Thursday, January 28, 2010

I've joined the mainstream media!

Well, sort of. For the next few weeks/months, I will be co-authoring a weekly short column in the Vancouver newspaper Metro News with Kai Chan, assistant professor at the UBC Institute for Resources, Environment, and Sustainability (IRES). The topic of the series will be addressing common climate change skeptic arguments.

The first column was published January 11.

Unfortunately, they didn't run the diagram we had prepared (click for full-size version):

Credit goes to Michael Tobis over at Only In It For the Gold for the original concept.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Calculate your lifetime displacement index

And now for something on the lighter side:

1. Subtract the most southerly latitude you've visited from the most northerly latitude you've visited (flying over it doesn't count!). Retain the negative sign for southerly latitudes.

2. Subtract the most westerly (i.e., the most negative) longitude from the most easterly longitude you've visited. Retain the negative sign on west longitudes.

3. Subtract the most negative altitude (below sea level, if necessary) from the most positive altitude you've visited. Divide by 10.

4. Add 1, 2, and 3 together.

5. As an alternate fun exercise, instead of subtracting each point, average them instead (this time, add instead of subtract so that the negatives offset the positives), and find out where the resulting point (latitude, longitude, altitude) puts you on the earth. (This website will do it for you)

My results:
1. Most southerly latitude: -43 (Bruny Island, Tasmania)
Most northerly latitude: +64 (Ekati Diamond Mine, NWT)
64-(-43)= 107.
2. Most westerly longitude: -159 (Kauai, Hawaii)
Most easterly longitude: +153 (Brisbane, Queensland)
153-(-159)= 312.
3. Most negative altitude: -40m (Jewel Cave, Western Australia)
Most positive altitude: 2284m (Blackcomb Peak, British Columbia)
2284-(-40)= 2324/10=232
4. 107+312+232= 651

5. (64+[-43])/2=21 N
(153-[-159])/2=156 E
2284+(-40)/2=1122 m
(Somewhere in the West Pacific!)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Australian's War on Science, continued

I've got the rare opportunity to scoop Tim Lambert on this one, so I'm shamelessly stealing his series title.

Yesterday, The Australian put the IPCC's Himalayan glacier error on its front page. Today, we are treated to a follow-up glacier story on page 5 (Climate panel to probe error on glacial melting), a story on the same page about Lord Monckton ("'High priest' of the skeptics lured to tour") that also mentions Ian Plimer (although they misspell his name as "Pilmer" - a shocking error coming from his biggest cheerleaders), and a truly mind-numbing editorial by Janet Albrechtsen ("Heated moments mar Monckton") which contains this gem:

"When Monckton talks aobut the science he is powerful. Watch on YouTube his kerb-side interview of a well-meaning Greenpeace follower on the streets of Copenhagen last month. With detailed data behind him, he asks whether she is aware that there has in fact been global cooling in the past nine years? No, she is not. Whether she has been aware that there has been virtually no change to the amount of sea ice? No, she does not. Whether, given her lack of knowledge about these facts, she is driven by faith, not facts. Yes, she is drive by faith, she says.

To those with an open mind, Monckton's fact-based questions demand answers from our political leaders."

There has been global cooling in the past nine years? Really?
There has been no change in sea ice? Really?

The rest of the editorial is filled with similar nonsense. She only mildly rebukes Monckton for name-calling, while accepting his "facts" with total credulity.

Are there any real journalists left at The Australian?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Emperor finds your lack of faith disturbing . . .

This just in:
Pope Benedict XVI denounced the failure of world leaders to agree to a new climate change treaty in Copenhagen last month, saying that world peace depends on safeguarding God's creation.
Amazingly, the Catholic Church is now more "progressive" on two issues (evolution and climate change) than the majority of Americans. If that isn't a sign of the apocalypse, I don't know what is. Now maybe he can do something about the church's stance on birth control.

The pontiff said the same "self-centred and materialistic" way of thinking that sparked the worldwide financial meltdown was also endangering creation. To combat it will require a new way of thinking and a new lifestyle - and an acknowledgment that the question is a moral one, he said.
The pope denounces self-centred, materialistic thinking speaking in a gilded church while holding a golden sceptre and speaking from a position of infallibility. Almost as ironic as last year's speech where he called for an end to child abuse while the church continued to knowingly harbour pedophiles.

Slight brownie points for this, however:
Under Benedict's watch, the Vatican has installed photovoltaic cells on its main auditorium to convert sunlight into electricity and has joined a reforestation project aimed at offsetting its CO2 emissions.

However, let's not forget what Mother Theresa said about the world's poor:
"I think it is very beautiful for the poor to accept their lot, to share it with the passion of Christ. I think the world is being much helped by the suffering of the poor people."

PS - Yes, I know it wasn't Palpatine who said that - but Benny looks more like Palpatine than Darth Vader.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Analysis of climate skeptic organizations

Just a quick hat-tip to Jim Lippard for his recent post looking at the credibility of organizations and scientists associated with the AGW denial movement.

His analysis looking at the age/seniority of skeptics vs non-skeptics is particularly interesting, pointing to the denier movement dying out along with its dinosaurs:
Citation counts of 4th-most-cited >= 200:
IPCC WG1: N=83, 12 w/o year, N=71, average year of last degree = 1981
Skeptics: N=13, 4 w/o year, N=9, average year of last degree = 1965

Citations counts of 4th-most-cited >=100:
IPCC WG1: N=201, 51 w/o year, N=150, average year of last degree = 1983
Skeptics: N=38, 15 w/o year, N=23, average year of last degree = 1968

All IPCC WG1 vs. AGW-skeptical document signers:
IPCC WG1: N=623, 208 w/o year, N=415, average year of last degree = 1989
Skeptics: N=469, 346 w/o year, N=123, average year of last degree = 1973

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Reality has a well-known liberal bias

Image Hosted by

June 2008 Gallup Poll:

"There is a significant political divide in beliefs about the origin of human beings, with 60% of Republicans saying humans were created in their present form by God 10,000 years ago, a belief shared by only 40% of independents and 38% of Democrats."

October 2009 Pew poll

"The decline in the belief in solid evidence of global warming has come across the political spectrum, but has been particularly pronounced among independents. Just 53% of independents now see solid evidence of global warming, compared with 75% who did so in April 2008. Republicans, who already were highly skeptical of the evidence of global warming, have become even more so: just 35% of Republicans now see solid evidence of rising global temperatures, down from 49% in 2008 and 62% in 2007. Fewer Democrats also express this view – 75% today compared with 83% last year."

"It's not that Americans are rejecting science per se, Miller maintains, but longstanding conflicts between personal religious beliefs and selected life-science issues has been exploited to an unprecedented degree by the right-wing fundamentalist faction of the Republican Party. In the 1990s, the state Republican platforms in Alaska, Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma, Oregon, Missouri, and Texas all included demands for teaching creation science. Such platforms wouldn't pass muster in the election, Miller says, but in the activist-dominated primaries, they drive out moderate Republicans, making evolution a political litmus test. Come November, the Republican candidate represents a fundamentalist agenda without making it an explicit part of the campaign. Last year, Miller points out, former Senator John Danforth, a moderate Missouri Republican, wrote in a New York Times opinion piece that for the first time in American history a political party has become an arm of a religious organization. The United States is the only country in the world where a political party has taken a position on evolution."
Gross L (2006) Scientific Illiteracy and the Partisan Takeover of Biology. PLoS Biol 4(5): e167. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0040167

July 2009 poll by Research 2000:

Do you believe that Barack Obama was born in the United States of America or not?

         Yes   No   Not sure

Dem       93    4    3

Rep       42   28   30

Ind       83    8    9

Northeast 93    4    3

South     47   23   30

Midwest   90    6    4

West      87    7    6

August 2006 World Public Opinion poll:
Image Hosted by

"Belief in the existence of Iraqi WMD before the war has tended to follow party lines. Overall four out of ten Americans thought that Iraq still had such weapons or a program to develop them, the WPO poll found. This included six in ten Republicans (60%) but less than one in four Democrats (23%)."

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Top Ten Ways Climate Deniers are like Creationists

"The point is not, he said, whether or not you would "win" the debate. Winning is not what the creationists realistically aspire to. For them, it is sufficient that the debate happens at all. They need the publicity. We don't. To the gullible public that is their natural constituency, it is enough that their man is seen sharing a platform with a real scientist." - Richard Dawkins quoting Stephen J. Gould

"The primary purpose of Phase II is to prepare the popular reception of our ideas. The best and truest research can languish unread and unused unless it is properly publicized. For this reason we seek to cultivate and convince influential individuals in print and broadcast media, as well as think tank leaders, scientists and academics, congressional staff, talk show hosts, college and seminary presidents and faculty, future talent and potential academic allies. [...] This combination of scientific and scholarly expertise and media and political connections makes the Wedge unique, and also prevents it from being "merely academic. [...] We intend these to encourage and equip believers with new scientific evidence's that support the faith, as well as to "popularize" our ideas in the broader culture. " - Excerpt from the Discovery Institute's "Wedge Strategy" document.

"Identify, recruit, and train a team of five independent scientists to participate in media outreach. These will be individuals who do not have a long history of visibility and/or participation in the climate change debate [...] Develop a global climate science information kit for media including peer-reviewed papers that undercut the "conventional wisdom" on climate science [. . .] Develop, disseminate radio news releases featuring scientists nationwide, and offer scientists to appear on radio talk shows across the country . . .Develop and implement a program to inject credible science and scientific accountability into the global climate debate, thereby raising questions about and undercutting the "prevailing scientific wisdom". The strategy will have the added benefit of providing a platform for credible, constructive criticism of the opposition's position on the science [...] Organize under the GCSDC a "Science Education Task Group that will serve as the point of outreach to the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) to develop school materials that present a credible, balance, picture of climate science for use in classrooms nationwide." - Excerpt from Exxon's 1998 "action plan" on global warming.

While the overlap between anthropogenic global warming (AGW) skeptics/deniers and creationists isn't complete, there's a startling similarity in tactics being employed by both groups, especially as you approach the AGW denier-fringe. Let's look at some of the tactics and arguments being used. I'm not going to delve into whether these arguments have any merit or not (that would involve a hell of a long post), but, as Glenn Beck says: I just find it interesting.

1. Claim that there's a scientific conspiracy responsible for suppressing dissenting points of view.

Exhibit A for the creationists: Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.
"If Darwin wanted to challenge the consensus today, how would he do it? Science is not a hobby for rich aristocrats anymore, it’s a multi-million-dollar industry. And if you want a piece of the pie, you’ve got to be a good comrade." - Ben Stein
Exhibit A for the AGW deniers: The Great Global Warming Swindle.
"climate scientists need there to be a problem in order to get funding." - Roy Spencer

Coincidentally, Roy Spencer had this to say about Intelligent Design:
“Twenty years ago, as a PhD scientist, I intensely studied the evolution versus intelligent design controversy for about two years. And finally, despite my previous acceptance of evolutionary theory as 'fact,' I came to the realization that intelligent design, as a theory of origins, is no more religious, and no less scientific, than evolutionism. . . . In the scientific community, I am not alone.”

2. As a result of this conspiracy to keep dissenting opinions out of the peer reviewed literature, start your own "peer reviewed" journal instead.
Exhibit A for the creationists: Creationist Research Society Journal.

Exhibit A for the AGW deniers: Energy and Environment, which has been edited by Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen since 1996. She is quoted as saying "I'm following my political agenda -- a bit, anyway. But isn't that the right of the editor?" and "It’s only we climate skeptics who have to look for little journals and little publishers like mine to even get published"

Exhibit B for the AGW deniers: The Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons. What, you say? That was where the paper "supporting" the infamous Oregon Institute of Science & Medicine petition was published. The journal is published by the American Association of Physicians and Surgeons, which has this to say:
"Humanists employ the slight of hand linguist trick of substituting the religion of evolutionary humanism for the creation religion of Jehovah by tagging the latter “religion, forbidden by the First Amendment” and the former “scientific fact.” Both labels, like humanism itself, are conspiratorial fabrications."

3. When the science doesn't swing your way, start a petition that claims to represent scientists.
Exhibit A for creationists: The Discovery Institute Petition.
Exhibit A for climate deniers: The Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine Petition
Exhibit B for climate deniers: Back in March 2009, CATO was fishing around for signatories for its own petition.

4. Start your own counter-culture "conferences" to get the skeptics together.
Exhibit A for creationists: Answers in Genesis Conference.
Exhibit B for creationists: The Discovery Institute's Legacy of Darwin Intelligent Design Conference.
Exhibit A for climate deniers: The Heartland Institute's International Conference on Climate Change. They're up to #3 now. Now if only they could get people to show up.

5. Cherry-pick quotes from your opponents out of context, especially if you can make it look they said the opposite of what they actually said.
Exhibit A for creationists: quoting Darwin on the evolution of the eye.
Exhibits B-L for creationists here.
Exhibit A for climate deniers: Steve McIntyre quote-mining the stolen Hadley e-mails to make it look like the IPCC was nefariously "hiding the decline" in instrument data.
Exhibit B for climate deniers: All manner of denier blogs and major media outlets such as the WSJ quote-mining the IDL computer code behind some of the climate models without having the first clue what it actually means.

6. Offer a reward to anyone willing to dispute the science.
Exhibit A for creationists: Er, I can't find one.
Exhibit A for climate deniers: The American Enterprise Institute offered $10,000 to scientists and economists to critique the IPCC's Fourth Assessment Report.

7. Compare your opponents to fascists (or communists, whatever you prefer).
Exhibit A for creationists: Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. (see my previous post for more on this).
Exhibit A for climate deniers: Lord Monckton calling young climate activists "Hitler Youth" at Copenhagen.
Exhibit B for climate deniers: a Wall Street Journal editorial calling climate scientists "closet Stalinists". (again, see my previous post for more on this)

8. Split hairs in the face of overwhelming evidence that your central thesis is untenable.
Exhibit A for creationists: creating a false dichotomy between microevolution and macroevolution in the face of overwhelming evidence that changes in gene frequency happen with startling rapidity.
Exhibit A for climate deniers: finally admitting that the earth is warming (although a significant contingent is still in denial over this), but denying that humans have anything to do with it.

9. If all else fails, sue (or threaten to sue) them.
Exhibit A for creationists: Roseville woman sues UC Berkeley over its website claiming that evolutionary theory is compatible with religious belief. She loses.
Exhibit B for creationists: A group of California Christian schools sued the University of California for failing to recognize their pseudoscientific curricula.
Exhibit A for climate deniers: Noted climate crank John Coleman has been threatening to sue Al Gore (?) for years now.
Exhibit B for climate deniers: Lord Monckton wanted in on the Gore action as well.
Exhibit C for climate deniers: The Competitive Enterprise Institute sues NASA.
Exhibit C for climate deniers: In 2000, the Competitive Enterprise Institute filed not one, but two lawsuits to suppress and delete the National Assessment on Climate Change. These lawsuits were later dropped.

10. Blame the gravy train for the lack of research supporting your position.
Exhibit A for creationists:
"Evolution is the dogma of the scientific and educational establishments. Many millions of dollars from government sources are spent each year on research that is oriented and correlated within the framework of evolution theory. On the other hand, as far as I know, not a single tax dollar has been available, or is available, for research by scientists who openly attempt to correlate their results within the concept of special creation. Perhaps this virtual "shut-out" is due in part to lack of ingenuity and aggressiveness on the part of creationists, but there is little doubt that the most ingenious and sustained action of creationists would do little to weaken the stranglehold evolutionists have on public funds."
- Duane Gish
Exhibit A for climate deniers:
"The US government has spent over $79 billion since 1989 on policies related to climate change, including science and technology research, administration, education campaigns, foreign aid, and tax breaks. Despite the billions: “audits” of the science are left to unpaid volunteers. A dedicated but largely uncoordinated grassroots movement of scientists has sprung up around the globe to test the integrity of the theory and compete with a well funded highly organized climate monopoly." - Joanne Nova, Science and Public Policy Institute
Exhibit B for climate deniers:
"Describing those funding levels as "alarming," Kueter argues that the agencies might be pushing the universities to take a pro-regulatory approach to climate-change research. "I'm very concerned that our university system may be losing some of its creative edge because it has these critical dependencies on a single source of funding.""
- Jeff Kueter, George C. Marshall Institute
Exhibit C for climate deniers:
"More than anything, it's about money, it's about research grants, it's about power, it's about socialism . . .The incentives to do this are huge. It's absolutely the neatest thing if you want to have bigger government and greater control." - Jay Lehr, Heartland Institute

I'm open to suggestions of other parallels in tactics and strategies.

Addendum: I missed this gem of an op-ed piece by Rick Santorum - complete with an argumentum ad populum. Apparently, AGW is exactly like evolution. Santorum manages to cram ten pounds of stupid into a five pound bag.

"Why? Well, maybe because Americans don't like being told what to believe. Maybe because we have learned to be skeptical of "scientific" claims, particularly those at war with our common sense - like the Darwinists' telling us for decades that we are just a slightly higher form of life than a bacterium that is here purely by chance"

Americans don't like being told what to believe? Are you serious?

Addendum #2: Now even the creationists themselves are drawing an explicit parallel:
"The public has been intimidated into thinking that “non-experts” have no right to question “consensus” views in science. But the scandal in at the University of East Anglia suggests that this consensus on climate may not be based on solid evidence.

But what about the Darwin debate? We are told that the consensus of scientists in favor of Darwinian evolution means the theory is no longer subject to debate. In fact, there are strong scientific reasons to doubt Darwin’s theory and what it allegedly proved."