The series of articles on climate change in The Conversation continues:

Mike Sandiford: Our effect on the earth is real: how we’re geo-engineering the planet:

In Australia natural erosion removes about 100 million tonnes of sediment each year. With our annual exports of coal and iron ore now at about 600 million tonnes, we have increased the geological erosion rate of the continent by many factors. …

Our best estimates place human industrial emissions of sulfur dioxide and COâ‚‚ at five and 100 times natural volcanic emissions, respectively. …

The rate heat is released from the earth – a measure of its natural “metabolic rate” – is well understood. It’s about 44 trillion watts, and reflects the average rate of energy transferred in moving all the continents, making all the mountains, the earthquakes and the volcanoes on our planet in a process we call plate tectonics.

By way of contrast, the International Energy Agency estimates our human “energy system” operates at a rate of some 16 trillion watts.

Ove Hoegh-Guldberg Who’s your expert? The difference between peer review and rhetoric:

Writing in Quadrant Online Bob Carter, David Evans, Stewart Franks and Bill Kininmonth stated, “The scientific advice contained within The Critical Decade is an inadequate, flawed and misleading basis on which to set national policy.” …

One way to resolve this is to ask a simple question. If Carter and company hold different views to those expressed in the majority of the peer-reviewed, scientific literature, then have they submitted their ideas to independent and objective peer-review? …

So the number of peer-reviewed papers that adequately expose the ideas of Carter and co-authors to the scientific peer-review system on the climate change issue is 0, 0, 0 and 0.

Stephan Lewandowsky Climate change denial and the abuse of peer review:

Very occasionally a contrarian paper does appear in a peer-reviewed journal, which segments of the internet and the media immediately hail as evidence against global warming or its human causes, as if a single paper somehow nullifies thousands of previous scientific findings. …

For example, in 2003 the reputable journal Climate Research published a paleoclimatological analysis that concluded, in flat contradiction to virtually all existing research, that the 20th century was probably not the warmest of the last millennium. … The paper also engendered some highly unusual fall-out. … Three editorial resignations and a publisher’s acknowledgement of editorial flaws are not standard scientific practice and call for further examination of the authors and the accepting editor.

Later, De Freitas co-authored a paper in 2009 that some media outlets heralded as showing that climate change was down to nature. … What happens to data if successive annual values are subtracted from each other? This mathematically removes any linear time trend. …

To remove the linear trend from temperature data in a paper that does not address climate change, and to then claim that nature is responsible for global warming and there is no scientific basis for emissions regulations smacks of an inversion of scientific ethics and practice.

The paper by Wegman and colleagues was officially withdrawn because of substantial plagiarism. Conforming to the typical pattern of inversions, Wegman also appears to have plagiarized large parts of his initial hockeystick critique for Congressman Barton, while additionally distorting and misrepresenting many of the conclusions of the cited authors.

Michael J. I. Brown When scientists take to the streets it’s time to listen up:

When the forces of non-science are this strong, it’s time for scientists to respond. …

Non-science claims science is not to be trusted.

To back this claim they provide examples of where there have been paradigm shifts in science; relativity, dinosaur extinction, plate tectonics and the causes of ulcers.

But there are stark differences between these paradigm shifts and the current climate debate.

When paradigm shifts have occurred, often the evidence for the prevailing theory had been weak.

Paradigm shifts have also been accompanied by robust evidence contrary to the prevailing theory. For example, relativity was preceded by precision measurements of the constant speed of light.

In contrast, those denying climate change only use weak evidence.


  1. #1 Connor
    June 21, 2011

    Hey, Tim, can you do a piece on The Oz’s hatchet job on the IPCC’s report from a couple of weeks back accusing them of fraud for daring to use a peer reviewed paper that was originally published by Greenpeace 9before being reviwed)?

  2. #2 Jimmy Nightingale
    June 21, 2011

    Thanks for drawing our attention to this series Tim. It is excellent stuff and, while it won’t sway the minds of the hordes of ideologues descending on that site, it is amusing seeing them up against people who know what they are talking about. Well, it would be amusing, if the consequences of doing nothing weren’t so series.

    Having said all that, it is a drop in the ocean against the well-funded, repetitive and organised disinformation campaign by the Murdoch media.

  3. #3 V. infernalis
    June 21, 2011

    Check out the comments by John McLean and Willis Eschenbach on Ove’s post. Conspiracy theories abound.

  4. #4 bill
    June 21, 2011

    I was inspired to write this article by the discussion threads that follow climate change articles in “The Conversation”, where many of the tactics of non-science are on display.

    Dr. Michael Brown deserves a special mention for his indefatigable efforts in the comments threads at The Conversation, patiently refuting all those tedious Denialist tropes!

    We all know what an exasperating and thankless task that is, so I’d like to acknowledge his sterling efforts!

  5. #5 IW
    June 21, 2011

    So how much reliance should we place on a source which sports the headline this morning “…naturopathy has come in from the cold”?

  6. #6 rhwombat
    June 21, 2011

    IW@5: Well, the Rupertarian flagship’s recent editorial said I could trust them implicitly (unlike those dreadful Fairfax people), so who am I to argue? I’m just an Infectious Diseases Physician with a PhD. Steven Lewandowsky must be lapping up all this data on the incidence of delusional maniacs who think it’s a good idea to prove his point by posting.

  7. #7 Mikem
    June 21, 2011

    The cause of ulcers is an example I often turn around on “sceptics”, or shall we call them more accurately “pseudo-sceptics” or most accurate of all, climate denialists?

    They point to the Nobel Prize-winning work of Marshall and Warren as an example of lone scientists turning convention on its head. But in actual fact the differences are stark.

    Marshall & Warren started with relatively weak and circumstantial evidence in the first place for the “consensus” position of the cause of ulcers. Climate denialists do not.

    They then went about doing the hard yards of exhaustive research to discover the real cause. Climate denialists do not.

    After doing the exhaustive research, and finding extremely convincing evidence, they then set about making this work solid enough to pass peer review. Climate denialists do not.

    Marshall & Warren’s work was so well organised and so well documented that it passed review, made it to publication, and was well supported by even those who had held the previous positions, resulting in the wholly justifiable award of the Nobel Prize for Medicine. It currently seems unlikely that any work done by climate denialists will ever reach such standards.

    It is chalk and cheese…..

  8. #8 dhogaza
    June 21, 2011

    Also many ulcers *aren’t* caused by bacterial infection, something that seems to be missed by skeptics who tout this example. When the accepted causes do, indeed, often cause a disease an additional cause (bacterial infection, in this case) isn’t necessarily going to be as obvious than if it were the sole cause.

    As an analogy, consider climate. The accepted causes of climate change over most of the planet’s history are natural causes, changes in TSI, malenkovic cycles, faint sun etc etc.

    The real analogue to the discovery of Marshall and Warren is that burning immense amounts of fossil fuels can increase atmospheric CO2 to the point where currently it’s the source of rapid warming, swamping non-anthropogenic changes in forcing …

  9. #9 John Mashey
    June 21, 2011

    The Conversation certainly deserves support; do go over and post. Also, encourage them to create an equivalent of the RC Borehole, as they need it. It even got Andrew Montford aka Bishop Hill aka He Who Quotes Dog Astrology Journal aka HWQDAJ for short to visit and pontificate.

  10. #10 ligne
    June 21, 2011

    > Also many ulcers aren’t caused by bacterial infection, something that seems to be missed by skeptics who tout this example.

    aha, if not all of them are caused by bacterial infection, **none** of them are!

    that’s how logic works, isn’t it?

  11. #11 Neil Bates
    June 21, 2011

    Maybe most people can at least appreciate that CO2 is a stimulis to a complex system (sort of like, changing interest rates in an economy) and so it’s hard to be sure exactly what the result will be – however, we know that lowering interest rates will probably ramp up the economy, etc. So CO2 is a risk factor. It doesn’t matter (to the point of it mattering, of course the result “matters”!) whether we can be sure temperatures will rise X degrees in n years, etc. As Tom Friedman wrote: it’s a risk worth preventing, and most of what reduces CO2 is worth doing anyway for other reasons.

  12. #12 Jeffrey Davis
    June 22, 2011

    People don’t become Nazis because they belong to a group. People who are Nazis join groups. Who are they, Monckton? You can name names. Go ahead.