James (taavi) wrote,

Nine Lies about Climate Change

Via erudito, who has a bizarre affection for climate change delusionists (I have shifted to the Quiggin terminology) at odds with his penchant for rationality, I was directed to this piece about delusionists meeting in Canberra. "Cool", I thought. "A chance to make a real difference as a suicide bomber".

However, they had already left. But they, the Lavoisier group, who consist almost entirely of coal, mining and oil industry personnel (see here) apparently released a whole book, called "Nine Facts About Climate Change". Well, it isn't - it's a 29 page paper (though this may have been The Age's mistake). It can be downloaded (pdf) from their mining industry funded site, www.lavoisier.com.au , which continues the right-wing tradition of mugging hapless dead philosophers for their names. Like Winnie-the-Pooh living under the name of Sanders. But I digress.

The paper is written by Ray Evans, who is an industrial reform (anti-union) lobbyist, and a former executive of Western Mining. Naturally, this makes him an expert on global warming. But hey, to paraphrase the delusionists, "many thousands of eminent non-scientists have made vital discoveries in climatology". Like... um... anyone think of anyone?

At first I thought it would take me the whole day to wade through all their "Facts", carefully check the science behind each one, and decide whether they were true. But I don't have a whole day to spare. Then, after a quick skim read, I realised they clearly hadn't checked any of their "facts", so why should I do the work? I may as well apply the same standard of truth in my rebuttal that they did. This is very easy, since due to numerous internal contradictions, it basically rebuts itself.

The piece is a typical morass of half-truth, scuttlebutt, insult, innuendo, unreferenced quotes which can't be checked, claims that "data shows that" which are not referenced by any scientific publication (or at all), etc. (It also has some of the blurriest graphs I've ever seen.)

It presents no coherent argument as to what the climate is doing or how it works, instead relying on the standard "fisking" model the right employs these days, of a) throwing a blizzard of random rebuttals at minor points in the hope that some will stick, or at least confuse the reader and b) alleging that any disagreement is due to a vast left wing conspiracy (2) that is out to send us all to the gulag (quote: "One consequence is the increasingly maniacal desperation of the anthropogenist school, who seek to impose censorship and even imprisonment of their critics." - page 2).

Ray's source for this contention that we are trying to lock him up is... wait for it... an opinion by the Guardian's environmental correspondent that "when the impacts are really hitting us and we’re in a full worldwide scramble to minimize the damage, we should have war crimes trials for these bastards—some sort of climate Nuremberg" -page 19. Yeah, I know a throwaway comment by a Guardian journalist would make me silence my opinions for fear of being locked up by the Stazi. Curiously, Ray then calls for the IPCC to be locked up: "If the IPCC were a commercial corporation operating in Australia, its directors would now be facing criminal charges and the prospect of going to jail." - page 13 - yet sees nothing inconsistent in issuing threats of his own like this.

Another typical example:
"When political leaders identify themselves with a scientific theory, they
can often exert great pressures to ensure that critics are squeezed out of research
grants and career opportunities. These tactics do not compare with Stalin’s treatment
of critics of Lysenko and his theories of the inheritability of acquired characteristics
and other bizarre notions. The consequences for many Russian geneticists who opposed
Lysenko were fatal. (footnote 16)" - Page 14.

If they do not compare with Stalin's tactics, why mention him at all, let alone devote an extra sentence, plus a footnote, to documenting Lysenkoist purges in a very short document? Because the idea is to smear by association rather than present any refutation.

Anyway, you get the general tone of the piece. Let's move on to some specifics.

The first three pages are devoted to a rant about people who believe in climate change being pagan religious zealots. That must be why so many people with science educations believe it.

The first fact:
Climate change is a constant. The Vostok Ice Cores show five brief interglacial
periods from 415,000 years ago to the present. The Greenland Ice Cores reveal
a Minoan Warm Period 1450–1300 BC, a Roman Warm Period 250–0 BC, the
Mediaeval Warm Period 800–1100AD, the Little Ice Age and the late 20th Century
Warm Period 1900–2010 AD.

"Change is a constant". I love it. Anyway, he says that ice cores show that the earth has been warm in the past (and also apparently show that the earth will be warm until 2010, in "the late 20th Century Warm Period 1900–2010 AD."! Did this guy use a Tardis to sample the ice or what?) during interglacials, like the one we are in. This is true, and completely irrelevant. Milankovitch cycles over a hundred thousand year period are not the concern here. The paper claims that because past natural cycles never go above a certain temperature, it is impossible for anthropogenic climate change to produce high temperatures. In other words, a complete non sequiter.
Please note that the paper acknowledges "The temperature record correlates extremely well (albeit with a time lag) with CO2 and methane concentrations in the atmosphere." - page 4. This will be on the test.

The second "fact" (ooo look, scare quotes!):
Carbon dioxide is necessary for all life on earth and increasing atmospheric
concentrations are beneficial to plant growth, particularly in arid conditions.
Because the radiation properties of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are already
saturated, increasing atmospheric concentrations beyond current levels
will have no discernible effect on global temperatures.

This is three unrelated assertions combined.
1) Increases in CO2 will result in a boom in plant growth: is completely unreferenced.
2) Increases in CO2 will result in an increase in rainfall; the quote (no reference) is of a retired expert on hurricanes, Dr William Gray. He has no qualifications in climatology, no publications on climate change, and a record as one of the world's worst weather forecasters. He is also fond of comparing Al Gore to Hitler. Its rather sad the way delusionists play on the senility of retirees.
3) is actually an interesting argument: That because the radiation absorption effect of each additional molecule of CO2 in the atmosphere declines on a log-normal scale (although Ray doesn't appear to know what this is - he describes this decay as either "insignificant" or "exponential" and provides some crappy graphs) with the amount already existing in the atmosphere (eg so going from 10 to 100 ppm has the same effect as 100 to 1000), doubling the CO2 from 380 ppm (its current level) to 760 ppm will only have a marginal increase on earth's radiation absorption of "less than" 4 Watts per square metre, which will translate into a temperature increase of 0.8 degrees C. There is then a long rant about how the IPCC has "completely ignored" this fact that "their own model" shows. Well, he gave some graphs, and sourced where he got them (a climate scientist called David Archer, who is completely pro-IPCC. David has produced his own climate models on the web, which are NOT the IPCC models as Ray implies, but seem to be the ones he has used).

From David's site there was a link to the 2001 IPCC report section on "Radiative forcing caused by CO2" which states: "The newer estimates of radiative forcing due to a doubling of CO2 are between 3.5 and 4.1 Wm-2 with the relevant species and various overlaps between greenhouse gases included."
In other words, the "fact" that he claims the IPCC has "completely ignored" was in the IPCC report 5 years ago. It took me three mouse clicks to find it. It IS part of their model, which, therefore, predicts what they say it does. Since much of the rest of this paper is devoted to Ray talking about how incredibly complex climate modelling is, maybe he should leave the modelling to people who know how to do it, instead of ripping off other people's websites.

Ray then claims that "The IPCC’s radiation balance model of climate assumes that at the upper boundary of the stratosphere, radiation from the sun is matched by radiation from earth to space." but according to him "There is no energy balance at the top of the stratosphere". As a physics graduate, I nearly fell off my chair. Quick! Perpetual motion! Endless free energy supplies! Oh, hang on, if there was a violation of the law of conservation of energy AND the stefan boltzmann equation in the earth's atmosphere, then we'd have become a supernova from all that energy from nowhere. oops.

There is also a rant about how every time there's a story on climate change on TV, they show a picture of a smoky power plant. Well, I saw a story last night, with a picture about an electric car. So there.

"Fact" 3: At this point, I want to insert another quote, to give an example of Evans' jumpy, disconnected style, which is giving me a headache by fact 3 already.

"Despite the bitter cold of the 1940s and 1950s, it is evident that the twentieth century
was comparable to, although probably not as warm as, the benign centuries of the
Mediaeval Warm Period. The IPCC was established in 1988 under the auspices of
the UNEP (United Nations Environment Panel), and the World Meteorological Organisation

What the hell do these sentences have to do with each other? Why are they in the same paragraph? You tell me. If I handed in this kind of work to the Lao PDR's government, they'd send ME to the gulag.

Anyway, "fact" 3 is:
"The twentieth century was almost as warm as the centuries of the
Mediaeval Warm Period, an era of great achievement in European
civilisation. The recent warm period, 1976–2000, appears to have
come to an end and astro-physicists who study sunspot behaviour
predict that the next 25–50 years could be a cool period similar
to the Dalton Minimum of the 1790s-1820s."

Note that in Fact 1 Ray claimed that the 20th century warming was due to Milankovitch cycles. Now he's claiming it's sunspots.

There follows a long rant about the "hockey stick", which has been un-debunked so many times that I'm just not going to bother. You can use google. Blah blah blah.

There is a factual claim that "There is now a great deal of evidence to show that the Mediaeval Warm Period was a global phenomenon.(footnote 12)" - page 13. Footnote 12 refers to "Shaopeng Huang et al. (1995)". I look in the bibliography. There isn't one. So really, I can't tell where this 12 year old reference came from or has anything to back it up or not. When I was a tutor, I failed students for sloppy referencing like this. Anyway, that's in total disagreement with the IPCC 2001 report, which is more recent and does complete their footnotes and references (see here for the Wikipedia summary) so I know who I'd back.

Next, a table of top temperatures recorded in the Australian states as of 2001, which says that the only top recorded in the 1990s was in WA. Never mind the folly of taking a set of 8 measurements from 1 area of the globe as indicating the climate of the whole world. First it was Milankovitch, then sunspots, and now you're claiming it wasn't hot at all! Which is it?

Then there is a graph showing a pretty clear temperature increase from 1984, which he says doesn't. There is a claim that a cold snap in Europe from 1790 to 1820 was caused by sunspots. If it was sunspots, it would be a global cold snap, Ray. There is a projection that we may be entering a period of low sunspot activity, which, he predicts on the basis of one alleged correlation in Europe, will cause global cooling. And he faults the IPCC for hare-brained predictions from faulty models.

Fact 4 is also 2 squished together:

"The evidence linking anthropogenic (man-made) carbon dioxide emissions
and current warming is limited to a correlation which holds only
for the period 1976 to 2000. Attempts to construct an holistic theory in
which atmospheric carbon dioxide controls the radiation balance of the
earth, and thus determines average global temperatures, have failed."

Hey, that first one directly contradicts what he admitted under fact 1, that there is a long term correlation between CO2 and temperature over the last 100,000 years or so. Oops. The second one is the same as his third datum of fact 2, which I already dealt with.

He presents at this point (page 15) a graph so incredibly blurry that looking at it makes me want to take 2 panadol and a lie down. excuse me.

Right, I'm back. The graph shows two upward trends and claims they are not related. I looked for an R value or a significance level test to justify this assertion, but there wasn't one. One of the lines is apparently "human consumption of fossil fuels" which he claims is a good proxy for human caused CO2 levels in the atmosphere. There is no reference for this radical claim, and considering the IPCC report says that half of anthropogenic emissions are caused by land clearing, it seems highly doubtful. He then drops the reference to proxydom and claims that the line shows anthropogenic CO2.

There is then a repetition of the sunspot claim from "fact" 2. Remember kids, if you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes true.

"Fact" 5: "The anthropogenists claim that the overwhelming majority of
scientists are agreed on the anthropogenic carbon dioxide theory of
climate control; that the science is settled and the debate is over; and
that scientific sceptics are in the pay of the fossil fuel industries and
their arguments are thus fatally compromised. These claims are an
expression of hope, not of reality."

This is phrased as a sociological statement about what "anthropogenists" believe. Well yes, we do believe these things. That's because they're true.

There follows a long rant about "consensus" stifling debate. You have to admire the chutzpah. When something that threatens profits (like secondhand smoke, asbestos, or global warming) is still under investigation, they say there is no scientific consensus. When there is a consensus, they accuse all scientists of being in the pay of the Jesuits to stifle scientific investigation. You can't beat that kind of idiocy. Honestly, it's like listening to creationists say that evolution is "only a theory". Let me try anyway: the difference between Galileo facing the Jesuits and you facing the scientists is that you are not a scientist. You are a paid hack, like, well, a Jesuit. There is a complete difference between "scientific consensus" and "popular opinion".

Curiously, ex-miner Ray makes no effort to rebut the claim that sceptics are paid off by the fossil fuel industries, even though he says this is not realistic. Maybe that's because they ARE in the pay of the fossil fuel industries?

I looked in vain for some actual facts about the climate here, but didn't find any. Instead there is a claim that the CSIRO stifles people who are critical of climate change. Bitter laugh. It's true, delusionists do come from a bizarre mirror universe where the persecuted are the persecutees!

"Fact 6": Onward and downward to:
6. Anthropogenists such as former US Vice President Al Gore
blame anthropogenic emissions of CO2 for high temperatures,
droughts, melting polar ice caps, rising sea levels and retreating
glaciers, and a decline in the polar bear population. They also blame
anthropogenic CO2 for blizzards, unseasonable snow, freezing weather
generally and for hurricanes, cyclones and other extreme weather
events. There is no evidence at all to justify these assertions.

You can only claim there is no evidence if you have had your head down a coal mine for 15 years. Ray quotes eminent climatologist, creationist and proto-fascist Mark Steyn for a full page of his precious 29 pages here - not about anything factual, just poking fun at Greenpeace.

There are the usual half truths and straw men. Eg:
"The global warmers’ argument for rising sea levels is that the polar ice caps are melting
and therefore sea levels are rising. It is revealing that many anthropogenists do
not understand that the Arctic Ice Cap, floating as it does in the Arctic Sea, makes no
difference whether it is in solid or in liquid form. The solid form—ice—has a density
90 per cent of the liquid form, which is why it floats—just—in water."

Exactly who doesn't understand this? I've never heard anyone claim that. Everyone is worried about the Greenland ice sheet, the Antarctic ice sheet, and thermal expansion of the water. The reason the Arctic melt is a problem is the loss of albedo and the loss of habitat. Ray gives a half page footnote on the polar bears that doesn't even mention that they are drowning in large numbers because they can no longer manage the swim from the mainland to the shrunken ice cap.

There are a couple of references to people who dispute this and that. To resort to Ray's level of hair splitting, the fact that there is something to dispute directly contradicts his assertion that there is no evidence.

"Fact 7":
7. Increasing atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide will have
negligible impact on the earth’s radiation balance and will promote
plant growth everywhere. There is no need to sequester CO2 in the
ground or to subsidise nuclear or other non-carbon based methods of
energy production.

This is just a restatement of "fact" 2. No fresh evidence is given, just a bunch of unreferenced quotes by retirees about how difficult climate modelling is. Maybe Ray should have considered that before bollixing up his model-off-the-web back in "fact" 2.

"Fact 8"
8. ‘Tropical’ diseases such as malaria and dengue fever are not related
to temperature but to poverty, lack of sanitation and the absence
of mosquito control practices.

"Gee", I thought. "I guess he's done a multi-variate regression analysis". Nope. Anyway, I fail to see what this has to do with his core contention that climate change isn't happening - or that it's caused by sunspots - or Milankovitch - or that the earth's atmosphere violates the Law of Conservation of Energy - I forget. The claim seems to be that even if the temperature does go up, it won't do any harm. But since it won't go up, why make the claim? Anyway, He quotes Reiter, who is controversial but seems to have kept his integrity, as saying:

"Reiter has pointed out that malaria and other ‘tropical’ diseases have more to do with
living conditions than temperature." - page 24.

Note that little slippage from "more to do with" to "not related"? I did. I agree tropical diseases are caused by a large number of factors. Temperature is one of them.

"Fact 9"
9. The decarbonisation of the world’s economy would, if attempted,
cause huge economic dislocation. Any democratic government which
seriously sought to fulfil decarbonisation commitments would lose office.
Shutting down coal-fired power stations and replacing them with
renewable energy sources such as windmills or solar panels will cause
unemployment and economic deprivation.

Well, this is a claim about economics. Not about climate change at all. And that's a field where there is certainly no consensus about anything. It may well be expensive to stop global warming. I imagine it was expensive to fight World War 2 as well, but I don't recall anyone claiming that made it a bad idea.

He then concludes:
"The only political regime which would make this possible is a global imperial order of unprecedented extent and authority, encompassing all of the major economies of the world, with extraordinary powers of intrusive and detailed supervision of economic and social life." - page 24.
Gee. More paranoia about the NWO, who, led by journalists from the Guardian, are coming with their black helicopters to lock us all up. Curiously, that's what I'm inclined to believe (apart from the black helicopters) about the World Bank, WTO and IMF, but I don't see Ray's political backers protecting me from them. Nor (although I dislike them) do I find them under my bed, as Ray seems to do with "anthropogenists".
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