Watt about Monckton?

Dana Nuccitelli has a post on Skeptical Science in which he discusses Roy Spencer’s interview on Catholic Online. In this interview Roy Spencer claims that noone can know if it is warming because we “only see warming in the rearview mirror”. Okay, we can never know with certainty what is happening right now or what will happen tomorrow, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t be reasonably certain about what is likely to happen.

Watts Up With That (WUWT) has a post in which it is claimed that Nuccitelli gets a bruising by the factual hand of Monckton. This is a little ironic as Christopher Monckton has a reputation for being somewhat economical with the truth and appears to somewhat exaggerate both his qualifications and his experience. In this WUWT post, Christopher list 60 things that Roy Spencer supposedly get correct and, consequently I assume, Nuccitelli gets wrong, hence the score (according to Christopher) is Spencer – 60, Nuccitelli – 0. I don’t want to address them all as I don’t have the time, but thought I might address a few of Christopher’s comments (if you’re wondering why I’m calling him Christopher, it’s because I read a comment on WUWT by Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen suggesting that he’s a lovely chap and we should all just call him Christopher).

So, rather than go through all 60 of Christopher’s statements, I thought I might address a few them. The numbers are his.

1: Roy Spencer has a PhD in meteorology.
2: Roy Spencer has been doing climate research for over 20 years.
3: His research has been mostly under contract to NASA, NOAA, and DOE.
4: He has testified in Congress several times on the general subject of climate change.
5: He has published two popular books on the global warming issue.

All true I suspect, but not sure why this is relevant. Dana Nuccitelli has an undergraduate degree in Astrophysics and a Masters degree in Physics, so is quite well-qualified himself. I suspect I could also find a reasonably large number of people who are as qualified and experienced as Roy Spencer and who would disagree with much of what he says.

10: Warming seems to have stopped about 15 years ago.

Really? I appreciate that he says “seems” but this appears to ignore the increase in ocean heat content and the continued reduction in arctic sea ice volume. I suspect that this claim is based on temperature anomaly data. Strictly speaking this data doesn’t suggest that warming stopped 15 years ago. It simply suggests that we can’t claim (with 95% confidence) that surface temperatures have risen in the last 15 years. It does, however, suggest that it is more likely that they have than they haven’t.

26: We do not know how much of the sea-level rise is natural.
27: It is possible that the ocean is absorbing more heat than was expected.
28: The oceans are big enough to absorb all of the warming caused by increasing CO2 with a temperature rise of just 0.1 Cº.
29: We have no means of knowing whether the oceans are absorbing all of the warming caused by us.
30: We have no means of knowing whether the oceans will continue to absorb all of the warming caused by us.

Some of this is actually valid and I suspect Dana Nuccitelli would agree with some of this. Not sure why these claims are points for Roy Spencer and points against Dana Nuccitelli. The latter two, however, seem a little strong. I think maybe some would suggest that even if we can’t know some things for certain, we can still have some valid ideas about what is causing something and what the future might hold. Also, not quite sure what he means by “natural”. Does he mean something that science is unable to explain, or something that is just too complicated to explain given our current scientific knowledge.

41: The consensus is only that humans are contributing to warming.
42: Roy Spencer agrees with that consensus.
43: Only a small number of scientists know enough about climate sensitivity to have an informed opinion.
44: Only a few of us work on the question how sensitive is the climate system.
45: Only a few of us know how much uncertainty there is.

Okay, the first two points are valid, although I suspect Roy and Dana would disagree about the level of warming associated with human actions. Again, not sure why this scores points for Roy Spencer and not for Dana Nuccitelli. The latter three comments are clearly opinions, not facts and I suspect many scientists would both disagree with them and find Christoper using the term “us” as somewhat amusing.

59: Even if it is 100% human-caused, the warming has been only 50% of what the consensus of climate models says it should be.
60: If the consensus changes to reflect real-world outcomes, we shall have twice as much time to solve the climate problem.

Point 59 may be valid but the correct statement, in my opinion, is that the warming is within the range predicted by most climate models but currently has a smaller trend then the mean of most climate models. Point 60 seems to indicate that Christopher thinks he can somehow predict the future based on climate models that he doesn't even really trust. It is possible that the trend is smaller than expected, but then again maybe not. Large variations in the late 90s may well have resulted in a smaller trend that will become larger as we continue collecting data.

That's all I was going to say as much of what Christopher is claiming is clearly his opinion stated as fact. How this can suggest that Roy Spencer scores 60, while Dana Nuccitelli scores 0 is absurd. This type of post is indicative of a common style on WUWT. It does seem as though the norm is to completely dismiss anyone or any bit of research that suggests that anthropogenic climate forcings may be important. That Christopher can essentially suggest that Roy Spencer is absolutely correct while Dana Nuccitelli is completely wrong just proves, in my opinion, that WUWT is violating the exact principles that they claim to uphold.

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6 Responses to Watt about Monckton?

  1. Lars Karlsson says:

    “4: He has testified in Congress several times on the general subject of climate change.”

    Also Monckton has testified in Congress, so that says nothing about Roy’s competence.

    http://bbickmore.wordpress.com/2010/09/21/climate-scientists-debunk-moncktons-congressional-testimony/

  2. cvdanes says:

    We see what we want (or are paid) to see. Climate change seems like a dangerous game to be playing, regardless.

  3. Indeed. Simply having been involved in something does not guarantee some kind of valid expertise.

  4. I don’t quite understand what you’re getting at in the latter part of your comment. There are certainly many things being said about climate change that, if taken seriously, could have serious consequences. Is that what you’re suggesting, or is it something else?

  5. Martin Lack says:

    Spencer may be a Catholic (or have Catholic tendencies) but, he is, it seems, still irretrievably lost down the same rabbit hole as a large proportion of evangelical Christians (like Sen. James Inhoffe, R-OK) who interpret Genesis 8:22 to mean that anthropogenic climate disruption cannot be happening because God will not allow it to happen. This is an unassailable fortress of cognitive dissonance, the same fortress that makes it impossible to argue anyone out of believing the Earth was created in 6 days in 4004 BC.

    Christopher Monckton is very reluctant to share his religious views but I suspect they have ideologically-blinded him to the nature of reality in much the same way. Going forward from here, therefore, we must hope that more and more Christians will embrace the idea that humans should exercise good stewardship (rather than dominion and control) over Nature and – like the Church in NSW in Australia – start taking decisive action like ending all pension fund investment in fossil fuels.

  6. Interesting, thanks. I have started to wonder about the role that religion might be playing in the whole climate change debate. There are certainly some places where people seem to make claims along the lines of “we’ve managed to adapt to changes in the climate for thousands of years and hence will continue to do so” (although I suspect they don’t mean adapt in the natural selection sense – more in the technology sense). This does seem to ignore that life has been on the planet for something like 4 billion years, while humans have only been present for about 100000 years, so the planet has existed for much longer without us, than it has with us. I’d be interested to know more, but it is clearly a somewhat sensitive topic.

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