Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Misinformation in Climate Change Denial

I was told today by an anthropogenic climate change denier that Prof. Phil Jones, the man at the center of the AGW controversy since "Climategate" broke, has basically admitted that climate change isn't real. The man telling me this got the notion from a Daily Mail article in which the author used quote mining to take statements that Prof. Jones made to other journalists out of context, warp their meaning, and produce a narrative in line with the editorial slant of the Daily Mail.

The truth is that Prof. Jones has not said any such thing. The headline of that story is sensational fluff, especially given that the Daily Mail didn't even interview him. Here is what Prof Jones actually has said, to Nature: "The science still holds up" though, he adds. A follow-up study verified the original conclusions for the Chinese data for the period 1954–1983, showing that the precise location of weather stations was unimportant. "They are trying to pick out minor things in the data and blow them out of all proportion," says Jones of his critics.

I was curious about some other things that Prof. Jones has actually said so I did some more internet searching and found transcripts of a BBC interview he did recently. He was quoted as saying, "I'm 100% confident that the climate has warmed. As to the second question, I would go along with IPCC Chapter 9 - there's evidence that most of the warming since the 1950s is due to human activity."

Actual statements of Prof. Jones are in line with the over whelming majority of evidence on this matter. His work seems to be honest and well supported by other research, even if his record keeping is sloppy.  But even if his work was fraudulent (it isn't, but if it was) that wouldn't alter the course of climate science.  His work is interesting, but not crucial.  There are literally thousands of independent studies that come to consistent conclusions of climate change.

Like this one which says, "Results from a detection and attribution analysis show that greenhouse warming is detectable in all analyzed high-variance reconstructions (with the possible exception of one ending in 1925), and that about a third of the warming in the first half of the twentieth century can be attributed to anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. The estimated magnitude of the anthropogenic signal is consistent with most of the warming in the second half of the twentieth century being anthropogenic."

Is there still scientific argument? Sure. There always will be argument about details and specifics. It is in exploring those disagreements that science is advanced. But that doesn't mean that the experts in this field of science disagree about the generalities, like "is the climate warming?" and "is human activity contributing to that warming?"  Consensus is especially true among scientists who are actively involved in climate research and publish in peer reviewed journals.

A fact addressed in this study which says, "It seems that the debate on the authenticity of global warming and the role played by human activity is largely nonexistent among those who understand the nuances and scientific basis of long-term climate processes. The challenge, rather, appears to be how to effectively communicate this fact to policy makers and to a public that continues to mistakenly perceive debate among scientists."

I continue to disagree with the climate change deniers.  Not because I always disagree with their politics in general.  Not because I accept the authority of some shadowy theory I don't understand.  Not because I want huge economic changes.  Not because I see this as a chance to force a New World Order on people.  No.  I disagree with them, because their position is not supported by the science, by the evidence, by reality to the best of humanity's ability to understand it.

I don't want the climate change scientists to be right.  I don't want the Earth to warm or rainfall to change.  But what I want reality to be is irrelevant.  The facts are what they are and my opinion of them has no bearing on their veracity.

[edit -- I changed the first line to include anthropogenic, to be more accurate of his views]


Black Ice said...

I don't think anyone with a brain is denying that the climate is changing.

The climate IS changing, just like it has since this planet coalesced. That'll happen, and it's easy to prove.

Proving that humankind's actions are any significant contributor to the whole process, well...that one's gonna be tough indeed.

And you might wish to research how many 'climatologists' have an actual degree in 'climatology.' Hint: ZERO. That's how new this stuff is. Not that 'new' = 'bad' but it should certainly be suspect until verified.

Bill, neither you nor me KNOW the 'facts.' We know what a bunch of people (who may or may not have a hidden agenda) have told us are 'facts.' Unless you have your very own climate analysis station network, and the scientific knowldege to interpret the data generated from it, you are as ignorant of the 'facts' as I.

Having grown up in a hailstorm of lies and bullshit, I learned to judge actions over words.

Let's say--for example--that I'm ManBearPig. I actually believe that AGW is real, and that greenhouse gases are a serious threat to humanity.

Waitaminnit--I'm part of humanity!!

Well, hell--I'm gonna get rid of that 26000sf house, the fleet of cars, the 2 or 3 private jets. I'll have to live sustainably, not only as an example, but to save my own ass. This is a serial problem, right?

I wouldn't continue my lifestyle uninterrupted if I really believed that the way I was living would contribute to destroying us all, right?

Hell, no. I'd have to pare down my conspicuous consumption. Otherwise, people might consider AGW to be in the same league as Global Cooling, Peak Oil, Overpopulation, The Ozone Layer Crisis and any of the other million things that are going to kill us tomorrow.

I'm so thankful the AGW proponents are leading the way in sustainable, anti-AGW living. Otherwise, I might just think they were full of shit.

Billtannica said...

In the forty or so years that scientists have been studying climate change, there have been literally thousands of them who have specialized their research and learning on that field of study. Their actual education may be in something like biology or atmospheric sciences which provides them with a means of experimentation or a way of looking at the science. It is wrong to imply that because there is no college degree in AGW, that there are no scientists specializing in that.

Al Gore or other famous mouthpieces are pushing an agenda as near as I can tell. I don't care. Nor do I care about the politics or policies surrounding this. I really only care about the science. I'm happy to leave the hysterical hand wringing to others.