Ian Wishart is embarrassing

3 03 2007

Ian Wishart writes yet another idiotic post about global warming:

So much for anthropomorphic global warming…will
that stop the Left from ranting about it? Probably not, there will be
websites and magazines like New Dawn alleging secret American bases on
Mars burning fossil fuel…

Tinfoil hats, anyone?

The article is about a Russian scientist (an astronomer !) who believes that solar forcing is going to save the whole world. This has cropped up a few times in recent months, and has always been discredited.

(And never mind that it’s anthropogenic, not anthropomorphic global warming… Idiot.)

Wishart gets the link from the World Net Daily, which should pretty much say everything. Although the article is legit, being from National Geographic, Wishart leaves out an important snippet — the criticism of the astronomer from just everybody else.

Perhaps the biggest stumbling block in [Habibullo] Abdussamatov’s theory is his dismissal of the greenhouse effect, in which atmospheric gases such as carbon dioxide help keep heat trapped near the planet’s surface.

He claims that carbon dioxide has only a small influence on Earth’s climate and virtually no influence on Mars.

But “without the greenhouse effect there would be very little, if any, life on Earth, since our planet would pretty much be a big ball of ice,” said [Amato] Evan, of the University of Wisconsin.

Evan is an actual climate scientist, not an astronomer.

Leaving aside the obvious entertainment value of Wishart’s post, it also underscores a common tactic of climate denialists: cherry-pick a lone contrarian’s views and act as if it shakes the very foundation of the climate change consensus. Pitiful.




14 responses

5 03 2007

classic. keep up the denier hunting 🙂

24 04 2007
Philip H

There are some errors in your supposed refutation of Wishart’s post. You imply that carbon dioxide is the major contributor to Earth’s greenhouse effect, but in fact carbon dioxide contributes only 3.6% of the greenhouse effect. Clouds and water vapour are responsible for at least 95% of the greenhouse effect. In addition, scientific truth is not determined by consensus; consensus proves nothing. Truth is determined not by democratic vote but by evidence. Many advances in scientific understanding have been achieved by “lone contrarians”; individuals such as Kepler (astronomy) and Einstein (relativity) were at odds with the prevailing consensus.

24 04 2007

naught101 — CO2 is only a small fraction of the atmosphere, but it’s a forcing, unlike water vapour, which is a feedback. Also, CO2 stays in the atmosphere for centuries; water vapour only about 20 days. So, the more we pump CO2 into the air, the more unbalanced the system gets.

As for your spurious point about consensus, peer review wasn’t around when Kepler and Einstein were working. You act as if all the climate scientists in the world got together and voted for their favourite composer, but the IPCC produced its four assessments by looking at the evidence. Incidentally, many of the heroes of the sceptics movement (e.g. Lindzen, Bob Carter) were involved in that consensus, and signed off on its final results.

Sure, some contrarians have advanced their respective fields. Many more have not. Wonder why we never hear about that dude who invented anti-gravity, or the car that runs on water, or the guy who thinks he’s figured out a faster-than-light drive? It’s because they bucked the consensus and it bit them on the butt. So how do we weed out the ones who went against the consensus but had bad science? We use peer review. It’s not perfect, but it’s served pretty well so far.

So, what do we find if we look at the peer review? Naomi Oreskes (Science, 2004) did just that and found that of 928 peer-reviewed articles published for the 10 years or so leading up to that point (I can’t remember the exact time span, but it was significant), exactly ZERO articles went against the consensus.

Nice try, buddy, but your talking points are stale. A word of advice: don’t come back until you can quote some actual (peer-reviewed) science.

Better trolls, please!

25 04 2007
Philip H

Just a brief comment: the unnamed (nonexistent?) individuals you describe (re: antigravity, water-fueled vehicles, faster-than-light) are would-be inventors, not scientists. An example of contrarian scientific advancement from the peer-reviewed era is Warren and Marshall’s discovery in the 1980s that most peptic ulcers are caused by bacterial infection. They had to endure extremely dismissive treatment from the scientific establishment for some years before their ideas were eventually accepted.

25 04 2007

I have no interest in defending Warren & Marshall’s detractors. (Or Keppler’s detractors; or Einstein’s detractors.) Having read about his courage in the face of resistance, I say good on him.

But to go from this to saying that science ought never to work by consensus is a long bow to draw.

It’s also a basic error in logic, the false analogy: Warren & Marshall faced resistance, as did Keppler and Einstein — therefore climate science is wrong. Any logician would sneer down his nose at you, and rightly so. Do you refuse to hire a mechanic to fix your car because a plumber once did shoddy work installing your hot water cylinder?

Again, to make it absolutely clear, as I said in my previous comment, some contrarians have advanced their fields. Others have not.

I know you want to draw a simple black and white message from Keppler and Einstein, etc. because it excuses you from admitting the reality of global warming. I certainly am not happy when I think about what the science means for the way we conduct our lifestyles; I would like nothing better than to jet about the globe and live wastefully.

But reality is tough, and nuanced. It takes a tough and nuanced individual to face up to the truth. Try it; you won’t like it (like I said, I don’t like it, either) — but you’ll be doing the right thing by your kids.

26 04 2007
Philip H

I don’t think I want to draw black & white messages; objectively, global warming might be happening or it might not. If it is, there are various possibilities: slight/moderate/severe and short/medium/long-term. I’m not convinced that the peer-review process is sufficiently reliable to establish the accuracy of the data involved, particularly the temperature data. In other scientific fields, the peer-review process has had problems in resolving the accuracy of data, as for example in the FDA evaluation (a type of peer review) of studies of the drug Ketek (see http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/full/356/16/1601). Satellite-derived temperature data are regarded as the most reliable and comprehensive temperature data, but are less than 30 years old so provide an insufficient baseline as yet for conclusions regarding global warming. Ground-based temperature data have therefore had to be used in the analysis and have various deficiences relative to satellite data: effects of location such as urban/rural differences, difficulties in determining mean daily temperature, different numbers and locations of recording sites at different times, etc. When the rate of warming is estimated at just 0.007 deg C per year the confounding factors could be significant. I don’t have sufficient faith in the peer-review process that these issues have been addressed adequately. Effectively, they have had no choice but to use ground-based data as the only alternative is to wait several more decades until there are sufficient satellite data.

26 04 2007

What a preposterous argument. You ought to be ashamed of yourself.

I’m the first to acknowledge there are problems with peer review. But I certainly don’t elevate these problems to a general rule, as you seem to be heading towards.

Actually, it’s difficult to tell whether you have a problem with peer review in general — which would be surprising, as I assume you still take medicine from your doctor, buy food at the market, and drive cars or ride public transport — or whether your problem is only with the peer review process surrounding the IPCC.

If it’s the latter, then you need to back up your argument with concrete examples. But if you don’t know the science involved (as is plain from your comments so far), then your stance against peer reviewed climate science is a pre-existing bias.

How do I know this? It’s called logic, something else you don’t know much about, else you wouldn’t have committed so many logical errors. I’ve mentioned some of them before (which you have yet to address); here’s a more complete list:

1. CO2 is smaller fraction of the atmosphere than water, by volume. Therefore, it means next to nothing. By this logic, a glass full of tequila is just as strong as a glass full of wine.

2. “[C]onsensus proves nothing. Truth is determined not by democratic vote but by evidence.” This shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the peer review process. Scientists don’t vote on whether to accept research. They let expert editors in the field vet it. The proper analogy is with school exams. You can complain that a particular marker is biased against a particular point of view, but democracy has nothing to do with it.

3. Some contrarians have bucked the system and come out on top. I readily agree, and have said so again and again, yet you act as if I’m a peer review absolutist. Peer review has also failed in isolated instances in global warming (in one case, a shoddy pro-global warming piece got through; in another, a shoddy anti-global warming piece got through). That brings us to point #4.

4. But — but — Warren and Marshall! The FDA! So what? Nobody said peer review was perfect. Mistakes happen all the time, and will happen again. Do you think people stopped driving SUVs because of early safety concerns? To use the rare cases of breakdown as an excuse for inaction is meek to the point of intellectual cowardice.

5. The false analogy See my comment above.

6. When the rate of warming is estimated at just 0.007 deg C per year the confounding factors could be significant. You really have no clue, do you? Error bars are produced in every climate graph. That’s why we call them error bars.

7. Effectively, they have had no choice but to use ground-based data as the only alternative is to wait several more decades until there are sufficient satellite data. Do you even understand the concept of risk? Or insurance? The reason you pay health insurance now is so that you don’t get caught without coverage further down the road.

8. In other scientific fields, the peer-review process has had problems in resolving the accuracy of data. You’re saying here that because an FDA approval case was tainted, that climate change data is undependable? This is the exact same type of argument you made before. Don’t punish your son for something your daughter did wrong.

Good grief. It’s clear to me that your intellectual vanity won’t let you admit that you’ve made a gut reaction against the evidence for global warming. No, you’ve got to pretend that you’ve found your way to global warming denial objectively. Well, that’s utter tosh. You’re in deep denial and I have no more patience for you.

28 04 2007
Philip H

Thanks for the entertainment. However, it needs to be said that in fact you are the one demonstrating irrationality as you are apparently unable to discuss the issues without making personal remarks.

Just a few points:

“I am the first to acknowledge that there are problems with peer review.” But you weren’t. I was the first to mention problems with peer review.

“I assume you still take medicine from your doctor.” Yes, I do. But I wouldn’t take Ketek even if it was being given away.

“CO2 is a smaller fraction of the atmosphere than water, by volume.” That wasn’t the point I made. I said that the contribution of CO2 to the greenhouse effect is 3.6% of the total effect.

“You act as if I’m a peer review absolutist.” Well, you seem to go as close as you can to that position. Sadly, peer review offers no guarantee of infallibility. You might as well believe in the infallibility of the Pope.

The peer review process, no matter how good it might be, cannot transform poor quality data into something better. If the IPCC could somehow magically have access to a century of satellite data tomorrow, I can guarantee that they would ditch the current ground-based data overnight.

So, at least for me, the jury is still out on the issue of global warming.

28 04 2007

My apologies if I have been unclear in my language, or have got frustrated with you. I retract those times when my language was irritated, though still am convinced that you ahve consistently failed to deal with my challenges.

When I said I was “the first” to acknowledge that peer review is imperfect. I meant that phrase in the everyday sense, as in “I’m the first to acknowledge that chocolate is fattening, but…” I’m sorry you took that phrase the wrong way.

My point about Ketek stands. You say you wouldn’t take Ketek; neither would I. In other words, it is a cautionary tale to people that they should not take Ketek. It isn’t, on the face of it, a cautionary tale that people shouldn’t take other medications. Yet you seem to want to draw a straight line between the failures of Ketek on the one hand and the IPCC process on the other hand. If you want to point to failures in the IPCC process, don’t draw examples from other fields; draw examples from the climate science field.

You haven’t, therefore you have failed to deal with this.

As I said in my first response to you, water vapour is a feedback, not a forcing. Here is another post by a climate scientist on the matter.
This makes it clear that even though CO2 is just a small part of the greenhouse effect, it acts differently from water in important ways: it is a forcing. It stays up there for about a century. Water is a feedback. It leaves the atmosphere quickly.

Therefore, you consistently fail to deal with this point.

I am not a peer review absolutist. If I were, I would be defending Ketek and the Warren and Marshall cases. I have no interest in doing so. I am defending the IPCC process. You have not challenged it except by quoting unrelated instances.

Therefore, you have failed to deal with this point.

You value satellite data highly, to the extent that you discount all over forms of data. That’s your prerogative, I guess, but how long will it take for this data to come in? Fifty years? Seventy? By that time, if the leading climate scientists are correct, we will have passed the tipping point to catastrophic climate change. The magnitude of this equation (the price for waiting against the price for acting now) means that you owe it to yourself to not avoid the question. You need to show why current non-satellite data is poor quality. You have tried to do this — as seems to be your common gambit — by raising questions about the peer review process.

You have failed to achieve this goal.

You consistently fail to deal with the challenge. If you are intellectually honest, you will reply by either raising real questions about the IPCC peer review process, or real questions about the data.

28 04 2007
Philip H

I think the discussion has gone as far as it can at this stage.

I would actually like to withdraw my previous remark about Ketek: on reconsideration, I think that comment is unjustified. There are concerns about Ketek, but I think my remark was somewhat over-the-top.

I should also mention that I support efforts to reduce CO2 emissions: this is the responsible thing to do. Especially as the crunch point for fossil fuel usage is approaching rapidly. My only proviso is that in the interim, until alternative power generation sources become more established, countries such as New Zealand may have to continue for a while with some power generation from coal-fired stations. New Zealand has been on the verge of a power crisis for some time, with nationwide black-outs only narrowly averted in both 2003 and 2005.

Regarding satellite vs. ground-based data: the estimated magnitude of the warming effect is extremely small (less than one one-hundredth of one degree C per year) so clearly the most precise, reliable and sensitive temperature data should be preferred in order to unequivocally verify that this effect is indeed occurring. The scientific process is one of ongoing investigation and re-evaluation. I’m sure that the IPCC has done its best with the existing data. It’s just a pity that there is such a large time gap before the better data are available.

In the meantime, the sensible thing would be to try to reduce CO2 emissions where possible. And also to be aware of other human influences on climate, such as the deforestation and overgrazing that is affecting Africa’s climate.

28 04 2007
Philip H

Postscript: I would like to add that the peer review process works extremely well most of the time. I have to admit that some of my previous comments veered far too much to the negative side. It’s just that I’m concerned that people may equate peer review with actual infallibility, when in fact sometimes there are lapses. My main concern is with the quality of the ground-based temperature data and this is really a huge issue to try and go into. My earlier comments about effects of location such as urban/rural differences, difficulties in determining mean daily temperature, and different numbers and locations of recording sites at different times touch on some of the main issues relating to variability in the data. There seem to be so many variability factors that I wonder whether any statistical treatment could really handle all of them adequately. But I have to admit I would need to know more about the IPCC peer review process in relation to this and the precise statistical methods used.

4 05 2007

Does anyone remember this joke : How do you know when a politician or lawyer are lying. A. Their lips are moving. hahahahahaha. Ok now in response to that film “A Covenient Lie” and for the propaganda purposes we cant go into right now as it might cause and upset the consensus of consensus’s propagandized braindead zombies to rattle their chains in predictable Nazi fashion, but now comes the film “The Great Global Warming Swindle” made from “the scientists point of view” and Not I repeat NOT from the politicially driven agenda of “Trust Me would I tell you a political lie Politician” and they the politians will tell you in all solemn reality, we have the solution to that lie, that inconvenient truth, and weve only just come up with it right now … YOU’RE THE PROBLEM !! hahahahahahahahahahahhahahahahahahahaahahahahahahhhhahah

4 05 2007

watch “the great global warming swindle” and hear what the scientists are saying, good luck plum

8 05 2007

Apologies for taking so long to respond, Philip; I’ve been on holiday.

I’m glad to see you’ve moderated your views and walked back from your more contentious positions. In particular, it’s refreshing to see that you’re willing to give CO2 mitigation a try. I have to add, though, that you commit a couple more mistakes in your final replies.

First, you underestimate the amount of warming. The IPCC AR4 puts the estimated warming over the coming century at 1.1C to 6.4C. Prudence would dictate taking the mid-point of this range, giving an annual warming of a few magnitudes more than you wrote.

Second, you say, correctly, that we should continue to depend on fossil fuels until we find a viable non-renewable energy source. This paints the alternative as an immediate moratorium on fossil fuels, but no environmental organisation is seriously advocating this. It’s a clumsy straw man. We can certainly redirect our energies towards renewables while reining in fossil fuels.

Third, as to your concern with ground data and the difficulty of modelling this (I’ve inferred you’re uneasy with computer models; please correct me if this isn’t the case), my response is: (a) by wishing for better data, don’t make the perfect the enemy of the good. The IPCC says evidence of global warming is “unequivocal”, and human activity is more than 90% responsible for most of the rise since the mid-20th century. It doesn’t get more conclusive than this, and if you wait around for better data, you’re going to be waiting (and wasting) a great deal of time; (b) Computer models are the best tool we have for mapping climate change; if you can think of a better one, feel free to submit it. I recommend Science or Nature.

Last, I believe I’ve already addressed your worries about peer review, while you haven’t shown the IPCC process to be significantly flawed. I’m encouraged that you want to find out more about it, but I’m concerned that you may end up visiting sceptics sites and getting trapped in there.

Again, it’s good to see you’re not letting your understandable concerns about the science blind you to the need to cut back CO2 emissions. Good luck in your quest to find out more about the process.

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