No empirical scientific evidence for the existence of Malcolm Roberts
On Q&A last night I watched the superb Professor Brian Cox demolishing Malcolm Roberts on climate change denial. And today there has been an absolute flurry of new data and science commentary continuing to reinforce the mainstream view. If the issue was facts and science, the outcome would be a no-brainer. But Roberts wasn’t arguing science. He was arguing a particular brand of tinfoil hat rhetoric that finds facts inconvenient.
I won’t try to challenge Roberts on facts. Like him, I am not a scientist and have no formal qualifications in climate science. My opinions on climate science might be well-informed, but they are certainly not authoritative. But I am well-qualified by education and experience to know when someone is talking bullshit.
Unfortunately we didn’t get an argument from Roberts last night. We got a call for “empirical scientific evidence”, and one or two blank stares. So how do we find what makes him tick? How do we test his rhetoric?
We might as well use his 2014 report to the Hon Bob Baldwin (hereafter the Baldwin Paper) as the baseline. In this paper Roberts described his credentials as “Similar to those of UN IPCC chair, Rajendra Pachauri”. So let’s start there. That would require Roberts to have an MS in Industrial Engineering, and a PhD with co-majors in Industrial Engineering and Economics. He would also have had to have been a professor at some point, and served in fellowship or leadership roles in a number of major institutions such as the World Bank and the IPCC.
Actually, no. According to his LinkedIn profile, Roberts has a Bachelor of Engineering and an MBA. He worked as a mining engineer on and off from 1977 to 1983. He states in the Baldwin Paper that his experience in mining engineering gave him the necessary “knowledge of atmospheric gases including carbon dioxide, CO2, to ensure healthy underground mine ventilation”. Yes, mining engineers need to understand ventilation. But I know a lot of mining engineers, and absent other qualifications they tend not to consider themselves experts in climate change.
According to LinkedIn, Roberts has not held a technical role or a line management position in a technical organisation since 1993. According to his CV he has been engaged in “Extensive personal inner exploration and development of consciousness since 1999.” He appears never to have attended a university to formally study any recognised aspect of climate science, nor does he appear to have had any formal affiliation with any higher education or science-oriented organisation after completing his MBA in 1990.
According to Google Scholar and Academia.edu, he has never published a peer-reviewed academic paper. He recently published one short paper in the AusIMM bulletin, on leadership. He has three websites where he publishes his ruminations: www.conscious.com.au, www.climate.conscious.com.au and www.galileomovement.com.au. The third site does not appear to have been updated since 2012.
In his letter to The Hon Bob Baldwin of June 14 2015, he says:
None of the bodies you name has ever provided any empirical scientific evidence that CO2 from human activity causes harmful global warming or harmful global climate variability. If you disagree, please provide (3.0) the specific location of specific evidence upon which you rely. That is, please provide report or book title and date, authors’ names, reporting organisation and specific chapter and page numbers. If you do not provide such specific location of human causation in the form of empirical scientific evidence it will verify that you have no such evidence.
What? Isn’t that his job if he is challenging the science? But even if The Hon obliged, it would probably make no difference to Roberts.
In several hundred pages of content on his various sites, Roberts directly cites one single academic paper. Just one. On tidal gauge data from the Sydney coast that concluded that while sea levels were rising, they were not rising at an accelerating rate.
So it’s probably understandable that he has no idea what’s expected of a defensible paper, especially one in the sciences. There is no evidence in his published work that he has ever actually read one. (OK, more than one). All of his sources are secondary.
The Baldwin Paper has 40 pages and 80 footnotes. Not one footnote references a peer-reviewed academic paper published in a recognised journal (in any discipline). Not one footnote conforms to any recognised citation style I am familiar with. Apart from a small number of links to newspaper articles, most footnotes link to his own websites, or similar denialist sites.
The paper is full of unsupported assertions and statements of opinion, without supporting evidence or analysis, eg
ALP-Greens legislation based on misrepresentations and fabrications serving a foreign agenda and aided by Liberal political expediency and timidity squanders our country’s wealth and brought our country to the cliff edge.
In fact a large part of the Baldwin Paper is an overt politicised attack on the UN, the IPCC, the Australian Labor Party and the Greens, something that has no credible place in a paper that claims to be about science. He simply does not seem to be able to tell the difference between personal opinion and informed reasoning.
While he repeatedly claims to have presented empirical scientific evidence, I could not find a record of a single experiment, data analysis, meta-analysis or test conducted by Roberts that would meet the definition.
Don’t waste your time with him. He is literally making this stuff up. I will just leave you with his conclusion from the Baldwin Paper:
Claims of consensus, vote on opinions or belief or religious faith, appeals to authority citing proclaimed experts, implicit or explicit opinion, inference of having evidence, unsubstantiated claims, scary projections based on unvalidated computerised numerical models proven erroneous, labeling and name-calling, diversions onto scientists’ occupations and ad hominem smearing to discredit those who disagree, lies, use of emotional pictures, cartoons or stories, implied unvalidated claims, corrupt data, omissions of data, and misrepresentations of data and events are not evidence of human causation of climate variability cannot credibly be argued as evidence that climate change does not exist. [my edit]
Eppur si muove.