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Climate Hustle

Climatology versus Pseudoscience book tests whose predictions have been right

Posted on 23 February 2015 by dana1981

I’ve just had a book published entitled Climatology versus Pseudoscience: Exposing the Failed Predictions of Global Warming Skeptics.

Climatology versus Pseudoscience coverClimatology versus Pseudoscience cover

The book covers a wide range of climate-related topics, starting with a history of some key discoveries in the field of climate science beginning nearly 200 years ago. Along the way it debunks some common climate myths, progressing forward in time to the 1970s, when scientists’ ability to model the global climate began to advance rapidly. It examines the accuracy of a variety of global warming projections, starting with J.S. Sawyer in 1972, through the recent IPCC reports, as well as some predictions by contrarians like Richard Lindzen.

Accountability was one of my prime motivating factors for writing this book. While contrarians often criticize the accuracy of climate models, their projections have actually been quite accurate. Not only were climate scientists and their models correct to project global warming resulting from the increasing greenhouse effect, but they’ve been quite good at projecting the right amount of warming. Climate scientists don’t take nearly as much credit as they should for these accurate projections.

On the flip side of the coin, climate contrarians have predicted anything from minimal warming to rapid global cooling. Their predictions have generally been terribly inaccurate, and yet the same people who have made these wrong predictions are still treated as credible experts by certain segments of the media. It seems as though their history of inaccurate predictions has no effect on their credibility. When scientists with a history of inaccurate predictions are treated with the same credibility as those who have made accurate predictions, that’s a problem.

The book discusses the 97% expert consensus on human-caused global warming and the details of our 2013 study that was the latest to arrive at that result. It also looks at the scientific evidence that underlies that expert consensus. After all, the consensus itself is just an indicator of the strength of the underlying scientific evidence. Climatology versus Pseudoscience is extensively researched, with over 100 references to peer-reviewed climate studies.

One chapter focuses specifically on some recent scientific research on continued global warming and the causes of the temporary slowdown of surface warming. This is an important topic, because the temporary so-called ‘pause’ or ‘hiatus’ has been so overblown in the media.

In fact, holding the media accountable for inaccurate and unrepresentative climate coverage was another factor that motivated me to write this book. The less than 3% of contrarian climate scientists like fossil fuel-funded Willie Soon(and worse, contrarian non-experts) have received a disproportionate media coverage. This is why people vastly underestimate the expert consensus on human-caused global warming, and it’s one of the main reasons why people don’t view climate change as an urgent issue. This problem of false balance in climate reporting has even plagued normally reliable media outlets like the BBC and The Telegraph.

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Comments 1 to 17:

  1. I wonder if we should be spending less time on those who deny the science of "global warming" and just proceed to rally those who know what is going on?  My ex business partner, with whom I have always had the best of relationships simply refuses to look at the science.  She maintains that John Casey, et al, has the "real answers" on climate change and everybody else are just a bunch of left wing propagandists trying to get rich on carbon trading schemes.  So, I don't talk to her about climate anymore.  It is probable that the vast majority of the human race will follow the fate of the Roman Empire or that of the Incas and thereby drag the rest of us into a climate hell.  But, it seems to me we are looking at a climate hell anyway, so we may as well try to place "our fellow travellers" into as many decisionmaking places as possible before the roof falls in. Then, maybe some of our (distant) offspring will survive the Sixth Extinction.   

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  2. I suppose refusing to discuss climate with people who have some skeptical thoughts is a good defence mechanism, but surely not all skeptics resort to personal attacks. My reason for being skeptical is the both temperature and CO2 are close to historical lows, 14.5C and 400ppm, and we are told they are too high. Plants do best at 1600-2000ppm which is about the average level over the millenia. So I only discuss facts and you could have an intelligent discussion with me.

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    Moderator Response:

    [DB] Please address your concerns on the appropriate thread.  For example, your statement about plants is best addressed here.  Also, in this venue the inherent presumption is that participants here make factual statements based on the evidence (itself based in the primary literature appearing in peer-reviewed reputable journals).  Starting off with

    "So I only discuss facts and you could have an intelligent discussion with me"

    is a red flag. 

    Further, please provide a reference citation for these claims:

    "both temperature and CO2 are close to historical lows"

    Please familiarize yourself with this site's Comments Policy before continuing further.

  3. I don't think human civilization (or humans) have ever lived in co2 levels this high. It's been millions of years since it was this high, right? Human society came about during historically cold temperatures, right? Also, aren't there studies that show our performance in critical thinking problems goes down significantly when exposed for a period of time to co2 levels even as low as 1000 ppm? We do better with CO2 levels that are at "historical lows" ("low" judging by evolution of all life on the planet and not just of humans).

    No offense, but I think we should be more concerned about human optimal performance than plant optimal performance.

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    Moderator Response:

    [PS] This is off-topic for this thread. Anyone else wishing to respond to the commentator should set an example and respond on an appropriate thread. You can post a pointer to that comment here.

  4. Jose - ain't it weird how the high CO2 levels predominantly seem to be affecting the cognitive abilities of those of a certain political persuasion?

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  5. Thank you for writing this book. I have read so many, many predictions of the "coming mini ice age", etc from the like of Joe Bastardi and many others. They get a lot of play in the media, but it seems that nobody ever comes back later and confronts them with these failed predictions after we have yet another Earth's hottest year. 

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  6. Rob, before cs became politicized, ask anyone about it and they'd likely say that they would defer to the scientists or would express an opinion but accepted they did not know nearly enough to base public policy on it. They'd probably also agree it would be best to be a little safe over sorry and that preserving fossil fuels (cutting back) would probably be a good thing anyway. Politicized either way, however, and the non-experts will protect the political party probably because the party wars have many more items at stake. People like Barry Bickmore (Mueller?) and others are a minority because it is a minority that can actually dig into the science to avoid misplaced allegiances on this topic and can hold their own in debate. We should take the media to task for being biased as some of them are (or for lapses), but they represent a wider body than scientists so are affected by politics, never mind that ownership (especially for blogs) are frequently enough unapoligetically political.


    Moderator, I did not realize to post in a different thread and then a link here to it. [That earlier comment, flaws and all, was to Patrick, btw.]

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  7. I hope Dana's book is a success. Judging by the qualities of his posts his book should be an informative read and deserves to be a part of the lierature related to Climate Science. However, I am not sure it will necessarily be a success, if what happened to Al Gore and Tim Flannery are any indication after criticism by the usual cast of climate change doubters in the media. That is the problem with conveying climate science to the wider public. On one side there is a scientific argument. On the other side there is a marketing campaign where those who cast doubt are not required to justify their argument in any meaningful scientific manner. They never seem to be challenged on the basic premise behind Climate Science. They are never required to justify how the planet will cool or won't warm when one of its primary greenhouse gases, due to us, is increasing at the rate it is. Most climate science discussion in the popular media seems to revolve around the impacts we are seeing which ranges from that they are non existent and don't matter to they will be a catastrophe. This is because very few in the media are sufficiently scientifically literate to make a proper judgement and write a properly balanced article. Also, there is a huge financial incentive for media outlets to publicise arguments that are favourable to some of their largest financial contributors, fossil fuel companies. I do hope Dana's book is read by some of the journalists and what he has to say is properly conveyed.

    Despite anything deniers argue they should always be challenged on the basic premise i.e. carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, it is increasing at unprecedented rates, its increase is due to us, and it will warm the planet; and the evidence that this is happening is quite clear and over the past century; carbon dioxide levels have increased 40%, global temperatures have risen on average by 0.8 degrees Celsius, the sea level has risen by around 19 cm, polar and galacial ice is melting, the seasons are changing, the range of some species is increasing as others are going extinct, and the paleontology record as well as climate models indicate that there will be huge problems for us in the future if the increase in carbon dioxide continues. What scientific evidence do the climate doubters ever convey to justify their argument that it isn't happening and it will be all OK, basically none.

    Again, I hope Dana's book is a success and changes the balance in the media.

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  8. I will probably read this book sometime, but at the moment I am disappointed that it is quite expensive, even on Kindle. Is there a paperback edition on the way?

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  9. shoyemore - no paperback edition, but there will be a discount for those who take our climate denial MOOC (see upper right margin of the page).

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  10. Dana, I haven't read your book, I do intend to read it, but I was wondering whether anyone has studied the views on climate change by the "hard yards" researchers who actually collect the data that is used by everyone else to make their arguments pro or con regarding climate change. It seems to me that the views of the researchers who actually camp on the ice flows to collect ice-cores or measure glacial melts; or trek into the jungle to study species extinction, diversity and range; or spend countless time creating and refining the computer models that simulate the climate and weather; or those who monitor the stations that collect the temperature and carbon dioxide data etc; what are their views?

    For instance, I know that the climate change advocate, Tim Flannery, early in his scientific career, used to crawl around the jungles of New Guinea studying frogs and it was the changes in that environment that he observed over the years that led him into the field of climate change. Also, I know that Ian Plimer, the mining executive and prominent climate change denier, used to argue that undersea volcanoes were the cause of the rise in carbon dioxide. But I don't remember Plimer actually being on any expeditions that looked for those undersea volcanoes that he used in his argument. Are there any primary researchers who put in the hard yards collecting and analysing the data who doubt that climate change is actually happening? It is easy just to sit at a computer screen, run your statistical software on the data or search for papers that support your view, it is an entirely different situation for the people who actually collect and analyse the data. Wondering if there are any deniers amongst the "hard yards" data collectors. The ratio of those who agree to those who don't would be very interesting. I suspect it would be 100%.

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  11. Dana,

    Arhennius calculated a climate sensitivity of 4.5C per doubling of CO2 way back in 1896 using a pencil.  Can that calculation be considered as a temperature projection?  It is still in the IPCC likely range of climate sensitivities all these years later (although it is at the high end of the range).  In any case, Arhennius should get credit for a solid estimation of the climate sensitivity.

    This calculation shows that the argument that climate is chaotic and cannot be predicted at all is incorrect.  After 120 years, Arhennius projection still stands as accurate.

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  12. michael sweet     

     I'm pretty sure I read that Arhennius recalculated climate sensitivity later on and came up with more like 2.5 C  which is even closer to the  IPCC most likely 3 C 

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  13. michael sweet @11 and sailrick @12, in 1896 Arrhenius worked out temperature increases for a variety of latitutudes from 70o North to 60o South.  The mean of the twelve values he determined is 5.5 C for a doubling of CO2, but that is not a global average.  The minimum value was 4.95 C at the equator.  Hence a global estimate would have been above 5 C, and probably greater than 5.5 C.  He later gave a figure of 5.7 C in a lecture in 1896.  By 1908 he had revised that down, but only to 4 C per doubling.   I cannot track any further revisions.

    Unfortunately it is not possible to turn these figures into a temperature prediction.  Because of thermal inertia, temperatures do not rise to the full Equilibrium Climate Response immediately.  As Arrhenius' values are for Equilbrium Climate Sensitivity rather than the Transient Climate Response, to convert them into a prediction by Arrhenius you would need a value from Arrhenius for the thermal inertia, which is, SFAIK, lacking.

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  14. It's my understanding that much of Arrhenius's high estimate was due to data limitations (spectroscopy - including the comb-like structure of GHG absorption/emissions), not to mention that the stratosphere had at that time not been discovered. 

    Barton Paul Levenson has an interesting graph from a few years ago that I've always found interesting, showing the progression of climate sensitivity estimates over the years - Arrhenius's estimate is the first point:

    B.P. Levenson - climate sensitivity estimates


    It seems pretty clear to me that multiple estimates over time, using multiple methods, have converged to something around 3C/doubling of CO2...

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  15. Yeah, a sensitivity estimate is not the same as a temperature projection.

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  16. @10, regarding contributors that work for government departments these people go from working in the field and contributing data to the desk jobs of organising the reports and analysis and finally perhaps rise to the rank of giving them to ministers. It can take 30 years to get to these latter stages of which none are more important than the other.

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  17. I'm a bit late to this thread but have purchased are read your book Dana.  In summary an informative read with lots of background that I was not aware of. My only "criticism" is the US-centric nature of some parts, but I completely understand why that is so.

    A couple of times you mentioned the difference between AGW debate and that of the "tobacco wars". I wonder whether the main difference is that now anyone with internet access can start a blog/website/forum on whatever their pet belief/theory/gripe is, get lots of links to other likeminded people and hence get read and quoted.

    Back in that day of big tobacco denying the science, this kind of fast communication with no filter was virtually impossible.  A lack of filter is something that educators like me battle with constantly when students givs us "stuff" that is frankly wrong, but served up to them in a believable manner.

    Just a thought.  Thanks again for a very readable and informative book. Tim

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