Monthly Archives: March 2012

Vincent Gray – just as loony as the other loonies?

A couple of days ago in a fit of non-imagination, Mr Brown recently posted in his blog a piece written by one Vincent Gray which is designed to somehow give himself more credibility by distancing himself from the really loony deniers and position himself as a credible “Sceptic”. However, he does fall way short of the mark. To me it’s a bit like a bloke who drives a Holden ute with truck mudflaps, truck spotlights, a buffalo horns sticker on the back glass, wearing a flannelette shirt over an ACDC T-shirt, smoking Winnie Blues, drinking VB and doing donuts in the street saying he isn’t a bogan because he doesn’t have a pair of fluffy dice.

                ““To kill an error is as good a service as, and sometimes better than, the establishing of a new truth or fact”    Charles Darwin”

This is the quote either Mr Brown or Gray finishes with in this particular entry and the irony of that will become apparent because killing errors is what I intend to do. But first, let’s just have a quick look at Vincent Gray.

Vincent Gray is a chemist who has never published a peer reviewed paper on any of the subjects associated with human induced climate change.  He has published plenty of papers to do with coal research.  He has been associated with the polluter funded Cato Institute. He also refers to himself as an expert reviewer of the IPCC reports. This has prompted some people to go as far as referring to him as an IPCC scientist or a climate expert which he isn’t, even by his own admission which I will get to shortly. But is being an IPCC expert reviewer actually as impressive as it sounds? Well, no. Anyone can be an IPCC expert reviewer. All you need to do is fill in some paperwork and sign a declaration that you won’t divulge any of the information in the draft reports. It also doesn’t mean he was asked by the IPCC to review anything. He asked to see the reports, filled in the paperwork and shazaam!!!…expert reviewer.

Now, in this blog piece Gray states

“I was never a professional meteorologist.. I did, however, run a weather station on the roof of my school in Hammersmith, London, between the years of 1937 and 1939….”

So, not only is Gray, not a climate expert,  he’s  not even a meteorologist yet he feels qualified to have a worthwhile opinion on the weather and more importantly on climate. So much so that he believes the weight of his ill-informed, non-professional opinion carries enough weight that if he shoots letters off to Prime Ministers they will take him seriously. Crikey I used to settle disputes between my older siblings for nearly a decade. Solving the problems between North and South Korea should be a breeze for me. Where’s my pen???

“I have been involved with trying to understand this mad delusion for over twenty years. At first I was trapped by the authority of those publicizing the “Global Warming” theory and it was only by slow degrees that  I became convinced that one aspect of its claims after another was without scientific foundation until I reached my current assessment that everything about it is wrong, It violates every possible principal of physics, mathematics and elementary logic.”.

Right, well, here are the fundamental principles of physics and I am very keen to see a breakdown of how every one of them has been violated. Perhaps Geoff, you would be so kind. After all, you posted this nonsense in its entirety no doubt without bothering to try and understand any of it. Here they are.

  1. Every effect has an antecedent, proximate cause
  2. No time reversal
  3. No true action at a distance
  4. No creation ex nihilo
  5. No demise ad nihil
  6. The finite cannot become infinite
  7. Tangible, material entities cannot occupy the same space at the same time

And that’s just physics. I’ll spare you Geoff from describing how every possible principle of mathematics has been violated. To see logic violated, one only has to read any denier blog.

But then come the straw men. Because they are straw men I’m not going to bother dissecting them because to recognise them as straw men is criticism enough. I will just say though that the origin of a straw man argument is based in deliberate deception, misinterpretation or plain ignorance. So without too much fanfare, here they are.

“An alternative theory based on a postulate that changes in the climate are exclusively caused by human emissions of greenhouse gases has penetrated the entire academic science community world wide.”

“…Some have been attracted by the money, travel experiences and promotion, even a Nobel Prize.”

“…It is a belief that is similar to a religion…”

“Indeed it is the “warmers” who insist that without the evil influence of humans  the climate is static and unchanging. Once the evil human influences are removed by a form of World Government, the climate will go back to a version of paradise.”

“The claim that the earth is flat is actually one of the assumptions of the IPCC theory.”

The rest of the post pretty much goes on with distancing himself from the other loonies who claim the greenhouse theory is wrong because of a supposed violation of Newton’s second law of thermodynamics. To me it’s just two people in a mental asylum arguing about who is crazier. Finally, another question for Geoff, do you agree with everything Vincent Gray said in this post, which you in turn posted in its entirety? One can only assume you do as you haven’t critiqued it. It won’t be long before your mate popular technology sticks it in his list of “peer reviewed papers”.

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Bad News for Alpine Chipmunks

As human induced climate change continues unabated, species are forced to move their ranges. While this becomes necessary for a number of different reasons, more often than not, it is due to long evolved thermal tolerance limits that cannot evolve quickly enough to keep up with the relatively rapid rate of climate change. For alpine species, this is particularly problematic because these species can only move vertically until they effectively run out of space. As the suitable habitats for these species contract, they become fragmented which often results in loss of gene flow between neighbouring populations and subsequent genetic subdivision.

In a recent study, Rubidge et al found that for the Alpine Chipmunk, Tamius alpinus, this was certianly the case. This little mammal is endemic to the high Sierra Nevada of California, an area which has recorded a ~3C temperature increase over the past century. This increase has resulted in T alpinius shifting its range upwards significantly. Researches compared genetic material from historical collections with samples collected between 2003 and 2008. Their key findings demonstrate a shift from an essentially panmictic population to one with increasing diversity within separated populations. Of particular interest was the loss of at least one allele in six of the seven microsatellite loci they studied. This genetic erosion is of most concern because it signals demographic collapse and reduced fitness resulting in lower adaptive potential and increased inbreeding depression.

Finally the authors propose that with increasing temperatures and further reduction in range, this small mammal will more than likely be driven to extinction.

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Does size matter?

Does size matter? Now, while I am not talking specifically about the size of a man’s penis here, I will touch on that briefly. We are all aware of the jokes about men with small penises and subsequent feelings of inadequacy driving big cars or owning big dogs or posing with photos of big fish. This particular Freudianesque hypothesis has even been used in commercials aimed at shaming young men into driving sensibly.

This brings me to the subject of big lists. What is it about some climate deniers that makes them think a big list of names of people or papers makes their position valid? It would, if they were interested in sourcing quality information as opposed to quantity. A classic example is the “Global Warming Petition Project” which currently boasts “31,487 American scientists have signed this petition, including 9,029 with PhDs “. This statement is amazing in that they are blatantly admitting upfront that 22458 of their signatories don’t have a PhD. Now, I don’t mean any disrespect to those out there who are working in scientific disciplines who haven’t completed a PhD but the fact is, in scientific circles a PhD is usually a minimum requirement to be considered an expert in any field. What’s worse about this petition is that until recently you only had to hold a Bachelor’s degree or equivalent to sign.  Now I don’t know about you but when I go to my doctor, I wouldn’t be too happy if she suddenly informed me she only had a medical degree equivalent. Anyway, there is an excellent YouTube video  from greenman3610 that explains how ridiculous this big list is.

Next is the big list of “peer reviewed” papers at the popular technology blog site  which boasts “900+ Peer-Reviewed Papers Supporting Skeptic Arguments Against ACC/AGW Alarm”.  This is one of my favourites, not because it is a great website, but because it is a great tool to demonstrate scientific illiteracy, ignorance and deception at its best. For a start, the person running the website is a Computer Analyst and his three contributing website authors are a Computer Engineer, a Computer Scientist and an Electrical Engineer. I’m not too sure their areas of expertise qualify them to determine good climate science from dodgy climate science. It might explain why some of these “peer reviewed” papers are published in journals like The Electricity Journal, Iron and Steel Technology and my absolute favourite the New Concepts in Global Tectonics newsletter, the editor of which recently declared that because Japanese seismologists failed to predict the devastating earthquake and subsequent tsunami of a year ago, that the entire Theory of Plate Tectonics is patently incorrect. One “peer reviewed” paper in the infamous 900 that appears in the prestigious New Concepts in Global Tectonics newsletter is from one Lance Endersbee, who as far as I can make out from his “peer reviewed” paper, has no professional affiliations or qualifications for that matter. Anyway, he claims that ocean warming “is not due to the influence of Man, and probably due to a change in the geothermal regime of heat flow from the fracture zones in the floor of the northern oceans.” Wow! Now there’s a claim and a half. The amount of energy required from that relatively small area to heat all the oceans by as much as…….I’m not even going to bother. It’s some simple maths for anyone reading this who might be bothered but this is too absurd to waste time on.

So, is this the kind of standard that is set for this list of “900+ peer reviewed” papers? Well, yes and no. To be fair, there are a number of papers in this list from reputable journals like Nature and Geophysical Research Letters but this raises the question, do these papers actually debunk AGW? The answer is no. The person running this blog site likely hasn’t actually read any more than the abstracts of those papers, spotted a phrase or two that could be interpreted as shedding some doubt on some minor part of the AGW or human induced climate change hypotheses for example a particular statistical technique, but that is generally all. A classic case in point is this paper on the list from Frank et al. To the uninitiated this might appear to say that climate model predicted warming is out by as much as 80% where in fact it says “~80% less potential amplification of ongoing global warming” which is of course not the same thing. Also, in light of the fact that the error bars in their p.p.m.v. CO2 per °C calculation are very large, that 80% less potential is at the maximum end anyway. Plus, the authors are only discussing the CO2 released as a result of positive feedbacks and are not dealing AT ALL with the direct input of CO2 from man-made sources. This paper supports the position that the current rate of warming as being both anthropogenic and serious in nature, which actually opposes the claim of the blog site to be presenting  “900+ Peer-Reviewed Papers Supporting Skeptic Arguments Against ACC/AGW Alarm”. So, why include it? There are only 2 possible reasons.

1, the blog site owner doesn’t understand climate science sufficiently well enough to really know what he’s doing, or

2. He knows enough to understand what I have just mentioned about the paper and is including it because he knows it will be misleading to laypeople.

I hope its 1 but suspect its 2. Of course, when quality isn’t as important as quantity and the intention is to deceive, the paucity of real peer reviewed papers from reputable journals that debunk AGW and human induced climate change force these people to the fringes for information or to nitpicking papers they know will be too technical for laypeople to understand. The quality doesn’t matter to these people and it doesn’t matter to that proportion of the public who wish to remain wilfully ignorant because the truth is too scary, or those who are generally anti-establishment or the plain gullible whose scientific ignorance prevents them from understanding what comprises quality science. It is easier for this last group to accept simplistic garbage than the often complex real science.

In my opinion, there must be a change in our education systems in the teaching of science and it needs to start in the early years. Of equal importance to the teaching of facts in various disciplines is the teaching of scientific conventions so that future generations are better able to recognise dodgy lists for what they are, know the difference between a climatologist and an engineer, and recognise that computer analysts aren’t well credentialed enough to compile lists of “peer reviewed papers” that actually do what they purport.

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