Communicating Uncertainty

Tamsin Edwards, who writes the All Models Are Wrong blog, has a new post called Nine Lessons and Carols in Communicating Climate Uncertainty, which Judith Curry also highlights in a recent post.

The nine lesson that Tamsin summarises are

  1. People have a finite pool of worry
  2. People interpret uncertainty as ignorance
  3. People are uncomfortable with uncertainty
  4. People do accept the existence of risk
  5. Scientists have little training in public communication
  6. Journalists have little (statistical) training
  7. Newspaper editors are extremely shallow, generally
  8. There are many types of climate sceptic
  9. Trust is important

I think Tamsin makes some quite interesting and valid points about what is clearly an important topic. I haven’t, to be honest, read through it all in great detail, but it seemed mostly quite sensible. I was tempted to comment on the post but, unfortunately, the comments there are largely from those I’ve already encountered, have no wish to encounter again, and have already blocked on Twitter, or from those I have not yet encountered, have no wish to encounter, and would likely block on Twitter if I did. I do find it a little disappointing that I can see no reason to comment on a blog run by an active climate scientist.

So, why did I write this, I hear you ask? It’s because I think there is one lesson that Tamsin has ignored and that I think is quite important. If you don’t consider this, then – in my opinion – communicating science, and uncertainty, becomes increasingly difficult. The final lesson I would add is :

  1. Some people’s ideas about science – in particular climate science – are simply wrong, and we should not be afraid to tell them so.
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454 Responses to Communicating Uncertainty

  1. That is probably why Tamsin Edward listed 9 ideas, so that you could round it of to 10.

  2. Joshua says:

    7. “Newspaper editors are extremely shallow, generally “

    That seems rather a bizarre and essentially meaningless point to have on that list. Are newspaper editors more likely to be “shallow” than anyone else? They have a role and a function. I see it as neither shallow nor deep. It is what it is. It is a reflection of the marketplace of ideas. What is the alternative to newspaper editors – a lack of newspaper editors, which would be a lack of newspapers?

    Folks on both sides of the climate change divide seem to like to scapegoat “the MSM.” That scapegoating is what seems shallow, to me.

    8. There are many types of climate sceptic

    James said we should not generalise, and described four types of sceptic: trend, attribution, impacts, and policy. Fiona pointed out that one person can be all these types of sceptic, moving from one argument to another as a discussion progresses. Some thought this would be incoherent (i.e. kettle logic, contradictory arguments) but others thought it could be coherent to be sceptical for more than one of those reasons.”

    Interesting. But what isn’t mentioned is that in addition to a lack of coherence between “types” of “skepticism,” there is also, not infrequently, a lack of coherence within one type in itself: For example, a “trend” skeptic who thinks that it isn’t possible to identify a warming trend, but who then turns around and claims evidence of a “pause in global warming.”

  3. Joshua says:

    UF – (I’m going to hold on to that monicker for just a bit, since it’s just funny).

    As for #10 – I guess the question is whether Tamsin and others would agree as to whether that is an effective communication strategy. Or further, it is one thing to say that you shouldn’t be afraid to tell people that they are wrong, but it is something else to determine the best strategy for doing so.

    Ultimately, I think that determination needs to be evidence-based – and it is very difficult to identify what comprises good evidence in that regard.

    My personal bias is that arguing about who is right and who is wrong is most likely only to solidify existing polarization – and that preferable is an approach that encourages stakeholder dialog where people distinguish between positions and interests so as to gain an investment in synergistic outcomes that capitalize on shared interests.

  4. Rachel says:

    Maybe we need 10 lessons for how to communicate using twitter. Number one would be think first, tweet later.

    I saw that blog post of Tamsin’s a day or two ago. I’ve never read her blog before so I’m not sure how I arrived there but I thought it sounded reasonable. I agree with Joshua about #7. We could probably rephrase #7 using #8, there are many types of newspaper editors. And I definitely think AndThen’s additional lesson is important.

  5. Joshua, that is probably a valid point. I do agree that it can be very tricky to have such a discussion because, as you say, identifying good and convincing evidence can be tricky. What I should probably have said is something more like letting people continually get away – unchallenged – with saying things that are likely scientifically incorrect does not aid communication.

  6. My comment with regards to #7 is that it is an issue in science communication in all areas of science. Universities want press releases and they need to sound interesting. There’s always a balance between making your research sound interesting and making sure that what you say is honest. I would certainly be much happier if we erred more on the side of honesty than interest, but if more could recognise that many press releases err on the other side (without this necessarily being the fault of the reearchers), it may well help the discussion of climate science.

  7. Rachel says:

    Joshua,
    There are some things that are just wrong. An example that comes to my mind is the idea that CO2 is in such minuscule quantities in the atmosphere therefore it couldn’t possibly be the huge problem some say it is. Responding with, this is unlikely to be scientifically correct doesn’t have quite the same punch as saying it is just plain wrong. Which takes us back to point 5: Scientists have little training in public communication. You can tip-toe around the correct wording so much that it ends up being watered down and unclear. Saying you’re wrong is much better than unlikely to be scientifically correct. And is it really so bad to be wrong?

  8. Joshua says:

    Rachel –

    Obviously, I don’t think it is so bad to be wrong – otherwise I wouldn’t be wrong so often. 🙂

    The question for me is how you’re measuring what is or isn’t “better.” We are all inclined to confirm out biases as we determine what’s better or worse. I’m wondering if there’s more of a data-oriented approach. How can we measure the impact of the different approaches against measurements of different outcomes? IMO, approaches that perpetuate the same politicized patterns of interaction are, by definition, not “better.” Maybe to you, they are, but I kind of doubt it. But then again, is that the wrong measure?

    So then what outcomes should we use to measure what’s better and what’s worse, and then what evidence do we have to use to measure the relationship between different approaches and those outcomes?

  9. Maybe Edwards already implicitly wrote lesson number 10. Under lesson 9 she wrote: “All this is true. But I’ll end with a slightly more optimistic quote, which I think was from Chris: “The sea change in the battle with tobacco companies was when the message got across that the adverts were not trustworthy.” I quote this not because I believe it is the same as the climate debate, and not because sceptics are untrustworthy (though some may be), but because I (some might say, choose to) interpret it to mean that trust is important. When people trust the messenger, the message is more likely believed.

    How could you get the message across that WUWT and Co. are untrustworthy without stating that day after day they publish rubbish that is simple and plainly wrong.

  10. So then what outcomes should we use to measure what’s better and what’s worse, and then what evidence do we have to use to measure the relationship between different approaches and those outcomes?

    Maybe this illustrates my rather simplistic view of the world, but when I am involved in a press release it’s because I think something I’ve done may be interesting and the press release is worded so as to explain the research and it’s significance in a way that I think the target audience will understand or appreciate. The only outcome is to explain an interesting piece of science to a lay – but often well educated – audience. Possibly one issue I have with the whole discussion of science communication is that there’s a hint of a hidden agenda, rather than a pretty straightforward sense that the goal is to determine how best to explain a complex science to the public.

  11. Victor, that’s interesting. As I mentioned, I didn’t digest Tamsin’s points in great detail and had – superficially – interpreted point 9 as referring to climate scientists needing to gain trust. Maybe there was a hint, though, that Tamsin was also including “skeptics” in that category.

    Given the previous title of this blog, I obviously completely agree with the latter part of your comment 🙂

  12. BBD says:

    Joshua

    What “shared interests” are we talking about here? Everything that interests me about climate change science and its policy implications is vehemently denied by the frankly homogenous contrarians (yes, I disagree with (8) – there are far more fundamental similarities than fundamental differences between contrarians). I don’t really see where what you suggest is going to lead. Nor am I sure that it is helpful to allow others to engage in noisy, persistent, politicised, polemical wrongness about very serious matters without pointing firmly at their errors.

    I’m increasingly persuaded that talking to contrarians is a waste of time. If they refuse to accept corrections on matters of science but still make loud policy noises, shouldn’t they be excluded from public discourse on grounds of dishonesty and misrepresenation? Rather than talked with some more?

    Have you ever seen any evidence that you can make any headway with contrarians by any means whatsoever?

  13. Dr Civil, maybe you are right. That Chris made the point that climate ostriches should be seen as the untrustworthy bunch they are and that Edwards reversed this message.

  14. Rachel says:

    If we go back to points 2) and 3) we have people interpret uncertainty as ignorance and people are uncomfortable with uncertainty. There’s something nice and certain about saying that is wrong. Maybe it doesn’t have to be you are wrong but more an idea that is wrong.

    People do seem to trust WUWT and Co. I don’t read those sites very often but from what I’ve read they communicate with much more certainty than scientists do and they say things, even wrong things, with conviction. Perhaps that helps their cause.

  15. Joshua says:

    UF –

    Possibly one issue I have with the whole discussion of science communication is that there’s a hint of a hidden agenda, rather than a pretty straightforward sense that the goal is to determine how best to explain a complex science to the public.

    Well – that is the crux of the biscuit, isn’t it?

    Maybe the notion that there is only one dimension of desired outcome is mistaken. There are a variety of dimensions that interact in complicated ways. Clearly, one goal is to educate and inform, and to determine the best way to explain the science.

    But it is awfully hard to isolate that goal when so many other dimensions of outcome overlap. Another goal is to control for the function of newspaper editors in their work to meet public interest in their product. Another is to examine the likely outcomes vis a vis public opinion within a highly politicized context. Another is to consider policy implementation in a context of uncertainty and different levels of risk for environmental impact of various magnitudes.

    But even if thinking about only that one goal – a goal of educating the public, there is a complex dynamic. As an educator, I have spent a lot of time trying to measure the relationship between strategies and outcomes, and to simply a ton, I think that sometimes you will have better results if you say: “Your view is unlikely to be scientifically correct” than if you say “You’re wrong.” In other situations you may have an opposite interaction between choice of strategy and outcomes. I will say that my bias is that the best learning takes place when people have an investment in the process rather than are simply being handed a product of the investigation – and so that’s essentially why I think that arguing about the “product” is a bit of a fool’s errand. I hope that wasn’t too obtuse.

  16. Joshua says:

    Actually, I think it might be interesting if everyone has a different name for the physicist formerly known as wotts.

    It would keep everyone on their toes and might make for a more unique dynamic!

  17. “Your view is unlikely to be scientifically correct” than if you say “You’re wrong.”

    I agree completely. When I wrote my no. 10, I realised that I should probably say something like Some people’s ideas about science – in particular climate science – are very likely to be scientifically inorrect, and we should not be afraid to tell them so. However, that didn’t seem punchy enough, so I wrote it as I did. Maybe that’s an illustration of one of the issues. If you try to be robust and explain things as carefully and rigorously as possible, newspaper editors will turn off and most people will lose interest before you’ve had a chance to convince them of anything.

  18. Joshua says:

    If you try to be robust and explain things as carefully and rigorously as possible, newspaper editors will turn off and most people will lose interest before you’ve had a chance to convince them of anything.

    Sure. I think that presents the two poles of one of the dimensions of outcomes.

  19. I think that sometimes you will have better results if you say: “Your view is unlikely to be scientifically correct” than if you say “You’re wrong.”

    Sounds like your goal is to influence the tobacco companies, the way Edwards prefers. I would expect it to be more productive to influence the smokers.

  20. Rachel says:

    HeWhoHasNoName and Joshua,
    For the record, if I say something wrong, I hope you would tell me. I would prefer a clear sentence saying as much over pussy-footing with unlikelys.

  21. Joshua says:

    VV –

    Sounds like your goal is to influence the tobacco companies,

    No – if by tobacco companies you mean those with a significant economic vested interest. They are not influenced by communication strategies.

    I mean the general public who will be the ultimate arbiters of policy implementation. A significant % of the public are not inclined towards policies that target ACO2 mitigation (many are indifferent, some are disinclined). Ultimately, policy implementation is clearly harder without their support.

    I don’t think that their opinions are a direct result of not knowing the science because many people on both sides have formulated opinions without studying the science – and also because we know that depending on their original orientation, people who know more about the science tend to be associated with more polarized views. Thus, just telling what is right and what is wrong, is not likely, IMO, to really address the problem. And I think that we have evidence that such an approach is not producing particularly desirable outcomes. I would speculate two reasons for that.

    (1) it isn’t really about teaching them the science – if anything it is about getting them to engage with the investigation and to identify their interests and,

    (2) even if it were about teaching them the science, different approaches to education are likely to impact in a variety of ways. Simply saying “you are wrong,” or even “that opinion is wrong,” is not a one-size-fits-all solution, IMO – and my opinion is based on my experiences as an educator.

    So then, what is a better approach? Given the intransigence of public opinion on issues that become politicized as proxy ideological battles, as has the issue of climate change, I see many proposed solutions that I think in the end amount to arguing about which way to shift deck chairs on the titanic. It’s a matter of physics :-). – there’s too much inertia to be significantly altered by marginal shifts of insignificant weight. But given that caveat, I think that a more didactic and top-down approach to education is not a very good methodological choice.

  22. Joshua says:

    Rachel –

    He?WhoHasNoName?

  23. Barry Woods says:

    Are fellow physicist Jonathan Jones comments of interest?

  24. Stephan Lewandowsky: Ignore determined climate 'skeptics' and focus on those educable? Makes sense, he says. #agu @Yalemediaforum— Yale Media Forum (@Yalemediaforum) December 9, 2013

  25. Steve Bloom says:

    No more than yours, Barry, although with people like Jones we do get some insight as to how technically smart people can blinder themselves just as thoroughly as someone like you.

  26. Reich.Eschhaus says:

    Bloody hell! Someone has to state the bloody obvious:

    10. Acting nice to the usual suspects in the “skeptic” camp and being on friendly speaking terms with them, will assure that they will overwhelm your blog with nonsense statements when you try to discuss science communication. You will not have time to correct all their misconceptions. Therefore they will get away with it. Avoid this scenario.

  27. So, summarising, Wotty’s recipe for communicating climate science is – block anybody who disagrees with you, put your fingers in your ears ad keep repeating “they’re wrong… because…errr…. they’re just wrong!”

    Well, it’s worked brilliantly for you guys so far – so just keep it up.

  28. Reich.Eschhaus says:

    @Foxgoose

    What are you referring to in this thread? Are you blocked? If not, why not?

  29. The recipe for the trivial obvious errors of WUWT and Co. is:

    1. You are wrong.
    2. If possible, you should have known you are wrong (add link to old debunking post).
    3. Then explain the error to the smokers.
    4. If necessary explain why someone interested in the truth would never make such a trivial error.

    The rest is an interesting scientific debate. But that is unfortunately rare.

  30. Joshua says:

    With respect to the posts of Reich and Foxgoose…

    Reich does have a point…and I have to say that Foxgoose’s comment (and looking at the “skeptical” comments at the thread UF linked to) underlines that point.

    That said, I don’t think that “being nice to ‘skeptics'” is the same thing as considering what strategies are most effective for communicating about the science. I do see Tamsin’s approach as amounting to “be nice to ‘skeptics'” and I highly doubt that by being nice to “skeptics,” Tamsin’s approach alters public opinion in any meaningful way. In fact, I don’t think it has any impact on the opinions of “skeptics” about the science one iota – although it might result in some “skeptics” thinking that she’s a nicer person than say, Michael Mann.

  31. Joshua says:

    VV –

    What is the result you’re looking for, and where is your evidence that the approach you outline is effective in achieving that result?

  32. Reich.Eschhaus says:

    @Victor

    What are you trying to say? I don’t understand what you are referring to in this thread.

  33. guthrie says:

    Joshua:
    “That seems rather a bizarre and essentially meaningless point to have on that list. Are newspaper editors more likely to be “shallow” than anyone else? They have a role and a function. I see it as neither shallow nor deep. It is what it is. It is a reflection of the marketplace of ideas. What is the alternative to newspaper editors – a lack of newspaper editors, which would be a lack of newspapers?”

    The perfomance and precise role of the media has obviously changed over the years. However, what is clear in the UK and elsewhere is a lowering of quality, seen in the massive reduction in numbers of reporters, and increased churnalism, stealing of stories from each other, from the internet etc, reflected in the much greater number of stories ‘reporters’ are required to file themselves every day.
    To judge by the ongoing trial of some newspaper editors and their minions here in the UK, they certainly weren’t shallow in their role and function, the problem for communicating uncertainty is that their role and function is to maximise profits and minimise costs, and the way that has been done is by maximum celebrity title tattle and minimising sensible discussion (And some law breaking too). The alleged marketplace of ideas has absolutely nothing to do with it.
    The alternative is better newspaper owners, better feedback against bad reporting, and better editors.

  34. Joshua, my hope would be that people decide what to do about climate change based upon a reasonable understanding of what may happen. It would already be great is these decisions would not be made based on the misinformation of WUWT and Co.

    I have no proof what so ever. Does anyone have a proven effective method?

    Reich.Eschhaus, just as I do not understand your question. 🙂

  35. Maybe one should mention to point 7, that Tamsin Edwards put it in quotes and wrote an additional disclaimer.

    Many societal problems would benefit from better newspapers.

  36. Reich.Eschhaus says:

    @Joshua,

    “In fact, I don’t think it has any impact on the opinions of “skeptics” about the science one iota – although it might result in some “skeptics” thinking that she’s a nicer person than say, Michael Mann.”

    I agree. I do not see anything that makes “skeptics” more appreciative of the science.

  37. Reich.Eschhaus says:

    ” It is a reflection of the marketplace of ideas. What is the alternative to newspaper editors – a lack of newspaper editors, which would be a lack of newspapers?”

    No, the alternative is editors who do not consider everything to be marketplace (the curse of our times)

  38. Reich.Eschhaus says:

    @guthrie

    the irony is that most internet blogs discuss what is in the papers and wouldn’t be anywhere without them… (actually this is a sad state of affairs)

  39. Reich.Eschhaus says:

    Sorry another comment. I do not know Tamsin, but she should have support on her blog. If people here know her, they should help her.

  40. John Mashey says:

    Just saying something is wrong seems far less effective for onlookers than to say:
    This repeats standard arguments debunked so often they’ve been cataloged and explained at different levels at Skeptical Science, see the fixed list (numbers).

    In any case , climate skeptics are rarely skeptics in the classical sense (as among real scientists and folks who write for Skeptical Inquirer), but like Maxwells Daemons for ideas:
    Anything, no matter how contradictory, absurd, contrary to basic physics .. Is allowed entry with minimal thought, if it supports the worldview.
    Anything else is rejected, as are people who simply bring real, but unwanted data to a conversation. If overpowering data arrives, the most common response is sudden and total loss of interest.

    Although this is hardly a surprise, the effect showed up quite starkly in the 2,000 comments that arose from the Salby blog storm of July., as seen at WUWT, NOVA, etc.

  41. Reich.Eschhaus says:

    Victor, I don’t understand your 11:31 post. Maybe I am thick. 😉

  42. Reich.Eschhaus says:

    “Just saying something is wrong seems far less effective for onlookers than to say:
    This repeats standard arguments debunked so often they’ve been cataloged and explained at different levels at Skeptical Science, see the fixed list (numbers).”

    That is plain wrong!

  43. All her points are certainly valid, but her comment section is horrible. Hostile to the extent that I can’t see myself commenting there by any means. Most of the ostriches over there are acting in bad faith, which is clear for everyone to see. Therefore, lesson number 10 should be: Don’t allow people to harass you and/or your colleagues in the absence of any evidence for wrongdoing (beyond what’s normal in any branch of science).

    I think Tamsin’s main point when it comes to dealing with ostriches is that she sees them as people first, while their opinion comes second. She is spot on in that regard. Separating people and their opinion is key for anyone who wishes to calm things down. However, that doesn’t mean that people can say what they want. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. You have to make sure at any cost, that anyone is acting in good faith. If you don’t, your efforts are doomed to fail. That might well apply for Tamsin if she doesn’t strictly moderate those who repeatedly make unfounded allegations against mainstream science (and hence her colleagues). Why does she allow others what she doesn’t allow herself in the first place?

  44. Reich.Eschhaus says:

    Thus, noone has any clue about effectiveness and intention?

  45. Reich.Eschhaus says:

    “That might well apply for Tamsin if she doesn’t strictly moderate those who repeatedly make unfounded allegations against mainstream science (and hence her colleagues). Why does she allow others what she doesn’t allow herself in the first place?”

    She is on her own moderationwise

  46. Reich.Eschhaus, that was my recipe for “science” communication with WUWT and Co. In response to a previous comment that Dr Civil would have as only recipe to tell people they are wrong. I think, without proof, that an effective answer contains all 4 items mentioned (if applicable).

    If you would like a longer explanation of the 4 items, please wait until tomorrow. Time to go to sleep.

  47. > So, summarising, Wotty’s recipe for communicating climate science is – block anybody who disagrees with you, put your fingers in your ears ad keep repeating “they’re wrong… because…errr…. they’re just wrong!”

    Anders might prefer this communication strategy:

  48. Brad Keyes says:

    Wotts, your 10th point is a good one.

    “Some people’s ideas about science – in particular climate science – are simply wrong, and we should not be afraid to tell them so.”

    But I wonder: have you ever corrected the regulars here who think it’s legitimate to use consensus as a form of evidence in scientific questions? (It’s not.) Did they accept your correction?

  49. Brad,

    have you ever corrected the regulars here who think it’s legitimate to use consensus as a form of evidence in scientific questions?

    Find an example of where this has happened and I will.

  50. Foxgoose

    block anybody who disagrees with you, put your fingers in your ears ad keep repeating “they’re wrong… because…errr…. they’re just wrong!”

    The only people I’ve blocked are those who’ve been extremely unpleasant. I’m all for interesting and challenging exchanges. Not that keen, however, on those that include accusations of bigotry (to answer Reich’s earlier question, yes I have blocked Foxgoose).

  51. Tom Curtis says:

    Brad Keyes, does there, or does there not exist a Higgs Boson?

  52. Tom, a topical question, given today’s ceremony.

  53. Marco says:

    Barry Woods refers to Jonathan Jones’ comments. Well, one of those comments is very interesting indeed. It is a quote of someone else attacking Phil Jones and Keith Briffa, creating a storyline in which these two are “flying all over the planet on an urgent quest to stop other people flying all over the planet”
    http://blogs.plos.org/models/nine-lessons-and-carols-in-communicating-climate-uncertainty/#comment-62745
    Well, my challenge to Jonathan Jones is to find me the evidence that Phil Jones and Keith Briffa are “on an urgent quest to stop other people flying all over the planet”. I will predict he will find none. Worse, I will predict he will not even try to find any such evidence and rather defend the story as something that should not be taken so literally.

    Of course, another comment is equally telling: “The primary reason why people express this distrust loudly is that the solutions currently being proposed are extremely expensive and almost certainly ineffective”.
    This is denialism in a nutshell: I don’t like the proposed solutions, and therefore I am doubtful of the science.

  54. Rachel says:

    On telling someone they’re wrong, I thought Stephen Schneider did it well in a question session he held with a room full of contrarians. His words were, “you’re just wrong”, at 11:24 minutes.

    He does it politely and after providing a thorough explanation as to why the fellow is wrong. Whether or not he achieved a desirable outcome I can’t say – probably the contrarian didn’t believe him anyway – but I think how he phrased his words was good. I like straight-talkers.

    I think Victor’s recipe is a good one and having seen Victor in action at WUWT, I think he knows what he’s talking about.

  55. Rachel says:

    Correction, I meant to say 3:56 minutes

  56. Rachel says:

    Sorry, I’m just wrong. Make that 3:54 🙂

  57. Rachel says:

    Just saying something is wrong seems far less effective for onlookers than to say:
    This repeats standard arguments debunked so often they’ve been cataloged and explained at different levels at Skeptical Science, see the fixed list (numbers).

    What I’ve found is that when you say something like this in a blog comment – that Skeptical Science has already debunked this and here’s the explanation via a link – people often don’t click on the link. In fact, I’ve found that contrarians rarely click on the link and if they do they don’t read what’s at the other end. I think it’s far more effective to have the explanation directly in the comment in your own simple language (read: don’t use obscure words where simple ones will do). I don’t have any evidence for this – sorry Joshua – other than as a blogger I can see which links get clicked and which don’t and I can also tell whether someone has read a link I’ve provided by what they say next.

  58. Rachel says:

    I think I’ll add something I said in my comment above as point #11:

    11. Don’t use obscure words when simple ones will do.

  59. Brad Keyes says:

    Tom:

    Brad Keyes, does there, or does there not exist a Higgs Boson?

    What has this got to do with the misuse of consensus as a form of evidence, Tom? You can rest assured that if I allowed myself to be roped into your digression, my answer—be it yes, no or I don’t know—would not depend even in the slightest on an opinion survey of physicists conducted by John Cook.

  60. I like the idea regarding variations in types of skeptic. I always taught in my lectures that some ideas are so subjective as to be unique to the individual. When someone defines the nature of health, it often says more about the person than the subject. If 10,000 are asked, you will get 10,000 variations. Same with skepticism, most of what we believe owes more to our personal natures than the science and ranges from fully committed, tolerating no dissent, to the complete and illogical disbelief in anything. It’s one reason the label ‘denier’ and ‘catastrophist’ are so damaging to the debate, and why they are the only two ideas that I find profoundly wrong. Generally whenever a person uses such terms it’s a good indicator that they are grinding personal axes rather than contributing to a scientific discussion.

  61. Brad Keyes says:

    Gareth:

    It’s one reason the label ‘denier’ and ‘catastrophist’ are so damaging to the debate

    The word ‘catastrophist’ does no damage to, but rather enriches, the debate when applied properly, id est to people who really do believe in an impending catastrophe. Such people exist. They aren’t even hard to find.

    The only thing wrong with ‘denier’ is that it deliberately leaves unspecified the nature of the thing being denied. Global warming? Catastrophic global warming? The science? [Rachel: This bit is unnecessary and inflammatory]

  62. John Mashey says:

    Rachel: the issue is whether you aiming to change the mind of contrarian or trying to reach uncommitted onlookers.

    Of course, the right way is to do some controlled experiments and see.
    My reservation is that I’ve been analyzing 2,000 blog posts, and some people resist even simple, unchallengeable facts they don’t like. In such cases, no amount of reasoned explanation is likely to have the slightest effect, but can conu8mse an arbitrary amount of time. Sometimes I’ve done a quick explanation (a few sentences) followed by the link, but when someone does a Gish Gallop, responding to every point can require large explanations, whose results are unclear.
    The real problem is that we have no idea who (of the uncommitted variety) i actually reading.

  63. Rachel says:

    John,
    I agree with what you say. It is time consuming and probably frustrating when you’ve responded to the same assertions over and over again.

  64. Brad Keyes says:

    So tell me, Gareth: y? z? Left-right? Caudal-rostral? Ventral-dorsal? Which “personal axis” am I grinding when I refer to the belief in climate catastrophe as “climate catastrophism”? 😉

    Tom:

    did you know Shub had written an “open letter” to you on his blog? My apologies if this is old news; I think a number of us would be most interested to see what constructive, positive contribution you might make to the debate by way of a response.

  65. Tom Curtis says:

    Brad Keyes, I notice your complete evasion of the question. The simple fact is that all scientists rely on the consensus view when using results from outside their area of expertise; just as nearly all people do the same in their daily lives. They make the judgement that they can second guess the consensus, but they are far more likely to be wrong than is the consensus of experts if they do.

    This is not argument from consensus. The experts themselves may never rely on the consensus in forming their opinions in the area of their expertise. To do so side steps science. But outside of that area, they must rely on the consensus because there is simply not enough time to become expert on everything, and to check everything.

    I have little doubt you will reject this obvious point. The only way to bring home to you that it is correct, if you’ll play, is to show you by questioning the vast areas of knowledge, and specifically scientific knowledge in which you do rely on the consensus. Of course, I may be wrong, You may consistently reject concensus views throughout, becoming thereby (if consistent) a pyrrhonian skeptic.

    So, once again, does there, or does there not exist a Higgs Boson?

    To the moderators, I request that if Brad Keyes is unwilling either to concede the obvious point above, or to go socratic with me (or somebody else), he be required, at least to be consistent. That is, he should have deleted any comment in which he makes an assertion of fact if he does not:
    1) Demonstrate the mathematical basis of the claim;
    2) Provide a record of the observational basis of the claim; and
    3) Repeat steps (1) and (2) for all items of equipment used in making the observations; thereby demonstrating that he is not relying on a consensus of scientist in the background of his claim.

  66. Rachel says:

    AndThen, I think all of Brad’s comments should go through moderation before release.

    Tom, I agree, but I’m about to head out…..

  67. I’m also away for a few hours so have turned on manual migration – at least I hope I have. Am doing it on my phone, so not the most straightforward thing to do.

  68. Rachel says:

    I’ll be back at my desk in 20 mins.

  69. izen says:

    @- Brad Keyes
    “… have you ever corrected the regulars here who think it’s legitimate to use consensus as a form of evidence in scientific questions? (It’s not.)”

    Wrong.
    The consensus either in the published research or amongst active researchers is a legitimate form of evidence for the consilience and weight of the material evidence on the issue. The historical development of the consensus makes for even stronger, and entirely legitimate, evidence for what scientific research has established as credible, with high certainty, and what is still uncertain.

    While a For/Against measure may be rather simplistic, the examination of all the research in a particular field to determine the consensus view is a recognised method in medicine for instance. Try looking up ‘Cochrane review’.

    Perhaps to make the strength of the consensus finding better an international panel looking at the relevant research and grading it on its quality and relevance before creating a summary of the consensus findings on climate change could be set up. {sarc off}

  70. @ Brad So tell me, Gareth: y? z? Left-right? Caudal-rostral? Ventral-dorsal? Which “personal axis” am I grinding when I refer to the belief in climate catastrophe as “climate catastrophism”? 😉

    It depends on your culture and personal views Brad. I’m not sure why you think as do, that would take a pretty detailed psychometric assessment, the only things I’m sure of is that you are human, (ok you may be AI, but if so that’s another issue) and as a human you are an individual with all the subjective thoughts and views of the world that entails. We are all of this nature, some of us like to emphasise that and rail against ideas that conform us to a pattern, possibly in the way of consensus on any given subject for example.

  71. verytallguy says:

    Reich.Eschhaus/John Mashey

    On the (in)effectiveness of blogs in changing minds

    I do not know Tamsin, but she should have support on her blog. If people here know her, they should help her.

    I disagree. Tamsin gets the commenters she deserves; if she moderated the dross then she would attract more constructive comments. If she chooses not to then others diving in there are simply wrestling with pigs, and we know where that ends up – see Curry’s.

    the issue is whether you aiming to change the mind of contrarian or trying to reach uncommitted onlookers.

    You will never change the mind of a contrarian. If that is your purpose, you are doomed to failure. If you want to change the minds of the uncommitted, climate blogs are not the way to do it as their readership will almost certainly be very small compared to mainstream media outlets, and likely people already of fixed views.

  72. Brad Keyes says:

    AndThen,

    “have you ever corrected the regulars here who think it’s legitimate to use consensus as a form of evidence in scientific questions?”

    Find an example of where this has happened and I will.

    Excellent, thank you. But we didn’t have to wait long for an example, did we? I look forward to your correction of izen:

    The consensus either in the published research or amongst active researchers is a legitimate form of evidence…

  73. @verytallguy

    You will never change the mind of a contrarian. If that is your purpose, you are doomed to failure. If you want to change the minds of the uncommitted, climate blogs are not the way to do it as their readership will almost certainly be very small compared to mainstream media outlets, and likely people already of fixed views.

    That is a spot on comment, well said. But always remember, it works both ways, for committed adherents of the science no evidence will ever change how they perceive climate change and more than for contrarians, because it is much of the time, not about the evidence. It is about how an individual perceives the world and how they defend that perception. For good examples of both reactions, place an innocuous but slightly challenging post on say Skeptical science and Bishops hill. The responses to the two differing opinions are remarkable similar once you remover the climate related content. One of the most difficult things for anyone to carry out is a literature search limited to finding evidence which opposes their position. I am a person with an interest in climatology, certainly not an expert. However psychiatry is my profession and Tamsin’s Nine lesson are just about the sharpest comments I have seen for some time.

  74. Rachel says:

    AndThen,
    “have you ever corrected the regulars here who think it’s legitimate to use consensus as a form of evidence in scientific questions?”
    Find an example of where this has happened and I will…..

    Brad,

    I’ve released your comment because I want to respond to it. If I understand AndThen’s comment from this morning, which seems to be in agreement with yours, then I think I disagree with him and he is perfectly entitled to now say, “Rachel, you are wrong”. In fact I would prefer that to an irritating beat around the bush.

    My view is that how can science progress if you cannot rely on the conclusions that others have come to through a proper scientific process? Otherwise, as Tom points out, you’d have to perform all of the experimentation yourself in order to progress further. So I’m with Izen on this one. This doesn’t mean that the consensus views will always be correct.

    I’m married to a mathematician. He tells me that quite often he’ll prove a theorem which relies on the work of hundreds other mathematicians over the course of centuries. Yet he doesn’t feel the need to go and and read every single one of those proofs. He is accepting the consensus views of mathematicians before him. I imagine that climate scientists do something similar. For instance, I’m sure they accept that water boils at 100C without having the need to prove it directly themselves.

  75. verytallguy says:

    Gareth

    For good examples of both reactions, place an innocuous but slightly challenging post on say Skeptical science and Bishops hill. The responses to the two differing opinions are remarkable similar once you remover the climate related content.

    Yes, I’d agree with this, it’s one of the things which disappoints me about the climate blogosphere, and why I like this forum. I do think that rational blogs are better than contrarian blogs in this regard, but that may just be confirmation bias on my part.

    It’s worthwhile thinking about why the reactions are so similar, and when they are not. Would you be well received if you walked into a pub full of regulars you’d never met and told them they were wrong about something? Regardless of the topic, I suspect not.

    Generally, the only challenging comments received in a good way are from those already perceived to be on side – Tom Curtis provides a couple an example of this with his recent foray into challenging Hiroshima analogies on SKS.

    The thing with the internet is it allows people with really odd views (eg climate contrarians) to find other like minded folk and form a self reinforcing closed community, something much harder to do in the real world. There are infinitely worse examples than climate contrarians in this regard – Jihadis and child abusers spring to mind.

  76. BBD says:

    May I add that I am bored by Brad’s incessant riffing on the imaginary dangers of consensus? Must we return to this rabbit hole with its sides polished bright by repeated use? Brad’s fixation with consensus is what he does in the absence of an evidentially supported scientific argument against the scientific consensus on AGW. It’s all too obvious and tedious for yet more column inches here.

  77. BBD says:

    Can we also note that Brad is guilty of misrepresenting Izen by selective (truncated) quotation:

    Watch the cheap trick:

    [Brad:] Excellent, thank you. But we didn’t have to wait long for an example, did we? I look forward to your correction of izen:

    [Izen:] “The consensus either in the published research or amongst active researchers is a legitimate form of evidence…”

    Now, Izen in full (emphasis added):

    The consensus either in the published research or amongst active researchers is a legitimate form of evidence for the consilience and weight of the material evidence on the issue.

    See what Brad pulled there? The usual dishonesty.

  78. Brad Keyes says:

    [Mod : I’m not really interested in a debate about consensus. When you critised me for not correcting people I interpreted your comment as implying that people here had refuted others by essentially saying “there’s a 97% consensus, therefore you’re wrong”. I don’t believe that has ever happened.

    Tom and Izen, however, raise a much more relevant point. We use “consensus” science regularly. If you believe that the Higgs Boson exists, have you actually checked for yourself. I doubt it. It took thousands of scientists and engineers to build the LHC and collect and analyse the data. We trust that they have done so properly and been honest in what they present. Hence, accepting the existence of the Higgs Boson is an example of accepting a consensus position. There are many other examples where we do so.

    If you can make a substantive comment that addresses this point, I’ll release it. If not, I won’t.]

  79. Brad Keyes says:

    Rachel, please either remove BBD’s allegation of “dishonesty” against me or publish my responses to it. You can’t tolerate the former while censoring the latter. Thanks.

    [Mod : Maybe dishonest is a strong word, but BBD makes a valid point. Leaving out the latter part of Izen’s comment appears to change the meaning in a way that appears dishonest. My moderation comment on your previous comment still stands. Make a substantive comment addressing what Tom and Izen have said or I won’t allow any more of your comments through.]

  80. Rachel says:

    Brad,
    I actually meant to pull you up on your clipping of Izen’s quote but forgot and then BBD beat me to it. I think it is a bit dishonest to quote only part of what someone said so as to change the meaning.

  81. BBD says:

    Misrepresentation by deliberately selective quotation to change the apparent meaning of a statement is dishonest.

  82. Brad Keyes says:

    ” I think it is a bit dishonest to quote only part of what someone said so as to change the meaning.”

    I didn’t alter Izen’s meaning one iota. He or she was using consensus as evidence [Mod : No he/she wasn’t. He/she was pointing out that it is valid to use the level of consensus as evidence for the weight of the material evidence. He was not using the consensus as evidence]. The fact that it was only using consensus as evidence of evidence is neither here nor there. Perhaps this is not obvious to those who have never studied formal logic, but it’s blindingly transparent to me [Mod : Just because it is blinding obvious to you does not make it true. You still haven’t addressed Tom or Izen’s point that we regularly use consensus views when considering scientific situations. Higgs Boson being a perfectly reasonable example.]

    I repeat: Please have the decency either to publish my earlier reply to BBD’s accusation of dishonesty or remove the accusation. [Mod : I can’t because I don’t keep a copy of people’s comments when they’re moderated. I’ll let this one through on the basis that it gives you an opportunity to complain about BBD’s accusation. Intentional or not, I still think your truncation of Izen’s quote changed the meaning and appears dishonest.]

    [Mod : I have no desire for this discussion to continue. Your complaint about BBD using the term dishonest is duly noted.]

  83. The interesting point about consensus is in emergency medicine where you don’t have time to reflect, consider and experiment. In a crisis you go with the treatment that the consensus of Physicians recommend. That’s what most of us would want as patients. Occasionally someone will go against that consensus and it occasionally improves clinical outcomes, often it does not and the General Medical Council then take a deep interest in your rationales. So you may ask, how do treatments progress? Well through careful, detailed and substantial trials where the evidence and results are published in peer reviewed journals and the resulting consensus points the way for the most likely effective treatment in a given circumstance. But what was a medical consensus when I was a student, is highly unlikely to be the same today! But it does not always follow a logical path, otherwise no Doctor or Nurse would ever smoke, but they do.
    And in effect that is a big hint that occasionally subjective beliefs will overide cognitive process.

  84. Barry Woods says:

    I think it is worth noting to any casual readers, that Tamsin Edwards was reporting on an event she attended, and is passing her on summaries of he speakers thoughts on the issue…..

    “The speakers were James Painter (University of Oxford), Chris Rapley (UCL) and Fiona Harvey (The Guardian), and the chair was (Lord) Julian Hunt (UCL). Rather than write up my meeting notes, I’ll focus on the key points.
    [Disclaimer: All quotes and attributions are based on my recollections and note-taking, and may not be exact.]” – Dr Tamsin Edwards

    I’ll have to ask which ones Tamsin agrees with, disagrees with, expands on, or whether she has any of her own to add. Prof Jonathan Jones, response to Tamsin is worth a read:
    (Tamsin previously invited Jonathan to share the stage with hew at a Cheltenham Science Festival event):

    http://blogs.plos.org/models/nine-lessons-and-carols-in-communicating-climate-uncertainty/#comment-62693

    in my opinion, Jonathans 9th response is most relevant to sci comms:

    “9. A spotless rose.
    The second great error of climate communicators (after thinking that ordinary people care) is to fail to realise how badly they are distrusted by climate sceptics: if advocated by a climate communicator then even motherhood and apple pie would come under suspicion. This is not because you are all bad apples, but simply because you share a barrel with some horribly rotten ones. Until the rotten apples have been cleared out there will be no true progress; it really is as simple as that.” – Jonathan Jones

  85. Brad Keyes says:

    “You still haven’t addressed Tom or Izen’s point that we regularly use consensus views when considering scientific situations. Higgs Boson being a perfectly reasonable example.”

    Yes I have. You just didn’t publish my response. And now you “can’t,” because moderation apparently entails deletion. [Mod : Try writing it again then. Maybe have a read of Tom’s recent comment when doing so as that at least appears to make a thoughtful contribution to the discussion.]

    (By the way, I enjoy non-destructive moderation at my blog, so I’m very sure it’s technically possible.) [Mod : I’m sure it is, but when I’m trying to fit moderation into everything else I’m doing today, I don’t always have time to do everything the way everyone would like. Bear in mind that I’m not providing a public service and have no great desire to spend my day moderation a discussion that’s unlikely to be constructive.]

  86. Tom Curtis says:

    At the risk of fanning flames, I think Izen confuses two issues.
    The first is consilience of evidence, which is the most powerful indication that a theory is on the right track. In essence, if you have a theories, A, B, C, and D, and facts a, b, and c, such that A explains (predicts) a, B explains b, C explains c, and D explains a & b & c, then in general D has far greater support from the evidence than the conjunctions of A, B and C. Cochrane reviews review evidence from multiple studies to examine whether the theory under examination conciliates the evidence, or not. By doing so, they are able to show that the theory is far better supported by the theory (or not) than just examination of single studies would allow.

    This is quite distinct from consensus, which is agreement in the opinions of scientists. (John Cook has introduced the term “consensus of the evidence”, but that only adds confusion IMO.) Consilience of the evidence is a powerful explanation of consensus of the scientists, but it is not the only such potential explanation. Therefore it is inappropriate for an expert to infer that their theory is sound based on the agreement of other scientists. Scientists in their area of expertise should have no evidentiary recourse other than the evidence and background theories. Of course, analyzing that evidence includes the possibility of showing concilience of the evidence – but that is not the same as a consensus.

    So, having made this distinction clear, Izen is quite correct in what s/he says to the extent that s/he is talking about concilience, but not to the extent that s/he is talking about consensus.

  87. Barry, thanks. I had rather missed that Tamsin was reporting on an event she had attended.

  88. Tom Curtis says:

    Gareth:

    “But always remember, it works both ways, for committed adherents of the science no evidence will ever change how they perceive climate change and more than for contrarians, because it is much of the time, not about the evidence.”

    I disagree. I, certainly, am continuously revising my opinion on climate change. The revisions are based on evidence and (I hope) careful reasoning. They do not have a general tendency, either towards more or less catastrophic views of AGW, ie, I have revised in both directions, and neutral on that point on a regular basis. Further, I would say my experience is similar to that of most of the SkS team to a greater or lesser extent. Certainly they all welcome a carefully reasoned evidence based challenge to their views.

    “For good examples of both reactions, place an innocuous but slightly challenging post on say Skeptical science and Bishops hill. The responses to the two differing opinions are remarkable similar once you remover the climate related content.”

    I cannot comment with regard to Bishop Hill, but it is perfectly possible to post “challenging posts” at SkS and receive back challenging rather than abusive responses. Of course, this does not always, or even typically happen. In order to have the clear discussion, it is necessary to:
    1) Be upfront about the basis of your posting. If you are just asking a question, say so and accept the answer or, if confused, say that and seek clarification. If you wish to challenge an opinion, or purported fact, say that you are challenging it. Don’t do the former under the pretext of the later. The fold at SkS have had far too much of that, and know that conversations with people who run under false pretenses will never go anywhere.
    2) Do not include “denier memes” or turns of speech in your posts. If you dismiss Michael Mann on the basis of “climategate”, for example, you will not get a “fair” hearing (although IMO you will get a just one).
    3) Make sure you back your claims with reasoning that you explain, from peer reviewed sources of data – preferably with links so that your interlocutors can check your sources.

    If you do the above, you will probably find that your discussion will be pleasant and fruitful (which is not the same thing as convincing anyone). If you don’t, you will run into the fact that all of the participants at SkS have run into no end of abuse, irrationality and pretense. They know that conversations based on that go nowhere and are not interested in wasting their time – and will show it.

  89. andrew adams says:

    Barry,

    Jonathan Jones is wrong, I think climate commentators are perfectly aware how badly they are mistrusted by “skeptics”. But the skeptics need to realise that they are equally mistrusted and so climate communicators often don’t feel it worthwhile to bother trying to change their opinion. Tamsin obviously thinks otherwise, and she’s perfectly entitled to try. She even claims to be having much success, but that doesn’t seem very apparent from the comments on her blog.

    And on a related note while I’m not going to criticise her for listening to the views of skeptics I think she should expect (and enforce) some level of conduct in return. People should not be able to just go and throw mud at climate scientists and get polite thanks in return.

  90. verytallguy says:

    Barry,

    Until the rotten apples have been cleared out there will be no true progress; it really is as simple as that.

    have the courage of your convictions, Barry.

    1. Name names, point us to evidence
    2. Show me where deniers have ever responded to action or evidence to change their worldview
    3. Define “cleared out”

    Because I don’t believe this at all.
    1. I have not seen evidence of rotten apples, only repetition of smears
    2. Climate change denial predates any discussion of scientific ethics
    3. Action has to be proportionate to offence, otherwise you’re advocating a witchunt

    In plain English: [Rachel: this bit isn’t really necessary]

  91. Brad Keyes says:

    Mod:

    Maybe have a read of Tom’s recent comment when doing so as that at least appears to make a thoughtful contribution to the discussion.

    Tom’s latest remarks on Izen et al. would be hard to improve upon, so I don’t intend to try. (His concluding paragraph in particular is spot-on.)

    Bear in mind that I’m not providing a public service and have no great desire to spend my day moderation a discussion that’s unlikely to be constructive.

    Really?! You mean you don’t get a buzz out of moderating comments?

    Then don’t moderate every single comment I type.

    Simples.

    Your ongoing preoccupation with “constructive” (versus destructive?) discussion, whatever that means, is causing you unnecessary work. 🙂 What are you afraid will happen if you don’t interfere? I assure you: nobody has ever been destroyed by unfettered debate with me. Their ego, yes; their reputation, occasionally; but not their person.

    [Rachel: Brad, I’m not as nice as AndThen and I have been deleting your comments because they either haven’t addressed the points you say they have or because they’ve been inflammatory. I may have made some wrong decisions but want to request that you try to avoid bombing the thread and stick with the topic, and I’ve almost forgotten what it was, communicating uncertainty.]

  92. Tom Curtis says:

    Barry quotes approvingly Jonathon Rose:

    ““9. A spotless rose.
    The second great error of climate communicators (after thinking that ordinary people care) is to fail to realise how badly they are distrusted by climate sceptics: if advocated by a climate communicator then even motherhood and apple pie would come under suspicion. This is not because you are all bad apples, but simply because you share a barrel with some horribly rotten ones. Until the rotten apples have been cleared out there will be no true progress; it really is as simple as that.” – Jonathan Jones

    Jonathon’s claim is complete tripe. Not the claim that climate scientists are distrusted, but the reasons given. If the presence of a few bad apples were sufficient to generate distrust, then those “climate skeptics” would massively distrust their own leadership. Again, I present the example of Murry Salby who is clearly deceitful in his handling of data. Is he subsequently distrusted by “climate skeptics”? Or those who promote him distrusted? Not a bit of it. Nor has Monckton’s name been buried in ignominy; nor Easterbrook’s, and so on and endlessly on.

    The fact is, if a purported “reason” for an opinion does not apply equally in all relevant instances, it is not a reason but a pretext. So, at best “climate skeptics” massively distrust climate scientists because they have been told that they should, and they are no more real skeptics about such claims than they are about climate science. But for very many, it is rather that they turn a microscope onto climate scientist flaws, and a blind eye to that of the people they trust on climate. They are happy to be lied to and deceived no end by people who are telling them what they want to here; but will distrust climate scientists regardless of the justification because the climate scientists have the unfortunate habit of telling them the truth.

  93. verytallguy says:

    Barry,

    as Rachael modded my plain english, here are some more considered words.

    I consider your JJones quote to be a smear against an entire group of people, and I regard repeating it as unacceptable unless you are prepared to back it up with evidence.

    If you aren’t able to do so, my opinion of you would go up hugely if you had the courage to withdraw your approval for it.

    (how’s that Rachael – overly pompous maybe, but at least civil…)

  94. Barry Woods says:

    Very Tall Guy.. Jonathans words. not mine….
    it might be wise, to ask why does he think that, rather than to dismiss it out of hand.

    And I don’t think our host wants us to start naming names…. (with examples and evidence of course) happy to oblige, but not without our hosts permission.

  95. Rachel says:

    Verytallguy,
    That’s fine except that you got my name wrong. It’s Rachel without the second a. Sorry to moderate your previous, punchier comment. I don’t want to be accused of bias in moderating.

  96. Barry Woods says:

    it would perhaps be a lot easy to list climate scientist that I trust, (includes a lot at the Met Office, Walker institute, for example) though not necessarily agree with on everything, but it is a very long one

  97. verytallguy says:

    Barry,

    stop hiding behind the moderation. If you’re allowed to post a smear, then you’re allowed to post evidence for it. Let’s hear it.

  98. Brad Keyes says:

    I’d gladly respond to the challenge set by verytallguy of justifying JJones’ complete liturgy, but would be rightly criticised for wandering away from the topic… which I think was something about uncommunicating certainty? Uncertain communication? Excommunicating with certainty?

  99. Barry Woods says:

    Jonathan seems to be saying there are a FEW ‘rotten apples, amongst a whole group of ‘good apples’ ie he thinks most ‘apples are good’ and is offering some advice to the ‘good apples’ about what to do about the few (he thinks) ‘bad apples’

    How is that smearing the good apple community?

    take it up with Jonathan.

  100. verytallguy says:

    Rachel,

    sorry! Homophones are my principle grammatical vice.

  101. verytallguy says:

    Barry,

    take it up with Jonathan.

    Come on Barry. You brought the quote here. To refuse to substantiate it whilst continuing to promote it is a transparent attempt to avoid personal responsibility.

    Do you agree with it or not? If not, withdraw it. If yes, substantiate it.

  102. BBD says:

    How about if the claim that there are rotten apples is mendacious, self-serving tripe?

  103. BBD says:

    The denial machine has constructed a narrative of “untrustworthy” climate scientists out of nothing but innuendo and misrepresentation. It is, in short, a lie. We must reject dishonest narratives or we are their victims too.

  104. @AndThen: Tamsins comments are indeed only a summary (of course presented with her own spin), but I took your posting as if you knew that given that the interesting aspect of it is how the nine lessons presented go together with her comment section. In that sense, the discussion went into the right direction regardless of the lessons origin.

    @Reich.Eschhaus: I’m afraid you are inconsistent. Saying “She is on her own moderationwise” and “If people here know her, they should help her” simply doesn’t go together. As verytallguy correctly points out, “Tamsin [and everyone else] gets the commenters she deserves“. She has chosen to wrestle with people who, predictably, will never change their contrarian mind, so she has to deal with it. Honestly, it’s a bit sad to see a colleague going down that road, but I think she can easily cope with it (it simplifies life a lot, if you’re not getting upset about peoples irrationality). She is doing great research and that’s what I judge her on. Her blog posts are worth to be read, but I happen to think that her intended efforts are going to be (scientifically) in vain. She won’t change contrarian minds, but confuse the lurkers by allowing dismissive and unjustified comments towards mainstream science. After all, if you want to have a constructive debate, you have to make sure that destructive commenters don’t take over. Force them to answer your questions in a constructive way (and there are no two interpretations of what’s constructive and what isn’t; i.e. that’s simply not to be up for debate) before you allow them to participate any further. AndThen (and Rachel) sees to be on the right track in that regard. Well done! If you can’t afford the time to do that, I’m afraid the only solution is to reduce the number of blog entries ;).

    FWIW, I’m also inclined to think that Gareth Phillips got it mainly right (in his response to verytallguy at 9:16 am). However, as a scientist I see myself (naturally) as a committed adherent of the science. As such, my perception of climate change will certainly change if the evidence changes. In fact, adherence to science inevitably sets the limits. Someone who isn’t willing to change his view isn’t a committed adherent of the science in my point of view. Rather it would be a “fake-adherent”. Tom (at 12:15) made a similar comment which I happen to agree with.

  105. OPatrick says:

    Barry, I think you are being a coward. You have quoted a deeply inflammatory paragraph from Jonathan Jones but without making any judgement about it. You can of course then argue that you weren’t promoting it, merely pointing it out as evidence of the views of one side of the debate. But you didn’t make that clear and it still isn’t clear. I doubt you don’t understand that accusing a community of ‘not clearing out rotten apples’ is a smear, yet alone the unjustified accusation about the rotten apples. If you are happy to be associated with that comment then please have the guts to name the names and stand by that.

  106. Marco says:

    Barry, it is smearing the good apple community by forcibly putting them in the same barrel as the supposed “horribly rotten” ones, without even the slightest attempt to show why this is appropriate. Oddly, Jonathan Jones (not “Rose”, Tom) seems to ignore the fact that if he sees it that way, then surely he should be fighting like crazy to remove the selection of “horribly rotten” ones in the climate skeptic community, as Tom notes, since those are in their own barrel together, surely. So, why the asymmetric demands?

  107. I got the html tags slightly wrong. Here the begin of the 2nd part again:

    @Reich.Eschhaus: I’m afraid you are inconsistent. Saying “She is on her own moderationwise” and “If people here know her, they should help her” simply doesn’t go together. As verytallguy correctly points out, “Tamsin [and everyone else] gets the commenters she deserves“.

    [Rachel: I’ve fixed it in your original comment]

  108. Marco says:

    On another note, regarding Barry’s reference to Jonathan Jones and Andrew pointing out that Tamsin thinks she’s had some success: what Jonathan Jones actually tells her is that she will never have any success until she and many others with her have thrown (unnamed) fellow scientists under the bus.

  109. Thanks Tom for your response. My experience is that Skep Science is a good place to learn, but a bad place to question. I recall once posting a point which stated that the rate at which the Arctic was melting had lessened, though it would no doubt disappear fairly soon as melting had by no means stopped. I used a few reliable references. I was pretty quickly shot down in flames, a reference was made to show the trend ( which I agreed with) along with an allegation of cherry picking. I pointed I was not cherry picking to change the principle, the trend was obvious, but the most recent rate varied much more thanks previously, did anyone know why?. That response was deleted by the moderator . To me , my one polite and apparent reasonable response did not appear to be breaking any rules, but it was uncomfortable for someone for reasons other than climate science, and was so deleted. In my view that was because I was not challenging the science, but was challenging someones view and that is as uncomfortable for someone on my side of the debate as it is for someone who is more skeptical.
    I believe an important point is that we all behave in similar ways on a personal level regardless of being right or wrong and irrespective of the science or evidence. If Skep science behave in a way that drives away supporters of the consensus, it begs the question of what impact it has on those seeking to clarify their own questions and arrive at a conclusion. I post on sites on both sides of the debate, it’s difficult on skeptical sites, but lets not kid ourselves, supportive sites can be just as aggressive and antagonistic. I must admit I rather like this site after being directed from WUWT, hopefully it will maintain it’s quiet confidence in the science without resorting to zealotry.

  110. Barry Woods says:

    yes – I agree with Jonathan… but as I said, I doubt whether our host wants anyone to name names.. so I will defer from doing so, until out host makes his judgement on this.

    [Rachel: Our host is busy at the moment so it’s just me but I realise this is a contentious topic. However it is related to #9 – Trust is important. I agree with Verytallguy, that you have already, by virtue of putting forth someone else’s quote with which you agree, made an unsubstantiated claim about the reputation of climate scientists. Your option here is to either provide evidence for this or state that this is just your opinion and that you have no evidence. If I feel your comment is going to create flames, then I’ll keep it in moderation for AndThen to deal with.]

  111. OPatrick says:

    But always remember, it works both ways, for committed adherents of the science no evidence will ever change how they perceive climate change an[y] more than for contrarians, because it is much of the time, not about the evidence.

    Unlike K.a.r.S.t.e.n., I don’t agree with Gareth Phillips’ point here. However the weight of evidence I can see for our understanding of climate science is such that it would take a lot of new evidence, or something really quite startling, to shift my understanding significantly. Opinions about climate science do shift with the evidence, but the change is a gradual, almost impreceptible, one and there is a lag on top of that as genuine scepticism is usually applied.

  112. Brad Keyes says:

    Marco—

    So, why the asymmetric demands?

    The rules of science are inherently asymmetric, I’m afraid. The “Negative” “side” of the “debate” doesn’t need unimpeachable credibility, if you’ll forgive me for throwing another fruit into the metaphorical barrel. If—note: I said if!—the proponents of a hypothesis are dodgy then it doesn’t matter whether its opponents are saints or sinners.

  113. Rachel says:

    [If] the proponents of a hypothesis are dodgy then it doesn’t matter whether its opponents are saints or sinners.

    Shouldn’t this apply to Murry Salby?

  114. Brad Keyes says:

    “Shouldn’t this apply to Murry Salby?”

    Of course it should, if he’s proposing a hypothesis. Is he? (Forgive me but I literally don’t know who he is.)

    [Rachel: It didn’t take me very long to find a previous comment in which you mention Salby therefore I find it hard to believe you when you say you don’t know who he is. ]

  115. Barry Woods says:

    it is not a ‘claim’ it is an opinion..

    and to be specific, the topic is about ‘the communication of’ – not the science itself (a whole other debate)

    ie the conduct of a number of scientist, ‘communicating’ in the media and elsewhere has done damage to the public view of the filed, in my opinion. How does the public view scientist using the language of political advocacy. (then picked up by politicians. ie Gordon Brown, double deniers, flat-earthers, or Ed Milliband climate denier rhetoric, Chris Huhne, Climate Nuremburg’s, etc, which were aimed at political opposition, with respect to POLICIES, not science)

    M Mann’s continued politicised rhetoric (fossil fuel denier style rhetoric) being an example, which polarise people. and is unhelpful. Hansens (death trains) rhetoric, Trenberth’s denier rhetoric, are examples of bad communication apples. I imagine J Jones has some thoughts on P Jones conduct towards him as well, for daring his to ask for data (and having to FOI it) on scientific principle (and wanting to go behind his back to have words with his university) Dr Don Keiller was equally unimpressed.

  116. verytallguy says:

    Brad

    If—note: I said if!—the proponents of a hypothesis are dodgy then it doesn’t matter whether its opponents are saints or sinners.

    This actually misses the point.

    There’s no reason that scientists per se, should be morally upright than anyone else. The morality and ethics of individual scientists will vary from pure to corrupt, just like bankers, to take a topical example. The scientific process is what makes scientific claims more plausible than bankers claims.

    Anyone who claims that climate change is real because scientists are wonderful moral beings is heading for a fall, as it will *always* be possible to find imperfections in individuals behaviour. Equally, anyone who -as you appear to be – claims that moral perfection is a necessary precondition for science to be accepted is putting an unachievable bar to accepting the science.

  117. If science would only work if every scientist was a saint, we would never have had scientific progress. The scientific community is structured in a way that keeps most people honest. For example by forcing people to write up clearly what they did so that others can continue the work. In that respect the rotten-apple debate shows a lack of understanding of how science works.

    [Rachel: Just for consistency, I’ve decided to remove this bit as it was a tad inflammatory.]

    For what it is worth, I have criticized a Skeptical Science post on temperature trends in the Antarctic because a figure was wrongly interpreted and because of worries about the homogeneity of the data. That was gracefully accepted.

  118. Playing the ref should not be allowed, Rachel. Please consider deleting all comments whining about your moderation. By “whining” I mean attacking your pride (“what are you afraid will happen if you don’t interfere?”), your competence: (“my own practices are better than yours”, paraphrasing), your integrity (“Really?! You mean you don’t get a buzz out of moderating comments?”), and whatnot.

    Probity does not require enduring Brad’s abuses.

  119. Rachel says:

    Thanks, Willard. I’m still trying to get it right and I did delete a few complaints about my moderation. There were others 🙂

  120. Barry Woods says:

    Lets us imagine that every sceptic disappeared tonight… took a long holiday.

    would those that I suggest communicate badly, win over the general public’ with the sort of rhetoric described?

    Perhaps they are passed their communications sell by date (too much history, too entrenched, too polarising) , and the next generation of scientist might do a better job, ie people like Ed Hawkins, Tamsin Edwards even Doug McNeall, or Richard Betts at the Met office –
    (examples of UK scientists, others might suggest other nationalities)

  121. BBD says:

    Barry

    You are dodging the previous question in a singularly disingenuous manner.

  122. I know on which side my bread is buttered. Rachel’s doing a magnificent job of moderating. Fantastic.Peerless. Class leading. World class.

  123. BBD says:

    And Barry, changing the messanger doesn’t change the message: ECS/2xCO2 is somewhere around 3C which has major policy implications. All efforts to get around this because you don’t like the policy implications of the science suffer from a degree of desperation and transparency. Yours are no exception.

  124. Marco says:

    Brad, nice, going from “a few” (Barry’s interpretation of Jonathan Jones’ argument) to a vague unquantified number smaller than 100% (the actual claim of Jonathan Jones) to all (you). This kind of trick does not even deserve any further discussion.

  125. > Lets us imagine that every sceptic disappeared tonight… took a long holiday.

    I am a sucker for thought experiments.

    Let us imagine that targets like Mike, Peter, Gavin (the guy whom we still wonder if he’s honest after all), Phil, John or Lew did not exist.

    Do you think contrarians would not find other scapegoats?

    René Girard might disagree:

    If two individuals desire the same thing, there will soon be a third, then a fourth. This process quickly snowballs. Since from the beginning the desire is aroused by the other (and not by the object) the object is soon forgotten and the mimetic conflict transforms into a general antagonism. At this stage of the crisis the antagonists will no longer imitate each other’s desires for an object, but each other’s antagonism. They wanted to share the same object, but now they want to destroy the same enemy. So, a paroxysm of violence would tend to focus on an arbitrary victim and a unanimous antipathy would, mimetically, grow against him. The brutal elimination of the victim would reduce the appetite for violence that possessed everyone a moment before, and leaves the group suddenly appeased and calm. The victim lies before the group, appearing simultaneously as the origin of the crisis and as the one responsible for this miracle of renewed peace. He becomes sacred, that is to say the bearer of the prodigious power of defusing the crisis and bringing peace back.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ren%C3%A9_Girard

    Auditing concerns might never end.

  126. verytallguy says:

    Barry,

    OK, so let’s get this straight.

    You no longer claim that any scientists are “rotten apples” per se, merely that “communication of science” from individuals is makes them “rotten apples” of communication.

    Is that correct?

    You then name:
    Mike Mann
    James Hansen
    Phil Jones
    Kevin Trenberth

    as being four of these “rotten apples”, although you are clear that you are not disputing their findings, merely their communication, right?

    So, what does “clearing out” these four individuals mean, Barry? Please let us know.

  127. izen says:

    @- Tom Curtis
    “Izen is quite correct in what s/he says to the extent that s/he is talking about concilience, but not to the extent that s/he is talking about consensus.”

    Thank you, I think…..
    I take your point that consensus is about the agreement of individuals and as such is a less powerful indicator of how strong the science is than the consilience of the evidence. However using consensus to refer to the evidence is metaphorical and can be informative.

    For instance, by your definition of consilience you exclude the situation where different lines of physical evidence support the same conclusions. The results from boreholes, tree rings, ice cores and lake sediments all indicate a similar paleoclimate history despite the different methodologies and physics processes that generated the observed data. While this might not quite match the definition of consilience it is an agreement or consensus in the evidence that strongly supports the conclusion of recent exceptional warming. The total weight of agreement is greater than the sum of its parts.

    In an attempt to link this to the thread topic and avoid further delving into the role of consensus, the agreement of different methodologies is a key factor in reducing the uncertainty. While any individual method may have substantial error ranges, the combination and agreement of many lines of evidence derived from different physical processes vastly reduces any uncertainty below that which a single method result might provide.

    The obvious application of this principle is when doubt is expressed about the instrumental record. It is strongly confirmed by the many alternate means of measurement. I can understand the hesitation of using consilience or consensus for this mutual support from different lines and methods of research, but I would argue it is an acceptable metaphor for this feature of the evidence that reduces the uncertainty.

  128. BBD says:

    M Mann’s continued politicised rhetoric (fossil fuel denier style rhetoric) being an example, which polarise people. and is unhelpful.

    The energy industry has been a long-term and substantial funder of the narrative parroted by such as you, Barry. This is so well-documented as to be accepted as a matter of fact by well-informed commenters.

    Do you actually, seriously dispute this matter of fact? Because unless you are arguing flatly against a wall of evidence, then you remark about Mann makes no sense at all.

    He is correct and you are wrong.

  129. izen says:

    It is possible to get subsumed by the issue of how to educate sceptics, or communicate climate risks effectively. All very laudable, and being able to describe what evidence might cause you to reconsider at least the basis of your views is certainly useful. I have found that declaring that three years of temperatures below the average for the preceding decade would cause me to look at AGW theory again and challenge another poster on what might cause them to reconsider is an effective tactic.

    However it is only a tactic in the ongoing and occasionally amusing, intermittently stimulating, game of engaging with the denialarti.
    The big problem is that whatever the popular view of climate change the motivation for effective action is weak, and likely to remain so, and the political systems for imposing any global regulation or control that would have a physical impact on the warming process are non-existant. The science of AGW has very little inherent uncertainty. The impacts that it may cause are much less well defined. The governmental capability and willingness to respond to any of those potential threats is virtually zero.

  130. verytallguy says:

    Willard,

    unless I’m very much mistaken, Girard is accurately describing a twitterstorm

  131. Tom Curtis says:

    izen, I don’t think I provided a definition of consilience, only an abstract example. For the definition I relied on that at wikipedia to which I linked. Long story short, the situation you describe in your second paragraph is exactly what is meant by consilience of evidence. And again, having suitably substituted “consilience” for “consensus”, I agree with all you say.

  132. Thanks Rachel for editing my previous comment.

    @OPatrick: I think you picked up the very point on which I also didn’t quite agree with Gareth Phillips. Perhaps I should have made my point a bit clearer. There certainly are non-scientists who claim to be on the science-side of the debate, but in fact choose to dismiss evidence which doesn’t fit their preconceived ideas. Their number is probably very small in comparison to the vast number of ostriches out there, but that doesn’t make them disappear. I thought that it was probably the argument Gareth was going to make. On the other hand, most of what’s in the public discourse are well-established facts which indeed require extraordinary evidence to be overturned (in a gradual fashion as you’ve correctly pointed out). I guess, in essence, I’m entirely with you here.

  133. Rachel says:

    Thanks, John. But I want you to know that I did not approve your comment. Anders must have. 🙂

  134. andrew adams says:

    Barry,

    How much impact on public opinion (at least here in the UK) do you think the pronouncements of Mann, Trenberth etc. have? Virtually none I would guess – whatever one thinks of the kind of comments you mention they don’t get much traction outside the blogosphere. However, there are a number of prominent skeptics who get plenty of exposure in the mainstream media whose arguments are superficially plausible enough to have an influence on a relatively uninformed audience.

    So yes, I would say that if the skeptics did take a collective holiday this would have an impact on the wider public’s understanding of climate change.

  135. Rachel says:

    Willard,
    unless I’m very much mistaken, Girard is accurately describing a twitterstorm

    That is so funny.

  136. BBD says:

    Well said andrew adams

    Lord Lawson, Andrew Montford and Matt Ridley all spring to mind. The Daily Mail and the Telegraph also have a large influence (especially the former and its website).

  137. verytallguy says:

    JHS, plus anyone complaining, re Anders’ and Rachel’s impeccable moderation, a glimpse into a dystopian landscape where moderation is lacking…

  138. Louise says:

    Andrew Adams – I agree 100%. Mainstream media has very many more regular commenters on the anti-science side in the UK, e.g. Delingpole, Lawson, Rose, Monckton, Pile, etc.

  139. Louise says:

    Ah, I see BBD posted whilst I was writing my post making the same point

  140. Unless you are mistaken, VeryTall, climate scientists might need to take example on @pricehoundUK and find an intern.

    Better yet, a bunch of interns.

    Either that or winning the Internet over and over again:

  141. Thanks Karsten and Patrick. My point about why we tend to take the side of established and demonstrated science is for me due in part to certain beliefs which are different from the evidence. The evidence for me is really useful, it makes me happy because it supports my view of the world. I could probably predict with a fair degree of accuracy that fellow supporters are also keen on renewable energy, would be concerned about how we treat the environment, would not see the market as a final arbitrator in various issues and would be concerned with human values. I also see that those who curse the supporters of wind generators as spawn of Satan, who see climate science as a left wing plot and believe human rights are political correctness gone mad, are likely to see Barack Obama as a closet Moslem, label me a communist and vehemently oppose any evidence which calls those things into question. Most people are not obviously that extreme, but no-one is ever going to persuade me that renewable energy is a bad thing and more than I can persuade mad Monckton that it is something we need to invest in. Our beliefs are part of who we are, we just happen to be on the right side at the moment. One day, we may be on the wrong side on another issue, will we be easily persuaded by evidence then? I think it was Lewinsky who alluded to these ideas in his conspiracy theories regarding skeptics, but we may have the same traits functioning on our side as a mirror of that concept. I accept that many people state they believe in climate change science purely because of the evidence. I cannot honestly say the same, I would have believed it before the evidence because it just felt right, and fits with my view of the world. The evidence is a great bonus.

  142. Apologies, that should be Lewandowski not Lewinsky, MacBook predictive text!

  143. BBD says:

    @ VTG
    @ Willard

    I warned them all that Twitter was evil. Nobody would listen to me.

    😉

  144. Lars Karlsson says:

    Verytallguy, that was quite an exchange over at Curry’s place. Just so nobody misses anything:

    “Amused is all. I’m a barrel chested 5’10″ at 210 pounds with massive upper body strength kept up from logging and could knock your head clean off your shoulders with a single punch. But at my age it’s easier to just wave a snub-nose .38 in your face and call it a night without anyone going to the emergency room – me with a broken wrist or you with a broken face.” David Springer

    Judith must be proud of her blog.

  145. andrew adams says:

    I think there’s a fundamental difference between how the likes of Barry and Jonathan Jones see the dynamic of the climate change “debate” and how many of us here see it.

    Barry and Jones seems to view it as climate scientists and other “climate communicators” trying to convince policymakers and the public of the need for action and the public showing resistance (or not) depending on how the message and the actions of those communicating it are perceived. “Skeptics” are merely a subset of the wider public who have not been convinced of the need for action, and their role is a passive, or at least reactive, one.

    However the way I see it (and I guess some others here do too) is as a political battle between two factions, those arguing for action and those arguing against it and each one is doing its best to influence policymakers and the wider public. In this view skeptics are active players trying to “win” the argument. The role of scientists is more complex – they tend towards one side of the argument and some are active players, others try to inform the political battle without getting actively involved, some try to steer clear of it altogether.

    Add to that fundamental and irreconcilable differences between how certain people’s past words and actions have been interpreted and you have a completely unbreachable gulf between the two sides.

    Maybe that’s an over pessimistic view, I would certainly say very strongly that the notion that everything would be OK if scientists just did x is laughable.

  146. Well said Andrew, I would just add that there are various combinations on opinion, but that they tend toward one side or the other and there many people ensuring that never the twain shall meet.

  147. Thanks for all the comments and thanks to Rachel for all moderating. Apologies for not being more involved. Been rather busy all day. Some very interesting comments. I should probably acknowledge that I’ve probably been using “consensus” when I should probably have been using “consilience”. My only defence is that I’m a scientist, not a linguist 🙂

    The only thing that I can probably add is that after reading through the comments, all that I can really think is that this is a very complex topic and I’m not sure that there are any simple solutions. We can think as long and as hard as we like about how best to communicated uncertainty, but if some people don’t want to listen, there’s not much that can be done.

  148. Dave123 says:

    I’m going to suggest that there is a kind of ‘skeptic’ who simply wants to feel one-up on those four-eyed, pencil-necked geeks who call themselves scientists and who share a desire to beat up on the smart kids in class. I see this in the comments over at Tamsin’s as well. It’s not just dismissives that fall into that category. It’s a complex emotional brew of hate and envy. And from where I sit, this scientist-phobia is a far more powerful force than any actual factual or theoretical challenges to the science. It’s basically about scientists not knowing their place and being upitty, and thus any excuse to try for a smackdown.

  149. Ah, yes, the topic was communicating uncertainty.

    A very important topic within science.

    I am not so sure whether it is important in the communication with the public and politicians.

    To steal from a comment I read a few days ago: When we increase the number of teachers per pupil, we have no idea about its effect. When we give money to rich because otherwise their banks will ruin the economy, we have no idea whether that will solve the problem and how much help would be needed. When we implement a fiscal stimulus package in the USA, we have no idea how much growth it will produce and how much it will reduce the unemployment. Even afterwards, economists have no idea. People and politicians always deal with uncertainty. And much more uncertainty than we have in climatology. Thus I am not sure whether communicating the uncertainties better will make much difference.

    I guess the ostriches like the word because they think uncertainty means that nothing will happen. As in a political fight, were someone losing an argument may admit he is not sure. Maybe Dave123 formulated this even better.

  150. Victor, yes there is a sense that one of the reason why some want to focus on discussing how to communicate uncertainty is so that they can then point out that it’s clearly uncertain. Call me cynical if you like, but sometimes it’s hard not to be.

  151. guthrie says:

    I’m just curious now about the story of why Tamsin has embraced denialists and lukewarmers. Doing a Curry is not actually a viable career path if you want to stay in academia. On the thread linked to above I’ve seen multiple accusations of fraud and lying by climate scientists, of them hiding any uncertainty about the figures and so on.

  152. Guthrie, to be honest, I’m very reluctant to speculate as to why Tamsin chooses to engage how she does. One reason is that my own views have changed considerably over the last 8 months or so. When I started this blog, I thought that it might be possible to have serious and constructive discussions with those who are openly “skeptical/dismissive” of the fundamentals of climate science. Now I think that that is not really possible, nor really particularly worthwhile. There are some exceptions, but that’s pretty much how I feel right now. Tamsin presumably feels differently. We each, I guess, have to work out for ourselves how best to get involved (or not) in this topic.

  153. When Tamsin asked if she were a contrarian, I answered: “No, your science seems solid. You remind me of me in 2009. Back then I thought polite debate w contrarians was possible.”

    This is still my opinion. Tamsin assumes that contrarians are rational and persuadable, which is a natural assumption for a scientist to make. As my next tweet shows, the evidence for this assumption is lacking (note that Tamsin favorited it). I don’t think she’s doing a Curry, because Tamsin still seems like a competent scientist.

    Incidentally, Brad Keyes vanished right after Rachel pointed out that he’d “forgotten” about Salby. (I understand wanting to repress memories of Salby/Watts/Monckton/Spencer/Curry/etc.)

    Just out of curiosity, did Brad actually vanish, or were his subsequent comments moderated? (I’d also like to add my appreciation for Rachel’s even-handed moderation, because reading contrarian rants isn’t a chore I’d wish on my worst enemy.)

  154. BBD says:

    ATTP

    The next question we face after deciding that there isn’t much point in talking to “sceptics” is what to do about the endless outpouring of misinformation. Since the most coordinated and vocal “sceptics” are arguably a threat to the rest of us in the long run, permitting them to continue misleading the public and policy makers is irrational. Some limits need to be placed on the extent to which misinformation can be injected into the public discourse by “sceptics” – paid or simply acting out of political conviction – and soon. Enough is enough.

    Enablers like Tamsin need to stop talking and think about this as someone with a business background rather than scientific training would do. Facts need to be faced: this is not a debate; it is a conflict and attitudes need to harden accordingly.

  155. Rachel says:

    Thanks, DumbSci. There were a few more comments after the Salby one but not too many. Things have gone quiet now.

  156. DumbSci, yes Rachel did a great job in my absence today 🙂

    BBD, I agree that it would be beneficial if attitudes were to harden. There’s only so much pandering that can be done before it becomes damaging. Having said that, mine have hardened because I’ve learned the hard way that some things are not worth doing any more. So, it’s certainly my view that others need to work things out for themselves. It seems that most do work this out for themselves, but it’s still possible that some will decide otherwise. I don’t think anyone can insist that others behave in a certain way and I don’t think it would do us an favours if we tried to do so.

  157. Just to be a contrarian, whilst there is undoubtedly uncertainty in select areas, there is certainty, or near certainty, in many others. Is not the core issue communicating the certainty?

  158. John, I agree. I was going to say that it surprises me that more effort isn’t put into separating what we understand well, and what is less certain. As I started doing that, I realised that people are doing exactly that. What happens though is that you then get someone in the Daily Mail – for example – writing an article about how GCMs have been falsified, that there’s been a no global warming for 16/17/18 years, or that sea ice has recovered. It’s trying to counter these claims without always appearing to be on the back foot that seems, in my view, to be the hard part of actually discussing what’s certain and what isn’t.

  159. @Gareth Phillips: I am actually quite convinced that I’d change my mind on almost every topic, if the evidence is strong enough. Admittedly, It’s a slow process, but as a scientist you kind of learn to put a lot of effort in not fooling yourself. Won’t always work of course 😉 Has changed my perspective on quite a few things in daily life, which I might otherwise have treated more dismissive.

    @Dumb Scientist: I mostly agree. Tamsin is a brilliant scientist (and btw, a good vocal communicator as well) and her carrier won’t be damaged as long as she keeps doing just that (there’s one exception, to which I’ll come back in a second). I see absolutely no danger of being Curried. Not sure, though, she assumes rationality. Rather I tend to think that it’s her belief that people will listen if you treat them nicely (no matter how undeserved it is). The only trouble I’m having with this approach of hers is (apart from the futile comment section at her blog) that she has a tendency to throw some of her colleagues under the bus in an attempt to cheer her “skeptic” crowd up a bit. That’s where she might not be embraced for by those very colleagues (as her Guardian piece has eventually confirmed), including mine However, only a minority seems to follow the blogosphere in the first place, which makes it a less risky enterprise so far.

  160. AAshleySharp says:

    BBD, the political dimension to this is that there are votes to be won from those who get their climate information from the pages of the Mail or Telegraph. Hence UKIP garner support from the skeptic community as being the only major political party to be a dissenting voice. There is a very real danger that the political consensus could break and that climate science, and by extension, climate change mitigation, could become a defining left/right issue (in the UK). That is why I have some sympathy for Barry’s approach of trying to find points we can at least find some agreement. Retreating to the margins may have the unintended consequence of letting the least desirable outcome prevail.

  161. ATTP – I think the confusionists perform modestly good propaganda by focusing attention on the periphery where research is concentrated. Drag the discussion back to the basics.

    One of the more cited is “look, record sea ice” – uncertainty. The obvious counter is “but look at all the ice – including the land ice – it’s shrinking”. By way of example, a Facebook friend of mine would like to believe global warming has ended – he’s inclined that way by his politics and his reading material. I keep drawing him back to “there’s more energy entering than leaving” – emphasising the certainty.

  162. andrew adams says:

    John Havery Samuel,

    Just to be a contrarian, whilst there is undoubtedly uncertainty in select areas, there is certainty, or near certainty, in many others. Is not the core issue communicating the certainty?

    I made the point at Tamsin’s that discussing uncertainty is surely only meaningful in the context of what we actually have confidence in – they are two sides of the same coin.

    I find this whole issue a bit puzzling anyway. I don’t have a scientific background but I enjoy reading about science and have read a lot about climate science and other scientific areas, and I’ve never got the impression that scientists or “science communicators” are either reluctant or unable in any way to discuss frankly what is and isn’t known about the subject under discussion – it’s entirely central to science communication. Judith Curry’s “uncertainty monster” seems more like a huge strawman to me.

    I mean has anyone actually ever seen or heard a scientist say “the science is settled”?

  163. Reich.Eschhaus says:

    @ Victor Venema,

    A new day sometimes comes with a fresh appraisal! I now clearly see what you were trying to say. Excuse my thickness!

  164. Steve Bloom says:

    Karsten: “Rather I tend to think that it’s her belief that people will listen if you treat them nicely (no matter how undeserved it is).” Agreed. The tricky part is what happens when you start presenting them with challenging material. So far I see no sign of that. While it would be strange for a scientist to be willing to go on in such a vein indefinitely, note Tamsin’s remark that her early career choice was between physics and therapy, with the latter continuing to hold her interest.

    Tamsin may well be a good scientist, but it seems to me that her Greenland ice sheet post (immediately preceding the current one) is evidence of a further problem, essentially soft-selling her own science even while ignoring the larger related literature. Please have a look if you haven’t already. Like the bus-tossing, it appears to be a ploy to get denialists to trust her.

    As for her career, maybe she’ll get lucky and find a permanent position on offer from someone who likes her public outreach efforts or at least is willing to ignore them, but otherwise why hire her over someone with equivalent qualifications who lacks such baggage? At this point it may be easier for her to find a science communications job. (This isn’t just me, BTW, I’ve seen the same sentiment expressed to her by a more senior female climate scientist.)

  165. Reich.Eschhaus says:

    @verytallguy

    “I disagree. Tamsin gets the commenters she deserves; if she moderated the dross then she would attract more constructive comments. If she chooses not to then others diving in there are simply wrestling with pigs, and we know where that ends up – see Curry’s.”

    Yes and no. I see where you are coming from. “Die Geister die ich rief…”. So she has called on the ghosts (mostly the usual suspects in “skeptic” land) and you want her to learn by letting her deal with it on her own. OK, your opinion. I would suggest that others tell her that she brought the ghosts upon her by herself but that they are still willing to help her handling the ghost excrements.

  166. Reich.Eschhaus says:

    @Karsten

    “@Reich.Eschhaus: I’m afraid you are inconsistent. Saying “She is on her own moderationwise” and “If people here know her, they should help her” simply doesn’t go together. As verytallguy correctly points out, “Tamsin [and everyone else] gets the commenters she deserves“. She has chosen to wrestle with people who, predictably, will never change their contrarian mind, so she has to deal with it. ”

    That is not me being inconsistent, that is you hoping Tamsin falls flat on her face. I do not wish that to happen.

  167. Steve Bloom says:

    I was just now reminded of these interesting polling results that serve as a reminder of the broader context of this discussion. Aside from the unfortunate implication that a (slightish) majority of the U.S. electorate might be quite literally insane, notice how the global warming result stands out strongly among the questions that are not overtly partisan. IMO this is a direct consequence of a widely-held correct perception that dealing adequately with global warming will require fundamental changes to the present economic order. If so, Tamsin’s therapizing is quite orthogonal to the problem, although to be fair there may be no solution short of the advent of large-scale disruptive climate events. Even then, global society can respond well or badly, and does history give us much hope that it will be the former?

  168. Rachel says:

    As for her career, maybe she’ll get lucky and find a permanent position on offer from someone who likes her public outreach efforts or at least is willing to ignore them, but otherwise why hire her over someone with equivalent qualifications who lacks such baggage?

    Would a prospective employer really care very much about her blog? I mean, I thought they’d be most interested in her research and teaching and that if her blog came up at all it would from the perspective of science communication and she does write things clearly which is a good thing.

    In some ways I admire her idealism. It does feel like we become more and more cynical with age and sometimes I miss those starry-eyed days of youthful innocence where people acted reasonably and compassionately.

  169. Beobachter says:

    Just my 2 cents regarding the thing about

    “I think that sometimes you will have better results if you say: “Your view is unlikely to be scientifically correct” than if you say “You’re wrong.””

    I think it is nearly impossible to tell, what, in the end – let’s say in 20 years when the world might actually do something against climate change in a big way – was the best strategy or had the most impact.

    There are a whole bunch of things that play a big role in there – completely irrelevant of how you communicate things. Lets assume that it gets hotter over the next 20 years and we see an increase of 0.5 °C over that time. We might therefore see multiple droughts like the ones in Texas and the Plains as last years, we might see arctic sea ice dropping ever more and global circulation patterns changing and more and more unusual flooding events. Well, most people might then simply realize because of reality, that the whole thing is not just a hype or game, but that it is real and not all those things are likely to happen just by change and we must do something. All those media punch lines like “global warming paused” or “it’s just natural cyclic behaviour” won’t work then anymore anyway.

    The other thing is, as China and other developing countries will likely be growing economically until then, the demand for oil and gas will likely be strongly rising. Additionally it may well be, that the decreasing output of conventional oil fields can’t be made up so fast by unconventional sources like arctic oil or oil sands. So we may end up with less oil production but more oil demand, so prices will likely be much higher than today and so people might conclude completely independent from climate change, that it is a good idea to use other non-carbon energy sources (as those will likely also get cheaper until then). That will make alternative energies and turning away from fossil fuels more acceptable anyway and lower the bar that must be taken to get a global climate treaty agreed upon.

    So, in the end, it might make no difference if you prefer one of the above terms over the other, because reality might just make the position of hardline climate deniers so obviously crazy and wrong, that there will be no need to tell people that they are wrong, because they will see it by themselves.

    But maybe I am a little to pessimistic, and people may very well be convinced by arguments and not through suffering damage from climate change 😉

  170. Beobachter says:

    And I forgot something, that is IMO also imporant:

    In the web – especially in the blogosphere – you can get the idea, that everyone cares about climate change and has a strong opinion about it. In real life – at least here in Germany – I rarely find that. Most people I know don’t know much about it. Even if they have a more “sceptical” take on the whole climate thing, they have often not even heard of things like “Climategate” or the “It’s just the Urban Heat Island Effect” and other plainly wrong denier talking points. That doesn’t reach them, because they are not in the “sphere” 😉 Most people simply have no time (or don’t want to spend their time) with looking into such topics. And that is not unique to climate change. Most people have no deeper interest in many political or scientific questions.They are much more impacted by the real world, by droughts, hurricanes, floodings, melting glaciers, rising prices for fossil fuels etc, as they can see that with their own eyes.

    But of course I realize, that this might be different in other countries, especially because we have a completely different media landscape in Germany as for example in the US, because we have no people living in “bubbles” like right-wing people only consuming right-wing media like in the US, because our media are not so partisan, they are mostly non-partisan and more neutral. We don’t even have something remotely similar to FOX News or similar media, so misinformation is not so easily spreaded into a wide public 😉

  171. Rachel says:

    Beobachter, just quickly because I’m about to head out. Your comment has made me think that the best strategy is likely to be a range of strategies. Some methods will be effective for some people but not others. The best strategy therefore is probably a full spectrum of things. And I agree with what you say about the most persuasive thing being the reality around us of a changing climate. Unfortunately time is not on our side and it would much more sensible for us to make changes before the climate forces us to.

  172. BBD says:

    AAshleySharp

    BBD, the political dimension to this is that there are votes to be won from those who get their climate information from the pages of the Mail or Telegraph. Hence UKIP garner support from the skeptic community as being the only major political party to be a dissenting voice.

    Do we pander to the nutters when it comes to their thinly-veiled racism? No. Never. Do we pander to the nutters when it comes to their lunatic economic “policies”? No. So why do so when it comes to their promotion of physics denial? We have to fight back instead of constantly making excuses for the behaviour of the denial industry and its opportunistic political enablers and witless camp followers.

    A large part of the problem here is that too many people involved on the sanity side are that little bit too decent and kind by nature to be effective against the ruthless dishonesty being used against them. And they do not seem able to see this.

  173. BBD says:

    That is why I have some sympathy for Barry’s approach of trying to find points we can at least find some agreement.

    That is not Barry’s approach. Barry simply *sounds* reasonable on the surface. Look carefully at the content of what he posts – here and elsewhere – and you will see an unyielding rejection of mainstream physical climatology and incessant undermining of trust in climate scientists. [Mod : I’ve just removed the last bit of the comment. A bit too close to being a personal judgement.]

  174. BBD, your comment has reminded me of an aspect of this debate that I find tricky to deal with and difficult to counter (not because I think there isn’t a counter, but because I can’t face the task of doing so).

    There are a number of situations (MBH98, Lewandowsky’s paper, some of the climategate emails I guess) where a scientist may not have behaved as well as maybe they should have. They didn’t release their data fast enough. Their method had a flaw that they didn’t admit to fast enough. They said something that turned out not to be true, and didn’t acknowledge this quickly enough (maybe sometimes never). So there are certain people who can point to one of these situations and then claim that someone lied, or wasn’t open enough, or didn’t behave as impeccably as they should have. They then conclude that this means something significant about that person or about the paper in question (or about climate science as a whole).

    What I find frustrating is that these people never seem to be willing to acknowledge that they’ve made a very serious judgement on the basis on what might be a relatively small amount of information. Maybe they’re right sometimes but they seem to be so insistent that they are, that’s there virtually no chance of a discussion. If you don’t agree with them instantly, then that suddenly implies something about you (i.e., you condone bad scientific practice, you don’t mind if scientists lie). The world’s a complicated place and people have complicated lives. It would be wonderful if everyone behaved impeccably, acknowledged all their errors instantly, released all their data the minute it was possible to do so. Also, maybe it takes time for a researcher to realise that they’ve made a mistake. Just because someone points out a possible mistake, doesn’t mean the researcher has to immediately agree.

    So, to be clear, I’m not condoning bad practice or suggesting that none of the typical issues highlighted by some don’t have any merit at all. I just find it frustrating that there are many who seem to think that their judgement is sacrosant and that no sensible person could possible disagree or reach a slightly different conclusion. Of course, I haven’t covered that many of the same people will happily excuse or ignore bad practice from those with whom they seem to agree, but that’s another issue altogether.

  175. Brad Keyes says:

    Marco:

    Brad, nice, going from “a few” (Barry’s interpretation of Jonathan Jones’ argument) to a vague unquantified number smaller than 100% (the actual claim of Jonathan Jones) to all (you).

    Huh? Where did I write anything about “all”?

  176. BBD says:

    This is what I mean when I say that the denial industry has constructed a false narrative for contrarians to karaoke. Misdirection, false equivalence and dogmatism are central to it all and it needs to be shut out of public discourse because it is a fundamental distortion of the truth. If more were publicly known about the contrarian spin machine, its outputs would be less tolerated by the public and (more) policy makers. Perhaps it’s not the science that needs better communication, but the dishonest tactics of the misinformation industry. IMO, people do not realise what is going on behind the scenes and that is the greatest ‘communication’ problem of the lot.

  177. verytallguy says:

    ATTP,

    there is a narrative being endlessly repeated. It goes something like this:

    • scientist X did something imperfect
    • this means we should disregard the results of X’s study Y
    • as we can’t trust study Y, all the work of X cannot be trusted
    • X is a well known climate scientist
    • all well known climate scientists are the same and cannot be trusted
    • climate science is corrupt
    • we should not regulate CO2

    This cannot be tackled by claiming that X is perfect and pointing to their impeccable morality and ethics. As no-one is perfect.

    The way to tackle IMHO this is to construct a simple, accurate but positive and hard hitting narrative and endlessly repeat it. Do NOT respond to the above – debating the honesty of X is a win for denial.
    • CO2 is a greenhouse gas and warms the earth. We will double levels of CO2 within a century at current rates, to levels not seen for millions of years.
    • Scientists expect the earth to warm dangerously as a consequence.
    • We expect sea level rise, extreme weather events and wholescale changes in our climate.
    • We are already seeing the effects. With less than a degree of rise to date, 75% of arctic sea ice has already melted. Glaciers are melting the world over and extreme temperatures are being recorded.
    • We can expect huge impacts on the natural world. Previous extreme climate changes have caused mass extinctions of species.
    • Climate is complex and we can’t be sure of the details, but there is no doubt about the fundamentals, which are supported by almost all scientists – 97% of them.
    • We already have the technology to solve this, and it can improve our lives. Let’s make a world we are proud to hand on to our children.

    If you feel it’s necessary to reply use the consensus and the scientific method:
    • All studies are imperfect including study y.
    • Studies Z, alpha, beta and gamma show similar results.
    • We also know that studies of A, B and C separately support this.
    • A consensus of scientists support these conclusions.
    • that sceptics are unable to publish studies showing these conclusions wrong proves their accuracy

    A case study of how effective this is the UK coalition approach to economic policy communication. A simple message, ruthlessly repeated regardless of the context. It works.

  178. I think that one of the difficulties I have noted is when a paper gets things wrong as quoted above by our host, or things are not quite perfect, it is pounced on by contrarians to support their cause, but instead of our side saying ‘fair Cop. we are not perfect, but we acknowledge when we are incorrect ‘ there are people who continually defend the indefensible. I suppose this is done on the principle that we do not wish to give any hint to the other side that we are human and occasionally erri, but the downside is that in trying to debate and defend we give an error a much higher profile than would otherwise be the case. A useful example is how Skep Science and Dana debate any criticism of research related to their site which may be less than perfect.

  179. there are people who continually defend the indefensible

    I’m not sure I see any real evidence of this. Maybe there are some cases, but if we consider MBH98, I can find plenty of reputable places that quite openly acknowledge that the statistical analysis had flaws, but that add that these flaws do not really change the basic result. I have no real problem with that. That’s acknowledging an error and putting that error into perspective. It’s not uncommon in science. Do I know that those sites are correct? Specifically, maybe not. But I can go to the recent literature and find recent millenial reconstructions that appear (to the untrained eye maybe) to be similar to that produced by MBH98. Hence I conclude that even though their analysis had an error, it likely did not influence their basic result.

    So, do you have an example someone actually defending the indefensible, rather than simply disagreeing about someone’s interpretation of something?

  180. verytallguy says:

    Gareth,

    I agree. But, you need to remember the terms of the debate. Deniers are attempting to portray science as dishonest and to draw attention away from its conclusions.

    So the best way (in terms of communication) is to use this to bridge to the message you want to get across.
    – thank you for your critique of our paper Y , and look forward to your analysis of this topic in the literature to build our understanding of X
    – that literature already shows us A B and C
    – the imapcts of this will be 1, 2 and 3
    – We already have the technology to solve this, and it can improve our lives. Let’s make a world we are proud to hand on to our children.

  181. Marco says:

    Brad, you said “If—note: I said if!—the proponents of a hypothesis are dodgy then it doesn’t matter whether its opponents are saints or sinners.”

    “the proponents” = all.

  182. verytallguy says:

    ATTP

    given the prevalence of scientists behaving badly generally

    A pooled weighted average of 1.97% (N = 7, 95%CI: 0.86–4.45) of scientists admitted to have fabricated, falsified or modified data or results at least once –a serious form of misconduct by any standard– and up to 33.7% admitted other questionable research practices

    http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0005738

    it would be inconceivable that all climate science papers are unimpeachable.

    However, given the overwhelming consensus, it is extremely unlikely that the overall conclusions of the science, as presented in IPPC reports is significantly awry.

    These conclusions are that climate change due to CO2 emissions is real and significant.

    The inability of sceptics to present any significant challenge to these findings in the literature reinforces this belief.

    We already have the technology to solve this, and it can improve our lives. Let’s make a world we are proud to hand on to our children.

  183. Tom Curtis says:

    Gareth, first, there are people on the climate scientist side that do say it is a fair cop – when it is. In fact, I think those people are in the majority among climate scientists and the leading climate science communicators. Contrary to your assertions, Dana is one of them. The problem arises, however, that admitting of some flaws in a paper is never enough for AGW “skeptics”. They insist that there claim as to the extent of the flaw be accepted. Thus, using MBH 98 as an example, you may be prepared to admit that the validity of the statistical techniques used were unproven; that some of the data used was shown after the event to be not suitable as a temperature proxy, and that the reconstruction understated multidecadal-centenial variation in past temperatures. Your AGW “skeptic” interlocutor will insist, however, that you accept all of McIntyre’s critiques as valid, even though, patently they are not – and have been demonstrated to not be valid in the peer reviewed literature. Consequently, you are still left defending MBH 98 from criticism. Further, your interlocutor is likely to portray your defense of that which is good in MBH 98 as a defense of that which is in error. You have no rhetorical gain (which is no reason to not admit the errors).

    Consequently I think your analysis is entirely incorrect. The problem is not on the side of the scientists, but on that of their attackers, how attempt to use any admission of error to portray not just one study, but the whole discipline as irredeemably flawed.

  184. Thanks very tall guy, useful advice. I must admit to being highly amused when a skeptic site highlighted a revelation that a percentage of people had been 94% not 97% due to poor maths. Wow I thought, I wonder what would happen if we had been treating someone for tachycardia in an emergency situation and some bright spark had said, “hold one everyone, stop the treatment, the patients pulse is 245 not 250” !

  185. Thanks Tom, your idea that I am entirely incorrect rests on the supposition that scientists on our side of the debate admit 100% of the time any problems with research that is not 100% correct. I don’t think life is like that. However your other points are well made.

  186. Tom Curtis says:

    Gareth, as I said:

    “Gareth, first, there are people on the climate scientist side that do say it is a fair cop – when it is. In fact, I think those people are in the majority among climate scientists and the leading climate science communicators.”

    Your use of a turn of phrase out of context to misrepresent my views when they had been explicitly stated is noted.

  187. Gareth,

    scientists on our side of the debate admit 100% of the time any problems with research that is not 100% correct

    I agree that that is highly unlikely but also, as VTG points out, not unique to climate science. But in an earlier comment you inferred that there were some who continually defended the indefensible. I don’t dispute that this may be true (VTG’s link would suggest there’s a small element of this in all fields), but were you thinking of specific examples or simply apocryphal tales?

  188. Marco says:

    Gareth, if with
    “I must admit to being highly amused when a skeptic site highlighted a revelation that a percentage of people had been 94% not 97% due to poor maths.”
    you mean David Burton’s latest on WUWT, you should find it even more amusing that the poor maths is actually all in Burton’s imagination.

  189. It seems to me that much of the criticism of climate science comes from people who are more statistically trained, than trained in the physical sciences (or there often seems to be a relation to statistics). Given this, I would have thought that to be thorough, if you want to use a bunch of emails to infer something about the honesty of climate scientists (for example) then you should really be collecting an equivalent number of emails from other fields to determine if what you encounter in the climate science emails is restricted only to climate science or whether similar things occur at a similar level in other fields. If you don’t do this, then really you can’t say anything about how climate science compares to other fields. Statistical rigour is clearly a very important part of the climate science debate!

    Okay, just to be clear, I’m not really being serious 😉

  190. BBD says:

    Witness the power of the fake narrative. It has reached everywhere and is now part of the wider discourse.

  191. Apologies Tom, it was unintentional. G

  192. BG says:

    VTG’s comment at 10:27 is right on target. Might quibble slightly with the wording of one bullet, but the approach is absolutely correct. Accurate, strongly worded, positive definite message, repeat, repeat, repeat……. ad nauseum.

    Trying to deal with the deniers is a complete waste of time. As (I think) I have said before, any one individual is certainly welcome, perhaps even expected, to start as a ‘skeptic.’ After all, all scientists are supposedly ‘trained skeptics.’ If you are asked to review a paper for publication, do you not review it ‘skeptically’?

    However, there is a body of knowledge, called climate science, accumulated over the last 180+ years. After giving an individual some reasonable amount of time to study, and become familiar with, that knowledge base, unless they can show the basics physics and conclusions, etc., to be wrong, they become, in my mind nothing more than willfully ignorant. And then they should be willfully ignored.

  193. > It does feel like we become more and more cynical with age and sometimes I miss those starry-eyed days of youthful innocence where people acted reasonably and compassionately.

    Are you suggesting that Wotts’ minion is old, Rachel?

  194. VeryTall wins, although I would make these provisos:

    – add as a winning strategy such comments as his;
    – replace “endlessly” with “neverendingly” (I might be biased);
    – point to this speech that is easy to remember:

    Gentlemen,

    Physics does not care about political affiliations. But since you do care about them, here’s what we know. Jim Hansen can be considered as a conservative. Kerry Emanuel is a Republican. Andy Lacis voted mostly for Republicans. And for good measures, Judith Curry voted for Obama.

    Nullius is an avowed libertarian. Even if he was conservative, which we have no reason to believe, he has no mandate here to speak for conservatives. As far as I am concerned, he’s reinventing Gaming Theory.

    My alter ego was a conservative. I consider myself an independant, and I am saying this against my belief that self-avowal on these matters are destructive or just plainly stupid. For all I know, I might be more conservative than Nullius on everything. And even if I were a liberal, I would not dare to speak for the liberal collective.

    Here are five simple facts:

    Today is [Tuesday].

    Billions of people will need more energy to lift themselves out of abject poverty.

    Burning coal, oil, and gas produces CO2.

    CO2 emits heat.

    Heats warms things up.

    I hope we agree about these facts and that we don’t need to process these facts through double-blind experiments, engineering tests, or micro-models, shields which we usually don’t need to consider these kinds of facts anyway.

    Everybody knows enough about climate. Details are not worth your time. Climate is going to change a lot, and policy will be enacted in response to perceived needs.

    We need decent quality of life for billions of people, and energy to provide wealth and well-being. Only mixed economies have been known to mankind to bring this about, and these include marked-based solutions. Since I have a semi-random quote to spare, please consider how economics need to change its framing to deal with the kind of environmental concern we’re trying to address right now:

    > Conventional economics supposes that agents value the present vs. the future using an exponential discounting function. In contrast, experiments with animals and humans suggest that agents are better described as hyperbolic discounters, whose discount function decays much more slowly at large times, as a power law. This is generally regarded as being time inconsistent or irrational. We show that when agents cannot be sure of their own future one-period discount rates, then hyperbolic discounting can become rational and exponential discounting irrational. This has important implications for environmental economics, as it implies a much larger weight for the far future.

    http://ideas.repec.org/p/cwl/cwldpp/1719.html

    We’re not talking about the mid-term elections right now. We’re talking about a problem of a scale never encountered in our history as far as we know it. Will you stand up and offer solutions, or are you willing to be played by gaming theorists?

    The world needs you to be engaged. If you want to maintain people in the abject poverty that even Americans are now beginning to have a taste, please continue what you are doing.

    Thank you.

    http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com/post/24619490642

  195. Rachel says:

    Nah 38 years young, Willard. Only half way to cynic.

  196. Willard, if only we really could just get everyone to agree to on those 5 simple facts.

  197. I must be precocious, then, Rachel.

    ***

    That was an adaptation of this talk, And Then:

  198. verytallguy says:

    VeryTall wins

    Blimey. What have I won? What’s the prize?

    [If that’s good enough for you, this could become the last comment by willard.]

    Seriously? You think you can disavow your addiction just like that?

  199. > Seriously? You think you can disavow your addiction just like that?

    Until I get an intervention from dear friends, I won’t admit to anything. Besides, I said this was w’s last comment. All those that follow are footnotes or edits.

    And you win the Internet, of course.

  200. BBD says:

    “Would you like a bag for that, sir?”

  201. BG says:

    Speaking of repeating the message, if you follow Eli Rabbet, you should be aware by now that here in the US we do have a Senator, Sheldon Whitehouse (D, RI), who speaks on GW/CC on the floor of the Senate every Monday. Rescheduled to Tue this week due to winter storm.

  202. Joshua says:

    “Given this, I would have thought that to be thorough, if you want to use a bunch of emails to infer something about the honesty of climate scientists (for example) then you should really be collecting an equivalent number of emails from other fields to determine if what you encounter in the climate science emails is restricted only to climate science or whether similar things occur at a similar level in other fields. “

    You’d think that they’d also look at the comments from the emails that they highlight in the full context from a statistical perspective. What does it say that given the huge body of material available, a relatively small percentage contain a relative few statements that just happen to confirm biases?

    It reminds me of when statistically sophisticated “skeptics” (think Willis if you need a specific reference) link to that Rasmussn poll that shows that many people in the public think that climate scientists might adjust some data to support their arguments (paraphrasing the poll question) — and use those poll data to support an argument that “climategate” has caused a “crises” in faith in science.. … But those same “skeptics” fail to place those data in the context of; (1) the ideological orientation of those who hold that opinion, (2) how those opinions might or might not have changed longitudinally and, (3) how those data compare to opinions about priests, or scientists from other fields, of plumbers, or people who identify as climate “skeptics”

  203. Pingback: The Climate Change Debate Thread - Page 3426

  204. BBD

    I’m an avowed climate sceptic – but it still amazes me by how viciously partisan some of us climate change “deniers” can be.

    I found this posted at Bishop Hill on Feb 6, 2011 at 3:52 PM :-

    “What is it with the carbon activists and victimhood syndrome?

    They have the entire world media shrilling climate alarmism with a massed choir of politicians in antiphony, and STILL I hear whining.”

    What do you think about that statement yourself?

  205. BBD says:

    What do you think about that statement yourself?

    FG, it’s an open secret that I used to be a fake sceptic. At one time, it was something of a USP, even. Quote mining my past is an old, tired tactic. It also reveals something rather unpleasant about those doing it.

    But to answer the question:

    – I’ve learned more than you in the last three years.

    – I’ve demonstrated that I am intellectually honest enough to overcome my denial.

    – I’ve got the balls to keep the same screen name and own every statement I’ve ever made in public using it.

    – Once I discover that I have been lied to and manipulated, I never forgive and I never forget.

    Hope this helps.

  206. So, BBD, you’re suggesting that there’s still hope for Foxgoose? 🙂

  207. Joshua says:

    BBD –

    Given that I’ve only been reading your comments made after the scales fell from your eyes, it is hard to read that w/o thinking it was a Poe. Fascinating.

    USP?

  208. BBD says:

    ATTP

    There’s only hope for people who are prepared to think. I leave you to draw your own conclusions.

    @ Joshua

    USP? How many “sceptics” do you know who overcame their denial? Mind you, with me, it was never political, which perhaps made a fundamental difference. I was just afraid. Still am, of course,but not in denial any more.

  209. I suppose Foxgoose that it is like smoking and health issues, or Like HIV and AIDS. The vast majority of educated people believe in the connection, but there are some who still oppose the evidence and say there is no connection. As a health professional trying to promote healthy lifestyles that annoys me , so although they are few, I don’t let them get away with information that I believe to be not only wrong but damaging. The vast majority of scientists of one sort or another accept the evidence on climate change, and are likely to feel the same way about those who oppose action.

  210. Great to hear that there are former ostriches. Had not expected that.

    Then maybe discussing science with ostriches is not completely futile.

    (USP: Unique selling point)

  211. Rachel says:

    Wow, BBD. What made you change your mind?

  212. Joshua says:

    BBD – I was asking what USP stands for.

  213. Joshua says:

    Oh – thanks VV.

  214. BBD says:

    Sorry Joshua and thanks VV.

    @ Rachel

    I discovered that I was being lied to. This simply by comparing the “sceptic” narrative with the standard version. Unlike my fellow “sceptics” I was still just barely sceptical enough (though sunk in denial) to check both versions. Once I realised what was going on, that was the end of BBD the lukewarmer (NB: I was never so far gone as to deny the basic physics, only to pretend that S was very low). All horribly embarrassing now, of course, but you live and learn. Or at least, some of us do.

  215. Rachel says:

    Thanks, BBD. I think there’s a lesson for us all in that. I can’t eloquently say what it is, just that I can see it.

  216. BBD says:

    Always check. Fail to do this in business and you will end up bankrupt and in the courts. I failed to check, at least initially, and made a colossal prat out of myself. Oh, and never underestimate the power of denial (aka ‘wishful thinking’). It’s brought down better people than me.

  217. Joshua says:

    BBD –

    Although I understand why you might consider the trajectory of your views embarrassing, I would hope that you could also see that we are all wrong about any variety of issues much of the time, and the ability to identify biasing influences on our reasoning a key signifier of someone employing a “metacognitive” approach to learning.

    So to touch back on an earlier part of this thread – if you think back to your lukewarmer days, what do you think would have made the biggest difference in your views regarding “uncertainty” about the impact of ACO2 emissions?

    Since I’m inclined to confirm my biases, I’d say that actually it would have made little difference whether someone might have said to you “You’re wrong” as compared to “Your views may not be consistent with the science, and let’s discuss why I am saying that.” I would conjecture is that what made the difference was the confluence of two factors: (1) you decided to investigate the questions in more depth and, (2) you employed a metacognitive approach to your learning.

    But of the two approaches, neither of which would have been sufficient without you taking over as the executive of your own learning, I would guess that maybe the 2nd approach might have been ever so slightly more likely to get you to deepen your own investigation of the science.

  218. BBD says:

    Joshua

    You can provide “sceptics” with all sorts of paleoclimate evidence constraining S and they will still tell you that it’s tiny because Lindzen or Spencer says so. You can also just tell them they are wrong, and it makes no difference whatsoever to the outcome. They remain in denial.

    Perhaps it’s politics.

  219. BG says:

    I do believe that BBD’s evolutionary path is at least a single data point that supports my hypothesis that long term denialism is nothing more than willful ignorance.

  220. pbjamm says:

    Earnest falsehoods left unchallenged risk being accepted as fact – Monty Montgomery

    It may not always seem fruitful to engage contrarians but it is necessary. Not in the hope of changing their view (only they can do that by genuinely studying) but for the lurkers who are following the thread.

  221. Joshua says:

    It is interesting that Foxgoose posted that old comment – apparently thinking that it would discredit BBD.

    Which would suggest that Foxgoose thinks that changing your mind after investigating the evidence more deeply is a discredit?

    An odd viewpoint, IMO, but perhaps not entirely surprising. 🙂

  222. BBD says:

    It’s interesting that FG suddenly pops up and *tries* to discredit me. Perhaps I am causing a certain amount of grief somewhere.

    🙂

  223. Brigitte says:

    The debate about consensus/consilience made me think of an old word: consensible used in an book by Ziman – 1968 – on science as public knowledge. Ziman points out that “there is no ultimate procedure which will wring the last drops of uncertainty from what scientists call their knowledge” (p. 5), and that “in a discipline where there is a scientific consensus the amount of certain knowledge may be limited, but it will be honestly labelled” (p. 28).
    http://blogs.nottingham.ac.uk/makingsciencepublic/2013/10/19/science-as-public-and-consensible-knowledge/
    Brigitte

  224. I’m fascinated by this turn of events. The fact that BBD had enough intellectual integrity to change his mind is incredibly admirable. I tip my hat to anyone with the courage to admit they were wrong, because I have to do this on a daily basis, and it isn’t getting any easier. The fact that Foxgoose seems not to understand this point is disappointing, but no longer surprises me.

  225. BBD says:

    Thank you, DS.

  226. Steve Bloom says:

    So in BBD we have an example of the “information deficit model” working!

  227. I agree with most here that BBD’s journey from ardent sceptic to enthusiastic believer is interesting.

    It shows that, however fervent peoples’ beliefs, new evidence can change their minds.

    What would be really fascinating to know would be – what evidence would BBD need to return to his previous position?

    Would an extension of the surface warming “pause’ to 20 years do the trick?

    A few new climate models showing ES approaching unity?

    Some more accurate measurements showing absence of deep ocean warming?

    Clearly BBD’s a thoughtful, open minded character who let’s the evidence change his mind – so maybe he could tell us what it would take.

  228. > I tip my hat to anyone with the courage to admit they were wrong, because I have to do this on a daily basis […]

    Happily married, I see.

  229. What would it information would it take foxgoose to change his mind? More energy entering than leaving? CO2 absorbing IR? Oceans warming? Ice melting?

  230. Foxgoose: “Would an extension of the surface warming “pause’ to 20 years do the trick?”
    What surface warming pause? Please calculate the trends and uncertainties for the period you think temperatures are “flat”, and do the same for an equal timespan before the beginning of the “flat” period. I’ve tried very hard to find a changepoint and dataset where the uncertainty bars don’t overlap, but I’ve failed. Can you succeed? If not, then it seems like there hasn’t been a statistically significant change in the surface warming rate.
    http://www.skepticalscience.com/trend.php

  231. BBD: I discovered that I was being lied to. This simply by comparing the “sceptic” narrative with the standard version.

    Yes, maybe it is the information deficit model.

    I would argue that it also points to the importance of trust. Being lied to is not nice. In that respect I would not expect BBD to ever go back to Reynard the Fox. If BBD detects an inconsistency, I would expect that he/she would simply point the scientists to it. The way scientists also do amongst each other. If the evidence changes, you will hear it first from scientists.

    Building up trust again is difficult after having seen how untrustworthy the ostriches are. But if they would stop their disinformation campaign against science, stop repeating their completely idiotic talking points, and would start to simply point to the known uncertainties and weaknesses that could be a start. That is somehow a big if and I do not expect this to ever happen, just to see the group get smaller and smaller, being laughed at by their neighbours and die out.

  232. By the way, I meant ‘pause’ by ‘flat’ above. Just in case you want to examine datasets not available at SkS or see how autocorrelation is handled, I shared open source code which calculates trends and uncertainties. That link also includes a PDF of UAH trends and uncertainties for various timespans, and links to climate data.

  233. That’s an interesting one BBD … didn’t know it either. Just went checking how you did back then, and well, Gavin wouldn’t be too amused ;). Hope you don’t feel too offended if I dig a bit deeper, given that it’s certainly not the most pleasant thing for you to talk about (plus given who brought it up). There just aren’t too many people out there to ask about this issue. So far I witnessed only one other “full” conversion in a forum where I’m a regular commenter since ages. Turned out that this person happened to be quite an inquiring mind, what seem to have helped him to figure what’s going on.

    Be that as it may, if you want me to stop, I’ll accept it without any reservation. Otherwise I have a few additional thoughts to offer:

    Lets face it … without my own everydays work experience as an atmospheric scientist, I wouldn’t have been in the position to tell whether those who make frequent allegations of wrongdoing/misconduct may have a point or not. It’s only now that I understand what people like Mike Mann had to endure and why they started to defend themselve in the way they do today (which certainly appears to be pretty aggressive for the casual observer). But without this very direct and distinct evidence, not sure what my position would otherwise have been. Sure, by virtue of my background I was never in doubt about the science. But had I seen through the endless pile of misinformation available out there? I honestly doubt it.

    The tricky part is, even if I were to catch a colleague lying at me today (i.e. with my positive overall experience regarding work ethics of atmospheric scientists), I wouldn’t start to suspect an entire field of research of malpractice just because of that one case (knowing that there will always be a few nutjobs). It would require quite a bit more. My question to you, BBD, would therefore be whether it was really only one obvious lie which made you think, or what did it take to reconsider your entire view on the subject at hand? It’s simply a remarkable “conversion” (if you allow me to put it that way), which certainly deserves great respect. Given that you would have been on my ignore list with your snide comments over at BH back then, I just start to wonder whether I should reconsider my own view regarding Tamsin’s approach to engaging with ostriches. It’s this evidence thing which starts to kick in … 😉

  234. BBD says:

    Karsten

    whether it was really only one obvious lie which made you think, or what did it take to reconsider your entire view on the subject at hand?

    I always resolved not to (ahem) deny having been a “sceptic”, which is partly why I didn’t take the extremely tempting option of simply changing my screen name when I changed my mind. I consider the embarrassment a penance for having been so horribly wrong, for being fooled by liars (me?!) and for succumbing to the pathology of denial. For failing to check for so long. For failing to think.

    To your question: there wasn’t a single, defining eureka moment, just a growing sense of unease because nothing seemed to add up. I remember thinking that “so what” if MBH98/99 were wrong (I know now that McIntyre misrepresented this systematically, but then it was, “so what?”). MBH isn’t climate science; this is grossly over-inflated and it is argument from false equivalence. I couldn’t square my growing knowledge of paleoclimate behaviour with low S – how did we get out of even the last glacial with low S? Lots and lots of things. Once I eventually started to compare WUWT with RC and SkS, that was it, really.

    Worst of all was the unpleasant anti-science undercurrent and the vilification of specific individuals. That struck me as nutty and I didn’t want anything to do with it. In fact in hindsight, I don’t think I was really ever a proper fake sceptic. I had always accepted the standard view of AGW until I became a father and *that* I now believe tipped me over into denial. Once I had a stake in the future I got the fear. So ECS had to come down quite a bit… because I needed it to.

    I will say that getting out of denial was a relief, bizarre though it may sound. But twisting your mind out of shape requires vast effort and it’s nice when you stop. Even though it means facing up to the facts at last.

  235. Does this piece of psychology impact on how we try and communicate various climate issues? What would be the result if we took a more paradoxical approach ? http://www.theguardian.com/news/oliver-burkeman-s-blog/2013/dec/11/ironic-effects-sabotage-your-plans?CMP=fb_gu

  236. Rachel says:

    That’s fascinating, Gareth. The ironic effect is something I do all the time. It’s a shame the link in the Guardian to Wegner’s article doesn’t work.

  237. Rachel says:

    I can’t see why the link from the Guardian doesn’t work as it appears to be correct. But here’s the article anyway: How to think, say, or do precisely the worst thing for any occasion.

  238. Hats off to you for sticking with your screen name. Those who are honest to themselves (no matter at what time in life it happens) have also the best chances to be content with themselves. At least that’s the way I feel and think about it. In that spirit, you can indeed be deeply relieved and you should be happy about it. That true all the more as you (now) have learned a lesson many people won’t ever learn in their entire life. And it’s a freakin important lesson at that.

    I’m grateful that you answered my question in such length. I highly appreciate that. My take-home message is, that there seems to be a fair chance for the inquiring mind (which you undoubtedly are) to balance the evidence properly which will eventually overturn the “noise” surrounding it. However, I do think that it requires some degree of political open-mindedness. Not sure it works for the ideologically blinded the way it worked for you. As in Guardian piece: The human mind is quite perverse and annoying (which of course it true for all of us).

  239. ooups! Was supposed to be directed to BBD … Sorry for that!

  240. BBD says:

    Thanks Karsten. Your good opinion is valuable to me (alongside that of most here) and I appreciate what you have said.

    I don’t think this worked out quite as dear Foxgoose expected.

  241. John Mashey says:

    Good for BBD. The ability to change one’s mind indicates classic skepticism, even if it takes a whole. On the other hand, some people can manage to evade skepticism, no matter what, as in this discussion of Sakby in Parliament., on a tour sponsored by the “slayers”, with an unexpected and =unwished interrupt by the Viscount Monckton.

  242. BBD

    I’m happy you found the emotional support you clearly need.

    I’d still rather like an answer to my question though.

    Or, failing that, an explanation of why you won’t answer it.

  243. Foxgoose, I’m really the only person (or maybe Rachel) who can insist, here, that someone has to respond to a question if they wish to continue commenting. Given that I seriously doubt that your question is asked in good faith, I have no intention of doing so.

  244. I’m lost here.

    I politely asked BBD for an answer to a question he ignored – or a reason for declining an answer.

    Are you really trying to characterise this as some kind of bullying?

  245. No, not at all. You just seemed somewhat more insistent than was warranted. You can ask the question. I was simply pointing out that BBD can choose to ignore it if he wishes.

  246. … Foxgoose asks, while ignoring my polite question regarding his claim of a supposed ‘surface warming pause’ in an unspecified dataset with an unspecified starting date. Surely a real skeptic could back up his claim with evidence.

  247. In 2010 I answered a similar question about what would make me change my mind, but a more complete answer would be that all these paleoclimate studies would have to be independently wrong.

  248. DS

    I didn’t respond to your previous post because I thought pointing out the pointless nature of it might be seen as inflammatory.

    There is a pause in observed surface temperature. The IPCC have recognised it and referred to it as a “hiatus” and it has now been fairly widely discussed in the literature.

    [Rachel: Unfounded accusation of dishonesty and scheming]

    I’ll stick with the consensus view 😉

  249. Sorry – typo “sets” should be “datasets”.

  250. > I politely asked […]

    Politeness is Foxgoose’s middle name:

    We sure can thank Brad and Foxgoose for the concerns expressed between themselves.

  251. So, you don’t have evidence and won’t even take 10 seconds to specify the dataset and starting year for your claim of a supposed ‘surface warming pause’. But somehow you do have time to accuse me of machinations and “disguising” data (an accusation of dishonesty) despite the fact that I just shared my open source code with you.

    This would be unusual behavior from a scientist, but fake skeptics only do this on days that end in “y”.

  252. Rachel says:

    Sorry, DumbSci. I probably should have moderated foxgoose’s comment. I have done so now.

  253. No problem. I actually think the incivility displayed by fake skeptics helps others to see how intellectually bankrupt their position is, but if his comment is already permanently deleted then no worries.

  254. @DumbSci, I tend to agree. I have no real issue with someone coming here and being uncivil towards me. They get to own what they say, as far as I’m concerned. What is maybe disappointing is that my naive view that it might be possible to actually have constructive exchanges with “climate sceptics”, was just that “naive”. There may be one or two with whom I can still have reasonably pleasant exchanges, maybe one with whom it might be marginally constructive, but apart from that, all the rest I’ve encountered are not worth my time (and my time isn’t worth very much, to be clear).

  255. I’ve gone through the same evolution. Most of my colleagues are reasonable, and we can have constructive arguments even when we disagree, so it was a rude shock to find that this isn’t true in contrarian land.

    But more fundamentally, if a scientist refuses to support vis (*) claims with evidence or reacts to a polite question with an accusation of dishonesty, ve loses credibility even with people who might otherwise agree with vis position. I’m genuinely baffled why this doesn’t happen more often in contrarian land.

    (*) I’m gonna make Greg Egan’s genderless pronouns cool. You just watch. 😉

  256. Rachel says:

    His comment is still there. I just removed the offending sentence and typed in an explanation. I prefer not to delete comments.

  257. Rachel says:

    I could actually put the sentence back if everyone wants it back as I’ve got a copy of it in my inbox.

  258. No, it’s probably best to stick with any moderation decisions, right or wrong 🙂

  259. Rachel says:

    Not sure where to put this and I realise this thread isn’t the right place but I’ve just seen that Bjorn Lomborg has a new article – http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/bj-rn-lomborg-argues-that-environmental-imperatives-should-not-trump-the-needs-of-the-poor
    It’s so infuriating. Even the URL is irritating.

  260. Bjorn Lomborg, never ceases to amaze me. What with him and Matt Ridley, it almost seems that some charisma and saying the right things can get you published in some fairly high profile media outlets. Actual credibility and some kind of track record doesn’t appear to be particularly relevant.

  261. AnOilMan says:

    This article suddenly intrigues me.

    The CEO at my company is an accountant… I’m an engineer. After years of exposure I’ve come to realize that accountants have no idea what technical uncertainty is, or how to deal with it. To accountants, all uncertainty can be eliminated. But in the engineering world, the phrase, “ready, fire, aim” is more than a euphemism. At all points we reduce (not eliminate) risk, and determine and measure error.

    I have a patent for measuring low concentrations of gasses. At the time, it was easy to implement (20 lines of code?), and get working. We then spent 6 months in the lab carefully characterizing its capabilities, and understanding how it worked. That way we understand how confident we are in the patent.

    But to an accountant… this is all gobaldy gook. We just meet some spec. But look around you, there is uncertainty in everything. We simply measure it and move on.

  262. BBD says:

    I’ve been out.

    FG – I chose to ignore you because your malice yesterday irritated me.

    But since you are making a fuss still:

    >>What would be really fascinating to know would be – what evidence would BBD need to return to his previous position?

    >>Would an extension of the surface warming “pause’ to 20 years do the trick?

    Only if accompanied by a cessation in the rise in OHC at all depths

    >>A few new climate models showing ES approaching unity?

    Assuming you mean ECS, this isn’t very likely since the real climate system is clearly sensitive or nothing would ever happen. The models need at least to approximate the real climate system.

    >>Some more accurate measurements showing absence of deep ocean warming?

    Much depends on how deep – IIRC the overturning circulation and vertical mixing have not really had time to warm the abyssal depths much as yet.

    * * *
    All in all, this struck me as a waste of time and still does, but there you go. No more whingeing please.

    I’m sorry your unpleasant little trick fell flat on its arse, FG. But never mind. You’ll live.

  263. @AnOilMan, I think the concept of communicating uncertainty is indeed quite an interesting topic. Quite a bit of what Tamsin says (which I think is a summary of meeting) is indeed quite interesting and quite sensible. I do wonder, though, if there is an easy way to communicate the subtleties of uncertainties. Scientists and engineers will mostly understand that it means there’s a range of possible values and also that values near the uncertainty extremes are less likely than the mean/median value. It’s quite possible that others interpret as implying that that it means that something isn’t known or isn’t understood very well.

  264. Lomborg’s statements are probably intentionally infuriating. Recently someone pointed out that he’s only a star in (typically right-wing) contrarian land because he infuriates scientists, which distracts contrarians from realizing that he’s a gay socialist who (ostensibly) supports a carbon tax. (Obviously, my previous sentence isn’t derogatory in the reality-based community, but it would be in a right wing echo chamber for anyone whose name isn’t Lomborg.)

    I’ve written many pages debunking Lomborg’s nonsense, but he seems to draw power from debunkings like a villain in a science fiction movie whose shields get recharged from enemy weapons fire. Maybe a better response would be to just ignore his nonsense and thank him for his support of gay marriage and a carbon tax…

  265. BG says:

    One first step in trying to teach/explain uncertainty might be to break it into two parts: (1) measurement uncertainty, i.e., the measured value of some physical quantity is “x +/- delta x” (I’m not smart enough to figure out how to insert a ‘delta’ :)) and (2) predictive uncertainly, i.e., the uncertainty of future values of some physical quantities as predicted by certain physical models.

  266. Rachel says:

    What really gets my goat is that I can’t help but feel that Lomborg and his supporters are using the world’s poor as an excuse for business as usual. I don’t feel that they really care about them in any genuine sense. If they did, then the only fair solution would be for us rich folk to hand over our remaining carbon budget to those poor folk to use and get rich with – if that is really the only way to get rich. Most of the world’s poor have contributed little to the problem thus far and most of the world’s poor will bear the brunt of climate change.

    The other thing that really irritates me is that he bases everything in monetary terms: cost per capita or % of GDP. Life just doesn’t work that way. Losing something like an entire coral reef ecosystem is tragic and cannot be defined as a % of GDP. It’s just absurd. There. I’ve had my rant.

  267. Good luck BG. I’ve tried for years to explain the difference between two types of predictive uncertainty: (1) physics uncertainty in the value of climate sensitivity, and (2) emissions uncertainty in the amount of CO2 we choose to emit in the future

    No luck so far. I’d probably have better luck trying to educate my coffee table; at least it wouldn’t accuse me of genocide…

  268. @BG, I suspect the issue isn’t that it can’t be explained or that people can’t understand it. The issue, I suspect, is that there isn’t an easy forum in which to do so. Newspaper articles are unlikely to suddenly do so. Policy makers are unlikely to suddenly want detailed explanations of what we mean by the term uncertainty. So, I guess one question is how does one find the right place/forum in which to explain the subtleties.

    There seemed to be some suggestion on Tamsin’s blog that scientists start talking in terms of risk, but I don’t quite see how this really helps. The risk of what? Something actually happening, or the risk of damage? It’s not obvious to me how one can switch from scientific uncertainty to risk without it incorporating some element of policy options, which then starts to bridge between science (which in principle is policy neutral) and policy.

  269. Rachel, the myopic focus on GDP irks me too. I don’t remember where, but recently someone claimed that climate change would only slightly reduce GDP over the next century. Apparently that’s because food production isn’t a big part of GDP, so droughts and wildfires can wipe out crops (2010 Russian wheat crisis, 2012 US drought, etc.) without a big impact on GDP.

    What this analysis somehow fails to notice is that the rest of the economy depends on workers not starving. Food is actually 100% of our GDP in this sense.

  270. @DumbSci, something I should probably elaborate in a post at some point, is my confusion about some GDP arguments. I was going to write a post about this, but was concerned it would make me look particularly stupid (more so than normal at least). I’ve heard it argued that at 3% increase per year, the world economy doubles in GDP every 25 years. So in 75 years time, it will have increased significantly. They then say something like a 10 – 20% drop in GDP at that stage then still means we’re all considerably wealthier, so who cares.

    When I’ve looked at Tol’s analysis though, it implies a net negative benefit for more than something like 2 degrees of warming (huge uncertainty, but that doesn’t matter). I’ve never quite known if that means relative to today, relative to some constant growth, or something else altogether. So, it does seem that the whole GDP argument is fraught with confusion – or maybe that’s just me.

  271. Rachel says:

    No, It’s not just you.

  272. Careful Willard – you may upset BBD.

    He thinks going back and digging up people’s quotes is “unpleasant”.

    Personally I think it’s fair game.

    I would, however, like to get to the bottom of this “fake sceptic” smear that is now common currency among the climate devout. I’m an engineering graduate with a lifetime’s experience working in and running technology businesses. I’ve often risked large amounts of my own and other peoples’ money on innovative science – sometimes successfully and other times not. I therefore come to all novel scientific propositions with a sceptical attitude.

    I find the evidence for AGW unconvincing because it’s based on sparse and extensively manipulated observational data mixed with a vast amount of academic hypothesis. Most of the trends which are supposed to confirm the theory are extracted from noisy data with error bars larger than the supposed signal. Many of the sceptics I know personally share my applied science background and this view.

    We may all be wrong, of course – but our scepticism is usually based on wide experience in dealing with technical data and is entirely genuine.

    I’ve observed that many of those who are the most fervent promoters of AGW are often in career situations where they would find it very difficult to question the premise and are also often lacking in practical experience of the application of science.

    I therefore question their judgement and I think the current trend of observational data is weakening rather than strengthening their case. I would never, however, call them “fake believers” – because that would imply that their belief is not genuinely held.

    Calling those of us who are unconvinced by the AGW argument “fake sceptics” is just immature name calling and I’m surprised that it passes unremarked in a blog with pretensions to serious debate.

    The point of my Tweet unearthed above was amusement at BBD”s announcement that he used to be a “fake sceptic”. He is being welcomed here as a convert to the AGW cause – so presumably, in his sceptical phase, he must have been genuine. If he was a “fake sceptic” he wouldn’t have needed to change his views to join the believers.

    And just for the record, BBD was never on the moderate side of the debate in his sceptic days – he was just as aggressive in his scepticism as he now is in his support of AGW – including participating in the personal attacks on opponents which he now claims made him uncomfortable.

    If anyone doubts this, a search of the Bishop Hill archives will reveal all.

  273. Maybe the term confidence interval is clearer in talking to the general public?

    Uncertainty suggests much more than just an inability to fix a number precisely. Would still not indicate that values in the middle are more likely and that values outside the interval are possible, just rare.

  274. Calling those of us who are unconvinced by the AGW argument “fake sceptics” is just immature name calling and I’m surprised that it passes unremarked in a blog with pretensions to serious debate.

    After the day I’ve had today, I’m not really in the mood to put up with someone who thought it okay to imply I was a bigot then complaining about immature name calling. Personally, I think your comment is evidence enough that the term fake skeptic has merit. Why not try reading it back to yourself, while pretending you’re someone else?

  275. GDP increased 3% per year during the stable Holocene, but it’ll probably only continue to do so in the Anthropocene if the broken window fallacy isn’t actually a fallacy. (Like Lomborg, I’m not an economist, so take this with a grain of salt.)

  276. BBD says:

    So, it does seem that the whole GDP argument is fraught with confusion – or maybe that’s just me.

    On which, Willard linked to this upthread:

    Conventional economics supposes that agents value the present vs. the future using an exponential discounting function. In contrast, experiments with animals and humans suggest that agents are better described as hyperbolic discounters, whose discount function decays much more slowly at large times, as a power law. This is generally regarded as being time inconsistent or irrational. We show that when agents cannot be sure of their own future one-period discount rates, then hyperbolic discounting can become rational and exponential discounting irrational. This has important implications for environmental economics, as it implies a much larger weight for the far future.

    * * *

    In other news, I see the knives are out for me 😉

    Woo!

  277. Real skeptics provide evidence for their claims. Fake skeptics don’t, and simply accuse others of machinations and disguising evidence while innocently insisting that they would never call someone a fake believer. (Is this contradiction really so difficult to notice?) I’ve repeatedly asked Foxgoose to provide evidence of his supposed ‘surface warming pause’, but he refuses to even spend 10 seconds saying which dataset has a pause starting at which date. That’s fake skepticism.

  278. I stupidly read the @Foxgoose and @BradPKeyes BBD-hate-a-thon. Knives indeed.

    Maybe it’s time for a pleasant interlude. Last year a friend noticed that dealing with all the contrarians’ accusations was depressing me, so she asked me to write an uplifting article that I called Outlive the stars. In it, I explored (spoilers!) an idea that Greg Egan wrote about in “Hot Rock” which might allow us to beat fusion’s ~1% efficiency. Even if it wouldn’t work, how cool is it that tension has negative mass in general relativity?

    This cheered me up because the only reason we’d ever need technology that advanced is if we make it through the Anthropocene. So I started posting my optimistic ideas about far-future technology as comments on that article. I even tried to improve on a patented design by a JPL scientist for extracting vacuum energy, but changed my mind and admitted I was wrong when another scientist pointed out that I’d made a mistake.

  279. Joshua says:

    Foxgoose –

    ” I would never, however, call them “fake believers” – because that would imply that their belief is not genuinely held.”

    Consider what “fake skeptic” might mean. Based on your comment above, I think that you have failed to understand. Think about the term again with a skeptical eye.

  280. Tom Curtis says:

    foxgoose, you are a fake skeptic, not a fake dis-believer. That is, your doubts are real, they are just not based on an even handed look at the evidence. That is shown by your doubts about the surface temperature record after it has been replicated more than five times. And by your apparent claim that the surface temperature record represents a sparse data set. And by your apparent claim that the surface temperature record does not show a statistically significant trend.

  281. AnOilMan says:

    Foxgoose: Huh? Noise bars bigger than the signal? That’s a problem how?

    Try communications for a change. We have a way way way more noise than we know what to do with it. What do we do? Filter. Mud Pulse telemetry (on which all that you do and own is dependent) has a very marginal in band signal to noise ratio. (6 to 12dB? worse on a deep well) Wireline operates with 120db gain up 40,000 of wire. If capacitor gets warm you’ll see it as measurable in band noise.

    The point is that noise bars are simply a matter of perspective. Filter out what you don’t want to find the signal. All communications theory works this way. Period. Read the text book.

  282. There may be an issue with scientific integrity and expanding knowledge if this chap is correct in what he says. http://phys.org/news/2013-12-nobel-scientist-boycott-science-journals.html

  283. Is my impression right that most British ostriches are supporters or members of the UKIP?

  284. AnOilMan says:

    Dumb Scientist (@DumbSci): Funny you should mention how wearing these discussions are. I’ve noticed that as well.

    My wife has also forbidden me from talking about weather in the family. Notably, the crazy far right church goers say its all fake, and think Ezra Levant is a straight shooter. (I can only console myself with the fact that they are all welfare bait, and not many of them vote.)

  285. Tom Curtis says:

    Lomborg does have one valid point. By WHO estimates, there were 140,000 excess deaths in 2004 due to global warming. That represents 0.2% of deaths, of which 85% where children and nearly all were in the third world. For comparison, the 2nd Climate Vulnerability Monitor shows 400,000 excess deaths in 2010, or 0.8% of deaths in 2010. These deaths do not prevent Richard Tol from showing a positive benefit from global warming currently at least in part because his model assigns a lower cost to third world deaths than to first world deaths.

    The most striking fact evident from the data is that all of the excess deaths shown by WHO are due to increased malaria, dengue fever or diarrhoea; while those identified in the CVM2 are due to primarily to hunger (over 50%), diarrhoea and various diseases. These are causes of death that arise almost entirely from poverty. That is, for the most part currently, climate change is killing people by making poverty worse. Consequently, in the short term we would do more to combat the bad effects of climate change by combating poverty than by combating climate change directly.

    What is wrong about Lomborg’s conclusions is that:
    1) We have more than enough economic capability to tackle both issues. This is not an either/or situation.
    2) Politically, reducing attempts to mitigate climate change will not result in an increased budget to aid those in poverty.
    3) Economically, instituting tradable global per capita emissions allowances would probably be one of the best things we could do to fight poverty, if only by making oil cheaper for the by reducing demand from the rich.
    4) With increasing temperatures, excess deaths due to global warming will rise, and will rise in areas which are not the results of poverty.

  286. BBD says:

    Sorry about all this, other readers.

    If “fake sceptic” is raising hackles then let’s throw it under the bus.

    What I did was believe that I knew better than the professional scientists studying climate. This was silly of me, and I now regret it because nobody likes to look silly.

  287. AnOilMan says:

    Gareth Phillips (@Garethman): I don’t think I agree with Randy Sheckmen’s point of view. I have yet to hear of an alternative. Randy does deal with medical data which does have a lot of issues;

  288. AnOilMan, I wouldn’t bother. Scientists don’t focus on short term trends because shorter trends have larger error bars. Contrarians focus on short term trends (i.e. ‘surface warming pause’) because they have large error bars, so they can be cherry-picked to (probably unintentionally) mislead themselves and others. When Foxgoose complains about large error bars, he’s actually criticizing his own position, not that of mainstream science.

    For instance, right after the IPCC AR5 WG1 summary was released, I tweeted a few of the trends they calculated:

    Notice that the long term trend used by scientists has smaller error bars than the short term trends that contrarians are referring to when they obsess over a ‘surface warming pause’. Also notice that the IPCC doesn’t support Foxgoose’s claimed pause, despite his attempt to substitute his misunderstanding of the IPCC report for actual scientific evidence.

    Also notice that at the top of this thread Brad Keyes asked “have you ever corrected the regulars here who think it’s legitimate to use consensus as a form of evidence in scientific questions? (It’s not.) Did they accept your correction?”

    Will Brad Keyes correct Foxgoose? If so, that would be a step in the direction of being a real skeptic.

  289. BBD says:

    Victor Venema

    Is my impression right that most British ostriches are supporters or members of the UKIP?

    Perhaps it might be better to say that most supporters/members of UKIP are more likely than not to be “sceptics”, but there are many more spread through the established political right, much as you would expect.

  290. BG says:

    “fake skeptic” = willfully ignorant

  291. AnOilMan, I’m also very hesitant to bring this up with my family because they all live in Alabama and Louisiana (which is where I grew up). But it’s more difficult for me to avoid the topic because my life’s work is studying changes in Earth’s gravity using GRACE satellite data, and the rapidly accelerating global land ice sheet thinning is simply impossible to ignore. I literally don’t have anything else to talk about…

  292. I know it is hard, but such conversations with your family probably are much more effective as anything you could achieve on the web.

  293. Tom Curtis says:

    Gareth:
    1) It is easy for him to say, having received his Noble for work published in the premiere science journals. I am somewhat cynical of people who condemn a system only after they have used it to gain the highest accolades.

    2) More importantly, he is wrong. The purpose of peer review is to filter out junk. In an ideal world, scientists would read everything, and assess everything. Of course, nobody has either the time, or the tolerance for pain that would require. Consequently they rely on peer reviewed journals to filter for quality, relevance and significance. Importantly, significance does not equal correctness. Rather, it is a function of how great the increase of knowledge, or the change of paradigm would be if it were true. Clearly no one journal can filter for all three at the same level. The loss of the top tier science journals (as he is essentially recommending) would only remove that level of journals that filters more strongly for significance by avoiding filtering for relevance to a particular discipline. It would result in the loss both of cross disciplinary knowledge, and limit science communication towards, in Kuhn’s words “normal science” only.

    3) Impact factors, still less any particular index of impact, is not an ideal measure in a scientific journal. Never-the-less it is the best objective measure of the judgement of the scientific community on the quality of a journal. Nature is not a high quality journal because it has a high impact factor. It has a high impact factor because it is a high quality journal.

    I will qualify the above comments by noting that there is a problem with insufficient replication of prior work; but that is a problem with lower tiered journals preferring not to publish such works rather than with the existence of upper tiered journals. And that is not a problem with scientific integrity.

  294. BBD, thanks. Or maybe the UKIP people are more focal. They have less of a reputation to lose.

  295. AnOilMan says:

    Victor Venema: Thanks. I’m not sure ‘discussion’ is the right word. The sad fact is that I have personally learned far too much obnoxious behavior from arguing with the trolls. I must keep that fact in mind. I assume Dumb Scientist has similar issues.

    The hard part with communicating all this stuff is understanding who you are talking to. The fact is that I (and I assume others here) have jumped down someone else’s throat on the internet for simply asking a simple question that hits high on the denial button. Its hard to be civil in an argument when you’re dealing with such abject intentional stupidity. (One Troll actually told me that James Hansen was arguing that there was no global warming when presented with this link; http://www.skepticalscience.com/Hansen-1988-prediction.htm)

    I do believe that I achieved 50% success. My Brother in law is a senior educator with a large college. I managed to convince him that internet posts are not science. Unfortunately he went straight to the 900 contrary papers… So I had my work cut out explaining to him what he was reading. (Kinda like Craig Loehle’s paper arguing that 1 year of sea level decline meant the end of global warming. I had to delve into Grace data which I really didn’t get all that well.)

  296. AnOilMan says:

    Victor, BBD, I looked up the UKIP, and it immediately struck me that they are the nut jobs. The UK Tea Party, or Canada’s Reform party (which engulfed the formerly Progressive Conservative Party, and now rules Canada).

    On a personal level I’ve always ascribed racism as a kind of mono-culturalism. (I lived in South Africa. Skin is simply an easy way to distinguish culture. In Canada we have native issues, and of course the French.) Authoritarians are racist, and they like to wave the hate flag.

    You guys might wanna read this Altemeyer has spent his life studying those who support authoritarian regimes you might be surprised by what you learn;
    http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~altemey/

  297. AnOilMan: I’ve tried twice to post a comment explaining how short term trends have large error bars, but it keeps getting stuck in moderation even when I don’t include links. I’ll break it up into pieces and post it because I think it’s relevant to what you’re talking about.

    I’ve previously dealt with the short-term sea level drop issue, but now I’m wary of posting a link so I’ll just mention that Dr. Carmen Boening’s GRACE research is directly relevant to your discussion. If you ever need any backup from a GRACE scientist, you know where to find me. 😉

  298. Good link to Altemeyer! I knew that one, HotWhopper has the link to The Authoritarians prominently displayed. Very interesting, but also a bit depressing. It is hard to undo the bad youth these people had and that seems to be necessary before they are willing to listen to reason.

  299. > Personally I think it’s fair game.

    Foxgoose might have this usage in mind:

    The term Fair Game is used to describe policies and practices carried out by the Church of Scientology towards people and groups it perceives as its enemies. Founder L. Ron Hubbard established the policy in the 1960s, in response to criticism both from within and outside his organization. Individuals or groups who are “Fair Game” are judged to be a threat to the Church and, according to the policy, can be punished and harassed using any and all means possible. In 1968, Hubbard officially canceled use of the term “Fair Game” because of negative public relations it caused, although the Church’s aggressive response to criticism continued.

    Applying the principles of Fair Game, Hubbard and his followers targeted many individuals as well as government officials and agencies, including a program of covert and illegal infiltration of the IRS and other U.S. government agencies during the 1970s. They also conducted private investigations, character assassination and legal action against the Church’s critics in the media. The policy remains in effect and has been defended by the Church of Scientology as a core religious practice.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fair_Game_%28Scientology%29

    Foxgoose & Brad might ponder on the negative PR fair game can cause.

  300. John Mashey says:

    Rachel: Lomborg: try:
    http://thingsbreak.wordpress.com/2009/01/08/lomborg-long-game/

    I wrote this because Lomborg’s COOL IT had confused some pretty smart Venture Capital friends (of the centrist fiscal conservative social liberal viewpoint often found here), and they asked me to come in and explain its problems.

  301. Reich.Eschhaus says:

    “I disagree. Tamsin gets the commenters she deserves; if she moderated the dross then she would attract more constructive comments. If she chooses not to then others diving in there are simply wrestling with pigs, and we know where that ends up – see Curry’s.”

    So you are just waiting to see if Tamsin turns into Curry2.0? Why? Btw, I take her word for it that she is listening. She might be gathering the ‘skeptics’ self declared descriptions of what is wrong with climate science. Being nice might give you better material.

    “@Reich.Eschhaus: I’m afraid you are inconsistent. Saying “She is on her own moderationwise” and “If people here know her, they should help her” simply doesn’t go together. As verytallguy correctly points out, “Tamsin [and everyone else] gets the commenters she deserves“. She has chosen to wrestle with people who, predictably, will never change their contrarian mind, so she has to deal with it.

    So you are also watching from a distance. Meanwhile BBD is a confessed turned around ‘skeptic’. Would you help Tamsin turn around a few more?

    “but I happen to think that her intended efforts are going to be (scientifically) in vain. She won’t change contrarian minds, but confuse the lurkers by allowing dismissive and unjustified comments towards mainstream science. ”

    You are probably right. But there is nothing wrong with trying. Confused lurkers are a big deal already..

  302. Willard, what a fascinating coincidence. Around the same time as your comment, Foxgoose tweeted: “OK you were right – I’m out of there. It was a bit like escaping from the Scientologists.”

  303. Here, Dumb:

    The tweet timestamp is 12:45.

    Coincidence? As the Honest Broker would say: you be the judge!

  304. It’s times like these that I wish I’d majored in psychology rather than physics. Is it really possible that Foxgoose doesn’t see that psychological projection?

    I used to think that the strong nuclear force was the strongest force in the universe, but motivated reasoning is obviously stronger and longer range.

  305. If contrarians were even half as interested in physics as they are in digging through scientists’ private correspondence, I suspect we’d already have a colony on Alpha Centauri and wouldn’t need to worry so much about shitting in our crib.

  306. Steve Bloom says:

    I liked the sole comment there. Eyes on the prize.

  307. John Mashey says:

    I’ve been off at AGU this week, so just catching up. Apparently Foxgoose has departed, in some sense too bad, has Foxgoose provided good data for my in-progress study of (un)skeptical/paranoid/conspiracy-theory commentary on the Salby affair.
    Search Bisjop Hill #1 comments for Foxgoose, who offers several comments, although I was sad not to have the one marked deleted.

  308. Rachel says:

    Rachel: Lomborg: try:
    http://thingsbreak.wordpress.com/2009/01/08/lomborg-long-game/

    Thanks, John. That’s really good. A false dilemma is exactly what Bjorn Lomborg has created. I think I get so worked up when I read his stuff because he implies that if you want action on climate change then you don’t care about the world’s poor and conversely that if you want business as usual then you’re on some moral pedestal.

  309. Rachel says:

    Victor, Dumb, AnOilMan,
    I personally find it much easier to argue with people who are not members of my family because family members know how to push buttons and there are patterns from the past that emerge. I have also had no success whatsoever in changing the views of my contrarian family members. This is why I was very interested to hear about BBD’s experience. I can’t talk about climate change with family members who do accept AGW because they’re sick of it! So I’m forced to discuss it on blogs like this 🙂

  310. Rachel says:

    These deaths do not prevent Richard Tol from showing a positive benefit from global warming currently at least in part because his model assigns a lower cost to third world deaths than to first world deaths.

    I didn’t realise this was the case and have to ask how this could possibly be acceptable?

  311. Marco says:

    Rachel, this is “acceptable” because this is how the world of economics works. The average First Worlder contributes much more to the global economy than the average Third Worlder. Therefore, simple accounting puts a much higher price on the life of a First Worlder. This is one of those many areas where science collides with ethics.

  312. Tom Curtis says:

    Rachel, first, Tol did use the different valuation when participating in the Copenhagen Consensus modelling program. He defended the difference in valuation because current markets in fact place a different value on lives in various nations; that is he was modelling the revealed preferences of people. To be fair, Tol has analyzed the virtue of different methods of equity weighting, and includes equity weighting as a means to normalize the impacts of deaths across nations in some of his studies.

  313. Tom Curtis says:

    Marco, I think you mean this is one of the many areas were economics collides with ethics. Economics is not a science.

  314. verytallguy says:

    @Reich.Eschhaus

    So you are also watching from a distance. Meanwhile BBD is a confessed turned around ‘skeptic’. Would you help Tamsin turn around a few more?

    Here’s how I see it. Unmoderated blogs are simply overrun by contrarians with bizarre ideas and often very offensive styles (see Tamsin’s). All you achieve by attempting a dialogue is to encourage the false idea that there is genuine uncertainty on the basic facts. Also you get to look as bad as they are.

    If you leave them to it, they get to develop a more and more bizarre fantasy world which is very obvious to any onlooker who wants to see it.

    Allow them to reveal themselves for what they are – see Lar’s excerpt from Curry’s above:

    “I’m a barrel chested 5’10″ at 210 pounds with massive upper body strength kept up from logging and could knock your head clean off your shoulders with a single punch. But at my age it’s easier to just wave a snub-nose .38 in your face and call it a night without anyone going to the emergency room – me with a broken wrist or you with a broken face.”

    Far more effective than any rational argument from you or I in showing the true nature of climate change denial.

  315. Rachel says:

    Marco, Tom,
    Valuing rich people over poor, simply because they earn more, is a very embarrassing conclusion to come to. It’s just wrong.

  316. andrew adams says:

    I’ve often used the term “fake skeptics”. It’s not because their views are “fake” in themselves – I don’t doubt that in most cases they genuinely believe that what they are saying is true. The point is it’s their claim to “skepticism” which is fake – they are not at all skeptical towards opinions which seem to support their own views. Admittedly this is not a unique or unusual trait amongst people who argue on the internet, but in this case it’s particularly ironic given their particular self-image and it’s fair to draw attention to it.

  317. Tom Curtis says:

    Rachel, I agree with you. It is also virtually unavoidable using standard economic assumptions. That is one of the reasons I disagree with the claim that macro economics is a science. Sciences ought to be value neutral in at least this sense – your conclusions should not depend on your ethical philosophy (other than those ethical requirements implicit in the scientific method). Modern macro economics, however, implicitly introduces a value system in which each person is worth the value of their net income. It is, therefore, not so much dependent on an ethical assumption, but a transparently unethical assumption. There are, of course, macro economist who recognize this, and do their best to counter it. They are, however, hampered by assumption that economies are most efficient when they preserve pareto optimality, ie, the principal that a situation that makes the destitute better of at the expense of making billionaires worse of is less desirable than one which leaves the destitute to starve in the streets.

  318. > The point is it’s their claim to “skepticism” which is fake – they are not at all skeptical towards opinions which seem to support their own views.

    The very idea of holding a point of view defeats skepticism, which is a more radical endeavour than ordinary incredulity:

    [P]hilosophical skepticism attempts to render doubtful every member of a class of propositions that we think falls within our ken. One member of the class is not pitted against another. The grounds for either withholding assent to the claim that we can have such knowledge or denying that we can have such knowledge are such that there is no possible way to either answer them or neutralize them by appealing to another member of the class because the same doubt applies to each and every member of the class. Thus, philosophic doubt or philosophical skepticism, as opposed to ordinary incredulity, does not, in principle, come to an end. Or so the philosophic skeptic will claim!

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/skepticism/#PhiSkeVsOrdInc

  319. Joshua says:

    Indeed, willard.

    A true skeptic would never be a member of a group that would have him/her as a member.

    I was disappointed that Tom C. spelled it out for Foxgoose. I asked him if he could reconsider the meaning of “fake skeptic” as a kind of test of his skepticism. We’ll never know, now, his potential for skepticism.

  320. Tom Curtis says:

    Willard, not even most philosophers venture into the chilling waters of philosophical skepticism. I think we mere mortals can perhaps be skeptical without withholding all belief.

    Joshua, I am sorry to ruin your fun, but I think we already have a good idea of his potential in that regard.

  321. Louise says:

    It’s very interesting to see which Tweets reporting Gavin Schmidt’s presentation that Dr Edwards has favourited. A selection include:

    @climateofgavin@ there are fora in which you can have a serious conversation. And there are fora where you can’t
    @climateofgavin: I advocate for a higher level of conversation. That means avoiding noise in order to have it
    Q: How can we make the noise (of anti-science) go away? @Climateofgavin: I just find those places where there is none.

    I wonder if she thinks any of these should apply to her?

  322. > I think we mere mortals can perhaps be skeptical without withholding all belief.

    I agree, Tom. That’s why “being skeptical” is oftentimes a synonym of “being incredulous”. Incredibilism would be a more appropriate term than skepticism, which has a long tradition.

    If we follow through what the Stanford entry says, we can show this simple test to distinguish scepticism from incredibilism. Suppose you ask a contrarian C “what evidence would change your mind?” As soon as C responds something positive, he would reveal that he’s not a true sceptic!

    This means two things.

    First, that scepticism cannot be a scientific position. Nothing can change a skeptic’s mind, since it’s an empty mind, solely dedicated to the justification process of an enquiry. One skeptic can always audit any claim he fancies, and should AUDIT ALL THE CLAIMS!

    Second, that only a never ending audit would show real skepticism.

    ***

    Contrarian concerns coupled with reactionary claptraps have very little to do with skepticism.

  323. Joshua says:

    Tom C. –

    Yes, that is true. A true skeptic would likely have anticipated how his excerpting BBD’s previous comment backfired.

    But there’s always hope.. maybe he/she will come back and admit his/her error. (and maybe a monkey will fly out of my butt).

  324. BBD says:

    If FG was capable of even rudimentary tactical thinking he would have seen the great danger in reminding everybody that he is stuck in a profound intellectual rut which others have since cleared.

    I think Joshua’s chair is safe.

  325. Since I was rather short with FG last night, and since I’m in a better mood today, and he/she has been getting a bit of a hard time with some of the other comments, I thought I would at least try to explain why I think his/her response feels like fake skepticism, rather than real skepticism. Maybe it will explain people’s thinking. Then again, maybe not. The main issue relates to this

    I find the evidence for AGW unconvincing because it’s based on sparse and extensively manipulated observational data mixed with a vast amount of academic hypothesis. Most of the trends which are supposed to confirm the theory are extracted from noisy data with error bars larger than the supposed signal. Many of the sceptics I know personally share my applied science background and this view.

    Firstly, this comes across as a “I just don’t trust/believe” argument. That’s not really skepticism in the scientific sense. It may be in the rhetorical sense (I’m skeptical), but scepticism in science means more than just not being convinced.

    The other issue is that much of that statement would appear to be incorrect. Consider time periods longer than 20 – 30 years in the surface temperature record, and the trend is statistically significant. The sea ice trend is statistically significant. The ocean heat content data also (you may have issue with whether or not there are enough ARGO floats to do the measurements but, again, that’s doubt rather than scepticism). Also, where does the statement vast amount of academic hypothesis come from. The basic radiative physics associated with AGW is well understood. There are multiple estimates of climate sensitivity that are largely independent (not quite maybe) and consistent. Yes, GCMs are not doing a particularly good job of matching short term trends, but that’s not been (up until now at least) what they’re really been designed to do. More effort is going into that, but they are/were specifically intended to be used to try and understand long-term climate trends.

    So, that’s my explanation of why what you said appeared consistent with a claim of fake scepticism. If you wish to elaborate, or convince me otherwise, feel free to do so.

  326. John Mashey says:

    I suggest that it is a good idea to eschew the phrase “fake skepticism” in favor of unskeptical or something, unless there is strong evidence that the person is indeed claiming a skeptical mantle and knows it is fake, as opposed to absolutely believing that they are skeptics in the classical sense. I have some evidence that the latter outnumber the former.

    As a related example that has been studied, consider the difference between fake experts (“fake experts”), of which there are small number around climate science, who get financial rewards for portraying themselves as experts and know perfectly well they aren’t.. That’s one edge of a distribution, The other edge consists of the most Dunning-Kruger afflicted, who are the least skilled/knowledgable, but dismiss experts, i.e., people whose motto might be “never trust the experts.”

    As it happens, lat July’s Salby blogstorm offered up a wonderful dataset on blog behavior, both sociologically (tribal behavior) and psychological (people whose self-image includes thinking they are true skeptics … but like D-K afflictees are not.)
    (Off to AGU, more later).

  327. AnOilMan says:

    andthentheresphysics: I seriously love the attacks on ocean temperature data.

    Early ocean data was gathered by the world navies with XBTs, which are used to measure temperature salinity profiles. Temperature and salinity determine the speed of sound underwater for sonar. It also determines where sound will have the most acoustic losses, and where it won’t. The data is military and shared between all the allies. It was also sparse.

    This data is very applied, very used, and very accurate. If it wasn’t we couldn’t track subs, and our own subs would be sunk. For this data to work, we would need the ability to predict (from sparse data) the temperature and salinity profile any where in the world.

    The Navy is the first context I heard of Levitus from. Back in the 90’s you needed Secret clearance to see this data.

    Attacks on this data, are attacks on Allied heros of the cold war.
    Attacks on this data are attacks on real and applied and proven technology and methods (right down to sparse data sets).

    This is why I get frothing at the mouth angry with that high schooler Anthony Watts;
    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/04/24/more-ocean-sized-errors-in-levitus-et-al/

    Unlike [Rachel: this was a bit uncivil] Watts, Levitus wrote the book on sinking subs with sparse data.

    I really feel that the world would benefit from seeing how some of the data used in practice beyond the usual hyperbole.

  328. AnOilMan, that’s fascinating. Thanks, I was completely unaware of that history.

  329. jsam says:

    Dear AnOilMan – that was fascinating. Are you aware of a good link that contains that history?

  330. AnOilMan: I’ve repeatedly pointed out that the greenhouse effect was indirectly confirmed by the U.S. military in the 1950s because IR absorption in the upper atmosphere is relevant to the Air Force. Again, I might as well have pounded my head against the wall; the result would’ve been the same. Hope you have better luck than I did…

  331. @DumbSci, I’ve just read some more of that WUWT thread you posted. Quite a nice illustration of what I was getting at here and quite a remarkable exchange. Not quite sure how you managed to remain so calm throughout.

  332. If you found that exchange remarkable, put on a helmet to avoid injuries before reading this WUWT exchange where I was banned.

  333. @DumbSci, blast, you made me look!

    Although, I should add, that that thread reminds me why I started this whole blogging lark in the first place.

  334. AnOilMan says:

    Dumb Sci: I actually feel physically ill when I read such bogus propaganda that promotes ignorance. (I tend to paint all who venerate WUWT with that same technicolor spew.) I simply can’t go there.

    I think potholer54 covered this off with ‘Feelies’;

    The simple fact is that Natural Gas is an amazingly powerful strong spectral absorber. All of Oil and Gas knows this. The industry dies instantly if that isn’t true. God… I spend more time dealing with that single fact than any other. Here is a typical industry instrument for measuring natural gas constituents; http://jp3measurement.com/. In terms of spectral absorption, natural gas blankets out huge parts of the spectrum, making it hard to to impossible detect other gasses.

    Tim Ball should speak to someone knowledgeable on the subject before opening his mouth. Philip Hobbs wrote the book on it (literally) and is often an expert for trials. Tim Ball, however, looses trials because he’s a liar who falsifies his credentials.

    Simple question… Why did Tim Ball glance over why Moisture is in the air? Its short lived right? Everyone knows this right? Hmmm?

  335. AnOilMan: “Why did Tim Ball glance over why Moisture is in the air? Its short lived right? Everyone knows this right? Hmmm?”

    Otherwise reasonable assumptions fly out the window in contrarian land. In my last link, milodonharlani claimed that the PETM’s warmth was due to water vapor, so on November 18, 2013 at 9:38 pm, I explained that there’s this thing called “rain“. Again, no luck.

  336. Reich.Eschhaus says:

    “Finally, Schmidt advised scientists to be good listeners.”

    Some agreement with Tamsin!

    http://www.yaleclimatemediaforum.org/2013/12/agu13-gavin-schmidt-speaking-up-and-speaking-out/

  337. Reich, yes but I think he disagree with much of what Tamsin was suggesting with respect to advocacy though. I’m quite interested to see how views on this topic progresses, though.

  338. Rachel says:

    Reich, thanks for posting that link. I just read it and it was very good.

    Anders, something maybe encouraging for you at the end, “You can create spaces online that are not noise-free and not discussion-free but are abuse-free. And I think we should create spaces like that.”

  339. Reich.Eschhaus says:

    Rachel,

    here is the recording: http://virtualoptions.agu.org/media/GC43E-01.+What+should+a+climate+scientist+advocate+forF+The+intersection+of+expertise+and+values+in+a+politicized+world+%28Invited%29/1_xum7lm5f/17184291

    (need to register, don’t be discouraged by apparent costs, fill in ‘AGU13’ and they’ll disappear)

    &Dan,

    Yeah, that is clear to me, I was more or less stressing their only point of agreement…

  340. tallbloke says:

    “It took thousands of scientists and engineers to build the LHC and collect and analyse the data.”

    I machined some of those parts. Had some of my suggested design improvements for sensor cowling shapes and angles accepted and incorporated into the final drawings too. Funny little world innit?

  341. tallbloke, yes, hilarious.

  342. Steve Bloom says:

    Should say rather that Tamsin agrees with Gavin, who after all has been actively working on science comms for 10+ years (contrasted to her ~ 2 years). Plus of course none of these concepts were new then.

    People might ask themselves why exactly Tamsin gets so much attention.

  343. Reich.Eschhaus says:

    &Dan

    ” My only defence is that I’m a scientist, not a linguist 🙂 ”

    Oh! You are a denier when it comes to linguists working scientifically! 😉

  344. Reich.Eschhaus says:

    @DumbSci

    “It’s times like these that I wish I’d majored in psychology rather than physics.”

    Sometimes I wonder the other way around 😉

    ” Is it really possible that Foxgoose doesn’t see that psychological projection?”

    Foxgoose is only playing. He/she knows far better than he/she wishes to admit. Contrarian for contrariarisms sake!

  345. Reich.Eschhaus says:

    @verytallguy

    ” Unmoderated blogs are simply overrun by contrarians with bizarre ideas and often very offensive styles (see Tamsin’s). All you achieve by attempting a dialogue is to encourage the false idea that there is genuine uncertainty on the basic facts. Also you get to look as bad as they are.

    If you leave them to it, they get to develop a more and more bizarre fantasy world which is very obvious to any onlooker who wants to see it.”

    I tend to agree with most of that. I tried to solicit some opinions of how others saw Tamsin’s efforts. But I do sense a basic defaitism in your response. Btw there are moderated blogs that tender to contrarians only 😋.

    What I think I wanted to ask is how you would actually engage (or moderate) in order to have an impact on those that appear to be in non listening mode?

  346. Steve Bloom says:

    “What I think I wanted to ask is how you would actually engage (or moderate) in order to have an impact on those that appear to be in non listening mode?”

    My two cents:

    I think it would require a huge time commitment to try. One would have to correct all the pseudo-scientific garbage (not censor them since that would lose the denialist commentors) and draw a hard line against too-inflammatory material (which would have to be censored, but with transparent rules that could work). But while that would keep a lot of the non-listeners participating, IMO it would still do nothing to cause them to listen. I haven’t seen this tried although it would be interesting to see.

    This blog arguably occupies a different point on the same curve, but the difference is that the blog posts themselves don’t cater to denialists. Tamsin’s very much do (on the whole). But since she’s not a bad or deranged scientist, her stated approach of emphasizing uncertainty to gain trust can only end in frustration.

  347. tallbloke says:

    New blog title makeover. Same old crud.

    Whenwilltherebephysics?

  348. tallbloke, it’s comments like yours that give me confidence (given who it’s from) that I’m pretty much getting it right.

    Willard, I notice that FG is travelling the blogosphere complaining about his treatment here, in particular your comment about “Fair Game” being a scientology term. Do you know if the timestamp on your comment with FG’s tweet is UK time? If so, he compared the people here to scientologists (11:45pm 12 Dec) almost 45 minutes before your comment discussing “Fair game” being a scientology term (12.24am 13 Dec). Sensitive soul is our Foxgoose.

    [Addendum – Rachel has checked and FG’s tweet was actually at 12:45pm on 13 Dec, so after Willard’s “fair game” comment. Still, does seem somewhat ironic that someone who finds being compared to scientologists so objectionable chooses to do the same.]

    [Another correction – Rachel thinks her check was wrong. I’ve checked and my system suggests it was indeed made at 11:45pm on 12 Dec, so – it seems – 45 minutes before Willard’s “fair game” comment.]

  349. How astonishing! A sensitive soul is but one possible explanation; correlation isn’t causation, after all. WUWT’s fount of wisdom makes it clear that the effects of Foxgoose’s egregious victimization spread forward and backward through time. In a righter world, the discovery of victim bully tachyons would be grounds for a Nobel prize. If only it weren’t for those meddling physics.

    (I’m sorry, but snark is really all I have left at this point. How about if I point out that unless special relativity is horribly broken, all Foxgoose needs is a warp drive in order to go back in time?)

  350. I should probably make it clear that I don’t really want this to turn into a Foxgoose-athon. I really just wanted to write the above comment so that those who come here because he/she is complaining about being compared to scientologists, might realise that it’s possible that he/she chose to compare people here to scientologists before anyone here compared what FG had said to scientology terminology.

  351. Rachel says:

    There is a positive to all of this and that is that both sides have found a point of agreement which is that neither wants to be compared to a bunch of scientologists.

  352. Rachel, yes, maybe if everyone agreed not to compare each other to scientologists, we’d all get on fine 🙂

  353. Tom Curtis says:

    Being fair to Willard (which is always wise), he did not compare Foxgoose to scientologists. He compared Foxgoose’s tactic under the rubric of “fair game” to the scientologists tactics under the same notion. It is even possible he did so in reference to Foxgoose’s tweet. Or possibly he was merely pointing out in his typically cryptic style that calling something “fair game” does not justify it, it merely points out that you think it is justified.

  354. Tom, I agree. I do think FG has completely over-interpreted Willard’s comment. AFAICT, it was simply an illustration – as you say – of how a tactic can backfire if it’s seen as being unjustified. I was simply trying to illustrate that it seems rather ironic that FG is complaining about that despite (it seems) earlier explicitly comparing people here to scientologists. I’ll also maybe explain why FG was never particularly welcome here. I’m not a huge fan of a discussion in which someone implies that I’m behaving like a bigot

    Maybe it’s just me, but if one is likely to complain about people being unpleasant, maybe try to avoid being unpleasant yourself (to be fair, at least, my prior comment to FG wasn’t particularly pleasant, but at least I’m willing to admit that and, would argue, it was in keeping with the general tone of the discussion.).

  355. Tom Curtis says:

    Anders, I was thinking of including an disclaimer on my prior comment, and obviously should have. I would never claim to know what Willard intended by one of his comments, only what he might intend. His comment may have been an illustration; it may have been a reference to the tweet; it may have been a barb; and I am sure those “may haves” will not have plumbed the depths of Willard’s cryptic obscurity.

    As to Foxgoose, what I find most annoying about him is his almost continuous creative misinterpretations. Thus, you clearly indicate that rhetoric destroys discussions, a comment about style, and the use of persuasive arts in preference to rational argument. He turns that into ‘disagreement “destroys discussions”‘, exhibiting both what I most dislike about him, and his preference for rhetoric over substance destroying even that discussion.

  356. Tom, indeed. I would normally add such a disclaimer myself. I also found how FG claimed that I had said disagreements destroy discussions, rather than the rhetoric used destroying discussion – as, quite nicely, illustrated by FG’s next comment.

    Given that this has turned into a bit of a Foxgoose-athon, I will add that he/she is welcome to come and defend himself/herself. Additionally, he/she is welcome to clarify whether or not they did indeed compare people here to scientologists prior to the comment pointing out that a term they had used was was first coined by scientologists. If FG’s tweet was prior to that comment, maybe they could then explain why comparing people here to scientologists is okay, while pointing out that a term used by FG was first used by scientologists is unpleasant.

  357. Rachel says:

    I’ve just watched the video Reich provided the link to – with a few interruptions from small children 🙂 – and it was excellent. Thank you, Reich. I wanted to watch that but wasn’t sure where to go.

    There’s one thing Gavin says which I want to comment on:

    “You have the right not to advocate for anything at all”

    I agree with this for the most part but I do wonder whether there may be situations where you relinquish this right. What if you know something that will have an impact on the lives of many others and the problem is of such a complexity that in order to help them you also need to provide some solutions. Do you have a responsibility to do so?

    Anders, I’ve just seen your updates to an earlier comment based on my wild goose chase. Sorry about that! For what it’s worth, I also don’t think Willard was comparing Foxgoose to scientologists but it is clear that Foxgoose has compared all of us to scientologists so it’s hard for me to understand what he is upset about.

  358. What if you know something that will have an impact on the lives of many others and the problem is of such a complexity that in order to help them you also need to provide some solutions. Do you have a responsibility to do so?

    Most climatologists do not work on the impacts of climate change and are no better informed as interested lay-men. And when it comes to solutions, I see no special role for climatologists what so ever. If climatologists would comment on that more specifically as stating that reductions in greenhouse gasses are the most important factor to reduce the magnitude of the problem, I would say they do so as a private citizen.

    As long as the climate ostriches think they need a disinformation campaign about the science to defend their position, and in doing so implicitly acknowledge that solving the problem makes more sense as enduring the consequences, the most important public role of scientists is correcting these erroneous talking points.

  359. BBD says:

    FG came here and made the “fair game” comment in an attempt to justify his petty attempt to discredit me on this blog. I find it perplexing that his subsequent whining and playing the victim merits any discussion at all.

  360. Tom, Rachel, Anders,

    Me and Foxgoose exchanged some tweets yesterday. Here’s one where he tries to exploit my Wiki reference:

    Nevermind his victim playing. It is not compatible with his screeching habits, unless it’s sarcasm.

    FoxGoose’s position about discussion might have merit if it excluded him. He’s a serial insulter. His contributions are scarce and seldom constructive. Considering BBD’s sincere reply, how else could he respond without responding?

    ***

    Anyone who knows about my never ending adventures should see that I should be the last one to dispute the importance of the words we weave on the web. We all have to own what we said in a rush for all eternity, or at least what may approximate it the most. To that effect, FoxGoose might not be able to afford a journey with the spirit of ClimateBall past.

  361. Victor,

    As long as the climate ostriches think they need a disinformation campaign about the science to defend their position, and in doing so implicitly acknowledge that solving the problem makes more sense as enduring the consequences, the most important public role of scientists is correcting these erroneous talking points.

    I agree with this completely. I also think (which maybe you’re implying) that such a disinformation campaign (intentional or not) also indicates that they don’t have sufficient confidence in their policy views to propose them without also suggesting that the science is flawed.

  362. Rachel says:

    Victor,
    I was thinking hypothetically rather than about climate scientists specifically. I think they have a right not to advocate for anything at all. Suppose a small asteroid is about to crash into Earth. The crash itself is not expected to do much damage because the impact will be in the desert somewhere. But the asteroid is carrying with it a dangerous alien pathogen. Politicians on Earth know about this and are planning to nuke the asteroid. However, scientists have discovered that nuking it will only make the pathogen stronger. The only thing that will work, according to scientists, is to coat the asteroid with strawberry jam. Do they have a duty to recommend the only thing that will work? Ok, so this is a dumb example but it’s all I’ve got.

  363. 🙂 I agree. Scientists certainly have the right to communicate their findings with the public. And as a group, I would even go so far that scientists have the duty to do so. I would only not state that every individual scientist has the duty to inform the public.

    To learn about problems before they happen is one of reasons why people pay us to pursue our hobbies. In many fields there is much too little of that, biodiversity, erosion, … Maybe also because people to not want to listen, that is something I cannot judge.

  364. Reich.Eschhaus says:

    Steve Bloom,

    “I think it would require a huge time commitment to try. One would have to correct all the pseudo-scientific garbage (not censor them since that would lose the denialist commentors) and draw a hard line against too-inflammatory material (which would have to be censored, but with transparent rules that could work). But while that would keep a lot of the non-listeners participating, IMO it would still do nothing to cause them to listen. I haven’t seen this tried although it would be interesting to see.”

    Thanks. In any case, Tamsin fails at your first sentence. You would need a team to do that (with people knowledgable in different disciplines). But otherwise I am not sure what would keep ‘denialist commentors’ coming back to such a place that allows civil ‘denialist commenting’. Skepticalscience comes to mind, but I do not see how they (or another group with a similar breadth of knowledge among them) could cater the ‘denialist commentors’ in order for them to come back for discussions (and not to simply make snipe remarks) while at the same time being corrected on ‘all the pseudo-scientific garbage’ they bring with them. My guess is they would quickly retreat to venues where they are amongst themselves (the familiar blogs) or can spout nonsense with varying degrees of success (say, the guardian comment pages, where they sometimes arrive en masse, but might get a good rubbing too at times. Doesn’t seem to stop them going there though).

    “People might ask themselves why exactly Tamsin gets so much attention.”

    Isn’t that obvious? “Skeptics” think “hey! a climate scientist that wants climate scientists out of policy. Cool!” Climate scientists think “She wants what?”

  365. How about Climate Dialogue? They got funding and will start again next year.

  366. Reich.Eschhaus says:

    Victor,

    Ah! Almost forgot about them! Some good discussions there. However, this discussion

    http://www.climatedialogue.org/long-term-persistence-and-trend-significance/

    I thought was extremely lousy. As “UndislosedUsername” (sic) said:

    “This is a very unsatisfying discussion.

    To me it lacks a clear definition of Long-Term Persistence. Two of the invited debaters use it but both do not seem to be able to explain it in simple terms what is and how it comes about. Why is that? The rest of the discussion seems to be a lot of talking to one another on different levels. Telling others to read the papers doesn’t help if you can’t explain succinctly what you are on about. I do notice the blog operators trying to get something more out of it, but i feel their efforts failed. Pity…”

    I have to read the latest discussions still, and hope those are better. Maybe a worthy effort if the moderators/hosts can get the science contributors to behave (herding cats I would imagine).

  367. John Mashey might want to note that Anders and I are getting free advertising as specimens in the upcoming “thinking man’s Prof Lew” study. This flattering sign of good faith bodes well for a productive and pleasant interaction.

    Hope springs eternal.

  368. @DumbSci, it’s not having much effect on my readership as far as I can tell 🙂

  369. Rachel says:

    Astounding isn’t it, DumbSci? What’s the best way to deal with people like that? I’m really not sure but the thread is rife with denigrating insults which they don’t seem to notice. It’s probably not worth wasting any thoughts over.

  370. @DumbSci, yes I noticed that there was a claim of you being anonymous despite a fairly obvious about link on your blog. I had been tempted to comment there, but I counted to 10 and the desire passed. Maybe it would have been best if I hadn’t referred to Paul Matthews as the most “unpleasant, non-anonymous person I’d encountered online”, but I doubt he’s surprised that that’s my view (given how he’s chosen to engage with me) and he once referred to me as dishonest, so I felt it would be best not to lie.

  371. Rachel, yes, there does appear to be a remarkable lack of understanding of the term “irony”.

  372. Amusingly, Watts accused me of using a fake name while repeatedly calling me by name and naming my employer. Rachel, I don’t really know how to deal with people like that, except to ignore them. Scientists tried this for decades and… well… we’re still treating the atmosphere like a free sewer. Seems like that strategy doesn’t work.

    The insults aren’t as amusing as the creative interpretations, like someone’s apparent reputation as “possibly the interwebs’ greatest exponent of ‘seeing the other chap’s point of view’.”

    Perhaps this is like Henry Ford’s “any color you want, as long as it’s black.” The interwebs’ greatest exponent can see other chaps’ point of view, as long as that point of view obsesses over illegally obtained images and ignores the fact that we’re emitting CO2 ten times faster than before the Great Dying.

    (I’ve shared that link and that claim repeatedly here and at WUWT, and no “skeptic” has asked me where the claim appears in the link. Not a single one. Maybe they all have university access and read Honisch et al. 2012 through page 1061? Or maybe they’re not very skeptical?)

  373. BBD says:

    The usual bleh. And so poorly researched. Rachel is clearly a squirrel not a dog.

  374. @DumbSci, is this the bit you’re referring to 🙂

    an average rate of decline of ~0.002 units per 100 years compared with the current rate of more than 0.1 units per 100 years

  375. My third figure here is based on this quote regarding end-Permian emissions: “… an annual carbon release of ~0.1 to 1 PgC [compared with 9.9 PgC in 2008 (57)].” [p1061 of Honisch et al. 2012]

  376. Rachel says:

    Notice how foxgoose hurls a whole bunch of insults, mostly at Anders, and the first thing Geoff Chambers does is thank him. And then he has the nerve to ask for my help in finding the insulting comments made here by Paul Matthews. I could, very easily, but I’m not going to bother.

    I’m not actually bothered about being called a dog. I love dogs. And I’m honoured to be a guard dog here if it means we can avoid comments like those. I think those comments are a good example of how not to do it.

  377. BBD says:

    Look! A squirrel.

    (Sorry, sorry)

  378. AnOilMan says:

    Rachel: That is SOP for the denial community.

    Its right up there with selective memory, acting publicly indignant, and hurling crap. On Desmogblog I’ve been censored quite a few times. But I don’t complain because I can have a foul mouth.

    I do appreciate your approach to censorship. 🙂 Thank you.

  379. Dumb Scientist (December 17, 2013 at 8:23 pm) says:
    “we’re emitting CO2 ten times faster than before the Great Dying. (I’ve shared that link and that claim repeatedly here and at WUWT, and no “skeptic” has asked me where the claim appears in the link. Not a single one. Maybe they all have university access and read Honisch et al. 2012 through page 1061? Or maybe they’re not very skeptical?)”

    I expect they did what I did. I thought “What Great Dying? I don’t remember emitting any CO2 before any Great Dying.” I clicked on the link, read the abstract and thought: Oh that Great Dying, 200 million years ago.

    Not being a marine calcifer myself, and not being acquainted with any marine calcifers, I’m not too bothered. Though I can imagine that if you’re 21 marine biologists in search of a headline, the Great Dying and the threat of the ocean getting a little less alkaline is just what you need.

  380. GeoffChambers, here’s one simple question for you. Do you accept that the scientific evidence suggests that we’re changing the pH of the oceans faster (50 to 100 times, I believe) than at anytime in the last 300 million years?

    Since you seem quite dismissive of what goes on here, I was thinking we could stick to aspects that should be reasonably well accepted.

  381. Oh, I didn’t notice Geoff’s comment before I posted. So much to ponder, but Anders is on point.

  382. Wotty

    You’re doing that climate “science” thing of picking an interesting hypothesis and promoting it to a holy scripture.

    Some scientists think the rate of ph change is scary – others think it’s virtually impossible to measure accurately and not that worrisome anyway.

    This post by Prof Brice Bosnich FRS falls into the latter category. Would you like to explain what you feel is wrong with it?

    http://joannenova.com.au/2011/11/the-chemistry-of-ocean-ph-and-acidification/

    It is of course posted on a well known “denier” site – but I assume that Prof Bosnich’s credentials and opinions can be considered without resorting to an attack on the messenger.

  383. Foxgoose, one question. Did you compare people commenting here to scientologists before Willard compared your use of “fair game” to the use of the same term by scientologists? Simple question, simple answer.

  384. andthentheresphysics (December 17, 2013 at 9:44 pm)
    Yes, I’ll accept that the scientific evidence suggests that we’re changing the pH of the oceans faster than at anytime in the last 300 million years, if you say so. You seem to know what you’re talking about, and I don’t see why you should lie to me.

    It’s a nice example of Maurizio Morabito’s First Law of Catastrophism: that terrible things start to happen precisely at the moment that we develop the means to detect and measure them.

    I’d also point out that we’re laying more concrete, dumping more crap, making worse music, but also feeding more people and living longer, happier lives than at any time in the past 300 milion years, and that you’re making the same grammatical (or is it biological?) error as Dumbscientist in surreptitiously appearing to spread human influence back that far.

    Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming serves many purposes. Not only does it turn green activists and servile academics into peers of the realm and make some politicians stinking rich, it also makes the end of the Permian seem sexy.

  385. GeoffChambers, okay so you agree it’s faster than it’s been for 300 Million years. There’s scientific evidence to suggest that this will do significant damage to our ocean ecosystems. Do you agree that this seems like a likely outcome, especially given @DumbSci’s link to a paper showing what happened in a previous era when ocean pH levels changed significantly?

  386. Wotty

    Simple answer – I have no idea, I didn’t check the timing.

    I just though Willard googling away to prove that my simple plain english expression “fair game” had mysterious connotations with Scientology was hilarious – with overtones of the Salem witch trials. Look she’s got a black cat! Burn her!

    BTW what has poor old Prof Bosnich done to warrant being so aggressively ignored?

    [Mod : And I think that you going around to other sites (BH and Geoff Chambers) complaining about being compared to a scientologist here – which you, strictly speaking, weren’t – when it appears that you compared people here to scientologists before Willard’s comment was made, is remarkably ironic. Even more so when you consider that on Geoff Chambers blog you suggested I retreat to introspection, self-pity & victimhood on his blog.]

  387. AnOilMan says:

    Foxgoose… Interesting but… In the future please use scientific papers not crap sources.

    Why is this professor not submitting a paper on it? I’d feel safer knowing that knowledgeable people had vetted what he says. I’d also prefer to know I was dealing with someone who studies this stuff. Experts on subjects tend to be up to date.

    http://chemistry.uchicago.edu/faculty/faculty/person/member/brice-bosnich.html
    He doesn’t study this. Even within the sciences if you don’t do it, you can get lost in the details. Not only that but there’s no career fallout for commenting in a field he’s unheard of. None.

    At least Jo had 3 people who have no knowledge on the subject what so ever look into it. (On the internet no one can see you roll your eyes.) I happen to have a chemist working for me. I tend to think that his constant exposure to measuring energy absorption by green house gasses (methane) leaves him somewhat wanting in analyzing ocean acidification. Yet… he’s better qualified by Jo and her crew.

    In this case I do know that Brice has no clue what he’s talking about when it comes to XBTs. They do not cover only shipping lanes. That statement is laughably wrong. The data is very accurate and verified frequently and often. Maybe Brice doesn’t do a lot of GIS statistical analysis with sparse data sets like the Navy does.

    And yes. Damage is happening now;
    http://oceanacidification.msi.ucsb.edu/workshops/reading-resources/Gaylord%20et%20al%202011_Functional%20impacts%20of%20OA%20on%20mussels.pdf

    There is room for discussion on how long and how much we can go for. Did you want to pick a target pH? Maybe ask your ‘expert’ get Jo and her 3 pals to pal review it?

  388. A skeptic might quote my supposed surreptitious grammatical or biological errors regarding human influence, or note that on November 18, 2013 at 9:38 pm I tried to communicate uncertainty in attributing PETM warming to natural sources of long-lived greenhouse gases.

    But surely a skeptic would ask why we would want to recreate such an event ten times faster than the original which wiped out roughly 90% of all species on Earth?

  389. Tom Curtis says:

    Foxgoose draws attention to the opinions of Professor Brice Bosnich on ocean acidification, who while a chemist, is not a specialist in ocean chemistry. He lists no scientific papers on the web page. He is not, therefore, an expert on the topic. Thus, Foxgoose’s claim should have been that “Some scientists who are specialists in the area think the rate of ph change is scary – others who have no expertise in the topic think it’s virtually impossible to measure accurately and not that worrisome anyway.” (bolded phrases added). Thus stated, it would be honest, but perhaps too revealing for his purpose.

    The defining feature of an expert is that “they know all the basic mistakes in their area of expertise, and how to avoid them”. Conversely, non-experts do not know all those basic mistakes, and are prone to make them all the time. Brice Bosnich demonstrates his non-expertise at Jonova’s. He says:

    “There is a mathematical relationship between pressures of CO2 (pCO2) and the resulting pH of pure water. This relationship is the basis for the calculation of ocean pH values. Caldeira employed such a formula to conclude that the pH of the oceans had changed by about 0.15 of a unit since 1750. He assumed, without providing any empirical evidence, that the pre-industrial pH was 8.25.”

    That might not be so odd an assumption from Caldeira given that ocean pH can reach 8.3 in modern conditions (see Fig 2, and also box 4, Fig1), but Caldeira does not make that claim, or at least not in the paper Brice Bosnich cites. Rather, he reports a decline in pH from 1750 to 2000 of 0.1 For the mean modern values, that is a decline from about 8.18 to 8.08 (see Fig 2, second link). He reports only relative declines, and nowhere specifies a pre industrial value.

    Brice Bosnich then launches into a discussion of high atmospheric CO2 in the past, and the presumed refutation of the potential of either greater ocean acidity, or adverse effects from that acidity. In doing so, however, he fails to quote Caldeira:

    “In a series of simulations, atmospheric pCO2 was varied linearly from the preindustrial value (about 280 p.p.m.) to stabilization values from 100–10,000 p.p.m. over time intervals of 10–10^7 yr. For each simulation, we recorded the maximum predicted perturbation in pH in the surface-ocean boxes (Fig. 1b). When a CO2 change occurs over a short time interval (that is, less than about 10^4 yr), ocean pH is relatively sensitive to added CO2. However, when a CO2 change occurs over a long time interval (longer than about 105 yr), ocean chemistry is buffered by interactions with carbonate minerals, thereby reducing sensitivity to pH changes.

    (My emphasis)

    Nor does he mention the vast difference between current rates of increase of CO2 and those of the past (discussed above). The obvious implication of these two facts is that far higher pCO2 in the past would have been associated with a higher pH than equivalent levels projected to be reached in modern times because the rate of change of pCO2 is much faster now than then.

    This lack of knowledge by Brice Bosnich has an interesting secondary consequence. He cites another of those scientists who disagree with the OA hypothesis, Gerarld E Marsh, a retired physicist, with, again, no history of scientific publication in this area. Marsh in turn cites as a competing hypothesis to that of Caldeira one by Pearson and Palmer – but Pearson and Palmer discuss Eocene oceanic pH, ie, pH when rates of change in pCO2 and resolution of samples are such that buffering significantly limits change in ocean pH.

    Apparently we need not fear the effects of changes in ocean pH because, in the next hundred years we can expect a million years worth of pH buffering. Or at least by implication, that is the assumption of these non-experts.

  390. AnOilMan says:

    Anyways Mr Foxgoose, I have been enjoying reading on the damages of ocean acidification. I’ve found1100 citations on one of the papers Mr Brice poopoo’d. (Me thinks he’s not an expert at all.)

    Here’s a great one for you. A summation of the experts by experts.
    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/gcb.12179/full

    “Here, we perform the most comprehensive meta-analysis to date by synthesizing the results of 228 studies examining biological responses to ocean acidification. The results reveal decreased survival, calcification, growth, development and abundance in response to acidification when the broad range of marine organisms is pooled together. However, the magnitude of these responses varies among taxonomic groups, suggesting there is some predictable trait-based variation in sensitivity, despite the investigation of approximately 100 new species in recent research.”

    ” Last, the results highlight a trend towards enhanced sensitivity to acidification when taxa are concurrently exposed to elevated seawater temperature.”

  391. > Simple question, simple answer.

    Foxgoose’s answer to Louise was a bit different:

    “Who cares?” is not exactly “I don’t know”.

    Incidentally, I don’t recall having claimed anything resembling what Foxgoose attributes to me in that tweet.

  392. DumbScientist
    I’ve tried to allay your fears about the end of the Permian elsewhere, on the Thread We Dare not Link To.
    Prenatal trauma is quite normal, apparently, though I’d guess it’s rare for it to go back 200 million years.

  393. @geoffchambers, can I just clarify your position. You accept that the pH of the oceans is changing faster today than it has at any time in the past 300 million years? I presume (but correct me if I’m wrong) that you also accept that the last time that there was a rapid change in ocean pH (although not as rapid as today) there were mass extinctions. You, however, seem to think that anyone who is concerned about our current situation is being “melodramatic”?

  394. Willard,

    I don’t recall having claimed anything resembling what Foxgoose attributes to me in that tweet.

    Yup, that’s been my experience too.

  395. Every time on a warmist blog some patient person tries to give me a scientific education, they end up talking about the far distant past and the very near future, but never about anything happening in the here and now.
    I’m happy to take your word for what happened to marine molluscs 250 million year ago. As I understand it, the temperature rose, then the CO2 level rose, then 90% of molluscs died, and the 10% of hardy little chaps are the ancestors of the ones around now. Is that right? And that’s why we have to build lots of windmills?

    My problem is not going to be answered by reading Hönisch et al. We’ve seen Lysenko, Malthus and Ehrlich come and go. The big advantage these mistaken thinkers had was a simple causal chain underpinning their incorrect reasoning.
    Global warmists have replaced reasoning with modelling and peer review. There is no connection between the ancient mollusc and the windmill. It’s all hot air.

  396. Tom Curtis says:

    It appears that Geoff Chambers position is that:

    1) If you code laws of physics that have been tested in laboratories into a computer, and run the code to determine the prediction for what will happen on Earth, it can be dismissed as mere models and not observations; but that
    2) If you observe analogous conditions to those at present from Earth’s paleo history and draw conclusions from what happened in the analogous conditions, that can be dismissed as “prenatal trauma”

    The consequence is that under no circumstance does Chamber’s allow himself to conclude that unrestrained emissions of CO2 could actually cause problems, regardless of the close agreement in predictions of methods (1) and (2).

    I presume he also, as a corollary, regards anybody who does pay attention to the results of methods (1) and (2) as following a quasi religion.

    Chamber’s may dislike my characterization of his opinion, but I find it difficult to see the simple dismissal of the study of analogous conditions in the past to understand what may occur in the near future by mere insult as anything other than anti-science.

  397. verytallguy says:

    Geoff,

    One of the things least attractive in climate change denial is the switching off of natural curiosity.

    Surely when presented with evidence that we’re changing the atmosphere more significantly than in the last 250 million years, anyone remotely curious would be interested to find out what that might mean for us. Rather than bombastically dismissing the significance without checking.

    I guess that’s your Morton’s demon, as referenced by DumbSci above. Perhaps you should have a word with him

  398. Geoff,

    And that’s why we have to build lots of windmills?

    No, and that is what typically happens when a “skeptic” comes here. They automatically assume that the science is telling us what we have to do. It’s not. It might be informing policy, but it’s not defining policy. Also, don’t blame the scientists for what the government is choosing to do. I think there recent nuclear deal – for example – is ridiculous.

    So, the impression you give is that you don’t like the scientific evidence because of the policy implications. Why should the possible policy implications influence the scientific evidence. They shouldn’t in my opinion.

    What might be interesting is a discussion of the risks. The evidence is suggesting that the last time something comparable happened (and, to be clear, there was no anthropogenic influence then – not every warming event has to be, or is, anthropogenic) there was a mass extinction event. So, there is a possibility that, if we choose to do nothing, we will be heading for another mass extinction. I’m not saying that we are definitely are, just that there is a risk of that happening. What, then, are the risks of doing nothing and the risks of choosing to do something (as yet undefined). Personally, I’d rather we didn’t risk another mass extinction event in the next few hundred/thousand years, but maybe that’s just me.

  399. Tom Curtis says:

    The great dying, aka, the end Permian extinction, involved not the death of a few molluscs, as Chambers dismissively suggests, but that of 90% of all species of marine animals, and a slightly smaller percentage of all species of land animals. The only forms of life to do fairly well were land plants, which lost only about 25% of all species. That is, the great dying was not a total cataclysm for vegetables, which may be why Chambers can look at its reproduction with such equanimity.

  400. Marco says:

    “That is, the great dying was not a total cataclysm for vegetables, which may be why Chambers can look at its reproduction with such equanimity.”

    Ouch! 😉

  401. Rachel says:

    …but never about anything happening in the here and now.

    Let’s talk about something happening here and now then: rising sea levels. I presume you accept the observation that sea level is rising right now and that this is due to melting ice and thermal expansion? And also that cities like London, New York and Mumbai are at risk.

  402. Rob Painting says:

    Rachel – don’t be misled, ocean acidification is having an impact on marine calcifiers today. See my SkS post on Bednarsek (2012) for instance: Ocean Acidification: Eating Away at Life in the Southern Ocean.

    On our current trajectory most of the surface ocean will be corrosive to marine calcifiers in the latter part of this century. A marine extinction seems inevitable if humans continue on burning fossil fuels in a business-as-usual manner. That’s hinted at in a recent expert assessment of the dire state of the global oceans (I don’t have the link to hand).

    Remember too, that ocean acidification is but one of three large-scale changes currently underway in the oceans – four if you include worldwide overfishing. The two other biggies are ocean warming and ocean deoxygenation. Make no mistake, there is an urgent need to act.

  403. Rachel says:

    Thanks, Rob. I am not being misled. I have repeatedly said on this blog and others that loss of our coral reef ecosystems is tragic and I say this from the perspective of someone who has snorkelled on the Great Barrier Reef. Denying future generations the opportunity to do this is something we should be ashamed of.

    A recent paper which examined targets other than 2C found that our allowable emissions were substantially reduced when a maximum acceptable amount for ocean acidification was the target.

  404. VeryTallGuy, Tom Curtis
    My curiosity is ok. It’s aroused by the sight of evidently intelligent people determined to believe the worst with no evidence.
    Show me a decadal temperature rise of 0.4°C, or an ice free Arctic, or European heatwave, or tropical storm that’s anything different from what has been frequently observed in the past, and I’ll take notice. Show me evidence of strong positive feedbacks and I’ll shut up. All I see is people obsessed with 30 year-long data sets in the present, or dodgy proxies from the dim distant past, and chains of causality stretching into the distant future that defy all logic.
    When Ed Davey says we need to spend half a trillion pounds on windmills because 97% of the scientists agree, he’s quoting Cook totting up the Hönisch et als. Hönisch may be an honest person with a bright future ahead, but he/she is doing doctoral work on very old snails.
    Tom Curtis talks of “analogous conditions”. Making analogies between the living conditions of marine calcifers hundreds of millions of years ago when temperatures went up causing concentrations of atmospheric CO2 to rise, and the living conditions of contemporary Chinese and the Africans who are going to burn all the coal they can lay their hands on, is perilous.
    European leaders used to devise their military and diplomatic strategies on the basis of a thorough knowledge of the history of ancient Greece and Rome. We are currently planning our future industrial and energy policy on the basis of third hand knowledge of the fate of ancient molluscs. This is not a sensible thing to do.

  405. GeoffChambers,

    My curiosity is ok. It’s aroused by the sight of evidently intelligent people determined to believe the worst with no evidence.

    No evidence? If you’re going to continue making demonstrably incorrect statements, then moderation will soon kick-in. Disliking/disagreeing with the evidence does not mean it does not exist. Care to try again?

    We are currently planning our future industrial and energy policy on the basis of third hand knowledge of the fate of ancient molluscs.

    Again, incorrect. There are multiple lines of evidence that the world is warming and that the climate is not only changing, but will continue to change. That doesn’t tell us what to do, but does suggest that we should at least consider the implications of the various policy options that are available to us. What seems not sensible – to me at least – is to completely dismiss various options simply because you appear to think (without providing any evidence I will add) that adopting these policies will be more damaging than doing nothing.

    Show me evidence of strong positive feedbacks and I’ll shut up.

    Define what you mean by strong?

  406. BBD says:

    Show me evidence of strong positive feedbacks and I’ll shut up.

    Quaternary deglaciation under orbital (Milankovitch) forcing. Now shut up.

  407. BBD says:

    Oh not again, ATTP…

    😉

  408. GeoffChambers,

    “As I understand it, the temperature rose, then the CO2 level rose, then 90% of molluscs died, and the 10% of hardy little chaps are the ancestors of the ones around now. Is that right? … hundreds of millions of years ago when temperatures went up causing concentrations of atmospheric CO2 to rise…”

    No. The massive Siberian traps eruption released CO2, which warmed the planet. This probably destabilized methane clathrates, producing further warming, leading to rapid ocean acidification and anoxia. Please note that this killed 90% of all species, not just molluscs, because of “food chains”.

    “Show me evidence of strong positive feedbacks and I’ll shut up.”

    Humanity probably isn’t that lucky, but anyone who read that WUWT thread would’ve learned that over at least the past 420 million years, CO2 has acted as a greenhouse gas which warmed the long-term climate by 1.5C to 6.2C per doubling of CO2.

    As I explained on November 19, 2013 at 3:51 pm, I consider paleoclimate data very informative. All those feedbacks are already in the ancient temperature record. In fact, the PALAEOSENS paper I linked earlier compared the climate sensitivities from climate models to those from paleoclimate data. In order to produce an apples-to-apples comparison, they had to remove feedbacks that were present in the paleodata but weren’t being simulated by the climate models.

  409. Joshua says:

    We’ve seen Lysenko…

    Lysenko!

    My guess is that it is pointless to discuss the nature of the evidence with a “skeptic” who makes references to Lysenko. It’s clear that his mind is made up, and that he views himself as a victim – perhaps with some danger of being executed or wind up in a gulag?

  410. verytallguy says:

    Geoff.

    Evidence of strong positive feedbacks – we’ll define strong as consistent with ECS around 3 degrees per doubling.
    The main feedbacks are albedo and water vapour.

    BBD beat me to it, but here goes anyway:

    observational:
    the existence of ice ages
    sea ice data from the Arctic
    atmospheric humidity measurements
    seasonal snow cover data

    theoretical
    the vapour pressure of water
    line by line heat transfer calculation

  411. jsam says:

    Lysenko was the man who defied the consensus and kow-towed to the power of the day. Willie Soon anyone?

  412. Tom Curtis says:

    Joshua:

    “My guess is that it is pointless to discuss the nature of the evidence with a “skeptic” who makes references to Lysenko.

    Exactly!

  413. AnOilMan says:

    [Rachel: I’ve snipped a few unpleasant remarks]

    An actual skeptic would have looked into what I said. [Rachel: snip for reason above] I know this because many of the papers on ocean acidification point out that some species thrive. An intelligent person with mere human cognitive bias would simply focus on the good results.

    [Rachel: snip for reason above]

    Since George was unable to read this the first time, I’ll copy it out again;
    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/gcb.12179/full

    “Here, we perform the most comprehensive meta-analysis to date by synthesizing the results of 228 studies examining biological responses to ocean acidification. The results reveal decreased survival, calcification, growth, development and abundance in response to acidification when the broad range of marine organisms is pooled together. However, the magnitude of these responses varies among taxonomic groups, suggesting there is some predictable trait-based variation in sensitivity, despite the investigation of approximately 100 new species in recent research.”

    ” Last, the results highlight a trend towards enhanced sensitivity to acidification when taxa are concurrently exposed to elevated seawater temperature.”

  414. BBD says:

    He shut up. Well I’ll be.

  415. Rob Painting says:

    Rachel – Thanks, Rob. I am not being misled

    Rachel, my point was that ocean acidification is a concern today, there is no need to steer the conversation away from the topic. These observations are in accord with scientific expectations, which shows once again that the experts are right and the cranks are wrong.

    The scale of ocean acidification in some parts of the ocean, for instance regions of strong upwelling such as the California Current off the Pacific Coast of North America, is progressing much faster than previously anticipated. This probably stems from a failure to account for local processes (the ocean circulation).

  416. Rachel says:

    Rob, Ok, thanks. I understand and agree. The last time I brought up ocean acidification things didn’t end so well. I also feel that rising seas is something that is very easy to understand: ice melts -> sea rises. I notice too that Geoff did not respond to my comment.

  417. AnOilMan says:

    BBD: timezone… work… car trouble… just cause we’re chomping at the bit doesn’t mean he is.

  418. Rachel: “I notice too that Geoff did not respond to my comment.”

    I thought I sent this though responding to four other comments. Perhaps I forgot:

    BBD, Verytallguy
    I meant feedbacks acting now of course. Are you just taunting me into saying the word “pause” so you can all roll your eyes in unison?

    You know there’s nothing in the current surface temperature record that suggests that anything very bad is going to happen this century. That ‘s why Anders has retreated to the incontrovertible statement that “There are multiple lines of evidence that the world is warming and that the climate is not only changing, but will continue to change” and talks about “another mass extinction event in the next few hundred/thousand years”. As if people in the year 3013 are going to thank us for hanging on to the Golden Tamarind Monkey for them. (We will of course, I hope. But for aesthetic reasons, not because of or in spite of CO2)

    Rachel,
    It was Andy’s reference to thousands of years that made me cut any reference to your worries about submerged cities. I’d have loved to see the hanging gardens of Babylon, but it ain’t gonna happen. And London and NY may well not be there in thousands of years time, for all sorts of reasons. Regretting that imho is a very civilised attitude. If you need CAGW in order to get yourself into the mood, so be it

    We can do something to stop mass extinctions, over-fishing, water shortages and poverty here and now. We can do nothing to stop the Chinese and Africans putting all the CO2 they want into the atmosphere. Once you learn to live with that fact, then worthy but not terribly conclusive research into what killed the Permian mollusc tends to assume its jrightful place in the scale of human endeavour.

    Joshua
    I gave Lysenko, Malthus, and Ehrlich as examples of scientists who proposed somethng plausible and utterly wrong. Only you mentioned gulags – who knows why. My point was that all three proposed false scientific hypotheses with simple comprehensible political implications. If you believed Lysenko, you could double grain production in x years. If you believed Malthus , there was no way of avoiding mass-starvation. If you believed Ehrlich you presumably topped yourself circa 1980. If you believe Hansen, what do you do exactly? Stand in front of a death train?
    Destroy your country’s industrial base? Cycle and recycle? Treat peer-reviewed papers as holy writ? All these and more?

  419. You know there’s nothing in the current surface temperature record that suggests that anything very bad is going to happen this century. That ‘s why Anders has retreated to the incontrovertible statement that “There are multiple lines of evidence that the world is warming and that the climate is not only changing, but will continue to change” and talks about “another mass extinction event in the next few hundred/thousand years”.

    Interesting that you day “incontrovertible”. The surface temperature record doesn’t really tell us anything about what’s going to happen in the future. Physics, however, tells us that the world will continue to warm, possible by more than 3 degrees by 2100. Our past climate history suggests that that means the world will be warmer than at any time in human history. Physics also tells us that there will be more heatwaves, wetter regions will likely get wetter, drier regions will likely get drier, sea levels will rise. How extreme weather events will evolve is harder to be certain about but physics would also suggest that more energy in the climate system will make some weather events more energetic.

    As Rob has also pointed out, ocean acidification is already a problem and may be one of the greatest problems we will face this century.

    How’s that? Is that sufficiently upfront?

  420. If you believe Hansen, what do you do exactly? Stand in front of a death train?
    Destroy your country’s industrial base?

    Anyone who read that WUWT thread would notice my sixth comment at November 17, 2013 at 8:10 pm:

    … I and the Citizens Climate Lobby think we should charge big carbon polluters a fee (payable to all Americans) to cover the costs of dumping their waste into our atmosphere and oceans. As you can tell from the videos in that article, several other scientists also favor this approach. Also, Reagan’s economics advisor has endorsed a similar approach.

    There’s no reason to panic or fall into despair. A revenue-neutral carbon fee can reduce emissions without shutting down our societies. In fact, it will help jumpstart a new industrial revolution based on clean energy.

    We can do nothing to stop the Chinese and Africans putting all the CO2 they want into the atmosphere. Once you learn to live with that fact, then worthy but not terribly conclusive research into what killed the Permian mollusc tends to assume its jrightful place in the scale of human endeavour.

    Anyone who read that CCL article would also notice my comments regarding border tariffs that will only be applied to countries without a similar carbon fee. This will protect domestic industries and encourage other countries to also stop treating the atmosphere like a free sewer.

    There’s no point in repeating that the end-Permian wasn’t just bad for molluscs. It was the largest mass extinction in Earth’s history, and the only known mass extinction of insects. Keep pretending that it was all about molluscs if that makes you feel better, but please stop spamming humanity with all this misinformation. It’s staining your legacy and threatening the future of our civilization.

  421. @DumbSci,

    It’s staining your legacy

    True, but one reason for letting people say what they think is that it allows everyone to then judge what their legacy should be.

  422. Rachel says:

    We can do nothing to stop the Chinese and Africans putting all the CO2 they want into the atmosphere.

    Geoff,
    The Chinese are steaming ahead with carbon-free energy. Renewables accounted for more than half of all new power capacity in China for the year (2013) to October. The rest of us risk being left behind. If the big two emitters (China/US) implement a carbon tax, it will put pressure on other countries to also to so because those two will be able to impose a border duty on products from countries without a tax.

  423. Rachel says:

    DumbSci, you beat me to it. I agree with you.

  424. jsam says:

    It seems so-called sceptics have convenient memories for inconvenient truths. http://climate.nasa.gov/blog/1016

  425. Legacies aren’t set in stone. While defending contrarians’ morality, I noted that there’s no shame in being insufficiently informed about a complex scientific topic, as long as one eventually stops spreading misinformation that threatens the future of our civilization.

  426. @DumbSci, I agree. We should be careful about pigeonholing people too easily. However, it does seem that a requirement is recognising that one is insufficiently informed. It never ceases to amaze me that people who appear to have absolutely no academic credentials in a particular area can be so sure that they know better than actual experts.

  427. AnOilMan says:

    Rachel: Chinese companies are buying environmental gear to go with their coal plants in order to clean up their air and prevent acid rain.

    All of this gear was created as a result of work by scientists concerned about the environment. The science itself was pioneered by Canada’s Experimental Lakes Area. This has created jobs worldwide, and an increased the cash flow for oil companies. We sell sulfur for, oh $200 ton.

  428. DumbScientist
    Correct me if I’m wrong (I haven’t read the paper) but isn’t Hönisch et al all about molluscs? Or did each of the 21 authors treat a different phylum?
    I hope I haven’t made some big boob that will stain my legacy, but even if I have, I don’t think my error threatens the future of civilisation.

    Rachel: “Renewables accounted for more than half of all new power capacity” [in China]
    And the other half (mainly coal, some of it imported from Australia) is the equivalent of half of Britain’s total fossil fuel consumption. That’s half the annual increase of China’s output, please note. And that’s going to continue year after year.
    Of course China, with an infinite capacity to please its Western customers, will build as many windmills as it takes to satisfy the Guardian readers of China Dialogue that they’re on message. But they’ve got 300 million citizens out of dire poverty thanks to fossil fuels, and they’ve still got another 300 million to go. Please wake up to the sheer scale of the problem-solving that’s going on in the real world, and weigh it against the message of Hönisch’s bivalves or gasteropods, or whatever they were.

  429. Joshua says:

    Geoff –

    I gave Lysenko, Malthus, and Ehrlich as examples of scientists who proposed somethng plausible and utterly wrong. Only you mentioned gulags – who knows why.

    Sorry – not buying it. If you want to talk about scientists in the past who made proposals that were wrong, consider that: (1) it is basically irrelevant – that X,Y, and Z scientists were wrong in the past is irrelevant to A,B, and C scientists’ views now and (2), you could have listed millions of scientists, no doubt, who in your view made proposals that were wrong. It simply doesn’t fly that just coincidentally, you picked one that is commonly used as a reference point by “skeptics” as a drama-queen argument of how they are victims.

    Consider the logic of the following:

    Have you considered your last name, and the fact that Nazis burned jews in gas chambers?

    If you have a case to make against A, B, and C’s views, make it. Let your scientific argument stand on its own merits. Comparisons with Lysenko, let alone Malthus and Ehrlich just don’t cut it. I could pick any arbitrary number of ways that I could draw parallels between your arguments and those of Machiavelli, or Jim Jones, or Michelle Bachmann. What would be the point? Engage in arguments about the issues – you have many folks here who are quite willing to discuss them.

  430. Ian Forrester says:

    Geoff Chambers is completely wrong when he states:

    You know there’s nothing in the current surface temperature record that suggests that anything very bad is going to happen this century.

    We don’t have to wait until the end of the century to see things going bad as we increase temperatures. One of worst problems with increasing temperatures is showing up right now. That problem is with food production. For example, rice yields are decreasing by as much as 15% with every degree C increase in night time temperatures. AGW tells us that night time temperatures are rising faster than day time temperatures.

    http://www.pnas.org/content/101/27/9971.full

    Too many people think of biological processes as following the same pattern as chemical processes, i.e. things go faster as you heat them up so the hotter the better. Biological processes have optimum temperatures, going colder slows things up but going warmer will also slow things up once you get past Topt.. Too bad that so many people such as Chambers keep their heads in the sand when wondering about the effects of continuing global warming.

    Thus Chambers is very very wrong when he states “there’s nothing in the current surface temperature record that suggests that anything very bad is going to happen this century”. We are already seeing the negative effects of AGW and they are not comforting.

  431. A lot of the discourse in this blog reminds me of many posts on WUWT and SKS- not worth reading, since I’m looking for actual science, no meaningless argument.

    There were quite a few comments on consensus science, incuding this quote:
    “The consensus either in the published research or amongst active researchers is a legitimate form of evidence for the consilience and weight of the material evidence on the issue.(Izen)

    This quote is spot on. When you are looking to publish in a certain field it pays to follow it. Unfortunately the result in many cases is a multitude of papers rehashing smaller and smaller details of an hypothesis, with little new or useful work.

    Concensus brings to mind other examples of why it can be bad- Malthus, Lysenko, and Ehrlich aren’t good examples. Phlogiston in chemistry is one. Dinosaurs walking sprawl-legged was consensus despite evidence to the contrary. Plate tectonics is probably a poster child for failed consensus. The steady state theory it challenged wasn’t really supported by anything, but it took about 100 years and the discovery of tectonic ridges in the ocean basins to vindicate Wegner.

    The trick is recognizing when the consensus has reached the limits of its explanatory value.

  432. Diogenes says:

    ” If you believe Hansen, what do you do exactly? Stand in front of a death train?
    Destroy your country’s industrial base?

    Anyone who read that WUWT thread would notice my sixth comment at November 17, 2013 at 8:10 pm:

    … I and the Citizens Climate Lobby think we should charge big carbon polluters a fee (payable to all Americans) to cover the costs of dumping their waste into our atmosphere and oceans. As you can tell from the videos in that article, several other scientists also favor this approach. Also, Reagan’s economics advisor has endorsed a similar approach.”

    How will that play with the WTO and GATT? Just asking.

  433. Logicalchemist

    A lot of the discourse in this blog reminds me of many posts on WUWT and SKS- not worth reading, since I’m looking for actual science, no meaningless argument.

    Thanks, always good to get a new commenter starting off strong. Have you tried reading some of the other posts, or are they all sufficiently unscientific? I could simply post peer-reviewed papers here, but I thought that – being a blog – it might be better to make it a little more accessible.

    Diogenes, no idea.

  434. LogicalChemist,

    I missed this part of your comment.

    Plate tectonics is probably a poster child for failed consensus. The steady state theory it challenged wasn’t really supported by anything, but it took about 100 years and the discovery of tectonic ridges in the ocean basins to vindicate Wegner.

    I assume that you’re having a go at the consensus project. The problem is that there is extensive evidence to support AGW and hence there is extensive agreement within the literature about AGW. That doesn’t mean that it is definitely correct or that it is completely settled, but does suggest that we understand and agree on the basics.

    If you are having a go at the consensus project and would like more scientific discourse, maybe you could make a scientific comment that presented evidence that suggested that the consensus view might be wrong (wrt to AGW, not necessarily CC).

  435. Rob Painting says:

    Rachel – “The last time I brought up ocean acidification things didn’t end so well.

    Are you referring to the ‘look squirrel’ series of posts by William?

    I have written a rebuttal for SkS explaining how the oceans only become corrosive when CO2 is injected into the atmosphere in a geologically-rapid manner, but the draft is just too demanding of the reader at this stage – it involves concepts/processes not even familiar to most climate bloggers. I’m working on making it more accessible though (graphics/animations).

  436. Rachel says:

    Are you referring to the ‘look squirrel’ series of posts by William?
    Yes, that’s the one.

    I have written a rebuttal for SkS explaining…..
    Great. It might be good to post a link to it when you’re done. Accessible is good.

  437. ligne says:

    “How will that play with the WTO and GATT? Just asking.”

    no idea. but if our self-imposed rules prevent us dealing with serious threats in an appropriate manner, we should probably consider changing the rules.

  438. logicalchemist says: “A lot of the discourse in this blog reminds me of many posts on WUWT and SKS- not worth reading, since I’m looking for actual science, no meaningless argument.”

    That is unavoidable. The climate “debate” has nothing to do with science.

    Diogenes says: “How will that play with the WTO and GATT? Just asking.”

    The juridical situation seems to be unclear. I would argue that an important goal for the international climate negotiations should be to make clear that nations or regions that introduce a price on carbon and can levy import taxes on energy intensive products to protect their industries against negative national effects from contributing to solving a global problem. That may be a larger contribution to solving the problem as target emission reductions.

  439. jsam says:

    The consensus springs from the evidence. All so-called sceptics need is better evidence.

  440. “How will that play with the WTO and GATT? Just asking.”

    Again, the second comment I made on that CCL article referred to a paper called “Carbon Leakage Measures and Border Tax Adjustments Under WTO Law“.

  441. Correct me if I’m wrong (I haven’t read the paper) but isn’t Hönisch et al all about molluscs? Or did each of the 21 authors treat a different phylum? I hope I haven’t made some big boob that will stain my legacy, but even if I have, I don’t think my error threatens the future of civilisation.

    Again, there’s no point in repeating that the end-Permian extinction was the largest mass extinction in Earth’s history, because you probably won’t read that paper either.

    Legacies are stained whenever anyone spreads misinformation that distracts people from the mountain of scientific evidence that led the National Academy of Sciences to conclude that “the need for urgent action to address climate change is now indisputable.”

  442. BBD says:

    Geoff Chambers

    You asked for evidence of strong positive feedback which was immediately provided. You said that if given this evidence you would “shut up”. Why are you still commenting on this thread? Especially with very silly arguments from assertion (a logical fallacy) like this:

    You know there’s nothing in the current surface temperature record that suggests that anything very bad is going to happen this century.

    I reject your fallacious assertion. ATTP/Wotts/whatever has already answered you above so there’s no need for me to re-plough that particular patch of the sea.

  443. AnOilMan says:

    geoffchambers: Even if China doesn’t care about global warming as you claim. They are very very very concerned about carbon pollution. The air really is pea soup there.

    Indeed Authoritarian Communists are in danger of getting lynched if they don’t get rid of the air pollution;
    http://wordlesstech.com/2013/01/21/a-scene-from-the-new-blade-runner/

    You will also be very happy to know that they are concerned about acid rain, and have been buying a ton a environmental gear to deal with it.

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