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Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Denier weirdness: Ari Halperin thinks the IPCC's climate change definition is too broad

Sou | 2:03 PM Go to the first of 18 comments. Add a comment

The Stupid It Burns Credit: Plognark
There could be an entire field of study devoted to how the brain of a climate science denier is wired, or miswired. There is a very strange article at WUWT (archived here) that shows up the deep flaws in thinking processes of deniers. The best explanation I can come up with is that Ari Halperin doesn't understand what climate is and the people commenting at WUWT are not able to process logic.

Defining climate and climate change

The article is weird on many levels. The main argument is that Ari doesn't like the fact that in the IPCC report, scientists defined climate change to mean a change in climate from any cause. He preferred the definition of climate change used by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). I'll let you compare them:

The difference is that the UNFCCC restricted the term "climate change" to refer to:
  • a change in the composition of the atmosphere; and
  • is caused by human activity.
Scientists writing for the IPCC adopted a broader definition more in keeping with climate science terminology. When scientists refer to climate change in the IPCC reports, they mean any change in climate parameters that can be measured statistically. This is typically a measurable change in the patterns of one or more of temperature, precipitation and wind. In the glossary of the IPCC AR5 WG1 report, climate is defined as:
Climate in a narrow sense is usually defined as the average weather, or more rigorously, as the statistical description in terms of the mean and variability of relevant quantities over a period of time ranging from months to thousands or millions of years. The classical period for averaging these variables is 30 years, as defined by the World Meteorological Organization. The relevant quantities are most often surface variables such as temperature, precipitation and wind. Climate in a wider sense is the state, including a statistical description, of the climate system.

Changing climate of deniers

It is more common to find WUWT deniers complaining about the UNFCCC definition, not the IPCC definition. Deniers usually complain that it's too narrow. They sometimes use that legitimate complaint (that the UNFCCC definition is too narrow) to falsely argue that climate scientists have ignored internal variability and climate change from causes other than human activity. (Deniers who make that claim haven't looked at an IPCC report or read any climate science papers.)

To see a science denier complaining that scientists use the IPCC definition, not the narrow UNFCCC definition, is unusual. In fact it's the first time I've seen this happen.

You might ask then if this will mean that all the deniers who wrongly claimed that scientists don't look at all causes of climate change will do a double take, step back, reassess their arguments? Of course not. Deniers' minds are unable to process logic or facts.

Muddle upon muddled thinking and abusing language

Ari's article is a good example of muddled thinking and lack of logic. The muddle-headed wombat from The Argonauts radio show was a crystal clear thinker compared to Ari. I'll see if I can step you through his tortuous chain of thought without repeating everything. Let's start with his headline: "Abusing Semantics is the First and Last Refuge of Climatism"

Ari started with a definition of semantics, but he didn't define his word "climatism". Was he using it as an example of language abuse, I wonder?

LSM, hellfire and the Biblical Great Flood

In the first paragraph, Ari made reference to the recent survey of members of the American Meteorological Society (AMS). His first sentence was straight out of the conspiracy theorists handbook:
A few days ago the leftstream media ambushed the public with some survey results, insinuating that scores of meteorologists had converted to Climatism. 
In fact, 81% of respondents agreed that the climate change of the past 50 years was 50% or more human-caused, with 67% saying it was mostly or entirely caused by us. (It wasn't a survey of climate scientists by the way. Most of the respondents did not class themselves as climate experts.)

In that same paragraph Ari came up with his own definition of climate change. He wrote:
Climate change means different things to the surveyed meteorologists and to the consumers of the LSM. “Mostly anthropogenic” global warming of about 0.5°C is in line with the mainstream skeptical opinion. The LSM, however, presents “climate change” as an apocalyptic event, some combination of hellfire and the Biblical Great Flood.
Ari didn't explain what LSM stood for, however in the second line of the first paragraph he used the term "leftstream media". I figure that must be what extreme right wingers call mainstream media. Where he got his notion that climate change is a combination of hellfire and the Biblical Great Flood I don't know. But let's add it to the definitions.

From honest to ...?

Ari doesn't agree with Tim Ball, who would argue that climate science stopped in 1970 or thereabouts. Ari says that "In the 1990s most climate research was real science, performed by honest and competent scientists." I don't know if he thinks that scientists became dishonest or if he thinks that there was a complete turnover of climate scientists and that no climate scientist today was around in the 1990s. Nor do I know what Ari liked about the climate science in the 1990s, or what he thinks was different from today. He doesn't say, except to write: "their research refuted exaggerated claims of anthropogenic impact on the climate, and confirmed the benefits of CO2 release."

That's a heap of muddled thinking if ever I saw it. Is Ari arguing 1, 2 or 3 or all of 1 to 3 at the same time?
  1. prior to the 1990s there were exaggerated claims of anthropogenic impact and that science of the 1990s refuted the previous research?
  2. scientists in the 1990s refuted research that hadn't been done until the 21st century, in the fashion of Back to the Future?
  3. that "CO2 is plant food" is sufficient to make up for all the deleterious effects of climate change?

Define climate change as climate change from any cause

Further on, Ari decides that the IPCC broadening the definition of climate change beyond the UNFCCC definition (see above) is Newspeak. He didn't like it that in the third assessment report, published in 2001, the authors broadened and tightened the definition to mean proper climate change, not simply a change in atmospheric composition caused by human activity. He called it a pretense, writing: "TAR (2001) pretended to re-define climate change to include natural variability of the climate". Now I don't know what Ari smokes during the day, but it looks as if he didn't bother to read the first two IPCC reports. For example if he'd read the very first assessment report FAR, he'd have seen this sentence, which described what the scientists have been researching in the context of climate change:
There are many factors, both natural and of human origin, that determine the climate of the earth We look first at those which are natural, and then see how human activities might contribute.

And further into the report:
When considering future climate change, it is clearly essential to look at the record of climate variation in the past. From it we can learn about the range of natural climate variability, to see how it compares with what we expect in the future, and also look for evidence of recent climate change due to man's activities.
Right from the beginnings of climate science, from way before the IPCC was thought of, scientists have looked at all causes of climate change - natural forcings, internal variability and human forcings. And they continued to do so when the IPCC was created.

Why is it that science deniers deny this most obvious of facts? It's staring them in the face. Even if they don't know how to find scientific papers, most of them would be aware of the IPCC reports and can surely read. (If they can't read English, the more recent reports are published in a number of other languages. AR5 WG1 is available in Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian, Spanish, Czech, Dutch, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Slovenian.)

Ari calls the IPCC's definition of climate change a trick. I mean what sort of conspiratorial mindset does it take to write this?
The IPCC honestly admitted this change of definition even in the Summary for Policy Makers:
Climate change in IPCC usage refers to any change in climate over time, whether due to natural variability or as a result of human activity. This usage differs from that in the Framework Convention on Climate Change, where climate change refers to a change of climate that is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and that is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods (IPCC TAR SPM, p. 2, footnote).

This trick was performed by the IPCC leadership behind the backs of some scientists who had worked on the report and who used the earlier definition, since parts of the full report obviously referred to the previous definition of climate change as anthropogenic climate change. Of course, ordinary citizens, politicians, journalists, and even many scientists continued to think of climate change as anthropogenic climate change. 

Seriously? Ari jumps up and down and sings and dances and complains that sometimes people assume that climate change is anthropogenic. Well, Ari, modern climate change is largely anthropogenic. At the global level for example, probably more than 100% of warming is from human activity (fossil fuel burning, land use change etc) offset by some cooling also from human activity (smog / aerosols).

Ari sees the world divided into rational people and their opponents, writing about the IPCC:
But it got away with this semantic coup d’état. Then Climatists used the definitions as they pleased, and exploited the resulting confusion as an opportunity to split and humiliate their opponents.
Oh dear. Ari regards himself as opposing science and thinks he has been humiliated. It's his own actions that are humiliating. No external forcing is required. It's natural :)

When too much information is a crime?

I know I said I'd try to summarise without repeating what Ari wrote, but his words are too delicious to ignore. Take this for example:
The IPCC has been using the altered definition of climate change since 2001. That makes many of its conclusions irrelevant to the subject of the influence of anthropogenic CO2 release on the climate, and even to the broader topic of anthropogenic influences on the climate outside of population centers. Notably, by altering the definition of climate change the IPCC has also re-defined itself –the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – and thus expanded its “mission”. I would say the IPCC has done so illegally, but since the IPCC is a UN organization, it is not clear whether the concepts of law and legality are applicable to it at all. The IPCC repeatedly broke even its own rules without repercussions.
This is about the closest I can get to a translation - if you can do better, please say so in the comments:
The IPCC regards climate change as a change in the normal measures of climate (temperature, precipitation, wind etc). This is a bad thing. It means that when researchers find that human activity is causing climate change, this finding is irrelevant. That's because the IPCC is considering not just human factors but also natural factors affecting climate. Scientists who report research on natural factors as well as human factors affecting climate are engaged in illegal activity, or borderline illegal activity. The IPCC shouldn't be reporting or taking into consideration natural causes of climate change, only human causes. By taking account of changes in solar irradiance, volcanic eruptions, ENSO events and multi-decadal ocean changes, the IPCC is going beyond its brief and probably should be prosecuted for the crime of "too much information".

What the public hears vs what the science says

Ari kept going on and on about how climate change shouldn't refer to anything but human-caused climate change. He wrote how he thinks the general public is as dumb as a post:
Most of public understand climate change as man-made climate change, but most scientists and experts rely on its definition as any climate change. Thus, the public is being deceived. In everyday Climatist usage, the phrase climate change suffers further abuse. 
 He's found another definition, which is indistinguishable from the IPCC definition, but Ari seems to think it's gibberish. He wrote:
A more sophisticated abuse entails making up an open-ended definition. This is typical of the government agencies. The new “definition” of climate change by the Department of Defense is just one example:

Variations in average weather conditions that persist over multiple decades or longer that encompass increases and decreases in temperature, shifts in precipitation, and changing risk of certain types of severe weather events.
Ari doesn't understand what is meant by a persistent change in temperature or a shift in precipitation. He mocks the words. Perhaps he doesn't live in an area affected by ENSO events.

For the rest of his article, Ari wanders around talking about cows and mammals, climate change and ozone holes, and "climatists" (which he hasn't defined). Did you know that calling a cow a mammal is dishonest and a semantic trick? There - you can learn something new from deniers. (I suggest unlearning this immediately before your mind turns to mush.)

Conclusion not from evidence

In the manner of science deniers rather than scientists, Ari posts a conclusion, which doesn't flow from anything he wrote in his article. He said:
Climate alarmism had already lost all its scientific ground before 2001. Since then, it has been fighting exclusively in the power structures and in the media, using semantic trickery, lies, bribery, threats and abuse of power.
He did go on about the "semantic trickery" of clearly defining climate and climate change. Illogic plus. I didn't read anywhere where he spoke of, much less provided any evidence of, lies, bribery, threats and abuse of power. He pulled those claims right out of his conspiratorially deluded little brain.

Comparing definitions

In finishing, here are the definitions of climate change referred to by Ari, except for the UNFCCC (which is provided above). Ari didn't provide a reference to the Dept of Defense definition, so I've included a reference to a document where the definition is in the glossary.

From the WUWT comments

It looks as if only the rattiest wackiest of WUWT deniers thought that Ari's muddled mixed up conspiracy theory was worth a comment. Anthony Watts thought so highly of it that he published it. His readers don't all have such low standards. Here is a sample:

PiperPaul wrote the equivalent of "I can't make head or tail of this but it's brilliant":
April 5, 2016 at 2:07 pm
Excellent article.
Steve A Morris recommends using very large numbers to hide the impact of global warming. Not a good idea.
April 5, 2016 at 2:40 pm (excerpt)
Fantastic article! I was just thinking about how we use the Kelvin Scale when calculating Heat Transfer, not Celsius, and how an average of 287 degrees increasing to 287.5 degrees would be harder to sell as Unprecedented let alone Catastrophic.

TonyL  is under the illusion/delusion that the data for the mid-twentieth century was "obliterated". He put up a chart and wrote:
April 5, 2016 at 2:53 pm (excerpt)
Note that after cooling for 4 decades from the lat 1930s to the late 1970s, temperatures were right back to where they were around 1900-1910.
...The mid-century cooling has been obliterated. (note that NOAA and GISS are even worse.)

Hover over the plot below to see how much cooler it was up to the mid-1970s than it is today. You can also see how warmer years in the 1930s overlapped with cooler years between 1950 and the mid-1970s. Even some of the hottest years between 1900 to 1910 were as warm as some of the coldest years between 1950 and 1970.  However although individual years might overlap, the long term trend has been onwards and upwards.

Global mean surface temperature. Data source: GISS NASA
The imagery that Tom Halla conjures up betrays him as a hard-core conspiracy theorist. Words like "zealot", "fanatic", "political purge", together with his call for "firing/defunding" some un-named "them":
April 5, 2016 at 3:17 pm
Does Winston Smith currently work for NASA GISS? As Orwell noted in the 1940’s, fanatics tend to use language in peculiar ways. Climate change is not AGW, and is certainly not CAGW, but the the zealots act as if the terms are interchangable. Ultimately, a political purge is needed, as the mass movement is political, and tied to the Democratic party. The yahoos will scream anyway, so have several reasons for firing/defunding them .

davidmhoffer can't understand science, but he thinks he sees a "snow job". That's a "something must be wrong" conspiracy theory:
April 5, 2016 at 3:53 pm
It was reading IPCC AR4 years ago that first pegged my BS meter and bent the needle. I’ve been in sales and marketing for decades, I know a snow job when I see one.

Jack has his own conspiracy theory. It's all tied up with public relations, money and an imaginary "committee" that rich "warmists" paid for to scour all journals and news items and swamp innocent deniers with "virulent mail". Conspiracy theorists don't understand science, but they know (or think they know) the language of money.
April 5, 2016 at 4:02 pm
Thank you. The term denier is a typical example. In itself, it proves this has been a propaganda war, not a scientific one. The fact that warmists could afford to employ the likes of Fenton Communications shows it has been all about the money. Fenton are notorious for promoting scientific matters that are less than accurate.
Also, the warmists paid for a committee to scour all journals and news items and swamp anyone who disagreed with virulent mail, so much so, that they dropped the argument.

So far there hasn't been a critical comment. There hasn't even been a comment that suggests anyone has the first clue about what Ari is trying to say. eyesonu did the usual "it's brilliant" type of comment, but what it is about the article that makes him or her think it's "excellent" is left to one's imagination:
April 5, 2016 at 4:12 pm
Excellent essay! It portrays the arguments I have been making in my circles for years. I guess that if I said that this is one of the best essays I have read to date it would be fair to say that as it only reinforces my views is the reason for my appreciation of the essay. Great work.


  1. Jct: http://SmartestManOnEarth.Ca isn't convinced by the science, I'm convinced by the fact the alarmists used a "trick to hide the decline!" The fact you can show your face in public after being caught lying is the joke. I bet you $100 it will be colder next year, or the year after, or after that, and when you back down in public, everyone will know you don't believe in what you are saying, IE, "Lying again!" And of course, my bet stands unchallenged. Har har har. Low-techs talking Science to a guy with a systems engineering degree who scored 100% in Physics.

    1. The "smartest man on Earth" seems to struggle with English composition.

    2. Possible case of crank magnetism?

    3. "And of course, my bet stands unchallenged."

      Are you surprised that your bet is unchallenged? Is that supposed to be an indication of ... well, anything? After all, you are only betting on only one of the next three years being colder immediately after a year with a huge El Nino. You should be offering odds of at least 100/1.

      And let me see. You are not convinced by the science? But you are convinced by some highly dubious ideas spun by some very unscientific people, with an agenda, who read what they wanted into the words. For the smartest man in the world your judgement is a bit lacking.

    4. Also from that site:

      My Differential Equations cracked the code in Jesus's parables!

      This is beyond satire!

    5. Who scored 100% what? Fruitcake seems most likely...

    6. "Hi-tech Action" - still using floppy disks?

    7. Hey Jack,

      How about making a bet about the climate rather than the weather? Would you accept a bet on whether this decade will be warmer than the previous one?

    8. XD John Turmel bet in 2014 that every year afterwards would be cooler. He couldn't have been more wrong! It looks like he doesn't honour his bets though :( :

    9. King of the Paupers writes : alarmists used a "trick to hide the decline!"

      Well, he's a pauper when it comes to truthfulness and facts, that's for sure.

      You can tell a completely ignorant pseudoskeptic when they can't even get their incorrect 'facts' straight. No such quote exists from the scientists involved, they were two separate events. Neither was nefarious and I doubt our pauper can explain the details of either incident much less why either was worth anyone bothering about.

    10. That website contains many of the features we've come to associate with the 'enthusiast' level of denial:

      Truly Awful 'Design' [✓]
      Crank Magnetism [✓]
      Grandiose Claims [✓]
      Desultory / Rambling / Incoherent [✓]
      Clip-Art Crimes [✓]

      There may be another Bingo opportunity here!...

    11. You would have to be brave trolling this blog.

  2. There could be an entire field of study devoted to how the brain of a climate science denier is wired, or miswired.

    I doubt even Lewandowsky wants to tackle that one. And, I don't think that he is clinical or neuro.

    Still there probably is a literature on extreme conspiracy theorists and crank magnetism. As far as I can see climate science deniers exhibit the same types of behaviour as anti-vaxers, the only real difference is the subject matter.

    Both groups postulate a world-wide conspiracy, carry out “research”, usually incompetently, fake data or conclusions, are sure that their high school science courses allow them to see things that experts miss, and specialize in magical thinking. I imagine there are other nut-case groups out there. The American birther conspiricy theorists come to mind.

    I loved that davidmhoffer quote. Sales and marketing, excepting specialized sales (John Mashey comes to mind) does not usually qualify one to critique climate science. Or any other, come to think of it.

    @ King of the Paupers & MikeH

    I had not read all the WUWT comments and missed John Turmel. Thank you. This lad is a bit extreme and I'd agree with the crank magnetism diagnosis. I am not expecting him to take a seat in the House any time soon.

    1. Maybe I'm taking what you said the wrong way, but John Mashey is no way primarily a marketing guy. He's like about as experienced a computer engineer and programmer as you can be, having done some pioneering work at Bell Labs back in the 70's and 80's.

    2. @ metzomajic
      AFAIRJohn Mashey has a Ph.D in something like physics or electrical engineering and a distinguished career in the computer industry but from some remarks several years ago on Deltoid he mentioned that as part of his job as CEO of a computer hardware company he was selling supercomputers to the climate industry which means IMO some sales experience in liaison with the various users. I don't think he was a salesperson in the usual sense of the word.

      That's why I used the term "excepting specialized sales" but I can see how obscure or confusing it is.

  3. Sou, that was, IMO, one of your best recent articles. It completely deconstructs Ari's article, and shows how he's done nothing more than build a huge straw man.

    Perhaps Ari should contact The Burning Man organisers, and ask if they would like to burn his immense straw man at the end of their next festival. FTA:

    The event takes its name from its culmination, the symbollic, ritual burning of a large wooden effigy ("the Man") that traditionally occurs on the Saturday evening of the event.

    They do loves themselves a big pyrotechnics display, they do ;-)

    1. I enjoyed a droll observation once made to a prolific and particularly abrasive denier troll at NZ's Hot Topic site along the lines of 'perhaps [he was] trying to pile up enough strawmen to line the coast and combat rising sea levels?'

      I do note that a lot of such trolls have now retreated to the safety of the RW Epistemic Bubble, where they can gibber safely among themselves. Reality's not been kind to them of late...

    2. O but too kind, too kind...


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