We find the defendant Guilty!

Watts Up With That has seen fit to highlight  a rehash of a 2008 attempt at discrediting the current understanding of climate change, in the form of a cross-examination carried out by Jason Scott Johnston, Professor and Director of the Program on Law, Environment and Economy at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.  The document purports to prove that “scientists cannot provide useful guidance regarding the impact on climate of increases in atmospheric ghg concentration.”

From the abstract:

This paper departs from such faith in the climate establishment by comparing the picture of climate science presented by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and other global warming scientist advocates with the peer-edited scientific literature on climate change.    A review of the peer-edited literature reveals a systematic tendency of the climate establishment to engage in a variety of stylized rhetorical techniques that seem to oversell what is actually known about climate change while concealing fundamental uncertainties and open questions regarding many of the key processes involved in climate change.

What it is, however, is nothing more than a very clever marketing trick. Repackage every argument ever made about AGW into a long (82 pages), tiresome, lawyerly document and label it a “cross examination.” This gives the pleasing and easily swallowed illusion that it is fair, because it is part of our wonderful, revered, constitutional western-civilization style judicial system.

Which, of course, is very far from the truth, since in a real trial events would be interactive, and you would have seen the other side actually present its own evidence prior to listening to the cross examination, and that could in turn be followed by counter arguments.

But this is a written document, so it gets to present “the other side’s” evidence any way it wants, limiting it to what it wants you to see, and always with the tone of a sarcastic, cynical, cross examining, adversarial lawyer.

This also all presumes that something as complex and involved as any branch of science could be “tried and judged in a court of law” using legal methods. Can you imagine how a trial of the theory of relativity would go?  Or quantum mechanics?  Certainly this is, in a way, piggy backing on the idea of the Scopes trial, although the subject there was not the truth of evolution, but rather a teacher’s right to teach it. And we all know how that went.

Lastly, its very nature conveys the underlying connotation that those that believe in AGW have committed some crime, and must defend themselves.

People don’t even need to actually read it, and it is very hard to get through because of its length and plodding legal style. Just its existence and nature serve to cast doubt, and to give blog-deniers a document to wave and say “see, what about this? what’s your answer to this? Hah!”

With this in mind, go back to what the paper itself says in the abstract about the peer reviewed literature in contemporary climate science.  Remember, such papers are aimed at other intelligent, educated scientists, not at the general public.  They seek to advance knowledge in one narrow, specific aspect of science.  The target and purpose of Global Warming Advocacy Science: a Cross Examination, on the other hand, is the general public, with the aim of convincing them that the science is wrong.  That very cleverly concocted paper says of the peer reviewed literature that it:

… reveals a systematic tendency of the climate establishment to engage in a variety of stylized rhetorical techniques…

Stylized rhetorical techniques?  As I said, it’s a clever (and despicable) marketing trick, but why am I not surprised?


13 comments on “We find the defendant Guilty!

  1. tallbloke says:

    So to move on from rhetorical technique to substantive issues, why don’t we look at the rest of the sentence, and the sentence immediately following the quote you used from the piece:

    A review of the peer-edited literature reveals a systematic tendency of the climate establishment to engage in a variety of stylized rhetorical techniques that seem to oversell what is actually known about climate change while concealing fundamental uncertainties and open questions regarding many of the key processes involved in climate change. Fundamental open questions include not only the size but the direction of feedback effects that are responsible for the bulk of the temperature increase predicted to result from atmospheric greenhouse gas increases: while climate models all presume that such feedback effects are on balance strongly positive, more and more peer-edited scientific papers seem to suggest that feedback effects may be small or even negative.”

    Worth discussing? Or would you prefer to rest your case on selective quote of half a sentence?

    • sphaerica says:

      I don’t see your point. Please be a little more clear.

      If your point is about the “more and more peer-edited papers” showing small or negative feedback effects, please show them to me. That statement by itself is patently false.

      • tallbloke says:

        I don’t have the time to count how many of the 343 footnote references sprinkled throughout the piece are in the peer reviewed literature, but you can hardly fail to have noticed them if you had actually read it. Here is a random cut’n’paste from a page bottom:
        31 Klotzbach et al., An Alternative Explanation of Differential Temperature Trends at the Surface and in the
        Lower Troposphere, supra note __.
        32 R.T. McNider et al., On the predictability of the stable atmospheric boundary layer, 52 J. Atmos. Sci.
        1602 (1995).
        33 X. Shi, On the behavior of the stable boundary layer and role of initial conditions, 162 Pure Appl.
        Geophysics 1811 (2005).
        34 Mark Z. Jacobsen, Development and applications of a new air pollution modeling system – Part III.
        Aerosol-phase simulations, 31 Atmos. Environ. 587 (1997).
        35 The adjustment factors and methodology used to homogenize temperature data have changed over time.
        For a description of the method used from the late 1980’s until recently, see Roger A. Pielke, Sr. et al.,
        Problems in Evaluating regional and local trends in temperature: An example from eastern Colorado, USA,
        22 Int. J. Climatol. 421, 423-424 (2002); for the most up-to-date methods, see Matthew J. Menne et al., The
        United States Historical Climatology Monthly Temperature Data – Version 2, Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc. (in
        36 See Pielke et al., Unresolved Temperature Trend Issues, supra note __.
        Since you dismiss the study as rhetoric you obviously have more of an eye for style rather than substance.

      • sphaerica says:

        It’s not a “study”, it’s propaganda. Don’t misuse words in order to color things to look like what they are not. A study is published in a respected journal, by scientists, doing something that adds to the body of knowledge. Propaganda simply references other works, attempting to debate a partisan position. It is produced as a printed work or PDF and then distributed through the Internet via blatantly partisan blogs like WUWT.

        I did look at some of the “substance” in the document when I first read it, and when everything I looked at turned out to be smoke and mirrors, I stopped looking. I will look briefly at the papers you listed, but like you I don’t really have the time. Have you looked at them yourself (seeing as all you did was to cut and paste)? Did you read them, and then research them further, looking for refutations? That’s what a skeptic would and should do.

        I will highlight one paper which is discussed at length in the”cross examination,” by an author who is mentioned repeatedly in the document… a paper which I read four times as soon as it came out, noticed flaws myself, and which has since been soundly refuted by professional climate scientists.

        Lindzen and Choi find that the ERBE show a net negative feedback as SST rose during their study period, primarily due to increased reflection of solar radiation (as discussed in more detail below, this would occur if there were an increase in high level clouds due to CO2-forced warming).

        First, the statement of why (“primarily due to…”) does not occur anywhere in the paper. The paper mentions clouds as a possibility, but has no skill in assigning attribution. It merely attempts to measure feedbacks. it is a conclusion added by the document’s authors by making inappropriate inferences, an example of how the document stretches the truth to try to score points (very lawyer-like).

        Second, this study was shown to suffer from a severe degree of cherry picking. If you look at their supplied graph of selected study points, you see something odd. Rather than choosing the obvious points at the peaks and valleys of sea surface temperatures, other, seemingly random points were chosen, without explanation. It turns out that the study was greatly subject to the selection of end points, and the points Lindzen and Choi subjectively chose gave the results which supported their position, while the more objective selection actually disproved that position.

        Third, the paper also uses a model which assumes the system to be in equilibrium, which the earth clearly is not, as we keep adding CO2, temperatures keep rising, and warming takes time so the planet has not yet reached an equilibrium temperature. This is boot strapping, claiming that the system has negative feedbacks which have put it into equilibrium (i.e no more warming), by assuming that the system is already in equilibrium. Put more simply, “the system is in equilibrium, which proves that it’s in equilibrium.”

        There are other issues with the paper. You can read about them in detail here.

        Like I said, when I have time, I’ll look at the other papers, but I’ve read literally dozens of them, and then taken the time (like a true skeptic would) to follow up and look for more… and every time I do, the denial papers turn out to be riddled with flaws and purposeful distractions. It’s not that there aren’t some valid skeptical points, it’s just that for all of the bluster and noise one sees, I have never once seen a skeptic actually prove their point.

        I started as a true skeptic. I started with a truly open mind, unaffected by a predisposition toward one answer or another. I am a fairly well off professional whose career and lifestyle depend on modern technology. I also have a daughter who must live on this planet long after I’m gone, so I have reasons to respect both positions. As a result I kept (and keep) an open mind, and arrived at a logical conclusion based purely on the evidence, and today I am truly shocked by the people that claim to be skeptics but refuse to behave like one. If Lindzen or Spencer can actually prove that cloud feedbacks lower climate sensitivity, or if Pielke can prove that land use is a huge factor (which, if you think about it, is really an even bigger problem for the economies of the world than CO2), I will certainly listen. But they have yet to do so, and a “cross examination” like this doesn’t change that fact, it just confuses people.

        At the same time, have you noticed the temperature of the planet for the past 12 months? Did you know that July was the single warmest month on this planet ever in the satellite record, as in “the planet hasn’t been this hot in thousands and thousands of years?”

  2. tallbloke says:

    It’s not a “study”, it’s propaganda. Don’t misuse words in order to color things to look like what they are not.

    I’ll wait and see if you come up with substantive points which can be discussed. Bald assertion, accusations of bad faith, and unsubstaniated rhetoric don’t cut it with me.

    Have you seen, read and understood the response Lindzen and Choi made to their critics?

    • sphaerica says:

      Yes, I’ve seen the latest Lindzen and Choi, and it still falls flat. They’ve done nothing except to muddy the waters a bit, and hope that no one cares enough to call them on it. They are distantly far from proving their point. I will wait for someone else to run the numbers, to see if the result are as they claim, or, like last time, depend entirely on a careful selection of end points.

      Bald assertion, accusations of bad faith, and unsubstantiated rhetoric don’t cut it with me.

      Okay, first, I gave detailed arguments and you’ve used this as an excuse to avoid the inconvenient facts, which pretty much allows me to rest my case. You can’t refute it so you don’t.

      I also looked at the other references you sent and they are similar nonsense. I suggest you spend a little more time reading the actual science and seeing what is actually there, instead of what you’d like to see, and then blindly copying and pasting lists to support a case that you haven’t researched enough yourself to support.

      Second, simply coloring my arguments as you have (bald assertions, accusations, rhetoric) does not make them such, and they are here in black and white for anyone to read and make their own judgment. They can also make up their own minds about your “don’t cut it with me” attitude.

      But this falls perfectly in line with the subject of the original post. Instead of dealing with facts and science, you play games with words, dodge, duck, weave, and hope that people fall for the routine.

  3. tallbloke says:

    At the same time, have you noticed the temperature of the planet for the past 12 months? Did you know that July was the single warmest month on this planet ever in the satellite record, as in “the planet hasn’t been this hot in thousands and thousands of years?

    Who is cherry picking now? And anyway, the satellite record is only 30 years long. Let’s wait and see what this N.H. winter brings. I predict the satellites will be telling us it’s dropped below the jan 2008 low point by next March.

    • sphaerica says:

      How is this cherry picking? It’s one thing to pick end points which demonstrate any trend you want. A record setting temperature is quite something else. I’m not saying “look, temperatures went up a bit.” I’m saying, look, temperatures are warmer than they’ve ever been, and people in denial can’t pretend that it’s some UHI effect or purposeful manipulation. It’s satellite data, in the troposphere.

      When a baseball player sets a record for home runs in a season, one doesn’t say “oh, that’s just a meaningless fluke, wait one more year and his home run numbers will go right back down, so who cares.” This is entirely different from looking at a carefully selected rising trend for a favorite developing player and using that to predict that “some day he’ll set the record for home runs.”

      And predictions such as yours are pointless. If you’re right, it’s evidence of nothing. If you’re wrong, it’s evidence of nothing.

  4. tallbloke says:

    It’s cherry picking because a calendar month is an entirely human construct which has nothing to do with the climatic behaviour of the Earth. The peak of the recent el nino didn’t exceed the temperature of the 1998 el nino, except in Jim Hansens dreams.
    Get over it.

    We are at around or just over the peak of the warming cycle though, so it makes sense to me that temperatures got up to nearly the same as ten years ago.

    • sphaerica says:

      Actually, no, due to the precession of the earth (i.e. the seasons) and the difference in amount of land mass in the northern and southern hemispheres, calendar months do have an impact on global temperature. July is always the hottest month on the globe, because the sun heats land more than water, and the sun is at it’s NH zenith from May to July. To see fact, this just visit Dr. Spencer’s Java applet for viewing daily satellite temperatures for the past ten years.

      I will agree that temps didn’t reach 1998… I’d thought so when I posted this (I should correct it), because at the time Dr. Spencer’s site did show it as the warmest. The “record temperatures” on his site have since changed… I suspect this July’s outcome motivated him to go back and incorporate 1998 into those records.

      But that doesn’t matter much. Warmest or second warmest in 3,000 years doesn’t matter all that much in the scheme of things. The planet is warming. It will stay warm, despite the impending La Nina. It will get warmer and warmer, in spite of any short term cool years. Don’t get over it, accept it, and then do something about it.

      The fact is that the physics involved are very well understood, and any intelligent, reasoning human being can follow that knowledge to its logical conclusion. This conclusion is backed by multiple lines of evidence; historical evidence, physical experiments, disparate natural observations, and a variety of independent, sophisticated computer models. At the same time, the evidence and arguments which contradict those conclusions are flimsy at best, and often tragically fabricated and ill founded.

      Any intelligent, reasoning human being would use this knowledge to take simple, effective action now, before it is too late, or too expensive. People that don’t like that conclusion, however, instead use their intelligence and reason to convince themselves that they don’t see what they don’t want to see.

      I’ve looked at your blog. You put a lot of energy into pursuing crackpot theories which attempt to correlate vague trends to temperature, and then deduce causation. I would urge you to instead spend that same energy studying the real science, with a properly “skeptical” open mind, in an effort worth of the gravity of the problem, to reach a valid and reasoned conclusion.

  5. tallbloke says:

    Sorry, 12 years ago. Doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun? 🙂

  6. tallbloke says:

    I’ve looked at your blog. You put a lot of energy into pursuing crackpot theories


    You seem to be convinced by the levels of certainty stated by the man made global warming hypothesis proponents. I am not. That is why it is always worth doing science in multiple directions to see what else crops up which might be important. Science progresses through the falsification of the current theory.

    Anyone interested in some suggestive correlations and alternative hypotheses regarding how Earth’s systems operate in the wider solar system context is welcome to visit. Just click my name above.

    I have many replies to attend to. Thanks for the chat.

    • sphaerica says:

      Hmmmm. Yes. And good luck with that hero worship of Dayton Miller, the man who “disproved” Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, but was so unfairly abused by modern scientists that they’ve conspired to cover up and dismiss his work. Those wicked, evil, ignorant, scientists, always getting in the way of conspiracy theorists with their insistence on using logic and facts. So inconvenient.

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