The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

Posts Tagged ‘IPCC’

Global Warming Deniers Confuse Climate with Weather, AGAIN

Posted by mattusmaximus on January 7, 2014

If you live in North America, then no doubt you’re aware of the so-called polar vortex which has come down from the Arctic to freeze the hell out of the continent.  And, just as surely as the temperatures started to drop, global warming deniers began to shout about how this supposedly proves that global warming isn’t real.

Okay, so you see here’s the thing… it’s called *global* warming because the whole globe, on average, is getting warmer.  Saying that a cold snap disproves global warming is like saying that the IRS no longer exists because you got a tax refund once.

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See all that red?  Yeah, that’s where the climate is getting warmer.  And notice how there’s more red than blue? [image source]

I’ve blogged about this very topic before, namely that “climate” isn’t the same thing as “weather”, but seeing as how the deniers are once again spouting their nonsense, it bears repeating…

Winter is NOT “Proof” of Global Cooling

… The primary flaw in this argument is good ol’ fashioned cherry-picking of data: the “coolers” are choosing to focus only upon data which supports their claims, while ignoring the vast amount of data which points in exactly the opposite direction. By focusing on just the weather reports over the last couple of weeks, or for only a certain part of the planet, they leave out the fact that climate is a phenomenon which is global in nature and that climate science is concerned with long term trends.  Essentially, they are confusing weather with climate.  Climate experts recently made this point in an Associated Press article which has been widely circulated.

Bottom line: when taking all of the data into account, both concerning the timeline as well as the Earth as a whole, there is a clear warming trend. …

There are some other really good articles about this latest confusion regarding how the polar vortex fits into the broader picture of global warming.  For your reference, I’ll suggest two of them:

1. Can global warming be real if it’s cold in the U.S.? Um… yes!

This article is really good because it goes through some of the basics about global warming and climate change in general, and then it emphasizes the importance of temperature trends and statistical analysis of the data.  My favorite part is as follows:

Global warming isn’t expected to abolish winters in the U.S. anytime soon. Right now, climate experts are worried about a 2°C to 4°C rise in global average temperatures by the end of the century. That would create all sorts of disruptive changes. But those few degrees aren’t enough to completely undo the larger swings in temperature we see each year between summer and winter in many parts of the world.

Indeed, many climate models suggest that we’ll still see record cold snaps in the United States as the planet heats up. They’ll just become much less frequent over time — while record heat waves will become increasingly common. See this paper in Geophysical Research Letters from 2009: Over the past decade, it notes, the U.S. has experienced about two daily record high temperatures for every record low. If the planet keeps heating up, that ratio will shift to 20:1 by mid-century. There will still be record lows in many areas. They’ll just be rarer. …

2. Go home, Arctic, You’re Drunk.

This is a humorous and informative post from my skeptical colleague Greg Laden wherein he lays out just how it’s possible for global warming to actually account for the polar vortex phenomenon:

… The apparent contrast between extreme cold and global warming is actually an illusion. If we look at the local weather in many parts of the US we see a giant blob of cold “Arctic air” moving south to engulf our humble hamlets and cities, as though the Arctic Coldness that we know is sitting on the top of our planet, like a giant frosty hat, is growing in size. How can such a thing happen with global warming?

Actually, if you think about it, how can such a thing happen at all? Imagine a somewhat different scenario. Imagine the giant global hulu-hoop of warmth we know of as the tropics suddenly expanding in size to engulf the United States, Europe, Asia, and in the south, southern South America, southern Africa, Australia, etc. for a week or so, then contract back to where it came from. How could that happen? Where would all the heat necessary for that to happen come from? That seems to be a violation of some basic laws of physics. Now, cold is not a thing — it is the absence of heat — but the same problem emerges when we imagine the giant frosty hat of arctic air simply getting many hundreds of percent larger, enough to engulf the temperate regions of the planet. As easy as it might be to imagine such a thing given the images we see on regional weather maps, it is in fact not possible. The physics simply does not work that way.

What is happening instead is the cold air mass that usually sits up on the Arctic during the northern Winter has moved, drooped, shifted, gone off center, to engulf part of the temperate region. Here in the Twin Cities, it is about 8 below zero F as I write this. If I go north towards the famous locality of International Falls (famous for its cold temperature readings often mentioned on the national news) it will in fact be colder. If I go even farther north, at some point it will start to get warm again, as we leave the giant blob of cold air that has engulfed us. In fact, it is relatively warm up on the North Pole right now. Alaska and Europe are relatively warm as well.

The graphic above from the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts shows what is happening. The Polar Vortex, a huge system of swirling air that normally contains the polar cold air has shifted so it is not sitting right on the pole as it usually does. We are not seeing an expansion of cold, an ice age, or an anti-global warming phenomenon. We are seeing the usual cold polar air taking an excursion. …

Of course, I don’t expect any of this to phase the hardcore global warming deniers, because they’re off in a fantasy world of their own.  No doubt that next time winter strikes the northern hemisphere, they’ll be back spouting this nonsense once again; it’s just plain sad and predictable.  I almost feel sorry for them.  I mean, how can you not feel sorry for them when this moron is one of their primary spokesmen?

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“Teach the Controversy” Argument Used by Climate Change Deniers

Posted by mattusmaximus on May 28, 2011

You may know that one of the most common arguments used by creationists as they attempt to push their fundamentalist religious beliefs in the public schools is the “teach the controversy” strategy.  In this argument, creationists claim there is some kind of scientific “controversy” about the theory of evolution, as if scientists are in disagreement about the theory when in fact quite the opposite is true – there is broad acceptance of evolution among biologists.  This style of argumentation is widely recognized for what it is: an attempt to delegitimize science in the public schools because of a rigidly held ideology.

Now it seems that recently there is another kind of anti-scientific ideology rearing its ugly head which is trying to use the same kind of “teach the controversy” approach: climate change denial.  And the use of “teach the controversy” in regards to climate change and global warming has now gone beyond mere rhetoric, because the climate change denialists are now pushing this tactic in public schools in the United States…

US school board teaches ‘the controversy’ on global warming

A school board in California has attracted headlines over the past few days for voting unanimously that a new environmental science class starting this autumn must include “multiple perspectives” on the science of global warming.

Four board members of the Los Alamitos Unified School District voted to list the class – which was taught to 15,000 public school students across California in 2008-09 (pdf of class description) – as a “controversial topic”, meaning the teacher must explain to the board annually how opposing views are to be taught.

Echoing similar efforts at school boards in other US states, the move has been criticised by some commentators. One parent of a pupil at Los Alamitos Unified School told the Orange County Register: “There is consensus in the field that we have global warming happening, it is getting warmer and it is related to what we are doing to the planet. That is not in dispute in the scientific community. It is in dispute in the political community. This is a science class. Teach science.” …

The writer of this article sat down to interview the architect of this anti-scientific move, Dr. Jeffrey Barke, and the conversation is very revealing.  I’ll include key excerpts below (the interviewer’s questions & comments are bolded and Dr. Barke’s follow) and follow them up with my comments.

What’s been the feedback since this news was first reported?

The feedback has been primarily from left-wing blogs and zealots who believe that to suggest there is a point of view to be discussed that is different to the dogma of global warming is, in and of itself, controversial. Our perspective simply was we had asked the teachers to present a balanced perspective to the children as it relates to a new course that we brought forward called Advanced Placement in Environmental Science. And this class is one that is most commonly offered at the universities, but some high schools offer it as well.
So, after reviewing the syllabus, we found a lot of information about global warming and man-caused effects on the environment etc. Our worry was the kids would be presented simply with one perspective and we wanted to make sure they had a balanced view so we simply updated a policy we already have on the books regarding controversial issues. It simply asks that when a class is taught containing potentially controversial issues that we ask the teacher not to get the kids to believe in a particular perspective or point of view, but simply that the teachers present both sides of the equation in a fair-and-balanced manner.

Ah, the “teach all views” argument.  The problem is that, in science, not all views are equal.  Science is not a process driven by simply expressing your point of view and then arguing over it, like in a high school debate.  In science, the most accepted views are those which are supported by experimental and observational evidence which can be explained by well-understood theories.  The opinion of the scientist (or in this case, the school board member) doesn’t really matter.  For example, read more here about how the climate science community is strongly in support of the consensus that global warming is happening and is heavily influenced by human activity.  When so many climate science experts are in such strong agreement, then it is a pretty fair bet the science is settled and there is no “alternate viewpoint” with any validity to present.

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Investigation: NOAA Scientists Did NOT Manipulate Climate Data

Posted by mattusmaximus on March 5, 2011

In the latest update from the Climate Science Wars, it has been shown – once again and for the fourth time – through an independent investigation that climate scientists did NOT manipulate data on global warming, as some global warming denialists & conspiracy theorists have claimed.

In the now infamous Climategate fiasco, it was claimed that scientists at the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit had manipulated and even fabricated data to make human-caused global warming seem real or worse than it really was.  Of course, we now know that such claims on the part of the deniers & conspiracy mongers are nothing more than so much hot air. However, what many people don’t know is that these anti-science ideologues did not just level their charges at the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit; they also attempted to smear climate scientists working for the United States’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

But now, just as with Climategate, a detailed, independent investigation has shown that there is no evidence of scientific fraud, manipulation, or fabrication regarding the climate data

Scientists Are Cleared of Misuse of Data

An inquiry by a federal watchdog agency found no evidence that scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration manipulated climate data to buttress the evidence in support of global warming, officials said on Thursday.

The inquiry, by the Commerce Department’s inspector general, focused on e-mail messages between climate scientists that were stolen and circulated on the Internet in late 2009 (NOAA is part of the Commerce Department). Some of the e-mails involved scientists from NOAA.

Climate change skeptics contended that the correspondence showed that scientists were manipulating or withholding information to advance the theory that the earth is warming as a result of human activity.

In a report dated Feb. 18 and circulated by the Obama administration on Thursday, the inspector general said, “We did not find any evidence that NOAA inappropriately manipulated data.”

Nor did the report fault Jane Lubchenco, NOAA’s top official, for testifying to Congress that the correspondence did not undermine climate science. …

Of course, that won’t stop the ideologues from pursuing their politically or ideologically-driven agenda to misrepresent the science…

… The inquiry into NOAA’s conduct was requested last May by Senator James M. Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma, who has challenged the science underlying human-induced climate change. Mr. Inhofe was acting in response to the controversy over the e-mail messages, which were stolen from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in England, a major hub of climate research.

Mr. Inhofe asked the inspector general of the Commerce Department to investigate how NOAA scientists responded internally to the leaked e-mails. Of 1,073 messages, 289 were exchanges with NOAA scientists. …

… NOAA welcomed the report, saying that it emphasized the soundness of its scientific procedures and the peer review process. “None of the investigations have found any evidence to question the ethics of our scientists or raise doubts about NOAA’s understanding of climate change science,” Mary Glackin, the agency’s deputy undersecretary for operations, said in a statement.

But Mr. Inhofe said the report was far from a clean bill of health for the agency and that contrary to its executive summary, showed that the scientists “engaged in data manipulation.” [emphasis added]

So, because the independent investigation showed that there was NO EVIDENCE of inappropriate data manipulation, Senator Inhofe says that it showed there WAS evidence of such manipulation.  Excuse me?!!  What’s next, Senator: Are you going to claim day is night or that up is down?  What kind of Bizzarro World is this guy living in?

The reaction of Senator Inhofe and other climate change deniers clearly shows the frustration in dealing with people who do not allow evidence & the scientific process to guide their thinking.  They come up with a conclusion first, and then disregard any evidence to the contrary – even going so far as to publicly state the exact opposite of what the evidence actually shows, as the Senator so stupidly did above.  They, sadly, have deluded themselves into thinking that the universe will somehow – magically – change itself to adhere to what they think it should be like, instead of see the world as it really is on its own terms.  These people revel in their ignorance, it seems.

The irony here is that the people claiming that the climate science data are manipulated are themselves the ones guilty of manipulation.  It would be a pretty good joke if it weren’t so true & if the potential consequences weren’t so serious.

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Bjorn Lomborg, a.k.a. the “Skeptical Environmentalist”, Now Says Global Warming is a Chief Concern for the World

Posted by mattusmaximus on September 1, 2010

Wow, what a difference a decade makes.  Those of us who have been following the science of climate change & global warming for the last ten years will recall a book that came out in 2001 titled “The Skeptical Environmentalist” – authored by an economist named Bjorn Lomborg. This book was widely perceived by many to have been the opening shot in what some call the modern “climate wars”; Lomborg was viewed as someone who looked at the growing scientific consensus on global warming and dismissed it.  Because of this, for quite some time, Lomborg has been somewhat of a folk hero to global warming deniers

Well, in a turnabout which rings of truth being stranger than fiction, Bjorn Lomborg is now changing his mind on the issue: he now states publicly, in a new book coming out later this month, that human-induced global warming is “undoubtedly one of the chief concerns facing the world today” and “a challenge humanity must confront”.  In fact, he is even proposing a multi-billion dollar international fund to tackle the problem directly!

Read more about this in the following Guardian article on the matter…

Bjørn Lomborg: $100bn a year needed to fight climate change

The world’s most high-profile climate change sceptic is to declare that global warming is “undoubtedly one of the chief concerns facing the world today” and “a challenge humanity must confront”, in an apparent U-turn that will give a huge boost to the embattled environmental lobby.

Bjørn Lomborg, the self-styled “sceptical environmentalist” once compared to Adolf Hitler by the UN’s climate chief, is famous for attacking climate scientists, campaigners, the media and others for exaggerating the rate of global warming and its effects on humans, and the costly waste of policies to stop the problem.

But in a new book to be published next month, Lomborg will call for tens of billions of dollars a year to be invested in tackling climate change. “Investing $100bn annually would mean that we could essentially resolve the climate change problem by the end of this century,” the book concludes. …

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Third Independent Inquiry into “Climategate” Vindicates the Science

Posted by mattusmaximus on July 14, 2010

As I’ve posted in the past, the so-called “Climategate” which supposedly threw the science behind global warming into doubt seems to have been little more than hot air, an apparent propaganda campaign by climate science deniers to sow confusion on the whole issue.

Well, as I’ve pointed out in previous posts, there have been a series of three (count ’em – THREE) independent investigations into whether or not the scientific data behind the climate science consensus are sound.  The conclusions of the first two investigations (here and here) were clear: there was nothing in the extensive investigation & analysis of the data to show the scientific community’s conclusions on human-influenced global warming to be in doubt.  In short, the science (and related conclusions) are trustworthy.

Now here’s the money shot: the verdict from the third independent investigation is in, and it is consistent with the first two – the climate science data are sound. In a moment of excellent media win, I was quite pleased to see that this news made headlines in a major media outlet over at MSNBC…

An independent report into the leak of hundreds of e-mails from one of the world’s leading climate research centers on Wednesday largely vindicated the scientists involved, saying they acted honestly and that their research was reliable. …

… The panel’s report said the e-mails contained nothing to overturn the case for man-made global warming put forward by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. “We did not find any evidence of behavior that might undermine the conclusions of the IPCC,” it stated.

This points out to me the power of the scientific endeavor – while some deniers of climate science will still try to make some kind of hay out of these reports (probably by harping upon the less-than-glamorous language & behavior exhibited in the leaked emails, which shows that scientific researchers are, like the rest of us, human – duh), it should be apparent to any objective observer that the science behind the consensus on human-influenced global warming is now vindicated.  Far from attempting to engage in a cover up, the scientists & institutions involved readily submitted to the necessary investigations – as they should when big questions & controversies come up – and I think as a result the science is stronger than before.

But that won’t stop those with an ideological bone to pick with the climate science community – for them, such as with other science deniers (like creationists in regards to their mind-boggling denial of evolution), they will likely downplay or ignore the findings of these independent investigations in an attempt to cloud the science further.  Some may even go so far as to imply a vast conspiracy in a lame attempt to rationalize away the results.

On the plus side, as I said, the results of these investigations should put some spine in the backs of researchers within the climate science community.  In addition, they should carefully heed the lessons of the “Climategate” debacle in order to, in the future, protect themselves from those who would attempt to tear them down.

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Winter is NOT “Proof” of Global Cooling

Posted by mattusmaximus on January 13, 2010

One of the most public scientific topics in recent years has been that of human-influenced global warming, also known as anthropogenic global warming (AGW).  As I’ve posted before, for a variety of reasons – ranging from basic ignorance of climate science to the outright promotion of a cynical ideology – some people insist upon claiming that AGW (or even GW in general) is “false”, a “lie”, or a “hoax”.  In fact, some of the more extreme folks are claiming – in spite of all data to the contrary – that the Earth is actually in a period of global cooling.

Their evidence?… the most recent cold snap that has gripped the United States over the last week or two.  No, I’m serious – that is their “evidence”.  I’d be laughing my head off if it weren’t so sad that there are actually people who are seriously making this argument, so in true skeptical teacher fashion, I shall explain exactly where this argument falls apart and why it is inaccurate…

The primary flaw in this argument is good ol’ fashioned cherry-picking of data: the “coolers” are choosing to focus only upon data which supports their claims, while ignoring the vast amount of data which points in exactly the opposite direction. By focusing on just the weather reports over the last couple of weeks, or for only a certain part of the planet, they leave out the fact that climate is a phenomenon which is global in nature and that climate science is concerned with long term trends.  Essentially, they are confusing weather with climate.  Climate experts recently made this point in an Associated Press article which has been widely circulated.

Bottom line: when taking all of the data into account, both concerning the timeline as well as the Earth as a whole, there is a clear warming trend.

Lastly, I should point out that the intellectual vacuity of the “cooler” argument above cuts both ways.  Case in point: where I live in the upper Midwest we have, of course, been gripped by the recent cold snap, but weather (not climate) projections show that starting tomorrow (Wednesday, Jan. 13) through the weekend – at least – there will be an unusual warming trend.  In fact, temperatures will be well above freezing throughout the region, and this is in the middle of January!  ZOMG!!!

Thus, using the “cooler” method of cherry-picking, I could start going on and on about how this “proves” global cooling is false and “proves” that global warming is true.  I could also cherry-pick by stating that very high temperatures in some regions during the summer are “proof” of global warming.  But these would be ludicrous assertions, and I only mention them in jest as a way of making fun of the “coolers” and their pseudoscientific tactics.

So, putting such silliness aside, I suggest that we focus on actual climate science in this discussion, as opposed to using methods such as purposefully confusing weather with climate, cherry-picking, and so on.  In the long run, a rigorous application of the scientific method will allow us to see what’s really going on, and all else will be revealed as hot air. 🙂

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Global Warming Deniers Get a Double-Dose of Pwnage

Posted by mattusmaximus on November 17, 2009

I’ve blogged here before about various claims made & tactics used by climate science deniers (I refuse to call them “skeptics” because they are not guided by evidence, merely ideology), but what I have to share in this post is truly damning stuff.  One of the things which is really interesting is what happens when a group of pseudoscientific ideologues (like global warming deniers) gets caught red-handed playing fast & loose with the facts…

Exhibit A: Statisticians Confirm Reality of Global Warming in Blinded Tests

Recently, one of the claims making the rounds has been that, contrary to the consensus within the climate science community, the Earth is actually entering a period of global cooling – this claim is patently fallacious, and anyone who has a basic understanding of statistics knows it.  But what happened recently, as reported in a widely-circulated AP story, really slams the door shut on this bogus claim: the temperature data for the planet was analyzed by a series of independent statisticians, all of whom found a warming (not a cooling) trend in the data.  And here’s the kicker: these statisticians didn’t know what the data were – in other words, the examination of the Earth’s temperature data was a blinded test!

Have you heard that the world is now cooling instead of warming? You may have seen some news reports on the Internet or heard about it from a provocative new book. Only one problem: It’s not true, according to an analysis of the numbers done by several independent statisticians for The Associated Press.

The case that the Earth might be cooling partly stems from recent weather. Last year was cooler than previous years. It’s been a while since the super-hot years of 1998 and 2005. So is this a longer climate trend or just weather’s normal ups and downs?

In a blind test, the AP gave temperature data to four independent statisticians and asked them to look for trends, without telling them what the numbers represented. The experts found no true temperature declines over time.

“If you look at the data and sort of cherry-pick a micro-trend within a bigger trend, that technique is particularly suspect,” said John Grego, a professor of statistics at the University of South Carolina.

This result puts paid to the oft-repeated claim by GW-deniers that there is a cooling trend in the data.  Of course, the only reason why these pseudoscientists were able to get away with their false claims for so long was because they, as professor Grego said, have been cherry-picking the data and presenting it incomplete & out-of-context in order to give the impression that the Earth is cooling.  But, as we’ve seen, once the experimenter & statistician bias is removed from the analysis, which is the whole purpose of doing blinded tests, a very real and consistent warming trend is revealed.

But it gets even worse for the GW-deniers…

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Global Warming Denial: Full of Hot Air

Posted by mattusmaximus on April 25, 2009

As I’m going through my day at school earlier this week, I did the usual thing – after lunch I went by my mailbox.  Inside I find an article from a colleague of mine with the following message on a sticky note: “It’s nice to see a newspaper giving time to the conservative viewpoint on global warming.”  Argh.

instrumental_temperature_record

Full disclosure: I tend to be more liberal than conservative in my personal politics, but to imply that there is such a thing as “conservative” science and “liberal” science does a grave disservice to science in general.  I might add this goes the other way as well – when Al Gore’s movie “An Inconvenient Truth” (AIT) came out a few years ago, I refused to watch it even though many of those on my side of the political isle were encouraging me to do so.

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