A lot has been made about R.M. Carter’s paper, published by the Australian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy and presented at several conferences, titled “The Myth of Dangerous Human-Caused Climate Change“.
I read Carter’s paper.
While it isn’t central to the point, it is interesting to note that Carter choose to kick off his paper with a segment rich in words and phrases like ‘alarmist’ and ‘costly exercise of utter futility’. He is also careful to define, or redefine, ‘climate skeptic’ as ‘climate rationalist’. “The latter term,’ he writes, “reflect[s] the primacy that such persons give to empirical data and thinking”. In other words, Carter chooses his language like a propagandist. He chooses his words, at least in the introduction, for their emotional appeal. Contrast his language with that in the famous, or infamous depending upon your perspective, Jones and Mann paper, “Climate Over Past Millennia“.
Carter is equally careful to cast himself as one of “many qualified persons” who argue against human caused climate change, though “a former CSIRO climate scientist [Dr Pearson]” denies this, saying that “Professor Carter [i]s not a credible source on climate change“. Still, perhaps he is qualified– if the stratigraphy of rocks has something to do with global climate. I mention this only to counter the frequent references to Carter as a climate scientist. He isn’t. Mostly, he’s a geologist, as his list of publications show. It is interesting to note that Carter, in the article cited just above, also states that “the role of peer review in scientific literature was overstressed.” I wonder if that opinion has any relationship to his not publishing his climate science in peer reviewed journals?
I don’t want to make too much of Carter’s literary style because I don’t accept the accepted wisdom that scholarly works ought to be painfully sterile. It is important nonetheless to note when the language seems to be chosen to ‘prime the pump’. Carter uses his language to do just that, making sure to accuse the ‘warming alarmists’ of acting out of ‘vested interests’ and being careful to cast doubt on the credibility of climate science.
As for Carter’s claim that ‘warming alarmists’ are motivated by personal agendas, I always find it odd when– shall I used parallel loaded language?– a ‘global warming denier’ raises this point, especially as ‘warming deniers’ tend to have curious ties to oil. Surely oil companies most of all have reason to suppress science suggesting that their product might cause problems, just as the tobacco companies had reasons to suppress information about the link between cancer and smoking? Tin foil hat paranoia? I don’t think so.
“Ah… but that is just an attack on the man”, you say, “and that is fallacious.” Not really. It is no fallacy to point out possible sources of bias. Do you trust the car dealer who has something to gain by making the sale or do you trust the mechanic who has nothing to gain except perhaps the good will of a customer? Really, it is common sense that people are biased by money and/or by ideology. Carter has a point, then, that ‘climate alarmists’ are motivated by ‘vested interests’? In theory, they might be, but what I have never seen is a reasonable exposition of these ‘vested interests’. The ‘alarmists’ are motivated by grant money, is the most common ‘interest’ enumerated, but I find that one very hard to take seriously. By the time you pay everyone and pay tens of thousands of dollars for computer time to create a climate model, you can hardly be making any significant cash. And to do this for little money, to go through the time and effort to create such things knowing the back of your head that the science is flawed. It doesn’t make sense. Why not work at getting funding for good science? Fame? Being on the pro-warming side is hardly a way to make oneself famous these days. You get famous by bucking the system, meaning, in fact, that the way to fame is to deny human caused global warming.
In Carter’s case, the claim that ‘warming alarmists’ are motivated by personal agendas gets a little more interesting because elsewhere Carter has stated I don’t think it is the point whether or not you are paid by the coal or petroleum industry… I will address the evidence. (Fair Warning: As of the time of this writing the link directs to a page that fatally freezes FireFox. It opens in IE6.)” Well… if it doesn’t matter if you are paid by the coal or petroleum industry, it shouldn’t really matter if you are paid by an environmental lobby group or by a political body, then should it? In other words, if Carter’s ‘vested interests’ don’t matter, then neither do the ‘vested interests’ of the ‘alarmists’ who he criticizes. Carter can’t have it both ways.
Part II is
upcoming here, and in it we get to Carter’s talking points. Part III concerns Carter’s claims about CO2. In part IV, we move into computer modeling of the climate. Part V addresses the topic of the value of scientific consensus.