Thursday, January 21, 2016

More about the geologist to the "lay person"

I see a common theme that runs through the many Bob Carter condolence comments made at climate change denying sites such as Catallaxy and Jonova is that many felt he was great at explaining clearly to the non scientist "lay person" why AGW was a nonsense.

Just as anti-vaxxers should realise that the fact that the mere handful of anti-vax doctors always seem to be talking to groups of "lay people" instead of other doctors might be a clue as to the real quality of their advocacy, those who refuse to believe in AGW are oblivious to their own gullibility.

Yesterday, in Alan Moran's post at Catallaxy, for example, he linked to a video of a recent (little noticed) talk Carter was giving at Paris last year on behalf of the Heartland Institute.  (It's the 5th video down.)

I started watching it, and was surprised to hear him claim within the first few minutes that it was "irrelevant" climatically as to whether there has been a 16 or 18 year "pause" in the warming.  You have to look at climate change on the longer scale of 30 years (he says that the last 150 years only has 5 climate data points.)

Well, that's interesting, because here's what he was saying in The Age a mere 5 years ago at the height of the argument about an Australian carbon tax:
Fact 1. A mild warming of about 0.5 degrees Celsius (well within previous natural temperature variations) occurred between 1979 and 1998, and has been followed by slight global cooling over the past 10 years. Ergo, dangerous global warming is not occurring.
Fact 2. Between 2001 and 2010 global average temperature decreased by 0.05 degrees, over the same time that atmospheric carbon dioxide levels increased by 5 per cent. Ergo, carbon dioxide emissions are not driving dangerous warming.
Seems strangely like he is encouraging his readers in 2011 to believe that the "pause" is indeed climatically significant, but apparently it's not unless you look at the 30 year period.   Which, a few days after his death, looks like this:

The appeal to, and deliberate confusion of , the "lay person" is not something we have much sympathy for when it comes to anti-vaxers.  The only reason people might be less harsh towards climate change deniers and advocates to the gullible like Carter is probably because with climate change there is not such an easy present day attribution to death, as there is with a baby who dies of whooping cough, for example.

But long term, the problems Carter was trying to deliver to humanity on ideological grounds were, of course, worse.  (Even if you want to argue that stopping all vaccinations might kill just as many people as climate change, the realisation of a mistake with that policy would be quickly reversible.   Carter and his ilk always skipped over the fact that their advocacy for delay makes the problem - if they are wrong - essentially  irreversible.) 

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