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« Silencing your critics | Main | Barry, Tamsin and Peter G »
Thursday
Feb022012

Nobel laureate on temperatures

Revkin posts what I have to say is an astonishingly fatuous letter from Nobel laureate Burton Richter in response to the letter of the 16 in the Wall Street Journal.

Armed with my own Nobel Medal, I say if you can read a graph, the evidence is indeed incontrovertible because the temperature has gone up. The Physical Society is right, he is wrong, and I can’t understand why he complains about the temperature rise issue when there is more to discuss on the second question; who is the villain?

This is what is known in the trade as a straw man. Nobody is arguing that temperatures have not gone up, including the 16 signatories of the Wall Street Journal letter. Somehow one expects that Nobel laureates would be able to string together a logical argument (or at least that the winners of scientific Nobels would be able to do so).

The 16 scientists note only that temperature hasn't risen for over ten years. This is inconsistent with a world warming at 2 degrees per century and is surprising in view of the increases in greenhouse gases we have seen over the same period.

Let me say it again: the question is not whether temperatures have risen or whether mankind has affected the climate. Temperatures have always risen and fallen and mankind has always affected the climate. The question is whether we have a problem on our hands. The poor performance of the climate models suggests that the problem is much less than we have been led to believe.

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Reader Comments (75)

Al Gore, the IPCC; Paul Krugman; Barack Obama; Yasser Arafat.

I am not so convinced by Nobel Prizes as once I might have been.

Feb 3, 2012 at 1:33 AM | Unregistered CommenterDoubting Rich

Richter on Youtube here

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T0UiqV0kTPU

He seems very sure about the "Greenhouse effect"

Feb 3, 2012 at 1:37 AM | Unregistered Commenterandy scrase

I think they should investigate Richters Nobel, like they are doing with the Peace Prize.

http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=D9SKP0E00

But he does fit the moonbat criteria as the following quote shows.

"Geir Lundestad, the nonvoting secretary of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, dismissed Heffermehl's claims.

"Fighting climate change is definitely closely related to fraternity between nations. It even concerns the survival of some states," he told AP

Feb 3, 2012 at 2:15 AM | Unregistered CommenterBruce

You appear to be failing reading comprehension.

"The evidence is incontrovertible: Global warming is occurring."

(note the colon and the full stop). "Incontrovertible" is being applied to the fact of global warming, something you agree is indeed, incontrovertible.

"If no mitigating actions are taken, significant disruptions in the Earth's physical and ecological systems, social systems, security and human health are likely to occur."

This is a statement of likelihood, so cannot possibly be 'incontrovertible" in the same sense as the fact of global warming. Indeed, it isn't even a very strong statement.

"We must reduce emissions of greenhouse gases beginning now."

This is clearly a statement of policy, driven by the likelihood of significant disruption, and (implicitly) a value statement that such disruption would be a bad thing.

GW clearly exists, only the most deluded of sceptics thinks that AGW does not, and nothing in this statement has anything to do with catastophism - unless you think that doing anything about something you do not want to happen automatically implies that it would be catastrophic if you didn't.

"The evidence is incontrovertible: My teeth have decayed over the last 10 years. If no mitigating actions are taken, significant disruptions in the enamel and gums are likely to occur. I must start brushing my teeth beginning now."

What a terrible statement - I should resign from the American Dentist association immediately!

Feb 3, 2012 at 3:04 AM | Unregistered CommenterFrank

" the question is not whether temperatures have risen or whether mankind has affected the climate [but] whether we have a problem on our hands. "

Another good question is "What do you mean 'we', Kemo Sabe?" That is if it must be stipulated for the discussion that the severe problem exists, does it necessarily follow that nation-states must --can only -- subsume themselves into a world-collective authority in order to addresss that problem? Or is it possible that market or federal or national-competitions might not be better?

Feb 3, 2012 at 3:24 AM | Unregistered Commenterpouncer

Surely the logical steps in the CAGW camp are clear:

1) We must reduce emissions of greenhouse gases beginning now and decarbonise the developed world's economies.

2) So, we must state that significant disruptions in the Earth's physical and ecological systems, social systems, security and human health are likely to occur, if no mitigating actions are taken.

3) And we must state than man's emissions of greenhouse gases are to blame for the above.

4) We must state that temperatures are continuing to rise.

Feb 3, 2012 at 4:29 AM | Unregistered CommenterRick Bradford

Bish; "Land-use - clearing forests with stone axes - affected the climate."

Climate is an average of weather over 10 years.

But at what point does a local area become big enough to be a climate? It seems that climate has a definition of time only, with no reference to an affected area. This itself seems rather deceptive when we argue about averages over a global scale, while at the same time agreeing with climate on a micro scale. I think we need another word in here so that micro climate does not equal an averaged value of micro climates over the globe (which seems to often be believed itself to be a climate).

Feb 3, 2012 at 5:25 AM | Unregistered CommenterGreg Cavanagh

I remember Burton Richter and Samuel Ting as a schoolkid, reading about their discovery of the psi meson, in the New Scientist of all places. It seemed pretty exciting at the time.

I don't know if it's me getting older and more cynical, or the nature of science that has changed, but the gloss has definitely gone off the game for me.

On the day that my son had his first day at secondary school, having his first science lesson there, I find that a bit sad.

Feb 3, 2012 at 5:30 AM | Unregistered Commenterandy scrase

Yes, indeed, who is the villain? Not so fatuous on that part.
===================

Feb 3, 2012 at 5:38 AM | Unregistered Commenterkim

"The evidence is incontrovertible: Global warming is occurring."

(note the colon and the full stop). "Incontrovertible" is being applied to the fact of global warming, something you agree is indeed, incontrovertible.

"If no mitigating actions are taken, significant disruptions in the Earth's physical and ecological systems, social systems, security and human health are likely to occur."

This is a statement of likelihood, so cannot possibly be 'incontrovertible" in the same sense as the fact of global warming. Indeed, it isn't even a very strong statement.

"We must reduce emissions of greenhouse gases beginning now."

This is clearly a statement of policy, driven by the likelihood of significant disruption, and (implicitly) a value statement that such disruption would be a bad thing.


The statement at best is confusing. It could be interpreted as follows:


 

The evidence is incontrovertible:

Global warming is occurring.(and)
If no mitigating actions are taken, significant disruptions in the Earth's physical and ecological systems, social systems, security and human health are likely to occur.(and)
We must reduce emissions of greenhouse gases beginning now.(end)


This is how the authors intended it to be read, with incontrovertible being implicitly applied to the entire paragraph. If not, the the successive sentences have no logical relationship to each other.

Incontrovertible evidence is synonymous for established fact. That the world is factually warming offers no incontrovertible or any other kind of evidence that the next two statements are true. Those two statements are opinions, not facts. As a scientific body, it should clearly distinguish fact from opinion and science from editorial. This statement, as constructed, conflates all of these things, intentionally or shoddily.

As written, it is either nonsensical because items two and three are non sequitur, or it is intentionally deceptive. Either way, it amounts to dogma, not science and has no place as a proclamation by an allegedly scientific body regarding a scientific inquiry that is still underway but far from resolved to any meaningful degree.

Feb 3, 2012 at 5:43 AM | Unregistered CommenterMarc

Another NYT article so well appreciated by big money.

Why didn't Revkin ask Nobel Laureate and real climate expert Al Gore for a qualified opinion ?

Feb 3, 2012 at 5:43 AM | Unregistered CommenterMarkus

Markus, I'm sure I wasn't the only one to receive the following 'chain email' in the last 24 hours:

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: zzzzzz
Date: 2 February 2012 16:39
Subject: Fwd: Remember this woman


Irena Sendler

Died: May 12, 2008 (aged 98)

Warsaw, Poland


During WWII, Irena, got permission to work in the Warsaw ghetto, as a Plumbing/Sewer specialist. She had an ulterior motive.


Irena smuggled Jewish infants out in the bottom of the tool box she carried. She also carried a burlap sack in the back of her truck, for larger kids.


Irena kept a dog in the back that she trained to bark when the Nazi soldiers let her in and out of the
ghetto. The soldiers, of course, wanted nothing to do with the dog and the barking covered the kids/infants noises.


During her time of doing this, she managed to smuggle out and save 2500 kids/infants.


Ultimately, she was caught, however, and the Nazi's broke both of her legs and arms and beat her severely.


Irena kept a record of the names of all the kids she had smuggled out, in a glass jar that she buried under a tree in her back yard. After the war, she tried to locate any parents that may have survived and tried to reunite the family. Most had been gassed. Those kids she helped got placed into foster family homes or adopted.


In 2007 Irena was up for the Nobel Peace Prize. She was not selected. Al Gore won, for a slide show on Global Warming.

There are more important things than Nobel prizes. "Don't put your trust in princes."

Feb 3, 2012 at 7:02 AM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

"...unless you think that doing anything about something you do not want to happen automatically implies that it would be catastrophic if you didn't."

Why wouldn't we want a warmer world if there is no downside? Why would we want to drive up the energy prices in every country in the world, causing fuel poverty ? Why would we turn over huge tracts of land formerly used to produce food causing world food prices to rise and food poverty if there was no downside?

Frank, you're definitely not ZDB, but you seem to have the same modus operandi. You appear to not have the remotest clue what the debate is about, so enter the fray with inane comments designed to stir up feelings. Well you are on a site which has had the dreaded ZDB for a number of years. This is the last time I'll respond to you until you can argue the science.

Feb 3, 2012 at 7:25 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

Richard Drake, I've just sent the Nobel Peace Prize committee her life story and told them how they should be ashamed to have given the peace prize to a failed US politician whose sole achievement was a film riddled with scientific inaccuracies and untruths. At least I've made my feelings known to them, maybe there are enough of us out there to shame them into apologising, and for Gore to give his Nobel Prize back, I for one would be ashamed to have been selected over this woman, maybe we can shame the shameless one when he gets back from the Antarctic. Funny he never worries about his carbon footprint.

Feb 3, 2012 at 7:43 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

"Armed with my own Nobel Medal ..."

Al Gore already has one of those and, moreover, has proved that humans can affect the weather by what is now known as "the Gore Effect."

Feb 3, 2012 at 7:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

"The evidence is incontrovertible: My teeth have decayed over the last 10 years."

ll these human analogies are attempting to appropriate the role of "Doctor" to the planet. The role is not justified by actual ability - no climate scientist can intervene in a positive useful way and make the patient feel better but they claim to be able make the patient live longer only if we accept their regime.

We should be treating the wielders of these analogies with the contempt we would offer the medieval mercury and leach wielding quacks of old if they tried it on today.

Feb 3, 2012 at 8:01 AM | Unregistered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

There once was a laureate named Richter
Who issued an obiter dicta:
That I am be-medalled
Means the science is settled
I can tell by one glance at the picture

Feb 3, 2012 at 8:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterHilary Ostrov

Hilary

Hilarious!

Feb 3, 2012 at 8:56 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

@ Frank Feb 3, 2012 at 3:04 AM

"The evidence is incontrovertible: Global warming is occurring."

See, there's a problem right there. It has occurred several times in the tiny slice of time for which records exists, but so too has cooling, and so has flatlining.So, er, so what?

"If no mitigating actions are taken, significant disruptions in the Earth's physical and ecological systems, social systems, security and human health are likely to occur."

You could say all the same things by removing the word "no" and inverting the sense. If the mitigating actions consist of raising taxes by trillions and squandering the proceeds, then clearly significant disruption is not just likely but absolutely certain to occur. All that clean water people won't drink; all that R & D that won't happen.

"We must reduce emissions of greenhouse gases beginning now."

I can't think why, since there is no observed correlation between human CO2 emissions, atmospheric CO2, and temperature change. There's a bit of hypothesis and flimflam, but no actual facts. If I add a teaspoon of water per second to my bath, then in theory it will eventually overflow, but not if the plug isn't in, for example. CO2 - same thing. Works in theory, not shown to work in any world-scale data.

The entire train of "thought" is thus simply a series of leftist assertions that are eminently disagreeable-with. If the entire supposed human contribution of CO2 to the atmosphere were to disappear, it would make a difference too small to be measured. The consequences to human wellbeing of deliberately retarding economic growth are, in contrast, a lot less unclear.

The precautionary principle must apply; you don't squander trillions unless you're sure of a return.

Feb 3, 2012 at 9:35 AM | Unregistered CommenterJustice4Rinka

GW clearly exists, only the most deluded of sceptics thinks that AGW does not
Tut. Changing definitions in mid-sentence and so blatantly kind of undermines your argument, Frank.
As Andrew said: GW: yes; AGW, maybe; CAGW: probably not.
We can all agree on the GW bit except for the last 10 years or so (or there was that 1940-1970 spell, of course) but the evidence for AGW, at least separate from mankind's long-term effects on the climate, is starting to look a bit threadbare, and I am still waiting for any sort of reliable evidence that the scaremongering about potential catastrophes has any basis in reality.

Feb 3, 2012 at 11:11 AM | Unregistered CommenterMike Jackson

If you think this is bad, just wait and see what'll happen if there's another decade without warming. It will all be hugely enjoyable!

Feb 3, 2012 at 2:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterFirkin

The longer the missing heat stays hidden, the worse it will be when it finally jumps out at us all-at-once. There, now we can keep the scare/scam going indefinitely.

Feb 3, 2012 at 8:44 PM | Unregistered Commenterdadgervais

"AGW: probably a little" ??

"AGW, possibly". (more appropriate - anything is possible)

Urban Heat Islands are obviously brought about by man's activities, and can increase the temperature several degrees. This is very likely the biggest impact by man, but it's local, not global, because this impact quickly dissipate. The surrounding rural area temperatures invariably show no sign. Also, the urban areas represent a miniscule part of the planet's surface area. (Take away 71% for oceans, and then there are the basically uninhabited areas - deserts, jungles, forests, mountain ranges, the Arctic, Antarctic, etc.)

Feb 3, 2012 at 10:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterGoFigure

geronimo on Irena Sendler and Al Gore:

I for one would be ashamed to have been selected over this woman, maybe we can shame the shameless one when he gets back from the Antarctic.

I think Gore and Nobel committee already know - in which case it can fairly be said that they denied Irena Sendler a Peace Prize. And Sendler was the very antithesis of a Holocaust denier when it really mattered - she chose not only to face the truth of what was being perpetrated in her homeland but to be assigned to the Warsaw ghetto to save all the infants she could.

Is anyone listening when we say that to be accused by Al Gore and his friends of being 'like Holocaust deniers' is one of the most disgusting things that has ever been said about us or to us in our whole lives? And I say that to honour Irena Sendler and those like her, as the Nobel peaceniks should most certainly have done.

Feb 4, 2012 at 8:11 AM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

Re "mankind has always affected the climate"
To some extent, probably so. And perhaps more than most would credit.
We are presently well past the time by which the current interglacial might be expected to end, based on past patterns. About 2000 years past.
.
I've seen it argued that the changes caused by the spread of the Roman Empire may have been enough to prevent the then imminent onset of the next ice age. I don't have the reference to that, and I don't recall how well based and/or peer reviewed it was, but I recall it as being a serious thesis. Given the current difficulty in finding the AGW "signal" in the noise and our still minimal mastery of the only "model" that counts, we are no more justified in rejecting the prospect of human intervention causing subtle but important change than we are of proclaiming CAGW as a fact.

Prudent avoidance suggests that we ALL should be working together to refine our understandings of how the system really works, rather than continuing to hurl brick-bats, as at present.
But, we all know that already :-).

Mar 1, 2012 at 11:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterRussell McMahon

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