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The mote and the beam

Written By: - Date published: 11:58 am, February 21st, 2010 - 16 comments
Categories: climate change, Environment - Tags: ,

Today is a good day to reflect upon an old question – “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?” (Matthew 7:1-5).

Consider the IPPC report on climate change. The report is over 900 pages long, written by 620 authors and editors from 40 countries, and reviewed by hundreds of experts. Before being accepted, the summary for policy-makers was reviewed line-by-line by representatives from 113 governments. It presents the case for human induced climate change based on predictions from basic physics, projections from detailed climate modelling, and evidence from land based temperature readings, ocean temperature readings, ice measurements from glaciers, icecaps and frozen ground, sea level rises, hurricane and extreme weather events, and changes in patterns of winds, rainfall and drought. Although it isn’t highlighted in the report, further strong evidence comes from the changing distributions of plant and animal species. This evidence is so comprehensive and so compelling that governments, world wide, are acknowledging that this slowly unfolding crisis must be addressed (albeit, see the tragedy of Copenhagen, they are not yet translating that acknowledgement into effective action).

Despite all this evidence and the global acknowledgement of governments, there are people who would (for reasons beyond my comprehension) prefer to deny the existence of human induced climate change. The deniers make much of a mote, occasional errors in the vast body of evidence amassed by the IPCCC, in particular the incorrect claim regarding Himalayan glaciers. Yes it’s a bad look for errors to have made their way in to this document (though not in to the summary for policy makers). But two points. First, an error in one (or a few) claims does not discredit the rest of the vast body of evidence compiled by the IPCC. And second, this is how science works, by finding errors, acknowledging them, and fixing them.

Compare this mote with the beam in the eye of deniers. Deniers make many claims which are provably false. They keep making them, over and over, long after they are shown to be rubbish, trying by simple repetition to drum them in to the public discourse. So once again two points. First, deniers don’t seem to have any science on their side, so they are reduced to trying to pick holes in climate change science. And second, denier tactics are the opposite of science, instead of acknowledging and fixing their errors they repeat them over and over again.

So who you gonna believe?

To finish with a case study of stupid denier tactics – the snow storms which have been hammering the Northern hemisphere. A field day for deniers:

Climate skeptics built an igloo in Washington, D.C., during the recent storm and dedicated it to former Vice President Al Gore, who’s become the public face of climate change. There was also a YouTube video called “12 inches of global warming” that showed snow plows driving through a blizzard.

All good denier theatre to be sure, but it ignores the basic facts (from the same link):

“The fact that the oceans are warmer now than they were, say, 30 years ago means there’s about on average 4 percent more water vapor lurking around over the oceans than there was, say, in the 1970s,” he [a climate scientist] says. Warmer water means more water vapor rises up into the air, and what goes up must come down. “So one of the consequences of a warming ocean near a coastline like the East Coast and Washington, D.C., for instance, is that you can get dumped on with more snow partly as a consequence of global warming,” he says.

Expect more extreme weather events. Expect more stupid denier tactics. Expect endless hyping of the motes in climate change science while ignoring the beams of denier tactics. Climates change, but human stupidity appears to be enduring.

16 comments on “The mote and the beam ”

  1. Bill 1

    Debating the existence of climate change is an irrelevant luxury we have indulged ourselves with when we should be simply ceasing to do those things that we do which contribute to the problem.

    But I get the impression that far too many of us use the various climatic and ecological unravellings as nothing more than an intellectual exercise thus allowing for a disconnect and a space where ‘steady as she goes’ behaviours persist…with a low energy light bulb thrown in to light our salved consciences as we are drive, fly and career our way to our collective bitter end.

    Really. Seriously. Are you willing to walk away your job, your career; to recognise and abandon all the support you give to the detrimental material products and processes; to walk away from all the material accumulations and ambitions that simultaneously undermine our future while underpinning your psychological comfort and sense of being?

    Are you willing and ready to simply stop? If not, why not?

  2. Despite all this evidence and the global acknowledgement of governments, there are people who would (for reasons beyond my comprehension) prefer to deny the existence of human induced climate change.

    I suspect that the reasons for the denials habouring the views they have are a combination of fear, the inability to accept that our world is facing disaster and greed, the desire by the deniers to continue with their indulgent lifestyles. There is also more than a hint of anti intellectualism and a hate of any collective action.

    For similar reasons they criticise peak oil, even though as a concept it has always made perfect sense to me. If humankind is not discovering new oil gushers then eventually the old gushers will decline and the supply of petroleum will also decline.

  3. winston smith 3

    You’re full of pseudo-intellectual onanism again Mickey.

    The reason why deniers harbour the views we do is simply because the warmists have been proven to be full-of-crap….
    – Hockey sticks based on a single tree,
    – the whole Phil Hide-The-Decline Jones show,
    – the IPCC citing two newspaper articles and one tourism statistics newsletter as scientific evidence of AGW,
    – Aussie’s GISS adjusts the temperature records of two sites at Mackay to reverse a cooling trend in one and increase a warming trend in another,
    – Al Gore and his claims that the Arctic will be completely ice-free in five years
    – …

    At what stage will you stand up and admit that the sky ain’t falling, Chicken-Little?

    • lprent 3.1

      None of the things you’ve cited change the basic science.

      Indeed several of them are good science that you’re too lazy or stupid to understand – for instance the sources and vagaries of raw data.

      One of them have nothing to do with science at all – who cares what Al Gore says – he is merely a politician (just like listening to the potty peer).

      Several of them relate to science done over 10 years ago where data was scarce and haven’t been in several IPCC reports. You do know that they’re working on AR5 right? You really can’t lock yourself away in the 1990’s forever.

      You do understand that the articles you’re referring to are in the second section of AR4, not the first section that deals with the science?

      The second section is the descriptive section that is meant to use ‘grey’ material because it is looking at possible consequences of the first section. These are in areas where there is often no research because the issues are too new and there is no way to model them accurately. Furthermore humans have never recorded what happens because they haven’t been seen since we discovered writing or even agriculture. Most are speculation based on geological events in the distant past.

      Basically ‘winston’ hasn’t read the post. Otherwise he wouldn’t have made himself so much of a caricature of a ignorant bullshit artist with absolutely no understanding of what he is talking about. In short – the type of CCD f*ckwit who gives many genuine skeptics and even deniers a bad reputation.

  4. Winston did you actually read and understand R0b’s post and the New Scientist link? Or did you do a cut and paste the deniers’ list of bullet points and decide to engage in some personal abuse at the same time?

  5. zelda 5

    “So one of the consequences of a warming ocean near a coastline like the East Coast and Washington, D.C., for instance, is that you can get dumped on with more snow partly as a consequence of global warming,”

    How bizarre. ! Do you have any idea of how the US climate works. The snow storms certainly dont sweep in from the sea ( neither do the same in NZ)
    The recent snow storms in the US came from the mid west. One of the places that regularly has more snow than Washington is Chicago. Which is nowhere near the’warm ocean’. The Great Lakes , which are very cold all year do have an effect on the amount of snow, Buffalo being one of the highest snowfall cities because it lies down wind of Lake Erie ( which this month was totally frozen over for the first time in 14 years)

    AS for the idea that the Climate models ‘predict’ more extreme events . For snow the opposite is true

    A 2005 Columbia University study titled “WILL CLIMATE CHANGE AFFECT SNOW COVER OVER NORTH AMERICA?’ ran nine climate models used by the IPCC, and all nine predicted that North American winter snow cover would decline significantly, starting in about 1990.
    http://www.eee.columbia.edu/research-projects/water_resources/climate-change-snow-cover/index.html

    I think that beam just whacked your arse

    • r0b 5.1

      The snow storms certainly dont sweep in from the sea

      Don’t believe that the article says that they do.

      A 2005 Columbia University study titled “WILL CLIMATE CHANGE AFFECT SNOW COVER OVER NORTH AMERICA?’ ran nine climate models used by the IPCC, and all nine predicted that North American winter snow cover would decline significantly, starting in about 1990.

      A 2005 study predicted changes starting in 1990? Gosh that’s quite some prediction.

      A little less facetiously, there is a difference between long term snow cover, and short term events like snow storms (like the difference between climate and weather). Deniers are trying to use weather to make claims about climate. It’s silly.

    • Macro 5.2

      “snow cover would decline significantly, starting in about 1990.”
      Just read your link three times in case I missed it but NO it doesn’t say what you say at all. The paper is talking about something completely different to the existence or not of snow storms in Washington. What it does say is that CONTINENTAL snow extent would start to decline in a statistically significant trend in the 21st C. The paper is talking about the EXTENT of snow cover over the North American continent. In case you haven’t been following the Winter Olympics in Vancouver over the past week you may not be aware that they are having to manufacture snow to run the events – it being a particularly warm winter and a distinct LACK of snow there. So the models may well be right. It’s still early days in the 21 st C.
      And yes the snow storms definitely sweep in from the south seas in NZ.
      Chicago is on the Great Lakes tho isn’t it? Which are more like inland seas.
      Are you saying that increased water vapour in the atmosphere will not result in increased precipitation?

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