The Atavism

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Can we stop hearing from these people now?

Ian Wishart has written a book on climate change. It should surprise no one that upon reviewing the literature Ian came to different conclusions that the IPCC, his recent bibliography speaks to an advanced case of confirmation bias. What might just be cause for surprise is that Ian was not content with arguing that the globes recent warming is perfectly natural - apparently his 'main point' is the accumulation of CO2 in the atmosphere is also a natural phenomenon. The scientific basis of this idea is that cold water holds more CO2 than warm water so if some extraneous force was to heat the ocean some CO2 would fizz out, natural warming followed by natural CO2 increase. It's actually a perfectly reasonable hypotheses, until you look at the data (this is from 1959-1982, since that was the overlap in the datasets I grabbed):
Recent Increases in CO2 are Quite Closely Correlated to Human Emissions
In fact, by moving away from Intelligent Design Ian has entered the uncomfortable zone of testable predictions. When CO2dissolves in sea water it reacts and makes, among other products, carbonic acid. If the sea really has been loosing carbon dioxide to the atmosphere we'd expect to the ocean to be getting less acidic. In fact, it's getting more acidic. Over all the ocean is absorbing more carbon dioxide that it emits and we know that it's fossil fuels that are making the difference because plant-captured carbon has an isotopic signature. That's before you even have to account for where all the human emissions, which thanks to that absorbing ocean other sinks amount to more than the recent rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide, have gone if they have not turned up in the atmosphere or the sea. Ian's idea is not simply on the fringes of climate science, it's entirely removed from it. You might, like me, find it hard to care what Ian thinks about climate. Much more interesting is the team he's got to write in support of his nutty ideas, Bob Carter and Vincent Gray, both frequently cited as well credentialed climate skeptics, have written glowing reviews of the book and its bizarre thesis. How are we meant to take articles, submissions and press releases from these people seriously after such a demonstration of their ability to set their critical faculties aside? How can the seriously demand they be consulted every time that someone wants to talk about climate? (Gareth of the Hot Topic book and blog has a more detailed post on Ian's central thesis)

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Posted by David Winter 3:17 PM


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