or he’s referring to something Severinghaus has written in a letter that Bolt and his editor have apparently not printed. Well courage Andrew, courage – have the letter printed so people can judge who it is who is foaming at the mouth, again.

  6. #6 J F Beck
    October 6, 2006

    Mr Lambert,

    It’s interesting that you, a scientist, accuse Bolt, a non-scientist, of “abusing” science when you continually mislead your readers. Aren’t you just a tad hypocritical?

  7. #7 Nexus 6
    October 6, 2006

    Good work Tim. I’ve finally gotten inspired to start my own blog after enjoying debunking Bolt’s rubbish for a while. I tend to get my posts deleted from his Blog rather too much now though.

    Next up, Bolty’s (and J F Beck’s) garbage on cosmic rays causing global warming.

  8. #8 guthrie
    October 6, 2006

    Nope, sorry beck, theres nothing in your post that makes any particular substantial point about Lambert misleading people. Unfortunately I could not check the SOPAC website, it would not load up.

  9. #9 J F Beck
    October 6, 2006


    You’re right, the SOPAC link isn’t working ay the moment. No matter, the link Mr Lambert provides as proof that “people have fled to New Zealand from Tuvalu” despite de Freitas’s denial (that South Pacific Islanders have been forced to flee rising seas) says: “Over the last decade, the islanders have come [to New Zealand] for many reasons – better jobs, college, overcrowding on the islands – and to escape what many see as a threat of sea level rise, caused by global warming.”

    Contrary to what Mr Lambert leads his readers to believe, Tuvaluans are leaving not because they have to but because they want to. A perceived threat is not necessarily a threat. Where is the proof that rising seas have forced a single person to flee Tuvalu?

  10. #10 Chris O'Neill
    October 6, 2006

    “So what caused that initial warming in those previous warming episodes, and in this?”

    Bolt seems to have difficulty with the concept of the same effect having different causes. And also the concept of a positive feedback loop.

  11. #11 mark
    October 6, 2006

    Tuvaluans are leaving not because they have to but because they want to

    And does this prove anthropogenic global warming is not occurring?

  12. #12 Hank Roberts
    October 6, 2006

    — see train coming, step off tracks — mere hypothetical
    — see and hear train coming, leap off tracks — speculation on insufficient data
    — thrown from tracks by train — proof that train exists

  13. #13 QrazyQat
    October 6, 2006

    Bolt claims that Severinghaus’ comments are “rage and spluttering” yet I don’t see any of it in his actual words above.

    Very common pseudoscience response, also common to the rightwing in general (probably because they share so many pseudoscience views). In my experience with pointing out errors in pseudoscience, and seeing others do it, any correction of their errors is seen by them as an “attack”. In my own case, I’ve seen my stuff (unrelated to anything here) repeatedly referred to as “vitriolic” even though at least one of the same people claiming that has also said that I’m always polite even in the face of provocation.

    How I manage to be simultaneously polite and vitriolic has never been explained.

  14. #14 Barry
    October 6, 2006

    It’s freudian projection and wishful thinking. I’m sure that the GW denialists and creationists have fantasies of confronting a ‘econazi’ or ‘darwinist’, and leaving them intellectually prostrate before their debunking prowess.

    It can also be a good idea to accuse opponents of what you yourself are doing, if you’re dishonest. Insult people while accusing them of incivility; lie while accusing them of lying; refuse to publicly debate dangerous opponent in talk shows, while accusing those opponents of controlling the media.

  15. #15 Stephen Berg
    October 19, 2006

    OK, guys. Back on climate change, now.

    Former Exxon CEO Lee Raymond was appointed to flesh out an energy study by a staffer close to the White House:

    This is despicable. The above article clearly demonstrates why.

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