Thursday, January 19, 2017

The scourging of the denialist

It is a remarkable phenomenon, that if you say you doubt that human beings have much of an influence on the climate, you are treated as a kind of pariah. In the US, for instance, a very nice, intelligent woman called Judith Curry has recently walked out of her academic post. She has merely expressed doubts, and has done so clearly and honestly for a number of years.  I have watched several hours of videos of her addressing professional societies and government bodies, and have been struck by her ability to communicate her doubts succinctly and openly. Yet she has been vilified by many of her colleagues, struggled to find funding for her research, and had her students unfairly criticized in turn.

There was the infamous case of two American physicists, Soon and Baliunas, who wrote a review paper, summarizing the literature on global temperatures around 1400CE. Review papers are generally uncontroversial; they merely pull together a range of findings by other people. Soon and Baliunas dug up some 200 peer-reviewed studies of medieval temperatures, the great majority of which found that it had been significantly warmer than it is today. Wine in Scotland, tropical fruits in Rome, worldwide such evidence of the Medieval Warm Period.

However, a group who depended on the human warming hypothesis had produced a graph which failed to show any such period. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had seized on their graph to show unprecedented warming in the 20th century. The graph even acquired a name - the Hockey Stick.  The inconvenient review had to be killed! And killed it was.  By the time the dust had settled, even the journal which had allowed the review to appear had disappeared.

Just to make matters worse, the Hockey Stick showing no Medieval Warming Period was found to be faked.  The underlying mathematics had been wrongly applied, and there had been reliance on the width of tree rings to estimate the historical temperatures - but the tree rings went the wrong way when measured against modern temperatures.  So the modern tree-ring data was deleted, and replaced with the temperature record.  As scientific chicanery went, it has few equals.

A few years ago, the SA National Energy Association [SANEA], local representative of the World Energy Council, did me the honour of awarding me their Energy Award. Shortly after that they had a presentation at one of the monthly meetings in Cape Town from a True Believer from Johannesburg. What he had to say was highly questionable, but in the few minutes after the meeting there was no time to ask the really searching questions. So I asked the SANEA Secretary if he could find me a slot to respond to the highly charged material the True Believer had presented. At all the meetings, there were requests for future topics and speakers, so I felt the request was perfectly reasonable.
Three years down the road, I am still waiting. 

There's none so deaf as will not hear.