Climate Science Roundup

Chris Mooney has a well-written review of Michael Crichton's State of Fear. I picked up a copy at the book store and read a couple of pages from the middle. It was like a Tech Central Station column, except that it was a speech by one of the characters, with occasional lame objections by another character. Oh, and it had footnotes. I don't know if you were supposed to imagine Crichton's character speaking the footnotes or what. I didn't buy the speech or the book.

John Quiggin also has a book review. His is of Lomberg's new book.

Over at RealClimate Michael Mann and Gavin Schmidt take on some of the shoddy climate papers that have slipped through peer review.

And what roundup would be complete without a leavening of Louis Hissink? His latest post asserts that scientists don't how to compute average temperature correctly. He is, of course, wrong and I explained how they do it, with links to the relevant papers in the comments to this post. Computing a weighted average is high school maths, but despite having no evidence at all to support his opinion and plenty to contradict it, Hissink remains convinced that the scientists don't know how to work out a weighted average.

I emailed "Henry Thornton" (who runs the website where Hissink's posts appear in the *cough* Science section) asking why he had someone so manifestly unsuited for the job writing about science. "Thornton" replied:

Louis is colorful, committed and interesting.

So is the Weekly World News.


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The effort to keep the public record straight on climate change is highly asymmetric.
On one side, we have the climate research community. Its members must try to get answers to difficult questions from a (not always cooperative) physical world, and convey them to the public while making clear the limits of what they know.

On the other side, we have industries that would be harmed by climate-related policy changes, and those sympathetic to them. All they need to do is prevent or delay any action on climate change. They are not required to qualify anything they say to reflect the state of their knowledge; quite the contrary. They can and do say any damn thing, true or not, to cast doubt on the results of climate research. As long as it prevents action, it has achieved its purpose.

Does it matter whether Willie Soon, or Zbigniew Jaworowski, or Ross McKitrick is found credible by a majority of knowledgeable scientists? Not a bit. All that matters is that the seed of doubt is sown. There will be plenty of bloggers, columnists and (God help us) US Senators to water it.

We see the same thing in microcosm here. A few posts back, Louis found himself getting backed into a corner on CO2 measurement variability. The answer? Simple -- change the subject. "The Layering observed in ice cores is due ... to unpredictable depositions of snow. Hence ice-cores are not accurate stratigraphical markers."
Ai-yi-yi ... so now we need to explain why and how ice-core strata can be reliably dated, while the CO2 issue gets pushed to the back. Climate change contrarians can force their interlocutors to play this game of whack-a-mole indefinitely, and be completely successful -- since all they need to do is run out the clock.

It would be easy to get depressed over this -- after all, On the Origin of Species was published 145 years ago, and we still have stickers in textbooks proclaiming that evolution is a "theory, not a fact" -- but this blog is urged to keep fighting the good fight nevertheless.

Well said, jre - whack-a-mole. Let us resolve to not let the Louis' of the skeptic (sceptic - or as someone here says 'septic') world change the subject. Let us keep them on subject and point out when they change the subject. Best,D

So here is a little table for you all to think about.

I can add mass to mass and get mass.

But I can't add temperature or density the same way I can mass.


Block Mass(gm) Temperature (degC) Density
1 100 19 2.3
2 50 23 2.4
Total 150 42 4.7

Somethings are addable folks, somethings are not.


Mahalia Jackson: Suummmertime and the fishing is eaasyy.
Fish are jumping.....

By Louis Hissink (not verified) on 22 Jan 2005 #permalink

Thanks Tim,For deleting the previous posts, which I knew you would, and confirming my argument by linking to the above reference.

By Louis Hissink (not verified) on 22 Jan 2005 #permalink

But I can't add temperature or density the same way I can mass.
Louis, there's lots of things you can't do.

There's lots of quantities that don't add simply, Louis. If a group of people A on average weigh 150 lb, and group B has an average weight of 100 lb, the average of the the two groups isn't 250 lbs. What's your point? Do you think that there is no average weight for the combined group?

If I go 5 miles east, then 7 miles north, then I'm less than 12 miles from my starting point. Is distance a myth?

I think you'd be best off using your strongest argument; temperature data before 1973 isn't meaningful because the thermometer hadn't been invented yet.

By Jonathan Dursi (not verified) on 22 Jan 2005 #permalink

Fellas, Louis is reinforcing the whack-a-mole concept introduced by jre.Dang, it works well, dunnit?Best,D

=Steve gets on soapbox=

I think that, within reason, we should spend less time debating the science, and more time making appeals to authority.

What is the point of non-climate scientists debating the science? The futility of such debate is evident in the ridiculous discussions with LouisH.

If we all had perfect rationality, and an infinite amount of time, then ad hominem and appeals to authority might be logical fallacies, but for non-climate scientist decision makers with limited time, they are necessary. You need to decide which sources of info are authoritative, and dismiss the ones that are not. A 'good thinker' can do this quickly.

I think it is a complete waste of time to debate with Louis. Nobody will ever convince him, no matter how rational the argument. Lets call a spade a spade - Louis is a fanatic, a faith-based skeptic who will not budge no matter what evidence is put before him - he would rather position himself with radical and non-peer reviewed skeptic arguments than conservative, peer-reviewed mainstream science.

He is not an authoritative source of info, and should be ignored by anyone who does not have oodles of time to waste debating him.

I think we should all recognise that there are much more authoritative sources of info on climate science than Louis, and stop giving him oxygen by debating with him.

Just say "Louis, the IPCC disagrees with you - thousands of scientists who contribute to a peer reviewed publication that is 4 years in the making disagree with you."

Louis will then come up with a raft of conspiracy theories in an attempt to damage the authority of the IPCC, but he won't be able to come up with a more authoritative source. This last point is important so I'll repeat it: Louis and other skeptics might challenge the authority of the IPCC, but they cannot sensibly provide a more conservative and authoritative source of info to replace it with.

Science is about peer reviewed publication in recognised journals, and debate occurs over years as new articles come out either criticising or reinforcing the existing literature. We should refer to this, and not waste time trying to debate oblique and radical science with Louis in this forum.

I think the role of blogs such as this should be to make mainstream science more accessible, ie, to educate, not to do science. If mainstream opinion on climate science isn't accessible to decision makers and lay people, then the information vacuum can be exploited by the likes of Tech Central Station and the Lavoisier Group and Louis.

This site shouldn't get bogged down in debating with whackos, it should just provide links to authoritative info, and continually contrast this with non-authoritative, non peer reviewed tripe.

=Steve gets off soapbox=

PS. IF this blog is more about entertainment than science or education, then that changes everything of course.

Steve, good post and points. Of course it could do both, and it's is educational and entertaining to see what's wrong being shown to be wrong. IMO, the sceptics to spend time on are those who get quoted - no need to name them but there are some individuals and organisations worth the experts (and I'm not one) spending time exposing. Louis isn't in that catagory, he's just too wacko.

What would Leftists do without appeals to authority?

Galileo was squeashed by appeals to the experts of his day too

Yeah, good on you John. For every Gallileo, I'm sure there are 100,000 no-nothing loons. Do you honestly think any climate skeptic remotely qualifies to be associated with a great historical figure of science like Gallileo?

When I was a child I thought that magicians used real magic, but that idea was squashed with appeals to experts too.

It is radical to go against the authority of the day, and while it is possible for the mainstream authority to be incorrect, and while it makes a nice feel good underdog story for you to go against that authority, it doesn't make you correct, or likely to be correct. It is more sensible and more conservative to go with the mainstream, and the mainstream in the climate debate is that global warming is occurring due to anthropgenic CO2 emissions. If I don't listen to the IPCC, who should I listen to instead?



John Ray wrote, What would Leftists do without appeals to authority?

LOL! As if Rightists and Centrists never do.

In fact, right-wing religious thugs make the ultimate appeal to authority: God.

Galileo was not, in fact, squashed by appeals to the scientific experts of the day, but threatened with torture by the Church. And, strangely enough, the people threatening Galileo were not Leftists.

Also, an appeal to authority is a legitimate argument if the authority in question is actually an expert in the field (plus some other conditions, see here for a full list). It's only a logical fallacy if the person is not an expert in the subject under discussion.

Given the complexity of fields like climate science or evolution, giving single instances of apparent problems in the theory (the "whack-a-mole" strategy, as jre colourfully put it) is usually less convincing to me than an appeal to authority. It reminds me of the Argument From Infinite Regress in the Three Hundred Proofs Of God list on GodlessGeeks:

(1) Ask Atheists what caused the Big Bang.
(2) Regardless of their answer, ask how they know this.
(3) Continue process until the Atheist admits he doesn't know the answer to one of your questions.
(4) You win!
(5) Therefore, God exists.

The only way for me to be sure that anthropogenic global warming exists would be to carefully examine all the evidence for myself. Luckily, thousands of extremely clever people have already done so and 90% of them have reached the same conclusion. I am not paranoid enough to imagine that they have done so for ideological reasons, nor arrogant enough to imagine that I can contradict their analysis based on a cursory reading of a few articles.

IMHO the point is that for too long the soapbox in the public arena has been the property of the loons. The Lott's Seitz', Singers, Michaels and the rest of the gang of six have worked assiduously to get their screeds onto op ed pages of many newpapers where they are read by millions of people while folk who write science have their stuff read by maybe a hundred in some refereed journal or maybe a thousand on some blog such as this. They (the gang of six, or maybe twelve) are aided by a bunch of public relations shops such as AEI who have people talking to editors of editorial pages every day. What "Real Science" (to borrow a phrase) needs is some funding for its own public relations firm to compete, and the realization of what the game is.

Why do you think there was such a huge push back against Beslailes when he was threatening to compete for real estate on op ed pages and talk shows? I pick that example on purpose. He was selling the same sort of crap that the right is selling, but a different flavor that threatened their exposure.

What would Leftists do without appeals to authority?

I had thought that the nature, degree and causes of climate change were issues of science, not politics, but ...

If John Ray really wants to cede to "Leftists" the entire body of reputable climate science done to date, I suppose that's his privilege (within whatever sphere is influenced by his opinion).

It seems an awfully generous gift, though.

I think some times people get 'appeals to authority' and expert opinion / body of evidence mixed up. Gallileo was probably squeashed by the authority (ie church) but he was justified by the body of evidence.

But Zoot, any one can add numbers - its called numeralogy

By Louis Hissink (not verified) on 24 Jan 2005 #permalink

Steve, unfortunately I have never come up with a conspiracy theory, so ball is in your court.

By Louis Hissink (not verified) on 24 Jan 2005 #permalink

Zoot, thank heavens you are not employed by the mining industry - your appreciation of quantitative estimation would have the trustees of the various superannuation funds baying for your blood

By Louis Hissink (not verified) on 24 Jan 2005 #permalink

So that's yer last substantive arguement Louie? People once gave me money cos' I could find stuff that made 'em money, so I'm right, yeah!

Eevn a truffle pig would argue his or her corner better than that at feeding time.

But hey, the John Rays and Louie Hissinks of this world can only define their existence by what they complain about. Especially now the Hugh Morgans of this world only toss you crumbs through funding websites, newsletters and astroturfing operations from which you can snuffle the odd cash advance and some Xmas stock options.

You really are a sad old man without even the convictions of yer grumpiness. ie: when cornered, your sort always resorts to the "I was joking. You lefties have no sense of humour." defence.

I know fuck all about climate change but I know a lot about about recognising and not hiring bitter old farts like you for the billion dollar enterprises I work with.

Nabakov: Quote: I know fuck all about climate change ... I am speechless

By Louis Hissink (not verified) on 24 Jan 2005 #permalink

"I am speechless"

Only 'cos I haven't paid you.

:-) Mahalia Jackson: Suummmertime and the living is eaasyy.

Fish are jumping.....

For what it is worth, I am not paid by the oil, coal or uranium industries. I am paid by a mining company to explore for diamonds. Otherwise Eli, adding numbers is indeed arithmetic, so is creative accounting or cooking the books.

By Louis Hissink (not verified) on 25 Jan 2005 #permalink

No Louis, creative accounting is accounting. Cooking the books is baking, broiling or steaming. Adding up the numbers is arithmetic.