FFS Roger, it’s an analogy

Roger Pielke Sr. has a guest post on Watts Up With That (WUWT) called a comment on Kevin Trenberth’s interview on February 17 2014 – an example of misrepresenting climate science. He’s referring to an interview in which the interviewees were Roger Pielke Jr. (his son) and Kevin Trenberth. Apparently Kevin Trenberth said

“You can add up how much of that heat there is and over a six month period it’s equivalent to running a very small microwave over every square foot at full power for about ½ hour”

According to Roger, Public Radio listeners and Mr. Warner were misled by this analog. Why? Because the effect/impact of one microwave oven per square foot running at half power for half an hour, isn’t the same as the effect of enhanced greenhouse gas concentrations in our atmosphere. Sure, that’s true, but Kevin Trenberth didn’t say this. He very specifically referred to the heat/energy. I haven’t actually checked that it is quantitatively correct, but I have no reason to think that it isn’t. I believe that he’s simply trying to illustrate how much energy our climate system is accruing. He’s not trying to suggest that this process is identical and has the same effect as microwave ovens running for half an hour. Surely, noone would actually think he meant that?

It does seem as though there are no suitable – for some at least – analogies in this context. We can’t use atomic bombs because of the association with an horrific event. We can’t use kitten sneezes because if you worked out what would happen if all the kittens in the world were to sneeze that much, you’d discover that they’d all rupture their internal organs and die. You can’t use microwave ovens, because it doesn’t perfectly represent the process (even though noone has claimed that it does). It seems that the only suitable analogy is :

adding CO2 to our atmosphere is like adding CO2 to our atmosphere.

The problem with this is that it’s not an analogy. The whole point of an analogy is to try and illustrate something about a complex process to those who may not have the background to understand the details. It’s a fairly standard public engagement strategy and if it’s not allowed in climate science, then we really aren’t doing anyone any favours.

Roger finishes his post with the following comment,

Thus, while added CO2 and other human and natural climate forcings certainly can have an effect on large scale circulation features which could exacerbate droughts and fires, the analogy to a microwave that Kevin presented to convince the audience regarding the importance of added surface heating from the radiative effect of the increase of atmospheric CO2 is scientifically incorrect.

Indeed, when we perform model sensitivity experiments, we find that biogeochemical effect of added CO2 on plants (and the feedback to weather) and of land use change are much larger effects on this time and spatial scale.

Now, I’m sure that he may well find this in his research. However, I’m not convinced that many others do or, if they do, they likely see these effects as being in addition to the influence of increased atmospheric CO2 concentrations. Maybe this explains why Roger never seems to refer to any papers other than those on which he is an author (unless he’s criticising one). Personally, I’m much more concerned about those who fail to make clear that they hold minority scientific views than I am about someone who uses an imperfect analogy (as they all are). I really can’t see how this debate will improve if you can’t even use an analogy without being accused of misrepresenting climate science.

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225 Responses to FFS Roger, it’s an analogy

  1. Hi.

    From your description above, the disjoint between Trenberth and Pielke Sr. seems to result from confusion between event and effect. Trenberth is attempting to describe the event, i.e. what amount of heat is being added to the atmosphere? Pielke Sr. is talking about the effect, i.e. what will the impact be on temperature? Physicists might be primarily concerned with the former, a wider audience listening to the radio broadcast more concerned with the latter. This is where the confusion arises.

    FWIW, I disagree with Pielke Sr. that microwave/sq foot/minute is a good analogy. It really doesn’t tell me anything at all about how the world is changing. If microwaves are so dangerous, why isn’t their production being curbed? However, maybe I am in the minority.

    Seems to me, the best way of communicating climate change is surely through culturally established objects in familiar settings. A thermometer?

    Analogies are all about (re)interpreting knowledge. As we all have our particular schema for interpreting the world, these will always be the subject of contestation. As a result, one cannot expect to offer an analogy, metaphor etc and have it unchallenged. It is all about whether such linguistic devices are *good enough*. I do not see the value in turning these valid disputes into personal attacks, other than boosting the blog click-count.

  2. Warren,
    Well the main point of the post was not about whether or not an analogy is good, but whether or not it’s appropriate to accuse someone of misrepresenting science when they use one. If Trenberth had said “the same as” maybe it would have been very poor, but he was referring to the energy, not the effect.

    FWIW, I disagree with Pielke Sr. that microwave/sq foot/minute is a good analogy. It really doesn’t tell me anything at all about how the world is changing. If microwaves are so dangerous, why isn’t their production being curbed? However, maybe I am in the minority.

    Do you agree or disagree? I also think, from this, that you don’t understand the analogy. This isn’t about microwaves, it’s about energy. Now you’ve gone and made me work it out 🙂 The surface area of the Earth is 5.6 x 1015 square feet. One microwave oven per square foot at half power (500 W) is then 2.8 x 1018J per second. If it runs for half an hour that’s 5 x 1021J which is about how much energy we are accruing in the climate system every 6 months. That you didn’t get this maybe indicates that it wasn’t a very good analogy.

    Seems to me, the best way of communicating climate change is surely through culturally established objects in familiar settings. A thermometer?

    But this is the problem. We have associated global warming with surface temperatures. Seems fine except that surface temperatures are only associated with a few percent of the excess energy that our climate system is accruing and hence are very susceptible to internal variability. What Trenberth, and others, are trying to do is point out that energy continues to accrue at an unprecedented rate even though surface temperatures are rising slower than we expected. It’s hard to see how a thermometer helps when we’re really talking about energy.

  3. Marco says:

    Warren, could you please provide evidence there was such confusion?

    Also, a thermometer is not sufficient to communicate climate change, since temperature is just one factor in climate change (and not necessarily the most important one). Moreover, it’s not that easy to communicate that a 1 degree increase in average temperature is actually really a lot in many different aspects. After all, we experience much larger variations on a daily basis, so how to communicate that 1 degree on average over the whole year is enormous?

  4. Warren,
    Marco makes an interesting point and maybe you could give some thoughts. The real problem seems to be communicating how what’s happening now compares to the past. If you stick with temperature, then the change in ocean temperature seems small. If you convert to energy, it seems big. If you consider surface temperatures only, then you have the variability problem plus that it also seems small compared to daily/annual variations.

    However, the main issue is that the evidence suggests that what we’re experiencing now is unprecedented. It would seem no good to have analogies that make things appear insignificant if we are potentially heading for some kind of mass extinction event in the next hundred years. How would you approach this?

  5. When I wrote about the Hiroshima bomb comparison I already pinpointed the likely reason why this is done: it’s an effective communication tool.

    Anything that communicates the science involved in a clear and concise manner will be attacked. It doesn’t matter if it is actually a good and correct analogy that’s based on solid science. It’s the very reason why they go after it because it undermines what they’re saying in a very effective way. That’s why these analogies will always be attacked.

  6. Collin,

    That’s why these analogies will always be attacked.

    That’s certainly the impression. You’d think that reasonable people would question the motives of those choosing to attack analogies, but for some reason that seems to not happen particularly often.

  7. I think I may have worked out the issue with Kevin Trenberth’s analogy. According to my quick calculation (which may be wrong) we don’t have enough power on our energy grid to run 5.6 x 1015, 500 W microwave ovens for half an hour. Given that, global warming is clearly wrong 🙂

  8. Catmando says:

    One problem with communicating climate change, in my opinion at least, is the poor teaching of energy. It’s often done early in secondary school and with reference to machines. One of the best presentations on energy I have ever seen is in Brian Cox’s Wonders Of Life series when he talks about useful energy (at least for living things) being concentrated energy (like chemical energy). Climate change is like boiling a kettle, though hopefully less dramatic.

  9. Catmando,

    One problem with communicating climate change, in my opinion at least, is the poor teaching of energy.

    I suspect that is a point. Certainly seems to be a lack of understanding of energy conservation and what we mean by an energy excess. Again, a tricky problem is trying illustrate why what’s happening now is unprecedented and what the likely impacts are. That’s why I like this Skeptical Science blog post as it tries to put the energy imbalance into some kind of context. Of course, I suspect some will criticise it for being alarmist.

  10. Paul S says:

    The backlash against such analogies, in particular the Hiroshima one, in relation to global warming doesn’t seem particularly rational. There were serious scientists expressing concerns about using “Hiroshimas” under the dubious umbrella of the inexactness of the two mechanisms (as you say: “FFS it’s an analogy”). Given how commonly the same reference is used, equally inexactly, to talk about earthquakes, volcanoes, hurricanes and asteroid impacts without raising a peep from anybody, I would suggest the main motivation for opposition is a desire not to appear alarmist on this subject.

    On the other hand there is perhaps a conceptual problem with these analogies. When we typically refer to other phenomenon in relation to Hiroshima bombs, it’s not simply the case that we’re emphasising the scale of energy involved but the scale in relation to one of the most powerful things humans have done. Part of the point of the analogy is to say: “Look at how puny we are in relation to the power of nature”. When we go on to apply the same analogy structure (comparison to human invention) to a human-caused phenomenon there is perhaps a psychological block.

  11. Chandra says:

    Why would RP Sr choose to make a guest post on WUWT? It seems an odd place for a respected scientist to hang out. He must be aware of the toxic nature of the site and its propensity for publishing rubbish – publishing there is demeaning. There are other venues where he could comment [Mod: this sentence has been snipped because it does not abide by the moderation policy]

  12. Chandra,
    A question I’ve often asked myself and one to which I do not have an answer.

  13. uknowispeaksense says:

    FTR I think the kittens sneezing analogy is a good one as the end result in each is catastrophic. I am also trying to find an analogy for “an excellent blog writer falls into the trap of refuting an idiotic denier’s warped argument when that argument is idiotic enough to not warrant any refutation in the first place” ;P

  14. “If you worked out what would happen if all the kittens in the world were to sneeze that much, you’d discover that they’d all rupture their internal organs and die.”

    I have the kitten sneeze stat picture printed and stuck on my wall. It’s a very cute kitten. Now I haz a sad.

  15. uknow,

    I am also trying to find an analogy for “an excellent blog writer falls into the trap of refuting an idiotic denier’s warped argument when that argument is idiotic enough to not warrant any refutation in the first place” ;P

    If I’ve interpreted that correctly, I’ll take it as a complement of sort 🙂 Sometimes you just need to let off a little steam!

  16. Wow lots of fascinating comments here. Just time to respond before I go back into my writing hobbit-hole.

    1. ATTP: I agree, this does demonstrate it’s not a very good analogy. When I think about a microwave, I think about it heating food. I probably use mine for an aggregate of 13 hours in six months: this seems safe. There are lots of others microwaves on my road. Obviously not one per square foot, but then again they are running for a lot longer….and I am losing the will to live trying to compare the amount of global heating to something I can easily grasp. WRT to your other point, it may well be extreme to call this a ‘misrepresentation’. More accurately, it is superfluous to call it so, as all analogies are misrepresentations of some kind, as Collin correctly implies.

    2. Re thermometers. Yes I totally understand *why* thermometers are not being used. http://blogs.nottingham.ac.uk/makingsciencepublic/2014/02/04/global-heating/

    3. Collin, there may be some truth in what you say, but I would have to be shown a good analogy in order to judge.

    4. Paul S., all the examples you cite that are measured in terms of ‘Hiroshimas’ are examples of risk situated in time and space, just like Hiroshima. Global heat accumulation is diffuse, un-situated risk. Hence, it rates rather weaker as an analogy, failing the ‘window test’ http://blogs.nottingham.ac.uk/makingsciencepublic/2013/08/14/more-heat-than-light-climate-catastrophe-and-the-hiroshima-bomb/

    5. Chandra. Science is not a team sport, why does it matter where he posted it? For example, if I were to write a post on ATTP I would hope people focused on the content, [Mod: this sentence has been snipped because it quotes an earlier comment which has been snipped]

  17. “Science is not a team sport, why does it matter where he posted it?”

    Well, I suppose there’s always a chance a post at WUWT might be worthwhile science. Let’s not be put off by the fact that, up to now, it’s been a constant stream of easily refutable nonsense. Perhaps this one has some substance to it. Or perhaps the next one will.

  18. > As we all have our particular schema for interpreting the world, these will always be the subject of contestation. As a result, one cannot expect to offer an analogy, metaphor etc and have it unchallenged. It is all about whether such linguistic devices are *good enough*.

    I don’t think anyone has his or her own schema for interpreting the world. In fact, the very idea of a conceptual scheme could be doubted:

    http://www.jstor.org/stable/3129898

    The main reason why linguistic devices will be challenged may not be cognitive anyway. It could be ethical or political or sociological or whatever, and unless one can reduce all these dimension to cognition the usual relativist gambit can be the wrong platitude to promote.

    In any case, we don’t need such platitude to predict that such linguistic devices will get challenged. All we need is to observe that they do. Explaining why such challenges happen does not answer AT’s question, which was if Senior was justified in going from to concerns to an accusation of misrepresenting science.

    One does not simply accuse an Otter to misrepresent science on the basis of one’s private cognitions.

  19. Warren,

    I agree, this does demonstrate it’s not a very good analogy.

    Strictly speaking, I wasn’t actually saying that it is a bad analogy 🙂 A major issue that I see – and that I tried to highlight here – is that people are trying to find ways to illustrate that we continue to accrue energy and yet every analogy they try is being criticised. I don’t know the solution to this. Maybe some SciComm people could help?

    More accurately, it is superfluous to call it so, as all analogies are misrepresentations of some kind, as Collin correctly implies.

    I would argue – as I showed in my earlier response to you – that this analogy correctly represents the amount of energy accruing in the system in 6 months. Also, Trenberth said “heat” so that’s all he was trying to represent. That others haven’t recognised this could mean the analogy is poor, but that doesn’t mean that it misrepresents what was trying to be presented. I guess an issue is whether or not Pielke meant “intentionally misrepresent” or not, but it’s still an unfortunate way in which to describe the analogy.

    Science is not a team sport, why does it matter where he posted it? For example, if I were to write a post on ATTP I would hope people focused on the content, [Mod: this sentence has been snipped because it quotes an earlier comment which has been snipped]

    An argument I would make is that much of what is posted on WUWT is not consistent with the current scientific evidence. Just because it calls itself a science site, doesn’t make it so. It really is extremely poor and I would argue that it is embarrassing for a senior scientist with Pielke Sr.’s credentials to post something on that site. He’s of course entitled to do so, but others are quite entitled to judge him for doing so. Having said that, of course, one should – ideally – focus on the content as I’ve tried to do here. Nothing in Pielke Sr.’s post makes me think that it doesn’t fit perfectly with the site on which it is posted.

    Are you offering to write a guest post 🙂

  20. ATTP, if I can think of something worthwhile to contribute here, would be happy to.

  21. Paul S says:

    Warren,

    ‘Paul S., all the examples you cite that are measured in terms of ‘Hiroshimas’ are examples of risk situated in time and space, just like Hiroshima.’

    Global warming is situated in time and space as well. The space is the Earth and the time is multi-decadal to century scale. Earthquakes have an epicentre but the energy dissipates over the entire planet. Hurricanes last for days to weeks and are active over thousands of miles, very different from Hiroshima. You could argue the hurricane analogy is closer because the time and space are smaller, but that’s pretty arbitrary.

    I’m not saying it’s a good analogy, just that it’s a common one and also commonly considered inappropriate to some extent. My point is about how the comparison only became “a problem” when it began to be applied to climate change. Don’t you think that’s interesting?

    Also, pretty much all of the arguments presented about how terrible this was completely ignored the historical precedents. For example your article makes no mention of common usage of the analogy and appears to pretend that it was invented for climate change communication. Furthermore your insinuation that Hiroshima was chosen to emphasise the manmade nature of climate change makes no sense at all given the common application to natural events.

  22. Saffron O’Neill sent me this paper (£) on the bathtub analogy, should be of relevance http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10584-013-0949-3

    Paul S, I did not ‘pretend’ anything. I had never heard the Hiroshima analogy prior to the SkS post formally introducing it http://www.skepticalscience.com/4-Hiroshima-bombs-worth-of-heat-per-second.html a post which does not refer to any previous usages. Neither were any previous usages mentioned in this comment by the co-author: http://blogs.nottingham.ac.uk/makingsciencepublic/2013/08/14/more-heat-than-light-climate-catastrophe-and-the-hiroshima-bomb/#comment-195321 Not to say previous usages don’t exist, but I am unaware of them being used prior to know to justify the metaphor’s usage in the global heating context. Apart from whether it’s a suitable way of understanding climate change, I would dispute whether it is a suitable analogy for anything on taste grounds, but maybe that’s just me.

    You are right to say that in terms of climate change, the space in which the risk is situated is the Earth. But to try and compare this with the very localised impacts from a hurricane or earthquake seems a bit of a stretch.

  23. Joshua says:

    A major issue that I see – and that I tried to highlight here – is that people are trying to find ways to illustrate that we continue to accrue energy and yet every analogy they try is being criticised. I don’t know the solution to this.

    There is no solution. The problem was not the analogy, but who was making the analogy and who is reading the analogy. As you point out, by definition no analogy is perfect and thus no analogy Trenberth uses will pass “skeptical” scrutiny because he is a source who is not trusted and because a problem can always be found with an analogy: The point of an analogy is to help illustrate a point, but Pilke Sr. and most of the readers at WUWT will not accept any analogy that demonstrates that the Earth is very likely to be significantly affected by the heat attributable to increased ACO2. Since that was the point of Trenberth’s analogy, it is doomed to be ineffective. No one can illustrate that point to them because there mind is made up that the effect is not occurring.

    It is similar to why “realists” would find it confusing that Pielke Sr. would write a guest post at WUWT, and to why Warren would not understand why that would create confusion for “realists.”

    If I’m not mistaken, this is all technically known as same ol’ same ol’ in the field of science communication.

  24. Joshua,

    It is similar to why “realists” would find it confusing that Pielke Sr. would write a guest post at WUWT, and to why Warren would not understand why that would create confusion for “realists.”

    If I’m not mistaken, this is all technically known as same ol’ same ol’ in the field of science communication.

    I’m not sure that I’m all that confused. Implying confusion is – in my case at least – a polite way of illustrating my thoughts about a senior scientist posting a WUWT-like post on WUWT (or maybe all that I can express without crossing some line into outright ridicule). Same ol’ same ol’ indeed.

    Warren,
    Isn’t the bathtub analogy about the accumulation of CO2 in the atmosphere. The analogy here is about the accumulation of energy in the climate system. Related, but not quite the same.

  25. Warren,
    Here’s a question I’ve also been quite keen to ask you. Clearly there is evidence that we could warm by a further 2 – 4 degrees by 2100. If you look at my earlier post on adaptation, mitigation, etc. there are various comments that highlight the possible impacts of such future warming. This includes potential mass extinction events. I would argue that that is quite severe.

    There seem to be two relevant reasons why one would want communicate climate science to the public. One is that we would like the public to simply have a better understanding of climate science. The other is that we would like the public to appreciate the risks that we possibly face. What I see are people pedantically criticising analogies because they aren’t quite perfect and rarely commenting on the effectiveness of the analogy at communicating the risks.

    What’s your view on this? Given that there is a great deal of agreement in the scientific community about the fundamentals, at least, of climate science and the possible risks, what should we be focusing on? Being very careful in precision in our analogies, but possibly failing to properly communicate the risks we may face, or using communication strategies to effectively communicate the risks we face from climate change even if that means some analogies aren’t necessarily perfect?

  26. Marco says:

    Warren, you will find the comparison to Hiroshima/atom bombs many times. Here are two examples from UK news sources:
    http://metro.co.uk/2010/01/13/port-au-prince-haiti-earthquake-35-times-more-powerful-than-hiroshima-atom-bomb-29296/
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/japan/9116636/Japan-earthquake-and-tsunami-factbox.html
    one from the BBC from a programme on volcanoes
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/sn/tvradio/programmes/supervolcano/article.shtml
    and one from an academic source about hurricanes:
    http://webphysics.iupui.edu/warmup/iupui_archive/hurricanes.html (Hiroshima not specifically mentioned)

  27. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    I was referencing Chandra’s rhetorical question and Warren’s rhetorical response (not your comments). My point was that as speech acts, those rhetorical questions were not to get answers, but to make points that basically have been made back and forth probably (tens of?) millions of times.

    It was not really about asking for clarification in a good faith attempt to exchange views. Chandra’s question was, in the end, basically an ad hom and Warren’s response was in the end, basically a denial that the tribalism on display at WUWT is problematic.

    So in that sense the discussion about why Pielke Sr. posts at WUWT and whether he should is like the discussion of Trenberth’s use of the analogy – at least for those who have tribal identities. The discussion serves no real purpose other than to affirm tribal identifications.

    The real effect of his analogy could be ascertained by polling the listening audience, identifying the listeners who were not already tribally identified, and determining what they understood after they heard the analogy that they hadn’t already understood before the analogy. And if you wanted, you could then test whether there new understanding was closer to the scientific reality than their previous understanding. But of course, it is more than likely that tribally-identified “skeptics” would be convinced that any changes in the listeners’ understanding would be less close to the science and tribally-identified “realists” would be convinced of the opposite – simply because of who it was making the analogy.

  28. Joshua,
    I see. Yes, I think you’re probably correct. There is a great deal of tribalism involved. I guess what I am still surprised about is the sense that some don’t seem bothered by a senior scientist accusing another of misrepresenting science because of an analogy he disagrees with. I had, naively, assumed that that would typically be regarded as marginally unacceptable behaviour by most reasonable people. Clearly I’m wrong, or people aren’t as reasonable as I had hoped.

  29. Paul S says:

    Warren,

    I apologise then, it just seemed unbelievable that you hadn’t seen it before. Indeed, you gave an example comparing the Tohuku earthquake to Hiroshimas, which actually was a common comparison at the time. I suspect you must have heard/seen it at some point, but perhaps it hasn’t previously troubled you enough to register… which would tend to prove my point 🙂

  30. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    I guess what I am still surprised about is the sense that some don’t seem bothered by a senior scientist accusing another of misrepresenting science because of an analogy he disagrees with.

    I was going to ask Warren a question along those lines but I couldn’t figure out how to make it non-rhetorical. 🙂 It is interesting just difficult it can be to ask questions in the climate debate if I hold myself to a standard of not asking rhetorical questions.

    Although I do wonder about that sense of “surprise” that in some sense I share with you. I think I sometimes am surprised, or maybe at some level shocked, by these types of events in the climate wars – but then I ask myself why am I surprised or shocked to see something that I have seen so many times before and that I could easily have predicted beforehand?

    This kind of reminds me of the discussion about when Dana said that RPJr. “mislead” the public.

  31. Joshua,

    This kind of reminds me of the discussion about when Dana said that RPJr. “mislead” the public.

    Yes, me too. What I find interesting is how non-symmetrical the debate is. Dana say “misleading” and gets jumped on by all and sundry. Pielke Sr. says Trenberth “misrepresented the science” and no one bats an eyelid. I think I have a sense of why this is (partly, don’t stoop to the others side’s level) but I still find it an interesting dynamic.

  32. chris says:

    Joshua’s comments on “tribalism” are interesting, as is Warren’s input.

    Because, of course, the issue re posting on the WUWT site isn’t just about “tribalism”. One can make objective assessment of the validity (e.g. scientific/logical) of posts at that website and conclude that in very many cases (perhaps the majority) they are scientifically/logically deficient. To say so is not to display “tribalism” but to portray an objective assessment according to standard scientific/logical criteria.

    Warren’s comments are interesting in this respect since in several recent conversations we’ve had at his site (Making Science Public), Warren has tended to eschew the possibility of objective assessment of matters scientific (e.g. on the subject of what might or might not be objectively defined as “pseudoscience”), and therefore seems rather comfortable in aligning with what might (objectively!) be considered attempts to misrepresent scientific issues in pursuit of dreary agendas.

  33. Paul S says:

    Hmm.. I must have missed that spat with Dana and RPJr. Interesting that RPJr would get worked up about someone calling his testimony misleading when he erroneously did the same thing not too long ago: http://rogerpielkejr.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/ipcc-lead-author-misleads-us-congress.html

  34. PaulS,
    That’s why I find much of what goes on in the climate science debate quite ironic (a term, I’m convinced, many don’t understand very well – together with self-awareness).

  35. I hesitate a bit to re-enter the fray here, since my contributions always seem to cause so much angst, but it appears there have been some developments at the recent American Physical Society Climate Change Statement Review Workshop which might concern some here.

    A panel has been convened including IPCC stalwarts Santer & Collins and, interestingly, more sceptical souls like Lindzen, Christy & Curry – to review the society’s position on climate change.

    http://www.aps.org/policy/statements/upload/climate-seminar-transcript.pdf

    In his presentation, William Collins (Berkeley Climate Modeller) included a statement on his current view of the warming “hiatus” – which has attracted some attention. Commenter “thinkingscientist” at Bishop Hill extracted the key wording as follows:-

    http://www.bishop-hill.net/blog/2014/2/20/aps-shows-the-way.html#comments

    DR. COLLINS:
    “Well, yes. That actually was dealt with by chapter 9, which is the chapter I was on. I think you accurately captured the state of the field currently. We are unsure about what — we know that there are several possible causes. And they are stated in the report. And also, you capture them correctly as well. They could be errors in the forcing. It could being a mode of natural variability that the models are not correctly reproducing. And it could be cases or it could be that the models are overly sensitive. And so, all three are noted in that the IPCC report and will be actively investigated. I do not have an opinion. We thought while we were writing this report that it was aerosols. And there were a number of — people became very alarmed. There were four meetings that went into this report, four face-to-face meetings. As of the second, we were having these frantic meetings between people like myself on radiative forcing and the later chapters that were looking at these projections saying oh, my God. The models are running hot. Why are they running hot? By “running hot,” I mean running hot for 2011, 2012 as we were writing the report. So, there was a lot of speculation that the projections had sort of overcooked the level of air pollution controls that were going to cause aerosol loading to decrease in the near future. That is a plausible explanation. Other people have looked at subtle amounts of volcanic activity that have since gone undetected. This is work by Susan Solomon, other changes in the stratosphere. This is one of those topics that I think is going to have to be sorted out. Now, I am hedging a bet because, to be honest with you, if the hiatus is still going on as of the sixth IPCC report, that report is going to have a large burden on its shoulders walking in the door, because recent literature has shown that the chances of having a hiatus 18 of 20 years are vanishingly small.”

    I thought this statement might be of interest here since it’s only a few days since you guys proved to your evident satisfaction that there had never been any kind of warming “hiatus” except in the fevered imagination of the “anti-science denier brigade”.

    What’s going on here?

    Has the APS been infiltrated by knuckle dragging denialist morons – or are more subtle issues at play?

    Maybe Dana should ask to address the next session and put them back on the right track.

  36. Foxgoose,

    I hesitate a bit to re-enter the fray here, since my contributions always seem to cause so much angst,

    I don’t know about angst, but they certainly seem to cause various things that I’d rather not have repeated.

    I thought this statement might be of interest here since it’s only a few days since you guys proved to your evident satisfaction that there had never been any kind of warming “hiatus” except in the fevered imagination of the “anti-science denier brigade”.

    Not really true. I was arguing that there has been no “pause”. Nothing has paused. If you disagree, show me what. However, if people want to define the term “hiatus” as being a surface warming trend below what was expected, then it has been happening.

  37. dhogaza says:

    Chandra (and others echoing his question):

    “Why would RP Sr choose to make a guest post on WUWT?”

    It was RP Sr who suggested the “Surface Stations Project” and the notion that thermometers placed too close to air conditioners and the like were responsible for “global warming”. I’m not sure, but this thought may’ve been triggered or at least reinforced by early UAH satellite temp reconstructions showing cooling rather than warming (remember “the wooden stake through the heart of global warming” comments in places like the Wall Street Journal when the sat reconstructions were first published, but before the gross errors were uncovered by those good folks at RSS and before Christy was forced to retreat and testify that the surface temp record was as accurate as sat reconstructions and that both actually do show warming?).

    Watts stepped up to the plate to organize the efforts, WUWT was born of this process of some point. It’s possible that Watts suggested the project to RPSr but I rather doubt it, I think it’s been rather well established that the flow was from RPSr to Watts offering to volunteer.

    RPSr was the (mostly) silent partner of the Surface Stations project throughout. He took Watts under his wing and has worked to try to elevate his credibility, by tactics such as including him as one of dozens of co-authors on a paper he published so Watts could claim having authored peer-reviewed work.

    His choosing to make a guest post at WUWT should be no surprise …

  38. chris says:

    Warren, you’ve also provided us with an analogy (more of a metaphor), aka:

    “Science is not a team sport, why does it matter where he posted it?”

    One might consider this a metaphor within a non-sequitur. Does “science is not a team sport” constitute a good metaphor/analogy? I would say no, because surely if science is anything, it is a team sport. Science doesn’t advance other than through a collective effort. It advances through the collective efforts of individuals and groups working in good faith towards greater understanding. It’s very much a team sport.

    Why does it matter where he posted it? If one makes an objective assessment of the WUWT site (a little effort to understand the science is required) one would come to the conclusion that the site does not engage in good faith efforts to advance understanding. Posts that address the issues in good faith seem not to be posted there. In that light it does matter “where he posted it”.

    Science misrepresentation is very much a “team sport” 🙂 It’s a “sport” of losing teams, though they often cause considerable damage before they are defeated.

  39. Joshua says:

    FG has made the big time: He’s being highlighted by Judith Curry for his insightful input into science of climate change.

    http://judithcurry.com/2014/02/19/aps-reviews-its-climate-change-statement/#comment-460855

  40. Joshua says:

    I’m going to repost since the earlier version got snagged in the moderation filter:

    FG –

    …or are more subtle issues at play?

    It is good to note that you recognize that simplistic explanations – such as that there’s some hoax among climate scientists to fool the public into being overly concerned about climate change – are not a good explanation for what’s going on.

    Does that reflect a change in your perspective?

  41. Paul S says:

    Foxgoose,

    Has the APS been infiltrated by knuckle dragging denialist morons – or are more subtle issues at play?

    I wouldn’t put it that strongly, and my following point isn’t relevant to your quote from William Collins which seems entirely reasonable, but the one of the stated charges for this workshop was as follows:

    ‘The subcommittee will organize a workshop to obtain scientific input from experts representing a diversity of perspectives and from the APS Topical Group on the Physics of Climate. The POPA subcommittee will consult broadly about who should be invited to make presentations at the workshop.’
    http://www.aps.org/policy/statements/upload/climate-review-charge.pdf

    I have to wonder what criteria they used to determine the diversity of perspectives they wanted when convening a 6-person panel containing Lindzen, Christy and Curry.

    ——————————-
    Judith Curry’s comments on the “hiatus” are also worth reading, and relevant to ATTP’s response. She noted Cowtan & Way and stated that it doesn’t make much difference to the phenomenon of the “hiatus” by reference to a comparison of models and observations over the past few decades. Note that the “hiatus” has pretty much always, up to now, been defined as the period from 1997 or 1998 to present and Cowtan & Way show a trend of about 0.12ºC/Dec over this period. As ATTP hinted there appears to be a redefinition of the “hiatus” going on, referring to a slightly lower than expected trend over the past 30 years rather than a period of zero warming.

  42. dana1981 says:

    Warren said: “But to try and compare this with the very localised impacts from a hurricane or earthquake seems a bit of a stretch.” We’re not talking about impacts, we’re talking about energy, and are always very explicit about that.

    The microwave analogy is more precise than bombs/hurricanes/etc. because it’s spatially spread out. Ironic that Trenberth would be criticized for a pretty darn accurate analogy, relatively speaking. The problem is that it’s a hard analogy to visualize – same with lightbulbs all over the planet. And ultimately the problem is that global warming and the energy imbalance are so massive, they’re difficult to communicate in terms people can grasp. Hence you get bazillions of lightbulbs or microwaves spread all over the Earth’s surface, which is not a natural thing to visualize.

    That’s the strength of the atomic bomb analogy. It’s much easier to visualize the energy released by a bomb detonation. Obviously it’s an imperfect analogy, as is every analogy, but in terms of communicating global warming in terms people can visualize, it’s the best I’ve seen.

    As for Pielke posing on WUWT, I can’t say I’m surprised.

  43. Joshua says:

    Paul S –

    As ATTP hinted there appears to be a redefinition of the “hiatus” going on, referring to a slightly lower than expected trend over the past 30 years rather than a period of zero warming.

    I think that there is another aspect of “redefinition” going on. After years of saying that trends in the mean of GSATs does not justify a determination of “global warming,” now “skeptics” are arguing based on a definition that a short-term decrease in the longer-term trend in the mean of GSATs justifies a determination of “global warming” (in the sense that it shows a lack of “global warming.”)

    Judith, in her Congressional testimony, argued that there has been a “hiatus in global warming” based on that short-term trend in GSATs, without feeling any need to mention uncertainty w/r/t factors such as OHC. After arguing for years about the importance of foregrounding uncertainty, Judith ushered her Uncertainty Monster right out of door of the Congressional hearing.

  44. Brigitte says:

    Just thought this might be interesting: why analogies fail…
    http://www.litstrat.com/Articles/ANALOG1.pdf

  45. From the fact that 80% of the analogies are simply ignored, one might not wish to infer that they fail. On the other hand, consider how much concerns they can help muster. Perhaps that’s just me (h/t Warren), but I find such discussions analogous to those about choices of words.

    Focusing on ways of words is the best way to distract from discussing what these words are about.

  46. Rachel says:

    I had never heard the Hiroshima analogy prior to the SkS post formally introducing it http://www.skepticalscience.com/4-Hiroshima-bombs-worth-of-heat-per-second.html a post which does not refer to any previous usages.

    I’m going to sound like a broken record to some here, sorry. But seeing this statement I can’t resist recounting my own experience.

    I was living Christchurch on the 4th of September 2010 when a magnitude 7.1 earthquake struck. Over the next week or so media reported on the strength of the earthquake in terms of Hiroshima bombs. Here’s one example in the SMH from September 6 2010:

    SCIENTISTS believe not one but three earthquakes just seconds apart ripped a 13-kilometre gash across the Canterbury Plains and unleashed energy equivalent to 67 Hiroshima nuclear bombs speeding into Christchurch.

    There were no complaints from the people of Christchurch about the use of this analogy and I felt the general mood was one of appreciation for the aid in understanding. There were also no complaints from the Japanese community as far as I was aware and one of my good friends was Japanese. She never complained about it.

    No-one looked out their window that day and saw the sort of destruction that would have been visible in Hiroshima but no-one expected to. The energy in this case was unleashed underground and so much of it was absorbed by rock. We understood this. The analogy was potent and a useful means of quantifying energy in a way that people could better conceptualize. I think the same is true for the analogies used in climate change.

  47. Hi ATTP,

    As I should have predicted, posting a comment here has generated more extra work than I have time for 🙂 In reply to https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2014/02/20/ffs-roger-its-an-analogy/#comment-15345 Let’s call your reasons, R1 and R2. R1 is the ‘hobby’ reason if you like. People who are intrigued by the science (many commenters here I guess), what we know and what we don’t know, and figuring out what we should try and discover next etc etc. Science is fun!

    R2 about communicating risks. Obviously I can see the logic behind this. The R1 hobbyists (and a number of professionals) draw the conclusions from the science that there is a problem which requires wider recognition in society. Since 1988 societies have become much more aware of climate change. However, the pace of society’s response is judged to be insufficient compared to the task at hand. How do we respond?

    The assumption underlying R2 is that if we communicate the risks more effectively, perhaps using analogies to cut through the scientific jargon, then society will respond in a more rational manner. Unfortunately, I am unconvinced that this will necessarily follow. It’s often convenient to focus on the US and talk about political blockages from the Koch Brothers (boooooo!!!), but we have had a full complement of legislation and expert committees in the UK for five years, it’s made little discernible difference in performance.

    *Science* has unquestionably set the political agenda. Since Hansen and Thatcher made their speeches in ’88, climate change has gone from being a matter for scientific journals to a global policy issue. However, I am not sure that science is capable of contributing to any further political leaps. The problem now, in lieu of any societal change in thinking about consumption, is *technology*…and, I might add, that the lack of acceptance of the available low carbon energy technologies probably plays a part in gripes about the science.

    So in answer to your question *cough*, analogies and risk communication (R2) are part of the picture, although I think they make more sense in local circumstances than on the global level. However, they may well be somewhat peripheral. Politics and technology are the fundamental variables in the debate now, I think. There appears to be enough support across societies for the *idea* of renewable energy. However, the current technologies aren’t up to the job in a lot of ways (especially in a densely populated, cloudy place like the UK). Any improved understanding of the risks doesn’t seem likely to change that.

  48. Chris, I commend you for your argumentativeness, as ever. Alas, you are generalising from one discussion. I never said it was impossible to make objective definitions (although I guess we might differ on what ‘objective’ means). I was just pointing out, as many have in the past, that coming up with a workable definition of ‘pseudoscience’ is very challenging. So far, you have successfully quoted back the first three (three!) definitions you found in an online dictionary. This supports my point (and yours, initially!) that one shouldn’t bandy around terms without understanding what they mean.

    Anyway, this discussion is boring enough on MSP. We probably shouldn’t sully ATTP with it as well.

  49. Warren,
    Thanks, but I’m not sure I’m completely with you.

    Politics and technology are the fundamental variables in the debate now, I think. There appears to be enough support across societies for the *idea* of renewable energy. However, the current technologies aren’t up to the job in a lot of ways (especially in a densely populated, cloudy place like the UK). Any improved understanding of the risks doesn’t seem likely to change that.

    I don’t quite see how this follows. I completely agree that ultimately it is politics that will decide on how we should proceed, but you seem to be trying to marginalising the science. We’ve just had a parliamentary select committee hearing in which 3 of those giving evidence were very obviously contrarians and the evidence they presented was at odds with the majority of the evidence available. How are policy makers going to make sensible decisions if they are lead to believe, for example, that climate sensitivity may be low and that, really, we won’t warm as much as the models suggests. That isn’t consistent with the majority of the evidence, and the policy decisions will surely depend on what you think will likely happen in the future?

    If climate sensitivity is low, you could let renewable technology develop slowly. If not, you might decide that some kind of extra investment is necessary. So, I’ve yet to hear a convincing argument why we should stop talking about the science and just the policy makers get on with doing their job (as you seem to be suggesting). To be clear, I don’t think science tells us what to do, but it does inform policy makers in a way that might (and should) influence what they may choose to do.

  50. I commend the article Brigitte linked to above. Very interesting!

    Rachel, there are rather a lot of broken records in the climate debate. You (and I!) are in good company…

  51. chris says:

    Warren on the possibility that it would be useful if the public had a better understanding of climate science:

    R1 is the ‘hobby’ reason if you like. People who are intrigued by the science (many commenters here I guess), what we know and what we don’t know, and figuring out what we should try and discover next etc etc. Science is fun!

    O.K. Warren so presumably you consider that public understanding of the science relating to risks of HIV transmission from certain practices (sexual/needle sharing etc), or of smoking with respect to respiratory disease and lung cancer and so on, is the “hobby reason”. Do you seriously consider that public understanding of science relates to “hobby” following?!

  52. ATTP, I really must sign off now, but to be clear I am not trying to marginalise the science. However, the incremental moves in knowledge we can expect from science in the future probably won’t have much effect on the policy.

    Re the Select Committee.I think it’s unlikely the appearance of Lindzen et al will have much effect, but we’ll have to see what happens with the report.

  53. Chris, why do you get so cross so quickly? With your HIV and smoking examples, you are talking about the risks (R2). R1 in the original question was about the ‘science’, which I took to mean things like climate sensitivity, aerosols etc, whatever the ‘nerdy’ topic of the day is (I mean this in a nice way).

  54. chris says:

    Warren, I quoted the three dictionary definitions of “pseudoscience” to illustrate that one can define pseudoscience quite readily by recourse to simple dictionary definitions! “Pseudoscience” is truly rather easy to define.

    The idea that you instigate a discussion and then declare it to be “boring” is a dreary strategy for avoiding engaging in a discussion (that you yourself started!) 🙂

  55. Warren, Brigitte,

    I’ve just read through the article and it is interesting and not all that surprising. It seems to be suggesting that in a court setting analogies are not all that effective and tend to be used by the different sides to support their own views of the situation. This may well be relevant to communicating climate science in that I’m sure similar things happen.

    But, here’s something that confuses me. We have a scientific community that is largely in agreement. We have evidence that climate change poses great risks. Naively, I would have expected the SciComm community to be helping the scientific community to better communicate the science and the risks, but instead what I see are people criticising how scientists communicate. Does my general view have any merit and, if so, why is this?

  56. Joshua says:

    Brigitte –

    Thanks for that article:

    What we found surprised us. In about 80% of the mock juries, we found that the analogy was simply ignored. Not one juror found the analogy compelling enough to use it to help
    persuade other jurors during the mock deliberations. When an analogy was brought up, jurors
    opposed to the presenter’s view of the case usually ignored it completely, and went on to another issue.When the analogy was not ignored, one of two things usually happened: opposing jurors attempted to use it to their advantage, or they created their own alternative analogy, which they believed was a better analogy.

    Perfect. For the most part, analogies mostly get viewed in ways that confirm biases.

    Freud once remarked that analogies prove nothing but they make us feel at home. So if they make you feel secure, if they help you understand your case and build your confidence, if they lend some compelling language and drama to grab jurors’ attention, by all means present one or two. Just don’t spend all your time developing that perfect analogy because there isn’t one, and even if you find it, it probably will not be effective anyway.

    Again, perfect. For the most part, analogies mostly get viewed in ways that confirm biases.

  57. chris says:

    Warren, I’m certainly not getting cross 🙂 I wonder where you got that from? I’m trying to understand how you could consider that enhanced understanding of scientific issues that allow individuals to make personal and collective decisions that on balance will benefit them and their societies amounts to “hobby”ing.

    I’m curious to understand the basis of your notions – you tend not to expand on your assertions/notions but it would be helpful of you were to do so. There’s nothing particularly “nerdy” about aspects of science that can lead to beneficial individual and collective decision-making. It’s somewhat ignorant to attempt to diminish scientific issues by labelling them as “nerdy”!

  58. > Just don’t spend all your time developing that perfect analogy because there isn’t one, and even if you find it, it probably will not be effective anyway.

    And, to complete the Gorgias hat trick [1], we could add that even if it could be effective, you would not be able to discern its effectiveness anyway.

    But do spend time arguing that the Otter’s analogies are misleading. That ought to work.

    [1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gorgias#On_the_Non-Existent

  59. BBD says:

    ATTP

    Naively, I would have expected the SciComm community to be helping the scientific community to better communicate the science and the risks, but instead what I see are people criticising how scientists communicate. Does my general view have any merit and, if so, why is this?

    I think it does have merit and I believe it is a consequence of efficacious misinformation. The “climate scientists are the problem” meme – in all its subtle and not-at-all-subtle variants seems to have become established within the debate and reportage.

  60. Joshua says:

    But do spend time arguing that the Otter’s analogies are misleading. That ought to work.

    I would imagine that it would be just about as effective as arguing that our analogies {What is the opposite of an Otter, a non-Otter?} are not misleading.

  61. A random study:

    OBJECTIVE:

    It is not known how often physicians use metaphors and analogies, or whether they improve patients’ perceptions of their physicians’ ability to communicate effectively. Therefore, the objective of this study was to determine whether the use of metaphors and analogies in difficult conversations is associated with better patient ratings of their physicians’ communication skills.

    […]

    RESULTS:

    In a sample of 101 conversations, coders identified 193 metaphors and 75 analogies. Metaphors appeared in approximately twice as many conversations as analogies did (65/101, 64% versus 31/101, 31%; sign test p < 0.001). Conversations also contained more metaphors than analogies (mean 1.6, range 0-11 versus mean 0.6, range 0-5; sign rank test p < 0.001). Physicians who used more metaphors elicited better patient ratings of communication (rho = 0.27; p = 0.006), as did physicians who used more analogies (Spearman rho = 0.34; p < 0.001).

    CONCLUSIONS:

    The use of metaphors and analogies may enhance physicians’ ability to communicate.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19922170

    A related question would be: why attack the Otter’s metaphors and analogies?

  62. uknowispeaksense says:

    It was a compliment. You should contact Hotwhopper and find out how the blog owner links to archived posts from wuwt. It prevents clickscores.

  63. uknow,
    I use rel=”nofollow” on all my links. I don’t link to WUWT that often these days, so it may not be much of an issue anymore, but maybe I’ll look into it.

  64. Joshua says:

    IMO – the usefulness of an analogy (or metaphor) really lies in the intent of the metaphorer or the analogizer and the intent of the metaphoree or the analogizee.

    If the intent is to really instruct and learn, then they can be of use. If the intent is to wage rhetorical wars, then nothing much of benefit will result except making non-Otter’s feel good as Briggite’s article discussed.

    I think of when “realists” and “skeptics” traded the “cardiologist are not like climate scientists” and “climate scientists are like Lysenko” analogies, and then argued with each Otter about whether the Otter’s analogy was accurate.

  65. Joshua,
    I think that is roughly what I was getting at in my comment. Given the level of agreement in the scientific community, one might naively think that there might be a concerted effort to aid communication and that may actually be effective. That’s not what I’m seeing, however.

  66. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    That’s not what I’m seeing, however.

    I think that despite that on the “realist” side many feel confident about what is effective, there isn’t much in the way of supporting evidence. So if they aren’t open to criticism of that evidence, It is much easier to describe the evidence of what is not effective.

    “Skeptics,” on the other hand, seem to argue. often, that they aren’t concerned with what is or isn’t effective communication, in contrast to basically all available evidence reflected in their behavior. So it isn’t easy to get across a message to them about effective communication either (because they claim that they are only interested in the science).

    There are inherent difficulties in bridging the gap between the prevalence of view in the scientific community and influencing public opinion. Some of these difficulties seem to me to be pretty well-established: For example, known characteristics about how people assess risk, or known influences of political orientation. Just hammering away that there is a prevalence of view does not seem to me to be likely to address those difficulties in a strategic fashion. Someone like Hulme, it seems to me, is trying to offer constructive criticism, but he makes a mistake if he is blind to how he frames that constructive criticism in a way that stimulate natural tendencies towards identity-protective reactions.

    Personally, I suspect that the communicative environment is the most important factor. Within a communicative framework where trust (and good faith dialog) is absent, and where people are advancing and defending “positions” as opposed to seeking common “interests,” existing patterns are unlikely to change, IMO.

  67. Joshua,
    When I said “not what I’m seeing” I was referring to the concerted effort. It’s true that there may not be an easy way to develop effective communication, but I’m not really seeing a concerted effort to try from all those who could contribute. So, yes, one could envisage constructive criticism as part of a process of improvement. I’m simply seeing criticism, but maybe I am not seeing this quite as objectively as I should.

  68. Joshua says:

    Yeah. There’s certainly a lot of criticism.

    It seems to me that Kahan is interested in finding answers, but that he doesn’t know what the answers are for the most part and so he is most focused on empirical study of the available evidence. As such, it does seem much easier to describe what doesn’t work than what does work.

    It is interesting that there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of longitudinal, real-world study based on an empirical framework. But I think that part of the reason for that is because it is such a polarized topic that mostly everyone has a vested interest.

  69. “I guess what I am still surprised about is the sense that some don’t seem bothered by a senior scientist accusing another of misrepresenting science because of an analogy he disagrees with.”

    Like was remarked above, science is very much a team sport and reputation is very important. If you have to check every statement in an article, reading it becomes almost as much work as writing it. Reading an article means placing trust in the authors. Trust every scientists works hard on building up during his career, which builds up very slowly and can be quickly lost.

    Posting at WUWT, a blog well know for its misquotations, misinterpretations and everything which goes against the scientific method is not good for your reputation. Calling a harmless analogy “an example of misrepresenting climate science” is not good for your reputation.

    Scientists may not tweet or comment strong statements back, but you can count on them observing and talking with each other.

  70. What makes a good analog for a case of cause and consequences. It must be another case where the cause and consequences are similarly related, and which is more familiar in t way that the relationship is intuitively understandable to the audience.

    Atomic bomb is a really terrible analog from this point of view. Who has any real feeling of the average power repeated atomic bomb explosions release? I have difficulties in believing that a single person has any idea of that without an explicit calculation.

    Microwave ovens are a little better, but having them on over an extremely small fraction of the time destroys the analog again.

    I wonder whether improving understanding is ever the goal when this kind of analogs are introduced? The idea seems rather to be that something strong is introduced, but then that must be compensated by the small temporal fraction. Is that done to improve understanding or to create a misleading impression?

    Communicating properly the significance of climate change is surely difficult, but bad analogs only add to the confusion.

  71. There is no real need for an analogy. You can just state that the energy flux (solar and heat radiation together) at the surface becomes a few percent higher.

    That would be my preferred formulation. I personally do not like the Hiroshima analogy, but even if a scientist would use that analogy it would not constitute a misrepresentation of climate science, and especially not if you clearly state that you only want to compare the amount of energy. That claim is unreasonable. Microwave ovens are even more harmless as nukes, even if they still have too much entropy. According to the comments at WUWT microwaves create fear; would not have crossed my mind.

  72. Rachel says:

    Standford Encyclopedia of philosophy has a good page on analogy and analogical reasoning. It says:

    Analogies are widely recognized as playing an important heuristic role, as aids to discovery. They have been employed, in a wide variety of settings and with considerable success, to generate insight and to formulate possible solutions to problems. According to Joseph Priestley, a pioneer in chemistry and electricity,

    “analogy is our best guide in all philosophical investigations; and all discoveries, which were not made by mere accident, have been made by the help of it. (1769/1966: 14)”

  73. Joshua says:
    February 20, 2014 at 6:09 pm
    FG has made the big time: He’s being highlighted by Judith Curry for his insightful input into science of climate change.

    http://judithcurry.com/2014/02/19/aps-reviews-its-climate-change-statement/#comment-460855

    I offered to split the Big Oil cheque with her.

  74. Joshua says:

    FG –

    No wonder those warmists are trying to “annihilate” you.

    A few more comments like that one at Bishop Hill could very well be decisive – and bring the whole “hoax” crashing down.

  75. For what it’s worth, Michael Tobis has been underwhelmed by Kahan’s work:

    There’s no surprise that cultural bias reduces reasoning. Of course it does! So do loud noises, sexual stimuli, flashing lights, being hit over the head with a mallet. The fact that people can be distracted is not news.

    The purported surprise is that a larger percentage of the more competent people were distracted.

    But remember, it is a trick question! The success rate of the less competent is worse than chance! And some of that success is accidental!

    http://planet3.org/2013/09/17/the-jugglers-paradox-kahans-latest-mistake/

    Why am I distracted, again?

  76. BG says:

    OK, all you science communicators here’s an op-ed in the murdoch WSJ by the deniers/confusionists our of the UAH that needs to be rebutted:

    http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303945704579391611041331266?mg=reno64-wsj&url=http%3A%2F%2Fonline.wsj.com%2Farticle%2FSB10001424052702303945704579391611041331266.html

  77. BG says:

    ‘our’ = ‘out’

  78. JasonB says:

    I thought RP Sr was somehow involved with the creation of WUWT as dhogaza suggested above, so it’s hardly surprising that he posted there. (Since we’re talking about analogies, perhaps a good one would be the way that a large corporation might create a $2 company to undertake dangerous or illegal activities and shield themselves from risk. 😉

    While we’re on the subject of analogies, I think that the bathtub one Warren raised is a clear attempt to misrepresent the science because a bathtub is small enough to fit in my bathroom. The atmosphere is much bigger than my bathroom. QED.

  79. JasonB says:

    Michael Tobis (from willard’s link):

    Those of us who are cast as “defending the deficit model” are simply arguing against the proposition that once such conflict is put in place (often by malice) that all attempts at explanatory exposition are doomed to failure and should cease.

    I think this is an important point. Attempts to communicate the science to the public are not being conducted in a vacuum.

  80. uknowispeaksense says:

    Then you’ll love this. We have a cracker here in Australia called Dr Richard Pearson who claims to have debunked the Greenhouse theory using some cling wrap (cling film, glad wrap, sandwich wrap) and a couple of Eskies (coolers, iceboxes). http://www.desmogblog.com/climate-science-denier-debunks-greenhouse-theory-two-fish-cooler-boxes-and-roll-cling-film

  81. JasonB says:

    Speaking of analogies, have you ever seen the sun compared to a hydrogen bomb? How misleading is that?

    The average power output per unit volume of the core of the sun — where 99% of the energy is produced — is about 20 W/m3. The peak power output of the core of the sun is about 280 W/m3. A better analogy would be a large compost heap.

  82. FG,
    Maybe you could point out to your colleagues on BH, that the comment that you made about the hiatus/pause, you made here and not on the post that you linked to from your BH comment.

  83. JasonB,
    I presume the 280 W/m^3 is for the core of a hydrogen bomb, not the Sun.

  84. JasonB says:

    ATTP: No, that’s the peak at the centre of the sun. The average over the entire core is about 1/10 of that.

    (Solar power output: 3.83×10^26 Watts, of which 99% is generated in the core; core radius about 0.24 x solar radius = 1.67×10^8 m; core volume approximately 2×10^25 m^3; therefore average power over the entire core approximately 20 W/m^3.)

    The power output per unit volume of a compost heap is about the same as the peak power output per unit volume at the centre of the sun.

    The sun generates a lot of energy in total because it’s big, in exactly the same way that the earth’s energy imbalance adds up to a lot because the earth is big. Someone who complains about any analogy to earth’s energy imbalance that involves reducing the spatial size of the distribution of that energy — e.g. by comparing it to a nuclear bomb, or microwave ovens — would presumably object to anybody who compares the sun’s output to anything other than a large compost heap, because they wouldn’t want mislead people about the density, would they? But even then, only the peak in the centre of the core reaches the power output per unit volume of a compost heap.

    The volume of an average human is about 0.07 m^3, and the average human produces power at about 100 W. That means the energy density of humans is about 1400 W/m^3, five times the peak power production per unit volume in the core of the sun and 70 times the average over the entire core.

    So I hope nobody goes crazy and tries to use human metabolism in an analogy describing the power output of the sun’s core because that would misrepresent the science even more, eh?

  85. JasonB,
    Sorry, I missed the words “average” and “peak”. I see what you were getting at now 🙂

  86. verytallguy says:

    Jason,

    Sun as a compost heap, that’s brilliant. What I like about science is it’s ability to surprise, and show that “common sense” is a useless way to evaluate the natural world. Ironically, in many ways a great analogy for how global warming is perceived by scpetics.

  87. Anders,
    Sorry I was away from the computer to finish an article on epigenetics, metaphors and the failure of metaphors in this context. I am not a professional ‘science communicator’ or science communication practitioner, that is to say I don’t see myself as somebody who takes any science out there, be it epigenetics, climate science, nanotechnology etc., and goes out in the world to convince people of its merits or to make people accept it in some form or other. I rather study the way that such sciences are communicated either by scientists or professional science communicators for example, or indeed the media and policy makers. If I were to promote all the sciences I come in contact with that would (a) be impossible and (b) lead to people accusing me of propaganda or activism. So, basically, what I am trying to say is that people like myself and Warren try to keep a critical eye on what is going on around various sciences and the ways they are debated in society. We are not something like loud-speakers for any of these sciences.
    On some of the dilemmas surrounding science communcation, see this article on bridging theory and practice – and that’s only the tip of a complex iceberg. http://www.britishscienceassociation.org/sites/default/files/root/scicomconf/SCC_eBook_2013_FINAL.pdf p. 11 (and that iceberg is becoming ever more complex for us, so to speak, with increasings calls for public engagement activities, knowledge exchange, responsible innovation and the generation of impact…..)

  88. Brigitte,
    Thanks for the lengthy reply.

    I rather study the way that such sciences are communicated either by scientists or professional science communicators for example, or indeed the media and policy makers.

    I had wondered if part of my issue was confusing those who study science communication with those who are science communicators. Clearly it is an interesting topic in itself and worthy of study. I do still get the sense that there are some who could be helping to better communicate this science who are sitting back and being crticial of those who try, but that is almost entirely based on my limited experience and may not be a fair reflection of what is actually going on.

    It clearly is a complex topic and something that is difficult to get right. As you and I were commenting on Twitter, this is something that people should be at least be willing to recognise. One of the reason for writing this post as I did (i.e., maybe a bit less carefully than I normally would) was the frustration that someone like Roger Pielke Sr. doesn’t appear to be willing to acknowledge this at all, and simply accuses someone – who took part in what I imagine they thought was a good faith discussion with his son – of misrepresenting climate science. If that’s the response people are willing to make, then it seems like any attempt at public engagement could easily be accused (by those who want to) of misrepresenting science.

  89. Why do we have this kind of discussion?

    The first reason is obviously that GW is a slow process, too slow to be perceived directly without help of historical statistics. Furthermore it’s mixed with a lot of noise that’s not well understood, but surely contains both random mean-reverting short term variability and slower processes which may be quasi-periodic or not.

    The other ingredient is that most scientists agree that GW poses major long-term threats that cannot be countered rapidly, when they have become more visible. The views of scientists do, however, vary much more on the quantitative level: How severe are the risks, or how strongly should we react immediately? (A further and very difficult question is deciding on the actual measures even when it has been agreed that some strong measures are needed.)

    My understanding is that only few changes have been unequivocally observed. Rise in global scale average surface temperatures and decrease in arctic ice are the best cases. Even speeding up of sea level rise and glacier melting might have other plausible explanations, while the historical measurements of the total OHC suffer from lack of coverage as well as technical issues. On extreme events IPCC SREX and AR5 tell that drawing firm conclusions is difficult. Some scientists publish papers where they argue that the evidence is stronger, but looking mainly at them might be cherry picking as other new papers present contrary conclusions.

    Nothing in the above is meant to tell that there would be stronger evidence against warming and other changes at the level presented in AR5 or against the upper values within the ranges given by AR5. Such rates of change are fully possible, but the problem remains: What people can directly perceive is not convincing. The recent weather patterns may have become more likely, but the evidence for that is not strong.

    Under these circumstances many people think that they should make the wide public to take the issue more seriously. When the directly observable changes are not enough they try to invent scares that would have a stronger influence. When the reliable facts are not enough the scares either are strictly against the facts or formally true but planned to give an impression that’s not based on the facts alone. Take the atomic bomb. That’s scary, but not due to the total amount of energy the bomb releases on the global scale or on the average over periods longer than seconds. Referring to the bomb can have only one purpose – to create an emotional reaction based on factors not relevant for the issue considered.

    We can see that the publicity innovations of Cook and others have been taken over by politicians. They have succeeded on that level. Is that productive in the long run? I have my doubts, and I cannot make myself agree on the value of creating emotional reactions with purpose built misleading arguments. I believe that crying wolf has exactly the result it has in the original story.

  90. Pekka,

    We can see that the publicity innovations of Cook and others have been taken over by politicians. They have succeeded on that level. Is that productive in the long run? I have my doubts, and I cannot make myself agree on the value of creating emotional reactions with purpose built misleading arguments. I believe that crying wolf has exactly the result it has in the original story.

    I think it depends what you mean by this. I agree that alarmist rhetoric can be counter-productive and that it can end being used against you. I also agree that direct attribution for extreme events is very difficult. However, it’s hard to imagine that continuing to add energy to our climate system will not have an influence on extreme events, and it’s hard to imagine that it’s going to make them weaker and less common.

    So, the argument that I would make is that one should choose one’s rhetoric carefully as it could end up working against you. I’m not convinced, however, that the “cry wolf” analogy is all that apt as there is every chance that what Cook and others are trying to illustrate will turn out to be roughly correct. In the coming decades, if (when – I would say) it is clear that climate change presents a real risk, I doubt that those who were trying to warn us that these risks existed will be blamed for having done so. Those who continually point out that we can’t directly attribute extreme events to human influence may well get away with saying “we were just trying to be rigorous”, but I doubt they’ll be thanked for such rigour in the future.

  91. uknowispeaksense says:

    This is the point where concern trolls are best presented with another analogy along the lines of risk. Stephen Schneider summed it up nicely when he used the analogy of fire insurance where there might be a 1% risk that a person’s house will burn down at some point yet everyone takes out fire insurance. The vast majority of climate experts say with very high confidence that anthropogenic climate change is going to have serious consequences if we continue BAU and yet some of those same risk averse people who take out fire insurance react differently. It’s senseless and illogical. Of course there is also the medical analogy put to James Delingpile. Again, senseless and illogical to dismiss it.

  92. uknow,
    It’s even worse than that because – as I understand it – the evidence at the moment would suggest that a BAU scenario has a much bigger chance than 1% of leading to damaging climate change in the next century. So, I agree, it doesn’t really make sense, at least not in terms of what I would regard as sensible and morally acceptable.

  93. UK Met Office and many others have stated that one related effect is certainly based on physics. Evaporation will increase and that leads to more total precipitation. It’s natural to conclude that also heavy rains are likely to get heavier. Thus flooding like England has experienced is likely to increase somewhere, but not everywhere as the locations will also move.

    Beyond that everything seems to be speculation. The climate models are not good enough to give definitive answers. The total free energy from absorption of solar radiation is likely to increase a little, because the average temperature at the point of absorption goes up. The temperature at the point of emission to space is not likely to change much, but may also go up a little due to polar amplification and radiation directly from surface to space in Arctic and Antarctic regions. The overall change in the flux of free energy is rather small. Thus the overall strength of circulation need not change much either. Polar amplification means also that the latitudinal temperature gradients decrease, which might mean calmer weather.

    There are reasons for expecting more extreme weather, but there are also contrary effects. Here again it’s important to maintain balance and avoid cherry picking only half of the argument.

  94. JasonB says:

    Pekka:

    Referring to the bomb can have only one purpose – to create an emotional reaction based on factors not relevant for the issue considered.

    That’s a very strong claim that I do not think is supported by the available facts and is directly refuted by the comments of those who have used it regarding their motivations.

    The “Hiroshima” as a unit of energy is not an invention of Cook et al, as has been repeatedly pointed out with examples going back years, referring to volcanoes, earthquakes, bushfires, and even storms (not to mention the sun). The bushfire example I gave on Warren’s blog post was broadcast by a science reporter on national television two months before Cook used the term in his blog post and I’m not aware of anyone complaining about the analogy then. Here’s a BBC article from August 2006 that not only compares a super-eruption of Yellowstone to “the force of 1,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs exploding every second”, it even has the immensely poor taste to claim that “You could fit Tokyo, the world’s biggest city, in Yellowstone’s super-volcanic crater”. How insensitive is that?

    I do not have “emotional reaction” when I see it being used, unless you count a sense of awe, but that’s an entirely appropriate emotional reaction. Perhaps that’s why I don’t leap to the conclusion that the only possible purpose for them to use it could have been “to create an emotional reaction based on factors not relevant for the issue considered”. Indeed, I assume that those using it did so because it’s the largest unit of energy that people are likely to have some concept of. (The famous video clip of the Bikini Atoll detonation would be another candidate, as would large volcanic eruptions like Krakatoa, which I’ve also seen used.)

    The other point I’d make is that I’m continually surprised just how much acceptance there is of global warming in the wider community (away from the blogosphere) and in my experience it’s generally because of what people have perceived that’s convinced them, directly contradicting your point. If you don’t like anecdotal evidence then the Yale surveys show that even in the US, 63% of the population believe global warming is already happening and half say that they are either somewhat worried or very worried about global warming. 65% believe that global warming will harm future generations of people. About half believe it is human caused, despite only 22% correctly estimating that over 80% of climate scientists think that global warming is actually happening!

    The problem is not convincing the people; the problem is convincing the politicians.

  95. uknowispeaksense says:

    Indeed. Very high confidence being 95%. When I mentioned concern troll I was referring to pekka. Classic example. I believe but……….

  96. Pekka,
    Okay, I agree that we can’t say anything for sure but I would argue that “it might be alright” isn’t a great way to look at things.

    Here again it’s important to maintain balance and avoid cherry picking only half of the argument.

    I don’t think I actually cherry-picked. I was simply pointing out that more energy would likely mean some things would get more energetic. Some things might change so that they no longer occur as we expect, but I was simply trying to point out that basic physics would argue that more energy (as we expect) likely will influence extreme weather.

    Polar amplification means also that the latitudinal temperature gradients decrease, which might mean calmer weather.

    Yes, and I realise that this has some potential impact on things like tornadoes. However, you can’t turn off the coriolis effect, so will it actually influence other weather systems? I guess if you can get rid high pressure and low pressure zones, then maybe, but I’m not sure that that makes sense.

    Again, it comes back to risk. I agree that climate models aren’t good enough for definitive answers, but I don’t think anyone sensible is claiming that they are. They’re giving us indications of what might happen, both globally and regionally. I’m not aware of any modelling or analysis that says overall things will likely become calmer and less damaging. I guess anything’s possible, but I would quite like to see a more solid argument for the possibility that we should consider that climate change doesn’t present as much of a risk as much of the evidence is suggesting.

  97. verytallguy says:

    Pekka,

    I’d agree with much of what you write, but I’d take issue with some points.

    most scientists agree that GW poses major long-term threats that cannot be countered rapidly, when they have become more visible

    The point is that they cannot be countered *at all* once more visible. A commitment to disintegration of the Greenland ice sheet would be a good example. We may already be at that point, but gross changes to the ice sheet are not yet apparent.

    My understanding is that only few changes have been unequivocally observed. Rise in global scale average surface temperatures and decrease in arctic ice are the best cases. Even speeding up of sea level rise and glacier melting might have other plausible explanations, while the historical measurements of the total OHC suffer from lack of coverage as well as technical issues.

    I think the IPPC disagree with you. From SPM AR5

    Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, sea level has risen, and the concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased

    Human influence on the climate system is clear. This is evident from the increasing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, positive radiative forcing, observed warming, and understanding of the climate system.

    (my emphasis)

    Overall, you give the impression of looking at observations of each effect in isolation rather than consilience between the observations.

    Yes, it might be possible to hypothesise a mechanism for glacial retreat independent of GHGs (what would yours be, I wonder). But you also need to think of other, independent mechanisms for the other changes observed consistent with that hypothesis. I have seen no evidence of any such consilience of evidence to support any hypothesis other than what Dessler refers to as the “standard model” of climate.

    The danger of always communicating all the caveats and uncertainties is that the main message is obscured. And that is every bit as misleading as communicating false confidence.

  98. The “Hiroshima” as a unit of energy is not an invention of Cook et al, as has been repeatedly pointed out with examples going back years, referring to volcanoes, earthquakes, bushfires, and even storms (not to mention the sun).

    For those examples that makes sense, because all are discrete events. The total amounts of energy released in the events can be compared meaningfully, but on annual level the amounts of energy are small. I repeat: I don’t think that anyone has any intuitive feeling on the ratio of those rapid releases of energy to the annual energy flows or changes in them.

    It’s not a secret that Cook is looking for effective formulations based on other arguments than their applicability to the main issue. In my interpretation he has told that himself.

  99. uknowispeaksense,

    Risk aversion is a wise attitude. The Precautionary Principle is a valid general principle, but problematic as implied by the formulation of the original Rio Declaration (emphasis mine)

    In order to protect the environment, the precautionary approach shall be widely applied by States according to their capabilities. Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.

    Insurance is in many cases a cost-effective way for reducing the risk on an individual. Therefore insurances are taken. There are also some measures that are very likely cost-effective in mitigating the climate change. Some people either
    – believe that we have right now alternatives that are both effective and cost-efficient and that the only thing we are missing is political will, or
    – think that we lack those, but that those will be developed in time by market forces, and that we should just wait and see.

    I don’t believe either of those. I don’t believe that readily available will solve much, nor do I believe that markets work in this case well enough. Firm political decisions are needed, but I don’t believe that we know yet enough for fixing much of the policies immediately. The most urgent thing is to study the policy options, and to invest heavily in research of alternatives. So far the decisions have not been based on good enough understanding. Therefore cases like the policies in Europe have been either ineffective or far too costly depending on the country.

  100. Pekka,

    The most urgent thing is to study the policy options, and to invest heavily in research of alternatives.

    Yes, but in my opinion, investing heavily in the research of alternatives is a policy decision. Doing that would, in my view, be a step in the right direction.

  101. andrew adams says:

    Pekka,

    Under these circumstances many people think that they should make the wide public to take the issue more seriously. When the directly observable changes are not enough they try to invent scares that would have a stronger influence.

    I think this is unfair. It’s always been the case that the really serious consequences of AGW were expected to arise in the coming decades (and in some cases centuries), I don’t think that anyone really predicted that we would see extreme weather events now that would be definitely attributable to AGW. Therefore although there might be case for saying that some of the recently observed extreme weather events may be influenced to an extent by climate change, the case for action on AGW still ultimately rests on what is likely to happen in the future. And in my view there is no need to “invent” scares, as there are enough genuinely scary and plausible outcomes which are possible. Of course we don’t possess a time machine so we can’t say for sure what will happen, some things may turn out better than we expect, others worse. I don’t doubt that in some cases people may go beyond what he science actually tells us, others underplay the risks. But there is certainly plenty of reason for the public to take the issue seriously whatever the rights and wrongs of trying to attribute current extreme events to climate change.

  102. andrew adams says:

    P.S. Nice to see you here.

  103. uknowispeaksense says:

    [Mod : Sorry, I agree with much of what you say, but this is just a little too confrontational to be constructive.]

  104. The dilemmas have been known for long. The famous text on the double ethical bind by Stephen Schneider is a case in point (page 5 of this issue of APS News). There should not be any disagreement on the need to search for the right balance, but it’s unavoidable that people disagree on the conclusion. To me a wide variety of choices are equally ethical, but some are likely to lead to better results in practice than others. What’s better in practice does depend on values as many things are affected, not only climate policies, and as some choice may be better in short term and another in long term.

    My own conclusion is that emphasizing honesty and de-emphasizing short term effectiveness will win in the long term, but others seem to disagree.

    The climate issue is a very long term issue. Maintaining progress requires policies that can be supported over years of little perceivable change. The general public will usually loose interest under such conditions.

  105. Joshua says:

    Calling someone a concern troll” implies a disingenuity to the concerns that person expresses.

    I have on quite a number of occasions read Pekka express the same essential ideas he has expressed here and I have never gotten the impression that he is in the slightest bit disingenuous. I say this although I have told Pekka a number of times that I think that he is a bit alarmist in his concerns about rhetoric such as the Hiroshima rhetoric being counterffective.

    For my own part – I don’t think that such rhetoric is particularly effective. I think that employing that kind of rhetoric does not fit particularly well with the evidence about how opinions are formed on these issues. I think that those who employ it are overly-confident in it’s effectiveness, in part because their evaluative approach to assessing rhetoric is not particularly scientific. But I think that for the most part, to the extent that such rhetoric stimulates negative reactions it is among those who are already strongly inclined to reject the message trying to be conveyed – so in the end the net effect is negligible in either direction.

    Along those lines. Calling Pekka a concern troll will have no net positive benefit.

  106. Pekka,

    To me a wide variety of choices are equally ethical, but some are likely to lead to better results in practice than others.

    I agree, but it seems difficult to achieve this if we still have parliamentary committees in the UK calling those who hold minority views to present evidence and if these people argue that there evidence is somehow stronger than the mainstream evidence. Of course there are many possible policy pathways but it would seem that understanding the risks we face is an important part of making the right/optimal policy decisions. I don’t believe that our policy makers do properly understand the risks.

    My own conclusion is that emphasizing honesty and de-emphasizing short term effectiveness will win in the long term, but others seem to disagree.

    Honesty, yes, but from everyone. It seems that one “side” can accuse the other of being dishonest and that gets lauded in certain parts of the press. If the other “side” does the same they’re accused of being uncivil. Of course, the term “side” isn’t great, but you know what I mean. I don’t know quite what you mean by the latter part of this. We’ve just had an article in the UK that was highlighted by many as being well worth a read that said (and I paraphrase) there’s no point in considering any policy that won’t have any effect in the next 5 years. I don’t really know how one can address climate change with that kind of policy view.

    The climate issue is a very long term issue. Maintaining progress requires policies that can be supported over years of little perceivable change.

    I would tend to agree. However, we do need to start (as you seem to suggest yourself) investing in technology development. This is very hard to do when the mainstream media publishes article by people who claim that anything other than fossil fuels will kill millions.

  107. I don’t think that anyone really predicted that we would see extreme weather events now that would be definitely attributable to AGW.

    Perhaps not, but some choose to hide that when they have the opportunity to refer to specific weather events.

    The real relevant question concerning extreme weather is, what’s the overall net change in total damage from extreme events, when some increase, some decrease, and virtually all move or change in some way. Because this is so badly known, I would prefer to concentrate on more predictable changes like the warming and the sea level rise. Flooding might be added, but drought probably not.

    This winter has been exceptional, but almost all that is related to one persistent weather pattern that cannot really be linked to warming according to many meteorologists who have commented on it in public (I just heard one more clear example of that by a Finnish meteorologist this morning on radio).

  108. Joshua,

    Along those lines. Calling Pekka a concern troll will have no net positive benefit.

    I agree, it won’t have a net positive benefit. I had debated whether or not to moderate that comment (Rachel will probably tell me off for not having done so 🙂 ). It is, however, part of a the rhetoric and allowing it to be expressed provides information.

    I also don’t have a sense that Pekka is being disingenuous so don’t think the concern troll tag fits in this case. That’s not to say that I agree with all of what Pekka says, but it does appear to be a discussion worth having.

  109. Joshua says:

    If you had moderated the comment out, I would not have as much information for understanding the context of uknowispeaksense’s other comments.

  110. Joshua says:

    Although I will say that to be consistent with the moderation policies, it should probably go.

  111. Pekka,

    The real relevant question concerning extreme weather is, what’s the overall net change in total damage from extreme events, when some increase, some decrease, and virtually all move or change in some way. Because this is so badly known, I would prefer to concentrate on more predictable changes like the warming and the sea level rise. Flooding might be added, but drought probably not.

    That’s, I guess, a fair way to look at things. Here’s another way (and my preferred way). If the paleo analysis is correct, then the ECS is likely about 3oC. Also, we will soon – according to paleo analysis – be in a climate never before experienced by the human species. There is no evidence to suggest that the consequences of this should be beneficial. Therefore why risk moving into this new climate when we are an innovative species who could, given the right motivation, find alternative ways to power our economies and that allow us to, hopefully, avoid dangerous climate change? Of course, this is not an argument against adaptation for what will almost certainly happen in the coming decades, but is an argument for investment in alternative technologies and incentivising a change to those alternatives.

  112. Joshua,

    Although I will say that to be consistent with the moderation policies, it should probably go.

    I have a beta factor on my moderation. If the comment provides information without triggering some kind of unpleasant and contentious exchange, it can stay if it is borderline, but only if it’s borderline in the first place. We now have the issue that having discussed it, it is much harder to now remove 🙂

  113. Joshua says:

    Pekka –

    Perhaps not, but some choose to hide that when they have the opportunity to refer to specific weather events.

    The vast majority of statements I now see are along the lines of “No single event can be attributed to ACO2 emissions, but these types of events are consistent with what we would expect with a warming climate and in fact the ACO2 we’ve already put into the atmosphere may have contributed to making the events we’ve seen more severe.”

    Is that not consistent with a focus on honesty and the type of statement that would be effective over the long term? Would you recommend a different statement?

    Part of the problem, IMO, with your argument here is that when such statements are made they are fallaciously attacked in any variety of ways. You say that a different approach would have a better outcome – but what evidence do you have for that? How do you know? That type of counterfactual, predicting what would be different if things were different, requires a high bar of proof, IMO. I just don’t see it.

  114. Joshua says:

    Anders – I wasn’t really criticizing because I consider the issue to be very tricky and yes, I knew that discussing the moderation policy was in violation with the moderation policy, but did it anyway. 🙂

  115. Pekka,

    Saying things like:

    – emphasizing honesty and de-emphasizing short term effectiveness
    – some choose to hide
    – Some people either believe […] or think

    puts mental attributions in abstract people.

    I don’t think this is helpful, to say the least.

  116. Writing on net means being open to attacks, both justified and unjustified. The best way to counter the unjustified ones is very often to behave in a way that makes others see the truth.

    This is very close to the question of honesty. To me the strict honesty of scientists is the way they can maintain their stature as more trustworthy than others. That’s one of the strongest reasons for my view that emphasizing honesty over effectiveness is so valuable. Responding to lacking honesty with lacking honesty means loosing the special stature.

    I trust that science wins ultimately by being science. If it fails in that it would fail even worse otherwise. Scientists can be activists, but doing that without damaging the personal public trust of a scientist and without any damage to the general trust in science requires care and willingness to give up at least a little on the short term effectiveness.

  117. Joshua keeps on asking, what evidence I have for my views. I don’t believe that anyone has objective evidence either way. The question is almost certainly too difficult for the social scientists to answer reliably. Thus the only evidence that I have is what I have learned from following discussion on many controversial topics over decades. Such personal experience may be biased by my social environment, which may differ from that of the majority. I do, however, believe that my opinions are supported by the experience.

  118. If Pekka is a concern troll, then I prefer that way over the people denying the basic science.

    To me the strict honesty of scientists is the way they can maintain their stature as more trustworthy than others.

    However, is it too much to ask from someone who worries about the honesty of scientists to also give out a statement about the honesty of WUWT and Co.? Not having double standards would increase my subjective estimate of someone trustworthiness.

  119. Pekka,

    To me the strict honesty of scientists is the way they can maintain their stature as more trustworthy than others. That’s one of the strongest reasons for my view that emphasizing honesty over effectiveness is so valuable.

    Okay, for starters, sure – we should all aim to be as honest as we possible can. I do think, however, that the whole honesty issue in climate science is a bit of a red-herring. Firstly, scientists are human and some will behave with less honesty than others, without that meaning anything with respect to their science area at all. Also, what do we mean by honesty? Do you mean a scientist may not express any view that isn’t absolutely supported the evidence? That would seem a little extreme. Should scientists make it clear when they’re expressing an opinion based on the evidence, rather than something that is absolutely supported by the evidence. Of course.

    However, my view is as follows. Scientists are human and not all will be perfect. Therefore, if one wants to show that scientists in a particular field have not been completely honest, it’s probably fairly easy to do so (just find retracted papers for starters). Therefore, the apparent existence of dishonest scientists doesn’t tell you anything about a particular field unless you know whether or not it’s anomalous compared to other fields. Therefore, in my view people who talk about trust and honesty as being crucial are often trying to avoid the rather inconvenient possibility that what the scientists are saying (in general) is important and significant. So, as much as I agree that honesty is very important and aiming to be as honest as possible is good, evidence for a lack of honesty doesn’t necessarily mean anything and one should maybe consider that those pointing it out are less honest than those being accused (not that I’m suggesting that you’re doing any such thing here).

  120. > Responding to lacking honesty with lacking honesty means loosing the special stature.

    This claim presupposes that some scientist, somewhere, somehow lack honesty.

    This presupposition acts like an undetermined accusation, not unlike Judy’s “if the shoe fits.”

    This accusation targets every scientist that readers could suspect as having acted dishonestly.

    By extension, it also targets all who are related to those unnamed scientists.

    ***

    This presupposition does not convey a scientific content, but a moralistic jab.

    This moralistic jab is trivial, as dishonesty makes one lose any stature one may have if that stature rests on honesty.

    This moralistic jab does not take into account basic facts about human beings:

    By the age of five, nobody has the stature Pekka presumes all scientists should have anymore.

  121. Victor Venema,

    I don’t follow WUWT. I read it only very seldom based on some link that arises interest. I don’t expect similar honesty from all as i expect from scientists, because I consider out of the ordinary honesty to be a trade mark of science and the most important component of proper scientific activity. If scientists cannot trust that other scientists are honest, doing science suffers severely. They can never trust that other scientists do not err, but they should be able to trust that very few of the other scientists cheat.

    Yes, I do set different standards for science than I set for typical blogs. When scientists write as scientists they should follow the criteria set for science.

    Scientists can expect more trust only if almost all scientists behave in the way that makes that justified.

  122. Pekka,

    Yes, I do set different standards for science than I set for typical blogs. When scientists write as scientists they should follow the criteria set for science.

    Scientists can expect more trust only if almost all scientists behave in the way that makes that justified.

    I don’t really agree with this. Scientists should of course follow the criteria set down for science (whatever that is) when doing their research, publishing their papers, and presenting their results. However, there aren’t really a set of rules. Scientists learn from their advisors, their colleagues and from others. What protects us from dishonesty is the scientific method (that someone else can show you’re wrong) not some set of rules of behaviour for scientists. Of course, those who are caught doing something fraudulent should suffer as a consequence, but one has to be careful not to confuse and error with fraud.

    I think that expecting a certain behaviour from scientists that is above and beyond some societal norm is unrealistic and rather breaks the whole idea of academic freedom. Academic freedom gives scientists the right to explore what they wish. The scientific method will catch those who aren’t any good or aren’t honest.

  123. Willard,

    I took the word honesty from Stephen Schneider’s text, and I use it in the same meaning he used it to the best of my understanding.

    If being honest would be simple, Schneider had not written, what he wrote.

    Honesty is not always a question of yes or no, but in the cases Schneider and I use the word, honesty has many degrees. Outright lies are at one end, and explaining with great care every single caveat at the other end. The problems occur in choosing the point between these extremes.

  124. Just to be clear, my above comment isn’t meant to excuse poor behaviour. It’s a suggestion that finding some doesn’t imply anything with respect to a field and the scientific method is what we should be using to catch it, not some set of rules that we could probably neither design nor implement.

  125. Pekka,

    Outright lies are at one end, and explaining with great care every single caveat at the other end. The problems occur in choosing the point between these extremes.

    Yes, that seems to be precisely the issue. My point, though, would be that catching an individual not being quite as honest as others might like is neither all that surprising or all the significant. It might reflect very poorly on the individual if they do so constantly. It doesn’t necessarily reflect on a field.

  126. > I took the word honesty from Stephen Schneider’s text, and I use it in the same meaning he used it to the best of my understanding.

    My point is not about semantics, Pekka, and I expect you to know that.

    You’re dodging my point. This signals something.

  127. Honesty is enormously important and the the scientific methods, for example the criterion that a hypothesis should be falsifiable, is there to keep scientists honest. I do not expect scientists individually to be better people, the method is there to force them to be. It could be that in the end due to selection and training scientists are actually more honest.

    Reading a few articles at WUWT should be more than sufficient to notice their lack of any standards. Relative to the scientific literature that is a difference of day and night. I do not think it is useful to discus the topic of honesty with someone not willing to see the night at WUWT. Sorry.

  128. Many professions have their own ethical rules. Some of them are codified, others understood. Science is one activity with it’s ethical rules. For science the codified rules are mostly not the essential rules, the understood rules are more important and apply more flexibly to all the various situations a scientist encounters.

    Science remains largely an informally defined activity. Science is what scientists do and scientists are those who do science. The community of scientists decides on where the border lines are. All that is done largely without formal rules, but borderline cases are more an exception than the rule.

    There are institutions like universities and science publishers. They influence significantly the limits of science, but basically all that is done without clear codified rules.

    Scientific method is often mentioned as a way of identifying science, but even that is uncodified and changes flexibly based on changing needs.

    In climate science related discussion mainly the skeptics seem to think that they know precisely what’s proper science. In that the refer to some misconceptions about the scientific method.

  129. Pekka,
    True, there are some that have ethical rules. I was thinking more in terms of the physical science that typically doesn’t (unless you start delving into parts of biophysics). Other than that, I can’t quite see what you’ve said that differs significantly from what I’ve said.

  130. Joshua says:

    Pekka –

    I do, however, believe that my opinions are supported by the experience.

    What evidence? The evidence I see is that people react to the rhetoric from scientists in ways that are rather easily predicable based on their group identifications. That is why, even when scientists make statements of the sort that you might be in agreement with, they are attacked nonetheless. Some think that a particular statement is a cause for distrust just as others view that same statement as a reason for trust.

    Can you name one “skeptic” from Climate Etc. whose view on the science would be altered on iota if all climate scientists employed rhetoric of the sort that you think is advisable? Whose opinion would be deferentially affected by the sort of rhetoric you recommend? Would you view the science differently if you saw less rhetoric that you may consider “alarmist?”

    There is an intuitive logic to the notion that “over-selling” would be counterproductive – but hopefully we can bring to the table more than what we might consider to be intuitive. As difficult a subject as it is, there is evidence related to the cause-and-effect behind how the public forms opinions on climate change. It seems to me that the discussion should move forward from a basis of evaluating the evidence and not restating what we find intuitive.

  131. verytallguy says:

    Joshua,

    Can you name one “skeptic” from Climate Etc. whose view on the science would be altered on iota…

    Yet any time I look in there, you always seem active. A genuine question Joshua, why do you spend so much time commenting there? Is there a purpose?

  132. > the criterion that a hypothesis should be falsifiable, is there to keep scientists honest

    Not at all. Falsifiability is there to make sure that what you claim is an empirical truth. Scientists ought to thread lightly on matters of ethics. Only Popperians still believe that this criterion cuts any ice anyway.

    Sometimes, I suspect that threading lightly is not scientists’ forte. If I’m right, there will always be concerns about how and where they thread. That’s the price for the forthrightness it takes to do science, I guess.

  133. Willard,

    I don’t understand, what I dodge.

    I still think that answers to more detailed questions are implied by what I have written.

    I don’t like naming individuals, except when a specific activity is discussed. If that has not become clear i add that I value highly the article of Stephen Schneider and the fact that he decide to discuss these questions in public. That’s to me a highly ethical decision, and not any less when my conclusions may be somewhat different.

    One case on which I might have something more to say is Climate Etc, but on that I prefer keeping my assessments there, and again limited to specific activities as I think that the it’s easy to misjudge the real significance of that site.

  134. > I don’t understand, what I dodge.

    Moralistic truisms that act as innuendos are suboptimal, Pekka. And that’s to say the least. Do you want me to say more?

    I can. We know that human beings can be dishonest from time to time. We also know that the auditing machine is built upon promoting acts of dishonesty. We don’t know if that leads anywhere, but we may guess it’s fun enough for eyeballs and click-through. From these premises that should be tough to dispute we get that the audit will never end.

    Now, you Pekka, are suggesting that scientists should seek to be the most honest they can be. Not only that, you’re basically saying that some chicken littles are dishonest and hurt the scientists’ reputation. So you’re basically attacking most of whom you seem to dislike on the basis of a truism.

    ***

    So yes, everybody ought to know better, do her best, etc. And fear-mongering is bad. And Peter and Wolf. And chicken little. We should play the long game. Et cetera.

    Do you realize how question-begging this whole line of argument feels?

    To see how suboptimal your whole argumentation can be, consider this. Do you really think full honesty will end the audit that will end all the audits? Even if every scientist in the whole wide world was honest, what will warrant it to the auditing eyes? Scientists make nobody audit.

    In this context, the concept of audit is a metaphor that relies on analogy. (Brigitte & Warren are protesting against its usefulness as we speak.) Audits make for good stories. And good stories sell. Some Big Otter acted in a sinister manner, and Someone Little Like You took upon himself to make sure that Justice prevails.

    Audits exist because some results underwhelm auditors. The constructive aspect of auditing is that critical book-keeping follows scientific best practices. The destructive (yes, destructive) aspect is that auditing is an editorial practice that promote stories about black helicopters.

    That there is a middle ground in-between being these is an illusion brokers that call themselves honest try to entertain.

  135. Ian Forrester says:

    Pekka said:

    The real relevant question concerning extreme weather is, what’s the overall net change in total damage from extreme events, when some increase, some decrease, and virtually all move or change in some way.

    Somehow this comment is not reflected by what is actually happening. I don’t see any decreases in this graphic:

    http://www.preventionweb.net/files/20120613_ClimateDisaster1980-2011.pdf

    Seems like a pretty good link to AGW to me. If anyone disagrees then they should at least be able to come up with an alternative theory.

  136. Then I am a Popperian. Just because falsifiability is not understood well by the climate ostriches, does not mean that it does not have value. They make a determined effort to misunderstand everything related to science. On the other hand, the term “truth”, empirical or not, has no role in science.

    One of the reasons I am not blogging at the moment is that the next post on falsifiability does not want to be written. In the mean time, please enjoy these two wonderful posts on the topic.

    http://ourchangingclimate.wordpress.com/2010/01/06/a-quick-n-dirty-guide-to-falsifying-agw/

    http://ourchangingclimate.wordpress.com/2014/02/17/is-climate-science-falsifiable/

  137. Joshua,

    Do you agree that scientists are commonly considered as more trustworthy that average non-scientists?

    If you do, then why is that and what’s required to maintain that situation?

    The question is not about people who write at Climate Etc and who maintain actively an opinion, it’s not about what happens in a year or two, when we discuss the trust in science in general. Individual scientists may lose trust more rapidly.

    In the climate issue we are consider something that has been known for more than 30 years but that’s still not directly observable by individuals. The situation may persist for quite a while. Wide ranging public attention may be obtained in years, but maintaining that for decades, when the effects are hidden, is demanding. Trying to keep up the interest by statements that appear soon to have been in error is likely to be counterproductive.

    The hiatus has had a significant effect in Europe at least. It’s almost certain that many (I say only that many) people think now that climate scientists made erroneous statements. The more clearly some threats are formulated the more trust will be lost, if the threats do not materialize soon.

  138. Williard,

    I’m discussing the double ethical bind of Schneider. I’m discussing honesty as an quantitative concept that can be emphasized more or less without becoming unethical when it’s weighted against other valid values. In that framing people may weight honesty less without getting less ethical. Saying that I would emphasize the honesty more than a particular scientist does, dies not mean that I accuse him or her of wrongdoing. I have a different value judgment, and I value my own judgment. I would like to influence people with different value judgment, but I don’t accuse them

  139. > Just because falsifiability is not understood well by the climate ostriches, does not mean that it does not have value.

    Indeed, just as falsifiability is useful even if Victor conflates honesty with verisimilitude.

    As if mathematicians or astrologers could not be honest.

    Sheesh.

  140. Ian,
    Your comment has reminded me that something I’ve wanted to know, which is if anyone has done some kind of Bayesian analysis on this whole topic. Typically what we see are people responding to claims of links to AGW with “there is no statistically significant trend for those events”. The question I would quite like to know the answer to is “how likely is it that – in a warming world (attributable) in which basic physics tells us water vapour concentrations should rise, and in which climate models suggest that we should see regional changes to various weather/climate events – we should be seeing the extreme events we’ve been seeing” (or, I guess, one should ask in the negative – how likely is it that they’re not related to GW).

  141. Joshua says:

    VTG –

    Yet any time I look in there, you always seem active. A genuine question Joshua, why do you spend so much time commenting there? Is there a purpose?

    A question for which I’m not sure there is an answer, and for which I certainly question whether there is a logical answer.

    At least at some level I increase my understanding of the issues being debated, and how they are being debated.

    I certainly don’t think that my participation changes viewpoints much – although there is a very occasional breakout of reasoned and good faith exchange of views, as for example with John Carpenter.

  142. > As if mathematicians or astrologers could not be honest.

    Let’s complete that thought: as if Popperians could not be dishonest.

    ***

    I might as well follow-through my own indignation (as if Pekka’s comment were not indignant!):

    > The more clearly some threats are formulated the more trust will be lost, if the threats do not materialize soon.

    Imagine the opposite in about any public health issue: something S caused some deaths D. We can hear the media’s outcries: how could we have prevented D? Why do we wait until D happens to do something? Who’s responsible for D? Somebody, somewhere, must have been dishonest about some risks of D. Ad infinitum and ad nauseam.

    Medias power and empower distrust. There’s little we can do about that.

  143. Joshua,
    Could it be that you (and Willard I suspect) are interested in the rhetoric that is used, why people have certain perceptions and why they use certain rhetoric, and are interested (as it seems) in challenging these perceptions and understanding them. Me, I’m really not. It might be good to understand it better, but as soon as recognise that a scientific discussion has gone completely wrong, I lose interest and am, typically, too frustrated to try and continue, especially as I’d probably say something that I might later regret 🙂

  144. > Let’s complete that thought: as if Popperians could not be dishonest.

    That was at least a thought I could understand and is naturally not what I claimed. I was more thinking in the direction: in the scientific community where falsification is valued, it is harder to be dishonest for anyone tempted to do so.

    It is possible to be dishonest, but it would be wise in that case to restrict yourself to articles no one is really interested in very much, otherwise you will likely be revealed and your reputation will go down.

  145. Joshua says:

    Pekka –

    Do you agree that scientists are commonly considered as more trustworthy that average non-scientists?

    For the most part, yes. But we have seen a situation whereby over the past couple of decades (in the U.S., at least) that “trust” in institutional science has been dropping differential for a particular sub-segment of the public: People who identify as consevatives in contrast to moderates and liberals. (It should be noted that previously, conservatives viewed institutional science with more trust than those other groups). As I mentioned, this process has been ongoing for decades, and is likely influenced by factors such as the growth of the religious right, which creates a systemic divergence between mainstream science and beliefs on issues such as evolution, stem cell research, HPV vaccines, and climate change.

    If you do, then why is that and what’s required to maintain that situation?

    I think that the problem is a systemic one, that reflects very deep underlying issues at play. IMO, the rhetoric employed (or not employed) by scientists lies on top of those underlying issues, and reactions to scientific rhetoric are basically predetermined by those underlying issues. I think it unlikely that the direction of causality is significantly in reverse – which seems to me like what you are arguing.

    In the climate issue we are consider something that has been known for more than 30 years but that’s still not directly observable by individuals.

    Yes, this is one of the systemic issues at play. This fact touches on known factors related to how people assess risk. I don’t think that specific rhetorical choices have a dramatic impact on these well-established patterns in how people assess risk.

    Trying to keep up the interest by statements that appear soon to have been in error is likely to be counterproductive.

    But the determination of what does or doesn’t appear to be in error is subjective – and largely determined by underlying influences of group-identification. Some “experts” are trusted and some are not – and the causal factor there is not so much what they say, nearly so much as how they are located within the listeners taxonomy of group identification. That is my understanding of the available evidence.

    The hiatus has had a significant effect in Europe at least. It’s almost certain that many (I say only that many) people think now that climate scientists made erroneous statements.

    So then the question there – assuming that what you say is true – is whether it is what climate scientists have said about climate change that is affecting viewpoints as opposed to the “pause” in and of itself. I’d say it is much more likely that it is the latter that is the case. People’s views on climate change are largely determined by immediately available and easily integrated evidence. It is not whether climate scientists use a particular analogy that is causal. It would seem that to settle this question, it would be necessary to evaluate changes in levels of trust. From what I’ve seen, for the most part levels of trust have not declined significantly overall, and to the extent that they have declined, it is with, specifically, a particular sub-section of the public who are looking for reasons to not trust scientists who think that human-induced climate change is at all likely to have deleterious effects. And those folks are likely being influenced by a host of factors, of which statements about climate change are clearly only one.

    The more clearly some threats are formulated the more trust will be lost, if the threats do not materialize soon.

    Again, I think that you are not evaluating causality here in a comprehensive way. It seems to me that you are not controlling for other variables that may be contributing to, if not actually explaining, causality.

  146. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    Could it be that you (and Willard I suspect) are interested in the rhetoric that is used, why people have certain perceptions and why they use certain rhetoric, and are interested (as it seems) in challenging these perceptions and understanding them.

    For me that is certainly partially the case. My interest is not necessarily limited to the rhetoric surrounding climate change, but how the rhetoric surrounding climate change is representative of larger communication phenomena.

  147. Joshua says:

    Pekka –

    To be clear, I am not suggesting that the kind of rhetoric you disapprove of is effective – but that I question your assessment of its degree of counterproductivity.

  148. Joshua says:

    Pekka –

    One more point is that many people have well-formulated opinions about climate change and think that they don’t need any more information to confirm their views, even though they haven’t studied the science and, in fact, are not very well-informed on what climate scientists actually say.

  149. Joshua says:

    Sorry – well-formed but NOT well-formulated. For sure. 🙂

  150. Victor,

    Falsificationism is a doctrine that dispenses us from knowledge as justified, true belief. It starts with the assumption that we have no way to know if something is true. This framework is tough to reconcile with ethical questions of truthfulness.

    The opposite of falsifiability is non-falsifiability. Non-falsifiability is characterized by triviality. It is always true. How can we judge the honesty of someone who only utters truisms with a criterion like Popper’s? The most important component to analyze such cases (e.g. sincerity) is missing.

    At this point in the discussion, Popperians usually fall back to some variation on Socrates’ dictum: we should have the honesty to say that we never really know. While this may be true in principle, I doubt it is useful in cases where we accept facts such as snow is white. Thus Popperians can easily lead a public impression that scientists are learning doublespeak.

    Scientists are facing a PR Dutch book: they can only lose.

    The only way out is to say that honesty matters less than empirical significance.

  151. KR says:

    “Indeed, when we perform model sensitivity experiments, we find that biogeochemical effect of added CO2 on plants (and the feedback to weather) and of land use change are much larger effects on this time and spatial scale.

    That sounds just like Dr. Pielke Sr.’s (over)emphasis on regional effects over global ones, his claims that amount to the tail wagging the (global) dog. And of course Pielke Jr. doesn’t source or support his claims in that regard.

  152. KR says:

    My bad, that was indeed Pielke Sr. speaking – the reference to Jr. is incorrect.

    But again, Pielke Sr., whose research emphasis is on mesoscale climate, feels that mesoscale forcings (land use, agriculture) overwhelm global forcings (no parking lots or crops on the open seas, I’ll point out).

  153. > Pielke [Sr.] doesn’t source or support his claims in that regard.

    My (and perhaps Eli’s) conjecture would be that it’s Pielkes all the way down:

    http://rabett.blogspot.ca/2013/12/pielkes-all-way-down.html

  154. Steve Bloom says:

    Just to note that WUWT existed several years prior to RP Sr. taking AW under his wing. The big irony about the subsequent surface stations project, which was indeed the former’s idea, is that the Climate Reference Network, designed years before in recognition of the existence of station biases, was already partially in place, some stations at the time having enough data to cross-check with nearby USHCN stations. RP Sr.’s complete lack of interest in examining that data was remarkable. For those who didn’t follow the play-by-play, it was the CRN data that ultimately knocked the pins out from under RP Sr.’s pretensions. For a while they continued trying to do analyses proving USHCN adjustment error despite the agreement with CRN data, but that seems to have finally come to an end (in a very embarrassing way, but that’s another story). But having been discussed for so long, the putative errors became one of the things that all right-thinking deniers know, and apparently always will.

    Anders, much above: “possible risk”. What does “possible” add?

  155. Steve,

    Anders, much above: “possible risk”. What does “possible” add?

    Okay, semantically “possible” doesn’t add anything. In case you’re implying something more, yes, I am trying to make it clear that I’m willing to accept – however unlikely – that the risk might be small. It’s to try and see if others who are arguing otherwise, might reciprocate and accept that the risk might be high. It’s not work so far, though 🙂

  156. Steve Bloom says:

    It’s interesting how social scientists addressing climate can be divided into those being helpful and those engaging in tone/concern trolling.

    So Warren, prior to pontificating about the Hiroshima analogy you didn’t bother googling for prior (common) examples of its use? Srsly? To be fair, as a resident of major earthquake country I’ve probably had a much better chance of hearing it than you have, but even so you should have done the search.

    From Brigitte’s February 4th post:

    “We cannot remember anyone ever using or talking about ‘global heating’ in public before 2013, but this does not mean that nobody did. So we began to check the uses of global warming and global heating over time.”

    OK, fair enough for johnny-come-lately sociologists, but this was a discussion including Mike Hulme! Wow (tm Judy Curry), he really had the two of you going!

    So you want an *accurate* descriptor? Dredging up old discussions, OK: Anthropogenic global climate disruption. Perfect in every way, a mouthful, won’t get used. We could consider the anthropogenic implied and so drop it from the phrase, and indeed the remainder was suggested by John Holdren (and, more or less simultaneously, me, if I may be so modest) 8-10 years ago but, to the surprise of probably none, failed to take hold.

    Re thermometers, and I seem to recall seeing a bit of research on this point recently (maybe referenced above, but if so I didn’t see it), the obvious problem is the mismatch between perceptions of temperature and their global impact. IOW, add 2C to today’s temps where you are and the effect is basically zilch. Unless it’s in the middle of a heat wave, even 4C-5C doesn’t seem like all that much. Globally, among other things, it’s probably enough to render major chunks of the tropics uninhabitable and move the Hadley cell downwelling to the poles, albeit after a considerable amount of flipping back and forth between states. Sociologists with poor physical intuition might even be able to perceive such effects.

  157. Steve Bloom says:

    I should note re RP Sr.: He used to run a mesoscale model. It got defunded. He is bitter. This explains much.

  158. Rachel says:

    I’d rather people did not accuse otters of being trolls, trolling or concern trolling. I don’t think this is helpful to the discussion and only serves to alienate people.

  159. dhogaza says:

    Steve Bloom:

    “Just to note that WUWT existed several years prior to RP Sr. taking AW under his wing.”

    Thanks for the clarification. I didn’t become aware of WUWT until the surface stations project was underway, and knew that it was RPSr’s idea (as you confirm).

  160. Steve Bloom says:

    Had I a bridge to my name, I would love nothing more than resident otters. Some other potential denizens, not so much.

    So, Rachel, what alternative terminology would you suggest?

  161. WUWT started with a review of the playstation3. Had that been a greater success, this blog might not have existed.

    Steve, what you mean with defunded? Sounds like someone made a conscious decision and had to the power to stop all project funding from all the different sources for the RAMS model. My proposals also get rejected, that life, for me it is even worse because I have a temporary contract. Thus if not at least one is accepted I am unemployed. Still that is no reason to get bitter, no matter how much I think my research proposal are great. Everyone thinks that of his own work.

  162. Rachel says:

    Steve,

    So, Rachel, what alternative terminology would you suggest?

    None, I guess. I’d prefer a demonstration of what it is the person is doing that is objectionable and why, but no name-calling. Let others decide for themselves.

  163. uknowispeaksense says:

    They are what they are and some can be very influential to those who cant recognize trolling behaviour. Engaging them by going to great lengths to debunk their often longwinded comments only empowers them and helps them achieve their aim. Best to just name them, block them and move on. I stopped following this thread after I had my say. Interesting to see the ratio of comments attributable to dealing with it.

  164. Steve Bloom says:

    Victor, my vague memory is that it was the NSF pulling the trigger.

    But glancing through the early days of WUWT brings back memories. I’d actually half-forgotten that he was a solar crank prior to grasping the surface stations bit in his teeth.

  165. Steve Bloom says:

    Sure, Rachel. Maybe something like “social scientist denial-enablers” in future.

  166. Rachel says:

    I accept that I am probably a bit pedantic. My reasoning is that I don’t want to give people, particularly contrarians, cause for grievance. Otherwise the thread gets wasted with complaints. The other reason is that if small things get through, they seem to provide a stepping stool for bigger things. I liken it to the broken windows theory.

  167. Steve Bloom says:

    As Ukiss notes, not that it hasn’t been mentioned here before, bending over backwards too far to provide running room for such folks inevitably results in the thread being wasted, just with different (civil, albeit only on the surface) rhetoric. Unlike some, social scientists engaging in such behavior will be reliably polite.

  168. uknowispeaksense says:

    So in essence you are choosing to allow them to trash the joint with inanity over trashing the joint with complaints. Anyway that’s all Im going to say.

  169. uknowiss and Steve,
    I know that both of you have more experience of this than I have and I have no doubt that at some point in the future I will probably doing the same as you are doing here to someone else who is new 🙂

    As I’ve tried to explain before, if people want to learn about climate science they’d do better going somewhere else (Skeptical Science, RealClimate). Also, I don’t have any particular agenda. So, if someone wants to come here and engage pleasantly, I don’t want to simply chase them away. I think the discussions play some kind of role. In particular, the fact that – so far – noone has actually answered my question of how one does risk analysis for a situation in which we face a possible mass extinction. That, in my view, speaks volumes.

    Also, this is a learning experience for me and what I choose to do in the future may well be completely different to what I choose to do now.

  170. > [W]hat alternative terminology would you suggest?

    In general, labeling is suboptimal:

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

    Anything that does not lead to victim playing is fine.

    ***

    If all has against trolls are “Troll!”, one may better ignore them altogether.

  171. BBD says:

    Well Steve, UKISS, there is a call for tolerance and understanding. I sympathise with you both and get what ATTP and Rachel are saying. We have to play a good game. No T-word, but no leeway for the nonsense either. We can do it 😉

  172. BBD says:

    Now I’ve crossed with willard. I am cursed.

  173. One does not simply cry “Troll!” to dispell inanity in Mordor.

    http://memegenerator.net/instance/46328553

  174. Joshua says:

    Willard –

    I’ll see your this:

    I don’t think that users of the term “denier” are in any position to complain about the use of the word “pogrom”. Nonetheless, I will defer to readers on this point and have amended to the term “Cleansing”.

    And I’ll raise you with a this:

    I’m now going to start calling these people “global warming Nazis”.

    http://archive.is/1Cll4

    And to win the hand, UKISS shows his/her cards:

    So in essence you are choosing to allow them to trash the joint with inanity over trashing the joint with complaints

    One thing’s for sure, the Otter always makes them do it.

  175. Joshua,
    Yes, Roy does seem to have rather jumped the shark (or, at least, I think that’s an appropriate metaphor). I thought Peter Gleick’s comment (assuming it actually was him) was apt, if a little blunt.

  176. Steve Bloom says:

    “In particular, the fact that – so far – no one has actually answered my question of how one does risk analysis for a situation in which we face a possible mass extinction.”

    No one? Really?

    But the question answers itself, doesn’t it? Of course anyone who doesn’t wish to or is unable to contemplate that a mass extinction is not only possible but very probably in its early stages will prefer to just deny the risk. So are you being naive in even asking it? (Not in raising the issue, but in posing it as a question.)

    And note that once again you have used “risk” and “possible” in the same sentence. In this case maybe drop the “risk,” as there are other sorts of analyses we might consider.

  177. Steve,
    I meant noone who was being, or would be, described as a concern troll. In this sentence I have no issue with both the risk and the possible. I may be naive in asking it (I’ve never denied that I’m naive – involving myself in this blog is proof of that) but I would argue that some not being willing to answer the question, makes it worth asking.

  178. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    Gleick’s comment?

  179. Joshua,
    It’s in your link. 4:17pm.

  180. Joshua says:

    I hadn’t read the comments…

    That’s pretty funny, actually.

    My all time favorite quote from Roy is this one:

    “I view my job a little like a legislator, supported by the taxpayer, to protect the interests of the taxpayer and to minimize the role of government.”

    I ask for reactions to that comment from “skeptics” who are concerned about activist scientists. I can’t recall ever getting a response. I haven’t been able to figure out why. 🙂

  181. Joshua says:

    That comment thread is a gold mine.

    For example:

    I’m with you. I’ve never thought publicly calling names was a good idea, but at some point you need to stop turning the other cheek to save face.

    I like that because stripped of the surrounding context it is a comment that could be found on any number of threads on either side of the debate.

  182. BBD says:

    Joshua

    Roy, on p. 2 of his book Climate Confusion:

    Oh, and we scientists who make our living off it* think it’s a pretty cool gig, too.

    * “It” is the “fear of global warming” as the preceding paragraph explains:

  183. Joshua thanks for the archive. I found the comments interesting. The only people I know that agreed with the term Nazi were Lubos Motl and Truthseeker. Did I miss any?

    Surely more well-known ostriches have read the post of Roy Spencer, PhD. I have also not seen a post at WUWT on the topic. Surely an event worth reporting on. 😉

    Pielke down, Spencer down, Motl down. What a week and all by their own initiative.

  184. Victor,
    Bishop Hill has a Curryesque post about how it’s “interesting”.

  185. BBD says:

    My brand new fave Spencer quote follows on p. 10:

    Critics of this book will say that my treatment of global warming is obviously biased. And they are right. I have studied the issues enough to have developed some very strong biases on the subject. But it is not a question of whether bias exists – for we are all biased. It is a question of which bias is the best bias to be biased with.

  186. guthrie says:

    BBD – how does he define ‘best’?

  187. BBD says:

    Guthrie

    I’m afraid that the Prologue ceases at the end of that quote. But on the next page, there is “Chapter 1: Global Warming Hysteria”, which provides attentive readers with a clue as to where Roy may be coming from 🙂

  188. Joshua says:

    BBD –

    It is a question of which bias is the best bias to be biased with.

    That really is quite a classic.

    I’d say that Spencer is clearly of the opinion that his biases are the best biases to be biased by. Not that he would be biased in making that assessment, of course!

  189. Joshua says:

    The Bishop HIll post only builds on the beauty of Roy’s logic.

    [Roy calling people Nazis] is an interesting step, coming so soon after the UK Green Party’s call for a purge of dissenters from government ranks.

    On a somewhat related matter, I asked journalist Mehdi Hasan yesterday for some justification of his calling Owen Paterson a denier, …

    So on the one side calling people Nazis is “interesting,” and on the other side calling people a “denier” should be justified.

    I have a feeling that this shit isn’t about to end any time soon.

  190. Joshua,

    I have a feeling that this shit isn’t about to end any time soon.

    I have a feeling you may well be right.

  191. Our friend FoxGoose says something wise on Bishop Hill: “The deeper people dig themselves into illogical belief systems – the more sensitive they become to the idea that anyone is mocking them.”
    http://www.bishop-hill.net/blog/2014/2/21/throwing-the-mud-back.html?currentPage=3#comments
    He seems to have forgotten who was sensitive here. 😉

  192. uknowispeaksense says:

    ATPP: “I meant noone who was being, or would be, described as a concern troll. In this sentence I have no issue with both the risk and the possible. I may be naive in asking it (I’ve never denied that I’m naive – involving myself in this blog is proof of that) but I would argue that some not being willing to answer the question, makes it worth asking.”

    Anyone who acknowledges that climate change is real but downplays the significance (CT’s) will never answer the question because in any risk assessment one must always look at everything from the best case to the worst case scenario as part of the process. Unfortunately for the CT’s, the evidence for best case scenarios is sadly lacking under BAU which is what CT’s tend to advocate.

    That said, there are plenty of papers with various risk assessment frameworks for assessing the impacts of climate change on many scales. Most of them focus on individual species, ecosystems, built environment etc but the framework is pretty much the same for most of them.

    DOI: 10.1126/science.1200303
    doi:10.1038/nature08823
    DOI: 10.1111/j.1461-0248.2011.01736.x
    10.1023/A:1011148019213

    and some well referenced books.e.g Global Catastrophic Risks edited by Nick Bostrom, Milan M. Cirkovic.

  193. JasonB says:

    Pekka:

    For those examples that makes sense, because all are discrete events. The total amounts of energy released in the events can be compared meaningfully, but on annual level the amounts of energy are small.

    In other words, an analogy only makes sense if it is the same size and takes the same amount of time?

    BTW, the rate of energy accumulation in the oceans last year was 12 Hiroshima bombs per second, so who’s talking about “annual level”? If anything, the visual impression of an atomic bomb going off grossly overestimates the time scale when there are supposed to be 12 of them every second!

    Anyway, if we keep going down this path then we’ll arrive at the point where the only analogy allowed is the exact same thing as the thing we’re attempting to describe, and then the analogy will probably be objected to because it can’t be exactly the same thing due to Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle.

    To be honest, it smells a lot like post-hoc reasoning to justify a belief that something is just “wrong”.

    It’s not a secret that Cook is looking for effective formulations based on other arguments than their applicability to the main issue. In my interpretation he has told that himself.

    Then it should be too hard to back that up. I’ve seen him very clearly state that the point of the comparison is that it’s a “sticky” meme that makes it easy for people to appreciate the amount of energy involved and remember it. That’s all. I see no evidence that he has different motives for using it than everyone else who ever used it as a unit of measurement for years before he did. Of course, if you think the “main issue” is something other than people being able to appreciate the magnitude of a vast quantity of energy and remember it then you could be right — I’m afraid your objection is a little vague.

    On a different topic, I’ve seen you make quite a few insinuations in this thread about climate scientists not always being honest, but you’ve declined to give examples. Is this what you’re talking about?

    If not, I really think you need to be more specific because at the moment you get to smear a whole group of people while being able to dodge having to back that up, and I think that’s a little [self-censored]. If you see an instance of someone being dishonest, point it out so we can judge whether you are right or not. For all we know, you’re the one being dishonest about seeing climate scientists being dishonest!

    Climate scientists, like everyone else, are individual people. When an individual person is guilty of something, that individual person should be called out. The whole group doesn’t suddenly become guilty by association.

    On a related note, I see quite a bit of “concern” above about climate scientists losing public trust. This does not seem to be supported by the facts. Climate scientists are trusted to a far more than politicians and blogs…

  194. JasonB says:

    As people studying “the way that such sciences are communicated either by scientists or professional science communicators”, I’d be interested in the professional opinions of Warren and Brigitte on both the WSJ article above and Roy Spencer’s recent post. Both were written by climate scientists so they seem like exactly the sort of science communications that they’d be studying.

  195. Joshua says:

    I would also be quite interested in Warren’s take on Spencer’s post.

  196. Brigitte says:

    Willard,
    You said a way up in the comment stream “In this context, the concept of audit is a metaphor that relies on analogy. (Brigitte & Warren are protesting against its usefulness as we speak.)”. Hmmm, I don’t know where you got that impression from. Metaphors and analogies are extremely useful, but they have limits and they can fail. In order to work, there needs to be an overlap in background knowledge between those who create the metaphor/analogy and those who interpret it. Let’s give you an example. Quite a few years ago I had to give a talk about metaphor in Germany. The room for some reason was full of young men. I used the metaphor ‘pop-tart philosophy’ as an example. Stunned silence and embarrassment. Nobody got it. Not only because most of the people were German but because none of them had come across a ‘pop tart’ (which children demanded in those days and parents resisted) (they have now disappeared from supermarket shelves). So you need a certain overlap in background knowledge for a metaphor or analogy to work – and that might vary A LOT between experts in a subject and non-expert or lay people etc. As for audit, I love it. It always reminds me of Terry Pratchett and his auditors of reality…..
    Brigitte

  197. Brigitte says:

    Jason B and Joshua
    The use of terms like fascist or Nazi has quite a long history in the war of words which was first fought between environmentalists and their opponents and is now being fought between what one may perhaps call consensus scientists and their opponents. See here, just before the Discussion section at the end of the article. http://scx.sagepub.com/content/35/3/383 (or: https://www.academia.edu/1443218/Contesting_science_by_appealing_to_its_norms_Readers_discuss_climate_science_in_The_Daily_Mail)

  198. JasobB,

    I have spent a lot of time in thinking, how to make my students to get a better quantitative feeling of energy quantities. On the first lecture of my first course I listed several amounts of energy related to 1 kg of matter (in most cases water) as follows:

    kinetic energy at 30 m/s: 0.45 kJ
    potential energy at 100 m altitude : 0.98 kJ
    raising temperature by 10 C : 41.8 kJ
    melting ice : 334 kJ
    evaporating at 100 C : 2257 kJ
    forming water from H2 and O2 : 15900 kJ
    fusing deuterium of heavy water to helium : 1.15 x 10^11
    energy equivalent of matter : 9 x 10^13

    The main point here is the comparison between the first and third line. Amounts significant as mechanical energy appear small as thermal energy (30 m/s is a significant speed, but 0.11 C is not a big rise in temperature).

    I neglected to say in my previous comment that this is one of the reasons that I don’t have any real intuition on the significance of one atomic bomb, when discussing heating. To get a feeling I must do calculations. One kiloton as unit of bomb energy is equivalent to about 90 tons of oil or close to 200 tons of coal. One Hiroshima bomb per second is about 70 GW or 45000 Mtoe/a. That’s about 3.6 times the global consumption of primary energy. 12 times that is 44 times the global consumption. These numbers seem more meaningful to me than bombs. 70 GW is roughly 50 times the fuel consumption of a big 500 MW coal fired power plant.

    Good analogy helps in understanding mechanisms or quantities. That requires that the point of comparison is intuitively familiar enough, and in a way that makes more specifically the quantities better understood. When we are considering huge numbers like global energy fluxes, it’s probably impossible to find any analog that helps much. Temperature is the measure we understand for warming, not any other. Next might come amounts of fuels we use ourselves to drive our car or heat our house. We have a feeling of those, we don’t have of bombs, and he don’t have of 10^22 J.

    ===

    I have not made a single insinuation about climate scientists not always being honest. What I have discussed is the same dilemma Stephen Schneider wrote about. Try to understand him, then you might understand me.

  199. Brigitte,
    Thanks, I’ve read that paper of yours before and I’d recommend others do the same. Very interesting and probably deserves more coverage than I think it gets.

  200. “The use of terms like fascist or Nazi has quite a long history in the war of words which was first fought between environmentalists and their opponents…”

    Wasn’t Roy Spencer supposed to play the role of a scientist?

    I used the metaphor ‘pop-tart philosophy’ as an example. Stunned silence and embarrassment. Nobody got it. Not only because most of the people were German but because none of them had come across a ‘pop tart’

    At least in this case, I do not think that the information deficit model of analogy understanding is the issue. I can imagine that analogies work well in collaborative communication, like in the above mentioned examples for a doctor and a patient. Analogies will likely never work in communicating to a group determined to do whatever it takes not to understand your message.

  201. I’m glad to know that metaphors and analogies are extremely useful, have limits, but can fail when the necessary background knowledge for the audience to get it is deficient, Brigitte. I have a feeling this applies to many figures of speech. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that :

    [The Nottingham Law of Figure of speech] A figure of speech is extremely useful, have limits, but can fail when the necessary background knowledge for the audience to get it is deficient.

    I’m also glad you had to go to Germany to get an useful example of that law. Speaking of which, I think I lack the background knowledge to get that “Pop-tart philosophy” is a metaphor. I could get that it’s a simile, and thus works like an analogy, if I interpret it as saying “this philosophy is like a Pop-tart”. If I interpret it as “this philosophy is Pop-tart philosophy”, I have “philosophy” on both ends, which does not work well, as there is no substitution, only the addition of a qualifier.

    ***

    I’m also glad you like the audit metaphor. I too like it, for obvious reasons. Here’s what I have in mind when I hear of audits:

    http://www.oag-bvg.gc.ca/internet/English/admin_e_41.html

    Perhaps this is a case where not knowing what an audit is helps get it?

  202. > See here, just before the Discussion section at the end of the article.

    Here it is:

    The commentator positions this reader metaphorically in terms of an “Envirofascist.” This provides those holding hegemonic representations of climate change with a “concrete” culturally accessible identity and thereby “objectifies” them (Moscovici & Hewstone, 1983). It invites the perception of “believers” as “fascists,” that is, authoritarian, aggressive, and averse to debate. This point is reinforced through the commentator’s claim that the comment constitutes a “grown-up debate” compared to the implied approach of “Envirofascists.” This infantilizes scientists and environmentalists, who are portrayed as bullies (see also Extract 3). Anchoring the belief that climate change exists to “Envirofascism” connects with the positioning of climate scientists as authoritarian (bullying) figures who stifle debate (see Extract 12). The perceived disseminators of the hegemonic social representations are denigrated in terms of “money grabbing grant taking scientists” and “tax grabbing world leaders.” The use of periphrastic adjectival constructions to qualify the categories “scientist” and “world leader” serves to anchor these categories to negative characteristics, making them cognitively inseparable (Jaspal, 2011). This then provides acceptable social conditions for the outright rejection of hegemonic social representations of climate change. Most important, these comments attempt to undermine public trust in climate science, while at the same time upholding trust in an ideal (albeit crude) image of science that, by contrast, is honest, apolitical, and “unpolluted” by money.

    I like the expression “hegemonic social representations”. It seems to work by way of metaphor:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hegemony

    Perhaps this metaphor has become a theorical construct among constructionists.

    I also like “periphrastic adjectival constructions”. It might help identify how “Pop-tart philosophy” works.

  203. Brigitte says:

    Willard,
    You made me smile! Of course the pop-tart metaphor was only an anecdote or as some call it anecdata that ‘popped’ into my mind when writing my reply over breakfast. The actual sentence/context was that somebody in a newspaper had said about a celebrity talk show host: Her reply to x was just pure pop-tart philosophy, or something of that type – it was a long time ago… Ha, just found this for you, you’ll like that: http://excelsior-attempted.blogspot.co.uk/2010/11/pop-tart-philosophy.html 🙂

  204. Thanks, Brigitte.

    I don’t like Pop-Tarts much (we still have em around here, btw), but I could associate my contributions to them. Half-baked, but so hot when released from the oven that they can burn…

    B-)

  205. Joshua says:

    Brigitte –

    Interesting article!

    This context-specific study is not intended to be empirically generalizable or representative of public attitudes concerning climate change. Rather, the aim is to identity and examine, using critical discourse analysis, the rhetorical strategies that may be employed by readers of Daily Mail articles on climate change in order to construct particular versions (i;e., social representations) of climate change, to contest alternative representations, and to convince others of the validity of one’s constructed version of climate change…..Moreover, the results provide preliminary insight into how social representations of science, more generally, are developing in a context of heightened suspicion of climate science, in particular.

    I wonder if: (1) you have moved into anything less preliminary in nature,and (2) you have some more thoughts about the general versus the (climate-science) particular attributes of the discourse you described and, (3) have you engaged with “skeptics” about your article and if so, how did that engagement go? Also, have you considered a similar analysis of discourse on the other side of the great climate divide?

  206. JasonB says:

    Pekka:

    I have not made a single insinuation about climate scientists not always being honest. What I have discussed is the same dilemma Stephen Schneider wrote about. Try to understand him, then you might understand me.

    I’m well aware of Stephan Schneider’s comments and fully understand what he was saying. What I was referring to as insinuations were comments like this:

    “My own conclusion is that emphasizing honesty and de-emphasizing short term effectiveness will win in the long term, but others seem to disagree.” (Emphasis mine.)

    What are we supposed to take from that other than the conclusion that there are others who are de-emphasising honesty in the interests of short-term effectiveness?

    When you say:

    This is very close to the question of honesty. To me the strict honesty of scientists is the way they can maintain their stature as more trustworthy than others. That’s one of the strongest reasons for my view that emphasizing honesty over effectiveness is so valuable. Responding to lacking honesty with lacking honesty means loosing the special stature.

    Aren’t we supposed to assume that there are those who disagree with you about being honest and are instead responding to a lack of honesty with a lack of honesty? That your comment is in response to an actual problem that you perceive occurring today?

    If that’s not what you meant to say — if you do not have any actual examples of climate scientists being less than honest, of “choosing to hide” something in the interests of effectiveness — then why bother saying it?

    If Joe Bloggs isn’t beating his wife, I don’t go around saying “I don’t think Joe Bloggs should beat his wife”.

  207. Brigitte says:

    Joshua,
    I think my answers to your questions would be no, no and no, I am afraid 😦
    Or more precisely, we have studied another set of comments published under a Guardian article in which we home in a bit onto the way ‘the other side’ engages there, but that is still under review… We have not had any reactions from sceptics so far….Ah there is one more article based on the same texts but using different theoretical background and methods of analysis and coming to similar conclusions: https://www.academia.edu/1532763/Climate_change_and_climategate_in_online_reader_comments_A_mixed_methods_study
    Quite different style too.

  208. JasonB says:

    Pekka:

    12 times that is 44 times the global consumption. These numbers seem more meaningful to me than bombs.

    Actually, I think “x times global energy consumption” is a very good analogy, even though I don’t have a problem with bombs.

    Another one I quite like is “if that energy had gone into heating up the atmosphere alone, it would have raised the average global temperature x degrees C”.

    I don’t object to a wide range of other ways of trying to get across the scale of energy involved. What I really object to is the claim that the only possible reason for using Hiroshimas is to create a misleading impression by triggering an emotional response, when I’ve seen them used by many others on many occasions with nobody objecting to it in the past. A tropical cyclone is a lot less like a nuclear bomb than a volcano is, but I never heard anyone object to it being used to describe how much energy was in a tropical cyclone on those grounds before.

    It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t help people imagine precisely what that amount of energy “looks” like — the point is to make it clear that it really is an awful lot and give some idea of what we’re talking about.

    I imagine the “x times global energy consumption” analogy might not work too well for a nomadic tribesman living in a desert, though. Then again, the atomic bomb analogy might not, either. That doesn’t meant it’s misrepresenting climate science to use it, though.

  209. BBD says:

    Do you think Hansen is honest, Pekka?

  210. Joshua says:

    Thanks Brigitte.

  211. Joshua says:

    And just when you thought that the unintentional irony couldn’t get any deeper –

    From a WUWT thread:

    Roger A. Pielke Sr. says:
    February 22, 2014 at 12:31 pm
    Willis – I strongly disagree with you on your post. While I do not agree with all of Andy’s views, he is one of the most objective and open journalists in the mainstream media. He has provided a much needed forum for debate.

    I have no idea why you choose to attack him when there is plenty of science to discuss and analyze.

    I also prefer that WUWT not post personal attacks on anyone. This only demeans the website which is otherwise an outstanding forum for a much-needed debate on climate science which is not available at most other venues..

    Roger Sr.

    And even better – that little gem is nested beneath a vitriolic thread where Willis complains about “name-calling” at Dot Earth.

  212. Joshua,
    I’m sure I’ve said this many times before, but “irony” is a term that not many involved in the climate debate seem to understand.

  213. uknowispeaksense says:

    Is it ironic that you may not fully understand the meaning of irony? Hypocrisy isn’t really irony and as I understand it, irony is also meant to have an element of the unexpected. Most of us have come to expect those at wuwt and their ilk to be extremely hypocritical and so therefore not really ironic. Then again, I could well be way off the mark in my understanding of irony, thereby making my questioning of your understanding of irony, ironic. 😉

  214. JasonB,

    I do genuinely think that people can disagree and that can be pointed out without implying insuniation. The problem may be in the use of the word “honesty” in my comments. I would probably used some other wording, if I had not picked that from the text of Stephen Schneider. I apologize for all bad feelings that this choice of wording has caused. When two moral values push in opposite direction it’s not wrong to emphasize one more than the other. My favored balance is, however, surely different from that of some others. That’s what I was writing about.

    The purpose of that statement was actually the opposite in the sense that I wrote that to tell that I know that my judgment is not shared by everyone and thus was willing to scale down it’s importance. Furthermore the “others” I had in mind were mainly other people commenting on this and many other web sites, not specifically climate scientists.

    I value my own judgments and may try to influence others by presenting them, but I don’t expect that everyone will ever agree.

  215. BBD,

    I do believe that Hansen is a honest person. I don’t know him, but I do believe that.

    Do I agree with his chosen balance in the double ethical bind of Schneider? There’s some indication that I don’t. Do I condemn for that? Certainly not, I just tell that I have a different view.

    I consider it extremely important that people are tolerant of different views, not any views, but a wide range of views. Then they may try to argue on those and convince others, condemning is seldom a productive choice.

  216. BBD says:

    Do I agree with his chosen balance in the double ethical bind of Schneider? There’s some indication that I don’t.

    I hesitate to be lawyerly, but circumstance requires it. The balance was, after all, between honesty and effectiveness. Do we agree on this point?

    You are saying that you think Hansen is to some extent at least, dishonest. Aren’t you?

  217. No one can ever describe fully a complex issue to others than the best experts, and possibly not even to them. Something of potential significance is always left out and simplifications made. How to do that is a matter of judgment. The double ethical bind enters in that. On one side is thoroughness in presenting caveats, on the other effectiveness in presenting the message the writer wishes to present. Schneider used the word honesty for the former. The standards of science are demanding on that, but must be relaxed in communication to non-experts. The question is how much and how. With the meaning honesty has in Schneider’s presentation no one is ever fully honest, but that does not imply dishonesty as the word is commonly used.

  218. BBD says:

    Pekka, you have not answered the question. A yes or no will suffice.

  219. Life is like an analogy.

    Life is a metaphor.

    Hypocatastasis.

  220. Joshua says:

    UKISS –

    Is it ironic that you may not fully understand the meaning of irony? Hypocrisy isn’t really irony and as I understand it, irony is also meant to have an element of the unexpected.

    Hypocrisy implies a falseness. I tend to avoid making that kind of judgement about people I don’t know. I assume that RPSr. really does think that attacks are something that he doesn’t prefer – that he thinks (when he recognizes them) that they demean the website.

    I think that there is an incongruity between what might be expected and what occurs when someone who really doesn’t prefer attacks winds up writing an attack himself. So in that sense I think it is ironic.

    Please note – I am not saying that it is intentionally ironic – in the sense that we ordinarily think of irony, but unintentionally ironic..

  221. Joshua says:

    Hard to believe, but it just gets better:

    From WUWT

    John Coleman says:
    February 22, 2014 at 9:56 pm

    As a Journalist and a Professional Meteorologist I feel it is important to never stoop to name calling and personal attacks on those who take the other side in scientific debate.
    I am professionally convinced there is no significant man-made global warming, has been none in the past and is no reason to fear any in the future. I am convinced that carbon dioxide is an essential trace gas, not a pollutant, and not a significant greenhouse gas. I will debate Revkin and all of his alarmist friends as long as I am alive.
    It is a very difficult situation and very frustrating that the issues have become political, almost religious in its fervor, a key environmentalists agenda driven debate and an issue that is funded by billions of tax dollars that entrap major organizations and institutions into accepting the alarmists positions.
    Despite all of this I will not stoop to calling Gove, Mann, et al names and being personally abusive. Only fifth graders who have run out of reasonable arguments stoop to name calling.
    Join me on the high road, please, one and all.

  222. jsam says:

    When arguing, a test of a good analogy is how much the other side protests against it.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miller_Analogies_Test

  223. jsam says:

    “I am professionally convinced there is no significant man-made global warming” – by professional, I presume John Coleman means he is paid for his opinion.

    http://sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=John_Coleman
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Coleman_(news_weathercaster)

    Carry on trolling, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kvs4bOMv5Xw

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