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When scientists take to the streets it’s time to listen up

CLEARING UP THE CLIMATE DEBATE: Dr Michael Brown exposes the tactics used by purveyors of “non-science” to attack climate change research. It takes a lot to get scientists out of their offices and marching…

Scientists have begun to make more noise about climate change. afagen/flickr

CLEARING UP THE CLIMATE DEBATE: Dr Michael Brown exposes the tactics used by purveyors of “non-science” to attack climate change research.

It takes a lot to get scientists out of their offices and marching on Parliament.

But in recent weeks that’s exactly what some of Australia’s top researchers have taken to doing.

Former Governor of Victoria and scientist David de Kretser brought an open letter to Parliament House last week and just today the Federation of Australian Science and Technological Societies (FASTS) has launched its Respect the Science campaign from the same location.

The Federation claims that attacks on climate scientists are “undermining the national building work of all scientists.”

The Conversation has also hosted an open letter from dozens of concerned scientists trying to get the message across that human-induced climate change is a real threat.

So what is it that has got our science community so riled up?

It might be something to do with the death threats many climate scientists have been receiving. CEO of FASTS Anna Maria Arabia was on the wrong end of one just this morning.

But for many, it’s simply the tactics of “the other side” of the climate change debate that has spurred on their public demonstrations.

When the forces of non-science are this strong, it’s time for scientists to respond.

Cherries and missing ingredients

Those denying the science of climate change present arguments that appear scientific, with measurements, theories, statistics and jargon.

But many of those denying anthropogenic climate change are not truly doing science.

Science tries to provide the simplest explanation for a wealth of measurements in the natural world.

Non-science, on the other hand, cherry-picks evidence. A classic example is only plotting a few years of temperature records, rather than the past 150 years.

When non-science tries to describe all the observations, it requires contrived explanations as it attempts to avoid the simplest scientific explanation. Ian Plimer invokes underwater volcanoes to increase atmospheric carbon dioxide, but the numbers required are vast compared to the actual number of volcanoes.

Purveyors of non-science charge that thousands of scientists are ignorant of basic science.

This would be shocking, if it were not patently false.

A central claim of climate change denial is that the physics of thermodynamics is in conflict with climate models. Even a quick Google search reveals that this claim has been refuted many times.

So why is this false claim continually repeated?

I can only speculate. Perhaps it is now a negative political catchphrase, which is repeated often so it can be confused with truth.

Practitioners of non-science loudly proclaim that climate models cannot be trusted, as they are missing key components.

When subjected to scrutiny, these supposed key ingredients are often speculative and not backed by robust evidence. To include speculative theories in climate models would only make the models less trustworthy, not more so.

The medium, message and messenger

The practitioners of non-science claim peer review is used to enforce groupthink. This is not the case.

Most scientists review as thoroughly and impartially as possible because peer review is central to the health of science.

Many scientists will recall reviewing papers where they doubted the conclusions but accepted the paper, as there were no obvious flaws in the method, data and theory used.

Both sides of the climate debate communicate to the public via the media, and this is at the crux of recent activism on the part of Australian scientists.

Science uses media to communicate results from science journals to the public and policy makers. Non-science uses the media as its principal means of communicating its conclusions. But often, both get equal play.

Press releases, popular articles, books, letters, websites and think tank reports do not undergo peer review. Conclusions may not be backed up by sound methodology, accurate data and appropriate use of theories.

Personal attacks, rhetorical flourishes, witticisms and point scoring make good copy, but do not alter the basic science.

If the media is the only means being used to present supposed scientific results, there are good reasons to be suspicious.

Letters signed by esteemed scientists can highlight that an issue is important. But there are millions of scientists, so it is not surprising each side can muster hundreds of signatories.

Think tanks are often present in the climate debate, but these organisations are often ideologically driven and associated with particular political beliefs.

At best, think tanks present science that is consistent with their political beliefs. At worst, think tanks commission reports and books that are politically motivated non-science.

A sceptical view of think tanks is probably better justified than a sceptical view of climate science.

It’s all a mistake

Non-science claims science is not to be trusted.

To back this claim they provide examples of where there have been paradigm shifts in science; relativity, dinosaur extinction, plate tectonics and the causes of ulcers.

But there are stark differences between these paradigm shifts and the current climate debate.

When paradigm shifts have occurred, often the evidence for the prevailing theory had been weak.

Paradigm shifts have also been accompanied by robust evidence contrary to the prevailing theory. For example, relativity was preceded by precision measurements of the constant speed of light.

In contrast, those denying climate change only use weak evidence.

Classic non-science evidence includes plots where temperature appears to vary along with something other than carbon dioxide. Such plots can be suspect.

If one generates large numbers of plots, one can find apparent correlations between two unrelated quantities.

For example, the increasing number of HIV infections has been accompanied by an increasing number of personal computers. Only a fool would suggest one directly causes the other.

In contrast to randomly generating plots, climate science makes predictions for the relationship between carbon dioxide levels, air temperature and sea level rise.

Observations are then used to test these predictions and significant discrepancies are always investigated.

This is how good science is done.

If it takes a march to the halls of government to highlight the different between good science and non-science, then that is what the scientific community must do.

Acknowledgement: I was inspired to write this article by the discussion threads that follow climate change articles in “The Conversation”, where many of the tactics of non-science are on display.

This is the seventh part of our series Clearing up the Climate Debate. To read the other instalments, follow the links below:

Join the conversation

65 Comments sorted by

  1. Douglas Cotton

    B.Sc.(Physics), B.A.(Econ), Dip.Bus.Admin

    I'd like to know who "those denying climate change" are. Of course the climate changes and is, at present, following a long term (900 year) well-established trend (dating back to Roman times) which is currently increasing at the rate of about half a degree per century but is ;likely to start declining within 200 years because it had its minimum in the Little Ice Age.

    The problem has been that there is also a planet-influenced 60 year cycle (superimposed on this long term trend) which was ignored by the IPCC in their simplistic (and invalid) application of a random linear trend to cyclic data.

    Before anyone argues about this, please read my detailed summary at http://earth-climate.com and the linked items, because I will only respond to appropriate comment on the actual material contained therein - such as real data which shows a level trend in temperatures from 2003 to this month, June 2011 and a cooling of the oceans since about 2004.. .

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    1. Douglas Cotton

      B.Sc.(Physics), B.A.(Econ), Dip.Bus.Admin

      In reply to Paul Richards

      I totally agree the CO2 itself increased. Of course it did with increasing industrialisation. But it wasn't the cause of temperature increases - the planets caused these - find out how on my site.

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    2. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to Douglas Cotton

      Can I suggest that The Conversation strengthen its moderation policies. Mr Cotton is a crank who has cut and paste the above on a number of climate change discussion threads. It was patiently rebutted the first time he posted but he continues to post the same nonsense virtually word for word. He is an attention seeking conspiracy theorist who is looking for traffic for his web site. Spam filters were invented for this purpose.

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    3. Douglas Cotton

      B.Sc.(Physics), B.A.(Econ), Dip.Bus.Admin

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      Yes good idea Mike - censor anyone with opposing views - especially when you don't have any explanation for the levelling of temperatures from 2003 to the present - and probably continuing further away from the IPCC projections until at least 2020. Come back in 10 years when it ain't any hotter!

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    4. Michael J. I. Brown

      ARC Future Fellow and Senior Lecturer at Monash University

      In reply to Douglas Cotton

      While it is clear from the context of the discussion that I am discussing the science/non-science of anthropomorphic climate change, I will see if the article can be modified to address this concern.

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    5. Paul Douglas Fullerton

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      I absolutely agree. Cotton and Hendrickx, are no more than trolls whose sole aim is to disrupt meaningful and intelligent discussion of a really serious scientific and public policy issue. They have no scientific credibility and their contributions do not belong here.

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    6. Michael J. I. Brown

      ARC Future Fellow and Senior Lecturer at Monash University

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      I don't completely agree with Mike Hansen, as Douglas Cotton's frequent posts and website unintentionally buttress several key points of my article.

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  2. Marc Hendrickx

    Geologist

    Once again we apply the Ove Hoegh-Guldberg credibility test to see if Michael J.I. Brown has any credibility in climate science. Let's see how many peer reviewed papers in climate science has Michael J.I. Brown ? Let's run Michael's name through Ove's credibility machine, the Gold standard for collecting and collating peer-reviewed scientific information,Thomson Reuters Institute for Scientific Information, and see how many times that this climate science ‘expert’ has published on climate change…

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    1. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to Marc Hendrickx

      You are being disingenuous Marc. Ove Hoegh-Gulberg's point stands. If the case against AGW is so strong why don't we see that case being prosecuted in peer-reviewed climate science journals.

      No amount of point scoring from you will change that.

      Dr Gavin Schmidt from NASA nailed it when he wrote "None of the seemingly important ‘conflicts’ that are *perceived* in the science are ‘conflicts’ in any real sense within the scientific community, rather they are proxy arguments for political positions."

      That is why the climate change deniers prefer right wing blogs and magazines like Quadrant to present their views. No pesky requirements to back up your views with facts or science.

      Feel free to claim as Bob Carter did in 2008 "There IS a problem with global warming... it stopped in 1998". This was a claim that was repeated ad nauseum by Andrew Bolt's Orc army up until recently. Still got that crate of Cooper's Ale ... like to put it on that claim?

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    2. Michael J. I. Brown

      ARC Future Fellow and Senior Lecturer at Monash University

      In reply to Marc Hendrickx

      I was expecting this criticism.

      I am an astrophysicist. I am not a climate scientist and I have never claimed to be a climate scientist.

      However, the focus of the article is methods of science and non-science (or anti-science), rather than the details of climate science.

      As professional scientist, I can comment on the scientific method, peer review and the use of the media by scientists. It is very clear to many scientists when non-science tries to masquerade as real science. Cherry picking…

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    3. Douglas Cotton

      B.Sc.(Physics), B.A.(Econ), Dip.Bus.Admin

      In reply to Michael J. I. Brown

      Michael: These are genuine questions to you regarding the 60 year cycle. At least I've had enough statistics to recognise good correlation and I believe the plots in this http://www.appinsys.com/globalwarming/SixtyYearCycle.htm do demonstrate the validity of the 60 year (maybe 62 year) cycle. I suggest that it doesn't really matter if we can't as yet be confident of a physical explanation. The main issue is confirming that the data demonstrates its validity.

      Q.1: Can you confirm if the maxima do coincide with the Jupiter Saturn resonance orbit, based on the latest maximum around 1998 to 2002? (This does coincide with a maximum in the variance of the temperature data against the long-term trend.)

      Q.2: Also, what is your opinion of the match of the overlay of the two periods 62 years apart as shown in the linked site?

      Others may respond to the second question with any genuine opinions regarding these plots.

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    4. James Szabadics

      BSc

      In reply to Michael J. I. Brown

      I'd be interested to hear your opinion on this work published in the Journal of Geophysical Research in 2008 which seems to independantly verify using a different measurement technique the Svensmark cloud/albedo links to late 20th century warming. Is this science?

      http://bbso.njit.edu/Research/EarthShine/literature/Palle_etal_2008_JGR.pdf

      What about the work of scientists at Aarhus University - does this qualify as science? It demonstrates a mechanism of cloud seeding using high energy particles…

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    5. Marc Hendrickx

      Geologist

      In reply to Michael J. I. Brown

      So, Michael, where is your comment on the Scafetta model in the peer reviewed literature?
      I searched but did not find, perhaps you can point to a peer reviewed source, or is this just an example of what Ove called rhetoric?

      In case you forgot here's what Ove said of Peer review: "This is a critical process that sorts opinion and rhetoric from scientific knowledge and consensus."

      The double standards revealed here are quite revealing.

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    6. Michael J. I. Brown

      ARC Future Fellow and Senior Lecturer at Monash University

      In reply to Marc Hendrickx

      Describing the Scafetta paper as speculative is completely consistent with what is already in the literature.

      The speculative nature of the Scafetta model is made reasonably clear by the paper itself, which is freely available from http://arxiv.org/abs/1005.4639.

      For a start, Scafetta clearly describes the model as phenomenological. In other words, this is a case of fitting data to other data rather than testing the robust predictions of a particular theory.

      The physical mechanisms that could…

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    7. Marc Hendrickx

      Geologist

      In reply to Michael J. I. Brown

      Did that reference to wikipedia pass the muster of the climate scientists who proof read your article?

      As Ove points out this is all rhetoric. If you think it's a crap paper put your views into print and lets see what the verdict is in the peer reviewed press, and you better make sure you reference more that Wiki!.

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    8. Marc Hendrickx

      Geologist

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      Hey Mike, should I take Michael J.I. Brown's lead and quote from Wiki-see below. And this in an article that was proof read by climate scientists.

      By the way I don't bet on the weather. If you'd like to make a wager on the climate let me know, I'll include it into my will so my great great grandkids can collect (in which case, best be a bottle of something that will last the distance)

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    9. Douglas Cotton

      B.Sc.(Physics), B.A.(Econ), Dip.Bus.Admin

      In reply to Michael J. I. Brown

      Scafetta is not the only one to have discovered and confirmed the 60 year cycle. How it is explained physically does not concern me. Mathematical statistical analysis of the data confirms its existence - as any statistician could confirm. Maths doesn't lie.

      Furthermore, application of the 60 year cycle predicted the current decline in temperatures below the (slightly) increasing long term trend.

      The IPCC model did not predict such and, in fact, can be mathematically disproved by its failure to do so due to the statistically significant variance now being observed.

      It will take a few more years perhaps before this is widely accepted - that will be because of the resistance of the 97% with closed minds and (perhaps more likely) fixed agendas and vested interests in the status quo and their own reputations.

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    10. James Szabadics

      BSc

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      Warming implies a positive temperature trend. What is the temperature trend from 1998 - this will be the answer to the question "has it warmed since 1998".

      If we look at KNMI climate explorer we can obtain the monthly global average temperature data from January 1998 to April 2011 from Hadley climate research centre.

      data here
      http://climexp.knmi.nl/dat2dos.cgi?data/ihadcrut3_gl.dat

      Quick X-Y scatter plot and add trendline. You will be pleased to know that it has warmed since 1998 because…

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  3. John Mashey

    Semi-retired computer scientist/corporate executive

    Michael:
    I disagree with your article ... but only on term "non-science," which in this case could be more precisely described as climate anti-science.

    Stanford science historian Robert Proctor uses "agnotology" for study of the creation of ignorance in general, fo which this is a specific case, closely related to medical anti-science practiced by the tobacco industry.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agnotology

    See PDF @ http://www.desmogblog.com/crescendo-climategate-cacophony,. p.7 for discussion of science, pseudoscience, science-noise, and anti-science, of which the latter 3 are forms of non-science. See what you think. I came to this via writing articles for Skeptical Inquirer, which most debunks pseudoscience and whose editor was stunned at the reaction to a straightforward science article on the greenhouse effect, as he had not really encountered such a strong anti-science effort before.

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    1. Grant Burfield

      Dr

      In reply to John Mashey

      At last! Thank goodness. Jean Nicot's law finally enters the debate. I was fearful we might miss out.

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  4. James Harrison

    Postgraduate student at Monash University

    Douglas and Marc: This article relates to the problems of non-science using the current debate on climate change as an example. You both seem to be commenting off-topic.

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  5. Barry Calderbank

    logged in via Facebook

    Yes, the debate over climate science can be won on the facts and the debate over carbon pricing can be won by rational economics. Why GetUp ever thought we needed celebrities to run the public debate instead of scientists and others who actually know their stuff escapes me.

    Don't just talk up the case, Michael. SHOUT !

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    1. Emma Anderson

      Artist and Science Junkie

      In reply to Barry Calderbank

      There was an episode of Futurama recently that your comment reminds me of, I think it was called Decision 3012. Forget about who is who in that zoo, the main point was that a forward thinking and poorly funded candidate attempted to present rational, evidence based arguments but people found it too dry and boring to listen to. But when the candidate hired a passionate PR manager (Leela) she was able to 'translate' his message so that people understood it. It worked and he got lots of people onside…

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  6. Ken Sekiya

    logged in via Twitter

    (Speaking strictly to "defend' the more actively sceptic scientific community)

    At times, when looking at published reports and websites, its hard to point the finger and claim them as "Cherry-picking" or "Non-science"

    Both of them make a claim that there was motive of intentionally suggesting a bias interpretation of data, and only picking data that defends the argument of the writer.

    What I DO believe that this issue represents is the difficulty of accessing and considering of data and other…

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    1. M Hains

      Phd

      In reply to Ken Sekiya

      Hers is a sample of your scientific argument:
      “It might be something to do with the death threats many climate scientists have been receiving.”

      Just plain wrong. These so called death threats were not death threats at all, uncivil and course language yes, death threats no. Just read the daily emails that journalists like Miranda Devine and Andrew Bolt or Sarah Palin get every day if you want to see real death threats. Those unnamed academics sure live a sheltered life if they view those comments…

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    2. Douglas Cotton

      B.Sc.(Physics), B.A.(Econ), Dip.Bus.Admin

      In reply to M Hains

      Well said. The carbon tax in Australia will mean that the total volume of GHG in the atmosphere can be multiplied by 0.999998. There is no valid proof that, even if the whole developed world did likewise (take out a couple of those 9's at the most) that it would have any effect on temperature. Even if the IPCC were right in assuming we have an ever-increasing temperature trend and that putting the brakes on CO2 will also put the brakes on temperature, it would presumably only delay the advent of any temperature record by a similar minute proportion on the time scale. But of course I don't agree with the IPCC trend - just wanted those who do to think of the consequences.

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    3. Michael J. I. Brown

      ARC Future Fellow and Senior Lecturer at Monash University

      In reply to M Hains

      Some of the death threats are provided at http://blogs.crikey.com.au/rooted/2011/06/07/emails-reveal-nature-of-attacks-on-climate-scientists/.

      To be fair, many of the emails listed here are merely highly charged torrents of abuse.

      Regarding the actual death threats, it is clear that the intention is to intimidate via the threat of violence. We cannot know if the sender actually has intent to follow through on this.

      The fact that conservative politicians and newspaper columnists also receive such threats is also a crime. It does assist anyone in discussing the important matters of our time.

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    4. James Harrison

      Postgraduate student at Monash University

      In reply to Douglas Cotton

      Doug, please clarify for me. Above you say that the IPCC assumes that "we have an ever-increasing temperature trend".

      I can take from this that you think that they think temperatures are ever increaing?

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    5. Kip Hansen

      Retired IT Professional, Humanitarian Missionary

      In reply to Michael J. I. Brown

      Dear Mr. Brown: Whenever there is controversy, it attracts the mentally unstable, who attach themselves to one side or the other, and engage in anti-social behaviors like sending 'death-threat emails' to prominent players.

      The world seems to have a rather short memory -- it was only a year or two ago that the 'death threats and climate science' issue referred to death threats sent to CAGW skeptics! Including published opinions that skeptics should be brought before International Courts for their…

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  7. Michael J. Biercuk

    Senior Lecturer in the School of Physics at University of Sydney

    Good luck Michael - it's a tough crowd.

    For those "in opposition" to the position of this author, I'll state something I've said on other threads on theconversation;

    Submit your alternate theories to peer-review. That is the only way to influence scientific debate and win the respect of practicing scientists. If you're right, your theories will prevail and the community will change its mind.

    If you don't believe this, just look at the case of <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sch%C3%B6n_scandal">Hendrik Schoen</a>, a scientist who faked several years worth of data. He had many many admirers in the community and published extensively. But peer review eventually drove him out of science as his work was demonstrated to be fraudulent. It didn't happen instantly, but Schoen's exposure clearly showed that the scientific community values fact and truth above all.

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    1. Marc Hendrickx

      Geologist

      In reply to Michael J. Biercuk

      Seems a similar fate is brewing for the authors of certain Hockey Stick papers and IPCC reports.

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    2. Douglas Cotton

      B.Sc.(Physics), B.A.(Econ), Dip.Bus.Admin

      In reply to Michael J. Biercuk

      This is not a theory: it's a question which I would like anyone to answer based on peer reviewed climate models.

      Firstly, satisfy yourself through the satellite data at sea surface level that there has been a level, if not declining trend in temperatures from the beginning of 2003 until the present. Click http://climate4you.com/GlobalTemperatures.htm and select "Recent Global Satellite Temperature" Then tick required year(s) and select "Sea Surface" in the combobox whereupon you should see a screen…

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    3. Harrison McIntosh

      Head of Mathematics Department

      In reply to Michael J. Biercuk

      I contest that peer review is what ultimately wins. Follow the money...too many peer reviewed journal articles show that financial conflicts of interest for scientists misrepresent findings, even when the potential outcome is death. Plainly evident in the medical field, but I dare say, in this field too. Do governments provide funding for any scientist or organisation to challenge/question the prevailing groupthink?

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  8. John McLean

    logged in via email @connexus.net.au

    This article is just silly. It accuses others of distortion and of cherry-picking data but it does exactly the same thing.

    "It might be something to do with the death threats many climate scientists have been receiving. CEO of FASTS Anna Maria Arabia was on the wrong end of one just this morning." Oh really? Check Sydney's Daily Telegraph, as quoted by Tim Blair and Andrew Bolt a few days after this report. It was just overblown hype, referring to one verbal death threat at a social function…

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    1. Michael J. Biercuk

      Senior Lecturer in the School of Physics at University of Sydney

      In reply to John McLean

      This is most certainly NOT a forum for discussion of "the facts." That is a proper function of the peer-reviewed literature. In fact, the reliance on open websites for discussion rather than technical literature is a hallmark of so-called "Deniers" who refuse (for reasons I do not understand) to participate in proper technical evaluation of their ideas.

      This particular column is about those who deliberately ignore or misrepresent reality even when their positions have been repeatedly debunked by the technical community.

      Your technical arguments belie the problem. Perhaps as a part of your PhD you should write up your concerns and submit them to a peer-reviewed technical journal.

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    2. Douglas Cotton

      B.Sc.(Physics), B.A.(Econ), Dip.Bus.Admin

      In reply to John McLean

      Well said John. I'm still waiting for anyone to explain the current level (or slightly declining) trend since January 2003 by any other means than the 60 year cycle. See my questions above, and also my post on today's article.

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    3. John McLean

      logged in via email @connexus.net.au

      In reply to Michael J. Biercuk

      Why don't you just answer my questions about the errors in your article, Michael, rather resort to what seems a common ploy by article posters in this forum, attempting to divert to other matters?

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    4. John McLean

      logged in via email @connexus.net.au

      In reply to Douglas Cotton

      Douglas, do you recall the Climategate email in which Kevin Trenberth said it was a travesty that climate scientists couldn't explain the recent absence of warming?

      It looks like the travesty is continuing. Worse, those who one might turn to for an explanation not just don't have one but try to demand that they should be respected. It's shaping up as the best joke of 2011, and it's had some very tough competition in the climate claims stakes.

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    5. Douglas Cotton

      B.Sc.(Physics), B.A.(Econ), Dip.Bus.Admin

      In reply to John McLean

      Agreed John. It's predictable. I really can't be bothered with this forum any more. I'm too busy writing to newspapers, politicians etc and setting up links to today's "Media Release" at http://earth-climate.com/home.html - It's members of the public we need to reach before panic sets in worldwide. This must be the biggest deception in world history. I've been finding so many groups etc on FaceBook with thousands of members talking about Global Warming as if the Earth were coming to an end. Frankly, it's criminal and I think the "scientific community" owes the world an urgent huge apology. At least they could tell them the good news that warming has ceased for a few years. For anyone who hasn't seen the plot - compare June 2010 to June 2011 with full year 2003 which was slightly warmer! http://earth-climate.com/2003-2011.jpg

      Over and out.

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  9. Andrew Barratt

    Firefighter

    Good on you Michael. I'm no scientist, I'm just an ordinary middle aged Australian with kids and not far off grand kids. I'm grateful for this informative web site and truthful, accurate articles about this most important issue. I don't read the threads any more as the entertainment value of the crap that the many trolls dish out has long worn off. Keep up the good work Michael, you and your colleagues have never been more important to us. I can't remember a time with more vile and socially harmful politics, hopefully with more education we can mitigate the damage we have caused and our kids won't look back with revulsion at our time on earth.

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    1. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Andrew Barratt

      Andrew - it's a joy to hear from another everyday person who's bothered to familiarise himself with the evidence, to the extent that a layperson honestly can, and applied some common sense to the situation to arrive at clear, plain truth.
      However, I think we should also thank Douglas Cotton, Marc Hendrickx, James Szabadics and John McClean for their huge role in clarifying the state of the debate. I had presumed that, on such a high quality website, we would hear from some genuine sceptics who might…

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  10. Michael J. I. Brown

    ARC Future Fellow and Senior Lecturer at Monash University

    A number of comments in the above discussion thread reiterate key points of my article (e.g., random plotting, cherry picking, point scoring). However, there are a number of other strategies on display that are worth discussing.

    One is scattershot demands of the scientists in question. Even when these demands are met, they generally result in a new series of demands (often mere variations of the previous demands). Taxpayers and businesses pay scientists to do real science, not continually answer…

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    1. William Raper

      Retired

      In reply to Michael J. I. Brown

      As a retired Research Scientist, I am sick of reading replies from those who do not have long experience in or even work in the field of Climate Science at all. Personally, I am amazed that anyone with a modicum of common sense would ignore the conclusions of some 97% of such experts.

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    2. Douglas Cotton

      B.Sc.(Physics), B.A.(Econ), Dip.Bus.Admin

      In reply to William Raper

      We don't ignore them. We study the source papers and compare with our own statistical evaluation of raw data (which now is available for world temperatures right up to yesterday) and we question in a proper scientific fashion, based on statistically established variance from IPCC projected trends (which anyone with a few years of statistics behind them can do direct from the data) and we think: "Why is it so?" with an appropriate scientific mind which, above all, is open not closed - like those of your 97%.

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    3. James Szabadics

      BSc

      In reply to Michael J. I. Brown

      I havent seen anybody here arguing that CO2 isn't a GHG.

      There are some critical comments about climate models ability to model past climate variations. These questions seem reasonable.

      I am critical of the sweeping non-specific generalisations used in this article and grouping of anybody that asks a legitimate question into some imaginary category of person that doesn't believe that CO2 is a GHG. Lack of respect for science is what this demonstrates.

      If specific logical questions are asked and not even attempted to be answered or debated or the subsequent answer is a ranting diversion then you can interpret this a few ways.

      a) they dont like the answer
      b) they dont know the answer
      c) they dont care about the science enough to attempt provide an answer because it is simply an emotional pulpit lecture exercise.

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    4. Douglas Cotton

      B.Sc.(Physics), B.A.(Econ), Dip.Bus.Admin

      In reply to James Szabadics

      Well said James (fellow B.Sc I note)

      I still have no reply to my challenge to Michael and others about 21 hours ago. Any answers anyone? If not, I take it you accept my points.

      Oh well, I'll just keep applying mathematical statistics direct to the data. That way I don't need any peer review because maths doesn't lie.

      It's a pity we don't see a bit more of it actually used, especially when trends are broken in such an obvious way. They had better keep away from the stock market if they don't understand such!

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    5. James Harrison

      Postgraduate student at Monash University

      In reply to Douglas Cotton

      As another "fellow BSc", I cannot believe your complete lack of respect for the scientific process, fellow scientists, and science in general.

      Furthermore, comments like the one above, "I don't need any peer review", and insulting the scientific community at large by saying the vast majority have closed minds only serves to weaken your credibility and the credibility of your position.

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    6. Douglas Cotton

      B.Sc.(Physics), B.A.(Econ), Dip.Bus.Admin

      In reply to James Harrison

      No I don't need peer review to check my reading of a temperature plot like this http://earth-climate.com/2003-2011.jpg or my drawing of a trend line from 1 January 2003 to 17 June 2011.

      As for closed minds, I challenge you to read all the dozens of posts here (not only from myself but others like James Szabadics) and see if anyone has shown an open mind towards the information put forward.

      Has anyone looked at the temperature decline below the long-term trend and displayed an open mind about…

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    7. James Harrison

      Postgraduate student at Monash University

      In reply to Douglas Cotton

      You'll be happy to know that this morning I looked over your website for the third time. Three times is, I hope, enough for you. I hold a BSC and admit I am far from understanding the depth and complexity of the many facets of climate science.

      But here are some of the fundamental problems I have with your arguments.

      You've repeatedly stated both on your website and on The Conversation that the physical mechanism of the 60 year cycle "may not yet be fully understood", but this "doesn't concern…

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  11. Michael J. I. Brown

    ARC Future Fellow and Senior Lecturer at Monash University

    Given the nature of "conversation" on the internet, one may imagine that many of the people posting to this discussion are marginal figures in the Australian climate change debate. This is not always the case.

    A quick web search for the relevant name plus climate reveals other contributions to the debate.

    For example, John Mclean is a member of the "Australian Climate Science Coalition", which includes Bob Carter and Ian Plimer. He has also contributed articles to "Quadrant" and "The Australian…

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    1. James Szabadics

      BSc

      In reply to Michael J. I. Brown

      Why only discuss the "tactics"?

      Dont we want the science to be the focus of the debate so that scientific misconceptions can be cleared up? The science is the interesting part in a scientific debate!

      Any so called scientist (definition - one engaging in a systematic activity to acquire knowledge) that pretends they are knowlegable but then says that the answer to ANY technical question is "it has been addressed elsewhere by others" is going to lose some scientific credibility.

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    2. James Harrison

      Postgraduate student at Monash University

      In reply to James Szabadics

      I believe Michael's point is that the original piece was on the tactics of non-science, therefore he will only discuss such in this thread.

      Your second point is unreasonable. When a question has already been addressed, why answer it again? If we repeatedly answered questions that have already been addressed where would we find the time for progress?

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    3. Michael J. I. Brown

      ARC Future Fellow and Senior Lecturer at Monash University

      In reply to James Szabadics

      I have addressed many technical questions in the discussion following the first article in this series (http://theconversation.edu.au/climate-change-is-real-an-open-letter-from-the-scientific-community-1808). Readers can view this discussion, and determine if I am avoiding answering technical questions or James Szabadics musings on the motivations of scientists have merit.

      Professional scientists at universities or labs can typically devote about 5% of their time to public outreach. Perhaps 10-15…

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    4. James Szabadics

      BSc

      In reply to Michael J. I. Brown

      I appreciate the response.

      The article should have mentioned that there ARE real scientists who are undertaking real research into other additional (rather than completely alternative) explanations for observed climate change.

      I was shocked to read that you believe that a cloud does not attenuate light from the sun reaching the earth. When you said " "this implies a reduction in net sunlight reaching Earth", is in conflict with direct measures of the luminosity of the Sun" I think you are confused…

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    5. Michael J. I. Brown

      ARC Future Fellow and Senior Lecturer at Monash University

      In reply to James Szabadics

      Don't be shocked. This is an issue of semantics. Given my background in astronomy, I distinguish between Earth (surface & atmosphere) and Earth's surface. They have written the former while perhaps meaning the latter. As I noted in my message, I only had time to skim the paper. That said, it is true that precision measures of Earthshine remain extremely difficult.

      Also, it is still the case that Svensmark's theories have yet to be consistently verified by multiple independent groups and consequently…

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    6. James Szabadics

      BSc

      In reply to Michael J. I. Brown

      Indeed public outreach is a commitment and will take considerable time, time which may be in short supply. I will go for days sometimes wiothout looking at or commenting on anything. I only use my 5 minute coffee or lunch breaks or mostly late at night in my personal time to contribute to forums. I think this reflects in the number of typos I generate!

      I would say though that time taken to carefully respond to erroneous claims by plimer or others is time well spent because if it is a convincing…

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    7. Harrison McIntosh

      Head of Mathematics Department

      In reply to Michael J. I. Brown

      It seems to me that there are many people who are vastly more qalified in climate science who disagree with you. It may be a minority view, but nevertheless, I'd hardly agree that they are perveyors of non-science. I can point to many strawman arguements and personal attacks by pro-AGW advocates. I ask how this article actually contributes to any constructive progress?

      The fact that over 1000 scientists have presented to the US Senate inquiry critisizing the IPCC and it's predictions and fear-mongering should cause pause in your rhetoric.

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    8. Michael J. I. Brown

      ARC Future Fellow and Senior Lecturer at Monash University

      In reply to Michael J. I. Brown

      The vast majority of the 1,000 scientists mentioned in Harrison McIntosh's comment are not climate scientists. Given how many scientists there are world wide, it is not hard to find 100 or 1000 who agree with a particular cause (this is highlighted by "Project Steve").

      The overwhelming majority of research active climate scientists have concluded AGW is real.

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  12. Michael J. I. Brown

    ARC Future Fellow and Senior Lecturer at Monash University

    One area of the climate debate that is very controversial is the use of freedom of information (FOI) requests.

    Is FOI being used to get important information into the public arena? Or is FOI being used to apply an administrative and cost overhead on science institutions that already have heavy workloads? One purpose satisfies a very legitimate public need while the other would stifle debate (i.e., stop talking, it costs us too much).

    This is controversial and achieving an appropriate balance…

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  13. Robert Gavin

    logged in via Facebook

    An excellent article. I admire your patience and dogged determination on this Michael - many a good scientist would have given up by this stage!

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  14. John Coochey

    Mr

    Just a minute, you condemn the use of short term temperature changes but other articles in this series say the recent temperatures show global warming. Which is it? In any case Brazil China and India have locked the US President out of discussions, literally. Russia Japan and Canada have refused to sign let alone implement Kyoto 2 Tim Flannery is on record saying if all human activity ceases it will take a thousand years for temperatures to decline but Andy Pittman says only twenty to thirty! Ian Chubb the Chiefs Scientist was asked the same question and replied quote "I do not have a clue, not a clue!" so if science cannot tell us that how can it tell us with any credibility what much more minor restrictions will result in?

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    1. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to John Coochey

      Just to round out the series of articles on climate change denial, we have a illustrative example of the climate denier in action.

      The only place on the web where the claim about Flannery, Andy Pitman and Ian Chubb appeared together is here

      http://blogs.news.com.au/heraldsun/andrewbolt/index.php/heraldsun/comments/the_chief_scientist_is_horrified_that_deceits_are_nailed

      on Andrew Bolt's blog. Notice the mis-spelling of Pitman's name - "Pittman" in John's post as it was mis-spelled in Bolt's blog…

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