Some comments on Judith Curry’s EPW testimony

After a peaceful couple of weeks, I managed to write a post yesterday about Curry vs Mann that caused another minor Twitter storm. It was the normal infantile tweets from the usual suspect, and I didn’t get to see them all as I’ve blocked most. To be fair, I don’t really blame them. The dialogue is pretty poor overall, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to suddenly take what they say all that seriously. Just to be clear, I know that Judith Curry is a serious climate scientist and I’m just an anonymous blogger. Feel free, therefore, to take what I say with as big or as small a pinch of salt as you’d like. Also, I didn’t moderate any of the comments on yesterday’s post, so if you wish to make a comment, feel free to do so (ideally taking the comment and moderation policies into account).

I was also criticised by some for saying I hadn’t read Judith’s testimony. Firstly, the post yesterday was about the challenge to Michael Mann – not specifically about her testimony – and, secondly, I didn’t say that; I said I hadn’t read it thoroughly. However, given that criticism, I have read it more thoroughly and thought I would add some comments. The testimony is long, so I won’t comment on everything. Also, as usual, if anyone thinks I’ve got something wrong or mis-represented something, feel free to point that out in the comments.

In an overall sense, my issue is not that what Judith has presented is factually incorrect, my issue is with what she doesn’t mention and how she interprets these facts. Judith has five main topics that I thought I would briefly (well, probably not briefly) comment on below

The IPCC AR5 WGI Report – a weaker case for anthropogenic global warming
Judith includes the attribution statements from the AR4 and AR5 documents

– AR4 (2007): “Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely (>90% confidence) due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gases.” (SPM AR4)

– AR5 (2013): “It is extremely likely (>95% confidence) that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.” (SPM AR5)

but somehow concludes that the case is weaker. I know some have interpreted the change from anthropogenic greenhouse gases to human influence as somehow significant, and as somehow weakening the latter statement. I believe, however, that the change in wording is because there are other anthropogenic influences (aerosols, for example) that contribute and, since 2007, we’ve improved our understanding of these influences.

I discussed the attribution statement in an earlier post. Since 1950 the evidence really does suggest that anthropogenic influences have dominated and we really are very confident that most (if not all) of the warming since 1950 is anthropogenic.

Recent hiatus in surface warming and discrepancies with climate models
This is the part where I think Judith avoids mentioning things that would be regarded by most as relevant. She fails to really discuss the oceans and fails to mention the recent Cowtan & Way paper that indicates that considering the warming in the Arctic (which isn’t covered by some datasets) likely increases the rate of surface warming from around 0.05oC per decade to, possibly, 0.1oC per decade. Also, most of the excess energy goes into the oceans, with only a few percent associated with surface warming. Hence, as Andrew Dessler’s testimony indicated, we expect the surface temperature to show variability (a small change in the rate of ocean warming can have a big impact on the rate of surface warming).

Judith also says,

The observed global temperature record, particularly since 2005, are on the low end of the model envelope that contains 90% of the climate model simulations, and observations in 2011-2012 are below the 5-95% envelope of the CMIP5 simulations.

As Victor points out in this comment, we expect this to happen sometimes. The range of model estimates is an illustration of our uncertainty, hence we would expect the surface temperatures to fall outside the 90% range about 10% of the time. If it didn’t, then that would suggest that we are able to model the surface temperatures more accurately than our model range indicates. We’d eliminate the models that do badly and constrain some of the parameters so as to reduce the uncertainty range. Once we’d done this, we’d then expect the surface temperatures to fall outside the 5-95% range, again, about 10% of the time. If the observations never fall outside the 5-95% range, then I think it would no longer be a 5-95% range.

What’s important, therefore, is the range of possible warming suggested by the model and how often the surface temperatures fall outside various confidence intervals. It’s my understanding that the variation in surface temperature is consistent with the model ranges, and so the fact that it’s falling outside the 5-95% range is not – at this stage – particularly significant. In fact, I think Doug MacNeall was trying to make this case to some on Twitter a while ago but I don’t think those he was talking to quite understood what he was trying to illustrate and he seemed to avoid pressing the point (understandable, given who he was talking to).

Sensitivity of climate to doubled CO2 concentrations
Judith includes the AR5 statement about Equilibrium Climate Sensitivity (ECS), which is

The IPCC AR5 conclusion on climate sensitivity is stated as:
Equilibrium climate sensitivity is likely in the range 1.5°C to 4.5°C (high confidence), extremely unlikely less than 1°C (high confidence), and very unlikely greater than 6°C (medium confidence) (AR5 SPM)

and makes quite a big deal out of the lower end of the range being reduced (relative to AR4) from 2oC to 1.5oC. She also comments that in AR5, there’s no best estimate. Well, my understanding is that there are a couple of recent papers (Lewis 2013; Otto et al 2013 – for example) that produce lower estimates for the ECS. Hence, the lower end of the range has been reduced. It’s also not really possible to produce a best estimates because the new estimates are inconsistent with other estimates. Certainly interesting, but we shouldn’t automatically assume that these new papers have more credibility than the others.

Also, since AR5, refined estimates of surface warming (Cowtan & Way 2013) and some new estimates of the energy imbalance (Trenberth & Fasullo 2013) have increased the ECS values determined using energy budget estimates. These energy budget estimates also don’t capture likely non-linearities (since they don’t the full time interval over which CO2 doubles). This isn’t definitive, but there are indications that some of these lower estimates will rise as the method gets refined. Perfectly interesting scientifically, but not really sufficient – I would argue – to suggest that lower values of the ECS are more likely than the higher values suggested by AR4.

Sea level
I’m not that familiar with sea level rise, so I will say very little about this. Judith concludes this section with

Global sea level has been rising for the past several thousand years. The key issue is whether the rate of sea level rise is accelerating owing to anthropogenic global warming. It is seen that the rate of rise during 1930-1950 was comparable to, if not larger than, the value in recent years. Hence the data does not seem to support the IPCC’s conclusion of a substantial contribution from anthropogenic forcings to the global mean sea level rise since the 1970s.

and includes the following figure

Rate of sea level rise since 1900.

Rate of sea level rise since 1900.


I had not realised that the rate of sea level rise in the 1930s was as high as it is today. I had thought sea level rise was one of the things we were more confident about and it was my understanding that some thought that the IPCC AR5 had been somewhat conservative in its sea level projections (see Aslak Grinsted’s post). So, maybe Judith has a point about sea level rise but maybe someone will clarify things in the comments. I’ll leave it at that for now.

Sea ice
This was another section where I thought Judith failed to mention something relevant. She discusses Arctic and Antarctic sea ice and says [t]he increase in Antarctic sea ice is not understood and is not simulated correctly by climate models. This – I believe – is true, but the rate at which Arctic sea ice extent is reducing is about 3 times greater than the rate at which Antarctic sea ice extent is increasing. Also, if one consider volume/mass the Arctic sea ice is trend is even more significant.

Judith also doesn’t mention that both Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets are losing mass. I wrote about some of this in an earlier post and, in that post, there are links to a paper that suggests that the increased Antarctic sea ice extent is because of the cold water coming from the continental ice sheets. There is also another that suggests that it is simply natural variability. Again, this isn’t conclusive, but does mean that there are some explanations for the increased Antarctic sea ice extent. It also doesn’t mean that natural variability hasn’t contributed to the decline in Arctic sea ice, but Judith herself includes the IPCC statement that Anthropogenic forcings are very likely to have contributed to Arctic sea ice loss since 1979.

So, these are just some of my thoughts. I haven’t tried to cover it all. From a physics perspective, global warming is about an increase in energy in the climate system. The rise in ocean heat content tells us that it continues despite the slowdown in surface warming, which we’d expect to show variability as it is only associated with a few percent of the excess energy. We also really can’t explain this warming without including anthropogenic influences which have almost certainly dominated since 1950. The sea levels are rising, but I don’t really know what to make of the observation that the rate in the 1930s was similar to today. The Antarctic sea ice extent is indeed increasing, but more slowly than the Arctic sea ice is reducing and, as expected given the continued accrual of energy, the amount of polar ice (sea and ice sheet) is reducing. There you go – feel free to include any interesting, insightful and constructive thoughts or corrections through the comments.

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178 Responses to Some comments on Judith Curry’s EPW testimony

  1. I meant to add this to the post, but forgot. Bart Verheggen has an interesting post on Andrew Dessler’s testimony.

  2. Joseph says:

    “Global sea level has been rising for the past several thousand years. ”

    Is this true? If so, at what rate has it been rising (prior to the modern period).

  3. Rachel says:

    I’d be curious to hear what people say about sea level rise because I just went and looked at Real Climate and found this graph of acceleration of sea level rise which seems to contradict what Judith Curry said:

    sea level rise

    source: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2011/07/is-sea-level-rise-accelerating/

  4. Marco says:

    Regarding sea ice, anyone pointing to the failure of the models to model the increase in sea ice around Antarctica should mention that the models also have failed in properly modeling the decrease in sea ice in the Arctic. But I guess that the much faster decrease than predicted is not the best “uncertainty monster” to mention…

  5. Joseph,
    My knowledge of the sea level situation is poor, so I don’t know a definitive answer to your question. We are at the highest temperature of the variations associated with Milankovitch cycles, so it’s probably true (i.e., globally we’re 5oC warmer than we were 20000 years ago). So, that statement may well be correct but not all that relevant. Rachel’s figure may be what’s actually relevant (i.e., it’s accelerating).

  6. Bobby says:

    As always with these things, I believe it is fair to judge others by what you would have done. I would not have presented testimony to the Senate the way Judith did. I would not have focused on surface temperatures, and instead focused on the basic and simple physics of the global energy imbalance. If I had focused on surface temperatures, I would have spent considerable time on blind spots in the different temperature records and presented the work of Cowtan and Way. To do anything else is misleading to the point of being dishonest. This is my opinion. Also, when discussing polar icecaps, I would have focused on the total mass of ice on the globe. What she did was again misleading. Remember she is talking to politicians not scientists.

    While I have a physics PhD (not in climate science), I am not doing physics now so I don’t know the answer to your question about sea levels. While I am open to hearing otherwise, I suspect that she is being misleading again. My quick wikipedia search provides a view counter to what she presented: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Trends_in_global_average_absolute_sea_level,_1870-2008_(US_EPA).png
    Wikipedia has issues so hopefully the commenters here can straighten things out. I think this makes the point about Judith…we shouldn’t have to rely on your commenters to get the real story if she wasn’t so misleading so often.

  7. Joseph says:

    I did find this blog comment.:

    Not sure about that. Sea level has risen very slowly over the past 4000 years (~0.7 mm/yr according to this ppt by Anderson and Wallace, see slide 16), before it picked up speed in the 20th century. I guess the reason is the same as what I wrote in my previous comment: The long timescales involved with temperature equilibration of the deep ocean, which are still responding to the warming leading up the interglacial max, and they haven’t noticed under there yet that this max has already passed and that the glacial cycle has entered a cooling phase. But I’m merely speculating here. It’s an interesting question to ponder.

    With a link to the Powerpoint slide here:

    http://www.searchanddiscovery.com/documents/2010/110144anderson/ndx_anderson.pdf

  8. Rob Painting says:

    Judith Curry – “Global sea level has been rising for the past several thousand years.”

    Bzzzzzt. Wrong!

    The volume of water in the ocean was static from about 5000 years ago to the 19th century – due to the orbitally-driven long-term cooling after the Holocene Climatic Optimum. It’s why we have coral atolls and ‘3 metre beaches’ littered through the tropics and subtropics – local (relative) sea level fell in those areas fell as water was siphoned away to fill subsiding regions of the ocean floor.

    I have written a few SkS posts on this topic, but why not hear it from a paleo-sea level expert himself: Jerry Mitrovica: Current Sea Level Rise is Anomalous. We’ve Seen Nothing Like it for the Last 10,000 Years

    So Judith Curry is quite prepared to rock up to these hearings and give testimony about things which she clearly knows nothing about.

  9. Global sea level has been rising for the past several thousand years.

    False. Jerry Mitrovica explains at 5:44 that, if anything, sea level at some equatorial locations has been dropping for thousands of years. Many ancient Roman fish tanks were built 20 cm (in modern units) above high tide, and their current (GIA-corrected) elevations don’t show statistically significant sea level rise. Eclipse records from thousands of years ago confirm that polar ice sheets haven’t transferred significant mass to the global oceans over that time period because that would’ve anomalously slowed the Earth’s rotation.

  10. Rachel and Rob Painting beat me to it (great points!), but I thought I’d post this anyway:

    The key issue is whether the rate of sea level rise is accelerating owing to anthropogenic global warming. It is seen that the rate of rise during 1930-1950 was comparable to, if not larger than, the value in recent years. Hence the data does not seem to support the IPCC’s conclusion of a substantial contribution from anthropogenic forcings to the global mean sea level rise since the 1970s.

    If we can’t prove that a house fire in 1950 was caused by arson or natural causes, then we can’t use modern technology to attribute the cause of modern house fires either. Nonsense.

    Global sea level is more closely linked to radiative forcings than surface temperatures because observed thermal expansion and ice sheet thinning involve much more energy than surface warming. Since it’s now “extremely likely” that our GHG emissions caused at least most of the surface warming since 1950, I’m not surprised that a similarly strong statement can be made for global sea level.

    Sea level is accelerating, and its acceleration since the 1970s is statistically significant. As Tamino notes, one way to obtain a very small acceleration is to pick 1930 as the starting date because of the nonuniform rate of sea level rise. Which, as Rachel pointed out, is consistent with the physics.

  11. BBD says:

    ATTP

    We are at the highest temperature of the variations associated with Milankovitch cycles, so it’s probably true (i.e., globally we’re 5oC warmer than we were 20000 years ago).

    Interestingly, NH Summer insolation was much higher 11ka and higher ~6ka (see the so-called Holocene Climatic Optimum). It’s now back down to levels last seen about ~19ka.

  12. Judith Curry – “Global sea level has been rising for the past several thousand years.”

    What is several? We have lots of raised beaches around North Wales and evidence that land has been rising (or sea level falling) over the last 1000 years. Castles with docks that are now inaccessible from the sea are one obvious example.

  13. Judith Curry is (or ought to be) well aware that sea level has been rising much faster this century than in the several thousand year before. She once linked to my post that shows some graphs of this being the case: http://ourchangingclimate.wordpress.com/2011/01/18/past-current-future-sea-level-rise-graphs/

  14. Bobby says:

    Thanks Rob – that was an awesome video! I highly encourage others to watch it if you haven’t. So, again, Curry was misleading. I stand by my earlier judgment.

  15. Rattus Norvegicus says:

    Judith wrote a widely panned (mostly for inadequate acknowledgement of existing research) article about the Antarctic sea ice increase a couple of years ago. She knows why it is happening.

  16. guthrie says:

    To add my little bit to the sea level rise thing, the giveaway is that she uses a chart that is massively out of date using old papers. The data stops in 1990 or 1992, with a little bit of altimetry attacked. This is absolutely classic dodgy science methodology.

    Bringing in sea level rise rate in the ’30’s and ’40’s is also a giveaway of dodginess, because as you can see from the graph she has helpfully provided, the rate wasn’t sustained, whereas we’ve had 22 years of sea level rise at 3.2mm a year, and absolutely no prospect of it decreasing,
    http://www.skepticalscience.com/sea-level-rise-predictions.htm

    There’s also the bit you quote,

    “Global sea level has been rising for the past several thousand years. The key issue is whether the rate of sea level rise is accelerating owing to anthropogenic global warming. It is seen that the rate of rise during 1930-1950 was comparable to, if not larger than, the value in recent years. Hence the data does not seem to support the IPCC’s conclusion of a substantial contribution from anthropogenic forcings to the global mean sea level rise since the 1970s.”

    As has been pointed out above, it is irrelevant that sea level rise was high in the past, because simple physics tells us that, given the amount of heat accumulating in the ocean, the current sea level rise is absolutely due to human contribution. Her statements here confuse the claim of potential increase in the rate of rise with whether or not the rise at all is human caused. The fact that it is, by basic physics, indicates that either she does’t know any physics, or is attempting politics here.

  17. guthrie says:

    Also maybe someone with the IPCC report at their fingertips can tell us when the report expects sea level rise to increase in rate. It seems very likely to me that it’ll take a decade or two more to capture the data re. sea level rate increases or decreasing, because it’ll be a slow process, therefore to claim that a lack of increase of rate now invalidates the IPCC is utterly wrong.

  18. Guthrie,
    This is what the IPCC document says about the Figure that I’ve included here and that Judith has in her testimony.

    While technically correct that these multidecadal changes represent acceleration/deceleration of sea level, they should not be interpreted as change in the longer-term rate of sea level rise, as a time series longer than the variability is required to detect those trends. Using data extending from 1900 to after 2000, the quadratic term computed from both individual tide gauge records and GMSL reconstructions is significantly positive (Jevrejeva et al., 2008; Church and White, 2011; Rahmstorf and Vermeer, 2011; Woodworth et al., 2011). Church and White (2006) report that the estimated acceleration term in GMSL (twice the quadratic parameter) is 0.009 [0.006 to 0.012] mm yr-2 (1 standard deviation) from 1880 to 2009, which is consistent with the other published estimates (e.g., Jevrejeva et al., 2008; Woodworth et al., 2009) that use records longer than 100 years. Chambers et al. (2012) find that modelling a period near 60 years removes much of the multidecadal variability of the 20th century in the tide gauge reconstruction time series. When a 60-year oscillation is modeled along with an acceleration term, the estimated acceleration in GMSL since 1900 ranges from: 0.000 [–0.002 to 0.002] mm yr–2 in the Ray and Douglas (2011) record, 0.013 [0.007 to 0.019] mm yr–2 in the Jevrejeva et al. (2008) record, and 0.012 [0.009 to 0.015] mm yr–2 in the Church and White (2011) record. Thus, while there is more disagreement on the value of a 20th century acceleration in GMSL when accounting for multi-decadal fluctuations, two out of three records still indicate a significant positive value. The trend in GMSL observed since 1993, however, is not significantly larger than the estimate of 18- year trends in previous decades (e.g., 1920-1950).

    So, I don’t think this quite answers your question, but seems to be suggesting that there is evidence for acceleration, although disagreement about the actual magnitude.

  19. ‘In an overall sense, my issue is not that what Judith has presented is factually incorrect, my issue is with what she doesn’t mention and how she interprets these facts’

    It’s apparent that Judith Curry sees and uses these fact in a way which supports her position, rightly or wrongly. But most people do this to some extent, I don’t think I have ever met anyone who is free of this human condition of dwelling on an interpretation of facts that support their position, and ignoring those that did not. Politicians being a prime example. The key question for me is does she know that she is doing it? If she does, why would she wilfully misinterpret facts, and if she does not, is there no-one in her academic department who would mention it? The relationships in her department must be pretty dynamic in way or another.

  20. Bart,
    Thanks for the comment. Interesting – hard to imagine that Judith was unaware of this then.

    Gareth,

    But most people do this to some extent, I don’t think I have ever met anyone who is free of this human condition of dwelling on an interpretation of facts that support their position, and ignoring those that did not. Politicians being a prime example.

    Indeed, that is true. But as others here have pointed out (Bart for example) Judith is clearly aware of reasons why her interpretation is different to that of most others. It would be good to hear why Judith disagrees with the alternative interpretations of this information.

  21. guthrie says:

    Thanks, ATTP, but that also makes it clear that her writing “Hence the data does not seem to support the IPCC’s conclusion of a substantial contribution from anthropogenic forcings to the global mean sea level rise since the 1970s.” is badly wrong. Maybe she meant to write something else?

  22. BBD says:

    It would be good to hear why Judith disagrees with the alternative interpretations of this information.

    Indeed it would. The Great Question for me, at least, is how the cognitive dissonance (if that is the correct term) is resolved internally. I am as interested as Joshua in the difference between motivated reasoning and bad faith. Cue big handwave: I don’t think most of the prominent “sceptics” act in bad faith. I think they believe what they say. How they sustain that belief is of great interest, especially as I was unable to do so myself.

  23. OPatrick says:

    I don’t think most of the prominent “sceptics” act in bad faith. I think they believe what they say.

    I disagree that there is a distinction. They are choosing to believe what they say by not challenging themselves. Obviously this accusation can be thrown at anyone, and regularly is. It doesn’t make it less true.

  24. BBD says:

    But that’s not bad faith. It’s Morton’s Demon.

  25. BBD states it better than I can in that the dynamics of Judith’s department must be that there are many colleagues with a degree of cognitive dissonance. I can understand Judith Curry deceiving herself, but she is based in an academic department (apparently), heading up research where she has a chair. She is likely to supervise PhD students and lecture. Is there no-one who says, ‘Er Judith, I think there mat be one or two problems with your research’ or is this one of those weird institutions they have in the US which has ideas like creationism is equivalent to Darwinism ? Is there a conspiracy of silence. or does everyone in the department genuinely agree she is right ? Are there no dissenting voices? Puzzling.

  26. OPatrick says:

    As I say, I disagree there is a distinction – or rather that there is a hard line between one and the other. To make the distinction assumes, I think, too cohesive an idea of the self. Knowledge and choice are held and made at different levels within us and may seem to conflict. Someone can believe at one level and know they are deceiving themselves at another. At different times, in different states of mind these can be more or less at the forefront of our thought.

  27. BBD says:

    O’Patrick

    A Mushy Demon it is, then. But this is alien to me, at least. I can’t blot out large and clamorous inconsistencies with my world-view and this makes me wonder what the BF is going on here. Yes, this is argument from personal incredulity; logical fallacy; blump.

  28. Reich.Eschhaus says:

    &Dan, I think it is about time for a guest post (since you’re not a psychologist) on the ‘mechanics’ of cognitive dissonance, persistent ideological reasoning, wilful deception, (uninformed) attention seeking behaviour and similar things and how to tell from someone’s internet (and non-internet) behaviour the most likely of these.

  29. metro70 says:

    You cite Judith Curry’s comment that …

    [ ‘Anthropogenic forcings are very likely to have contributed to Arctic sea ice loss since 1979. ‘ ], but that comment says nothing about CO2 forcing.
    Other anthropogenic forcings are equally as important in the Arctic melt as CO2 or possibly more influential.
    The dispute between warmists and sceptics is not as to whether there is any warming occurring at all—but whether the warming is driven overwhelmingly by anthropogenic CO2 emissions.

    Anthropogenic forcings include black carbon and other aerosols that are anthropogenic, but are not going to be mitigated to any great extent by switching from fossil fuels to renewables.

    Although some black carbon is a product of older diesel vehicles and older dirty coal power stations , not the newer ones— overwhelmingly it comes from the burning of forests in Asia and Brazil, and the burning of biomass in general in those countries and India and china.

    There has been a great deal of research, and testimony to Congress on the very large part played by black carbon in the melting of Arctic ice, glaciers and the permafrost.

    Dr Drew Shindell, formerly of NASA Goddard Institute, and one of the scientists who testified on black carbon to Congress…[ some others were Ramanthan and Jacobsen…]
    [ “Right now, in the mid-latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere and in the Arctic, the impact of aerosols is just as strong as that of the greenhouse gases.”
    And…

    [ “We will have very little leverage over climate in the next couple of decades if we’re just looking at carbon dioxide,” Shindell said. “If we want to try to stop the Arctic summer sea ice from melting completely over the next few decades, we’re much better off looking at aerosols and ozone.” ]
    Research by Shindell, published in Nature Geoscience…..
    [ ‘suggests aerosols likely account for 45 percent or more of the warming that has occurred in the Arctic during the last three decades. ‘ ]
    James Hansen from his research that recommends mitigation of black carbon and non-GHGs, because…
    [ ‘ These gases are probably the main cause of observed global warming, with CH4 causing the largest net climate forcing.’ ]

    From National Geographic…
    Cryconite is a sediment that has long been known to be deposited on Arctic ice—and global warming has given it new importance, since it carries with it soot particles[ black carbon].
    From a National Geographic article quoting Carl Bøggild …

    [ ‘Although Cryoconite is composed of less than 5 percent soot,” he says, “it is the soot that causes it to turn black.” The darkness decreases the albedo, or reflectivity, of the ice, which increases the absorption of heat; that in turn increases the amount of melting.
    “What we have is a vicious, constantly accelerating cycle,” Bøggild says. “It’s like pulling a black curtain over the ice.” ]
    James Annan , one of the world’s foremost climate modellers —one of the inner circle of warmist scientists —-said on his blog recently…

    [ ‘Our results indicate cause for concern regarding the consistency between climate model projections and observed climate behavior under conditions of increasing anthropogenic greenhouse-gas emissions.’ ]……and….
    [ ‘ If the models were wrong, this is exactly what we’d expect to see in the years before the evidence became indisputable. Another point to note is that the satellite data shows worse agreement with the models, right down to the 1% level at one point’]
    Annan also says that the IPCC will lose all credibility if it doesn’t admit that its figures on the sensitivity of the earth’s climate to a doubling of CO2 are increasingly found to have been too high—that sensitivity—the metric that’s absolutely at the heart of it all— is being found, by more and more researchers to be getting closer to natural variability.
    Warmists resort to OHC in deeper oceans to maintain their case, but cannot show a rise in OHC in the Pacific and Northern Atlantic where it should be if the ‘missing heat’ is in the deeper oceans.

  30. John Mashey says:

    See two comments in last post, still relevant here.
    Part 1.
    Part 2.

    I’d add one more Figure from the CCC document,
    Catalog of reasons for anti-science.
    One can view those as a list of atoms, and the particular reasons that a given person goes off as molecules, which in fact may have isomers, where the combination may look the same, but got there in different order. Of course, one can only speculate on what people are thinking, but sometimes one can identify clear examples.

  31. metro,
    I’m not really following what you’re suggesting. Yes, there are other anthropogenic influences, some of which actually counteract the warming effect of CO2. What’s the significance of what you’re trying to say? Also some links to what others have said would be useful so as to get some idea of the context of what they’re saying.

  32. jsam says:

    As a suggestion, add “warmist” to your automatic moderation list.

  33. John Mashey says:

    1) Hansen’s quote seems strange, because soot isn’t a gas and CH4 *is* a GHG.
    2) Because soot and CH4 are flows, not like CO2 (a stock, given its long residence time), they are actually susceptible to short-term actions.
    3) If one actually *talks* to scientist who study these everybody knows that we have many long-term actions required to cut down on CO2 rise, and theer may be more near-term payoffs from soot reduction. While some is natural, reducing that, especially in Asia around the Himalayas, is a big win for everybody. I guarantee you that folks like Hansen are not advocating ignoring CO2.

  34. John Mashey,
    Indeed, that’s why metro will need to provide some links to evidence if this discussion is to continue. I can’t see much good coming from it continuing, but am always willing to be surprised.

    jsam,
    I considered that and maybe I should. I sometimes think there is some value in allowing people to say “You warmists …” as it does rather give away their biases and would, normally, indicate a discussion that is unlikely to go well. I’ll give it some more thought.

  35. Rob Painting says:

    Warmists scientists resort to OHC in deeper oceans to maintain their case, but cannot show a rise in OHC in the Pacific and Northern Atlantic where it should be if the ‘missing heat’ is in the deeper oceans.

    This doesn’t make any sense, and in fact is a myth I’ve seen perpetrated by the contrarian blogger calling himself Bob Tisdale. Ocean warming has, and is being, measured by the system of ARGO floats. It is simply an observation that the oceans, and deep oceans in particular, are warming – continued global sea level rise should have been a bit of a giveaway.

    Most of the heat reaching the deep ocean is occurring in the Southern Hemisphere subtropical ocean gyres, and the basin-scale warming over multiple decades is greatly influenced by the state of the wind-driven ocean circulation. Since the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation switched to its negative (cold) phase around the year 2000, the intensified circulation exports more heat out of the Pacific via the Indonesian Throughflow.

    If you think these observations contradict deep ocean warming it will be interesting to hear what your justification for that is.

  36. Rob,
    Thanks for the clarification. Also found your earlier comment about the sea levels useful. I’ve learned a lot about sea level rises through the comments on this thread.

  37. Sou says:

    I’d be interested to know what Panel 2 was asked to present and why they were there. I did a quick and dirty analysis at HotWhopper and only one member of Panel 2 addressed the subject matter of the hearing – the President’s action plan. One would have thought they would be commenting on the action plan in some specifics, not just using the hearing as a platform to spout whatever was at the top of their minds. It was meant to be a review of the action plan.

    Judith came out acting like a slayer at one point in her written testimony, saying reducing CO2 is futile and won’t make any difference to global warming. To map her current trajectory it goes from ->Michael Mann’s hockey stick (at KK) to “it’s all too hard/uncertain” (on her blog) -> to “it’s not happening” (at this hearing). At the rate she’s going she’ll soon be considered an “utter nutter” rather than a climate contrarian or a plain ordinary climate science denier.

  38. Sou,
    Yes, that’s a good point. I’ve had a quick look at the EPW website and I can’t see any sense of what those testifying were expected to present. I assumed Dessler and Curry were there to present the scientific evidence for action, rather than to discuss the action plan itself, but that’s just my guess.

    When Curry mentioned reducing CO2 being futile, I thought she was referring only to the next decade or so and she was trying to be pragmatic (policy makers are only interested in timescales comparable to their own term in office). Technically she’s probably correct but it always seems like a ridiculous thing to say as it will always be true, even if climate change becomes blindingly obvious. Apart from adaptation (i.e., higher sea walls) any policies associated with mitigation will be based on multi-decade timescales (I think) not trying to prevent something happening in the next few years.

  39. Sou says:

    Bad policy makers are only interested in short time scales. Policies like education, infrastructure, health etc require people to plan for much longer time frames. So do climate policies.

    There is more than a little wrong with Judith’s statement: “…attempts to modify the climate through reducing CO2 emissions may turn out to be futile. The stagnation in greenhouse warming observed over the past 15+ years demonstrates that CO2 is not a control knob on climate variability on decadal time scales”

    She makes a flawed assumption that policy makers are all bad at their job. Clearly Obama isn’t a short term policy maker so they are not all bad. And she is implying that because the signal of CO2 won’t necessarily clearly emerge over a ten or twenty year time span, that it isn’t having any impact. What we do now and over the next few years, people will be living with for many generations. I know, I know – Judith doesn’t care about what happens to climate ten or twenty or thirty years out. She’ll probably be retired by then if she hasn’t been sacked first.

  40. Sou,

    There is more than a little wrong with Judith’s statement:

    I agree. I’m trying not to judge why Judith is choosing to say what she does, but it seems clear that she thinks that because what she says is technically correct (or could be argued to be correct) that she’s some kind of honest broker. I find it incredibly disingenuous and very poor science. Science isn’t about presenting a set of facts that suit the message want to present, it’s about presenting sufficient evidence so as to illustrate as complete an understanding of something as possible. So, yes, I agree that there is much wrong with Judith’s statement. I just don’t, yet, know what to make of why she chose to make this statement.

  41. BBD says:

    metro70

    Can we have links, please? Here’s the one to Annan’s not-exactly-perfect argument. Interested readers should be sure to read the comments, noting Nick Stokes in particular.

    It’s the usual stuff: short time-series, model underestimation of natural variability, problems with observations (mainly lack of polar coverage – see eg Cowtan & Way).

    Time to stop banging this bin I’m afraid. You cannot estimate TCR – never mind ECS – from a few years of data. It’s a mystery why anyone even tries.

  42. dana1981 says:

    “she thinks that because what she says is technically correct (or could be argued to be correct) that she’s some kind of honest broker.”

    That sounds rather familiar! Make statements that are mostly technically correct, but cherry picked to support the ‘do-nothing’ position, then call yourself an honest broker.

  43. Dana,
    Indeed, Judith’s not the only one to follow that pattern. So far, I don’t think I’ve encountered anyone who calls themselves an honest broker who I would actually regard as one 🙂

  44. deminthon says:

    Curry complains that Mann’s charge of anti-science is very serious since her testimony was entered into the Congressional Record. I agree … I think that Curry should be found in contempt of Congress for intentionally misleading them, for lying about the science, for contradicting her own peer-reviewed research, etc.

  45. deminthon,
    Indeed, but if there was another enquiry into her testimony, it would probably be Christy, Spencer, Pielke Sr and someone like Michael Mann, so would probably not conclude that her testimony was misleading.

  46. jsam says:

    Half truths are spoken by complete liars.

  47. BBD says:

    Or closer to the proverb:

    A half truth is a whole lie.

  48. Pingback: The Climate Change Debate Thread - Page 3556

  49. Rachel says:

    I don’t like accusations of lies. They are very hard to prove and while I don’t understand Judith Curry at all, I don’t think it’s true to say that she is deliberately lying.

  50. Rachel,
    Yes, that’s the issue I’m having. Partly I’m new to this and partly I just don’t like accusations of lying. It’s very hard to prove and if you make such an accusation, invariably you end up having to justify the accusation rather than actually addressing the reason why such an accusation was made. Having said that, Eli and Climate Crocks’s posts make it very hard to believe that Judith was simply ignorant of the underlying science, unless she has an incredibly short memory (of her own work).

  51. BBD says:

    True or false?

    Evidence reported by the IPCC AR5 weakens the case for human factors dominating climate change in the 20th and early 21st centuries.

  52. BBD,
    False, but lying or ignorance? I know what I think it is, but I also know that I probably can’t prove what I think.

  53. Rachel says:

    BBD,
    Definitely false in my opinion. I still don’t think it’s proof that she’s lying though. And I’d also rather see demonstrations of lies (or whatever this is) – like you have just done – rather than an accusation.

  54. Joshua says:

    “The dispute between warmists and sceptics is not as to whether there is any warming occurring at all—but whether the warming is driven overwhelmingly by anthropogenic CO2 emissions.”

    Judith’s testimony states, numerous times, that there has been a “hiatus in global warming.” She has not limited her picture of a “hiatus” to a relatively short-term “pause” in the longer-term trend of significant increase in GATs. She has indicated that the thinks that (because of increased atmospheric ACO2?) there has been a change in cloud cover/albedo that resulted in more solar energy being reflected out of the climate system. To my knowledge, she has not suggested any cyclical mechanism that would explain why those changes in cloud cover would be reversed.

    Judith says that she doesn’t doubt the basic physics of the GHE, but the logical implications of her arguments leave you with an argument that disputes whether there is any warming occurring at all.

    I don’t doubt that Judith believes her arguments to be true – but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the arguments that she presents provide a logically coherent support for her theses.

  55. BBD says:

    Beyond reasonable doubt is all that the law requires. Do you find it beyond reasonable doubt that a climate scientist of JC’s experience could so completely misunderstand AR5?

    Then you have your answer.

  56. BBD says:

    That was @ ATTP, re proof.

  57. Joshua says:

    Oh, and BTW – It is an interesting question whether “warmist” should be moderated – if “denier” is to be moderated. Maybe “skeptics” need to figure out which alternative term to use that lives up to their standard for how they should be treated – that collective nouns being used to describe those they disagree with should not be insulting in nature.

    It does get tricky, though, because then maybe “skeptics” has to be trash-binned…I do have an argument for why they “skeptics” shouldn’t find it the term offensive (I also use “realist” in quotes to give a putative connotation – and both terms w/o the quotes are used by climate warriors themselves), it is true that some are offended by the quotation marks (which, btw, is kind of amusing since many “skeptics” also frequently complain about “political correctness as a societal ill).

  58. BBD,
    Okay, yes that may be true. Part of my view is a form of pragmatism. I don’t really care whether or not she’s lying or ignorant. What’s important is that people start to recognise that she should not be presenting evidence in front of senate committees or in front of any policy makers because she does not appear to know what she’s talking about. That’s the main message. How that is communicated is then the question. Maybe it should be done bluntly (as you seem to be suggesting) or more subtely (as I guess I’m suggesting). I don’t actually know which is best, to be honest.

  59. Rachel says:

    On moderation of denier, personally I don’t think the word should be moderated at all. It is not offensive in my opinion although I prefer to use the word contrarian just to avoid pointless discussions about words. A bit like this one 🙂 So for consistency, warmist should probably not be moderated either.

  60. BBD says:

    To my knowledge, she has not suggested any cyclical mechanism that would explain why those changes in cloud cover would be reversed.

    Whereas observations show variability on decadal timescales eg Wild (2009) Global dimming and brightening, a review; Hatzianastassiou (2005); Hatzianastassiou (2011). A point I made very badly elsewhere yesterday.

  61. As far as moderation goes, I don’t really care if some twerp calls me a “warmist”. It makes them look like an unpleasant idiot as far as I’m concerned. I agree that “denier” just means to deny something, so the only real reason to moderate it is to simply avoid the discussions that follow. Of course, the objection to the term is – in itself – telling.

  62. BBD says:

    ATTP

    I think the time for subtlety is past.

  63. Joshua says:

    >” I don’t really care whether or not she’s lying or ignorant…. How that is communicated is then the question.”

    This question gets pondered over and over (with no resolution). So I’ll repeat my perspective. 🙂

    I think that there is no discernible answer to be found. I think that the guide has to be, simply, what an individual is comfortable with.

    Personally, I find both possibilities (lying and ignorant) to be implausible – but more importantly, the answer is irrelevant. Her arguments are what they are. Reverse engineering from her arguments to try to conclude something about her intellect or her motivations seems like a fallacious endeavor. IMO, what makes most sense is to simply critique her arguments and not her at a personal level. Of course, it can sometimes be a fine line between a critique of an argument and a critique of the person making that argument. But from where I sit, when “warmists” draw conclusions about Judith personally, they are basically falling into a similar fallacious thinking that is so often found among “skeptics.” My opinion, and it is just my opinion, is that the tendency of both sides to personalize the debate reflects “motivated reasoning,” in that it reflects a (all too human) tendency to engage in identity protection via denigrating an “other” in controversies that overlap political, social, and cultural identifications.

    In that sense, the climate wars are basically a proxy for a larger clash, and not unlike other political and polarized issues.

  64. BBD says:

    Okay, yes that may be true.

    You regard the verdict of the court as provisional?

    😉

  65. BBD says:

    Personally, I find both possibilities (lying and ignorant) to be implausible

    It has to be one or the other. But FWIW, I agree with you entirely that the response should be a robust rebuttal of her arguments, not further speculation on her motives and competence.

  66. Joshua says:

    It makes them look like an unpleasant idiot as far as I’m concerned.

    Just to be clear – I couldn’t care less what judgements people formulate about me, personally, from reading my blog comments – or what terms they like to use in describing me in blog comment exchanges. But I do think that everyone should take into consideration how others feel about terms used to describe them. I see no distinction of kind between “denier” and “warmist.” I personally don’t care whether either is used – but I do think that from an abstract standpoint if one is to be moderated so should the other. From a logistical standpoint, though, if moderating out “denier” has a beneficial impact on the discourse and moderating out “warmist” would have no notable impact, then there seems to be a valid reason for the inconsistency.

  67. BBD,

    I think the time for subtlety is past.

    I grant you that you may well be right. Also, the more I learn, the more I’m tending in that direction. The only caveat I would add is that one to has work out how to do that without the outcome being a continual defense of the characterisation of someone which then means that the message that one is trying to get across is completely lost. It’s no good if the outcome is that everyone thinks that we’re all being mean to poor Judith Curry.

  68. BBD says:

    I agree that one should play the ball. Now all we need is a cricket bat.

  69. Joshua,

    From a logistical standpoint, though, if moderating out “denier” has a beneficial impact on the discourse and moderating out “warmist” would have no notable impact, then there seems to be a valid reason for the inconsistency.

    Yes, that’s probably my current thinking. I don’t think anyone here cares that much about whether or not they’re called a warmist. What someone calls me doesn’t have any influence on whether or not what I say has merit. I’ll have to give this some more thought. My only reason for not liking denier is that using it has an impact on the discourse. So, it is purely a pragmatic decision. I could certainly decide to moderate warmist but given that most don’t seem to care one could argue that it doesn’t matter. Personally, objecting to “denier” seems childish and so my thoughts are that not objecting to warmist seems mature 🙂

  70. Joshua says:

    It’s no good if the outcome is that everyone thinks that we’re all being mean to poor Judith Curry.

    It will also be completely ineffective from another angle, IMO. It will have absolutely no benefit if the goal is to somehow reduce the amount that she does the things that people are objecting to. It seems to me that the more Judith is criticized at a personal level, the more she personalizes her advocacy and the deeper she moves into the kind of analysis that “realists” think are harmful. I’d say that the more she is called a liar or ignorant, the greater the chance that Republicans will call her to testify before Congress. It’s hard to say what might affect Judith’s scientific trajectory one way or the other, but there certainly is an association between the strength of the personal criticisms and the depth of her “skepticism.” Of course, one could argue that any direction of causality is that the further out into left field she gets the more she is criticized personally, but I doubt that there isn’t something of a feedback loop going on, and as I understand motivated reasoning, the more one feels that their identity has been threatened the greater degree to which identity protection will bias their analytical process.

  71. Being called a warmest is a compliment. I like being addressed as a warmest, it suggests I follow the science. Calling a sceptic a denier is suggesting they are all the same in denying all the science and using a name which may be more acceptable to our side now, but certainly was redolent of other darker deniers and was initially used for that reason.To deny that is illogical and makes one a…………….
    The bottom line is, that when you call a group of people by a name they do not like, stop doing it. It is not up to the person using the term to decide whether it is appropriate or not, it is the judgement of the people on the receiving end. For many years ethnic minorities were called by various names. When they protested it was carefully explained that the names were perfectly valid and no harm was meant, it was completely logical. Happily we changed. I have had personal experience of people using derogatory names against me due to my ethnicity, who then expressed surprise and anger when asked to refrain from such behaviour. The main reason for moderating the word ‘denier’ is that many people on the opposite side take it as a gross insult, and that is a bad start if we are trying to ensure action is taken on climate change. Insulting people against their wishes never achieves anything, but it damages the standing of person using the term. If we insist on using it against all the evidence we should not be surprised at the reaction.

  72. jsam says:

    I was suggesting moderating out “warmist” not for the word itself. But because the appropriate content is usually nonsense. The use of the word is a symptom of accompanying anti-science. SciAm discovered this last year.

    “I am gradually teaching my spam filter to automatically send to spam any and every comment that contains the words “warmist”, “alarmist”, “Al Gore” or a link to Watts. A comment that contains any of those is, by definition, not posted in good faith. By definition, it does not provide additional information relevant to the post. By definition, it is off-topic. By definition, it contains erroneous information. By definition, it is ideologically motivated, thus not scientific. By definition, it is polarizing to the silent audience. It will go to spam as fast I can make it happen.”

    http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/a-blog-around-the-clock/2013/01/28/commenting-threads-good-bad-or-not-at-all/

  73. Tom Curtis says:

    Gareth Phillips:

    “Calling a sceptic a denier is suggesting they are all the same in denying all the science and using a name which may be more acceptable to our side now, but certainly was redolent of other darker deniers and was initially used for that reason.To deny that is illogical and makes one a…………….”

    First, the term “denier” carries no implication, imputation or any other form of suggestion that the person so described is, or is morally equivalent to a holocaust denier. In fact, the term “denier” has been in existence for as long as there has been a modern English language (ie, the time of Shakespeare), and equivalents in Greek and Latin have existed going back to whoever called Peter the Apostle, Peter the Denier. It has had a popular use since Freud used the term “denial” to describe a psyhological strategy. The late and obvious adaption of this term to describe Holocaust deniers in no way locks the meaning of the term to that usage only.

    Second, the term was not originally used for that reason – or at least, I have certainly seen no evidence that it was. On this point, I will call as a witness none other than Anthony Watts, who writes:

    “In case anyone thinks the word isn’t rooted in offensiveness, I’ll remind you of the syndicated column that gave the use of the word the big push:

    I would like to say we’re at a point where global warming is impossible to deny. Let’s just say that global warming deniers are now on a par with Holocaust deniers, though one denies the past and the other denies the present and future. – Ellen Goodman, Boston Globe, February 9, 2007 “No change in political climate”

    on the Wayback Machine here

    (As an aside, in context Goodman makes no mention of moral fault, discussing only epistemic issues. It follows that Goodman was not making a moral equation, but only an epistemic equation, ie, that climate change deniers are as divorced from reality as are holocaust deniers.)

    The key point, however, is that A Watts believes that this is his best, and earliest citation for a link between the term “climate change denier” (or near cognates) and “holocaust denier”. But at the time of Goodman’s article, the term “climate-change denier” had been in use for nearly five months, having been used in previous September by George Monbiot. George Monbiot did not refer to holocaust denial, and emphatically rejects any claim that he intended such an equation.

    Just because the climate change contrarians claim to understand the etymology of the term is no reason to believe them. They are as factually challenged in etymology as they are in climate science. Nor is their tactical decision to quote Goodman out of context and play up the connection a reason for us to abandon a perfectly good descriptive term. We should reject their Orwellianisms.

  74. BBD says:

    @ Garethman

    Calling a sceptic a denier is suggesting they are all the same in denying all the science and using a name which may be more acceptable to our side now, but certainly was redolent of other darker deniers and was initially used for that reason.

    Actually, this is incorrect and nothing more than an attempt by deniersto hijack the language. See also the horrible fate that befell “sceptic”.

    To deny that is illogical and makes one a…………….
    The bottom line is, that when you call a group of people by a name they do not like, stop doing it.

    No, this would be to allow the deniers to control the language to an unacceptable degree (which is exactly what they are trying to do and you are helping). Denial is an accurate term for most of the behaviour engaged in by fake sceptics, and is therefore legitimate.

    Ethnic slurs against anyone are unacceptable but you are arguing from false equivalence.

  75. BBD says:

    Tom, we crossed.

    Makes a change from crossing with ATTP I suppose.

  76. Just a brief (and late) correction on metro70’s claptrap re aerosols: “Anthropogenic forcings include black carbon and other aerosols that are anthropogenic, but are not going to be mitigated to any great extent by switching from fossil fuels to renewables. […] overwhelmingly it comes from the burning of forests in Asia and Brazil, and the burning of biomass in general in those countries and India and china.

    Fig 1 in this very recent paper by Steven Smith and Tami Bond might give him a clue, particularly re sulphate emissions. They’re gonna drop massively, in part because of renewables and in part because of improved filtering. But the most important thing to note is that the lions share of the anthropogenic aerosols emissions doesn’t come from burning of forest and biomass. metro70 is dead wrong on that.

  77. Tom Curtis says:

    A correction to my preceding post:
    1) It turns out that Monbiot did once mention holocaust and climate change deniers in the same post, and this just two days after the first mention I cited above:

    “Almost everywhere, climate change denial now looks as stupid and as unacceptable as Holocaust denial. But I’m not celebrating yet. The danger is not that we will stop talking about climate change, or recognising that it presents an existential threat to humankind. The danger is that we will talk ourselves to kingdom come.”

    While comparisons of stupidity are epistemic, the reference to “acceptable” does look like a reference to moral equivalency.

    2) Barry Woods (to whom I also owe the preceding reference) also quotes Johann Hari writing in the Spectator in April, 2005:

    “The climate-change deniers are rapidly ending up with as much intellectual credibility as creationists and Flat Earthers. Indeed, given that 25,000 people died in Europe in the 2003 heatwave caused by anthropogenic climate change, given that the genocide unfolding in Darfur has been exacerbated by the stresses of climate change, given that Bangladesh may disappear beneath the rising seas in the next century,

    they are nudging close to having the moral credibility of Holocaust deniers.

    They are denying the reality of a force that – unless we change the way we live pretty fast – will kill millions.”

    The link he provides is dead, so I am unable to confirm the quote or context. I note that though Hari (as quoted) does make a link between them, he does not do on a linguistic basis but on explicitly stated moral grounds.

    3) mpaul quotes Debborah Tannen as saying in March 1998:

    “Holocaust denial has had far more success in the United States than any other country. In our eagerness to show both sides, sometimes that means giving a forum to people who claim that the Holocaust never happened. A woman [wrote] a book discussing their tactics–the Holocaust denier’s tactics–and she was invited on television if she would also allow them to invite deniers and debate them. She said, but there’s nothing to debate; this is history; it’s fact. And she was told, don’t you think the audience has a right to hear the other side. So often we give a platform to marginalized or even totally discredited views in our eagerness to show the other side. This also is why global warming everywhere in the world is accepted as a problem, and the question is: How do we approach it? Just the other day I mentioned global warming to a taxi driver, and he said, “Do you believe that? There’s no such thing.” Only in the United States have we given a lot of air time to just a few discredited scientists who say this isn’t a problem, just so that we can show the other side.”

    No link was provided, so I cannot confirm the quote.

    Again, and quite clearly in this case, no moral equivalence is asserted. What is asserted is that holocaust denial and unscientific opposition to climate science gain privileged and disproportionate access to the media due to poor journalistic practice, thus multiplying their influence out of proportion to the academic merits of their case. Mpaul’s argument that Tannen was setting about to establish a linguistic equivalency is falsified by the complete failure to use the term “climate change denier” (or near equivalent) by Tannen in this quote. Apparently she was so determined to establish the equivalency that she never used the word she was trying to establish 😉

    Given the above, I am less confident that the first uses were not related to holocaust denial, but that they were is far from proven. It is certainly not proven that they were used to establish a moral equivalency by innuendo. Indeed, those who wish to assert a moral equivalency generally assert it directly, and argue that the “AGW deniers” are in fact morally worse in that their denial will cause the death of many millions rather than simply dishonour the memory of many millions of already dead.

    I certainly do not accept that the moral equivalency has become a part of the language – a claim that has always been ridiculous given the very few uses of the term “denier” to mean “holocaust denier”, even when that term was at its heyday.

    Finally, I did participate in the thread from which I just gleaned these facts. I had, however, entirely failed to remember them at the time of posting (and may not have read them as I did not exhaustively read the thread). I apologize for inadvertently misleading you.

  78. Joshua says:

    It actually makes me sad to read defenses of the term “denier” such as those Tom and BBD wrote.

    I agree completely with what Gareth wrote, and FWIW….

    Don’t get me wrong – I find the concern coming from “skeptics” – in particular claims that the term is comparing them to holocaust deniers – to be laughable. As I have written at Judith’s many times,in fact I think that their faux concern about the term is exploitative of the problem with actual holocaust deniers. And I find their concern to be entirely hypocritical; someone who objects on principle to demeaning terms would not then turn right around and use demeaning terms so liberally as can be seen at any site in the “skept-o-sphere.”

    But using the term is pointless and counterproductive. It is tribalistic. IMO, the concern that not using the language means that your are ceding control of the language to them is a weak argument. It is the same basic fallacious argument that underlies, for example, the objections from conservatives about being expected to use non-offensive language – as if considering whether someone else finds your references to them offensive is somehow an unfair infringement or limits your freedom of expression in some meaningful sense.

    Honestly, I find the answer that the term doesn’t mean what “skeptics” think it means – as a justification for the use of the term – to be pedantic and not realistic in terms of how language lives and is used in the real world (I am a descriptivist and I honestly don’t understand the reasons why people are sometime, IMO, overly prescriptivist about language)

    Using demeaning terms to label individuals and groups, and to assign guilt by association, is endemic to the polarization of the debate about climate change. IMO, it is reflective of a kind of juvenile mentality that is so ubiquitous among “skeptcs” and that makes it clear to me that they aren’t really engaged in scientific debate, and that they aren’t really being skeptical.

    So while I know that my views are just drop in a bucket here – just know that when I read comments at hotwhopper or here, that use that kind of language or reflect the kind of view that justifies the use of that kind of language, it undermines my confidence in those who are writing and does absolutely nothing to convince me in some way that “skeptics” are wrong.

    Judith has become more and more focused on her sense of victimhood as the result of such things as being called a denier. I find that amusing, especially since she advises others (on the other side of the debate) to “put on [their] big boy pants” when they are demeaned. But many people in these debates are looking to justify a sense of victimhood. I really can’t understand why anyone would deliberately feed that kind of mentality except if they are coming from a similar tribal orientation. It serves no fucking purpose.

  79. BBD says:

    But using the term is pointless and counterproductive. It is tribalistic.

    Denier is an accurate term for the behaviour. Therefore the term is legitimate. Frankly, I am beginning to find this hand-wringing irritating. So what if they don’t like being described accurately? You do not enable them by allowing them to prevent you describing their pernicious delusions correctly. It serves no fucking purpose.

  80. BBD says:

    This is crap, Joshua. You are parroting Gareth’s argument from false equivalence:

    It is the same basic fallacious argument that underlies, for example, the objections from conservatives about being expected to use non-offensive language – as if considering whether someone else finds your references to them offensive is somehow an unfair infringement or limits your freedom of expression in some meaningful sense.

    You conflate eg. sexual or racial epithets with an accurate description of what contrarians do all the time. It is false equivalence. A logical fallacy.

  81. BBD says:

    Using demeaning terms to label individuals and groups, and to assign guilt by association, is endemic to the polarization of the debate about climate change.

    The polarisation of “debate” comes about because one side denies the evidence provided by the other, almost invariably because of prior political commitments.

    Perhaps ATTP and I have not been sufficiently clear above: you cannot “debate” with the deniers. It is impossible. Their errors and misdirections need to be exposed, and once discredited, they need to be removed as obstacles to the development of rational public policy. You seem to imagine there *is* a “debate” and that it is worth having, but there isn’t. Look at JC and Dessler.

    What debate?

  82. Joshua says:

    BBD – Well, yes – I agree with Gareth.

    We aren’t going to get anywhere with this. I have thought a lot about this, I think that it is applying standards evenly, including to those I am inclined to align with. I don’t think that it’s false equivalence. I think that it is the same behaviors and the same rationale. There is a level of difference between racial epithets and the term “denier,” but I do not think that there distinctions in kind. I think that they are both embedded in strengthening a sense of identity by aligning with a group and defining an “other.” This is a perspective I have held long before stumbling upon the climate wars – it comes from working with “disabled” and “disadvantaged” youth, and seeing how labeling is so much about identifying the other. At it’s very root, using such terms is about forming groups and it has absolutely nothing to do with science.

    I think that you determination as to whether “denier” is “legitimate” is pedantic and old school. You can try to dictate what words mean and how people should interpret them until the cows come home. It won’t change anything in the real world.

    I certainly don’t expect to convince anyone of anything here – just know, FWIW, when you use that term or engage in other, similar forms of debate, you diminish the confidence I have in you to explain the science to me.

  83. I think Gavin Schmidt had a great quote along the lines of “just because someone isn’t doing something the same way you would do it, doesn’t mean they are striving for the same outcome” or something like that. Probably worth remembering that 🙂

    I didn’t think that Joshua was really arguing that debate was possible, but that using labels can be counterproductive. I agree that the term is appropriate, but am still not clear as to whether or not using it regularly is going to achieve anything positive. I could well be wrong and maybe it is time to change how we engage, but I still haven’t really made up my mind. I know from personal experience that when I succumb to someone else’s taunts, I don’t think I end looking particulalry good.

    So, I agree that debate/discussion isn’t really possible but I’m still not sure if being blunter and more forthright will actually achieve anything constructive, which is really what I’d like to see.

  84. Joshua says:

    BBD –

    The human attributes that lead to polarization around these kinds of issues are not disproportionate, IMO, on the basis of which side of the debate someone resides. The underlying causes of motivated reasoning are human psychology (identity protection mechanisms) and cognition (the fundamental building block of pattern-finding). I believe this firmly. If you have read Climate Etc. over the past couple of years you have read me say that many times. Over there, I gets very similar counter-arguments to those you presented to me above. They weren’t convincing to me there and they aren’t convincing to me here. As I said, this is a perspective that has been developing over a long time – it is a very entrenched perspective on my part, strengthened by the fact that it is deeply rooted both in theory and in practice (observation and engagement). These are principles that I have worked with in my teaching. They are based in my study of conflict resolution.

    So you may be right that the polarization comes about only because of the deficiencies and poor behavior and bad reasoning and bad faith and political interests on the other side – but I find that to be an implausible argument.

    I’d like to suggest that you read Dan Kahan’s blog, as I think that while I don’t agree with him about everything (by a long shot), he offers very interesting evidence that helps to define the concept of motivated reasoning and how it works – particularly in the context of the climate wars.

  85. BBD says:

    I certainly don’t expect to convince anyone of anything here – just know, FWIW, when you use that term or engage in other, similar forms of debate, you diminish the confidence I have in you to explain the science to me.

    That’s more false equivalence from you, Joshua, and it diminishes you.

    So you may be right that the polarization comes about only because of the deficiencies and poor behavior and bad reasoning and bad faith and political interests on the other side – but I find that to be an implausible argument.

    And I disagree with you.

    This isn’t about “conflict resolution”, Joshua. I thought I’d made that plain above.

  86. BBD says:

    There is a level of difference between racial epithets and the term “denier,” but I do not think that there distinctions in kind.

    Insisting that your argument from false equivalence isn’t an argument from false equivalence is to add argument from assertion to your problems.

  87. BBD,

    This isn’t about “conflict resolution”, Joshua. I thought I’d made that plain above.

    Yes, I don’t think it is about conflict resolution. To me the issue is how best do you communicate this information to people who may actually be interested in understanding it better. I don’t know the answer but I do worry that being too blunt about “deniers” and “skeptics” may be counter-productive. The issue, to me, isn’t whether or not the term is appropriate or fits, but whether or not we gain anything by using it.

  88. Joshua says:

    “And I disagree with you. “

    You won’t be lonely in that regard. 🙂

  89. Tom Curtis says:

    Joshua, it is late here, so I can’t respond to all your interesting points. However, you say:

    “You can try to dictate what words mean and how people should interpret them until the cows come home. It won’t change anything in the real world.”

    That is incorrect. The very reason we are having this discussion is that the AGW contrarians have decided to dictate how we use the language, and are doing so successfully. I was using the term for months with not a single thought equating it with holocaust denial until some contrarian decided to take false umbrage. What is true is that when we try to dictate usage, we have no guarantee of success; but it is even more true that if we do not make the attempt to defend appropriate terminology, our opponents will dictate the terms of the debate.

    As one example of the later, half the English speaking world thinks global temperatures have not risen, and have even fallen over the last 15 years because contrarians successfully created a usage of calling the slight slow down in the short term trend of global meant temperatures a “pause”.

    So to my mind, defeating AGW contrarianism requires that we be careful in our language. It is not “climategate”, it is the UEA-hack. It is not a “pause in global temperatures”, it is a slow down. And they are not AGW “skeptics”, they are AGW deniers.

  90. Joshua says:

    FWIW, I didn’t say that “it is about conflict resolution,” but that my study of conflict resolution influences my perspective – in particular w/r/t how language is used in circumstances where people are polarized.

  91. BBD says:

    The issue, to me, isn’t whether or not the term is appropriate or fits, but whether or not we gain anything by using it.

    This is important. What do you mean by ‘gain’? Modifying the pseudosceptic’s views or those of policy-makers or those of a semi-disengaged public? Arguably the former is impossible (rare exceptions notwithstanding 🙂 ) and the latter may be better served by pulling no punches.

  92. BBD says:

    Tom, +1

  93. BBD says:

    FWIW, I didn’t say that “it is about conflict resolution,” but that my study of conflict resolution influences my perspective

    Perhaps then it is time to modify your views in the light of the fact that this is nothing to do with conflict resolution?

  94. What do you mean by ‘gain’? Modifying the pseudosceptic’s views or those of policy-makers or those of a semi-disengaged public?

    I certainly don’t mean the pseudoskeptics. A lost cause I think. Certainly I mean a semi-disengaged public and policy-makers.

    Arguably the former is impossible (rare exceptions notwithstanding 🙂 ) and the latter may be better served by pulling no punches.

    Yes, the former is impossible. The latter is where I’m not so sure and it was this distinction that I thought Joshua was making. How we choose to engage can play a role in how we’re perceived by onlookers. Whether we’re justified in saying something or not doesn’t immediately mean that others will automatically agree.

    I agree with what I think Tom is saying. We should be careful of losing control of the debate. I’m just not convinced that a battle over the use of the term “denier” is really worth it. Personally I’m not sure that we need a word to describe the contrarians, as the best thing to do may be to ignore when possible and address the errors when they’re made. Again, I’m not sure about all of this so maybe there is a more effective tactic.

  95. BBD says:

    ATTP

    Thanks. That’s what I thought, but it seemed wise to be sure.

    When you consider the successes the contrarian lobby has had with distorting the language and fooling the public (see Tom’s summary above) then it is clear that too much control has already been ceded. It is also clear that we should not be afraid to call a spade a spade if the public seems unaware that it is being conned. Sometimes frankness is necessary to make sure people generally get the message clearly.

  96. When you consider the successes the contrarian lobby has had with distorting the language and fooling the public (see Tom’s summary above) then it is clear that too much control has already been ceded. It is also clear that we should not be afraid to call a spade a spade if the public seems unaware that it is being conned. Sometimes frankness is necessary to make sure people generally get the message clearly.

    But this is a really interesting issue and it’s not clear to me that there’s a symmetry. For example, George Osborne manages to refer to those on benefits as scroungers and it works (with some at least). Others start to try and stir up criticism of bankers and they get told that it’s time to move on. In many circumstances like this is seems as though one tactic can work well for one side and backfire for another.

    So, for some reason it seems that Delingpole, Monckton, Rose, Ridley can get away with strong and highly emotive rhetoric about climate science/climate scientists but if anyone were to try the same with them , there’s every chance that they’d be accused of trying to stifle criticism. So, I don’t know if this is indeed the case, but I do think that just because it works for one side does not immediately mean that it will be effective for the other.

  97. verytallguy says:

    Denial, for me is a simple and useful statement of the mentality of climate contrarians. It also communicates to a wider audience that their views are genuinely bizarre. One could start to talk about Morton’s demons or something else, but it doesn’t describe the mentality anywhere nearly as well.

    Deniers choose to play the victim in many ways. Inability to get papers published in peer review journals. Lack of representation in MSM (!), esp BBC. “Censorship” on Wiki. Etc etc etc.

    I wouldn’t propose to end their sense of victimhood by allowing open publishing of their nonsense in scientific journals; neither would I propose to change commonly used language to suit them. I totally refute any equivalence with holocaust denial, either in common intent of usage, or in moral equivalence.

    As far as making engagement more difficult, I really don’t think so. I remember trying to engage here with Salby acolytes, and was met with, well, a wall of absolute refusal to acknowledge obvious facts. AKA denial.

  98. BBD says:

    Alternatively, you could argue that nobody has really stood up to any of those you list in your last paragraph and given them a properly hard time. They have no defence – their ideas are nonsense – so they need to be publicly censured for peddling falsehoods and debunked vigorously whenever the occasion presents. Myles Allen being rather nice about DR’s behaviour etc simply doesn’t cut it. Again and again I end up thinking: FFS hit back. I have a business perspective, obviously, not a scientific one.

  99. VTG,

    As far as making engagement more difficult, I really don’t think so. I remember trying to engage here with Salby acolytes, and was met with, well, a wall of absolute refusal to acknowledge obvious facts. AKA denial.

    Yes, I agree. When I’m using the term engagement, I don’t necessarily mean with them, I mean with the wider audience, many of whom are not actively participating. That’s the issue I’m having. How best do you communicate broadly, rather than any real sense that we can change our behaviour to improve engagement with those typically regarded as “deniers”.

  100. BBD says:

    Above was @ ATTP. Must address comments. Must address comments. Must address comments.

  101. Joshua says:

    BBD —

    “This isn’t about “conflict resolution”, Joshua. I thought I’d made that plain above.
    …Perhaps then it is time to modify your views in the light of the fact that this is nothing to do with conflict resolution?”

    These are the kinds of statements that I think speak to the larger phenomenon that I’m discussion. These are opinions, stated as fact and reasserted as fact. Just because you stated that you “made something plain” does not make it true.

    I see no point in debating those questions w/ you since you have stated you opinion as fact. That means that there is no option for debate.

    Tom –

    “That is incorrect. The very reason we are having this discussion is that the AGW contrarians have decided to dictate how we use the language, and are doing so successfully.”

    But they haven’t dictated how the language is used – as the use of the term denier is still quite common.

    ” I was using the term for months with not a single thought equating it with holocaust denial until some contrarian decided to take false umbrage. “

    If we can, I’d like to separate out that aspect of the discussion. I agree that it is false umbrage, but I don’t that is relevant to assessing the outcomes of choices in terminology.

    “What is true is that when we try to dictate usage, we have no guarantee of success; but it is even more true that if we do not make the attempt to defend appropriate terminology, our opponents will dictate the terms of the debate.”

    I disagree with your determination of what is “appropriate terminology.” Denier is an inherently ambiguous term. Denier of what? How do you know if someone is denying or ill-informed or mistaken or just of a different viewpoint? And if I read a “skeptic” make what seems to me to be a cogent conclusion based in a thorough approach to evidence, whether I am wrong in that or not, if I then see you call that person a “denier” it means nothing to me. What means something is if I read you make a cogent counter-argument. If I see you calling someone that seems to me to be making a cogent argument a “denier,” then I am inclined to loose confidence in how you approach debate. In the end, if you goal is to somehow affect the perspective of those who aren’t fully convinced in their views already, it does no service to call someone a “denier.” Only someone who already agrees with your perspective would be able to appreciate the reason why you’re calling someone a denier.

    “As one example of the later, half the English speaking world thinks global temperatures have not risen, and have even fallen over the last 15 years because contrarians successfully created a usage of calling the slight slow down in the short term trend of global meant temperatures a “pause”.”

    A couple of points. First, I think that cause-and-effect is too simplistic. People’s views on climate change are rooted in a far more complex dynamic of political orientation, the economy, and personal experiences with short-term weather phenomena, Second, I am not suggesting that language, or “framing” aren’t important and influential – I am speaking here specifically to the outcomes that result from the use of a specific term. I am not saying that choice of terms is not important – but I am disagreeing with appears to be your assessment about the benefits and demerits of calling someone a “denier.”

    “So to my mind, defeating AGW contrarianism requires that we be careful in our language. It is not “climategate”, it is the UEA-hack. It is not a “pause in global temperatures”, it is a slow down. And they are not AGW “skeptics”, they are AGW deniers.”

    I am in agreement that the choice of language is important.

    I feel that precision and specificity in language are generally the best guidelines. I think that “denier” is imprecise and unspecific.

    But the bottom line for me is that this discussion should be evidence-based. I don’t know what evidence there is, exactly, to inform this discussion. I think that some of Kahan’s evidence about motivated reasoning is instructive but directly useful. I do know that from a perspective of direct evidence, when I come to a site like this one and I see you and/or BBD lay out a cogent argument about the science I benefit from seeing ways in which the “skeptical” arguments I’ve read are fallacious. When I read you and/or BBD engage the debate at the corrosive and personalized level that I see so common in the “skept-o-sphere,” the impact of your scientific arguments are diminished, for me.

  102. BBD,

    They have no defence – their ideas are nonsense – so they need to be publicly censured for peddling falsehoods and debunked vigorously whenever the occasion presents.

    Sure, but how do you do this. In the US you could have a Congressional hearing into whether or not Judith Curry’s testimony was a fair representation of the Science. The Republicans would call Spencer, Christy, and Pielke Sr. The Democrats might get Dessler, Mann, Alley. At best a draw. In the UK, we maybe don’t have the same calibre of academic sceptics, but I’m sure the Conservatives could find some suitable people.

  103. Joshua says:

    arrrgh! No, I’m not shouting – I just forgot to close the HTML tag! [Mod : sorted]

  104. Joshua says:

    VTG –

    It also communicates to a wider audience that their views are genuinely bizarre.

    What is the evidence that you use to determine this? How do you know the effect on a wider audience? What metrics do you use?

    I would argue the opposite effect based on my suppositions – but I don’t think that evidence exists to support a conclusion.

    This is the problem that I have when I engage with people on both sides of the debate, I see conclusions being drawn that aren’t evidence-based.

    Once again, I think that there is evidence that helps explain how public pinions are formed on this issue and others – and that the evidence can be used to help inform approaches. As such, it seems to me that the arguments presented about how to produce beneficial outcomes should be rooted in that evidence. I don’t see that happening, for the most part.

  105. verytallguy says:

    ATTP

    How best do you communicate broadly, rather than any real sense that we can change our behaviour to improve engagement with those typically regarded as “deniers”.

    Yes, I agree. For me, use of the word denial is perfectly fine in terms of engagement of people outside the climateball hothouse.

    It is factual.
    It is well understood.
    It gets across just how bizarre the arguments used are and mindset of those using them.

    A graph of Artic sea ice since ’79 and global temperature since 1900 together with CO2 rise are sufficient to show just how obvious the facts are to a wider audience. And hence why denial is an appropriate term for many contrarians (not all btw).

  106. BBD,

    Alternatively, you could argue that nobody has really stood up to any of those you list in your last paragraph and given them a properly hard time.

    Indeed, and that’s why I don’t have a problem with Michael Mann being particularly blunt and Richard Betts being much more accomodating (for example). I don’t yet know which is more effective. I’m leaning towards Michael Mann’s style and against the more accomodating style but, as Joshua says, there really isn’t much evidence to support one style over another.

  107. VTG,

    A graph of Artic sea ice since ’79 and global temperature since 1900 together with CO2 rise are sufficient to show just how obvious the facts are to a wider audience. And hence why denial is an appropriate term for many contrarians (not all btw).

    Yes, but I think there is a difference between saying “some people are in denial” and characterising people as “deniers”. I can imagine using the former in a discussion with people who are interested in knowing more who ask “why do some people still not think this is true”. The latter I may still avoid (then again, maybe not).

  108. Joshua says:

    VTG –

    It is factual.
    It is well understood.
    It gets across just how bizarre the arguments used are and mindset of those using them.

    That’s pretty funny because I would say that:

    It confuses fact with opinion
    It is vague
    It gets across a couple of different things, and one of the things that it gets across is that you use, with apparent indifference, terms that those you’re referring to find offensive. Captured in that, there are probably many who are not convinced one way or the other on the science but have a variety of reasons for being open to and sympathetic to the opinions of “skeptics:(i.e., political affiliation), and who are likely to identify with those you are calling a “denier” and find themselves to be similarly castigated.

  109. verytallguy says:

    Joshua,

    you’re confusing me:

    I don’t know what evidence there is, exactly, to inform this discussion.

    Seems to contradict

    I think that there is evidence that helps explain how public pinions are formed on this issue and others

    Linking to your evidence would be helpful.

    As far as I’m aware, storytelling and positivity have evidential bases for opinion forming, or at least effective communication. But I can’t point you at a link.

  110. verytallguy says:

    Joshua.

    Definiton (Webster) “a psychological defense mechanism in which confrontation with a personal problem or with reality is avoided by denying the existence of the problem or reality ”

    Seems factual to me.

  111. verytallguy says:

    ATTP

    Yes, but I think there is a difference between saying “some people are in denial” and characterising people as “deniers”.

    Yes, I agree again. eg “Xs refusal to acknowledge the anthropogenic nature of the CO2 rise is simply denial of the facts” is appropriate rather than “X is a denier”

  112. Joshua says:

    VTG –

    Yes, it did seem contradictory. I meant I’m not sure what evidence speaks directly to the use of the term “denier,” but that there is evidence that I think speaks indirectly to questions related to how to communicate effectively in these kinds of circumstances (amid controversy and polarization) and more specifically science communication, and even more specifically communication related to the science of climate change.

    It is hard to pinpoint one particular link – but again, I would recommend reading Dan Kahan’s blog. He is deeply entrenched in examining the issue of science communication – and I think that the discussions at his site are interesting and his research well-done. His site is a good portal for connecting out to the work of others who are examining theses issues. I find it a bit unfortunate that there are relatively few “realists” who engage at his site in comparison to the number or “skeptics.” Those “skeptics” who do hang there tend to be a somewhat different breed than what I usually see in the “skept-o-sphere.”

    As a place to start:

    http://www.culturalcognition.net/papers-topical/

    http://www.culturalcognition.net/browse-papers/

  113. Marlowe Johnson says:

    As I said earlier, words matter. the point isn’t whether or not terms like denier are offensive to those who match the plain language description. It’s whether or not the undecided lurker is swayed by its usage. there are of course exceptions. long ago i think I called BBD a pompous gasbag and look how he’s changed ;).

  114. BBD says:

    Joshua says:

    I feel that precision and specificity in language are generally the best guidelines. I think that “denier” is imprecise and unspecific.

    I find this risible in the context. Everybody knows that denier means “denies that BAU is going to be hugely problematic”. Just everybody. I reject your claim.

  115. BBD says:

    Off back to Canada with you, Johnson.

    😉

  116. Joshua says:

    VTG –

    “Seems factual to me.”

    But that determination on your part is inherently subjective. I read a lot of “skeptics” who I think might fit that description, and a lot who I don’t. The bottom line there is that the bar for determining fact from opinion in that kind of categorization is extremely high.

    For the most part, they’d all say that the description fits you.

    In fact, one of the more interesting aspects of the debate is that it has become popular among “skeptics” to call “realists” “deniers” or claim that they are in “denial.” It is amusing because it exposes the flimsiness of their supposed objection to the use of the term, on principle. Their principle only extends so far as to concern whether the term is used to describe them, and not whether the term is used to describe others.

  117. verytallguy says:

    All of which on denial is rather depressing and also tangential to the real issue – how to effectively communicate climate change.

    Let’s fall back on the last refuge of scoundrels – pop psychology and business management.

    Here’s Kotter on change management

    1) created a sense of urgency in the colony to deal with a difficult problem,
    2) put a carefully selected group in charge of guiding the change,
    3) found the sensible vision of a better future,
    4) communicated that vision so others would understand and accept it,
    5) removed as many obstacles to action as was practical,
    6) created some sort of success quickly,
    7) never let up until the new way of life was firmly established, and
    8) finally, ensured that the changes would not be overcome by stubborn, hard-to-die traditions.

    Denial is one of the obstacles (5). However, the real failure of the climate realism movement, to coin a label, is an inability to articulate the sensible vision of a better future. We’re stuck at (1), and this comes across as neverending doom mongering.

  118. andrew adams says:

    Coming to this a bit late as usual. There’s a lot I could say about this based on my numerous years arguing on the internet on this and other subjects but I don’t have much time so I’ll simply make the point that the climate “debate” isn’t polarised because of the language people are using to describe each other, it’s polarized because there are two groups of people with strongly held but fundamentally opposed and incompatible viewpoints about the need for action on climate change. The use of strong language, contentiouls labels etc. is a result of this polarisation, not the cause of it.

  119. verytallguy says:

    So finally, I’ll stop being such a pompous gas bag and leave this discussion at full circle with the cartoon linked to in the other thread.

    Communicating the positive benefits of tackling global warming and how we can all enjoy better lives whilst also leaving a legacy to following generations we are pround of is where we need to be.

    Not arguing about semantics, or engaging in a futile attempt to convert committed deniers of facts.

    http://www.kentucky.com/2012/03/18/2115988/joel-pett-the-cartoon-seen-round.html

  120. andrew adams says:

    hmm, now for a hotly contested debate about how to spell “polari(s/z)ed”

  121. Joshua says:

    BBD –

    Everybody knows that denier means “denies that BAU is going to be hugely problematic”. Just everybody.

    In fact, I’d say that a lot of people would think that “denier” means someone who doesn’t accept the physics of the GHE as the primary definition. Now I often find the logic of “skeptics” who claim to accept the physics of the GHE to be inconsistent with many of their conclusions – but the point is that you aren’t stepping outside your own viewpoint to consider alternative perspectives.

    And I don’t think that BAU is going to be hugely problematic – I think that it is a matter of probabilities that requires a sophisticated risk/benefit assessment. That does that mean I am a “denier?” Maybe so but I doubt that many people, upon hearing my views, would think I fit the term of “denier.”

    I’m going to back off here from engaging with you, now. I feel that you are repeating the same pattern that I have objected to already, and that there is little point.

  122. Joshua says:

    AA –

    The use of strong language, contentiouls labels etc. is a result of this polarisation, not the cause of it.

    Despite your confusion about where to use “z’s” and where to use “s’s, as usual, I agree with you.

  123. Joshua says:

    That’s really funny, because I wrote my 5:04 before I read your 4:59!

  124. BBD says:

    And I don’t think that BAU is going to be hugely problematic

    You what?

  125. > As far as I’m aware, storytelling and positivity have evidential bases for opinion forming, or at least effective communication. But I can’t point you at a link.

    I can:

    http://talkingclimate.org/

  126. verytallguy says:

    Willard,

    I’ve got to go now, but that looks like a great resource, thank you.

    to support Joshua:
    “Word choice is not the only thing that mat­ters in com­mu­nic­ating cli­mate change – but paying careful atten­tion to ter­min­o­logy, and avoiding the most inflam­matory words, is an important place to start.”

    To support me:
    “Fostering “intrinsic” values—among them self-acceptance, care for others, and concern for the natural world—has real and lasting benefits. By acknowledging the importance of these values, and the “frames” that embody and express them; by examining how our actions help to strengthen or weaken them; and by working together to cultivate them, we can create a more compassionate society, and a better world.”

  127. Tall One,

    I think what supports you supports also Joshua, as his point does not seem to be about words, but about usage. Whatever the words one chooses, an otter can raise concerns about them. It is the labeling behind the words, however mild they may be, that help raise more concerns.

    Not that we should not welcome concerns. For instance, Kahan raises some concerns about some meeting he attended, in which the ideas George Marshall were discussed:

    > I was also genuinely shocked & saddened by what struck (assaulted) me as the anti-science ethos shared by a large number of participants.

    http://www.culturalcognition.net/blog/2012/2/18/report-from-garrison-institute-climate-change-conference-the.html

    Dan Kahan using the “anti-science” word.

    Imagine that.

  128. Rachel says:

    Is it possible to pretty much agree with what everyone here is saying even though they disagree with each other? Because that’s where I sit at the moment. I use the word contrarian simply because I know that people get offended by denier and I, quite frankly, can’t be bothered with the subsequent concerns. But when I think about the word contrarian, to me it is more offensive yet no-one seems to mind and I think that is just because no-one has chosen to raise concerns about it yet but possibly one day they will. So in that respect, I agree also with what some have said about not letting contrarians hijack the language as no matter what words we use they will always have concerns. I notice that many people use the word “skeptic” with quotes but I’ve seen contrarians find that offensive also.

  129. Joshua,
    Maybe we can clarify what you mean here

    And I don’t think that BAU is going to be hugely problematic – I think that it is a matter of probabilities that requires a sophisticated risk/benefit assessment. That does that mean I am a “denier?” Maybe so but I doubt that many people, upon hearing my views, would think I fit the term of “denier.”

    If I understand you correctly, you think we should consider the uncertainties associated with the various emissions pathways and the risks associated with the various policy (adaption/mitigation) options available to us, in order to decide what to do. Is that a fair interpretation?

    However, the obvious next question is : do you think a warming of 4 degrees (relative to pre-industrial times) is possible and if it were to occur, would it be hugely problematic?

  130. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    Yes, yes, and yes.

  131. John Mashey says:

    One can study terminology via blogs, or see what social scientists do.
    For example, the Yale/George Mason U folks have done Six Amercas surverys since 2009, generating six categories, of which one is “dismissive.”

    ‘The Alarmed (18%) are fully convinced of the reality and seriousness of climate change and are already taking individual, consumer, and political action to address it. The Concerned (33%) – the largest of the six Americas – are also convinced that global warming is happening and a serious problem, but have not yet engaged the issue personally. Three other Americas – the Cautious (19%), the Disengaged (12%) and the Doubtful (11%) – represent different stages of understanding and acceptanceof the problem, and none are actively involved. The final America – the Dismissive (7%)– are very sure it is not happening and are actively involved as opponents of a national effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions..’

    Dismissives ~ deniers in the more common terminology.
    Some dismiisves claim to be “sceptics” and take great pride in that self-image … but have basically hijacked the term, as most are clearly pseudoskeptics, rejecting or ignoring clear factual evidence and accepting even absurd ideas that support their existing viewpoint.
    It is time to take the term skeptic back from the pseudoskeptics. (Not all dismisssives make a big deal of claiming to be skeptics, they just *know* … akin toe YECs in the creationism wars, as opposed to pseudoskeptics who talk a lot about evidence.)

    Although people vary from those for whom who apply real skeptical though (mostly) routinely, by natural tendencies or training or both … to those who exhibit rigid pseudoskeptithought patterns on almost any topic … but I think climate pseudoskeptics surely must have some critical thinking on other topics or it would be hard to function in ordinary life. At least, they’d never last at any of the companies where I’ve worked or consulted for.
    I say this after analyzing the 1900+comments in the SalbyStorm affair, a terrific litmus test for skeptic vs pseudoskeptic thought patterns. Carl Sagan’s “Demon-Haunted World is good background, in this case, Morton’s Demon is widely in evidence.

    Anyway, I like the term dismissive as an umbrella, as the Yale/GMU folks have characterized it in detail, of which a subset are pseudoskeptics. regardles of what someone actually thinks, anti-science (or agnotology) actiosn are pretty clear, with multi-decadal history pioneered by the tobacco industry: rather than serious discussions of uncertainty, manfuacture fog and dbougt for policy-makers and general public..

  132. What a depressing waste of time and bits. As I’ve been saying since at least 2010, it’s probably more productive to use a term like “contrarian” rather than “denier” unless you want to provoke distracting responses like “It’s so insulting that you compare us to Holocaust deniers!”

    We shouldn’t call contrarians “skeptics” because that just smears the word skeptic.

  133. Joshua,
    That’s what I thought. I tend to agree. We should be considering the risks associated with the various emissions pathways and the risks associated with the options available to us. I would be fairly confident that any sensible analysis would conclude that following a BAU pathway and doing nothing would be extremely bad. Of course, I’m less confident that such analysis will be taken seriously anytime in the near future, but we can live in hope.

  134. @DumbScientist,
    Yes, the terminology is fraught with all sorts of complications. I just find myself getting more and more confused about how best to engage in this topic.

  135. It’s not a topic so much as a distraction from the fact that we’re dumping CO2 into the atmosphere 10x faster than before the Great Dying. A very effective distraction, I might add.

  136. @DumbScientist,
    Yes, I agree. That’s kind of why I think trying to find ways to marginalise contrarians is one way forward. Attacking them probably won’t work because those doing the attacking will be characterised as untrustworthy/unpleasant/uncivil, etc.

    Ignoring them, however, and deciding that dialogue with them is futile, is one option. Avoid the term “denier” so that they can’t immediately complain, and try to talk directly to policy makers and to the rest of the public. Of course, as I think Tom was pointing out, they’ll find some new way to try and control the dialogue, but if one is careful that becomes difficult and eventually it may become obvious what their tactics are.

    Of course, I could be completely wrong and so those are just some of my immediate thoughts.

  137. The bottom line is that if you insist you have the right call a group of people by a name they (and that that is the important bit) find offensive, but you claim you have every right to do, don’t be surprised when some right wing offensive commentator takes the same ‘freedom’ and worries about other ‘dictating what can said or not’ to heart and quotes it back at you. I get the feeling I may not have made my argument clear, if a thousand people think naming a person by a certain title is ok, but the one recipient does not wish them to do it, it should still stop. It is not the decision of the person using the term as to how appropriate it is. It appears clear to me that contrarians or whatever don’t like the term, so if you really want to be constructive and change them, start by respecting their rights as people. Keep the debate civil, like the man says.

  138. Gareth,

    if a thousand people think naming a person by a certain title is ok, but the one recipient does not wish them to do it, it should still stop.

    I think I disagree with this, but kind-of agree with what I think your broad point is. I don’t agree that an individual always gets to decide if a term is offensive or not. If you’ve committed a crime and been found guilty, then you’re a criminal, whether you like that term or not. On the other hand, if you’ve served your time, claim to be reformed and are looking for work and you still get called a criminal all the time, then that might be regarded as somewhat offensive, even if still strictly true.

    However, you’re probably right that if a large enough group object to a term and have some media power, then using it may backfire. Of course, as Tom was I think pointing out, we do have to be careful of always being forced to change the dialogue because of those who will do their best to object to anything.

  139. AnOilMan says:

    Tar Sands or Oil Sands? Trees or Lumber Stands?

    I’m often told publicly to call it Oil Sands, because Tar Sands has become a pejorative term for refer to the toxic sludge we dig in Alberta. The funny thing is that behind the scenes… we call it Tar Sands just the same. I think in part to butch up and use that term, but really… do you call a forest a Lumber Stand?

    andthentheresphysics and Gareth: You need to look at the ‘intent’ behind the term before you judge its use. I do need a term to describe all those cute and cuddly Watts adherers. Denier fits… If they are frothing at the mouth… intent will enter the picture.

    I like ‘seagull’, but that does have a derogatory origin.. with malice.

  140. AoM,

    You need to look at the ‘intent’ behind the term before you judge its use.

    Yes, I would agree. That’s why I’m not convinced that the individual gets to decide if they think a term is offensive or not. I would argue that that is a societal decision, not a decision an individual can make for themselves. So, if we could get society to accept denier, we’d be making progress 🙂

  141. Seagull? Thats a new one on me!
    When I studied the equalities act etc in my representative role, it was made clear that when a pejorative term is used against an individual or group, the intent behind is irrelevant, it is the reception by the target that is important. While I see your point regarding calling someone a criminal if they have committed a crime, that is an objective statement which can be qualified and qualified. Calling someone by the term denier is how we perceive them, there is no agreed definition of what qualifies as a denier, a sceptic, contrarian or anything else, just our own subjective perceptions, so to my mind it is a different situation. I know someone will point out that if someone argues against the obvious evidence of human induced climate change, they must be a denier, but where do you draw the line ? Many of us from the warmest persuasions (as it were) may well have difference in how that process works, to a greater or lesser degree, but I would hate to see such a difference of opinion labelled in a derogatory way.
    I’m trying not to be holier than thou, I call Monckton bonkers all the time, but he serves a purpose in convincing people that contrarians are likely to be wrong due to his odd beliefs in the wider issues of life, but I would not say everyone who thought he was right was an extreme right wing politician with odd thought processes. Then again, if he asked me to desist I probably would, but he has never said anything kind to me or made such a request so I guess he’s not overly concerned.

  142. Gareth,

    it was made clear that when a pejorative term is used against an individual or group, the intent behind is irrelevant, it is the reception by the target that is important.

    Hmmm, yes that is a point and I have heard the same. I guess it is still the case that whether or not a term is pejorative is a societal decision, rather than one any individual can simply make. It is a complicated issue though and I agree that an issue with calling someone a denier is that they could object, claim they aren’t (as some do) and you’re then on the back foot trying to justify why the term is valid.

  143. BBD says:

    Calling someone by the term denier is how we perceive them, there is no agreed definition of what qualifies as a denier, a sceptic, contrarian or anything else, just our own subjective perceptions

    Yes, there is. I went through this with Joshua above. The definition of denier is someone who denies that BAU is going to be hugely problematic. They might do this by denying radiative physics, or by denying the temperature record, or by denying paleoclimate behaviour, or by denying evidence that S is ~3C etc but that is what is meant and it isn’t at all vague or controversial or obscure or open to debate.

  144. BBD says:

    Joshua made an extremely odd response to this:

    And I don’t think that BAU is going to be hugely problematic

    I didn’t really understand his response to ATTP’s request for clarification on this so perhaps his definition of BAU is non-standard. Mine is “no carbon emissions abatement policy – just business as usual”.

  145. BBD,
    I agree that we can define it, but I think there is a big difference between claiming that deniers exist (they clearly do) and claiming that a particular individual is a denier – they may well be, we may believe them to be, but proving them to be one is probably harder than it might seem.

  146. BBD,
    I thought Joshua was just making the point that assuming that the risk associated with BAU definitely exceeds the risks associating with acting is, if one was being strictly correct in terms of risk assessment, wrong. I don’t think Joshua was really suggesting that we would conclude that BAU is not hugely damaging, just that we should carry out the actual risk analysis. Joshua, should probably confirm that that was indeed his point.

  147. John Mashey says:

    Again, if one worries about it, use the term
    dismissive and point at the Maibach/Leiserowitz work ghat describes the belief constellation, backed by years of surveys.

    Really, when dealing with social science questions, real skeptics go look for social scientists who study the questions, assess who makes sense, and then learn from them.
    Look at the study above or at Riley Dunlap and his associates, or Naomi Oreskes or Stephan Lewandowsky or Michael Ranney or Max Boykoff or Jon Krosnick or Bob Proctor.

  148. ” It is a complicated issue though and I agree that an issue with calling someone a denier is that they could object, claim they aren’t (as some do) and you’re then on the back foot trying to justify why the term is valid”
    I fully agree with that.

    BBD, i see your point but what if someone felt that BAU would cause problems, even severe problems, but would not be catastrophic because humans only tend to address issues once they become a threat perceived by all, and human inventiveness will prevail. Not a scenario I would agree with, I think it’s far to risky, but are they being a denier, or an irresponsible gambler ? Apologies if this sounds as if I am disagreeing for it’s own sake, but I come from a profession where qualitative approaches to human behaviours are key to our understanding, and as a result there are very few black and white answers where human behaviour is concerned. There are just tendencies along a spectrum. As a result, giving a whole group of people one pejorative term seems odd and at odds with the scientific approach which informs our beliefs.

  149. Joshua says:

    My belief is that BAU definitely implies a risk (and that yes, the risk of acting, and acting in different ways, needs to be assessed in the context of quantifying the risk from BAU).

    It just occurred to me that perhaps the difference is in the term “problematic?” I was thinking of “hugely problematic” to signify something akin to “hugely damaging.”

    I see uncertainty about “hugely damaging” within the range of estimates of climate sensitivity and in the (shrinking) allowance for uncertainty in estimates of probability that most recent warming is attributable to ACO2.

    If something poses a risk, it is inherently problematic – so in that sense I’d have to change what I said above, and agree that BAU is hugely problematic.

  150. Reich.Eschhaus says:

    Interesting discussion. Thanks to all. Some thoughts:

    Regarding denial, from wikipedia (probably manipulated by WilliamC! 😋):

    “Denial, in ordinary English usage, is asserting that a statement or allegation is not true.[1] The same word, and also abnegation, is used for a psychological defense mechanism postulated by Sigmund Freud, in which a person is faced with a fact that is too uncomfortable to accept and rejects it instead, insisting that it is not true despite what may be overwhelming evidence.[2][3]
    The subject may use:
    simple denial: deny the reality of the unpleasant fact altogether
    minimisation: admit the fact but deny its seriousness (a combination of denial and rationalization)
    projection: admit both the fact and seriousness but deny responsibility by blaming somebody or something else.”

    First, I do not think Freud has any relevance left in psychology (sure, some psychoanalysts will object to this assessment). Second, the description looks eerily familiar to some internet proclamations though. So I do not doubt that there are persons that can be adequately described as deniers.

    However, how do you distinguish someone living in denial from someone living in ignorance, or living in misinformation, or even from someone who is knowingly telling untruths? I do not know how to do that from reading someone’s comments on blogs (I may get a hunch though, but there is no way to confirm it).

    I am pretty sure though that some people use “denier” for describing people in all these circumstances alike (and there may be more possibilities than I mentioned). I do agree with Joshua that using the general term of “denier” to characterise “the other side” is not helpful (both in the sense that it does not capture the diversity of the people on the “other side” and that it may look bad to people who do not identify with a side (yet)).

    I like the “dismissives” label though that John Masey brought up. You can attach dismissive to what people are actually writing on the internet, and you need not assume what goes on in someone’s mind (as the denier label implies). That is, “I see you are dismissing X” rather than “I see you are in denial of X”.

    VTG wrote:

    “Yes, I agree again. eg “Xs refusal to acknowledge the anthropogenic nature of the CO2 rise is simply denial of the facts” is appropriate rather than “X is a denier””

    Following on what I said above I agree that it is clearly a better description, but I would change “is” into “seems” and “denial” into “a dismission”. “Xs refusal to acknowledge the anthropogenic nature of the CO2 rise seems simply a dismission of the facts” (you can use negation instead of dismission of course) is appropriate rather than “X is a denier”. This example produces awkward sentences, but someone, I’m sure, can think of better formulations 😉

    I do agree it is all a distraction from what it is all about (CO2 emissions, Dumb Scientist). However science needs to be communicated in (more or less) democratic societies in order to have the elected parties act on the science (in any way they may seem fit: stop FF use now, use it all up and adapt to the consequences, or smth in between).

    I am all in favour of a robust challenge to disinformation. Do it! But don’t assume you know what’s going on in the heads of the people you are having a discussion with. What would your reaction be if someone accuses you of being a denier? And I think also that when communicating with someone who hasn’t made up his/her mind that it is better to refer to the behaviour (this person dismisses X) than to a hypothetical mind set (this person in denial of X).

  151. R.E., very interesting comment, and analysis, thanks.

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  153. barry says:

    I think BAU carries risks that are potentially grave and should be addressed. It’s a significant issue for me at election tmes. Virtually all contrarian views I’m familiar with are flawed by a multitude of illogical, selective and politically or economically motivated arguments. Countering them has become such an industry that those doing the job often become war-weary and frustrated. I sure have.

    On occasion when I’ve been querying a point made in a pro-science blog, someone has called me a denier and others soon pile on. The first time I was stunned. By the third time, such labeling had caused me to disidentify with people who use such terms. The credence I give to the IPCC (pro-science) view on AGW hadn’t changed, but where I once saw crusaders for defending science, I now saw tribalistic tendencies in ‘my’ group, antithetical to reason.

    It has been argued above that the term should be used to “modify views,” and, “make sure people get the message clearly.” This is an argument for perception management. Most often when the epithet is used that I’ve seen, it is generalised, vague, ‘othering’. It’s not about clinical linguistic precision but a habituated term often used against any drop-ins to blogs that don’t fall in with the general view in short order, or who aren’t careful enough in how they express their doubts/inquiry. There are many red flag terms and arguments that the uninitiated may drop innocently which set locals off.

    There’s nothing wrong with trying to persuade by non-rational techniques per se, but it is a dubious fit in forums where science is being discussed, especially on those who are defending it. I see this conflation of activism (“getting the message across”) and science in a similar light to contrarians conflating poltics with science. Managing percpetions in this way might work in the public sphere, but not necessarily in blogs where there incoming participants know that there is time and space to work through inquiry. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the term ‘denier’ used in articles at realclimate.

    I’ve used a buzz-word there – activism. I wonder if my genuine caveats that began this comment will forestall someone labelling me a denier just because I stepped on a red flag. That apprehension usually makes me cautious about how I express myself at pro-science blgs. Which is a shame. I would like to feel wlecome and have an open, honest discussion, but so much energy goes into not stepping on landmines when challening points at pro-science blogs. It doesn’t speak well for getting the message across if amongst like-minded people I walk in fear of being outcast. And I’ve seen this rejectionism foisted on people who wander into a discussion with what seemed to me was a genuine inquiry, however misinformed or poorly expressed. At least, there was no way to judge if they were a ‘dismissive’ or otherwise.

    The term ‘denier’ is not in common usage outside a few select issues, as mentioned above. It is peculiar terminology for the most part, and identifies the user as much as the target when read more than once by the uninitiated, the disengaged or fence-sitters. Communicating the science behind AGW effectively, such that they become engaged politically, is extremely difficult. Hanging on to pejorative buzz-words, however descriptively accurate, is probably not the best way to engage their interest and trust.

  154. Barry,

    The credence I give to the IPCC (pro-science) view on AGW hadn’t changed, but where I once saw crusaders for defending science, I now saw tribalistic tendencies in ‘my’ group, antithetical to reason.

    Indeed, this does happen. Can’t claim it never happens here, but we do try to resolve it when it does 🙂

    I would like to feel wlecome and have an open, honest discussion, but so much energy goes into not stepping on landmines when challening points at pro-science blogs.

    You are, of course, welcome. I can’t promise that you won’t step on a landmine (in some people’s view) but I certainly encourage open, honest discussion.

    Communicating the science behind AGW effectively, such that they become engaged politically, is extremely difficult. Hanging on to pejorative buzz-words, however descriptively accurate, is probably not the best way to engage their interest and trust.

    It’s certainly true that it’s difficult and using pejorative terminology is probably not effective. Having said that, I do think that we have to try to find a way to avoid contrarians continuously winning the rhetorical arguments. Any attempt at dialogue typically ends up in a discussion about some terminology or about whether or not someone was unpleasant or not and completely avoids the main issue. Avoiding using “denier” probably helps but I suspect that whatever terminology is used, someone will object so there is an element of trying to be more robust that may be necessary. I don’t have any good idea of how to do this yet, so these are just some thoughts.

  155. Joshua says:

    barry –

    Thanks for that comment. Needles to say (given what I’ve written above), I am in strong agreement. I wish that I could have expressed it as succinctly as you.

  156. Joshua says:

    also needless to say.

  157. barry says:

    Hi ATTP, thanks for the welcome.

    Avoiding using “denier” probably helps but I suspect that whatever terminology is used, someone will object so there is an element of trying to be more robust that may be necessary.

    The objections usually come from those labeled. I am not arguing to mollify them, but to engage more effectively with others. A prosaic elucidation of the science is not enough. But populating a conversation with terms like ‘denier’ is a win for the contrarians. They’ve succeeded in getting us to draw focus to them and play at their level. In a war of rhetoric it’s not always a good idea to mimic the tactics of the opposition. I would use that as a starting point to come up with better tactics. To get ahead of the game, change tactics more often. The contrarians win because they have this freedom, whereas pro-science rhetoriticians are hamstrung by the rigour of the subject they are advocating. Perception management and uncertainty are poor bed-fellows, and contrarians exploit this mis-match to the full. I honestly don’t know if engaging them head-on over the years has been a boon or a bane towards motivating the public. Maybe it would be better to ignore them for the most part from now on, only keeping in mind what has been learned from them for purposes that don’t directly address them. The game we’ve been playing with them is addictive, but maybe not as effective as we hope.

  158. Barry,
    I agree with what you say and, certainly, using “denier” (as a label for an individual at least) is probably now counter-productive, My broader point was simply that we have to try and avoid continually being forced to change our terminology because of objections from contrarians. I don’t know how to do this. One way is to be more careful with our rhetoric, but I do think that being a bit more robust and countering the objections will also play role.

  159. > My broader point was simply that we have to try and avoid continually being forced to change our terminology because of objections from contrarians. I don’t know how to do this.

    “Thank you for your concerns. From now on, I’ll use the term “contrarian” or “dissenter”.”

  160. Willard,
    Was that intentionally ironic 🙂

  161. BBD says:

    A repeated claim here: the term denier is used without evidence justifying its use.

    Not by me.

  162. barry says:

    ATTP, I’m saying update our terminology/tactics as we choose for a broader audience, not as a reaction to the unconvincable.

    If willard was poking fun, I’ll be the first to admit I was using short-hand, and that ‘contrarian’ isn’t ideal either. It’s only the least worst term I can think of that is also accurate.

    But if you must try to communicate with/for the benefit of dyed-in-the-wool ‘dissenters’, I can think of no better example than Zeke Hausfather. He is the only contributor I know of who is well-received by both sides that speaks good science. I’m not sure how he does it, but maybe partly because he doesn’t operate as if there are sides.

  163. BBD,
    Hmmm, yes I agree that there’s evidence. Certainly in terms of the existence of deniers. The issue that I can see (that I guess myself and others have been making) is that using it (aimed at an individual at least) is that it then becomes trickier to prove that they deserve the label and also if you have to then prove that they do, that would normally then act to deflect the argument away from the broader issues (which would normally be what the discussion is about).

    So, as much as we can probably all convince ourselves that it’s warranted, how does it help to use it if it acts to deflect discussions so that you end up defending it’s use, rather than discussing what’s actually important? Also, how does it help to use it if third parties (who may not be as aware of the situation as some here are) find themselves distrusting those who use it?

    Having said that, my current view may be completely wrong. Maybe it is time to go on the offensive, I’m not just not certain that it’s a tactic that will end up being constructive. As I tried to suggest earlier on, that style of rhetoric may work for some, but not for all.

  164. Barry,

    I’m saying update our terminology/tactics as we choose for a broader audience, not as a reaction to the unconvincable.

    Yes, this is what I’ve been suggesting too,

    But if you must try to communicate with/for the benefit of dyed-in-the-wool ‘dissenters’, I can think of no better example than Zeke Hausfather. He is the only contributor I know of who is well-received by both sides that speaks good science. I’m not sure how he does it, but maybe partly because he doesn’t operate as if there are sides.

    I tried this and failed. I’m certainly not trying to communicate with/for the benefit of dyed-in-the-woil ‘dissenters’. I think there are sides and – at the moment at least – real and constructive dialogue is not possible.

  165. BBD says:

    So, as much as we can probably all convince ourselves that it’s warranted, how does it help to use it if it acts to deflect discussions so that you end up defending it’s use

    The only time I have discussions like this is in conversations like this. Actual deniers rarely bother to argue the appellation beyond the occasional token protest as it is inarguably accurate in the circumstances.

  166. BBD says:

    Anyway, too much rhetoric about rhetoric is essentially tedious, so I will leave it there.

  167. BBD,
    Interesting. I think I’ve had the opposite though, but maybe I’m conflating numerous things at the same time. Normally a discussion with a denier gets deflected one way or the other. Either because of what they’ve been called, some word you’ve used poorly, or some terminology that you’ve got somewhat wrong (or they’ve mis-interpreted). I don’t think I’ve had a discussion with a true denier that hasn’t ended up focusing on something largely irrelevant to the main issue, so maybe I just see using the term (when applied to an individual at least) as providing an easy way to deflect the discussion. As I said, I could well be wrong though.

  168. BBD,

    Anyway, too much rhetoric about rhetoric is essentially tedious, so I will leave it there.

    Yes, this discussion is rather illustrating the issue 🙂

  169. Reich.Eschhaus says:

    BBD,

    I don’t see any harm in calling a spade a spade (a denier a denier). However when it is in a public discussion (as comments here are), using the word denier may look to the lurkers like you are accusing someone of having some kind of “psychological defense mechanism” that doesn’t allow him/her to take in facts, and this may appear to the onlookers as an ad hominem attack (and, extrapolating, that you have no other arguments in the discussion).

    Instead of saying “you are a denier” or “you are in denial”, I prefer asking “why do you deny this change in…” or “why do dismiss this evidence” etc.

    Another thing is that I do consider the label denier being used far too indiscriminately. The other side are THE DENIERS so to say. This is my impression, I don’t accuse you of anything (your “Not by me”). So, from my impression there is the danger that someone who is not very well acquainted with the climate change war of words hops into a discussion with a question that she/he picked up somewhere and suddenly gets called a denier. This would probably lead to a defending position (what? me? what am i denying? just asking a question?) that brings the person closer to the other side (who will inform him/her that the evil warmists are evil like that).

    Finally, I have a question for you -assuming I am right that there are some people out there on the interwebs that you prefer to call deniers- (with the evidence you have from their internet behaviour). Are all of them really deniers? Thus, do all have a psychological defence mechanism in place that prevents them from doing rational assessments? Or are some of the people that you would call deniers plain disinformers (others would say liars)? Are some really only misinformed?

    (I could make a list of persons I think that can be labelled deniers and others I think that cannot or that the evidence allows no conclusion one way or the other, etc. Not going to that though.)

  170. Reich.Eschhaus says:

    @Garethman

    Thanks!

    (however, my self review system already has some doubts about my comment 😀 )

  171. Tom Curtis says:

    Barry, we are not given the choice to ignore deniers because the media does not. No matter how much I ignore Salby, he is still getting his view point published in Fox News, the Australian, and any of a host of anti-scientific media with wide reach.

  172. Tom Curtis says:

    There has been too much written since I was last able to post for me to respond point by point. Instead I will lay out what I think are the most germane points.

    1) “AGW denier” is not a pejorative term. Rather, it is a descriptive term. It refers to any person who denies the need for substantive policy action to mitigate the effects of our massive dump of CO2 into the atmosphere; and justifies that denial by pseudo-scientific arguments.

    The second clause is important, and neglected by BBD in his definitions. It is inappropriate to dump those with rational objections and those whose objections are irrational in the same basket. That is one of my objections to “dismissives” as an alternative term, for it does include both.

    2) I agree that we should not use pejorative terms where they unnecessarily offend, but “AGW denier”is not pejorative, rather it is descriptive. Descriptive terms have in the past taken on a pejorative meaning through use. The most famous example is “nigger” which comes from an (inaccurate) description from the Latin for “black”, but has become entirely pejorative from use. So much so that few who use it would know its original descriptive use. Arguably “AGW denier” could do the same.

    Despite that, however, it is very far from clear that it has. IMO, its descriptive use is still primary. Further, its purportedly pejorative content comes entirely from the obnoxious nature of what is described, ie, the use of pseudo-science. The cure in this case, therefore, lies not the defenders of science dropping a descriptive word, but in its attackers giving up pseudo-science. As it stands, the deniers both argue that the word is offensive because it describes their behaviour, but insist their behaviour is not itself offensive (which is a logical contradiction).

    In this situation, the case is quite distinct from comparisons relating to racist abuse, abusive descriptions of people with handicaps, and abusive descriptions of homosexuals, bisexuals, and other people with unusual sexualities. The difference is that the former make abuses of descriptions of factors not changeable by the person abused – whereas clearly the deniers can abandon pseudo-science. Further, the former abuses are of things which are not moral faults, whereas the use of pseudo-science is.

    The better analogy to avoiding abusive racist terms would be an attempt to purge the language of the terms “murderer”, or “embezzler” because these terms are sometimes used to hurl (often quite justified) abuse. I would resist such irrationality in the same way that I resist attempts to purge the language of the term “denier”.

    3) This is not a situation where purging our language will satisfy the deniers. I once spent considerable time at WUWT trying to find an acceptable alternative (and copped substantial abuse for my trouble). Of those who engaged, most would only have been happy with a tendentiously approving term like “skeptic” or “realist”. A few proposals were simply silly. A few were transparently abusive. And only a few were fairly neutral. None garnered substantial support from even a significant minority. Therefore it appears to me that the only reason we do not see (many) objections to “contrarian”, for example, is that “denier” is still the main target. If we universally switched terms, the new term would be subject to similar objections.

    (More later.)

  173. BBD says:

    Tom

    […] and justifies that denial by pseudo-scientific arguments.

    The second clause is important, and neglected by BBD in his definitions.

    I had thought not, eg see here.

    Therefore it appears to me that the only reason we do not see (many) objections to “contrarian”, for example, is that “denier” is still the main target. If we universally switched terms, the new term would be subject to similar objections.

    As ATTP says above. And agreed. Might as well use the best term (*never* indiscriminately and not in inappropriate contexts – neither of which I have argued for here – agreed Reich E; Barry; Joshua) and refuse to allow others to control the use of the language.

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  175. Joshua says:

    Tom –

    I don’t know if this thread is dead (and if it isn’t maybe it should be), but some thoughts and then I’ll let it go because I think I’m already just basically repeating myself.

    1) From where I sit, “denier” is a pejorative. It is the sort of pejorative that I see throughout arguments about climate change, and throughout so many discussions related to issues that are polarized along political, ideological, and cultural lines. I can’t speak to what’s in your mind when you call someone a denier, but I can speak to how I perceive the interaction. It make sno difference for you to tell me what the definition of “denier” is. The way that language works is that I get to determine what the meaning is to me. Now you can just say that my definition is wrong, and there’s no particular reason why you should care about my reaction, but I would suggest that if you are interested in somehow translating blog (or other public) discussions into an influence on public opinion, you reconsider whether calling someone a denier is in any way productive.

    2) ” The cure in this case, therefore, lies not the defenders of science dropping a descriptive word, but in its attackers giving up pseudo-science. “

    I have no idea how you envision bringing about this cure. What do you think are the probabilities that those you are calling the attackers on science will “give up” their pseudo-science? I think the probability is close to zero, but driven even further towards zero each time they see anything that vindicates their sense of victimhood or strengthens their disgust with the “other.” Being called a denier does not likely have much impact, but if there is any impact, I would argue it moves away from your “cure.”

    3) “3) This is not a situation where purging our language will satisfy the deniers. “ I agree. But I don’t really know why you think that statement is relevant? Whose objective is it to “satisfy” the “deniers?” That certainly isn’t my argument. In my experience, the vast majority of “skeptics” have a goal of confirming their biases – and it matters little what you say or don’t say, they will pursue that goal regardless. Whatever you say will be filtered in such a way as to confirm their biases. That is the mechanics of motivated reasoning, and it is the foundation of processes described by Dan Kahan where the people who are the most polarized on some subjects are the people who have the most knowledge on those subjects.

    But the tendency towards confirmation bias is a human tendency. It is a fundamental building block of our cognition and our psychology. It is not a trait that is differentiated by views on climate change, or any other issue, IMO.

    What I, as an observer of the debate, am looking for is people who can lay out arguments w/o displaying an indifference to or an inability to even approach, controlling for that tendency. When I see, what I consider to be, pejoratives being used, I associate that with someone who does not take basic steps to go out of their way to at least try to show that they are controlling for biases.

    So again – I am only on person in this mess, but I would be helped a great deal more (to whatever extent you might care about that) by you laying out arguments w/o what I consider to be pejoratives. When I observe these debates, those who avoid that kind of interaction become those that I tend to trust as touchstones for helping me to evaluate the science. Observe Pekka Pirilä sometime over at Climate Etc. Consider whether some uncommitted observer of the debate would likely be more or less convinced by his arguments if he started calling people who disagree with him “deniers.”

    No one who aligns with you will have their views altered because you use the term denier. No one who disagrees with you will have their views altered (at least significantly and in a positive direction) because you use the term denier.

    And with the point that I’m making here, the term denier is in and of itself just a relatively unimportant example. The same logic applies when Dana says that RPJr. “misinformed” people, or WMC uses “deranged” when he talks about Tisdale, or when people opine that Curry is “ignorant” or “lying.” Again, no one who already agrees with the person arguing in such a way will have their opinions moved to be more congruent as a result, and neither will anyone who is already locked into a position of disagreement.

    From where I sit, such forms of argumentation are fallacious, pointless, unscientific, and juvenile. They are the forms of arguments I see characterizing the discourse when I go somewhere like WUWT. Seeing that kind of discourse becomes evidence for me to use as a kind of proxy for being able to evaluate the science on its own merits. When I go to “realist” sites, I have the same reaction, and I’m glad that I think if I didn’t I wouldn’t be doing my best to apply standards evenly.

  176. barry says:

    Hi Tom,

    Barry, we are not given the choice to ignore deniers because the media does not. No matter how much I ignore Salby, he is still getting his view point published in Fox News, the Australian, and any of a host of anti-scientific media with wide reach.

    We’ve been discussing two different contexts as if they are the same – net fora/blogs/comments sections, where people participate in a conversation and ‘meet’ the players, and the much more widely broadcast public sphere, newspapers & television, where the audience has little to no input. Dissenters are mainly rebutted in the less popular, particpatory media. That’s what I’ve been talking about, mostly.

    I’m arguing that we should be selective about which buzz-words we use for the purposes of reaching people who are not ideologically entrenched. I am less concerned about contrarians bridling at its usage (even though they can derail discussion by doing so). Someone may be unintelligent, and calling them such may be quite accurate, but that’s not going to read well to someone who doesn’t know the difference. Calling someone a denier – a term that is peculiar to a very short list of issues and hardly used outside them – may look clubby to the uninitiated. While pro-science commentators may rightly believe they are being accurate, casual readers could easily think “oh, it’s a net-war thing,” and disengage. They click on some links to SkS and other blogs and see that the term is brandished quite a bit, and that its function is to identify and dismiss people with opposing views – particularly likely if they arrive with some attachment to the point/point of view being rebutted. They even see the collective term ‘deniers’, and this completes the impression of two tribes at war. ATTP says,

    I think there are sides and – at the moment at least – real and constructive dialogue is not possible.

    Agreed. I think effective dialogue (or monologue depending on the forum) occurs when pro-science advocates engage with the argument and leave off characterizing their opponents. But where ATTP seems to be talking about engaging the entrenched dissenters, I am thinking of engaging everyone else, which is a much larger, more pliable group.

    Salby’s commentary should be rebutted. Personalizing the conversation by characterizing him is probably not helpful.

    There’s a lot of speculation in my comments. We have no data on how to manage perceptions for this. It’s possible that characterizing opposition the way we do is an effective way to persuade people. Obviously I don’t think so, and I wish I had more constructive ideas to offer. I think this is a useful conversation to have and have enjoyed reading it. The issue touched on here – how to communicate effectively – has much broader scope than a single term, and getting to grips with it is vital. Agreed that the narrower point of interest is well thrashed out for now.

    See you around.

    (Josh, thanks for the compliment upthread)

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