No More Minnesota Nice: John Abraham Tears into Anthony Watts
March 28, 2013
John Abraham, a professor at St Thomas college in St. Paul, Minnesota, is best known for his utterly devastating takedown of His Splendiferous Weirdness, Lord Monckton.
Now, Abraham has responded to a high profile interview with climate denier and high school graduate Anthony Watts. Mr Watts is known as a reliable supplier of denialist helium to residents of GlennBeckistan.
Abraham’s response is factual, thorough, and, well, rather brutal. As for the interview with Watts, I’m not going to give him the attention he craves, find it yourself if you have time to waste.
John Abraham: The fact is that Mr. Watts is not a pragmatic sceptic. Real scientists are sceptical by nature. We don’t believe what our colleagues tell us until we verify it for ourselves. Scientists honestly develop views of how the world works and they test those views by experimentation. As a result of approximately 150 years of climate science, the vast majority of scientists are convinced that humans are a major cause of climate change. Mr. Watts, on the other hand, dismisses evidence that is counter to his viewpoint. That is not scepticism–that is plain denial.
Let me expand on this by going back to his interview. Mr. Watts’s claimed that:
“’Global warming’ suggests a steady linear increase in temperature, but since that isn’t happening, proponents have shifted to the more universal term “climate change,” which can be liberally applied to just about anything observable in the atmosphere.”
First, scientists have never predicted a linear increase in temperature–we are not that naive. Things are much more complex than that.
Mr. Watts also argues that “proponents” have shifted from using the phrase global warming to “climate change”. He didn’t bother telling you that this was actually suggested by a conservative consultant, Frank Luntz, as a way to reduce public concern. Ironically, “climate change” is a better description of what is happening, and climate scientists use it to be more accurate. Let me give you some examples….
• We are causing the ocean chemistry (pH) to change–that isn’t warming or cooling.
• We are causing some areas to become wetter and others to become drier–again, not warming.
• We are increasing humidity in the atmosphere.
• We are cooling the upper part of the atmosphere (the stratosphere).
• We are making weather swings more severe.
• We are losing polar ice at a rapid rate.
• Warmer oceans make hurricanes more severe here and here.
Mr. Watts and others who deny that humans are a major cause of climate change have helped to create an environment where scientists are attacked mercilessly for their science. I have been attacked numerous times on Mr. Watts’s website, as have my colleagues. How can we encourage young scientists to go into this field when they are promised personal attacks and vilification? Fortunately, young bright scientists go into this field anyway and I am excited about the new crop of young minds that are rising through the ranks.
James Stafford: Watts spends a great deal of time discussing the “heat sink” effect in urban areas. Can you offer us an alternative view on what this means in terms of climate change?
John Abraham: This issue has been the calling card of Mr. Watts. Unfortunately, he did not disclose much in his comments.
• He didn’t tell you that he actually published a paper on this subject a few years ago where he concluded that temperature sensor siting had no impact on temperature trends.
• He didn’t tell you that other groups have looked at this issue and made similar conclusions.
• He didn’t tell you that recently a Koch-funded study looked at this issue and concluded that the real climate scientists were right: locations of temperature sensors didn’t matter.
• He didn’t tell you that he initially supported the Koch-funded study until the results were made known.
• He didn’t tell you that measurements of the atmosphere made by weather balloons and satellites agree the Earth is warming.
• He didn’t tell you that measurements of the ocean show a significant and long-term increase in temperature.
• He didn’t tell you that the vast majority of glaciers are losing ice, as are Greenland and Antarctica.
• Finally, he didn’t tell you that in the last 30 years, approximately 75% of the Arctic ice which remains at the end of the melting season has disappeared.
It isn’t surprising that Mr. Watts disagrees with all of these other researchers. What I was surprised by was the fact he seems to disagree with his own research.
See more about the unraveling of Watt’s pet theories here – skip to 3 minutes if you are pressed.