Tuesday, February 4, 2014

"Sceptics vs Academics" Repost - the ScottishSceptic

During my recent discussions in the blogosphere I became acquainted with one Mike Haseler who's created his own blog called the ScottishSceptic.  The man has made a respectable effort at trying to refine the "climate science skeptics" arguments into a few clear talking points.  

I appreciate what the ScottishSkeptic has done, because the beginning of any constructive dialogue is to clarify what each party understands/believes.  

Unfortunately, one of the hallmarks of the climate change debate {besides insisting on misrepresenting what climate scientists are actually reporting}.  Is to sock-puppet their arguments, so the target keeps moving and morphing, as though imagined doubt is enough to stop learning.

Thus I'm grateful that ScottishSceptic offers a handle to continue pressing my point that much of "skeptics" talking points have been resolved long ago and trying to keep them alive is nothing but cynical politically motivated dirty tricks.

In doing research on his "The Sceptic View (Rev. 0.5)" I came across this article at And Then There's Physics (formerly known as wottsupwiththatblog) and thought it would make a fitting introduction to the my next post.  

I thank andthentheresphysics for giving me permission to reprint his article in full - {I have added some paragraph breaks and some highlights.}

I have also expanded a closing paragraph that lists a few of ScottishSceptic's talking points, by linking to rational evaluations of said claims, and at the end I share some highlights of that information.

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Judith Curry is currently promoting an analysis by someone called the Scottish Sceptic (Mike Haseler) in which he has attempted to differentiate between what he calls sceptics and non-sceptics (academics/warmists) (Sceptics vs Academics). I think the terminology is awful, but that’s just my opinion. He makes it very clear that those who broadly support the IPCC conclusions are non-sceptics and those who don’t are sceptics. I find this absurd. 

Does he really think that all climate scientists who accept the IPCC conclusions have lost any sense of scepticism? I’m actually surprised that Judith is happy with this kind of terminology. Does she really support the idea that it’s okay to refer to the thousands of professional climate scientists who broadly support the IPCC conclusions as warmists?

Anyway, the analysis that the Scottish Sceptic makes is essentially based on a set of gross generalizations that largely imply that sceptics are somehow this perfect group of open-minded individuals (who are typically trained in engineering) who see the world as it is, while non-sceptics (academics/warmists) are this flawed group of people who don’t really know what they’re doing, are biased by feelings of empathy, and are both corrupt and stupid. 

I don’t think this kind of thing really make a positive contribution to the debate in any way whatsoever and I’m not sure what Judith hoped to achieve by promoting it on her blog. There’s not even really any evidence for what he presents; it just appears to be his own observations/opinions.

I will say, though, that his observation that “sceptics” tend to have libertarian free-market views while “non-sceptics” (actual scientists) tend to be more left-leaning, is something I too have observed (although, it’s clearly not always true). 

What I find odd about this division is why someone’s political views should influence how they perceive the scientific evidence. Surely your political views should influence the policies you would support, given the evidence, rather than influence whether or not you accept the evidence in the first place? 

I will also note that it seems that one of the Scottish Sceptic’s reasons for scepticism is his objection to wind turbines killing raptors. I sympathize with this view but again am unsure as to why this should influence one’s view of the scientific evidence. 
Accepting the evidence doesn’t immediately imply that we need to build wind turbines that will then kill raptors. What we do, given the evidence, is a policy decision and will include judgements as to the significance of the impacts of various policy options.

So, here’s where I think Judith Curry could play a positive role. The Scottish Sceptic actually has a page where he presents a list of Global Warming Evidence. I’ve actually made a few comments on the Scottish Sceptic’s blog in the past and his responses indicate that he is reasonably pleasant individual, maybe someone one could actually have a serious discussion with. 

Quite a bit of the evidence he presents is quite easily debunked. He mentions adjustments to instrumental temperature records, the possibility that the 1920s saw a similar decline in Arctic sea ice to that we see today, that CO2 rises might not be anthropogenic (quoting Murry Salby), that the Cloud Radiative Effect is bigger than the IPCC indicates (confusing, I think, the net effect with the change since 1750), claiming that the Hockey Stick is a lie, claiming that ice core samples show that CO2 can’t be a driver, amongst a number of other things.

If the Scottish Sceptic really is a sceptic, and if Judith Curry really does understand climate science (as one might hope), surely together they could clarify which of the evidence on his list is credible and which isn’t. That doesn’t mean that he has to accept the mainstream views, but at least get rid of those things that are easily shown to be wrong. 

Given that Judith seems to be trusted by people like the Scottish Sceptic, he might take her views more seriously than he would the views of others, and presumably Judith would like those engaging in the debate to at least present credible evidence (she’s happy to correct anything I’ve said that she thinks is wrong – as many have already). Then again, maybe I’m just letting my empathy and optimism get the better of me.

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A review of the rational side of these talking points.

Adjustments to instrumental temperature records:

Effect of data homogenization on estimate of temperature trend: a case of Huairou station in Beijing Municipality

... having some fun with an article (Zhang et al., 2013) published spring last year in Theoretical and Applied Climatology (TAAC). According to The Hockey Schtick, the article corroborates that "leading meteorological institutions in the USA and around the world have so systematically tampered with instrumental temperature data that it cannot be safely said that there has been any significant net “global warming” in the 20th century."

The study

Let's have a look what the study really tells us. The nice thing is, the paper is an open access paper and the English is mostly okay (more than 95%, medium confidence), so everyone can read it

The study investigates the influence of the urban heat island (UHI) effect on one measurement station, using two rural stations as reference. To study the influence of this gradual inhomogeneity (UHI), they need to remove the effect of the break inhomogeneities, which according to the station history are due to relocations. ...

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1920s saw a similar decline in Arctic sea ice to that we see today

Arctic misrepresentations
Filed under: Arctic and Antarctic Climate Science — gavin @ 8 July 2013

In the comments yesterday, Ken (Drinkwater, scientists at the Institute of Marine Research in Bergen - ) responded directly to this to make the context far more plain (slighty edited): The article by Christopher Booker … is a misrepresentation of my views. He does not state where he obtained his information but it might have been from [this press release] in which I was discussing the increase in the abundance of Atlantic cod in the Barents Sea and its relationship to sea temperatures from studies we had conducted, or in Drinkwater et al., (2011, Progress in Oceanography 90, 47-61). In both articles, my comments focussed upon the Barents Sea and not the Arctic Basin. 

Our studies did indicate that much of the heat entering the Barents Sea in recent years was advected in by the inflow of warm Atlantic Waters and although direct warming through air-sea heat exchanges no doubt occurred, it appeared not be the dominate process at the time of our studies. This increase in heat led to the melting of the sea ice. 

I did NOT dismiss “the idea that the ice is melting because of any rise in global temperatures” as Mr. Booker claims. One of the reasons that more heat is being transported into the Barents Sea is because of the general rise in temperatures within the Atlantic waters. 

Increased melting of sea ice did occur in the 1920s and 1930s in the Barents Sea (Ifft, Monthly Weather Review, November, 1922, p. 589) and over the Arctic Basin (Ahlmann, 1949, Rapports et Proces-Verbaux des Revions du Conseil International pour l’Exploration de la Mer 125, 9-16 ) but it was much less so than in recent years. 
I did NOT state that ice melted more in the 1920s and 1930s than in recent years as Mr. Booker claims. Mr. Booker has a duty as a journalist to ensure [that] his facts [are] correct. ...

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CO2 rises might not be anthropogenic (quoting Murry Salby):

Watt about Murry Salby?

A)   In paleo records, temperature does indeed lead CO2 rises, nothing there that challenges anthropogenic global warming (AGW) today. The main point is that the CO2 then amplifies the temperature rise and produces much larger temperature changes than could be explained by whatever was driving the initial rise (Milankovitch, for example). What about the second part of the statement above? ...

B)   Well, the basic idea is that when plants grow, they preferentially use carbon-12, rather than carbon-13. Hence, the ratio of carbon-12 to carbon-13 is higher in plants than in the atmosphere. What Murry Salby is claiming is that since the carbon-13 fraction in the atmosphere has been dropping while CO2 concentration have been rising proves that it must be due to plants and is not due to our use of fossil fuels. In a sense he’s correct. It is due to plants. It’s due to plants that existed millions of years ago and have since turned into fossil fuels. It isn’t due to plants today. ...

C)   Indeed, he’s correct. As the surface temperature fluctuates, this drives fluctuations in the CO2. You can look it up and see for yourself. What Murry is claiming is that the amount that is added when the fluctuation rises exceeds the amount lost when the fluctuation drops and hence explains the rise. Indeed, in some sense, once again true. Why is this? Well it’s because, on top of these fluctuations, there’s an addition of CO2 to the atmosphere through our use of fossil fuels. What we have is fluctuations due to annual temperature variations plus a longer-term trend due to our use of fossil fuels. Just because one can associate temperatures variations with rises in CO2 doesn’t mean that all CO2 variations must be due to temperature variations. 

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Cloud Radiative Effect is bigger than the IPCC indicates:

What is the net feedback from clouds?
What the science says

For climate scientists who are skeptical that anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions will cause a dangerous amount of warming, such as Richard Lindzen and Roy Spencer, their skepticism hinges mainly on this cloud cover uncertainty.  They tend to believe that as the planet warms, low-level cloud cover will increase, thus increasing planetary albedo (overall reflectiveness of the Earth), offsetting the increased greenhouse effect and preventing a dangerous level of global warming from occurring.
Regional Cloud Feedback Studies ...

Other studies analyzing satellite data from the International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project (ISCCP), the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR), and the Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System (CERES)  such as Chang and Coakley (2007) and Eitzen et al. (2008) have indicated that cloud optical depth of low marine clouds might be expected to decrease with increasing temperature. This suggests a positive shortwave cloud–climate feedback for marine stratocumulus decks.

In another recent paper, Clement et al. (2009) analyzed several decades of ship-based observations of cloud cover along with more recent satellite observations, with a focus on the northeastern Pacific.  They found that there is a negative correlation between cloud cover and sea surface temperature apparent on a long time scale—again suggesting a positive cloud-climate feedback in this region.

Global Cloud Feedback Studies ...

Studies Comparing Observed Atmospheric Changes to Climate Models ...

In short, while more research of the cloud-climate feedback is needed, the evidence is building against those who argue for a strongly negative cloud feedback.  It\'s also important to remember that clouds are just one feedback among many, and there is a large amount of evidence that the net feedback is significantly positive, and climate sensitivity is not low.

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Claiming that the Hockey Stick is a lie:

Ross McKitrick - The McKi 'trick'

Rebuttal to Ross McKitrick, an economics professor sowing the seeds of doubt regarding human caused climate change and global warming? Much like John Coleman, McKitrick uses red herrings and appeals to your 'the living the good life' theme in order to say the climate scientists are wrong and that they can't really prove anything. Like others, he uses facts out of context to support his unsubstantiated opinions. ...

Ross McKitrick continues to use out of context assertions and opinion to delay the imposition of effective, or meaningful legislation that would reduce the risk of human caused global warming: Including a tax he is proposing that attempts to address the preventability of higher costs by saying we should try to prevent the problem after it occurs. While this logic is completely absurd, it is effectively what he is proposing. 

Bizarre, but true.
The known reality of global warming combined with associated costs due to infrastructure immobility and expected resource scarcity issues, render McKitrick's opinion not only irrelevant, but immoral. He seems completely ignorant of the economic reality that is now in process.

The irony is that he thinks he understands economics. Unfortunately McKitrick seems to have missed an important point of economics:

When one is discussing economic sustainability one must consider current and future costs simultaneously. This is apparently not a consideration of Ross McKitrick as he myopically ignores relevant understanding to favor his biased views.

It is not about how to exploit resources to the point of depletion or demise, but rather the thrifty and efficient use of material resources in a sustainable manner. In fact the definition of economy includes the balance of systems and methods. 

Allowing exploitation of a resource to our own detriment and cost is not economics, but rather the opposite: the destruction of economic capacity.
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also see:
What evidence is there for the hockey stick?

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Ice core samples show that CO2 can’t be a driver:

CO2 Lags Temperature in the Ice-Core Record. Doesn’t that prove the IPCC wrong?

The presenter points out the well-known fact that in the ice-core record of the last million years CO2 increases lag temperature increases. And this appears to be the complete rebuttal of “CO2 causes temperature to increase”.

The IPCC has a whole chapter on the CO2 cycle in its TAR (Third Assessment Report) of 2001.

A short extract from chapter 3, page 203:

...Whatever the mechanisms involved, lags of up to 2,000 to 4,000 years in the drawdown of CO2 at the start of glacial periods suggests that the low CO2 concentrations during glacial periods amplify the climate change but do not initiate glaciations (Lorius and Oeschger, 1994; Fischer et al., 1999). Once established, the low CO2 concentration is likely to have enhanced global cooling (Hewitt and Mitchell, 1997)...

So the creator of this “documentary” hasn’t even bothered to check the IPCC report. They agree with him. And even more amazing, they put it in print!
If you are surprised by either of these points:
  • CO2 lags temperature changes in the last million years of temperature history
  • The IPCC doesn’t think this fact affects the theory of AGW (anthropogenic global warming)
Then read on a little further. I keep it simple.

The Oceans Store CO2 ...

“All Other Things being Equal” ...

Doesn’t the fact that CO2 lags temperature in the ice core record prove it doesn’t cause temperature changes? ...

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Amongst a number of other things:

Global Warming & Climate Change Myths

Here is a summary of global warming and climate change myths, sorted by recent popularity vs what science says. Click the response for a more detailed response. You can also view them sorted by taxonomy, by popularity, in a print-friendly version, with short URLs or with fixed numbers you can use for permanent references.

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