Guest post by Alec Rawls
At first glance retired physics teacher Christopher Keating’s challenge appears to be an obvious bait and switch. It opens as an invitation to “global warming skeptics” who charge that “the science doesn’t support claims of man-made climate change.” The central “claim of man-made climate change” is the IPCC’s assertion in AR5 that: “It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century” (AR5 WGI SPM p. 17, upped from “very likely” in AR4 and “likely” in the Third Area Report). So wait a minute. All we have to do is demonstrate that this assertion of great certainty that human activity caused most late 20th century warming is clearly unsupported by the available reason and evidence and Keating will give us $30,000? That is easily done. But then the first stated rule of his contest asserts a very different criterion:
1. I will award $30,000 of my own money to anyone that can prove, via the scientific method, that man-made global climate change is not occurring.
Ridiculous. There is hardly a skeptic alive who doesn’t think that human activity is causing some climate change, and in particular, some amount of warming. The question is whether one accepts the IPCC’s claim of extreme certainty that the human release of greenhouse gases is responsible for most late 20th century warming, and is on course to cause a dangerous amount of warming over the next century. Skeptics see this as unlikely, or as unsupported by the evidence, but it all comes down to the size of the human warming effect.
So Keating is putting forward two completely different criteria for gauging human influence on climate, one that pretty much all skeptics reject and one that pretty much all skeptics accept, and he is treating them as interchangeable. This raises an obvious suspicion.
When nobody can prove NO human-caused warming, will Keating claim vindication for the IPCC’s claim that MOST warming was human caused?
It would be a very crude switch, conflating two very different scientific positions, but we have been down this road several times already. Remember the bogus “consensus” study by Doran and Zimmerman that failed to distinguish skeptic from consensoid views, thereby lumping skeptics into their proclaimed “consensus”? According to their press release:
Two questions were key: have mean global temperatures risen compared to pre-1800s levels, and has human activity been a significant factor in changing mean global temperatures.
About 90 percent of the scientists agreed with the first question and 82 percent the second.
Wait, one in ten scientists don’t think global temperatures have risen since 1800? That’s actually a pretty amazing lack of consensus, but on the role of human activity, there are very few on the skeptic side who would say that human effects are insignificant, thus their real finding is that 82 percent of scientists can be categorized as either skeptics or consensoids. They hadn’t distinguished the actual competing viewpoints at all, but they pretended they had, and declared the science settled:
…the debate on the authenticity of global warming and the role played by human activity is largely nonexistent among those who understand the nuances and scientific basis of long-term climate processes.
Ditto for Cook et al. 2013. As documented by Legates, Soon, Briggs and Monckton, the Cook study’s own raters found that only 0.5% of the climate science abstracts they examined supported the IPCC “consensus” position that most recent warming was caused by human activity. To claim a 97% consensus they added this 0.5% figure together with the numbers of abstracts that support weaker claims of some human influence, positions that encompass virtually all skeptics. From Christopher Monckton:
In defiance of the evidence recorded in their own data file, they had then explicitly stated, both in their article and in a subsequent article, that 97.1% had endorsed the IPCC’s proposition.
Again and again the alarmists try to pull off this trick, fabricating a phony “consensus” on the IPCC position by falsely classifying those who reject the IPCC’s position as supportive of it, and the yawning slip between Keating’s cup and his lip seems to be an obvious set-up for more of the same, which must have put off many of the skeptics who came across Keating’s challenge. It certainly put me off.
I belatedly looked further only because these bait and switches have been turning into big propaganda battles and I figured it might be worth getting ahead of this one. That’s when I came across Keating’s clarification page, where he promises to fork over the money to anyone who can prove that the available scientific reason and evidence do not support the IPCC’s claim of extreme certainty that most recent warming human caused.
Okay, that changes things. If these are the terms then Keating deserves to be taken seriously, not in any expectation that he would ever pay up, but because he might be an honest man who has simply never been properly exposed to the skeptic side. Of course that would have been self-selected but he is now self-forcing himself to engage with skeptic views and if he really is an honest man the result could be interesting.
Keating’s “clarification” page
Numerous commenters complained to Keating that there was no way to win his challenge because he was demanding proof of a negative: that human activity has no effect on climate (a negative that no skeptic ever claimed). This is what spawned his clarification page, where he lists “two different ways” that skeptics can win, with “Option #1” being:
The basic tenets of AGW are these two IPCC conclusions:
It is extremely likely (95-100%) that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.
Climate sensitivity is likely in the range 1.5°C to 4.5°C and extremely unlikely (95-100%) less than 1°C.
So if someone was able to scientifically disprove these two extremely likely / unlikely statements, then that should suffice.
To “scientifically disprove” the IPCC claims of extreme certainty is to prove that they are not scientifically justified. It doesn’t mean proving that human activity did not cause most post 50’s warming. It just means proving that the available reason and evidence does not justify any high degree of certainty about the latest warming being mostly human-caused. “Proof” is generally not easy to come by in science but this one is easy, on multiple grounds.
So now we have a challenge worth answering, an opportunity to turn Keating’s publicity ploy into a positive episode for skeptic understanding. His clarification also means that his challenge needs to be taken seriously as a threat. Right on his clarification page, before anyone had seen it, Keating was already crowing how nobody could show that the IPCC’s radical attribution claims are rejected by science:
So, there you go. I set the challenge up to favor the deniers and have now even produced two separate ways they can win.
And, yet, THE DENIERS STILL CAN’T PRODUCE.
Oh yes we can. Keating is one of those “believers” who flings the “denier” label like plosive spittle, and having changed his contest rules to be able to more legitimately claim to that he is vindicating the IPCC’s most unscientific excesses he needs to be shadowed henceforth by an unrebuttable insistence that HE OWES US MONEY. Then he can raise the subject as much as he wants.
Keating’s contradictory statements about skeptic views prove that he’s never thought this through
How else could a physicist make the following contradictory statements about skeptic views, issued almost in sequence on his “clarification” page? First he is stunned by all the people trying to let him know that skeptics generally do agree that human release of greenhouse gases does cause warming:
Some have even gone so far as to claim that no one has ever denied that man made global warming is not real. I swear, I didn’t make that last statement up. This is such a brazen lie that I wonder if the people saying this have lost touch with reality. Seriously, I wonder if they have lost touch with the real world. One question to those people, if deniers have never said man made global warming is not real, then just what have you guys been saying all this time? There is a long record of your statements about how global warming is a fraud, etc. Once again, if you don’t like being held accountable for what you say, stop saying it.
No distinction between people causing some warming and people causing most warming, even though he is responding to people who are pressing him on this very point. It’s like the idea is so new to him that he can’t get his head around it. Then at the end of his “option 1” he includes this little admission, perhaps in response to his recent forced engagement with actual skeptic views:
That said, the climate debate has shifted a bit over the past decades I’ve following it into at least “skeptics” grudgingly accepting (1) that the planet is actually warming [that should be “was actually warming”] and (2) the physics behind sensitivity excluding feedbacks being 1.1°C.
On the CO2 forcing effect it isn’t the debate that has shifted, only Keating’s awareness of it, and he must have only learned very recently (not “over the decades”) about the broad agreement among skeptics and consensoids alike that a doubling of CO2 should cause a temperature forcing of about 1°C. How else could he have been flabbergasted just a few paragraphs above by the idea of skeptics who do not deny that human activity causes warming?
So we’re talking about a babe-in-arms here. This senior citizen baby is unaware that the actual debate is over the size of the feedback effect and whether it is positive or negative. He has certainly never thought through the implications of agreement on CO2 forcing. So what to do with our senior baby?
I’m going to give him two answers. A little later I will post a “taking Keating seriously part 2” that recounts a few of the prima facie ways that the IPCC’s radical attribution claims are highly unscientific, as pointed out by numerous people in recent years. Then early next week I will post part 3, detailing a train of specific unscientific and anti-scientific steps in the IPCC analysis that render it not just scientifically invalid but properly classify it as a hoax and a fraud.
I documented two years ago how the First Order Draft of AR5 was marred by systematic “omitted variable fraud.” That critique is past due for an update and Keating’s challenge is a good second bird to kill with the same stone.