An unfair headline; but I think it is a known phrase: the “Dumb America” phenomenon, wherein the public has the hubris to believe that they really have something valuable to contribute to discussions that they can hardly begin to understand (I’m assuming that if you aren’t part of DA then you’re intelligent enough to realise I’m not talking about all Americans).
Yes, I’m talking about the comments in Under the Volcano, Over the Volcano by Willis Eschenbach at Wattsup (ht: mt). Incidentally, anyone tempted to complain about my sneering or elitist tone is invited to comment somewhere else. If you want the department of politely answering stupid questions, you want Eli.
[Update: if you didn’t like the tone of this post, you might find somewhat similar ideas expressed in a more measured way by Bart (and links therein to mt).]
It would be funny – were it not sad to see so many victims of disinformation, some of whom still cannot shake themselves free of the poison that they have imbibed so freely over the years – to see so many poor people struggling to get to even the very first rung of understanding of these problems. These people are so fearful that once they give way on the first step – yes, CO2 really is rising – that it will be a terrible slippery slope: pretty soon they will be believing that the rise is caused by people and from there it would only be a small step to Being Al Gore, the horror.
That MLO is on the side of an active volcano clearly troubles many people – how can you possibly meaasure CO2 accurately in that case. Of course you can, and Willis has pulled out enough of the already publically readable documents to explain to people why (though I’m dubious about his day/night assertion: I think they use all measurements that are reliable, regardless of time of day). However what appears to be lacking in *all* the DA comments there is any appreciation that, maybe, the people siting the observatory there might just possibly have thought about where to put it. The default assumption from all the DA folk is “der, those scientists must be really dumb if they didn’t think of that”. Any kind of introspection is definitely out, as indeed is any understanding of the structure of the atmosphere. I’ve just realised that Coby Beck (no relation) did this quite some time ago.
So, enough snarking. As I said at mt’s place, I think Willis should follow up this piece with one that really would make the poor people there explode: one explaining patiently why the CO2 rise is indeed caused by humans. It will be a difficult task: over at WU, there are arguments as logically compelling as While the CO2 is going up, the cause can not be humans. Atmospheric CO2 is only a small proportion (1/5oth) of the CO2 in the system, 98% is in the oceans (sorry, did I say I was done snarking? You know me better than that). [Ha ha, I should have checked before writing: Willis has indeed written such a post – good for him. Looks OK at first glance, too. Haven’t checked the comments yet, so I wonder if my predictions will come true? If you read the “light the blue touchpaper” intro you can see that Willis is nervous. Uupdate: I’m wrong! Hurrah! They have all rolled over. Willis is kind enough to provide them with a convenient space to roll into – yes the CO2 increase is anthro but no it won’t do anything – and I can sense that they aren’t really convinced – there are far too many recurring refs to beck and ZJ – but still: progress. Unfortunately, given Willis’s opinions, that is probably the limit of the progress that can be achieved via him.].
There are plenty of sources for such a post: for example, RC – obviously Watts’ commentators will never read anything from RC, but they might if one of their own like Willis revamped it.
As to the comments there: dismissing the genuinely useless, and the few brave souls who have ventured in to try to explain the truth, there are a few interesting points to note:
* at no point does Watts jump in to correct any of the many egregious errors his commentors make. He does jump in once to stomp on someone who points out that the WMO makes all the data available. Watts isn’t stupid and he isn’t ignorant: he knows perfectly well that CO2 is well mixed, for example, and that the rise in CO2 is anthro. But he chooses to stay silent, presumably not wishing to frighten the horses.
* Willis is careful to be polite about Beck. He goes so far as to say that Beck’s stuff is irrelevant, but is nonetheless kind to it. That is probably good strategy on his part: actually telling them the real truth would be too much of a shock and would cause Rejection.
* And speak of the Devil, but Beck himself turns up in the comments! He too disowns his earlier stuff, and links to his new thing http://www.biomind.de/realCO2/ which shows he has learnt something – he now knows that the wild swings implied by his earlier measurements were utterly implausible, so he has smoothed them out.
* Richard S Courtney is there in the comments too – but he has learnt nothing.
* Inevitably, Zbigniew Jaworowski gets mentioned. Which is great, because it gives me a chance to link to The Golden Horseshoe Award: Jaworowski and the vast CO2 conspiracy. Nuff said.
[ps: anyone tempted to complain, especially New Bugs, about the amazing intelligence of Americans, is invited to read the comment policy first, so as to avoid tedious whinges about censorship afterwards.]
[Update: I forgot to snark about Willis’s uncertainty about the seasonal variation in CO2: in answer to “However, the Mauna Loa data shows seasonal CO2 variation. Why would that be so?” he responds The reasons for the variation is unknown at this point. There are basically three camps, one of which says “plants”, one says “sea temperatures” and the other says “sea ice melt and freeze”. I always “knew” this was because of the differential vegation between the two hemispheres, and it always seemed quite plausible to me. I’ve not seen the refs though. But I’m assured the photosynthesis rates are 100 Gton C per year. So Willis is wrong; there are no three camps. Oh, and he has the CO2 lifetime wrong too, but never mind, we’ll never convince him of that.]
[Update: as an experiment, I decided to tweak Watts: we’ll see if it survives moderation:
What I find astonishing about all of the above discussion of the volcano is: no-one has paused to think: did Keeling *know* about this? Did he perhaps have a very good scientific reason for choosing this site? Did he perhaps… think about it?