Whale meat again – Slater’s climate pseudoskeptic siren songs

New Zealand’s highest traffic blog is Cameron Slater’s Whale Oil Beef Hooked (try saying it in an Irish accent) — an aggressive right-wing sensationalist blog not noted for its delicate approach to current affairs. Unsurprisingly, Slater is an outspoken climate pseudoskeptic, with a long history of posts rubbishing climate science and the reality of climate change. This morning’s effort — The Cognitive Dissonance Of The Media On Climate Change — is pretty much par for Slater’s course, but riffs on an interesting new paper about the potential for serious additional ice loss from Antarctica which has been getting quite a bit of local media coverage (Stuff, RNZ News).

Slater’s complaint is straightforward enough: he relies on Monckton’s latest temperature trend cherry pick at µWatts and Climate Depot to demonstrate that there’s “no global warming for the last 17 years and 9 months”, shows a graph of the current increase in Antarctic sea ice, and then complains that because the NZ media has given prominence to a new study by Matthias Mengel and Anders Levermann at the Potsdam Institute ((M. Mengel, A. Levermann. Ice plug prevents irreversible discharge from East Antarctica. Nature Climate Change, 2014; DOI: 10.1038/NCLIMATE2226)) that finds that a large chunk of the East Antarctic ice sheet could be vulnerable if warming continues, then the media must be biased. As he puts it:

These scaremongering scenarios really do show the cognitive dissonance of the mainstream media and their inability to look dispassionately at the evidence before us, instead they push political lines. All of their stories have “could”, “should”, “might” and “maybe” qualifiers.

Unfortunately, Slater’s the one with the cognitive dissonance. His “dispassionate” look at the evidence is anything but, and his aggressive rejection of the new ice sheet evidence — “This report doesn’t sound plausible at all, it sounds like horse crap to me” — appears to be based entirely on his own lack of understanding of ice sheet dynamics. Continue reading “Whale meat again – Slater’s climate pseudoskeptic siren songs”

Heartland’s Big Book Of Lies About Climate Change cuts no ice, thanks to Don Easterbrook

Over the weeks since the release of the first section of the IPCC’s Fifth Report, the Heartland Institute — the Chicago-based extreme right wing and free-market propaganda outfit that has done so much to promote climate denial — has been trying to get media traction for its latest Not-the-IPCC report (NIPCC: the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change), Climate Change Reconsidered 2: Physical Science. Heartland describes CCR2 as…

… an independent, comprehensive, and authoritative report on the current state of climate science.

The truth is somewhat more prosaic. CCR2, like its predecessors, is an extended effort in cherry-picking and misdirection designed to demonstrate that, as Heartland puts it:

…the human effect is likely to be small relative to natural variability, and whatever small warming is likely to occur will produce benefits as well as costs.

For a detailed take-down of the NIPCC’s main arguments, take a look at Graham Wayne’s Notes for Educators, prepared as a response to an effort by Heartland to push CCR2 to schools in the US. Wayne notes:

The NIPCC report is akin to a confidence trick. It is pseudo-science, badly presented, made difficult to assess or check, and depends on ‘blinding the reader with science’ that may look credible until you actually try to verify those claims against the peer-reviewed published literature.

Climate statistician Tamino was equally unimpressed, suggesting that the NIPCC would be better designated the ICP – for Intentional Cherry-Picking in service of a predetermined conclusion.

My interest in the latest NIPCC “report” was piqued by the discovery that Don Easterbrook, the retired geologist with a long track record of misunderstanding and misrepresenting the Greenland ice core temperature record, was the lead author of chapter 5, Observations: The Cryosphere [pdf]. The NIPCC is clearly not blessed with an overabundance of qualified authors if they have to rely on Easterbrook as an expert on the cryosphere. Worse, his co-authors are two other retired geologists with little or no domain expertise: Cliff Ollier from Western Australia, and Bob Carter, a marine stratigrapher and all-purpose climate denier who never saw an argument against warming that he didn’t like ((Carter is also one of the lead authors of the full report.)).

My first reaction to a quick skim through the chapter was pretty much the same as everybody else: this was cherry-picking taken to an extreme. To make sure that I was on the right track, I asked two real ice experts — Greenland maven Jason Box, and glaciologist Mauri Pelto — to take a quick look. Their reaction was scathing.

Continue reading “Heartland’s Big Book Of Lies About Climate Change cuts no ice, thanks to Don Easterbrook”

Rage, rage against the dying of the ice


Yesterday morning I climbed up the short track on the Tasman Glacier terminal moraine to the lookout, and was amazed by how much the glacier’s calving front had retreated compared with my last visit to the same spot, back in February 2008 (below – click on either picture to see a bigger version). Across the full face of the glacier there’s now a sheer cliff, where large bergs calve into the growing lake — the most recent, back in February, being rated as the largest ever.


Both pictures were taken from the same spot, but with different cameras and lenses, so a direct comparison isn’t possible, but it should be clear that the glacier front has retreated up the valley significantly over the five years. Given the dramatic scale of the landscape (those are 3,000 metre peaks up valley) it’s hard to estimate distances by eye, but recent rates of retreat have been estimated to be 400 to 800 metres per year. Glaciologist Mauri Pelto has a detailed analysis of the glacier’s recent history at his blog From A Glacier’s Perspective here.
Similar rapid rates of retreat are being seen on the nearby Mueller and Hooker glaciers, both of which have large and growing terminal lakes.

One message got home to me: rapid climate change isn’t something that happens to other people, or to other parts of the world. To see New Zealand’s largest glacier so visibly diminished in the space of a very few years brought home the reality and scale of the problem we face in a very direct manner. Sometimes we need to step away from our computers and see what’s happening with our own eyes…

Thin Ice: the inside story of climate science

Now showing at an Antarctic base near you (and quite a few places elsewhere), a documentary about climate science, filmed and put together by VUW geophysics professor Simon Lamb. The idea for Thin Ice – the inside story of climate science was born over a cup of tea in Wellington in 2006, when Peter Barrett of VUW suggested that Lamb, then at Oxford, make the film. Lamb went on to visit many parts of the world, and talk to a who’s who of climate scientists. Should be well worth a couple of hours of anyone’s time — especially those prone to accusing climate scientists of fraud.

Thin Ice is a joint effort between VUW, Oxford University and DOX Productions, and there are screenings in Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin and Wellington today and tomorrow, as well as in Australia, Canada, the UK and USA and many other places. You can also download or stream the film to your PC or tablet. I’ll be watching on my iPad this evening. Reviews etc welcome in comments to this post…

Ice, Mice and Men

Geoff Simmons and Gareth Morgan, with help from John McCrystal, have produced a book which one hopes will be read by many New Zealanders.  Ice, Mice and Men: The Issues Facing our Far South not only carries illuminating scientific information about the islands and seas to our south and the Antarctic continent beyond them, but it communicates it in a relaxed and engaging style which should ensure a wide general readership. The more people understand what is happening in this vital region the better, and it’s easy to see this book adding to their number.

The opening section explains why the region is important, breaking it into three zones: first, the subantarctic islands, “liferafts” of the Southern Ocean; second, the Southern Ocean itself, home to the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) and “the engine room of the global ocean and the world’s climate”; third, Antarctica, including the sea ice that surrounds it which helps drive the marine food chain and affects the transport of nutrients essential for marine life around the world. The section provides a detailed account of the function of the three zones not just in relation to each other but in crucial relation to the globe as a whole.

Continue reading “Ice, Mice and Men”