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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