Thursday, May 7, 2009

Part 8 (and FINAL part) of Debunking the Silliness of Global Warming Skeptics


"More About Elephants"

Here, Mr. Transtronics refers to a quote about elephants and parameters, and then he states in parenthesis "The source of the above quote?? Variants of the statement have been attributed to C.F. Gauss, Niels Bohr, Lord Kelvin, Enrico Fermi." A simple Google search of "+parameters +elephant +wag +tail" reveals an interesting parody of the history of scientific controversies in physics known as "Ise's Conjecture" (attributed to Dr. W. Ise of MIT, a very "wise" doctor indeed :). And the thrust of this parody is not that too many parameters make something impossible to model, but rather it is a parody of how physicists tend to over-analyze and both over and under attribute one another's work. It is a parody of the politics of science and the lesson is quite simply that science needs to be approached pragmatically and un-emotionally. It should be noted that, although this parody has fun poking at the silliness of some researchers and their scramble to make a name for themselves, it does not attempt to undermine the importance of physics or the value of conducting physics research, only that such research should pass the "smell test" of being sensible and properly peer reviewed. In my investigations into AGW skepticism, my conclusion is that it is the skeptics that fail the Physics of Elephants test, not those who are conducting AGW research.

"Are the Global Warmers intellectually honest?"

This section is more drivel, but shows again that the author really knows nothing about the IPCC or its processes. He asks "Where is the bending-over-backwards in the IPCC report listing the assumptions made and error band analysis?" He is apparently unaware of the guidelines for Lead Authors of IPCC reports regarding "uncertainties" wherein it states things like:

"Determine the areas in your chapter where a range of views may need to be described, and those where L[ead]A[uthor]s may need to form a collective view on uncertainty or confidence. Agree on a carefully moderated (chaired) and balanced process for doing this."

"Be aware of a tendency for a group to converge on an expressed view and become overconfident in it"

"Be aware that the way in which a statement is framed will have an effect on how it is interpreted. (A 10% chance of dying is interpreted more negatively than a 90% chance of surviving.) Use a neutral language, avoid value laden statements, consider redundant statements to ensure balance (e.g. chances of dying and of surviving), and express different but comparable risks in a consistent way."

Does this sound like intellectual dishonesty? Or what about chapter TS.6.1 of the Technical Summary that spells out specific uncertainties:

"The full range of processes leading to modification of cloud properties by aerosols is not well understood"

"The causes of, and radiative forcing due to stratospheric water vapor changes are not well quantified."

"The geographical distribution and time evolution of the radiative forcing due to changes in aerosols during the 20th century are not well characterized"

"The causes of recent changes in the growth rate of atmospheric CH4 are not well understood"

"The roles of different factors increasing tropospheric ozone concentrations since pre-industrial times are not well characterized."

"Land surface properties and land-atmosphere interactions that lead to radiative forcing are not well quantified."

"Knowledge of the contribution of past solar changes to radiative forcing on the time scale of centuries is not based upon direct measurements and is hence strongly dependent upon physical understanding."

These appear to be very honest assessments of what is not currently well understood or quantified.

Compare that to the "honest" assessments of Global Warming that were dramatized in the mock-umentary "The Great Global Warming Swindle" wherein the last 120 years of "World Temp" were presented on a dramatically altered graph that was supposedly based on the NASA GISS temperature data but was in fact based on a 1988 CRUTEM3 data and "stretched" to fit the skeptics assertion that "dramatic cooling" in the post industrial 40's and 50's undermines the AGW theory (an example of a corrected graph with the NASA data overlaid on the Swindle graph shows the cooling was not so dramatic). Tell me, who's swindling who?

Or how about the German skeptic school teacher, Ernst Beck, who's graph on temperature history is radically distorted in several ways (it's taken from 1990 data, has a modified and incorrect temperature scale and is deceptively extended to the year 2000).

This is to say nothing about the intellectual dishonesty that is rampant in Mr. Transtronics web page that I have already identified here (failing to include proper interpretations of the raw satellite data, referring to outdated and discredited scientific studies, criticizing over reliance on correllations while relying heavily on very weak correlations between solar radiance and climate change, falsely suggesting that climatologists do not understand the scientific method, etc.). I think it is dramatically clear which side of the debate is practicing intellectual dishonesty.

"More Links"

Here Mr. Transtronics provides a few "more links" with no real explanation as to what these links are supposed to prove. But to analyze each would require another complete debunking, so for now I am going to skip these sections and move on.

"Beware of Regressions - Polynomial and Otherwise: they can fool you"

This section, like so much of this diatribe, is barely coherent. But he does clearly make the point that "the idea that once [a computer model] predicts the past it will also predict the future is just wrong". However, this directly contradicts his statement "there has to be a hypothesis that can predict the past (only then can we start guessing about the future) including the temperatures in the upper atmosphere. Any model that can't fit past data has to be called wrong." (emphasis in the original) that he said in the "to infer a connection" section at the top of the page. He seems to be saying that models that can't predict the past are wrong and models that can predict the past are wrong. I think he's confused about what models are and how they work as part of well-accepted scientific practices.

"Emistivity and the so called "greenhouse effect"

Here Mr. Transtronics provides lots of (presumably accurate) information about "emissivity", which appears to be tightly related to temperature recording and could be a very interesting branch of global warming study. However, he does very little to tie this into a critique of AGW theory (is the current temperature record completely wrong because of a failure to account for emissivity?), so all this information seems totally unrelated.

He does, however, outline 3 more "confounding issues" he has "come across":

1) "Negative feed back by the water vapor heat-pump", which turns out to be the very same uncertainty about cloud formation that I've mentioned before and that is outlined in the uncertainty summary above (i.e. this is perfectly valid criticism and one that is already well documented by the IPCC)

2) "The interplay of irrigation" which amounts to a replay of the "they're ignoring water vapor" argument that I addressed in the "Why is Water Vapor Swept Under the Rug" section of Part 4 of my critique (in short, water vapor is a well documented and well understood "confounding variable", but it is a feedback of AGW, not a cause)

3) "The interplay of the black body radiation and absorption of CO2 and H2O, spectral emission/absorption, and kinetic transfer" which might actually be a brilliant insight (but I doubt it), but Mr. Transtronics does not elaborate on what this actually means. My guess is that he really does not understand this statement at all and he just copy-and-pasted it from some other skeptic's site in order to add more scientific-sounding drivel to this massively ignorant and deceptive web page.

The final section on this page is a set of meaningless quotes that I won't even bother to read, nonetheless critique.

In Summary

After a thorough review of this page, I can confidently say that it is 90% meaningless drivel, 9% regurgitated and debunked arguments from other AGW skeptics and 1% genuine concern and confusion. But for me, it is 100% proof that AGW is valid and Mr. Transtronics doesn't know what he's talking about.

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