- Apples and ice
- Cherry picking
- Back to the future
- In search of…
- The Schneider fallacies
- Denier logic fails
If there are 7 apples in a barrel and someone says “Oh look, there are some apples.”, how many apples are there in the barrel?
If someone else also says “Oh look, there are some apples.”, how many apples are there now?
And if yet a third person does?
If you are age 4 or older you undoubtedly said “7” each time since the number of apples has not changed, that is unless you are a climate change Denier. Apparently Deniers believe that repeatedly reporting on the same 7 items by different sources somehow increases the number to the point that by the third or fourth repetition the barrel is full to the brim with apples.
Think I’m kidding? Read on …
This all relates to that tired Denier canard, the myth that there was a scientific consensus on global cooling and an impending ice age  in the 1970s. It is nicely summarized and debunked here: Did scientists predict an impending ice age in the 1970s?
It has been debunked repeatedly as nonsense (here for links) including on Greenfyre’s (More Climate Denier Undead Zombie “Science”). This was also reported in the popular media, including USA Today: Study debunks ‘global cooling’ concern of ’70s, so even the Deniers who believe the popular media is definitive cannot be excused for not knowing this.
In a nutshell, the nutcases claim that there was a scientific consensus on global cooling in the 1970s even though from 1965 to 1979 there were only 7 scientific papers (our metaphoric apples) predicting a cooling vs 44 on global warming.
Despite the fact that this myth has been repeatedly exposed as a lie the Denialosphere continually tries to revive it (eg Skeptic Links). There are several threads to the Deniers attempt to keep this myth alive, all equally fraudulent.
Apples and ice
The most recent attempt to revive the myth comes to us as A New Treasure Trove Of 1970s “Global Cooling” Articles. This “Treasure Trove” is merely a collection of Italian popular media articles (La Stampa) reporting on exactly the same studies & people as all of the other media stories (ie nothing more than another repetition of “Oh look, there are some apples”).
Maurizio Morabito‘s (aka Omniclimate) conclusion on finding this is “the average reader of newspapers would have had all the reasons to believe in a “global cooling consensus” for much of the 1970′s and even later” … no mention that the reader would have been wrong, or that the author apparently hopes to perpetuate this lie by framing the article in this way.
Given such a meaningless collection of articles coupled with a lack of analysis or context and a misleading presentation, Climate Despot, Climate Change Dispatch etc
quite naturally ignored it put it on their front page, and the Denialosphere laughed at the stupidity of it breathlessly reposted it. In fact Climate Despot has a resource page of links saying “Oh look, there are some apples.” (as do others) because they know Deniers think that this somehow magically creates more apples.
This desperation to prove a consensus is nothing new for Omniclimate. Last year he touted “World Exclusive: CIA 1974 Document Reveals Emptiness of AGW Scares, Closes Debate On Global Cooling Consensus (And More…)“, in which he states:
“A Study of Climatological Research as it Pertains to Intelligence Problems” will make quite an embarrassing reading, especially for:
- the most obdurate catastro-warmists (when they will notice that almost all AGW scares are a search-and-replace job from “cooling” to “warming”), and
- the history deniers fixated on ‘demonstrating’ that a scientific consensus about Global Cooling in the 1970′s were a ‘myth’(*)
However, if you read the actual document (what a concept!) you discover:
1) It makes no claims of, nor provides evidence for any scientific consensus. As close as it comes is to state “The Western World’s leading climatologists ….” How many that might be, or who they are is never stated (although you can sure guess pretty quickly once you read it. HINT … less than 5 and all American).
2) Notwithstanding claims of being based on all known climate science of the time, it’s pretty much completely based on the work of Reid Bryson, Kutzbach, and their team at the University of Wisconsin, much of it unpublished.
3) There is absolutely nothing there to support either of Omniclimate’s claims
In a Spectator piece he wrote on the same topic Omniclimate makes the unsubstantiated claim that “Mentions of a global cooling consensus appear as far back as 1961.”
WOW! A scientific consensus 6 years before the first scientific paper on the topic was even published … how’s that for science being ahead of itself? or more likely, how’s that for complete nonsense?
OBVIOUS ALERT 1: For the benefit of Omniclimate and any others who are hard of thinking: no matter how many popular media articles or secret reports all based on the same sources that you find , the fact that in the 1970s “the imminent ice age” was fringe science will remain a fact (even when the media are in another language … shockingly, that doesn’t alter reality).
OBVIOUS ALERT 2: We know that there is currently a scientific consensus on anthropogenic climate change thanks to the statements by all of the worlds important scientific organizations. Why don’t you Deniers go and dig up the comparable statements from the 1970s where equivalent institutions (the same ones in most cases) made similar statements about the coming ice age? [yes, we both know they don’t exist – has it ever occured to you to wonder why?]
Another climate Denier standard technique is to select only specific examples, no matter how rare or unusual, and claim they are the norm. So it is with the Ice Age myth where they report media stories on the ice age myth, but conveniently ignore the popular media stories from the same period about global warming, fairly obviously because it exposes their lie. Some examples:
- The global cooling myth dies again: Climate science 1956: A Plass from the past
- Time Magazine 1953 “Science: Invisible Blanket“
- 1953 Popular Mechanics article about global warming
- July 1959 Carbon Dioxide and Climate in Scientific American
Jeff MacMahon notes that Robinson Jeffers poem predicted global warming in early 1960s and also that in a Dec. 31, 1959 speech Chauncey D. Leake,, American Association for the Advancement of Science, urged tree planting to offset carbon dioxide.
In fact, the very collection of Italian media pieces given as “proof of consensus” by Omniclimate includes:
1. June 22, 1976 (n.145, p.14): “Entro cento anni avremo una era glaciale” – “Within a hundred years we’ll get an ice age” by Umberto Oddone “not all scientists agree””
7. Apr 27, 1978 (n.95, p.9): “Siamo alla soglia dell’era glaciale?” – “Are we on the edge of an ice age?” by Umberto Oddone “Mentions “18 known American climatologists”” [18? wow! if that isn’t proof of a consensus of millions of scientists ….]
10. Feb 19, 1979 (n.48, p.3): “Cambia il nostro clima – Il mondo va verso una nuova era glaciale?” – “Our climate is changing – Is the world going towards an ice age?” by Fabio Galvano […] Mentions most scientists as believing that Earth is getting warmer due to human activities
11. Jan 20, 1982 (n.16): “Tranquilli, non e’ un’altra era glaciale” – “Keep cool, there’s no ice age coming” by James Wagner, National Weather Service
[Emphasis added by me]
tip of the hat to snowhare
As Richard Pauli notes, you can get a nice summary of the ongoing popular media reporting on the science of global warming by using Google Timeline.
Back to the future
Another technique the Deniers use is to misrepresent scientific discussion of the mid-century cooling. From approximately 1940 to the late 1970s there was a global cooling caused by air pollution (aerosols, see mid-century cooling) and scientists naturally discussed it. Those discussions of past cooling are used to claim that the scientists are predicting future cooling, which they are not.
For example, in “Evidence About The 1970s Global Cooling Consensus Keeps Piling Up” Omniclimate (again) claims that:
“yet another Science paper (this time Broecker from August 1975) making it clear that, for a few years up to then, the general consensus among scientists had been that the world was cooling:
[…] the present cooling trend […] the natural climatic cooling which, since 1940, has more than compensated for the carbon dioxide effect[…]
Based on which the author concludes “Time to repeat myself: we have a ‘widely accepted [by the scientific community]…global cooling trend’,”
Once again the author is being totally disingenuous in presenting this discussion of a past trend as evidence of a consensus on a coming ice age (which he implies, but does not actually say). Consensus that the Earth had been cooling for a couple of decades? yes. That the scientific community thought that it would keep cooling? NOT!
In fact here is what Broeker’s abstract actually says:
“If man-made dust is unimportant as a major cause of climatic change, then a strong case can be made that the present cooling trend will, within a decade or so, give way to a pronounced warming induced by carbon dioxide. By analogy with similar events in the past, the natural climatic cooling which, since 1940, has more than compensated for the carbon dioxide effect, will soon bottom out. Once this happens, the exponential rise in the atmospheric carbon dioxide content will tend to become a significant factor and by early in the next century will have driven the mean planetary temperature beyond the limits experienced during the last 1000 years.” [Emphasis added by me]
Far from being a paper supporting the notion of a coming ice age, Broeker is warning of the imminent and serious threat of global warming – he is predicting future warming. Are we supposed to believe Omniclimate somehow missed that bit?
Again, for the benefit of Omniclimate and any others who are hard of thinking, accurately reporting on what has been happening is NOT the same as predicting that it will keep happening.
In search of …
The 1970s television show ‘In Search of ….” included an episode on “The Coming Ice Age” (Episode 23 of Season 2). Actually inclusion in this show should itself be a tip off that the ice age theory was never popular since “the series conducted “investigations” into the controversial and paranormal” (ie fringe science at best). Had the idea been consensus then National Geographic might have covered it, but “In Search of … ” would certainly not have.
Be that as it may, the episode spends most of it’s time talking about the impacts extreme winters have, how and what we know about past glaciations, etc. Very little time is given to talking about whether there is any reason to believe that we are about to trigger another glaciation.
The show does take advantage of the fact that the average person is unaware that we are still in the Quaternary Ice Age, but are currently in an interglacial period. When people say “next ice age” they really mean “next period of glaciation.”
As such, when you ask ‘are we headed into another ice age (ie glaciation) the answer ‘yes’ is true since during an ice age you are either already in a glacial period, or headed towards the next one.
What is not being stated is:
- that would be in 10,000 to 40,000 years or so, and
- only if we continue with historic natural cycles and no other significant factors (eg CO2 levels) change.
So although they do catch a Dr. James Hays saying ” … we are currently heading towards another ice age.” the answer is trivial and irrelevant, even though thought to be true at the time.
The Schneider fallacies
Another thread of the Denier attempt to animate the dead is by misrepresenting the life and work of the climatologist Stephen Schneider. In the early 1970s Schneider was concerned that we could be entering a period of profound cooling due to aerosols in the atmosphere, but soon realized that the power of CO2 to cause warming was far greater.
By misrepresenting Schneider the Deniers hope to convince the public that:
- There was a consensus in the 1970s;
- Schneider was wrong before and is therefore wrong again;
- The case for anthropogenic climate change is the same as the case for global cooling was.
Two of the more popular versions of this are i) from the Denier movie “Not Evil Just Wrong” (debatably an even bigger fraud than ‘The Great Global Warming Swindle‘, if that were possible) and ii) Schneider’s brief appearance in the above mentioned episode of “In Search of … “
1. “There was a consensus in the 1970s”:
In time Schneider became one of the more important and public of the climate scientists who frequently spoke about the current scientific consensus on anthropogenic climate change. By saying that he once advocated for the theory of global cooling the Deniers hope to imply that he was then also an important scientific figure speaking for the scientific community. He wasn’t, in 1971 he had only just finished his PhD and had yet to prove himself as a scientist. To the extent that he said anything at all he was speaking only for himself and he made no claims to the contrary.
2. “Schneider was wrong before and is therefore wrong again”:
In the first place this is an ad hominem tu quoque logical fallacy. Just because someone was wrong in the past about something else does not prove they are wrong now.
Second, Schneider was not “wrong” in that he did not actually say we were entering a new ice age. As will be documented below, Schneider did not believe the science of the time was strong enough to make any reliable prediction one way or another.
It is true, as Schneider is quoted as saying in “Not Evil Just Wrong”, that “I was initially in 1970 and 1971 more worried about cooling … “, and the narrator goes on to say that Schneider published papers about cooling, etc.
But you should notice how the video does not tell us what Schneider actually said in the 1970s, and that all we get is one out of context line from an interview. That would be because this whole thing is a pile of nonsense.
What Schneider was talking about is:
“In 1971, S. Ichtiaque Rasool and Stephen Schneider wrote what may be the most misinterpreted and misused paper in the story of global cooling” They were using models to explore “what if” scenarios for climate, one of which looked at “An increase by a factor of 4 in global aerosol concentrations, “which cannot be ruled out as a possibility,” could be enough to trigger an ice age”
Schneider made no particular claim that we were headed to cooling, just that it was one of the possibilities given an extreme IF/THEN scenario. The money shot? In the above mentioned episode of “In Search of … ” Schneider says ” … we can’t predict with any certainty what’s happening in our own climatic future…”
There you have it, Schneider stating that the science of the day is not good enough to make any reliable predictions with confidence is claimed by Deniers to be proof that he was convinced that we were entering a new ice age.
Third, even if Schneider had said we were entering a new ice age, who cares what he said one way or another? The only thing that ever matters is the scientific evidence. To the extent that Schnieder’s credibility and competence are at issue, the correct question is “why was he wrong?” (if he had been), which brings us to:
3 “the case for anthropogenic climate change is the same as the case for global cooling was.”
First, there is the focus on what Schneider said or didn’t say, ie trying to make it appear as if climate science is based on the say so of an authority and hence implying that the scientific community is guilty of an appeal to authority fallacy, in which case they seem to believe that discrediting that authority with an ad hominem fallacy is the way to deal with it.
Actually a lie and a stupidity do not cancel each other out; what the Deniers have actually created here is a stupid lie. Even if the lie were true it is still not relevant. If the Deniers had even a remote interest in the truth or understood the concept of integrity then they would ignore Schneider entirely and focus on the only thing that matters, the scientific evidence then and now
ii) To the extent that Schneider was wrong in 1970, he was wrong for the right reasons. Given the state of the science and the range of possible scenarios as they were understood at the time, Schneider’s suggesting that aerosol driven cooling was a real possibility was perfectly reasonable. It was not the popular view, and Schneider himself stated that real predictions were not possible, but he certainly had an empirical case for what he said.
Of course acknowledging that admits two things that the Deniers do not want to admit; a) the science of the day was based on evidence, albeit much more limited and cruder than we have now, and b) that young as he was Schneider was a very competent scientist who went with the facts and what they told him.
As such the whole business of framing the issue as resting on a misrepresentation of Schneider’s conclusion as opposed to the evidence is also a Red Herring fallacy.
iii) the Deniers are attempting to imply that the quality of climate science in 1970 and 2010 are comparable, a false analogy fallacy.
In the 1970s climate science was barely starting out as it’s own sub-discipline. Since then tens of thousands of new studies have been done, decades worth of new data accumulated, hundreds of new techniques and methodologies developed, not to mention huge strides in our understanding of climatic systems. The two are not even remotely comparable.
Scholars and Rogues reports that”Science News was able to interview the author of that 1971 paper, Stanford University climatologist Stephen Schneider, for their article:
“When global warming skeptics draw misleading comparisons between scientists’ nascent understanding of climate processes in the 1970s and their level of knowledge today, “it’s absolute nonsense,” Schneider says. Back then, scientists were just beginning to study climate trends and their causes, and the probability of finding evidence to disprove a particular hypothesis was relatively high. Nowadays, he contends, “the likelihood of new evidence to overthrow the concept of global warming is small. Warming is virtually certain.” “
Which is neither here nor there actually. Even if the state of the science was identical, that one conclusion was wrong (if it had actually existed) does not prove that a different conclusion is wrong. It would still be a false analogy fallacy.
Another prong in the attack on Schneider’s credibility is to quote out of context from his 1989 Discover Magazine interview in which he said: “So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have.“ [Emphasis as it is presented by Deniers]
Although it is not stated, we are to understand and assume that Schneider will lie in order promote his agenda. The truth is that the quote is taken out of the middle of this paragraph:
“On the one hand, as scientists we are ethically bound to the scientific method, in effect promising to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but — which means that we must include all the doubts, the caveats, the ifs, ands, and buts. On the other hand, we are not just scientists but human beings as well. And like most people we’d like to see the world a better place, which in this context translates into our working to reduce the risk of potentially disastrous climatic change. To do that we need to get some broadbased support, to capture the public’s imagination. That, of course, entails getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have. This ‘double ethical bind’ we frequently find ourselves in cannot be solved by any formula. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest. I hope that means being both.” [Emphasis added by me]
In context we see that Schneider is acknowledging the temptations that scientists are prey to, while personally advocating honesty and truth. More on this can be found here, Schneider’s own comments on it here, and his very worthwhile meditations on”The Roles of Citizens, Journalists, and Scientists in Debunking Climate Change Myths” here.
Denier logic fails
This myth is yet another classic example of climate change Deniers chronic uncritical nonthinking; just how many ways is this meme logically false and/or deliberately misleading? who can tell? As usual the Denier case is buried with so many layers of lies and poor thinking that it is difficult to wade through the muck.
In addition to being disingenuous the Deniers are certainly guilty of false premise fallacy (ie premise ‘the media only report on views held by most scientists’), Asserting the Consequent and Hasty Generalization fallacies combined (ie ‘some media report a scientific consensus, therefore there was a scientific consensus’), as well as appeals to authority, cherry picking, ad hominem, Red Herring, and false analogy fallacies … and probably more.
There is so little sign of rationality or actual thought that you wonder how they manage to dress themselves unaided.
- The whole scientific consensus on an ice age meme is a lie;
- Even if it weren’t a lie, it’s not applicable;
- Even if it were applicable, it’s not relevant.
Other than that, it’s fine.
Unfortunately the meme does have appeal to those seeking a quick and easy way to justify uninformed opinions and confirm existing biases, hence it’s relative popularity with certain people.
Additionally, as ClimateProgress points out, there is also the fact that this meme appears in Chrichton’s book ‘State of Fear’ (aka the climate change Denier Bible). As Deniers know, if you can’t trust popular science fiction books for your facts, what can you trust?
- Climate Science 1956: A Blast from the Past
- The global cooling mole
- The great global cooling myth
- Killing the myth of the 1970s global cooling scientific consensus
- A New Ice Age (The Global Warming Debate)
- Cooling climate ‘consensus’ of 1970s never was: Myth often cited by global warming skeptics debunked
[1)When they say “next ice age” they really mean “next glaciation”, because technically we are already in the Quaternary Ice Age, but are currently in an interglacial period.
This warming trend has been particularly pronounced during the pre-monsoon month of May, which is now on average 4.9 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than it was in the late 1970’s. The Indian Ocean warmed to a much lesser extent during this period, enhancing the temperature gradient between the ocean and the land. Earth Gauge
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