Parallel universe quiz

by John Quiggin on November 6, 2006

Which of these claims has not been put forward by prominent global warming denialists ?

A Cycle analysis by a well-known astrologer proves that global temperatures will soon decline
B Data supporting global warming was faked by NASA along with the bogus moon landings
C There is no such thing as global average temperature, and therefore the whole idea is meaningless
D A voyage through the Arctic Circle by the Chinese fleet in 1421 proves that temperatures were much higher then

Answer over fold

Answer: B. Although both global warming denialists and moon landing denialists routinely accuse NASA scientists of fraud, the two groups appear not to have made common cause as yet (Please correct me if I’m wrong).

Here’s the info on the others

A. The Lavoisier Group presents a “scientific” critique of the IPCC based on the work of the late astrologer and cycle crank Theodor Landscheidt. This is the same body that claimed in a submission to the Australian Parliament (PDF here) that the Kyoto Protocol poses “the most serious challenge to our sovereignty since the Japanese Fleet entered the Coral Sea on 3 May, 1942”.

C. The claim that there is no such thing as global average temperature is one of the many errors of Ross McKitrick

D. The best yet, tying global warming denialism to the absurd and much-demolished claims of Gavin Menzies comes from Christopher Monckton in the (UK) Telegraph, who gets an enthusiastic endorsement from Tim Blair. Tim B sees this as evidence that “the debate is not over”. His nemesis, Tim Lambert, provides a chapter and verse demolition, but the reference to Menzies is more than enough for anyone based in the real world.

While all the claims listed above are absurd, they are not lunatic fringe, at least not in the parallel universe of GW denialism. McKitrick (until recently a moderately well-known rightwing economist, but now presented as an expert on everything from physics to historical climatology) was one of the main scientific sources for the bogus House of Lords Economics Committee report and one of the “Nine Economists“, led by Nigel Lawson, who criticised the Stern Report’s first discussion paper. Their critique also relied heavily on the work of the Lavoisier Group.

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1

bi 11.06.06 at 6:29 am

Phew. I thought the answer is “None of the Above”.

2

stuart 11.06.06 at 6:44 am

I was assuming all of them had, otherwise you are just giving them ideas…

3

rea 11.06.06 at 6:56 am

“Cycle analysis by a well-known astrologer”

I thought for a minute you were talking about Kepler’s heliocentric theory of the solar system (it’s just a theory, you know)

4

Tearfree 11.06.06 at 8:51 am

Instead of going after easy targets, why don’t you give us a convincing rebuttal to this?

Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve never seen these arguments answered other than with hysterical shrieks of, “Denial, denial, denial!”

I’m ready and listening with an open mind.

5

Thom Brooks 11.06.06 at 8:52 am

Yes, I was worried it was “none of the above” too!

6

Doormat 11.06.06 at 9:47 am

Tearfree: Erm, did you even look at Tim Lambert’s post? Talk about Parallel universes…

Actually: WTF are you talking about? The article you link to is *exactly* the article which John Quiggin is pointing out to be complete rubbish.

7

Robin Green 11.06.06 at 9:49 am

tearfree – can you not *read*? Did you miss the link to Tim Lambert’s convincing rebuttal in John Quiggin’s post? It’s right there in front of you!

8

Matt Weiner 11.06.06 at 9:50 am

Tearfree, most of the people posting here aren’t climate scientists, but searching at realclimate.org for “hockey stick,” “global cooling,” and “medieval warming period” will get you discussion from real climate scientists that go beyond “denial, denial, denial.”

9

Matt Weiner 11.06.06 at 9:51 am

Whoops. I can’t read either.

10

Harald Korneliussen 11.06.06 at 10:05 am

tearfree: yes, it’s just you, who aren’t looking. I’ve read rebuttals of most of the claims I saw in that article. Not all, mind you, but the denialists zeal to recycle absurd arguments or make up things from thin air (such as the atmospheric CO2 being at an all-time low)… to me that makes the claims not really worth interesting. (I refuse to go on the frontlines on this one, not enough time).

I believe the blog “A few things ill-considered” has answers to many of the accusations in the telegraph article. In any case it has a huge FAQ of common assertions, along with explanations and often a pedigree showing who first made the claims, and who picked them up. Strike a blow for honest debate, and look there to see if a given claim has been answered there before you pass it on.

RealClimate and Tim Lambert have also been answering the kind of assertions that pro-polluting-industry think tanks make… realclimate the ones with seemingly more scientific merit, Lambert the more innumerate ones. Unfortunately, neither of them has the handy FAQ/index that a.f.t.i-c has.

11

bi 11.06.06 at 10:08 am

I think I can now state a new scientific law: Anyone who praises himself for being “open-minded” has clearly freed his mind from facts.

12

Tearfree 11.06.06 at 10:18 am

Thanks, Harold. Will check it out.

13

beajerry 11.06.06 at 11:41 am

Oh great! Thanks for giving GW denialists and NASA denialists the idea!

Why not just throw in Holocaust denialists in there, too…

(oops!)

14

Noumenon 11.06.06 at 11:59 am

Don’t pick on tearfree so hard, if I bookmarked that Monckton article I wouldn’t have thought of it as “the one where he argues that the Chinese went to the North Pole.” Also from Quiggin’s positioning of the Lambert link it looks like it is a response to Tim Blair, not Monckton.

15

leederick 11.06.06 at 3:03 pm

I’m interested in C, Ross McKitrick’s claim. Reading the link I think there is ‘no such thing as global average temperature’ is a bit of a distortion of his claim. Which seems to surounds things like there being ‘no physical basis to average temperature [Tim Lambert's words]‘ and there being an ‘infinite number of averages to choose from’, rather than no average.

Obviously there is an actual global average temperature, which you could measure by placing a thermometer at every point on the earth’s surface and taking the average. What he seems to be getting at is this: we only have data from specific spatial locations – say London, Lisbon and Liverpool – but we need to jump from this (data at discrete locations) to a figure for the average temperature for every point on the earth’s surface (which is a field). Can we do this?

Now I think McKitrick’s absolutely right that there is no unique basis for doing this. Classical statistical inference is based around the concept of data points which are independent from each other and random, but we don’t have this, we have samples taken at fixed spatial locations. So you can only estimate the average of the field if you have some model of the spatial structure of the data. As far as I’m aware, there’s no basis in geostatistics for the claim that we can find a unique model and a unique solution for a particular dataset.

16

bi 11.06.06 at 3:29 pm

Noumenon: OK…

leederick:

Jeez. As Tim Lambert pointed out,

“Physics does, in fact, provide a basis for defining average temperature. Just connect the two systems that you want to average by a conductor. Heat will flow from the hotter system to the colder one until the temperatures are equalized. The final temperature is the average. That average will be a weighted arithmetic mean of the original temperatures. Which is why the folks doing the averaging use weighted arithmetic means rather than the geometric mean.” (emphasis mine)

And even if — even if — there’s no basis for defining average temperature, there are useful things one can do with the individual measurements, e.g. measuring statistical significance of temperature fluctuations.

Add all these to the fact that McKitrick didn’t even do the arithmetic properly.

17

aaron 11.06.06 at 3:54 pm

The more I read the material you claim supports catasrophic antho global warming, the more full of shit I think climate change policy advocates are. I find myself hearing “I don’t think that study means what you think it means,” over and over again.

The stuff you claim is conclusive is anything but.

Always click the link. Rarely does it support your posts.

18

bi 11.06.06 at 4:03 pm

aaron s3z, “nyah nyah nyah!”

19

Uncle Kvetch 11.06.06 at 4:08 pm

The stuff you claim is conclusive is anything but.

Wow. Color me convinced.

20

aaron 11.06.06 at 4:11 pm

follow the links.

21

John Quiggin 11.06.06 at 4:17 pm

To back up for bi, McKitrick’s claim isn’t that there are problems with estimation. It’s that there’s no physical basis for choosing the arithmetic mean rather than, say, the geometric mean for temperature. This is, as the link to Tim Lambert shows, flat-out wrong.

22

Functional 11.06.06 at 8:14 pm

Which of the following claims has not been put forward by prominent global warming supporters:

1. Right now the Earth is hotter than it has been in the past 1000 years.

2. If global warming occurs, then one day — as if a light switch has flicked — there will arise huge supercells that will drag down supercold air from way high up somewhere, thus flash-freezing half of the Northern Hemisphere, and killing hundreds of millions of people at once. But up until just a few days before this awful event occurs, the Vice-President of the United States has it within his sole power to reverse the global warming trend, and if he only listens to a maverick scientist at that time, the super-cooling won’t happen.

Etc.

23

text 11.06.06 at 10:16 pm

umm, all of the above?

24

engels 11.06.06 at 11:53 pm

Aaron, you appear to be under the mistaken impression that anyone here gives a shit what you think.

25

John Quiggin 11.07.06 at 3:35 am

functional, #1 has indeed been put forward, and the NAS recently assessed it as more probable than not, though not as certain as the proponents (Mann and others) argued. No doubt we will eventually find enough evidence to settle this peripheral question. This is called science.

#2 appears to be a garbled version of a movie plot, indicating your failure to find anything in the climate science literature remotely resembling the lunacy of the antiscience lobbyists you support, but are unwilling to defend overtly.

26

Jonathan Goldberg 11.07.06 at 11:17 am

Alas for my digestion, I clicked through to the Monckton piece. It seems to be a law of nature that anyone who uses language like “poor old Ludwig” to show how reputable scientists are ignoring basic physics can be assumed to be spouting nonsense (if not outright lies) at the .9999999 confidence level.

How does Tim Lambert stand it?

27

Functional 11.07.06 at 3:23 pm

Of course it’s a movie plot, and it’s just as relevant as your reference to the “Lavoisier Group” is. (Which is to say, not much — the credibility of one “side” can’t be judged by cherry-picking the stupidest things that anyone on that “side” has ever said).

28

bi 11.07.06 at 3:31 pm

Then Functional, what’s the _best_ thing that they’ve ever said?

Ah, I know! It’s this:

“As we know,
There are known knowns.
There are things we know we know.
We also know
There are known unknowns.
That is to say
We know there are some things
We do not know.
But there are also unknown unknowns,
The ones we don’t know
We don’t know.”

29

Functional 11.07.06 at 3:47 pm

Well, it depends on what you mean by “denialist.” If “denialist” means “someone who denies that any warming has occurred at all,” then I can’t answer your question. If “denialist” means “someone who is skeptical that 100% of global warming is caused by humans,” or “someone who doesn’t take all of the alarmist scenarios at face value,” or “someone who thinks there is a lot more to warming than the concentration of CO2,” then there is plenty to choose from. To take a recent New York Times article:

Most public discussions of global warming concentrate on evidence from the last few hundred or, at most, few thousand years. And some climate scientists remain unconvinced that data from the deep past are solid enough to be relevant to the debates.

But the experts who peer back millions of years, though they may debate what their work means, do agree on the relevance of their findings. They also agree that the eon known as the Phanerozoic, a lengthy span from the present to 550 million years ago, the dawn of complex life, typically bore concentrations of carbon dioxide that were up to 18 times the levels present in the short reign of Homo sapiens.

* * *

Some argue that CO2 fluctuations over the Phanerozoic follow climate trends fairly well, supporting a causal relationship between high gas levels and high temperatures. “The geologic record over the past 550 million years indicates a good correlation,” said Robert A. Berner, a Yale geologist and pioneer of paleoclimate analysis. “There are other factors at work here. But in general, global warming is due to CO2. It was in the past and is now.”

Other experts say that is an oversimplification of a complex picture of natural variation. The fluctuations in the gas levels, they say, often fall out of step with the planet’s hot and cold cycles, undermining the claimed supremacy of carbon dioxide.

“It’s too simplistic to say low CO2 was the only cause of the glacial periods” on time scales of millions of years, said Robert Giegengack, a geologist at the University of Pennsylvania who studies past atmospheres. “The record violates that one-to-one correspondence.”

He and other doubters say the planet is clearly warming today, as it has repeatedly done, but insist that no one knows exactly why. Other possible causes, they say, include changes in sea currents, Sun cycles and cosmic rays that bombard the planet.

“More and more data,” Jan Veizer, an expert on Phanerozoic climates at the University of Ottawa, said, “point to the Sun and stars as the dominant driver.”

Skeptics say CO2 crusaders simply find the Phanerozoic data embarrassing and irreconcilable with public alarms. “People come to me and say, ‘Stop talking like this, you’re hurting the cause,’ ” said Dr. Giegengack of Penn.

[HMMM, WHY WOULD ANYONE EVER THINK THAT GLOBAL WARMING PROPONENTS AREN'T SOLELY INTERESTED IN THE TRUTH HERE?]

Robert A. Rohde, a graduate student in geophysics at the University of California, Berkeley, may represent a neutral voice. The evidence, he said, “is that CO2 is just one of many influences.”

* * *

In 2002, Daniel H. Rothman of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology also raised sharp Phanerozoic questions after studying carbon dioxide clues teased from marine rocks. Writing in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, he said that with one exception — the recent cool period of the last 50 million years — he could find “no systematic correspondence” between carbon dioxide and climate shifts.

* * *

Carbon dioxide skeptics and others see the reconstructions of the last 15 years as increasingly reliable, posing fundamental questions about the claimed powers of carbon dioxide. Climatologists and policy makers, they say, need to ponder such complexities rather than trying to ignore or dismiss the unexpected findings.

“Some of the work has been quite meticulous,” Thure E. Cerling, an expert at the University of Utah on Phanerozoic climates, said. “We are likely to learn something.”

So again, if “denialist” means “isn’t convinced that CO2 is the whole shebang,” then there are several well-qualified denialists quoted in the above story. Now I have no doubt that John Quiggin is ready to jump in with a denunciation of all of these folks as “not real climatologists.” Or maybe he has a link to a Tim Lambert blog post refuting the entire field of prehistoric climate research (as we all know, Lambert is a climatologist in his spare time). But the rest of us who aren’t already converts to the global warming religion should be able to take all of the evidence into account.

30

Functional 11.07.06 at 3:49 pm

Hmmm, the blockquote function didn’t work very well. Most of that post is a quote, up to this last paragraph written by me:

So again, if “denialist” means “isn’t convinced that CO2 is the whole shebang,” then there are several well-qualified denialists quoted in the above story. Now I have no doubt that John Quiggin is ready to jump in with a denunciation of all of these folks as “not real climatologists.” Or maybe he has a link to a Tim Lambert blog post refuting the entire field of prehistoric climate research (as we all know, Lambert is a climatologist in his spare time). But the rest of us who aren’t already converts to the global warming religion should be able to take all of the evidence into account.

31

aaron 11.07.06 at 4:05 pm

What happens when you apply global warming like models to population trends in Iraq including and excluding post invasion data.

32

Steve LaBonne 11.07.06 at 4:11 pm

No,a “denialist” is somebody who parades a handful of cherrypicked references, which he himself doesn’t understand, that have been handed to himn by some shill or other, instead of, for example, going to realclimate.org, clicking on the “paleoclimate” link, and trying to actually learn something. A denialist so defined is a pretty sad creature, really. But certainly not an interesting one.

33

John Quiggin 11.07.06 at 7:35 pm

Read the post, functional. I’m not cherrypicking, but focusing on people whose work is central to denialism. The Lavoiser Group’s “research” forms the basis of recent attacks on the Stern Committee from Nigel Lawson and others. McKitrick is the author of exhibit #1 in the denialist case, the attack on Mann et al.

And these aren’t the stupidest I could have chosen, by any means. I excluded even stupider claims from people who aren’t, like the Lavoiser Group and McKitrick, major sources for the denialist campaign as a whole.

34

engels 11.07.06 at 8:15 pm

HMMM, WHY WOULD ANYONE EVER THINK THAT GLOBAL WARMING PROPONENTS AREN’T SOLELY INTERESTED IN THE TRUTH HERE?

the global warming religion

Functional, why do you do this? What’s in it for you?

35

Walt 11.07.06 at 8:19 pm

All I know is that carbon dioxide is an angry god, one not to be trifled with.

36

Functional 11.07.06 at 9:09 pm

Engels — I’ll answer you as soon as you explain why global warming gullibilists say things like this:

CO2 crusaders simply find the Phanerozoic data embarrassing and irreconcilable with public alarms. “People come to me and say, ‘Stop talking like this, you’re hurting the cause,’ ” said Dr. Giegengack of Penn.

Why are they worried about scientific facts “hurting the cause”? Hmmm? Doesn’t that strike an odd note, if global warming proponents are sheerly disinterested proponents of intellectually honest investigation?

37

bi 11.08.06 at 6:07 am

Crooked Timber wrote about Veizer and Shaviv before. In brief: Veizer and Shaviv were doing solid science, but the kooks at TCS twisted their words to fit their own conclusions.

So, Functional, is this the best you can come up with. Oh, wait… it is! So that means we can call it a day.

38

aaron 11.08.06 at 8:38 am

Umm, bi. How did the TCS article twist their words to fit a conclusion? The logical conclusion is that most climate variation (not global warming) is not driven by CO2. What the crooked timber post says is true, if cosmic factors drive up global warming, CO2 will make it worse. But we have no idea what cosmic drivers will do. We are just as likely to find our selves in a cooling period. Without enough CO2 in the atmosphere it would also be exacerbated. The crooked timber argument is a strawman, it assumes that cosmic forces will continue to drive warming faster than historically.

39

Robin Green 11.08.06 at 9:12 am

But we have no idea what cosmic drivers will do. We are just as likely to find our selves in a cooling period.

I think you are pulling the “just as likely” bit out of your arse. You cannot assert that something has 50% probability on the basis that you don’t understand what makes it happen, obviously. This is a common fallacy. To make it clearer: what is your basis for thinking that e.g. solar changes are causing global warming here, on a very rapid timescale, just as the human species also happens to be continuously ramping up its greenhouse gas emmissions?

Indeed, there was a survey paper recently that showed that the climate science literature overwhelmingly supports the theory that humans are responsible for recent climate change. That survey would have had to miss an improbably large number of endorsements of alternative theories in the literature in order for its conclusions to be incorrect.

40

Functional 11.08.06 at 11:24 am

Look, “bi,” if you can read, you might have noticed that 1) I didn’t rely on or cite TCS in any way, which makes your reference to them beside the point; and 2) there were several other scientists quoted in that NY Times article other than Viezer. Just to make it easy for you, I’ll repeat their names here: Geigengack, Rohde, Rothman, Cerling.

Anyway, if Veizer and Shaviv validly find that 1/2 to 2/3 of global warming is NOT caused by humans, then the Timberites have no business throwing around the label “denialist” at anyone who doubts that humans are 100% of the cause. (Either that, or they should clarify and strictly limit what they mean by “denialist”).

41

aaron 11.08.06 at 1:31 pm

What ever happened to the theories that there are limits to the greenhouse effect of CO2. Aren’t we supposed to be near the point where increases in CO2 concentrations make diminishing contributions to the greenhouse effect? When was that debunked? (Asking seriously. I don’t feel like looking it up, cubital tunnel syndrome and all.)

42

aaron 11.08.06 at 1:34 pm

Robin, because that’s what the data says.

43

aaron 11.08.06 at 3:57 pm

Oh, heh. That is the report. And they stand by it. It limits global warming to 1-1.5C.

The author’s complaint about being misquoted is about an entirely seperate issue from the one discussed in the posts. The author wants it clear that Solar fluctuations drive global warming in the timeframes we look at. The cosmic ray driven variations are much smaller and occur over periods of hunreds of millions of years. His gripe is about the use of the term cosmics rays instead of solar.

Points for Robin. Severe Ice Ages are becoming less likely. His study says that over the next several million years, ice ages will become less severe and eventually disappear. So in 50 million or so years, less ice ages.

And of course, I didn’t mean to say that there is a 50/50 chance of the temp going up or down equal amounts year to year. I meant that factors beyond our control determine how CO2 affects our climate. Let’s see some good solar climate forcasts. ’til then, it’s worthless. Why are we to believe that current levels of solar activity will be the norm in the future? (even if they are, or they go up, will CO2 concentration increases increase warming forcing significantly further?) And what happens if they decrease? Does warming stop? Do we need to worry about cooling?

44

aaron 11.08.06 at 4:04 pm

The author says “there is a clear limit to the forcing effect of CO2″.

45

aaron 11.08.06 at 5:19 pm

And, the CT post treats the 1/3 to 1/2 of global warming is human caused the effect of increased CO2 is something that happens in addition to natural warming. It is not, the 1/3 to 1/2 human effect is created by the compounding effect of CO2 on the natural solar driven increase in temp.

46

bi 11.09.06 at 4:26 pm

aaron: That last sentence wasn’t even grammatical. What stuff are you smoking again?

Functional: Well, given that the NYT didn’t exactly give the full enchilada on even Veizer’s work, what are the chances that its representation of Geigengack, Rohde, Rothman, Cerling is true to fact? How about you actually read what the authors themselves actually write in their reports rather than trying to learn high-level science from newspapers…

Of course, given that you can’t make an argument without preemptively making up strawmen and then demolishing them, I’m sure you won’t do that. So once again, good day.

47

Functional 11.09.06 at 4:42 pm

So let’s see — I’m not supposed to trust a bunch of respected scientists quoted in the New York Times, because some anonymous poster on the Internet thinks that the article might be wrong in unspecified ways? Yeah, that’s a hard decision.

48

bi 11.09.06 at 4:55 pm

Functional: I did specify one way in which the NYT didn’t tell the whole story. But keep saying nyah-nyah-nyah and ignoring realclimate.org and building strawmen, will ya?

49

Functional 11.09.06 at 10:59 pm

No you didn’t. You pointed out how Tech Central Station allegedly didn’t “tell the whole story” as to Veizer’s research. That was irrelevant. No one was talking about TCS in the first place.

What the New York Times said about Veizer wasn’t some journalist’s characterization: It was Veizer’s own words:

“More and more data,” Jan Veizer, an expert on Phanerozoic climates at the University of Ottawa, said, “point to the Sun and stars as the dominant driver.”

Do you have evidence that Veizer was misquoted here? No? Then enough with the idiotic pretense that you’ve proven anything whatsoever about the Times’ story.

50

Eli Rabett 11.10.06 at 12:59 am

McKitrick and Essex completely blew their ruminations about temperature. The dear boys used Celcius when they HAD to use Kelvin. If you paid attention in your thermo class you would then understand why an arithmetic average of temperature makes sense. OTOH exciting thermodynamics is right up there with military intelligence on the oxymoron scale.

This was a much worse error than the angle thing, IMHO, of course.

51

Eli Rabett 11.10.06 at 1:01 am

Oh yes, some trenchiant comments on denialists and deniers. It’s really simple.

52

bi 11.10.06 at 8:55 am

Functional: Oh, so presumably the NYT also mentioned that Veizer and Shaviv believe that “probably about 1/3 to 1/2 of the warming” is caused by humans? Wait… no.

Enough of your mud-slinging. Have you even read realclimate.org? Or are you basing all your insulting epithets on nothing but a single NYT article?

53

Functional 11.10.06 at 11:50 am

You’re talking about one paper. Veizer’s quote was obviously a lot of research, whether by himself or others. No inconsistency.

Anyway, a “single NYT article” is not by any means the only thing that I’ve read. It’s just the easiest and most recent thing that came to mind when you asked for an example of good “denialist” research, i.e., research showing that human-emitted CO2 doesn’t, in fact, cause 100% of all global warming that has ever occurred.

54

Eli Rabett 11.10.06 at 1:28 pm

Re Vezier and Shaviv, there is a telling comment by Stefan Rahmstorf which comes down to VandS get their excellent correlation by manipulating the data in “”creative”" ways.

We thus find that there is no significant correlation of the CRF curve from Shaviv’s model and the temperature curve of Veizer, even after one of the four CRF peaks was arbitrarily shifted by 40 m.y. to improve the fit to the temperature curve. There also is no significant correlation between the original meteorite data and the temperature reconstruction. The explained variance claimed by [Shaviv and Veizer, 2003] is the maximum achievable by optimal smoothing of the temperature data and by making several arbitrary adjustments to the cosmic ray data (within their large uncertainty) to line up their peaks with the temperature curve.

That was one of the nicer comments in an article which was published in EOS, the house newsletter of the American Geophysical Union. There was a reply by VandS that is behind the subscription wall )also here a further reply to the reply to the reply with the first reply…. and a rebuttal by Rahmstorf

55

Eli Rabett 11.10.06 at 2:33 pm

Sorry, I mangled the replyreplyreply link, but you can find all of the V&S you want at http://www.sciencebits.com/ClimateDebate

56

aaron 11.10.06 at 7:40 pm

Thanks Eli.

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