Et tu, Ockham’s razor?

ABC’s normally excellent Ockham’s razor has taken a refreshing change from presenting the thoughts of scientists on science based on peer-reviewed research to presenting the opinion of a political scientist on global warming based on stuff he found on denialist web sites. Yes, they had Don Aitkin on. Now just because Aitkin isn’t a scientist and his sources weren’t scientists either it doesn’t necessarily follow that he would get his facts wrong, but that would be the way to bet. And if you had bet that way you would have won. Look:

It warmed again from 1975 to 1998, and then it stopped warming again.

No, warming did not stop in 1998.


It will be plain to you that the IPCC is worried, and in one of its four major reports it went to some trouble to argue that the warming of the late 20th century had no counterpart in the last 1,000 years. … In any case, the paper on which the IPCC’s claim relied was subject to intense scholarly criticism, and was dropped from, and not referred to, in the IPCC’s most recent report.

So I guess the figure below, from page 467 in chapter 6 of the IPCC’s most recent report, must be a hallucination, because it includes the graph from the paper in question, MBH99.

i-dfc398d5732e17f898f2b60984536795-ipcca4wg1fig6.10b.png

Our present average temperature is not yet at the level of the peak in the mediaeval warm period.

The published scientific evidence rather goes against this claim — see the graph above.

And there is no doubt that the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is increasing, at between 1 and 2 parts per million each year. It is at least likely that human activity is responsible for some of that increase.

Jeepers, he’s not giving anything away, is he? If the increase isn’t due to human activities, what is causing it? And where is all the CO2 we emit going?

The correlation between the increase in carbon dioxide and the increase in temperature over the past century, however, is not strong, and over the last ten years is nil.

This isn’t true. Look at the graph from the nice IPCC report:

i-d4caacee2dcef7cc7301a13036497fb4-ipcca4wg1spmfig4.png

On the evidence it is not obvious that an increase in the earth’s atmospheric temperature would be a bad thing.

The evidence is in another extensive IPCC report, and an increase is likely to have some bad consequences.

It is worth remembering that the little ice age was a time of food shortages, and it was also the time where in the search for explanation, witches were burned to expiate the evil thought to have caused God’s wrath.

There are echoes of that sentiment today, and because carbon dioxide currently has a bad press, it is worth remembering that all animals depend upon it because it is the chief plant food, and all of us eat plants and/or the animals that eat plants themselves.

The IPCC are basically witch burners and we eat plants and animals. Got it.

For my part, I am as yet unpersuaded that there is good evidence to support the claim that the increase in carbon dioxide concentrations is alarming, and the IPCC has not provided it. What it has done is to model climate, and to provide forecasts of the kinds of climate we might have if various futures were to take place. Some of these forecasts are dire. But models are models; they are not the real thing, and they don’t prove anything.

Yes, for 100% proof, we would have to conduct the experiment. Most of us don’t like to take such risks.

Comments

  1. #1 John Mashey
    April 27, 2008

    So, at the end, I see he returns next week.

    I don’t have enough context on Robyn Williams & Ockham’s Razor to advise, but along the lines of what to do about poor science reporting that Tim so kindly posted, is anyone in Oz actually going to work on this?

  2. #2 mz
    April 27, 2008

    My god, it’s contagious. Tim, soon you will have guest posts by David Archibald on the blog…

    The media over there seems to be a joke, sadly. The concept of truth seems to be escaping them.

  3. #3 z
    April 27, 2008

    if in the middle of a huge drought they can say “On the evidence it is not obvious that an increase in the earth’s atmospheric temperature would be a bad thing.” there’s no hope

  4. #4 anthony
    April 27, 2008

    I’m subscribed to Ockham’s Razor’s podcasts and have been disappointed of late to find a number of the shows have had the feeling of being cornered by someone who thinks that finally they’ve found someone who’ll listen to them. So yes, Don.

  5. #5 Tony of South Yarra
    April 27, 2008

    >[P]resenting the opinion of a political scientist on global warming based on stuff he found on denialist web sites.

    Not much different from a computer scientist presenting opinions on global warming on his blog, based on stuff he found on the internet.

    His opinion seems just as valid as yours.

  6. #6 dhogaza
    April 27, 2008

    Not much different from a computer scientist presenting opinions on global warming on his blog, based on stuff he found on the internet.

    Well, actually there is a qualitative difference between presenting scientific consensus vs. denialist horseshit.

    I wouldn’t equate someone who agrees with the scientific consensus that if you stand under an apple and it falls from the tree, it will fall downon your head, with a denialist who insists it’s going to fly up and knock down an airliner at 10000 meters altitude …

  7. #7 David
    April 27, 2008

    To be fair to “Ockham’s Razor” (and Robyn Williams), the presenter is quite aware that AGW is a reality. (Many editions of his “Science Show” have been about it.) I can’t imagine why he would have had Aitkin on his show, unless it was to make him look foolish and ignorant. He seems (from the transcript) to have been quite neutral, whereas he’s wont to call it as he sees it on the Science Show (“… from the ‘complete ballocks’ school of documentary making” is more or less how he described “The Great Global Warming Conspiracy”, for instance.)

  8. #8 James
    April 28, 2008

    I would guess it’s Janet Albrechtson and the other rightwingers on the ABC board making one last effort to force “balance” down our throats before they get the chop.

  9. #9 WotWot
    April 28, 2008

    Robyn Williams (and The Science Show and Ockham’s Razor) have outstanding records. But the ABC’s board has been stacked with conservative loonies like Janet Albrechtson, who have been imposing their narrow political agendas on the ABC like mad. It will take a few years for the new government to change that.

    His opinion seems just as valid as yours.
    Tony of South Yarra

    Aitkin is entitled to his own opinion. He is not entitled to his own objective facts. BIG difference.

    Wouldn’t happen to be the same Tony of South Yarra who posted this list of superficial gotcha talking points?

    http://tinyurl.com/5573hb

    (Scroll down near the bottom of the page.)

  10. #10 bi -- Intl. J. Inact.
    April 28, 2008

    Nice, WotWot. The so-called quotes of the more “outrageous” predictions regurgitated by Tony all have ellipses in them. I think I know what that means. :)

  11. #11 Bernard J.
    April 28, 2008

    I reckon that James and WotWot have their fingers on the pulse.

    Williams is an outstanding science reporter, and as mentioned in other fora he is very clear about the scientific consensus on climate change. I didn’t hear this particular episode, so I can’t tell from the nuance of voice, but from what I can gather through reading William’s comments in text I’d say he’s doing his best to maintain the ‘balanced neutrality’ that the conservative ABC Board require.

    I suspect that it won’t be too long before the gloves come off at the ABC, once ‘Gerry Mander’ and his mates leave the Board. And Aitkin is now on national record as having made a complete clown of himself and of his sympathisers’ ideas, which will only erode their credibility in the long run.

    I rather suspect too that Williams will even pluck these two blatherings of Aitkin’s out of the hat at some time in the future, to rub more than a few people’s noses in the denialist do-do.

    I for one am happy for folk such as Aitkin to leave a record for the cruel knife of posterity to operate upon. And as much as I fret that they might be delaying mitigating action, I am more convinced these days that they are only growing in irrelevance.

    If so, the denialist ploys hurt themselves more than anyone else.

    If not, then I guess that they will be recorded in the future as the ‘mass muderers’ who are so hysterically the fixation of the folk over at Catallaxy.

  12. #12 Thom
    April 28, 2008

    Lambert wrote: the IPCC’s most recent report, must be a hallucination, because it includes the graph from the paper in question, MBH99.

    ———————————–

    Good grief. You just cited Michael Mann. Now all the wing-nuts are gonna’ descend on Deltoid…..

    McIntyre, I believe somebody just rang your dinner bell.

  13. #13 Barton Paul Levenson
    April 28, 2008

    Tony writes:

    Not much different from a computer scientist presenting opinions on global warming on his blog, based on stuff he found on the internet.

    His opinion seems just as valid as yours.

    It would only seem that way to a scientific illiterate. Sorry, all opinions are not equal.

  14. #14 Eli Rabett
    April 28, 2008

    Eli, being a practical Rabett, hereby opens the campaign to place Tim Lambert on the ABC board. Vote early, vote often, and if you are an Aussie, call, write, Email and annoy your Member of Parliament.

    The million bloggers march will commence at your nearest beer dispensory

  15. #15 CWells
    April 28, 2008

    Mann and all his supporter followers have all been shown multiple times to have used flawed proxies, and then overweighed their significance in the PC process to come up with their flawed conclusions.
    The fact the IPCC reused the graph who’s data and calculation process have been deemed flawed by Wegman, et al, doesn’t make the graph correct; it just brings into question the IPCC and your truthfulness in regurgitating bad data.
    CWells

  16. #16 guthrie
    April 28, 2008

    Own up, who is being the first anti-mann troll, as predicted by Thom?

  17. #17 Tony of South Yarra
    April 28, 2008

    >It would only seem that way to a scientific illiterate. Sorry, all opinions are not equal.

    The opinions of both are formed by information gathered from other sources, not their own research. Each cherry-picks the facts to support their own position. Any criticism of Don Aitken in that regard can equally be applied to Tim Lambert.

  18. #18 WotWot
    April 28, 2008

    Each cherry-picks the facts to support their own position. Any criticism of Don Aitken in that regard can equally be applied to Tim Lambert.

    Bollocks.

  19. #19 dhogaza
    April 28, 2008

    The opinions of both are formed by information gathered from other sources, not their own research. Each cherry-picks the facts to support their own position. Any criticism of Don Aitken in that regard can equally be applied to Tim Lambert.

    Well, you might have a point if it weren’t for the fact that Tim Lambert “cherry-picks” from papers written by scientists, whil apparently Witken cherry-picks from paper meant for butt-wiping …

  20. #20 kent
    April 28, 2008

    To use the IPCC as a valid source really is pushing the envelope. The un has shown itself to be so wrong, so many times that to use it as a “source” is just plain wrong. If Tim wishes to convince us of an argument he really does need to use valid sources. Don’t forget boys and girls that Co2…water vapour is a negative feedback system not a positive one.

  21. #21 Bill O'Slatter
    April 28, 2008

    Robin Williams needs his attention drawn to the definition of “Occams Razor” and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occam's_Razor supplies an excellent one. Aitkins fails to fall into the category of somebody who is delivering “Occams Razor” by simply getting his facts wrong.

  22. #22 Doug Clover
    April 28, 2008

    Kent

    Where exactly has WG1 of the IPCC been wrong – be specific with citations.

    Please provide a reference for increasing CO2 and increasing water vapour being a negative feedback

  23. #23 Majorajam
    April 29, 2008

    Why do we have to measure full years to decide that global warming has stopped? It was much colder these last few days then it was in late March- clearly something is amiss with your crackpot theory.

    Ahhhhh… a frontal lobe liberated from one’s cortex. Eases the pain.

  24. #24 Bernard J.
    April 29, 2008

    CWells.

    Seeing as though you are a font of inspired wisdom on the use of proxies, perhaps you can explain to me why contemporary phenology, and related biological responses, are not good indicators of climate change.

    I have long lost count of the number of times that I ask this question of the denialists, and so far the response has been underwhelming. In fact not a one has dared to step into this territory so far – perhaps deep in their waters they understand that the biosphere is admitting something that they steadfastly refuse to so do.

    After all, if climate change stopped in ’98 and the New Ice-age thus began, then the wee birdies and purdie flowers should be back-pedalling with respect to their phenological naughtiness, which really never actually began in the first place… did it?

    Look, I’ve even made it easy for your crowd by desisting from the use of the term ‘integrator’, which seems to flummox some. Either that or they know very well what it means, and simply don’t want to address it.

    Oh, and if you think that you can contradict the biosphere, perhaps you could also enlighten us as to why Aitkin omitted to address the shortcomings of using biospheric integration in his AGW ‘rebuff’ (I shudder to dignify his diatribe with that term…).

    Even the professional deniers seem to leave this matter alone.

  25. #25 Chris O'Neill
    April 29, 2008

    Own up, who is being the first anti-mann troll, as predicted by Thom?

    You’ll never get rid of them. I was amazed by what it took to finally get one of them to stop asserting that Mann was lying because the troll KNEW what Mann meant in one of his statements. Refer to Tamino. In spite of giving up on the original argument at that point, the troll then started another troll about Wahl and Amman’s results being mathematically illogical. Being a troll, instead of thinking about whether he had a profound misunderstanding of Mann, he thought he had a better idea of what Wahl and Amman’s results should look like than Wahl and Amman themselves, or any of the reviewers or anyone else who could have published something to the contrary in the meantime. Trolls’ arrogance knows no bounds. You’ll never get rid of them.

  26. #26 David
    April 29, 2008

    Marohasy has just taken Robyn Williams to task for being rude and abrasive to Prof Aitkin (I think … it’s actually an unusually confused bit of writing, even allowing for its source) here: http://www.jennifermarohasy.com/blog/archives/002973.html

    It’s a hoot.

  27. #27 Bernard J.
    April 29, 2008

    If anyone who listens to the ABC by radio or online, or who follows their stories through the webpages, would like to comment to the ABC on the scientific bona fides of Aitkin’s waffle, you can do so on this page.

    Even better, there is always the opportunity for someone with the nouse and the public speaking capacities to write their own Ockham’s Razor piece countering Aitkin.

    Oh, and for the trolls who might want to write in, I’ve given the Razor team a link to help them sniff out trollshit. They’ll be ready for you…

    Mwah ha ha haaa!

  28. #28 Luke Silburn
    April 29, 2008

    CWells@15 –
    That’s a different argument and OT for this comments thread.

    The point at question was the assertion by Aitken in the programme that the IPCC had ‘dropped’ MBH98 from the FAR. To which the answer is, of course, “No it hasn’t”, as demonstrated by that graph Tim put into his post.

    Regards
    Luke

  29. #29 ceezee
    April 29, 2008

    I was pretty shocked to be hearing this twaddle from Aitken on O.R. when I streamed it the other day.

    It immediately made me wonder who was paying him to carry this water. Is he on any corporate boards of note? Or just balderdash for hire?

  30. #30 John Mashey
    April 29, 2008

    re: #27
    Cheers! finally, a plausible answer for #1, for action in th real world.
    But if somebody does, I hope they’ll be constructively helpful to Williams, especially if he’s operating under difficult constraints.

  31. #31 Francis
    April 29, 2008

    Somewhat off topic, I’m fascinated by the “global ocean” IPCC graph reproduced by Prof. Lambert.

    Does anyone have a good explanation as to why ocean temps were higher than models in what appears to be the 1940s?

    Having temps higher than anticipated would suggest to me that the models are too conservative and therefore that the planet may be more responsive to forcings than the IPCC consensus.

    thanks

    [a confused land use lawyer]

  32. Francis:

    My (rudimentary) understanding is that, yes, the models are conservative.

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