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Posts Tagged ‘global warming’

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.

(more…)

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Sherlock

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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Andrew Bolt has gone on a bit of a bender about US politics lately – showing John McCain’s attack ads (the lies and distortions of which  have been catalogued elsewhere), criticising Barack Obama and the Democratic National Convention (usually based on flawed premises), talking about Sarah Palin in a series of posts until he managed to convince himself she was a good choice, and then attacking the “vile” Left because some people started discussing a rumour about Palin’s daughter (but not the one that turned out to be true).

But he found time today to make a quick post about climate change, including one of his graphs that bring universal enlightenment to the masses.

Nexus 6 has clubbed Bolt’s flawed argument to death.

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Tim Lambert has posted a lengthy but highly worthwhile resource written by John Mashey.

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A recent post by Coby at A Few Things Ill Considered feeds into something I have been thinking about lately. He says:

I poke into Jennifer Marohasy’s blog from time to time, though I am no longer a regular commenter. I gave that up a couple of years ago but still take any special cases as opportunities to chime in again.

In the comments, Chris Crawford discusses giving up on participating at Marohasy’s site:

I finally gave up over there — despite my best efforts, it seemed that everybody was determined to be nasty. I seek out places where I can have a constructive disagreement with others, because you never learn from those who agree with you. I also continue in my naive belief that, if you maintain a civil tongue and concentrate on the issues, you can get through to people. I keep disproving it to myself, waiting a few weeks, then telling myself, “Gee, maybe if I were a little more tactful…” and off I go again, on another futile exercise.

Coby responded with this:

Keep it up! It needs to be there for the record and for the lurkers, the ones who don’t say anything but do read. You also admirably demostrated the required tactic of sticking to the point. These arguments get completely fruitless when all kinds of irrelevant tangents are introduced, drowning out any hope of real discourse.

And the discussion about the relative merits of continuing to post one’s disagreement or getting out of the debate has gone on from there.

Now, the same issue arises about a whole range of blogs dealing with a whole range of issues. Regular readers of this blog will know that I tend to post about my disagreement with what Andrew Bolt, among others, argues. Now, sometimes I will also post my thoughts in the comments at Bolt’s blog, but often I don’t.

Why not? Because, based on my experience of the responses to comments by “teh Left” (including myself) on that site, a comment is unlikely to either change opinions or open a meaningful debate. Bolt’s site is far from the worst on the Internets in terms of commenter vitriol – hardly surprising given the moderation at News Ltd’s “blogs” – but it still gives one the type of feeling that normally comes from banging one’s head on the desk.

In the comments above, Coby suggests that it is important to continue posting for the sake of the lurkers, even if the typical commenters on a site are vocally resistant to reasoned debate. I tend to think that posting a critique of someone’s work here strikes a compromise between Chris and Coby’s experiences. If someone is open to different information and interested in the topic, then hopefully they will find their way here. The search engine stats on this site suggest that at least some people are getting here while looking for information relating to a person and/or issue I have commented on – of course, if News Ltd would follow the lead of some other sites such as CNN and enable trackbacks. But obviously the only way to reach all of the people who read all of the material you are disputing is to comment at the source.

Possum Comitatus built a (well-deserved) reputation for polling analysis by posting critiques of the “traditional ” polling wisdom as put forward by Dennis Shanahan and others. But, to my knowledge, The Australian has never given him a direct mention despite publishing critiques of the shadowy realm that is the blogosphere. Similarly, Christian Kerr managed to attack Larvatus Prodeo without mentioning them. Now both LP and Possum’s Pollytics have built a substantial readership, but those readers already know and value the information and discussion at those blogs. How can they reach the people who have read Shanahan or Kerr’s twaddle and don’t know any better? Well, Mark Bahnisch has employed one approach – ensuring the content of the blog will be picked up by the likely terms people will use if they search for more information.

So, making one’s disagreement accessible is one important issue. Another is the question of how to avoid having to repeat oneself endlessly. Barry Brook has adopted an interesting approach in commencing his “Spot the recycled denial” series (Part I and Part II) – he is posting quotes of the content he takes issue with and embedding hyperlinks that point to rebutting evidence and arguments.

I still find that the decisions about when to disagree at the original source, when to post my disagreement here and when to just completely disengage from the process are far from straightforward. As much as anything it seems to depend on my mood – if I am riled up enough then I will want to make sure my disagreement is heard by the original author. But I don’t seem to have a clear framework for making those decisions. I wonder if anyone does?

ELSEWHERE: On the topic of debating global warming, Coby has compiled a useful “How to Talk to a Climate Sceptic” resource.

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