Monday, December 31, 2012

Lewandowsky again attempting to sound authoritative

De-Published psychologist of climate, Stephan Lewandowski, has once again attempted to establish his wisdom in the matter of climate beliefs.  He has written an article for the ABC (where else?) in which he makes some vanilla comments about what it takes to change people's minds (A lot.  He should know) and attempts to portray climate skepticism as an unreasonably fixed belief.

He does the usual appeal to authority that is typical of people who do not want to look at the evidence but has a few refinements beyond the usual.   I will add a few comments at the foot of the  "pearls" concerned: I quote:
Those elements of a successful rebuttal can be illustrated with a recent article (paywalled) by climate "sceptic" Matt Ridley that has attracted considerable attention, having first appeared in The Wall Street Journal, before being taken up by The Australian and Forbes.

According to this article, we have nothing to worry about: the author acknowledges that the globe is warming and human greenhouse gas emissions are to blame, but claims that the warming will be slight and good for us.

However comforting it may be, this claim is misleading. The article cites only one peer-reviewed study, by Ring and colleagues, and it misrepresents the implications of their work. When I contacted one of the authors, Professor Michael Schlesinger of the University of Illinois, he replied:

    "The author of the Wall Street Journal article that mentions the findings of our paper is just plain wrong about future warming. Our research shows that global warming will exceed 2C, defined as dangerous climate change, by the middle of this century."

This correction is straightforward but may be insufficient to permit discounting of this misinformation. Let's apply the three principles for successful debunking.

First, one must point out that the author, Matt Ridley, has financial interests related to coal mining (it must be noted that he does declare this interest at the end of his article). The possible conflict of interest is clearly relevant. Moreover, because climate change is an exercise in risk management, the author's record of risk (mis-)management is also relevant. One must be concerned that Matt Ridley was chairman of a bank that experienced the first bank run in the UK in 150 years, which led a member of the UK Parliament's Select Committee on Treasury to ask of Matt Ridley:

    "you have damaged the good name of British banking; why are you still clinging to office?"

Second, one must point out that there is an overwhelming consensus in the peer-reviewed literature which suggests that future warming will be more than slight and that it will be far from beneficial for most societies. With natural weather-related disasters having nearly tripled in the last 30 years already, it takes a considerable leap of faith to hope, let alone claim, that future warming will have beneficial effects overall.

Finally, one must visualise the future warming using a graph. The figure below was provided by Professor Schlesinger, whose work was misrepresented in the Wall Street Journal piece, from one of his recent papers:

The figure shows that regardless of which data set is being used to produce projections (i.e., GISS, HADCRU, or NOAA), there will be considerably more than 2C warming (ie, the UNFCCC threshold) by century's end.

I have just re-read the Ridley article and following is the whole of what Ridley said about the Schlesinger article:

"Michael Ring and Michael Schlesinger of the University of Illinois, using the most trustworthy temperature record, also estimate 1.6°C."

What Lewandowsky has seized on was in other words entirely incidental to the thrust of Ridley's article, which relied principally on discussions with an IPCC statistician, Nic Lewis.  And what Ridley has said does not necessarily conflict with the out-of-context quote put up by Lewandowski.  Ridley quoted results for  "the most trustworthy temperature record" and those results  need not at all be the same as the results for all temperature records or even the mean temperature record.  So no points to Lewandowsky so far.

Lewandowsky then goes completely "ad hominem", a mode of argument that has no scholarly repute whatever and which therefore proves nothing: He points out that Ridley was chairman of a failed British bank.  I should ignore such an irrelevant argument but let me point out anyway that Lewandowsky somehow forgets to mention that heaps of banks worldwide -- mostly run by very bright people --  also went bust at roughly the same time (the 2007-2008 GFC).  That hardly merits pointing the finger at Ridley.  So no points to Lewandowsky for that little bit of nastiness either.

Lewandowsky then says: "With natural weather-related disasters having nearly tripled in the last 30 years..."  but the link he gives for that claim is to  one of his own prior articles!   Since I have put up plenty of evidence to the contrary in recent times (e.g. here), I will say no more at this point.  But Lewandowsky is just cherrypicking.  Certainly no points for that.

His last stab is to put up a pretty-looking graph.  But note the timescale that the graph covers.  It is all prophecy and, as  such, unfalsifiable.  So in philosophy of science terms it is not even an empirical statement.  It is a statement of belief and not a statement of fact.  And prophecies are almost always false, as we saw with the recent Mayan debacle.  So no points for that either.

So when it gets beyond vague principles and onto matters of fact, Lewandowsky is left clutching at smoke.  And he greatly discredits his own claim to scholarship in the process -- JR

Sceptics weather the storm to put their case on climate

WELL, so much for the 2012 apocalypse. If the ancient Mayans ever knew anything about the future, they made a serious miscalculation. The same fate has befallen the international climate change emergency brigade. About $1 billion and 18 "Kyoto" meetings later, the world has agreed to do nothing much more than meet again.

How did this frightening climate threat dissolve into scientific uncertainty and political confusion? What of the many billions of dollars of wasted public resources? Some might blame the "sceptics", the "merchants of doubt" or the "deniers". Others point to the global financial crisis.

We can say for certain that many hesitant individuals overcame the pressures of group-think, intimidation and tribal disapproval to have a closer look at the relationship between real science, politics and business.

I was once told by a friend that when it comes to scientific issues of major public concern, it is "not what you know but who you know". I think he meant that my fledgling scepticism about dangerous anthropogenic global warming (DAGW) was pointless, for as a cartoonist I was as unqualified to assess the science as he was.

The implication was that all who are untrained in "climate science" are required to accept the scientific and political authority of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and its local colleagues such as the CSIRO: the scientific establishment.

I found my friend's advice baffling. Anyone familiar with the judicial process knows the gravest issues of liberty and fortune are often determined by a jury selected from the public. Expert witnesses can give evidence in support of either side at a trial. The judge must rule on questions of admissibility, but in the end it is the jury that decides which scientific evidence is to be believed.

In the climate debate, the only "judge" is the scientific method - a testable hypothesis followed by factual or experimental challenge. The "facts" here represent an anxious problem for the DAGW advocates. For example, everybody agrees that the warming trend paused 16 years ago, despite a corresponding 10 per cent increase in atmospheric CO2. This ought to be an embarrassment to the global warming alarmists. What exactly is the relationship between CO2 and temperature? Why did the warming trend stop as it did between 1945 and 1975, when CO2 emissions took off?

As Dr David Whitehouse, the former BBC online science editor, said in the New Statesman in 2007, "something else is happening to the climate and it is vital we find out what or we may spend hundreds of billions of pounds needlessly". Obviously we should pay close attention to the computer models that form the basis of climate scientists' projections. In fact these models apparently failed to anticipate the current pause in global warming, not to mention the abundance of post-drought rainfall in Australia. Scientific "consensus" based on these computer models is becoming rather shaky.

The reason why scientific consensus emerged in this debate is because political activists want to get things moving, and if they say that consensus is scary and urgent, then sceptics had better get out of the way.

The activist cause peaked early in 2007 when Al Gore's film An Inconvenient Truth became an international hit. This documentary was superficially compelling for the uninitiated, but in October 2007 the British High Court found the film contained nine errors of fact.

Professor Bob Carter of Queensland's James Cook University gave evidence in this case; few people in Australia are aware of this severe embarrassment for Mr Gore.

Later that year, the ABC broadcast Martin Durkin's provocative documentary, The Great Global Warming Swindle, against the outraged objections of many prominent alarmists. How interesting. The science was "settled", the debate was said to be over and no further discussion was required. Any media professional should have been aroused by such an excited censorship campaign, and it stimulated my first cartoon on the subject (above), which depicted the family TV set as mediaeval stocks with an imprisoned climate sceptic being pelted by the family with their TV dinner.

It seemed to me that things changed after that documentary was screened. Perhaps the shock of hearing the likes of Nigel Calder, former editor of New Scientist, and Patrick Moore, co-founder of Greenpeace, had joined the ranks of the sceptical was just too much for some people.

Things got nasty. Someone came up with the brilliant but insidious idea of using the term "denier" to describe a person who remained agnostic or sceptical about the exact human contribution to the 0.7 degree global warming of the past 100 years. This malicious rhetoric came to be adopted by climate activists, media reporters and politicians up to head-of-state level. Many distinguished scientists such as Paul Reiter of the Pasteur Institute in Paris, Professor Richard Lindzen of MIT, and Bill Kininmonth, former head of our National Climate Centre, were casually defamed in this way. The same label was applied to world-renowned theoretical physicist Freeman Dyson and Australia's distinguished Professor Bob Carter.

Holocaust denial describes the heartless and despicable refusal by anti-Semites to acknowledge the historical truth of the Jewish genocide of World War II. If you use the offensive term "denier" you do so for reasons best known to yourself. You may be calculating or you may be indifferent, but as Wong, Rudd and Gillard would have known, the effect is pungent. No sensible, morally responsible person wants to be stigmatised in such a way.

Some prominent Australian intellectuals to this day continue to explicitly endorse the moral equivalence between Holocaust and global warming denial. This is all the more incredible because it comes from academics who understand the horror of the Holocaust. For good measure, sceptics have also been compared with 18th century slave trade advocates, tobacco lobbyists and even paedophile promoters.

But times have changed, and since 2007, the non-scientific players in this great intellectual drama have been confronted by creeping uncertainty about many of the major climate science issues. These have included the composition of the IPCC and the credibility of its processes; remember Glaciergate? The IPCC predicted the end of the Himalayan glaciers based on non-scientific literature; the unusual (or not) melting of sea ice and glaciers; the evidence for warm temperatures during the mediaeval period; the importance of sun spots; changes (or not) in patterns of extreme weather events; ocean "acidification"; ocean warming and rising sea levels; bio-mass absorption and the longevity of molecules of atmospheric CO2; the influence of short-period El Nino southern oscillation (ENSO) and other similar oscillations on a multi-decade scale; the chaotic behaviour of clouds; and the impact of cosmic rays on climate. Even James Lovelock, the founder of the "Gaia", movement has turned sceptic.

By early 2010, it seemed that nearly every single element of the global warming debate was up for grabs, and scandals like Climategate and gross mistakes in their work had weakened the credibility of the IPCC. Even Professor Paul Jones of the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, a leading contributor to IPCC calculations, confirmed in a 2010 BBC interview that the warming rates of the periods 1860-80, 1910-40 and 1975-98 were statistically similar. He also said that "I don't believe that the vast majority of climate scientists believe that the climate change [debate] is over".

To the great credit of The Age and its pluralistic tradition, the occasional sceptical science article has been published along with regular cartoons on the issue.

However, I still feel that the voices of highly qualified sceptics are not heard enough. In an effort to redress this imbalance, an unusual book on the sceptics' view will be published in 2013.

The text, sprinkled with cartoons and illustrations, takes the Socratic form, giving answers to commonly asked questions about the science and economics of climate change. The content is provided by a collaboration of five highly qualified experts. They include a meteorologist, the former director of the Australian National Climate Centre; a geologist, a former member of the Australian Research Council and chairman of the Earth Sciences Panel; an independent energy consultant who manages his own small hydro power station; a professor of environmental engineering (hydrology) and one of Australia's leading tax consultants.

I trust the integrity and compassion of these "deniers", and admire their courage and awesome perseverance. We hope the book will help redress the imbalance in easily accessible knowledge for a "jury" of ordinary Australians.


Australian Muslim cleric meets Hamas leader, falls in love

Australia's most senior Muslim cleric has met the leader of the Hamas government during a visit to the Gaza Strip.

A spokesman for Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohamed, the Mufti of Australia, says the Mufti is leading a delegation of Muslim scholars to Gaza.

Local television has shown pictures of Dr Mohamed meeting with Hamas's political leader, Gaza's prime minister Ismail Haniyeh, on December 26.

"We came here in order to learn from Gaza... to learn steadfastness, sacrifice, and the defence of one's rights from them," Dr Mohamed said in remarks translated by Memri TV.

The military wing of Hamas is listed as a proscribed terrorist organisation by the Australian Government.


Insignificant and semi-literate attention-seeker jumps on the Warmist bandwagon

She is allegedly an academic but is a poor one.  She says, for instance: 

"From the moment I decided to carry my girls I have mitigated against every threat to their future." 

She doubles confusion with that language.  It is common to misquote "militate against" as "mitigate against", which no-one who knows any Latin would do, but she actually uses even the mistaken usage in a mistaken way.  "Tried to mitigate" was what she probably meant. [Clue:  "Mitis" is Latin for "mild"]. One really does expect better from an academic historian.

But that is only one indication of her low intellectual level.  Her major failing is that she is completely unscholarly.  Instead of examining the evidence for or against anthropogenic global warming theory, she just accepts partisan judgments of it as true:  No evidence of critical thinking at all.  She would seem to be motivated by a need to pump up her own importance rather than by any concern for the facts

I reproduce a fair bit of her little emission below so readers can judge for themselves.  Note both the title she puts on her article and her acknowledged attention-seeking behaviour towards the end of the article

We are guardians of the future

By Liz Conor, a  history (herstory?) academic at the National Centre for Australian Studies, Monash University.

It is our duty to protect the rights of the next generation. Climate change is a threat and we must take action - we must hold governments to account, writes Liz Conor.

Whenever my 14-year-old asks me if she can get a 'stretch' earring, a piercing or a tattoo I tell her I am the guardian of her 40-year-old self who might not like living in the future with the permanent choices her 14-year-old self made.

From the moment I decided to carry my girls I have mitigated against every threat to their future. I steered clear of alcohol during the pregnancies, and drugs during their births. I slathered them in sun block and plonked hats on their curly-haired heads. I buckled their squirming bodies into every seat they were transported in, took their little hands across every street, rinsed the pesticides off their fruit, rubbed salt off their chips, and more recently chased off a risk-taking boyfriend and blockaded their screen time.

When the latest findings of climate scientists came out last fortnight, just as Doha was coming to its negligent close, I knew then sorry doesn't quite cut it. A report released by the Global Carbon Project, a group of scientists, announced that the planet was on-track for the worst-case-scenario projections of the IPCC, of a rise in temperature of between 4 and 6 degrees by the end of the century. They found emissions have increased 54 per cent since 1990. A World Bank-commissioned study also warned that a four-degree leap was possible this century - even if current pledges to cut emissions are met. Meanwhile at the latest UN conference on climate change government heads finished a marathon meeting in Doha, Qatar, where they extended the Kyoto Protocol which proposes a set of measures many climate scientists have argued will be ineffective in halting rising greenhouse gas emissions.

For me the failure last fortnight to grasp the latest findings of peer-reviewed climate scientists, and act decisively to stop burning fossil fuels was my moral 'tipping point'. These reports are beyond alarming and frankly terrifying. They condemn our children and grandchildren to eke out a miserable existence, buffeted by violent weather, on a planet blighted by drought, fire, flood and no longer able to supply their basic needs. Already we see this nightmare of food shortages playing out in Africa as crops fail due to drought.

By any standard it is wrong, unconscionable, unfair and negligent to continue to go about my life in the business-as-usual bubble that we seem to have taken refuge in. On Monday last I took a bike lock to Parliament House and bolted myself to the members' gate. The police came and after cordial exchange called for Search and Rescue who would not wait for a key to materialise and angle grinded the lock. I was banned from the Parliament House precinct for a week and from the CBD for 72 hours. On the way home I picked up a new lock.

We are not in safe hands. For our children's and their children's sake the time has come to hold governments to account. When the full impact of climate change is massing on the horizon I hope to be able to look my girls and their children in the eye and tell them I did everything I could.


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