Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Week in Denialism

The world-renowned economist and humanitarian Bjorn Lomborg has blundered into an argument with an actual climate scientist, with entertaining results. After calling on politicians to be guided by the "careful" work of the "hugely respected" IPCC, Lomborg cites IPCC author Stefan Rahmstorf's views on sea level rise as proof that consensus ≠ agreement.

Stefan Rahmstorf argues that sea level rises will be much higher than those anticipated by most researchers. Rahmstorf is a well-established, serious researcher on climate change who holds a minority view on the rise in the sea-level — the IPCC's estimate is an 18cm to 59cm rise by the end of the century. I mentioned him to make the point that meeting with like-minded colleagues does not somehow create a new global scientific consensus.

In his response, Rahmstorf labels me a "spin-doctor" who is "fooling the public". Often, such strong language can belie poor arguments. In this case, I believe that is the case.
Lomborg's proof essentially consists of evidence that sea level fluctuates, along with a bit of finger-wagging to the effect that "one cannot pick the timeframes to fit the argument."
Rahmstorf is correct to note that the levels are no longer dropping — which they were from 2006 to early 2008, the data available at the time of my article — but curiously seems disinclined to explore why the rise over the past four years (2005-2008) has been half the previous rise at 1.6mm/year. The inescapable point is that sea levels are not escalating out of hand – if anything, they are doing the exact opposite right now.
Rahmstorf's entire response is priceless, but here's my favorite part:
Lomborg argues that 18 years could be too short for a robust trend comparison because of decadal variations in trend – but the 42-year period analysed by IPCC yields the same result. And it is telling that he then goes on to draw an "inescapable" conclusion about a slow-down of sea level rise from just four years of data. This is another well-worn debating trick: confuse the public about the underlying trend by focusing on short-term fluctuations. It's like claiming spring won't come if there is a brief cold snap in April.

Why does Lomborg cite the trend since 2005? Last October, he cited that of the previous two years. Why now four years? Because the trend of the past two years (2007-2008) is now + 3.7 mm/year? It is even worse. The trend since the beginning of any year of the data series varies between 1.6 mm/year and 9.0 mm/year, depending on the start year chosen. Using 2005, Lomborg cherry-picked the by far lowest. He's done this before, see for example his recent claim that the globe is cooling.
Fortunately for Lomborg, the intrepid climatosophical discoverologist Greg Pollowitz has his back. Citing recent icy conditions at Lake Huron, Pollowitz establishes beyond any reasonable doubt that spring won't come if it gets cold in March.

Pollowitz also complains that it's "odd that the Greens look at Prince Charles as some sort of visionary on global warming, yet on other aspects of his life he is widely ridiculed."

Although I've devoted many years of my life to enviro-fascism, I've never encountered anyone who sees Prince Charles as any sort of visionary, online or off. Maybe it's the title that turns people off, or the somewhat unfair public perception of Britain's royal family as an anachronistic gaggle of inbred halfwits. It's also puzzling that not thinking world climatology has been subverted by Marxists would qualify anyone as a "visionary."

But whatever, as the kids say. Apparently, the Prince stands accused of exploiting public credulity by peddling some sort of snake oil that will make everything OK if you'll just believe in it. I leave it to the reader to decide whether he sounds more like the IPCC, or Greg Pollowitz.

Robert Knight asks his readers to imagine Dr. Frankenstein "jumping for joy" over Obama's lifting of certain restrictions on stem cell research, the objectively horrific outcome of which is linked in some bizarre way with Dr. Al Gore's Global Warming Theory:
[S]cientists can kill human embryos for medical research, create and distribute abortion pills without any public input, and systematically shun any contrary information.

If they have any questions about how to do this, they can consult Al Gore’s followers, who have been frantically plugging leaks in their global warming dam as fast and as effectively as the proverbial Dutch boy. What, they found a new arctic ice floe the size of California? What, a cooling period is underway as sunspots wane? Pay no attention!
As bad as this sounds, Knight has only stumbled onto half of the conspiracy; I have it on good authority that Obama has suppressed damning research into the carbon footprint of human-animal hybrids. Is it time to panic? My sources say yes!

Bill Steigenwald interviews George Will on his recent heroic stand against eco-pessimism, that crimson sin for which the penance is either eco-optimism, or simply not giving a fuck about anyone but yourself. Here's Steigenwald's account of the debate:
[Will] and his editors at The Washington Post were blasted with thousands of angry e-mails, most of which challenged Will's assertion that global sea ice levels have not been dramatically reduced by man-made global warming, as environmentalists claim, but are essentially the same as they were in 1979. Will, who had used data from the Arctic Climate Research Center as his source, also was accused of multiple inaccuracies by The New York Times' Andrew Revkin.
Note that Steigenwald uses the authority of the ACRC to give Will the necessary scientific gravitas, even though it was the ACRC who objected to Will's misuse of their data in the first place. It's kinda dishonest, I guess...but if you'd tell a lie to prevent a box of kittens from being thrown into a furnace, you'll have no trouble understanding why Steigenwald lies to protect George Will from the wrath of his own sources.

As for the interview itself, suffice it to say that Will is glutinous with self-approbation, and Steigenwald absolutely cannot get enough of him. If that's your idea of an edifying discourse, have at it. I won't wait up.

Finally, there's distressing news from the Heartland Institute's conference on climate change. As you may know, ExxonMobil has reduced its funding for this important anti-environmental thinktank. But HI president Joseph L. Bast says they're only doing it to make themselves look better. Take that, warmists!

Worse yet, Richard Lindzen has launched an untimely attack on the science of glowball warming. Which is a shame, 'cause it's one of the few subdivisions of climatology that any layperson can master, simply by walking outside on a nice day.
Dr. Lindzen...criticized widely publicized assertions by other skeptics that variations in the sun were driving temperature changes in recent decades. To attribute short-term variation in temperatures to a single cause, whether human-generated gases or something else, is erroneous, he said.
Maybe he can come up with some catchy slogan, like "it's not the sun, stupid," and e-mail it to Robert Knight.

S. Fred Singer is also trying to impose ideological uniformity on these freethinkers, instead of letting a hundred Pollowitzian flowers bloom:
S. Fred Singer, a physicist often referred to by critics and supporters alike as the dean of climate contrarians, said that he would be running public and private sessions on Monday aimed at focusing participants on which skeptical arguments were supported by science and which were not.

“As a physicist, I am concerned that some skeptics (a very few) are ignoring the physical basis,” Dr. Singer said in an e-mail message. “There is one who denies that CO2 is a greenhouse gas, which goes against actual data,” Dr. Singer said, adding that other skeptics wrongly contend that “humans are not responsible for the measured increase in atmospheric CO2.”
Or as Polyakov put it back in 1939, "We must object to the attempt to universalize Mendelism which exists, but on the other hand, to throw Mendelism off the books and declare it pseudoscientific I consider impossible and incorrect."

Still, I approve of the effort. If the IPCC and allied scientific organizations can manage to maintain iron discipline over tens of thousands of scientists, Lindzen and Singer should have no trouble convincing roughly 500 economists, oilmen, and retired orthodontists to toe the party line.

And if not...well, perhaps some use can be found for them regardless. Op-eds don't write themselves, after all.

(Cartoon via The Onion.)

1 comment:

Jazzbumpa said...

" . . . the somewhat unfair public perception of Britain's royal family as an anachronistic gaggle of inbred halfwits."

A bit of exaggeration perhaps? I say, old chum, you must be a fellow colonist. Care to join me for an harbor of tea?

"but if you'd tell a lie to prevent a box of kittens from being thrown into a furnace, you'll have no trouble understanding why Steigenwald lies to protect George Will from the wrath of his own sources."

You have a bizarre and hyperactive sense of the absurd. And I say that with the greatest admiration.

Re: "We must object to the attempt to universalize Mendelism which exists,"

WV: mendl. You can't make this stuff up