When I read People Starting To Ask About Motive For Massive IPCC Deception by Dr Tim Ball, I found much I agreed with. Tim’s argument is, IMHO, a useful contribution to the question of how the climate alarmists have got away with foisting this mistaken theory upon the world. Then I read A big (goose) step backwards, by Prof Richard Betts and Dr Tamsin Edwards.
And I’m disappointed.
What the fuss is all about:
Ball quotes Adolf Hitler’s explanation of how to successfully tell a lie and get it believed. He makes his case that the IPCC and climate alarmism as a movement, effectively puts this method of deception into practice. In that, I believe he is (1) correct, and (2) saying something that is long overdue. In fact, I include this same statement in my own book, Carbon Is Life, when I try to explain what has been happening in the world of late.
Now what would a suitable response to that argument by Ball look like? I would hope it would argue, somehow, that the publicity methods of the alarmist camp do not follow Hitler’s deception methodology. What I would not hope for is a response like that of Betts and Edwards that tells an untruth about Ball’s post in the very first sentence: “Dr Tim Ball’s blog post “People Starting To Ask About Motive For Massive IPCC Deception” – drawing parallels between climate scientists and Hitler – doesn’t do anyone in the climate change debate any favours: in fact it seems a big (goose) step backwards.”
Ball does not draw any parallels between anyone and Hitler. (If you disagree, please follow the Eschenbach principle – quote the words.) He draws the important (and IMHO, correct) parallel between the propaganda techniques of the IPCC et al, and the “big lie” technique as explained by Hitler. Are they the same? Ball states his case in detail, and Anthony has made the forum available for B&E or others to publish their best attempt to rebut Ball’s case.
But instead, B&E’s response is as far as I can see, completely fact, and argument, free. It is (yet another) attack upon Dr Ball, upon both his professionalism (“pointless, playground insults”) and his character (“Tim sink to a new low, with Mein Kampf quotes and snide misrepresentation of the IPCC reports”). Not a syllable about whether he was right or wrong!
To add insult to injury, and take us all for fools, that same very first sentence which I quoted above really does do what B&E falsely claim Ball did: it accuses him of Nazism: “...a big (goose) step backwards.” It’s not a good way to appeal for civility to start sentence one with a lie and an insult. And it isn’t just a careless intro, the meat of it is insulting and, typically, short on facts: “...snide misrepresentation of the IPCC reports.” Specific quotes? Counter-evidence? Sadly, no. Very sad, but tragically, exactly as expected.
At this point I should say something about my own interest in the issue, since it is relevant to my view about the reasonableness of Ball’s article. On 1 September 2008 (the day after I left my job as computer science lecturer at the University of Southern Queensland) the thought entered my head, entirely unexpected “I know nothing about this global warming kerfuffle – I had better find out about it.” And with absolutely no preconceptions, and no inclination to one side or the other, I started researching it, with the advantage of a master’s-level education in physics to help me find the real evidence amongst the conflicting propaganda.
It took me one week to become completely convinced that the theory was wrong, to the extent that I felt confident to say that I know the theory is wrong. The theory predicts an atmospheric hot spot (lots of subtleties to explain about that, but this is not the article to do it in), which is completely absent.
This hot spot is the very mechanism by which the warming operates. If it isn’t there, then the mechanism is AWOL. Scientific theories that make wrong predictions about the basic mechanism on which they depend are wrong. That’s that, as I explained in an earlier article on WUWT. For a simple analogy, suppose someone rushed in, breathless, saying that thieves were removing all your heavy furniture from your home with a giant crane. You look all around and find, not only is there no crane, but the road is dug up and there is nowhere that a crane could possibly be. If, after that, you continue to believe that your furniture is being removed by crane, you must, of necessity, believe it is happening by magic.
At that early stage I was also highly sceptical that any theory that posited large positive feedback in the climate system could be correct, as the world has lasted four billion years without turning into a Venusian hellhouse. It will come as little surprise to learn that after another week, I not only believed the theory false, I was also sure it was known to be false by its chief scientific proponents. In short, it was a hoax.
But I remain open to the suggestion that I got it all wrong, and I remain open to changing my beliefs on the issue. I have changed my theological beliefs three times in response to further evidence, and my political beliefs twice, so flipping over on this one is no biggie. All I ask for is the evidence that the theory is true. I have been asking since 2008, and yet I have seen none. All I ever see is yet more ad hominem bluster like that of Betts and Edwards.
My point in this short personal history is that I believe discussion of motives is very right and very proper. Ball has given his argument, and it is open to all of us to evaluate it and come to our conclusions. Since this “theory” is being used to lower the standards of all our lives and keep the very poorest in life-threatening poverty, pulling apart the motives of its propagators is very right and proper. As I see it, there are four possible reasons to advocate this fallacy:
That isn’t in general an insult! Most people are not trained in science and are not competent to evaluate the merits of this theory. I, luckily, was. I use the derogatory term here, rather than some euphemism like “lack of skill” because we are talking with and about scientists, for whom this lack of skill is most certainly a criticism.
B: laziness or ignorance
A scientific person could know that the theory is wrong, but isn’t bothered or hasn’t had the opportunity to look into it. If I had been taking people’s word for it prior to 2008 and had been standing on soapboxes demanding action on climate change, then this would have applied to me. Luckily, I was too lazy to do those things. The “head in the sand” protesters, however, fit this one to a ‘t’.
Here, of course, is where Tim Ball’s post came in. Since we know for a fact that various alarmist players are dishonest, conspirators, data thieves, and the like, asking just how far it goes, and what exactly are the methods used, seems to me to be quite in order. Here we see how B&E approach the subject: “But it’s hard to see how anyone could justify taking offence at being called a Denier if they were happy to call other people Nazis.” But note that Ball did not call anyone a Nazi (or if he did, show me, I sure can’t find it), so this would seem to be a straightforward, false, ad hominem. Not at all a good start.
I should give a separate, simple example of dishonesty, not connected to the three authors I am discussing, so here it is: the use of “may”, “might”, “possibly”, and “is consistent with” in articles by scientists or scientific organisations “alerting” us to dangers of “climate change”. This is flat-out dishonesty when written by a scientist because every scientist knows, or should know, that anything at all “may” happen: the planets “may” tomorrow start orbiting the Sun in square orbits; on the other hand, the world continuing as always in a normal fashion “is consistent with” everything being pushed around behind the scenes by invisible pink unicorns. As soon as a real scientist uses any of these weasel phrases, he or she knows they are making no claim worth listening to; and they know full well that the general public won’t read it that way, that they will think they are being told something that is likely to actually happen, not that it is a mere logical possibility; in other words, these scientists are telling carefully-crafted lies.
I include in this term any influence that prevents someone looking at facts without bias. And in a sense we are all “insane” to some degree because our brains are designed by evolution to keep us alive and reproducing, and only secondarily to discern truth. After all, someone in a biased environment will be severely disadvantaged by speaking the truth. And the best way to be happy and productive, if you are speaking untruths, is to not admit that sad fact to yourself. In other words, we are good at self-deception. It also, of course, includes more severe cases where all connection with reality is lost.
Why didn’t I add an “E: the theory is correct”? Well, please, alarmists, by all means give me any reason to think that there is at least a reason to believe in this theory (even if it isn’t enough to convince me). So far, wherever I look, I see errors, dishonesty and slovenly analyses. Please, please! Someone competent on the alarmist side, please post a good, succinct, honest and complete (meaning, highlights the possible objections and addresses them) summary of the reasons why this theory is credible. Until then, no “E”.
First a short clarification: the “global warming” theory that I disbelieve is not the theory that infrared-interactive gasses cause the atmosphere to be warmer than it otherwise would be. That theory is not at issue. The issue is whether the small and almost certainly beneficial warming due to CO2 is amplified many times by additional evaporation of water until a dangerous temperature increase occurs (with or without “tipping” points).
Now a few conclusions: First, I think many of us bend over backwards to be polite to people who don’t deserve it. That is a wonderful character trait shared by Anthony, Robert M. Carter and others, but unfortunately not by me. For me, a great many alarmists are dishonest, many who have the skill to be competent are not; and these deserve our condemnation. But, of course, to go beyond that and put any particular person in these categories, one had better have good evidence and a willingness to withstand a possible law suit.
Next, the alarmist side of this supposedly scientific issue is heavily influenced by believers and belief in (IMHO, wrong and dangerous) political ideology. One of the key features of that ideology is the rightness of vilifying and destroying one’s opponents; and one sees this clearly in the foul “Big Oil” defamation that keeps right on going despite its ludicrousness. One can, and should, remain focussed on the science, but we cannot allow the political, ideological contamination of this scientific question to go unanswered. All Dr Ball did was tackle this part of the problem head-on. Dr Ball had the courage to face difficult facts, so let’s not leave him dangling when the inevitable, ostensibly shocked and hurt, but covertly vicious, counter-attacks come back from the alarmists.
Further, there has been mention of the friendly “Nic Lewis” meeting. Yes, of course it is great that people of differing views can be civil and discuss their differences amicably. Getting people together to solve their problems rather than fight about them is a key goal of all of us who want to live in a better world. But has there been any change since that meeting from the alarmists? I don’t think I have seen anything. More “sky is falling” alarmism, more ad hominem, more talk about “deniers”, and a complete absence of real scientific evidence for the theory, all as usual. All this convinces me, at least, that appeals from alarmists for realists to be “more polite” are nothing more than misdirections to stop us examining the places that threaten to provide the most embarrassment for their cause.
An appeal to Prof Richard Betts and/or Dr Tamsin Edwards and/or any other alarmist. Please submit another post to WUWT. This time, avoid telling untruths, avoid asserting the very slander you wrongly accused Dr Ball of. In fact, forget the issue. Instead – well, you know what I want if you have read this far: evidence. About that, a few words: “the world is warmer” is not evidence for the CAGW theory. Even “unprecedentedly warmer” is not evidence. You don’t know if this is unprecedented and I don’t believe any of your maladjusted temperature records anyway. (Sorry if that’s an “insult”, but you’ve collectively burned all your creds on that score.) More or fewer storms, floods, snow, cuddly bunnies, etc., none of it is evidence.
In fact, no recounting of factual details selected from the trillions of daily happenings on our wonderful planet counts as evidence. First, you have to show me that the disconfirmation by failed prediction that I mentioned earlier is a misinterpretation, and why. (And likewise for other failed predictions, like the upper atmosphere water content and the contrary-to-fact prediction for radiation to space.) Then you have to show in a clear and straightforward fashion why there is a good reason to believe your theory. Please don’t tell me this is hard: all the maths of special relativity can be explained to a grade-niner, and the import of, and status of the evidence for, general relativity and quantum mechanics to any intelligent person; “It’s all so complex, trust the experts” doesn’t cut the mustard, not by a jugful. Lastly, you need to show at least one surprising prediction (meaning a prediction made by no other credible theory, that we didn’t expect) that is made by your theory and has actually happened. That is, your theory being “consistent with” facts that every theory is “consistent with” has zero persuasive force.
Hoping for (but sadly, not expecting) a good scientific debate to develop,
Regards, Ron House.