Desperation shows in the anti-warming camp

June 30, 2010

Willis Eschenbach, whose credentials I do not know, is back for another guest post at Watt’s Up With That.

Eschenbach contests conclusions drawn by the U.S. House of Representatives Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, about the effects of warming in New England.

In a probably-unintentionally humorous way, Eschenbach shows just how desperate grow the anti-warming camp.  The purloined e-mails show no wrong-doing, and worse for denialists, no significant errors in the case that global warming occurs and is problematic.  Legislation to fight climate change has a chance of passing this Congress.  EPA promulgated rules on measuring CO2 and other greenhouse gases, and Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s resolution to stop EPA failed in the Senate.  There was the hoax about the fourth-grade science project claimed to refute Nobel-quality research, and then there was the bungled story that mistakenly claimed a solar-energy company sent a non-working bomb to an economics professor in Spain in revenge for his paper against government support of green energy.  One can see how such a string of losses might set back the hopes of even the most delusional denialist.

Either ignorant of Godwin’s Law, or so desperate he thinks it worth the gamble, Eschenbach quoted somebody (did he ever name who?) going on about the Big Lie technique attributed to the Nazis in establishing policy in Germany before and during World War II.

Mike Godwin, discoverer of Godwin's Law - Wikimedia image

Mike Godwin, discoverer of Godwin's Law - Wikimedia image

Is there a more plaintive or pitiful way to say one is over one’s head and has run out of argumentative gasoline?

Eschenbach’s case is not particularly strong — he pulled temperature data (he said) from the U.S. Historical Climatology Network (USHCN) to make charts showing, Eschenbach claimed, there is no 4°F rise in average New England winter temperatures since 1970.

After a couple of skirmishes to see whether Watts’ watchdogs still prevent my posting, I offered a small rebuttal that, of course, slipped quickly into the abyss of Watts Moderation.  It may eventually escape that particular eddy, but in case it doesn’t, here’s the post:

Tim Neilson asks:

PS Ed Darrell – do you have any evidence refuting the post?

Most claims of someone practicing “big lie” tactics are self-refuting, the opposite of a self-proving document under the law. Is this any exception? Mr. Eschenbach offers no evidence to suggest that a committee of Congress publishes material it knows to be wrong for propaganda effect. (The quotes relating to Hitler comprise a grand rhetorical tactic known as “red herring.” The mere presence of that material, were we to apply Godwin’s law, refutes Mr. Eschenbach’s case.)

There is no evidence to refute.

Mr. Eschenbach offers a few jabs at data that show the effects of warming in New England, but he does not appear to bother to look at the data the committee used. This is a bait-and-switch tactic of argumentation that most rhetoricians would label a spurious. Does Eschenbach rebut or refute the committee’s data? How could anyone tell?

The site of the committee, the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, offers several arguments to suggest changes in New England from warming might pose problems. So far as I see, Mr. Eschenbach addresses only one of those arguments, and that one incompletely.

1. The committee claims that average winter temperatures in New England have risen by 4 degrees F since 1970. Eschenbach offers a chart that, so far as I can tell, confirms the committee’s claim — but Eschenbach uses a chart that covers a much longer period of time, and offers it in a way that makes it difficult to determine what temperatures are, let alone what the trend is (IMHO, the trend is up, and easily by 4 degrees in Eschenbach’s chart). Oddly, he illustrates the chart by showing a surfer in a wet suit, surfing in winter in New England. Surfing is generally a warm-weather enterprise, and though the man has a wetsuit, and though the Gulf Current would warm those waters, the picture tends to deny Eschenbach’s claim, doesn’t it? If it’s warm enough to surf in winter, it’s warmer than the Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

And look at the actual numbers — Eschenbach confesses a rise of 2.7 degrees, roughly 9/13 of the rise he intends to deny. Heck, that nearly-three degree rise is enough to cause concern, or should be.

2. The committee notes warmer temperatures would put more precipitation as rain, and not snow. Eschenbach offers no comment on this. Ski seasons in New England have suffered recently because it’s been too warm to keep natural snow, and too warm to make artificial snow (68 degrees F on January 6, 2007). (This is a national concern, by the way.) If the committee errs in this claim, Eschenbach offers no data.

And especially, he offers no data to back his “big lie” claim, that the committee knows differently from what it says.

3. The committee notes that warmer temperatures produce later autumns — a huge impact on tourist revenue in New England, where an enormous travel industry has built up around watching the changing colors of the trees. Such a change would be consistent with other long-term observations, such as those by the Department of Agriculture and Arbor Day Foundation, that the plant zones across America show warming (and some cooling).

Eschenbach doesn’t contest this in any way. Should we presume this is Eschenbach’s agreement that this claim is not a “big lie” claim?

3. The committee refers to warming oceans, and the potential effects on certain parts of the fishing industry, especially cod and lobster. This is caused by ocean warming, not atmospheric warming — so Eschenbach is again silent on this claim. The committee’s claim tends to undercut Eschenbach’s claim of a “big lie” here, and Eschenbach offers no support for his own argument.

4. The committee refers to greater storm damage due partly to rising sea levels. Eschenbach offers no rebuttal of any sort.

Eschenbach fails to make a prima facie case for his big lie claim, and his rebuttal is restricted solely to one measure of temperature that Eschenbach fuzzes up with an unclear chart.

May I ask, since you style yourself a skeptic, what evidence you found in the post that makes a case at all?

Will it ever see light of day at WUWT?

Update: Yes, it sees the light of day at WUWT.  Maybe all my kvetching had an effect.

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Watt’s Up censors dissents on claims of climate report censorship

June 27, 2009

Want to wager whether this post will ever escape the censors at Watt’s Up?

Anthony Watts is trying to make hay out of the two EPA guys who disagree with EPA’s position on global warming.  In contrast to the Bush administration, EPA is not suppressing agency scientists who argue EPA and the nation need to act on climate change, and Watts and his coterie of followers now claim that clinging to the majority view is “suppression” of the corporate, pro-pollution folks.

Is there suppression?  As I understand it, no one at EPA has been told to shut up.  The White House no longer dictates report conclusions contrary to the scientists at EPA.  In this case, it’s a couple of economists who argue with the science conclusions, so it’s difficult to argue that there is suppression of science.  Their complaint is that their views did not prevail at EPA.

But just to put icing on the issue, the dissenting report of well over 100 pages was published sub-rosa by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), the crank science, radical, private-enterprise-is-right-facts-be-damned group that is wrong on every other science issue they touch (DDT, for starters).

Early on I wrote to Watts that I am disappointed he’s fallen in with the former (current?) tobacco lobbyists at CEI.  In a second post, I pointed out that CEI is not a science-interested group, as evidenced by their parody of an Apple ad, zinging Al Gore, mainly.  That’s not science work, but pure propaganda (and false to boot).  That got a couple of responses, and this morning I offered the post below.  I think they’ve round-canned my comment.  Dissent is something they regard as sacred only when it suits them.

But tell me, am I wrong?  Is CEI well within bounds to argue that the Clean Energy Act will make the U.S. a totalitarian state?

And, has CEI ever been right about an issue?  Anybody got such evidence?

The post, sent just after 10:00 a.m. CDT:

David Hagan, interesting survey — of course, it covered the Bush administration and the efforts you now support to suppress evidence of global warming and the human contributions to it.  So, now that EPA is going the other way, are you urging a return to suppression of scientists?

Sam [Kazman, CEI]:

But do you really think that Al Gore’s serving on Apple’s board “speaks to his technical acumen”? Could it possibly speak, instead, to his political clout?

In my work with Gore, I’ve noticed that he’s way ahead of almost all other politicians in science.  He was right on air pollution in the ’70s, right on water pollution, right on DDT, right on orphan drugs, right on organ transplantation, and right on saving AARPANET, which is now the internet.  Yes, he’s there because of his technical acumen.  No one at CEI has the science chops of Al Gore — which is a sad testament to both the political acumen and the poor science content at CEI more than anything else, but still a fact.

The point of our video is that political attempts to restrict CO2 emissions may well produce a “1984”-style society. The war on carbon footprints will become very similar to the never-ending war portrayed in Orwell’s novel, with constantly shifting battlefronts and alliances, all resulting in increasing regulation of our lives.

Watts hates it when I call such statements bovine excrement, so let me just say that that statement alone contributes more methane to global warming than a herd of dairy cows.

It’s silly, and in this case insulting to everyone, to pretend these sorts of things are really in the offing.  CEI didn’t exist then, but this is the same sort of unfounded fear mongering we heard when the Clean Air Act was passed.  Perhaps not surprisingly, we’ve discovered that the companies that worked hardest to comply with the provisions of the act also are the more successful, 40 years later, with the possible exceptions of Exxon-Mobil and Chevron.

When we read “1984,” it’s good to recall that among the chief warnings of the book is the call to stick to the facts, to avoid false propaganda, and to beware large corporate interests who tell us they are taking our money for our own benefit.

The Clean Air Act did not result in militant totalitarianism, nor will controls on carbon emissions.

Ironically, there’s a good case to be made that the control on particulate emissions achieved by the Clean Air Act now contributes to global warming, because the particulates no longer offset the greenhouse gases.  No serious person would conclude that the answer is to increase particulate pollution.

Nor would a serious person, looking at the regulatory effects of the Clean Air Act, make such a radical claim as you make here.  Such overblown rhetoric is a danger to serious discussion — note how it’s raised my ire — and a clear indication that CEI is not about science in any shape or form.  Your statement is irresponsible in the highest degree, unsupported by history and current legislation.  Shame on CEI.

Godwin’s law seems entirely inadequate here.  CEI claims the Clean Energy Act — which has yet to pass the Senate, so we don’t really know what it will look like if it gets close to becoming law — will make the U.S. a totalitarian state.  These claims are reckless, irresponsibly alarmist at best.

Why won’t the climate change denialists like Anthony Watts allow discussion about the more radical, more reckless claims?

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