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A Scientist Wonders

The following letter appeared in the New Zealand magazine “North and South” from a Christchurch geologist Dr Gerrit van den Lingen

A scientist wonders

In your September issue Pete Hodgson wrote about “The Kyoto Question”: “The scientific argument is over and the world, with the Kyoto Protocol as a starting point, is beginning to act”.
One wonders where Hodgson got his scientific advice. The scientific argument is far from over.
I am a geologist and paleoclimatologist belonging to an international discussion group where about 250 well-qualified scientists discuss the science behind Kyoto in great depth. Most of these scientists are highly critical of the politicisation of the climate change discussion, as highlighted by the actions of the UN International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The debate is not whether there has been some warming since the end of the Little Ice Age, but whether this warming is part of a natural cycle or caused by man-made greenhouse gases. The scientific case for man-made global warming has not been made, whatever the hype. In recent times several scientific audits have been carried out on some of the most important pillars of the IPCC hypothesis, the most important being the so-called “hockey stick” graph.

This graph is supposed to show that the last decade of last century was the warmest in over a thousand years and that 1998 was the warmest year. The audit revealed that faulty statistical methods had been used and that such methods would always produce a hockey stick shape, even when using random data.

For Pete Hodgson to say that the world is ready to act on (imagined) man-made global warming and that the Kyoto Protocol is a starting point, is nothing but wishful thinking. At the UN climate change conference in Buenos Aires last December it became abundantly clear that an agreement for a new protocol after the present one (which ends in 2012) is highly unlikely. Major greenhouse-gas-producing developing countries like China and India, who are now exempt from Kyoto, made it clear they would have no bar of joining future protocols.

After the recent debacle with carbon credit accounting, which will cost New Zealand taxpayers dearly, I can only hope that the new government will revisit the carbon tax and Kyoto. Politicians should be aware that according to article 27 of the Kyoto Protocol, New Zealand can resign from the protocol three years after it came into effect. That will be in February 2008, still in the present government period. Let’s hope that the new coalition partners will see to it that this will happen.

18 comments to A Scientist Wonders

  • Brooks Hurd

    My major concern is that the premise that most or all of climate change is anthropogenic has been accepted by many politicians who have little understanding of the underlying science. Those of us who have looked at the technical aspects of this issue understand that there is no clear case that all climate change is manmade. Sadly, many politicians are unware that there is a no clear case. Most politicians view the world in black and white. This does not fit the climate change debate which is composed of many shades of gray. This week, former president Bill Clinton stated that: “There is no longer any serious doubt that climate change is real, accelerating and caused by human activities” This is an example of an intelligent person who is clueless about an issue, but feels that it is nevertheless necessary to give his opinion.

  • Steve Bloom

    Why Brooks, how interesting to see you here. Are you a regular?

    IMHO, I don’t think there’s much point in blowing up Clinton’s common error of conflating “climate change” with “anthropogenic global warming.” That’s a common error by many people on both sides of the debate. On the substance of what he meant, I assume you’ve seen the calculation that the planet would be in a slight cooling trend absent anthropogenic warming. There’s something on this on the RealClimate site if not.

    Regarding the main post, I was curious as to Dr. van den Lingen’s qualifications. According to Google Scholar, he has no peer-reviewed publications, although I found reference to one on the Canterbury University site. Are there more? Also, I found it just a tad misleading that he couldn’t manage to identify by name the discussion list he’s on: Climate Skeptics. Wonder why. The Climate Skeptics list includes a number of people who are not at all qualified in climate science, so the “well-qualified” characterization too is a little misleading.

  • As someone who has commented on Realclimate.org, I can assure you that there are people on that group that are not in posesseion of formal scientific qualifications in relevant fields. Some of them tend to post the most absurd hardline posts in favor of man-made climate change. There are a few climate skeptics there as well. Does the commentary of these people detract from the scientific legitimacy of the accredited climate scientists who post articles there? I think not. Similarly, if there are 250 well-qualified scientists on the Climate Skeptics list, the fact that the list goes out to a hundred others as well who are not well qualified scientists says nothing regarding credibility.

    It’s like saying that this post (I’m a network administrator) discredits this site because I’m not a climate scientist. It’s just not a fair comment.

  • Steve Bloom

    As I understand it (not first-hand, I should emphasize) CS has no more than 250 members, which is why I took the comment to be a blanket statement that *all* of the members are “well-qualified scientists.”

    Also, there’s a big distinction between a group-authored blog such as RC where all of the authors (as very distinct from the commenters, many of whom have no qualifications whatsoever) are well-qualified climate scientists and CS, which as a discussion list rather than a blog gives all of its members, well-qualified or not, the status of authors.

  • Louis Hissink

    The introduction of the term “well qualified” for a scientist is problematical. My personal professional experience suggests scientific qualifications have little relation to an individual’s competence as a scientist.

    Most are competent technicians, not scientists.

  • John A

    Steve,

    Since we don’t know whether Gerrit van der Lingen was referring to ClimateSkeptics or not, and neither of us know whether that list contains at least 250 well-qualified scientists, and we don’t have a list of Dr van der Lingen’s published citations (although he appears to be experienced in sea floor sedimentology in the South West Pacific), when will you get to the substance of what was said?

    Either Dr van der Lingen is a liar or not. Why not ask him?

    As far as I can tell, “well-qualified” appears to be in the eye of the beholder, the soubriquet being bestowed not on the basis of educational achievement, but upon belief in a particular hypothesis.

  • Steve Bloom

    So if I asked him whether he is a liar he would respond by saying…? If he answered in the affirmative I wouldn’t know what to think! :) Anyway, your point about the arbitrariness of “well-qualified” is well-taken, and goes a long way toward explaining why you can think George Taylor is a “real climatologist.” Also, regarding your objection to my identification of Climate Skeptics as the list being referred to, I think you know as well as I do that if the description is accurate then CS is the only candidate. What’s the point of debating something like that?

  • John A

    The point is, Steve, that concatenating a series of “if”s and “likely”s does not equal one single fact. You made an assumptions about Dr van der Lingen’s qualifications and academic record without any proof, his reference to an “international discussion group” being the ClimateSkeptics mailing list without any proof, and the assumption of “well-qualified” without any proof.

    What’s the point of debating without reference to facts?

  • Steve Bloom

    Well, John A., tell me if I’m wrong but I do think it’s a fact that CS is the only candidate list, an assertion I make based on the not unreasonable idea that if there were another one I would probably have heard of it. You would disprove this by naming another one that answers the general description. That you have not done so rather adds to my case. Also, I questioned the good Dr.’s qualifications only after doing a Google Scholar search and looking for citations on his institution’s web site. Do you think Google Scholar is of no value? You seem to be just saying stuff here. What’s the point of debating without reference to logic?

  • John A

    Well, John A., tell me if I’m wrong but I do think it’s a fact that CS is the only candidate list, an assertion I make based on the not unreasonable idea that if there were another one I would probably have heard of it. You would disprove this by naming another one that answers the general description.

    I do know of at least two other candidate mailing lists that Dr van der Lingen could have been referring to. Unless you’re omniscient, its perfectly possible that you might not have heard of them. I don’t have to prove squat. It is completely unreasonable that I have any responsibility to prove that something you pulled out of your backside does not exist.

    Also, I questioned the good Dr.’s qualifications only after doing a Google Scholar search and looking for citations on his institution’s web site. Do you think Google Scholar is of no value? You seem to be just saying stuff here. What’s the point of debating without reference to logic?

    See above. Why do I have to prove a negative? Is that even possible?

    What evidence is there that Google Scholar is comprehensive? None. What proof is there that Dr van der Lingen has no qualifications? None. Is it possible that Dr van der Lingen’s citations are not on the net? Perfectly possible.

    What logic are you referring to? Is it the logic where someone turns up at a website, questions people’s qualifications based on exactly no data and then tries to get everyone else to disprove the empty allegations? I must have missed something here, but its the scientific way for the person making the claim to provide the evidence.

    Still its a great way for a troll to turn up armed only with empty rhetoric to attempt to waste electrons, bandwidth and other people’s time.

  • Steve Bloom

    John A.’s illogic: A search of Google Scholar and a review of the CU web site (showing *one* paper, as I noted) = no evidence. Hmm. Maybe a re-statement would improve our understanding: Evidence John A. dislikes = no evidence.

    As long as we’re talking evidence, now I’m waiting for you to name those other lists (and note lists, not blogs). That should be easy, if they exist and fit the description.

  • John A

    Evidence presented by Steve Bloom:none. Chances that John A is going to attempt to prove a negative: Same.

    Why would I have to speculate? Why not ask Dr van der Lingen which mailing list he was referring to and a list of citations? Too hard? Afraid that he’ll produce the goods and you’ll be screwed?

  • Steve Bloom

    If I can get this ink out of my eyes, I’ll ask Warwick to send me the email address. Googling and the CU site didn’t turn it up. Also, it’s van *den* Lingen.

    As to being screwed (*such* a delicate turn of phrase), recall my original point:

    ‘Regarding the main post, I was curious as to Dr. van den Lingen’s qualifications. According to Google Scholar, he has no peer-reviewed publications, although I found reference to one on the Canterbury University site. Are there more? Also, I found it just a tad misleading that he couldn’t manage to identify by name the discussion list he’s on: Climate Skeptics. Wonder why. The Climate Skeptics list includes a number of people who are not at all qualified in climate science, so the “well-qualified” characterization too is a little misleading.’

    Notice that after stating where I had looked I simply asked if anyone knew of more. How exactly will I be screwed if there are some? I would be slightly chagrined to discover the existence of another discussion list (let alone the two you claim) generally matching the size and description of Climate Skeptics, mainly because it would show that I’m not aware of such things to the extent I think I am. You could still make this a lot easier just by naming them, which BTW would not be proving a negative.

  • Brooks Hurd

    Steve,

    “Why Brooks, how interesting to see you here. Are you a regular?”

    I have not counted your posts, but simple scanning of this blog gives me the impression that you have far more posts than do I.

    I think that it is a very good sign that you visit blogs were everyone has the chance to discuss issues. Sadly RC is not one of those sites. Many of my attempted posts have been deleted by those who review submittals.

  • Brooks Hurd

    Steve, I lived in Washington, DC for almost 9 years. I found the city to be chock full of “well qualified” people. Many of these people were government employees. Some of these people were brilliant. However many of these “well qualified” people were quite ignorant about what went on outside the Beltway. I am confident that all of these “well qualified” people look good on paper.

  • Steve Bloom

    Now, Brooks, comparing climate scientists to DC bureaucrats and pols is going way below the belt. I wouldn’t do that to my worst enemy, although John A. is sorely tempting me. :)

    Regarding the “regular” remark, when I made it I wasn’t aware that this was a new blog. Very obviously John A.’s stuff has compelled me to post here far more than I normally would have.

    In RC’s defense, I’ll just say that the degree of moderation is at least overtly stated. I’ve had a couple of posts axed myself.

  • Brooks Hurd

    Steve,

    It was not my intent to impugn climate scientists in general. Whether I agree with them or not, I respect anyone who makes their points and backs them up with data.

    RC does state their policy, and I have no problem with what they say. What concerns me is the way that they apply it. For example, certain technical questions are taboo. This has often restricted discussions to topics considered safe by the moderators.

  • Ohferfuxsakes

    Good call Vincent.

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