The silly season is obviously taking a toll on editorial judgement at the Herald. Yesterday they ran an astonishing column by Malcolm McPhee – Climate of fear starting to make my temperature rise – which is breathtakingly nonsensical, and also provided space for Jim Hopkins to take a (ritual for him, tired and boring for the rest of us) swipe at climate science in his column. Today, Fran O’Sullivan includes amongst her top ten stories for 2008 – at number three, no less – climate change science consensus breaks – basing her judgement on a list of 400 “scientists” issued by a Republican Senator and his team of tame climate deniers. McPhee and O’Sullivan deserve debunking (see below), but Hopkins’ taste in eyewear is so atrocious ( 😉 ) that I’ll take pity on him and leave him alone (for now).
McPhee’s piece is risible by any standards. Providing a platform for a spectrum of views is one thing, but allowing people to get away with rank stupidity is quite another. McPhee seems to specialise in answering his own questions – and getting them wrong.
Have the UN climate models yet been real-world tested? No.
The correct answer is: yes. And they are not “UN” models – they are models built by academic institutions around the world, from NASA to the UK’s Hadley Centre, via Japan’s Earth simulator.
Weather stations are not equally distributed around the world and vast regions like the oceans are not covered. Many stations are enclosed by urbanisations that make the areas heat tanks.
Heat tanks? Cities get hot, yes, but the effect is fully accounted for in the temperature data. And we have some very good information on sea surface temperatures (perhaps McPhee has never heard of satellite data?).
Temperatures vary throughout a day so which temperature do you take? How can there be a proclaimed global average temperature when nobody measures a proper local average?
McPhee clearly wishes to rewrite the work done by legions of meteorologists and climate scientists. They’ve being doing it all wrong. But he doesn’t explain how. He just makes an assertion, and hopes that no-one will call him on it. To me, it looks as though he’s been reading some of Vincent Gray’s wilder speculations, and taken them as gospel. He sounds like Ken Ring, too (never a good thing for credibility). A clear case of the daft leading the deluded.
Fran O’Sullivan has often commented on climate policy in her regular Herald columns, and has just as often seemed to echo the views of the big emitters and Business Roundtable. Today she really jumps the shark in her predictions for 2008:
3. Climate change science consensus breaks
More prominent scientists will dispute the extent of the man-made global warming scenario. Four hundred scientists, many of them current and former participants in the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, have already criticised claims by the panel and former US Vice-President Al Gore. A minority report issued by the Senate environment and public works committee lists the scientists by name, country and academic/institutional affiliation and features their words, biographies and weblinks to their peer-reviewed studies and original source materials gathered in 2007. In New Zealand, rational scientists will still be demonised by Government and some business organisations.
This would be the list of “400 prominent scientists” issued by US Senator James Inhofe and his team. That’s 400 prominent scientists, including BBC TV gardening presenter Alan Titchmarsh (diploma in horticulture), a bunch of TV weathermen, economists, and the usual suspects from the NZ CSC. Owen McShane’s on the list. Owen may be many things, but even he doesn’t pretend to be an eminent scientist. Vincent Gray’s there too. Good to know he’s getting some recognition at last. And Canterbury University philosophy don Dennis Dutton is magically transmuted into a scientist. Inhofe’s list is getting a good going over at Rabett Run, and many other places. If that’s the best the sceptics can do, the game’s over. [UPDATE 4/1/07: Russell Brown at Hard News provides a good analysis.]
Memo to Fran: By all means make political points in your columns, but you would be well advised to check your sources before rushing to print. This sort of thing only makes you look silly. Enjoy your holiday.