Global Warming Disinformation

This article is a perfect example of how Neo-Conservative think tanks have been able to subvert climate scientists through the use of disinformation.

prnewswire.com/…/www/story/06-28-2007/0004617799

The title is called “Al Gore Confronted by Own Scientists – ‘Confusion Between Hypothesis and Evidence’ ” One might expect from the headline that the climate scientists mentioned in the title, the IPCC, have directly criticized Gore for his book and movie “An Inconvenient Truth.” But when you actually read it, it says:

“In a historic move, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has released the expert review comments and responses to its latest assessment of the science of climate change. The IPCC report is the primary source of data for Al Gore’s movie and book titled “An Inconvenient Truth.” Many of the comments by the reviewers are strongly critical of claims contained in the final report, and are directly at odds with the so-called “scientific consensus” touted by Gore and others calling for immediate government action. ”

So actually, it isn’t the IPCC doing the judging here, it’s the IPCC that’s being judged! The article goes on:

“For example, the following comment by Eric Steig appears in Second Order Draft Comments, Chapter 6; section 6-42: In general, the certainty with which this chapter presents our understanding of abrupt climate change is overstated. There is confusion between hypothesis and evidence throughout the chapter, and a great deal of confusion on the differences between an abrupt “climate change” and possible, hypothetical causes of such climate changes.”

That’s a little cryptic. One might think that the author of this article could have gone into a little more detail. The criticism given is that there is some confusion between hypothesis and evidence in one particular chapter. But does this mean that Eric Steig is disagreeing with the overall results? That would be the general impression. Yet here you can find Eric Steig’s homepage at RealClimate:

realclimate.org/index.php?p=54

On it’s About page the site says: “RealClimate is a commentary site on climate science by working climate scientists for the interested public and journalists. We aim to provide a quick response to developing stories and provide the context sometimes missing in mainstream commentary. The discussion here is restricted to scientific topics and will not get involved in any political or economic implications of the science.”

And here’s their webpage on “How to Talk to Climate Sceptic”

gristmill.grist.org/skeptics

Here is one objection listed:

Objection: The earth has had much warmer climates in the past. What’s so special about the current climate? Anyway, it seems like a generally warmer world will be better.

Answer: I don’t know if there is a meaningful way to define an “optimum” average temperature for planet earth. Surely it is better now for all of us than it was 20,000 years ago when so much land was trapped beneath ice sheets. Perhaps any point between the recent climate and the extreme one we may be heading for, with tropical forests inside the arctic circle, is as good as any other. Maybe it’s even better with no ice caps anywhere.
It doesn’t matter. The critical issue is not what the temperature is, or may be, or will be. The critical issue is how fast it is moving.

Rapid change is the real danger. Human habits and infrastructure are suited to particular weather patterns and sea levels, as are ecosystems and animal behaviors. The rate at which global temperature is rising today is likely unique in the history of our species.

This kind of sudden change is rare even in geological history, though perhaps not unprecedented. So the planet may have been through similar things before — that sounds reassuring, right?

Not so much. Once you look at the impact similar changes had on biodiversity at the time, the existence of historical precedent becomes anything but reassuring. Rapid climate change is the prime suspect in most mass extinction events, including the Great Dying some 250 million years ago, in which 90% of all life went extinct.

So, I think we can safely assume that the issue that is being brought up is about the language being used and not on the central thesis that the earth is warming, that it is caused by humans, and that very bad things will happen because of it. There are a lot of reports that are done by the IPCC and they should be reviewed and criticized, but that criticism does not automatically amount to a reverse judgement in the case.

ipcc-wg1.ucar.edu/wg1/Comments/wg1-commentFrameset.html

The very next paragraph in this article says:

“It is now abundantly clear why Al Gore will not accept our debate challenge. The supposed scientific consensus on global warming is pure fiction. Hopefully, the public release of comments and responses will enable the debate over global warming to turn to facts and less fiction,” stated Joseph Bast, president of The Heartland Institute, a national nonprofit think tank based in Chicago.

The Heartland Institute has been running ads in national newspapers calling on Al Gore to debate Lord Christopher Monckton, a prominent global warming “skeptic.” Starting today, the institute says it is now including Dennis Avery, an economist and coauthor of a book on global warming that is on the New York Times nonfiction bestseller list, who Gore has also refused to debate.”

By placing this paragraph immediately after the last one, it reinforces the idea that the criticism was directed at Al Gore and not on the IPCC. How this could possibly be related to why Al Gore does not want to debate Lord Monckton is beyond understanding. Is the implication here that Al Gore somehow had the same exact complaint that Eric Steig did in the Second Order Draft Comments, Chapter 6; section 6-42, that this in itself caused him to realize that Global Warming could not be proved but that he decided to continue his crusade anyway, and then refused to debate with the Lord Monckton because he was worried that the truth might come out?

At the very bottom of the article it reads: “SOURCE The Heartland Institute”

Not surprising. The Heartland Institute is a free-market oriented public policy think tank from Chicago and formerly a member of the “Cooler Heads Coalition,” an organization dedicated to proving that Global Warming is uncertain. It was widely criticized as “astroturfing”, that is, trying to appear to be a grass-roots organization when in reality a look at its member list showed it was mostly funded by energy companies and other companies that would lose money on any Global Warming legislation. The site was discontinued in June of 2006 and there haven’t been any updates to the site since.

So what does the IPCC really think of Al Gore’s film?

IPCC Chairman Pachauri, when asked what he thinks about Gore’s film, said: “I liked it. It does emotionalize the debate, but it seems that it has to do that.” And when Pachauri comments on the publication of the first SPM by saying, “I hope that this will shock the governments so much that they take action.” Stefan Rahmstorf, a professor of the physics of oceans at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, one of the world’s bona fide experts on the subject and the lead author of the current report, praised Gore’s film unconditionally, even for its inclusion of the sequence depicting New York sinking into the ocean. Rahmstorf’s boss, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, who serves as the institute’s director and as an advisor to the German government, said, “We could see a one-meter rise in sea levels by 2100. The expected, climate-related shift in the ocean current could cause the water to rise by an additional meter in the Helgoland Bight.”

I think I found the review that inspired that pseudo-news article. It was made by Eric Steig, one of the founders of RealClimate.org and the only scientist referenced in the article. The whole angle about “Gore’s own bitch scientists have risen up against him” hinged on Steig’s critical statement, and what did he say about Al Gore’s movie?

“How well does the film handle the science? Admirably, I thought. It is remarkably up to date, with reference to some of the very latest research. Discussion of recent changes in Antarctica and Greenland are expertly laid out. He also does a very good job in talking about the relationship between sea surface temperature and hurricane intensity. As one might expect, he uses the Katrina disaster to underscore the point that climate change may have serious impacts on society, but he doesn’t highlight the connection any more than is appropriate (see our post on this, here).

There are a few scientific errors that are important in the film. At one point Gore claims that you can see the aerosol concentrations in Antarctic ice cores change “in just two years”, due to the U.S. Clean Air Act. You can’t see dust and aerosols at all in Antarctic cores — not with the naked eye — and I’m skeptical you can definitively point to the influence of the Clean Air Act. I was left wondering whether Gore got this notion, and I hope he’ll correct it in future versions of his slideshow. Another complaint is the juxtaposition of an image relating to CO 2 emissions and an image illustrating invasive plant species. This is misleading; the problem of invasive species is predominantly due to land use change and importation, not to “global warming”. Still, these are rather minor errors. It is true that the effect of reduced leaded gasoline use in the U.S. does clearly show up in Greenland ice cores; and it is also certainly true that climate change could exacerbate the problem of invasive species.”

realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2006/05/al-gores-movie/

The latest report by the IPCC, released on Feb. 2 called Global Warming “unequivocal.” Below is an article on it.

Achim Steiner, executive director of the United Nations Environment Program said, “Feb. 2 will be remembered as the date when uncertainty was removed as to whether humans had anything to do with climate change on this planet,” he went on. “The evidence is on the table.” The report is the panel’s fourth assessment since 1990 on the causes and consequences of climate change, but it is the first in which the group asserts with near certainty — more than 90 percent confidence — that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from human activities have been the main causes of warming in the past half century…… The Bush administration, which until recently avoided directly accepting that humans were warming the planet in potentially harmful ways, embraced the findings, which had been approved by representatives from the United States and 112 other countries on Thursday night. The United States, with about 5 percent of the world’s population, contributes about a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions, more than any other country.

nytimes.com/2007/02/03/science/earth/03climate.html?ex=1328158800

Another good article was written in Spiegal:

“The organizations that established the IPCC — the UNEO and the WMO — wanted to prevent governments from using the reports as little more than notepaper. And the politicians were intent on preventing the scientists from gaining sole responsibility for the content of the reports….. The panel informed the world that 20 to 30 percent of all known species will become extinct if the rise in temperatures, measured from 1850 to the end of the 21st century, exceeds 2°C ( 3.6°F). The world also learned that there could be water shortages and more frequent flooding, and that food production would decline if global warming exceeds 3°C (5.4°F)…. Because the IPCC’s rules require that politicians produce scientific arguments to implement changes, the scientists have, in a sense, a home court advantage. As pleased as he is about these rules, Pachauri is concerned about the critics who are not bound by the rules — the outsiders. He calls them skeptics, and when he pronounces the word, he shrugs his shoulders as if he wanted to shoo away a fly. And then he says: “There will always be skeptics.”

“In the history of global climate research, the research budget in Lindzen’s native United States has been inflated twice — once during the presidency of the first President Bush and once during that of his son, George W. Bush. In both cases the injection of funding was preceded by a sentence uttered by the president: We know too little. If climate researchers wish to secure or expand their budgets, they shouldn’t be saying: We are 90 percent certain that the lion’s share of climate change is manmade. Instead, they should say: We know too little.” Lindzen can argue that the models need to be more precise, and other, less competent critics can demand that details need to be better understood. This can happen, and will probably happen, but it is virtually impossible that these changes and these conclusions will throw doubt on the core conclusion of the current global climate report: Climate change is real, and it is overwhelmingly manmade.

spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,480766,00.html

3 thoughts on “Global Warming Disinformation

  1. My biggest problem with discussing this is that I never get a chance to examine the data. Most people who don’t think there is a problem pretty much say that we don’t know or have no reason to be alarmed. Well, that immediately puts everyone else in a position: be able to talk about the data, or admit that you don’t really know.

  2. Pingback: Political Rants » Global Warming Links

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