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More attempts to control the climate science debate using smears and swarming

19 October 2009

The public climate science debate (not the debate among scientists) has seen some of the most blatant info ops in modern American history.  True believers mark the boundaries of acceptable thought by pissing on those who transgress them.  These are powerful demonstrations of John Robb’s “open source networks, where like-minded people work together without central direction towards a common goal (for more about this see his website, Global Guerrillas).

In this case, to discredit any voices opposing the theory of anthropogenic global warming.  Since they’re saving the world, many otherwise evil methods are meritorious.  Misrepresentations, lies, smears, never even acknowledging the other side’s rebuttals.  In a nation of sheep, the dogs need not work too to herd them into the pen.

Today’s example is SuperFreakonomics by Stephen J. Dubner and Steven D. Levitt.  Deliveries begin October 20, but already the AGW propaganda machinery has revved up to discredit it.  From their first replies to these attacks, the authors appear to believe its a debate.  Posted at their New York Times blog:

Watch them try to crayfish back to the safety of the pen.  Soon they’ll learn that only confession and penance will satisfy the believers in the Green Religion.  Otherwise their names will feature in the Green’s two minute hate sessions.

For an example of the more rational critiques of this book see “More Superfreakonomics: emails from Steven Levitt“, Yoram Bauman, at his blog, 18 October 2009 — I recommend reading it in full; the following are just brief excerpts.

About joining the smear swarm based on one blogger’s accusations:  “I will wait for your post about Caldeira, my apologies for jumping the gun.”   Bauman’s an extraordinary individual, considering how rare apologies appeear on the Internet.  I doubt we’ll see such statements from many other critics.

About the errors in SuperFreakonomics:

    • “My perspective is that you are probably correct that there are few factual errors in the book … but that you are ignoring the overall thrust of the chapter, which is terribly misleading.”
    • “… It’s not factually incorrect to write … but all of these statements collectively give a terribly misleading perspective …”
    • “… Yes there are agnostics who “grumble that human activity accounts for just 2 percent of global carbon-dioxide emissions”, but this is not a reason to doubt the theory of anthropogenic climate change. The book makes it sound like YOU are among the agnostics, and this is bad.”
    • “… Yes the earth’s climate has changed a lot even before humans, and I’ll assume your story about the methane fog is correct; but you’re clearing giving the impression that the “true believers” are wrong and that the “heretics” are right. This is not factually incorrect but it is terribly misleading and makes it seem like you are casting doubt on the current scientific consensus.”
    • “… So that’s my two cents: Your chapter pains me not because it’s factually incorrect but because it clearly gives a misleading impression of the scientific consensus on climate change.”

Facts are OK, according to this PhD economist, but not if they cast doubt on “the scientific consensus” — which apparently should be regarded by the laity as a papal bull — subject to change in the future, but unquestioned since it is without possibility of error.

Short version:  The masses must not be exposed to thoughtcrime.

Using Google you can easily find the other ten thousand blog posts and articles attacking this book, few of which even approach Bauman’s precision of thought and fairness.  Most are just agitprop, many of the crudest kind.  Esp since the book is not yet out.

The previous such campaign was against Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning.  Another book so evil that its publication was preceded by intense attacks, often based on little but the writer’s imagination or delusions.  My impression is that the attacks diminished once the book hit the shelves, suggesting that their goal was not debate but to prevent people reading the book.

For more information from the FM site

To read other articles about these things, see the FM reference page on the right side menu bar. Of esp relevance to this topic:

Reference pages about other topics appear on the right side menu bar, including About the FM website page.

Some posts about the public dimension of the climate science debate:

  1. Is anthropogenic global warming a scientific debate, or a matter of religious belief?, 22 November 2008
  2. Another pro-global warming comment, effective PR at work!, 1 December 2008
  3. The definitive rebuttal to skepticism about global warming!, 10 December 2008
  4. High school science facts prove global warming! Skeptical scientists humiliated by this revelation!, 31 December 2008
  5. The media doing what it does best these days, feeding us disinformation, 18 February 2008
  6. George Will: climate criminal or brave but sloppy iconoclast?, 23 February 2009
  7. A note on the green religion, one of the growth industries in America, 17 March 2009

Afterword

Please share your comments by posting below. Per the FM site’s Comment Policy, please make them brief (250 word max), civil and relevant to this post. Or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).

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21 Comments leave one →
  1. vasra permalink
    19 October 2009 3:25 pm

    Don’t be silly. First of all the authors don’t do climate science. Not even engineering science (climate engineering) or economics as a science. They are just pop writers. Entitled to their opinion. So is everybody entitled to have opinions on them. That’s controlling, it’s the good old American dirt fight.

    BTW, I tend to think that they are right on 1 (unlikely that we’ll be able to reduce GHG emissions in meaningful quantity), but wrong on 2 (geo-engineering being the solution). That’s my opinion. They could be right, I could be right. Maybe both of us wrong. Time will tell.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: I don’t understand what you are saying, nor what in this post is silly. One of the authors is a journalist, and this is what journalists do. Should they write only about journalism? The other is an economist, and the Freadonomics is about “Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything”.

    This post discusses attempts to control the flow of information to the US public, not who is correct. As for telling us that they might be right or wrong, we already knew that.

  2. Nicholas Weaver permalink
    19 October 2009 3:59 pm

    No, journalists should not write pieces which are deceptive. Even discounting the climate science itself, the Freakonomics piece makes several mistakes and contains many deceptive statements.
    * The use of the “global cooling” canard, which was not a consensus view in the 70s. Media attention is not peer reviewed scholarship.
    * Deliberately misquoting/misconstruing research positions, such as the economics view on uncertanty by Weitzman.
    * Misquoting and not correcting headline quotes “CO2 is not the villan”.
    * Demonstratably false claims about solar cells. Demonstratably false claims about power plant replacement.

    Etc etc etc.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: They’re all false? All I’ve seen on these subjects is debate about complex issues which we do not yet fully understand. Perhaps you can cite the papal bulls which give the definitive answers. Still, this is a nice example of the dynamic discussed in this post. Thanks for posting it!

    BTW — the support for the global cooling theory in the 1970′s is grossly understaded by AGW proponents. It was a major theme on the history section of NOAA’s website, until they scrubbed it to match today’s Pravda. It was not consensus, just as AGW is not consensus today (as shown by the many papers cited here, a small fraction of those giving altnernatives to AGW). Consensus is a political (or religous) term, in its modern sense referring to the othodox.

  3. joey permalink
    19 October 2009 4:00 pm

    Those same people probably believe that religion is for the suckers.

  4. Nicholas Weaver permalink
    19 October 2009 5:37 pm

    As for the book not being out: the critics are basing it on the book: It was avalable for a while on Amazon in-book search (since pulled), and the critics are citing page # info. There is a PDF of the chapter floating around on the net as well.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Do you know that it was available on-line from Amazon? Or are you just repeating what Romm said (without attribution to Romm). Dunbar, one of the authors, said (in his article mentioned in this post):

    But nobody stopped anything. The text was never searchable on Amazon for the simple reason that the book wasn’t yet published, which is standard procedure. I don’t know where Romm got this fact – or if perhaps it was just too good a rumor to not be true.

  5. Nicholas Weaver permalink
    19 October 2009 5:37 pm

    The solar cell heating argument: This is demonstratably false. If you have a 10% efficient solar cell, that produces 1 kWh of energy based on 10kWh of total solar radiative energy, you get 9 kWh absorbed energy as heating, assuming an albedo of 0 over all frequencies for the solar cell.

    But thats not what matters, what matters is the delta albedo between what the solar cell is and what WAS there. So with a surface albedo of .1-.4 for the earth surface, you’d still be trapping 9kWh-6kWh of energy as heat anyway, meaning the net additional heat trapped is 0kWh-3kWh.

    But if you have a 50% efficient coal plant, you still get 1 kWh direct byproduct heating.

    This isn’t even counting the heat trapping effect of that .9 kG of CO2 released into the atmosphere for the coal burned. Even assuming that >2/3rds of the additional CO2 release gets absorbed by carbon sinks, the net .25 kG of CO2 added to the atmosphere, over the lifetime in the atmosphere, will trap far more energy over its in-atmosphere lifetime than was released in burning the coal. But even excluding that much larger effect, the statement is false when the solar cells are placed over many real-world surfaces.

    Misquoting Ken Caldiera:

    The headline quote, that headlines the CHAPTER, is “CO2 is not the villan”. Contrast this: “Carbon dioxide is the right villain,” says Caldeira, “insofar as inanimate objects can be villains.” from Ken Caldiera’s web page.

    Misinterpreting/misquoting Weisman’s work: Weitzsman’s view is that climate change is a serious concern, that the fat tail risk is a big problem, and that geoengineering may need to be considered as a backup, but not a primary mechanism: Some Basic Economics of Extreme Climate Change, by Martin L. Weitzman

    The fat-tailed analysis that Weitzsman does suggests a MUCH more, not less, agressive approach to CO2 and methane mitigation. EG, page 24: So the very first thing to say here is that the fat upper tail of the PDF of possible temperature changes lends even greater urgency to reducing GHG emissions by levying a substantial tax on the burning of fossil fuels..

    Investigating geoengineering is viewed as a necessary backup plan B, because the fat-tail consequences may be so catastrophic.

    As for your comment on global cooling, its possible to provide support for that, but there doesn’t seem to be. Older scientific literature has become MORE accessable, not less, thanks to google. You or someone else could use the same methodolgy of the IPCC synthesis report, but looking at peer reviewed literature on climate modeling before 1980.

    Science is about falsification. You can falsify the claim that “amongst the scientific community, Global cooling was not considered in the same way in the 70s as global warming is today”. During this, please consider two classes: those who were worried about the albedo effect of particulate pollution vs those worried about cycles.

    For those who oppose taking actions to limit greenhouse emissions, doing so would be a very good thing for your argument.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: This is pretty bizarre. Freakonomics are presenting the views of an individual, explicitly stating the source and giving their basis for listening to him. If he is in fact wrong, that does make their attention to him wrong unless you have a basis for attacking his expertiese.

    Also, in my experience 99% (guessing) of arguments like yours are wrong. That is, of the form “this expert is wrong, proved by reasoning from first principles.” Discussion among experts seldom takes this form. I don’t know your expertise in these things, nor his. I know zip about the subject, and have less than zip interest in it. For a somewhat related example see High school science facts prove global warming! Skeptical scientists humiliated by this revelation!

    “Older scientific literature has become MORE accessable, not less, thanks to google.”

    My exact statement was “Not much is online and open to the public from that period”. Not exactly the same meaning, is it? Nor is your statement correct by itself. Google makes finding a journal’s website easier, a trivial aid — hardly by itself making scientific literature “more accessable.” Nor has google scanned many scientific journals from the 1970′s (probably none).

  6. richard permalink
    19 October 2009 5:46 pm

    FM: “the support for the global cooling theory in the 1970’s is grossly understaded by AGW proponents

    Would you happen to have a list of peer-reviewed science articles that have data supporting global cooling in the 1970s? I can’t find many. Or perhaps you have the original NOAA text.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: For what I’ve been able to find see section 2 of Science & Nature – the history of fears about the climate. Not much is online and open to the public from that period, and I’ve not spent much time researching it. I was going to write an article about NOAA history’s when they changed it — and lost the notes in a disk failure.

  7. Nicholas Weaver permalink
    19 October 2009 6:00 pm

    Consider a spherical cow: The solar cell claim on page 187 by Myhrvold, quoted without question as an authority, is demonstratably false:

    If you have a 10% efficient solar cell, that produces 1 kWh of energy based on 10kWh of total solar radiative energy, you get 9 kWh absorbed energy as heating, assuming an albedo of 0 over all frequencies for the solar cell.

    But thats not what matters, what matters is the delta albedo between what the solar cell is and what WAS there. So with a surface albedo of .1-.4 for the earth surface, you’d still be trapping 9kWh-6kWh of energy as heat anyway, meaning the net additional heat trapped is
    0kWh-3kWh.

    But if you have a 50% efficient coal plant, you still get 1 kWh direct byproduct heating.

    This isn’t even counting the heat trapping effect of that .9 kG of CO2 released into the atmosphere for the coal burned. Even assuming that 2/3rds of the additional CO2 release gets absorbed by carbon sinks, the net .25 kG of CO2 added to the atmosphere, over the lifetime in the atmosphere, will trap far more energy over its in-atmosphere lifetime than was released in burning the coal. But even excluding that much larger effect, the statement is false when the solar cells are placed over many real-world surfaces.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Even if that’s true, that just means the Myhvold is false. The author’s clearly state they are relying on his expertise, appropriate for an economist and journalism to do.

  8. Nicholas Weaver permalink
    19 October 2009 6:12 pm

    Misquoting Ken Caldiera. The headline quote, that reportedly headlines the chapter in the table of contents, is “CO2 is not the villan”. Contrast this: “Carbon dioxide is the right villain,” says Caldeira, “insofar as inanimate objects can be villains.” from Ken Caldiera’s web page.

    As for Weitzman’s work, the strange thing is is how its actually ignored. The 5% catastrophy number, Weitzman admits in his work, is somewhat arbitrary.

    Rather, what Weitzman’s work is about is how you try to price and understand “fat tail” low probability, high consequence risk. As a result, it is very focused on the need for significant reduction in CO2 output immediately: So the very first thing to say here is that the fat upper tail of the PDF of possible temperature changes lends even greater urgency to reducing GHG emissions by levying a substantial tax on the burning of fossil fuels..

    Investigating geoengineering is viewed as a necessary backup plan B, because the fat-tail consequences may be so catastrophic.

    But instead Levett and Drubner just give a throwaway 5% catastrophy probability without really going INTO the work, which is all about “how do you decide what to do with low probability, high impact events”. Weitzman’s work is how even if the probability of a catastrophic eventuality is low, because the uncertanty is so high, significant action needs to be taken now rather than waiting.

    Finally, the thesis of the series has always been economics and incentives work in the Freakonomics series. Which means by their thesis, a carbon tax is the solution: When you have a problem with externalities, shift them so they are no longer externalities. Rather than relying on the ability to pump sulpher up 18 mile long hoses into the upper atmosphere.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: This is absurd. Weitzman and Caldiera can speak for themselves, and will do so if they believes they’ve been misquoted. You are saying that Levitt and Dubner are lying about Weitzman’s Caldiera’s pre-publication review of the book (although I suspect you’re spouting without bothering to read their comments on this issue). Considering their backgrounds, I suspect your accusations are in fact 100% bogus, and their statements about Caldiera’s involvement will prove correct.

  9. Grimgrin permalink
    19 October 2009 10:49 pm

    A .pdf of Chapter 5 of Superfreakanomics via J. Bradford DeLong’s website in case anyone is interested in going back to primary sources.

    Reading it myself, I can see why this chapter provoked the response it did. Levitt & Dubner’s characterization of the movement to stop global warming as “a relegion [who'se] core belief is that we inherited a pristine Eden and have sinned greatly by polluting it and must now suffer lest we all perish in a fiery apocalypse”, in particular reminds me of the creationist’s attempt to portray evolutionary biology as ‘just another religion’. It’s a lazy and stupid rhetorical trick in both cases. If you can make you’re opponent into an unreasoning adherent to dogma you can both cast yourself as a persecuted heretic, no matter how well funded and well defended in the main stream your ideas actually are and you get to shift the debate away from what is empirically true or likely and into woolly and emotional arguments about belief.

    An interesting counterpoint to Levitt & Dubner’s work is Gwynne Dyer’s “Climate Wars” podcasts that I’ve recently been listening to Part 1, part 2, part 3. It’s interesting to compare Levitt & Dubner’s analysis of global warming as an economic problem, vs. Gwynne Dyer’s analysis of global warming as a political and security problem.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Their critics have a right to disagree. But many of their attacks read like bulls from the Pope. Which is nuts for issues on the edge of the known. Which is why so many people see the critics speaking from faith, not science. For more on this see:
    * Is anthropogenic global warming a scientific debate, or a matter of religious belief?, 22 November 2008
    * A note on the green religion, one of the growth industries in America, 17 March 2009

  10. Nicholas Weaver permalink
    20 October 2009 1:53 am

    FM: Please read Weitzman’s work. I will actually agree in retrospect that Superfreakonomics is not a misquote, however it is a clear significant omission. The chapter is all about how to deal with and understand long tail risks and fat-tail risks with climate change, but the only thing taken is the headline 5% of catastrophy figure, not the analysis or logic. Weitzman’s work is a technical explanation of what the freakonomics chapter should be, and his logic works with a much lower 5% severe discolaction, 1% catastrophy probability.

    As for Myhrvold, a journalists who’s constructing a technically backed story quoting experts, when the experts are demonstratably wrong about something should be prepared to take the heat when the expert is quoted unquestioned.

    If you want to discuss the problem with solar, talk about the difference between peak load and base load, the problem of cloudy skies, various rare metal issues, etc… Their albedo has nothing to do with it. (For the record, I think solar is cute, but nuclear is the only viable solution currently available.)

    The “because their black…” bit sounds cute to the math illiterate, but fails the laugh test when you start to think about the problem. If I were Myhrvold, I’d be seriously, SERIOUSLY pissed if I was quoted that way, because it makes both Myhrvold as well as Drubner and Levett look stupid.

    The real distressing thing is after reading pages from the chapter in random order, I agree with an implied portion of DeLong’s critique: With some edits, it would actually be a pretty good chapter.

    You can make a good case that their argument actually is “global warming is a serious problem, yet the incentives are wrong to reduce CO2 output, thus we may need to geoengineer our way out of it”.

    Its a too trite black/white view of that for my taste (Drubner and Levett are all about incentives otherwise, so why not just a carbon tax?), and way too rosy on geoengineering prospects (geoengineering on the scale they are talking about scares the F@#)*(@# out of me), thus I prefer Weitzman’s view, but they express it in a way designed to both tick people off and pointlessly cloud the issue.

    Yet it seems phrased in a way deliberately designed to be provocative and misleading to non-experts. Take this quote that Bauman highlights, and which Levett dismisses as a problem:

    When Al Gore urges the citizenry to sacrifice… the agnostics grumble that human activity accounts for just 2 percent of global carbon-dioxide emissions, with the remainder generated by natural processes like plant decay.

    The problem is not the flow, but the buildup, and that this buildup is anthropogenic in origin. A far better version of the same quote would be something along what DeLong points out:

    When Al Gore urges the citizenry to sacrifice… the agnostics grumble that human activity accounts for just 2 percent of global carbon-dioxide emissions, with the remainder generated by natural processes like plant decay. But this 2% has shifted the balance: over the past two centuries, the stock of atmospheric CO2 has increased by 35%, and this trend is continuing.

    Its not the flow, its the stock. You may argue that this CO2 increase (and a similar increase in methane) won’t cause a global catastrophy, but the increase itself is well documented and one of the few things climatologically that CAN be directly measured based on ice-core samples. No computers. No fiddling knobs on climate models. None of that crap to complain about.

    That humans have had a huge impact on global levels of CO2 is not in doubt. That we continue to have a huge impact on global levels of CO2 is not in doubt. The doubt is “what does it mean and what should we do about it”.

    If a journalist is trying to make the case, IMO, they should tell the truth, and not leave out critical details. Leaving off the critical sentence distinguishing between the relative flow caused by humans, and the change in stock caused by humans, changes the impression greatly.

    Whats really frustrating is their thesis actually is pretty clear once you mentally correct the stupid mistakes: “We’re fucked, so prepare for geoengineering should disaster seem imminent as Plan B”, but they deliberately cloud things to create controversy where there is none, quote significantly inferior experts, make stupid, stupid mistakes, etc. etc. etc.

    And if you look at Levett’s public correspondence, thats what they were trying to say, or at least what he says they were trying to say on this issue.

    Yet if you don’t correct the mistakes and do the mental edits, the thesis appears to be: “It would cost too much and the benefit is too low to worry about, and if the bad things happen, we can geoengineer our way out of this mess.” Its not what they claim the thesis is, but it is what does indeed read like.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: While we all appreciate this definitive review of this book (even before its publication! how God-like!), we await your definitive review of the other thousands of books printed this year. Must their authors obtain your permission for publication, or will a prior review by you suffice? Also, is it OK if we — the little people — also have opinions on these things, or must we adopt yours?

    I really don’t know what your point is, other than you disagree with the authors and have extraordinary self-confidence about things which should be discussed with humility. This is esp bizarre as you are writing based on a look at one chapter and stuff you picked up from folks attempting to prevent heterodox views from being read.

    This post was a methodological note about the nature of the attacks, not a pre-publication defense of the book. Please, no more of this here.

  11. Nicholas Weaver permalink
    20 October 2009 2:16 am

    FM: I don’t get what your issue is here.

    The smears and swarming you claim is all about this one chapter (its the only one dealing with climate issues), which is available. The work is done, out there, and in the hands of critics.

    The rest of the book is on other topics.

    But when you look at the “smears and swarms” from critics like DeLong, Krugman, Bauman, they are not largely random smears, but targeted criticsm based on the text of the book which is available, and on facts and analysis of that.

    I really don’t care that they are publishing it, I’m trying to explain that the critics are not just randomly sliming that you aledge, nor trying to keep people safe from thoughtcrime, but legitimate criticsms based on what was written and available.

    I am, in fact, doing what you encourage everyone to do: Take a text, and analyze it critically. What is right. What is wrong. Go to other sources (Weitzman). Use basic analysis.

    Why when the thesis disagrees with your notions is it somehow a bizarre exercise?
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    Fabius Maximus replies: As I said in my previous comment, quite clearly IMO, it’s not that I’m saying you are wrong — or that SuperFreak is right — but rather your authoratiative statements about things that “should be discussed with humility.” It’s nice that you’re confident about these things, such as solar energy and the other things you’ve touched upon. But the certainty of your comments (and even more so Krugman and Delong, neither of whom I suspect knows diddly-squat about these things) strikes me as absurd.

    Take the extreme example, your charges about their use of Caldeira’s work.
    * Perhaps you understand Caldeira’s work better than Caldeira.
    * Perhaps the authors lie about Caldeira’s pre-publication reviews of their work.
    * Perhaps the authors are right, and you are wrong.
    I know which alternative I’d bet upon.

    BTW — I doubt that a fraction of the posts attacking the book were written by people who read the text.

  12. Grimgrin permalink
    20 October 2009 3:48 am

    FM: “Which is nuts for issues on the edge of the known.”

    The greenhouse effect was first quantitatively described by Svante Arrhenius in 1896. Anthropogenic climate change caused by industrial scale burning of fossil fuels was first proposed by the same scientist in 1907.

    Hell, Frank Capra (yes, that Frank Capra) made a documentary about it. “The Unchained Goddess” 1958.

    Global warming is a process that has been known for over a century, and has had at least 30 years of active, organized, multidisciplinary, study. To say this is an issue ‘on the edge of the known’ is overstating the case. The basic mechanism is very well known and very well understood.

    Actually writing this it kind of underscores how hard it is to communicate an emotional charged idea without falling into a trap of being didactic. Which is of course exactly the process by which responses by critics come to resemble ‘papal bulls’. I’m by no means an expert on climatology. I have a friend who’se an oceanographer who has pointed me at some good resources and I have done quite a bit of lay reading myself, and I yet here I can read a supercilious and patronizing tone creeping into what I’ve written. This is when I know that the author of this and most of the commentators argue in good faith.

    This is before we get into ex-tobacco industry lobbyists being paid to muddy the waters.

    See also: The Myth of the 1970s Global Cooling Scientific Consensus
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    Fabius Maximus replies: What point are you attempting to make? Is the age of a scientific theory the primary indicator of its quality? So that stuff about ice ages, relativity, and continental dirft – all overturning old and venerable views — should be disregarded?

    If you are attempting to say that the science is settled about AGW, that is clearly false. I’ve written about a tiny fraction of the articles questioning this from several different perspectives. To see these see Science & nature – studies & reports.

    You misrepresent what I said about global cooling. If AGW proves false, future generations will be able to look back about the debate it in our time, and write articles about “the myth of the 2000′s global warming scientific consensus.”

    For a better (although of course incomplete) history see Science & Nature – the history of fears about the climate. You might find some of the article enlightening (it includes the Myth of G Cooling article).

  13. Nicholas Weaver permalink
    20 October 2009 9:27 am

    Ken Caldiera’s comments here.

    I don’t like the format, as Romm took things far to personal and has far too much of an axe to grind, so just skip to ONLY Caldiera’s part of the discussion.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Let’s play that in full. The email Romm cites says almost exactly what Dunbar says in his article cited in the post (which, again, it looks like you have not bothered to read, despite writing such long attacks at their work).

    Joe,
    The only real significant error is the line: “carbon dioxide is not the right villain in this fight.” That is just wrong and I never would have said it.
    On the other hand, I f&@?ed up. They sent me the draft and I approved it without reading it carefully and I just missed it..
    I try to provide more context below but I do not believe it is my role as somebody mentioned in a book to spend my time getting them to write the book I would want them to write. (That book wouldn’t make any money.)
    The other statements attributed to me may be taken out of context and juxtaposed against interpretations of others, but are based on fact.
    I think everyone operated in good faith, and this was just a mistake that got by my inadequate editing.
    Best, Ken

    How does this justifies the over-the-top attacks by Romm?

    Also ammusing is Romm citing Delong and Krugman as climate science experts. Both are excellent economists, but also vigorous defenders of liberal othodoxy — with long records of willingness to say outlandish things in this role.
    * Stellar moments for Delong as ideological attack dog role were his webposts about Katrina, human evolution (in which experts from the Gene Expression website visited to slice and dice him), and Dan Rather’s Bush N.G. memos.
    * Krugman excelled even his low standards for accuracy with this: “In Britain, the government itself runs the hospitals and employs the doctors. We’ve all heard scare stories about how that works in practice; these stories are false.” (op-ed in the NYT, 16 August 2009)

  14. 20 October 2009 1:37 pm

    To put this smear swarm in perspective

    How many such events have you seen, with so many people swarming on a book before publication? Esp when its only one chapter they find offensive?

    Liberal Fascism The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning by Jonah Goldberg (2008) was one such. Both are IMO obviously politically-motivated attacks, attempting to discourage sales of the book.

    This technique — jamming the discussion, swarming by open source networks (like-minded people work together without central direction) is the subject of this post. What motivates people to swarm on one or two books per year out of the thousands published — many with high-profiles, many with far lower level of accuracy?

    The truth of the book’s assertions will be tested by actual experts during the next few weeks and months. By people who speak on the basis of their professional qualifications, not their degree of ideological fervor. But I suspect we’ll see more swarming attacks by the left.

    And eventually by the right as well. Then the left, as usual, will declare such tactics as unfair (and probably racist, or sexist, or fascist).

  15. Nicholas Weaver permalink
    20 October 2009 3:43 pm

    FM: If you are going to quote from Caldiera, quote more:
    http://climateprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/Caldeira-5.gif
    http://climateprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/Caldeira-email1.gif
    http://climateprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/Caldeira-4.gif

    and: “So, yes, my representation in the Superfreakonomics book is damaging to me because it is an inaccurate portrayal of me. The problem is the inaccurate portrayal, not my actions or statements.”

    You have the only interviewed climatologist in the chapter complaining about many misleading statements in the chapter. And please note that both Krugman and DeLong were reluctant to get involved until they got copies of the chapter in question. This isn’t a conspiracy here, if there was, they wouldn’t need to wait.

    Anyway, if DeLong and Krugman were part of a conspiracy to ensure that The masses must not be exposed to thoughtcrime., they know that this will only pump sales.

    If I was Drubner, I’d be very very happy right now.
    .
    .
    Fabius Maximus replies: Speaking of misrepresentation, I said nothing about a “conspiracy”. An open-source network of like-minded people working towards a common goal is the opposite of a conspiracy.

    (2) Your “why not” is unjustified. I quoted in full an email from Caldiera, which IMO was quite clear about the situation. And provided a link to Romm’s post (from which you give other quotes).

    (2) As for the overall Caldiera reply, it is weird IMO. Why only responding through emails released by Romm? Why does Romm not post the full exchange, not just little flecks from Caldiera’s emails? Why no clear statement by Caldiera of what happened, other than the one I quoted?

    All I see here is a guy assoicated with people guilty of heterdox thought, and crayfishing away from the lynch mob. This excuse of misleading context but accurate quotes is bs, IMO — similar to Dan Rather’s defense of his work as “false but true”. On the other hand, Caldiera’s correct to say this could be “damaging to me” — if he does not back in turn with the faithful. He seems frantic, humming a few bars of the most popular green hymns to clear himself of taint.

    (4) “please note that both Krugman and DeLong were reluctant to get involved until they got copies of the chapter in question”

    Do you have any evidence of this? I don’t see it in Delong’s writing. For example in his 3rd post about the book he gets a picture of two pages (2!) of Freakonomics — and he freaks out! No relucance visible here.

  16. richard permalink
    20 October 2009 7:05 pm

    “I was going to write an article about NOAA history’s when they changed it — and lost the notes in a disk failure.”

    Have you or have you not seen the ‘missing’ text? “Lost the notes in a disk failure”???? Do you really expect us to believe that? If the ‘story’ is real one should be able to find the text. Another myth you are clinging to?

    Your link to the global cooling myth fails to address the issue: where is the list of peer-reviewed articles with data supporting global cooling? Not in your link. Provide your list of peer-reviewed science articles supporting global cooling. There are hundreds of peer-reviewed science journal articles with good datasets supporting AGW. There seems to be no comparison at all.
    .
    .
    Fabius Maximus replies: I don’t like to repeat myself, but you seem to have difficulty reading, so I’ll type this slowly (from your comment #6):

    For what I’ve been able to find see section 2 of Science & Nature – the history of fears about the climate.

    I’ve seen no climate scientist deny that there were concerns about global cooling during the 1970′s. What point you’re attempting to make?

    As for the rest, I don’t care what you think. So far as I can tell, you’re the equivalent of a loud drunk crashing a party. You’ve contributed nothing to this thread so far.

    Update: I found the NOAA history articles. See today’s new post for excerpts and links.

  17. atheist permalink
    20 October 2009 11:10 pm

    grimgrin in #9:

    Levitt & Dubner’s characterization of the movement to stop global warming as “a relegion [who'se] core belief is that we inherited a pristine Eden and have sinned greatly by polluting it and must now suffer lest we all perish in a fiery apocalypse”, in particular reminds me of the creationist’s attempt to portray evolutionary biology as ‘just another religion’. It’s a lazy and stupid rhetorical trick in both cases. If you can make you’re opponent into an unreasoning adherent to dogma you can both cast yourself as a persecuted heretic…

    What interests me is that, in some cases, I’m not convinced it’s a rhetorical trick at all. In some cases such a judgement, that someone (a evolutionary biologist, a believer in AGW, a conservative) is an adherent of a religion, may actually be an honest if faulty perception. A perception colored by the inner life of the judger.

    The writer Anais Nin said, “We don’t see things as they are. We seem them as we are.” When I look at society, I tend to see cynical schemers. A religious person sees religions. A violent person sees violent enemies. Sometimes it really does work that way.

  18. atheist permalink
    20 October 2009 11:26 pm

    Awww… maybe I should stop trying to psychoanalyze everything. Some things are just factual, and have to be fought out on that level.
    .
    .
    Fabius Maximus replies: I disagree, in one sense. Yes, the climate science debate will ultimately be decided by the evidence — which is why I ignore the general media discussion in terms of the issues (all my posts discuss the cli sci lit). But the sociological and political dimensions of these hot issues reveal much about our society.

    Climate science is a area which will be used to direct flows of money in our society. Reading the general media an altert observer can feel the power coming down. Americans today are to a large extent governed by their fears. Just like in the pro-war propaganda.

  19. Mikyo permalink
    21 October 2009 1:05 am

    The sky is falling, the sky is falling!

  20. Grimgrin permalink
    21 October 2009 6:34 am

    FM: I was attempting to make the point that some things really are settled about global warming.

    To that end, let me summarize what to my understanding, is settled science in this debate. We know that heat is trapped by carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in proportion to it’s concentration. This was settled before either of us were born. We know from direct measurements that the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is increasing, and we know that human industrial activity is releasing carbon into the atmosphere. We also know that the global average temperature has been increasing, in rough proportion to the increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. All of this is to the best of my knowledge settled.

    There are four open questions, for which there are best guesses and models but no certainties.

    1) What effects will this have on the climate in the future?
    2) When will the changes to the climate happen?
    3) What effects will the changes to the global climate have for humans and human society?
    4) What steps are appropriate to take in response to the answers to 1-3?

    The chapter in Superfreakanomics was mostly concerned with a novel to the authors but not really new answer to question 4. The problem I had with it, and I think most people had with it is that the authors felt the need to rubbish the other proposed solutions while utterly failing to discuss the downsides of pumping sulphur compounds into the upper atmosphere.
    .
    .
    Fabius Maximus replies: I have zero interest in these general media cartoon-like discussions of climate science. That’s not the point of this post, nor can I imagine why anybody would care what the authors (or Delong or Krugman) think about these things. You’d be just as well off asking a blonde in a bar — who might be a scientist, or at least an interesting person (a winner either way, unless you’re married).

    The actual climate science discussions are discussed elsewhere, with reference to the professional literature. See the FM reference page Science & Nature – my articles for links.

  21. richard permalink
    21 October 2009 12:28 pm

    “I’ve seen no climate scientist deny that there were concerns about global cooling during the 1970’s”

    Where are the peer-reviewed science publications providing support for global cooling in the 70s? If there was a lot of concern there would be dozens of peer-reviewed publications in science journals – where are they? They do not exist in any number; they are not listed in your ‘cite’ in any number. It seems you do not understand the difference between an opinion supported by rhetoric and an opinion supported by scientific data.

    We can conclude from your inability to document your claims with peer-reviewed science that:
    1) there is no comparison whatsoever between the data supporting AGW to data supporting 70s global cooling.
    2) the NOAA story is either a cmplete fabrication or a massive exageration.

    Perhaps if you would examine the actual data analyses rather than rhetorical nonsense from opinion blogs you would be farther ahead. The peer-reviewed scientific data is very clear with respect to AGW and is reflected in the consensus prepared by the IPCC.
    ,
    ,
    Fabius Maximus replies: I listed a number of high-provile journal articles from the 1970′s, esp difficult since they’re so difficult to find on-line.”

    “there is no comparison whatsoever between the data supporting AGW to data supporting 70s global cooling.”

    That’s far stronger than any statement I made, and you provide no evidence (why do zealots always ask for more evidence but provide none of their own?). To mention just one factor, the entire field was so much smaller then. NOAA’s “Climate Analysis Cente” was opened only in 1979 with a staff of aprox 2 dozen.

    (3) “the NOAA story is either a cmplete fabrication or a massive exageration.”

    The NOAA story is supported by a NOAA history, to which I posted 3 documents (conference program, text, slides). But then you did not read the post, did you?

    If that’s not enough for you, fine. Last notice, no more of these rants. You seem to consider yourself some sort of judge, or perhaps God. Play God somewhere else unless you have something to contribute here.

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