RepublicanConservative friend of mine kindly asked for my response to a December 12 article by Jack Kelly about the lackluster negotiations in Durban on global warming. My friend thought that the report, by Jack Kelly, titled Long Faces in Durban, deserved a point-by-point response. Here is my rebuttal (lightly edited from the response I provided to my friend).
(1) Right from the outset, Jack Kelly says climate change is “one of the most brazen scams in the history of the world.” Therefore, I know that this is not going to be a balanced analysis. The writer has made up his mind and sees his job is to convince the reader of his viewpoint.
(2) “Of 18,531 references… 5,587 were newspaper and magazine articles written by non-experts, unpublished theses and pamphlets” That still leaves 12,944 articles that were written by experts. I don’t see that this makes any significant point against the findings of the IPCC, merely that numerous non-expert (however defined) opinions have also been published. Good! It means that some scientists are concerned about communicating their message to non-experts. (NOTE: I am assuming some of the “non-expert” pamphlets, etc. are the attempt to get out the word about the anthropogenic origin of global warming.)
(3) “many authors were graduate students selected more for political connections and “diversity” than for expertise.” These assertions regarding the credibility of the IPCC authors are groundless. It’s a widely accepted practice for graduate students to be included in the authorship of such papers, which may include dozens of authors. And since most of these papers were undoubtedly peer-reviewed, so that seems to negate Kelly’s initial point about “non-expert” authors.
(4) “…these reports contain so many factual errors. … the IPCC altered data to indicate sea levels were rising when they were not.” The author asserts that fraud is a better explanation for “factual errors” What factual errors? If he is referring to the rise in sea level as being “fraudulent” he is plain wrong. (Kelly writes: “Dr. Nils-Axel Morner asked a British member of the IPCC in 2003 why the IPCC altered data to indicate sea levels were rising when they were not.”) Wikipedia has an article with data from solid scientific research to show that sea level has been rising steadily for several decades. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Current_sea_level_rise) Like temperature, sea level is not easy to measure, which leads to uncertainty in measurements. But the error estimates are less than the overall trend. No doubt sea level is rising and is not a factual error or fraud. Academic fraud is a serious charge. The author would lend credence to his accusations if he provided links to his sources. My guess is that the quote is taken out of context. Who is this “British member of the IPCC” anyway? It’s interesting to note that according to his Wikipedia biography, Nils Mörner “is a critic of the IPCC and the notion that the global sea level is rising.” And the bio goes on to say “He is also known for his support for dowsing.” Since there has never been a scientific study supporting dowsing, I would not give a lot of credence to Mörner’s opinions on sea level.
(5) “In a review of Ms. Lafromboise’s book, which was published electronically in October, Judith Curry, chair of the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Tech, said she “feels duped” by the IPCC, which she supported until December 2009.” Kelly makes much of the e-book published by Donna Laframboise, citing her reports of leaked emails. But Kelly simply regurgitates Laframboise’s work, again with no independent links or analysis. And who is Laframboise? She’s a feminist, writer, and photographer. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donna_Laframboise) Um. No science background? Part of the reason that scientists are so cagey about releasing emails and so forth is that these are part of scientific discourse. If there wasn’t some debate and discussion, it wouldn’t be science! And scientists know that non-experts such as Laframboise and Kelly will take such debate to mean doubt and uncertainty — such as debate on the nuances of evolution is twisted as being debate about the fact of evolution. And it’s ironic that Kelly cites a non-expert who is critical of the number of non-expert papers in the IPCC’s findings.
(6) “Temperatures haven’t risen in 13 years, according to measurements from ground stations. Data from tree rings and ice cores show no warming since 1940.” Where are the references to Kelly’s “facts” and figures? No authorship, no citations, just numbers which may or may not be meaningful. We have no way of telling. So that’s pretty thin gruel and not much to substantiate his assertion that this is the biggest scam in history. For example, Kelly writes that “Temperatures haven’t risen in 13 years…” Yet a study funded by of all people the Koch brothers showed “showed the temperature had risen about 1.6 degrees since the 1950s,” (see article “Richard Muller, Koch brothers-funded scientist, declares global warming is real“). So without references for Kelly’s numbers, I just don’t buy his argument.
(7) “Few journalists have reported these facts. That’s why so many accepted for so long the preposterous assertions of the scammers.” To say something such as “the preposterous assertions of the scammers” is simply combative and reactionary. They are not assertions, (unlike Kelly’s) but conclusions based on years of research and mountains of accumulated data. Kelly says “Few journalists have reported these facts.” Again, where’s the data? Maybe the “facts” haven’t been reported because they were published in marginal literature or because they were contradicted by other more rigorously acquired data. Kelly does not say, denying us his insights on this point too.
(8) “For some, the scam is about power. Politicians saw in the regulation of CO2 an opportunity to control people’s lives.” Kelly says that part of the “scam” has been to declare CO2 a pollutant. In fact the US Supreme Court supported this definition (Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency, 549 U.S. 497 (2007)) I am not aware that the United States Supreme Court has been engaged in “scams” previously, so I don’t see why this should be an exception. The body needs mercury, albeit in tiny amounts. Too much mercury in the wrong places and it is a pollutant. Same with CO2. But Kelly offers no background, just opinion.
(9) “The leading alarmist among American scientists, James Hansen of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, has been as spectacularly wrong as Mr. Gore.” Kelly tries to make a point that Hansen is wrong. He cites Hansen as saying that “the sea level off Manhattan would rise 10 feet within 40 years (if atmospheric CO2 doubled).” Kelly then counters that “In the 23 years since, the sea level has risen just 2.5 inches.” Two points. First is that Kelly has just informed us that “the IPCC altered data to indicate sea levels were rising when they were not” (see point 4). So are sea levels rising or aren’t they? Kelly himself can’t even get his facts straight in a single article. Second, atmospheric CO2 has not doubled in 40 years. If it had, maybe sea level would have risen dramatically. But in any case, Kelly is lambasting a scientist from 23 years ago for making a wrong prediction. It’s naive in the extreme to expect every scientific prediction to be correct every time. So no biggie there.
(10) “There never was a consensus among scientists in support of anthropogenic global warming.” and that “Some [scientists] signed on because that was the only way to get governments to support their research.” These are just assertions, again (yawn). In this case, Kelly is confusing “consensus” with “unanimity.” Yes, there has been disagreement among the scientific community. No, there is not unanimity. But over the years, in fact, scientific consensus has coalesced. Whereas a couple of decades ago, many scientists questioned the anthropogenic influence of global warming, today most scientists accept it as fact. So Kelly is misleading the reader to say that “As the gulf widens between climate change models and real world data, more are skeptical.” In fact, less scientists are skeptical now than before.
So it is not the global community of climate scientists that are promulgating a scam, but non-expert hacks like Jack Kelly and Donna Framboise. With no scientific background, they prey on the general public’s poor grasp of the scientific process to score cheap and very dangerous points. Just because they don’t like the news they hear doesn’t make it a global conspiracy.