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How Firm a Climate Foundation? – Taking One For The Team

Dr Paul Giem is a medical doctor who leads a discussion group at Loma Linda University in the US and publishes 90 minute videos on YouTube. Many of his presentations are about creationism, but he did one about climate change recently (late November 2019). It’s being posted around Seventh-day Adventist circles as though it were evidence, although I note that at the time of writing it has had only 155 views.

I decided to ‘take one for the team’ by watching it and fact-checking it. I tend to avoid 90-minute YouTube videos as a medium almost entirely.

Anyway, here’s the video:

I’m not really a fan of a picky, point-by-point approach, but it does worry me when the first graph used stops in 2010: prior to another decade of warming.

Doesn’t notice that one graph is in C and another in F and makes much of the ‘exaggeration’ on the Fahrenheit graph, despite the fact that the magnitude of the increase is very similar if the same endpoints and units are used. Ascribes this to ‘data adjustment’ and uses it to impugn the accuracy of the data.

Claims there was a ‘pause’ after the 1998 El Nino despite a clear rising trend in the averaged data.

First citation was to Roy Spencer, climate denier (although there is a discussion of Spencer’s own claims not to be…), second is to WattsUpWithThat climate denial blog, third is to Joanne Nova… He began by talking about going to the science and evidence, but the wells he’s choosing are all poisoned.

LOL – a piece from John McLean’s doctoral thesis at James Cook University is cited damning the HadCRUT data for a number of sins including… confusing Fahrenheit and Celsius! I went for a look, by the way: John McLean’s doctorate was supervised by… climate denier Professor Peter Ridd. The thesis (freely available on the JCU site) is a bitty mess, but it basically expresses astonishment that there are errors and issues in a massive data set. Lots of exclamation marks for a thesis. Bro, do you even data?

Twenty minutes in, and only the coffee is keeping me going.

At 22 minutes there is a graph, showing a strong Medieval Warm Period, supposedly from the first IPCC report, but the y-axis isn’t even labelled. Pretty sure it’s a fabrication, happy to be corrected. Nah, apparently real (when I fact-checked myself), but as part of a larger set of graphs showing variation on longer and shorter timescales. Not much ends up being made of it in this presentation.

Key point to make is that the Medieval Warm Period was most probably a local phenomenon in the North Atlantic, probably related to changes to ocean circulation currents, not a net warmer period for the whole globe. This is crucial in showing why the argument ‘the Medieval Warm Period was warmer than now’ is false, when the topic is global warming.

“But [their] emails!” gets a run as well, with ‘Mike’s nature trick’ making an appearance. Dammit, I forgot to make a ‘Denial Bingo’ card! How many of the traditional touchstones will be touched?

At 33 minutes Soon’s work on solar irradiance variation and Arctic air temperatures is considered. The fact that it’s Arctic-only, not global, work is not noted, and the CO2 trend line which maps the data well is discounted.

The other key point, of course, is that we don’t control the sun, and we do control greenhouse gas emissions. If the sun were causing some of the observed warming, that would be more reason to work harder at what we can control, not less.

At 35: “is global warming harmful?” With the Australian summer we’re in the middle of, this is just insulting. (inquisitr.com – not exactly one of my go-to sources for peer-reviewed science…)

Ooof – proposed geo-engineering. Sulphur dioxide for a lovely yellow sky? Solutions to us putting too much $&# in the air is to intentionally put even more $&# in the air? Yeah nah.

Not at the halfway point yet, but we’re apparently finished with the science and getting into the politics. Oh wait, there’s a graph from WattsUpWithThat claiming that the US has reduced its emissions by 30%. Nope: one sector only.

40 minutes, first mention of the Pope. Oof: “we breathe out carbon dioxide, so kill people to reduce emissions” (slight paraphrase).

46 minutes and we have Al Gore and ‘An Inconvenient Truth’. Allow me to repeat my regular mantra: “Al Gore is not climate change and climate change is not Al Gore. Al Gore could be a saint or a serial killer and it wouldn’t move the thermometer a millionth of a degree. Go to the data.” In this case, Gore’s comments are straight up lied about.

“Global cooling in the 1970s” – notes that it’s nonsense, but decides he was there and it was a real thing. Literal quote “You can’t get much more authoritative for that period in the literature than Walter Cronkite”. A reputable newsreader, no doubt, but not a scientist and not in the (scientific) literature. Cronkite reported some work by Herbert Lamb. Have a quick look at the Wikipedia article for a decent factual rundown on this claim: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_cooling

‘Nother screenful of denialist blog pages.

Attempted critique of the Oreskes work finding that 97% of science papers which expressed a view on the causes of warming stated that human activities are a significant contributor, but it demonstrates a lack of understanding of the methodology. This is a robust finding, and newer studies have found much the same, or an even higher proportion. Among active, working climate scientists, this is not at all a controversial view.

Enforced Sunday worship gets another mention at the end, but no evidence that anyone is contemplating that was adduced anywhere in the presentation.

The presentation went for the first hour, and the remaining 30 minutes is for questions and comments. I never listen to talkback, so this bit requires even more coffee.

First question, paraphrased: “Peer reviewed journals will not even allow some papers to be published”. Um, yeah, that’s what peer review does! It is a check for quality, and makes sure that the evidence adduced and the methods used actually lead to the conclusions presented. If a paper fails peer review it is overwhelmingly because it is a bad paper, not because of bias. I mean, like any human system, peer review is subject to random errors, but there is not a systematic error where valid evidence for one ‘side’ of an issue is suppressed. That’s just conspiracy theory thinking, founded in a failure to understand how peer review actually works.

Giem’s response “we have proof that there was interference”… wanders to slide show, scans around but doesn’t find it.

LOL: 1:02 “just be aware that if you use it (the graph showing solar irradiance) you’re going to be piled on by people with other graphs that aren’t as good” – i.e., graphs that don’t show the desired answer, just the accurate answer! And this dude had the cojones to allude to ‘cheery-picking’ within the last couple of minutes!

The question, I think, is about the arctic data, vs the global data. Unsurprising for a number of reasons. The lower graph on the same slide shows a significant CO2 correlation as well.

In the end, much of the discussion is mutual agreement. No-one really challenges the claims made.

Pretty ignorant point about 1-year running averages versus longer-period running averages…

Question about longer-term climate variation, beyond the span of human civilisation. Giem hasn’t gone to long ice-core scales and so on because he’s a creationist and doesn’t accept that the planet has been around that long. Does bust out the ‘warming leads CO2‘ claim, though.

Explicit question on how AGW is ‘packaged and sold’ and how evolution is. Roy Spencer gets a shout-out in the response.

LOL – question arises about a claim from Soon that, despite increases in atmospheric CO2 the greenhouse effect has remained flat. Giem pauses for a moment and then says “Well, I think Soon sometimes overstates his data a little bit”. OK, so you already knew that when you cited Soon as an authority earlier in this presentation, right?

1:18, audience question “All the data are based on computer models…” Yeah nah. Most of the data are based on measurements. The models model multiple scenarios, and in general have under-estimated the level and rate of change. Giem doesn’t really address the question, and goes to personal (local) experience rather than to either data or modeling. When the questioner insists, Giem claims that the models over-estimated change. Simply not the case.

Question from an audience member about a graph no-one else present has seen. Question from an audience member about sea level rise. Giem ends up acknowledging that it’s happening, though he focuses on ice melt and ignores ocean thermal expansion. Does a decent job on the distinction between sea ice and land ice. Claims polar bear populations are increasing. A quick fact check shows that this is a common denialist meme, but also not supported by the best available evidence. https://www.sej.org/publications/alaska-and-hawaii/magic-number-a-sketchy-fact-about-polar-bears-keeps-goingand-going-an

Question about ‘the Pope getting scientists together next May’. Anyone know anything about this?

In the end, of course, people will choose their sources and their biases, and if you want someone who you consider to be authoritative to bolster your existing view, this presentation might be for you. But Dr Giem says right at the start that you have to go to the peer reviewed evidence, then goes to un-peer reviewed denialist blogs and web sites for the great majority of everything he cites in the entire presentation.

Along the way he actually does acknowledge that the globe is warming and that human activities are significant contributors. Why, then, spend so much time trying to impugn the data that establish those two scientific findings?

There are legitimate debates about the best mix of approaches to reducing emissions and mitigating climate change, but this presentation doesn’t really get into that in a genuine way, instead heading off into conspiracy theories about socialists and Sunday Laws.

If you’re seeking a firm foundation in understanding what’s happening with Earth’s climate and what we should do about it, I’d advise looking elsewhere.

2 replies on “How Firm a Climate Foundation? – Taking One For The Team”

You actually watched the whole video!!! Dude, you have way more patience than I do. I’ve tried to watch his vids in the past, but just can’t do it. Just skipping around and finding ‘mistakes’ was way too easy. Not sure if he is a fraud or really believes what he says. Oh well, probably has the Ostrich Syndrome!!

Oh, man, that must have been painful.

“At 22 minutes there is a graph, showing a strong Medieval Warm Period, supposedly from the first IPCC report, but the y-axis isn’t even labelled.”

That’s IPCC FAR graph 7.1c, discussed at https://skepticalscience.com/IPCC-Medieval-Warm-Period.htm.

It is Lamb’s infamous “schematic” so beloved of conspiratorially minded science denialists – see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Description_of_the_Medieval_Warm_Period_and_Little_Ice_Age_in_IPCC_reports#1990_report_(FAR). It was a qualitative interpretation by Lamb of the Central England Temperature Record (CET) using 50 year moving averages, explicitly NOT intended to be quantitative, and definitely not a plausible regional or hemispherical temperature reconstruction.

Furthermore, that CET record needs to be used with great care. Some of its data is derived from non-instrumental records and some from instrumental. And whilst nominally representing temperature at one location in England some of its older data comprises non-instrumental records from Utrecht, Holland (from inside a greenhouse, if I recall correctly!) So it is utterly unsuited for asserting a hemispherical or even much of a regional MWP.

Anyone who puts more weight on that than any of the subsequent robust hemispherical/global reconstructions is seeking to deceive themselves or their audience (unless they are utterly incompetent).

But it’s worse than that. If there was a strong MWP, it adds weight to the evidence suggesting the climate is more sensitive to greenhouse gases than we presently think, not less, so it makes the case for action even stronger.

It was based on records from one or possibly two locations in Europe (and if it’s what I am one of which I think was literally inside a greenhouse) of a possible MWP in Europe.

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