Science and Policy

This post is partly an attempt to answer a comment from Joshua, partly motivated by Mike Hulme’s recent article in The Conversation called Science can’t settle what should be done about climate change, and partly by a sense that the comments on my post about The BBC and its balance are growing to unmanageable proportions and it might be time to move on. Although, having said that, I’m not that keen to manage another lengthy comment stream, so this post may be a bad idea and maybe people could bear that in mind 🙂 .

I wrote a post yesterday about what this site is for. Essentially, it’s just me and my thoughts. It doesn’t have some kind of goal and I’m not trying to do anything other than express my views. However, what I should have mentioned was that what motivated this site was my recognising that much that was written about climate science on some sites was scientifically incorrect. That this was my motivation may not be obvious and it may not have worked as well as I would have hoped, but if I have a goal, it’s to present and discuss the science associated with climate science. I have views about policy and what we should do, but I’m not an expert and I’m certainly not intending here to convince people about any specific policy options. I’m also, I should be clear, not a climate scientist, but am a scientist.

So, as an attempt to answer Joshua question that I mentioned at the beginning of the post : I see no reason why one can’t have a discussion (even on blogs and in the social media) that focuses on science and is not influenced by the various policy options available to us. In my opinion, understanding/knowing the scientific evidence is a crucial first step towards making decisions about what we should or should not do. It seems to me, however, that it’s not really possible to have discussions about the policy options without some understanding of the scientific evidence. Without this, how can you possibly make sensible policy decisions?

That’s why, although I agree with Mike Hulme that science can’t tell us what to do about climate change, I don’t quite understand why he says this

The debate about climate change needs to become more political, and less scientific. Articulating radically different policy options in response to the risks posed by climate change is a good way of reinvigorating democratic politics.

If we still have people suggesting that climate sensitivity is probably low (below 2oC) when the evidence suggests that it’s not, how can policy makers possibly make any sensible decisions? Mike Hulme’s article mentions the recent evidence session to the Select Committee on Energy and Climate Change that included Nicholas Lewis and Richard Lindzen. In my opinion, the evidence presented by these two was not consistent with the best scientific evidence available.

So, as much as I agree that the decisions will be made by policy makers and not by scientists, and as much as I think society and our politicians should be having more discussions about policy options (not that I really want more of them here), I don’t see how it’s possible to do so effectively if the public and policy makers are not being presented with the best evidence available. Or, rather, that they’re regularly being presented with scientific evidence that is either selective or contradicts the best evidence available. For example, I agree with most of what Mike Hulme says here,

Because the questions about climate change that really matter will not be settled by scientific facts. They entail debates about values and about the forms of political organisation and representation that people believe are desirable. This requires a more vigorous politics that cannot be short-circuited by appeals to science,

but I don’t agree with the implication that people are appealing to science. They’re arguing (or at least I am) that we should stop giving credence to science that isn’t credible. This is not to say that mainstream science has a completely robust view of how our climate is likely to change and how much we’re likely to warm. But, as far as I can tell, there is much that is being presented to the public and to policy makers that is completely outside the range of what is likely. So, yes, we shouldn’t be appealing to science to tell us what to do, but we also shouldn’t be ignoring that much of what is being presented is not credible.

Since Mike Hulme mentions it, I’ll also defend the consensus project. Mike Hulme says

The now infamous paper by John Cook and colleagues published in May 2013 claimed that of the 4,000 peer-reviewed papers they surveyed expressing a position on anthropogenic global warming, “97.1% endorsed the consensus position that humans are causing global warming”. But merely enumerating the strength of consensus around the fact that humans cause climate change is largely irrelevant to the more important business of deciding what to do about it. By putting climate science in the dock, politicians are missing the point.

I think it’s unfortunate that Mike Hulme uses the term infamous. Just because various groups have made all sorts of claims about the paper doesn’t make it infamous, in my view at least. I’ll admit that this doesn’t give me confidence that Mike Hulme’s views are balanced. [Comment : Mike Hulme has since edited the article, and removed the description of Cook et al. (2013) as infamous. I’ll leave my post as is but I think that it is good that he has chosen to do so. Credit where credit is due.] Also he doesn’t seem to dispute the basic result of the consensus project. Whether the analysis in Cook et al. (2013) is robust or not, I don’t think many credible climate scientists would dispute that most (virtually all) papers published in the last 20 years accept that most of the warming in the last 60 years or so was anthropogenic (assuming the paper says something explicit about it, that is). I also don’t think that many would dispute that most climate scientists agree about the fundamentals of anthropogenic global warming.

But Mike Hulme seems to be implying that the goal of the paper was to show that science can tell us what to do. I’ve read the paper, I’ve read what some have said about it, and I’ve had discussions with some of the authors. Nowhere is this said or implied. The goal of the paper was to illustrate the level of agreement in the scientific literature so that – as a society – we could start doing precisely what I think Mike Hulme is suggesting. We could start focusing on discussions about policy rather than discussions about science. By undermining this paper, I would argue that Mike Hulme has made it harder to do what he is suggesting we should be doing.

Anyway, there’s probably more that could be said. I’ll also try to make my next post more about science than a fluffy editorial in which I express my views on something I may not really know much about. Anyone with other views or comments is welcome to make them as long as they follow the moderation and comments policy and remind themselves that I’d really like a bit of a break from moderating contentious comment threads.

I’ll finish, however, with an advert for Mike Hulme’s talk at Nottingham tomorrow. I was a little rude about it when Warren Pearce mentioned it on Twitter a few days ago and, for that, I apologise. I’m sure it will be very interesting.

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96 Responses to Science and Policy

  1. Mike Pollard says:

    Somewhat off the topic of climate change, but the recent New Yorker article on Tyrone Hayes’s struggles with Syngenta and their product atrazine and the EPA is an interesting lesson on science and policy, esp the differences in how regulation is achieved in the US versus Europe.

  2. No need to apologise but thanks anyway! I’m sure you won’t get so many comments on this post, not least as you are doing a lot of agreeing….which is always rather boring for blog commenters 😉

    There’s still.a lot to be said on this topic I think, but I won’t post a long comment here. I’ll just ask what you mean by ‘balanced views’? Hulme’s views on climate change do not out of the ordinary, he just couches them in terms that makes the presence or otherwise of a scientific consensus peripheral http://www.mikehulme.org/wp-content/uploads/the-five-lessons-of-climate-change.pdf

  3. Rachel says:

    That thread has a mind of its own. Be afraid, be very afraid.

  4. Thanks for this post. It is nice that you regularly write the posts I feel I should write. Saves a lot of time. 🙂

    I have not read the Mike Hulme piece myself yet, but the talking points from the article sound really, really strange. And somehow it is taken seriously. A high official of the Dutch “EPA” just twittered some approving quotes from it.

    Hulme could simply have written that it is a travesty that we are still discussing science, whereas the science is sufficiently clear to start thinking about political solution. However, somehow he makes a terrible mess out of it all, that almost reminds me of the climate ostriches, that mash and mix science and policy and then reject scientific evidence because they do not like the policies the science suggests would be beneficial. Except that Hulme seems to accept the science that is irrelevant to him.

    One tweet was:

    Another:

    “Science can’t settle what should be done about climate change “

    Sorry, but who the hell claimed that? Naturally the political solution will come out of society/politics. That article seems to fight straw man like wind mills.

    But science can inform the political debate and it will be hard to negotiate about CO2 emission reductions with people sticking their fingers in their ears and singing: CO2 is life, the more the better, la la la la la la la.

    It would be a good idea to have the political debate as well, and we have, what are the GOP conferences about, what is the German energy transition about. And it may be possible to ignore the climate ostriches, even in the USA they are a minority. That is all fine, but that article seems weird, maybe a product of the attention economy.

  5. Rachel says:

    I read an article about The Conversation recently – We need to talk about the Conversation – which was written by an academic who had been asked to write something for it. She duly complied, but they edited her words so much that she ended up saying no to the end result. Now I question everything I read there: is it really the words of this person? And I find myself questioning whether Mike Hulme has been edited and whether the article reads exactly as he intended it to. Perhaps, but perhaps not.

  6. chris says:

    Mike Hulme’s article totally misses the point to my mind, and for much the same reasons as you have suggested in your top post. Science can’t settle what should be done, but it provides the imperative for making policy (or not), and so the science and its implications, as far as these can be defined, should be faithfully transmitted to policymakers (an the public).

    To use an analogous example of policy based on science, one could consider the policy responses to evidence that HIV-AIDS is caused by the AIDS virus which can be transmitted especially via sexual practices. The science by itself doesn’t necessarily tell us what policy should be enacted. After all some policy has involved efforts to limit transmission through education on safe sexual practices, and the use of combination drug therapies to treat infected individuals, whereas other policy (South Africa under Mbeki) did none of this, based an assumption, promoted by science misrepresenters that AIDS was caused by HIV, with appalling consequences.

    The relevance of the Cook et al consensus paper is to emphasise the strong evidence base that underlies honest and well-informed scientific opinion. Hulme’s “most important questions” can’t be properly addressed except within the framework of this consideration of the science.

    Science “can’t settle what should be done about climate change”. However we can’t settle what should be done about climate change without an honest and informed appraisal of the science..

  7. chris says:

    O.K. that should have said:

    “…based an assumption, promoted by science misrepresenters that AIDS was NOT caused by HIV, with appalling consequences.”

  8. dana1981 says:

    I thought Hulme’s piece was kind of a jumbled mess. I totally agree with his ultimate points (most climate realists do), that the ‘debate’ should be about climate policy, not science. In fact I wrote a blog post saying exactly 4 months ago.
    http://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-consensus-97-per-cent/2013/oct/04/global-warming-debate-not-about-science

    So that part’s all fine (though rather obvious), but the path that he took to get there was bizarre. He started out talking about the hearing with Lindzen and Lewis testifying, and seemed to think that was a good thing because we need more radical policy suggestions, or something like that. Except the hearing in question wasn’t about policy, it was about IPCC AR5. It was supposed to be a science hearing, and as far as I know, the only policy discussion involved Lindzen totally distorting Nordhaus’ research in an effort to argue that inaction is cheaper than action, and then concluding that if he’s wrong “we’ll all be dead anyway” by the time it matters. I guess that’s radical in the sense that it’s radically irresponsible.

    So after implying that this hearing was somehow a great thing, he then launched into a strange discussion of our paper, which had nothing whatsoever to do with the hearing, or with his conclusion about needing to discuss climate policy. If anything our paper helps with that goal, because if people accept the expert consensus, they’re less likely to dispute the science and hence more likely to be willing to discuss policy solutions.

    As Barry Woods often gloats, Hulme has had a mysterious disdain for our paper ever since it was published. He seems to think its goal is to solve all the world’s problems, when in reality the goal is very simple and limited (to communicate the consensus, which in turn reduces science denial and furthers the policy discussion). So he creates this strawman argument, that our paper can’t settle the policy debate. Well of course not! It’s not a policy paper.

    I found the whole thing bizarre, like three distinct articles forcibly mashed into one.

  9. Steve Bloom says:

    Hulme has extensive form. How unrefreshing to see people happy to consider his views as if they were fresh. Stoat has some posts, plus there’s a good article on The Conservation about the Hartwell Paper. (No time for links right now, sorry.)

    Anders, oddly, quotes this with approval:

    Because the questions about climate change that really matter will not be settled by scientific facts.

    Well, right now many scientific facts are argued, and the fact that so many of them are partly or wholly about the future (noting also the complete or nearly so discounting thereof by deniers) is what makes it possible for the arguments to block progress. But while not settled in the present, it is guaranteed that they *will* be settled in the future. Extreme weather events are also scientific facts, and with enough inaction they will settle our hash but good. At that point, the questions that really matter will be about survival.

    My pet hypothesis about people like Hulme isn’t that they’re liars, but that notwithstanding their scientific training they’re unable to shake a physical intuition, formed in childhood or perhaps even with a genetic basis, that nothing really terrible can happen.

  10. Andy Skuce says:

    I have been puzzled by some of the reactions to our paper by people like Mike Hulme. It is almost like they are reacting to another article altogether, All we concluded was that there is an overwhelming consensus in the scientific literature about the human causes of climate change. This matters because the public perception, even among those people who accept the consensus, is that the level of dissent among scientists is much higher than it is..

    I can understand that some people might consider our results to be nothing particularly new and therefore irrelevant. I can understand also that some people might question our sampling methods and rating methodologies and suggest ways to get a more reliable result; fair enough, I look forward to reading any new research on the subject. It is also clear that some people flat-out deny that there is any consensus among experts on the science basics. Oddly, dissenters often do seem to agree with us that the measurement of scientific consensus is important and relevant.

    Hulme argues that to make progress on climate policy we need to understand and embrace different perspectives, values and cultural frameworks. There’s no argument from me on this, but I struggle to see any startling new insight there; any policy maker in a municipality, nation state. or federation knows very well that effective policy needs compromise and buy-in from people with diverse perspectives. And this applies whether the policy involves siting bus-stops or negotiating trade agreements. Only fools and strawmen argue that policy is determined by science alone.

    It is a mystery to me why our study seems to have rubbed people like Hulme (and, initially, Dan Kahan) up the wrong way. In his book, Why We Disagree About Climate Change Hulme argues that all points of view, even from the uncredentialed, merit respectful consideration, yet this does not seem to extend to Hulme’s own field of climate policy studies, where work that he perceives as challenging his own research (and, to repeat, Cook et al does not) merits the writing of a rather hostile opinion piece..

    I too would like to see the discussion focus on politics rather than science. But so long as a substantial number of people oppose any policy action on climate change on the grounds, for example, that they believe that global warming has now stopped (if this were true, I would join them) then science remains part of the debate, whatever Hulme, ATTP or I might prefer.

  11. Steve Bloom says:

    Rachel, re Alice Bell, the end result, written by her but with one paragraph of the science journalist’s work included (entirely at Alice’s option, although she later regretted it), did run unedited. Her complaint is that they first solicited a quote and used it as the core of a longer piece written by the science journalist, but Alice was empowered to (and did) spike it and instead wrote her own. So your “is it really the words of this person?” doesn’t seem to have any special applicability any more than it would (actually less so) to the author of a science paper required to make changes if it is to see the light of day. I too wonder about The Conversation’s business model, but editing happens. Alice being a professional column writer, her own work wouldn’t have needed it. That the work of others often does shouldn’t be shocking.

  12. Reich.Eschhaus says:

    “I’m not that keen to manage another lengthy comment stream, so this post may be a bad idea and maybe people could bear that in mind”

    I am sorry! That won’t work.The key point is about having the broad political spectrum discuss the policy options with regards to climate science. That’s all. Figure out a way to reach that. Beware of trolls.

  13. Rachel says:

    Steve,

    Rachel, re Alice Bell, the end result, written by her but with one paragraph of the science journalist’s work included (entirely at Alice’s option, although she later regretted it), did run unedited.

    Yes, sorry you’re right. I read that a while ago and did not re-read it again until now. Her article did run, with just one additional paragraph written by the journalist. I was just giving Hulme an excuse along the lines of, “But it wasn’t me…they changed my words…” Unlikely, I guess.

  14. I also disagree with Hulme’s stance on climate change being more political. Climate change is far too political as it is. Good policy is informed by good science, however, politics have stopped policy and the science is can be incongruent. I’m not familiar with the Cook paper, but I have read Otto et al–so if climate sensitivity is not below two degrees, what is the sensitivity and where is the warming?

  15. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    Do you think that it is possible for scientists to engage in the study of an issue – that so clearly overlaps with policy implications as does climate change – with a clear line drawn between their scientific analysis and their views on the policy?

    I often read at “skeptical” blogs, criticism of climate scientists (and climate science) as being flawed by “post-normal” or “normative” influences – as opposed to how they view other scientists (and scientific studies). And my take on those arguments presented by “skeptics” is that they are fallacious, as no scientific study can be cleanly divorced from the “post-normal” or “normative” influences, because scientists are human and must necessarily be influenced by their subjective views and experiences – but particularly with any study that overlaps with cultural, political, and cultural associations and group identifications as does climate change.

    I was reading Keith Kloor’s blog the other day, and read this in his discussion of Hulme’s post:

    I agree with Hulme when he says that debates about climate change “will not be settled by scientific facts,” but rather will turn on “debates about values and about the forms of political organisation and representation that people believe are desirable.”

    Now my reaction to Keith’s statement was that what was described is a false choice. Scientific facts and debates about values do not stand apart from each other as mutually exclusive options. As it turns out, in reading Hulme’s actual statement as opposed to Kloor’s piecing together the clauses, Hulme does not really set it up as such a dichotomy.

    But it seems that while you’re not setting the two up in opposition to each other, not at all, it does seem to me that you are asking for them to be held in more isolation than what can be achieved practically particularly with an area of science that is already so violently polarized.

    Thoughts?

  16. John Mashey says:

    I hope anyone involved in this sort of discussion has read Steve Schneider’s Scince as a Contact Sport. Steve actually knew about science and policy from long experience inside the intersection.

  17. Joshua says:

    Andy –

    I am not interested in getting involved in a detailed discussion about your paper – because I have read many such discussions and find them to mostly irrelevant, but I do want to say a couple of things in response to this statement:

    I have been puzzled by some of the reactions to our paper by people like Mike Hulme. It is almost like they are reacting to another article altogether, All we concluded was that there is an overwhelming consensus in the scientific literature about the human causes of climate change. This matters because the public perception, even among those people who accept the consensus, is that the level of dissent among scientists is much higher than it is..

    Just a FWIW.

    My basic reaction to reading about the paper itself (I haven’t read the paper) was that it says nothing new, for the most part. I find it amusing that “skeptics” who claim that the prevalence of opinion among “experts” about climate change is irrelevant to the scientific debate – then turn around and spend so much time arguing about whether your assessment of the prevalence is accurate (usually by some relatively small degree). If the prevalence is irrelevant, than why do they spend so much time arguing about the exact prevalence?

    I disagree with those who say that stating the prevalence will be counterproductive because it will alienate “skeptics” – I don’t see evidence for that and I think that those inclined to be “skeptical” will filter any information to reinforce their “skepticism.” But I do also disagree with the notion, that I have seen promoted by “realists,” that stating the degree of consensus will change public opinions to be more in line with the “consensus.” I don’t see evidence for that either.

    Yes, I know that a fairly large segment of the public is misinformed about the prevalence of opinion among scientific experts (they underestimate the degree of consensus), but promoting your paper will not, IMO, change that situation substantially. The root of the mistaken understanding among the public are deep and complex, and not susceptible to new information if it is supplied from sources that will be categorized and marginalized in the same ways that information about prevalence of opinion among experts has been categorized and marginalized in the past.

    So, anyway, I wonder if the reaction from someone like Hulme isn’t so much about your paper itself, but about the arguments about the impact of the paper on public opinion.

  18. dana1981 says:

    “But I do also disagree with the notion, that I have seen promoted by “realists,” that stating the degree of consensus will change public opinions to be more in line with the “consensus.” I don’t see evidence for that either.”

    There’s plenty of evidence to support that, as cited in our paper (research by Ding, Lewandowsky, etc.).
    http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/8/2/024024

  19. badgersouth says:

    Meanwhile in the real world…

    “Geneva, 5 February 2014 –The year 2013 was among the top ten warmest years since modern records began in 1850, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). It tied with 2007 as the sixth warmest year, with a global land and ocean surface temperature that was 0.50°C (0.90°F) above the 1961–1990 average and 0.03°C (0.05°F) higher than the most recent 2001–2010 decadal average.

    “Thirteen of the 14 warmest years on record have all occurred in the 21st century. The warmest years on record are 2010 and 2005, with global temperatures about 0.55 °C above the long term average, followed by 1998, which also had an exceptionally strong El Niño event.”

    http://www.wmo.int/pages/mediacentre/press_releases/pr_983_en.html

  20. Rob Painting says:

    Rachel – “Now I question everything I read there: is it really the words of this person? And I find myself questioning whether Mike Hulme has been edited and whether the article reads exactly as he intended it to.

    A source states that the word “infamous” used to describe our (Cook [2013]) paper was actually inserted by staff at The Conversation, but later approved my Mike Hulme.

    For some background on him and his associates I suggest you read this Conversation piece by Clive Hamilton on the Hartwell paper (and the paper itself): Climate change and the soothing message of luke-warmism.

    If current climate change and ocean acidification can be likened to early-stage cancer, Mike Hulme and his cohorts propose treating it with band aids. It might placate some people, but is totally useless as a means of addressing the problem.

  21. Warren,

    I’ll just ask what you mean by ‘balanced views’?

    I was really just referring to his choice of the term “infamous”. I find that a rather strange way to describe the work and seems to imply some kind of bias. I’ve found some people’s response to the consensus project a little odd. As I mention in the post, I’d be surprised if many would disagree with the basic result. I can see arguments for why it shouldn’t be necessary. Most fields wouldn’t bother with a consensus project, but climate science seems to be one where some are actively making claims about the level of agreement and are suggesting that it is much lower than it probably is. So, the consensus project, I think was to just address this issue, and I’m surprised – given the views Mike Hulme expresses here – that he didn’t embrace it.

  22. Steve Bloom,
    I don’t think I was quoting that with approval. I was agreeing with the sentiment that what we do will have to be decided by policy makers. I agree, however, with the issues you highlight which – unless I misunderstand you – is roughly what I was trying to get at in the post.

  23. Reich

    That won’t work.

    Yes, I know. That was written with a tinge of irony 🙂

  24. Rachel says:

    Rob,

    For some background on him and his associates I suggest you read this Conversation piece by Clive Hamilton on the Hartwell paper (and the paper itself)…

    Thanks. I had not seen that before or heard of the Hartwell paper. I think it’s telling that they [authors of the Hartwell paper] passed judgement on the climategate emails before any of the official inquiries had been conducted. And the whole idea that the climate change message can be soothed into something more palatable is detestable to me.

  25. Joshua,

    Do you think that it is possible for scientists to engage in the study of an issue – that so clearly overlaps with policy implications as does climate change – with a clear line drawn between their scientific analysis and their views on the policy?

    My simple answer is yes. Of course, I don’t have any evidence really. I can’t see why, for example, discussions about climate sensitivity would immediately lead to thoughts of policy. Maybe as one starts to investigate more definitive impacts of climate change (more regional changes say) it will get harder to divorce yourself from the implications of your research and what it implies with respect to policy, but even then I’m not convinced. It’s an interesting question, and maybe there are subtleties that I’m missing.

  26. Nature’s Pulchritude,

    I’m not familiar with the Cook paper, but I have read Otto et al–so if climate sensitivity is not below two degrees, what is the sensitivity and where is the warming?

    Yes, so if you do an Otto et al. type of calculation, you get an ECS of around 1.3 – 3.9oC (from memory) with a most likely of around 2oC. If you then use the new results from Cowtan & Way, this goes up by a few tenths of a degree C. There are some papers suggesting that the heat uptake rate is higher than they used, which again increases the values. There are likely non-linearities that they’re not capturing (because they don’t actually consider the period over which CO2 doubles). So, yes there are calculations that suggest ECS could be below 2oC but most of what those calculations are missing (or might be missing) would increase this.

    Also, there are many other ways to estimate ECS. Detailed models, paleo-climatology. Overall, the range is (from the IPCC) 1.5 – 4oC (again from memory). So, my point isn’t that it can’t be below 2 (it could I guess) but that assuming that it probably is is wrong. So any sensible policy discussion should, in my opinion, consider the best evidence, not simply the most convenient.

    Where is the warming? If you mean surface warming, then it has slowed in the recent decades, but not stopped (0.1oC per decade rather than slightly more than 0.15oC per decade). Also, the oceans are absorbing a bigger fraction of the excess energy than they were in earlier decades. The energy is still accruing, it’s just not heating the surface as fast as maybe was expected. The surface temperature is quite variable. Periods of rapid warming (as happened in the 80s and early 90s) don’t mean that the ECS has increased and, similarly, periods of slower warming doesn’t suddenly mean that it has reduced.

  27. Andy Skuce says:

    Joshua,

    I agree that the reactions to the paper from people like Hulme are probably not so much to the content itself but to the publicity it garnered and the reactions it provoked among politicians and in the media. We obviously hit a nerve.

    We had a publicity plan leveraged though a social media campaign that some fogies might have considered unseemly for a scholarly work. As an author team, we were a collection of academic and industry physical scientists and students with no academic track record in social science, so it is possible that some established names in the field saw us as naive upstarts that needed to be taken down a peg or two. But that’s speculation. I should add that I have since had some very friendly and constructive exchanges with Dan Kahan and I am something of a fan of his work.

    What was surprising was the reaction from climate contrarians, who threw their playbook at us: accusations of bias, bad statistics, FOI demands, personal attacks, harassing us through our employers, claiming that the true consensus is really 1% or even 98%; all the while protesting that consensus studies are irrelevant. They have probably provided Stephan Lewandowsky with enough material for a conference.

    In fields where I have no expertise and when I have little time to read the basic research for myself, I rely on the reported consensus view of experts on subjects like GMO safety. Maybe that’s laziness, maybe it’s an expedient heuristic. Oddly enough, some critics of our paper, like Keith Kloor, beat the consensus drum hard when trying to persuade people that their anxieties about GMOs are without scientific foundation. They don’t bother to appeal to cultural sensibilities to overcome what they see as green or liberal irrationality, but see it as necessary to tread lightly when dealing with climate contrarians.

  28. Steve Bloom says:

    Well, it would be very convenient if neither GMOs nor climate change were problems. So those who think they are indeed problems get flak from Kloor, and those who don’t, don’t. IMO this stance results from a world view based on poor physical intuition.

  29. Steve Bloom says:

    Apologies for the misinterpretation, Anders. Hulme sets my teeth on edge.

  30. Marco says:

    I both agree and disagree with Mike Hulme that there are plenty of (additional) issues to discuss that are essentially independent of what the science.

    As I argued elsewhere (HotWhopper), even if we know exactly what to expect, there will still be different views on whether and what can/should be done. Let’s be honest: you are more shocked to hear about a traffic accident with fatalities if that accident happened near to you (or loved ones). An earthquake with ten people dead registers little in your mind, unless it happens in your favourite holiday destination or some other place you have some affinity with for whatever reason.

    The best example of that (for me) was the 2004 tsunami. In the Netherlands much focus was on the devastation in Indonesia, with little attention to Thailand. In Denmark more attention went to Thailand, despite the much higher death toll in Indonesia. The explanation for that disparity is simple: Indonesia used to be a Dutch colony, while Thailand is a very popular winter holiday area for Danish tourists.

    In other words, our personal values will have a major influence on how we perceive the impact of climate change and judge how much should be done to counteract it. Thus even if we agree that we get to +3 degrees in 2100, with major flooding risks in certain areas, droughts in others, more rainfall in yet further regions, etc. etc. etc., we still will be discussing whether we should do something, and if so, what. Questions like “why should I pay for dykes built in Bangladesh?” or even “how much should I pay?” are not easy to answer, and it is unlikely that people of different ideological background get to a common response.

    It is also my personal assessment that there are quite some pseudoskeptics who embrace the low sensitivity meme, simply because it allows them to ignore the value judgement that they have already made: +3 degrees is bad, really bad, and then we have to do a lot to prevent that. That “a lot” would require those people to give up so much (in their mind) that it is highly undesirable. Add possibly the moral burden of feeling responsible for the suffering of others, and how better to ignore this burden than to contradict the science?

    In other words, even if we agree on our values, we’d have to go back to acceptance of the science to actually take action. Why would people who decide the science is wrong have any discussion on policy required to prevent climate change?

  31. Steve Bloom,
    That’s alright, always happy to clarify 🙂

    JohnM,
    I haven’t read Stephen Schneider’s book and you’re right that I probably should. However, at the moment I have a list of recommended reading and virtually no time to make any decent inroads 🙂

  32. Steve Bloom says:

    Re Hulme, his submission to the Russell inquiry is not well known. Here it is in toto:

    I would like to draw the attention of the Review Team to the following article, which I hereby attach:

    Ungar, S. and Bray, D. (2005) Silencing science: partisanship and the career of a publication disputing the dangers of secondhand smoke Public Understanding of Science 14, 5-23 [24 Feb 10]

    It is the report of a careful investigation into the dynamics between scientific evidence, the ethics of science, peer-review publishing and policy advocacy for the case of a paper published in 2003 which challenged the orthodoxy that passive smoking is injurious to health. Although not directly related to the present issues under investigation, the wider context it illuminates is highly relevant to your terms of reference and I believe the Review Team would be well-informed were they to read it.

    Yours sincerely,
    Professor Mike Hulme

    The abstract of the paper reads:

    This paper examines the silencing of science, that is, efforts to prevent the making of specific scientific claims in any or all of the arenas in which these claims are typically reported or circulated. Those trying to mute the reporting or circulation of scientific claims are termed “partisans.” The paper examines silencing through a systematic examination of the “rapid responses” to a smoking study published in the British Medical Journal claiming that secondhand smoke is not as dangerous as conventionally believed. Media coverage of the smoking study is also examined, as is the question of whether there is self-silencing by the media regarding doubts about the negative effects of passive smoke. The results suggest that the public consensus about the negative effects of passive smoke is so strong that it has become part of a regime of truth that cannot be intelligibly questioned.

    The paper’s penultimate paragraph is further illuminating:

    The growth of big science, with the increasing funding of research by interested organizations, exacerbates conflicting interests and the scope of scientific controversies. If partisans don’t like the findings—or, more to the point, regard them as unthinkable and intolerable—they can try to pry open the biases of the funding agencies or the researchers. Big science is also increasingly tied to social policy and risk decisions, rendering its findings of great concern to a wide range of interested parties. Effectively, different groups are seeking to claim ownership over particular Truths, and science is now a central factor in sustaining their versions of reality. Underwritten by strong moral concerns, these white knights tilt at windmills of “error.” Silencing skirmishes—partisans trying to mute certain results and others trying to pry them open—are likely to increase in frequency and intensity.

    In my opinion that’s waxing rather too polemical for a, as Hulme put it, “careful investigation.”

    To cut to the chase, this was Hulme, in his own humble way, doing his best to throw Phil Jones under the bus. I don’t know that the Russell committee paid any attention to it, probably not being unaware of certain tensions between Hulme and his former UEA colleagues, but it certainly was a rather nasty trick to play. The malevolent intent is entirely clear.

    For those who don’t know Bray, he’s a Storch minion who has a bit of form as well.

  33. Steve Bloom says:

    Oops, probably too much inside baseball. I should have noted that the Russell committee conducted the key inquiry into “Climategate.”

  34. Marco says:

    Steve, Dennis Bray has walked in here a few times, with some unpleasant discussions as a result.

  35. Steve Bloom says:

    Yes, and not just here IIRC.

  36. andrew adams says:

    Marco asks a good question

    In other words, even if we agree on our values, we’d have to go back to acceptance of the science to actually take action. Why would people who decide the science is wrong have any discussion on policy required to prevent climate change?

    I guess one answer is that maybe they won’t take part in the discussion. Is that a big loss? I mean there are enough of us who do accept the need for action for there to be a meaningful debate without them and there are certain people who are bound to derail any debate they are involved in anyway. But if they want to step up to the table that’s fine, they are welcome to join in, they have to accept though that in doing so they must sign up to the terms of the debate. Of course there are some who say that their main concern in any case is that climate policies will be economically damaging. This raises the question of why they are not currently arguing against the policies themselves rather than arguing against the science, but they should welcome the opportunity for the debate to move on to their real concerns.

  37. Marco says:

    Andrew, those people will come to the table because they don’t want money spent on something they have decided does not need any money spent on because it is not a problem. You could argue that Mike Hulme says we should ignore those people, but then his “forget the science” argument actually is an “accept the science” argument.

    I also think that many don’t want to (solely) argue the potential damaging economical impact of climate policy for one main reason: they’d concede that something needs to be done. If they would accept that something terrible is going to happen, but any action is just too economically damaging, it would be a rather fatalistic approach, too. The economic damage argument will always go together with “but it won’t be that bad” (or usually it is “it won’t be bad” the first, followed by “and taking action is too expensive anyway”). It simply is not an argument that can stand alone for most human beings.

  38. Marco,

    Dennis Bray has walked in here a few times, with some unpleasant discussions as a result.

    There was certainly one case that didn’t progress well, but I think Dennis Bray has interacted here constructively on at least one other occasion.

  39. > Hulme, in his own humble way, doing his best to throw Phil Jones under the bus.

    Or perhaps he was looking for a “champion”, as we can read in two CG stories. Beware that Hulme was into the creation of the Tyndall Center at the moment, and that everything that can be said of “big science” applies to his own testimony.

    That there are things better be left unsaid extends beyond “big science”.

  40. pbjamm says:

    Science can indeed not tell you what political action needs to be taken, but how can anyone know what to do if they have no idea what is happening? When political leaders are routinely misinformed about what the science tells is happening it is impossible for them to form rational policy based on the reality of the situation.

  41. dana1981 says:

    So Hulme has updated The Conversation piece and it’s a bit better now (for one thing he removed ‘infamous’). Not quite as jumbled anymore. Lewandowsky and Cook also have a Conversation piece of their own today in response to Hulme’s.
    https://theconversation.com/establishing-consensus-is-vital-for-climate-action-22861

  42. Steve Bloom says:

    Willard, CG?

    Also: “Beware that Hulme was into the creation of the Tyndall Center at the moment, and that everything that can be said of “big science” applies to his own testimony.”

    While he was formerly with the TC, Hulme had reitired from it and climate research several years before the time of the submission.

  43. Joshua says:

    Andy –

    Thanks for that response.

    I have no way to judge how much of any of the responses to your paper might be because of disapproval to the style of your publicity campaign. I don’t doubt that such an explanation for disapproval is a reasonable conjecture at least to some degree.

    I still think, however, that you might be underestimating the degree to which at least some of the reaction (not from “skeptics,” of course, but from somewhere further to the “realist” side of the spectrum) is because people feel that the rationale offered for your campaign, irrespective of the style of the campaign itself, is not sound. In other words, that heavily promoting the “% of consensus argument” would likely prove counterproductive by turning people off – because it looks like a fallacious appeal to authority or because it would stimulate identity-protective responses from at least some % of the “undecided.”

    Personally, I don’t buy that argument. Here’s what I said at Kahan’s in July:

    The cause [of contemptuous and recriminatory responses by those who are being beaten about the head and neck with the consensus argument] is not what the “realists” do or don’t do, but the motivated reasoning of “skeptics” – who will seek to confirm their biases, effectively, no matter what “realists” do or don’t do.

    But I do think that is an explanation for at least some of the reaction that you have gotten from non-“skeptics,” on top of other possible explanations.

    Further, as I said above, I also don’t buy the counterargument that promoting the degree of consensus will significantly move the needle on public opinion (based on the reasoning of the “deficit model”).

    Dana referenced above some evidence that runs counter to my understanding, but I was unable to follow the citations. If you have something that you think would help, I’d appreciate some kind of direct link or excerpt.

    You mentioned Kahan, and I recall seeing that he lowered the degree of affect (I can’t quite figure the right word there) in his response to your paper over time, but it seems that you might be suggesting that he also moved w/r/t his more analytical reaction to the impact of your paper on public opinion. Is that the case? Could you provide some info on that, also?

    In fields where I have no expertise and when I have little time to read the basic research for myself, I rely on the reported consensus view of experts on subjects like GMO safety. Maybe that’s laziness, maybe it’s an expedient heuristic.

    I don’t think that it is laziness. I think that it is common sense to use the prevalence of expert opinion as evidence that is useful for judging probabilities, but not something that should be considered as dispositive. I have to weigh in that kind of information about consensus on climate change because my ability to evaluate the science, directly, is quite limited. However, I do consider myself to be a pretty skeptical person – and so if it seems to me that someone is overplaying the importance of consensus – to imply that it should be considered dispositive it lowers my confidence in their scientific arguments.

    Oddly enough, some critics of our paper, like Keith Kloor, beat the consensus drum hard when trying to persuade people that their anxieties about GMOs are without scientific foundation. They don’t bother to appeal to cultural sensibilities to overcome what they see as green or liberal irrationality, but see it as necessary to tread lightly when dealing with climate contrarians.

    This is an interesting point, since he’s so often reversing the logic to argue that lefties and environmentalists are hypocritical in their reliance on consensus w/r/t climate change if they then don’t just accept the consensus w/r/t GMOs. He has threatened me with “moderation” a number of times because I have given him a hard time for what I think is his facile association between lefties and environmentalists and what he calls anti-GMO “loons.” Kahan’s work shows no particular social/cultural/political associations with anti-GMO sentiment.

  44. andrew adams says:

    Marco,

    Yes, Hulme’s argument is essentially “accept the science” – he is saying that we already have enough information to justify taking action. I don’t think it’s quite as simple as that – some of the key policy decisions involve deciding how quickly we are going to act and what our immediate priorities should be, and these decisions will (or should) to a large extent depend on our scientific judgement about the kind of changes we are likely to see over the rest of this century and the speed with which they will manifest themselves. But still, based on his logic there should still be no place at the table for those who say there is no problem.

    I do take your point that some people will always refuse to face the fact that urgent action is required and will find some kind of justification for avoiding it. I don’t doubt that some will still try to derail discussions, either by still trying to insist we should do nothing or by ostensibly accepting the need for action but rejecting any actual proposals. But we don’t have to allow them to do so – we can dictate the terms of the discussion.

  45. Dana, interesting, thanks. So, he’s removed the “infamous” claim. I shall have to edit my post.

  46. Joshua says:

    CG = Climategate.

  47. Joshua, let’s try the quasi-twitter version (12 Characters too much.):

    The consensus paper is not there convince anyone that climate science is right, it only aims to show that the claim that there is no consensus is wrong.

  48. Andy Skuce says:

    The piece has now been rewritten

    This article has been updated to better reflect the views of the author.

    I suppose that’s a nopology on behalf of Hulme and The Converstaion editor.

    Lewandowsky and Cook have written an excellent and rather generous rebuttal.
    https://theconversation.com/establishing-consensus-is-vital-for-climate-action-22861

  49. Steve Bloom, Rachel,

    I just came by a tweet of Alice Bell.

    And then read her post. Bell wrote that the journalist wrote most of the piece, while the name of Alice Bell as an academic would be on it, not the name of the journalist. Thus: “is it really the words of this person?” seems to fit quite well.

    (In the end Alice Bell wrote most of the piece herself because she thought it would be dishonest, but The Conversation apparently had no problems with it.)

    https://alicerosebell.wordpress.com/2013/12/30/we-need-to-talk-about-the-conversation/

  50. dana1981 says:

    Joshua – I provided a link to our paper (open access – the iop URL) which has several relevant citations regarding consensus improving public accepetance of science and government policy (as I mentioned, Ding and Lewandowsky are two that come to mind). I can’t do better right now, but they should be easy to track down via the references in our paper and Google Scholar.

  51. > Hulme had reitired from it and climate research several years before the time of the submission.

    Analyzing his submission on the light of CG I (the Miracle Worker), II (the Return of the Auditor) and soon III (Bitcoins Strike Back) may deserve due diligence.

  52. Joshua says:

    Dana –

    I did follow some links and then Googled a string I found to find this:

    http://www.shapingtomorrowsworld.org/lewandowskyNatureCC.html

    Which spoke about some correlation stuff that I don’t question, but it also had the following:

    […]

    The second intriguing finding is that when people were explicitly informed about the scientific consensus on climate change, they became significantly more likely to endorse the basic premise of global warming, and they attributed a larger share of the observed warming trend to human CO2 emissions, than people in a control condition who received no such information. This result suggests that consensus information causally contributes to people’s acceptance of scientific propositions.

    The final intriguing finding was that the effect of the consensus information was particularly effective for people whose “free-market” worldview predisposed them to reject climate science. It has long been known that personal ideology or “worldview” is a major driver of people’s attitudes towards climate change: the more strongly people endorse a “fundamentalist” view of the free market, the more likely they are to reject climate science. The role of worldview presents a formidable challenge to science communicators because ideology may override any factual information. Worse yet, the provision of factual information may lead to “backfire” effects that reduce—rather than enhance—acceptance of science among people with extreme worldviews.

    The fact that in our study, the provision of consensus information attenuated the role of worldview and increased acceptance particularly among people who maximally endorsed the free market may therefore present an avenue to overcome the communication challenge faced by climate scientists.

    So that looks particularly interesting to me – with the “one study” caveat and a caveat that experimental conditions ≠ real world conditions (which would seem to me to be a big limitation)….

    It would be nice to be able to look at the methodology.

    I have asked Kahan to comment – as the findings seem to run contrary to his.

    I’ll do my best to follow your other suggestions, but not sure that I’ll have much luck.

  53. John Mashey says:

    re: what are blogs for, science and policy, and Steve Schneider’s book
    I know the feeling of having a big book pile, but people might want to reflect:
    There are many uses of blogs, ranging from really good investigative journalism that stirs others to bring facts to light (Deep Climate’s Wegman Report sleuthing comes to mind, or Retraction Watch, or others), to good exposition by experts (RealClimate) … To What I Did Today. But blogs can be a serious timesink, and sometimes one has to think about the trade off between:
    A) finding the most expert people and reading them or even better talking to them.
    (As it happens, I was lucky to know Steve Schneider for ~10 years, he’s fine, but hhe book remains).
    Or
    B) writing a blog post, perhaps starting from a confusing circumstance, to clarify thoughts and perhaps elicit data.

    Each has pluses and minuses, but it is all too easy in the blogosphere to get immersed in confusion. Of course, there is also C) Doing original investigations in the topic, which can be really time consuming and competes with the others, which is why almost no one does it.

  54. Rachel says:

    Thanks, Victor. I’m pleased to see Hulme removed “infamous”. It’s probably not such a bad thing to have an editor glance over an article prior to publication, but care needs to be taken as words can be powerful and journalists also have different goals to academics. They, quite often (perhaps not always), want the story that begs to be read whereas academics just want to communicate the facts and sometimes facts can be boring on their own.

  55. dana1981 says:

    “I have asked Kahan to comment – as the findings seem to run contrary to his.”

    Not exactly. Kahan has never properly tested consensus messaging. He is skeptical of these results because he feels if consensus messaging worked, it would have worked by now. But that neglects the fact that there’s been a flood of anti-consensus messaging for as long as there’s been pro-consensus messaging.

    When confronted with these results (Ding, Lewandowsky, etc.) in person, Kahan basically says you need to take multiple communications approaches, including communicating the consensus and addressing cultural biases. There was a really good interview with both Kahan and Lewandowsky on the podcast Inquiring Minds (which I highly recommend) where they agreed on almost everything. When he’s being interviewed in isolation or blogging, Kahan tends to be more dismissive of consensus messaging than when there are other social scientists in the room.

  56. Andy Skuce says:

    The subtitle for The Conversation is “Academic rigour, journalistic flair”. In light of the anonymous and poorly explained rewrite and the muddled bylines that Alice Bell pointed out, perhaps this should also be rewritten for the purposes of accuracy to be “Academic flair, journalistic rigour”.

  57. jsam says:

    Andy had noted that there was a response in The Conversation. It too has been polluted by the usual confusionists.

    https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2014/02/06/science-and-policy-2/#comment-14274

  58. John Mashey says:

    I don’t have the material handy on my iPhone, but a quick look at the Ungar/Bray paper shows me that it is about the reaction to the Enstrom & Kabat paper.

    An excellent parallel might be the reaction to the Soon and Baliunas paper in Climate Research, although in that case, a rogue editor was involved, whereas in the BMJ case, I’d summarize by saying that it was a retrospective analysis of a study that wasn’t really designed for it, and very reminiscent of the sorts of statistical analyses that make global warming disappear. Just as Soon and Baliunas “had form” in climate, Enstrom did in tobacco.
    Google: James Enstrom Steve Milloy TASSC
    Or this search in LTDL.

    Apropos this blog, Enstrom’s PhD was in physics, and he signed the 2009 petition to the American Physical Society to nullify their position on climate change. See:
    http://www.desmogblog.com/another-silly-climate-petition-exposed
    That’s where I first ran across him.

    I need to look closer at the Ungar/Bray paper, but my first guess is that Hulme made a very bad bet in as ascribing much credibility to something based on the Enstrom/Kabat study… not too much different from finding that recent CO2 rise is not human caused, but just by a natural temperature rise.
    Medical researchers and tobacco control folks have a much longer history of seeing tobacco anti/science tactics, whereas it’s much newer for climate scientists.

  59. Rachel says:

    jsam,

    Andy had noted that there was a response in The Conversation. It too has been polluted by the usual confusionists.

    I enjoyed reading your comments there, John. Here’s the link again, for anyone else who may want to comment.

  60. Just noticed that Mike Hulme has posted the following – with regards to the use of infmaous in his Conversation article – on his website.

    I do not think that is a good description of that particular study – controversial perhaps, but not infamous. I apologise for this oversight on my part.

    I’m quite impressed. Not often that I’ve seen people involved in the CC/GW debate apologise, so kudos.

  61. Andy Skuce says:

    Yes, his apology is commendable.

  62. Joshua says:

    Dana –

    He is skeptical of these results because he feels if consensus messaging worked, it would have worked by now. But that neglects the fact that there’s been a flood of anti-consensus messaging for as long as there’s been pro-consensus messaging.

    So then, given that “anti-consensus” messaging will continue, what reason do you have to believe that there will be a net increase in “realist” opinions going forward? Seems that with that logic, the best that you could hope for is to proportionately counteract the “anti-consensus” messaging — with a possible net gain only if you expect that the “consensus messaging” will be significantly more prominent.

    Personally, I think that people formulate their views on the “consensus” the same way that they do on other aspects of polarized issues like climate change. How many folks out there aren’t already pretty much fixed in their views and likely to get more info from partisan sources on one side and dismiss the information that conflicts with their views? Of those, how many minds will be changed because they hear that they’ve underestimated the consensus, when that information is coming from mostly partisan sources? In other words, I suspect, how many angels can dance on the point of a needle?

  63. Andy Skuce says:

    I think that a limitation of a lot of research on opinion formation is that the experiments and surveys sample short term responses, perhaps coming predominantly from Daniel Kahneman’s fast thinking system 1, rather than the slow thinking system 2.

    People’s opinions do change over time, just look at women’s rights, gay marriage or the emerging consensus in the US about decriminalizing marihuana. These are changes that occur on decadal scales, not in sudden road-to-Damascus moments.

    I have an intuition (but no data) that stubborn facts, like the expert view on climate change, will have a long term influence, even if lab experiments show that there can be backfire. In other words, we perhaps need to realize that we are limited in what we can predict about changes in the climate of public opinion just from studying the fickle weather of public opinion.

  64. Joshua says:

    Andy –

    Re: your 9:49. I tend to agree with you. Although with those other issues, it isn’t really so much about science communication filtering through long-term, but values changing over time.

    One of my pet peeves about the climate change debate is that many people try to make longitudinal conclusions about public opinion based on cross-sectional data, or long-term conclusions based on short-term data.

    The other thing is that if we’re considering the decadal scale, actual experience with climate change itself is what will most likely be the strongest influence on public opinion — more so than science communication. I would guess that long-term all this discussion about the best form of communication will be pretty much moot. And the longer out the time frame the more that will likely be true. Obviously, that doesn’t address the long-term implications of a lack of effective policies in the interim.

  65. dana1981 says:

    “So then, given that “anti-consensus” messaging will continue, what reason do you have to believe that there will be a net increase in “realist” opinions going forward?”

    You’ve got competing messages: pro-consensus vs. anti-consensus. The more people hear the former, the more likely the are to accept it. Especially if it comes from more sources, like climate scientists, who are the most trusted sources of climate information. Our paper gave people a reason to talk about the consensus more (it worked too, as the 11th-most talked about paper of 2013).

    Talking about consensus by itself won’t solve the problem, but there’s no single action that can solve it. But making more people aware of the consensus will make a difference. Which is exactly why contrarians have expended so much effort denying the consensus exists. Frankly they’re better at messaging than ‘our side’ is. If they think a specific message is worth focusing on, they’re probably right.

  66. Rachel: It’s probably not such a bad thing to have an editor glance over an article prior to publication, but care needs to be taken as words can be powerful and journalists also have different goals to academics. They, quite often (perhaps not always), want the story that begs to be read whereas academics just want to communicate the facts and sometimes facts can be boring on their own.,

    Exactly and because the have different goals, they have different writing styles. I take a message from a journalist with a pinch of salt, actually a few truck loads, from a message from a scientist, I expect a-priori that thought went into every sentence to express the idea and evidence as accurately as possible.

    There is no problem with editing for clarity, but making the wording stronger, more spectacular, more like what a journalist would write is a problem, a big problem.

  67. MikeH says:

    The word “infamous” has now been removed from the article with a note at the bottom stating “This article has been updated to better reflect the views of the author.

    Hulme himself added the comment
    “Leopard – no I haven’t changed my view in any significant way, but my essay on The Conversation was not about the Cook et al. study – I simply used the 97.1% number to illustrate my argument. It is perhaps a ‘controversial’ study, but not an ‘infamous’ one.”
    http://theconversation.com/science-cant-settle-what-should-be-done-about-climate-change-22727#comment_306771

  68. Rob Painting says:

    Joshua – “So then, given that “anti-consensus” messaging will continue, what reason do you have to believe that there will be a net increase in “realist” opinions going forward?

    Physics. It’s on our side. The consequences of global warming and ocean acidification will grow much worse, and not necessarily in a linear fashion.

    For instance, most of the heat that has gone into the ocean remains in the upper 100 metres and is being held there (against natural buoyancy) by the intensified trade winds. When those winds undergo decadal-scale weakening, as they do as part of a natural cycle (the negative phase of the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation [IPO]), much of that is going to be exchanged with the atmosphere. And there’s a lot of heat there.

    I fully expect the dramatic warming and weather-related chaos that accompanies that move toward a weaker wind-driven ocean circulation will change many opinions about global warming. In the meantime we’ll keep plugging away.

  69. Rob Painting says:

    Correction: (positive phase of the IPO)

  70. izen says:

    I should preface this comment with the caveat that my negative view of Mike Hulme is based on a shallow reading of his work and my own particular take on the epistemology of science. My only excuse is that I am using Mike Hulme’s methodology.

    I view Mike Hulme as another Judith Curry, but with a sociological doctrine that justifies the uncertainty monster and ascribing value to an extended peer community. This comes in part from the Silvio Funtowicz and Jerome Ravetz concept of post-normal science.

    Some here have assumed that when MH states –
    “Because the questions about climate change that really matter will not be settled by scientific facts.”
    his implication is that the science is robust, but policy is decided by more than the science. I don’t think this is certain, MH may well regard climate science as inherently uncertain and incapable of providing direction for policy choices.

    When he is dismisive of research on the concensus as a strong arguement for the strength of the scientific understanding of the climate it is because he regards the consensus not as an indication of the strength of the evidence, but as an indication of the groupthink and social conformity imposed on the scientific community by ‘big science’ research.

    While his actual position may be more nuanced, or mixed than I am constructing here, but I do have a strong suspicion that he buys into, at least to some extent, the idea in sociology that scientific understanding has little relation to reality, but is socially embedded. That paradigms in science are a consequence of the social, political and economic context.

    I would contend that many of the statements made by MH make more sense, or at least are compatible, with a view that sees the science as inadequate as a source of guidance for policy because it is shaped by sociological forces of group-think and conformity.
    And that policy entails debates about values and about the forms of political organisation and representation that people believe are desirable.
    Not the known science, which is why he is quite content to see Lndzen and Donna Laframboise contributing to the debate.

    YMMV

  71. Joshua says:

    izen –

    Interesting comment. I think that our thesis might be true. But……

    You say this:

    I view Mike Hulme as another Judith Curry, but with a sociological doctrine that justifies the uncertainty monster and ascribing value to an extended peer community.

    And this:

    When he is dismisive of research on the concensus as a strong arguement for the strength of the scientific understanding of the climate it is because he regards the consensus not as an indication of the strength of the evidence, but as an indication of the groupthink and social conformity imposed on the scientific community by ‘big science’ research.

    My sense is that Curry is selective in her views about the problems with “post-normal science,” “normative” science, “consensus,” “uncertainty,” “activist scientists,” “an extended peer-review community,” etc. I don’t think that it’s really that she has a uniform philosophical stance on those issues, but uses legitimate problems related to each of those issues (e.g., using “consensus” as a rhetorical tool to “prove” a scientific perspective rather than use it as information to inform probabilities) to score points in a partisan battle.

    I don’t think that with Curry, that her views on these issues rest on internally consistent and deep philosophical perspectives. It wasn’t that she was a student of these philosophical questions who came to apply them to one context among many, but someone who evolved into a particular partisan stance on climate change and started to employ these philosophical questions to confirm those biases.

    That evolution of her perspective, IMO, is why she sometimes praises the value of the input form an “extended peer-review” community, but then turns a blind eye to the highly politicized nature of much of that input. It is why she expresses concern about how “activist” scientists will erode the public’s trust in science and then turns around and testifies before Congress (and downplaying uncertainty as she does so).

    I would imagine that the situation with Hulme could be different. He seems to me to have a long standing engagement with these philosophical issues and legitimately seeks to explore how they play out in this context.

    My sense is that Hulme agrees that the existence of a “consensus” is a reflection of the strength of the science, but thinks that the existence of a “consensus” has been inappropriately exploited as a rhetorical device. Perhaps if he thinks that there is an association between the “consensus” and “groupthink,” it is in how the existence of a “consensus” is being used rhetorically, and not because it is “groupthink” that creates a “consensus” among scientific experts.

    So, I guess to see who might be more right here, we would need to have more evidence from Hulme’s writing.

    Willard?

  72. Joshua,

    My sense is that Hulme agrees that the existence of a “consensus” is a reflection of the strength of the science, but thinks that the existence of a “consensus” has been inappropriately exploited as a rhetorical device. Perhaps if he thinks that there is an association between the “consensus” and “groupthink,” it is in how the existence of a “consensus” is being used rhetorically, and not because it is “groupthink” that creates a “consensus” among scientific experts.

    Yes, this may be a reasonable interpretation of Hulme’s view, and may be an explanation for a Twitter discussion I’ve been having today. So, it may well be true that the concern some have is about how the existence of a consensus is used, rather than whether or not a consensus actually exists. The interesting question then is whether or not people like Hulme are helping by criticising consensus projects without making it much clearer that the problem is not that the consensus that’s been illustrated is wrong, but is in how this information is used. Surely a perfectly reasonable response is “yes, we agree that the level of agreement you’ve illustrated is probably correct, but stop using it as a rhetorical device so that we can move on to discussing the more important aspects of this topic.” Because, as I see it, the way that the criticism of the consensus project is framed is such that some interpret it as suggesting that the results presented are wrong, rather than suggesting that the manor in which it has been used is wrong.

  73. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    The interesting question then is whether or not people like Hulme are helping by criticising consensus projects without making it much clearer that the problem is not that the consensus that’s been illustrated is wrong, but is in how this information is used.

    I think this is a good point

    I will say, however, that I don’t think that response from “skeptics” is the only problem with someone like Hulme. In other words, if Hulme’s criticism is unfortunately opaque, it isn’t only “skeptics” who might be fostering misinterpretation.

    There are many inkblots in the climate wars, and people tend to see things that match their preconceptions (myself included, of course). Richard Muller is a great example.

  74. Joshua says:

    willard –

    I was hoping that you might be a little less opaque. 😉

  75. Barry Woods says:

    A while back now, Mike Hulme (whilst being a senior researcher at CRU, UEA) organised a ‘consensus’ statement (the project funded by WWF ) to be signed by as many scientists as possible – entitled: An Invitation to Influence Kyoto (yes that long ago) – to be deliverd to policy makers at the Kyoto conference.

    Tom Wigley, (former Director of the Climatic Research Unit, UEA) responded to the invitation in a rather devas tingly critical manner. response and Mike Hulme’s email invitation here:

    extract: (and this was a milder criticism):

    “Your approach of trying to gain scientific credibility for your personal
    views by asking people to endorse your letter is reprehensible. No
    scientist who wishes to maintain respect in the community should ever
    endorse any statement unless they have examined the issue fully
    themselves. You are asking people to prostitute themselves by doing just
    this! I fear that some will endorse your letter, in the mistaken belief
    that you are making a balanced and knowledgeable assessment of the science
    – when, in fact, you are presenting a flawed view that neither accords
    with IPCC nor with the bulk of the scientific and economic literature on
    the subject.” Tom Wigley

    perhaps Mike has learnt the hard way about ‘consensus’ soundbites and being an activist scientist and moved on?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Wigley
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mike_Hulme

  76. BBD says:

    ATTP

    The interesting question then is whether or not people like Hulme are helping by criticising consensus projects without making it much clearer that the problem is not that the consensus that’s been illustrated is wrong, but is in how this information is used.

    I think we can say that it’s not helpful 😉

  77. dhogaza says:

    Since Barry Woods linked to Tim Wigley’s wikipedia entry in his point-scoring post, perhaps it is worthwhile to quote the article’s summary of his position on climate change:

    “Wigley has argued in the popular media that the IPCC has been too optimistic about the prospect of averting harmful climate change by reducing greenhouse emissions,[3] and that “the human-induced changes that are expected over the next 100 years are much, much greater than any changes that societies experienced in the past. n 2013, with other leading experts, he was co-author of an open letter to policy makers, which stated that “continued opposition to nuclear power threatens humanity’s ability to avoid dangerous climate change”.”

    The last statement makes it clear that, along with believing that future risks are higher than portrayed by the IPCC consensus reports on the science, but that he is not at all opposed to drumming up support for a consensus position when he believes in the position.

    The letter is far more nuanced than Woods’ little quote mine (quote mining is a sin, btw) would make one think. Wigley’s mostly annoyed at the proposed consensus position on *policy*, not the underlying science of climate change:

    http://www.assassinationscience.com/climategate/1/FOIA/mail/0880476729.txt

    While we’re playing the quote-mining game, let us see what that letter says [Mod: snipped. inflammatory]:

    “Indeed, what you are doing is, in my view, a form of dishonesty more subtle but no less egregious than the statements made by the greenhouse skeptics…”

    I would agree that Barry Woods is not particularly subtle …

  78. Rachel says:

    jsam,

    You have some questions to answer, my friend.

  79. Pingback: Nobody knows! | And Then There's Physics

  80. Andy Hurley says:

    There appears to be a dead body in the corner of a hotel lobby, people are running here and there and fail to notice for quite some time. All at once there is a scream!! “He,s dead!”

    At that hotel there was a convention of scientists who were able to declare as follows:-
    1.Looking at the angle of repose he has obviously been strangled from behind and dragged into that corner.
    2. Ridiculous ! He has quite obviously been shot with a poison dart !
    3. What lunacy ! The fellow quite conceivably could have tripped , banged his head and thus became lacking in life.
    4. Has anyone confirmed he is dead?
    5. Someone call 911!

    It then transpired that the “dead man” was actually one of those old Wooden Indian Statues which was being removed from the hotel on politically correct reasons and was propped up in the corner on the floor to expedite his being carried away.

    Items to note from the above, the screamer was quite obviously lacking in
    any form of scientific knowledge .
    Scientist 1 had clearly spent a lot of time modelling Death Scenarios.
    Scientist 2 had recently spent a lot of time in Papua New Guinea and needed a holiday.
    Scientist 3 was thinking quite clearly and was looking to establish evidential reasons for the demise.
    Scientist 4 , was actually a lawyer looking for a quick buck.
    Scientist 5 was speed dialing CNBC and looking to get his picture on TV.

    I have no idea what this has to do with CAGW ,except to say , that in a court of Law , the writ of habeas Corpus applies.
    Cheers.

  81. Andy,

    I have no idea what this has to do with CAGW

    Nor do I, but it’s an interesting and somewhat entertaining comment.

  82. dhogaza says:

    “I have no idea what this has to do with CAGW ,except to say , that in a court of Law , the writ of habeas Corpus applies.”

    Great idea applying a writ of habeas corpus to CAGW! Since this is not a scientific term, can we now apply that writ and require that skeptics like yourself provide the court with a precise definition of the term “CAGW”?

    After all, skeptics continuously dismiss “CAGW” … but without defining precisely what CAGW is. You may define it in terms of Kelvin or degrees C rise by 2100 if you’d like, with warming less than that level being non-CAGW, and warming above that level being CAGW. Whole degrees are of sufficient resolution.

  83. CAGW is defined as that what they reject.

  84. Victor and dhogaza,
    You clearly understand Andy’s comment better than I did. I couldn’t really make head nor tail of it.

  85. badgersouth says:

    andthentheresphysics: Andy Hurley’s post is pure graffiti (spam). It should be scrubbed.

  86. badgersouth says:

    At the risk of preaching to the choir (but definitely on-topic):

    The Bridge is an AGU blog that connects science and policy. It provides a platform for scientists, policy makers, and experts to communicate ideas about the science policy interface.

    http://thebridge.agu.org/

  87. badgersouth says:

    Rachel: Who is John Harvey Samuel? I do not recall introducing him to Skeptical Science. I have encouraged many people to visit Skeptical Science over the years.

  88. badgersouth, John Harvey Samuel is the person posting as jsam here (which I think is fine to say since the link on his posts goes to his blog with his name). Of course, it was Shub who has claimed that you introduced him to SkS and, unless I’m mistaken, Rachel was simply responding appropriately to his revelation 🙂

  89. Joshua says:

    badgersouth:

    Andy Hurley’s post is pure graffiti (spam). It should be scrubbed.

    I look at Andy’s post as information, and a very nice example of (unintentional) irony.

    I agree with Anders that the basic argument presented was incoherent, but I learned from the post that Andy is a practitioner of “skepticism,” who was searching for a reason to be skeptical.

    I see no particular reason to “scrub” it. It does no harm.

  90. Thank you for this detailed response!

  91. Pingback: Another Week in the Ecological Crisis, February 9, 2014 – A Few Things Ill Considered

  92. Magma says:

    Testing formatting on wordpress

    italics
    bold
    underline

    putting in a long block quote putting in a long block quote putting in a long block quote putting in a long block quote putting in a long block quote putting in a long block quote putting in a long block quote putting in a long block quote putting in a long block quote putting in a long block quote

  93. Other than getting the underline wrong (which I’ve fixed – it is just u ) pretty good 🙂

  94. jsam says:

    I’m late, by a few months, responding to [Mod:snip] Shub’s tweet.

    I’ve been looking at Skeptical Science’s site for a good few years. I don’t know who John Hartz is, aside from his recent postings here. I have donated money to SkS over the years, in fits and starts. I’ve introduced myself to Daniel Bailey, over Facebook.

    I know [Mod: snip] BarryJWoods thinks I’m a member of the SkS team. Who knows how he reached that conclusion? But then who knows how he reaches any conclusion? 🙂 I’m obviously not qualified enough to join SkS. I’m not a member of the team. I don’t even qualify as a Level 1 SkS Groupie.

    I am qualified enough to be a denier. I’m retired. I’m an engineer. I have access to a computer. I think I can write. I think I’m numerate. And yet I’m not. Odd that. Maybe I’m not even smart enough to be a denier. Now I’m very sad.

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