A few evenings ago I attended a lecture by Murry Salby, a notable and vocal opponent of Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW). This presentation was a stop on his latest European speaking tour, a way to fill the time and spread his gospel after being dismissed from his most recent post at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia.
I’ve heard plenty of arguments in favor of and against AGW, some reasonable and some not. However, this presentation takes the cake. It was so incomprehensible, so scientifically sloppy, that is more closely resembled snake oil than any sort of true argument against AGW.
Salby opened by discussing warming in reference to change from the global average temperature from 1979-1983. He then went on to use this average to discuss how temperature anomalies tracked changes in the level of CO2. Methane was mentioned as well, but was not emphasized.
I was bothered by the fact that there was no justification for choosing these four years. Nothing was said about how these 4 years compare to any other 4 years, or if they were representative of the global climate in any particular way.
Seeing as climate scientists generally compare any anomalies to a 30-year base period, this made me wonder what sort of bias was introduced as a result of this choice. Of course, no corrections for bias or error were shown, mentioned, or discussed in Salby’s presentation.
Once he had established his point that temperature change is correlated to CO2 (and methane) change, Salby stated that plants are the main contributors to CO2 emission. This was supported with an unlabelled satellite data (from SCIAMACHY) plot showing high levels of CO2 emission over the Amazon and African Congo and savannah regions. The main problem with this chart (which I asked about in the Q&A) was that it showed only one year of data, from either 2003 or 2005 (Salby couldn’t remember which).
As I mentioned before, climate baselines are 30 years. This was one. This was a seasonal map. I call bull: cherry picking, possibly biased data. The only conclusive thing that can be said about this graph was “One year, there was a lot of CO2 emitted from the Amazon.” But you don’t know which year.
Salby went on, but by this point, I was starting to get angry, so the notes are a bit disjointed. He talked for a while about the “induced component” of CO2 and CH4, but induced by what was never addressed. There was also some discussion about the global heat budget, and which parts were removable. I remember having to learn that heat budget from his book in my undergraduate days, but I don’t remember any parts being negotiable or removable.
The question and answer session was truly disappointing. The majority of it centered upon the SCIAMACHY satellite data. One person pointed out some blue areas in the arctic (over Siberia), and said “Well, look, the earth is absorbing CO2 there!” This was incorrect: the image showed NO areas of CO2 absorption—this was simply an area where less was emitted. Salby made no move to correct the man. There was also debate about an area of high emission in the region of Tibet. Salby (and the rest of the room) mis-identified the area as the Gobi desert. This prompted someone to ask “Does this mean that deserts emit CO2?”
At this point, Salby took on a contemplative look, and SAID NOTHING.
Let’s set one thing straight: deserts are not significant contributors to the CO2 load in the atmosphere. And the Gobi desert isn’t in Tibet.
These are not the actions of an honest academic, wanting to engage laypersons and educate interested citizens in the facts and myths surrounding climate and AGW. Letting people believe things that are untrue is a discredit to scientists.
The anti-AGW folks should perhaps take a hard look at welcoming him in their ranks as well. How can you expect to pose a reasonable challenge to your opposition when the “experts” on your side are willing to present sloppy, unlabeled data and let you believe untruths about the most basic of the facts?