Mike Hulme and the 97% consensus

Ben Pile, a writer for Spiked Online who has his own blog called climate-resistance, has a guest post on a University of Nottingham Making Science public blog. His post discusses Andrew Neil’s interview with Ed Davey, Dana’s response, and also discusses the Cook et al. consensus paper. I don’t want to say much about the actual post, but it does seem to be written be someone who thinks it’s more important to philsophize about science, than actually do science – or maybe, more correctly, someone who thinks they can judge science by philosophizing about science.

What was interesting is that Mike Hulme commented to say

Ben Pile is spot on. The “97% consensus” article is poorly conceived, poorly designed and poorly executed. It obscures the complexities of the climate issue and it is a sign of the desperately poor level of public and policy debate in this country that the energy minister should cite it.

Now, Mike Hulme is a Professor of Climate Change at the University of East Anglia, so – presumably – is not someone who’s views should be simply dismissed. According to his homepage his work explores the idea of climate change using historical, cultural and scientific analyses, seeking to illuminate the numerous ways in which climate change is deployed in public and political discourse, so this is his area of expertise.

I don’t quite now what to make of Mike Hulme’s comment. There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with there being a disagreement about whether something is worthwhile or not. It could mean nothing at all really. He also, strictly speaking, may have a point. In an ideal world, a consensus paper would be unnecessary. The literature would simply reflect that some kind of agreement had been reached. So, maybe Mike Hulme believes that such work is unnecessary and that publishing such a paper reflects poorly on the field. Maybe Mike Hulme thinks that this makes it appear as though climate science is unable to make the “consensus” obvious without publishing such a paper and hence makes it seem that the “consensus” isn’t real. Also, such a paper might make it seem that the they’re claiming that the “science is settled” because there is a consensus, rather than the other way around.

There is, however, a problem with this interpretation. Most scientific fields do not have people making claims about whether or not a consensus exists. Typically, people have some faith in the scientists. If a scientist is interviewed and explains the current scientific understanding, most people are happy to listen. That there might be a few scientists who disagree, doesn’t really play a role. Climate science is, however, a field where not only are some claiming that there is no “consensus”, but is also a field where some are promoting the work done by those who are in the minority (in terms of their scientific ideas at least). In my opinion at least, a paper such as that by Cook et al. is necessary so as to point out that those claiming that there is no consensus are wrong.

Cook et al. is not trying to claim that the science is settled because there is a consensus. It’s trying to point out that a “consensus” exists so as to address those claiming that it doesn’t. The science might not be settled, but there is much more agreement within the scientific community than many would have you believe. I realise that many are using the Cook et al. paper to argue that science isn’t done by consensus and hence that the paper illustrates a fundamental problem with climate science, but I still think that such a paper has value. Eventually, the message will have to get out there and it will become clear that there is strong agreement about the science. There may be aspects of the paper that will turn out to be counter-productive (i.e., people using it to argue against the consensus), but I still think that you do need to do something to address the claims made by those who want people to believe that there is no agreement within the climate science community. So, maybe Mike Hulme thinks otherwise, but I think he’s wrong.

Maybe my sense of what is driving Mike Hulme’s views is also wrong. According to his Wikipedia entry he is also quoted as saying

At the very least, the publication of private CRU e-mail correspondence should be seen as a wake-up call for scientists – and especially for climate scientists. The key lesson to be learnt is that not only must scientific knowledge about climate change be publicly owned – the IPCC does a fair job of this according to its own terms – but that in the new century of digital communication and an active citizenry, the very practices of scientific enquiry must also be publicly owned.

This seems like a rather strange thing to say. I’ve read quite a few of the climategate emails and, as far as I can tell, they’ve largely been mis-interpreted or taken out of context. Is Mike Hulme implying that there’s something to the claims being made with regards to these emails? Is he really suggesting that we should be making all our correspondence open? That seems highly unrealistic. I know it’s probably sensible now to consider what someone might make of an email were it to be made public, but that doesn’t mean that it should all be public. Not only would they almost certainly be taken out of context or mis-interpreted, presumably it’s also reasonable that even scientists could have robust exchanges with colleagues without having to worry that what they say may be scrutinised by those who don’t understand either the science or the scientific method.

So, maybe I’ve completely mis-interpreted Mike Hulme’s comment. If anyone can add more context through the comments, it would be appreciated. I was also going to add something about Richard Tol’s criticism of the 97% consensus paper, but I’ll leave that for a later post.

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41 Responses to Mike Hulme and the 97% consensus

  1. tlitb1 says:

    “I don’t want to say much about the actual post, but it does seem to be written be someone who thinks it’s more important to philsophize about science, than actually do science – or maybe, more correctly, someone who thinks they can judge science by philosophizing about science.”

    You seem to miss the irony that you then go on to do nothing else but philosphise about science. Or more particularly, you speculate and judge Mike Hulme’s thought processes on science from little material.

    If you want some more information on Mike Hulmes stance it might be worth checking out some of the sceptic blogs. For instance this thread has some relevant background and ongoing Hulme talk:


    some of the commentary isn’t very flattering to Hulme but I would say is well informed.

  2. You may have a point about this post :-), but why not try reading some of my others. Plus, even if I have it doesn’t make Ben Pile’s post any more credible!

  3. Tom Curtis says:

    You point out an irony, but cannot see the irony in referring us to the baseless speculation that “informs” the discussion at Bishop Hill as providing “relevant background”.

  4. tlitb1 says:

    Oh, dear Tom sorry you are struggling in “seeing” anything useful there. Though I am impressed that you however see some irony – though it seems a new definition of irony to me at least, I am learning something! 😉

    I am sure that your judgement about what is “relevant” must be very important to, er, you; so to save you any further horror in exploring the actual comments there I have harvested a few Hulme related links that posters referenced on that page:




    “Why We Disagree About Climate Change”

    Anybody else braver may want to go to BH and work out the context and commentary those links were associated with! 😉

  5. Tom Curtis says:

    There is a large measure of idiocy in Ben Pile’s post, and in Mike Hulme’s endorsement of it.

    Pile’s fundamental argument is that the Cook 97% paper maps “a consensus without an object”, ie, a consensus that “… can mean whatever the likes of Davey and Nuccitelli want it to mean”. In support of that Pile quotes many “skeptics” who claim that they, too belong to the consensus. By that they mean only that they accept that the planck temperature response to a the radiative forcing of doubling CO2 is approximately 1 C.

    The first thing to notice is that there is a large measure of incoherence here, for those same “skeptics” accept Nicola Scaffeta’s claim that his paper, Phenomenological solar contribution to the 1900–2000 global surface warming was incorrectly classified by Cook et al. Scaffeta bases this, in part, on a claim that the paper says that “… the IPCC view is erroneous because about 40-70% of the global warming observed from 1900 to 2000 was induced by the sun”, which indeed would mandate a classification of the paper as rejecting the consensus. However, what the abstract actually said was:

    “We estimate that the sun contributed as much as 45–50% of the 1900–2000 global warming, and 25–35% of the 1980–2000 global warming.”

    (my emphasis)

    Bear in mind that the Cook et al raters only had access to the name and abstract of the paper, and can only rate on information contained therein. Therefore if it is only information in the paper itself, and not in the abstract which requires the rating to be different, then Cook et al have not made a mistake. Consequently, what the paper says is irrelevant. What is relevant is what is asserted in the abstract. Now, interestingly, “as much as” and “at most” are very similar in meaning. The both indicate the upper limit. So what the abstract actually asserts is that at most 35% of warming from 1980-2000 was from solar forcing. And if at most 35% from solar forcing, then near 65% from anthropogenic forcings, the only other major player in the field. And that is certainly a firm endorsement of the IPCC position (in 2007) that more than 50% of warming over the last 50 years was anthropogenic in origin. We could quibble about whether the correct abstract rating should be a 1 or a 2, but those quibbles are nothing to our concerns about Scaffeta’s apparent misrepresentation of the conclusions of his study in the abstract.

    Evidently aware of the weakness of his claim, Scaffeta goes on the attack and states:

    “Please note that it is very important to clarify that the AGW advocated by the IPCC has always claimed that 90-100% of the warming observed since 1900 is due to anthropogenic emissions. While critics like me have always claimed that the data would approximately indicate a 50-50 natural-anthropogenic contribution at most.”

    The first thing to notice is that this is a baldfaced lie. The IPCC’s conclusion in 2007 was that:

    “Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic GHG concentrations.[8] This is an advance since the TAR’s conclusion that “most of the observed warming over the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in GHG concentrations” (Figure 2.5). {WGI 9.4, SPM}”

    Further, the IPCC has (since at least 2001) consistently represented the warming in the first half of the twentieth century as consistent with natural forcing alone (though more coherent with natural plus anthropogenic forcing). These positions are very well known, so there is scant possibility that Scaffeta has simply misunderstood them.

    More importantly, and bringing us back on topic, this is a straightforward attempt to redefine the consensus position by Scaffeta. Thus, according to Scaffeta the real consensus position is that humans have caused 90-100% of warming since 1900. Crucially, not one single commenter at WUWT, nor one single person I have seen quote Scaffeta’s paper as an example of a misclassified paper has seen fit to disavow Scaffeta’s misrepresentation of the consensus opinion. If we suppose them to be honest and informed critics, that means they all believe the consensus is at least 90% of warming since 1900, and now we learn in addition that they all accept that consensus. Who knew?

    The fact is that claims of a low consensus bar are refuted by the classification system in the paper. Based on the paper, if you “explicitly minimize [or] reject AGW as less than 50%”, you reject the consensus. So, we now know, apparently that all those AGW critics believe that AGW is responsible for 50%+ of warming over at least the last 50 years (and possibly over the twentieth century). There is no other coherent way to read the paper.

    I know for a fact that many of those critics endorse very low climate sensitivities that imply that anthropogenic factors cannot be the cause of most of global warming, even since 1980. They routinely say as much, indicating that while anthropogenic factors may have contributed some part of the warming, the warming is overwhelmingly natural in origin. Therefore, I can only assume that their claim to belong to the “consensus position” of Cook et al it tactical. At best it is dreadfully misinformed.

    Ben Pile should have known this. He certainly should have suspected it, given the known position of his informants. He absolutely should not have only taken the opinions of known critics of AGW and Cook in forming his view of how the consensus was defined in Cook et al. Doing so shows him either to be entirely partisan in his outlook, or idiotic.

    And in endorsing Ben Pile’s comment, Mike Hulme (who is certainly not partisan) shows his intervention to be idiotic and ill informed. He has merely accepted the propaganda of climate science deniers and treated it as straightforward fact. He has done so without any attempt to check with the original authors as to whether or not the opinion was fair. Frankly, from a scientist, such ill informed and inflammatory comments are a disgrace.

  6. Martin Vermeer says:

    Mike Hulme is a lost cause. Waiting for him to go Aunt Judy

  7. Tom Curtis says:

    Martin, some of what he says is actually very sensible. Unfortunately his insistence that the policy debate is not determined by the science (which is true) clouds him to the fact that you can’t have the real policy debate while one side of politics is determinedly ignoring the science. If you cannot agree on either principles of action, nor on the underlying science, what basis remains for reaching agreement? One of my great frustrations in the climate change debate is that conservatives in the US and Australia are hampering themselves with denialism, thus preventing the real debate that should exist.

    Further, he appears to have picked up that strange censorial attitude noteworthy also in von Storch which presumes that because they do not believe that AGW will lead to catastrophe (which is a respectable position inside the consensus), that therefore scientists who do believe that it will (also a respectable position inside the consensus) must not state that belief in public.

    Perhaps it is a weird reflection of the pernicious practice of reporting (or claiming) that “science says” this or that, as if science was an independent person. Science says nothing, but scientists say much, and much that disagrees with each other. It appears that Hulme and von Storch want to maintain that monolithic voice, while insisting it be as cautious in its claims as they are.

  8. andrew adams says:

    He seems to make a big thing about “catastrophic” being a value-laden and thus unscientific word, which therefore should not be used by scientists. But I think that depends on where and how it is used; it may be inappropriate for a scientific paper, but surely there are some possible outcomes of AGW which (even if people might disagree on their likelihood) could quite uncontroversially be considered “catastrophic”. Even if value judgements are inherently subjective there must be some values which are widely shared enough that we can assert them without controversy, otherwise it would be impossible to have meaningful discussions on many political issues.

  9. I think what you’re saying is something I’ve wondered as well. There’s a difference between what is said in the literature and what scientists might say when asked to explain the significance of their work to the public or to policy makers. In an ideal world, maybe they could remain impassive and simply present the results as they would in the literature. In the first place, this isn’t an ideal world. Secondly, noone would listen and the media would simply ignore it. Thirdly, sometimes scientists will believe that their research has implications that they couldn’t necessarily present in the literature but that they might want to expose more widely.

  10. chris says:

    Ben Pile is in a difficult position (as is Andrew Neil) in that he/they wish to make strong statements but don’t understand the science terribly well (rather disgracefully so, in my opinion, since he/they seem not to have made much effort to do so). As a result they’re forced to “choose sides” and perhaps for that reason are obsessed with the “consensus” issue. Rather appallingly they seem to rely for “information” on sources that are demonstrably and objectively suspect.

    Pile wishes to assert that “the science has changed” and suggests climate science now has a ““missing heat” theory” which is “controversial” and “embryonic”. He asserts that this is a “theory” claimed by “climate advocates” to explain a decade without much surface warming.

    That’s nonsense. Enhanced uptake of thermal energy into the oceans and especially its transfer to the deep oceans isn’t a “theory”; it’s an observation. The observation fits entirely within standard scientific understanding of the greenhouse effect and the Earth response. The particular configuration of the Earth response to greenhouse forcing over the last decade or so (increased deep ocean heat uptake; greatly accelerated Arctic sea ice depletion) wasn’t predicted, but that doesn’t mean that the fundamental understanding of the greenhouse effect has changed. It’s an indication that the forced response to enhanced greenhouse gas levels occurs on top of natural variability some of which as far as we can tell is stochastic and poorly predictable…..we know that quite well.

    Pile (and Andrew Neil, it seems) absolutely does not wish to discuss the science nor to explore the scientific evidence that informs scientific consensus. I suspect it’s very important for them that they don’t do so, else they might discover that the scientists largely know what they’re talking about and that the “consensus” position is one based on a strong scientific evidence base. Pile in his blog post wishes to pursue the falsehood that in highlighting a position of scientific consensus one is making a “faith”-based judgement. Unfortunately, in choosing to remain ignorant of the science he has no possibility of recognizing that his position is fallacious. Still since he (and Andrew Neil) are commentators (rather than scientists or policy makers) maybe that doesn’t matter very much.

  11. You make an interesting and valid point. Maybe you’re essentially saying this, but something that I find interesting is this issue of how much people trust scientists. There’s really no question that, in my field, if someone (a reporter, commentator) wanted to know something they’d phone a scientist. It’s happened to me in the past. However, it seems as though some have managed to get the idea that climate scientists can’t be trusted into the public psyche. It therefore seems that people like Andrew Neil (and maybe Ben Pile) feel that, to be objective, they need to get their information from another source which almost certainly means that they will be poorly informed even if their source tries their best to give them good information.

  12. chris says:

    Yes I think you’re spot on, and that’s how I see it. I really can’t remember the last time I saw a climate scientist (e.g.a physical climate scientist or a solar scientist or an atmospheric scientist) interviewed on TV although there a numerous “celebrity scientists” that participate in TV programs on a whole range of subjects.

    Why, for example, when climate science is discussed/debated do we not hear the views of someone like Mike Lockwood from Reading Uni. who is hugely knowledgeable, personable and articulate? You could multiply this 100 times. In every University in the UK (or say the “top 50”), there must be two or three active, knowledgeable scientists with appropriate expertise to comment on the science. Why does no one in the media wish to talk to these people?

    I suspect it’s (i) partly for the reason you suggest, (ii) partly because the antiscience perspectives are more vociferous and seem more interesting, (iii) because climate science even in the UK has become a partisan issue and many of the commentators (like Pile and Neil) have chosen to side with the “blog-science” circus, (iv) due to the false-equivalence afforded to contentious issues in even the reputable media and (v) because a significant part of the media have some mixed agendas and its not in their interests that to present a scientifically-robust point of view . Maybe some other reasons too.

    It’s very unfortunate since I suspect most people, given the choice, would choose to be properly informed of the science….

  13. tallbloke says:

    In his Second comment, Prof. Hulme gets quite specfic about what he thinks is wrong with the Cook/Nuccitelli 97% consensus paper:
    Mike Hulme July 25, 2013 at 4:00 pm
    “As to being confused, in one place the paper claims to be exploring “the level of scientific consensus that human activity is very likely causing most of the current GW” and yet the headline conclusion is based on rating abstracts according to whether “humans are causing global warming”. These are two entirely different judgements. The irrelevance is because none of the most contentious policy responses to climate change are resolved *even if* we accept that 97.1% of climate scientists believe that “human activity is very likely causing most of the current GW” (which of course is not what the study has shown). And more broadly, the sprawling scientific knowledge about climate and its changes cannot helpfully be reduced to a single consensus statement, however carefully worded.”

  14. > I don’t quite now what to make of Mike Hulme’s comment.

    I think it very well exemplifies this argument:

    So let me lay out my core argument: which is that insufficient attention is paid by the global change knowledge community to the multiple ways in which knowledge is political; and, the corollary, that there is insufficient recognition that questions of representation in knowledge-making are just as important as questions of representation in politics.

    Click to access 3S%20WP%202012-15.pdf

    Mike’s emphasis.

    To me, the curious case of Mike Hulme, i.e. what he chose to say and the reaction to it, does illustrate quite well representation in knowledge-making.

  15. > Based on the paper, if you “explicitly minimize [or] reject AGW as less than 50%”, you reject the consensus.

    Yeah, but Ben Pile insists in parsing category 3 as worded ex nihilo, basically the trick Chief Hydrologist tried to pull one week ago:

    The Cook analysis of abstracts refers to – inter alia – explicit support for AGW without quantification. Accepting the simple atmospheric radiative physics – within the framework of a larger and more complex system count as support for the consensus according to John Cook.


    Judy deleted (?) a big chunk of the discussion that followed. Even Chief could not keep on arguing that Roy misled Congress, under oath. He had to deflect and editorialize on the overall quality of Cook & al.


    Also note the pea and thimble game:

    (1) Under thimble 1, have a Roy Spencer that claims he’s part of the 97%.

    (2) Under thimble 1, have a Nicolla Scafetta that claims he’s not part of the 97%.

    (3) Forget about the pea and win.

    There you go: another curious case of representation in knowledge-making.

  16. Erratum:

    > Even Chief could not keep on arguing against the fact that Roy misled Congress, under oath.

    Roy misrepresented both Cook & al and his own studies.

  17. Tom Curtis says:

    tallbloke, I cannot find that comment at Making Science Public. Do you have a link?

    As to what is said, for somebody who prattles on about the importance of different ways of knowing, and the need to include humanities within the ambit of the IPCC, Mike Hulme is pretty clueless. Had he a slight clue he would know about such important matters in the humanities as conversational implicature, and context.

    Conversational implicature is the process of implying things by use of normal conventions of conversation that you be honest, forthright and relevant. Thus, if you say that “humans are causing global warming”, the assumption that you are forthright allows the implication that humans are the main cause of global warming. That is because a forthright person who believed that some other factor was the main cause of global warming would mention that. They would say, “Humans cause some global warming, but most global warming is caused by X”. If the person believed that anthropogenic factors were only a very minor component, simply saying “Humans cause global warming” would also violate rules of relevance. The should instead say that “Humans cause some global warming, but only an inconsequential amount.” So the first thing that is evident is that Hulme, in his comparison of supposedly distinct statements, is simply ignoring conversational implicature. In consequence he is treating two phrases which convey the same information to anyone who has not set out ab initio to score rhetorical points as being entirely distinct.

    Second, and this is an inexcusable lapse as interpretation in context is a cardinal rule in all academic disciplines, he ignores context. In this case the essential context is the actual definitions of the ratings categories, and the need to interpret them (if at all possible) as mutually consistent and non-overlapping. Given those constraints, any abstract indicating that <50% of recent warming was caused by humans must be rated as rejecting the hypothesis that "Humans cause global warming", and therefore "Humans cause global warming" is seen to be short hand for "Humans have caused most of recent global warming."

    We then move on to this bizarre statement:

    “The irrelevance is because none of the most contentious policy responses to climate change are resolved *even if* we accept that 97.1% of climate scientists believe that “human activity is very likely causing most of the current GW””

    (My emphasis)

    Perhaps I should not say “bizarre”, but rather “arrogant”. The key point is that part of the quote which I did not underline is true; but that nobody has appointed Mike Hulme sovereign of what ends people may or may not pursue, and therefore what means are relevant.

    In fact, there exists a concerted disinformation campaign one of whose key strategies is to underplay the level of scientific agreement about global warming. Given that, it is perfectly appropriate for somebody to what to actually assess the level of that agreement; and perfectly reasonable to want to counter the false arguments that the level of scientific agreement is small. And whether or not the level of agreement in the literature to the claim that humans have caused greater than 50% of recent warming is near 97% or closer to 50% is very relevant to that issue (and the correctness of my ascriptions of which side is indulging in disinformation.)

    Hulme’s comment is a bizarre (and unfortunately common) solipsism that assumes that “only that which is relevant to my concerns is relevant”.

    I should note that Hulme is very much in a minority on this point. The “skeptical” response to Cook et al (2013) has not been “Yawn, isn’t that completely irrelevant.” On the contrary, it has been, if anything, obsessive. Certainly Ben Pile thinks it is a relevant issue because he wants to show the paper to be flawed.

  18. Tom Curtis says:

    I can just see the Hulme IPCC. The full plenary session in which each sect of Islam, Christianity, Budhism or what have you has a delegation to represent their own individual methods of “knowledge making”; where each class, craft, and profession separately for each (oral) linguistic community and gender also has a delegation to represent their methods of “knowledge making”; and where, of necessity nothing can be the consensus opinion of the scientific community (ie, that which the IPCC is mandated to report upon) if it does not have the imprimature of the Cornwall Alliance (with its unique method of “knowledge making” should be quite entertaining.

  19. Pingback: Tom Curtis Doesn’t Understand the 97% Paper » Climate Resistance

  20. Paul Matthews says:

    Your puzzlement shows that as usual you have no understanding of the issues at all. I suggest you go and read Hulme’s book, and the writings of Kahan that I linked to at the MSP blog.

  21. Pingback: The Climate Change Debate Thread - Page 2870

  22. chris says:

    Could you be more specific Paul Matthews? Rather than referring to other’s opinions, why not voice your criticisms explicitly. An insult “You puzzlement…” isn’t an argument.

    I suspect that many here have read Kahan’s blogged opinions. It was helpful that Kahan acknowledged his initial response to Cook et al was poor…we might also agree with Kahan’s points about the ability of studies like that of Cook et al. to materially change public perception of climate science. That’s a worthwhile debate. To my mind, disseminating evidence and facts into the public domain can only be a good thing – why not comprehensively describe the nature of the consensus with respect to the vast body of published science? It’s an astonishing point of view that considers it a bad idea to make careful scientific analyses and disseminate these.

    Speaking as a scientist I find it curious that commentators are so willing to base viewpoints about significant issues on the opinions of (inter alia) bloggers. So, for example, Kahan states:

    “The Cook et al. study, which in my view is an elegantly designed and executed empirical assessment, doesn’t meaningfully enlarge knowledge of the state of scientific opinion on climate change.”

    Pile says:

    “Accordingly, rather than being a dispassionate study into scientific opinion, the 97% survey was a superficially academic exercise, intended to obfuscate the substance of the climate debate.”

    Hulme says:

    “The “97% consensus” article is poorly conceived, poorly designed and poorly executed.”

    This is all opinionating ..yes? A scientific study can’t at the same time be “elegantly designed and executed”, “poorly conceived, poorly designed and poorly executed” and “a superficially academic exercise”.

    What’s your opinion Paul Matthews? Do you agree with Kahan’s statement above? Can you back up your opinion with a first-hand argument?

  23. Getting the specifications for the design, the conception and the execution of such kind of study from contrarians or honest brokers themselves would be nice.

    For starters, having proper weights and an asymmetrical Kappa on the proper items, i.e. the dual ratings of the ABSTRACTS, with or without adjudication.

    As it is, contrarians are yet again indulging in PR hit jobs.

  24. dana1981 says:

    You’re right that one reason our study is useful is that contrarians often argue there is no consensus. It’s also useful because they’ve been successful in confusing the public on the subject. The public still thinks climate scientists are split on what’s causing global warming. We discussed all this in our paper of course, and I’m discussing it in a guest blog post for the Making Science Public blog next week.

    Hulme seems to have issues with how the IPCC forms its consensus position. I’m not sure if he even read our paper, or just reacted to the term ‘consensus’ based on his IPCC criticisms. Anyway, as I said, I’ll have more about this in my guest post next week.

    I agree with Tom Curtis’ comment on Pile’s guest post, which was pretty terrible. Not only in his mischaracterizations of our paper, but also in his defense and praise of Andrew Neil. I thought it was pretty appalling.

  25. Scientist do not talk about CAGW, but about climate change. If you see the term CAGW or CACC, you can be quite sure the person in a climate ostrich and not a scientist.

  26. tlitb1 says:


    Since you have not commented or may have missed it. There is an article on Ben Pile’s web site that highlights a mistake in a comment by Tom Curtis above. In his paragraph:

    “The fact is that claims of a low consensus bar are refuted by the classification system in the paper. Based on the paper, if you “explicitly minimize [or] reject AGW as less than 50%”, you reject the consensus. So, we now know, apparently that all those AGW critics believe that AGW is responsible for 50%+ of warming over at least the last 50 years (and possibly over the twentieth century). There is no other coherent way to read the paper.”

    The “consensus bar” here has to mean a single defining line under which the whole 97% of the consensus sits. So therefore Curtis asserts that all of the 97% must

    “believe that AGW is responsible for 50%+ of warming over at least the last 50 years”

    There is no other coherent way to read what he said.

    Do you agree with this?

  27. Al Bore says:

    They only agreed it could not would.

  28. I was just watching a AGU Chapman climate communication video by Mark McCaffrey. He claims (2:20 minutes into the talk) given a reference to the six Americas study, which I did not read, that climate scientists are actually even trusted more than average scientists.

    We should be very careful in not picking up the mad themes of WUWT and start to believe them. This is actually one reason I find it very pleasant to follow WUWT via the posts on this blog. Actually reading that nonsense pollutes your brain and to quote a colleague: “it would be like repeatedly bashing my head against a brick wall while listening to Abba.”

    The talk of Stephan Lewandowsky at the same conference is about how the “skeptic” nonsense may unconsciously influence the interpretation of scientist and that scientists should not be in denial that aggressive attacks on them influence them.

  29. Tom Curtis says:

    tlitb1, I have read that appalling piece of crap. It may convince those who want to be convinced, but not any discerning critic.

    At one point Pile argues against my contention that his interpretation of “endorses global warming” is incorrect because it makes the classification system unnecessarily inconsistent by simply asserting the classification system is inconsistent. Apparently he has never heard of the principle of charity in criticisms, ie, that in interpreting the works of others you construe them as consistent if it is possible to do so. In this case it is certainly possible to do so so choosing the inconsistent interpretation so that you can criticize the paper for inconsistency merely indicates that you are determined to criticize the paper regardless of its actual merits.

  30. Bernard Murphy says:

    I suspect you may be trying to move goalposts here Dana. Hulme’s comments were most definitely pointed at Cook et al, and not, as you appear to be suggesting, at how the IPCC forms its consensus position. You may need to read Hulme’s comment again, more slowly this time..

  31. Ahh, Paul. Back again to make a moderately insulting comment about my abilities. Thanks for taking the time.

  32. tlitb1, I find it amazing that Hulme as a social scientist does not distinguish between “climate change” and “climate change mitigation policy”, as least in the video you linked to. I thought it was typical for social scientists to be very careful in their definition of terms.

    Such sloppy thinking is something I would not expect from a scientist. In case of climate ostriches, you do often have the impression that they deny the scientific evidence because they do not like the policies. It would be more logical to fight the policies; they do not directly flow from the mere existence of global warming.

  33. tlitb1 says:

    @Victor Venema

    Mike Hulme may be operating out of his skill set when he speaks “as a social scientist” but he definitely has qualifications in applied climatology.

    Click to access Hulme-Research-narrative.pdf

  34. I don’t dispute that he is a serious academic and hence I was interested in why he appeared to have taken the position that he has. It’s not a bad thing for there to be disagreement in the community as how best to present something (or to not present it at all). I happen to disagree with what I think his views are on this issue, but that doesn’t necessarily make him wrong.

  35. chris says:

    That’s a good point Victor. Your linked Chapman Climate Communication video is only one of several indications that the gross misrepresentation of climate science and bullying of climate scientists is not making much traction amongst the public at large. Here’s another example that indicates that people (especially the younger amongst the US citizenry) are not taken in by WUWT-style chicanery…

  36. Pingback: Closing down the debate! | Wotts Up With That Blog

  37. Fragmeister says:

    Interestingly, Ben Pile has a connection to UKIP http://www.badscience.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=19285&start=175#p1057420. Read the comments at Bad Science Forum.

    Are there any other contrarians with connections to UKIP?

  38. Yes, somebody else pointed this out. I was wondering the same as you recently. Certainly a couple of people on Twitter who I have had sporadic exchanges with appear to be associated with UKIP. Tallbloke is according to his Twitter description. Far be it from me to ascribe any significance to this, but it has certainly crossed my mind that this link has cropped up every now and again.

  39. Fragmeister says:

    Monckton was a UKIP grandee at one point. The Bad Science Forum comments recall Pile’s time commenting there a few years back. Don’t think it went well.

    As a ps, this was linked to from that forum – http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/aug/06/the-sun-wrong-green-energy-costs. – one way to slightly mislead (Guardian taking The Sun to task)

  40. Mike Hulme says:

    Is everyone sure the comments actually coming from the real Mike Hulme.

    As demonstrated above, it’s pretty easy to add any name you like to a blog post.

    – Rob Honeycutt

  41. Rob/Mike, judging by the response I think you got somewhere else, I get the impression that it really is Mike Hulme. Admittedly, I hadn’t considered that it wasn’t, but where he was commenting (MSP) did lead to me assume that it likely was him (of course, I could have been wrong).

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