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Sunday, March 1, 2015

Paranoia runs riot at CFACT and WUWT: conspiracy nuttery doesn't describe it

Sou | 6:19 PM 27 Comments - leave a comment


On WUWT today (archived here), Paul Driessen of CFACT, has gone overboard (putting it mildly). In a very strange article he has gone full on Godwin's Law (21st Century-style), comparing people who accept science to fundamentalist militant butchers from the middle east. Paul Driessen has featured here before (eg here). Today he wrote a piece that would make Christopher Monckton green with envy.

This is the headline and opening paragraph:
Climatic Jihad?
ISIL and other Islamist jihad movements continue to round up and silence all who oppose them or refuse to convert to their extreme religious tenets. They are inspiring thousands to join them. Their intolerance, vicious tactics and growing power seem to have inspired others, as well.

Weirdly, and in a display of religious ignorance, Anthony Watts accompanied an article based on the militant group ISIS, with a cartoon showing a character wearing a Christian bishops' mitre.

Applauding gratuitous violence as entertainment for the "justly righteous" at WUWT

Sou | 1:54 AM 19 Comments - leave a comment


I've just read at WUWT how David "funny sunny" Archibald is singing the praises of an ultra-violent film (archived here). And I thought that deniers at WUWT thought the 10:10 spoof (that went nowhere) was gross (it really was).

Apparently gratuitous and extreme violence, sick morals, sexism, unfunny jokes and a generally poor cinematic experience is viewed as wonderful entertainment, as long as it's disparaging anyone who cares for the environment.

If you want to know what I'm talking about, read the review from the Guardian or SBS - and then some of the user reviews here on IMDB.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Stormy Weather - and a recycled storm at WUWT

Sou | 10:22 PM 1 Comment so far

We've been getting quite a few fierce storms lately in my part of the world. The other day I drove through one of the worst wind/rain combos I've experienced in quite some time, although severe storms have been occurring more often here in the past few months.

Right now as I write this, there's a large and tumultuous storm over Melbourne. This is from the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) - archived here. It's heading west to east (left to right):



On Gateway Beliefs: And a tough question at WUWT that no-one could answer

Sou | 6:25 PM 4 Comments - leave a comment


A new paper by Sander L. van der Linden and colleagues has been published in the open access journal PLOS | One. It describes a 'gateway belief model' in the context of the scientific consensus on global warming.

This new paper is another one that finds that people will be more likely to accept the science of climate if they understand how much scientists agree on the subject. And in turn, they'll be more likely to support action to mitigate climate change once they understand the extent of agreement among scientists.

This article is another one that's a bit "too long". It's in two parts, so you can take your pick, if you're short of time. One part starts here at the top, or you can skip to the failure of denialists here :D

A short pause: Bob Tisdale thinks climate models are weather forecasts of the Northern Hemisphere

Sou | 3:53 AM 3 Comments - leave a comment


There's a new paper out in Science mag, which is another one looking at the so-called hiatus. This time it's from a different angle. The researchers, Byron A. Steinman, Michael E. Mann and Sonya K. Miller, were exploring climate models and observations in relation to natural variation. They studied surface temperature variations in the northern hemisphere over the past 150 years.


A temporary respite before more heat kicks in


The abstract sums up the research. The study suggests the supposed pause is merely a coincidence of two features of natural oceanic fluctuations - a peak in the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) and a strongly negative-trending Pacific Multidecadal Oscillation (PMO). That it is the combined effect of these (in other words, natural variability) that partly offset the ongoing greenhouse warming.

The paper suggests that it may not be long before we get a lot hotter.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Double standards at WUWT. When is a witch hunt a witch hunt?

Sou | 6:35 PM 20 Comments - leave a comment

Anthony Watts' blog WUWT is known for inconsistency, its collation of pseudo-science claptrap from around the climate deniosphere, attacks on climate scientists and double standards. I've not posted much from there the past few days because I've been busy. Also because many of the recent WUWT articles are bemoaning a witch hunt, or what passes for a witch hunt at WUWT.

Are climate contrarians witches?


So what is the WUWT definition of a witch hunt? Is it the endless requests for personal emails by right wing lobby groups that Anthony Watts frequently hails on his blog? Is it court cases to push for release of personal emails from climate scientists, like of Michael Mann here and here and here and lots more. Is it harassment of James Hansen to list all his payments from speaking engagements - like here?

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Confirming (again) the CO2 greenhouse effect - but WUWT doesn't like it

Sou | 9:17 PM 12 Comments - leave a comment


There's a new paper out in Nature, by Daniel Feldman and his colleagues, in which they describe how they've measured the contribution of CO2 to radiative forcing at the surface. The measurements were taken in Alaska and Oklahoma. This is not something that's easy to do. It is not straightforward. There are lots of things that happen in the lower atmosphere and at the surface. The scientists managed to extract the signal of radiative forcing from CO2 from that of other things that affect spectral measurements.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Fake outrage: Anthony Watts falsely smears while complaining about smears

Sou | 4:38 PM 36 Comments - leave a comment

Who'd a thought it. Anthony Watts, who makes blog pocket money by smearing climate scientists and others, has published an article by Kip Hansen, saying he is "so sickened by this that I really don’t care to discuss it". The "this" being the latest publicity given to Willie Soon and his funding sources. Anthony is painting this as a poor little denier fighting a corrupted climate science. The mainstream media is painting it as a scientist possibly being corrupted by funding sources.


The chicken or the egg?


The issues are being mixed up quite a bit around the few traps I've visited. One of the central issues is funding sources. The implication is that Willie Soon is writing papers that suit the interests of his funders. That he has tailored his results to suit their perceived interests.

You could turn it around the other way, and argue that his funding sources like the general tenor of his research and stance on climate science, and therefore send funds his way.

I've already made some comments in another thread that science is judged by science, not by who pays for it. As I see it, the issue at hand can be summarised as follows:
  • Willie Soon is used by some lobby groups in their efforts to dispute AGW.
  • Willie Soon has received a lot of research funding from fossil fuel companies, right wing lobby groups and Donors Trust.
  • The question is being asked about whether or not Willie Soon has declared all his funding sources when he should have, as required by many scientific journals. This is the conflict of interest question.
  • Willie Soon's published research relating to climate is generally not regarded as good science.

This isn't a new issue. It's just resurfaced. As I see it, the current spate of articles are mainly intended to highlight Willie Soon's funding sources. The "smear" being the implication that if one receives substantial research funds from fossil fuel companies or organisations representing right wing interests (Donors Trust), then that research is suspect. 

It has long been known that Willie Soon's funding sources include parties that are keen to deny climate science. The extent of this funding has been revealed by FOI requests.  The point of some of these articles is not so much that he that he received this funding, but whether or not he consistently failed to declare these funding sources when he should have. (Some people argue that his recent paper with Monckton etc should have indicated funding sources. Soon says it was done in his own time. It boils down to "he said" "he said". The paper was so silly there's not much point making a fuss about it.)


Irony indeed: Anthony Watts falsely smears while complaining about smears


What I find ironic, in this case, is that Anthony Watts posted an article by Kip Hansen who sez that he is "sickened" by the "smear" and doesn't "care to discuss it". Anthony Watts wasn't so "sickened" - in an earlier article the same day (archived here), Anthony wrote:

Smear campaign: “His judgment cometh and that right soon”
The title is a quote from the framed embroidery over the Warden’s wall safe in the movie The Shawshank Redemption, which is a story about one man fighting the corruption of the penal system at the hands of the warden, who was using his position to profit, bully, and murder. Since the quote turned out to be wildly ironic, I thought it was appropriate for what’s happening to Dr. Willie Soon at the hand of green activists and the compliant media. I often think of the warden as a figurehead for people like Dr. Lawrence Torricello, who once called for the death of climate skeptics.

"Wildly ironic" indeed. Anthony Watts is trying to paint Willie Soon as the martyr - fighting some mythical "corruption". That's how Anthony Watts is portraying Willie Soon. It won't stand up. Presumably Anthony will acknowledge that Soon's "fight" is against facts, and is being paid for by vested interests, including some fossil fuel companies, right wing lobby groups and the shady Donors Trust.

Since Anthony called on wild irony, let me point out another supreme irony in that paragraph of his. Anthony again "smears" Lawrence Torcello (and doesn't even get his name right) - completely misrepresenting what he wrote in an article at the Conversation - again.

In fact, Anthony and others so successfully lied about and "smeared" Professor Torcello that it resulted in hundreds of emails ("upwards of 700"), including some very nasty threats. Some of these would have been a direct result of a call by Anthony Watts for deniers to write to Professor Torcello's university, as I described here.

Dr Torcello did not call for the "death of climate skeptics". The closest he came was writing: "an organised campaign funding misinformation ought to be considered criminally negligent". How many countries sentence the "criminally negligent" to death? And "climate skeptics" are not necessarily "an organised campaign funding misinformation". They are the target of such a campaign.

Maybe Anthony sees himself as part of "an organised campaign funding misinformation" - although he is more likely to be a recipient of funds than a funder. (Can you imagine Anthony Watts, the cyberpanhandler, giving his hard-begged funds away? He's often putting his hand out, and rarely delivers).

Which leads us back to the funding issue.


The Smithsonian Institution wants to get the facts straight


The Soon matter is reportedly being looked into by the Smithsonian Institution. The Smithsonian doesn't have any requirement for people to declare their funding sources, but it does expect it's affiliates and staff members to comply with the requirements of the journals they publish in.

As well as the New York Times and the Guardian writing about the story, Jeff Tollefson has an article about this in Nature. He reports about the Smithsonian Institution:
The institution has no explicit policy requiring its researchers to disclose funding sources when they publish, says CfA director Charles Alcock, but they are expected to comply with journal rules, which typically require that authors report potential conflicts of interest.
“We want to get the facts straight,” says Alcock. “If there is evidence of failure to disclose, yes, we have a problem.”


Declaration of funding sources and questionable research


On the matter of questionable research, the Nature article refers to the infamous paper by Willie Soon and Sallie Baliunas. Some editors of the journal that published that paper, Climate Research, resigned over the fiasco. Incidentally, the declaration on that disputed paper reads:
Acknowledgements. This work was supported by funds from the American Petroleum Institute (01-0000-4579), the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (Grant AF49620-02-1-0194) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Grant NAG5-7635). The views expressed herein are those of the authors and are independent of the sponsoring agencies. We have benefitted greatly from the true and kind spirit of research communications (including a preview of their thoughts) with the late Jean Grove (who passed away on January 18, 2001), Dave Evans, Shaopeng Huang, Jim Kennett,
Yoshio Tagami and Referee #3. We thank John Daly, Diane Douglas-Dalziel, Craig and Keith Idso for their unselfish contributions to the references. We also thank the Editor, Chris de Freitas, for very helpful editorial changes that improved the manuscript. We are very grateful to Maria McEachern, Melissa Hilbert, Barbara Palmer and Will Graves for invaluable library help, and both Philip Gonzalez and Lisa Linarte for crucial all-around help.

I also see that Willie Soon has declared his funding sources on some other papers, too. For example, in this paper published in GRL, he writes:
I thank Igor Polyakov for kind access to his Arctic SAT data, Peter Frick for sharing his insights and programs on wavelet transform, and Gene Avrett and David R. Legates for comments. I further thank Julia Pham and Benjamin Soon for motivation. Both referees offered helpful suggestions for significant improvements. This scientific research was supported by generous grants from the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, American Petroleum Institute, and Exxon-Mobil Corporation. The views expressed herein are solely those of the author and are independent of sources providing support.

On the other hand, there is no declaration of funding sources in this 2013 paper in the (low impact factor) Journal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics. (The paper is mainly cited by various contrarians and science deniers, so it got no traction.) That journal does require disclosure as follows:
Conflict of interest
All authors are requested to disclose any actual or potential conflict of interest including any financial, personal or other relationships with other people or organizations within three years of beginning the submitted work that could inappropriately influence, or be perceived to influence, their work. See also http://www.elsevier.com/conflictsofinterest. Further information and an example of a Conflict of Interest form can be found at: http://help.elsevier.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/286/p/7923.

The extent to which there is a "failure to disclose" on the part of Willie Soon has yet to be determined. Regardless, the publicity has once again brought his funding sources to light. The "by association" may well influence people who otherwise aren't in a position to assess the scientific merits or otherwise of Willie Soon's work.

To my way of thinking, the implied argument that Willie Soon's research was made to order for the funding bodies is too much like the denier argument that scientists only say what the government wants to hear. (Which is nonsense - there isn't a government in the world that wouldn't want global warming to go away). I doubt anyone will be able to categorically determine motivation. It requires mind-reading. His climate research is questionable at best and much of it has been shown to be flawed. (Which came first - the flawed science or the funding?)

Other scientists have received funding from some of the same sources. Think the Berkeley Earth temperature reconstruction, which received a fair whack from Koch. If that research had found something different would it have been because of the funding source? Or would scientists have decided its merits or otherwise on the strength of the work itself?


The real issue


To my mind, the problem is not so much Willie Soon's published papers, but any influence he might have in the deniosphere. (Many of the few climate papers he's had published are in journals that are not highly regarded. Many of his citations are by himself or other "contrarians".) Even in relation to his talks, I'd question whether anyone takes any notice, except for the denialati. Yes, he's called on by the deniers in the Republican Party - but so is Judith Curry, Roy Spencer, John Christy and others who the deniers among the Republicans probably think are willing to distort scientific facts.

This latest attempt to taint Willie Soon's name may be effective, or not. It will depend on whether or how often he has not declared interest when he should have. If he has declared interest in most of the cases he should have, then that particular line of argument will have gone nowhere. If he hasn't, maybe the Smithsonian will take action.

At the end of the day, it's the flaws in Willie Soon's utterances at his speaking engagements and his research publications that need to be highlighted if one is to show that he's not anyone worth listening to.

As Gavin Schmidt wrote at RealClimate.org almost four years ago:

... the real issue is not how he gets paid, but the quality of his science

Monday, February 23, 2015

Cyclonic conspiracies at WUWT

Sou | 2:46 AM 31 Comments - leave a comment

Anthony Watts recently posted another article (archived here) by one of his WUWT readers, Eric Worrall. Eric was writing about a Sydney Morning Herald article about tropical cyclones in Australia, after TC Marcia made landfall in Queensland.

Eric's blog article showed that he doesn't read much if any climate science. His article appeared under the headline:
Unsubstantiated Claim Over One Cyclone: Climate Change is “Expanding the Tropics”

The headline was wrong. First of all, the "claim" wasn't just "over one cyclone". Secondly, the fact that climates are shifting poleward is not unsubstantiated. There were references substantiating this in the WUWT article under the headline, and in the SMH article on which the WUWT article was based, and there is lots about this in the scientific literature.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Climate science as portrayed by a disinformer, Christopher Essex

Sou | 10:39 AM 83 Comments - leave a comment


Here's a test for you, denier style. Can you pick an ice age from this chart?



Anthony Watts has posted a video of a lecture that Chris Essex gave to a crowd of deniers (archived here). (Well, I don't know if there was a crowd there or if he was giving his talk to an empty room.) I didn't get as far as his main point, which apparently is a strange claim that climate can't be modeled. He's wrong, of course. Climate is being modeled - and amazingly well, if you ask me. Scientists are now working on the next phase of climate modeling - CMIP6.

I watched the first few minutes of the video. Chris doesn't strike me as a deep thinker. Or maybe it's just that he thought he was talking to a bunch of nincompoops.


Chris Essex on consensus


Here is one of his choice quotes:
Scientific thinking is about things and political thinking is about what other people are doing so they are very different things. So consensus is the wrong way to think about a scientific question.

Yep, you can disregard all that scientists have found out about physics, chemistry and biology - after all, scientific knowledge gets built up on what is agreed as existing knowledge (ie consensus). Therefore it must all be a giant hoax. Not.


Chris Essex on the temperature of Earth


Chris showed a picture of a thermometer in a shoe box and said that's how people think about climate. "well, there's just one thermometer and we know that it's got to heat up" - Huh?

He went on to claim insight into people's minds:
".. in people's minds what the earth is, is really this one giant hot brick that's floating in orbit around the earth (sic), and its got one temperature and that's that's that's basically what's happening." (video link)


"They" will never show you a thermometer...


He continues, talking about "they" (in the style of the conspiracy theorist):
If that's true then there should be something called the global thermometer. One of the things that you'll never ever see in any of the temperature plots that they have (is) a thermometer. So they will never show you a thermometer, what they will show you is, show you is a small variation over time in so-called temperature. And it will be in tenths of a degree. And what that is is not actually measured in terms of temperature like degrees Celsius kind of temperature but, ah, it's always a deviation from some average which is usually a 30-year average, and that's called an anomaly coordinate. So it's not an actual temperature. So what I'm going to show you... (video link)

And Chris proceeded to put up photos of thermometers to demonstrate how he can't tell the difference between the average global surface temperatures in 1988, 1998 and 2014.



Neither could you, is the message from Chris! It's no big deal that the earth is warming up.

For comparison, here is a chart of global surface temperature changes over the past 134 years. I've marked the years 2014, 1998 and 1988 to help Chris out. I'll even throw in a thermometer, since he complains of never seeing one on a temperature plot :)


Data Source: NASA


 "Why does Chris Essex use the Celsius scale?" you might ask. Why not use Kelvin?

Let's go back to the question I started with. Were you able to tell the difference between now and the last glacial maximum?




I wonder if Christopher Essex can tell the difference?

Now let's see if you can tell the difference going back 500 million years.



What does the above chart show? It shows most of the Phanerozoic eon from the hottest hothouse periods to the cold ice ages. It covers the Paleozoic, Mesozoic, and Cenozoic eras. It shows the period covering what are known as the five major extinctions.

It's quite fascinating to see how science deniers view the surface temperature changes on Earth. It does make you wonder why so many deniers are scared stiff of an ice age comething, doesn't it.

I watched a little bit more of the video and decided it wasn't worth continuing. Chris was merely pontificating about how he doesn't "believe" climate science. And I think he geared his talk to children aged three or less (most of whom would have left the room after about three minutes, from boredom, or from annoyance at the childish approach.)

BTW Christopher Essex teaches maths at the University of Western Ontario, in between pretending to be some sort of "expert" for the Heartland Institute, "advising" the Global Warming Policy Foundation and generally denying climate science. He is also listed as the Chairman and sole member of the Climatology Panel of some mickey mouse "organisation" that grandly calls itself the "World Federation of Scientists".

AGU Fall Meeting 2014



Click here for instructions on how to view the 2014 AGU Fall Meeting sessions, how to navigate the program, plus more. (This notice will remain as a sticky for reference.)