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Monday, March 24, 2014

From the mundane to the ridiculous - varieties in denial at wattsupwiththat

Sou | 2:54 AM Go to the first of 4 comments. Add a comment

I've been following Anthony Watts' denier blog wattsupwiththat for several months now.  Over that time it's gone from the ridiculous to mundane denialism.  Today there is an article that typifies the mundane as well as an article that typifies the ridiculous.

The mundane denial at WUWT

Anthony Watts (archived here) copied and pasted another press release at WUWT. For a change he decided to link to the press release from the University of Missouri. The science is about the development of a "sophisticated statistical model".  It's not just any statistical model though.  From the press release:
“The ocean really is the most important part of the world’s environmental system because of its potential to store carbon and heat, but also because of its ability to influence major atmospheric weather events such as droughts, hurricanes and tornados,” said Chris Wikle, professor of statistics in the MU College of Arts and Science. “At the same time, it is essential in producing a food chain that is a critical part of the world’s fisheries.”
...“Nate Silver of The New York Times combined various sources of information to understand and better predict the uncertainty associated with elections,” Wikle said. “So much like that, we developed more sophisticated statistical methods to combine various sources of data—satellite images, data from ocean buoys and ships, and scientific experience—to better understand the atmosphere over the ocean and the ocean itself. This led to models that help to better predict the state of the Mediterranean Sea, and the long-lead time prediction of El Nińo and La Nińa. 

I'm not sure why the press release only came out in the past week. And the press release doesn't seem to reflect the papers it refers to very well.  The work was published in Oceanography last December and in Statistical Science in the November 2013 issue.

From the Oceanography paper, it looks to be a novel if complex approach, probably suiting the nature of what they are modeling. However that's not for me to judge.  I am ill-equipped to follow the discussion in the Oceanography paper, having no experience and little understanding of the intricacies of the lower trophic level ocean ecosystem or the methods they discuss.

Not so the science deniers at WUWT.  They are right on top of this one.  Anthony starts by poo-pooing the paper because the press release headline contains the word "could", as in "New Statistical Models Could Lead to Better Predictions of Ocean Patterns and the Impacts on Weather, Climate and Ecosystem, MU Scientist Finds".  Anthony's dog whistle (and only) comment was:
...note the operative word “could”.

I think that Anthony would be even less well-equipped than I to judge the merits of the approach.  In any case he makes no other comment of his own.  His visitors were less reluctant.  They must know all about science of the lower trophic level (LTL) ocean ecosystem and how to make the necessary "approximations to reduce complexity and represent essential ecosystem processes in an aggregate sense".  And they know all about the "underdetermination problem in parameter specification" but I expect they disagree with the scientists that it is "an inherent issue in ocean ecosystem model development and interpretation".

On what do I base this conclusion?  Well, here is a sample of the erudite comments from the knowledgeable folk at WUWT:

David, UK says:
March 22, 2014 at 1:12 pm
More self-serving modelled bullshit.

Doug Huffman says that probability and uncertainty have no place in science:
March 22, 2014 at 1:18 pm
Normative and prescriptive statements, characterized by would, should & could, have no inherent or essential truth value.

Stephen Richards is so certain of his position that one might be tempted to surmise he occupies the lower trophic level in the biological strata and speaks from personal experience, because he shouts:
March 22, 2014 at 1:20 pm
New Statistical Models Could Lead to Better Predictions of Ocean Patterns and the Impacts on Weather, Climate and Ecosystems
NO THEY CANNOT !!!!!!!!!!!

Dr Burns has got as far as knowing that all models are wrong, though it's not clear that he understands what a "model" is or how it can help understanding, because he says:
March 22, 2014 at 3:28 pm
When models can forecast with any accuracy whether it will rain in two days time, I may start to have some faith in them.

Bob Tisdale isn't interested in the published papers, or maybe he didn't get that far, or maybe he did get that far and his eyes glazed.  In any case he asks a profound question, or what he thinks is a profound question:
March 22, 2014 at 5:26 pm
“Wikle and his fellow researchers feel that, through better statistical methods and models currently in development…”
Why are they wasting everyone’s time with a press release about something in development?

The ridiculous denial at WUWT

Moving from the mundane "no, no, no - not science" response to a couple of scientific papers, and onto the reason that climate science is a hoax.  It's all to do with world view.  It seems that "rational" people (ie right wing extremists) regard all people as equal and don't look down on anyone no matter their race, social status or economic status.  (Ha ha - pull the other one!)  It also seems that "rational" people (ie the right wing extremist) view the world in terms of dominance and battles - which fits better with my understanding of right wing extremists than does the first point.

Anyway, do you want to more about the newest proof that climate science must be a hoax? This is the latest idea promoted by Anthony Watts in an article by someone who goes by the (shock, horror) anonymous name of Zombie (archived here):
Viewed globally, the real long-term consequence of all the “climate change”-related policy proposals is to transfer massive amounts of wealth from the First World developed nations to the Third World underdeveloped nations, while simultaneously crippling the ability of the developed world to maintain its economic dominance.
What could motivate this seemingly suicidal economic policy by First-World progressives? In a word: Guilt. Specifically, “white guilt” by Europeans (and those descended from Europeans) for having unfairly exploited backward regions and non-white peoples over the last few centuries to establish white economic hegemony over the rest of the world.

According to the article at WUWT, climate science is a hoax manufactured by liberals or progressives or whatever label you want to put on your despised world view.  It's a hoax manufactured to assuage guilt for making money at the expense of less developed nations. But that's not all:
If these modern progressives felt that their ancestors had achieved global dominance by defeating rivals of equal stature, then there’d be nothing to feel guilty about, and thus no need to pay reparations and hence no need to devise the “climate change” crisis and attendant suicidal economic policies.

The argument goes like this.

  1. Rich nations got rich by exploiting poor nations.
  2. Progressives in rich nations feel guilty about that so they made up a yarn about CO2 emissions and convinced the powers that be in the rich nations that it's necessary to cut CO2 emissions.
  3. Cutting CO2 emissions means that wealth will shift from rich nations to poor nations. (I'm not sure how that one is supposed to work.)
  4. The guilt means that progressives are racist. Otherwise they'd act like any "normal" victor and see the losers as equal to them except they are losers.

I'd say the only part of the above that might have some merit is point 1.  Even there it only applies in some situations.  The article finishes with this, with its embedded alarmism:
If these modern progressives felt that their ancestors had achieved global dominance by defeating rivals of equal stature, then there’d be nothing to feel guilty about, and thus no need to pay reparations and hence no need to devise the “climate change” crisis and attendant suicidal economic policies.

Now some people from less developed nations agree with some but not all of the "logic".  José Tomás says:
March 22, 2014 at 10:39 am
I believe there is a big component of this in the Climate (and other “Progressive” issues) discussion.
The real problem is that we in the “Thirld World” need that the “First World” succeeds. In a globalized economy, your success is our success. We need a strong US / Europe economy to import the goods we export. US / Europe failure will doom first under-developed countries like mine (Brazil). This guilt / shame thinking / behavior is infantile and the net result is more poverty to “non-western” populations.

aletho doesn't agree either, but is also an alarmist but for different reasons and says:
March 22, 2014 at 10:54 am
This is retarded. There never was any intent to transfer wealth to the third world.
There were only empty promises designed to allow domestic political space for corrupt third world despots so they could go along with the genocidal AGW agenda.
Carbon taxes, cap and trade, you name it, the proposals all result in rationing energy by price.
Eugenics in disguise.
Skeptics need to quit being so gullible as to fall for PJmedia’s ideologically driven disinformation.

Manny has still another take on why the climate hoax survives and says:
March 22, 2014 at 11:06 am
Simpler version of this thesis:
1. Ordinary atheist socialists (a.k.a. liberals) feel a spiritual void and fill it with pagan belief in mother nature. Like all religious beliefs, it requires penance to earn salvation. The penance is a carbon tax, the salvation is saving the goddess Earth from death by evil capitalists.
2. Smarter socialists collect the carbon tax from the naive masses and transfer it to African kleptocrats in order to pocket their 5% in a discreet bank account in Dubai.
And I entirely agree that conservatives do not understand the motivations behind this humongous fraud.

Whereas urederra's point is that... well it's hard to know.  You're better than I am if you can figure it out:
March 22, 2014 at 11:43 am
Humanity’s misdeeds was what caused the biblical flood and our crimes against nature is what it is causing global warming, or climate change, or whatevah
Yep, It is gilt, It has been always gilt. That is the way occidental religions have been controlling us during the last 6000 years. Ecologism is just the new flavor. 

David, UK says - which is doubly ironic when you check this page and this page, where it is attributed to Anne Isabella Ritchie, whose grandfather worked in Calcutta for the British East India Company:
March 22, 2014 at 2:44 pm
Gary Pearse says: March 22, 2014 at 2:29 pm
I believe the UN, is: (something like) “You can give a hungry man a fish a day or you can teach him how to fish so he can feed himself each day.” Teach him how to fish!!! When I first heard that piece of hubris, I was amazed at its blatant racism. Yeah, it’s there.
You think that phrase is from the UN? WTF!
It’s actually an ancient Chinese proverb.
Still worked up over its “blatant racism”? Sheesh.

Manfred is a fairly ordinary conspiracy theorist and alarmist of the Agenda 21 type who talks of rabid dogs and says:
March 22, 2014 at 12:04 pm
‘Guilt’ – may be some in the mix. Then perhaps the Babylonian Syndrome – an arrogance and over estimation of not only our impact but our abilities, a delusion fed and pumped by the progressive Green left in the name of ‘save the planet’. The goal – the installation of global socialist governance in the hands of UN Agenda 21 funded by growing environmental taxes and levies. You’ll be deluded you have democratic influence, but this will be strictly limited to the election local community governance. Few will be privileged to even glimpse let alone be part of an unelected progressive bureaucratic monster at the centre of the world. No one will see the tiny handful of elite at the pinnacle.
Spurn this as you would a rabid dog. 

bobl is another Agenda 21 conspiracy theorising  alarmist who says (excerpt):
March 22, 2014 at 2:49 pm
Nice theory and all, but wrong. Just read Agenda 21, it’s all there in black and white. CC is just a tool of Agenda 21 designed to limit our energy supply and as a result of that push us together in high rise concentration camps. 

There are heaps more comments - as bad as the ones above but in keeping with Anthony's article.

You know from time to time Anthony acts as if he wants to come across as "reasonable" by denouncing people like Nicola Scafetta and some of the "sky dragon slayers" (while promoting others).  Then he puts up something like this.  This sort of nonsense I think shows that he's given up any hope of anyone serious taking him seriously so he's retreated and decided to focus on pleasing his ideological base.

Milliff, R.F., J. Fiechter, W.B. Leeds, R. Herbei, C.K. Wikle, M.B. Hooten, A.M. Moore, T.M. Powell, and J. Brown. 2013. Uncertainty management in coupled physical-biological lower trophic level ocean ecosystem models. Oceanography 26(4):98–115,

Wikle, Christopher K.; Milliff, Ralph F.; Herbei, Radu; Leeds, William B. Modern Statistical Methods in Oceanography: A Hierarchical Perspective. Statistical Science 28 (2013), no. 4, 466--486. doi:10.1214/13-STS436.


  1. The WUWT crowd has a reflexive dislike of models, even though models are what they, and all of us, implicity or explicitly use to understand processes we cannot directly experience. For example, we cannot directly experience individual atoms, but those with a rudimentary science education can apply our model of atoms to understanding chemical processes at some approximation to reality.

    BTW, "underdetermination" is listed in the linked paper's glossary, I'm not sure what "undetermination" means in the context of modelling either.

    1. "underdetermination" - fixed the typo in the quote, thanks Anthony.

    2. a reflexive dislike of models....except when the models say what they want them to. (or can be twisted about to suggest that they do, natch.)

  2. I prefer the term calculations. When we want to find out how a bridge will perform when an earthquake hits (like our new Bay Bridge) we calculate it. Engineers identify the components of the bridge, estimate the stresses of the earthquake and use basic physics to calculate the incremental changes, then iterate.

    It's really just the same with the planet. Climate scientists identify the components of the climate, that is the geography, and topography, ocean and air currents, sea and land ice, land forms, tides, insolation etc, etc, etc, . Then they estimate stressors (forcings) over time and use fundamental physics to calculate the incremental changes in all components, then iterate.

    We don't mind doing the calculations for bridges and shouldn't mind doing them for the climate.

    Of course there are multiple ways to subdivide the components, different degrees of granularity (grid and levels) and different estimates of future inputs that can be made.

    The quality of the results will be vastly improved as we get more detail on the components, better spatial and temporal measures and history of air sea ice and landform elements.

    Imagine how much better models could be if we could have long-term history 24-7 for every cubic kilometer of the atmosphere (temperature, humidity, pressure, wind speed, composition etc) , and the same for the ocean (temperature, salinity, currents, composition) and the same for ice and landforms.

    To a large extent we are constrained by the level of detail of our knowledge of the earth's geography and by the computing power needed to run more final grained gridding. The physics is fairly well understood.


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