Lack of Environment

A blog on the politics and psychology underlying the denial of all our environmental problems

Esteemed Prof may regret citing College drop-out

with 28 comments

In his written submission to the US Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works earlier this week, John Christy (PhD) describes himself as the “Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science, Alabama’s State Climatologist and Director of the Earth System Science Center at The University of Alabama in Huntsville.”

However, if he is so distinguished, why does he feel it necessary to rely upon Watts et al (2012), which the esteemed Professor apparently co-authored? Whatever the extent of Christy’s actual involvement, this unpublished paper is now receiving significant constructive (but very damaging) criticism; and being disavowed by one of the other high-profile co-authors – Steve McIntyre.

In the meantime, Watts et al (2012) has somewhat-predictably been applauded as yet another “final nail in the coffin of the ‘warmist’ myth of CAGW” (i.e. catastrophic anthropogenic global warming). To the authors, it seems, this whole climate change thing is a false alarm… It is a nice idea – and I truly wish I could believe it but – it is just a shame that, in order to come anywhere remotely close to validating their wishful thinking, Watts et al (2012) had to mangle the facts so comprehensively (see criticism linked-to above)…

A similar thing appears to be happening with Christy’s testimony to the US Senate Committee: WUWT have already uploaded video footage of it; and Dr Judith Curry (editor of the infamous Climate etc. blog) has even had her views aired on the website of the Global Wonky Policy Foundation. If Curry is to be believed, Christy has supposedly told the World the truth that very few other scientists (i.e. apart from her, Pat Michaels, Roy Spencer, and Richard Lindzen) are willing to tell.

So then, what exactly did Christy say? Well, for those of you without the time or inclination to read through the 22-page document – or maybe even the 1-page summary – he makes five very familiar points: All of them being part of the creed of those who have an ideologically-prejudiced need to dispute that human activity is the primary cause of the climate disruption we are now seeing (and so far we have not even raised global average temperatures by as much as 1 Celsius).

If you are familiar with my six pillars of climate denial by now, you may not be surprised by them as by the willingness of someone like Christy to keep repeating the same old myths (listed here with mainly pre-existing rebuttals on the Skeptical Science website in brackets):
(1) Global warming is not happening (The recent ‘extremes’ were exceeded in previous decades).
(2) Computer models are unreliable (Not as much warming as models predict).
(3) Global warming is an artefact of the measurement locations (Temperature record is unreliable).
(4) Sceptics are like Galileo (Consensus reports misrepresentative of climate science).
(5) Global warming is not bad (CO2 is plant food, and CO2 limits will hurt the poor).

Steven McIntyre may have disavowed his co-authorship of Watts et al (2012) but, clearly, Christy has done the complete opposite – This is what happens when a scientist is blinded by ideology.

I was so concerned by the way in which the online release of Watts et al (2012) appeared to be a deliberate attempt to distract attention from Richard Muller’s op-ed in the New York Times that I sent an email to a few of my key contacts in the blogosphere encouraging them to debunk it. Without claiming any responsibility for it, I am therefore very glad to see that this has now happened.

I was also very concerned to read Christy’s testimony and – despite seeing that it was completely (and correctly) ignored by Suzanne Goldenberg on the website of the Guardian newspaper – am left wondering how much damage was done? Given all the other evidence the Committee heard, will Christy now be dismissed as a charlatan (or will some Republicans continue to idolise him)?

It has been suggested to me in the past that people like Lindzen and Christy should not be given “the oxygen of publicity”; but publicity is not the problem. The problem is the ease with which they are able to play mind games with our politicians… As I said to a fellow-blogger recently:
“Many of those who profess to be sceptical are, in fact, ideologically opposed to anything or anyone who seems to be telling them what they ought to do or think. This is why humanity is now in such a bind. We lack the will to change (in fact we actively resist it). This means that the most effective solution is that which is least likely ever to materialise => prescriptive legislation. McKibbin’s analogy of gay-rights needing to be promoted by evangelical preachers is therefore spot-on: We will not change voluntarily and, without a demand for change, our politicians will not impose it upon us (until the stability of our democracy is itself imperilled by the social costs of failing to prevent significant environmental deterioration).”

However, must we really wait that long? I suspect we do not have the luxury of time to wait for everyone to agree that our climate is changing. But does that mean we must adopt a laissez-faire attitude to those who peddle misinformation? Can we afford to let them make a mockery of the concept of representative democracy like this?

Bill McKibbin certainly doesn’t think so (but you need to watch to the end of this short video to find out why):

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28 Responses

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  1. Great video. Thank you Martin.

    I wonder how the next generations will judge us. Even if we manage to limit warming to 2 degrees, what will they say when they look back?


    3 August 2012 at 01:17

    • If one wants to get an idea of how future generations might view is, just imagine how we would think of the Babylonians (or anyone else for that matter), if they had done it to us. Except, of course we are much worse, because are doing a vast range of extremely destructive things to the environment in-spite of the global knowledge available from modern science.

      Rich & greedy industrialists, aided and abetted by rich & greedy politicians seem determined to FUBAR the planet’s biosphere in the quest for yet more wealth. One wonders where these unspeakable, scientifically incompetent nincompoops are expecting to spend this money? The Moon, Mars, heaven? The mind boggles.

      Future generations seem unlikely to view our generation kindly, it seems much more probable that we will be viewed most unfavourably.


      3 August 2012 at 06:56

      • Thanks for that. I agree. However, some who accept the reality of ongoing change do not. Some believe that future generations of humans will just accept what they are given; and/or accept that they would have acted the same if they had been alive in our time. Personally speaking, I find it hard to see how future generations could possibly fail to be angry with this current generation for allowing ACD to get out of control (even if simultaneously acknowledging that they might have made the same mistake).

        Martin Lack

        3 August 2012 at 07:36

    • Thanks JP – See my reply to livinginabox (above).

      Martin Lack

      3 August 2012 at 07:37

  2. Is there a place in the South of France named ‘Ignominy’?

    Will there be enough space for Christy and Lindzen to share; and for Pat Michaels to visit?

    Lionel A

    3 August 2012 at 15:26

    • Thanks Lionel. Allowing for French pronunciation, you might have been thinking of “Nomeny” (in Meurthe-et-Moselle)? :-)

      If so, yet again, RSL will be way off target (if he retires to the Mediterranean)! :-)

      Martin Lack

      3 August 2012 at 16:30

      • Yes, if he lives long enough – given up the tobacco habit, I figure RSL will discover by being in the South of France, that climate sensitivity is somewhat higher than he estimates. Is this evidence that he has brainwashed himself?

        Lionel A

        4 August 2012 at 19:51

        • Very much so, Lionel. I do not think he says things he knows are untrue. Quite the reverse, in fact, he has almost certainly convinced himself that he is right and everyone else is wrong.

          Martin Lack

          5 August 2012 at 10:42

      • And more on that climate sensitivity we have James Hansen in an Op’ Ed’ at the Wa’ Po’ (sounds a bit like bit like ‘Gunfight at the OK Corral’) Climate change is here — and worse than we thought.

        I figure RSL (& Co’) is in for a bit of a shock, remember too what happened during an earlier revolution over there.

        Lionel A

        4 August 2012 at 20:03

        • Thanks for that, Lionel. James Hansen’s article is full of wonderfully succinct analysis but, I think I will wait to see what his new paper (in the PNAS?) contains before blogging about it.

          Martin Lack

          5 August 2012 at 10:44

  3. Muller was always opportunistic; he did psychophysics when that was fashionable, then the “Nemesis” star (the invisible twin of the sun dumping comets on us periodically). Then he became a CO2 skeptic, handsomely financed by fossil fuel plutocrats (Koch brothers). So his turn around may mean that the wind is shifting in the USA.

    Many of the scientists who deny the rising CO2 curve means anything are just paid by the fossil fuel companies: watch the Nobel class warming skeptics in France, Allegre and Courtillot (they will not get the Nobel, as they are geophysicists) . They were directors of the Institut de Physique du Globe in Paris, which depends on fossil fuel funding.

    Acidification of oceans cannot be denied. Nor the rise of temperatures in ocean and soils. Neither can the parts per million of CO2 plus man made CO2 equivalent gases. That is 395 ppm from CO2 plus at least 60 ppm of CO2 equivalent gases, for a total of above 450 ppm. The long term density had been 280 ppm. Some evaluations show that Antarctica is unstable at 440 ppm.

    Massive glaciations have existed on Earth for four million years. There were none for dozens of decades before that, so we must expect a brutal shock to the entire biosphere. Differently from changes in the last 65 million years, this change is too fast for biological evolution to adapt.

    We are facing a biosphere collapse. And the holocaust that will accompany it. I was just back in Alaska, 30 years since my last visit, and was stunned that entire glaciers had completely disappeared, entirely replaced by… lakes, as far as the eye can see.

    Patrice Ayme

    5 August 2012 at 12:23

    • Thanks Patrice. When you talk of psychophysics, do you mean like the wonderful real-life story that inspired the Hollywood movie “The Men Who Stare at Goats”?

      At 450ppm eCO2, we are now well into territory the Earth has not seen since ice first started to accumulate on the continent of Antarctica 35 million years ago – when temperatures were 4 Celsius higher and sea levels 75 metres higher. Therefore, to deny that change is almost certainly unstoppable (until that new equilibrium is established) is tantamount to picking a fight with science and history; and I just don’t understand why so many are still willing to do it.

      Martin Lack

      5 August 2012 at 12:39

  4. I went to some “psychophysics” seminars… with Muller (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!). It was a poorly defined field, with some misinterpreted experiments (I thought then; confirmed since).

    Yes, we are going to be shocked into the climate of 35 million years ago, with no adaptation time.

    Patrice Ayme

    5 August 2012 at 21:57

    • Wow!… Did you ever try to kill goats or disperse clouds by staring at them; remote-view anything or anyone; walk through walls; or make yourself invisible? Did you know anyone who could do any of these things? If you have not seen the movie, get it out on DVD.

      Martin Lack

      6 August 2012 at 07:37

      • No, it was more about real optical illusions, that sort of things.

        Patrice Ayme

        6 August 2012 at 13:54

    • Particularly with this sort of thing about to hit the Arctic , linked picked up from the ‘Harbinger’ topic at Tamino’s.

      Now I wonder what would happen as the weight of ice shifts off Greenland, this paper (PDF link alert) may hold clues:

      Sutinen, Raimo, 2005. Timing of early Holocene landslides in Kittilä, Finnish Lapland.
      Geological Survey of Finland, Special Paper 40, 53–58, 6 figures.
      Northern Fennoscandia has experienced high-magnitude (>Mag 7) neotectonic fault deformations that are attributable to intra-plate glacio-isostatic rebound. According to this conceptual model, landslides have been linked to these postglacial seismic events. The age of the landslide features, however, has remained obscure. Two landslide sites (Hanhilaki and Pyhävaara) in the vicinity of the Suasselkä (-Homevaara) fault line in Kittilä, western Finnish Lapland were investigated for texture, fabric and age. The sites differed with respect to clay fraction content, but no evidence was found to indicate that clayey Tertiary weathering products to have contributed to sliding mechanisms. Fabric was either non-oriented (Pyhävaara) or preferred to slide direction (Hanhilaki), but was inconsistent with known ice-flow phases. Buried fragments of subfossil downy birch (Betula pubescens) trunks were found beneath the landslide materials at the Hanhilaki site, and the sampled wood yielded 14C-age of 8,720±170 yrs B.P. (9,730 cal B.P.) The age of Pyhävaara slide still remained unclear. The present study demonstrated that only a part of landslides in Lapland are formed in the proximity of retreating continental ice, but a substantial number of slides occurred during the next 2,000 years after the ice disappearance. Evidently the early Holocene landslides, triggered by seismic tremors, were associated with inter-seasonal soil saturation, but with snowmelt as a major contributor to sediment instability.

      Sudden changes can happen, depends on your definition of ‘sudden’, but any tectonic activity of this magnitude does not bode well.

      Lionel A

      6 August 2012 at 12:24

      • I was considering the above in the context of what surprises may lie within Greenland I have just used GeoMapApp to obtain this profile of Greenland. More interesting topography than many realize. Could be interesting to combine such as this example with geological sections, where any of the latter are known that is. Now, to create some shorter sections and across Greenland NW-SE…

        Lionel A

        6 August 2012 at 12:52

        • Note also that the ‘…postglacial Stuoragurra Fault, North Norway…’ is aligned NE-SW as shown here and described here

          Lionel A

          6 August 2012 at 13:11

        • Lionel, what has this to do with Patrice’s psychophysics?

          Martin Lack

          6 August 2012 at 15:21

  5. It seems that Gavin at RealClimate is distinctly underwhelmed by last weeks antics WRT Muller let alone Watts. Gavin also has a stinging comment justifiably aimed at John Christy:

    Senate hearings are one of the longest running games of political theatre going…This week’s was little different from the ones in the past – some earnest submissions from the mainstream, and a cherry-pickers delight of misinformation from the Republican invitee, John Christy, who even quoted the woefully inept first draft of the Watts paper as if it meant something.

    Lionel A

    6 August 2012 at 12:08

    • Thanks Lionel. Some interesting commentary noted. I especially liked this from someone called skywatcher:
      Watts doesn’t exactly have a reputation for accepting constructive critcism. This is the man who said he’d accept Muller’s BEST conclusions, “even if they proved his premise wrong”. This is someone who claims his station analysis results are right and everyone else is wrong, even to the level of suggesting that the people recording the times of observation were writing the wrong times in their logs! This is not, evidently, someone who is amenable to rational explanation or constructive criticism.

      Martin Lack

      6 August 2012 at 15:39

  6. My excursion into effects of Arctic ice melt was in response to this from Patrice:

    Yes, we are going to be shocked into the climate of 35 million years ago, with no adaptation time.

    It isn’t always easy to add a response directly under for some reason, for example there is no Reply link in your query on this point.

    Lionel A

    6 August 2012 at 16:14

    • OK, Sorry, my mistake… If there is no Reply link appended to the comment you wish to respond to, scroll up to find the last comment that has one. (Only 3 nested tiers of comments are permitted).

      Martin Lack

      6 August 2012 at 16:28

  7. Lionel A

    7 August 2012 at 12:24

    • Thanks Lionel. I had an email from Dana Nuccitelli a few days ago telling me this was on its way; but thanks for letting me know it is now published…

      Martin Lack

      7 August 2012 at 12:31

  8. I have been watching Christy’s testimony, with a bucket at hand because of reflexes induced by that Sessions Christy introduction (well done Boxer for raising the over hype flag there) and Inhofe’s raising of that Zombie of 1970s Ice Age reporting. I was beginning to wonder where Christy was hiding his six-guns, spurs and Stetson for that wasn’t a scientist speaking but a cowboy. Evasive or what when being later quizzed by Boxer Christy certainly looked uncomfortable – good so he should.

    It is worth watching the committee session video for the perspective comparison of Christy with Christopher B Field and James J McCarthy.

    Inhofe on the Perkin’s, [oops Inhofe's mistake], Brookings Institute before launching into a mumble about Roger Pielke on Muller and then Mann’s describing Muller’s ‘Self Aggrandisement’ using quotes from the New York Times. It seems that Inhofe was unhappy about these assessments – good. Inhofe should be made more unhappy by being described as an enemy of the people and a faux patriot given this article.

    Lionel A

    7 August 2012 at 19:12

    • Thanks for the links Lionel. This is what I am interested in – given the conflicting evidence presented by other witnesses – are the politicians left confused or are the capable of seeing Christy for what he is…?

      Martin Lack

      7 August 2012 at 19:30

  9. [...] John Christy, and then James Hansen (all of which have been covered on this blog recently – here, here, and here), I decided to try once more to see if there is any scope for having a rational [...]

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