Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Cairns Post Letters from the Wingnuts #20: Confusing consensus

After a brief hiatus in the printing of climate change denial letters in the Cairns Post, the editor decided on Friday to make up for it by publishing a poorly written, poorly researched and poorly thought out screed from Sally-Ann Edwards from Julatten. Ms Edwards begins:
I have been a Greens voter for 15 years, support environmental issues and have a BSc in Biol/Geol.
Where's my salt lick? Whenever I see a denier claim to have been a "Greens voter" or environmentalist (or a similar claims of "I used to believe X, but then I did the research and have repented) I know to always take it with a huge slurp from the salt lick. It's possible that the claims are true, but it's more likely to be bollocks.
Recently I chose to do my own research on global warming.
What a shock. There is no global warming.
Nothing to see here...

Move along!
It ended 16 years ago (UK Met Office satellite evidence).
No, it was not UK Met Office satellite evidence. It was a careful misrepresentation of the data by a conservative tabloid columnist, and the Met Office carefully advised him not to make the claims he did. The 16-years claim has a number of flaws, the main being that it is based on cherry picking from an unusually hot starting point. 1998 was abnormally warm, and deniers love to take advantage of that in misrepresenting the true state of affairs. Secondly, the data series was of surface level atmospheric temperature, and thus did not include ocean warming. Most global warming goes into the oceans.

Look at the chart above, and note that the way the running mean bounces around. It varies around a trend. This is because there are a number of factors involved in climate, and there are times some are pushing down while others are pushing up. Look at that cooling in the 1940s! No warming! Here's an excellent graph summarizing the sleight of hand deniers are using:

In fact, a slight cool trend has occurred for the past 10 years, despite China churning out mega cities with phenomenal growth over this period. The timing alone disproves the claim.
Look at the graph above. There are a number of short intervals in which once could claim a cooling trend has occurred. Our CO2 emissions are one factor amongst many that determine climate. They do not stop fluctuations and make a constant upward trend.
It is a fiction that 97 per cent of scientists believe in anthropogenic global warming. Only 0.3 per cent actually believe this.
Only 0.3% of scientists believe in anthropogenic global warming? This isn't even a common denier claim. When pressed, even most deniers will admit that mankind plays some role in global warming, but will downplay the extent of it. We should note that no major scientific bodies maintain a position statement disagreeing with the consensus, and numerous studies show overwhelming acceptance of anthropogenic climate change. Scientists are more likely to accept anthropogenic global warming than the general public, and climate scientists even more so.

So, here does Ms Edwards's 0.3% claim come from?
Legates et al (2013) examined the data file of Cook et al (2013) who had made this claim then taken up by the UN and the world's press.
Legates et al consists of David Legates, William Briggs, Willie Soon, and the Potty Peer, Christopher Monckton. Their paper is a rather shoddy maltreatment of Cook et al with numerous flaws, not the least of which is including papers that do not address causes of climate change in the denominator of their calculations. See a discussion of criticisms of the Cook et al paper here. The Cook et al's conclusion stands, and is roughly in keeping with other surveys of scientist's views on the subject.

Let's make it simple. Say we are interested in the cause of X. We search the literature on X and find 10000 papers. We examine those papers and find 100 of them address the causes of X. 97 of them say A causes X, while 3 say A does not cause X and the rest take cause for granted and get on with other analysis. What is the consensus opinion on A being the cause of X? Is it 97/10000=0.97% or 97/100=97%?

Ms Edwards writes:
Of 11,944 climate change papers written between 1991-2012, only 41 Abstracts (0.3 per cent) actually believed in man-made global warming. 
Ms Edwards apparently doesn't understand what Legates et al actually wrote. Questionable though it is, their claim was that "just 0.3 % endorsement of the standard definition of consensus: that most warming
since 1950 is anthropogenic." So, even if we accept Ms Edwards's chosen publication at face value, Ms Edwards is wrong.

Ms Edwards starts with Legates et al's claim that 0.3% of papers in Cook et al endorsed the position that most warming since 1950 was anthropogenic, misunderstanding that to get her claim that 0.3% of the abstracts believed in man-made global warming, and then confusing matters further by using that 0.3% figure as her claimed percentage of scientists who accept anthropogenic global warming.

Ms Edwards is deeply confused. She next heads off on an unrelated tangent with a particularly stupid argument:
Gillard and Rudd bought oceanfront properties. 
Ah, the "so-and-so bought a waterfront property, so they can't really believe it" canard. I'm 43. It's likely I will have around another 40 years or so, which will take me through to 2053. If I was to buy a house to live in for the rest of my life, most ocean-front properties would be a safe purchase considering sea level rise (storm surge may be another matter - even now, and without thinking about climate change, I'm concerned I may be a bit low and I'm not on the beachfront).
Friends, we are being deceived.
Well, Ms Edwards certainly seems to have been deceived. I would tell her not to give up her day job, but if her claimed qualifications are real then her day job may be being a scientist and she probably should give it up. Perhaps Julatten could use a new junk mail delivery person.

Some newspapers, including the Sydney Morning Herald, have recently decided to stop printing climate change denial letters that are egregiously wrong. It would be nice to see the Cairns Post follow suit.


  1. I'm sorry to have to inform you of this, but Sally-Ann Edwards's BSc in Biology/Geology beats your nothing. You lose. So you can continue to wear the tinfoil hat.



    1. Klem

      If you're going to try for an argument from authority you're going to lose. I see your fruitloop with a BSc in biology and geology and raise you the Academies of Science.

      Instead, perhaps you would actually like to address the arguments that I made in the post. Did you even read it before posting your comment?

    2. Read your socialist drivel, what would I do that for? Lol!



    3. Came back to double down on your stupidity I see. Get a dictionary and look up the word socialist.Nothing I said would meet that definition, and internalisation of external costs is basic economics - i.e. good capitalism.

      In short, Klem, you're a moron.