To little fanfare, an important and highly revealing book was published in mid-2007 by an Australian climate scientist, Professor Ian Enting. Ian now works for the University of Melbourne, but for many years he was with CSIRO Atmospheric Research, where he worked primarily on modelling the global carbon cycle. He has also made contributions to the IPCC, including being a lead author on the report Radiative Forcing of Climate Change.
Anyway, Ian got fed up with trying to decode, for lay people and policy makers, the illogic behind the “alternative universe” style mathematics of the denial industry. And so, he decided to write a book exposing their many bizzare flaws and contradictions of the denialist claims. Twisted is the result of his efforts (see image). I strongly recommend you get yourself a copy and read it. It was published by the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute, which perhaps explains why it is not as well known as other books on the topic (it’s not in Amazon, for instance – more is the shame).
The book contains some real eye-openers. Those readers of the blog who are familar with the standard re-cycled guff produced by the denialosphere will know the story behind a few of them – the 1934 was the hottest year on record claim, for instance. Others are a little more technical, such as his comprehensive dismantling of the Klyashtorin and Lyubushin ‘analysis’, for instance.
Ian also uses some nice turns of phrase that I’ve adopted myself. One of the best, which nicely encapsulates the underlying theme of his book, is to call the non-greenhouse theorist’s arguments against a human contribution to global warming as ‘the pretend debate’. Much like the creationist’s developing the spin known as ‘intelligent design’ – in order to establish it as a science and thus have it taught in schools – the greenhouse denial industry manufactuture a ‘climate change debate’ and then misrepresent it to the media and general pubic as if it is a scientific discourse. If fact, the real scientific debate is about uncertainties in relative forcings and feedbacks (e.g. climate sensitivity).
Of course there really is a public debate on climate change. But a popular debate is not the same thing as a peer-reviewed disagreement within the scientific community, and lay people naturally enough treat evidence, models and attribution quite differently to scientists. That is one reason why the alternative reality of the web-based and think tank supported denialosphere can continue to flourish and entrap the unwary within a self-reinforcing clique of weird unsupported theories and straight-out misinformation.
Ian summarises his book as follows:
This book has focused on three important aspects of the sceptic’s arguments that preclude them from being taken as an alternative view of climate science:
- the distortions of the data that lie behind many of their claims;
- the inconsistencies between arguments [this is a key point he reinforces many times];
- the discrepancies between what individuals tell the media and what the same individuals say when subject to greater scrutiny.
…The success of the local disinformation campaign means that Australia is at serious risk of being left behind in the transition to a low-carbon world. The delay in action on climate mitigation has made the mitigation task harder than it need have been. Since the increases in greenhouse gas concentrations are taking us ever closer to poorly understood thresholds and tipping points, planning will need to be in terms of risk management, uncertainties and probabilities.
As I left the CSIRO, in the midst of the so-called ‘culture of fear’, almost the final words of my farewell speech came from Richard Feynman. Although famous among physicists for his Nobel Prize work and his textbooks, Feynman is perhaps more widely known for his role in the inquiry into the Challenger Space Shuttle disaster where he demonstrated that the O-ring material shattered after cooling in ice water. His words, from his minority appendix to the Challenger report, I commend to you now:
“…reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled”
Enjoy the book and feel free to post or questions feedback here – I will alert Ian to my post.