Roy Spencer and the Cornwall Alliance

Roy Spencer has a new post called Still Epic Fail: 73 Climate Models versus Measurements. In this post Roy gloats at the apparent fact that all the models predict much higher mid-troposphere temperatures than is observed by satellites or by balloons. However, as already shown by David Appell at Quark Soup, one of the reasons there is such a discrepancy is that Roy has averaged two satellite datasets that actually have wildly different temperature anomalies. What I found interesting, though, was Roy’s final comment

Forgive me if I sound frustrated, but we scientists who still believe that climate change can also be naturally forced have been virtually cut out of funding and publication by the ‘humans-cause-everything-bad-that-happens’ juggernaut. The public who funds their work will not stand for their willful blindness much longer.

So, why do I think this is an interesting comment? Well, thanks to a few comments on my previous post, I’ve been made aware of an organisation called the Cornwall Alliance. The tagline on their own homepage is “For the Stewardship of Creation” and the homepage goes on to say “The Cornwall Alliance is a coalition of clergy, theologians, religious leaders, scientists, academics, and policy experts committed to bringing a balanced Biblical view of stewardship to the critical issues of environment and development”. So, I guess it is reasonable to assume that this is a Christian organisation with a reasonably literal interpretation of the Bible.

So why is this organisation relevant to global warming/climate change? Well they have an Evangelical Declaration on Global Warming that supporters are encouraged to sign. This declaration has a set of beliefs and a set of things that are denied. So what are these beliefs and denials? Well, the first belief is

We believe Earth and its ecosystems—created by God’s intelligent design and infinite power and sustained by His faithful providence —are robust, resilient, self-regulating, and self-correcting, admirably suited for human flourishing, and displaying His glory. Earth’s climate system is no exception. Recent global warming is one of many natural cycles of warming and cooling in geologic history.

So, the Earth and its ecosystem is created by God, is admirably suited for humans and global warming is simply one of the many natural cycles that have taken place over the Earth’s history. I assume that this belief indicates that those who signed this declaration deny anthropogenic global warming (AGW). So, what else does it say?

We believe abundant, affordable energy is indispensable to human flourishing, particularly to societies which are rising out of abject poverty and the high rates of disease and premature death that accompany it. With present technologies, fossil and nuclear fuels are indispensable if energy is to be abundant and affordable.

Okay, so energy plays an important role in allowing us to progress and in allowing people to rise out of poverty and to have better lifestyles. Fair enough, I’d probably agree with that. But, currently the only viable energy sources are fossil fuels and nuclear power? Okay, fossil fuels have indeed been a fantastic energy source, but indispensable?

So, what are some of the things that this declaration denies? Well, for example

We deny that Earth and its ecosystems are the fragile and unstable products of chance, and particularly that Earth’s climate system is vulnerable to dangerous alteration because of minuscule changes in atmospheric chemistry. Recent warming was neither abnormally large nor abnormally rapid. There is no convincing scientific evidence that human contribution to greenhouse gases is causing dangerous global warming.

Okay, so complete denial that human contributions to greenhouse gases is causing dangerous global warming. Given that those who signed this declaration deny AGW, presumably they should be happy to be called deniers.

So, what’s point of this? Well this seems to clearly be an organisation that is openly denying that our use of fossil fuels is having any significant impact on global warming. They believe that it has to simply be natural, presumably because they believe that God created the Earth for us and hence would not allow anything to happen that would risk our future existence on the planet. Why is this relevant to this post? Well the list of prominent signers of this declaration includes one Dr Roy Spencer. I guess I can’t be absolutely certain that he has signed it, but the Cornwall Alliance are clearly claiming that he has.

So, Roy feels that he has been cut out of research funding because he thinks global warming could be natural. I don’t know if he has been cut out for this reason (maybe he just writes rubbish grant proposals) but he appears to have signed a declaration that asserts that global warming is natural. Not might be natural, is natural. The signers of this declaration have essentially declared their belief about global warming. Everyone’s entitled to their beliefs, so I don’t have an issue with anyone signing this. I do, however, have an issue with a scientist who claims to be doing research into climate change and global warming signing this declaration but then not making that clear in any discussions about global warming and climate change.

If Roy Spencer has indeed signed this declaration then he has essentially made up his mind about global warming. His research is not to consider if global warming is natural, it’s to show that global warming is natural. This completely changes how one should assess his research and anything he writes about global warming and climate change. Many accuse climate scientists of being biased but this seems like a classic example of explicit bias. Essentially it seems that Roy Spencer’s research is aimed at confirming his view that global warming and climate change are simply a consequence of some natural process and are not anthropogenic. I think everyone should bear this in mind when considering Roy Spencer’s views on global warming and climate change.

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24 Responses to Roy Spencer and the Cornwall Alliance

  1. BBD says:

    Many accuse climate scientists of being biased but this seems like a classic example of explicit bias. Essentially it seems that Roy Spencer’s research is aimed at confirming his view that global warming and climate change are simply a consequence of some natural process and are not anthropogenic.

    Exactly right: no confidence in Spencer.

    If you haven’t already come across the comprehensive debunking of Spencer’s books and claims by Barry Bickmore, you may well find still more to intrigue, amuse and quite possibly, anger. Highly recommended for Spencer fans everywhere.

    * * *

    Incidentally, I’m rather wary of this latest final nail in the AGW coffin from Christy and Spencer. It’s not clear to me how Christy extracted *mid* tropospheric temperatures from the CMIP runs archived at KNMI Climate Explorer. I’d like to see confirmation that the comparison really does show *mid* tropospheric temps from the CMIP5 runs vs observations. Then we have the caveats expressed by David Appell about averaging RSS and MSU etc.

    I don’t wish to seem mean-spirited, but what with the glaring bias and previous form for data misrepresentation, it is very difficult to take Spencer (or Christy, come to that) seriously.

  2. Indeed. In fact I’ve left a reply to your comment on HotWhopper, asking exactly the same question. It’s not clear, to me, how you get mid-troposphere temperatures from the CMIP runs. It may be possible (I don’t know these models well) but – as you say – Spencer (and Christy) have not – as far as I can tell – convincingly shown that they have extracted the correct model temperatures.

  3. BBD says:

    I see you at HW ;-)

    Did you also notice that the CMIP5 runs presented by C&S are forced under RCP 8.5?

    I very strongly suspect that the usual games are being played.

  4. I hadn’t noticed that. So they’re using the most extreme of the forcings. Well, that might also explain the discrepancies.

  5. BBD says:

    I guess I can’t be absolutely certain that he [Spencer] has signed it, but the Cornwall Alliance are clearly claiming that he has.

    Whilst you are correctly cautious not to make a definitive statement, it really is our very own Roy.

    See here:

    Cornwall colleague Roy Spencer, principal research scientist at the University of Alabama and, with John Christy, in charge of the NASA remote satellite temperature sensing program (the only one that gives truly global temperature data), spoke recently at the John Locke Foundation, summarizing the message of his book Climate Confusion: How Global Warming Hysteria Leads to Bad Science, Pandering Politicians and Misguided Policies that Hurt the Poor.

    Spencer is actually on the Cornwall Alliance Board of Advisors:

    Roy W. Spencer, Ph.D., Principal Research Scientist, Earth System Science Center, University of Alabama, Huntsville, AL, and Lead Scientist, NASA Aqua AMSR-3 Satellite Remote Sensing Program

    Along with another luminary from the climate wars:

    Ross McKitrick, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Economics, University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada

  6. BBD says:

    It’s funny what happens when you investigate one of the very, very few credentialled scientists who is openly critical of the standard scientific position on AGW.

  7. That’s what’s most surprising. How can an active researcher in the field of climate science sign a declaration stating that global warming is definitely natural and not anthropogenic. It would be similar to a cosmologist signing a declaration stating that the Universe is only 6000 years old.

  8. Fragmeister says:

    A new post on Wattswrongwiththat by:

    “E. Calvin Beisner, Ph.D., is Founder and National Spokesman of the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation and author of several books on environmental stewardship.”

    is all about rain in Malawi. Interesting to note that Dr John Christy used to be a missionary


    The a priori assumptions by the Cornwall Alliance make real science just a bit impossible, don’t you think?

  9. Exactly, I don’t know how someone can ascribe to the philosophy of the Cornwall Alliance and then, without irony, engage in debates about climate science where they pretend to be objective. It seems that they should simply acknowledge that there is no evidence that can convince them that global warming and climate change are anything other than natural and let others get on with the science.

  10. Fragmeister says:

    Couldn’t agree with you more. I ended up finding the climate science deniers through the evolution deniers. My background is biology, specifically evolution, and a lot of what Spencer and others do is just like the Intelligent Design crowd do. And with similar theologies. To my eternal shame I paid for and then read Michael Behe’s book “Darwin’s Black Box” in which he makes many claims that are not only easily checked but easily falsified. Do some of these people think no one will check?

    But then the denier’s psychology depends on a snobbish belief that there are a huge number of incredibly ignorant people who will unblinkingly accept what they say without checking. And it would appear most of them are permanently logged on to Wattswrongwiththat.con. The next magnum opus by Dr Roy Spencer will get the usual sycophantic comments along the lines of “Brilliant debunking of the warmist position… blah blah” before someone with an ounce of intelligence and a bit of knowledge in the area asks a relevant question or points out an error and the baying hounds start barking their insults. It’s ironic that they don’t like the evidence based scientific consensus cause they sure as hell like conforming to the evidence free, cherry picking, data torturing, curve fitting consensus they make for themselves.

  11. Fragmeister says:

    While we are on the subject of phoney theology, don’t forget Green Agenda –

    I haven’t read Delingpole’s Watermelons (partly because life just is too short to waste on such rubbish) but I believe much of what he uses comes from this site. It is a front for a rather apocalyptic Christian group from, I believe, New Zealand.

  12. Rachel says:

    Fortunately there are some religious organisations doing the right thing. The Uniting Church of Australia (NSW/ACT Synod) recently announced a decision to divest from stocks and shares in fossil fuels –

  13. Absolutely. It’s clearly not all religious groups or even all Christian groups who reject AGW.

  14. Brilliant, very apt.

  15. Thanks, wasn’t aware of them. I too haven’t read Delingpole’s book and would probably not bother either (although maybe I should try at least one of these books just to see for myself what is written).

  16. Fragmeister says:

    I found some excerpts of Delingpole’s book on the Net which included some pages of references, including the Green Agenda website so that seems to be at least partially true. The style of the excerpts was like von Daniken and his ilk – lots of assertion, little real analytical thought. Won’t bother with putting my hard earned cash into his pocket by actually buying the book. I’ve read too many of Delingpole’s blog posts to know that he isn’t really interested in finding the truth, just shouting very loud.

  17. Margaret Hardman says:

    Over at WattsUpWithThat I rather called someone out for linking me to the Green Agenda page. The one reply I’ve had so far accused me of lumping all Christians together. I know that the denialists on Watts’s site are naive but I am not. Perhaps I am too cynical but I do know that many Christians think that having guardianship over the Earth means we should look after it for when we pass it on to the next generation. I am not religious myself but I do respect those who justify their good actions through religious ideas (and the converse). The Gethsemane Olivet Foundation seems to be a rather rabid end of the world Christian cult. I don’t think they are interested in climate change, rather that they are just hopefully looking for signs that Jesus is about to return. As such they are very likely to be open to evidence and new ideas – not.

  18. I’ve noticed your attempts to engage on WUWT. Hasn’t always gone down well :-)

    The whole issue of religion and environmentalism is interesting as one might expect many religious people to have views consistent with those who are concerned about our impact on the world around us – and indeed many do seem to share these concerns. It’s just odd that some (it seems often very right-wing-conservative Christians) who somehow think that whatever we do, God will protect us from any harm.

  19. Margaret Hardman says:

    Thanks. I am not an expert but I am, I think, skeptical in the correct mearning of the word. I am open to ideas but I don’t take someone’s word for it without checking, if I can. My background is in biology, mainly evolution and palaeontology, so I know the climate has changed many times over the eons. Nothing new there. Like plenty of people, the more I learned of science, the more I couldn’t reconcile what I was being told on the one hand about a number of things (for example, UFOs, ESP and the like) with the laws of nature as I understood them. So I began looking at what those more expert than me said. I noticed a small debate on WattsUpWithThat the other day about falsification (can’t remember the context). What was missing is the other essential that Popper explained – for something to be scientific, it also has to use scientific premises and fit with the known laws. It isn’t enough for something to be falsifiable (otherwise astrology would be a science).

    I actually was skeptical of the original claims of climate change, at least the ones I was first aware of. I, like most of the rest of us, missed the dire predictions of global cooling and I am old enough to have been aware of them (I remember learning of the dangers of CFCs in the 1970s). As I said on the other site, the issues didn’t go away, more and more articles and papers added to the evidence and the case just got stronger. I was skeptical because I felt that the scenarios were probably unlikely. Except, of course, I was just ignorant. When I learned more, the pieces of science fitted together and made a coherent whole. It is nice to take a little bit of science here and there and ignore what we don’t like. But reality doesn’t work like that. The idea of multiple universes made turn out to be true, but at the moment it is something I am agnostic about. But it doesn’t stop me wanting to find out more.

    What I have done over on Watts’s site is to ask questions. That usually means you get patronised, insulted or abused although sometimes you get defended. I don’t see true skeptical behaviour over there. I see a herd mentality at work. My latest run in has been on this topic. I was given a link to a list of quotations (I found more examples of the list easily) that were supposedly referenced and sourced but clicking on a few links quickly dispelled that notion. I’ve seen the technique used by other denier sites on other scientific topics. It relies on the fact that someone cannot or will not find the original sources because quite often these quotes have a context and are only fully meaningful within that context.

    They are a prickly lot, crying conspiracy and foul any time someone asks a question. They don’t like being told that their associations with various organisations are a bit dodgy, even though anyone who takes a cent from Government is clearly evil and without morals. Instead of patiently pointing out the “error” of my ways, I find myself accused of supporting some of the worst ideas of modern human society, whatever they might be. The comments are the things that should be the subject of the Friday funnies.

  20. Indeed. In case you haven’t read some of my earlier posts, one of the reasons I started this blog was because I tried the same as you. I posted a few comments (under a different name) on WUWT that asked some questions or made, what I thought, were fairly benign suggestions. The level of vitriol that my comments received made me decide never to comment there again and to write this instead. Not sure if it’s having any impact, but it’s – so far – much more pleasant than trying to engage on WUWT.

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