Through the looking glass

The title is of course a reference to Alice in Wonderland, and particularily to the quote about believing 6 impossible things before breakfast (which Eli Rabbet upped to ten) and, again, of course applies so nicely to the climate contrarian community.

But I guess it is not quite a perfect fit for what I am posting about now, which is rather believing contradictory things, before, during or even after breakfast.

(cartoon source)

[Note: we could make this cartoon a perfect fit for Monckton just by adding another panel where the scientist suddenly turns to the Galileo-wannabe saying “WTF!? I never said that!” ala Monckton’s misuderstanding of Rachel Pinker’s work among others)

The thing about science, and especially a very multi-disciplinary science like climate science, is that above all else it must deliver internally consistent theories, concepts and numerical models. You can not have one set of ideas that explains glacial-interglacial cycles, one that explains (as best as murky and ancient data sources allow) snowball earth and yet another that explains today’s anthropogenic climate change.

For me, this is truly exhibit A when it comes to evaluating the “climate sceptic” camp. There is no over-arching explanation of atmospheric dynamics, no computer model that can explain what is happening today and what happened 20K years ago without CO2 forcing and strong positive feedbacks and there are many self contradictory mini-explanations of system subparts. Many poplular denialist memes display complete misunderstandings of very basic physics and with others, if they were right then much existing technology would simply not work!

An interesting excercise in debunking climate, or any science, denialism is identifying contradictory pairs of arguments. For example, at the highest level we have the the upbiquitous “there is no warming” nicely matched with “the warming is naturally occuring” (and not only that, the naturally occuring non-warming will be beneficial!). The denialist blogs like WUWT will one day post that warming is caused by ocean cycles and the next day by cosmic rays. Another fine example is how the overwhelming consensus among experts is evidence of conspiracy and political control of the science industry, yet somehow new peer reviewed paper after peer reviewed paper is the latest “final nail in the coffin” of the IPCC (more often than not, a severely misunderstood paper). We have confident predictions of cooling over the next thirty years together with moaning about how the system is simply too complex for anyone to understand let alone predict.

John Cook of Skeptical Science has a user editable page devoted to such mutually exclusive arguments that I encourage all to contribute to.

What are your favorite pairs of conflicting “sceptical” attacks on climate science? Bonus points for ones that come from the same source!

21 thoughts on “Through the looking glass

  1. This is pretty dismal. All anyone seems to blog about these days in climate is how the “deniers” are so unscientific and beastly.
    Now that Arctic Sea Ice has passed its minimum can we have a further post about that?
    Coby would have lost his bet, (his post on JUne 23rd) but not by much. If there were to be a (wait for it!) “recovery” in Arctic Sea Ice, what would the start of it look like?
    Is everyone on board with Mark Serreze and his continuation of the “death spiral” meme?
    Come on, liven up, you guys.


  2. This post really serves to present a false dichotomy. I agree that sites like WUWT present what are likely incoherent and ultimately incorrect assessments of physical processes important in the climate system. I don’t know how many times I’ve said ‘That’s just wrong’ to myself when reading there.

    That said, it’s not as though CO2 forcings account for 90%+ of the warming observed in the last century. That’s one of the issues with climatology these days and is a large portion of the field’s research. Determining how much of the warming we are witnessing can be attributed to CO2 forcing or feedbacks due to CO2 forcings. There are other anthropogenic and natural factors that affect climate at the local, regional and global scales that are serious contributors to the climate we observe.

    So to cast this conversation as ‘CO2 versus non-CO2’contribution does little to convene the true complexity of this situation.

    I’ll pose another question to try get around this false dichotomy, at what contribution of CO2 forcing to the total temperature change we observe would you believe CO2 emissions become important from a policy perspective? Is it 25%? Maybe 50%?

    Because the most likely real world scenario is that CO2 forcing can account for somewhere between 20% and 80% of the observed temperature change, but we don’t really have a way to get that range smaller at this point. If we could get it smaller, at what level of contribution would you say that CO2 does or does not matter in a policy argument?


  3. Because the most likely real world scenario is that CO2 forcing can account for somewhere between 20% and 80% of the observed temperature change, but we don’t really have a way to get that range smaller at this point . . . at what level of contribution would you say that CO2 does or does not matter in a policy argument?

    Under normal circumstances I would comment but I imagine there are a number of participants on this forum on both sides of the debate, who, if the expression “precautionary principle” were uttered, would scream and jump off a cliff.


  4. CO2 a.l.w.a.y.s matters in a policy argument.

    If the climate were warming from some other forcing and we could foresee it continuing, what would we do? We can’t pop into the hardware shop and buy a new steering wheel to change the earth’s orbit. Nor could we visit our nearest star to turn down its heat.

    The only thing we can control is our emissions of CO2 and perhaps some sequestering of CO2 above natural background processes. We’d have to reduce CO2 emissions in a warming world regardless of the source of the forcing – because it’s the only thing we *can* do.

    (And in a cooling world we might want to increase our CO2 emissions to delay onset of an ice age while we make suitable preparations.)


  5. Adelady,

    From the other thread

    The reason Abbott and co are not on the committee is because to gain entry to the committee you need to first acknowledge that a CO2 tax or ETS is the solution. Abbott and co believe this is not the best way to reduce emissions hence they are not allowed to join the committee.

    In regards to post 6, your theory is correct *IF* co2 acts like a big control knob on a thermostat unfortnately this is a very naive and simplistic view of how things really work. Much the same view as our party in power at the moment which of course is the greens.


  6. Are you sure? What actions would you recommend if our concern was that the planet was cooling on the way to getting unliveably cold? Me, I’d happily advocate burning stuff to put off the evil day.


  7. If you look at the time intervals between ice ages then you could say we are due for one about now so lets assume this is the case. If/when we enter the next ice age you can burn all the crap you want but there is not a damn thing we can do about it.


  8. Adelady,

    You have been listening to Skip for too long, Skip often berates me about such things but is yet to take up my offer of re engagment of debate on this issue.



  9. I have?

    Apologies if so, Crakar, and its said in earnest.

    So, for the record . . . your *current* position on the residence time of CO2 and its implications for global warming is . . . ?


  10. Skip,

    I offered you the chance to pick up on this debate again sometime ago, you did say you would wait for the dust to settle from the current (at that time debate on another subject). So if you wish to continue residency time and the effects of CO2 then feel free to state your position in the appropriate thread. This was very similar to my original offer.



  11. Simply to engage you in further debate, so when you are ready go to the appropriate thread and state your case, i will then tell you what i think in response. That was about it i think.

    By the way i see the sea hawks had a good win followed by a thumping do i have anything good to look forward to this season?


  12. Choose your thread, mate.

    Glad we can get back to the basic business of debating the issue.

    Thanks for your fair thoughts on the Hawks, but they still suck, it pains me to say. Their last win was a fluke, born of two improbable run backs and the ineptitude of the opposition. The coach, Pete Carroll, is a proven loser from his past performance in the NFL.

    I will wait for the team’s renaissance the same way I await the disproof of AGW.

    Forgive my ignorance, Crakar, but it just dawned on me: isn’t the Aussie Rulz championship imminent? In fact–oh my god–with twins on the way and all the ensuing panic, did I miss it???


  13. Not nice skip.

    Roolz has provided us all with a spectacular match. Unfortunately it will have to be replayed. And this time the crowd will actually contain a significant number of contesting team supporters.

    Should be good. I might watch this one.


  14. Skip,

    This year my beloved cats failed at the second last hurdle (lost preliminary final to the carringbush scum (Collingwood))

    They played Saint Kilda in the big one last week and at the final siren it was a tie (third in AFL history) so they have to do it all again this weekend.

    As for CO2 stuff why dont you fire the first salvo but i must warn you i will have limited access to internet next week so i may not reply straight away.



  15. I just actually read up on the coming final. Sorry about your Cats. It could be worse, Crakar: You could be a Seahawks fan.

    We need fire no salvos if you’re past CO2 residence time as a refutation of AGW. Hence I’m asking what your current position is.


  16. Sometimes it’s fun to go back over old threads to see what was said.

    I wonder if Jack Savage is still around and if he would like to comment on his post at the start of this thread?



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