Tag Archives: Roy Spencer

Rapidly warming satellite data sends “skeptics” scurrying to models

Most people remotely familiar with climate “skeptics” know that if you can count on them for anything, it’s the following:

  1. “Skeptics” love satellite temperature data.
  2. “Skeptics” hate computer models. 

“Skeptics” claim to reject the surface instrumental temperature record because of alleged biases in the data, supposedly fraudulent “adjustments”, etc. These objections are not based in reality, as multiple analyses of the surface data have shown. In reality, “skeptics” reject the surface instrumental record for the same reason they reject so much of modern science: it doesn’t show what they want it to.

“Skeptics” claim that satellite temperature data, derived from microwave brightness soundings of the lower troposphere, are superior. The reality is that the satellite data cover a shorter record (and thus capture less of the warming), use a more recent baseline (and thus have cooler “anomalies” relative to the surface record), and are more sensitive to natural climatic variability like ENSO (and thus make the human signal harder to pick out visually). In other words, they like the satellite data because they show them more of what they want to see, and less of what they don’t. That one of the groups producing a satellite record is comprised of Roy Spencer and John Christy is icing on the cake.

And if there’s one thing “skeptics” disdain more than the surface instrumental record, it’s computer models. The ostensible justifications are legion, but the underlying cause is simple: they show things that “skeptics” don’t want to see.

So it was with great amusement that I took note of the “skeptic” reaction to the UAH satellite record’s rapid January warming, which reached temperatures exceeded only during the strong El Niño years of 1998 and 2010:

Rather than accept their beloved satellite data at face value, “skeptics” cast about for any alternative data set that didn’t show the inconvenient warming. Over at the wretched hive of scum and villainy known as WUWT, the innumerate and oft-beclowned Anthony Watts seized upon NCEP data showing much less January warming:

Of course NCEP isn’t actually an observational data set. It’s a reanalysis product created by those evil and untrustworthy models. You know, the ones “skeptics” demonize regularly in outlets like WUWT:

When the satellites don’t show what they want to see, “skeptics” waste no time in fleeing to the models they otherwise disdain.

Because climate “skeptics” are anything but skeptical.

And just for the record, the RSS satellite record showed a similarly large (+0.341°C) increase in January 2013.

Friendly Reminder: The DDT-Holocaust Hoax promoters don’t actually care about malaria deaths

As previously discussed on this blog and elsewhere (e.g. Deltoid, Slate), there is a form of denialism based on the lie that hippies are responsible for millions of deaths due to malaria because they effected a ban on DDT. This is simply and unequivocally false.

But the people perpetuating the DDT-holocaust lie don’t care about facts. Moreover, they don’t actually care about people dying from malaria.

If they did, they would be up in arms about this.

The DDT-holocaust lie promoters like Fred Pearce and Roy Spencer have not and will not say a word about it. Because they are frauds.

Making an honest hack out of Fred Pearce in five easy steps

Image courtesy of Flickr user “bLOGOS/HA HA”, used under Creative Commons

Attempting to convince those in the grip of denialism is like trying to nail Jell-O to a wall. Take the case of the DDT-holocaust lie. No sooner has one false claim been thrown out (e.g. DDT ban in Malaysia in 1999 resulted in an increase in malaria) and shown to be nonsense than a new claim bearing no particular relation to its predecessor is deployed. Rather than chase down every single mutually contradictory claim made by those perpetuating the lie, I invite them to put themselves on record in a manner that makes their claims easily assessable.

In order to claim, as rubbish journalist Fred Pearce has, that anti-science environmentalism is responsible for “blanket opposition” to DDT use in fighting malaria resulting in a “virtual ban” for “more than three decades” and “millions of deaths”, one only has to satisfy a handful of conditions:

  1. Quantify how many, from where, and over what time interval the “millions of deaths” are supposed to have occurred.
  2. Demonstrate that there was a ban (actual or “virtual”), restriction, or other meaningful impediment to using DDT for malaria control (vs. for example agricultural spraying) in place for all deaths claimed in the above.
  3. Demonstrate that had DDT been implemented, all deaths claimed in the above would have been prevented (taking into consideration obvious confounding factors like the increase in resistance to DDT).
  4. Demonstrate that had DDT been implemented, the overall net result including health, economic, and environmental problems would have been positive- in other words, that using DDT would have resulted in more good than harm.
  5. Demonstrate that the cause of DDT not being implemented in all of the above cases was specifically attributable to “blanket” anti-science environmentalist opposition, rather than science-, economics-, efficacy-, and logistics-based reasons from professional science and health organizations like the World Health Organization, or implementation problems that had nothing to do with Silent Spring (such as replastering and bedbug concerns raised in places like South Africa).

Pretty simple. If you can’t satisfy the conditions, you don’t get to toss corpses at the feet of supposed anti-science environmentalist opposition arising from Silent Spring. Just how serious a case do people like Fred Pearce and Roy Spencer really believe they have?

My guess? Most won’t even  get past the first question or two.

Tom Fuller and Malaria – A Case Study of Denialism and the Backfire Effect

[I'm going to assume that most people who visit this blog are familiar with denialism and its hallmarks. If not, check out a good rundown from Denialism blog.]

Longtime readers are already familiar with Tom Fuller’s denialism on climate, e.g. here and here. Lately, Fuller has decided to throw his lot in with the DDT-holocaust lie.

The meme that anti-science environmentalist hysteria resulted in a ban on DDT use, resulting in millions of deaths from malaria, is fairly prevalent among the fringe American right wing but few places elsewhere. It’s championed by anti-regulatory front groups (e.g. CEI), climate denialists (e.g. Roy Spencer), and more recently rubbish journalist Fred Pearce.

It is of course demonstrably false. Make no mistake, there was indeed a resurgence of malaria after some decades of relative success in suppressing it. This resurgence had nothing to do with anti-science environmentalist hysteria. The reasons for it are not shrouded in mystery, but are rather mundane and (unfortunately for those looking to smear environmentalists) pretty much what a sane person would expect: financial problems, complacency, political instability, growing resistance, cost-benefit tradeoffs with alternatives due to scientific, economic, and practical concerns, and the like (Nájera et al., 2011; Cohen et al., 2012).

This was pointed out to Fuller. But Fuller tends to think with his gut, so he was not about to let pesky little things like reality stand in the way of a good blood libel. So he attempts to marshal some “evidence” in support of Pearce’s use of the lie. His first attempt is to blame the 1972 domestic ban on DDT use in the US- that had explicit exemptions for public health needs such as disease vector control- for a decline in DDT use in Sri Lanka that began in 1964. This is, to put it mildly, rank idiocy. Its nonsensical nature is pointed out.

Unsteadied, Fuller spends the next few comments telling people like myself that we “suck”, we’re on acid, and that environmentalists are like skinheads.

You might think this invective is the dawning of a realization of defeat. But the human psyche is a funny thing. When someone is shown that their position is stupidly, laughably wrong, if the position is tied to their ideological beliefs, it will have some interesting effects. Rather than accept their wrongness, they will actually discount the the refuting evidence and reaffirm their position even more strongly (Nyhan and Reifler, 2010). So after the brief period of insults free of any actual arguments, Fuller goes casting about for something else that will justify the DDT-holocaust lie. And look what happens along the way:

Fuller starts out just trying to justify Pearce’s use of the word “arguably”, and says that, well “[t]here are a substantial number of people who sincerely believe” in the DDT-holocaust lie, so Pearce is okay [October 23rd, 2012 at 12:16 pm]. His attempts to defend Pearce are shown to be wrong and he goes looking for other ones. As he does, he becomes more and more invested in the idea not just that Pearce was okay to spread the lie because he said it was “arguably” true, but that it is in fact absolutely true [October 24th, 2012 at 4:45 pm; October 24th, 2012 at 4:52 pm], and then goes still further and claims Pearce was really understating (!) the case [October 24th, 2012 at 9:28 pm]:

If Pearce is guilty of anything, it appears to be understatement.

This is the backfire effect on full, magnificent display.

And of course, denialism is nothing if not predictable, so Fuller’s evidence included the following: citing a four year hiatus of DDT use in South Africa that actually had nothing to do with anti-science environmentalist hysteria related to Silent Spring and was, it should go without saying, not responsible for “millions of deaths” (Mnzava, 2001; Cliff et al., 2010). Claiming that a 1999 ban on DDT caused an increase in malaria infections in Malaysia- this is what the trend in malaria infection actually is:

Citing the science, economic, and logistics-based decisions of the World Health Organization as anti-science environmentalist hysteria. Copypasta’ing walls of text from Senate testimony-fudger and all-around innumerate DDT evangelist Donald Roberts. And claiming that DDT was “stopped several decades [before the year 2000 in Mozambique], because 80% of the country’s health budget came from donor funds, and donors refused to allow the use of DDT” , despite DDT being the main method of malarial control until 1993. Claiming this, I should add, hours after it was pointed out as a falsehood in response to another commenter.

There is no admission of being wrong about any of things Fuller tossed out that were demonstrably false. There is no attempt made to maintain coherence of evidence or narrative (science and logistics are conflated with anti-science hysteria; the World Bank and WHO are conflated with hippies; the “millions of deaths” are supposed to have taken place in Africa in the 60s, then the 90s, then in the Americas; etc.). Causality is, several times, thrown completely out the window. And the sillier and more contradictory the claims grow, the more convinced Fuller becomes that the DDT-holocast lie is true.

All of this behavior will seem irrational and bizarre to many onlookers. And it is bizarre, if we were really talking about a person who was legitimately interested in looking at the reality of the situation. But of course, that’s not at all what’s taking place. What’s taking place is very classic behavior associated with motivated reasoning. It’s certainly not rational, but it is all too familiar. Though the topic is different, the dynamics are the same with respect to the denial of the reality and seriousness of anthropogenic climate change. Some people are just not going to be reachable by reality-based arguments. Taking a fact-based approach will actually cause some of them to be even more committed to their incorrect beliefs. Fortunately, though, the same social science that has illuminated this irrational behavior offers us some ways to bypass it. Hopefully I will have more to say on that later.

Note: In comments, Fuller says he was not defending Pearce’s use of “arguably”.


  • Cliff, J., S. Lewin, G. Woelk, B. Fernandes, A. Mariano, E. Sevene, K. Daniels, S. Matinhure, A. Oxman, and J. Lavis (2010), Policy development in malaria vector management in Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe, Health Policy Plan, 25(5), 372–383, doi:10.1093/heapol/czq008.
  • Cohen, J., D. Smith, C. Cotter, A. Ward, G. Yamey, O. Sabot, and B. Moonen (2012), Malaria resurgence: a systematic review and assessment of its causes, Malaria Journal, 11(1), 122, doi:10.1186/1475-2875-11-122.
  • Mnzava, A. E., B. L. Sharp, D. J. Mthembu, D. le Sueur, S. S. Dlamini, J. K. Gumede, and I. Kleinschmidt (2001), Malaria control–two years’ use of insecticide-treated bednets compared with insecticide house spraying in KwaZulu-Natal, S. Afr. Med. J., 91(11), 978–983.
  • Nájera, J. A., M. González-Silva, and P. L. Alonso (2011), Some Lessons for the Future from the Global Malaria Eradication Programme (1955–1969), PLoS Med, 8(1), e1000412, doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000412.
  • Nyhan, B., and J. Reifler (2010), When Corrections Fail: The Persistence of Political Misperceptions, Political Behavior, 32(2), 303–330, doi:10.1007/s11109-010-9112-2.

Roy Spencer reveals his motivation for rejecting the climate mainstream- not science issues, but economic concerns

Image courtesy of Flickr user "SarahDeer", used under Creative Commons

Straight from the horse’s mouth, emphasis Spencer’s:

[Washington Post reporter Juliet Eilperin] provided several paragraphs alluding to why scientists on the [mainstream] side of the issue speak out, but nowhere could I find reasons why WE [i.e. the contrarian minority] speak out.

I had told her that ill-conceived energy policies that hurt economic growth kill poor people. Was that not a sufficiently interesting thing to report on?

I guess after a while, even ostensibly serious “skeptics” like Spencer forget that they’re supposed to pretend they’re arguing science instead of a whacked out, far right wing, “economic” ideology.

Although probably unnecessary, it might be worth pointing out that actual economists think that delaying action on climate change will hurt more than using “cheap” fossil energy will help.

Limbaugh pimps Spencer’s new climate denialism book, calls mainstream scientific community “idiots”

Via Media Matters, America’s most trusted Conservative Rush Limbaugh:

To which the only proper response can be:

And of course, climate denialism isn’t the only antiscience belief Spencer and Limbaugh have in common. I’m sure we’ll all be hearing more about Spencer’s book in the next few weeks. Try to contain yourselves.

CRU Emails

I’m withholding judgment until all of the facts come to light, but so far the “evidence” of conspiracy, wrongdoing, data fudging, etc. is pretty thin gruel. So far the claims seemed to based upon (willful?) equivocation on word meaning, excising of context, and so on. [UPDATE: See RC for more on that.] It’s also apparent that even if the worst possible spin on the allegations ended up being true, the net impact on the state of climate science would be small- certainly relative to the scope that is being claimed.

Amusingly, Roy Spencer whines (in a post referencing former President Bill Clinton’s sex scandal) that the BBC’s first report on the issue doesn’t discuss the contents of the email.

As of this writing, the BBC is the first mainstream news source to cover the story. But instead of discussing the content of any of the e-mails, the BBC is focusing on the illegal nature of the computer system breach. An expert was quoted who alluded to the contentious nature of the global warming debate, and how both sides would resort to tricks to help their side.

That’s pretty rich. If the hacked e-mails — with incriminating content — just happened to be Sarah Palin’s, does ANYONE believe that news reports would avoid disclosing the content of those e-mails?

You can probably see where this is headed…

In fact, the Beeb’s first reporting* on the Palin email hack did not discuss the email contents either.

In any event, I don’t condone misconduct, so if any substantive misdeeds end up having been committed, I’ll gladly add my voice to the chorus of those crying foul. Until then, GHGs are still rising and the paleoclimatological news isn’t getting any better.

*Though subsequent stories did superficially characterize the contents of some emails.

Yes, Sarah Palin IS a creationist

Contra some in the comments all those months [edit: over a year!] ago, Sarah Palin’s memoir is unambiguous on this issue:

Elsewhere in this volume she talks about creationism, saying she “didn’t believe in the theory that human beings — thinking, loving beings — originated from fish that sprouted legs and crawled out of the sea” or from “monkeys who eventually swung down from the trees.”


“But your dad’s a science teacher,” Schmidt objected. “Yes.” “Then you know that science proves evolution,” added Schmidt. “Parts of evolution,” I [Palin] said. “But I believe that God created us and also that He can create an evolutionary process that allows species to change and adapt.” Schmidt winced and raised his eyebrows. In the dim light, his sunglasses shifted atop his hear. I had just dared to mention the C-word: creationism. But I felt I was on solid factual ground.

Although this has obviously disturbing implications re: the kind of leader millions of Americans want to see in the White House, there are two finer, interrelated points to be made which actually bring this post back on topic.

The first is that creationism and climate denialism overlap a great deal, not just among the average evangelical Christian and biblical literalist, but also at the highest levels of US legislature and amongst the “foremost” climate change “skeptics”.

The second is that this is no accident, no mere co-incidence of ideologies (i.e. Christianism and anti-regulation fundamentalism). As I wrote regarding Palin previously, people who live in a world where the ultimate cause of everything is literally “God did it” are not going to accept the reality of anthropogenic climate change.

Palin expresses exactly such a worldview in her memoir:

In everything that happens to her, from meeting Todd to her selection by Mr. McCain for the Republican ticket, she sees the hand of God: “My life is in His hands. I encourage readers to do what I did many years ago, invite Him in to take over.”

To see how this manifests in climate policy, once again, the great Senator from Oklahoma proves to be an illuminating if disheartening example.


I think he’s [a radio caller] right. I think what he’s saying is God’s still up there. We’re going through these cycles.

And of course Inhofe is neither an inconsequential figure (he was the Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee for many years and is its current Ranking Member), nor alone in the US Government-

Joe Barton is former Chair and the current Ranking Member of the House of Representative’s Committee on Energy and Commerce, and argued against using wind turbines to generate electricity because it would interfere with God’s regulation of the climate:

Wind is God’s way of balancing heat. Wind is the way you shift heat from areas where it’s hotter to areas where it’s cooler. That’s what wind is. Wouldn’t it be ironic if in the interest of global warming we mandated massive switches to energy, which is a finite resource, which slows the winds down, which causes the temperature to go up? Now, I’m not saying that’s going to happen, Mr. Chairman, but that is definitely something on the massive scale. I mean, it does make some sense. You stop something, you can’t transfer that heat, and the heat goes up. It’s just something to think about.

Representative John Shimkus is also on the Energy and Commerce Committee, as well as its Energy and Environment subcommittee. He has argued against curbing emissions because:

The earth will end only when God declares its time is over.

As I wrote previously, someone’s religious beliefs do not a priori invalidate what he or she has to say about a subject, scientific or otherwise. However, it is undeniable that there are religious sects that are clearly hostile to reality as described by science, and whose adherents have no trouble either lying about or dismissing scientific evidence when it conflicts with their beliefs. Attempting to convince the Sarah Palins, Roy Spencers, and James Inhofes, et al. of the necessity of reducing emissions simply via the merits of the science is a fool’s errand. They need to be bypassed (or co-opted through a top down religious campaign), as they will not be won over through evidence and reason.

[UPDATE: Palin is of course out promoting her book, and had this to say about climate science on today's Rush Limbaugh's radio show:

I think there's a lot of snake oil science involved in that and somebody's making a whole lot of money off people's fears that the world is... It's kind of tough to figure out with the shady science right now, what are we supposed to be doing right now with our climate. Are we warming or are we cooling? I don't think Americans are even told anymore if it's global warming or just climate change. And I don't attribute all the changes to man's activities. I think that this is, in a lot of respects, cyclical and the earth does cool and it warms.

Just in case anyone was in doubt about her climate denialism bona fides.]

Provisional evidence for positive cloud feedback

Clouds represent one of the largest areas of uncertainty in climate modeling and sensitivity and thus one of the last refuges of the deniers. This is especially true of the ones that still manage to garner respect/attention from serious journalists (e.g. Dick Lindzen, Freeman Dyson, and to a lesser extent- in terms of credibility, not overall obsession with clouds- Roy Spencer), but is also rampant in the fever swamps home to common internet denialists. The claims vary but inevitably reduce to the idea that positive forcings will engage one or more negative feedbacks relating to cloud cover. Although the effect is always assumed to be global, the “evidence” offered, such as it is, comes pretty much exclusively from the lower latitudes.

Of course there are several obvious, immediate problems with the existence of such negative feedback(s). As with any claim of low climate sensitivity, it ignores empirical evidence that our climate is fully capable of 5-6°C global changes in both (warming and cooling) directions. Continue reading

Yes, Roy Spencer IS a creationist.

[UPDATE: For those who are unaware, Roy Spencer is a vocal climate change "skeptic", but a particularly influential one as a member of the UAH remote sensing team. He has been making the rounds of late peddling a "climate is self-stabilizing due to large negative feedbacks" take on the issue. He is a member of the Heartland Institute, a contributor to the George C. Marshall Institute, and the favorite climatologist of Rush Limbaugh.]

Some people have for whatever reason argued that Spencer is not a creationist, perhaps because in defending the idea that neo-creationist Intelligent Design should be taught in public schools, Spencer plays dumb at who or what the Designer is supposed to be, a common creationist tactic:

Intelligent design can be studied and taught without resorting to human creation traditions and beliefs, which in the West are usually traceable to the first book of the Bible, Genesis. Just as someone can recognize and study some machine of unknown purpose built by another company, country (or alien intelligence?), one can also examine the natural world and ask the question: did this machine arise by semi-random natural physical processes, or could it have been designed by a higher power?

In case anyone believes that Spencer is merely advocating the teaching of ID as a hypothetical rather than as part of his personal religious views, he follows up with a clarification that speaks volumes about both his ability to separate ideology from science and his trustworthiness as a science communicator:

Indeed, I was convinced of the intelligent design arguments based upon the science alone.

Continue reading