Bolt Train Wreck

You want to look away as this Andrew Bolt post comes off the rails, crashes and burns, but you can’t. In his column, Alan Ramsey had quoted Tim Flannery:

“What we’ve seen in the Arctic over the last two years has been such breathtaking change that you have to worry about stability for sea levels and for the entire northern hemisphere climate system. The rate of ice melt in 2005 increased by about five times over what it was previously. It’s been very, very large again in 2006.

“Now, if you take those two years as the new trajectory for ice melt in the Arctic – we’ve only two years of data there – but if we do that, there will be no Arctic to melt in five to 15 years, and that’s an astonishingly short period of time for an ice cap that’s existed for 3 million years.”

Now Flannery is being alarmist here. It is wrong to base the trend on the last two years and ignore the years before that. A more reasonable analysis suggests that the Arctic summer sea ice will take till 2050 to all melt. Bolt missed this and instead came up with:

Except, of course, that what Flannery – an expert in bones, not weather – had said was a typically wild exaggeration.

From the IPCC report released last week:

The last time the polar regions were significantly warmer than present for an extended period (about 125,000 years ago), reductions in polar ice volume led to 4 to 6 metres of sea level rise.

The Arctic ice disappeared not 3 million years ago, Tim. But 125,000.

In the very first comment, MichaelF made the obvious point that the IPCC report did not say that the Arctic ice disappeared 125,000 years ago. Bolt replied:

As for your unsupported claims about me being wrong about Arctic warming and icecover, please read

OK, let’s read it. First paragraph (my emphasis):

The Arctic system is moving toward a new state that falls outside the
envelope of glacial-interglacial fluctuations that prevailed during
recent Earth history. This future Arctic is likely to have
dramatically less permanent ice than exists at present. At the present
rate of change, a summer ice-free Arctic Ocean within a century is a
real possibility, a state not witnessed for at least a million
. The change appears to be driven largely by feedback-enhanced
global climate warming, and there seem to be few, if any, processes or
feedbacks within the Arctic system that are capable of altering the
trajectory toward this “super interglacial” state.

When Ender pointed out Bolt’s own reference proved him wrong, Bolt tried to salvage something from the wreckage by changing 125,000 to 1 million

The Arctic ice disappeared not 3 million years ago, Tim. But 125,000. (Wrong: See in comments below.) But 1 million:

Lack of sea ice and large ice sheets in the Arctic 1.5 to 1 million years ago and perhaps 125,000 year ago produced major differences in albedo and heat budget with respect to the present Arctic.

Except that his reference is woefully out of date, being from 1991. And, according to the NSF:

If the ice pack continues to decrease in coverage and thickness, researchers suggest the possibility of a nearly ice-free Arctic — an area that has been covered by ice for at least three million years — and a vastly changed world.


  1. #1 Ian Gould
    February 10, 2007

    “Now Flannery is being alarmist here.”

    That would hardly be a first.

  2. #2 Steve Bloom
    February 10, 2007

    The minor point to make is that there is a scientific basis for the 15 year figure; see e.g. here. This is an AMS seminar, which can be taken as evidence that Maslowski isn’t considered a crank. IIRC he did a paper on this in the last couple of years, but I haven’t read it since I couldn’t find a public copy. I should add that despite a record summer low not being reached in 2006 due to a brief cold snap, the overall extent shrinkage has continued apace, with a record low winter maximum being set last March and IIRC seven months having set new record lows.

    The major point is that in climatological terms the distinction between an ice-free state being reached for the first time in 2020 vs. 2050 is like distinguishing between fast and slow eyeblinks.

  3. #3 XXXX
    February 11, 2007

    Hey Tim, could you give us the 36 self reviews that Ann Coulter did of her own books?

    Any comments on ?

  4. #4 Ian Gould
    February 11, 2007

    I haven’t read the whole piece yet, but I have one immediate comment.

    Anyone who refers to the Wikipedia Foundation as a “company” has gone a long way towards marking themselves as a dumbarse whose views can be safely disregarded.

  5. #5 Ian Gould
    February 11, 2007

    “Interestingly, during the time he mirrored the sites, search engines from companies having a relationship with WP (like google) tended to rate the mirrored site (from Lambert) over the actual sites of Lambert’s targets (like Lott.)”

    Now that’s some quality paranoia right there.

    Google doesn’t use algorithms and search-bots to catalog the several billion webpages in existence, they actually have a Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy at work dedicated to such vital issues as putting Tim Lambert’s blog ahead of Lott’s in their search results.

  6. #6 Ian Gould
    February 11, 2007

    Doubletap provides further proof of Tim’s “lack of moral integrity” courtesy of Ted Lapkin:

    “In November 2003, I argued in the pages of Quadrant magazine that the environmental movement is moral culpable for the deaths of 2 million Africans killed each year by malaria. In mid-February 2005, a left-wing blogger named Tim Lambert (Deltoid) accused me, and others, of participation in what he described as “The Great DDT Hoax.” Without going into all the gory details, the crux of the issue deals with the decision by Sri Lanka to cease using DDT during the mid-1960s.

    I remonstrated with Lambert in an email communication that I stipulated was for private consumption only, citing segments from my Quadrant piece that made his accusation factually unsustainable. But Lambert avoided the substance of my counter-argument like the plague. Instead, Lambert cut and pasted to his website the introductory portion of my email that expressed my desire to resolve this issue amicably rather than litigiously.

    Lambert accused me of threatening him, using my supposedly menacing verbiage as an excuse to disregard my explicit request that my email missive should remain in the private domain. And of course, through the gambit of playing the victim card, Lambert was able to sidestep my factual rebuttal of his hoax claim. How convenient.”

    So Lapkin admits to saying he desired to settle the matter “amicably rather than litigiously” but denies that this was a threat.

    Whose integrity is supposed to be in question here again?

  7. #7 Ian Gould
    February 11, 2007

    So I got curious about Professor Purtilo and found this gem on his homepage:

    “If it’s a hate crime when your targeted for being black, why is it not a hate crime when your targeted for being white?”

    Except of course that there have been numerous hate crime prosecutions and convictions in the US for hate crimes targeting whites.

    Just another refugee from the reality-based community.

  8. #8 John H. Morrison
    February 11, 2007

    I don’t think that Flannery is being alarmist here. We have a trend in a certain direction — the melting of the Arctic ice. Suppose the rate in that direction suddenly shoots up five-fold in one year, and stays high (how high?) the following year. We have no reason to assume that it will fall back to the preceding trend, even if these rates are statistical outliers. Assuming the new numbers to determine the trend may be too far — a worst-case scenario perhaps — but it isn’t alarmist.

  9. #9 Thom
    February 11, 2007

    In other news…..Republcan party fave Roger Pielke Jr. comes to the realization that he and Lomborg are passing out the same talking points. Pielke seems to find this “interesting.”

    Others may wonder, which came first, the contrarian or the skeptic? And does it real matter when it comes to info pollution?

  10. #10 xxxx
    February 11, 2007

    Hey Tim, I am really interested in seeing the evidence that Coulter posted 36 reviews of her own book. How about just showing us maybe 12? How about 6? 36 is an impressive number.

    Who is Puritilo really? It would be nice if you could provide us with the evidence that you had that he is not who he claims to be:
    What about this supposed Michael Gordiner?
    What about this supposed Professor at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill:
    What about this CBaus guy?

    Please help us understand why you made all these claims so tthat they can be explained to others.

  11. #11 Ian Gould
    February 11, 2007

    Yes, Tim, however did you get the absurd idea that John Lott might use sockpuppets to support his positions?

    You’re obviously just jealous of john’s outstanding ability as a teacher as attested to by his former student Mary Rosh.

  12. #12 Abe G.
    February 11, 2007

    “If it’s a hate crime when your targeted for being black, why is it not a hate crime when your targeted for being white?”

    Which should I say to prof. Prutito?
    “Your nuts!” or “You’re nuts!”

  13. #13 xxxx
    February 11, 2007

    Ian your response definitely shows Tim was right about Coulter. Thanks for clearing that up. I had missed the link between Coulter and Lott. Would you please explain it a little more clearly for the slow ones among us? Would you help with these book reviews by Coulter? Would you point to one of the 36 that was clearly hers? You also helped with clearing up the claims regaring Purtilo, Gordiner. Baus, etc.. would you provide one piece of showing Tim’s claim?

  14. #14 Ian Gould
    February 11, 2007

    XXXX, it’s a fine point that has obviously escaped you but I am not Tim.

    Since i have no idea what Tim said about Coulter or where he said it, I’m not in a position to comment on it.

    I AM in a position to comment on why Tim might have thought Lott was employing sock-puppets – seeing as he has himself admitted to doing so – so I did so.

    While you’re around, care to comment on Purtillo’s expose of the Wikipedia/google conspiracy to drive down Lott’s blogerati rating?

  15. #15 ben
    February 11, 2007

    Have any of you read about this work by Svensmark? If it pans out, then the scientific consensus won’t mean much in the future.

  16. #16 Chris O'Neill
    February 12, 2007

    Here are two other big problems with Bolt’s post, which haven’t got through his moderation yet. He seems to be running a hit-and-run style blog.

    Bolt wrote: “In fact, there was a huge melt of Arctic ice as recently as the 1930s”

    In Figure 8 of this page, there doesn’t seem to be too much Arctic ice melt in the 1930s compared with recently. In fact, hardly any at all. Where does Bolt get his “huge melt” in the 1930s from?

    Bolt: “when the place was warmer than NOW, as a peer-reviewed study by Alaskan scientists noted”

    Trouble is, that study ended in 2000. If you use the NCDC’s regional temperature graphing tool for most of the Arctic (70N to 90N) you’ll find that 1947 was indeed warmer than 2000 but 2005, 2003, 2001 and 2002 were all warmer than 1947. (They haven’t added 2006 to their dataset yet.) The Arctic has warmed up a lot since 2000.

    I look forward to Andrew Bolt’s further corrections.

  17. #17 Ian Gould
    February 12, 2007


    This might be more appropriate in the Open Thread but soemone (I think Dano or eli) has already commented on Svensmark’s paper.

    IIRC, the thrust of their response was that Svensmark used a data series for North America cloud cover as a proxy for global cloud cover. when an actual data set for global cloud cover was used instead not only was the claimed correlation between cosmic rays and cloud cover invalidated, an opposite correlation appeared.

    I think there may also have been some dispute about whether the cosmic ray records were sufficiently accurate or of long enough duration to support his interpretation.

  18. #18 ben
    February 12, 2007

    Thanks Ian, I noticed that after I did a google search. I looked quickly on Deltoid and didn’t see anything, and since this particular report was so recent, I figured there would be a recent post here. My mistake, I jumped the gun.

    The thing is though, and I don’t want to hijack this thread, but for another time… if the current GHG global warming consensus turns out to be wrong, what will that mean for scientific consensus in the future? And also, just as important if it turns out to be right, what of scientific consensus, and its political and cultural implications then? Is it possible we could see a “rush to consensus” become popular, or will science hold its objective ground? Or am I wearing too much tinfoil?

  19. #19 ben
    February 12, 2007

    And please, I’m not implying that there was a “rush to consensus” for GHG and global warming, I’m asking what I think is a fair question on the future of science etc.

  20. #20 Nexus 6
    February 12, 2007

    Science has survived wrong consensuses in the past. Here’s a classic example. It is, however, highly unlikely that AGW will turn out to be another example of a wrong consensus.

  21. #21 Jeff Harvey
    February 12, 2007


    So what is your point? The scientific community, by and large, is in agreement over the role of anthropogenic forcing through GHGs on the current climate change episode. What if they – we – (speaking as a scientist) are correct and we do nothing? This is the point that should be addressed. For the most part, its been business-as-usual since the alarm was first raised and since the Union of Concerned Scientists published its ‘World Scientists Warning to Humanity’ document in 1992 which was a stark admission that ‘humans and the natural world are on a collison course’, with ‘urgent changes necessary to avoid the consequences this collison will bring about’. Against the background of this document has been a multi-billion dollar public relations effort on the part of industry to ignore or downplay human impacts on the biosphere. What is worse, these groups are distorting and twisting science to bolster their political agenda. They couldn’t give a rat’s ass about the science, because their views reflect a pre-determined worldview.

    Your comment invokes the recautionary principle, which states that actions should be taken even if cause and effect relationships have not been fully established. For the corporate lobby, this is akin to heresy: they want 100% unequivol proof for negative effects of global change, implying that without 100% proof the problem does not exist. I have exchanged emails with conservatives and libertarians who use this trick of hand all of the time. ‘We want complete proof!’ is their refrain, knowing full well that scientists rarely agree completely on anything. They then use this to dismiss the problem out of hand.

    I will get straight to the point. The future of science – indeed the future quality of life for countless generations – is more than ever dependent on our species finding the political will to deal with a range of anthropogenic assaults on the biopshere, of which climate change is potentially the final nail in the coffin. We cannot simply continue with a slash and burn approach to the biosphere and expect natural systems to function in ways that permit our existence. But this is exactly what we are doing. In the face of volumes of empirical evidence, humans are continuing to simplify nature in a myriad of ways at the same time that we barely understand how these complex systems function. What we do know is that nature generates a wealth of conditions that underpin the wealth of our civilization, but that there is no guarantee that these conditions or services will continue to be reliably furnished given the scope of the current human experiment.

    The scientific facts are these: the biopshere is a complex adaptive system that sustains us through a wealth of ecological serices which freely emerge from them. Species and genetically disticnt populations are the ‘working parts’ of our ecological life support systems. Collectively, via biological interactions, they generate processes which control the cycling of nutrients, the flow of materials and water and the regeneration of the atmopshere. Humans are profoundly interefering with these processes. How far do you think we can tinker with sstems upon which we depend?

  22. #22 Ian Gould
    February 12, 2007

    Actually I think Ben has a point.

    Disproof of the AGW hypothesis at this point would probably be the biggest black eye for science since the acceptance of continental drift or the disproof of the existence of ether.

    But, as with those events, I doubt it would seriously undermine the whole scientific enterprise.

    What could do that is Bill Kristol’s campaign since the 1970’s to manufacture a group of supposedly neutral scientific bodies which are in fact advocacy groups for hire.

  23. #23 xxxx
    February 12, 2007

    Ian, you are fairly entertaining. I did not think of you as being Tim until you raised the point. How can you possibly get that out of what I put up? Possibly given Tim’s apparent incredible ability to inaccurately claim everyone is a sock puppet, you might think that I was trying to follow his lead.

    I just followed the links to what Purtilo (according to Tim claims about 20 times he is Lott) had put up . Tim claims that Ann Coulter put up 36 posts reviewing her own books Since Tim is AWOL, how about you commenting on this
    Isn’t Tim at this website?

  24. #24 Laser Potato
    February 12, 2007

    Is it just me, or is there a slight, faint, tiny possibility that 4x miiiiiight be a troll of some sort?
    Just a thought.

  25. #25 Ian Gould
    February 12, 2007

    LP, why yes I believe he is.

  26. #26 stu
    February 12, 2007

    In Tim’s Coulter post a commenter said, in April 2004, that Amazon told them that the reviews would be removed within a few days. Now, almost three years later, you are asking Tim to justify his claims by pointing out the reviews to which he was referring?

  27. #27 frankis
    February 12, 2007

    Ann Coulter? Beneath contempt frankly. It’s long but Bob Somerby’s comprehensive deconstruction of Coulter’s character is well worth the read here.

    Coulter dissembles as other scribes breathe. Her dishonesty reaches the point of disturbance.

    Of course she would be counter-reviewing her own books under assumed names.

  28. #28 Eli Rabett
    February 12, 2007

    ben take a look at for comments on Svensmark. Also there is something peripheral just up on Real Climate.

  29. #29 PaulS too
    February 13, 2007

    LP, Ian
    Isn’t this interesting? I immediately assumed that XXXX was James M. Purtilo. That’s what reading Tim’s various sock puppet investigations has done to me.

  30. #30 hc
    February 13, 2007

    NewScientist, this week suggests that rather than focusing on deterministic forecasts of temperature and sea level change that attention should focus on the possibility of extreme events simply because these are the events which involved big potential losses.

    If there is a fair amount of scientific uncertainty this seems a prudent response – in this case Tim Flannery’s outlier forecasts might be of interest.

    I’ve noticed a lot of the argument on Deltoid recently concerns mean forecasts when it seems to me that a statistical approach which emphasises the role of catastrophic events as well as the prospect of better than expected outcomes, makes sense.

  31. #31 frankis
    February 13, 2007

    I’m with you hc for an actuarial, insurance risk assessing approach to the less likely / more calamitous of possible climate futures. This’d be little more than the common sense approach wouldn’t it?

  32. #32 hc
    February 13, 2007

    frankis, I think it is commonsense. If you are very uncertain and risk averse you take out insurance against the worst that can happen. If those actions provide ‘no regrets’ benefits (greater fuel economy, less pollution, better protection of the natural environment) the insurance policy costs you less and you have fewer regrets should the bad state of the world not eventuate.

  33. #33 JB
    February 14, 2007

    “Is it possible we could see a “rush to consensus” become popular, or will science hold its objective ground?”

    The case of global warming can hardly be called a “rush to consenus” and it is rare that scientists rush to agree on anything. The usual case in science is just the opposite. Even Einstein’s theory of special relativity took some time to be accepted.

    “Consensus” (as used in this context) and “scientific objectivity” are not mutually exclusive. “Consensus” is really scientists’ best guess (at the moment) about how the world works (in this case, about what is driving global warming)

    This is how science works: scientists make special kinds of educated guesses (called theories) about how the world works and then continually test and refine those guesses. Sometimes the guesses turn out to be completely wrong, but more often, they are “almost right” — eg, Newton’s Laws of motion are right at speeds much less than the speed of light and at sizes that are large compared to atoms.

    It is far more likely that certain aspects of global warming theory will need to be tweaked (eg, with regard to its impact on hurricanes) than that it will turn out to be completely wrong. That, in a nutshell, is what consensus means in this case.

  34. #34 z
    February 17, 2007

    Ah yes, the “I saw something nasty in the woodshed” argument.

    I quote the illustrious Gzuckier,

    “Alternately, how about a Sock Puppet ID Success Ratio, consisting of the number of times a person correctly identified a sock puppet out of the total times he/she identified someone as a sock puppet? On that scale, TL is quite a ways ahead of all those who make vague allegations to “Lambert has sock puppet problems of his own”. Gzuckier 21:49, 22 March 2006 (UTC)”

  35. #35 z
    February 17, 2007

    “Cosmic rays cause global warming” has been popping up on Usenet a lot lately; no doubt one of the Usual Feeds has informed the True Believers. Anyway, a quick Google without even referencing Stoat got me this much:

  36. #36 Helen
    February 25, 2007

    So I got curious about Professor Purtilo and found this gem on his homepage:

    “If it’s a hate crime when your targeted for being black, why is it not a hate crime when your targeted for being white?”

    A supposed professor who confuses your with you’re?

    Get outta here.

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