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Thursday, February 13, 2014

Tamino: Making Stuff Up about Sea Level Rise

Making Up Stuff

One of the most effective techniques by which deniers persuade people, especially policymakers, that it’s OK to do nothing about man-made climate change, is also one of the most reprehensible. To whit: just make up stuff.
A prime example is a paper about sea level rise by Albert Parker, M. Saad Saleema, and M. Lawson (2013; Sea-level trend analysis for coastal management, Ocean & Coastal Management, 73: 63-81). You may recall Parker as one of those who submitted a comment criticizing perfectly valid research by Shepard et al. (we dissected another of his travesties here). You may even recall that he submittedtwo comments about that paper under different names. You see, Albert Parker also goes by the name Alberto Boretti. What do you think — is it reprehensible to play games with names just so you can get two comments published as though they were from independent sources? I think so.
But Parker et al.’s 2013 paper absolutely takes the cake, because it’s a prime example of making stuff up. They got caught, which is why one of the authors (M. Lawson) has disavowed the paper and claimed his contribution was almost nil, certainly negligible. In other words, he threw his co-authors under the bus.
Parker et al. begin by claiming that
The sea-level scenarios of Ozcoasts (Australian Government/Geoscience Australia, 2012) translate into six greenhouse-gas emission ‘marker’ scenarios. Sea levels are supposed to follow over the period 1990-2100 an exponential curve:
y = y_o + A e^{R_o \cdot x} (1)
The problem is, they made that up.
In a response from J. R. Hunter it is pointed out that they just made that up. Nobody I know of has ever made such a claim, and certainly not the Australian Government/Geoscience Australia in their “sea-level scenarios of Ozcoasts.” Not only do they not make that claim, Hunter proves that the actual scenarios don’t follow Parker et al.’s equation (1). It’s really not that hard. Because Parker et al. just made it up. Hunter states:
Contrary to the authors’ claim, none of these scenarios involves any assumption about exponential growth. Each scenario involves four points in time (including the starting point of zero rise in 1990), and Equation (1) contains three constants. If a scenario was indeed exponential, then any three points from the scenario could be used to fit an exponential (as in Equation (1)) and the fourth point should necessarily fall on that curve. This is clearly not the case, as shown in Fig. 1, which contains a panel for each scenario.
Yes, he proved it. They made it up.
Parker (but not his co-authors) actually wrote a reply to Hunter’s comment. And what does he say about this? You have to look carefully to find anything relevant because the first half of Parker’s reply doesn’t address the issues raised by Hunter at all. When he finally gets around to it, Parker says this:
As final remark about equation (1) of the paper, it seems that Mr. Hunter has some issues also with mathematics in addition to sea levels.
Then, he starts talking about the other thing in their paper which Hunter shows is just plain wrong. The brazenness is really quite impressive.
Note also that Parker addresses his critic as “Mr. Hunter” (which he does throughout) and soon thereafter refers to Stefan Rahmstorf as “Mr. Rahmstorf,” while referring to someone he seems to like as “Dr. Scafetta.” Hunter and Rahmstorf got Ph.D. degrees the old-fashioned way — they earned them — and it is disrespectful to address them as “Mr.” when using the correct title for others. My opinion: the disrespect was deliberate. Also my opinion: the editors of the journal Ocean & Coastal Management should never have permitted such blatantly snide treatment of respected researchers. Shame on them.
The other issue which Hunter’s comment points out (he only mentions two because, frankly, there are too many to deal with them all) is the claim that according to some models (specifically, that of Rahmstorf) the acceleration of sea level should be proportional to CO2 concentration:
The most popular models used to estimate the impacts of climate-change are based on very simplistic assumption, as for example Rahmstorf (2007):
{dSLR \over dt} = a {dCO_{2-a} \over dt}  (2)
In this equation, t is the time, SLR the sea level rise, and CO2-a the anthropogenic emission of carbon dioxide. Equation (2) (and more in general the assumption that the anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide are the only forcing of sea level rises) lack so far of validation.
Hunter points out:
In fact, Rahmstorf (2007) gave two equations:
{dH \over dt} = a (T - T_o)
and an integrated version of this equation.
So what is Parker’s defense of their faulty equation (2), which by the way he gives after mentioning equation (1) without saying anything about that? It’s this:
Mr. Rahmstorf (, obviously a reference contributor to the IPCC AR4 ( claims dH/dt = a \cdot (T(t)-T_o) where H is the sea level, t the time, T the temperature, and a is a coefficient. To is a reference value of the temperature, selected as the temperature when the time t is equal to zero. The sea level rate of rise SLR is the sea level velocity dH/dt. Therefore, the sea level acceleration SLA = dSLR/dt = a ~ dT/dt. Considering the other authors of the IPCC AR4 claim that there is a perfect correlation between the atmospheric CO2 concentration and the surface temperature (, then it is correct to write that according to Rahmstorf and the other authors of the IPCC AR4 is SLA = dSLR/dt = a ~ dT/dt = dCO_2/dt.
It’s not a minor mistake to claim that “other authors of the IPCC AR4 claim that there is a perfect correlation between the atmospheric CO2 concentration and the surface temperature.” He just made it up. It’s not just false, it’s ludicrous — even more ludicrous than Parker referring to “the assumption that the anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide are the only forcing of sea level rises,” which exists only in his imagination.
The blatantly obvious falsehoods in Parker et al. make it one of the biggest embarrassments in modern science. It’s an embarrassment to the journal Ocean & Coastal Management that Parker et al. was published in their pages. It’s an embarrassment to the reviewers that they allowed this trash through. But most of all, it’s an embarrassment to the authors. Perhaps that’s why the third author, M. Lawson (a senior journalist for the Australian Financial Review) has tried to distance himself from the work that bears his own name. “Crikey” reports that Lawson wants none of the blame for this fiasco, saying:
“I don’t think I actually saw the paper, to be honest,” Lawson said. “I think I contributed a paragraph … I was a bit surprised to see me listed as a joint author — my contribution was quite minimal. I’m a journalist, not a scientist.”
Evidently Lawson was also surprised to learn of Parker/Boretti’s dual identity, saying
“Is he the same guy? That’s what I was puzzling over … That’s why Parker was sending me emails — I had no idea who he was.”
Perhaps the most telling comment from Lawson was his endorsement of the paper’s main theme in spite of its lack of validity:
“I can’t comment on the details of the scientific analysis, but on a broader level it’s clear the increases to sea levels to date do not justify the responses we have seen from councils.”
It seems to me that the blame for just making up stuff belongs to Albert Parker. Or Alberto Boretti, depending on which day of the week it is. But before anyone lets Lawson off the hook, consider this: in spite of trying to abdicate responsibility by stating “I’m a journalist, not a scientist” and “I can’t comment on the details of the scientific analysis,” he still insists that “it’s clear the increases to sea levels to date to not justify the responses we have seen from councils.”
As for the policy-relevant conclusions of Parker et al., I’ll agree with the final sentence of Hunter’s comment regarding their “advice”:
Given the errors noted above, these statements represent quite dangerous and foolhardy advice.
Dr. Hunter, you were far too kind.

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