Tag Archives: pseudoskeptic

“Incontrovertible” is it, Rodney?

I wonder if many politicians, or in this case ex-politicians, are capable of seeing the irony and contradictions in their public statements. Or perhaps porkies are just the stock in trade of politicians so irony doesn’t even come into it.

But hows this for irony – Rodney Hide is lecturing scientists about the nature of scientific knowledge (see Faith, not facts, drives global warming). Here’s what he says about claims by climate scientists that greenhouse gases like CO2 can lead to global warming.

That’s religious zealotry in action. Science is never that certain. The best-ever scientific knowledge was Newtonian mechanics. And Einstein blew it to bits. That’s the nature of science. It gets nearer the truth but can never declare the truth.

Only religious fundamentalists have certitude. Their knowledge is a belief system that’s immune to real world experience and facts.

I guess Rodney sees himself as more a religious fundamentalist than a scientifically literate person because he then goes on to declare – with the ultimate amount of “certitude:”

“The world stopped getting warmer 17 years ago. That’s incontrovertible.”

“Incontrovertible” is it Rodney? That sounds like a statement of faith.

Let’s look at some data

Firstly global temperatures: Here’s the data for the last 17 years:

17-years

Global temperature anomalies for 1996-2012 (Average annual temperature data from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Sciences),

Yeah – I know. There’s a lot of noise so all we can say from that data is the warming rate is in the range of  -0.02 and 0.17 °C/decade (95% confidence level). That’s the problem with such short time periods. Perhaps we should put that data in the context of the long-term trends:

Line plot of global mean land-ocean temperature index, 1880 to present, with the base period 1951-1980. The dotted black line is the annual mean and the solid red line is the five-year mean. The green bars show uncertainty estimates. [This is an update of Fig. 1A in Hansen et al. (2006).]

Still believe that “The world stopped getting warmer 17 years ago. That’s incontrovertible,” Rodney? Willing to put money on it? More important – would you as a politician be willing to commit the fate of your grandchildren on such an extreme claim?

Well, if you still think your claim is “incontrovertible” have a look at some more data. Here’s data for the change in the total earth’s heat content – storage in the ocean as well as atmosphere, land and ice.

Total_Heat_Content_2011_med

And some more detailed data for the melting of ice – globally, Antarctic and Arctic (Click on the image if the animated gif is not changing):

GlobalSeaIce

(The last two figures are from Skeptical Science: A Big Picture Look at Global Warming)

Rodney assures us that “Anyone can do science. And scientists can often fall short.” Sure – but we surely expect more than this from scientists – professional or not. Rodney has simply taken a bit of non-representative data, extracted it from context, ignored everything else and declared his firmly held belief (one could even say “religiously” held belief) as “incontrovertible!”

Worse, while he is telling such porkies he is dishonestly demanding something from scientists which is extremely silly. That they just shut up with their ideas and conclusions until their data is completely “incontrovertible.” Until it can be presented with absolute “certitude.” They should STFU till they have the absolute truth – after he has already acknowledged that science “gets nearer the truth but can never declare the truth.”

He would love that, wouldn’t he? It would give him and his ultra-conservative political mates a completely clear field.

But wouldn’t it be irresponsible to gag scientists like that? Surely we want governments to use the country’s scientist to get the best current data and conclusions – even as we acknowledge that it is never the final story.


Footnote:

Perhaps this is what is leading Rodney Hide astray. In a comment at the climate pseudosceptic/denier/contrarian blog Climate Conversation Group Rodney acknowledged he is using that blog as a resource (a fabulous resource and mine of information“) Bloody hell, no wonder he has it so wrong. He really has to widen his reading.

Mind you, one of the resources he may have used is Richard Cummings who claims in comments on that blog he has shown that our scientific understanding of the fundamental properties of greenhouse gas molecule is all wrong! I suggested that he should present his findings at this year’s New Zealand Climate Change Conference. And this crowd could also present their analysis of New Zealand’s temperature record which they produced as an alternative to that of NIWA. However, they seemed to consider these suggestions offensive and banned my comment!

Incontrovertible my arse.

See also: Dear Rodney Hide

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