Saturday, May 17, 2014

Travesty (Addendum)

From Mark Steyn's latest blog post.

Speaking of over-simplification, the Irish interview with Dr Mann I quoted earlier this week contains this fascinating exchange:

JOHN GIBBONS: Ireland doesn't have the US-style ideological chasm, but instead we have a media that is tremendously uninterested and uninformed. Our leading climate scientist, Prof John Sweeney had to actually boycott a recent TV programme, on the grounds that this type of 'debate' (giving oxygen to known climate deniers) is feeding the problem – you've experienced this?

MICHAEL MANN: Sometimes, if you don't participate, the fear is that people are only going to hear from the voices of disinformation but if we allow that sort of 'false balance' approach, it does a disservice to the public. If you as a scientist share the stage with an industry-funded denier, you are implicitly telling the audience that these are two equally credible voices – and they're not. I'm sympathetic to the view that John Sweeney expressed about the fallacy of false balance. It's like an astronomer getting into a debate with the president of the Flat Earth Society over the latest stellar observations.

Of course, they're only "industry-funded deniers" because Mann labels them as such. When he sued me in the District of Columbia, he was simultaneously suing others in Virginia and British Columbia: He and his quintet of white-shoe Big Tobacco lawyers are funded by the alarmism industry. We can all play this moronic game. The problem for Mann is that this moronic game -"Shut up, denier!" - is the only one he can play. But let's take his argument at face value - that, if you share the stage with someone, you're lending them your credibility.

Okay. So who's this bloke John Gibbons with whom Mann is happy to "share the stage"? Any number of Irish readers wrote to fill me in, including Peter O'Neill, who mentioned that Mr Gibbons was a man who believed in "expressing temperature change in degrees Celsius as a percentage". I didn't quite credit this, but it's true.

John Gibbons on February 16, 2011:

"Just in case you're not familiar with the basic science (and I really am now beginning to wonder), the current global average surface temp. is c.14.5C. Add 4C to that in half a century and you have increased the average surface temp by over 25%."

Mr Gibbons seems to think temperature is like pounds or euros. If you have zero pounds, you have no money. Similarly, says Gibbons, if you have zero degrees Celsius, you have no temperature. If you start out in the morning with £2 and you end the day with £4, you're twice as rich. Likewise, if you start out in the morning with two degrees and end the day with four degrees, you're twice as warm.

...Michael Mann won't "share the stage" with Judith Curry, Roger Pielke Jr, Hans von Storch, Richard Tol, Steve McIntyre, Nigel Lawson, Matt Ridley, Lennart Bengtsson or even me, because we're all anti-science oversimpletons, and the false balance would only give us a credibility we don't deserve. So instead he gives exclusive interviews to blokes who think Centigrade temperatures can be expressed as a percentage. Mann's Climate Cult depends on credulous rubes and fawning groupies, and he's running low.

As most sixth graders know (or should know), to calculate a percentage change in temperature one would use the Kelvin scale, the zero point of which isn't the freezing point of water (as it is for Celsius), but rather Absolute Zero or -273.15 degrees Celsius. An increase of four degrees from 14.5C to 18.5C is thus the same as going from 287.65K to 291.65K or 1.4% (Not 25%). And by the way, that four degree increase wildly overstates the rise in global temperature over the past 50 years, or any predicted temperature rise over the next 50 years, if that's what Gibbons meant.

"Just in case you're not familiar with the basic science (and I really am now beginning to wonder)..." Indeed.

Gibbons - who's described by Wikipedia as an "environmental activist" (groan) - exhibits many of the characteristics found among warmists - smug, self-satisfied, condescending and ignorant.  Steyn is right - That Michael Mann would rather sit down and discuss climate science with an ignorant fool like John Gibbons rather than with a knowledgeable expert like Judith Curry reflects the collective close-minded mentality of the global warming crowd. It also reflects Mann's (and others' like his) cowardice. No doubt a major factor in his reluctance to debate the issue with competent adversaries is the well-founded fear of losing that debate. (Cue chicken sounds).

Meanwhile, James Taranto in his WSJ Best of the Web column wrote about two "journalists" responding to a remark about global warming made by Marco Rubio.

Florida's Sen. Marco Rubio came under attack this week for refusing to submit to scientific authority. "I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it," he said in an interview with Jonathan Karl.

Nonscientist Ruth Marcus, writing for the Washington Post, declared that Rubio's words "undermine his other assertion," namely "that he is prepared to be president." Juliet Lapidos, also lacking in scientific expertise, went so far as to assert, in a New York Times blog post, that Rubio had "disqualified himself" from the presidency.

Of all the silly things written on the subject of global warming, Marcus's and Lapidos's offerings are surely among the most recent. Apart from that they're entirely typical of the genre of global-warmist opinion journalism, in which ignorant journalists taunt politicians for their ignorance but have no argument beyond an appeal to authority.

...As Michael Gerson puts it in the Washington Post: "Our intuitions are useless here. The only possible answers come from science. And for non-scientists, this requires a modicum of trust in the scientific enterprise."

Do you see the subtle problem with Gerson's formulation? The injunction, have trust after tossing aside your intuition is at best a contradiction in terms, at worst a con.

This columnist
(Taranto) is probably as unqualified as Marcus or Lapidos to evaluate the scientific merits of global warmism. But because we distrust climate scientists, we're with Rubio in being inclined to think it's a bill of goods. The trouble for global-warmist journalists like Marcus and Lapidos is that an appeal to the authority of a distrusted source undermines rather than strengthens one's argument.
As Taranto says, "we distrust climate scientists". This is the healthy skepticism lacking in those who blindly accept the speculative musings of self-interested climate-change-industry profiteers. That skepticism is clearly validated by the revelations of "Climategate" and the data obscuring and distorting shenanigans of a Michael Mann.

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