On Friday 19th September John Cook talked on “ Dogma vs. consensus: Letting the evidence speak on climate change” at Bristol University. He was introduced by Stephen Lewandowsky, who is now a professor there. The slides are available at Skepticalscience. Here are some notes on the talk, along with brief comments.
The global warming hypothesis
John Cook started by asking people to see if they can define the greenhouse effect as a way of detecting if people know what they are talking about. However, he did not then apply this criteria in evaluating consensus views.
He stated that there is no single cause of global warming (including solar and volcanic), but that there is a major or principle one. From then on Cook proceeded as if there was a single cause. There was no evidence for relative size of each cause of global warming. Nor was there any consideration of the implications if AGW accounted for half or less of the warming rather than the entirety of it.
He stated that there are multiple lines of evidence for AGW actually operating, no mention of the quality of the evidence, or of contrary evidence that the pattern of warming does not fit the models.
Cook et. al 97% scientific consensus paper
Cook than went on to talk about his 97% consensus paper. He then showed the Barak Obama tweet.
In the Q&A John Cook admitted to two things. First, the paper only dealt with declared belief in the broadest, most banal, form of the global warming hypothesis. That is greenhouse gas levels are increasing and there is some warming as a consequence. Second is that the included papers that were outside the realm of climate science1, and quite possibly written by people without a science degree. The Barak Obama tweet account seems to have got the wrong impression.
This should be seen in the light of a comment about why consensus is important.
Communicating consensus isn’t about proving climate change. It’s addresses a public misconception about expert opinion.
John Cook has spectacularly failed on his own terms.
Cook pointed to a petition of a few years ago signed by over 31,000 American scientists, opposing the Kyoto Treaty on the basis that it would harm the environment, hinder the advance of science and technology and damage the health and welfare of mankind. They also signed to say that there was no convincing evidence of catastrophic global warming.
He calls these people “fake experts” because these “scientists”, but are not “climate scientists”. But as we have seen neither were all the authors on his climate consensus paper.
If scientists from other areas are “fake experts” on climate science, then this equally applies to those making statements in support of the “climate consensus”. That means all the statements by various scientific bodies outside of the field of “climate” are equally worthless. Even more worthless are proclamations by political activists and politicians.
But most of all neither is John Cook a “climate expert”, as his degree is in physics.
Four Hiroshima Bombs and a Zillion Kitten Sneezes
As an encore, Cook had a short presentation on global warming. There were no hockey sticks showing the last thousand years of warming, or even a NASA Gistemp global surface temperature anomaly graph for the last century. The new graph is the earth’s cumulative heat energy accumulation since 1970, broken down into components. It was a bit like the UNIPCC’s graph below from AR5 WG1 Chapter 3. However, I do not remember the uncertainty bands being on Cook’s version.
Seeing that, I whispered to my neighbour “Four Hiroshima Bombs”. Lo and behold the next slide mentioned them. Not a great prediction on my part, as skepticalscience.com has a little widget. But an alternative variant of this was a zillion kitten sneezes a second, or some such preposterous figure. The next slide was a cute picture of a kitten. Cook seems to be parodying his work.
The Escalator with cherries on top
The last slide was of Cook’s “Escalator” graph, or at least the “Skeptics” view. The special feature for the evening was a pair of cherries in the top left, to emphasise that “skeptics” cherry-pick the evidence.
It was left flickering away for the last 15 minutes.
My thoughts on the presentation
Some of the genuine sceptics who left the room were seething, although they hung around and chatted.
But having reviewed my notes and the slides my view is different. John Cook started the presentation by trying to establish his expert authority on the global warming hypothesis. Then he let slip that he does not believe all global warming is from rising greenhouse gas levels. The centrepiece was the 97.4% scientific consensus paper where he was lead author. But, as Cook himself admitted, the survey looked for support for the most banal form of global warming, and the surveyed papers were not all written by climate scientists. Yet Barak Obama is enacting policy based on the false impression of a scientific consensus of dangerous warming.
Then in dissing an alternative viewpoint from actual scientists, Cook has implicitly undermined years of hard campaigning and entryism by green activists in getting nearly every scientific body in the world to make propaganda statements in support of the catastrophic global warming hypothesis and the necessity of immediate action to save the planet. Cook then parodied his own “four Hiroshima bombs a second” widget, before finishing off with a flickering gross misrepresentation of the sceptics, a number of whom were in the room listening politely.
About the final question was from someone who asked about why nearly all the questions were coming from sceptics, when the vast majority of the people in the room were in support of the “science”. At the end there was polite applause, and the room quickly emptied. I think the answer to the lack of questions was the embarrassment people felt. If John Cook is now the leading edge of climate alarmism, then the game is up.