Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Connect the dots . . .

In earlier posts, I pointed out the parallels in tactics between the creationist movement and climate denial movement. Now you can add a third piece to the puzzle: anti-vaccination loonies.

The Discovery Institute, best known for its efforts to promote "Intelligent Design" as a "scientific" alternative to evolution, is not only on board with the climate denial movement - it's now throwing its hat in with the vaccines-cause-autism loonies.

Particularly telling is this paragraph, which was later removed:
Maybe the studies were valid. By all means, let's find out. In fact, a thorough and independent public investigation is imperative. Since the Center for Disease Control's money was involved, surely the CDC should not be the only body looking into this matter. Meanwhile, tell us again why scientists who dissent from the "consensus" in this scientific field, or any other, must be silenced.

Conspiracy. Money-hungry scientists. Cover-up. Consensus. It's all there.

Orac at ScienceBlogs has the full story.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Usual Suspects

I've put together a list of some of the "all-stars" of the climate denial movement, what their area of expertise is, and what their publication record is (if it exists at all). I've been fairly liberal in my inclusion of publications; although I've excluded comments on papers and articles in popular magazines such as Scientific American and New Scientist, I haven't excluded publications in fringe journals such as Energy and Environment; nor have I excluded climate-related publications in non-climate related publications such as the Journal of the American Medical Association (Singer) or the Pipeline and Gas Journal (Spencer). In Seitz's case, I may have overestimated the total number of publications, since there's another physicist named F. Seitz.

The methodology was pretty simple - just search Scopus for the following names as author (not just first author), weed out non-peer reviewed publications, comments, and responses to comments, then count-up how many publications remained, and how many of those actually pertained to climate science. I admit that I may have missed a few publications by not using other literature databases (like Web of Science), but this wasn't intended to be an exhaustive search. In some cases, a judgment call was required as to whether a publication counted as climate-related or not, but generally I gave them the benefit of the doubt and counted rather than discounted the paper if there was any uncertainty.

Name Affiliation Background Total # of Peer-Reviewed Publications # of Peer-reviewed Climatology Publications
David Bellamy NZ Climate Science Coalition Botanist 130
Bob Carter Institute of Public Affairs Geologist <60 11
John Coleman KUSI-TV Weatherman 0 0
Joe D'Aleo Science and Public Policy Institute Meteorologist 0 0
Richard Lindzen MIT Atmospheric Physicist 111 ~78
Bjorn Lomborg Copenhagen Consensus Political scientist 9 0
Stephen McIntyre Climate Audit Mathematician/Economist 2 22
Ross McKitrick Fraser Institute Economist 28 83
Patrick Michaels Cato Institute Environmental Scientist 55 0
Christopher Monckton Science and Public Policy Institute Journalist/Politician 0 0
Roger Pielke, Jr. Breakthrough Institute Political scientist 524 0
Roger Pielke, Sr. University of Colorado Mathematician/Meteorologist 3214 300+
Ian Plimer Institute of Public Affairs Mining Geologist 63 0
Fred Seitz (deceased) George C. Marshall Institute, Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, Science and Environmental Policy Project Physicist 1185 0
Fred Singer Science and Environmental Policy Project Physicist 1466 107
Roy Spencer Heartland Institute, George C. Marshall Institute Atmospheric Scientist 59 438
Anthony Watts Weatherman 119

Key to colour codes:
Red: Denies that the earth is warming at all, and/or denies that carbon dioxide is linked to warming. Analogous to young-earth creationists.
Yellow: Admits that the earth is warming, but believes that it is a natural effect, or admits that some warming is due to human GHG emissions, but believes that the effect will either be positive or not worth worrying about. Alternatively, waffles between arguments that either admit or deny the human role in climate change.
Green: Admits that human GHG emissions are linked to rising temperatures but believes that the climate sensitivity is much lower than IPCC estimates and/or negative feedbacks will predominate. Somewhat analogous to intelligent design advocates (coincidentally - or perhaps not - Roy Spencer actually is an intelligent design advocate).

1 - Published in Energy & Environment - a journal of rather ill-repute, to put it kindly; it's not even listed in the ISI.
2 - Both of these were co-authored with Ross McKitrick.
3 - Six of the eight climate-related publications are in Energy & Environment
4 - Somewhat difficult to completely tease apart Pielke Jr. and Pielke Sr.'s publications since they not only have the same middle initial, they also share some institutional affiliations, and don't always specify Junior or Senior in the author list.
5 - Likely an overestimate; there's a German physicist by the same name.
6 - Singer's publication record takes a turn for the crazy around 1970, when his papers start opining on the issues of abortion, overpopulation, nuclear winter, sewage treatment, and ozone depletion.
7 - Including Energy & Environment, and the Journal of the American Medical Association (!).
8 - Of which, perhaps 3 actually have any bearing on human influence on the climate.
9 - This is being exceedingly generous, given that Watts was one of 39 authors in an Essay in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, which amounted to handwaving over the quality of the U.S. Historical Climatology Network (concerns which, as it turns out, were unfounded).

A few names stand out here on the basis of their publication record: Pielke (Sr.), Lindzen, and Spencer. I haven't filtered any of the climate-related publications to see how many of the papers actually contain a contrarian viewpoint, but it's safe to say that none of them are in any danger of overturning the fundamental principles of AGW, namely:
1) That CO2 is a greenhouse gas.
2) That CO2 concentrations are increasing because of human activity.
3) That global temperatures are increasing as a result.

Lindzen (and, to a lesser extent, Spencer) is basically betting the farm on his "iris hypothesis": that increased sea surface temperatures lead to a decrease in cloud cover, and thus an increasing in outgoing infrared radiation. Support for this hypothesis ranges from weak to equivocal.

Pielke Sr. is perhaps the most credible scientist on the whole list, and it should come as no surprise that he's also the least contrarian of the bunch. In fact, Pielke says the following:
Humans are significantly altering the global climate, but in a variety of diverse ways beyond the radiative effect of carbon dioxide. The IPCC assessments have been too conservative in recognizing the importance of these human climate forcings as they alter regional and global climate. These assessments have also not communicated the inability of the models to accurately forecast the spread of possibilities of future climate.
As I have summarized on the Climate Science weblog, humans activities do significantly alter the heat content of the climate system, although, based on the latest understanding, the radiative effect of CO2 has contributed, at most, only about 28% to the human-caused warming up to the present. The other 72% is still a result of human activities!
This relatively non-controversial position is reflected in his publications - none of which appear, at least upon cursory examination, to be paradigm-changing.

Spencer sort of nibbles around the edges, either by trying to poke holes in the satellite temperature record (which constitutes nearly all of his relevant publication record), or coming up with dubious estimates of climate sensitivity, which he does in less formal settings.

In summary, what does this table tell us? Several things:
1) The most extreme skeptics (akin to young-earth creationists) have no scientific credentials or credibility.
2) The Journal of the American Medical Association will apparently accept manuscripts on climatology. Who knew?
3) There's no apparent conspiracy to keep climate skeptics out of the literature, as evidenced by Lindzen, Pielke, and Spencer's publication records . . .
4) Unless you believe that the conspiracy has been successful at keeping the truly revolutionary papers out of the publication record altogether. If this is the case, the conspiracy has also been amazingly successful at preventing this information from being leaked through other channels.

In an upcoming post, I'll look at how incestuous the connections between these contrarians and the organizations they stump for actually are.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Plus ça change

Popular Science now offers free access to their complete archives, going back 137 years.

For fun, type in "global warming" to their search engine, and read some of the articles that come up (unfortunately, you can't copy the text from the viewer). For example:

[reader letter]
In Reversing the Greenhouse [Aug], you make several false assumptions. The first is that global warming is a settled issue; many reputable scientists disagree. You also posit that the only alternative to burning fossil fuels for electricity is gigantic solar-powered satellites. There is a far better method of generating non-polluting power - nuclear plants. Instead of advocating pie-in-the-sky schemes and adding to unfounded public fears about nuclear power, wouldn't you be better advised to help educate a technology-illiterate populace about its relative safety and advantages?
-William R Chandler, Boise, Idaho
[editors' response]
We never said global warming was a "settled issue." What is true is that a majority of experts on climate and the atmosphere have reached a consensus that the increasing release of greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, will probably result in increased global warming.

The year? 1991.

PS - Be sure to check out their 3-part series on global warming, featuring James Hansen and Stephen Schneider. Part 1 is in the August 1989 issue.

The closing paragraph of part 1 reads:
. . . in a poignant letter last August [August 1988] to the British journal Nature, F. Kenneth Hare, chairman of the Climatic Planning Board of Canada, warned that there will never be proof absolute enough to persuade every doubter that a buildup of greenhouse gases is directly responsible for global warming. But as a scientist and adviser to his government, he wrote, "I can and do tell them that they should base their environmental planning on the assumption that the greenhouse warming will continue and accelerate. There will always be conservatives who decline to go this far. At the age of sixty-nine I can no longer afford to be conservative."
Dr. Hare died in 2002.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Creationists come out of the closet . . . on global warming

In a previous post, I outlined the many parallels between the creationist (aka evolution denier) and the climate pseudoskeptic (aka global warming denier) movements. Well, that connection has just become a lot more explicit.

Josh Rosenau over at Thoughts From Kansas explains:
The legal incentive to pair global warming with evolution in curriculum battles stems in part from a 2005 ruling by a United States District Court judge in Atlanta that the Cobb County Board of Education, which had placed stickers on certain textbooks encouraging students to view evolution as only a theory, had violated First Amendment strictures on the separation of church and state.
After that, said Joshua Rosenau, a project director for the National Center for Science Education, he began noticing that attacks on climate change science were being packaged with criticism of evolution in curriculum initiatives.
“Wherever there is a battle over evolution now,” [physicist Lawrence Krauss] said, “there is a secondary battle to diminish other hot-button issues like Big Bang and, increasingly, climate change. It is all about casting doubt on the veracity of science — to say it is just one view of the world, just another story, no better or more valid than fundamentalism.”