The reply to the ‘bad astronomer – Phil Plait’ that Slate.com refused to publish

phil_plait

Slate’s “bad astronomer” – Phil Plait

Guest essay by Dr. Matt Ridley

Phil Plait, who goes by the name of the “bad astronomer”, has now written three articles in Slate attacking two of my columns in the Wall Street Journal on the topic of climate change. My columns, and responses to critics are here and here. I have no problem with Mr Plait disagreeing with me, but I am a little taken aback by his name calling and sheer nastiness.

I asked for a right to reply in Slate, encouraged by the editor. But when the editor read my polite reply, he refused, on the grounds that “we publish such responses when critics have new or compelling arguments or evidence that call into question what we have published. You have differences with Phil, but we don’t believe your response offers such evidence.” I disagree. You be the judge.

The latest attack is strangely self-contradictory. Without citing a single study to back up his claims, Mr Plait accuses me, wrongly, of not citing a single study to back my claims. He writes:

“He just states it like it’s true. However, we know that’s not the case.”

Was there ever a better shooting of one’s own foot? (Something he accused me of.)

Let’s leave the invective on one side and examine the argument without ad-hominems.

The argument I made was that climate change has benefits as well as costs and that the benefits are likely to be greater than the costs until almost the end of the current century. I maintain that the balance of evidence supports the conclusion that up to a certain level of warming — about 2 degrees Celsius — the benefits of climate change will probably outweigh the costs. Plait admits that there will be benefits, but he assumes that they are smaller than the harm however small the warming and that I am somehow foolish for not sharing his assumption. He gives no source for this claim, which flies in the face of peer-reviewed sources.

I’d like to direct him to this 2004 survey of many studies, and this 2013 study, which confirm that climate change of 1 or 2 degrees Celsius will probably, in aggregate, do net economic and humanitarian good to mankind. It will do so by lengthening northern growing seasons, reducing winter deaths (which greatly exceed summer deaths even in countries with hot summers) and increasing precipitation, but without raising sea levels sufficiently to do serious harm.

It’s worth noting that the IPCC used to claim in its early reports that a great increase in malaria as a result of global warming would bring early and large net harm to humankind. Professor Paul Reiter of the Pasteur Institute, one the world’s experts on malaria, disagreed and spent many years trying to change the IPCC’s view. His point was that malaria was not now limited by climate, but by human intervention: it had been banished from Europe, North America, much of Asia and much of Latin America by the draining of swamps, the use of insecticides, the use of glass windows and screens, and many other measures. Warming up the world would not reverse these trends and would create only tiny expansions in malarial range at high altitudes in Africa. Malaria mortality has dropped by 25% since 2000. Reiter was ignored for years, but now the IPCC agrees with him and has largely dropped the claim. This is just one example of where the climate establishment eventually had to admit that the likely harm was being exaggerated.

It is not just human benefit that mild warming will probably bring. Please note that the papers cited in the 2004 paper I mention also discuss how such mild warming will raise biodiversity, ecosystem productivity and net primary production, so the net benefits are ecological as well as economic. Again, this is not a minority view. Most ecologists accept that if you warm up the world slowly, and consequently increase precipitation, you will increase the energy flow through ecosystems, which will support more creatures and species of creatures – all other things being equal.

As well as the warming, there’s the effect of carbon dioxide itself. Plants need CO2 and they struggle to get enough without losing water from their leaves. More CO2 in the air means faster growth rates and more drought tolerance. That’s why commercial growers pump CO2 into their greenhouses. I would ask Mr Plait to consult this study by Randal Donohue, which confirms that there has been net greening of arid areas of the planet as a result of rising carbon dioxide levels. This is something that has been confirmed by both ground and satellite data. Here’s what the American Geophysical Union had to say about the Donohue paper:

“Scientists have long suspected that a flourishing of green foliage around the globe, observed since the early 1980s in satellite data, springs at least in part from the increasing concentration of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere. Now, a study of arid regions around the globe finds that a carbon dioxide “fertilization effect” has, indeed, caused a gradual greening from 1982 to 2010.”

Nor is Donohue alone in this. A fascinating talk by Dr Ranga Myneni of Boston University confirms that between 1982 and 2011,

“31% of the global vegetated area greened…This greening translates to a 14% increase in gross productivity [and] The greening is seen in all vegetation types”

He finds that most of this was down to relaxation of climate constraints (ie, warming and wetting) or other anthropogenic factors — ie, chiefly rising carbon dioxide levels.

Mr Plait is welcome to disagree with me that the crossover from net benefits to net harm from climate change will occur at about 2 degrees Celsius of warming (it might well be higher, or lower, and it will depend on how fast it happens – I don’t claim to know the answer). But he is simply wrong to assert that the harm certainly outweighs the benefits whatever the warming, let alone that this is the current consensus view.

Mr Plait then claims to know that weather is getting more extreme with horrible consequences, and that the deaths of trees from pine beetles is caused by climate change. In the first instance he is simply wrong. The IPCC itself has issued a report on extremes, which refutes the suggestion that we are seeing extreme weather as a result of climate change. As Professor Roger Pielke Jr of the University of Colorado put it in recent testimony to Congress: “It is misleading, and just plain incorrect, to claim that disasters associated with hurricanes, tornadoes, floods or droughts have increased on climate timescales either in the United States or globally. It is further incorrect to associate the increasing costs of disasters with the emission of greenhouse gases.”

In any case, there has been no net change in global temperature for 15 years to drive an increase in extreme weather. Meanwhile, the global death rate from droughts, floods or storms has fallen by 98% since the 1920s. Not because weather got less dangerous but because people got richer and better equipped to cope. See here.

Mr Plait then claims that beetles are killing pine forests because of climate change. I don’t doubt it has played a role, although I note that the main reason most sources give for the increase in beetle infestation is the growth of even-age lodgepole pine stands. None the less, suppose that he’s right. This is one relatively minor (in global terms) ecological change, which is unlikely to result in much change to the productivity of an ecosystem in the long run (indeed it may accelerate plant growth by clearing the shade of trees) or biodiversity (again, these pine stands tend to be monocultures so diversity may rise). Yet he asks us to take this one small change in one small corner of the world as evidence that climate change is harmful even at low levels.

Why does all this matter? Because we now know that action against climate change has severe costs. Cutting carbon dioxide emissions means rolling out land-hungry, expensive renewable technologies that raise food prices or energy costs driving poor people to death in measurable numbers. See Indur Goklany’s careful and cautious calculation about biofuels here. And see any number of sources on the health costs of indoor air pollution caused by cooking over wood fires where cheap electricity has not ben made available because of political objections to the use of coal. Is that a price worth paying? Maybe if it prevents a catastrophe; but not if it averts a beneficial change in the climate. I may be wrong in thinking the latter is more likely than the former, but I am not wrong – factually or morally – for raising the possibility.

And I think it is very relevant indeed that if you consult the probability density functions of most recent studies of climate sensitivity, conducted by senior IPCC-affiliated scientists, you will find that there is a significantly higher than 50-50 probability of warming of less than 2 degrees Celsius during the next 70 years.

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82 thoughts on “The reply to the ‘bad astronomer – Phil Plait’ that Slate.com refused to publish

  1. Plait is another member of the Climate Fools band, strict followers of Mann to the point of parroting his “let’s block everybody on Twitter” stupidity.

    The only way to deal with Plait is by waiting until mainstream science will turn around. One day he will explain to us how he knew it all along.

  2. My dealings with “the bad astronomer” were not optimal.

    There are better ways to spend time than trying to get him to review anything that disagrees with his viewpoint.

  3. “He just states it like it’s true. However, we know that’s not the case.”

    Speaking as an objective observer.
    This is classic ‘modern science’

    Mr Watts have you seen this:
    “Science is in a reproducibility crisis: How do we resolve it?”

    http://phys.org/news/2013-09-science-crisis.html

    It would seem they are recognizing a problem which is half the battle

  4. At first I thought that Phil Plait should be invited to WUWT for a response, then I went to SLATE and read his column. It’s pretty obvious why he writes for a general interest political blog and not a scientific blog. No science in his column only tired CAGW dogma. Waste of time and ink or pixels as the case may be.

  5. We in Canada have been looking forward to global warming for the last 30 years when scientists started to claim it is a reality. We are still waiting for global warming to come, and we are getting rather impatient about it, because it has yet to descend upon us. Even if it is creeping up on us and is going to get us some day, we welcome that day.

  6. Has Slate ever demonstrated that they are interested in the truth of things? They have their agenda…

  7. The biggest problem I have with climate change [SNIP — read the Policy page! ~mod], is not the fact that they take sectors of data and imply that signifies the entire whole, but that their reasoning stems from the lack of understanding in consequences of their actions. Once that virgin forest is gone. It is gone forever. It is gone because you cut it down, that kind of thing… its like belligerent ignorance based on ego and self-serving greed.
    The biggest problem I have with climate change greenies, is the fact that firstly, they have misnamed what is going on as “climate change” when what it should be called “oxygen deprivation leading to an Event”, not inferring pissy little glacials and interglacials – so bloody naiive. And of course the belligerent bullying of “you have to agree with everything I say, even though I don’t understand the science either which is why I gave it such a dicky name”.
    And now, you have a third subset, the “even though I am a scientist in this field, I will act as a scientist in every field so I can bully you”. Here we see people that fit into either camp, but fundamentally, the “I am smarter than you” can be heard in their expression and in the way they talk down to everyone that does not share the same SUBjective opinions (they forget the difference between subjective and objective when they are in bullying mode).
    And this is why we are all [snip].

  8. Mr. Ripley’s reply is, as always well done. And, of course, no one can give any credence to the editor’s reason for keeping it out.

    But there’s one point that I’m not too solid on, and I wonder if other readers are more knowledgeable about it: winter deaths. Yes, I think that at least where most people live–and where most of any further warming will occur–humans will on balance find any further warming congenial. And there’s no question that winter causes excess deaths.

    But it’s not clear to me that this is not more a result of the temperature’s being colder than the annual average for the particular location rather than that it’s cold in an absolute sense. That is, presumably there are excess winter deaths in Tallahassee just as there are in International Falls, and I wonder what our basis is for moving the former’s climate toward the latter’s will reduce them.

    Does anyone have information on this?

  9. A good scientist would consider the potential effects of global cooling. A major Ice Age is inevitable in the not too distant future.

  10. It wasn’t known as the “Mediaeval Climate Optimum” for nothing. Civilizations flourished then. Increased CO2 is much appreciated by plants and allows them to get by with less water. Desert areas are shrinking. Agricultural production is up. Hurricanes and Tornadoes are getting less which reduces damage to peoples lives. Winters are supposed to be milder with increased CO2 and peoples lives are saved.
    Whether or not increased CO2 produces all these results, it is still an impressive list.
    Bad astronomer – Phil Plait seems to be unaware of these things as well as being a bad astronomer. His photos speaks a thousand words.

  11. Put a feather in this guys hat and he looks like one of those guys the Sheriff of Nottingham sends out to take the last bits of grain from peasants.If you believe you believe it won’t matter what the science says . P Plait ….whatever.

  12. @Amber — lol. You’re right!

    @Matt Ridley — I agree with you.

    Can’t lose if you don’t sit down to the chessboard. You’ve got game, Ridley, …………..
    Plait & Slate do not (and they know it).

  13. I’ve always been impressed with Ridley’s writing style. Here he is on wind, including the “outsourcing” of pollution to Mongolia:

    “To the nearest whole number, the percentage of the world’s energy that comes from wind turbines today is: zero. Despite the regressive subsidy (pushing pensioners into fuel poverty while improving the wine cellars of grand estates), despite tearing rural communities apart, killing jobs, despoiling views, erecting pylons, felling forests, killing bats and eagles, causing industrial accidents, clogging motorways, polluting lakes in Inner Mongolia with the toxic and radioactive tailings from refining neodymium, a ton of which is in the average turbine – despite all this, the total energy generated each day by wind has yet to reach half a per cent worldwide.”

    TANSTAAFL

  14. Seth does his bit for the IPCC:

    24 Sept: CTV: AP: Seth Borenstein: Scientists liken certainty of global warming to deadliness of smoking
    WASHINGTON — Top scientists from a variety of fields say they are about as certain that global warming is a real, man-made threat as they are that cigarettes kill.
    They are as sure about climate change as they are about the age of the universe. They say they are more certain about climate change than they are that vitamins make you healthy or that dioxin in Superfund sites is dangerous…
    There’s a mismatch between what scientists say about how certain they are and what the general public thinks the experts mean, experts say…
    One climate scientist involved says the panel may even boost it in some places to “virtually certain” and 99 per cent.
    Some climate-change deniers have looked at 95 per cent and scoffed. After all, most people wouldn’t get on a plane that had only a 95 per cent certainty of landing safely, risk experts say.
    But in science, 95 per cent certainty is often considered the gold standard for certainty…
    The president of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences, Ralph Cicerone, and more than a dozen other scientists contacted by the AP said the 95 per cent certainty regarding climate change is most similar to the confidence scientists have in the decades’ worth of evidence that cigarettes are deadly…
    But even the best study can be nitpicked because nothing is perfect, and that’s the strategy of both tobacco defenders and climate deniers, said Stanton Glantz, a medicine professor at the University of California, San Francisco and director of its tobacco control research centre…

    http://www.ctvnews.ca/sci-tech/scientists-liken-certainty-of-global-warming-to-deadliness-of-smoking-1.1468879

  15. I really don’t get why anyone goes through these elaborate arguments….
    ..just stick to one thing
    “In any case, there has been no net change in global temperature for 15 years”

    There has been no global warming for 15 years….every extreme weather, every extinction, every disaster..they have told for the past 15 years….has been a lie

  16. Dr. Ridley:

    Caution: the climate sensitivity [aka the equilibrium climate sensitivity (TECS)] does not exist as a scientific concept. TECS is the ratio of the change in the global surface air temperature at equilibrium (GSATAE) to the change in the logarithm of the CO2 concentration. As the GSATAE is not an observable, when the IPCC asserts a numerical value for TECS this assertion is not testable. It is also true that assignment by the IPCC of a numerical value to TECS conveys no information to a policy maker about the outcomes from his or her policy decisions.

  17. I’ve read Phil Plait’s blog for several years and he’s very good at popularizing some of the technical aspects of astronomy. He claims to be a rational skeptic and often is when it concerns paranormal claims and anti-vaccination promoters. However, like most people he has trouble seeing his own deficiencies. First, he readily admits he’s “terrified” of the effects of global warming. Second, he won’t consider opposing evidence for ideological reasons. Third, he insists on name-calling and labeling opponents despite criticizing others who behave in objectionable ways. Last, he’s too much a fanboy of the sci-fi and popular science crowd to think independently on climate. He used to annoy me, but now I see how blind he is and just shrug it off as I would a child throwing a tantrum. It’s actually kind of pathetic and funny when you know more than someone who thinks he’s the expert.

  18. You can add Guy Dauncey -not a scientist at all- to the mix… and his hilarious poster about global warming that claims to “vote for climate friendly politicians” and other niceties like getting rid of caol powered plants AND use electric cars… If you can find this wall paper idiocy, enjoy! I saw that stuff on a church bulletin board…

  19. Latitude says: September 24, 2013 at 5:40 pm

    I really don’t get why anyone goes through these elaborate arguments….
    ..just stick to one thing: “In any case, there has been no net change in global temperature for 15 years”

    Not really a good approach. What are you going to say if the temperature starts to rise next year? That occurrence still would not be proof of the CAGW theories, (and more so of the solutions), but it would not leave you with much of a counter-argument.

  20. “Not really a good approach.”..of course it is Mark, we’re talking about the past 15 years of lies

    …not predictions, or next year

  21. Dr. Ridley,

    Quote:
    Mr Plait then claims that beetles are killing pine forests because of climate change. I don’t doubt it has played a role, although I note that the main reason most sources give for the increase in beetle infestation is the growth of even-age lodgepole pine stands. None the less, suppose that he’s right.

    Response:
    As one who lived in the SanBernardino National Forest during our most recent outbreak (2001-2005) of bark beetles and the resulting tree die, off I think I know a little about bark beetles. Our infestation was the result of drought affecting a forest that had 10x the number of trees per acre than is healthy for a forest. With that many trees, even the slightest drop in rain fall leaves the trees weak and susceptable to the beetles. Pine trees fight beetles by producing sap (pine resin) which fills the bore holes causing them to suffocate. With so many trees fighting for the scarce moisture in the ground, there is insufficent water to produce the needed sap. The trees die.
    After the die off, most of the San Bernardino National Forest still has more trees than are considered safe. Where the beetles were the worst, few trees remain. In other words the beetles will be back.
    For many years the residents of the mountain communities fought the goverment as the forest service tried to thin the forest. The forest service lost the political battle, the forest wasn’t thinned. This turned out to be very costly because the beetles did the job man wouldn’t. After the trees died the residents had to pay to remove the dead trees on their property.

    Man is responsible for the beetle outbreaks, but not in the way Mr Plait thinks. Poor forest management and the suppression of fire is the root cause of the beetle outbreaks. Either man thins the forests or the beetles will.

  22. In reply to Phil Plait’s comment
    William:
    It appears Phlait is not aware of the sensitivity issue. Any warming is not evidence of dangerous warming. Scientific analysis in peer reviewed papers supports the assertion that the planet resists forcing changes (negative feedback) by an increase or decrease of planetary clouds in the tropics rather than amplifies forcing changes (positive feedback). The general circulation models used by the IPCC assume the planet amplifies forcing changes (positive feedback) rather than resists forcing changes. Observations indicate the general circulation models used by the IPCC are incorrect. The warming due to a doubling of atmospheric CO2 will be less than 1C if the planet resists forcing changes rather than amplifies forcing changes.

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/07/19/newsbytes-the-economist-reveals-sensitive-ipcc-information/

    http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/interview-hans-von-storch-on-problems-with-climate-change-models-a-906721.html

    http://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/0809/0809.0581.pdf

    Limits on CO2 Climate Forcing from Recent Temperature Data of Earth

    http://www.drroyspencer.com/2013/02/tropical-ssts-since-1998-latest-climate-models-warm-3x-too-fast/

    http://www-eaps.mit.edu/faculty/lindzen/236-Lindzen-Choi-2011.pdf

    On the Observational Determination of Climate Sensitivity and Its Implications by Richard Lindzen and Yong-Sang Choi

    Surely Phlait is not asserting that any warming is dangerous warming. It appears Phlait is unaware of the Medieval Warm period or the Little Ice Age.

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

    Europe/North America
    ….The population of Iceland fell by half, but this was perhaps caused by fluorosis after the eruption of the volcano Laki in 1783.[20] Iceland also suffered failures of cereal crops, and people moved away from a grain-based diet.[21] The Norse colonies in Greenland starved and vanished (by the early 15th century), as crops failed and livestock …. …. Hubert Lamb said that in many years, “snowfall was much heavier … ….Crop practices throughout Europe had to be altered to adapt to the shortened, less reliable growing season, and there were many years of dearth and famine (such as the Great Famine of 1315–1317, although this may have been before the LIA proper).[25] According to Elizabeth Ewan and Janay Nugent, “Famines in France 1693–94, Norway 1695–96 and Sweden 1696–97 claimed roughly 10% of the population of each country. In Estonia and Finland in 1696–97, losses have been estimated at a fifth and a third of the national populations, respectively.”[26] Viticulture disappeared from some northern regions. Violent storms caused serious flooding and loss of life. Some of these resulted in permanent loss of large areas of land from the Danish, German and Dutch coasts.[24] … ….Historian Wolfgang Behringer has linked intensive witch-hunting episodes in Europe to agricultural failures during the Little Ice Age.[36]

  23. On the catholicfundamentalism.com website, many anti-Catholics rant against traditional Catholic teachings. Their level of hatred, animosity, and dislike are similar to some of those angry with those who disagree that Global Warming is a huge problem. It’s an interesting parallel.

  24. It is amazing how birds of a feather flock together or as some describe it, ignorance breeds ignorance.

    I think a little Dickens is in order;

    “…This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased…”

    Educating Plait may be impossible given Slate’s “la la la we can’t hear you” form of literature.

    Slate establishes their literature catch-22 approach here:

    “I asked for a right to reply in Slate, encouraged by the editor. But when the editor read my polite reply, he refused, on the grounds that “we publish such responses when critics have new or compelling arguments or evidence that call into question what we have published. You have differences with Phil, but we don’t believe your response offers such evidence.””

    Dr. Ridley, I agree with other commenters here about not wasting your time trying to correct the willfully and perhaps maliciously ignorant.
    After all; Dr. Matt Ridley column’s in Wall Street Journal … Slate’s pitiful pissant Plait’s hand waving

  25. “I maintain that the balance of evidence supports the conclusion that up to a certain level of warming — about 2 degrees Celsius — the benefits of climate change will probably outweigh the costs.”

    Possibly. I guess Michael Mann agrees that raising earth temperatures 1 to 2 degrees over a couple of centuries will benefit mankind. As you should know the problem is not change per se, but how fast it happens.

    “Why does all this matter? Because we now know that action against climate change has severe costs.”

    It’s always the same! Buuhuu, they want me to pay taxes! Bloody hell, start influencing policies instead of continuously moaning about it! You can do it without distorting what climate science knows. I am waiting! Formulate smth useful.

  26. Bad astronomy guy – sound perfect for the AGW side. You wouldn’t want anyone with any knowledge on that side, would you?

  27. Phil Plait is a “believer:

    The believers suspend their rational sense of evaluating the evidence objectively and especially doing the math involved in the observations versus theory.

    Astronomy has never had a “believer” subset which supressed opinions of other scientists. But now we have at least one astronomer who does so.

  28. This amateur astronomer was deleted and banned by Bad Astronomer Plait years ago when I requested in an astronomy article that he get rid of the constant references to President Bush which had nothing to do with the topic. He’s totally intolerant of dissent and a complete ideologue.

  29. I knew Phil Plait years ago, when he was a mild-mannered programmer for a NASA contractor. I see he is not at all mild-mannered when his climate dogmas are challenged.
    — Peter Kenny

  30. I comment quite often on his….ahem….blog. Much of it now unfortunately is a rant from what seems to be a petulant child syndrome. It literally is now an alarmist climate blog. Its sad really how an astronomer feels inclined to throw around names to a group of people now who have changed the world with their science. Plait is an advocate of the worst kind and wuite frankly gives science a bad name. As others have stated on here; he is too involved in popular culture to be concerned anymore with real science. All he is now sadly is a mouthpiece for the “hip” crowd. How in the world did that clown rise to where he is in his field?

  31. Sisi says:

    It’s always the same! Buuhuu, they want me to pay taxes! Bloody hell, start influencing policies instead of continuously moaning about it! You can do it without distorting what climate science knows. I am waiting! Formulate smth useful.

    Well Sisi, I would say the ball is in fact in your court. You are waiting? What for? This blog is replete with science-based articles on a daily basis showing the flaws in the CAGW theory. Rather, how about you tell us the evidence that “science knows” CAGW? Repeat: the EVIDENCE. I’ll change my opinion if ever I see any. Been looking since 2008, when I had no opinion whatever on this topic, seen lots of disproof of the theory, but no one (and I am predicting that will include you) has ever given me the evidence on which “science knows” any such thing.

  32. “… too involved in popular culture … .” (Copernicus at 9:08pm)

    Nailed it, C.. Just like that has-been “Popular Science” (from other thread) — ditched science for what they perceive to be popular.

  33. PGH says:
    September 24, 2013 at 6:02 pm
    Man is responsible for the beetle outbreaks, but not in the way Mr Plait thinks.
    ————-
    fire suppression is one of those “common sense” ideas that looks good on paper but has disastrous results in practice. the plants and animals that live in forests are adapted to fire, over many millions of years. take it away and the forest suffers; disease and parasites thrive.

    We saw something similar in Yellowstone park when the wolves were killed – in the name of saving the animals. In the end the animals starved. One might as well give away free food in poor countries to help fight hunger- there is no quicker way to drive local farmers out of business – leading to mass starvation.

    Now we have the common sense idea of solving climate change by taxing fossil fuel beyond the reach of the poor, ensuring millions more will die from poverty in the name of saving the planet.

  34. Go, Ron House! #(:))

    Here, the swallows are packing up to fly south and the Canadian Geese have arrived. Soon, the Trumpeter Swans will fly in from the northwest on their powerful wings, plaintively crying out, “We’re here! We’re here!”

    How are things in your neck of birdland?

    (I’m the one whose post re: swift killed by windmill you cross-posted)

  35. What is weird is that Mr. Plait wrote a book the bad astronomer that is quite good and civil all the way even when he is responding to Bill Kaysing who strongly believes in the Moon landing hoax.The same Kaysing who can be a fanatical jerk on the subject yet Plait is civil anyway.

    I came across his blog a few years ago to read his views on the climate only to wonder if this is the same Mr. Plait who wrote the fine book because he was the very opposite as being a nasty drip.

  36. Yep, I can see why Slate didn’t want to post this. First of all, it’s a little too lame for the kind of content that Slate like to draw in clicks. Second, it uses a decade-old survey of even older studies to inform a lot of its points. I work in advertising, and even we don’t use studies that are over three years old no matter how many products they can sell. Your benefits argument is full of speculation that contradicts common sense so much as to be considered extraordinary, and you do not have extraordinary evidence to back it up.

  37. I rarely comment on grammar or spelling, however there are two repeated misspellings in this entire thread. To wit: It is Seth Boringstern and Phil Pratt.

  38. An otherwise smart person posted this (publically) on Google+,

    Another one of my pet peeves. Tabloids pick up and repeat the inaccuracies printed in other tabloids (and sometimes they’re all owned by one man) until it looks to the layman like there is a consensus of opinion on an issue. A lot of folks will never bother to actually read any of the real science at all – they just assume every tabloid in the echo chamber already did that bit of hard work for them.
    The Rising Climate Change Denial Cacophony

    My reply?

    “Gary Turner
    10:22 PM

    Wow! That’s a spoof, right? How else could so much ignorance and stupidity show up in a single article?”

    cheers,

    gary

  39. Col Mosby says: “When someone allows a photo such as his to see the light of day, you have to wonder just how dumb this guy really is. Incredibly unattractive jerk.”

    Please, leave the argumentem ad homelynym to the warmists.

  40. CO2 climate sensitivity <0.1K. Easy to prove once you fix the 13 mistakes in Climate Alchemy some of which the practitioners haven't yet realised.

    There has been AGW – asian aerosols reducing cloud albedo, but it has saturated. This explains the rise of OHC.

  41. @PGH. You hit the nail on the head with the beetle issue. I have this issue wher eI live, and its rather obvious what the cause is. Ive been in spots at very high elevations (with colder winters and shorter summers with cool nights) where the beetles devastated the trees, as well as spots at much lower elevations that are warmer that are perfectly fine. It is well known that many of these forests have many more trees per area then they did before various influences by humans, and when you see areas in trouble and those doing fine its pretty obvious that the struggling trees are to close together.

    When you have the beetles able to THRIVE at such different elevations (and thus temps) I cant fathom how a fraction of a degree would cause the insect to boom in population,. Also keep in mind these beetles ALSO attack healthy trees, but healthy trees do not die from it. The weak ones do, and also attract more of them. This is all very basic stuff. Anyone who blames this all on a part of a degree of warming is either very confused or a liar.

  42. There has been a massive apocalyptic scare in Germany in the 1980s with bark beetle infestations that led to claims that the Black Forest would become a lifeless pile of rocks within ten years. Of course nothing of the sort happened. After two dry summers a wet one followed and the spook was over. What in fact had happened was a spell of poor forest management, a quite normal series of dry summers and a resulting upswing in beetle food. No healthy trees were harmed in the process.

  43. Ironically, cooling is likely to increase extreme weather. For which the IPCC will prescribe yet more cooling, apparently. Fortunately its weapons don’t even amount to a damp squib.

  44. nomad says:
    September 24, 2013 at 9:32 pm
    ” I work in advertising, and even we don’t use studies that are over three years old no matter how many products they can sell.”

    Even advertising? The epitome of truth; the last hideout of the Scientific Method? I’m so glad we have now been told by the truthkeepers of advertising that science that is 3 years old is just BOOORING. Which is even worse than inkorrekt!

    BTW, the typical life expectancy of a Gulag inmate was 3 years. After which they were worked to death.

  45. Sunsettommy says:
    September 24, 2013 at 9:24 pm
    “I came across his blog a few years ago to read his views on the climate only to wonder if this is the same Mr. Plait who wrote the fine book because he was the very opposite as being a nasty drip.”

    Such an inexplicable change in character might be a simple consequence of a stack of Federal Reserve Notes.

  46. And here just recently I thought Phil_dot was becoming a bit less acerbic (he occasionally posts here). Maybe he’s fresh out of a re-indoctrination camp.

  47. Matt Ridley,

    Swatting @ midges is inefficient use of your time and intellectual resources. Do you need an administrative assistant to help you with focusing on higher priority activities?

    John

  48. The current media strategy in reporting on news they do not like is to ignore it.
    Media today is demonstrating that Pravda and Izvestia were not flukes in journalism, but were rather exploring nre frontiers.

  49. To lurker:

    You wrote: “The current media strategy in reporting on news they do not like is to ignore it.”

    Absolutely correct! And of course, if they don’t report it, it’s not “news”. Who
    was it who said that the greatest power the news media have is the power to
    ignore?

  50. Chris R,
    Thank you for the hat tip. Others have of course noticed this about media. It is not so much that members of the media choose to ignore this or that. It is when they go in lockstep, ignoring things that should not be reasonably ignored. Worse, when they are ignoring things to fulfill some political or editorial prejudice. Ignoring events one does not like is awfully close to the border of intellectual cowardice. As well as close to the border of deception. The so-called climate issue clearly shows the media crossing over both of those borders time and time again.
    As I think about it, the issue is not really climate in terms of weather impacts at all. The real issue is a political class vested in the policy outcomes they want the AGW social movement to make possible: More taxes, more jobs for government workers, more money to give to those the political classes favor. In that sense this is all just same-old same-old. The politicians and bureaucrats gathering in their smoke filled rooms and illegally secret e-mails to ‘edit’ the IPCC report to make certain the story is sufficiently alarming shows this is now jsut about power. Science is, at best, a cheap coat of paint on the stage prop of this effort.

  51. There is saying among lawyers: If the facts are not on your side, argue the law. If neither are on your side, yell and pound on the table. When I hear yelling and table pounding by the warmists, I come to the natural conclusion.

  52. Aside from the benefit you stated here is the benefit of global warming over the last several decades – here. It has 5 abstracts showing “increased maximum foliage cover across the globe’s warm, arid environments”, “widespread increases in pasture productivity over the last 30 years.” “the increase in gross primary productivity (GPP) in response to a doubling of CO2″.

    Malaria has seen a global decrease in malaria endemicity since 1900 – here

  53. Here is Michael Mann talking about the Medieval Warm Period, a period warmer than the present. He just says it was regional when it was global. Then they say it wasn’t synchronous, how do they know.

    Just how bloody warm must it have been for the following to have been observed. Wow!

    Medieval Climatic Optimum
    Michael E Mann – University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA, USA

    It is evident that Europe experienced, on the whole, relatively mild climate conditions during the earliest centuries of the second millennium (i.e., the early Medieval period). Agriculture was possible at higher latitudes (and higher elevations in the mountains) than is currently possible in many regions, and there are numerous anecdotal reports of especially bountiful harvests (e.g., documented yields of grain) throughout Europe during this interval of time. Grapes were grown in England several hundred kilometers north of their current limits of growth, and subtropical flora such as fig trees and olive trees grew in regions of Europe (northern Italy and parts of Germany) well north of their current range. Geological evidence indicates that mountain glaciers throughout Europe retreated substantially at this time, relative to the glacial advances of later centuries (Grove and Switsur, 1994). A host of historical documentary proxy information such as records of frost dates, freezing of water bodies, duration of snowcover, and phenological evidence (e.g., the dates of flowering of plants) indicates that severe winters were less frequent and less extreme at times during the period from about 900 – 1300 AD in central Europe……………………

    Some of the most dramatic evidence for Medieval warmth has been argued to come from Iceland and Greenland (see Ogilvie, 1991). In Greenland, the Norse settlers, arriving around AD 1000, maintained a settlement, raising dairy cattle and sheep. Greenland existed, in effect, as a thriving European colony for several centuries. While a deteriorating climate and the onset of the Little Ice Age are broadly blamed for the demise of these settlements around AD 1400,

    http://www.meteo.psu.edu/holocene/public_html/shared/articles/medclimopt.pdf

  54. I used to love to read his daily blogs, as he was about 98% astronomy and it was easy to ignore the other 2%, but in the past few years he’s dropped to about 50% astronomy, and so it feels like I’m navigating a minefield to read him anymore, especially when even his posts on astronomy still contain a lot of digs at those he supposes to be his enemies.

    Further annoyances stem from the way how in his astronomy posts he’s quick to mention new discoveries that turn the previous consensus about various astronomical phenomena on its/their ear and how exciting it is to have to learn new ways of thinking about thing, and yet he just has this HUGE blind spot when it comes to climate science and always retreats to the “Nope, climate science is all done, nothing more to learn, no new discoveries, and you are all deniers if you don’t think so too!”

  55. You really can’t take Slate seriously. It’s not like they’re a credible publication or anything. They are journalistically beneath you. You write for the Wall Street Journal. These people write on a web zine. It’s a popular web zine, but a web zine nonetheless.

  56. Phil Plait is a coward and a simpleton. Go back to criticizing high school physics conspiracies – at least those are hard to get wrong.

    Mark Takatz

  57. @JSC, that is very well said. I’ve pointed out this ‘consensus’ hypocrisy on numerous occasions, only to attacked by a pack of wild animals over there in the comment sections.

    Instead of a ‘teaching’ moment, he resorts to name calling and other nonsense. Its pretty clear he writes about the climate to annoy skeptics. If i were Slate’s editors I’d give him the choice to write for us or go on over to Skeptical Science and write for them. He has no idea the damage he does to science by loving the sound of his own voice.

  58. Per the article:
    “”The latest attack is strangely self-contradictory. Without citing a single study to back up his claims, Mr Plait accuses me, wrongly, of not citing a single study to back my claims. He writes:””
    ————————————————————————————————————
    I have run into the same style argument at 3 different sites from 3 different warmists over the last week.

  59. Excellent essay, very informative, I would also like to know more on the issue of winter deaths that others have mentioned, The UK has had a recent rise in winter fatalities directly attributed to harsher winter temperatures, even earlier this year there was a number of deaths on Mt Snowdon (the same Mt snowdon alarmists claimed would be snow free during winter by now) and in Northern Ireland there was 10s of thousands of livestock lost and up to 30 foot snowdrifts and a lot of people cut of from supplies and having to endure power-cuts not seen since the 1960’s, although, people are generally a lot wealthier today than 50 years ago so there should be less winter deaths attributed to this fact, so could it be the case that if we had the same standards of living today as people in the 60s had, then would there be a lot more winter deaths?

    It doesn’t make sense to claim that a global temperature anomaly causes less winter fatalities when the anomaly does not reflect the actual conditions of a specific region where winter fatalities occur, winter weather around the UK and Ireland has had similar winter conditions and heavy snowfalls of the past and there have been record cold and wet summers.

    Why is global warming not affecting Ireland and the UK? It’s not acceptable that people are saying that global warming is making it colder. The whole issue just got silly over the past 10 years of no actual rise in the global temperature anomaly. Oh, Waite… The Issue has always been silly. :)

  60. Just got this little missive from my mates at futureworld.org . .

    GLOBAL WARMING IS DEAD

    Get ready for the next ‘little ice age’

    Dateline: 23 September 2017

    It’s official, the global warming scare is over. The latest report from the independent panel on climate change is warning of decreasing global temperatures, and the impact that will have on crops and food security.

    If you believe the power of computer models to predict the future, then you’d better stock up on winter woollies, down duvets and triple-glazing. According to the meddling modellers, it’s about to get a whole lot colder in the great northern hemisphere, where so much of humanity has its home.

    With no significant warming in 20 years, you would have thought the bureaucrats would have abandoned the global warming band wagon much sooner. But a trillion dollar international edifice takes some time to unbundle. Many red-faced academics who placed the responsibility for climate at the door of human carbon emissions have faded into obscurity or quietly taken up new fields of study.

    But the hard-core officials have stridently argued that “climate anomalies” are still a major threat to world peace, and need to be managed, no matter if it’s warming or cooling that is at issue.

    Optimistic realists, on the other hand, point out that the cycle turned in 2013, when sea ice made an unexpected come back in the Arctic summer, destroying all predictions of an ice-free northern sea route in the future. So preparing for an ice age in the next century may be equally alarmist.

    Climate change, like so many phenomena at the geological and cosmic scale, cannot be controlled by humans, no matter how arrogant we are. Perhaps now we can get back to dealing with real environmental problems, like pollution, biodiversity and preserving natural habitats.

    Published 26 September 2013

  61. Phil Plaint is ranting about deniers from the title on.
    Deniers? There is an interesting categorisation I found:

    http://claesjohnson.blogspot.se/2012/03/can-greenhouse-effect-be-detected.html

    The recent exhange with Roy Spencer and Fred Singer concerning the “greenhouse effect” and “backradiation” identifies three groups in the climate debate with the following standpoints:
    Alarmists: There is a greenhouse effect and it threatens to overheat the globe.
    Skeptics: There is a greenhouse effect, but it is so small that it cannot be detected.
    Deniers: As long as no greenhouse effect has been identified, one can act as if there is no greenhouse effect.

    Plait rants about ” the harm however small the warming” , but of course : “He gives no source for this claim, which flies in the face of peer-reviewed sources.”
    Of course he gives no source, but he accuses Matt of not providing sources. Oh wonder! Again so typical for the alarmist to not prove anything they say but to accuse the others of doing so.

    The rest is the typical alarmist ‘la la la we do not hear you’ way of dialogue:
    “we publish such responses when critics have new or compelling arguments or evidence that call into question what we have published. You have differences with Phil, but we don’t believe your response offers such evidence.”
    Alarmists are not interested in dialogue but only to sell their nonsense.

    Then again the excuse “the ocean ate my global warming”, but adds that it will come back on us with revenge. Of course he knows this from his divine source..
    An why are we doomed? Because we’ve been feeding plants with CO2 that’s why:
    ” but as we put more CO2 into the air, that heat has a harder time radiating away into space.” and more: “CO2 is transparent to visible light, but opaque to thermal infrared (or, more simply, heat).”

    Interesting CO2 opaque to infrared?
    Well, this is his science. No wonder he names himself bad astronom, at least he is honest here. Just because CO2 has a main resonance around wavenumber 667 (missed that perfect 666 number!) it does not mean it is opaque to infrared.
    Claes Johnson has a series of interesting posts about the CO2 effect itself:

    http://claesjohnson.blogspot.se/2013/03/the-fabrication-of-co2-alarmism-decoded_16.html

    “Starting from the present level of 395 ppm Modtran predicts a global warming of 0.5 C from radiative forcing of 2 W/m2.
    Global warming of 0.5 C is too small to be observed and thus cannot give rise to alarm.”

  62. Lars P says:

    “Plait rants about ‘the harm however small the warming’, but of course : ‘He gives no source for this claim, which flies in the face of peer-reviewed sources.’ ”
    Of course he gives no source, but he accuses Matt of not providing sources. Oh wonder! Again so typical for the alarmist to not prove anything they say but to accuse the others of doing so.

    Plait, like the rest of the climate alarmist cult, does not believe in the Scientific Method, which requires anyone who proposes a hypothesis to have the onus of defending it.

    Scientific skeptics have no burden to “prove” anything. Plait just wishes it worked that way.

    The fact is that there are no empirical, testable measurements showing that human CO2 emissions have any effect on global temperature. Natural variability is fully sufficient to explain all the warming since the LIA.

    There is no need for a “magic gas” explaning why the planet is reverting to its long term trend line, after one of the coldest episodes of the entire Holocene: the Little Ice Age.

    And no, skeptics are not required to provide any mechanism for the LIA. There are a number of conjectures, but the central point is that the planet cooled for some reason(s), and now it is warming back up to its long term trend line. The same thing has happened many times, naturally, over the past 10,000 years. During that time, CO2 was very low. Therefore, rising CO2 is not a credible explanation for the current [very mild] warming trend.

  63. I know Phil Plait reads this site. Especially when the comments are about Phil Plait. Who could resist?

    So I would like to offer Mr Plait the opportunity to submit an article here. Make your best arguments, Phil. But based on what I have seen so far, be prepared to have your climate nonsense ripped to shreds. That’s how science works, in case you didn’t know. Only the arguments left standing matter.

    But I suspect that Mr Plait does not have what it takes to man up and argue his point of view. He hides out in his thinly-trafficked blog, emitting nonsense that is just too easy to deconstruct.

    We know you’re reading these comments, Phil. Sucks, doesn’t it? You won’t dare to comment. That would take cojones, which you seem to be missing.

    Prove me wrong.

  64. @PGH:
    I totally agree with everything you have said about the pine beetle. I would also add that the unhealthy trees burn easier, and the density makes the fires hotter, stronger, and more likely. Pick your poison: beetles or fire. I live in lake Tahoe and I it saddens me to know the day will come soon when the whole place burns down because we won’t thin the trees around. Of course they will blame climate change like they did with the recent rim fire: http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn24110-yosemite-rim-fire-is-taste-of-things-to-come.html#.UkTkx4asiSo

  65. Matt, I appreciate your politeness and your intellectual rigor, compared to the idiot you are dealing with here who gives a terrible name to science. But remember, this war of ideas is all about power. This war is, in the end, not about science, but about who will have the power to control millions, billions of human beings and their activity over the next 100 years. As always, truth is, even in this kind of war, the first casualty. I would not blame you if you soon became less polite to critics like Phil Plait. The stakes are becoming too high.

  66. dbstealey says:
    September 26, 2013 at 1:24 pm
    I know Phil Plait reads this site. Especially when the comments are about Phil Plait. Who could resist?
    So I would like to offer Mr Plait the opportunity to submit an article here. Make your best arguments, Phil. …

    Nice try db. Don’t worry he wont come and post a single word.
    How do I know this?
    When have you seen alarmist debating “the science” openly? Never on their blogs. Few try on skeptics blogs, but prove to be either zealots who do not understand anything or sophists.

    Even worse, judging from his post it looks to me like Phil Plait does not even have the needed level of understanding of climate science for a debate. He just parrots alarmist mantra.

    Where in all the alarmists blogs is there an open discussion without heavy censorship and moderating possible? They need this censorship and moderating to avoid inconvenient truth and questions raise by data. I guess that’s why Slate refused to post the reply.
    They lost even the notion of open debate, and they are forgetting the scientific method in their zealotry.

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