RealClimate logo


Claude Allègre: The Climate Imposter

Filed under: — group @ 28 April 2010

Guest Commentary by Georg Hoffmann

In mathematical proofs, it’s a well-known fact that if at some point you divide by zero accidentally or on purpose, then you end up being able to prove absolutely anything you want – for instance, that 2+2=5 or that 1+1=0. The same phenomena appears to govern any number of publications that conclude that climate science is all a fraud – at some point, an impossible calculation is performed and from then on, anything (and everything) can be proven. Critical thinking appears to vanish.

The latest example is that of Claude Allègre – whose recent book “The climate imposture” would have you believe at least six impossible things before breakfast and a great many more before dinner. This is notable because Allègre is one of the most eminent figures in science communication in France, Academie de Sciences member, Crafoord prize winner, former minister of education and research and a fixture on the late night talk shows in France (including a topical satirical version of the ‘muppets’). One might expect a certain degree of rigour from an author with such a pedigree, but on the contrary, nearly every explanation, graphic, or citation in this book is misleading or just plain wrong. If Allègre was not such a high profile figure in France, this nonsense would have been dismissed and ignored, instead, it is regular fodder for the late night talk shows. In my entire career I have never seen so many factual errors in a single publication. It is truly a remarkable work!

It is practically impossible to give a complete overview of what is wrong with the Allègre’s book. However, some people have made a good start: Stephane Foucart, a science journalist at Le Monde, wrote a piece on Le cent-fautes de Claude Allegre (the ‘Hundred Errors’ – this is a play on words, ‘un sans-faute’ (pronounced the same way) means a perfect score) and Sylvestre Huet from the Liberation started a series of debunkings and is now at part five (also in French) and which he has turned into a short book! I started my own list of errors here (in German).

One of the more egregious examples of blatant making stuff up was covered by Science last week (following on from a post by Huet who revealed that Allègre had hand-drawn a continuation of tree-ring data from Hakan Grudd to show cooling over the 21st Century – something of course that no trees could possibly show (at least yet!). Even before Allegre “improved” the data by drawing in an extension more to his liking, the implication that Grudd’s work in any way challenges the prevailing view of unusual large scale warming in recent years was highly misleading. Grudd’s paper (available here, open access) deals solely with summer temperatures at Lake Tornetrask in Northern Sweden, and the paper states clearly that “although the climate of northern Fennoscandia seems to have been significantly warmer during medieval times as compared to the late-twentieth century, the published composite records of northern hemisphere climate (Moberg et al. 2005) do not show a conspicuously warm period around AD 1000.” Once again, Allègre has shown himself willing to jump on any curve “going my way,” regardless of its relevance.

But much of the joy of reading this book is in details – things that it would be trivial to get right without having much impact on the general thesis being put forward, but instead reveal without doubt that the author does not have a single clue about the subject. So let’s start (all translations are mine and reasonably accurate):

  • The first thing one might notice is that almost every non-french scientist has their name spelled wrong: Solansky for Sami Solanki; Usoskiev for Ilya Usoskin and Funkel for Richard Finkel. The most amusing case is during the discussion of tropical cyclones with climate change, where he lists three names of people who have posited a connection: “Wester, Tech and Kerry Emmanuel”. Everyone of course recognizes Kerry Emanuel (despite the incorrect spelling), and “Wester” is (also misspelled) Peter Webster (of Webster et al, 2006). But who was this eminent Hurricane expert Tech? I had no idea until Stephane Foucart lifted the veil. Peter Webster is from the Georgia Institute of Technology, frequently abbreviated to simply “Georgia Tech”. So in his “extensive literature studies” Allègre probably found a line like “Peter Webster, Georgia Tech, thinks that …” and voila! Professor Tech was born!

  • On page 53, in a typical example of his style, Allegre writes that

    ”Jones declares that the global mean temperature raised by 0.6% [sic]. …. How can he claim such a precision with such sampling errors? Nevertheless, Hansen-the-fanatic, without revealing his sources, immediately approves of Jones curve. Those who made statistics based on such shortcomings in sampling are discredited as scientists”.

    Wow. We’re pretty sure that most people measure temperature deviations in degrees, so maybe the ‘%’ was just a simple typo. The characterisation of Hansen is presumably hyperbole (though see below for worse treatment), but given that all of the sources of the GISTEMP temperature record (which was first published in 1987) are available online (along with all the source code, and completely independent replication), the ‘without revealing his sources’ line is a little rich (especially given Allègre’s undocumented ‘extrapolation’ (cough) of the Grudd data series mentioned above.

  • On page 300, the greenhouse effect is explained, but for some reason CO2 is not considered to be a ‘real’ greenhouse gas. He says explicitly there are three such gases, water vapour, carbon dioxide and methane (This is a pretty large simplification since it neglects ozone, N2O, any number of CFCs, and theoretically pretty much any gas with a structure that has three or more atoms). He continues:

    ”It is due to water vapour, and water vapour alone, that the mean temperature at the Earth surface is +15°C and not -18°C”.

    This again is plain wrong. Depending a bit how you weight the overlapping spectral absorptions of the different greenhouse gases the contribution of CO2 to the total greenhouse effect is about 20% (with water vapour giving 50% and 25% for clouds, which we are sure that Allègre realises are made of condensate (liquid water and ice) and not vapour…). And indeed, since water vapour in particular is a feedback to the temperatures, removal of CO2 will certainly lead to cooling and a subsequent reduction in water vapour.

  • Unsurprisingly, Allègre is of course very sceptical about the use of computer models, and thinks they are taking up all the money available for research (an error that would be easily corrected by looking at NASA’s budget for instance) and so his preference for ‘true’ observations is clear. Take the last interglacial period for instance (also known as the Eemian), around 125,000 years ago. He compares (see figure above) something called the “Gore curve” with something called the “true curve” (la courbe veritable). Al Gore actually shows the temperature and CO2 evolution from Epica Dome C for the last 600.000 years. So let’s assume that this is in fact what Allègre means. Amusingly, this image from the movie shows that Allègre’s hand drawn version of the bottom curve (the reconstructed temperature in East Antarctica) is profoundly different (in the relative warmth at the Eemian, and the number of cycles), but let’s move on…

    Skipping past the inconsistency in the text where he says that until now the best estimate for the last interglacial temperature in Antarctica was +3°C (compared to present) while his “Gore curve” has a zero anomaly compared to today, let’s look at the justification for the new ‘true’ estimate of +6°C warmer. This is referenced to a paper by Sine et al, 2007 in Science (note that every piece of that reference is wrong: as usual, the name is misspelled (it’s Louise Sime, not Sine), the year was 2009 and the publication was in Nature – easy mistakes, I guess).

    Ice core temperature reconstructions such as Dome C are based on the isotopic composition of the ice. This isotope signal needs careful calibration and Louise Sime and colleagues make the point that under warm climate conditions such as the Eemian the calibration developed for cold climate conditions might be different – in fact isotopes during warm periods might be less sensitive to temperature, and so applying the cold-climate calibration might underestimate actual temperatures. However, their results would therefore only concern the time period at the peak of the ultimate interglacial, and does not have any implications for the cold climate values. Note however, that Allègre’s ‘one true curve’ seems to have had a warm trend imposed from 125,000 years ago to the present. I contacted Louise Sime and asked if she thought this was a good use of her paper. She made it clear that she’d not had any exchange with Claude Allègre and that her paper does not discuss the temperature reconstruction over the entire glacial-interglacial period at all (that would be a ‘no’).

    In summary, Allègre presents a ‘true curve’ which is hand-drawn, in which an Antarctic temperature record is described as a global mean, on which he imposes a long term trend which is credited to Sime and colleagues who completely disown it. And the irony of ironies? Sime’s results are based on a climate model.

  • The phase relation between CO2 and temperatures in the Antarctic ice cores is a frequent source of confusion, and Allègre doesn’t attempt to miss this opportunity to confuse further. As is well known, both temperature and CO2 are correlated to the Milankovitch cycles in complex ways – with both climate acting on the carbon cycle and with the CO2 level changing climate through it’s role as a greenhouse gas. The changes over time have been described as a “chicken and egg” situation in which changes in one component affect the other – however the first one was changed initially (Lorius et al, 1990). Thus the leads and lags involved doesn’t have any impact on climate sensitivity calculations, but it is important for understanding carbon cycle feedbacks which might affect future concentrations of CO2. Allègre makes the standard (and illogical) contrarian argument that if eggs follow chickens then chickens cannot follow eggs, and highlights the paper by Caillon et al, 2003 that constrained the CO2 lag to about 800 years (though with large uncertainties) based on work from his PhD. According to Allègre, Caillon was then ‘punished’ by his institute (which is mine too) for publishing this paper. So I called Nicolas to ask about this ‘punishment’. Once he stopped laughing, he pointed out that he is doing exactly what he wants to be doing (developing measuring technologies) and is very happy with his permanent (tenured) position at CNRS. I’m sure more people would love to be punished like that!
  • It is a very common technique in debating to try and suggest that your argument is correct by claiming that more and more important people are agreeing with it. Allègre makes frequent use of this tactic, but Sylvestre Huet made the effort to call some of these alleged “heretics” and “insurgents” and found that they didn’t agreed with Allègre’s position at all. Allègre additionally claims (p138) that there is even numerical proof for this reversal in the opinion among “american specialists of climate”. However, the source for this claim was a 2009 survey among American TV weather presenters. In a further effort to round up some support, he cites Bill Ruddiman’s hypothesis that human land use change was an important climate forcing over the last few thousand years. But Ruddiman’s theory works via the influence of prehistoric man on the global methane and carbon cycle and needs their greenhouse effects to work! [RC note: Allègre isn’t the only contrarian to have mistakenly dragooned Ruddiman to their cause – see this earlier example!]

Overall, the book is as full with conspiracy theories and insults against climate scientists as any blog you might find on the wilder shores of the internet. However I have never seen something as bad as this from someone who is a leading member of a National Academy of Science. Lindzen (a member of US National Academy) writes articles that are a model of scientific decorum in comparison! In describing the history of the different IPCC reports Allègre introduces the different participants as “religious fanatics”, “Marxists” in search for new arguments to destroy the civil society, “greedy” and “mediocre scientists” (all literal expressions from the manuscript). The list of accusations against Jim Hansen for example is nearly unbelievable. Among other things Allègre makes the astonishing claim that during the last 15 years Hansen has done no scientific work and that he has forced his collaborators to put his name on the publications. Over that period, Hansen has listed 68 publications with 37 as first author – thus the scale of his perfidy would need to have been immense! I asked Gavin whether GISS is really the slave camp implied, and he just laughed. Hansen presumably can’t be bothered to deal with this kind of accusation, but Allègre’s claim is almost certainly libelous.

The truly astonishing thing though is how hermetically sealed and impervious to fact Allègre’s whole argument is. No-one is honest, every result is fraudulent (excepting of course, Allègre’s ‘true curves’), no-one is without an agenda (except Allègre of course, and possibly Michael Crichton) and any scientist espousing the mainstream view or journalist questioning him is a Stalinist. Any contradiction of his arguments is simply proof that you are part of the conspiracy. It is this error that is the equivalent of ‘dividing by zero’ – once you have convinced yourself that only your own opinion matters, you can prove absolutely anything to your own satisfaction – but, unfortunately, to no-one else’s.


462 Responses to “Claude Allègre: The Climate Imposter”

  1. 51
    Andy Park says:

    Allegre may be an idiot. However, no matter how much his arguments are sliced, diced, falsified and demolished, the mere existence of such a book is a victory for the so-called-skeptics because it adds to the exponential growth of BS about climate change. The truth appears to be drowning in oceans of this BS. because any and all information about climate change is treated more or less equally by sensationalist mainstream media, and a general public that knows little about how science is pursued, let alone the technical details of climate change.

    As a professor, I have found that even science students get to the end of their degrees without necessarily understandding how science is done. I still get 4th year science majors who talk about setting out to “prove a hypothesis”. Such folks migth well be a receptive audience to Allegre’s creative graphical manipulations.

  2. 52
    Bryson Brown says:

    @38: I’m very interested in this question. As a philosopher, I’m all too familiar with the standard range of skeptical maneuvers, which allow anyone to pretend to be paying attention to arguments and evidence without ever actually conceding any point s/he doesn’t want to concede. Normally, though, this kind of behaviour is ironic sport, not part of serious debate; of course for philosophers it’s a starting point for exploring ideas about rationality and evidence.

    The psychological literature on motivated belief shows that reported beliefs do shift when motives for a belief are introduced. But those shifts are relatively small– they don’t provide a credible model for the kind of ‘living in another world’ we’re looking at in the case of AGW denial.

    So I’m inclined to a more sociological model: confidence in our reliability develops as we learn that our own reports and beliefs match those of others we regard as reliable/ authoritative. This accounts for the acquisition of confidence in our everyday observational reports: as we grow up, we learn that we can reliably make reports (about objects’ colours, position etc.) that others agree with. So we come to take agreement as a proxy for reliability. The existence of an established community (including elements in the popular press, multiple web-sites etc.) in which AGW-denial is accepted enables individual deniers to become extremely confident about their views.

    Building a community like this can involve feedback between motivated individuals, artificial inducements (propaganda/ deliberate funding and publicity for the expression of such views regardless of the evidence), and sociological factors (paranoia about scientists’ motives and political views, pre-established doubts in social conservative circles about science related to issues like evolution and environmental issues).

    Individuals like Allegre– people who have shown real competence in the sciences, but nevertheless display gross incompetence and overconfidence on a particular topic (and tend to make wild accusations of dishonesty and incompetence against others)– are an interesting side-bar here. Success (i.e. experiencing agreement from others– especially on initially contested issues) breeds confidence. And some individuals seem more subject than others to the delusion that their competence and authority in one area translates automatically to others (F. Dyson strikes me as an example). Sadly, others are also taken in by this pseudo-authority– so that MDs who doubt evolution, and weather reporters who doubt global warming, are cited as authorities by other members of the denial community… Cherry-picking and selective skepticism are essential to maintaining/defending such a community, and these are reinforced by accusations of dishonesty and bizarre conspiracy claims directed against contrary sources.

    But at this level there’s enough symmetry that it’s difficult to persuade someone that they’re aligned with the wrong community. The real, underlying asymmetry (I think) emerges when you look for indications of independent cross-checks (which are central to justifying confidence in ordinary observations) and depth of argumentation (which side stops responding and begins to merely repeat itself in debate). A very interesting phenomenon– not to mention scary, whenever the issues involved have real importance…

    Sorry for the long post– I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently.

  3. 53
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Andy,
    First, Allegre is not an idiot. Actually, he appears to be the sort of scientist I’ve run into previously who relies on intuition almost entirely and can rarely be bothered to do the math. Such scientists can be very effective within their own expertise, and they tend to be so hyperkinetic that they get a lot done. However, in unfamiliar fields they often make ludicrous blunders. Often they simply cannot understand that their intuition has failed them.

    And while I agree that most graduates don’t understand the scientific method (hell, most practicing scientists don’t understand it in all its subtleties), I don’t think the truth is in danger of drowning unless we stop asking nature questions. Allegre and the other denialists are effective because they are telling us what we want to hear–that everything is going to be all right. We’d all love to just get on with our lives and our careers, knowing that our progeny will have a world that is as livable as our own. Nature keeps telling us otherwise. And she will keep telling us otherwise–occasionally raising the volume–until we listen. Now it may be that we listen too late to avoid the worst consequences. If so, it will be because we CHOSE to listen to comforting lies rather than the truth. This is a litmus test of human intelligence and honesty. Unfortunately, it is only sensitive to the mean rather than the upper 10%.

  4. 54
    Eamon says:

    Ah, I was wondering where this letter to the Japan Times declaring that Les Academie des Sciences had disputed the “scientific consensus” was coming from – obviously from Claude Allègre, in his role as ‘Les Academie des Sciences’!

    (No need to dispute the letter – I’ve done so <a href="http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/rc20100214a5.html"already)

  5. 55
    Edward Greisch says:

    Gavin: feel free to delete:
    Even “better” reasoning I heard 3 days ago: “GW can’t happen because it isn’t predicted in the Bible.”
    :) :)
    Laughing Out Loud!

  6. 56
    Svatli says:

    Nice post. This is kind of information we’ll need to get on sites like RC + all the other good articles :)

    Now I will be prepared for skeptical claims that “Allegre former one of the most eminent figures in science communication in France, Academie de Sciences member”, has written a “good” book where he shows a “proof” that the science is all fraud. Now I can be on guard for those claim, thanks.

    But it should be some kind a responsibility for those who publish books, not to publish fraud like those (just for the money presumably). Maybe it should be (if it isn’t already) some kind of regulations for what kind of fraud is allowed to publish, at least if it is done as some kind of the sciencelitterature. There’s almost no way of refuting these claims for the readers which has bought the book and haven’t a clue that the claims are build on a fabrication of data and “facts”.

  7. 57
    Steve Missal says:

    Re: 29 Tom S says:
    “This article would read better if it didn’t lead with a bunch of information on spelling, this only shows sloppy writing, which is on par with sloppy record keeping on temperature data, I don’t care about either, unless it is material.”

    Tom: 1) Please read Wiltgren’s reply carefully in 48.
    2) Think about Allegre’s glib dismissal of factual errors as not important in the context of debate about such an important topic.
    3) Think about how public policy is often driven by general attitudes from bottom up in such debates, and if the masses can be convinced that scientists are liars and fools, then, despite the extraordinarily foolish consequences, those who decide policy will bend to the will of the denialists (the politicians, after all, have to be re-elected…except in some countries)
    4) Current debates about climate change have been hijacked by skillful propagandists, and apparently Allegre has joined their ranks, albeit the reason for this is opaque. I would not even hazard a guess; his motives, as stated…’political’, fly in the face of his background and scientific pedigree. Strange, yet even such people can be co-opted….

    [edit - such comparisons are not useful, even if you state your point clearly. Sorry]

    This is so crucial to understand and act upon that it bears lengthy reflection. Yes, I too would love more scientific posts (re: Wilt’s comment), yet the times demand that those who love knowledge must also put on the boxing gloves and engage.
    Hopefully, some day, we will see integrity resume its proper place in solving the pressing and potentially life-threatening issue of climate change and all that that entails. Right now, we must call out those who wish to leave the world of integrity in the shadows. Uncomfortable, but necessary.

  8. 58
    Rocco says:

    Wilt:

    “If this site is really focusing on climate science, then we could perhaps discuss the recent article by S. Allison et al. in Nature Geoscience, which concludes that in response to increasing temperature there is a decrease of CO2 released from soil microbes”

    http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/vaop/ncurrent/abs/ngeo846.html

    From the abstract:

    “We conclude that the soil-carbon response to climate warming depends on the efficiency of soil microbes in using carbon.”

    You are not even trying.

  9. 59
    Edward Greisch says:

    Are you sure Allènde isn’t joking? How much was Alegra paid by the fossil fuel industry? Clide Allègre may be cashing in to secure his old age.

    World News Now [ABC night] is also ramping up the anti-nuclear propaganda. Which means the coal industry is scared. Which means RC is having a devastating effect. Let’s keep up the good work! Launch another article or comment!

  10. 60
    Ike Solem says:

    One amusing point – Robert Murdoch Family Trust and the Saudi Royals (the primary owners of FOX News and the Wall Street Journal) are doing extensive PR work to promote Allegre and his cohort. The Saudis also were working overtime to undermine the Copenhagen conference – their typical role at such events. Why? They don’t want their biggest addict, the United States, to stop importing their sour crude – that’s simple enough.

    I took a look at Claude J. Allegre’s previous work… He also claims that Kilimanjaro’s loss of ice is unrelated to the atmospheric increases in persistent gases like CO2, CH4, N2O, CFCs, (and the associated water vapor feedback increase), as modified by aerosol injections.

    Compare that to the most recent paper by Thompson et al. on Kilimanjaro (2009 PNAS) The basic issue is this:

    The areal extent of Kilimanjaro’s ice cover has decreased 85% from 12.06 km2 in 1912 to 1.85 km2 in 2007. Linear extrapolation of ice extent to the time axis [1912 to 2007, R2=0.98; Fig. 2 Inset] suggests that the glaciers will disappear from the summit of Kibo in 2022.

    The cause? Here’s one widely circulated press report from 2007:

    (Reuters) – The snows of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania have been diminishing for more than a century but probably not due to global warming, researchers report [in the 2007 July-August edition of American Scientist magazine]…”It is certainly possible that the icecap has come and gone many times over hundreds of thousands of years,” Mote, a climatologist, said in a statement.

    The rebuttal from Thompson et al. 2009:

    For example, Kilimanjaro’s NIF[nothern ice field] has persisted for at least 11,700 years, and

  11. 61
    Andy S says:

    Here are direct links to pdfs (in French) debunking Allègre and Courtillot .

    I wonder what the French for “whack-a-mole” is? Frapper-la-taupe probably makes no sense at all.

  12. 62
    James Staples says:

    When compared to the lessened solation/volcanic debris in the Stratosphere induced ‘Little Ice Age’ I have NO DOUBT that the Climate, in 1000 CE, was considerably warmer than it was in the Middle Ages!
    And then there is, of course, the fact that – were it NOT for Anthro-forcing – we’d be slowly slipping onto a ‘New Ice Age’ at this point in time; as that could also account for this ‘annomily’.
    And I – a mere ‘lay-polymath’ – took this crap down that far after reading just the FIRST half this (once again) Fine Item!
    Reminds me of something I once had on a Poster when I was a Teenager – “Great Spirits will always encounter Violent Opposition from MEDIOCRE Minds!”
    Who said THAT? A man who PUBLISHED before he got a Doctorate! (My DREAM).

  13. 63
    ChrisD says:

    Poor detective work on “Professor Tech”. I have located the real guy:

    http://www.myspace.com/slick_fitty

    Note mood: “Distressed”. Well, no wonder.

  14. 64
    Elias says:

    Oh boy. I’d figured the French class I took in high school would eventually enable me to escape the insanity of the anglophile world. I guess that’s not the case.

  15. 65
    Dan says:

    Regarding “Professor Tech”, it will be interesting and quite amusing to see which of the American news media (e.g. Fox) and anti-science op-ed writers/politicians (e.g. George Will, Sarah Palin, etc.) , refer to or quote “Professor Tech”!

  16. 66
    Steve Missal says:

    Thanks for the edit. You’re correct. Perhaps in some other forum.

    Ultimately, what confounds me is why there is currently such an vociferous attack on science. Reading the denialist case is like encountering a man who’s leg is on fire, and when you point this dire situation out to him, refuses to acknowledge same, and counter-accuses you of verbal mischief!

  17. 67
    Walter Manny says:

    Ray, not a scientific quibble, to be sure, but when you say “Allegre and the other denialists are effective because they are telling us what we want to hear – that everything is going to be all right,” I would disagree. It has not been my experience that people only want to hear that everything is going to be all right. The world would be a pretty dull place if it were not also inhabited by its doomsayers, people who spend their lives, rightly or wrongly, wringing their hands about any number of Armageddons. As you always remind us, it’s only the science. That science can by misconstrued by Pollyannas and Chicken Littles alike and is unaffected by either.

  18. 68
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “And then there is, of course, the fact that – were it NOT for Anthro-forcing – we’d be slowly slipping onto a ‘New Ice Age’ at this point in time;”

    As long as “at this point in time” means “within the next 10,000 years”.

    Just a bummer that avoiding that will flood 80% of people’s homes and most of the largest cities in the world.

    Still, as long as you get your shares, Andy.

  19. 69
    Completely Fed Up says:

    James.

    Oops

  20. 70
    wilt says:

    Ike Solem (#60) and others may be interested in a Nature article (2009) on the Kilimanjaro icecap and the role of natural variability in precipitation. The authors observed that the monsoon rainfall varied at 11,500 year intervals. During the very dry period around 12,000 years ago, Kilimanjaro was ice-free. At the start of the Holocene there was locally an extreme amount of precipitation and an icecap was formed. So, natural variability determined by solar insolation and precipitation patterns significantly effects the amount of ice on the Kilimanjaro. http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v462/n7273/abs/nature08520.html

  21. 71
    Ron Broberg says:

    @Jim #39: Does anyone understand why they do it?

    Politics.

    In my opinion, there is common trend among many in the ‘tear down climate science’ camp which arises from their fear of the economic and political consequences of the political reactions that could follow from a wide spread acceptance that AGW is real and could have significant costs to future generation. Because they fear the politics, they fight the science. In short, their political ideologies override their scientific integrity.

    OTOH, you will notice that there are many among the more scientifically literate in the anti-AGW camp that are often satisfied to raise doubt about AGW without actual claiming that it false – since doubt itself is often sufficient to slow political action.

    Obviously Allègre isn’t one of the more nuanced.

    Now let me say a word in their defense:

    Politics is often used as a dirty word; I don’t use it here in that sense. Those that are motivated to attack the science because of politics often do so because they fear the cure worse than the disease. They fear that carbon taxes or carbon trading will hurt the economy worse than the actual damage caused by AGW. I think that this is a debatable point. I would welcome a situation where the actual discussion revolved around “How much damage will be done by AGW?” and “How much will mitigation cost?” and “How much will prevention cost?”. But I believe that too many believe that they are better served by denying everything (AGW is a hoax! You can’t trust any climate science!), then by allowing AGW and moving on to the discussion of costs and mitigation.

  22. 72
    Ike Solem says:

    Oops, that got cut off:

    The rebuttal from Thompson et al. 2009:

    For example, Kilimanjaro’s NIF (northern ice field) has persisted for at least 11,700 years, and

  23. 73
    Armando says:

    Here is some more debunking in Le Monde :

    http://tinyurl.com/yhdo2xz

    really incredible…

  24. 74
    Aaron Lewis says:

    So much for the myth that bad (climate) science is limited to a few American denialists that either work for the fossil fuel industry or (American) conservatives that are philosophically opposed to regulation.

    It would appear that there is at least one other motivation for spouting bad science. Money in French science circles? French conservatives opposed to regulation?

    I think he is a willful senior with enough of a reputation to get stuff published without editing. The fact that it is a good seller confirms the publisher’s decision to publish without editing. Good sales means that C. A. can get more stuff published regardless of what we say here. In fact, the factual book on AGW that we would like, might not bring in as much revenue. In short, C. A. is crazy like an old fox, and getting paid for it.

  25. 75
    wilt says:

    Response to Rocco (#58), here are some more relevant lines from the abstract: “Here we explore these mechanisms using a microbial-enzyme model to simulate the responses of soil carbon to warming by 5 °C. We find that declines in microbial biomass and degradative enzymes can explain the observed attenuation of soil-carbon emissions in response to warming. Specifically, reduced carbon-use efficiency limits the biomass of microbial decomposers and mitigates the loss of soil carbon.”
    I provide the link here again so that you (and others interested) can read the WHOLE abstract: http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/vaop/ncurrent/abs/ngeo846.html

    From the abstract:

  26. 76
    Mike of Oz says:

    @38:

    The claim [that water vapour alone influences temperature] is in principle correct as the “climate” on the moon shows, with a temperature difference between day and night of about 300°C.

    Well that just completely wrecked my basic understanding of temperature influences on other planets. Now I need to find a book on planetary/solar system science which explains how this is so. Wish me luck.

    [Response: Well,you could try Principles of Planetary Climate, available in December from Cambridge University Press. In Chapter 3 there, I explain that atmospheres have many effects besides the greenhouse effect — something that was well understood by people studying the temperature of the Moon a hundred years ago. One of those effects is to transport heat and even out geographic and diural variations. The “high temperature” misleadingly quoted for the Moon by #36 is just at the subsolar point (the actual number there is more like 100C). The night side falls to something like -100C, and the average temperature a half meter below the surface would be more like 255K — just what the Earth would have without the atmosphere. It’s all physics, and it’s all understood. Commenter #36 is a shameless obfuscator. –raypierre]

  27. 77

    46. Completely Fed Up says:
    28 April 2010 at 10:04 AM

    I forget the source of the quote, but here it is:
    All that is required for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

    That would be Edmund Burke speaking — ironically enough, I suppose — on the French Revolution. The quote itself has never been properly cited, so it is possible the attribution is in essence an urban legend.

  28. 78
    Septic Matthew says:

    37, Shaka: The issue of “what to do” about AGW is related to climate modeling (as you have to use models to predict what a certain change would do), but really, most of the proposed solutions to global warming are just terrible, inefficient, or contradictory. 30% of all our CO2 is produced by cars, 40% by the power industry, 10% by concrete plants, and 20% by all other categories. Any solution that, say, reduces CO2 emissions in the “other” category by 10% while ignoring the other sectors will have a very minor impact on CO2 emissions (-2%), while often costing ridiculous amounts of money to implement.

    I think that you might be behind on technology development. Solar, wind and biofuels are becoming more productive and cheaper while oil and coal are becoming more expensive and are finite. We may already be at the peak productive capacity for oil, because worldwide production has been nearly constant over the last 5 years despite a great increase in price; coal is becoming more expensive because of increased demand from China and because of increased demand that the noxious by-products be cleaned from the exhaust gas. What you call “ridiculous amounts of money to implement” may right now still favor fossil fuels (or may not), but changes in the ridiculous amounts of money are moving in the direction of favoring renewables.

    New technologies are frequently presented at web pages called Energy-Daily and Brave New Climate:

    http://www.energy-daily.com/

    http://bravenewclimate.com/

    Limits on oil are presented at The Oil Drum:

    http://www.theoildrum.com/

    I share your disdain for the Kyoto Treaty and I disdained the Copenhagen Summit, but limits to fossil fuels and the availability of alternatives are worthy of consideration.

    There is a lot in common between preventing AGW and building the next generations of energy economies.

  29. 79
    John Mashey says:

    re: #39, #52, #59, #79 on motivations
    I have no idea what motivates Allegre, and I always counsel people to avoid the “paid by Exxon” oversimplification, which as best as I can tell, is true only for a relative handful of people.

    But if people want to think about motivations, please take a look at CCC @ DeSmogBlog, specifically Figures 2.6 and 2.5, which catalog the various reasons I’ve seen for climate science, and do a cross-product of them with organizations and individuals. There are nearly 30 more-or-less distinct reasons in 5 categories, although some occur together often.

    Think of these reasons as atoms, and a molecule is a combination of them. However, here sometimes to be isomers as well, where the molecular composition is the same, but the order is different. Different people may acquire the same set of reasons, but in different order. Certainly, some combinations seem to occur frequently, but he certainly does not seem part of the USA-dominated (well, K-street-dominated :-)) think tank machinery.

    Somebody more familiar than I with Allegre might peruse this list and suggest plausible combinations.

  30. 80
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “So much for the myth that bad (climate) science is limited to a few American denialists that either work for the fossil fuel industry or (American) conservatives that are philosophically opposed to regulation.”

    Keep you Aaaron, kid.

    Practice martyrdom much?

    PS have a check over here:
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2010/04/claude-allegre-the-climate-imposter/comment-page-2/#comment-172661

    “The Saudis also were working overtime to undermine the Copenhagen conference – their typical role at such events”

    Hey, look everyone! It’s not the US so therefore stop saying denialism is wrong!!!

    Your complaint is rather like any complaint when the EU biffs a US corporation for breaking the law:

    “The EU is just trying to take money from a US corporation”

    (forgetting that the EU ding EU companies far more and that these “US” corporations incorporate in the Maldives to avoid US taxes, so are hardly US corporations).

    Drop the victim act, and deal with the issues.

  31. 81
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “Those that are motivated to attack the science because of politics often do so because they fear the cure worse than the disease.”

    Fear is the mind killer.
    Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration.
    I will face my fear.
    I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
    And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
    Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
    Only I will remain.

    Alternatively, and somewhat appropriately: fear is the path to the dark side.

    Have any significant portion of these fearful looked to see if their fears are justified? Look at the “Obama Death Panels” and the “Get Government Out Of My Medicare” scares that the teabaggers were TERRIFIED was in the healthcare bill.

    Did any of them see whether their fear was justified?

    No.

  32. 82
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “I would welcome a situation where the actual discussion revolved around “How much damage will be done by AGW?” and “How much will mitigation cost?” and “How much will prevention cost?”

    That situation passed us by years ago:

    http://www.occ.gov.uk/activities/stern.htm

    Oct 2006.

    Did they move?

    Hell no. See here:

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2010/04/second-cru-inquiry-reports/comment-page-25/#comment-172690

  33. 83
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “The claim [that water vapour alone influences temperature] is in principle correct”

    Well, since there’s no water vapour but there’s also no CO2, how does the moon prove that water vapour alone influences temperature?

    After all, there’s no CO2 and the day/night temperature difference is about 270K, therefore CO2 must be the only influence.

    Right?

  34. 84
    Jacob Mack says:

    Just wonderful! A truly timely subject matter in this post! Thanks!

  35. 85
    Adam R. says:

    Sou @ 1: “He seems to have reached new depths compared to others who’ve ruined any reputation they had (like the much more modest unachiever, Plimer).”

    Emeritus syndrome again?

  36. 86
    Al says:

    Only one -political- positive view of looking at this thing: by hitting them in the ***** it will increase communication by real scientist about the real state of science, thus (probably, in the long run) increasing public awareness. So maybe he is a good politician after all? ;)

  37. 87

    I think Georg Hoffmann should have told the readers that Allègre’s book is in fact an interview by journalist Dominique de Montvalon. So it is quite different from a scientific publication. The figures are hand-drawn by design, and really you should not expect great accuracy here. I read the book some weeks ago (it reads well), but was also often annoyed by the misspellings and the some how naive questions of the journalist.
    Allègre speaks like he looks: without diplomacy, right from the heart.As such every single sentence should not be weighed as a scientific finding. Vincent Courtillot (another well known French climate realist) is much more soft-spoken, and his last book is more on volcanoes than on climate. This did not hinder more than 600 (yes the number is well up) of French “climatologists” (I didn’t know there were so many)to ask their minister of research (V. Prégresse) for censorship. This is in my opinion a step too far. Ok for criticizing Allègre (and Courtillot), even for pouring ridicule on them, but asking for censorship is not a sign neither of healthy self-confidence nor of good democratic manners.

    [Response: I love the way that any criticism of obvious nonsense is suddenly a plea for censorship – would you rather the other climate scientists on the letter censor themselves? Neither the fact that Allegre ‘speaks from the heart’ nor ‘good democratic manners’ excuse the appalling contempt for the truth in evidence in this book. How can you defend this? – gavin]

  38. 88
    Aleks T says:

    Re: 53 Ray Ladbury

    Thanks for an explanation of what might motivate a scientist to be so wrong. “Unable to comprehend that their intuition has failed”, it really makes sense.

    In reading rebukes to climate sceptics, what most interests me is the motive. The way they are wrong is usually simple, and boring. The interesting part is figuring out what makes them tick.

  39. 89
    dhogaza says:

    I rarely respond to CFU but …

    “So much for the myth that bad (climate) science is limited to a few American denialists that either work for the fossil fuel industry or (American) conservatives that are philosophically opposed to regulation.”

    “The Saudis also were working overtime to undermine the Copenhagen conference – their typical role at such events”

    Hey, look everyone! It’s not the US so therefore stop saying denialism is wrong!!!

    Your complaint is rather like any complaint when the EU biffs a US corporation for breaking the law:

    “The EU is just trying to take money from a US corporation”

    I do believe that if you were to read for comprehension you’d understand the first poster wasn’t making either point you claim.

    I happen to share the poster’s sentiment – I wish rabid denialism *were* restricted to a few rabid anti-science american ultra-conservatives. If it were true, we’d only have one opponent in one country to fight.

    But it’s not. Allegre apparently is a fixture on french talk radio (is french talk radio as bad as our talk radio? tell me it’s not so, please!). Oz is chock-full of whack-a-doodle science deniers. England had not-Lord Monckton.

    Go ahead and misrepresent my post, too, wihle ripping me a new one…

  40. 90
    David B. Benson says:

    Edward Greisch (55) — “God gave Noah the rainbow sign; no more water but the fire next time”.

    Completely Fed Up — No chance of a stade (massive ice sheets) for at least 20,000 years. (IPCC AR4 states 30,000 years.)

  41. 91
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Walter Manny@67, Doomsayer is not a word I would use to describe any scientist that I know. Many climate scientists today spend their days trying to find ways of circumventing catastrophe. The only way doing science makes any sense whatsoever is if you assume that human civilization continues for a good long time. Otherwise why dedicate a decade to learn a field and then work long hours the rest of your life to understand your field of study.

    Yes, they are doomsayers. No, that doesn’t explain why scientists are convinced we face a serious threat. I would urge you, Walter, to put aside the cozy categorizations you have placed us in and look anew at the evidence.

  42. 92
    Thierry says:

    I just finished the book ” L’imposteur, c’est lui – Réponse à Claude Allègre ” ( He is the faker – Response to C.A. ). Very good book , well documented, taking each assertion of the former French minister and scientifically demonstrating the intentional distortion or misleading introduced. I wish an English translation is available soon. My fear is that this book will not sell as well as Allègre’s.. Too bad..

  43. 93
    Thierry says:

    Just forgot to mention the author of ” L’imposteur, c’est lui – Réponse à Claude Allègre ” : Sylvestre Huet , journalist covering scientific topics at the LIBERATION Frencg paper.

  44. 94
    Grypo says:

    WILT: “Here we explore these mechanisms using a microbial-enzyme model to simulate the responses of soil carbon to warming by 5°C.”

    Have you read the entire paper? Does it say what happens at other temperatures(?) because if the microbes taper off at 5C, we’re already screwed. Does it give robust examples of how all microbes react to those temperatures? Can you show the models that this study would effect with any negative feedback effects as Watts so proudly pronounces in his lead on his “science” blog?

  45. 95

    I must admit that as sick and sad as it is, I did get more than a few laughs out of reading this article.


    A Climate Minute The Greenhouse EffectHistory of Climate ScienceArctic Ice Melt


    Our best chance for a better future ‘Fee & Dividend’
    Understand the delay and costs of Cap and Trade
    http://www.climatelobby.com/fee-and-dividend/
    Sign the Petition!
    http://www.climatelobby.com

  46. 96

    #39 Jim

    There must be mitigating factors. Maybe too many divorces and he needed cash? Gambling debts. Looking to buy a new house? Wants’ to travel more? Has converted to a new religion called Megalomaniaism that worships the self?

    It is much easier to make money selling books that say AGW is not happening due to the zealous nature of the rather vehement crowd that by all evidence posted and printed or otherwise promulgated reveals a religious adoration for any opinion that opposes the reality of this global warming event.

    Heck, I’d bet that if I wanted to make some cash, I could write a book right now that says AGW is all bunk, and probably make some decent bank.


    A Climate Minute The Greenhouse EffectHistory of Climate ScienceArctic Ice Melt


    Our best chance for a better future ‘Fee & Dividend’
    Understand the delay and costs of Cap and Trade
    http://www.climatelobby.com/fee-and-dividend/
    Sign the Petition!
    http://www.climatelobby.com

  47. 97

    #45 wilt
    #70 wilt

    Context will get you relevance.


    A Climate Minute The Greenhouse EffectHistory of Climate ScienceArctic Ice Melt


    Our best chance for a better future ‘Fee & Dividend’
    Understand the delay and costs of Cap and Trade
    http://www.climatelobby.com/fee-and-dividend/
    Sign the Petition!
    http://www.climatelobby.com

  48. 98

    #76 Mike of Oz

    I’ll get right to work on writing a book relying solely on my opinions to satisfy your need. Can you tell me what you would like the conclusion to be?


    A Climate Minute The Greenhouse EffectHistory of Climate ScienceArctic Ice Melt


    Our best chance for a better future ‘Fee & Dividend’
    Understand the delay and costs of Cap and Trade
    http://www.climatelobby.com/fee-and-dividend/
    Sign the Petition!
    http://www.climatelobby.com

  49. 99

    #76 Mike of Oz

    . . . and how much you are willing to pay for the conclusion?

    :)


    A Climate Minute The Greenhouse EffectHistory of Climate ScienceArctic Ice Melt


    Our best chance for a better future ‘Fee & Dividend’
    Understand the delay and costs of Cap and Trade
    http://www.climatelobby.com/fee-and-dividend/
    Sign the Petition!
    http://www.climatelobby.com

  50. 100
    Kristín Vala Ragnarsdóttir says:

    Sadly, I was a post-doc with Claude Allegre while he still was sane and eminent scientist. Now I think he is doing anything to get attention. In a way I´m glad now that while I was there the mass-spectrometer I was supposed to use was broken down and in the end I got no publication (which would have included his name) out o my stay in his labf. Now I´m glad!


Switch to our mobile site