Monthly Archives: September 2016

Believing one impossible thing before breakfast: skeptics claim that global warming is “unstoppable”

Just a light, entertaining post on some puzzling “contradictions” in the Alice-in-Wonderland paper. In the two previous posts, the focus was on table 1 in which contradicting arguments were set side by side. I wrote that these were generic, without nuance and without much context, therefor those arguments could even be not contradictory, depending on the context they are used in.

However, there were four examples in table 1 that were really puzzling. From three of them, I couldn’t see how they are contradictory in the way they are stated. I think I know what they probably meant, but the way these examples are put is prone to misinterpretation. I will also add a fourth. It are two contradictory claims, there no doubt about that, but is a rather funny to see how it is stated (for the same reason as the three others).

This is the first example with “contradictory” claims:

It’s not bad vs. There’s no such thing as an ideal climate

Which, as stated, can be both true and there is no contradiction. Even if there is no such thing as an ideal climate, it can be good, it can be bad or it can even be the same. One doesn’t exclude the other. Probably they meant something very specific, but failed to mention the context and therefor put two seemingly non-contradictory arguments side by side.

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The framing of the “contradictions” in Wonderland

alice-in-wonderland framing

In previous post I wrote about how skeptics were treated in a different way than the consensus scientists when it comes to how they have been cited. This post will build on that and I will demonstrate the mechanisms how skeptics were painted as having contradictory, incoherent beliefs. Not necessarily because that is true in reality, but because it was framed that way by the researchers who looked in a biased way to the skeptic position.

Let’s pick up with previous story in which there was the example of the statement “Future climate cannot be predicted”, which makes the suggestion that skeptics believe that any future climate at any time-scale can not be predicted.

However, the actual claim in the cited (newspaper) article was: “mathematical models can’t predict what the average global temperature will be in 100 years”. That is a completely different ball game and this generic “future climate can not be predicted” is not representative for the actual statement. In this case we saw that, when looking at their own example, there were two scientists who made observations, connected this with known cycles and made an extrapolation for the close future.

Using the generic “future climate can not be predicted” claim would indeed be contradictory with the prediction of a coming ice age, but in the example (that the authors provided themselves) there was no contradiction at all. The claim was about the predictive power of the mathematical model over 100 years, not about what could happen over the next decades on the basis of observations and known cycles.

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In Wonderland, consensus science is done in scientific journals and “contrarian” science in newspapers

Still looking at the “Alice in Wonderland” paper of Lewandowsky, Cook and Lloyd. The theme that I noticed in the previous posts was that the authors misrepresent the skeptics by not giving context and nuance, therefor skeptics looked stupid and ignorant. There is apparently another way in which this effect is achieved in this paper.

I found this when I looked somewhat deeper in table 1, in which contradicting arguments from contrarians were listed. I started with the first row (“Future climate cannot be predicted” vs. “We are heading into an ice age”):

aiw table1 row1

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The “Alice-in-Wonderland” consensus position

alice in wonderland

Advancing to the introduction of the “Alice In Wonderland” paper of Lewandowsky/Cook/Lloyd and already in the second sentence I bump into this (my emphasis):

… the consensus position that global warming is happening, is human caused, and presents a global problem is shared by more than 95 % of domain experts and more than 95 % of relevant articles in the peer-reviewed literature (Anderegg et al. 2010; Cook et al. 2013, 2016; Doran and Zimmerman 2009; Oreskes 2004; Shwed and Bearman 2010).

… presents a global problem …

… shared by more than 95 % of domain experts and more than 95 % of relevant articles in the peer-reviewed literature …


I have read the Anderegg 2010, Cook 2013, Doran & Zimmerman 2009 and Oreskes 2004 papers and at that time I found nothing of that kind. In none of those papers participants were asked whether they considered this warming to be a global problem.

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Lewandowsky and Cook in Wonderland: “incoherent skeptic views” or “incoherent views of the authors on skeptic views”?

As a realist and an ex-believer, if I learned something in the last eight years, it is a more nuanced story than how it is brought, which is not picked up by believers. They view skeptics/realists as people that stubbornly reject “the science” and act as a brake for progress.

Been there, done that.

However, when I looked deeper into the matter, I realized that it is a much more nuanced story and context is very important.

I came across a very recent paper The ‘Alice in Wonderland’ mechanics of the rejection of (climate) science: simulating coherence by conspiracism by Lewandowsky, Cook and Lloyd. The authors of this paper seemed to completely neglect nuances and avoids giving any context. More, they seem to have elevated misrepresenting the arguments of skeptics to a true art form. It is the most elaborate form of straw man reasoning that I even saw (or probably will see).

alice in wonderland paper

On the bright side, I think this paper is a good basis for explaining the arguments of the skeptics and show how they are misrepresented. Most, if not all, will be presented in this paper.

This post will be about the abstract of this paper and how skeptics are (misre)presented there (attention for skeptics with a high blood pressure: it is even worse in the paper itself).

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The three S’s of climate change: Simple, Serious and Solvable

Just after finishing last post, I found a link to a video of an actual debate between a alarmist and an skeptic.

denning 2016-08-31

The debate was between Scott Denning (from the alarmist side) and Jay Lehr (from the skeptical side). My respect for Denning who debated for the alarmist side. That is not the easiest thing to do in a room full of skeptics. The theme was the 10th anniversary of “An inconvenient Truth”. Although it was not a particularly thrilling debate and rather long (90+ minutes) I took it to task to watch it until the end.

There was however one thing that really caught my attention. Scott Denning said at 05:35 (after explaining that his disagreements with the movie are mostly on matters of emphasis rather than accuracy):

The way I prefer to talk about climate change, I call it the three S’s of climate change. Easy to remember, three words, they all start with the letter “S”:

  1. Simple
  2. Serious
  3. Solvable

He referenced a couple times to the three S’s throughout the video, so it seemed important to him.

With all respect, but I don’t actually agree with any of those three. I also notice some order in those three points and uncertainties will increase when advancing through this list.

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Arctic sea-ice melt reporting: the amazing flip-flops

Two posts ago, on the subject of another claim of an ice-free Arctic published in the Guardian, the discussion arose whether the journalist realized that he quoted someone with a poor track record in that matter. Commenter Chrism56 alerted me that the journalist (Robin McKie) already had written articles in the past on this subject, so he should have known that there were issues with the credibility of this claim.

The link that was provided went to an article from 2008 in which McKie reported about the claim of an ice-free Arctic that back then was expected five years further in the future.

McKie 2008-08-10

The claim was made by Serreze, Maslowski and Wadhams. Apparently he should know about the botched prediction in the meanwhile.

I became curious whether there were more articles written by McKie on this topic and also how he wrote about it in say 2013, when it became clear that the 2008 claim didn’t hold. I found three articles in the Guardian about an ice-free Arctic and the article in 2016 was the fourth. When reading them in the sequence as these were written, it developed in something rather funny.

Let’s start with the link found by Chrism56. It was an article from August 2008 with the title “Meltdown in the Arctic is speeding up”. This speeding up was explained as (my emphasis):

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More floods, fires and heat waves if we don’t act nów

The same old story. When reading the newspaper Het Nieuwsblad on September 1, I bumped into an article with the headline (translated from Dutch): “More floods, forest fires and heatwaves” and with an even bigger font type: “if we don’t act nów”. With emphasis on “now”. I lost count how many times I heard that before, yet it apparently can get recycled time and time again. Now a full page was devoted on it.

There was no source, but it seemed to be based on an article in the Guardian published two days before, combined with a statement about the July data from the NASA dataset. The article was build on the statements of Gavin Schmidt (NASA GISS) who seems to go well beyond what the data tells us.

The print version of Het Nieuwsblad was even more over the top than the Guardian article. This is how the case is built:

  1. Schmidt is presented as the “indisputable climate expert of NASA”
  2. More floods, fires and heat waves if we don’t act now
  3. The earth is warming at an alarming rate
  4. Never seen in thousand years
  5. We don’t only have to step it up one notch, but 10 notches, to keep temperature increase below 2 °C
  6. We came close to the 1.5 degree this year
  7. The problem is immediate: if we keep emitting like we do now during the next 5 months [sic] we can not reach the 1.5 degrees goal
  8. Rapid and significant measures are needed
  9. Optimists think wrongly that there are fluctuation and lows will cancel out highs, but this is not the case
  10. Temperature increases faster in the last 30 years than in the last 1000 years. Reconstruction at NASA show that global temperatures over the last 5000 years increased gradually, but only in the last century the temperature increase was already 0.7 degrees (10 times faster)
  11. In the last decades even faster
  12. Schmidt is not a doom monger, but a realist. Proof: since October last year every month broke a record, the highest temperature was 54 [°C], the most aggressive forest fires in California and the first anthrax case in Siberia due to the melting permafrost
  13. 2014 was a record, as was 2015 and 99% sure also 2016
  14. The measurements started in 1800 [sic]
  15. On the short term: further decrease of Arctic ice, increase of heat waves, floods and forest fires
  16. Island states will be the first victims of sea level rise
  17. Sea level could rise by 10 meter
  18. Mass destruction of animal species will increase.

I am not surprised. This is how climate change is portrayed in the media. What is wrong with this picture? In my believer’s years I probably would have agreed with it without much criticism. Luckily I learned to speak climatese in the last few years.

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