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Posts Tagged Bob Carter

Carter in Dunedin: Otago Uni provides platform for climate crank plagiarist Gareth Renowden Sep 11

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For reasons best known to themselves, Otago University’s senior management this week provided climate denier and serial plagiarist Bob Carter with no fewer than two opportunities to spread his misinformation and misrepresentation of the state of climate science. The first, a public lecture on Tuesday evening (poster on left), gave Carter the chance to spruik his Heartland-funded and partially plagiarised “NIPCC” report. The second — given to the geology department of which he was a member from 1964 to 80 — was titled Has environmentalism become anti-scientific? Four Australian case studies. Given that Carter now represents himself as an “emeritus fellow” of the Institute of Public Affairs, Australia’s home-grown version of the far-right US lobby group the Heartland Institute, his conclusions in either presentation are not difficult to guess.

At Tuesday’s public lecture he was not given an easy ride, as an on-the-spot reporter confirmed to Hot Topic. Carter was welcomed by the local branch of the Flat Earth Society. Every five or ten minutes there were cries of “We love you Bob Carter” (in a West Indian accent, my source confides) from outside the lecture theatre.

Proceedings started politely, with Carter presenting the usual careful selection of data:

There was the usual slide comparing the ensemble of GCM models with “actual data”, the latter from Spencer (radiosonde and satellite). At question time, a student asked if this data was truly global or just for the tropics, and Carter lied by insisting it was global.

Being a geologist, Carter loves the “it’s happened before, so it can’t be us” misdirection, and offered one new to our correspondent:

He showed CO2 levels over the last 500 Myr, which makes clear the uptake of CO2 from about 10-15 times current levels from the formation of coal deposits during the Cretaceous. He then argued that all we are doing is digging it up and putting the carbon back where it came from. What can be the harm in that? Probably not much if you are dumb enough to think that humans could survive in a Carboniferous climate.

Question time was a little bumpier for Carter.

Alan Mark in particular was quite scathing of Carter’s views. One questioner gave a thorough description of his involvement as a lead reviewer for IPCC and challenged Carter’s allegation that the IPCC was political. Carter did not explain the difference between the WG reports themselves and the Summary for Policy Makers (for which the bureaucrats do have input). By contrast, NIPCC was completely independent and not conflicted in any way, he alleged. That drew a few sneers from the audience, and a question about where the NIPCC funding came from. Some family trusts, he said. Which family trusts? Not going to tell you, he said.

For the record, let us note that Carter is paid by Heartland for his role in the NIPCC, which is a “panel” put together by Fred Singer and the Heartland Institute purely as a propaganda publication. Any relationship between the NIPCC and real science is entirely accidental, and Carter is up to his neck in the fossil-fuel funded extreme right wing campaign to delay action on climate change.

Quite why Otago University chose to give Carter a platform remains a mystery. The University obviously has an extremely broad definition of what constitutes an academic contribution to public debate. No doubt we can look forward to further university-sponsored lectures from anti-flouride activists and chemtrails enthusiasts — both delusions with as much credibility as Carter’s Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change.

Carter — a proven plagiarist who never saw an argument against action on climate change that he wasn’t willing to promote if paid enough — has lived up to expectations. Otago University has failed to meet them.

The dishonesty of de Lange and Carter: zombie lies under Greenland ice Gareth Renowden Jun 11

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According to Waikato University’s Willem de Lange and freelance climate denier Bob Carter, the whole Arctic is cooling strongly. When Bill and Bob plagiarised their own work for the Heartland-funded and published Non-governmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) second report, they were not just copying their own words, but also plagiarising earlier efforts by the NIPCC and Craig Idso’s Centre for the Study of CO2 and Global Change. In fact, a 2007 misrepresentation by Idso of a 2004 paper about temperatures up to the 1990s in a single Greenland fjord has been handed down through seven years, successive “authors” and NIPCC reports until it has become an unbelievable lie that de Lange and Carter are happy to repeat for a new audience.

When I was doing the research for my article on de Lange and Carter’s sea level rise report for Nigel Lawson’s Global Warming Policy Foundation, I was forced to dig around inside the chapter they had written for most recent NIPCC report — the second of its ilk (NIPCC2, Chapter 6). What jumped out at me was this paragraph, from the conclusions to section 6.2.1.10.1 on page 792:

Regarding the Northern Hemisphere, the Arctic regions have been cooling for the past half-century, and at a very significant rate, making it unlikely Greenland’s frozen water will be released to the world’s oceans anytime soon. This temperature trend is just the opposite — and strikingly so — of that claimed for the Northern Hemisphere and the world by the IPCC. Accompanying the cooling, the annual number of snowfall days over parts of Greenland has also increased strongly, so an enhanced accumulation of snow there may be compensating for the extra runoff coming from mountain glaciers that have been receding.

That’s right. Carter and de Lange are happy to put their names to a statement that the Arctic has been cooling for the last 50 years. Everybody else thinks that the Arctic has been warming strongly for the last 30 years, as this graph of Arctic surface air temperatures shows:

ArcticSATcrutem4ARC

Source: NOAA’s annual Arctic Report Card, 2013 update.

So how on earth do they justify a claim that the Arctic has been cooling “at a very significant rate”? The answer’s simple. They don’t. There is no supporting reference given for that statement. It is offered as a conclusion without a hint of a reason supplied in the text above it, or in the references below it. But Bill and Bob didn’t just make it up, they stayed true to form and copied it word for word from somewhere else.

It didn’t take me long to find out where. The first NIPCC report was published by the Heartland Institute in 20091, credited to Craig Idso, Fred Singer and a bunch of the usual suspects — including Bob Carter (pdf here). It includes this paragraph on pages 204/5, in the conclusion to section 4.5.4 on the “Greenland ice cap”:

In conclusion, the part of the Northern Hemisphere that holds the lion’s share of the hemisphere’s ice has been cooling for the past half-century, and at a very significant rate, making it unlikely that its frozen water will be released to the world’s oceans. In addition, because the annual number of snowfall days over much of Greenland has increased so dramatically over the same time period, it is possible that enhanced accumulation of snow on its huge ice sheet may be compensating for the melting of many of the world’s mountain glaciers and keeping global sea level in check for this reason too. Lastly, Greenland’s temperature trend of the past half-century has been just the opposite—and strikingly so—of that which is claimed for the Northern Hemisphere and the world by the IPCC.

Strikingly similar to de Lange and Carter’s NIPCC2 effort, I’m sure you’ll agree. Bill and Bob have re-ordered the sentences and made some light edits — most notably the removal of “Greenland” as a qualifier to mentions of temperature trends — but it’s clear where they got the words from.

Unlike NIPCC2 however, this conclusion is not totally unreferenced. In the text above the conclusion, there is a discussion of a paper, Taurisano et al (2004)2, which Idso, Singer et al quote as showing that “a warming trend occurred in the Nuuk fjord during the first 50 years of the 1900s, followed by a cooling over the second part of the century, when the average annual temperatures decreased by approximately 1.5°C.”

But that discussion of Taurisano et al (2004) is not unique to NIPCC1. It bears rather more than a striking resemblance to a section of a paper — The Role of Greenland in Sea Level Rise: A Summary of the Current Literature by the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change — an outfit run then, as now, by one Craig Idso. It was published in August 2007 by the Science and Public Policy Institute (SPPI), a sort of one-man Heartland-lite lobby group. In fact, the entire NIPCC1 section on the Greenland ice sheet was copied and pasted (with a little light re-editing) from Idso’s paper of a year earlier.

The Taurisano et al paper makes it clear that the cooling they refer to ended in the mid 1990s. Idso ignored this, concentrated on their statement about the latter half of the 20th century and then generalised the limited statement in the paper about regional patterns into a much bolder claim about a current — in 2007 — lack of warming throughout Greenland. By 2007, of course, warming was well-established over the entire region.

Here’s a section of Idso’s text, which was boxed out for emphasis in his paper:

Hence, we can be thankful that whatever the rest of the Northern Hemisphere may be doing, the part that holds the lion’s share of the hemisphere’s ice has been cooling for the past half-century, and at a very significant rate, making it ever more unlikely that its horde of frozen water will be released to the world’s oceans to raise havoc with global sea level any time soon.

That sentence appears with very little change in NIPCC1 and NIPCC2. In other words, Idso’s huge 2007 misrepresentation of a paper from 2004 about temperature trends to the mid-1990s in a single Greenland fjord has been passed down as received wisdom, copied and pasted and lightly edited in a perverse game of climate denial whispers until it becomes de Lange and Carter’s unreferenced and entirely counterfactual 2013 assertion that the whole Arctic is cooling strongly.

The influence of Idso’s SPPI paper extends beyond that single paragraph. Large chunks of NIPCC2 section 6.2.1.10.1 appear to have been copied or edited from that source. Nowhere is the Idso paper acknowledged or referenced in NIPCC1 or NIPCC2.

The Heartland Institute claims that its NIPCC reports are “a comprehensive, authoritative, and realistic assessment of the science and economics of global warming”. The evidence shows that they are not. Based on de Lange and Carter’s shoddy scholarship, and the repeated, unreferenced use of hand-me-down propaganda papers, the NIPCC is revealed to be nothing more than an exercise in copy/pasted sciencey-sounding word salad. As the old saying goes, never mind the quality, feel the width, and with the NIPCC you certainly get plenty of width. NIPCC publications are nothing if not thick reports to sit unread on thinktank library shelves.

Perhaps de Lange and Carter didn’t expect anyone to bother reading page 792 of NIPCC2. Perhaps they thought that anyone who did read their chapter would be on “their side”, and would swallow their bold assertion without a murmur. Perhaps they didn’t even bother reading it themselves. Perhaps gremlins got into de Lange’s word processor and the whole thing wrote itself.

Whatever the truth about the way that Chapter 6 of NIPCC2 was put together, it provides a perfect illustration of the poor academic standards displayed by so-called contrarian scientists. A recent review by John Abraham et al3 of peer-reviewed research by the likes of Richard Lindzen, John Christy and Roy Spencer, found robust evidence that “the science representing major contrarian views is less robust than the counterparts that reflect the AGW consensus”.

If the best you can do to present an argument is to repeat an unreferenced lie from seven years earlier, then you haven’t got much of a case. And de Lange and Carter don’t have any sort of case, they haven’t even got a second-hand plastic bag from a supermarket.

  1. A risible “Summary For Policymakers” (pdf) was released in March 2008 in attempt to counter IPCC AR4.
  2. Taurisano, A., Billionøggild, C. E. and Karlsen, H. G. (2004), A Century of Climate Variability and Climate Gradients from Coast to Ice Sheet in West Greenland. Geografiska Annaler: Series A, Physical Geography, 86: 217–224. doi: 10.1111/j.0435-3676.2004.00226.x
  3. Abraham, J.P. ,Cook, J., Fasullo, J. T., Jacobs, P. H., Mandia, S. A. & Nuccitelli, D. A. (2014). Review of the Consensus and Asymmetric Quality of Research on Human-Induced Climate Change, Cosmopolis, Vol. 2014-1, pp. 3-18.

Carter and de Lange’s GWPF sea level report plagiarises their own Heartland-funded NIPCC propaganda Gareth Renowden May 27

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Analysis of a report on sea level rise — Sea-level Change: Living with uncertainty — published earlier this month by Nigel Lawson’s UK climate lobby group the Global Warming Policy Foundation, and written by NZ scientists Willem de Lange and Bob Carter, shows that it extensively plagiarises last year’s heavily criticised Non-governmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) report, funded and published by US lobby group the Heartland Institute. The GWPF report’s conclusions are taken word-for-word from chapter six of the NIPCC report — Observations: The Hydrosphere and Ocean [pdf] — also written by de Lange and Carter. Nowhere in the report do the report’s authors or the GWPF acknowledge the extent to which they rely on the earlier publication. Carter and de Lange fail to credit themselves, Heartland, or the NIPCC beyond a single reference to their chapter in the list of sources appended to the GWPF report.

Here is the first policy recommendation from the GWPF report:

1. Abandonment of ‘let’s stop global sea-level rise’ policies

No justification exists for continuing to base sea-level policy and coastal management regulation upon the outcomes of deterministic or semi-empirical sea-level modelling. Such modelling remains speculative rather than predictive. The practice of using a global rate of sea-level change to manage specific coastal locations worldwide is irrational, and should be abandoned.

This bears a striking resemblance to the first of the “conclusions” offered on p796 of chapter six of the NIPCC report:

Abandon “let’s stop global sea-level rise” policies

No justification exists for continuing to base sea-level policy and coastal management regulation on the outcomes of deterministic or semi-empirical sea-level modeling. Such modeling remains highly speculative. Even if the rate of eustatic sea-level change was known accurately, the practice of using a notional global rate of sea-level change to manage specific coastal locations worldwide is irrational, and it should be abandoned.

The eagle-eyed will notice that words in italics are edited from the GWPF version, but in every other respect the two sections are identical. The final two GWPF conclusions are also drawn verbatim from the NIPCC chapter, as are many other parts of the GWPF report.

Where it draws verbatim on the NIPCC work, the GWPF report is both unoriginal and wrong, and where it can be bothered to be original it is also wrong. In either case it is work of shoddy scholarship that reflects badly on its authors, the institutions with which they are associated, and the GWPF.

In addition to the GWPF report’s conclusions being copied from pseudoscientific propaganda commissioned by a US-based far-right lobby group, many other sections also draw word for word from the same source. Here’s part of the section on atolls and low-lying tropical islands from the GWPF version:

Seldom more than a metre or two above sea- level, all atolls and related sand-cay islands are at the continuing mercy of the same wind, waves, tides and weather events that built them. They are dynamic features of the seascape, and over timescales of decades to centuries they erode here, grow there, and sometimes disappear beneath the waves forever. Thus a coral atoll is not so much a ‘thing’ as it is a process, and they are obviously not good places in which to develop
major human population centres.

Section 6.2.1.6. of the NIPCC chapter includes the following paragraph on p776:

Seldom more than a meter or two above sea level, all atolls and related sand-cay and gravel-motu islands are at the continuing mercy of the wind, waves, tides, and weather events that built them. They are dynamic features of the seascape; over timescales of decades to centuries they erode here, grow there, and sometimes disappear beneath the waves forever. A coral atoll is not so much a “thing” as a process, and they are obviously not good places on which to develop major human population centers.

Once again, the GWPF report can be seen to be a lightly edited rehash of the work done by Carter and de Lange for the Heartland Institute, and for which Carter at least was paid significant sums. One wonders if the GWPF’s financial backers, whose privacy is so keenly defended by Lawson and GWPF director Benny Peiser, are aware that they are paying for once-over-lightly retreads of others work?

The GWPF report includes little that is novel when compared with the NIPCC, but in the section headed Future environmental conditions and rates of change, it includes the following paragraph:

The IPCC and its scientific advisers remain committed to the view that global warming, albeit temporarily suspended, will resume and that sea-levels will rise. Other equally qualified but independent scientists, including a number of solar astrophysicists (viz. Bonev et al. 2004), are of the view that over the next few decades cooling is more likely than warming.

Carter and de Lange helpfully provide a full reference for the Bonev et al paper, and it can be read on the web here. The paper speculates about the possibility of reduced solar activity in the 21st century, but nowhere does it mention climate change or suggest that climate cooling is more likely than warming in the “next few decades”.

Shoddy scholarship? Certainly. But the original source document — the NIPCC report — is even worse. Life is too short to go through even one NIPCC chapter with a fine-tooth comb — anyone with a working knowledge of the subject matter would be tearing their hair out long before a comb became useful — but one figure illustrates nicely the contempt with which Carter and de Lange treat the scientific literature and their readers.

On page 758, they include Figure 6.2.1.1.2, which de Lange and Carter say is “adapted from” a couple of papers on post glacial maximum sea level rise. Here is their figure:

NIPCCSLR1

Unfortunately, they do not credit the real source of their graph, which is Robert Rohde’s Global Warming Art project, via Wikipedia:

Post Glacial Sea Level

Shoddy scholarship or copyright theft? You be the judge…

The GWPF’s sea level report is nothing more than propaganda plagiarised from an American lobby group’s attempts to counteract the message coming from the scientific literature via the IPCC. Was it beyond Peiser et al to apply original thought to the question of sea level rise, to find authors who would do more than misrepresent the current state of knowledge? The GWPF, recently forced to set up a campaigning arm in order to protect their charitable status, likes to present itself as an unbiased commentator on climate science, yet appears to be perfectly happy to commission and promote rubbish like this.

For de Lange and Carter, being caught out in self-plagiarism is potentially serious — more so for de Lange, who lists his NIPCC contribution as a scholarly publication on his University of Waikato page. Carter, who long ago cut his ties with academe and now flies under a flag of convenience provided by the Australian Institute of Public Affairs, a right-wing lobby group in the Heartland mould, has long since given up any pretence to doing real science.

Failing to correctly cite a source would get a first year university student heavily marked down. Misrepresenting what that source says would merit a fail. Outright plagiarism would probably get a student suspended. Yet de Lange and Carter — senior academics represented by the GWPF as experts to be taken seriously — commit all three sins in their work. In sceptic circles, they may still be regarded as experts, but in the real world their inexpertise and cavalier attitude to academic standards is all too evident. They are piss-poor propagandists profiting from the misfortune of others.

Heartland’s Big Book Of Lies About Climate Change cuts no ice, thanks to Don Easterbrook Gareth Renowden Nov 04

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Over the weeks since the release of the first section of the IPCC’s Fifth Report, the Heartland Institute — the Chicago-based extreme right wing and free-market propaganda outfit that has done so much to promote climate denial — has been trying to get media traction for its latest Not-the-IPCC report (NIPCC: the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change), Climate Change Reconsidered 2: Physical Science. Heartland describes CCR2 as…

… an independent, comprehensive, and authoritative report on the current state of climate science.

The truth is somewhat more prosaic. CCR2, like its predecessors, is an extended effort in cherry-picking and misdirection designed to demonstrate that, as Heartland puts it:

…the human effect is likely to be small relative to natural variability, and whatever small warming is likely to occur will produce benefits as well as costs.

For a detailed take-down of the NIPCC’s main arguments, take a look at Graham Wayne’s Notes for Educators, prepared as a response to an effort by Heartland to push CCR2 to schools in the US. Wayne notes:

The NIPCC report is akin to a confidence trick. It is pseudo-science, badly presented, made difficult to assess or check, and depends on ‘blinding the reader with science’ that may look credible until you actually try to verify those claims against the peer-reviewed published literature.

Climate statistician Tamino was equally unimpressed, suggesting that the NIPCC would be better designated the ICP – for Intentional Cherry-Picking in service of a predetermined conclusion.

My interest in the latest NIPCC “report” was piqued by the discovery that Don Easterbrook, the retired geologist with a long track record of misunderstanding and misrepresenting the Greenland ice core temperature record, was the lead author of chapter 5, Observations: The Cryosphere [pdf]. The NIPCC is clearly not blessed with an overabundance of qualified authors if they have to rely on Easterbrook as an expert on the cryosphere. Worse, his co-authors are two other retired geologists with little or no domain expertise: Cliff Ollier from Western Australia, and Bob Carter, a marine stratigrapher and all-purpose climate denier who never saw an argument against warming that he didn’t like1.

My first reaction to a quick skim through the chapter was pretty much the same as everybody else: this was cherry-picking taken to an extreme. To make sure that I was on the right track, I asked two real ice experts — Greenland maven Jason Box, and glaciologist Mauri Pelto — to take a quick look. Their reaction was scathing.

Here’s Box:

Multiple independent lines of observation from satellite, aircraft, and ground surveys indicate a strong imbalance of land ice that results in the observed increasing rate of sea level. Easterbrook and co-authors lie about this fact among many others in the NIPCC report’s shameless mockery of earth science.

Pelto found a couple of amazing counterfactual statements:

NIPCC: “Research on mountain glaciers worldwide has failed to provide evidence for unnatural glacial retreat in the late twentieth century.” (p633)

Pelto: Twenty one consecutive years of global mass balance loss and the disappearance of so many glaciers, is hardly natural. See World Glacier Monitoring Service reports.

NIPCC: “Recent satellite-borne geophysical measurements suggest Greenland, like Antarctica, is in a state of approximate mass balance”. (p632)

Pelto: This is hardly borne out by Howat and Eddy (2011, pdf). “We find that 90% of the observed glaciers retreated between 2000 and 2010, approaching 100% in the northwest, with rapid retreat observed in all sectors of the ice sheet.”

So far, so bad. But what about Easterbrook? His fingerprints are all over several sections of the chapter, and many of the graphics. For example, Figure 5.12.1 (p709) bears a striking resemblance to earlier Easterbook efforts:

NIPCCice1

I first encountered that graph in an article of Easterbrook’s — Magnitude and rate of climate changes — posted at µWatts in January 2011. As I pointed out at the time, there are numerous errors in Easterbrook’s analysis of the GISP2 data — and one of them is made explicit in this two and half year old chart. If you want the full details, refer to my older post and its antecedents, but Easterbrook’s legend for the time series refers to “years before present (2000 AD)”. Unfortunately, the “present” in the time series he’s using is defined by long standing convention as 1950. This was pointed out to him at the time, both by me and in the comments under his article at µWatts. He can have no excuse, other than shoddy scholarship, for simply reusing the graph without correcting the error.

There are other interesting “parallels” between the µWatts article and the NIPCC report. Large chunks of the latter appear to be lightly edited versions of the µWatts “original”. Consider these two paragraphs:

µWatts 2011 original: The Medieval Warm Period (MWP) was a time of warm climate from about 900–1300 AD when global temperatures were apparently somewhat warmer than at present. Its effects were particularly evident in Europe where grain crops flourished, alpine tree lines rose, many new cities arose, and the population more than doubled. The Vikings took advantage of the climatic amelioration to colonize Greenland, and wine grapes were grown as far north as England where growing grapes is now not feasible and about 500 km north of present vineyards in France and Germany. Grapes are presently grown in Germany up to elevations of about 560 meters, but from about 1100 to 1300 A.D., vineyards extended up to 780 meters, implying temperatures warmer by about 1.0 to 1.4° C (Oliver, 1973, Tkachuck, 1983). Wheat and oats were grown around Trondheim, Norway, suggesting climates about one degree C warmer than present (Fagan, 2007).

NIPCC 2013: The Medieval Warm Period (900–1300 AD) that followed was marked by global temperatures warmer than at present, as indicated by the flourishing of grain crops, elevation of alpine tree lines, and building of many new towns and cities as the European population more than doubled. The Vikings took advantage of the climatic amelioration to colonize Greenland in 985 AD, when milder climates allowed favorable open-ocean conditions for navigation and fishing. Wine grapes were grown about 500 km north of present vineyards in France and Germany, and also in the north of England (Oliver, 1973; Tkachuck, 1983). Wheat and oats were grown around Trondheim, Norway, suggesting climates about one degree C warmer than the present (Fagan, 2009).

The words highlighted in green are identical between the two pieces of text, and the exact sequence most of the other elements of the original are maintained in the NIPCC report version.

Most amusingly, given that the NIPCC is committed to presenting the Medieval Climate Anomaly as both global and warmer than at present, is Easterbrook’s change to his first sentence: in 2011 “global temperatures were apparently somewhat warmer than at present”, but by 2013 he has become much more certain.

However hard you look, you won’t find a reference to the µWatts original in the NIPCC report, only to Easterbrook’s 2011 remarkable2 Elsevier book, Evidence-Based Climate Science: Data opposing CO2 emissions as the primary source of global warming (Amazon listing), where the error-ridden graph appears as Fig 24 on page 24. A little later in the book, on page 26, we find the above text from Easterbrook’s µWatts article repeated in full3.

Apart from being too lazy to correct an error from the beginning of 2011 for his book published nine months later, or this year’s NIPCC report4, Easterbrook appears to be a serial self-plagiarist with little or no concern for the accuracy of the stuff he publishes.

Life is too short to dig much further into the NIPCC’s misrepresentation of the state of our knowledge about the earth’s cryosphere and its response to warming, but its reliance on the “work” of Don Easterbrook is a telling indication that it is far from being the “scholarly report” its publishers claim. It is a parody of the IPCC, an inversion of the scientific process. It is the Heartland Institute’s Big Book Of Lies About Climate Change, and will be deservedly ignored by the reality it so badly traduces.

[Thanks to Jason Box and Mauri Pelto for taking time to look over the NIPCC chapter. It's time they'll never get back...]

  1. Carter is also one of the lead authors of the full report.
  2. See my post from October 2011 on the contents and authors, who include Monckton and blogger Steven Goddard!
  3. See the Amazon listing for the book, then click on the “look inside” feature, and scroll down.
  4. Or even for a blog post published at µWatts today!

Denier cacophony escalates as IPCC release draws near cindy Sep 25

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Cartoon figures of leading climate deniers in the "Dealing in Doubt" report.
Cartoon figures of leading climate deniers in the “Dealing in Doubt” report.

As governments meet in Stockholm this week to finalise the IPCC’s Summary for Policymakers for its Working Group 1 report release,  I wonder if they can hear the shouting match going on in the world’s blogosphere and in some media.

The bleating of deniers is reaching a cacophony. They are rolling out every single trick they possibly can ahead of the report release.

Global warming’s paused and nobody knows why!
The IPCC’s halved its prediction!
NIPCC report says global warming isn’t happening! 

But their strategy isn’t going that well:  the Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, The Australian and Australian Telegraph were all forced to retract part of their claims, as they were simply wrong.

Setting aside the cherry-picked shrieking, what’s what’s actually in the draft IPCC report has been leaking out over recent weeks, with the majority of the coverage, undertaken by some of the world’s better science reporters, telling it how it is.  Here’s some of it:

  • Bloomberg: The ice at both poles is melting faster than thought.
  • Reuters: The “hiatus” in warming is unlikely to last
  • Reuters: New Colour Purple depicts worsening climate risks
  • BBC: Human role in warming ‘more certain’ – UN climate chief

Scientists are also jumping in to explain some of the cherrypicked hysteria, such as this great piece by NSW University climate scientis Dr Andy Pitman in The Conversation. Many others are fighting back as well.  But it’s still a debate. And the public is probably still confused.

Dealing in Doubt

I’ve just finished the latest version of Dealing in Doubt, written for Greenpeace, updated since 2010.   The report outlines a history of the attacks on climate science, scientists and the IPCC over the last 25 years.  It’s by no means a full account and there are many players and incidents missed.  But it gives a flavour of the doubt-dealing strategies, funded by the fossil fuel industry over recent decades.  The same tactics they’re rolling out right now.

Last week the Heartland Institute (see case study in report) launched its latest version of the “NIPCC” – the “Not the IPCC” report, written by deniers Craig Idso, S. Fred Singer, Australia’s Bob Carter and co-authored by Willie Soon, all part of the “continental army” of deniers who’ve been working together for years.  What does it claim? Of course, climate change isn’t happening, we’re not causing it, nothing to see here move right along now everyone (and, as the argument goes, stop government intervention to curtail our use of fossil fuels).

Heartland is rolling out its  report across the US in the coming months.  It claims it’s peer reviewed, but, as Dealing in Doubt outlines, it’s probably more like pal review, one of the ways that deniers are “faking it”.

Or maybe their “peer review” is along the lines of the claims made in the Heartland document where many of the scientists whose work they used to back their claims were outraged at the misrepresentation.

A colleague went and talked with  Heartland about their funding – somehow they were reluctant to talk about who’s backing them.

Yet the deniers are still fighting – largely because they’re still being funded. They’re using the same tactics they’ve always used to sow doubt on the climate science.  And while the attacks on the scientists are getting worse,  some of them are now fighting back.

But their impact is diminishing as people see – and experience – the impacts of climate change.   The IPCC’s report this week will confirm this, confirm the certainty and confirm the science.

The history set out in this report,  as well as the prior history of denial by the tobacco companies and chemical, asbestos and other manufacturing industries, is important to remember because the fossil fuel industry has never admitted that it was misguided or wrong in its early efforts to delay the policy reaction to the climate crisis. To this day, it continues to obstruct solutions.

The individuals, organizations and corporate interests who comprise the ‘climate denial machine’ have caused harm and have slowed our response time.  As a result, we will all ultimately pay a much higher cost as we deal with the impacts, both economic and ecological.

Eventually, these interests will be held accountable for their actions.

Prat Watch #8: Monckton’s folly, Carterist crap Gareth Renowden Jan 31

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I do — sometimes — enjoy a trip over to the other side, those dark corners of the web where people pretend that climate change isn’t a real and pressing problem. I looked in at µWatts this morning, and passed a most amusing breakfast perusing the latest offerings there from potty peer Christopher, Lord Monckton of Brenchley, and Robert, “Bob” Carter. When I say amusing, I mean that I found it almost impossible to get past the first paragraph of Monckton’s extended paean to Greek architecture without collapsing into my toast laughing.

It appears the good Lord is planning to build what he describes as a cottage orné, and the rest of us might think of as a folly, on his Scottish estate. This cottage will be a Greek-style pavilion, as the little image above shows. Quite why Anthony Watts thinks his blog is an appropriate place for this folie du grandeur remains obscure until very late in the piece, but Monckton never fails his loyal climate crank fans:

To make matters worse, there is now overwhelming evidence that climatologists all over the world have been tampering with temperature data, sea-level data, paleoclimate data, etc., etc.. The tampering always seems to be in the direction of making it appear, artificially, that there is more of a problem than there is.

Remember this when he turns up in Australia and New Zealand this year. Monckton expects to be able to libel every climate scientist in the world, and still be taken seriously. I hope he brings a model of his cottage, and displays it at every opportunity.

Not to be outshone by the verbose viscount, Bob Carter, Australia’s master of pompous prose, offers µWatts a classic example of his normal nonsense…

Carter begins by claiming comparable credibility to real climate scientist Katherine Hayhoe1, and therefore falls at the first hurdle. Carter is a well-published and somewhat respected geologist, but when it comes to climate science his credibility has been shot by twenty years of daft denial on behalf of US and Australian fossil fuel interests, not to mention by taking money from the Heartland Institute.

Carter attempts to show that a self-posed hypothesis — that CO2 induced warming is dangerous — doesn’t stand up to the evidence. Here’s his last “test”:

(v) The same computer models predict that a fingerprint of greenhouse-gas-induced warming will be the creation of an atmospheric hot spot at heights of 8-10 km in equatorial regions, and enhanced warming also near both poles.

Given that we already know that the models are faulty, it shouldn’t surprise us to discover that direct measurements by both weather balloon radiosondes and satellite sensors show the absence of surface warming in Antarctica, and a complete absence of the predicted low latitude atmospheric hot spot. Hypothesis fails, twice.

Nope. Because that’s a false test. If you were a credible climate scientist, Bob, you would know that a tropospheric “hot spot” is a “fingerprint” that would result from warming from all sources, not just greenhouse gases. And I wonder why you fail to mention the remarkable warming in the Arctic or the Antarctic Peninsula? Rhetorical question. We all know why Carter is misrepresenting the facts. It’s because he’s happy to misrepresent the truth on behalf of his paymasters.

More interesting than Carter’s arguments are where his piece first appeared — the web site of the “American Institute for Technology and Science Education“, a creationist lobby group based in California. Monckton is a birther and supporter of all sorts of wacky conspiracy theories (see above). Now we have Carter making common cause with creationists. How are the mighty fallen. Tell it not in µWatts, publish it not in the pages of Morano; lest the daughters of the warmists rejoice…

  1. The piece appears to be an attempt at a rebuttal of an earlier article by Hayhoe.

Signing up to nonsense: denialists plot letter to UN secretary general Gareth Renowden Nov 29

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People send me stuff. Imagine my surprise when this morning’s mail included the text of a round robin email from Tom Harris — the Canadian PR man who heads the Heartland-funded denialist lobby group the International Climate Science Coalition [full text here]. It gives an interesting insight to how these groups work behind the scenes. Here’s Harris appealing for signatures to a letter to UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon:

Time is short if we are to mount a significant counterpoint to the scientifically invalid assertions already being broadcast by the 1,500 journalists and 7,000 environmentalists attending the UN climate conference now underway in Qatar.

Please find below our “Open Letter to the Secretary-General of the United Nations” to which we are inviting your endorsement. We have 61 qualified endorsers as of 9 pm EST, about 19 hours after we started to ask people.

Because we have an agreement with a major media outlet to publish the open letter on Thursday, I will need to know of your support within the next day if possible, please.

The denialist spin machine in action. The usual suspects queuing to sign up to a letter that’s going to be published — where? My guess would be the Wall Street Journal. Even more interesting is the nonsense these luminaries are so keen to endorse…

It’s worth noting that Harris is not giving anyone the chance to change his proposed letter. The usual suspects are expected to sign up without quibbling about wording. And they’re signing up to a thoroughly modern catechism of climate crank disinformation. Here are the key claims in the letter:

UK Met Office data shows “there has been no statistically significant global warming for almost 16 years”.

This is nonsense, based on a beat-up published by the Daily Mail a few months ago. Warming continues, as the World Meteorological Organisation points out.

Global warming that has not occurred cannot have caused the extreme weather of the past few years. Whether, when and how warming will resume is unknown. The science is unclear. Some scientists point out that near-term natural cooling, linked to variations in solar output, is also a distinct possibility.

“Some scientists”? I suspect only the signatories to Harris’s letter expect a “near-term natural cooling” caused by the sun1.

The “even larger climate shocks” you have mentioned would be worse if the world cooled than if it warmed.

A remarkable (and unsupportable) assertion. I will allow that an ice age might be an inconvenience, but as our emissions have effectively postponed the next one for the foreseeable future, that’s the least of our worries.

The incidence and severity of extreme weather has not increased. There is little evidence that dangerous weather-related events will occur more often in future.

The letter goes on to quote from last year’s IPCC special report on climate extremes (SREX), but ignores the key findings of that report: that increased extremes of hot weather and rainfall are being recorded, and are “virtually certain” to continue as the climate warms.

We also ask that you acknowledge that policy actions by the UN, or by the signatory nations to the UNFCCC, that aim to reduce CO2 emissions are unlikely to exercise any significant influence on future climate.

Harris and his tame signatories can ask, but to expect the UN secretary general to reject the advice of his own organisation and the vast majority of the world’s climate scientists on the basis of an error-ridden screed put together as a stunt by PR flacks for fossil fuel interests is a bit of stretch, I’d have thought. Harris’s letter will be just as effective as all the other letters he’s sent to UN secretary generals at climate conferences, and that is not at all.

  1. The phrasing recalls similar pronouncements by NZ’s very own Bryan Leyland, a veteran of several climate science coalitions. I wonder if by any chance he had a hand in the letter?

A Short Introduction to Climate Change Bryan Walker Sep 30

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Tony Eggleton’s A Short Introduction to Climate Change is an excellent account of climate science for the general reader. The author is a retired geology professor from the Australian National University. Two widely read climate change deniers, Ian Plimer and Bob Carter, are also retired Australian geology professors, but Eggleton is not of their ilk. He comes at the subject from a concern about climate change and a wish to explain to readers who are uncertain about the topic why there is reason for concern.

The book is grounded in the careful science which has contributed to our understanding of the danger in which we now stand. Eggleton has not worked in the field of climate, but recognises the authenticity of the findings of climatologists. His opening chapter, The Spirit of Enquiry, offers a clear account of the process by which science across all its fields advances. He highlights the fact that most climate science is done by groups, all of whom need to be confident of the reliability of their colleagues. He explains the rigorous process of peer reviewed papers and the comprehensive scrutiny from fellow scientists which follows their publication. He ponders the fact that some hypotheses are of the type that involves a choice between only two possibilities. If one is not true the other must be so. How will the theory of climate change caused by the burning of fossil fuels be viewed in 100 years from now? “Interpretations evolve, change and sometimes settle into accepted fact: the Sun is at the centre of the solar system, the continents have drifted and smoking does damage the lungs.”

The course the book follows is logically developed and well marked by summaries and frequent recapitulations. The evidence of warming is comprehensive: spring timing is earlier; winters are milder; land and sea surface and atmospheric temperatures are rising; extreme temperature events are more frequent. This warming is driving the fundamental climate change which underlies changes in weather, and it is caused by the increasing level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere since 1750. Not that the author rushes to this conclusion. He leads the reader through all the thinking and observation which builds towards it, introducing a host of considerations such as the Milankovich cycles, the Keeling curve, water vapour, clouds, feedbacks and much else, all carefully explained.

The theme of climate change is pursued into all its manifestations in droughts and changed rainfall patterns, the loss of ice cover, the changes to the acidity of the world’s oceans and sea level rise. Again these are all patiently explored with frequent sourcing of the scientific findings to the work of particular scientists and their colleagues.

At this point Eggleton looks back in time, on geological time scales, detailing the lines of evidence from which the changes in temperature and CO2 and the eras of glaciation can be mapped out over the past 400 million-year period. “The connection between climate and CO2 is quite evident in the geological record, and that evidence – the coal, glacial drop-stones, types of shellfish fossils – tells us that when atmospheric CO2 falls, so does the temperature; when CO2 rises, so does the temperature.” More recently, over the past 2000 years, he notes the various studies which confirm Mann’s ‘hockey stick’, the rapid and now steepening rise in global temperature since 1800. He comments that what is special is not the temperature, nor even that it is changing, but rather the speed of the change.  At its very fastest, at the end of the last ice age the world warmed at a rate of 1°C every 1000 years. “As far as palaeontology and geology can discover, temperature change as fast as 1.5°C a century has not happened in at least the past 2 million years; it has not happened over the time of Homo sapiens.” The ominous rapidity of the changes we are seeing is a recurring theme in the book.

Lest there be any uncertainty as to where the increased CO2 is coming from, the book traverses the evidence that it comes from the burning of fossil fuels and other human activities such as cement manufacturing and deforestation. The global carbon cycle receives attention here.

Before moving on to discuss what we can do to remedy the threatening imbalance we have caused Eggleton devotes a chapter to what he calls the road block – influential and vociferous people who deny that climate change is happening or is of any consequence. He imagines a reader asking why the body of science that surely underpins contrarian views has not been represented in this book. “The answer is because there is no such body of knowledge. I looked. I searched extensively.” He turns his attention to the two prominent retired Australian geologists, Plimer and Carter, who deny that warming is caused by the burning of fossil fuels, maintaining that if there is any current change in climate we must look to natural causes. Eggleton points out that climate scientist always include the natural causes of climate change in their research and that the burning of fossil fuels has augmented a process of natural climate variation. Plimer is wrong to deny that we can change the normal planetary processes. Eggleton is patient and exhaustive in his treatment of the views of the two geologists, not dismissive but thoroughly rebutting their claims.

What lies ahead? Eggleton’s tone in talking about the predictions is cautious and he certainly can’t be accused of overstatement. But as he explains the implications, and includes mention of the fears of scientists such as Hansen who are very aware of the possibility of runaway climate change, it is very clear that the risks for our grandchildren are very substantial indeed. His focus on what change is likely to mean for Australia is a valuable one for readers in this part of the world.

Finally he reaches the question of what we can do about it and begins by saying that whereas in the rest of the book he has been careful to report quality scientific results, he now moves beyond his scientific comfort zone. I found this short closing section less positive than much I have read on the ways in which we can switch to renewable energy if we have the mind to, but if that’s a flaw it’s a minor one in the context of the book as a whole.

The book takes an impressive body of science seriously and explains it thoroughly for the non-scientist reader. Although many commentators say inaction on climate change is not due to lack of understanding I continue to think that a grasp of the scientific reality by a wide sector of society is an essential element in our preparedness to recognise that there is a crisis and to address it.

The voice of reason may not always be listened to, but I don’t know where else hope lies. Eggleton’s presentation is marked by its reasonableness and one hopes many readers will be appreciative of that.

[Support Hot Topic by purchasing this book through our affiliates: The Book Depository (UK, free shipping worldwide), Amazon.com or Fishpond (NZ).]

NZ Herald’s turn to offer propaganda as opinion – De Freitas’ links to cranks hidden from readers Gareth Renowden Sep 12

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The new “compactNZ Herald has taken a downmarket tabloid approach to informing its readers by running an opinion piece about the recent courtroom defeat for NZ’s climate cranks by prominent climate sceptic and Auckland University geographer Chris de Freitas, without explaining de Freitas’ long history of association with the cranks he’s defending. In the article, de Freitas overstates the uncertainties associated with temperature records, even going so far as to imply that the warming trend over the last hundred years might be “indistinguishable from zero”1. He also overplays the importance of temperature series to policy-makers — a line straight out of crank litigant Barry Brill’s playbook, and self-evident nonsense.

Despite this transparent partiality, the opinion editors at the Herald credit him like this:

Chris de Freitas is an associate professor in the School of Environment at the University of Auckland.

But, as the Herald opinion team well know, de Freitas is much, much more than a mere associate professor in the School of Environment. He has a track record of activism against action on climate change that stretches back two decades. Here, for the poor misled readers of the new Herald‘s opinion pages is a handy, cut-out-and-keep guide to de Freitas’ long history of climate denial activism.

This long list is far from complete — not least because it doesn’t include all the sceptic nonsense he’s presented as opinion at the NZ Herald and National Business Review over the years3, but it should serve to give a flavour of the man that Herald readers might think was a humble and respectable geographer at the University of Auckland.

The Herald has no excuse for failing to explain de Freitas’ interests in this issue, and should print a clarification as soon as possible. Carrying a good piece by Brian Rudman may “balance” CdF’s effort in some eyes, but the paper really needs to do better. What next? An opinion piece criticising the Labour party by prime minister John Key, where he is described as “a retired banker”?

[Updated 13/9 to add CEI link, and CdF's publication record.]

  1. “Temperature trends detected are small, usually just a few tenths of one degree Celsius over 100 years, a rate that is exceeded by the data’s standard error. Statistically this means the trend is indistinguishable from zero.”
  2. It didn’t.
  3. A rough count suggests that since 1990 he has published around 77 opinion
    pieces about climate change – with 32 in NBR and 27 in the Herald – partial publication record here.

Big coal coughs up for climate denial ’conference’, takes NZ sceptics along for the ride Gareth Renowden May 16

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As US corporate donors step away from the Heartland Institute following their ad campaign likening climate change believers to mass murderers and terrorists, big coal — in the shape of the Illinois Coal Association, supported by all the major US coal companies — has stepped in as a “Gold Sponsor” to support Heartland’s climate “conference” next week. In other heartwarming news for the ultra-conservative lobby group, the big guns of New Zealand’s climate denial movement, the Heartland-funded NZ Climate “Science” Coalition, have also sponsored the conference, thereby endorsing Heartland’s disgusting ad campaign.

Here’s what Heartland’s president Joe Bast says about the Unabomber billboard campaign:

’The leaders of the global warming movement have one thing in common: They are willing to use force and fraud to advance their fringe theory.’

Can we assume that Barry Brill, Bryan Leyland, “Heartland expert”1 Chris de Freitas and the other members of the NZ CSC all support Bast’s statement? Only Bob Carter has made a public statement, telling The Age that:

“the usual ‘liberal’ media sources” had been “amazing, immediate and over-the-top”, and that he would still speak at the conference.

Given that Heartland are happy to pay Carter a monthly retainer, it’s perhaps not surprising he supports their tasteless little publicity stunt. Money may not be able to buy you love, but it can certainly buy support, as Carter and the CSC crew prove.

  1. It’s worth following Big City Lib’s polling of other Heartland experts, to find out how many have asked for their names to be withdrawn following the Unabomber stunt. There’s no sign (yet) of de Freitas following suit.

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