Posted by: Barry Bickmore | January 5, 2012

Pacific Institute: Climate B.S.* of the Year Awards

Peter Gleick of the Pacific Institute has just issued the latest “Climate B.S.* of the Year Awards”.  (* B.S. stands for “Bad Science,” of course.)  Our pals Roy Spencer, Rush Limbaugh, and the field of Republican presidential contenders figure prominently.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | December 29, 2011

SkS: A Thoughtful Conservative Perspective on Climate

… by Tom Smerling at Skeptical Science

Peter Wehner has impeccable conservative credentials, having served under Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and most recently, as deputy assistant to Pres. George W. Bush.  He resides at the “Ethics & Public Policy Center,” a neo-con think tank.

After a long look at the evidence, Wehner concluded that the scientific consensus on climate is correct.    He wrote two interesting posts titled “Conservatives and Climate Change,” in the neo-con magazineCommentary, which prides itself in intellectual conservatism.

Read more at Skeptical Science.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | December 16, 2011

The Monckton Files: Inspector Monckton Looking for a Clue

Now that the authorities have confiscated the computers of a few contrarian bloggers to see whether they can find evidence of who hacked the University of East Anglia’s e-mail servers, Lord Monckton is incensed!  INCENSED, I tell you!  He says he’s going to go after the climate scientists whose e-mails were stolen and have them prosecuted for fraud.  Why him?  Because the bumbling police don’t know much about climatology, so they need help to understand the “fraud”.

You’re probably thinking this is just another stupid political stunt, but don’t worry.  Monckton said last year that he was going to have Rajendra Pachauri jailed for fraud and… well, I’m sure he’ll get around to it, sometime.  He also said he was going to sue John Abraham for libel many moons ago, and he assures us the investigation is still underway.  So if there’s one person we can count on to follow through on bombastic legal threats, it’s the 3rd Viscount of Brenchley.

Inspector Monckton appealed to his readers on Climate Depot to send him any evidence of fraud regarding climate issues.  Does this count?  (Note to Monckton:  I did not just accuse you of “fraud”.  I merely asked for legal advice, so please refrain from contacting my administration again to threaten legal action for suggesting that your fake data is “fraudulent”.)  I encourage anyone in a position to do so to e-mail Monckton such information, because if there’s one thing he needs, it’s a clue.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | December 6, 2011

New Method for Modeling Clouds

U.S. News and World Report has an interesting article on a new method some climate modelers are using to simulate the effects of clouds in a realistic way.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | December 5, 2011

Bickmore’s Laws updates

I made a few updates to my “Bickmore’s Laws” page.  If any of you have any suggestions for other “laws”, put them in the comments.  If I like them, I may put them in an addendum on the page.  The theme of the “laws” is the difference between rationality and pseudo-rationality.

Bickmore’s First Law of Being Reasonable

Reasonable people understand that good arguments can sometimes lead to false conclusions, and bad arguments can sometimes lead to true conclusions.

Bickmore’s Second Law of Being Reasonable

Reasonable people resist bad arguments, even if they agree with the conclusions.

Bickmore’s First Law of the Box

“Thinking outside the box” requires being capable of recognizing “the box.”  (Ignorance kills true creativity.)

Bickmore’s Second Law of the Box

“Thinking outside the box” is only laudable when “the box” is not rationality.

Bickmore’s First Law of Being Biased

Bias makes you human.  Unckecked bias makes you stupid.

Bickmore’s Second Law of Being Biased

Nitpicking others’ arguments is not the same thing as “critical thinking.”  That involves nitpicking your own arguments.

Bickmore’s First Law of Being Open-Minded

Failing to make critical decisions based on incomplete information is called “spinelessness,” not “open-mindedness.”

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | December 5, 2011

Global Warming and the Mobs, Part 2

I did a follow-up post on my last one over at By Common Consent.  It turns out the guy I was critiquing actually came around and apologized for slandering Jonathan Overpeck.  My response gets at some of his remaining concerns about the latest batch of stolen e-mails.

I learned some interesting things.  E.g., I found out that Phil Jones had discussed the problems of onerous FOI requests, proprietary data, and so on, before the scandal broke in 2009.  In other words, all that stuff the panels investigating “climategate” said about why Jones dodged some FOI requests and didn’t release all of his raw data… was right there in the stolen e-mails, too.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | December 2, 2011

Global Warming and the Mobs

Meridian Magazine (a Mormon-themed publication) published an opinion piece by some guy who not only quoted out-of-context snippets from the new batch of stolen e-mails, but actually MISquoted them.  I went after him in a guest post on By Common Consent.  If you’re not Mormon, maybe you don’t understand the reference to “the Mobs”.  The Mormons got kicked out of 4 states, and a number of us were killed, essentially due to mob action.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | December 2, 2011

Poll: Republicans Coming Around on Global Warming

U.S. News and World Report has a story out about this.  Money quote:

Less than a third of conservative Republicans say there is solid evidence for global warming, but 63 percent of moderate or liberal Republicans said they believe there is solid evidence for global warming, a 22-percentage-point jump from 2009.

And this is why I think Jon Huntsman is the most influential Republican presidential candidate, even if he doesn’t end up winning.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | November 30, 2011

Roy Spencer the Anti-Scientist

Over on The Panda’s Thumb, someone going by the handle “ksplawn” made a fairly detailed argument for the proposition that Roy Spencer represents an almost perfect convergence of two anti-science strains–creationism and climate change contrarianism.  Here is the post.

Seeing both currents of denialism converge and gain strength under a single party’s political banner over the last few years has been like watching half of the US turn away from reason itself because it didn’t align with their preferred set of sound bite-driven platitudes. It didn’t have to be this way. The reason Stephen Colbert can quip about reality’s “well-known liberal bias” is because in important issues the political right is moving further away from reality. The political climate has made accepting well-vetted scientific findings in certain areas a complete anathema to electability.

I learned a lot about science itself when I was exposed to the manufactroversy over evolution and Creationism. Years of absorbing knowledge and watching exchanges between scientists and anti-evolutionists was tremendously fascinating and educational for me. Familiarizing myself with real science and the anti-science tactics used by evolution deniers has stood me in good stead when it came to evaluating the merits of mainstream climate science and the rhetoric of denialists. That there is much overlap between the two denialist sets has been sadly unsurprising, as they often require the same kinds of fallacies to be accepted.

As an example of the overlapping requirements for climate and evolution denialism, I offer not a politician, but in fact a real live climate scientist. Roy Spencer is one of the two principal researchers behind the development of the University of Alabama Huntsville lower troposphere temperature record, gleaned from a network of satellites that interpret the signals of radiant energy coming through the atmosphere and out into space. For years he’s been a very capable scientist and has many peer-reviewed publications under his belt. But lately he’s been diverging away from the climate science mainstream by suggesting that some key forcings have been misunderstood widely by his colleagues, mostly related to clouds. He firmly believes that they have the relationship between cloud cover and climate trends backwards. He believes that climate sensitivity to increasing greenhouse gases is extraordinarily low, and so anthropogenic GHG emissions can’t be driving the current warming trend anywhere near the extent it’s commonly accepted to by his peers, and that warming won’t be a problem for the future. Well, that’s all well and good, right? Disagreements are a fact of life even (especially!) in the sciences.

But rather than work through the issue in the peer-reviewed literature, the bulk of his efforts have been spent in convincing the public of his side through his blog and books, largely not engaging the rest of the climate scientists. It’s not that he hasn’t tried period, but sometimes his papers are rejected; he’s convinced that this is due to a real conspiracy against him by a small cabal of “alarmists,” to keep his work out of the literature and keep dissenting opinions from circulating. Not unlike attempts by anti-evolutionists to smear the scientific establishment and accuse them of being censorious gatekeepers, rejecting any paper that criticizes evolution. For the last few years he has intentionally avoided submitting his work to rigorously peer-reviewed outlets in favor of a faster-turnaround, refereed Letters-type journal, because of his imagined conspiracy. We see a similar retreat from peer-review when researchers adopt an anti-evolution mindset.

Other troubling signs of losing his grip on scientific methods include a diminishing willingness to criticize his own ideas. He apparently ranks his own expertise very highly, to the point that the introduction to his popular book included musings that either he is smarter than all of the rest of his peers, or they must be dishonestly avoiding the conclusions he has reached (he favors the latter). He did not mention that he could simply be mistaken. He’s been fond of criticizing climate models because he believes them to be largely exercised as curve-fitting without real physical merit, but that didn’t stop him from attempting to create a simple model which turned out to be an exercise in curve-fitting without real physical merit. Despite several deep criticisms of his approach, he continued to develop the model in all the wrong ways. (When a paper based on an earlier model was held up in review, and then not given much attention immediately afterwards, he took it as evidence that his message was being censored and suppressed instead of any kind of issue over the paper’s validity). How many times have Dembski, Sewell, Behe, and so on. pushed papers that they claimed demonstrated evolution as impossible and Design a superior explanation by using a bogus model of information, complex systems, 2LoT, etc.? Even after being called out over the fatal flaws, they either dismiss the criticisms or attempt to “fix” the model by changing something other than what was criticized?

When anti-evolutionists want to publish a paper in a peer-reviewed venue, they often choose journals with weak reviews, friendly editors, or even inappropriate expertise. Sewell’s papers about evolution and 2LoT were arguably such subversion of peer-review. Spencer’s last peer-reviewed paper (Spencer and Braswell 2011) was published in the small, young journal Remote Sensing. Immediately after it came out, Spencer penned a press release that lied about what the paper contained and this misleading picture was quickly picked up by certain politically-aligned elements of the media with wildly misleading headlines and coverage. This prompted the Editor-in-Chief of the journal to investigate the matter and what he found was such flagrant abuse of the review system that he resigned almost immediately, leaving a damning account of the peer-review failure (prompting Spencer to claim that he was really forced out by IPCC conspirators). The paper has since been disemboweled with a peer-reviewed response (PDF) and by heavy scrutiny on scientist-run blogs. The whole thing was disaster; the paper’s arguments were not strong, didn’t support the claims Spencer had made to the press, it was revealed that data used in the study contradicted their findings, and so on. The whole thing was different from peer-review subversion by anti-evolutionists only in the amount of public attention it received. Spencer still maintains that the EiC was ‘Expelled’ as it were, and that there is no problem with the paper.

Where the overlap becomes most obvious in Spencer is that he has become an outspoken endorser of Creationism over evolution. He’s lent his reputation as a scientist to the claim that a Special Creation account is more scientific than evolution. Granted, it’s not uncommon for a scientist in one field to be deeply wrong about the state of a totally different field, however most don’t pin their credibility as practitioners of science to such opinions as blatantly as Spencer has. Taking this even further into the realm of anti-science, Spencer is a member of the Cornwall Alliance, a religious organization that holds as its central belief the idea that God wouldn’t create a world so fragile that humans could seriously muck it up. He has signed theirEvangelical Declaration on Global Warming which outlines the faith-based nature of their conviction that recent warming is not us, and is nothing to worry about. This is tantamount to admitting that his stance on anthropogenic global warming is now a matter of religious faith, not a properly scientific view with all the tentativeness and provisional nature that implies.

So in Spencer we have the following: A) belief in a conspiracy to suppress his dissenting opinion and censor the literature to align with their agenda, B) distancing his work from peer-review, C) an overriding uncritical belief in his own abilities such that him being correct and everyone else being wrong doesn’t raise a warning flag, D) an inability to distinguish between legitimate science and pseudoscience despite claiming to have looked into the matter dutifully and using his expertise as a practicing scientist, E) a religious Statement of Faith revealing that he has abandoned proper scientific skepticism. The overlap between AGW denialism and evolution denialism has never been so well embodied. The same kinds of misconceptions and shortcomings that are needed for one to accept the cdesign proponentsists’ narrative now seem to be compromising Spencer’s performance in his own area of expertise. This is clear evidence that anti-evolutionism is anti-science, period. One doesn’t need a political platform to draw these denialist currents together, but as we can see it certainly does help.

Sorry for the length and links, but I believe in being thorough when making this kind of case against a person.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | November 25, 2011

Contrarians File for Intellectual Bankruptcy

As a recovering climate change contrarian, I remember well the kinds of things that most impressed me as I went through the process of changing my mind.  It’s true that the mainstream scientists had some arguments that I thought were pretty difficult to get around, but just as important was the utter lack of intellectual rigor I detected in most of the contrarian arguments.  So many of their arguments were obviously absurd, and yet I noticed that many contrarians were absolutely incapable of seeing any problem with them.  To me, this was a strong indicator of a movement well on its way to intellectual bankruptcy. Read More…

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | November 22, 2011

New Stolen E-mails Released

It looks like the B-list of stolen e-mails have now been released by the people who hacked the University of East Anglia’s server.  They originally released the ones with the really juicy candidates for out-of-context quoting, and now, magically just in time for the next big international climate conference, the hackers have released the benchwarmers.

I remember when the first batch of stolen e-mails from the University of East Anglia came out, and I was talking about it with my father-in-law.  He was upset about some of the quotations that were coming out, and so was I, but I had a somewhat different point of view.  It didn’t bother me at all that the scientists involved said some nasty things about their critics.  As an academic scientist, I knew that this kind of thing was perfectly normal, and that the saving grace of modern science is that when all of us are beating up on each other, the end product usually comes out better than it would otherwise have been.  So who cares if they said they thought certain papers and contrarian scientists were idiotic?  Likewise, I wasn’t too concerned about the out-of-context quotation about “Mike’s Nature Trick” and “hiding the decline,” because that just seemed like regular water-cooler talk for working scientists, rather than anything sinister.  (Turns out I was right.)

No, what bothered me at the time was Phil Jones’s remarks that they would find a way to keep a couple papers they thought were stupid from being discussed in the next IPCC Report by “redefining the peer-reviewed literature.”  If the rule was that they were supposed to discuss all the peer-reviewed papers about the subjects covered, then this would be unethical, and harmful to the science in the long run.  Well, it turned out that my worries were unfounded, because those two papers WERE discussed in the next IPCC Report, so obviously the e-mailing scientists did the right thing.

Now the dust has settled, and several independent panels have cleared the scientists involved of cooking their data, or any other serious infraction.  The worst thing anyone found is that some of the CRU scientists felt like they were being harassed with ridiculous FOI requests, so they tried to ignore them.  The temperature reconstructions in question have been replicated umpteen times, so that only seriously damaged individuals still have serious questions about whether they are approximately correct.

This time around, as I peruse the out-of-context quotations provided by climate change contrarian bloggers, I’m not even getting a minor change in heart rate.  The quotations (even out of context!) are that boring.

Hopefully the media will see this for what it is–a pathetic attempt to distract the public from the fact that the contrarians don’t have a scientific leg to stand on.

Links:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/shawn-lawrence-otto/climategate-20-new-emails_b_1107704.html
http://climatecrocks.com/2011/11/22/been-there-done-that-got-the-delta-t-climate-hackers-try-again/
http://www.desmogblog.com/climategate-hackers-slither-again-night
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/nov/22/fresh-hacked-climate-science-emails
http://thinkprogress.org/green/2011/11/22/374530/climategate-20-have-journalists-learned-their-lesson/
http://mediamatters.org/blog/201111220013
http://www.shawnotto.com/neorenaissance/blog20111122.html
http://www.carbonbrief.org/
http://getenergysmartnow.com/2011/11/22/climategate-redux-an-opportunity-to-show-learning/
http://www.uea.ac.uk/mac/comm/media/press/CRUstatements/statements/CRUnov11

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | November 22, 2011

The Monckton Files: Lawyering Up

The saga continues….

Lord Monckton was essentially laughed out of Australia after the Clerk of the Parliaments in the UK posted an open letter asking the 3rd Viscount Monckton of Brenchley to stop saying he’s a member of Parliament and stop using their logo.  His Lordship isn’t taking it lying down, though!  He’s found a lawyer to write an opinion that agrees with his assertion that he really is a “member of the House of Lords without a seat or vote”.  Are you just as shocked as I am that he could find a lawyer who would argue his case?  What’s more, Monckton is threatening some kind of legal action against the Clerk of the Parliaments!  Are you just as shocked as I am that Monckton is threatening legal action against someone who has expressed disagreement with his views?  (Note:  If you really are shocked that Monckton would threaten legal action, read this.  It should cure you.)

The issue is that most of the “Lords” (people with hereditary titles or “peerages”) in the UK used to be members of the House of Lords, which is the upper house of Parliament (like the Senate in the USA).  Monckton’s grandfather and father (the 1st and 2nd Viscounts Monckton of Brenchley) were members of Parliament, but then in 1999 (seven years before Christopher Monckton inherited his hereditary title), Parliament passed the House of Lords Act, which kicked out most of the hereditary peers (including Monckton’s father) from the House of Lords.  That is, they were still “Lords,” but not members of the legislative body called “The House of Lords,” which is a house of Parliament.  The House of Lords Act says this:

No-one shall be a member of the House of Lords by virtue of a hereditary peerage.

But wait!  Monckton claims that he IS “a member of the House of Lords by virtue of a hereditary peerage.”  Normally, one would think that would be a direct contradiction, but you can always count on a lawyer to explain why “member” doesn’t mean “member”, or a politician to quibble over the meaning of “is”.  Let’s do a quick dissection to see how this astonishing feat is accomplished.

Much of The Lawyer’s opinion is a smokescreen.  E.g., the Clerk of the Parliaments said in his letter to Monckton that “No-one denies that you are, by virtue of your letters Patent, a Peer. That is an entirely separate issue to membership of the House.”  And yet, a large part of The Lawyer’s opinion is about how anyone who is a British “lord” can be called, figuratively speaking, part of the “House of Lords”.  Since Monckton has explicitly claimed to be a member of Parliament, not just a generic “lord,” all of this is meaningless.

The real meat of the matter is simply the question of whether there is anything to being a “member of the House of Lords” beyond “sitting and voting” in that House.  The Clerk of the Parliaments said this.

I must repeat my predecessor’s statement that you are not and have never been a Member of the House of Lords. Your assertion that you are a Member, but without the right to sit or vote, is a contradiction in terms. No-one denies that you are, by virtue of your letters Patent, a Peer. That is an entirely separate issue to membership of the House. This is borne out by the recent judgment in Baron Mereworth v Ministry of Justice (Crown Office) where Mr Justice Lewison stated:

“In my judgment, the reference [in the House of Lords Act 1999] to ‘a member of the House of Lords’ is simply a reference to the right to sit and vote in that House … In a nutshell, membership of the House of Lords means the right to sit and vote in that House. It does not mean entitlement to the dignity of a peerage.”

The Lawyer quotes a couple members of Parliament who said that, in the House of Lords Act, “membership” referred specifically to the right to sit and vote.  But curiously, The Lawyer couldn’t seem to come up with any quotations in which anyone important said that those deprived of “membership” in that sense were still “members” of Parliament in any other sense.  The Lawyer notes that for a few years after 1999 the expelled peers kept their passes that allowed them to enter the building and… I don’t know… eat in the cafeteria, or something.  But how does that make one a “member of Parliament” any more than the staff?  In any case, the official “Explanatory Notes” for the House of Lords Act explain this issue as follows.

The Act deprives excluded hereditary peers of all the privileges of membership of the House of Lords, including the privileges they enjoyed as members of Parliament. Parliamentary privileges cover various matters, many of which relate to the House of Lords as a whole (such as punishing improper conduct within the House itself), but include some that are personal to individual peers. One of the most important personal privileges is that no action can be taken against a peer for what he or she may say in Parliament. Hereditary peers excluded by the Act also lose the right to be paid allowances and to use the facilities of the House that are available to members, such as its library, research and restaurant facilities. The removal of these rights does not prevent the House from deciding to grant some rights to use the facilities of the House to a hereditary peer under the exercise of its own authority.

The intent of the Act, therefore, was to remove ALL privileges of membership, even though the House of Lords retained the right to give whomever they wanted access to the facilities.

The Lawyer then pulls out his trump card.  He cites the very case, Mereworth v Ministry of Justice, that the Clerk of the Parliaments cited to prove his case!

Lord Mereworth brought a declaratory action by which he sought orders allowing him essentially to exercise the right to sit and vote in the House of Lords notwithstanding the Act. While various authorities were cited in the claim there is no mention of the important Mayhew judgment, discussed earlier. The claim was unsuccessful. However, Lord Mereworth won one point that is crucial to the present discussion. The Court held that the Act, though it had deprived the excluded Hereditary Peers of the right to sit or vote, had not revoked the Letters Patent that created those Peerages and the consequent membership of the House of Lords.

Note the careful… one might even say “lawyerly”… language.  The judge said that the House of Lords Act did not revoke the “letters patent” that created hereditary titles “and the consequent membership in the House of Lords.”  In other words, back when titles like Monckton’s were granted, membership in the House of Lords was a “consequence” of the grant.  But nobody seems to have ever claimed that the House of Lords Act revoked such letters patent–only that the Act revoked this particular “consequence” that used to go along with them.  Clearly, this is another red herring.

In fact, as the Clerk of the Parliaments noted, the judge in the Mereworth case said, “In a nutshell, membership of the House of Lords means the right to sit and vote in that House. It does not mean entitlement to the dignity of a peerage.”  Was the Clerk reading the judge’s opinion wrong?  Did the judge really mean (but fail to explicitly say) that one could still be a “member” of the House of Lords in some other sense?  I can’t read his mind, but I can offer the following excerpt from the case summary by The Incorporated Council of Law Reporting for England and Wales.

[S]ection 1 of the 1999 Act intended to remove the right to receive a writ of summons which alone would entitle a hereditary peer to sit and vote and hence be a member of the House of Lords. The reference to “a member of the House of Lords” was simply a reference to the right to sit and vote in that House, it did not mean entitlement to the dignity of a peerage.

Did you catch that?  The “and hence” means that the right to sit and vote in the House is what makes one a member of the House of Lords.

I’m guessing that none of this will ever make it to court, and if it does, Monckton will get thrown out on his ear, just as Lord Mereworth was.  But that’s not really the purpose, is it?  Monckton feels that he simply must, at all costs, keep up the appearance that he is the victim of a political vendetta, and not, well… off his nut.

The sad thing is that he doesn’t really need to go to all the trouble.  Monckton can always get away with this sort of thing among his constituency, meaning the likes of Anthony Watts and the denizens of his blog, who actually listen to His Lordship.  Their gullibility is nearly limitless.  Watts writes, for instance, that those who have criticized Monckton for being a fake member of Parliament “didn’t like the message, so they attacked the man,” ignoring the fact that it was Monckton who first presented himself as “a member of the Upper House of the United Kingdom legislature” to pad his résumé as someone to be taken seriously in the political debate about climate change.  If a fake doctor appeared in court as an expert medical witness, would the opposition be out of line for pointing out the fake credentials?

When I became about the fourth scientist (including one climate change contrarian) to point out that Monckton had been (among other things) using fake temperature projections to discredit the IPCC, Monckton responded on Watts’s blog,

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.

You read that right.  He actually defended his misrepresentation of IPCC temperature projections by claiming that it was ok for him to ignore “the values that the IPCC actually projects” and instead recalculate them based on “the IPCC’s own methods”.  But of course, I had already shown that he wasn’t using “the IPCC’s own methods”.  He was using the wrong equation (not meant for time-series projections) and feeding in the wrong data (he miscopied the IPCC’s CO2 projections).

When John Abraham meticulously went through the references in one of Monckton’s presentations,  writing to the authors of the literature cited and asking whether Monckton had fairly represented their work, these authors uniformly wrote back saying that Monckton had misinterpreted them.  Watts posted a number of Monckton’s rebuttals, which included Nazi references and insults about John Abraham’s appearance.  But aside from a few minor points about Abraham’s wording, the only really substantive thing Monckton has managed to say about the affair was summarized in an interview he gave to to a New Zealand TV station.

I’d given him 18 pages of refutation, including example, after example, after example, after example, of him lying to 3rd party scientists about what I had said, then getting understandably hostile comments back, saying, “Well he said that–you know, he’s talking nonsense,” and then using those statements against me.

Great!  Ok, Lord Monckton, can you provide an example where you wrote to one of these scientists, explaining what you really said, and they wrote back to confirm that you had cited their work responsibly?  (Crickets chirping….)  Because that was really the genius of John Abraham’s presentation.  Instead of merely arguing technical points in front of an audience who mostly would not have understood, he just asked the scientists in question whether they had been fairly represented.  Wouldn’t it be easy for Monckton to counter Abraham by doing the same thing?  It would, but I doubt he ever will.

Still, Monckton’s typical deluge of BS was more than enough to convince Watts and his followers, because they are the sort that are really impressed by big words, opaque jargon, and Latin phrases.  Witness Watts’s toadying comment about Monckton’s bombastic threats toward the Clerk of the Parliaments.  “Lord Monckton is quite skilled in oratory skewering. Thus, I had to look up ‘defalcating’.”

Well said, Anthony.  Well said.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | November 16, 2011

Rustlings From Republican Environmentalists

Let’s face it–it’s a bad year for Republican Environmentalists like me.  About half of the field of Republican presidential candidates once promoted the idea of addressing climate change in some way, but all but Jon Huntsman have backed off this stance to one extent or another.  Even Huntsman hasn’t suggested doing anything about climate change in the near term, and in any case, he’s consistently polled at 1-2%.

How are we supposed to respond?  There is a clear scientific consensus, based on clear scientific evidence, that humans are causing climate change, and this poses significant risks.  And yet, it’s become a litmus test for Republican candidates to either deny or express agnosticism about human-caused climate change.  Republican “environmentalists,” by definition, aren’t a single-issue kind of people.  If that were the only issue we cared about, we would clearly not be Republicans, so we often have to hold our noses and vote for candidates that don’t fit all our ideals.

The thing about people like us is that, since we sort of straddle the fence on some issues and can see some truth in alternative points of view, we are more likely to set aside ideology and vote for candidates that seem like they have some modicum of integrity and are, well… capable of abstract thought.  But in the current GOP presidential race, who are our choices?  We’ve got Huntsman, who seems pretty good (and was a great governor,) but who has no chance in the Primary.  We’ve got Romney, who isn’t so terrible, but badly needs to grow a spine.  We’ve got Rick Perry, who comes across as a dumb jock who is real proud he can name Galileo, but we’re not sure he knows much beyond the name.  (Prove me wrong, Rick!  Tell us three new things about Galileo!  I want you to go out there in that next debate and give 110%!!!  “And the third thing is… uh… uh… oops.”)  We’ve got Newt Gingrich, whose recent conversion from being a sleazy hypocrite is less than convincing, and who alternates between sounding intelligent and like Archie Bunker.  We’ve got Michelle Bachmann, who comes across as a saucer-eyed devotee of a UFO cult… and unutterably stupid.  (Being a Mormon, I find this amusing.  Go into any Evangelical Christian bookstore, and you will find countless books on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints that ask whether we are “Christian or Cult”.  For many Evangelicals, anyone who isn’t an Evangelical belongs to a “cult”.  Ok, I completely understand that many LDS beliefs sound weird to outsiders–what religion doesn’t sound weird to outsiders?  But just look at the GOP presidential candidates, and if you want to tell me that Bachmann and Perry come across as more sane than Huntsman and Romney, I’ll politely mumble something as I back away.)  We have Herman Cain, who is very likely a groper, is ridiculously uninformed, and who now answers all uncomfortable questions with “999″.  No, I’m serious.  Frankly, I don’t know anything about Tim Pawlenty except that “T-Paw” looks like a total pansy in debate.  Makes me want to pants him and shove him in a locker.  [UPDATE:  I realized just after I posted that it's Rick Santorum who's still in the race, rather than Pawlenty.  Nobody cares.]  And Ron Paul… I’m at a loss for words.

Maybe there aren’t very many of us, but we’re beginning to hear some rustlings from Republican environmentalists.  The Salt Lake Tribune reported today that Tim DeChristopher, who is in jail for obstructing the sale of resources on sensitive government lands (even though these sales were later deemed improper,) would support Jon Huntsman for president, because he had showed some integrity on environmental issues while in office as Utah governor.  DeChristopher describes himself as “a lefty activist felon in prison,” but the article also quoted me.  Here’s what it said:

Brigham Young University geoscientist Barry Bickmore, a Republican who speaks out on the importance of dealing with climate change, said he also would back Huntsman in sticking with the science.

Like DeChristopher, Bickmore said he would like to put climate change at the top of the agenda for more voters.

But the GOP, with candidates like Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich backing away from the issue, it appears as though the GOP is becoming an anti-science party and imperiling its own future as a result, Bickmore said.

“If the Republicans don’t get together and stop pretending the problem doesn’t [exist],” he said, “in a couple of decades it will become so apparent that we were in denial about this that the party will be gutted, we’ll be turned out on our ear.”

Huntsman has warned much the same thing in recent debates.

Meanwhile, an article in The Boston Globe quotes several environmentalist Republicans in New Hampshire, who are not too happy with the current field of GOP candidates.  Here’s an excerpt.

On Thursday, Farrell Seiler, a Republican-leaning independent, and Republican Antonius Blok will host a workshop in Portsmouth, N.H., examining the impact of climate change on the Seacoast. They also will officially launch a new group, “New Hampshire Republicans for Climate.”

The subject line of their e-mailed press release says it all: “NH Republicans Hosting a Climate Conference? Really.”

Seiler said: “There needs to be an opportunity for enlightened conservative Republicans to raise their hands and say you can’t deny what the science is telling us. We don’t share the anti-science denial-ism of six and a half of the eight Republican candidates who are in New Hampshire running in the primary.”

Former Republican EPA officials – including the agency’s first administrator, Bill Ruckelshaus, and former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman – have begun to respond to use their national platforms to rebut the candidate criticism.

I hope more of us start speaking out, making the consequences of the GOP’s current trajectory clear.

[UPDATE:  Be sure to watch my seminar on "How to Avoid the Truth About Climate Change."  See below.]

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | November 11, 2011

How to Avoid the Truth About Climate Change

I gave a talk called “How to Avoid the Truth About Climate Change” for the College of Science and Health at Utah Valley University.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with me, I am a Republican and a geochemist who, until a few years ago, was quite skeptical about the idea that humans are causing significant climate change.

In the presentation, I briefly talked about how I had made the transition from being a climate change “skeptic” to being an outspoken advocate of mainstream climate science.  I then discussed how it is that people like me can so effectively avoid the truth about climate change.

Please pass this video along!  I am actually writing a book with the same title, but there’s no way I can get it published before the Republican primaries.  Hopefully this kind of thing can influence a few people toward the center on this issue.

[UPDATE:  If the embedded video below doesn't have sound, try a direct link to the video on YouTube:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vDNXuX6D60U]

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | November 1, 2011

Climate Change: What We Know and How We Know It

I did an informal presentation for the LDS Earth Stewardship group, which is now on YouTube.  If you can’t stand watching me talk, believe me–I understand.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | October 19, 2011

The New Gold Standard in Monckton Comedy

Peter Sinclair posted a link to this video from an Australian television show, The Hamster Wheel.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | October 16, 2011

Climate Censorship in Texas, Virginia, and Utah

The Guardian has a nice article on the Perry administration’s censorship of a scientific report that mentioned the effects of climate change on the state of Galveston Bay in Texas.  Turns out that all 200 scientists who authored the report are asking that their names be taken off.  The piece also mentions Ken Cuccinelli’s climate witch-hunting in Virginia, and Rep. Mike Noel’s attempt to get Rob Davies fired at Utah State University.

Here’s the money quote from one of the Texas officials who censored the report.

Mother Jones has tracked the changes. The agency has defended its actions. “It would be irresponsible to take whatever is sent to us and publish it,” Andrea Morrow, a spokeswoman said in an emailed statement. “Information was included in a report that we disagree with.”

She said Anderson’s report had been “inconsistent with current agency policy”, and that he had refused to change it. She refused to answer any questions. Campaigners said the censorship by the Texas state authorities was a throwback to the George Bush era when White House officials also interfered with scientific reports on climate change.

Did you catch that?  Current science is “inconsistent with current agency policy”.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | October 14, 2011

Texas Administration Censors Climate Science

This is a really blatant example, folks.

http://thinkprogress.org/green/2011/10/12/342544/perry-appointed-agency-censors-global-warming/

http://thinkprogress.org/romm/2011/10/12/342210/flood-gate-perry-sea-level-rise-censorship/

http://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/article/Professor-says-state-agency-censored-article-2212118.php

http://www.treehugger.com/files/2011/10/texas-censors-scientists-work-revealing-climate-change-impacts-galveston-bay.php

http://www.climatesciencewatch.org/2011/10/13/a-preview-of-climate-science-censorship-to-expect-under-a-perry-administration/

http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2011/10/12/texas-agency-censors-climate-change-references-in-key-scientific-report/

http://motherjones.com/politics/2011/10/perry-officials-censored-climate-report

http://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2011/10/11/Academic-accuses-Texas-of-censorship/UPI-66191318354385/

http://www.grist.org/list/2011-10-12-texas-tries-to-censor-climate-change-information

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/oct/14/rick-perry-texas-censorship-environment-report?newsfeed=true

http://thehill.com/blogs/e2-wire/677-e2-wire/187277-news-bites-officials-in-perrys-administration-edited-climate-report

http://chronicle.com/blogs/ticker/rice-u-professor-says-texas-agency-censored-article-over-climate-change/37164

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | October 14, 2011

The Daily Herald Publisher Still Deliberating

The day after the publisher of The Daily Herald, Rona Rahlf, told me she would take my complaint about their editors under advisement, I sent her this note.

Hi Rona,

Any decisions, yet?  Here are the facts of the case:

What the leader of the CERN team, Jasper Kirkby, said about their conclusions:  ”At the moment, it actually says nothing about a possible cosmic-ray effect on clouds and climate, but it’s a very important first step.”

What the Daily Herald editorial board said about the CERN team’s conclusions:  ”Scientists there have concluded that cosmic rays play a much larger role than previously thought in creating clouds on earth.”

If the Daily Herald corrects errors of fact, is there any way to get around the need to correct this?

Note that I’m not asking you to fire Randy and Jim.  They seem like regular guys, who maybe need to take a peek outside the bomb shelter once in a while.  I just want a retraction.

Barry Bickmore

If you are similarly disgusted by a “news” organization that can’t deal with simple fact corrections, please e-mail Ms. Rahlf.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | October 12, 2011

Carbon Price Implemented in Australia

They called in Christopher Monckton once more, but this time His Lordship got his clock cleaned by the Australian media.  They were sharpening the knives even before his plane took off.  And this time, at least, Monckton and his troupe of people-who-have-a-hard-time-telling-the-truth lost.  Australia just put a modest price on carbon emissions.  (NOTE TO MONCKTON’S LAWYERS:  Notice how I didn’t say “liars”.  I have no idea whether Monckton really believes he’s a member of Parliament, and believes that all those scientists he cites really agree with how he uses their work.  I just know that neither is true.)  Graham Redfearn has the story.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | October 12, 2011

The Daily Herald Reaches South Africa

A climatologist from South Africa sent the following letter to Rona Rahlf, publisher of the Daily Herald.  If anyone else wants to chime in, please do.

Dear Ms Rahlf: I suspect this email from South Africa may come as a bit of a surprise.  However, in my reading on the web I felt prompted to send you a letter.

In my job as a Professor of Climatology, I keep tabs on the blog discussions around the issues of climate change, and follow both sides of the debate (which is most polarized into rhetoric in the USA) in order to stay aware of the trends in the public view.  In doing so I came across a posting by Barry Bickmore (https://bbickmore.wordpress.com/2011/10/11/will-the-daily-herald-print-a-retraction/).

As I operate in a continent that is comprised of “developing nations”, I am particularly sensitive to deception and manipulation of messages, because of the implications and consequences for the society are magnified where many live with significant vulnerability.

The article in the Herald that is discussed by Barry Bickmore, and the email communications he cites with the journalists, are extremely disturbing.  I confirm the error of the initial newspaper articles, but more to the point, I find the ethics of the authors to be worrying.  Aside from the snide and condescending tone taken in the personal emails to Bickmore, there is a clear and apparent disregard for truth at the expense of promoting a personal agenda.  It is clear that the journalists have a strong bias of opinion, and that they are letting this significantly twist the integrity of their journalistic objectivity.

Climate change at it’s heart is an ethical issue; the decisions of humans brought us to this point, and the decisions of humans will determine our experience of the future.  The journalism portrayed in this case is a contribution to a breakdown of ethics, and communicates a message that is a contribution to the decisions of the future.  That the journalist states in his email to Bickmore “I very much doubt that what either the Daily Herald or Barry Bickmore writes will make a measurable difference in the political outcome” is actually neither here or there — ethical principles are not about the scale on ones relevance.

Thus, I wanted to let you know that even on the far side of the world, your newspapers reputation is suffering.  Quite aside from any personal views on climate change, there is a responsibility to not deceive people; all the more so when one speaks from a position of power as a newspaper does.  The responsibility in this case lies firstly with the journalist, then with the editor, and now with yourself.

I hope you will take a serious and hard look at the veracity of facts in the articles, and the measure of objectivity portrayed therein.

Regards

*********************************

Prof. Bruce Hewitson

DST Research Chair in Climate Change

Climate System Analysis Group

Dept. Environmental & Geographical Sc.

University of Cape Town

If you do write to Ms. Rahlf, please note the following contrast.

What the leader of the CERN team, Jasper Kirkby, said about their conclusions:  “At the moment, it actually says nothing about a possible cosmic-ray effect on clouds and climate, but it’s a very important first step.”

What the Daily Herald editorial board said about the CERN team’s conclusions:  “Scientists there have concluded that cosmic rays play a much larger role than previously thought in creating clouds on earth.”

I’m a little disappointed that it’s taken Ms. Rahlf more than 10 minutes to consider this issue.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | October 11, 2011

Will the Daily Herald Print a Retraction?

Given that the editors (Randy Wright and Jim Tynen) seem ok with the idea of publishing errors of fact that they know to be errors, I decided to give the publisher, Rona Rahlf a try.  Here’s what I wrote:

———–

Dear Rona,

I am a long-time subscriber to the Daily Herald, and a political conservative.  However, I am also an associate professor of geological sciences at BYU, so I have enough Earth science background to discern that human-induced climate change is likely to be a big problem, no matter how inconvenient that fact is for my political ideology.  For about 1 1/2 years, I’ve corresponded on and off with Randy Wright and Jim Tynen about their constant stream of editorials that have presented an enormous number of base distortions about the state of climate science.

I fully understand that people (even people like me) have biases, and we make stupid arguments from time to time.  I think you understand that, too, which is why this statement on your Contact webpage is so minimalist.  “The Herald corrects errors of fact appearing in its news and opinion columns.”  I’m fine with that as a strong statement of the bare minimum required with respect to standard journalistic ethics.  As the late Senator Moynihan is said to have put it, “Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but they are not entitled to their own facts.”

Your editors flout that minimalist ethic, however.

On Aug. 28, 2011, you published an editorial called “Huntsman’s Blind Trust in Global Warming,” in which you said,

A paper in the prestigious journal Nature reported on findings from Europe’s CERN Laboratory, the most advanced particle accelerator in the world. Scientists there have concluded that cosmic rays play a much larger role than previously thought in creating clouds on earth. Obviously, cloud cover has a huge effect on temperatures. Which means that all warming theories have been knocked into a cocked hat.

On Sept. 1, I wrote Jim Tynan and Randy Wright to inform them that the lead author of the study in question, Jasper Kirkby, had explicitly stated that their experiments did NOT yet say anything about cosmic rays and climate.  He told Scientific American magazine, “At the moment, it actually says nothing about a possible cosmic-ray effect on clouds and climate, but it’s a very important first step.”  Here’s the link, if you want to look it up.  The article also has a good summary of why that experiment isn’t enough to make any sort of case for cosmic rays being a major climate driver.

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=cloud-formation-may-be-linked-to-cosmic-rays

An experienced science journalist, Peter Hadfield, made a nice video that explains the same thing here, with some additional background.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vvztL9r47MI&feature=player_embedded

Jim Tynan wrote back to say, in part, this:

I don’t think I have special insights into the physics  — I just think Kirkby is talking politics, not science (as is too often true in this debate).

To me, when a scientist in his position tries to downplay the results, it’s actually confirmation: He obviously would like for this study to disappear, but  the data were so powerful that they couldn’t be swept under the rug, at least not now.

And PR and journalistic spin are in my domain. Spinmeister’s rule no. 2:  When there’s an inconvenient truth too obvious to be outright denied, try to find some distraction or some way of minimizing the impact.

No, the report doesn’t say in so many words that “warming is a crock.” But it gives hard evidence that cosmic rays affect cloud cover. And it’s obvious that affects climate,.

Notice what he said.  He knew full well that Jasper Kirkby had denied that his experiment led to any such conclusion, but Jim Tynan could report that Kirkby and his team “have concluded that cosmic rays play a much larger role than previously thought in creating clouds on earth” because Jim Tynan could read Kirkby’s mind and find out what he REALLY meant.  Oh, there’s no wiggle room here.  The editorial didn’t say that the Daily Herald editorial board had concluded, based on Kirkby’s data, that cosmic rays play a much larger role, etc.  The editorial said that the CERN scientists had concluded this, which the lead author explicitly denied.

I decided to drop the issue, for the time being, because I was convinced that Jim Tynan really believed he could read Jasper Kirkby’s mind.  But then this Sunday you published another editorial that made the same claim, in the same words!  I e-mailed Randy and Jim about it again, wondering if I could write an op-ed exposing their deception, or whether they would simply write some kind of retraction, or admission that their source was the voices in Jim’s head.  Here was Randy’s response.

Dear Mr. Bickmore –

Sunday’s piece was intended to be our signoff on this subject — at leastfor some time. I think we want to wait to see what happens next in both science and politics. If climate change wins in either arena, we will be glad to publish a column by you on the subject of “I told you so.”  Alternatively, we would also accept an “I was wrong” column.

There are two possibilities: Either climate change will win out politically, with a massive shift of dollars into investments, regulations and foreign aid that will, at best, deliver minuscule change in C02; or climate change and the massive redistribution of wealth desired by many third-world governments, climate scientists and Al Gore will not occur, owing to lack of votes.

I very much doubt that what either the Daily Herald or Barry Bickmore writes will make a measurable difference in the political outcome. I rather suspect our combined influence will be even less than the most optimistic reduction of carbon that might be purchased by mortgaging my great-great-grandchildren and dooming them to a future of insufficient and expensive energy.

You are a good Mormon, I presume, judging from your position. So I don’t know why the prospective death of Planet Earth seems to bother you so much.  Doom will come eventually, one way or another. Isn’t the earth supposed to pass away and be renewed? And won’t heaven pass away and another rise to take its place? If you hold this religious view with as much fervor as you hold your view on man-made climate change, you might someday sit back with a bemused smile when you find that our political system has made a decision that shortens the planet’s life.

Given a general lack of persuasive evidence and the bad economics that attend virtually all corrective choices, I rather expect the political outcome will be disappointing to alarmists. In the final analysis, it’s going to come down to policy votes, and today I’ll wager that climate change will not prevail.

We should have more definitive answers to all this in, say, 40 years, at which time we can consider publishing your proposed column. After all, the intelligence gained in the four decades since the early 1970s has been quite helpful in deciding what to do about the dire scientific predictions of the onset of a new ice age. A good time to evaluate the scientific consensus on climate change would be around 2051.

On one item I have no doubt, however: By 2051 there will be a scientific consensus that Randy Wright is dead.

RW

Jim Tynen had been quite prescient about this.  Remember how he said, “And PR and journalistic spin are in my domain. Spinmeister’s rule no. 2:  When there’s an inconvenient truth too obvious to be outright denied, try to find some distraction or some way of minimizing the impact”?  That’s what Randy did.  He and Jim both knew, going into this last editorial, that the CERN scientists had said no such thing, and in fact had said the opposite.  But instead of addressing the elephant in the room, he tried to cloud the issue by bringing in all sorts of other points about scientific uncertainty, and so on.  No matter how uncertain the science is, it is certain that Jim and Randy knowingly printed false information, and they refuse to acknowledge it in any way.

So my questions to you, Rona, are these.  I imagine you are on the editorial board, so how do you feel about having printed blatantly false information under your name?  How do you feel about Jim and Randy printing the same false information a second time, after Jim had admitted that he knew Jasper Kirkby had said no such thing?  How do you feel about their evasion of the issue of retraction, when your website specifically states, “The Herald corrects errors of fact appearing in its news and opinion columns”?  Are you going to print a retraction, or are you going to take Jim’s line of thinking, and rationalize that you know what those scientists were really thinking?

If you would like to see the full correspondence between me and your editors, just let me know.

Sincerely,

Barry Bickmore

Orem, Utah
———————
Rona Rahlf sent back a reply saying, “Thank you Barry for the feedback.  I’ll take it under advisement.  R”
We’ll see, I guess.
Posted by: Barry Bickmore | October 10, 2011

More Fun With the Daily Herald Editors

I’m convinced that one reason people just can’t fathom the depths of ideological brain-mush we conservatives have willed upon ourselves with respect to climate change is that the scale of it is just too unbelievable.  Who could suspend their disbelief in a novel character like Christopher Monckton, for instance?  He pretends to be a member of the British Parliament, says he’s developed a miracle cure for most known diseases, repeatedly gets caught telling falsehoods about climate research… and gets invited to testify before the U.S. Congress?  Rrrrriiiiiigggghhhht.  Well, I’m starting to see the editors of the Daily Herald, my local paper, in the same light.  If I were to tell my neighbors my experiences with these guys, would they believe me?  I sort of doubt it.

In my last post, I wrote about how the DH editors had written an opinion piece about climate change, in which they said that scientists at CERN “have concluded that cosmic rays play a much larger role than previously thought in creating clouds on earth.”  They had said that before, and I had pointed out to them that the study’s lead author, Jasper Kirkby, had emphatically denied this, but Jim Tynan had told me that he knew how to read between the lines (i.e., read Kirkby’s mind and determine that he meant the exact opposite of what he said.)

Back then, I had also asked if they would print an op-ed by me about the errors in their piece, but they declined, just as they had a few times before.  Well, when I blogged today about their latest fib-telling spree, I sent the link to the editors, Randy Wright and Jim Tynan, and then sent them this follow-up message

Just for kicks, I decided to ask whether you guys would print an op-ed by me about how you printed false information… or at least information that originated with Jim Tynen’s ability to read the minds of scientists and tell when they mean the exact opposite of what they say.  You see, with the number of words allowed in an op-ed, I could throw in big quotations from Jim’s e-mail, where he admitted that Jasper Kirkby didn’t actually say that his experiment proved any significant link between cosmic ray flux and climate, but claimed that he could tell what Kirkby really had in mind about it.

You’ve never agreed to print an op-ed by me before, when I’ve asked, so I wasn’t going to bother.  I have reconsidered because this is one of the worst cases of intellectual dishonesty (or insanity?) I’ve ever seen.  Nevermind that Randy promised to investigate Monckton’s fake data, and never followed up.  Nevermind that you keep repeating the same idiotic line about water vapor being a more important greenhouse gas than CO2, even though it is explicitly accounted for in the standard theories.  All that can be chalked up to ideology-fueled, willful ignorance.  But this is something different, because in this case Jim either knowingly printed false information, or he actually thinks he can read minds.  If the latter, he at least should have informed readers that he was getting his information from the little voices in his head.

So what do you think?  Will you let me spill the beans on your pages, or will you pretend it never happened?  Here’s another idea–maybe you could write an editorial where you lay out the facts in this case, even if you admit no fault.  Sort of a “Truth in Advertising” push, so to speak.

What say ye, gentlemen?

Barry Bickmore

Randy Wright responded with this message.

Dear Mr. Bickmore –

Sunday’s piece was intended to be our signoff on this subject — at least
for some time. I think we want to wait to see what happens next in both
science and politics. If climate change wins in either arena, we will be
glad to publish a column by you on the subject of “I told you so.”
Alternatively, we would also accept an “I was wrong” column.

There are two possibilities: Either climate change will win out politically,
with a massive shift of dollars into investments, regulations and foreign
aid that will, at best, deliver minuscule change in C02; or climate change
and the massive redistribution of wealth desired by many third-world
governments, climate scientists and Al Gore will not occur, owing to lack of
votes.

I very much doubt that what either the Daily Herald or Barry Bickmore writes
will make a measurable difference in the political outcome. I rather suspect
our combined influence will be even less than the most optimistic reduction
of carbon that might be purchased by mortgaging my great-great-grandchildren
and dooming them to a future of insufficient and expensive energy.

You are a good Mormon, I presume, judging from your position. So I don’t
know why the prospective death of Planet Earth seems to bother you so much.
Doom will come eventually, one way or another. Isn’t the earth supposed to
pass away and be renewed? And won’t heaven pass away and another rise to
take its place? If you hold this religious view with as much fervor as you
hold your view on man-made climate change, you might someday sit back with a
bemused smile when you find that our political system has made a decision
that shortens the planet’s life.

Given a general lack of persuasive evidence and the bad economics that
attend virtually all corrective choices, I rather expect the political
outcome will be disappointing to alarmists. In the final analysis, it’s
going to come down to policy votes, and today I’ll wager that climate change
will not prevail.

We should have more definitive answers to all this in, say, 40 years, at
which time we can consider publishing your proposed column. After all, the
intelligence gained in the four decades since the early 1970s has been quite
helpful in deciding what to do about the dire scientific predictions of the
onset of a new ice age. A good time to evaluate the scientific consensus on
climate change would be around 2051.

On one item I have no doubt, however: By 2051 there will be a scientific
consensus that Randy Wright is dead.

RW

Did you notice where he addressed the charge that they had knowingly printed a falsehood?  Neither did I.  I just sent them this reply.

Dear Randy (and Jim),

You guys crack me up.  It’s no wonder you like Monckton so much, because he is the undisputed master of throwing out an enormous cloud of smoke when he is (frequently) caught telling demonstrable falsehoods.  I point out that you have printed an outright falsehood, and that I have Jim Tynan on record saying that his source is his personal intuition about what Jasper Kirkby REALLY meant to say (i.e., the exact opposite of what he did say,) and you respond with… what, exactly?

I’ll paraphrase.

“Well, we weren’t going to open up that can of worms again for a while, anyway, and really, what difference does it make?  You may be right about climate change, or we may be right, but who can tell, what with space-age materials and such?  And after all, the whole thing is going to end someday, right?  Mormons believe in the end of the world, right?  So why don’t you behave like a pitchfork-waving psychopath and try to bring it about as soon as possible?  But, given my tough-minded journalistic nature, I’m betting the climate won’t change much, because all that evidence they talk about (the stuff I haven’t bothered to read or understand–see our nearly continuous stream of editorial comments about water vapor) isn’t very convincing.  I mean, there were a few scientists 40 years ago who thought we were headed into an ice age!  I didn’t actually try to find out whether there might have been even more scientists, even back then, who were worried about global warming due to increasing greenhouse gas concentrations, but… where was I?  Oh, yeah.  We should wait until I’m dead to decide who’s right or wrong.”

Since I’m a mind-reader, with abilities at least as great as Jim’s, I’ll paraphrase what you REALLY meant to say.

“We don’t care that we printed a claim we knew to be false.”

Barry

Apologies in advance to my friends who disapprove of my tendency toward sarcasm.  I’m trying to stop.  Really.  But in this case, I think God will make a special allowance because I am totally unprepared to stop myself in the face of this kind of thing.  Rest assured that I will feel kind of guilty later.

UPDATE:  Ok, so I did feel a little bad about the sarcasm in the morning, so I sent Jim and Randy this note.

Dear Randy and Jim,

I’m sorry I let myself get a little too sarcastic in the last message I sent.

However, I still find it unbelievable that you would respond to the charge that you had knowingly printed a falsehood with, “I very much doubt that what either the Daily Herald or Barry Bickmore writes will make a measurable difference in the political outcome.”  In other words, it’s ok you lied, because it won’t make much difference, anyway.  If there’s one thing that journalists should care about, it’s accurate reporting of facts.  Anyone can accidentally leave out important facts, or spin them according to some bias or other.  But when you report a fact, there is no question that you should check it’s accuracy, and that if an obvious inaccuracy is pointed out to you, you should care enough to write a retraction.  That’s the kind of ethic expressed on the Daily Herald’s contact page.  “The Herald corrects errors of fact appearing in its news and opinion columns.”

But you don’t care, because your journalistic ethics take a backseat to your ideology.

Barry Bickmore

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | October 10, 2011

The Daily Herald Editors Can Read Minds

My local newspaper is The Daily Herald, and let’s just say that this particular paper fits well into the “reddest county” of the “reddest state” in the nation.  Since I’m politically conservative, I actually agree with many of the editorial points of view expressed in the paper, but on the subject of climate change, the Herald’s editors are WAAAAAYYYYYY out in fantasyland.  That is, I’m pretty sure they think they can read minds.  No, I’m not joking.  I’ve corresponded with the editors, Randy Wright and Jim Tynan, for over a year about their constant stream of climate nonsense, but it’s become clear that there is no reasoning with these people on this issue.

Last year, Lord Monckton came to town, and Jim Tynan gushed over how he had provided a “dazzling tour of the science,” speaking out for freedom and liberty, blah, blah, blah.  In an e-mail conversation with Randy Wright, I informed him that I could prove that Monckton had made up some of the data he used to bash the IPCC.  (You can read about it here.)  Here’s what Randy said, in part.

You should know that we don’t take anything on faith (including Monckton). When my mother says “I love you,” I check it out.

In a subsequent e-mail, Randy said,

I’m simply an enemy of pretention in all it’s forms — including Monckton’s, or yours if applicable. We’re looking at Monckton in more detail, as I mentioned.

So what was the result of their hard-nosed investigative journalism into Monckton’s claims, you ask?  I have no idea.  Somehow, Randy never got back to me on that.  But yesterday Jim Tynan published a 2/3 page rant about “The Phony ‘Consensus’ on Climate Change,” the print version of which had a large photo of Monckton giving his lecture.

Oh, they had all the usual stuff.  They attacked Doran and Zimmerman’s study of Earth scientists opinions about climate change because they thought the sample of actively publishing climatologists was too small.  I actually calculated the margin of error on their results, and it turns out that instead of just saying 97.4% of actively publishing climatologists believe humans are significantly affecting global climate, they should have said something more like 93.8-99.9%.  Yeah, a bigger sample size might have totally changed their conclusions.  Of course, Tynan didn’t provide any alternative polling data.  Instead, he gave us the Oregon Petition and Senator Inhofe’s 1000 scientists who disagree with the IPCC.  Nevermind that the Oregon Petition could be signed by anyone who claimed to have even a bachelor’s degree in any science, engineering, medical, or math field, and that it was probably more likely that a urine sample technician signed than a real climate researcher.  Nevermind that Inhofe’s report included mostly non-specialists in climate, and although he touted a few IPCC authors in the bunch, they amounted to less than 1% of the total number of IPCC authors.

I could go on ad nauseum, e.g., Tynan cited Craig Idso, who apparently doesn’t understand how water vapor acts in the climate system.  But the Grand Poobah of them all was this claim.

Moreover, a recent paper in the prestigious journal Nature reported on findings from Europe’s CERN Laboratory, the most advanced particle accelerator in the world. Scientists there have concluded that cosmic rays play a much larger role than previously thought in creating clouds on earth.

Of course, Jim had claimed the same thing in an editorial just a few weeks ago.  At that time, I wrote to him to inform him that the lead author of the CERN study had told Scientific American, “At the moment, it actually says nothing about a possible cosmic-ray effect on clouds and climate, but it’s a very important first step.”  So why is Jim still claiming that the CERN scientists have concluded something far beyond what they say is possible to conclude from their experiment?  Jim’s reply to me from a few weeks ago is quite revealing, in that respect.

I don’t think I have special insights into the physics  — I just think Kirkby is talking politics, not science (as is too often true in this debate).

To me, when a scientist in his position tries to downplay the results, it’s actually confirmation: He obviously would like for this study to disappear, but  the data were so powerful that they couldn’t be swept under the rug, at least not now.

And PR and journalistic spin are in my domain. Spinmeister’s rule no. 2:  When there’s an inconvenient truth too obvious to be outright denied, try to find some distraction or some way of minimizing the impact.

No, the report doesn’t say in so many words that “warming is a crock.” But it gives hard evidence that cosmic rays affect cloud cover. And it’s obvious that affects climate.

That’s right!  Jim Tynan, the hard-nosed, iconoclastic journalist, is too wily and sophisticated to be fooled by scientists who downplay the importance of their results.  In fact, Kirkby’s denial that his experiment is proof of a strong cosmic ray-climate connection is actually proof of such a connection!

It would be easy, at this point, to call Jim Tynan a liar, but I’m convinced that he actually believes he can read Jasper Kirkby’s mind.  It would be nice, however, if in the future Mr. Tynan would inform his readers that the source of his information is ESP.

If you would like to see a good explanation for why the CERN experiment couldn’t possibly prove what Jim Tynan says it proves, see the following video by an experienced science journalist, Peter Hadfield.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | October 7, 2011

Peter Gleick Hits Where It Hurts

Climate change will adversely affect chocolate production?  That’s it.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | October 3, 2011

Republicans Going Against the Tide

Here are some recent articles about Republicans who are trying to get the party to reverse course on climate change denial.

1. Retired Republicans Quietly Try to Shift GOP Climate-Change Focus, National Journal.

2. D. R. Tucker, Confessions of a Climate Change Convert, Frum Forum.

3. D. R. Tucker, Dawn of the Deniers.

The second piece by Tucker was especially hard-hitting.  Consider this bit:

However, I realize now that I was also wrong on this point. When it comes to epistemic closure, American progressives are rank amateurs compared to American conservatives. The negativity I received from the right for accepting climate science was unlike anything I have ever experienced—but I’m actually glad to have experienced it, since it forced me to confront some inconvenient political truths.

Looking back, my disputes with the left gave me the fortitude I needed to deal with the right’s aggressively enforced epistemic closure. The progressives who gave me grief for supporting President Clinton’s impeachment and John McCain’s White House bid gave me the best training possible to deal with a far more pernicious, and far more pervasive, form of ideological intolerance.

Being branded a “RINO” and a “warmist” by the close-minded conservative class was the wake-up call I needed. In a weird way, I want to thank the conservatives who condemned my conversion on climate change. They helped me realize that a “warmist” is merely someone who accepts scientific reality instead of denying it—and that a “RINO” is another word for a Republican with an IQ above room temperature.

Is this really where we want to go?  Making conservatives who respect science choose between voting for candidates who disagree with them about many fiscal and social issues, or voting for candidates who are incapable of dealing with reality?

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | September 26, 2011

Bob Inglis: How GOP Should Engage Climate Science

Bob Inglis, former Republican congressman from North Carolina, has a great column in USA Today.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | September 16, 2011

Two Parties, One Approach to Climate Science

Two climate scientists of opposite political persuasions encourage our politicians to get it together with respect to climate change action.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | September 16, 2011

Remote Sensing Publishes Rebuttal

Remote Sensing just published a rebuttal to Spencer and Braswell’s latest paper.  The rebuttal, written by Kevin Trenberth, John Fasullo, and John Abraham, is mostly based on an earlier RealClimate post by Trenberth and Fasullo, but tidied up and updated for publication.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | September 13, 2011

Deseret News Article on L’Affaire Spencer

The Deseret News has published an article on Wolfgang Wagner’s resignation over the Spencer and Braswell paper Remote Sensing published.  Since it’s a local paper, which always highlights any local angles, the article highlighted my review of Spencer’s book, The Great Global Warming Blunder, and whatever it might have contributed to Wagner’s decision–which is speculation, since he didn’t mention any specific sources of criticism that might have contributed to his decision.  (In my opinion, any contribution I might have made was probably overhyped.  I told the reporter all about what had happened, but emphasized that the main critique of S&B’s paper before the resignation was Trenberth and Fasullo’s, and they just mentioned my earlier critique as an example of how Spencer has a habit of abusing statistics to squeeze a low climate sensitivity out of a 1-box climate model.  I did, however, note that Spencer was up to some of the same old tricks in the paper, e.g., he was using a weird value for the ocean mixed layer depth, which affected his results.)

The article actually made me feel some sympathy for Roy Spencer.  Reporters are generally not trained in any science, so it really is a stretch for them to boil a science story down to a level the general public can understand.  If you don’t have a significantly deeper understanding to begin with, the “boiling down” process inevitably leads to some errors.  When Roy was criticized for feeding the media frenzy over his paper, he said,

I had nothing to do with James Taylor’s article. It might have been a little over the top on interpretation (but not necessarily wrong).

In this case, I don’t think the Deseret News reporter did a bad job, but I wouldn’t have written exactly the same thing.  She made some errors here and there.  (E.g., she misidentified Roy’s book that I critiqued–I’ve never read Climate Confusion.  Trenberth and Fasullo’s blog post came after S&B’s paper, not before, but the blog post mentioned a paper by Trenberth, Fasullo, O’Dell, and Wong that was published previously and should have been addressed by S&B.  Also, I don’t think my quoted statements were always exactly right, or at least the context was sometimes a tiny bit blurry.)  But then, I’m sure she was going on hastily written notes, and at least she e-mailed me to clarify a few things before she went to press.

In the end, the reporter got across that I thought S&B were playing fast and loose with their statistics, and that I had previously demonstrated that Roy had repeatedly done something similar in the past.

So what should I do?  If I were to refrain from saying anything, or act as if the newspaper article were 100% accurate, I’m sure I would be lambasted on many a contrarian blog.  (I’m sure I will be, in any case.)  At the same time, I don’t want to be too critical of the reporter, who was pushed into the deep end and really tried to get the facts straight before her deadline.  Certainly I think she got across a message that her audience needed to hear, especially since the Deseret News recently published an article in which they used the S&B paper to illustrate the point that human-induced climate change is still “controversial” among climate scientists.

So there you have it.  I’ve seen a lot worse, and I think the core message was on target, but there were a few problems.  If anyone has any problem with something I was quoted as saying in the article, please comment below, and I’ll provide more context.

 

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | September 7, 2011

Roy Spencer Responds With More Excuses

In my last post, I gave some of the details of Andrew Dessler’s latest paper, which criticizes a recent paper by Roy Spencer and Danny Braswell.  One of the criticisms I highlighted was the charge that S&B said they had analyzed output from 14 climate models, but only compared 6 of the models to the data–the 3 with the least, and the 3 with the greatest, climate sensitivity.  They argued that the 3 least sensitive models did a slightly better job (on average) than the 3 most sensitive ones, but none of them were very good at reproducing the data, so maybe that indicates the real climate is less sensitive than ANY of the models.  They also used the temperature series (there are several) that gave the most marked difference from the data.  I provided a number of links to show that Spencer has a history of botching his statistics, and noted that in the past he has simply brushed off criticisms of his statistical abuse, relying on the statistical naïveté of his core audience. Read More…

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | September 6, 2011

Roy Spencer Persecuted By Own Data

Summary:  Roy Spencer’s latest paper, published in Remote Sensing, supposedly “blew a gaping hole” in the standard theory of climate change.  A new paper by Andrew Dessler shows that this is just another in a long string of Roy’s faulty claims to prove that climate sensitivity is lower than previously thought.  The main problem in all of these attempts has been rampant abuse of statistics.  Typically, Roy would brush off such criticisms, relying on the statistical naïveté of his core audience and the media, and claim he is being persecuted by the “IPCC gatekeepers”.  In this case, one of Dessler’s figures shows very clearly how Spencer and his co-author Danny Braswell left out of their analysis all the data that didn’t fit with their hypothesis.  It’s so clear that even people who don’t know much about statistics can see the problem.  There is no running from this one–no claiming that Spencer is being persecuted–unless he wants us to believe he’s being persecuted by his own data. Read More…

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | September 2, 2011

Remote Sensing Editor Resigns Over Spencer/Braswell Paper

A few weeks ago, there was a big media frenzy over a new paper by Roy Spencer and Danny Braswell, published in the journal Remote Sensing.  The paper claimed to show, via some satellite data, that the climate models used by the IPCC are way off the mark.  Big news, right?  However, it turned out that Spencer had, for the umpteenth time, botched his statistics.  To summarize, Spencer and Braswell 1) compared a 10 year period of data with 100 year periods in the models, instead of breaking the 100 years into 10 year periods, 2) didn’t put error bars on the data or the model output, and 3) didn’t plot some of the models that did a better job at reproducing the data.  If they had done all this the right way, they would have seen that the models do a decent job, although some are better than others.

Another criticism of Spencer and Braswell’s paper was their choice of venue, the open-access journal, Remote Sensing.  Now, some of these for-profit, open-access journals are a bit shady, and routinely publish things that should have been rejected with prejudice, but it’s usually hard to tell until they have been around a few years.  The bigger worry was that Remote Sensing hasn’t published a lot of climate science in the past.  In such a case, the editors handling the manuscript probably aren’t climate specialists, and may not know who the best reviewers would be.  Often, authors are allowed to suggest some good reviewers, and if the editors don’t know who would be better, or that the suggested reviewers are all buddies of the authors, they might just ask the suggested reviewers.

It turns out that this was very likely the case here.

The editor of Remote Sensing, Wolfgang Wagner, has now published an editorial in which he 1) describes how the peer review process failed in this case, and 2) announces his resignation in an attempt to save the reputation of the journal.  Here’s the money quote.

In hindsight, it is possible to see why the review process of the paper by Spencer and Braswell did not fulfill its aim. The managing editor of Remote Sensing selected three senior scientists from renowned US universities, each of them having an impressive publication record. Their reviews had an apparently good technical standard and suggested one “major revision”, one “minor revision” and one “accept as is”. The authors revised their paper according to the comments made by the reviewers and, consequently, the editorial board member who handled this paper accepted the paper (and could in fact not have done otherwise). Therefore, from a purely formal point of view, there were no errors with the review process. But, as the case presents itself now, the editorial team unintentionally selected three reviewers who probably share some climate sceptic notions of the authors. This selection by itself does not mean that the review process for this paper was wrong. In science, diversity and controversy are essential to progress and therefore it is important that different opinions are heard and openly discussed. Therefore editors should take special care that minority views are not suppressed, meaning that it certainly would not be correct to reject all controversial papers already during the review process. If a paper presents interesting scientific arguments, even if controversial, it should be published and responded to in the open literature. This was my initial response after having become aware of this particular case. So why, after a more careful study of the pro and contra arguments, have I changed my initial view? The problem is that comparable studies published by other authors have already been refuted in open discussions and to some extend also in the literature (cf. [7]), a fact which was ignored by Spencer and Braswell in their paper and, unfortunately, not picked up by the reviewers. In other words, the problem I see with the paper by Spencer and Braswell is not that it declared a minority view (which was later unfortunately much exaggerated by the public media) but that it essentially ignored the scientific arguments of its opponents. This latter point was missed in the review process, explaining why I perceive this paper to be fundamentally flawed and therefore wrongly accepted by the journal. This regrettably brought me to the decision to resign as Editor-in-Chief―to make clear that the journal Remote Sensing takes the review process very seriously.

UPDATE 1:  Read more about this from Joe Romm (and others linked from his blog) and Leo Hickman at The Guardian.  The BBC has now picked this up, and makes the same kind of points I did about how things work when you submit your work to an off-topic journal.  Media Matters has now picked it up.  More comments on Ars Technica.  Peter Gleick has a blog post up about this at the Forbes magazine site.  You may remember that the original media frenzy about S&B’s paper was started with a Forbes blog written by James Taylor, from the Heartland Institute.  Interestingly, the Forbes homepage has bumped Peter’s blog off in favor of less viewed entries already.  Could they be sensitive to the fact that they are guilty of letting some non-scientist shill for a right-wing “think-tank” interpret climate science for their readers?  John Nielsen-Gammon (Texas State Climatologist) has similar insights to mine about the likely course of the review process in this case.

UPDATE 2:  Andrew Dessler has just published a paper that exposes certain aspects of Spencer and Braswell’s paper that, well, ticked me off, for one thing.  It’s a bombshell.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | August 24, 2011

Why Romney and Huntsman Aren’t Anti-Science

The Daily Beast has a nice article on why the Mormon candidates in the GOP primary race are the only ones who haven’t disavowed mainstream climate science and evolution.  My pal Summer Rupper was interviewed for the piece.

Meanwhile, Dana Nuccitelli just posted a detailed examination of the GOP candidates statements about climate change on Skeptical Science.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | August 23, 2011

Hockey Stick Conspiracy Expands

The National Science Foundation Inspector General’s office just released a report on its investigation of allegations that “Hockey Team” captain Michael Mann had falsified data.  (Read all about it from Joe Romm.)

Finding no research misconduct or other matter raised by the various regulations and laws discussed above, this case is closed.

The NSF investigation essentially confirms the finding of an earlier Penn State University internal investigation.

Clearly, the circle of conspirators implicated in hiding wrongdoing by Michael Mann has expanded once again!  But never fear–the allegations didn’t go away when the British government found no evidence of data tampering, or when the National Research Council in the USA found the same.  They didn’t go away when over a dozen subsequent studies showed the original Hockey Stick graph was about right, and the main conclusions drawn were correct.  After all, where loudmouth ideologues are blowing smoke, there must be fire!

The allegations won’t go away now, either.  One man–Virginia State Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli–has the courage to ignore the utter lack of supporting evidence for the allegations, and use his position to go on a fishing expedition for the evidence that must be out there, somewhere.  And even if he doesn’t find any evidence for these particular allegations, well, Mann must have done something wrong, sometime, or at least said something in an e-mail that can be taken out of context to make it sound like he’s done something wrong.  When you’re dealing with a giant, yet super-secret, conspiracy, you have to play hardball.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | August 21, 2011

GOP Candidates and Climate Change

Jim Steenburgh, a climatologist at the University of Utah, posted on his blog a bunch of videos of the GOP presidential candidates talking about their views about climate change.  A must-see.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | August 8, 2011

The Monckton Files: Bombshell!!! John Abraham to be Sued!!!

A reporter from a New Zealand TV station interviewed Lord Monckton, who got pretty irate when the reporter brought up John Abraham’s gutting of one of Monckton’s presentations.  Among the startling revelations–Monckton is going to sue Abraham for libel!!!

No, really!  Remember how last August Monckton said, “We’re quietly gathering the evidence. Sometimes a libel action is the only way to make liars face their lies, and pay for them.”  Oh yes, he was just biding his time, quietly gathering evidence until… well, a year later… when he finally has the goods on that poor sap, Prof. Abraham.  Ah, maybe this goes back to the BBC documentary about Monckton that aired earlier this year, in which he creepily claimed that he was having Prof. Abraham’s finances watched.  Be afraid, John.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | August 8, 2011

LDS Earth Stewardship Blog

If there are any other Mormons out there, you should check out the new LDS Earth Stewardship blog.  Great stuff.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | August 4, 2011

Deseret News Op-Ed on Climate Consensus

The Deseret News published an article the other day entitled, “Global warming, climate science far from settled“.  They let me publish an op-ed in response.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | July 26, 2011

Just Put the Model Down, Roy

For the past few years, Roy Spencer has had a love affair, of sorts, with “simple climate models”.  After all, who needs some fancy-schmancy global circulation model (GCM) when you can boil down the main features (energy in and energy out) to a simple “1-box” or “zero-dimensional” model that you can run on a spreadsheet?

Spencer wasn’t the first one to use such a model, and every modeler knows that it is usually a good idea to use the simplest model you can get away with to represent complex physical processes.  The key here is to recognize that the simpler the model, the more phenomena are glossed over, so simpler models are only going to be good for particular, specialized purposes.

In this case, Spencer wants to use simple climate models to estimate equilibrium climate sensitivity for a doubling of CO2.  Let’s look back and see how he’s done with that so far. Read More…

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | July 23, 2011

The Debate Monckton Won’t Have

Over in Australia, Christopher Monckton is busy trying to stir up controversy about a proposed carbon tax over there by challenging anyone who disagrees with him to a live debate.  Here’s the meat of his latest challenge to Malcolm Turnbull:

Now therefore I, The Right Honourable Christopher Walter, by the Grace of God and Letters Patent under the Hand and Seal of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second (whom God preserve) Third Viscount Monckton of Brenchley, do by these presents challenge the said Absolute Banker to a Debate on live television, during which each party shall have the opportunity to state his case and to examine the other’s case, with a view to informing Hard-Working Taxpayers and allowing them to decide for themselves whether the truth is being told by me or by the said Member for Goldman Sachs, upon whom I call to take up this challenge, if he dares.

Now, Monckton is a very good debater, if by “very good” one means that he is a master of fooling people into believing him by spouting scientific-sounding nonsense and Latin phrases.  It’s been shown any number of times that his claims are often utterly divorced from the reality of the sources he cites, so what is his debate opponent to do if Monckton brings in a fresh one?  A person who insists on sticking to responsible arguments can’t just accuse him of making things up without taking time to check the sources, after all.

But listen up, my Australian friends, because herein lies the key to neutralizing Monckton’s debate fever.  He loves live debate, because it plays to his strengths:  i.e., unlimited confidence and total disregard for responsible argument.  He’s not so excited about written debate, where the participants are given time to check each others’ sources.  At least, that’s been my experience.

Back in late 2009, 18 professors at my institution (including me) wrote a letter to the Utah Legislature objecting to how they had been handling climate change issues.  Bob Ferguson, president of the Science and Public Policy Institute and Monckton’s handler, wrote us all a threatening letter challenging us to publicly debate some climate skeptic he would provide (and which turned out to be Monckton.)  All of us either refused or ignored the request, because we thought the challenge was ridiculous.  What would a sound-bite fest like that prove?  However, I told Bob that I would be happy to do a written, online debate with Monckton.  Why?  Because I would have time to check Monckton’s sources to see if they said what he claimed.  Bob wrote back that he thought it was a reasonable suggestion.  A few months later, Bob came back and offered me $5000 to do the debate, and I refused, but renewed my offer to do an online, written debate (for free!!!)  His answer was simply, “No.”  No explanation.

So why not try that, my Australian mates?  If he challenges you to a debate, give him a counter-offer for a more responsible format.  He probably won’t take the offer, but if he does, you’ll have hundreds of climate scientists who would love to help you shove it down Monckton’s throat.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | July 20, 2011

The Monckton Files: If the Shoe Fits…

Monckton Quote of the Day

Regarding his recent interview with ABC’s Adam Spencer in Australia, Lord Christopher Monckton said:

He would not allow me to speak. He kept saying, ‘You are not a real peer, not a real scientist’, and he was implying that I’m a complete idiot who makes things up.

For background information regarding Spencer’s implied message, please see:

Lord Monckton’s Rap Sheet

Monckton Makes It Up

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | July 18, 2011

The Monckton Files: House of Lords Recap

I expect the Australian media will pick the latest story about Monckton up, so for any who might read this blog, here is a little nudge to help you tell the story how it should be told.

First, the sort of people who support Monckton are already trying to spin it this way:  “Who cares if he isn’t a member of the House of Lords?”  But the point of the criticism is not that he isn’t a member of Parliament.  It is that he claims to be a member of Parliament, but is not.  He has even represented himself to foreign governments as a member of Parliament.  Stop and think about it for a moment.  Oh, I understand that Monckton really thinks he SHOULD be a member of Parliament, but how seriously would anyone take Al Gore if he went about saying that he really was the President of the United States because he thinks the Supreme Court didn’t have the right to stop the recounts in 2000?  Yes, a few nutjobs would take him seriously, but that’s the point–only nutjobs would take him seriously.

Here’s a recap of the whole sordid affair taken from Lord Monckton’s Rap Sheet:

Monckton represented himself to members of the U.S. Congress as a member of the U.K. House of Lords (the upper house of Parliament.)  When people started pointing out that he doesn’t appear on the official list of members, however, he started saying that he is a member “without a seat or vote.”  When queried, the House of Lords responded that there is no such thing as a member without a seat or vote, and Lord Monckton had never been a member because he inherited his title (Viscount) in 2006, after all but 92 hereditary peers had been barred from membership in the House of Lords since 1999.  When asked to respond about this misrepresentation by members of Congress, Monckton basically acknowledged that the British government doesn’t recognize him as a member of the House of Lords, but claimed that they’re wrong because his “Letters Patent” that granted his title to the family (and presumably mention membership in the House of Lords) had never been revoked by specific legislation.  He said that the Lord President of the Council in the House of Lords had admitted that letters patent could only be annulled by specific legislation.  However, Tim Lambert actually looked up what the Lord President of the Council said, and it turns out that she used the House of Lords Act 1999 as an example of legislation that altered the effect of Letters Patent.  In other words, she said the exact opposite of Monckton’s claim.  UPDATE:  I should have mentioned that Monckton has also gone about using a logo that it quite similar to that of Parliament.  Derek at Friends of Gin and Tonic sent an inquiry to the House of Lords Information Office about Monckton’s claim to be a member and his use of the logo, and they responded that, “The House is currently taking steps with a view to ensuring that Lord Monckton does not in future either claim to be a member of the House or use the parliamentary emblem or any variant thereof.”  UPDATED UPDATE:  Leo Hickman at The Guardian followed up on this with the House of Lords, and found that it’s just possible Monckton could do prison time.  We can only hope, but it appears that Monckton may be quietly backing down!  In his latest post on the Watts Up With That? blog, Monckton has changed his logo to a gaudy coronet, rather than the gaudy coronet and pink portcullis.  ANOTHER UPDATE:  Monckton is still claiming to be a member of the House of Lords, and he has added the portcullis back into his logo (although with wavy chains instead of straight).  Now the House has taken the step of publishing a “cease and desist” letter on their website.  Full story by Leo Hickman in The Guardian.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | July 18, 2011

The Monckton Files: The Lords Go Public

During his ongoing Australian speaking tour, Lord Monckton has again been claiming to be a member of the House of Lords without a seat or vote.  Now the House of Lords has published a “cease and desist” letter on their website.  Full story by Leo Hickman in The Guardian.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | July 9, 2011

The Monckton Files: Caught Out Again

Many others have mentioned the recent grilling of Lord Monckton by Australian radio commentator Adam Spencer.  (Here’s a good one by Moth at New Anthropocene.)  Spencer grilled him about claiming to be a member of Parliament, about misinterpreting scientific literature, about claiming to be a Nobel laureate, and so on.  The bit about claiming to be a Nobel laureate caught my eye, because although Monckton claims it was a joke, Spencer asked him why this claim is so widespread on the Internet.  Monckton replied that it wasn’t on any website he has control of.  Of course, as Moth and others have pointed out, the Science and Public Policy Institute (sppinstitute.org–I’m not kidding) website has a bio of Monckton that makes this claim, and Monckton is the “Chief Policy Advisor” for SPPI.

Well, I have a juicy little tidbit to add to the mix.  In April of last year, I personally informed Bob Ferguson (president of SPPI) about his organization’s complicity in Monckton’s résumé padding in an e-mail conversation.

Yep.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | July 5, 2011

Chinese Coal-Fired Plants Cool the Planet… Temporarily

A new study has come out in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that claims to explain why the global climate hasn’t been warming over the last decade as fast as it had been.  The culprit may be a gazillion new Chinese coal-fired power plants, many of which aren’t equipped with “scrubbers” that take sulfur aerosols out of the emissions.  So while these new plants have been spewing out lots of CO2, which tends to warm the planet, they have also been emitting lots of the aerosols, which tend to reflect sunlight back into space, cooling the planet.  Hallelujah, right?  Well, the problem is that sulfur aerosols only help in the short-term, whereas lots of the CO2 we emit will be warming the planet for hundreds, or even thousands of years to come.

Read the full story in The Independent.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | June 29, 2011

Michelle Bachmann… (snort)

Tea Party darling Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-Minnesota) is one of those Republican presidential candidates who doesn’t think unlimited greenhouse gas emissions will be a problem.  On the House floor she once said that CO2 is “a natural byproduct of nature” and “there isn’t even one study that can be produced that shows that carbon dioxide is a harmful gas”.

I’ve concluded that we need this kind of person in the White House.  Bachmann not only has the faith to alter fundamental physics and the history of scientific publishing just by wishing, but she displays incredible poise under pressure.  Just witness how her campaign handled the bemusement of the sneering liberals after she recently expressed her desire to mimic a serial killer.  From the Minnesota Independent:

Presidential hopeful and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann appeared to commit a large blunder Monday when, after she announced her presidential campaign in Waterloo, Iowa, she promised to “mimic the spirit of Waterloo’s own John Wayne.”

However, according to The Washington Times, Bachmann misspoke because Waterloo’s John Wayne was not the beloved movie star, but rather John Wayne Gacy, the serial killer.

“Well what I want them to know is just like, John Wayne was from Waterloo, Iowa. That’s the kind of spirit that I have, too,” Bachmann said in an interview with FoxNews after her announcement.

According to an update by the AP, she really turned this around by acknowledging her error.

The GOP congresswoman told CNN today her comments “were just misspeaking” and that her main intent was to show she identified with Wayne’s patriotism.

“I wish I could be perfect,” Bachmann said. “I’m a substantive, serious person” who has “good sense on how to turn the economy around” as president.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | June 24, 2011

Monckton Ureservedl-ish Apologizes for Nazi Comment

Lord Christopher Monckton, caught up in a media firestorm in Australia for calling economist Ross Garnaut a fascist while flashing up a slide with a rather innocuous statement of Garnaut’s next to a Nazi flag, has now issued an “unreserved apology”!!!

which he then followed with a call for apologies from people who call contrarians like himself “climate deniers” or “denialists”.  You know, because people who, against all evidence, deny that the Holocaust occurred are called “Holocaust deniers” or “denialists”.  And if you use a word to describe one group, that must mean you think any other group you describe with the same word IS EXACTLY THE SAME IN ALL RESPECTS.

That’s why I avoid using the word “sympathizer.”  The first time I heard that word, someone was talking about “Nazi sympathizers,” so when I heard someone speaking of “terrorist sympathizers,” I was appalled.  I mean, obviously the person talking meant to imply that all terrorist sympathizers are closet Nazis.  How else could I interpret it?  For shame.

On a serious note, I avoid using the terms “denier” and “denialist”–not because I think such terms are usually meant to equate people with Nazis, but because I don’t want to listen to all the whining.

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | June 22, 2011

Guess Who Monckton Embarrassed?

In a speech given at the 2011 Big Footprint Conference, sponsored by the American Freedom Alliance, Monckton gave a long tirade about “eco-fascists”, and compared them to Hitler.  (Look about 50 minutes into the presentation.)  He also flashed up slides with quotations by various accused “eco-fascists” next to a large Nazi flag.  Obviously, there are people who think Democracy can’t deal with a problem like climate change and should move to a more totalitarian form of government, but His Lordship was rather free with his Nazi analogies.  E.g., Prof. Ross Garnaut, an Australian economist who wrote a government report on dealing with climate change, said that people who don’t know anything about climate science have no rational choice but to accept what the experts say about it.  Of course, for Monckton this sentiment is radically anti-Democratic, but the fact is that Prof. Garnaut was simply encouraging people to be rational.  To everyone but the tinfoil hat crowd, summarily rejecting an overwhelming consensus of scientific experts without knowing what you are talking about is, well… irrational.

Well, this doesn’t sit well with Andrew Bolt, a well known conservative political columnist in Australia.  Although Bolt has been a Monckton fan in the past, and frankly he seems to have no real basis for his own skepticism aside from his political leanings, he says:

Monckton is right to warn against the surrender to argument-by-authority. He is right to warn against the surrender of sovereignty to international bodies claiming to work for “the planet”.

But he’s gone too far in this deeply pesonal attack and an apology is in order. Without one, it will be unwise for other sceptics to associate themselves with him on his Australian tour.

And so it begins.  I’ve often wondered just what it would take for Monckton to start embarrassing other prominent climate contrarians.  Would it be the fake IPCC CO2 and temperature projections?  Nope.  Would it be the non-stop mischaracterization of scientific papers?  Nope.  Would it be falsely claiming to be a member of Parliament?  Nope.  Would it be all the threatened lawsuits?  Nope again.   He used a gratuitous Nazi analogy, and that’s beyond the pale, apparently.  Go figure.

 

Posted by: Barry Bickmore | June 20, 2011

Minnesota Contrarian Pads His Résumé

Moncktonophiles will recognize a recurring theme, here.  There aren’t very many credentialed climate scientists who reject the consensus that humans are causing significant climate change, so what is a contrarian Minnesota state senator to do if he wants to verbally beat down the opposition?  Answer:  inflate his own credentials.

That’s what has happened with Sen. Michael Jungbauer (East Bethel).  A guy who doesn’t even have a college degree now has “a major in biochemistry,” has taken a class in “tropospheric chemistry” (even though it doesn’t show up on any of his transcripts), and he’s working on a Master’s degree in Environmental Policy (from a university that doesn’t have a Master’s program in Environmental Policy).

Read the whole story at MinnPost.com.

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