Thursday, January 15, 2009

Fear of Global Warming Alarmists

One of the global warming deniers who writes in the Protein Wisdom pub (and perhaps occasionally in the comment section of Climate Audit if it's the same woman) has referred me in my comment section to her writings on global warming and those who study it, and asked me to answer. On her own head be it.

She acknowledges being unable to analyze the raw data herself. While I can't do this either, sometimes when I have read what both sides say about each other, it is possible to form an opinion. She applies a different method. She alleges that a few of the people studying global warming have done dishonest things, then states that they wouldn't have had to do these things if they had scientific truth on their side, so she has proven all the scientists studying global warming wrong without even mentioning their arguments! Some people would consider that an argumentum ad hominem, but that can't be, because she warns me:

Bring it on. I can defend myself against any honest argument. But if you descend into argumentum ad hominem or any other logical fallacy, I will hand you your head.

Or did I misunderstand? Did she mean she's OK in ordinary argument but much better than me in an ad hominem contest? Even though she talks about a politician, I dare not say anything about Bush or Imofe, whom not even all conservatives consider trustworthy. I've been warned she's an expert. I won't even mention Fred Singer or Richard Lindzen.

So OK, let's look at what she wrote:

1. If you have scientific truth on your side, you have no need to…:

a. …lie or misdirect to make your case. Yet Inconvenient Truth is riddled with lies. The infamous cherry-picker scene shows a chart that actually shows exactly the opposite of what Gore says it does. I read the original article, so I can verify this myself.

I've heard legitimate suggestions that book is misleading on certain points. This isn't one of them. Does the chart by any chance show that the Earth started to warm slightly before Co2 started to increase? That is what all the models predict. I've never heard a claim that rising Co2 is the only thing that can ever start the temperature of the Earth increasing. Is she saying the chart proves that the Co2 doesn't contribute to further warming after the initial impetus? How?

b. …conceal your data and methodologies. And yet James Hanson, Michael Mann, and others either fail entirely to archive their data or they refuse to let others analyze it.

Stephen McIntyre's has a blog called Climate Audit. He's made some penetrating criticisms of several scientists. He argues that the data archiving and sharing protocols used in several climate studies are outdated, that they might have been reasonable a few decades ago, but are insufficient now that much more is dependent on these studies. He compares these protocols unfavorably to those in industry.

What he doesn't do is imply that there has been dishonesty or bad faith of the sort that would let us reject the work of the scientists involved without reviewing it, on the grounds of personal dishonesty. If I'm wrong I'd be interested to see where he suggests this. Otherwise, perhaps Dicentra should consider following his example.

c. …stubbornly refuse to correct your mistakes. Michael Mann has been warned by the NSA to stop using certain data sets (strip-bark bristlecones, for example), and yet he continues to use them. McIntyre has also found egregious and yet easily correctable errors in his work, and yet Mann keeps propagating these errors in study after study.

There may be some legitimate debate about the bristlecones. The misleading thing here is the implication that Michael Mann has just ignored all the problems his critics have claimed. Discussing both sides does not require reading the original data.

The issue is not simple. Here's a sample of the other side. I'm not ready to write about the whole thing, I just want to show the implication that Dr. Mann is using the same data while ignoring all questions about it is simplistic.

What is your position on the Bristlecone Pines?
(I’m referring to MM’s suggestion that they are in some way anomalous)

[Response: Thanks for the question. Much has been written on the potential influence of non-climatic factors in recent centuries (potentially associated with co2 effects) on the growth pattern of certain high elevation drought stressed trees such as the Bristlecone Pines you refer to. In Mann et al (1999) [Mann, M.E., Bradley, R.S. and Hughes, M.K., Northern Hemisphere Temperatures During the Past Millennium: Inferences, Uncertainties, and Limitations, Geophysical Research Letters, 26, 759-762, 1999], an attempt was made to remove these potential non-climatic influences. This was done by subtracting the anomalous pattern of growth that emerges over the past couple centuries in these chronologies relative to other tree-ring chronologies that otherwise exhibit very similar patterns of growth back in time, but which are unlikely to be influenced by the same non-climatic factors. More discussion of these issues (and references to relevant past work) can be found in the paper. -Mike]

Isn’t it a bit wrong to use the the word ‘independent’ [above]?
-If the various reconstructions use a common core of proxies, they wouldnt seem to be statistically independent to me -not that I am a statistician.

[Response: No, its an appropriate description. Several of the reconstructions that have been performed are based on entirely independent proxy data and entirely independent methodologies. Other reconstructions use a small number of common series but an independent methodology. None of the reconstructions use largely the same dataset, or precisely the same methodology. -Mike]

One more point is enough for now. We seem to be skipping around a lot.

d. …refuse to engage in open debate with skeptics. James Hanson famously said that he would not “joust with jesters” when asked whether he would debate his detractors.

What? After all the talk in your comment about the scientific method? Do you believe a televised debate is relevant to proving or disproving a scientific theory or not?

To be continued, if not in my next post, in the next week or so.


dicentra63 said...


I posted my response here

because it's easier to read than your narrow columns and black background.

Serr8d said...

No kidding there, man. That black - neon look is so out of style.

Just as are AlGore's pet hate-America-first attempts to drag the US down to a more equitable (read: 'fair', in the world's eyes) economic plane.

(Moderation, eh? Masturbate, much?)