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Climate change deniers – accidental comedians

Written By: - Date published: 10:39 am, January 4th, 2009 - 26 comments
Categories: climate change - Tags:

Joker

Joker Award

I’m always amazed about the level of sheer scientific ignorance of most of the climate change deniers. Characteristically ridiculous statements (and scientifically humorous) usually emit from them like CO2 emissions from a coal fired power station.

For instance, Garth George in the NZ Herald on his new years eve article said

In Britain, the Meteorological Service, which has wrongly predicted record high temperatures for almost every year since the turn of the millennium, last month conceded that last year would be the coldest year this century. That means 1998 remains the hottest year on record since the Medieval Warm Period 1000-odd years ago. In fact, world temperatures have fallen since about 2002.

I was intrigued by this, so I dug around. Guess what – Garth is inaccurate – not the British Met Service. In fact I’ll give Garth a Joker Award for one of the most inaccurate paragraphs that I’ve seen for a while.

The inaccuracy level of the British Met Service has a mean value of annual forecast error of 0.06 °C between the global temperature forecast and reality since 2000. That is a extremely good prediction rate bearing in mind the massive numbers of variables. Moreover like 2008, this year they are predicting the highest world tempatures since 2005. Garth only mentioned 1998 and 2002. Why not even mention the only comparision year that mattered? For that matter why is he focused on increases in tempature, climate change means effects could go anyway locally or even globally for periods of time. It is the long-term trends that matter.

It is based on this press release from the Met office. But Garth probably read either the Reuters release on the same day or one of the ‘interpretations’ by the climate change denier sites. They are fascinating in the way that they skirt around the facts in the actual press release. However I’d have expected to Garth as a long-time journo to at least go and read the origional release.

It appears that few sites commenting ever bothered to look at the notes on the release. So I’ve reproduced the notes and highlighted a few for Garth and his ilk in the following section.

  • The Met Office Hadley Centre advises the UK government on climate change research. Its work is, in part, jointly funded by Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs); DECC (Dept for Energy and Climate Change and MoD (Ministry of Defence).
  • The Met Office, in collaboration with the University of East Anglia, maintains a global temperature record which is used in the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
  • Each January the Met Office, in conjunction with the University of East Anglia, issues a forecast of the global surface temperature for the coming year. The forecast takes into account known contributing factors, such as El Niño and La Niña, increasing greenhouse gas concentrations, the cooling influences of industrial aerosol particles, solar effects and natural variations of the oceans.
  • The 1961-90 global average mean temperature is 14.0 °C.
  • Global temperature for 2009 is expected to be 14.44 °C, the warmest since 2005, when the value was 14.48 °C.
  • The warmest year on record is 1998, which was 14.52 °C, a year dominated by an extreme El Niño.
  • Over the nine years, 2000-2008, since the Met Office has issued forecasts of annual global temperature the mean value of the forecast error is 0.06 °C.
  • The first Met Office decadal forecast to 2014 was issued in 2007.
  • Interannual variations of global surface temperature are strongly affected by the warming influences of El Niño and the cooling influences of La Niña in the Pacific Ocean. 2008, with a provisionally observed temperature of 14.31 °C compared with the forecast value of 14.37 °C.

The devil is in the detail. It appears that Garth along with every climate change denial site I read on this press release, didn’t bother to read the detail. Instead there was an interesting range of spin from the four sites that I looked at. None of them bothered to dispute the science. They choose instead to attack the British Meteorological Service for not being accurate enough, or for ‘spinning’ a story for commercial reasons. The British Meteorological Service naturally run courses on climate change effects. In fact most of the sites appeared to avoid the detail in the release and just made spin.

26 comments on “Climate change deniers – accidental comedians”

  1. higherstandard 1

    An excellent and approachable overview of climate change below if anyone is interested.

    http://www.gcrio.org/gwcc/part1.html

  2. RedLogix 2

    The last time humanity was faced with a science that it did not like the look of was back when Darwin completely overturned most of our delusional ideas about the origon of mankind. It took a generation or so for the fuss to die down, and even now a creationist rump lingers on making complete fools of themselves. AGW is following pretty much the same pattern.

    The most dishonest denier tactic is of course that they completely dismiss as insufficient evidence a general trend of rising temperatures going back many decades, yet just ONE year which shows a small (and entirely within expected variance) decrease in temperature… is hailed as conclusive evidence that global warming is either over, or was always a hoax.

    This is the kind of thing I’m sure Einsten had in mind when he talked about the infinite stupidity of humankind, The great shame of it is that many real scientists, who might otherwise openly and vitally contribute to the process of educating the public, are so repelled by the deniers’ absurdist obduracy that they don’t feel inclined to waste their valuable time wrestling with pigs.

  3. Al Gore has really stepped in it this time. He could have spent the rest of his global warming career collecting money by spreading fear over events that were a century or at least half century in the future. Oh, but that wasn’t good enough for Big Al. He’s now told the biggest global warming whopper of his alarmist career:

    AL GORE HAS GUARANTEED THAT THE NORTHERN POLAR ICE CAP WILL BE COMPLETELY GONE IN FIVE YEARS!!!

    When I heard this I assumed it was a rumor started by skeptics to make Gore look bad. It wasn’t until I viewed the video that I realized what Gore had done. Gore has started a five year credibility countdown timer ticking and it’s up to all of us to make sure that he is held accountable and proven to be a fraud when his dire prediction aimed at drumming up support doesn’t come close to coming true.

    The mainstream media isn’t going to let this video see the light of day because they, unlike Al, understand the precarious position in which he has placed himself.

    It is therefore up to us to spread the word about Big Al’s prediction. He must be exposed for the fear mongering opportunist that he has become.

    To view the video, please visit the following site and click on the picture of Big Al holding up five fingers.

    http://www.hootervillegazette.com

    While visiting this site, you might want to watch a preview of the film “Not Evil, Just wrong” or watch “The Great Global Warming Swindle” which is found in the video section. Happy Viewing!!!

  4. RedLogix 4

    Apropos the original post Real Climate DeSpin cuts through to the heart of the matter as usual.

    Dash.

    Hey it’s OK if you want to refer to Hooterville as an authorative science source… just don’t get upset if anyone with any real science background does not you seriously. I watched the video, and I lost count of the silly, wrong arguments.

    I find it bizarre that people who cannot analyse a simple trend plot properly, couldn’t do a PCA to save themselves… feel qualified to even comment on this topic.

    If you didn’t know even Shroedingers Equation you wouldn’t argue quantum mechanics… so what gives here?

  5. Lew 5

    Awesome. We have a new lunatic conspiracy theorist advocacy troll linkwhore who prefers to point the fingers at ex-politicians than engage with the scientific matter in question.

    How lucky we are.

    L

  6. Quoth the Raven 6

    Here are some basics from NASA for the flat earthers I mean climate change deniers:
    Global change: How do we know?
    The greenhouse effect
    Unresolved questions about Earth’s climate
    FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

  7. Rex Widerstrom 7

    …For that matter why is he focused on increases in tempature, climate change means effects could go anyway…

    Whether George is obfuscating the story deliberately or inadvertently, I’d venture to suggest the sloppy and frequent use of the term “global warming” by everyone from politicians and journalists to, sadly, some science types, allows any unseasonal snowstorm to be paraded as evidence to the contrary.

    Even my old mum had been noticing, years before it became the topic du jour, that the winters were getting harsher and the summers hotter. But when she hears “global warming” she thinks back to the frosts she’s woken up to this past winter and wonders what the hell they’re talking about.

    If you were trying to explain quantum mechanics (a subject as difficult to grasp as historic climatology for most people, myself included) it wouldn’t help if you began by confusing people between magnetism and electricity even though the two are related.

    And I have a feeling that St Al, in casting round for a post-2000 role that offered him something more than a footnote in a history of Amercian Presidents, figured that a bit of alarmism was needed to ensure a media profile. He’s probably right (about the media) but it also makes him an obvious and easy target, especially when his own carbon footprint is big enough for Tully’s gumboot.

  8. lprent 8

    Redlogix: That was the post I was after. I remember reading it in December but I never book-marked it.

    Dash: You really do want to prove my point about accidental comedians. Almost everything you said was pure comedy. So is your site on climate change. I’d do you for link-whoring, but I’m pretty sure you won’t know what that means either.

    For the interest of others… The north pole does not have an ‘ice cap’. Greenland does. Antarctica does. Both are kilometers thick and will take (hopefully) quite a while to disappear.

    What the north pole does have is thick sea ice, which is measured in meters. At present it is disappearing rapidly. This is while we are in the colder part of the global temperature cycle.

    I don’t think that it will go to clear water for part of the year in 5 years, but I wouldn’t bet against it. I would bet on it being all clear water for part of the year in 10 years. I’m a conservative gambler. I only like to bet on sure things.

    For that matter so do a lot of both companies and governments bearing in mind the way that they are all gearing up for claims. Imagine companies putting up money for places they can’t actually drill yet. I wonder what they are thinking – no ice in a few years perhaps.

  9. Pascal's bookie 9

    For that matter so do a lot of both companies and governments bearing in mind the way that they are all gearing up for claims. Imagine companies putting up money for places they can’t actually drill yet. I wonder what they are thinking – no ice in a few years perhaps.

    I seem to remember reading that the russkies started poking around with subs under the sea ice again as well. Planting flags on the seabed or something… just to show that they can of course, it’s about technical engineering skill and naval pride, nothing to see here, move along…

  10. ieuan 10

    Garth George is a strange individual, he is a mass of contradictions and prejudices. In the article that you link to Garth is happy to embrace the ‘existence’ of God for which there is zero evidence yet wants to question the theory that global warming exists based on the ‘world global financial meltdown’ and the figures that you discuss in depth from the British Meteorological Service.

    Garth then moves on to criticising the health warnings on cigarettes based on his premise that smoking only ‘contributes to’ and not ’causes’ health issues, this from the same man who says access to abortion is the main cause of child abuse.

    He then rambles on about seedless raspberries and not being able to buy a tender lamb chop and just to prove that he is in fact human and just like the rest of us revels in Ricky Ponting getting out for 99 in the second test against South Africa.

    Keep it up Garth George, with David Farrar’s blog fading into a cut and paste of other peoples ideas, Garth is one of the only true voices of the right wing still left and he is currently one of the funniest things on the internet.

  11. Mr Magoo 11

    I had the extreme displeasure of sharing an office with a climate change denier. The most strange thing was that he had no trouble bringing up the subject himself without any provocation or being on topic. (on day 1 he brought it up as an ice breaker to his team mates)

    The irony was that he was a MAD NASA and physics fan and quite scientifically oriented. When it was pointed out what NASA’s position on it was (or the 1800 scientist on the UN letter) he would effectively just go silent and change the subject. I could forgive a arts major, but a science major needs his butt kicked!

    The arguments he presented were all sourced from those same idiotic web sites. The points were highly unscientific and evidence very loaded:
    1) You cannot prove 100% exclusively that it exists thus all disscussion on it being present is now irrelavent. Basically – I will not believe or act until it is here.
    2) Here are some data points I found out of context that go against common myths about it and thus it does not exist
    3) It is just a mass delusion and thus any evidence to the contrary is just part of that delusion (oooohhh sweet irony)

    Point 3) is the most important. Effectively deniers treat this as a conspiracy and thus become “anti-conspiratists”. There are a whole new set of rules when treating something as a conspiracy. You start from “I am 100% correct I just need to find the evidence and the others are delusional” which immediately compromises your reasoning.
    Thus you go net hunting with loaded search terms. You tend to scoff at and misread anything that does not agree with you. You spend a lot more time reading things you agree with and psychologically weight them as more important.
    In the end, you are completely entrenched in a delusion. The more of you there are, the stronger it becomes.
    Anyone disagreeing just reinforces your viewpoint and vindication now, because there are “more conspiratists” than you thought. The UN/Kyoto/EU etc just make you more polarised because you could not possibly have guessed at how DEEP this conspiracy went.
    It becomes a “trusim” in every sense of the word. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Truism)

    I am sure EVERYBODY here has done this on some topic at some stage. The fact that you were right or had lots of REAL evidence is not the point. The fact that you started from “I am obviously right, now lets find somone who agrees” is the problem.
    I think most of the “left vs right” arguments on this blog have some great examples of this. (both side! I am just as annoyed with left idiotic comments as right ones)

    Human beings, for whatever reason, seem geared for this sort of reasoning. Couple that with our faulty memories (most recently studied in jurors) and some people who are prone to irrational fear reactions (that neo-con/libreal jem of a study) and you have our current environmental and political environment explained in a nutshell.
    Science is hard because we must actually fight this urge to do a good job.

    Anwyays. Digressions from someone with a psych major I guess. (science based 🙂 )

  12. Lew 12

    Magoo: In the end, you are completely entrenched in a delusion.

    This is how conspiracy theories of all kinds seem to work.

    0. There exists a [proposition], and supporting [arguments], which are not broadly accepted by [the rest of the world].
    1. [We] accept [proposition] because of [arguments].
    2. However [the rest of the world] does not accept [proposition] despite the obvious rightness of [arguments].
    3. While [we] are obviously justified in our belief in [proposition] because of [arguments], [the rest of the world] who does not accept [proposition] is not heterogenously made up of unreasonable people. [They] are simply misguided or simply unaware of [arguments], equipped with which [they] would surely agree with [us].
    4. Since reasonable people would accept [proposition] as we do, the only explanation for the fact that [they] don’t is that [someone] is preventing them from accessing or otherwise understanding [arguments].
    5. [Someone] stands to gain from [proposition] not being accepted by [the rest of the world], and to this end is restricting access to or understanding of [arguments].

    Useful examples in each category:
    [we]: “climate change skeptics”; “9/11 truthers”; “Holocaust deniers”; “alties”; “Family First”
    [proposition]: “AGW is a hoax”; “9/11 was staged”; “the holocaust is Zionist propaganda”; “natural remedies are more effective than scientific”; “a war is being waged against the family”
    [arguments] (one listed only, for brevity’s sake): “the earth isn’t really getting warmer”; “WTC 7 couldn’t have collapsed like that”; “there’s no evidence except that gathered by the friends of Zionism”; “natural things are always better than unnatural”; “prostitution reform/civil unions/s59 repeal”
    [someone]: “the greenies and enemies of prosperity”; “the US government-military complex”; “the Zionist-controlled media and academy”; “Big Pharma”; “the communist lesbian social engineers”.

    Once you know the pattern it’s pretty easy to spot a conspiracy theorist at distance, when it usually becomes possible to shoot them between the eyes.

    Unfortunately, that doesn’t usually kill the fuckers.

    L

    [lprent: It is hard to damage a vacuum]

  13. higherstandard 13

    Lew

    You’re tempting fate !

    Useful examples in each category:
    [fate] Travelleve

    🙂

  14. RedLogix 14

    Lew,

    So there are no conspiracies. That’s nice to know.

  15. higherstandard 15

    Well no conspiracies apart from the one that this site is a front for the EPMU and the Labour Party

    [lprent: Astonishing. You mean people who may (or may not) be in two groups from the labour movement (along with others). All paid for by me out of my giving up smoking money – who also (wait for it) is a member of the NZLP.
    Yawn. I believe that is all covered in the About which went up when the site was launched and was updated as and when the loons started to get twitchy about how inadequate some of the other blogs looked by comparison.
    I gave up with the .223 magnums eventually and started treating it as very good publicity]

  16. Lew 16

    HS: Heh.

    RL: So there are no conspiracies.

    I make no comment on the veracity of points 4 and 5 above – they might well be perfectly correct. It’s usually counterfactual, though, since if point 4 is correct and [someone] is able to shut down all [arguments], people might never know, and conversely if 4 isn’t correct the believers can always argue that [someone] was in fact able to shut down all [arguments] – and you can see where that logic leads.

    There is no reason why there wouldn’t be conspiracy theories which fit this pattern and are nevertheless legitimately founded. The problem is certainty. The logical fallacy used to justify all such theories is based in Mill’s idea of toleration – that since we can’t be entirely certain which [propositions] are valid and which not, all should be treated equally. This is a wonderful (if incomplete) founding principle for society, but it forms no sound basis whatsoever for an evidence-based approach to life.

    L

  17. RedLogix 17

    Because any real conspiracy is by definition a secret, any discussion about it must be be necessarity speculative and theoretical. Therefore ANY attempt to uncover the truth can ALWAYS be dismissed as ‘conspiracy theory’., whether or not the attempt is justified or not.

    Lew’s argument is not very useful because it fails to help distinguish between real conspiracies and false ones. It would only be of use if one could be certain that two or more people never, ever got together in secret to conspire to do something… a proposition that doesn’t hold much water.

  18. Lew 18

    HS: Well no conspiracies apart from the one that this site is a front for the EPMU and the Labour Party

    Remember – it’s not officially a conspiracy theory unless you can identify all the [bracketed] bits above : )

    L

  19. Lew 19

    RL: Cross-posted : )

    Because any real conspiracy is by definition a secret, any discussion about it must be be necessarity speculative and theoretical.

    You assume perfect secrecy, which is practically never the case – and would be impossible to determine as a counterfactual anyhow. In the real world, secrecy is almost never perfect, and the degree of secrecy becomes part of the evidence-assessment process.

    Lew’s argument is not very useful because it fails to help distinguish between real conspiracies and false ones.

    There’s no need to – and in fact it’s impossible to – distinguish between them in a formal setting, that is, without getting one’s hands dirty assessing the evidence – the extent to which [arguments] support [proposition]. That’s a different matter altogether, and indeed, one much more important.

    The fundamental point is that the basis of rational thought is evidence – and without it, nothing can rationally be held true. You might have a hunch, or a belief, and good for you – but expecting others to believe it without evidence is calling on their faith, not on their intellectual faculties. In this sense even if a conspiracy theory is 100% true, without any evidence in support, it might as well be 100% false – the conspirators have succeeded, because we have no way of knowing the difference.

    L

  20. RedLogix 20

    Lew,

    If two ordinary criminals conspire to rob a bank, it is ordinarily the job of the police to investigate and prosecute. In general the Courts don’t give much weight to an accused claiming that the Police are delusional and spouting ‘conspiracy theories’, because the Crown is required to produce a burden of proof that is compelling proof of guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

    When however a crime is committed by organs of the state, (or a shadow group within the state) the capacity for impartial investigation is greatly curtailed and can be easily subverted. The usual argument is that any real state conspiracy could not be kept a secret, because at the political level we are familiar with, governments are hopeless at keeping secrets. While that is true, it also fails to recognise several other very real factors:

    1. The number of actors required to have full and dangerous knowledge of a major covert operation do not have to be very large at all. Fewer than a handful might usually suffice.

    2. Many operations can be carried out with well-known technologies that require very few actual operatives. Routine procedure would ensure that these people would be strictly compartmentalised so that no individual could possibly compromise the operation.

    3. Large countries run intel/military communities that are enormous. opaque entities with many, many secret compartments, quite unaccounted for in any official forum. Individuals can and do live whole lives in these niches, whose identities and activities have no open record, and could be made to dissapear quite readily.

    4. Moreover these kinds of operation can be carried out knowing full well that the chances of any real, official, evidential investigation happening in the aftermath… is almost zero.

    5. Intel organisations routinely undertake complex operations around the world all the time, with NO leakage of security. Almost perfect secrecy IS normal for this type of organisation,

    And back on topic though…. yes the idea that 10’s of thousands of real scientists in 100’s of rival institutions all over the world, could be secretly conspiring to hoax the world with a nonsense AGW theory.. for some unstated nefarious purpose… is totally ludicrous.

  21. Lew 21

    RL: Again, the point is not that there aren’t legitimately-founded conspiracies – I accept that there likely are. It’s that it’s usually impossible to distinguish them from the bogus theories without engaging with the evidence – and as soon as one engages with the evidence one must abide by what the evidence reveals. A lack of evidence (due to supposed government interference, black ops, or whatever) is no rational basis for accepting [proposition] – (that’s halfway to Pascal’s Wager) – or indeed for accepting that [arguments] in service of [proposition]are being suppressed by [someone].

    When sufficient evidence to support [arguments] and prove [proposition] comes to light, the conspiracy theory is no longer a theory – it’s an actual conspiracy. This would include evidence that a government or whoever was suppressing evidence, if that was what [proposition] was about. But until that time, [proposition] may or may not be true – it’s irrelevant because its veracity cannot be known by [the rest of the world], having not yet been proven.

    L

  22. RedLogix 22

    A lack of evidence (due to supposed government interference, black ops, or whatever) is no rational basis for accepting [proposition]

    True, but it does not rule it out either. My point is that the usual attempt to debunk ‘conspiracy theories’ with the argument that “they could never keep it a secret” does not necessarily apply to state, or quasi state, organisations whose primary purpose and methods totally pivot around secrecy.

    And being very good at it.

  23. Mr Magoo 23

    Lew: This is how conspiracy theories of all kinds seem to work.

    That was my point. The same sort of process can be witnessed in political movements, cults/religions, etc.
    They also work just as well in popularist movements as well as outliers. In this example, the deniers are a minority who think the vast majority are conspirasists. Usually it is the other way around. It becomes an interesting academic argument as to exactly when this becomes a real paranoia or delusion of some sort! 🙂
    Just because the deniers are currently in the minority and the acceptors are majority, does not mean that the same rules apply! (they do have to “work harder” to accept that their position is unassailable however)

    One aspect of human nature I forgot to mention directly was selective attention. Our brains do not process all they are exposed to, they hone in on bits and pieces.

    PS: You obviously work in some legal profession of some sort, right? 😉

  24. Lew 24

    And, returning to the topic, Hume’s Maxim still applies – go with the least-improbable of a given set of improbable explanations. From http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2008/12/contrarians-and-consensus-the-case-of-the-midwife-toad/langswitch_lang/po#comment-105836 :

    Jim Galasyn wrote: “Um, who else is to blame God? Satan? Elves? Aliens?’

    I’ll go with aliens. They are exploiting our own technology to transform the Earth into a planet more suitable for them to inhabit, and to kill off much of the indigenous life (particularly humans), before they launch the large scale invasion.

    This explanation is actually less ridiculous than the ones offered by some so-called “skeptics’.

    Now THAT is a conspiracy theory with balls.

    L

  25. Mr Magoo 25

    It might have been obvious, but I want to also point out was that my post was about how dismissing something as a conspiracy theory off the bat without proper analysis is the fallicy I was talking about.

    If we treat ANY deniers as some sort of looney conspirators, then we are committing the same crime.
    There is a chance, however small, that they ARE right. In fact the earth is undergoing an entirely coincidental and amazingly fast rise in temperature due to something we have not discovered yet. (just like the loons in the US who believed that the NSA was secretly and illegally tapping their phones…turns out they were partially right at least!!)

    However, the people I am talking about in my post are not scientists testing a theory or people bringing up studies for rational disscussion and reflection.

  26. Lew 26

    Magoo: Last bit first: You obviously work in some legal profession of some sort, right?

    Hell no. I’m a political scientist with interests in propaganda and symbolic identity politics, and I work in media analysis. Thinking a little bit formally about things helps make sense of ’em.

    The same sort of process can be witnessed in political movements, cults/religions

    In terms of identity and the mindset of those involved, there’s often little to distinguish between political movements, cults/religions and the sorts of communities which spring up around conspiracy theories. This isn’t always so, however.

    They also work just as well in popularist movements as well as outliers.

    Indeed. The Wishart argument that there’s a homosexual stalinist atheist deviant conspiracy to dismantle the core of our society is just such an idea – that the centre is being morally subjugated by the fringe.

    One aspect of human nature I forgot to mention directly was selective attention.

    Yes, the whole thing rests on the usual distortions of familiarity, reinforcement, cognitive dissonance, wishful thinking, fear and ignorance.

    L

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