Tag Archives: Rodney Hide

A New Zealand climate change pseudosceptic apologises!

Credit where credit is due, and I admit I never thought I would say this about local climate pseudosceptic Richard Treadgold – but “good on you mate.”

richard1

Richard Treadgold, New Zealand climate pseudosceptic and blogger

I have often got into heated debate with this guy – my main concern being his willingness to effectively accuse honest climate scientists, include New Zealand scientists, of scientific fraud. He also has a bad habit of misrepresenting climate science and climate scientists on his blog Climate Conversation Group. I have often raised with him his moral obligation to apologise for such misrepresentation and accusations (see Apologies would be nice).

Without result. But now he has apologised for recently misrepresenting local climate scientist Dr James Renwick (see Hide sticks it to Renwick Renowden a scaring warmist,  and  Renwick blames drought on man-made global warming, which has been now changed to Renwick doesn’t blame AGW for drought).

In his post today, Climate porkies from TV One, Richard actually says (and we have to get this on record):

“I apologise to Dr Renwick for misquoting him so badly — that is, over a statement so disastrously incorrect.”

So, good on you, Richard.

This whole incident started with Richards thoughtless endorsement (Hide sticks it to Renwick) of a snakey NBR article by failed NZ ultra-conservative politician Rodney Hide (see Faith, not facts, drives global warming) and I won’t rehash the time line here (read my posts “Incontrovertible” is it, Rodney?,  Confusion and distortion – has global warming stopped?   and  Pseudosceptics are at it again – misrepresenting and attacking climate scientists for details).

Richard admits he wrote his misleading posts “after reading the transcript and studying the video,” but the final blow for him seems to be Renwick’s email which “politely confirmed that he never blamed the drought on global warming: “This is just not so.””

I believe the transcript and video were extremely clear and am surprised Richard’s apology only came after personal confirmation from Renwick  (see transcript at Lack of govt leadership on climate change – Renwick, and video of interview at Q+A: Corin Dann interviews Dr James Renwick).

Mind you, some other climate pseudosceptics are more resistant than Richard. On of the commenters on Richards blog responded to Renwick’s confirmation by accusing him of “splitting hairs.” And one faithful climate change denier on twitter I debated  refused to take the video and transcript as evidence – instead claiming that the offending claim had been made while the camera wasn’t running, or had been edited out. Poor soul.

I am also aware that local climate change pseudosceptics will have not qualms twisting Renwick’s confirmation into another misrepresentation. Some of the commenters on Richard’s blog already seem to be doing so. Renwick’s confirmation – that he never declared global warming had directly caused our recent extreme drought and that there was no other explanation –  to mean he claims that global warming will play no role in future extreme weather events. Richard himslef comments:

“. . it’s useful to have his firm statement on record that weather events are not caused by global warming. Everyone and his dog has been looking around at this warm record or that storm and saying that’s global warming, we’re all doomed. It will be handy to slap them with Renwick’s authoritative statement.”

Let’s be clear, the current scientific thought is that while one can never prove a direct link to specific events, global warming will probably increase the frequency of such extreme weather events in the future. Renwick made this clear in the interview – read the transcript Richard.

Meanwhile, I hope Treagold’s ethical chickens really have come home to roost for good – there are still a few apologies outstanding. For example his egregious  claim that NIWA scientists had manipulated New Zealand temperature data to create evidence for warming (see  his infamous article “Are we getting warmer yet?” and my posts New Zealand’s denier-gate and Painted into a corner?).

However, let’s celebrate this rather rare event – a scientists getting an apology foir their misrepresentation.

There’s a few other New Zealand bloggers who should take note and start thinking about their own ethical obligations.

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Pseudosceptics are at it again – misrepresenting and attacking climate scientists

I have already mentioned the irony of a failed politician attacking climate scientists, accusing them of treating science like a religion while declaring his own faith that:

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

(See “Incontrovertible” is it, Rodney? and Confusion and distortion – has global warming stopped?).

But another factor in this sordid little story was the way that Rodney Hide attempted to portray New Zealand climate scientist Dr James Renwick as a religious fundamentalist in his science. Basically he did this by misrepresenting Renwick – Hide told a porkie.

Hide claimed that Renwick “was in no doubt that man-made global warming was causing the summer drought” and went on to give this quote as “proof;”

” . . climate change, global warming. Put more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and things warm up.” The host Corin Dann double-checks: “And you’re of no doubt of that?”

“Oh, no, no. There’s no other explanation that’s remotely plausible.”

Hide then went on to declare:

“That’s religious zealotry in action. Science is never that certain.”

Creating the impression that Renwick had “no doubt” that greenhouse gases were responsible for New Zealand’s recent extreme drought.

Problem is – at this stage of the interview the drought had not even been mentioned.

Interview transcript

Here’s the transcript of the interview from its beginning to Hide’s quote:

CORIN DANN: Good morning, Dr Renwick. How are you?

DR JAMES RENWICK: Good morning, Corin. Very well.

CORIN: Listen, thanks for coming on the show. I know you’re literally just back off the plane this morning. Tell us what is happening to NZ’s climate. Paint us a picture of what’s going on.

JAMES: Well, like the rest of the globe, NZ’s climate is warming up gradually. Temperatures have risen by the best part of a degree in the last century, and they’re set to rise by two or three degrees or maybe even more over the course of the coming century.

CORIN And this isn’t some normal- What is this? Is this climate change at work?

JAMES Yeah, it is. Yeah, climate change, global warming. Put more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and things warm up.

CORIN And you’re of no doubt of that.

JAMES Oh, no, no. There’s no other explanation that’s remotely plausible.

Full transcript available at: Lack of govt leadership on climate change – Renwick

Simply a clarification that New Zealand’s climate is part of the global climate and that greenhouse gases contribute to global warming. The New Zealand drought had not even been mentioned at this stage.

The informal confidence Dr Renwick expressed was  consistent with the current understanding of the role of greenhouse gases in global warming – not, as Hide and fellow pseudosceptics and climate change deniers have claimed, that greenhouse gases were the direct cause of our recent drought.  That claim was a complete misrepresentation, clearly motivated and knowingly dishonest as the perpetrators also had access to the transcript of the interview.

Should Renwick have any doubts on role of greenhouse gases?

Dr Renwick did display, informally, a high degree of confidence that greenhouse gases are contributing to climate change. But that is hardly surprising because that is the current understanding of most climate scientists. Consider what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said.

The figure below shows the results of simulations of global temperature from 1900 to 2005. Figure a included all the natural and anthropogenic influences.  The black line is the actual measured global temperature anomaly (obtained by subtracting the average temperature for 1901 to 1950).  The individual simulations are shown as thin yellow curves. The red line is the multi-model ensemble mean (see Figure 9.5 – AR4 WGI Chapter 9: Understanding and Attributing Climate Change).

Figure b is a similar plot using simulations which consider only the natural influences on climate. The individual simulations are shown as thin blue curves. The thick blue line is the multi-model ensemble mean.

So, climate scientist have considered both natural and anthropogenic influences. And they are unable to reproduce the global temperature changes since 1970 unless anthropogenic influences are included.

That is why the IPCC has concluded that there is a high probability (>90%) that human influences are contributing to the current observed global temperature increase.

Notice also that the experts talk about probabilities. It’s a complex field and things are rarely cut and dried. We are more certain about some influences than others. And the IPCC doesn’t hide this fact – far from it. It doesn’t make sweeping claims in the way that some of their opponents do.

I am sure Dr Renwick accepts this – his comment “Oh, no, no. There’s no other explanation that’s remotely plausible” is simply an informal recognition  of that.

While on the role of greenhouse gases this short video provides some of the data supporting current scientific assessment – in this case not relying on computer models or the IPCC.

Was our recent drought caused by CO2?

Later in the interview Renwick did comment on our drought. Here’s the relevant section of the transcript:

JAMES: Well, no, I don’t think panicking is very helpful.

CORIN : But it feels like that with this drought, though, doesn’t it?

JAMES: It’s a pretty exceptional event, yeah. It’s probably the first time in 50 years that it’s been this dry over this much of the country. So, sure, it’s exceptional. You know, a farmer would only see this once in a working lifetime.

CORIN: But if we’ve only seen it once in 50 years, should we not be that worried? That suggests it’s not going to happen for another 50 years.

JAMES: Well, the way the climate’s changing, the likelihood is that summers will become drier, so what’s a one-in-50 year event now will be, say, one in 20, one-in-25 year event by the middle of the century. And in some parts of the country, it might be a one-in-five year event by the end of the century, which means the farming sector’s going to have to adapt to that. We’ve got time – it’s decades we’re talking about, and farmers are very adaptable, but things will have to change.

Again, I think Renwick was just informally conveying what seems to be the current scientific assessment of the role of global warming in extreme weather events, like New Zealand’s drought and US storms. This is that one can’t prove a direct link of atmospheric CO2 to single specific events. However, scientific analysis analysis suggests that such events will become more frequent as the planet warms.

As Dr Renwick expressed it – “what’s a one-in-50 year event now will be, say, one in 20, one-in-25 year event by the middle of the century.”

Given the informal nature of such interviews I think Dr Renwick presented the scientific assessment pretty accurately. But of course this won’t stop the pseudosceptics and climate change deniers. Most of these, and certainly Rodney Hide, have a ultraconservative political agenda. They commonly paint scientists as plotters and schemers, part of an evil world-wide conspiracy wanting to bring in a One World Government. And claiming scientists have manipulated global temperature records to create false evidence for fclimate change.

And, yes, despite the availability of the interview transcript local climate change pseudosceptics are still misrepresenting Dr Renwick’s statements. (see Hide sticks it to Renwick and Renowden a scaring warmist). They are studiously avoiding the transcript and instead interpreting reporter’s comments.

And, of course, sticking the boot in while they are at it.

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Confusion and distortion – has global warming stopped?

There’s a mantra circulating at the moment claiming that global warming “stopped 17 years ago.” It is of course being pushed by the pseudosceptics in the climate denial echo chamber. However, even people who should know better have been heard to repeat something like that.

Rodney Hide, a former New Zealand ultra conservative politician has assured us “The world stopped getting warmer 17 years ago. That’s incontrovertible” (see my post “Incontrovertible” is it, Rodney? for my take on that). And one of the commenters on my blog at  SciBlog seems willing to treat Rodney’s assurance as a simple fact. Of course the pseudosceptics proudly and loudly reassert similar claims.

But many of those repeating this mantra are attributing the claim to authoritative sources, like the the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) and leading climate scientists and institutions.

So what’s the truth. Has global warming “stopped?” Are climate scientists saying it has stopped?”

Short answer is actually no. Slightly longer answer is along the lines that the current rate of global temperature increase seems to have slowed, global temperatures may even have plateaued, but that doesn’t support a claim that global warming has “stopped!” Or stopped 17 years ago.

IPCC Chairman misrepresented

Firstly – lets deal with the use of Rajendra Pachauri, Chairman of the IPPC, as a source for this mantra. This appears to go back to a report in the Australian which claimed he  “acknowledged a 17-year pause in global temperature rises.”

Trouble is, there is no record to back up the claim and the IPCC communications office said it does not accurately represent Pachauri’s thoughts on the subject.

The only statement the Australian article actually attributed to Pachauri on this subject is that “global average temperatures had plateaued at record levels and that the halt did not disprove global warming.” And that is paraphrasing Pachauri and not quoting him directly.

As the blog Skeptical Science pointed out (see Did Murdoch’s The Australian Misrepresent IPCC Chair Pachauri on Global Warming?) if he “had he said that global surface air  temperatures have plateaued and that this doesn’t disprove global warming, he would be 100% correct.” And that is what a number of well-known climate scientists also have said. Usually no mention of 17 years and certainly no claim that global warming had “stopped” 17 years ago.

To help clarify I repeat below two figures from my recent post “Incontrovertible” is it, Rodney? These show global air temperatures for the last 17 years and for the long-term – since 1880.

17-years

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

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).]

As I said about the first figure in my recent post:

“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.”

Putting short-term trends in context of long-term record

The data in the first figure must be put into the context of the longer term changes. And as the 2nd figure shows a number of short periods over the longer term which had a similar pattern to that in the first figure. It would be silly, especially with hindsight, to claim that global warming “stopped” in 1990, or 1985, or 1975, and so on. Yet this is what some people are doing.

It’s easy to find short time periods where the global temperature trend is not significantly different to zero – that’s the nature of a record with this sort of variability or noise. A record which also results from a number of factors and is therefore not a simple correlation with one cause.

So it is silly to cherry pick a short period and then make an absolute claim (global warming has stopped) – and especially to claim that somehow something happened in 1975 so that “global warming stopped 17 years ago. Think about it. Take that first figure a just select the last 10 years. The trend will also not be significantly different to zero – are we then going to claim something happened in 2002 to “stop” global warming?

No, of course not. The only reason 17 years is mentioned is that one can’t go back further than that without the trend being significantly different from zero. It’s a cherry-picked date – cherry picked to produce a non-significant trend.

Have IPCC models been disproved

Another common claim is that the very recent plateau, or decrease in the rate of global warming proves the scientific climate models are wrong.  More specifically I have often heard the claim that since this plateau has occurred while atmospheric CO2 levels continue to increase this proves that CO2 is not driving global warming. Even the claim that the plateau has somehow shown the scientific understanding of the fundamental properties of greenhouse gases is wrong.

The naivety of the last claim is to think that climate scientists  consider CO2 to be the only factor influencing the climate – they just don’t. Consequently one should not expect to see a simple correlation between global temperature and atmospheric CO2. Any attempt to understand or model climate change must include many more inputs than CO2.

As for models in general here is a couple of factors:

  1. All models are inaccurate. That’s just the nature of the attempt to understand complex systems – we can’t expect to get things perfect. And when anomalies occur this may actually help us improve the models by incorporating other factors or more realistic physical parameters. Despite this models have important uses as long as we understand their limitations.
  2. Models require inputs – inputs which may change, often unpredictably, over time. Therefore it is silly to expect model projections to always be correct or accurate further down the track.

For example, there could be weather conditions increasing heat inputs into the deep ocean which could not have been incorporated several years ago. Or there could have been an increase of particulates from increased coal use which had not been predicted. Political changes can produce economic changes which influence inputs. These are some of the ideas that have been suggested to help explain the current plateau or reduced rate of global temperature increase.

So the real test of the model is not to use inputs based on predictions made several years before, but to update inputs so that the model more correctly represents current situations.

But, more basically, it’s important to recognise that the global climate is complex. Simple mechanisms are not going to explain the details in the global temperature record. So be careful of people who advance simple explanations to discredit the science.

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“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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