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Euroscepticism has gone from mad to mainstream. The same thing will happen to ‘climate change’ scepticism

The history of science is the history of one collapsing consensus after another

By on Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Environmental activists dressed as polar bears Binsar Bakkara/AP/Press Association Images

Environmental activists dressed as polar bears Binsar Bakkara/AP/Press Association Images

I have a natural bent towards scepticism about what everyone seems unquestioningly to believe. If I didn’t, I probably wouldn’t have become a Catholic: the secularism in which I was brought up crumbled in the end under my natural scepticism’s dissolving acids. What is sound doesn’t crumble; that’s why real scientists have scepticism built in: and why the “scientific consensus” presently damning all “climate change scepticism” as simply impermissible is so deeply intellectually disreputable.

Scepticism, of course, in a society in which, as Peter Hitchens memorably puts it, “hardly anyone has been taught how to think, while millions have been taught what to think, can be an uncomfortable option. We all remember, for instance, when eurosceptics were consistently treated like idiots or lunatics. This was the semi-official position of the BBC until very recently. Only last year, Rod Liddle wrote in his Sunday Times column of being summoned to see his boss at the BBC following a complaint about the Corporation’s bias against Eurosceptics. The complaint had been made by Lord Pearson of Rannoch, then a Tory peer. “The [BBC] panjandrum”, wrote Liddle “listened to my nervous musings and then held aloft Lord Pearson’s latest letter and said: “Rod, you do realise that these people are mad?”

Well, we’re all Eurosceptics now; hardly a single politician is prepared to admit that he or she was ever in favour of this country’s entry into the eurozone.

And I am now prepared to make a prediction; that in just the same way, climate change scepticism will – at some time during the next decade – become as normal as Euroscepticism is now. Here, for instance, is another example of what one might call the “Climategate” syndrome, that is, the tendency of some climate scientists (or climate ideologists, it’s often the same thing) either to suppress or distort evidence in order to drive home the conclusion they want us all to accept as an article of faith: that global warming is taking place at a rate which will lead to ecological disaster at some time during the next century, and that this effect is what they call “anthropogenic”, in other words, it’s caused by us. If you refuse to accept this, the implication is, you are doing something as intellectually disreputable as denying that the earth revolves round the sun, or even as denying the Holocaust: the accusation here is of climate change “denial”, as though it were some kind of crime.

Here’s the story.

Professor Richard Muller, of Berkeley, and colleagues from the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperatures project team (BEST) published a study last week designed to show that the planet has warmed by almost a degree centigrade since 1950 and is still warming. Their work was widely quoted as showing that only major carbon dioxide reduction measures can save us all, by reporters and commentators from the BBC, the Independent, the Guardian, the Economist and, of course, many newspapers and TV news services all over America.

According to the Washington Post, the BEST study has “settled the climate change debate” and has demonstrated that anyone who remains a sceptic is committing a “cynical fraud”.

Well, cynical fraud yourself, whoever wrote that: for, according to one of the report’s lead authors, Professor Judith Curry, head of the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Prof Muller’s claim that the report has proved global warming sceptics wrong is quite simply a “huge mistake”, with no scientific basis. She also said that this claim had to be compared to the notorious “Climategate” scandal two years ago.

In fact, she insisted, the project’s research data show there has been no increase in world temperatures since the end of the 90s. “There is no scientific basis for saying that warming hasn’t stopped,” she said. “To say that there is detracts from the credibility of the data, which is very unfortunate.”

The data, quite simply, show that though CO2 in the atmosphere has continued to rise, there has been no global warning at all for 13 years, none at all: nada, niente, zilch.

Prof Muller nevertheless denies warming is at a standstill. “We see no evidence of it [global warming] having slowed down,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. There is, he added, “no levelling off”. Pressed by a Mail on Sunday journalist, however, he admitted it was true that the best data suggested that world temperatures have not risen for about 13 years. But, he said, this might not be “statistically significant”, although, he then went on to say, it was equally possible that it was. “I am baffled,” responded Professor Curry, “as to what he’s trying to do”. She also repeated that “To say this is the end of scepticism is misleading, as is the statement that warming hasn’t paused.”

The trouble is, that no matter how often one points out very simple facts, such as the fact that (as Professor Curry points out) since 1998 there has been no global warming, and nor has there been any convincing explanation from the man-made CO2 bunch why this should be; they just carry on intoning their mantra, which has taken on a dogmatic weight almost impossible to shift.

Mentioning Peter Hitchens just now reminded me of a piece by him published a year or two ago, which is well worth reading in full: it includes nothing which isn’t true, so far as I have been able to check, including the following, which begins with the subject of Al Gore’s ludicrous film An Inconvenient Truth (which got him the Nobel Prize, for heaven’s sake):

…take, just for example, the famous picture of polar bears on a melting ice-floe, supposedly doomed victims of global warming.

The USA’s ex-vice president, the propagandist Al Gore, got audiences going “Aaah!” by saying the bears had “nowhere else to go”. Really? The picture was taken in August, when the Alaskan ice always melts. The polar bears were fine. Think about it.

They can swim and they weren’t far from land. Recent studies show that most polar bear populations are rising.

The world was warmer than it is now in the early Middle Ages, long before industrial activity increased CO2 output, a fact that the warming fanatics have worked very hard to obscure.

Oh, and the most important greenhouse gas by far is not CO2 but water vapour, which is not influenced by human activity at all.

All this is in fact the case. Take that apparently polemical accusation that “the warming fanatics have worked very hard to obscure” the fact that the world was warmer than it is now in the early Middle Ages. It is absolutely true: they have. Consider the following testimony given to the US Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works in December 2006 by Dr David Deming, of the University of Oklahoma’s College of Earth and Energy:

Mr. Chairman, members of the Committee, and distinguished guests, thank you for inviting me to testify today. I am a geologist and geophysicist. I have a bachelor’s degree in geology from Indiana University, and a Ph.D in geophysics from the University of Utah. My field of specialization in geophysics is temperature and heat flow. In recent years, I have turned my studies to the history and philosophy of science. In 1995, I published a short paper in the academic journal Science. In that study, I reviewed how borehole temperature data recorded a warming of about one degree Celsius in North America over the last 100 to 150 years. The week the article appeared, I was contacted by a reporter for National Public Radio. He offered to interview me, but only if I would state that the warming was due to human activity. When I refused to do so, he hung up on me.

I had another interesting experience around the time my paper in Science was published. I received an astonishing email from a major researcher in the area of climate change. He said, “We have to get rid of the Medieval Warm Period.”

The Medieval Warm Period (MWP) was a time of unusually warm weather that began around 1000 AD and persisted until a cold period known as the “Little Ice Age” took hold in the 14th century. Warmer climate brought a remarkable flowering of prosperity, knowledge, and art to Europe during the High Middle Ages.

The existence of the MWP had been recognized in the scientific literature for decades. But now it was a major embarrassment to those maintaining that the 20th century warming was truly anomalous. It had to be “gotten rid of.”

I’m not saying that all those involved in trying to foist on us the notion that climate scepticism simply isn’t a permissible intellectual option are actually dishonest. But some of them certainly are. Ex-vice president Al Gore is a charlatan; and I have a list of other persons about whom something more disobliging than that could be and probably should be asserted. But I know how far I am allowed to go.

Meanwhile, there is at present no global warming. Maybe it will start again; maybe it won’t. But there is no proof at all that any of it ever had very much to do with man-made carbon dioxide.

Finally, the question of that so-called ”scientific consensus”. The history of science is the history of one collapsing consensus after another. It is quite possible – I would have thought likely (eg Professor Curry) – that this one, if it actually exists, will collapse too. Remember, when it happens; you read it here first. If you did, that is.

  • Richard

    Exactly.  No evidence will ever be good enough for Mr Oddie – his positions on both his religion and climate change are purely faith based.  He’s decided to believe in something on one hand, and to not believe in something on the other, and he will not be swayed.

    Were he genuinely sceptical – prepared to sum up the evidence and change his viewpoint if evidence showed him to be wrong / mistaken – he would not hold faith based positions.

  • Paul

    The so called little ice age was not a global cooling event. There was no single period of prolonged cold around the entire plant at this time. There were several widespread cold intervals at different times between 1580 and 1850 in the northern hemisphere. While there is some evidence of cold intervals in parts of the southern hemisphere during this time, they do not appear to coincide with those in the northern hemisphere. So we are not simply recovering from some widespread increase in global glaciation. (See Bradley and Jones, 1993; Hughes and Diaz, 1994; Grove and Switsur, 1994; Bradley 99; Crowley and Lowery, 2000).

    Could you provide a reference to your own study so that I can respond to it properly?
    The general consensus in the literature is that most of the warming in this period was in the north and there was almost no change in mean temperatures at mid to low latitudes. (See http://dx.doi.org/10.1126%2Fscience.279.5353.1014)

    I am not a biologist, but I don’t think you can say polar bears are going to be OK in the face of evidence that they are already beginning to suffer.

    Your final paragraph has baffled me to say the least. You said earlier that you had conducted a study on African palaeoclimates. If this is the case, and you are a scientist working in the field of climate science, then you know very well that there was no scandal at the CRU, and you should know exactly what “hide the decline” is referring to. To continue to imply that there was any wrongdoing raises suspicions about both your motives and your credentials. I would add also, that science derives its authority not from people in white coats with fancy titles but from a clear explanation of theories, backed up by studies and evidence. To talk about “the credibility of scientists in general” does a great disservice to the field to which you imply you belong.

  • tb88

    Your first link is basically the subject of this article written somewhere else and has already been debunked in these comments (not to mention all over the internet). Your second link is a smear campaign against a man who has already been found to have committed no wrongdoing. Not much of a raise…

  • Steve R.

    The important consideration is the degree of correlation between rising global temperature and rising CO2 levels in the atmosphere, over time.

    Such changes indicate that there is a strong likelihood that the Earth has warmed in response to the measured increase in CO2 levels. To say that the accelerating levels of water vapour in the atmosphere is not anthropogenic in origin is somewhat facile (even if excluding the water vapour from air transport) as increasing levels are/will be as a result of a positive feedback mechanism whereby increased warming of Earth’s surface results in greater evaporation of water which causes greater warming – and so on.

    Surely it is human nature to be cautious? it is partly how we have survived as a species; so why is it in our best interests to ignore the scientific evidence that climate change is happening, and will go on happening until we collectively take responsibility and do something about it?

  • Steve R.

    I see Paul has already provided a comprehensive refute below.

  • Steve R.

    I oppose GM crops not least on the grounds that it takes farming out of the hands of farmers. The rights to food production will be owned by a few mega companies such as Monsanto and farmers will be compelled to use prescribed herbicides and pesticides, the rights to which will also be owned by the GM companies.

    The greatest efficiencies are found in small-scale farms managed organically. Not in giant dust bowls where huge amounts of energy/water are required to cultivate mono culture crops.

    As was the case of with the monarch butterfly, no evidence of harm is not evidence of no harm.

  • Anonymous

    Well a lot of economists warned of issues with the Euro, maybe we should have listened to them more carefully.

    It is the case that the vast majority of climate scientists and regular scientists agree that global warning is occurring, and is being influenced by human activity.

    I am no economist, or no scientist, so all I can do is put my trust in people who work on these issues for a living. With the Euro there was little consensus, whereas with global-warming there certainly is a very high level of agreement.

    Therefore all I can do, without studying for a degree in meteorology, is to see global-warming as a highly-likely possibility, and to make sure I do my best to reduce the probable impact of my actions.

  • Anonymous

    Well a lot of economists warned of issues with the Euro, maybe we should have listened to them more carefully.

    It is the case that the vast majority of climate scientists and regular scientists agree that global warning is occurring, and is being influenced by human activity.

    I am no economist, or no scientist, so all I can do is put my trust in people who work on these issues for a living. With the Euro there was little consensus, whereas with global-warming there certainly is a very high level of agreement.

    Therefore all I can do, without studying for a degree in meteorology, is to see global-warming as a highly-likely possibility, and to make sure I do my best to reduce the probable impact of my actions.
    (see image for gallup poll on scientific consensus) (gallup – is a respected research and polling group. They are often quoted in American news and political debate, and recognised by most as a unquestionably reliable source)

  • Wolfgang Munster Schnozle

    Once it was ‘man made global warming’, then it had to be changed to ‘global warming’ because it was too easily disproved, then soon to be amended to its present caricature; ‘climate change’  - the climate’s always changing!

    Now consider the lies and falsehoods that have been exposed which all led to nations states in europe that make billions from this nonsence and impose control over populations.
     
    That is not to say there is a need to live as cleanly as we can; just that climate sceptics are determined the good cause of reducing wate and living cleanly should not be undermined by spivs whom, in the name of ‘climate change’, actually undermine it.

  • Draeegis

    This is too funny, its beyond satire. 

  • Wolfgang Munster Schnozle

    You say:  “One of the most important pieces of evidence comes from an ice core drilled from a feature in central Antarctica called Dome C. It is 3km long and records Antarctic temperatures going back 740000 years, spanning eight ice ages.”

    Perhaps you would care to come up with a theory of explanation of how it was that warm seas and ambient temperatures exceeding freezing point were captured within the ice sheets?

    Your writings is further flawed by the facts that the very Scientists you seem to invoke, were in fact receiving from tax demanding govenments, vast research funding and were discovered to
    have embelished historical sea and air temperature records on which to base this ridiculaous falsehood.

    Its nonsence Sir, give it up!

  • Paul

    I’m not even sure what your question is supposed to mean. If you’re asking how we derive temperature reconstructions from ice cores, it’s through isotopic analysis. If you’re asking something else please explain it more clearly. 

    I’m not invoking scientists I’m invoking science. Yes scientists receive funding from public bodies. What point are you trying to make? Which sea and air temperature records have been embellished and by whom? Do you have evidence to back up this assertion or are you just making wild baseless accusations?

    The only person spouting nonsense here, (it’s spelt with an s by the way) is you.

  • Oconnordamien

    How so? Not my subject… but there are as many dire warnings for economic disaster as for climate disaster in those reports you choose not to believe. Surely you’re not advocating the consumer society which has been so blamed for our woes?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ITWGHDTDQ65STHO754O4CJQ7YU Gabriel

    Paul denies that his comments are attacks ad hominem; they are simply scientific says he. Perhaps he would oblige us with a scientific definition of “rubbish” or “barmy”. Consider phlogiston.

  • Paul

    Perhaps you should re-read what I wrote. I said the use of the word rubbish was not ad hominem as it wasn’t aimed at the person.

    “”unsubstantiated rubbish” and “..based on some rubbish you read in the tabloids” are not ad hom attacks – they’re attacking the ideas not the author.”
    Which is entirely true. And I didn’t deny that barmy was ad hominem. All I said in relation to that was
    “Sorry if you don’t like my tone but I do consider most conspiracy theories to be “barmy” – and its hardly the most offensive thing that could be said.”
    I never claimed “rubbish” or “barmy” were scientific terms. Please don’t criticise me for things I have not said.

    What exactly would you like me to consider about phlogiston?

  • GabrielAustin

    Paul’s remark about consensus among scientists raises the interesting question of the number of theories of the universe prevalent among scientists in the past half-century, one supplanting the other: steady state, oscillating, infinite, travel in time [mathematically demonstrated in the Scientific American],  multiverses. Then there is [was?] self-created hydrogen atoms popping up all over the universe[s].
    That the anthropogenic global warming buffs attempted to suppress contrary findings seems to indicate a problem with the theory. At least is that not what common experience would conclude? 

  • GabrielAustin

    Curious that you would disparage faith and then write “I have very little faith [sic] myself in anything else he has to say”. Apparently the only facts you accept are scientific facts, i.e., those that can be weighed, counted, or measured.  But there is no disputing faith, no more than taste.

  • Richard

    I don’t think I disparaged faith at all.  I merely pointed out that faith (unswerving belief without evidence) is diametrically opposed to scepticism (constant questioning of beliefs, positions and statements with no or poor evidence), and that one is extremely unlikely to lead to the other.

  • Paul

    What is the interesting question? You didn’t actually raise one.
    Who has attempted to suppress exactly what findings? These vague accusations aren’t very convincing.

  • GabrielAustin

    “Unswerving belief without evidence” is not a definition of faith. I may have faith in the kindness of a friend, What evidence do I need? You seem to believe that only scientific evidence [weight, measure, number] counts. Must I demand evidence of friendship, of marital fidelity, of honesty?

  • GabrielAustin

    The supplanting of one scientific theory by another is the interesting question. Apparently you deny that it happens; yet in 50 years….

    You might try reading reports about Climate-gate. But I begin to have a sense that you are a victim of that of which you accuse others: not reading what you find that contradicts your opinions. As Belloc said, go do your own research.

  • GabrielAustin

    At least some light has dawned: barmy is ad hominem.
    Now what is the scientific definition of rubbish? Of course you would not claim that it has a scientific definition; it does not. It is mudslinging.
    Phlogiston: a theory that was part of the scientific consensus for a century.
    After this, I suggest you do your own thinking.

  • Paul

    It was never denied, so im glad its finally dawned on you. And Its pretty clear what I meant by rubbish – foolishness or nonsense. I stand by that. Try not to be so sensitive about such a mild term for goodness sake.
    I know what phlogiston is, that wasn’t what I was asking. I asked what point was the OP trying to make by bringing it up. I will assume the point you’re both trying to make is something along the lines of “scientists were wrong about phlogiston so how do we know they’re not wrong about climate change”. This is a fallacious argument in a number of ways:
    Firstly it misrepresents how science actually works. Outdated or discredited theories that were accepted in the past are often not ‘wrong’ as such, they just fail to explain new evidence, and the theory that replaces it is often very similar but with extensions, caveats, or alternatives. Lets take your example of phlogiston theory: based on the evidence available at the time the theory was formulated, it made a lot of sense. And actually it wasn’t far off. If you replace the phlogiston with a notion of ‘negative oxygen’ you can come up with a modern day phlogiston theory that balances all the equations and fits all the modern evidence we have of combustion. Conflating the incompleteness of a theory – and there are some uncertainties in climate change predictions – with being outright wrong is an example of being ‘wronger than wrong’ (read Isaac Asimov’s essay The Relativity of Wrong for more on this).
    Secondly, its flawed at an even more basic logical level. It’s a non sequitur. It has nothing to do with the subject at hand. The fact that phlogiston theory was wrong has no bearing on whether or not climate change is real. Just as it has no bearing on whether the theory of gravity is correct. The two things are governed by different evidence bases.
    Finally, using a reductio ad absurdum, the argument can apply to any and all forms of science and technology, and if you accepted it there would be no way to test the validity of any claims. No one would say “I’m not going to drive in a car! Science has been wrong before!”
    This ‘science has been wrong before’ objection is a last ditch argument made when you have run out of any concrete objections. Try harder.

  • Paul

    Its not an interesting question, its not even a question. “Are scientific theories supplanted by others?” would be a question. “Is the fact that scientific consensus has shifted in other areas a good reason to doubt climate change?” would be a question more interesting than the first. I have addressed this question in my reply to your other comment further down. In short, the answer is no, and to claim that it is, is fallacious in many different ways.

    I am very aware of the so called climate-gate scandal. More so than you it would seem. If you want to raise any specific points in relation to it I will be happy to point out to you specifically why there was no wrong doing in each point.

    Who is Belloc? There are no comments on this page by a user with that name. Someone did tell me to “do my own thinking” but that was you, “GabrielAustin”. Did you mean to write that comment under a different name? Oops. Sockpuppet fail.

  • Wildberry

    . . . and clearly beyond the wit of some readers to engage intelligently, seriously, and agreeably. When you find yourself at a loss as to how to respond the usual fallback position is the gratuitous sneer. Come on Draeegis; surely you can do better than that!

  • Stuart

    . . . and clearly beyond the wit of some readers to engage intelligently, seriously, and agreeably. When you find yourself at a loss as to how to respond the usual fallback position is the gratuitous sneer. Come on Draeegis; surely you can do better than that!

  • Anonymous

    This is very poor stuff, Paul. You seem determined to display your prejudices and expect others to interpret them as reasoned debate. There are plenty of people who have been persuaded to accept the “facts” you parade as irrefutable truths. Luckily, some of them manage to avoid sounding like bad-tempered children. Do you honestly believe your outbursts, replete with fatuous insults, are likely to convince any open-minded readers? Or are you deliberately trying to undermine the opinions you are ostensibly seeking to promote? Just taking one example, surely you accept that even prominent believers in AGW were aghast at the deliberate and routine manipulation of scientific data revealed in the “Climategate” affair? To ignore the IPCC’s highly embarrassing attempts to foist manifestly flawed “facts” on a gullible public does your case no good at all. 
    I really think you need to relax a bit, take a few deep breaths, have a cup of tea and then, perhaps after a nice lie-down, start all over again. 
    Read both sides of the debate; force yourself to weigh the evidence evenly, and to abandon your (forgive me) very silly attitude towards those whose ideas you don’t like.
    Who knows, you may even begin to modify your views and even accept that Al Gore is not a saint and that the science is not “settled” after all.
    Good luck! 

  • Draeegis

    If he makes an intelligent and serious comment in an agreeable way, I’ll respond to it in kind. If he does nothing but make unintelligent comments like global warming was easily disproved, vague accusations about lies with no specifics and no evidence to back them up, silly conspiracies about it all being about governments trying to control people, and calling people who accept the facts “spivs”, I’ll continue to point and laugh! Surely he can do better than that!

  • Anonymous

    Accusing Professor Curry of intellectual dishonesty is a bit rich, tb88. 
    If you had troubled to read her articles I think you would be in less of a hurry to join the smear campaign orchestrated by ‘the usual suspects’. It is interesting to note, incidentally, that when she was still inclined to go along with the “consensus” she was hailed as a brilliant scientist. When her doubts drove her to question the faith, and her close examination of the scientific facts convinced her of the sceptics’ case, she began to understand exactly how vicious the “scientific community” could be. You may disagree with her and you may have carried out worthwhile scientific research yourself, tb88. But do you really believe that she so stupid as to indulge in what you, from your lofty realms of disdain, describe as cherry-picking data? Oh dear!

  • Paul

    There was no “deliberate and routine manipulation of scientific data revealed in the “Climategate” affair” for anyone to be aghast at. One thing that does annoy me (though doesn’t surprise me much unfortunately) is that denialists such as yourself keep bringing it up when it has already been found independently that there was no wrong doing. This request has been made more than once on these comments by myself and others but I’ll repeat it for you: If you make a specific accustation about about where a climatologist supporting the consensus has been shown to have done something wrong, I will respond to it. If you can show me evidence of some data that has been fabricated, I will respond to it. Tell me which facts produced by the IPCC are flawed and why they are flawed. If all you can do is make vague accusations, all it shows is that either you know you are wrong, so you don’t want to get into specifics and be told precisely why you are wrong, or you don’t even know what the specific ‘climategate’ allegations were and are therefore equally as ignorant as to how they were disproved. 
    If you would rather engage in the debate by actually discussing the science, as only a few people including Al have done on here so far, that would also be welcome. Until you have something valuable to add to the discussion, I would suggest that you take your own advice, do some reading, and look at the evidence. You will find that it is firmly on the side of the scientific consensus that AGW is a real. 
    Good luck!

  • tb88

    I didn’t call her stupid. Yes she did cherry pick the data, and I demonstrated exactly how she did this. Was I not clear? Would you like to point out to me exactly which parts of my original comment are incorrect and why?

  • Anonymous

    This is getting silly. Of course you didn’t call Professor Curry ‘stupid’. You simply accused a recognised authority in her field of deliberately selecting isolated facts in order to present a false picture. I would call that being stupid. You generously called it “intellectual dishonesty”. 

    As to your having “demonstrated” this, the less said the better. But I am sure Professor Curry would welcome your detailed analysis of her hopelessly flawed methodology. 

    Regarding your other point, I fear that time does not permit me to explain to you the flaws in your reasoning. You are clearly satisfied that you are an expert in these matters and, although it is a great pity, I am content that you should remain so. Whether your methods, veering as they do from outright assertion to nursery-style analogies, are found entertaining by the other readers, I know not. 

    What I do know, however, is that your talents are wasted on dull subjects like AGW. Have you ever considered going on the stage?

  • tb88

    You’re right, you are being silly. There is no need to repeat what my accusation is, I stated it clearly enough the first time. It is plainly obvious to anyone who looks at the data that this is exactly what she has done. The reason you can’t explain why my accusation is wrong is because it isn’t. Saying “you’re wrong but I don’t have time to explain why” is possibly the weakest argument I’ve ever heard for anything. Why bother even saying anything at all? I could go and write that sort of thing on any article or comment I disagreed with and I would rightly be told I was an idiot. If you have a valuable point to make, then make it.

  • Anonymous

    Do calm down, tb88. 
    Judging by what you write, I’m quite sure you’ve come across a lot of very weak arguments. In fact I am ready to concede you’re probably a bit of an expert. However, this really gets us nowhere. You are not the kind who is easily persuaded – or easily engaged with, come to that. As for having “a valuable point”, I fear we have different notions of what a valuable point may be. I hope you won’t take it amiss, tb88, if I point out that people who get so agitated that all they produce is pointless froth are very difficult to deal with. You are obviously upset with me and I don’t blame you for that. It must be very irritating to find your certainties questioned. But that is what debate is – or should be – all about. And I feel you are not interested in debate. You strike me as being more comfortable just swapping insults and making wild assertions. That is why I suggest we call it a day and you retire to your personal comfort zone. I wish you well, incidentally, and hope that eventually you acquire a taste for reasoned discourse in place of, well, rather immature point-scoring.

    I’m sure you will wish to reply. Try to resist the temptation. 
    Remember what happens to people who, when in a hole, just keep digging . . .

  • tb88

    A debate is precisely what I am interested in, which is why I have repeatedly asked you to clarify exactly what factual error you think I have made in my original post. Instead you appear to be content to ignore the debate and instead make snide comments about my (perceived) character rather than engage with the issue.

  • Anonymous

    But the first paragraph is factual, surely. The climate is always changing and always will be. It is either getting warmer or getting colder all the time. Neither funny nor satire, Draeegis. Similarly the so-called ‘warmists’ have found it convenient to change the name of their movement for their own purposes and it is legitimate to note that and, indeed, to wonder why they find this necessary. As for disproving, what happened to the infamous ‘hockey-stick’ ,Draeegis? And have not even AGW supporters now conceded that the perceived warming has stopped. Perhaps temporally, but nonetheless stopped.
    The second paragraph is more contentious but certainly prompts debate. The huge leap in energy bills in the UK are largely because of subsidies to ‘green’ policies. This is not confined to this country and there are many highly respected authorities across the EU that are concerned about this situation. Neither funny nor satire for those of us paying rapidly rising bills.The final paragraph should command assent from even the Draeegis brigade. After all, what is wrong with calling for reduced waste and clean living? And if Draeegis is content to support the siphoning off of tax-payers’ money to make wealthy landowners, Chinese solar cell manufacturers, and middle-men all richer he should say so.But the first paragraph is factual, surely. The climate is always changing and always will be. It is either getting warmer or getting colder all the time. Neither funny nor satire, Draeegis. Similarly the so-called ‘warmists’ have found it convenient to change the name of their movement for their own purposes and it is legitimate to note that and, indeed, to wonder why they find this necessary. As for disproving, what happened to the infamous ‘hockey-stick’ ,Draeegis? And have not even AGW supporters now conceded that the perceived warming has stopped. Perhaps temporally, but nonetheless stopped.

    The second paragraph is more contentious but certainly prompts debate. The huge leap in energy bills in the UK are largely because of subsidies to ‘green’ policies. This is not confined to this country and there are many highly respected authorities across the EU that are concerned about this situation. Neither funny nor satire for those of us paying rapidly rising bills.

    The final paragraph should command assent from even the Draeegis brigade. After all, what is wrong with calling for reduced waste and clean living? And if Draeegis is content to support the siphoning off of taxpayers’ money to make wealthy landowners, Chinese solar cell manufacturers, and middlemen all richer he should say so.

    Instead his lofty contempt does nothing to improve his stature in my eyes. Sneers are best left to those stand-up comics who benefit from the coarsened TV fashion of our time. As Stuart says, anyone (Draeegis included, surely!) ought to be ready to debate without descending to silly abuse. But perhaps that’s the best some folk can manage. In which case, so much the worse, for all of us.Instead his lofty contempt does nothing to improve his stature in my eyes. Sneers are best left to those stand-up comics who benefit from the coarsened TV fashion of our time. As Stuart says, anyone (Draeegis included, surely!) ought to be ready to debate without descending to silly abuse. But perhaps that’s the best some folk can manage. In which case, so much the worse, for all of us.

  • Anonymous

    I refer you to my previous comment (last para)

  • Draeegis

    Oh, come on now Kaschner, stop trolling. 

  • Draeegis

    The first paragraph begins “Once it was ‘man made global warming’, then it had to be changed to ‘global warming’ because it was too easily disproved”. This is not factual, as ‘man made global warming’ (anthropogenic global warming, or AGW, to use the correct term) has not been disproved easily or otherwise. AGW is also not a term which has fallen out of use. That the climate is always changing is factual and not in dispute. It is however not particularly relevant, as the important question is “is the current rapid increase in warming due to us?” You ask what happened to “the infamous hockey stick?” – this did: Michael Mann and his colleagues reconstructed northern hemisphere temperatures for the past 2000 years using a broader set of proxies than was available for the original study and updated measurements from the recent past. The new reconstruction was generated using two statistical methods, both different to that used in the original study. Like other temperature reconstructions done since 2001, it shows greater variability than the original hockey stick. Yet again, though, the key conclusion is the same: it’s hotter now than it has been for at least 1000 years. Have AGW supporters conceded that the perceived warming has stopped? No, not any that I know of. If you want to make a case for that in your reply though I’ll be happy to discuss it.I don’t find my rising energy bills funny either. But policies that try to address the issue of climate change, regardless of the effects of them, are based on real concerns based on good scientific evidence, not “lies and falsehoods” or “nonsense”. And “nation states in Europe” have not made “billions” from it. Nor is climate science a front for the governments of Europe to “impose control over populations”.There is nothing wrong with calling for reduced waste and clean living. Im all for it. I do take issue with the idea that it is somehow undermined by people who accept AGW. And I take offense at being labelled a “spiv” for accepting the evidence of it.In hindsight perhaps I should have posted the above paragraphs rather than laughing at him. However, before you tell others not to sneer, and that they “ought to be ready to debate without descending to silly abuse”, perhaps you should re-read your own replies to “tb88″ below.

  • Helen Z

    If Dr Oddie won’t listen to other scientists on this issue, maybe he will listen to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences who do accept it as fact and see it as an urgent matter. Indeed the Holy Father himself has spoken on this issue. There are over a billion Catholics in the world. If they heed the church and address climate change as a matter of faith, their individual actions and choices would go a long way in caring for God’s good gift of Creation and the poor who are most impacted by environmental degradation. It is a shame that a writer for the Catholic Herald does not seem to agree.

  • Helen Z

    There is only one person in this exchange trying to engage in “reasoned discourse” and it isn’t you. Why won’t you answer his/her question and say whats wrong with the original point they made?

  • Paul

    Kaschner, you seem unable to point out any errors in tb88′s post. There is a very good reason for this: S/he is correct. Professor Curry is indeed guilty of “selecting isolated facts in order to present a false picture” as you put it. How can you possibly assert that this is not true? She has selected a period of less than a decade out of a data set that spans more than two centuries. Her assertion that warming has stopped  is based on the absence of both context and analysis. I have included a graph to illustrate for you exactly how she has cherry picked the data.

  • Anonymous

    You are improving, Draeegis; in fact this latest effort is a marked improvement on your earlier ones. 

    To deal with your points, such as they are:

    AGW insists that a rise in CO2 is followed by a rise in temperature. The ice core samples paraded in the Al Gore blockbuster showed that the reverse happened  – although crafty old Al just kept to his script oblivious to the fact that he was getting it all back-to-front. CO2 emissions have not stopped increasing since industrialisation began. But we have had warming, cooling, and relatively stable periods too. And all the time the CO2 has been inexorably increasing. I understand, incidentally, that scientists have detected some significant warming on Mars recently. One awaits with some interest the warmists’ explanations.

    You speak confidently of “the current rapid increase in warming”. But GW here on earth has stopped and started (and even declined) since reliable records began. Even impeccable warmists have acknowledged this. They also agree, albeit reluctantly, that for a decade or so the rise has actually stopped. Look them up if you have time on your hands. You could do worse than begin with our old chum Phil “hide-the-decline” Jones. Certainly some convoluted exegesis has sought to explain away that particularly infamous remark but none save the really gullible has been convinced. It is the same Phil who is on record as conceding that the warming has indeed stopped (BBC online interview:  Q. “Do you agree that from 1995 to the present there has been no statistically-significant global warming?” Phil Jones: “Yes, but only just”).  There’s also the damning remark by Kevin Trenberth, Head of Climate Analysis at NCAR, who wrote that, “The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment, and it is a travesty that we can’t”. Another interesting quote is David Whitehouse’s “For the past decade the world has not warmed. Global warming has stopped . . . It’s an observational fact’. There’s lots more but you can look them up yourself. 

    You assert that the fact that climate is in a permanent state of change is irrelevant. Is that really true? It is certainly curious that those chanting the well-worn slogan of having to tackle ‘climate change’ do not appear to agree. I should have thought it central to the whole debate but you obviously take a different view, and that is fine by me. 

    The hilariously convoluted ‘explanations’ about the wretched ‘hockey-stick’ may also have satisfied you and that, again, is your privilege. Most people realise that the whole thing was, as Prof. Jones might have put it, an attempt to ‘hide the incline’. And again, few reputable experts doubt that this was so. And that includes many embarrassed so-called ‘warmist’ experts. Even the IPCC that gave it such prominence has amended its earlier policy and ceased plastering it over their reports. But, again, I’m sure you have a perfectly good explanation for that, and I’m equally confident you will more than willing enlighten anyone foolish enough to ask you.

    The facts about the billions being made by renewable entrepreneurs are a matter of record and only the wilfully obtuse can doubt it. I agree that you have every right to resent being labelled a spiv. I would too. But unless you are acting as Richard’s spokesman I don’t see why you should get hot under the collar. You appear to be easily worried by remarks not addressed to you. This betrays a certain over-sensitivity, slightly at odds with your abrasive style of insulting anyone who doesn’t share your views. 

    ‘Loosen up a bit’, would be my advice, Draeegis. But I’m not convinced that you’re inclined to accept advice even when, as in this case, it’s meant in a kindly way.

  • Anonymous

    Correction: It was not Richard, but Wolfgang who mentioned the “spivs”. 
    Apologies, Richard

  • Anonymous

    It’s kind of you to try to be helpful, Helen, and I am quite sure that you mean well. The same may apply to the ubiquitous Draeegis – although in his case the omens are not good. As for Paul and his impenetrable graph, one just has to assume it has some relevance for him, if not for others.

    The point you are all desperately trying to make escapes me, I fear. Professor Curry is quite transparent in her analysis and does not make any claim beyond the point she is making in her article. To suggest that her conclusion is not supported by the facts she presents is perverse. I suggest that you all sit down quietly and try to understand what she has written in perfect English. As an exercise in elementary logical thinking, you may find it very useful. 

    You may also be familiar with what is called the Straw Man ploy. One comes across this in debating societies. It can be a harmless conceit but sometimes, as here, represents a pitfall one ought to avoid if one wishes to be taken seriously.

    As to explaining the matter in greater detail, one is hard put to take it further without giving offence. Suffice to say that if you are not able to understand the point at issue yourselves, there is no way I can do it for you.

    I hope that this is helpful.

  • Helen Z

    Hi. Maybe its because I have a background in statistics, but Paul’s graph looks pretty clear to me. The faded region is the entire set of data gathered by BEST, and the dark bit at the end is the bit that Prof. Curry is using to say that warming has stopped. You should be able to see from the graph that the overall trend is increasing if you include all the data. You will also see that at each time interval, there is not just one point, but two points connected by a line. The length of this line indicates the margin of error for the temperature at that time (so the actual temperature is somewhere between the two points). Now, you should be able to see that though there is an overall increase, at any given period of time it is quite small. Now here’s the important part: because of the error margins in the data, small increases in temperature are hard to detect, and the shorter the timespan you look at, the more difficult it becomes. So while it may appear from looking only at the tiny bit at the end of the graph that warming has stopped, there is actually not enough data to support that conclusion. Looking back at your previous comments, you were a bit rude about the analogy tb88 made, calling it nursery-style, but it does illustrate quite well the problem here, especially if you’re not so good with science and stats. You cant tell that the earth is round just from looking at it close up, but nevertheless it hasn’t stopped being round at the point you’re looking at. You cant tell that warming is still increasing by only looking a small bit of the graph at the end, but thats not good enough evidence to say that its stopped. 

    I have read Prof. Curry’s article in full and as a statistician im sorry to say she has made a pretty basic statistical error. I don’t know anything about her personally so I don’t want to cast aspersions on her character by saying she did it on purpose to hide the truth, everyone makes mistakes after all, but if she hasn’t recounted her statement that global warming has stopped even after this error has been pointed out, you do have to be a bit suspicious im afraid.

    I really don’t mean this in a rude way, and I hope you’re not offended, but it’s you who has misunderstood this issue not tb88 or Paul. Hopefully I’ve cleared up some of your confusion now though, I know graphs and statistics can be hard to get your head around if you’re not from a maths or science background! 
    All the best and God bless, Helen :)

  • Richard

    From dictionary.com

    Faith:

    2.belief that is not based on proof: He had faith that thehypothesis would be substantiated by fact.

  • Draeegis

    Ok, lets start with the Phil Jones quote. I will copy the full relevant excert from the interview for clarity:

    BBC: Do you agree that from 1995 to the present there has been no statistically-significant global warming

    Phil Jones: Yes, but only just. I also calculated the trend for the period 1995 to 2009. This trend (0.12C per decade) is positive, but not significant at the 95% significance level. The positive trend is quite close to the significance level. Achieving statistical significance in scientific terms is much more likely for longer periods, and much less likely for shorter periods.

    BBC: How confident are you that warming has taken place and that humans are mainly responsible?

    Phil Jones: I’m 100% confident that the climate has warmed. As to the second question, I would go along with IPCC Chapter 9 – there’s evidence that most of the warming since the 1950s is due to human activity.

    Phil Jones is saying there is a warming trend but it’s not statistically significant. He’s not talking about whether warming is actually happening. He’s discussing our ability to detect that warming trend in a noisy signal over a short period. To demonstrate this, look at the HadCRUT temperature record from 1995 to 2009. The linear trend is that of warming. However, the temperature record is very noisy with lots of short term variability. The noisy signal means that over a short period, the uncertainty of the warming trend is almost as large as the actual trend. Hence it’s considered statistically insignificant. Over longer time periods, the uncertainty is less and the trend is more statistically significant. 

    As for the “hide the decline” stuff, it refers to tree ring density not global temperatures. It is not some sort of conspiracy that was found out in the leaked emails. In fact it is discussed by several authors and published rather prominently in IPCC AR4 Chapter 6 onwards. Presumably you already know this as you say  “some convoluted exegesis has sought to explain away that particularly infamous remark” and “none save the really gullible has been convinced”. Well, if thats the case, you would have to include in that group of “really gullible” the editors of Nature, one of the most prominent and well respected scientific journals in the world, who said “It is Nature’s policy to investigate such matters if there are substantive reasons for concern, but nothing we have seen so far in the e-mails qualifies.” You would also have to include everyone involved in the five separate investigations by the British government and multiple independent ethics committees. Rather than “none save the really gullible has been convinced”, it would be more accurate to say “none save the really scientifically illiterate have not been convinced”.

    Next, the Kevin Trenberth quote. Trenberth’s views are clarified in the paper “An imperative for climate change planning: tracking Earth’s global energy” (Trenberth 2009). We know the planet is continually heating due to increasing carbon dioxide but that surface temperature sometimes have short term cooling periods. This is due to internal variability and Trenberth was lamenting that our observation systems can’t comprehensively track all the energy flow through the climate system.

    I don’t know what counts as an “impeccable warmist”, but whatever else he may be, David Whitehouse is not a climate scientist as the other two people you picked out were, and his article in the New Statesman does not offer any evidence to support his claim.

    Certainly it is true that the consensus position amongst leading researchers in this field is that global warming is still happening. Taking quotes from leading climatologists out of context or missunderstanding the science behind them will not change that.

    My point about the climate being in a permanent state of change is that everyone acknowledges this, on both sides of the argument. It is therefore irrelevant in the sense that where the two sides disagree is not whether or not the climate is always changing, but whether humans are having an impact on that change. I hope this is clear enough.

    If you find explanations about the hockey stick “hilariously convoluted” that is up to you and I won’t bother boring you with more detail than I mentioned in my previous post. But the “few reputable experts” who doubt it was an attempt to hide something, include thousands of scientists, as represented by the statements from various different scientific organisations around the world. So not really “few” at all.

    I made no comment about businesses. The “billions being made” comment that I disagreed with was in reference to “nation states in Europe”. “Spiv” wasn’t referring to Richard particularly, rather to people who accept climate change, a group of people I count myself as part of, which is why I take offence.
    I have already pointed out my regret at the wording of my first post, so I’d appreciate it if, in your response, if you write one, that you leave out personal comments. Thanks.

  • Anonymous

    Dear Helen,

    I am glad to note your interest in statistics and admire your perseverance, a quality sadly lacking in many of my students. 

    Bearing in mind your background in statistics, a field that attracts a great deal of attention, as well as unworthy jokes, I shall be very interested to hear what Professor Curry has to say for herself when she is confronted with her “pretty basic statistical error”. 

    It also is of some interest, is it not, that when challenged by Judith Curry’s contention, Prof. Muller himself admitted that it was true that the BEST data suggested that world temperatures had not risen for about 13 years. He went on to say that, in his view, this might not be “statistically significant” hastily adding that it was equally possible that it was! Prof. Curry said that she was “baffled at what he’s trying to do”. She is not the only one.

    This is where your statistical expertise, single-mindedness, and stamina may be called for, Helen. 

    Who knows, you may be able to put both professors right with a single well-aimed e-mail. and “clear up some of their confusion”.

    Good luck.

  • Helen Z

    There is no need for me to email her, her error has already been widely discussed not only in academic circles but also in the press, so she is already aware of it. She has tried to distance herself somewhat from her original remarks on her blog. She also claims that she has been misrepresented in the original Daily Mail article, and several people have noted that David Rose, the author of the article, is just the sort of person to do such a thing. It’s easy to believe that she was indeed the victim of his malfeasance. She now says on her own blog “There has been a lag/slowdown/whatever you want to call it in the rate of temperature increase since 1998.” and doesn’t claim that it has paused or stopped. Still, the question has to be asked, “what is the scientific basis for claiming it has slowed?” as it is not one that is generally accepted. Theres a lot more detail on this out there, as I said, its been discussed widely. You’ll find a lot of the criticism will bring up more graphs and stuff, but if you find them a bit hard, like Paul’s, im sure your collegues in the maths or science departments (you mentioned students so im guessing you’re a teacher) can help you out if you get stuck. Good luck and God bless :)