A Real Climate Scientist at Edinburgh Free Fringe

I had the opportunity last night to hear Dr. Andrew Russell, Brunel University, speak at an event sponsored by the Edinburgh Skeptics at the Edinburgh Free Fringe.

In summary I can characterise his presentation as smattering of slides that were meant to cement his status as a legitimate climate scientist and present the “climate science consensus”. He mostly used ad hominem arguments to support the science and its consensus.

On the science, his message is basically that since CO2 is a greenhouse gas, and CO2 is increasing, we are heading to severe “global warming”, and it predominately caused by humans (AGW: Anthropogenic Global Warming); therefore, this situation has to be reversed by humans by “de-carbonising”.

He acknowledged that water vapour has a greater green house effect and “does all the work” on the earth’s climate–but CO2 is the “trigger” and is the root cause. The wavelength where “most” of the radiation leaves the earth is where CO2 absorbs most. To have a long term change to the atmosphere you need something that stays in the atmosphere for a long time. Water falls out of the atmosphere quite quickly as rain, but CO2 stays in the atmosphere for up to 100 years. Therefore C02 is the main driver of climate change even though water vapour does most of the work.

It appeared that the majority of the audience were in agreement of this “consensus”.

  • He said many if not most “skeptics” are “contrarians” and believe in conspiracy theories, e.g. smoking has little to do with with cancer and that the 9/11 attack was a conspiracy led by the American Government. Therefore those skeptical of the “consensus” have no credibility.
  • While said that CO2 [molecules] can stay in the atmosphere for up to 100 years, others [See here.] say it’s closer to 5 years. That long-term residence of CO2 in the atmosphere is why CO2 is the “main driver.
  • There are lots of problems with computer climate models, he says.
  • On a number of occasions he said that skeptics can’t and won’t publish their work in in peer-reviewed journals [“like we do”]. He did say that the [“not respected by us climate scientists”] journal “Energy and Environment” publishes papers by skeptics.
  • Both the Arctic and Antarctic are quickly losing massive quantities of ice.
  • He showed correlations of world GNP with CO2 concentration since the days of Burnel. [I did not ask how much GNP would, therefore, go down as the UK and world “de-carbonises”.]
  • He said many “skeptics” are in the debate to only to “win” and care not of the effect of AGW on society. Dr. Russell specifically said that James Delingpole motivations are only to “win”.
  • He says that climate science is based on the preponderance of evidence and not experiments. Experiments on the earth are not possible, he says. He says that scientific theories are offered and if after a while the theory is not dis-proved,it must be “right” and thus is established. He says “science works that way.” [Richard Feynman might have had something to say about that had he heard Dr. Russell say that].
  • He said skeptics funded by oil companies. In particular he said the Global Warming Foundation is funded by oil firms–mentioning its leader Lord Lawson by name–and that Lord Monckton is primarily funded by “mining interests”. [I believe Lawson and Monckton says differently.]
  • He characterised Anthony Watts as “just a weather man” who knows little of climate science. Russell acknowledged Watt’s widely-read and influential web site. Russell proved Watts’ lack of expertise by showing http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/10/26/occupy-london-righteous-until-it-gets-too-cold-ir-camera-reveals-they-leave-to-a-warm-bed-at-night/ demonstrate Watts’ erroneous understanding of radiation.
  • American “Think Tanks”, funded by the religious right, are at the heart of the skeptic industry.
  • To help and convince the Chinese to de-carbonise, he proposes that the UK design and build for them nuclear power plants.

He did not say what would happen when the earth warms due to AGW, but clearly suggested it would be “bad”. About the only thing he did say was that the topics would be uninhabitable and that would lead to all those people moving away and that would be a big problem.

He did not demonstrate any understanding of risks (and/or opportunities) of the warming he expects.

Speaking with a few attendees before the event, the recurring theme of fear was about the green house effects of carbon dioxide and ocean “acidification”. The two issues are related in their mind and they wish that we would de-carbonise so that the ocean would stop “becoming an acid waste”.

I found the whole thing rather depressing that he thinks this way and worse–he appeared to get away with it.

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