Friday, January 27, 2012

The Pseudo-Science Agnotologists Strike Again!

As I noted in an earlier blog:

It's no wonder our college and even high school students are beginning to fall into the snare of climate denialism when supposed "scientists" rush to be a part of the ongoing agnotology. As I have pointed out repeatedly, agnotology, derived from the Greek 'agnosis' - the study of culturally constructed ignorance- is achieved primarily by sowing the teeniest nugget of doubt in whatever claim is made (and as we know NO scientific theory is free of uncertainty).

Moreover, Stanford historian of science Robert Proctor has correctly tied it to the trend of skeptic science sown deliberately and for political or economic ends . In other words, the supporters of agnotology - whoever they may be- are all committed to one end: destroying the science to enable economic profit and hence planetary ruin. Proctor also notes these special interests are often paid handsomely to sow immense confusion on the issue. Just a few years ago, in fact, Heritage Foundation offered $10,000 per article written by a "scientist" to try to refute global warming. We don't know how many takers there were, but I've counted over 200 letters or articles (usually op-eds like the one shown) in which either single hacks or groups of them have attempted to disparage global warming or insist "there's no need to panic". Well, there damned well is need to panic, as this year's unfolding weather disasters, including new heat waves and droughts will show.

But let's look at this latest idiotic article on offer in today's WSJ, in which it is claimed to be "signed by 16 scientists at the end of the article". Before getting to some of their bollocks, let us inquire into exactly WHO these people are. Do they have the gravitas or the disputative basis of real climate scientists? Going through the list, one finds:

Jan Breslow: Head of Biogenetics and Metabolism, Rockefeller University

Roger Cohen, fellow American Physical Society. No specialty given, but as a recent commenter has pointed out, he's a "retired ExxonMobil Researcher and Engineer. Also a defender of the serial disinformationist, Lord Monckton (WUWT).He has been doing AGW denial talks for years". Maybe a denier cousin of S. Fred Singer! In any case, we write him off as having zero gravitas.

Edward David: Member, National Academy of Engineering

Michael Kelly, Professor of Technology, Univ. of Cambridge

Richard Lindzen, prof. of atmospheric sciences, MIT

James McGrath, prof. of Chemistry, Virginia Technical University

Bert Rutan, aerospace engineer

Harrions H. Schmitt, Apollo 17 astronaut

Nir Shaviv, prof. of astrophysics, Hebrew University

There are also four meteorologists listed and I will tackle them first. At first blush one might believe a meteorologist is perfectly qualified to discuss climate science. But not so fast! The meteorologist generally focuses attention on near term changes and trends, based on high pressure areas, lows, etc. not long term predictions.

Indeed, the Jan.-Feb. 2011 Issue of The Columbia Journalism Review featured a piece entitled ‘Hot Air: Why Don’t TV Weathermen Believe in Climate Change?’

In the article by Charles Homans, assorted reasons were put forward as to why many TV weathermen (especially ensconced in the Weather Channel) as well as a significant number of member of the American Meteorological Society (AMS) don’t buy climate change. Among them:

1- Given their familiarity with the defects in their own extended predictions, meteorologists looking at long range climate questions (such as global warming effects) are predisposed to “see a system doomed to terminal unpredictability”.

2- Most skeptic meterologists (like Bob Breck an AMS-certified chief meteorologist at New Orleans WVUE) didn’t properly recognize the limits of their own scientific training – and hence the implausibility of their pronouncing on climate science.

3- Because of (2) the skeptic meteorologists tend to see their own “informed intuition” as the source of some kind of ersatz scientific authority – particularly if the skeptics are also excellent communicators, or fancy themselves so.

Some of the paradoxical statistics that were cited in the article, based on surveys carried out by Emory University Journalism lecturer Kris Wilson, included:

- 29% agreed with Weather Channel mogul John Coleman’s take that global warming was “the greatest scam in history”.

-Only 24% believed that humans were responsible for most of the change over the past half century.

- 50% were certain this wasn’t true and that humans weren’t responsible.

-Only 17% of the opinionated TV weathermen “received a graduate degree, a prerequisite for an academic researcher in any scientific field”.

Similar trends appear to correlate to Australian and European meteorologists but not quite to the same extent as for Americans. In any case, one would not expect to find much in the way of insight or illumination on global warming and its predictions from this lot.

As for Lindzen, about the only atmospheric scientist listed, I already lambasted him in earlier blogs:

Now, what about the others? Do we really, REALLY want to take serious advice on CLIMATE change from biogeneticists, chemists, former astronauts, "professors of technology" or engineers? Give me a break! Even astrophysicists - like Shaviv, are not entitled to be taken with more than a grain of salt unless they regularly keep pace with all the latest information - via professional journals. Though my specialty is certainly in space physics, solar physics, I regularly (weekly) receive and read Eos Transactions of the Americal Geophysical Union, which usually contains at least one current climate article (already refereed) in each issue. Many of my blogs have been based on research from this journal, i.e.

In many of my blogs I've also repeatedly cited the actual results from REAL climate scientists, as opposed to pretenders! Specifically, I've referenced the scientific consensus on global warming reported in Eos Transactions, Vol. 90, No. 3, p. 22, by P. T. Doran and M. Kendall-Zimmerman found that (p. 24) :

the debate on the authenticity of global warming and the role played by human activity is largely non-existent among those who understand the nuances and scientific basis of long-term climate processes.”

In their analytic survey for which 3146 climate and Earth scientists responded, a full 96.2% of specialists concurred temperatures have steadily risen and there is no evidence for cooling. Meanwhile, 97.4% concur there is a definite role of humans in global climate change.

The authors concluded (p. 24) :

The challenge appears to be how to effectively communicate this fact (non-existent debate among real climate specialists) to policy makers and a public that continues to mistakenly perceive debate exists among scientists

The problem, of course, is that so long as pseudo-climate scientists are given large header displays and article space in the likes of The Wall Street Journal, this perception problem will continue and many people will mistake the views of these pretenders for those of actual climate scientists.

Speaking of which, let's end by taking a brief look at some of the crap they've all subscribed to by lending their names. The article states:

"The fact is that CO2 is not a pollutant. CO2 is a colorless, odorless gas exhaled at high concentrations by each of us and a key component of the biosphere's life cycle"

So these ludicrous morons insult our intelligence with the obvious, while not saying a solitary word about the 800-billion CO2- spewing vehicles sending gigatons of carbon into the planet's atmosphere each year. (Terry Gerlach of the U.S. Geological Survey showed from his time series studies that the projected anthropogenic CO2 emission rate of 35 gigatons per year is 135 times greater than the 0.26 gigatons per year emission rate for volcanoes).

Nor is one statement made on the key central point which one would have thought at least one of these 16 might have noticed: ALL Greenhouse gases' (including CO2 and methane) ability to absorb heat in the form of solar infrared radiation is directly contingent on the molecular vibrations undergone by the particular gas molecule which allows it to absorb and re-emit incident radiation. It is THIS property which confers the capacity to warm our atmosphere if present beyond a certain limiting concentration. And it is the aforementioned CO2 spewing vehicles that create the effect, hence making THEIR effluent a definite pollutant!

The clueless article next refers to a "lack of warming for more than a decade" - recycling once again a profound canard that was engendered by some idiot denier types in assorted tropes and news bytes ca. 2008-09. This bollocks evidently originated in a paper appearing in Nature – written by Dr. Noel Keenlyside et al, and which made a tentative claim for monotonic global cooling since ca. 1998. This 'jumped the shark' and become embedded into the warming skeptics' arsenal of disinfo and set real global warming science education back at least a decade in my estimation.

I say it "jumped the shark" because despite hundreds of efforts to correct it, it still surfaces like a Zombie immune to extirpation, as evinced in this absurd WSJ piece. So now, when one broaches warming anywhere, he is met with specious citations of the Keenlyside et al paper as "proof" it isn't happening.

At the root of this misapprehension by the faux skeptics is misinterpretation of the data appearing in the paper - not at all helped by the media (like the WSJ) which have also misconstrued it. Even Editors who fully know the actual original source still can't be bothered to consult it, they'd rather get their info 2nd hand (like from the 'Investor's Business Daily') then bloviate how global warming is wrong, or "hyped" in sundry editorials.

People prone to the denial weltanschauung then read these superficial reports, miss the key core clues, and bruit it all about that they (deniers, skeptics) were right all along. Instead of taking shortcuts, skeptics could have retrieved the ACTUAL paper from Nature! They could have studied the paper's key figure, the one that looks at past and (forecast) future global temperatures, "Hindcast/forecast decadal variations in global mean temperature, as compared with observations and standard climate model projections".

The first thing they’d have noted about the figure -indeed, one major source of confusion - is that each point represents a ten-year centered mean. That is, each point represents the average temperature of the decade starting 5 years before that point and ending 5 years after that point. Thus, the statistics for potential “cooling” could not possibly have been justifiably extrapolated beyond 1998 + 5 = 2003. Yet imbeciles all over the place (like the 16 who supported this WSJ piece) have insisted it is ongoing.

Second, the skeptics would have spotted the red line in the Nature publication and – if bright enough – beheld that it was the the actual global temperature data from the U.K.'s Hadley Center for Climate Prediction and Research. They ought to have asked: Why does the red line stop in 1998 and not 2007? Again, it’s a running 10-year mean, and the authors use data from a Hadley paper that ends around 2003, In effect, they can't do a ten-year centered mean after 1998.

Lazy deniers, however, have parlayed this simple statistical peculiarity of the data into believing that global warming factually STOPPED in 1998!

Third, at least one genius denier might have spotted the black line in the Figure, which was actually one of the IPCC scenario projections, labeled 'A1B.' It denotes a relatively high-CO2-growth model -- but actual carbon emissions since 2000 have wildly outpaced it. A further check by skeptics of the solid green line - the "hindcast" of the authors – e.g. how well their model compared to actual data (and the A1B scenario) could also be done. The lazy morons would have seen that, if extended (in dashes) through 2010 and finally to 2025, it JOINED up with A1B!
Another grievous source of confusion that has been misused by the deniers is the authors statement:

Our results suggest that global surface temperature may not increase over the next decade, as natural climate variations in the North Atlantic and tropical Pacific temporarily offset the projected anthropogenic warming

But what they really mean by that statement is not what a simple reading of that sentence would suggest: They do not mean that "the global surface temperature may not increase over the next ten years starting now."

What they meant is what the lead author, Dr. Noel Keenlyside, later provided in a clarification letter to the publicaton: They were predicting no increase in average temperature of the "next decade" (2005 to 2015- relative to their data timeline) over the previous decade, which, for them, is 2000 to 2010! And that is, in fact, precisely what the figure shows -- that the 10-year mean global temperature centered around 2010 is the roughly the same as the mean global temperature centered around 2005.

What is dismaying to those who have done research is how deficient the average denier-skeptic is, and how difficult it is to impart correct interpretation of data minus the bogey of ideology which stalks every word written on global warming. (And as Prof. Porter has observed, agnotology always makes its greatest incursion into the most contentious issues - especially those with political or economic consequences. )

As one 'Physics Today' report noted two years ago, it is as if those political and economic facets actually trump the SCIENCE.

That so-called scientists themselves would actually be a party to this spread of such misinformation is a travesty. It signifies for me that every last one of them ought to have their credentials repealed and Ph.D.s sent back forthwith. They don't deserve them!


Peter aka citizenschallenge said...

You have the wrong Roger Cohen.
This one is a retired ExxonMobil Researcher and Engineer. Also a defender of the serial liar Lord Monckton (WUWT).

He has been doing AGW denial talks for years. For a rebuttal to one see:

Copernicus said...

Thanks for your heads up! The appropriate changes have been made in the blog text!

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