Wrapped up in books: Don Easterbrook drags Elsevier through the mud

Don Easterbrook, the retired geology professor with an unhealthy obsession about Greenland ice cores, is back. His latest book, the punchily titled Evidence-Based Climate Science – Data opposing CO2 emissions as the primary source of global warming, was published last month by Elsevier, “the world’s leading provider of science and health information” (they publish The Lancet, Grey’s Anatomy, and are part of the same group as the publishers of New Scientist). Don has penned an introduction, the opening chapter, and contributed to a couple of others, but he leaves the rest of the book to a hand-picked team of “leading climate scientists”. Here’s how the Elsevier blurb describes the book’s “key features”:

  • An unbiased, evidence-based analysis of the scientific data concerning climate change and global warming
  • Authored by 8 of the world’s leading climate scientists, each with more than 25 years of experience in the field
  • Extensive analysis of the physics of CO2 as a greenhouse gas and its role in global warming
  • Comprehensive citations, references, and bibliography
  • Adaptation strategies are presented as alternative reactions to greenhouse gas emission reductions

Regular readers will know that I have been following Don’s career as a climate expert with some interest, having caught him out stealing and altering other people’s work, misrepresenting the Greenland ice core evidence, and generally behaving in a manner unbecoming of a would-be distinguished academic. Imagine my surprise therefore when a little digging into the contents of Evidence-Based Climate Science (EBCS) showed that every one of the key features being trumpeted by Elsevier appears to be a gross misrepresentation of the content of the book. Let’s dig a little deeper…

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We can’t rule out catastrophic climate change

A couple of weeks ago I plugged an upcoming talk by Pieter Tans of NOAA’s Earth Systems Research Lab in Boulder — a carbon cycle specialist and winner of the Roger Revelle Medal. The talk has now been and gone (on Wednesday in Wellington), and the Science Media Centre has made an audio recording available. It’s embedded below the fold, and very well worth a listen. After an excellent introduction to climate basics (basic physics and chemistry mean that the climate’s changing), Tans traverses our addiction to fossil fuels, and how we might fix the problem.

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Wake of the flood (first reprise)

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Thailand is experiencing its worst monsoon flooding for at least 50 years. The NASA Earth Observatory image above shows the waters piling up to the North of the capital Bangkok, which is already beginning to experience flooding (visit the EO page to see a comparison with earlier floods, and The Guardian for a striking set of flood pictures). The Thai government yesterday declared a five day weekend to allow the city’s inhabitants to make preparations. The intense monsoon season has also brought extensive flooding to Cambodia and northeastern India over the last couple of months, and destroyed a significant part of SE Asia’s rice crop. On the other side of the planet, heavy rain and flooding has been affecting Mexico, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala, and Nicaragua. Jeff Masters reported that in the ten days up to October 20th, Huizucar in El Salvador received an astonishing 1.513 metres of rain.

At first glance, it looks like a continuation of the remarkable series of extreme weather events — especially heavy rainfall and flooding — that we’ve seen over the last few years. But apart from the human suffering and economic dislocation being experienced around the world, it appears there’s another interesting consequence of all this precipitation — it’s causing global sea level to fall.

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The Ecological Rift

Why do we continue with business as usual when we know that it is leading us to disastrous climate change? According to the authors of The Ecological Rift: Capitalism’s War on the Earth it is because our capitalist economic system is driven by forces which cannot stand back and weigh the consequences of their drive. The blind accumulation of private wealth at the expense of the environment has enormous momentum which the system is not geared to control.

The authors, John Bellamy Foster, Brett Clark and Richard York are all sociology professors. They write from the broadly Marxist standpoint exemplified by the Monthly Review magazine of which Foster is the current editor. As might be expected, their attack on capitalism is not limited to its environmental devastation but also takes in its exploitation of human labour for private profit. One of the interests of the book, for me with only a superficial acquaintance with Marx’s thought, was its explanation of the unity which Marx saw in nature and society and which western Marxism failed to sustain. The authors point, for example, to Marx’s interest in soil science and awareness of the nutrient depletion accompanying a more industrialised agriculture. Nature as well as human society needed to be protected from the capitalist juggernaut.

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You’re (not) the BEST thing

Set aside for one moment the fact that New Zealand has just (in every sense of that word) won the Rugby World Cup for the first time in a quarter of a century, and consider instead events in the world of temperature records. (Don’t worry, it won’t take long). A team led by Berkeley physicist Richard Muller — the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project (BEST) — has successfully reinvented the wheel, by demonstrating (once again) that the planet has been warming over the last 150 years. Tim Lambert at Deltoid explains the algorithm Muller employed:

  1. State that “reported global warming may be biased by poor station quality“.
  2. Collect funding from Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation.
  3. Make the utterly predictable finding that warming is not a product of poor measurement.
  4. Brief reporters.

Michael Tobis at Planet 3.0 puts the affair in its proper context:

The science has not changed a whit – no serious scientist cares very much that the record has been confirmed yet again. Under ordinary circumstances this paper would have trouble getting published. This is not a red-letter day in scientific history. No new information is on the table. It’s posturing.

As for posturing, Brian Angliss at Scholars & Rogues points out that a certain US weather station quality control effort is under a little stress. One wonders if this might not spread to those who would wish to cast doubt on the NZ record?

[The Style Council]