tip off

Still not scientifically literate

Yes, Andrew Bolt is back. And yes, he still denies the evidence for global warming. In fact, he seems to have given up on equivocating:

Belief in man-made global warming will soon be laughed out of existence.

And yes, Andrew Bolt still relies on selective presentation, misrepresentation and absurdly poor reasoning to make it seem as if the scientific evidence fits his agenda-driven argument.

His latest global warming column is a classic example of Boltian logic and rhetoric. The world has cooled “these past eight years”. Bolt thinks (or, at the very least, wants his readers to think) that this short-term pattern somehow discredits this long-term one. (For a more detailed rebuttal of the idea that this short-term “pause” disproves global warming, see here.)

He even tries out the statement I thought nobody would be stupid enough to utter:

Arctic ice has grown these past two years, not shrunk.

But the main target of Bolt’s column is the “hockey stick”. In this attack, he draws on a controversy that has been all over the climate change blogosphere in the past week or so – beginning with this post by Steve McIntyre. That post set off a flurry of “HOCKEY STICK DEBUNKED; GLOBAL WARMING A LIE!!!1!” reporting in the media and on blogs; Tim Lambert has a good round-up of the coverage. With his column, Bolt has joined the club.

But Bolt, along with many others, manages to overstate and misinterpret the implications of McIntyre’s analysis. Lambert highlights one issue Bolt ignores:

We don’t need proxies to know that temperatures increased in the 20th century, so McIntyre’s black line doesn’t prove that temperatures have not increased, rather it shows that those trees aren’t good proxies for temperature.

It seems to me that Lambert is spot on. McIntyre’s analysis of the tree-cores suggests that, if anything, temperatures declined during the 20th century. All of the recorded temperature sources indicate that temperatures rose during that period. If it turns out that McIntyre’s analysis is correct then it suggests the tree-ring data is not a reliable indicator of temperatures – that would mean we shouldn’t rely on them as a way of estimating temperatures for periods when temperature was not directly recorded, but it doesn’t mean that temperatures didn’t rise during the 20th century, and it doesn’t mean that McIntyre’s analysis shows the “true” historical temperature pattern.

But the authors at RealClimate also highlight that many other methods of temperature reconstruction, which don’t rely on tree cores and certainly don’t draw on the same data set Briffa used, demonstrate the hockey stick pattern. While Bolt seems keen to suggest that a possible problem with this one data source raises doubts about all “hockey stick” data, this is false – and even if the result of McIntyre’s analysis is that this data source is discredited, the weight of the evidence still converges on the same pattern. RealClimate nicely describes the pattern of commentary:

The timeline for these mini-blogstorms is always similar. An unverified accusation of malfeasance is made based on nothing, and it is instantly ‘telegraphed’ across the denial-o-sphere while being embellished along the way to apply to anything ‘hockey-stick’ shaped and any and all scientists, even those not even tangentially related. The usual suspects become hysterical with glee that finally the ‘hoax’ has been revealed and congratulations are handed out all round. After a while it is clear that no scientific edifice has collapsed and the search goes on for the ‘real’ problem which is no doubt just waiting to be found. Every so often the story pops up again because some columnist or blogger doesn’t want to, or care to, do their homework. Net effect on lay people? Confusion. Net effect on science? Zip.

Andrew Bolt is back, and he has jumped right back into contributing to that confusion.

  • 1
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    Belief in man-made global warming will soon be laughed out of existence.

    Okay, this comment is prefaced with the disclaimer that this is not my area of expertise. I thought the greenhouse effect is a scientifically proven phenomenon, with the only person I’ve seen to openly dispute its existence being Piers Ackerman. So therefore there is no serious debate about the impact greenhouse emissions have on the earth’s temperature except maybe among the nutter fringe dwellers.

    In my view then it is up to those who claim human-driven greenhouse emissions have NO or minimal impact to explain their theory in relation to the greenhouse effect. Is it plausible to accept that natural emissions have an impact, yet those same emissions resulting from human activity do not? Is it even logical to argue that?

  • 2
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    I posted a reply to his column on Oct. 7th linking to the Realclimate article. Sadly for some reason ( it certainly wasn’t an abusive post) it got ignored. He’s back and he’s still a clown.

  • 3
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    Sorry, just another thought. It seems to me that media commentators like bolt have a problem with how the risks of climate change have been communicated to the general public. Instead of addressing this concern in any meaningful way they are instead trying to paint the science as somehow wrong . No wonder they are such easy targets!

  • 4
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    What Bolt and crew don’t realise is that their wish to see a leader that rejects an ETS and the notion of AGW as a problem to be tackled would be political suicide:


    Bolt’s claim that believing in action on AGW is “dumb” condemns the majority of Coalition supporters as being dumb.

    That’s the trouble with group think sites like Bolt’s – they start to believe their own rhetoric is more accepted than it really is.

    Sadly, what the polls do indicate is that there is a political component to the view people hold on a scientific matter.

    The Libs should be wary of the likes of Bolt on this issue – at the end of the day, we still live in a democracy.

  • 5
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    I would think politically advocating against climate change would get you a Hanson-esque share of the votes. Quite a few, but not enough to actually win anything.

  • 6
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    DeanL: Spot on. But aside from what the polling on the issue shows, the reality would be even worse when you consider that the only viable leadership option for Bolt’s “die fighting” approach is Tony Abbott. They’d take a hit on the issue and another on personal unfavourability.

    EnergyPedant: Steve Fielding seems to be hoping its enough for a Senate quota (or a half-quota coupled with praying for a double dissolution).

  • 7
    Simon from Sydney
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    No amount of contrary evidence will ever change the minds of the alarmists, who believe in global warming with all the fervour of a religious fundamentalist. Satellite records show no warming since at least 2001, but it’s all still “happening faster than we thought”…

    The argument from Deltoid (another well known alarmist) is almost laughable. Let me get this straight: so tree-rings were perfectly fine as a proxy for temperature as long as they showed dangerous global warming and we could use them to make our nice hockey sticks, but now they’ve been called out, suddenly tree-rings are no good, because we know in our heart of hearts that the hockey stick is really, really true, honest?

    And yes, arctic sea ice minima has increased for the last two years, so I fail to see why uttering a factually correct statement would be “stupid”, except as a cheap insult?

    As for Real Climate, it’s little more than a propaganda machine for the alarmist industry. They will find a way to resurrect the hockey stick from the dead over and over again, because it’s just too good to let go. The authors have so much invested in the global warming crusade, financially, professionally and emotionally, that scientific impartiality has disappeared down the proverbial gurgler.

    And as for most people thinking that AGW is real and dangerous and that therefore we need to “tackle climate change” with an ETS, just look to the media and the government for your answer. Andrew Bolt (love him or hate him – the latter, clearly, on this blog) was the ONLY journalist to report this in the Australian mainstream media.

    Now I will sit back and watch the wrath flow…

  • 8
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    [Bolt] seems to have given up on equivocating

    I’ve written before about AB’s habit of leaving wriggle room in an argument.

    Now it’s blindingly obvious that he has three subjects (AGW, the Stolen Generation, and GOD) where he’s decided, “Screw it, I can’t avoid getting pinned down here, might as well ditch the Burkean rubbish and go the full nutter.”

    Hence Bolt writes something that has 99% chance of coming back to him in the most humiliating way down the track. Maybe he’ll just have to do what the Stalinist cranks who produced ‘The Great Global Warming Swindle’ did, and edit out the stuff that is complete nonsense (“volcanoes are responsible!”).

    That will be difficult, what with the Internet and all…

  • 9
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    Simon from Sydney @ 7: Do you accept the greenhouse effect? Or do you deny its existence?

  • 10
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    No amount of contrary evidence will ever change the minds of people like Simon of Sydney, who are prepared to insult real climate scientists with “evidence” from people who wouldn’t know when to come in out of the rain. Stupidity in an undiluted form is such a sad look….

  • 11
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    Simon @ 7. I’ll put my stock in the experts across many fields of science rather than the rantings of Bolt, and yourself. I find it amusing that you talk about contrary evidence…as no amount of peer reviewed evidence across 30 years in numerous fields is enough for people like yourself. Even more amusing is your comment about scientific impartiality…spoken by someone who has no understanding of how the scientific community works.

  • 12
    Simon from Sydney
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    Confessions @ 9: Of course I do not deny the existence of the greenhouse effect – without it the planet would be uninhabitable. Neither do I deny that the planet has warmed in the last 200 years. But I do question the cause of that warming – and before you ask, no, I am not a climate scientist (but hey, neither was Al Gore), but I do have a masters degree in Engineering and I think I know a bit about the scientific method.

    It is accepted that a doubling of CO2 would only produce a small increase in temperature, since its effect in the atmosphere decreases logarithmically, but that the feedbacks, such as a reduction in cloud cover for example, the AGW scientists claim, would amplify that small increase in temperature to produce dangerous global warming. But this is all based on modelling – none of this can be experimentally confirmed.

    There is also nothing in the geological record to support this – the planet has never passed some climatic tipping point, despite far greater extremes of heat and/or cold. The fact that we are here today is evidence of that.

  • 13
    Simon from Sydney
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    Monkeywrench @ 10: “stupidity in undiluted form”: how about answering the points I raise rather than hurling insults?

  • 14
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    Of course I do not deny the existence of the greenhouse effect – without it the planet would be uninhabitable.

    So why are you convinced AGW is not plausible?

    but hey, neither was Al Gore

    Whenever I see Al Gore mentioned in an AGW thread I think “ugh!” There should be a godwin’s type law relating to it. Al Gore is a political advocate, not a climate scientist, therefore by bringing him into it you seem to be fitting the issue I describe @ 3.

  • 15
    Dom Ramone
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    Simon from Sydney – now I’m no psychic but I’d have a guess that the reason Monkeywrench hasn’t answered your ‘points’ is because, well, you didn’t raise any.

  • 16
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 3:36 pm | Permalink


    Let me get this straight: so tree-rings were perfectly fine as a proxy for temperature as long as they showed dangerous global warming and we could use them to make our nice hockey sticks, but now they’ve been called out, suddenly tree-rings are no good, because we know in our heart of hearts that the hockey stick is really, really true, honest?

    A proxy that shows an upward trend at a time when we know recorded temperatures have been trending upward shows at least some possibility of being a reliable proxy. If (and I emphasise that it’s still an “if”) the proxy has shown a downward trend for the same period, it clearly should not be relied on.

    And yes, arctic sea ice minima has increased for the last two years, so I fail to see why uttering a factually correct statement would be “stupid”, except as a cheap insult?

    Because 2007 was the lowest year on record and Arctic sea ice has had its three lowest years in the past three years, each more than two standard deviations below the recorded average. The linear trend is still downward – just as the linear trend for temperatures is upward despite an apparent “pause” in global warming.

    As for Real Climate, it’s little more than a propaganda machine for the alarmist industry. They will find a way to resurrect the hockey stick from the dead over and over again, because it’s just too good to let go. The authors have so much invested in the global warming crusade, financially, professionally and emotionally, that scientific impartiality has disappeared down the proverbial gurgler.

    For someone who came in here describing his opponents as faith-based, evidence-ignoring and wrathful, you’re quick to resort to ad hominem atttacks and conspiracy theories.

    And as for most people thinking that AGW is real and dangerous and that therefore we need to “tackle climate change” with an ETS, just look to the media and the government for your answer. Andrew Bolt (love him or hate him – the latter, clearly, on this blog) was the ONLY journalist to report this in the Australian mainstream media.

    I think that says a lot more about Andrew Bolt than it does about “the media and the government”. Although I guess it reassures me that the media and the government aren’t completely fucked up.

  • 17
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    I’m just posting to say, do not feed the troll, aka, Simon of Sydney. Deprive this creature of oxygen and it will suffocate and go away.

  • 18
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

    Simon@13: why should I bother? Apart from the fact that Tobias has answered you admirably well, I deduce from your posture that no amount of convincing evidence from real climate scientists is ever going to sway you from your delusion. You deserve to be insulted if you insult my intelligence in this childish manner. Go away now.

  • 19
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

    But this is all based on modelling – none of this can be experimentally confirmed.

    The OMG modelling!!! seems to come up a lot as either an excuse for delaying climate change action, or as a way of saying the science of AGW is wrong.

    Can I ask at what point would you consider the modelling sufficiently accurate to warrant action? Is it even realistic to expect modelling for such complex measurements to be 100% reliable? And if you are wanting to confirm causation by way of experimentation, how do you rationalise the delay needed to produce this, if the modelling turns out to be right, or even understating the extent of warming?

    Isn’t it a more plausible course of action to take a risk management approach rather than risk reaching the point of no (or very difficult) return by doing nothing and calling climate scientists, climate alarmists?

    I’m sorry but you haven’t offered any credible answers, just a series of denialist talking points. To which we still haven’t moved from my comment @ 1.

  • 20
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

    As a scientist I am not able to select the publications which only back up my arguments but journalist seem to think they can. However, you dont have to be a scientist to notice that the first ever commercial shipping from Russia to Asia via the Arctic Sea occurred a couple of weeks ago. This is strange since Andrew told us recently that Arctic ice is at normal levels.

  • 21
    Matthew of Canberra
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

    “Belief in man-made global warming will soon be laughed out of existence”

    Notice that this doesn’t (by itself – I’m going to try to avoid reading the blog itself) suggest that AGW is false – just that people will stop believing in it.

    It’s also a heck of a prediction, and will certainly fail. Getting ANY belief laughed out of existence is a tall order. There’s a lot more evidence supporting AGW than there is to support homeopathy or traditional chinese remedies, and those are still going strong. We could have 1000 years of continuous cooling from this point forward and there’d still be a more compelling case for AGW than for most of the world’s fundamental beliefs. The church of warmenism is here to stay.

  • 22
    Simon from Sydney
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 5:19 pm | Permalink


    Re tree-rings: the argument is circular – if tree rings are no longer a good proxy for temperature, then reconstructions based on that data, including the hockey stick, should therefore be disregarded. For whichever reason you choose (either that a subset of the data was used and not the whole data set as per McIntyre, or that tree-rings are not a good proxy full stop), the hockey stick as we know it is pretty dead (or maybe just (bristlecone-) pining for the fjords…)

    Re. Ice: Lowest “on record” means since 1979, and there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that it was less in the 1930s and 40s, and we have no idea what it was a thousand years ago. Also, why is there never any corresponding mention of Antarctic sea ice which is UP 35% on 1979 levels? Is it because that data is unhelpful to the global warming cause? Or is it for another reason? I would be interested to know. And your bias is unfortunately clear when you refer to the current stasis as a “pause” in global warming – you assume the fact of continuing global warming.

    Re. Real Climate: I think the key question is this: do you genuinely believe that Real Climate is an impartial arbiter of the current state of climate science? If so, then fine. I would have to disagree.

    Re my comments about faith-based, evidence-ignoring and wrathful: point taken, but sadly some of the responses I have read here don’t exactly disabuse me of that notion.


    I would actually consider the models to be reliable if they accurately predicted future global temperature – which they currently do not. You are advocating the precautionary principle – in other words impose a tax on fossil fuel derived energy, the only form of energy cheap enough for millions of people in the developing world, that would send them back into poverty, for possibly no benefit?

  • 23
    Simon from Sydney
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 5:26 pm | Permalink



  • 24
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

    I would actually consider the models to be reliable if they accurately predicted future global temperature – which they currently do not.

    No computer modelling is 100% accurrate and is unlikely to be. And in any case relying on the OMG computer modelling!!1! argument to claim the science is wrong is disingenuous. There are 3 ways in which we know the earth is heating. In priority order these are: 1. the history of earth’s climate, 2. ongoing observations of changes in temperature, and 3. modelling. To try and argue to do nothing simply because the modeling isn’t accurrate ignores the fact that even climate scientists place greater stock in the compelling evidence that can be determined from the first two pieces of the puzzle.

    You are advocating the precautionary principle

    Damned straight I am! If I am wrong no major disasters will occur that can’t be easily reversed. If you are wrong OTOH, it will cost a hell of a lot more than a simple tax on the fossil fuel industry to fix the problem.

    the only form of energy cheap enough for millions of people in the developing world, that would send them back into poverty, for possibly no benefit?

    But hang on! Don’t you denialists love to tell the world that a tax would send jobs off shore and straight to the emerging economies and Australia will be ROONED? Which is it: Job security or abject poverty?

  • 25
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

    But SS in that article to which you just linked it stated that Arctic sea ice is still down on the levels of 30 years ago. So is it 35% up, or is it down?

  • 26
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

    For whichever reason you choose (either that a subset of the data was used and not the whole data set as per McIntyre, or that tree-rings are not a good proxy full stop), the hockey stick as we know it is pretty dead

    I thought you said you had an understanding of scientific method? Previous understandings being updated by new evidence, or revised methodology that renders earlier work redundant happens in science all the time. This is not as remarkable as some will have us believe.

    Btw some scientists are predicting the earth to enter a period of cooling for the next decade or so. This doesn’t alter the clear warming trend, or change our urgency for action on climate change.

  • 27
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

    oh simon don’t talk nonsense. “The trees” in question are from one set (and not even the whole set – just one person’s way of choosing from the set) and from one place. In bloody Siberia. They are NOT the be all and end all of climate science or even the hockey stick. Get over it. And anyway, there are other climate proxies such as coral. If you would actually READ the post at realclimate you’ll see all the hockey sticks which don’t even contain the Yamal data.

    Btw fellow commenters, please don’t think that all engineers are kooks like simon and steve fielding. Some of us are actually rational and prepared to accept the conclusions of people in different fields to our own.

  • 28
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

    The real problem, and I don’t know the solution, is that in reality almost no-one is sufficiently ‘scientifically literate’ to genuinely make a truly informed and well reasoned opinion ‘on the science’. I’m constantly amazed at how badly the case for AGW is argued by those that ‘believe’ in it, although it is admitadly not as bad as the way those who ‘don’t believe’ argue.

    In reality there are a select few experts who really do understand the physics, climatology and details of the numerical modelling (what physics can be explicately included, what must be approximated, what errors could this introduce?) to really get to grips with the details themselves. I’m not talking about the ability to comprehend how CO2 and other gases *could* raise temperatures, that’s relatively straightforward, what I mean is the ability to be able to understand well how much gas would be expected to be what influence on temperature, that is a very difficult question to answer.

    I’m a physicist with a PhD (not in a climate science related area) and I couldn’t possibly claim to be able to geninuely argue the case for AGW. I, like almost everyone else, have to simply trust the very broad consensus of those experts who do work in the field. Really, I think the notion that the authors or commentators on this blog can confidently argue the specifics (and that someone equally incapable is somehow less ‘scientifically literate’) is deeply unhelpful. We shouldn’t try and fool ourselves into thinking we can aruge about data points and short and long term trends in this forum and actually learn anything. We are simply doing cargo cult science, and more imporantly, legitimising the idea that meanigful ‘debate’ can take place at such a level, which simply legitimises the ignorant ramblings of the likes of Bolt, Ackerman and Devine (and others…).

    I know from my own field (and science in general) that consensus is as good as you ever get on any point. You will never get complete agreement among experts, and this is a good thing for science, as basic assumptions never cease to be questioned. If some key public policy issue revolved around the correct law of Gravity, Andrew Bolt could be equally effective at finding dissenting experts who believe that the consensus view is wrong and some other law that that proposed by Einstein is a better theory. Name any fundamental basic scientific ‘fact’ and you will be able to find credible experts who hold a minority view. For science this is good, but for journalist who like to be contrary, it means you can always create the illusion of widespread controversy by giving great weight to the minority view far out off reasonable proportion.

    The much stronger case for action on emmissions, and the only one that can sensibly be ‘won’, is to view this as a risk management question. I realise this is not an original insight of mine, but it is an arguement that needs to be more clearly stated more often. The vast majority of the experts in the field (who have nothing to gain either way, despite the ridiculous conspiracy theories that get airtime) are strongly of the view that it will simply cost us more to not reduce emmissions. As a pure cut and dry economic risk management issue the most sensible course of action is to significantly reduce emmissions. Lets make that case and stop pretending we can actually meaningfully debate complex scientific questions on a blog.

  • 29
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

    Yes, Bolt is back!

    For many here, this alone looks like reason to go on.

    In fact, one gets the distinct impression that certain professional arguers and haters rather lamented his absence.

    Alas, the bogeyman has returned, common purpose has been restored, and professional stalking under the guise of apolitical watchdogging will carry the lifeless for another year.

  • 30
    Simon from Sydney
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

    @Confessions 24: As far as model accuracy is concerned, getting the trend up or down right would be a start. By “developing world” in this context I mean the poorest countries in the world, not China and India, which will indeed benefit hugely from our taxes on energy if they do not do the same.

    @Matthew 25: ANTARCTIC ice is up 35% on 79 levels.

    @Confessions 26: I have a thorough understanding of the scientific method – thanks for asking. Why does a current cooling trend always have to be viewed through the prism of continuing global warming? How can you (or New Scientist) be SO sure that that is the way the climate will go in 20, 30, 50 years time? You, like Tobias, are not looking impartially at the data.

  • 31
    Simon from Sydney
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

    @gregb: “kooks”? – thanks for that. This isn’t a nice place, is it?

  • 32
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

    Bogdanovist: Agree entirely with your point about us “lay” people not being able to argue the whole case for AGW. But what are we supposed to do when people like Simon come along and talk rubbish. Just ignore them? If we don’t at least *try* to present the correct evidence and address misconceptions people who perhaps haven’t invested at least some time to work out the real story are misled. I daresay that’s exactly what’s happened to someone like simon from sydney who’s read some cant by Plimer or someone and now thinks he’s up with the “real deal”.

  • 33
    Simon from Sydney
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

    @gregb: Actually Greg, if I had looked passed that final comment (which I must add is almost unbelievably disrespectful to a fellow engineer), I would have noticed that you have made the point very well for me.

    The hockey stick has been held up as THE definitive image of the global warming catastrophe, right throught IPCC AR3 and the global media, and yet as you rightly say – it’s ten trees in bloody Siberia – and suddenly it isn’t important anymore.

  • 34
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

    Having been involved in extensive engineering modelling of real life situations, I can say that a model is only as good as the assumptions that it is based on. The first step in modelling is to create the simplest linear system that you can, and then introduce non-linearities and/or actual data into the model. I can get any bloody answer I want out of a model just by manipulating it to suit my own ends (some engineering firms have done this and paid the price at coroners inquiries). I for one would like to see the modelling, the assumptions made, the basis for the non-linearities introduced, and the source of the actual measured data entered. Is this public information or commercial-in-confidence??

    I want a simple, world-wide solution to reduce the amount of fossil fuels being burnt. I don’t want to be “frightened” into action because I am suspicious of people who play on emotion to sell a product or concept (they are usually crooks). We need to accept that we have a base load power generation issue (ie we can’t drop our current power usage and it’s likely to incease as our populations grows) and therefore we have to look at efficiencies and alternative supplements.

    Climate change is happening, as it has since the beginning of time. Its just when the politics and emotion get involved that I get suspicious of peoples (both advocates and “the deniers”) intentions.

    I also like how the insults flew first here even before the facts were discussed. Don’t a lot of you accuse the “Boltards” of engaging in the same type of behaviour? You are particularly bad at this Monkeywrench – for someone who bemoans the behaviour and the “censorship” at Bolts blog. How about just discussing the facts?

  • 35
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

    @gregb: I know the impulse is to call bullshit when you see it, and I’ve certainly tried arguing the case with ‘skeptics’ (which by the way is such a gross misrepresentation of the word) myself in the past. However, I really do think that, as I say, it simply legitimises the idea that such a ‘debate’ is meaningful or useful.

    I hope I don’t sound too elitist, I’m not saying that it is just ‘lay’ people who can’t meaningfully discuss this, as I say even specialised training in a similiar field is not really sufficient. If you don’t have the knowledge to be able to, say, write referreed journal articles on cliamte science, then you can’t genuinely claim to be able to ‘refute’ the consensus findings.

    Badly argued pro AGW statements simply give the loony fringe too many free hits, and almost all of us can only at best make bad arguements. Take the Crikey intern who asked in a clarifier recently if global warming was to blame for the recent earthquakes… That kind of thing is worse than 1000 Andrew Bolt articles because it makes the erronous suggestion that all people in support of action on climate change are as stupid.

  • 36
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

    @gregb, how dare you break the Code of the Engineers!

  • 37
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

    Why does a current cooling trend always have to be viewed through the prism of continuing global warming?

    Probably because every time there is a cooling trend the denialists jump up and down declaring the earth to be cooling. Bolt alone has used the following reference years as the point from which the earth has *cooled*: 1998, 2000, 2001, 2002. Yet the warming trend continues.

    How can you (or New Scientist) be SO sure that that is the way the climate will go in 20, 30, 50 years time?

    As I said way back @ 1, I can’t because this is way outside my area of expertise. I can however apply rational and logical thought to established principles such as the greenhouse effect, and the existting scientific evidence of a warming climate system to argue that risk management is the only sensible policy response to climate change. I can also ask questions like I asked you @ 14, and like I have asked @ 1.

    Like I said: if I am wrong then minimal cost and change is required, and people like me get to incur the wrath of those industries which have lost money – frankly I can live with that. But if you and the other denialists are wrong, the cost to try to reverse climate change damage (if it is indeed reversible) will be enormous. Can you live with that?

  • 38
    Adam Rope
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

    Simon from Sydney @ 22 “Also, why is there never any corresponding mention of Antarctic sea ice which is UP 35% on 1979 levels? Is it because that data is unhelpful to the global warming cause? Or is it for another reason? I would be interested to know.”

    Maybe it’s because the Arctic and the Antarctic are two completely different geographic ecosystems on opposite poles of the planet?


    “Because the Arctic and Antarctic are cold, dark, and remote, we often think these two places are nearly the same. However, they are quite different.”

    The Arctic is a sea, surrounded by land, in a polar region, and is thus covered by sea ice for much of the year – as that sea ice cannot escape the surrounding land.

    The Antarctic is a continent – that is land – surrounded by sea, which has enormous quantities of land ice, as well as plentiful sea ice. It is reported that the land ice, as ice shelves, are decreasing in volume. Meanwhile the sea ice is unconstrained by land, and simply floats off when conditions (wind, tide, temperature) allow.

    This report is also interesting:-


    “Passive microwave satellite data reveal that, since 1979, winter Arctic ice extent has decreased about 4.2 percent per decade (Meier et al. 2006). Antarctic ice extent is increasing (Cavalieri et al. 2003), but the trend is small.”

    Or there’s this:-


    “Increased growth in Antarctic sea ice during the past 30 years is a result of changing weather patterns caused by the ozone hole according to new research published this week (Thurs 23 April 2009).
    Reporting in the journal Geophysical Research Letters scientists from British Antarctic Survey (BAS) and NASA say that while there has been a dramatic loss of Arctic sea ice, Antarctic sea ice has increased by a small amount as a result of the ozone hole delaying the impact of greenhouse gas increases on the climate of the continent.”

    I couldn’t find a credible source backing up your claim of 35% Antarctic Sea Ice increase in the last 30 years, but in the meantime I hope this helps.

  • 39
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

    Gotta say, Tobias, that you missed the most obvious scientific illiteracy error in Bolt’s column and graph, which you then linked to as well; Andrew thinks 8 years contain 111 months.
    The actual 8 year graph looks like this:

  • 40
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

    @simon of sydney. You take great offence at being called a kook (which admittedly is not a nice word – and I do feel a *bit* bad about saying it), but maybe you need to consider your stance on this issue more carefully, before shooting off comments. Would you call a creationist who believes that the earth is 6000 years old crazy/delusional? Is denying the overwhelming evidence for evolution a characteristic of a kook/denialist/sonmeone divorced from reality? I’m hoping that you will say that yes, you would say that creationists are crazy/delusional/refuse to accept fact.

    Well, the evidence for anthropogenic global warming is approaching that level of scientific certainty. Granted, it’s something completely different but it is still an extremely well supported explanation of the data. There certainly is enough evidence to grant AGW “theory” status in the scientific meaning of the word (not the kook sense of the word). The arguments that you have mounted against AGW have ALL been thoroughly refuted a million times before. This latest storm in a tea cup over the Yamal trees is really not important. Why? Well, I know you think that the folks at realclimate are not impartial (whatever that’s supposed to mean) about the state of climate science, but go and check their latest post about the “global warming pause”. And, incidentally it appears to me that these Yamal-type episodes resemble strongly the same type of thing when the creationists claim that they’ve found the Achille’s heel of evolution. Some difficult to explain biological system or strange fossil.

    The hockey stick graph is important BUT all it tells us is that this current warming period is greater than anything that has happened in the last few thousand years. As such it is used as a powerful tool to communicate our effect on the climate. Even if it were shown that there WAS in fact a period in the last few thousand years that got warmer it would not make even a tiny dent in the argument that the current warming is being caused by the enhanced greenhouse effect which itself is a result of the combustion of fossil fuels and deforestation.

  • 41
    Simon from Sydney
    Posted October 9, 2009 at 7:47 am | Permalink


    Choosing creationism as a comparison is very inappropriate in my view. Clearly believing in creationism is delusional, since there is NO evidence whatsoever for creationism. My comments are also not “shot off” as you say, but considered, whether you agree with them or not.

    That aside, I do not accept (yet) your logical next step, that the science of the climate has reached the stage of evolution against creationism. You are entitled to think that if you wish – I personally do not, and that does make me a fruitcake creationist. What you are effectively saying is that the science is settled, and that would mean that we have a complete understanding, both qualitative and quantitative, of every single process at work in the climate, and all the interactions of those processes, from all sources, natural, anthropogenic, extra-terrestrial. Are you really prepared to say that right now? If you are, then that demonstrates extraordinary confidence which I am afraid I do not share.

    A good example is the effect of variations in solar irradiance – this has been dismissed by the IPCC and consensus scientists as being too small to affect the climate in any meaningful way. But what if there were a mechanism of amplification by which solar effects could affect climate? I am not saying I necessarily agree with such a proposal or not (and really that’s not the point), but it is objectively plausible, and in reality no-one can possibly be so certain that they have such a complete understanding of the climate as to seriously compare such a proposal with a belief in creationism.

    Are the consensus scientists so utterly certain of their understanding of the climate as to be able to say “that’s nonsense”? Maybe they are… but that to my mind just shows arrogance and hubris.

    Do you ever think, what if we don’t understand the climate as much as we think we do? History is littered with examples of people saying the science is settled, only for it to be turned upside down by a new discovery. The whole point is that science is about scepticism, and free-thinking enquiry without any agenda or preconceptions, and that is where I believe climate science has a problem, because it is bound up so much with politics and money that it ceases to be an impartial investigation of the evidence.

  • 42
    Posted October 9, 2009 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    Adam Rope@ 38 “..Arctic…sea ice cannot escape the surrounding land”
    errm, not quite true.
    In the video, you can see the loss of older (red) ice down the east coast of Greenland via ocean currents.
    As far as I know, no climate scientists have ever baldly stated that Antarctic sea-ice was definitely going to decrease in a linear manner as part of AGW. Sea-ice is more prone to variation from weather cycles such as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation; what is more worrying is the trend in Antarctic land ice loss as shown here. Of course, this kind of data is blithely ignored by the likes of Simon of Sydney: if you can’t explain or refute it, then ignore it. That’s the way the delusional denialists work.

  • 43
    Simon from Sydney
    Posted October 9, 2009 at 10:05 am | Permalink


    You seem incapable of saying anything without resorting to insults. I might actually consider your points if you were even vaguely polite. But you’re not – you are so emotionally bound up with it all that you take any dissent as a personal attack.

    I have read your link, and guess what, I won’t “blithely ignore it”, because as an impartial scientist, my mind is never closed to contrary evidence. I do not dispute the planet is on a warming trend, as I have already said, and that would likely result in land ice loss at the Antarctic. But that article says nothing of the cause of that warming, only that ice is thinning. How does that support any argument for AGW?

  • 44
    Posted October 9, 2009 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    Simon from sydney: I’d really like an answer to my question: if you accept the greenhouse effect, then why is AGW implausible?

  • 45
    Posted October 9, 2009 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

    SS@43 Sadly all the “evidence” presented by the denialist side of the debate consists of either fakery ( as per Plimer’s laughable book and the graphs he didn’t even have the scientific rectitude to crosscheck) or straw-grasping ( as per Bolt’s “Jupiter is warming!” nonsense.)
    People die of lung cancer, SS, but to see the actual genetic damage taking place as cigarette chemicals cause it is impossible. Yet by your simplistic argument we could easily deny a link between smoking and lung cancer.
    You have basically called anyone who believes in AGW “an alarmist” and “a religious fundamentalist” , both observations that amount to terms of insult when directed at people who are good scientists, and earn their keep performing good science. So don’t get all prissy when someone gives you what you deserve.

  • 46
    Posted October 9, 2009 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    Confessions: No one is debating the general science of the Greenhouse Effect. As Simon has said it is the reason this planet is habitable. But agreeing the Greenhouse Effect exists does not equate to agreeing that recent man made CO2 emissions have caused a significant amount of the last century’s warming (when it has been there). No one is debating that there has been waming in the last century (mixed in with some periods of sideways and slightly downward trending temperatures, like the last decade). None of this is disputed. But again the extent that this is attributable to CO2 emissions (man made) is questioned.

    MonkeyWrench: if you made scientific arguments or statements then they would be worth debating. Simply stating X happened and Y happened at the same time does not mean X caused Y. This is one of the most basic fallacies of scientific thought. There was a period in US history where the US stock market consistently rose if an NFC franchise won the Superbowl, and declined after AFC franchises won. While interesting from a statistical perspective (of coincidence) no one in their right mind would assume one caused the other. Also, labelling people as denialist is ad homiem. People are either critical thinkers or they are not, and prefer answers dished up to them. I, like Simon, enjoy hearing from both sides of debates as long as people remain civil and logical.

    Simon: Keep up the good work, but we are trying to swim upstream here mate. People are not interested in the science and evidence unless the selected cherry-picked data appears to support their arguments. Recent Arctic and Antarctic stories are a clear-cut case of this.

    As for Real Climate – that site does not support scientific debate. I tried posting 2 polite queires there in the last week and neither made it. No ad homiems, but simple scientific queries of Briffa’s work. Real Climate will not post logical contrary views, but seems to have no issue with allowing the odd post to the contrary side if it is a tad loony and easily rebutted. But real scientific queries… can’t have that can we?

    As for the UN: It seems they are responding to the lack of scietific process in their publications at least. After it was shown they has taken a hockey stick graph from Wikipedia (good solid reference there chaps) and wrongly attributed with Hanno, 2009 as if it were peer-reviewed science, they quickly changed the graph this week and posted a correction (also wrongly spelled… Latin is not their strong suit either, but let’s not split hairs). And this is the best science available to mankind? More errors have been shown in their recent climate report, but I won’t bore the readers further.

    Let the ad homiems on me commence…

  • 47
    Posted October 9, 2009 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    Tim Lambert has a new post addressing the claim that Keith Briffa was refusing to make the data available (something which has been used to suggest an effort at conspiracy or cover-up).

    Bogdanovist, I agree that we (including myself) can’t evaluate or rebut the scientific evidence in the same way an expert in the field can. But when I talk about the importance of “scientific literacy” I am suggesting that an understanding of fundamental scientific principles allows people to avoid faulty reasoning.

    For instance, I would suggest understands that a fundamental element of scientific literacy is understanding that a causal relationship (e.g., between greenhouse gas concentrations and temperature) does not imply a perfect correlation between the two variables – in a real-world system, other variables are likely to affect the dependent variable as well. Anyone with that level of scientific literacy should be able to appreciate that “the world hasn’t warmed since 2001″ isn’t sufficient evidence to disprove the causal link.

    And this brings me to the suggestion by Simon that I (and others) show our bias by talking about a “global warming pause”. In a sense, Simon, you’re right – I accept the experts’ consensus that there is long-term evidence of a causal link between human greenhouse gas emissions and global warming. So in thinking about what the short-term absence of warming means, I start from that theoretical position and need to decide whether I think the current evidence can fit within it – if not, we would need to question our acceptance of the theory. As the RealClimate post on the “pause” explains, it can be accounted for by other factors that influence temperature.

    Baldrick’s comments about modelling seem fair enough to me, and from what I understand the debate should be (and among experts, I suspect, it is) around spelling out and refining the accuracy of our models – giving a better capacity to estimate how much changes in greenhouse gas emissions will affect temperatures. Unfortunately, failures for a model to make perfect predictions are seized on as evidence that the whole theory underpinning the model should be thrown out.

  • 48
    Posted October 9, 2009 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    Why can nobody answer my very straightforward question? If we accept the greenhouse effect, why is AGW considered implausible by some people?

    Can one of the denialists please answer this instead of just parrotting back what we already know: I know what people are or aren’t debating, what I want to know is how the denialists justify their position given facts such as the greenhouse effect. This is about asking them to explain their logic in a credible way.

    It would appear that is too much for some people.

  • 49
    Posted October 9, 2009 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    BTW take a look at this attack:

    “What is objectionable is the conflation of technical criticism with unsupported, unjustified and unverified accusations of scientific misconduct. Steve McIntyre keeps insisting that he should be treated like a professional. But how professional is it to continue to slander scientists with vague insinuations and spin made-up tales of perfidy out of the whole cloth instead of submitting his work for peer-review? He continues to take absolutely no responsibility for the ridiculous fantasies and exaggerations that his supporters broadcast, apparently being happy to bask in their acclaim rather than correct any of the misrepresentations he has engendered. If he wants to make a change, he has a clear choice; to continue to play Don Quixote for the peanut gallery or to produce something constructive that is actually worthy of publication…”

    Is this a ranting looney or a lead author in the IPCC documents? Answer: This is attributed to “group” which is taken to mean a number of the people running the site, which makes some of the following five: Gavin A. Schmidt, Michael E. Mann, Caspar Ammann, Rasmus E. Benestad, Raymond S. Bradley. These are the same people that are lead authors in the IPCC reports and IPCC-referenced materials.

    All I can say is that academia has changed a tad since I left… and not for the better. Clearly there are some sore losers at Real Climate cause they can’t drop the ad homiems.

  • 50
    Posted October 9, 2009 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    One shouldn’t talk of temperature as a dependent variable BTW… it is endogenous to the system. Exogenous would be variables such as cosmic radiation and solar wind.

    In lay terms, one cannot isolate temperature by itself and say it is subject to other variables only. It does not stand outside the climate system. Temperature in itself affects other variables (e.g. CO2 released from oceans) such that there are feedback mechanisms. Chances are that many of these mechanisms tend to buffer the earth’s climate, but this science is very, very poorly understood, if at all.

    Again in lay terms… there is sufficent evidence that shows the earth has been hotter and a lot colder than today over geological time. There is also sufficient evidence to say the CO2 concentrations have been orders of magnitude higher than today as well as a little lower (obviously it was lower 100 years ago, for example). Over all that geological time the earth’s climate system has never spun out of control. Simple logic would therefore suggest that the climate system buffers or self-corrects itself in cycles. The current cycle, from all the science, appears quite unremarkable on a geological time scale.

    Personally I would be more concerned about the next ice age than a degree or two of warming. Cold = bad (unscientifically stated, but that’s when ice caps expand, desertification increase, and species tend to become extinct in large numbers).

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