The ‘threadbare hypothesis’ of climate change

Washington and Cook - Climate Change DenialThis is the Gospel according to Roger Helmer MEP (and Cambridge graduate in Mathematics) – whose non-expertise in the subject leads him to conclude that the climate is not changing; and to equate people concerned about climate change with those who once insisted the Earth was flat… I am pleased to report that the comment that featured in my previous post, entitled ‘A letter to Roger Helmer UKIP MEP’, did appear on his blog. I am even more pleased that he decided to respond. Nevertheless, I am very disappointed by the extremely tired and pre-debunked arguments that he trots out. But don’t just take my word for it; judge for yourself. What follows is a transcript of his reply and my response (which has also appeared on his blog). However, before you read that, see how many discredited arguments you can count in Roger’s remarks. In response to my original comment, Roger Helmer said this:

Thanks Rick. Good question. Your are quite right that I am not “a scientist”, though you may also like to know that I have a Cambridge maths degree, and have followed a range of scientific issues that interest me. But the fact is that politicians have to make decisions and take positions on issues — and I suggest to you that I know a great deal more about science, and about energy policy, than most of the MPs who blindly voted through the disastrous Climate Change Act. I know enough about science to know that scientific questions are settled by the creation and testing of hypotheses — not by appeals to authority. The global warming hypothesis is looking increasingly threadbare. I also recall that a few hundred years ago all accepted authorities agreed that the world was flat, and you could be burned at the stake for taking an alternative view…

My reply to that load of dingo’s kidneys was as follows:

I take it you mean you have not seen enough evidence yet. If so, it would help if you looked at some (rather than relying upon anargumentum ad verecundiam of your own – courtesy of the very few people who tell you want you want to hear). The passing of the Climate Change Act in 2008 was a landmark in cross-party co-operation at a national level, and may even have convinced the Chinese that some Western countries are actually willing to acknowledge their responsibility for the bulk of historical CO2 emissions. The Communist Party of China may now only be acting in the interests of self-preservation, but at least it is acting (rather than continuing to dispute the science). It is interesting that you should mention belief in a Flat Earth – or that the Sun revolves around the Earth – as this is directly comparable with the disputation of climate science today. Climate change“sceptics” are not like Galileo. Galileo confronted an obscurantist Establishment with evidence that it refused to look at (such as moons orbiting Jupiter) and insisted that – as the Sun rises in the east and sets in the west – it was very obvious that the Sun goes round the Earth and not vice versa. The only obscurantist Establishment today is the fossil fuel industry: In order to describe climate science as a threadbare hypothesis it is necessary to put your faith in a handful of industry-funded contrarians (like Roy Spencer or Richard Lindzen) who – having been theologically or politically prejudiced before looking at any data – would have us all believe that the majority of climate scientists are now behaving like an obscurantist Establishment themselves. This is, to say the very least, highly improbable. Given the fact that theoretical heat-trapping effect of CO2 was deduced from basic principles, tested in a laboratory, and continues to be validated by events (i.e. global warming did not stop in 1998, etc), your position is simply not credible: Indeed, it is comparable to someone insisting that the Earth is only 6000 years old – which is very easy to do if you reject every piece of evidence that suggests otherwise as part of a scientific and/or political conspiracy. http://www.desmogblog.com/2012/11/15/why-climate-deniers-have-no-credibility-science-one-pie-chart

I suspect that, by now, Roger has dismissed me as a self-deluded eco-Marxist. However, what he and every other Maths graduate from Cambridge who thinks he knows best need to remember is this: Reality is not altered by what you decide your personalised version of the truth is going to be. ——– Addendum (for all those who struggle with the basics of atmospheric physics):

Global warming is manifested in a number of ways, and there is a continuing radiative imbalance at the top of atmosphere. The current hiatus in surface warming is [therefore] temporary, and global warming has not gone away. — From ‘Global warming is here to stay, whichever way you look at it’, by Kevin Trenberth on The Conversation website (23 May 2013).

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About Rick Altman

Possibly just another 'Climate Cassandra' crying 'Wolf' in cyberspace. However, the moral of the old children's story is that the Wolf eventually turned up!
This entry was posted in Climate Science, Confirmation Bias, Economics, Environment, Junk Science, Politics, Scepticism and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to The ‘threadbare hypothesis’ of climate change

  1. Patrice Ayme says:

    That the Earth was NOT flat, and its size, were well known since ancient Greece, from a number of arguments. Colombus was derided for pretending that China extended much further east than estimated. The “global warming hypothesis” is also a globally observed fact. Besides, the rise of CO2 is intrinsically a problem, be it only from acidification of oceans. That rise cannot be denied. BTW, if you want to think about myths, please read my two latest. No, I mean three latest… PA.

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  2. argylesock says:

    I’m glad you you find the energy to tackle this debate. You’re right about climate change, of course you’re right. I find it difficult to remain patient with the deniers.

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    • Rick Altman says:

      Thank you. It’s a tough job but someone has to do it. I think my patience (such as it is) comes from decades of being surrounded by evangelical Christians who are Young Earth (YE) Creationists. Both climate change denial and YE Creationism are forms of ideological blindness but, unlike Creationism, climate change denial is intrinsically dangerous (in the same way that it would be to deny you are being chased by a tiger).

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  3. pendantry says:

    Am I now permitted to use the word ‘plonker’?

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  4. lslhopkins says:

    Reblogged this on lslhopkins and commented: well we are going into another hurricane season what a adventure we looked forward to i wonder how many people are going to die i don’t like to be doom an gloom we have to something any suggestions how about what they did during the 60s protest in front of the white house stir up some controversy what do you think????????????

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  5. Schlomo Wahl says:

    Rick, surely you can see that the side of this argument one takes is determined by ones political leaning only. This ‘science’ is so weak that one has to believe or not in ‘global warming’ or ‘climate change’ by which we, of course presumably mean ‘human caused’. This is important because many think that the contention is actual climate change ie, deniers deny that climate changes. It is a bit of a streatch since us ‘deniers’ consistently use arguments along then lines of ‘there were ice ages with 20 times more CO2 concentrations…’ My argument is that it is a huge streach to believe that humans are causing climate change with our puny input. Gaia is a lot bigger than a small pimple on her butt that is us.

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    • Rick Altman says:

      The weakness of this science is in your head only (as is the scientific or political conspiracy required to invalidate the consensus). Your ‘the climate has changed before’ canard ignores the facts that (1) all life on Earth is adapted to the way things are now; and (2) agriculture, urbanisation and civilisation would not have emerged without the last 12k years of climate and sea level stability (which we have now brought to an end).

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      • Schlomo Wahl says:

        That’s a weird line of argument Rick… Are you sure you know your evolution theory ? Lifeforms adapt to whatever climatic conditions there are. Here is one to fry your noodle: where is Eskimo agriculture and urbanization ? Has climate been too good for Aboriginies so that in 40,000 years they have only invented a throwing stick and a blowing pipe ? Where is Aboriginal agriculture and urbanization ? You must know deep down that the ‘science’ of AGW is just a theory and pathetic one at that. WHAT IS YOUR AGENDA hiding behind ‘saving the planet’ ? Prove me wrong, but are you a watermelon ?

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      • Rick Altman says:

        Thanks for coming back to me on this, Schlomo. I see nothing weird in my argument. If it were not for the relative climate stability of the last 12k years, none of the things I mentioned would have emerged. The environment within which both Eskimos and Aborigines live is not capable of supporting settled agriculture and, therefore, for them, urbanisation has not occurred either. This is no surprise; this is the reality of environmental carrying capacity – even 1 person per square kilometre will make a desert over-populated. Evolutionary theory has its problems but no-one with any credibility believes that the Earth was created in 6 days just over 6k years ago. This, however, is the level of irrationality required to dispute the reality of human-caused climate change today. When it becomes necessary to accuse anyone who contradicts your beliefs of being part of a conspiracy, I think it is time to admit you are not a “sceptic” – you are blinded by antecedent ideology. Therefore, once again I must point out to you that I am not the one that is doing this. I am socially an politically conservative but I do not allow my politics to determine which science I will accept (such as the Standard Model in cosmology) and which I will not accept (such as ACD). To be clear, I accept both. Unfortunately, others do not. I am therefore not a Watermelon. https://anthropocenereality.wordpress.com/2012/06/25/why-i-am-not-a-socialist/ https://anthropocenereality.wordpress.com/2012/04/27/worlds-biggest-watermelon-found-in-washington-dc/

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      • Schlomo Wahl says:

        Speculaysh, Rick, speculaysh. Maybe if those pesky humans hadn’ t invented agriculture, our alien creators would have interviened in some other way. Ha,ha. The point I was making is that once homo sapiens sapienised, us humans could live in any climate regardless. Take advantage of whatever Gaia throws your way. Igloo skyscrapers perhaps.

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      • Rick Altman says:

        I realise that you are trying to be funny, Schlomo. However, even humour does not justify responding to scientifically defensible statements (about the low ecological carrying capacity of extreme environments) by merely repeating your contrary opinions.

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  6. Pingback: Another Week of Global Warming News, June 2, 2013 – A Few Things Ill Considered

    • Schlomo Wahl says:

      I have just had a good surf around your site and I have to admit, I feel like a midget among giants. Your knowledge of both sides is awesome. Especially ‘how to argue with a skeptic’ drew my attention. You have tackled every argument I could think of. Herein lies the weakness of the AGW theory though. For every argument there is a credible counter argument. All the ‘science’ and ‘data’ and ‘proxy reconstructins’ has so much uncertainty in it that it has to be inerpreted. Unfortunately, the interpretation is determined along political affiliations. If you are politically aligned to the left you are inclined to believe there is a human caused climate crisis and we should all call Harold Camping to find out when the world will end. Salvation being to live like pre-ndustirlal plebs except for Al Gore, Sting, and prince Charles who can continue to live the life of excess. If you are a conservative then you will bask in the arrival of the unexpected plant food bounty that is extra carbon dioxide. Rick, is this really ‘solid’ science if you can interpret it either way ? How can you convince us if you have to torture data to align it with the warmist dogma?

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      • Rick Altman says:

        Thanks for taking the time to search my blog, Schlomo. Thanks also for your kind words(?) Given this, I will ignore your use of terms such as ‘warmist’ and ‘dogma’, which do you no credit whatsoever. However, I think your problem is that you can’t quite get your head around the fact that concern about ecological limits is actually based on science – not politics. The MBH98 Hockey Stick was attacked by people who did not want it to be real. However, unfortunately for them, every time someone has attempted to do something similar – be it with studies of rates of coral growth, or oxygen isotopes in air bubbles in ice cores, or whatever – the same result has emerged. This is because the sudden up-tick – in both atmospheric CO2 and temperatures – in the last 100 years or so is real (as opposed to it being fabricated and/or ‘statistical noise’). I therefore do not see that there are two ways to interpret all the evidence – you either accept it as science or you reject it as politically-motivated misinformation. The only trouble with believing the latter is this: Whereas there is a great deal of evidence that the fossil fuel lobby has, just as the tobacco industry did before it, spent billions of USD trying to convince people that ‘the science is uncertain’ and that they are ‘in a fight to preserve their civil liberties’, there is no credible evidence that scientists are trying to frighten people into perpetuating the funding for their research or that politicians just want excuses to tax people more heavily. I therefore do not see myself as an environmental alarmist (although I think the prognosis is indeed alarming – because of the arrogance and folly of humans who say we have nothing to worry about). I just see myself as an environmental realist (because I am not allowing my political views to prejudice my approach to science).

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      • Schlomo Wahl says:

        Rick, I look at the same data as you an am not alarmed. What am I missing? You talk about corals and species and frogs (my poetic licence) etc., and my only interpretation is that you (plural) must have a secret agenda to do damage to our way of life in the name of ideology. I hope you (singular) are aware what havoc the pursuant of ideology has wrought in the past. Hello Communism! Can you see why I am concerned about your agenda from my conservative, filthy denier, oil shill, paid by the oil companies perspective?

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      • Rick Altman says:

        I am not sure what more I can say to you, Schlomo. I am not the one that is allowing ideology to prejudice my attitude to science. I am inclined to believe that your ‘scepticism’ regarding science does not extend to particle physics or cosmology. If so, there is one very obvious reason for this: The consensus view of scientists regarding particle physics and/or cosmology does not have implications for human behaviour and energy policy. The fact remains, however, that the Stone Age did not end because we ran out of stones… I therefore think you would do well to take heed of the recent words of Ed Davey – the UK’s Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change – regarding the folly and the danger of climate change ‘scepticism’… http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2013/06/04/2097641/uk-climate-minister-slams-media-and-blinkered-deniers-its-the-science-stupid/

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