2011-11-13 20:41:21Cardinal Pell should practise what he preaches
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
143.238.130.246

This is the article I propose sending to ABC Religion in response to Cardinal Pell's speech. I know I'm a bit repetitive with the line of evidence, the same old schtick, but Pell preaches evidence so it was the logical response and an opportunity to repeat the important message. It's a bit stronger than my usual mild mannered fare so feedback welcome. Note - I will add links but my laptop is at the shop at the moment so can't do it right now...

UPDATE: have edited this based on comments


Cardinal Pell should practise what he preaches

In Can our Babel succeed? Questioning the moral dimension of climate change, the Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell, presents a strong endorsement for evidence. He argues that "the debates about anthropogenic global warming can only be conducted by the accurate recognition and interpretation of scientific evidence". It would be difficult to find anyone who disagrees with the importance of evidence. A proper understanding of climate must be built on a foundation of empirical observations. There's just one problem. Cardinal Pell fails to practise what he preaches.

To accurately recognize and interpret scientific evidence, one must consider the full body of evidence. Pell's arguments make it painfully clear that he is unaware of the many lines of evidence that form our understanding of human caused global warming. Decades of scientific research have examined global warming from the front, back, sideways and every other conceivable angle. The same climate myths we hear echoing in the blogosphere, Australian parliament and even in Westminster’s Cathedral Hall, thanks to Cardinal Pell, were scrutinized and discounted by climate scientists years ago, in some cases, decades ago. By ignoring the long history of scientific debate in the peer-reviewed literature, climate skeptics are doomed to repeat the errors of the past.

Pell seems to be ignorant of the full body of evidence when he claims that global warming has stopped. Earlier this year, an international team of scientists headed by John Church from CSIRO tallied up all the energy warming the oceans, heating the land and atmosphere and melting the ice. The measurements show that our climate has continued to build up heat well into the 21st Century. This was hardly news - it confirmed similar research published in 2009. False claims that global warming stopped in 1998 or 2001 (or some other cherry picked date) ignore the empirical fact that our planet continues to accumulate heat.

So how does one make sense of the fact that surface temperature jumps up and down from year to year? Imagine a bath steadily filling up with water. Suppose you place an energetic toddler into the bath (let's call him Enso). As the child thrashes about, water sloshes around chaotically. Nevertheless, the average water level continues to rise as the bath fills up.

The same is happening to our planet. The Earth's heat content is steadily rising but energy is constantly sloshing around between the ocean and the atmosphere, driven by ocean cycles like the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO). To mislead people into thinking we're experiencing global cooling, misinformers cherry pick short periods in the temperature record when the warming trend slows temporarily. But the genuine scientific skeptic takes in all the evidence, considers the long-term trends and never forgets the planet's steady build up in heat.

Cardinal Pell fears that "many politicians have never investigated the primary evidence". My fear is that Pell has failed to investigate the primary evidence that carbon dioxide is causing global warming. The increased greenhouse effect caused by carbon dioxide has been confirmed by many direct measurements made out in the real world.

Satellites measure less heat escaping to space at the very wavelengths that greenhouse gases absorb energy. This is confirmed by surface measurements that find more heat returning to Earth at the very same wavelengths. From this data, scientists concluded "this experimental data should effectively end the argument by skeptics that no experimental evidence exists for the connection between greenhouse gas increases in the atmosphere and global warming". Looking back with the wisdom of foresight, the scientists' assumption that skeptics would accept the evidence merely because they were empirical measurements consistent with other, independent observations and confirming our understanding of the science now seems amusingly naive. I've since learnt never to underestimate the human capacity to deny inconvenient evidence.

Pell's lack of understanding of the science is further demonstrated in his ironic argument against the warming effect of carbon dioxide, stating "the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide is generally the same everywhere, but temperature changes are not the same everywhere". Since the mid-1800s, scientists have predicted that rather than cause identical warming everywhere, the warming effect from increased greenhouse gases should show distinctive patterns. The research comparing observations to predictions was conducted early last decade by Australian scientists, led by Karl Braganza from the Bureau of Meteorology.

The scientists observed that surface temperature over land is warming faster than the oceans, indicating that ocean cycles are not the driver of recent warming. The poles are warming faster than the tropics, ruling out the sun as the primary cause. They found that winters are warming faster than summers and nights are warming faster than days. If it were the sun, then summers and days would warm faster as that's when the sun is most powerful. Instead, we observe the predicted outcome from greenhouse warming. All the patterns observed in the temperature record are consistent with human caused warming and rule out natural cause. Pell's belief that CO2 should cause temperature to rise the same everywhere ignores 150 years of scientific prediction and confirming observations.

More irony is found in Pell's statement that "notoriously both the medieval warm period and the little ice age were eliminated in the 2001 Third Assessment Report". The first IPCC report showed temperature jumping around violently over the last 1000 years. In more recent IPCC reports, temperature during Medieval times were shown to be more stable and cooler than current temperatures. Rather than investigate a scientific reason for the change in medieval temperatures, Cardinal Pell assumes a nefarious conspiracy to "erase the Medieval Warm period".

However, close investigation reveals its the conspiracy theorists who are trying to hide evidence. For temperature spanning the last millennia, the first IPCC report used data from a single location in Central England. By the time of the later IPCC reports, more evidence from many other locations had become available and a reconstruction of global temperature was possible. The extra evidence showed that while certain locations in Europe were quite warm in Medieval times, other parts of the globe showed strong cooling.

Think of that baby sloshing around in the bath. The water level at a single point will jump up and down violently. But if you consider every point in the bath, the average water level is much steadier. Similarly, when you average temperature over the entire planet, global temperature does not jump around as violently as it does in a single location in Central England. Globally, the Medieval "Warm" Period was cool compared to our most recent decade, the hottest on record.

So Cardinal Pell's depiction of events is an inversion of reality. The IPCC didn't eliminate anything - they included more evidence. Those who argue for a warmer medieval period are the ones who seek to eliminate evidence by ignoring the global picture. They cite wine growth or flourishing silkworms at specific locations. But these locations don't all show warmth at the same time. When scientists calculate the average Medieval temperature using all the available evidence, they find that warming in one place is roughly balanced by cooling in another place.

According to Cardinal Pell, the basic issue of global warming is "whether the evidence is adequate in that paradigm". However, we've seen that the evidence is not merely adequate. It's overwhelming. This begs the question, how is it Pell is unaware of the overwhelming body of evidence. Perusing the footnotes of his speech offers insight. Pell sources his information from vocal skeptics such as Ian Plimer, Bob Carter, William Happer and Christopher Monckton. Pell ignores all the research available in the peer-reviewed literature, published by the 97% of climate scientists who agree with the consensus. Ironically, he doesn't even draw upon the work of the 3% of skeptic climate scientists. The names referenced repeatedly in his footnotes are not climate scientists and wouldn't even get in the room. Pell's "investigation" of the evidence consists of non-peer reviewed writings from a handful of non-experts while ignoring decades of peer-reviewed research by climate experts.

Scripture speaks of the grave responsibility of those who assume the role of teacher and the perils of leading people astray with false teachings. If one elects to pontificate about scientific evidence, they owe it to their readers to survey the full body of evidence to ensure they're not disseminating misinformation. Before Cardinal Pell casts judgement on others for not having investigated the evidence, perhaps he should first look to remove the log from his own eye.

2011-11-14 00:01:14
Tom Curtis

t.r.curtis@gmail...
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"This was confirmed by a recent analysis by Svante Bjorck at Lund University who compared temperature trends ..."

 

I haven't read Bjork's study, but both hemispheres warmed together as we came out of the last glacial, and I believe there have been periods in which both hemispheres warmed in the Holocene.  Consequently the claim that:

"He found that before human caused global warming, the Northern and Southern Hemispheres never warmed at the same time."

needs significant qualification.

2011-11-14 07:24:08The last glacial termination
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
143.238.130.246
Tom, that is exactly what Bjorck's study says. He even has a section specifically on the glacial termination where he says while we came out of the ice age, while the north warmed, the south didn't and so on, as the planet warmed with a bipolar seesaw pattern.

Still, that whole paragraph on Bjorck's is expendable and is there to reinforce the point. I can always lose it if length is an issue.

2011-11-14 11:21:23
John Hartz
John Hartz
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From your initial paragraph:

He argues that "the debates about anthropogenic global warming can only be conducted by the accurate recognition and interpretation of scientific evidence." It would be difficult to find anyone who disagrees with this statement.

Do you really want to endorse the legitimacy of the "the debates about anthropogenic global warming"? After all, Pell considers his presentation to be part of the "debate".

 

2011-11-14 11:56:31
John Hartz
John Hartz
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Always capitalize "Medieval" -- see paragraph 13. 

2011-11-14 11:56:31
skywatcher

andycasely@hotmail...
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On the Bjorck issue, it can probably be easily taken out of context, so either needs clarification or dropped.  You don;t want people misinterpreting you to say "John Cook says the world didn't warm at the end of the last ice age!" 

"When the north warmed, the south cooled or remained stable, even as the globe came out of the last ice age."  But it's such a counterintuitive point, the different hemispheric warmings ultimately leading to a warmer Earth but without synchronous warming at any point, that I'd be pretty cagey about including it.

One other point - "... the early IPCC reports used data from a single location in Central England."  I know AR1 used the Lamb sketch (I think it's a sketch rather than based on much "data"), but what was used in AR2?  Otherwise say "the first IPCC report". 

2011-11-14 12:07:58Edits
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
130.102.158.12

I think I'll drop Bjorck as I was concerned about the word count anyway.

John H, good point - I always avoid the word 'debate' because using the term 'climate debate' reinforces the myth that there is still a scientific debate about AGW. Will see if perhaps I can use another quote about evidence.

Skywatcher I'm feeling lazy about investigating AR2 so I think I'll just use the wording "first IPCC report"

2011-11-14 12:31:03
Daniel Bailey
Daniel Bailey
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I've sent Dr. Bjorck a reminder email.

2011-11-14 12:37:02
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
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JC,

If you're worried about libel, I really see only two points of language:

"Cardinal Pell fails to practise what he preaches."

=> "It seems to me that Cardinal Pell fails to practise what he preaches."

 

"Before Cardinal Pell casts judgement on others for not having investigated the evidence, perhaps he should first look to remove the log from his own eye."

=> "Before Cardinal Pell casts judgement on others for not having investigated the evidence, perhaps he should first consider whether he has a log in his own eye."

Also, I would change

"Pell is ignorant of the full body of evidence"

=> "Pell seems to be unaware of the full body of evidence"

2011-11-14 12:40:11Links added
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
130.102.158.12

Have added links to the post.

Any comments on the article, Daniel? Would be interested in your perspective - I wondered about the implications of reinforcing the stereotype of a hypocritical religious leader who doesn't practice what he preaches (in fact, that is the structural skeleton that the whole article is built on with the science being just the flesh around the skeleton). Considering the egregious errors of Pell on such an important issue and with the influence that hehas, I thought such an approach was required and would also be the most effective message as far as "sticky ideas" go.

2011-11-14 13:03:39
Daniel Bailey
Daniel Bailey
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John, is Pell aligned with the Catholic Church?  If so, he's in violation of what the Vatican says about climate change:

Can we remain indifferent before the problems associated with such realities as climate change, desertification, the deterioration and loss of productivity in vast agricultural areas, the pollution of rivers and aquifers, the loss of biodiversity, the increase of natural catastrophes and the deforestation of equatorial and tropical regions? Can we disregard the growing phenomenon of “environmental refugees”, people who are forced by the degradation of their natural habitat to forsake it – and often their possessions as well – in order to face the dangers and uncertainties of forced displacement? Can we remain impassive in the face of actual and potential conflicts involving access to natural resources? All these are issues with a profound impact on the exercise of human rights, such as the right to life, food, health and development.

It is becoming more and more evident that the issue of environmental degradation challenges us to examine our life-style and the prevailing models of consumption and production, which are often unsustainable from a social, environmental and even economic point of view. We can no longer do without a real change of outlook which will result in new life-styles, “in which the quest for truth, beauty, goodness and communion with others for the sake of common growth are the factors which determine consumer choices, savings and investments”.

Education for peace must increasingly begin with far-reaching decisions on the part of individuals, families, communities and states. We are all responsible for the protection and care of the environment. This responsibility knows no boundaries. In accordance with the principle of subsidiarity it is important for everyone to be committed at his or her proper level, working to overcome the prevalence of particular interests. A special role in raising awareness and in formation belongs to the different groups present in civil society and to the non-governmental organizations which work with determination and generosity for the spread of ecological responsibility, responsibility which should be ever more deeply anchored in respect for “human ecology”.

The media also have a responsibility in this regard to offer positive and inspiring models. In a word, concern for the environment calls for a broad global vision of the world; a responsible common effort to move beyond approaches based on selfish nationalistic interests towards a vision constantly open to the needs of all peoples. We cannot remain indifferent to what is happening around us, for the deterioration of any one part of the planet affects us all.

The Church has a responsibility towards creation, and she considers it her duty to exercise that responsibility in public life, in order to protect earth, water and air as gifts of God the Creator meant for everyone, and above all to save mankind from the danger of self-destruction. The degradation of nature is closely linked to the cultural models shaping human coexistence: consequently, “when ‘human ecology’ is respected within society, environmental ecology also benefits”.

http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/messages/peace/documents/hf_ben-xvi_mes_20091208_xliii-world-day-peace_en.html

http://org2.democracyinaction.org/o/5256/t/0/blastContent.jsp?email_blast_KEY=1163273

Fate of Mountain Glaciers in the Anthropocene: A Report by the Working Group Commissioned by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences

http://catholicclimatecovenant.org/

2011-11-14 13:07:54
Daniel Bailey
Daniel Bailey
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97.83.150.37

I forget the passage, but the Bible makes it clear that we are to "make plain the errors of their ways" of those that stand in contradiction of the precepts of our faith.

In that regard, out of love, we are compelled to point out that Pell is in conflict with the teachings of his church.  Not to mention the science that the church accepts.

2011-11-14 13:09:29
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
84.151.52.35

If I were Pell, I would argue that the Pope's motivation is correct, but that he has been misinformed by the officials of the Vatican regarding the scientific facts.

I would ask, "Do we now believe that Galileo, who contradicted the opinion of the Pope in writing, was in fact guilty of heresy and disrespect to the Pope?"

2011-11-14 13:17:58
alan_marshall

alan.from.tas@gmail...
114.73.129.103

Nice piece John. You have nailed him on the science, then added just enough in the final paragraph to question whether Pell is misusing his position in his church to misinform.

As far as possible litigation goes, I see nothing to worry about. Nevertheless, I endorse Neal’s changes. These are the kind of subtle qualifiers I use to state the facts, while leaving me an exit in the event I am proven wrong.

2011-11-14 13:19:57
Daniel Bailey
Daniel Bailey
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97.83.150.37

As for what you've written, John, I would echo the words of praise, and caution, that the others have already written about it.

2011-11-14 13:21:44Pell = Catholic
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
130.102.158.12
Daniel, Pell is a Catholic cardinal but many others have hammered him on being out of line with the Pope so I'm hammering him on being out of line with the evidence he so endorses.
2011-11-14 13:40:59
Tom Curtis

t.r.curtis@gmail...
112.213.208.194

Just confirming that the Second Assessment Report do not use the CET plus speculation as the proxy for the MWP.  Instead they use Bradley and Jones (1993) record of NH summer temperatures for a graph, and discuss a number of other proxy studies.

2011-11-14 13:51:01
alan_marshall

alan.from.tas@gmail...
114.73.129.103

John, I don’t want to hold the article up, but ideally I’d like to see a little more in the paragraphs about CO2. People need to understand that at the core of a complex system is a very simple principle of physics, one we have both learnt in high school. If we go back to Fourier, the greenhouse effect has been understood for nearly 200 years. It’s impact on global warming was quantified by Svante August Arrhenius in 1896. I think we need to provide the general public with some basic understanding of the greenhouse effect. So as not to tale up too much space in the article, you could add links to Sks posts dealing with the physics and the history. You could use my post on cause and effect, but you may have something more suitable.

I love your description of Enso sloshing round! It is the perfect analogy for short-term noise.

2011-11-14 14:19:15
Daniel Bailey
Daniel Bailey
yooper49855@hotmail...
97.83.150.37

If one elects to pontificate about scientific evidence, they owe it to their readers to survey the full body of evidence to ensure they're not disseminating misinformation. Before Cardinal Pell casts judgement on others for not having investigated the evidence, perhaps he should first look to remove the log from his own eye.

Very nice.  Might I suggest a slight tweak?

If one elects to pontificate about scientific evidence, they owe it to their readers to survey the full body of evidence to ensure they're not disseminating misinformation. Before Cardinal Pell casts judgement on others for not having investigated the many splinters of evidence, perhaps he should first look to remove the log from his own eye.

But it's fine as it stands anyway.

2011-11-14 14:19:40
Daniel Bailey
Daniel Bailey
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97.83.150.37

Forgot my thumb-ey

2011-11-14 14:34:28Many splinters
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
130.102.158.12
Why that particular phrase? Does Pell use that?
2011-11-14 14:46:53
Daniel Bailey
Daniel Bailey
yooper49855@hotmail...
97.83.150.37

Not that I'm aware.  I'm playing off our "multiple lines of consilient" evidence and Luke 6:42

How can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,' when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.

Speck = splinter in this case

2011-11-14 15:16:43Splinters
alan_marshall

alan.from.tas@gmail...
114.73.129.103

The use of the word "speck" or "splinter" in the verse from Luke’s gospel is meant to convey the image of something disproportionally tiny compared to the log. I think it would be unhelpful to associate this with the word "evidence", so I prefer John’s original wording.

2011-11-14 15:25:59Oh right, splinters vs logs
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
130.102.158.12
That's way too clever for me, Daniel :-)

It probably does confuse the metaphor though, as Alan points out.

2011-11-14 20:09:43
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
91.33.126.83

DB,

"many splinters of evidence" gives me the impression that there are a lot of things wrong with the evidence; obviously not the desired intent.

In this case, what you really mean is that a splinter in the eye = an act of ignoring a piece of (denier-quality) evidence. But this doesn't map very well

I don't see a way to make this work, either.

2011-11-14 22:47:32
Daniel Bailey
Daniel Bailey
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97.83.150.37

It was an attempt at a dig using sophistry/humor.  Let it pass, as it adds nothing and takes away much.

2011-11-15 12:42:28Thumbs Up
alan_marshall

alan.from.tas@gmail...
114.73.190.33

John, the article reads well. I'll give it a thumbs up. I see nothing to worry about in terms of potential litigation. If DRUM is pleased with the attention the article gets, you could offer to do a follow up on Pell's primary source, Ian Plimer. (His contradictions speak for themselves but we would need to consider the tone.)

2011-11-15 15:32:25Article is running tomorrow morning
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
143.238.130.246

I sent off the article to ABC Religion this morning and heard back from the editor this afternoon with very positive feedback, they're running it as the lead tomorrow morning.

Alan, were you aware that I'd already written a piece about Plimer's contradictions and sent it off to ABC Drum a few weeks ago. He said he'd run it last week but no dice. I have no idea if he'll actually run it and the Pell piece is more timely so I decided not to wait before contacting ABC Religion (sometimes different ABC departments are a little weird about running pieces from the same writer - the ABC Environment once decided not to run one of my pieces when they found out I'd just been published in the Drum).

After the Pell dust settles, I'll contact the Drum again about the Plimer piece and if they don't run it, I'll look for somewhere else. The Conversation or ABC Environment perhaps? Or Skeptical Science - get on good with the editorial staff there :-)

2011-11-16 12:11:17ABC Religion have just published the response
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
143.238.130.246

http://www.abc.net.au/religion/articles/2011/11/16/3367852.htm

The comments on ABC Drum get pretty intense - I don't know whether it's more of a kumbuya thing on ABC Religion but somehow, I doubt it.

2011-11-16 19:44:30Not a single denier comment yet
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
143.238.130.246
Maybe it is all kumbuyas at ABC Religion, usually by this time at the Drum, it would be swarming with denier comments. Or maybe my dad scared them off.