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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. 401
    ZZT says:

    Just curious:- any examples of an error in the temperature record(s), found by climatologists, ‘that just crept in’, and that had the effect of diminishing (as opposed to increasing) the perceived warming trend?

    [Response: Sure. The neglect of time-of-observation biases in US station records for instance. Or the neglect of orbital decay in splicing together the MSU record. Both of these factors artificially decreased the trends. Of course, since fixing these problems increased the trends, we get accused of artificially enhancing them, but note that if the error goes the other way we are accused of making the original errors deliberately. Damned if we do… – gavin]

  2. 402
    Doug Bostrom says:

    Sam says: 2 May 2010 at 7:24 PM

    I still think there could be some unknown process that is changing the isotope ratio…

    That gosh-darned isotope ratio sure is inconvenient. Sort of a gob-stopper for a lot of otherwise pointless discussion so let’s imagine an “unknown process” that permits us to ignore it, just for the sake of conversation. Keeping the conversation going is absolutely key.

  3. 403
    Doug Bostrom says:

    This just in:

    We all know that arctic sea ice decline and global temperature rise peaked years ago and have now stopped, effectively falsifying manmade global warming.

    A little overlooked variable of climate has also peaked in defiance of so-called “scientists”. IPCC climate models predict that solar output should follow an 11 year cycle. According to this “theory”, solar activity should now be rising. And at first, probably by fluke, it appeared that was so. But now there’s just one problem: The solar cycle hasn’t increased for 3 months.

    Real science abandons a theory when observations disagree. The observations now disagree with the 11 year solar cycle, so all books claiming there is an 11 year solar cycle should be immediately burnt and the models thrown in the dustbin of history. That’s how science should work.

    More, with excellent graphical analysis using the latest auditing skilz:

    Falsification Of The 11 Year Solar Cycle

  4. 404
    Ike Solem says:

    @Jim Eager says – “we engaged Sam, some of us specifically for the benefit of those lurking here to learn. It’s just that the teaching moment has passed and become the tiresome game of whack-a-mole with a wooden fence post.”

    I think it does outline one of the major current scientific issues – carbon cycle sensitivity to global warming. The general global temperature sensitivity to a doubling of CO2 is now pretty well established. Coupled ocean-atmosphere climate models have been tested fairly thoroughly for given CO2 profiles, but in contrast the carbon cycle response is a very active area of research.

    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v463/n7280/abs/nature08769.html

    “carbon cycle” feedbacks “global warming”

    If you search Google Scholar for the above, 2010 only, you’ll get several hundred recent papers on the topic.

  5. 405
    t_p_hamilton says:

    Sam says: 2 May 2010 at 7:24 PM

    “I still think there could be some unknown process that is changing the isotope ratio…”

    That just means that there would have to be a second unknown process that cancels the effect of Sam’s “unknown process”, since we already have one that explains the observed changes.

  6. 406
    ZZT says:

    Thanks Gavin, I hadn’t heard of those examples. Which errors, caught by climatologists, had the effect of reducing the warming trend (after the errors were removed)?

    [Response: The ocean bucket correction, urban heating effects, erroneously large cooling signals in the stratosphere in radiosondes due to improvements in balloon technologies etc…. There are plenty of examples that go either way. They get corrected when they are understood regardless of the impact on the trend. – gavin]

  7. 407
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Sam,
    I would suggest to you that perhaps you should go back over your posts here and ask yourself:

    1)Does it maybe sound a trifle desperate?

    2)How scientific does it sound? (as in advancing a testable hypothesis, testing it and reporting the results. I don’t know how test for “anything but CO2” or “there must be something”)

    Ask yourself if you’ve learned anything, or if perhaps your denial is getting in the way.

  8. 408
    Steve Metzler says:

    I happen to be one of the ‘lurkers who learned’. Remember reading Crichton’s State of Fear about two years ago, and I uncritically lapped up the appendix. It all seemed like common sense. I now recognise it for what it was: an argument from authority which I didn’t see through because he is one of my favourite authors.

    IIRC (I don’t have the book to hand because I’m having my den redone and most of my books are packed away), he was going on at great lengths about how the UHI effect was skewing all the measurements. But I now know 2 things about that: it’s accounted for, and the U.S. is not the whole world.

    Oddly enough, it was Climategate that got me reading up on the science. Currently reading Spencer Weart’s The Discovery of Global Warming – A History from top to bottom. Fascinating stuff, and it was posters here that put me onto it.

    Sorry, I know that reads like a testimonial, but there you go.

  9. 409
    JM says:

    repeatedly accusing another commenter of being a paid liar, without offering any evidence whatsoever that that commenter is either (1) paid by anyone to comment here or (2) has in fact “lied” at all, should be considered unacceptable.

    How else should we account for the deliberate and compulsive redistribution of known disinformation?

    Would you prefer we speculate about their mental health?

    [Response: No. Speculations about either are generally ad hom digressions that lead nowhere. The internet is full of people obviously willing to disinform on a voluntary basis on any topic you care to pick – and time spent trying to distinguish enthusiastic amateurs from dedicated professionals is time wasted. Simply providing links and counterarguments is more useful. Persistent derailers of threads can be dealt with by the moderators without having the conversation fall apart. – gavin]

  10. 410
    Jim Eager says:

    Ike @404, by all means lets discuss the latest science on carbon cycle sensitivity to global warming. But there’s no need to pander to the Sams of the world in the process or to let them redirect the conversation.

  11. 411
    Phil Scadden says:

    Doug, thanks for the heads up on DenialDepot’s latest effort. Made my day. Dr Inferno just doesnt blog often enough – but I guess that is the price of quality.

  12. 412
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Steve Metzler, Welcome back to reality. We missed you. ;-)

    Seriously, I doubt that you are the only person who winds up having the scales fall from your eyes as a result of “Climategate”. Indeed, the lesson I wish more people would take away is how science produces reliable understanding even when practiced by fallible humans (e.g. all of us). THAT is the truly remarkable thing.

  13. 413

    Sam 379: if you or someone else would like to explain how C14 proves CO2 rise is due to humans, please go ahead.

    BPL: 14C has a half-life of about 5,570 years. In the biosphere, it is constantly replenished by cosmic rays turning atmospheric 14N into 14C.

    But fossil fuels are around 300 million years old, so all the 14C in them has decayed away back to 14N.

    The new CO2 in the air is deficient in 14C as well as 13C. A plant source, plus great age, means fossil fuels. CO2 from the biosphere would have a normal complement of 14C.

  14. 414

    Doug Bostrom 403: ROFLMAO!!!

  15. 415

    #403 Doug Bostrom

    Wow! a whole 3 month trend falsifies the 11.1 year average (9 to 13 year range) of the Schwabe cycle that has it’s origins in sunspot origins going back to Galileo. Those guys at denialdepot are obviously top scientists.

    I would like to add that it is a little cool yesterday where I live, therefore the hypothesis of human caused global warming is definitely falsified. The proof is in the short term observations. Global trend data over 30 years can not possibly override the temperature yesterday, or maybe tomorrow.


    A Climate Minute The Greenhouse EffectHistory of Climate ScienceArctic Ice Melt

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    Learn the Issue & Sign the Petition

  16. 416

    OT–but not, I suppose, as much as the falsification of the solar cycle!

    The April analysis from NIDC is out:

    http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/

    Moreover, if you read right down to the bottom, you will find a link to a new near-realtime visualization of sea ice *volume*, brought to you by Dr. Zhang and the good folk at UW.

  17. 417
    Completely Fed Up says:

    JM:”How else should we account for the deliberate and compulsive redistribution of known disinformation? ”

    Hmm. Ike does seem to be able to back up his statements just as well as his detractors.

    How about asking after didactylos or EG about their compulsive redistribution of BS?

    Of course, as moderator pointed out, this leads nowhere. Not that you wanted to diss a pro nuke stance anyway, but if you did…

  18. 418
    Completely Fed Up says:

    JM:”How else should we account for the deliberate and compulsive redistribution of known disinformation? ”

    Hmm. Ike does seem to be able to back up his statements just as well as his detractors.

    How about asking after didactylos or EG about their compulsive redistribution of BS?

    Of course, as moderator pointed out, this leads nowhere. Not that you wanted to diss a pro nuke stance anyway, but if you did.

  19. 419
    CM says:

    Sam, wanting something doesn’t make it real.
    http://xkcd.com/240/

  20. 420
    Jaydee says:

    “Is there any response to Watts story about METAR data?

    [Response: … The METAR data aren’t what are used in the monthly data put together by GHCN, GISTEMP or HadCRUT so that specific problem is not relevant for any of the analyses we discuss here. … – gavin]”

    That was exactly what I was looking for many thanks. I generally try to avoid posting about this kind of stuff but a friend is a denier and bugs me about this kind of stuff. In general I can find knock downs on the web (he is a big fan of “its the sun”) but sometimes he comes up with something I can’t knock down in 5 or 10 mins with Google.

  21. 421
    Doug Bostrom says:

    Jaydee says: 5 May 2010 at 9:04 AM

    …sometimes he comes up with something I can’t knock down in 5 or 10 mins with Google.

    John Cook at Skeptical Science maintains a marvelous (frightening?) list of links to various wishful thinking along with debunking tools, here:

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/resources.php

    Readers are free to contribute.

    Also see “Arguments” page at SkS:

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/argument.php

  22. 422
    JM says:

    Of course I was being facetious, Gavin. Ad hominem arguments miss the fundamental point of this non-debate: we’re not dealing with honest people. The sheer weight of failed “this is the end of AGW theory” hysterias is enough to convince any honest person that they’re being had, let alone that the nonsense comes from many of the same people who performed the same kind of work for big tobacco in the past.

    I guess it’s enough to point out, as with the latest nonsense from that idiot weatherman, that there’s no there there, but at long last there is no reason to dignify these people as interlocutors. They don’t believe this stuff themselves.

  23. 423

    #415 John P. Reisman

    I made a funky mistake

    “origins in sunspot origins”

    was supposed to be

    ‘origins in sunspot observations’


    A Climate Minute The Greenhouse EffectHistory of Climate ScienceArctic Ice Melt

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  24. 424
    mike Roddy says:

    Allegre,Plimer, and Watts are self parodies, obviously emotionally and cognitively impaired.

    The key point is that Allegre is believed by a much smaller percentage of Frenchmen than their counterparts here.

    Scientists are going to have to address this, in the media and in our schools. It’s a function of corruptionN which will have to be assaulted head on.

  25. 425

    . . .and if the April NSIDC data is out, can the good Dr. Spencer be far behind?

    April UAH anomaly: .5 C. Continuing pretty toasty. . .

  26. 426

    Kevin McKinney #425:

    . . .and if the April NSIDC data is out, can the good Dr. Spencer be far behind?

    April UAH anomaly: .5 C. Continuing pretty toasty. . .

    I’ve been watching AMSU-A for a while. The mean Jan-April anomaly 1999-2009 is trending at 5.8K per century. Super-toasty.

  27. 427
    CRS says:

    Thank you for this, I also feel that RC is bogged down in the political arguments rather than discussing the science. I therefore invite RC contributors to your “enemy” site, WUWT, where we are having some very high-level astrophysics discussions on solar magnetism, sunspot activity, grand minima and other related topics. http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/05/05/suns-magnetics-coming-alive-again/

  28. 428

    CRS 427,

    I agree. And while you’re at it, why not invite some evolutionary biologists to visit Answers in Genesis?

  29. 429
    Ray Ladbury says:

    CRS says “I therefore invite RC contributors to your “enemy” site, WUWT, where we are having some very high-level astrophysics discussions on solar magnetism, sunspot activity, grand minima and other related topics.”

    I’m sorry, CRS, but most of us here are interested in actual science.

  30. 430
    Edward Greisch says:

    From Climate Progress next to last [The URL causes spam rejection]:
    When the federal agency charged with supervising offshore oil and gas production proposed stricter oversight of safety procedures last year, citing 1,443 incidents and 41 deaths over eight years, the industry said the new rules were too confusing. The agency backed down even though its safety data showed “no discernible trend of improvement by industry.”

  31. 431
    Susan Anderson says:

    Long-term lurker, layperson, learner. I come here to relax from the argy-bargy elsewhere (especially DotEarth where I work at writing as well as I can and pointing out faux arguments – borrowing mightily where I can find good stuff, for which thanks be). I stole (with attribution) an early Ladbury comment and it was very popular (apologies if needed) about how nature will turn up the heat until we notice.

    I am saddened by the cut and thrust regarding Ike Solem. Ike Solem has been one of my favorites anywhere – almost always learn something from the hard work and literacy he puts in his comments (this is no exception) but I believe I’ve also occasionally picked up good stuff from Edward Greisch. How come everyone has to be a paid shill? Why waste (or poison) energy with these personal accusations?

    Thanks for all the to and fro on feedbacks. I think I understand a bit better, and also that Wikipedia, as I have found recently, continues to provide a good starting point as it evolves, as long as one remembers it can be flawed at times by its way of collecting and evolving information. A great thing!

  32. 432
    Susan Anderson says:

    Clicking on WUWT contributes to their “popularity”. Since it is almost never original the “high-level discussion” are dubious and suspect. I’ve heard lots from those who actually go there about how they are treated – I think the dividing by zero comment above captures the conspiracy stuff nicely. Nice try though.

  33. 433
    Mike Roddy says:

    Barton and Ray, you took the words out of my mouth- thanks.

  34. 434
    Tom Payne says:

    Thank you for this critique of Claude Allegre’s new book, “The Climate Imposture.” I am dismayed to find that this book along with Roger Pilke Jr.’s “The Climate Fix,” and Dr. Roy Spencer’s “The Great Global Warming Blunder” are now a part of the climate science syllabus in many universities. This is a discouraging evolution. While open, contrarian debate is a part of healthy scientific method, there appears to be a growing movement to subvert the last 30 years of climate research. THIS I would suggest is where the real conspiracy lies. Attempting to undermine the hard works of the climate movement is an act of insouciant heresy that must be countered.

    Thank you George for pointing out Allegre’s misattention to detail that is mightily important to scientific study. In the end one must wonder how a leading scientist and politician such as Allegre could turn against majority opinion. Is he gone barmy or simply trying to make his already inflated reputation even larger?

  35. 435
    wichitazen says:

    Viz: nuclear power…aside from the pros and cons of immediate safety issues, fatalities during, before et al construction, cost per KWH and so on, it occurs to me that one huge issue that is never discussed fully is the unpredictability of politics and general human behavior; these enormous power plants require strict maintenance and have byproducts that are eqully problematic, and humans in general have not been exactly the model of responsibility over the long haul, have they? Despite its short term appeal, my gut feeling is that we had best go for other means for energy production. Since we haven’t even addressed the increased destabilization of political stability through population increase (if there even is such a thing as stability politically) and all the resultant spinoff from that issue, I think just tossing nuclear power out as a quick and harmless solution to energy is premature, to say the least.

  36. 436

    Re Phillip @ 426–

    Yes, it’s kind of amazing, actually, to see the lower trop so warm so consistently. I keep waiting for the drop to come. Eventually it will, of course; trop temps can be quite volatile. (Just think back to last May, when it was quite remarkably cool, IIRC.)

    But that decadal trend does merit “super-toasty,” all right.

  37. 437
    SPC says:

    It is interesting that Allègre is one of the admired authors of one of the main Spanish “contrarians”. He is reccomended by this “local Watts”:

    http://antonuriarte.blogspot.com/2010/04/la-impostura-climatica.html

    http://antonuriarte.blogspot.com/2010/04/la-energia-nuclear-en-la-construccion.html

    Insults everywhere in this pages, too.

  38. 438
    Emc2 says:

    It would be very nice if you publish your reaction to the Hartwell Paper published yesterday. The Economist, Science, BBC News and the NYT have already commented. thanks

  39. 439
    Texas Aggie says:

    I was wondering (along with a couple others) if this book was really a serious attempt at denialism or whether it was something on the order of the Onion. I find it hard to believe that anyone would deliberately write something so transparently foolish if they were doing it seriously.

  40. 440
    Completely Fed Up says:

    Texas, I think it’s a serious attempt to cash in on the morons. Since denialists have nothing of evidence on their side, they must receive and reproduce every contrarian argument possible, irresepective of how well presented or backed with evidence.

    This means the book will be accepted whatever it says, as long as it denies AGW.

    This makes such a denialist book easier to write: you don’t have to check your sources for a start. Also, any refusal of the content because of its inaccuracies is, for the denialist, merely proof that there’s something there that “the conspiracy” is trying to hide.

    So, therefore, to “Save The American Way Of Life”, the author must be recompensed for such work. So they buy the book to “get The Truth” out there.

    Monckton, Fred, Watts, et al are all also taking the easy gravy train.

    What? Do you think they are appearing at all these speeches “at cost”???

  41. 441
    Completely Fed Up says:

    Another whacko on another thread (now closed) is another like old Claude here.

    This is what HE says:

    “I chose not to publish my greenhouse gas research, because it wasn’t worth the grief. I’ve heard the war stories of people who don’t agree with the your side of the story trying to get published.”

    See. It’s a conspiracy.

    If someone disagrees with his “work” then that’s just because they disagree WITH his work. It’s not actually possible (as far as his little rant above puts it: this could merely be playing to the denialist crowd, mind) to disagree with his work because it’s *wrong*. That’s actually IMPOSSIBLE. There is no right and wrong as far as this barnstack is concerned (same with Palin, Seitz, Watts, Monckton, Claude, et al), merely OPINIONS. Therefore when you claim their “opinion” wrong, then you’re being closed minded.

    Just like the governors who wanted to define pi as 3.

    Disagreement to that statement COULD NOT be because pi *isn’t* 3, but because the people DISAGREED WITH THE BIBLE.

    Same with Claude. Same with JRB.

    It’s all partisan because these idiots WILL NOT consider this to be anything other than partisanship. There IS NO objective reality for these fools.

    Its either their firmly held belief or they’re playing to the crowd that believe this.

  42. 442
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Emc2,
    I haven’t read the Hartwell paper, although I did read the Economist summary, thanks to Shirley over on the Solar thread. The main problem:
    Any approach has to be based on proper risk analysis, and the Hartwell Paper doesn’t bother to do such an analysis. Proper procedure:
    1)Identify the threat.
    2)Assess and bound the threat.
    3)Mitigate the threat using an effective strategy consistent with the risk it poses.
    4)Reassess as needed and repeat until risk is acceptable.

    When I speak of the threat, it is not sufficient to simply identify climate change as the threat–particularly if one is not proposing global strategies for dealing with it. The individual threats must each be identified:
    1)Threats to important crops
    2)Threats to health.
    3)Ocean Acidification
    4)Sea-level rise
    5)Aquifer salinization
    6)Increased drought
    7)Increased severe weather
    8)And so on.

    The problem is that people are painting with such broad strokes, that they are missing the individual threats–any one of which could have very severe consequences. The fundamental flaw of the Hartwell analysis is that there are so many individual threats, and it is so difficult to bound each one piecemeal, that a global strategy is arguably the most efficient–particularly given that our current energy infrastructure is unsustainable in any case.

  43. 443
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “It would be very nice if you publish your reaction to the Hartwell Paper published yesterday. The Economist, Science, BBC News and the NYT have already commented. thanks.”

    What did you think of the comments of The Economist, Science, BBC News and NTY?

  44. 444
    Anonymous Coward says:

    Ray (#442),

    I agree that Hartwell group’s approach is not based proper risk analysis but there’s a good reason for that. What they’re overtly doing instead is looking for a politically palatable way to address the problem. But if you look at their arguments (as reported by the Economist) more closely, it seems that their actual agenda is simply to argue against cuts in fossil fuel consumption and for development of new technologies. They come off as willing to grasp at any straw to justify BAU.
    For instance, one of their arguments is reportedly based on the assertion that fossil fuels can not provide for the needs of the global poor. But the unspoken assumption is that the global rich won’t cut their fossil fuel consumption… because if they did, there would be more than enough cheap fuels for everyone. A humanitarian policy such as Fee&Dividend would cut the rich’s consumption right now, addressing the needs of the poor and lowering global emissions. But the Hartwell group instead argues disingenuously that the humanitarian way is to wait for new technologies that would essentially deliver free energy in some distant future. So their conclusion (consumption cuts are not viable, politically) is actually assumed early in the reasoning.

    As an aside, I’d say the Hartwell group is unfortunately well within the mainstream in ignoring the risks of climate change. I found Matthews’s recent letter about emissions targets in Nature particularly striking in that respect.
    Sure, Hansen talks about the risks and advocates policies and metrics which takes them into account. But the mainstream seems to be purposefully looking the other way. Hansen may be wrong on many things… but I’d be more comfortable if mainstreamers addressed the issues he raises!

  45. 445

    #444–Perhaps the problem is another layer of denialism–a truly unconscious defense mechanism:

    “It would be just too awful to think about!”

    Maybe that’s partly why various militaries are thinking clearly about the issues global climate change will pose over the coming decades–their occupational subculture actually calls for examining the worst case first, and planning for it in a realistic fashion.

  46. 446
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Kevin & AC,
    Psychological research shows that humans do not have the ability to contemplate the really horrible for very long. Cigarette packages with pictures of diseased lungs, faces disfigured by mouth cancer, etc.–the pictures just get tuned out. Likewise the consequences of traffic accidents, which is why people still text while driving.

    We also do a really poor job of risk assessment–exaggerating potentially immediate risks–like the jerk tailgating you or terrorism–and failing to appreciate severe risks in the distance–like smoking-related illnesses and climate change.

    Of course, we’ve developed procedures to compensate for these shortcomings–scientific/probabilistic risk assessment–but they can and are circumvented by tobacco lobbyists, energy interests etc. Unfortunately, we’re up against human nature here, and if we don’t overcome our nature and adapt to the new realities, we won’t survive.

  47. 447
    CM says:

    The Science et Vie pop-sci monthly did a special report (March issue) on how much scientific certainty there is about various aspects of climate change. I just leafed quickly through it at the newsstand, curious to see if they were jumping on some revisionist bandwagon, but their scorecard looked fair enough to me.

    Is Allègre getting any traction in France? and with whom?

  48. 448
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “Is Allègre getting any traction in France? and with whom?”

    He’s probably still hot in his own sphere of expertise. He’s likely gaining only traction with the usual suspects with his “work” outside his sphere of expertise, and for the usual reasons: they’d like to ignore the problem.

  49. 449
    Anonymous Coward says:

    Ray (#446),
    When you talk about “human nature”, you’re not talking about the psychology of homo sapiens but about your political ideology.
    The psychology of addiction (however misunderstood) has little to do with climate change mitigation which would be a collective endeavour. However people deal with smoking, CFC emissions were dealt with. People were obviously able to contemplate the consequences and to act rationally. Yet most people have no notion of the rationale for CFC emissions cuts. There are professionals who are supposed to deal with this stuff on behalf of society. If they’re not doing their job then we need a new management and that’s the only thing that most people need to concern themselves with. The public needs to know who to trust when it comes to evaluating the management’s performance but it would be pointless for people to “contemplate the really horrible” all day.
    However flawed they are as individuals, those who attended the Cochabamba conference evidently had little trouble contemplating the risks and making the right call. We’re not up against “human nature” but, as you say, against entrenched economic interests. Unlike “human nature”, these interests have names and adresses and there are practical steps we could take to run them out of town. It’s hardly a new challenge. People have been running grifters out of town (or failing to in some instances) since Antiquity. What’s new are the stakes.

  50. 450
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “However people deal with smoking, CFC emissions were dealt with. People were obviously able to contemplate the consequences and to act rationally”

    Did you sleep through the 80’s? CFC’s were, compared to tobacco and AGW, peanuts, but there was a HUGE amount of backlash from manufacturers proclaiming doom and gloom if CFCs were changed to something else (the collapse of the white appliance industry was proposed as the INEVITABLE consequence!).

    But tobacco was as bad as AGW. They perfected the techniques of obstruction there, so the ruses are more directed this time around and there’s even more money at stake this time.

    These two had one thing in common: huge (nay, staggering) amounts of money being made by private industry.

    “There are professionals who are supposed to deal with this stuff on behalf of society. If they’re not doing their job then we need a new management”

    Yah, except that any attempt to do so gets you a brick through the window and death threats. Then voted out before you can enact.

    And that’s the ones who ARE trying to change things.

    “We’re not up against “human nature” but, as you say, against entrenched economic interests.”

    You’re right there, but that IS human nature: when you get rich enough, you do NOT have to live in the same world.

    When a Sony (?) exec found their daughter “pirating” music, did she get a $2.2Mil lawsuit thrown at her? No. Just a lecture and a promise not to do it again.

    Sony corp infecting PCs with viruses to “protect” their recording and committing copyright infringement on international scale? Pay $10 per offence. McKinnon logs into insecured MoD PCs and looks around, doing no damage: extradition and terrorist charges for him.

    Privilege means private law.

    And capitalism means money is power and the concentration of money means more money being concentrated.

    Privilege is the inevitable consequence.

    “People have been running grifters out of town (or failing to in some instances) since Antiquity.”

    And the rich and powerful have paid thugs to beat villagers who got uppity ever since heirachy extended beyond the village.