60-second climate skeptic: A 20-second refutation (in about a minute)

December 22, 2010

Back in the life as a corporate consultant and occasional (too-seldom) lecturer, Perry W. Buffington and I got some good mileage out of our observation that, were you in need of delicate brain surgery, you’d probably cross off your list of potential surgeons the guy who had a copy of The One-Minute Brain Surgeon on his desk.  You wouldn’t trust your future to anyone who displayed The One-Minute Financial Planner.

Why in the world would you be ecstatic when your boss read a copy of The One-Minute Manager?

My recollection is that the first time I actually heard Buff use the line, he got an immediate standing ovation from the very large assembly of workers and middle managers (hey, he’s good — audiences really like his stuff). Someone whose study of their profession is limited to one-minute bon mots, should be regarded with great skepticism, or perhaps be ignored completely,  no matter how bon the motsOne-Minute [insert your profession here] makes a catchy title, and may even carry some good value in new ideas and good ideas reduced to readable length.  Ken Blanchard, the lead author of the One-Minute Manager series, did not intend his book to be the only text anyone used on a path to an MBA.  It’s frosting, it’s not the cake.  It’s quip, not quote, not prose.  Remember that.

One-minute experts do not exist.  (Some experts may refresh themselves with one-minute reviews of material — but you won’t take pharmaceuticals from the “One-Minute Pharmacist,” if you’re wise.)

Now comes Coyote Blog with a post, “The 60-second Climate Skeptic.”

One minute climate expert?  No.  That dog won’t hunt.

And here’s why, in 20 seconds:  Our concern for global warming is not produced by charts that show rising temperatures, but by two centuries of observations that natural plants and animals, and ice and weather, show effects from climate warming, and the thermometer measurements confirm that the planet is warming.  The Earth still warms, regardless what any chart says.

Here’s the 60 second explanation for the 20-second rebuttal.  Coyote blog makes eight statements or observations, all of them based on the science of carbon dioxide, a science which the author himself appears not to have mastered (he argues that additional carbon dioxide molecules in the atmosphere are immune from absorbing energy, if there are a lot of carbon dioxide molecules already present, apparently due to some magic mechanism he never mentions)

For 200 years scientists have measured carbon dioxide in the atmosphere — since at least 1960, with special concern for getting the measurements done accurately and right, because our industrial cultures dump a lot of CO2 waste into the air and any scientist understands that wastes cannot be absorbed without effect forever.  (Newton, Coyote.  You’ve heard of Newton?)  These measurements show increasing CO2.

Separately, botanists, zoologists, other biologists and especially those practicing ecology observed that plants and animals migrate north in the Northern Hemisphere, and south in the Southern Hemisphere, plus up mountain slopes where mountains exist, as if climate were warming, and it this warming were changing their climates, and hence, their habitat.

Beginning about 1965, atmospheric scientists have discussed what might be causing this warming.  At great length, after having eliminated every other known explanation (in true science and Sherlock Holmes fashion), CO2 is left as the likely culprit, the one changing thing that best explains the rise in global temperatures well past the time that paleoclimatologists rather expected a turn toward the cooler.

In short, the charts are used to try to explain the actual observations and measurements, and no matter how badly those charts may have been botched, the plants and animals have really moved, and the measured temperatures have really risen.

Coyote Blog tries to explain away reality as a figment of a scientist’s imagination.  But the Earth is still here.  As Galileo is reputed to have observed, regardless your religious views on heliocentricity, the Earth, she still moves.  Similarly, regardless one’s views on the dastardliness of scientists who carp in e-mails about unfair attacks on them, regardless how  badly one misunderstands CO2 chemistry, regardless any errors in creating charts for a UN agency, the Earth, she still warms.

Coyote Blog fails to discuss any of the effects or observations which lead to the charts on CO2.

“One-minute climate skeptics” can make a great contribution to science:  They are models of the Dunning-Kruger effect, and may be studied to understand that science.


Christopher Monckton out of focus

A dictionary could save space, using the same photo for definitions of "climate warming skeptic" and "Dunning-Kruger Effect." In the photo, Monckton is not quite so out-of-focus as usual.

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