Global-Warming Deniers and Climate Change Ideologues – Part Three: Debunking the Debunkers (2/2)

Mauro Vanetti continues the part of his reply to Brian Baker dedicated to "debunking the debunkers", revealing inconsistencies throughout Baker's arguments, the use of dubious sources and the ignoring of others.

Argument 6: Some people say that the sun is the only important factor (while they forge the data)

Natural changes in sun radiation are an important factor in global climate, of course. Baker's article states that they are the only important factor and tries to present this highly controversial conclusion as a fact denied only by anthropogenic-global-warming hard-liners.

Official graphs issued by the IPCC once more tell quite a different story ([45] for the complete graph, with continental data too):

Figure 10

Both natural (blue line) and artificial forcings are needed to explain the observed temperatures. The IPCC does not neglect "solar activity and volcanoes", as the caption says. The point is that these natural phenomena do not display any significant long-term trend over the last four decades, therefore they cannot account for what we usually mean by "global warming". [46] Nevertheless, they do account for some prior and present climate variability.

The idea that variations in the sun's magnetic field are the decisive factor comes from the work of a group around Henrik Svensmark, researchers at the Danish National Space Center. They believe they proved in 2006 that cosmic rays can trigger the formation of clouds. This was not actually proved in a direct way, but their research shows that the rays can act as a catalyst for cloud condensation nuclei. [47] The official press release about the article [48] explained:

«Interestingly, during the 20th Century, the Sun's magnetic field (which shield's Earth from cosmic rays) more than doubled, thereby reducing the average influx of cosmic rays. The resulting reduction in cloudiness, especially of low-altitude clouds, may be a significant factor in the global warming Earth has undergone during the last century. Until now, however, there has been no experimental evidence of how the causal mechanism linking cosmic rays and cloud formation may work.»

The contribution of this research team is widely considered as interesting and useful also by critics, even though most recent studies [49] hold that the "Svensmark effect" is likely to be irrelevant in nature as opposed to lab experiments (mainly because condensation nuclei already exist everywhere in the atmosphere in large quantities).

Mr Svensmark has clearly overdone it in his abandonment of a sober attitude. If we want to have an honest examination of the politics of climate change, the fate of Svensmark's theory clearly demonstrates that in current times there is no conspiracy to prevent "heretics" from having their say about global warming, even when they do that in a very aggressive and hysterical manner.

In 2007, H. Svensmark wrote a pretentious book together with N. Calder titled The Chilling Stars that claims to represent A New Theory of Climate Change. The book had a very wide circulation and was advertised and reviewed by all the mass media.

In 2008, Klimamysteriet (The Cloud Mystery), a documentary on Svensmark's theory, was aired by a state TV channel in Denmark and is to be re-aired in other Scandinavian countries. The film is also favourably advertised on the official website of the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. [50] The dubious findings of the Danish research team were also echoed by the award-winning British documentary The Great Global Warming Swindle aired on UK's Channel Four in 2007. Furthermore, the prestigious CERN of Geneva has launched the CLOUD project to investigate the role of cosmic rays in cloud formation.

So, where is the conspiracy to silence the dissenters? Apparently, governments, private and state-owned TV channels, big newspapers and publishing houses, gigantic labs like the CERN are giving a lot of space to these contrarians! However, the reliability of the Danish team seems to be seriously compromised by a detailed look at the soundness of the data and graphs they provided to the public to support these sensationalist declarations. The results of this investigation are summed up by a short 2004 article by Paul E. Damon and Peter Laut [51] with the explanatory title Pattern of Strange Errors Plagues Solar Activity and Terrestrial Climate Data. We have already noted above (with the US Senate example) how easily a correlation can be found where there is no causal link, but Damon & Laut went a bit deeper and found something that comes across as something between incompetence and fraud.

In 1991, Eigil Friis-Christensen and Knud Lassen claimed important results on the basis of a wrong graph that used unfiltered data together with filtered data (a gross mistake). I will just show the relevant part of the graph (the whole plot can be found in the article), referring to the last years of the 20th century when anthropogenic global warming was actually detected:

Figure 11

The blue SCL (solar cycle length) curve was replaced later (2000) with the filtered data, but arithmetic errors were strangely introduced and the new curve was like this:

Figure 12

The correct graph was never included in any errata corrige because it would have looked absolutely flat, thus contradicting the main claim:

Figure 13

To make things worse, another 1995 article by Friis-Christensen and Lassen used wrong maths, again to introduce the same non-existent correlation in the data.

In 1997, Henrik Svensmark joined the data forgers' team. In his 1997 article, he uses the US total cloud cover instead of the global total cloud cover, and once again striking correlation is found. The trick of using local data as opposed to global data has already been criticised above. Global data contradicted his thesis. In 2000, he shifted again to a new theory, the "low cloud cover" theory - of course without recognising that the total cloud cover theory had been falsified by the experience.

Baker writes:

«The oceans and satellite records show no net warming since 1998 and the sun spot cycle indicates the onset of another ice age. A fact that is endorsed by both the Chinese and Russian Academy of Sciences, who never bought into the present ecohondriacs' dream.»

This is a good example of how many wrong allegations can be found in this kind of article if they are not carefully verified. In a few lines we can find no less than four errors.

The hoax about the global cooling after 1998 is easily explained: in 1998 El Niño (the gigantic periodic temperature anomaly in the Pacific Ocean) was particularly strong. This created a spike in temperature that temporarily concealed the long-term trend. Subtracting El Niño's effect or just smoothing the graphs the trend is still clearly there.

The sunspot cycle does not prove anything and in any case if an ice age was coming why is the evil capitalist conspiracy not using the ice age to squeeze some more surplus value out of the workers instead of clinging on to a global-warming myth that Baker firmly believes will be debunked in a few months? Are they unable to manage their own interests?

The Chinese Academy of Science is not opposing the theory of global warming or predicting an ice age. In 2004, an official press release of the Academy [52] proudly congratulated the old meteorologist Prof. Ye Duzheng for being awarded the so-called "Nobel prize in Meteorology" assigned by the World Meteorological Organisation. The press release explains that Ye Duzheng's researches "focused on the effects of global warming since the 1980s". Two years later, Hu Jintao also awarded him with the highest scientific prize in China, the State Pre-eminent Science and Technology Award.

Also the Russian Academy of Science now supports the IPCC position. While the Chinese Academy has been openly supportive of the IPCC since the joint statement of 16 national science academies in 2001, [53] the Russian Academy signed a similar statement only in 2005, like the US Science Academy. [54] This delay hardly demonstrates any form of resistance of Russia against a capitalist conspiracy, on the contrary it shows that two imperialist countries with colossal interests in the oil and gas industry like Russia and the USA managed to refrain their own scientists from joining the worldwide scientific consensus but were eventually forced to back the IPCC as a consequence of a general recognition of the problem. The ruling class is now split, with a minority still trying to step back by funding the sceptics and the deniers, and a majority looking for an accommodation with reality that could preserve their own profits while showing a green face to public opinion.

Argument 7: Somebody found yet another curve of CO2 concentration (but he is completely unreliable)

Baker's article supports several positions that are in contradiction with each other. Somewhere on the Internet he found the writings of a German called E. G. Beck. Beck is a notorious master of graph manipulation, unfortunately lacking any other academic reference. He produces nonsensical graphs like the following, that are made fun of on the whole World Wide Web, but are fortunately taken seriously by no one except for a bunch of conspiracy theorists - and the German TV!

Figure 14

Besides its aesthetical aspects, that should already suffice to discard it from any serious scientific discussion, this childish graph uses local and obsolete data (the source is indicated as the 1990 IPCC assessment, but we already noted above that the graph used there just referred to Central England), there is no vertical scale, the curve is manipulated etc. [55]

This individual's "findings" are so ridiculous they should not even be mentioned, but the fact that such material leaked into Baker's article shows that it is very easy to be hijacked when sound science is abandoned in favour of rumours.

Beck is quoted by Baker as the source of an incredible idea: the real data are old carbon-dioxide concentration data, collected in several (and inconsistent) obsolete ways along the last 150 years, [56] contradicted by all updated (proxy) measurements. These "chemical data" are used by this amateur scientist to draw impossible diagrams like this (found in [57]):

Figure 15

It has been shown that the rise and fall in carbon dioxide displayed by this graph is simply inconsistent with several known physical laws and completely unexplainable. The fallacy is even more evident in this plot:

Figure 16

Even a child of six could notice that there is something weird going on in measurements before 1960. On the other hand, mainstream data (derived by proxy measurements with modern techniques) perfectly fit with the instrumental post-1960 data.

Argument 8: Measuring temperature is not a good way to measure temperature (oh really?)

So far, we have mostly been engaged in disputes about models and historical series. Nevertheless, the most important issue from a policymaker's perspective is what is happening now. How is current global warming measured? With thermometers on land climate stations.

This simple fact scandalises Baker and the other deniers. They fancy heavenly indirect measurement from an orbiting satellite rather than earthly direct measurement from a trivial ground station. Why? Heaven knows.

Since there are some discrepancies between the two measurements, in Baker's opinion there is some ground for sarcasm. The result is not very satisfactory:

«In other words there is either something wrong with the land based measurements or the satellite measurements. There is something amiss with a network that has not been properly maintained due to funding shortfalls, that takes no account of the increasing urban sprawl or there is something wrong with an extraterrestrial calibrated measuring system. For those that are still trained with the scientific method which one would be worth a bet?»

To most terrestrial readers, an ET-calibrated system does not sound very reliable either! Here we have a failed attempt to badmouth everyday, common sense practice in favour of more obscure techniques.

By the way, this quotation scores another point against Baker's conspiracy theory. If land measurement is evil and a tool of the global-warming eco-plot and if the world bourgeoisie is manoeuvring to spread this new religion, why are there "funding shortfalls"?! In fact, the funding is actually poor but for exactly the opposite reason.

Baker says that land stations are biased because the UHI (Urban Heat Island) effect is not taken into account. The Urban Heat Island effect depends on urban development around measurement sites occurred during the lifetime of the stations. Fortunately, the UHI effect is taken into account in mainstream researches like the latest IPCC assessment, but Baker provides a quotation stating that it is massively underestimated. Who is the quotation from? Stephen McIntyre and Ross McKitrick, again, two lobby-connected, dubious, biased researchers that we have already been introduced to. No, thanks, comrade Brian, the hockey stick story was useless enough to have us pay them attention again.

Baker insists with the ET measurements and the ocean heat absorption estimates that do not fit well with land measurement and the global climate model. He also shows us two graphs, one from the stratosphere and one from the lower troposphere. The stratosphere data are interesting in a general way because they challenge the model, but they are not directly relevant here. The lower-troposphere data show an increasing trend in temperature corresponding to 0.178 degrees per decade. If we have to take these data as genuine, the contradiction with the consensus model is far from evident. 0.178 degrees per decade is 1.78 degrees per century, which is not so strikingly inconsistent with the predictions for (land) temperature increase that can be found in the IPCC report.

Ocean heat absorption has been estimated by the Argo project. According to some, these estimates do not fit very well with the global climate model in use. Baker provides the following comment:

«The final irony here is that it was at the Scipps Institute for Oceanography that Keeling first established the CO2 monitoring station on Mauna Lao in Hawaii, with the belief that ‘man was playing a dangerous experiment with the planet by the release of anthropogenic CO2 from fossil fuel burning.' But it is the same Institute that pushed for the deployment of the Argo buoys with the ‘belief' that it would prove that the oceans are absorbing the heat as required by the climate models.»

What should this prove? Indeed, this just shows the integrity and soundness of this field of research and of the scientists involved in it, and contradicts the theory that there is a plot to cover up the truth and cling on to unverified allegations.

Argument 9: Ice is not melting at the Poles and there is snow everywhere (so what?)

Baker explains that in the Antarctic the ice is not melting so much as is claimed and it is still quite a cold place. His article gives some examples of how the TV is vulgarising global warming and ice caps melting. We are all too familiar with pictures of white bears trapped on cracking icebergs, unscientific movies like Waterworld (where the sea level rises by thousands of metres, covering the whole planet apart from the Himalayan peaks), and summer reports from the Arctic and Antarctic (Baker calls the latter "winter reportages" but they are actually done in summer - winter and summer time in the year are inverted in the other hemisphere but their names are not).

This introduces another important faction in the politics of climate change: climate change ideologues. Media coverage and political opportunism should not be confused with scientific consensus. These people do more harm than good to the establishment of serious policies to counter global warming, and basically pursue a catastrophist agenda, which is not the position of the Marxists. Exaggerating the impact of climate change only plays into the hands of those who propose extreme solutions involving a reversal of all forms of large-scale industrialisation. This position is both reactionary and utopian at the same time.

Reversing industrialisation would mean to move the clock back to the 18th or 17th century, thus removing any possibility of an actual solution to the problems of the masses on a world scale. The Marxist point of view is that industrialisation and the wonderful development of the productive forces unleashed by the bourgeois revolution and the establishment of capitalism as a worldwide system was a progressive achievement because for the first time in human history the productivity of labour has reached a point where, with a different organisation of society, it could be used to introduce socialism and workers' democracy.

As a consequence, notwithstanding our opposition to climate change denial, we join hands with serious scientists and essayists in denouncing and exposing all the nonsense spread by doomsday preachers. Marxism is an optimistic philosophy and, while not completely ruling out the menace of a collapse of civilisation into barbarism ‑ if the proletariat should repeatedly fail to take power ‑ we firmly believe that humankind will very probably be able to remove capitalism and survive extinction.

So, is the ice melting or not? It depends. Ice is melting in the Arctic Sea and in the mountain glaciers; it is not melting so much in the Antarctic.

Baker talks about snow and storms. He shows us two images representing the snow coverage of the Boreal Hemisphere, in 1980 and 2008. Then he lists a lot of large snowstorms occurring in winter 2007-08 in different parts of the world. In the opinion of many global-warming deniers, this should demonstrate that the world is getting colder.

According to the ABC of meteorology, snow and ice are two different things. RealClimate explains:

«snowfall is often predicted to increase in many regions in response to anthropogenic climate change, since warmer air, all other things being equal, holds more moisture, and therefore, the potential for greater amounts of precipitation whatever form that precipitation takes.»

In a nutshell, in some areas and in some weeks of the year, if it is warmer, but still under 0°C, it will snow more than before. Nevertheless, weather conditions in one season do not prove anything, using them as an argument is just wrong whatever conclusion is drawn. [58] This applies to TV vulgarisations by naïve climate change ideologues as much as blog posts by naïve global-warming deniers.

Ice is a different story. Everybody can check what happens to the ice in the North Pole in real time (at this online service, maintained by The Cryosphere Today: [59]). The important thing is to distinguish ice (violet) from snow (white) - if Baker had done that, he would have noticed that the pictures he provided prove the opposite of what he believes. I compared the situation at my birth date and at my 28th birthday and the change is impressive:

Figure 17

The Antarcti was not predicted to melt quickly by the IPCC reports. What the simplified ideology says is completely another issue. This can be easily verified by anyone by reading the latest IPCC assessment [60] where we read:

«Current global model studies project that the Antarctic ice sheet will remain too cold for widespread surface melting and gain mass due to increased snowfall.»

Despite this, Baker's article states that the actual conditions of the Antarctic falsify the position of the IPCC. Joseph D'Aleo, a meteorologist, is quoted as a source of this evaluation. And who pays Mr D'Aleo to say that? Joseph D'Aleo is the leading name of a team that produced one of the global-warming deniers' gospels, the Independent Summary for Policy Makers of the Text of the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report [61]. This is a truly astonishing document. It is basically a fraudulent and deceptive manoeuvre to spread a spurious interpretation of the IPCC Fourth Assessment. It maliciously uses the IPCC's name only to criticise its true conclusions. This document, freely downloadable from its original and official source, is the final proof of the existence of a conspiracy about global warming - yes, but a conspiracy that has the purpose of denying it!

The co-ordinator of the team that produced the Independent Summary is our old friend, Ross McKitrick, the right-wing economist that tried to discredit the hockey stick graph; his accomplice, the oil and gas speculator McIntyre, is given credit in the acknowledgements. Two individuals called Schneider (Prof. Friedrich Schneider and one Nicholas Schneider) have also been involved in this shameful project, probably just in order that people will confuse them with Stephen Schneider. It is the same old trick: throw mud in every direction, some of it will stick somewhere.

The organisation that issued this rubbish is the Fraser Institute, a "libertarian" think-tank, funded by Exxon Mobile and connected through its board of directors to several other North-American energy, oil and gas companies. Their commitment to the free market is openly declared in the document itself, of course by using the typical rhetorical devices of capitalist propaganda:

« Our vision is a free and prosperous world where individuals benefit from greater choice, competitive markets, and personal responsibility.»

The reference to personal responsibility is really ironic in the mouth of these irresponsible mercenaries. Funnily enough, they submitted their work to 43 reviewers (picked by them) and included the feedback results in the document itself. This is very unusual behaviour. Probably, they have a guilty conscience. On top of this, to improve their marks they had to "fix" them in the elegant way displayed by the following quotation:

«In addition, 11 reviewers asked to remain anonymous.»

Oh, please. (Including the "anonymous reviewers", the marks were excellent.)

Conclusion

Baker's "scientific" arguments are extremely weak. Moreover, if one traces them back to their material base, vested economic interests and conservative politics is what will be found. We would do better to move on to the political points. Unfortunately, they do not reveal a stronger argument.

[To be continued...]


See also: