Thursday, March 14, 2013

Marcott Reax

By now it's clear that the group of deniers/[fake] skeptics/scoffers has winnowed itself down to those who have an emotional need to deny climate change.

Reaction to the Marcott is a case in point. I suspect some psychology student out there has decided to get their thesis out of it.

The embargo on the paper broke at 2 pm Eastern time on Thursday, March 7th. Andrew Revkin's article was up at 2:07 pm. The first comment on the first WUWT post about it was at 5:21 pm ET. It was, of course, immediately dismissed, based only on the press release and some tweets.
I had to chuckle at the cacophony of Twitfests going on today over this new study from Marcott et al. I especially liked the Mother Jones headline being Tweeted: “The Scariest Climate Change Graph Just Got Scarier”.

It rather reminds me of some people being fearful of certain religious icons.
Here are the reasons some of his commenters immediately dismissed it:
OSU, well that says it all.
If the paper is correct and the world was cold until the industrial revolution then it’s hard to argue that global warming is a bad thing.
they say “warmer than 70-80% of the previous 10,000 years” so the obvious question is:
What happened during the missing 20-30%? ...And how much warmer were they, to be so carefully omitted?
Here is my take away: The current temps are not as high as past interglacials. The warming trend of the past 100 years is not duplicated in the paleo record. The rest of the press release is the normal propoganda. Warmer than 70% of the previous record? Spin baby spin!
A drought of science and intelligence. -- Don’t any of these “scientists” have a clue? Don’t any of these “scientists” have any shame? Don’t any of these “scientists” realize how hostile the public is going to be towards them when they decide they have had enough and rise up?
And these are just from the first dozen comments, of over 150. No intelligent thought at all -- Everyone just stupidly piled into their clown car, until finally someone calls them on their reflective thoughtlessness:

The paper has set the site into a worried frenzy, with at least a half dozen posts already -- with one post claiming it couldn't be true because its global reconstruction didn't agree with a single ice core from a single location. One, by Don Easterbook, actually analyzes the paper without bothering to obtain any of the data:
Without any original data to assess, how can we evaluate the validity of the conclusions? 
Everyone piles back into the clown car, until Steve McIntyre points out that, yes, the data is available:

In other words, Easterbook, who calls himself a scientist, had his mind all made up before seeing any of the actual data, or even trying very hard to find it. I'm sorry, but that is not how scientists do things.

Alas, it doesn't seem to have shamed him.

So Kudos for Steve McIntyre. But then he writes a blog post based on an email he sent to Marcott which was rather accusatory in a way I can't imagine scientists ever doing based on looking at such complex data for just a couple of days. And even though Marcott replies that their results for 1890-1050 A.D. are "probably not robust" (scientist-speak for 'not reliable'), McIntyre doesn't think that's good enough:
I agree that the 20th century portion of their reconstruction is “not robust”, but do not feel that merely describing the recent portion as “not robust” does full justice to the issues.
What do make of all this?

Marcott et al is a complicated paper. It combines a lot of data and statistical analysis and the scientific people at least ought to soak in it for a good while before firing aimlessly. I guess the days when people wrote rebuttal papers, or even a letter to the journal editor, are over for good.

Reactions from certain quarters were completely predictable, data or not. That is to say, they're coming from an emotional need, not a scientific need.

There is obviously no data that will convince these quarters, no results, on any part of the picture. All the data is bad -- all of it, except what agrees with their position, which will be accepted immediately and equally without thought.

Anything that goes against their emotional need will be immediately dismissed, emphasis on "immediately."

They won't even bother to get the data. Most won't even read the paper. Many won't even get past the first paragraph of the press release. They just go to WUWT to commiserate.

It's their fault really. People like Watts & 90% of his commenters clearly aren't interested in the science, even though they pretend to be. They've made that clear by their actions. Too many obvious pieces of bullshit like this and this and this.

At the same time, while I don't think this kind of raw denialism will ever go away completely, I get the sense their heart isn't in it anymore. Not really. Too much data has piled up -- oceans warming, ice melting fast, sea level rise continues, big storms and heat waves and droughts get too much attention -- and they realize the world has turned a corner. Nations might not cut greenhouse gas emissions, but they know that by not cutting them they are causing climate change. They, everyone, knows we should be cutting them, somehow, that we need to be doing something about the problem, even if it's just agreeing to accept the consequences.

I think the debate has come a long way in the last several years, despite the "haitus" (that really isn't) and the hacked emails and failure at Copenhagen and the other COPs. The professional deniers at the D.C. think tanks don't seem to have the same enthusiasm for their game, we have a President who at least accepts that climate change is occurring and who at least appoints people who want to do something about it. Climate scientists have fought back against their harassment. Marcott and his co-authors seemed completely prepared for this kind of reaction from certain quarters, and effectively blunted it.

And  more and more scientists and technologists agree that the case for AGW has been made, the problem is real and we need to do something about it, whether it's energy miracles or more nuclear or geoengineering (and certainly less coal). And especially the younger generation doesn't have the truculence and anger of the old white guy conservatives. People are understanding that it's not whether climate models predict every little up and down in annual temperature, but that you can't keep adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere at this rate without some kind of significant changes over the decades. Maybe it's the heat waves in Moscow and D.C., or maybe it's the drought in Texas, or maybe even Hurricane Sandy, but there seems to be a sense things are indeed changing, that the monkey is loose, and I think that has taken some real steam out of the denier movement. And people are just disgusted with how they play the game:

In a hundred years, when the history of these decades is written, this picture will grace some chapter on climate change and readers will shake their head in disbelief, that people once actually thought and acted like that.


uknowispeaksense said...

Nice post. As one who has been banned from commenting over at WUWT, I rarely go there anymore at least not without headgear on when I'm in need of some facepalming practice. The thing that I have noticed though is that the number of people posting there that accept the science, and want to point out flaws in the denier thinking, has completely dropped off. Two things are occurring. The big crybaby is censoring people like me, and others who aren't as confrontational don't bother because as they do, the brainless flying monkeys go on the attack. It's the same at McIntyre's Nova and Bishop Hill. These echos are getting louder and louder as the denier dens attract less reasonable people. I actually used to get annoyed and indignant about the attack on science and critical thinking that occurs in those places but I am more convinced than ever that as they becomeeven more batshit crazy in their missive, thay are also becoming more irrelevant. The people who go there don't want to accept the truth, and any casual onlookers have got to be wondering what they are all on. On the attack on the Marcott paper though, likeany other paper they attack, it never ceases to amaze me that idiots like Watts and his followers think they can in just a day debunk a a paper that actual scientists spent years on. They certainly think highly of themselves. But nevermind, its just amatter of time, after more cyclones, bushfires, heatwaves and droughts and floods before, Watts and his ilk are pushed completely aside and are left with a small group of hardcore nutcases, to be ridiculed for what they are.

David Appell said...

Yes, I think you're right -- they maintain a party line by, eventually, rejecting voices that don't toe their party line.

You can still comment at WUWT by (1) using a new name, and (2) using a Web proxy. I do it sometimes when I get in a mood. Last time, after 3 days of trying my best to present science, Watts wrote to my anon address and asked who was paying me for astroturfing.

Facts and reason drive him crazy.

TinyCO2 said...

Haven’t you checked your own side for enthusiasm? I wanted to capture for posterity those sites that jumped at this tasty little global warming worm and what did I find? Surprisingly little. No Guardian article leapt out at me, nor did I find a BBC report. OK Dot Earth covered it but with considerably more caution than Andrew Revkin would have greeted this paper in the past. What is going on?

Personally I’ve kept my mouth shut on Marcott because it’s not simple to prove these things wrong. However I knew it was something Steve McIntyre and those like him would get round to doing properly.

As you mention. the first thing McIntyre did was ask the guy how he got the uptick and Marcott replied that the paper made it clear that the final feature on his reconstruction wasn’t robust. Knowing how important his work is to the cause, he should have been eager to explain how clear it is that current temperatures and warming are so unusual. At the very least he should defend it. But no, like a child warned not to speak to strangers he shied away from the scary man with the beard.

Now armed with an unhelpful response, McIntyre has to do the job the hard way by reverse engineering. He has to try and repeat Marcott’s results. I couldn’t even begin to do that and like most sceptics I’m not about to fork out good money to buy a bad science paper. The man’s methodical so he says little before he digs up a few choice morsels. He will rip the thing to pieces, which is why some of the key media players have kept quiet about it. They don’t want to back another horse that falls at the first fence.

Since none of us were observing the first time Steve McIntyre tackled a hockey stick we don’t know first hand how long it took him. From what I gather, it wasn’t a matter of weeks or even a few months. He is not being paid to be a climate science auditor so he is entitled to spend as little or as much time as he likes on it. Added to the mix has been the arrival of the password for the last of the CRU emails, which will distract for a while.

The meme that the past was mostly cooler than the present is hard to sustain because there is some very telltale evidence to prove it was warmer. Much warmer. There’s physical proof of cultures thriving in landscapes that are still too cold to support a similar lifestyle. eg Skara Brae, Machu Picchu and Greenland. The big Holocene fingerprint is the evidence of an African monsoon that kept land that is now desert as savannah and forest. These places weren’t warmer for a few decades they were warmer for hundreds of years and in the case of Africa, thousands. Trying to sustain the idea that these warming periods were strictly local is losing traction, year by year.

So yes, some contenders to Steve’s hockey stick busting crown have jumped at trying to break the stick. Others are just acting as a cheering section but it will be the master who makes matchsticks of the hockey stick.

bubbah said...


"Haven’t you checked your own side for enthusiasm? I wanted to capture for posterity those sites that jumped at this tasty little global warming worm and what did I find? Surprisingly little. No Guardian article leapt out at me, nor did I find a BBC report. OK Dot Earth covered it but with considerably more caution than Andrew Revkin would have greeted this paper in the past. What is going on?"

The post has already explained what's going on: "Too much data has piled up"

This isn't news anymore. The BBC and all the rest see just another paper confirming the scientific consensus. What is there to report? It's been reported a bajillion times already.

Kaustubh Thirumalai said...

David, excellent post!

tonylearns said...


Funny choice of name. Sicne the "tiny" amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is largely responsible for the planet being hanbitable.

Thereason that the "meme that the past was mostly cooler than the present is hard to sustain" is because the only people who have been trying to sustain it are deniers who invent myths that they put into cliamte scientists mouths.
All climate scientists have known that the late holocene is significantly colder than the early and middle holocene. the REAL meme, is that current temps are about as high as they have been in the holocene and that they are very likely to get much higher. Doing so at a rate as fast or faster than the transition form the last ice age.
It is grea that mr. mcIntyre has follwere who hold him in such high regard. COuld you psot the peer reviewed papers he has written so that we can see if there are any problems with HIS work? or ios that being unfair?

Doug said...

McIntyre has destroyed Marcott et al. That it was even published shows the desperation of the IPCC crowd.


David Appell said...

Recent heat spike unlike anything in 11,000 years, The Guardian

bubbah said...


"McIntyre has destroyed Marcott et al."

Not at all. In fact, McIntyre just exposed himself as a liar again. He will say anything to undermine facts he doesn't like.

Sou said...

David, your article is spot on and thoughtful. I even went to CA to see what was going on. It looked to me that McI jumped into the spreadsheet without reading the paper or the supplementary paper, which both describe in quite some detail how the researchers handled the data.

As for WUWT - I've been banned as well but have been visiting to see what their latest silliness is. Seems to be veering even more towards crankery than ever, with a bit of messiah worship thrown in for good measure.

Anonymous said...

Marcott response:

The paper stands. McIntyre lost.