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Andrew Bolt

Feb 5, 2010

A new year, but the same old show

ABC's Insiders returns to our screens this Sunday. It's an election year and there are major policy issues to be dealt with such a

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ABC’s Insiders returns to our screens this Sunday. It’s an election year and there are major policy issues to be dealt with such as the final attempt to pass an emissions trading scheme. So our national broadcaster’s flagship political discussion program should be aiming to bring us insightful, intelligent and honest analysis of the issues and the politics, right?

Insiders ABC 1 9am Sunday, on the panel The Australian’s Lenore Taylor, The Age’s Mischa Schubert and The Herald Sun’s Andrew Bolt.

Yes, Insiders has booked the mainstream media’s denialist-in-chief for Episode 1. That’s Andrew “disgracefully one-sided coverage” Bolt. Andrew “I wonder if Australian viewers would like an alternative to no-argument Left politics on their televisions” Bolt.

Viewers could benefit from three commentators who can analyse and explain complex issues, give a perspective that draws on evidence, and debate the strengths and weaknesses of different political positions. Unfortunately, having one person on the panel who instead argues via talking points that are short, simple and catchy while at the same time being irrelevant, distorted or utterly wrong (e.g., “the world hasn’t warmed since 2001”) derails the whole process. The level of debate tends to come down to the lowest common denominator among the participants in that debate. And despite railing against the “mainstream media”, Andrew Bolt continues to get a gig as their Lowest Common Denominator.

Chances are I’ll do what I did many times last year – skip the show itself and follow the discussion of #insiders on Twitter. I’ve become used to seeing better intellectual arguments – including ones from a conservative perspective – from the people who weigh in about the issues raised in the show online than I have from the pundits who regularly occupy the Grumpy Chair. And if you want an example of how a nuanced, complex and yet important topic can be boiled down into five inaccurate bullet points from Andrew Bolt that distract people from the real issues, I’ve got an example over the fold.

So, Andrew Bolt has tried to attack NASA – again. This time, it’s over a fact-sheet type article titled “Is Antarctica Melting?” To bolster his claims he draws on a rebuttal of the same article from Steven Goddard (published at Bolt’s favourite source for denialist talking points, Watts Up With That). In doing so, Bolt manages to exaggerate and misrepresent not only what NASA said, but also to mangle Goddard’s own arguments. Let’s take a look.

Bolt thinks NASA’s article is both alarmist and untrue. He singles out two very brief statements for quotation:

Earth Observatory, of the pro-warmist NASA, warns that Antarctica “has been losing more than a hundred cubic kilometers (24 cubic miles) of ice each year since 2002” and that “if all of this ice melted, it would raise global sea level by about 60 meter (197 feet)”

Let’s start by putting the first quote in context:

Gravity data collected from space using NASA’s Grace satellite show that Antarctica has been losing more than a hundred cubic kilometers (24 cubic miles) of ice each year since 2002. The latest data reveal that Antarctica is losing ice at an accelerating rate, too. How is it possible for surface melting to decrease, but for the continent to lose mass anyway? The answer boils down to the fact that ice can flow without melting.

So they’re pointing to a specific data source giving them that figure, and the article explains that other types of measures may not pick up the same thing.

Now, the second quote:

Two-thirds of Antarctica is a high, cold desert. Known as East Antarctica, this section has an average altitude of about 2 kilometer (1.2 miles), higher than the American Colorado Plateau. There is a continent about the size of Australia underneath all this ice; the ice sheet sitting on top averages at a little over 2 kilometer (1.2 miles) thick. If all of this ice melted, it would raise global sea level by about 60 meter (197 feet). But little, if any, surface warming is occurring over East Antarctica. Radar and laser-based satellite data show a little mass loss at the edges of East Antarctica, which is being partly offset by accumulation of snow in the interior, although a very recent result from the NASA/German Aerospace Center’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (Grace) suggests that since 2006 there has been more ice loss from East Antarctica than previously thought 5. Overall, not much is going on in East Antarctica — yet.

So, they acknowledge that historically there has been very little change in temperature or ice levels in East Antarctica, and the “if all of this ice melted” statement follows after a description of the size of the ice sheet and helps to illustrate just how much ice they are talking about. But they acknowledge that at this stage nothing much is happening.

Now that you’ve looked at a couple of complete paragraphs containing complete sentences that explain things, are you scared by those statements? Do you feel like NASA wanted us to believe that sea levels are about to rise by 60 metres? Because Andrew finds himself asking:

Now, why would you scare folks so …

Then Andrew produces his list of bullet points (supposedly from Goddard) that refute NASA’s warmist-alarmist claims. Let’s take them one at a time and compare what Andrew claims to what others have said, or what the evidence shows:

  • Satellite data shows Antarctica cooling, not warming.

Goddard said:

But even more problematic is that UAH satellite data shows no increase in temperatures in Antarctica, rather a small decline.

Words like “small” aren’t relevant for Andrew – not when it comes to cooling, anyway. Increases in temperature need to be significant to be meaningful, of course. But even Goddard’s claim is pretty tenuous when you see just how small that decline has been:

uah_antarctic_temps

Perhaps someone used a trick to hide it.

Bolt’s next claim:

  • Antarctic sea ice has expanded over the past three decades, not shrunk.

This is a classic furphy of Bolt’s – he addresses claims about the ice sheet on the Antarctic continent by pointing to the increase in sea ice. In fact, NASA’s article acknowledged exactly what Bolt used in rebuttal:

One new paper 1, which states there’s less surface melting recently than in past years, has been cited as “proof” that there’s no global warming. Other evidence that the amount of sea ice around Antarctica seems to be increasing slightly 2-4 is being used in the same way. But both of these data points are misleading.

Misleading? No kidding.

In making that claim, Bolt also includes a hyperlink to this site – which is puzzling, since it’s about Arctic climate and the only links on that page relating to Antarctica on that page relate to temperature and not sea ice extent. But still, to readers who don’t bother clicking through the link it might look like Bolt has provided actual evidence.

Bolt’s third claim:

  • At even NASA’s claimed rate of melting, it would take 300,000 years for that Antarctic ice to melt.

Goddard did the calculations for this one – Andrew doesn’t do his own sums, perhaps because of that fear he has about calculators being put in uncomfortable places. But it’s based on the misrepresentation that NASA was saying “OMG teh ice is all melting! Run for your lives!!1!”, which clearly isn’t the case when you look at the entire paragraph quoted above. But it’s also flawed because it assumes a linear rate – the one note of warning NASA actually does sound is this:

Isabella Velicogna of JPL and the University of California, Irvine, uses Grace data to weigh the Antarctic ice sheet from space. Her work shows that the ice sheet is not only losing mass, but it is losing mass at an accelerating rate. “The important message is that it is not a linear trend. A linear trend means you have the same mass loss every year. The fact that it’s above linear, this is the important idea, that ice loss is increasing with time,” she says. And she points out that it isn’t just the Grace data that show accelerating loss; the radar data do, too. “It isn’t just one type of measurement. It’s a series of independent measurements that are giving the same results, which makes it more robust.”

So both the logic and the maths Bolt relied on turn out to be flawed.

Bolt’s fourth claim:

  • At the rate of sea level rise measured over the past century, it will take more than 18,000 years for the seas to rise 60 metres.

Again, Goddard did the heavy lifting. But I’m not sure what this point has to do with anything in the NASA article.

And finally, Bolt claims:

  • In fact, the seas have not risen for nearly four years

This 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 ignored and the short-term pattern most convenient to his argument is stated as fact. Here’s the graph that Bolt himself uses as evidence that sea levels are not rising:

sl_noib_global_sm

Goddard wasn’t silly enough to make that claim. In fact, the linear trend in that data set is what Goddard used to calculate how long it would take for sea levels to rise 60m. But Bolt can’t even make sure the claims he makes in a single post are logically consistent with each other.

So there it is. NASA’s Earth Observatory publishes an examination of data about Antarctic loss of ice mass. Andrew Bolt grabs a couple of fragments that make it sound like NASA was forecasting imminent doom, coats them with a generous serving of pseudoscience, irrelevant “evidence” and dodgy reasoning, and all his readers end up seeing is five bullet points that make no intellectual contribution to understanding the original question – “Is Antarctica melting?” Yet he is given prominent exposure on our screens, over our airwaves and in our papers to repeat these pointless statements. In a year when important decisions need to be made and votes will be cast, it’s beyond disappointing.

POSTSCRIPT: I mentioned Bolt’s reliance on short-term data to claim the long-term trend doesn’t exist. The January satellite temperature data is in, and Bolt’s line that warming has stopped since 2001 looks like it might have reached its best before date:

UAH_LT_1979_thru_Jan_10

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85 comments

85 thoughts on “A new year, but the same old show

  1. PeeBee

    David @83 Try this:

    http://www.ing-buero-ebel.de/Treib/Hauptseite.pdf

    and this:

    http://arxiv.org/abs/0802.4324

    And of course the definitive RealClimate.

  2. mondo rock

    None of RonJ, Mondo, Confessions, Monkeywrench, Billy, Gibbot or Zac Spitzer actually weighed in on the AGW side of this post.

    Just for the record Pedro – I made several comments about Tobias’ post on AGW and the comprehensive demolition of Bolt that was contained within it. Your statement above is both ignorant and false.

    It is entirely reasonable to ask you to review the post you’re commenting under and provide your opinion on it. Perhaps you’d like to read through it now and note that it effectively proves that Andrew Bolt’s arguments on AGW are unsupported by real world evidence and thoroughly faulty?

    Of course if you just come here to troll, and have no actual interest in the actual content of the posts being discussed, then there’s no need for you to trouble yourself with pesky alternative views.

  3. david

    Perhaps The Author would care to challenge the attached report. Which in my view is pretty hard science.

    http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/arxiv/pdf/0707/0707.1161v4.pdf

    Full peer reviewed detail in relation to disproving the Second Law of Thermodynamics or the author of the reports findings would be appreciated.

  4. sneakers

    I heart Pedro.

  5. BoldenwAter

    Thanks a third time pedro
    You have conclusively shown to all that you cannot defend your pro bolt stance.
    So I will have a go at it for you.

    You dont care if someone is dishonestly representing an argument provided that they are on your side. You would blindly support any pro right wing stance even if it comes at the price of your own children’s quality of life. And regardless of how many times others conclusively prove to you that your being misled you write letters to our national broadcaster supporting the dissemination of misinformation to others.
    Personally I find your behaviour abhorrent, even treasonous to your own species.
    And I sincerely want you to think long and hard about just why your doing what your doing. And if you can tell us why?

  6. FJD

    _In making that claim, Bolt also includes a hyperlink to this site – which is puzzling, since it’s about Arctic climate…_
    The actual source is not obvious from that linked page, but it is held on that site. It can be found – if you already know what you’re looking for.

    _and the only links on that page relating to Antarctica on that page relate to temperature and not sea ice extent._
    Not so – the third paragraph (next to the map with all the purple) links to Cryosphere Today, which has a huge archive of data on sea ice extent at *both* poles. The text in that paragraph only refers to the N Hemisphere, but CT covers both. On the CT page is a graph that bears out Bolts statement: http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/IMAGES/seaice.anomaly.antarctic.png

    Eyeball MkI says Antarctic Sea Ice extent has increased ~600,000 sq km’s over 30 years. Of course, his conclusions about that, like the rest of his “facts”, are bogus.

    _But still, to readers who don’t bother clicking through the link it might look like Bolt has provided actual evidence._

    Well, he got in the same neighbourhood as providing evidence, which is as much as you can expect from Bolt. His winged monkeys couldn’t have found it, but then would any of them have bothered anyway?

  7. monkeywrench

    Pedro, it’s clear you are embarrassed about my point that you are only in here to get up other people’s noses, otherwise you might have tried to answer it. So I made a simple grammatical error: I have used “your” and “you’re” correctly many times in here in the past, and will do so again. But you are a bitter little troll, and as such are irremediable.

  8. PeeBee

    Petrdo,

    Peebee, do you honestly think I, and everyone reading this, are as dense as you are trying to make out??

    Don’t know about everyone else, but in your case yes.

  9. RobJ

    [But I will take it all back and offer an apology if you would please answer me these questions.]

    Don’t hold your breath, answering questions isn’t Pedro’s strong point.

  10. BoldenwAter

    Pedro
    Thanks again
    If I offended you by stating the obvious I am extreamly pleased.
    But I will take it all back and offer an apology if you would please answer me these questions.
    This post plainly points out exactly how bolt has cherry picked pieces of information and then used them out of context to misconstrue the message of the original article.
    Is this what you want when you watch the ABC? Is this why you write letters to the ABC asking for bolt to be retained? So that you can be misled? If you really want to be misled why are you here?

  11. Pedro

    Peebee, do you honestly think I, and everyone reading this, are as dense as you are trying to make out??

    PeeBee @ 70: “What are you talking about? I don’t think I have ever mention anything about you commenting on the global warming debate…”

    Here you go, you fool:

    PeeBee @ 39: “…if so, how do you feel about Bolt misrepresenting the data?”

    PeeBee @ 42: “I am referring to Tobais’s post called ‘A new year, but the same old show’ start reading from paragraph 5 which starts with ‘So, Andrew Bolt has tried to attack NASA – again.’”

    PeeBee @ 52: “I asked about your feelings – you have obviously decided not to share them with us.”

    Good grief.

  12. confessions

    [As to why Marr, who should be able to hang, draw & quarter him with a couple of syllables, MegaGeorge]

    I’ve seen George M take him on over petrol prices and polling. Of course Mega could refer to his own analysis of Newspoll and so wiped the floor with him – it was great to see. The best thing of course is that Mega doesn’t become hysterical or try talking over other people.

    From my observation Marr seems to delight in taking on Piers by treating him as a sanctimonious windbag whenever he goes on one of his tirades against Labor or the Greens that are completely without foundation.

  13. AR

    Mondo – surely the reason that most meeja types can’t take down Rusty whe he’s lying (ie, when his lips are moving) is that, like our pusillanimous poltroons in Parliament, they are innumerate,BaArts who would know a scientific fact if it bit them on the nose.
    Bertus – can’t agree that the women fail to confront Rusty, the Divine Ms Crabbe regularly calls him out, as does Yummy Mummy Schubert & Feisty Fran. As to why Marr, who should be able to hang, draw & quarter him with a couple of syllables, MegaGeorge (the exception who can actually do arithmetic without taking off his shoes), and the remnant that is Toohey don’t, I lreave you to your own conclusions. Mine would be snipped.

  14. confessions

    [When, exactly, was the last time you saw me inject a single word to the global warming debate???]
    [What are you talking about?]

    Actually i thought that remark was less of a question, and more of a self-evident statement. Pedro *never* injects anything into any debate (global warming or otherwise). Her comments here only ever slag off at other commenters in a pathetic attempt at snark.

  15. PeeBee

    Pedro you asked: Your boldened “used to have” intrigues me. When, exactly, was the last time you saw me inject a single word to the global warming debate???

    What are you talking about? I don’t think I have ever mention anything about you commenting on the global warming debate, I thought the issue was about commentators who are asked to comment in the media about things they know nothing about.

  16. Pedro

    Monkeywrench, when you finally get your “your” and “you’re” together, get back to me about strong suits and common sense, k?

  17. Gibbot

    Pedro @53 – Just a quick couple of points. I didn’t actually comment on the AGW content of this post specifically because a) Tobby did such a great job there was really nothing to add, b) The overwhelming majority of regular readers here have faith in science and aren’t buying into the wingnut conspiracy lunacy, and a bunch of people arguing the same thing gets boring, c) Been there, done that. I’m now convinced that arguing AGW with deniers is exactly the same as arguing evolution with creationists. They’re just not mentally capable of accepting evidence contrary to their belief. Bolt’s blog is fkn groundhog day, and I can do without the angst of having to confront so much stupidity on a daily basis.

  18. monkeywrench

    Pedro @ 53…. see Monkeywrench @12
    Apart from the fact that you’re wrong about my silence on the subject, I had little to add to Tobby’s excellent dismantling of bolt’s silliness, and most people in here including you might be able to make an accurate guess on which side of the fence I’d be standing. Your comment 56 is so laughable as to warrant my attention: “surround and isolate the outsider”…??? Why does the “outsider” come here but for the frisson of trying to get up other people’s noses? Do you think it might be a tad illogical to think that there will be a mass outbreak of Pedroism when you have set yourself up as a Boltist Aunt Sally? You’re strong suit isn’t common sense, is it?

  19. Pedro

    Heh.

    /sarc

  20. Johnny Come Lately

    Pedro, I was actually trying to crack on to you.

  21. Pedro

    Look, Johnny! A thumbs-up from Confessions. You’re IN!!!

  22. confessions

    [I just found it quite amusing.]

    So did I! Please don’t apologise for bringing some Friday humour. 😉

  23. Johnny Come Lately

    Sorry to upset you Pedro, I just found it quite amusing.

  24. confessions

    Continuing the ‘different year, same schtick’ theme, Lambert finds more War on Science at The Australian.

    If the Hun ever decided to part company with their Chief Climate Scientist I’m sure he would find a happy home at the Oz.

  25. Pedro

    Johnny, just for you, I promise to use one of those juvenile /sarc tags at the end of my post when I am being so.

    Are we done now?

  26. Johnny Come Lately

    I did Pedro, you’re agreeing that the ‘left’ present factual and non-partisan argument.

  27. Pedro

    PeeBee. Your boldened “used to have” intrigues me. When, exactly, was the last time you saw me inject a single word to the global warming debate???

    And then do explain how the fact I have a lack of dialogue on that particular subject PROVES I am a troll???

  28. Pedro

    Johnny. Go back and have a proper read of post 37. It really doesn’t require a “please explain.”

  29. PeeBee

    Pedro,

    You ask So why did you each single ME out for direct comment

    I am interesting in what you have to say, because you provide a another point of view on these issues.

    Or should be, used to have , but now you are mute.

    But I guess, your lack of dialogue on the issue confirms Confessions statement pedro is a troll pure and simple

  30. Pedro

    Ah, Confessions. How delightful of you to dash in (and in the middle of Fox and Friends, no less!) to perfectly sum up what is so wrong with this blog’s sorry commentariat: ignore all logical discussion, just surround and isolate the outsider and go GRRRRRRR a lot.

  31. Johnny Come Lately

    Pedro @ 37:

    ____________________________________________________________________

    “My point is that the ABC should be presenting factual, non partisan argument…”

    In other words, the left point of view only.
    ____________________________________________________________________

    Are you implying that the right point of view presents bull-shit, partisan argument?

    Please Explain?

  32. confessions

    [That is your choice. But it is another example that You provide a clear example of why you cannot debate the retards of the right. ]

    pedro is a troll pure and simple. You are best saving your energy for people who are at least going to stump up the next day to defend their views, something that pedro won’t do. And I notice she isn’t correcting Boldenwater that she is a woman, not a man, yet is happy to attack other commenters for mixing her gender whenever the mood takes her. As I said a classic troll, and not worth the effort quite frankly.

    Oh, and congrats to Australia – a great but not unexpected win.

  33. Pedro

    Well, let’s see, PeeBee (and Boldenwater)

    None of RonJ, Mondo, Confessions, Monkeywrench, Billy, Gibbot or Zac Spitzer actually weighed in on the AGW side of this post.

    So why did you each single ME out for direct comment and (in Boldenwater’s case) abuse?

  34. PeeBee

    Pedro,

    I did not demand anything from you , I asked about your feelings – you have obviously decided not to share them with us.

    That is your choice. But it is another example that You provide a clear example of why you cannot debate the retards of the right.

  35. Pedro

    PeeBee, I had written Australia off after about seven overs. I just now had to fetch Mr Pedro ice cream for me being such a sceptic!

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