Jo Nova, the Perth based denier and author of the “The Sceptics Handbook” is one of Australia’s more prominent “climate change sceptics”. With a degree in molecular biology, Nova has been active in science education for some time. However, when it comes to climate change she seems to reject the science.
According to Nova no-one has actually stopped to think carbon may have little effect on the the atmosphere:
Ultimately the big problem is that there are no grants for scientists to demonstrate that carbon has little effect. There are no Institutes of Natural Climate Change, but plenty that are devoted to UnNatural Forces.
It’s a stunning claim: apparently thousands of scientists have neglected this crucial fact. As a consequence the entire discipline of climate science may be resting upon shaky grounds. But help is at hand according to Nova, as a few retired professors are attempting to rectify that situation:
“The lack of systematic auditing of the IPCC, NOAA, NASA or East Anglia CRU, leaves a gaping vacuum. It’s possible that honest scientists have dutifully followed their grant applications, always looking for one thing in one direction, and when they have made flawed assumptions or errors, or just exaggerations, no one has pointed it out simply because everyone who could have, had a job doing something else. In the end the auditors who volunteered—like Steve McIntyre and Anthony Watts—are retired scientists, because they are the only ones who have the time and the expertise to do the hard work. Anyone fancy analysing statistical techniques in dendroclimatology or thermometer siting instead of playing a round of golf?)”
So what’s going on here? Nova is using two classic denialist tactics to confuse the lay audience.
Denialist tactic number one: inflate the credentials of your experts
Watts and McIntyre are well known climate sceptics, and perhaps the source of much of the disinformation that circulates on the Internet. Neither Watts nor McIntyre are climate scientists.
Watts is – or I should say was – a meteorologist. I’ve been researching his background, but I cannot determine his qualifications. I assume he has a science degree: I’ll keep looking.
McIntyre has an undergraduate degree from the University of Toronto. According to Wikipedia, McIntyre had the opportunity to pursue further study but instead went into the minerals industry.
One is a former weather man, the other was the founder and director of several minerals companies.
In shaping the public’s perception, having credible experts on your side is crucial. Deniers have taken the lead from creationists , and try to “pump up” the credentials of the experts they are touting. Retired scientist sounds more authoritative than retired weatherman.
Nova banks on her audience simply accepting Watts and McIntyre as scientists, and hopes they don’t take the time to check their qualifications.
Denialist tactic number two: ignore >180 years of science
Nova’s first claim – that nobody has stopped to consider carbon may have a neutral effect – either betrays a stunning ignorance of basic science, or is a disingenuous attempt to mislead the reader.
The idea of that the earth was subject to a natural greenhouse effect was first proposed by the French scientist Joseph Fourier in 1824. Greenhouses gases, such as carbon, help trap heat in our atmosphere. No one disputes that our planet is subject to a natural greenhouse effect – not even so called climate sceptics. Without the greenhouse effect, our atmosphere would most likely resemble the moons.
Carbon contributes – as a percentage estimate – roughly 9%-26% to the greenhouse effect, and is naturally present in the atmosphere. Other gases which contribute to the greenhouse effect include water vapour (36%-70%), methane (4%-9%) and ozone (3%-7%). 
The basic science underlying climate change is straight forward: as more carbon is released into the atmosphere it amplifies the greenhouse effect.
Therefore, it gets hotter.
To make the claim that “there are no grants for scientists to demonstrate that carbon has little effect” is like claiming someone building a rocket to the moon hasn’t considered gravity. A rocket scientist does not need to go back and re-examine our understanding of gravity. Climate scientists well understand the effects of greenhouse gases.
I suspect Nova (who has a science degree!) is deliberately misleading the reader. Far too many of the general public are scientifically illiterate, therefore she feels she can get away with what is quite patently an absurd claim.
- Skeptical Science has a great synopsis of the issue
- AGW Observer includes a full list of papers going back to 1861 discussing CO2′ absorption properties