March 27, 2007
Of course, you all also know that my position regarding the adoption of practices and especially policies and legislation designed to slow or reverse ACC is foolhardy.
Well, in my attempt to read more about these claims that people are causing the global climate to shift and wiggle about in unnatural ways, I've been sniffing around the Real Climate site.
The authors of that blog are climatologists who do generally support the notion that observed, ongoing trends in climate change are significantly linked to human activity.
I found there a letter from one of the scientists, Carl Wunsch, who appeared in The Great Global Warming Swindle. Apparently, his views on ACC were hideously misrepresented.
Make no mistake, his view on the matter is a bit more measured than what we hear from many quarters. Go read the whole letter, but here's an excerpt:
I believe that climate change is real, a major threat, and almost surely has a major human-induced component. But I have tried to stay out of the `climate wars' because all nuance tends to be lost, and the distinction between what we know firmly, as scientists, and what we suspect is happening, is so difficult to maintain in the presence of rhetorical excess. In the long run, our credibility as scientists rests on being very careful of, and protective of, our authority and expertise.
I am on record in a number of places complaining about the over-dramatization and unwarranted extrapolation of scientific facts. Thus the notion that the Gulf Stream would or could "shut off" or that with global warming Britain would go into a "new ice age" are either scientifically impossible or so unlikely as to threaten our credibility as a scientific discipline if we proclaim their reality [i.e. see this previous RC post]. They also are huge distractions from more immediate and realistic threats. I've paid more attention to the extreme claims in the literature warning of coming catastrophe, both because I regard the scientists there as more serious, and because I am very sympathetic to the goals of my colleagues who sometimes seem, however, to be confusing their specific scientific knowledge with their worries about the future.
In the part of the "Swindle" film where I am describing the fact that the ocean tends to expel carbon dioxide where it is warm, and to absorb it where it is cold, my intent was to explain that warming the ocean could be dangerous---because it is such a gigantic reservoir of carbon. By its placement in the film, it appears that I am saying that since carbon dioxide exists in the ocean in such large quantities, human influence must not be very important --- diametrically opposite to the point I was making --- which is that global warming is both real and threatening in many different ways, some unexpected.
How much is it worth to society to restrain CO2 emissions --- will that guarantee protection against global warming? Is it sensible to subsidize insurance for people who wish to build in regions strongly susceptible to coastal flooding? These and others are truly complicated questions where often the science is not mature enough give definitive answers, much as we would like to be able to provide them. Scientifically, we can recognize the reality of the threat, and much of what society needs to insure against. Statements of concern do not need to imply that we have all the answers. Channel 4 had an opportunity to elucidate some of this. The outcome is sad.
I remain confounded and frustrated by the whole global warming discussion and I think Dr. Wunsch's letter expresses knowledge related to some of my concerns.
I'm afraid that I may wind up following this rabbit down the rabbit hole and that strikes me as a dreadful thought.
Examine what he is saying:
"my intent was to explain that warming the ocean could be dangerous---because it is such a gigantic reservoir of carbon."
This is still not a statement of proof for ACC/AGW, as it is only a statement that a warm ocean could be dangerous. It does not say that the ocean is getting warm because of man.
So on that basis alone, it *still* isn't a statement supporting the ACC/AGW theory of the media and Al Gore. And that's the closest thing in any of his statements you quoted that supports ACC/AGW.
Now, examining that claim, we have a few facts at our disposal:
1) During the medieval warm period, the earth was much warmer than today and the oceans didn't do anything screwy and carbon levels didn't do anything dangerous.
2) Observe his ambiguous language. Does it really say anything at all?
See this post to see what I am talking about:
So nope, I still ain't scurred.
Posted by: Inspector at March 27, 2007 09:02 PM (P9A4m)
The purpose of my post is the highlight this guy's argument that climatological science is still very young and although there are somethings we know with certainty, there are a great many things we do not know with any great certainty. The issues overall are obscured by people on both sides making extreme claims (like the Gulf Stream stopping or that climate change -- naturally occurring or man-made -- won't affect our lives at all) and even deceiving the public about the facts, which is what The Great Global Warming Swindle did in misrepresenting Dr. Wunsch's argument.
Again, this post nor the letter is intended to offer evidence of ACC/AGW.
Posted by: Trey Givens at March 28, 2007 03:58 AM (ErOeR)
He's saying that we should panic (or give him more funding, or whatever), *even though* man didn't cause the problem.
I guess you have two axes to look at:
and, if you choose the latter:
man did it/man didn't do it
The video used him to support its view in the latter choice, which his statement literally supports so he can't cry foul there. Just because he disagrees with the video in its stance on the former choice, does not mean that the video was making him say something he didn't about the former choice.
I think he's honest enough that he won't make directly false claims against the obvious scientific truth that man isn't responsible, but he still wants to slander the anti-GW crowd in some way. So he gets all huffy about this.
That's just an off-the-cuff theory.
Posted by: Inspector at March 28, 2007 04:34 AM (debUV)
Based on his statement, he is citing this fact as a negative result of global warming of the oceans (Why it's bad is unclear to me, but I would assume he gave reasons during filming.) which is a result of human activity.
Instead, the film made it sound like he was saying that the fact that CO2 is released when the oceans are warmed disproves the claim that man is causing global warming.
They took his factual statements out of context. I think he has every right to be upset by that.
Imagine if someone went and took out of context some of the things I've said on this site. I have a post entitled "I agree with PeTA." I do NOT agree with PeTA. I only chose that title to get people's attention and have them read what I wanted to say.
Anyone could point that out about C02 and the ocean. They had a moral obligation to represent his stance on the topic accurately and they didn't do that.
Posted by: Trey Givens at March 28, 2007 07:25 AM (ErOeR)
But that is true, regardless of whether he likes that fact or not and regardless of the fact that he would rather they would have shown his position on the other issue of whether ocean-related CO2 is dangerous.
I don't think representing his unrelated position on other aspects of the debate is something that could be expected of the filmmakers. To the extent that he agrees with the filmmakers on any given issue, they should be able to quote him. And he does indeed agree that man's contribution to CO2 is tiny.
Whereas you do not agree with Peta in any way, so quoting you being sarcastic would be immoral of them.
Posted by: Inspector at March 28, 2007 06:32 PM (mDU6h)
The physical property of oceans to retain CO2 when cool and release it when warm says nothing of the impact of man's activity on the climate.
(The ACC/AGW folks don't hinge their entire argument around CO2 emissions, either. There are other so-called greenhouse gases and pollutants causing global changes in climate and weather.)
According to the ACC/AGW crowd this property of the oceans serves to amplify the effect of man's activities. That's a big distinction.
Further, I doubt that the relative amount (small or great) of CO2 people release is what he would say is a relevant question in the debate. What if all other things being equal people releasing a single gram of carbon in the atmosphere were enough to send the climate spiraling out of control and turning this into a hell planet? The fact would remain that it is people that do that and that people would be the cause of global climate change.
If they wanted to quote him, they should have presented him not as someone opposed to ACC. There is no reason they couldn't present him as a "hostile witness." There's not even a reason why they needed to include him at all.
He was mislead about the nature of the video and he was presented as being a supporter of a position that is not consistent with his actual view.
Posted by: Trey Givens at March 29, 2007 02:23 AM (rQ+Fh)
The point is that that is a much, much bolder claim than the simple "Man=CO2 emissions and that = warmer" one.
If what you're saying is true, then they're essentially saying that even though our contribution to global CO2 is completely tiny, we are sitting on the razor's edge of equilibrium, and the tiniest change will set off a chain reaction that will doom us all.
But that's impossible, even from his own argument. The oceans have been warming, and as a result releasing CO2 to dwarf man's contribution, for centuries before man even joined the party. If a warm ocean caused some kind of chain reaction, then I've got news for him: too late, buddy.
The only place he'd have a leg to stand on is if he argued that heating and cooling happened as natural cycles, that there was some process which would naturally arrest the massive amounts of CO2 that the ocean has released and will continue to release as it gets warmer (not caused by man, mind you, since the process started centuries ago), but that somehow mankind's puny contribution is enough to overwhelm this precarious pendulum at its zenith, sending us into a death-spiral.
If you know anything about all of the sources of CO2 (and I do), then you know that one good volcanic eruption is enough to equal *decades* of human activity. I think it was Krakatoa (or was it Pinatubo?) that, in a single eruption, eclipsed *all* prior man-made CO2.
My point is that if that elaborate and utterly non-proven argument were true, it would be utterly pointless for us to cut emissions at all. One good volcano and we're hosed. The only possible solution would be to race to some kind of technology to scrub CO2 from the atmosphere en masse. There would be no scientific justification for "emissions caps" or anything of that nature. It would be totally futile. Especially in light of India and China.
Now, of course, the whole thing is, as Billy Beck likes to say about this subject, *horsesh-t*. CO2 is *not* causing any kind of measurable climate change. But if it were, the fact of how the oceans behave would totally invalidate all environmentalist arguments on the subject, including the one presented by Wunsch.
Now, onto the question of our scientist fellow...
What I see is that he stated a scientific fact. And his statement was in no way changed or distorted. The oceans dwarf mankind's CO2 production. Period. That's a simple fact. Was I missing something? Was he made to say more than just this?
His position on the wider issue was not stated and only lightly implied by his presence in the documentary, as such. Do you really expect them to stop their whole documentary and explain that although he supports them with fact "x," he actually opposes them on argument "y," which they don't quote him on?
I could see wrongdoing if he was promised that he would get to espouse that other viewpoint or if he was told it *wasn't* an anti ACC/AGW documentary. But at that point, you're getting into a big he-said-she-said between him and the producers. I'm really not taking a side on that.
Compare this to the ACC/AGW environmental bureaucrats, who actually sign the names of scientists who disagree with petitions to the petitions, and you know the difference between real fraud and just some guy who was allowed to present a fact that he didn't get to put his spin on.
Posted by: Inspector at April 08, 2007 05:03 AM (ezTba)
That is not the claim climatology scientists are making. That's certainly what some of the greens are saying, but at this point, I would like to exclude those people from consideration. I want to only address the science here.
With that in mind, no scientist is claiming that there is any such thing as equilibrium in the climate. Dr. Wunsch certainly doesn't think that; the climate is under continual change.
The claim he makes is that CO2 in the atmosphere is "a bad thing." He also says that the oceans and man release it. He says that we should stop/slow our contribution to help slow/prevent the bad things from happening.
As I mentioned, I am left wanting more information on all those arguments, but that's all he says.
Again, the statement above is not a scientific treatise on the claim.
As for his being misrepresented, they don't need him in the video to state a basic scientific fact. They could say it themselves. They could present the information that backs that claim. But they use him in the video as an authority to counter the claim that humans are causing climate change.
His claim is precisely the opposite, but they took his statements out of context to support their own argument. If they wanted to dissent from his position, they could have presented him as a "hostile witness" of sorts and presented him as he really is.
The key here is that the video doesn't just use his factual statements; it also makes use of his career, reputation, and assumed authority.
Posted by: Trey Givens at April 08, 2007 07:22 AM (rQ+Fh)
"The claim he makes is that CO2 in the atmosphere is "a bad thing." He also says that the oceans and man release it. He says that we should stop/slow our contribution to help slow/prevent the bad things from happening."
I think I've pretty well dealt with his claim in my previous post, wouldn't you agree? It's rubbish, right?
Part 2, his presence in the video:
It would all depend on what exactly they told him. Yes, it sort of implies his support of things other than what he literally says by the very fact of his being in the video. Sort of. Does it definitively do so? No. Could they have removed all doubt by identifying him as a hostile witness? Yes, and that would have been better. Were his views "hideously misrepresented?" No, not at all. Not even *close* to how the pro-ACC/AGW crowd has done so. Is this any reason to doubt the veracity of the video or its claims? No, I do not think so.
Posted by: Inspector at April 08, 2007 07:57 PM (P9A4m)
If it is as you described in your last comment, then I think your objection bears some weight.
As for the second part, I disagree completely. The video makes the very clear implication that he is a ACC/AGW skeptic and he's not.
It doesn't matter what the crazy hippies do. Just because they lie shouldn't mean that their opposition should be permitted to do the same.
And the fact that the producers of that video cobbled together the statements of various scientists, at least one of which does not support their claims, does cast some doubt on how much we can trust them. I mean, if they misrepresent that guy, did they do they same with the others? Did they misrepresent some of the facts?
Posted by: Trey Givens at April 09, 2007 02:21 AM (rQ+Fh)
Maybe there is something I'm missing here, that I'll see when I re-watch...
And until you find at least one scientific fact that they misrepresented, I don't think it is appropriate for you to cast doubt on that.
Posted by: Inspector at April 10, 2007 04:15 AM (ixZg+)
There IS a problem with showing a person who dissents from the wider point presenting a fact that they wish to exploit for their own argument. It is blatantly misleading by implication.
And the producers of the film have done this before. We don't trust the hippies because they lie; that's a fairly broad generalization, so why don't we trust these characters even less?
As for a facts they misapplied or misrepresented to make their argument, according to the climatologists over at Real Climate, there are several.
Posted by: Trey Givens at April 10, 2007 03:19 PM (rQ+Fh)
There has been a reply to that here:
And you also may want to look here, at a scientist who supports the factuality of the film:
Now, as to the issue of misrepresentation. I disagree that a film is required, as such, to present his full viewpoint and that it is deceptive if it uses him to present a fact that is used to oppose his viewpoint.
I do think that it is possible for wrongdoing to take place if he was promised to be able to say something and it was cut out. In other words, they aren't required, as such, to present his viewpoint; they may have been required *by a promise* to do so.
Here is the money quote from Wunsch:
"When approached by WAGTV, on behalf of Channel 4, known to me as one of the main UK independent broadcasters, I was led to believe that I would be given an opportunity to explain why I, like some others, find the statements at both extremes of the global change debate distasteful."
Who promised him this? The filmmakers or the network? What exactly was it he was promised versus what he *thinks* he was promised? I agree with you that IF it is exactly as bad as he says that some wrongdoing occurred. But is his claim credible? This is some serious he-said-she-said stuff.
And what's this about the filmmakers having "done it before?"
Posted by: Inspector at April 10, 2007 11:18 PM (3RZvy)
My claim is that they should not tell him they will and then not and then go a step further and use him to support their own.
The reference to their history of doing this is to the discussion in this article in The Independent.
The only possible scenario that would mitigate my disdain for what the producers did to Dr. Wunsch is if he has suddenly changed his mind on the matter. Articles and previous public statements exclude that scenario.
What viciously false claims have the folks over at Real Climate made?
This is exactly why I can't make up my mind on this topic. I have people on both sides conducting themselves in ways that are rude and dishonest on both sides. I can't get a clear view of the facts.
I'm not a scientist and I am not inclined to wade through all the raw data. At some point, I have to rely on some authorities to educate me on the topic.
Posted by: Trey Givens at April 11, 2007 03:16 AM (ErOeR)
Well, it would be consistent anyway. Hmph; *journalists*.
Realclimate? I think what they had to say about State of Fear first tipped me off. It just doesn't mesh up with what I've seen from reputable sources on his book. I caught a few other really bad claims there, like believing the "hockey stick." I can't remember the whole of it, but perhaps worst of all, their obvious environmentalist ideology and thus dishonesty was quite apparent.
Posted by: Inspector at April 12, 2007 04:24 AM (0HqiM)
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