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Do climate sceptics and anti-nukes matter? or: How I learned to stop worrying and love energy economics

This is a Discussion Thread, because I really want your feedback. But first, some context.

By late 2008, I was pretty stressed about climate change. Working on the science of climate (and other anthropogenic) impacts on natural systems, as I do, I could foresee potentially insurmountable problems for biodiversity and human civilisation this century. A time of consequences. Things looked grim, unless there was a massive change in attitudes towards energy supply and resource sustainability. This was exemplified by my post on the Olduvai Theory and Paul Gilding’s short essay on “The Great Disruption”. I got really annoyed by ‘climate change sceptics’ because I felt they were undermining our collective will (and political capital) to take effective action, using mostly recycled, pseudo-scientific distractions.

Then, I started to study the energy problem in detail. It was a Damascene conversion, as I came to realise, via the analysis of the real-world numbers rather than hype or spin: (a) the inadequacy of renewable energy as a complete (or even majority) solution to achieving low-carbon future (…and therefore avoiding the worst of climate change impacts), and (b) the comprehensive value of nuclear energy in solving the energy and climate challenges the world now faces, in the race to supplant our dependence on fossil fuels.

At this point, mid- to late-2009, I got really annoyed with anti-nuclear protesters, because I felt that, through their outdated ideology and inexcusable hypocrisy,  they were undermining the collective will (and political capital) needed to pursue a future in sustainable atomic energy. What galled me the most about this was that I felt I was now fighting a war on two simultaneous anti-science fronts — against trenchant ‘fossil fuels forever’ interests (who ironically understood the need for energy security and technological prosperity)  on one side, and hardline ‘nuclearphobes’ (who ironically understood the need for action to avoid serious climate change) on the other.

Now though, I’m much more relaxed about it all. In short, I’ve learned to stop worrying about ‘sceptics’ and ‘antis’ and love energy economics (the real-world outcome, not the academic discipline!). Let me explain briefly, prior to further elaboration in the comments section.

Historical emissions of fossil fuels have come largely from the developed world (US/Canada, Europe, Japan, Australia, etc.). In the 21st century, the growth in emissions, and quite soon the total mass of emissions, will come from the developing world (China, India, Brazil, Indonesia, etc.).

In the developed world, there is general recognition of the energy and climate problems, but little real political incentive to do anything meaningful about it (at least in the short term). There are, however, many minority (but influential) special-interest groups trying to block or stymie change. Now, environmental well-being is ultimately very important to these societies, as is steady economic growth and maintenance of high standards of living, but they also (think they) have the luxury of making choices that balance these priorities against more nebulous or philosophical concerns. This has, in turn, led to inaction, endless circular debates, media wars, unstrategic planning, and public policy that is guided by political points scoring and partisanship rather than rational analysis and long-term cost-benefit. In short, slow, suboptimal change.

In the developing world, there’s a race on. A race to higher standards of living and lots of energy, delivered as cheaply as possible. Environmental concerns have tended to take a back seat, although immediate, local problems, such as air and water pollution, are quickly rising to prominence. These nations represent an economic and demographic freight train, and nothing we ‘decide or advise’ in the developed world is going to slow it down. Anti-nuclear campaigners and climate change sceptics are both utterly irrelevant in these places. By the time the dust has settled, and these societies have the ‘luxury’ of paying any attention to special interest groups, it’ll already be game over — be it a ‘win’ or a ‘loss’.

Now, if the Chinas and Indias of this world do end up following a fossil-fuel-intensive pathway to development, we’re all stuffed — whether they manage to make it all the way up the development curve or fail in the attempt. It won’t matter at this point what gains the currently developed world might have  managed to achieve. If, alternatively, these rapidly growing economies are able to develop and deploy non-fossil energy sources cheaply and on a massive scale, we all win. Whether the technology ends up being ‘proven up’ in China, the US, or wherever, the very fact that it will have proven cost-competitive with coal will mean that everyone has won. I return to my favourite quote from Steve Kirsch:

Pouring money into token mitigation strategies is a non-sustainable way to deal with climate change. That number will keep rising and rising every year without bound. The most effective way to deal with climate change is to seriously reduce our carbon emissions. We’ll never get the enormous emission reductions we need by treaty. Been there, done that. It’s not going to happen. If you want to get emissions reductions, you must make the alternatives for electric power generation cheaper than coal. It’s that simple. If you don’t do that, you lose.

Take a nation like Australia. It has very high per-capita carbon emissions. It currently has an anti-nuclear government. It has many noisy, influential climate change sceptics, including leading politicians. It makes token gestures towards subsidising renewable energy, but won’t commit to it seriously (for good reason, in my opinion). The upshot is that we’ll vacillate, debate and tinker with toy solutions for years. Then, when it makes economic sense to do so — when those places with the incentive to make things happen have done so and the cheaper-than-coal alternative energy is available — we’ll follow like sheep as the viable-clean-energy bell calls us home. As such, I see my role as a messenger, a public educator, a futurist, a facilitator (e.g. via SCGI). I won’t change what’s coming, but I might influence the timetable of events!

So, the debating point I open to BNC readers is this. Do climate sceptics and anti-nukes matter? My evolved position is that they don’t — at least not in any way that is meaningful — but I’m happy to debate it below. The floor is open…

(Acknowledgements to Dr Strangelove for the title of this thread. Also, regarding the topic of weapons proliferation and used nuclear fuel, I highly recommend the following essay that has just been posted on DepletedCranium, “Why You Can’t Build a Bomb From Spent Fuel“. It’s the best layman’s summary of the issue I’ve yet seen, bar none, with lots of useful diagrams too. Do yourself a favour and go read it.).

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By Barry Brook

Barry Brook is an ARC Laureate Fellow and Chair of Environmental Sustainability at the University of Tasmania. He researches global change, ecology and energy.

456 replies on “Do climate sceptics and anti-nukes matter? or: How I learned to stop worrying and love energy economics”

@ Robert:
@ John Tons:

I’ll try my best to discuss something with people sincerely out to learn about these matters, but from the first post RealScientist basically accused all climateologists like our friend Barry here of being either morons or religious fanatics devoted to anti-science.

The blowback is all earned.

Sadly it is worse than that. It’s what he wants!

He’s a troll, and that’s all there is to it. Note the moronic attempts to debunk the well known phenomenon of Milankovitch cycles and various forms of global dimming. There’s no actual SCIENCE being discussed here.

He wants us to keep arguing with him to provide him a platform where he can keep saying “AGW religious dogma” etc.

And we’re providing it for him! For free! Every time we disagree with him we “feed the troll” and KEEP giving him the platform he wants.

I suggest we close this thread to kill his platform, as BNC emails are starting to become repulsive… and I don’t want that association about BNC.

@ DV8: Sorry, you’re of course right but there’s just something I find I can’t get my head around with internet trolls. I just can’t believe I’ve met yet another one. Again. And so I try and try… and waste my time… and then after 10 or 20 exchanges, finally realise: yep, one more internet troll really does exist. :-)

How futile and embarrassing. Sorry all for bothering… how pointless!

I’m going to turn off my computer, take a walk outside, and play with the kids and breathe the fresh air and remembe that there are real human beings that appreciate real conversations, not this hideous distortion of communication that we call an internet troll.

PS: Oh, and I just noted RealScientist is apparently ‘leaving’ us. So soon? ;-)

If you want to remove YOURSELF from the email list, click on the unsubscribe button at the bottom of the BNC emails you get… called “One click unsubscribtion”

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Things got a bit willing there folks. I think Real Scientist and Eclipse Now should take a Bex and have a lie down. Personally, I’ve gone from “believer” to “agnostic” and currently to “denier” of AGW. And that’s pretty much on the strength of just having read “THE EMAILS”. The incompetence and essential dishonesty of these climate scientists[Mann, Jones, Santer Briffa etc], covered up with decades of manipulation and “stacking the deck ” of peer review has left us with no idea whether the earth’s climate has been affected to any appreciable degree by mankind. The science is NOT settled in my view. Perhaps Barry and others can convince me otherwise. By the way, Climate Change is and always has been a fact of the behaviour of the earth. I taught geology for 30 years and countless times pointed to the evidence of sea level change around the SA coast and in the inland as well for that matter to the hundreds of students in my care. Most important of all, I don’t care whether AGW is happening or not. What I do know is that we need to change our main power source from the filthy fossil fuels especially coal, to the only source that can take coal’s place. And that is nuclear power. Fortunately for the planet, 33 countries already have nuclear power and an additional 20 are building reactors now. I would suggest that they’ve considered all of the arguments that we’ve been having on Barry’s blogs [well done Barry] and have reached the conclusion that nuclear is cost effective, safe, clean and able to deliver baseload power without greenhouse emissions. And that’s surely what the world needs. Right??

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The climategate emails are a storm in a teacup, and I’m sure Barry has another thread on that kettle of fish going somewhere. Hang on, teacups and kettles… OK, moving right along.

“By the way, Climate Change is and always has been a fact of the behaviour of the earth.”

This is a variation of the Denialist myth: “It’s been far warmer in the past, what’s the big deal?”
http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn11647-climate-myths-its-been-far-warmer-in-the-past-whats-the-big-deal.html

Yes it has, in the DEEP past, before human beings walked the planet. All of which REAL climatologists willingly acknowledge!

Climate changes for many reasons, such as Milankovitch cycles, heavier volcanic periods, heck, even continental drift over 10’s of millions of years can change the climate.

As I understand it, it’s not an either / or scenario. Human beings can drown in natural tsunamis just as they can drown when a dam breaks: and both can look pretty much the same.

“And that’s surely what the world needs. Right??”
Yes, but the *urgency* with which we leave coal will be lost if Denialists win the misinformation campaign.

We shall see if you are just another Denialist or in fact are an actual sceptic still interested in genuine conversation, and genuine learning, by the way this conversation unfolds.

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Something for Mr Krieg …

go to google and search for “climate crock of the week” … the videos are very helpful in cutting through the disinformation and gish galloping

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@Ewen Laver:

re: “gish galloping” (half-truths, lies, straw men, and bullshit to such a degree that the opponent cannot possibly answer every falsehood that has been raised, usually resulting in many involuntary twitches in frustration as the opponent struggles to decide where to start.)

as the methods of the obscure US biochemist and creationist Duane Gish were not invented by him it might be useful in the interests of general comprehensibility on BNC to eschew such arcane terms in favour of more standard terms to describe such rhetorical devices, which have existed for millennia. What do you think? BNC runs enough specialised vocab. already.

Denialist geology teacher Krieg’s smear of e.g. Michael Mann and Phil Jones as incompetent (sic) and essentially dishonest (sic) indicate that Krieg may well have learned his geology from Ian Plimer. However, as Krieg says he can read e-mails, it does indeed seem he is functionally literate.

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Thanks for the barbs chaps. I’m just an ordinary layman who has been struggling with the whole issue for some years now. But a hell of a lot more”informed” scientists including climatologists subscribe to the Plimer view including David Bellamy . He’s been banned by the BBC for daring to deny that AGW is happening. I think there’s plenty of evidence out there which does call AGW into question and at the moment, their views have swayed me to the Denialist/Sceptic camp. It seems to me that Mann, Jones etc have commited a gigantic fraud with their fudged figures. But I’m prepared to be convinced otherwise. So, go for it Eclipsenow. And when you’ve made your case, I’ll do my best to understand it and make further comment if I’m still not convinced. You can send it to my address if you like. We don’t need to burden all of the other guys with our private disagreement as you and Realscientist have done. By the way, I didn’t learn my geology from Plimer. I’m a good deal older than he is and taught his like back in the 60’s.

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But a hell of a lot more”informed” scientists including climatologists subscribe to the Plimer view including David Bellamy . He’s been banned by the BBC for daring to deny that AGW is happening.

OK … the old bellamy was banned for dissent canard … now we know you’re a troll because this one has been repeatedly shown to be utterly without merit. This crank was a has been long before he pronounced on AGW …

No published climatologists “subscribe to the Plimer view”. You plainly want to waste people’s time.

As with the “realscientist” troll, you need to get acquainted with the facts of the matter.

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OK … the old bellamy was banned for dissent canard … now we know you’re a troll because this one has been repeatedly shown to be utterly without merit.

I will speak up ,for Terry here. I’ve communicated with Terry on a couple of occasions concerning nuclear power, and I have no reason to believe that he is anything but completely sincere in his views. I disagree with him about AGW, but I have no problem acknowledging him as a fellow concerned citizen and valuable ally in the pro-nuclear community. I am sure we’ve all quoted something or pointed to a reference at one time or another which we’ve later reassessed.

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Ok Fin, if YOU attest for him, I’m prepared to accept that perhaps he was simply outrageously careless in his choice of talking points. Just because he talks like a concern troll need not make him so. I remain doubtful however.

The trouble with the Bellamy claim is that he keeps shifting the goalposts:

see for example …

You have to laugh or shake your head in disbelief.

The salient point here — the mark of the concern troll — is that they grab any claim they’ve seen and treat it with complete credulity if it fits their preferred narrative, while calling themselves “skeptics”. The irony should not be lost on even the thickest out there in blogland. Even more amazing, they announce it in a tone that sounds like nobody has ever heard the talking point before, which is just damn insulting. It’s hard to escape the impression that that was their intent.

It would be as if I came here and said “Gee … I don’t know about nuclear power. Sure it sounds good, but look at Chernobyl …”

That sort of trolling is utterly tiresome and deserving of complete contempt.

So I’d say to “Terry Krieg” if you are not a troll, before you post again, come back here and post something that shows you have thought about the standing of your last two bogus claims. Alternatively, you could just concede they were made recklessly, were total bollocks and apologise for insulting our intelligence.

While you’re about it you undertake not to post talking points from the denier favourites list unless you can show that you have considered the objections in a serious way. Checking out “climate crock of the week” as suggested and skeptical science would be a good start.

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Strange – first pseudo sceptics- like Real Scientist – deny that the earth is warming at all, then when they are faced with incontrovertible evidence that it is, they suddenly change tack and say, they concur that it is warming, but it is not due to human emissions of CO2.
They roll out all the drivers of climate that applied to previous climate change (which no scientist denies) but have been shown not to be related to the present warming.
Shifting the goalposts but still not kicking any goals:)

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Gotta stick up for Terry too. I’ve read his postings here long enough to have complete confidence in taking him at face value and in his good motives, even if I think he’s wrong on this point.

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Thanks Finrod and John D Morgan. As I said earlier, I’m just a layman struggling with all of the pro and anti AGW stuff that has come to light recently. I’ll post some other stuff that has helped sway me towards denial for Ewen Laver in the near future. I might be wrong, but I suspect he’s never seriously considered the anti AGW argument, choosing rather to accept, as I did at first, the pro AGW arguments. Tell me I’m wrong Ewen.

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You are wrong Terry. I take nothing but the bleeding obvious at face value. I started off genuinely agnostic in the 1990s (i.e I had an open mind on something that sounded plausible).

I became interested and began looking at the progress of the issue through the 1990s until I became utterly persuaded that no explanation of the climate anomaly that did not factor in CO2 could fit the data we have on temperature. In the 12-13 years since then the data we have acquired has served to corroborate that inference.

It’s really quite simple. If you wish to challenge the claim you must show that the data we have

a) could in principle have been produced by some other combination of measurable phenomena that rising CO2

AND

b) those phenomena were present during the time frame in which we are interested.

To date, no denier has achieved both these things. An increase in insolation could do this for example, but the trouble is that no such increase has occurred. Moroever, stratospheric cooling shows clearly that this can’t be an explanation of the lower tropsheric warming since increases in solar output would also heat the stratosphere. That the statosphere has cooled both excludes the sun as the driver and positively affirms the lower tropospheric GHG effect.

And contrary to popular denier practice, simply adding up a whole bunch of silly claims that cannot all coexist doesn’t make a sufficient argument. You must show that each claim is confirmed in observable reality, really does go to the climate pattern we have seen and does not conflict with any other datum that would exclude it. In the case of AGW there are nearly 30,000 independent pieces of data confirming that change is occurring rapidly. Satellite measurements of the “radiation budget” of the Earth not only positively affirm the data in the proxies relating to lower tropospheric warming. They also affirm the depletion in outgoing radiation is in the bandwidths one would expect if CO2 were the driver of increased insolation. Isotopic analysis of CO2 shows that it is indeed of fossil origin and this is increasing at a rate consonant with actual fossil fuel consumption.

How many people accept the science is utterly beside the point. The physical realtionships between elements of the ecosystem of our world cannot be changed by people simply thinking something else. So your personal cultural trajectory on this is simply moot.

So far as the deniers are concerned though the telling point is that their focus is on debunking CO2-as-climate-driver while keeping a deafening silence on the other reality — that increasing CO2 emissions damage the seas, and that almost all of the activities that lead to anthropogenic emissions also harm humans in the here and now and also deplete finite resources. So it is clear that they are trying to protect the value of fossil fuel assets and the associated culture associated with it by pretending that the only issue is the uncertainty they suggest exists over CO2-as-climate-driver. This is high-order special pleading and shows that they are not skeptics but self-appointed lawyers for a section of the elite.

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Thanks Ewen. Pretty compelling stuff you’ve given me and I commend your long experience in working through it all. And I concede that your two requirements seem acceptable. But, really, a lot of what you and other AGW people believe must to some extent be negated by what Jones et al have put out in recent years. Doesn’t that at least make you think again? A lot of respectable scientists and others reckon he and his helpers have been fraudulent. And Jones himself has admitted that there has been no “statistically significant” global warming since 1995. And the 0.7C increase in temperature over the past century is entirely consistent with well-established, long term, natural climate trends. And James Hansen of NASA said in a simulation of temperatures from 1880 to 2000, soot accounted for 25% of observed global warming. and further research suggests that soot may have nearly as much impact on climate change as CO2.And IPCC lead author Ben Santer openly admits that he altered portions of the 1995 IPCC report to make them “consistent with other chapters.” And Mann’s hockey stick graph was created using only portions of a data set. And Nils Axel-Morner, a sea level specialist when asked as an expert reviewer on the IPCC’s last two reports was “astonished to find that not one of the 22 contributing authors on sea levels was a sea level specialist”. And the IPCC reported that 55% of the Netherlands was below sea level when in fact it’s 26% below sea level. They were forced to retract the claim. And according to the US Historical Climate Network, 90% of US climate monitoring stations have been found to be “poorly situated” meaning they have a margin of error greater than 1 degree C, which is more than the global warming in the entire 20th century. And US surface data is generally considered the best surface data in the world. And in 1978 there were 6000 surface climate-monitoring surface stations. At present there are about 1200. The vast majority of climate monitoring stations that were lost were rural ones which have been shown to give the most accurate data. And the Hadley CRU, the institution at the centre of the “climategate” scandal, threw out original temperature data because it claimed it did not have storage space. And these are just a few of the problems I have with accepting AGW Ewen. It’s bloody tough for an ordinary bloke like me to discount these facts as of little/no consequence on the issue. They’ve certainly helped put me in the Skeptic’s camp. But my mind is still open and so over to you Ewen

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Terry

as you massively disregarded my earlier suggestions:

1.So I’d say to “Terry Krieg” if you are not a troll, before you post again, come back here and post something that shows you have thought about the standing of your last two bogus claims

AND

2.While you’re about it you undertake not to post talking points from the denier favourites list unless you can show that you have considered the objections in a serious way. Checking out “climate crock of the week” as suggested and skeptical science would be a good start

(You did the gish gallop …)

AND

3, despite acknowedging my two benchmarks for data were acceptable, you then ignored them, reiterated the memes and some more and said “over to you”

AND

4. Again self-avowed as a skeptic without being skeptical of the things in your gish gallop (an irony I had pointed out above

I’m going to stand by my opinion that you are simply trolling. I don’t care what Finrod and others take you for. Your posting pattern exactly conforms to concern trolling of the kind one sees all the time on this issue. The Phil Jones admits not statistically significant warming since 1995 lie — exposed by The Economist of all placed — is a trademark for the genre. Your posts are not substantively different from “realscientist”. I’d love to see the IP addresses.

Enough already. Your name may suggest war, but you deserve no more than a wave of the hand.

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Peter Lalor

re: Gish galloping

Exhibit A: Terry Krieg above.

Interesting you mention Plimer in the same post:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duane_Gish

Massimo Pigliucci, who has debated Gish five times, noted that Gish ignores evidence contrary to his religious beliefs.[10] Others have accused Gish of stonewalling arguments with fabricated facts or figures.[11]

Ian Plimer, head of the Geology department at the University of Newcastle, Australia, debated Gish in 1988. Plimer considered the debate to be political rather than scientific, and thus refused to argue genteelly about scientific minutiae. Instead, Plimer debated Gish in a street-fighting style which a Sydney Morning Herald reporter described as going in “boots and all, aiming for the opponents kneecaps”. “Professor Plimer mocked, ridiculed and challenged every tenet that the movement holds dear, and made a string of blunt personal accusations about some of its more prominent members.”[12]

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Are the Denialists really pushing climategate still? If anyone mentions “Hide the decline” I’ll simply vomit out their illiteracy. There’s this thing Year 7 High School kids learn in English called *context*.

As for the accusations of manipulation of data…

“After careful consideration of all the evidence and relevant materials, the inquiry committee could not make a definitive finding whether there exists any evidence to substantiate that Dr. Mann did engage in, or participate in, directly or indirectly, any actions that deviated from accepted practices within the academic community,” reads the report. This final point will now be at the centre of a further investigation.

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn18474-us-climategate-scientist-all-but-cleared-of-misconduct.html

But of course, New Scientist is in on the conspiracy theory! (Runs away to put on Tinfoil hat and rub myself in Vegemite to scare off the aliens).

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Ewen,
Re the clearing of Mann’s name by an internal university enquiry. Sounds a bit like the internal inquiries that our Australian police forces are famous for. I would have thought that an outside body would have been a better option for the enquiry. Has Jones also been cleared? Likening me to Gish is a bit over the top. When teaching geology back in the 70s, I invited the local Creationist Crazy to speak to my class. The kids thought he was nuts as you and I both do. And as for being a troll. I’ve been out of the cave for years or do you mean that I like to trail some bait in the hope of catching a fish. You’re starting to sound a bit intolerant indeed, self-righteous. I guess you’re a bit frustrated with having to continue to air your superior knowledge and understanding of AGW to nongs like me. Could it possibly be that the believers have it wrong, despite all of the “evidence” that you appear to know? When you reply, try hard not to insult me. Meanwhile try hhtp://joshfulton.blogspot.com/2010/02/75-reasons-to-be-skeptical-of-global.html. Sorry it’s not a study which answers your two demands, but it comes in the hope that you will not dismiss it out of hand as more ‘denier trolling” and that maybe, just maybe, a couple of points will strike a chord and give you pause for thought. And as for Plimer, he’s an arrogant sod and his book is “Hell” to read, being mostly footnotes. But when he was taken to court on the ‘Creationist” issue some years ago, I sent him $100 [in response to a call from Phillip Adams] to help fight his cause. He’s not all bad and you can’t dismiss all of his arguments out of hand. After reading Heaven and Earth, I shifted from agnostic to denier where I still reside. But my mind is still open. Is yours Ewen?

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Terry,
if you’re open to scientific input on “Heaven and Earth” have you even bothered to read the counter-arguments?

Just because climate science is *complex*, and sometimes even counter-intuitive, doesn’t mean it is *wrong*.

Plimer’s book review:

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/ian-plimer-heaven-and-earth/story-e6frg8no-1225710387147

One such document that arrived last week was Ian Plimer’s Heaven and Earth. What makes this case unusual is that Plimer is a professor — of mining geology — at the University of Adelaide. If the subject were anything less serious than the future habitability of the planet Earth, I wouldn’t go to the trouble of writing this review.
Plimer sets out to refute the scientific consensus that human emissions of CO2 have changed the climate. He states in his acknowledgments that the book evolved from a dinner in London with three young lawyers who believed the consensus. As Plimer writes: “Although these three had more than adequate intellectual material to destroy the popular paradigm, they had neither the scientific knowledge nor the scientific training to pull it apart stitch by stitch. This was done at dinner.”

This is a remarkable claim. If Plimer is right and he is able to show that the work of literally thousands of oceanographers, solar physicists, biologists, atmospheric scientists, geologists, and snow and ice researchers during the past 100 years is fundamentally flawed, then it would rank as one of the greatest discoveries of the century and would almost certainly earn him a Nobel prize. This is the scale of Plimer’s claim.

Before reading any further, I examined Plimer’s publication list on the University of Adelaide website to see what he has published in refereed journals. There are a scant 17 such papers since 1994, two as first author with the titles “Manganoan garnet rocks associated with the Broken Hill Pb-Zn-Ag orebody” and “Kasolite from the British Empire Mine”. Absolutely nothing on climate science.
Now, before I am accused of attacking the man and not the argument, let me point out that scientists regard peer-reviewed journal publications as fundamental for advancing science. They allow ideas to be exchanged, tested, improved on and, quite frequently, discarded. If Plimer can do what he claims, and can prove that human emissions of CO2 have no effect on the climate, then he owes it to the scientific community and, in fact, humanity, to publish his arguments in a refereed journal.

Perhaps we will find a stitch-by-stitch demolition of climate science in his book, as promised? No such luck. The arguments that Plimer advances in the 503 pages and 2311 footnotes in Heaven and Earth are nonsense. The book is largely a collection of contrarian ideas and conspiracy theories that are rife in the blogosphere. The writing is rambling and repetitive; the arguments flawed and illogical.
He recycles a graph, without attribution, from Martin Durkin’s Great Global Warming Swindle documentary, neglecting even to make the changes that Durkin made following an outcry over the fact that the past two decades of temperature measurements had been mysteriously deleted.

Plimer claims that scientists such as himself, who do not agree with the consensus, are labelled deniers, “yet their scientific doubts are not addressed”. Nothing could be further from the truth. All of Plimer’s arguments have been addressed ad nauseam by patient climate scientists on websites or in the literature.
To appreciate the errors in Plimer’s book you don’t have to be a climate scientist. For example, take the measurement of the global average CO2 concentration in the atmosphere. This is obviously important, so scientists measure it with great care at many locations across the world.
Precision measurements have been made daily since 1958 at Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, a mountain-top site with a clear airflow unaffected by local pollution. The data is in excellent agreement with ice cores from several sites in Antarctica and Greenland. Thousands of scientific papers have been written on the topic, hundreds of scientists are involved from many independent research groups.

Plimer, however, writes that a simple home experiment indoors can show that in a week, CO2 can vary by 75 parts per million by volume, equal to about 40 years’ worth of change at the present rate. He thinks this “rings alarm bells” on the veracity of the Mauna Loa data, which shows a smoothly rising concentration.
While it is undoubtedly true that if you measure CO2 in your home it could vary by large amounts from day to day — depending, for example, on whether you have the windows open or closed, or how many people are in the house at the time — this is not the right way to measure a global average. That’s why scientists go to mountain-tops or Antarctica or to the isolated Cape Grimm on the Tasmanian coast rather than measuring CO2 in their living rooms.
Incredible as it may seem, this quality of argument is typical of the book. While the text is annotated profusely with footnotes and refers to papers in the top journals, thus giving it the veneer of scholarship, it is often the case that the cited articles do not support the text. Plimer repeatedly veers off to the climate sceptic’s journal of choice, the bottom-tier Energy and Environment, to advance all manner of absurd theories: for example, that CO2 concentrations actually have fallen since 1942.

Plimer believes “global warming” occurring on Mars, Triton, Jupiter and Pluto proves human emissions of CO2 don’t affect Earth’s climate. He believes that once CO2 levels reached 200ppmv (about half of today’s value) the CO2 had absorbed almost all the infrared energy it could, and further increases will not have much effect. He believes global warming does not lead to biological stress. He believes volcanoes emit significant quantities of chlorofluorocarbons. He believes the sun formed on the collapsed core of a supernova. All these ideas are so wrong as to be laughable: they do not offer an “alternative scientific perspective”.
Plimer probably didn’t expect an astronomer to review his book. I couldn’t help noticing on page120 an almost word-for-word reproduction of the abstract from a well-known loony paper entitled “The Sun is a plasma diffuser that sorts atoms by mass”. This paper argues that the sun isn’t composed of 98 per cent hydrogen and helium, as astronomers have confirmed through a century of observation and theory, but is instead similar in composition to a meteorite.

It is hard to understate the depth of scientific ignorance that the inclusion of this information demonstrates. It is comparable to a biologist claiming that plants obtain energy from magnetism rather than photosynthesis.

Plimer has done an enormous disservice to science, and the dedicated scientists who are trying to understand climate and the influence of humans, by publishing this book. It is not “merely” atmospheric scientists that would have to be wrong for Plimer to be right. It would require a rewriting of biology, geology, physics, oceanography, astronomy and statistics. Plimer’s book deserves to languish on the shelves along with similar pseudo-science such as the writings of Immanuel Velikovsky and Erich von Daniken.

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Terry Krieg, on 20 March 2010 at 10.09 Said:

“But my mind is still open. Is yours Ewen?”

The notion of ‘keeping and open mind’ arises so often in the context of these types of debate that it warrants separate discussion. Time and time again, someone is scolding us to ‘keep an open mind’ or some similar phrase. The implication is that an open mind is a characteristic of the fair, the reasonable and the intelligent. By implication, anyone who does not have an open mind is unfair and unreasonable, and hence their views can be dismissed. This is nonsense.

An open mind is appropriate in situations where we have no good evidence one way or the other, it means not looking at evidence with prejudiced. It does not mean giving every hypothesis equal weight.

In cases where prior knowledge is available, the alternative to ‘an open mind’ is not ‘a closed mind.’ It is ‘an informed mind’ or ‘an analytical mind,’ In such contexts, any appeal to ‘keep an open mind’ is an appeal to prefer ignorance over knowledge. This is not advisable.

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Terry Krieg, on 19 March 2010 at 17.53 — Using HadCRUv3, the last 15 years has a 19:1 chance of warming trend; using GISTEMP instead, the last 15 years has at least a 20:1 chancge of a warming trend, i.e., statistically significant. But even using HadCRUv3 and the last 16 years the warming trend is statistically significant. You’ve been had I fear.

As for reasonable lengths of time, 13 decades, one easily sees that the excess CO2 accounts for almost al of the observed variance:
http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2010/02/whatevergate/comment-page-23/#comment-164509

I recommend reading “The Discovery of Global Warming” by Spencer Weart:
http://www.aip.org/history/climate/index.html
after reading Andy Revkin’s review:
http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F04E7DF153DF936A35753C1A9659C8B63

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DV8 spoke well above but added:

In such contexts, any appeal to ‘keep an open mind’ is an appeal to prefer ignorance over knowledge.

Giving knowledge and frivolous speculation equal value would have been both right and more in keeping with your argument.

Mr Krieg has a bet each way of course. He wants to claim an open mind but expalined his transition from “believer” (ugh!) to “agnostic” (double ugh!) to “sKeptic” (the wholy trinity for those who try to sneak in the demier meme that AGW is like a religion).

In this discourse, “believer” asserts the Crichton smear, “agnostic” is just “skeptic” with a trolling figleaf and skeptic is dissembling to cover the fact that their minds are culturally fixated on business and culture-as-usual.

Again, Mr Krieg is clearly trolling.

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Thanks David Benson. I enjoyed the discussion with Charlie Chutney, Ray etc. Ewen, I read the critique by the astrophysicist on Heaven and Earth’ It sure was a fairly comprehensive demolition job. I saw it when first printed. I take it that he and you have junked the entire piece as nonsense. I think it a bit dangerous to write it off like that. I take it that you did not and will not check the link I sent mainly because it wasn’t a peer reviewed scientific study. However, it did arrive courtesy of two co-retirees one a scientist who worked at Lucas Heights [I’ve been there] and a former professor who taught reactor and nuclear physics. I visited LH with him a few years ago. We’re all AGW “deniers” and advocates of nuclear power for Australia and that’s what I spend most of my time researching and speaking and teaching about, within my own limited capabilities, and since turning pro nuclear in 1981 while on teacher exchange in Canada. And as I’ll be away from my computer for the next 10 days[I don’t have a laptop], I’ll have to excuse myself from this and Barry’s other blogs. I’ll hopefully catch up on my return. And despite the advice from Ewen about “open mind” -“denier”-“skeptic” [ugh,ugh,ugh], I shall continue my search for the truth about whether or not it’s our CO2 emissions in recent years which are producing the obvious warming which I acknowledge is occurring. There are far too many scientists that don’t believe AGW for my liking and I’m staying with them until I’m persuaded otherwise. Aaarrrggghhh. You’ll like that I’m sure Ewen.

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I think it a bit dangerous to write it off like that.
No, not at all. Even I can debunk some of the arguments this guy makes, and I’m not even very technical. Straw-men are straw-men, whatever your qualifications.

I take it that you did not and will not check the link I sent mainly because it wasn’t a peer reviewed scientific study. However, it did arrive courtesy of two co-retirees one a scientist who worked at Lucas Heights [I’ve been there] and a former professor who taught reactor and nuclear physics.
Correct, I will not be checking the links because again, no matter what their level of qualification, when scientists take alternatives to the peer reviewed process, something stinks. And that’s whether they are blogging or making money selling books like “Heaven and Earth”. And Plimer has the gall to accuse thousands of climatologists of peddling crap for self-interested financial gain, when he’s the one who can’t get peer reviewed and is selling a book outside of the normal scientific process.

Yeah, pull the other one mate, it plays jingle bells!

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Note the shift … now Mr Krieg stops self-describing as a skeptic and uses the more accurate term, denier.

Open mind? It’s hard to see how this could be so for him.

So is the evidentiary base sufficient for others? It is for me. Krieg is simply trolling.

The prosecution rests …

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Terry Krieg, on 20 March 2010 at 15.37 — Well, if you actually bothered to read Weart’s book you would discover just how long everybody [how has actually studied the matter] has been certain about the role of CO2 in global warming.

But stay with the flat-earthers as long as you can, I guess.

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Ewen Laver

Your quote on 19 March is an interesting about the “debate” between Ian Plimer and Duane Gish. I am not surprised that Plimer did not argue about scientific details. Ridicule and personal attacks seem to be more his style. How many creationists were won over by Plimer? My guess is zero. The concept of a creationist saying “Plimer really got me thinking about the validity of my beliefs” is difficult to conceive, at least in my mind. The scientific community loved Plimer for attacking creationism because they did not want to think about it. Polarisation was all that was accomplished.

There needs to be a large paradigm shift for a creationist to change views, but this is possible if they think enough about the science. Creationists start fighting among themselves when trying to find the start and end of supposed deposits from Noah’s Flood. In particular, one could ask for an explanation of where the geology of the Flood ends in the south of Israel and how the deposits fit in with the biblical history of the area. Another issue is that fossil footprints occur throughout the fossil record from the first appearance of vertebrates and this is hard to explain. One in particular likes drawing attention to deposits with mixtures of marine and terrestrial fossils, the kind one would expect after a “local” catastrophic event, and to attribute them to a global catastrophe, but this takes the particular layer out of context of having multiple events before and after. Creationists are vulnerable if science is addressed in a way that understands and challenges their paradigm.

Sorry for this diversion, but I want to make the point that change is possible with a reasoned approach. Timed debates and public confrontations do not help settle the issues.

I am not sure that the critics of AGW want agreement. As long as there is division in society they can stall any adequate response to the emissions problem and business can continue as usual. The world needs to work together to achieve solutions.

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Well, there’s more at stake for a Creationist to give up their ‘science’ than a Denialist to give up their ‘science’. The sad fact is that many Creationists think that if they give up Creationism, they give up any evidence for Christianity. But as far as I can tell it is a strawman to attack Christianity on a literal understanding of Creationism, as this is simply not required! It is more based upon the person and works and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth than an incorrect, literalistic reading of Genesis!

Most mainstream Anglican leaders I know assert a more “Framework” view of Genesis, which, put simply, sees Genesis as a provocative reaction to the creation narratives in surrounding cultures. Genesis both asserts it’s own agenda’s, and corrects or ‘marks’ the surrounding narratives like the Babylonian creation myth of the Enuma Elish, with Marduk splitting the chaos water-goddess Tiamet into 2 halves, and one half becomes the earth and the other the sun (or was that the moon?)

Whereas in Genesis, God merely speaks and the waters are divided. There’s no war or battle between the Gods to divide the waters, as there is only one God.

Basically, to understand Genesis properly one has to read the pre-existing works of the cultures surrounding the ancient Hebrews and compare and contrast to see what a clever polemic it is! Comparing it with Darwinism and sneering is like trying to critique Shakespeare with Quantum Mechanics…. might make an interesting Phd for a bit of fun, but not really what Shakespeare was all about!

For more, see my favourite article on the subject by a friend of mine with a Phd in History, Dr John Dickson.

Click to access Dickson_J_2008-03_Genesis_Of_Everything.pdf

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Framework_interpretation

It all reminds me of the bizarre manner in which RealScientist sneered at Global Warming because the Earth has previously recovered from higher levels of Co2. Milankovitch cycles? Nah, he just sneers at them without understanding the context of the complex scientific argument. But just because something is complex does not mean it is wrong.

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