Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Denier weirdness @wattsupwiththat - The US housing bubble collapse proves climate science is a hoax?

Sou | 5:25 PM Go to the first of 22 comments. Add a comment
Anthony Watts has posted yet another "climate hoax" conspiracy theory on his blog wattsupwiththat.com (archived here). This one is not at all developed. It is by someone called "Victor Grauer" complaining that his false accusation of fraud by climate scientists was relegated to the bore hole by the climate scientists at realclimate.org.

Victor revamped and reposted his theory where it would be likely to get a better reception. And where better to post something rejected by leading scientists, than the world's leading climate conspiracy and disinformation blog, WUWT?

His argument boils down to this:
  • There was a collapse of the US housing market this century
  • Bernie Madoff conned his investors
  • Therefore climate science is a hoax.

Logic fail!

What Victor did was see a film called "The Big Short", which is described on IMDB as "Four denizens in the world of high-finance predict the credit and housing bubble collapse of the mid-2000s, and decide to take on the big banks for their greed and lack of foresight."

Victor also read a book by Harry Markopolos, that presents him as a lone voice in the wilderness trying to persuade the powers that be that the Madoff hedge fund was a fraud. You can see how that notion would be attractive to fake sceptics, who think they are the only people in the world who just know that climate science is a hoax.

There are some ironies here, of course. One is that Victor uncritically accepts a story that "the consensus of just about everyone in the financial world was that Madoff was honest, forthright, solid, reliable and completely trustworthy".  I doubt that was the case. According to Wikipedia, "At least two major banks were no longer willing to lend money to their customers to invest it with Madoff". An article in the Washington Post said that "Outside analysts had raised concerns about Madoff's firm for years." though it only cited one firm that advised its clients against it. Still, I expect there'd not have been too many financial advisers who would have been promoting it as an investment. As I understand it, the fund worked by word of mouth from people who Madoff had persuaded to give him their money, not so much by recommendations from the wider financial community.

The bigger point is that Victor is equating a single, very secretive, poorly investigated hedge fund in the USA with two centuries of open, very non-secretive and much investigated fields of science. This is a logical fallacy of the type that climate hoax conspiracy theorists are so fond.

At the end of his article about the Madoff scheme and the 2007 financial crisis, Victor wrote:
I’ll leave it to readers to draw their own conclusions regarding any possible parallels with the consensus on climate change.

From the WUWT comments

There were some readers who did draw their own conclusions, or the conclusions that Victor led them to. A lot of them just wrote their take on the Global Financial Crisis, or Bernie Madoff. Here are a few of the "thoughts" that popped into the heads of WUWT readers:

Uber conspiracy theorist ristvan thinks that research scientists make money from getting grant funding. This is a common misconception of science deniers who are unfamiliar with academia and research funding schemes. Scientists can't pocket grant money. Research staff just get their normal salary. Grant funding is to pay for the research itself. It may be used to pay the normal salary for time spent on the project of scientists and tech staff, to cover travel costs of field trips and conferences etc.
August 29, 2016 at 10:34 am
Both are excellent examples. There are further analogs. The subprime mortgage backed securities made a lot of underwriting money for the issuing banks; just like climate change makes money for climate change researchers and for subsidy needy renewables. Madoff’s feeder funds were taking a small slice of the action, and had no incentive to investigate (Madoff only let friends invest, and due diligence wasn’t friendly). Consensus follows the money, not the truth.

tabnumlock has an odd way of looking at the world. For him or her it probably doesn't exist (the world, that is):
August 29, 2016 at 1:37 pm
Anything which appears to be true is a generalization (or stereotype). All generalizations are false. Therefore anything which appears to be true is false. This is literally the core principle on which modern society operates.

drednicolson came back with this:
August 29, 2016 at 5:50 pm
“All generalizations are false.”
Including the one you just made?

Image credit: Plognark


  1. Perhaps the Madoff story indicates that peer review is underdeveloped in the financial world.

    1. I would venture to say none frankly other than the financial regulator, and at that they do not exactly have a good track record on prosecutions.

  2. Markopolos' book was a cracking listen (I've got an audible subscription!), some overblown claims notwithstanding.

    But to somehow cite it as a hand-waving 'proof' that AGW isn't real is surreal, desperate and pathetic. It's not even wrong.

    And to be reduced to publishing this crap... well, who wouldn't be glad they're not Anthony Watts?

  3. In the US, you're paid 9 months by the institution, but summer funding is from grants. So you actually do pocket a bit of the grant.

    It's really the grad students and post docs who rake it in, with all their income coming from grants. Oh, and the university itself!

    1. I get that, numerobis, I think. However as I understand it, you can't use a grant for any more than your normal salary rate. That is, you're unlikely to get a grant that puts in the cost of the principle researcher's salary at $1m for three months work (or a year's work).

    2. That's correct, Sou. There are very strict rules about treating grant money the same as internal funds. For example if the university's budget is tight we can't give someone paid from grant funds a higher raise, justifying that they are unaffected by the university's budget. We have to treat them all equally.

    3. Unless things have changed, grad students and postdocs do not "rake it in". Nobody does, except possibly the administration in the overhead part, and not on the scale that envy imagines. After all, they do have to have buildings and fire extinguishers and such.

  4. I’ll leave it to readers to draw their own conclusions regarding any possible parallels with the consensus on climate change.

    My conclusion is that Victor Grauer is not very good at logic or rationale thought.

  5. About as convincing as a theory that suggests "gravity" is simply a ruse that allows airline companies to fleece its consumers

    I will leave readers to draw their own conclusions on the sanity of science deniers

    1. Well gravity is just a theory that some weird old guy at some snotty university dreamed up. He got a govenment job out of it

  6. In the 1970s, I received a flyer for a book claiming that the theory of relativity was a hoax perpetrated by physics departments to get grant money. The beat goes on.

  7. Victor Grauer is a long-time resident at Real Climate. To expand on Tadaaa's quote above, what he actually ended with is:

    "I’ll leave it for readers of this blog to draw their own conclusions regarding any possible parallels with the consensus on climate change. My own opinion is well known."

    His own opinion is not only well-known, but frequently repeated and often bore-holed at Real Climate ...

    1. Aha. So that guy posts as 'Victor' at realclimate? Explains a lot. He's quite offensive/know it all in that inimitable Dunning-Krueger sort of way. He's making an obnoxious fool of himself in the most recent thread there discussing the Cox/Roberts debate.

  8. It's the Underpants Gnomes argument. X happens, then MAGIC! then Y happens. The connecting tissue is Underpants Gnomes.

    I do think you're correct, Sou, that the connection here is Innuendo, which is frequently sufficient for a guilty verdict. No data needed.

  9. Once more, I will appeal to your patient nature, Sou, and post a link to a new blog post. The excuse I'll use is that it is another debunking of a WUWT piece.

    I feel a personal responsibility for this one, since it grew out of something I did. I posted to LinkedIn a conversation about the anthrax outbreak in Russia. I argued then about it with Jim Steele, who came up with his own reasons why it had nothing to do with climate change having warmed the permafrost. He then wrote a WUWT "guest article" about it. My fault.

    So here is my response to his response. Feel free to delete this comment, print my blog in hard copy and use it to wrap fish. Or caribou carcasses.

    Heat on a Cold Case

    1. No need to feel responsible. WUWT will publish five pieces of nonsense every day no matter what the science side does or does not do. If someone is willing to make things up, he will never have a lack of material. Just lead your life in whatever way you see fit.

    2. Thanks, Victor. I'm sure you're right.

    3. I think what really matters is not how deep the ground freezes, but rather to what depth does it usually thaw each summer. They're saying the region where this is happening has experienced an additional 10 inches of thaw below the normal level. When a carcass thaws and begins rotting, it can bloat with gas. They can pop, and do other unusual things. I believe veterinarians are trained to never post an animal suspected of dying of anthrax as the dead animal is a potential fountain of spores. On the tundra, I would imagine a bloated carcass could also rise to the surface of that muck. If they had 75 years of no outbreaks in the region, that could mean the anthrax spores close to the surface - dead hosts lying either on the surface or in very shallow graves - were no longer a threat, and that it took an unusually deep thaw to release viable spores.

  10. Ah, good. Sou brought back the post descriptions in the BLOGROLL. They were missing for a few days, and it was difficult to tell whether the site in question had actually posted anything new.

    Have to admit, I use Sou's BLOGROLL as a climate related RSS reader :-)

    1. It might have seemed like a few days, but it was really only a few hours, MM :D

      I needed the list and forgot to turn the descriptions and dates back on again - silly me!

    2. Don't let it happen again! I use it every day as well. Thanks for providing the service.

    3. Thanks for the RC borehole and simple summary; that was, in a perverse kind of way, fun.


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