Understanding Climate Risk

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Archive for the ‘Denialism’ Category

Zombie ping pong at the WSJ

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Last Friday, the Wall Street Journal published a letter from 16 scientists entitled: No Need to Panic About Global Warming: There’s no compelling scientific argument for drastic action to ‘decarbonize’ the world’s economy.

They tried to revivify a number of zombies.

  • Objecting to the statement that  “The evidence is incontrovertible: Global warming is occurring” from the American Physical Society’s climate policy statement.  Apparently, nothing in science is incontrovertible, not even data trending in one direction. The APS added a commentary “However, the word “incontrovertible” in the first sentence of the second paragraph of the 2007 APS statement is rarely used in science because by its very nature science questions prevailing ideas. The observational data indicate a global surface warming of 0.74 °C (+/- 0.18 °C) since the late 19th century.” Incontrovertible means there is no evidence to the contrary.
  • The lack of warming over the past decade zombie.
  • The CO2 is not a pollutant zombie.
  • The de Freitas / Climate Research affair zombie, where a paper by Soon and Baliunas that de Freitas edited  claimed that the recent warming was not unusual in the context of the past 1,000 years which they called a politically incorrect (but factually correct) conclusion. Unfortunately the paper was not factually correct and should not have been published. The Editor in Chief and three associate editors resigned, leading the publishers to revamp the journal, de Freitas losing his editorial position in the process.
  • The climate change – Lysenkoism zombie.
  • Climate science is at the trough zombie (follow the money).

They also claimed:

A recent study of a wide variety of policy options by Yale economist William Nordhaus showed that nearly the highest benefit-to-cost ratio is achieved for a policy that allows 50 more years of economic growth unimpeded by greenhouse gas controls.

Andrew Revkin of New York Times blog Dot Earth posted a response by Nordhaus:

The piece completely misrepresented my work. My work has long taken the view that policies to slow global warming would have net economic benefits, in the trillion of dollars of present value. This is true going back to work in the early 1990s (MIT Press, Yale Press, Science, PNAS, among others). I have advocated a carbon tax for many years as the best way to attack the issue. I can only assume they either completely ignorant of the economics on the issue or are willfully misstating my findings.

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Naomi Klein: Capitalism vs climate

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Naomi Klein writing in The Nation (November 28) has said out loud what many think but won’t repeat in public:

The deniers did not decide that climate change is a left-wing conspiracy by uncovering some covert socialist plot. They arrived at this analysis by taking a hard look at what it would take to lower global emissions as drastically and as rapidly as climate science demands. They have concluded that this can be done only by radically reordering our economic and political systems in ways antithetical to their “free market” belief system.

In a 10,000 word essay, she covers the last Heartlands conference, recent American polling on climate change, the rejection of climate science by the mainstream Republican Party and its supporters, the Republican presidential primaries, the lack of a solid narrative in progressive politics to articulate a vision to transform to an equitable, low carbon economy, the rush to invest in oil shale, coal seam gas and coal developments, and the recent emergence of occupy X as a broad-based source of discontent with the status quo. Read the rest of this entry »

Spinning uncertainty – IPCC SREX Redux

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I have an article on The Conversation Spinning uncertainty? The IPCC extreme weather report and the media. This works up some of the material in my previous post on the IPCC Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation Summary for Policymakers (IPCC SREX SPM). It gives, I reckon, a pretty good overview of the SPM and puts some of The Australian newspaper’s reporting of it under the spotlight. Go read.

One thing I didn’t mention was that there was a second story in The Australian tagged November 19 12:00 am that quoted Benny Peiser, directors of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, a UK climate change foggery set up by Lord Nigel Lawson. (It was reposted on the GWPF site). He said:

“there was not a strong empirical link between anthropogenic climate change and weather events”.

“It is unlikely there will be one for 20 to 30 years,” he said.

He said any suggestion that recent weather events could be directly linked to climate change went directly against the general scientific consensus.

Ummm, extreme temperatures? Right now?

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Written by Roger Jones

November 23, 2011 at 11:39 pm

Sunday Age 10 Questions on Climate Change – the final two

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The Sunday Age – OurSay readers questions on climate change are down to the last two:

  1. ”THE claim ‘the science is settled’ is plainly false due to the many problems with the AGW [anthropogenic global warming] hypothesis (e.g. global temperatures have not risen since 1998 despite rising CO2 levels; alarmism is based on flawed models that do not reflect empirical measurements.)” 
  2. ”Why is the Australian public asked to swallow the ‘carbon dioxide is a dangerous climate-changing pollution’ crap when science shows no observed relationship between global climate and atmospheric carbon dioxide? There is no physical evidence showing a relationship between temperature and CO2, only computer models which give different answers according to whatever assumption data you put in. But there is a very close relationship between temperature and solar activity … Why, when thousands of respected scientists signed a petition saying they don’t agree there is a problem, are we being forced to give up billions in tax dollars to waste on trying to stop carbon dioxide emissions?” 

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Manne on Bad News

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Robert Manne, Professor of Politics at La Trobe University, authored the latest Quarterly Essay, Bad News: Murdoch’s Australian and the Shaping of the Nation. He thesis is that The Australian has jettisoned the traditional newspaper role of reporter–analyst to become an active participant in federal and state politics. By becoming one of the most powerful political forces in the country, the paper enjoys “power without responsibility”.

The Australian and the rest of the News media stable leapt to the Oz’s defence against that-bully-Manne with a swathe of articles. They repeatedly defended their right to free speech; exclusive to themselves, of course. Chris Mitchell, editor of The Australian and key Manne target:

To paraphrase another high-profile commentator on media, I say to editors at Fairfax and the ABC, don’t publish crap just because it’s written by Rob Manne. Can’t be that hard (HT Mercurius).

Deltoid was mentioned by Manne for his long running The Australians War on Science series and has already summarised the Australian’s response; here’s a more in depth look at the chapter on climate change. Chris Mitchell, the editor since 2002, defends the paper’s stance of climate change, claiming:

The Australian in the past 10 years has published 29 pieces by climate change “deniers” — that is, three a year. In that period it has published thousands of news stories, opinion pieces and editorials on the issue. This paper has accepted man-made climate change since the 1980s.

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Written by Roger Jones

October 6, 2011 at 11:49 pm

Science controversy and communication

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Two new articles in Physics Today, one open access and the other behind a paywall (you need to be a member of a partner organisation to get access) cover science controversies and communicating the science of climate change.

The open access article, by Stephen Sherwood of the Climate Change Research Centre at UNSW, is excellent (Steve also did a great presentation at Greenhouse 2011 on climate feedbacks). He covers past controversies surrounding Galileo and Copernicus and compares them with climate change. His argument skewers the contention that the Galileo movement puts up of the climate skeptic being the lone holder of true knowledge persecuted by the all-powerful Church of the Holy Global Warming Consensus.

Greenhouse warming today faces an even greater array of bogus counterarguments based on the uninformed interpretation of data from ice cores, erroneous views about natural carbon sources, alleged but unobserved alternative drivers of climate change, naive expectations of the time scales over which models and observations should match, and various forms of statistical chicanery and logical fallacy. Many of the arguments sound reasonable to an inexpert but intelligent layperson. Critics use the alleged flaws to attempt to discredit the entire field.

Debates between mainstream scientists and silver-tongued opponents cannot be won by the side of truth no matter how obvious the fallacies may be to an expert. Incredibly, as recently as the mid-19th century, a highly charismatic figure calling himself “Parallax” devoted two decades of his life to crisscrossing England arguing that Earth was flat. He debated legitimate astronomers—sometimes teams of them—in town-hall-type settings and wowed audiences. For similar reasons, Einstein himself gave up debating his critics early in the 1920s.

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Written by Roger Jones

October 6, 2011 at 7:25 pm

Science in a democratic society

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This post was precipitated by several stoushes held at Larvatus Prodeo over climate science but reflects more widely on the state of climate science and its public perception in the English-speaking democracies. It’s an issue I’ve been interested in for a number of years because of the attacks on climate science and the need to build better links between science and the risk management of global change. The post title is also the title of Phillip Kitcher’s new book released earlier this month. Kitcher is an English philosopher based at Colombia University and in 2006 won the Prometheus Prize of the US Philosopher’s Association – this book is the result. He has made his case really well.

The main points of this piece are that:

  • Society needs to draw from a body of public knowledge in order to be successful. Psychological and cognitive limitations lead to the sum of individual decisions producing suboptimal outcomes.
  • Attacks on public knowledge driven by self-interest and opaque values are being made under the cover of free speech and individual freedoms. The evidence used by these attacks is generally untrue, distorted or selective or fails basic tests for scientific proof.
  • Science is a values-driven enterprise. Those values need to be made explicit in what Kitcher refers to as well-ordered science.
  • Science is secular. Passing certain probative (proof) tests allows it to be shared as knowledge that has claims to objectivity.
  • Belief is personal and can also be shared but does not require the same tests (Belief also expresses a set of human needs not necessarily addressed by science).
  • Public knowledge in English-speaking democracies has become degraded. Science is vulnerable to vulgar democracy, where under the guise of free speech, any belief can masquerade as knowledge.
  • Science also needs to become better ordered, through measures that cover:
  • Education – for most students teaching what science does and what its impacts are, rather than how it works (technical), by separating pedagogy into liberal education and technical specialisation. This works on the presumption that most people need to understand the role science plays in society while fewer will become actual scientists.
  • Bringing people into the scientific workplace to familiarise them with knowledge goals and probative values and methods of certifying science.
  • Avoidance of universal punditry (experts speaking beyond their expertise) and overconfidence in findings in favour of communicating scientific evidence with the appropriate levels of confidence in theory and uncertainties in outcomes.
  • A process that steps through claims of consensus, consequences of those claims, ethical exploration of a potential policy framework and an exploration of how current actions can be balanced against future harm. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Roger Jones

September 28, 2011 at 11:55 pm

No conspiracy claims Minchin

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Ex Senator and bloke who pretty much wrecked the bilateral approach to climate change policy in Australia, Nick Minchin, has written to The Age saying that he never referred to climate change as a left-wing  conspiracy to de-industrialise the Western world. He has referred to the transcript of the Four Corners program broadcast on November 9 2009, where he said:

For 10 years the left internationally have been very successful in exploiting peoples’ innate fears about global warming and climate change to achieve their political ends.


For the extreme left it provides the opportunity to do what they’ve always wanted to do, to sort of de-industrialise the western world. You know the collapse of communism was a disaster for the left, and the, and really they embraced environmentalism as their new religion.

Well, glad we’ve cleared that up. Of course, these statements were widely reported at the time as a conspiracy. Ever the lawyer, Minchin is accurate in that he has never claimed a political conspiracy, which would be the overthrow of a legitimate government, or a civil conspiracy, which would break the law at some present or future time. It does however, paint legitimate science and all the scientific academies of the globe as agents of the extreme left.

Good-oh. When you’re extremely right, I guess you’re extremely right.

Apologies for not posting for the past month. Computer problems were causing driver failures and the BSoD. Eventually a new motherboard was installed but this had to be replaced twice more before things got sorted. 

Written by Roger Jones

September 18, 2011 at 10:34 am

Total failure to adapt

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Joseph Romm of Climate Progress had an article on Grist that was reprinted on Climate Spectator, detailing cuts to climate adaptation funding being either planned or implemented by the Republican controlled lower house in the US. Some of them are committee recommendations, others are contained in appropriation bills. Not being totally au fait with US political governance, I’m assuming they all have to get through the Democrat-controlled Senate. Still, they make chilling reading:

NOAA CLIMATE SERVICE: In the Commerce, Justice, and Science committee report, “it is the Committee’s intention that no funds shall be used [PDF] to create a Climate Service at NOAA.”

ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS CLIMATE READINESS: Language in the Energy and Water appropriation committee report offered by Rep. Rob Woodall (R-Ga.) prohibits spending on response to climate change in U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects, with $4.9 million cut from their budget and transferred to the Spending Reduction Account. Approved by a House vote of 218-191.

AGRICULTURE CLIMATE READINESS: A rider in the Agriculture appropriation (Sec. 755) blocks the Agriculture Department (USDA) from carrying out its Policy Statement on Climate Adaptation. The rider by Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) would prevent the USDA from even assessing what impacts climate change might have on farmers, foresters and other landholders. Approved by a House vote of 238-179.

HOMELAND SECURITY CLIMATE READINESS: A provision in the Homeland Security appropriation (H.R. 2017, Sec. 707) offered by Rep. John Carter (R-Texas) prevents the Department of Homeland Security from running its Climate Change Adaptation Task Force. Approved by a House vote of 242-180. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Roger Jones

August 5, 2011 at 12:57 am

Spooner’s war on climate science

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John Spooner of the Melbourne Age used to be a great cartoonist. He’s done whatever cartoonists do whenever they go emeritus or jump the shark – let his emotional beliefs rule the analytical edge that makes satirical comment. As a result he is drawing rubbish cartoons lampooning facts that he finds offensive. When it comes to climate change, Spooner has lost his mojo.

The last Sunday Age (09/07) contained a Spooner anti-climate science cartoon marking the release of the Clean Energy Package. The content came from a paper recently published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science:

Kaufmann RK, Kauppi H, Mann ML, Stock JH Reconciling anthropogenic climate change with observed temperature 1998-2008. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. doi:10.1073/pnas.1102467108

Unfortunately his understanding of the paper came from the science denial blogs (wattsupwiththat was straight onto it) so completely misrepresents its findings. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Roger Jones

July 13, 2011 at 5:10 pm


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