Desperation shows in the anti-warming camp

June 30, 2010

Willis Eschenbach, whose credentials I do not know, is back for another guest post at Watt’s Up With That.

Eschenbach contests conclusions drawn by the U.S. House of Representatives Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, about the effects of warming in New England.

In a probably-unintentionally humorous way, Eschenbach shows just how desperate grow the anti-warming camp.  The purloined e-mails show no wrong-doing, and worse for denialists, no significant errors in the case that global warming occurs and is problematic.  Legislation to fight climate change has a chance of passing this Congress.  EPA promulgated rules on measuring CO2 and other greenhouse gases, and Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s resolution to stop EPA failed in the Senate.  There was the hoax about the fourth-grade science project claimed to refute Nobel-quality research, and then there was the bungled story that mistakenly claimed a solar-energy company sent a non-working bomb to an economics professor in Spain in revenge for his paper against government support of green energy.  One can see how such a string of losses might set back the hopes of even the most delusional denialist.

Either ignorant of Godwin’s Law, or so desperate he thinks it worth the gamble, Eschenbach quoted somebody (did he ever name who?) going on about the Big Lie technique attributed to the Nazis in establishing policy in Germany before and during World War II.

Mike Godwin, discoverer of Godwin's Law - Wikimedia image

Mike Godwin, discoverer of Godwin's Law - Wikimedia image

Is there a more plaintive or pitiful way to say one is over one’s head and has run out of argumentative gasoline?

Eschenbach’s case is not particularly strong — he pulled temperature data (he said) from the U.S. Historical Climatology Network (USHCN) to make charts showing, Eschenbach claimed, there is no 4°F rise in average New England winter temperatures since 1970.

After a couple of skirmishes to see whether Watts’ watchdogs still prevent my posting, I offered a small rebuttal that, of course, slipped quickly into the abyss of Watts Moderation.  It may eventually escape that particular eddy, but in case it doesn’t, here’s the post:

Tim Neilson asks:

PS Ed Darrell – do you have any evidence refuting the post?

Most claims of someone practicing “big lie” tactics are self-refuting, the opposite of a self-proving document under the law. Is this any exception? Mr. Eschenbach offers no evidence to suggest that a committee of Congress publishes material it knows to be wrong for propaganda effect. (The quotes relating to Hitler comprise a grand rhetorical tactic known as “red herring.” The mere presence of that material, were we to apply Godwin’s law, refutes Mr. Eschenbach’s case.)

There is no evidence to refute.

Mr. Eschenbach offers a few jabs at data that show the effects of warming in New England, but he does not appear to bother to look at the data the committee used. This is a bait-and-switch tactic of argumentation that most rhetoricians would label a spurious. Does Eschenbach rebut or refute the committee’s data? How could anyone tell?

The site of the committee, the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, offers several arguments to suggest changes in New England from warming might pose problems. So far as I see, Mr. Eschenbach addresses only one of those arguments, and that one incompletely.

1. The committee claims that average winter temperatures in New England have risen by 4 degrees F since 1970. Eschenbach offers a chart that, so far as I can tell, confirms the committee’s claim — but Eschenbach uses a chart that covers a much longer period of time, and offers it in a way that makes it difficult to determine what temperatures are, let alone what the trend is (IMHO, the trend is up, and easily by 4 degrees in Eschenbach’s chart). Oddly, he illustrates the chart by showing a surfer in a wet suit, surfing in winter in New England. Surfing is generally a warm-weather enterprise, and though the man has a wetsuit, and though the Gulf Current would warm those waters, the picture tends to deny Eschenbach’s claim, doesn’t it? If it’s warm enough to surf in winter, it’s warmer than the Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

And look at the actual numbers — Eschenbach confesses a rise of 2.7 degrees, roughly 9/13 of the rise he intends to deny. Heck, that nearly-three degree rise is enough to cause concern, or should be.

2. The committee notes warmer temperatures would put more precipitation as rain, and not snow. Eschenbach offers no comment on this. Ski seasons in New England have suffered recently because it’s been too warm to keep natural snow, and too warm to make artificial snow (68 degrees F on January 6, 2007). (This is a national concern, by the way.) If the committee errs in this claim, Eschenbach offers no data.

And especially, he offers no data to back his “big lie” claim, that the committee knows differently from what it says.

3. The committee notes that warmer temperatures produce later autumns — a huge impact on tourist revenue in New England, where an enormous travel industry has built up around watching the changing colors of the trees. Such a change would be consistent with other long-term observations, such as those by the Department of Agriculture and Arbor Day Foundation, that the plant zones across America show warming (and some cooling).

Eschenbach doesn’t contest this in any way. Should we presume this is Eschenbach’s agreement that this claim is not a “big lie” claim?

3. The committee refers to warming oceans, and the potential effects on certain parts of the fishing industry, especially cod and lobster. This is caused by ocean warming, not atmospheric warming — so Eschenbach is again silent on this claim. The committee’s claim tends to undercut Eschenbach’s claim of a “big lie” here, and Eschenbach offers no support for his own argument.

4. The committee refers to greater storm damage due partly to rising sea levels. Eschenbach offers no rebuttal of any sort.

Eschenbach fails to make a prima facie case for his big lie claim, and his rebuttal is restricted solely to one measure of temperature that Eschenbach fuzzes up with an unclear chart.

May I ask, since you style yourself a skeptic, what evidence you found in the post that makes a case at all?

Will it ever see light of day at WUWT?

Update: Yes, it sees the light of day at WUWT.  Maybe all my kvetching had an effect.

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