Apostasy against core leftist doctrine at the Huffington Post!

This is not an esp. interesting article, except for its provenance:  the usually-liberal Huffington Post.  It provides a well-written but undocumented summary of the “strong version” case against AGW theory, distinct from the skeptics’ objections reported on this site (which concerns itself with alternative theories among scientists, limitations of the data, and inadequate replication of findings). 

I have no idea what publication of this on such a liberal site signifies, if anything, but I post it here FYI.  Esp note the comments about this in the update at the end.

Mr. Gore: Apology Accepted“, Harold Ambler, 3 January 2008 — Profiles of his background are below.  Excerpt:

You are probably wondering whether President-elect Obama owes the world an apology for his actions regarding global warming. The answer is, not yet. There is one person, however, who does. … Mr. Gore has stated, regarding climate change, that “the science is in.” Well, he is absolutely right about that, except for one tiny thing. It is the biggest whopper ever sold to the public in the history of humankind.

What is wrong with the statement? A brief list:

1. First, the expression “climate change” itself is a redundancy, and contains a lie. Climate has always changed, and always will. There has been no stable period of climate during the Holocene, our own climatic era, which began with the end of the last ice age 12,000 years ago. …

2. … When he shows the hockey stick graph of temperature and plots it against reconstructed C02 levels in An Inconvenient Truth, he says that the two clearly have an obvious correlation. “Their relationship is actually very complicated,” he says, “but there is one relationship that is far more powerful than all the others, and it is this: When there is more carbon dioxide, the temperature gets warmer.”

The word “complicated” here is among the most significant Mr. Gore has uttered on the subject of climate and is, at best, a deliberate act of obfuscation. Why? Because it turns out that there is an 800-year lag between temperature and carbon dioxide, unlike the sense conveyed by Mr. Gore’s graph. You are probably wondering by now — and if you are not, you should be — which rises first, carbon dioxide or temperature. The answer? Temperature. In every case, the ice-core data shows that temperature rises precede rises in carbon dioxide by, on average, 800 years. …

3. What the alarmists now state is that past episodes of warming were not caused by C02 but amplified by it, which is debatable, for many reasons, but, more important, is a far cry from the version of events sold to the public by Mr. Gore. …

4. This mechanism has never been shown to exist. Indeed, increased temperature leads to increased evaporation of the oceans, which leads to increased cloud cover (one cooling effect) and increased precipitation (a bigger cooling effect). Within certain bounds, in other words, the ocean-atmosphere system has a very effective self-regulating tendency.

By the way, water vapor is far more prevalent, and relevant, in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide — a trace gas. Water vapor’s absorption spectrum also overlays that of carbon dioxide. They cannot both absorb the same energy! The relative might of water vapor and relative weakness of carbon dioxide is exemplified by the extraordinary cooling experienced each night in desert regions, where water in the atmosphere is nearly non-existent.

If not carbon dioxide, what does “drive” climate? I am glad you are wondering about that. In the short term, it is ocean cycles, principally the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, the “super cycle” of which cooling La Niñas and warming El Niños are parts. Having been in its warm phase, in which El Niños predominate, for the 30 years ending in late 2006, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation switched to its cool phase, in which La Niñas predominate. …

Concurrent with the switchover of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation to its cool phase the Sun has entered a period of deep slumber.

… What about heat escaping from volcanic vents in the ocean floor? What about the destruction of warming, upper-atmosphere ozone by cosmic rays? I could go on, but space is short. Again, who is the “flat-Earther” here?

The ocean-atmosphere system is not a simple one that can be “ruled” by a trace atmospheric gas. It is a complex, chaotic system, largely modulated by solar effects (both direct and indirect), as shown by the Little Ice Age. …

P.S. One of the last, desperate canards proposed by climate alarmists is that of the polar ice caps. Look at the “terrible,” “unprecedented” melting in the Arctic in the summer of 2007, they say.

Well, the ice in the Arctic basin has always melted and refrozen, and always will. … More to the point, 2007 happened also to be the time of maximum historic sea ice in Antarctica. (There are many credible sources of this information, such as the following website maintained by the University of Illinois-Urbana:  http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/IMAGES/current.anom.south.jpg {FM:  link to the site does not work for me}). Why, I ask, has Mr. Gore not chosen to mention the record growth of sea ice around Antarctica? If the record melting in the Arctic is significant, then the record sea ice growth around Antarctica is, too, I say. If one is insignificant, then the other one is, too.

Why is the Huff Post running this?

We can only guess.  Here is speculation, excerpts of comments from Roger Simon’s column at Pajamas Media, 3 January 2008:

We must always keep in mind that Arianna is a political opportunist (whore), first and foremost. She was one of the most vociferous right-wingers, turned libertarian, turned leftist, all within the last single decade. She keeps her nose to the wind at all times. Does this latest article indicate she is plotting a new switch, because conservative futures show new promise? Probably way too early for that, she’s simply keeping her foot in the door, just in case. (by Candide)

Unlikely that Huffpo would have run such a thing until her preferred candidate had won the election. AGW or its euphemism ‘climate change’ was too useful a club with which to bash the Bush admin, and any possible Republican successor.

We must always keep in mind that Arianna is a political opportunist (whore), first and foremost. She was one of the most vociferous right-wingers, turned libertarian, turned leftist, all within the last single decade. She keeps her nose to the wind at all times. Does this latest article indicate she is plotting a new switch, because conservative futures show new promise? Probably way too early for that, she’s simply keeping her foot in the door, just in case. (by Insufficiently Sensitive)

If I recall correctly, none other than Al Gore himself was Vice-President when the Kyoto Treaty went down in flames in the Senate. It was only with the election of George W. that the whole AGW hysteria really took off. I mean, where was the vein-bulging, podium-pounding Al Gore prior to Jan 2001? Oh, that’s right– he was an elected official who might actually be held accountable for disastrously stupid government policies. (by Mike)

I agree with you completely. In 1998, the Senate voted on an amendment that said it would not take up the Kyoto Treaty unless China and India were included. That amendment passed 95-0! And what did Al Gore and Bill Clinton do after that (while they still had 2-1/2 years in office)? Absolutely nothing. (by Lee)

Profiles of Harold Ambler

From the Huffington Post:

Harold Ambler is the co-author of the forthcoming (March 2009) Ever True: The History of Brown Crew. He is also working on a book about the climate wars — Apology Accepted. He is the owner of Talking About the Weather and lives in Austin, Texas.

From his website, Talking about the Weather:

I have been interested in weather since I was a very young boy. If computer science had been more fun for me I might have gone into meteorology, but instead I went into publishing and music. Nonetheless, as I finish a book on the history of rowing, I have spent a goodly amount of time studying weather and climate – in preparation for my next writing project.

My native love of weather systems has never left me, and has only blossomed. By the way, as of January 2009 I have had the pleasure to witness thunder snow twice in the last 6 weeks – once in Austin and once in Providence. A harbinger of things to come?


A comment by solar scientist Leif Svalgaard (posted at Watts Up with That):

It is a pity that Ambler mars his otherwise excellent piece by erroneous solar contentions, like:

“As NASA has corroborated, the number of cosmic rays passing through our atmosphere is at the maximum level since measurements have been taken, and show no signs of diminishing.”

Not true, the flux at minimum [remember to correct for small changes due to changes of the Earth’s magnetic field] at every solar minimum since measurements started in 1952 has been very constant.

“Major solar minima (and maxima, such as the one during the second half of the 20th century) have also been shown to correlate with significant volcanic eruptions.”

Both minima and maxima?

“These are likely the result of solar magnetic flux affecting geomagnetic flux, which affects the distribution of magma in Earth’s molten iron core and under its thin [2900 km thick!] mantle.”

This is total nonsense, if anything it is the other way around, it is the circulation [change of distribution] that affects and generates the geomagnetic field.

About the 800-year lag between temp and CO2 readings…

The lag is a typical argument designed for lay people. The lag is not well determined, but it doesn’t really matter, because it is not the lag that shows that CO2 was not causing the ice ages. Solar insolation was and CO2 just tags along because it is driven out of solution at higher temperatures. Note that this is a two-part argument and Joe Sixpack can only understand a one-part argument [so the theory goes], hence activists tend to prefer the one-argument lag. Another case of oversimplification to the point of being ridiculous. By the 800-year lag theory, the CO2 increase we are now seeing must be caused by the MWP 800 years ago. Even Joe can see through that one and therefore doubt the whole thing.


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Some posts on the FM site about climate change

  1. A look at the science and politics of global warming, 12 June 2008
  2. An article giving strong evidence of global warming, 30 June 2008
  3. Worrying about the Sun and climate change: cycle 24 is late, 10 July 2008
  4. More forecasts of a global cooling cycle, 15 July 2008
  5. Update: is Solar Cycle 24 late (a cooling cycle, with famines, etc)?, 15 july 2008
  6. Two valuable perspectives on global warming, 4 August 2008
  7. Solar Cycle 24 is still late, perhaps signalling cool weather ahead, 2 September 2008
  8. Update on solar cycle 24 – and a possible period of global cooling, 1 October 2008
  9. Good news about global warming!, 21 October 2008
  10. One of the most interesting sources of news about science and nature!, 27 October 2008
  11. “Aliens cause global warming”: wise words from the late Michael Crichton, 15 November 2008
  12. A reply to comments on FM site about Global Warming, 17 November 2008
  13. Is anthropogenic global warming a scientific debate, or a matter of religious belief?, 22 November 2008
  14. My “wish list” for the climate sciences in 2009, 2 January 2009

10 thoughts on “Apostasy against core leftist doctrine at the Huffington Post!”

  1. There seems to be persuasive empirical fact on both sides of the argument. An amateur like me couldn’t begin to integrate it in some all-inclusive calculation. I assume that the consensus climate scientists do have an ability to weigh one hypothesis against others and judge the most successful. I will say that Mr. Ambler has the most straightforward, plain language writing style I’ve seen, and that’s persuasive to me. To paraphrase a Nabokov line: “you can always tell a (special pleader) by his fancy prose style.”

    I’m puzzled by one claim — that Antarctic ice has been growing. All the recent news seemed to be about huge ice shelves crumbling and vanishing.
    Fabius Maximus replies: IMO its not a matter of weighing the evidence to find the answer. Today we just lack sufficient evidence and robust theory. It will sort itself out over time; that’s how science works.

    Re: polar ice

    Yes, that is what the mainstream media says. They are wrong. Sea ice cover is decreasing at the north pole (it rebounded this year, however) and growing in the south.

    For a non-technical explanation see “Sea Ice Ends Year at Same Level as 1979“, Michael Asher, DailyTech, 1 January 2009

    This was confirmed by a note in The Cryosphere Today, published by the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Illinois (here), although they disagree about the climatic impact of ice changes at two poles.

    This latter point is in dispute, lying on the edge of what we know about climate dynamics. For a detailed discussion of one theory (south polar ice more important) see “Polar Sea Ice Changes are Having a Net Cooling Effect on the Climate“, Steven Goddard, Watts Up with That, 10 January 2009.

  2. {FM note: I have added substantially to this comment}

    Please make sure that Al Gore is held accountable for his most recent misleading statement about climate change, made at the World Economic Forum in Davor. From “Gore predicts worsening climate change”, The Times, 24 January 2008 — Excerpt:

    “Climate change is taking place even faster than the worst predictions made by the UN’s Nobel prize-winning panel on climate change, Al Gore said this morning.

    “The former US vice-president and winner of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize said that there were forecasts that the North Pole ice cap could disappear during summer months within five years.”

    Here is the Youtube video.

  3. Update: Arianna Huffingon comments on this article

    Oddly enough, this does not appear directly on her own site — but only as an email sent to the Grist: “Fair skies return to teapot“, David Roberts, 7 Jan 2009 — “Arianna Huffington clarifies editorial policy around climate skepticism” — Excerpt:

    “Harold Ambler reached out to me about posting a critical piece on Al Gore and the environment. We are always open to posts that present opinions contrary to HuffPost’s editorial view — and have welcomed many conservative voices, such as David Frum, Tony Blankley, Michael Smerconish, Bob Barr, Joe Scarborough, Jim Talent, etc., to the site. We have featured also countless posts from the leading lights of the Green movement, including Robert Redford, Laurie David, Carl Pope, Van Jones, David Roberts, and many others — and I myself have written extensively about the global warming crisis, and have been highly critical of those who refuse to acknowledge the overwhelming scientific evidence.

    “When Ambler sent his post, I forwarded it to one of our associate blog editors to evaluate, not having read it. I get literally hundreds of posts a week submitted like this and obviously can’t read them all — which is why we have an editorial process in place. The associate blog editor published the post. It was an error in judgment. I would not have posted it. Although HuffPost welcomes a vigorous debate on many subjects, I am a firm believer that there are not two sides to every issue, and that on some issues the jury is no longer out. The climate crisis is one of these issues.”

    Note this contradicts Harold Amber’s comment posted to a rebuttal article at Huff Post:

    “My only contact with the site prior to being published was Arianna Huffington herself, who read my piece, accepted it, and directed her staff to post it.”

    Perhaps we will eventually learn who is correct, and who lies about this minor aspect of the story. With no evidence, my guess is that Ambler is telling the truth.

  4. I think it’s important to note that while CO2 may be a lagging indicator, the difference now versus other climate cycles is humans have added a lot of extra CO2 quickly, through the extraction and burning of sequestered fossil fuels. This seems to me to be the point behind the Gore theory.

    Now I’m not a proponent of Gore’s theories whatsoever. I could barely sit through his “movie.” I choked back revulsion constantly, warm bile rising in my throat as he pontificated his theories and facts.

    To say humans have had zero impact is as obviously flawed as saying we’ve ruined the planet. Nature has ways of dealing with things … naturally. For example, a sudden increase in CO2 (sudden maybe be a case of several hundred years on the climactic scale) may cause lush growth in forests, which would consume the CO2 and convert it. The question would then be are we doing anything to forestation which would manifest itself. I believe the answer here is “yes” we are cutting down forests. So the natural balance may indeed be altered somewhat.

    But in the end, we don’t really have enough data. We’re supposed to rely on core samples where temperature data is gleaned from molecule counts. This supposes we know what the baseline is. We’re also to rely on temperature diaries from the last few hundred years… much of that time I’ll assume that the temperature was determined by Silas as he trudged through snow on the way to use his outhouse, measuring the temperature on a thermometer that he notched himself and inked with a quill pen. Something tells me Silas’ thermometer might read differently than Ezekiel’s several miles away down the unpaved road between their farms.
    Fabius Maximus replies: I strongly agree, we do not have enough data. That is perhaps the primary theme of the FM posts about Climate Science. It is nice to see someone who agrees, amidst the overconfident guessing of laypeople on both sides of the debate.

  5. I also agree about the data issue. That said, here is a nice chart from established sources showing temperature and Co2 fluctuations the past 450,000 years. Leaving aside the possible anthropogenic effects from the past couple of hundred years (or less!), this chart shows an alarming tendency, namely that once temperature peaks – and we are now at historical peaking levels – it plunges rapidly. (It is this rapid plunge that causes the Co2 to ‘lag by 800 years’.) Perhaps we should be burning MORE fossil fuels pronto!!?? See Vostok Ice Core entry at Wikipedia.

    Another thing to ponder: so-called ‘ice ages’ tend to last about ten times longer than the current warm period. Add to that axis wobbles and meteor strikes etc. and one has to wonder whether or not we will leave behind more archeological evidence than possibly billions of our ancestors before the last great ice age which perhaps wiped them out along with most of the topsoil in which any trace of them might have remained…..
    Fabius Maxmus: Wikipedia is near-useless as a source about controversial materials. I use it frequently, but never about such things. The pages on climate science are esp censored. See these articles in the National Post by Lawrence Solomon:

    * “Wikipedia’s Zealots“, 12 April 2008
    * “The Opinionator“, 3 May 2008

    Consider the Wikipedia graph. By itself it is negative knowledge, in the sense that a layman knows less after reading it than he did before. The temperature data is a reconstruction based on some proxy, something that the analyst considers to vary in response to temperature. That is usually problematic for many reasons, which a expert understands but a layperson does not.
    * There are usually other variables involved other than temperature.
    * There are errors such as change in composition of the air bubbles while in the ice, and contamination from extraction and processing.
    Some of these factors can be presented as error bars, some are unquantifiable sources of error. But this graph presents to the layman a mis-leadingly simple relationship.

  6. The above post makes me think of 2 things:
    1) Part of the reason we need to seed space with our presence is because we literally have all our eggs in one basket as a species. Just as mankind spread to other continents on Earth — as did other species and their respective evolutions — we need to do the same in space or suffer the cosmological consequences – mass extinction. Records show some previous extinctions may have only left 1-2% of life forms, mostly in the seas. That’s pretty spectacular. Some seeds locked away in a vault might be helpful, but not for a true cataclysm. Who will plant those seeds… sea cucumbers?

    2) The most interesting part of the movie “A.I.” was towards the end. It showed the earth locked up in ice, with only a few tops of skyscrapers showing above the ice and being excavated by aliens (or our future selves, whichever they were). This made me very thoughtful of the traces our civilization would leave behind. Whether a satisfactory representation or not, the thoughts it provoked were quite interesting and fun. What’s also fun to note is how perceptions change over time. In the 70’s, Earth was often portrayed as hot and dusty, vis-a-vis Planet of the Apes. Now we’re starting to see Earth portrayed as a snowball, perhaps a more accurate scenario. If I recall correctly, 10 to 1 timeframes might be even too conservative. Think more like 100 or 500 to 1.

    However, the most likely scenario is our solar system will float close to the Sco-Cen assocation within the next 40-50K years. The change in interstellar dust content will have hugely unpredictable impacts on our solar environment. Imagine the heliosphere becoming smaller, and the associated effects on the Oort cloud. Also, Sco-Cen is an epicenter for supernova explosions – one of those would simply disintegrate our atmosphere. SPF 6000 anyone?

    Perhaps, to your other point about burning more sequestered carbon, we can take some lessons from this about the economy. Burning fuels may be slowing the natural cycle of warm to cold. This gives humanity some time to react, and could ultimately be seen as a positive factor. Just as the Fed flooding the markets with liquidity is trying to soften the recession to avoid a depression, giving humanity some time to react.

    Oh the patterns within patterns within patterns!

  7. See also: The Golden Path and The Scattering (reference to Dune books).

    Oil = Spice
    Fabius Maximus replies: Dune novels after Dune I: goofy. Brand extension is usually fatal to authors’ quality of work. Ditto Asimov’s endless series of increasingly absurd robot novels.

  8. Oops, historical geology synapses are firing rapidly… Isthmus of Panama is also a good research idea.

  9. I strongly agree about Wikipedia, but we must go further. Wikipedia usually proves near-worthless as a source on subjects of serious scholarly interest, except insofar as programming and computers and the harder sciences, like physics, are concerned.

    For example, examine the Wikipedia article on Alexander Hamilton. There’s scholarly controversy about the date of his birth. Bluntly, nobody really knows exactly when it was: 2 dates are given by competing groups of scholars. Wikipedia mentions nothing of this. Likewise, study Wikipedia’s article on the Chicago School of Economics. Their nostrums were tried in Chile and produced disastrous results, which the Chicago School tried unsuccessfully to spin as a “huge success.” Wikipedia cites the spin, but not the facts about the Chilean economy’s erratic performance after Friedman’s nostrums were tried, then eventually abandoned. See here for details.

    The brutal truth about Wikipedia is that it’s a pop culture encyclopedia written by programmers and 14-year-old with too much time on their hands. Roger Ebert memorably described Wikipedia as “a reference library assembled by pack rats and vandalized nightly.” If you want to find a complete list of the episodes in the TV show The Brady Bunch or a detailed breakdown of the Jedi lightsaber fighting styles, Wikipedia’s a reliable source. However, Wikipedia’s article on the fighting styles in the manga & anime TV series Fist Of the North Star (104 K) turns out to be longer than its article on F. Scott Fitzgerald (80 K), which should tell you something about its seriousness.
    Fabius Maximus replies: Wikipedia is used extensively on this site as a basic reference for non-controversial matters. I have very seldom found errors in this kind of entries.

    As for your example, the Wikipedia entry for Alexander Hamilton has the identical reference to his birthdate as does my Britannica (Micropaedia). Both mention both dates (January 11, 1755 or 1757), neither provides more detail.

  10. That’s interesting about Wikipedia. I almost never use it myself because of the editorial process but since it was/is so often cited in this blog I thought ‘what the hell’ and posted it. I was not aware of the difficulties with the Vostok data and interpretations therefrom. Personally, I am always suspect of such long-term analysis because I am not convinced that we really can extrapolate in the here-and-now what happened back then from traces of X,Y and Z in ice and so forth because of how such materials are effected over long periods of time. Still, I believe the clearly cyclical nature of the results in that graph are worth something, since whatever data and methods they used – presuming they were applied consistently throughout the test period cited which they believe to be over 450,000 years (that could be the mistake right there of course) – produced clear cyclical behaviour. This is hardly surprising given the solar system context of our planet which features large bodies whizzing around in more or less regular trajectories. That there are long term rhythms to this is no doubt the case, whether or not we are able to discern them accurately.

    I believe the data used for the graph in question comes from analysis of Milankovich’s theories on ice age causation which have been widely regarded as helpful but this was not specifically cited in the Wikip. entry.

    The point in any case was that ‘climate change’ exists within a long-term context and until we understand that much better, it is rather hard to evaluate anthropogenic inputs.

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