If you want to get heard, just exaggerate (emphasis by the author):
“Humanity is NOW, TODAY in an abrupt climate change EMERGENCY. This is what science tells us. When the public, policy makers and politicians around the planet recognize this reality, the mood will flip from indifference and ignorance to utter TERROR. Just watch.
By now I have seen quite a lot Beckwith videos, so I recognized this type of hyperbole as his usual behavior. I don’t doubt that he is a nice guy, that he means well, that he has the best intentions and that he believes what he says. But when you read his posts or sees his videos, hyperbole is not far away.
This statement came from the second argument of the response to the Washington Post article (see previous post), but that is not what the post will be about. It is what follows that blew me away:
You disagree? Google “climate change” and “faster than expected”, “unprecedented”, etc. and you get gazillions of science articles. Google “climate change” and “slower than expected”, etc. and you get squat.”
As if a Google search would prove a scientific question…
While it is certainly true that one gets gazillions of hits when googling “climate change” plus “faster than expected” and far fewer hits when googling “climate change” plus “slower than expected”, I still have to disagree. It assumes that the number of Google hits linking to scientific articles somehow represents the case that climate change is happening faster than expected. Even if there is general agreement by scientists upon climate change happening faster than expected and a Google search being able to represent this, that does not make it true. It looks more like a non-sequitur to me. What (agreement) could be found via Google and whether climate change is going faster/slower as expected, are two different things to me.
A Google search is a very unreliable way of dealing with the question whether climate change is faster than expected and therefor it shouldn’t convince anybody who disagrees. There are many reasons why there are gazillions of hits when using these specific search terms, other than climate change actually being faster than expected.
By the way, “faster than expected” is very ambiguous. Faster against what? And according to whose expectations? If he want to use that argument, he needs to come with a clarification of what he means exactly and with quantifications to back it up. He gives neither. Therefor having the opportunity to make it up as he goes along.
That Google searches are unreliable to settle scientific questions was something Beckwith already experienced himself. Remember that he googled for cross-equatorial flows before he made his initial video and that he claimed there was little data on crossing of the equator. Yet according to atmospheric scientists these flows weren’t exceptional. Even with Google he could have found numerous hits (he probably would have got there using some slightly different search terms). So, he should know that such searches are not very reliable from his own experience.
Another bias is negativity bias: humans evolved to react quickly to potential threats. Bad news could be a signal that we need to change what we are doing to avoid danger. We are in a society in which alarm dominates and even is rewarded. We are attracted to the alarm. That is how we humans tick. Alarm is not unusual. Things that get better/stay the same don’t get so much attention. In such a situation being biased to the alarm is no big deal.
He also should have some experience with that. He predicted there would be no Arctic ice anymore by September 30, 2012. When that didn’t happen, he then predicted that the ice would be gone by 2015 or 2016 (according to the PIOMAS data – the same data that Wadhams used to come to the same conclusion). Last year the Arctic ice was still there and this year there is no indication that it would be gone by the end of summer.
Although the melting of the the Arctic has a central place in his reasoning, that part is NOT going faster than HE expected. If it would go faster than he expected, then the ice would have been gone well before September 30, 2012, because that was the date that he expected it to be gone. Any date after that is SLOWER than expected.
If a Google search on “climate change” and “faster/slower than expected” would be a reliable tool, then he would have found at least this example of it being slower than expected. 😉
There are more reasons, like: how meaningful are overwhelming publications in a polarized science in which adhering to the skeptical side can have severe consequences? In such an environment being skeptical could be a bad career move and the appreciation from peers/the public could also be on the line. Sure, that most of the papers support the alarm can be because the scientists agree on the science, but in a situation where it is not a good idea to be a skeptic, it is not surprising either that most papers are supporting the alarm. How to tell the difference between publications that claim that it is faster because of the polarization and those that found it is actually getting faster?
Also: how meaningful are overwhelming publications in a politicized science in which the politicians prefer predominantly one side and have a preference to hear that it is going faster in order to be able to make arrangements to act? How to tell the difference between publications that claim it is getting faster because of political reasons and those that found it is actually getting faster?
Also: how meaningful are overwhelming publications when there is no conclusive evidence and the definition used is so broad that almost anything fits? How to tell the difference between publications that claim that things are getting faster because of this lack of conclusive evidence/lack of definition and those that found it is actually getting faster?
There are probably even more reasons why there are more publications that claim that climate change is getting faster than those that claim it is getting slower or that it is stayed the same. Update: as tumbleweedstumbling noted in the comments, there is also the possible bias of the search engine which could give a result that might be different from what is out there.
In conclusion: besides the missing definition and quantification, the number of publications (that could be found via a Google search) is a very bad indicator to whether climate change is going faster/slower than was thought.