Thursday, January 06, 2011

WA Skeptics Deniers (2)

Just a little more about the anti-skeptical WA Skeptics and their recent anti-science conversion. On their edited conspiracy diatribe (editted in the sense that when an error is pointed out the error is not corrected, but further errors are piled on top to confuse and obscure) the following claim is made:

Even more recently the total of dissenting international scientists exceeded 1000, among them 46 climate specialists who once worked for the IPCC but have now resigned or become dissenters. Here are six examples of their views:

[Out of context quotes snipped by EoR]

Remember these are not crackpot deniers but climate specialists who once worked for the IPCC. Nor are they the only group of informed scientists who are criticising the IPCC's findings, there are at least a dozen others such as The Heidelberg Appeal with 4000 signatures including 62 Nobel prizewinners

The Heidelberg Appeal? Well, EoR followed the WA Skeptics' own advice and used the two most important recommended resources to find Teh Truth About Global Warming: Google and Wikipedia.

The top two hits for "Heidelberg Appeal" are Wikipedia (clearly because it's a reputable source according to the WA Skeptics) and SourceWatch (clearly because Google is another trustworthy source).

Wikipedia says:

Parts of the Heidelberg Appeal endorse environmental concerns, such as a sentence that states, "We fully subscribe to the objectives of a scientific ecology for a universe whose resources must be taken stock of, monitored and preserved." Its 72 Nobel laureates include 49 who also signed the "World Scientists' Warning to Humanity", which was circulated that same year by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and attracted the majority of the world's living Nobel laureates in science along with some 1,700 other leading scientists. In contrast with the vagueness of the Heidelberg Appeal, the "World Scientists' Warning" is a very explicit environmental manifesto, stating that "human beings and the natural world are on a collision course" and citing ozone depletion, global climate change, air pollution, groundwater depletion, deforestation, overfishing, and species extinction among the trends that threaten to "so alter the living world that it will be unable to sustain life in the manner that we know." Moreover the Heidelberg Appeal has been, if not specifically misrepresented, at least broadly interpreted out of context, for example, by The National Center for Public Policy which asserts "The appeal warns industrialized nations that no compelling scientific consensus exists to justify mandatory greenhouse gas emissions cuts." Although the Heidelberg Appeal may be open to such an interpretation, as the text below shows it is not what the document said.

So, not only does it not criticise the IPCC (it doesn't even mention it), but it doesn't even explicitly deny (or even implicitly) the reality of human caused global warming.

SourceWatch describes the document as:

a scam perpetrated by the asbestos and tobacco industries in support of the GCC [Global Climate Coalition]. It was later funded and controlled by a coalition which included coal, oil and energy interests, so the two denial strands merged. The Appeal document and the conferences which gave it life were organized by S. Fred Singer and his Science and Environmental Policy Project

As such, the Appeal finds its rightful place at Tobacco Documents Online (documents which the tobacco industry were legally forced to make publicly available, detailing their efforts to subvert science and cover up the truth).

So it seems that the WA Skeptics (or their anonymous author who is using the Appeal to Authority of posting on their website) either:
a) Haven't read the document they support, or
b) Cite the document for propaganda purposes, knowing they're misrepresenting the truth.

But what does Wikipedia, that font of wisdom have to say about the bigger issue? The WA Skeptics' article isn't explicit about whether Wikipedia should be consulted for climate change or global warming but, in the former case it says:

In the context of climate variation, anthropogenic factors are human activities that change the environment. In some cases the chain of causality of human influence on the climate is direct and unambiguous (for example, the effects of irrigation on local humidity), while in other instances it is less clear. Various hypotheses for human-induced climate change have been argued for many years. Presently the scientific consensus on climate change is that human activity is very likely the cause for the rapid increase in global average temperatures over the past several decades. Consequently, the debate has largely shifted onto ways to reduce further human impact and to find ways to adapt to change that has already occurred.

and in the latter:

Most of the observed temperature increase since the middle of the 20th century has been caused by increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases, which result from human activity such as the burning of fossil fuel and deforestation.

EoR could go through all the other 'facts' offered but really, the group has consistently shown that they either don't read or understand their sources, or their sources are misquoted. They fail to correct false information, simply adding more errors to hide the original error. They make emotive, politically charged statements free of science. To deal with all their assertions would only cause them to offer more distractions (apparently sourced mainly from Watts Up With That — a blog the WA Skeptics consider "arguably the most informative climate website" — rather than the peer reviewed press) and would only give the group unwarranted attention and bore EoR's readers.

Elsewhere, to mark the 350th anniversary of the Royal Society the Guardian asks a number of people what scientific problems they'd like to see solved. Physicist Brian Cox ponders:

Can we make a scientific way of thinking all pervasive?

This would be the greatest achievement for science over the coming centuries. I say this because I do not believe that we currently run our world according to evidence-based principles. If we did, we would be investing in an energy Manhattan project to quickly develop and deploy clean energy technologies. We would be investing far larger amounts of our GDP in the eradication of diseases such as malaria, and we would be learning to live and work in space – not as an interesting and extravagant sideline, but as an essential part of our long-term survival strategy.

One only has to look at the so-called controversies in areas such as climate science or the vaccination of our children to see that the rationalist project is far from triumphant at the turn of the 21st century – indeed, it is possible to argue that it is under threat. I believe that we will only be able to build a safer, fairer, more prosperous and more peaceful world when a majority of the population understand the methods of science and accept the guidance offered by an evidence-based investigation of the challenges ahead. Scientific education must therefore be the foundation upon which our future rests.

Of course, it would be nice — for a start — if so-called skeptic groups engaged in a scientific way of thinking.

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