Thursday, September 14, 2006

Gulled by a Bore? One Bolt burger coming up

I promised Andrew Bolt, on his column/blog post "Bulled by a Gore" to make mincemeat out of it. To give it a jolly good fisking. I don't have the luxury of starting with the right ingredients for your standard burger patty, but here goes.

The post, that he has been threatening to do for a few days, sought to denigrate Al Gores efforts to educate the world about global warming consequences. Gore has been warning about climate change for 20 years, a field he has been interested in since he was the understudy of the first climate scientist to discover that increased atmospheric CO2 levels heat the planet up. It wasn't long before the consequences were understood and widely communicated in the 1988 IPCC Conference. The IPCC was formed that year by the United Nations Environmental Programme and World Meteorological Organization to gain a better understanding of global warming causes

This news wasn't good for those selling fossil-fuels, since atmospheric carbon dioxide is the by-product of their energy. So they mobilised their armies of think-tanks and lobbyists and right-wing hacks, like Andrew Bolt, Piers Akerman and Miranda Devine in Australia, to aggressively confuse the public about the risks of dependence on fossil-fuel oil and gas. Over the years we have become so accepting of this where we accept a future technology is going to save us. There are those that ask us to exclusively depend on this future savior technology for salvation. The same sorts of people who equate science with religion. Believing their words is not suicide, these types don't guite have the guts. It's grand-progenicide: the mass killing off of our progeny and descendents. We don't have this concept in humanity's lexicon, but we have never been so in control of our existential demise before, so I have invented the word for the Bolt burgerthon and beyond.

Bolt's list of "minor quibbles" with Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" as fisked by me:

1: Gore claims that a survey of 928 scientific articles on global warming showed not one disputed that manÂ’sgasess were mostly to blame for rising global temperatures. Only dumb journalists and bad scientists in the pay of Big Oil pretended there was any genuine debate.

In fact, as Dr Benny Peiser, from Liverpool John Moores University has demonstrated, Gore relies on a bungled survey reported in Science.

Peiser checked again and found just 13 of those 928 papers explicitly endorsed man-made global warming, and 34 rejected or doubted it. The debate is real.

Wadard says: Bolt is referring to what is known as the 'Peiser/Oreskes dispute about the scientific literature on climate change', and luckily it has been well studied. If you highlight Benny Peisner by left clicking your mouse, dragging it across his name, and select Search Web for "Benny Peisner" from the pop-up menu, you get the following Google listing (Firefox browsers only):

Welcome to my homepage
Benny Peiser is a social anthropologist with particular research interest in human and cultural evolution. His research focuses on the effects of ... - 31k - Cached - Similar pages

First listing, huh? Hmm, a 'social anthropologist with a particular interest in human and cultural evolution'? A climate scientist not. His research focuses on... "the effects of environmental change and catastrophic events on contemporary thought and societal evolution.". Not the science itself, please note, more like the politics. I smell something fishy, and it's going straight into the hamburger patty.

Bolt wildly swings, and misses, by measuring apples against oranges when comparing the two studies; a hoary old chestnut familiar to anyone who did high school science. The original study done by Oreskes was a review of the abstracts of 928 scientific-papers returned by the following keyword-search on the ISI (Web of Science) data bank: "global climate change". In selecting her sample she selected only peer-reviewed research whereas, in attempting to 'duplicate' her study, Peiser selects for "all document types", including sociology journals, and petro-chemical company publications.

A commenter on Deltoid, called Meyrick, reverse engineered the two studies after blog owner and NSW University Professor Tim Lambert threw the Peiser study to his ravenous pack of climate nerds in his May "Peiser's 34 abstracts":

Meyrick Says:

So to summarize, Dr Peiser has made 4 errors in his research:

1. Dr Peiser failed to replicate Dr Oreskes search properly. Dr Oreskes used (as far as I can tell) the following criteria:

TS="”global climate change" ;DocType=Article; Language=All languages;Database(s)=SCI-EXPANDED; Timespan=1993-2003

Dr Pieser used the following criteria:

TS="global climate change"”; DocType=All document types; Language=All languages; Database(s)=SCI-EXPANDED, SSCI, A&HCI; Timespan=1993-2003

2. Dr Peiser compounded the previous error by assuming that Dr Oreskes got her figures wrong, rather than contacting Dr Oreskes to obtain her search criteria.

3. Of the 34 abstracts identified by Dr Peiser that reject or question the view that human activities are the main driving force of the observed warming over the last 50 years”, 12 are not in Dr Oreskes sample.

Of the remain 22 articles, 21 do not fit that description (one argues that natural factors have been underestimated still does not reject or doubt that human activities are the main factor). In other words Dr Peiser has misinterpreted the abstracts of 21 articles.

4. Only one fits Dr Peiser's category, but it does not fit Oreskes's criteria of being a piece of published peer-reviewed research, but is instead a statement by the American Association of Petroleum Geologists. Dr Oreskes removed this from her sample partly because the statements by the AMS, AOG, & AAAS are not in her sample either.

It's a great read if you have the time, Peiser turned up to defend himself, but cut-and-Bolted as soon as he realised his game was up. He seems to do that a lot when up against scientists who challenge his methodology:

Brian S. Says:

Lars and Dano,

In the Peiser arguments youÂ’ve mentioned, does he repeat the claim that he analyzed the same set of abstracts as Oreskes? If he does and you can find the exact quote, I'd very much appreciate it if you could post it.

I've been corresponding with Peiser and posting on my own blog that his repeating such a claim goes beyond willful evasion to John Lott-style dishonesty. Peiser has cut off our correspondence. Sordid details here link
(May 16th and 17th posts).


Dano Says:


He appears to have abandoned that argument. Here is the thread.



It's neat that Bolt's sneering, "Only dumb journalists and bad scientists in the pay of Big Oil pretended there was any genuine debate.", turns out to be a spectacular own goal. There's no debate, dude, at least not in the climate-science community publishing in peer-reviewed journals. Consensus currently rules, and, as you can see by Oreskes's work, it is measurable.

This is not turning out to be a strict one-post fisk, I'll have to get to the other nine of Bolt's points as time allows. But I will keep my promise to Andrew. He can't get away with publishing that sloppy crap in today's day and age of blogging and Google; it's just too easy to hold him to task.

Other blogs on:


Anonymous said...

If the debate was not real then, it is now that the CRU at East Anglia Uni would appear to have been blocking anti AGW papers from the peer-review process and trying to wriggle out from under Freedom of Information requests.

Dr.Jack Savage ( I do not wish to remain anonymous )

rugbyguy said...

Dr Jack,
And can you explain how the CRU could possibly control the peer review process?