Dinner with global warming contrarians, disaster for dessert

Twelve climate scientists and contrarians recently had dinner together in the UK, which for some reason received media attention. While everyone should be free to have dinner with whomever they like, the problem with this particular event was that the ensuing media coverage made the contrarians seem downright reasonable. For example, the article about the dinner stated,

“...the insults slung around online only hinder the process of rational scientific debate.”

Yet one of the contrarians attending the dinner was Anthony Watts, who runs a blog that regularly insults climate scientists and climate realists. In fact, just a few days after the dinner, Watts was already taunting Ben Santer, one of the world’s most highly respected climate scientists, who had previously treated Watts with courtesy and respect. The article also quoted Watts as saying,

We’ve been at odds so long, it is time to present science together,

Climate contrarians are already free to present science at climate conferences. For example, the annual American Geophysical Union (AGU) fall meeting is the largest gathering of climate scientists presenting and discussing their research. Every year, the vast majority of scientific research presented at the AGU conference and others like it (about 97% or so) is consistent with the expert consensus on human-caused global warming. Contrarians don’t present science there because they have so little science to present.

The Mail on Sunday’s David Rose also attended the dinner. His latest climate article focused on the slight increase in Arctic sea ice as compared to the record low of two years ago (and of course on Al Gore), while ignoring the fact that the Arctic has lost about 70% of its total volume of sea ice over the past three decades.

The Mail in general seems incapable of covering a climate science story without adding some denial spin to the headline.

Also attending the dinner were Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) advisor and contributors David Whitehouse, Nic Lewis, and Marcel Crok. The purpose of the GWPF is to dilute, delay, and prevent government policies aimed to address the threats posed by global warming. The organization releases biased scientific reports from contributors like Lewis and Crok to support those efforts.

Supposedly, through the course of the dinner and discussion, the two sides found that they are not all that far apart,

A survey of the table at the end of the meal revealed that the views of scientists and sceptics on the level of “transient climate response” – or how much the world would warm should levels of pre-industrial CO2 be doubled – differed only by around 0.4C

Yet another contrarian and GWPF contributor, climate scientist Judith Curry, has just published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal (where else?). In it, she argued that the aforementioned small difference in the transient climate response, and the slowed global surface warming over the past few years “means there is less urgency to phase out greenhouse gas emissions now.”

Recent research has suggested that the lower climate sensitivity estimates preferred by Curry, Lewis, and other contrarians are likely incorrect because they fail to account for different efficiencies of different climate influences, and underestimate the amount of global warming in the oceans.

Nevertheless, the contrarians may be right that the climate sensitivity is toward the lower end of the possible range. It’s just as likely that it’s toward the higher end of that range, but most likely in the middle. From a policy perspective, it makes little difference. As climate scientist Myles Allen put it,

A 25% reduction in [transient climate response] would mean the changes we expect between now and 2050 might take until the early 2060s instead ... So, even if correct, it is hardly a game-changer.

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Posted by dana1981 on Monday, 13 October, 2014

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