Friday, April 15, 2016

Is there a denial of twilight? - with Judith Curry and Mario Loyola

Sou | 1:04 PM Go to the first of 18 comments. Add a comment
Earlier this week Judith Curry claimed that the "climate movement" is in twilight. Her headline was the deniosaur's plaintive hope "Twilight of the Climate Change Movement". I don't know what was going through Judith's mind when she wrote that. Was it that global warming will go away soon? Was it that the science of the past two centuries is nothing more than a "movement"? Whatever it was, it is evidence that Judith wants to continue to cement her place in the science denial movement.

Judith's evidence of twilight or movement or something was a copy and paste from an article by a science denier from the USA called Mario Loyola (who gets some minor mentions at DeSmog Blog). Judith emphasised some of the passages she liked, which were straight from the climate conspiracy handbook. She wrote:
I excerpted about a third of Loyola’s essay, highlighting the parts that I find most insightful. 
(I'm not sure Judith's excerpting without any substantive critique or analysis would pass the fair use test.) I read Mario Loyola's article at The American Interest (you only get one shot before you have to pay). It was your run-of-the-mill gish gallop complaining about efforts to mitigate global warming, with the sciency bits mostly about "ice age" and "CO2 is plant food". Mario wants us to adapt to multi-meter sea level rise rather than reduce the impact of climate change.

Judith said she highlighted the bits that she found insightful. Here's my take:
  • a complaint that scientists will no longer entertain the notion that the earth is flat and that heresies are to be persecuted (sic) (link)
  • "they" are stopping millions of poor people from enjoying an early death from COPD and lung cancer, and not paying small island nations to put stilts under their islands to stop flooding (link)
  • applying the precautionary principle to a major risk will destroy the economy (never mind that when the risk eventuates, all that will be moot) (here and here)
  • President Obama is a fool for promoting mainstream science (link)
  • Pretending not to know that human activity accounts for all the warming since around 1950 is a good trick (link)
  • Saying the word "uncertainty" over and over again will make enough people think that there's some doubt about the fact of ongoing global warming (link)
  • Scientists and science are engaged in fraud (link - okay, Judith didn't highlight that claim, but she didn't dispute it either)
  • Using big scary words like apocalyptic vision will reassure deniers that climate science is a hoax (link)

There's more, including the usual complaints that deniers don't like being called deniers and that stopping CO2 emissions won't cool the planet in the immediate term. No mention of the fact that if we don't reduce emissions, the global warming will be so much worse.

Judith really loved his article, saying Mario had "a remarkable grasp of the public debate" - which says as much about Judith's "grasp" as Mario's.  According to Judith she particularly liked it because just like Judith, Mario Loyola couldn't figure out if 50% is the same as half or that: "The best estimate of the human induced contribution to warming is similar to the observed warming over this period." (IPCC AR5) That is, we've caused all the warming since the middle of last century.

Global mean surface temperature rise since 1880, showing the period where the rise is all from human activity. Data source: GISS NASA 

The other bit that Judith liked contained the word, you guessed it, "uncertainty". It was a strawman logical fallacy:
Uncertainty about risks is not necessarily fatal to a policy of precaution, and but false claims to certainty usually are, sooner or later.
Judith doesn't say who is supposedly making false claims about what certainty or uncertainty. That's not her role. Judith's job is to repeat the word "uncertainty" as often as she possibly can (though she doesn't understand what it means), in the hope that she'll convince some very important person that maybe climate change isn't worth tackling.

References and further reading

The 5 telltale techniques of climate change denial - article by John Cook at CNN

From the HotWhopper archives


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. We have all watched Dr Curry's blog become vastly dependant on cut and paste. Her comments on those pastes are not analytical they're just adjectival.

    She holds a Doctorate in Physics FFS from a great University (if you ignore Chicago's economics Dept). What on earth could change a physics professor in her early 60's into Anthony Watts?

    1. The signs are that her cognitive faculties are in decline (or were they always this weak?). The fact that these days, Judith almost never critiques or offers any analytical insight into anything supports that. The fact that when she does say anything about climate, she mostly gets it wrong (and has to ask her readers to explain things to her), also supports that contention. (Climate is supposed to be her research area.)

    2. Then I know how she feels.
      It goes somewhere to explaining Mosher's politeness at CE when he he barely tolerates Anthony and vice versa.

      In 2016 WUWT and CE are peas in a pod yet Mosher has found some point of difference and it must be sentimental rather than scientific. (his fame rose out of his poor judgment).

    3. My take is she does not critique or analyse because she can't - she has no ammo left.

      She has descended into pure propaganda.

    4. In 2016 WUWT and CE are peas in a pod yet Mosher has found some point of difference

      Steven's strategy is to peddle contrarianism while *seeming* to be inside the tent, aiming out. Perhaps at one time he felt this was better achieved by association with JC rather than with AW. But as you say, things have moved on.

    5. "Then I know how she feels.
      It goes somewhere to explaining Mosher's politeness at CE when he he barely tolerates Anthony and vice versa.

      In 2016 WUWT and CE are peas in a pod yet Mosher has found some point of difference and it must be sentimental rather than scientific. "

      It is easy to see the difference between the two.
      Although lately Judith has been Slouching towards WUWTdom.

      When it comes to bloggers I will support the issue basically comes down to this.
      What's their position on open code and data. That's pretty much a bright line for me. Your position on the science ( what we know ) is secondary. Your position on the principles of openness are paramount. In July of 2012 Anthony released a "blog paper" and has promoted it ever since without releasing data. For me that means he crossed my line. Its not about his position on a particular scientific matter, it was his practice.
      As for Judith, as with Anthony I dont care what positions she advocates for on any particular issue. As long as she supports open data and code I have no issues.

      if folks agree with me-- AGW is real, and yes we have to take some immediate actions-- That is not enough. First and foremost I want to know where they stand on data and code access. Happily more and more of us are coming around to what I started promoting in 2007. Its been a long fight trying to convince people that posting your code and data is a good thing.

    6. "Steven's strategy is to peddle contrarianism while *seeming* to be inside the tent, aiming out. Perhaps at one time he felt this was better achieved by association with JC rather than with AW. But as you say, things have moved on."

      Peddle contrarianism?

      1. Co2 is GHG. Yup
      Contrarians positions, run the gamut here, from
      There is no green house effect to its just a trace
      2. GHG will warm the plant. Yup.
      Contrarian positions - the saturation argument,
      C02 lags temperature increases are nonsense.
      3. Man has caused the increased. Yup
      Salby and others are nuts
      4. ECS lies somewhere between 1.5C and 4.5C. YUP!
      contrarian positions are: ECS makes no sense (eschenbach) ECS must be low ( lindzen etc)
      5. The risk from climate change demands immediate action
      YUP! get rid of coal today.
      6. the pause elicted some good investigations, Cowtan
      and Way, Solomon, Mann, others. YUP.
      Contarians think the pause killed the cause.

      I have yet to find a defining contrarian point I agree with. Can BBD? Nope. What folks dont like is that I tolerate some contrarians. Also, I praise contrarians when they actually engage in publishing science. Example: Nic Lewis. He sends his code and data. I review his papers. I support his engagement. I'd have to guess his estimates are low, but I'm open to persuasion.
      here is the thing. you can agree with the IPCC on everything ( I do ) and still be branded a peddlar of contrrianism. All you have to do is suggest that FOIA is a good thing. or suggest that deleting mails was a bad thing. or praise contrarians for publishing.. that is if you violate the social standards of the "consensus" you will catch heat.

    7. Stephen, no one is objecting to open data. In fact, climate scientists insist on it. All scientific papers include all supporting data.

      Not sure what your point is.

    8. Smosh and the Tomfool CRU'd themselves years ago. Both are left resorting to concern-sharing and that same sort of plausibly-deniable defense of crankery that has become JC's trademark.

    9. Steven

      Peddle contrarianism?

      Let's see:

      if folks agree with me-- AGW is real, and yes we have to take some immediate actions-- That is not enough. First and foremost I want to know where they stand on data and code access.

      Which shrilly dogwhistles that there's a problem with climate science and *probity*. Piltdown Mann, and all that. But there isn't, so this is a contrarian peddling. Thank you for providing a representitive example.

      I have yet to find a defining contrarian point I agree with. Can BBD? Nope.

      Insinuating that all is not well with climate science. Your leitmotif.

    10. It really is transparent and rather funny when someone equates emails to data.

      As if the actual measurements that critical readers need to know about are being hidden in emails, and don't exist in the records from whatever instrument was taking the measurements.

      I'm still hoping steven reveals what his point was.

    11. I cannot imagine a field of science in which *more* data is made freely available to the general public than climate science, and has been for years. Climate science is a leader in this regard, and probably way ahead of any other field.

      I don't have the same criteria for judging people's actions, or for judging science. I'm not even particularly curious about the content of personal email exchanges between professional (or amateur) disinformers and deniers. I doubt it would affect my opinion of deniers.

    12. This comment has been removed by the author.

    13. Mosher, as my comment at the top of this thread implies, I do not think you are a denier or even a fake sceptic but your conduct re the emails shows that you are an utter dickhead at best (no pun intended) and an enabler of lazy denial at worst.

      Steven you clearly have talent and skill and yes you couldabeen a contender but you must realise that you can only elevate your scientific reputation by standing on the shoulders of those you have defamed.

      If you want any help drafting the apologies come here first.

  3. If you want to know what COPD looks like there's a few videos on Youtube, though I'd not recommend watching. The crimes of the oil and motor lobby are many and varied.

    One new line these criminals are now taking is that its all our fault. That 'we' demanded it. Which begs the question what was the need for an oil and motor lobby to ever exist?

  4. Mildly off-topic (but maybe not, since it goes to the question of the "twilight" of the "climate movement")--JMA released March 2016 surface temperatures yesterday.

    It was the warmest March on record, exceeding the previous record-holder (March of 2015) by the same amount that February 2016 exceeded the previous record-holding February. So on a seasonally-adjusted basis, March was exactly as hot as the immensely hot February (to two decimal places).

    But on a non-seasonally adjusted basis: the month of March is normally warmer than February, and this year was no different. March was the hottest month in the entire JMA record. Ever.


  5. Mario Loyola's piece is an excellent example of what I call "Lawyer Science", aka: debate style cherry picking. He skillfully builds a case against the environmental community by giving a brief discussion of climate science which, though basically factual, distorts the overall picture. For example, his discussion of the Ice Ages points to the change in temperature since the LGM, claiming a 20 C increase, which appears to be a large change relative to the fraction of a degree C he also points to. Trouble is, That 20 C refers to data from Greenland, whereas the change in the tropics was much smaller, around 3 C shown on the linked graph. His discussion of "the Pleistocene Ice Age" makes no mention of the mechanism(s) thought to be the cause of this climate shift (the closure of the Isthmus of Panama and the resulting shift in ocean currents) and gets the dating wrong (the transition began around 3.3 M BP). He points to the Milankovitch cycles as a potential cause of the repeated Glacial/Interglacial cycles noting the small change in forcing, yet fails to consider that the large climate shift which results implies a strong positive feedback within the climate system. The result is a classic one sided presentation designed to convince the uneducated reader that his case is correct.

    Judith Curry's cut-and-paste blows by all those flaws in the science (which one would hope she understands), repeating just the political disinformation portion of the article. She writes:
    Loyola raised most of the outstanding issues that contribute major uncertainty to understanding of climate change. He got the bit picture right, if not all of the details.

    In posting the basically political excerpts, JC has abdicated her basic responsibility, which is, to use her expertise to correct those flaws she may have noticed. Loyola and the other legal minds at WILL appear committed to a Libertarian world view, which is like a teenager complaining about parental restrictions intended to pass on the older parents' knowledge to the younger rebellious child. As lawyers, the members of WILL surely support The Rule of Law, while at the same time, they complain about the addition of more layers of social control, i.e., laws. All laws are a form of "socialism", the only argument is over how strict those laws should be and which group benefits from those laws. Calculating costs and benefits as a way of quantifying the distribution of resources inevitably tends to ignore many costs spread diffusely thru society and discounts future costs against present benefits. These arguments are especially difficult when the required restrictions require that individuals stop doing things which previously appeared relatively harmless.

    The issues which Loyola presents are not new to the environmental community and the fact that our present "democratic" political systems aren't discussing them is a fundamental failure that is built into the "me first" illusion which has come to pervade society that offers instant gratification of one's material desires at only the cost in today's "money". It may turn out that climate change is the one issue which humanity can not solve before the negative impacts ("costs") become plainly greater then the short term societal gains ("benefits"), due to lack of interest fed by continual doses of politically motivated BS spread by people like Curry and Watts. This can't end well IMHO.


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