Climate Change: The Facts - Part Three

My last two posts have been quite critical of the book Climate Change: The Facts. I stand by everything I've said in them, but I feel it is important to point out some parts of the book are actually quite good. One such example is the next chapter in my review, Chapter Seven.

Chapter Seven is written by Nigel Lawson, and he deserves praise for writing an insightful and informative chapter. To him, the global warming debate can be summarized quite simply: How much will the planet warm, what will the effects of that warming be, and what should we do about it? For each of these issues, Lawson gives a simple overview without any excessive exaggeration or rhetoric - exactly what you'd want from a book claiming to provide "The Facts."

The one thing which bothers me about this chapter is it cites conclusions from the latest IPCC report based upon work by Richard Tol. This work was incredibly shoddy, and it was slipped into the IPCC report at the last minute, without any sort of external review. People who have followed this blog will know I feel strongly about this work and the IPCC's secret insertion of it into the IPCC report, so strongly I've filed a formal complaint with the IPCC over it (which the IPCC has chosen to simply ignore).

But I can't fault Lawson on this. He doesn't endorse the IPCC report on this issue. He merely cites the IPCC's conclusions to show what its position is. It's only in the next chapter this issue becomes an actual problem. This chapter, Chapter Eight, is written by the same person who wrote the introduction of the book, Alan Moran. That is the introduction which says things like:

there is no evidence the next 50 years will bring human induced warming

Which is absurd. Even if one isn't convinced there will be warming in the future, there is certainly evidence for the idea. The chapter Moran wrote is little better. It gets tons of basic facts wrong. For instance, it says Richard Tol:

has now been demonised for withdrawing his name as an author of a key IPCC chapter that he claims the Summary for Policymakers has distorted.

The reality is Tol never withdrew his name from any chapter. What he did was withdraw his name from the Summary for Policymakers. Even there, he didn't do so because he felt his chapter was distorted. In fact, he adjusted his chapter to better match the Summary for Policymakers. Tol's problem was with how other chapters were misrepresented.

This sort of problem exists throughout the chapter. Basic facts are gotten wrong time and time again. In one case, the chapter refers to Chris Field as "one of two lead authors" of the IPCC report even though there are over a hundred lead authors on the report. Field was just one of two lead authors on a particular chapter.

And the mistakes aren't limited to messing up basic facts wrong. Sometimes they involve simply making things up. While the chapter unabashedly accepts the conclusions Richard Tol slipped into the IPCC report based entirely upon his shoddy work:

That Summary argues, 'the incomplete estimates of global annual economic losses for additional temperature increase of 2 degrees Celsius are between 0.2 and 2.0 per cent of income...'

It then tries to call into question some of the data used to reach those conclusions:

One [study], by Maddison and Rehdanz, is based on 'self-reported happiness' and therefore fails key scientific verifiability tests.

By just waving them away. It doesn't discuss what "key scientific verifiability tests" the study fails. It doesn't even say what they are. Moran just says the study falis some tests and moves on.

Ironically, there is plenty wrong with the Richard Tol's (and thus the IPCC's) use of that study. The book cites the study as saying there will be 11.5% economic damages if we see 3.2 degrees of warming, but the IPCC report actually says the number will be 12.4%. The reason for the difference is the IPCC changed the value after the final draft of the report was published without offering any explanation as to why the original value was wrong. Additionally, the value isn't even usable because it is in different units than the rest of the values used in the IPCC report (it uses PPP GDP instead of nominal GDP).

But whatever. Chapter Eight can't get even the simplest of facts right. Chapter Nine is better. Chapter Nine discusses how there's social pressure to accept the "consensus" on global warming, and anyone who is perceived as stepping out of line gets abused and rejected for it. It's a good chapter, and it offers a great example with Roger Pielke Jr. who was basically fired as an author of a website because of a campaign against him because he suggested global warming isn't causing greater losses from extreme weather, even though his claims matched mainstream scientific work. Unfortunately, this chapter undermines its credibility by saying:

The problem, unfortunately, is that scientists like Plimer, Michaels and Carter are rarely heard out side niche publications such as this one or specialist websites like Watts Up With That? And this isn't because they're not credible witnesses. Each has scientific credentials as long as your arm but in the crazy world of climate science, knowledge, experience and real world evidence count for less than being on-message.

Plimer is Ian Plimer, author of Chapter One of this book. Michaels is Patrick Michaels, author of Chapter Two of this book. Carter is Robert Carter, author of Chapter Five of this book. These are chapters I discussed in my first post about this book, chapters which say not only do we not know the planet it warm in the future, we don't know it has warmed in the last 100 years.

I agree with this chapter's message. I find what it described happening with Roger Pielke Jr. disgusting. At the same time, I can't support it. What happened with Roger Pielke Jr. may be disgusting, but Robert Carter claims we can't even know the planet has warmed in the last 100 years. A person like him should be scoffed at. A person like him should be shunned. Not only is that claim ludicrous, as I showed in my first post on this book, it is based entirely upon Carter misrepresenting his references in an obvious way.

Which goes back to the central problem of this book. There is good work in this book. I just can't endorse it because it is associated with terrible, unscientific claims which have no basis in reality. This book claims to be providing "The Facts" of climate change, but the first third of the book is pretty much completely wrong.

If skeptics want to be taken seriously, they ought to trim the dead weight. There are lots of problems with the global warming movement. They ought to be pointed out. Skeptics just can't be taken seriously in pointing out those problems while ignoring glaring problems on their own "side." If skeptics want to be taken seriously, they need to do a couple simple things:

First, acknowledge the planet has warmed over the last century. Everyone knows it has guys. You look like idiots when you suggest it hasn't.

Second, acknowledge the planet will likely warm the future. Come on. It's going to. We may be in a "pause" right now, but that isn't going to last forever. And it's not going to spin around and turn into cooling. We may not know when temperatures will rise or how much they'll rise by, but they are going to rise.

That's it. That's all skeptics need to do. If skeptics do that, they can be taken seriously. If they don't do that, they won't be taken seriously. They won't be taken seriously as long as they keep publishing books like this, where they refuse to admit such basic points as, "The planet has warmed in the last 100 years."

The worst part of it is many of the authors of this book would probably agree to both of those points. Authors like Ross McKitrick and Anthony Watts would almost certainly agree the planet has warmed and will warm in the future. They won't be taken seriously though. Why would they? They let themselves be associated with people who deny both of those points.

Let's be real. If you let yourself be associated with a person who says it is a fact we don't know the planet has warmed in the last 100 years, you don't deserve to be listened to.

2 comments

  1. Russ R., glad to! I'm debating on if I want to cover the rest of the chapters or not. The book basically gets better as it goes, so there isn't as much to say about the later chapters.

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