Griffith University Skeptics and Freethinkers

Climate ‘Sceptics’ contributed nothing but confusion and annoyance to Skeptics and the public.

In Creationism/ Intelligent Design, GUSSF Events!, Helping our community., Science, Uncategorized on October 13, 2010 at 1:40 AM

I was fortunate enough to attend a talk by Professor Tim Flannery tonight, hosted by my local public library. The only downside to a great presentation launching Professor Flannery’s latest book “Here On Earth“, were a couple of rude, incoherent  climate ‘sceptics’. During the Q and A following the presentation, they drew attention to themselves by raising their voices unnecessarily, not relinquishing the microphone and speaking over the top of other audience members as well as the guest speaker.

When my time came to ask a question and I introduced myself as a representative of the Griffith University Skeptics and Freethinkers, many in the audience groaned and it was clear visibly and audibly that they were wary of more of the same rudeness and intolerance.

I calmly explained that in my opinion the evidence supporting human caused climate change was overwhelming and freely available to anyone willing to look, however my question related to the social habits of certain ant species (namely democratic process in some Ant colonies, you really had to be there). I hope at least some of the large audience now have less cause to equate the term “skeptic” with rude, flailing, oddball denier, but I know with certainty that I tried to get this point across.

I point this out because the embarrassing ‘sceptics’ in the audience were clearly not looking to evaluate evidence or discuss findings; they seemed to just want to be heard and to be believed/correct, regardless of the answers given. The evidence for human caused climate change, is there to be evaluated, accepting it or dismissing it is each of our prerogatives, as is establishing personal standards of proof, however what was witnessed tonight was just the latest in a long line of noise masquerading (transparently this time) as real scientific debate.

It is incorrect that there are two sides of a scientific controversy regarding the validity of Climate Change and/or Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW). There are the overwhelming majority of the scientists in the field who are gathering, analysing and verifying evidence, publishing their research in peer reviewed journals and getting on with their work. They are sharply contrasted with the fringe groups that contribute nothing more than empty rhetoric, threats and denial.

I believe the same rejection of evidence applies within the AGW denial community as does it does with those who deny the evidence that dinosaurs became extinct millions of years before humans existed. There are strong evidential reasons to accept the science in both cases, and in both cases it is being illogically overlooked, ignored, mocked and derided by those whose ideological agenda permits if not demands such behavior.

Now to be really, clear I do not mean every single person who harbors questions and/or doubts (AGW agnostics for instance). I mean the loud public voices of dissent like Ian Plimer and those who cherry pick the research rather than actually following the many converging lines of evidence, from diverse and varied fields, diverse and varied institutions and diverse and varied scientists.

For example it’s really worth checking out the great resources NASA has available here, here,
and for more details and the most up to the minute data, here.
Some good detail on the A in AGW can be found here.

On face value I understand people’s reluctance to put stock in scientific consensus, knowing full well that science while being many things, is not a democratic process. Therefore it’s easy to reject a consensus as something put forward in lieu of evidence, but there would need to be evidence in favor of the assumption that this was indeed what was occurring too!

The very idea of a scientific consensus being supplied to the media and governments to the world is unusual and I can only recall one other time that it has been deemed necessary by the academies of science to issue such a thing; in defense of science from Creation Science and ID. The scientific community in general is not accustomed to having to engage in political public debate, rather expecting the evidence to speak for itself.

The idea of a consensus did not impress me at all, until I considered what it actually was and meant in this case. That these organisations and individuals in the tens of thousands are willing to stake their academic reputations on this topic, what could possibly compel them to do that?

For instance the 2005 position statement from the National Academy of Sciences begins

“Climate Change is real”

and is endorsed by no less than the National Academy of Sciences, United States of America (obviously), the Chinese Academy of Sciences-China, the Royal Society-United Kingdom, the Russian Academy of Sciences-Russia, the Academia Brasiliera de Ciências- Brazil, the Royal Society of Canada-Canada, Academié des Sciences-France, Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher-Germany, Indian National Science Academy-India, Accademia dei Lincei-Italy and the Science Council of Japan.

Not to be outdone, the Royal Society (UK) released a statement declaring

“The work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) represents the consensus of the international scientific community on climate change science. We recognise IPCC as the world’s most reliable source of information on climate change and its causes”.

This one was endorsed by Australian Academy of Sciences, Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Sciences and the Arts, Brazilian Academy of Sciences, Royal Society of Canada, Caribbean Academy of Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, German Academy of Natural Scientists : Leopoldina, Indian National Science Academy, the Indonesian Academy of Sciences, Royal Irish Academy, Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei (Italy), Academy of Sciences Malaysia, Academy Council of the Royal Society of New Zealand, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and of course the Royal Society (UK).

Of course this in no-way counts as evidence on its own, it merely represents an overwhelming certainty amongst the best and brightest scientific minds of all time.

As we all know the gold standard of scientific credibility is the peer review journal.
Now if there was a genuine (by which I mean verifiable, evidence based) rejection of the vast evidence for AGW, peer reviewed journals would be where this would take place right?

While I didn’t have time to trawl through a database search myself, Naomi Oreskes from the Department of History and Science Studies Program, University of California at San Diego did!
Naomi performed an ISI database search with the keyword phrase “global climate change” and surveyed the abstracts she found that had been published between 1993 and 2003 in refereed scientific journals.
She then divided the 928 papers she found into six categories:

1. Explicit endorsement of the consensus position (Earth’s climate is being affected by human activities)

2. Evaluation of impacts

3. Mitigation proposals

4. Methods

5. Paleoclimate analysis

6. Rejection of the consensus position (Earth’s climate is being affected by human activities)

Naomi found that none of the papers fell into the last category while 75% fell into the first three. I should also point out that the start date of the analysis was prior to the 1995 IPCC report, let alone the more recent IPCC reports.

I can’t recommend highly enough this excellent talk given by Peter Ellerton (winner of the 2008 Australian Skeptics prize for Critical Thinking) on the Climate Change debate. You’re encouraged to examine the way in which the debate is being run and scrutinise your own convictions as to why you may have taken the position you hold, if any!

Personally I would much prefer Climate Change and AGW to be an error, a hoax, a conspiracy, or any one of the mundane explanations put forward by others that would also prefer it not to be true, however I’m unable to be intellectually honest and do that on the balance of the copious evidence available.  As the Australian Skeptics position statement on “climate change skeptics” says:

It has always been the Australian Skeptics’ position that people should make up their minds based on the evidence. This position becomes even more important when what should be a completely scientific issue is used by politically-motivated groups to further their causes, often in the face of contradictory evidence.

People who are not experts in fields related to climate science should seek the best available evidence, as judged by those who are experts in relevant fields. While everyone is entitled to their own opinion, not everyone is entitled to be taken seriously. On the very important and very complex questions of climate change and its causes, only the carefully formed opinions of relevantly qualified experts should be taken seriously.

As in all fields of science, expertise emerges out of experience and through the peer-review process, not through media appearances or political connections.

Jayson D Cooke

  1. It is important to distinguish between a “sKeptic” and a “sCeptic” when referring to climate change doubters.

    SKEPTIC = Essential to the scientific process. A Skeptic is an experienced or trained individual who has SPECIFIC questions over SPECIFIC issues contained within the scientific research or literature and who can OFTEN provide their own research in counterpoint thereby adding to the overall knowledge base.

    SCEPTIC = “So Called Experts Perpetually Talking In Circles”. These individuals make broad sweeping pronouncements but RARELY cite proper evidence in support of their arguments. Sceptics often believe in Machiavellian conspiracies involving climate scientists, the UN, Al Gore, congressional and university investigation panels. They also have a propensity to elevate non-scientists (Monkton, Horner, Inhofe, et. all) to the level of climate expert based on their wit and point of view.

  2. Jayson you are a self-obsessed wanker. This is supposed to be a “group” and yet your stupid name is everywhere. You are a wanker!

  3. Hi Desilu,
    This blog page is but one aspect of our group (which is officially recognised as per the rules and statutes of Griffith University) and if it’s seems my name is “everywhere”, it’s due to the fact I am currently the main contributor.

    As for whether my name is “stupid” or not, it’s the name my mother gave me so you’ll have to take it up with her, although you may find she’s less patient than me.

    If you are suggesting that I not sign my work, of which I take full responsibility as well as credit for, then I’m afraid that’s not on the cards.

    Also while I appreciate your comment, if you choose to comment again could you please find a more constructive, less blatantly rude way of getting your point across?
    Thanks in advance,

  4. As a climate change sceptic myself I appreciate that you have placed a well constructed piece on your weblog.

    Can I just put a couple of thoughts here?

    ‘Climate Change is Real’ – absolutely no argument from me there, it is real and there is abundant evidence that climate does in fact change.

    Is Climate Change caused by humans burning fossil fuels or any other human activity? There is evidence but it has to be admitted that science is still a long way short of proof that it is so. The general stance taken by the IPCC is that climate changed very very slowly up until the industrial revolution in the 18th century at which point co2 levels began to rise and serious global warming began. I would suggest to you that there is also strong evidence of global warming and sea level rise that pre-dates the I.R. by centuries, when co2 was lower (the usually never mentioned medieval warm period for example) and the underwater ruins of towns and cities off greece and the jamaicas that were apparently built and abandoned more than 2000 years ago as sea levels rose.

    The AGW group wants us to believe that co2 rising is causing this and yet the numbers just don’t support it. co2 was 250ppm in about 1750 and is now at about 385ppm. Many people think this is a big rise but its actually miniscule. Expressed as a percentage of atmosphere co2 has risen from 0.00025% to 0.00039%. Both numbers are so small and the actual atmospheric variation so minute that it is indeed a very thin premise on which to base a raft of new social policies and taxes.

    Beneath our feet below the earths crust we have unimaginable quantities of molten metal and rocks circulating in convection currents of incredible heat energy that also vary over time and about which we know very little. Above our heads in the sky 150m km away is the sun which likewise has vast mass & heat & radiation and is basically an ongoing series of nuclear exposions millions of times a second that shines onto our planet, also about which we do not know much at all. And yet the incredible heat below us and above us, and the cycles and variations of that heat, is put to one side and the focus shifts to co2 emmissions which as i have pointed out are a very tiny proportion of our atmosphere.

    This is where the AGW argument shifts from science to social engineering. The battle for the minds of people is on in earnest, the Greens have stopped mentioning ‘global warming’ and now uniformly refer to ‘dangerous climate change’. They have clearly had a party meeting recently and realised that the public were very sceptical of AGW so its been ramped up to ‘dangerous climate change’. Scare tactics and misinformation are now the tool of the AGW group.

    Four years ago Al Gore said, “in just a few years the polar caps will be gone, it is raining at the north pole and thats never happened before…” Well a few years have passed and there is much ice and cold at the poles as there has been for centuries. An Aussie north pole adventurer recently had to turn back because of severe frost bite and couldn’t get near the pole in summer. Why is Al Gore lying, why is the hard evidence not there, why do the AGW folks use scary and alarmist language?

    You are a free thinker, please give it some free thinking and start asking some difficult questions of the AGW spokespeople.

    Regards, Alan.

  5. […] something of a go-to-guy for weird shit, having encountered/exposed/confronted climate change deniers, historical revisionists (holocaust deniers), young earth creationists & intelligent design […]

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