More on Global Warming in The Australian (via The Times)

In an earlier post a commenter mentioned an opinion piece (though it appears under News rather than Comment on the website) in The Times by Nigel Calder, which has also been printed in The Australian.
I started giving a point by point response in comments but it was getting so long I decided to start a new post. Read the article first, it is here.

For a start comparing a 90% certainty figure in a summary of the work of hundreds of scientists, published in peer reviewed literature to a figure given by a single scientist is a completely useless analogy.
Secondly, the idea of a new Galileo or Einstein storming through is also rubbish. Galileo largely established the scientific method, so it is hard to make sense of the concept of “scientific consensus” before he came along. Eintein’s theories were groundbreaking conceptually, but the key point is that they did not invalidate what had come before – for example Newtonian physics is still valid in all of the applications of Newton, and everyone up to around the time of Einstein. Eintstein’s theories still reduce to Newton’s in the classical limit. I’m certainly not belittling the work of Einstein, it was certainly groundbreaking and took physics to exciting new places – it’s just that it didn’t mean that everyone before Einstein was wrong. Certainly there were competing contemporaneous theories that didn’t work out, but he didn’t demolish a consensus in the sense that the climate sceptics are hoping for.

The “politicisation of climate science” is a completely unsubstantiated claim, which I don’t buy at all. My best guess is that he finds the political consequences of climate science research unpalatable, hence the research must be contrived to achieve these political goals … just a guess, since there isn’t much else to go on. The quality of his examples of unreported science certainly don’t help his claims.
Before we get to those, he claims that all sorts of cold weather records aren’t reported. This is a strawman argument, since media reports of hot weather records are not the basis for AGW theory. Neither an isolated instance of an unusually cold day, nor an unusually hot one proves anything.
As for Antarctica cooling, this is hardly a secret that climate scientists are overlooking. Global warming does not mean that the whole globe has to warm uniformly, rather the average is getting warmer, local regions in isolation are as useless as looking at particular events in isolation. In fact Calder engages in a bit of cherry picking in this section. If AGW depended on cherry picking certain hotter regions (which would be a fatally flawed approach) then he would have a point – but it doesn’t. For more on Antarctica there is a post at RealClimate. Also Tamino has written about it .
To illustrate how such cherry picking fails to tell the full story, I visited the NASA GISS site where you can make your own maps based on their global temperature records. Here is a map of the 1980-2006 anomaly in relation to the 1951-80 mean temperatures.

(dark grey areas correspond to missing data)

The cooling of antarctica is visible, but it is clear that the overall global trend is clearly warming. Just so it’s clear that I’m not engaged in cherry picking, here is the period 1998-2006 (much beloved by sceptics because of the El Nino boosted high temps of ’98), in terms of the previous 30 year mean:

The cooling over certain parts of Antarctica is larger, but the warming over the Arctic and Greenland is quite a bit larger (in area and magnitude).

After doing all this I remembered where I saw something similar – Coby Beck addressed the same point.

Next Calder claims that the satellite data doesn’t show warming since ’98 – this is an oft recycled claim that was dealt with long ago – once again Tamino is a good source for the details.

The historical claims about the sun are dodgy too. He implicitly claims that the Medieval Warm Period was a global phenomenon – this has been much discussed as well , and the evidence suggests that it was not, meaning that it does not support the “sun is causing global warming” argument. Note Calder’s use of language in the following passages

What does the Intergovernmental Panel do with such emphatic evidence for an alternation of warm and cold periods, linked to solar activity …

… Disdain for the sun goes with a failure by the self-appointed greenhouse experts to keep up with inconvenient discoveries about how the solar variations control the climate.

For a start his claim of “emphatic” evidence is rather exaggerated. Secondly he claims that these scientists ignore the sun due to their “disdain” – this is a straw man argument. Climate Scientists do not have a disdain for the sun, solar forcings play a key role in climate models behind AGW, but their effects are outweighed by the greenhouse gas forcings. Calder himself points out that in the AR4 the role of solar forcings is smaller than in the TAR – but of course this isn’t due to scientific evidence, it is because of the collective disdain for the sun of all those involved. No doubt his historical anecdotes are much more reliable than their calculations based on measurement and observation.
Another point which has been made so many times that I feel I can repeat it without citing one of the many sources is that if solar is playing a larger role than expected then the greenhouse gases are having a smaller effect – so why?

Finally there is the work of Svensmark. I note that while Calder isn’t persuaded by the reams of evidence for greenhouse gas driven warming, he is quick to jump on board with a theory backed up by one published experiment, but I note that Eli Rabett has doubts that the set up in the lab replicated atmospheric conditions. This is all a bit besides the point anyway since there appears to be no trend in the intensity cosmic rays which corresponds to the warming trend. Perhaps there is more to be said about the role of cosmic rays, but the grandiose claims about cosmic rays taking the place of greenhouse gases appear to originate in a press release rather than the scientific literature. More on the theory in this Seed news story, showing that many others have doubts for legitimate scientific reasons. Note also that the story broke late last year and the paper was published this month – so did the climate scientists of the world decide not the hold the presses on the AR4 because of “political correctness”? Or is it just not the world shattering discovery that Calder claims it to be? I have neglected to mention another import source on this theory, which is mentioned a few times towards the end of the Times story – The Chilling Stars: A New Theory of Climate Change by Henrik Svensmark and Nigel Calder.
This article has also been commented on briefly at Real Climate
UPDATE Nexus 6 looks at a new paper which casts further doubt on the cosmic ray theory.

(Note: if you happened to see this post went it first went up it had a different title, I originally called it “The Times gets it wrong on global warming” as a reference back to the old post but shortly afterwards decided that it was not entirely appropriate since the older one referred to an editorial in The Australian with some blatant misrepresentations of the AR4 SPM but this refers to an opinion piece by a contributor to The Times)

3 Responses to “More on Global Warming in The Australian (via The Times)”

  1. The Don says:

    An excellent response to Calder’s article.

    Whilst I find Svensmark’s cosmic ray explanation plausible as a contributor to global warming (which is why I originally forwarded it), it is clearly in its infant stages and receiving more mainstream attention than it’s due considering its reported lack of peer reviews and journal publications, etc.

    Further, it’s disappointing that a former editor of New Scientist (a magazine I find quite illuminating though a good 40 years after Calder’s brief rein as editor) states the case of global warming to an argument as simple as ‘if it turns out to be B then it cannot be A’. Weather is far more chaotic than this and Calder should know better yet he avoids any likeliness of cohabitation of Svensmark’s Cosmic Ray theory next to the prevailing Greenhouse Effect theory.

    However I suspect that it is the amount of attention such theories receive in the major publications that divert the public from reading more about alternative courses of action to avoid emitting greenhouse gases that generally outrage the enviro-blogosphere.

  2. Stu says:

    It is the double standards applied by the likes of Calder that annoy me – he’s all worried that maybe greenhouse theory is wrong, yet he’ll jump on another theory with much less behind it at the drop of a hat.
    Also your point that one doesn’t disprove the other is a good one.

    (PS Yay, I managed to get rid of the plague of italics that had swarmed over my blog)

  3. [...] Do proponents of AGW ignore history? Try looking at the report by Working Group 1 of the IPCC in the AR4 titled The Physical Basis of Climate Change, specifically chapter 6 which is titled Paleoclimate. Here is a whole chapter looking specifically at the history of the Earth’s climate. Also worth looking at is Chapter 9: Understanding and Attributing Climate Change. Section 9.3 is titled “Understanding Pre-Industrial Climate Change” and is divided into subsections “Why Consider Pre-Industrial Climate Change?”, “What can be Learned from the Last Glacial Maximum and the Mid-Holocene?” and “What can be Learned from the Past 1,000 Years?”. Perhaps Prof. Plimer has reason to disagree with their findings, but I cannot see how it can be claimed that AGW theory ignores history. I’m not sure astronomy comes into it I can suggest a few possibilities. Firstly some critics claim that AGW theory ignores the sun, this is blatantly wrong, as solar forcings are an important part of climate models, and at a more fundamental level, it is the energy from the sun which is trapped by C02, causing warming. As mentioned above, direct observations show that solar variation does not match the observed change in climate, so while the sun may be the main driver of climate, it has been ruled out as the prime suspect in climate change. Secondly, there is the old “why is there global warming on Mars? Must be all those martian SUVs” argument … I don’t honestly believe that this is what he could be referring to, but if you want to know about it you can try here or here for details. I think the most likely candidate for how astronomy is left out of AGW theory is the cosmic ray theory of Svensmark which I have previously discussed here. Essentially it is a theory about how cosmic rays can play a role in cloud formation which has been backed up by experimental evidence. The problem is that it is a big leap from finding an additional influence on climate, and saying that it invalidates AGW. In particular, there is no observed change in the intensity of cosmic rays which would produce the observed change in climate. So where is all the evidence from other scientific areas which contradicts AGW? The following cross-disciplinary scientific organisations don’t seem to be aware of it: Academia Brasileira de Cie?ncias, Royal Society of Canada, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Acade?mie des Sciences (France), Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher, Indian National Science Academy, Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei (Italy), Science Council of Japan, Academia Mexicana de Ciencias, Russian Academy of Sciences, Academy of Science of South Africa, Royal Society (UK) and the National Academy of Sciences (USA). They recently jointly issued this statement . These are just the national scientific bodies of the “G8+5″, there are many others, including the Australian Academy of Science. (also check IPCC). This may bring accusations of “appeal to authority” (more on this later), but remember, I am examining the claim that climate scientists don’t incorporate expertise from other scientific fields – if this was true surely these organisations would notice? Their support suggests that climate science is mainstream science, accepted by the majority of scientists. Prof. Plimer does give an indication of who the dissenting scientists that he has in mind are, You would be very hard-pushed to find a large number of geologists who would argue that humans are creating modern climate change because in geology we’ve seen massive climate changes, we’ve seen sea levels go up and down like a yoyo. [...]