Liars?

Recently there was a series of sensational articles in the infamous German tabloid BILD: “The CO2 Lie”. It’s not just a repetition of lame old bunkum. The tasteless headline calls for a provocative comparison:

Certainly I don’t want to lump both groups of deniers together in a political sense.

Yet the psychological similarities are striking. Having grown up in semi-rural Germany I’ve heard enough Auschwitz debate between my grandpa and his buddies. Two of them were former low-rank SS men and they spared no pains to make total crazy fools out of themselves. They are long dead now, and meanwhile I’ve heard and read enough climate debate. The weighting of apples against oranges, the refusal to keep things in context and the clinging to pseudoscientific reports is not much different.

Grandpa’s buddies doubtingly ridiculed the fact that it takes a much higher concentration of Zyklon B to reliably kill insects (16000 ppm) than to kill humans (300 ppm). Similarly, some grown-ups today argue that 100 ppm of CO2 can’t make any difference. (To those I suggest trying 250µg of LSD in 250g of water, i.e. 1ppm.)

Another striking parallel is the morally pathologic excuse you hear when you get them cornered and admit some of the inconvenient truth (until the next day). “But Stalin also killed millions” vs. “But climate change has happened before”. Of course the ongoing rapid release of fossil CO2 has not much historic precedent (the last one was the catastrophic Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum 55 million years ago). And of course there’s continental drift and orbital parameters – which are changing on timescales vastly longer than just a century. So “climate change has happened before” is comparing apples and oranges. Anyway the argument is a declaration of moral bancruptcy: By the same logic I could go out and kill people – after all, death is something entirely natural.


(Source: NASA)

I believe that grandpa’s friend, Mr. Weber, honestly believed it when he insisted he had never seen anybody killed during his time as a guard at the Dachau concentration camp (which was indeed not an explicit death camp like Auschwitz).

Similarly I trust Hans von Storch’s impression that Mr. Vahrenholt honestly believes what he says:

I consider him and his coauthor as honest people; they really believe what they say, they are seriously and honestly upset about what they see as a conspiracy.

Fritz Vahrenholt, a high ranking manager of RWE, one of Europe’s largest fossil CO2 emitter, had already caught my attention some time back with a classic foolishness. He is honestly convinced that global warming has halted during the last 10-15 (whatever) years. Any lay person can see immediately that this is nonsense. Just look at a 100 year temperature graph and note the fluctuations. No statistics methods needed. (If you can’t do without maths, see here.)


(Source: UK Met Office. See also NASA GISS and the “independent” BEST project.)

So, this would disqualify Mr. Vahrenholt from any responsible post as an industry manager – as he credibly insists to be incapable of interpreting simple statistics (i.e. discern what can be seen and what not in a given noisy data set). Well, at least he is able to write books and erect more subtle and elaborate edifices of foolishness… But his other main argument, “it’s the sun, stupid” also vanishes after trivial visual inspection. There’s no visible correlation between insolation and recent climate change:

You would need a little arithmetic to quantify the Sun’s actual contribution. That’s of course too much to ask of Mr. Vahrenholt and friends.

For the latest and seriously scientific research see here and here.

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