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Friday, February 21, 2014

"Rum is Sailor Food" - Dr Richard McNider and Dr. John Christy a tiny minority of shoddy scientists

Sou | 9:33 AM Go to the first of 36 comments. Add a comment

John Kerry said recently in Indonesia (my bold italics):
First and foremost, we should not allow a tiny minority of shoddy scientists and science and extreme ideologues to compete with scientific fact. Nor should we allow any room for those who think that the costs associated with doing the right thing outweigh the benefits. There are people who say, “Oh, it’s too expensive, we can’t do this.” No. No, folks. We certainly should not allow more time to be wasted by those who want to sit around debating whose responsibility it is to deal with this threat, while we come closer and closer to the point of no return.
I have to tell you, this is really not a normal kind of difference of opinion between people. Sometimes you can have a reasonable argument and a reasonable disagreement over an opinion you may have. This is not opinion. This is about facts. This is about science. The science is unequivocal. And those who refuse to believe it are simply burying their heads in the sand.
You can read the full speech in Business Green here.

There is also a short interview on ABC radio here.

John Kerry sees the big picture but gets the science wrong

John Kerry made some gaffes, describing the greenhouse effect as a very thin layer on the edge of the atmosphere, perhaps confusing it with the ozone layer?  He wrote:
"Try and picture a very thin layer of gases – a very thin layer of gases – a quarter-inch, half an inch, somewhere in that vicinity – that’s how thick it is. It’s in our atmosphere. It’s way up there at the edge of the atmosphere. And for millions of years – literally millions of years – we know that layer has acted like a thermal blanket for the planet – trapping the sun’s heat and warming the surface of the Earth to the ideal, life-sustaining temperature.
Here is a diagram I've "borrowed" from that shows the size of the atmosphere to 100 km up compared to earth (left) and up to 7.5 km up (right).  This might have been what John Kerry meant for people to visualise, but he screwed it up.  I still think he was confusing the ozone layer with well-mixed greenhouse gases, referring to "at the edge of the atmosphere" - but if so, he got that bit wrong too because it's up to 10 km "thick", not "a quarter-inch, half an inch, somewhere in that vicinity". And the ozone layer is in the lower stratosphere, not "at the edge of the atmosphere".

Credit: askamathematician

...and describing ocean acidification, wrongly, as acid rain falling into the ocean!
"The changing sea temperature and the increasing amount of acidity – the acidity comes from coal-fired power plants and from the pollution, and when the rain falls the rain spills the acidity into the ocean."

John Kerry should have got a scientist (or even me) to edit his speech before he made it.  However were his gaffes any worse than the deliberate obfuscation of facts by two scientists who have no excuse?  Read on...

Shoddy scientists and science and extreme ideologues ...compete with scientific fact

So what happens?  Anthony Watts, an "extreme ideologue" promotes a tiny minority of "shoddy scientists", Dr Richard McNider and Dr. John Christy, to criticise John Kerry's speech.  But they didn't mention the things that John Kerry said wrong - like I did above.  Instead they focused on what he said that was right - and complaining about it.  What Richard and John complained about was him referring to "shoddy scientists".  It seems John Kerry struck a nerve with the shoddy scientists.  Richard and John wrote:
In a Feb. 16 speech in Indonesia, Secretary of State John Kerry assailed climate-change skeptics as members of the “Flat Earth Society” for doubting the reality of catastrophic climate change. He said, “We should not allow a tiny minority of shoddy scientists” and “extreme ideologues to compete with scientific facts.”
But who are the Flat Earthers, and who is ignoring the scientific facts?

To demonstrate just who it is who is ignoring scientific facts, shoddy Richard and John put up this shoddy chart (archived here):

Source: WUWT

Notice how Richard and John don't provide any information about their sources other than "various" and "as described in the "State of the Climate 2012".  How they talk about the "linear trend intersecting" - what does that mean?  How they don't say what the baseline is.  How they've put up "five year averages" - but managed to start them in 1979 and end them in 2013?.  How they left off surface temperatures.

Alright, let's be sceptical and check with the record.  Here is a chart of five year averaged temperatures.  It has to start at 1983 (five years after the first full year of satellite data).  I've plotted UAH and RSS on the same chart as the mean CMIP5 surface temperature plotted on the same 1981-2010 baseline:

Data Sources: UAH, RSS and KNMI Climate Explorer

Brownie points if you can spot the difference.

Richard and John claim:
For instance, in 1994 we published an article in the journal Nature showing that the actual global temperature trend was “one-quarter of the magnitude of climate model results.” As the nearby graph shows, the disparity between the predicted temperature increases and real-world evidence has only grown in the past 20 years.

I tried to find their paper and this "scientific communication" was all I could find in the time available.  I did find a description of it in Santer et al (1995):
The only previous study that has considered recent short-term trends in global-mean annually averaged temperature is that by Allen et al. (1994), which investigated the significance of the linear trend in global mean low- to mid-tropospheric temperature (sampled by the satellite-based microwave sounding unit, MSU) from 1979–1994. Allen et al. (1994) used detrended instrumental sea-surface temperature (SST) data to estimate the magnitude of natural variability on time scales appropriate to the length of their signal, and concluded that the 15-year trend in low-to mid-tropospheric temperature was not significant.

The Santer paper was attempting to progress science.  It's title was: "Towards the detection and attribution of an anthropogenic effect on climate".  Richard and John by contrast are attempting to squash scientific research writing things like: "Shouldn’t modelers be more humble and open to saying that perhaps the Arctic warming is due to something we don’t understand?"

Yeah, that would surely win a Nobel Prize, wouldn't it.  I can see it now.  Headlines in Nature News.  Scientists stop all scientific research on climate saying it's because they don't understand it.  Contrast this with how Santer et al expressed the "unknowns", nearly twenty years ago:
The caveats regarding the signals and natural variability noise which form the basis of this study are numerous. Nevertheless, we have provided first evidence that both the largest-scale (global-mean) and smaller-scale (spatial anomalies about the global mean) components of a combined CO2/anthropogenic sulfate aerosol signal are identifiable in the observed near-surface air temperature data. If the coupled-model noise estimates used here are realistic, we can be highly confident that the anthropogenic signal that we have identified is distinctly different from internally generated natural variability noise.

Santer et al go on to describe the caveats.  They also describe what they found.  Their focus is on adding to knowledge without trying to hide anything.  Richard and John are negative scientists.  They build straw men so they can paint a distorted picture of science to further their ideological aims.

You'd be hard-pressed to find two more negative, shoddier scientists who've somehow managed to con the taxpayer into continuing to pay them big bucks.  And what do taxpayers get in return?  Shonky charts on shonky pseudo-science blogs, devoted to persuading the world not to lift a finger to prevent damaging global warming.

"Rum is sailor food" cry the shoddy scientists!

Richard and John are full of it!  Full of strawmen arguments - twisting arguments like: "in the 18th century, more British sailors died of scurvy than died in battle" to insinuate that because vitamins weren't discovered until the early twentieth century, 21st century scientists like Richard and John "don't know nuffin' about climate".  Now, when scientists have discovered the equivalent of Vitamin C as the cure, Richard and John will have none of it.  It's the Richards and Johns of the world who are arguing "it's not Vitamin C"; and "Rum is Sailor Food"!

It may well be true that there are shoddy scientists like Richard and John who pretend they "don't know nuffin'" about climate.  Fortunately they are in the minority.  There are thousands of scientists today who know an awful lot about climate.

In my opinion, universities ought to get rid of shonky scientists who write mainly for pseudo-science blogs like WUWT and replace them with decent scientists who will add some to the world's knowledge, not mess about with shonky charts.

From the WUWT comments

The article brought lots of nutters out of the woodwork (archived here):

In the shortest comment I've seen him make, rgbatduke says:
February 20, 2014 at 1:52 pm
Science and politics make terrible bedfellows.

fobdangerclose says:
February 20, 2014 at 1:47 pm
Put it this way. If facts and the truth had any thing to do with this climate change lie and Kerry’s
lies being heard still,,, then the facts on Kerry would have had him end up in the dock and tried for treason and or also lying under oath before congress.l

DavidG says:
February 20, 2014 at 1:42 pm
Bring back the Mafia and protection rackets rather than this international climate protection racket scam Kerry is trying to peddle around the world. Read Antony Sutton to find out what Kerry’s up to, with his penchant for wealthy women and his Patriarchate.

Bruce Cobb says:
February 20, 2014 at 1:18 pm
Did he miss anything? I think he managed to cram all of the Warmists’ lies and flawed logic they’ve ever used over the years. Impressive.
Yes, the idea of man-caused climate change is simple enough for simpletons like Kerry. Except that it fails the reality test miserably.

DavidG says:
February 20, 2014 at 1:33 pm
Kerry, the secret Hegelian termite in the Obama administration.:]

Eliza says:
February 20, 2014 at 11:47 am
I really don’t know why such eminent scientists such as Christy and McNyder who are obviously intimately involved with temperature measurements (AMSU) even bother to reply to such a obvious ignorant unread unsophisticated person such as Mr Kerry. By replying here they are giving him attention he does not deserve 

Alien, M. R., C. T. Mutlow, G. M. C. Blumberg, J. R. Christy, R. T. McNider, and D. T. Llewellyn-Jones. "Global change detection." (1994): 24-24.

Santer, Benjamin D., Karl E. Taylor, Tom ML Wigley, Joyce E. Penner, Philip D. Jones, and Ulrich Cubasch. "Towards the detection and attribution of an anthropogenic effect on climate." Climate Dynamics 12, no. 2 (1995): 77-100.


  1. Many scientists describe the entire atmosphere as being about as thick as the layer of varnish on a bowling ball. SO2 emissions are a (comparatively) small cause of ocean acidification via acid rain. But it's impossible to tell if this is really what Kerry meant. Who can fathom the mind of a politician talking about science?

    1. I think John Kerry probably left out a sentence or two when he was describing the greenhouse effect. In the light of your comment I'm adding a chart that shows the relative size of the atmosphere.

      I don't think acid rain would have much impact on the ocean would it?

    2. On a global scale it's likely negligible compared to CO2-induced acidification, which is yet another reason why Kerry (and every other politician) needs a fact checker to avoid further muddying the waters. If that's even possible at this point!

  2. Our Spaceship Earth can be thought of at a first approximation as a sphere of rock covered by a very thin layer of water and an atmosphere.
    Spaceship Earth has energy coming in from the Sun to run all the processes that decrease Entropy locally. Whether this increase in entropy is us or plants or lots of other things is immaterial. It is a living system that is reliant on all sorts of internal feedbacks that is beyond our capability to model accurately.
    We have by our own collective stupidity released the Carbon in the form of CO2 that was locked up millions of years ago to pollute our atmosphere.
    This build up of CO2 in our atmosphere has disturbed the balance of energy that is radiated out to space. It is leading to the whole Earth system heating up faster than at any time in geological history.
    The idiots that deny the obvious symptoms of heat or energy gain are total fools or deluded.
    I could enumerate all the symptoms of a heating planet.
    The scary thing is that these idiots ignore them. These idiotic mouth breathers repeat 'it is all natural'.
    As an physicist/engineer I would really doubt measuring the thin bit of gas around a sphere to measure its changing temperature to get an accurate value short term. The liquid layer could be more indicative of trends.
    By the time the rock sphere starts to heat up our instruments will not be worth anything as we will all be dead! Bert

  3. I think Kerry might mean that the GHG's, if condensed to liquid or solid, would be about a quarter inch thick. That's about right, and how I often visualise their opacity.

    1. That's as good an explanation as any, Nick. It's a pity he didn't explain what he meant (or what he was supposed to say). He's not got any scientific training by all accounts so my guess is he doesn't understand the details.

    2. I re-did the calculations last year, following Tony Abbott's declaring that carbon dioxide was a weightless and invisible gas, and the numbers look like this...

      If all the CO2 in the atmosphere was brought to ground level at standard temperature and pressure, it would form a gaseous layer 3.04 (~10 feet) metres thick. If that same carbon dioxide was in solid phase, it would form a layer almost exactly 4 millimetres (~1/6 inch) thick. To visualise this simply, imagine the planet's surface covered in its entirety by a sheet of window glass 33% thicker than standard, and with a weight - for every single square metre of the planet - of almost exactly 6 kilograms (13.3 pounds).

      That is the physical reality of Tony Abbott's "weightless" and "invisible" and therefore apparently harmless gas.

      To compare, for the sake of context and because few people are ozone layer deniers, I also considered ozone. If all of the atmospheric ozone (that protects us so effectively by absorbing much of the incoming ultraviolet radiation that would otherwise sterilise the planet) was brought to ground level at standard temperature and pressure, it would form a gaseous layer just 3 millimetres metres thick. If that same ozone was in solid phase (and yes, ozone has a solid phase), it would form a layer almost exactly 40 micrometres (microns) thick - to visualise, such a layer spread around the surface of the planet would have the thickness of a human hair, and weigh just 6.4 grams (0.23 ~ounce).

      I would like to ask Tony Abbott if he denies the profoundly important affect that ozone has on the planet, and ask him to put this in the context of the much more abundant carbon dioxide, and particularly to explain why he so cavalierly dismisses the warming effect that the latter gas has.

    3. ...~0.23 ounce...

    4. Dang, I'll get it right sooner or later...

      "...weigh just 6.4 grams (~0.23 ounce) per square metre for every square metre of the planet's surface."

    5. Wince.

      Whilst drifting off to sleep last night I realised that I had missed a decimal place.

      If all the ozone in the atmosphere was compressed into its solid phase, spread evenly over the surface of the planet, it would form a layer almost exactly 4.0 micrometres (microns) thick, and such a layer would be 1/10 the thickness of a human hair.

      This quantity of ozone is what prevents the Earth from being sterilised by ultraviolet radiation.

    6. Bernard, I have trouble keeping track of powers with tiny numbers and huge numbers. A factor of ten here or there - 1/10 the thickness of human hair is only an order of magnitude smaller than the thickness of human hair :) Both are pretty thin.

      Thanks for persevering. :D

  4. What John Kerry says about climate science is irrelevant. Like Gore, he isn't a scientist, it's the political intent that matters.

    The interesting thing is that he is in Indonesia, a developing country, getting their intelligentsia all fired up with alarmist hype. Americans going out of their way trying to convince the developing world to change policy and pay more for their energy with renewables, or more likely go nuclear.

    Now that's interesting.

    1. Greig wrote (with no sense of irony or self-awareness): What John Kerry says about climate science is irrelevant.

      Maybe so, maybe not. However what the US Secretary of State says about climate policy is rarely irrelevant.

      And this is especially to counter the "alarmist-hype" that Greig spews out every time it's suggested that developing nations will benefit from clean energy. ("Think of the poor", wails ignorant Greig. "That's exactly who we are thinking of", say the people who urge the safer, healthier, increasingly cheaper option of clean energy):

      Indonesia is already acutely aware of climate change and the risks it entails to her and the rest of the world.

      It has various bodies set up specifically to provide advice, develop plans and "formulate national policies, strategies, programs and activities on climate change control"

      For example, there is the National Council on Climate Change (DNPI) and the Indonesia Climate Change Center.

      Indonesia is also one of the 195 member countries of the IPCC and a signatory of the Kyoto Protocol.

    2. Here's some people in the third world, weighed down by the hideous burden of expensive renewables, just like Grieg said.

    3. An illustration of ineffectual climate policy is not an argument for no climate policy. Rather the opposite.

    4. So who is arguing for no climate policy?

      There is a reason why the developing world will continue to pursue fossil fuels. It is economics. And climate change has come second. Even if you have science on your side, it is not enough, it just doesn't rank on the cost/benefit analysis.

      The only effective mitigation path is in developing new and cost effective low emissions technology, commercialising it quickly, and deploying it on a massive scale.

      Otherwise we can forget mitigation and focus on harm minimisation / adaptation. Richard Muller (pictured) is already arguing the latter.

    5. Even if you have science on your side, it is not enough, it just doesn't rank on the cost/benefit analysis.

      Now that's a WHOPPER of an argument by assertion. Let's have some numbers. Whose cost-benefit analyses are you using? References and relevant quotations with links.

      * * *

      You haven't backed up your claims about tiny TCR yet either, despite being asked to do so hours ago.

    6. BBD, look at the graph . Now ask yourself, "why is the developing world is building a new coal plant every week?". What is the reason that they are making that decision?

      Is it because they are uneducated people, who don't know science?
      Is it because I have made an assertion about economics?
      Is it because you think I am making claims about a "tiny TCR"?
      Is it because of deniers over at WUWT?

      So which is it?

    7. The developing world isn't building a new coal plant every week. That was China before the crash. But I do take your point.

      Given the facts, what is your objection to emissions reduction policy in the developed economies? The over-arching goal is *global* emissions reduction, after all.

    8. Perhaps the deloping world isn't building a new coal plant every week. That graph is rather dated, and I never put much store in Chinese claims anyway; yes, they're in the Plan and the Plan is always fulfilled, but when did people start putting faith in that? I never have.

    9. Firstly, the developed countries acting alone will not resolve the problem. Look at the graph .

      Add to that, the developed economies need to remain trade competitive, or they will not be able to maintain their economies nor attract investment, nor be able to afford R&D into new technology, etc. If you think the US (or Australia) are going to sacrifice anything in good will, you must be living under a rock. It is all very well making a moral stand, however democratic politics will always be an insurmountable barrier - people won't volunteer to pay for a unilateral response out of their own pockets, especially if it won't actually resolve the problem .

      If the goal is for *global* emissions reduction, then any *global* emissions policy must be global, or it will not work. I suspect John Kerry's speech in Indonesia was predicated on this logic, it is interesting that the US is pushing that line, although I think that they are wasting their time - the game is with China and India.

      In my opinion, the only answer is in developing competitive cost-effective technology that can be rolled out globally on a massive scale. There are some interesting prospects. Kerry may be pre-empting a push in this direction, rather than pursuing a global ETS which seems to be dead in the water.

    10. Greig, you already have cemented your reputation as an "it's all too hard" denialist as well as being a "knowledge isn't perfect" denialist and "we can't predict the future" denialist. Thankfully attitudes like yours aren't holding back the rest of the human race.

    11. Cugel, you are in denial. See this IEA report, be in no doubt, energy demand is growing rapidly, driven not just by China, but India and Brazil too.

      Sou, do you really think that by finding new labels for people's opinions, eventually it will reduce CO2 emissions? Climate change remediation by denigration, a fun way to spend a few hours on a weekend, but hardly world changing.

    12. This is what puzzles me about you, Greig. I share much of your pessimism but that doesn't motivate me to misrepresent climate science.

    13. BBD, don't be puzzled, I am an open book.

      I am not misrepresenting climate science, merely interpreting the vast body of evidence differently to you. I am naturally sceptical. I am also less inclined than you to dismiss other people's views, to label and denigrate them as you do. That is not the way to solve the world's problems, rather it is a great way to get people off side and arguing rather than agreeing.

      It is interesting that you should suggest that a world view might motivate me to an opinion on climate science. Does your world view motivate you to an opinion on climate science?

      To be clear, my view of world politics does not motivate me to an opinion (as you seem to be suggesting), it is the other way around. In another thread it was suggested that governments in developing countries have access to quality advice, and I believe that to be true. I cannot believe the people that drive international policy are less intelligent, educated or informed than you or me. For this reason, I don't see current policy pessimistically, merely as a rational compromise of competing challenges.

      For this reason I have some respect for the way the world is, rather than the way a minority of people think the world should be. I have faith in all of humanity - after all, we all love our children.

    14. I wouldn't be boasting of being an interpreter of interpretations That didn't go too well for James, eventually.

      Greig - at times your comments appear to be "reasonable" and at other times you wave your denialism like a flashing beacon. On balance, you display all the symptoms of a science denier (eg your "merely interpreting the vast body of evidence differently" not just to BBD but to the scientists who have done that research.)

      Your reaching out to the rabble at WUWT asking them to come and bolster you here at HotWhopper hasn't won you any points as far as "reasonable" goes, either.

    15. Sou,

      Surely by now you must realise that calling me names doesn't impact on me, it simply characterises you in a negative light.

      reaching out to the rabble at WUWT asking them come and bolster you here

      And now you (like Millicent) have resorted to manufacturing a little conspiracy. The fact is, I don't know anyone at WUWT.

    16. Greig, don't go all tone troll on me. I'm describing your pattern of behaviour with examples not for your benefit but for that of lurkers and visitors who don't know your history here. Quit being such a sook.

      As for you commenting at WUWT, did I make a mistake? The commenter has the same name, it was a subject you were commenting on here at HotWhopper, with you acting as an apologist for Denier Don Morton - ad nauseum I might add, with almost two dozen comments.

      Are you saying this isn't you?

      Greig says:
      February 17, 2014 at 8:19 pm
      Hi Don,
      The knaves over at HotWhopper are “twisting the truth you have spoken”, here. Whilst you say critical comments are welcome, deliberate misinterpretation perhaps deserves to be challenged.

      If you say you didn't post that comment then it's a big coincidence - a bit too much of one in my opinion. Perhaps you'll argue that someone is pretending to be you and doing a good job of it.

    17. Still playing the man and not the ball. Does it ever end?

    18. Greig - I take it that the fact you avoided my question means it *was* you who posted at WUWT. That's not a problem in itself. I'm happy for HW to be mentioned at WUWT. (I'm surprised that Anthony didn't jump on it though).

      It's the fact that you lied about it to me and all HotWhopper readers that puts a big black mark on your record.

      This is your first and a half warning. (The half was your gish galloping misbehaviour that caused me to waste cyberspace by creating a playground for your antics).

      BTW I would normally delete your rude response but I'll leave it for the record. (Given you've been warned about tone trolling by rights that should add another half point.)

      *Warning* to others - don't feed the tone troll. I've got this in hand.

    19. Sou, you have attracted the attention of an egregious, persistent and nasty troll. Congratulations, it shows that your blog is getting the attention of the Watties. Unfortunately, I have seen this obsessive compulsive behaviour by Watties before. They decide upon themselves that anyone who disses their great and holy cult leader must be punished for their blaspheming. They go on a crusade, where they proselytise their ideology, trying with all their might to disrupt and take down the 'alarmists' who they despise. They have no intention to debate in a civil and cordial manner. They will not listen to reason or facts. They are a Wattie terminator, and relish any opportunity to turn a thread into a meaningless gish gallop of boring rubbish.

      Sou, it's time to take action, otherwise your readership will likely get bored and move on. Remember what happened to the weatherzone forums. It became infested with trolls and suffered because of it. Don't let your blog go the same way. They have had their fun now for too long. Introduce moderation and just bin any offending posts. Don't feel too bad for it, the same rules apply on the best blogs out there. By not doing so you are giving oxygen for their misguided and corrupt ideology.

    20. At least the comments have threading. If I see Greig, I skip the thread because I can be sure not to learn anything.

  5. I'm pleased Kerry is taking off the gloves and using phrases like "shoddy scientists." Our leaders who respect science have allowed the deniers to go on too long with their nonsense. It's time to call them out directly for what they are. It's having an effect: check out today's (2/21) Washington Post column by the usually careful (and scientifically trained) right-wing idealogue Charles Krauthammer. He's gone full denier/Goodwin's Law on something as simple as settled science.

    -- Dennis

  6. Anonymous said:
    By the time the rock sphere starts to heat up our instruments will not be worth anything as we will all be dead! Bert

    Not dead yet - but the rock sphere is already heating up.


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