Revenge of the zombie facts

Dr Vincent Gray is one of the most active of NZ’s little band of cranks. He’s been publishing his “envirotruth” newsletter since the ’90s, always brimful of climate scepticism, and has been a stalwart reviewer of IPCC reports. His most recent contribution to the IPCC process was to make 1,898 comments on the final draft of the Working Group One report – 16% of the total, and, perhaps unsurprisingly, he accounted for 95% of the comments rejected by the authors. Vincent’s offerings are the backbone of the NZ Climate “Science” Coalition site, and I always enjoy reading them.

His most recent, Problems With Surface Temperature Data [PDF], is typical. He asserts it’s impossible to arrive at a meaningful figure global temperature, prefers satellite data but doesn’t believe it, and then states that “Since the amalgamated surface record is unreliable, an indication of temperature change over the past century can be obtained from well-maintained local records. Attempts to correct for the many errors, though not entirely successful, give records of some credibility.” (Otherwise known as the cherry-pickers charter). He then disinters a 1994 paper that found a 60-65 year cycle in global temperature (but I thought that was meaningless) if the data is “detrended”. One wonders what trend was removed. Perhaps the long term underlying rise in temperature? If we ignore the data, it goes away. Magical thinking at its finest.

[UPDATE 6/11/07: NASA’s excellent Earth Observatory posts a very interesting article about James Hansen and the development of the global temperature record. There’s a superb animation of atmospheric flows from space on page 2.]

But the most interesting part of Vincent’s report is the note at the end: “This paper is part of “The Science is not Settled: Major Issues Remain Unresolved by the IPCC: A Report of the NIPDD” (sic) (Non-governmental International Panel on Climate Change) to be published by the Science and Environmental Policy Project, Arlington Virginia.” The NIPCC? Seems this is something Fred Singer at SEPP has set up as a counterblast to the IPCC, and its report is due soon. From Fred’s The Week That Was for Sept 1st:

Highlights of the NIPCC Report

  • Demonstration of the insignificance of human contribution to current warming – using the ‘fingerprint’ method – and why future anthropogenic warming is negligible
  • Why climate models do not agree with observations – the role of feedbacks
  • Evidence that solar activity controls most climate change on a decadal time scale
  • Evidence that future warming will not accelerate sea level rise appreciably
  • No evidence for more storms, hurricanes, droughts, and floods as climate warms
  • How we know that a warmer climate is better than a colder one
  • Evidence that the Medieval Period was warmer than today
  • Evidence that pre-1940 warming was not anthropogenic
  • Problems with data quality and special problems with sea surface temperatures
  • Uncertainties about the CO2 budget, past and future – and of future emission scenarios
  • Changes in ocean heat storage, glacier length, and sea ice coverage indicate climate change – but not whether the cause is anthropogenic or natural

That’s a mind-boggling list. If all the papers show the – how shall I put it politely – “rigorous” approach to the science that Dr Gray demonstrates, the NIPCC report will be a real paradigm shift. Or perhaps not.

2 thoughts on “Revenge of the zombie facts”

  1. I have an 8 page article in the latest issue of Chemistry in New Zealand, the official journal of the NZ Institute of Chemistry.

    The article deals with some “common arguments” made by CC sceptics. The article generated a few queries and letters to the editor. One of those letters is from VG himself. I’m not going to preempt the publication of the letter and response in the January issue.

    Unfortunately you’ll need to head to a good library of be a member of NZIC to see a print copy and articles are published online with a 6 month lag. Apparently a request has been made to the editor to provide space for an article of similar length to present “the other side”. So join NZIC now and get the last issue and the January issue to read all about it and have the chance to see and reply to any “other side” article.

    However, it is probably not giving anything away to note as Gareth does that VG dismisses ground temperature data at one point and then mere lines later uses such data to “prove” no warming has occurred.

    The article also triggered a long exchange with another chemist with a PhD (who now runs a business selling self help books). He very quickly showed he did not understand the scientific evidence and had done very little reading but had made up his mind “on the basis of the evidence”!

    For example: He correctly pointed out that fluxes between the air-ocean are much greater than fossil fuel burning and then asked me if it were possible that the extra CO2 in the atmosphere had been degassed from the oceans.

    My response was that the Suess effect (isotope dilution) showed this was not possible but an even simpler consideration – that any chemist worth their NaCl should have spotted – also showed it wasn’t possible:

    In the oceans most CO2 actually occurs mainly as bicarbonate HCO3(-1) with somewhat less as carbonate CO3(-2) and CO2. To generate one mole of CO2 from HCO3 takes one mole of acid (and two moles of acid if you start from CO3)

    There is no such source of acid. If there were it would be of even greater concern than just CO2.

    I have tried in vain to make this chemist see that whoever made the argument either knew nothing about chemistry and therefore could not be trusted with any of the other “scientific” evidence. Or they were deliberately lying. I know which way my vote usually goes but second thoughts on reading some of VG’s work inclines me to the former rather than the later.

    I’ll check with the editor and see if I can put a copy of the article on my own website.

  2. I know you’ve already pointed this out, Gareth, but it cracks me up every time. There are sceptics out there who apparently believe: 1) there is no such thing as a global average temperature; and 2) the global average temperature (pick one of these, or all if you want) was higher in the MWP, has been dropping since 1998, is undergoing a 65 year cycle, is undergoing a 1500 year cycle, is rebounding from the LIA, will drop over the coming decades.

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