Spindly Man with Annoying Bow Tie Takes on Weather Hack with Annoying Logic

February 23, 2010

Or, climate ain’t weather (and climatology ain’t meteorology) redux

This week our good pal Max Boykoff appeared at the AAAS to argue that the media overstate the case of climate skeptics. You can read about that event here, in the local Boulder rag.

Meanwhile, in the High Country News, Tom Yulsman offers a response to a recent WSJ article critical of emissions reductions policies in Boulder. Boulder County Commissioner Will Toor responds to Yulsman and the WSJ in the comments. (h/t to Roger).

Finally, Bill Nye the Famous Nerdy Guy was pitted against the venerable meteorologist Joe Bastardi. Of interest here (to my students in particular), Nye calls out Bastardi on his use of the red herring. For my money, Nye has a far superior argument, though I wish he hadn’t raised the question of who has something to gain.


  1. So Nye Brings up Venus then claims red herring because Bastardi brings up that we don’t have enough data on Venus? Doublespeak. Nye’s argument is non existent. The best argument is correlation. When temperatures fall while CO2 levels rise, the correlation is gone. You are correct that who has something to gain is irrelevant.

    All of the alarmist “science” is based on models. The models fail to predict seasonal weather, but Bastardi proved that he did accurately predict seasonal weather with his model. Clearly Bastardi has the better model. Then he explained how he came up with the model and Nye pulled out one aspect (volcanoes) and came up with a graph that claims that volcanoes don’t have much effect.

    Sorry Bill Nye the Mechanical Engineer, but I believe the Meteorologist who used the model that accurately predicted the actual weather.

    The only thing in the whole piece that Nye said that was logically convincing was that the last decade was the warmest on record. Those of us paying attention know that this is one of those statistics lie moments. The reason it is the warmest is because it started warm and has been cooling every since. Alarmists never used decade averages before this decade – they always used trends. The trend going down while the CO2 levels are going up is creating scrutiny that is unraveling the whole scare.

  2. “So Nye Brings up Venus then claims red herring because Bastardi brings up that we don’t have enough data on Venus? Doublespeak.”

    My understanding was that Nye’s argument wasn’t about change on Venus, but about the role of atmospheric carbon dioxide on Venus; but then, I’m not a scientist.

    Incidentally, climate ain’t weather.

    • The role of CO2 on Venus is a red herring because no one is arguing that CO2 is not a greenhouse gas. The only thing Venus shows is that CO2 is a greenhouse gas. Venus’ atmosphere is practically 100% CO2. The Earth’s is practically 0%. (.0038%)

      True, climate ain’t weather, but climate models are extensions of weather models. The seasonal forecast that Bastardi showed was closer to a climate model than a weather model. Nye was not arguing that his model was just a weather model. He was arguing that volcanoes should not be included in the seasonal forecast model (and implying that he wouldn’t put it in a climate model.) Clearly Bastardi showed that the inputs he uses worked. The IPCC models try to predict seasonal weather, but they are not successful. Their excuse is that climate ain’t weather. Nice try.

      • Gerhard Gerlich, Ralf Tscheuschner, George Chilingar, Lev Khilyuk and Oleg Sorokhtin just to name five over the tip of Eli’s ears

  3. Bagazzz,

    Venus’ surface is hotter than Mercury’s despite being nearly twice as far from the Sun. That’s because the greenhouse effect of its almost pure CO2 atmosphere.

    Regarding the imperfect correlation between temperarure and CO2 on timescales of a few years, that’s meaningless, or, in other words, equivalent to pointing at a bird in the sky as proof that gravity doesn’t exist. See also http://ourchangingclimate.wordpress.com/2010/01/06/a-quick-n-dirty-guide-to-falsifying-agw/

    • 10 years. The business end of the hockey stick was 10 years. We banned CFC’s because of 6 years of data – starving millions of people by keeping refrigeration out of third world countries while HVAC compaines made billions replacing every chiller in the USA. Funny how tunes change.

      • That’s quite a shine you’ve got on that propellor beanie, bagzzz.

  4. You should leave my beanie out of it. We engineers are not known for our fashion sense. Also, you might consider being careful about using an ad homonym attack when commenting on a philosophy instructor’s blog site.

  5. Ah, ad homonyn (sic), the cry of the wild wingnut. BTW, if you don’t want to be mocked, try not just making stuff up (as in “the business end of the hockey stick was 10 years” or your implication that a relatively small quantity of CO2 can’t be a problem).

    • I don’t mind being mocked. I will submit logical arguments, you can mock with ad hominym attacks and the reader can decide who the wingnut is. I have no need to call you any names.

      Take out 1986 to 1996 and the hockey stick looks more like a pool cue.

      I didnt say the small amount of CO2 can’t be a problem. I will say that if you are claiming that AGW is caused by man inputing an extra 4% of a naturally released trace gas that constitutes .0038% of the gasses in the athmosphere, you need to show a correlation. The reason alarmists use models is because there is no correlation. The problem is that the models are pathetic at predicting average global temperatures or seasonal weather, so people have no confidence in them. This is causing more scrutiny of the science and in the past 6 months, there have been revelations of deleted data, bias in publishing predictions, backing off previous alarmist statements, and publishing non peer reviewed results in the IPCC report. That is what I meant by the word “unraveling.”

  6. Bagzzz:

    I agree with you.

    I think the main problem is that the 30 year trend is only looking at 1/2 of a 60 year cycle. As we move through the next 30 years, and the 30 year trend drops further and further, and finally goes negative, I believe we will have a much more balanced picture of global temperatures. I don’t believe the 60 year trend will be anything like 2C per century.

    Plus we have to clean up the data to remove the artifical lowering of older temperatures and fix all the nonsensical “adjustments” made over the years. Sure we need to adjust for time of day – but trying to impute temperatures from “nearby” data sources is causing way more trouble than it is worth.

  7. “All of the alarmist “science” is based on models.”

    This really is the lie of deniers. Climate science is broad and models are only one small part of it. Chemistry, physics, (yes the kind you can write equations for and test in a lab) and vast empirical evidence are a part of it as well. The empirical evidence ranges from ice to glaciers to wildlife migration patterns to changes in the seasons to measurements of when flowers bloom, when tree leaves change colors, and a vast number of other things.

    Climate science rests on a broad foundation in which the parts fit together pretty damn well. Taken separately, none of the parts form a smoking gun. That’s why deniers want to isolate the case for AGW – because once you fit the pieces together, the case is overwhelming.

    • Dean – you provide some observational and anecdotal evidence of change. However to understand where we are headed it takes models and those models are what is use for alarmist predictions into the future. There can be many signs that climate is changing, that that doesn’t necessarily support what climate will be like in 2050 or 2100. For that it takes models and climate models are the origin of the majority of the climate change alarmism we hear today.

      • This isn’t true either. Much understanding of what climate change will cause is based on research of past climate change episodes. Just because they weren’t anthropogenic doesn’t mean they are not at all applicable.

        Models are required for some of the more detailed regional projections. But this is just the final piece of the puzzle and the models are not all that bad at matching the reality we see now. Looking at past episodes, including cultures that declined and collapsed due to them – sometimes due to warming and drying episodes – is enough to justify serious concern.

    • I kind of feel like we are hijacking Dr. Hale’s blog. The subject here is the logic in the Nye vs Bastardi segment… one quick paragraph to defend myself since I have been accused of a lie.

      You are confusing AGW with GW. All of the anecdotal evidence compiled together does not explain how man caused it. Physics and chemistry can not explain why such a small increase in a trace greenhouse gas cause the Earth to warm…Especially when the gas continues to increase and the Earth cools. The only argument for AGW I am aware of is models. And the models are pathetic.

      • This simply not true. Chemistry equations clearly say how much forcing (extra heat) comes from a given amount of greenhouse gas. And this result can be easily tested in a laboratory.

        The second part is the positive feedback, a popular target of skeptics. Examination of evidence from past climate change episodes, including glaciations from ice ages, demonstrate the level of positive feedback. There is simply no way to explain the ice ages (or the warming when they end) without that level of positive feedback. The Milankovitch cycles that _trigger_ the beginning and end of glacial cycles in themselves do not causing anywhere that level of forcing – this is from basic physics. These cycles trigger a process which positive feedback carries through.

        Furthermore, the feedback is easily understood and quite intuitive. It is not difficult to understand that as ice melts, albedo decreases, and that as permafrost melts, biological processes release methane. None of this requires models. Claims for significant negative feedbacks are merely theoretical, and are not demonstrated in any historical analysis of past climate change episodes.

        Lastly, the evidence is not anecdotal. The definitions I looked up for anecdotal evidence are when the evidence is insufficient. But vast amounts evidence has been collected for centuries because, for example, the timing of seasons fundamentally affects agriculture.

        While models are useful and a part of the foundation of climate science, the ONLY thing that they are the center of is regional and localized projections. And I agree that these projections are a lot less certain than other aspects of climate science.

        But we know enough from other components of climate science. Not knowing FOR SURE exactly where each particular impact will be maximized is not central to the case for AGW.

        Sorry to Ben if he considers this digression a hijacking of his blog. Let me know and I’ll stop.

  8. Bill Nye:

    “To deny what scientists or scientific evidence is showing, is inappropriate. And as I said earlier, to me, when I get wound up, it’s unpatriotic.”


    I’m sure Prof. Hale will find this brilliant logic to be non-annoying.

    • I take it that it was partly a contextualized jab at those who raise charges of unpatriotism against other critics. Taken on its face, though, it’s obviously a stupid position.

      At the same time, I’d hate to evaluate another person’s arguments based on unrelated things they’ve said in the near or distant past.

      • Dr. Hale,

        Will you please spell out the “far superior argument” Nye presents? So far from the comments, it appears that the arguments of Bastardi are better.

      • He basically just says that the physics of climatic change is relatively well understood: carbon is a greenhouse gas. In abundance, it warms the earth, just as it might warm other planets. He adds (or starts with) the observation that even trace differences of any given compound can be noticeable or substantial.

        Bastardi’s position was primarily cherry picked weather data.

  9. There are innumerable cases in nature where trace levels of a substances can have dramatic effects. That the percentage of the atmosphere that is CO2 looks like a small number is not in itself an argument against anything.

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