Friday, October 01, 2010

Various degrees of misinformation

EoR imagines that the hosts of Radio National's contrarian show Counterpoint turn the airconditioning temperature down every time they enter the studio, just to prove the falsity of global warming. This week they featured Aynsley Kellow (Professor, School of Government, University of Tasmania), who has previously appeared on their show, to discuss the great scam that is the IPCC's faking of science.

EoR will leave it to his readers to spot all the ad hominens in this short segment (clue: look for the usual suspects such as Greenpeace, Michael Mann, Rajendra Pachauri, and every lead author for the IPCC except one), but there are a few highlights worthy of note.

There is this tendency to dismiss any critic as being a denier which has politicised and made difficult the conduct of decent critical scientific discussion, critical policy discussion that you either accept the prevailing view of things or you get labelled a denier.

Professor Kellow provides a false dichotomy here. Scientists can disagree with the prevailing view of things and publish findings in the relevant literature. Those labelled deniers tend to be believers in a number of contradictory viewpoints at the same time (global warming isn't happening and it's the sun that's causing it anyway), or who have a distinct preference for cherry picking select data. In fact, it's the deniers that have politicised the 'decent critical scientific discussion'.

I've now got a rule of thumb that anyone who uses the word 'denier' should immediately not be listened to because they're not talking about science.

Well, that's certainly maintaining an open mind, avoiding all ad hominens, and carefully avoiding any prejudicial conclusions, unlike those evil scientists who are so closed minded about debate.

You should institutionalise dissent and have a kind of B Team — empanel a group of people who are sceptically minded, who want to take issue with this science and from that process of course policy makers would end up with a less clear message but probably a more accurate message.

This seems a loopy idea, and is even more politicising since it's effectively a call to include deniers on any panel. EoR fails to see how the message could then become 'less clear' (which is precisely what the right wing funders of this disinformation want) and 'more accurate' at the same time. And does Professor Kellow also support the inclusion of creationists to clarify the contentious issue of evolution? Anti-vaccinionsts to clarify and make 'more accurate' the contentious issue of vaccines? Homeopaths on any medical funding issue?

Professor Kellow also berates previous IPCC chair Bob Watson for informing the media after the third IPCC report in a blatantly alarmist manner that future warming over a hundred years would be 6.1 degrees,

all based on the assumption that if we frighten the children the horses will, you know, take better action somehow than if we have a more mature assessment.

EoR has no idea what that phrase means, and suspects Professor Kellow was making it up as he went along (and it's also another ad hominen failing to address the actual claim).

Professor Kellow states MIT reported that the 6.1 degree warming had only a 1% likelihood, and claims that Bob Watson was therefore misrepresenting the science for political ends (something deniers understand very well). Now, for such an apparently widely spread lie, EoR was unable to find much evidence of it, and certainly none that Dr Robert Watson cherry picked a single figure to promote a political case (oh, how the deniers must be laughing at the irony of their arguments by this point).

In 2000 he stated:

Climate models, using the latest emissions projections from the IPCC Special Report on Emissions Scenarios, project an increase in global mean surface temperature of 1.5 to 6 degrees Centigrade between 1990 and 2100, with land areas warming more than the global average, especially at mid-and high northern latitudes.

So there's a range of possibilities (as modelled in 2000) rather than an absolute.

Dr Robert Watson is also on record as saying (in 2004):

So, over the last 100 years, we had seen the Earth warm about 0.6 degrees Celsius, 1 degree Fahrenheit.

Could Professor Kellow be confusing these figures and timescales?

In 2008 Dr Robert Watson was reported as stating:

Unfortunately, Professor Bob Watson is not speaking out of turn in telling the world to prepare for four degrees of global warming. "Mitigate for two degrees; adapt for four" has long been the catchphrase among climate negotiators and campaigners.

That's still not the strangely specific 6.1 degrees that Kellow mentions.


  1. See the exchange with Prof Kellow seeking clarification on this point (

  2. Thanks for the update, though it sounds like Professor Kellow is still cherrypicking the single (upper) limit at one point in time, and ignoring the range specified at that time, and subsequent statements.


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