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Undeterred By Facts, Climate Deniers Will Carry the Torch to Las Vegas

RP Siegel | Friday March 28th, 2014 | 27 Comments

Heartland Las VegasWhy, you might ask, when the verdict is in, the scientists overwhelmingly agree, and the evidence is incontrovertible, are they still at it?

This pie chart sums it up pretty nicely. Of the 2,258 peer-reviewed papers that have been published on the subject of climate change between November 2012 and December 2013, representing the positions of 9,136 authors, exactly one of those, written by a single Russian scientist, rejected the idea that climate change is caused by human activity.

This summation was published in a review paper authored by geochemist James Lawrence Powell. Powell, who is a past president of Franklin & Marshall, Reed and Oberlin colleges, has posted a database listing every one of the articles online, and he invites anyone to examine the list. It would be interesting to see if they can draw a different conclusion from it other than overwhelming consensus.

The one outlier, written by S.V. Avakyan, attributes the changes to our climate, which would include the fact that 13 of the hottest years on record occurred this century, to changes in the sun’s output. Numerous other reports have studied the same phenomenon and drawn different conclusions.

At a meeting last week in Japan, a group of 60 scientists representing a subgroup of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) gathered to assess the expected impacts from global warming. The group is expected to issue a report soon.

Based on interviews and comments by authors, the key message will be that the risks and impacts of climate change are far more immediate and local than scientists once thought. There is far more at stake than melting ice, threatened animals and endangered plants. Climate disruptions will increasingly exacerbate the human problems of hunger, disease, drought, flooding, refugees and war.

“Climate change really is a challenge in managing risks,” says the report’s chief author, Chris Field of the Carnegie Institution of Science in California. “It’s very clear that we are not prepared for the kind of events we’re seeing.”

The effects of global warming are already “widespread and consequential,” says the report, noting that science has compiled more evidence and done much more research since the last report in 2007.

Last week also saw a report issued by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The wording came as close as a scientific institution can to screaming an alarm. “As scientists, it is not our role to tell people what they should do. But human-caused climate risks abrupt, unpredictable and potentially irreversible changes.”

But none of this has stopped or even slowed down the professional skeptics. In fact the Heartland Institute just announced the 9th International Conference on Climate Change at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. The event is being billed as an “International Gathering of Scientists Skeptical of Man-Caused Global Warming.”

The announcement claims that “hundreds of the world’s most prominent ‘skeptics’ will converge” at the event. Apparently not many of these skeptics have been publishing peer-reviewed papers. No word yet on whether Mr. Avakyan will attend. Among the expert speakers giving lectures will be a medical officer from a Texas sheriff’s office and an architecture professor.

Climate skeptic blogger Willis Eschenbach, whose credentials include a massage therapy certificate and a B.A. in Psychology will also be speaking. Another speaker, Chistopher Monckton is a non-scientist who claims that global warming is a non-problem. Also speaking will be Marc Morano, a former staffer for Sen. James Inhofe, and Fred Singer, who has been called the “granddaddy of fake science.” After being wrong about both the safety of cigarette smoking and the significance of the hole in the ozone layer, he is now apparently going for a hat trick. Both Morano and Singer were profiled in Rolling Stone as one of 17 “climate killers.”

Of course, it matters little who will be speaking or what they’ll be saying since the audience will be self-selected as a group consisting in the main of those who do not listen, cannot read and are either incapable of, or uninterested in, critical thinking.

Previous versions of this conference have been heavily funded by ExxonMobil, the Koch Brothers and the conservative Scaife Foundation, receiving as much as $67 million from these groups. This year’s event is likely to be little different.

Which, of course gets us to the point of circle-jerk events like this one. It’s big oil behind the scenes, keeping that steady drumbeat of doubt going. Doubt and inaction go hand in hand. It’s the one thing that juries can’t convict a criminal with even the shadow of. And for the millions of people who don’t read the actual science because they lack the education or the interest, this echoing of doubt through the hills, repeated and amplified by Fox News will serve as a proxy for understanding — when understanding is nowhere to be found. This will allow the legions of Fox-watching red state voters to slumber on, undisturbed by any qualms that carrying on with business-as-usual should be any more of a concern for them than it was for their grandparents — allowing them to pull the lever in November for Status Quo, and Big Oil will see record profits once again.

Nick Cohen at the Guardian claims that the deniers have already won. Perhaps the fact that we are even having this conversation in 2014 supports his assertion. Of course, the part that they won’t figure out until it’s too late is that if they win, we all lose.

The fact that by doing all they can to suppress effective action on greenhouse gas emissions means, of course, that they are gambling with the future of the planet, in hopes that the one guy out of 9,136 was right. What better place to do that than Las Vegas?

Image credit: Moyan Brenn: Flickr Creative Commons

RP Siegel, PE, is an inventor, consultant and author. He writes for numerous publications including Justmeans, ThomasNet, Huffington Post, and Energy Viewpoints. He co-wrote the eco-thriller Vapor Trails, the first in a series covering the human side of various sustainability issues including energy, food, and water in an exciting and entertaining romp that is currently being adapted for the big screen. Now available on Kindle.

Follow RP Siegel on Twitter.


▼▼▼      27 Comments     ▼▼▼

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  • Dan Pangburn

    The warming trend since the depths of the Little Ice Age,
    and why the warming stopped in 2001, are accurately (95% correlation since
    before 1900) explained by only two drivers.

    CO2 is not one of them.

    Search AGWunveiled to see what they are.

    • RPSiegel

      Not at all convincing, Dan.
      A brief perusal of your papers revealed numerous errors.
      1.Solar irradiance has not tracked with global temperatures for the past 35 years. The sun has cooled white the Earth has gotten hotter.
      2.Using conservation of energy only applies to a well-defined, closed system. The Earth re-radiates heat into outer space, subject to the infrared reflectance of the atmosphere. That reflectance, as Svante Arrhenius demonstrated 118 years ago increases dramatically with the addition of even tiny amounts of CO2.
      3.Looking only at average temperature as you do, is a gross oversimplification as it ignores the enormous latent heat associated with precipitation and the movement and storage of heat in that moisture.
      4.Using monthly numbers to compare carbon emissions with temperature, fails to account for thermal lag or any of the complex dynamics of the greenhouse gas components in the atmosphere. What is added monthly is tiny compared to what is already there.

      I suggest you stick to your day job and leave the climate modeling to people who know what they are talking about.

      • Dan Pangburn

        1. Look again. Solar irradiance, aka TSI is not used. It is a tiny variation anyway. The sunspot number time-integral makes an excellent correlation as shown.

        2. The system is the planet. If it were closed, its average temperature could not change. Svante Arrhenius discovered that CO2 is a ghg. CO2 has nothing to do with reflectance.

        3. Weather is complicated and needs to account for evaporation, freezing, wind, precipitation, etc. As stated in the first paragraph of the paper, “It does not discuss weather…” Calculation of the
        average global temperature (AGT) trend (with R^2 > 0.9) since before 1900 is simple as shown in the paper.

        4. Monthly numbers are not used.

        Because their average predicted AGT is about 0.3 K higher than measured and they can’t explain the pause, it is questionable that they “know what they are talking about”. Some of the mistakes that ‘Climate Scientists’ have made are described at http://consensusmistakes.blogspot.com/

        • Bruce Morgan Williams

          There is a reason for peer review. Apparently you don’t get it. Anyone can claim anything without it, and only experts can tell if something is BS.

        • Dan Pangburn

          As to ‘peer review’ there is this quote, available in Wikipedia, by Richard Horten, editor of the Lancet “But we know that the system of peer review is biased, unjust, unaccountable, incomplete, easily fixed, often insulting, usually ignorant, occasionally foolish, and frequently wrong.”

          Thus the need for relevant broad scientific skill which allows one to challenge the ‘peer review’ as possibly being just more BS. Unfortunately, ‘peer review’ of papers on climate science has morphed into an academic club approving each other’s work. My stuff has been ‘peer reviewed’ by physicists who are not members of the academic club.

  • hankazoid01

    There weren’t many specific solutions offered in this piece. It seemed mostly to be concerned with criticizing skeptics.

    Scientists have made plenty of errors throughout history. They’ve made many assumptions that were later proved ridiculous. They’ve made gobs of faulty models. Skepticism is the essence of science. Opinion isn’t science – no matter how many opinions agree.

    True science relies on skepticism. AGW skeptics are open-minded, and many of them are credentialed scientists. The author has a problem with that fact and his “circle-jerk” comment illustrates his immaturity, lack of professionalism and courtesy. It seems that he’s more concerned with Fox News than presenting a scientific case for AGW.

    I’ll be looking elsewhere for insight, certainly not to RP Siegel. He needs to stick with creative writing – he can’t reel in his biases when it comes to science.

    • Bruce Morgan Williams

      This is not a science conference, it’s political.

  • VSaul

    Could either of you, Dan or RP, provide links to peer-reviewed works that back up your assessments of AGW?

    And by peer-reviewed works, I mean articles accepted and published in credible scientific journals in the last 20 years. I don’t mean opinionated blog posts by non-accredited experts, nor news articles by mainstream science journalists, nor wikipedia entries.

    This way, I and anyone reading can see whom you are referencing, and then email said expert with your assessment, and see if their reply confirms your assessment or dumps all over it. This is how people can distinguish between actual empirical facts and armchair statisticians who parrot ideology.

    • RPSiegel

      VSaul,
      In the article is a link to a database containing 2,268 peer-reviewed articles that all support the established reality of AGW except one. Check out some of the other links, too. Basic physics is established. Carbon dioxide reduces transmission in the infrared range. What that means is that the more CO2 is there, the more heat is trapped, in essence, reflected back to Earth. Considering these facts and the clearly agreed drastic circumstances WE ALL face, I find the continued activies of these “skeptics” who are either funded by the oil companies wth billions at stake, or natural-born contrarians, irresponsible and reprehensible.
      hankazoid
      This piece is not about solutions. I write about solutions just about every day. But many of those solutions are being hampered by these doubt-mongerers, who have effectively delayed meaningful action for years.
      The only benefit of those delays has been to put more money in fossil fuel coffers, while moving the rest of us closer to the brink.
      My mind was open about GW back in the 1970′s when I first heard about it. I’ve heard and seen too much since then. I am more than biased,my mind is made up.
      It is further my opinion that these people are exercising their right of free speech to impose substantial harm on future generations. My solution is to oppose them, and expose them for what they truly are:troublemakers.

      • VSaul

        Thanks for the clarification RP.

        There is quite the psychological phenomenon occurring among skeptics. Whereas there is certainly scientific debate still ongoing as to how to quantify the effects of AGW in global and regional terms, the so-called “deniers”, who claim there is negligible-no effects from man-made emissions, seem to portray themselves akin to, say, proponents of Wegeners continental drift hypothesis during the days before plate tectonics was confirmed. They then offer platitudes of how they believe science investigates and operates, but never actually offer the word of an actual scientist to back them up.

        In their minds, they are analogous to Wegener champions, small voices amidst the sea of ultimately incorrect traditionalists. Yet so far there is more evidence they are the flipside: analogous to Young Earth Creationists who envision themselves correct iconoclasts, but will be left in the dustbin of historical timewasters.

    • hankazoid01

      Democracy isn’t science.

      Peer review is not a substitute for science.

      • VSaul

        In two sentences you’ve managed to conflate the argument from authority fallacy with using credible experts who empirically study phenomena and have their findings confirmed or disproved by other experts.

        Can you explain to me how scientific findings are lent credence without peer review?

        • hankazoid01

          The scientific method is what lends credence to science. Peer review about opinion isn’t science.

  • hankazoid01

    “Of course, it matters little who will be speaking or what they’ll be saying since the audience will be self-selected as a group consisting in the main of those who do not listen, cannot read and are either incapable of, or uninterested in, critical thinking

    Perhaps you should familiarize yourself with critical rationalism before you go about spouting what you think of other’s capacity of rational thinking. You are less than an amateur.

  • hankazoid01

    “Climate disruptions will increasingly exacerbate the human problems of hunger, disease, drought, flooding, refugees and war.”

    Hunger, disease, drought, flooding, refugees, war – these have been the case since before the industrial revolution. You’re premise is based on things that have nothing to do with AGW. That’s very convenient – but it’s not science.

    You are not a scientist. If you are, please submit your credentials.

  • monckton

    As one of those named, may I please reply?

    As an expert reviewer for the IPCC, I am among those who have persuaded the IPCC that its estimate of near-term warming should be halved compared with the 1990 First Assessment Report. The IPCC has also cut its estimate of the anthropogenic radiative forcing since the Industrial Revolution by half.

    Crucially, the IPCC has also said that the cost of adaptation in vulnerable third-world countries is little more than 1% of global GDP. All mitigation measures cost more than this by a factor of 10-100.

    There are, therefore, sound reasons why, as one of my many peer-reviewed papers demonstrates, only 0.5% of 11,944 papers on climate published since 1991 state that most of the global warming of recent decades was anthropogenic.

    And no one pays me a single red cent to do my research.

    I shall be presenting results in climate economics, in chaos theory, in sea-legal analysis and in global temperature trend analysis at the conference. For the climate question, unlike other political questions, will be decided not by the parading of tendentious,a prior is tic Party Lines but by the science and the data.

    • monckton

      For “sea legal”, please read “sea level”. For “a prior is tic”, please read “aprioristic”.

    • Bruce Morgan Williams

      When your stuff passes REAL peer-review, I’ll read it.

      • monckton

        Start with Legates et al., 2013.

  • http://www.triplepundit.com Nick Aster

    I’m trying to understand what the point of all this chatter is. Whether or not climate change is a manageable problem we can deal with vs. Armageddon is a boring debate. We all know the truth lies somewhere in the middle and changes absolutely have to be made. Furthermore, what’s worth discussing is the fact that climate change is only one of 100s of problems we need to learn how to deal with in the 21st century. Environmental, Social and Economic – it’s all related, all incredibly complex, and all demanding many fundamental changes in how we run economies, generate energy, handle consumption and waste, etc…

    The irony is that addressing these problems, at worst, may represent short term costs and adjustments. But in the long term, solving them is far more profitable than doing nothing!

    • Dan Pangburn

      All of the average global temperature anomalies reported since before 1900
      were caused by NATURAL phenomena. The correlation is 95% and uses only two
      drivers. CO2 change is not one of them. Search using keywords AGW unveiled to see the simple analysis.

    • monckton

      In reply to Mr Aster, there is no need to do anything about the climate, and it is harmful to waste future generations’ inheritance on mitigation policies that are absurdly costly, environmentally damaging and entirely pointless.

  • http://www.facebook.com/russell.cook.7334 Russell Cook

    Having read so many other articles in this same vein, I wonder if they can get any more predictable. It’s almost as though there is a set of talking points being circulated with ‘helpful advice’ on how to build an article this way….

    – be sure to call skeptics “deniers”
    – say there is a consensus, cite the survey du jour on the number of scientist who say AGW is a settled debate
    – say skeptic scientists (or Fred Singer specifically) said smoking wasn’t harmful
    – imply a sinister plot by the fossil fuel industry is afoot to spread misinformation via corrupt skeptic scientists
    – say skeptic commenters are driven to respond due to ignorance / political or religious affiliation / flat-earth believers / mind-numbed robot enslavement to Fox News or Rush Limbaugh
    * NEVER link to skeptic climate assessment reports
    * CROSS YOUR FINGERS that your readers never question what you say or dive any deeper into the skeptic side of the issue.

    Astute readers here with a healthy knowledge of skeptics will immediately spot the fatal flaws in Mr Siegel’s article here and lampoon the way he was undeterred by facts himself, namely that skeptics do not “deny climate” in any generalized fashion; that a ‘show of hands’ does not validate scientific conclusions (for pete’s sake, not even the pro-AGW PBS NewsHour actually believes in that mantra http://ow.ly/iWNpj ); that Fred Singer never said anything remotely similar to ‘smoking is not harmful’; that there is no physical evidence of a quid pro quo arrangement between ‘big coal & oil’ officials and skeptic scientists; and that people like me most certainly are capable of thinking for themselves.

    Mr Siegel is more than welcome to write such an article in this free society, we don’t begrudge him that privilege. But when the larger public sees how he and so many others cannot back up their assertions, all these articles do is further undermine the AGW issue by inadvertently pointing to what AGW pushers are most afraid of.

    • RPSiegel

      I’m sure that if someone continued to insist that the sun revolves around the earth, the responses to him would be quite predictable as well.

      • http://www.facebook.com/russell.cook.7334 Russell Cook

        I called into serious question major points you make in your article, and this is the best rebuttal reply you can come up with to defend your piece? It’s as laughable as applying the ‘flat-earth’ label. If you literally cannot come up with anything to directly defend, for example, the bit about Fred Singer and his alleged declaration about the non-hazards of smoking, then don’t be the least bit surprised if your friends do not look to you as a reliable source to back up that accusation. Worse, you might instead discover that none of the ‘climate leaders’ you rely on can provide you with that specific proof, either. Too bad, it’ll only lead you to more discoveries on what other ‘accusation proof’ they fail to deliver.

        • RPSiegel

          My best? No. I’m saving my best for issues that matter, and trying to convince a handful of hardheaded armchair quarterbacks about a debate that’s been settled for years is not one of them. Goodbye Mr. Cook. I’m wasting no further time on you.

        • monckton

          The debate about how much warming we may cause continues and is lively in the reviewed literature. I’ve contributed to it. After no global warming for 17 years 8 months (RSS), the widening discrepancy between prediction and observation shows that the debate has not been settled. Indeed, it cannot be settled, for physics depends on measurement, and every measurement has a measurement uncertainty. To say that “the science is settled” is to take a political and not a scientific standpoint.

          Some 99.5% of 11,944 abstracts of scientific papers published from 1991-2001 did not say most of the warming since 1950 was manmade. There was only 0.7 K warming since 1950, so the consensus is that perhaps not more than a third of a degree was attributable to us. That would give us around 1 K warming this century, which would be net-beneficial via CO2 fertlization, increased drought resistance of plants and greatly-increased staple-crop yields.