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Earth: The Climate Wars Part Two

Last week's "Earth: The Climate Wars" was bland enough, but part two was a disgrace. Climate activist Dr Iain Stewart ignored and misrepresented a lot of scepticism. His basic problem is that he believes sceptics are "against science" - maybe some are. The climate sceptics I read on the web are actually pro-science and are looking for the truth and it is the "consensus scientists" who seem to be anti-science, wanting to close down the debate. He was astonished that sceptics weren't foaming at the mouth and accepted that the earth has warmed over the last century and that man has an impact - this acceptance was taken as showing that the sceptics were losing the battle.

Four highlights.

Michael Mann was interviewed and we were left with the impression that because sceptics have said nasty things about him this proves he was basically right.

The spaghetti graph was shown as proof that the hockey stick graph was right all along - ignoring the fact on the screen behind him that the proxy series don't show the uptick at the end.

He stated that "the earth is continuing to warm, fact". He castigated "The Great Global Warming Swindle" for cutting off one of their temperature (and sun activity) graphs twenty years ago and gleefully added on more modern temperature data, but cut that off around ten years ago with no explanation. And no showing of the last ten years temperature plateau.

And spent longer implying it is all a Republican/ big business plot to deny the consensus than any attempt to explain the real issues that web sceptics are exploring.

Next week he is looking at how bad it will get - deep joy.

Comments

They take your licence fee by force and lie to you in return...
He lied about the hockey stick; he lied about the Earth being warmer now than the MWP; he lied about only a "tiny minority" of scientists being sceptical about AGW. Well, the Earth may not be warming, but my blood's boiling!

There - fixed that that for ya.

Flooding - future challenges.
Venue: Executive Meeting Room 7, ICC
(Upstairs if wet)


A disgraceful episode. He could have covered the whole Wegman versus Mann issue. It was all glossed over to make Mann look like some kind of climate martyr.

It is as if the BBC realised one day that claiming that "the debate is over" wasn't convincing the public, and actually the public was becoming suspicious that the BBC was being deliberately biased, and this in turn was leading the public to distrust AGW even more.

So their answer is this series of three programmes where they "impartially" walk you through all the arguments from the other side, and surprise surprise let you "make up your own mind" that the skeptics are simply denying reality for their own selfish purposes.

I was shocked that they picked the Hockey Stick as one of their topics, given that it is so old and the AGW people have been saying for years that "the science has moved on".

The bias is palpable in the wording, the editing, the music, the whole tone. Even the way skeptics were shown with a "messy" video effect, as if to say they were just spouting noise, and nothing coherent.

Follow the tricks they have used in the script:

Iain says that we know from hindsight that those early predictions from the 70s were "spot on."

"Spot on" suggests that those predictions turned out to have matched REALITY. But no, what he means if you follow the narration carefully, is that today's scientists are still making similar predictions. Predictions about a future..... that hasn't happened yet!

So how can they be "spot on" in hindsight, when we have to wait another several decades to see whether they were right?

Who wrote this stuff? It's brain rot.

The only 'concensus' that ever existed from what I can read is political, not scientific. The scientific method demands scepticism, ergo 'concensus' is not a valid scientific viewpoint when applied to postulates such as AGW, which isn't a valid theory, it's just a lot of people protecting their funding and tenure.

The more the mainstream media lies, the more sceptical I become. Funny that.

I have probably wandered onto the wrong blog here - but I'm surprised by how vehement you all are when it comes to rejecting a very strong scientific case.
True, there's always room for some skepticism, and continually asking questions is what science is all about. But there is a pattern to the world, otherwise we wouldn't ever be able to formulate laws or predictions about what may happen in the future.

I for one was both impressed and worried at the weight of the scientific case for anthropogenic global warming, and if you believe in scientific causality at all, there seems to be little reason to reject the current idea that releasing a lot of CO2 into the atmosphere will have a noticeable effect on climate. This rejection just runs contrary to what, as a practicing scientist myself, I've come to understand as the scientific method.

By analogy, you can be skeptical about relativity, but you would have to work very hard to reject the causal reasoning that keeps it in place as a successful theory. To replace it, you not only need empirical evidence, but also an alternative chain of events or reasons that match current understanding. My feeling is that the IPCC (and most other environmental scientists) don't reckon such an alternative chain of events is feasible with our current understanding of the problem, hence Ian Stewart's tone in this documentary.
All the best,
JM

Could a "documentary" get more biased?

It was as bad in what it did not mention as in what it did.

No mention of McIntyre for one. No mention that trees respond to temperature, water, sunlight, nutrients, including CO2 and therefore are no necessarily a good temperature proxy.

No mention that the satellite data has been corrected and is now in line with surface based systems and that they all show dropping temperatures.

Using the solar was temperature correlation plot but one that did not show the cooling.

He took the opening speech of the Climate Conference out of context and cut it short.

Claims that only a small number of scientists challenge the consensus is simply untrue.

And to top it all, claim a conspiracy funded by oil companies. They may have had a campaign at the start, and they wouldn't they? It was a time of low oil prices and they were worried. Now of course they are laughing all the way to the bank. Not only do they get money for supplying it, they make more for burying it.

Furthermore, most those same pieces of text he read out could just as easily have been from Greenpeace and can be interpreted in both directions.

No mention of particulates from smoke.

Etc.

I hope everybody is writing to the complaints authorities.

Mister Englishman, sir!

Apologies about the length of this comment but I felt that Mister Jones deserved to get a personal reply to the comments he made and not just be pushed off to other links.


Mister Jones

"I have probably wandered onto the wrong blog here ..."
It is the problem of coming into a small, pre-formed, blog community.


"- but I'm surprised by how vehement you all are when it comes to rejecting a very strong scientific case."
As a scientist myself (35 + years as an industrial chemist in the nuclear power industry) I can understand some of your concerns about the tone here. Again, this is not a blog of scientists. I respect Mr Englishman for his common sense views on a range of issues and I find it interesting to see a more sketical view being formed than is the current, politically correct, position on climate change.

"True, there's always room for some skepticism, and continually asking questions is what science is all about. But there is a pattern to the world, otherwise we wouldn't ever be able to formulate laws or predictions about what may happen in the future."
I totally agree with you. Skepticism is the correct mode for a scientist. Concensus is in the realm of politics or how you might choose to apply what scientists judge to be correct. For many skeptics the science has been left behind in favour of doing something NOW - or in a "few short years" - or before we generate a "catastrophe of our own making" - or to avert a "tipping point" or "point of no return" with the Earth turning into a hell hole such as the world has never seen before. Science and the careful assessment of data is my love (but don't tell the wife ...).


"I for one was both impressed and worried at the weight of the scientific case for anthropogenic global warming, and if you believe in scientific causality at all, there seems to be little reason to reject the current idea that releasing a lot of CO2 into the atmosphere will have a noticeable effect on climate."
Can we take this apart? Does carbon dioxide cause the greenhouse effect? Yes. Thus, any increase in carbon dioxide will bring about an increase in average global temperature, all else being equal. The effect is logarithmic - like placing filters in series in the path of light. If the first filter cuts out 50% of the light then putting a second filter of the same density does not remove all the light - it removes a further 50% of the 50% it receives and transmits. This is accepted by all sides. The effect it that there is a law of diminishing returns. This is NOT enough to bring about the catastrophic effects predicted by Al Gore, Dr James Hanson and others. To achieve this you need to apply a feedback effect - the effect of another greenhouse gas increasing levels of water in the atmosphere. However, this causes more clouds which in turn increases the albedo of the Earth and reduces the incoming energy from the Sun - a negative, stabilising feedback. How significant is this stabilising effect? An excellent question and one not being currently considered in most (?all) the global climste models. So it is not as simple as Iain Stewart was leading us to believe.


"By analogy, you can be skeptical about relativity, but you would have to work very hard to reject the causal reasoning that keeps it in place as a successful theory. To replace it, you not only need empirical evidence, but also an alternative chain of events or reasons that match current understanding."
The Theory of Relativity made specific predictions which disagreed with the status quo e.g. "bending" of light around massive objects, the apparent slowing down of time relative to a fixed observer. It is my understanding that the Special and General Theories of Relativity have been overwhelmingly successful in making predictions and having them confirmed by measurement. To reject the Theory of Relativity would be unscientific although surely this is not the last word (that's what physicists said in the late 1800s - it's all been worked out - there's nothing left to do. Skepticism is still a vaid approach to the Theory of Relativity although like Newton it works brilliantly on its own scale. In contrast, the best that the AGW hypotheis can do is to provide hand-waving explanations after the event. Prediction depends on climate models which have yet to be established to the satisfaction of the scientific community, let alone skeptics.

Why is there ANY slowing down in the rate of temperature rise (let alone reversal) if carbon dioxide continues to rise, year by year? It can only be that CO2 is not the overwhelming factor. Even the IPCC report states that in their judgment CO2 is causeing the temperature rise with a greater than 90% probability. Not even 95% confidence ...

There are many other factors involved:
Changes in the Sun
Long and short term changes in cosmic ray arrival rates
The effect of increasing water in the atmosphere - positive or negative?
Changes in land usage - an important Anthropogenic factor which is hardly considered outside of Prof Pielke and his co-workers but the cause of the lost "Snows of Kilimanjaro" of Al Gore fame. (Maybe AGW reall IS the major effect - with changes in land use more important than CO2)
and a whole list of others.


Where I (and most other skeptics) have a great concern is not over whether CO2 has an effect - it does - but how big is it? Should we be spending billions and trillions of dollars, pounds, euros to stabilise or reduce CO2 when it is only one factor and probably not the most important one. I say this because climate has changed naturally, by whatever cause, over time without man being around and the changes and rates of change are no different from today. Indeed, can we reasonably expect to be able to change predictably such a non-linear, chaotic system as the climate by altering just one component?

Is there anything we can do with the money that will give us a bigger payback?
Can we adjust to the changes at the current rate?
Can we use some of the money more effectively for the good of the world?
Should we risk dismantling the ability to respond with science and technology to varying effects? (Remembering that the temperature WILL fall drastically due to natural causes in the future as it has in the past)
Should we be spending money on windpower and other expensive and unreliable energy systems when we are heading towards an electicity supply crisis?

There are a huge number of issues here. Scientific, technical, economic, ethical, political, geopolitical etc. etc. To say a concensus has been reached and we must go in one direction - reduce CO2 by any and all means possible - is only one viewpoint and may not be the optimum way to go. Let us not close off the options and call the science settled while there is still so much to be understood.


Mister Jones:

If you are reading this, does this show that skepticism is still a valid approach? I do have the scientific and technological training to assess information and to write Nuclear Safetry Case papers at the highest level (Cat. 1). I do have access to the scientific papers. I don't have the resources to produce 3 x 1 hours blockbusters on the BBC (which uses my money, of course).

Please feel free to respond.

Alan B.

I wish I could have placed a reply as eloquently as you have.

I will add the following.

The pattern of optima, followed by minima appears to follow a pattern of the optima reducing in temperature and endurance before the next LIA.

I hope not, but this plateau could be the end of this optimum leading to the next LIA.

I was tempted to type 'Fred' for human proof lol

Dave E.

I have a silly but somewhat meaningful question...How accurate were the thermometers used to take these readings decades and centurys in the past? How did one calibrate a thermometer in, let's say 1790? I'm not a scientist, but wouldn't comparing data gained from insturments of unknown accuracy, by nature, be inconclusive. Is the margin of error greater than the variation in the data?

To compare, if you give 10 people the same ruler and have them all measure the same piece of string, you will get varied readings. Give them 10 different rulers, and the variation goes up dramatically from there. Now let's assume the rulers may not be 100% accurate.......
Dad alway said "Measure and cut with the same tape measure." Then it doesn't matter if it's accurate, the part fits.

Re: Dave Brisco 16/09/08 4:41 am

Good question, Dave.

I cannot give you the "correct" answer but here is a report produced in England about the Central England Temperature Series 1878-2003 that looks at the accuracy and precision of current and past temperature measurement in that series.(1.64 Mb)

http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/research/hadleycentre/pubs/HCTN/HCTN_50.pdf

2 exerpts:

"Quantification of uncertainties in climatic data records is a prerequisite for the
interpretation of trends and extreme values. Here we estimate the uncertainties in
the most recent and reliable 125 years of the longest instrumental record in the
world: Central England Temperature (CET)."

"Although the
monthly and daily mean series extend back to 1659 and 1772 respectively, we
only assess the daily to annual series since 1878. Before 1878, the uncertainties
are more difficult to estimate, and certainly increase, owing to the use of different
equipment (e.g. housing thermometers in Glaisher stands, north facing walls or
in unheated north facing rooms), the splicing together of temperature records
from many different observers, the use of only a single site at any one time, and,
for the earliest part of the series, the use of diaries and anecdotal evidence to
corroborate temperature records."

So, for CET, pre-1878 dodgy. Post 1878 well defined.

Others may be able to comment on series with which they are familiar.

You may like to note that I was most unsurprised at this "Definitive" guide to Climate Science, particularly when the supplier of the science, according to the credits, was largely one Professor Naomi Oreskes of California, renound ecowarrior come AGW promotor! No surprise there then for BBC neutrallity!

Also I apologise for posting on the wrong topic just now - sticky fingers I guess due to all that global warmth.

Dear Alan B,

Thanks for the comprehensive reply. I think you made a number of excellent points, which I've certainly had to think carefully about - as anyone should when it comes to an important matter like this! Obviously I would acknowledge that much of what you say is true, especially when it comes to the overview of the climate change hypothesis.

On skepticism in general, my point was that it is supposed to provide a constraint on the validity of scientific theories, taking into account the general fallibility of human knowledge, and also fallibility of methods which are ever-present. I wouldn't acknowledge that it is an approach in itself - except in an extremely solipsistic world-view - which frankly isn't tenable for a scientific method. As a counter-balance though - it is invaluable.
On the theory of Relativity - the point as Popper would have it, is that the truth is only asymptotically approached and is inherently unreachable (via the scientific method that is). So we have a process that will constantly alter our perception of the world - albeit slightly - and there is no real reason to think that Relativity is the absolute end of scientific progress - just the opposite in fact - and as you point out, skepticism is the oil that allows that wheel to keep turning ad infinitum.

This is all very well as far as justifying the absolutely correct scientific opposition which must exist to counterbalance and validate the AGW hypothesis, and having seen some papers and talks on the subject, there are indeed plenty of valid holes to pick in the AGW case.
Two scientific points I'd like to make though, and the first is one I agree with you on. How much should we expect the climate to change due to CO2 concentration? As you said - this is absolutely dependent on a feedback mechanism, although you didn't mention that positive feedback is a possibility as much as negative. If positive climate feedback exists as a possibility, it becomes a maximum priority to learn what measures are required to stabilise the climate system, and on current understanding, the probability of the climate system having positive or negative feedback components (and in what proportion) is pretty much unknown - your guess is as good as mine!
Another point, where I disagree, is this idea of "hand-waving science". There is a wide-spread belief that all that's required is a proper analysis of the facts and our climate models will all work and converge, making nice reproducible predictions. I'm afraid that's a fallacy - indeed with our current understanding of the climate it's practically impossible to explain even the current state of the climate - never mind make a prediction for the future. The reason for this is that the climate is a chaotic complex system, no realistic model will ever converge on exactly the same answer. This clearly reduces the public's confidence in the scientific case, and not without good reason, but in view of what we already agreed upon regarding the skeptical role, what exactly can be improved by a skeptical criticism of a chaotic system? It seems to me that the only valid target here is the actual physical (chemical & biological included) processes, but on this forum and many others this doesn't seem to be the target for skeptical criticism.
You're right in the sense that we desperately need to get some idea of how the feedback process works. There is no doubt at all that one exists, but the disparity between arguments for and against AGW don't reflect the reality where there's a complex system, susceptible to all of the possible causes you listed above, capable of producing an emergent behaviour that may result in devastating effects.

This climate science is extremely raw, and the proxy records of climate change are broken, incomplete and in some cases statistically irrelevant, but understanding this process is about as important a topic in science as there has ever been. I'd like to think that you share my concern on this point at least.

We can spend money on various outstanding global problems, but would be neglecting our very nature as an inquiring and civilised species if we decided to ignore this very difficult and relevant problem.

I would even contend that the spectacular level of mistrust between pro and anti-AGW proponents has been stirred up to a large extent not by consensus versus skepticism, but by political opportunism. However both sides should always be aware of the long-term view, and also the precedent set by history, where the interaction between politics and science has been anything but transparent.

Apologies for the long post, and thanks for the previous reply, I found it very interesting.
Cheers,JM


Glad you replied to my post.

I believe we disagree only in the detail and in the use of words.

Of course I agree we should learn more about the processes involved. We should spend money on finding out more about the whole issue of climate change but it has to be done in a more accountable and auditable way. Currently, certain scientists are refusing to release the data on which some of the major issues are based e.g. the tree ring data for britle cone pines and others on which is based the hockey stick reconstruction of past climate and loss of the warm periods of the past. The issue of divergence must be more fully acknowlged and investigated instead of recent tree ring data being withheld when series are chosen (or discarded). Also the work done by Jones and others on urban heat island effects which "showed" that the effect was minimal and can be ignored. I say "showed" because we only have his word for it - the data has never been released and is counterintuitive - inner city areas are known to be warmer than surrounding rural areas and by several degrees C. Surely, a scientist would want others to understand his approach and to be able to repeat what he has done.

The Wegman report proposed that climate scientists should involve professional statisticians rather than inventing idiosyncratic methods about which expert statisticians have severe reservations.

If we are going to spend trillions of whatever currency you wish to name then it is reasonable for the work to be audited and for people to demonstrate that what has been done is justifed by the data and can be repeated.

For various reasons certain people want to bypass the science and jump immediately into the actions. As you say, the problem comes when the politics takes over. We must do something. This is "something". Therefore we must do it.

My biggest concern is that because we are supposed to have reached a concensus on the science and it is "CO2 wot dunnit" we now know what we have to do and we only have to have the will to do it. To really achieve what Kyoto, Dr James Hansen, Al Gore and Greenpeace etc. are aiming at will involve the expenditure of trillions of whatever currency you want to name and the severe reduction in energy production.

The only justification in acting NOW is that otherwise we will be caught out by a major positive feedback loop. If this is really so bad I wonder why we didn't go into catastrophic global warming in the geological past when the temperature of the Earth was consistently higher and when there were no icecaps and probably little if any mountain glaciers. (I am thinking about the Carboniferous and the Jurassic/Cretaceous periods. During the latter dinosaurs lived successfully at the South Pole).

Once we have spent all this vast amount of money (who will tell the India, China and Brazil to step into line? ...) can we be sure it will do what we think it will? That also needs to be investigated.

Mankind can achieve a huge amount by adapting to the changes in temperature but this takes money which will have been disipated if we get it wrong. We have genuine solutions to the real problems but it takes energy which we are being told is a drug which we must get away from.

In conclusion:

Reading through your post it seems we are actually largely in agreement!

What people here see on the Englisman's blog is not the closely argued science - go to sites like climate audit for that. I believe Mr Englishman and many of his readers have seen enough to realise that there is "Something rotten in the state of Denmark" and they don't like being taken for a fool. Hence the rather pointed comments by people who are largely cynical Englismen who have seen too much of it and feel they can let off steam here amongst others who largely share their views. But please don't take this as meaning, "Go away, sunshine". I am sure The Englishman is happy to have you listen, watch and comment!

best wishes

"No mention that the satellite data has been corrected and is now in line with surface based systems and that they all show dropping temperatures.

Using the solar was temperature correlation plot but one that did not show the cooling."

Please can you provide me with links to the source data for these claims and the claims that the earth's temp hasn't risen since 2001.

Thanks

Ian Stewart would be more at home presenting a children's programme !! The bias towards GW is incredulous. BBC....hang your heads in shame .

The contradictions in the program made his arguments look foolish. Firstly the program looked at 2 thousand years history to show that there was no evidence to show any increase in temperature until the last 100 years therefore the rise must be man made (yes a geologist only looked at two thousand years!) but then in the subsequent program he said dramatic temperature rises happened 11 thousand years ago where the temp increased 5 degrees in two years. So which is it to be

Mick,

You appear to be a victim of the media's global warming propaganda.
One of the most dishonest parts of the programme was that it did not mention the fact that global temperature has not risen over the last ten years, and in fact has fallen slightly. The programme claimed that it would examine the sceptic arguments, but omitted this one, which to me is the strongest (this will be one of the main points in my complaint to the BBC).
The information you ask for is not hard to find. It is important to find the primary data source, not the bloggers who put their own spin on it.
For the instrumental record, look at
http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/graphs/Fig.C.lrg.gif
and bear in mind that this data is produced by James Hansen, the leading global warming catastrophist featured several times in the programme. You can clearly see no rise since 2001, and recently a cooling.
For the satellite data, go to
http://www.remss.com/msu/msu_data_description.html#figures
and look at the top row of figure 7, labelled ch TLT. Again you see a peak in 1998, a level period 2001-5 and a slight fall from 2006-8.

Hey everyone,

I caught the aforementioned program on listen again so apologies if I’m a bit late catching up, but I found this thread interesting and thought I’d post even though I guess you’ve all moved on since then :o)
Thanks to Alan B and JM for an interesting discussion, rather than the usual polarized views.

I was interested to see the hockey stick in its fullest form and yes it doesn’t really show the conclusion that Iain Stewart came to. However a couple of Dr Iain sided replies to comments above:

“the program looked at 2 thousand years history to show that there was no evidence to show any increase in temperature until the last 100 years therefore the rise must be man but then in the subsequent program he said dramatic temperature rises happened 11 thousand years ago where the temp increased 5 degrees in two years. So which is it to be”

I think actually both. The conclusion over the hockey stick (although it does seem on closer inspection to be a weak conclusion to reach) was that temperature hadn’t risen over the “average” until around 1980/90 when it did rise suddenly in line with CO2 rises.

In the Younger Dryas temperatures were around 5 deg C, which is less than the “average” used and suddenly doubled to around 10, still less than that used in the hockey stick graph.


“For the instrumental record, look at http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/graphs/Fig.C.lrg.gif”

If you look at the graph closer it actually plots annual increases, not annual averages. So it suggests to me that the rate of change has steadied or even slowed, but this isn’t the same as temperature staying the same or dropping. If you look at the full page and the graph in context (http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/graphs/) it does seem that global temperatures are still rising.

On the question of the effect of increasing CO2, if you look at the absorption spectra of all of the greenhouse gases (H2O, CO2, CH4 etc.) then the absorption bands for CO2 are already nearly maxed out. Doubling of CO2 will increase absorption by a very small amount indeed.
e.g see here:
http://brneurosci.org/co2.html
[scroll down to see absorption graphs]
Dick Newell
Cambridge, UK

I have read with interest all of the comments posted on this site. Particularly the comments by Alan B and JM - thank you gentlemen.

Following my recent reading of "Climate Wars" by Gwynne Dyer I decided to do some additional reading because to put it politely, the book frightened the S__t out of me. Not for myself, but for my grandchildren.

Can anyone help me in understanding ( if CO2 emissions and the following potential for positive feedback are the main threat for AGW ), why I find no reference to the potential for removing them, or part thereof, from the atmosphere by way of a sciene based intervention.

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