Andrew Bolt distorts again

One reliable thing in the climate change "debate" is Andrew Bolt's loathing of Kevin Rudd and his comfort with misrepresenting the comments of the PM and others about climate change. Bolt's favored approach is illustrative of a common tactic of AGW denialists. He regularly creates straw man arguments that nobody actually made, then attempts to take them apart (ironically usually unsuccessfully as in this case).  

In a recent blog post, Bolt attempted to refute Rudd's statement that:

'the most recent IPCC scientific conclusion in 2007 was that “warming of the climate system is unequivocal” and the “increase in global average temperatures since the mid 20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations.” This is the conclusion of 4,000 scientists appointed by governments from virtually every country in the world...'

Bolt argues that this statement, in particular the point about the 4,000 scientists, was a "lie".  He used the following quote from a paper co-authored by Mike Hulme, an IPCC CLA or Coordinating Lead Author.

Claims such as ‘2,500 of the world’s leading scientists have reached a consensus that human activities are having a significant influence on the climate’ are disingenuous. That particular consensus judgement, as are many others in the IPCC reports, is reached by only a few dozen experts in the specific field of detection and attribution studies; other IPCC authors are experts in other fields.

Bolt: "Just a few dozen scientists, not Rudd’s “4000”. The man is utterly shameless."

Rudd simply said "this is the conclusion of 4,000 scientists". Well it is. This is demonstrably and irrefutably true. Rudd did not state that "this is the conclusion of 4,000 experts in the specific field of detection and attribution studies".  A subtle yet material difference. This is just one of the many tried and true ways climate skeptics mislead.  

You can read about the process that leads to the IPCC assessments here and here. The AR4 report was indeed written, edited and reviewed by many thousands of expert scientists including the lead and contributing authors and the expert reviewers. Furthermore, all they were doing was summarizing and synthesizing the findings of tens of thousands of other scientists, primarily of papers in the peer reviewed literature.  The argument that the key consensus was reached by only a few dozen people is absurd. 

All scientists in any discipline are "experts in the specific field of detection and attribution studies".  That is precisely what scientists in any subdiscipine do. We detect patterns and attempt to explain them, i.e, attribute them to causal factors, using theory, experiments and observations. If you haven't been trained in statistical inference and the techniques and logic of attribution, then you're not a scientist. No scientist has any secret insight into evaluating the evidence for a hypothesized causal relationship, e.g., between smoking and lung cancer. This is precisely why the APs recent demonstration of a global warming trend was so brilliant; the AP asked independent statisticians to evaluate the temperature data, but didn't tell them what the numbers were.  

At a climate denier event last night in Brisbane, when Ove Hoegh-Guldberg (definitely not a denier) made the same point Rudd had, several audience members - clearly readers of Bolt's blog - shouted out; "no, it was just a dozen, not thousands!" and one even mentioned the Hulme quote (which is going viral in the denial-o-sphere). The "skeptic" speakers at the event employed the straw man tactic every few minutes, making false claims that scientists said warming had to be additive (each year had to be warmer than the last), winter and snow would disappear, etc. Point being, this type of misinformation is common, effective, is being widely propagated and needs to be rapidly corrected whenever possible.

Posted by John Bruno on Tuesday, 15 June, 2010

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