Monday, 1 February 2010

The Pits They Dwell In: The Register

The Register is one of those entertainment news site, targeted primarily at IT, although it does have a science section. For some unfathomable reason this science section has been plugged directly into the denialosphere and pushes out perhaps a dozen pseudoskeptic friendly articles a month under the category "Environment".

Infamous authors include Steve Goddard, who if you remember caused Cryosphere Today to put up a rebuttal to one of his posts about arctic ice trends as it misled so many people.

There must be some kind of psuedoskeptic edict from on high at The Register however, as there are a number of authors who publish such articles.

The most recent of which is the following by Andrew Orlowski who posts some emails he has received:

The first email he posts is a fair reflection:
"that useless half wit Orlowski has again been allowed to post his climate denial bullshit, without any comments allowed as a right of reply. I am sick of ElReg supporting fruit loop deniers and not allowing comment on their irrelevant rantings. Fuck you El Reg." Register reader Dave 14

Wasn't me. I wouldn't have bothered asking for comments to be allowed.

Orlowski then posts two emails for us to compare. One he notes is from a "Climate Scientist from a top university. A PhD". Climate scientist or not I found his arguments rather ineffectual and kind of lame. Perhaps why his email was used as part of the comparison. I can imagine the authors don't really get many emails trying to correct them - it's a waste of time trying to teach fools in my opinion unless you are being paid to do so.

The other email posted was from "an experienced computer modeler".

I feel these two emails are a good comparison of the "debate". On one side we have scientists who are often, but not always, ineffective at the "debate" and on the other we have psuedoskeptics who are often, but not always, idiots.

Look at the start of the 2nd email:

"I am a statistical modeller by profession and an engineer by education. I find the climate scientists argument about positive feedback the most disingenuous of them all."

So might we expect him to lay into an argument for why climate scientists are being "disingenuous" to think climate sensitivity is high?

Well no. When he says "argument about positive feedback" being "disingenuous", he really means the whole field of climatology are liars for even using the term positive feedback.

"If you want a square wave generator, or a triangle wave generator, then you use positive feedback. Otherwise the system has to be controlled with negative feedback. The reliance on positive feedback is always going to create a runaway system."

His error is to think there's only one definition of positive feedback and to think the definition in his field is the same definition used in climate science. It isn't. Climate feedback being positive means amplification, but not runaway.

Now that mistake doesn't make him an idiot. It's not obvious that Climate Science uses a different definition of feedback than most. The idiocy is connected to his gullibility. The idiocy is a twofold compounded type of idiocy:

1) Imagining that an entire field of scientists are lying to themselves, each other and scientists in other fields. It's so preposterous that for decades climate scientists would use the term "positive feedback" in a disingenuous way that you have to wonder what he was thinking. A definite WTF.

2) Ignoring the fact that scientists don't claim doubling co2 causes runaway warming. 3C warming per doubling of co2, for example, is not runaway warming. So what they call it is irrelevant. Positive feedback, negative feedback, the great and merciful feedback of mighty Dagon, it's still 3C warming per doubling.

"And what is most non-intuitive about the whole thing is that temperatures on the earth have remained remarkably stable. Yes, the equilibrium point has changed, but the stability hasn't.

It's as if by describing any change as a change from one equilibrium point to another, it means no change has actually occurred! This is a kind of definition-psuedoskeptic. One who plays with words to try and redefine reality.

I have no comments to make on the rest, well I do but they aren't interesting. I don't know enough about models and his claims are rather specific. He may be bullshitting, but I won't.

"I will be interested to see what happens when the greenhouse gas hypothesis is shown to be the charade that it is."

Hell will freeze over, and then Earth.


  1. Used to like The Register for the IT stories. Voted with my feet when the AGW denial rubbish started appearing.

  2. Same here, FreewheelinFrank - I used to check out El Reg as part of my morning boot-up ritual, but when I saw that they'd made an editorial decision to start huffing on the denialist pipe I decided they didn't need my eyeballs any more.


    Nice blog CWTF, I came here from MT's place by way of the Rabett.

  3. Yup I agree, I think the Register got a little lost on the issue. There's a difference between publishing loonie stuff for fun and for propaganda purposes