Tag Archives: Mark Lynas

Mark Lynas: Sei Gradi di Mezza Cecita’

E’ appena uscito in Italia “Sei Gradi” di Mark Lynas, libro molto venduto in Gran Bretagna e che dovrebbe descrivere come potrebbe evolvere il pianeta se il riscaldamento globale aumentasse la temperatura media fra 1 e 6 gradi (c’e’ un capitolo per ogni grado di aumento).

Io ho recentemente deciso di leggere quel libro (nell’edizione originale) sulla base della sorprendentemente moderata recensione fatta da Eric Steig sul blog RealClimate.

Così come rivelato da Steig, devo infatti confessare che tendo a stare lontano dai libri di divulgazione scientifica che sembrano sovrastimare i loro argomenti. Sulla copertina inglese del libro di Lynas si vede un’onda gigante schiantarsi su un Big Ben mezzo-sommerso, con fulmini da una nube oscura e una citazione dal Sunday Times che definisce il libro come “terrificante” (sul retro, il Financial Times lo descrive come “apocalittico”).

Ovviamente, HarperCollins (l’editore) ha ritenuto importante per le vendite a fare Lynas guardare come un allarmista con un’incorreggibile predilezione per la “pornografia climatica”. Sembra che l’autore abbia dichiarato di essere stato malinteso, ma sospetto che comunque non controlli quanto appare sulla copertina del suo libro, e come i suoi ragionamenti vengano popolar-polverizzati dalla stampa.

In ogni caso, la scelta di citare dall’ Inferno di Dante è stata tutta di Lynas.

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Che cosa penso del libro? Non posso dire che sia “allarmista”, nel senso di cercare di gonfiare le prove per imminenti catastrofi. Lynas ha ovviamente cercato di attenersi alla “scienza disponibile”: ma questa è esattamente la principale lacuna del libro, che appare come una vittima della condizione neurologica chiamata “neglect”.

Il “neglect” succede quando un paziente semplicemente non riesce a rendersi conto di qualcosa che gli è davanti. Per esempio nel caso di “neglect visivo”, il paziente può essere in grado di descrivere in dettaglio tutta una immagine, a parte una zona o un oggetto in essa, che semplicemente non vengono registrate a livello cosciente.

Analogamente, l’attuale “scienza disponibile” in climatologia, per un qualche motivo, descrive sempre che cosa potrebbe andare male in un pianeta più caldo, dimostrando “neglect” di tutto cio’ che potrebbe andare bene.

C’e’ qualcuno che seriamente creda che le attuali condizioni climatiche siano una sorta di “optimum”, così che anche una variazione di 1C verso l’alto può portare solo o quasi cattive notizie?

Nel libro, ci si potrebbe aspettare all’inizio una situazione pari, con buone e cattive notizie in parti uguali o quasi per uno o due gradi di cambiamento, con sempre piu’ cattive notizie nei capitoli successivi.

In realta’, ho fatto due conti i cui dettagli sono nel mio blog “Numerical Analysis of Mark Lynas’ “Six Degrees” Claims” (in inglese). Orbene, ci sono 4 cattive notizie, e 2 catastrofi, per ogni buona notizia.

Ora, se Lynas, o un qualsiasi scienziato, credono veramente che un pianeta più caldo significhi che le cattive notizie supereranno in numero le buone di 4 a 1 (o includendo le catastrofi, di 7 a 1), una molto, molto buona analisi ragionata del perche’ sia cosi’ non solo sarebbe benvenuta, ma e’ anzi strettamente necessaria.

Altrimenti, come per tante altre cose in termini di clima, si trattera’ solo di un’altra affermazione straordinaria priva di alcuna prova straordinaria. E quindi, di un’affermazione vuota.

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A proposito… la preponderanza di cattive e catastrofiche notizie rende la lettura un po’ noiosa dopo un paio di pagine. Lo schema diventa troppo prevedibile. Lynas apparentemente senza accorgersene costruisce quello che i consulenti di management definirebbero il “reverse sh*t sandwich”: invece di nascondere la cattiva notizia tra due buone (il classico “sh*t sandwich”), e’ la buona notizia viene posta in mezzo a due cattive notizie.

Per esempio, a pagina 37 ci viene detto prima che il corallo ha perso i suoi colori, poi che potrebbe sopravvivere dopotutto, ma infine il sandiwch è completato con un esperto che afferma che sara’ comunque troppo caldo perche’ il corallo sopravviva.

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La soluzione di Lynas al problema è discusso a lungo nel libro, ma sembra faccia sempre perno sul concetto di “fare politica invocando la sopravvivenza della specie”. Incapace di vedere altro che brutte notizie riguardo il clima, Lynas mostra un simile grado di “neglect intellettuale” nel tentativo di accantonare ogni altro problema che c’è al mondo.

Ancora una volta, se fermare il riscaldamento globale entro 1 o 6 gradi è più importante della lotta contro la malaria o la fame, dovrebbe esserci detto esattamente perché.

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Un ultimo gioiello a dimostrare la mia critica principale a Lynas, da pagina 278:

“Le persone stavano meglio ed erano più sane in Gran Bretagna durante il razionamento alimentare nella Seconda Guerra Mondiale”

Su cosa e’ basata questa incredibile dichiarazione?

O Lynas studia per fare il comico, o a volte può davvero essere “mezzo cieco” alle cose del mondo.

Numerical Analysis of Mark Lynas' "Six Degrees" Claims

This is ancillary to my blog “Lynas’ “Six Degrees” of (Computed) Half Blindness“.

From Mark Lynas’ book “Six Degrees – Our Future on a Hotter Planet” I have randomly selected some pages between 3 and 241, leaving out the introduction and the “Choosing Our Future” conclusions.

These are the results in terms of number of positive, negative and catastrophic remarks (*) in each of them

Page,Positive,Negative,Catastrophic
24,0,2,3
37,2,4,1
67,0,7,0
89,7,3,0
90,2,8,1
113,2,6,5
136,0,6,3
144,0,6,0
175,0,1,6
188,0,3,1
206,0,5,1
212,0,1,3
237,0,1,3

Based on the above, for each page of Lynas’ book there is 1 positive statement, 4 negative statements and 2 catastrophic statements. There may be a trend with statements getting less and less positive, but it can be noted that the whole thing is skewed towards negativeness from the beginning.

Only one page (89) out of 13 is more positive (7) than negative (3), and the immediately following page (90) quickly brings the situation back with only 2 positives and as much as 8 negatives (plus 1 catastrophic).

(*) Examples

  • Positive remark: page 89 (two degrees): “the northern central part of the US…will become an increasingly important winter wheat-producing area”
  • Negative remark: page 67 (one degree): “severe bleaching will occur on most of the world’s reefs every 3-5 years by 2030”
  • Catastrophic remark: page 136 (three degrees): “drought may once again become perennial in this densely populated country” (Indonesia)

Lynas' "Six Degrees" of (Computed) Half Blindness

I have decided to read debate-challenged Mark Lynas‘ “Six Degrees – Our Future on a Hotter Planet” on the basis of the surprisingly moderate review by Eric Steig on RealClimate.

Just as revealed by Steig, I must confess I tend to stay away from popular-science books that appear to overstate their argument. And Lynas’ book’s English cover does sport a giant wave crashing on top of a half-submerged Big Ben, with lightning out of a dark cloud and a citation from the Sunday Times defining the book as “terrifying” (on the back, the Financial Times describing it as “apocalyptic”).

Obviously, HarperCollins (the Publisher) thought it important for sales to make Lynas look like an incorregible alarmist with a penchant for “climate pornography”. Apparently, the author has lamented being “misconstrued” but I suspect the author doesn’t control much of what appears on the cover of a book, and how the contents are popular-pulverized in the Press.

In any case, the choice of quoting from Dante’s Inferno was all Lynas’.

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What do I make of it? I cannot say the book is “alarmist”, in the sense of trying to pump up the evidence for impending catastrophes. Lynas has obviously tried to stick to “available science”: but that’s exactly the main shortcoming of the book, that looks like a victim of the neurological condition called “neglect” (eg see “Hemispatial Neglect”.

“Neglect” happens when a patient simply cannot be made aware of something that is in front of them. For example in the case of “visual neglect”,  the patient may be able to describe in detail a whole image apart from some area or object in it, that simply do not register at a conscious level at all.

Analogously, current “available science” in Climatology, for whatever reason, consistently and invariably depicts what could go wrong in a warmer planet, “neglecting” what could go right.

Does anybody seriously believe that the current climatic conditions are some kind of “optimum”, so that even a 1C variation upwards can mainly bring bad news?

In the book, one would rather expect a rather even situation at the beginning, for a one- or two-degree change, getting worse as the chapters go by. You can see the actual figures in my blog “Numerical Analysis of Mark Lynas’ “Six Degrees” Claims“.

It’s 4 bad news, and 2 catastrophes, for every bit of good news.

Now, if Lynas, or any scientist, truly believes that a warmer planet will mean bad news will outnumber good news by 4 to 1 (or including catastrophes, by 7 to 1), a very, very good discussion of the reasons behind that would not only be welcome, but strictly needed.

Otherwise, as with so many other things in terms of climate, it will just be yet another extraordinary claim with no extraordinary evidence backing it.

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By the way…the preponderance of bad and catastrophic news makes it for a boring reading after a few pages of totally-predictable barrage. Lynas slips time and again (with no apparent awareness) in what management consultants would call a “reverse sh*t sandwich” situation: instead of hiding the bad between two goods (the classic “sh*t sandwich” of many performance feedback sections), it’s the good bits that have to survive in-between bad news.

For example, at page 37 we are told about coral bleaching, then the hope is thrown that the coral might survive after all, but the sandwich is completed with an expert stating it will be too hot for the coral to survive.

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Lynas’ solution to the problem is discussed at length but appears to pivot on the concept of “making policy by invoking survival of the species”. Having been unable to see much good in warming, Lynas shows a similar degree of intellectual neglect in trying to sweep aside every other problem there is in the world. Well, perhaps…but again, if stopping global warming by 1 or 6 degrees is more important than fighting malaria or hunger, we should be told exactly why.

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A final gem demonstrating my whole point, from page 278:

“people were better off and healthier in Britain under food rationing during the Second World War”

Where does that incredible statement comes from???

Either Lynas is training as a stand-up comedian, or he can truly be half-blind to the things of the world indeed.

Mark Lynas, or the Translation of the Militant Warmist

What had resident AGW alarmist, I mean “environmental correspondent” Mark Lynas to say when New Statesman dared provide space to the skeptical words of award-winning science journalist and writer David Whitehouse?

Let’s see…:

Whitehouse got it wrong – completely wrong [hopefully he managed to get his data right? or his surname]

you won’t, by definition, see climate change from one year to the next – or even necessarily from one decade to the next…Note, however, the general direction of the red line over this quarter-century period [translation: “if it goes down it’s too short a period. if it goes up, it’s the right time window to see climate change“]

Whitehouse, and his fellow contrarians, are going to have to do a lot better than this if they want to disprove (or even dispute) the accepted theory of greenhouse warming. [translation: “I am not going to listen to anybody thinking different than I do“]

Newspapers and magazines have a difficult job of trying, often with limited time and information, to sort out truth from fiction on a daily basis [translation: “if it’s contrary to what I believe, it’s fiction“]

I give contrarians, or sceptics, or deniers (call them what you will) short shrift [translation: “I have so much faith in global warming, I cannot tell the difference between a sceptic and a denier…let’s offend the whole lot…“]

 as a close follower of the scientific debate on this subject I can state without doubt that there is no dispute whatsoever within the expert community as to the reality or causes of manmade global warming [how can anybody seriously believe “manmade global warming” is the most solid area of Science in the history of humanity, it escapes me…]

Good journalism should never exclude legitimate voices from a debate of public interest, but it also needs to distinguish between carefully-checked fact and distorted misrepresentations in complex and divisive areas like this [translation: “I will decide what should and should not be debated“]

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There definitely is one thing that distinguishes global warmers from sceptics. Sceptics do not get upset when something contrary to their belief is aired.