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Yes, Prof. Derr, the Planet Is Heating Up

At the First Things blog, resident climate change denialist Thomas Sieger Derr (whose dishonest tactics Grant has exposed before), after weighing in on the cap and trade debate, lets loose with a predictable volley of faux-scientific silliness:

All this diplomatic turmoil is proceeding against a backdrop of growing public indifference. So the alarmist community has reacted predictably by issuing ever more apocalyptic statements, like the federal report Global Change Impacts in the United States issued last week which predicts more frequent heat waves, rising water temperatures, more wildfires, rising disease levels, and rising sea levelsheadlined, in a paper I read, as Getting Warmer. This is mostly nonsense, and it is certainly not getting warmer. The earth stopped warming in 1998 and since 2002 has been getting slightly cooler. Sea ice in the arctics is growing. Sea levels are not rising faster than their usual steady tiny pace. The incidence of severe storms is not increasing. And so on. If you want to worry about the climate, worry about colder weather and lower crop yields as the sun remains unusually quiet.For heavens sake, climate people, pay attention to real life, real time data and not your wobbly and unreliable computer models.

Let's go through this line by line, shall we?

The earth stopped warming in 1998 and since 2002 has been getting slightly cooler.

Actually, no. As the indispensable John Cook explains, 1998 happened to be an unusually warm year thanks to abnormally high levels of El Nio activity, but when we correct for that anomaly we find a consistent warming pattern that continues the trend of the past century-plus, with the eight warmest years on record all having occurred since 1998. The idea that global surface temperatures in an obviously extreme year can be taken as a straightforward data point to compare with temperatures from other years is as wobbly and unreliable a strategy for measuring climate trends as there could possibly be.

Sea ice in the arctics is growing.

Again: no, not really. Like the above-discussed claim about planetary temperature trends, misleading talk about sea ice has become a common trope among climate change denialists, most famously in a recent George Will column that the Washington Post fact-checkers seemed to have forgotten about. But it's every bit as dishonest when Derr appeals to it as when Will does: for one thing, it's only in the Antarctic where sea ice levels show a pattern of long term growth; and for another, as Cook helpfully explains once again, the increase of sea ice in the Antarctic is something that seems to be an effect of warming patterns in the region, not cooling ones.

Sea levels are not rising faster than their usual steady tiny pace.

Untrue. As the NOAA notes, the rate of sea level rise over the past century has been "significantly larger" than that of the past thousand years, and this trend is expected only to worsen as greenhouse gas levels rise. A similar point to that last one also holds for the incidence of severe storms, which is projected to increase as the Earth's climate warms; the fact that such an increase hasn't been observed since the relevant projections were issued in 2007 is no good reason to think that they are wrong.Mostly nonsense, indeed. If the First Things crowd ever decides to do one of those fundraising cruises that have become so popular of late, I know of a river in Egypt that would be an appropriate destination.P.S. None of this is to say that the Waxman-Markey cap and trade bill, which Derr begins by criticizing, is worthy of support. (Even many environmentalists think it may not be.) But it's entirely possible to argue that without pretending that global warming and its effects are any less real than Thomas Sieger Derr's evident penchant for intellectual dishonesty.

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John, I simply don't know what to do with this statement:"the claim that the glass broke because a rock struck it does not, for the thousandth time, mean that the brokenness of the glass can be used as evidence that it was hit by a rock as opposed to, say, a ball"If it is in fact true that the glass broke because a rock struck it then OF COURSE the brokenness of the glass can be used as evidence that it was hit by a rock. (Though perhaps it was also hit by a ball as well.) How about this, is a situation where a the glass broke because a rock hit it, can you provide me a counter-example which would disprove my claim that it necessarily follows that the broken glass implies the rock? We need no independent reason. All we need is your original claim that 'X is happening because of Y.'Now, again, perhaps you want to retract your claim that "the ice mass is increasing because of the warming" and instead say something like "the ice mass is increasing, but in an event that may or may not be causally related, there is also antarctic warming." This seems to be the trajectory of most of your arguments...but yet you want to hold onto the much stronger claim for some reason.

Suppose Smith and Jones are in court, and Smith claims that Jones hit a baseball that broke Smith's window. And now suppose Jones stand before the judge and says, But see, your honor, according to Smith's view that my baseball broke his window, the broken window would be evidence that I hit it with a baseball. But OF COURSE it isn't such evidence: that the window was broken certainly shows that it COULD have been hit by my baseball, but it just as well could have been hit by a rock or a tree branch. So his causal claim is incorrect. By your lights, what would have gone wrong?(Hint: It's the same thing that would have gone wrong if a climate change denialist complained that I was using the increasing mass of Antarctic sea ice as evidence that the temperatures were increasing.)

Finally.As I suspected, your argument is not about what is actually implied in your original claim that "the ice mass is increasing because of the warming." Rather, you are arguing about a climate change denialist's supposed claim that you were "using the increasing mass of Antarctic sea ice as evidence that the temperatures were increasing." I never said you did this...nor would they. I did say, several times (though not a thousand), that it FOLLOWS LOGICALLY from what you said. And therefore your opponent can (rightly) argue, "Dude, at these crazy people. Their point of view means that even an increase in sea ice counts as evidence for global warming." They aren't saying you SAID this...but merely that it follows logically from your original claim.Indeed, the situation we are arguing about is unlike the Smith/Jones situation. (Ah, these names bring back my analytic philosophy courses.) There, what happened is a matter of dispute. Perhaps the ball was totally responsible for the breaking of the glass. Perhaps something else was. But YOUR CLAIM, again, is that "the ice mass is increasing because of the warming." That is already set. We know this. There is no debate. Now, what follows logically? Increased ice mass is evidence of (at least) the warming.Phew. Glad that's over with.

They arent saying you SAID thisbut merely that it follows logically from your original claim.

Well if that's what they're saying, then they're wrong, just as in the Smith/Jones case Jones is being obtuse if he claims that it "follows logically" from Smith's claim that the broken window can be used as evidence of the hit ball (which, of course, it can't be).I'm glad as anyone to have this be over, but I'd prefer to have the truth win out.

Oh I thought we had it figured out. I guess not.John, your claim that "the ice mass is increasing because of the warming" is NOT analogous to Smith's claim that Jones hit a ball through his window. Again, the latter claim is under dispute. Your claim is not. Your critic is taking you at your word...and seeing what is implied in that point of view. She is saying, "Sweet, let's agree that 'the ice mass is increasing because of the warming'...now what follows from this?" Since she is AGREEING with your claim that the ice is being caused by the warming, and not something else, she rightly claims that implied in your original claim is that the ice mass is evidence of the warming.Again, the issue is NOT about whether you NEED to use such evidence. Or that you DID use such evidence. Or whether or not there is OTHER evidence. The ONLY thing I'm arguing here is what is logically implied in your original claim that "the ice mass is increasing because of the warming" and how our opponents use such an implication to frustrate our public policy goals.

So suppose Jones agrees arguendo that Smith's claim is true, and says he just wants to trace out its consequences. How would that change the situation? Smith would still be wrong in arguing that it follows logically from what Jones said that the broken window can be used as evidence for the hit ball! And so if Smith tried to use that (supposed) implication to frustrate Jones's attempt to get reimbursement for the damage to his window, the judge would laugh him out of court, which is just what those who believe in global warming should do to people who insist on imputing to their claims logical consequences that they simply don't have.

I absolutely need to go, so this is going to have to be my last post. But let me respond one last time. You did a sleight-of-hand move here:"Smith would still be wrong in arguing that it follows logically from what Jones said that the broken window can be used as evidence for the hit ball!"Smith, of course, would argue something stronger: that the broken window can be used as evidence for the ball the hit THAT WE BOTH AGREE BROKE THE WINDOW. That's the key difference. Once we admit that: "the window was broken by the ball" and "the ice mass is increasing because of the warming" we can then logically proceed to the implication that "there is a ball which broke the window" and "there is warming which caused the ice growth."Now, I need a drink.

Okay then, this is my last post as well.

Once we admit that: the window was broken by the ball and the ice mass is increasing because of the warming we can then logically proceed to the implication that there is a ball which broke the window and there is warming which caused the ice growth.

You're the one going in for sleight of hand. It's certainly true that "The window was broken by the ball" entails "There is a ball which broke the window". But that's not what Smith is objecting: his claim is that by Jones's logic the broken window can be used as evidence that it was hit by a ball, and in making this claim he's trying to insinuate that in Jones's mind anything would be evidence that Smith was at fault. (As you put it in your first comment: "... it just isnt playing fair when ANY evidence necessarily counts toward your thesis.") And this, of course, is just silly, as Jones's claim of Smith's responsibility has no such implication at all. In the same way, "The ice mass is increasing because of the warming" entails "There is warming which caused the increase in the ice mass", but it obviously doesn't entail that the increasing ice mass is itself evidence for global warming. (Your words again: "Hey, more ice means its actually getting WARMER.") If that really were implied, it would be devastating, and would indeed be evidence that defenders of the AGW consensus have a non-falsifiable position. But the claim that it's implied is bogus, and the only way you were (sort of) able to make things seem otherwise is by distorting the relevant claims beyond recognition. If increases in the mass of sea ice in a region were incompatible with rising temperatures, then those increases would count as evidence against global warming, but neither the claim that they aren't so incompatible nor the hypothesis that global warming is a cause of those increases have among their logical implications the idea that you began by insisting on.

Hey, guys,Let's go back to Logic 101. The fundamental principle John seems to be defending is modus ponens: If p, then q. p.---------------------- Therefore, q.As John says, other things besides p can imply q, so we can't argue, if p, then q, and q, therefore p.That is indisputable logically.However, to say that q happened BECAUSE p happened is a much stronger statement than simply saying simply "IF p, then q." It asserts that the particular nexus between p and q has been established.I think that some of the confusion here is that you are using "X" for the consequent (q) and Y for the assumed premises. Psychologically that's confusing.

Geez, you stay away from here for a few days and look what you miss :-). I'm at the same place on this issue that I think a lot of voters are. I'm not very well-read on global warming; if it's ever made an impact on my life so far, I'm not aware of it; I see that environmental issues are important but I'm not fervent about them; I'm a little confused by the conflicting claims; and basically I'm taking a wait-and-see attitude about the whole thing.I don't think the public is ready for the solution (and I'm told that Waxman-Markey is going to die in the Senate) because they haven't come to terms with the problem."Trust me on this one, it's a huge problem" isn't persuasive. All things being equal, I'd rather not disrupt the economy and my consumer habits without a really compelling reason. Don't ask me to trust you; don't throw numbers at me that the other guy can shoot down; don't imply that I'm an idiot if I don't immediately climb on your bandwagon. Take a deep breath, acknowledge that this is going to be a journey rather than an event, and start doing the patient and disciplined work of convincing a skeptical and distracted electorate who already have a lot of other problems that seem to them to be more urgent. If we're slow or obstinate or obtuse, don't get frustrated, try again. And btw, don't assume bad faith on the part of your opponents. Paul Krugman clearly is a True Believer about global warming. His apocalyptic column from yesterday was another collection of talking points from the "trust me / you're an idiot" manual. Reading it made me reflect that the rhetorical parallels between (some) pro-life advocates and (some) global warming advocates are actually pretty striking.http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/29/opinion/29krugman.html?em

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