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Followup: Anti-Global Warming Story Itself Flawed 536

Posted by Soulskill
from the science-plus-politics-equals-news dept.
The Bad Astronomer writes "As posted earlier on Slashdot, a Forbes Op/Ed claims there is a 'gaping hole in global warming' theories, based on a recent paper. However, both the Forbes article and the paper on which it's based are themselves seriously flawed. The paper has been excoriated by climate scientists, saying the model used is 'unrealistic' and 'incorrect,' and the author has a track record of using bad models to make incorrect conclusions."
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Followup: Anti-Global Warming Story Itself Flawed

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  • Well, duh (Score:3, Interesting)

    by 0123456 (636235) on Friday July 29, 2011 @03:43PM (#36925996)

    What else did you expect them to say?

    • the model used is 'unrealistic' and 'incorrect,' and the author has a track record of using bad models to make incorrect conclusions

      ...yeah, just about everybody on either side of the Global Warming debate says that about just about everybody they disagree with.

      (And very rarely does anyone say why a model is unrealistic or incorrect.)

      • (And very rarely does anyone say why a model is unrealistic or incorrect.)

        On the contrary, climate scientists say *exactly* why the model is wrong [drroyspencer.com]. (Not that discussion is published on Roy Spencer's website.) Unfortunately the details don't fit between two commercials, and many simply don't want to hear it anyway.

  • You know, whether or not the original article is BS, why is the very first point that the rebuttal piece linked above makes the fact that the original article uses the word 'alarmist' umpteen times? This is like counting the number of times the word 'denier' appears in the rebuttal. Both sides call each other names.

    If you really believe that humans are not responsible for climate change in a significant capacity, and you see people running around talking about mass extinction and migration, then you'd probably call them alarmists.

    If you really believe that humans are responsible for climate change in a significant capacity, and you see people running around dismissing climate change as nothing more than politics or researchers looking for more grants to keep their jobs in spite of the massive threat to, well, everything we know, love, and take for granted, then 'denier' is probably not even the meanest term you could come up with for them.

    But talking about either one hasn't got anything to do with science, just like most schoolyard name-calling hasn't got anything to do with the science. There are industrial interests on both sides and not that many people who both care about solving the problem rather than calling a halt to civilization while also demonstrating the capacity and civility to talk about the issue without resorting to this kind of thing. Consequently, I can't help but wonder how many interested, semi-educated, but very-far-from-climate-experts like me there are out there who look at all this stuff and just scratch their heads.

    • This is like counting the number of times the word 'denier' appears in the rebuttal. Both sides call each other names.

      But I didn't see the word 'denier' in the rebuttal. All I saw was the footnote:

      * Mind you, of course, I use the word "denier" quite a bit when discussing this topic, but in this case the shoe fits. When you deny overwhelming evidence, you’re a denier. Scientists trying to tell people what the science is telling them aren’t alarmists. They’re scientists. And as you can see from what other climate scientists are saying, what the Forbes article is based on apparently isn’t good science.

      This two labels are equally dangerous in addressing global warming. This isn't a problem that half the world can solve without the help of the other half. By using either of these two terms, you're invoking a with-us-or-against-us mentality that is dangerous. Since these two labels are diametrically opposed, it does nobody any good to use them. Dismissing studies on global warming as 'alarmist' doesn't allow any information to be garnered from these reports which is really sad. Dismissing opponents as 'denialist' doesn't allow you to differentiate between people who acknowledge climate change but don't think it's man made and people who deny any climate change at all. Which is also very sad, there's people that want to do something about climate change but aren't sold that we're the cause of it. Why shut them out?

      Like most things in life, this isn't black and white. By polarizing everyone involved, you halt the flow of information and push back the date where we can work together to solve this problem. There is a whole spectrum of solutions that lie in front of us, using the terms 'denialist' or 'alarmist' prevents us from selecting one of them as a cohesive group looking to move forward.

      I applaud The Bad Astronomer from refraining from using the label 'denialist' as often as the original article used 'alarmist' (easily once per paragraph). I don't know why he included that footnote ... I thought he had made an effective point without resorting to name-calling.

      • by blair1q (305137) on Friday July 29, 2011 @03:56PM (#36926170) Journal

        I've done a meta-analysis and found that since the number of people using the word "denier" outnumbers the number of people using the word "alarmist" by a significant factor (p<0.05), the deniers must be touching a nerve, and therefore are right (p<pi/e).

        • by phrostie (121428)

          I've done an analysis and determined that the more the terms "denier" and "alarmist" are used the more there is an increase in hot air.
          as we all know hot air leads to global warming.

        • Wouldn't it be the other way around? People tend to use more extreme, inflammatory and aggressive dialogues when they are losing the debate.

          The people who tend to remain calm and balanced are usually more credible.
    • by Hatta (162192)

      You know, whether or not the original article is BS, why is the very first point that the rebuttal piece linked above makes the fact that the original article uses the word 'alarmist' umpteen times? This is like counting the number of times the word 'denier' appears in the rebuttal. Both sides call each other names.

      Because a journalist isn't supposed to take sides. The journalists job is to take the science and communicate what it actually says to the general public. It is not their job to spin science o

    • by microbox (704317) on Friday July 29, 2011 @05:57PM (#36928104)

      Both sides call each other names.

      The argument of the relative middle ground is *precisely* how astro-turf organisations like Heartland and Marshall spread FUD. They take an extreme position, drum up a lot of noise, and then watch as "reasonable" people say "the truth must be somewhere in-between". This has been documented in history time and time again [amazon.com], and is orchestrated by the same people [youtube.com]. It is really fascinating to learn about how this part of the public discourse works.

      One of the interesting things about all of this is that key people, such as Frank Luntz [wikipedia.org] freely admit that they are manipulating the discourse on climate change, and it simply makes no difference.

  • by Geoffrey.landis (926948) on Friday July 29, 2011 @03:45PM (#36926034) Homepage

    If you actually read the paper [mdpi.com] and not the incredibly hyped press releases, the paper basically disclaims the validity of its own results. Note the following paragraph, immediately before the conclusions:

    Our preliminary work on this issue suggests no simple answer to the question. We conclude that the fundamental obstacle to feedback diagnosis remains the same, no matter what time lag is addressed: without knowledge of time-varying radiative forcing components in the satellite radiative flux measurements, feedback cannot be accurately diagnosed from the co-variations between radiative flux and temperature.

    The entire paper is about to trying to analyze the feedback from the co-variation between radiative flux and temperature-- this sentence basically says that, in their analysis, the analysis cannot be done accurately.

    Basically, the paper does not "blow holes in global warming"-- what it does is say that this particular technique is not able to accurately discriminate the feedback function.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by berashith (222128)

      and by saying that it is not possible to track this function, this blows a hole in the previous theories.

      • by Geoffrey.landis (926948) on Friday July 29, 2011 @04:11PM (#36926368) Homepage

        and by saying that it is not possible to track this function, this blows a hole in the previous theories.

        No, it doesn't blow any holes in previous theories because none of the previous theories use correlation coefficient of the random variations as a means to calculate the feedback parameters. It's a new technique.

        It's actually a kind of clever way to try to back out the feedback parameters out of the random noise in the data set. It's rather a pity that they say it doesn't work, but that's the way it goes-- not everything you try works. Basically, they're saying that the radiative feedback should be instantaneous, while the non-radiative feedback will lag the forcing function, so if you look for the lag part, this will tell you about the non-radiative feedback. But, unfortunately, they don't have a good physics-based model of how much the non-radiative feedback will lag by-- in essence, they have to have the problem solved already in order to solve it.

        In any case, though, the paper conceded the basic premises of anthropogenic global warming right from the start: what it's trying to analyze is how strong the effect is, not whether it is there. Even if their technique worked, it would tweak the model, not "blow holes" in it.

        • by berashith (222128)

          very cool . I wish you had written the summary.

          The only holes it appears that could have been created are a matter of degrees, which is basically what the entire argument boils down to anyhow. If the strength of the effect is negligible then that could have proven one side correct, if the strength is severe then that could bolster the other. The answer being " this cant be measured" only allows both sides to keep calling names and cherry pick their arguments from the same source ( if they feel like doing th

    • I'd take it a step further - I think that they're making the claim that there is *no* particular technique that can accurately discriminate the feedback function. And even though that's actually a fairly trivial assertion to make, and one that isn't particularly disagreeable to any scientists (since models are only models, and models of particularly complex systems are so chock full of guesses that one can hardly use them to make any useful predictions), it is one that laypeople and CAGW activists tend to

    • Out of context! (Score:4, Informative)

      by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Friday July 29, 2011 @04:04PM (#36926280)
      Jeez, dude, do you think we're idiots?

      Here is the beginning of that paragraph, which you so conveniently left out:

      "Determination of whether regression coefficients at various non-zero time lags might provide a more accurate estimate of feedback has been recently explored by [14], but is beyond the scope of this paper. Our preliminary work on this issue suggests no simple answer to the question. ..."

      There, fixed that for ya. The first sentence you quoted is clearly referring to the immediately preceding sentence, not to the conclusions that follow.

      Further, what the entire paper is about, is how well the climate models being shoved at us reflect reality. Their conclusions are that the climate models cannot predict this phenomenon, as they claim to. These are not the authors' own climate models, they are models taken from the IPCC reports. So there is no contradiction there.

      So their conclusion is perfectly valid: if there is no way to "accurately diagnose" the effects of feedback, then the models we are told to believe in are deeply flawed. And that is what this paper shows.

      • Jeez, dude, do you think we're idiots? Here is the beginning of that paragraph, which you so conveniently left out:

        "Determination of whether regression coefficients at various non-zero time lags might provide a more accurate estimate of feedback has been recently explored by [14], but is beyond the scope of this paper. Our preliminary work on this issue suggests no simple answer to the question. ..."

        Fine. The sentence which I didn't quote can be summarized: "Also, some other people tried a different analysis technique on the regression coefficient, but we aren't going to talk about that."

        ...So their conclusion is perfectly valid: if there is no way to "accurately diagnose" the effects of feedback, then the models we are told to believe in are deeply flawed.

        But they didn't say that there is no way to accurately diagnose the effects of feedback. What they said was that they couldn't do it from this particular analysis technique.

    • I can't really assess the accuracy of the paper, but, apart from the fact you rightly point out, the paper is about the analysis of short term circumannual effects, which may, or may not, have any relevance for climate modelling. Spurious at best.
  • Not surprised... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Entropius (188861) on Friday July 29, 2011 @03:47PM (#36926072)

    This guy is a professor at the (not very rigorous*) institution I did my undergraduate work at. (This is the "University of Alabama in Huntsville", not the larger and better-known University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.) I don't remember him specifically, but I know there was a cadre of anti-global-warming "climate scientists" there with a politico-religious axe to grind and who were pretty clearly not doing science for knowledge's sake.

    It's notable that if you google this guy's (Spencer's) name, the first couple hits are to "www.drroyspencer.com/".

    Nobody that I know who is actually a prominent scientist tries to pimp their public persona to this degree, or (tellingly) makes a big deal about the title "Dr."

    *They really do have shitty academic standards. I graduated summa cum laude with a BS in physics, yet had never written $\vec x$ (we never did formal vector algebra), and wound up having to take four "remedial" undergrad classes at the Univ of Arizona where I am finishing up grad school.

    • by SmurfButcher Bob (313810) on Friday July 29, 2011 @04:00PM (#36926220) Journal

      So basically, you're saying that anyone from that school is an inept moron who is unqualified to judge anything?

    • Re:Not surprised... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Mindcontrolled (1388007) on Friday July 29, 2011 @04:10PM (#36926356)
      Well, in addition to that, Spencer has a history of publishing spurious analyses which have been debunked over and over again. It's not only global warming he is railing on about, he obviously is an expert in evolution, too, and therefor, naturally, a proponent of intelligent design. Signing an "evangelical" statement which basically says "God provides, therefor global warming cannot be real" is just the icing on the cake. Do I need to mention the Heartland Institute or his self-proclaimed title of "Glenn Beck's climate expert"?
      • In other words, once again, the denier gang has trumpted a questionable paper by a questionable guy from a questionable institute. This has truly become the AGW-denier version of Intelligent Design's "teach the controversy" scam.

  • I read this article. But it seems to me, this is Slashdot. We should demand some actual evidence of "wrongness" rather than just taking the words of people whose careers depend on it being wrong.

    The Bad Astronomer himself does not exactly have a reputation of being unbiased on this subject.
  • That's funny (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Daetrin (576516) on Friday July 29, 2011 @03:54PM (#36926148)
    I noticed the same point being brought up in the recent feed page when the first story was submitted, yet the editors didn't seem to pay any attention to it. Then a day or two later a different story gets posted with the same information.

    Uncharitable interpretation: The editors aren't doing their job.

    Charitable interpretation #1: A large group of people voted for the first submission, while a different large group of people voted for the second submission. The editors are just being agnostic and giving us what we (collectively) ask for.

    Charitable(?) interpretation #2: The editors know that climate stories get lots of discussion, so they figured two different stories on the subject means we get to have twice as much "fun" yelling at each other about it.
    • by rbrausse (1319883)

      A large group of people voted for the first submission, while a different large group of people voted for the second submission.

      I for one voted for both as interesting. imo 'interesting' is value-free - and both POVs regarding the same paper are thrilling (as a substitute for interesting...) - I don't understand the /. modders attitude to misuse 'interesting' as 'I agree'.

  • by Fuzzums (250400) on Friday July 29, 2011 @03:55PM (#36926164) Homepage

    The point is that we're using way too much energy and food and pollute our own habitat and nobody cares.
    Oh well. Evolution will find a way after we're gone :)

    • Thank you. I kept scrolling, hoping someone would already have brought this up. What happened to polluting the sea, smog, acid rain, cancer, asthma? What happened to sustainability, fairness? The shift to a debate over "global warming," which can be argued for decades, has co-opted what should have been plainly obvious discussion of environmental policy.

      • We cleaned up a whole bunch of that stuff. The environmentalist 'alarmism' of the 70s and 80s had an effect, and as a result laws were enacted to reduce the damage to the environment. LA air is a lot cleaner now, despite many more cars than were in the 80s.
    • The point is that we're using way too much energy and food and pollute our own habitat and nobody cares.

      Too much is arguable. You perhaps. A lot of us tend to try and reduce our impact on the planet.

      A LOT of people care about pollution.

      The disconnect is that some people are claiming CO2 is pollution because of a long term effect they claim will occur, which they cannot come close to proving. Otherwise CO2 is not a pollutant at all.

      Fight real pollution, not bullshit.

      • by geekoid (135745)

        But hardly anyone thinks about pollution in any real way. They go with what 'feels' right.

        "which they cannot come close to proving. "
        already proven, in 1859 by John Tyndall. CO2 cause the temperature to rise is a well know scientifically proven piece of physics.

        CO2 is a pollutant

        FYI: Man made CO2 has a different isotope then a naturally occurring that why we can track it.

      • which they cannot come close to proving

        Climate science was pretty much proven in 1979 [ucla.edu] by any reasonable objective scientific standard. You can learn learn about the history of the "debate" here [youtube.com]. This is a short 10 minute clip on what we know about climate change [youtube.com].

        It is easy to see anti-AGW arguments fall flat on their face when you look into the history of each claim, and read the sources of each claim and the responses. It is surprisingly little work.

  • by qmaqdk (522323) on Friday July 29, 2011 @04:01PM (#36926234)

    Let's conveniently ignore the following:

    The evidence for rapid climate change is compelling (http://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/ [nasa.gov])
    Most climate scientists agree the main cause of the current global warming trend is human expansion of the "greenhouse effect" (http://climate.nasa.gov/causes/ [nasa.gov])

    Until it says "most scientists agree that we needn't worry about AGW" I'll keep worrying about AGW.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by hsthompson69 (1674722)

      Appeal to authority. Very typical of religious movements - you've just replaced the Pope with nasa.gov.

      I'll start believing in CAGW when *any* alarmist makes a clear, concise list of observations that would falsify their hypothesis, and then we all try *really hard* to look for those observations, and are completely unable to find any. That's called science.

      • Re:Caution (Score:5, Informative)

        by MightyMartian (840721) on Friday July 29, 2011 @04:44PM (#36926868) Journal

        Appeal to authority is not always fallacious. For instance, if your mechanic says "The reason your car is overheating and your smelling combustion products in your coolant is because your head gasket is blown", he is speaking as an authority, and is very likely right.

        From http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/appeal-to-authority.html [nizkor.org]:

        This sort of reasoning is fallacious when the person in question is not an expert. In such cases the reasoning is flawed because the fact that an unqualified person makes a claim does not provide any justification for the claim. The claim could be true, but the fact that an unqualified person made the claim does not provide any rational reason to accept the claim as true.

        You know, sort of like how pseudo-skeptic organizations will find some guy with a physics degree who denies AGW, thus committing a fallacious appeal to authority.

      • Re:Caution (Score:4, Insightful)

        by cforciea (1926392) on Friday July 29, 2011 @05:12PM (#36927394)
        Here's the thing. For domains where I have a solid basis to form an opinion, I am perfectly willing to do deep reading to from my own opinion on the subject. I do not, however, have a solid basis in climatology. I wouldn't have the faintest idea of how to synthesize the raw data available into a working model or even critique somebody else's. The only sane option I have in this (and very many other) fields is to trust those who make it their life work to study the field. Are you really so arrogant as to think you are any different?

        In the case of our politicians, usually their fields of expertise extend to business and law. They don't have any basis other than listening to the authorities in the field to even begin having a reasonable opinion on the subject, or any other scientific field of study. If the experts are legitimately conflicted, then they have to make tough decisions, and hopefully do so with the humbleness required to see that they are flying blind. If the experts in the field largely agree, which is more or less true per GP with regard to global warming, then our politicians should be using that as a basis for policy (while still, of course, reasonably hedging their bets in case they are wrong and we find new, more appropriate models as the science advances).

        Now, the only way I can get anything like that out of my politicians is if the general populace stops thinking that reading blogs for 30 minutes gives them the required basis to have a meaningful opinion on a subject. It's cool that you are into science and all, but unless you have the skill set required to critically analyze research papers on climatology, there is no "we" that should do anything regarding the research presented. There is only a "they", and the "they" is made up of climatologists working in the field. And do you know what answer "they" have given us? It's that "... the main cause of the current global warming trend is human expansion of the 'greenhouse effect'" per the article listed above.

        If we keep electing politicians that think they know better just because they agree with our own poorly-informed views, it's eventually going to be the death of us all.
  • by Marble68 (746305) on Friday July 29, 2011 @04:07PM (#36926318) Homepage

    I'm not defending the article in question, but this one is just a big a pile of crap as the other.

    Granted, the original had a sensationalist headline and the article was distinctly written from a skeptic's perspective.

    However - shouldn't we be looking at the raw data and either confirming or debunking it?

    To Paraphrase this article: "You don't to need to see the data because people who stand the most to lose if this research is right are telling you it is bull. And you shouldn't ask any questions because the guy who did the research doesn't agree with the people this research doesn't support. Oh, and did we mention he thinks there's a creator? So it's only an *IF* he's right, and we've already explained that we don't need to verify this because, as you can see, he's just some crazy bastard who took funding from an energy company. We don't see any reason to go beyond the *if* and neither should you. Yeah, he's a corrupt, quack job for sure.. nothing to see here..."

    I want to see the scientific proof, not the "he doesn't think like most of us so this article is flawed" bullshit.

    Give me *real* scientific process.

    Seriously - WTF happened to the scientific process? By this measuring stick, both articles are flawed. Can we get back to the real question now?

    The goal is to scientifically understand our environment so we can make better predictions and protect it. Nobody I know wants dirty air or polluted water; climate change proponent or skeptic. So can we kindly STFU with that kind of crap and focus on finding the truth instead of trying to gain political points and power?

    *sigh* - rant over-

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Most climate science on both sides of the argument is on shaky ground. I totally agree with Freeman Dyson.

    My first heresy says that all the fuss about global warming is grossly exaggerated. Here I am opposing the holy brotherhood of climate model experts and the crowd of deluded citizens who believe the numbers predicted by the computer models. Of course, they say, I have no degree in meteorology and I am therefore not qualified to speak. But I have studied the climate models and I know what they can do. T

  • by ivandavidoff (969036) on Friday July 29, 2011 @04:18PM (#36926466)
    Roy Spencer, the co-author of the "gaping hole" study, is on the board of advisors of the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation [wikipedia.org].

    These folk believe, among other things, that God will not allow the Earth to be harmed by Global Warming:

    "The world is in the grip of an idea: that burning fossil fuels to provide affordable, abundant energy is causing global warming that will be so dangerous that we must stop it by reducing our use of fossil fuels, no matter the cost. Is that idea true? We believe not. We believe that idea – we'll call it "global warming alarmism" – fails the tests of theology, science, and economics."

    This is not science.
  • Speaking of Forbes (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Dunbal (464142) * on Friday July 29, 2011 @04:23PM (#36926546)
    Ursus Bogus [forbes.com]. Just sayin'...

    People get so worked up over this shit. This isn't science - the "science" is pretty inconclusive otherwise there wouldn't be so much name calling. Nah, this is politics. And politics has absolutely nothing to do with science.

  • Gaping Hole (Score:4, Funny)

    by spazdor (902907) on Friday July 29, 2011 @06:18PM (#36928380)

    Am I the only one who misses the old days when a post like this would reliably contain an obfuscated Goatse link within the first three comments?

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