The Best Satire Ever

A few days ago we covered analogies, and Dan Olner pointed me to a great one that has sparked this post.

It was written as an April Fools’ on RealClimate, and reads in part:

A “consensus view” amongst climate scientists holds that the Northern Hemisphere will be warming this month, as spring is coming. This is thought to be due to the Earth’s orbit around the sun and the inclination of the Earth’s axis, tilting the Northern Hemisphere progressively towards the sun throughout March and April and increasing the amount of solar radiation received at northern latitudes.

In a new novel, State of Euphoria, bestselling author Michael Crikey uncovers major flaws in this theory and warns against false hopes for the arrival of spring.

This is not merely fiction: Crikey underpins his thesis with numerous scientific diagrams. He presents measurements from over a dozen weather stations in the Northern Hemisphere where temperatures show a cooling trend in March. He further cites scientific results which show that in some places, snow and ice have increased in the past weeks, counter to climatologists’ claims that they should be melting away in the spring sun. He further argues that even the average temperature of the Northern Hemisphere has not increased steadily; during one week of March, it showed a slight cooling despite the increase in solar radiation.

“This casts a grave shadow of doubt on the theory of the seasons”, says Crikey. “Consensus science is not good science.” He says we should not trust computer models projecting that June will be much warmer than March in most of the Northern Hemisphere. “These models cannot even predict the weather in two weeks time – why should we believe what they say about temperatures in two months?” He also says that only six months ago, scientists were predicting a cooling.

This wasn’t the only time that RC wrote a satirical post for April Fools’ Day. One of their most popular posts is the Sheep Albedo Feedback:

The hypothesis begins with the simple observation that most sheep are white, and therefore have a higher albedo than the land on which they typically graze. This effect is confirmed by the recent Sheep Radiation Budget Experiment. The next step in the chain of logic is to note that the sheep population of New Zealand has plummeted in recent years. The resulting decrease in albedo leads to an increase in absorbed Solar radiation, thus warming the planet…..There is in fact an important destabilizing feedback in the system: as climate gets warmer, there is less demand for wool sweaters and wooly underwear. Hence the sheep population tends to drop, leading to even more warming. In an extreme form, this can lead to a “runaway sheep-albedo feedback.”

The Christian Science Monitor did an April Fools’ article of its own, which never fails to cheer me up, unless I make the mistake of reading the comments below it. Anyway, it begins:

In an unprecedented move Wednesday, the Norwegian Nobel Committee rescinded the Peace Prize it awarded in 2007 to former US vice president Al Gore and the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, amid overwhelming evidence that global warming is an elaborate hoax cooked up by Mr. Gore.

A press release from the committee quotes a chagrined Rajendra Pachauri, the UN climate panel’s chair, who claims that he was the victim of a “cunning deception spanning decades”:

“I am deeply ashamed for having unwittingly perpetuated such a massive fraud on the governments of the world,” said Mr. Pachauri.

“It turns out that all that data from satellites and radiosondes, surface temperature readings, borehole analysis, measurements of rising sea levels, melting glaciers and permafrost, phenological data, and proxy reconstructions of paleoclimatic conditions were all fabricated out of thin air by my former friend, Al Gore. Now that I think about it, I suppose that we should have instituted some sort of peer-review process before publishing such alarming conclusions. Once again, I’m very sorry.”

If we’re going to talk about satire, we can’t forget DenialDepot, a great example of Poe’s Law. The “About” tab on the home page reads:

I believe that one day all science will be done on blogs because we bloggers are natural skeptics, disbelieving the mainstream and accepting the possibility of any alternative idea.

We stand unimpressed by “textbooks”, “peer review journals” and so-called “facts”. There are no facts, just dissenting opinion. We are infinitely small compared to nature and can’t grasp anything as certain as a fact.

Nothing is settled and we should question everything. The debate is NOT over Gore! When so-called “experts” in their “peer reviewed journals” say one thing, we dare the impossible and find imaginative ways to believe something else entirely.

Be sure to check out the posts on snowstorms, exponentials, the Oregon Petition, and the new theory of climate.

Anything I’ve left out? Share your favourite climate change satire in the comments below.

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How to Prove Global Warming Wrong

Over the past twenty years, vested interests and political lobby groups have done a fantastic job confusing the public about anthropogenic climate change. To many, they seem to have proven the whole theory wrong.

But how could you actually prove global warming wrong – not just in the minds of the public, but through the established scientific process? What scientific discoveries – if they held up through peer-review, further criticism, and replication – would render climate change a non-problem?

One of the surest ways to stop all this cap-and-trade discussion would be to disprove the greenhouse effect itself – the mechanism by which the Earth absorbs and emits the same energy multiple times, due to the presence of greenhouse gas molecules that “bounce it back”. This keeps the Earth substantially warmer than it would be otherwise. Additionally, if the concentrations of greenhouse gases increase, so will the temperature of the Earth. This process was first hypothesized by Joseph Fourier in 1824, and was experimentally confirmed by John Tyndall in 1856. The first prediction of eventual man-made global warming came from Svante Arrhenius, in 1896. It wasn’t a theory as much as a logical result of a theory, one that was deeply rooted in physics and chemistry.

Unless our understanding of entire fields of physical science is totally off base, we can be sure that our greenhouse gas emissions will cause climate change eventually. But hey, if you could overturn all of thermodynamics, you wouldn’t have to worry about carbon taxes.

  • Cheap-out option: Svante Arrhenius was Swedish, but his name sounds sort of Russian, and 1896 wasn’t very long before the Russian Revolution. Therefore, Arrhenius was a Communist, and none of his scientific work can be trusted.

Knowing that something is sure to happen eventually, though, is different from knowing that it is happening right now with substantial speed. We know that the Earth is warming – even if you found some statistical way to disprove three separate temperature records, the physical and biological systems of our planet still stand: 90% of observed changes in the natural world, like the blooming of flowers, the peak flows of rivers, and the spawning of fish, are in the direction expected with warming (Rosenzweig et al, 2008).

But how do we know that the warming is caused by us? Climate change has been caused many times in the past by factors unrelated to greenhouse gases – like solar influences, whether they’re direct (a change in solar output) or indirect (a change in the Earth’s orbit). How do we know that’s not happening now?

If the warming was caused by the sun, the atmosphere would warm uniformly at all levels. However, if the Earth was warming from greenhouse gases, the troposphere (the layer of the atmosphere closest to the planet) would warm while the stratosphere (the next level up) would cool. This is because more heat is getting bounced back to the surface by greenhouse gases, and is subsequently prevented from reaching the stratosphere.

A cooling stratosphere has been described as the “fingerprint” evidence of greenhouse-induced warming. And, in fact, the stratosphere has been cooling over the past 30 years (Randel et al, 2009). Therefore, if you could somehow show that something else was causing this pattern of a warming troposphere and a cooling stratosphere, and that the significant, anthropogenic rise in greenhouse gases was somehow not affecting it, you would have a case for global warming being natural.

Update (18/2/10): About half of this cooling can be attributed to ozone depletion, and the other half can be attributed to greenhouse gases (NOAA, 2006). The flat trend in stratospheric temperatures from 1995-2005 (see the Randel citation above) can be explained by the recovery of ozone, which is temporarily offsetting the greenhouse gases. Interesting how the temperature of the stratosphere has just as many factors as the temperature of the troposphere…..but in both cases, you can’t explain the temperature trends without including human activity. Scott Mandia has a great explanation here.

  • Cheap-out option: Omit the explanation of why greenhouse warming causes stratospheric cooling. Just point to the graph that goes down and say, “The atmosphere is cooling! Therefore, the IPCC is a hoax!”

Finally, even if you couldn’t disprove that global warming is expected, observed, and anthropogenic, you could still show that it isn’t very significant. The way to do this would be to show that climate sensitivity is less than 2 C. Climate sensitivity refers to the amount of warming that would result from a doubling of carbon dioxide equivalent, and 2 C is generally accepted as the maximum amount of warming that our society could endure without too much trouble. The current estimates for climate sensitivity, in contrast, average around 3 C (a range of 2-4.5), and it is very unlikely to be less than 1.5 C (IPCC AR4).

However, a climate sensitivity of less than 2 C only means that climate change isn’t a problem if our greenhouse gases stop at a doubling of carbon dioxide equivalent from pre-industrial levels. Even without taking methane and other greenhouse gases into account, this brings us to a CO2 concentration of 560 ppm, which we are well on track to surpass, even with cap-and-trade. So you’d have to argue for a climate sensitivity of even less. Seeing as we’ve already warmed 0.8 C, it doesn’t leave you with a lot of wiggle room.

  • Cheap-out option: Build a climate model that does what you want it to, without any regard for the laws of physics. ExxonMobil will probably sponsor the supercomputers. Widely publicize the results and avoid peer-review at all costs.

Daunting tasks, certainly. But if you really believe that global warming is natural/nonexistent/a global conspiracy, this is the way to prove it. If you managed to prove it, and change the collective mind of the scientific community (not just the public), you’d probably win a Nobel Prize. So it’s certainly worth your time and effort.

Denial Depot

Over at A Few Things Ill Considered, I was introduced to this site.

I’m almost positive that it’s satire. What do you think?

Whatever it is, it’s hilarious. Here are some of my favourite excerpts:

“It’s Friday afternoon at the IPCC climate lab. Dozens of government funded climate scientists are hunched around a big computer frantically feeding in dodgy punch cards. They’ve had it easy the rest of the year, not even wearing their lab coats most of the time, but this week is different. The IPCC report is due out on Monday and they must get those warming projections as high as possible before release.”

But worse we find out these satellites are using microwaves to measure ice! As an experiment I took a glass of ice and put it in a microwave oven…….I did observe the microwaves melting ice. So is in fact arctic ice decline being caused by sustained subjection of arctic ice by microwave radiation emitted from NASA satellites?”

“As well grounded climate skeptic bloggers we immediately become suspicious of this record because it shows a warming trend. We know that the surface record shows only Urban Heat Island bias and AC Unit Warming bias in this period. Yet neither of these effects will be picked up by satellites, so why do the satellites still show warming? Something is wrong. The #1 tool of the avid skeptic is imagination. So lets put our imagination to use and gather together some seeds of doubt. With luck some of these seeds will survive to grow into full blown talking points.”

“Why are the so-called experts silent about all the snow that is everywhere? Well it’s most likely because they are all shut indoors all day with their climate models. That’s right, they are so busy playing Climate Tron that they haven’t the foggiest idea what is going on outside anymore.”

Also check out the great lesson in exponentials.

Have fun!

A Fun Quote

“Although the most extreme environmental zealots may be relatively few in number, they have managed to gain undue influence by exploiting the gullibility of scientifically illiterate people who are only too willing to believe the planet needs saving from man’s excesses. Perhaps this phenomenon is a psychological throwback to earlier civilizations that offered human sacrifices to the gods to assuage their sins and spare them from punishment in the form of drought, flood, famine, or disease. There are certainly many parallels between modern environmentalism and ancient religions.”

The Heartland Institute

Some Much-Needed Humour

Am I the only one out there who feels a little depressed about climate change?

A little depressed that, whether or not we have the technological capability to replace fossil fuels and lower carbon emissions, our society is so lacking in political will that the actions will never get off the ground?

A little depressed that, no matter how informed our government is, the people – whom the government can’t do anything without the support of – are still, after all these years, confused about whether or not climate change is even happening?

I have a picture in my mind of climate change rolling towards us like a huge boulder, but we’re not getting out of its path. We’re actively walking towards it.

I thought it would be a good time to write something happy on this blog.

You know you’re really interested in a topic when you start laughing at jokes about it. I’m quite well-phrased in chemistry jokes. But recently I’ve picked up a bit of climatology humour as well.

For example, not long ago, someone actually sent me a comment saying that 2005 and 1998 were not the warmest years on record after all; that the Y2K bug messed up NASA’s computers and the warmest year on record was actually 1938.

For those of you who like satire, I also have two great April Fool’s articles. The first is from the Christian Science Monitor.

“In an unprecedented move Wednesday, the Norwegian Nobel Committee rescinded the Peace Prize it awarded in 2007 to former US vice president Al Gore and the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, amid overwhelming evidence that global warming is an elaborate hoax cooked up by Mr. Gore.

A press release from the committee quotes a chagrined Rajendra Pachauri, the UN climate panel’s chair, who claims that he was the victim of a “cunning deception spanning decades”:

“I am deeply ashamed for having unwittingly perpetuated such a massive fraud on the governments of the world,” said Mr. Pachauri.

“It turns out that all that data from satellites and radiosondes, surface temperature readings, borehole analysis, measurements of rising sea levels, melting glaciers and permafrost, phenological data, and proxy reconstructions of paleoclimatic conditions were all fabricated out of thin air by my former friend, Al Gore. Now that I think about it, I suppose that we should have instituted some sort of peer-review process before publishing such alarming conclusions. Once again, I’m very sorry.”

Continue reading

The second is from RealClimate, and discusses the theory that global warming is caused by sheep.

“The hypothesis begins with the simple observation that most sheep are white, and therefore have a higher albedo than the land on which they typically graze. This effect is confirmed by the recent Sheep Radiation Budget Experiment. The next step in the chain of logic is to note that the sheep population of New Zealand has plummeted in recent years. The resulting decrease in albedo leads to an increase in absorbed Solar radiation, thus warming the planet. The Sheep Albedo hypothesis draws some inspiration from the earlier work of Squeak and Diddlesworth [2] on the effect of the ptarmigan population on the energy balance of the Laurentide ice sheet. Noh-Watt hastens to emphasize that the two hypotheses are quite distinct, since the species of ptarmigan involved in the Squeak-Diddlesworth effect is now extinct.”

Continue reading

I hope you all enjoyed this.

In desperate times, our species knows how to make the best of a situation. Even if it involves nerdy jokes.