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Guy Rundle

Oct 11, 2009

A question of etiquette

I've just read that Andrew Bolt (and many of his commenters, by th

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I’ve just read that Andrew Bolt (and many of his commenters, by the looks of it) are unhappy with how David Marr treated him on Insiders this morning (if you didn’t see the show, you need to watch this segment to see what he’s unhappy about).

Now I need to ask a question about etiquette. Let’s say that you’re stuck in a discussion with a person thinks uttering the same ridiculous statements over and over again – say, “the world hasn’t warmed since 2001” – is the way to convince people he’s right. Let’s say that this same person believes this graph doesn’t show an upward-sloping linear trend:


Let’s say that this person tends to mutter about how everyone else is part of some “couch collective” and that his extremist and evidence-deprived views aren’t given the respect they deserve – despite the fact that he is constantly being invited to talk to all sorts of audiences about those views.

And let’s say that this person’s conduct demonstrates a modus operandi that undermines informed and reasoned debate and tends to promote both uninformed condemnation and personal attacks on opponents.

My question is this – in that situation, what is the appropriate way to prevent that person from talking about the same nonsense until blood starts pouring out of your own ears?

(PS: I already mentioned it in the weekend thread, but Guy Rundle’s commentary on Andrew’s return to the armchair is over at Crikey’s new political blog, The Stump.)

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42 thoughts on “A question of etiquette

  1. Bulldust

    And look at that… wait a while and someone else delivers:


    I draw your attention to the following conclusion:

    “Analysis of the satellite data shows a statistically significant cooling trend for the past 12 to 13 years, with it not being possible to reject a flat trend (0 slope) for between 16 and 23 years.”

    I would not be in clined to attribute much at this stage to the cooling comment (because 12-13 years is not a long enough period IMO to attribute much significance), but more so the non-rejection of the flat trend for the majority of the data. This is exactly what I suspected from eye-balling the graph, and stated above.

    The H0 hypothesis would have been that there is no significant slope, either positive or negative (probably a two-tailed test). For the majority of this period this cannot be rejected with any reasonable degree of confidence… in other words any perceived trend is not worthy of note.

    Or stated yet another way… you can draw any line you like through the temperature data… all such lines are equally meaningless.

  2. Bulldust

    OK seeing as you are not interested in reading the link I provided, I quote directly from it instead:

    “From Nov. 16, 1978, through June 30, 2007, the global lower troposphere has warmed about 0.4 Celsius (about 0.72° Fahrenheit), or global warming at the rate of approximately 1.4 C (about 2.52° Fahrenheit) per century.”

    Now as you can clearly see on the graph the entire range of measured temperatures over the period is over 1 degree Celsius (comparing highest and lowest measures). We see as much variation as 0.4C between consecutive months. No one in their right mind would extrapolate one or two months and say that is the prevailing trend. Neither should one think there is much significance to the slight trend of “rising” temperatures through that noisy data since 1979.

    As I said before, had you been here two months ago I could have said the temperature today is exactly the same as the average for 1979-1998… it woud have been an equally meaningless statement.

    Bear in mind also that the 1940s to 1970s had a cooling trend (based on thermometer readings), so to use a 30-year satellite record of temperatures since 1979 and say this should represent the future because it is representative of historic changes is fanciful at best.

    But if you are swayed by science I would be happy to fetch the original data (assuming they are available for download) and calculate the regression of temperature anomaly over time and see if the slope (trend) is statistically significant with any degree of confidence. I think you will find the t-statistic is quite low (hence the trend not particularly significant). But somehow I don’t think the facts are what you are interested in, or else you would be using them.

    To be honest the real “deniers” here are the AGW mob who seem to think the natural laws of physics should not have to apply to their ludicrous assertions. But please continue to label me… it says more about yourself and your thinking than it does me.

  3. Bulldust

    Seeing as you like this graph so much, how come you don’t link the assessment of the scientists who created it? Prefer your own expert analysis?

    For anyone with an open mind, here’s the link again:

    oh wait… this doesn’t gel to well with your position does it?

    Even a casual perusal of the graph makes it obvious that the noise is far greater than the signal (trend), which is relatively small and upwards over the 30 year period. Looking at the end point 3 months ago would have led to the conclusion that we are back to where we started… anomaly of zero.

    Despite the satellite data being the best measure of the global temperature we have, if you read Christy and Spencer (the scientists behind this rigorous climate logging exercise) they state the numerous measurement issues they have to deal with – they frequently have to adjust the data sets for bias caused by satellite issues. Despite these technical hitches, the satellites are far less biased than earth-based thermometer readings.

    So in a nutshell, we don’t even know the earth’s temperature without some degree of uncertainty, let alone what it was before 1979. Before 1979 we have approximations, often filled with a lot of measurement bias. The virtual absence of thermometers in the southern hemisphere (with the exception of Australia) makes this statement self-evident.

    But this blog is more about ad homiems… forgive me for bringing in the science. No doubt I am now in line for some Crikey venom.