Category Archives: deniers

Of ice ages, the view from nowhere and the value of one’s soul: Graham Lloyd, The Australian and the repackaging of fringe science

Not long ago Hollywood rediscovered the disaster genre, delivering to the movie viewers a spate of gloriously visualised, but implausible apocalyptic visions. As examples of the zeitgeist they’re fascinating examples of our existential fears made real.  

In what lovers of the genre call “disaster porn” the CGI wizards of Hollywood treated us to a variety of end time scenarios: from giant meteorites in the execrable Armageddon (1998); global pandemics in Outbreak (1995) and I am Legend (2007); the Godzilla inspired monster of Cloverfield (2008); the New Age eschatology implied by ending of the Mayan Long Count calendar in the film 2012 (made in 2009); to the current most-favoured harbingers of the apocalypse, the zombies of The Walking Dead.

My favourite of this genre has to be The Day After Tomorrow (2004), a film which imagines the globe caught in the grip of a sudden ice age which descends over a series of days rather than the millennia it normally takes. The film chronicles a series of extreme weather events, precursors to the Northern Hemisphere being blanketed in ice.

The film treats us to a touching father-son reconciliation, a trite love story and lots of ice.

Pure bunk of course – however scientists have long resigned themselves to the fact that Hollywood will choose spectacle over fact. Most of us can discern fact from film fantasy. But sadly, not all of us can make such distinctions.

Point in case The Australian’s Environment Editor, Graham Lloyd, who recently published an article containing “facts” about as plausible as the script as The Day After Tomorrow.

According to Graham there is serious scientific debate about a coming ice age. No really, he argues such.

An ice age cometh: we’re about to enter a 30 year cooling period?

In an article titled Emissions debate heats up while experts warn of a coming ice age (May 4 2013), Lloyd rips his facts straight from the big screen and pages of fringe science blogs to suggest there is some debate over an imminent ice age:

In Russia, one of the world’s leading solar physicists, Habibullo Abdussamatov, says the planet is well on the way to another deep freeze. Abdussamatov is the head of space research at the Russian Academy of Sciences Pulkovo Astronomical Observatory in St Petersburg, and director of the Russian segment of the International Space Station.

In an interview with Principia Scientific International, Abdussamatov said results of research from the ISS had indicated a decline in total solar irradiance, which was having a dramatic effect on the global climate.

Data indicated the onset of a mini ice age.

If true, then all this fuss over global warming is actually distracting us from the actual (and in Graham’s view equally plausible) threat of an imminent ice age.

The impressively credentialed Habibullo Abdussamatov seems uniquely qualified to put forward such an argument. That is until one starts digging as Abdussamatov seems to hold some very strange views.

Abdussamatov: does not believe in any greenhouse effect

Abdussamatov is a vocal sceptic of global warming within the parallel universe the deniers inhabit, but as far as the science community is concerned he is relatively obscure.

He is not a leading solar physicist: this is merely another example of the old sceptic tactic of inflating the reputation and achievements of “experts” such as Abdussamatov. In fact, a quick search of the internet will find he has been making the same claims for several years.

His most unusual claim is that the greenhouse effect does not exist at all. In a 2007 article published on Canada.com (website of Canadian newspaper publisher Postmedia Network) Abdussamatov is quoted as saying:

Dr. Abdussamatov goes further, debunking the very notion of a greenhouse effect. “Ascribing ‘greenhouse’ effect properties to the Earth’s atmosphere is not scientifically substantiated,” he maintains. “Heated greenhouse gases, which become lighter as a result of expansion, ascend to the atmosphere only to give the absorbed heat away.”

Such a claim would be news to the scientific community to say the least.

Actually, it is almost impossible to convey just how absurd his proposition is – it is the scientific equivalent of arguing the sun still goes around the Earth. His view of the behaviour of CO2 molecules in the atmosphere is pure fantasy without a shred of evidence.

Even the most extreme sceptics – Jo Nova, Lord Monckton and Anthony Watts – don’t subscribe to this view.

They acknowledge the greenhouse effect: they argue a doubling of CO2 will have a negligible impact on global temperatures. According to them, the heat trapping potential of increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have been overstated by the scientific community.

Thus Abdussamatov would be considered fringe even by their standards – which is saying a lot. If that is not bad enough, things go from bad to worse in Lloyd’s article.

Graham Lloyd plagiarizing content: word for word his article mimics a 2007 article from Canada Free Press

The practice of using material word-for-word without attribution or acknowledging the source is generally frowned upon by journalists. 

The more cynical call it plagiarism. Sadly, Lloyd appears to be engaged in this very activity.

Lloyd attributes the following quotes to Abdussamatov (italics mine):

Abdussamatov said there had been five deep cold periods in the past 1000 years – in 1030, 1315, 1500, 1680 and 1805.

 He said another cool period was due and would come about regardless of whether industrialised countries put a cap on their greenhouse gas emissions.

“Mars has global warming – but without a greenhouse and without the participation of Martians,” Abdussamatov said.

“These parallel global warmings – observed simultaneously on Mars and on the Earth – can only be a consequence of the effect of the same factor: a long-time change in solar irradiance.”

 Abdussamatov said a new “little ice age” would start this or next year and hit a low around 2040, with a deep freeze that would last for the rest of the century.

The quotes Lloyd use mimic word-for-word quotes in the aforementioned 2007 article (italics):

Mars has global warming, but without a greenhouse and without the participation of Martians,” he told me. “These parallel global warmings — observed simultaneously on Mars and on Earth — can only be a straightline consequence of the effect of the one same factor: a long-time change in solar irradiance.”

Lloyd has merely broken the later paragraph up and substituted some words.

Perhaps Lloyd was sloppy, or merely forgot to correctly attribute his sources. We all make mistakes.

The more cynical of us would call it plagiarism.   

False balance: Lloyd’s view from nowhere is really the view from the fringes

Lloyd is a practitioner of the journalistic style of “the view from nowhere”.

He tries to eschew any editorialising in order to present “both sides of the debate” so that the informed reader can make up their own mind.

In reality, Lloyd’s view from nowhere is the view from the fringes of the scientific community: more specifically the view of a crank, Abdussamatov.

Lloyd elevates Abdussamatov to the level of one the world’s “leading solar physicists” and a voice we should be paying attention too. Lloyd frames the article in such a way to imply there is some debate amongst the scientific community that an ice age may very well be immanent.

Let’s be clear: there’s no debate: there are no concerns about a mini-ice age.

What we have is the spectacle of The Australian plucking fringe beliefs from the sceptic blogosphere and given them credibility.

The real story that needs to be told is not that of scientists debating about scenarios reminiscent of The Day After Tomorrow.

The real story that needs to be told is just how partisan The Australian has become on the issue of climate change.

Lloyd’s article smells of desperation: it is the feeble clutching for facts in order to deny reality.

The planet is warming; climate change is real; humanity is the architect of this warming.

We all have a choice: one can accept reality or live in denial. Lloyd seems to have made his choice: he is a nowhere man living in an alternative reality of facts made to suit the opinions of Editor Chris Mitchell and owner Rupert Murdoch.

But what is cost of this?

Not only to Lloyd and the reputation of The Australian as a news source – but to us, the general public who needs to be informed? We may shake our heads at the antics of Lloyd, but ultimately it is a grossly misinformed public who suffers most.

At least Lloyd gets paid for his efforts: I guess I gain some satisfaction in correcting his falsehoods.

But again – at what cost?

All the wealth and power one might gain is not worth the price of one’s soul.

Graham Lloyd and The Australian: rapidly fading credibility

It says a lot about the quality of a newspaper when their Environment Editor is either a) unable to distinguish fringe beliefs from actual science or b) happy to publish such tripe if it undermines the scientific consensus on global warming.

Over the years we’ve witnessed The Australian publish some appalling misinformation on climate change: this without doubt is the nadir of their reporting on climate change.

For a paper which likes to think of itself as the “voice of the nation” this is an appalling lapse in journalistic standards.

We – the reading public – have a right to expect better than this. This is the very impulse that motivated me to start this blog. We are all ill-served by the mainstream media if this is the best they have to offer.

Perhaps there is a circle in Hell for once good journalists who have turned away from the ethics of the profession: if so it must be full of News Limited journalists who felt compelled – or were coerced – to publish pieces such as Lloyd’s.

For good reason many of us are exhausted auditing the self-proclaimed auditors of science. We’ve been engaged in this activity for over thirty years when the “debate” first emerged.

I believe there is a more important question to address: the question of why. Of why elements of the media – who have the power to shape public opinion and debate – have granted themselves permission to distort the truth and mislead the public.

All the wealth and power one might gain is not worth the price of one’s soul.

[Note: see also Graham Readfearn’s piece on the same topic – what can I say? Great minds think alike. Readfearn does some great detective work on finding all the sources Lloyd uses.]

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[Disclaimer: This article contains both original research and some elements of satire. Every effort is made to ensure the validity of the claims made by the blog’s author. ]

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Cut and cherry-paste: The Australian shamelessly cherry picking the words of scientists

Pity poor Tim Lambert.

For some time he kept us amused with his series The Australian’s War on Science, keeping News Limited’s flagship paper honest by pointing out its frequent distortions of science.

Tim blogs less frequently on Deltoid, nor have seen an entry for the War on Science for some time. Before I started Watching the Deniers I was a frequent reader of Deltoid: I credit his work as one of influences and inspirations for this blog.

I blame Chris Mitchell – editor of The Australian – for Tim’s silence. How so you say?

The distortion of science has reached such prodigious proportions at “The Oz” you’d need a veritable army of winged monkeys locked in a science library, each one furiously researching and cataloging that paper’s ongoing misrepresentation of science. Cataloging the breadth and depth of the misrepresentation of science and scientists within the pages of The Australian is now beyond the capacity of a single individual.

Tim did the smart thing: he came, he saw, he captured their many distortions and then preserved his sanity by moving on. In doing so he has left us an invaluable record.

No doubt, Tim is experiencing far less moments like this:

Still every now and then it is worth revisiting how Mitchell and his merry band of scribblers happily ensconced in their Surrey Hills bunker like to play at “science”.

Cherry picking: four-for-four misquotes

The no warming for almost 17 years myth got a healthy push today across News Ltd today, with both the Cut and Paste section of The Australian and Andrew Bolt pushing this falsity. 

Green Senator Christine Milne was the subject of today’s ritualized skewering of dissidents (i.e. those voices the editors of Murdoch’s publications deem enemies of unfettered free markets) for expressing the view climate change was “accelerating” on Channel Ten’s Meet the Press:

TORY Maguire: One of the ongoing, really damaging things for Julia Gillard politically, has from the very beginning continued to be her backflip on the carbon tax. Are you starting to look now at the fact that you, the Greens, pushed her so hard in 2010 to make that deal, when, really, it is going to end up being counter-productive, because she’s going to get absolutely obliterated at the next election, and Tony Abbott has promised to overturn it.

Christine Milne: Well, the key thing is that global warming is accelerating.

In the style typical of Cut and Paste, Milne’s comments were juxtaposed with four seemingly authoritative quotes that both undermined her view while implying the science community had reached a new consensus on climate change: that the warming had “stopped”.

In case you were in doubt, today’s Cut and Paste was titled “Isn’t it terrible when people insist on denying the consensus about climate change.”

The four quotes are as follows:

[Quote 1] Professor Myles Allen, head of the climate dynamics group at the University of Oxford, January 8:

A LOT of people (not the IPCC) were claiming, in the run-up to the Copenhagen 2009 conference, that warming was accelerating and it is all worse than we thought. What has happened since then has demonstrated that it is foolish to extrapolate short-term climate trends. We did see unexpectedly fast warming from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s, but the IPCC, quite correctly, did not suggest this was evidence for acceleration.

[Quote 2] Dr Richard Allan, reader in climate science at the University of Reading, January 8:

GLOBAL warming is not at a standstill but does seem to have slowed down since 2000 in comparison to the rapid warming of the world since the 1970s.

[Quote 3] Professor Brian Hoskins, the director of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change at Imperial College London:

THE current news item that the Met Office now predicts no global warming in the period up to 2017 is based on the latest five-year forecast run with their new climate model . . . One interpretation of the forecasts is for little warming from 1998 until 2017. This is consistent with a multi-decadal fluctuation in temperature that presently opposes the continued upward trend.

[Quote 4] David Shukman, science editor, BBC News, January 8:

THE UK Met Office has revised one of its forecasts for how much the world may warm in the next few years . . . If the forecast is accurate, the result would be that the global average temperature would have remained relatively static for about two decades.

Of course, I could not resist going to the original sources. Let us examine the quotes and see if the experts cited in Cut and Paste agree with the implication that global warming has come to a standstill.

Quote 1: Myles Allen “It is foolish to extrapolate short-term climate trends”

The source of the Allen quote can be found in an interview with the Science Media Centre (SMC) in an article published online on January 8 2013.

Here is the full quote – note, I’ve highlighted the text cited by Cut and Paste in blue and the critically omitted text in red:

“That said, a lot of people (not the IPCC) were claiming, in the run-up to the Copenhagen 2009 conference, that ‘warming was accelerating and it is all worse than we thought’. What has happened since then has demonstrated that it is foolish to extrapolate short-term climate trends. We did see unexpectedly fast warming from the mid-1990s to the early-2000s, but the IPCC, quite correctly, did not suggest this was evidence for acceleration. 

“While every new year brings in welcome new data to help us rule out the more extreme (good and bad) scenarios for the future, it would be equally silly to interpret what has happened since the early-2000s as evidence that the warming has stopped.”

Note the crucial sentence that follows on from the quote used by The Australian: “it would be equally silly to interpret what has happened… as evidence that the warming has stopped.”

So far, the first example of what can only be described as blatant cherry picking.

Quote 2: Richard Allan “Global warming is not at a standstill but does seem to have slowed down…”

Once again we can turn to the same SMC article, where Allan’s quote is provided in full:

“Global warming is not ‘at a standstill’ but does seem to have slowed down since 2000 in comparison to the rapid warming of the world since the 1970s. 

“In fact, consistent with rising greenhouse gases, heat is continuing to build up beneath the ocean surface: 

http://www.ncas.ac.uk/index.php/en/climate-science-highlights/284-warming-over-the-last-decade-hidden-below-ocean-surface 

“This indicates that changes in ocean circulation are in part responsible for the recent slower rate of surface warming. The way the ocean distributes the extra energy trapped by rising greenhouse gases is critical in determining the new Met Office forecasts of global surface temperature over the coming decade and is an area of active research. 

“These decadal forecasts are very much experimental – they are at the cutting edge of the science and are technically very challenging. The Met Office are being open and transparent by making the forecasts available to allow a proper validation to occur. The Met Office is one of about 10 groups performing these type of forecasts worldwide and all predict a warming over the coming decade. 

“Nothing in their data leads me to think that global warming due to human influence has stopped, or is irrelevant. It hasn’t, and it isn’t.”

Is it me, or are we beginning to see a pattern here? Allan’s careful comments and clarification of the science are completely misrepresented.

Note the final sentence: “Nothing in the date leads me to think that global warming… has stopped.”

Quote 3: Brian Hoskins “One interpretation of the forecasts is for little warming from 1998 until 2017…”

Does it seem a rather odd co-incidence that the Hoskins quote also appears in the same SMC article as the previous two? Fortunately the full quote is also available:

“The current news item that the Met Office now predicts no global warming in the period up to 2017 is based on the latest 5-year forecast run with their new climate model. Such forecasts are at the frontiers of the subject and form part of a research programme in this area in the Met Office and elsewhere, but should not be considered to be predictions. 

“One interpretation of the forecasts is for little warming from 1998 until 2017. This is consistent with a multi-decadal fluctuation in temperature that presently opposes the continued upward trend. However the two supported one another during the rapid warming in the 1990s and can be expected to do this again in the future, leading to another period of rapid warming. 

“The forecast results also suggest that half the years in the period to 2017 would be expected to give new record global temperatures.”

I’m shocked – shocked I tell you!

How could the editor of Cut and Paste miss the critical sentence that follows on where Hoskins states we can expect to see “another period of rapid warming” and that “half the years in the period to 2017 would be expected to give new record global temperatures.”

Surely a simple and honest mistake by the editor of Cut and Paste?

Quote 4: David Shukman “If the forecast is accurate, the result would be that the global average temperature would have remained relatively static for about two decades.”

At this point one hopes to be surprised, and that perhaps the BBC has changed it’s view from warmist to sceptical. But once again, when one goes to the article by Shukman one finds the following:

If the forecast is accurate, the result would be that the global average temperature would have remained relatively static for about two decades. 

Blog suspicions

An apparent standstill in global temperatures is used by critics of efforts to tackle climate change as evidence that the threat has been exaggerated. 

Climate scientists at the Met Office and other centres are involved in intense research to try to understand what is happening over the most recent period. 

The most obvious explanation is natural variability – the cycles of changes in solar activity and the movements and temperatures of the oceans.

A Met Office spokesman said “this definitely doesn’t mean any cooling – there’s still a long-term trend of warming compared to the 50s, 60s or 70s.

“Our forecast is still for temperatures that will be close to the record levels of the past few years.

“And because the natural variability is based on cycles, those factors are bound to change the other way at some point.”

The fact that the revised projection was posted on the Met Office website without any notice on December 24 last year has fuelled suspicions among bloggers.

However the Met Office says the data had been published in a spirit of transparency as soon as it became available from the computer that produced it.

Again, note the most critical information that provides context is in no way referenced by Cut and Paste.

Four-out-of-four quotes cherry picked.

Three scientists and one BBC journalist completely misrepresented.

That’s cut-and-cherry-pasting The Australian way.

 

Note: hat tip John for Skeptical Science article that global warming has “accelerated”.

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Sea sick Andrew Bolt: now just making stuff up about sea surface temperatures

With the evidence of climate change becoming even more overwhelming, and the majority of public opinion indicating acceptance of its reality (watching one half of Australia burn while the other drowns will have that effect), Andrew Bolt is getting desperate. 

What’s a poor denier boy to do?

Well, you could accept the overwhelming evidence that climate change is real.

Or you can stick your head in bucket and scream “La-la-la-la! Not happening!”

Andrew of course accepts the later course of action.

In his most recent cut-and-paste attack on Tim Flannery, Bolt makes the startling claim that sea surface temperatures have not risen.

How does Andrew prove this startling scientific truth?

Bolt cites his favorite denier of both climate change and evolution – Dr. Roy Spencer – to argue the globe is not warming.

Spencer produces the following graph on his blog:

By golly no warming claims Andrew!

Gosh dang it, I mean even the graphs from the Bureau of Meteorology show no warming!

BOM_SST

SST data from BOM

Well look at that – no warming trend!

Take that warmists!

Huzzah! Global warming is falsified!

Oh wait…

What’s that.

You want some more SST data Andrew?

You want the whole BOM graph?

You want SST data since 1950 huh?

Zing Andrew – a warming trend.

Scientists do science. They go into the real world and, collect data. Form a hypothesis. Test it. Publish their research.

Climate change scep… I mean deniers, fiddle with the X-Y axis of Excel generated graphs.

Andrew: liar, liar, the sea is on fire.

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Climate sceptic, retiring Czech president, Vaclav Klaus charged with “high treason”

While Vaclav Klaus may not be a name familiar to most Australians, amongst the denial crowd he is a superstar.

Klaus, currently the President of the Czech Republic, is frequently touted as a world leader doubting climate change. Klaus has been a frequent guest on Andrew Bolt’s program and a regular speaker at functions hosted by the Institute of Public Affairs.

His term as President expires shortly, however Klaus has already planned out a busy retirement by joining forces with the Cato Institute, the notorious libertarian think tank and one of the principal agents in denying climate change. He is both a Eurosceptic (against the European Union) and climate change sceptic.

Klaus, a trained economist with a strongly libertarian bent, was President between 1993 and 1997. It is worth noting that he didn’t retire gracefully from the Presidency in 1997: his resignation came to an end when colleagues forced his resignation over claims of funding irregularities.

A controversial figure to say the least, Klaus claims that climate science and socialism are not merely similar, but the same thing and a vehicle for the New World Order:

“Environmentalism is indeed a vehicle for bringing us socialist government at the global level. Again, my life in communism makes me oversensitive in this respect. The argumentation of various environmentalists is very similar to what we used to know in the past.”

Now it seems Klaus is being charged with high treason. The Financial Times reports:  

“Prague – Václav Klaus, the Czech Republic’s conservative president, is facing high treason charges over his amnesty of thousands of prison inmates and others, an unprecedented case that is tainting his final days in the post after a rocky decade.  

Lawmakers in parliament’s upper house, which is dominated by the left-wing opposition, voted on Monday to file charges at the Constitutional Court…

Mr Klaus had already polarised opinion during his two terms in the normally ceremonial post with his strident views questioning the EU, gay rights and global warming, but frustration with him has since ballooned. About 73,000 Czechs have signed a petition backing the charges, while Mr Klaus’ portrait has been torn down in schools and offices across the country.

The anger his marred his legacy as a finance minister and prime minister who oversaw the Czech Republic’s post-communist transition to free markets in the 1990s.” 

How the mighty do fall.  

Imagine the outcry if Al Gore was subject to similar charges – the climate sceptic movement would be in uproar.  

Here we have one of the more “reputable” names in climate scepticism, transformed into nothing more than a disgraced politician facing charges of high treason in his home country.

I’m looking forward to sceptics and deniers claiming the charges against Klaus are merely one more example of the grand conspiracy.

 Hat tip: Dr No

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Monckton Enjoys Lunch and Sings a Pretty Song for the Australian Financial Review (Reprint)

Lord Monckton, the climate denier who believes Obama’s birth certificate was faked and likes to associate with the wilder fringes of conspiracy culture (he is a regular on a  show hosted by 9/11 Truther, Alex Jones) recently scored an interview with The Australian Financial Review.

Tim at New Anthropocene takes the article apart in a great post: Monckton Enjoys Lunch and Sings a Pretty Song for the AFR.

“It’s of no surprise to learn that the Australian Financial Review interviewed Chris Monckton, for his message is surely the sweetest lullaby to many of its readers. In the interview, titled, Lunch with the AFR | Christopher Monckton, Chris Short recorded an illuminating interview.

At least in this interview, Monckton made it clear; his is purely a political fight. Thank you very much for that.

It’s of course interesting that Monckton has taken a fondness to Chinese philosophy – a country overrun by his worst nightmare, Communists… I must actually look up on these philosophical principles to learn if this topic, unlike so many others he waxes lyrical upon, is represented correctly.

On that, Monckton makes the point that his was the last generation taught not to be credulous… Please, dear Lord, muse through my offerings on New Anthro. As a bloke half your age, I’m certain you will find many examples of a young man with a nasty habit for fact checking.”

Enjoy.

via Monckton Enjoys Lunch and Sings a Pretty Song for the Australian Financial Review (Reprint).

Money quotes and ripe cherries: can scientists avoid having their research “cherry picked” by climate sceptics?

 cherrypicking

Every  day there are dozens of new research papers on climate change related matters published, monthly there are thousands of them. In addition to the peer reviewed literature hundreds if not thousands of white papers, articles and blog posts are produced by the science community on climate change.

And while this cornucopia knowledge can be overwhelming even for the most dedicated reader on the topic, it represents a rich field of opportunity for those who wish to mischaracterise the work of scientists.

We are of course talking about the practice of cherry picking: selecting data and quotes from the vast sea of climate change related informaiton and reproducing it out of context. In doing so, opponents to mainstream science hope to cast doubt on the scientific consensus and undermine the public’s trust in scientists by taking their words out of context.

Two recent examples illustrate the practice of cherry picking by sceptics. In addition some suggestions are made to avoid or mitigate this tactic.

The Australian: no link between sea level rise and global warming?

The first example is that of The Australian’s misleading coverage of recent research on sea level rise. Environment Editor Graham Lloyd wrote a series of articles implying that there was no link between sea level rise and global warming during the 20th century.

Lloyd referenced the paper Twentieth-century global-mean sea-level rise: is the whole greater than the sum of the parts? and seized upon by the following sentence in the abstract:

“Semi-empirical methods for projecting GMSLR (global mean sea level rise) depend on the existence of a relationship between global climate change and the rate of GMSLR, but the implication of our closure of the budget is that such a relationship is weak or absent during the 20th century.

A reading of the entire paper suggests no such thing. As Graham Readfearn pointed out it was merely an attempt to “murder a scientific paper” by cherry picking a single sentence. Indeed one of the papers authors, John Church stated the article produced by Lloyd was misleading.

Fortunately in this case The Australian was forced acknowledge the article was factually incorrect, even going so far to issue a rare correction.

Did NASA scientist James Hansen really admit global warming “stalled”?

The second and most recent example is provided by sceptical blogger Anthony Watts (Watts up with that?).

Watts cherry picked a quote form a recent paper by noted NASA scientist James Hansen, implying Hanesen recently admitted there has been no global warming for the last 16 years:

Dr. James Hansen and Reto Ruedy of NASA GISS have written a paper (non peer reviewed) with a remarkable admission in it. It is titled Global Temperature Update Through 2012.

Here is the money quote, which pretty much ends the caterwauling from naysayers about global temperature being stalled for the last decade.

The five-year mean global temperature has been flat for the last decade, which we interpret as a combination of natural variability and a slow down in the growth rate of net climate forcing.

Gosh, I thought Hansen had claimed that “climate forcings” had overwhelmed natural variability?

A simple check of the original source demonstrates the clumsy manner in which Watt’s has cherry picked the quote to turn it into a “money quote” about stalled global temperatures. Here is the sentence in context (relevant quote underlined):

Global surface temperature in 2012 was +0.56°C (1°F) warmer than the 1951-1980 base period average, despite much of the year being affected by a strong La Nina. Global temperature thus continues at a high level that is sufficient to cause a substantial increase in the frequency of extreme warm anomalies. The 5-year mean global temperature has been flat for a decade, which we interpret as a combination of natural variability and a slowdown in the growth rate of the net climate forcing.

An update through 2012 of our global analysis (Fig. 1) reveals 2012 as having practically the same temperature as 2011, significantly lower than the maximum reached in 2010. These short-term global fluctuations are associated principally with natural oscillations of tropical Pacific sea surface temperatures summarized in the Nino index in the lower part of the figure. 2012 is nominally the 9th warmest year, but it is indistinguishable in rank with several other years, as shown by the error estimate for comparing nearby years. Note that the 10 warmest years in the record all occurred since 1998.

The long-term warming trend, including continual warming since the mid-1970s, has been conclusively associated with the predominant global climate forcing, human-made greenhouse gases, which began to grow substantially early in the 20th century.

As can be seen Watts has merely lifted a single sentence to mischaracterise the paper. Hansen and Ruedy do provide the appropriate context, highlighting the fact that “the 10 warmest years in the record all occurred since 1998”.

So in this charged environment what can the scientific community do to mitigate such abuses?

Don’t give them cherries

Real Climate noted the sentence in the Church et.al. sceptics seized upon was “awkwardly phrased”. However the Hansen and Ruedy paper is well written, clear and when seen in context the cherry picked sentence makes perfect sense.

For this reason scientists should not berate themselves for seeing their own words used against them.

A first step – and not to slight the authors of the paper on sea level rise – would be to avoid giving sceptics the oppurtunity to pick low-hanging fruit (it is acknowledged the vast majority of scientists are indeed very careful).

However, Watts unintentionally reveals the mindset of climate sceptics by referring to the sentence he lifted from the Hansen/Ruedy paper as a “money quote”.

Sceptics such as Watts are not engaged in reading the scientific literature in an intellectually honest way: they are hunting for anomalies. Regardless of how much caution a scientist may take, it is inevitable sceptics will cherry pick the literature in order to cast doubt on the science.

Stopping the lie before goes around the world: rapid response and press council complaints

To quote Mark Twain “a lie will go round the world while truth is pulling its boots on.” But once the lie has taken flight how should we respond?

Rapidly, calmly and with the facts.

The recent example of The Australian being forced to issue a rare correction offers a salient lesson in dealing not only with the claims of climate sceptics, but with blunting a potent “meme”.

Sites such as Skeptical Science, Real Climate, DeSmogBlog, The Conversation and Climate Progress are all excellent platforms for countering misinformation. Were possible, getting corrections published in the mainstream media is worth pursuing. That includes authoring articles or writing letters to the editor. Even jumping into the forum comments might help undo some of the damage.

Nor should individuals and scientists be afraid to take their concerns to regulatory bodies such as the Australian Press Council (PAC) to tackle misinformation that appears in the mainstream media (MSM).

A member of the public is free to lodge a complaint; however doing so is not a trivial matter. It is vital to review the guidelines for making a complaint.

While sceptics often cry “censorship” when they find themselves corrected, it is vital to counter their misinformation.

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Hell’s advocates: The Liberal National Party is a danger to our country’s future. No really.

In case there was any doubt the Liberal National Party is the party of denial, look no further than this most recent evidence. Craig Kelly, the LNP member for Hughes has a guest post on Watts up with that? where he writes:

It’s been a scorcher. With the mercury soaring to 42.3 C in Sydney last week and the city in meltdown, the papers screamed, “This is climate change. It is here. It is real.” Even the taxpayer funded Climate Commission could not hide their excitement declaring, “it was hotter than before” and that “climate change” was responsible for the “unprecedented” extreme heat Sydneysiders were experiencing. 

And with the satellites unable to detect any global warming for the last 16 years, and the IPCC computer modelled predictions failing to come to fruition, Labor Government ministers were quick to exploit the situation to claim the “extreme heat” was evidence of why the Carbon Tax was needed to “do the right thing by our children”. Yet they failed to detail how, when, or by how much (even to the nearest 0.0001 °C) that the Carbon Tax would change the temperature. 

But I wonder if any of these people actually knew that Sydney’s so-called ‘record hot day’ on Tuesday 8th Jan this year, that had them screaming “Global Warming”, was actually COOLER than the weather experienced by the convicts of the First Fleet in Sydney way back in the summer of 1790/91?

The indomitable Tamino spells out every thing that is wrong with Kelly’s arguments. However anyone with an once of logic or reason can see how deeply flawed his article his.

In short, Kelly cites a doubtful and unverified temperature records from Sydney from the 1790s.

Yes – this single data point from a period in which the techniques of data collection were at best crude is cited as proof there is no global warming. Sydney may have been really hot for a single day over 200 years ago?

How about an entire continent blanketed in a record breaking heat wave these past weeks?

Think upon Kelly’s words readers. Marvel at the fact that this man is an elected official and there is a very real risk he could make decisions that effect you and me and the future of our nation.

I do not merely cringe, I shudder with fear that there are men such as these.

Craig Kelly: “You have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately… Depart, I say; and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!”

Nor is Kelly alone as his party, the Liberal National Party, is a veritable ship of fools. In case readers need to be reminded look upon the folly of the LNP and weep – yes weep – for the future of our nation: 

There is a very real chance that later this year the LNP will gain government. Think upon that and what that means for climate change policy, mitigation or adaptation  initiatives.

All of us – every Australian – has felt the effect of this incredible heat wave and fires. Whole towns have been destroyed.

Our island nation was at one point covered by a “dome of heat” – and it’s not over. We have potentially many more months of such conditions which bring the attendant risk of even more heat waves and catastrophic fires. 

Kelly, an elected member of Parliament, whose responsibility should be to protect the future of this nation and help mitigate risk advocates ignorance.

Dangerous ignorance: a willed, deceitful and shameful ignorance.

Contrast Kelley’s words to the work of thousands of fire fighters and support services.

Contrast Kelly’s words to the suffering of those who have lost homes and property.

Contrast Kelly’s words to the reality of bitter ashes and fire.

Does it not make you wish to storm Parliament house and shake its foundations to the ground? To cast out the fools who are putting our future at risk?

Let me spell out it in no uncertain terms: the Liberal National Party is a danger to our future. It is a danger to your children’s future. A party that does not merely deny reality, but in the face of the what is clear and present danger elects to ignore the risks does not deserve to govern.

You may not like the present Gillard government. You may not agree with the policies of the Greens. You may be disappointed in the lack of resolve and lack of action by all our politicians. But the alternative? It is the Party of Abbot, Kelly and Bernardi: the party of denial.

What does it matter you ask?

A few words scribbled by an ignorant and second rate political player, whose name and deeds barely 1 in 1000 Australians are familiar with? Irrelevant, of passing interest – one more skirmish in the decades long climate debate?

But:

Look around you.

This heat; these fires; this trauma.

And contrast Kelly’s words.

Can we assign blame for these exceptional extremes? Do we have the moral right to do so? Who may we ask is to blame?

The answer is surprisingly simple: complacent and ignorant politicians such as Kelly; the think tanks with their carefully crafted and marketed lies; Murdoch’s media empire. 

Open the window or step outside and experience what it means to live on the front lines of climate change; turn to the media and gaze upon a blackened and scorched nation. Listen to the cries from the heart of the fires victims.

And know this is the handiwork of the deniers: Hell’s advocates.

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How we lost 20 years on climate change action (reprint)

A terrific article from The Conversation which sums up my own thoughts by Maria Taylor, Australian National University

Scientists have warned about the “greenhouse effect” for years. Now it is no longer a scientific nightmare; it has arrived.

Lines from Al Gore’s famous movie? No.

The Sydney Morning Herald published these words in mid-1988. The article detailed record-breaking heat and drought in North America and elsewhere, linking these weather effects with predictions for global warming and climate change (then called the greenhouse effect).

A review of the Fairfax mainstream and business press of the late 1980s and early 1990s found hundreds of articles focused on the risks posed by the greenhouse effect on topics as diverse as biodiversity and holidaying in the Maldives.

These articles all readily ascribed the cause of the greenhouse effect to industrial societies burning fossil fuels.

The science hasn’t changed, but the public story changed dramatically

I recently completed a study of climate change communication in Australia 1987-2001. I reviewed an extensive public record of news reports, government documents, early popular science books and interviews regarding the greenhouse effect.

I found there has not been a one-way road from lesser to better public knowledge of climate change science and available response in Australia in the last two decades. In fact the opposite has been the case and this is directly linked to the public narrative and framing.

The evidence shows that scientific findings – as documented by the IPCC starting in 1990 – remained basically consistent in their description of cause, risk and the need to respond throughout the 1990s.

However, communication from Australian policy makers and the media changed dramatically during the same period –– from expressing good understanding and a will to take action, to a confused and conflicted debate with clear correlations to the national response.

Almost no-one remembers the high point of good understanding that occurred in October 1990. That was when the Federal Government under Bob Hawke established an interim emission reduction target for the nation to lower greenhouse gas emissions 20% below 1990 levels by 2005.

Detailed state and national response plans were established. They canvassed every strategy known today, from efficiency measures and renewable energy to a carbon tax and emissions trading scheme.

But these plans were destined to wither under national competition policy that deregulated the national energy sector to focus on sales and profits rather than “demand management”.

When our values changed, so did the climate change story

The record shows a pivotal change occurred in social values and beliefs that set the public agenda from the mid-1990s on. Politicians and the press gallery, rather than scientists, more and more determined the daily narrative of what was “real”.

Guiding these values were:

  • the narrowed economic options of Australia’s destiny as a resource quarry
  • beliefs in the potential for a greenhouse gas techno-fix (such as clean coal)
  • beliefs in the fundamental divide between the monetary economy and the natural environment, with the latter framed as a cost.

Underlying are beliefs that humans are exceptional and outside the ecological laws governing other species. Such beliefs are widely held in western Christianity and therefore easy to target with coded language.

In the 1990s we added a panoply of beliefs about markets and their ultimate efficiency (so we could not make industry more efficient), embedded in neo-liberal, economic rationalist teachings.

Disciplinary beliefs also played a role. A notable group has been geologists, many of whom were taught that only on-ground measurement and evidence – not future modelling – is valid. This helped explain the enduring sceptic fervour that has confused the public.

Also influential was the impact of scientists communicating degrees of “scientific uncertainty” in the public arena. This is a concept that lay audiences frequently interpret as “don’t know”, and which greatly aided those who don’t want action.

The frames of climate change: from risk management, to too risky

Climate change up to the early 1990s was framed by politicians of both major parties as risk management for everyone. They focussed on Australia being an ethical global citizen responsible to future generations. Responses were framed as “win-win” for the environment and for new jobs. This reflected international response at the time.

After 1991, Paul Keating – and later John Howard – were preoccupied with the economy. Climate change action went on the back burner in the bureaucracy, eventually completing the transition to “can’t do” under Howard.

The reframed narrative became that Australia is exceptional: if climate change science is real, Australia should commit to minimal response because our economy relies on cheap energy and coal exports and we are not about to change.

Politicians became adept during this period at framing these messages with warm emotional values of nation and family –– evoking “us” against the “them” of greenies, Europeans, and the United Nations. These were portrayed as elites and outsiders trying to rob us of our jobs and businesses.

Understanding the coded language of the changed narrative, how it was done, is a lot about how people take up information, and that is another story that emerged from my study.

While the science findings have stayed consistent since at least 1990, politicians and the media re-framed their communication, and that radically changed public knowledge about climate change and the will to respond. Thanks to this change, Australia has lost 20 years of potential action on emission reduction.

Maria Taylor does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

The Conversation

This article was originally published at The Conversation.
Read the original article.

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The era of vocal science denial: Big Bang denial and the search for truth (reprint)

A terrific article by Michael J. Brown from Monash University on the persistence of “big bang denial”. It makes an interesting comparison climate change denial, demonstrating that an individuals and values and beliefs can lead them to reject accepted science.

Ever since Edwin Hubble discovered the universe was expanding – and thus implying the universe had a beginning – there have been those who have challenged the evidence. This article originally appeared on The Conversation. Enjoy!

By Michael J. I. Brown, Monash University

We are living in an era of science denial. An era when well-established facts are disputed, fake experts are interviewed by the media and blog posts trump science papers.

It’s an era of vaccine denial, evolution denial, and of course, climate change denial.

I’d also add Big Bang denial to that list. Sure, it might be more esoteric than climate change denial, but it’s attracting increasing amounts of attention, thanks to the efforts of people such as US congressman Paul Broun, who declared late last year:

All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the Big Bang Theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell.

In living memory, the most vocal opposition to the Big Bang has gone from the realms of legitimate scientific debate to that of science denial.

The 100-inch (2.5 m) Hooker telescope at Mount Wilson Observatory that Edwin Hubble used to measure galaxy distances and a value for the rate of expansion of the universe. Wikimedia Commons

But how did this come to pass? What are the origins of Big Bang denial? And does it provides clues about the future of science denial generally?

Early debates

Today the Big Bang paradigm is supported by a plethora of observations:

  • the expansion of the universe measured with variable stars, supernovae and the distribution of galaxies
  • the faint microwave afterglow of the Big Bang fireball
  • the abundances of the light elements (such as hydrogen and helium), forged in the hot and dense furnace of the early universe
  • the young galaxies seen in the distant universe.

Even a tiny bit of the static seen on an analogue TV is from the afterglow of the Big Bang.

But in the 1940s there was far less to go on.

Einstein’s general theory of relativity was largely untested. Edwin Hubble had measured the expansion of the universe, but was grossly in error. Using Hubble’s data and the Big Bang theory, it seemed like the sun was older than the universe. And the original Big Bang paper was conceptually brilliant but technically flawed.

In this environment, other theories seemed equally plausible. Perhaps the universe was in a “steady state”, where new matter was created as the universe expanded. This seemed reasonable given the limited data available. Crucially, most theories made robust predictions about what astronomers might have observed in the coming decades.

Eureka! An image of the cosmic microwave background from WMAP. WMAP Science Team, NASA.

Breakthrough

In 1964 there was a Eureka moment. By accident, Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson discovered the microwave afterglow of the Big Bang. This afterglow simply hadn’t been predicted by other theories.

Edwin Hubble’s protege, Allan Sandage, improved measurements of the expanding universe, showing it was far older than Edwin Hubble supposed. And so the Big Bang theory was no longer conflicting with the age of the sun.

Most astronomers were increasingly convinced by the Big Bang theory, but a core of opposition remained.

Steady state theories were tweaked rather than abandoned. In the process some abandoned Ockham’s Razor, the idea that the simplest hypothesis that explains the data is the best. Often the tweaks were contrived, such as “iron whiskers” being spread across the universe by exploding stars.

Typically the tweaks came into conflict with data soon after their inception. For example, we can observe very distant galaxies and quasars at microwave wavelengths, but this would be impossible in a universe full of “iron whiskers”.

Some claimed the Big Bang theory could not explain “anomalies”, such as groups of quasars and galaxies that should have been at different distances. But the statistics were so poor that these “anomalies” could be explained via random alignments of nearby galaxies with distant quasars and gravitational lensing.

Extraordinary claims about the supposed failings of the Big Bang theory weren’t being backed by extraordinary evidence.

Repetition

Today, there is a wealth of data that is explained with the Big Bang paradigm. Astronomers and physicists still propose many new theories (e.g. quintessence), but most include an expanding universe with a Big Bang at its beginning.

The original Big Bang opponents are dead or old, but some persevere. Unfortunately, they often just repeat flawed theories and analyses from earlier decades, often ignoring well-established facts and newer research.

Astronomers have surveyed millions of galaxies and quasars, but many Big Bang opponents continue to focus on small samples with poor statistics. This is similar to the way vaccine opponents often rely on small studies and anecdotal evidence rather than large epidemiological studies which show the benefits of vaccines.

The inability of many Big Bang opponents to update their analyses and let go of disproved ideas now serves as a cautionary tale to younger scientists.

The distribution of galaxies in observations and simulations is remarkably similar, despite what Big Bang opponents claim. The Virgo Consortium

Denial

But now, a new generation of Big Bang opponents has risen. Often they have an amateur’s knowledge of astrophysics and strong ideological motivations, even if they have a background in science. They want the universe to conform with their preconceived ideas.

As a consequence, science denial can come from those at both extremes of the ideological spectrum. Young Earth creationists oppose the Big Bang because it makes the universe billions of years old. Even some atheists oppose the Big Bang because it has a creation event.

Big Bang opponents often ignore well-established evidence, and as a consequence they are publishing less and less in peer-reviewed science journals. Often the most vocal opposition to the Big Bang appears online in fringe journals and websites, where it can avoid astronomers’ difficult facts and criticism. This is also true of those opposing anthropogenic climate change, who publish just a tiny fraction of all peer-reviewed papers on climate.

The amateur Big Bang opponents make amateur’s mistakes and straw-man arguments are common. There are claims, for instance, that the distribution of quasar and galaxy distances isn’t explained by the Big Bang paradigm.

However, Big Bang opponents have not compared observations with predictions from theory and simulations, so these claims are baseless. When astronomers compare observations with simulations, there is no discrepancy between the data and the Big Bang paradigm.

Astronomers point out these mistakes time and time again. However, many Big Bang opponents reframe the criticism as scientists defending orthodoxy, rather than acknowledging the errors made.

According to the Big Bang model, the universe expanded from an extremely dense and hot state and continues to expand today. The image above is an artist’s concept illustrating the expansion of a portion of a flat universe.

Australian physicist (and Big Bang opponent) John Hartnett has stated:

The standard model is assumed to be correct and when evidence questioning that conclusion is found … a special effort was immediately made to show how it could still be explained in the standard model.

“Special effort” is an unjustified and strange choice of phrase. What matters is the fact that observations and theory simply agree.

Perception

The public perception of the Big Bang debate has changed with its protagonists. When opposition to the Big Bang is discussed, it is framed in terms of ideology rather than scientific debate.

US presidential hopeful Marco Rubio recently sidestepped a question in an interview with GQ about the age of the Earth, perhaps in an effort to court young Earth creationists. The resulting controversy focused on politics and theology, and the science was rarely questioned. Eventually Rubio clarified his answer, stating that the Earth is at least 4.5 billion years old.

Perhaps this is the end result of science denial – the media and public largely stop debating the science. Decades ago the smoking debate in the media was focused on the validity of the science. The science is no longer disputed in the media, and the debate has moved on to the politics of individual choices versus public health.

So what does the current state of Big Bang denial mean for the future? There are interesting parallels with the climate debate.

The tiny minority of climate scientists who are vocal critics of anthropogenic climate change are mostly over 50. Younger climate change deniers are often amateurs, bloggers and ideologues. The number of scientists questioning anthropogenic climate change is going to decrease in the coming decades.

Perhaps this is the good news about science denial. While science denial can influence public debates, this influence wanes without the backing of scientists. As elderly scientists fade from view and aren’t replaced by credible alternatives, the public debate will stop questioning the science.

To quote German Nobel Prize-winning physicist Max Planck:

A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.

Or, to paraphrase ever so slightly: “Science advances one funeral at a time.”

Michael J. I. Brown receives research funding from the ARC and Monash University.

The Conversation

This article was originally published at The Conversation.
Read the original article.

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War on the IPCC: on that leaked IPCC draft document

I’m not going to claim any prescience but some time ago I suggested the denial machine would begin its war on the credibility of the IPCC and its fifth assessment report due to be released in 2013.

In the past few days we’ve just witnessed the opening salvo in the denial machines attempt to undermine public confidence in the IPCC.

For those not up to speed, this is what transpired:

  • late last week climate sceptic blogger Alec Rawls got hold of draft versions of the IPCCs upcoming fifth report
  • Rawls breathlessly announced to the world that that IPCC admitted that “enhanced solar forcing” was the cause of recent warming.

In other words, Rawls claims the IPCC is admitting it’s the sun and not human activities – none of which is true. Journalist and blogger Graham Readfearn provides a good summary of what happened:

  • Rawls registered himself as a reviewer via online form – something any member of the public can do – obtained copies of the draft documents and leaked them to the internet
  • Rawls has misread, misinterpreted and cherry-picked the draft report.

There is an irony in this, as the actual conclusions of the draft report confirm that human influence on the climate is undeniable and is deeply concerning (for further commentary I’d also suggest the following article on The Conversation).

Of course all the usual suspects amongst the denial movement are salivating over the leaked documents. Sceptic blogger Anthony Watts is calls it “game changing” while Daily Telegraph blogger James Delingpole claims the IPCC has just admitted the “jigs up”.

None of which is true of course – they’ve merely cherry picked a single paragraph from the leaked document in order to mislead the public.

While it is impossible to know what motivated Rawls to sign up as a reviewer of the latest IPCC report, I’m going to make the assumption he did so with less than honourable intentions.

Weather he acted alone or in concert makes little difference – Rawls abused the process and undermined the IPCCs attempts to make itself more transparent.

All I can say is expect much more of these kind of tactics over the coming months.

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