Flogging the scientists

Peter Sinclair's latest video, debunking the "no global warming for 15 years" and "sea levels are not rising" memes:

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Peter Sinclair sure does lovely work!

The phenomenon of decentralized propagandizing is something that really should be studied academically. How large groups of people with a common ideological interest cooperate to obfuscate undesirable facts is pretty fascinating.

By Tyler DiPietro (not verified) on 17 Mar 2010 #permalink

Tyler, it's not entirely decentralised - there's (often, depending on the subject) a small core of message generators and a large group of message repeaters. I just posted some observations with respect to climate science message in response to a different comment.

By Lotharsson (not verified) on 17 Mar 2010 #permalink

Thank you for posting this. This is an excellent resource and should be seen widely.

I plan to show this where I teach.

By Fran Barlow (not verified) on 17 Mar 2010 #permalink

Sinclair is doing a fantastic jobs with those videos. every single one of them is worth being viewed.

Sod @7, I agree with you 100%.

By MapleLeaf (not verified) on 17 Mar 2010 #permalink

The Warner article is depressing - same old, same old.

For those interested, RealClimate have a spin-less discussion on the Amazon paper Warner refers to.


Well, it really looks like James Lovelock has made a U-turn, praising skeptics and a small rise in temperature this century. Whatever happened to the desertification of Europe all the way up to Berlin?

Well I think it's true that Lovelock is by nature not inclined to seek the joy of consensus in almost anything scientific.

He's a brilliant scientist and a true sceptic. He's proven that he can argue a scientific case for his contentious opinions in a way that idiots like Lindzen and fools like Bob Carter can't approach. Lovelock's earned the right to stir the possum a little.

Just enduring the nauseating experience of watching Ticky Fullerton cross-examining (with prejudice) the CSIRO boss about how crap science is on Radio Rupert (ABC).


Isn't it time you started a new series: "The ABC's war on science"??


a bit ambiguous/wrong. Should have said "About how crap science is, on ABC TV". The idea was: "Isn't science crap?"


Examples of the ABC's War On Science (from this low-brow interview). All quotes from host, Ticky Fullerton:

"We've had Climategate, we've had the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) errors. Do you worry it's damaged the public trust in science?"

"Well, another scientist who was out here this week was Richard Dawkins - of great stature in the science world. He's incredibly damning of other people's religious views. He told Senator Fielding that- or he referred to Senator Fielding as being more stupid than an earthworm.

Is it really helpful for a scientist of that stature to be so intolerant of other people's views?"

[notice the 'save'? because it was Williams who verballed Dawkins about that quote.]

"What about the overall model of the way that we do science today? It all came in with the cooperative research centres, the CRCs, and I should add that I'm a director on one of those boards, but that was a way of pulling together university, CSIRO and industry together to cooperate on building science."

What's a CRC? Which one are you a director of?


Ohhh, "Irrigation Futures"?? The people who are really concerned about our environment, and who have no commercial interest in denying AGW.


Anyway, the transcript is at:



The transcript was up quickly! Just a few hours after tranmission.

I wasn't overly impressed with the interview either. Ticky is no Tony Jones, nor is she a Lee Sales, and I thought that her admission of dropping zoology asap, to do law, was telling.

I was a bit bemused about what Fullerton's intent actually was with her questioning, but in the end the interview was so blamange that I reckon it'll sink into the archives rather rapidly, with no major impact.

By Bernard J. (not verified) on 18 Mar 2010 #permalink

Peter is a bit slow off the mark with that one.

The Daily Mail/Economist/BBC deconstruction/commentary was done a few weeks ago.

But I guess it's useful to have it in a palatable video form.

>Well, it really looks like James Lovelock has made a U-turn, praising skeptics and a small rise in temperature this century.

Just how much of the article is Lovelocks and how much is Clovers spin?

Paul @19, good question.

Has someone just provided Tim with CloverGate?

Funny how those in denial ridicule Lovelock when what he says does not support their ideology, but when some reporter spins things to sound different, the denialists then cite it as evidence that AGW is hooey. The denialists are like bubbles in the wind, and we know what happens to bubbles, this way, then than that...pop. Oh, that and the fact that bubbles are full of air.

By MapleLeaf (not verified) on 18 Mar 2010 #permalink

From Clover's article:

"Despite initial scepticism from the Darwinists, who refused to believe that individual organisms could act in harmony, the Gaia theory has been widely accepted and now underlies most atmospheric science."

WTF is Clover talking about?

Clover on Lovelock: "Do mankindâs emissions matter? Yes, they undoubtedly do."

Clover on Lovelock "No one should be complacent about the fact that within the next 20 years weâll have added nearly a trillion tons of carbon to the atmosphere since the industrial revolution. When a geological accident produced a similar carbon rise 55m years ago, it turned up the heat more than 5C. And now? Well, the effect of man-made carbon is unpredictable. Temperatures might go down at first, rather than up, he warns."

The last two sentences make no sense...

Clover on Lovelock "How should we be spending our money to prevent possible disaster? In Britain, says Lovelock, we need sea walls and more nuclear power. "

Clover on Lovelock "Lovelock predicted a temperature rise in the middle range of current projections â about 1C-2C â which we could live with."

I'm sorry, but some of Lovelock's arguments, as presented by Clover at least, are inconsistent with each other and even contradictory. That fact alone makes me suspicious. That and the fact that Clover very rarely used quotation marks when relaying what Lovelock is claimed to have said.

By MapleLeaf (not verified) on 18 Mar 2010 #permalink

@PaulUK #18:

Apparently, part of the delay came from extending this to more than "1995gate". It wasn't even the first video on the subject - ThePowerOfX @#11 posted the first video response I'm aware of, from Potholer54, which went up even before the Economist responded. (Potholer's vids are another great source here - he's coming at it from a journalist's perspective instead of an environmentalist's or scientist's, and is very critical of lies and misrepresentation. If you haven't seen his series on climate (or any of his others, really), I highly recommend them.)

However, a nice side-benefit of the delay was that Lubos Motl's comment admitting that the choice of question was political - on this very blog, no less - wasn't published until Feb 27, five days after the Economist's deconstruction was published. Details like that deserve a bigger spotlight, and usually they only show up on Deep Climate.

I have found many of his videos great but I am afraid that this one is not really making the point (an increase not statistically significant is not the same as no increase at all, hence stopped warming) clear enough for a mainstream audience. Hopefully I am wrong.

"The last two sentences make no sense" - Mapleleaf.

Lovelock has long claimed that the climate is likely to flicker between episodic warming and cooling, before switching to a state of rapid warming. That's the part the deniosaur journalist left out.

By Dappledwater (not verified) on 18 Mar 2010 #permalink

Venerable Deltoiders, a thread about mininformation combatting videos seems as good place as any to bring this up.

I'm slowly learning about all this stuff and can cope with most of the denier/skeptic bingo points you find. But as a lay-explainer there's one talking point that keeps cropping up that still gives me trouble: only 4 or 5 percent of atmospheric CO2 in a given year is due to humans. The wikipedia page even says that. I've had "debates" with people where that was pretty much all they said, "4 percent! 4 percent!" over and over. The implication being, obviously, how can something so small cause so much damage and, crucially, even if it is what good is cutting that 4 percent going to do when the other 96% is still going to be there.

A lot of the problem is perhaps that I'm still embarassingly shit at basic maths like percentages, but that one is hard to get around for me. I can point at PPM increase in CO2, the isotope content of the carbon, the influence of small factors on large systems, higher emissions (and other things) causing a backlog in the carbon cycle etc etc. That all makes sense. But percentages like that have far more impact on bystanders and I haven't got a good way to unpack that, nor have I seen a good refutation in my casual wanderings of blogs etc (there may be some).

What am I missing here? Did human emissions used to be only 2 percent 200yrs ago? What about the apparent reading that eliminating human emissions entirely still leaves nearly all planetary emissions untouched so we must be doomed anyway?
How do you show quickly that dropping human emissions would settle things back into relative emission/absorbsion equilibrium? (and is that what one should do?) Anyone want to draw me a road map?


What Neven said about Lovelock:

Well, it really looks like James Lovelock has made a U-turn, praising skeptics and a small rise in temperature this century.

How the story linked to by Neven paraphrased Lovelock:

How, asks Lovelock, can we predict the climate 40 years ahead when there is so much that we donât know? Surely we should base any assumptions on things we can measure, such as a rise in sea levels. After all, surface temperatures go up and down, but the rise in sea levels reflects both melting ice and thermal expansion. The IPCC, he feels, underestimates the extent to which sea levels are rising.

So, Lovelock has done a U-turn by saying the IPCC is underestimating the sea level rise, which Lovelock sees as a better indicator of AGW?

A "U-turn" that left him, still,of the opinion that humanity is as serious risk:

Lovelock predicted a temperature rise in the middle range of current projections â about 1C-2C â which we could live with. Ah, but hadnât he also said there was a chance that temperature rises could threaten human civilisation within the lifetime of our grandchildren?

He had.

So, after the "U-turn", surely Lovelock recommends we do nothing to avert climate change?

Sorry, Neven. Not this time:

We donât know whatâs going to happen and we donât know if we can avert disaster â although we should try.

Having said that, I'm starting to form the view that unless Lovelock has something new or insightful to say about the climate, rather than just engaging in these off-the-cuff musings, he ought to just shut up.

He should know better than to say something like "We don't know what's going to happen.." - he ought to know how it could be twisted and misinterpreted.

Maybe he could satisfy his desire for the limelight by going on Dancing With the Stars or British Idol or something.

Muzz, I think the answer lies in the fact that this 4% of anthropogenic emissions of CO2 is cumulative, so every year an additional 4% of which only half gets absorbed by the oceans and other carbon sinks. I'm sure the smarter guys can fill you in on the details.

Muzz, I am not entirely sure what they are talking about. Sounds like a classic red herring argument to me.

About 40% of anthro CO2 emissions (~ 6 Gt) remain in the atmosphere. There is a net gain and that is causing ambient CO2 to increase at ~ 2 ppmv per year (for now at least).

As Neven pointed out this increase, albeit relatively small is cumulative. AGW is like a slow, creeping cancer.

Here are some, hopefully, helpful resources:


There may be other relevant articles as SS which might help.

By MapleLeaf (not verified) on 18 Mar 2010 #permalink

No, Muzz is right. Only around 4% of the CO2 in the atmosphere right now is directly of anthropogenic origin. The reason for this is that natural sources and sinks, while nearly balanced, are quite large. They sink CO2 indiscriminately (well, almost indiscriminately - we don't need to worry about isotopes here), anthro and non-anthro alike. But they release CO2 that is termed 'natural' as it's not directly anthropogenic. Various estimates of the carbon cycle put the total 'recycling' of CO2 each year at up to 25% of the total amount in the atmosphere.

So, human activity is responsible for the rise from aroun 285ppm to around 390ppm. However, only around 4% is directly anthropogenic at the moment.

I made a spreadsheet to demonstrate this, using the fluxes shown here. My numbers overall were pretty fudged, but not unrepresentative. I got about 3% directly anthro CO2 in the atmosphere. It's perfectly consistent with the fact that the rise in concentration is anthropogenic.

See my plots here.

Stu @30. Thanks. I guess I misunderstood their claim.

This is a little hard for me to figure out-- late here. 4% of 390 ppmv is about 16 ppmv, but CO2 levels have recently been going up at about 2 ppmv per year. Even if one uses 1 ppmv per year, you very quickly get to 16 ppmv. That is assuming all of that 2 ppmv is anthro, which it is not. Either way, I am missing something stupidly obvious here and I need to look at your spread sheets.

That all said, I think this "we are only contributing so little" argument has been debunked elsewhere, I just can't recall where.

Time for bed.

By MapleLeaf (not verified) on 18 Mar 2010 #permalink


I made my spreadsheet a while ago, and even I had to think for a while about why I put certain equations in, cos I didn't leave any notes on it!

I could clean it up and send it, but basically it boils down to the fact that, according to the fluxes I used, almost 25% of the CO2 in the atmosphere is sunk each year.*

So if you add 2ppm which is directly anthropogenic (DA), by the end of that first year only 1.5ppm is DA. And another 2ppm the next year, and only 2.625ppm is DA. In fact after lots of iterations this calculation approaches 6ppm... either there's a limit or I've done it wrong! Gotta go now :-p

*a similar amount is sourced (naturally and anthropogenically; the difference between sources and sinks is about 15 gigatonnes, accounting for the overall rise).


Think of it this way...

You're a middle-aged dwarf, which means that you're only a few score years over 500 years old, and for the almost the last half a millenium you've been earning 70 dwarven gold dollars per year (you live in a sustainable, equilibrated non-growth oriented economy, so the idea of an increasing wage is anathema).

You bank your weekly earnings in the Bank of Cavernous Holding, and over a year you withdraw as much as you deposit, being the thrifty and careful dwarf that you are. There might be a few dollars extra or short over the years, but you're a very consistent and predictable dwarf, so the 280 dollars that you have on average in your account does not fluctuate much from year to year.

Then one day, your childless great aunt Anthropogenia Carbonifera from the mountain range two across, gets it into her head that you need a bit of a help to get by, and she takes to depositing some money into your account. Of course, being a dwarf - even a benevolent and a generous dwarf - she is very thrifty with her gift and decides to deposit only 0.25% of your capital per year.

Oh, and being a dwarf she's going to be very circumspect about the whole giving wealth away thing, so you'll know nothing about it and continue with your finances as you always have.

So, after one year you will have an extra 70 cents (to the nearest cent) courtesy of your Great Aunt Anthropogenia. And, taking rounding into account, you will acrue an extra 70 cents for each of the next two years also. Your account swells in gradually increasing annual increments so that after 5 years of Aunty's beneficence you have $282.82, after 10 years $286.36, after 20 years $293.60, after 50 year $316.44, after 100 years $358.52, and after 150 years you have $406.19.

You lucky, lucky dwarf.

The thing is, because you have elected not to have statements sent to you (you're a dwarf after all, so you don't need to be patronised about your income and expenditure, and anyway, why bother with the cost of postage!), you are not aware that there is extra coinage being deposited into your account. And dwarves, being fairly literal folk, actually deposit their coins into specific holdings for each customer...

One day though, you notice that one of the coins that you've withdrawn from your account is not minted in your local mountain holding: it comes from two ranges across, where your Great Aunty lives.


You rifle through the small change in your chest hidden behind the flour in the kitchen, and you see that there was only one in over a hundred coins, so your think nothing more about it and assume that it just got mised up in the day-to-day traffic of dwarven transaction - a bit like when an Aussie finds a kiwi coin in his/her loose change ;-)

Little do you know that your Great Auntie has increased your bank account by 45% over the last century and a half!

But how can this be be, if a random selection of your coins from your account indicates around one in a hundred coins coming from Great Aunty's home Mountain?!

Well, it's like this...

Because you only turn over 25% of your total holdings in one year, there are 53 cents worth of your aunty's small change remaining in your account after the first year - there having been no coins present from her mountain community previously. After the second year there are 92 cents worth of Aunty coins in your account, and after five years there is $1.61 worth of Aunty coins. After 100 years this will have increased to $2.67 worth of aunty coins being mixed with your own, and after 150 years it'll be a whole $3.02.

Of course, this ignores the fact that there might be some of your aunty's coins returning to you through general transaction throughout your own community, but for the sake of these calculations that can be safely ignored - your own mountain's economy is quite large, after all.

So, how does all this work?!

It's pretty simple it you sit down with a pen and paper (and your bank statements!). Your aunty's gift is one of compound interest, whilst your observation of the coinage actually deposited by her is diluted by the simple fact that you withdraw and spend (deposit elsewhere) a proportion of her coinage, in proportion to your overall turnover of your account: in this example 25% per year.

The same principle operates with respect to the human addition of fossil carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. The numbers are a little different - in the CO2 circumstance, the deposits started at less than 0.25% per annum, and increase over time, and the initial 'capital' might be a little different, but the overall pattern of account increase compared to 'Aunty coinage' is the same.

Use my numbers, and play with them in Excel - it isn't hard. The bottom line is that anyone who says that you can't inflate capital (pre-industrial atmospheric CO2) whilst simultaneously having a low proportion of the initial additional deposited currency (actual human-emitted CO2 molecules) in the account, does not understand basic mathematics.

By Bernard J. (not verified) on 19 Mar 2010 #permalink


Thanks. Did you took into account the residence time of CO2?

This is still making my head hurt. Need to look at this some more.

By MapleLeaf (not verified) on 19 Mar 2010 #permalink

Explicitely, no; implicitely, that's what the sources and sinks take care of. With near 25% of atmospheric CO2 'recycled' each year you can see that the residence time of a single CO2 molecule (estimated to be 3-7 years) is taken care of.

I'm still messing around with my spreadsheet, trying to get it to model what happens if anthro CO2 is slowly phased out to zero... but I didn't design it that way in the first place, as I approximated the airborne fraction by keeping natural sources steady and increasing natural sinks at 50% of the rate that anthro sources increase (so if anthropogenic output is 30Gt, natural sources stay at 700Gt and natural sinks have increased out of equilibrium to 715Gt - airborne fraction is then about right).

So I'm currently tweaking it to have a realistic imbalance, but this bit requires some more research into the physical processes involved. I'll prob post it here when it's done.

Hi Stu,

Thanks for the update. Please don't spend more time on this on my account-- I should be able to figure this out myself.

One thing that keeps nagging me is that we (mostly) have increased CO2 by almost 40% above pre-industrial levels, so the fact that anthro CO2 still only accounts for 4% or so of the total CO2 really throws my ind out of whack.

I'm now going to write a big L on my forehead.

Anyhow, what, at the end of the day counts is that the radiative forcing of GHGs is proportion to the natural log of the CO2 concentration, and we have increased that level by 40% and will easily double it. Maybe that is the answer Muzz is looking for.

Muzz, also try this:


By MapleLeaf (not verified) on 19 Mar 2010 #permalink

This is ridiculous. Science is based on skepticism. This video is just personal attacks and calls to authority. Where is the science here? How well do you understand the models?

"Worded to illicit specific responses"? I think this video is a classic example of just that.

Read a book or two, stop asking people, read the data.

Shorter Michael:

The video talks about climate models, but I don't understand them, therefore I complain that you don't understand the models, which means they don't exist, therefore the video contains no science.

Cheers to Bernard J, Stu, MapleLeaf for your efforts.
I am actually paying attention, I just haven't given it all enough concentration yet to say much more than this ;) But thanks.

Science is based on informed and intelligent skepticism.

Fixed it for you.

By Lotharsson (not verified) on 22 Mar 2010 #permalink

Science is based on the epistemology of inference to the best explanation (think Bayes and Ockham). The denialist version of "skepticism" is anti-scientific.

By truth machine (not verified) on 22 Mar 2010 #permalink

I'm surprised that no one has pointed out that in addition to the fact that burning fossil fuels releases the carbon dioxide that's been sequestered over millions of years into the atmosphere, deforestation is simultaneously reducing the capacity of our planet to sequester newly created carbon dioxide. You don't have to be a mathmetician to see that this is going to lead to an net increase the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere - this is simply the carbon cycle we all learned in grade school.