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Andrew Bolt

Oct 8, 2009

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


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.


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94 thoughts on “Still not scientifically literate

  1. Bolt’s “vital signs of warming” – Pure Poison

    […] has already dropped below the minimum level reached in 2009, which might mean he won’t repeat last year’s claim that Arctic sea ice is recovering. It’s not clear whether it will drop as low as the 2008 […]

  2. A new year, but the same old show – Pure Poison

    […] is up there with Bolt’s claim last year that “Arctic sea ice is recovering” because 2009 was the third-lowest year on record. Linear trends over longer recording periods are […]

  3. Bulldust

    @Confession: We have answered your question several times, but your basic comprehension is lacking

    1) H2O trumps CO2 as a greenhouse gas (GHG).
    2) Manmade CO2 represents less than 1 part in 33 of all natural emissions of CO2.

    We have said this several times now. The Greenhouse Effect is agreed upon and recognised. One part in 33 is a very, very small contribution to GHG emissions. Therefore man’s emissions are not a significant contributor and highly unlikely to have a measureable effect on global temperature. I really can’t say it any simpler than this.

    Yes I saw you use UAH data for your post and thought about commenting. Have you actually bothered to read the assessment of the scientists behind that data series? Let me help you out, they are called (surnames) Christy and Spencer and their learned assessment can be found here:


    Let me quote you a few paragraphs from this link seeing as I am sure you will seek to bypass their conclusions:

    “Global composite temperatures were driven by major climate events, including volcanic eruptions, El Niño Pacific Ocean warming events and La Niña Pacific Ocean cooling events.” (Strangely no mention of CO2 here)

    “Studies of severe weather events in North America found no evidence that extreme weather events, including tornadoes, are more common or more violent now than they were in the late 1800s.” (Where are the extreme weather events predicted by the IPCC?)

    “The current level of knowledge about the climate doesn’t provide the tools needed to predict when rapid natural climate changes will occur and what forms it might take. This makes it impossible to say with high confidence how much human factors might influence climate change.” (i.e. the science is not settled).

    “A fundamental point that needs to be understood is that if any of these proposals (including the Kyoto protocol) are implemented, they will have an effect on the climate so small that it cannot be detected.” (i.e. attempting to manage manmade CO2 emissions is a pointless endeavour).”

    You get the drift… I have just selected a few more rellevant (to this debate) passages. If you ask me, these two scientists have a pretty good handle on the climate shindig.

    As for NIPCC vs IPCC – a lot of the “experts” on the IPCC chapters aren’t climate scientists. What’s your point? You don’t need to be a climate scientist to critically analyse data. If someone theorises X causes Y you go out and measure both, you don’t have to be a scientist in the field to plot the data or do a simple regression analysis to prove there is no relationship. The laws of physics, chemistry etc do not change for climate scientists, though many appear to think they do in their conclusions.

    No idea who David Marr is – does he control climate somehow? Again… pointless red herring.

    Yes, the “hockey stick” graphs were based on dendrochronology (the study of tree rings). Most of the data sets were borrowed across reports – i.e. a lot of the supposedly supporting publications were based on the same original data sets (heck most of them had authors in common). This is not how science gains credibility. Protip: tree ring width is affected by a heck of a lot more than temperature. Briffa, Mann et al did not even attempt to compensate for confounding factors.. temperature was apparently the only significant variable. Somewhat like man made CO2 emissions are the only factor of significance in IPCC AGW claims… seeing a pattern here perhaps?

  4. Tobias Ziegler

    Bulldust, I really appreciate the way you come in here and typify all of the flawed reasoning the links in this post addressed (e.g., thinking that the tree-ring data is “the hockey stick”).

    I’ve used images of the satellite temperature data in this recent post – even discounting the 1998 bump, the linear trend is still pretty obvious unless you really don’t want to see it.

    You sure like that NIPCC petition. But don’t you think that comparing the number of scientists involved in the IPCC process – meaning they have some expertise in climate science – to the number of people signing a petition who have a PhD in any scientific discipline is a bit like comparing apples and oranges? I have a PD in science – can I be added to the IPCC count?

    And you’ve even pointed us to the BBC story that notes that a couple of scientists have alternative theories about climate change. Thanks for that. Maybe you can tell David Marr about it as well.

  5. confessions

    No 88: Can you answer my very straightforward question @ 1 or not?

    Why wouldn’t chucking increasing amounts of greenhouse emissions into the atmosphere change the global climate?

    We are now at comment 89 and still nothing despite your continued commenting here.

  6. Bulldust

    Oh dear… AGW mob, it’s worse than you thought:


    PS> Tobias: here’s the NIPCC link for your benefit: http://www.nipccreport.org/

    Quote: “In Ph.D. scientist signers alone, the project already includes 15 times more scientists than are seriously involved in the United Nations’ IPCC process.”

    Where’s that consensus science argument again?

  7. Bulldust

    Then go and re-read my earlier comments – you’ll see I’ve never claimed that greenhouse emissions (much less CO2) are the main drivers of global climate.

    And so I did:

    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.

    Clearly the science is settled, as indicated by the IPCC bible. They clearly state over and over that it is man made (anthropogenic) CO2 that is the main driver behind increasing temperatures. You quote their sensationalist claims constantly, so yes, it is a given that you see AGW as being the issue, regardless of what the data is or isn’t saying.

    And then…

    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.

    In other words, we have stated the case so you have to disprove it. CO2 is not the primary greenhouse gas, H2O is.of the CO2 emitted globally man only generates 1 part in 33 (slightly less actually). So we have the secondary (after H2O) greenhouse gas, but more importantly, only the man made portion as the root of all warming evil? I want what you are smoking.

    You misunderstand. I am not asking for conditions to be constant across millennia – even with my rudimentary understanding of geology I know this is not possible. I am asserting that in order for claims to be made about CO2 levels from years previous and the impact this may of had on the climate at the time, I need proof that confounding variables were either controlled for, or were similar to present conditions.

    And for some reason you demand no such proof in the theories of the IPCC? What outlandish double standard is this? You acuse us of moving goalposts… don’t make me laugh.

    No 75: the clear temperature trend is upwards – of course there will be fluctuations, haven’t we already established that? But that’s all the evidence shows they are: fluctuations.

    What temperature trend? The only reliable information is from satellites – if you are not aware of this then it is pointless even discussing temperature. The satellite data runs from 1979. Guess what? There is no clear temperature trand since 1979, and since the El Nino (which was a biggun) in 1998 observed satellite temperatures for the globe have been lower. Again… what trend?

    The only trend you can be referrring to is that generated from fanciful tree ring hockey stick graphs. This was always poor science at the best of times, even more so when the whole Hockey Stick from Briffa was so strongly influenced by one single, solitary tree. No wonder he hid the source data for 10 years.

    If you cannot debate honestly then there’s no point me engaging with you.

    LOL… taking your hockey stick with you? I don’t want it, because it is broken.

    You have systematically avoided all scientific reasoning and just keep repeating the same mantra of AGW over and over. Maybe you learned parrot-style in school and never kicked the habit. Personally I like to think I have largely kicked that habit.

    @Tobias #86:

    If expert consensus is so important to you, why do you ignore the NIPCC report which has more than ten times the academic support of the IPCC? Simple question really… but I am sure you will evade the answer.

    Also we never made those arguments you claim – both Simon and I say the Greenhouse Effect exists, but that is not a sufficient condition to say AGW is an issue. We both say there are many variables that affect climate on earth and scientists are far from understanding their interactions. It is the IPCC crowd that is contorting science to claim AGW and hence CO2 is the main driver, while sidelining everything else.

    The researcher should be able to explain what was done with the data and why.

    Where were you when the likes of Mann and Briffa were zealously hiding their data from scrutiny? Why did it take the threat of legal action to allow scientific scrutiny. Why do you still buy their conclusions even after the revelation of the data showed their scientific methods to be extremely?

    PS> I have come to realise that this web site is not about the science, but more a personal attack on Andrew Bolt. Don’t know the guy, and couldn’t give a rats to be honest. Ad homiems on Bolt do not make your case for AGW. Oh wait… but maybe you believe it does and the burden is on the deniers to disprove it…

  8. Simon from Sydney

    @ Tobias:

    Thanks for your comments. You are, however, exaggerating my position a little: I am not saying the models are completely wrong and should be abandoned, since they clearly incorporate many years of valuable climate research, but they obviously omit something significant. They are lacking the appropriate factor that has caused a stasis in global temperatures. And to say that it’s too short a time scale to be picked up by the models is fanciful – we are talking about nearly a decade during which temperatures have not risen (according to satellite records – see my comments below on surface records). I am also not saying that anthropogenic CO2 has no effect on climate – of course it does, but it is the relative magnitude of that effect compared to other forcing mechanisms that is in question.

    I suggest that to say that the science is “settled” at this point in time is highly premature. Even the BBC, which has promoted the AGW arguments very heavily in the past, has conceded that the debate is far from over, see: Whatever happened to global warming?

    Furthermore, if you truly believe there are no financial or political interests at work at the UN or the IPCC, that is your prerogative – I would have to disagree.

    As for the screening and cleaning of data, I also agree with your general point that adjustments to data are required from time to time, and for the reasons you suggest. It should be noted that there are huge issues around GISS regarding corrections for the Urban Heat Island effect. GISS say that it is fully corrected for, but you should really look at the sites of some temperature sensors – next to air con units, over asphalt which reflects heat (should be over grass), near the ends of runways in the line of jet exhaust. Surface stations have really measured little more than urbanisation over the past 50 or so years, not changes in global temperature. This is especially so when you consider the proportion of the globe covered by surface stations, compared to the area of the oceans. This is of course why we should really focus on satellite records when we are talking about global temperature, and they have only been going since 1979.

    What is happening with GISS is that readings taken 60 years ago are still being “cleaned and screened.” And my real concern is that nine times out of ten (or more), such adjustments favour the AGW cause by increasing the apparent late 20th century warming relative to other periods of warming. Rarely is there an adjustment which results in “it’s not as bad as we thought”, it’s always “worse than we thought” – and that just doesn’t make sense from a statistical point of view, since instrumentation changes or location changes should statistically average out – some will go from a greater UHI location to a lesser and vice versa. This is exactly the case in the tree-ring issue of the original article – when all the data is used, it is a less compelling argument for AGW than if the sub-set data is used.

    Again, this raises suspicions in my own mind – call me sceptical if you wish – arising not from any deliberate or dishonest intention to falsify data, but just the inevitable result of scientists losing a little impartiality by being committed to a particular cause (demonstrating that AGW is real) that would produce of a particular set of observations (higher late 20th century temperatures).


  9. Tobias Ziegler

    I’ve just caught up on the thread after being away yesterday, and I agree with Bodanovist’s position. My acceptance of the expert consensus about global warming is not going to be shifted by dodgy dichotomous reasoning – the models don’t predict perfectly so the theory is wrong; another factor (solar activity) could affect temperature so CO2 doesn’t. And we’ve got suggestions about the IPCC and scientists being driven by political and financial interests thrown in to boot.

    Simon raises some interesting points in his comments. The issue of data processing and selectivity, and the suggestion that is one that deserves attention. It is fairly common that data needs to be screened and cleaned before analysis. The researcher should be able to explain what was done with the data and why. I would certainly expect that temperature data that has been collected over many decades would need some work to address changes in the methodology – e.g., the number and nature of data collection locations, or the method and equipment used in the data collection. Failing to make appropriate adjustments to data would leave it just as vulnerable to errors as inappropriate adjustments. For this reason, I think it is wrong to suggest that any manipulation of data is “fiddling” or to imply that it was done to produce the desired results without examining the justification for the manipulation.

    And I like deepclimate’s link at 72 – I hadn’t picked that up in Bolt’s post.

  10. confessions

    [I am dying to hear your answers…]

    Then go and re-read my earlier comments – you’ll see I’ve never claimed that greenhouse emissions (much less CO2) are the main drivers of global climate.

    I’m sorry, but this is precisely the dishonesty I find from the denialist camp: you attribute statements to people they’ve never made, and goalpost shift when it suits you. If you cannot debate honestly then there’s no point me engaging with you.

  11. Bulldust

    That should be Principle of course…

  12. Bulldust

    I’ll give you an example of one theory more recently developed that I think holds potential in tying together some key climate variables:

    Svensmark suggests that the cosmic radiation entering the earth’s atmosphere may be a significant factor in causing water vapour particles to form small droplets and thus clouds. Cosmic raidiation hitting the earth is moderated by the sun’s activity which causes solar wind (the wind shields the earth to a large degree from cosmic radiation).

    Right now the sun has been quite passive for two years (very low solar minimum by the standards of the last couple hundred years – based on sunspot records). The theory goes that solar winds are somewhat lower (this is known from direct satellite measurements) and therefore cosmic radiation is now higher than in the last few decades.

    We have to wait and measure cloud coverage to see if this bears out or not… certainly no one is saying this is proven by any means, but it is a coherant theory and bears keeping a watching brief.

    Solar watchers are actually a tad concerned with the diminishing solar cycle of the last few decades (both sunspots and magnetic flux diminishing)… it is also possible we are heading to an extended minimum or cycle-free period, but it will take a couple more years observations to declare the cycle dead for now. Though one would have expected solar activity to have increased by now. They are interesting times.

    There is plenty of historical data on sunspots which is a very decent proxy (though not perfect) for solar activity. We know, for instance, that there were relatively few sunspots in the 1700s and up to 1850. This also coincided with a period of colder temperatures globally.

    The main thing I am trying to convey here is that there are plenty of climate theories out there, of which CO2 causes most of the warming, is but one. It is just a theory, and it has certainly not been proven with anything resembling confidence, and so it is way too early to be making global policy based upon it.

    We have already argued the folly of obeying the “precautionary principal” because that will likely cause more harm than good.

    So yes, business as usual, though the sun is behaving in an interesting fashion right now,and the oceans have been cooling recently… this was certainly not predicted nor modeled at the IPCC or UN experts. Were I to make an educated guess I would say there is going to be another 1940s-1970s style cooling period for the next decade or two. But that prediction would be on gut feel on weighing the recent data and trends. Hopefully the CO2 will prevent things from becoming too cold.

    BTW geologically speaking (based on the last few million years worth of cycles) we are just about due for an ice age, give or take a couple thousand years.

    Ice age = nasty… think 5-10 degrees colder. Look at the blue line here:


  13. Bulldust


    But let’s not confuse “well described mechanisms” ans proven hypothesis/theory. I can carefully describe all kinds of theories… doesn’t mean any of them hold any water.

    In the absence of long term accurate data (we have poor proxies at best for most variables) it would be a brave call to say any theory had been validated through observation.

  14. Catsidhe


    You are falling into the trap of confusing correlation with causation. Just because two variables rise or fall at the same time does NOT indicate that one causes the other.

    And if the only information is the correlation, then indeed it would be premature to come to conclusions about causality.

    But in this case there are very well described mechanisms involved why one would cause the other, and every theory proposed so far as to why they might be coincidental or both caused by as a result of some other mechanism has been shown to predict effects which don’t accord with the data. (And I’m not talking about ‘but you can’t predict the weather next week’, but of precisely described temperature gradients in the atmosphere, or C13/C14 ratios in the atmosphere and in CO2 in ice core data.)

    It is indeed true in general to make the point that correlation is not necessarily causation. Except when the evidence and the theory says that it is, and then you have to find a better theory to explain why it isn’t.

    Because when you say that correlation is not always causation… sometimes it is.

  15. Bulldust


    Real simple questions for you, and I will let you answer it yourself.

    Is it colder at night or day?

    What do you think causes this amazing variation in temperature?

    Why would you completely discount this variable in your climate change scenarios in favour of man made CO2?

    I am dying to hear your answers…

  16. Bulldust

    The CO2 never higher for 15 million years… yes I have had a look at that press release and the critical thinkers don’t know whether to laugh or cry the science was so poor and misrepresented in the press release. For a good run down of the discourse:


    I expect we will see more and more of these kinds of releases running into Copenhagen as AGW insurance against all the papers be debunked as data becomes available. Sadly many of the AGW claimants seem very reluctant to proffer their data for true peer review (i.e. not “peer reviewed” by their close mates).

    What is this unprecedented temperature rise you are all talking about? I haven’t heard of it except in thoroughly misrepresented tree-ring proxies. It was warmer in the medieval warm period than today. Show me the CO2-connection there. Oh wait, there was none.

    As for the argument of variables being the same or different 15 million years ago… if you believe the paper UCLA just released (which I have no doubt will be debunked once the data is reluctantly released for true peer review) then it proves our case, not yours. As someone at WUWT said about this “revelation”:

    “Two periods of Earth History with the same CO2 levels but temperature very different and sea level very different. Conclusion: The level of CO2 does not determine either temperature or sea level.”

    Yes, it cuts both ways mate. I don’t totally buy this line either, because there are a lot more variables than this involved in climate… NOT JUST CO2. Got it?

    Trouble with the AGW mob (seeing as you are calling us denialists, I dub thee the mob) is that they cherry pick information that suits their policy agenda. They will quickly point at an ice shelf breaking on one side of the Antarctic and totally ignore the fact that the total ice coverage for the Antarctic has been increasing for years. That is not bad science per se, but it is selective reporting of data to mislead the public. We see this time and time again because in the debate has long since left the real science of climate change behind.

    Or they will say cyclones have been increasing in number, but thoroughly ignore the fact that the intensity has been decreasing. I could site dozens of such biased reporting examples.

    Of course this is nothing compared to some who state completely baseless things like:

    “What seems to escape them is the fact that we are heading toward those levels without input from “natural” causes.”

    On what evidence to you base this statement mate? I am dying to hear. If I picked apart every untruth, sweeping generalisation or outright lie in your posts I would be here all day, but no one would read it due to length.

    I am happy to back up every statement I make with links to data and papers…how about you?


    still waiting…

  17. confessions

    No 77: sorry, didn’t properly read that comment, which still doesn’t credibly answer my question btw. I’m not of the view that the greenhouse effect is “good” or “bad”, just that it is. My point arises from an observation that while denialists might accept the process, they cannot outline why human-driven emissions wouldn’t impact the climate, like what we are seeing and have seen historically since the advent of the industrial age. Never mind, in the end it doesn’t matter what i think.

    All those things you mention, when occuring naturally might be true. BUT the fact is we are chucking greenhouse emissions (of which CO2 is 1) into the atmosphere at a rapid pace. Isn’t it plausible that this is upsetting the natural order, and throwing out of kilter the earth’s natural coping or re-adjustment mechanism?

    [but I have also explained that it is the magnitude of the effect that is important.]

    I am far more inclined to accept that argument – in fact isn’t that the debate, ie quantification and sensitivity? But then we come back to managing risk. Are you prepared to risk the fact that you are wrong on our hurtling towards damaging climate change that will cost far more to try to reverse?

    There is also a hint of dishonesty about the historical analogies. On the one hand you state to Toby that 15 million years is the blink of an eye, yet you want me to accept that a 20 year period last century is meaningful?

    Further, arguing that at some point many many millions of years ago that CO2 concentrations were higher, and no tipping point also seems disingenuous: was planetary life then similar to what it is now? Comment 73 is a good one as far as that’s concerned, and species decline and extinction seems a pretty obvious tipping point to me. I’m also not convinced that there have not been any climactic tipping points in the past when CO2 isn’t ‘in the slot’ as it were. But I need to do more reading about that because this whole subject isn’t my expertise.

  18. Simon from Sydney

    @ confessions:

    Please read my post @ 59 again. I have answered your question, but I will restate it here. I haven’t denied that the greenhouse effect is real, and that human contributions to atmospheric CO2 will have some effect on the climate, but I have also explained that it is the magnitude of the effect that is important.

    Again, you are assuming causation – what about other climate factors? Solar activity in the late 20th century was particularly high. Maybe that would have a greater effect on global temperature than anthropogenic CO2?

  19. confessions

    No 75: the clear temperature trend is upwards – of course there will be fluctuations, haven’t we already established that? But that’s all the evidence shows they are: fluctuations.

    [temperatures were higher in the 1930s]

    I don’t think that’s true.

    I’m sorry but you haven’t answered my question because we keep coming back to it: if you accept the greenhouse effect, then explain why those same emissions from human activity wouldn’t change the climate. Maybe I do need to ask somebody else.


  20. Simon from Sydney

    @ Confessions:

    You are falling into the trap of confusing correlation with causation. Just because two variables rise or fall at the same time does NOT indicate that one causes the other. And there isn’t even correlation – temperatures were higher in the 1930s, when anthropogenic emissions were negligible. Temperatures dropped in the 1960s and 1970s (to such an extent that warming scientist Stephen Schneider was spruiking a new Ice Age, as were many of the other climate scientists at the time), but CO2 emissions were rising rapidly. Where’s your correlation now?

    I have explained all the points you have asked, yet you continue to repeat the same question. Maybe you need to ask someone else.

  21. confessions

    Simon from sydney:
    [what is the climate sensitivity to increasing CO2 with all other factors constant. The trouble is, the other factors are never constant, so climate scientists must use computer modelling to see what will happen if certain forcings are applied, and since those forcings are unknown, they have to be deduced.]

    Modelling is one thing, but look at observations over the last century: greenhouse emissions rapidly rising, especially in the latter half of last century, and temps rising as well. Overlay the observed global climate on top of greenhouse emissions and it’s a pretty consistent fit. You don’t need modelling to demonstrate that.

    Can the other drivers of global temperature alone account for this rapid increase in temperature? The historical data would suggest no. And I still need it explained to me credibly, why when you chuck greenhouse emissions into the atmosphere like we’ve been doing for the last 100 odd years, the climate wouldn’t change, as per Catsidhe @ 64 nice summary.

    bulldust @ 68:
    [Have you seen the unscientific and inflaming language they and the UN use in their documents?]

    So we are back to my comment @ 4 (i think) where i made the observation that those who object to the way in which the risks of climate change have been communicated to the general public are using that to try and taint the science as incorrect. The two issues are different, and I really wish people wouldn’t confuse them.

    You also seem to express surprise that efforts to mitigate greenhouse emissions will necessarily impact the hip pocket. Of course they should! Just like we use pricing mechanisms to influence the cost of cigarrettes as a way of reducing smoking prevalence, so too will consumables that rely on carbon intensive industries theoretically increase in price as a result of an ETS/carbon tax.

    BUT, you are forgetting the level of compensation included in the current CPRS bill renders it almost ineffective in getting people and industries to ‘change behaviour’ as it were. Also the WTO has endorsed the application of trade fees (can’t remember the exact term) for those countries that don’t have emissions abatement programs – try explaining to our farmers that by not having an ETS they’ll get even less money for their product.

    And going back to the subject of communication, EVERY time there is sweeping legislative changes for an issue, a lobby group crops up to declare how bad it is, the sky will fall in etc etc. It happened with the GST, banning smoking in confined spaces, seat belt laws, drink driving laws, helmet laws for cyclists and motorcyclists, mass vaccination programs, laws giving greater power to regulators or ‘watchdogs’ and so on. The grounds for objection were more often than not because the laws meant a change to ‘business as usual’ for affected industries.

    Of course all of these things passed into law and society as we know it somehow survived. It seems to me that those opposed to emissions abatement schemes are in the same camp as any other lobby group opposed to change. Sure it’s going to mean a change to ‘business as usual’, but that is no argument against the need to mitigate the far more damaging effects of AGW. Besides, it’s not as if this problem isn’t new. the more telling question is: if these industries knew governments were inevitably moving towards ETS/carbon tax type schemes (as they undoubtedly did), why weren’t they acting earlier to secure their profit margins instead of waiting until the last minute where managing the change is far costlier? If I were an investor in an affected company this is what I’d be asking of MDs and boards.

  22. monkeywrench

    Bulldust @ 55
    I often see people quoting archaic CO2 levels as if it negates any current problem:
    ” Hey, it was 12 times higher in the Devonian period!”. What seems to escape them is the fact that we are heading toward those levels without input from “natural” causes. There is a severe problem at hand when you consider that life in the Devonian was clearly nothing like life now: most of our current species had yet to evolve..
    So we can assume that plants ( not to mention animals) finely attuned and evolved to tolerate conditions that gave rise to human civilisation will not cope well when those conditions are changed as rapidly as we are changing them.
    Let’s not call you denialists any more. Let’s call you “business-as-usual” people. You don’t see the delicate balance that lets Nature operate to maintain our biosphere as essential to our survival. You see Nature as something we can manipulate to our own ends without consequence.
    Businesses fail, you know.

  23. deepclimate

    More on Andrew Bolt at Deep Climate:


    … wherein Andrew Bolt tries to read a scientific paper, but doesn’t get very far. Here Bolt claims that dendrochronologist Keith Briffa did a study on Siberian temperature reconstruction and deliberately chose not to incorporate relevant tree-ring data from his co-author Schweingruber. Only problem is … Schweingruber wasn’t co-author.

    I focus mostly on Canada, but Australia and New Zealand figure prominently from time.


  24. confessions

    No 61:
    You misunderstand. I am not asking for conditions to be constant across millennia – even with my rudimentary understanding of geology I know this is not possible. I am asserting that in order for claims to be made about CO2 levels from years previous and the impact this may of had on the climate at the time, I need proof that confounding variables were either controlled for, or were similar to present conditions.

  25. Bogdanovist

    I should have made clear that any ‘fiddling of the figures’ is at a beauracratic or marketing level, not the scientific one. I share the concern of how the case has been argued, but a sound case argued badly doesn’t make the case less sound.

  26. Bogdanovist

    It’s not about the IPCC, and ‘consensus’ is not about a head count of people who might be able to claim the title of Scientist. The prevailing and overwhelming view of current literature across the relevant fields indicates a strong case that basic tenets of the AGW position are sound. Certainly there may well have been some fiddling of figures here and there in the misguided effort to make a stronger political case, but you don’t need to read any IPCC material to get the vibe of the field.

    Again, it is false to present this case as a binary ‘the science is right/wrong’ situation. A model that is not perfect is not the same as one that has no use. Climate models predict long term trends, they cannot be expected to correctly match short scale variability. That is like suggesting that meterology is wrong because they predicted rain today that didn’t come. When know weather forecasting isn’t perfect, but it is much better than nothing, the same goes for climatology. The chance that we are wrong in either direction is the same and the best predictions are all a long way from zero harm, so the odds are stacked against the no worries case.

  27. Bulldust

    I too am concerned about the way the pro AGW case is argued by many misinformed people, but that should not make you ignore the substance behind the position.

    I am concerned that many people take IPCC propoganda at face value. Have you seen the unscientific and inflaming language they and the UN use in their documents? Protip: this is not the way scientists communicate. This is the way sales people talk, and they are selling you a tax and you are not going to like it.

    Here’s where the voters suddenly become uncertain of their self-professed green credentials… The US Treasury was FOI’d for their estimates of the impact of the US ETS scheme on American households. The US ETS would be a similar system to that used in Australia.

    The US Treasury estimated that the average household would be US$1,761 out of pocket… per year. That’s two Rudd stimulus cheques… per year… and last I checked he wasn’t handing out anymore money to us.

    The sneaky part about this impact is that the tax (ETS, CPRS, whatever… it is essentially a tax, just levied differently) manifests itself as a small increase in the price of just about everything you buy. The only place you will measure it adequately will be in inflation statistics which will no doubt be taken as being a sign of economic recovery resulting in an overheating economy LOL

    The government wins too by increased tax levies on all revenues resulting from higher prices. Think of the double tax on petrol due to the GST… very similar concept.

    BTW just because I talk about these things in simple terms doesn’t mean I don’t understand the economics/science… I have degrees in each, but my time as an educator means I prefer explaining concepts in easy-to-grasp language and analogies. Education is wasted effort if the recipient can’t follow you 🙂

    I just want people to think for themselves, not just swallow information through the media as expert advice because someone claimed they were. I make no such claim, but I do think critically about things in general.

    PS> I have read plenty of scientific and economic papers and PhD’s in my time, and about 1 in 20 were worth the paper they were written on, some of which were gems. The problem with academics these days is that their prestige is measured predominantly in quantity, not quality. I preferred teaching… “research” was predominantly a meaningless grind and networking exercise (see backscratching comment above).

    PPS> A lot of people know me in RL as Bulldust BTW… so I am not really hiding behind a pseudonym.

  28. Simon from Sydney

    @ Bulldust: you beat me to it. I concur.

  29. Simon from Sydney


    I hear what you say, but I still have to query why, if the science is so settled, that the models based on that science did not predict, even vaguely, the current stasis. If you or someone else could provide an explanation for that, I would really appreciate it.

    I am also extremely suspicious when there is manipulation of data to achieve a particular result (as discussed in the original post regarding the hockey stick). Similarly the after-the-event fiddling with (or should I say corrections to) the GISS data that conveniently reduces the warming in the 1930s and 1940s and increases it in the last few decades. Conduct like that that leaves a nasty taste which makes my inbuilt detectors start firing like crazy. If evidence is strong enough, it should stand on its own merits without the need for such interference.


    All of what you say is correct, and my simplification of climate modelling was purely for instructional purposes only. However, as I said above, why have the models failed to predict the current temperature stasis? Thanks also for the quoting instructions.


    Thanks also for quoting instructions.

    I have a weekend to attend to – I don’t know how much time I can spend continuing this, “fun” though it has been!

  30. Bulldust


    That’s a lot of wide sweeping statements there mate. If you truly believe that the number of scientists in “consensus” is important then I would ask that you review the following web site:


    30,000 scientists must surely be more important in your assessment than the 1,000-2,000 the IPCC claims to have on its side. But it should not matter a wit IMO. Science is right or wrong, and I don’t give a rats about politically-correct consensus. Science does not operate through consensus… peer review is not consensus. I think many people are confused on this point.

    In fact, in a narrow field like dendrochronology the peer review process is quite incestuous in nature. We have a small group of tree-ring “experts” all peer-reviewing each others’ papers… what do you think is going to happen? Yes, a lot of scratched backs… These papers end up being the centrepiece in IPCC reports with the imfamous hockey sticks graphs. When examined closely they were thoroughly debunked… but I digress.

    Simon also makes an important point that the precautionary principal application of policy is very dangerous (more so than AGW could ever be). Just witness the impact of a relatively innocent piece of legislation in the US that encouraged the use of biofuels. The result was sky-rocketting corn prices (due to the high demand for corn as a biofuel feedstock) which led to social unrest in countries like Mexico where corn is a staple food. And this was a relatively miniscule piece of legislation compared to the ETS/CPRS style policy that we are currently faced with. Look at agriculture impacts here:


    When you see evidence like this, it would be extremely capricious of any government to sweep ETS policy into existence which will have much larger and far-reaching impact than the relatively minor biofuel legislation.

    Food for thought, eh?

    PS> Being playful with your analogy… if a doctor says you are very ill and only a drastic (potentially life-threatening) operation will save you, would it not be prudent to get a second opinion? That CO2 tumour you have is most probably benign… no need to operate, especially so close to your heart. But come back for regular checkups and we will monitor progress, ok? 🙂

  31. Catsidhe

    Sticking my head in: the environment is non-linear, with lots of inter-feeding-back forcings, and with nonlinear systems. Which is to say that the response to increasing CO2 is not necessarily going directly into atmospheric heat: some of it goes into more energy in weather systems. Some of it goes into heating up ice, with an abrupt phase change, some of it goes into quick-growing plants which become so much high-intensity tinder the next fire season, some of it goes into increasing the CO2 content of the oceans (and thus the acidity of the oceans, with all sort of concomitant effects, not all of which we understand, and many of which get triggered at critical concentrations), and so on, and so on.

    Which is all to say that it is not surprising that there will be times when the atmospheric CO2 will vary differently from the human output… as some of it goes into other places, or is released from various stores (like ocean clathrates, for example, or Siberian permafrost). The heat increase will vary, as energy goes to feed weather systems instead of heating the air directly, as changed patterns cause local cooling as things thrash around searching for new equilibria, or gets sucked into the ocean (and changing currents), various trends will start and stop as saturation and phase change points are reached, and not all of these exact effects are understood in their details… but the consensus as far as I understand it is that we are pumping CO2 which has been stored away for millions of years into the atmosphere (and there’s evidence that that’s where the extra CO2 came from), and it is trapping heat (and there is evidence that the measured increase in temperatures is because of a thermal blanket effect, not (only) solar forcing), we know that the CO2 saturation of the oceans is increasing… so while I’m not any sort of scientist, the evidence and the arguments for what it means seem fairly good to me.

    And <blockquote>quoted text</blockquote> gives you

    quoted text

  32. Dave Gaukroger

    Simon, you can use basic html so try either cite or italic tags.

  33. Bogdanovist

    @Simon: The evidence you ask for is there, it has been there for decades and has only been strengthened as time goes on. You can make whatever arguements you like in a forum such as this, but the fact remains that the very broad consensus among experts, who have considered at length all of the points you raise (and many more) is contrary to your view. There are experts in the field who disagree with aspects of the consensus, and contrary to some of the mythology, they get funded, get their papers passed the peer review process etc. They remain a small minority but thankfully do exist to ensure that all assumptions remain constantly checked at a fundamental level. However, the most likely proposition is that the consensus position probably closer to being correct than the minority view. As I’ve said before this is true of essentially any question in science, it doesn’t mean that somehow the AGW case is deeply uncertain and somehow ‘not yet settled’ in a way different from any other prevailing scientific consensus.

    You are entitled to believe whatever you like, for whatever reasons your like, however don’t expect that public policy should follow your dictates. If a doctor diagnoses me with a serious illness, I’ll take their advice even if I don’t fully comprehend the diagnostic process, the treatment or the disease. Even if the treatment has significant side effects, the best thing I can do is trust that the experts are more likely to be correct than someone posting on a blog that the disease simply doesn’t exist because they think there is insufficient evidence.

    If the current evidence and advice coming from the experts does not convince you, then quite simply no level of evidence or strength of conviction from said evidence will ever be able to convince you. You cannot credibly claim at this point to be simply waiting for appropriate evidence with an open mind.

    I too am concerned about the way the pro AGW case is argued by many misinformed people, but that should not make you ignore the substance behind the position.

  34. Simon from Sydney

    @ confessions 60:

    With that you have distilled down the entire argument – what is the climate sensitivity to increasing CO2 with all other factors constant. The trouble is, the other factors are never constant, so climate scientists must use computer modelling to see what will happen if certain forcings are applied, and since those forcings are unknown, they have to be deduced.

    For example, in very (very, very…) simplistic terms, by assuming that a certain change in temperature in the historic record (say ∆T) over a certain period results from a certain change in CO2 (say ∆C) in the same period, you can determine a basic forcing coefficient, x, where: ∆T = x∆C. But in reality, you are looking not just at CO2 forcing, but all sorts of other forcings happening at the same time, such as solar irradiance, each of which will have their own forcing coefficient. So your forcing equation may look like ∆T = x∆C + y∆D + z∆E +… where C, D, and E are your climate variables, and x, y and z are the respective forcing coefficients. This is hugely simplified, as it doesn’t even begin to incorporate the interrelationships between the climate variables, but the basic concept is there.

    So, you can imagine the model having a number of “knobs” that you can set, and depending on how you set these knobs determines the model’s sensitivity to each of the forcings. You can see that by having a high coefficient for CO2 and a low one for solar, you can make the model respond rapidly to changes in CO2, but hardly at all for changes in solar irradiance, and vice versa.

    The models currently advocated by the IPCC put the coefficients for CO2 high, and those for other factors low, but we have seen in the last few years that CO2 has continued to rise, and yet global temperatures have not. Furthermore, no climate model predicted this stasis, ergo the climate is responding to a forcing (in this case a negative one) for which the forcing coefficient is incorrect, since its effect is greater than that predicted by the model.

    PS. How do you quote stuff on this blog??

  35. confessions

    [I don’t see why all other conditions have to be identical.]

    If you are trying to demonstrate correlation, then you would need to control for confounding variables. Claiming that levels of CO2 were “significantly higher” at some time in the past, and there were no temp increases is meaningless unless you control for those variables that also impact climactic conditions. The same for the other way IMO, which is why that article is interesting, but more info is needed.

  36. Simon from Sydney


    Why do I keep at this? Because, as a scientist, I personally view the impartiality of science being damaged by politics and money in the area of climate science as A Very Bad Thing. Surprisingly, I also have no wish to destroy the world as you put it, and I am not funded by big oil, and I make no profit out of this whatsoever. The precautionary principle you advocate will send millions (perhaps billions) of people back into a miserable life of poverty, as prices for energy, essential for increasing standards of living and no longer produced by cheap fossil fuels, but by expensive and unreliable “alternative” sources, soar out of reach. If you think that is an acceptable price to pay to “save the world” from a likely non-existent threat, then fair enough. But it isn’t my view. If you want to spend money, spend it on adaptation, which will actually achieve something, rather than cutting emissions, which will do almost nothing.


    In answer to your question 1, I am not “denying” anything. Of course the greenhouse effect is real, as I said @ 7, or else the planet would be uninhabitable. But it is the magnitude of that effect that is important. Water vapour is the greatest contributor to that effect by a long way, and the amount of water vapour in the air varies enormously. CO2 is one of a number of trace gases that have a similar effect, namely the ability to absorb and re-radiate energy. But just because the greenhouse effect is real, that doesn’t tell you anything about whether it is “good” or “bad” – you have to look at it in the context of the total energy balance in the atmosphere, namely the energy being transported into the atmosphere from heating by the sun, and radiation of energy from the atmosphere back towards earth, or into space.

    It is generally accepted that the effect of increasing concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere decreases logarithmically, so that even a doubling of concentration of CO2 would have only a small effect on global temperature. The core argument is whether that small increase would trigger feedbacks which would amplify that increase.

    In answer to your question 2, I don’t see why all other conditions have to be identical. The AGW theory is that anthropogenic CO2 is the primary cause of warming (and hence the desire to reduce CO2 emissions in order to halt global warming – if CO2 were not the primary cause, such reductions would be pointless), and that other factors are insignificant by comparison (especially solar variation), so whatever other conditions existed should make little difference to this basic premise. High CO2 concentrations should in broad terms lead to high atmospheric temperatures – this is not the case on a geological time-scale.

    As for historic CO2 levels, in the Jurassic (200 mya) they were 1800 ppm, nearly five times greater than today. In the Cambrian period (500 mya) levels were as high as 7000 ppm. Yet there were no tipping points passed beyond which the climate could not recover, even with 17 times the levels of CO2 we currently have (our being here is evidence enough of that).

    @ Tobias:

    15 mya is nothing – see above. If the age of the earth was an hour, we’re talking 12 seconds ago.

    @ bogdanovist:

    I do not misunderstand the scientific process, thanks for asking. The extraordinary measures proposed to drastically cut emissions, namely removing access to cheap energy (and the effect they will have on the living standards of the population) require extraordinary evidence – which we simply do not have. If or when such evidence is produced, I will be in as much in favour of cutting emissions as anyone.

  37. confessions

    [I am really unsure what the problem is confessions:]

    Fair enough, it’s probably my inexpertise that is contributing to a misunderstanding.

    The problem for me is that denialists (I know you hate that word, but it is the most appropriate IMO) acknowledge greenhouse emissions impact the climate, yet can’t explain why, when those same greenhouse emissions are pumped into the atmosphere via human activity, there wouldn’t be any climactic impact. Why are naturally occurring emissions accepted as having an impact, yet those same emissions from human activity do not?

    [only man made CO2 (which is only 1 part in 33 of all earthly CO2 emissions) is now the single most important variable driving climate?]

    But you haven’t answered my question. You claimed that CO2 levels were “significantly higher” at some other point in history. When was this? Were the state of those other conditions I referred to the same as they are now? Otherwise that observation is meaningless.

  38. Tobias Ziegler

    This news about recently published research might be of interest:

    You would have to go back at least 15 million years to find carbon dioxide levels on Earth as high as they are today, a UCLA scientist and colleagues report Oct. 8 in the online edition of the journal Science.

    (via Graham Readfearn’s GreenBlog.)

  39. Bogdanovist

    @Simon (and sympathises). I think you miss the point about settling the science somewhat. We will never ever ever have complete and certain understanding of the climate, or anything else in the natural world for that matter. And of course, science has progressed over the centuries, making previously held views ‘wrong’ in hindsight.

    However, you are simply stating the obvious and any climate scientist would agree with you. The error is to suggest that somehow we wait until everything is settled. Since this will never happen, this amounts to never doing anything. What we have to do is the same thing we always do, in every situation, and that is act upon the evidence we have in the way that is most likely to lead to a positive outcome.

    Our current best bet is that our current levels of emmissions will lead to climate change that will significantly inhibit future economic activity. That is our best bet. We could be wrong, there is always uncertainty, but the uncertainty goes both ways. The real situation could be worse, or it could be not as bad. However we would have to be very very wrong for the real situation to be one where our emmissions will have no effect. The uncertainties on our measurements and predictions are much smaller than the difference between the best bet position and no change.

    To simply present the situation as a binary ‘climate science is right’ or ‘climate science is wrong’ grossly misunderstands the scientific process (and ignores the lessons from the history of how scientific ideas have changed over time). We almost certainly have some aspects of the full picture wrong, which could changes the predictions one way or the other. However it is very unlikely (but of course possible) that in fact there is nothing to worry about, or at least that there is nothing we can do.

    What you are suggesting is that because we don’t know which horse will win the race, that we should back the 100/1 long shot instead of the odds on favourite, simply because we can’t be completely sure the favourite will win. Your correct that we don’t know with 100% certainty, but the best bet is to following the overwhelming evidence that we have.

  40. Bulldust

    I am really unsure what the problem is confessions:

    1) We all agree with the basic science of The Greenhouse Effect. No argument at all. The disagreement lies in that we (Simon, I and the NIPCC & a few others) are saying that CO2 plays a role, but it is a probably a reasonably small role compared to all the other variables that impact the climate system. You don’t know the extent of the CO2 forcing, we don’t and neither do any of the scientists modelling it. They make assumptions or best guesses, but the relationships are simply not known with any degree of certainty. So any modelling based on the assumed forcings are guesses at best, and certainly do not account for all the variables in the system (or they would have been able to model the last 10 years of stable temps – which they haven’t). But we all agree there is a relationship.

    2) Totally agree. The point is that all these variables have changed over the billions of years the planet has been flying through space (hence why we call them variables). Why are the UN & IPCC so very convinced that all other variables are irrelevant now, and only man made CO2 (which is only 1 part in 33 of all earthly CO2 emissions) is now the single most important variable driving climate? Surely you can see this is a huge stretch of the imagination?

    Here’s a fairly neutral reference for CO2 concentrations over geological time:
    10-12 times higher than today = order of magnitude.

    PS> Keith – if it was good science stating what the IPCC was saying I would be the first to say we should take it seriously. The problem is that policy has long since taken over from science in this debate, and the science is considered “settled” or irrelevant now. Woe betide the precautionary principal! There is always a chance that an earth-killing asteroid wipes us all out in the near future, but you don’t see governments spending trillions of tax payers dollars to try and avert that scenario do you? No, because the chances are infintesimally small (our solar system has a couple big planets outside our orbit and a nicely sized sun in the middle to protect us somewhat – lucky really).

    PPS> Denialist is not a useful adjective… you don’t see me calling you names do you? Call us the “case for the negative” if you feel a need to label us.

  41. confessions

    And still my questions that have directly challenged the assumptions made by Simon and now bulldust remain unanswered. Allow me to repeat:

    1. If we accept that greenhouse emissions impact the earth’s temperature, is it not illogical to argue that those same greenhouse emissions that come from human activity have no or only minimal impact? How does one accept the greenhouse effect on one hand, while deny its existence on another?

    2. Claiming that there have been periods in the earth’s history when CO2 levels were “significantly higher” (think that was the actual quote) tells us nothing about climactic impacts unless one can prove that other conditions which drive climate such as solar output, tectonic configurations, volcanic activity, etc were the same then as they are today. a When was this period when CO2 levels were “significantly higher”, and b. Can it be proven that the other climate drivers were the same then as they are today?

    As I’ve mentioned before, I would genuinely appreciate a response to these which appear to undermine 2 of the denialist claims. Can ANYBODY answer these questions?

  42. Keith Bedford

    I am at a loss to understand why these denialists keep at this. Perhaps they have a stake in remaining a producer of carbon and want to be able to destroy the world as they wish to profit in their lifetime and do not care what happens afterwards. The picture is clear however, the consensus of world science say that a serious problem exists and suggest what needs to be done. The risk involved in ignoring their warning is extreme so why take it. We should be following the lead of science and doing everthing we can to avoid the consequences because we are the driest inhabited continent in the world and will suffer the conseqences of ignoring sciences warning the worst so we should hasten to lead the way to follow the advice of science. Unfortunately I do not think we are doing it. If only we had another world to send the denialists to we could leave them to run the experiment of ignorance to its inevitable conclusion but we only have one world so we need to ignore them and get on with doing all we can to save the only world we have.

  43. Simon from Sydney


    Like your work – nice to have a bit of support here.

  44. confessions

    [There is also sufficient evidence to say the CO2 concentrations have been orders of magnitude higher than today]

    That is another of those truisms that tend to appear as well. It is not correct to claim that CO2 concentrations have been higher than today unless you can confirm that other conditions were the same. Questions for you on that score are: 1. when was this period?, 2. what was the solar output at the time?, 3. what was the earth’s tectonic configuration at the time?

    [Over all that geological time the earth’s climate system has never spun out of control.]

    There are other influences on earth’s climate, including volcanoes, tectonic changes, solar output and so on. Nobody is disputing this (that i’m aware of anyways). But none of these things explain the pattern of recent changes to earth’s temperature. And when considering temperature, you have to consider the climate as an entire system, including oceans. Now there’s an interesting side to all this…..


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