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Climate Hustle

The contradictory nature of global warming skepticism

Posted on 11 September 2010 by dana1981

A major challenge in conversing with anthropogenic global warming (AGW) skeptics is that they constantly seem to move the goalposts and change their arguments.  As a consequence, they also frequently contradict themselves.  One day they'll argue the current global warming is caused by the Sun, the next that it's "natural cycles", the next that the planet is actually cooling, and the next day they'll say the surface temperature record is unreliable, so we don't even know what the global temperature is.  This is why Skeptical Science has such an extensive skeptic argument list.

It should be obvious that the arguments listed above all contradict each other, yet they're often made by the same skeptics.  As one prominent example, in 2003 physicist and skeptic Fred Singer was arguing that the planet wasn't warming, yet in 2007 he published a book arguing that the planet is warming due to a 1,500-year natural cycle.  You can't have it both ways!

It's a testament to the robustness of the AGW theory that skeptics can't seem to decide what their objection to it is.  If there were a flaw in the theory, then every skeptic would pounce on it and make a consistent argument, rather than the current philosophy which seems to be "throw everything at the wall and see what sticks."

It would behoove AGW skeptics to decide exactly what their objection to the scientific theory is, because then it would be easier to engage in a serious discussion, rather than the current situation where we're basically playing whack-a-mole with the favored skeptic argument of the day, which totally contradicts the favored skeptic argument from yesterday.

Just as one example, you can't argue that the Sun is causing global warming and that climate sensitivity is low.   Solar output has only increased by about 0.1% over the past century, and the way you determine the associated global temperature change is to multiply the change in solar radiative forcing by the climate sensitivity factor.  So they only way you could argue for a significant solar warming would be if climate sensitivity is high.  You just can't have it both ways - if climate sensitivity is low, it's not just low with respect to greenhouse gases, it's also low to solar activity, orbital variations, volcanic emissions, etc.  And if it's low, then the Sun has caused less than 0.1°C of the 0.8°C warming over the past century.  Similarly, arguing for a low climate sensitivity contradicts the climate has changed before argument for the same reason.  If climate sensitivity is low, it will prevent significant climate changes regardless of the cause, whether they be anthropogenic or solar or some other natural forcing.

If you want to argue that the warming is due to a natural cycle, then pick a specific natural cycle and research it.  Make sure there's a scientific basis to your argument.  For example, don't argue that it's due to a 1,500-year cycle when the planet wasn't warming 1,500 years ago!  But most importantly, don't contradict yourself by claiming that the planet isn't warming the next day.  These kinds of flip-flops are common on Anthony Watts' blog, which had a very schizophrenic six month period:

And that's when he's not arguing that the surface temperature record is so contaminated that we don't even know if the planet is warming.  Or that this supposedly unreliable data shows cooling.

But until skeptics start making some consistent arguments, Skeptical Science has set up a page listing all the skeptic arguments that contradict each other in order to make the mole whacking a little easier.

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Comments 351 to 353 out of 353:

  1. Re: Baz (350)

    Baz, despite our early differences, I've grown to enjoy the exchanges between us. I think early on we got off on a wrong foot because there were clear differences between how we internalized knowledge, but I also think that to some degree we've managed to work around that.

    You display a clear interest in learning, which is why sites like this exist. Which is also why I'm here. I'm still trying to increase my knowledge and further my understanding of the science as well. Which is also why I do not frequent sites like WUWT, which you aptly describe as not scientific. The problem we here have with WUWT is this: they knowingly masquerade AS a scientific site. Too many unknowing people, looking for understanding and knowledge, go there and either fall behind where they should be, or are lost forever to science. And that is a travesty.

    As would be your leaving Skeptical Science forever. I am not one to ever readily give up on someone, Baz. I think you really want to know and understand. When you're ready, I hope you come back here to learn and to help others learn.

    And I will still be here to welcome you back.

    BTW, I hope temps do not rise and OHC is flat as well. The science, however, says differently. Our descendants will inherit a very different world from that of our parents.

    The Yooper
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  2. @Baz: "As you see if you look there now (as I just have) WUWT run non-climate pieces very often like the present Google-Earth meteor crater, and solar storms."

    Must be a slow news day in the denialosphere.

    "I certainly wasn't rude (I never am)"

    Saying we were close-minded for not being WUWT fans is quite rude. So is suggesting that people with no statistical background might better analyze the temperature record than eminent statisticians.

    "On the subject of Open mInd, no the 'typo' wasn't fixed while I was there, but I never went back to find out. I couldn't even hope to find it now."

    How convenient.

    "Archie, you've achieved what you wanted. I'm leaving this forum as I cannot devote my precious time to construct meaningless posts like this that serve no purpose in AGW debate."

    None of your posts in this thread have helped move the AGW debate forward, because (as you admitted yourself) they were not logical arguments. We all tried very patiently to explain to you why you were wrong in your original assertion, but you refused to hear it.

    Anyway, you're mistaken (again): my goal was not to make you leave, but simply to admit you were wrong. It seems you are incapable of this, and that's sad.

    "As an ad hominem is just not me, I'm going to leave it there for you to think over."

    This is what I don't understand: either you want scientific discussion, or debate opinions. You made it clear this was about opinion for you - even if it isn't the goal of this site - but then acted in one of the most hypersensitive ways I've ever seen someone react in an opinion debate.

    All in all, it becomes clear you probably weren't here to learn, or listen, and you began to pump out the faux outrage when confronted to this simple fact.
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  3. Baz, when a site such as WUWT includes work such as Steven Goddard's pieces along with other content, how are readers to feel confident they're learning anything trustworthy if they do not already know enough of a given topic to distinguish between fact and fiction? What is the point of reading articles there?

    For instance, let's say that I'm intrigued by a story on Arizona's big meteor crater presented at WUWT but I don't already know much about Arizona's big meteor crater, not enough to distinguish truth from fiction. Let's suppose I do know enough about climate to know that Steven Goddard's depictions of climate science are generally unreliable, in many instances are downright incorrect, that this has been shown to be the case many times, yet WUWT continued to publish Goddard's work, refused to help readers by making corrections. Knowing how WUWT lends a patina of authority to unreliable work, why would I want to read about meteor craters on WUWT? How would I know I'm not being told something wrong? Why would I want to waste my time doing fact checking on my own, or trying to tease out the truth by following a thread of dozens or hundreds of comments?

    Once a track record of including Steven Goddard-level material has been established, once we -know- there's fiction styling itself as fact infecting the content of a site, for any topic with which we have little familiarity how do we know whether or not we're not only wasting our time but having our minds filled with errors? There's no way of telling short of reading about the topic somewhere else, meaning the site is essentially useless as a fundamental learning tool.

    How can such a site be termed "very good?"

    It's not a matter of any single or occasional mistake condemning the reputation of a publication; the very best publications sometimes must issue retractions or correctons. In the case of WUWT we see an extended history of publishing what is clearly incorrect and-- worse-- a general refusal to acknowledge error once it's been identified. In the matter of climate, WUWT has refused to help its readers understand the topic, to the contrary appears to have frequently actively promoted misinformation. That's not "very good," that's very bad.
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