Posts Tagged ‘Aristotelian fallacies’

Scientific American’s Climate Lies

Sunday, December 27th, 2009

From The Viscount Monckton of Brenchley

In December 2009, Scientific American, once a respected popular-science journal and now a pulp science-fiction picture comic, viciously attacked US Senator James Inhofe because he had proclaimed 2009 to be the Year of the Skeptic. By skepticism, he meant “standing up and exposing the science, the costs and the hysteria behind global warming alarmism”.

Venomously, Science Fiction American’s editorial comment continued: “Within the community of scientists and others concerned about anthropogenic climate change, those whom Inhofe calls skeptics are more commonly termed contrarians, naysayers and denialists.” Yah-Boo! This name-calling marks the depth of unscientific desperation to which the proponents of the “global warming” nonsense have now sunk.

Unscientific American pompously continued: “Not everyone who questions climate change science fits that description, of course—some people are genuinely unaware of the facts or honestly disagree about their interpretation. What distinguishes the true naysayers is an unwavering dedication to denying the need for action on the problem, often with weak and long-disproved arguments about supposed weaknesses in the science behind global warming.”

Politicized American, following a host of similarly left-leaning bodies such as the Royal Society and the unspeakable BBC, proceeded to parody and then condemn the now-overwhelming scientific case against the notion that CO2 is the principal driver of the past half-century’s “global warming” by setting up and then knocking down seven feeble straw men – childish, dishonest simulacra of the true scientific arguments against “global warming” hysteria. It described its straw men as “only a partial list of the contrarians’ bad arguments”. Yah-Boo!

In this introduction, we have made some rude remarks about Scientific American. Did those remarks grate as you read them? If so, you will know what it feels like when, day after day, those scientists whose diligent research has shown the “global warming” scare to be nonsense have to put up with invective and vilification of the sort that Scientific American doles out in its poisonous article.
From here on, therefore, we shall confine ourselves solely to scientific argument, with no name-calling. Scientific American would do well to learn from this approach.

We shall reproduce each of Scientific American’s seven straw men in bold face, state the true skeptical argument in italic face, and discuss the scientific truth in Roman face.

Straw Man 1: “Anthropogenic CO2 can’t be changing climate, because CO2 is only a trace gas in the atmosphere and the amount produced by humans is dwarfed by the amount from volcanoes and other natural sources. Water vapor is by far the most important greenhouse gas, so changes in CO2 are irrelevant.”

True skeptical argument: CO2 is a greenhouse gas, second only to water vapor. It is settled science that the direct effect of adding it to the atmosphere will be some warming – but not very much. The effect of measured changes in cloud cover over the past 30 years has caused at least four times as much warming as CO2, which is a bit-part player. Water vapor concentration – column absolute humidity – increases as the atmosphere warms, theoretically causing an amplifying feedback that is, however, offset partly by the lapse-rate feedback and partly by the cloud-albedo feedback, which the IPCC finds strongly positive when it is in fact strongly negative. Even large volcanic eruptions do not cause significant increases in measured CO2 concentration: to this extent, therefore, volcanoes are irrelevant.

Scientific American’s knockdown of its straw man begins by citing with approval an 1896 paper in which Svante Arrhenius, a Swedish research chemist and Nobel chemistry laureate, had calculated that doubling CO2 concentration (which may happen this century) would warm the world by 6 C° (11 F°). Scientific American carefully failed to cite the 1906 paper in which Arrhenius acknowledged that his previous paper had overstated the position almost fourfold, and said that the direct warming effect of doubling CO2 was just 1.6 C° (3 F°), which might be doubled by the water-vapor feedback. He made insufficient allowance either for the lapse-rate feedback or for the strongly-negative cloud-albedo feedback.