Posts Tagged ‘climate change’

RealClimate has a guest post by David Karoly looking at the climate factors that contributed to the severity of the recent bushfires, and examining the evidence (or lack thereof) that global warming is a contributing factor in producing such conditions. Data, evidence, argument – the way an examination of causal mechanisms should be done.

On the other hand, Al Gore is fat!

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How sausages are made

Following on from my previous post about effectively disseminating scientific evidence – Dam Buster of Preston commented and linked to a news story about the findings about Antarctic temperatures that have received news coverage today.

Here is an account of the study and its findings from one of the authors, who blogs at RealClimate. It can be interesting comparing the scientists’ own explanation of the details, implications and limitations to the cut-down and oversimplified version that most media outlets will report – there are still some good science journalists around, but it’s not a growth profession despite the fact that it’s an important job that takes great skill to do right.

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Before getting stuck into things, here’s a link to one of my favourites from The Onion – which captures the spirit of this post nicely.

Tim Lambert has reported on the findings of a recent survey of earth scientists. The key question in the survey asked whether the respondent thinks “human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures.” The results of a corresponding Gallup survey of the general public were included in the analysis as well.

The figure in Tim’s post (NB: Graham Readfearn has a link to the paper in his post) displays a clear trend – those who are most actively and closely involved in climate change research give the strongest endorsement to human activity contributing to global warming. As you move into categories of scientists who are more removed from climate change research, endorsement goes down. And, based on the Gallup poll, the general public’s acceptance of AGW is lowest of all.

This is a disheartening finding – although experts within the field demonstrate close to unanimous agreement, the public is in two minds. But it is perhaps not surprising – on the one hand, you have a field of experts whose primary focus is on advancing knowledge even further. By and large, they accept the current body of knowledge and are trying to refine our understanding of the areas that remain unsettled. Yet in the meanwhile, there are the pundits who actively argue against the evidence, distorting and distracting the public’s attention from what the expert consensus tells us. And there is the seemingly inevitable trend in reporting to ensure “balance” by reporting conflicting views – even when the numbers on each side of those views are vastly different.

It’s an interesting phenomenon – the scientists are busy with the science, leaving the opinion-makers to sow uncertainty and feed it with their intellectual dishonesty. But it highlights something important – that, setting aside the hardcore denialists who are never going to be swayed by evidence or argument, there is a substantial proportion of the public who are not aware of the level of certainty and unanimity among the experts in this field. There needs to be a concerted push back against the misinformation that focuses not on the disciples of Bolt, Blair, Akerman and Marohasy, but on this more general audience who may not be actively involved in the debate around these issues.

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I’ve been in two minds about whether to write this post. On the one hand, it’s a pretty amusing story and highlights just how absurd one can be while collecting what I imagine is a decent paycheque from a major media outlet. On the other hand, it’s so obvious that it barely needs to be written about. I don’t even know what has tipped me toward publishing this post, but now that we’re started I’ll go ahead and state my point.

Piers Akerman appears to be foaming at the mouth.


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This Sherlock Holmes story is close to perfect – the only thing missing is that Lestrade didn’t make enough of Mr Algore’s girth.

(Hat-tip to Tamino)

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The Friday Freebie

The Friday Freebie is where I share an online, open-access resource that I think readers might find interesting and useful. Each week, I will introduce a free resource that I think will be useful to teh angry Leftists – books, podcasts, web sites, etc. The aim is to compile a toolkit for understanding and advancing progressive ideals.

This week’s freebie is related to one of the pet topics of many a conservative commentator, not to mention that lovable larrikin, Barnaby Joyce – global warming. There are plenty of bloggers who keep track of the contortions and cherry-picking these folks engage in to maintain their denialism – Tim Lambert’s Deltoid does a great job on this front (although I am a bit dismayed by his abandonment of Roman numerals in today’s post), and Graham Readfearn of the Courier-Mail occasionally takes on the task of criticising his colleagues within the Murdoch empire. And then there are sites dedicated to discussing the technical details of climate science – Tamino’s Open Mind and RealClimate being two great examples. And for every Jennifer Marohasy, there’s a Barry Brook out there to rebut the pseudoscientific propaganda.

But today’s freebie is intended to provide a more general, fundamental background to inform readers about the science underlying global warming. John Cook established Skeptical Science as a resource to help readers get past both the denialism and alarmism. The site begins with some of the most commonly heard arguments about global warming, and discusses (with links and citations) the evidence for or against each of those arguments. With that foundation, Cook is able to track how many of those arguments are recycled in news and opinion writing about global warming. It’s a clear and detailed site for getting to grips with some of the issues that are raised as controversies in the debate about global warming.

Do you have a tip for future freebies? Contact me with any suggestions or requests.

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Warmaholic” – that is the new term coined by a virologist who was attempting to argue against the evidence for global warming in today’s Australian.

When I read the column this morning, I found myself asking what evidence Jon Jenkins had to support any of his assertions. He didn’t cite it, and I didn’t have the time or inclination to go looking.

Fortunately, Graham Readfearn did – including talking to the BoM’s acting chief climatologist. This quote from Michael Coughlan sums up The Australian’s status as an outlet for science journalism:

The Australian clearly has an editorial policy. No matter how many times the scientific community refutes these arguments, they persist in putting them out – to the point where we believe there’s little to be gained in the use of our time in responding.

Not unlike their position with respect to political commentary, for that matter. And it seems that this week’s topic du jour is why it is absolutely essential (and morally right) for Israel to do what it has done in Gaza, and whatever else it ends up doing. Sheridan has a column, and there have been plenty of guest op-eds as well.

I wonder what The Australian expects to survive on once it has destroyed its credibility with respect to every issue its journalists are expected to report on?

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A column in The Australian actually takes an objective look at climate science and rebuts some of the common denialist memes – many of which have been put forward in recent columns in The Australian.

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Time passes

A popular denialist meme at the moment seems to be, “but it’s cold outside!” The Australian has printed an excerpt of a longer article by Christopher Booker, titled “2008 was the year man-made global warming was disproved”. Booker suggests that it has been so cold lately that:

This winter, with the whole of Canada and half the US under snow, looks likely to be even worse. After several years flatlining, global temperatures have dropped sharply enough to cancel out much of their net rise in the 20th century.

This is a silly argument. Transient weather events cannot be taken as evidence for or against long-term climate change. And it’s an argument that can’t endure – wait just a short while, and it can be countered with this:

+ Dallas hit 83 degrees, breaking its 2005 high temperature of 81.

+ On Friday, Wichita, Kansas saw 70 degrees, easily breaking the previous record of 64. But don’t get used to it: today, the high is expected to be 34 degrees.

+ In Iowa, the warm temperatures caused major visibility issues.

+ Madison, Wisconsin looked to hit a record high of 50 — followed by a cold front snapping temps back down.

+ In the Sierra Nevadas, it finally snowed on Dec 13 — weeks later than in years past. With an earlier melt, anxiety is on the rise.

+ Birmingham, Alabama also expected temps above normal. So far today, the high has been 73. The average: 56.

+ Tennessee also looked forward to warm weather. The headline: Today’s forecast: Warm, wind advisory all day.

As Jed notes, relying on anecdote and cherry-picked weather events doesn’t prove or disprove anything. The only consolation is that time itself negates the argument. But perhaps the denialists who run such arguments are hoping that nobody will point out, and nobody will notice on their own, when the weather pattern runs against their argument.

Unfortunately, sometimes they reach too far back into the past and eviscerate their own claims. Take this recent National Review Online commentary by Deroy Murdock, in which he claims that:

the National Snow and Ice Data Center has found that the extent of Arctic sea ice has expanded by 13.2 percent over last year. This 270,000 square-mile growth in Arctic sea ice is just slightly larger than Texas’s 268,820 square miles.

Murdock links to a commentary on NSIDC data that was written back at the beginning of September. He neglects to note that “last year” was itself anomalous – 2007 saw the lowest level of Arctic sea ice coverage in recorded history, so regression to the mean can account for the 13.2% “expansion” – but even that doesn’t matter at this point. Because four months later, this is what the data looks like:

NSIDC timeseries at 20081230

For the past week or two, the ice extent is identical to the same time in 2007.

Time passes, and climate change arguments based on isolated events fall apart. Of course, this is not only an issue for denialist arguments – as Wah notes, alarmist claims that attempt to link specific catastrophic events to climate change are just as dodgy. Reasonable and responsible science isn’t about these anecdotal claims and counter-claims – it’s a shame that this is what colours the public and political debate about climate change.

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Do something

GetUp! has made an ad about Labor’s emissions targets:

Fundraising here to air it during the Boxing Day test.

Stage 2 of the campaign should be getting all Australians to throw their shoes at the TV when it airs.

Elsewhere, Guido suggests it was silly not to expect that Labor would shaft the environment when it came to the crunch.

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