The Latest Denialist Plea forInaction
Posted on 31 January 2012 by dana1981
As they tend to do from time to time in an effort to distract from the , a group of scientists who are also science consensus "skeptics" have published an opinion-editorial (op-ed), trying to make the case against taking action to address . As usual, the article is little more than a regurgitation of a number of . myths we have debunked at Skeptical Science
The signatories of this newest letter are also worth noting for their lack of noteworthiness. Although the luminaries" and "prominent scientists", the list is actually quite underwhelming. In fact, it only includes four scientists who have actually published research in peer-reviewed journals, and only two who have published research in the past three decades. Nearly half of the list (at least 7 of 16) have received fossil fuel industry funding, and the list also includes an economist, a physician, a chemist, an aerospace engineer, and an astronaut/politician. These are apparently the best and brightest the denialists can come up with these days?denialist blogs have labeled them "
- Claude Allegre, former director of the Institute for the Study of the Earth, University of Paris
- J. Scott Armstrong, cofounder of the Journal of Forecasting and the International Journal of Forecasting;
- Jan Breslow, head of the Laboratory of Biochemical Genetics and Metabolism, Rockefeller University;
- Roger Cohen, fellow, American Physical Society;
- Edward David, member, National Academy of Engineering and National Academy of Sciences;
- William Happer, professor of physics, Princeton;
- Michael Kelly, professor of technology, University of Cambridge, U.K.;
- William Kininmonth, former head of research at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology;
- Richard Lindzen, professor of atmospheric sciences, MIT;
- James McGrath, professor of chemistry, Virginia Technical University;
- Rodney Nichols, former president and CEO of the New York Academy of Sciences;
- Burt Rutan, aerospace engineer, designer of Voyager and SpaceShipOne;
- Harrison H. Schmitt, Apollo 17 astronaut and former U.S. senator;
- Nir Shaviv, professor of astrophysics, Hebrew University, Jerusalem;
- Henk Tennekes, former director, Royal Dutch Meteorological Service;
- Antonio Zichichi, president of the World Federation of Scientists, Geneva.
red - no science publications, member of at least one denialist group - F (advisory board), George C. Marshall Institute (board of directors or roundtable speakers), Australian Science Coalition (advisory panel), Heartland Institute (board of directors), and/or ExxonMobilblue - published science researchorange - both a member of a denialist group and has published science researchblack - noscience publications or denialist group membership
Shaviv has published some research on galactic cosmic rays, and Kininmonth and Tennekes published a couple of his history of being wrong on . issues-related papers in the 1970s (although most of Tennekes' research as been in aeronautics). Lindzen is the only scientist of note on the entire list, and is mainly noteworthy for
The lack of expertise and numerous conflicts of interest aside, let's evaluate their arguments on their own merits (or more accurately, lack thereof).
Denying the Consensus
The op-ed begins with the wholly unsupported assertion that:
"...a large and growing number of distinguished scientists and engineers do not agree that drastic actions on global warming are needed."
The fact that only 16 scientists and engineers signed this letter casts serious doubt on this assertion. The fake skeptics were able to get ~100 signatories on a similar letter 5 years ago - this seems more like a small and dwindling number of fake skeptics. It's also worth noting that 255 National Academy of Science members (truly prominent scientists) signed an opposite letter, urging action to address .
"We urge our policy-makers and the public to move forward immediately to address the causes of, including the un-restrained burning of fossil fuels."
Moreover, why should we care what these few self-proclaimed "distinguished scientists and engineers" think we should do about Virtually all of the that actions to address global warming are needed. Their informed opinions are the ones we should heed when it comes to science experts agree science, not those of astronauts and physicians.? If I need heart surgery, I'm not going to allow a dentist to perform it, even if it's the best dentist in the world.
Gish Gallop of Fake Facts
After making a number of unsubstantiated and false assertions about the "growing number" of"skeptics," the letter then lays out what they see as the evidence supporting their fake skepticism. In reality, it's the same sort of Gish Gallop we've come to expect from denialists.
Global Warming Continues
The first myth in the article is the well-worn "global warming stopped in [insert year]". In this case, the fake skeptics have inserted "the last 10 years." This myth is easily debunked with the escalator graphic (Figure 1).
Figure 1: BEST land-onlydata (green) with linear s applied to the timeframes 1973 to 1980, 1980 to 1988, 1988 to 1995, 1995 to 2001, 1998 to 2005, 2002 to 2010 (blue), and 1973 to 2010 (red).
The second myth is that Kevin Trenberth's quote-mined comment "The fact is that we can't account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can't" is an admission that global warming stopped. In reality, the quote simply referred to the fact that while the planet is warming, we do not have adequate global monitoring to determine where all the heat is going. However, recent research by Loeb et al. (2012) has concluded that there may no longer be any "missing heat," so this particular myth really has no leg to stand on.
The denialist op-ed continues to confuse the issue by claiming
"...the warming is only missing if one believes computer models where so-calleds involving water vapor and clouds greatly amplify the small effect of ."
Aside from continuing to misunderstand that the "missing heat" is about having an inadequate global deep ocean heat), observational data have demonstrated that water vapor, and likely clouds, are indeed positive s.observational network (mainly because we don't have good measurements of
Earth Has Warmed as Expected
The fake skeptics then repeat one of Lindzen's favorite myths, that the Earth has warmed less than predicted by the IPCC. This is simply untrue - in fact, the IPCC , much better than Lindzen and his fellow fake skeptics have done (Figure 2). s have been amongst the most accurate thus far
Figure 2: Various global temperature vs. observations s
is a Pollutant and Not Necessarily Beneficial for Plants
The op-ed then repeats the old ". In reality, because its emissions endanger public health and welfare through its impacts on isn't a pollutant" myth , by definition is a pollutant according to the US Clean Air Act.
They couple this with the grossly oversimplistic ". While it's true that in a controlled setting like a greenhouse, increased is plant food" myth levels will generally improve plant growth, the global is not so simple. Increasing in the also changes temperatures, precipitation, and flood frequencies, and a number of other factors which impact plant growth.
The global increase of . Apparently these "concerned scientists" don't think very highly of their audience.is a grand biological experiment, with countless complications that make the net effect of this increase very difficult to predict with any appreciable level of detail. To gloss over these complexities with the simplistic " is plant food" argument is an insult to the readers' intelligence. It also ignores the other adverse impacts of increasing , like
Follow the Money Indeed
Just when we thought the op-ed letter couldn't get worse, these fake skeptics have the gall to suggest that we "follow the money," because"alarmism" supposedly brings bountiful research funding, "an excuse for governments to raise taxes", "big donations" for environmental groups, and other similar tinfoil-hattery. Considering that at least 43% of the letter's signatories have received money from the fossil fuel industry, being given large sums of money just for being "skeptics" and publishing error-riddled nonsense like this op-ed, the sheer nerve it must have taken to make this "follow the money" argument is astounding. Do follow their advice: research the signatories of this letter and follow their money trail, which s straight to the fossil fuel industry.
Limits Will Help the Economy
The "concerned scientists" then follow with the myth that . This particular myth is primarily based on ignoring the fact that failing to reduce limits will harm the economy emissions will have a tremendous cost, much greater than the cost of action (Figure 3). Relative to the alternative (inaction and trying to adapt to the damaging consequnces of ), limits will help the economy. This is why there is a consensus among economists with expertise in that we should put a price on carbon emissions (Figure 4).
Figure 4: New York University survey results of economists with expertise when asked under what circumstances the USA should reduce its emissions
The article references work by economist William Nordhaus to try and justify what Nordhaus has to say, the picture looks very different:inaction. When we actually listen to
"We’ve got to get together as a community of nations and impose restraints onemissions and raise carbon prices. If not, we will be in one of those gloomy s."
Although he tends to be quite conservative about the costs of relative to other economists, Nordhaus still supports putting a price on carbon emissions. Nordhaus not appreciate his name being invoked to justify foolish calls for inaction,telling Andrew Revkin:
"The piece completely misrepresented my work. My work has long taken the view that policies to slow global warming would have net economic benefits, in the trillion of dollars of present value. This is true going back to work in the early 1990s (MIT Press, Yale Press, Science,S, among others). I have advocated a carbon tax for many years as the best way to attack the issue. I can only assume they either completely ignorant of the economics on the issue or are willfully misstating my findings."
Is this the Best"Skeptics" Can Do?
If we boil down this op-ed to its basics, we're left with a letter signed by only two scientists with peer-reviewedresearch publications in the past three decades, which exhibits a serious lack of understanding of basic concepts, and which simply regurgitates a Gish Gallop of long-worn myths. The letter claims that "skepticism" is growing, and yet only has 16 signatories, at least 43% of which have received funding from the fossil fuel industry, and not one single new argument which hasn't been long-debunked.
If this is the best today's as Patrick Michaels suggests, they are losing the battle. We can only hope that this is the case.fake skeptics can do, perhaps,