Saturday, October 03, 2009

Getting hot under the collar

Updated One final (for now) set of exchanges on global warming, which I wanted to get up quickly even though the post is in one sense unfinished: As before, the links here were not in my original comments, and I have not added all the links I intended to. But I'm running behind on other things, so this goes up now and I'll do an update when I add the other links, which should be in a day or two.

In response to a commenter at MMFA citing a research paper on global warming, one of the nanny-nanny naysayers offered two links to posts at the blog of Roy Spencer, a meteorologist who is a naysayer, saying "Anyone can pull a scientist out of their ass." So I said:
You certainly did.

First, note that what you offer are blog posts, not research published in a peer-reviewed journal. With that always in mind, I admit to having only quickly scanned the links but I still have to say that I'm unimpressed.

For example, the first link says the "global warming theory starts with the assumption that the Earth naturally maintains a constant average temperature." That is a crock. I don't know of anyone who's ever said that. Not only researchers but even the most staunch nanny-nanny naysayers agree that the average temperature of the Earth has varied by a good number of degrees over time.

What the Earth will do is seek an equilibrium, a balance, between energy in and energy out - but there are so many things that can disturb (and have disturbed) that equilibrium from the very-predictable and very-long term (such as the precession of the Earth's orbit) to the somewhat-predicable (such as the radiance of the Sun) to the relatively unpredictable (such as large-scale volcanic activity) that no one would rationally claim that "the Earth naturally maintains a constant average temperature." That's just silly. It's a straw figure.

What global warming theory says is that an equilibrium that had persisted for several hundred years if not longer is being disturbed by human activities that have lead to the release of large amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere with the result that the average temperature of the Earth is rising as the climate seeks a new equilibrium.

So right at the top he misstates what he's supposedly critiquing.

He refers several times to "forcing and feedback (loosely speaking, cause and effect)" - but that is, again, wrong. A "forcing" is something that drives climate in a certain direction. There can be both natural and human-generated forcings; the attention of rational people, who are concerned about global warming, is on the latter both because it's what's causing the problem and it's the one we can do something about. The point here is that an "effect," the result of a forcing, isn't a "feedback" unless it is a new forcing. (Just to be clear, there can be negative feedbacks, which act in the opposite direction of the original forcing and thus reduce its effect, and positive feedbacks, which act in the same direction as the original forcing and thus enhance its effect. One of the big dangers of global warming is the development of positive feedback loops such that the temperature would continue to rise even if we generated no additional greenhouse gases.)

There are two links in the text on that page. One is to the other link you give. There, he describes his "favorite candidate" for a natural source for global warming, and in the very first paragraph he says he's claiming it accounts for "three-quarters of the warming trend" during the 20th century and refers to a "mostly-natural source of global warming." So even his own model, his own "favorite candidate," admits to the reality of anthropogenic global warming - even he is only arguing over how much of the warming is human-created, not whether or not human-created warming is occurring.

What's more, in the next paragraph he says "The main arguments for global warming being manmade go something like this: 'What else COULD it be? After all, we know that increasing carbon dioxide concentrations are sufficient to explain recent warming, so what's the point of looking for any other cause?'" That is such a stinking pile that I'm grateful that Smell-o-Vision is still fictional. I mean, how many ways could that be wrong? For one, CO2 is the most abundant greenhouse gas, but it's not the only one or even the most powerful one. (Methane, for example, is 20 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than CO2 is.) For another, the idea that scientists are simply dismissing out of hand any other possibility is not only ridiculous, it is a puerile slam on the entire community of atmospheric scientists.

Oh, the other link off that page, the one you didn't include, is to his own analysis of feedbacks, which he says show an "insensitive" climate, that is, one not readily affected by human activity. Again, it's a blog post, not a peer-reviewed article and while I freely admit to not being an expert at statistical analysis, it frankly appears to me that he just analyzed the numbers different ways until one of the results looked the way he wanted.

So much for the links, what about the author himself? Well, yes, Dr. Roy Spencer is a leading nanny-nanny naysayer on climate change. His 2008 book Climate Confusion not only argued that human impact on the climate is so small as to be safely ignored, he claimed the very best thing we can do for the world's poor is to keep on right on doin' exactly what we're doin' now.

But he's rather more than that. For one, he's a creationist, having said in 2005 that creationism "actually had a much better scientific basis than the theory of evolution." For another, he was a "scientific advisor" to something called the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance, which declared itself to be "committed to bringing a proper and balanced Biblical view of stewardship to the critical issues of environment and development."

He's associated with both the Heartland Institute, a right-wing outfit promoting "free market" solutions to just about any problem you can think of, including global warming, and the George C. Marshall Institute, a right-wing think tank.

In 2004, he wrote that "either you believe that the world has been created for mankind's use, with a certain resiliency and stability, or you believe it is just a cosmic accident, fragile, and overly sensitive to our meddling" - a particularly interesting statement in light of his repeated efforts to prove the climate is "insensitive." In that same article he compared toxic waste to deer droppings.

A year earlier, he and a partner had published an analysis that claimed that the troposphere, the lowest level of the atmosphere, was actually cooling, not warming. Two years later it turned out they had screwed up the calculations and the troposphere was actually warming, and warming in a way that was in large agreement with global warming computer models. Despite having to admit they were wrong, the pair said "our view hasn't changed," that is, even though they were wrong, they were still right.

Two final tidbits: One, in 2007 he asserted that "very few scientists in the world - possibly none - have a sufficiently thorough, 'big picture' understanding of the climate system to be relied upon for a prediction of the magnitude of global warming." Which is probably why the IPCC, for example, relies on the combined effort of a few thousand scientists in relevant disciplines from around the world - and why, by his own words, Spencer's lone-wolf nanny-nanny naysaying is not as impressive as some here (eagerly) find it.

And two, he also insists that despite his connections to the Heartland Institute, which has gotten a good deal of money from Exxon-Mobil, "My research has always been 100% U.S. Government-funded." Which would seem to be a poke in the eye to those who claim that researchers keep finding new support for anthropogenic global warming because "that's where the grant money is."
In response, the person who seems to now regard themselves as the chief nanny-nanny naysayer at MMFA went after me. I didn't take it calmly.
I guess you didn't notice his links to his peer-reviewed papers

I guess you didn't notice that it was still a blog post, which may or may not have reflected peer-reviewed research (a reference hardly proves that). You also didn't notice that his earlier attempt to shoot down the "hockey stick" was itself shot down in flames.

Spencer was simplifying the theory and equilibrium discussion

He wasn't "simplifying," he was distorting, just like you. He was creating straw figures to attack.

your purported and preposterous AGW insertion

So you're saying there is no anthropogenic global warming? You're that loopy? You deny the science that far?

trying to pull a fast one ... ignore established science ... Water vapor accounts for something like 80% of the greenhouse effect ... attempting to mislead people

This outburst of petulance, accusation, and misdirection arose because I referred to CO2 as "the most abundant greenhouse gas." First, I will acknowledge that I should have said the most abundant anthropogenic greenhouse gas. (And before anyone leaps, no, I am not saying that human activity is the only source of CO2 in the atmosphere. I am saying it is the most abundant greenhouse gas whose concentration can be directly related to human activity.) Next, we can argue about if water vapor is actually a gas or is merely often referred to as one for convenience because it acts much like one (you can set chemists at each other's throats over that), but that's neither here nor there. What's actually important here is that you quite conveniently ignore that fact that I wrote what I did in response to Spencer's patently false assertion that the case for anthropogenic global warming relies entirely on CO2 concentrations (and therefore must of necessity ignore other factors including some obvious ones). By flooding my statement with hollow objections, you attempted to drown its meaning: Spencer was arguing dishonestly.

Why don't you write Al

What the devil is this nanny-nanny naysayer obsession with Al Gore? Some unrequited lust? What?

let's go all Luddite on the world instead

I have no idea what that means and neither do you. (Yes, I know what "Luddite" means, probably better than you because I know the historical context in which the term arose. But your statement's obvious meaning - the only alternative to doing nothing is to destroy all technology along with, apparently, certain farm animals [that emit methane] - is so numbingly vacuous that it's kinder to assume it's meaningless.)

Flat-earther ... Self-assured zealot

Hilarious! You ignore the scientific consensus, ignore the continually-growing body of data, desperately nitpick at details, embrace conspiracy theories where those whose work supports human-driven global warming are "opportunistic pigs," "stooges," and "fanatics" and somehow Al Gore (there's that obsession again) is personally "silencing critics" - and you claim I'm a "flat-earther zealot" who rejects the scientific method? That is fall-down-on-the-floor funny.

In fact, you are an ignorant buffoon whose view is based on paranoia every bit as deep as that as the truthers, the birthers, and the creationists who, exactly like you, are constantly claiming the case (for them, for evolution; for you, for anthropogenic global warming) is "slowly but surely falling apart." It's all about conspiracies, concealed evidence, hidden Truths, a "collaborative cabal." Every question raised, even if it is rebutted, "trounces AGW." Every correction of a model, every adjustment in the face of new information, is "moving the goalposts" even though making such corrections is a basic part of the scientific method in which you (apparently speciously) claim to believe.

You are so wrapped up in your fantasies of "wolf political movements," "phantom menaces," and "monstrous Luddite sacrifices to the gods," so desperate to avoid facing the fact that there is an environmental problem that can't be solved by separating your trash but might actually require you to do something you don't just feel like doing - it's so bad that you either don't even understand what you read or simply don't care. For example, you quote the IPCC as saying "Anthropogenic warming and sea level rise would continue for centuries due to the timescales associated with climate processes and feedbacks, even if greenhouse gas concentrations were to be stabilized." That quote is from the 2007 Synthesis Report and it specifically refers to predictions of what would happen if greenhouse gas emissions were to continue to grow at current rates until 2100! More simply, it's what would happen if we do nothing for the next 90 years! Yet you claim it means the IPCC is throwing up its collective hands and saying, as you put it, "our efforts will have negligible effects."

How can I take you seriously when you are so transparently incapable of understanding plain English?

But then again, aside from spinning grand conspiracy theories, an incapacity to understand plain English appears to be your forte. You have repeatedly claimed that Mojib Latif "admits there has been cooling [and] admits that the cooling will continue" and that such "admissions" should make us reject "the alarmist ramblings of Latif and his Copenhacks" who are "starting to sweat." That is utter and complete nonsense. What Latif said is that scientists should focus more on decadal effects precisely because the determined know-nothings like you are trying to jump on short-term trends to deny the existence of longer-term trends. Turning that into an "admission" that he was wrong and crackpots like you are right is a complete fabrication. You are again arguing just like the creationists who are forever proclaiming "the case for evolution is falling apart" when biologists argue about the precise details and mechanisms of the process even as they endorse the concept.

I mean, what in heaven's name are you talking about, "admits?" What "admission?" For the past couple of years, world average temperature has been relatively stable. That's not an "admission," that's just reading the numbers. No one not drunk on the fantasies of the denialists could or would claim otherwise. The cooling will continue? It probably will - for a time (in fact, it was already predicted to do so) precisely because of those natural cycles of warming and cooling which the nanny-nanny naysayers like you insist the researchers ignore. Nothing in what Latif said could be taken by a rational person as a rejection of anthropogenic global warming rather than simply the advice to focus on the fact that it is an overall, longer-term trend, not a short-term one.

Even so, for a "cooling trend," this one has quite a ways to go:

- The 20 warmest years on record have occurred since 1981.
- The 15 warmest years on record have occurred since 1991.
- Seven of the 8 warmest years on record have occurred since 2001, as have 8 of the warmest 10.
- Every year of the period 2000-2008 was warmer than any recorded year prior to 1990.
- The 1990s were the warmest decade on record; barring some climatological disaster in the next few months, the decade 2000-2009 will beat it.

As for your complaints against those additional reconstructions of the "hockey stick," you again rely completely on innuendo, insult ("the three stooges"), paranoia ("the collaborative AGW cabal"), and, in the case of Sonechkin[, one of the authors of one of the studies], yet another failure to understand clear English: Sonechkin was in the link you cite acknowledging the limitations of the use of proxies, something which any reputable scientist would do (and which Mann, Bradley, Hughes did in their original paper) but which to you somehow becomes a retraction of their own work. So even though those other reconstructions involved nine different peer-reviewed papers with a total of 24 authors and used different combinations of proxies and still came to results that were in broad agreement, they are all to be discounted because of some, what, some grand conspiracy among "opportunistic pigs" to hide The Truth?

(Sidebar for those unfamiliar with the term, a "proxy" is something that can be used in attempting to determine temperatures for periods for which you have no direct observations. Tree rings, borehole samples, historical records, and more can serve as proxies.)

The AGW/IPCC/Mann stick approach has been shot down

That depends on how strictly you interpret your terms. The very-straight shaft "hockey stick" (with, everyone seems to forget, large error bars) probably doesn't have a whole lot of defenders, but a, if you will, warped shaft "hockey stick," which still expresses the central principle that recent warming is unprecedented in several hundreds years if not longer, is flying high and in quite robust health. One more time, you argue like the creationists who claim that evolution has been "shot down" because there are very few strict Darwinists left.

can you say MWP

Yes, I can. I can also say that the so-called Medieval Warm Period very likely did not exist except as a temporary reversal of a long-term cooling trend and was limited to parts of the Northern Hemisphere. And while there is evidence that temperatures in the period were similar to those at the beginning of the 20th century, there is nothing to say they were as warm as those at the end of the 20th century.

Latif is just the latest to publicly assert the shortcomings of current climate models ... There will be more like him

Of course there will. There already are. Openly acknowledging limitations of the models used is, again, something any reputable scientist would do routinely, you "I just loooove the scientific method" clown. That's one of the reasons why in judging something like global warming you have to look at the overall weight of the evidence, not at individual nitpickers the way you do. And the weight of that evidence is overwhelming that anthropogenic global warming is real, its effects can be seen already, and it is a significant danger.

you attempt to discredit people like McIntyre with your Socialist reference the other day ... on your self-advertised blog, you claim yourself to be "radical Left" and a "democratic socialist/green with an anarchist bent."

You really do need some remedial classes in understanding what you read. I said that someone "flippantly but pretty accurately" described McIntyre as trying to discredit the vast majority of climate scientists as "Socialists engaged in hoaxing All Of Mankind." Yes, "a "democratic socialist/green with an anarchist bent" is part of how I described myself. How that in any way conflicts with or contradicts my reference to McIntyre is a complete mystery. (Another mystery is how in quoting "radical Left" you managed to miss the word "nonviolent.")

By the way, what is that "self-advertised blog" line? The only reference to my blog I recall making anywhere in this entire discussion is when someone asked if they could quote something I wrote here and I said fine but if it was appropriate, I'd like a credit. So what the hell are you talking about?

Skepticism? Please do tell how that meshes with your AGW skeptic hatred.

I'm skeptical of conspiracy theories, I'm skeptical of arguments built on innuendo, I'm skeptical of claims that rely on on paranoia about powerful forces hiding The Truth, and I'm skeptical of people who claim to love science while showing so little understanding of the process. And I do not easily tolerate fools.

Oh, but thanks for coming by my site. I certainly can use the traffic.
In another comment in the same thread, the name nutter wrote that
[t]he IPCC is almost exclusively a political entity rather than a scientific body. They are an extension of the UN whose aim is to impose a global tax on us that won't stop at energy transactions, but on all financial transactions. Go give Our Global Neighborhood a read if you want an idea of their ultimate goals.
It seemed that this one was finally letting the curtain drop about what their real agenda is. I replied:
You start out fine then immediately descend into complete paranoia.

Yes, the IPCC is heavily political - that's one of its weaknesses because it means, as a number of scientists involved in preparing the executive summary for the most recent IPCC report complained, politicians kept watering down the scientists' warnings! Several of the scientists actually walked out of the session in protest. The IPCC's political characteristic actually runs directly contrary to what you intended to prove by it.

It's unclear whether you mean the IPCC or the UN wants to impose a "global tax" on "energy transactions" and financial transactions, but I do notice that the former link goes to an op-ed by Ralph Nader and the latter to an article about a proposal by the Finance Minister of Germany to the G-20 meeting; I was unaware either of those folks were representatives of the UN or the IPCC, or that the G-20 was the same as either. I also couldn't help but notice that the idea for a tax on financial transactions has been kicking around for over 30 years and its main opponent is the financial industry. What were you saying earlier about follow the money?

And Our Global Neighborhood? Seriously? A 15-year-old report that was not done by an official UN agency and was prepared for a meeting that took place 11 years ago? Are you joking? No - you're just run-of-the-mill paranoid.
He didn't give up, but in doing so revealed more than I think he meant to, as my reply should make clear:
What's your point?

Damn. There's that incapacity to understand plain English again. You really need to have that checked.

My point, which was abundantly clear, is that the political nature of the IPCC pushes it in the opposite direction you claim for it: It leads the group to downplay the scientists' warnings. Your own claim undermines your own argument.

Here's the money quote you seem to have missed

I missed nothing. The IPCC is charged with, among other things, estimating economic impacts of various mitigation strategies. It is simply false to claim it advocated any one of them. Nader cited the IPCC's conclusion in arguing that the method he supports - a carbon tax - would be more effective than cap-and-trade at a moderate cost.

the idea of a global tax ... is contemporary and the UN would be the collector of said taxes

Bzzzt! Your paranoia is showing again. The proposal - which may be "contemporary" but no one expects to get very far due to the opposition of monied interests - involves the individual nations taxing and collecting on the affected transactions that occur within their borders.

Do you really think it would be wise of me to follow the advice of a self-avowed socialist such as yourself

It'd do you better than following your own.

Because of your own proclivities, you mock a reference to Our Global Neighborhood.

I mocked it because it is an utterly silly argument.

I bet a majority of people never even heard of it over a decade later, so it is relevant.

Yeah, because the world has moved so far in that direction, hasn't it? Other than the establishment of the World Court in 1998 (which I take it you're against), is there a single item on that agenda which has gone anywhere? Not that I can find.

you mock the notion of global governance ... yet ultimately that would be your own personal goal

No it wouldn't, you presumptuous bozo. I have never advocated world government. (Did you forget the "anarchist bent" of my self-description you quoted? Then there was the "civil liberties absolutist" part, too, but I have to remember your reading comprehension difficulties.)

How about Obama's Global Poverty Act? Paranoid? Or awake?

What a hoot! Thank you for this link! I encourage everyone to follow the link and read the whole bill (it's only one page). It's one of which Obama was the chief sponsor when he was in the Senate and what it does is require the president "to develop and implement a comprehensive strategy to further the United States foreign policy objective of promoting the reduction of global poverty." This is some world government conspiracy? Wow!

Paranoid? Damn straight! And thank you for revealing it to all and sundry.

You couldn't achieve your socialist ends without again marginalizing dissent and disguising your true intentions.

Yeah. Which I did by calling myself, as you noted, a "democratic socialist/green with an anarchist bent" on my "self-advertised" website. Quite a disguise.

Your type is so predictable: Poke you a few times and the black helicopters start flying around. Time to turn the grill off. You're done.
So am I with this, for a time, anyway.

Updated to include the additional links and add a PS: He went one more round - but when I tried to reply again on Sunday to finish my side, the comments were closed. Which surprised me since the post was only from a couple of days before. Still, that's what it is: All loaded up and nowhere to post. Oh, well.

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