Viscount Monckton (almost) Gets The Final Word

Well, Monckton Week at The Lukewarmer’s Way finishes today. It’s been an instructive week, with Viscount Monckton’s responses to my questions and statements about recognition of human contributions to climate change going far beyond a simple yes or no. The previous posts in this series are hereherehere,here, here and here.

Viscount Monckton has provided another Word document with responses to my follow-up questions. It is here–and I provide replies.

My original statements are in bold. His responses are in plain text. My counter-responses are also in bold.

TF: You seem to be making one of the many mistakes Cook made – thinking that a published paper speaks for anything beyond the subject of the paper. Cook thinks he can divine a consensus from this. Do you really think you can divine a lack of consensus from it? I believe asking climate scientists what they think is far more effective.

VM: Cook et al. (2013) stated very plainly that they defined the “consensus” proposition as being to the effect that recent global warming was mostly manmade. They also stated very plainly that they had rated the 11,944 papers they had examined by seeing whether their abstracts had explicitly stated that recent global warming was mostly manmade. Their own data file shows they had marked only 64 of the 11,944 papers as having thus assented to the “consensus” proposition as they had defined it. We read all 64 abstracts and found only 41 of them, or 0.3% of the entire sample, had in fact stated their support for the “consensus” proposition as defined by Cook et al. in the introduction to their paper. We can, therefore, quantify the “consensus” that has stated its support for the proposition defined by Cook et al.: it is 0.3%. It is not 97.1%, as Cook et al. falsely stated. Police are investigating. Prosecutions are expected.

TF: Viscount Monctkon, it is disingenuous for you to cite a paper both of us believe is so badly flawed as to be useless. You have published on the flaws of Cook et al and so have I. In your research on the paper you surely have noted that most papers offered no opinion at all on human contributions to climate change, hence your offering of either 41 or 65 abstracts that explicitly endorsed the concept is not a percentage of the whole. This line of argumentation is not only weak it is beneath you. Given that you make solid responses elsewhere I urge you not to continue with this line of argument. Your opponents don’t need much of an excuse to trash you (or me). This straw man does you and your arguments no good.

VM: Aristotle’s headcount and reputation fallacies are not repealable. No rational conclusion as to the truth or falsity of a scientific proposition may be drawn on the grounds either that many people are said to have spoken out in support of it, or that many of the many are scientific experts. Therefore, it does not matter whether anyone believes “asking climate scientists what they think is … effective”. In scientific terms, it is meaningless, and is meaningless a fortiori when the scientists’ views have not first been subjected to peer review.

TF: While the Aristotelian remarks provide a useful caution about blind belief in numbers or authority, we have found a way to account for their dangers in both our judicial systems, where we count the heads of jurors, and in democratic elections. Although the recent UK elections show where polls can go wrong, there are enough examples where they get it right to prove to me that they can provide valid measurements.

VM: Let me run through the relevant quantities again: for science, like it or not, is quantitative, not qualitative. Of the 0.9 K warming since 1900, 0.3 K comes from adjustments to the measurements – adjustments mde years and sometimes decades after they were made; 0.2 K comes from failures to compensate properly for the urban heat-island effect; and 0.2 K occurred before 1950, when we could not on any view have appreciably influenced the climate. That does not leave much room for CO2 to have been the main driver of global temperature over the past century or so.

TF: And yet when new data comes in, primarily from digitizing paper records of older temperatures, what would you advise? Ignoring it? I should think that adjusting the records in the light of new information is a good thing.

VM: It may or may not be true, therefore, that most of the global warming since 1950 was manmade. Even if it were true, the scientists were not asked whether it would prove catastrophic. The mere fact of manmade warming – to the extent that it is a fact – tells us little or nothing about whether the warming will be beneficial or harmful.

TF: I did not ask if they thought AGW would be catastrophic. Scientists, with a few notable exceptions, have not published papers saying it would be catastrophic. Even Nicholas Stern, staunch warmist and alarmist, did not write that it would be catastrophic. Don’t confuse what scientists say with what Konsensus Alarmist bloggers and marketers from NGOs write. There is a big difference.

TF: Blind belief in a consensus has often led to grievous error in the past and I do not advocate it. Ignoring it seems just as fraught.

VM: I do not ignore the consensus. It has been reliably quantified as 0.3% of a very large sample of peer-reviewed studies on climate change over a 21-year period.

TF: No, and I refer you to your previous misuse of junk science by Cook et al. You know it is junk science–you published a paper debunking it. If you truly believe that that paper quantifies the consensus then any further reference by you to quantitative analysis must surely be suspect.

TF: I find that some skeptics do repeat the errors of those most alarmed by climate change. They fixate on papers that support their point of view and ignore those that do not. I also think that climate scientists are not instructed on how to think nor do they agree on talking points among themselves. I believe that about two thirds of all climate scientists honestly think that humans have caused much of the warming experienced since the mid-twentieth century. I have no more use for the Konsensus alarmists than do you–but strip away the Joe Romms and the Eli Rabetts from the conversation and you are left with a solid consensus. The informed minority report that should be commissioned, from luminaries such as Freeman Dyson, John Christy and others, should not be ignored. But it is a minority viewpoint.

VM: The consensus has been reliably quantified as 0.3% of peer-reviewed studies on climate change over a 21-year period. That is not two-thirds: it is one-thirtieth.

TF: Perhaps you didn’t sleep well last night. I can’t think of another logical explanation for this.

TF: You may say that the statement [that scientists have identified ways in which human activity can change the climate] is trivially true. But it, like the others, is not. If you do not believe scientists know how humans can change the planet, they have to qualify as scientists who know their material. If you do accept that they have identified mechanisms for artificially altering the climate, it is only a matter of agreeing on metrics and finding the numbers.

VM: I had said that the debate is not about whether the statement that human activity can change the climate. I had said it was about how much it can change the climate. For I try to write plain Latin (or English if I must), so I do not talk about “agreeing on metrics and finding the numbers”: I talk about how much our influence can change the climate. And my own published studies on the climate-sensitivity question find sensitivity low – though not as low as several further studies by distinguished colleagues that are now in the pipeline.

TF: Yes, well my question was about the whether, not the how much. That’s for another day.

TF: I agree with you that they have identified those mechanisms. And if your subsequent statements boil down to “They haven’t shown it to my satisfaction”, in some respects I would agree. However, I think they’ve come a long way in the past quarter century and have hopes that progress will continue.

VM: I like motherhood and apple pie too.

TF: I don’t know where you get your increasing certainty [that the magnitude of our current enhancement of the greenhouse effect will not cause so much warming as to be harmful]. Not from the papers I am reading. Sensitivity may come in at a low value – I think we all hope so. However, due to development (which I enthusiastically endorse) in the developing world, our CO2 emissions will double over the next few decades. With any positive value for sensitivity this could and probably will pose problems for us.

VM: For the nth time, science is quantitative, not qualitative. What, for instance, is the ideal global mean surface temperature? That which prevailed in 1750, which was about 1 K below today’s temperature? That which prevails today? 1 K more than today? None of the above? And what is your evidence for your choice? At no point have those who try to tell us there is an actual or potential problem with our influence on the climate ever stated definitively, after peer review, what the ideal global mean surface temperature is. From the evidence available to us, chiefly from the present climate, some 90% of species live in the tropics and 1% at the poles, surely suggesting that warmer is better than cooler.

TF: Stating the obvious on matters that I did not bring up or dispute–without responding to the points I did make. Too bad we don’t have a term for that… Most of the scientists I have read make the point that it isn’t the absolute value of future temperature changes that concern them, it is the telescoped rate of the change.

VM: The increasing certainty that the influence of Man on the climate will be small comes from the inexorably growing discrepancy between the predictions of the “consensus” models and the unexciting reality that global temperature has barely risen for a quarter of a century. In fact, on the RSS dataset the central IPCC near-term warming estimate in 1990 was more than two and a half times too big. In the end, one cannot ignore quantitative discrepancies as egregious as this.

TF: As we discussed in a previous post, there were two very similar pauses in the 20th Century that were followed by strong warming pulses. I asked then and will repeat here–do you think this pause is different from the previous two? Why?

VM: Likewise, why should “any positive value for sensitivity … pose problems for us”? At present, to the nearest tenth of one per cent, there is no CO2 in the air at all. If CO2 concentration increases by 50% (which is about all that is possible before fossil fuels run out), to the nearest fifth of one per cent there will still be no CO2 in the air at all. Yet the thermostatic processes that keep the planet’s temperature stable will all be functioning, so there is little reason to suppose that so small an eventual enrichment of the atmosphere with CO2 will cause any problems whatsoever, and still less reason to suppose that such problems as may arise will outweigh the enormous benefits of fossil fuels and of their useful natural by-product, CO2.

TF: Again you use the misleading metrics game so favored by the Alarmists with their Manhattans of ice and their Hiroshimas of heat. It is beneath you. What percentage of your body mass must cyanide constitute before being a health issue?

TF: Your geopolitical analysis is quite different from mine. (I am a confirmed leftist and likely to remain so.) However, your numbers here are quite accurate. I would say focusing on China actually flatters the figures. The top five emitters in 2040 – China, the U.S., India, Japan and Russia – will account for 60% of emissions.

However, I wonder how you think Obama “exempted” China from emission cuts. Do you suggest he could have imposed his will by imperial edict? I think the days of gunboat diplomacy are (thankfully) over. Xi Jinping has every incentive to move to less emissive power generation and would love to do so. But he can’t – and I have no doubt that Obama knows it.

VM: Communist China blew the Copenhagen talks out of the water because its leadership rightly wished to electrify the country using coal because it is cheap, low-tech, reliable base-load power, and were not prepared to subject their nation to some ghastly global bureaucracy telling them what they could and could not emit. That remains their position today. The significance of Mr Obama’s visit to China last December and of the joint statement at the end of it is that there will, in effect, be no restrictions on China’s right to emit CO2 either before or after 2030, though China has made pietistic, non-binding noises about aiming to make reductions after 2030. In return for that exemption granted by Mr Obama, China will not this time stand in the way of a deal to establish an unelected global government in Paris this December.

Of course, precisely because China has been exempted (whereupon India and other third-world nations will demand and get similar exemptions), nothing the West now does will prevent a rapid and continuing increase in CO2 emissions over the coming century. If the true objective of Paris were to prevent that increase, Obamna has already guaranteed it will fail. However, the true objective is to use the climate as a pretext to establish an unelected global “government” or, in the latest draft, “governing body” with overriding powers of taxation, regulation and enforcement. I suspect that objective will succeed. That will be the end of democracy, worldwide.

TF: Elsewhere you remark that most of your argumentation is scientific and based on peer-reviewed papers. I offer the preceding paragraph as evidence that my point (that your argument is political) is valid. President Obama (Do you support or oppose the use of appropriate honorifics?) does not in my opinion seem to be moving towards a global government and has not, in any speech I have heard or read, seemed to advocate it.

TF: Given the nature of the climate debate I do not think [the fact that adding a greenhouse gas to an atmosphere such as ours will – all other things being equal – be expected to cause some warming] is trivial[ly true]. You and I are both called ‘deniers’ because the alarmists maintain that we do not accept what you call a ‘trivial truth’ (Although I guess I guess I have recently been promoted – they are more likely to call me a ‘delayer’ or ‘mitigation skeptic’ than ‘denier’).

The purpose of this exercise is to find out if mainstream science is accepted by the honorable opposition – the skeptics (& lukewarmers). Throughout this series of posts you have shown that you do accept it. As I hinted at yesterday, it is far easier to make a case than to build the courtroom.

VM: My scientific case has always been built entirely on scientific considerations. On the evidence, CO2 is not proving to be a problem, and is proving to be beneficial. Witness the absence of any global warming at all for 18 years 6 months, and the 2%/decade increase in total plant biomass, caused by CO2 fertilization.

TF: The climate scientists you deride predicted the increase in total plant biomass decades ago and that the purely economic impact of climate change would be net beneficial in the early decades. As for the current pause, we have two examples in the current temperature record for what happens after pauses–more warming. What do you think will happen?

TF: There are even more factors at play [in predicting future climate] than [evaporation, convection and suchlike thermostatic transports, and the mathematically-chaotic behavior of the climate object]. But it is being studied by a host of scientists and more is being learnt about it every day. These are by and large the scientists whose opinions you do not care to consider.

VM: I am always happy to consider the results of scientific research published in the learned journals after scrutiny by their peers. I am not prepared to draw any conclusions from mere headcounts of scientists, particularly when those headcounts do not concern peer-reviewed results but are merely opinion-polling – and inadequately conducted polling at that.

TF: Both von Storch/Bray in 2008 and Verheggen et al in 2012 conducted more than adequate polling studies of published climate scientists. Verheggen went so far as to add in sample of skeptics to insure their participation. They asked unambiguous questions and accurately reported their replies. They both showed a consensus of 66% of published climate scientists that attribute half or more of the recent warming to human influence. Greater percentages expressed strong concerns about future warming and its impacts. They may be wrong. You may not like the results. But they were more than adequate and are useful tools for those who, unlike you, believe that good polling can be instructive.

VM: At present the “opinions” you imagine scientists hold are at variance with the experimental results. The “opinion” of the scientists who co-authored the IPCC’s first assessment report in 1990 was that global warming should now be occurring at 2.8 C°/century equivalent. It is occurring at 1.1 C°/century equivalent. The “opinion” was wrong. I don’t care how many scientists still adhere to that wrong opinion: the results are in, and over the significant period of 25 years, during which record increases in CO2 concentration have occurred, there has been no statistically-significant warming. And that is that. For the “opinion” of the scientists was that natural influences on climate have a negligible influence on global temperature. If they were right in that opinion, then the entire discrepancy between their then predictions and reality is accounted for by a vast overestimate on their part of the influence of CO2 and other greenhouse gases on temperature. If, on the other hand, they were wrong in that opinion, then natural variability plays a far greater part in global warming and cooling than they had previously thought, whereupon it becomes entirely illegitimate to draw the conclusion that such little warming as has transpired over the past 25 years must have been chiefly manmade.

TF: I agree with most of what you write here. As I have disagreed so strongly with other comments of yours, I should note where we agree. I would only add that as the field of study matures, the wilder claims (most made by activists, not scientists)  are being withdrawn.

TF: Would you not consider [the sharp reductions in the IPCC’s central estimates of the CO2 radiative forcing and of the temperature feedback sum] as evidence that science is progressing and that the scientific mainstream is willing to publicize previous errors and corrections that work against their primary hypothesis?

VM: Where, o where are the quantities in these vaguely-worded comments? Let us, then, do the math, using the simple sensitivity model in Monckton of Brenchley (2015).

In 1990 the IPCC thought the coefficient in the CO2 forcing equation was 6.3, and it thought temperature feedbacks summed to 2.1 Watts per square meter per Kelvin. On these values, the central estimate of climate sensitivity would be 4.0 K.

In 2015 the IPCC thinks the coefficient in the CO2 forcing equation is 5.35, and it thinks temperature feedbacks sum to 1.5 Watts per square meter per Kelvin. On these values, the central estimate of climate sensitivity should be 2.2 K.

Yet the CMIP5 models relied upon by the IPCC say the central estimate of climate sensitivity is 3.2 K. The central estimate of climate sensitivity in the Charney report in 1979 was 3 K, on an interval [1.5, 4.5] K. Despite the IPCC’s reductions in the CO2-forcing coefficient and in the temperature feedback sum, its climate-sensitivity interval is [1.5, 4.5] K. While the IPCC continues to maintain for political reasons a climate-sensitivity interval that is insupportable now that it has conceded the reductions in the CO2 forcing coefficient and in the feedback sum, it cannot be said either that its “science is progressing” or that it is “willing to publicize previous errors and corrections”.

TF: We disagree. To me it sounds like you are asking for capitulation, not consideration. I call your attention to the SREX that the IPCC published in 2012 on Extreme Weather to counter the alarmist drivel that was seeking to attribute every instance of weather except a bright April morning to global warming. 

TF: I agree [given the growing disparity between rising greenhouse-gas emissions and relentlessly static global temperatures, and between the models’ excitable predictions and far less exciting reality] that there is a lot of work ahead of us all in attribution and quantification. In a less politically charged environment this would be grounds for excitement. It is a pity that it all has become a partisan political issue. Both alarmists and skeptics have contributed to this polarization.

VM: For my part, I have got on with my climate researches, have published the results from time to time in the reviewed journals, and have defended myself, sometimes vigorously, against the well-funded stream of organized personal attacks to which skeptics are routinely subjected – attacks whose viciousness grows ever worse as the world conspicuously continues to fail to warm at anything like the rate on the basis of which the original calls for the extinction of the Western economies were made.

TF: I too am the subject of vicious attacks–taking heart in the obvious defects of character in those making the attacks. But I note that the attacks do not come from scientists, but that part of the uneducated public that has bought wholesale the Alarmist dogma emanating from NGOs and those alarmists and NGO participants themselves. That’s the price of public commentary on hot button issues. Let us proceed.

VM: Nearly all of the published commentary on the global warming question is simply wrong. The central facts – such as the absence of any significant warming either of the oceans or of the atmosphere over the past decade and more – are withheld from the public. Those on the political Left take a partisan position regardless of the evidence, Mr Obama being a good example. And they will now get their world government. But it will not endure, for it is founded on a lie, and that lie will become ever more apparent as the temperature grows more slowly than predicted.

TF: Why should global warming be different from almost every issue, where the vast majority of public commentary is wrong? I don’t believe the pause disproves global warming, any more than the notable warming that preceded it proved it. And once again, I don’t see any place for partisan politics in this conversation. David Cameron is just as vehement in his railing against climate change as is Barack Obama. The Republican candidate for the 2008 presidential election supported Cap and Trade, as did the Republican leader of the House. I don’t see the world moving closer to global government–the UK almost went the other direction with Scottish independence and may leave the EU. I think an objective view would show things moving in the other direction.

TF: As to your graph [showing that 33 IPCC models have over-predicted medium-term warming from 1990-2014] I would amend the title [“It’s official: the models have failed”]. The models have indeed failed, but they have failed to do what they were not designed to do. They are not meant to accurately predict future temperatures at a decadal level. They have done a good job at showing the broad sweep of climate over much longer periods of time and contributing to our understanding of the various forces at work in shaping it. If you criticize them for not doing what the alarmists had hoped they would do, you might spare a moment to praise them for doing a good job at what they were designed to do.

VM: It is disingenuous in the extreme to maintain that the models were not designed to predict global temperature change. As the builder of a sensitivity model myself, I know that all the major climate models have as one of their key outputs the rate of change in global temperature over a chosen period under given conditions. Most of those models would never have been funded if the panicky governments that paid for them had thought they were not intended to be able to predict global temperature change.

TF: You are omitting the key detail–I wrote that they could not provide temperature predictions on a decadal level. Which they cannot. The ‘chosen period’ for total temperature change is usually 50 years or more.

VM: There are now far more taxpayer-funded climate models than necessary. In temperature prediction and in much else they are unsatisfactory. Intercomparison ensures that they share common mistakes and duplicate their efforts. The governments I advise are already reducing funding for climate modeling, not least because the climate is a complex, non-linear, chaotic object in which an infinitesimal alteration in one of the initial conditions can cause deterministic but undeterminable bifurcations in the future evolution of the object. The models are trying to do what mathematics has long established they cannot do. They are largely a waste of money.

TF: I agree with you here. 

TF: [Growth in emissions of greenhouse gases] is “dramatic” when compared to emissions prior to 1750. As you noted yourself in a previous contribution, one-third of all human emissions have occurred since 1998.

VM: 10,000% of zero is still zero. And 43% of 0.03% is not significantly greater than zero.

TF: Well, let’s go with curare this time–or maybe strychnine. How big a percentage of your body mass must they be before you are carted off to the hospital to enjoy the tender mercies of the NHS? We are both of an age where we should be very aware of the Liverpool Pathway…

TF: [The fact that the IPCC now concedes that its four previous predictions of growth in methane were vastly exaggerated] is science in progress, improving and correcting prior mistakes. You try to use this as a stick to beat them with. Yep, before the spread of the internet and the introduction of modern mobile phones they thought there would be a lot more methane in the atmosphere. Now they don’t. And they don’t hide the change – they report it and incorporate it into their next assessment.

VM: It is not at all clear what the introduction of mobile phones and the internet has to do with global methane emissions, particularly since three of the four IPCC reports were issued in the age of the internet and mobile phones. And the IPCC did indeed hide the monstrous discrepancy between the predictions in its four previous reports and observed growth in methane concentration. At the insistence of Germany and Hungary, its revealing graph from the pre-final draft that I reviewed was removed, because those two countries stated that leaving it in would “give ammunition to skeptics”. So it was removed – and thereby gave ammunition to skeptics. Like other very clear graphs in the pre-final draft, it was replaced with graphs that were deliberately made far less clear, precisely so as to conceal as far as possible the gulf between prediction and observed reality.

TF: I am unaware of those incidents. I have no reason to doubt your honesty–if true, it’s a shameful addition to an already long list of misbehaviour–by non-scientists. 

TF: As we both know, as do most readers, many things impact the climate, not just human activities. Large meteor impacts, continental shifts, supervolcanoes – some of which occurred at the times when there have been real regime changes in the climate, but none of which have occurred since 1750. And yet CO2 has climbed dramatically and temperature change, while not as dramatic, has climbed notably. But you agree that the change from 0.28 to 0.40 millimoles per mole can have an impact on climate, if what you’ve written here is correct – or am I misinterpreting you?

VM: I have made it repeatedly plain that changing the concentration of greenhouse gases can influence climate. The question is not whether it can influence climate, but how much it will influence climate. On the real-world evidence, which is the starting point for scientific enquiries that are legitimate, the trivial increase in CO2 concentration is having a negligible effect on global temperature, because the climate under modern conditions is in essence thermostatic.

TF: The purpose of this entire exercise is to establish a common foundation of fact. For me the question at this stage is very much whether it can influence climate. Once we are all agreed on that we can move to the how much.

TF: I agree that more CO2 is good for trees and plants and I welcome the boost to agriculture provided by this extra CO2. But they share the planet with other species, including us, and increased vegetation is not the only effect of climate change. Similarly, while I am very happy that we can expect fewer deaths owing to cold weather, it is not the only impact climate change will have on us.

Some of the worst of the alarmists have been trying to tie every instance of extreme weather to climate change. We both know that’s nonsense. But the recent heatwave in India may well be a preview of coming attractions. If we are unable to influence the climate to prevent it from becoming a common occurrence, we had damn well better make sure the Indians can afford air conditioning.

VM: Any benefit/cost analysis must include the known benefits and the known costs. Speculation, on which the exaggerated predictions of the IPCC are based, is not a suitable input to benefit/cost analyses. The correct method of conducting such analyses is spelt out in Monckton of Brenchley (2013) Is CO2 mitigation cost-effective? (The answer is No).

TF: I prefer the work of Nordhaus and others who come up with answers that are different from both you and from the more alarmed Nicholas Stern. Papers such as Hartwell and The Ecomodernist Manifesto give more common-sense advice such as strengthening defenses against the weather already existing and building in a safety margin for potential climate effects, improving energy efficiency and investing in R&D.

VM: As for heatwaves, droughts, floods, plagues, hurricanes, fires, acidifications etc. etc., the IPCC has made it repeatedly plain that one cannot ascribe any individual extreme-weather event to global warming – a point which, to anyone of a sufficiently quantitative turn of mind, ought to be self-evident given the total absence of global warming over the past 18 years 6 months. Warming that has not occurred cannot have caused warming that has occurred. This is elementary causative logic. Besides, the cheapest way to ensure that India gets air-con is to ensure that it, like China, goes in for a massive program of coal-fired power stations.

TF: Then you have read the IPCC SREX of 2012. Good. I agree that current conditions including those you list are not attributable to global warming. Yet. I agree with you about India. They need the coal.

TF: If, as we all hope, sensitivity proves to be low, then we may need to shove the climate to change it, rather than just providing a gentle nudge. But we quite possibly will double our emissions over the next few decades. That may well serve as a shove, not a nudge.

VM: Sensitivity cannot be high, for the thermostasis of the climate indicates net-negative temperature feedbacks: hence a climate sensitivity of 1 K per CO2 doubling, though I know of two papers in preparation that will suggest it is

TF: No, in an equation it is all very well to constrain the bounds of one variable. But if there is another variable in the equation that may increase, the result may not be too our liking. If CO2 increases dramatically, even at a low value for sensitivity we are likely to experience problems as a result.

TF: The scientists may be wrong about climate change in some respects. But if you look back at the statements where you remark that they are trivially true, it doesn’t seem as though you think they are wrong. It doesn’t seem that you think a patent clerk will emerge from his office clutching a paper that disproves the greenhouse effect or that we will discover the Arctic has been cooling in recent decades. So why bring in these examples?

VM: I did not suggest that anyone would disprove the greenhouse effect or discover the Arctic has been cooling: subsea volcanic activity off Greenland makes that unlikely.

TF: [The skeptics] have been often wrong. They may be wrong now. But the Arctic has warmed by 2 C° over the past decades and sea ice in the region has diminished dramatically. There have been other successes in predicting the impacts of climate change but if that were the only one it would be worth our time and effort to investigate.

VM: The Earth has warmed by 0.9 K over the past century or so. Polar amplification would lead us to expect that the Arctic would therefore warm by twice that. There is nothing at all surprising in this, and the processes of tropical afternoon convection, Hadley-cell circulation and extratropical baroclinic-eddy advection that transport heat from the tropics to the poles, thus causing amplification, is well understood.

Since we have no records of Arctic sea-ice extent before the early 1970s, we cannot say whether “sea ice in the region has decreased dramatically”. There has been a decline since 1979, when the current satellite series began, but there was far less ice in the early 1970s than in 1979. And the extent of global sea ice has barely changed throughout the satellite era, whereas it had repeatedly been predicted that all the sea ice in the Arctic would be gone by the summer of 2013. So it is far from clear whether the fact that there is less summer ice in the Arctic than formerly is “a success in predicting the impacts of climate change”: and we know that the reduction in Arctic sea ice over the past 18 years 6 months is not attributable to global warming because over that period there has not been any global warming.

To draw any conclusions about global warming from the warming of a single region – particularly one with a climate that is known to be volatile – is to perpetrate the Aristotelian logical fallacy of argumentum a dicto secundum quid ad dictum simpliciter, or converse accident. A fallacy is a defective form of argument whose conclusion cannot be safely said to be entailed by its premises.

TF: Here is my reaction to this entire series.

First, Viscount Monckton of Brenchley is clearly not a ‘denier’ of science. He uses data the same way his opponents do, to reinforce his points. He’s just on the other side of a political struggle.

VM: While the admission that the climate scare forms part of a “political struggle” is welcome, it will be clear to all but the author of this blog that my answers have concentrated near-exclusively on scientific data and references.

TF: I can only refer you to repeated references to Leftist government policy and your belief that some are pushing for world government as evidence that your answers are not near-exclusively based on scientific data and references. And again, you dispute Cook and then use it. You mock the IPCC and then use their work. You are not consistent.

TF: He is willing to use the same tactics as his opponents, criticizing climate scientists for not being perfect and yet using the same work product for his own purposes. He steadfastly refuses to listen to what scientists say about possible futures, dismissing legitimate surveys as just ‘opinion’.

VM: I do not criticize anyone for not being perfect, or it would be hard to look in the mirror. As a published scientific researcher, I am required to cite references for the premises upon which my hypotheses are founded – like it or not, that is how science is done. And I do not “refuse to listen to what scientists say about possible futures”: I check whether the temperature data conform to prediction; I find that they do not; I find that very nearly every model has exaggerated; and I draw the conclusion that, after 18 years 6 months without any global warming at all, there is plenty of time to conduct further research to see who is right before blowing trillions of other people’s money on boondoggles that vastly enrich the rich at the expense of the poor.

TF: I agree that we have time. I hope we use it wisely.

VM: For the reasons already explained, the opinion surveys of scientists’ views have not been conducted in accordance with the minimum statistical standards applicable to opinion polling.

TF: I am a professional market researcher. I have conducted more than 1,000 quantitative surveys. It is my professional judgment that your statement is factually incorrect.

VM: In any event, as I have also explained, Aristotle made it quite clear that to plead consensus is to perpetrate the fallacy later labelled by the mediaeval schoolmen as argumentum ad populum, the headcount fallacy; and that to plead that the consensus is one of experts is to perpetrate the Aristotelian fallacy of argumentum ad verecundiam, appeal to authority. I am trained in logic and, accordingly, well armed against woolly thinking. Science has never been done by consensus; like it or not, it is not done by consensus now; it will never be done by consensus; and, as I have demonstrated, there is no scientific consensus anyway on the extent of our influence on the climate, still less on whether our influence may one day prove catastrophic unless the West is shut down (for I have also explained that thanks to Mr Obama the East will not be shut down as a result of the Paris global-government treaty).

TF: As mentioned above, I agree with Aristotle that blind reliance on headcounts and expertise is foolish. But we have found ways to use headcounts of juries and voters to guide our governments and laws, and expertise, such as with ICANN, to run the internet. There is a solid consensus among experts in climate change. It isn’t 97%. It is 66%. There is both room and need for minority expression on the issue. But there is a consensus.

VM: Abu Ali ibn al-Haytham put it this way: “The seeker after truth does not place his faith in any mere consensus, however widespread or venerable: instead, he subjects what he has learned of it to his own hard-won scientific knowledge, to scrutiny, investigation, inquiry, checking, checking and checking again. The road to the truth is long and hard: but that is the road we must follow.”

TF: I agree. So do most climate scientists.

VM: T.H. Huxley said: “The improver of natural knowledge absolutely refuses to acknowledge authority, as such. For him, scepticism is the very highest of duties: blind faith the one unpardonable sin.”

TF: I agree. So do most climate scientists.

VM: Feynman said, “If it disagrees with experiment, it’s wrong.”

TF: I agree. So do most climate scientists.

VM: The failure of the globe to warm for 18 years 6 months was not predicted by any model. The models, therefore, and all who place their faith in them, are wrong. They do not constitute evidence. The evidence is that CO2 has a very small influence on global temperature. And no evidence has been provided of the ideal global temperature, or of the reasons why that ideal should have been chosen. All life on Earth has to be able to withstand considerable climatic variability: yet, though there are often powerful short-run changes, in the long run the most remarkable feature of the climate is its thermostatic stability – a stability that, as our paper for the Science Bulletin of the Chinese Academy of Sciences makes clear, is not represented correctly in the models.

TF: Models are wrong. Models are always wrong. Even Kate Moss. But they do show the broad sweep of climate over a long period of time and are useful tools to understand the forces acting upon the climate. That they were pressed into service to chart future temperatures on a decadal basis is folly–but the folly is that of those who used them, not the models themselves. Observations and use of paleoclimatic records support the broad assumptions about global warming. Physics, biology, chemistry and geology support the broad assumptions of global warming. Models were mis-employed because of the perceived need to show ‘how much, how soon’, as if this were a Fantasy Football League needing instant stats for instant gratification. My RAMA Initiative is an attempt to both move beyond it and to return to the basics.

Viscount Monckton brings considerable intelligence and clarity to his side of the debate and constitutes a worthy opponent for the Alarmists. But he cannot do more than dispute individual points – often justifiably, but too often ignoring the forest for the trees, in my opinion.

VM: Albert Einstein, when discussing his special theory of relativity, was asked what it would take for him to recognize that he was wrong. He said: “No amount of research can prove definitively that I am right. A single paper can prove that I am wrong.” The single individual point that demonstrates the models on which the climate scare was built were wrong is that the rate of warming they predicted for the past 25 years was well over two and a half times too high.

TF: Most of the models were badly wrong. That doesn’t mean that the globe isn’t warming or that humans are not contributing. It just means that the models were wrong. You seem to be of the point of view that the models are the primary source of information about global warming and that if they are discredited the entire case for global warming and human contributions disappears. That is not the case.

VM: For a more fundamental objection to the models and to the case for alarm that is founded near-exclusively on their exaggerated predictions, read our paper at (click on Most Read Articles and ours is the all-time no. 1 by a factor of ten). There, we explain that the Bode feedback system-gain equation is inapplicable to the climate under high net-positive feedback, for the output of the equation prodigiously exceeds the asymptotic limits on global warming inferred from the cryostratigraphic record over the past 810,000 years.

TF: I have not read the  paper.

TF: I personally am left with the impression that Viscount Monckton is more interested in a political victory than the triumph of science over ignorance. Given that he is undoubtedly intelligent and obviously a clear communicator, I find this sad.

VM: It will be self-evident to anyone who starts not with a political chip on his shoulder but with a clear and honest eye that the very great majority of the points I have made here have been based not on politics but on science. The climate question, for me, is interesting chiefly because it is a scientific question. I have written very few articles for political journals on the climate question, but I have written many peer-reviewed scientific papers on it (and must now break off to polish and submit another).

TF: See above. What you say about Leftists in general, Barack Obama and plots to install world government is nothing if not political.

When Alarmists are alarmist, I just discount their hyperbole. I find it more disconcerting when it happens on the other side.

VM: This is mere yah-boo. Since no evidence is offered that I have perpetrated hyperbole in my answers here, readers may discount the above statement as petulant.

TF: Others might see your repeated use of Cook et al, which you published a paper to refute, as a bit desperate.

VM: A final thought on the readiness of some people to assume that opinion surveys of scientists (even if properly conducted) provide the slightest evidence for some scientific proposition to which a majority of those scientists are said to assent.

Karl Popper, in Logik der Forschung (The Logic of Scientific Discovery), wrote: “A subjective experience, or a feeling of conviction, can never justify a scientific statement, and within science it can play no part except that of an object of an empirical (a psychological) inquiry. No matter how intense a feeling of conviction it may be, it can never justify a statement. Thus I may be utterly convinced of the truth of a statement; certain of the evidence of my perceptions; overwhelmed by the intensity of my experience: every doubt may seem to me absurd. But does this afford the slightest reason for science to accept my statement? Can any statement be justified by the fact that Karl Popper is utterly convinced of its truth? The answer is No; and any other answer would be incompatible with the idea of scientific objectivity.”

TF: I guess ending with Popper isn’t a bad thing. What he says is true–that is why surveys ask a large number of people. So that we don’t rely on the fallible opinions of the one. And the results of a poll may be inaccurate. However, their track record overall is good enough that hard-nosed businesses spend hard-earned money on them every day–because their results help them make hard decisions.

21 responses to “Viscount Monckton (almost) Gets The Final Word

  1. How did this interesting discussion end up on a dead end topic like Cook & gang? Cook is to reasoned discussion of climate what the “Left Behind” series is to theology.

  2. I suggest that you have made a subtle yet critical error – and I’m surprised that Monckton didn’t pick up one it. You wrote, in your last paragraph, that “hard-nosed businesses” spend money on polls everyday. E.g. insurance companies rely on actuaries. These polls can and are tested and revised against reality.

    Sometimes these polls lead to problems. However hard-nosed a business, that has no bearing on the accuracy of the poll it commissioned, or the most optimum way of interpreting the results.

    Polls in elections and legal trials have no bearing on what is correct, only what is popular.

    Also, 66% is not a consensus. It’s a majority. A majority of climate scientists used to think that the world was headed for a cooling period. They were wrong.

  3. Karim,
    Great point.

  4. Science has its own, special epistemology.

    (If you don’t agree, please tell me and I’ll explain why that’s the case.)

    In everyday life, the use of opinion as evidence—which is all you’re doing when you attempt to reason, argue or persuade on the basis of a consensus—is considered a “fallacy” in the sense “argument that may have some force but doesn’t prove anything; formally invalid argument; argument whose conclusion might be wrong even if its premises are right.”

    In science, the use of opinion as evidence—which is all you’re doing when you attempt to reason, argue or persuade on the basis of a consensus—is considered a “crime” in the sense “you can’t do that; go straight to Science Jail; do not pass Go.”

    Science is different.

    I’d like to see more effort made in discussions like the above (which is otherwise excellent, Thomas—thank you) to distinguish between the problematicity of using argumentum ad consensum in general on one hand, and the peculiarly heinous fraudulence of using it in a supposedly scientific context on the other hand.

    One risk when criticising a *specific* act of argument from consensus within the climate-change “debate” is that non-scientific readers will get the implicit message that “it wouldn’t be so bad if only they had done it properly.”

    Thus, eviscerating a bad consensus paper has the side-effect of appearing to condone *good* ones.

    (You may think it’s bleeding obvious that you don’t intend to do any such thing, but stop and ask how non-scientists would read the above debate.)

    In science, they’re all illegal and they should all be accumulated in the public square, doused with one or two cans of caloric, ignited with a phlogiston-tipped match and consigned to the bonfire of the inanities.

    • Hiya Brad

      Opinions, perceptions, beliefs–we probably don’t want to see them gracing papers in academic journals. Lewandowsky, Cook and Jim Prall show us exactly why.

      But they are more than prevalent in decision-making, politics and the operation of daily lives.

      Climate change is more than a scientific issue. The opinions of the scientists are an important factor in how the rest of us view climate change.

      • Should we not seek to rise above the subjective emotions and focus on reason and fact? Back in the bad old days of policies that worked, calm reason was considered the foundation stone of good policy.

      • Hi Thomas,

        “Climate change is more than a scientific issue.”

        So I hear. Whether or not that’s true (and whatever it means), there is *nothing* more-than-scientific about the kind of questions the climate con artists have pretended to answer by means of opinion polling.

        Remember, Oreskes and her epigones claim a (supposed) consensus can tell us whether 50% or more of global warming since 1950 is due to FF emissions.

        But there is nothing more-than-scientific about that question, is there? It’s not decision-making, it’s not a moral judgement and it’s not a question of “how we view” anything.

        It’s a question about the physical universe, and it isn’t remotely value-laden (or if it is, we’re doing something seriously wrong).

        (NB “scientific” is used somewhat loosely here when we really mean “naturalistic.” In other words, these are question “about the natural world,” which therefore can and must be answered by scientific means alone.)

        These jokers purport to have a psephological shortcut to answer questions that, in truth, can only be answered *scientifically.*

        That’s fraudulent per se.

        It doesn’t matter if they do it “well” or “badly,” the entire exercise is a farce by definition.

        Judging these consensus papers *on their merits,* when they don’t belong in science in the first place, is like criticising a Nigerian email scam for its spelling.

        Not only do you miss the point, you give the casual spectator the impression that you wouldn’t have any problem with being scammed if only the scammers had been more meticulous about their orthography.

        Do you see my point?

      • Sorry—that sounded unfriendly, or could be read in a way that sounds unfriendly, which I didn’t mean.

        Just in case my second-last paragraph above, “Not only do you miss the point,…” reads as if I’m accusing you, Thomas, of missing the point, no—I wasn’t—I was just talking to the fictional person who criticises Nigerian email scams for their spelling (“orthography”).

        Further on what a “scientific question” is, there’s no such thing, strictly speaking. There are only scientific answers, i.e. answers derived by scientific methods to questions amenable to such methods. Hence I prefer to talk about “natural / material / physical questions.”

        These, as a rule, are the ones we can (only) answer scientifically.

      • Hiya Brad

        Well, you have a point and I see it–but I don’t necessarily agree.

        To me there’s a world of difference between the scam stuff that Oreskes, Jim Prall et al, John Cook et al and Lewandowsky put out and serious attempts to engage with climate scientists such as done by Pielke et al, von Storch, Bray et al and Verheggen et al.

        And I don’t want to characterize even the latter group as science in the same league as physics. It isn’t.

        But it ain’t worthless either. I’ve been doing that kind of survey for 20 years now and polling works. If done correctly it produces the right answer. It tells companies what products will sell, what features to add or take off, where to advertise and what messages to use. It tells governments what policies are supported by the people. It tells NGOs like the Gates Foundation what problems doctors are confronting in the field in different locations.

      • Tom,
        I agree- market research can tell you what widgets will sell, etc. But physical reality is not subject to the laws of group dynamics and market research.

      • Hiya Hunter!

        Yes, I’m very aware of that. But it should mean something when you talk to 1,168 published climate scientists and ask them what their conclusions are regarding the subject.

        It’s not dispositive. But it’s something.

      • Heya Thomas,

        if the scientists being polled haven’t published “their conclusions,” then “their conclusions” are merely extrascientific opinionation and you might as well ask them their Oscar picks or their favorite restaurant or who to vote for in ’16. When it comes to any idea about how nature works, if it hasn’t passed through the reality-checking filter of the scientific method then I must respectfully disagree with the notion that “it ain’t worthless.” Au contraire. It’s the very definition of worthless.

        If they have published “their conclusions,” surely the rational thing would be to read what they published.

        Asking scientists “what they think” cannot possibly add anything to what the literature itself tells you.

        At best, the scientists will faithfully and robotically repeat exactly what the published evidence says, no more and no less. (Of course, you could have saved time by reading it yourself.)

        At worst, they will deviate from it—e.g. by voicing conclusions that are *not* defensible within the framework of the published evidence. (Scientists, being human, are even known to do this with regard to their own papers.)

        But the only way to tell if they’re deviating from the published evidence is… by reading it yourself. Which proves, yet again, that you just wasted a bunch of time on the telephone when you should have been hitting the journals. There is NO SUBSTITUTE for the published evidence.

        None of this is to invalidate the examples you gave of useful polling exercises. Not one bit. Your examples make good sense.

        But none of them (what products will sell, what features to add or take off, where to advertise and what messages to use, what policies are supported by the people, what problems doctors are confronting in the field in different locations) is relevant to the present argument because in no case were scientists asked their views on how nature works.

        As I keep saying to anyone who’ll listen, science is special. Different. Unique. Bizarre. Abnormal. It’s not like any of the myriad of things people say are analogous to it. They’re wrong. Science has no good analogue.

        “But it should mean something when you talk to 1,168 published climate scientists and ask them what their conclusions are regarding the subject.”

        Perhaps it should, but it doesn’t. (That is, it doesn’t tell you anything you can’t get from the literature itself—or if it does, it’s deluding you.)

        Science doesn’t work the way it “should.” Lay intuitions simply don’t help when imagining how science works. It doesn’t work the way people think.

        “It’s not dispositive.”

        You can say that again.

        “But it’s something.”

        No, it really isn’t. It’s worthless pseudo-information. Redundant at best, misleading at worst.

      • Tom,
        If you talk to 1168 published Pentecostal Pastors you will get even higher concurrence on questions regarding theology. But are they *correct* and in what frame of reference?
        I just sent you a link on a report from Australia regarding the mishandling of temperature records. The so-called forum, in its investigation, declined to speak with any of the well qualified people who have questioned the handling of the data. No conspiracy. Just circular reasoning and dismissal of the great unwashed. Like any other priesthood of self-selected believers.

      • Hunter makes a good point as usual, but there is one crucial (no pun intended) difference between preachers and scientists:

        When religious propagandists spout bullcrap, they can usually back it up by pointing to the literature, which tends to assert equally egregious balderdash (plus a few ideas so laughable even priests are too embarrassed to promulgate them verbally).

        When scientists talk bullcrap, they can’t defend it from the literature. That’s what we mean by “bullcrap,” in a science context.

  5. “Most of the models were badly wrong. That doesn’t mean that the globe isn’t warming or that humans are not contributing. ”
    Face palm.

    • “Face palm.”

      Actually, Fuller’s statement is logically sound. The models are wrong, but it is true that we have observed warming; and it is probable that CO2 has some small effect on temperatures.

      What’s interesting is that both statements can be false, but they don’t need to be. Even if we face 4 degrees per century, so what? But we won’t, because the only evidence is broken models.

  6. The face-palm is for the constant (and condescending) misrepresentation of the skeptic position. Those points were never in dispute.

    • Mr. Austin, where did I sound condescending?

    • Thomas,

      you’re the last person I’d call condescending.

      on the other hand, you often say the same things condescending people say—an occupational hazard in any debate where each team has millions of speakers.🙂 That might be the source of Tom Austin’s unfair impression of you (I’m just guessing though).

      I wouldn’t blame Tom one bit if he’s lost patience with the endemic misrepresentation of “our” position—I just hope he doesn’t take it out on you, because you’re one of the few participants who doesn’t seem to be doing it maliciously.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s