Saturday, 24 May 2008

Lurgee's Paradigm III: "31,000 Scientists Have Doubts About AGW."

In Hamlet, dithering murderer and usurper Claudius remarks that "When sorrows come, they come not single spies / But in battalions" (1). The same holds true for buses, though perhaps since New Zealand's public transport system is rudimentary the idea of several buses all arriving at once would stretch credulity.

Anyway, with this in mind, it is no surpise that I should find my third example of Lurgee's Paradigm evidenced not by a single spy or bus but by two, within a few days of each other.

Over on the MSN Newsboard, where I post as la la, I became embroilled in another interminable debate (2) about global warming, with one of the deniers railling against the claim that there was a general consensus among climate scientists about anthropogenic global warming. He (or she) claimed that, in fact, no such consensus existed, and pointed to a petition, signed by 19,000 (shortly to rise to 31,000) scientists, all contesting the the validity of anthropogenic global warming.

Then, in the Weekend Dominion, appears a letter, also referring to theis petition, signed by 31,000 scientists, contesting the validity of anthropogenic global warming (3).

The petition they referred to can be found here (4).

The claim is, of course, bollocks. There might well be 31,000 scientists harbouring doubts about anthropogenic global warming. The 31,000 signatories for the petition are not they, however.

The petition is flawed for two major reasons. First of all, the signatories are NOT practicing scientists, FAR LESS practicing climate scientists. In fact, the only requirement for appending your name to the petition is that you hold a degree - batchelors or higher - in one of the physical sciences:
"Signatories are approved for inclusion in the Petition Project list if they have obtained formal educational degrees at the level of Bachelor of Science or higher in appropriate scientific fields." (5)
"[A]ppropriate scientific fields" included over 2000 medical doctors, which is strange indeed, as the opinions of climatologists on the best way to treat cancer and the like are rarely sought.

This is important, as the petition itself claims to have been signed by "31,072 scientists" but in fact there is no reason to think the majority of signatories are actual, professional scientists. The vast majority - the petition also admits that only 9,000 odd are Phds (6) - haven't the qualifications to call themselves scienttists, and would probably not describe themselves as such. Any secondary school would be full of people with batchelor or higher degrees in the physical sciences, but they are not scientists - they are teachers. Someone who gets a degree in Chemistry thirty years ago spent their adulthood raising children and looking after their honme isn't a scientist. It is dishonest to describe the signatories as scientists. The majority of them are most likey just people who, at one time or another, went to university, got a degree and went on to follow a career more or less related to that field, but which would not fit any sensible definition of scientist.

Further, the petition is not aimed directly at AGW, but at the Kyoto Protocol. For some, the distinction is blurry, but it is fairly obvious for those with more than a handfuol of brain cells. AGW is a problem caused by changes in the climate system by human activity. Kyoto is an attempt to deal with that problem. One can oppose the solution without rejecting the latter, from either an environmental position ("Kyoto doesn't go far enough!") or the economic ("Adopting Kyoto will hutr the economy more than the impact of AGW"). Further, the petition claims "There is no conincing evidence that human release of carbon dioxide .. is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth's atmosphere and disruption of the Earth's climate" (7). This sentence is so vague and qualified as to be meaningless. What is "convincing evidence" or "catastrophic heating"? If they mean we won't face the doomsday scenario of The Day After Tommorrow, I agree. If, on the other habd, they mean that global warming won't make the planet a very unpleasant place to live for an awful lot of living things, then I disagree.

So, bottom line, anyone who cites this petition is either a propoganda spewing denier drone, in which case they can be ignored as far as serious debate gos (they should still be rebutted, however, in case people make the mistake of thinking therir claims have some foundation in reality), or they are an ignoramus, in which case they have to be educated. Good luck!
1 - Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, Act IV, Scene 5. (http://shakespeare.mit.edu/hamlet/hamlet.4.5.html)
2 - 'Global Warming Postponed .... Again,' a discussion thread started on MSN News by Watchman, 2nd of May, 2008. (http://uk.msnusers.com/News/general.msnw?action=get_message&ID_Message=2450378&ShowDelete=0&CDir=-2)
3 - The letters from the weekend edition do not appear to be online at the time of this blog post. The letter in question as penned by one D O Buck, of Maoribank, and published in the Weekend Dominion Post, 24th of May, 2008, under the heading 'We Need To Get This Right,' which strikes me as a little disingenuous given Mr or Ms Buck can't even correctly discern between scientists and people who may once have obtained a degree in some branch of the physical sciences.
4 - 'Global Warming Petition Project,' an online petition of uncertain origin. Viewed on 24th on May, 2008. (http://www.petitionproject.org/index.html)
5 - Information obtained from within the Petition Project website, http://www.petitionproject.org/gwdatabase/GWPP/Qualifications_Of_Signers.html.
6 - ibid.
7 - Information obtained from within the Petition Project website, http://www.petitionproject.org/gwdatabase/GWPP/Home_Page.html.

3 comments:

aramkr said...

If you are skeptical about the petition, why haven't you checked your thermometer? The temperature has not risen globally since 1998.

lurgee said...

That has been dealt with already - see previous examples of Lurgee's Paradigm in action.

Anyway, the claim that 1998 was the hottest on record isn't true - statistically, 2005 edged it, though most would accept that the difference was too slight to be significant. Of course, the fact that 1998 had various heating systems contributing to the overall temperature, whereas 2005 didn't, is very interesting.

cedric said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


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