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« The big EAsy | Main | Defence of the realm »

The headless chickens

Prince Charles has been sounding off about us dissenters from the climate "consensus", describing us as being like "headless chickens". It's funny to be on the end of such criticism from a man who talks to his house plants, but nobody takes his views seriously anyway, so it's easy enough to shrug off.

I was invited onto the Stephen Nolan show last night to discuss the royal views, but mercifully the conversation was more about the nuts and bolts of the climate than any of the guff emerging from Clarence House. I was up against Paul Williams, a climatologist from Reading. I had taken a quick look at Dr Williams' web page before we went on air and he looked like a real scientist rather than one of the scientivists who normally get picked for these things. This impression was confirmed in the programme itself and, with the presenter letting us bounce things off each other, I think the we produced a pretty informative segment for the listeners.

The audio file is attached.

Stephen Nolan show

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Reader Comments (156)

Lapogus: Figure 1b of Marcott et al. (2013) makes Paul Williams' claim plausible.

Feb 10, 2014 at 10:23 AM | Unregistered Commenterscepticalofsceptics

scepticalofsceptics - Except that Marcott's graph isn't plausible, especially when it comes to their uptick for 20th Century temperatures -

Marcott method

Even the authors had to admit as much post publication:

. . . the 20th century portion of our paleotemperature stack is not statistically robust, cannot be considered representative of global temperature changes . . .

Oh, and human history goes back more than 10,000 years. Which is why I mentioned the previous Eemien interglacial, which average temperatures (even in Bognor) would have been at least 2-3C warmer than they are in this interglacial.

Feb 10, 2014 at 11:40 AM | Registered Commenterlapogus

I seem to have overlooked the recent activity on this thread. But let me wade in now...

Richard Betts -
If you're going to follow William Briggs (cf. your comment of Feb 7, 2014 at 11:12 PM), presumably you will be advising the Met Office to state that "it is definitely cooler now than 15 years ago." ;-)

scepticalofsceptics -
First, "plausible" is not what Williams said; he was rather definite on the topic: "it's important to remember, of course, as well, that the last decade has been the hottest in human history."
Second, the sampling rate and smoothing of Marcott et al. make it quite impractical to state what the warmth of the hottest decade might have been several thousand years ago, from that figure.
Third, even Marcott doesn't cover the Eemian, which was, at its peak, warmer than the Holocene. According to ice cores, anyway.
That said, I think some leeway has to be given to Williams for the off-the-cuff format. I see that the Bishop has acknowledged that one of his statements was "overdone" after reflection. I suspect that Williams may feel the same here. If these were written remarks I would be more critical.

[Edit: I should have refreshed before posting. Obviously lapogus has anticipated my third point about the Eemian.]

Feb 10, 2014 at 12:30 PM | Registered CommenterHaroldW

Lapogus --

As far as I know, the journal has not issued a correction or retraction. The online version is still claiming that "current global average surface air temperature is warmer than that for all but a small fraction of the past 11,300 years".

The Holocene seems to be a reasonable definition of human history, although of course if you count Neanderthals as being human then it goes further back.

HaroldW --

Agree fully about the off-the-cuff format. Live interviews allow very little time (and sometimes no time at all!) for statements to be qualified, terms to be defined, and caveats to be discussed.

Feb 10, 2014 at 12:43 PM | Unregistered Commenterscepticalofsceptics

scepticalofsceptics -
"The Holocene seems to be a reasonable definition of human history, although of course if you count Neanderthals as being human then it goes further back."
It is perhaps pedantic, but according to Wikipedia, "genetic studies now suggest that the functional DNA of modern humans and Neanderthals diverged 500,000 years ago." "Anatomically modern humans first appear in the fossil record in Africa about 195,000 years ago." The Eemian optimum was about 125,000 years ago.

Feb 10, 2014 at 1:02 PM | Registered CommenterHaroldW

Scepticalofsceptics - of course the journal has not issued a correction or retraction - this is climate science after all. Nature behaved just as poorly with Steig 09, when it was dismembered by O'Donnell. Even the Gergis paper was not retracted, but just "put on hold" and disappeared.

Feb 11, 2014 at 10:37 AM | Registered Commenterlapogus

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