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Inflating more than a blowfish

Written By: - Date published: 11:34 am, September 22nd, 2011 - 39 comments
Categories: climate change - Tags: ,

The peculiar tribe of climate change deniers have two major characteristics as far as I’m concerned.

  1. They prefer to avoid understanding science to the point that they don’t read the actual science papers that they refer to. So when they refer to a paper you can pretty well guarantee that the one person who read it didn’t really understand it and simply extracted a few words out of the scientific context.
  2. Having gained a invalid idea, they will then proceed to inflate it (while never linking to it as that might help people making their own judgement) by each blogger misquoting what the previous blogger/journalist said (also usually without links). The end result of this is a story that has no relationship to the actual paper that they are referencing floating around the nets steadily inflating like an alarmed blowfish.
It is all rather hilarious to watch exactly how stupid people can expend so much effort to not read the source document and to try to understand the actual science in it. If they spent even a fraction of the time reading science that they expend propagating self-referencing bullshit, then those of us to actually do read and understand science wouldn’t get so frustrated with them. But it appears that your average climate change denier (CCD) is far more concerned with inflated gossip than actually understanding science.
Bryan Walker at Hot-Topic points out this great recent example of both traits in “It isn’t the sun”. The video on the same topic by PotHoler pokes some gentle fun at the inflated failings of CCDs.

The recent CERN paper  in Nature on cosmic rays and cloud formation has caused considerable excitement in the denialist world.  Canadian columnist Lawrence Solomon in the Financial Post declared “The new findings point to cosmic rays and the sun – not human activities – as the controller of climate on Earth”.  For what the paper really said readers can turn to the welcome and discussion it received on RealClimate. There’s also a useful response to Solomon’s claim on SkepticalScience.

It’s a complex picture, but today I came across this short video which sets it out straightforwardly and with a light touch. (Thanks to The Carbon Brief website.) Put together by Australian science journalist Potholer, it is both an explanation of the science and a picture of how misinterpretations travel in the denialist community.

39 comments on “Inflating more than a blowfish”

  1. Colonial Viper 1

    I’ve come to the (likely unpopular) conclusion that climate change over the next 100 years is not the probable Big Problem facing global human civilisation; instead, irrecoverable fossil fuel energy depletion over the next 20 years is.

    This is also a logical conclusion from AFKTT’s statements that the global economy is only a few years away from significant retrenchment due to peak oil and various energy crises.

    IF that occurs, major reductions in economic activity and fossil fuel availability will become the norm. Global carbon output will fall, and fall hard, without external intervention (carbon taxes, ETS’s etc), Kyoto Protocol or no.

    • queenstfarmer 1.1

      I’ve come to the (likely unpopular) conclusion that climate change over the next 100 years is not the probable Big Problem facing global human civilisation

      I agree. I think there are much more immediate problems. I was reminded of this by an article by Prince Charles (of all people). While everyone is arguing about how many metres (or fractions thereof) the sea level may or may not be by the time most of us are dead, in the meantime:

      – critical forests are being irretreivably lost
      – water systems are being destroyed
      – fish stocks continue to plummet
      – soil and arable land is being lost at increasing rates
      – food production is becoming more costly
      – etc etc etc

      I suspect these issues in combination will be more immediate than “climate change” as popularly conceived.

      • Shane Gallagher 1.1.1

        Yes but you miss a crucial point here – as every enviromentalist finds out the second that they start to campaign on any of these issues is that they are all interlinked and luckily the solutions to one problem also handily are often helpful or the solution to the other problems listed. Including climate change.

        CV – you are forgetting that we still have a LOT of coal and now frozen undersea methane deposits to extract. All that carbon will be used if we don’t stop use of fossil fuels and that will seal humanities fate.

        And QT – YOU might be dead but I won’t and neither will my children or grandchildren and their children… I actually want to hand them a livable planet and a good life. Thanks. :-)

        • Colonial Viper 1.1.1.1

          Hi Shane,

          I agree there are huge amounts of coal left which might be extracted eg in US, China, Russia etc.

          However I believe that increases in coal extraction rates will not even come close to matching near term (<10 year) declines in crude oil production.

          IMO crude oil production per day will now never ever exceed 85mbpd, taken as a quarterly average.

          • insider 1.1.1.1.1

            You know that supply is running at over 86kbpd and has been since the beginning of 2010…

            • Colonial Viper 1.1.1.1.1.1

              Supply is running at 86,000 barrels per day?

              That number is way too low IMO. For ex. US daily consumption of oil is around the 20M barrel per day mark.

              • insider

                By supply I mean production, in case I confused you. Check the OPEC monthly Reports, iea or eia reports. Not sure how you can say it’s too low when it is higher than your maximum possible output. Are we comparing the same thing?

      • lprent 1.1.2

        QSF: Sea level is the least important or severe of the issues from climate change. Probably why you picked it as your only effect.

        In your list I can’t see any that will not be made far worse with climate change. Quite simply we are totally reliant on a stable climate and have non real idea of the risks of being in an changing climate.

        For instance, if you’d care to engage your brain for a second, just think of the effects on food production costs if the frequency of tropical storms impacting doubled in the next two decades. Based on what we know about climate, this is quite a feasible effect. But we don’t have enough information to build it into the IPCC models because we will only find out after it has happened.

    • RedLogix 1.2

      Well CV I’d agree peak oil will bite us in the butt soon, but climate change will crush us inevitably.
      The difference between the two issues is that climate change has very large delays and momentum built into the system. Once we go past climate tipping points there is nothing anyone can do to respond …except sit back and not enjoy the ride.

    • lprent 1.3

      Not really. You are dealing with a question of relative risk.

      With fossil fuels the effects of rising costs are relatively well known. The costs will rise as they get progressively harder to extract until a point is reached that an alternative becomes viable. This will almost certainly cause recessions to depressions as new economic equilibrium are reached.

      We already know what most of the alternative technologies are and even have some ideas on the price points of using them on a large scale. We have already seen most of the effects of changing energy costs in the economies. The main real effect at the fundamentals level is that it will drive up the cost of food production.

      The biggest unknown risks involved are that someone starts a widespread war.

      The problem with climate change is that the effects are unknown. The IPCC projections are simply the best minimum guesses based on what we already know. We have already pumped enough greenhouse gases into the the atmosphere to radically change the climate.

      We simply haven’t had another planet to try out the effects of widespread climate modification on so when the IPCC does a report they base it on what is known will happen – not what could happen. Noone knows where the effects of what is already in the atmosphere and oceans will lead. While it is feasible for scientific morons (like DPF) to purportedly treat IPCC projections like gospel, no one with any understanding of the unknown risks in the IPCC would do anything except treat them as the most optimistic possible projections.

      The risks are that we have no idea when the effects will manifest, no idea how great the effects will be, and no real idea of the impacts on our civilization. We have never seen it before as a civilization at anything like the same scale. The most extreme climate shifts we have in our history as a agricultural species were a fraction of what we know we’re going to get in climate effects and were quite localized.

      The difference in risk is that we have no real idea of what climate change will do to our food production even in the next couple of decades, whereas we do with increasing costs of energy.

      This is at a time when we have the largest population our species has ever had. The only thing we are sure about is that we will have an increased frequency of extreme weather events – exactly the type of thing that farmers fear the most.

      We’re going to get those effects sometime this century. The evidence is that we are getting them now at levels of statistical significance. We don’t know if these types of weather events are just the start or if they are as bad as they’re going to get.

      Now we could get lucky and the main effects hold off for a century until we are over peak population. But I think the current evidence is that we’ll see strong climate effects that affect food production in the next couple of decades.

      • Afewknowthetruth 1.3.1

        lprent

        ‘With fossil fuels the effects of rising costs are relatively well known. The costs will rise as they get progressively harder to extract until a point is reached that an alternative becomes viable. ‘

        That is simply not true.

        There are no ‘alternatives’ to fossil fuels. Nothing available on this planet matches the energy density, quantity and EROEI of oil and coal. No combination of so-called alternatives can support even a tiny fraction of present human arrangements. I susgget you rewatch Albert Bartlett’s ‘Arithmentic Population and Energy’ and Chris Martenson’s ‘Crash Course’. And read TEW.

        It took nature hundreds of millions of years to sequester all that carbon safely underground and generate the stable climate conditions that made civilisation possible, but humans have managed to transfer a large portion of that carbon back into the atmosphere (and the oceans) in just 200 years.

        • lprent 1.3.1.1

          I didn’t say that they had to be as efficient or as flexible to replace. What they need to be is as functional at some level of cost.

          For instance and just looking in our recent past at fundamentals. In the agricultural area in the 19th century and early 20th there were steam powered tractors. In transport there were steam powered buses and lorries as well as steam and electric trains and electric trams. Steam powered and wind powered ships (imagine the latter with some serious computer controlled sail area pushing large container craft).

          Sure it’d be hard to do it without touching fossil fuels, but those are just old tech that we already know has already worked with replaceable resources like hydro and biomatter. Then of course there are all of the new tech that has been tried but never been in full blown use because it is too expensive relative to a extracted fossil fuel alternative.

          My point was that all of these are known technologies that could be used at a more expensive cost point and we have some idea of the risk levels. However the effects of extensive climate change on our society and civilization is largely unknown especially in the area of food production. There are going to be unexpected gotchas in how that plays out. At present it looks like the first unpleasant surprise is how fast the frequency of extreme weather events is rising.

          • Colonial Viper 1.3.1.1.1

            Coal is going to make a comeback globally, we can bet on it.

          • Afewknowthetruth 1.3.1.1.2

            lprent

            I cannot follow what you are trying to say.

            We know we cannot go back to steam engines because we cannot burn coal and there isn’t enough wood (one of the reasons coal was adopted).

            We could have wooden sailing ships, but building more than just a few of those would be a struggle now that so much of the hardwood has gone and has been replaced by pine which is totally unsuitable for ship construction.

            ‘wind powered ships (imagine the latter with some serious computer controlled sail area pushing large container craft).’

            Why would we want to do that? Global trade arrangements will disintegrate fairly soon. We will soon be primarily concerned with day to day survival at the local level (as has been the case for 99% of humanity for 99.99% of human history).

            ‘replaceable resources like hydro and biomatter’

            We may be able to keep hydro running for a while after the global industrial system collapses, but there is no evidence we can maintain such systems in the long term and a lot of evidence we can’t, e.g.

            http://dieoff.org/page125.htm

            When you mention biomatter, that could mean horses eating hay. If you are suggesting making alcohol from corn or beet etc. that will almost certainly not work. Dr David Fridley spoke about ‘The Myth of Biofuels’, several years ago

            http://www.postcarbon.org/video/46329-the-myth-of-biofuels

            following on from the work of Pimmintel etc., who also figured out that biofuels are hopeless as fuels to run complex societies

            http://environment.about.com/od/ethanolfaq/f/ethanol_problem.htm

            and

            http://www.oilcrash.com/articles/pf_bio.htm

            • Draco T Bastard 1.3.1.1.2.1

              We could have wooden sailing ships…

              Why would we go to wood for ships when we can still produce steel?

              We may be able to keep hydro running for a while after the global industrial system collapses, but there is no evidence we can maintain such systems in the long term and a lot of evidence we can’t, e.g.

              Hydro-power was first built in the 19th century so chances are we’ll be able to keep it going. Would it be the same as what was built in the 1970s? Probably not as we’ll most likely go to in stream systems rather than damns.

      • Afewknowthetruth 1.3.2

        ‘This is at a time when we have the largest population our species has ever had. The only thing we are sure about is that we will have an increased frequency of extreme weather events – exactly the type of thing that farmers fear the most.’

        Awaiting the update of this site.

        http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/

        It should be a available soon.

        Continuation of the trend of the past 11 months will be annihilation of a huge portion of US agricultural production.

  2. Are you fighting those things you list queenstfarmer?
    If not, why not?

  3. No wonder people say the word blog so derogatorily. Perhaps it should be a function of scientific papers and reports to have an even more succinct conclusion for all those bloggers that have the attention span of an ant. CCD = Cerebral Cognitive Disease.

  4. joe90 4

    I agree. I think there are much more immediate problems.

    A press release from State of the Oceans and the summary of a workshop held in April make for dire reading.

    Alex Rogers

    The findings are shocking. As we considered the cumulative effect of what humankind does to the ocean the
    implications became far worse than we had individually realized. This is a very
    serious situation demanding unequivocal action at every level. We are looking at
    consequences for humankind that will!impact in our lifetime, and worse, our
    children’s and generations beyond that.”

    p

    • Oscar 4.1

      Nothing wrong with the oceans except the bottom trawling
      -and why do we allow foreign countries to take out copious amounts of fish from our waters?

    • lprent 4.2

      Yep. An unknown effect. No one has any real idea what changing the pH of the oceans does to either the ocean productivity or to the weather patterns.

  5. Galeandra 5

    QSF at it again, living up to his arrogant title. Yesterday Krugman was cross, today it’s eco-warrior Charles who gets backhanded: ‘an article by Prince Charles (of all people).’

    Why doesn’t he go home to KB and stay there?

    • queenstfarmer 5.1

      Calm down – I wasn’t dissing HRH Prince Charles.

    • Bazar 5.2

      “Why doesn’t he go home to KB and stay there?”

      Indeed, this site needs him to leave so that it can discuses within itself and maintain its group think policy.

      Well thought out and constructively critical posts aren’t welcome unless they reinforce the group’s view.

  6. alex 6

    Science? What is fair and balanced about science?

    • One Anonymous Bloke 6.1

      That depends what you mean – science isn’t so much fair and balanced as competitive and cut-throat. Nature is the only authority – and it is neither fair nor subject to notions of ‘balance’.

  7. Afewknowthetruth 8

    As with climate change, the Internet is awash with misinformation concerning oil. The peak in extraction of conventional oil occurred as two sub-peaks in 2005 and 2006. Extraction of conventional oil is in severe decline in the vast majority of regions of the world.

    However, the total liquids has been bouncing along the ‘bumpy platuea’ since 2006. Total liquids includes unconventional oil -deep water, condensates derived from extraction of natural gas, oil extracted from tar sands etc., even from coal, and some people have the cheek to include ethanol derived from the fermentation of corn as ‘oil’.

    Some say the world has been using more oil than has been extracting over the past year or so, the difference being made up by draw-down of stocks. The ongoing financial mess and unemployment in much of the developed wolrd is depressing demand and is depressing oil prices.

    What is irrefutable is that the Energy Return(ed) On Energy Invested continues to fall. Such is the desperation to prop up present industrial arangements that oil companies are signing up to explore and develop potential oil-bearing regions in the Arctic: they are looking forward to the meltdown of the Arctic, simply as a mechanism to aid resource extraction! Sea level rise and climate chaos do not factor into energy companies’ accounts.

    The other important factor to watch is the Export-Land Model: many oil exporting regions have rising domestic demand which means that export supply is being eaten into by depletion and by domestic consumption.

    With respect to climate change denial, it is worth repeating that oil, cement and automotive companies have poured hundreds of millions of dollars into funding misinformation and confusion. And it is still happening.

    Although some comments have noted the inevitability of a reduction in CO2 emissions from burning oil as we slide down the peak oil curve, they have failed to note that Global Dimming -the reduction in light reaching the ground due to industrial ‘smog’ in the atmosphere- will probably decline dramatically as we fall off the oil depletion curve. Less Global Dimming = more warming and more triggering of positive feedbacks.

    Coming generations are being totally screwed by the small sector of humanity that is currently misleading and misgoverning us.

    As far as I am concerned there are only two issues worth discussing:

    1. How do we prevent mass starvation when the industrial food system collapses (due to peak oil climate instability, soil loss, lack of fertilisers, lack of fresh water etc)?

    2. How do we prevent abrupt climate change ( a rapid surge in temperature in a short time) rendering the Earth largely uninhabitable in a few decades?

    (The matter of acidification of the oceans is also of huge concern but, as I point out in TEW, higher ocean temperatures could well drive CO2 out of the oceans, exacerbating the temperature predicament. Others would say that putting a halt to the Sixth Great Extinction Event is more important than the fate of humantiy.)

    I also point out in TEW, these issues are never discussed in mainstream, and those who raise them are ignored, lampooned, marginalised etc. This is because society was hijacked by banksters corporations long ago, of course, and they are only interested in maintianing their particular Ponzi schemes.

    In the meantime, ‘idiots’ are given plenty of airtime to promote nonsense, such as ‘growth in tourism over the next decade’. Indeed, our PM has special repsonsibility for lying to the nation about the future of tourism (and lying to the nation about practically everything else).

    The maniacs in charge will blithely take us into uncharted territory and in all probability annhiliate their own progeny’s prospects just so they can hang on to their perceived entitlements a little longer.

  8. burt 9

    World misled over Himalayan glacier meltdown

    It is all rather hilarious to watch exactly how stupid people can expend so much effort to not read the source document and to try to understand the actual science in it. If they spent even a fraction of the time reading science that they expend propagating self-referencing bullshit, then those of us to actually do read and understand science wouldn’t get so frustrated with them. But it appears that your average Goreist is far more concerned with inflated gossip than actually understanding science.

    It cuts both ways lprent – there is a lot of filtering required to keep up with the current science.

    • RedLogix 9.1

      Burt, that article you linked to is the laziest piece of sub-cretinous tosh I’ve read in ages.

      Still it should be right up your alley.

      • Afewknowthetruth 9.1.1

        Well said RedLogix.

        By the time I had got to the bottom of the first page the article I had gleaned no significant information from it, so I didn’t bother to access the second page.

        The article fulfilled its purpose of providing readers with distraction, and promulgating the ideas of doubt and conspiracy where they don’t exist.

      • burt 9.1.2

        OH, so after doing a google to find an article about the misleading melting glaciers by 2035 I picked one of the first off the list after a very brief scan of it. I’m very sorry the content of the ‘almost random’ link I picked wasn’t up to your standards.

        But just out of interest, do you have any comment on how this also fits with lprent saying CCD’s make shit up with no scientific backing and how crappy that is ? Did you get the connection that the melting glaciers claim is as shockingly poor from a scientific perspective as [xyz] example from the CCD’s ?

    • lprent 9.2

      So you quote an poorly written article by a lazy journalist about a inadequete section of the non-scientific part of the last IPCC report that was dealing with possible social and economic effects of climate change.

      I guess you just demonstrated yet again that there are idiot deniers around who don’t read what they quote.. In fact you are living proof of the what I was saying in the post in my first point. Perhaps I should have added another point that some people are incapable of recognizing the difference between science papers and less strenuously peer reviewed verbiage.

      You really are a rather pathetic munter sometimes. Perhaps you should actually read and think about the posts rather than making such a dickhead of yourself.

      • burt 9.2.2

        lprent

        I don’t understand why you are taking this so personally. Seriously I don’t. Was it because I only had to change one word in that paragraph I quoted to prove that it cuts both ways?

        from the link;

        Hasnain has since admitted that the claim was “speculation” and was not supported by any formal research. If confirmed it would be one of the most serious failures yet seen in climate research. The IPCC was set up precisely to ensure that world leaders had the best possible scientific advice on climate change.

        I haven’t claimed anything myself, I haven’t said this post of your is incorrect, I haven’t said anything except that how you describe CCD’s also seems to fit the behaviour of some “climate scientists”. Unless you either wrote the particular section in the IPCC report or have quoted it as fact in the past I fail to see how this gets you so irate ?

    • One Anonymous Bloke 9.3

      There is one (yes, just one) salient piece of information in the Times’ article about this IPCC mistake – “the blunder was spotted by climate scientists who quickly made it public.”
      Which doesn’t really fit the denier narrative, so they ignore it. Another feature of IPCC AR4 (that doesn’t fit the denier narrative) is that it erred on the conservative side, particularly with regard to Arctic warming.

      Skeptical Science is probably the best resource when it comes to countering these witless truthers with hard facts, but for actual Climatology you can’t go past Real Climate.

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Current CO2 level in the atmosphere