MINISTER for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, Greg Combet, believes in anthropogenic global warming. Send him a request asking he justify this belief and the reply is likely to be long and full of appeals to authority:
“There is clear evidence that our climate is changing, largely due to anthropogenic greenhouse gases. The Fourth Assessment Report, produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2007, states that global warming is ‘unequivocal’ and ‘most of the observed increase in globally-averaged temperatures since the mid-20th Century is very likely due to the observed increase in greenhouse gas concentrations’.
There are multiple lines of evidence in the report showing that the earth’s climate system is warming. These include increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global average sea level. The report represents the international consensus on climate change science in literature that has been extensively peer-reviewed and published in scientific journals. The report can be found at: www.ipcc.ch/ .
These IPCC conclusions have been further supported by recent reports that provide updated assessments of climate change science. The Australian Academy of Science published ‘The Science of Climate Change: Questions and Answers’ in August 2010, explaining how human activities are influencing climate, and providing an overview of the present state of climate change science. The report can be found online at: www.science.org.au/reports/ClimateChange2010-highres.pdf
In addition, the US National Academy of Sciences released the report ‘Advancing the Science of Climate Change’ in May 2010, which concludes that “Climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for—and in many cases is already affecting – a broad range of human and natural systems”. It is available at: http//americasclimatechoices.org/panelscience.shtml .
In September 2010 The Royal Society (UK) released ‘Climate Change: A summary of the science’, which concludes that, “There is strong evidence that changes in greenhouse gas concentrations due to human activity are the dominant cause of the global warming that has taken place over the last half century.”
In March 2010 Australia’s premier climate research agencies, the CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology, produced a snapshot of Australia’s climate over the past 100 years, available at: http://csiro.au/resources/StateoftheClimate.html . The snapshot notes that all of Australia has experienced warming over the past 50 years with the mean temperature rising by 0.7C since 1960.
[You claim] that 97 percent of the scientific community does not support the theory of climate change science. Recent research (published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science) has found that 97-98 per cent of the most actively publishing climate researchers support the tenets of climate change as outlined by the IPCC 2007 Fourth Assessment report. The research also found that the relative climate expertise and scientific prominence of the researchers who are unconvinced of human induced climate change is substantially below that of those who support the IPCC.
The robustness of climate change science is underpinned by the peer review process. Peer review is the process of allowing science to be reviewed prior to its acceptance for publication by peers in the field who judge the competence, significance and originality of the research. These scientists then challenge or support these results with peer-reviewed articles of their own and over time a consensus builds around the observations that explain the science most successfully. Without a peer review system publication of research findings would be arbitrary and more easily influenced by personal, social or political agendas.
The consensus within the mainstream science community is that climate change is real, currently being observed and will have significant future impacts if no action is taken to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.
Thank you for bringing [your] concerns to my attention.
Yours sincerely, Greg Combet
[End of letter sent to one of Mr Combet’s skeptical constitutents on November 19, 2010]
Anthony Cox, Secretary of the Climate Sceptics Party, penned the following response:
“Combet has written a superficially clever letter. It justifies by exclusion; the mechanisms of exclusion are authority and consensus; validity is thus defined by designation from above and from ‘below’ by group acceptance of the authoritative pronouncements. This is a closed loop with each part of the loop vindicating the other; the loop is an attempt to create a priori knowledge by reliance on the authoritative source and the group acceptance. People who do not accept the authority or who are not part of the group acceptance have no validity and are at best ignorant of the knowledge of the ‘loop’.
The ‘loop’ is profoundly unscientific because it ignores Richard Feynman’s maxim of scientific proof:
The exception proves that the rule is wrong. That is the principle of science. If there is an exception to any rule, and if it can be proved by observation, that rule is wrong.
As I will show each of Combet’s examples of authority and consensus are contradicted by observed exceptions and his justification for the government’s measures to combat AGW is therefore flawed.
Paragraphs 2 and 3 of the letter refer to the ultimate source of authority, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPPC] and its 4th report, AR4. There are 2 key points from AR4 relied upon by Combet. The first is the standard of certainty of the IPPC’s conclusions about AGW: that “most of the observed increase in globally averaged temperatures since the mid 20thCentury is very likely due to the observed increase in greenhouse gas concentrations.”
The IPPC’s standards of certainty were recently audited and found deficient by the InterAcademy of Science [IAC]. The IAC found that these standards were inappropriate and exaggerated. In an article co-authored by David Stockwell and myself the implications of the IAC’s findings were examined:
The salient point about the IAC’s findings is that if the IPPC’s standards of certainty are wrong then that means the scientific basis of those standards is problematic: if “mid-20th Century” warming is NOT “very likely” due to “the observed increase in greenhouse gas concentrations” then the basis of AGW is compromised.
The IAC is an internationally recognised source of scientific expertise. For Combet to ignore its findings shows that he is either getting bad advice or ignoring good.
Combet’s second IPPC key point is his assertion that AR4 uses “climate change literature that has been extensively peer-reviewed and published in scientific journals”. Combet also reiterates the prominence of the peer review system in creating the “robustness” of the “climate change science” in the second last paragraph of his letter. His reliance on the peer review system generally and in particular its use in AR4 is ill-informed. For instance, the science sources in AR4 have been audited:
The audit found that 21 of AR4’s 44 chapters had 59% or less of their official sources non peer-reviewed; in many of those instances organisations such as Greenpeace or the WWF were the source. Overall no chapter of AR4 had their scientific sources entirely peer-reviewed and the high concentration of references from groups with a green ideology means that the scientific credibility of AR4 was severely diminished.
The idea that AR4 represents a consensus of scientific opinion has also been found to be flawed. In the crucial chapter 9 of AR4 from which Combet extracts his first key point that “mid-20th Century” warming is “very likely” due to “the observed increase in greenhouse gas concentrations” the number of contributing scientists is crucial. Claims of up to 2500 scientists supporting this statement have been made. A detailed analysis of these claims has been made by Tom Harris and John McLean:
[A more detailed analysis by John McLean is here:http://scienceandpublicpolicy.org/images/stories/papers/originals/McLean_IPCC_bias.pdf]
Harris and McLean note that only 5 independent scientific reviewers contributed to the vital chapter 9.
Dr’s Hulme and Mahoney from the University of East Anglia also reject the idea of a mass consensus supporting AGW, describing any such claim as disingenuous:
The Hulme and Mahoney disavowal was particularly appropriate since the e-mail scandal was based on the CRU unit at East Anglia. The e-mails demonstrate that the peer-review system extolled by Combet is a deeply flawed system with active and hostile interference of scientific dissent by prominent pro-AGW scientists. A full discussion of the efforts to censor this dissent is in Dr John Costella’s review of the e-mails:
Combet in his 4th paragraph claims that other reports support AR4. He refers to the Australian Academy of Science [ACS] August 2010 report. The report is well credentialed with the usual who’s who of Australian AGW involved, David Karoly, Matthew England, Michael Bird, Mike Raupach, Steven Sherwood and Kurt Lambeck doing the introduction. Despite this blue blood of AGW science the first information page features striking errors:
Box 1 for instance asserts:
“However, evidence going back up to 20 centuries does not show changes in global temperature resembling those that have taken place in the last 100 years1-3”
The references for this are of course Briffa and Mann. This is reprehensible. The recent McShane and Wyner paper has comprehensively contradicted the Mann and Briffa hockey sticks:
Nor is there any mention of the Wegman report which revealed the deep flaws in Mann’s study and the controversy about Mann’s data and methodology. These are egregious oversights.
The errors continue with a reference to Arrhenius’s experiment:
“The response of the climate system to human causation was foreseen by scientists more than a century ago 4”
Arrhenius was a genuine scientist, but his so called proof of the influence of “carbonic acid” or CO2 was wrong in several profound ways. Firstly, he confused radiative loss with convective loss because he believed the glass container was impermeable to radiation. Arrhenius also did not understand that CO2 did not transmit radiation but in fact absorbs and reemits it for no net gain. Arrhenius’s experiment to test CO2’s heating properties used radiation limited to 9.7 microns, which is the wavelength at which water vapour is active, and at 100°C; he was unaware that CO2’s active thermal spectrum is at 14.77 microns and that radiation at such temperature is not representative of Earth’s radiative spectrum.
This mistake with Arrhenius is compounded with a further error by ACS’s report in Box 2; there it is declared that water vapour is responsible for about ½ of the greenhouse effect. This is a basic mistake and contradicts the research and conclusions of premier climate scientists.
Ramanathan and Coakley, in their 1978 research, show that water vapour has 2 ½ times the greenhouse effect that CO2 has. Their results show the relative greenhouse values of the greenhouse gases by the ‘simple’ technique of measuring the variation in radiation leaving the Earth when the various gases are removed:
As can be seen if water vapor is taken out there is a 25% increase in the radiation. And if we take out CO2 it is a 9% effect. Since the greenhouse effect of the other gases is negligible water vapor is not ½ of the greenhouse effect but nearly 75%. Professor Lindzen puts the greenhouse effect of water vapor and clouds at 98%:
The issue of water vapour is absolutely essential to AGW. The ACS shows this in Figure 1.1 with feedbacks from increasing water vapor amplifying the initial warming from CO2. This problematic feedback has been seriously challenged by a recent paper written by one of Australia’s and the world’s leading climate scientists, Garth Paltridge. Paltridge’s paper is based on thousands of radiosonde measurements of water vapour taken since 1958 by NOAA. Paltridge found water vapour had declined at mid to high atmospheric levels:
AGW has hit back at Paltridge in the form a new Dessler paper which contradicts Paltridge’s findings:
Paltridge’s reply to Dessler and an analysis of Dessler’s paper has been done by Jo Nova:
There are then, two crucial aspects of the Paltridge/Dessler debate which have been ignored by the ACS report. The first and most obvious is that there is a debate. There is no mention in the ACS report about the basic contradiction between Dessler and Paltridge.
The second aspect is that there has been recent research which tends to support Paltridge. If Dessler is right and more water vapour is occurring at the mid levels of the atmosphere then this would support a fundamental prediction of AGW, the Tropical Hot Spot [THS]. AGW says that with CO2 induced warming extra water will be evaporated, especially in the Tropics, with a rapid warming produced in the mid levels of the atmosphere due to the presence of the extra water vapour [see Figure 9.1(c) AR4]. This would create a THS.
Whether a THS exists or not has been subject to intense debate; this debate now seems to have resolved against the THS with the publication of a paper by McKitrick, McIntyre and Herman:
McKitrick et al show that the models are wrong and that there has been no temperature increase consistent with a THS. This is a groundbreaking paper published in a top climate science journal but the ACS has not referred to it. Not only does McKitrick’s paper remove one of the tenets of AGW but it gives support to a strong argument against another tenet in the form of Paltridge’s work.
Combet then refers in his 5th paragraph to the US National Academy of Sciences. This report is a farrago and a source for the erroneous AGW claim that the indices of AGW are worsening.
This is readily contradicted by a cursory examination of the NOAA report issued a month later. The NOAA report examines 7 indicators of AGW and presents them graphically. Six of the indicators show decreases since either 1998 or 2003 while the 7th indicator, sea levels, shows a declining rate of increase since 2003:
Despite this spokespersons for Combet and indeed Combet himself continue to claim that AGW is worsening. Yet the evidence is plain that this is not true.
In his 6th paragraph Combet refers to The Royal Society report. This report has been strongly critiqued by Dr Goklany:
As Dr Goklany notes The Royal Society report basically relies on IPCC conclusions without even referring to some of the provisos contained in AR4. In short it is a “me too” charade.
Combet completes his list of supporting reports with reference to CSIRO and BoM’s State of the Climate report [SOC]. Combet says:
“The snapshot notes that all of Australia has experienced warming over the past 50 years with the mean temperature rising by 0.7C since 1960.”
This is a misrepresentation. In an exhaustive analysis Ken Stewart shows that all temperature records in Australia have been adjusted upwards by as much as 0.4C:
For a summary of this analysis see http://joannenova.com.au/2010/09/australian-temperatures-in-cities-adjusted-up-by-70/
Many of the particular site locations which are used to calculate state and national records have shown, in their raw, unadjusted data, declines in temperature over the 20thC.
Basically the SOC has not used all the data at its disposal, which in climate science terms, means they have cherry-picked data to get their results. This is particularly obvious with the SOC pronouncements about rainfall declining in Australia during the 20thC which was based on data only from 1960! David Stockwell examines the faults with the SOC here:
Combet winds up his letter with a reference in the 3rd last paragraph to “recent research” finding “that 97-98 per cent of the most actively publishing researchers support the tenets of climate change as outlined” by AR4 and have more “relative climate expertise and scientific prominence” than sceptics. This is a dreadful statement. It relies on this paper by Anderegg, Prall, Harold and Schneider:
At one level Schneider’s ‘result’ is inevitable for reasons described by Stockwell and Cox [ibid] in response to a demand by Clive Hamilton to restrict AGW sceptics’ access to publication at the ABC to a ratio of 39:1 in favour of pro-AGW articles:
“Hamilton’s ratio is based on a consensus-proving, peer reviewed paper co-authored by Stephen Schneider. This paper lines up scientists into good and bad or “climate deniers”. The first great flaw with this paper and the consensus generally is that it ignores the vastly disproportionate funding of science which is predicated on AGW being real compared with the pittance provided to sceptics. Educational institutions, government departments and official science bodies like the EPA, IPCC and CSIRO have concentrated their research, publications and training on the basis AGW is real. AGW has become the Zeitgeist and the consensus idea is part of the truth creation of that prevailing mood rather than a reflection of scientific validity which is independent of social context”
More generally, however, the consensus and authority arguments are the antithesis of scientific endeavour as enunciated by Richard Feynman. The system which Combet relies on to provide his authority and consensus is riven with faults and corruption; it is undermining the integrity of science. It will take a brave man to question the direction of the AGW debate.
Combet, who lives by the ocean, is obviously not such a man.
First published at the Climate Sceptic’s blogspot, republished here with permission: http://theclimatescepticsparty.blogspot.com/2011/01/youre-so-wrong-wrong-greg-youre-so.html