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Climate Cover-Up: A (Brief) Review

Filed under: — mike @ 20 October 2009 - (Español)

We often allude to the industry-funded attacks against climate change science, and the dubious cast of characters involved, here at RealClimate. In recent years, for example, we’ve commented on disinformation efforts by industry front groups such as the “Competitive Enterprise Institute, the Cato Institute, the Fraser Institute, and a personal favorite, The Heartland Institute, and by industry-friendly institutions such as the Wall Street Journal editorial board, and other media outlets that assist in the manufacture and distribution of climate change disinformation.


When it comes to the climate change disinformation campaign, we have chosen to focus on the intellectually bankrupt nature of the scientific arguments, rather than the political motivations and the sometimes intriguing money trail. We leave it to others, including organizations such as SourceWatch.org, the sleuths at DeSmogBlog, authors such as Ross Gelbspan (author of The Heat is On, and The Boiling Point), and edited works such as Rescuing Science from Politics to deal with such issues.

One problem with books on this topic is that they quickly grow out of date. Just over the past few years, there have been many significant events in the ‘climate wars’ as we have reported on this site. Fortunately, there is a book out now by our friends at DeSmogBlog (co-founder James Hoggan, and regular contributor Richard Littlemore) entitled Climate Cover Up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming that discusses the details of the contrarian attacks on climate science up through the present, and in painstaking detail. They have done their research, and have fully documented their findings, summarized by the publisher thusly:

Talk of global warming is nearly inescapable these days — but there are some who believe the concept of climate change is an elaborate hoax. Despite the input of the world’s leading climate scientists, the urgings of politicians, and the outcry of many grassroots activists, many Americans continue to ignore the warning signs of severe climate shifts. How did this happen? Climate Cover-up seeks to answer this question, describing the pollsters and public faces who have crafted careful language to refute the findings of environmental scientists. Exploring the PR techniques, phony “think tanks,” and funding used to pervert scientific fact, this book serves as a wake-up call to those who still wish to deny the inconvenient truth.

There are interesting new details about the Revelle/Singer/Lancaster affair and other tidbits that were new to me, and will likely to be new to others who been following the history of climate change contrarianism. Ross Gelbspan who has set the standard for investigative reporting
when it comes to the climate change denial campaign, had this to say about the book:

absolutely superb-one of the best dissections of the climate information war I
have ever seen. This is one terrific piece of work!

There is an important story behind the climate change denial effort that goes well beyond the scientific issues at hand. Its not our mission at RealClimate to tell that story, but there are others who are doing it, and doing it well. Hoggan and Littlemore are clearly among them. Read this book, and equally important, make sure that others who need to do as well.


455 Responses to “Climate Cover-Up: A (Brief) Review”

  1. 51
    Lloyd Flack says:

    We have several different groups of climate change deniers and it is not a good idea to lump them in all together.

    First we have those with some expertise in the area like Lindzen. Second we have those with a scientific or technical background but not in Climate Science. And third we have those without much in the way of scientific or technical knowledge. Not all the motivations are the same in all these groups.

    The first group is largely motivated by a mixture of genuine concerns about our understanding of climate and of ego. With time the second component of the mixture has been increasing and the first decreasing. I say this because of the increasing number of disingenuous arguments that they are using. Unfortunately it seems to me that ego-driven behaviour is found among other climate scientists as well but it does affect their positions less.

    The second group often wrongly apply experience gained in their areas to Climate Science. The ones that I run into most have a background in Information Technology. They are used to fragile software systems and confuse fragility of software with the fragility of physical models. Another group with a lot of deniers are archeologists and to a lesser extent geologists. They frequently argue that climate has changed in the past without human intervention, so why should we look to human activity to explain present trends. What they overlook is the fact that we have detailed information on current changes which allows attributions to specific causes. We do not have that for past changes but if we did then we would be able to attribute them to specific causes as well. And the there are those who misunderstand the significance of apparent anomalies. For example look at the warming on Mars argument. They are often getting bogged down in details and missing overall patterns.

    The third group often let politics affect their judgment on scientific matters. There is a smaller element of this in the first two groups. Many of them are confused by the denialists’ arguments. But many of them see everything through a political lens. They believe those who take their political position and disbelieve political opponents without really examining their arguments. They adopt the opinions that they believe are appropriate for their side of politics. They do not understand professional integrity. They do not understand that Science has mechanisms to reduce the effect of personal biases. They assume that those who disagree with them must also be driven by politics because they are themselves. There are people who just do not get the inexorability of physical processes. They are used to arguing with other people about social matters and trying to win arguments. It doesn’t sink in that the Universe does not listen to arguments and no matter how strong and how convincing an argument they make, if they are wrong the Universe will crush them.

  2. 52

    Some so called mainstream reporters can also be guity of showing bias through their attempts to appear neutral. The following , a quote from Eliazabeth Kolbert, author of “Field Notes from a Catastrophe” has this to say about the role of reporters regarding climate science:

    “Reporters are supposed to stand outside the conflict and treat both sides impartially. But,as many have noted, this effort to be unbiased can itself become a form of bias Just because two people or two groups disagree,it doesn’t follow that the two sides have an equal claim on our attention…………….. People with no particular knowledge, supported by vested interests, have often been accorded as much column space or airtime as scientists who have devoted their lives to studying the issue. Journalists ,it could be argued, completely missed the global warming story by treating it as a debate when, really, it never was one.”
    (From p 71 of “Climate Change- Picturing the Science” by Gavin and Joshua Wolfe)

    This neatly summarizes what a number of reporters that I’ve come across, are guilty of.

  3. 53
    John Phillips says:

    47.“So the question is: Why are you so willing to bet the future of humanity on a 20:1 longshot?”

    The future of humanity may be more dire if the mitigation actions the IPCC is recommending are taken than if global warming is allowed to happen, assuming it does.

    The modellers likely do not fully understand all climate drivers. See recent paper by Zeebe,et al http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/v2/n8/abs/ngeo578.html

  4. 54
    Craig Allen says:

    david #48:

    A friend of mine is a risk analyst in the financial industry. He worked in the US in the lead up to the financial crisis. Prior to the collapse was talking about the seriously dodgy nature of the housing industry and financial markets in general, as if it was obvious for all to see and was inevitably going to go pear shaped.

    Seems to me that the most obvious analogy to make is that in both the financial sector and with regard to the climate, short sighted people focussed on near term profit disregard and denounce the people who study, understand and warn of the dire nature of situation.

  5. 55
    Lloyd Flack says:

    A mistake that many of us are making is in appealing too much to the scientific consensus as an argument for why people should believe that AGW is happening.

    Now yes, it is generally reasonable to deffer to the opinions of experts if you do not have the opportunity to check out something yourself. But people will argue that sometimes the scientific consensus is wrong. And that argument from authority is wrong. In particular this appeal fails when you are arguing with someone without much climate expertise but with scientific and technical expertise in other fields.

    After all how often do scientists appeal to scientific consensus when arguing among themselves? They don’t, for obvious reasons. What scientists do appeal to is consilience, that different lines of enquiry lead to the same conclusions. Shouldn’t we be emphasizing how everything fits together? Yes, these arguments are not brief but we have to tell people that there aren’t any brief simple arguments in this field. They have to sit down for awhile and pay attention.

  6. 56
    llewelly says:

    John Phillips, the complexity of the climate system is not an argument for blithely adding hundreds of gigatons of greenhouse gasses to it. Much the reverse.

  7. 57
    Hank Roberts says:

    David, if you don’t believe anyone tried to warn about the economy, try, e.g.
    http://www.calculatedriskblog.com/2007_08_01_archive.html
    Or any other day or month and you’ll find plenty of warnings. ‘Business as usual’ keeps on, ignoring warnings, as long as it can. Watch for the pattern.

  8. 58
    Paul Harris says:

    Congratulations on a short, sharp and informative review. I’ll buy the book and recommend it to others. One short technical question from the discussion following, re posts 35 and 43 – what’s a bonus ?:)

  9. 59
    Chris Colose says:

    Unfortunately, RealClimate will always be on the losing end of the “denial wars” simply because of how the debate has been so carefully crafted by the denial industry. This is to say that the science does not actually matter at all. The “debate” doesn’t actually exist in reality, but it subsists in being a useful fiction. Contrarian nonsense is allowed to flourish in references (in the media, on the internets, etc) if it is not challenged, and if it is challenged then it creates the illusion of a massive debate, and either way…you have successfully created confusion. Anyone with an education in science or who can connect logical points together will not be fooled by all of the arguments used against modern climate change science, but the disinformation campaign tactics are not intended for that audience.

    The fact is that anyone who denies the reality of anthropogenic climate change is either trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes or does not understand the basic physics which govern the radiative balance (and hence temperature) of the planet. Just to be clear, there are several parts of what I would consider to be aspects of what people refer to as “AGW.” I do this (and use quotations) because it’s a phrase which is not often well-defined, despite being used so intensively in discussion. Strictly speaking it could mean that man has some influence on the modern temperature rise, but we probably need to be more specific.

    — Carbon Dioxide (among methane, N2O, ozone, etc) is a greenhouse gas and increasing its concentration makes the planet a less effective emitter of radiation at some given temperature. The result is a warmer planet.

    — The radiative effects of rising greenhouse gases in the atmosphere over the last century and future times will not be negligible and not swamped by other external forcings or internal variability.

    — Climate responses to a radiative perturbation act in such a manner to amplify the Planck-feedback response of the climate system. I did a post on this recently. The large influences on this include the increase in water vapor content of the atmosphere which approximately scales with Clausius-Clapeyron (i.e., with conserved Relative humidity), a vertical temperature response that has a structure like the moist adiabatic lapse rate, and decreased surface albedo, with pronounced lower-level amplification at the poles. Cloud feedback is pretty uncertain, however a range of about 3 C (+/- 50% or so) is a consistent picture from the past climate record of how much we should expect from an equilibrium response to a doubling of CO2. This prevents a very low sensitivity (as argued by Lindzen, Spencer, and others) or a very high one (e.g., greater than 5 C) from being reality.

    All of these and more are the common themes which are attacked, albeit unsuccessfully but contrarian think-tanks. There are some other things worth pointing out when discussing “AGW.”

    — The Holocene provides a unique geologic time period in which human civilization was allowed to build and flourish, and it has been marked by climatic stability. There are a few bumps in the Holocene (especially in the earlier times), including a Medieval Climatic Anomaly and LIA, but the range of temperature variations is very small compared to glacial-interglacial variations.

    — Modern society is not a tribal one, and quick adjustments are not easy when confronted with large changes. Modern infrastructure is very much dependent on a status-quo, and thus a change in climate on decadal to centennial timescales can be detrimental to the welfare of society. Such impacts include, but are not limited to, sea level rise, changing precipitation patterns, drought and heat wave increases (in frequency and/or intensity), and the like. It can also be detrimental to ecosystems for these reasons.

    — There is no quick and easy way to “fix” the climate problem. Geo-engineering proposals which rely on increasing planetary albedo by solar radiation management are not convincing and carry a host of other issues (including, but not limited to, not fixing ocean acidification, pollution problems associated with aerosol increases, regional climate change, and management lifetime which is much shorter than CO2 lifetime in the atmosphere). Other logistical and economical problems exist with alternative methods. Some combination of an emerging alternative energy system and a decline of fossil fuel industry will likely be required for long-term solutions. As such, fixing climate change is not trivial, and is one reason that so much motivation exists to halt progress on doing it.

    — Regarding climate model discussions, saying “models do/do not simulate the current or past climates well” is a meaningless statement. The answer depends on the variable of interest (temp, precipitation, etc), the statistic (mean, extremes, etc), the spatial and temporal scales, and some clarification of what “good enough” means. For climate change purposes, one can also ask how relevant some deficiency is in having confidence in the broad-brush picture. A double ITCZ or inability to sufficiently reproduce MJO-like behavior is important (and one certainly cannot make broad statements like “we can simulate the current climate” because we obviously can’t), but those things aren’t going to change the fact that
    CO2 warms the planet, and the implications for sensitivity are probably small. In contrast, rather robust pictures of polar amplification, global temperature rise, stratospheric cooling, etc emerge in even simple models. No one can offer an explanation for how to systematically increase CO2 content of the atmosphere in the future, and not get significant warming…they can’t because it’s going to happen.

  10. 60
    dhogaza says:

    The modellers likely do not fully understand all climate drivers. See recent paper by Zeebe,et al http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/v2/n8/abs/ngeo578.html

    John Phillips claims that since something different may’ve happened FIFTY-FIVE MILLION YEARS AGO, climate scientists today can’t figure out what might be happening today over the next few decades.

    I love denialism: “hockey-stick reconstructions over the last 2000 years must be false, because 2000 years ago is a LONG TIME! Meanwhile, how can you ignore what happened FIFTY-FIVE MILLION YEARS AGO!”

    John Phillips is a [edit – turd]

  11. 61

    Per Lloyd Flack, #55: “But people will argue that sometimes the scientific consensus is wrong. And that argument from authority is wrong.”

    Your second claim is simply false; you are conflating arguing from authority with the argumentum ad vericundiam, the argument from false or misleading authority. Arguing from authority is not only perfectly reasonable it is absolutely unavoidable. It only becomes a fallacy if the authority is not relevant to the subject at hand. You would not turn to your postal carrier for medical advice, nor would you turn to your physician for recommendations for the best route to follow in your neighborhood for making deliveries.

    As to your first point, you are conflating the existence of contrarians with the reality of dispute. Having a Ph.D and a lab smock with your name monogrammed on it is not by itself sufficient to prove that you are a scientist. For there to be a genuine scientific dispute, the various disputants would have to both be producing publishable and published research which stands up to careful, critical scrutiny. Just because some individual with a monogrammed lab smock stands out in public noisily wringing his/her hands or gnashing her/his teeth does not provide evidence of an actual scientific controversy. Something more is required than one’s intractable and infantile ego; real science is also required.

    And getting published is not all that difficult, if one has genuine research and testable observations in one’s material. The filtering that occurs in the peer-review process is certainly necessary, but frankly rather minimal. Crackpot nonsense gets published all the time, in all fields of research, but then usually gets its due in the following replies and critical responses. So the fact that genuinely contrarian research cannot even make it past the basic peer-review process is extremely telling.

  12. 62
    david says:

    Ok, maybe I was a little strong in saying nobody predicted the financial crisis. Certainly many people were talking about a housing bubble, and I read several articles predicting severe problems prior to them actually occurring. But the near collapse of a large chunk of the global banking sector was not predicted by the great majority of economists, and this seems to me to be a quite serious failing. There was a good article in the NYtimes recently by the nobel laurette Paul Krugman “How did economists get it so wrong”, which includes the line “Few economists saw our current crisis coming”.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/06/magazine/06Economic-t.html?_r=1&em

    Part way through the article he refers to a presentation at an academic conference where someone pointed out that financial institutions were taking on dangerous levels of risk, and were treated dismissively by most of the audience.

    Personally, I would take the lesson from this to be that we should be cautious when tinkering with complex systems that affect everything we do (like the climate or the banking system), but I can see how it might also be used to cast doubt on the reliability of experts.

  13. 63

    One important thing to remember in comparing AGW to the financial collapse is also, that the latter was more of a chaotic event — like weather. Sure economists understand the business cycle and that there are up times and down times in the economy, just like atmospheric physicists are well aware that sometimes it shines, sometimes it rains. But when and how precisely… that’s a different question!

  14. 64

    John Phillips #53:

    The future of humanity may be more dire if the mitigation actions the IPCC is recommending are taken than if global warming is allowed to happen, assuming it does.

    Don’t be such an alarmist.

  15. 65
    Mark says:

    > But the near collapse of a large chunk of the global banking sector was not predicted by the great majority of economists,

    And you yourself were an economist?

    What if they’d predicted it but also predicted that the sheeple on hearing this would panic sell and this would CAUSE a collapse, probably one even worse than the one that happened anyway?

    Economists DID predict it.

    But if you tell lots of people, you lose out.

    Nortel went bust. One of the C*E executives sold EVERY SINGLE share he had two days before it tanked from its high of $92 a share to $40.

    Imagine if he’d told anyone what he saw happening in the future?

  16. 66
    Mark says:

    “After all how often do scientists appeal to scientific consensus when arguing among themselves? ”

    Lloyd, those scientists who do NOT use an appeal to consensus are those who are doing work in that area.

    Are YOU working on a climate science paper?

    Is Joe Shmoe?

    Rod B?

    Me?

    No.

    So I’m not actually working to find out myself. Nor is anyone here apart from the owners of this site and a very few posters.

    We HAVE to accept from authority and consensus, but we need to check that they ARE an authority too.

    We can also check their authority by using what we DO know to see what fits. AGW science fits what I do know to be true personally, denialist science arguments don’t have one.

    We can also use the consistency of argument. AGW say “CO2 is the biggest cause of change today”. They don’t chop and change that. Denilaists say “It’s not warming”. They say “It’s the sun making it warm”. They say “Such small a thing cannot change our climate”. They say “GCRs do it”.

    Those arguments taken as pairs are inconsistent. They cannot both be true, but even if you can’t find amongst the thousand caterwauling voices one holding both at different times, you NEVER hear one say to the other “you’re wrong”. The only conclusion is not that they have a better theory for what’s going on, they only want the IPCC to be wrong.

    And that kills any authority they may have dead.

  17. 67
    Lloyd Flack says:

    #61, Gary Herstein,
    You misunderstand, I was not talking about my opinions, but about how some denialists see things. Those are the arguments that they will use.

    I was primarily talking about people with scientific expertise in another field who unwittingly misapply the fruits of their experience. In Science we all develop intuitions about what we would expect to happen if we are presented with data in our field of expertise. These first impressions will be right most but not all the time. They are useful starting points for investigations. But sometimes they can lead us astray especially if we are looking at a problem which has similarities to those that we are familiar with. There is a danger that we will see the similarities and not see crucial differences which make our intuitions unreliable.

    In Science authority is based on trust in the competence and integrity of those working in a field. In some fields it is fairly easy to understand what the experts are doing and to see whether it makes sense. In others it can be difficult. Climate modeling is one of the latter. This makes it easy for those who don’t like the results to say they don’t believe them, especially when their own expertise is leading them astray. These people are likely to reject the claims of expertise of climate scientists claiming that the whole field is built on faulty foundations. They are mostly relying on the intuitions that they have formed in their own line of work when they do this. To get them to put aside their first impressions you have to see where they are coming from and get them to see the limitations of their experience and how it can lead them up the garden path.

    Rather than appeal to scientific consensus with these people you have to appeal to the consilience on which the scientific consensus is based. You have to explain how there are multiple lines of evidence supporting our current sensitivity estimates. And how those estimates lead to a consistent story which explains a lot and which wildly different estimates would not lead to.

    We cannot always take scientific authority for granted but bust sometimes spell out what it is based on.

    I was not suggesting that there was much dispute among those scientists who know what they are talking about. I was talking about how some can slip up by going outside their area of expertise and in this post I have give reasons why they might not realize that they have done so.

    And I’ve reviewed papers. I know full well that those reviews are only the first coarse filter designed to keep out the really bad stuff. You are right. The main review happens after publication.

  18. 68
    Dappled Water says:

    #15 – Juliette. See index at the top of the page. As far as discussion on the Antarctic ice:

    http://sciblogs.co.nz/degrees-of-change/2009/10/12/polar-ice-keeps-melting-%E2%80%93-at-a-faster-and-faster-rate/

  19. 69
    Paul L says:

    “The modellers likely do not fully understand all climate drivers. See recent paper by Zeebe,et al http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/v2/n8/abs/ngeo578.html

    That article says that carbon dioxide caused some of the warming in the Palaeocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum… but CO2 alone isn’t enough to explain the temperature rises. Specifically, other “processes and/or feedbacks”! Positive feedback, precisely a possibility that climate scientists are warning about!

    Seriously, you are only proving yourself wrong…

  20. 70

    Chris,

    Thank you for your wonderful summation. I will likely use this and will credit you, of course.

    For the rest of you, I need to wake up and smell the coffee! I thought I WAS writing “tenets” and you were telling me to write “tenants.” LOL.

  21. 71
    Andrew Hobbs says:

    Paul Harris, re #58

    A bonus is something taken from those who can’t afford it, and given only to those who don’t need it, for not doing what they were amply compensated for doing in the first place.

  22. 72
    Silk says:

    “Personally, I would take the lesson from this to be that we should be cautious when tinkering with complex systems that affect everything we do (like the climate or the banking system)”

    Amen to that.

    Which of the following is ‘tinkering’ with the climate system?

    a) Pumping 49 billion tonnes (CO2 equivalent) of greenhouse gases into the atmopshere every year (and that 49 billion will be closer to 75 billion by 2030 on business-as-usual), and significantly reducing global forest cover

    or

    b) not doing that

    The ‘tinkering’ is already happening, and we have a pretty darn good idea of the damage it will do.

    How about we take some significant (but in the scale of bank bailouts or arms sales not unachievable) actions to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, and cut down less trees?

    Ultimately, we are going to run out of fossil fuels. We /already/ have a range of technological alternatives that could replace them, and more are being developed/improved all the time.

    We have the technical capacity to seriously shrink that 49 billion tons over the next 30 years. How about we pull together and do it?

  23. 73
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Lloyd Flack,
    I do not think that appealing to the scientific consensus is in and of itself a mistake. Rather, I think the difficulty is in defining it. Scientific consensus is not a “majority vote” by scientists or even by experts in the field (although the latter will likely reflect consensus). What is more, there may be some aspects of the “standard model” on which there is wide agreement, while others are still hotly contested. It is for this reason that I have taken to saying consensus exists on a proposition when there are virtually no papers being published that are inconsistent with that proposition. Thus, there while climate scientists may disagree on aerosol forcing, there’s virtually no disagreement that CO2 sensitivity is around 3 degrees per doubling.

    I suggest that the best metrics for scientific consensus are 1)the number of papers published that support the consensus position; and 2)the numbers of citations of those papers that support the consensus position. This automatically favors the most fertile ideas, regardless of how people might “vote”.

  24. 74
    KevinM says:

    Ray Ladbury

    “1)I am a scientist. When I get a bonus, it has 3 significant figures to the left of the decimal place. When a securities analyst gets a bonus, it has 6 or more significant figures to the left of the decimal place. Climate science is curiosity driven. Finance is profiit/greed driven.”

    You are extending the top 1 percent of analyst compensation to represent all analysts. You are extending the most noble quality of scientific research to represent all researchers. I think we are safe assuming some degree of self selection that creates greed and aggression in financiers, and smarts and honesty in academics. While we are generalizing, I think it is also safe to ascribe a healthy portion of arrogance to each group. I believe you are very mistaken if you believe that the main parties involved in CDO underwriting foresaw the economic damage they were bound to create. I see a lot of strength in the analogy: mathematically driven model-based arts using past data to predict future results in an environment where everybody is an expert in one small part, but very few have deep understanding of the whole picture.

    “2)The problems with the CDOs and other derivatives are quite simple to understand–basically, the analysts were using nonrepresentative data to estimate risk. This is not the case with climate science.”

    If the problems with CDOs were so easy to understand, why did they crash the biggest economy in the world? Also, I understand I am probably attaching myself to an anathema, but read Steve McIntyre’s piece on the Yamal vs Polar Urals as if you did not already know he were a shill for big oil.

    “3)Climate science is peer reviewed. Financial research is proprietary.”

    No scientific activity on earth is more scrutinized by independent experts than the US financial sector. The greed and agression bias in finance draws the best and brightest. The highest paid mathematicians on earth work as actuaries in insurance companies. The pressure on an AIG actuary is not distorted by politics. They must get the correct answer. Financial analysis gets far more peer review than anything in a science magazine.

    “4)Climate science has a 30 year record of significant success. Financial research? Not so much.”

    I do not see the record of success for these fields. How do you measure it? For financial analysis you could use the S&P index’s whooping of inflation (105 in November 1979, 1095 in October 2009), or Goldman Sach’s all time record for profits during a period of 9% unemployment to say they do pretty well. I understand you could use 10 year negative S&P returns, or the collapse of Lehman to paint the opposite picture.

    “So, Kevin, do you even know any scientists?”

    Yes. For a while I called myself one, but now I build cell phones. Do you know any financial analysts?

  25. 75
    dhogaza says:

    Nortel went bust. One of the C*E executives sold EVERY SINGLE share he had two days before it tanked from its high of $92 a share to $40.

    Imagine if he’d told anyone what he saw happening in the future?

    In the US, he’d go to jail. Trading on inside information is a crime.

  26. 76
    dhogaza says:

    Economists DID predict it.

    Krugman – a Nobel prize-winning economist – says that for the vast majority, no, they didn’t. I’ll accept his judgement, sorry.

  27. 77
    Ray Ladbury says:

    David says, “I don’t think you can dismiss the analogy with financial analysts quite so easily. There are roughly 20,000 academic economists working at universities around the world, with a large portion of them doing curiosity driven research (and they are relatively low-paid, compared with investment bankers). But only a miniscule percentage of them saw any problem at all before the financial crisis.”

    Oh Bullshit! Dude, I saw trouble coming in the housing market over a decade ago. I couldn’t say when, but I knew it was inevitable given the increasing prevalance of “liar’s lo-ans.” I was pulling money out of the stock market in the months leading up to the crisis–and I am no frigging Warren Buffett. These “Who-could-have-anticipated” libertarian turds who contend everything was hunky dory are just blowing smoke…like you.

    News Flash, Sparky: Physics has a rather better predictive track record than does economics. One of the reasons for this is that physics is open and peer-reviewed, while most financial analysis is highly proprietary, and so can become insular and inbred. Climate science has an excellent track record of prediction. So we have a choice: Either base our policy on well validated science or do exactly the opposite. Science or anti-science. Choose.

  28. 78
    Gail says:

    Not to detract from the book under review but I think it’s going a bit far to be dismissive of other books about climate change. For those who are experts in the field and immersed in current research arriving at lightening speed over the intertubes, books may be out of date before they are published, but I think for those who are neophytes it helps to read an overview. I found “With Speed and Violence” by Fred Pearce to be very enlightening, and pertinent even today because it gives a history of the science and also puts things into perspective with a study of the paleoclimatic record. Another good basic primer is Joe Romm’s “Hell and High Water.”

  29. 79
    Kevin says:

    dave #48
    A Krugman piece in the New York Times for 2 March 2007. Dated in the article as 27 Feb 2008 as a pretend look back to the start of the ongoing financial storm. http://select.nytimes.com/2007/03/02/opinion/02krugman.html?hp

    And only the week before his piece in the New York Times was about the costs of doing something about climate change. http://select.nytimes.com/2007/03/02/opinion/02krugman.html?hp

  30. 80
    Mark says:

    “Not to detract from the book under review but I think it’s going a bit far to be dismissive of other books about climate change”

    How about dismissive of fiction purporting to be factual prose about climate change?

    Can we still dismiss them?

  31. 81
    Mark says:

    “Krugman – a Nobel prize-winning economist – says that for the vast majority, no, they didn’t. ”

    It was predicted by many. It was predicted by many of the unlearned (as Hank says above). It was inevitable from the processes that were taken. It wasn’t predicted WHEN it would happen in any more way than the failure of a bridge under stress can be predicted to the second, but predicted to be inevitable.

    What the majority of economists did was ignore the prediction and keep quiet on it.

    The alternative is that Hank is a better economist than the nobel prize winning Krugman.

    And how likely is that?

  32. 82
    Ike Solem says:

    Let’s consider the three fossil fuel propaganda positions, and the actual state of affairs:

    1) Global warming is not happening.

    2) Global warming is happening, but it will be beneficial.

    3) Global warming is happening, but don’t worry, we have a proprietary technological fix that will be ready ‘within a decade,’ so it’s back to business-as-usual. Sorry we can’t give you the details, but it is proprietary intellectual property, chuckle.

    The actual state of affairs?

    4) Global warming is happening and the only way to eventually reach a stable situation is to stop dumping fossilized carbon into the oceans and atmosphere as CO2 – i.e., we need to eliminate fossil fuel combustion and use renewable energy sources instead.

  33. 83
    Mark says:

    “Yes. For a while I called myself one, but now I build cell phones. Do you know any financial analysts?”

    In the US, if you’re white collar, yes, you WILL inevitably know an financial analyst.

    Even if it’s only one trying to sell you a DOW Tracker investment plan.

    “No scientific activity on earth is more scrutinized by independent experts than the US financial sector.”

    Incorrect.

    None has more interest, but it isn’t independently scrutinised. Unless to find out the “magic sauce” and copy it. Denialists aren’t trying to prove AGW, they’re trying to destroy it.

    Now, financial work is heavily REGULATED, but that again is a different thing.

    “I do not see the record of success for these fields. How do you measure it?”

    By getting the 30 year old paper predicting the climate over the next 100 years and checking how the first 30 years of predictions came out.

    Duh.

    “for financial analysis you could use the S&P index’s whooping of inflation ”

    No, that’s not showing how well predictions were made, since the value of shares depends on pyramid selling and so depends on how well you can flim-flam people into buying what you bought at a profit.

    “You are extending the top 1 percent of analyst compensation to represent all analysts. ”

    I don’t think so.

    And three figures is large for scientists working for government. Like climate scientists.

    And the basic pay is worse in government than private works, so the base pay isn’t there.

    How many financial analysts start on £12K a year? Ones that are expected to produce new ideas and formulae to make more effective use of the pyramid selling of stock exchanges, that is.

  34. 84
    John Mashey says:

    re: #78 Gail
    If one wants to understand the *science* of climate, there are numerous good books around. But “Climate Cover-Up” is not about science, it is a bout anti-science (or agnotology), the erasure of knowledge, and the processes by which people try to do that.

    Those are actually quite different topics, researched in different ways. One follows the normal buildup of science over many decades, and the other is a combination of investigative journalism, study of PR tactics, politics, psychology.

    Amazon now has 5 reviews: 4×5, 1×1.

  35. 85
    dhogaza says:

    It was predicted by many of the unlearned (as Hank says above)

    While some may be tempted to count economists as being among the “unlearned”, I don’t. :)

    After all, you did say: “Economists DID predict it.”

  36. 86

    Jeffrey Davis wrote in 6:

    The problem with that, of course, is that the physics behind AGW shows that greenhouse gases trap heat. Witness Venus. Witness Earth, for that matter. If there’s “something else” causing heating, it means that there must be 2 hidden mechanisms: another source of heat and a way to get rid of the heat trapped by CO2 and CH4 etc. The hidden way to get rid of the heat trapped by CO2 and Ch4 will be most interesting since it didn’t get rid of the heat that got us out of the last glacial period. It’s a carbon-loving, carbon-producer-loving Maxwell’s Demon.

    This is right on target — as well as the “three alternatives analysis” (either the experts are honest, ignorant regarding the subject of their expertise, or engaged in a conspiracy — now which is more credible?) provided by the post (6) by Scott Mandia you were responding to. However, one point I would also make is that the “physics” doesn’t simply consist of just theory, that is “hypothetical physical mechanisms” either to explain past or current warming, but of well-understood physical effects that are quite measurable. We have images of the earth that show carbon dioxide rendering the atmosphere opaque to infrared radiation.

    For example:

    CO2 bands in Earth’s atmosphere
    http://sci.esa.int/science-e/www/object/index.cfm?fobjectid=37190

    … which I use as my avatar at wordpress blogs. Then there is:

    Measuring Carbon Dioxide from Space with the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder
    http://airs.jpl.nasa.gov/story_archive/Measuring_CO2_from_Space/

    … which shows how — at an altitude of roughly 5 miles — carbon dioxide is thicker where the winds carry it from the heavily populated West and East coasts of the United States as it begins to mix throughout the atmosphere. We are able to measure the backradiation by carbon dioxide at the earth’s surface, and likewise the backradiation emitted by water vapor that heats the surface and even show that a super greenhouse effect occurs in the tropics where under clear skies such backradiation increases more rapidly than surface emissions as higher temperatures increase the absolute humidity (water vapor content) of the atmosphere:

    At sea surface temperatures (SSTs) larger than 300 Kelvin, the clear sky water vapor greenhouse effect was found to increase with SST at a rate of 13 to 15 watts per square meter per Kelvin. Satellite measurements of infrared radiances and SSTs indicate that almost 52 percent of the tropical oceans between 20 N and 20 S are affected during all seasons…

    Direct radiometric observations of the water vapor greenhouse effect over the equatorial Pacific Ocean
    F.P.J. Valero, W.D. Collins, P. Pilewskie, A. Bucholtz, and P.J. Flatau
    Science, 274(5307), 1773-1776, 21 March 1997

    And then as far as the climate system is concerned, the warming of the surface by sunlight and the warming of the surface by backradiation due to carbon dioxide are quite similar. You can’t argue that the climate system is less sensitive carbon dioxide the one without arguing that it is less sensitive to the sunlight. And if it is less sensitive to sunlight, then we can’t explain past climates.

    But there are some tell-tale differences. Since for example carbon dioxide at first reduces the amount of radiation that reaches the upper atmosphere and escapes to space, one of the signatures of an enhanced greenhouse effect is that the stratosphere will show a cooling trend while the surface shows a warming trend. Warming due to the sun, reduced reflective aerosols or reduced cloud cover would show the warming of both the surface and the stratosphere. But we have seen the stratosphere cool as the surface warms. Warming due to an enhanced greenhouse effect will warm the winters more quickly than summers whereas all other known causes of warming will be most strongly felt during the summer — and the warming trend of winters has been greater than that of the other seasons.

    If possible though, I would use the pictures showing the atmosphere being made more opaque to thermal radiation by carbon dioxide. It isn’t just theory. It is quite measurable — and thanks to the high tech made possible by our understanding of physics — they can even see it for themselves. The other details? Bring them in as needed.

  37. 87
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Kevin M.,
    1)My bonus DOES represent the top 1% or so of govt. scientists–so the comparison is valid. What is more, the criteria on which I was evaluated are a lot more rational to the long-term health of my agency than were the criteria applied in the financial industry. I don’t get paid when satellites go out the door. I get paid when it is validated that they’ll work.

    2)The other thing you fail to understand is that the people who used the models to say the CDOs and other derivatives were OK were not the same people who designed it. The latter had moved on to other problems as the former were continuing to apply historical data for conventional lo-ans even as riskier and riskier lo-ans were added to the portfolio. The fact of the matter is that the guys who screwed up weren’t that smart.

    Now compare that to climate science, where you have 30 years of validated model predictions, where the same people who design the models also run them and tend to do so over long periods of time–and where the models are based on validated physics, rather than statistical correlations. The analogy fails–utterly.

    I quote the following because it highlights your ignorance in detail: “No scientific activity on earth is more scrutinized by independent experts than the US financial sector. The greed and agression bias in finance draws the best and brightest.”

    Do you understand anything about the financial industry? It is woefully underfunded and understaffed. What is more, it is a patchwork of different regulationg organizations that allows companies to shop around for the most lax regulator. Contrast this to peer review, where the people doing the review are your competitors.

    And then, “The highest paid mathematicians on earth work as actuaries in insurance companies. The pressure on an AIG actuary is not distorted by politics. They must get the correct answer. Financial analysis gets far more peer review than anything in a science magazine.”

    Did it ever occur to you that the BEST mathematicians might be motivated by something OTHER THAN CASH? And as to politics…Dude, we’re talking scientists here. Some of them aren’t even cognizant of personal hygeine, let alone interpesonal skills and politics! Seriously, what a scientist cares about is understanding the thing he’s researching. Dude, YOU were never a scientist.

  38. 88
    Joe says:

    Re: financial analysts vs. climate modelers

    Krugman wrote a fascinating piece a few weeks ago that described how we wound up in our current financial mess. I don’t have time to fish the link, but it essentially broke down the two schools of economic thought (efficient market theory vs. Keynesian) and talked about how efficient market theory was just louder and more convenient, which precipitated it’s rise as the leading economic theory for the last couple of decades. Efficient market theory explicitly teaches people not to worry about things like housing bubbles and obscure derivative trading, because it holds that the market will ultimately derive enough information from whatever sources necessary to make efficient and effective decisions. Further, even in the absence of such information, efficient market theorists honestly believed that the market still auto-corrected whenever something was amiss. That theory is now demonstrably false, seeing as how our entire economy ground to a halt for almost an entire year due to the crashing of multiple, wild speculation bubbles. The market never auto-corrected for any of the glaring information gaps.

    I think this comparison deserves some special attention. There are quite a few parallels between climate skeptics and efficient market theorists – namely that both groups fervently believe that some natural force will ultimately auto-correct whatever problems are manifesting themselves in climate and economies, respectively. Further, both groups rely on science and mathematics to prove up their claims, but readily dismiss other empirical evidence that should serve as a warning sign of potential dangers ahead on the basis that there are too many variables involved to predict calamity. We’ve been seduced before by clever, convenient theories that tell us the status quo is perfectly fine – the question is: have we learned our lesson?

  39. 89
    Mark says:

    “While some may be tempted to count economists as being among the “unlearned”, I don’t. :)

    After all, you did say: “Economists DID predict it.””

    Yes, and economists did.

    Many decided that they disagreed.

    Many acted on that to unload quietly (see the story of the Nortel C*O).

    Hank isn’t an economist is he? I’m not and I knew that the housing market was due a crash. Twice I’ve been right.

    So am I brighter than a nobel prize winner economist? Is Hank?

  40. 90
    Mark says:

    ““for financial analysis you could use the S&P index’s whooping of inflation ”

    No, that’s not showing how well predictions were made, since the value of shares depends on pyramid selling and so depends on how well you can flim-flam people into buying what you bought at a profit.”

    Oh, and a good prediction would reduce the gains in stock market since there’s only so much money to go round and with good prediction readily available there’s far too few suckers to unload stock on to.

  41. 91
    Steven T. Corneliussen says:

    Thank you, John Mashey (#84), for a useful word that maybe others already knew, but I didn’t: agnotology. (Wikipedia has a nice writeup on it, beginning “Agnotology, formerly agnatology, is a neologism for the study of culturally induced ignorance or doubt, particularly the publication of inaccurate or misleading scientific data.”)

  42. 92
    dhogaza says:

    So am I brighter than a nobel prize winner economist?

    We know you think you are …

  43. 93
    Jim Eager says:

    KevinM @19 overlooks the fact that economics is the study of an aspect of human behavior, while climatology is the study of the physical world.

  44. 94
    sidd says:

    Mr. KevinM writes:

    “No scientific activity on earth is more scrutinized by independent experts than the US financial sector.”

    I was quite impressed that such eagle-eyed scrutiny chanced on Mr. Madoff after only a few decades.

    “The greed and agression bias in finance draws the best and brightest.”

    These men and women wrapped worthless assets in opacity, corrupted the rating agencies to certify them falsely, sold the result, and are currently stuffing themselves with taxpayer dollars. These men and women are thieves. And you sir, are an apologist for thieves.

    “The highest paid mathematicians on earth work as actuaries in insurance companies.”

    A man’s salary does not necessarily indicate his competence. Or his honor.

    “The pressure on an AIG actuary is not distorted by politics.”

    Excellent. Now shall we discuss the gamblers at AIG Financial Products ?

    “They must get the correct answer.”

    The answer in AIG’s case is the taxpayer owning 79.9% of the company. And a 1e8US$ bailout, with the number still rising.
    My tax dollars at work.

    “Financial analysis gets far more peer review than anything in a science magazine.”

    And recent events inform us rather well, don’t they, of quality, value, or more precisely the lack thereof, of what you call “peer review” ?

  45. 95
    Mark A. York says:

    “Can we still dismiss them?”

    Yeah, if the science is misrepresented. See Crichton.

  46. 96

    Lloyd Flack wrote in 51:

    We have several different groups of climate change deniers and it is not a good idea to lump them in all together.

    First we have those with some expertise in the area like Lindzen. Second we have those with a scientific or technical background but not in Climate Science. And third we have those without much in the way of scientific or technical knowledge. Not all the motivations are the same in all these groups.

    Well, let’s take a look at your first group, starting with Lindzen…

    As Steve Bloom points out in a recent thread at Tamino’s, while it is possible to consider Lindzen a climatologist in the sense that he contributed a theory (the “iris effect”) over a decade ago to climatology literature, his theory no longer has any credibility whatsoever. Furthermore, his only claim to expertise is in the physics of short-term weather. And as Ray Ladbury pointed out in the same thread, Lindzen has proven himself dishonest in public debate.

    What of others in climatology?

    As Ray Ladbury points out:

    … while science is ultimately about what the evidence allows us to say and with what strength, there are inevitably some scientists who are better at interpreting the evidence than others. These people tend to have deep insight into their field of study, and this often is reflected in their publication record and its influence (e.g. # of citations). I’ve pointed to this website of citations of climate authors before, but it’s worth pointing out again that the denialists are way, way down the list. Lindzen has the most impressive publication record, but most of his “influential” papers are decades old! Likewise Spencer, Christy–and the other denialists barely even make the list. In fact, the only denialists who make the top 200 who have any expertise related to climate at all are Lindzen (#122), Kukla (#172–also long of tooth), Baliunas (#173–note that there does seem to be a “cabal” of solar scientists in the denialist community), Legates (#184) and Bruce West (not really a climate scientist, but has published with Scafetta). So none of the top 100, 5 out of the top 200 and maybe 22 out of the top 500 are dissenters having any relevant expertise at all–and that’s a generous count.

    That’s consensus.

    What of your second group?

    Gary Herstein addressed this in some detail in 61, but I’ll quote the following:

    You would not turn to your postal carrier for medical advice, nor would you turn to your physician for recommendations for the best route to follow in your neighborhood for making deliveries.

    Those in your third group — with no scientific expertise? Irrelevant as far as current scientific knowledge is concerned.

    Later in 55, Lloyd Flack wrote:

    A mistake that many of us are making is in appealing too much to the scientific consensus as an argument for why people should believe that AGW is happening…. What scientists do appeal to is consilience, that different lines of enquiry lead to the same conclusions.

    Albeit indirectly, different lines of enquiry supporting the same conclusions is precisely what a scientific consensus consists of.

    Lloyd Flack continued:

    Shouldn’t we be emphasizing how everything fits together? Yes, these arguments are not brief but we have to tell people that there aren’t any brief simple arguments in this field. They have to sit down for awhile and pay attention.

    We can do that, too. But we can point to the scientific consensus as well — as essentially a high level summary the state of our scientific knowledge in this area, and not simply what evidence or scientific arguments we are able to repeat given limited time and the limits of our own knowledge while they sit still.

  47. 97

    PS Where I quoted Ray Ladbury just above but failed to give the link, that was in a thread at Tamino’s. This is the link.

  48. 98
    Recycler says:

    SecularAnimist #38 wrote:
    Recycler wrote: “… just a pervasive layer of ignorance that spreads across most of the scientific community.”

    What are you recycling other than drivel? Here we have the classic case of the crank who actually believes that he, and he alone, knows the SIMPLE AND OBVIOUS REASON why all of climate science is WRONG — a SIMPLE AND OBVIOUS REASON that has somehow eluded the grasp of hundreds and hundreds of dedicated, diligent, highly trained scientists from all over the world who have studied the issue for decades.

    Wow! A little over-reaction, perhaps? Maybe I didn’t choose the most diplomatic of words, but let me explain, with some help from Donald Rumsfeld. “There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. These are things we do not know we don’t know.”

    It’s obvious that the GCMs can only incorporate the known knowns. Do the model builders understand every aspect of each known physical process they incorporate? No,of course not, but the scientists who contribute them obviously do. But do these contributors understand all the others. That’s inconceivable, so they inevitably have unknown knowns.

    And then there are the known areas of ignorance. These are listed in the AR4 report, as in all the others, and though the wording is designed to minimize the impact of the depth of ignorance, it is in places profound. Cloud physics, for example, interaction between the sun and the earth, the hugely complex but totally unknown cyclic variation in the sun (beyond the obvious sunspot cycle) and similar for the oceanic currents.

    And then there are the unknown unknowns. Does anyone suppose for a moment the lists of unknown science in AR4 are complete?

    So, by definition, there is a “pervasive layer of ignorance that spreads across most of the scientific community.” It’s inevitable, given the sizee and complexity of the problem.

    So, Mr. Animist, I’m quite prepared for you to regard me as a crank, but I tend to regard scientists who are so convinced of the completeness of their understanding and the certainty of their belief in AGW as cranks, too. Or, at the very least, as lacking in a certain amount of intellectual honesty.

    Unless you (and the rest of the RC regulars) can show convincingly how three quadrants of Rumsfeld’s analysis can be fully removed from the discussion of GCM results, I think you should carefully consider your position!

    [Response: you need to spend more time reading past posts here. You will find frequent mention of Rumsfeld’s dictum and a complete absence of evidence for the certainty you assert that we have with regards to the future. However if your point is to assert that since we don’t know everything, we therefore know nothing, you are wasting your time and ours. -gavin]

  49. 99

    PS PS

    Where I state above in response to LLoyd Flack:

    … we can point to the scientific consensus as well — as essentially a high level summary the state of our scientific knowledge in this area, and not simply what evidence or scientific arguments we are able to repeat given limited time and the limits of our own knowledge while they sit still.

    … this is an article that I wrote on the nature of scientific consensus which I should have included.

  50. 100

    Re:14:
    “Rush Limbaugh does not know a single thing about the science behind global warming. What he does know is proposed measures to mitigate warming in the form of laws, regulations and international treaties will result in more government and bureaucrat influence and power, and a loss of freedom and individual liberty.”

    Limbaugh needs to take the bone out of his brain and consider the government and bureaucratic influence that has favored the fossil fuel industry all along in the form of subidies, land leases and giveaways, tax incentives, and depletion allowances.


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