Beyond The Second Law

In Search of Pseudoscience

Get Your Story Straight

Posted by beyondthesecondlaw on September 24, 2007

It’s a hard life when you are a lone crusader, fighting the Global Conspiracy that is masterminded by the Scientific Establishment. Getting your hands on facts supporting your cause is difficult (of course this is because this type of research is suppressed by the aforementioned Establishment, plus Liberals, Communists etc). But if you are going to name sources, best to check that they actually DO agree with your viewpoint!

Al Gore has been in Melbourne this week, doing the usual round of glad-handing and schmoozing of business types. This is all too much for Andrew Bolt, who is a (pretty right-wing) journo and media pundit here in Australia, on Rupert Murdoch’s News International payroll and also famous for being a climate change denialist.

Not surprisingly for a man employed by the Dirty Digger, he doesn’t like Al Gore who is at once Democrat and pro-environment. So Andrew offered up some questions (in the Herald Sun newspaper) that he would like to ask Mr Gore, had he been given an invite.

This man is no stranger to baseless invective, and his questions all follow a similar theme. It’s a pity that the climate change denialists have been asking the same questions for so long though, you might have thought they would think up some new ones! Of course Fred Singer gets a mention, plus he makes the usual straw man arguments on how hypocritical Gore may or may not be for flying to Australia rather than swimming. However my favourite bit comes in his first and most important question:

Question 1: Mr Gore, isn’t it true that three of the four scientific bodies, which take the globe’s temperature—including your own National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration—say there’s been no warming since 1998? That’s not what you’ve predicted, is it?

Our first query might be: “Are you sure there are only 4 bodies ‘taking the globe’s temperature’?” I reckon there’s probably 40 or even 400 of them with some sort of monitoring and research going on. 3 out of 4 sounds better though – cherry pick 3 that fit your viewpoint and there you go. Of course it might be better if they actually DO agree with your viewpoint. Two of them aren’t even named, so we can’t check the facts, but the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) data in fact disagrees:

This indicates a clear warming, their position on this matter being summarised here:

Surface temperatures in most parts of the world have risen since the beginning of the 20th century. The increases have been observed through measurements taken at thousands of land surface stations and on ocean surfaces by ships, buoys, floats, and in the past 25 to 30 years by satellites. Although surface temperature measurements are not the only indicators that the Earth has warmed*, this record provides important information on the rate of change and the variability that has occurred during the past century.

Elsewhere in the site this 100-year climate history snapshot provides the NOAA’s opinion why this is happening:

Have swelling populations and human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels lead to warmer temperatures and global warming? Research shows that global temperatures have in fact risen by .6 degrees Celsius over the past 100 years and the National Academy of Sciences indicate that the increase is due in large part to human activity. (See Whitehouse briefing from June 11, 2001.) According Mann et. Al, 1999, the 20th century warming counters a millennial-scale cooling trend which is consistent with long-term astronomical forcing.

If that wasn’t bad enough, Mr Bolt’s favourite climate data group also had something to say on his second assertion, namely:

Question 2: Mr Gore, Your poster for An Inconvenient Truth starred a hurricane, presumably Hurricane Katrina, and you claimed warming would give us worse and more of them. In fact, there have been so few hurricanes in the Atlantic since then that US hurricane insurance premiums this year fell 20 per cent.

Alas insurance premiums are not a generally accepted measure of climatic events, so instead we can turn to the NOAA’s Extreme Weather and Climate Events report from 2006, where the data appears to contradict Mr Bolt’s assertion on hurricane trends:

The recent average (1995-2005) seasonal activity in the North Atlantic basin is 13 named storms, 7.7 hurricanes and 3.6 major hurricanes. These values represent an increase over the average of the preceding 25 years (1970-1994) of 8.6 named storms, 5 hurricanes and 1.5 major hurricanes.

The rest of his questions can be debunked by anyone with 20 minutes access to Google – a pity he couldn’t find the time to check out his own sources!

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