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On Clean coal: climate solution or oxymoron?

Stewart Brand, "pretty dismissive" of "clean coal" in his recent book Whole Earth Discipline, has now come out in favor of it in his online Afterword

"I owe to MacKay one of my changes of mind since finishing this book.  On page 103 I’m pretty dismissive of “clean coal.”  Over dinner MacKay persuaded me that coal will keep being burned by nearly everybody, especially China and India, because it is so cheap.  Therefore we have to figure out a way to burn it cleanly, capturing the carbon dioxide and burying it, or bonding it into concrete, or whatever it takes.  In that light, Al Gore’s expensive TV ads deriding clean coal are a public disservice"

But then again, Brand is also touting a second tier climate denier Garth Paltridge calling him a "sensible skeptic". 

Its getting very weird out there. 

November 18, 2010    View Comment    

On Stewart Brand: Fearless Follower of Lovelock, not science

Going back to your original comment then. 

You said "none of the obvious ethical shortcomings (journals apparently closed off to contributors who didn't share the consensus view, respected scientists circulating emails that treated colleagues like outcasts from a middle-school clique)  was held up for rebuke".

I fail to see where disagreeing with this interpretation of yours makes anyone part of the "tribe" of defenders of the "Revealed Truth" who are "piling on". 

As I understand it there have been 5 separate investigations.  No one was found to have done anything that they should have been "rebuked" for.  Recommendations have been made to make data even more available than it was in the past, including details about methods that few thought anyone should have to reveal.  Now, there is a new attitude, I hear, where people are bending over backward to not only grant open access to data and methods but to be seen to be doing so, even if the scientists involved believe they are just being harassed.  They have been told they were mistaken about some of the "denier's" they really disliked who were acting in ways none of their previous peers ever had, who were acting in ways that had them appearing as if they were just trying to be a nuisance.

Calling people who can't get published on their own merits "colleagues" of the people who rejected them seems a bit much.  I heard Fred Pearce make a case I might  accept, although not agree with.  He says that because the senior scientists in some aspects of this body of research are not numerous, and I would add because the basic issue is about as settled as gravity, people coming with poorly prepared science coming from a place where they assume the general understanding of basic issues is not well founded, should be treated as if they are special.  Because there is an apparent conflict of interest where some outsiders might believe "insiders" were discriminating against "their colleagues", people should act in ways to demonstrate there is no possible conflict of interest.  Extra effort should be taken to give them a chance, by pointing out so all can see, where they could strengthen their arguments for instance and allow them to resubmit. 

Why hold their hands?  Let everyone make their case based on is their work original, is it good, is it of interest to the peers who read that journal, and forget as much as possible about putting a straitjacket on everyone because of perception.  Reality is more important.  But I'm not making up the new rules. 

If you actually think that original good work is being rejected or has been rejected that would overturn something at all fundamental to climate science, where is this work?  If I had just discovered something fundamentally important about climate science and found I could not publish in the peer reviewed journals, I would post it online, then start calling attention to it.  How hard would it be?  I would announce everyone was wrong, CO2 does not in fact stop any radiation from leaving the planetary system and I would explain how I had discovered this in a way sufficient to allow anyone to repeat my work.  Einstein worked in a patent office and wrote a paper which he circulated to physicists.  You can't repress original work, because there are scientists who are interested in reading it and thinking about its implications.

You complain about the lack of suitable punishment after 5 separate investigations, perhaps there have been more, I spend as much of my time as possible studying science, but lets say 5, therefore, apparently, you reject all the investigations. At some point I think you might expect to be ridiculed.  What would be good enough for you? 

What authority would you have do an investigation that you would be satisfied with? What would they investigate?  Why?

November 17, 2010    View Comment    

On Stewart Brand: Fearless Follower of Lovelock, not science

Let's check with the Denier In Chief, I mean, let's see what the person some would say is the Denier in Chief has to say about the use of the word "denier" in this post.  David has described the book The Climate Caper as being "typical denier claptrap":

Dr. Richard Lindzen has been saying in interviews that he prefers the term "denier".  For instance, here he is on the BBC.

BBC "One Planet" show interviewer Michael Williams:  "Professor, I described you a little earlier as a 'climate skeptic', a shorthand for which I hope you will forgive me.  I'm sure you don't doubt the existence of the climate itself....

Lindzen:  "Well you know I also don't like that word particularly.  

Williams:  "So what should I use?"

Lindzen:  "Well, its a good question.  Let me explain why I don't like it.  You know to be skeptical assumes there is a strong presumptive case, but you have your doubts.  I think we're dealing with a situation where there's not a strong presumptive case."

[they drift off into peripheral discussion then come back]

:  "OK, you don't like the word 'skeptic'.  Do you have a suggestion?  I've read a couple of suggestions. 'Denier' is apparently unacceptable...."

:  "Yeah well, I actually like 'denier'.  That's closer than 'skeptic'.  Realist is also not bad"

[ the interview then moved on.... ]

Dr. Lindzen's idea of what the word 'skeptic' means is not shared by very many, if anyone.  He's invented it for the occasion.  Lindzen wants to score a point against climate science and in the process reveals something about himself.

I turned to the online Oxford Dictionary, which says a 'skeptic' is:  "1.  a person inclined to question or doubt accepted opinions".

And Google Dictionary which says:  "1. A person inclined to question or doubt all accepted opinions".

Is there an echo in here?  Moving right along. 

Scientists would expand on this definition.  They tend to use the word 'skeptic' or 'skeptical' to define themselves.  They cultivate a 'skeptical' attitude.  They view the work of their colleagues skeptically.  They do their best to shoot it down.  Scientists who successfully prove that all the other scientists in their field didn't have the slightest clue about something, by explaining observations in a way no one thought of before are the scientists the other scientists hold in the highest regard.  Consider:  Einstein. 

It is worth noting what the popular dictionaries say next, after the most popular definition, on 'skeptic':  Google says it is 'a person who doubts the truth of Christianity and other religions', and Oxford fleshes out its #1 definition by saying 'a person who doubts the truth of Christianity....'  

Go back and look at Lindzen's definition - he says you can only be skeptical about some theory that that has a "strong presumptive case" going for it.  'Skeptic' as defined by these two dictionaries, is someone who doubts something that is generally accepted, not something that has a 'strong presumptive case', going for it.  As you wade into the definitions, you find the second most generally accepted usage involves 'skepticism' of religion.  Religion, which is founded on faith rather than evidence, does not even pretend to have a strong presumptive case going for it. 

Now consider the meaning of Lindzen's preferred word:  "deny"

Oxford:  [with object] refuse to admit the truth or existence of

Google:  1. Refuse to admit the truth or existence of (something)

Lindzen makes a Freudian, or pehaps I should say Fourier-an? slip here.  (Fourier is generally credited with the discovery of the greenhouse effect)   Lindzen's preference for the word 'denier' shows he understands that it is truth that he is refusing to admit the existence of, rather than he is actually skeptical of anything.

Deniers aren't interested in evidence and do not change their views no matter what evidence is presented. Consider:  Holocaust deniers. 

A skeptic on the other hand, examines evidence and looks for more evidence, seeking to understand if the theory he/she is skeptical of can actually explain a set of observations better than any other theory.  When new evidence that contradicts the theory in question presents itself, if there is a better theory that explains all the evidence including the new evidence, the skeptic changes his mind. 

Lindzen loves to point to climate scientists such as Schnieder who have changed their minds about what is happening to climate and openly scoff at them, as if a scientist who does change his mind upon seeing new evidence is someone he, as a scientist, and we, as citizens wondering who to trust in this important debate, should scorn.  Lindzen shows his weakness as he resorts to doing this.  Schnieder once considered it was possible, given the evidence that was available 40 years ago, that the earth was cooling, but as the new observations came in and the science evolved changed his mind. 

Lindzen is not a skeptic.  A skeptic embraces the idea that new evidence could change his mind and is proud of that fact. Most deniers of global warming pretend outrage that they are branded as deniers and vastly prefer the word skeptic because they know that scientists generally regard the word ‘skeptic’ favorably. 

Taking all this into account, this is why I agree with Lindzen - he is a denier



November 17, 2010    View Comment    

On Stewart Brand: Fearless Follower of Lovelock, not science

Are you saying NASA changes the data it gets from others so that its analysis would degrade the result?  I guess what happens to climate is a big joke to some, and these hyenas laugh at all scientists who are involved studying it because they see them as incompetent fools.  Is that your position? You aren't an incompetent fool I take it? 

What Gavin is discussing in your quote is why they don't redo all NOAA's work when they then do their independent analysis which includes NOAA raw data.  If anyone who wanted even better analysis done for any reason wants to get Congress to increase their funding, they are saying they'd do analysis to a higher level than their own purposes require by for example, doing things like taking NOAA data, reexamining every data point independently of NOAA using their own independent assumptions etc., instead of accepting that NOAA has already pre processed it sufficiently for them to use it. 

Hansen is an "insider" at GISS.  He directs the Institute.  He has discussed in detail why they continue on doing the analysis.  As the laughing expert you are I'm sure you are aware of it.   When I say many point to their analysis as the best, it is because they do.  Ask around. 

November 17, 2010    View Comment    

On What Role Might Climate Change Have Played in the Recent East Coast Deluge?

If global climate is changing, if it has already changed, how could it not be "playing a role" in these extreme precipitation events?  At some point there will be almost no one left who will say climate has not changed, in the same way there is almost no one left who will say the Earth is flat.  I would have thought this would have happened by now, given what's happening in the Arctic which is so consistent with climate theory. 

After the seas reclaim Florida, will anyone be paying this kind of "fiddling while Rome burns" lip service to deniers? 

Hansen also wrote:  "the "hundred year flood" was once something that you had better be aware of, but it was not very likely soon and you could get reasonably priced insurance. But the probability distribution function does not need to shift very far for the 100-year event to be occurring several times a century, along with a good chance of at least one 500-year event"

October 4, 2010    View Comment