Tag Archives: Treadgold

Internet silos become ideological ghettos

Just six days ago the NZ High Court released its judgement on the attempt by local climate change deniers/contrarians/sceptics/crackpots to get a judicial overthrow of the NZ temperature record managed by NIWA scientists (see New Zealand climate change denial defeated).

This seemed to precipitate a frenzy of internet activity by these deniers/contrarians/sceptics/crackpots to discredit the judgement, smear Justice Venning, and repeat to themselves their comfort mantras like “global warming has stopped,” “there has been no temperature increase in 10, or 15, years,” etc., etc. Perhaps these people are just attempting to divert their own attention away from the fact that they must now find the money to pay for the costs of this little episode.

But I have found the exercise quite fascinating from a psychological viewpoint. It seems to me to brilliantly illustrate one of the main problems with internet discussion and information. That while the internet provides the technology for increased communication of ideas and opening of minds, in many areas it seems to work in the opposite direction.

Peter Jackson commented on this problem in his The Telegram article, Global warming real: attack on scientists, surreal – Columns – The Telegram. In this he mentioned a talk given by Harris/Decima pollster Allan Gregg at Carleton University in Ottawa last week.

“Among Gregg’s most interesting remarks were those on how the Internet, once seen as the great democratizer and educator, has instead become a useful tool to harness ignorance.”

Jackson gave Gregg the final words with this quote:

“If I believe the Earth is flat, (the Internet) puts me in touch with legions of fellow flat-Earthers and reams of pseudo-science to support that belief. As importantly, I never have to be exposed to any contrary views and can find total refuge in my community of flat-Earthers.

“The Internet, therefore, offers me the opportunity to have a completely closed mind and, at one and the same time, fill it full of nonsense disguised as fact. In a brand new way, therefore, the Internet democratizes not just individual opinion, but legitimizes collective ignorance and spreads a bizarro world of alternative reason. When this occurs, prejudice and bias is reinforced and the authority of real science and evidence is undermined, or even more likely, never presented.”

This seem to be happening in a number of important areas related to science and its relevance to education or public policy. Avenues of communication are being cut. The walls are being erected.

The internet silos are becoming ideological ghettos!

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Climate change denier’s false “deep distress” fools no-one

Recently I commented on the High Court rejection of the climate change deniers/contrarians/sceptics arguments against NIWA’s New Zealand temperature record. I said that those attacking NIWA were “getting all falsely indignant because others have pointed out that in effect they were charging that NIWA had acted fraudulently and this had been rejected (see “Leading climate scientists” make false allegation).”

I argued that, in fact, these groups have for several years have accused NIWA scientists of fraud, even if the specific F word had not been used. It is disingenuous of these people to now claim “We never said it was fraud” and limit themselves to the literal words used in the High Court submissions.

The writer of that blog post, the well-known local climate change denier Richard Treadgold, indignantly claimed:

“the Trust did not claim fraud in its Statement of Claim to the High Court, which nowhere uses any derivative of the word fraud. The Coalition never accused NIWA of fraud.”

Come on Richard – enough of the porkies. You are just relying on reader’s ignorance of the statement. (While at the same time avoiding the long history of aggressive accusations of scientific fraud your organisations have made against NIWA scientists).

Someone from NIWA who participated in the High Court case, and therefore is familiar with the statements, sent me these comments:

“here are some accusations in the NZCSET’s statements of claim:

Paragraph 20 in NZCSET’s First Statement of Claim (July 2010), repeated in First Amended Statement of Claim (July 2011):

20.  In making the 1999 decision NIWA was influenced by the expectation that significant NZTR warming would encourage funding for additional climate change research.

If this isn’t accusing us of fraud, I don’t know what is.

Also, from NZCSET’s First Amended Statement of Claim (July 2011):

45. Given the differences in data and calculations utilised by NIWA in producing the 7SS and the NZT7 there is no known scientific basis upon which it could have arrived at the coincidence between the results of the two series. The defendant must therefore have been affected by bias or actuated by some ulterior and/or irrelevant purpose, including:

(a) The advantages of finding a warming trend broadly consistent with the advice on climate matters that NIWA has been offering to judicial, administrative and

legislative bodies during the past decade;

(b) The avoidance of political embarrassment, or reduction in public confidence in NIWA’s scientific advice on climate matters, which might arise if the NZT7 failed to align with the warming trend shown in the 7SS.

Again, this is surely accusing us of fraud, by any other name. The explicit use of the ‘F’ word is not necessary.

Treadgold pretends “deep distress” at Dr Renwick’s comment referring to “the claim by the New Zealand Climate Science Education Trust (CSET, a small group of climate change “sceptics”) that NIWA had acted fraudulently in putting together its ‘7-station’ temperature series.” Treadgold goes as far as to pretend “to those devoted to the even-handed, practical pursuit of truth this accusation is deeply distressing.” (sic). And he calls for Dr Renwick to “man up and admit their mistake, apologise and withdraw the press statement.”

What hypocrisy!

Given the long history of the unfounded attacks by Treadgold and his mates on NIWA’s scientists, that again and again their claims have been exposed as unfounded and NIWA’s position vindicated, and now finally the rejection of these denier claims by the High Court, let me repeat my suggest from 2 years ago in Painted into a corner?

Isn’t it long past the time that Treadgold and his mates “man up”, apologise and withdraw their claims?

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Who is committing fraud here?

Richard Treadgold, whose blog Climate Conversations appears to be the sole active NZ blog devoted entirely to climate change denial, is rehashing an old argument (See Well, where’s your evidence, Renowden?). He claims:

“Global warming has not happened for about 15 years, unless you take a micrometer to the thermometer. And if you have to do that just to detect warming, then it’s hardly dangerous, is it?”

Of course this has been explained to him and his mates many times. Either his brain is just not capable of comprehending the simple story – or he continues to raise it despite the fact it has been well refuted. After all, if your real purpose is political, to manufacture doubt, honesty is your last concern. That’s why he claims climate scientists are committing “fraud” on this question (and others).

I dealt with the issue in my post “What, me worry?” – distorting climate change data. It is simply the issue of how to detect a relatively small trend in temperature against a background of relatively large natural variations which don’t contribute to the underlying trend. A common problem is sciences of all sorts.

It’s a question of observation period. We know, for example, that organic carbon builds up in soils under pasture. But try measuring the carbon levels over one season or one year and you just won’t see it. It’s buried in the inevitable noise of the variation in carbon levels over short times. But collect the data over 10 or more years and you will start to see the trend.

Its the same with global temperatures. The overall trend is not obvious, can’t be extracted from the data, over relatively short terms, because of the relatively large natural variations. When someone bases their claims on such a short perod you have to wonder about their honesty because its simple enough to produce any result you desire by chossing your time period. This is clear from The Escalator produced by Skeptical science.

Its a classic example of the activity that goes on in the climate change denier echo chamber (of which Treadgold is a part).

Here’s another give away. Why is Treadgold talking about 15 years – these guys used to use 10 years? Well the reason is their desire to preserve 1998 data. Global temperatures that year were exceptionally high so that data point has an over-riding effect on determining trends over a short term. If Treadgold has stuck to 10 or 12 years he was in danger of actually finding a statistically significant trend. That is the last thing he wants.

Statistical confidence in the observed increase in global temperatures comes from data collected over a long period. Selectively cherry-picking the data in the way Treadgold and his mates does is a no -no in science.

But of course science is the last thing they are interested in. Their purposes are political – and the manufacture of doubt.

Its obvious who is committing the fraud here.