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Climate Change Sceptic ?

I had an email yesterday from a chap called Anthony Bright-Paul. Here it is :

Message:
I have already written an article or essay called ‘Trapping Heat’ in which I refer to Kate Humble and Dr Helen Czerski, before having seen the final episode of their series on Orbit. I recorded the first two episodes and watched several times. Look forward to final episode tonight. I hope I won’t be disappointed!

Seemed interested in the programme as I’m sure many of us are. It is after all an engaging and fascinating series of films and of course it stars our honorary president Dr. Helen Czerski. Yay !
Just a few minutes later there came another email. Here’s the new one :

to Hampshire Sceptics:

I trust that you really are both Climate Sceptics and also Europe Sceptics. I go out of my way to gather Sceptics together, and have some 31 Sceptic Professors on my mailing list. I have been to lectures by Ian Plimer and Richard Lindzen, and I know Bob Carter, Hans Schreuder, John O’Sullivan, and Philip Foster amongst other prominent Sceptic scientists. I have a large number of other contacts. In the attached I refer to Kate Humble and also Dr Helen Czerzki and their programme about the Earth’s orbit. I am looking forward to the final episode, trusting it is not after all going to be a Warmist bit of propaganda as it is on the BBC.
So far so good,

Sincerely

Anthony Bright-Paul
[contact info redacted]
Motto: Learn something new every day.
Planet Earth is dynamic and evolving.

Hmmmmmm, I thought. Ooookay.
So I decided to do a little bit of checking and found that the people referred to, other than Helen and Kate of course, could be politely described as being not among the consensus when it comes to the evidence for climate change.
As I’m doing this bit of checking I noticed that this email had an attachment. Oh goody ! So before checking out Mr Bright-Paul’s own credentials I decided to open the attachment and have a good read.
You can have a read of it too here : PDF – Trapping Heat essay
I strongly suggest you read the essay, it won’t take long being only four and a bit pages long with some nice pictures too. It’s good fun.

Reading the essay was enough to prompt a reply. This is what I wrote back …

Hi Anthony,

Thanks for your email and your essay. I’m gratified that you seem interested in what we do at the Hampshire Skeptics Society.
Because the term means so many different things to many different people, I would have asked you to define what you mean by “climate sceptic”. But after reading your essay and examining the references and output of those you refer to, other than our honorary president Dr. Helen Czerski and broadcaster Kate Humble or course, I have come to realise that, in fact, you would seem to be a climate-change denier.

You appear to have come to the unshakable conclusion that “There is no such thing as Anthropogenic Global Warming and there never has been and never will be” with a complete absence of skepticism about your own position. Yours is not a position supported by the evidence. Yours is evidently an ideological position arrived at, not though patient investigation and examination of the facts resulting in evidence thus leading to broad consensus but simply by fiat. You declare a thing to be true and so therefore it must be true.
This is not the scientific method but ideology, political demagoguery and a failure to examine the evidence and then go where the evidence takes you regardless of personal preferences.

Also, your grasp of physics, even by my own layman’s understanding, appears extremely poor indeed. You make several critical and fundamental errors with regard to thermodynamics and instead of replacing your lack with learning you seem to prefer to make callow, fatuous, incorrect and patently absurd statements.
I hope you have not injured yourself or others in your kitchen by switching on your oven to cook dinner, thereby allowing the entire room to reach 200 degrees Centigrade as, clearly in your kitchen, “heat cannot be trapped”.
You must share this discovery with the wider scientific community. Although I am not a claimed psychic I believe, should your assertions be true, that I can see a trip to Stockholm in your future. However quibbling over semantics will, I’m afraid, not be sufficient to get you there.

When I read in your essay the comment “Enough horsing around” I was very glad, for at that point in the text I had reached the tentative conclusion that this was another very amusing parody of climate-change denial and not a serious article by someone claiming to have knowledge of climate change. But as I read on I was only to be further disappointed as it became obvious that this was, unfortunately, no parody.
A great shame actually as it was pretty funny up to that point.
I liked the idea about using an uncalibrated domestic CO2 concentration meter as support for your arguments. Not that calibrating it would have any effect upon the accuracy, precision, relevancy or validity of your essay of course nor any impact upon the issues at hand for that matter. It does however show initiative and perhaps some flair for comedy science.
So that’s something anyway.

I intend to publish your essay on the Hampshire Skeptics Society website very soon as a salutary lesson so that those interested in human failings of logic, application and reasoning may use it to their advantage in hopefully improving their skills of identifying and subsequently avoiding such errors in their own thought processes.
I look forward to the deconstruction of your “arguments”, “reasoning” and “evidence” and exposure of the manifold failings therein.
It will certainly be educational for me.
Thank you at least for that.

I hope that in the future it may be possible to open you to the idea that you can be wrong but I recognise the almost insurmountable nature of the task.
“It is impossible to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into.” ~ Jonathan Swift.
Perhaps there is some advice about learning contained within your own motto ?

Best regards

Dave Hughes
President of the Hampshire Skeptics Society

Web: www.hampshireskeptics.org
Twitter: @HantsSkepSoc
Facebook: www.facebook.com/HampshireSkeptics

p.s. I have little to no interest in politics, European or otherwise, due to the overwhelming majority of policy decisions being unsupported by evidence.

p.p.s If your essay was a parody, it was a very good one as it’s taken me in completely ! :-)

At this point it was half past midnight and I really needed to get to sleep as I’d not been firing on all cylinders for most of the day. So as I’d had my bit of fun, off I went to bed.
Unfortunately, not to sleep as this essay kept me awake thinking about what had actually gone awry here. I spent a couple of hours thinking hard.
Amongst the things I was thinking were these points :

  • How exactly does this chap define his term “trapping heat”. It doesn’t appear to square with what I understand by the term or the common usage, hence my comment regarding semantic quibbling.
  • What does he understand the meanings of the terms ‘climate’ and ‘weather’ to be ?
  • Many of Anthony’s points seem to revolve around some rather large misunderstandings of thermodynamics and very precise but inaccurate definitions that are then misapplied.
  • An assertion that the Sun and Earth are too big and powerful for us puny humans to remotely affect. This comes across to me as a combination of the Argument From Personal Incredulity and the Argument From Ignorance.
  • I wonder what he’ll come back with…
  • I did finally drift away to sleep before, what seemed like only 5 minutes, being rudely awoken by the alarm.
    When I got back from work today there was another email in my inbox. Excellent. Anthony had replied to my email. Perhaps some good points were about to be made.
    Here is that email :

    Dear David,
    Thank you very much for your critique, which unwittingly supports the conclusions to which I had come in my essay.

    As human beings on this Planet we spend a large part of our time in trying to trap heat, but in vain. Your illustration of the oven is a case in point. The oven gets hot due to the application of electrical energy. Only while this application is maintained does the oven remain hot. Immediately the power is switched off the oven cools. If heat were trapped the oven would remain at its maximum temperature, but that it does not.
    The heat is not trapped, but seeps away.

    If I watch TV with my wife on a cold frosty night, as last night, by the application of heat through our boiler we were able to maintain a reasonable temperature, but only because we had the central heating on all this time. Shortly after 11P.M. our home became noticeably colder. Why? Because the central heating and the boiler had turned off. Had heat been trapped we would have been able to return to our living room in the morning at the same temperature it had reached the night before. Heat is not trapped.

    I presume that you do not walk around naked. Should you do so you would likely catch a cold, and moreover you would likely be hauled off to the nearest Police Station. You wear clothes in order to attempt to trap heat, but you only remain warm since you are a machine for mixing oxygen with your blood, which your heart continues to pump around your body. You are keeping the clothes warm. The clothes are simply delaying the exit of your body’s heat. When the day of your death arrives, the pump will cease to work and your body heat will exit for the last time.

    Far from being a Climate-Change denier I observe the climate changing every day. Change is what climate does, and it does so without any help from man whatsoever. Had you watched the excellent series on the Earth’s Orbit by your Honorary President you would have learned the changes in our climate are brought about by the angle we have to the Sun and to our proximity or distance that we have to it. All our weather and our climate depend on these enormous factors. Why? Do you believe that man has power over the Sun and the solar winds? Do you believe that man can determine the distance to the Sun and the elliptical shape of the Orbit?

    So let me ask you, Mr President, do you believe in man-made warming of our Planet? Certainly it is an observable fact that our Planet warms and cools every day, and the amount of heat we enjoy varies with the seasons. There is nothing whatsoever man-made about that and there never will be. I don’t have to be a Physicist to assert that, but just to be able to observe natural phenomena and to come to the correct conclusions thereto. That is a matter of the correct use of language, not of science.

    Sincerely,
    Anthony Bright-Paul
    Monday, 19 March 2012

    Hmmmmmm. He sees climate changing every day does he ? Interesting. Perhaps he’s living in a Dr Who timeline where events pass at 1000 times the rate they do here. I don’t know. Anyway…
    I was about to reply to this email with the questions I’d been thinking about in the night when another email from Anthony arrived on my digital door mat. This one was much more interesting as it contained a point by point rebuttal of my earlier reply. Here is this latest email with Anthony’s comments in red :

    Dear Dave Hughes, Mister President,

    I would be delighted for you to publish my article on the Hampshire Skeptics website. Better still I would ask you to forward it to Dr Helen Czerski, since I do not think that she would take exception to a single thing that I have written. How many Skeptics do you have? I would be prepared to take on any one of them in single combat in writing.
    Now I would like you to explain a few things in your critique of my article. Please see below: -

    Hi Anthony,

    Thanks for your email and your essay. I’m gratified that you seem interested in what we do at the Hampshire Skeptics Society. Good!

    Because the term means so many different things to many different people, I would have asked you to define what you mean by “climate sceptic”. But after reading your essay and examining the references and output of those you refer to, other than our honorary president Dr. Helen Czerski and broadcaster Kate Humble or course, I have come to realise that, in fact, you would seem to be a climate-change denier.
    Completely wrong as already explained. Climate and weather are always changing, always seeking an equilibrium that is never attained. I am far from denying climate change.

    You appear to have come to the unshakable conclusion that “There is no such thing as Anthropogenic Global Warming and there never has been and never will be” with a complete absence of skepticism about your own position.
    On the contrary, my position is completely skeptical. What is your evidence to the contrary. You say ‘the evidence’. What do you mean by’the evidence’?
    Yours is not a position supported by the evidence. Yours is evidently an ideological position arrived at, not though patient investigation and examination of the facts resulting in evidence thus leading to broad consensus but simply by fiat. You declare a thing to be true and so therefore it must be true.
    Again, what FACTS are you referring to? Can you tell me one simgle fact that shows that man has caused warmng that cannot also be explained by natural causes, such as the Earth’s orbit, the perihelion and the aphelion, the tilt of the Earth and the Milankovich wobble?

    This is not the scientific method but ideology, political demagoguery and a failure to examine the evidence and then go where the evidence takes you regardless of personal preferences.
    Again you harangue me, but what is the evidence that you refer to? What is the supposed consensus?

    Also, your grasp of physics, even by my own layman’s understanding, appears extremely poor indeed.
    I am advised by some of the world’s leading Geologists, AstroPhysicists, Chemical engineers, who do not hesitate to correct anything that I write. Where are my fundamental errors in themrodynamics? Please specify.

    You make several critical and fundamental errors with regard to thermodynamics and instead of replacing your lack with learning you seem to prefer to make callow, fatuous, incorrect and patently absurd statements.
    I will let these remarks pass, as being unworthy of a President of a Skeptical Society. This is just ad hominem criticism. What is incorrect? Please specify.

    I hope you have not injured yourself or others in your kitchen by switching on your oven to cook dinner, thereby allowing the entire room to reach 200 degrees Centigrade as, clearly in your kitchen, “heat cannot be trapped”.
    When you or your wife goes o switch on the oven is it already hot? Surely it only gets hot through the application of electrical power. Once you switch off the current does your oven remain hot? Has it ‘trapped’ the heat? No, it will gradually cool, will it not? The heat will not be trapped.

    You must share this discovery with the wider scientific community. Although I am not a claimed psychic I believe, should your assertions be true, that I can see a trip to Stockholm in your future.
    I would truly like to meet with you if you have some psychic powers.
    However quibbling over semantics will, I’m afraid, not be sufficient to get you there.

    When I read in your essay the comment “Enough horsing around” I was very glad, for at that point in the text I had reached the tentative conclusion that this was another very amusing parody of climate-change denial and not a serious article by someone claiming to have knowledge of climate change. But as I read on I was only to be further disappointed as it became obvious that this was, unfortunately, no parody.
    A great shame actually as it was pretty funny up to that point.

    I liked the idea about using an uncalibrated domestic CO2 concentration meter as support for your arguments. Not that calibrating it would have any effect upon the accuracy, precision, relevancy or validity of your essay of course nor any impact upon the issues at hand for that matter. It does however show initiative and perhaps some flair for comedy science.
    Thank you.
    So that’s something anyway.

    I intend to publish your essay on the Hampshire Skeptics Society website very soon as a salutary lesson so that those interested in human failings of logic, application and reasoning may use it to their advantage in hopefully improving their skills of identifying and subsequently avoiding such errors in their own thought processes.
    Excellent, I look forward to their identifying my errors, as I look forward to your further elucidations.
    I look forward to the deconstruction of your “arguments”, “reasoning” and “evidence” and exposure of the manifold failings therein.
    Good, I am ready for the fray. I am ready for any reasoned argument, but personal abuse I prefer not.
    It will certainly be educational for me.
    Thank you at least for that.

    I hope that in the future it may be possible to open you to the idea that you can be wrong but I recognise the almost insurmountable nature of the task.
    On the contrary I am very ready to be corrected and to concede where I may be wrong. Will you do the same?

    “It is impossible to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into.” ~ Jonathan Swift.
    Swift was undoubtedly right. Men are moved by their emotions – an appeal to reason is mostly in vain.
    Perhaps there is some advice about learning contained within your own motto ?

    I have taken a lot of trouble answering you point by point. Please do me the courtesy to do the same.

    Whew. An interesting approach. Battle Skeptics dot com anyone ? Skepti-Wars ? … No ?
    OK. So we could have some fun and educate ourselves with a quick Spot The Logical Fallacy competition though. There are enough there to have a damn good game. Never mind the Argument From Gladiatorial Combat. ;)
    I think my favourites are in the very first parts where Anthony appears to want to equate climate and weather even though the change he mentions happens on vastly different time scales. Weather is very short term and climate is very long term as we know when compared to our short lifespans. The assertion that the climate never reaches an equilibrium almost made me laugh out loud. I think Andy Russell talked about this when he came to Winchester SitP last year, I seem to recall him mentioning the equilibrium state is one of change but change within well defined parameters, change outside of these parameters is what we nowadays call climate-change. Anthropogenic or otherwise. Anthony’s misunderstandings abound there methinks.
    Anthony’s comments then move into familiar territory of flat-out denial of his previous statements and what appears to be a misunderstanding of my points.
    To clarify, I am not arguing the case for climate change, that’s already done and dusted. The consensus is formed and we should start planning and acting upon the best available evidence. I did, contrary to Anthony’s apparent understanding, point out that he himself had made the statements and they are still there to read. My evidence came from Anthony. The facts I am referring to are the ones Anthony wrote down in his email.
    To make sure I’m making my point here I’ll quote what I mean :

    You appear to have come to the unshakable conclusion that “There is no such thing as Anthropogenic Global Warming and there never has been and never will be” with a complete absence of skepticism about your own position.
    On the contrary, my position is completely skeptical. What is your evidence to the contrary. You say ‘the evidence’. What do you mean by’the evidence’?

    My evidence that Anthony’s position is not skeptical is right there in his assertion that “There is no such thing as Anthropogenic Global Warming and there never has been and never will be“.
    Absolute statements do not constitute a skeptical position, they do not allow any room for doubt, they do not allow a modification of one’s position when new and perhaps contradictory evidence comes to light. They are ideological in nature and such views are not easy to change. As becomes apparent in the rest of the text.

    It is very unfortunate that it is so difficult to make an impression upon someone who’s position is seemingly based upon purely ideological grounds. It is dishearteningly difficult to find a way through such a tangled briar-patch to reason. There is so much investment on the part of such people that it seems that to let go part or all of their unsupported ideology would be more than they can bear.
    A great shame.

    Anyway, I invite you all to comment and examine Anthony’s arguments. Have a google around for him as he’s got plenty of stuff out on the web to read and help hone your skeptical tool-kit.
    I will reply to Anthony’s emails but I reckon some of you will say things in a far better way than I.
    So lets hear what you have to say about this.

    18 comments to Climate Change Sceptic ?

    • “Heat is not trapped.”

      I wonder if this guy has ever used a Thermos flask.

    • Yeah, it’s like some Bizarro World where trapping heat means trapping it indefinitely with no loss which doesn’t happen and would of course violate the laws of thermodynamics.
      Weird.

    • My understanding of the science (minimally — I did physics only up to A-level) is that radiation from the Sun (high frequency, because the Sun is very hot) passes through the layer of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and warms the Earth. The Earth re-radiates this heat outwards, but at a lower frequency, because the Earth is not as hot as the Sun. Much of this re-radiated lower frequency heat is absorbed by the greenhouse gases (that is, it heats up the gases) rather than passing through them. The gases then re-radiate the heat both upwards away from the Earth and downwards towards the Earth’s surface. If the amount of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere increases (for any reason), this will not affect the amount of the Sun’s high-frequency radiation reaching the Earth’s surface, but it will increase the amount of low-frequency radiation being re-radiated (in both directions) by the greenhouse gases. So the more greenhouse gas there is in the atmosphere the more the Earth will be warmed, even if the Sun’s radiation remains constant. A successively smaller proportion of that radiation does indeed become sufficiently “trapped” as it bounces repeatedly between the Earth’s surface and the greenhouse gas layer.

      I may not have this all entirely correctly, but I’m pretty sure I’ve got it better than Mr Anthony not-so-Bright-Paul.

    • John Bowness

      Hi Dave

      Interesting blog post, especially as it covers a subject that I have had a great deal of interest in for a number of years now. I’ll lay my cards on the table from the start, I am a catastrophic anthropogenic global warming skeptic, not a denier, as Anthony appears to be, judging by his essay and statements above. Do I deny that climate changes? No. Do I deny that man can have some effect on climate due to increased CO2 emissions? Again, no. Do I think that the effect is serious enough to warrant the current measures taken now? Once again, no.

      As a skeptic, I accept propositions or hypotheses only to the extent that the evidence is there to prove such hypotheses (or disprove the null, to be strictly correct). The problem with CAGW is that there is no evidence to suggest that humans have enough of an influence on the planets climate to mitigate the billions of pounds being spent on wind turbines, carbon offsets, etc.

      The only question that has to be asked is whether or not adding more CO2 to the atmosphere will significantly warm up the planet. All the proponents of CAGW have to offer are computer models and over estimates as to the CO2 sensitivity (the amount of warming you would expect if you double the amount of CO2 currently in the atmosphere). The is generally assumed to be about 1-1.2 degrees C. This may seem relatively low, much lower than we are being told by the IPCC. This is due to the fact that the heating effect of CO2 follows a logarithmic curve, most of the warming that CO2 is going to contribute has already been done. Adding more will have little effect. CAGW supporters state that the sensitivity will be more like 2-3 degrees C because of the cloud formation due to increased ocean evaporation trapping in more heat. However, if this was the case, there would be a runaway greenhouse effect which hasn’t happened in 500 million years. Either something happens to stop it, or CO2 is a minor factor. An alternative estimation of sensitivity is approx. 0.8 degrees C, due to clouds having the opposite effect and reflecting heat away from the planet.

      This is a huge topic, with far too much information and debate to be had in the comments section of a blog post. I posted a similar reply in a blog post of a member of the MSS, due to his use of the term ‘denier’ on a number of occasions. I offered him the chance to talk about it. As of yet, I have received no reply. You didn’t make it explicitly clear how skeptic or not you were on the subject of CAGW, as you were (quite correctly) pointing out the flaws in Anthony’s claim to skepticism. I would hope you see my skepticism as one that is based in science and the search for evidence and would like to carry on the conversation, perhaps via email.

      Regards

      John

    • Thanks John.
      Personally I’m not interested in the minutiae of the actual arguments for and against.
      The consensus has formed, the bulk of the evidence suggests that we have a problem and so I’m happy to accept the expert opinion of the overwhelming majority of scientists in all of the relevant fields involved. On average if most of them say the (metaphorical) wind is blowing in a particular direction then I think that stands a pretty high chance of being correct.
      I’m not a scientist and nor do I have any expertise in any of the multitude of relevant areas but I know how the scientific method works. And I know that scientists use that method (or they’re not scientists) to arrive at their tentative conclusions. So if they’re using the scientific method properly then I’m happy to go with the general view of the consensus.
      This is I feel the course of wisdom although not in the mind of Mr Bright-Paul as is clear in his next email where he asserts that “consensus has nearly always proved to be wrong”. More on that later.

      What I am very, very interested in is the thinking part however. How someone thinks is hugely more important than what they think, if I can paraphrase Chris Hitchens for a moment there.

      The deniers of climate change are very clearly not interested in the actual science and the way that the tentative conclusions are arrived at. They do seem to be very interested in arguing over the minutiae of the data and very fond of utilising erroneous definitions. The deniers appear to me to be motivated very obviously by ideology and not by the science.

      This, I’d suggest, is a case in point : Leak Exposes How Heartland Institute Works to Undermine Climate Science. Libertarian think tank keeps prominent sceptics on its payroll and relies on millions in funding from carbon industry, papers suggest.

      The deniers don’t have to worry about the costs of doing the science because, as was pointed out on the SGU podcast; The science does not support their position, so they can instead spend all of their support money on PR for getting their message across.
      It’s actually a very cost-effective strategy. Much as the creationists have found, I agree that they use what looks like exactly the same methods.

      I have run a conversation through my head many times that goes something like this :
      Is the planet getting warmer ? According to the best available data that looks like what’s happening.
      Do we know why it’s warming ? A qualified yes. We seem to have a good idea. After eliminating most of the factors that could conceivably be involved we seem to be left with a warming effect.
      Have we excluded all the possible confounding factors ? Probably not, but we think we’ve got a good handle on the biggest ones. The smaller ones will come in time.
      Is it worth doing anything about it ? A qualified yes. The risk of sea level change is clear regardless of possible cause. If we would prefer our way of life to say the same as it is now then action on this is probably warranted.
      So what do we do ? Dunno. It’s tricky. I don’t think anyone has come up with a viable strategy yet. Maybe it’s best do what we can do cheaply and easily for now until we can come up with something that’s going to be targeted and effective.

      There is still a huge amount we don’t yet know and a long way to go. Get back to me in 50 years and we might have a better idea of what’s happening and why. But of course by then it may be too late.
      It’s a risk, no question.
      We have only one way to tell how much of a risk and that’s to use the scientific method to find out the truth. Then we can use the information gained thereby to the betterment of everyone.

      It may be better to spend large sums of money not on wind turbines for example, but instead on employing more scientists to find out what the hell is going on.
      At least then we’d have many more trained and educated people in the populace at the very least.

      It appears to me that this issue is similar in probability/risk structure, if not in magnitude, to the argument that says we need to be building systems to protect us against asteroid and comet impact. Is there a risk ? Yes. Is it very big ? No. Is it worth doing something big about it ? Probably not but let’s do something, at least then we can build upon that foundation over time.

      Either way, in my personal view, getting rid of assorted dirty power generation methods such as burning coal and oil is a good idea regardless of their effects upon the climate.
      I’d be voting for wind turbines and thousands of square kilometres of solar panels in the desert anyway. If we can get rid of the rubbish coming out of the chimneys whilst we’re at it then all to the good. It’s just a shame no one to my knowledge is promoting such policies. At least no one with seemingly any chance of being elected.

      Bring on fusion power.
      ;)

      p.s. I prefer to keep discussions of this nature public as when I screw up I can then be corrected by those with relevant expertise and sufficient knowledge.

    • Anthony Bright-Paul

      To all, As Carbon Dioxide warms it also cools with the normal Adiabatic Lapse rate. Therefore it is impossible for a cold and cooling gas in the atmosphere to radiate heat, which it no longer has, downwards. The supposed Greenhouse Effect is nullified.2nd Law Themodaynamics. That CO2 varies in temperature can be seen on the CO2 monitor. We all agree with Dave about getting rid of pollution, and that can be done wih smokeless fuels as illustrated long ago by JGBennet the founder of BCURA. Some 31,000 climate scientists take the Sceptic view. The number of Climate scientists on the IPCC is quite few. I have written to Dave an article on ‘Consensus’. In the history of science going back to Copernicus, Gallileo and Giordano Bruno, the consensus was almost always proved wrong. I hope Dave will pass on this later essay as it is addressed to you all. As to wind turbines and solar panels they only exist with massive governement subsidies. So we are paying twice. We pay for the subsidy and then pay again for the increased costs of power.
      I am glad to see this discussion. Skeptics are by definition sceptical, that is they are not esily gulled,they are not gullible, but question the correctness and legitimacy of everything. Salutations to Hampshire Skeptics and also to their Honorary President.

      Tony BP

    • Anthony Bright-Paul

      I meant to reply to PaulJ who gave an excellent description of the consensus Greenhouse Gas Effect. Consider this Paul. Boil a kettle full of water. As it is boiling the steam from the spout is scalding hot. Yet only 1 foot above, the heat is tolerable and by the time the steam reaches the ceiling it is beginning to turn back to water. Could those droplets then radiate back to the kettle and re-heat or even re-warm the water? No way. Yet that is what the supporters of the GHG effect would have us believe. Tony BP

    • “Yet that is what the supporters of the GHG effect would have us believe.”

      Tony, I think that’s a straw man.

      My understanding of the physics is that it’s about radiation. Hot bodies radiate at high frequency. Cooler bodies radiate at a lower frequency. High frequency radiation can penetrate a layer of greenhouse gas without heating it up. Low frequency radiation cannot penetrate greenhouse gas, so it heats it up. (I accept this is a simplification.)

      Heat exchange in your kettle example is by conduction and convection in water and air, which is not the same as radiation. Radiation does not require a medium, as it can pass through a vacuum (as radiation from the Sun does when it heats up the Earth).

    • Oh no, not the Petition Project!

      The 31000 “climate scientists” are actually anyone with any science qualification (e.g. a dentistry degree would permit one to sign the petition).

      There are other problems with Petition Project but, in short, it provides no value to the debate whatsoever.

    • I suppose I should mention that my previous comment is in response to Anthony Bright-Paul at 07:55 on Mar 22 who said:

      “Some 31,000 climate scientists take the Sceptic view.”

    • Anthony Bright-Paul

      PaulJ is on the ball, radiation can pass through a vacuum as the radiation from the Sun passes through the vacuum of Outer Space. But distance still makes a difference, otherwise Neptune would be the same temperature as the Earth. The Earth receives more radiation when it is nearer the Sun, the perihelion. So we have seasons. The outer sun is estimated at 6,000k or 5,500C. Radiation encounters mass to produce heat. However molecules are so tiny you cannot even see them. How far can they radiate? Get real – the whole of Anthropogenic Global Warming is a huge scam. Besides which even the Climatic Research Unit is hard pressed to find any warming during the last decade, while Mauna Loa reports ever increaing levels of CO2. As to the number of Sceptics scientists, who they are and what they have achieved is easily available on wikipedia. On the other hand the IPCC is largely peopled by civil servants, the actual numbers of scientists being, in some estimates, barely a handful!!
      Forget the scientists. You and I are supposed to be Skeptics, people who question ‘Is this true?’ Tony BP

    • In reply to Anthony Bright-Paul at 11:14 Mar 26.

      “Forget the scientists.” Well, you brought the Petition Project up! I just pointed out that it is a joke that proves nothing and that you represented it incorrectly (i.e. it is not a petition of climate scientists).

      As for your point about the IPCC, the permanent staff is mostly admin people but the main outputs of the IPCC – the Assessment Reports – are written by working climate scientists. 100s of them. Their names are all written at the biginning of each chapter of each report – it’s no secret.

      You might also want to check what drives the Earth’s seasons (hint: it’s related to the tilt of the orbit and not the distance from the Sun).

    • I’m beginning to think Tony is indeed a Poe.

    • Might I suggest a little experiment to illustrate the principle of the Greenhouse Effect? It involves going into a greenhouse on a sunny day…

    • @PaulJ

      Oddly enough, greenhouses don’t quite work like the Greenhouse Effect. Greenhouses warm because they stop warm air moving away (horizontally or vertically) whereas the Greenhouse Effect alters the radiation balance. Even so, I guess it’s still a good point as ABP is not convinced about trapping heat.

    • John Bowness

      (I apologise for my ignorance in how to insert hyperlinks in the text. I’ve just included the links in plain text format. I’ve also not swamped the reply with links as everything is easy to look up online).

      Dave

      Thank you taking the time to reply to my post. You brought up a number of points that I would like to comment on, if I may, and will attempt to do that in the order in which you posted them.

      You started by stating you weren’t “…interested in the minutiae of the actual arguments for and against…”. If, by that, you meant the small and trivial details, then I’m with you on that point. The points I need to make to explain my scepticism are rather major points, quite broad-ranging, and only require a basic knowledge of the science in question. I would also like to ask you whether you use the terms ‘denier’ and ‘skeptic’ in the context of CAGW interchangeably or whether you differentiate between the two positions.

      You then went on to state that “…the consensus has formed…”, and it is this point I would like to take you to task on initially. The word ‘consensus’ is one that is used all too often in the debate over AGW. Allow me to share some quotes from Michael Crichton, which I agree with wholeheartedly:

      “Let’s be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus.

      There is no such thing as consensus science. If it’s consensus, it isn’t science. If it’s science, it isn’t consensus. Period.”

      And

      “I would remind you to notice where the claim of consensus is invoked. Consensus is invoked only in situations where the science is not solid enough. Nobody says the consensus of scientists agrees that E=MC2. Nobody says the consensus is that the sun is 93 million miles away. It would never occur to anyone to speak that way.”

      Upon hearing that Hitler had commissioned the book ‘100 Authors against Einstein’, Einstein’s reply was “Why 100 authors? If I were wrong, then one would have been enough.” Alfred Wegener, Barry Marshall and Daniel Shechtman were all ridiculed for their work and theories on plate tectonics, peptic ulcers and quasi crystals, respectively. All were since vindicated. If it seems I’m labouring the point here, it’s because I am. It is one of the most common arguments put forward by AGW supporters, and one which has no scientific value. I would ask you why you think a consensus has formed. Is it to do with the statements along the lines of “97-98% of climate scientists agree that AGW is a scientific fact” or words to that effect. The true explanation for where this figure originated is outlined here http://opinion.financialpost.com/2011/01/03/lawrence-solomon-97-cooked-stats/ and here http://www.forbes.com/sites/jamestaylor/2011/09/08/global-warming-a-98-consensus-of-nothing/.

      I, like you, also know that the scientific method works. It is the best means we have of testing hypotheses, finding out about the world and space around us. What I think causes problems sometimes is the fallibility of the scientists involved. A major example of this in AGW is Michael Mann and his (in)famous ‘Hockey Stick’. Before 1998, the only ‘evidence’ that was on the table for AGW was computer climate models, and pretty much nothing else (this is still pretty much the case now). Note that this was 14 years ago, and longer, and even by today’s computer processing standards, we’re still about 20 years away, if Moore’s Law holds true, from having enough processing power to start to be able to predict climate in any sort of accurate way. Enter Mann, with his Hockey Stick, which seemed to be the evidence that was needed to prove AGW. It showed a fairly level climatic progression, with occasional deviations, for centuries, with a sudden, steep upturn in the late 20th century and beyond. This was the smoking gun, and was used widely by Al Gore in his highly scientifically inaccurate ‘An Inconvenient Truth’, (which was banned from being shown in UK schools as it contained nine scientific errors) as well as in various IPCC reports.

      Steve McIntyre, a retired mining consultant and mathematician, and Ross McItrick, an economist specialising in environmental economics and policy analysis, decided to look into the Hockey Stick on a methodological and statistical basis, and found a number of problems. Briefly the problem is both mathematical and empirical. The graph relies heavily on some flawed data – strip-bark tree rings from bristlecone pines – missing data sets and on a particular method of principal component analysis, called short centering, that heavily weights any hockey-stick shaped sample at the expense of any other sample. When I say heavily – I mean 390 times. McIntyre and McItrick fed 10,000 sets of ‘red-noise’ data into Mann’s algorithm and found that it produced a hockey stick graph in over 95% of cases.

      The accurate replication of Mann’s algorithm was made more difficult by the initial refusal, and then general lack of openness when it came to releasing the data used so that the results could be replicated. The fact that the Hockey Stick had not been peer reviewed may have contributed to Mann’s lack of knowledge in releasing data (this lack of peer review is a recurring theme in this subject. An investigation by Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise found that fully 30% of the 18,531 references in the 2007 IPCC ‘Climate Bible’ were non-peer reviewed, despite Rajendra Pachauri, the head of the IPCC, stating that “everything that we look at and take into account in our assessments has to carry the credibility of peer-reviewed publications, we don’t settle for anything less than that.”). The reluctance and refusal to share data to enable peer review is also a recurring theme.

      Despite the dismantling of the Hockey Stick, Mann, who is still one of the leading lights in the field, stands by it, and has recently released a book, The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars, in which he defends his position while slating the likes of McIntyre and McItrick amongst others. The book is full of inaccuracy and contradiction, but this is just par for the course for Mann.

      I find it interesting that you mention the Heartland institute, and link to an article in the Guardian regarding the (non-) story. This article, along with Richard Black’s article on the BBC site, was an example of typical Guardian and BBC bias against climate sceptics, and jumped the gun by a huge margin, leading to a hasty editing by Black of the aforementioned article when it became clear that things weren’t as they first appeared. The Heartland Institute (HI) is a small libertarian think tank based in the US with an annual budget of approximately $6.5 million. Compare this to the funding of NGO’s such as Greenpeace ($310 million), The Sierra Club ($100 million) and the NRDC ($95 million) and you can see it’s not even small change in comparison. The role of ‘Big Oil’ in this is also vastly overstated. The picture in the article you linked to shows Charles Koch, oil billionaire and ‘key financier’ of HI (according to the caption). He actually only donated $20,000 and this was for medical research, not AGW research.

      The general gist of the story that broke was that, firstly, a climate skeptic think tank was funding climate sceptics. I can’t see anything wrong with that, can you? Secondly, the HI were planning to dissuade teachers from teaching science. This sounds bad, and would be terrible if it were, in fact, the truth. The funding documents were verified by the HI to be genuine, and were obtained (phished) under false pretences by someone claiming to be a HI board member. What they did deny, however, was that the ‘memo’ regarding the undermining of science teaching was of their doing, and stated that it was fraudulent. The question was, who was responsible for the deception and the fraudulent memo.

      Enter Dr Peter Gleick, “…an American scientist working on issues related to the environment, economic development, international security, and scientific ethics and integrity…” (Wikipedia). Take note of the last four words of that statement. Under pressure from the blogosphere, who effectively identified him as the perpetrator of the initial deception and responsible for the fraudulent memo, Gleick confessed to obtaining the documents by deception, but has not yet confessed to the fraudulent memo. Gleick was the Chair on the AGU Taskforce on Scientific Ethics (a post he has since resigned from) which leaves rather a bad taste in the mouth. What is even more amazing to me is that certain publications (the Guardian included http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/feb/27/peter-gleick-heartland-institute-lie ) and bloggers are suggesting that Gleick was somehow justified in his actions, and didn’t go far enough, as it was for ‘the greater good’. This isn’t science. This is criminal behaviour, pure and simple. If the evidence for AGW was available, all Gleick would have to do is present it. Debate over. It would be like Mike, Marsh and the rest of the gang at the MSS breaking into a homeopathy manufacturer and planting incriminating evidence or stealing documents to support their 10.23 campaign. They didn’t need to. The science is on their side. I would also point you in the direction of sites like ‘Skeptical Science’ if you’re interested in the PR of AGW. Recently leaked files have revealed them to be nothing more than a non-skeptical, non-scientific cheerleader for AGW. As for SGU, I don’t listen to it, so I can’t comment on that.

      I come to the final, and most important point of my reply, the question of evidence for AGW, and the reason why I am a skeptic, which I touched on briefly in my initial comment. There is no valid evidence that justifies accepting the AGW hypothesis.

      The Null Hypothesis is a well-established foundational element of the scientific method as currently practiced by professional scientists. It requires no proof. In the context of AGW, the Null Hypothesis is that changes in global temperature are dominated by unspecified natural causes other than the human emission of CO2, such that any contribution of human CO2 emissions to changes in global temperature are too small to be worth the costs of mitigating human CO2 emissions by political means. The Null Hypothesis is formulated that way precisely because the issue to be decided isn’t whether human emissions of CO2 have any effect at all on temperature, but whether the effect (if any) is large enough to justify political action. Whether there’s any effect at all is a valid scientific question, but it’s not the point of the political controversy.
      Skeptics (all scientists are skeptics, by definition) have no need to prove what causes nature to do whatever it does naturally. Some AGW skeptics do prefer other specific hypotheses which are not the Null Hypothesis (e.g., the Sun is the principal driver to terrestrial temperature,) and those hypotheses do require proof. But most skeptics make no such claims.
      What should skeptics be required to prove? Their only common claim is that there is no valid proof of AGW. Valid proof must withstand criticism in general, and valid proof must especially withstand the criticism that it fails to show at least a 3 sigma probability that AGW fits the evidence better than the Null Hypothesis does.

      Note that the claim that ‘there is no evidence for AGW’ is a negative claim, and a negative cannot be proved, only falsified (as is true of any scientific hypothesis, by the way.) AGW believers should be able to easily disprove it, if it’s false. But that’s properly and necessarily their burden, not that of the skeptics. AGW believers would falsify the skeptics’ claim by demonstrating that valid proof of AGW does in fact exist. The only responsibility of the skeptics would be to show why any such claimed proof isn’t valid–or to accept the evidence of the AGW believers as valid, and admit that the claim that no valid proof exists has been falsified.

      Of course, most of those reading this are neither scientists nor climatologists. But others are, and they should already have published one or more peer-reviewed papers which show that AGW fits the evidence better than the Null Hypothesis does. Good luck in finding such a paper. You won’t be able to. You can’t find any because the observed warming is fully consistent with the Null Hypothesis. Which means the observed warming is not evidence of AGW.

      Were there to be cooling of sufficient magnitude for a sufficiently long period of time, that would falsify AGW. Pinning down “sufficient magnitude” and “sufficiently long” requires a full, scientifically and mathematically rigorous quantitative analysis. An AGW believer would of course demand to see that formal analysis in a peer-reviewed scientific paper before accepting any claim that AGW has been falsified. So you will of course understand that we skeptics must do the same before accepting the claim that AGW should be accepted as sufficiently proven to be worth the costs of mitigation–which are extremely expensive, and not just in terms of money. As you can see, warming in and of itself is not sufficient evidence for AGW. That would require evidence that increased CO2 emissions into the atmosphere will have a significant effect on global temperature, but as I previously stated in my first post the amount of warming decreases logarithmically as CO2 concentrations increase, greenhouse effect equations show that the current CO2 concentrations are well into the region where even doubling atmospheric concentrations of CO2 would have very little effect.

      The climate models cannot–at present–be valid evidence for AGW. Add to this the fact that there has been no significant warming since 1998, Arctic ice levels are increasing, evidence shows increased temperatures drive CO2 increases, not the other way around and you can, hopefully, see why I am skeptical of AGW. This is not a position I came to lightly. Like you, I put my trust in scientists, but it was my general distrust of the fact that the solution to the problem on a governmental level appeared to be increased taxation, and obviously outlandish promises to cut CO2 emissions to pre-industrial revolution levels that caused me to look into the actual science,

      I will conclude by saying I’m not an ‘eco-thug’, with no regard to my surrounding environment. I like to recycle and save energy whenever I can. I would like to see an end to the dependence we have on oil, partly because it holds us in the thrall of Islamic states, and partly because it is a finite resource (shale gas looks to be our best bet for the coming centuries, and thorium technology looks interesting). I want an end to needless deforestation, to pollution of rivers and destruction of natural habitats to satisfy the greed of humans. I think the debate has shifted away from answering questions of that sort, and has become an AGW skeptic v AGW proponents battle. This of course is a battle that needs to be had, as I think the costs of following the present course of action could be disastrous in terms of financial losses and human life (people dying from cold every year due to high energy prices not helped by renewable premiums pushing up prices – 20% higher in the UK for example, and people pushed into starvation due to the use of food crops for inefficient bio-fuels).

      I would you would give my (rather long) reply some thought, and look forward to your reply.

    • Anthony Bright-Paul

      Congratulations John Bowness on a brilliant article or letter. It sets the tone for adult and mature debate. In no way do I want to offend any Hampshire Skeptics, but there has been a long campaign to denigrate Clmate Sceptics, whether here in the UK or in the USA or in Australia. However the tide is turning as it becomes more and more evident that what warming there has been is Solar Warming and not man-made warming of the Planet. In fact such an idea is risible. Now I hope that other true Sceptics will rasie their heads above eht parapet. I have already given my email and will welcome hearing from any Climate and also Euro-sceptics.
      Anthony Brigh-Paul

    • John Bowness

      Thanks Anthony
      One of the annoyances in this issue is the way in which the subject is ‘debated’. Debates that I have been involved in usually follow this sort of sequence; AGW supporter makes some disparaging comment about ‘deniers’, skeptics come back with their own arguments, usually involving links to peer reviewed papers debunking the supporters claims, supporters start with the ad hominems and general insults, skeptics asks for the science and evidence for the supporters claims, supporter starts swearing, or replying with comments that could easilly be substituted for “la la la, I’m not listening”. I’ve even had a few telling me that they had “…made up their mind, and nothing you can say will make me change it…”. This is not science, this is dogma of religious proportions.

      I have repeatedly asked, on forums, where is the evidence that disproves the null hypothesis I described in the post above. I am still waiting for it. I would have thought, given the apparent urgency of the situation, that they would be only too willing to share this evidence. Either they don’t want to share, which to my mind affects them as well, or they don’t have any. My money is on the latter.

      I must give credit to Dave for replying to my comment, as he is the first person to do so in this sort of format. I have posted on other blogs, and received no replies, and I have sent several emails to writers of magazines and journals, again without a single reply. My most recent was an email to Paul Sims, news editor of New Humanist, who implied that AGW ‘denialism’ was linked to belief in creationism, amongst other things. Again, no reply.

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