Ideologues and Charlatans: A reader’s parade of climate deniers

Posted on June 22, 2011

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Yesterday I posted Climate Alarmism & the Cost of Half Measures which was a repost of “Speaking science to climate policy,” Part 3 of The Conversation series, Clearing Up the Climate Debate.  In answer, a reader send me links to a number of articles which address and dispute certain claims made by Dr. James Risby in my reposting.

The reader described his list of articles as “peer reviewed, published scientific papers” which is somewhat of an exaggeration.  Journals like Climate Research and Energy & Environment, which feature heavily in my reader’s brief list, are not really scientific journals at all, whatever else you can say about them; they are interdisciplinary journals.  That means the “peer” who is reviewing a given submission might be a sociologist or economist or similar non-science academic which hardly qualifies as scientific peer review in the sense in which the term is usually used, that is, science reviewed by qualified scientists practicing in the same or related discipline.

Nor is my reader’s list of authors encouraging, consisting of right-wing ideologues, economists, meteorologists, soil scientists and professional climate deniers of the sort who get quoted ad nauseam on denier websites, but who have little credibility in the scientific community.

 Authors on the list

Patrick Michaels is at present associated with the Cato Institute—a non-scientific organization which lobbies on behalf of right-wing causes—and is also affiliated with at least 10 other right wing lobby organizations all of which have received funding from oil interests.  He has admitted to receiving up to 40% of his funding from oil, gas and energy sources, although, in recent testimony to Congress he said that his funding from these sources was no more than 3%.  He has never explained that discrepancy in his testimony, or what can be referred to kindly as ‘strange’ omissions from the resume which Michaels submitted to Congress.  Some people, including Member Henry Waxman, would like the discrepancies and omissions explained.  At Waxman’s request, Congress is in fact presently conducting an official investigation into Patrick Michaels’ testimony .

See Did climate skeptic mislead Congress about industry ties?

http://www.desmogblog.com/patrick-michaels

Ross McKitrick, an economist with no science background, is at present associated with the Fraser Institute, a right-wing lobbying group funded with donations from, among others, ExxonMobil.  The Fraser Institute has no climate science programs, although the organization willingly addresses issues of taxation and regulation associated with fighting climate change.  McKitrick also has close ties with the George C. Marshall Institute, the Heartland Institute and many other right wing organizations.

See http://www.desmogblog.com/ross-mckitrick

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ross_McKitrick

 Roy Clark, Ph.D.  I could find out nothing about this writer.

William Kininmonth is a retired meteorologist whose highest degree is a MSc from Colorado State University.  A search of 22,000 academic journals revealed no published peer-reviewed research on climate change.  He is closely associated with industry funded right wing lobby organizations like the Fraser Institute, the Lavoisier Group and the Heartland Institute.

In 2005 Kininmonth wrote, “Greenhouse gases emit more radiation than they absorb and their direct impact is to cool the atmosphere. More greenhouse gases will not cause the atmosphere to warm…”  To which a scientist replied, “If ‘greenhouse gases emit more radiation than they absorb’ then we have the perfect alternative to nuclear power, and a perfect solution to the energy crisis. No matter that your claim defies the most fundamental laws of physics…”

See http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=William_Kininmonth

Sherwood B. Idso has a Ph.D in soil science.  He is president of the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change.  His sons occupy chairman of the board and vice-presidential positions in the same organization which is funded by the ExxonMobile Corporation.

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sherwood_B._Idso and http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Sherwood_B._Idso

The Journals and the publications

Climate Research is an interdisciplinary journal according to its own description, and therefore not a scientific journal or a journal of climatology per se.  As mentioned above, what “peer review’ consists of in an interdisciplinary journal is problematical in relation to science.

In 2003, Climate Research was involved in a scientific scandal involving Willie Soon, Sallie Baliunas and journal editor Chris de Frietas.  Frietas published a paper by Soon and Baliunas on the Medieval Warm Period which caused a major flap.  13 prominent climate scientists, most of whom had been cited in the paper, wrote a letter pointing out how the Soon and Baliunas had misused or misinterpreted their data.  The editor and three members of editorial board of Climate Research resigned in protest of the shoddy review process that had allowed the paper to be published in the journal.

Chris de Frietas, the Climate Research editor who approved the publication of the Soon and Baliunas paper in 2003, also, in 2004, approved the Michaels and McKitrick paper:  “Are temperature trends affected by economic activity?”

In regard to the paper by Michaels and McKitrick, the authors themselves subsequently made the following statement

There was a small mistake in the command file used to compute the results in our paper [McKitrick and Michaels 2004].   The formula for computing cosine of absolute latitude (COSABLAT) takes the angle in radians but our data were entered in degrees.

Tim Lambert, computer scientist and instructor at the University of New South Wales, has a nice little diagram showing what this "small mistake" looks like.  It's really subtle, since two excellent climate denier "scientists" missed it completely.  See if you can spot it.

Can you spot the difference?

The authors of this little error admitted to the mistake in Climate Research, Vol. 27, pp. 265-268, and immediately declared victory.

Such chutzpah! Such style! So very, very dumb.  It is also a statement about the standards, if standards is the right word, of “peer review” practiced by the journal Climate Research who published the original paper without noticing the “small mistake” either.

You may find the Tim Lambert analysis here at Deltoid.

John Quiggin says this in support of Lambert’s analysis:

The descriptive statistics in the McKitrick and Michaels paper (available here) include the latitude, which is clearly in degrees, but not the cosine variable. The SHAZAM documentation, here, indicates that input to the sine function is in radians ( McKitrick and Michaels derive cosine using a transformation of this).

You may find Quiggin’s analysis here at Crooked Timber.

And poster S2Focus walks you through it here.

All of which was out there and public long before Michaels and McKitrick finally surrendered, put on their best bluster faces, and admitted to their blunder.

Energy and Environment according to its own description “is an interdisciplinary journal aimed at natural scientists, technologists and the international social science and policy communities covering the direct and indirect environmental impacts of energy acquisition, transport, production and use. A particular objective is to cover the social, economic and political dimensions of such issues at local, national and international level.”

E&E may indeed be a peer-reviewed journal but it is not a peer-reviewed science journal, and thus has little or no credibility in regard to actual climate science.  Even prominent climate change skeptic Roger A. Pielke Jr. who published papers in the journal in 2000 and 2004, said in 2011, “If I had a time machine I’d go back and submit our paper elsewhere,” because of low quality papers and the obvious political agenda of its editor Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen.  Christiansen is on record as saying, “I’m following my political agenda – a bit, anyway.  But isn’t that the right of the editor?”

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_%26_Environment

Roy Clark published “A null hypothesis for CO2” in Energy & Environment.  If you look up Clark’s article in Google Scholar, you find that the article has been cited a grand total of 3 times.  If you follow the citations up, you find that the three citations are by the author himself.  In other words, not one other scholar has ever taken Roy Clark’s hypothesis in the E&E article seriously.

I don’t either.

Another E&E publication “A natural constraint to anthropogenic global warming” by William Kininmonth has been cited by another scholar only once—in E&E.

Again, if it isn’t taken seriously by other scientists, I’m not prepared to take it seriously either.

Meteorology and Atmospheric Physics is a genuine peer-reviewed scientific journal. Sherwood B. Idso published “An empirical evaluation of earth’s surface air temperature response to radiative forcing, including feedback, as applied to the CO2-climate problem” in M&AP in 1984.  That makes the article, whatever its argument, more than a quarter of a century old, fairly ancient by scientific standards, especially in a rapidly evolving field like climate science.  An ancient publication by a non-climate scientist is hardly convincing when measured against all the evidence that has come up in that intervening period.

Conclusion:  If this is the best that the climate deniers can muster, bad or outdated science in mostly marginal publications, it’s easy to see why the overwhelming scientific consensus is against them.