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August 24th 2009 print

Des Moore

I was there

I asked David Karoly why he had not replied to my invitation to attend a lecture by a US scientist who described the kind of science he presented as a “scam”. K said he was on leave, to which I responded “you could have replied”.

I attended a lunch time public lecture (21 August) on “Distinguishing the Causes of Climate Change” by David Karoly. We were told at the start that Karoly would take questions after he finished and that the lecture would be on a web site (apparently on the Melbourne University Energy Institute web). There was a large number attending (possibly 300) in a very warm lecture room designed to take about 200.

After the lecture I was the first to put my hand up. K addressed me as “Ray” ( I wonder who that could be!). After I had corrected him, I started to make a comment but he interrupted and said “only questions”. I then started by asking why he had not replied to my invitation to attend a lecture by a US scientist who described the kind of science he presented as a “scam”. K said he was on leave, to which I responded “you could have replied”. (A reason I asked this question was that K had started his lecture by saying that he had invited Senator Fielding but that the Senator had said he was “too busy”).

I then attempted to ask some substantial questions but K said “No, you’ve had your question”, to which I commented “well, you don’t want any substantial questions” and referred to the opening slide he showed (the one I have used with dimininishing sizes of  underwear “proving” that global warming is occurring) and offered to show  the remaining slides I had used with that one if K would accept that. No reply. I walked out.

 K’s reference to Senator Fielding was typical of his comments during the lecture: they were not so much directly personal as attempts to portray certain individuals as being associated with theses that are, in his view, wrong. Apart from Senator Fielding (who had, he said, drawn wrong conclusions about downward temperature trends from the graph on temperatures), Bob Carter (who was portrayed inter alia as explaining solar radiation as the most important cause of warming) and Barnaby Joyce (who had asked for an indepenent inquiry but had “overlooked” the IPCC reports) received medals, as did Ian Plimer (there were probably others).

Unfortunately I was standing at the back throughout the lecture and was unable to take more than cursory notes. But the reference to Plimer (“former head of this department”) was to the latter’s explanation (according to K) that underwater volcanoes are a major source of CO2 and methane (But these volcanoes do not emit methane, he said, in an implied criticism of Plimer. But this does not, I’m told, reflect Plimer’s treatment of methane in his book)

The presentation was accompanied by an attempt to portray two schools of thought about warming, one being a conspiracy by left wingers and the other being the “goodies” who have concluded that humans are the problem. This continued throught the lecture, including his sarcastic suggestion that some people think that the warming comes from invisible green men.

From the back of the lecture theatre I was able to see whether attendees were taking notes. My conclusion was that very few were. This probably partly reflected K’s type of presentation, which is rather offputting. Also, many would have been put off by the intensity of graphs and formulae he portrayed in the latter part of the lecture explaining (sic) how various mathematical models had been used to determine possible factors causing the warming. My guess is that it is “very likely” that the audience did not follow any of this section of the presentation.

The basic logic seemed to be that:

(1) there has been warming;

(2) we have a “noisy system” which is influenced by natural forces;

(3) it is unlikely that the warming is entirely due to natural forces (he actually used “unlikely” which seemingly contradicts the IPCC’s “very likely” attribution to CO2);

(4) what he and other scientists have done is use “fingerprint detection” to find the extent of other forces. He referred to the IPCC table showing the possible forces with ranges of uncertainty and concluded that the range of uncertainty shown for CO2 was “low” – but skated over the fact that the total of the influences (including aerosols) shown in the table has a large range of uncertainty.  

All up, my conclusion is that more lectures by K like this one would be helpful to the sceptics cause.

PS One thing is clear: the sceptics are succeeding in “forcing” responses from the believers. This is a big advance on the situation six months ago.