Posted by: Barry Bickmore | April 21, 2016

Dick Lindzen, Prager U., and the Art of Lying Well

In (Consensus) Denial

The clear scientific consensus about human-caused climate change (certainly between 90-100% of experts, and most likely somewhere around 97%) presents a big problem for the contrarians.  Namely, most people have neither the time nor the inclination to sift through the evidence for themselves, so they tend to defer to the majority of experts.  Therefore, if the contrarians want to keep the masses from demanding action to reduce human-caused climate change, they need to cloud the public’s perception of the scientific consensus.  That’s exactly what retired atmospheric physicist Dick Lindzen does in a new video called “Climate Change:  What Do Scientists Say?” produced by “Prager University”.  In this post, I will point out some clear instances where Lindzen obfuscates the issue.  He’s so good at the Art of Lying Well (TM) that he can do it without making any factual claims that aren’t technically true (in a sense that almost none of his viewers would understand).  But first, here’s the video. Read More…

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | March 18, 2016

Trump is YOUR Fault, and You Suck

Like many others, when Donald Trump announced his candidacy for the Presidency, I didn’t take it too seriously.  But now that he has an increasingly good chance of becoming the Republican nominee, we are asking, “Who are these idiots supporting Trump?” and most importantly, “Who is to blame?”  Pundits from across the political spectrum have been busily pointing fingers, and in my judgment, they’re almost all right.  A lot of different groups are culpable for the fact that there is now a non-negligible chance that next year we will have an unstable, narcissistic, demagogic, xenophobic, orange, philandering, creepy, loathsome, bigoted, proto-Fascist for a President.  You, dear Reader, might just be one of them.  And so in this post, I will explain why you suck, and are therefore probably to blame for Trump.

Okay, maybe you don’t personally suck, but there are an awful lot of people who do.  Here they are.

1. Trump Supporters

No, Trump supporters, you are not off the hook.  At first we thought you were just undereducated hillbillies who had been dazzled by a Reality TV star even more famous than Honey Boo Boo, but it turns out you aren’t all like that.  The most credible research to date indicates that you are largely composed of people with “Authoritarian” personalities. Authoritarianism is

a psychological profile of individual voters that is characterized by a desire for order and a fear of outsiders. People who score high in authoritarianism, when they feel threatened, look for strong leaders who promise to take whatever action necessary to protect them from outsiders and prevent the changes they fear.

Even some people who aren’t normally strongly authoritarian can have latent authoritarian tendencies manifest in times of physical danger or great social change, and today certainly fits the bill.  Islamic terrorists pop up in Paris or San Diego, killing random people.  The legal definition of marriage just changed by Supreme Court fiat.  More young people than ever are foregoing marriage, indicating a lack of respect for a social institution that has been a stabilizing force for thousands of years in cultures across the world.  I get it.

But let’s think about this for a minute.  Maybe I can give you a pass for believing the Donald when he makes outlandish promises without giving many details, but what about when he has given details, and those details are either absurd or abhorrent?  Like when he said he would solve our immigration problems by building a giant wall along our southern border, paid for by Mexico?  Or when he said he was going to round up and deport 11 million illegal immigrants by… get this… tripling the number of immigrations and customs officers?  (Right now we deport significantly less than half a million people per year.)  These proposals are absurd to the point of idiocy.  What about when Trump said he would “broaden” the law to authorize the torture of terrorists?  Or when he said he would “temporarily” ban all 1.5 billion Muslims from entering the country, because some Muslims are terrorists?  These proposals are both morally abhorrent and would flagrantly violate the Constitution.  (Check out the First and Eighth Amendments.  Really.  Thomas Jefferson said the “Establishment Clause” of the First Amendment was put in there because “the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions,” and if the Eighth Amendment doesn’t refer to torture when it bans “cruel and unusual punishment,” the phrase can’t really have any meaning.)   So no, I’m not giving you a pass for suspending all rational thought and moral principle just because you’re scared of terrorists and uncomfortable with recent social changes.  So am I.  So are a lot of people.  When times get tough, it’s time to grow a spine, you pansies.

You suck.

2. The Republican Establishment

Look, guys, I’m on your side in this particular fight.  That is, I think nominating Donald Trump would be a complete disaster for the Party.  But a lot of us saw a crack-up like this coming, even if we couldn’t imagine the form it would take.

Faced with a dwindling core demographic, the Party insiders and donors had a choice.  Either they could promote some softening of the Party platform to broaden the appeal, or they could stoke up “the base” and get out the vote.  They chose the latter, with the Tea Party becoming the inevitable result.  But going that route is always a tricky business.  In a two-party political system like ours, you can count on “the base” (i.e., the most extreme wing of the Party) not to vote for the other guys, but if they don’t see enough difference between the two parties, some of them won’t be motivated to vote at all, or they will scuttle your chances by running a third-party spoiler like Ralph Nader or Ross Perot.  This is always dangerous, because in my experience, “the base” in either party includes a disproportionate number of people who aren’t exactly the sharpest tools in the shed.  The trick the “Establishment” in either party has to pull off is to throw enough bones to the base to keep them coming out to vote, without making them feel particularly empowered.  Once you release the Kraken, it’s not so easy to put it back.

Over the last decade or three, the Republican platform slid from Conservative (i.e., taking a measured approach to government intervention and social change) toward a quasi-religious Libertarianism.  This type is so hyper-ideological that it rejects all compromise and creates all sorts of litmus tests for political candidates.  “Read my lips:  no new taxes” said George Bush Sr. in the 1988 presidential campaign.  Oh, he tried to keep his promise, but he didn’t have the support in Congress, so he had to compromise.  This was too much to take for some, and Pat Buchanan used this bludgeon to weaken Bush in the 1992 primaries.  Bush may have been stupid to handcuff himself like that, but by the 2012 race, most Republican congressional candidates didn’t have much choice when Grover Norquist strong-armed them into signing his “Taxpayer Protection Pledge“.  The fear of Tea Party backlash among the Republican presidential candidates was so strong that all eight of them promised they would not support a hypothetical deal that would address deficit spending with a 10-to-1 combination of spending cuts and tax increases.  In my opinion, that was one of the saddest moments in GOP history.  In what universe could the Republicans hope to get a more favorable deal and still address deficit spending?   By pandering to the Tea Party, the Republican establishment forced its candidates to go hard right into Fantasyland, or face a Tea Party challenger in the primaries.

The thing is, most Republicans aren’t that far to the political right.  Is it any wonder, after years of candidates who promise to do politically impossible things like address deficit spending without any tax increases, that many Republicans would be attracted by a candidate who mainly makes grandiose promises without giving any details?

You suck.

3. The Tea Party

Just because the Party establishment caused this mess by pandering to hyper-ideological nuts, it doesn’t excuse you for being those hyper-ideological nuts.

A case in point is how the GOP has handled the threat of human-caused climate change since the Tea Party all but took over.  Before that time, it was common for Republican lawmakers (like Newt Gingrich and John McCain) to acknowledge that we needed to take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  Why?  Because almost all the scientists who specialize in climate said so.  They still do.  And yet, for the past several years, it has been taboo for Republican candidates to express any desire to take action on this.

The reason  for this shift is that certain deep-pocketed individuals and corporations who depend on fossil fuel revenues started pouring an enormous amount of money into “think tanks” and “astroturf” political organizations who argued either that mainstream climate scientists were much more divided on the issue than the public had been led to believe, or it was all a big hoax meant to give the Left a chance to “take away our freedom.”  They found a willing audience in the Tea Party hordes.

I know, I know.  You are going to tell me that it REALLY IS all a hoax, and there REALLY IS no consensus, etc., etc.  There’s a simple way to pop that balloon, however.  Over the last several years, I can probably count on one hand the number of ACTUAL climate scientists the Republicans have asked to testify in Congressional hearings about climate change, whereas there has been a constant parade of different climate scientists testifying for the Democrats.  In fact, in some of those hearings, the only “expert witness” on climate science the Republicans called was Lord Christopher Monckton, who is not a scientist, claims to have cured AIDS and many other diseases, goes about falsely claiming to be a member of the UK Parliament, regularly threatens to sue or jail those who disagree with him, and much, much more.  The man is a loon.  A complete crackpot.  And yet, at one of the aforementioned Congressional hearings,  Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) referred to Monckton as “one of the most knowledgeable, if not the most knowledgeable, experts on the skeptic side.”  During the hearing Barton also said, “Adapting is a common way for people to adapt to their environment.”  I’m just throwing that out there.

So no, Tea Partiers, you don’t get a pass.  You and the fossil fuel interests who pay to stoke the flames of your idiocy are guilty of driving the GOP into a state of anti-intellectualism more blatant than has been seen in many decades.  Is it any wonder that a blowhard like Trump can so easily swoop in and co-opt a bunch of Republicans who aren’t as ideologically pure as you, but whom you have successfully convinced to ignore the experts?  Now Trump is telling them climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese.  Why not?  Who’s to say what’s right or wrong, what with space-age materials and such?

You suck.

4. Sneering Liberals

“False equivalence!  Hippie punching!” you screech.  Shut up.

I understand that Trump supporters themselves must take the lion’s share of the blame, and that conservatives have been giving you a lot of material for sneering, especially lately.  But I’m so sick of listening to you boil down complex social issues to pop-culture clichés, which are then unthinkingly accepted by slack-jawed teenagers.  You take the fact that the Right has become insular and anti-intellectual about some issues, and then just assume that this constitutes evidence against every aspect of Conservative thought.  Certainly it’s true that conservatives are more likely to be anti-intellectual, because the word “conservative” implies a certain resistance to new ideas.  However, liberals can be astonishingly obtuse about certain issues, as well.

Don’t take my word for it.  Read up on the work of Jon Haidt, a liberal psychology professor at NYU, who has for many years studied how liberals and conservatives differ in their reasoning about moral issues.  He has found that conservatives tend to be more adept at moral reasoning, both in the sense that their reasoning is more complex, and in the sense that they are more adept at understanding the reasoning of those with whom they disagree (liberals).  In other words, you really just don’t get it.

The fact is that there are legitimate reasons, having nothing to do with racism or sexism, to want to at least place some limitations on things like affirmative action policies or abortion.  And yet, every time someone pops their head up to argue from that kind of perspective, a horde of self-righteous Lefty zealots comes running to publicly shame them.  Oh, I’m sure people sometimes deserve to be publicly shamed, but the bar seems to be set pretty low.  I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard people labeled racists, not because of what they said, but because of the hidden subtext that only other racists (and their liberal watchdogs) could hear.  I’m sure “dog-whistle politics” is a real thing, but the dog-whistle hunters can get awfully carried away.

You might be complaining that all those dog whistles you hear are REAL,  so where does Barry get off criticizing you for merely pointing them out?  He’s probably a racist!  But here’s the thing you don’t seem to understand.  If the end goal is a society free of individuals who harbor racist (or sexist, or whatever-ist) attitudes, endless nitpicking after basic non-discrimination laws have been put in place is usually counterproductive.  That is, even if you are right that some person harbors secret racist attitudes, they don’t want to be forced into admitting it, especially if they feel like they haven’t unfairly discriminated against anyone.  They will come to feel like they are the target of some kind of witch hunt, and may come to ignore more obviously legitimate criticisms.  Everybody hates a nag.

Honestly, do you think all those Trump supporters are overt racists and misogynists?  Clearly they are not, but then why does their support seem to be unaffected when Trump wants to ban all Muslim immigrants, has to think hard about whether to disavow the KKK, or viciously attacks women, disabled reporters, and so on?  I believe it’s because people like you have become so annoying that many others have become deaf to all complaints about racism, sexism, etc.

These people are even ready to ignore it when Trump brazenly ENCOURAGES violence against protesters at his rallies.  Why?  Because they are sick of you protesting so much.  I mean, some (not all) of the protesters in question have gone to Trump rallies specifically to cause disruptions.  Of course I see hints of Fascism in the violence Trump eggs on, but one thing I haven’t seen is Trump supporters trying to break up someone else’s meetings.  Hitler’s Brownshirts did just that.  So if we combine the violence of some Trump supporters with the determined opposition to free speech of the liberal protesters, we really do have a nice Fascist revival going on.  Thanks, guys.

Still not convinced that you are partly to blame?  Let me give you a concrete example that doesn’t have to do with Trump.  In 2009, Lord Christopher Monckton participated in a meeting held by Americans for Prosperity, in conjunction with the big climate change conference in Copenhagen.  During the meeting, some young activists crashed the meeting and tried to disrupt it by chanting.  Afterward, Monckton confronted some of them, and called them “Nazis” and “Hitler Youth”.  But, surprise!, one of the protesters was… (gasp!) … Jewish!  Liberal bloggers and news outlets seized on this incident.  At last, they had something so blatant that it would surely destroy Monckton’s credibility even with his supporters!  What kind of monster would call Jewish protesters “Hitler Youth”?  I am e-friends with many of these people because of my blog, and I tried to tell them this incident wouldn’t sway anyone.  Nobody can accuse me of being soft on Monckton, but even I thought His Worship was right about this one.  These idiots were behaving similarly to the Hitler Youth (minus the violence), and it was inexcusable.

“But they were trying to save the world from the likes of that evil climate change denier,” you object.  Of course they were.  Zealots of any stripe always are.  That doesn’t mean it’s ok for you to do anything you want in response to what someone else says.  And the fact is that you are never going to save the world from climate change without a whole lot of cooperation… which you will never get if even moderates like me are leery of the kind of tactics you use to get your way.

So yes, Trumpism is partly your fault, and you suck.

UPDATE:  Some of my liberal friends are upset that I broad brush liberalism here, whereas I tease out quite a bit of nuance among Republicans.  My reasoning is that if you are just a regular liberal, rather than the “sneering” variety, I don’t feel like I have any cause to blame you for Trumpism.

5.  Moderate Republicans

I’m a moderate Republican myself, so it might seem strange that I’m reserving some of the blame for my own group, but the fact is that many of us deserve it.  Moderates are all about compromise and getting along.  The world needs people like that, but that doesn’t give us an excuse for letting people get away with bringing sheer fantasy to the bargaining table.  Consider this excerpt from a 2011 story by Coral Davenport.

Sen. John Barrasso is no stranger to science. The Wyoming Republican is an orthopedic surgeon who earned his medical degree from Georgetown University. His rigorous intellect won him Washingtonian magazine’s designation last year as the “brainiest senator,” based on an anonymous survey of Capitol Hill staffers.

Which is why Barrasso’s reaction when a reporter recently asked his views on climate change was so telling. On his way to the weekly Senate GOP luncheon in the Capitol building, Barrasso paused in an empty hallway to chat. When a reporter said, “Senator, can I ask you a question about climate change?” he fell silent and his eyes narrowed. “I’m busy,” he snapped, before turning sharply and striding away.

Two days later, the reporter tried again. Approached in the Capitol, Barrasso smiled and appeared poised to answer questions, inviting the reporter into an elevator with him. As the door slid shut, the reporter asked, “Do you believe that climate change is causing the Earth to warm?” A long silence ensued. The senator eventually let out a slow laugh and said, “This isn’t the time to have that conversation.” As soon as the elevator opened, he clapped his phone to his ear and walked briskly toward the Capitol subway.

Dodging difficult issues because some of your voters don’t want to hear the truth is called being spineless, not moderate.

The discontent among non-Tea Party Republicans has been brewing for some time, and if more moderates had shown any real courage and conviction, we could have been leading the revolution.  But we haven’t, so instead it’s being led by a ridiculous fop, who can fool some people into thinking he’s a tough guy who will save the country from the legislative gridlock we have been experiencing.

We suck.

UPDATE:  Some of my friends point out that I left out the Media.  In fact, the omission was intentional, because I completely understand the media reaction.  What are they supposed to do when a major-party presidential frontrunner says and does outrageous and awful things?  Normally, that kind of attention would be the death-knell of the campaign, but this time it seemed to only increase Trump’s popularity.  The media didn’t anticipate this (why would they?), and were caught flat-footed.  I suppose I could go on about the death of real journalism, leading to a populace who thinks in soundbites, but that would make this piece much longer.

 

 

 

 

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | February 5, 2016

The Monckton Files: Threatwatch 3

Here’s the thing about making a career out of threatening people.  No matter how much time you put into it, there is just no way to threaten all the jerks who deserve it.  The only possible response for the truly committed threatener, therefore, is to move beyond the impotent moral outrage and organize!  Where separately they fail, an entire organization of threateners may create something that is more than the sum of its parts.  SYNERGY, people!!!!

And so, as Graham Readfearn reports on DeSmog Blog, Lord Christopher Monckton and a flock of his fellow purple-crested crackpots have founded the Independent Committee on Geoethics, which Monckton says was formed “to gather evidence of outright criminality on the part of the surprisingly small scientific clique that has until now got away with foisting its anti-scientific nonsense on just about all nations.”  You guessed it, they’re going to serve the authorities some steaming hot climatologist heads on silver platters.

No, wait!  This isn’t as far-fetched as it sounds.  According to His Pomposity, “it will only be necessary for us to put two or three key fraudsters behind bars, whereupon all the rest will scuttle for cover and the climate scam will come to an abrupt, ignominious and unlamented end.”

It’s already happening.  His Eternal Bombast notes that the UN IPCC’s “dubious activities have already come to the attention of the Bureau de l’Escroquerie, the serious fraud office of Switzerland, where it is headquartered.”  You might be thinking that the Swiss authorities will probably just ignore the IGC, but His Grandiloquence assures us this cannot be.  “The members of the committee are eminent. Their combined scientific weight is considerable. It will simply not be possible for the public authorities to ignore them.”  (Seriously, you owe it to yourself to Google the people on the membership list.  You will be buried in a veritable avalanche of scientific eminence.  I mean it!  Their honorary president is Charles Darwin, who is… well, long dead… but undeniably eminent.)

So you can bank on it, dear readers.  At this very moment, the Swiss authorities probably have an entire team of investigators working around the clock to put away the fraudsters. And whatever happens, you can rest assured that this isn’t just another one of Monckton’s many impotent threats, which he has in the past lobbed indiscriminately upon both sworn enemies and Scottish passersby, apparently for the sole purpose of keeping me amused.  Speaking of which… here is the updated Threats section of Lord Monckton’s Rap Sheet.

Threatening Those Who Disagree With Him

1. Monckton has threatened to instigate academic misconduct investigations and/or libel suits against several professors who have exposed his misrepresentations.  The list so far includes Naomi Oreskes, John Abraham, and myself.  He has even threatened a libel suit against John Abraham.  UPDATE:  Monckton has now threatened to extend the libel suit to include Scott Mandia.  Here is Scott’s reply.  UPDATE:  John Abraham tells me that Monckton has threatened lawsuits against him several more times, and Monckton has also threatened me, once again.  He also wrote my university administration to tell them I was mentally imbalanced, and that I had been sending him “hate mail”.  Well, at least the second part is false.😉  UPDATE:  Monckton keeps claiming (to others) on the Internet that he is going to sic his lawyers on me for Lord Monckton’s Rap Sheet, but miraculously, I haven’t been contacted by his lawyers, either.

2. He tried to get Tony Press (U. Tasmania) fired.  UPDATE:  Monckton also lodged a complaint at a New Zealand university against professors Jonathan Boston, David Frame, and Jim Renwick for “academic fraud” and libel.  The university investigated the complaint, then blew it off.  But before the verdict was in, Monckton threatened to sic the police on the university if they were to… you know… blow him off.  I’m sure the police have an entire unit on the case as I write this.

3. When a philosophy professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology, Lawrence Torcello, wrote an article saying it ought to be against the law to knowingly spread disinformation about climate change for profit, Monckton led the charge to send letters to the university administration asking for Torcello to be disciplined/fired because Torcello was allegedly attacking free speech and academic freedom.

4. The funny part about that last one is Monckton’s flagrant hypocrisy.  Not too long ago, he  threatened to have IPCC Chairman Rajendra Pachauri jailed for fraud (see #13 below) and whipped up an Australian crowd, chanting about having all the corrupt climate scientists jailed.

5. Now Monckton is even threatening his fellow climate contrarians (Leif Svalgaard and Willis Eschenbach) with lawsuits and trying to get them fired from academic jobs.  And he’s probably threatening to threaten me, again.  We’ll see.  UPDATE:  Svalgaard hasn’t heard back from Monckton.

6. He launched a complaint to the Press Complaints Commission in the UK against The Guardian because of a column George Monbiot wrote about Monckton’s antics.  The PCC threw out the complaint. In a bizarre twist, George Monbiot reported that someone claiming to be Monckton and using Monckton’s IP address had tried to edit his Wikipedia page to falsely claim that he had won a £50,000 settlement from The Guardian because of Monbiot’s article.

7. Monckton lobbed threats against Arthur Smith after Arthur objected that Monckton (and the Science and Public Policy Institute) had violated copyright.  Smith had written a rebuttal of one of Monckton’s articles, and was trying to get it published.  Monckton put the entire thing up on the web along with his comments, and altered the article to imply that Smith had written it at the behest of his employer, the American Physical Society, which was not true.  Arthur prevailed after threatening legal action, because he was clearly in the right.

8. John Mashey pointed out an instance where one contrarian had plagiarized from Monckton (and cited papers that had been challenged and withdrawn), and then Monckton turned around and praised the work.  When Richard Littlemore reported this, Monckton left a comment on the page saying that Mashey was “under investigation” for breaching “doctor-patient confidentiality,” and that he was guilty of “interfering in an unlawful manner on the blogosphere.”  To this day, I don’t think anyone has any idea what Monckton was talking about.

9. George Monbiot chronicled how Monckton has threatened several times to sue The Guardian for libel.  The U.K. has libel laws that are absurdly in favor of plaintiffs, and yet, these lawsuits have never materialized.

10. Senators John Rockefeller and Olympia Snowe wrote an open letter to Exxon-Mobile, urging them to stop funding climate-contrarian “think-tanks,” whose tactics resemble those of the tobacco industry, Lord Monckton wrote an open letter to the senators, in which he said, “In the circumstances, your comparison of Exxon’s funding of sceptical scientists and groups with the former antics of the tobacco industry is unjustifiable and unworthy of any credible elected representatives. Either withdraw that monstrous comparison forthwith, or resign so as not to pollute the office you hold.”  Ok, so this isn’t really a threat, but Monckton’s language is so bombastic and filled with fake moral outrage that it almost feels like a threat.  I should note that 1) in his letter, Monckton falsely claimed to be a member of Parliament, and 2) Naomi Oreskes, a prominent science historian, and Erik Conway, have shown that not only do the most prominent organizations fighting mainstream climate science follow the same playbook as the tobacco industry, but it’s often the SAME organizations and people doing the fighting on both fronts!

11. Monckton launched yet another complaint to the Press Complaints Commission against New Scientist magazine, which had the temerity to point out that Monckton’s article on climate sensitivity in an American Physical Society newsletter was not peer-reviewed, among other things.  Of course, the editor had specifically noted that the newsletter is not a peer-reviewed publication, but Monckton said he had the article critiqued by a “Professor of Physics,” i.e., someone who isn’t a climate specialist.   The complaint was not upheld.

12. His Lordship complained to Ofcom, the British regulator for TV and radio programming, that he had been unfairly treated by the producers of the BBC documentary, Earth:  The Climate Wars.  Ofcom found that the show’s producers should have given more information to Monckton upfront about the nature of the program (even though Monckton expressed familiarity with how the BBC had covered the issue in the past.)  However, they found that the lack of informed consent did not result in any misrepresentation of Monckton’s views by unfair editing.  The complaint summary linked above is a fascinating read, if you have about 15 minutes.

13. Monckton threatened to have IPCC Chairman Rajendra Pachauri jailed for fraud because he used an IPCC graph that turns out to be correct, but misleading.  In his letter to Pachauri, however, His Lordship used a temperature graph that had already been shown by several scientists to be blatantly fabricated.  I’m sure Monckton is on his way to Scotland Yard right now to give himself up.

14. The BBC aired a documentary called “Meet the Climate Sceptics” which apparently focused largely on Lord Monckton.  (Click here to see the trailer.)  In fact Monckton unsuccessfully attempted to have the courts stop the BBC from airing it unless they allowed him to insert a 3 minute video rebuttal into the program.

15. The ABC (Australia) aired a rather stunning gutting of Monckton and his crowd.  Journalist Wendy Carlisle brought up several instances where Monckton’s sources contradicted him, the fact that he falsely claims to be a member of Parliament, his miracle cure-all, and more.  So of course, Monckton threatened to sue unless given airtime to reply.  They blew him off, and Monckton filed a complaint with the Australian Communications and Media Authority, but the ACMA found that the ABC report did not violate its standards for impartiality and factual accuracy.

16. Monckton threatened to have Al Gore jailed when Gore gave a speech in Gibraltar .  “If you come to any British territory and you talk the rubbish you’ve been talking elsewhere, then you will be arrested and prosecuted.”

17. The Gibraltar Chronicle printed a redacted version of a letter Monckton wrote.  When Monckton’s PR guy threatened them with legal action unless they printed an unredacted version, the Chronicle told them to shove off, because the parts they took out were probably libelous.  The Chronicle article about the bullying incident seems to have been taken down, now, but I have a PDF copy.)

18. Monckton threatened William Connolley and Kevin O’Neill for suggesting that he created a graph that was included (and referenced) in a newspaper article written by His Lordship.  Then he threatened the proprietors of the VisionLearning site, which also made the same attribution.

19. His Lordship told random Scots that he would have them jailed for racism when they yelled, “Go back to England” at him as he preached against Scottish independence.

21. Monckton issued thinly veiled threats to send Peter Sinclair to jail for FRAUD!!!! because of a perfectly reasonable video Peter made about satellite temperature series.

22. Now Monckton has helped found an entire organization with the goal of jailing those nasty climatologists.  Really.

 

 

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | January 20, 2016

The Monckton Files: Threatwatch 2

Your humble correspondent must report yet ANOTHER bombastic threat issuing forth from the ever-dependable Lord Christopher Monckton.  This time, the unlucky recipient is Peter Sinclair, creator of the video I publicized in my last post about how the scientist responsible for producing the RSS satellite temperature data, upon which Senator Ted Cruz pins all his climate hopes, doesn’t agree with Senator Ted’s interpretations of said data.

But first, a brief, nostalgic walk down memory lane.  Following is the current version of the “Threatening Those Who Disagree With Him” section of Lord Monckton’s Rap Sheet.

  1. Monckton has threatened to instigate academic misconduct investigations and/or libel suits against several professors who have exposed his misrepresentations.  The list so far includes Naomi Oreskes, John Abraham, and myself.  He has even threatened a libel suit against John Abraham.  UPDATE:  Monckton has now threatened to extend the libel suit to include Scott Mandia.  Here is Scott’s reply.  UPDATE:  John Abraham tells me that Monckton has threatened lawsuits against him several more times, and Monckton has also threatened me, once again.  He also wrote my university administration to tell them I was mentally imbalanced, and that I had been sending him “hate mail”.  Well, at least the second part is false. 😉  UPDATE:  He also tried to get Tony Press (U. Tasmania) fired.  UPDATE:  Monckton also lodged a complaint at a New Zealand university against professors Jonathan Boston, David Frame, and Jim Renwick for “academic fraud” and libel.  The university investigated the complaint, then blew it off.  But before the verdict was in, Monckton threatened to sic the police on the university if they were to… you know… blow him off.  I’m sure the police have an entire unit on the case as I write this.  UPDATE:  When a philosophy professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology, Lawrence Torcello, wrote an article saying it ought to be against the law to knowingly spread disinformation about climate change for profit, Monckton led the charge to send letters to the university administration asking for Torcello to be disciplined/fired because Torcello was allegedly attacking free speech and academic freedom.  The funny part about this one is Monckton’s flagrant hypocrisy.  Not too long ago, he  threatened to have IPCC Chairman Rajendra Pachauri jailed for fraud (see #9 below) and whipped up an Australian crowd, chanting about having all the corrupt climate scientists jailed.  UPDATE:  Now Monckton is even threatening his fellow climate contrarians (Leif Svalgaard and Willis Eschenbach) with lawsuits and trying to get them fired from academic jobs.  And he’s probably threatening to threaten me, again.  We’ll see.  UPDATE:  Svalgaard hasn’t heard back from Monckton.  In fact, Monckton keeps claiming (to others) on the Internet that he is going to sic his lawyers on me for Lord Monckton’s Rap Sheet, but miraculously, I haven’t been contacted by his lawyers, either.
  2. He launched a complaint to the Press Complaints Commission in the UK against The Guardian because of a column George Monbiot wrote about Monckton’s antics.  The PCC threw out the complaint. In a bizarre twist, George Monbiot reported that someone claiming to be Monckton and using Monckton’s IP address had tried to edit his Wikipedia page to falsely claim that he had won a £50,000 settlement from The Guardian because of Monbiot’s article.
  3. Monckton lobbed threats against Arthur Smith after Arthur objected that Monckton (and the Science and Public Policy Institute) had violated copyright.  Smith had written a rebuttal of one of Monckton’s articles, and was trying to get it published.  Monckton put the entire thing up on the web along with his comments, and altered the article to imply that Smith had written it at the behest of his employer, the American Physical Society, which was not true.  Arthur prevailed after threatening legal action, because he was clearly in the right.
  4. John Mashey pointed out an instance where one contrarian had plagiarized from Monckton (and cited papers that had been challenged and withdrawn), and then Monckton turned around and praised the work.  When Richard Littlemore reported this, Monckton left a comment on the page saying that Mashey was “under investigation” for breaching “doctor-patient confidentiality,” and that he was guilty of “interfering in an unlawful manner on the blogosphere.”  To this day, I don’t think anyone has any idea what Monckton was talking about.
  5. George Monbiot chronicled how Monckton has threatened several times to sue The Guardian for libel.  The U.K. has libel laws that are absurdly in favor of plaintiffs, and yet, these lawsuits have never materialized.
  6. Senators John Rockefeller and Olympia Snowe wrote an open letter to Exxon-Mobile, urging them to stop funding climate-contrarian “think-tanks,” whose tactics resemble those of the tobacco industry, Lord Monckton wrote an open letter to the senators, in which he said, “In the circumstances, your comparison of Exxon’s funding of sceptical scientists and groups with the former antics of the tobacco industry is unjustifiable and unworthy of any credible elected representatives. Either withdraw that monstrous comparison forthwith, or resign so as not to pollute the office you hold.”  Ok, so this isn’t really a threat, but Monckton’s language is so bombastic and filled with fake moral outrage that it almost feels like a threat.  I should note that 1) in his letter, Monckton falsely claimed to be a member of Parliament, and 2) Naomi Oreskes, a prominent science historian, and Erik Conway, have shown that not only do the most prominent organizations fighting mainstream climate science follow the same playbook as the tobacco industry, but it’s often the SAME organizations and people doing the fighting on both fronts!
  7. Monckton launched yet another complaint to the Press Complaints Commission against New Scientist magazine, which had the temerity to point out that Monckton’s article on climate sensitivity in an American Physical Society newsletter was not peer-reviewed, among other things.  Of course, the editor had specifically noted that the newsletter is not a peer-reviewed publication, but Monckton said he had the article critiqued by a “Professor of Physics,” i.e., someone who isn’t a climate specialist.   The complaint was not upheld.
  8. His Lordship complained to Ofcom, the British regulator for TV and radio programming, that he had been unfairly treated by the producers of the BBC documentary, Earth:  The Climate Wars.  Ofcom found that the show’s producers should have given more information to Monckton upfront about the nature of the program (even though Monckton expressed familiarity with how the BBC had covered the issue in the past.)  However, they found that the lack of informed consent did not result in any misrepresentation of Monckton’s views by unfair editing.  The complaint summary linked above is a fascinating read, if you have about 15 minutes.
  9. Monckton threatened to have IPCC Chairman Rajendra Pachauri jailed for fraud because he used an IPCC graph that turns out to be correct, but misleading.  In his letter to Pachauri, however, His Lordship used a temperature graph that had already been shown by several scientists to be blatantly fabricated.  I’m sure Monckton is on his way to Scotland Yard right now to give himself up.
  10. The BBC aired a documentary called “Meet the Climate Sceptics” which apparently focused largely on Lord Monckton.  (Click here to see the trailer.)  In fact Monckton unsuccessfully attempted to have the courts stop the BBC from airing it unless they allowed him to insert a 3 minute video rebuttal into the program.
  11. The ABC (Australia) aired a rather stunning gutting of Monckton and his crowd.  Journalist Wendy Carlisle brought up several instances where Monckton’s sources contradicted him, the fact that he falsely claims to be a member of Parliament, his miracle cure-all, and more.  So of course, Monckton threatened to sue unless given airtime to reply.  They blew him off, and Monckton filed a complaint with the Australian Communications and Media Authority, but the ACMA found that the ABC report did not violate its standards for impartiality and factual accuracy.
  12. Monckton threatened to have Al Gore jailed when Gore gave a speech in Gibraltar .  “If you come to any British territory and you talk the rubbish you’ve been talking elsewhere, then you will be arrested and prosecuted.”
  13. The Gibraltar Chronicle printed a redacted version of a letter Monckton wrote.  When Monckton’s PR guy threatened them with legal action unless they printed an unredacted version, the Chronicle told them to shove off, because the parts they took out were probably libelous.  The Chronicle article about the bullying incident seems to have been taken down, now, but I have a PDF copy.)
  14. Monckton threatened William Connolley and Kevin O’Neill for suggesting that he created a graph that was included (and referenced) in a newspaper article written by His Lordship.  Then he threatened the proprietors of the VisionLearning site, which also made the same attribution.
  15. His Lordship told random Scots that he would have them jailed for racism when they yelled, “Go back to England” at him as he preached against Scottish independence.

This time, His Benificence takes issue–nay, 20 issues!!!– with Peter Sinclair’s video in a recent post on Watt’s Up With That?, a website that will publish literally anything that contradicts the consensus scientific view on climate change.  I don’t have time to bother with all 20 issues, but suffice it to say they are stupid.  For example, Monckton complains:

that the video deploys a device used by the IPCC and by the Met Office, displaying global temperature in decadal blocks, though the decadal blocks were calculated to conceal the absence of global warming over much of the past two decades, while the full HadCRUT4 dataset clearly shows the recent slowdown in global warming:

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Uh, yeah.  The choice of decadal blocks… such as “the 1950s” and “the 2000s”… was carefully “calculated to conceal the absence of global warming over much of the last two decades”.  You know, because if the selection of decadal blocks weren’t carefully “calculated,” they would have chosen more natural decadal blocks, like April 23, 2003 through April 22, 2013, or some such.  Only some kind of evil genius would think to look at decadal blocks like “the 1990s.”

FRAUD!  That’s the only reasonable explanation!  So, of course, the perpetrators will be going to JAIL!!!  Or at least they would be, if that nasty Obama administration didn’t give the fraudsters a free pass!  I give you His Indefatigability, Christopher Monckton.

The perpetrators of the offending video are, so they think, so well protected by the current U.S. Administration’s prejudice on the climate question that they can get away with a campaign of multiple, wilful, mutually reinforcing and no doubt profitable deceptions on this monstrous scale with impunity, to the detriment not only of the truth but also of two diligent and hard-working scientists.

Without saying anything more in public at this stage, we shall see. In the meantime, readers may care to recall the terms of 18 U.S. Criminal Code §1343 (wire fraud):

“Whoever, having devised or intending to devise any scheme or artifice to defraud, or for obtaining money or property by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises, transmits or causes to be transmitted by means of wire, radio, or television communication in interstate or foreign commerce, any writings, signs, signals, pictures, or sounds for the purpose of executing such scheme or artifice, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both.”

But don’t give up hope, fellow Patriots!  The first comment on Monckton’s post, by one Alan Robertson, reveals a ray of hope.

That last bit about prosecution… in a little more than 1 year from now, the US will have a new administration. The current administration will not prosecute members of it’s own team, no matter the offense. There is timing in everything.

Yes, Peter… the Sword of Damocles may not have fallen, but it’s there, hanging by a single hair of a horse’s tail.

P.S.  No, really.  Satellite temperature measurements are not the gold standard.  Let climatologist Andrew Dessler, Ph.D., explain why in Peter Sinclair’s new video.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | January 13, 2016

Ted Cruz Pwned by Satellite Expert

Ted Cruz’s claims about satellite temperature data are dismissed by the scientist in charge of producing the data in question. I hereby make a DARING PREDICTION.  I predict that Ted Cruz will completely ignore the fact that Dr. Mears thinks he is misinterpreting his data.  Because Ted Cruz.

Pwn /pōn/ (verb, slang):  to appropriate or to conquer to gain ownership. The term implies domination or humiliation of a rival, used primarily in the Internet-based video game culture to taunt an opponent who has just been soundly defeated (e.g., “You just got pwned!”).

Last month, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) held a joint hearing of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology (chaired by Smith) and the Senate Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness (run by Cruz).  During the hearing, Senator Cruz pounded on his favorite climate-related theme:  the SATELLITE data show “no significant warming” for 18 YEARS!!!!  SATELLITE data!!!!  This had previously been brought up by one of the witnesses for the Republicans, Prof. John Christy (University of Alabama, Huntsville).

This resulted in an interesting exchange between Cruz and the sole witness for the Democrats, former Navy rear Admiral David Titley.  (Titley was the chief oceanographer for the U.S. Navy, and now is Professor of Meteorology at Penn State.)  Admiral Titley first mentioned that Cruz’s interpretation of the data was dependent on statistical cherry-picking (i.e., starting the analysis that just happens to be during a massive El Niño event), and later mentioned some general problems with satellite temperature readings, in general.  (For instance, it’s hard to completely separate out microwave radiation coming to the satellite from the troposphere, the layer of the atmosphere nearest the ground that has been warming, and the stratosphere, the layer of the atmosphere above the troposphere, which has been cooling.)  He went on to mention that Prof. Christy, who is head of a unit that collects one set of satellite temperature data, had botched his interpretation of the satellite data something like four times in the past, and had to revise his temperature trend estimates upward every time.  But Cruz had an answer for that!  The data he was using was not Prof. Christy’s.  In fact, it was the satellite temperature data put out by Remote Sensing Systems.  You can watch the entire exchange here.

Well, Peter Sinclair from the Yale Climate Forum, just produced a video called “How Reliable are Satellite Temperatures?”, in which a number of well known climatologists explain why satellite temperature data isn’t really the “gold standard” that everything else needs to be compared with.  One of those scientists was Carl Mears, Ph.D., who is in charge of producing the RSS data set.  Apparently, Ted Cruz never had anyone on his staff give Dr. Mears a call to see what he thought of his own data.  Check out the video here:

This is reminiscent of “L’Affaire Pinker”, in which Tim Lambert caught Lord Christopher Monckton badly misinterpreting data he got from one Dr. Rachel Pinker.  Lambert had actually bothered to ask Dr. Pinker what she thought of Monckton’s interpretations, and was able to confront Monckton with her response during a live debate.

I hereby make a DARING PREDICTION.  I predict that Ted Cruz will completely ignore the fact that Dr. Mears thinks he is misinterpreting his data.  Because Ted Cruz.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | September 1, 2015

No, the Hockey Stick Has Not Been Falsified

I hear a lot from commenters who come here from Mark Steyn’s site that the Hockey Stick has been “falsified”.  As Dave Appell points out, the proper response is to ask which one, of the ~36 Hockey Sticks that have been produced so far, are they talking about?

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | June 22, 2015

Mark Steyn’s Genius Legal Gambit

“Who’s to say what’s right or wrong, when your IQ could easily be the losing team’s score in a baseball game?”

In previous posts, your humble correspondent has noted that Mark Steyn and the other defendants in the Mann v. National Review et al. libel case are in a somewhat difficult position.  The easiest way to get out from under the lawsuit would be to issue a correction with appropriate weasel words added, but that would completely undermine the defendants in the eyes of the people who pay their bills–a bunch of Libertarian conspiracy nuts.  Therefore, the defendants have to act like this is some landmark free speech case to keep the money rolling in.  Another option is to claim their accusations against Mann were actually true, but that’s a long shot, given that the scientific work the defendants accused Mann of intentionally faking has repeatedly been confirmed by other scientists.  I also suggested the defense of “Invincible Ignorance,” meaning that the defendants would claim they did not know their accusations were false, and they are so stupid that no argument could possibly convince them otherwise.  In Steyn’s case, at least, I thought this unorthodox strategy might have some tiny chance of succeeding (especially if the jury happens to be packed with Catholic Theologians), because he apparently used to think the Hockey Stick was a climate model that made predictions of the future, rather than a paleotemperature reconstruction.  However, such a strategy would run the risk of alienating the rubes who are Steyn’s bread and butter, once again.  What to do?

Mark Steyn’s genius solution is to put forward arguments that will appear to the rubes to be supporting the truthfulness of the defendants’ accusations against Mann, while in reality, the arguments are so idiotic that any reasonable judge and jury would conclude that Steyn cannot be held accountable for his actions.  Who’s to say what’s right or wrong, when your IQ could easily be the losing team’s score in a baseball game?

To wit, Steyn has announced that he will be self-publishing a book full of quotations by various scientists about what a twit Michael Mann is, and what a disgraceful mess Mann’s Hockey Stick reconstruction was, and what a load of damage all this has done to the noble cause of Science.  The title of the book will be “A Disgrace To The Profession”  The World’s Scientists, In Their Own Words, On Michael E Mann, His Hockey Stick And Their Damage To Science.  We don’t know everything that will be included in this literary tour de force, but you can rest assured that it will be a bombshell, because Steyn has provided us with three of the juiciest quotations.  Greg Laden has now ferreted out the sources of these quotations, and concluded that one is from a legitimate contrarian (who happens not to specialize in anything to do with climate studies), another is from a climate scientist who was a co-author of one of the main studies that support Mann’s original Hockey Stick, and another from a climate scientist who had some problems with Mann’s original methods, but does not think those problems amounted to much, and has since co-authored a paper with Mann.

Now, you might think it astonishingly stupid for Steyn, in the midst of his defense against a libel suit by Mann, to publish a book full of quotations attacking Mann and his work, gleaned from a bunch of non-experts and out-of-context comments by experts who actually think the Hockey Stick is pretty accurate.  But you would be wrong.  First, even if Steyn loses the lawsuit, the rubes might well buy enough copies of the book to cover any eventual legal bills and judgement.  Second, Steyn will look like a hero to the rubes no matter what, as long as he never lets on that he might be a teensy bit in the wrong.  Third, you never know, some jury might be stupid enough to buy the defense.  And finally, a jury might let Steyn off the hook out of pity, inferring that he doesn’t have the intelligence to be considered culpable for his actions.

Yes, my friends, Mark Steyn is a gamblin’ man, and he has a foolproof system.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | March 15, 2015

“Merchants of Doubt” for Mormons

I wrote another op-ed for my local paper, the Daily Herald.  The headline is misleading, but it is essentially a plug for the movie and book, Merchants of Doubt.

One reason I love the Internet is because it makes room for more snark.  Clever satire and lampooning can sometimes be more effective than anything for getting people to stop digging in their heels and do the right thing.  Snarky commentary becomes a loathsome freak show, however, when the intransigently ignorant try it, and unfortunately, that’s the way I see Conservative political commentary moving, whether it’s amateur or professional.  (I’m a Republican myself, so I take no joy in saying this.)

Take, for instance, some of the amateur commentary on a post a friend of mine shared on Facebook the other day.  He linked a conservative political commentary lauding Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent speech to Congress, in which he criticized the Obama Administration.  Whatever.  But then the ultra-conservative lackwits had to start chiming in with “snarky” comments about how we should elect Netanyahu as President, because apparently we don’t pay any attention to where candidates were born, anymore.  Such comments would be super witty if, for instance, there hadn’t been birth announcements for Obama in a couple Honolulu papers, and if the standard legal interpretation of the constitutional requirement that the President be a “natural-born citizen” were not that one just has to be a citizen by birth–like Barack Obama, wherever he was born.

The amateurs are usually just parroting things they’ve heard from the professionals–people like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Mark Steyn, and–because he has one of those posh-sounding British accents–James Delingpole.  The other day, Delingpole wrote a “snarky” piece attacking a new BBC documentary about climate change.  The title of the piece, “‘Climate Change is Real Because Shut Up!’ Explains the BBC. Again,” signals the snarky intent, but the content is nothing but adolescent drivel.

Here’s an excerpt.

Its arguments went something like this: climate change is real because nice, smiley girl with red hair; climate change is real because maths; climate change is real because potted history of US sea captain who standardised methods for measuring water temperature; climate change is real because Tottenham Hotspur; etc. With these ingenious distractions, it effortlessly swerved contentious issues such as the fact that the entire 20th-century temperature record has been subjected to unexplained — and probably unjustifiable — adjustments. I wonder what percentage of its presumably tiny audience it convinced.

Well, I could object that Delingpole’s point about adjustments to the temperature record are idiotic, and that people who actually do spatial and temporal statistical analyses think such adjustments are necessary, which is why all the different groups of scientists who work on this problem come up with about the same answers.  But that would miss Delingpole’s main point!  Namely, the BBC program is stupid because it uses the dreaded “Appeal to Authority.”  And as any snot-nosed 10th grader can tell you, that’s a “Logical Fallacy“!!!

Do I realise that the woman I have so peremptorily dismissed as “nice, smiley girl with red hair” is in fact none other than Dr Hannah Fry, a mathematician from University College, London?

Well yes. I thought I’d covered that particular Appeal To Authority, more or less, in the sentence which said “climate change is real because maths.” Had there been space, I suppose, I could have added “climate change is real because doctorate” and “climate change is real because University College, London.” But I’m not sure it would have added a great deal to the point I was trying to make.

“What’s wrong with pointing out a fallacious argument?” you might ask… if you are particularly dense.  The thing is, as I have pointed out before, a logical fallacy is simply an argument that doesn’t necessarily follow from the premises, but it may still be a reasonable argument.  Here’s a quick example of a fallacious Appeal to Authority.

Premise 1:  My doctor says I should lose weight.

Premise 2:  Doctors are healthcare experts.

Conclusion:  Therefore, I should lose weight.

Now, are doctors infallible when it comes to healthcare recommendations? Of course not, and therefore this is a fallacious appeal to authority.  But is it a stupid argument?  “Of course it is,” answers Aunt Matilda, as she tries to smear urine on your face to cure your acne.  You know perfectly well it isn’t a stupid argument, though, right?

Here’s why.  When we are talking about ANY complex scientific (or other) topic, there is simply no practical way around using some appeals to authority.  Suppose I were to write a paper about some scientific topic.  Certainly I would try to make a solid argument, but I would typically cite any number of other peer-reviewed sources for most of my claims.  Wouldn’t I just be appealing to the authority of the authors of those sources, in such cases?  Obviously, but what other choice do I have?  Am I supposed to redo all those experiments and observations, program my own models, etc., etc.?  Who has time for that?  And what about my audience?  Are they supposed to just take my word for it?  Are they supposed to take the word of the sources I cite?  Checking things for yourself is GREAT, and I advocate it strongly!  However, NOBODY has the time to check every single detail of the arguments surrounding a complex topic like climate change, so all we can do is spot check.

That’s what I’ve tried to do.  I’m and Earth scientist to begin with, so I have a good deal of background knowledge to help me, but I’ve also gone ahead and read quite a bit of peer-reviewed literature about the subject, and I’ve even read a lot of contrarian literature.  What’s more, I’ve even bothered to pick apart and reproduce some of the work of prominent contrarians like Roy Spencer, and I’ve even published a couple peer-reviewed papers about climate-related topics.  That was an awful lot of work, and yet I still have to rely on others for much of my information.

The bottom line is that the only way around appeals to authority is an enormous amount of work, and no matter how much work you do, you will never be able to completely get rid of them.  And that’s why appeals to authority aren’t ridiculous, even though they aren’t necessarily right.  We appeal to experts precisely BECAUSE they have put in an enormous amount of work, and have to appeal to authority less than the rest of us.

Hmmmm, that brings up a good question.  How much work has James Delingpole done, so that he feels comfortable mocking the consensus of almost all the climate change experts?  Let’s answer that question via an interview the BBC aired, in which Sir Paul Nurse, a scientist and the head of the Royal Society, asked this very thing of Delingpole.  Here’s a partial transcript, and you can see the video below.

Paul Nurse: Consensus can be used like a dirty word. Consensus is actually the position of the experts at the time, and if it’s working well, and it doesn’t always work well, but if it’s working well they evaluate the evidence. You make your reputation in science by actually overturning that. So there’s a lot of pressure to do it. But if over the years the consensus doesn’t move, you have to wonder is the argument, is the evidence against the consensus good enough?

James Delingpole: Science has never been about consensus, and this is I think one of the most despicable things about Al Gore’s so-called consensus. Consensus is not science.

Paul Nurse: I want to give an analogy in a different situation. Say you had cancer and you went to be treated. There would be a consensual position on your treatment, and it is very likely that you would follow that consensual treatment because you would trust the clinical scientists there. The analogy is that you could say, well, I’ve done my research into it and I disagree with that consensual position, but that would be a very unusual position for you to take. And I think sometimes the consensual position can be criticised when in fact it is most likely to be the correct position.

James Delingpole: Yes. Shall we talk about climategate because I don’t accept your analogy really, I think it’s very easy to caricature the position of climate change sceptics as the sort of people who don’t look left and right when crossing the road or who think that the quack cure that they’ve invented for cancer is just as valid as the one chosen by the medical establishment. I think it is something altogether different and I do slightly resent the way that you are bringing in that analogy.

Later, Nurse asked Delingpole about where he was getting his information.  Turns out it isn’t from the scientific literature.

James Delingpole:  It is not my job to sit down and read peer-reviewed papers because  I simply haven’t got the time, I haven’t  the scientific expertise. What I rely on is people who have got the time and the expertise to do it and write about it  and interpret it. I am an interpreter of interpretations.

So there you have it.  James Delingpole can mock the BBC for referencing the consensus of almost all the climate change experts because it’s an “Appeal to Authority,” but when push comes to shove, he admits that he doesn’t have the background knowledge to assess the evidence for himself.  All he can do is substitute the authority of people who are… not… almost all the experts.

In my opinion, this is another sad demonstration that people like Delingpole should get out of the snark business.  Snarkiness ends up being a complete train wreck when used by someone who refuses to do the necessary work to understand anything at all about what he’s yammering.  Sorry, James, but being an obnoxious windbag does’t make you H. L. Mencken.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | October 11, 2014

The Monckton Files: Vote for Monckton!!!

At last, a candidate I can really get behind! There is an interesting site called Quora, on which people ask all sorts of questions, other people answer, and readers vote on the best answer. Sometimes these are pretty fun to read. One question that was posted was, “What are some examples of experts who in the end were not real experts?” I noted that one of the responders had nominated Lord Monckton, but I didn’t really feel that his answer was as comprehensive and well documented as it could have been, so I decided to post my own.

Dear Readers, if not now, when?  If not us, who?

Click here, and UPVOTE my answer at the bottom! As you can imagine, Monckton has a lot of competition, but honestly, who can compare to His Veracity? Have the others been invited to testify to Congress as a climate science expert on multiple occasions, while pretending to be members of Parliament?  I think not. Okay, okay, if you really want to see all the other answers, click here.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | September 15, 2014

The Monckton Files: Hypocrisplosion, Islamophobe Style

That Beacon of Freedom, His Supreme Sagacity, the Third Viscount Monckton of Brenchley, is now telling the “Patriots” who read World Net Daily that portions of the Koran (the ones that talk about killing infidels) should be outlawed in the USA.

Craven public authorities have failed to act against the circulation of the Quran in its present form because they fear a violent backlash.

How, then, is this manifestly illegal text to be dealt with? It is not our custom to ban books, for freedom of speech is guaranteed by the Constitution.

However, it is our custom to prosecute for incitement to murder. And the fact that incitement is on every page of what is said to be a holy book does not diminish, still less extinguish, the offense.

A bill should be brought before Congress identifying all passages in the Quran which, whether in isolation or taken together, constitute incitement to murder.

The bill should specify that anyone who reads any of these passages out loud is to be charged with that crime and, if convicted, subjected to the usual penalty for it – a long prison term.

The bill should state that, after a grace period of a year, every copy of the Quran must clearly identify by emboldened and different-colored text the passages that constitute criminal incitement to murder, together with a clearly printed warning on the first page that reading any of these passages out loud anywhere within the jurisdiction of the United States may result in prosecution.

But as David Ferguson points out at RawStory, what’s sauce for the Koran is sauce for the Bible.

Monckton cited several passages of the Koran that he says call for the murder of nonbelievers, but failed to include the portions of the Christian Bible that call for the execution of homosexual men (Leviticus 20:13), the stoning death of adulterous women (Luke 16:18) and the killing of “sorceresses” (Exodus 22:17), blasphemers (Leviticus 24:10), and whole cities if they follow other religions (Deuteronomy 13:13-19).

If you are at all surprised by this stunning display of hypocrisy, hark back to the following excerpt from Lord Monckton’s Rap Sheet.

When a philosophy professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology, Lawrence Torcello, wrote an article saying it ought to be against the law to knowingly spread disinformation about climate change for profit, Monckton led the charge to send letters to the university administration asking for Torcello to be disciplined/fired because Torcello was allegedly attacking free speech and academic freedom.  The funny part about this one is Monckton’s flagrant hypocrisy.  Not too long ago, he  threatened to have IPCC Chairman Rajendra Pachauri jailed for fraud (see #9 below) and whipped up an Australian crowd, chanting about having all the corrupt climate scientists jailed.

As always, I’m waiting to see how long it takes for Moncktonites like Anthony Watts and Dick Lindzen to start trying to distance themselves from His Supreme Sagacity.  In the meantime, I offer you the (soon to be updated) “Being An All-Purpose Extremist” section of Lord Monckton’s Rap Sheet.

1. It’s a good thing Monckton has developed a cure for AIDS!  In 1987 he suggested rounding up all AIDS-sufferers and isolating them for life.  Since nobody took his sage advice, he later acknowledged that the problem had gotten too big for his suggestion to be feasible.

2. Monckton suggested it might be a good idea to require scientists to have some kind of religious certification before being allowed to practice in a field like climatology.  You know, because scientists are a pack of atheists who think lying is ok.

3. Monckton claimed that, as a member of Margaret Thatcher’s policy unit, he suggested spiking the Argentines’ water supplies with a “mild bacillus” so the British troops could more easily win the Falklands War.  He said he believed Thatcher had followed his advice, even though this would clearly have been a violation of the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention.

 

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | September 15, 2014

A Republican Scientist Explains Why Coal Is Expensive

My local newspaper is the Daily Herald, in Provo, Utah, and it has always been about as right-wing as a paper with a circulation above 1,000 can get.  After all, Utah County (Provo is the county seat) holds the title as the Reddest County in the Reddest State.  (I recently found out that I live in the Reddest Legislative District of the Reddest County of the Reddest State.)  I had a long-standing e-mail feud going with the previous editors, who would print all sorts of anti-science nonsense about climate change, and even claimed to read the mind of a scientist so they could tell that he really meant the opposite of what he said.  Yes, mind reading.  (See here, here, here, and here for follow-up posts.)

Well, happy day, the editors got fired, and now some non-wack-jobs are in charge.  Oh, it’s still a right-wing paper, as one might surmise by perusing the weekly “Get it Right” column by Pamela Openshaw, who is an elderly lady that really, Really, REALLY loves the Constitution, as it was originally intended to be interpreted by the John Birch Society.  But at least the present editors genuinely try to allow some alternative points of view.  For example, they recently published an op-ed by an alfalfa farmer called “If You Eat, You Care About Climate Change”.  They also published one by my friend Don Jarvis about how Utah needs to adopt the new Tier 3 gasoline standards to make a big, but inexpensive, dent in our air quality problems.  When Pam Openshaw started talking about the Green-Commie Conspiracy, they published an op-ed I wrote in rebuttal called, “Real Conservatives are Conservationists”.   When Pam Openshaw wrote another column of rambling nonsense that I think was supposed to be a response to mine, I asked the new editor (David Kennard) if he would let me do another rebuttal.  He said that he doesn’t usually publish opinion pieces by the same person that often, but he offered me an open slot in their “Opinion Shaper” series, which means I get to do a series of op-eds once per quarter.  It turns out that Don Jarvis is an “Opinion Shaper” writer, as well.

For my first “Opinion Shaper” column, I wrote an article called “Clean Air Should Be Everyone’s Priority” (I don’t pick the headlines, but this one was ok), in which I explained the concept of “external costs”.  The point is that fuels like lower-tier gasoline and coal are only “cheaper” than the alternatives because some of the costs are not paid at the gas pump or in your power bill.  Health costs caused by pollution are paid by everyone, so isn’t it reasonable, fair, and Conservative to demand that people pay the cost if they decide to pollute?

Please share this with your Conservative friends and families.  I want to bring a lot of clicks to the Herald so they will continue letting reasonable people have a voice there.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | August 19, 2014

The Monckton Files: Threatwatch 1

One of the truly amusing facets of being a Monckton-o-phile like myself is watching His Lordship veritably explode in a barrage of bombastic threats when he is cornered… or even when he’s passing random people on the street. For your amusement, and to keep the “Threatening Those Who Disagree With Him” section of Lord Monckton’s Rap Sheet current, I give you the following recent examples.

A few weeks ago, I noted that Lord Monckton had even started threatening fellow climate contrarians, including solar physicist Leif Svaalgard and Willis Eschenbach. He claimed he was writing to Svaalgard’s university administration to get him in trouble for saying a certain part of Dr. David Evans’s wacky curve-fitted climate model was “almost fraudulent”.

For my part, I am referring Mr Svalgaard’s long list of malicious comments about Dr Evans (but not about me: I give as good as I get) to his university, which will know best how to handle the matter, for there is a rather delicate aspect that I am not at liberty to discuss here. The university will most certainly realize that the do-nothing option is not an option. The libel is too grave and too persistent. My lawyers are looking at it tomorrow to see whether malice is present, in which case the damages would triple, to say nothing of the costs. Their corresponding lawyers in the U.S. will be giving advice on whether Dr Evans would count in U.S. law as a “public figure”, Probably not, from what I know of the “public-figure” test, in which event, in order to enforce the judgement of the Australian courts in the U.S., it would not be necessary to prove malice (for, though malice seems evident, the test in Australian law is high).

Well, guess what? I asked Leif Svalgaard about it the other day, and he hasn’t heard a thing about it from his administration. Could it be that Monckton didn’t actually carry out his threat?

Ah, the memories. When I first encountered Monckton, he said he was instigating an academic misconduct investigation against me at my university, but a Salt Lake Tribune reporter followed up and found out that there was no such investigation. Much later, he did actually send a couple e-mails to my university threatening a libel suit and saying I was mentally imbalanced, but the administration essentially ignored them.

During the unpleasantness between Monckton and Svalgaard, His Lordship objected strongly when Svalgaard linked Lord Monckton’s Rap Sheet. His Veracity grated,

I note that another commenter here has accused me of fraud, and has cited a particular website much of whose contents I had not previously seen. My lawyers will be visiting me early next week to deal with some of the allegations on that website.

I thought maybe I would be getting another call from my department chair to inform me that Monckton had threatened me again, but what do you know? Weeks have passed, and I haven’t heard a thing! Perhaps his crack team of lawyers told him that I can’t be sued for simply chronicling his public exploits and expressing my amusement.

Meanwhile, trouble was brewing in the U.K., where Stoat blogger William Connolley was guessing that the source of a very misleading graph was an article in the Daily Telegraph written by His Lordship. One problem with the graph was that it compared two temperature history graphs from different IPCC reports, but the one from 2001 was for the entire globe Northern Hemisphere, while the one supposedly from 1995 was for Central England, only. The first graph was actually based on one from the 1990 report, whereas in the text of the article Monckton said it was from 1995. The graphs were attributed to the IPCC, but did not have important features like error bars included in the Telegraph version.

Then Monckton showed up and started posturing.

Mr Connolley falsely accuses me of having fabricated a graph in whose selection, drafting and publication I played no part whatsoever. I should be grateful if he would remove all references to my having “faked” or fabricated this graph, and if he would kindly notify me when he has done so.

When Connolley pointed out that the graph had showed up in an article under his name, and asked who WAS responsible for it, Monckton resolutely refused to answer and dropped the “L” word (libel).

Mr Connolley now concedes he does not know whether I faked the figure. He made a serious, libellous allegation of dishonesty on my part without knowing whether the allegation was true.

I now invite him to retract his grave allegation of dishonesty on my part and to apologize for it.

After a bit of back-and-forth, Monckton made the implied threat more explicit.

If Mr Connolley will kindly give me his address for service, my lawyers will write to him. If he will not give me his name and address, they will serve an order on the ISP requiring it to provide the necessary details.

William told me a while ago that he hadn’t heard from Monckton’s lawyers, and I’m betting that’s still the case. William?  [UPDATE:  William says he’s heard nothing.  See comments below.]

The funny thing about all this is that Monckton admitted his date of the 1990 figure was wrong, and that these were essentially the graphs he was referring to in the article. And as Kevin O’Neill pointed out, Monckton had given permission for another publication to reprint the article–graph and all–so he can hardly claim he didn’t approve of the graph. So why would he get bent out of shape at all if someone assumed he made the graphic for his own article?

The story of the Graph of Mystery doesn’t end there, however. On the same comment thread, Kevin O’Neill had pointed out that the Visionlearning website (which provides high quality science education resources) had used the same graph as an example in an article section entitled “Misuse of Scientific Images”, and pegged Monckton’s article as the source. Shortly thereafter, the commenters noticed that all reference to Monckton as the graph’s creator disappeared from the Visionlearning article, although they kept the graph as their example. (See the original on the Wayback Machine, and the present version here.) Some wondered whether Monckton had threatened the Visionlearning folks, too.  I confirmed through some backchannels that this was the case.

Last, but not least, a Scottish TV reporter interviewed His Veracity about some aspects of Scottish politics (he is was the leader of the UKIP fringe party in Scotland), and found his grasp of Scottish political history to be a bit wanting. (That is, he made something up out of thin air regarding a rival politician.) But that’s not even the funny part. This is.

Viscount Monckton, who is president of UKIP in Scotland, said: “We have all had people from the SNP on the streets, saying ‘You sound English’ — in fact, I’m more Scottish than most Scots — but ‘You sound English, so go back to England’. Now, that is racism, it’s actually against the law. We’ve told one or two of the people who have said that to us, ‘Don’t do it again, or we’ll have you for it’.”

So some random Scots yell “Go back to England,” and Monckton threatens to have them jailed for racism! It’s just too fantastic for words.

UPDATE:  Within minutes of initially posting this, I found out that Monckton has threatened me once again on another comment board!  A commenter named Warren told Monckton:

You continue to make these misleading arguments in spite of your close following of Climate Science; it seems a piece with your repeated claims, publicly refuted by the House of Lords, that you are a member; or your earlier claims to have found a cure for AIDS and the common cold.

Monckton replied:

Finally “Warren” resorts to ad-hominem irrelevancies that are also inaccurate. He inaccurately accuses me of claiming I can cure AIDS and other diseases. I make no such claim, though I am engaged in research in this field. Likewise, “Warren” is no more expert on peerage law, for instance, than the ignorant and politicized Clerk of the Parliaments, one Beamish, who says I am not a member of the House. In the narrow sense imagined by the 1999 Act that took away most hereditary peers’ right to sit and vote, I am self-evidently not a member of the House, and I had made the fact of my ineligibility to sit or vote explicit in the answer to a radio interviewer that Beamish whined about without having bothered to take the elementary precaution, required in the interest of natural justice, of hearing my side of the case first. However, a legal Opinion that I obtained after that cringing, custard-faced Clerkling’s unlawful remarks makes it plain that “The Viscount Monckton of Brenchley is a member of the House of Lords, and he is fully entitled to say so.”

To which Warren replied:

You accused me of ‘ad hominem attack’. I posted your false claim about being a member of the House of Lords to let the readers know they shouldn’t trust your claims about AGW either — but that’s only the tip of the iceberg – readers should go here to see your full, incredible, rap sheet: Monckton:  https://bbickmore.wordpress.com…  How do you sleep at night?

Can you guess what came next?  Of course you can.  Monckton threatened me.  And then he COMMANDED Warren to “raise his game or be silent”.

Likewise, “Warren” refers readers to a more than averagely libelous instance of ad-hominem hate-speech that seems to have been posted up on the Web by a disgruntled person. Now that Warren has drawn my attention to that web page, I shall pass the matter on to my lawyers so that they can issue proceedings against the perpetrator.

Finally, “Warren” himself is guilty of libel by suggesting that I had made a “false” claim to be a member of the House of Lords. My legal advice was that what I had said in answer to a question from a journalist was at all points accurate, reasonable, and proportionate. “Warren” has no more knowledge of peerage law than he does of climate science, economics, or the methods of conducting a scientific discourse. In short, he is out of his depth and out of his league. He must raise his game or be silent.

 

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | July 21, 2014

The Monckton Files: A Hero Has Fallen!

Hang around the Watt’s Up With That? blog for any length of time, and it will become apparent that His Lordship, Christopher Monckton, 3rd Viscount of Brenchley, is all but worshipped by many of the regulars there.  No matter how absurd Monckton’s intellectual flagellations, Anthony Watts will post them, and hordes of credulous commenters will heap adulation upon His Lordship.  One of Monckton’s long-time fans is Willis Eschenbach–construction manager, climate hobbyist, and frequent contributor to both the blog and the Heartland disinformation conference.  Willis, unfortunately, learned what happens if you express strong disagreement with anything Monckton says, i.e., Monckton threatens to sue you.  Yes, Monckton has turned yet another corner, and has begun threatening his fellow climate change contrarians, in addition to the typical academics and reporters.  Witness poor Willis begging his fallen hero to reconsider!

Christopher, please, I implore you as a friend, cease with the legal threats. Every time you make such a threat of legal action against some scientist that you disagree with, your credibility sinks another notch.

Yes, you have the means and the position and the title and the power and the friends and the money to cause trouble for people … do you truly not understand that your threats to use your power and money and advantages and hereditary title against some poor skeptical shlub like myself because you don’t like his claims just makes you look like an insecure bully? Is there truly no other way to defend yourself? Dang, dude, you can strip the hide off a buffalo with your unmatchable eloquence, or have half the world laughing at someone’s foolishness with your irascible wit … you don’t need legal means to set things straight, your intellect and your words are more than enough to do that.

Alas, Willis’s struggle isn’t merely against a momentary lapse in judgement by his hero.  He is fighting INVIOLATE LAWS OF THE UNIVERSE–Bickmore’s First and Second Laws of Monckton.

Bickmore’s First Law of Monckton 

For every person who publicly endorses Lord Monckton’s climate pronouncements for merely irrational reasons, there exists a threshold in Monckton’s behavior which, if crossed, will cause said person to regret their association.

Bickmore’s Second Law of Monckton

Any behavioral threshold posited by Bickmore’s First Law of Monckton will eventually be crossed by Lord Monckton.

Let’s back up and examine the series of events that led to this curious juncture, so that we might recognize the inexorable march of fate, driven by the Invisible Hand of Bickmore’s Laws of Monckton. Read More…

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | June 19, 2014

Republican EPA Chiefs Urge Climate Action

Four former EPA administrators from Republican administrations testified at a congressional hearing about the new EPA rule on coal plant CO2 emissions, urging action and supporting the rule.  Articles from the AP,  Reuters, National Journal, and Huffington Post.  

Some coal companies bused in a bunch of coal miners to oppose the EPA rule, but one of them brought up an important point in the Reuters article.

Baker, a manager at one of Murray Energy’s mines in Marshall County, Ohio, wanted to attend because he worries EPA rules may not “take into account some of the towns that will be gone” if the pollution crackdown closes coal mines: “We need both sides to act together.”

This is why I have always preferred that Congress initiate climate action, rather than leaving it to the EPA.  What is the EPA supposed to do about side effects like this one?  Republicans have only themselves to blame if they force the administration to act unilaterally.  (BTW, let us not forget that the U.S. Supreme Court already ruled that the EPA has to take action on greenhouse gas emissions.)

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | June 3, 2014

Take Notes, Mr. Steyn

Today’s lesson is on How to Float Legally Non-Actionable Accusations.  Mark Steyn should sharpen his pencil and take notes, because he and his co-defendants in Michael Mann’s defamation suit could easily have avoided legal action by following some very simple procedures, which I will illustrate here.

The other day I posted another commentary on the case, in which I brought up the fact that Steyn had explained Mann’s Hockey Stick graph to his readers as a “climate model” whose “predictions” had failed to pan out.  In fact, I think I mention that gaffe in every post I do about this case, because it’s MADE OF AWESOME!  When the standard of proof Mann has to meet is to show that the defendants acted with reckless disregard for the truth or falsity of their accusations against Mann, it’s like manna from heaven when one of the defendants demonstrates that he didn’t have a clue what the Hockey Stick even was before deciding to accuse Mann of producing it via fraudulent data manipulation for political ends.  When I looked up one of my previous posts to get the link to Steyn’s article (called “SLAPPstick Farce”), however, the link kept redirecting my browser to Steyn’s homepage.  This was the broken URL:

http://www.steynonline.com/6017/slappstick-farce

Next, I tried the search engine on Steyn’s site and on Google to search for the quoted phrases, but nothing turned up on Steyn’s site.  Therefore, I next went to The Wayback Machine web archive to see if they had archived that page.  When I entered the URL into The Wayback Machine, I found that this webpage had indeed been archived twice–once on Feb. 9, and once on May 4, of this year.  When I clicked on the first archived version, I got the original article.  When I clicked on the second, I got another redirect to Steyn’s homepage.  (Click on the links, and you will see what I mean.)  So for whatever reason, the page had been unavailable, redirecting traffic to Steyn’s homepage, for at least a month.  It wasn’t just a fluke, evidently.

I thought it would be fun to play this up, because it seemed like this might constitute tenuous evidence that all my teasing about the “climate model” bit had actually convinced Steyn that maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to keep the page up for people like me to wave in front of his coffee-mug-buying fans, who are financing his legal bills.  I said:

Perhaps the mockery struck a nerve with Steyn.  You will note, for instance, that my link to Steyn’s nonsensical explanation does not go to Steyn’s website, but to a web archive.  He apparently took the article down from his site, perhaps belatedly realizing that it made him look like a buffoon… and didn’t exactly help his legal prospects.

TECHNIQUE #1.  The fact is that I didn’t really have any really hard evidence that Steyn had taken the page down on purpose.  I still don’t know whether there is some way this could happen via some software glitch, or whatever.  Therefore, I threw in a couple “perhaps” qualifiers, and an “apparently”.  I could float the idea that Steyn might have been acting like a total weasel, and even call him a “buffoon,” and he can’t do squat!  This is why Steyn’s constant attempts to paint the lawsuit as an attempt to silence dissent are so stupid.  He can dissent all he wants.

Well, yesterday Steyn came back with this rejoinder:

Actually, you can find the column in question here. And here. And in every public library that carries the print edition of National Review (the January 27th 2014 issue). And in a forthcoming anthology of mine due out this fall. If Barry Bickmore sends me his mailing address, I’ll make sure he gets a signed copy.

Horrors!  Could I have been… shudder… WRONG?  Well, maybe so, but let’s see how this plays out.  You will note that the first of Steyn’s links is to:

http://www.steynonline.com/6017/slappstick-farce

Yep, the exact same address that redirected to Steyn’s homepage the day before… and a month before, according to The Wayback Machine.  The second link was to the National Review website, where the article has a different title.  I don’t know if I legitimately missed that one, because it actually has a different title on the NR site (so I might have missed it if I searched for the original title), and it was never archived by The Wayback Machine.

All of this seems rather suspicious to me.  Could it be that Steyn is being a total weasel, and put the page back up again after I mentioned it was down?

TECHNIQUE #2.  Note how I phrased that last sentence as a question, rather than a statement of fact.  If I’m not confident that I have really hard proof, it would be stupid to come right out and accuse Steyn of weaselry.  I’m no Internet guru, after all, so something might be going on that I wouldn’t think of on my own.  But by phrasing it as a question after laying out the evidence, I made it so Steyn has no possible basis for a libel suit, and many readers might consider the evidence strong enough to believe the implied accusation. 

Before I dismiss the class, let me make one last point.  That is, in my opinion Mark Steyn is part of a conspiracy to promote a global, totalitarian government by encouraging Republicans to allow their party to be taken over by extremist ultra-Libertarians who are so obviously intellectually and mentally challenged that moderates and young people will flee to the Democrats.  The subsequent collapse of the party will usher in the New World Order.  Who knows what crimes he has committed to further the goals of the nefarious cabal?  Theft?  Extortion?  Blackmail?  MURDER?!!

POP QUIZ.  In a short essay, explain how I was able to spout utter nonsense that I totally pulled out of you-know-where, accusing Mark Steyn of all kinds of awful things, and yet avoid any legal culpability.  

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | June 1, 2014

Inspector Steyn is Looking for a Clue

Great news in the Mann v. National Review et al. case!  Are you ready?  Defendant Mark Steyn has finally figured out what the case is about!

In my current case, global warm-monger Michael E Mann is suing me for defamation for calling his famous climate-change “hockey stick” fraudulent.

Yes!  Yes!  Mann is suing Steyn and co. for saying his “hockey stick” paleoclimate reconstruction was fraudulently manipulated for political ends, even after multiple official inquiries (including one by the National Academy of Science) exonerated Mann of any wrongdoing.  Compare that with what Steyn was saying the case was about a few months ago.

In a post at NATIONAL REVIEW’s website, I mocked Dr. Michael Mann, the celebrated global warm-monger, and his ‘hockey stick,’ the most famous of all the late-Nineties global-warming climate models to which dull, uncooperative 21st-century reality has failed to live up. So he sued.  [Click here for full article.]

No, Lambkin, you aren’t being sued for “mocking” anyone.  You are being sued for falsely accusing someone of a specific criminal act.  If it were possible to file a defamation suit for mere mockery without having it summarily dismissed, I would be shaking in my boots, wondering if Steyn would sue me because I mocked his explanation of the Hockey Stick, quoted above.  You see, the Hockey Stick isn’t a “climate model,” and it doesn’t predict anything.  I further explained,

As I have pointed out a number of times, Mann doesn’t even need discovery to show reckless disregard for truth/falsity in Steyn’s case. Steyn went on record recently calling the Hockey Stick a “climate model” whose predictions had failed. What possible defense can he have against the claim that he showed reckless disregard for the truth or falsity of claims that Mann’s work was “fraudulent”, when he didn’t even know what the %$@! that work was?  [UPDATE:  The original article had quotation marks around the word “predictions.”  A reader, danger dad, pointed out that the word is not a direct quotation, so I have removed the quotation marks.]

His only real defense is what the Catholics call “invincible ignorance”. That is, he will have to claim that he is too stupid to understand the issue at hand, so no amount of study would have led him to a different conclusion, no matter how obvious.

Perhaps the mockery struck a nerve with Steyn.  You will note, for instance, that my link to Steyn’s nonsensical explanation does not go to Steyn’s website, but to a web archive.  He apparently took the article down from his site, perhaps belatedly realizing that it made him look like a buffoon… and didn’t exactly help his legal prospects.  [UPDATE:  Mark Steyn objects to this bit of speculation.  See my next post for a reply.]

It may also be that Steyn realized the Invincible Ignorance defense was something of a longshot, because now he has fully committed himself to The Defense of Truth.  That is, Mann can’t sue Steyn just for accusing him of fraudulently manipulating data–he actually has to show that the accusation is false.  Maybe by… I don’t know… referring the jury to the several official inquiries that had already vindicated Mann and the more than a dozen subsequent studies that have vindicated the Hockey Stick?  Steyn indicates that he stands firmly  behind his accusations, however.

I maintain it is fraudulent, that it was fraudulently promoted by the IPCC and by Al Gore (as the great iconic all-you-need-to-know image of global warming), that Mann himself is fraudulent (falsely claiming on an industrial scale to be a Nobel Laureate) and that, indeed, even his court filings are fraudulent (falsely claiming to have been “exonerated” by the British Government and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and all kinds of other “Climategate” inquiries that have never ever investigated him).

Whew!  Maybe Steyn didn’t have a clue what the Hockey Stick even was when he made his original accusation, but now that he has that all worked out, he’s SURE his accusation was REALLY TRUE… REALLY.  How can he be so sure?  Well, it’s like this… [crickets chirping]….  Uhhh… I guess it’s not so much that he has any evidence, per se, as that he has a CRACK TEAM OF INVESTIGATORS on the case.  Not only does Steyn have a special e-mail address where his black-helicopter-watching groupies can e-mail him tips about the Mann case, but now he has even hired a mysterious, unnamed private investigator to finally reveal all those skeletons in Mann’s closet.  Oh, the fact that nobody has ever seen these skeletons doesn’t fool Steyn, because his crack investigator can find stuff like that when it isn’t even there.  Be afraid, Michael Mann.  And watch what you put in your garbage cans.

Aside from the best free-speech legal team in the land, we’ve now taken on someone to direct this side of the investigation against Mann. He’s already working full-time on the case – he was in Washington yesterday for the Congressional hearings on the IPCC, and meeting with climate scientists and others. He’ll also be heading to Penn State and other places hither and yon. I’ve been very grateful for your suggestions since I struck out on my own five months ago, and if you’ve any more I hope you’ll continue to send them our team via manntips@defendfreespeech.org.

Yes, Inspector Steyn is on the case, and if he doesn’t succeed in finding a clue, he will at least very likely succeed at continuing to persuade the rubes to finance his legal battle via coffee mug sales and such.

It would not have been possible to take on someone to direct the investigative efforts in this case without your continued support…. If you’d like to be part of the resistance to Big Climate, we’ve brought back the SteynOnline gift certificate, [etc., etc., etc.].

This really gets to the heart of the matter.  People like Mark Steyn are paid to sound very sure of themselves while they tell other Dunning-Kruger sufferers what they want to hear.  If Steyn ever breaks character, and say, admits that maybe he could have possibly worded an article in a slightly less legally actionable manner… or settles the defamation suit out of court… or lets on that he just doesn’t have any hard evidence to contradict all those official inquiries that exonerated Mann… his funds will dry up.  The only option is to never let up.  He has to keep pretending he knows something damning about Mann, and that this is some giant battle for Freedom Of Speech, rather than an utterly mundane defamation suit.  All those conspiracy nuts want COMMITMENT, because that’s the only way the insidious, massive cabal bent on world domination can ever be unmasked.

If it amuses you to watch Shaggy and Scooby posturing about the ongoing investigation into how Michael Mann managed to fabricate data that was later essentially replicated by dozens of other scientists using different temperature proxies and statistical methods, you may want to take a nostalgic trip back to some of my previous posts about a fan favorite at Climate Asylum–Lord Christopher Monckton!  Remember when His Benificence threatened to sue Prof. John Abraham for revealing his many distortions and.. ahem… truth-deficient statements?  And when the suit never materialized, he creepily indicated that he had investigators snooping into John’s finances?  (Oh, and here, too.)  Remember when I told a reporter that Monckton has a reputation for making stuff up, and he started claiming he was instigating an investigation of my conduct by my university?  And then the reporter called up the University and they said there was no investigation, and never had been?  Oh, and don’t forget the time he claimed to have “a senior Australian Police officer” investigating alleged “fraud” by a climate scientist.  Ah, the memories.

My point, of course, is that the vague hand-waving about ongoing investigations has been done to death, so nobody is impressed by it except the same rubes who fall for it every time.  Both Lord Monckton and Mark Steyn will die rich men, because that well will never dry up.

H/T to BigCityLib.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | May 25, 2014

Deseret News: Who are the “Alarmists”?

I wrote an op-ed for the Deseret News with the headline, “Who are the ‘alarmists’ here? Real conservatives value evidence,” in which I roasted a couple so-called Conservative commentators for their anti-Conservative determination to do nothing about climate change.  Here’s the money quote:

So who is being “hysterical” and “alarmist?” On one hand, we have people using all the best scientific, political and economic analyses — complete with estimates of uncertainty and risk — to come up with recommendations on how to solve a pressing problem in the most cost-effective manner. On the other hand, we have self-proclaimed “conservatives,” supposed champions of personal responsibility, neglecting to obtain even a cursory familiarity with the best scholarship on the topic, blaming our inaction on what they assume (without evidence) China will do, extolling the unlimited capacity of humans to solve problems while excusing the present generation from even trying, and shrieking overwrought, nonsensical warnings about what serious climate action will cost.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | March 19, 2014

Mark Steyn’s Flashdance

It’s an old story.  A stripper longs to be a ballerina, but the stuffy board at the local ballet company rejects her.  She’s just a working class girl, who never had the money to pay for fancy ballet classes, and so EXCUSE HER for not living up to their standards of hoity-toitiness.  Finally, the stripper gives up trying to play their game, and does another audition in which she dances really slutty, writhing around on the table where the board members are trying to write notes about the applicants, and knocking askew the board members’ conservative-looking glasses.  The board members are shocked, but intrigued.  They realize that maybe what ballet has been missing all this time is a massive injection of sluttiness to put some butts in the seats.  Our heroine is admitted to the ballet company, and HOORAY FOR BEING YOURSELF!!!!

If real life is just like Flashdance, or innumerable other movies with essentially the same plot, then Mark Steyn is poised to win a stunning legal victory against Prof. Michael Mann.  Yes, after two judges failed to dismiss Mann vs. National Review et al. based on Anti-SLAPP laws, because they found the suit is likely to succeed on its merits, defendant Mark Steyn fired his lawyers, and now he’s DOING IT HIS WAY!!!  What is HIS WAY, you ask?  Well, Steyn has filed a 33-page motion to dismiss the suit based on… wait for it… Anti-SLAPP laws, and cuz America is a free country, right?  And FURTHERMORE, his motion files a countersuit against Mann, demanding at least $10,000,000 for infringing on his free speech rights (i.e., his right to falsely accuse people of crimes in print media), and cuz Mann is a big meanie who has sued others for the same thing.

If real life refuses to conform to Flashdance, however, the result might not be so favorable for Steyn.  As one lawyer who happens to support Steyn about the free speech issue predicted, Mann’s lawyers filed a motion to dismiss the countersuit based on… Anti-SLAPP laws… and to award Mann attorney’s fees for having to deal with the frivolous countersuit.  You see, Anti-SLAPP laws are designed to protect people against frivolous lawsuits… like Steyn’s.  Mann’s lawyers note that “The specific legal theories upon which Steyn bases his counterclaims are unclear,” and that the only “evidence” Steyn presented didn’t have anything directly to do with this case.

Never fear, though!  Steyn is busy getting his minions to finance his legal battles by buying more Mark Steyn coffee mugs and such from the steynonline.com store.  And as he has constantly assured his backers, there’s no way he’s going to settle the lawsuit.  So as long as Mark Steyn continues to just BE HIMSELF, playing the free speech martyr while twirling about the pole of shameless money grubbing, he might just make enough bank to cover the legal bills and any eventual judgement against him.  The only losers will be the slack-jawed yokels who threw all their seed money onto the stage over a court case that Steyn could have avoided simply by inserting an “in my opinion” or two into his original, execrable piece.  YOU GO, GIRL!!!

 

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | February 13, 2014

The Free Speech Brigade Suppresses Free Speech

The Mann v. National Review et al. case (which I have previously written about here, here, and here) has the Free Speech Brigade out in force.  These people have, or at least pretend to have, such extreme views about “free speech” that they will spout reams of dissembling nonsense to convince unsuspecting readers that they should be up in arms about the most pedestrian defamation case imaginable.  The irony is that if they succeed at convincing their target audiences, but not at convincing judges and others who aren’t too lazy to read a couple legal documents, they might actually persuade some people to suppress their own Constitutionally protected speech.

EXHIBIT A is Professor Stephen L. Carter, of the Yale Law School, who recently wrote an opinion piece on Bloomberg entitled, “Climate-Change Skeptics Have a Right To Free Speech, Too“.   Read More…

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | January 28, 2014

What Precedent? Why National Review et al. Are Running Scared

Whenever there is a big, public legal battle, it seems like the principals spend a lot of time talking about “setting precedents”.  Sometimes this is legitimate, because if you can help it, you don’t want the bad guys to get away with any heinous miscarriages of justice.  But in other cases, all the talk about “setting precedents” is just so much public posturing.  Of course, both sides will accuse the other of posturing, but if you pay attention, sometimes it becomes apparent which is which.  I believe this is now true for the Mann v. National Review et al. case, for instance.  (The defendants are the National Review, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Mark Steyn, and Rand Simberg.) Read More…

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | January 27, 2014

Free Speech 101 for Sulky Teenagers

Yea, Michael Mann hath prevailed upon the court to allow his defamation suit to go forward.  And there was weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth.  (The Apocalypse of Barry 62:3)

Ever since climate scientist Mike Mann filed a defamation suit against defendants Mark Steyn, the National Review, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and Rand Simberg, the reaction among the defendants and their climate contrarian audience has been predictable.  Although the case is REALLY about the fact that the defendants published an accusation that Mike Mann had fraudulently manipulated the data that went into his famous “Hockey Stick” paleotemperature reconstructions, this fact never seems to make it into their public whine-sessions about their “free speech” rights.  Steyn says he is being sued simply because he “mocked” Mann’s Hockey Stick work, or alternatively that he is accused of “the hitherto unknown crime of defaming a Nobel Laureate“.  No, he’s just accused of defamation, which has been on the books for a while, now.  All of this is to be expected, because you see, Steyn and co. want to lead the charge for “First Amendment Rights”, but they don’t want to foot the legal bills, so they are begging the rubes in their target audiences for money to mount their legal defense.  After all, they can’t be seen to back down and apologize, add a caveat or two, or label their accusations as opinion, because then they would lose street-cred with the mouth-breathing conspiracy theorists who read their publications.  Therefore, they publicly pretend that Big Brother is out to quash their right to disagree with New-World-Order-mandated science, so they can get the black-helicopter-watchers to hand over their stashes of gold bullion from their bunker safes.  

Others are playing along.  Conservative pundit and Constitutional Law professor (!!?) Hugh Hewitt asked Steyn, “How can people help you protect the 1st Amendment, because while the intricacies of this buffoonish trial are too impossible to explain, from my perspective as a Con Law professor, it’s outrageous what is going on.”  (It’s not that complicated, Hugh. Keep reading.)  Judith Curry sees “frightening implications of this case for free speech,” and whines that if accusing Mann of fraudulently manipulating his data qualifies as defamation, then so should Mann’s comments that she is “anti-science”, and a “serial climate misinformer”.  (No, Judy, those comments merely indicate that Mann thinks you are pigheadedly wrong on a regular basis. He did not flatly accuse you of criminal conduct, or conduct that could get you fired from your job.) 

All of this reminded me of an experience I had when I was a stupid teenager.  About this time, my parents were cracking down on my curfew, and things like that.  What right did they have?  Ok, I sometimes got up to no good, but they couldn’t prove anything.  I wanted FREEDOM, and to me that meant a lot fewer restrictions.  Well, one day I was watching MTV, which is what stupid teenagers did in the 80’s, when they did a segment in which they asked some teenagers what the greatest problems were in the world.  One skateboarder/stoner replied, “Censorship.”  Within a parade of “Uhhhhs” and “likes” and such, he explained that any sort of limitations of any kind of “free expression” are evil.  Brain-addled as I was, I still snorted and said, “That’s stupid.”  Because, even at that stage, I was capable of recognizing that some forms of “free expression” trample on other people’s rights.  Nowadays, these things are even easier; e.g., if I look up “freedom of speech” on TheFreeDictionary.com, I find that it is “the right of people to express their opinions publicly without governmental interference, subject to the laws against libel, incitement to violence or rebellion, etc.”  Lots of caveats on their Free Legal Dictionary, too.

Now, that isn’t to say that I had any clue about the intricacies of free speech laws when I was a teenager, but I’ll tell you how I got a bit of an education about that when I was almost three decades older.  I had recently provided detailed evidence that His Worship, Christopher Monckton, the 3rd Viscount of Fantasyland, had been telling Congress and anyone else who would listen that the IPCC had made certain temperature projections, which in fact they had not.  Monckton’s predictable response was to explode in a mushroom cloud of bluster to impress his constituency (conspiracy theorists who wouldn’t know how to check his claims even if they wanted to).  Among (a LOT of) other things, he said

Some have said that the IPCC projection zone on our graphs should show exactly the values that the IPCC actually projects for the A2 scenario. However, as will soon become apparent, the IPCC’s “global-warming” projections for the early part of the present century appear to have been, in effect, artificially detuned to conform more closely to observation. In compiling our graphs, we decided not merely to accept the IPCC’s projections as being a true representation of the warming that using the IPCC’s own methods for determining climate sensitivity would lead us to expect, but to establish just how much warming the use of the IPCC’s methods would predict, and to take that warming as the basis for the definition of the IPCC projection zone.

So in essence, I had accused him of falsely claiming that the temperature projections he cited were from the IPCC, and he came right out and admitted that I was right (underneath a truckload of gratuitous self-justification).  They weren’t the IPCC’s projections, as he had claimed, but rather the projections Monckton thought the IPCC should have given.  

Shortly thereafter, I discovered that one of my U.S. Senators, Orrin Hatch, was promoting Monckton’s fake IPCC temperature projections to excuse his climate change inaction.  I fired off a couple of op-eds in local newspapers, and in one of them I complained about “Hatch’s use of fraudulent data.” 

Monckton then wrote a letter to my university’s administration, threatening to sue for libel, and I got called down to my dean’s office.  The dean told me that the university legal team didn’t think Monckton had any case, so they were going to ignore him, but they asked that in the future I should avoid using words like “fraud”, which can have some legal implications.  In other words, I was using the word “fraud” with the common definition, “a piece of trickery; a trick,” but the word also has some specific legal definitions, like this one.

A false representation of a matter of fact—whether by words or by conduct, by false or misleading allegations, or by concealment of what should have been disclosed—that deceives and is intended to deceive another so that the individual will act upon it to her or his legal injury.

Now, my pride was telling me not to back down.  Heck, I could represent myself, and my defense would simply be that Monckton had admitted to fudging the facts (TO CONGRESS!!!).  Given the non-legal definition of “fraud,” that is a perfectly reasonable thing to call what he did, I would say.

But the fact is that I’m not some sulky, stupid teenager, anymore.  I didn’t want to drag my university into any row with Monckton, and after all, I didn’t really think I could prove “fraud” by the legal definition above, because for all I know, Monckton really believes in the climate nonsense he peddles… just like he might really believe that he is a member of Parliament and has invented a cure-all for quite a number of serious diseases, including AIDS, multiple sclerosis, Graves’ Disease, influenza, herpes, and the common cold.  How should I know?  Being an adult, since my visit with the dean I have avoided using the words “fraud” and “liar” in connection with Monckton.  I figure that I can still call his fudged data “fabricated,” or call him “truth-challenged,” or a “crackpot,” etc.  I don’t have to know his motives to say any of that, and legally, there is no way to trump up those words into anything actionable, as long as I provide substantial evidence for any factual claims I make.  And I don’t feel like my “free speech” is being trampled upon just because I have to consider how my words might be misinterpreted to be a charge of criminal behavior.  If Monckton had carried it any further (don’t worry–he threatens to sue his critics all the time, but never follows through,) I would have even offered to make this apology:  “I apologize for calling what Lord Monckton claimed to be IPCC temperature predictions ‘fraudulent’.  By that, I meant only that the data was false, and fabricated by him.  Some definitions of the word ‘fraudulent’ imply malicious intent, but I really have no idea why His Lordship fabricated said data.”  

Now let’s take another look at Michael Mann’s case.  I thought the online legal dictionary’s definitions “libel” and “libel per se” were helpful for understanding the issues involved.

libel 1) n. to publish in print (including pictures), writing or broadcast through radio, television or film, an untruth about another which will do harm to that person or his/her reputation, by tending to bring the target into ridicule, hatred, scorn or contempt of others. Libel is the written or broadcast form of defamation, distinguished from slander which is oral defamation. It is a tort (civil wrong) making the person or entity (like a newspaper, magazine or political organization) open to a lawsuit for damages by the person who can prove the statement about him/her was a lie. Publication need only be to one person, but it must be a statement which claims to be fact, and is not clearly identified as an opinion. While it is sometimes said that the person making the libelous statement must have been intentional and malicious, actually it need only be obvious that the statement would do harm and is untrue. Proof of malice, however, does allow a party defamed to sue for “general damages” for damage to reputation, while an inadvertent libel limits the damages to actual harm (such as loss of business) called “special damages.” “Libel per se” involves statements so vicious that malice is assumed and does not require a proof of intent to get an award of general damages. Libel against the reputation of a person who has died will allow surviving members of the family to bring an action for damages. Most states provide for a party defamed by a periodical to demand a published retraction. If the correction is made, then there is no right to file a lawsuit. Governmental bodies are supposedly immune for actions for libel on the basis that there could be no intent by a non-personal entity, and further, public records are exempt from claims of libel. However, there is at least one known case in which there was a financial settlement as well as a published correction when a state government newsletter incorrectly stated that a dentist had been disciplined for illegal conduct. The rules covering libel against a “public figure” (particularly a political or governmental person) are special, based on U. S. Supreme Court decisions. The key is that to uphold the right to express opinions or fair comment on public figures, the libel must be malicious to constitute grounds for a lawsuit for damages. Minor errors in reporting are not libel, such as saying Mrs. Jones was 55 when she was only 48, or getting an address or title incorrect. 2) v. to broadcast or publish a written defamatory statement.

 

libel per se n. broadcast or written publication of a false statement about another which accuses him/her of a crime, immoral acts, inability to perform his/her profession, having a loathsome disease (like syphilis), or dishonesty in business. Such claims are considered so obviously harmful that malice need not be proved to obtain a judgment for “general damages,” and not just specific losses.

Here are a few points I took away from these helpful definitions.

  1. If DC is like “most states,” all the defendants had to do was print a retraction (like the apology to Monckton I wrote above), and Mann couldn’t have sued.  But no, they must FIGHT FOR FREEDOM AND JUSTICE!
  2. That’s ok, though, because all the defendants have to do is show that Mann really did manipulate his data!  Oh, but since a number of scientific, governmental, and academic panels (including one from the National Research Council) have already examined the charges and found that any mistakes Mann made didn’t affect his results much, maybe that’s sort of unlikely that they can come up with the goods.  And given the fact that Mark Steyn apparently thinks the “Hockey Stick” is a “global-warming climate model,” I would put that probability at exactly zero.  
  3. Given that charges of academic fraud could lead to the firing of even tenured professors, Mann can claim “libel per se” and not even have to prove malice.   In fact, the judge in the case has already ruled that he will not dismiss the case because a jury is likely to find that the false accusation “was published with knowledge of its falsity or reckless disregard of whether it was false or not….”  If all Mann has to prove is that the accusation was published with “reckless disregard of whether it was false or not”… did I mention that Steyn thinks the “Hockey Stick” is a climate model?
  4. If the defendants had thrown in a few weasel words in the first place, clearly indicating they were providing opinions, rather than factual accusations, they couldn’t have been sued.

So while it’s really entertaining to watch the defendants squirm and posture, I wish they would put on their big-boy pants and admit fault, because even black-helicopter-watchers don’t deserve to be bilked of their money under a false pretenses (i.e., the pretense that the case is really about something other than run-of-the-mill defamation, or the pretense that the defendants even know enough about the “Hockey Stick” controversy to say anything coherent about it).  And if people like Judith Curry and Hugh Hewitt really do want to protect human rights, they should find a better persecuted-poster-boy-for-free-speech than Mark Steyn, for heaven’s sake.

If you haven’t been following the Michael Mann v. National Review, Inc. et al. case, here’s a quick summary.  Rand Simberg, of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, thought he had a clever way to capitalize on the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State.  Compare Penn State climate scientist Michael Mann to Jerry Sandusky, and accuse him of producing fraudulent scientific data!  This charge was repeated by Mark Steyn, blogging for the National Review magazine, and of course, neither Steyn nor Simberg had the presence of mind to clearly label their accusations as opinion, or provide any caveats whatsoever, or… you know… provide any “evidence” for the accusations.  Having put up with such accusations by wingnuts for a number of years, Mann sued.  Of course, the defendants have been complaining about their “free speech” rights, and trying to get the case thrown out based on certain laws meant to stop people from using defamation/libel suits to stifle legitimate public discourse.  But there are limits on “free speech,” and now two different judges have ruled that they would allow the case to proceed, because it is likely to succeed if presented to a jury.  Meanwhile, Mark Steyn and others at the National Review… well, especially Steyn… can’t seem to keep their pie-holes shut long enough to keep from making their prospects even worse.  For instance, Steyn let loose with some searing remarks about how stupid and incompetent the first judge (who recently retired) was, which appears to have resulted in a parting of the ways between Steyn (and probably the NR) and their lawyers, so that now Steyn is representing himself (badly).  Anyway, if you want to  protect your “right” to publicly throw out baseless accusations of fraud, it’s going to cost you some cabbage, and so lately Steyn has been out begging the rubes to finance his Crusade for Freedom and Justice.  Recently, he did so on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show.  Hewitt was quite supportive of Steyn, but given that he claims to be a Constitutional Law professor (and given Steyn’s comments on the show,) I thought it likely that Steyn might not have been completely forthcoming about the nature of the case.  Here’s the note I sent Hewitt through his Facebook page.  We’ll see if he was really misinformed, or just another rube Steyn is trying to manipulate into paying his bills.

Dear Hugh,
 
I am an active Republican and a geochemistry professor at Brigham Young University.  I noticed that you had Mark Steyn on your show the other day, complaining about how Michael Mann’s lawsuit against him had not been dismissed, and trying to drum up some donations to help him with his legal defense.  I thought you should know, however, that Steyn wasn’t being completely honest with you about the case.
 
On your show, Steyn seemed to imply that the case was about his right to disagree with Mann’s “Hockey Stick” reconstructions of paleotemperatures over the last 1000 years or so.  This is not the case.  Steyn is being sued because he made the accusation that Mann “molested and tortured data in the service of politicized science,” and that Mann’s scientific work was “fraudulent”.  Both judges in the case have noted that this accusation was a statement of fact rather than mere opinion, and can hypothetically be proved true or false.  It is therefore grounds for a defamation suit, if it can be shown that 1) the accusation is false, and 2) Steyn made the accusation either knowing it was false, or with reckless disregard for the truth.  
 
I don’t know whether Mann will win the case, or not, but it is clearly not just some frivolous suit meant to stifle legitimate public discourse.  For one thing, the accusation is clearly false.  The main charge against the “Hockey Stick” work was that Mann and his colleagues had misused principal components analysis (a statistical technique) to obtain a certain outcome.  But when scientific bodies such as the National Research Council reviewed the case, they found that the statistics could have been done better, but the mistakes didn’t change the results much.  They also found no evidence of “fraud”.  Now, if you were going to commit scientific “fraud,” wouldn’t you fudge your data so as to actually obtain substantially different results?  The “fraud” charge is just ridiculous, whether or not you believe the “Hockey Stick” accurately describes the temperature evolution over the last 1000 years.  For another thing, it seems very likely that Mann’s legal team can show that, at the very least, Steyn made the accusation with “reckless disregard for the truth.”  
 
Why am I so confident about that?  Because several scientific, academic, and governmental panels had already ruled there was no evidence of fraud, and Steyn knew that.  Second, because Steyn can’t seem to keep his ignorant mouth shut.  On your show, for instance, he claimed that the National Research Council agrees with him.  About what?  Certainly not about the fraud charge, which is what he actually being sued over.  Also consider this passage from one of Steyn’s recent columns.
 
“In a post at NATIONAL REVIEW’s website, I mocked Dr. Michael Mann, the celebrated global warm-monger, and his ‘hockey stick,’ the most famous of all the late-Nineties global-warming climate models to which dull, uncooperative 21st-century reality has failed to live up. So he sued.”
 
Ummm… Aside from the fact that Steyn is once again implying that he is being sued for something other than calling Mann’s work “fraudulent”, I note that Steyn apparently thinks the “Hockey Stick” is a “climate model” that made predictions about the 21st century.  It isn’t.  It didn’t.  So in other words, Steyn is insisting on his right to publicly call a scientist’s work “fraudulent”, when he clearly has made no effort to understand what said scientific work is even about.  So let’s just please ignore all his posturing about his right to his opinion about the matter.  He doesn’t even care what the facts are.
 
So, Hugh, I believe you said you are a Constitutional Law professor.  Are you still quite so hot to defend Steyn’s foolishness?
 
Sincerely, 
 
Barry Bickmore
Posted by: Barry Bickmore | January 7, 2014

Republican Scientist: “Rush Limbaugh is an Idiot”

Ok, I’m too polite (and overweight) to call him a “big, fat idiot” like Al Franken, but today someone sent me a link to this post of Limbaugh’s in which he says,

Do you know what the polar vortex is? Have you ever heard of it? Well, they just created it for this week. Actually, there is a piece. I’ve got a piece in the Stack that actually makes the case that all of this frigid, chilling cold is due to global warming, strange as it may sound, it says. Other wackos are saying it’s a great example of climate change, but regardless, the agenda is that we’re responsible, we’re causing it, we have to pay the price. And so any weather extreme now is said to be man-made, and therefore it fulfills the leftist agenda on this.

Meteorologists have actually been using the term “polar vortex” for some time–far beyond the past week, as Rush might gather by looking up “Polar Vortex” on Wikipedia and checking some of the references… such as this NASA press release from 2001, which is entitled, “Stratospheric Polar Vortex Influences Winter Cold, Researchers Say”.  A little Googling might uncover this 1971 article in the Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences that mentions the “polar vortex”.  

Now, I don’t know how strong the link between global warming and a weakening polar vortex (which has been shown allow more extreme weather outbreaks) is, but at least the basic idea makes physical sense.  And the articles I’ve seen (like this one from Time Magazine) make sure to point out that the research that posits this link is fairly preliminary.

What I do know is that Rush Limbaugh doesn’t know anything about science, as he proves essentially every time he opens his mouth about a scientific topic.  Given how much the guy is talking every day, I don’t understand how he could possibly know enough about anything to ever open his mouth with any conviction.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | August 29, 2013

SL Trib: Why are Scientists Leaving the GOP?

Judy Fahys has another article in the Salt Lake Tribune, in which she asked Utah Scientists (especially those who are Republicans or used to be) why only 6% of scientists now identify with the GOP.  I hope my fellow Republicans keep asking themselves that question.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | August 27, 2013

SL Trib: Chris Stewart and LaMar Smith–Conspiracy Theorists

As the new Chairman of the House Environment Subcommittee, Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) isn’t about resting on his laurels, refusing to spend hard-earned taxpayer dollars.  No, he is busy spending your money to protect corporations from having to shoulder the cost of adverse health effects of air pollution.  If corporations benevolently distribute jobs to the poor, boosting the economy, is it their fault everyone else has to put up with the asthma and various other diseases that go with it?

Ok, wait… air pollution isn’t very popular, nowadays, so how can House Republicans let the polluters off the hook, while acting like they’re being completely reasonable?  I KNOW.  They can attack scientists for being part of the liberal conspiracy to take away our GOD-GIVEN FREEDOMS!

Judy Fahys reports in the Salt Lake Tribune that Rep. Stewart has teamed up with fellow genius Rep. LaMar Smith (R-Texas) to demand that the EPA release the data used in a couple large studies of the health effects of air pollution.  Now, sure–lots of other studies (using different data) have confirmed the results of those two studies, and an independent industry- and government-funded institute already spent 3 years confirming the results of the studies–but the fact is that the studies in question have slavishly followed ultra-liberal “laws” that forbid them from releasing health data of patients in any form that would allow someone to connect the data to the person (e.g., by looking up obituaries).  THEY MUST BE HIDING SOMETHING!!!  I mean, what other purpose could ultra-liberal privacy laws have, than to provide cover for a giant conspiracy?

One of the researchers being attacked is BYU economist C. Arden Pope.  Judy interviewed me, too–presumably because I’m a Republican scientist, and quoted me strongly implying that Stewart is a nut.

For Barry Bickmore, a BYU geochemist, the attacks on air-pollution science are the latest examples of “nutty beliefs” about scientific issues from the GOP.

Bickmore, who takes on “climate deniers” in his Climate Asylum blog, said this controversy is the latest example of the manufacturing of uncertainty to accomplish political aims, just as politicians have done in the past to discredit the science surrounding secondhand smoke and the addictiveness of nicotine.

“This is just par for the course,” he said. “This is the same thing going on — some of the same people, too.”

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | August 24, 2013

Willful Blindness

I just watched a TED video of Margaret Heffernan talking about “The Dangers of Willful Blindness”.  (She’s also written a book called Willful Blindness, apparently.  See her official website.)  Heffernan talks about why some people turn a blind eye to glaring problems, while others choose to become “whistleblowers”.

Her introductory example was the case of Libby, Montana, where one woman, Gayla Benefield, started asking questions when both her parents died young, and she noticed an abnormal number of older men on oxygen tanks in the town.  She wondered whether the problem could have anything to do with the vermiculite mine that was the main economic engine of the town, and came to find out that the vermiculite mined there actually contains some asbestos.  [Note:  Heffernan says that vermiculite is a highly toxic form of asbestos, but that’s not true.  Vermiculite is pretty harmless–it’s just that this particular deposit also contained the minerals tremolite and actinolite, which are asbestos minerals.  Sorry, I’m a mineralogy teacher.]  At first, Benefield mostly just annoyed her neighbors, who didn’t want to look at the issue seriously, but that ticked her off and she kept at it.  Some of the neighbors even printed bumper stickers that said, “Yes, I’m from Libby, Montana.  No, I don’t have asbestosis.”  When the government finally stepped in and started screening the residents of the town, they found out that there was an asbestosis problem, and as a result the mortality rate in the town was 80 TIMES HIGHER THAN ANYWHERE ELSE IN THE COUNTRY.  Not 80% higher.  80 TIMES higher.  Not 80 times higher than average.  80 times higher than ANYWHERE ELSE in the country.

Now, I don’t have to tell my readers how I think this story relates to being a Republican Earth scientist who takes climate change seriously.  But watch the video and pay attention to how Heffernan describes the excuses people make for remaining willfully blind.  See if you don’t find eerie similarities with the excuses you hear coming from the “Do-Nothing-About-Climate” crowd.

Climate change wasn’t the first issue about which I had encountered willful blindness, though.  Back in 2000-2001, I worked on a project having to do with leaked nuclear waste at the Hanford Site in Eastern Washington.  This is where most of the plutonium for US nuclear weapons was produced since the 40’s, and production stopped in the late 80’s after a safety inspector blew the whistle on some of the UNBELIEVABLY unsafe things that were being done.  Since it was part of the weapons complex, all this stuff never came out before then because it was all hush-hush, national defense kind of stuff.  Maybe a couple million gallons of high-level nuclear waste have been released into the subsurface, a few miles by groundwater flow away from the Columbia River.  When I started the project, I decided to read up on the history of the site, and let me tell you, it cured quite a bit of my aversion to environmental regulation.  If you want to read a good historical account, see Atomic Harvest: Hanford and the Lethal Toll of America’s Nuclear Arsenal, by Michael D’Antonio.

This isn’t a uniquely Republican, or American problem.  It’s just the way people are.  But while I can use this fact of life to make myself feel a little more kindly toward people who brush off serious concerns about things like climate change, it also makes me want to give them a good shake and a couple backhanded slaps.  If facing the truth is going to make people fly into a panic, well maybe they just need to buck up.

Last week, I wrote a response to one Rich Trzupek, a guest blogger for the discredited Heartland Institute, who was outraged that climate scientist Michael Mann had said this:

Proof is for mathematical theorems and alcoholic beverages. It’s not for science….  Science works in evidence through best explanations, most credible theories, and so in a sense we’re at a disadvantage because we have to play by the rules, the other side doesn’t… They’re not offering up credible alternatives or explanations. In most cases they’re trying to pick holes. Not real holes, just things that the public will think are holes, in the science. We are at a disadvantage.

Trzupek was so incensed because it was obvious to him that,

Mann’s attempt to separate proof from science stems from increasing public awareness that the warming predicted by the high-sensitivity models that Mann and others have championed just hasn’t occurred over the last fifteen years. No matter. You don’t need “proof” when you have “credible theories.”

That comes as something of a shock to me. When I was going to school to earn my degree in chemistry, we were taught that science was indeed all about absolute truths and proofs at the end of the day. “Credible theories” is how you got to those truths, not an alternative to them.

My response (which was similar to those of Tamino and Phil Plait) was to point out that Professor Mann was correct, and Trzupek appeared to be hopelessly confused.  “Credible theories” (which are just plausible explanations for some set of data) are the best science has to offer, and even if those theories happen to coincide with “absolute truths,” human beings would have no way of absolutely “proving” that.  This is all standard philosophy of science fare, which Trzupek could have found discussed in any introductory textbook on the subject.  It’s also an important distinction in a practical sense, because the refusal to accept any of our explanations as the final truth is one thing that makes modern science a much more powerful system of thought than the various natural philosophies that preceded it.  Moreover, it’s important to understand that, since scientific theories are all tentative to one degree or another, they are all susceptible to nitpicking.  All of them have a few grey areas where the predictions don’t exactly match the data, and many times we don’t know whether the problem is with the theory, the data, or both.  And even if we know the theory isn’t quite right, it still may be very good for predicting some things, so we hang onto it until someone comes up with a “better” theory–one that explains more data, or at least explains the same data in a more simple and elegant manner.

All of this is quite inconvenient for the intellectually lazy, because it requires continual sifting and re-sifting of evidence.  There usually aren’t any “silver bullets”–single tests that can make or break a theory–and so there is always at least a little subjectivity involved in theory choice.  This makes it very difficult or impossible to achieve 100% consensus among scientists about anything.  

It’s interesting to read the discussion in the comments section of Trzupek’s post, as well as the repost on Watt’s Up With That?  Some of the commenters were hard-core climate change contrarians–real Mann-haters–but even some of them had to point out that, in this case, Mann was right.

Now Trzupek has written a follow-up post to reassure his readers that he’s not as uninformed as his initial post makes him appear.

Ah, me. It seems that I wrote a post herebouts that was intended to hold AGW-panickers like Michael Mann to something of a standard, that standard being that they should have an obligation to show that their theories are pretty darn reliable and consistent with real world evidence.

In my day job, dealing with air quality science and regulations, that’s the kind of standard I am held to by the EPA, and it seems reasonable to expect that people who expect us to change our entire way of life in deference to a theory should be held to the same kind of standard. In attempting to make that point, I used the word that Mann had used – “proof” – and that it is of course that is the word that Mann’s supporters seized upon to demonstrate what an utter pratt I am….

Anyway, the point of my particular screed was not to reaffirm the difference between Chesterson’s (rather obvious) point that two plus two equals four because there can be no other result, and the scientific need for proof in our discipline’s eternal search for truth. It was to re-emphasize the fact that offering evidence that your particular hypothesis approaches reality is even more important in the scientific sphere. Such evidence is not to be despised, but rather to be embraced.

Did you get that?  When Trzupek accused Professor Mann of “redefin[ing] science” by saying that science doesn’t deal in “proof,” but instead only has recourse to “credible theories”… when Trzupek  said that science is “indeed all about absolute truths and proofs,” and that credible theories are but steppingstones to those absolute truths… he was really just saying that scientific theories should be supported by evidence.  Well, so much for “absolute truths and proofs.”  But then, how was Mike Mann “redefining” anything?  How can a theory be “credible” if it isn’t backed by evidence, and how can it be a “best explanation” if it doesn’t explain real data?

Could it be that, just as his critics charged, Trzupek’s criticism of Mike Mann was completely unfounded… just another in a string of bizarre attempts by unhinged wackos to target a scientist whose work, although not without faults, has repeatedly withstood the most intense scrutiny?

Trzupek doesn’t want to be seen that way, and it was especially distressing to him that his article was criticized on Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy blog.  You see, Trzupek is a fan of Phil’s, and much of his follow-up post is a friendly invitation for Phil to reconsider his views about climate change “skeptics” [sic].

If you’re buying into Mann’s argument that everyone on the “other side” is a tool of the energy lobby, there’s no point in having a conversation — for that’s not really an argument, but is rather an excuse to not have an argument. I’ve interacted with a lot of people on the skeptical side of the aisle and they are – without exception – good, decent, sincere and well-meaning folks. That goes in particular for the folks at Heartland. People like Joe and Diane Bast, James Taylor, Jay Lehr, and Jim Lakely are the sorts of people you’d like to have as your neighbors. That’s the reason I choose to help them out whenever I can and why I have never – and would never – accept a dime from them.

Well, I can’t speak for Phil Plait, but since Rich Trzupek’s plea seems sincere, I figure I’ll try to explain to him why he has such a hard time getting those on the other side of the fence to take him seriously.

Dear Rich,

I noted that in your latest Heartland blog post you seem bothered that Phil Plait, a scientist whose work you greatly admire, was so dismissive of your article about how Michael Mann was trying to “redefine” science.  You seem very sincere in your efforts to convince Phil and others that you and your friends associated with, or employed by, the Heartland Institute are nice, sincere people with genuine questions about the validity of mainstream climate science.  And while you joke about what a thick skin you have because you “routinely get called everything from a liar to a baby-killer,” I can tell that it bothers you that you are criticized so vigorously “when [you] go after the Sierra Club or NRDC or other environmental organizations for blowing the tiniest risk out of all reasonable proportions.”

I think I understand your point of view, to some extent.  I’m a geochemistry professor, but I’m also a lifelong pro-business Republican who has never picketed or marched to support or protest any cause of any kind, environmental or otherwise.  I’m just not the type.  I’ve witnessed excesses by some environmentalists, too, and while I agree that these people are usually well intentioned, I just don’t think they have always thought through the consequences of the policies they advocate.

I’m also a former climate change “skeptic”–meaning that I didn’t buy that humans were going to cause much damage by burning fossil fuels.  Now that I have taken a harder look at the issue, I have changed my mind.  Yes, there are extremists on this side of the fence–there always are–but the people running the show over here are, in my opinion, reasonable people and conscientious scientists who have no interest in trashing the world economy or taking extreme measures to reduce the human population.  The parts I am able to check of the science they use to back up their claims seem generally good and reasonable, and most of these people seem willing to bend when it comes to the kinds of solutions they will support.

“Good and reasonable” science isn’t necessarily right, however, so I probably would still be more of a fence sitter if I hadn’t also been checking into the claims of some of the most prominent contrarian voices.  I really wanted to believe them, but what I have found so far is that the most prominent contrarians–the ones hailed as climate Galileos and the like–are either complete crackpots or are so blinded by ideology that they don’t recognize that their science on the subject is just awful.  Oh, it’s not that I never see anything coming from that side of the fence that’s worth hearing, but those points are really few and far between.  For the most part, what I’ve seen over there has seemed kind of creepy.

If you really want people like Phil Plait–scientists who are on the other side of the fence on the climate change issue and have done some checking for themselves–to take you seriously, I have to say that you have an uphill climb ahead of you.  Allow me to point out a few aspects of your last two Heartland posts, for instance, where I think you were shooting yourself in the foot.

1.  Your first argument was flatly wrong, and your second made no sense.  Reasonable people try to be more self-critical than that.

All your talk about how Michael Mann was “redefine[ing] science” because he said that science deals in credible theories and best explanations, not “proof,” was just wrong.  Pick up any introductory philosophy of science textbook, and you’ll be treated to historical case studies and logical analyses to demonstrate that Mann had his description of the nature of science exactly right.  You’ll also find that your statement that science is “indeed all about absolute truths and proofs,” and that credible theories are “how you [get] to those truths,” is wrong.  Scientific theories don’t graduate into “absolute truths.”  They remain theories, no matter how well supported they are.

But then in your follow-up post you seemed to switch gears, claiming that all you meant was that science requires “offering evidence that your particular hypothesis approaches reality.”  And what, exactly, did Professor Mann ever say that would make you think he believes otherwise?  Considering how pointed your language was about “absolute truth” and “redefining science,” it seems clear that you are backing off your original claim, but refusing to apologize to Professor Mann for an obviously misguided criticism.

2. Your initial criticism and subsequent failure to apologize make it seem like you are part of the rabid lynch mob who have been trying to ruin Mike Mann’s reputation over the past several years.  These people creep us out.

The fact that you failed to apologize to Mike Mann for your obvious blunder, but instead decided to bluster about how thick-skinned you are, daring your audience to compare you to Jerry Sandusky, makes me wonder whether you are one of those obsessed weirdos who are constantly trying to ruin Prof. Mann.

Climate change contrarians generally seem to have problems with Mike Mann’s “hockey stick” reconstructions of Northern Hemisphere surface temperatures over the past few hundred to couple thousand years.  I understand that it’s a visually stunning illustration of the fact that the Earth’s surface temperature has lately been doing something different than it was in the relatively recent past, but it’s not as if it’s the lynchpin of all modern climate science.  I would think it was, considering the rabidness of the response from the contrarians.

The anti-hockey-stick mob includes two camps.  Those in the first camp are the sort who can read some innocuous reference to “Mike’s Nature trick” in an e-mail and become irreversibly convinced that there is some giant conspiracy going on.  The others are the ones who, even though they don’t have a clue what a “principal component” is, are convinced that nitpicking, poorly done statistical analyses (such as those by McIntyre and McKitrick) prove that Mann purposefully did something funny with his data… even though over a dozen subsequent paleo-proxy reconstructions, using different proxy mixes and different statistical techniques, by different groups, have given very close to the same answer Mann et al. got.

How many panels need to clear Mann of wrongdoing, and how many studies need to show that, whatever the flaws in his analysis, his answer was pretty close, before these people stop trying to get various rabidly anti-government attorneys general and congressmen to launch investigations to harass Mann?  To those of us over on the other side of the fence, this behavior is really creepy–something you’d see in a horror movie about some murderous cult.

3. You demonstrate almost a complete lack of understanding about how scientists use models, and what surface temperatures have to do with climate physics.

After we strip away the ridiculous charge that Professor Mann was “redefin[ing] science,” what we’re left with is your contention that the standard climate models are obviously wrong because the warming trend over the last 15 years isn’t statistically significant.

For me (as someone with some experience doing numerical modeling of Earth processes,) it’s a bit odd to see people huddled around the global temperature reports every month to see for how many years they can claim the warming trend isn’t statistically significant.  While the models don’t predict that such a long period with statistically insignificant warming will happen very often, they do predict that they will happen, once in a while.  But suppose the flatter (not totally flat) trend goes on for a few more years?  What will that prove?  It seems to me that it will prove that the models aren’t that great at predicting ENSO fluctuations (which we already knew), because the most obvious physical reason for the recent trend is that lately the ENSO cycle has leaned more toward the La Niña end.  In other words, more heat than average has been shoved down into the deeper ocean due to fluctuations in ocean currents.  Measurements of ocean heat content at different depths bear this out, and show that the Earth as a whole (not just the narrow band right at the surface) has been heating up just like it has been for decades.  When the cycle flips and we start getting more El Niños, the surface temperature will go up faster.

Students in pretty much every numerical modeling course are introduced to this quotation by the statistician, George Box.  “Essentially, all models are wrong, but some are useful.”  Even if the physics represented by the models were absolutely perfect, plugging those into a 3D grid where the boxes are kilometers across would lead inevitably to errors, especially in the short term.  This is especially true for a chaotic system like the weather.  So the idea that we should conclude they are useless just because they don’t USUALLY predict warming slowdowns quite so long seems patently absurd to me.

If you want scientists to take you seriously, make some kind of effort to learn how they use models, and what deviations from model projections might mean.  Take the time to learn the difference between short-term chaos and long-term predictability.  And take the time to learn a little climate physics–which will teach you that the short-term surface temperature isn’t necessarily a good indication of how much total heat the Earth is absorbing.

4. You are writing for the Heartland Institute.  Like it or not, their reputation adheres to you, especially when you specifically put forward certain Heartland operatives and associated scientists as wonderful folks just out to find the truth.  We have experience with these people.

Take your Heartland pal James Taylor, for instance.  I don’t know the guy personally, but it’s obvious from his writing that he’s a libertarian ideologue who is WAY too easily convinced that any study tending to confirm his bias against the utility of government regulation is the last nail in the coffin of mainstream science.  For instance, he proclaimed, regarding a recent study by Roy Spencer and Danny Braswell, that “New NASA Data Blow Gaping Hole in Global Warming Alarmism.”  Well, the thing is that Taylor is a lawyer, and wouldn’t have a clue about the significance of any satellite data if it smacked him upside the head.  It turned out that the situation wasn’t quite as dire as Spencer and Braswell claimed.  They were making a statistical argument without calculating any uncertainties, for one thing, and they just happened to leave out most of the data they said they had analyzed, some of which completely undercut their main argument.  In the end, all that could be said of their analysis was that it showed that the timing of certain short-term fluctuations in weather is better predicted by some GCMs than others.  Which was already well known.

Now take another of your Heartland pals, Jay Lehr, Ph.D.  Jay isn’t a mere lawyer like James Taylor–he’s a groundwater hydrologist with a Ph.D.  [UPDATE:  Yeah, Jay Lehr is a really great guy.  He was successfully prosecuted for defrauding the EPA.]  A few years ago, he gave a glowing review to Roy Spencer’s book, The Great Global Warming Blunder.  For Lehr, Roy Spencer is “one of the nation’s leading climate scientists”.

Spencer documents that the science clearly shows man does not in fact control the climate in any significant way and the natural forces that continually alter the earth’s climate are relatively easy to discern and understand….

I can assure you that anyone with honesty and an IQ exceeding plant life will, after reading Spencer’s book, at last understand the workings and proper role of mathematical climate models.

Being a “skeptic” who rejects the majority view of climate specialists because he’s a tough-minded iconoclast–a true scientist–he came to these conclusions after he checked into Spencer’s models for himself, right?

Wrong.  I know this because I did an extensive review of Spencer’s book myself.  One of Spencer’s main claims was that a natural mode of climate oscillation, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), has lately been the main driver of global climate change, and that climate sensitivity to greenhouse gases is low.  He supported this conclusion by creating a simple climate model that, when forced by the PDO index, still explained most of the 20th century warming.  I reproduced Spencer’s model, showing that there were so many free parameters that an infinite number of solutions existed.  The statistical technique he used to obtain “best-fit” parameters could have given him any climate sensitivity he wanted.  In addition, to get his model to resemble the data at all, he had to start his model wildly out of equilibrium in the year 1900.  Physicist Arthur Smith followed up my review by doing a mathematical proof, showing that Spencer’s model HAS TO have an infinite number of solutions.  He also showed that if the model had been started 1000 years ago, Spencer would have had to have the starting temperature be a few trillion degrees out of equilibrium to properly reproduce the 20th century trend.  In other words, Spencer’s modeling effort was pure junk.  It didn’t even deserve the epithet “junk science.”

You might object that you’d believe Roy Spencer and Jim Lehr over me any day, but not so fast.  If you got a degree in chemistry, you should have the tools to learn how to evaluate Spencer’s model.  I can teach you how to code it in MATLAB (and maybe even Excel), explain all the relevant statistics, and so on.  We could make a “Roy Spencer’s PDO Model Study Group,” and include others you trust.  Roy Spencer refuses to answer my criticisms, so maybe a smart guy like you could do him a favor and put them to rest.

Finally, Heartland always invites Christopher Monckton to speak at their climate conference.  Oh, please.

In any case, this is what other scientists see when they look at Heartland–a few ideologues of varying intelligence who aren’t nearly as “skeptical” as they want people to believe.

5. No really, we’re talking about the Heartland Institute, which has shilled for the tobacco industry, for Pete’s sake.

For me, it’s not the climate change disinformation campaign that’s the worst thing about Heartland–it’s the tobacco.  Back in the 1990’s, Heartland was paid by Philip Morris to distribute materials questioning the health risks of second-hand smoke.  [UPDATE:  Heartland is actually still partly funded by tobacco companies like Philip Morris and Reynolds.  H/T John Mashey.]  Here we have a case where, after decades of obfuscation, the tobacco industry now generally admits that smoking is harmful to health, but now they are trying to maintain that second-hand smoke isn’t harmful.  Smokers can’t sue the tobacco companies because cigarette packages have health warnings stamped on them, and the tobacco companies want to protect themselves from people who are involuntarily exposed to tobacco smoke by maintaining that second-hand smoke isn’t harmful.  A committee of the UK House of Commons, after conducting an inquiry in 2000 about the tobacco industry’s behavior in such matters, concluded,

In analysing the past and present record of the tobacco industry’s response to the health risks of smoking we have observed a pattern. It seems to us that the companies have sought to undermine the scientific consensus until such time as that position appears ridiculous. So the companies now generally accept that smoking is dangerous (but put forward distracting arguments to suggest that epidemiology is not an exact science, so that the figures for those killed by tobacco may be exaggerated); are equivocal about nicotine’s addictiveness; and are still attempting to undermine the argument that passive smoking is dangerous. The current exceptions to this – based on the evidence they gave us – are firstly Philip Morris who claim no longer to comment on these issues except to protect themselves in law and secondly Imperial who claim not to know whether smoking is dangerous or nicotine addictive.

The Philip Morris company (Heartland’s former sugar-daddy) is wise to keep their pie-holes shut about what they know about the health effects of second-hand smoke.  A 2005 article in The Lancet summarizes their quandary as follows.

The tobacco industry maintained, for many years, that it was unaware of research about the toxic effects of smoking. By the 1970s, however, the industry decided that it needed this information but they were unwilling to seek it in a way that was open to public scrutiny. By means of material from internal industry documents it can be revealed that one company, Philip Morris, acquired a research facility, INBIFO, in Germany and created a complex mechanism seeking to ensure that the work done in the facility could not be linked to Philip Morris. In particular it involved the appointment of a Swedish professor as a ‘co-ordinator’, who would synthesise reports for onward transmission to the USA. Various arrangements were made to conceal this process, not only from the wider public, but also from many within Philip Morris, although it was known to some senior executives. INBIFO appears to have published only a small amount of its research and what was published appears to differ considerably from what was not. In particular, the unpublished reports provided evidence of the greater toxicity of sidestream than mainstream smoke, a finding of particular relevance given the industry’s continuing denial of the harmful effects of passive smoking. By contrast, much of its published work comprises papers that convey a message that could be considered useful to the industry, in particular casting doubt on methods used to assess the effects of passive smoking.

Fast-forward to 2003, and we find one of your Heartland pals, James Taylor, promoting a study that “concluded that secondhand smoke has little if any negative impact on mortality.”  Was this study credible?  Taylor quoted two people, Jacob Sullum, a journalist writing for the Washington Times, and Kimberly Bowman of the American Council on Science and Health, saying that this new study was actually consistent with most previous studies.

Really?  Because that’s not the vibe I get from the medical research community.  The World Health Organization and the International Agency for Research on Cancer said the following in a 2004 meta-analysis of all significant published research on second-hand smoke health effects.

These meta-analyses show that there is a statistically significant and consistent association between lung cancer risk in spouses of smokers and exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke from the spouse who smokes. The excess risk is of the order of 20% for women and 30% for men and remains after controlling for some potential sources of bias and confounding.

Boy, that seems strange… until one realizes that Jacob Sullum is a journalist who regularly writes for various libertarian-leaning publications about how smokers and drug users are picked on, and the American Council on Science and Health is another industry-funded think-tank that regularly argues against environmental regulations, although at least it usually acknowledges adverse health effects from tobacco (now that nobody would take them seriously if they didn’t).  And it turns out that the study in question was funded by the tobacco industry.

That’s why most scientists don’t merely see the Heartland Institute as a collection of deluded ideologues.  Think-tanks-for-hire that would even cater to Big Tobacco truly creep us out.  We see them as the sort of ghouls who, whether for profit or in service of their extreme libertarian ideologies, can all too easily convince themselves to promote activities that demonstrably hurt, or even kill, many innocent people.  They accomplish this by acting as if the scientific community is in their corner, when really they are leaving out most of the evidence and citing mostly industry-funded studies and think-tanks, as well as a few genuine crackpots.

Once in a while, the “concerned citizen” facade falls, and we get to see how these ghouls really think.  This happened to the Chairman of the RJR Nabisco corporation at the 1996 annual shareholders meeting.  (Here’s the transcript.  See pp. 61-63.)  One Ms. Donley asked the Chairman, Charles M. Harper, whether he had children or grandchildren, and whether he wanted anyone smoking around those children.  The Chairman initially replied that he would try to discourage the children from smoking, but he didn’t want to restrict their right to be smokers.  Ms. Donley wasn’t having it.

MS. DONLEY:  That’s not my question, sir.  Excuse me for interrupting you.  I’m not asking you whether you want them to smoke, I’m asking whether you want people to smoke around them.

THE CHAIRMAN:  I will not restrict anybody’s right to smoke.  If the children don’t like to be in a smoky room, and I wouldn’t like to be, they’ll leave.  I don’t know if you’ve got any grandchildren;  I do.  And if there is smoke around that’s uncomfortable, they’ll leave.

MS. DONLEY:  An infant cannot leave a room.

THE CHAIRMAN:  Well–okay.  At some point they begin to crawl, okay?  And then they begin to walk, and so on.  Anyway, I guess that’s enough said.

Apparently, the crowd of shareholders was applauding the Chairman, which shocked the next person to speak, one Father Michael Crosby.

MR. CROSBY:  Mr. Harper, I was going to say something else, but when people clap at what you just said, that–that children will crawl out of a room and will have to wait until they crawl–

THE CHAIRMAN:  That’s a bit of a misstatement, Father.

MR. CROSBY:  I mean, that is insensitive.  And I think that’s terribly insensitive that the shareholders would clap at a statement like that.  I don’t want to do a guilt thing, but it really is a disappointing thing.  You  might disagree, but children should not have to take in other peoples’ smoke.  We don’t need it and we can walk out; a child can’t.

And these are the kind of people that Heartland has shilled for–the sort who care more about share prices than dead babies.  If the babies don’t like it, they can learn to crawl and take a hike.

You have a tough row to hoe if you want scientists to take you seriously, my friend.  I know you say that having people call you a baby-killer has toughened you up, but if it really does bother you, your first move should be to dump Heartland like a hot brick.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | August 2, 2013

Heartland Institute Knows Squat About Science

I told you so.  For years, I have been arguing that scientists and science educators should stop talking about science as if it were possible to completely “prove” a hypothesis or theory.  Instead, we should be MILITANTLY trying to get our students and the public to understand that science is always tentative, involves creativity, and so on.  For example, I argued this point in a recent talk at DePauw University, a 2010 blog post, and a couple 2009 papers published in the Journal of Geoscience Education.  Here’s a passage from one of the papers.

Scientists and science educators are often frustrated when their students or the general public reject certain scientific theories (e.g., evolution or climate change) without a proper hearing.  We then complain that if people only understood the nature of science (NOS,) they wouldn’t be so militant in their resistance.  This is true, but much of the fault lies with us.  Science educators often either neglect to teach the NOS, or hold to outdated views and pass them on to students.  If we hold more sophisticated views of the NOS, we often soft-pedal the creative and tentative aspects of scientific thought, out of fear that students will take this as license to reject science outright.  (Bickmore et al., 2009, On teaching the nature of science and the science-religion interface, Journal of Geoscience Education, 57, 168-177.)

Now, a recent case in point.  On the “Somewhat Reasonable [sic]” blog of the discredited Heartland Institute, James Trzupek reported his astonishment at a comment about the nature of science by climate scientist Michael Mann.  Here’s how Trzupek begins.

In a post over at Peter Guest’s blog, Michael “Hockey Stick” Mann is quoted making one of the most remarkable statements that I’ve ever heard coming out of a supposed scientist’s mouth:

“Proof is for mathematical theorems and alcoholic beverages. It’s not for science.”

He goes on to explain that science is all about “credible theories” and “best explanations” and his gosh-darn critics supposedly don’t offer up any of those.

Now it seems pretty obvious that Mann’s attempt to separate proof from science stems from increasing public awareness that the warming predicted by the high-sensitivity models that Mann and others have championed just hasn’t occurred over the last fifteen years. No matter. You don’t need “proof” when you have “credible theories.”

That comes as something of a shock to me. When I was going to school to earn my degree in chemistry, we were taught that science was indeed all about absolute truths and proofs at the end of the day. “Credible theories” is how you got to those truths, not an alternative to them.

Mr. Trzupek’s comments seem to show an astonishing ignorance about the nature of science that could be cured by taking a single course in the History and Philosophy of Science or reading a single textbook on the subject.  My recommendation for the beginner would be Samir Okasha’s Philosophy of Science:  A Very Short Introduction, but if you don’t want to spend the time to read Okasha’s 160 pages, I wrote a 15 page piece on the subject for introductory science students called “Science As Storytelling“.

The idea that scientific theories (or any other kind of theories) are always “underdetermined” by the data has been around at least since David Hume in the 18th century, but since the last half of the 20th century it has been the standard position among historians and philosophers of science.  E.g., even back in 1934 Karl Popper could write (in Logik der Forschung) that scientific theories are “forever tentative,” because they can never be conclusively proven true, but he clung to the idea that at least they can be “falsified,” i.e., conclusively proven false.  Subsequent scholars like Imre Lakatos and Thomas Kuhn employed very strong historical and philosophical arguments to show that even Popper’s falsifiability criterion was too strong.  Now, a standard textbook in Philosophy of Science can bluntly state,

As a matter of logic, scientific law can neither be completely established by available evidence, nor conclusively falsified by a finite body of evidence.  This does not mean that scientists are not justified on the occasions at which they surrender hypotheses because of countervailing evidence, or accept them because of the outcome of an experiment.  What it means is that confirmation and disconfirmation are more complex matters than the mere derivation of positive or negative instances of a hypothesis being tested.  (Alex Rosenberg, Philosophy of Science:  A Contemporary Introduction.  London, Routledge, 2000, p. 114.)

But are the philosophers going off on a tangent, here?  No, well informed science educators all accept this point, so that the National Academies of Science publication, Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science can say that “the statements of science should never be accepted as ‘final truth.’”

I said Mr. Trzupek’s comments “seem” to show an “astonishing” ignorance, but unfortunately his ignorance isn’t so surprising.  The fact is that it is well known to historians and philosophers of science that scientists themselves are often quite ignorant about these things, and even if they aren’t, they don’t spend a lot of time trying to help their students come to the same understanding.  The result is that it is perfectly possible for someone like Mr. Trzupek to earn an entire BS in Chemistry, and still believe that “science [is]… all about absolute truths and proofs at the end of the day.”  This problem was noted back in 1990 by Virginia Tech philosopher of science Joseph Pitt.

Rarely is a connection made between the different sciences and it certainly is the case that little, if any, effort is made to touch on the history, philosophy or sociology of science.  In short, most of our students are exposed to a year of the current (and soon to be obsolete) thinking about biology, or physics or chemistry and we call that science education.  That’s a laugh.

The situation is not much better in the colleges.  While it is true that there are more courses taught there, it is generally the case that in no science or engineering curriculum are students required to take courses in the history, sociology or philosophy of science, nor are they required to consider the relationships among the various sciences.   (Pitt, 1990, The myth of science education, Studies in Philosophy and Education, 10, 7-17.)

Given these considerations, here are my conclusions about the Heartland Institute’s recent pontifications on the nature of science.

1. BRAVO to Mike Mann.  What he said about the nature of science is spot-on, and scientists need to keep pounding this point home to students and the public.  “Proof is for mathematical theorems and alcoholic beverages. It’s not for science.”

2. Mr. Trzupek provides us with an excellent example of what happens when we fail to pound the message in.  Here we have a guy who managed to graduate with a degree in chemistry, and still has wildly naive ideas about the nature of science.  Thinking that “real science” is a matter of proof, all he has to do to convince himself to reject any branch of science he doesn’t like (climate science, evolutionary science, or whatever) is to point out a few grey areas.  I invite Mr. Trzupek to update his thinking about the nature of science so that he can join substantive conversations about climate science.  (WARNING:  It’s a lot more work.)

3.  People like Al Gore, while I appreciate what he and others have done to publicize the problem of climate change, need to knock it off with their pronouncements that “the science is settled.”  Warts and all, science has a pretty darn good track record, and everyone knows it.  Thanks, but scientists don’t need that kind of help to make our case, because it’s too easy to point out some grey areas in ANY branch of science.

[NOTE:  Tamino has also posted about Mr. Trzupek’s nonsense.]

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | July 31, 2013

Video: Climate Change and the Open Mind

Back in April I gave an invited talk entitled “Climate Change and the Open Mind” at DePauw University.  This was part of a workshop called “Cool Talk about a Hot Topic: The Ethics of Communicating about Climate Change,” put on by the Prindle Institute for Ethics.  Click here to see the video of the talk.  There are also links there to the other talks given at the symposium.

The question I asked was why things like political ideology are much better predictors of a person’s views about climate change than things like education.  I think some of the answer has to do with flaws in how we educate people about 1) what it means to be a critical thinker, and 2) what it means to do science.  My primary example to illustrate my points was Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), and of course I had to bring in Christopher Monckton.  That’s just a given.

 

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | July 2, 2013

New Videos Page

Make sure to check out my new videos page, which you can access by clicking here or clicking on the “Videos” tab above.  This page collects together the recorded talks I’ve given about climate change and other informational videos I’ve made.  Yes, I make fun of Christopher Monckton.  ;-)

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | May 16, 2013

Rebuttal to Former Senator Bob Bennett

A couple weeks ago, former U.S. Senator Bob Bennett (R-Utah) published an op-ed in the Deseret News, in which he went on about how climate science isn’t “settled,” and that we shouldn’t “panic,” but instead do things that “make sense” to combat climate change.  They just published my reply.

 

 

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | May 10, 2013

National Journal: The Coming GOP Civil War Over Climate Change

A number of Republicans like me believe we are shooting ourselves in the foot by acting like a bunch of slack-jawed yokels and tinfoil-hat-wearing loons with respect to climate change.  Here’s a very good National Journal article about moves within the Republican party to start addressing climate change.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | May 8, 2013

WaPo Fact Checker on Rep. Stewart

In my last post, I linked to a Salt Lake Tribune op-ed by Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) in which he said,

There is also uncertainty regarding to what degree man is to blame for global warming. However, the claim that 98 percent of scientists agree that humans are the singular driver of climate change has been repeatedly discounted. This oft-cited statistic is based on an online survey with a sample size of only 77 people, and the survey didn’t even ask to what degree humans contribute to climate change.

In my op-ed response, I said,

Several lines of evidence, including multiple surveys of climate science experts and the peer-reviewed scientific literature on climate change, indicate that at most a few percent of the experts disagree with the consensus view that humans are mostly responsible for the climate change over the past half century. Stewart doesn’t challenge this view with any competing study, He just nitpicks a single study and ignores the rest.

Now Glenn Kessler, who writes the Fact Checker blog at The Washington Post, has gone into much more detail about why Stewart’s cherrypicking is disingenuous.  He ends up awarding Rep. Stewart “4 Pinocchios,” which translates as “Whoppers”.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | April 20, 2013

My Response to Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah)

The editorial board for The Salt Lake Tribune has been mercilessly criticizing Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT) for ignoring the scientific evidence for human-caused climate change, even though he has been appointed chairman of the House subcommittee on the Environment.  Stewart is unapologetic, and the Tribune published an op-ed by him last week, in which he tried to justify his uninformed opinion.  I responded with my own op-ed, which the Tribune published today.  Enjoy.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | April 8, 2013

The Monckton Files: The New Zealand Blues

Fellow Moncktonophiles,

This piece about Monckton’s recent “barnstorming” tour of New Zealand will brighten your day.  Nyuck, nyuck.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | February 13, 2013

The Monckton Files: Bickmore’s First and Second Laws of Monckton

A few years ago, a biologist at my university became enamored with Lord Christopher Monckton’s special brand of climate pseudoscience, and tried to drum up support for some department on campus to host him as a speaker.  The response was… ahem… less than enthusiastic.  But during the exchange among interested parties, the biologist said this:

This man stands out, unique, because he knows the field, possibly more broadly and deeply than anyone.I wrote to Prof. Richard Lindzen, Atmospheric Sciences, MIT, asking if I was overestimating Lord Monckton’s expertise. He replied immediately “Not at all. Monckton is knowledgeable”.

I almost choked.  It was one thing for the biologist to fall for Monckton’s nonsense–he’s very convincing, or at least, he sounds very sure of himself.  Rather, I was shocked that Dick Lindzen thought so highly of him.  After all, it didn’t take me long to figure out that His Lordship has a tendency to make up data, among other things.  But Dick Lindzen?  Lindzen is a contrarian, to be sure, but the fact is that he is a very accomplished climate scientist.  He’s made significant contributions to the field, and even though the climatologists I know think he has an unhealthy obsession with proving low climate sensitivity, they generally consider his objections to mainstream science to be worth considering, at least.  In other words, Lindzen’s serial attempts to prove low climate sensitivity have been wrong, but not mere crack-pottery.

Like I said, that was a few years ago, and I wonder whether Lindzen has been fazed at all by Monckton’s downward spiral–making up fake data, falsely claiming to be a member of Parliament, claiming to have invented a miracle cure for almost all diseases, going about promoting various ultra-right conspiracy theories, including the birther conspiracy, etc.  What, exactly, will it take to persuade Monckton fans it’s time to start slowly backing away?

It’s started happening here and there.  For instance, last year a spokesman from the UK Independence Party (for which Monckton had been a top official) publicly bad-mouthed His Lordship, calling him “a loose cannon” and a “17th century pamphleteer”.  Now Andrew Bolt, an Australian blow-hard newspaper columnist who has, in the past, praised His Lordship’s great genius regarding climate-related matters, has publicly given a “Deep Sigh” about Monckton’s recent endorsement of the fringe “Rise Up Australia Party”, whose platform’s main planks are apparently  cracking down on Muslims and gays.  Oh, and “religious freedom.”  (How could I forget?)  Here’s what Bolt said:

Why on earth was Christopher Monckton endorsing the nationalist Rise Up Australia Party? Great chance for warmists to paint climate sceptics as fringe dwellers.

More details and analysis on the Watching the Deniers blog.

Based on this trend, I am going to go out on a limb and add a two new Laws to the Bickmore’s Laws page (see below).  We shall see how well these laws hold up to empirical testing over the coming months and years.

Bickmore’s First Law of Monckton:  For every person who publicly endorses Lord Monckton’s climate pronouncements for merely irrational reasons, there exists a threshold in Monckton’s behavior which, if crossed, will cause said person to regret their association.

Bickmore’s Second Law of Monckton:  Any behavioral threshold posited by Bickmore’s First Law of Monckton will eventually be crossed by Lord Monckton.

[UPDATE:  More analysis by Graham Readfearn at DeSmog Blog.]

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | January 29, 2013

Utah Republican Legislator Floats Climate Change Bill…!!!

I’m gobsmacked.  A Republican legislator from Heber City, Kraig Powell, has submitted a bill to the Utah State Legislature that… (drumroll)… assumes the possibility of human-caused climate change.  The point of the bill (HB77) is to allow state land managers to consider human-caused climate change when developing plans to deal with wildfire mitigation.  Yes, they apparently need the Legislature to give them permission.

Read Salt Lake Tribune articles by Judy Fahys and Paul Rolly.

Read the text of HB77.

Now make sure to contact Rep. Powell and give him your support, especially if you live in his district (Summit or Wasatch counties.)  And if you do live in his district, make sure to show up for your next Republican caucus meeting and vote in delegates who aren’t Tea Party and/or Eagle Forum nuts who will be gunning for him.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | November 19, 2012

Betting on Climate Change

Physicist Mark Boslough proposes a sort of climate futures trading market that carbon dumpers are required to participate in.  If climate doesn’t change much, they make money.  If it does, they lose money.  Seems like an interesting idea for a market-based alternative to a carbon tax.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | October 26, 2012

The Monckton Files: Now it’s Al Gore Going to JAIL!!!

In my last few posts, I reported on how The Gibraltar Chronicle had printed several articles about Lord Christopher Monckton’s trip to Gibraltar meant to counter Al Gore’s appearance there.  Frankly, the articles sounded like they were simply press releases written by His Lordship himself, but when Monckton’s PR guy started bullying the Chronicle staff because they wouldn’t print an unredacted version of his letter that the editors said was probably libelous, they printed an article about how they wouldn’t be bullied.  I wrote to the editor a few times, and they printed part of my challenge to debate Monckton in an online, written format that allows for source checking (“US Geologist Challenges Monckton,” 24 October 2012).  (In fairness, I should point out that Gibraltar is home to less than 30,000 people, so the Chronicle isn’t a big operation.  We can criticize their coverage as trying too hard to be “balanced,” but it would be very difficult for such a small operation to go big on fact checking.)

I also sent the challenge to Bob Ferguson, Monckton’s handler at the Science and Public Policy Institute.  (You have to love their URL, sppinstitute.org.  Bob, you’re a genius.)  Of course, I haven’t gotten a reply.  It’s not impossible, but it seems unlikely.  I mean, I truly believe Monckton has fallen off his box, but even he isn’t so cray-cray that he enjoys that foggy, confused feeling one gets when shown video evidence that one really did say what one just claimed he didn’t.  (This is what veteran science journalist Peter Hadfield did to His Lordship, after which Monckton was far, far too busy to debate further.)

His Lordship just can’t shut up, however.  Apparently, in a speech he gave Monday in Gibraltar, he claimed that a government agency in Gibraltar had twice lost his application for a press pass that would allow him to attend a talk by Al Gore.  The No. 6 Press Office countered to the Chronicle that this was flatly untrue.

“Despite being the only individual to apply for accreditation after the deadline, Lord Monckton was given full journalistic access to the THINKING GREEN seminar. The Press Office can categorically confirm that Lord Monckton made just one single application and that his application was cleared without any delay. There were no ‘lost applications’,” said No. 6.

What’s more, apparently Monckton tried to set the agenda for the Opposition party in Gibraltar, which was not appreciated.

Meanwhile GBC reported yesterday that the Leader of the Opposition has denied that the Opposition is considering going to court over the cost of the Thinking Green Conference. The assertion, it said, was made by Climate Change sceptic, Lord Monckton, at a packed public meeting Monday night.

The story gets better, though.  Monckton also appears to have threatened to have Al Gore arrested for making false claims on British soil.  He seems very sure of himself.

“If you come to any British territory and you talk the rubbish you’ve been talking elsewhere, then you will be arrested and prosecuted.”

Remember how he made the same threats against IPCC Chairman Rajendra Pachauri?  Hmmm.  I wonder how the investigation is going.  I should ring Scotland Yard, but why bother?  I’m sure they’re working on it, and His Lordship will emerge triumphant, just like he eventually will in all the other lawsuits and investigations he has threatened to carry out, but hasn’t gotten around to.

Now, I’ve been saying all along that His Lordship is God’s gift to people concerned about climate change.  Why?  Because he seems to be on a downward mental spiral, in which he keeps saying crazier and crazier things.  Eventually, those who have taken him Oh, So Seriously will be looking at their watches and pretending they were never very tight.  At that point, I’m sure we’ll just politely look the other way.  ;-)  I think Gibraltar is a microcosm that we can learn from in this respect, because now the word “Monckton” has taken on added meaning, according to the Chronicle.

The Government has hit out at ‘nit-picking’ Opposition member Jaime Netto, call him the “Lord Monckton of this Government’s Health and Safety policy.”

In their statement they say that it is clear to them that Mr Netto has set himself up as the ‘Lord Monckton’ because during the Tuesday Health and Safety meeting he was seen busily scribbling down notes only during the addresses given by the Chief Minister Fabian Picardo and Minister for Health and Safety, Paul Balban, but that Mr Netto stopped taking notes “as soon as the visiting experts began their talks.”

This according to the Government makes it clear to them that “Mr Netto was there purely to nit-pick the Government’s ministers rather than to offer any genuine contributions to the debate.”

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | October 23, 2012

Debate Challenge to Viscount Monckton

October 22, 2012

Dear Viscount Monckton,

I noticed a number of articles in The Gibraltar Chronicle (links here: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5) about your most recent attempts to engage Al Gore in a debate about climate change, and I agree that you deserve an answer, although not necessarily from Gore.  In response, I would like to renew my challenge to debate you about climate change in an online, written format, in which we have time to check our opponent’s sources.  I was never given a satisfactory answer as to why you declined the first time, but I am always willing to give you another chance.

On Jan. 20, 2010, your handler, Science and Public Policy Institute President Bob Ferguson, contacted me and challenged me to debate you in an oral, staged format.  I immediately responded by declining the oral format, but instead suggested that we debate in an online, written format that would allow for source checking.  Ferguson initially responded, “Your suggestion for a written, online debate is worth consideration.”  However, when I asked Ferguson about the possibility of such a debate shortly thereafter, he simply responded, “No.”

Should you accept the challenge, I would be happy to host the debate on my blog, Climate Asylum, or on another site that we could mutually agree upon.  I would also try to be flexible about debate rules and length limitations, although I must insist that we be able to link to outside sources.

I will certainly understand if you consider me too unimportant a figure to debate.  After all, I’m sure that’s what Al Gore thinks of you.  But before you decide, consider how you stated your challenge to Al Gore back in 2009.  “I want you to face me in a debate about global warming, and if you don’t dare, I want you to remain silent about that subject forever, from now on.”

Sincerely,

Barry R. Bickmore, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Geological Sciences

Brigham Young University

Provo, Utah  USA

 

Disclaimer:  The views expressed here are my own, and do not reflect any policy or position of my employer.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | October 23, 2012

The Monckton Files: Love Letters

Yesterday I mentioned an article in The Gibraltar Chronicle, about how Christopher Monckton’s PR man had tried to bully the editors into publishing a libelous letter (“Chronicle Refuses to be Bullied by Monckton PR Man,” Oct. 20, 2012).  The libelous letter was precipitated by two letters to the editor by prominent citizens of Gibraltar, who objected to the Chronicle publishing a number of articles casting Monckton in a favorable light.  The letters to the editor are not in the online edition of the paper, but I was able to obtain a copy.  Here they are.

Dear Sir,

The on-going campaign by the Chronicle against Al Gore and the parallel promotion of the views of Lord Monckton is hard to understand. Al Gore, Nobel Peace Prize Winner, elected on four occasions to the US Senate and deprived of the Presidency by a biased US Supreme Court, can hardly be placed on an equal footing to an obscure climate sceptic who represents nobody, as the Chronicle seems to be attempting to do.

A cursory search on the internet reveals a few interesting facts about Lord Monckton. This gentleman, a hereditary peer, has attempted, unsuccessfully, on four occasions to be admitted to the House of Lords, receiving zero votes on each occasion. He is currently a member of UKIP and stood for parliamentary election in 2011, receiving 1.1% of the vote. Though Monckton has no scientific qualifications, he has proclaimed himself to be an authority on climate change and, while accepting that there is a greenhouse effect, he strongly refutes that this man-made phenomenon is responsible for accelerated climate change. He is a regular speaker at the Heartland Institute›s Conference on Climate Change. The Heartland Institute is a rabidly right-wing institution heavily subsidized by oil companies such as Exxon Mobil, among others with vested interests. Some of its views include questioning the link between second-hand smoke and health risks, blaming ‘slackers’ for unemployment, arguing against universal health care and so on. This gives a pretty good idea of the kind of audience that Monckton is in sync with.

Monckton has also made a lot of noise regarding errors or inconsistencies in Al Gore’s film/book “An Inconvenient Truth”, for example the emphasis on the melting of the Arctic and the danger posed to polar bears, the flooding of low-lying islands in the Pacific, the threat to Greenland’s ice cap. Recent data about these developments strongly support Gore’s views and expose the vindictiveness with which his adversaries have acted. What really matters is that Gore alerted the world to the dangers and put environmentalism on the map. The general thrust of his arguments have been found to be correct by peer-reviewed scientific evidence. There is near universal acceptance (apart from “flat-earthers” like Monckton and at least one Chronicle opinion writer) of the impact of human activity on the world›s climate. If one thinks about it, it’s logical, reasonable, inevitable but, hopefully, not irreversible.

The views of Al Gore and Juan Verde are worth listening to and the Government is to be congratulated for giving us the opportunity to hear them first hand.

Sincerely,

Alfred Cortes

Editor’s note: Representing a diversity of views does not in our view amount to a campaign. Our readers in our view are able to make these judgments for themselves only if alternate views are presented.

 

Dear Sir,

On the 16th October, your newspaper touted Christopher Monckton as a “climate change science expert”.  In science, the term “expert” is customarily reserved for scientists who have made an important contribution to their study subject via PhD theses and publication in journals that operate the standard scientific practice of rigorous peer-revision.  Monckton is not a trained scientist and the lists of his publications that we have seen do not include papers published in peer-reviewed journals.  Furthermore, his claims about being Margaret Thatcher’s science adviser, including specifically on climate, appear to be exaggerated. In addition, his arguments are not supported by scientific consensus on climate change.  That means that the overwhelming majority of climate scientists, i.e., trained scientists who publish extensively in peer reviewed journals – “experts” – in the conventional sense – disagree with his views.

Monckton appears to be a publicity hungry sensationalist and is therefore guilty of some of the same accusations that he levels against Gore, albeit as a member of the opposite camp in the climate debate.  An independent newspaper such as yours should research the  background of all individuals – Monckton, Gore or any other – before making assertions about them.

Sincerely

Dr. Alex Menez

Dr. Keith Bensusan

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | October 22, 2012

The Monckton Files: The Monckton Challenge

Al Gore has lately been in Gibraltar giving the usual climate change speeches, and so, naturally, Lord Christopher Monckton has been renewing his constant debate challenges, telling Gore to accept the challenge or get out of Gibraltar, and so on.  The Gibraltar Chronicle has published a number of fawning articles (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) publicizing Monckton’s challenges over the past few weeks, but their latest editorial (“Chronicle Refuses to be Bullied by Monckton PR Man,” Oct. 20, 2012) seems to indicate that the honeymoon is over.  I just sent the editors the following letter.

Dear Chronicle Editors,

Lately, you have published a number of articles depicting Christopher Monckton as a “science expert,” who was “recently appointed an Expert Reviewer for the IPCC’s 2013 Fifth Assessment Report on Climate Change.” In fact, Monckton has no degrees in any science, and has never published a single peer-reviewed scientific paper on any topic. To become an IPCC reviewer, furthermore, one need only send in a request to the IPCC and agree not to publicly discuss the report before publication. All of you could just as easily become “Expert Reviewers,” in other words.

Your latest article about Monckton (“Chronicle Refuses to be Bullied by Monckton PR Man,” Oct. 20, 2012) seems to indicate that you may finally be getting an inkling of the kind of man you are dealing with. Perhaps you are now in the right frame of mind to do me a small favor. You have repeatedly publicized Monckton’s challenges to Al Gore, but you may not know that a few years ago His Lordship’s handler, Bob Ferguson, offered to pay me $5,000 (U.S.) to debate Monckton. I declined, but offered to debate for free if we could do an online, written debate, in which both of us would have time to check the other’s sources. At first, Ferguson told me he thought it was a reasonable idea, but later flatly refused. I would like to renew this challenge to Lord Monckton. Would the Gibraltar Chronicle be willing to 1) publicly deliver this challenge to Monckton, 2) host such a debate on its website, and 3) publicize the event?

Sincerely,

Barry Bickmore

[Contact Info removed]

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | August 26, 2012

Is the Republican Party Anti-Science?

Friday I was on an Al Jazeera TV show called Inside Story Americas.  The topic was “Why do many Republicans distrust scientists?” You can watch the whole show here.

This was my first time on a show like this, so don’t expect greatness.  What I learned was:

1.  When you do a remote TV interview, you are supposed to stare at a spot just under the camera lens, and the camera guy keeps pointing urgently at that spot if your eyes wander.  It is VERY DIFFICULT to be animated when you are concentrating so hard on staring at a spot!

2. When there is a 2-second delay on the satellite uplink, you can actually hear an echo of yourself, which is very disconcerting.  It made me temporarily lose my train of thought a few times.

Anyway, it wasn’t exactly in my comfort zone, but I think more Republicans need to speak up and shove Uncle Fester (i.e., the Tea Party) back into the closet.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | August 26, 2012

New Blog Name: Climate Asylum

This is the first and only blog I’ve ever done, so perhaps I can be forgiven for naming it something as appallingly bad as “Anti-Climate Change Extremism in Utah”.  Well, I finally got sick of it, so I renamed my blog “Climate Asylum”.  The inspiration for the name, in case you care, was Jon Huntsman’s “Call me crazy” tweet.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | July 31, 2012

Deseret News: Hotter Climate Equals More Wildfires

The Deseret News just reported on a new study that shows a more compelling link between hotter climate conditions and wildfires than had been demonstrated before.  The scientists involved studied lake sediment cores, in which you can find horizons with bits of charcoal in them, indicating large fires.  The charcoal can be carbon-14 dated to find the age, and the results can be compared to paleoclimate records to find links.

The study’s lead author is Mitch Power from the University of Utah.  Over the past few years I’ve actually gone out on Utah Lake to collect sediment cores a couple times with Mitch, one of his graduate students, my pal Steve Nelson, and some of Steve’s and my geochemistry students.  (We were looking at the cores for different reasons, so we would split the cores we took.)  Congrats to Mitch!

 

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | July 16, 2012

Utah State Climatologist Talks Drought and Climate Change

There was a nice segment on KSL news with Rob Gillies (the Utah State Climatologist) talking about the current drought and what it has to do with climate change.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | June 22, 2012

The Monckton Files: Back in the Attic

Back in the attic, Uncle Fester.  You were ok when the party was “not drowning in talent,” but we’re going to have to bench you now that the A-team of anti-windmill cranks has arrived.

My last post, a few weeks ago, was about Lord Christopher Monckton’s new role as hero to the Birther nuts here in the U.S.A.  I asked,

Just how far does this guy have to go before his ardent admirers start looking at their watches and pretending to have an urgent appointment to keep?

Well, the climate contrarians haven’t gotten the memo, yet, but some of Monckton’s other associates are shuffling His Lordship back in the attic, and padlocking the door.  (Charlotte Brontë would have been proud.)   Read More…

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | May 29, 2012

The Monckton Files: Cracked

His Lordship, the Third Viscount Monckton of Brenchley (glory be to his Beneficence) has long since careened over the Cliffs of Insanity, but we keep listening to no avail for the “splat.”  It was proven that he had been falsely claiming to be a member of Parliament, but the climate change contrarians just kept lapping up his nonsense.  He admitted that he had made false claims about the temperature evolution the IPCC had projected, but claimed he was right to do so, and Anthony Watts still kept publishing Monckton’s nonsense on his popular blog.  John Abraham destroyed one of Monckton’s presentations, showing that His Lordship had misrepresented almost all his sources, but Monckton was still invited to testify before Congress as an expert witness on climate change.  Monckton claims to have developed a Miracle Cure-All, but his admirers didn’t bat an eye.  Just how far does this guy have to go before his ardent admirers start looking at their watches and pretending to have an urgent appointment to keep?

Well, we won’t have to wonder for long, because if there’s anything we can count on in this world, it’s the fact that Christopher Monckton will keep pushing the Crazy Envelope.

Not satisfied with his usual conspiracy theories and pseudoscientific nonsense, Monckton has graduated to become Hero of the Birthers.  That’s right, he’s been touring the country with a fake Hawaiian birth certificate he had made, claiming that he has hired independent experts who have showed that Obama’s birth certificate is likely a forgery.  He recently made the claim on Geraldo Rivera’s radio show, after which Geraldo said he thought Monckton was “smoking crack.”

Here’s the thing about this Birther business.  I can’t prove the birth certificate wasn’t forged, but I can look up Obama’s birth announcement in a couple 1961 Honolulu newspapers.  Unless I want to believe that Obama’s granny faked the announcement in anticipation of her infant grandson’s future run for President of the United States, I have to conclude that he was, in fact, born in the United States, and therefore the question of the authenticity of his birth certificate makes no sense.

Obama’s birth announcement from the Honolulu Advertiser on Sunday, Aug. 13, 1961.

What I’m saying is that this is THE STUPIDEST conspiracy theory I have ever seen.  And yet, the Heartland Institute recently invited Monckton to talk at their climate change disinformation conference, at which time he repeated his claims about Obama’s birth certificate, to the delight and applause of the attendees.

So hang on, Monckton admirers!  When the “splat” finally comes, you can trust the rest of us to politely refrain from mentioning your complicity.😉

P.S.  No, I didn’t vote for Obama.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | April 18, 2012

NPR–War of the Worlds: When Science, Politics Collide

Here is a nice piece at the National Public Radio site on how scientists and others respond when science and politics collide.  The story quotes me at the end.

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