Friday, September 14, 2007

Global Warming Consensus Disproved Again:
Denial Study Part III


http://img172.imageshack.us/img172/6602/logonw8.gif

There is an obvious scientific consensus on climate change that supports the IPCC. Thanks to propaganda tactics outlined in Frank Luntz's famous memo there has been a massive effort by vested industrial and political interests in hopes of falsely convincing the public that no such consensus exists.

Round I: Benny Peiser

First there was Benny Peiser who claimed he found 34 abstracts out of 1,247 peer-review journals/abstracts that disagreed with the consensus. One of Peisers most obvious errors was including a paper that promoted carbon sequestration and alternative energy through micro-algae biodiesel as one of his 34 'consensus busting' papers. It took him two years to admit he was 97% wrong.

Round II: An Illegitimate Journal

Then there was a survey published in a very small journal edited by none other than Benny Peiser that also rejected the consensus. This journal is not listed in the ISI index's master list of 14,450 peer review journals. A journal that does not make this list is in all probability not a legitimate journal. The surveys credibility was strongly attacked by many scientists that do have publications in top journals.

Round III: A Study of Misrepresentation

Now there is a study produced by the Exxon Mobil funded Hudson Institute. WorldNetDaily is touting this as proof that "500 scientists refute global warming dangers". So I downloaded the PDF of the study and took a quick scan of who these 500 scientists were. A few familiar names popped up. The first of which is the weather channels Heidi Cullen from Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO). She is listed as publishing skeptical material which is kind of peculiar since she made newspaper headlines for chastising skeptics on her blog:
“If a meteorologist has an American Meteorological Society Seal of Approval which is used to confer legitimacy to TV meteorologists, then meteorologists have a responsibility to truly educate themselves on the science of global warming . . . . If a meteorologist can’t speak to the fundamental science of climate change, then maybe the AMS shouldn’t give them a Seal of Approval. Clearly, the AMS doesn’t agree that global warming can be blamed on cyclical weather patterns. It’s like allowing a meteorologist to go on-air and say that hurricanes rotate clockwise . . . It’s not a political statement . . . it’s just an incorrect statement.”

Obviously there are some pretty major flaws with the Hudson's consensus debunking study. Despite this, I kept on scanning the document. Apparently almost half of the contributors to realclimate.org are skeptics:
Gavin A. Schmidt, University of Virginia
Michael E. Mann, University of Massachusetts
Thibeault De Garidel-Thoron, Rutgers University
Stefan Rahmstorf, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Germany
The Hudson Institute did have a curious disclaimer though:
The List of More Than 500 Scientists Documenting Doubts of Man-Made Global Warming Scares**
**Citation of the work of the following scientists does not imply that they necessarily support our conclusions.
At this point I'm literally left speechless. This report is claiming that some of the ardent supporters of the consensus on climate change are publishing consensus debunking work. This is a blatant attempt to confuse and take advantage of the layman with highly technical gobbledy-gook. The fact that something this ridiculous has the name of one of Ronald Reagan's advisers on it makes it all the more bizarre.


Sources:
Hudson Institute,Press Release: Analysis Finds Hundreds of Scientists Have Published Evidence Countering Man-Made Global Warming Fears

18 comments:

John Mashey said...

Well, depending on how you count, maybe Round 4 is the current Monckton+Schulte vs Oreskes attempt. You have one pointer to that in Round 2, but it probably fits Round 4 better.

EliRabett said...

Gotta look at that list. Mann is at Penn State, Schmidt at GISS, etc.

Sparrow (in the coal mine) said...

Hello Professor Eli thanks for reading my blog. The exact quote from the list:

Drew T. Shindell, et al., “Solar Forcing of Regional Climate Change during the Maunder Minimum,” Science 294 (2001): 2149-152.
Drew T. Shindell, NASA
Gavin A. Schmidt, University of Virginia
Michael E. Mann, University of Massachusetts
David Rind, NASA
Anne Waple, University of Massachusetts


You are looking at their current place of work and this Hudson study is listing their place of work at the time of publication. Mann might be at Penn now but when he wrote that paper in 2001 he was at U of Virginia. From his cv:

1999-05 Assistant Professor, University of Virginia, Department of Environmental Sciences

That paper is also listed on Gavin's cv.

closetpuritan said...

This isn't exactly on-topic for this particular post, but you did say on your "Common Arguments Made By Climate Skeptics" page that suggestions should be posted to your blog...

Anyway, I heard a new one two days ago: The skeptic I was talking to, a coworker who's an environmental education major (of all things!) and former high school teacher, told me that "science can't make predictions--science can only make estimates". (Later he qualified that by saying, "You could make predictions on repeatable things, like flipping a coin.") I only have a pretty bare-bones knowledge of philosophy & history of science, so I figured it was possible that this statement was based on some technical distinction between "prediction" and "estimate" in a scientific context, but I'd never heard anyone make that claim before. I told him "I've never heard anyone say that 'science can't make predictions'" and his response was "You must never have been to a university, then." (Technically, I have never attended a university--I have a biology degree from Middlebury College, a small liberal arts college. I decided to ignore that question. Bu the fact that he decided to insult me rather than backing up his statement suggests that his claim, or at least his definition of "prediction", would not hold up.)

I then asked him the definition of a prediction vs. an estimate. He apparently couldn't give an actual definition, only examples. He said that "there's a quantitative difference between a prediction and an estimate." I thought maybe he actually meant a qualitative difference, so I said, "quantitative, or qualitative?" and he said "both, actually", and that you could say "our estimate is that sea level will rise 6-12 inches", but you couldn't attribute a probability to it. But when I asked, "What if you said that the most likely scenario was that sea level would rise 6-12 inches--would that be a prediction or an estimate?" he said that that was in between and dangerously close to an estimate. But by putting forth an estimate, aren't you BY DEFINITION saying that it is the most likely scenario? Maybe he was trying to attach a different definition to "likely" than I was using in this (colloquial) context, and defining "likely" as meaning that it was possible to know the probability, and it was greater than 50%. (I'd almost put my coworker's reasoning in the category of "radical skepticism.")

I think it's possible that he's remembering--but not explaining properly--something he may have learned that's actually true but of questionable relevance. I'm thinking maybe he learned that in the context of such things as climate prediction, you can't really know the actual probability that your estimate will be correct--but I still would think that an estimate would by definition be the most likely outcome given the knowledge possessed by the person making the estimate. I'm very skeptical that his definition of "prediction" is anything widely accepted--I suspect that it's his own idiosyncratic definition, especially since he couldn't give an actual definition, only examples. I don't think that the inability to know the probability of your estimate being correct would be a reason to say that science can't tell us anything meaningful about the future except with respect to repeatable experiments--i.e., that it couldn't say anything meaningful about the future climate of the earth. In any case, I would think that even if it invalidates any predictions about the rise in sea level or future average temperature of the earth, it would not invalidate knowledge based on historical data that carbon dioxide does indeed help trap heat and is historically associated with raising the earth's temperature--I think that that part would be technically considered repeatable, because that part of it has been done constantly since the beginning of the industrial revolution.

Do you have any insight on this? Would you like to add this to your "Common Arguments by Climate Skeptics" page? Do you know whether, and to what extent, there is anything to his general argument or his statement that "science can't make predictions"?

Sparrow (in the coal mine) said...

Closetpuritan,

Thanks for your comment. It's easy to disprove his "science can't make predictions"/University argument. All you have to do is go to Google Scholar and type the words "protein structure prediction" and you will get 397,000 hits about a technique used in University biological research and by pharmaceutical companies. For an intro into the technology wikipedia has a decent writeup. Since protein structure prediction is successfully used to predict structures we've never seen before I hope that would qualify as a non-repeatable event. After all, you can only discover the structure of any specific protein once! These structures are confirmed with x-rays in the lab. A process which can take anywhere from months to decades. A quick search on Google Scholar shows that scientists do in fact use the word "prediction" quite frequently. If you want more proof you can go to Pubmed and find 70,000+ hits when you search for "prediction".

Our climate models have successfully predicted many many events. NASA's James Hansen showed his predictions to congress in 1988 and they were right about temperature increases and many other aspects about climate. Climate models also successfully predicted the formation of hurricanes in locations previously thought to have been impossible.

So whether your friend is looking for non-repeatable, quantitative, qualitative or even binary events there are plenty of examples where successful predictions have been made.

Also, CO2 increase is considered a repeatable event. Isotopes from the ice cores in the south pole, mountain glaciers, and north pole gives us highly accurate (at least for that region) temperature data going back a million years. Tiny bubbles of gas trapped in the ice allows us to compare temp vs CO2 and other gases. There is a strong correlation between temp and CO2.

I hope this was clear.

Sparrow (in the coal mine) said...

You might find this link helpful as well.

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