January 7, 2011

Calling BS on Peter Gleick’s Climate BS Nominees

It has just come to our attention that in his infinite wisdom Dr. Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute, has decided to bestow “The 2010 Climate B.S.* of the Year Award” (*B.S. being defined by Dr. Gleick as “bad science”) which he unveiled about a week ago over at The Huffington Post (itself a consistent source of climate B.S.*).

One of Dr. Gleick’s nominees for his B.S. award is World Climate Report’s own Dr. Patrick Michaels for, according to Gleick:

Long-time climate change skeptic Patrick Michaels testified before the House Science and Technology Committee and misrepresented the scientific understanding of the human role in climate change and the well-understood effects of fundamental climatic factors, such as the effects of visible air pollution. Including these effects (as climate scientists have done for many years) would have completely changed his results.

This is simply untrue.

The logical behind the analysis Dr. Michaels presented to Congress (which is derived from this WCR article), has been discussed at length over at the blogs MasterResource and Climate Etc. There, it was firmly established that it would have been illogical for Dr. Michaels to have included the effects of “visible air pollution” (which we take Dr. Gleick to mean sulfate aerosols) when partitioning the observed warming among its contributors.

A simple analogy makes it clear why considering overall losses (e.g., the cooling influence of sulfate aerosols) is not necessary when divvying up the cash on the barrelhead (e.g., the amount of observed warming).

Let’s say that I (Chip Knappenberger) put 10 dollars into a pot, and Pat Michaels further adds another 10 dollars. We have thus each contributed 50% to the $20 in the pot. Now, let’s say that Dr. Gleick comes by and swipes $15, leaving only $5. Who does that remaining $5 belong to? Well, logically, 50% of it belongs to me and 50% of it belongs to Pat—neither of us can claim the entire $5 even though each of us originally contributed an amount more than what is remaining. Our proportionate claim would be the same whether Dr. Gleick took nothing at all, or whether he took $19.99 (if he took the full $20, then Pat and I would have nothing left to divvy up). So, on a percentage basis, it does not matter how much of the original contribution that Dr. Gleick made off with—of whatever is left, one-half is attributable to me and one-half is attributable to Pat.

The same is true when divvying up the amount of observed warming. How much potential warming may have been offset by sulfate aerosols doesn’t matter one iota when apportioning the observed warming among the various factors that have contributed to it—which is precisely what Pat set out to do in his testimony.

Dr. Gleick’s proposition (echoing the objection that Ben Santer raised during the testimony) that Pat was misleading Congress by not including the cooling effects of “visible air pollution” is in error.

We call B.S. on Dr. Gleick’s B.S.




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