Twenty years ago I started studying climate science in peer-reviewed science journals. Peer-reviewed journals are the source, the scientific horse’s mouth. 16 years ago, I observed that local and national media were allowing non-experts to rebuke climate scientists while not representing these scientists. A vacancy I tried to fill. Since then, I’ve been stepping in where needed, and I’m still needed.
About eight months ago, I examined a video by Bill Whittle on climate. He was no expert and his video showed that he’s willing to mislead, misinterpret, or at best, he doesn’t understand science. Recently, friends of mine have been sharing Bill Whittle videos on gun control. My first reaction was, if this guy is such an idiot on climate, why would anyone listen to him on gun policy. It is rare for a person to be expert enough on such different topics, and the more likely situation, in my opinion, is that he doesn’t report valid research on either.
To create a record of my criticism of false experts, in this case, Bill Whittle on climate, I’m recording my criticism from 8 months ago, as I may need to refer to it as background information.
I was drawn to a website called Chicks on the Right because they posted a video by Bill Whittle who, claiming to know what real science looks like, rebukes Bill Nye and Liberals for lecturing Conservatives on science. I’ll stay out of the Liberal/Conservative thing and go straight to Mr. Whittle’s noticeable errors. I posted the following diagram on the Chicks on the Right site: Essentially, Mr. Whittle’s video is mocking Michael Mann’s hockey stick diagram by showing a fragment of a graph of Greenland temperatures. However, in addition of comparing two graphs that shouldn’t be compared without caveats, he also mislabeled the graph, and omitted any citation, as per the courtesy and ethics of scientific practice.
The main problem with Whittle’s video is that it sets up a straw man argument. It is well known that climate changes, for the study of climate would be pretty dull if it did not. The concern is the rate it’s changing as we liberally dump CO2 and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Our current rate has no precedent going back at least a million years. Comparing today’s climate to that beyond a million years ago is irrelevant, for there is no natural force observed that is poised to change our climate from what it is today to that of, say, the Miocene, or Cretaceous. Spiking the atmosphere with CO2, however, is a known way. As humanity approaches 9 billion people in this century, we’ll become more dependent on reliable rainfall, agriculture, water supplies and much more. Disrupting our climate is a recipe for famine, which leads to political instability, mass migration and war. The question as I see it is how much dumping can the atmosphere take before the costs outweigh the luxuries and make us wish we’d bitten the bullet sooner and switched to less polluting energy sources?
Regarding the video, Bill Whittle presents some graphics in a manner that raises a few questions as to whether he’s looking at the data carefully. I annotated his graph of Alley’s GISP2 ice core temperature data. A few things on the graph are flat out wrong (start date and years before now”), some are contradictory (e.g., are the right and left axes both temperatures?), and misleading by omission: e.g., it’s problematic to compare a regional temperature to a global temperature. Greenland is influenced by global temperature trends, but it not the same as global temperature. Michael Mann’s “hockey stick” was innovative in that it combined multiple types of temperature reconstructions allowing a realistic comparison of modern instrumental temperatures to longer term proxy-based temperatures. It showed that the Little Ice Age, for example, was not a global phenomenon. It also showed that the rate of change was remarkable. I can’t claim to do what Mann did, but with that caveat I showed what our global 1 degree C of warming since 1855 (the date that should be labeled as the “now” in the graph) would look like on the same scale as this graph of Greenland temperatures. It should also be pointed out that common ethics in the sciences involves providing the complete citation for the data used. I’ve add that citation in my illustration.