Skeptics

2009-11-30
Scientific American: Seven Answers to Climate Contrarian Nonsense

Evidence for human interference with Earth’s climate continues to accumulate.


What is a Skeptic? An extract from “Discover Skepticism

Some people believe that skepticism is the rejection of new ideas, or worse, they confuse “skeptic” with “cynic” and think that skeptics are a bunch of grumpy curmudgeons unwilling to accept any claim that challenges the status quo. This is wrong. Skepticism is a provisional approach to claims. It is the application of reason to any and all ideas — no sacred cows allowed. In other words, skepticism is a method, not a position. Ideally, skeptics do not go into an investigation closed to the possibility that a phenomenon might be real or that a claim might be true. When we say we are “skeptical,” we mean that we must see compelling evidence before we believe.

See also “A Skeptical Manifesto“,
What is Denialism and Denialists’ Deck of Cards


I have borrowed and adapted some definitions from a posting by Lynn Vincentnathan on RealClimate.org, in comment #27 of this commentary: Who ya gonna call?

  • Skeptics are the few remaining scientists who are not convinced by the evidence or models, etc. Perhaps they are like those who disbelieve there is a slowdown of the North Atlantic overturning circulation, because the noise is still to great to tell. A skeptic would readily convert to a AGW believer once there was enough evidence. I’m always reading about climate scientists who didn’t believe AGW was upon us until 1998, 2001, or 2005, when such and such evidence came in and convinced them.
  • Contrarians are like skeptics, but probably won’t convert easily to believers, even when mountains of evidence come pouring in. They aren’t being paid by the fossil fuel industries, don’t have stocks in oil, and don’t work for these companies. The main factor in their disbelief is a somewhat contrarian personality, or too close and gullible a following of the well-known contrarian streams in our Western (esp American) culture.
  • Denialists (Deniers), type A, do have some vested interests in fossil fuels or other industries that might suffer should we all decide to become energy/resource efficient/conservative and go onto alternative energy. They really do disbelieve AGW.
  • Denialists (Deniers), type B, are like type A, except they actually believe in AGW, but hypocritically don’t admit so publically.

See also: Greenfyre’s “Denier vs Skeptic”


Here are the favourite contrarian and denialist methods:

  • Ad hominem attacks – in the absence of their own reputable evidence, they attempt to undermine those who oppose their views by trying to discredit the opposition, usually with unsubstantiated allegations.
  • Fear – they float trial ballons about the supposedly outrageous cost of doing something in spite of the fact that it has been shown that the cost of doing nothing will drastically outweigh that of taking action.
  • Sidestepping and deflection – like many politicians, they attempt to divert attention away from the real issue, raising “red herrings” and swamping commentary with irrelevant side issues.
  • Appeal to authority – they refer to pseudo-experts who take contrarian positions with a gloss of believability which disappears upon deeper examination, claiming frequently fraudulent credentials.
  • Deliberately confusing weather and climate, insisting that a recent change (natural variability) shows a long-term trend.
  • Exaggerating uncertainty and demanding proof. That’s not how real science operates; scientists are cautious and invite real skepticism and there are never absolute proofs in science. They also confuse the scientific definition of “theory” with the popular definition – the former is a much stronger concept.
  • Demands for a “balanced” view, akin to the outrage expressed by those arguing for “intelligent design” in discussions about the science of evolution.
  • Outright denial – they repeat their disinformation derisively, saying that there is no proof and that there is a massive and corrupt conspiracy to steal money from us poor taxpayers and consumers

Skeptical Science – Examining the science of global warming skepticism

Scientific skepticism is a healthy thing. Scientists should always challenge themselves to expand their knowledge, improve their understanding and refine their theories. Yet this isn’t what happens in global warming skepticism. Skeptics vigorously criticise any evidence that supports anthropogenic global warming and yet eagerly, even blindly embrace any argument, op-ed piece, blog or study that refutes global warming. So this website gets skeptical about global warming skepticism. Do their arguments have any scientific basis? What does the peer reviewed scientific literature say?

Skeptic Arguments

This is a list of every skeptic argument encountered online as well as how often each argument is used.

The top 12 of 53 arguments:
1. It’s the sun
2. Climate’s changed before
3. There is no consensus
4. Surface temp is unreliable
5. Models are unreliable
6. It’s cooling
7. Ice age predicted in the 70′s
8. Al Gore got it wrong
9. We’re heading into an ice age
10. CO2 lags temperature
11. It hasn’t warmed since 1998
12. Global warming is good


NewScientist Environment: Climate change: A guide for the perplexed 16 May 2007

With so much at stake, it is right that climate science is subjected to the most intense scrutiny. What does not help is for the real issues to be muddied by discredited arguments or wild theories.

So for those who are not sure what to believe, here is our round-up of the most common climate myths and misconceptions. …

  • Can we trust the science?
  • Is the sun to blame?
  • Does CO2 cause warming?
  • What happened in the past?
  • What is happening now?
  • What is going to happen?
  • Why should I worry?


An Essay from “GlynnMhor of Skywall”

I solicited an essay from “GlynnMhor” in an early-2008 commentary section on the Globe and Mail. He pointed me to a short posting which seems to distill his usual claims and I have reproduced it here. Sadly, the Globe and Mail commentaries disappear from sight somewhat arbitrarily and provide lots of room for reader amnesia or for commentators to cut-and-paste claims without context. I do not know who “GlynnMhor of Skywall” is; he prefers to hide behind the anonymity provided. From previous postings he has described himself as “semi-retired” but it also seems clear that he has a bias in favour of the oil and gas industry, describing previous experience in analysis of seismic studies for drilling. He also seems to be unable or unwilling to use electronic spreadsheets like Excel to analyze and present ideas, preferring to point to a small number of images available online. I’m not going to touch his “essay”, quoted below but I’ll point out that what he has said is well covered here, with links to current data. Once again, please form your own opinions but do it on the basis of a broad verifiable perspective.

Bring up this link from the IPCC site, and go to page 684, figure 9.5:
http://tinyurl.com/yplrpb

Also bring up this one for comparison:
http://www.cru.uea.ac.uk/cru/data/temperature/nhshgl.pdf

The 1910-1940 warming clearly visible on the HadCRUT3 temperature observations ran from about minus 0.51 to plus 0.01 (about 0.50 degrees) over thirty years. The 58-fold stacked model output shows minus 0.15 to plus 0.30 (about 0.45 degrees) over fifty years. The slope is way wrong (.017 vs .009 degrees per year) and so is the turn-over date from warming to cooling.

The IPCC models just don’t replicate the known observations prior to 1960 and after 2001, and are thus not reliable enough either to predict the future or to justify the conclusion that AGHGs dominate temperature change.

The link to the IPCC site should work for you but if not, please see this. His link will take you to that single image at the UK Hadley Climate Research Unit (HadCRU), ignoring the commentary at that site about what they show. I include their data in many graphs here. On the basis of those graphs, he makes claims about the unreliability of the IPCC models. Once again, please review his claims in the light of the broader view which I present. It appears to me that he continues to confuse climate with weather. He also doesn’t appear to understand statistical “noise” and significance. He also dismisses (and claims I have never said anything about) possible aerosol impacts from the World Wars and nuclear weapons testing, also documented here. He also claims unproven solar effects. If he cares to answer my objections, I’ll give him room here but only if he expands his horizons and shows more objectivity.


Global Warming: Forecasts by Scientists Versus Scientific Forecasts

This is a discussion by Kesten Green and J. Scott Armstrong about forecasting of global warming using principles described by “Public Policy Forecasting” and “Forecasting Principles“. I’ve done only a brief overview and would welcome comments from other readers. Here’s an extract from the site:

In early 2007 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released long-term forecasts of dramatic global warming, caused by human activity, that they predicted would cause serious harm to many people. In the first public policy forecasting audit to appear in this SIG, Scott Armstrong and Kesten Green present the findings of their audit of the IPCC forecasts of global average temperature. They found the IPCC forecasts have no validity and conclude that the there is no more reason to expect global warming over the next 90 years than there is to expect global cooling. It would therefore be foolish and extremely costly to base public policy on the IPCC forecasts.

There’s a critique of this Green and Armstrong paper here.


Kesten Green is shown as a staff member at Monash University in Australia; his bio page is here. I find this interesting:

Instead of using statistics or experts’ predictions, Dr Green uses role-playing.

Most of our work involves forecasting using statistical and econometric models. Kesten’s research is essentially non-statistical as it uses structured judgmental methods to forecast events where there are no quantitative data. He is an international leader in the area of forecasting using role-playing and analogies.


J. Scott Armstrong is a Professor of Marketing at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. His bio is here.


Who are the climate change skeptics?

Who are the climate change skeptics?

Who are the climate change skeptics?

Despite the international scientific community’s consensus on climate change, a very small band of critics continues to deny that climate change exists or that humans are causing it. Widely known as climate change “skeptics” or “deniers”, these individuals are generally not climate scientists and do not debate the science with the climate scientists directly – for example, by publishing in peer-reviewed scientific journals or participating in international conferences on climate science. Instead, they focus their attention on the media, the general public, and policy makers with the goal of delaying action on climate change.


Who are they?

See “Sourcewatch” – Global warming skeptics – for a list of both individual and organizational “skeptics”.

Global warming skeptics — also referred to as “climate change skeptics” or “anthropogenic (human-induced) global warming skeptics” — generally refers to individuals or groups who disagree with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports. IPCC reports are based on peer reviewed and published scientific literature, and include input from more than 2500 climate scientists.


Here are some samples at Sourcewatch:

Climate change/Related SourceWatch Resources

Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine
(Wikipedia has an entry describing the OISM “Petition Project” here.)
Friends of Science (Canada)
Exxon-Funded Skeptics
Sallie L. Baliunas
Tim Ball
Bjorn Lomborg
Richard S. Lindzen
Stephen McIntyre
Ross McKitrick
Patrick J. Michaels
Tim Patterson
Willie Soon


Smoke, Mirrors & Hot Air
How ExxonMobil Uses Big Tobacco’s Tactics to Manufacture Uncertainty on Climate Science

From the Union of Concerned Scientists, January 2007


August 2, 2008 – Sydney Morning Herald

Global warming scepticism is being manipulated by tactics reminiscient of an earlier campaign of denial, writes David McKnight.


Global-Warming Deniers: A Well-Funded Machine by: Sharon Begley – 6 August 2007 (Thanks to Darryl Williams for the link)
… If you think those who have long challenged the mainstream scientific findings about global warming recognize that the game is over, think again. Yes, 19 million people watched the “Live Earth” concerts last month, titans of corporate America are calling for laws mandating greenhouse cuts, “green” magazines fill newsstands, and the film based on Al Gore’s best-selling book, “An Inconvenient Truth,” won an Oscar. But outside Hollywood, Manhattan and other habitats of the chattering classes, the denial machine is running at full throttle—and continuing to shape both government policy and public opinion. …


Why Won’t Al Gore Debate Climate Change?
Simple, the Deniers would win … because they have no evidence or facts on their side.
Huh? If they have no evidence or facts, how can they win a debate?
Easy, because a debate is not about being right, it is about winning by appearing to be right. The more the audience does not understand the issue, the easier it is to win. You just need one thing, it’s called “the Gish Gallop.”


“Convincing the Climate-Change Skeptics”
August 4, 2008 Author: John P. Holdren, Director and Faculty Chair, Science, Technology and Public Policy Program
THE FEW climate-change “skeptics” with any sort of scientific credentials continue to receive attention in the media out of all proportion to their numbers, their qualifications, or the merit of their arguments. And this muddying of the waters of public discourse is being magnified by the parroting of these arguments by a larger population of amateur skeptics with no scientific credentials at all. …
“Climate-Change Skeptics Revisited”
I did not expect that my op-ed in Monday’s Boston Globe, to which the editors gave the title “Convincing the Climate -Change Skeptics”, would actually convince many skeptics. It was aimed more at reinforcing the resolve of the majority in the public and the policymaking community who, betting on the scientific consensus, are ready to move forward with a serious approach to dealing with the problem but are being slowed down by the illfounded skepticism of a minority. That is why my own title for the piece was “Climate-Change Skeptics Are Dangerously Wrong”. …


2009-04-08
Sciam: Is Global Warming a Myth?
How to respond to people who doubt the human impact on the climate
So-called “global warming skeptics” are indeed getting more vocal than ever, and banding together to show their solidarity against the scientific consensus that has concluded that global warming is caused by emissions from human activities.


2011-01-04 Nature | doi:10.1038/news.2011.701
Why dire climate warnings boost scepticism
Undermining belief in a fair world may mean that climate warnings go unheeded.

Upsetting people's innate belief that the world is a fair place could make them less likely to take action on climate change. Anthony Skerman/AP/Press Association Image

Upsetting people's innate belief that the world is a fair place could make them less likely to take action on climate change. Anthony Skerman/AP/Press Association Images

The use of dire predictions to encourage action on climate change may be backfiring and increasing doubt that greenhouse gases from human activities are causing global warming.

Although scientific evidence that anthropogenic activities are behind global warming continues to mount, belief in the phenomenon has stagnated in recent years. “When I was a pollster, I was detecting that many dire messages seemed to be counterproductive, we really needed someone to determine why,” says Ted Nordhaus at the Breakthrough Institute, a Californian think-tank for energy and climate issues.

More (click here)


One Response to Skeptics

  1. Alan Burke says:

    GlynnMhor of Skywall is relentless in posting his usual innumerate and irresponsible distortions.

    E.g.,

    4:57 PM on September 30, 2011

    For all of Klaatu’s whinings about me (verily, he seems obsessed), and his attempts to distract people from the differences between the theories and the reality, it remains that the central prediction of AGW alarmism is not coming to pass.

    Global average temperatures are not rising despite the increasing concentrations of CO2.

    And I’m the messenger, not the originator of the graphs or the underlying data. I perform no manipulation or modification of my own invention.

    CO2 concentrations still rising unabated:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:CO2_data_mlo.svg

    Net temperature change flat over nearly a decade:
    http://www.woodfortrees.org/plot/gistemp/from:2002/to:2012/plot/gistemp/from:2002/to:2012/trend/plot/hadcrut3vgl/from:2002/to:2012/plot/hadcrut3vgl/from:2002/to:2012/trend/plot/uah/from:2002/to:2012/plot/uah/from:2002/to:2012/trend

    Yet we are called upon to worship the conclusions of the IPCC, whose last Report predicted continued rapid temperature increases under scenarios of continued CO2 increases:
    http://www.ipcc.ch/graphics/ar4-wg1/jpg/fig-10-4.jpg

    He lacks (or ignores) an understanding of what statistical significance means. His use of ten recent years is a classic case of cherry-picking and misrepresentation. Similar weather variability as he shows has occurred in the past while the climate pattern shows continued long-term warming.

    This has been going on with him for several years and I wrote an essay a couple of years ago discussing the issue and the fact that he is ignoring factors which have been well-studied and documented, like the variability described by Swanson, Tsonis et al. and recent studies fingering aerosols resulting from increased burning of coal by China, among others factors.

    I invite you to visit my essay “The Cooling Myth” to understand his chicanery and innumeracy. Visit https://climateinsight.wordpress.com/editorial/the-cooling-myth/ but before you do, look at a longer-term (climate) view using the same data sources that he used in his attempt to deceive you about long-term trends. http://www.woodfortrees.org/plot/gistemp/from:1980/to:2012/plot/gistemp/from:1980/to:2012/trend/plot/hadcrut3vgl/from:1980/to:2012/plot/hadcrut3vgl/from:1980/to:2012/trend/plot/uah/from:1980/to:2012/plot/uah/from:1980/to:2012/trend

    I also suggest visiting here for refutation of the favourite misrepresentation by contrarians and denialists of comments made in a BBC interview with Phil Jones: http://www.skepticalscience.com/search.php?Search=phil+jones&x=0&y=0

    Please pay particular attention to “Phil Jones – Warming Since 1995 is now Statistically Significant” http://www.skepticalscience.com/phil-jones-warming-since-1995-significant.html

    Having visited and reviewed this material I ask you to consider that GlynnMhor’s repeated misrepresentation here is both irresponsible and reprehensible, a clear attempt to deceive.

    Put him into your “zero credibility” bucket. He is a delivery boy for the “Merchants of Doubt”
    http://merchantsofdoubt.org
    https://climateinsight.wordpress.com/editorial/merchant-of-doubt-s-fred-singer/

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