Careful with that grenade

Danny Weston, well-read climate skeptic, deserves praise for this sojourn into the lion’s den. He visited a talk at the LSE (where talks are held in a very large venue) being given by James Hansen. I am not a well read climate-skeptic but even I recognise this name as someone who is both very prominent and very controversial, at least he’s controversial if you read the right blogs.

The reliably left-of-centre LSE crowd was predictablly alarmist and pro-Hansen and the only criticism he received was that he was “preaching to the choir”, that is, the only criticism until Danny got the microphone:

The mike came to me and I stood up and laid into him. I said that he was high on the hyperbole and hysteria and low on the facts. Most of the people there would unfortunately take him at his word and not look any further so I said I felt obliged to point out that most of his claims were highly controversial and some were flat out wrong and that I’d be happy to go through them with him there and then and debate him.

The crowd then turned on me, exploding in incredulity.

I have absolute respect for this. It takes a great deal of courage to stand up and do what he did in a room full of beleivers. I know, having failed horribly to summon the guts to do so myself at a talk about 10:10 in which they depicted cutting up an aeroplane to make silly 10:10 dog tags for their neophytes to adorn themselves with. A single person standing up and giving a reasonable account of why they disagree has the potential to impress upon dozens of silent bystanders, and perhaps even cause true-believers a few doubts. Remember David MacDonagh arguing about arguments working best on the best informed people, and in particular his assertion that it might take 18 months for a nagging doubt to turn a mind toward your way of thinking? The important point is make the arguments in the first place.

My guess is, that to do so, it helps to be forewarned and forearmed, to have a command of the intricate details, but also to have a few verbal-hand-grenades tucked up your sleeve so that you can make an impact quickly on as many people as possible. My guess is that a tricky thought-proking argument, or a simple but easily-verified fact has the most potential to embed rational-shapnel into the hearts and minds of the nearby audience and linger there for the required 18 months.

Well, anyway, I am not a particularly well-informed person so when I saw Danny enumerating his arsenal in his write up I naturally followed both links to understand what the controversy in Greenland was all about:

Regular readers of BH and other skeptical blogs will be familiar with all of them – TSI not being a factor in affecting the climate, “unprecedented melt” in Greenland (for which he showed this [2] image, with no mention of these [3] issues),

What I found on the opposite end of those links are an image showing a dramatic increase in ice-melt and a report about how some ice-melting did not in-fact occur at all. Wowser. It seems as though the alarmists are continuing to use erroneous data-visualisations to back up arguments when the erroneousness of the visualisation was already admitted by the people responsible for the data. Ouch, if that’s true then blimey – I’m persuaded – the alarmists are a bunch of crooks! Hang ’em and flog ’em!

Unfortunately, the ice-melt in the first picture dates from July 2012, but the crucial admission of guilt refers to different data from a different time-period and cites the short-term weather conditions at the time (Feb/March 2013) as the reason – and the reason given is not obviously disputed by either side. Of course, I expect to be invited by the skeptics to generalise from the latter data that the former data was probably incorrect as well, but I could just as easily – and am far more likely to if I am hopelessly brainwashed – to assume that the problem is in fact specific and local to the latter dataset and that the angrous-contrarian named Danny Weston is talking balls. I fear that the overall effect is of a hand-grenade loaded with Hurtloam – a serious kenetic impact that quickly resolves itself after a short nap, to be easily forgotten in the morning.

Danny’s adventure seems to be more than worthwhile, and worthy also of being emulated over and over again, but carry the right hand-grenades.