Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Climate Seminar Marred by Skeptics

Yesterday I went to a climate change seminar at Portland State University, where OCCRI Director Phil Mote spoke about regional climate models. Mote is always interesting and it was a good talk, but there were some awkward moments where some Portland area climate skeptics tried to use the seminar as an opportunity to score points instead of understand and question Mote's research.

Chuck Wiese, who was once a TV weatherman around here, asked a question about water vapor, but it was basically a lead-in to ask why Oregon should try to cut its '68 metric tons of CO2' when the world emits '3T mt' (I think he said) and so Oregon's contribution would only lower global temperatures some miniscule fraction of a degree. He blitzed Mote with all kinds of numbers (which someone in the audience, who said he worked in exactly this field, say were way off), and finished up with "You guys always say..." to which Mote responded "sounds like an inquisition" and brought the talk back to the his intended topic.

[By the way, that "miniscule fraction of a degree" number that skeptics always throw around comes from the very models they otherwise denigrate.] I debated Wiese in Portland about two years ago, and he actually presented this graph as an example of a valid forecast. It uses, believe it or not, a simple Excel sixth-order polynomial fit, which would predict a temperature below absolute zero in just a few years.

(Naturally, the Portland radio conservative Lars Larson considers Wiese an expert and frequently has him on his program.)

But worse was self-styled climate expert Gordon Fulks, who, after making sure everyone knew he had a Ph.D., asked a question that turned into a rant against Mote that essentially asked 'how is this even science?' He kept interrupting Mote's trying to answer the question and called Mote's work 'calibration.' It was ugly and embarrassing and Mote rightly refused to fall for the bait.

Fulks, by the way, writes op-eds like this one in the Oregonian that needed some serious corrections. Another accused climate scientists of not being honest, and finished with this gem: "All plants and animals owe their very existence to carbon dioxide." An earlier piece he wrote actually heralded the notorious Oregon Global Warming Petition Project, while making sure (again) that everyone knew he had a Ph.D. (Isn't it strange how skeptics always claim there is no such thing as consensus in science, yet point to the Oregon petition to demonstrate a supposed consensus?)

Anyway it was kind of ugly. Hard questions are a good thing at seminars, and I've seen a few heated debates in them about various technical points, but I've never seen people try to simply score points at one.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I attended the seminar and was dismayed by the question asked by one woman in particular. Not only was she completely rude during the talk (she actually answered and talked on her cell phone while Dr. Mote was giving his lecture), but then she tried to shoot down global warming by claiming that climate change was not real because "the snowpack came back this year". This statement was followed by a question asking "isn't the danger over?" It is always sad to see people who clearly have no formal scientific education try to cherry pick observations to support their own viewpoints. It is indicative of a greater problem of society: not only are people ignorant of modern science, but they are proud of it!