With all due respect…

There was a great comedy piece a few years back (whose origin escapes us) that gave examples of how the English would use their language when speaking to a non-native speaker to imply the precise opposite of what was actually being understood. This allowed the English to feel superior without actually damaging international relations. One example was the phrase “with all due respect” which is generally understood to imply that the speaker has a great deal of respect for their counterpart, while the speaker is actually implying that they have no respect in the slightest for their interlocutor. The respect due being precisely zero.

This thought occurred to us when a few of us opened our email this week to see a draft ad being sent around by the Cato Institute (i.e. Pat Michaels) looking for signatories prior to being published in “major US newspapers” sometime soon:

There are a number of amusing details here. While we are curious about the credentials of “Dr. N. Here”, we certainly understand why they are looking for a little more variety on the list. More surprising (and somewhat ironically) the mailing list for signature requests includes a number of scientists who don’t agree with these sentiments at all. It’s as if Michaels and Cato actually believe that these various lists of “dissenting” scientists are accurate reflections of support for their agenda. They appear to be have been conned by their own disinformation.

As an exercise for our readers, perhaps people would like to speculate on who is going to end up on the published list? (If indeed it gets published). Ginger Spice would be likely on past form, but they might improve the screening this time around…

But most amusing are the footnotes that they use to bolster their case. There are four: the brand new Swanson and Tsonis (GRL, 2009), Brohan et al (JGR, 2006) (which is there to provide a link to the HadCRU temperature data), Pielke et al (BAMS, 2005), and the oft-derided Douglass et al (IJoC, 2008).

Of these papers, not one has the evidence to support the statements attributed to them in the main text. To wit:

Surface temperature changes over the past century have been episodic and modest and there has been no net global warming for over a decade now.1,2

Well, the first part of the statement is exactly what you expect with a modest long-term trend in the presence of internal variability and is not controversial in the least. The “global warming stopped” meme is particularly lame since it relies on both a feigned ignorance of the statistics of short periods and being careful about which data set you use. It also requires cherry-picking the start year, had the period been “exactly a decade” or 12 years then all the trends are positive.

The use of the recent Swanson and Tsonis paper is simply opportunism. Those authors specifically state that their results are not in any way contradictory with the idea of a long term global warming trend. Instead they are attempting to characterise the internal variability that everyone knows exists.

After controlling for population growth and property values, there has been no increase in damages from severe weather-related events.3

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