Of “deniers” and how not to convince them

The first thing that attracted my attention in the McGill article in which the Lovejoy paper was presented, was the puzzled polar bear on a small ice floe in a vast ocean. I have seen that photo many times before, but not in this setting.

I find it strange to see it here. First because it is an well known photoshopped image, used extensively by many global warming activists. Second, it has no bearing with anything in the article or in the paper (no mention of polar bears, nor of the Arctic, nor of the pole, nor even of melting ice). It is however a strong emotional image, which raises the question: who is the targeted audience here?

But yet it is there for whatever reason. A possible hint to the reason is following statement:

“This study will be a blow to any remaining climate-change deniers,” Lovejoy says.

He really said “deniers”. As a researcher he shows his bias here.

The part “any remaining” is a bit funny here (I guess he is hinting to the 97% consensus). Also the presumption that this paper would be a blow to skeptics (that is how he called them in the paper itself). As if this paper is going to persuade skeptics. Skeptics that always criticized the use of proxy data as well as historical weather data for “accurate” climate purposes. Now, just as in the Hockey Stick, he combines them both. That would consider as a blow that would knock die-hard skeptics out of their socks? That’s wishful thinking.

According to Lovejoy this is why it would be a blow to those “deniers”:

“Their two most convincing arguments – that the warming is natural in origin, and that the computer models are wrong” are either directly contradicted by this analysis, or simply do not apply to it.”

For the first argument that “the warming is natural in origin”, there are many questions arise from his research. How accurate was the global average temperature before the late 1970s when the data gathered was to measure local weather, not climate? With all issues attached like sample size, UHI, only min/max/median, little coverage on oceans,… How does he explain the fact that weather stations recorded their highest temperatures in the 1940s (when CO2 was still a fraction of what it is now? How does he know that there are no longer cycles that influence temperature like 400 years, 5000 years,… How unusual is 0.9 °C over more than a century? And the pause is telling us that something else than CO2 is working here. Something as strong as CO2. Although the CO2 concentration is the highest everrrr, there is no further global average temperature increase for a decade and a half.

In the end, do skeptics argue that the warming is natural in origin? I have the impression they argue that we are not in the possibility yet to know whether the warming is from natuaral or anthropogenic factors. Let alone how much of it is anthropogenic. We have to rely on the “opinion” of scientists who claim that they are more certain now, yet can’t provide hard evidence.

For the second argument, yep, the simple statistical model he uses is confirming the results of the climate models. But that doesn’t necessarily means they are both right. Especially when they are based on the same assumptions. More, the fact that a hypothesis is being confirmed in a (statistical) model, doesn’t necessarily mean that the same mechanism is also working in the real world.

It makes me wonder two things. Just as before with the “consensus”, I wonder what he is thinking “deniers” are denying exactly? He could be in for a surprise. Also, the use of the polarizing language and the emotional imaging being used, make me wonder how balanced this investigation actually was and what it was intended for exactly?


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