Saturday, March 7, 2015

Crackpot Global Warming Denialists

When I was a graduate student here at the University of Washington the chair of my Ph.D. committee was the editor of a prestigious journal, and he enlisted my assistance in wading through submissions. Very early on I discovered a general category of author, the crackpot.  My mentor was a leading figure in his area, and because it involved mathematics my undergraduate background in physics and mathematics came into play in evaluating the submitted articles.  What I found was a kind of person, almost always retired or emeritus who had worked on a pet theory, maybe even their whole career, for which they in fact had very little background.  Many of them involved some application of mathematics or statistics and it fell on me to compose the rejection letter.

A friend of mine sends me posts by global warming denialists who remind me of those crackpots. They are inevitably retired or emeritus professors or engineers who have written articles or books
about their pet global warming denial theories, and who are writing outside of their professional background.  I've already posted about two of them, here and here.  The latest is Ian Rutherford Plimer.  He's done more than write articles, he's also written a book, Heaven and Earth that disputes the science on climate change.  He is however, a retired geologist with no background in climate science, pushing pet theories.  Here are some responses to his pet theories.

But his main problem is typical of crackpots, of being outside of his professional competence, and worse, without awareness of that.   He is a geologist he is used to thinking in eons, not centuries. While it is true that in the long run (eons), the planet absorbs the CO2 and life goes on, but unfortunately in the short run, centuries, CO2 and other greenhouse gases are going to have significant impacts that are well known to climate scientists.  In fact, it has happened before, and the consequences are precisely what climate scientists are saying will happen now.

What is disturbing is how much attention these crackpots are getting.  Their work is not peer-reviewed.  It is outside their professional competence.  Their work can only be self-published or in non-peer reviewed vanity journals.  So why is anyone paying them attention?