By Gareth Renowden 28/09/2015 16


Allow me to pose a question. Which fearless investigative reporter, magazine publisher and author could be bothered to attend a school showing of Thin Ice, the excellent climate documentary put together Simon Lamb and scientists from VUW and Oxford?

And did he stand up at the end and make a fool of himself? Well, by his own admission he stood up and asked questions. Whether he made a fool of himself is another matter, but there’s some handy evidence we can look at…

Any New Zealand reader with a passing interest in climate issues will know that I’m talking about Ian Wishart, a writer with an extensive track record of misunderstanding climate science and a tendency to shout about it from the rooftops. Last week he published a “review” of Thin Ice at his Investigate Daily web site. It was also picked up at µWatts. In this “review” he provides all the evidence we need to decide on his expertise.

 

Wishart claims that the documentary is “littered with factual errors and misleading statements” and proceeds to outline four “misleading claims” made in the film. The trouble is that what he regards as misleading is what the rest of us might call mainstream science. Here’s a very brief rundown:

MISLEADING CLAIM #1: Antarctic ice cores show CO2 causing temperature increases over the aeons

Wishart takes issue with a description of CO2 and global temperatures as moving in “lockstep” — and tries to suggest that because some warming preceded CO2 increases, CO2 couldn’t be responsible for the warming. He claims the film is “highly misleading”.

It isn’t. Watch Naish describe the role of CO2 during the end of the last glaciation (just one of many excellent background videos available at the Thin Ice web site):

[vimeo 31713505 w=480 h=270]

Wishart references a 2003 paper to assert there’s an 800 year lag. Later work, handily summarised by Skeptical Science here, suggests that any lag was much shorter. The basic story — orbital forcing drives ice melt, which drives some warming, causes an initial CO2 increase, which sets up a feedback that drives the rest of the warming — remains true, but the more nuanced picture emerging from current work is fascinating.

The basic truth, as Richard Alley famously put it in a superb lecture at the AGU in 2009, is that CO2 is the biggest control knob for planetary temperature. When atmospheric CO2 increases, global temperatures rise, and vice versa.

MISLEADING CLAIM #2: You can trust the computer models, and they show a three degree increase in temperature but it could be double

Here Wishart attempts to rubbish climate modelling by claiming that the CMIP5 model data “has failed epically to account for the massive slowdown in warming over the past 15 years. In fact, the computer projections ran four times hotter for the period than the actual real observed temperature readings”.

After a record hot year in 2014, and 2015 all but certain to beat that handsomely, one might ask what massive slowdown? But set that to one side — climate modellers have been looking at why CMIP5 model runs appear to have been tracking higher than global average temperatures over the last 15 years or so, and many more papers than the one Wishart draws on for his “four times” assertion have appeared.

There’s a good discussion of a selection of those papers in this post by Gavin Schmidt at Real Climate, including one he authored which looks at what happens when you take into account the actual climate forcings over the last 15 years — what actually happened to the El Niño Southern Oscillation, volcanic activity, aerosols and solar activity over the period instead of the assumptions built into the model scenarios.

Here’s a graph of the results, helpfully updated by John Abraham to last month:

CMIP5modelobsAug2015

As you can see, current temperatures are tracking along inside the envelope of all “forcing adjusted” model runs — with the year-to-date right in the middle. Not much sign of exaggeration there.

MISLEADING CLAIM #3: CO2 is responsible “for most, or possibly all” global warming

This section of Wishart’s “review” is — not to put too fine a point on it — unphysical wibble. Apparently, ocean cycles are responsible for all the warming we’ve seen since the 1970s. All the heat was deposited in the oceans 800 years ago during the Medieval Warm Period, and is only now emerging to cause CO2 levels to rise. Don’t believe me? Here’s Wishart:

…peer-reviewed research from an IPCC-accredited research team […] essentially says the world’s temperatures since the 1970s have been driven not by CO2 at all, but by heat stored in the oceans. By definition, given the oscillation timescales, the heat emerging from the oceans in the 1970s must have been placed in the oceans decades, or even centuries earlier. Again, this means it cannot be related to human CO2 emissions.

There are so many things wrong with this statement, and with the understanding of physical reality on display in this whole section of his review that it would take a much longer article to deal with them all. Suffice it to say that brief exposure to some introductory climate texts, and a bit of basic oceanography would be helpful to anyone tempted to follow Wishart down his long dark rabbit hole of confusion.

MISLEADING CLAIM #4: The West Antarctic ice sheet is melting because of human CO2 production

According to Wishart, ice loss in West Antarctica has nothing to do with CO2-driven warming of the oceans, but is all down to volcanic activity under the ice sheet. “The volcanoes should have featured in Thin Ice. They didn’t, the documentary is simply not credible”, he thunders. Sadly, Wishart is the one with the credibility problem.

As scientists explore the West Antarctic ice sheet, drilling cores and taking measurements, they are indeed discovering that regions of the underlying rocks are geothermally active. There are some volcanoes, and some have certainly erupted violently in the past. But this is geology we’re talking about.

Volcanoes and geothermal regions don’t come and go every few hundred thousand years — they tend to stick around for millions of years. The WAIS volcanoes have seen ice ages come and go — been buried under miles of ice or open to the air or ocean — many times over the last million years. In terms of climate, they’re more or less permanent fixtures. The heat we’re discovering under the ice sheet has been there all along.

In other words, unless you can point to a sudden increase in volcanic and geothermal activity over the last 20 years, you can’t account for current ice loss that way.

We have measured warming oceans, seen ice shelves collapse, and we can send submarine robots under ocean-terminating glaciers to see what’s going on. The experts, the people who actually go to Antarctica — the scientists featured in Thin Ice, no less — look at the evidence and follow where that leads. It doesn’t lead them to volcanoes, it leads them to warming oceans.

History repeats

Most, if not all, of the above misunderstandings of basic climate science were on show in Wishart’s 2009 climate book Air Con, as I showed in my review at the time. If you can be bothered trawling back through the Hot Topic archives (start with some of the links under the review), you’ll see that Wishart aggressively defended his interpretation of climate science, but only succeeded in digging himself ever-deeper into a pit of misrepresentation and misunderstanding. Six years on, it would seem that he’s still ploughing that lonely furrow.

In one respect, however, Wishart’s take on climate has moved on. In Air Con, climate change was a scam put together by a cabal of evil green activists and scientists funded by socialist billionaires and the UN. A recent Wishart book, Totalitaria — which he assiduously plugs in his Thin Ice “review” — apparently1 digs further into the background and “uncovers” that the whole thing is orchestrated by an occult group who worship Lucifer and control the UN.

Oh dear. La La Land is in trouble.

  1. This review at Muriel Newman’s web site provides a handy plot summary, of which this is just a small section:
    These Theosophists oversaw the design of a global education policy designed to “raise consciousness” of nature worship and the spiritual relationships between humanity and nature, and to cause hostility to Judeo-Christian theology among young people.

    The purpose of raising consciousness was really to hasten the return of the Coming One/Satan through an increase in planetary vibrations, Wishart wrote.
    Conspiracist ideation anyone?

Homepage photo credit: NickolayV – iStock by Getty Images


16 Responses to “Postcards from La La Land: Wishart falls through Thin Ice”

  • Conspiracist ideation? It’s the climate change believers who have the mung beans religious baggage:

    Maurice Strong, however, was not just a businessman, and not just a socialist. He was also a devout New Ager409. The actual term “New
    407 National Review, January 27, 1997, page 10.
    408 “Discovering Maurice Strong” by John Izzard, Quadrant, 31 January 2010
    409 Technically, a Ba’hai, like Gorbachev and Al Gore
    288 | TOTALITARIA
    Age”410 was given extra marketing muscle by Maurice Strong’s friend, David Spangler, and Spangler has defined the implications of the New Age, saying that everyone left on planet Earth will eventually have to submit to a “Luciferic initiation”:
    “Lucifer comes to give us the final gift of wholeness. If we accept it then he is free and we are free. That is the Luciferic initiation. It is one that many people now, and in the days ahead, will be facing, for it is an initiation into the New Age.”411
    Vampire bat or fruit bat? Either way, it’s the same old guano: the totalitariacrats include people who genuinely believe humanity must swear allegiance to the Devil, and that in the act of swearing allegiance, Lucifer is set free. The way Spangler describes it, Satan sounds like a dirty old man in a raincoat offering sweeties to children:
    “Lucifer becomes something else again. He becomes the being who carries that great treat, the ultimate treat, the light of wisdom,” says Spangler in what is effectively a repeat of the deal first offered in the Genesis story of the Garden of Eden – “eat of this fruit and ye shall become as gods”.412
    One who has done so is Maurice Strong. The Canadian billionaire purchased, in the mid 1980s, a multi-thousand acre property in the Colorado mountains known as “Baca”. Some reports say it is 63,000 acres in size, others up to 200,000 acres. The latter is probably correct – it’s contained in a news article Maurice Strong posted on one of his websites, and interviews given by his wife.413 The picture is a little confusing because Strong appears to have sold or given away some of the land to help create New Age Grand Central – America’s pilgrimage site for the New Age. The site is administered by the Strong family’s Manitou Foundation which in turn was funded by the Rockefeller family to the tune of US$100,000 a year.
    The land had originally belonged to Saudi arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi, who in turn flicked it on to Strong. In the news article, based on an interview with Strong’s second wife, Hanne, we learn she fell in love with the remote landscape – a mountain range named Sangre de Cristos, or “Blood of Christ” – as a spiritual retreat:
    410 The phrase first appears in any meaningful sense in Helena Blavatsky’s ode to Lucifer, “The Secret Doctrine” published in 1888. The Lucis Trust’s Alice Bailey hit the home run with the book “Discipleship in the New Age” published in 1944. The term was heavily popularised by David Spangler’s Findhorn Foundation in the sixties and seventies.
    411 Reflections on the Christ by David Spangler, Findhorn Publications, 1977, p. 45
    412 Ibid p41
    413 http://www.manitou.org/MF/articles.php
    THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT | 289
    “The Hopi had used it only for sacred ceremonies. Three months after her arrival in 1978, as she tells it a wild-haired 80-year-old named Glenn Anderson, dubbed ‘the Prophet’ by the locals, knocked on her ranch house door with the words: ‘So you’ve finally come’. He proceeded to spell out a vision he had received, she says, that a woman like her would preserve all the world’s faiths in the valley against some imminent doomsday.”
    Imagine Strong’s surprise when he discovered his land sat on top of reportedly the largest freshwater reserves in North America. Hanne Strong was not the only one having a mystical experience in their new valley however.
    Maurice Strong claims to have had a Moses-like experience with TV journalist Bill Moyers:
    “We’d been walking, talking, heading back to my parked car. Suddenly, this bush – some sage-brush – erupted in flames in front of us! I was astounded. Moyers was, too. A bush bursting into flames… It is the most mystical experience he has had.”414
    Strong’s New Age beliefs, already evident from his 1972 BBC interview, were in full swing. Having served on the socialist Brundtland Commission whose 1987 report deemed the environment and “sustainable development” as the core issues to concentrate on, Strong moved into high gear. Plans were drafted for a major world conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992, to which every world leader would be invited. Maurice Strong was, again, given the task of organising it by the United Nations. To do that, he needed to raise the profile of climate change and environmentalism…

  • And I loved this bit – the climate change fraternity gathered around the fire, praying “The Great Invocation” to “the Coming One. Like I said in Totalitaria, “bat guano”, but expensive for the rest of the planet to indulge Gareth and his New Age icons:

    The ranch is built on the ruins of an early Benedictine monastery on a steep hill overlooking Rio. Hanne Strong, wife of the Secretary-General of UNCED, Maurice Strong, has chosen this location for her ‘Sacred Earth Wisdom Keepers Circle,’ where a fire will burn and a drum will be beaten without interruption, to provide a sacred dimension to the U.N. proceedings. She has invited friends, Native Americans, New Age prophets and astrologers, Gaia biologists and economists, and grass-roots activists.
    “After the evening’s fire ceremony Hanne explains her worldview to me. It is typical of New Age leaders I’ve met—a blend of Christian and Native American apocalyptic millenniaI prophecy, fortified by economic models of the ‘Limits to Growth’ kind, and pragmatic frontier spirit—every man for himself. In two years, she says, the American economy will be in shambles. Diseases that make AIDS look like the common cold will overrun the earth.
    “Four and a half billion people will ‘check out’ over the next seven years. A few places will be safe to live, like Baca Valley, Colorado. She has pulled her guys together there—organic farmers, spiritual leaders. ‘Come live with us’, she offers.”418
    Clearly Hanne Strong’s ancient spirit guides were wrong, as 4.5 billion people did not suddenly die between 1992 and 1999.
    The Sacred Earth Gathering opened with Lucifer’s Great Invocation (abridged here):
    “Let light stream forth into human minds.
    Let Light descend on Earth…
    May the Coming One return to Earth…
    From the centre where the Will of God is known
    Let purpose guide all little human wills –
    The purpose which the Masters know and serve…
    “Let Light and Love and Power restore the Plan on Earth.”
    The report from Rio continues:
    “Friday, June 5, 1992: Senator Al Gore opens the ‘Forum for Spiritual and Parliamentary Change’…

  • I can’t decide which is the bigger load of bat guano…the moonbeams and their Lucifer prayers in aid of climate awareness, or the substance of Gareth’s post.

    Gareth writes: “The basic story — orbital forcing drives ice melt, which drives some warming, causes an initial CO2 increase” basically translates as “Wishart is right but I’m trying not to admit it”

    The follow-up line from Gareth – “which sets up a feedback that drives the rest of the warming ” is simply question-begging. It could also be that the “orbital forcing” continues to be the main driver of climate, and that release of larger amounts of CO2 is still because of external forcing. The issue of whether CO2 provides a major “feedback that drives the rest of the warming” has not yet been proven in real world empirical studies…only in climate pornography labs where young nerds get hot and bothered with models – of the computer variety. Like I said in Air Con, the computer modelling in climate is highly prone to garbage-in/garbage-out problems, because their programmers are not very good and as reports in Nature Climate Change concluded, the techniques being used by “State of the art” climate models were “out of date by well over a decade”. Thin Ice told the gullible the models were excellent. Chortle.

    Not content with having his rump kicked repeatedly, Gareth then offers his nether regions when he says:
    [This section of Wishart’s “review” is — not to put too fine a point on it — unphysical wibble. Apparently, ocean cycles are responsible for all the warming we’ve seen since the 1970s. All the heat was deposited in the oceans 800 years ago during the Medieval Warm Period, and is only now emerging to cause CO2 levels to rise. Don’t believe me? Here’s Wishart:

    …peer-reviewed research from an IPCC-accredited research team […] essentially says the world’s temperatures since the 1970s have been driven not by CO2 at all, but by heat stored in the oceans. By definition, given the oscillation timescales, the heat emerging from the oceans in the 1970s must have been placed in the oceans decades, or even centuries earlier. Again, this means it cannot be related to human CO2 emissions.

    There are so many things wrong with this statement, and with the understanding of physical reality on display in this whole section of his review that it would take a much longer article to deal with them all. Suffice it to say that brief exposure to some introductory climate texts, and a bit of basic oceanography would be helpful to anyone tempted to follow Wishart down his long dark rabbit hole of confusion.]

    I shall deliver just one well-placed wallop to Gareth’s soft parts, using this direct quote from Stott et al, Science 2007 etc (from an interesting footnote in Totalitaria):

    ““Deep-sea temperatures warmed by ~2°C between 19 and 17 thousand years before the present, leading the rise in atmospheric CO2 and tropical–surface-ocean warming by ~1000 years. The cause of this deglacial deep-water warming does not lie within the tropics, nor can its early onset between 19 and 17 ky B.P. be attributed to CO2 forcing. Increasing austral-spring insolation [higher seasonal solar radiation in the Southern hemisphere] combined with sea-ice albedo [heat reflectivity] feedbacks appear to be the key factors responsible for this warming.” – SOURCE: “Southern Hemisphere and Deep-Sea Warming Led Deglacial Atmospheric CO2 Rise and Tropical Warming”, L Stott, A Timmerman, R Thunell, Science 19 October 2007: Vol. 318. no. 5849, pp. 435 – 438 DOI: 10.1126/science.1143791
    All very technical, but what this study found was that solar heat in the southern hemisphere warmed the oceans enough that ice melted and CO2 was released, but that it took up to a thousand years for the warmth to trigger CO2 release in any major way. In other words, far from CO2 being the “forcer” or instigator of warming, it was a result of warming that had begun a millennium earlier deep within the sea.

    Chump. I can’t be bothered citing the studies explaining the “primary” impact of WAIS volcanism … or pointing out that endless pleading of hottest years based on crap surface temp datasets, in comparison with the pause recorded by satellites, is unconvincing to all but the terminally stupid.

  • Let’s see. When woolly mammoths are discovered, frozen in ice, they have tropical vegetation in their mouths and digestive system. That would have been a rather rapid climate change. Velikovsky has a rarional explanation, which was verified when the first space-ship recorded the temperatures and day-cycles of Venus.

    Frederick Bailey has written a very interesting book, “Textbook of Gravity Sunspots and Climate” (ISBN9 780955 120213) which shows simply and clearly that we are in the peak of a cycle of approximately a thousand years, related to the position of the gas giants around the sun. (No, you are not getting my autographed copy). A very simple test. When have grapes been growing in the south of England? Around the time of Julius Caesar, AD930, and now. And I am hearing that some climate change “experts” are predicting a mini-ice age in 15 years.

  • The sound of the wind blowing tumbleweeds through this discussion forum is louder than the sound of your support here Gareth. It must be lonely..

  • Remember where you are, Ian. This is Sciblogs. Your name calling and insulting tone says more about you than any dissection of your misunderstanding of basic physics ever will.

  • Ian Wishart – highly respected investigative journalist with decades of runs on the board.

    Gareth Renowden – known only to his mother and the other four fine members of the Waipara River Protection Group.

    Gareth attacks Ian’s credibility on his much read (not) Sciblog and attempts to get the blog going viral. The attack is ferocious and personal but lacks credibility and truth.

    Ian responds appropriately and a to & fro joust commences.

    Ian annihilates Gareth with fact, wisdom, wit & vernacular – closing with a tongue in cheek jibe.

    Gareth, now humbled and embarrassed – adopts the only defence possible – “No need to get personal Ian”

    Readers – OMG. Are you serious Gareth. Pls step away from the keyboard! lol 🙂

  • Thanks Michael, for the best laugh I’ve had all day. Now, how about you address the factual matters in my post. Ian certainly hasn’t.

    • Big up’s to you for at least publishing my comment Gareth. I actually felt it may have been destined for the “culled criticisms category”. Truth is there are many respected thinkers on both sides of the global warming debate and I just happen to be sitting more in Ian’s camp that the alternate. Maybe you should call and have a chat with Leighton Smith on Newstalk ZB Gareth – now that WOULD be interesting!

  • “Ian Wishart – highly respected investigative journalist with decades of runs on the board” Name one. Or did you confuse him with someone who isn’t a vanity publisher? I do have to doubt the judgement of anyone who confuses a radio talkback host with a credible intellectual source.

    Michael’s post is just a twist on ad hom. As Gareth says, address the issues in the op if you want any level of respect.

    And to Ian – the reason for the tumbleweeds is that its often best just to stop feeding trolls.

    The preponderance of scientific opinion backs anthropological warming. The rest is noise about degree. Taking that noise and extrapolating a contradictory position from it may have been useful 10 years ago, but not now.

  • Onya Ashton. Just what we’ve come to expect from you “Holier than Thou” would be scientific geniuses.

    Even the scientific community can’t agree about what’s happening and why. If we’d all taken the Chicken Little, Al Gore warnings as gospel we’d be living in the centre of the Australian deserts to escape the rising sea levels! There likely is some warming going on Ashton – but as for our cows farting in the back yard impacting the overall global warming – I think not. IF it is happening, its almost certainly much more likely to relate to a multi millennial cycle of the earth, galaxy or cosmos.

    Probably time to also accept that it’s NOT the entire world scientific community vs a few fringe crazies. It’s NOT and you know that! The more I hear about this matter and watch on as the political correct dictated supposed leaders of the world follow the theory like rats behind the Pied Piper, the more I believe they will one day be found naked before their constituents as real world participants in a global version of the Emperors New Clothes!