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Did we call it or what

Filed under: — david @ 8 November 2007

Steve Milloy has let fly with the results of his twisted survey of climate scientists, pretty much as we expected. It’s not worth analyzing in any great depth, I’m sure we all have better ways to spend our time, but one tidbit jumped out at me.

The first question of the survey was

Which best describes the reason(s) for climate change?.

The survey offered a choice between human activity or natural variation, or some combination of the two. How to answer this? Before a few decades ago, natural variability was the right answer, but since about 1970, human activity has taken over.

I emailed Milloy with my concern about the indeterminate time scope of the question, and he replied

Hi David,

Present tense verbs imply ongoing climate change.

but now from the press release,

Another notable result is that an astounding 20% of those surveyed said that human activity is the principal driver of climate change.

“So was there no climate change before mankind?” Milloy asked.

The rest is more of the same. Garbage in, trash talk out. OK, back to work, enough time wasted on this.

283 Responses to “Did we call it or what”

  1. 251
    Hank Roberts says:

    Rod, I mean check the underlying claim (“… planets are warming”) — questions of motivation aside, you can look up stuff and often will find it’s frequently asked and the cites will let you check facts.

  2. 252
    Philippe Chantreau says:

    Rod, I somehow missed that #243 comment. If I was dismissing what you too rarely present as easily as you dismiss the Helena study, you would be screaming bloody murder. 70000 is a nice size population. Before you dismiss the math of the people who did the study, who I assume to be honest and competent (probably you disagree on that), you should have some sort of review of their maths and their methods that indicates how warranted your oh so demeaning comment is. In the absence of such a review, you’re simply ranting like a tobacco lobbying freak. The Helena study is every bit as good and better than the buffoneries put forth by the industry you seem so fund (oops, typo, fond) of. In any case, if it’s not the smoking ban, something has made the MI incidence come down, wonder what that could be…

    As for EPA and FDA, you’re either totally confused about the chronology of your own posts or engaging in gross obfuscation. The characterization is yours. I said regardless of how EPA and FDA could have screwed it up in reference to the court cases that you alluded to. I have no knowledge of those cases and little interest in them because, as I said, they have no bearing whatsoever on the very real physiological effects of second hand smoke. As posts go by, you’re displaying qualities more and more alike to those of the savory central character of that movie called “Thank You for Smoking”…

  3. 253
    Rod B says:

    Philippe, I did a thorough review of their math, using my education and degree in mathematics, and found they could not correctly calculate the percent drop in going from 7 to 4. My computer analysis group tells me it’s more like 40% than 60%. It must have been in their triple integration or something. They should also have checked their stats against the sales of Big Macs.

    Not meaning to be personal, but does your non-interest in evidence as long as you already have the answers apply to the AGW discussion?

  4. 254
    Rod B says:

    “….who I assume to be honest and competent (probably you disagree on that)…”

    I would assume their honesty, though it probably would not pass the threshold honesty discussed elsewhere in this thread. Competent? I’ll again give them the benefit of the doubt (they have a decent pedigree) and assume they just lost control and reasoning in their exuberance.

  5. 255
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Helena

    “… in Monroe County there was a significant drop in the number of nonsmoking patient admissions for MI in the 22-month period after the smoking ban implementation (August 2003 to May 2005), compared with the 22-month period before the ban (August 2001 to May 2003). In Delaware County, no such drop was seen. In contrast, there was no significant change in the number of admissions for MI among smoking patients between the two time periods in the two counties….”

  6. 256
    Hank Roberts says:

    Lindzen has spoken about the risks involved:

  7. 257
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Rod, I asked if you would care to come up with an interpretation of Lindzen’s actions that casts them in a more positive light. Myself, I cannot imagine what would motivate a scientist to make knowingly a false argument in front of a nontechnical audience if it was not an attempt to fool them into supporting his point of view. If a used car salesman made false claims about a car, we would not hesitate to call him a liar. If a plumber lied similarly, we would probably not give him our business again. This, however, is worse. There is no grey area for science: you cleave to the evidence or you are not a scientist.

  8. 258
    Philippe Chantreau says:

    Rod, you’re so picky when it comes to exact words, I’m surprised you trusted the Eureka blurb (it does not have many precise figures) as much as I did, which was indeed a mistake on my part. If I was a bad teacher, I’d say I was just checking whether you were paying attention. The level of admissions for the time period considered is 60% of what it was without the ban. BMJ abstract:

    “Results: During the six months the law was enforced the number of admissions fell significantly (- 16 admissions, 95% confidence interval – 31.7 to – 0.3), from an average of 40 admissions during the same months in the years before and after the law to a total of 24 admissions during the six months the law was effect. There was a non-significant increase of 5.6 (- 5.2 to 16.4) in the number of admissions from outside Helena during the same period, from 12.4 in the years before and after the law to 18 while the law was in effect.”

    I notice, however, that you took the blurb’s numbers at face value, attributing them to the study, and from there jumped to the accusation toward the researchers. Is this representative of a certain mind set? Does it indicate that you can claim to be more interested in evidence than I supposedly am?

    By the way, while big macs are a risk factor, they are not currently known as a trigger for MI, whereas there is no shortage of physiological evidence (arterial and platelets changes) of second hand smoke as a trigger.

    Interestingly, this study is far from being a unique case, there is Hank’s link to the Monroe study above and also this one:
    Helena, Monroe, Pueblo, 3 studies with similar results.

    I do acknowledge that I was wrong to wage that 60% figure without looking closer. Nevertheless, I contend that a 40% reduction is still way more than what most, if any, single other action could achieve, and that is remarkable. If you can’t concede that much, and be unable to produce evidence why, I might consider you dishonest.

    You should acknowledge you were wrong to suggest that Glantz’ team can’t calculate a percentage and that the whole study is trash (which you did suggest).

  9. 259
    Rod B says:

    Philippe, So a 40% decrease is significant but a 47% decrease (31% on an equivalent up/down basis) is insignificant? I guess it must be so — it’s going the wrong way! Just give it a little confidence factor/deviation dance and all will be OK! Though at least they didn’t adopt the EPA’s fraudulent 90% Confidence Factor, to meet their numbers.

    You say, “…I notice, however, that you took the blurb’s numbers at face value,…”

    Silly me! I just looked at what you referenced.

    You say, “…You should acknowledge you were wrong to suggest that Glantz’ team can’t calculate a percentage and that the whole study is trash (which you did suggest)….”

    I should do no such thing. Admittedly the percentage thing, while true, was done for a little humor and I don’t hold them to any major deficiency. But the study, as anything conclusive, is worthless — “trash” is such a harsh word — and would take a lot of mathematical talc to clean up that ugly baby.

  10. 260
    Hank Roberts says:

    > mathematical talc

    Patience. Epidemiology accumulates, and the comparisons are now far easier to make because of controls on second-hand smoke locally.

    Prediction: locales in which young people aren’t exposed to second-hand smoke will be ones in which those kids less frequently take up smoking; second hand smoke is sufficient to dose kids with nicotine:

    Face it, Rod, it’s a crisis for libertarians of any stripe to accept the fact that by what they do, they’re drugging other people — or changing the climate. No libertarian wants to believe their personal activities have such power to affect others. But they do.

  11. 261
    Philippe Chantreau says:

    Funny how attentive you are to numbers on that subject, whereas you were initially satisfied with bold statements unsubstantiated by any numbers on outer solar system planetary warming claims.

    CO2’s heat properties do not owe anything to temperature statistics, just like mathematical tricks don’t activate platelets, or change arterial wall behavior. These studies are popping up everywhere they enact smoking bans. I have no doubt your strange libertarian outlook will push you toward always more mathematical acrobatics to try to deny what’s obvious.

    As Hank said, eventually the epidemiological evidence will be abundant enough to prevent number bickering by those who don’t want to care how their actions affect others. And unlike for GW, the course of action will then be easily implementable and yield quick results.

  12. 262
    Rod B says:

    If you can’t, or prefer not to, distinguish between drawing “solid” cause and effect conclusions from little teeny tiny samples over a period that is a hiccup in the life of the effect, and the part of the GW stuff that is based on solid science that is repeatable to the exact same result 100 % of the time — well, I can be of no help. Nor if you have no reservations or questions extending a single incidence of some minute physiological change (pulse rate, e.g.) to three more AMIs per month.

    So you say that given a population of 70,000 where smokers could continue to smoke but only if, say, 100 yards from anybody else, there will be three less AMIs (not just MIs) every month? And you are as confident of that as your calculation of the emitted radiation from the surface Sun (and its temperature) required to increase the temp of Pluto by 2 degrees (all other things being equal)? And, finally, out of curiosity, the study where MIs went up does not count because……..??

    Or is it, “Just wait ’till next year!”

    Libertarians?? What has that to do with anything — smoking, global warming or the price of tea……

  13. 263
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Re 260. Hank, any true libertarian realizes that their rights end at their nose. That’s one reason why libertarianism is incompatible with human nature. If libertarians were correct, humans would be intelligent enough to anticipate the consequences of their actions, work out solutions and implement them in time–rather like ants following chemical trails. Humans are too perverse to be able to capitalize on total liberty.

  14. 264
    Majorajam says:

    Hank, Philippe, et al,

    Has this been as fruitful as you anticipated?

    [edit – No WMD, no ad hom]

    In contrast to continuing this inane line of discussion, I have two questions whose answer I am genuinely interested in hearing, i.e. that have some semblance of purpose: First, if you are modeling average temperatures as a scalar of emissions over the maximum timescale that could be considered relevant for current emissions policy- say two centuries- is it best to describe the climate sensitivity to emissions as an uncertain single point estimate or an uncertain distribution of scalars? I don’t think this is an easy question to answer. Second, is it at all possible, given the current state of the science, to come up with any estimates of the magnitude and timing of long-term feedbacks- what Annan and Hargreaves have treated as forcings in their work that places very tight error bars around climate sensitivity? Something like this is critical for economic modeling, given the profound import of tail behavior on CBA.

    If you can’t obliquely ignore the trolls, perhaps it will be easier to do overtly.

  15. 265
    Hank Roberts says:

    > ittle teeny tiny samples over a period that is a hiccup in the life

    Patience, Rod, the numbers are only collected as fast as the calendar changes. More every day.

  16. 266
    Rod B says:

    90% of libertarianism is good IMO, but the other 10% actually destroys its effectiveness. I’ve never heard the 10% described as Ray wrote it (263), but that is damn good! (other than the perverse part, which is an unnecessary pejorative) I still don’t grasp the relevance, though.

  17. 267
    Joseph O'Sullivan says:

    This is an interesting discussion. I have learned something about the conflict between some sections of the political spectrum and the scientific community.

    There is a fundamental clash between the libertarian viewpoint and the scientific practice. Its a version of the old mantra “you’re entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts”. The very name libertarian contains the key part of the philosophy, the belief in unlimited freedom. This clashes with the goal of science, finding physical facts that are independent of anyone’s beliefs.

    This can be seen in the libertarian dislike of the scientific process. Once the very high burden of proof necessary in science is met, the discussion moves on. This offends people who equate limiting discussion with limiting freedom. On the other hand scientists know that moving on to new subjects is absolutely necessary to make progress.

    I did get this on a practical level because in legal proceedings a common tactic is to try to stretch out the process to get a desired result. I recognized these tactics in Steve Milloy’s survey.

    I now understand the vehemence of some libertarian commentators on RC. The opposition to stopping discussion is on a deeper philosophical level. I recall someone misreading a plain language environmental statute so completely I wondered what was going on. I understand now that regulation, particularly environmental regulation, for some is considered offensive and not just a poor policy choice.

  18. 268
    Majorajam says:

    Note to commenters: context lost. That wasn’t supposed to sound like a high-handed rebuke of the worthiness of the recent subject matter, so no offense meant in that regard. Also, still interested in thoughts on the surviving component of my post.

    Note to the moderator: isn’t attacking an argument by way of attacking a person that makes it, (ad hominem), different from attacking a person by way of citing their manifestly willful ignorance (i.e. attacking their arguments, although in this case that label doesn’t quite apply). The former we know is a fallacy while the latter is not logically invalid, even if, perhaps, a little ill mannered. Seems a distinction worth bearing in mind, given that it is obscured repeatedly in global warming rhetoric. Lastly, in case it wasn’t obvious, I wasn’t trying to open up any discussion on WMD- it was necessary to make a point is all. A point I’m over starting… now.

    [Response: I am far less interested in the subtleties of debating philosophy than I am concerned with maintaining the tone and content of the threads. Posts that are likely to lead to pointless personal comments and uninformative dispute get canned. – gavin]

  19. 269
    Philippe Chantreau says:

    I might be missing something. Of Helena, Pueblo and Monroe, which was the one showing an increase in the location where the ban was in effect?

  20. 270
    Joseph O'Sullivan says:

    Its getting off topic, even for me so to end this thread on a civil tone, I will admit I let my own personal beliefs get in the way in my comments here on RC. I find environmentally destructive activities offensive, largely based on my personal philosophy.

    I do find tricks, like Milloy’s survey, that aim to waste time in the scientific community and to publicly misrepresent research are not in anyone’s best interest. Its good to have one area in human endeavor where its primarily about the data not about appearance, spin and personal beliefs. Science does fill that role That being said, maybe I should follow David’s example and just forget the survey.

  21. 271
    Rod B says:

    Philippe, I was referring to Hank’s 255…. (I think..)

  22. 272
    Hank Roberts says:

    > 255
    Rod, read it at WebMD (free registration) or look it up on PubMed.
    Plenty more published (use Scholar, not Google) on the subject.

    The pro-smoking sites will no doubt be able to find a pairwise comparison that, taken alone, makes it look like second hand smoking reduces heart attacks — just search enough pairs of counties, to find the one in 20 where that number happens by chance — but that would be cherry-picking. Look for the weight of the evidence.

  23. 273
    Philippe Chantreau says:

    As far as I coud tell, there was no increase in any area where the ban was in effect. The Helena study showed an increase in admissions from outside the city, where the ban did not apply (city ordonance).

    In any case, there is much more to it than those studies or, as you suggested, an increased heart rate: Burghuber et al (1986); Sinzinger & Kefalides (1982); Zhu et al (1993). This is old news, there is more with Otsuka et al (2001), Sumida et al(1998), Raitakari et al (1999), Cucina et al (2000), Schmid et al (1996), Rubenstein et al (2004). And, of course, there are all the lung problems. What can I say, we’re looking at a body of evidence, once again. Kinda like in climate science.

    Besides, the comments on libertarianism are totally relevant to this, as they are to climate/CO2. Here is one example: libertarians get offended that oversized vehicles would somehow be penalized by higher taxation, stricter fuel efficiency standards that would make them more expensive and so forth. The argument I get from libertarians when this is mentioned is: “you can’t tell me what to drive.” Of course, they see only that part that satisfies them. The other side is this: oversized gas guzzlers driven to commute or go to the grocery store increase gasoline demand for no reason. That drives the price of gas up and everybody pays the same price at the pump. If all those miles of commuting and errand running were done on cars like mine (which delivers 37 to 43 mpg in actual use), the demand and prices would be lower. In essence, I end up subsidizing at the pump the driving of gas guzzlers. Libertarian logic is that I can’t dictate them what to drive, or how much they should pay for their ego-boosting ride, but they can dictate to me how much I must pay for a gallon of gas. Right. And that does not even consider climate issues.

    By the same token, they cringe about tobacco regulation. Chronic smokers regularly show up in the ED with a combination of COPD exacerbation/pneumonia, often when they are compensating so hard that it finally catches their attention. They end up decompensating in the ED, get intubated, head to the ICU where they cost $3000/day without even a band aid. Those people tend to be more frequently low income and uninsured. So you pay for it, and me, and everyone with insurance. But it is their inalienable right to smoke. Right. And that does not even consider second hand smoke issues.

    We’ll have to agree to disagree on this, I guess.

  24. 274
    Rod B says:

    Well, maybe there are people like that. Though in actuality the vast majority of people, not just a few Libertarians, do not want to be told what to do and want to tell everybody else what to do.

    Cherry picking is selecting insignificant studies without (hardly) any back-up science that have impressive-looking numbers. Helena comes to mind. But I suppose the folks pooh-poohing 2nd hand smoke hazards might do that too. Though I have never heard any say that 2nd hand smoke improves one’s health as Hank implied. I’ll have to check Powers over the Libertarian segment of the Hummer market; that’s new news to me.

    I’m here trying to better understand the science and assess my skepticism with AGW, and trying to comprehend and believe where I am wrong or right as the case may be. I have not been overwhelmed, though it might have some validity, by the consensus argument as it more subjective than objective science. Now you tell me the AGW proof is every bit as good as the harmful SHS studies/proof?!!? That somehow ought to convince me? If that’s your aim (I don’t know if it is or not) you’re going backwards real fast.

    Smokers are more frequently uninsured? As Hank would say, “References! Cites! Back-up studies!” Plus you didn’t credit us smokers (I’m one — once world class, now 1/3 pack a day… and didn’t go to one methadone clinic in the process) for paying a big chunk of some States’ education, Medicaid, and general expenses, not to mention a stadium and roads and bridges here and there, and a ball team or two for now rich lawyers. We’re so nice.

    But you are right. We ought to just agree to disagree and stop muddying up this thread.

  25. 275
    Philippe Chantreau says:

    The cites are examples in the existing body of evidence, not cherry-picked studies. It is a fact that SHS and AGW both have a significant body of research that shows preponderance of evidence going in a certain direction.
    I definitely agree on your last line.

  26. 276
    Rod B says:

    If you believe the research, analysis and body of evidence for SHS is anywhere within a thousand miles of that for AGW,… well, you’re flat out wrong and I can be of no help.

    You get the last word…. if you wish.

  27. 277
    Philippe Chantreau says:

    That’s a funny trick Rod, mentioning the last word and making then a statement that, in a way, gives it to you without bothering with being consistent with your own standards. What would you say if I, or anyone else, would make that statement: “you’re flat out wrong and there is nothing I can do for you.” You’d find it laughable and send a snarky remark. What did you say earlier again? References, cites, studies…

    You accuse me of cherry-picking cites but you haven’t shown anything at all to substantiate your argument.

    I really don’t care about the last word. I care more about reality. That flat out wrong comment is itself a strange rethoric attempt at the last word, unless it is substantitated. The substantitation should address also why the ALA, AHA, CDC and a number of other scientific organizations are flat out wrong as well. And it should hold up to the same fanatical scrutiny that you screen all evidence with, whether it be on AGW on any other subject.

    Politicians and lawyers don’t have to be intellectually consistent, but you’re neither, are you?

  28. 278
    Rod B says:


  29. 279
    Jack Roesler says:

    Did anyone predict the expansion of the tropics, as detailed in the following article?;_ylt=AnWBgFSWT6aoniHJu.chDPAPLBIF

    Global warming is listed as one of the possible reasons for this new development.

  30. 280

    Jack Roesler (#279) wrote:

    Did anyone predict the expansion of the tropics, as detailed in the following article?;_ylt=AnWBgFSWT6aoniHJu.chDPAPLBIF

    Global warming is listed as one of the possible reasons for this new development.

    All of the IPCC AR4 models show it:


    A consistent weakening and poleward expansion of the Hadley circulation is diagnosed in the climate change simulations of the IPCC AR4 project. Associated with this widening is a poleward expansion of the subtropical dry zone. Simple scaling analysis supports the notion that the poleward extent of the Hadley cell is set by the location where the thermally driven jet first becomes baroclinically unstable. The expansion of the Hadley cell is caused by an increase in the subtropical static stability, which pushes poleward the baroclinic instability zone and hence the outer boundary of the Hadley cell.

    Expansion of the Hadley cell under global warming
    Jian Lu, Gabriel A. Vecchi, Thomas Reichler
    Geophysical Research Letters, VOL. 34, L06805, doi:10.1029/2006GL028443, 2007

    I might be able to find some more papers on it a little later.

  31. 281
    Majorajam says:

    Fair enough Gavin, but the distinction matters, as does anything separating logical inferences from illogical ones.

  32. 282
    henry stoldt says:

    I’m doing a reasearch project presenting arguments for and against co2 caused by humans is causing climate change. I found an article called 35 Inconvenient truths By Lord Christopher Monckton. It has 35 errors in Al Gore’s movie. I’m wondering if any of you find any errors in this document(scientific errors) could you please tell me in a comment.


  33. 283
    Hank Roberts says:

    Henry, is this for a grade school paper? I’m guessing about the level you’re aiming for. Have you used the “Start Here” button at the top of the page?

    You can also type “Monckton” into the box labeled Search, at the top of the page on the other side.