Fisking a typical climate science denialist comment

This one is worth looking at because it was published as a letter to the editor in an actual newspaper. Or, at least, on the web site.

A little background is in order. First, Dennis Slonka wrote an Op Ed in the Providence Journal telling us that "Climate Science Will Never Be Settled." In it he made a number of incorrect statements about climate science, the IPCC, and Michael Mann. Then, Mann wrote a response that corrected the record. At some point, the Providence Journal corrected a small part of Slonka's post, removing a blinding error, which demonstrates Slonka's abysmal understanding of the situation ("This column has been edited to remove an error. No jury has found for Mann's critics, and his defamation lawsuit is proceeding in court").

Mann's Op Ed is one of the rare places you'll see him referring to his law suit, as, I assume, as a plaintiff he is probably advised to not talk about it much. He says:

If it wasn’t for all that extra CO2 in the atmosphere, Earth would be slightly cooling right now. Dozens of independent peer-reviewed studies have reached the same conclusion: rising temperatures and sea levels are directly related to the CO2 released into the atmosphere over the past two centuries by fossil fuel burning and other human activities.

More importantly, climate deniers aren’t asking questions in good faith. They’re persecuting researchers whose findings they don’t like.

I’ve written about my own strange encounters with climate denial in “The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars” in the hopes that my colleagues — and the interested public — can learn from these experiences.

Indeed, attacks on scientists are nothing new. The lead industry went after Herbert Needleman, who found lead exposure impaired childhood brain development. Big Tobacco targeted public health researchers. Even the National Football League marginalized researchers who studied how players suffered from repeated concussions.

Some industry-funded groups and “think tanks” continue to smear me and pretend that my research is the linchpin of all climate science. But other scientists, who understand and have thoroughly reviewed my work, know my detractors have no idea what they’re talking about.

I finally decided to sue two groups that accused me of fraud in particularly insulting ways; contrary to Mr. Slonka’s claim that a jury had already ruled in the matter, my case is actively moving through the court system.

Despite the difficult position I find myself in in the climate debate, there is reason for hope.... (read the whole Op Ed here)

Within what seems like minutes of Mann's Op Ed coming out, Providence Journal published a letter from a reader, George W. Shuster, responding to Mann's post. It is almost like they had it ready. I wonder if the Providence Journal is aware of the fact that most Major Media are, these days, starting to pull back form the "false balance" position that there are two sides to the global warming "debate." Anyway, here is George W. Shuster's letter (George W. Shuster: Mann ignores geological facts) Fisked by yours truly. There isn't much in the letter to begin with so this won't take long.

Professor Michael Mann’s Dec. 11 Commentary piece (“Global warming’s dangers stare us in the face”), is typical of so many in the so-called “consensus” in that it: conflates the fact of long-term global warming with short-term “man-made” global warming; and selectively denies the sciences of geology and paleontology.

There is no "so-called" consensus. There is a consensus. It looks roughly like this:

Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 12.19.04 PM

Also, Michael Mann has used the paleo record in his research and is quite familiar with it.

To pick just one example, Mann expresses great alarm that the sea level has risen 8 inches since the 1880s. What he fails to mention, which someone objectively recognizing the sciences I’ve cited would take into account, is that we are still coming out of the Ice Age, which has seen sea levels rise some 400 feet in the last 20,000 years. (Our beloved Block Island was once part of the mainland, and Rhode Island’s land area was much larger).

This is in correct. I've actually studied sea level rise in New England, when I was doing a lot of archaeology there. Sea level rise had mostly slowed or stopped prior to the Industrial period as far as we can tell, and given the most likely scenario in the absence of global warming, it was more likely that the sea level would lower a bit over coming centuries.

In fact, the rate of increase Mann agonizes over since the 1880s is actually far less than the average rise over the longer term. The long-term rate over 20,000 years comes to almost four times the rate of rise since the 1880s.

Sea level goes up and down a great deal over the long term. During the latter half or so of the Pleistocene, sea level went up and down well over 100 meters. But the current sea stand, roughly, is close to the maximum normal level for this period. (See the graph at the top of the post showing long term sea level rise, from here.) Comparing the rate of sea level rise now to the average change over 20,000 years is roughly like comparing the growth rate of a 40 year old human to the growth rate of the same person as a toddler. Interesting, but not relevant to the present situation.

Global warming is a serious issue, but the proper response should not be dictated by science deniers such as Professor Mann, who selectively pick which sciences they find handiest to recognize, and deny any others that provide inconvenient truths.

Yes, indeed, global warming is a serious issue. But calling Michael Mann a science denier is not only absurd, but it is what I refer to as a bully tactic. Bullies paint their prey with the same labels that could legitimately be applied to themselves, and often label themselves with tags that are more appropriately applied to their victims. George has at least one other letter in the same newspaper in which he refers to a champion of science in the Senate as a science denier, so this isn't a mere slip on his part. It is a tactic.

Michael Mann has written a lot about climate change, and given many talks and interviews. But underlying all of this is his own body of peer reviewed research which has been closely examined by others in the scientific community. I've read pretty much all of that research myself. I can let you in on a little secret. Michael Mann is embroiled in an intense debate with other climate scientists about an important issue that is totally unsettled. It is a true debate. They are arguing over the data, its interpretation, and what it means. The debate is about the important question of what happens to tree growth shortly following major volcanic eruptions. Mann says it is likely that some trees are so badly affected by the short term climate change caused by the volcanic eruptions that they essentially stop growing, which messes up a small part of the long term record the tree rings from these plants are normally used for to track climate change over time. Others say this doesn't happen and the record is fine the way it is, but rather, what some think about the effects of volcanic eruptions on climate, and indirectly, on trees, is not exactly right.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is a debate. A scientific debate. The outcome of that debate will not affect the overall picture of climate change, but it will have an important influence, possibly, on how we calculate the rate at which increasing greenhouse gas will warm the surface of the Earth. (Long term the same outcome will probably happen, but if volcanic effects are stronger, there may be more periods of slightly less rapid warming.) Esoteric, detailed, important, not paradigm changing, not an inconvenient truth, and to most people, mind numbingly boring if you get into the details. But it is an example of the kinds of debate that are real in climate science. The uncertainty introduced by George W. Shuster in his letter are only in his head. He has this wrong, which is fine, because (I guess, but it is obvious) he is not a scientist in this area of research.

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I love this part:

"... in that it: conflates the fact of long-term global warming with short-term “man-made” global warming; and selectively denies the sciences of geology and paleontology."

Er, there has been long-term *COOLING* and as Dr. Mann pointed out (and our New Galileo "George W. Shuster" seems to have missed, twice) Earth would still be cooling right now if not for human-released greenhouse gases (as it has been for over 400 years).

Meanwhile, "the sciences of geology and paleontology" are in emphatic agreement with the rest of the world's scientists on the subject: humans caused it, are causing it, and will continue to cause it until we do something about it.

By Desertphile (not verified) on 11 Dec 2014 #permalink

“Global warming is a serious issue, but the proper response should not be dictated by science deniers such as Professor Mann, who selectively pick which sciences they find handiest to recognize, and deny any others that provide inconvenient truths.”

When Shuster writes, “Global warming is a serious issue,” he doesn't mean what is normally meant, but is instead appropriating the phrase to make himself appear as a manifestation of equanimity and common sense. In contrast to Shuster's rational and knowledgable approach, we have "science deniers such as Professor Mann,” who in reality are self-serving mini-dictators. They “selectively pick which sciences they find handiest to recognize, and deny any others that provide inconvenient truths.”

In psychology projection is one of the common defense mechanisms, and it's a climate septic favorite:

“Projection is the misattribution of a person’s undesired thoughts, feelings or impulses onto another person who does not have those thoughts, feelings or impulses. Projection is used especially when the thoughts are considered unacceptable for the person to express, or they feel completely ill at ease with having them.”

By cosmicomics (not verified) on 11 Dec 2014 #permalink

It eases the "cognitive dissonance" that occurs by embracing politically correct but too obviously false concepts and then laboring hard mentally to actually believe in them regardless.

Projection helps make it more believable, easing this mental tension of trying to hold that "black = white" without losing cognizant connections to the surrounding world.

(I think it's just easier to throw them into the rubber room and be done with it.)

By Brainstorms (not verified) on 11 Dec 2014 #permalink

Mann is a fraud.

Projection is at play here: the warmists believe others are like them.

You've been reading, st, what i've been writing about bullies and how they tag their adversaries with their own "qualities" ... well played! But wrong. Sorry.

"Mann is a fraud."

Heh! It appears I might be responsible for "st" coming here, since I mentioned the article in a science-related Usenet newsgroup where a tiny handful of FOX "News" obeyers hang out.

How in the world can a human being be a "fraud?"

"Projection is at play here: the warmists believe others are like them."

Warmest what?

By Desertphile (not verified) on 12 Dec 2014 #permalink

In reply to by st (not verified)

Shuster's blithering ignorance of historical sea level reconstructions has to be deliberate. Where can you not find figures like your first. They are everywhere in the literature and in any article that refers to that literature. I cannot believe Shuster could not have sighted such work.

Greg Laden: It is almost like they had it ready.

Well considering the frequency with which Providence Journal publishes the misleading articles by Heartland darling Tom Harris and co-writers like Bob Carter and Tim Ball, they may indeed have had it ready.

It's handy when the brain trust of Canadian denialism gives us a one-source preview of their latest efforts on behalf of the Heartland Institute. Tom H. then re-sends this stuff to other like-minded editors. What I find amazing is that these articles are filled with pretentious meanderings about the morality of Obama's heartless kowtowing to the UN, and the need for philosophers ("they're all Liberals, you know") to tell climate scientists they've got it all wrong, there's very little pushback. But that's why Tom has yet another award from HI for his outstanding service as an anti-science propagandist. I'll tell you what, he must have a very manly mantelpiece to hold all those Heartland awards.

But that’s why Tom has yet another award from HI for his outstanding service as an anti-science propagandist.

Imagine, if one can even conceive of such a thing, a world where the defense of science and education paid well, and anti-science propaganda did not.

Three years ago there was an attempt by two people I met to set up a "Truth Market," similar to the prediction markets. Several people, including me, funded pro-science statements backed by many thousands of dollars, and then invited many very popular anti-science propagandists (Watts, Spencer, Lindzen, Curry, and others in different science venues) to either buy or "go short" on the proposition---- putting money on the line to support the false assertions they claim they believe. Out of thousands invited, *NONE* of the anti-science propagandists would take our money. The new market paradigm failed because of the simple fact that none of the people making false claims believe they are true.

By Desertphile (not verified) on 12 Dec 2014 #permalink

In reply to by GregH (not verified)

Good response. I might have also mentioned that human civilization as we know it developed during the last ~7k years when sea levels more or less stabilized. This, of course, was probably no accident.

By Daniel Bastian (not verified) on 12 Dec 2014 #permalink

They don't make the claims because they believe in them...
...they make the claims to influence others to believe (or at least remain in doubt) so that they can be controlled politically -- frustrating the implementation of wise policy, for example.

Then they get their rewards: They profit from inaction or, more so, from society, governments, and corporations doing harmful things that generate financial returns (or, at a minimum, relieve them from having to suffer any changes to their lifestyles in the name of being responsible citizens).

But no, they don't believe in what they push either. They're not stupid, they're just morally corrupt. (Or cowards. Or both.)

By Brainstorms (not verified) on 12 Dec 2014 #permalink

@ ^ Brainstroms : Interesting I think there are a few who are sincerely deluded and actually do believe the rubbish they spout but you are probably right about a lot of them.

One line in Mann';s op-ed I found notable is this one :

" More Republicans are speaking out too. Incoming Rep. Garret Graves of Louisiana told Bloomberg News, “For us to stick our heads in the sand and pretend [sea-level rise is] not happening is idiotic and it puts the lives of 2 million people who live in south Louisiana in jeopardy.”

This following some other news items such as this one on Phil Plait's Bad Astronomy Blog :…

make me think that maybe, finally even the Republicans are finally conceeding to science and that we can, far too late, put this whole denialist phase of the problem away. The deniers have always been like the Flat Earthers, maybe they'll soon be down to their numbers as well?

By Astrostevo (not verified) on 12 Dec 2014 #permalink

Oh dear. Had no idea that would embed.

Huh? Thought I'd just posted this but not appearing so take II :

@4. St. : "Mann is a fraud. Projection is at play here: the warmists believe others are like them."

Really? What makes you say that? Seriously, what evidence do you have to back up that extraordinary claim there?

Do you not realise there's already a defamation claim been tested in court on that exact malicious lie?

PS. Good deconstruction of a very bad arguement there, Greg Laden. Nicely done. I also love the picture chosen for Mann's op-ed. Talk about Homer's* "wine dark sea" there!

* Homer the original Hellenic poet and author of The Odyssey and Illiad works that is -these days most peopelassociate that name with the Simpsons I guess.

By Astrostevo (not verified) on 12 Dec 2014 #permalink

@ adelady : Oh well, never mind. Will have to look at that later - Cricket's on TV now as well as Adelaide oval, c'mon Aussie , c'mon, c'mon!

By Astrostevo (not verified) on 12 Dec 2014 #permalink

If those-in-denial are going to suggest that the current rapid increase in global temperature is caused by natural cycles (perhaps the most common of all the memes), then they first have some explaining to do.

Taking into consideration the known and accepted ‘greenhouse effect’, which has a solid basis in physics, how can adding CO2 to the atmosphere over the last couple of centuries—raising concentrations from 280ppm to the current 400ppm—NOT have warmed the planet by the 0.7C we've seen over the same period?

I shall offer an analogy. If a person at the scene of a traffic accident tells you that the injured pedestrian lying in the road was hit by a passing bus that drove off; shouldn’t they—before being allowed to go into detailed descriptions of the bus—be required to provide a logical explanation for what caused the person-sized, bloody dent in the bonnet (hood) of their car?

By John Russell (not verified) on 13 Dec 2014 #permalink

#11 @Desertphile

The new market paradigm failed because of the simple fact that none of the people making false claims believe they are true.

What a sublime way to show who the real frauds are - great idea

By Doug Alder (not verified) on 13 Dec 2014 #permalink

What a sublime way to show who the real frauds are – great idea

The idea has been popular for decades. :-) Many years ago I discussed the subject with James Randi while he was still walking around with his US$10,000 check in his suit pocket, trying to give it away--- and nobody would take it.

Offering wagers and prizes for evidence of extraordinary claims shows, overwhelmingly, that the people making the claims know their claims are false. By actual count out of 680 people I personally contacted to take my US$1,000 wager who have said Earth is cooling or that Earth's temperature increase has stopped, *ONE* said he would accept the wager--- and then never followed through. My wager is here:

That's 680 personally contacted; I have made the wager offer known to literally thousands of deniers via several dozen "free market" fundamentalist's blogs, petroleum industry blogs, and similar venues. I begged tem to take my money; I pleaded; I wailed; at one time span I even offered 2:1 odds. They refused to put their money where their loud obnoxious FOX Network-controlled mouths were.

It shows they do not believe what they claim they believe.

On the Predictions Market such as Ireland's iPredict, I successfully predicted, four years in a row, the past temperature increases and decreases. But it was like pulling teeth from the "It's cooling!" clowns: I offered 9:1 odds and they still would not fork over money to support what they claimed to believe. I risked US$900 to get back US$1,000 and they still would not put up their money--- excellent evidence they don't believe what they claimed to believe.

The same is true for the "run your car on water" scam. I offered a US$1,000 prize (not a wager) to anyone who would let me test her or his car with a under-the-hood on-demand oxyhydrogen device (what the cult calls "HHO") that shows improved fuel economy. I told, literally, thousands of "HHO" supporters about the prize; I contacted dozens of sellers of these devices; I had a score of YouTube videos about the prize. *NONE* of the sellers and promoters would let me test their device; none would let me give them my money. I begged; I pleaded; they refused to take my money. Eventually I took down my web site on the prize.

People who claim to believe humans are not causing climate change overwhelmingly don't believe their claim. They make the claim out of venality and fear.

By Desertphile (not verified) on 14 Dec 2014 #permalink

In reply to by Doug Alder (not verified)

Sea level goes up and down

The tide come in and the tide goes out /snicker

Sorry Greg i Couldn't help it - Billo's comment was just bursting to get out as I read that :)

By Doug Alder (not verified) on 13 Dec 2014 #permalink

Gregg, as Ray pierre can attest, this guy is cherrypicking locales in regions near active subduction zones with high rates of vertical plate deformation and isostatic geoid change.

You could just as readily reverse the graph by focusing on subsiding grabens and negative flexure zones behind regions of postglacial rebound

There are plenty of places going up or down 3-5 times faster than sea level change , which is why , from Guatemala to Borneo, we have some spectacular young mountains rising even as the anthropocene rolls along.</a.

By Russell Seitz (not verified) on 14 Dec 2014 #permalink

> none of the people making false claims
> believe they are true.

Those who profit from them don't believe them; they're buying time to shift their assets and hoping your pension plan will load up the fossil fuel stocks they're hoping to sell off.

Those who parrot the claims, perhaps, believe -- or trust -- those they're echoing.

The ones promoting the repetition -- the rebunking -- know better. They are looking for the credulous, the people with short memories, who believe what they see repeatedly. And the promoters laugh at those who believe what they're pushing.
The Long Con

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 15 Dec 2014 #permalink