Watt about Roger Pielke Jr?

Watts Up With That (WUWT) has a Weekly climate and energy news roundup in which they normally include a quote of the week. This week’s quote is by Roger Pielke Jr and is

A difficult question for the climate science community is, how is it that this broad community of researchers — full of bright and thoughtful people — allowed intolerant activists who make false claims to certainty to become the public face of the field? – Roger Pielke, Jr.

I wonder what Roger will make of his quote being highlighted on a contrarian blog run by a meteorologist who doesn’t seem to understand basic science, that has some of the most intolerant commenters that I have ever encountered on an online forum (or anywhere for that matter), and that promotes contributions that are either childish, trivially wrong, or appeal more to magic than to science? My guess is that Roger doesn’t see a problem (and maybe also has trouble with the concept of irony), but maybe others have more insight in this regard than I do.

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108 Responses to Watt about Roger Pielke Jr?

  1. Martin says:

    Well, I can try to make sense of this quote (emphasizing that this is not identical with what I think about it): What he probably implies is that scientists not only allowed this to happen, but aligned with those claims (be it by failing to contradict them, be it by actively supporting them), while no such thing can be said w/r/t skeptics. This would be odd, not because such scientists would not exist, but because one would have to ignore the likes of Gavin Schmitt (who take their role as communicators very seriously, and debunks whatever nonsense he finds) on the one side, and Curry and Pielke Sr. (who actively push the skeptics’ case) on the other side – but I think it is what he believes.

  2. I found the “allowed” a little strange in that it’s hard to see how scientists could have stopped such a thing (if Pielke Jr’s claim has merit). So, as you say, presumably he’s implying that they haven’t acted to debunk alarmist claims made by activists. I’ve only been actively involved in this debate for less than a year and I’ve seen quite a number of examples of scientists openly criticising unfounded alarmist claims (Gavin Schmidt being a good example). So, it’s not obivous that such a claim has merit. Additionally, his criticism would have more merit if he openly debunked obvious errors on the skeptic side of argument. Something I don’t think I’ve seen either of Curry or Pielke (Jr or Sr) do.

  3. Since I mentioned appealing to magic, I’ve just noticed Dana’s new Guardian post discussing his recent paper that debunks Akasofu’s recovery from the LIA claim.

  4. It is probably no coincidence that Gavin Schmitt is active in debunking wrong alarmist claims. You need to understand a topic very well before you can claim that a certain consequence is not possible.

    The best contribution scientists can make to the climate debate is to point out errors on coming from all sides. Personally, I have refrained from complaining about such claims I expected intuitively to be exaggerated a few times as I did not feel knowledgeable enough. Unfortunately for me, I have not seen any alarmists complaining about homogenization, were I would be able to respond with confidence.

    It would be nice if the climate ostriches would also make claims that are not trivially wrong and would at least require some domain expertise to refute. That would make a large improvement in the debate.

  5. Yes, you make a good point. It seems as though it is much more straightforward to debunk arguments on one side of the debate than on the other as the errors are more funrdamental and easier to spot. Most scientists would be able to spot that the Arctic sea ice did not recover in 2013 and that the 40% or increase (relative to 2012) is not an indicator of some kind of reversal. Debunking the methane bomb articles, however, seems much harder given that more detailed understanding is needed to know if those claims are credbile or not.

  6. Lars Karlsson says:

    “It would be nice if the climate ostriches would also make claims that are not trivially wrong and would at least require some domain expertise to refute.”

    Maybe they do that sometimes, but we are too busy critisising their really dumb errors.

  7. dbostrom says:

    RPJr. is a fine one to talk, when it comes to over-egging. Squealing and waving his pom-poms in encouragement to the witch-burners hunting Pachauri, but where was Junior’s bucket of cold water, in the end? All the claims were false, as was Junior’s judgement. Nary a word about it since. Graceless.

  8. Yes, it does seem that some have much higher expectations of others than of themselves.

  9. BBD says:

    RPJr’s behaviour over Marcott et al. (2013) was appalling. Laugh at me if you will, but until then, I hadn’t realised how profoundly unbalanced his views really were.

  10. I noticed even somewhat credible people yesterday complaining about the Marcott graph being used in a BBC (I think) article. Stating, it’s been completely discredited, when that’s nothing like the truth. In fact, the Marcott paper is a great (sad?) example of the difficult position climate scientists appear to be in. They completely and honestly explained the uncertainties in their work and now people use that to claim it’s all completely wrong.

  11. BBD says:

    Another success for the denial machine. Watts and McIntyre went into hysterical overdrive when M13 was published, and their false claims have now entered the public consciousness. This is how it works. Hence my occasional failure of good humour when discussing denier lies and their insertion via the media into public – and therefore political – discourse.

  12. Indeed. Were you aware that Andrew Montford appeared on BCC news report yesterday discussing the upcoming IPCC report? The item essentially focused on uncertainties with statements like “maybe the heat is going into oceans” and “it could be the Sun”. So, Montford was interviewed and said something alone the lines of “it’s good that the uncertainties are being more clearly presented”. I have no issue with anyone who is asked to appear on a news report, appearing. I do, however, have an issue with a major public news organisation deciding that a self-employed blogger should be given airtime when discussing climate science.

  13. BBD says:

    I heard. I posted a furious rant elsewhere, this not being the ideal venue for furious rants about the idiot bloody Tristrams at the BBC and their manifest incompetence.

  14. Nick says:

    Pielke Jrs comment has it all: concern trolling, barefaced cheek, and no information value whatsoever other than signalling he’s still here being dumbly provocative. How could climate scientists allow this? After all their real role is to micro-manage every single freely and independently expressed view flowing from their work. Pielke’s rhetorical question appears superficially ‘thoughtful’, but it’s just numbingly stupid because the answer is so damn obvious.

  15. andrew adams says:

    The whole report was confused – it was trying so hard to be “balanced” that it shoe-horned in all kinds of contradictory information and lacked any coherence. I think any disinterested member of the public watching would have been less rather than more well informed afterwards.

    As for Montford, well whatever one thinks of him personally I don’t see any justification for including him. I don’t think any report on a complex tehnical issue is ever improved by saying “here’s what some unqualified guy on the internet thinks”. Myles Allen’s comments were perfectly measured and cautious and didn’t require any contrasing “skeptical” view. In fact in a silly attempt at “balance” they just made the report unbalanced – surely they should have included someone with a strong “hawkish” views as well.

  16. andrew adams says:

    Just to clarify, the report I saw was the one on the 6 o’clock news – I’m not sure if the later one was exactly the same.

  17. andrew adams says:

    And just to bring the two strands of this sub-thread together, here’s a quote from Montford’s latest blog post

    It’s hard to imagine a more thoroughly discredited scientific result than the Marcott graph, which must rank amongst climatology’s most shameful moments.

    And we’re supposed to take this guy seriously?

  18. Andrew, I saw the 10 o’clock report and it sounds as though it was similar if not the same.

    I agree about Montford. The report was about the evidence likely to be presented by the IPCC. You don’t need some skeptical view to provide balance. The scientists provided enough themselves. Given his views on Marcott and that he’s written a book called “The Hockey Stick Illusion” it really is hard to see why he should be taken seriously.

  19. BBD says:

    Well, based on Montford’s statement about M13 we can say, with confidence, that he is either unable to understand the paper or he is lying about it. In either case, he should not have spoken.

  20. andrew adams says:

    Wotts,

    The thing is, in the Twitter exchange we had with Tamsin last night she was adamant that he has genuine questions about the science and is making a good faith attempt to address what he sees as real issues, and she has obviously met him in person and had a number of personal exchanges with him and I have no reason to doubt her experience.

    But that’s certainly not the impression I have got either from looking at his blog, from what I know of his books or from his various public pronouncements – he comes across as just another guy with an a priori assumption that the whole of climate science is flawed and/or corrupt and is looking to find small any flaws in the science to sieze on and prove his case. So maybe we really are misunderstanding him, but if that’s the case I can only say that he only has himself to blame (if he cares at all, which I doubt).

  21. Yes, that’s my general impression too. Whether right or not, I’m not very good at (or comfortable with) being particularly blunt with people who appear to be discussing things in good faith and pleasantly. So, I found the disucssion with Tamsin interesting and pleasant but I agree that it’s hard to see how Tamsin can interpret the behaviour of someone like Andrew Montford as being consistent with someone who simply has genuine questions. Maybe we are mis-undersanding him but writing a book (published in 2010) called the “Hockey Stick Illusion” would suggest that he has some rather strong (and unfounded) prior assumptions about climate science/scientists.

    I do have a lot of sympathy with what I think Tamsin is trying to do and I don’t think that she should simply accept everyone elses’s word with regards to how to view other people. I felt the same way when I started engaging in this debate. I also thought that being willing to discuss this with anyone would be valuable and I didn’t like it when others expressed the view that I shouldn’t. I have, however, learned that they were almost certainly right in many, or most, cases. I do think Tamsin should do whatever she wants and learn for herself how best to engage. I just hope that her good faith isn’t taken advantage of.

  22. Tom Curtis says:

    There is no contradiction between Tamsin’s impression of Montford and what appears in his blogs and books. A sociable person in the flesh will come across as they view themselves. I presume that Montford (and McIntyre, and Watts, and Bray) regard themselves as genuine seekers after truth. Certainly, I have no reason to think otherwise, ie, that they are actively dishonest. At the same time, their search (now excluding Bray) is definitely truncated which will not permit them to allow that climatologists have genuine insights, know what they are doing, and are finding strong empirical support for their views. Exposure to their thought at length, and in a format where you can go back and check what they actually said and did shows this clearly.

  23. The tolerance of environmentalists.

  24. Tom, I would largely agree. I too have no real reason to believe that any of them are actively dishonest. I would say, however, that – in my limited experience – it might be wise to consider the possibility that even if people believe themselves to be genuine seekers of truth, they may not necessarily correctly represent any discussion you might have with them when repeating such discussions at a later stage. Again, this may not be because of any active dishonesty, but it does seem that it’s worthwhile being very careful how one engages in discussions with some, if only to avoid later confusion. I, to be fair, have regularly failed in this particular regard.

  25. I’m assuming that that is meant as a not so subtle jibe. Since you’ve commented, I’ve always been a little confused as to why some regard “environmentalists” as some kind of insult. Care to clarify, assuming that it was intended in this manner.

  26. It’s even quite clever in that it appears quite complimentary – “full of bright and thoughtful people”.

  27. BBD says:

    If Montford is “honest”, why does he ban commenters who disagree with his line from his blog? I know he does this, because I was one of them and there are plenty of others who will attest to this.

  28. Andrew Adams,

    Was this

    the Twitter exchange?

    If that is, I’ve seen worse.

  29. I think it starts this way:

  30. Dennis Bray says:

    Richard, how dare you!

  31. In either case, he should not have spoken.

    How tolerant indeed.

  32. That’s rather taken our of context. What was being suggested was that the evidence suggests that Montford either does not understand Marcott et al. (2013) or is lying about it. Whichever is the case, it would suggest that he was not really a suitable person to have on a BBC News report discussing the upcoming IPCC report. Having been asked, he is – of course – more than entitled to accept.

  33. Your definition of tolerance is funny. Its test is foremost applicable to people whom you believe to be wrong.

  34. Not at all. I was simply pointing out what was said in the comment which was that Montford is wrong about Marcott et al. (and I agree with this) which would indicate the he probably isn’t someone who should be interviewed about climate science by a major public news organisation. How has this got anything to do with tolerance?

    If you disagree with this, feel free to make the case.

  35. Dear Shub,

    I believe that Wott’s claim is this one:

    > [T]he evidence suggests that Montford either does not understand Marcott et al. (2013) or is lying about it. Whichever is the case, it would suggest that he was not really a suitable person to have on a BBC News report discussing the upcoming IPCC report.

    Now, either you provide evidence that our beloved Bishop was a suitable person to have on the BBC report, or you continue to express concerns about tolerance.

    In either case, please do continue.

    PS: Was that tolerant enough for you?

  36. willard, You are an Alinskyite. I admire your Alinskyism.

  37. Not only did I have to look that up, I still can’t tell if it’s intended as a compliment or not 🙂

  38. andrew adams says:

    Yes, that’s the one (it goes on for about 100 tweets)

  39. If I understand this correctly, then anyone who as ever be wrong about something, should be forever banned from the BBC.

  40. I think that’s rather an extrapolation. I would argue that inviting someone who is currently wrong about something fundamental relating to the topic of discussion is unwise (unless being wrong is relevant to what is being discussed). Additionally, noone mentioned anyone being banned. That would seem rather extreme.

  41. > You are an Alinskyite. I admire your Alinskyism.

    Alinsky might appreciate Shub’s remark. As Ron Broberg recalls:

    Rule 11: Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, polarize it. Don’t try to attack abstract corporations or bureaucracies. Identify a responsible individual. Ignore attempts to shift or spread the blame.

    http://vcn.bc.ca/citizens-handbook/rules.html

    Mann
    Jones
    Schmidt
    Trenberth

    Do you get it now?

    http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com/post/24472458681

    ***

    This in no way counters Wott’s claim that our beloved Bishop probably isn’t someone who should be interviewed about climate science by a major public news organisation.

    Unless we wish to hear a purple voice on such matters, of course.

  42. > If I understand this correctly, then anyone who as ever be wrong about something, should be forever banned from the BBC.

    Wott might beware that this trick has been played before:

    [Y]ou may have noticed that I am affronted by the notion of sending Christian fundamentalists to re-education camps.These are deep issues. I think climate policy should simply respect such divisions of opinion. We may use other policies to counter the excesses.

    http://init.planet3.org/2010/08/end.html#comment-23553

    Perhaps it’s just “a useful way to solve a problem”.

  43. Yes, I’ve become aware of the discussions related to that incident. Thanks for the warning. I wouldn’t be that keen for such a discussion to break out here.

  44. Martin says:

    Yes, good decision. And also, too, it’s not yet time for the next Tol cycle. We have to wait some weeks, so that everybody can be “shocked” again, and “see clearly what motivates skeptics now”, and whatever. This works better if it hasn’t been issued two comment threads earlier.

  45. Martin, do I detect a note of cynicism in your comment 🙂

  46. Martin says:

    Not even a smidgeon. You may be the first to suffocate this before it really starts (though the danger is not yet banned). That’s probably because you are an unrestrained authoritarian. If it works, you are also my hero.

  47. I have to be completely honest and say that I don’t understand your comment at all. Unrestrained authoritarian? I get the impression that you’re suggesting something, but I don’t really get what it is.

  48. I fear that you’re still pitching them and I’m still missing them. Give me time. I’ll get it eventually.

  49. Martin says:

    OK, I’ll let that one fallen flat as it is and just note that: yes, there was a note of cynicism, and no, you are not an unrestrained authoritarian (or at least do I not think so).

  50. Okay, I’m getting this slowly. I don’t know about being an unrestrained authoritarian or not, but I can be a little dense at times.

  51. Tom Curtis says:

    I think that the issue here is that news organizations, and most especially public news organizations like the BBC, should not willfully misinform their audience. That means when they present the range of views on a topic by interviewing multiple guests, they should present the actual range of informed views on the topic. When that topic is a scientific subject, that range of opinion is that among scientists who specialize in the topic. Ideally, that would be in the form of a panel discussion with the “skeptical” view represented by 1 in 20 participants, and the ultra catastrophists also represented by (I presume) 1 in 20 participant and with the majority of members broadly accepting of the IPCC position. If you are going to have just two invited guests, they should come from either side of the modal position, but neither very far from the modal position (unless the distribution of scientists is genuinely bimodal, in which case each should represent a mode).

    Failure to do (something like) this implicitly informs your viewers that the range of debate is far different than that which actually exists in science. In the case of the BBC interview, it implicitly informs the viewers that the range of debate among climate scientists are between those who effectively accept the IPCC position, and those who utterly reject it as too pessimistic with each being approximately equally represented. What the BBC may have done by interviewing Montford was the equivalent to having two invited guests to discuss a political issue, with one being a current Shadow Minister from the Labour Party, and the other being a spokesperson from UKIP. It is unbalanced, and does not allow viewers from that report to gain a reasonable view of the range of opinion.

    Of course, there are alternative means to ensure the viewers are adequately informed. If the BBC report took the time to specifically report the relevant qualifications of the two interviewees; and to explicitly indicate the range of scientific opinion they represented – that also would be appropriate. I suspect, however, they did not.

  52. Pingback: The Climate Change Debate Thread - Page 3177

  53. toby52 says:

    Your displayed your tolerance and fair play, Richard, when you joined in the witch-hunting of Dr Pachauri (as aptly described by dbostom above).

    Squealing and waving his pom-poms in encouragement to the witch-burners hunting Pachauri, but where was Junior’s bucket of cold water, in the end? All the claims were false, as was Junior’s judgement. Nary a word about it since. Graceless.

    It is disgusting to read your instant judgments of other’s behaviour. Who gave you the right to throw stones?

  54. toby52 says:

    I saw the report and thought it was grotesque. Myles Allen was given a brief soundbite, and introduced as a scientist, Montfort was introduced as a “blogger”, and allowed ramble a bit. Viewers may even have noticed the disparity.Shukman’s summary was one-sided, I thought.

    To give the Beeb their due, there was a much better report tonight by Roger Harrabin from the Himalayas, where he interviewed a working Indian glaciologist, and nary a denier in sight.

  55. Nick says:

    Yes, some flattery before pointing the finger. I often want to upchuck when I read Pielkeish.

  56. There’s a difference between speaking for about 30 seconds on the BBC News and leading an international organization.

    Pachauri is unfit for his role. He is a weak leader and a gaffe-prone, scandal-tainted figurehead.

  57. Dennis Bray says:

    From WIKI: The impact of these stories [on blogs]gave greater credibility to blogs as a medium of news dissemination. Though often seen as partisan gossips bloggers sometimes lead the way in bringing key information to public light, with mainstream media having to follow their lead. More often, however, news blogs tend to react to material already published by the mainstream media.
    Selected comments from responses to this post:
    Pielke Jrs comment has it all: concern trolling, barefaced cheek, and no information value whatsoever other than signalling he’s still here being dumbly provocative
    All the claims were false, as was Junior’s judgement.
    It is probably no coincidence that Gavin Schmitt is active in debunking wrong alarmist claims. You need to understand a topic very well before you can claim that a certain consequence is not possible.
    [Climate scientists] They completely and honestly explained the uncertainties in their work and now people use that to claim it’s all completely wrong
    Another success for the denial machine. Watts and McIntyre went into hysterical overdrive when M13 was published, and their false claims have now entered the public consciousness. This is how it works. Hence my occasional failure of good humour when discussing denier lies and their insertion via the media into public – and therefore political – discourse.
    It would be nice if the climate ostriches would also make claims that are not trivially wrong and would at least require some domain expertise to refute
    I have no issue with anyone who is asked to appear on a news report, appearing. I do, however, have an issue with a major public news organisation deciding that a self-employed blogger should be given airtime when discussing climate science.
    As for Montford, well whatever one thinks of him personally I don’t see any justification for including him. I don’t think any report on a complex tehnical issue is ever improved by saying “here’s what some unqualified guy on the internet thinks”.
    Well, based on Montford’s statement about M13 we can say, with confidence, that he is either unable to understand the paper or he is lying about it. In either case, he should not have spoken.
    It is disgusting to read your instant judgments of other’s behaviour. Who gave you the right to throw stones?
    That means when they present the range of views on a topic by interviewing multiple guests, they should present the actual range of informed views on the topic. When that topic is a scientific subject, that range of opinion is that among scientists who specialize in the topic. … Failure to do (something like) this implicitly informs your viewers that the range of debate is far different than that which actually exists in science.
    I don’t think any report on a complex tehnical issue is ever improved by saying “here’s what some unqualified guy on the internet thinks”.

    First, nothing in this discourse is constructive, nothing original is offered, so wott’s the point? Second, the comments about Montford (not necessarily one of my heroes, but definitely perceived of as an enemy of the activist) seem to point that his lack of expertise should be taken into consideration when making public comment. Well, my question is, how many people participating in this blog – which is public comment (and most blogs aim to achieve popularity) – are qualified to judge comments on complex issues?
    I notice that the mission statement of this blog includes the statement “I will happily acknowledge contributions there that add positively to the discussions around climate science.” Where is the positive in this thread!?!?!? And in the policy: “I don’t mind a bit of snark and maybe some strong words. What I would like to see avoided are vitriolic, personal attacks.” Maybe ask Peilke Jr. to comment on that one.

  58. Okay, so maybe you highlight some things that are not entirely consistent with the intention of the blog, but then again, maybe not. As I think I’ve said before, I don’t claim to always get this right. So, here’s a simple question? Where have you seen a “vitriolic, personal attack”. It’s possible I’ve missed some but I can’t think of anyone actually saying “Andrew Montord is a ….” or “Roger Pielke Jr is a …..”. That’s what I perceive as “vitriolic, personal attacks”. I would hope to catch those and moderate them and if you can find one, I’ll happily apologise for not doing so.

    People have expressed opinions here, some of which are not particularly complementary to those being discussed, but that’s not the same as a personal attack (at least not in my opinion). So, you say, nothing constructive in the discussion. The post was really about a quote from Roger Pielke Jr that I found somewhat ironic (i.e., it is highlighted on a blog that suffers from, in my opinion, all the flaws he claims that activists suffer from). So, really the post was intended to be a comment. Could something constructive have come from this. I don’t know? It’s hard to control how comments will evolve. Has anyone said anything that I would regard as violating my new moderation policy? Not that I can see. Have the comments some made, maybe annoyed some people? Possibly, but they would be welcome to come and respond and commenting on those in the public eye who happily make public comments is not fundamentally wrong. Was your comment constructive? I would would argue that it wasn’t really, but you’re welcome to prove me wrong.

  59. Tom Curtis says:

    Wotts, you wanted an example of a vitriolic personal attack in this thread?

    Try here.

  60. Dennis, I found your comment quite confusing to follow. Was this a comment you were making

    It is disgusting to read your instant judgments of other’s behaviour. Who gave you the right to throw stones?

    For starters, I don’t believe anyone was judging Andrew Montford for appearing on the BBC news. What people were judging was the BBC’s decision to invite him to talk about climate science. As I think I said, if he gets invited then he’s perfectly free to accept. I just find it odd that the BBC would choose to invite someone who is not a professional climate scientist to discuss climate science. There are many other aspects of this issue that I’m sure Andrew Montford would be perfectly well qualified to discuss. The details of climate science itself is, in my opinion, not one of them. As far as throwing stones is concerned, I don’t think anyone here is arguing that they should have been invited instead of Andrew Montford or thinks they were more qualified to appear (although I get the feeling that some of the commenters might be).

  61. Indeed, Tom. I had missed that one. It certainly appears to satisfy the “He is a …” criteria followed by something unpleasant.

  62. BBD says:

    @ Dennis Bray

    First, nothing in this discourse is constructive

    I dispute that. You quoted my comment, which was constructive. I repeat it here for clarity as your unformatted comment was rather difficult to follow:

    Well, based on Montford’s statement about M13 we can say, with confidence, that he is either unable to understand the paper or he is lying about it. In either case, he should not have spoken.

    Please don’t misrepresent me again. Thanks.

  63. BBD says:

    @ Dennis Bray

    Can you tell me why the following statement of the facts is “not constructive”? I cannot follow your reasoning:

    Another success for the denial machine. Watts and McIntyre went into hysterical overdrive when M13 was published, and their false claims have now entered the public consciousness. This is how it works. Hence my occasional failure of good humour when discussing denier lies and their insertion via the media into public – and therefore political – discourse.

  64. andrew adams says:

    Dennis,

    First, nothing in this discourse is constructive, nothing original is offered, so wott’s the point? Second, the comments about Montford (not necessarily one of my heroes, but definitely perceived of as an enemy of the activist) seem to point that his lack of expertise should be taken into consideration when making public comment. Well, my question is, how many people participating in this blog – which is public comment (and most blogs aim to achieve popularity) – are qualified to judge comments on complex issues?

    On the first point, yes we are having a bitch at the BBC for including Montford but there is an underlying serious point – what kind of sources should journalists use when reporting on scientific matters. On the second point, I think many of us would admit we don’t have any particular qualifications or authority on the subject of climate science (certainly true in my case) but would certainly argue that this should not prevent us from taking part in debates on the subject (which are in any case largely political not technical). But there is a difference between making comments on a blog, or even writing blog posts, on a subject and being used as a source of information by others reporting on that subject, which automatically confers or at least implies some level of authority on the subject. As much as I like and respect Wotts I would have been rather surprised if the BBC had asked him/her rather than Myles Allen to represent the mainstream scientific view in their report.

  65. Andrew, indeed. In fact I would intend (if it ever happened) to refuse any requests to discuss climate science with journalists/reporters unless the topic was “What’s it like to be an anonymous climate science blogger who doesn’t have any professional climate science experience.”

  66. Martin says:

    Wotts,

    the last bit you quote (“disgusting” etc.) from Dennis Bray is actually him quoting a comment above from toby52 directed at Tol.

  67. Martin, indeed you’re correct. I should have done a word search rather than simply scanning the comments. Dennis, my apologies.

  68. Dennis Bray says:

    Let’s start with vitriolic. In my understanding this would be comments that are acrimonious, caustic, scathing … . Acrimonious comments are comments that are bitter or irritating in tone or manner. Caustic comments are sarcastic or biting. Scathing comments are scornful, harsh, cutting… .

    You say “I can’t think of anyone actually saying “Andrew Montord is a ….” or “Roger Pielke Jr is a …..”.

    Comments that might qualify:
    Pielke Jrs comment has it all: concern trolling, barefaced cheek, and no information value whatsoever
    I often want to upchuck when I read Pielkeish.
    RPJr. is a fine one to talk, when it comes to over-egging. Squealing and waving his pom-poms in encouragement to the witch-burners hunting Pachauri, but where was Junior’s bucket of cold water, in the end?
    … the idiot bloody Tristrams at the BBC

    I don’t think it is necessary to go any further.

    Could something constructive come out of this – I don’t know either. Although there were a couple of comments pointing to a way in which public discussions might be better handled. To me, that is towards being constructive, but that is not the overall tone. But I don’t see anything that could be developed, say for publication.

    Was my comment constructive? Not in the least. It was never the intention. I am just trying to figure out what role such blogs play. To me, blogs often seem like whispering in the back of the classroom rather than contributing to what is going on in the classroom. Not all blogs, but a lot.

    No, I did not intend to say “It is disgusting to read your instant judgments of other’s behaviour. Who gave you the right to throw stones?” I just wondered what the benefit is of throwing stones. On the ‘right to throw stones’ much of the discussion has been about other people not having the right to throw them. Sometimes things seem a little contradictory.

    BBD – “Well, based on Montford’s statement about M13 we can say, with confidence, that he is either unable to understand the paper or he is lying about it. In either case, he should not have spoken.”

    Ah, now I see. A quip, to be sure. And a constructive one.

    BBD again: “Another success for the denial machine. Watts and McIntyre went into hysterical overdrive when M13 was published, and their false claims have now entered the public consciousness. This is how it works. Hence my occasional failure of good humour when discussing denier lies and their insertion via the media into public – and therefore political – discourse.”

    What facts? At best, these are your personal opinions.

    Years ago, a colleague and I published a paper that contained the following: “The results suggest that the public consensus about [xxx] is so strong that it has become part of a regime of truth that cannot be intelligibly questioned.”

    I fear the reality concerning the climate change debate is that the polar extremes now fit this description. Fortunately, in the long run, the moderate voices, the majority of the climate science community, seem to be more concerned about good science. The name game, for all but the participants, is becoming very boring and tedious.

  69. Dennis Bray says:

    Just a question. From the web stats is it possible to determine the number of unique contributors who have made comments on this blog, and how many comments can be attributed to each?

  70. Nick says:

    So you are unaware of Watts offerings on Marcott et al 2013, Dennis? You need to search them up, then compare and contrast with the paper, and the authors public comments and answers to questions on the paper. Then you might be able to volunteer whether something is personal opinion or established fact about Marcott et al, and about Watts, or Macintyre.

  71. BBD says:

    @ Dennis Bray

    Ah, now I see. A quip, to be sure.

    No. I made a statement of fact, not a “quip”. Again, you misrepresent me. I’m getting rather fed up with this, Dennis.

    What facts? At best, these are your personal opinions.

    No, the frenzied and sustained misrepresentation of M13 by Watts and McIntyre is a matter of fact. A matter of record. Go and look. Your statement, or quip, reveals you to be entirely ignorant of the facts and the record, or simply lying. In either case you should have not spoken.

  72. > The results suggest that the public consensus about [xxx] is so strong that it has become part of a regime of truth that cannot be intelligibly questioned.

    As Dennis Bray would perhaps say, “what facts”. At best these are personal opinions using a Foucaldian concept:

    Foucault defines ‘regimes of truth’ as the historically specific mechanisms which produce discourses which function as true in particular times and places.

    http://www.michel-foucault.com/concepts/

    Since facts are roughly speaking things that are more or less ultimately true (e.g. snow is white), the very idea of having “facts” seems to run against the concept of regime of truth.

    ***

    Incidentally, Foucault did not think it was possible to analyze our current regime of truth. It follows from the being able to question “intelligibly”, as Dennis Bray.

    An important Foucaldian practice is to see what has not been said. In the case of Bray’s comment, notice which comments have been underlined, and which other he has not.

    ***

    In any case, analyzing the tone of some well-chosen comments does seems to be a suboptimal way to contribute anything constructive.

  73. Forgot to complete that sentence:

    > It follows from the methodological precaution of being able to question “intelligibly”, as Dennis Bray and his collegue once observed.

    The name game is not the only boring and tedious game institutionalized creatures can play.

  74. Dennis, to be honest, I find it quite difficult to respond to your comments because they are so long and contain so much. Maybe my use of terminology is wrong but by “vitriolic” I mean extreme. Something that would be obivously an extremely unpleasant characterisation. I’m not meaning to be pedantic, but none of your examples were personal attacks. They were criticisms of what someone had said. They referred to the comment. They did not personally attack Pielke. A personal attack would be “he is an idiot” – for example – not “that is an idiotic comment” (and I’m not making such an attack, just to be clear). I see nothing wrong with the latter, I would have issues with the former (as I have mentioned, I may well get this wrong at times and I can’t moderate continuously).

    I realise that I mis-attributed the throwing stones comment to you and have already apologised. It was my mistake.

    As far a what BBD has said, they may technically be opinions but they are backed up by the current scientific literature. Marcott et al has not been discredited and nothing that the authors have said should lead anyone to conclude that it has. It’s hard to believe that we would benefit by giving credence to the un-scientific opinions of those who clearly want something to have been discredited when there is no evidence on which to base such a claim.

    As far as blogs is concerned, and this one in particular, you may be right. I make no claims as to why I wrote it or what the role is. It’s simply something I do. If it can make a positive contribution, that would be nice. If it’s negative, that would be disappointing. People are free to read it, comment on posts, or ignore it. If anything, as others have mentioned above, giving undue credibility (or any maybe) to a blog such as this would be concerning. Hence the view that when talking about climate science, ideally the BBC should talk to climate scientists, rather than bloggers. To be honest, I don’t even really have a good idea of the motivation behind this blog myself. I’m very clearly just winging it and hoping that things don’t go horribly wrong.

  75. > First, nothing in this discourse is constructive, […]

    This is an unsubstantiated claim. I think I can show that this claim is wrong. Take Nick’s “TL:DR”:

    Pielke Jrs comment has it all: concern trolling, barefaced cheek, and no information value whatsoever other than signalling he’s still here being dumbly provocative […]

    It signals a practice that is quite common on the Internet, but which may escape those who are new:

    http://rabett.blogspot.ca/2010/02/betroffenheitstroll.html

    To be able to recognize concern trolling is very important. As Martin said:

    > You may be the first to suffocate this before it really starts (though the danger is not yet banned).

    The “this” refers to what Richard injected in this thread, i.e. the concern about authoritarianism. We see that Martin’s worry was justified, as we see Dennis raising another concern.

    This practice is so insidious as to be the basis of Dennis Bray’s comments so far in the thread. Not that we wish him to stop. For how would we dare?

    Let Dennis continue as he pleases. In return, being able to signal this comes as a protective measure. Assuming that what is protective is in some way constructive, we have a QED.

    We therefore thank Dennis for his concern.

    ***

    For more on the practice of honestly brokering:

    http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com/tagged/honestlybrokering

  76. Yes, up to a point (by which I mean, the list gets truncated and so there could be more than the list shows). It’s not a big number of unique commenters. Can I ask why you’re interested.

  77. > I’m very clearly just winging it and hoping that things don’t go horribly wrong.

    Hence the ongoing tests, Wott. You’re not the first to whom that happens.

    The object of the game, as I see it, is either to make you “lose it”. There are many ways to make you lose it. Attacks on your competence, your integrity, your relevance, your probity, etc. Or just waste your time chasing squirrel after squirrel, i.e. dragging you on any topic except the one you chose to discuss.

    The actual strategy is to portray you as a radical. The hints may be subtle to you, but they’re there. Notice how Richard hints that you’re a SkS clone on his Twitter feed.

    ***

    Since your own writing style can’t be portrayed as radical, your commenters become the target. And since you’re a sucker for having a reasonably-toned discussion, you can be dragged in any concern contrarians can have. This explains to me why we are having so much discussion about your moderation, and why we see so much appeals to RC moderation:

    http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com/tagged/yesbutrcmoderation

    To become as popular as Tamsin, you may only need to be a bit more thankful for all these concerns.

    ***

    This should be enough to provide a background for what I want to say. Here it is: at first, Richard, Dennis, and Shub tried sarcasm. Now we see another tactic: raising a serious concern, using a serious tone. Considering that BBD is commenting, this may be more dangerous.

    It may be prudent to return to the topic of your op-ed from time to time. In our case, the topic is Tony’s use of Junior’s quote. In what way does the constructiveness of the comment section of your blog relates to this?

    If you stick to the topic, you’ll never “lose it”.

  78. Here is how we start another comment thread:
    You click on “Leave a Reply” at the bottom of the page.

    This erases any commitment you had before that.
    A clean blank slate.

    As a bonus, the readers who start reading by the end will read your first.
    Long comment threads become a race to the bottom of the page.

  79. Thanks. Wise advice, I think. I’m think I’m starting to see that pattern, but am still feeling my way.

  80. verytallguy says:

    Wotts,

    I’ve been following the discussions with interest.

    You seem to be very concerned with how to moderate the blog and keep discussions civil.

    This is an excellent aspiration, and one which (almost) all climate blogs fail. You are also doing very well at it IMHO, and as long as you continue to engage frequently with humility in the comments it will work just fine I think. Perhaps your commenters will even see fit to be polite and follow your tone; personally I cannot understand why that’s so hard, although you have attracted some of the most challenging individuals of all here.

    Some observations: it’s worth thinking about which other blogs/comments work well below the line, and why. Here’s my rank order; this is, of course, purely subjective. Everything below Tamino is dire; for me, Science of Doom is your benchmark for civil discourse.

    Science of Doom
    Realclimate
    Stoat
    SKS
    Tamino
    Guardian
    Judith Curry
    Deltoid
    WUWT

    Above and below the line are not necessarily correlated – Tamino for instance is best of all in terms of interesting content for me, but far too aggressive BTL for my taste. Interestingly, I find myself unable to cite a sceptic blog with civil debate, but that may just be confirmation bias on my part.

    Best wishes, VTG

  81. dbostrom says:

    Tol made an appearance as RPJr.’s faithful wingman during the Pachauri fiasco. Perhaps this could serve as an opportunity to break formation?

  82. It certainly would be interesting to know what those who’ve been critical of the comments and the post (Shub, Tol, Bray for example) think of Roger Pielke Jr’s statement. To be fair, I picked this up from WUWT so don’t know the context. So if someone can put the quote into context, or explain if it’s been taken out of context, that might also be interesting.

  83. Thanks for the comment and the compliment. My intent is to try and keep discussions civil. Achieving that may be harder than I had anticipated.

    I agree about the other blogs. Some very good ones. I have the same (possibly biased) view about skeptic blogs. WUWT, in particular, seems to have regular commenters who will respond very aggressively to anyone who says something that disagrees with what appears to be the standard views expressed there. That may slightly bias my moderation. Having seen what is accepted on some other blogs sometimes makes me think that what might be seen as a forceful comment by some is quite benign by other standards. Getting the balance right is likely to be tricky.

  84. dbostrom says:

    Paraphrasing Tol, there’s a difference between saying one thing and doing another, implying the behavior of others as worse than one’s own when the opposite pertains. There’s a word for that style of difference.

    In this age it is but the work of a moment to initiate a globally visible malicious gossip campaign about any public figure. Creating a false characterization is trivially easy. The particulars of a lie attaching to a person’s character are not very interesting as they are necessarily false, useless fiction. However, the underlying reasons for the emergence of a smear versus the absence of a smear are interesting; what sort of person spreads and feeds malicious rumors and what sort does not? Why? What’s the difference between these two classes?

  85. Tom Curtis says:

    For what it is worth, the quote is from here.

    The context is a look at past IPCC temperature predictions compared to the temperature record, taking great care not to mention ENSO. Given the context, the “intolerant enthusiasts” would appear to be the IPCC. That would make the quote another of those vitriolic personal attacks, but not, presumably, one you would be expected to moderate.

  86. Thanks Tom. Pretty hard to take it out of context given that it pretty much stands alone. Interesting how Roger suggests – in the previous paragraph – that climate scientists should take a step back and consider things. Why should they do that? Most have simply been doing what they’re meant to be doing – climate science.

    Roger’s post itself is also somewhat disappointing. Focuses on surface temperatures and nothing else (as far as I can see). Also intriguing that there has been recent attempts to discourage (strongly) climate scientists from engaging in anything to do with policy making, but those who engage in policy making seem quite comfortable critiquing the science.

  87. andrew adams says:

    Wotts,

    I meant to say a lot of the following in the “Moderation” thread but didn’t get time to finish writing it, but I think it’s relevant here.

    As I mentioned above most arguments about climate change in the blogosphere are essentially political, and like all political debates (especially on the internet) where people have strongly held and conflicting views they can get personal, bitchy, vicious and worse. Climate change is no different most most issues in that respect and better than some.

    I don’t mind that some forums have more of an “anything goes” approach, and I particularly dislike tone trolling, but I do think it’s good that there are some places that make an effort to enforce a more civilised discussion and I think we generally manage that here. But you have to be realistic, we are mostly here because we think this stuff is important and we feel strongly about it, and although polite understatement can sometimes be an effective form of criticism you can’t really expect people to never express their views more bluntly.

    And it’s not always wrong to focus criticism on people rather than arguments – by blogging and/or regularly commenting on blogs we put ourselves out here and create an online presence and people are going to recognise patterns of behaviour over time. If you make one bad argument people should focus on that argument, if you persist in making bad arguments people might well remark on that.

    In the end you’re never going to win – blog moderation is the Schleswig-Holstein question of the internet. And the safest way to avoid criticism is to never try to do the right thing – say I care about cause x and people say “why not cause y as well”, say we need carbon taxes and people ask “so how come you drive a car”, say you want a civilised discussion on your blog and people say “but people are slagging off that guy” or “I was moderated what about him”.

    Actually in the end if I have a golden rule of blogging it’s that blogs get the commenters they deserve. If you behave in the right way above the line it will reflect on how people behave below it. I think the list of blogs that VTG mentions below bears this out.

  88. dbostrom says:

    Willard, see:

    rogerpielkejr.blogspot.com/2010/01/sorry-but-this-stinks.html

    Tol participates in atmospheric engineering here:

    http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2010/02/04/205446/science-magazine-is-confused-who-is-a-prominent-climate-scientist/

  89. dbostrom says:

    Interesting to see that the US publication “Popular Science” is completely ending comments because they’re found to be counterproductive to the mission of the magazine:

    “A politically motivated, decades-long war on expertise has eroded the popular consensus on a wide variety of scientifically validated topics. Everything, from evolution to the origins of climate change, is mistakenly up for grabs again. Scientific certainty is just another thing for two people to “debate” on television. And because comments sections tend to be a grotesque reflection of the media culture surrounding them, the cynical work of undermining bedrock scientific doctrine is now being done beneath our own stories, within a website devoted to championing science.”

    I especially like “comments sections tend to be a grotesque reflection of the media culture surrounding them.”

    More here:
    http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2013-09/why-were-shutting-our-comments

    It’s my own belief that strong editorial control should be practiced on comments with an eye toward the objectives of the parent publication; 90% of comments (including this one, quite possibly) are contextual crud. Some small number are consistently usefully thought-provoking (Tom Curtis comes to mind as an archetype).

    Enthusiastic adoption of an open microphone for audiences (comments) was a reflection of excitement over the possibilities of ubiquitous networking. The open microphone has become a habit; how many gummy bears are too many?

  90. Yes, I noticed that this had happened and it is being quite heavily criticised by some. Mainly because it’s being argued that the study they use to justify the decision was poorly set up and not necessarily representative.

    I think you’re probably right about the need for strong editorial control. Easier said then done, I suspect.

  91. andrew adams says:

    By the way, none of that implies any criticism of what you’re doing here.

  92. dbostrom says:

    The trouble is, for magazines such as PopSci there’s a balance sheet to worry about, while others have to worry about whether there’s still time to do the laundry after cleaning up the mess in the comment threads.

    Call me a cynic but I’ve concluded that given a thread with equal parts useful and useless comments, the net result is disproportionately more useless than useful. It’s the same thing as just a tiny bit of H2S in a barrel of water; technically it’s still potable water but it also stinks.

  93. Thanks, Andrew. You make some interesting points. As I think I mentioned in the moderation post (or maybe in my moderation page) I don’t expect everyone to behave impeccably and for there to be no strong words or strong opinions. Getting the balance right might be quite tricky and I will probably get it wrong more often than not. I’m just going to have to see how it goes and probably work it out as I go along.

  94. VeryTall,

    Nice to see you here. Personally, I’d add Bart’s above Sod, as Sod only talks physics.

    For instance:

    http://ourchangingclimate.wordpress.com/2011/03/14/yes-we-can-communicate/

    Yes, Bart V. can communicate.

    Anyway.

    Just an excuse to post a blast from the past showing that talking about talking is not new.

  95. > people ask “so how come you drive a car” […]

    This is not a theorical possibility:

    I.e. communicators are damned if they do and damned if they don’t walk the walk. It’s so easy to condemn them for not walking the walk you had in mind. And if they walk too much, they’re to be dismissed as “activists”.

    http://planet3.org/2012/01/09/on-credibility-as-many-walks-as-talks/

    As usual, Andrew wins the Internet, a bit below.

  96. Tom Curtis says:

    “Also intriguing that there has been recent attempts to discourage (strongly) climate scientists from engaging in anything to do with policy making, but those who engage in policy making seem quite comfortable critiquing the science.”

    I strongly suspect that for most people who criticize the participation of scientists in the policy debate, it is because the scientists aren’t producing the result that they want that they don’t want the scientists participating.

  97. andrew adams says:

    By the way, did anyone else see the BBC Newsnight piece last night?

    I thought it was much better than that silly report on the news, despite Paxman’s usual self satisfied blowhard act (Stern very politely put him in his place IMHO).

  98. I haven’t yet. I tried to watch it last night on iplayer, but my family decided that they’d all rather watch New Tricks. 🙂

  99. Dennis Bray says:

    I have an academic interest in blogs as a form of science communication. There are a number of proponents of a version of post normal science who see the blogosphere as the means to the democratization of science. I have some reservations about their enthusiasm and the inclusiveness of blogs.

  100. Okay, an interesting pursuit. Your reservations probably have some merit.

  101. andrew adams says:

    Well if they like programmes featuring old British stalwarts who have seen much better days then watching Jeremy Paxman should be right up their street.

  102. I did try pointing that out, but they were unmoved 🙂

  103. verytallguy says:

    Hmmm… I didn’t expect a critique of the sampling methodology for my web survey – who do you think you are, Richard Tol?

    Agree that Bart is excellent, although he seems very quiet now.

    I’m disappointed by the omission of a hockey analogy btw.

  104. very tall guy
    You must have been living under a rock. Realclimate, stoat, tomino, skS, Guardian and Deltoid are the most censorious blogs around. wotts is an angel, in comparison. Realclimate and sKS are particularly notorious in playing around with reader comments in shapping the narrative. Tamino hides his mistakes by deleting user comments. You can go around patting each other in the back but these blogs are the dumps, for discussion of climate issues.

  105. Reich.Eschhaus says:

    @Richard Toll

    Please explain:

    “Pachauri is unfit for his role. He is a weak leader and a gaffe-prone, scandal-tainted figurehead.”

    Is he different from you? (snark intended 😉 )

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