Have Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner finally gotten too cute for their own good? The pair are masters at contrarian interpretations of everyday things, but they’re getting shellacked over their take on global warming in Superfreakonomics, the sequel to the highly successful Freakonomics.
Tim Lambert over at ScienceBlogs rips them to shreds over their oh-so contrarian take that really what we’re experiencing is global cooling:
Let’s look at what they got wrong. My Global Warming Sceptic Bingo Card is a bit out of date but they manage to tick five boxes: global warming is a religion, ice cores show warming comes first, ice age predicted in the 70s, water vapour dominates and climate modelling isn’t scientific. William Connolley stopped when he had found 10 serious errors, so I’ll continue where he left off and see if I can find 10 more. To make it more of a challenge, I’m just going to look at the extract that appeared in the Sunday Times entitled “Why Everything You Think You Know About Global Warming Is Wrong” (not yet available from their website). And remember, this is on top of the 10 serious errors that Connolley found.
Unless otherwise indicated all quotes are from the Sunday Times extract.
1) “Yet [Ken Caldeira]’s research tells him that carbon dioxide is not the right villain in this fight.”
Caldeira has exactly one quote on his home page:
“Carbon dioxide is the right villain,” says Caldeira, “insofar as inanimate objects can be villains.”
Joe Romm asked Caldeira about the misrepresentation of his views and he told Romm:
If you talk all day, and somebody picks a half dozen quotes without providing context because they want to make a provocative and controversial chapter, there is not much you can do.
2) “Caldeira’s study showed that doubling the amount of carbon dioxide while holding steady all other inputs – water, nutrients and so forth -yields a 70% increase in plant growth, an obvious boon to agricultural productivity.”
That would be this paper. Look at the abstract:
Climate stabilisation via “Geoengineering” schemes seek to mitigate climate change due to increased greenhouse gases by compensating reduction in solar radiation incident on earth’s surface. In this paper, we address the impact of these climate stabilisation schemes on terrestrial biosphere using equilibrium simulations from a coupled atmosphere-terrestrial biosphere model. Climate stabilisation would tend to limit changes in vegetation distribution brought on by climate change, but would not prevent CO2-induced changes in Net Primary Productivity (NPP) or biomass; indeed, if CO2 fertilization is significant, then a climate-stabilised world could have higher NPP than our current world. Nevertheless, there are many reasons why geoengineering is not a preferred option for climate stabilisation.
So if CO2 fertilization is significant you get a 70% increase in plant growth. Levitt and Dubner turned that into “you get a 70% increase in plant growth”. Note also that Caldeira used a climate model of the type that L&D said could not be trusted. And did you notice the last sentence? L&D simply ignore the reasons why Caldeira said that geoengineering is not a preferred option.
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