The fraud fad ‘meme de jour’ in climate science Denier tabloid media this week is the hoary old chestnut:
‘New Study disproves/overturns/undermines global warming / climate change science/models/theory!”
Never mind that:
- they repeat this meme every few weeks with a completely different study;
- none of the Deniers seem to even remotely understand the study they refer to;
- none of the studies ever turn out to say what the Deniers believe/claim;
- the fact that it is “new” means it should be treated with caution since review by the entire scientific community can lead to:
- discovery of subtle errors that the authors and reviewers missed;
- a way of understanding the data different from how the authors had;
- the probability that a single study could overturn the thousands upon thousands of studies that support our understanding of climate change is remote in the extreme (see here).
The latest victim of Deniermania would be of less interest if it had not taken a comic turn with the appearance of Richard Courtney, playing Verges in support to Marc Morano as Dogberry.
The Nutshell version of Carbon dioxide forcing alone insufficient to explain Palaeocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum warming is explained in more detail at:
but for our purposes here a much simpler version will suffice.
The Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) was a time of rapid climate change. The authors of the study in question constructed a model that failed to account for all of the warming based on CO2 alone. This conclusion would be strong support for the powerful actions of one of the “positive feedbacks” discussed in the IPCC reports, particularly the report of Working Group II. These “positive feedbacks” are more popularly known as “tipping points“, but the term”tipping elements” is gaining favour as more descriptive and accurate.
The press release quoted oceanographer Gerald Dickens as saying “There appears to be something fundamentally wrong with the way temperature and carbon are linked in climate models.” (more on that later).
The Nutbar version played out as follows. Given the Dickens’ quote (above) the Denialosphere predictably went beserk.
Here are some of the Denialosphere article titles:
- Climate Models “Fundamentally Wrong”
- Scientists Say Climate Models “Fundamentally Wrong”
- Global Warming Climate Models May be Wrong
- Rocks Confidence in Climate Change Models, Predictions
- Study shakes foundation of climate theory! Reveals UN models
- Global Warming: Scientists’ Best Predictions May Be Wrong
Needless to say the majority of the pieces merely copy/paste the press release verbatim. They inadvertently admit never looking at the original paper by mistakenly claiming to link the paper when all they link is the abstract (Nature Geoscience is subscription only, so even if they had looked, only those with subscriptions could actually read it. My guess is that the Deniers with subscriptions is a whole number somewhat less than 1.)
In his outrageously titled “Study shakes foundation of climate theory! Reveals UN models ‘fundamentally wrong’ – Blames ‘Unknown Processes’ — not CO2 for ancient global warming ‘Global warming: Our best guess is likely wrong‘” Marc ‘Wormtongue’ Morano at Climate Despot apparently tried to incorporate every sensationalist claim he could. He also followed the pattern of linking the abstract as the paper, and merely copying large portions of the press release.
He then went on to attempt to link this study with an earlier ‘meme de jour’, the Swanson and Tsonis study on variability and climate shifts (discussed at the time in Climate change, lies, lies and more lies).
For some reason he did not link the RealClimate article where Swanson says, in effect, that the Deniers are idiots who do not understand science. In the same article Swanson also states that “What do our results have to do with Global Warming, i.e., the century-scale response to greenhouse gas emissions? VERY LITTLE, contrary to claims that others have made on our behalf.”
I guess those facts wouldn’t have worked so well with the lie Morano was trying to construct. Mornano then follows up with some irrelevant and more or less random criticisms of the US Government/IPCC computer software and models (more on this below).
Let us pause for moment though, because it is worth highlighting this typical contradiction in the Denier position. This study is being broadly cited as evidence that computer models are wrong, computer models don’t work, blah blah.
Except Zeebe et al (this study) is based on a computer model. If it demonstrates that computer models don’t work, then this study is wrong, in which case we are back to square one. But if that’s so, then it’s right (by Denier logic), in which case they’re wrong, in which case it’s wrong …
Personally I prefer the scientific interpretation, that models are just a tool like any other. Perhaps someone is willing to argue that only this model works, but I haven’t seen anyone try that one yet.
I suspect that most Deniers are not even aware that the study they are talking about is computer model based. Those that are aware of it probably prefer to not draw attention to the inherent contradiction in their claims.
ENTER VERGES: In UN IPCC Scientist: ‘Natural climate change denial of the last decade is not sustainable anymore’ ‘Global cooling has now been happening for so long’ even RealClimate.org now admits! …
(Morano’s titles really need their own, separate debunking)
… we are told that Richard Courtney “a UN IPCC expert reviewer and a UK based atmospheric science consultant, who is featured on page 224 of the U.S. Senate Report of More Than 700 Dissenting Scientists Over Man-Made Global Warming.” What? Morano want’s to highlight Courtney’s name on a notorious fraud? I guess as the author of that fraud Morano probably has a different … perspective on it.
OK then, let’s hear what the “UN IPCC expert reviewer” has to say about Zeebe et al ‘Carbon dioxide forcing alone insufficient to explain Palaeocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum warming’:
“I would like to comment on the Climate Depot report providing the information concerning the paper by Zeebe et al. that says the PETM (Palaeocene-Eocene thermal maximum of 55 million years ago) demonstrates the assumed (e.g. by IPCC) relationship of mean global temperature to atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration is wrong.
The Climate Depot report reveals:”
Wait, … what?
He’s not commenting on the paper itself? He’s going to comment as if he were talking about the paper, but based on the silly “report” that Morano wrote? He hasn’t even read the paper? (no subscription to Nature Geoscience I guess). Excuse my language, but WTF??? That goes beyond incompetent and clear into ridiculous.
OK, it actually get’s worse, seriously worse.
Ignoring Swanson’s caution that their work has little to do with global warming, Courtney also tries to make the link to Swanson and Tsonis. He manages this by not understanding the difference between a damped warming trend and actual cooling (more or less equivalent to not understanding the difference between positive and negative numbers).
Although he has now successfully demonstrated utter cluelessness beyond all reasonable doubt, Courtney still wants to really hammer the point home. To underscore that you have absolutely no idea about climate science you can hardly do better than to cite the Potty Peer Christopher Monckton as a credible source, so he does. See here for collected links on Monckton’s “science”, and also ScruffyDan’s four part Monckton’s silly graph for an in depth look at climate science ignorance running amok.
After that Courtney just get’s silly.
UPDATE: Richard Courtney has taken umbrage at this article and has commented below. I have responded to his comments.
Thanks to the other commenters who also replied to Courtney’s nonsense with cogent, fact based, intelligent commentary.
So how does a “UN IPCC expert reviewer” make such appalling errors in assessing climate science? How is that possible?
Could it be because:
- Richard Courtney has never actually done any climate research;
- He does not seem to have any scientific credential at all, being rather a technical writer for the coal industry;
- His Diploma in Philosophy may not have included a lot of hard science courses (and here);
- His credential as “expert reviewer” is based on having sent the IPCC some unsolicited comments;
- He is notorious for spouting climate gibberish, eg:
Need I go on?
So let’s leave Courtney and Morano as they babble aimlessly off into the sunset (but with lots of declarative punctuation! and saying “climate models” frequently) and return to the actual study that they were allegedly talking about.
Zeebe et al do seem to be saying that the warming cannot be accounted for by CO2 alone, and that the models seriously underestimate the potential warming. Do the Deniers have a point? doesn’t this “prove” that the models are wrong?
First let’s be clear, who knew that the models underestimate the warming potential of tipping elements? Uhmm … absolutely everybody who has the slightest clue about climate science? (which apparently excludes the Deniers). Seriously, this is broadly known and frequently discussed, eg:
- Tipping points in the Earth system
- Why the world’s top scientists underestimated how fast we’re destroying the climate
- Musings about models
- Tipping Points in the Earth’s Climate System
- Tipping points: we know enough to know better
- Tipping points
- What exactly is polar amplification and why does it matter?
- Climate Tipping Points Get Scarier
- The Tipping Points
- Could tipping happen any time soon?
and, as mentioned above, in the IPCC reports themselves. The reasons the models do not incorporate tipping elements range from the political to the practical, but let’s deal with the latter here. It’s pretty simple really, tipping points are more or less impossible to model without almost complete knowledge of the system.
A simple analogy would be the proverbial “straw that breaks the camel’s back”. Given many tonnes of straw to work with it is a given that eventually you will crush the camel completely. Given more and more data about the camel’s load bearing capacity and stamina, and the average weight of the pieces of straw you can start making some informed predictions about approximately when, but knowing exactly which straw will cause it to collapse is very difficult to determine.
Further, since there are multiple possible tipping points, a more apt analogy might be that of pandemics. We know enough about disease, health etc that we know that we will have pandemics. We also know a great deal about how they will spread, etc once they begin.
Do we have any idea of exactly which disease will be the next pandemic? and in what year it will break out? and where? Of course not. There are far too many variables to make that kind of precise prediction. But we can and do make the accurate (as opposed to precise) prediction that there will be a pandemic eventually, and that we should be prepared for it.
So naturally we can not make a model of health predictions that shows the time and spread of the next pandemic. We can model health trends quite accurately assuming no pandemics. We can also easily model what happens if a pandemic breaks out in this or that year in this or that place. We can even make some very informed predictions about the places and times that are more likely, but we can’t create a model that tells us when and where the next one will be.
So it is with climate change tipping elements. We know that they exist, and we know that given increased warming they will eventually be triggered, but which one first? and exactly when? We can’t say.
We can and do make the accurate prediction that given increased warming one will be triggered eventually, and that we should be do everything we can to avoid it. We can even make some very informed predictions about the places and times that are more likely. We know this, but obviously cannot model it except as a collection of “if/then” scenarios.
So what Zeebe et al is probably telling us (let’s wait until the scientific community has had a chance to assess the work before using more definite language) is that positive feedbacks can play a very significant role in warming, and that as we already knew, the current models that exclude the tipping elements underestimate the consequences of those tipping elements.
Put another way, Zeebe et al seems to be saying that we have a pretty good grasp on climate change science, including the strengths and weaknesses of the models, even though the models do not predict tipping elements.
As a corollary, the response to the paper confirms the findings of Swanson and Tsonis, specifically that:
Modes of natural climate variability are those forces of nature by which people who know nothing about modes of natural climate variability can explain everything.
or put more simply, “climate change Deniers are “fundamentally wrong” ”
As with every Denier Meme de jour the excitement will pass quickly. In a week most of the Denialosphere will go back to thinking that PETM is an animal rights group and that Zeebe was the bassist for ‘The Tragically Hip’.
All they will remember for certain is that a “new study” showed that “all of the models are wrong.” That the global scientific community did not immediately embrace the Denier faith is something they will ascribe to one of the generic conspiracy delusions.
Since Denier Memes are really just variants of Urban Legends it is equally certain that reference to this meme will pop up from time to time; we just don’t have any good models that tell us where or when. As such it is a good idea to be prepared by bookmarking this article 😉 .
During the past century, as temperatures have risen by one degree Fahrenheit, the areal extent of glaciers in the Sierra Nevada Mountains has fallen by 55 percent. These glaciers feed the rivers that support California’s agriculture, which produces more than half of America’s domestically consumed produce. Earth Gauge
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Denier “Challenge” aka Deathwatch Update: Day 262 … still no evidence.
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