Postcards from La La Land: Wishart falls through Thin Ice

ThinIceAllow me to pose a question. Which fearless investigative reporter, magazine publisher and author could be bothered to attend a school showing of Thin Ice, the excellent climate documentary put together Simon Lamb and scientists from VUW and Oxford? And did he stand up at the end and make a fool of himself? Well, by his own admission he stood up and asked questions. Whether he made a fool of himself is another matter, but there’s some handy evidence we can look at…

Any New Zealand reader with a passing interest in climate issues will know that I’m talking about Ian Wishart, a writer with an extensive track record of misunderstanding climate science and a tendency to shout about it from the rooftops. Last week he published a “review” of Thin Ice at his Investigate Daily web site. It was also picked up at µWatts. In this “review” he provides all the evidence we need to decide on his expertise.

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Shang a de Lange

Much exercised by the question of ocean warming, New Zealand’s most litigious temperature savant posts excerpts from an article on the subject, and thanks Waikato University’s Willem de Lange for introducing him to this “really clear treatment of ocean warming and ocean-atmosphere interaction”. Two things are interesting about Treadgold’s post, and neither has anything to do with the contents of that article1.

The piece, by oceanographer Robert E. Stevenson (deceased), was published in the summer 2000 edition of 21st Century Science & Technology magazine. This is interesting in and of itself, because 21st Century Science & Technology is is an organ of the Lyndon LaRouche movement, centred on an oddball and extremely fringe US politician. We last encountered LaRouche when exploring the footnotes in Ian Wishart’s remarkable climate book Air Con. Amongst many strange things, LaRouche believes that the President of the US and Prince Philip are conspiring to reduce the population of the world from 7 billion to 2 billion, and that financier George Soros is their henchman2. 21st Century Science & Technology espouses what might be charitably described as non-mainstream views on many science-related subjects, from the “swindle of special relativity” to global warming as “hoax“.

Which leads me to the second interesting thing: does Waikato University’s Willem de Lange, one of the tiny coterie of climate sceptics still active in New Zealand academic circles, listed by his university as an expert on “tsunami and storm surge prediction and mitigation; wave-induced sediment transport; dispersal studies; climate change; oceanography”, really regard Stevenson’s article as a credible reference? Would he be prepared to defend this 12 year old article’s interpretation of the physics of ocean warming against his peers? Or was he perhaps just digging around for a little chum to throw to the less well-educated hordes who congregate around Treadgold’s pulpit desperate for anything to support an oddball contention, that ocean warming somehow has nothing to do with the increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere? You be the judge…

You might think that de Lange, Treadgold and Lyndon LaRouche make for strange bedfellows, but when you have nothing better to turn to, I suppose — as Steven Stills so memorably sang — you have to love the one you’re with. Rather a pity for all their credibility, what little might be left of it.

[Bay City Rollers for the title, Steven Stills (& CSJT) for the close.]

  1. Life’s too short, basically, to debunk an article of dubious provenance now 12 years old. []
  2. No, really. Check the link. []

The catechism of climate crank cliché

“A cliché,” according to the late Brian O’Nolan, “is a phrase that has become fossilised, its component words deprived of their intrinsic light and meaning by incessant usage. Thus it appears that clichés reflect somewhat the frequency of the same situations in life. If this be so, a sociological commentary could be compiled from these items of mortified language.”

O’Nolan is perhaps better known as Flann O’Brien, the author of such staggering works of comic genius as The Third Policeman and At Swim-Two-Birds, but for many years he contributed a column to the Irish Times under the pen name Myles na Gopaleen. One of the highlights of that column was the occasional appearance of extracts from Myles na Gopaleen’s Catechism of Cliché.

I was reminded of that catechism when I stumbled upon the “core principles” of the International Climate Science Coalition, a list of the doctrines the ICSC expects its members and supporters to believe and promote. Like Myles’ least favourite constructions, they are certainly fossilised and deprived of any intrinsic meaning but have the added attraction of being for the most part untrue.

A catechism, as the more literate (or Catholic) reader will know, is:

…a summary or exposition of doctrine, traditionally used in Christian religious teaching from New Testament times to the present. Catechisms are doctrinal manuals often in the form of questions followed by answers to be memorized, a format that has been used in non-religious or secular contexts as well. [Wikipedia]

Amongst the doctrinal manuals available for today’s climate sceptic there are the popular scriptures by Plimer and Wishart, the undergraduate philippics of Carter and Allegro, and the industrial grade biblical length blockbuster produced by Fred Singer and his Not the IPCC project. So much to choose from, such a lot to read. How is the would-be denier to thread their way through such a maze of doctrinal complexity, uncertainty and contradiction? Let us help them by preparing a climate crank catechism in the style of Myles…

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Four years on…

Today marks the fourth anniversary of the first post at Hot Topic — four years since the blog’s birth, and as my mum would say, hasn’t time flown? This birthday post is number 1,080, and it will be read by many, many more people than those first brief paragraphs announcing the book and blog. I’m not one for tootling my own trumpet (at least, not loudly), so I won’t be making great claims about how far we’ve come and how much we’ve achieved, but I will take this opportunity to muse a little on what I’ve learned. A lot, but not perhaps enough… 😉

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Clutching at straws

I’d like to return briefly to the fate of Kiribati as sea levels rise, following up my recent post on the conference of the Climate Vulnerable Forum held there last week.  The post made its way through Sciblogs to the  NZ Herald website where a number of people offered comments. The vigour of denial is as evident as always. The sea isn’t rising, or if it is it’s rising slowly enough for coral islands to adjust. The islanders aren’t looking after their environment — they’re blasting their coral reefs and leaving themselves open to the ravages of the sea. They should use their tourist income to do some reclamation to make up for erosion. Salt contamination is due to over-extraction of fresh water by a rising population. The islanders are playing this up in order to get money.

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