Friday, September 13, 2013

Stillborn - a suicide note from a lost civilisation

Sou | 3:05 PM Go to the first of 3 comments. Add a comment

Late edition: see below

Update: Anthony's WUWT article, which is devoid of any substance other than a baseless whine, has so far garnered 200 equally inane comments from the WUWT crowd, so I've updated the archive here in case there is anyone masochistic enough to wade through them all.

The contrast between a new article in Rolling Stone and a blog article by Anthony Watts (archived here, updated here) could hardly be greater. The Rolling Stone article is another powerful piece on climate change, centred on the imminent release of the first volume of the next major IPCC report.

The last few days have seen a hodge podge of articles emerge from WUWT.  A couple of them were Anthony's copies and pastes of press releases about new scientific papers with little or no comment by Anthony.  Then there was the really silly stuff from really silly people like "mad, mad, mad" Steve Goreham and Benny Peiser of the GWPF and Christopher Monckton, who was recently awarded a Distinction in Childish Bluster.

Today Anthony's written practically a whole article all by himself.  If you thought his zeal might have dimmed or he might just decide to become more "scientific" after proudly announcing that he's been written up as the biggest (pseudo) science blog in the blogosphere, it hasn't.

Rolling Stone on IPCC AR5 Working Group 1: The Physical Science Basis

Jeff Goodell of Rolling Stone has written a very strong article centred on the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) of the IPCC.  At the end of the month, two reports will be released: the Summary for Policymakers is expected on 27 September 2013 and three days later the accepted Final Draft of the full Working Group I report, comprising the Technical Summary, 14 Chapters and three Annexes, will be made available online.

This is a long article so I've put in a break to save readers' bandwidth.  If you're on the home page, click here.

As Goodell points out, the IPCC is tiny.  It has only 12 employees and a budget of only $9 million.  It's reports are produced through the volunteer efforts of hundreds of scientists (in the case of WG1) from around the world.

Here are some stats from the IPCC demonstrating the enormous effort that has gone into just the WG1 report, with a huge amount of the work falling on the shoulders of the 809 authors and 50 review editors:

  • 1000 nominations from 63 countries
  • 209 Lead Authors and 50 Review Editors from 39 countries
  • Over 600 Contributing Authors from 32 countries
  • Over 2 million gigabytes of numerical data from climate model simulations 
  • Over 9200 scientific publications cited
  • 54,677 comments from 1089 Expert Reviewers from 55 countries
  • Summary for Policy Makers will be approved by up to 195 governments at the end of this month.

A Short History: Kyoto, Fighting Dirty and Black Helicopters

In Rolling Stone, Goodell has a well written article tracing some of the history of the IPCC reports and the reaction to the science of global warming, briefly touching on the political response at the global level, including how the US failure to ratify the Kyoto agreement was a major setback to progress.  He also mentions the opposition to taking steps to mitigate global warming writing:
Deniers have always been cranked up about the IPCC, in part because of the black-helicopter paranoia of many conservatives who see climate change as a U.N. plot to take away freedom. And from the beginning, they have fought dirty, attacking not just the science but the scientists themselves. 
Goodell gives the example of the first major attack on a scientist, which was an attack on Dr Ben Santer after the release of the Second Assessment Report (SAR).  As we know they haven't let up since.  Tactics include isolating and attacking prominent scientists using blog articles, using political intimidation and even going to far as to attempt to use the judicial system to silence scientists and spread doubt.  And as readers here will know, stealing private emails so they can misquote them.

How the Denier Game Works

Goodell weaves the tactics of deniers throughout his article.  First he sets the scene, pointing out that most people in the world accept the science.  It's only in a small number of very wealthy countries where denialism runs rampant:
When scientists undertook the first IPCC assessment in the late 1980s, the assumption was that if they got the facts right, politicians would take action.... 
..."Most of the world does not have a problem with denial of climate change," says Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication. "It's only an issue in Australia, Canada and, most significantly, the United States." Although the U.S. population as a whole is moving toward accepting the reality of climate change, Congress remains a scientific backwater. 
He continues, describing the inexplicable reaction to the risks we're facing.  He writes about the denier game:
But that's how the denier game works: They seize on small errors and inconsequential factual inconsistencies in a piece of climate research and use it to discredit the science and reassure people that climate change is no big deal.

Suicide notes from a lost civilization

Goodell's final paragraph is (my bold italics):
In a more rational world, of course, we wouldn't need any more IPCC assessments. We would have listened to the scientists, built a global consensus and forged international agreements to reduce carbon pollution and head off the risk of climate catastrophe. But in the 25 years since the IPCC was formed, global carbon pollution is rising faster than ever. Future readers may view IPCC reports not as landmarks of scientific inquiry, but as suicide notes from a lost civilization.

Anthony Watts slimy reaction

Does Anthony write about the article itself?  Of course not.  He's still got his head buried well and truly and denies the mountains of evidence staring him in the face. He doesn't want to pay tax.

What Anthony writes is that he was asked for a comment and only one word of his comment was printed: "stillborn".  He makes the claim that he was "slimed"! (He wasn't as you will see.)

Are we at the beginning of a new age or is this new global civilisation stillborn?

The word "stillborn" brought a different image to my mind.  Here we are living in the most enlightened and informed of ages.  For many of us, life is far and away better than any that we could have expected in earlier times.  We have access to vast amounts of knowledge - all at the press of a button.  We don't have to leave our armchairs to experience the best that science, art, literature and music has to offer.  We can make friends with people we may never meet face to face.  We can get an understanding of different places and cultures that people in the past would probably never have even dreamt of.  We can even cyber-voyage into interstellar space on a real, live spacecraft.

And what do we do with all that knowledge, wisdom and beauty?  We choose leaders who are unable to make decisions that affect the very future of civilisation.  The decisions we make today will determine how quickly this sixth major extinction event will proceed.

This explosion of knowledge, wisdom, art and science should be heralding the birth of a new enlightened civilisation that would last for millenia.  But will this new era prove to be stillborn?  Will we advance or are we doomed to go backwards, with civilisation disintegrating because of our ineptitude and inability to address arguably the biggest problem facing the world today - global warming?

The bleating of bigoted deniers

And all Anthony Watts is moaning about is that only one of his words of denial of reality were printed in Rolling Stone (archived here).

As if you needed any more evidence of the closed bigoted mind of the typical denier, Anthony Watts starts his complaint with this loud dogwhistle to the bigoted, narrow-minded hicks that follow his blog:
My first impression was to ignore the request for interview from Rolling Stone’s Jeff Goodell last week, after all, RS has pretty much blown what credibility they had after making a terrorist bomber a front page teen heartthrob.
What Anthony is referring to is a long, thoughtful, in-depth, human interest article in Rolling Stone about the Boston bomber.  The article raises important questions for society.  As explained in Rolling Stone:
The fact that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is young, and in the same age group as many of our readers, makes it all the more important for us to examine the complexities of this issue and gain a more complete understanding of how a tragedy like this happens.
(Rolling Stone followed up with another article, as if the above wasn't sufficient.)

Accurate reporting is 'slime' according to Anthony Watts

Then, after persuading his followers that Rolling Stone is on the "wrong side",  Anthony goes all hoity toity and says he was "slimed", writing:
But, I said to myself, “it’s my duty to reach people I might not ordinarily reach”. So, I responded in good faith. In exchange, I got slimed by Goodell.
This is the the only mention of Anthony Watts in the Rolling Stone article:
The final report has not even been released yet, and already prominent bloggers in the denial-sphere, like Anthony Watts, are calling it "stillborn."
 Let's see if it's accurate or if it's a "slime".  Anthony wrote to Goodell (my bold italics):
On Sep 3, 2013, at 5:04 PM, “Anthony Watts” wrote:
My view is that AR5 is going to stillborn, mainly because it is already outdated by new science that won’t be included. 
So it's not a "slime" it's an accurate representation of what Anthony wrote.  Goodell could have gone on an mocked the rest of Anthony's denial, which Anthony included gratis, but he didn't.  He just reported Anthony's top point.  Anthony complained that he was lumped in with other science deniers, but in his email to Goodell, he was shouting "I deny science" at the top of his voice!

See for yourself. Anthony wrote in his email to Goodell a short list of denier memes - almost all of which are such old worn-out classics they are listed in SkepticalScience's most-used climate myths:

  • climate sensitivity is low  - this one was addressed by Rolling Stone - also worth reading is this article by Justin Gillis in the New York Times; and SkepticalScience
  • "it's natural" - what can I say to that! Only if you think pouring billions of tonnes of waste CO2 into the air each year is "natural" - See SkepticalScience
  • "the models are wrong" - another classic denierism - SkepticalScience again
  • "it's stopped warming" - yeah, right! more from SkepticalScience
  • it's now a "minor problem in a Banana Republic where only a few vocal science rebels are arguing for immediate intervention." - now that's what I call slime against humanity and against scientists throughout the world;
  • Topher and Monckton say it's warming but it'll cost to much to slow it; on the contrary, the longer we wait the greater the cost of both adaptation and mitigation. Here is my advice to Topher.  Also see this discussion in realclimate.org about the work of Stephen Pacala and Robert Socolow

From the WUWT comments and HotWhopper's Law of Science Denial

Most of the comments are in the same vein - "syentists don't no nuffin'"; isn't Rolling Stone awful I'll never buy it again etc etc.

I'm thinking that there needs to be a new law - HotWhopper's Law of Science Denial along the lines of Godwin's Law.

As more scientific evidence of global warming emerges and as disastrous weather events increase, the probability that a denier will label science a "religion" approaches 1.

For example - from the comments (archived here, updated here):

Mike Maguire says (excerpts):
September 12, 2013 at 2:34 pm
... global science religion is being in indoctrinated into our young people from the earliest age. ...We think that the truth busting out from every aspect of climate science has got to overcome this. I’m very hopeful but this thing is like a religion....In religion, faith is everything. Once people develop “faith” in something, it’s incredibly much more difficult to talk them out of it then it was for them to initially accept it.
To millions of people, climate science is based on faith.

Richard M says:
September 12, 2013 at 6:23 pm
The big thing to understand is we are dealing with religious fanatics. We are telling them their religion is false. Their god does not exist. Of course they react in a hateful, angry manner. That is what all religious fanatics do.

The comments get worse and worse as the thread grows, HGW xx/7 vents his spleen and says:
September 12, 2013 at 9:30 pm
Sadly, I wouldn’t doubt fully half of the glue-sniffers reading that printed format of human excrement live here in the Pacific Northwest. How I grew up here and didn’t fall prey to their ‘non-conformist’ groupthink is beyond me. Probably my dad. Bless that man.
It really makes sense that the former-counterculture troglodytes are now acting this way. They seized power through the leftist corners of media and universities to become ‘the culture’. To foster the free thought that got them there would only oust them from power and they don’t seem to find humor in irony. As was astutely pointed out above, and many times before, this is their religion; as they themselves brag, nature is their church.

Moving away from the "science is a religion" theme and onto a name HotWhopper readers might recognise and might have previously mistaken for a "lukewarmer".  Jeff Condon says:
September 12, 2013 at 2:38 pm
At least you have a forum by which you can reasonably reply.
What a bunch of whackos at that magazine. I wouldn’t have agreed to talk to them.

Late edition: Did anyone at WUWT read the Rolling Stone article?

(Added some hours later). By the way, there are a heap of comments at WUWT about coal fired power stations and smoke stacks and nuclear power stations and cooling towers below Anthony's article.  I didn't bother to check what Anthony wrote about these things, but I'd guess a lot of readers didn't go to Rolling Stone to read Goodell's article (which is usual at WUWT - they are very wary of strange websites like Rolling Stone :D).  There isn't a power station in sight in the Rolling Stone article.  The photograph I see at the top of Goodell's article is of water running through an ice sheet with the caption:
Melting polar glaciers could raise sea levels by almost three feet by the end of the century.

Update - I figured what the fuss was all about.  Anthony was complaining that he couldn't see the colourless CO2 emissions from a photo of a coal-fired power plant in another article in Rolling Stone about science deniers.  Funnily enough one commenter mistook the photo for a nuclear power plant - Michael Spencer, Melbourne, Australia says:
September 12, 2013 at 6:27 pmIt’s a funny thing, but searching for the images on the Internet it turns out that this is a NUCLEAR power station. No wonder there are no smokestacks emitting ‘carbon [sic] pollution’!

Here's a link to the article.  I believe the photo is of the Vattenfall Braunkohlekraftwerk Jaenschwalde, which burns brown coal (see here).  Somewhat ironically, I notice it is one of the worst CO2 emitters in the world - from Wikipedia:
With an annual output of 23.7 million tonnes of CO 2 (2006), it is ranked 7 in the world rankings of the power plants with the most emissions , within the European Union in 3rd place When emissions per kWh is the case here with 1.2 kg of CO 2 (after the power plant Niederaussem ) ranked 4.


  1. In the words of the prophet Lotharsson: "It's always projection"

  2. In my neighborhood, they'd say Jeff Goodell made Anthony Watts his bitch.

    What a crying little baby Watts is - "Wah Wah Wah, the mainstream press didn't treat me fairly. Wah Wah Wah, I assumed everybody was as dumb as my followers. sniffle, sniffle, they slimed me by actually quoting me in context" His maturity is somewhere between my two kids. Then again, my oldest one is a girl and girls mature faster than boys as they say.

    Seriously, I've worked with the press for years. Never expect yourself to be quoted at all, never mind more than a single word. Always do your research on the reporter before writing back. Finally, don't email lies and myths and expect people to believe it without checking.

  3. "Stillborn". Interesting.

    Watts provides an insight into the way the denialosphere will try to misrepresent AR5 WG1.

    I think I can see it. We will get lots of whiffle about recent (non-robust) attempts to estimate TCR from "observational" data (but aerosol forcing is a guess, not an observation). We will get the deafening, endless claim that AR5 perpetuates an overestimate of S from AR4 WG1.

    We will get misrepresentation ad nauseam of tropospheric temperature as the entire climate system in "support" of the non-robust estimates of TCR.

    I think they are going to try and talk round AR5.


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