Sunday, September 4, 2016

Is there any difference between Willis Eschenbach's head and his feet?

Sou | 3:01 AM Go to the first of 32 comments. Add a comment
Science deniers are running out of ideas with the climate change that's happening all about them. Massive floods all around the world these past few weeks. No big La Nina coming to rescue fake sceptics, and the world shows no sign of cooling down. Even the precious satellite record hasn't been doing it's bit to give conspiracy theorists hope of an ice age.

Willis Eschenbach has written how he's throwing in the towel and, instead of talking about science, he's going to ridicule it (archived here). Today at WUWT he wrote a topsy turvy article that shows that he can't make up his mind whether climate change is real or not. He seems to be shifting between two denier stages:
  • Climate science is a hoax, and
  • If it's not a hoax, there's nothing we can do about it.

Willis wouldn't care if he got a raging fever

Here is some of what he said. He packaged up his mixed up thoughts as a scary make-believe story, but he couldn't bring it off. He wrote about his new strategy for rejecting science as:
Lurking Huge Danger—I think the best way to fight this is laughter and absurdity. For example, I have compared the possible predicted change in temperature from Obama’s climate plan to the temperature difference between your head and your feet. Ridicule is a potent weapon.
That's a twist on the silly meme that it was cold today therefore global warming isn't real. Or any ignoramus asking what difference can a 3 degree rise in the global average temperature make when summer maximums average twenty degrees higher than the winter average maximums? Well, it makes a whole heap of difference if you know anything about averages. If the average temperature of Willis Eschenbach rose by 3 or 4 degrees Celsius to 104 °F or 106 °F, you can bet he'd be going to his doctor (or, more likely, his local quack, given that he rejects science).

Willis gets out his hammer and pounds contradiction

His next plan of attack is getting out his trusty hammer. Willis wrote:
Avoidable—we need to hammer on a couple of things. First, there is no evidence that IF the danger exists it is avoidable. Second, there is no evidence that their preferred method will avoid it. Finally, even if it could work in theory, it would be horrendously expensive.
This shows he can't make up his mind about whether climate change is real or not. He's full of if's and buts. What this also shows is that Willis doesn't believe either that CO2 is a greenhouse gas, or maybe he doesn't "believe in" the greenhouse effect at all. I say that because if he did, he'd know that reducing emissions will reduce the increase in warming. When the amount of emissions are reduced to a level that they no longer slow the amount of radiation going out to space, then the rise in temperature will plateau. If we reduce emissions below that level, then the world will start to cool down - albeit there will still be a lot of changes that will continue in the same direction - like melting ice.

Willis points repeatedly at his wallet

Next Willis decides that it's immoral to save the planet. Not when it hits his own pocket book. In other words, he is probably against any support to help people when they have an accident, fall ill, want to drive from one place to another, want to go to school, or want to quit smoking. He wrote:
Moral Action—as I have pointed out repeatedly, increasing energy costs are the most regressive tax on the planet, and they hit the poor harder than anyone. This is a crucial point, because all of their flights of fancy are sustained by the illusion that they have the moral high ground … but shafting the poor as they are doing hardly meets that definition.
Perhaps in the USA there isn't a tax on cigarettes, and maybe everyone there pays every time they use a road, and pays for all their education from kindergarten onwards. If that's the case then it may explain why there seem to be so many people at WUWT lacking any education where it matters, and why they don't get out much.

He's wrong about a carbon tax hitting poor people the hardest. If it's done right (like it was in Australia till Tony Abbott pulled the plug), then poor people get more in compensation than any rise in the cost of electricity. It was the richer people who carried the burden - not that most of them would have noticed.

Willis wants to burn feet

I recall that Willis once wrote about going to the Burning Man festival, or whatever it is. It looks as if he was smitten with the urge to burn, not put off by all the dreadful fires in the USA this summer, because the next thing he wrote was:
Amenable to Change—we need to hold their feet to the fire regarding their BS, because they will disown it at a moment’s notice. Michael Mann’s phrase is that they’ve “moved on” … don’t let them do so without protest.
That's a filler. Willis couldn't think about what to write so he wrote some words saying nothing at all. I don't know what was going through his mind when he talked about "disowning it". He doesn't give any examples. Maybe he thinks (as he's thought before) that when the ice age comes, then scientists will disown the greenhouse effect. That would mean he is as completely and utterly deluded as the worst of them at WUWT.

Willis meanders into meaningless waffling strawmen

Willis next points were indeed meaningless waffle. He wrote about villains who make life harder for the poor - which he is intent on doing himself, so that's mere projection. With no apparent intention of irony, he wrote:
  • Unverifiable but Prestigious Credentials—call out bogus citations, demand names. 

...but he didn't give a single example of unverifiable credentials or bogus citations. And I don't know what names he wants to demand. (Maybe he was a bit sotted at this stage.)

He then raised the strawman of "bogus details", wanting numbers of climate refugees, wanting evidence now of things like larger increases in sea level that are expected to happen in the next thirty, fifty and hundred years. He reminds me of Anthony Watts, who once took to time travel to disprove global warming.

Willis finished his list by naming Peter Gleick, who managed to get inside information about the unsavoury goings on in the Heartland Institute after, IIRC, someone prompted him to do it. (I never did find out who it was that started that ball rolling. Was it a whistleblower from inside the Heartland Institute who got Peter headed down that path?) Deniers are all for getting details of internal communications from scientists and non-government agencies, but when it comes to anyone finding out their secrets - then they are up in arms.

To close his article altogether, Willis Eschenbach gave his version of the Denier Credo, that he probably says every night before he pops into bed:
...this story of impending thermal doom CANNOT BE FOUGHT WITH SCIENCE. Why? Because it is an urban legend, not a scientific claim. As such it needs to be fought on its own ground, by attacking what actually keeps it alive … and that has very little to do with science.
Notice the shouting. That looks like a sign that the evidence of global warming is getting to him. Shouting won't make global warming go away, Willis. About the only thing that will make it go away is to stop throwing all the billions of tonnes of our waste greenhouse gases into the air.

As for the title of this piece - Willis provided that himself when he said that the projected warming is no more than the difference between his head and his feet. (I guess he has cold floors at his house, or maybe his house is draughty and he suffers from a cold head.) I was reminded of a bloke from HotCopper forum, who thought with his gut, not his brain.

From the WUWT comments

WUWT was nothing more than an echo chamber, which isn't surprising, since Willis' article was devoid of any substance. There were no real arguments, apart from "climate science is a hoax", with which few at WUWT would disagree.

High Treason decided that the majority of people in the world who agree that global warming is real, are liars. It's the 8% bottom-dwellers who know that there's another "truth" out there, if only they could find it.
September 2, 2016 at 4:43 pm
Urban legends have many characteristics of the tactics used by liars. They exploit base emotions-fear, guilt, lust, sloth and greed. They use emotional blackmail. They use bluff-once you have fallen for one lie in the narrative, everything else that follows will be further lies to support the previous lies. The morality tale can then be directed toward their ideology. The ideology itself is totally flawed, not that this ever stopped leftists/ alarmists.

mark is hoping and waiting for someone to disprove 200 years of science:
September 2, 2016 at 4:49 pm
Clear air gives clear thoughts!
Perhaps the best attack is an urban legend or two that counter the claims of the AGW legend. We need and urban legend contest, and some will just naturally spread. I am sure the left do this all the time – float a thousand silly ideas expecting one or two to gain traction.

I don't know if birdynumnum is taking the mickey or if he or she is trying to say something flattering about young Christopher:
September 2, 2016 at 5:04 pm
Monkton of Brenchley would be the most likely candidate to have some urbane legends for us, in a manner of speaking.

Mick In The Hills wants to do a bit of foot-shifting. He probably knows from the horrendous floods and cyclones that nature can take anything we dish out and come back with worse:
September 2, 2016 at 5:32 pm
Great article Willis.
I reckon the big problem with the current push-back strategies against CAGW is that we’re always on the back foot. Reacting rather than establishing a new paradigm about earth’s climate system.
So rather than the climate system being cast as a “victim” of man’s evil ways (as all the kids are now being taught in school and university), what if the climate system was instead portrayed as a “super hero” that could withstand anything that puny mankind could throw at it.
As in – our climate system has proven many many times throughout history that it can deal with magnitudes of change the likes of which puny mankind can only fantasize about – ice ages, asteroids, earthquakes, etc.
Our 4% contribution of CO2 to the atmosphere – pffft, says the climate – I’d swallow that up before breakfast, and burp it out before lunchtime.
So maybe we climate realists have to start speaking, as it were, as if we were spokespeople for the climate – strong, defiant, is-that-all-you’ve-got?
Let’s double-down on the ‘denial’, but from the climate’s point of view, not ours.

I don't know if Jack thinks he once learned how to use logic. If he did, he's forgotten what the word means. It's not at all logical to think that global warming is just going to go away while we keep feeding it.
September 2, 2016 at 5:34 pm
WHat you call Moral Action, I call Smug Conviction. Some of the young people believe this stuff and the crusade shines out of their eyes. What will they do when it falls over? Or will it just shift shape?
Bring back Logic as compulsory education and a brief course in Latin, so they know the roots of words. Both courses act as bulldust detectors.

Hivemind has a good name, given that he is a drone (or is she a worker) in the WUWT hive and suffers the logical fallacy of personal incredulity:
September 2, 2016 at 7:29 pm
I agree with this article wholeheartedly. I have long realised that “global warming” was unscientific at it’s heart. But your article puts it in it’s place so clearly. 

Greg is a bit despondent and says that one of Willis' strawmen has never worked for him:
September 3, 2016 at 12:08 am
Willis is right that AGW has many of the triats of urban legend, the trouble is when you demand refs to the alleged study and read it you find that it actually does exist and says all the crap the proponent claims.
This rather knocks the stuffing out of the ridicule tactic.

From the HotWhopper Archives

If you look at some of the articles below (and lots more here) it becomes fairly obvious why Willis would want to give up "debating" science. He loses every time.


  1. "I think the best way to fight this is laughter and absurdity... Ridicule is a potent weapon."

    Willis hasn't yet fully realised that the joke's on him. Now that 'is' funny!

    1. Yes, so much of what poor Willis writes is extraordinary in its applicability to him and the other inmates.

      "we need to hold their feet to the fire regarding their BS"

      ...Ummm, so where is that promised Ice Age then Willis?

  2. Willis: "The bodies of the Siberian people had decayed just like you’d expect … but the bodies of the people from the US were nearly perfectly intact, because of meat preservatives that they’d been eating! ... This set me to pondering about what it is that makes for a good urban legend. ... First, you must have some kind of lurking danger"

    So the idea that his own corpse will not rot away fast enough elicits fear in Willis? I knew these folk were fear driven, but this goes too far. Who cares?

    Willis: "this story of impending thermal doom CANNOT BE FOUGHT WITH SCIENCE."

    It is the one strategy they have not tried yet. Maybe they should not reason themselves out of it too fast.

  3. AIUI, while reducing emissions will reduce the rate of warming, it won't stop warming right away and it won't lead to cooling for a long time. Even if we cut GHG emissions to zero there would still be some warming for a while (decades?) because we currently have a net energy imbalance that will take some time to balance out. And because of the high residence time of CO2, the time constant for the temperature to decline much is huge. Whatever warming we cause, we're stuck with most of it for a while unless we find a way to remove CO2.

    We also wouldn't want to get rid of GHGs entirely and "no longer slow the amount of radiation going out to space", earth without any GHGs would be a ball of ice. I'd think that mostly what we want to do is get the rate of climate change back down to a natural rate.

  4. Blech. It just makes you wonder what it is going to take to convince some of these people, because no matter how much information, data and facts you present them with they continue to turn a blind eye and continue along with their denials and conspiracies.

    1. See the black knight in Monthy Python and the Holy Grail (you can search that) to get an idea of what to expect.

    2. I'm quite familiar with that very fine film, Marco. There are some similarities between the two are there not?

  5. The denialists are still spreading data from 5 years ago about the costs of renewables. I've just done a piece at my blog which considers the costs of different electricity sources and the truth is that renewables are highly competitive with fossil fuels: http://volewica.blogspot.com.au/2016/09/more-on-electricity-costs.html

    It's true that 5 or even 3 years ago, switching to renewables would have raised the cost of electricity. But that's not true any more--if anything it's the reverse.

    1. Thanks for that update, Nikolaos. I wasn't aware of that source before. I'd read about the huge drop in the cost of new solar but that's excellent to be able to compare them.

    2. That's a great resource Nikolaos. Thanks

  6. I've not been following this forum (and WUWT) for more than a few months. But am I alone in noticing that whenever the actual data rolling in (e.g. arctic sea ice now 2nd lowest on record, denier-hoped-for massive La Nina to return us to a frozen wasteland no longer even vaguely likely, & even the satellite data not really supporting a return to a pause anytime soon etc.), WUWT just simply stops posting anything like semi-informative articles with updates on the actual data? C'mon Bob Tisdale, let's hear your 'regular' update on El Nino? Instead it spawns this sequence of politically motivated articles on anything other than the actual weather (let alone the climate)....

    1. Dave, I think you're right. The denial of climate change is politically motivated to begin with. In typical self-unaware fashion, many in the denioverse will decry how science has become so "political", as if they're unaware they're the ones who politicized it.

      We have that problem on a larger scale here in America. It's not only science which has become politicized. Even attempts to repair crumbling infrastructure, things that used to be accepted as necessary across the political spectrum, are now merely partisan arguments.

      We've seen the rise of a political party dedicated to breaking government, and thereby breaking society. When they hold positions of power, they make sure nothing works, and then use that as proof that the system is broken, and as justification for dismantling it further.

      This simply can't go on indefinitely. Either society will collapse, or people will begin to realize we used to be able to fix things, and start doing it again. I'm not predicting which will happen.

    2. In the US, fighting a new mosquito-spread epidemic is so politicized that congress can't handle it.

    3. Conspiracy blogs such as WUWT, Climate Etc, Jo Nova etc are unlikely to post any articles that go against the conspiracy narrative.

      The reason for the disappearance of Lord Monckton's "no warming since..." posts and others is obvious to most who are not interested in a conspiracy theory narrative.

  7. I don't usually like comments such as the one I'm about to make. But damn, we should be aware of what's happening. The articles at WUWT are so bad they're not even wrong.

    I think it's interesting from a sociological perspective to note how the internet has allowed massive numbers of Dunning-Kruger sufferers to gain a following of people eager to be misled. WUWT and the entire deniosphere are certainly case studies.

    I just watched the movie Idiocracy this weekend. It feels like a new genre we can call "predictive documentary." The rise of reason-denying stupidity is as dangerous for humanity's future as is climate change.

    1. That's pretty much the way I feel, DC. And as you say above, the right wing authoritarian types want to break the system intentionally, because they think they know how to 'fix' it. But their kind of fix is the last thing we need :-/

      In fact, their supposed fix would probably be the last thing we'd ever do as a species; as recorded in a cohesive history of our species, anyway.

      For years people have been telling me on various fora that I'm too 'political' or... whatever. That I should just 'stick to the facts'. But if the rational people in this dialogue aren't allowed to be political, then who the heck is ever going to get us out of this hellish corner we have collectively painted ourselves into?

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. Metzo, it certainly is interesting that political conservatives feel free to go on about their political convictions, then object when other viewpoints are expressed.

      I think that's a function of certain personality types. I've interacted with people online (and in person) who execute the most awful insults, then get all victimized if something far less uncomplimentary is said about them.

      There have been many studies looking into how personality affects political orientation. Trying to summarize in as neutral terms as I can, people who are most oriented to their own needs tend to be drawn to political philosophies that emphasize a focus on the individual (low taxes, no social programs, etc.), while people with more altruistic or empathic personalities are more group-oriented, and subscribe to politics that acknowledge the rights and needs of others. (Seems obvious, doesn't it?) That's an oversimplification, but you get the point.

    4. '[I]t certainly is interesting that political conservatives feel free to go on about their political convictions, then object when other viewpoints are expressed.'

      What I've really noticed is that publicly disagreeing with their statements - and, particulary, pointing out that they're un-evidenced - is an outrageous assault on Free Speech™!

      Because their speech is real and vital, while yours is just an inauthentic, bad-faith nuisance, and any putative equivalence between the two is both unthinkable, and, almost always, unthought.

      In all honesty I think we're talking brains that haven't developed a fully-formed theory of mind / conception of the other here, which fits with the selfishness/altruism thing, too. The number of these people who stridently proclaim themselves to be Christians, and who are yet incapable of deploying the golden rule - beyond holding that those with it should do it - is a striking feature of the mindset.

    5. Another graph adjusted by scientists!



    6. I'm totally stealing that graphic, Bert!

    7. Excellent, Bert. Too stupid to know you're stupid. And the confidence level of actual experts is way below 100%.

      As for Dunning-Kruger, one of my witty colleagues summed it up rather nicely (and almost recursively, I thought) a few seconds after I explained it to him. He said: "Dunning-Kruger effect? I'm almost sure that's supposed to be the Diane Kruger effect." :-)

  8. "Willis Eschenbach has written how he's throwing in the towel and, instead of talking about science, he's going to ridicule it"

    I am thinking that has been Dr Curry's tactic for years.

  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. you should really laugh but the comment from "Mick in the Hills" - lol

    I suppose Mick isn't really worried about sea level rise though

    so he has put some thought into it

    1. Because the atmosphere has a heroic commitment to homeostasis! 'S obvious.

      There really is something strikingly atavistic about denier 'thinking'. Both their God and/or an anthropomorphized Nature are apparently doing it all just for them!

  11. The article is obvious nonsense, all the arguments would have applied equally well to tobacco a few years ago. However, I think you have misrepresented the head to foot temperature difference argument.

    The head to foot temperature difference I think is the direct effect of USA contributions only. Obviously any single country will have a relatively small contribution to a global problem and any country can use this to claim there is no point in action. It is similar to the argument about whether it is worth voting. The calculation of the temperature difference is probably wrong, but the argument is about individual countries making a contribution that in isolation make no appreciable difference.

    1. You could be correct, seaice1. I took it the other way, but the reference to "Obama's climate plan" could just as easily refer to the difference the US (or any country's) plan makes to global temperature.

      The difference the combined plans of all countries makes is shown on the the CO2 reduction scoreboard. It also shows the result if there are no efforts to reduce CO2 emissions - or "business as usual".

    2. This is an issue known in economics as the Tragedy of the Commons. The damage that any one person does to a resource held in common is almost always less than the benefit that person gains from abusing that resource. In the short term. Therefore, individuals see no benefit in foregoing the damage. Long-term, the combined damage is such that the resource eventually becomes useless. But long term, the abuser dies before the resource is depleted.

      It's a fallacy rooted in Ayn Randianism and putting individual profit ahead of collective (or even one's own children's) good.

      It's about an anarchistic and nihilistic selfishness that goes against the very idea of society or civilization or even nation.

    3. One solution to the tragedy of the commons is to privatise the common. The owner then has an interest in not allowing over-use and will limit access, possibly by charging a grazing fee. The parallel here is to privatise the atmosphere. Whilst this is not practical, I am pretty sure than any owner of the atmosphere would be charging people to dump CO2 into it to limit any future actions resulting from warming from said dumping.

  12. It has just occurred to me that between his head and his feet is an arse. Sorry for the lack of constructive qualities in this comment.


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