Climate: The Counter Consensus

ClimateThis review of Bob Carter’s latest book, by Dr James Renwick, Principal Scientist at NIWA’s Climate Variability & Change group, was first published in the March newsletter of the Geoscience Society of New Zealand. My thanks to Jim for permission to republish it here.

This book is a curious read, full of misinformation, straw-man arguments, and poorly-documented assertions. To become immersed in it, we must enter the through-the-looking-glass world of the “independent” scientist, where those such as myself are the ones “…who have dissembled, told half-truths, cherry-picked their data, fantastically exaggerated, and suppressed the circulation of better science” (Prefatory Essay, p. 19). Meanwhile, the ideas put forward by Prof. Carter are portrayed as representing a balanced appraisal of the issues. From where I sit, that’s the opposite of reality.

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Touch of Gray

gray.jpgOur tame cranks, the NZ Climate “Science” Coalition are trumpeting Royal Society resignee Vincent Gray’s recent update of his seminal paper The Global Warming Scam [PDF], first published on the NZ CSC’s web site in April this year. History does not record if it was first rejected by Nature. In terms of the “science” it contains it’s nothing new. Gray makes muddled (and lengthy) assertions about the impossibility of determining the average temperature of the planet, gets worked up about measurements of CO2 (setting great store by the work of Beck), and is unpersuaded by climate modelling and the IPCC’s use of scenarios. On the positive side, it’s 37 pages long.

In one respect, however, Gray’s magnum opus is most revealing. He devotes a short introduction[2. p3, section 1.1] to the birth of the “scam”:

The global warming scam is the result of the widespread belief in a new religion, based on the deification of a nebulous entity, “The Environment”. “The Environment” is an extension of the concept of “Nature” which was held sacred by the Romantics, but it is a much more demanding deity, requiring constant and increasing sacrifices from humans.

That’s pretty standard stuff on the crank fringe, but Gray opens whole new avenues of thought with his next paragraph…

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When Gray turns to blue/Flung a dummy

gray.jpg In a dramatic announcement today, Vincent R Gray, the retired coal researcher and diligent proof-reader of IPPC Working Group Reports (he’s inordinately proud of the fact that he submitted over 1,800 comments to the fourth report) has resigned from the Royal Society of New Zealand because of its recent statement on climate change. Given that Gray has been criticising the IPCC view of climate science for 18 years and is a vocal member of the NZ C”S”C, this is perhaps no surprise, but the statement he has issued as a riposte to the Royal Society is a minor classic of its genre. Vincent doesn’t so much spit the dummy as hurl it into low earth orbit, and uses pretty forthright language as he does so.

[Hat tip: Sam Vilain in a recent comment]

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The roots of denial

200802082044.jpg In Hot Topic, I relegated discussion of climate cranks and their arguments to an appendix. In that section I look at the roots of denial, the influence of politics on scientific debate (or not-so-scientific debate, in most cases), and tried to highlight the irrelevance of sceptical views to our predicament today. UC San Diego historian of science Naomi Oreskes – already well known in climate circles for her paper testing the reality of consensus amongst climate scientists – gave a lecture titled The American Denial of Global Warming back in December last year, and it is well worth 58 minutes of anyone’s time. The first half deals with the history of climate science, and just how much agreement existed by the ’60s. In the second half she looks at how the George C Marshall institute developed the tactics of denial to defend Reagan’s “Star Wars” initiative, and then applied it to tobacco, the ozone hole, and, eventually, climate science. The roots of all the sceptic tropes used by our tame NZ CSC are laid out for all to see. Highly recommended.

Hat tip: dbeck in comments at RealClimate, John Mashey and Tim Lambert at Deltoid.