Latest Attack on Lukewarmers

The weblog Skeptical Science has published its attack on we Lukewarmers here.

The website, despite its name, is dedicated to advancing the activist point of view on climate change and apparently they feel threatened by Lukewarmers as much as by skeptics. (I have often pointed out the similarity of climate activists to both medieval priests, who hated heretics and agnostics far more than non-believers and atheists, and the hard Left of the 20th Century, who considered Trotsky a worse enemy than Rockefeller–careful where you put that axe, now.)

As they have with most of the issues I’ve seen covered there, they manage to get things wrong, distort other things and slant their coverage rather abominably.

They single out Matt Ridley as a Lukewarmer and focus heavily on the essay that I just spent the past 10 posts critiquing. This is probably because they don’t want to cross real Lukewarmers such as Lucia Liljegren or Steve Mosher, either of whom could tie them up in knots without putting down their knitting needles (in Lucia’s case) or cellphone (ubiquitously present in Mosher’s hand).

They accuse Ridley of writing things he did not write and seem really miffed that “Ultimately the “lukewarmers” may be right, climate sensitivity may be on the lower end of the range of possible values, and maybe we will have sufficient time to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions enough to prevent catastrophic climate change. But if the “lukewarmers” are right, it will not be because the temperature record is wrong, or because global warming magically stopped 16 years ago, or because aliens are driving SUVs on Mars, or any of these long-debunked myths. If the “lukewarmers” like Ridley are right, it will be because we were very lucky…” Umm, okay… although I really think you should keep looking for those Land Rovers on Mars. You never know what you might find.

i-a42d0ff7c1af4b107b8acaae83d987e4-300px-NASA_Mars_Rover

Like so much of the stuff on their website, their criticism is so nebulous and ill-defined that there really isn’t very much to respond to. Please take a look and let me know if you agree.

21 responses to “Latest Attack on Lukewarmers

  1. Most scientific theories turn out to be wrong, or wrong in important ways. We stand on the edifice of those theories that stood the test of time. Those were few, relative to those that were cast aside.

    So no, it’s not about being lucky. It’s about probabilities. And the probability of catastrophic effects based on the evidence we have right now, is rather small.

  2. I read the article and the comments. It was poorly written. My guess is that the author was mad and/or hurried when he wrote it. I would take it as a sign that you are being successful.
    In 1988-91, Phil Jones’s team attacked non co2 theories of man made climate change. They were the real enemy. In the climate gate emails it was obvious that they were more threatened by Peilke than the out right rejectionists.
    The Skeptical Science crowd and the Fox crowd are a false dichotomy that feeds off each other. The polarization reinforces the belief system of each camp. Offering another viewpoint is a threat.
    I apparently don’t fit in the Lukewarmer camp. I think the warming that can be attributed to co2 is at most 1C/century. But I still think that other man made effects pose a serious problem. The reason that I can’t get excited about pouring scarce resources into reducing co2 is that we may have to pour them into something else.

    On another topic, do you really mean to imply that Trotsky wasn’t more evil than Rockefeller? Now my belief system really feels threatened.

  3. Wow. That piece really is a splendid example of self-referential chest-thumping leavened with ad hominem. They are proud of themselves, aren’t they.

    And yes, the religious/political parallels are very clearly present.

  4. What they are saying is that they have evaluated the evidence and view catastrophe as the most probable outcome. Lukewarmers look at the evidence and view minor to medium sized problems as most probable.

  5. How is lukewarmerism being defined? Do you have to ascribe X amount of warming to Man, but not all warming? Do you have a threshold to reach, like Niño 3.4? If I say Man’s contribution to warming after a doubling of CO2 is only .78°C am I a flying monkey denier? But at 1.78°C I’m one of the cool kids who sit in a booth and cynically whisper about how stooopid everyone else is? Can I get a widget on your sidebar, please, to make this determination? 🙂

    • What a Lukewarmer argues is that he’s basically accepting of the radiative modelling of the troposphere to surface temperature changes related to GHG’s. Depending on which paper you read, this works out to 1.1C – 1.2C per doubling of CO2, in additional atmospheric warming.

      At that point the Lukewarmer doesn’t go much further to ascribe confidence in different hypothesis about feedback effects. If you’re arguing for .8C of warming you’re arguing for a strong negative feedback and there is not much evidence for that. If you’re arguing for 3C of warming you’re arguing for a strong positive feedback (probably mostly cloud response and water vapour) and there isn’t much evidence for that either. Nonetheless, I’d suspect most Lukewarmer’s would agree that a positive water feedback effect is more likely than not, so actual planetary warming should be higher than 1.2C.

      • Hi Will,

        I think you’ve captured it pretty well. I think Steve Mosher believes it’ll be around 3C. I think it’s lower, maybe 2C or thereabouts. One of Svante Arrhenius’ calculations in 1906 came in at 1.5C with 0.6C in positive feedbacks. He did the calculations differently than we do now, but it’d be kind of cute if that one turned out to be the closest.

      • As far as I can see Mosher is with the “consensus” position, but filters out more hysterical pronouncements. I, on the other hand, take the more conservative sceptical approach of not having much confidence in the educated opinions of groups of experts over matters of great uncertainty. (This position is informed by many years of study of the history and philosophy of science, and epistemology. By ‘sceptic’ I mean traditional sceptic not climate sceptic.) Or in other words, evidence will always trump expert opinion. It’s notoriously easy to fool oneself.

      • That’s the hardest thing not to do, IMO. Been guilty of it more than once.

  6. Sorry Tom.

    I see enough of their “work product” in Lewandowsky’s output and the zombie SKS followers on blogs such as Climate Etc.

    No way I am going over there…

  7. Tom,
    Really now. Being attacked by Skeptical Science is like an elephant being attacked by butterfly.
    SS is a self-parody site, perhaps a feeder for Daily Onion stuff, or possiblya way to shake down Soros for some of that stuff he seems to have so much of. But a serious site? Please.
    Taking SS seriously would be as credible as putting Peter Gleick on an ethics committee.

  8. I think Skep Science is a sad situation. They do have some good science and I’ve learned much from their articles, but because they vehemently oppose and discredit any information which does not fit into their perspective the site is devalued. I think I have previously mentioned that their most paradoxical post was when a piece of research that they were not happy with was roundly discredited, while at the same accusing skeptics of discrediting any information they did not like. George Orwell would have loved it. They also tend to bully and intimidate individuals who make reasonable points and drive away any reasonable debate. Carbon Brief, a blog closely associated with Skep Science manages to have a belief in the consensus science, while allowing debate and even publishing articles which run counter to their arguments. If Skep science showed this open mindedness I suspect they may get more traffic and informed debate.

    • Hi Gareth

      I agree with you. They do have a lot of good information on the site. Sadly, their raison d’etre appears to be attacking skeptics, not defending science. There’s a big difference.

  9. “They single out Matt Ridley as a Lukewarmer and focus heavily on the essay that I just spent the past 10 posts critiquing. This is probably because they don’t want to cross real Lukewarmers such as Lucia Liljegren or Steve Mosher, either of whom could tie them up in knots without putting down their knitting needles (in Lucia’s case) or cellphone (ubiquitously present in Mosher’s hand).”

    Really? So, to you it seems that the most likely reason the post covers Ridley is because they are too cowardly to talk about “real” Lukewarmers… and not because Ridley just recently made a bit of a stink? Was YOUR nearly simultaneous coverage of Ridley also indicative of cowardice? BTW, they somehow managed to work up the courage to cover Mosher in the comments below the article… noting that he recently gave a ‘lukewarm’ range of less than 1 C to greater than 4.5 C for a doubling of CO2. Which, ironically, is largely consistent with the ‘alarmist’ IPCC except that ‘less than 1’ is a bit of a joke given that we are over 0.8 C already.

    “Like so much of the stuff on their website, their criticism is so nebulous and ill-defined that there really isn’t very much to respond to.”

    Nebulous and ill-defined. Like, say… claiming that “they accuse Ridley of writing things he did not”, but not actually listing any examples? Or saying that they “get things wrong”, “distort other things”, and “slant their coverage rather abominably” without listing actual examples of ANY of those things? That kind of nebulous and ill-defined?

    In exactly what way do the extensive links to peer reviewed papers and other materials confirming the points made in the Skeptical Science article qualify as ‘nebulous and ill-defined’… especially if your complete lack of ANY evidence for your claims does not?

    “Please take a look and let me know if you agree.”

    Nope, I’m not quite sold Tom. :]

    • Just like old times, CBD, isn’t it? That article IMO is so bad that it literally is not worth the time to respond to it in the level of detail needed to show why it was so bad. As for Mosher, how many thousands of times do you have to read his definition before it sinks in? “If offered an over/under bet on sensitivity of 3C, Lukewarmers will take the under.” I covered Matt’s piece because he put the word Lukewarmer in the title. That and the fact that I really liked his book The Rational Optimist.

      As for the SkS piece on Lukewarmer and Ridley–yeah, there’s lots of links there. The first five are to other Skeptical Science posts, as are 31 of the total of 40 links in the post–that’s a Joe Romm trick. Self-citation not only builds traffic, it creates an endless loop sending the reader on to the next piece looking for the key evidence that is never there. Now honestly, SkS does have a lot of solid information there–I’ve visited their site frequently. But because it is about bashing skeptics instead of promoting science, I don’t trust it. Every time I see something there I have to check it somewhere else. That makes it less than useful. And any site that doesn’t understand the difference between disputing (which they often do) and debunking (which they claim to do) isn’t worth a glass of warm spit.

      Did they get Ridley wrong? Yes on each and every one of the following points:

      denying the accuracy of the surface temperature record;
      suggesting that warming temperatures in the Arctic (at the fastest rate on Earth) are not playing a significant role in the sea ice decline (he blames human soot emissions, which is also playing a role);
      denying that global warming has continued over the past 16 years;
      denying that greenhouse gases are responsible for that warming; and
      denying that global warming will be bad, and that subsidies are keeping fossil fuels artificially cheap, choosing instead to attack renewable energy solutions.

      Just like old times, CBD. You suckered me into spending time looking through their garbage bin.

      • Conrad Dunkerson

        Ah! Actual specifics which can be checked.

        Ok then. Ridley’s first ‘question’, previously covered by you on this very site, was;

        :”I need persuading that the urban heat island effect has been fully
        purged from the surface temperature record. Satellites are showing less
        warming than the surface thermometers, and there is evidence that
        local warming of growing cities, and poor siting of thermometers, is still
        contaminating the global record. I also need to be convinced that the adjustments made by those who compile the global temperature
        records are justified. Since 2008 alone, NASA has added about 0.
        1C of warming to the trend by unexplained “adjustments” to old records. It is not reassuring that one of the main surface temperature records
        is produced by an extremist prepared to get himself arrested (James
        Hansen).”

        Given THAT how exactly do you make the case that the SkSc statement that Ridley was “denying the accuracy of the surface temperature record” was false? He isn’t denying it’s accuracy when he lists factors he says are “contaminating the global record”? It’s contaminated… but still accurate?

        Similarly, how does Ridley’s statement (from question 5) that, “Even the Met Office admits that the failure of the models to predict the temperature standstill of the last 16 years…” (which is itself false BTW, the Met Office has specifically refuted the claim that they hold that position) NOT mesh with the SkSc claim that he is “denying that global warming has continued over the past 16 years”. The term ‘temperature standstill’ inherently denies ‘continued warming’… doesn’t it?

        And so forth. Unless you are playing some sort of incredibly strained semantic game, the only accusations you have made against SkSc which include enough specificity to check appear to be demonstrably false.

        So yes… just like old times.

      • Hi CBD–I just went back to the SkS post to look for the “extensive links to peer reviewed papers” you say are in the article. I found mention of two and a link to one–Dessler on water vapor. Is that what you consider extensive?

  10. CBD, I cannot believe you wrote this. You used to be much better grounded in reality. Questioning is now equivalent to denying? What Orwellian planet do you live on? Let me know so I can avoid it.

    As for temperature standstill–when you get around to calling James Hansen a denier for saying they have stalled, let me know and we can continue talking about the imaginary thought crimes of Matthew Ridley.

    • Conrad Dunkerson

      Tom Fuller: “Questioning is now equivalent to denying? What Orwellian planet do you live on?”

      Soooo… on the planet where YOU live the following are questions?

      “Satellites are showing less warming than the surface thermometers, and there is evidence that local warming of growing cities, and poor siting of thermometers, is still contaminating the global record.”

      “Even the Met Office admits that the failure of the models to predict the temperature standstill of the last 16 years…”

      “Let me know so I can avoid it.”

      No worries. Mission accomplished.

      On links… you of course counted all the peer reviewed materials cited from the various pages linked in rebuttal? Or… it ‘only counts’ if they repeat the same explanations over and over again rather than just linking to the page containing the evidence each time?

      • Yeah, mission accomplished CBD–Dana managed to use the word denier umpty million times in an article about Lukewarmers. And he was wrong. And his citations were to his own crap. And he misrepresented Ridley’s writing. And he misrepresented Ridley as a primetime Lukewarmer. Yeah, mission accomplished. As usual.

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