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Sunday, May 1, 2016

A good answer by James Hansen to a poorly formed question from an ideological denier, Dave Begley

Sou | 11:37 PM Go to the first of 16 comments. Add a comment

Anthony Watts has copied and pasted an article (archived here) from some dumb denier blog called Powerline. The article was written by a bloke called Dave Begley, who confesses he's a science denier on ideological grounds. Dave went to a talk by Dr James Hansen at Creighton University, which was held in advance of a shareholder meeting of Berkshire Hathaway.

Dave thought that he was "not only the only conservative, I was also the only person who was thinking clearly and critically". I'll let you decide whether he has the ability to think clearly and critically on the subject of climate change. Dave claimed:

I have never heard such nonsense in my life. He gave a rambling and incoherent presentation for nearly two hours. Three times he forgot the question or lost his train of thought. Since the Jesuits taught me logic, I could easily identity his use of the context, bulls-eye, omission and appeal to authority fallacies.
Dave Begley doesn't give any examples of what he regarded as "use of the context, bulls-eye, omission and appeal to authority fallacies". His own article was one long fallacy of personal incredulity, mixed in with some inaccurate reporting.

Dave said that Dr Hansen "never identified man as the cause of this impending disaster and that gradual warming is not just the natural evolution of the Earth over time". That says to me that Dave Begley rejects the fact that global warming is mainly caused by us tossing waste CO2 into the air. He rejects the science of the past two centuries on no grounds other than that he personally doesn't believe it. Dave referred to the "CAGW scam", signalling that he's a "climate hoax" conspiracy theorist. Not the best person to report climate science or Dr Hansen's talk.

Dave was the first to ask a question of Dr Hansen. I've transcribed as much as I can of his question, which had a preamble that I couldn't make out. Dave starts out with a wrong claim - that "models have been mostly wrong", when the opposite is the case. Dr Hansen's reply is climate science 101.
Dave Begley: indecipherable intro...So there is a cost to this I think we should realise that. My question is this. Your theory about this disaster is based upon your models. Your models have mostly been wrong for the last 30 years. So how do we know that this impending disaster in the models are correct, seventy years from now, when everyone in this room is dead.

Dr. James Hansen: If you look at the paper we published, you will see that it's not based on models, it's based on the combination of the Earth's history, called paleoclimate, on climate models, and thirdly on observations of the real world.

And, you know, the physics is actually very simple.

When you add carbon dioxide to the atmosphere it absorbs heat radiation. It's like a blanket. So that makes the planet temporarily out of energy balance. More energy coming in from the sun than heat radiating to space because of this absorbing gases.

Well, we can now measure that energy imbalance. It's coincidental that I have sitting up here a slide.

You know the atmosphere of the Earth is very thin. It has a very small heat capacity. But the ocean is two and a half miles deep on average. It has a huge heat capacity. So when the planet is out of energy balance, most of that excess energy is going into the ocean.

About 15 years ago, nations cooperated in distributing about 3,000 floats around the world's oceans. They dive down to a depth of about two kilometers and come back to the surface and radio to a satellite their measurements. And this allows us to measure how the heat content of the ocean is changing. And what we find is that it's steadily increasing. It's increasing, and this graph just goes to the end of 2008 but the data goes up to the present and that increase is continuing and is slightly larger in recent years.

That rate of increase, which is about 6/10ths of a watt per metre squared on average over the entire planet doesn't sound like a lot, but it's equivalent to the energy in 400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs per day, every day of the year. That much excess energy is going into the ocean, and it's warming the ocean. And that ocean is now melting the ice shelves. We're able to measure all these ice shelves around the Antarctic and Greenland. They are melting. And now the ?? of the ice sheets are beginning to shrink. And we're measuring that very precisely with gravity satellite.

So it's not a complicated story. It's a straightforward one, and it's scary just because of the inertia of the system. It wasn't easy to get these massive things to begin to change. They are beginning to change at increasing rates. So it's not some wild scare that we dreamed up. There's a lot of well-established physics and observations behind it.
The above is transcribed from the video below. It's a bit different to Dave Begley's version, which is:
I asked the first question. I reminded the Iowa native that he was in the home city of the Union Pacific Railroad and it has had recent significant layoffs due to a serious decline in coal car loadings. I then asked him, since his models have been mostly wrong for 30 years, why we should believe his models were any more accurate in predicting the disaster that is going to hit when everyone in the room was dead 70 years from now.

He asserted that his predictions were not based upon models but “observable evidence.” False. He dodged, stalled and avoided. He threw out some numbers and put up a slide depicting the Hiroshima bomb explosion. His answer was non-responsive. If I could have cross examined him at length I would have destroyed his answer, but he knew the format.

Oh, if only Dave Begley could have cross examined him. What would he have asked, one wonders.  Perhaps he would have asked him just how all the thousands of scientists (and the thousands of instruments) were able to conspire with such precision, given the vast number of independent research teams working in different countries around the world, and that keep coming up with the same result. It's warming, and we're causing it.

 The above is Part 3 of a four part set. There are three other videos of Dr Hansen's talk: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 4.

From the WUWT comments

As you'd expect, the mere mention of the name of James Hansen is enough to bring out the WUWT lynch mob. I won't repeat the worst of the comments. Here are some others.

chaamjamal says what deniers often fall back on when they can't think of anything halfway intelligent to add:
May 1, 2016 at 1:52 am
james hansen needs psychiatric care.

Robert couldn't find anything intelligent to say either, so he falls back on rhetoric without any factual evidence:
May 1, 2016 at 1:54 am
Like all of the “sky is falling crowd” long on rhetoric short on factual evidence ,in oz we get the standard the proof is irrefutable with no chance to refute .

Mark rejects factual evidence, calling it "lies":
May 1, 2016 at 2:14 am (excerpt)
Hansen lied on the very first question. He knows paleo climate reconstructions have no predictive power at all, none.
Lying batard! 

Tucci78 exemplifies the insanity of deluded science deniers:
May 1, 2016 at 2:44 am
Not at all facetiously, is it possible that Dr. Hanson is looking forward to prosecution on charges of malfeasance in public office, and building up evidence supporting a diminished capacity defense? 

aneipris is the same. It's totally weird that WUWT conspiracy nutters cannot recognise that the science is based on empirical data. Actual measurements, plus solid well-established physics.
May 1, 2016 at 3:28 am
I have to fight against feeling sorry for this guy. I bet if they hooked him up to a polygraph, he’d pass. I have personal experience with delusional people, and this is how they talk, with vague associations, faulty logic, and above all, absolute rock solid certainty… 

Once again I wonder how many WUWT readers live as free people in society and how many are bashing away at their keyboards from behind locked doors, in their one hour on the Internet before lights out.

Top photo credit: NASA


  1. " ...I bet if they hooked him up to a polygraph, he’d pass. I have personal experience with delusional people, and this is how they talk, with vague associations, faulty logic, and above all, absolute rock solid certainty… "

    The projection is strong in this one, Master.

  2. As one might expect from this article, the Powerline blog is basically far-fight conspiracy theories 24/7/365.

  3. Hansen, Nye, Gore...flypaper for idiots.



  4. I may have mentioned Saul Alinsky's "Rules for Radicals" before. It was a 1971 book on how to tear down existing institutions. One of the techniques he recommended was to personalize issues, by selecting someone who supports The Other Side, and mercilessly ridiculing and attacking that person. This creates a reverse ad hominem situation, in which the public associates the ridicule not only with the person, but with the institution or thoughts that person represents.

    Deniers engage in these Saul Alinksy tactics perfectly. They have ridiculed and demonized people like Al Gore, Michael Mann, and James Hansen to the point where the mere mention of one of these names sends deniers int a feeding frenzy, shuts off their higher brain functions, and prevents them from seeing any data through the darkened glass of the Overton Window.

    1. precisely D.C

      that's basically the "Serengeti" strategy that Mann has identified

      basically the mother of al ad hominem's

    2. Yes, Serengeti is the same thing.

      Somehow, "Al Gore is fat" means the Earth isn't warming. I haven't figured out the connection yet, but there it is.

      It's a way of deflecting the conversation away from the data, and into attack and defense of individuals -- whose personal habits have nothing to do with the topic.

      It then also allows memes such as "everyone knows Mann's hockey stick is nonsense." It's no longer about the data behind the hockey stick. Any confirmatory study must also be nonsense, because confirmatory studies are merely copies of =Mann's= hockey stick.

      Likewise, Gore didn't do any studies at all, and isn't responsible for any of the science. But because he's been associated with it, and he's fat, we don't have to talk about the science any more.

      This is also what they're doing to Hansen. It's despicable. But then, denying the catastrophe we're creating is pretty despicable already.

  5. Old lawyer's saying: If you have the facts on your side, you pound the facts. If you have the law on your side, you pound the law. If you have neither on your side, you pound the table.

    Begley provided us a very nice table-pounding demonstration there...

  6. Following up -- had to respond to this excerpt from Begley's nonsense:

    Howler number two: It is too hot to work outside. No lawn mowing this summer by your kids.

    Last July, a friend of mine was sent to the Persian Gulf region on a work assignment. He got there just in time to experience the extreme heat-wave that sent the heat index up over 150F.

    He told me that the head/humidity combination was just unbearable; it was absolutely *impossible* to work outside. Had to hunker down in a building with A/C until it cooled off enough to work outside safely.

    So, yes, it *can* get too hot to work outside, and as warming continues, it will be getting too hot to work outside a lot more often in many parts of the world.

    1. Typo correction: ...heat/humidity...

    2. Central Florida is hitting 92°F at the moment, with the UV index proving fairly nasty from 11am thru 1pm, so I wouldn't suggest that unbearable heat is unusual for us down here. What is noteworthy is that we haven't had (frantically searches for wood) any serious hurricane activity in a decade.

      Begley should also know that we have water problems down here as well.

  7. Powerline has several folks deep into the Kochs/thinktanks turf.
    For an example, see Steven F. Hayward (DeSmog profile) in The Climate Mafia Strikes Again: The Curious Case of Murry Salby and read the comments.

  8. 'If I could have cross examined him at length I would have destroyed his answer'

    Sure you would, Petal. Yet another sententious Dunning-Krugerite Colonel Blimp. Do the battle-worn foot-soldiers of Denial at WUWT have any other personality types left?

    When viewed through the lens of bad faith, any and all statements are available for assigning as 'logical fallacies'. Citing an IPCC report is an Appeal to Authority (and, God forbid, Consensus!). (And leaving out any minor qualifying detail of said IPCC report is a Sin of Omission!) Pointing out that Marc Morano is, yet again, wrong is an Ad Hominem. Etc. Etc. Egad, we've got the bounders now! By this means, we can build a comforting wall where we never again need contend with the inconvenient substance of an argument...

    I seem to remember the Jesuits taught Tony Abbott logic as well. Just saying.

    1. In the same way that the heroic Anthony crossed the Atlantic to confront and destroy John Cook.

    2. All the talk of logical fallacies doesn't really pan out into actual examination of logical fallacies. Much like how the talk about fraud tends to stop at producing proof, or how the talk about failing models fails to understand the difference between recorded data and extrapolation.

  9. Begley fails in too many elementary ways. Why does he bother? Is the attention of one hundered fellow crackpots worth it?

    Too lazy to care that someone [thanks Sou for taking on yet another execrable WUWT blurt] could check the transcript for comparison with his version of the event.

    Dismal work, Dave Begley. Denialism ain't what it used to be, and back then it was crap.


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