Kristen and the Strawmen
Given the dust-up (Deltoid, Islands of Doubt, Adventures in Ethics and Science, Pharyngula, Respectful Insolance, Quark Soup and Eli tires) about an NPR report on Kristen Byrnes and her opus, "Ponder the Maunder" Eli thought he would wander over and take a look again after the last two go rounds.
UPDATE: Michael Tobis has a great comment on the outbreak of precociousness with the coming of spring at Wired Science (also a few typos Mike)
It was quite painful. Eli is thinking of charging NPR for pain and suffering. Mostly what it was was an unending series of strawmen
According to the Wikipedia, a strawman can be wished into existence by
- Presenting a misrepresentation of the opponent's position and then refuting it,, thus giving the appearance that the opponent's actual position has been refuted.
- Quoting an opponent's words out of context -- i.e., choosing quotations that are not representative of the opponent's actual intentions (see contextomy and quote mining).
- Presenting someone who defends a position poorly as the defender and then refuting that person's arguments, thus giving the appearance that every upholder of that position, and thus the position itself, has been defeated.
- Inventing a fictitious persona with actions or beliefs that are criticized, such that the person represents a group of whom the speaker is critical.
- Oversimplifying an opponent's argument, then attacking the simplified version.
Woo hoo, teenager thinks she knows more than scientific experts … now that is news. I took a look; I'm unimpressed, even considering her age. Parroting right-wing think tanks is not evidence of independent, skeptical thought, I'm afraid.But Eli's approach to this sort of agitprop is to look at the arguments, one at a time. So Eli looked at some of Kristen's. UPDATE: (Temporary link to page in Google Cache, they are overlimit this month. )
The data that Dr. Keeling collected shows a steady increase in atmospheric CO2 levels to the current level of about 380 parts per million.True enough
Some scientists believe that CO2 increases are man made, other scientists have warned that past atmospheric CO2 levels calculated from studying ice cores are inaccurate and that present atmospheric CO2 level increases are a result of natural causes.Who would those other scientists be, why our old friends EG Beck and his running mate Jaworowski, who provide negative information content on the subject, but their existence allows the Kristen's of the world to build a strawman. Of course, she is not the only one. Fred Singer himself used exactly this tactic in his Heartland Institute Nonsensical Summary for Bad Climate Policy, including the half hearted fade out to another strawman
To me, this argument was put to rest by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory whose satellites and sensors have been able to track CO2 sources and have concluded that the current increases in atmospheric CO2 are coming from raw coal burning family home heaters in the third world, primarily in China. Dr. C. Miller of JPL, Director of the Carbon Observatory Project, stated on his web site that ½ of industrial CO2 has been cleansed by the atmosphere.Kristen appears to have missed a few things, but she is not big on useful references. It is clear that for atmospheric CO2 the rate of increase is being driven by the industrialization of China and India, but that US and European emissions contribute equal amounts to the absolute increase, it's just that our emissions are not growing as fast. The bit about home heaters almost certainly referred to black carbon emissions, not CO2 emissions, a whole other (Googlable) ball of buckeys. And then we get the classic
If man is responsible for a 100 part per million increase of atmospheric CO2 levels we must still keep in mind that 100 parts per million is a very tiny number. Said another way, man’s contribution to atmospheric CO2 is only one ten thousandth of total atmosphere.Yes kiddo, man is responsible for a 100 ppm increase of CO2, and given that 99% of the atmosphere does not absorb infrared light (oxygen and nitrogen), why yes that is an important increase. A venerable Type 1 strawman, but does the darling slow up, Sadly No
Greenhouse gases and the spectrum.Gadzooks, a veritable Type 5 (with an admixture of 3 rolled in) strawman, and we get then a repeat of the some scientists tactic.
I will start this section with a very important point. CO2 in the atmosphere does not reflect radiation back to the earth as some have tried to state.
Some scientists have warned that when sun light strikes the surface of the Earth it is absorbed then re-emitted as infrared radiation. This infrared radiation is then absorbed by atmospheric CO2 and re-emitted back to the Earth’s surface thus causing the lower atmosphere to remain warmer.True. For a good technical explanation of this see Arthur Smith's article on arXiv, otherwise read the Dot.Earth deaththread. This is a basic result which is discussed in all textbooks on atmospheric physics,
Other scientists say that CO2 can only absorb infrared at very limited wavelengths and that those wavelengths are already saturated.It would be nice to know who these are, but Kristen doesn't tell, might embarrass the dears. Looks like a Type 4, but if that is not sufficient, she goes on
A simple example of this is that when you are watching television and someone is standing in your way, it does not matter if another person stands between you and the television. The light from the television cannot make it through the extra body when the first body is there. CO2 absorbs infrared radiation in very narrow bandwidths.A Type 5 and Type 1 combo. The girl is good. Kristen, how bout you try this one. You (a 16 year old photon) are trying to get out of a building (the atmosphere), but there is a big guy in front of you blocking your path, so you go around him and escape. OTOH, if there are 20 big guys in front of you it might be a bit more difficult.
Not if they know any spectroscopy, or for that matter exist. The first statement about re-emission is just a little bit off and that about no measurements is wrong. Anybunny with access to a cooled or heated cell, a vacuum pump and an FTIR can do this in her own burrow. What we know happens is that the wavelength range emitted by carbon dioxide lower in the atmosphere is from a hotter gas, at a higher pressure. Both mean that some of the radiation cannot be absorbed by CO2 higher in the atmosphere. Then, of course, the higher you go, the lower the relative concentration of water vapor to CO2, as well. Eli did a whole series on these effects a while back. Kristen has hit the five-fecta, all five types of strawmen in one short paragraph. Depressing
When confronted with this problem, the greenhouse theorists claimed that the CO2 re-emits the energy at a slightly different wavelength, but no measurements of this energy has ever been made and water vapor absorbs in the same wavelengths. Just how much of this re-radiated energy is absorbed by CO2 and how much is absorbed by water vapor is the key sticking point for many scientists who remain undecided about the greenhouse theory.