A WUWT reader asks for some help

WUWT reader Jim asks:

I am the reluctant presenter of Field Notes from a Catastrophe by Elizabeth Kolbert to our book group and I am a skeptic.  Any advice?

I’ve not read the book, so I could not help him, other than to say that Hurricane Katrina, a class 3 Hurricane has not been repeated and the USA is currently experiencing a record drought of major hurricanes. Note that Sandy was not even a hurricane when it made landfall, having been downgraded to an extratropical cyclone. Here’s the book synopsis:

Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change is a 2006 non-fiction book by Elizabeth Kolbert. The book attempts to bring attention to the causes and effects of global climate change. Kolbert travels around the world where climate change is affecting the environment in significant ways. These locations include Alaska, Greenland, the Netherlands, and Iceland. The environmental effects that are apparent consist of rising sea levels, thawing permafrost, diminishing ice shelves, changes in migratory patterns, and increasingly devastating forest fires due to loss of precipitation. She also speaks with many leading scientists about their individual research and findings. Kolbert brings to attention the attempts of large corporations such as Exxon Mobil and General Motors to influence politicians and discrediting scientists. She also writes about America’s reluctance in the global efforts to reduce carbon emissions. Leading this resistance, she explains, is the Bush administration which has been opposed to the Kyoto protocol since it was ratified in 2005. Kolbert concludes the book by examining the events surrounding the events of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and arguing that governments have the knowledge and technologies to prepare for such disasters but choose to ignore the signs until it is too late.

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71 Responses to A WUWT reader asks for some help

  1. Kaboom says:

    “Kolbert brings to attention the attempts of large corporations such as Exxon Mobil and General Motors to influence politicians and discrediting scientists.”

    One wishes someone would bring attention to the attempts of large NGOs such as the WWF and Friends of the Earth to influence politicians and discrediting scientists.

  2. pat says:

    A wonderful science fiction romp. A true comedic masterpiece, combining a dose of impending doom with a confluence of unlikely weather and unusual tides. The usual villains are present including those evil masterminds of chaos and destruction, Bush and Cheney, the Pink and The Brain of climatology.

  3. wobble says:

    I would advise a presentation along these lines.

  4. GlynnMhor says:

    “… governments have the knowledge and technologies to prepare for such disasters…”
    In the case of Katrina the government certainly should have ensured that the levee system was sound, and could resist the water pressure… but there’s nothing the government can do about the climate.

  5. Hurricanes were mentioned in the OP. Other stuff that jumps out immediately:

    “She also writes about America’s reluctance in the global efforts to reduce carbon emissions. Leading this resistance, she explains, is the Bush administration which has been opposed to the Kyoto protocol since it was ratified in 2005.”

    Well, one think you could point out is that Kyoto has been an abysmal failure, and is admittedly so even by most nations who originally signed. It failed not because the US didn’t ratify it, but because it was a ridiculous form-over-substance pony show in the first place.

    “She also speaks with many leading scientists about their individual research and findings. Kolbert brings to attention the attempts of large corporations such as Exxon Mobil and General Motors to influence politicians and discrediting scientists.”

    You could also provide a comparison on climate change funding vs. skeptic/denier/realist funding. Should be an eye-opener.

    “The environmental effects that are apparent consist of rising sea levels,”

    You could show actual sea-level data for the locations she traveled in, as well as other closeby areas. You could point out that trends are positive in some areas; negative in others. You could point out the tiny amount of the positive trends and that most of the anectodal stories about sea level rise in particular locations can’t possibly be based on objective data.

    http://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/sltrends/sltrends.shtml

    From the book synopsis, it looks like there is hardly anything that isn’t flat out wrong or subject to significant dispute. If I were reviewing it, I might focus on the fact that it appears to be a propaganda piece and perhaps should not be taken seriously.

  6. Jim Ryan says:

    “…reluctant…”

    If you know your opponent’s case is unsound but your audience doesn’t, then here is how to present it to them:

    1. Present your opponent’s case as well as it can be presented, and let the audience see that you are not reluctant to do so. They now grasp his case well and trust that you have not hidden its best arguments from them.

    2. Then carefully demolish his case and bounce the rubble. The audience now sees that even on its best footing your opponent’s case is unsound.

  7. Titan 28 says:

    Kolbert tends to overinterpret the data. Obviously, she’s a hard core left-wing green, but she’s no airhead. She’s been writing about climate change for years at the New Yorker, and that’s where this book of hers started. You want a quick look into her mind, check out “Top Ten Signs of a Warming World,” in the 12/17/12 New Yorker. I remember thinking, when reading one of her articles, and I know this is in her book, that she was reading much too much into ice-cores, looking at them like they were some kind of written record. Sorry. I know this isn’t much help.

  8. Gary says:

    Kolbert’s background is growing up in the Northeast, training as a journalist, and working for the NY Times. Nothing outside the alarmist echo-chamber is evident, so one approach to evaluating her book is to estimate how reliable her critical abilities are. From this skimpy evidence, it’s not too promising. Does she show any appreciation for complexity and detail? Is her political sense one-sided? Who does she blame and how much verified evidence does she cite? In other words, determine her credibility.

  9. Michael Putnam says:

    Actually, wasn’t the USA one of the best performing countries for CO2 reduction in the last few years? Mostly due to the conversion to natural gas for power generation, but still.

  10. Keitho says:

    I think one of the best rebuttals is the weather outside, right now, anywhere in the world. It is different everyday but different in the same way. We are not living inside weird weather, just look around you.

    Never mind the weather “porn” on TV. It is usually far away and even the stuff close to home is not unprecedented just ask the locals.

  11. Frank K. says:

    Based on the summary, I don’t believe you can classify the book as “non-fiction”…

  12. brians356 says:

    She may be well-meaning and altruistic, but consider how much money she is making following this pursuit. If she was preaching skepticism, the first utterance about her from the alarmists would be “She’s in the pocket of Big Oil!” but, as it is, one might assume she’s impoverishing herself trying to save the planet.

  13. Les Johnson says:

    1. the US went the longest period in history WITHOUT a hurricane strike. Irene (a marginal storm) was the first to make land fall, 1078 days after Hurricane Ike.

    2. It has been 2668 days since a major hurricane struck the US, and counting. The last was Wilma, in 2005, at a Cat 3.

    3. Arctic ice is down, but Antarctic ice is up over the satellite record. It is currently very close a near record high at ice minimum. It set a new record last year for ice maximum.
    http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/IMAGES/seaice.anomaly.antarctic.png

    4. Forest fires are down since the 1950s. the 5 largest were pre-1910.
    http://www.nifc.gov/fireInfo/fireInfo_stats_histSigFires.html

    5. In the US, precipitation is up slightly over the last 120 years.
    http://climvis.ncdc.noaa.gov/cgi-bin/cag3/hr-display3.pl

    6. There are no trends in either US droughts or floods, if damage is normalized. Even the IPCC agrees.
    http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/02626667.2011.621895
    https://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/special-reports/srex/SREX_Full_Report.pdf
    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v491/n7424/full/nature11575.html

    7. Sea levels are rising at the about the same rate they have for the last 150 years. There has been no acceleration in rate of rise. In fact, there has been a slight decrease in the rate of rise in the last decade.
    http://www.jcronline.org/doi/abs/10.2112/JCOASTRES-D-10-00141.1

    8. Globally, cyclones are down in number and total energy in the satellite record.
    http://policlimate.com/tropical/index.html

    9. In the US severe tornadoes, F3-5, are down.
    http://www1.ncdc.noaa.gov/pub/data/cmb/images/tornado/clim/EF3-EF5.png

    10. 2013 was a record year for LACK of tornadoes.

    11. I am still waiting for my Exxon check. Patiently.

  14. DesertYote says:

    Join another book group, but good luck.Most just serve to promote leftist junk. They are little more then a mechanism to maintain enslavement to group think. I doubt a proper debunking of this trash, no matter how good, will effect anyone else in the group other then to make them hate you because you are insensitive and uncaring and hate the earrrth. The facilitators of the group will be there to insure that this is so.

  15. Chris B says:

    Ask the author to watch this?

  16. To embellish on Jim Ryan’s suggestion.

    Summarize what you think are Kolbert’s 5 or 6 strongest points as a comment here.
    Sift through the replies looking for the sharpest of wit and keenest of aim.

  17. Rud Istvan says:

    Don’t know exactly what you are presenting. The book, specific refutation, or the current state of climate research and debate? There is a fairly extensive (current to mid 2012) summary on the latter in the Climate chapter of The Arts of Truth. It includes a summary of sea level rise and extreme weather which might be of some help to you. Would be a quick read.
    Regards

  18. Steven Mosher says:

    1. Present your opponent’s case as well as it can be presented, and let the audience see that you are not reluctant to do so. They now grasp his case well and trust that you have not hidden its best arguments from them.

    2. Then carefully demolish his case and bounce the rubble. The audience now sees that even on its best footing your opponent’s case is unsound.

    #########################

    best advice.

  19. Dodgy Geezer says:

    You could point out that this is essentially a political book, and that science just does not proceed by making assertions without any attempt to disprove them.

    Then you could say ” I’m sorry, but the politics presented here are not my politics. For what it’s worth, I could point to a hundred examples similar to the ones in this book which indicate the opposite of what this book says. But this is a book group, and we’re not here to discuss science….”

    Then move off into a discussion of propaganda and satire, mentioning Jonathan Swift, Leni Riefenstahl, wartime and religious propaganda, and show how a one-sided discussion is nearly always wrong. Mention Julian Simon if you can.

    The Wiki has quite a good article on propaganda. Of course, they should know. There would be few better people to learn the techniques from….

  20. She mentions Iceland.

    You might want to comment that glaciers in Iceland had reached their maximum extent since the Ice Age during the 19thC, which was the coldest period for 10000 years. Temperatures today in Iceland are in fact perfectly normal from a historical context.

    http://notalotofpeopleknowthat.wordpress.com/2012/04/07/little-ice-age-was-the-coldest-period-for-10000-years/

    More recently, from 1964 to the early 1970’s Iceland experienced what they call “The Sea Ice Years”, when sea ice surrounded their north coast all year round. Temperatures were much lower than the 1940’s.

    As a result fishing and agriculture collapsed, their currency massively devalued and there was mass unemployment. There are no Icelanders who wish to return to those halcyon days, just to satisfy a few greenies’ wish to see glaciers back where they used to be.

    http://notalotofpeopleknowthat.wordpress.com/2012/10/30/ghcn-temperature-adjustments-in-icelanda-closer-look-at-stykkisholmurpart-ii/

  21. Matt says:

    Les Johnson

    “10. 2013 was a record year for LACK of tornadoes. ”

    I think you mean 2012. The 2013 tornado season hasn’t even started yet. :)

  22. arthur4563 says:

    As to Katrina, that hurricane was a weak Cat 1 when it passed the Keys. It had traveled
    across the Atlantic at a latitude which warmists had claimed warming had occurred and were producing stronger hurricanes. Yet it was only when the storm entered the Gulf and began closely tracking one of the warm currents that circulate between the Gulf and the Caribbean that the storm “blew up” and became a killer. At that point it was not far from landfall, thus only an
    abbreviated time for warnings. Global warming played no part whatsoever in the strengthening
    of Katrina. You might gather data and maps to show exactly how and when and why Katrina became the hurricane that struck New Orleans. And exactly what “technology” and “knowledge” is she referring to when she claims damages could have been avoided?

  23. Gunga Din says:

    I have not read the book but something to include and point out is that none of the environmental changes mentioned are unprecedented. They’ve happened before. The only thing unprecedented is that now some are claiming these natural events are somehow Man’s fault and that, given enough power and money, they can change and/or control them.

    What made Katrina memorable wasn’t that it was a particularly strong hurricane compared to others but that it hit a major city built below sea level and the political hay people tried to make of its aftermath.

  24. Andrew says:

    Show her this, pat her twice on the tusch, and leave in a manner which is dignified, not smug.

    http://www.clipular.com/c?1272633=uxyQDogrVLwqXRm229v3kq9OCds

  25. johnbuk says:

    Presumably your book group is there to discuss the book and the way it is written (actually I typed “wrotten” by mistake there – perhaps I should have left it in!).
    I assume you are there to discuss the literary merits or otherwise of the book and that you are concerned about the “politics” of your fellow book lovers and the long-term issues that may arise from the discussion?
    If so, just discuss whether you found the writing style interesting and if so why. With regard to the CAGW issue – the old adage is don’t discuss religion or money with friends especially if you wish to keep them.

  26. More Soylent Green! says:

    “She also writes about America’s reluctance in the global efforts to reduce carbon emissions. Leading this resistance, she explains, is the Bush administration which has been opposed to the Kyoto protocol since it was ratified in 2005.”

    Who ratified the Kyoto Treaty in 2005? The Kyoto Treaty was negotiated during the Clinton administration and was never submitted to the US Senate for ratification. Instead, the Senate passed a resolution 95-0 against adopting Kyoto in 1997 (The Byrd-Hagel Resolution – http://www.nationalcenter.org/KyotoSenate.html).

    I’d also be cautious about using Wikipedia as a resource regarding the actual contents of the book. It sounds like the publisher’s promotional summary and may or not be accurate.

    I wouldn’t dare offer specific criticisms without reading the book first. Be specific.

  27. james griffin says:

    America has seen a 13% reduction in CO2 emissions over the last 5 years and that will be due to a change in energy sources and de-industrialization as production of so many products has moved to the Far East.
    A few years ago we were supposed to “burn up”…but instead we have had severe cold, more snow, more changeable weather…some hot weather in places but less Hurricanes.
    Two weeks ago I looked at the climate page in the UK Independent…talk about depressing.
    It is difficult to believe that so many outwardly intelligent people could be so thick, so stupid and so easily led.
    This was followed late last week by a scientist being suprised that the planet was greening up…..give me strength…what the hell did this moron think CO2 did?
    Beggars belief.

  28. steve says:

    If your looking for a solid skeptics piece you can start with the fact that hurricane Katrina damage was mostly to the town of NOLA. This was s government disaster of the worst kind. Basically the levees that NOLA depends on broke because the government embezzled funds that were meant to repair or replace them. Then you can go on about how the dew inches of sea ruse we have experienced in the last century dont equate to the few feet of water that came crashing through the levees which had been listed in critical condition some years earlier.

  29. Nicholas says:

    As I am currently repairing my house flooded by Hurricane Isaac, a ‘drought of Hurricanes’ seems a tad harsh. But that being said, having lived on the Gulf Coast almost my entire life (44 of 51 years), Hurricane Isaac is the FIRST hurricane that has done ANY damage to me. We had no personal damage from Katrina, Rita, Ivan, Gustav, etc. etc. etc.

    Katrina was only a Cat 3 when it hit based upon wind speed. When using the other two scales, pressure and storm surge, she was still the Cat 5 that she was the day before she hit land.

    There was an excellent Times Pic. story done about a year after the storm that documented when each of the levees had actually failed. The impression that I had from our evacuation shelter in Monroe was that the levees had survived the initial storm and then failed. This was not correct. Using direct eye-witness accounts, the Times Pic showed that most of the levee failures happened as the eye of the storm, and the peak storm surge, reached that particular latitude/location.

    There was a particular levee design that was prone to failure – the I-beam design. The massive earthen river levees all pretty much survived in the New Orleans area. However, the cheaper canal levees, with their I-beam concrete design tended to get undermined and failed.

    The catastrophe on New Orleans could have been mitigated with storm gates at the river/lake end of all of the canals coupled with a rapid levee repair/design/effort.

    New Orleans had been expecting a major hurricane for decades.

    The year before, we had Cat 5 Ivan that went in just slightly east of the city. Because of that storm, there was a lot of additional preparation/improvements made to evacuation plans. Those plan changes were effective and the evacuations went much smoother for Katrina.

  30. nicholasmjames says:

    As I am currently repairing my house flooded by Hurricane Isaac, a ‘drought of Hurricanes’ seems a tad harsh. But that being said, having lived on the Gulf Coast almost my entire life (44 of 51 years), Hurricane Isaac is the FIRST hurricane that has done ANY damage to me. We had no personal damage from Katrina, Rita, Ivan, Gustav, etc. etc. etc.

    Katrina was only a Cat 3 when it hit based upon wind speed. When using the other two scales, pressure and storm surge, she was still the Cat 5 that she was the day before she hit land.

    There was an excellent Times Pic. story done about a year after the storm that documented when each of the levees had actually failed. The impression that I had from our evacuation shelter in Monroe was that the levees had survived the initial storm and then failed. This was not correct. Using direct eye-witness accounts, the Times Pic showed that most of the levee failures happened as the eye of the storm, and the peak storm surge, reached that particular latitude/location.

    There was a particular levee design that was prone to failure – the I-beam design. The massive earthen river levees all pretty much survived in the New Orleans area. However, the cheaper canal levees, with their I-beam concrete design tended to get undermined and failed.

    The catastrophe on New Orleans could have been mitigated with storm gates at the river/lake end of all of the canals coupled with a rapid levee repair/design/effort.

    New Orleans had been expecting a major hurricane for decades.

    The year before, we had Cat 5 Ivan that went in just slightly east of the city. Because of that storm, there was a lot of additional preparation/improvements made to evacuation plans. Those plan changes were effective and the evacuations went much smoother for Katrina.

  31. nicholasmjames says:

    Second point. She seems to be blaming the Bush Admin for not passing Kyoto. “Chapter Eight – The Day After Kyoto”

    1) I recollect that it was the entire Senate that rejected Kyoto.

    2) Bush has been gone for years now and Kyoto is still not passed.

    3) The Dems had full control of the Government for two years and did not pass Kyoto.

  32. bob says:

    Jim Ryan has it right,
    ” 1. Present your opponent’s case as well as it can be presented, and let the audience see that you are not reluctant to do so. They now grasp his case well and trust that you have not hidden its best arguments from them.

    2. Then carefully demolish his case and bounce the rubble. The audience now sees that even on its best footing your opponent’s case is unsound.”

    Then go to Pilke’s site and get the data as your refutation.

  33. nicholasmjames says:

    as in: “Leading this resistance, she explains, is the Bush administration which has been opposed to the Kyoto protocol since it was ratified in 2005. Kolbert concludes the book by examining the events surrounding the events of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and arguing that governments have the knowledge and technologies to prepare for such disasters but choose to ignore the signs until it is too late.”

  34. ShrNfr says:

    The disaster of Katrina was spoken about in a Nova program several years before it happened. The basically said that there is a high probability that if a major hurricane hits NOLA, that NOLA would be toast. Hurricanes have never disappeared over history, warming, cooling or just sitting there. Of course, the biggest cyclone known to man is the Red Spot on Jupiter and it is really fairly chilly out that way. The levees in NOLA were maintained by 70 plus levee districts. Most of those districts acted as if they thought that they existed to promote river boat gambling in NOLA and not maintain the levees.

  35. Alan A. says:

    I would quit the book club.

  36. Aibi Ma says:

    You might bring up a topic that has nothing at all to do with climate: barges. The Mississippi Gulf coast was lined with beached barges, many loaded with HUGE rolls of who knows what from stem to stern, as Katrina was blowing in. You can board up as many windows as you want to keep out the water, but a barge riding a surge wave is going to take your house right off it’s foundation. And that is exactly what happened all along the coast.

    Barges were also left in the Mississippi River/Gulf Outlet in New Orleans, which crashed through the levee wall protecting the 9th Ward.

  37. Michael Moon says:

    There are always pictures of melting ice. Glacier Bay in BC Canada began retreating in 1796, and had pulled back over 40 miles by 1865.

    NASA has a study called NVAP-M. Satellites have measured atmospheric water vapor content since 1988, and found NO TREND. All climate models depend on increasing water vapor to be able to forecast a significant increase in temperatures, but NASA has blown this up. They have been sitting on the full report since August 2012, but Forrest Mims III, my new hero, has leaked the graph. It was on here mid-December, but since than not much, about the most important story of them all IMHO.

  38. policycritic says:

    Check out the Enron/Kyoto connection. I wish I could find the New Zealand investigative piece that found out how Enron pushed for CO2 cap-and-trade in the early 90s after their $20 billion success with sulphur dioxide. Enron’s problem was that CO2 was not considered a pollutant. They had to reinvent it as one. Enron dropped big bucks into Gore’s campaign and molded him to care for the issue.

  39. pochas says:

    Andrew Bolt via the Climate Realists site:
    http://climaterealists.com/?id=11133

    3 excerpts:

    “The data confirms the existence of a `pause’ in the warming,” confirms Professor Judith Curry, chairwoman of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology.No, we are not seeing more or worse cyclones and hurricanes.”

    “MIT’s Professor Richard Lindzen, arguably the world’s most famous climate scientist, has argued for two years “there has been no warming since 1997 and no statistically significant warming since 1995″.

    “No, Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide have not run out of water. The world’s rice and wheat crops have not fallen, but set new records. In fact, “there has been no increase (in Australia) in the frequency of natural hazard events since 1950,” says Professor John McAneney, director of research group Risk Frontiers.”

  40. Kitefreak says:

    It all depends on how firmly you want to nail your colours (as a skeptic) to the mast. A lot of people are highly resistant to ideas which contradict what they have learned – over many years – through the mainstream media (from places like CNN with that science twat to the the BBC and the Murdoc press, with all their lies and proven bad behaviour).

    All I’m saying is tread carefully while spreading the truth – it’s easy to put people’s backs up with the wrong approach. You may have to live around some of them afterwards.

    I think you should try and have some fun with it and get people questioning, but be aware that it can be like entering a minefield, exposing youself as a skeptic of whatever “official” story it might be – from the global temperature stats to the GDP numbers to the safety of to who is the most popular person in the USA. If you go down this road you may find that it seems like one (large) group of people believes the mainstream opinion, because they are programmed to by the MSM and never become aware of the information available on places like WUWT (for example and with regard to the climate/energy-con issue in particular).

    Ultimately it’s a question of how much you want to stand up for what you believe in, Just be prepared to take some flak and, who knows, make some good friends too. Fortune favours the brave! Good luck!

  41. Rhoda R says:

    Steve, Katrina leveled parts of LA, most of Mississippi, and parts of Alabama. An area the size of the United Kingdom was severely affected by Katrina. NOLA got all the attention because it had an incompetent mayor and an incompetent state government and the disaster there could be used to bash Pres. Bush. Mississippi and Alabama had competent governors and so weren’t as photogenic to the disaster mongers. NOLA is also sexier than Pascagoula MS and so that’s where all the reporters congregated.

  42. Bill Parsons says:

    RE:

    Jim Ryan says:
    February 12, 2013 at 9:24 am

    “…reluctant…”

    Maybe it goes without saying, but… (step 2?)

    1. Present your opponent’s case as well as it can be presented, and let the audience see that you are not reluctant to do so. They now grasp his case well and trust that you have not hidden its best arguments from them.

    2. Encourage people to read it critically for themselves.

    3. Then carefully demolish his (her?) case and bounce the rubble. The audience now sees that even on its best footing your opponent’s case is unsound.

    Les Johnson @ February 12, 2013 at 9:37 am might be a starting point for rebutting the book’s claims.

    4. Sometimes an author will respond to an invite to respond to an e-mailed question. If Kolbert is a journalist she might.

  43. Lonetown says:

    You should point out that, as with any catastrophe book, there is a ggod guy and a villian. and what are they going to say to get you to buy the book , “there is no catastrophe, don’t worry?”, of course not.

    Then spin to, but there is a catastrophe here and its what has happened to science.

  44. Say this. ….”I can read readin,but I can’t read writin,and
    this wroten is writen rottin” ….besides the print
    is to close to the paper. ]:{)….
    Alfred

  45. Robin says:

    Katrina was still not the storm NOLA has long feared as the eye was to its East. My experience with storm surges is that they are affected by the storm strength that was that will impact what comes ashore at what height more than the wind speed as it comes ashore.

    Steve’s commentary on the pilfering that had left the infrastructure dangerously weak is on the money. Nagin was ridiculously inept as was Blanco and Bush too deferential on federal/state/local issues of sovereignty. And those graphics were exploited by groups like ACORN with ties to LA and a desire to exploit any image that fed a belief in the need for social change.

    On the Bushes and global warming, they were unwilling to sign Kyoto for good reasons but in general they are very cozy with UN aspirations. Probably going back to when Poppy was the Ambassador there. GWB unfortunately got us back in UNESCO causing further damage to American education. Laura chaired the UN Decade for Literacy. I seem to remember that Barbara Bush chaired the US delegation related to Education for All in 1990.

    If anything any hands off may have stemmed more from Gore making it such a personal issue than reluctance to embrace international initiatives on climate. Many in the oil business love all this green hyping. Which has always intrigued me.

  46. GeneF says:

    Sir karl Raimund Popper said that it gains nothing to attack the weak argument. It is necessary to state the opposing arguement in the strongest terms possible so that the attack on it and the defeat of it actually means something.

    Steve Mosher is correct. First, state her position fully, not as truth but as assertions. Second, show that the assertions are incorrect by presenting data and facts that contradict those assertions. After the Sandy event you may have to agree on the inability of government to efficiently do things.

    Les Johnson gave a very good listing of proof against. I would add that the presentation is best done in graphs…visual means and not just verbal. I have been of late copying charts from the presentations on WUWT and other sites. I want to make a small presentation on a tablet so that in 5 or 10 minutes I can show what the issue of “global warming” really is, in simple visual form. (I must state that I am from Las Vegas, a delightfully wicked place, and revel in the heat…105 at 7% humidity is an extraordinary experience approaching ecstasy.)

    This is the sequence I am looking for:

    1. A graph showing the paleoclimate for 400,000 years to show that the earth is a cold planet with warm interludes and that all the plants and animals have gone through these interglatials before…there is nothing new under the sun.

    2. A graph of the temperatures in the present interglacial. Note that the interglacial started warm and the temperature has been declining, with the peak of each warming period being lower than the next. This has not been mentioned much in the discussions, but when the end of an interglacial is an ice age and that the transition is only one lifetime, that is scarry. There have been references to some articles stating that the danger is a new ice age, but I have not gotten around to them yet.

    3. Les Johnsons stuff and that of others above. Also talk about black carbon, UHI and waste heat, and the siting of weather sites, and adjustments to the raw data…as you are a WUWT reader this is readily available.

    4. There was a graph the last week +/- on WUWT that showed agricultural production from historical times to present. No catastrophe. Use it.

    For awhile I have thought that there is a great need for a short presentation of graphs and charts that addresses the point of the “warming hysteria” crowd. It must have an elegant simplicity that is understandable by the common person. We are not trying to convince the leaders and alarmists, we are trying to show the common person who votes that what the issue is and that there are problems, but not catastrophe and doom.

  47. Not enough of a scan of her book at Google Books for me to look into it. But I’d suggest taking a close look at the section where “Kolbert brings to attention the attempts of large corporations such as Exxon Mobil … to influence politicians and discrediting scientists.” Who does she cite as her source, and does it filter back to the same guy I mentioned in my November WUWT guest post http://ow.ly/hEEB5 ? If she can’t do any better than others on the ‘big oil funding’ accusation, then her book is just another log thrown on the fire for an accusation that relies on a single unsupportable source when saying skeptics should be ignored.

  48. Austin says:

    Visuals are good.

    Here are the state high temp records. Almost all are from the 1930s.

    http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/weather/wheat7.htm

    The arctic was ice free in 5000 BC.

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081020095850.htm

    The Hypsithermal was 5 degrees F warmer than now.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holocene_climatic_optimum

    And here is the GISP2 temperature reconstruction.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Greenland_Gisp2_Temperature.svg

    Poke around on here for the weather stations that show us “warming.”

    http://www.surfacestations.org/odd_sites.htm

    Here is an analysis of the deaths due to Katrina by location. It was the old who were left to die AFTER the levees failed AND the political leadership fled. This was a political failure.

    http://new.dhh.louisiana.gov/assets/docs/katrina/deceasedreports/KatrinaDeaths_082008.pdf

    It has been hotter in the past in the S Hemisphere.

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/01/14/global-warming-it-was-warmer-in-sydney-in-1790/#more-77477

    As for social aspects, here is what occurred when it got colder.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Famine_of_1315-1317

  49. Here is my own checklist for a non-fiction critical review. My words, organization, but with ideas from UTEP and ECU,OK

    What is the author’s thesis? Is it stated or is it your interpretation?
    Did the author’s thesis agree with your own beliefs prior to reading it?
    What facts or topics did you learn from this book?
    What elements are well reasoned and presented.
    What elements are poorly reasoned or confused?
    What elements are unfairly presented or slanted?
    What pieces are missing? What topics should be there given the thesis, but are not?
    What may have changed since the book’s printing?
    Was this book worth your time?
    What will you most remember from the book?
    Who should take the time to read it?

  50. markpro3ger says:

    1. Present your opponent’s case as well as it can be presented, and let the audience see that you are not reluctant to do so. They now grasp his case well and trust that you have not hidden its best arguments from them.

    2. Then carefully demolish his case and bounce the rubble. The audience now sees that even on its best footing your opponent’s case is unsound.

    #########################

    best advice.
    ################################
    I would add to that, you can’t possibly cover everything so pick the top 3 or 4 issues (preferably those that are THE biggest issues and most global.

    consider covering the big picture stuff that most people don’t know:

    1. @0.8 degrees warming in 150 years
    2. Emerging from the Little Ice Age so that some warming is to be expected
    3. Compare warming from 1902-1940 with that from 1975-2013 to show that the slopes are near identical for the two warming periods of the last Century: http://www.woodfortrees.org/plot/hadsst2gl/from:1900/plot/hadsst2gl/from:1902/to:1940/trend/plot/hadsst2gl/from:1940/to:1975/trend/plot/hadsst2gl/from:1975/to:2013/trend/plot/hadsst2gl/from:2003/to:2013/trend/plot/hadsst2gl/from:1997/trend/plot/esrl-co2/from:1957/normalise
    4. Talk about GOOD environmentalism and the aspects you agree with and suggest that the attempt to battle CO2 has been a massive distraction.

  51. Bill Parsons says:

    Another approach from “demolishing” the opinions of the other side:

    One of the most moderate voices over the last decade in this matter has been that of Steve McIntyre. If your book club members don’t know him, link to his website and tell them about his story of steadfast skepticism. His treatment of the entire issue has been a model of skepticism, questioning the claims and biased assertions of AGW adherents, and looking at statistical flaws in their arguments. Behind every one of his replies to these arguments was a supremely confident objectivity. He is respected for that.

    http://climateaudit.org/

    In a recent video interview (forget where) he makes one of his typically cautious remarks, concluding that mankind has actually been better off in recent decades than ever before. I consider this argument to be worth fleshing out as convincing evidence that we shouldn’t be quite so fearful of the future. And I think the tone of moderation can be more damaging to the greens than all the bashing and trashing of their argument (which it surely deserves) – and which McIntyre delivers in clean, statistical presentations.

    A frequent contributor to WUWT who has over the years delved into these “we’re better off now” arguments in numerous, fact-based essays is Indur Goklany. (Search for his articles in WUWT search window, or link his web site http://goklany.org/ ). He makes use of numerous actuarial tables, so if club members find that off-putting, well… just highlight his main points. Here, for example, is a brief discussion of North Korea’s admirable carbon footprint.

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/12/21/the-two-koreas-19502008-an-unplanned-experiment-in-economic-systems-the-carbon-footprint-and-human-well-being/

    Point is, the modern world is better off by far dealing with secondary “ailments” of carbon than with no fossil fuels at all.

    Plenty to chew on.

  52. graphicconception says:

    My take …

    Caveat: I have not read the book.

    As this is a book club event then I think you should discuss the book and minimise any skeptical thoughts. Concentrate on what evidence was presented to make the case and particularly how cause and effect were assigned. In my view, cause and effect are generally the weak points of any warmist argument. Watch out for any assertions not backed by facts.

    Guessing (see caveat), the book will claim that man is changing the climate and that sea levels, for instance, are now rising. Often, no link between one event and the other is offered. It is not a done deal – evidence is required. Does the book produce any?

    Does the book make the point that the climate has always changed? If not, why not, if so why is the change now man made when before man it obviously could not have been?

    Does the book show any bias. Exxon funding is mentioned. Is World Wild Life funding or Greenpeace funding mentioned as a counterpoint. Are the Koch brothers mentioned? If so does Jeremy Grantham get a mention?

    How do any funding amounts square with the $68.4 billion spent by the federal government between 2008 and 2012? See: http://dailycaller.com/2012/05/17/federal-government-spent-nearly-70-billion-on-climate-change-activities-since-2008/

    Or the EU’s proposed Euro 200 billion? See: http://www.europaeum.org/europaeum/?q=node/1633

  53. Go Canucks Go!! says:

    Glacier Bay Bay National Park in Alaska, USA is the correct location, not the BC location.
    See http://www.glacierbay.org/geography.html

    Also, if you can down load the map it shows quite clearly the ice retreat from the 1760s up to the 1950s. It’s quite dramatic.

  54. Ed Fix says:

    Be careful to sort out the difference between these four subjects: global warming effects, the modeled climate projections, the projected effects of further warming, and the attribution of global warming to anthro vs. natural causes. Climate change is real, the actual observed effects are real, the projected climate and its effects (If this trend continues for a century…) are bogus, and the causes are unknown.

  55. Jimbo says:

    It’s difficult to know where to start. There are so many disputed claims in the piece but I don’t have the time to go into each one.

    Try doing a site search by going to the Google search box and entering

    site:wattsupwiththat.com “search term” eg “hurricanes”
    site:http://hockeyschtick.blogspot.com “search term”

    You should find plenty of rebuttals, you just have to do the sifting. ;-(

    See also the extreme weather page on WUWT which shows nothing unusual is going on.
    http://wattsupwiththat.com/reference-pages/climatic-phenomena-pages/extreme-weather-page/

  56. Grumpy says:

    I have seen it mentioned and read about the thawing of the permafrost, but not seen any information whether this is true or not. Can anyone enlighten me and the apparent contention in this book?

  57. lurker, passing through laughing says:

    “Field Notes” is not an unusual book. Whenver a popular belief gains great traction, books are written in support of the movement. Climaate catastrophism is no different. The author focuses in on the alleged evidence of claimte catastrophe by tkaing things out out of context, ignoring hitorical comaprisons and making each vignette as dramatic as possible. That in reality nothing in the book shows unusual or historically unprecedented events is not important in this sort of literature.The point of this genre is to sell an idea, not tell facts.

  58. D.B. Stealey says:

    I am a big believer in visual aids. They can convey a point much better than a long, dry verbal explanation. For example, Jim could go to Kinko’s and have a 20″ X 30″ poster made of this:

    http://policlimate.com/tropical/frequency_12months.png

    And this:

    http://www.woodfortrees.org/plot/rss/from:1997/plot/rss/from:1997.9/trend/plot/esrl-co2/from:1997.9/normalise/offset:0.68/plot/esrl-co2/from:1997.9/normalise/offset:0.68/trend

    And this:

    http://catallaxyfiles.com/files/2012/05/Mean-Temp-1.jpg

    It’s hard to argue with empirical evidence.

  59. Ed Fix says:

    In refuting propaganda, it might be useful to show explicitly what propaganda technique or logical fallacy was employed to present each argument you refute.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fallacies
    http://mason.gmu.edu/~amcdonal/Propaganda%20Techniques.html

  60. atheok says:

    “WUWT reader Jim asks:
    I am the reluctant presenter of Field Notes from a Catastrophe by Elizabeth Kolbert to our book group and I am a skeptic. Any advice?”

    Jim:
    I am sure your book group has some basic rules on what should be in a book presentation to the group and reluctantly, I doubt emotional diatribes will be tolerated.

    So follow the format of the expected presentation. Identify and elucidate on writing style, captivation of the audience, logic of the format and so on.

    As you go through the book; take note of any bold statements that are irresponsible, lack substance or proven false. Just in case, also note any that might still hold validity.

    when you sum up the book as a whole; then state that the book is pure environmental PR that always tries to find the bad in climate change and put that blame on mankind. As as such; instead of the book being a book about heroes or heroism it is a book of doom, gloom and utter reliance on the chosen few to decide our futures. Then tick off every fact that you came across that is misleading, overstated or just plain wrong. Then you can state any accuracies you found, whether you enjoyed the book or not and whether you recommend the book.

    Good Luck! I suspect that the choice of this book by someone is intentional. Given that possibility it is not unreasonable to assume they might be laying an ambush, for you in particular.

    Pick up some books before your presentation; Donna Laframboise’s “The Delinquent Teenager”, Bob Tisdale’s “Who turned on the heat” as good companions though there are plenty more books out there. Keep focused on how Einstein said one experiment could prove his theory wrong but CAGW ignores their lack of successes. The ice is not gone, the bears are thriving, temperatures have flatlined for over a decade and CAGWers are jumping over themselves trying to claim they predicted more precipitation…

  61. s says:

    I have gotten the most “mileage” in the shortest amount of time when discussing climate change with Warmists by 1) Showing Gore’s graph from “Inconveniant Truth” that displays ice core records with atmospheric Carbon over-layed with Global Temperature. This quickly shows that temp forces Carbon (not vice versa as Gore states). 2) The UK judges ruling showing 9 key points from Gore’s movie that are false and/or overstated to the point of being Propaganda, not based on Scientific evidence… and Ruling that “Incon Truth” is “inconsistent truth, lies and beliefs” and Cannot Be Shown in UK Schools! For your book club I would print a list of the $ amounts in grants that the Warmist Scientists are collecting (from WUWT last week) and show that the research cited in this book is a large part of the Climate Change Industry.

  62. Jeff Alberts says:

    “Kolbert travels around the world where climate change is affecting the environment in significant ways.”

    I suppose she doesn’t see any hypocrisy in that, either.

  63. John West says:

    Dodgy Geezer makes an excellent point about the use of Zohnerism:

    “For what it’s worth, I could point to a hundred examples similar to the ones in this book which indicate the opposite of what this book says.”

    I don’t know how you’d possibly work it in but I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of presenting the case for banning dihydrogen monoxide in small groups of people that aren’t very scientifically inclined. Once you’ve revealed the punch line, the way “facts” can be arranged to lead to a false conclusion is perfectly illustrated. Then it’s just a matter of revealing the Zohnerism in climate science with something like the Holocene temperature record that clearly shows the Little Ice Age was the coldest time since the last glacial period ended.

    http://www.globalwarmingart.com/images/b/bb/Holocene_Temperature_Variations_Rev.png

  64. Lance of BC says:

    Being that it’s a book group that you know and a presenter of something you may not agree with, IMHO, you’re better off to keep it simple. These are probably people you respect and when it comes to this subject you need to tread lightly, confrontational arguments will cause emotions to override any valid point you might make.

    Start with talking about your interest in reading the book, things that you all can agree with. Win them over first and people will listen. Don’t try to tackle the whole book, just pick a few of the simplest and non political areas you can get facts with real data. Better to take the scientific high road and stay away from the emotional sticking points of the book.

  65. Chuck Bradley says:

    Your book club has a history and traditions, and there are expectations about the presentation. I don’t know what they are, so this is guesswork on my part. The functions of the presentation :
    1. Summarize the book, so the folks that did not bother to read it can participate in the discussion.
    2. Organize the discussion with a list of topics or questions.
    The transition from 1 to 2 can be handled by “Like most books, not everyone agrees….” The list of topics or questions might follow the structure of the book. Some of the alarmist books I’ve read mix science, polls, attacks, attacks, evidence, politics, etc so thoroughly that it would be difficult to follow the structure of the book. The other approach to the list is structural. Start with the conclusion of the book. Maybe you can quote a paragraph or so from the book, or maybe you can collect quotes to form the message she wants to deliver. Then list the topics that would lead the reader to that conclusion. The list might start like this:
    1. What is greenhouse gas theory?
    2. How much CO2 is there in the atmosphere?
    3. How much did we put there?
    4. How have temperatures changed?
    The list should be neutral or even biased in tone to the CAGW side.
    Every alarmist book I’ve read has lots of claims that are outside the field of science. The book you are to present probably does too. If it does, be sure those topics are in your discussion list. Also, be sure the discussion allows things not in the book to be added. For example, record low temperatures will probably not be mentioned, and years between land-falling hurricanes will probably also escape notice. Save your arguments for the discussion.

    Again, this is all guesswork. Please let us know what you do about the problem, and the results of the meeting.

  66. Bob, Missoula says:

    I am by no means a scientist but I have been following the Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming issue since the 1990’s. The one over riding point that must always be brought to the alarmist’s attention is that it is the increased temperature (heat) caused by the increase in human caused CO2 that is supposed to cause the increased droughts, floods, hurricanes, forest fires etc etc. The amount of CO2 that humans have put in the atmosphere has clearly gone up but the average global temperature has not followed suit. Why not? In addition just because we may have some hot days or weeks does not mean it is because of increased CO2 by mankind. For their hypothesis to be correct it must work along the lines of a three legged stool. Increased anthropogenic CO2 leads to increased average global climate temperatures leads to global catastrophe i.e. increased hurricanes, increased floods, increased droughts, less farm production and on and on. If any one of the three legs of the stool fails the hypothesis fails. The way I see it the only thing they can point to that has come true is that human CO2 has increased but everybody knew that was going to happen so they are left with a one legged stool there has been no significant warming and no catastrophe, they lose. The kicker is that even if we experience some erratic weather it can’t be due to CO2 because we didn’t have the extreme heat necessary to prove their hypothesis. They lose lose lose.

  67. Poptech says:

    Start with the author’s scientifically worthless credentials,

    Elizabeth Kolbert, B.A. Literature, Yale University (1983)

    Stringer (freelance journalist), Travel Section, The New York Times (1983-1984)
    Copygirl, Business Section, The New York Times (1984-1985)
    Metro Desk, The New York Times (1985-1988)
    Albany Bureau Chief, The New York Times (1988-1992)
    National Desk, The New York Times (1992-1997)
    “Metro Matters” Columnist, The New York Times, (1997-1999)
    Staff Writer, The New Yorker, (1999-Present)

    She is as educated as Steven Mosher (B.A. English/Literature) in science.

  68. Emily Daniels says:

    As it happens, I read this book for a college course a few years ago. I seem to remember that the conclusions and assertions relied heavily on the idea that CO2 takes several decades to affect surface temperatures. There’s a lot of good advice already presented above, but I would perhaps focus on the fact that the book is now outdated, referencing more recent scientific papers such as the ones showing low climate sensitivity or assessing historical climate conditions. I’d also put a lot of emphasis on the fact that there has been no warming since 1997 or so (depending on the dataset you use). That completely negates Kolbert’s argument that the temperature increase from the 1970s to the 1990s was a result of the CO2 increase beginning in 1940. Since global CO2 concentrations have continually increased since the 1940s, there’s no explanation (based on the book’s assumptions) for the recent 15-year plateau in global temperatures.

  69. Lars P. says:

    I haven’t read the book, therefore please take my feedback with a grain of salt, it is a general feedback about the discussion.

    There is a lot of good advice above, so you can filter and find out what best suits. I could add another point of view herewith:
    During the 50s 60s last century there were huge efforts to combat/eliminate various sicknesses in the world. There was one success: pox which was eliminated – only some labor viruses exists.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smallpox

    Similar case of polio:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poliomyelitis
    However it could not be yet eliminated, there are 3 countries where it is still endemic:
    “As of 2012, polio remains endemic in only three countries: Nigeria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan,[73][83] although it continues to cause epidemics in other nearby countries due to hidden or reestablished transmission.[84] For example, despite eradication ten years prior, an outbreak was confirmed in China in September 2011 involving a strain prevalent in neighboring Pakistan”
    “In Northern Nigeria—a country which at that time was considered provisionally polio free—an Islamic Fatwah was issued declaring that the polio vaccine was a conspiracy by the United States and the United Nations against the Muslim faith, saying that the drops were designed to sterilize the true believers. Subsequently, polio reappeared in Nigeria and spread from there to several other countries.[88] Health workers administering polio vaccine have been targeted and killed by gunmen on motorcycles in Kano .[89]”
    As you can see conspirancy theories, religious fanatics are the great road blocker to progress and elimination of such diseases.

    A different interesting case is malaria:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malaria
    ” The World Health Organization has estimated that in 2010, there were 219 million documented cases of malaria. That year, between 660,000 and 1.2 million people died from the disease (roughly 2000–3000 per day)”
    http://factsanddetails.com/world.php?itemid=2141&catid=57&subcatid=381
    “Between the 1960s and 1990s, the number of cases of malaria in the Western hemisphere increased 13 times. During the same period the number of cases in India soared from 60,000 to 1.6 million. In Sri Lanka after the use of DDT stopped in the early 1960s, the number of cases increased from near zero to 1 million cases a year in 1970, just a few years later. By the time malaria began its comeback in the developing world it had essentially been eliminated from developed world and money and energy that had gone into combating and researching the disease had disappeared. ”

    What I want to show here is that bigotism, religion fanatics of all kind as well a enviro fanaticism are real problems. Even in the case of chemicals like DDT very careful evaluation of benefits and loses needs to be done, one cannot look only on one side of the equation and draw his conclusions.
    Not sure that environmentalism is always the white knight good:
    http://fairquestions.typepad.com/rethink_campaigns/2012/04/suzuki-foundation-funding.html
    http://www.smalldeadanimals.com/archives/019946.html

    In the case of CO2 which is a gas of life and stays at the basis of our food chain, fanaticism of any kind has no place in the discussion. This is why we need to make very sure to have the science right, to be very skeptical about data, data collection and analysis and see clearly and openly how the results have been achieved.
    The idea is to get ideology out of the discussion and reflect on purely scientific data and make any possible effort to check and double check the data and the rationales.

    Temperature:
    What we see in the temperature is stagnation. In addition we see a discrepancy between the satellite data and the local measured data where the data is adjusted in unclear ways. Why?
    Similar case of the ocean temperature and ARGO buoys.
    It looks like the most precise the measurement, the less the measured increase is. The longer the time goes by, the bigger the misalignment with the models is.
    It is a great probability that these are flawed, as skeptics point out, especially at modelling the clouds, but other issues have been found with the time (aerosols urban heat influencing the weather, soot, etc)

    Sea level:
    What we see at UC sea level data:
    http://sealevel.colorado.edu/
    is not the increase of the sea level against the shore lines . I do not know what they measure there, it is not clearly specified, but certainly not the increase versus the shores.
    As a consequence, the data is useless for sea level increase versus shore prognosis and analysis.
    The discrepancy between the average of the tide gauges and the adjusted satellite measurements is almost 2- 3 times the value?
    http://www.sealevel.info/
    http://www.co2science.org/articles/V8/N7/C1.php
    If you take The Battery in New York measurement as was posted also here on WUWT you can have reliable data to estimate the increase for New York shore. If you take the UC data and try to fit on it you get some fictive numbers that do not match reality.
    http://www.psmsl.org/data/obtaining/stations/12.php
    Miami:
    http://www.psmsl.org/data/obtaining/stations/363.php
    San Francisco:
    http://www.psmsl.org/data/obtaining/stations/10.php
    Seattle:
    http://www.psmsl.org/data/obtaining/stations/127.php
    nowhere any fit to the UC numbers.

    The “prevention argumentation” can be very wrong: If in history we would have given up vaccination , chemistry, insecticides, development of the technology, not burn any oil, coal etc to prevent for the possibility it could do harm, we would be in the middle ages and some would be still hunting witches for the crop failures.

    Wish you well with the presentation!

  70. After hurricane Betsy, in 1965, caused a storm surge in Lake Pontchartrain that over came the levees and flooded a part of New Orleans, the Corps of Engineers announced it would build a barrier system similar to that used by the Dutch to stop storm surges from the North Sea. Environmental groups successfully sued to stop the project. In Save Our Wetlands, Inc. vs. Early J Rush III, Federal Judge Charles Schwartz, Jr. ruled “it is the opinion of the Court that plaintiffs herein have demonstrated that they, and in fact all persons in this area, will be irreparably harmed if the barrier project . . . is allowed to continue.” (Emphasis added) The decision was proudly posted on the web site of Save Our Wetlands, Inc. until hurricane Katrina in 2005 flooded New Orleans in the same manner as Betsy, and then it quietly disappeared. Please see Article # 6 and articles under Climate Hysteria
    http://www.sepp.org/twtwfiles/2011/TWTW%202011-1-15%20Revised.pdf
    Jan 15, 2011

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