Monday, October 05, 2009

AGW scepticism: no end in sight? [guest blogpost]

My wife is from a small fishing community in Newfoundland. We were visiting there a couple of years ago and I was having a chat with one of the "old-timers" who (talking about something that Danny Williams did) said, "Well - the arse is out of 'er now". I am reminded of that expression by the crowd who don't "believe" in the theory of anthropogenic global warming. A couple of times a year something happens that causes them to shout "Well - the arse is out of her now, me b'y."

That time has come again. Last week the industrious Steve McIntyre got hold of some paleoclimate data that has been used when trying to reconstruct the earth's temperature history. After he performed his statistical magic, the rallying cry of "the arse is out of her" was sounded far and wide. I don't want to talk about that particular event (and in fact there seems to be some pretty intense back-peddling going on, for example in the Spectator link, the comment by Stephen McIntyre on Oct. 3rd at 3:26pm) but I wanted to review the past few times this has come about.

A couple of months ago, there was a similar cry and hullabaloo about a new book written by the geologist Ian Plimer. Of course Dr. Plimer's book has been pretty thoroughly reviewed by now and it has not stood up well (in fact I would venture that it is currently comatose on the floor from a case of blackdamp!).

Of course before that there was the censored EPA document. If anyone is interested, Deep Climate and RealClimate have looked at this one.

My point is that, while interesting things about the climate will keep popping up, in the age of blogs and instant communications it is worthwhile to keep the good old ideas of science in mind. While blogs can be interesting and useful, don't count your science until it has been reviewed. The next time you see someone saying that the "arse is out of 'er" you may want to wait for a week or two then check back and see how the arse is doing.

--John Cross

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