Groundpundit Day

Oh look, it’s Glenn Reynolds:

Cracks in the Consensus? Hey, science advances by changing its mind in response to new data. The worrisome thing would be if people didn’t.

And from his link:

Professor Oleg Sorokhtin of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences is advising people “to stock up on fur coats” because he expects an extended period of global cooling, an assessment that is echoed by Kenneth Tapping of the U.S. National Academy of Science’s National Research Council. Both scientists contend solar activity explains most of the temperature variation in the Earth’s atmosphere.

We know that Tapping doesn’t expect an extended period of global cooling, because the previous time that Reynolds linked the exact same thing Tapping wrote:

The article is rubbish.

I believe that global climate change is the biggest problem facing us today. As yet we have no idea of exactly how serious it can get or where the tipping point may be.

The lateness of the start of the solar activity cycle is not yet enough to be something to worry about. However, even if we were to go into another minimum, and the Sun dims for a few decades, as it did during the Maunder Minimum, it could reduce the problem for a while, but things will come back worse when the cycle starts again.

And these folks just keep reporting the same bogus stuff about Tapping. Lorne Gunter:

Kenneth Tapping of our own National Research Council, who oversees a giant radio telescope focused on the sun, is convinced we are in for a long period of severely cold weather if sunspot activity does not pick up soon.


  1. #1 Steve L
    May 22, 2008

    I’m convinced that we’re in for a considerable cooling spell if the sun stops shining for some reason.

  2. #2 DaPrez
    May 22, 2008

    Yeah… but we all will still have to go to work if the sun doesn’t come up. At least for a few days

  3. #3 stewart
    May 22, 2008

    Interesting that Reynolds and Gunter can’t even agree what country he’s in. For the record, he works in British Columbia, Canada, with the National Research Council of Canada. Of course, they’re too busy lying about the big thing to care about the little details.

  4. #4 Richard McGuire
    May 22, 2008

    The National Post article you refer to was published in, wait for it, the May edition of Dive Log Australasia on page 46. Which was a nice follow up to Bob Halstead’s “polemic” in the same edition on page 42. For background see my posting in response to “Arnold Kling spreads DDT ban myth,” May 2nd. I await with keen interest the June edition of Dive Log Australasia. I hope it wont be necessary to slot Dive Log into your “Disinformation Cycle” March 25th. But I digress. It was great to see the record put straight regards Kenneth Tapping. However unanswered questions remain about, Oleg Sorokhtin, Gilles Langis, Robert Toggweiler and Joellen Russel. My research suggests Sorokhtin and Langis may well support the views expressed in the article. However Toggweiler and Russel do appear to be credible. Was their research misused in the National Post article? If it was, why have they not responded as Tapping did? Misuse of scientist’s research by the denial industry is all too common. What is also common is the slowness or failure of the scientists affected to put the record straight.

  5. #5 Richard McGuire
    May 22, 2008

    Correction. Joellen Russell.

  6. #6 stewart
    May 23, 2008

    Yes, it appears Russell is part of the consensus, and her research has been misrepresented. Here’s a lay summary of her work:

  7. #7 George Darroch
    May 23, 2008

    There’s some creative writing from Freeman Dyson in the NY Review of books.

  8. #8 (((Billy)))
    May 23, 2008

    [snarky on]Come on, people. You can’t actually expect a scientist (they are well known for being absent-minded, you now (or they become evil and try to take over the world)) to actually remember his own research? All Reynolds is doing is helping this poor scientist to remember the results of his research. Somebody has to help these absent-minded power-hungry fools. You can’t trust the scientist, you know. [snarky off]

  9. #9 Ben
    May 23, 2008

    Correction, that is Professor Oleg Sorokhtin of the Russian Academy of Chinchilla Ranchers

  10. #10 John Mashey
    May 23, 2008

    #4 Richard McGuire

    Toggweiler is certainly credible [and I was pleased that some of this work was done on computers I helped architect :-)].

    If a newspaper article or blog anywhere in the world mis-uses scientists’ work, *must* they seek it out and provide disclaimers? Of course, in some cases, this means that they would spend 100% of their time doing this, and 0% of their time doing actual research. [This appears to be the explicit goal of some people who don’t like the results of the research.] Fending off popular-press errors gains ~zero brownie points for tenure, I’d guess.

    Many scientists would rather spend their time doing research they think of lasting value, and have little or no patience for bothering to refute something in the National Post. Toggweiler seems to fit that.

    Some have an intermediate position where they mostly focus on research, and only occasionally deal with mis-use when it really intrudes on them. I think Bill Ruddiman would fall in that category, where most of his fine “Plows, Plagues, and Petroleum” is about science, but Chapter 18 is a *really thoughtful* high-level analysis of the distortions of science in various directions.

    Some scientists (like Stephen Schneider) do have a long history of being willing to spend time on the popular press and actively engaging denialist mis-statements … but even then, there is only so much time.

    Realistically, we cannot rely on scientists spending all their time to catch and fix all of this, the rest of us must help out. Tin was kind to post my comments on helping the press, but of course, if the press doesn’t want to be helped, it’s pretty hard.

  11. #11 Martin Vermeer
    May 24, 2008

    John, I have been wondering why individual scientists should be doing this; isn’t this what professional organizations are for?

    I also wonder what the legal status is of a scientist misrepresented in this way. Misrepresentation as such is probably not actionable; but if a scientist is made to say things that by someone versed in the art would be regognised as stupid, dishonest or both, then the libel treshold cannot be far.

    Same for forgery of signature, which IMHO involuntary co-authorship amounts to. You wouldn’t want to be caught doing that on a cheque. It is here that natural reluctance to socialize with lawyers becomes a liability.

  12. #12 Richard McGuire
    May 25, 2008

    10# John Mashey. I take John’s point about scientists having better things to do, than to respond to every misleading opinion piece about their research. At the same time one can only imagine what The Heartland Institute could have achieved with their list of 500 “contrarian scientists”, were it not for the fact that many of those scientists protested publicly and loudly about being on that list. Although their names remain on the Hearland list, their protests surely undermined any credibility that the list had. Despite the protests of Kenneth Tapping the National Post article retains credibility while it can cite the research of Toggweiler and Russell.

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