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#TalkAboutIt: Climate change sceptics versus the scientists (correcting ABC mistakes, strawmen, and misleading lines)

#TalkAboutIt: Climate change sceptics versus the scientists, By Clara Tran and staff


Busy slaying strawmen instead of real debate?

What a facade. The ABC says its skeptics versus “the scientists” except there are no skeptics present. In typical Newspeak the ABC says “#TalkAboutIt”, but it’s a conversation with themselves. They invent “DorothyDixer” strawman questions for their own team to bravely kill.

If the ABC really wanted their listeners to discuss skeptical views, they would invite skeptics to make them — but interviews are a thing of the past (back in the days when the ABC was an institution of repute). The fake debate is the only kind that professors like Matthew England can win.

This is why the ABC fails so dismally to dint skeptical numbers in Australia. If they want to convince skeptics of their point of view then they have to deal with actual skeptical arguments, but they are too afraid to air them. Consequently they sideline themselves out of the national debate, relegated to the propaganda wars.

Correcting the ABC:

Skeptical Scientists versus The Unskeptical

The ABC offers arguments allegedly made by climate skeptics, all of them minor and of little consequence (short version first, more depth below):

Claim 1: Global warming is not happening because it is cold

Pure hypocrisy. Mirror the message: Global warming is happening because it’s hot. Haven’t we heard that before? The day that Matthew England or the ABC publicly complain about alarmist scientists who attribute single storms, floods, hot days, and reckless fish to carbon dioxide, we’ll start to take him seriously. Leading skeptics do not use this argument, but you won’t find what skeptics do say on their ABC.

Claim 2: Climate has changed throughout the Earth’s history

The banal truth. There is no state of “Climate Sameness”.

Kurt Lambeck bravely decrees that sea levels were the same for 6,000 years despite the evidence. Seas have been falling around Australia for longer, and rising and falling by one metre in the Maldives for example. A thousand tide gauge measurements show sea levels are only rising at about 1mm a year. The raw satellite data agreed, until it was “corrected” and a 3mm  rise was created by adjustments.

Last time Lambeck made this flat-for-6000-year claim it was based on “modeled” estimates of sea levels back to 4000BC. (If we can model those seas so well, why do we bother with measurements and gauges at all?) But Lambeck’s sea level data has error bars ten meters wide. Seriously. (See the graphs).

Claim 3: Human emissions are tiny compared to natural CO2

Again, the banal, undeniable truth — human emissions are 4% of natural ones. Prof England does not even try to suggest that this is incorrect (nor does the ABC mention, shh, the 4% fact). What can they say?

First up, we get served the usual eye-candy-photo, the classic agitprop shot of steam-pretending-to-be-CO2. Look Mum! It’s “pollution”. Second up, check the caption: Photo: The energy sector reportedly makes up about 76 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

In the context of a debate about natural versus man-made emissions, how many ABC readers will come away misinformed? The caption implies human emissions are larger than natural ones. In the context of man-v-nature, why highlight the irrelevant sub-parts of man-made emissions at all? Corrected it would read: “the energy sector makes 76 per cent 3% of the world’s CO2 emissions”. It’s only inflated 2500%.

To raise the inanity score even further, technically, if we are talking about all greenhouse gases (that’s what they said), then water vapor rules — and emissions from the world’s oceans blast those percentage points into decimal oblivion.

Claim 4: Scientists are creating panic in order to get funding

Prof England says it’s absurd, because scientists are angels (or something like that), since they seek the truth, and are only after Nobel Prizes. I’m thinking we don’t need to pay them then, if the money is irrelevant?

But if money did have any influence, billions of dollars have been paid to find and assess a man-made crisis. There is also a 1.5 trillion dollar climate industry dependent on it, but almost no specific funding for skeptical scientists. There is no government funding to audit reports from the foreign committee called the IPCC (and, by strange coincidence, no government funded scientists have done it voluntarily).

As usual, the ABC represents the vested interests, governments and corporations, and works against the volunteers and taxpayers. Why do conservatives put up with it?

England says the person who finds a flaw will get a Nobel. Nice fantasy (should we put it to the test?). Look at Bjorn Lomborg. Forget any prize — in Australia Lomborg can’t even get an office. He believes the IPCC science and comes with $4m in funding, yet can’t work in Australia because university students have been trained to howl in “disgust” and protest until weak Vice Chancellors cave in.

Skeptics don’t get prizes from officialdom. Instead they get exiled, stranded at airports, sacked, harassed from committees, their children’s work may be targeted, they lose their professorships, and even their email accounts. (One time the ABC came to our house to interview us, but they left out the data we presented, and edited in sentences that were never said — and we can prove it, because we filmed it.) If somehow skeptics get any government funding at all, they may be subject to intrusive witchhunts from Congressional Committees, and onerous FOI’s, which universities handle in a biased one-sided manner. England lives in his fantasy land where sensible well trained scientists would work hard to prove the theory wrong then loudly announce their skepticism — but in the real world their only reward is to be called “deniers” and have their careers wrecked.

Claim 5: Antarctic sea ice is growing

Antarctic Sea Ice IS growing. See the Cryosphere satellite data. Doesn’t really fit the narrative, does it? Clara Tran and staff find a few post hoc excuses for the growth in sea ice that went entirely against the models, without admitting the models were utterly wrong (Previdi and Polvani 2014[1]). Some things can never be said.

Dr Jan Lieser from the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre said sea ice growth was a symptom of global warming.

Growing sea-ice wasn’t a “symptom” of global warming until after the sea-ice grew. But that’s always how witch-doctoring works. Whatever happens, it’s now a symptom. Except science is meant to predict things.

Matthew England goes on to imply only a small sector of Antarctic sea ice is expanding, when the record ice growth applies to the ice around a lot of the continent, not just the Ross sea.  Then he drags in the Arctic and Greenland as if they have something to do with Antarctic Sea Ice and finishes up with a mindless tobacco analogy. He sees skeptics as dying smokers, which says a lot about him and his ability to reason.


A climate debate on TV,
As appearing on ABC,
Is a biased affair,
With the skeptics not there,
To allow them to disagree.



How many ways can one article be wrong — there’s more

Serious climate skeptics have better arguments. They say global warming has been happening for the last three centuries, is mostly natural, and point out that the 18 year global pause and the missing hotspot show that the climate models are wrong — and that climate scientists don’t know what drives the climate. Matthew England and the ABC have no good answers to these points, which is why they don’t discuss them.

Claim 1: Global warming is not happening because it is cold

Strawman coming:

“The idea that global warming is over because you encounter a cold day is a very common mistake people make,” said Matthew England, climate scientist from the University of New South Wales and a fellow at the Australian Academy of Science.

Behold the hypocrites. If we mirror the statement we see how mindless it is. Global warming is happening because it’s hot.  Not only do the ABC never protest that, they can wait barely a few paragraphs before using it themselves:

…And this week it announced July was the warmest month since record-keeping began in 1880, with 2015 shaping up to beat last year’s mark.

Does one hot month make a climate trend, or it is just weather? In any case, it’s not even true. Does one ordinary month make a press release? Apparently so. Satellites are more accurate at recording temperatures, and both global datasets show that July 2015 was the hottest July since July 2014. If ABC “reporters” interviewed skeptics they might be able to do more than cut and paste government press releases. Gullibility is so unbecoming in a journalist. They would also find out how these surface records have uncertainties larger than the “records”. ABC viewers/listeners/readers are going to feel a tad cheated as they find out that surface measurements depend on mystery adjustments that are not independently audited and sometimes use thermometers over car parks and near air conditioners. And they will find out.

England makes the claim that The Pause has stopped. He’s made weak post hoc explanations about trade-winds causing the pause, but he can’t predict the trade-winds. He doesn’t have the honesty to admit the skeptics were right, that the models exaggerate and fail to contain important factors. Nor does he admit that if trade winds sometimes cause cooling, the absence of them would sometimes cause warming — did that happen earlier?

Other claims that the pause has stopped depend on assuming that ocean heat is still rising and that we can measure those temperatures to one hundreth of a degree with a single thermometer per 250,000 cubic kilometers of ocean. Still others (Karl et al) claim  we should ignore the best ocean data and correct poor data sets with estimates that have error bars 17 times larger than the estimate. This is more like witch-doctoring than science.

Claim 2: Climate has changed throughout the earth’s history

Essentially the Global Worrier response to this is that past changes were all smaller than now, except for ice ages which are caused by orbital shifts.  For the sake of reminding people what variability looks like, here’s the last 12,000 years in Vostok Antarctica graphed below, no ice age involved. In contrast, the last 30 years of satellite measured temperatures over Antarctica shows a flat nothing, no change, during which time CO2 has risen “dangerously” past a hundred tipping points, and whole campaigns have run solid begging us to worry that Antarctica is melting “like never before”.

For England’s point to be right about calculating “forcings” meaningfully, climate models would need to be accurate enough to predict those moves below. He might protest that climate models don’t need to understand regional changes like this because they are looking at global averages, but the GCMs (big computerized climate models) estimate the regions, then add up the mistakes to get the global average.

Vostok ice cores

Matthew England seems to think the models understand the climate — this sentence is all about modeled forcings:

“If you look at the ‘forcings’ we’re applying today, and the rate of change in the climate system, this change that we’re imposing with greenhouse gases is about a thousand-fold the size of the change we had from these orbital shifts.

But the models can’t predict past climate variations. There are nearly a million years out of the last million where the models couldn’t calculate the global temperature from the orbital “forcings”. The climate models don’t predict the Medieval Warm Period, the Roman warming, or the Minoan, or any of the scores of unnamed blips on the graph. If carbon dioxide levels were so steady until the last century or two, and orbital forcings are so puny, then why did the temperatures vary so much in the preceding few centuries?

They even have a misleading name for the recent temperature changes that their climate models cannot predict: “natural variability”. Climate models fail to predict or explain the current 18-year pause, during which time humans emitted one third of all carbon emissions in the whole of history — “oh the natural variability is temporarily overwhelming the carbon forcing”. Well that’s one way of saying it.

The caption on the photo is entirely fanciful:

Photo: Most of the climate changes in the past are attributed to very small variations in the Earth’s orbit. (AFP: Romeo Gacad)
Most of the really big shifts might be explained partially with orbital mechanics, but piddling little one degree variations like we’ve had in the last century have been occurring since before there were humans and none of the CO2-driven models can possibly hindcast them (which means explain why each bump occurred).

England seems to think the climate models depend on basic physics, rather than mostly on guesses about how clouds, humidity and ice cover will respond to extra CO2 or extra warming.

Claim 3: Human emissions are tiny compared to natural CO2

Apart from deceptive captions (see above), the only “point” made was that over the USA the EPA estimates that human emissions are 82% of the total emissions. So what? The USA covers only 2% of the surface of the Earth.

The other wasted paragraphs merely say what we all know — CO2 levels are rising. Whether or not humans are entirely responsible for the rise (and it’s debatable), temperatures rose just as fast when CO2 was “ideal” (e.g. 1680 to 1900), and temperatures ought have been rising in the last 18 years according to the CO2 hypothesis but haven’t. We don’t even understand where fossil fuel emissions are going. Forest fires may  produce half as much CO2 as all fossil fuels burned. Every year, natural CO2 variation dwarfs man-made input. Nothing fits.

Claim 4: Scientists are creating panic in order to get funding

Obviously, only government funded scientists can find the Truth, not independent unpaid scientists with no vested interests.

If they [skeptics] could disprove the physics of the greenhouse effect …

Note the distracting strawman… “disprove the physics”. This debate is not about infrared spectroscopy, it’s about modeled feedbacks,  which observations show are not happening. The main skeptics are not arguing about basic physics, they are debating the way it’s applied to the climate system.

Claim 5: Antarctic sea ice is growing

England tosses an irrelevant crumb — a strawman, pretending the skeptics are talking about a small part of Antarctica:

Professor England said it was the Ross Sea sector, a very small region in the Antarctic, where sea ice is expanding.

The cryosphere satellite data shows the sea-ice is at a record for the sea ice around a lot of the continent. It’s not about the “Ross Sea”, it’s about “Antarctica”.

England claims Antarctic ice sheets are shrinking too, but doesn’t give us the full story — that different methods of measuring the Antarctic ice mass disagree about whether it’s shrinking or expanding, and satellite temperatures show it isn’t warming. In short, in Antarctica there is not too much to panic about — the sea ice is at record highs, the temperatures are not warming, the ice sheet is slightly expanding or slightly shrinking (no one is sure), and the only parts that are definitely warming or melting are over volcanoes. The ice sheet is behaving in ways that appear to be just normal Antarctic variability over the last 800 years.

Having failed to come up with a single reasonable argument, England is left with nothing but the sea-ice-is-like-a-cigarette smear, because if you smoke penguins, you’ll get cancer, if you know what I mean. He’s doing word association games and ignoring the evidence:

So all of the world’s cyrosphere is ringing out the alarm bells, the ice is melting rapidly, globally.”

An analogy for this climate scepticism could be “somebody who smokes cigarettes,” Professor England said.

Skeptics points are like the healthy fingernail of a dying smoker, says England. Not hardly, says Jo. The problems with the models are crippling — just don’t mention the 28 million radiosondes, the satellites, Argo buoys, 6000 boreholes, hundreds of paleolithic proxies, and the radar altimetry.

It’s models and witch-doctors versus empirical reality.

Will they fix it? Some people correct their errors and apologize for mistakes

Matthew England has a history of unscientific exaggeration, saying things that are demonstrably false. In 2012, he told Australians on national tv that the 1990 IPCC projections were “very accurate”, but the data from all the recognized global data sets shows the actual temperature rises fell below even the lowest predictions. When I pointed out the error with exact numbers and exact quotes, he replied with weak excuses. I responded with more graphs and exact quotes. Despite that, he still has not apologized to Nick Minchin or Australian taxpayers.  Does accuracy matter?


[1] Previdi, M. and Polvani, L. M. (2014), Climate system response to stratospheric ozone depletion and recovery. Q.J.R. Meteorol. Soc.. doi: 10.1002/qj.233

h/t to David B and Mal R Thanks.

Strawman image adapted from wikimedia — author Chaluco.  Carnival in Lantz.

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