Should you believe anything John Christy and Roy Spencer say?
I don’t believe ’em. But should you?
You can’t read everything or listen to everybody. Life is just too short. I debated Christy years ago, so I know he tries to peddle unscientific nonsense when he thinks he can get away with it.
But some of the comments in my recent post “The deniers are winning, especially with the GOP” can’t seem to get enough of the analyses by these two scientists from the University of Alabama in Huntsville who famously screwed up the satellite temperature measurements of the troposphere.
In the interest of saving you some time, which is a major goal of my posts, let’s see why these are two people you can program your mental DVR to fast forward through. First off, they were wrong — dead wrong — for a very long time, which created one of the most enduring denier myths: that the satellite data didn’t show the global warming that the surface temperature data did. As RealClimate wrote yesterday:
We now know, of course, that the satellite data set confirms that the climate is warming, and indeed at very nearly the same rate as indicated by the surface temperature records. Now, there’s nothing wrong with making mistakes when pursuing an innovative observational method, but Spencer and Christy sat by for most of a decade allowing — indeed encouraging — the use of their data set as an icon for global warming skeptics. They committed serial errors in the data analysis, but insisted they were right and models and thermometers were wrong. They did little or nothing to root out possible sources of errors, and left it to others to clean up the mess, as has now been done.
Amazingly (or not), the “serial errors in the data analysis” all pushed the (mis)analysis in the same, wrong direction. Coincidence? You decide. But I find it hilarious that the deniers and delayers still quote Christy/Spencer/UAH analysis lovingly, but to this day dismiss the “hockey stick” and anything Michael Mann writes, when his analysis was in fact vindicated by the august National Academy of Sciences in 2006 (see New Scientist‘s “Climate myths: The ‘hockey stick’ graph has been proven wrong“).
In their solo careers, Spencer and Christy are still pros at bad analysis.
RealClimate utterly skewers Spencer’s recent dis-analysis — misanalysis doesn’t seem a strong enough word for what he has done (see RC’s “How to cook a graph in three easy lessons“). RC calls it “shameless cookery.” If you like semi-technical discussions, then I strongly recommend the post.
As for Christy, what can you say about somebody who contributed the chapter “The Global Warming Fiasco” to a 2002 book called Global Warming and Other Eco-Myths, published by Competitive Enterprise Institute, a leading provider of disinformation on global warming that is/was funded by ExxonMobil?
In the Vermont case on the state’s effort to embrace California’s tailpipe GHG emissions standards, the car companies brought in Christy as an expert witness to rebut Hansen (see here). In one footnote [PDF] on the sea level rise issue, the judge noted, “it appears that the bulk of scientific opinion opposes Christy’s position.” By the way, for all you deniers/delayers/doubters, let me quote further from the judge:
There is widespread acceptance of the basic premises that underlie Hansen’s testimony. Plaintiffs’ own expert, Dr. Christy, agrees with the IPCC’s assessment that in the light of new evidence and taking into account remaining uncertainties, most of the observed warming over the last fifty years is likely to have been due to the increase in GHG concentrations … Christy agrees that the increase in carbon dioxide is real and primarily due to the burning of fossil fuels, which changes the radiated balance of the atmosphere and has an impact on the planet’s surface temperature toward a warming rate.
Christy also agreed that climate is a nonlinear system, that is, that its responses to forcings may be disproportionate, and rapid changes would be more difficult for human beings and other species to adapt to than more gradual changes … He further agreed with Hansen that the regulation’s effect on radiative forcing will be proportional to the amount of emissions reductions, and that any level of emissions reductions will have at least some effect on the radiative forcing of the climate.
Christy is (mostly) a delayer these days, now that his denier disanalysis has been dissed and the real science is well verified by real observation.
Christy criticized the Hadley and Canadian models, suggesting that they were extreme and were downscaled unreliably … Although Christy testified that he had used climate models, however, he did not claim to be an expert on climate modeling … In fact, his view of the reliability of climate models does not fall within the mainstream of climate scientists; his view is that models are, in general, “scientifically crude at best,” although they are used regularly by most climate scientists and he himself used the compiled results of a variety of climate models in preparing his report and testimony in this case.
You go, judge!
In December 2003, Christy said in a debate:
I don’t see danger. I see, in some cases, adaptation, and in others something like restrained glee, at the thought of longer growing seasons, warmer winters, and a more fertile atmosphere.
Restained glee. Yes, that’s going to be the reaction to widespread desertification, loss of the inland glaciers, sea level rise for century after century, mass extinction …
So, if you have time to burn, and a planet to burn, these are the guys to listen to. Otherwise, I’d look elsewhere.