Tuesday 20 October 2009

dr Tom van der Hoeven needs to do his homework first, then talk

Under the title ‘there’s no climate crisis’, an op-ed of dr Tom van de Hoeven (in Dutch) appeared in a local newspaper last week.
Dr Van der Hoeven, who promoted on the subject Math in Gas and the art of linearization (PhD thesis here) works for GasTerra and his article presents exactly what you’d expect from someone working in the Gas-industry.
From the very first sentence the man writes, you know you’re not reading a highlight in climate-literature. His text is so silly i will stick to presenting a quick overview of the most blatant errors / confused parts :

1) Instead of warmer, global temperatures have decreased for the past decade
Van der Hoeven copies the “earth’s temperatures haven’t been rising for a decade” meme, whereas this is nothing but a cherry-pick on the 1998 El-Nino. Earth did not become colder.

2) The most important cause for the climate discussion is the hockey-stick
The hockey-stick represents a reconstruction of past temperatures, but predictions do not depend in any way on the hockey stick.

3) Wegman has ‘broken’ the hockey stick, thereby destroying the main argument around climate change
wrong and wrong
The political Wegman report did not ‘break’ the hockey-stick. The Hockey-stick controversy has shown that indeed there were some minor statistical issues around the original work of Mann et al, but the hockey stick is not broken, but bended. It still looks like a hockey stick though.
Above that, the proxy-reconstruction of Mann is not the main cause for climate concerns.

4) Scott Armstrong thinks climate models aren’t any good
Van der Hoeven calls Armstrong an expert in model-predictions, but doesn’t not mention Armstrong is a professor in Marketing. Hardly a specialist in exact sciences I’d say. Nor does Van der Hoeven present any facts why Armstrong should be right.
Anyway, Real Climate & James Annan already had a look at the claims of Armstrong.

The rest of Van der Hoeven's opinion piece is meaningless sloganesque-language and naturally there’s also some wining about Al Gore. Dr Van der Hoeven managed to write one of the most embarrassing pieces on climate change i ever read from someone with a degree. Tom van der Hoeven needs to do his homework first, then talk.
The only good thing from his text is the fact that you know that people who refer to it don’t have a clue what climate science is about, or don’t care. Van der Hoeven so far was cited by Hans Labohm and Theo ‘klimatosoof’ Richel.


  1. I fully agree, Jules. I was planning to do a word-by-word rebuttal on "de Dagelijkse Standaard", but simply got fed up with Hans Labohm once again referring to an article with so many debunked claims. It's totally impossible to teach him any facts. And Van der Hoeven is just plain stupid.

  2. Hoi Jules,

    ik heb je blog nu ondergebracht in mn mapje "alarmisten".

  3. Je comment heeft schijnbaar weinig te maken met het onderwerp van de blogpost.

    Daarenboven had net dat tikkeltje meer onderbouwing welkom geweest.

  4. Dear Mr. Jules,

    I came across Dr. Van der Hoeven's article and after searching for an antagonist, this article appeared to me first after a google search. Sorry for the long reply, but I felt a bit offended by your blog and thought it would be for the best to let you know.

    As a university student I tend to appreciate acknoledgements, for they give me the opportunity to view the original scientific measurements. Furthermore it struck me some years ago that when it comes to specific areas, like I find the correlation between increasing amounts of CO2 and rising temperature, there are mostly only a few studies that are the basis of all the published literature. Keeping track of who is talking about what findings or which author has been giving me a nice overview of what is going on chronologically throughout different (scientific or not) discussions.

    As an intelligent, interested layman on this subject I have to honestly say that I just can't make anything out of what I hear or read about a possible relation between increasing temperatures and CO2 levels and quite frankly anything else that can be categorized in this Global Warming discussion. Simply because I just can't seem to find any scientific acknoledgements in newspaper articles, TV newscasts, blogposts, webarticles et centera. I hear so many opinions and so little reference to the evidence, from whatever side.

    And it was discouraging for me to find that your blogpost is no different.
    Just like Dr. Van der Hoeven, you don't give me anything more but your personal view you somehow gathered in time on this subject. How am I supposed to know who's right? Could you do me and other inquisitive people a favour and gives us acknoledgements where you got your knowledge.

    On you blog homepage you quote David Archer:

    "The target audience of denialism is the lay audience, not scientists. It's made up to look like science, but it's PR."

    It appears to me as if you claim in a foggy way that you feel you do right for people with some knowledge of science. But when agreeing with his statement, why are you being so unscientific in your claims then? If you give me no way of repeating your analysis, how scientific can your claims be?

    In this blogpost you state:

    "Dr Van der Hoeven (...) works for GasTerra and his article presents exactly what you’d expect from someone working in the Gas-industry."

    I looked up David Archer and he is "a computational ocean chemist at the University of Chicago [who] has published research on the carbon cycle of the ocean and the sea floor, at present, in the past, and in the future." (you can find this on realclimate.org). This subject is his job aswell! His livelyhood! You dismiss Dr. Van der Hoeven based on the same thing! Except for maybe that Gas-company sounds worse than University. But you are not talking about
    company interests, but about financial dependence of people that state claims.

    I hope you take this in a good way and read between the lines a bit as well. I would love a better world, but keep it true.
    If you want 'scientific' people to hear what you have to say, give us more that just your thoughts. Give us your analysis, your history, give us context (I don't believe so much in a practical use of Ceteris Paribus). It could be the new hype! ;-)

  5. Hi Jurrie,

    speaking of a coïncidence (and i swear it's a coïncidence !): in my next post i wanted to give a summary of some basic litterature i recommend.

    Just give me the time to write it :)

    Considering your remark i mentioned Van der hoeven works for GasTerra : i mentioned it because i think it can be an indication for a person's bias. I don't think money matters here. It's pretty obvious Van der Hoeven is an amateur.

  6. And one of the posts after that one, i intend to adress a thing i'm calling the "Von Däniken problem" : it'll be a post in which i want to adress some basic problems in communicating science.

    Hopefully it will explain why i make certain choices in what i write (and don't write) on this blog. Again, your timing couldn't have been better :)

  7. Jurrie,

    You make a thoughtful and well articulated argument. In reply to your statement that neither “side” provides evidence and sources, this really depends on where you look. This is a blog; you can’t reasonably expect it to rise to the level of a scientific article. (hardly anyone would read it in such a case, since it would become too “boring”.)

    If you want the solid research, you’re better off to dive in the primary literature and reviews such as from IPCC, NAS. More references and evidence than you could wish for. Websites of renowned research institutes (e.g. NOAA, NASA, Hadley, KNMI) are also a good place to look (though often without the many references, in order to keep it readable).

    You ask “How am I supposed to know who's right?” That’s the million dollar question any non-specialist faces when dealing with complex issues (such as health or science). I wrote a list of hints that a layperson could use in answering that question: http://ourchangingclimate.wordpress.com/2009/02/08/who-to-believe/
    It doesn’t go into any detail about evidence for or against AGW; it merely outlines how you can gauge the respective arguments if you don’t have the time or background knowledge to gauge each argument on its scientific merit.

    People use such ‘shortcuts’ all the time, since it’s impossible to know enough details about every subject you may come across. In those cases you use very much the same set of clues, I think. E.g. when you search for medical advice/information, you gauge the credibility of the argument and of the source in a similar way:


  8. Jules,

    Thanks for reading my post. And thank you very much for taking the effort of publishing your own references in the future. I'll be looking forward to reading it!

    I do have to add that I do not find it pretty obvious as to why Dr. Van Der Hoeven is an amateur. His article is mainly about his view on the scientific argumentation used in the discussion on Climate Change and with his scientific dissertation accepted in 2004 (http://tinyurl.com/yg48owd) I find it actually quite impossible to deny that he writes about a subject he studied and worked with on a professional level. Regardless if his claims are true or false for whatever reasons.

    I dearly hope I don't ever have to read another argument suggesting a distinct influence of someone's (personal) bias based on employer or position in the Climate Discussion again. For, simply said, it holds no argumentative value but does a lot in terms of suggesting that it has any. Everyone has a (personal) bias and it's nearly impossible to conclude how its effects are on what they say or decide. Without thourough research it's pure speculation. How about your own (personal) bias? Or how about Al Gore's (personal) bias?


    Thank you very much for your very informative reply. I can relate to that in some way it can't be expected from blogs (and newspapers and tv and government-representatives) to rise to the level of a scientific article. But your articles on web-iquette and who-to-believe did make me wonder about the analogy between searching for medical advice and searching for climate change (or future health) advice.

    Say an unlicensed doctor pretends to be one by giving me medical advice, if I recall correctly, it can be considered a crime. One obvious reason for that is because it's a subject so important and complex that prescribing roles are only for those who have proven they know what they are doing, by means of becoming a licensed doctor. To even carry out many of these prescriptions you also have to have proof of education (pharmacysts).

    When it comes to the subject of Climate Change, i feel that a lot of people act as if they are 'licensed doctors' or can speak on behalf of them. Diagnosing our current situation, telling me what to do to improve my chances on future health or telling me to dismiss what others say. But I think the complexity and importance of Climate Change is much like Medicine. And wouldn't it be wise for the world then to be very careful with it? I know instantly where to find a medical doctor, but I find it not so easy to find a 'environment health doctor' with the risk of being misinformed.

    I wonder what your views are on this. Thank you for giving me notice of you articles. I'm looking forward to read them!

  9. "Dr Van der Hoeven, who promoted on the subject Math in Gas and the art of linearization (PhD thesis here) works for GasTerra and his article presents exactly what you’d expect from someone working in the Gas-industry.", beste Jules, dit is een drogreden, namelijk: op de man spelen. Het afbranden van geleerden op basis van hun werkveld komt de discussie mijns inziens niet ten goede; de werknemers van het klimaatpanel van de VN hebben hun banen in deze zienswijze dan ook "te danken" aan het door hen opgeworpen klimaatprobleem. Verder, veel succes met je blog, ik vind het erg goed dat u de discussie op gang houdt. Vriendelijke groet, Mart.

  10. Marten, ik heb in deze post uitgelegd waarom ik het wél relevant vind om dit mee te geven