Misleading arguments 3 and 6..

Northern Ireland Environment Minister, the DUP’s Sammy Wilson, [Sarah Palin in drag? – Ed] is partly right in that hysterical media coverage linking every extreme weather event to climate change is counter-productive – the general media has never been very good at reporting science after all. But if he really wanted a “reasoned debate” he needs a new play-book. Misleading arguments on solar activity and rises in CO2 occuring after global warming, not before, are just that – misleading arguments. And whilst I’d encourage scepticism on all things, scepticism doesn’t include Sammy Wilson’s previously stated conspiracy theories. It’s not Somebody Else’s Problem.
From the wikipedia entry

“An SEP is something we can’t see, or don’t see, or our brain doesn’t let us see, because we think that it’s somebody else’s problem…. The brain just edits it out, it’s like a blind spot. If you look at it directly you won’t see it unless you know precisely what it is. Your only hope is to catch it by surprise out of the corner of your eye.”

Btw that’s a Douglas Adams quote. As is this on why Somebody Else’s Problem Fields require very little energy.

“This is because it relies on people’s natural predisposition not to see anything they don’t want to, weren’t expecting, or can’t explain.”

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  • cynic

    I agree with the principle but think it’s a bit more compex than that. Also the words you use are a little perjorative as they almost imply a deliberate act of filtering out uncomfortable facts.

    Sometimes that deliberate filtering is clearly true – perhaps some of the posts on Slugger are classic examples! But there is another theory on Cognitive Simplification Models (CSM’s) which says (in essence) that we learn and analsye by looking at a complex problem and trying to simplify it down to a model or core issues that we can comprehend and cope with. In doing that we often consciously or sub-consciously simplify the problem and often refer to models of the ‘way things work’ we have learned before os seen before in different situations.

    We may be unaware of this but literally it’s the way we allow ourselves to ‘get our heads around the problem’ and deal with novel situations we have never experienced before.

    In terms of the actual issue on Global Warming I am in a Catch 22 situation. I think some of the quoted science is crap and that there is a real danger that we are drawing false conclusions by looking at a very narrow sample of data from a system that operates on geological timescales.

    The way in which Global Warming is also becoming a messianic theory where anyone who questions it is a heretic who must be eliminated worries me deeply. It means that rational thought is supended and we may end up making stupid decisions on some very important issues.

    I still recall as a student many years ago a sandle wearing lecturer warning me that the world would run out of oil within 10 years, civilisation was about to break down and we were all doomed.

    My CSM tells me that the proponents of Golobal Warming hysteria may be just as accurate. So am I being rational or just foltering out things I dont want to belive / cannot understand.

  • What of the very prolonged and cold winters of 40 years ago… (im only just old enough to remember the big snow of 83 – have a picture at home of me and me bro and sis sitting on the old cortina bonnet with our wellies and pom pom hats on looking a bit cold… even then the snow was piled high above the hedges)

    we hardly get snow at all now –

    but if we were to get a big freeze then would be react by saying “ahh that’s climate change for you” did our gran’s and grandad’s react by saying ahh that’s climate change when the snow lay for weeks on end??????

    I just wish the rain would clear off for a few saturdays till i get a few sheets of tin replaced on the shed roof…

    climate change…. pah!

    just a cowl owl guttery september- again!

  • willis


    I love your stuff, the mix of astronomy and politics etc and I know you can do this HTML thing a lot better than me but just once could you find a good link and go for the jugular!

  • cynic

    “go for the jugular”

    Whose jugular? And why?

    Reasoned debate / analysis anyone? Nah…..let’s just cut ‘is throat

  • Northsider

    Pete, quoting the Royal Society to disparage scepticism about the theory of man-made global warming is akin to quoting the Free Presbyterian church to counter a Dawkins athiest.

    I had a wee look at their attempts to debunk the idea that CO2 follows temperature increases – and again they try the old ‘yes that was true in the past but isn’t true now’ argument. And where is the scientific evidence to back this up – ‘chemical analysis’ shows the majority of CO2 in the atmosphere is caused from the burning of fossil fuels.

    That is impossible, impossible to prove.

    As they allude to when they say there are things that they cannot know.

    This theory is going down the drain and in its wake will be the reputation of Royal Society among other institutions.

    No wonder they are so averse to any challenge to it.

    I give it two more years, tops.

    BTW – agreeing with Sammy Wilson makes me feel all dirty.

  • Northsider
  • esmereldavillalobos

    Just while we’re on about climate etc and given all the rain today, esme puts his Met Office hat on and says watch out for Tropical Storm Hanna, due to hit North Carolina early tomorrow our time but forecast to deepen as it crosses the pond early next week before hitting these islands, maybe Thursday? Obviously these things are pretty inaccurate this far out but don’t say you weren’t warned!

  • The Raven

    Of course, the environmental debate goes much wider than just the CO2 issue.

    I’d love to hear Sammy’s political professional opinions on local species depletion, primary forest deforestation, eutrophication of inland waters in Ireland, and a host of other matters.

    I’m stealing from wiki here – forgive me – but it quotes some facts worth pondering:

    “Carbon dioxide is released to the atmosphere by a variety of natural sources, and over 95% of total CO2 emissions would occur even if humans were not present on Earth. For example, the natural decay of organic material in forests and grasslands, such as dead trees, results in the release of about 220 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide every year.

    “This carbon dioxide alone is over 8 times the amount emitted by humans. These natural sources are balanced by natural sinks, which remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

    “The increase in carbon dioxide concentration arises because the increase from human activity is not balanced by a corresponding sink.”

    I’m interested to hear from people where they think that leaves us, given that the carbon (not CO2) put into the atmosphere from human activity in 2006 yielded 8.4 gigatonnes. That’s 8.4 gigatonnes over and above what the earth “copes with” naturally.

    By the way, before any pith comes my way, I would consider myself environmentally as a bright green, as opposed to the dark green. Sammy probably doesn’t even know there’s a difference.

  • Big Maggie

    If you look at it directly you won’t see it unless you know precisely what it is. Your only hope is to catch it by surprise out of the corner of your eye.

    When I was a child I caught a fleeting glimpse,
    Out of the corner of my eye.
    I turned to look but it was gone.
    I cannot put my finger on it now.
    The child is grown, the dream is gone.
    I have become comfortably numb.

    —Roger Waters of Pink Floyd

    Could be a good anthem for several politicians of my acquaintance.

  • Pete Baker


    Two of your links are the same argument, by the same person.

    And your New Statesman link also includes the rebuttal of that argument.

    The problem with Sammy Wilson et al’s stance is that they misrepresent the scientific discussion – and its current consensus.

    Good scientist are properly sceptical.

    Sammy misrepresents that scepticism as evidence that the original hypothesus has already been falsified.

    It has not.

    Btw, Freeman Dyson takes a profoundly honourable stance – “I am proud to be a heretic.”

    But that, by itself, doesn’t make him right in this instance.

  • Northsider

    Pete, sorry for posting the same argument twice, but the ‘rebuttal’ highlights one of the key issues in this debate.

    A proper scientist makes a valid point, only to be countered by an activist and self-described hack.

    As fopr your comments regarding Freeman Dyson – no, it doesn’t make him right, but who is right in this debate.

    And the idea of ‘consensus’ has no place in science.

    No place at all.

    Trust me, the consensus that is being claimed by politicians and activists, is unravelling fast.