Wattsupgate: Denialists claim all knowledge is wrong

January 31, 2010

It really is that bad.  Climate science denialists now attack any information simply for not being what they want it to be.  Lysenko’s Ghost smiles broadly.

Anthony Watts is just the most prominent of the bloggers making hoax charges of error and worse in the fourth report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), because of a footnote that cites a rock climbing magazine.

Here’s the trouble for Watts:  There is no indication that the citation is in error in any way.  Watts’s move is more fitting of King George III’s campaign against Ben Franklin’s lightning rods, the prosecution of John Peter Zenger, the pre-World War II campaign against Einstein’s work because he was born a Jew, or the hoary old Red Channels campaign against Texas history told by John Henry Faulk.  It’s as bad as the Texas State Board of Education’s attack on Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? Watts’ and others’ complaint is simply that Climbing magazine’s story on the worldwide retreat of glaciers suitable for climbing is not published in a juried science journal.

In other words, they indict the science, not because it’s wrong — they have no evidence to counter it — but because it’s too American Patriot correct Jewish left Texan mistakenly thought to be political well-known, too accessible, (small “d”) democratically-reported.

And of course, any comment that points that out at Watts’s blog goes into long-term “moderation,” keeping it from the light of day in the best tradition of the Crown’s defense of Gov. Cosby’s misadministration of New York (see “John Peter Zenger”).  Watts said in a quote that should have been attributed to the Daily Telegraph:

The IPCC’s remit is to provide an authoritative assessment of scientific evidence on climate change.

In its most recent report, it stated that observed reductions in mountain ice in the Andes, Alps and Africa was being caused by global warming, citing two papers as the source of the information.

However, it can be revealed that one of the sources quoted was a feature article published in a popular magazine for climbers which was based on anecdotal evidence from mountaineers about the changes they were witnessing on the mountainsides around them.

The other was a dissertation written by a geography student, studying for the equivalent of a master’s degree, at the University of Berne in Switzerland that quoted interviews with mountain guides in the Alps.

The revelations, uncovered by The Sunday Telegraph, have raised fresh questions about the quality of the information contained in the report, which was published in 2007.

It comes after officials for the panel were forced earlier this month to retract inaccurate claims in the IPCC’s report about the melting of Himalayan glaciers.

By those standards, Watts’s own readers should eschew his blog — it’s not peer reviewed science by any stretch, and Watts isn’t an established authority in climate science (he’s not even working for an advanced degree).  Consistency isn’t a virtue or concern among climate change denialists.  Watt’s entire modus operandi is much more anecdotal than the story in Climbing, which was written by a physicist/climber who studies climate change in the world’s mountains.

And did you notice?  They’re whining about research done by a scientist in pursuit of a degree, complaining about the second citation.  That’s the exaclty kind of research that they claim the magazine article is not.  Their complaint is, it appears, that a scientist in pursuit of education is not the right “kind” of person to do climate research. It’s the chilling sort of bigotry that we spent so much time in the 20th century fighting against.  In the 21st century, though, it appears one can still get away with demonizing knowledge, education and research, part of the campaign to indict “elitism,” the same sort of elitism aspired to by America’s founders.  Too much of the criticism against scientists involved in documenting global warming is the cheap bigotry the critics claim to find in science, falsely claimed in my view.

Topsy-turvy.

And the glaciers?  Yeah, the evidence tends to show they are in trouble.  Those Himalayan glaciers?  The IPCC report was accurate in everything except the speed at which the glaciers decline — they should be with us for another three centuries, not just 50 years, if we can reduce warming back to 1990s levels (oddly, denialists rarely deal with the facts of accelerating warming, preferring to point to a local snowstorm as a rebuttal of all knowledge about climate).

Oh, and the research?  The author of the story in Climbing magazine is Mark Bowen.  Dr. Bowen’s Ph.D. is in physics from MIT. He’s a climber, and he researches climate change on the world’s highest mountains.  His 2005 book, Thin Ice, focused tightly on what we can learn about climate from the world’s highest mountains.   Bowen is the expert Anthony Watts would like to be.

Bowen’s newest book:  Censoring Science:  Inside the political attack on James Hansen and the truth of global warming. Watts doesn’t want anyone to read that book.  It is easy to imagine Watt’s s attack is, he hopes, pre-emptive, against Bowen’s book.

I’ll wager Watts hasn’t read the article in Climbing, and didn’t know who Bowen was when he launched his attack, though.  The denials of bias coming out of the denialists’ camp will be interesting to watch.

Let the denialists roll out the rope far enough, they’ll inevitably hang themselves.

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