A challenge?

A comment by William Connolley on Sou’s recent post lead me to Joanne Nova’ site. The post on Joanne’s site, that William had highlighted, was about how the media distorts the news and contained the classic line

If the world does indeed move into a cooling period, its citizens are ill-prepared.

Yes, let’s prepare for all eventualities, apart from the one that evidence suggests is most likely to actually happen! This seems to be the anything but warming variant of the anything but CO2 theme.

In paging down Joanne’s site I came across a post about it being an unsettling climate for skeptical scientists, in which she discusses an article by Rupert Darwall. The article, which I can’t actually access, appears to be a defence of Murry Salby. Yes, Murry Salby. Was this from ages ago, before everyone knew that Salby’s ideas were complete nonsense? No, it’s from this month. As I said, I haven’t read the article as I can’t seem to access it, but Joanne appears to quote from it

In Salby’s view, the evidence actually suggests that the causality underlying AGW should be reversed. Rather than increased levels of CO2 in the atmosphere triggering global temperatures to rise, rising global temperatures come first—and account for the great majority of changes in net emissions of CO2, with changes in soil-moisture conditions explaining most of the rest.

Yes, that may be Salby’s view but he’s wrong. It then includes

Why is the IPCC so certain that the 5 percent human contribution is responsible for annual increases in carbon dioxide levels?

Because it is!

As a result of this, I ended up in a Twitter debate about this today with Rupert Darwall, in which I may have called him a prat. Okay, I did call him a prat; well, that he was acting like one, at least. What struck me, however, is that if you look at his Twitter followers, it contains a reasonable number of climate scientists, including some who appear to think that it’s important to call out over-confidence from other scientists, and alarmism in the media. If they’re doing this, why aren’t they calling out Darwall’s very obvious garbage.

So, I had considered challenging people who think it’s important to call out over-confidence and alarmism, to also call out demonstrable nonsense. However, sticking with a theme, I think that’s a little prattish. I don’t think that scientists who engage publicly should really be obliged to do anything in particular. If they want to just talk about their own science, fine. If they want to call out over-confidence and alarmism, fine. If they want to call out scientific garbage, fine. It’s really up to them.

What I will say, though, is that if their goal is to help the public get the clearest possible understanding of climate science, but they find that they call out over-confidence and alarmism far more often than they call out nonsense, maybe they’re not doing the best job that they could. They may also not be being entirely consistent. Similarly, if they’re calling out over-confidence and alarmism because a minority tells them that that is what is required in order for scientists to be trusted, then they may be doing it for the wrong reason. Also, if they think that doing so will suddenly increase some people’s trust in climate scientists, then possibly they should take someone else with them when they buy a secondhand car.

Personally, I wish more climate scientists would be more vocal when others present complete and utter garbage. However, that’s just what I would hope for and climate scientists have a hard enough time without me criticising them further. In truth, it’s likely that there’s not much that they could do to really improve the quality of some of what is presented, by the media, to the public.

Also, although I do think that over-confidence and alarmism can be damaging, the situation isn’t symmetric, and deciding what is obviously alarmist isn’t necessarily simple. Different people may have different views about the evidence and also about how best to present it to the public. On that note, I came across an excellent interview with Robert Bindschadler. It contained the following comment

The other thing that led me into a retreat is you would go out there and try to limit your emphasis on caveats and speak more crisply or without the caveats and with more black and white and you would be shot in the back by your colleagues. …… But you have to consider the audience. If all you do is lace it with uncertainty, it gives them reason to do nothing.

So, although calling out over-confidence and alarmism is important, I do think that those doing so have to be careful that rather than being objective, they’re imposing their own view of how best to present the information, and possibly failing to account for their own biases. Anyway, this quick post has ended up rather long, so I’ll leave it there. Anyone with other views or thoughts, is welcome to present them through the comments.

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72 Responses to A challenge?

  1. I have found it a good practice at Amazon to first check the negative comments on any book. On the book of Darwall, the first one star comment tells

    If one accepts the premise the Global Warming is a non-problem with no data to support such a conclusion; and that the frustrated hippies from the 60’s have created the global warming bandwagon because they are just searching for a cause to rally around, this is the book for you.

    But if you are looking for data to decide if global warning is a threat or not get another book. While the author attempts to cite sources the several I cross checked he took small parts of studies out of context to prove his point. If you still want the book let me know as you can have it for the shipping as I do not intend to keep it.

    The book has received also many more (15 vs 2) ***** ratings, but it’s not difficult to understand that.

  2. Pekka,
    Thanks, I hadn’t seen that, but it is certainly consistent with what I’ve read of Darwall’s writings in the past.

  3. By odd co-incidence, I’ve just written http://scienceblogs.com/stoat/2014/08/14/4005/

    Incidentally, if you like challenges then SoD’s http://scienceofdoom.com/2014/08/07/a-challenge-for-bryan/ is perhaps worth a look.

  4. William,
    Nice post. Thanks for the link to SoD’s challenge. I may need to wait till I’m a little more awake, before trying to work it out (yes, I know it’s meant to be obvious 🙂 )

  5. Pingback: Very like a fruitcake – Stoat

  6. Vinny Burgoo says:

    Wotts, Real Climate and other scientists/sciencey groups have been calling out ‘complete and utter garbage’ since the year dot. Their calling out of ‘over-confidence and alarmism’ is a very recent phenomenon (since September 2011 and the ‘Greenland loses 15% of its ice cover’ and ‘Petermann Glacier calves 1 km-thick iceberg 4 times the size of Manhattan’ debacles?) so give them a bit of time to settle in and redress the balance.

  7. Vinny,
    That’s a fair point. I may have been exaggerating somewhat for effect 🙂

  8. Perse says:

    Reblogged this on Perse Show and commented:
    Climate science isn’t all about “activists” hounding “skeptics.” Sometimes we activists find cause to constructively criticize our own. You may find this post by And Then There’s Physics interesting.

  9. OPatrick says:

    That’s a fair point.

    Is it?

    I’m sceptical that there’s been any significant change in the ratio of scientists calling out of ‘complete and utter garbage’ and of ‘over-confidence and alarmism’. Or if there has been it’s more a reflection of the exaggerating of the instances of ‘over-confidence and alarmism’ (such that they become ‘debacles’) by the ‘sceptics’, which means that these few examples get far more attention from both sides.

  10. matt says:

    What I will say, though, is that if their goal is to help the public get the clearest possible understanding of climate science, but they find that they call out over-confidence and alarmism far more often than they call out nonsense, maybe they’re not doing the best job

    File under – Why do ppl give Junior such a hard time?

  11. Pingback: Very like a fruitcake [Stoat] | Gaia Gazette

  12. graemeu says:

    It does more harm to a difficult cause when someone is alarmist or over-states the case because this is the “Cry Wolf” scenario. With the global warming issue most of the public (and politicians mindful of how the public vote) would rather accept understatement than have to change their lifestyle, so over-confidence and alarmism is fuel to the denialist fire. Perhaps the scientists who dampen the over enthusiasm of their colleagues/peers feel they are doing more service this way with their precious time than trying to stem the flood of garbage.

  13. John Mashey says:

    I can’t access the article either, (and I understand why, see 2) but if you are fencing with Rupert Darwall, you might ask him:

    1) Did he notice any of these and address the issues raised before defending Salby?
    Murry Salby: Galileo? Bozo? Or P.T.Barnum? (specifically, the documents linked there)

    Top Physicist Withdraws Support For Climate Sceptic Professor Sacked By Australian University (and if so, did he contact the distinguished scientist Marie-Lise Chanin, a long-time associate of Salby’s?)

    My detailed review of Salby’s book at Amazon.

    I’d be happy to hear that his article actually addressed any of this, BUT IF NOT:
    IF he didn’t notice any of these, his journalism is totally incompetent:
    Google: “Murry Salby” picks up some of these on first page, others later, and issues are discussed in Wikipedia

    IF he did know about this, and simply ignored the Salby’s fraudulent behavior, then that’s evidence for another conclusion about Darwall as journalist.

    2) City Journal thisdescribes itself, and one might think it to be an independent intellectual journal, … but …. it is published by the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, i.e., it is a house journal, akin to Heartland’s publications, although less obvious about its identity.

    Fred Singer’s coauthor, Dennis Avery works for Manhattan, whose funding and connections can be found in PDF attached at Crescendo to Climategate Cacophony (Hint: lots of $ from Richard Mellon Scaife, Kochs, JM Olin.) You can find it in this graph attached to Study Details Dark Money Flowing to Climate Science Denial. You can find it in Familiar Think Tanks Fight For E-cigarettes, i.e., it is a think tank with a long history of getting paid by Big Tobacco, which stays in business only by addicting adolescents to something that will kill many. People may want to factor that into any assessment of Manhattan Institute’s house magazine and Darwall’s willingness to publish there.

  14. Doug Bostrom says:

    Let’s not ignore or forget those scientists for whom alarmism takes on an entirely different complexion. Sometimes the urge to correct resembles an unhealthy obsession, especially when the problem in need of correction turns out to be “science fiction.”

    And now for this evening’s edition of “who wrote it?” The mystery prose:

    The study indicates that the growth in recent decades in total damage is related to both climate factors and societal factors: increased damage is associated with increased precipitation and with increasing population and wealth. At the regional level, this study reports a stronger relationship between precipitation measures and flood damage, and indicates that different measures of precipitation are most closely related to damage in different regions. This study suggests that climate plays an important, but by no means determining, role in the growth in damaging floods in the United States in recent decades.

    That statement is now inoperative. 🙂

  15. Doug Bostrom says:

    Oops; my reference to alarmist science fiction did not come through. Just head over the Honest Broker’s pad and search “pachauri conflict.” All chapters of the imaginative noir SF novel will be presented.

  16. graemeu,

    With the global warming issue most of the public (and politicians mindful of how the public vote) would rather accept understatement than have to change their lifestyle, so over-confidence and alarmism is fuel to the denialist fire. Perhaps the scientists who dampen the over enthusiasm of their colleagues/peers feel they are doing more service this way with their precious time than trying to stem the flood of garbage.

    Certainly, as I said, people get to decide for themselves what they want to do and I’m sure there are some who do feel this way. There is some merit to this too. Of course, there may be others who disagree. I certainly think that worrying too much about things that might be fuel to the “denialist fire” is a waste of time. If not this, then something else will get them all riled up.

    There are ways to do it that I think can be effective without trying to play into anyone’s hands. This RealClimate post about the methane holes in Siberia does it well I think. It quantifies the effect and points out how many times this would need to happen to have any major influence on atmospheric GHG concentrations. But it doesn’t mention alarmism or anything like that. It just shows that anything major happening now is unlikely.

  17. Doug,
    The whole Piekle/Tol Pachauri story just seems rather remarkable. Accuse someone of all sorts of nefarious behaviour and then when it turns out that you’re wrong, just stop talking about it, carry on as if nothing’s happened, and everyone else let’s you get away with it. I’m not hugely familiar with it, but that’s may understanding of roughly what happened.

  18. andrew adams says:

    graemeu,

    With the global warming issue most of the public (and politicians mindful of how the public vote) would rather accept understatement than have to change their lifestyle,

    Agreed.

    so over-confidence and alarmism is fuel to the denialist fire.

    But the denialists will try to portray any claims that AGW poses a serious threat as over-confident and alarmist. And they want to see mainstream scientists criticising “alarmists” so one could equally argue that criticising over-confident or exaggerated claims also adds fuel to the denialist fire. In the end, when someone is wildly spraying petrol around and brandishing a cigarette lighter, worrying about adding fuel to their fire is a bit futile. We all ultimately benefit from having the best and most accurate picture of what science is telling us so that in itself should be sufficient motive.

    Perhaps the scientists who dampen the over enthusiasm of their colleagues/peers feel they are doing more service this way with their precious time than trying to stem the flood of garbage.

    But if, as you suggest, the public and policymakers are naturally inclined to accept claims which minimise the danger caused by AGW then the garbage may well be quite appealing to them, and so surely that makes it more important to debunk it?

  19. I don’t think that scientists who engage publicly should really be obliged to do anything in particular. If they want to just talk about their own science, fine. If they want to call out over-confidence and alarmism, fine.

    I think scientists should do both, certainly as a group, the good ones that are communicating with the public individually. In practice you would expect more critiques of WUWT and Co. because their nonsense is so much over the top, it is hard to be that wrong on the alarmist side and also not necessary.

    If there are scientists that focus on calling out alarmism, I am not sure if that is what you are suggesting the followers of Darwall do, I guess that can be explained by their political preferences. This way they can contribute to their political cause without having to resort to talking nonsense.

  20. Victor,
    In truth, just seeing that he was followed by some climate scientists just made me think “why don’t people call out this nonsense more”. As I say in the post, I don’t like the idea of pressurising people to behave in a certain way. Also, they may well have and I may have missed it. I think some who follow him have expressed views about the importance of not being alarmist and not being over-confident but – again – that’s a valid view, but I do worry that some see that as being more important (for regaining trust) than calling out nonsense. They may have a point but, then again, maybe not.

  21. andrew adams says:

    In practice you would expect more critiques of WUWT and Co. because their nonsense is so much over the top, it is hard to be that wrong on the alarmist side and also not necessary.

    Yes, there are some people who take the ostensibly reasonable line that “well, there are extremists on both sides”, but actually the “skeptical” position that AGW is not something we should be worried about is itself by definition “extremist”, in that it lies outside of, or at best at the very limits of, the mainstream scientific position. That’s not to say that there are not still people who do make genuinely alarmist statements which are not justified by the science, but it is possible to take a view that AGW is indeed an extremely alarming prospect which could cause very significant problems and be within the scientific mainstream.

  22. Andrew,

    but it is possible to take a view that AGW is indeed an extremely alarming prospect which could cause very significant problems and be within the scientific mainstream.

    Yes, that’s why I linked to the interview with Robert Bindschadler, because – I think – that is what he was trying to say. It is concerning – in my view – if scientists who think we should be concerned are shouted down by those who think that scientists should always be value neutral. That may be valid when it comes to what you say in the scientific literature. It is not obviously true that it also applies when scientists speak publicly. The forum does matter (if you’re giving evidence as a professional to a parliamentary inquiry, for example, then maybe being value neutral is appropriate) but there are fora where a scientist – in my view – would be perfectly entitled to express their view about the significance (to us) of the evidence.

  23. Marco says:

    Overstating vs understating will always be a matter of opinion, but let me point out that the legal action taken against several geologists in Italy over the 2009 L’Aquila earthquake was based on the perceived understatement of the danger of an earthquake. The judge made it clear that it wasn’t the science on trial, but the fact that the responsible people did not sufficiently highlight that “no danger” (as the political head honcho said) was in reality “an earthquake will happen at some time in the future, but we really cannot say whether it will be now, and while we consider that unlikely that chance is not zero”.

    Somewhat ironically, one guy who was loudly warning about an upcoming earthquake was literally censored (he had to remove his claims from the internet) for creating fear.

  24. “just seeing that he was followed by some climate scientists just made me think “why don’t people call out this nonsense more”.”

    Richard Betts also follows the good, the bad and the ugly. It is not my thing, but if he can stomach that aggressive nonsense, it is a way to know what they are talking about and what a journalist will ask in the next phone call. Thus I guess that is okay and I am not sure if that makes you obliged to respond to the nonsense, knowing that it is like talking to a wall, especially if you know the response will not be friendly.

  25. Victor,
    Indeed, in a sense I’m impressed that Richard is able to do as he does. I also think he’s free to do as he does. We had a discussion here a while ago with Richard about why he seemed comfortable engaging on certain sites without necessarily calling out nonsense and he, quite rightly, pointed out that there are some battles not worth fighting. The only issue I have is the impression that this might make with others. The head of climate impacts at the Met Office engages politely with those who are skeptical of mainstream climate science, but doesn’t necessarily point out their very obvious errors. I was rather confused about this until Richard clarified his position. As much as I can agree that it might be important to engage with “skeptics”, I also think it’s important not to send the wrong message to those who aren’t “skeptical”.

  26. Joshua says:

    ==> “I also think it’s important not to send the wrong message to those who aren’t “skeptical”.

    Could you play that out a bit? I can see the logic in some abstract sense, but I don’t think it happens much in reality. Could you describe a hypothetical in a real world context?

  27. Joshua,

    Could you play that out a bit?

    Hypothetically? Consider the following. Someone reaches out to “skeptics” and in order to encourage dialogue tends to avoid being too critical. That person may also choose not to reach out to people who are non-“skeptics” because they feel that those people already understand the topic and so there’s not much need. However, an observer would see someone being friendly with “skeptics”, rarely criticising them, and largely ignoring those who aren’t “skeptical”. (“skeptical” here has the standard not-actually-skeptical meaning). An observer who doesn’t appreciate this possibility, may find that rather difficult to understand. Could they be wrong? Could the “skeptics” be right? Are they wrong to be concerned about climate change? Hypothetically.

  28. Joshua says:

    (Working my way backwards through the thread).

    ==> “but actually the “skeptical” position that AGW is not something we should be worried about is itself by definition “extremist”, ”

    I think that from a political perspective, this should be more of a focus. Many “skeptics,” at least in the blogosphere (which, it should be noted pretty much comprise an outlier) and in many prominent media presentations, have largely shifted from “AGW is a hoax” to “No one doubts that the climate is warming and that ACO2 contirbutes to that warming, we only doubt the magnitude of the effect.” Of course, many of their accompanying arguments are logically inconsistent with that statement of belief – but the point is that is now a common rhetorical gambit.

    As such, simply calling them “deniers” or conspiratorial or completely wrong scientifically might lose rhetorical weight because it seems to be the more “extreme” position, relatively speaking. The “skeptic” says “I agree with you on the science,” and the “realist” says “You’re an unscientific f*ckwit.”

    I think that the focus needs to be on the political argument that is inherently linked to “skeptical” science – which is that there is no risk that merits action. That, it seems to me, is the clearly extremist argument – made all that much more extreme because it is invariably linked to the “alarmist” argument that we’re all doomed, and in particular poor children in Africa, if we implement policies aimed at mitigation.

  29. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    Thanks:

    ==> “Could they be wrong? Could the “skeptics” be right? Are they wrong to be concerned about climate change? Hypothetically.”

    So let’s say I’m not a “skeptic” (with quotes) who watches that exchange. If I’m not already identified with the “expert” who is engaging with the “skeptics” (in other words, if my mind isn’t already made up), I’m looking to see which scientific argument makes the most sense. Thus, I’m not focusing on a statement of who is “wrong” – because both sides will make that claim. Both sides seem to me to be smart and knowledgeable (because they’re throwing around terms that I don’t have a hope of understanding). I’m looking to: (1) parse the scientific arguments to the best of my ability and, (2) judge the degree of partisanship on the part of the participants in the scientific discussion. I’m trying to suss out which scientist appears to be the most objective. For all I know, the “skeptics” could be right. I’m not in a position to judge directly from the scientific discussion, and a “realist” simply saying that the “skeptic” is wrong is not particularly convincing (unless I’ve pre-determined that his/her expertise is more trustworthy than the “skeptic’s” expertise – in which case my mind was already made up anyway).

    But you see how you, also, mushed together the science and the area where I think that the extremism of “skeptics” can be made more apparent (although they will try to hide their extremism) — you went from “could they [the realist scientist] be wrong” to “Are they wrong to be concerned about climate change.”

    My thinking is “Yes, [the realist scientist] could be wrong” but “No, they are not wrong to be concerned about climate change” because no one knows for sure – we’re dealing with decision making about risk assessment in the face of uncertainty.

    I think that you hand the “skeptics” a rhetorical gambit when you link the one to the other. Stick to the science in the discussion about the science. In the discussion about the policy implications, make it clear that they’re wrong to be “unconcerned” due to the inherent uncertainties related to risk. And then point to their own statements that they “don’t doubt that the climate is warming and that ACO2 plays a role in the warming – they only question the degree of the contribution.”

    I hope that was at least a bit clearer than mud.

  30. Joshua,
    I’m not quite following your argument. I also should have made clearer that I was referring to someone who might be interested in the topic, might think they know what’s credible and what isn’t, but doesn’t necessarily have the background to work it out for themselves. So, my questions at the end were meant to be what would be going through their mind, not arguments that one might construct in reality. How might they perceive a climate scientist who appears to be mainstream, engaging politely with “skeptics” but never really criticising their position?

    To be clear, I’m not arguing against someone doing this, just presenting a hypothetical scenario (which, I guess, you asked me to do 🙂 )

  31. Joshua says:

    ==> “How might they perceive a climate scientist who appears to be mainstream, engaging politely with “skeptics” but never really criticising their position?”

    If they don’t challenge the science of a position they think is fundamentally wrong, then it could send the wrong message, sure.

    But is that necessarily the same as:

    ==> “….calling out Darwall’s very obvious garbage.”

    I sometimes see the claim made that anything less than making it clear that someone is a “denier” is not sufficiently calling out very obvious garbage. And that if it isn’t pointed out that they are “deniers,” then you aren’t preventing them from taking over the public discussion.

    So I think that you have to be more specific about what “calling out” garbage means. And I don’t think that saying that their “science” is garbage is going to work – because the # of people who fit the description of “might think they know what’s credible and what isn’t” and who aren’t already aligned, is likely to be small. Many people think they know what is credible, even though the lack in-depth knowledge of the science, or the brains to understand the science anyway. They think they know what is credible because of their ideological orientation.

    How many non-experts are there out there who really know what’s credible or not, and who then will be swayed because a climate scientists didn’t “call out garbage?” I think the number is minuscule. Not enough to worry about.

    It makes more sense to me to focus on the extremism of the “skeptical” position that there’s not enough risk to merit climate change policies that seek to alter the status quo.

  32. andrew adams says:

    Anders,

    The forum does matter (if you’re giving evidence as a professional to a parliamentary inquiry, for example, then maybe being value neutral is appropriate) but there are fora where a scientist – in my view – would be perfectly entitled to express their view about the significance (to us) of the evidence.

    Yes, there will of course times when it’s appropriate for scientists to discuss their work in a value free manner and concentrate on the technical arguments. But when communicating with the wider public it is inevitable that values will come in to play at some point because people want to know how climate change will impact their and others’ lives, why it may be necessary to take action and similar questions. That’s a major reason why we fund research into climate after all – because it has a big impact on our society (not just because of climate change itself), so I don’t think it can ever be a purely “technical” pursuit.

  33. I cannot see much risk of sending a wrong signal by responding as long as the answer does not include an acceptance of wrong claims. Everyone reading anything about the climate change knows already about the existence of skeptics and that scientists tend to disagree with them.

    Declining from answering in a rude way is probably more damaging than a polite answer that does not indicate agreement. One of the arguments of skeptics is exactly that scientists decline from answering properly, and that bears at least a little weight among many.

  34. Joshua says:

    ==> “I cannot see much risk of sending a wrong signal by responding as long as the answer does not include an acceptance of wrong claims.

    I’m confused. I thought the focus is whether not responding has a risk of sending the wrong signal.

    ==> “Declining from answering in a rude way is probably more damaging than a polite answer that does not indicate agreement. ”

    ?? That’s got my mind spinning also. Damaging to who? The “realists” or the “skeptics?”

    From the best I can understand what you said, I think there is a vast territory in between those two options; a non-rude scientific argument that does indicate disagreement.

  35. Here we go again. Mr “scientist” is commenting about something he hasn’t read!

  36. I read the challenge as that of seeing more “skeptics” being skeptical of each others alternate theories.

    Here is one that has come out of recent research on atmospheric tides — Has Richard Lindzen been wrong on the theory that he built his atmospheric science reputation on?

    my write-up here: http://contextearth.com/2014/08/15/change-of-tide-in-thought/

    Will the skeptics question Lindzen like they question everyone else on the consensus side, or is he part of Team Denier and so immune to criticism?

    Just askin’

  37. Paul,
    Back with your normal jibe. Maybe you need some knew material. This time I really tried, but I couldn’t access it. Plus, if it really was defending Murry Salby, it almost certainly wasn’t worth reading, as I’m sure you agree. Also, maybe you should consider what’s worse : not reading all of something or having to judge it by what someone else has said, or reading something and failing to understand it at all.

  38. Joshua,

    But is that necessarily the same as:

    ==> “….calling out Darwall’s very obvious garbage.”

    My comment on this was motivated by Victor’s comment. I was simply commenting on how the way someone may choose to engage may have implications based on how that is perceived. I wasn’t really relating it to the whole “calling out obvious garbage” theme.

  39. Pekka,

    One of the arguments of skeptics is exactly that scientists decline from answering properly, and that bears at least a little weight among many.

    Yes, I may have well – thanks to the Bishop – just discovered exactly this 🙂 (to be fair, I think I was rather winding him up a bit)

  40. Joshua,

    How many non-experts are there out there who really know what’s credible or not, and who then will be swayed because a climate scientists didn’t “call out garbage?” I think the number is minuscule. Not enough to worry about.

    I think this is probably right. We’re all quite engaged in this topic and are much more aware of what’s going on than most. Most people probably aren’t aware of the subtleties of who calls out what or who responds to what. If climate scientists could actually get the MSM to stop publishing garbage, it would help but, since they probably can’t, there’s not really much they can do about it.

  41. > One of the arguments of skeptics is exactly that scientists decline from answering properly, and that bears at least a little weight among many.

    This argument cuts in many ways.

    Here’s Jim dismissing my understanding of C13:

    http://ecologicallyoriented.wordpress.com/2014/06/07/our-new-consensus-study/comment-page-1/#comment-5600

    Here’s Joe refusing to acknowledge every single point I made while harping “SCAMS!”:

    http://www.joseduarte.com/blog/ignore-climate-consensus-studies-based-on-random-people-rating-journal-article-abstracts

    Here’s the Auditor playing the “get your facts straight” card in the most inappropriate manner:

    http://www.bishop-hill.net/blog/2014/8/11/krugman-homeopath.html

    The list goes on and on.

  42. Willard,
    I love this comment from Jose, a studier of biases,

    I don’t trust anything Cook is involved with, since he can’t be trusted

  43. Joshua says:

    ==> “If climate scientists could actually get the MSM to stop publishing garbage, it would help but, since they probably can’t, there’s not really much they can do about it.

    Climate scientists do get some air time. Bart’s study shows that “skeptical” climate scientists get a disproportionate amount on a per scientist basis, be even if so, they would get less overall (since they’re fewer in number).

    They can’t prevent garbage from being published, and I suspect that nothing they do will make a big difference (I think that trust in experts w/r/t climate change is predetermined by ideological proclivity) – but to the extent that they do have impact, I wonder if less “denier”-bating and a more focused discussion on how “skeptics” under-account for the risks and uncertainty related to ACO2 emissions would be optimally effective (within a limited range of effectiveness).

    An example:

    http://climatechangenationalforum.org/tail-risk-vs-alarmism/

  44. Vinny Burgoo says:

    Joshua: ‘Bart’s study shows that “skeptical” climate scientists get a disproportionate amount on a per scientist basis, be even if so, they would get less overall (since they’re fewer in number).’

    Are you sure about the first part of that? It’s difficult to be certain exactly what the Bart study found because the data is presented as relative percentages of various chopped and rechopped categories but I’m fairly sure that many – perhaps even most – of the people who receive this disproportionate media coverage aren’t climate scientists: they are the <5% of the respondents who had been recruited from lists of signatories of various 'denier' declarations. The paper says that 'about half of [the <5%] had only published in the gray literature on climate change'. Does this mean that the other half had published in the peer-reviewed climate press or that they had published nothing at all on climate change? The paper's subsequent description of the <5% as 'not necessarily publishing scientists' suggests that the former interpretation is right but even if it's the latter's it's clear that many of them aren't kosher 'climate scientists'.

    So it looks like the finding that is dominating press coverage of Verheggen et al is wrong. No doubt one of the team will step forwards soon and call this out.

  45. Joshua says:

    Vinny –

    Ok. Seems a fair point. Thanks for the clarification. I’ll look at his study more closely before referring to it again. I was going from memory after a quick read.

    But it isn’t really particularly relevant to the larger point I was making – it was more than just an aside – that climate scientists do get some air time.

  46. Vinny Burgoo says:

    Joshua. Sure. I was just leaping on a small point, as is my wont. (And getting my formers and latters in a twist.)

  47. Doug Bostrom says:

    Yes, the Broker’s Houdini escape from the credibility dead end he created for himself over Pachauri is truly marvelous. One would think a gaffe of that magnitude would be taken into account when subsequently assessing anything the man says that is not expressed in mathematical notation or some other means that can be rigorously evaluated without recourse to independent corroboration.

    Credit it to the increasingly gnat-like attention span of crowd consciousness. I’m beginning to suspect that the reason the universe is so quiet is because every evolving global civilization inevitably invents an Internet, develops collective ADD, collapses.

  48. Way ahead of you, Doug. Does the Dunning-Kruger effect explain the Fermi paradox?

  49. Steve Bloom says:

    “no one knows for sure”

    There’s rather a lot we do know for sure, Joshua, although some people nonetheless attempt to debate the undebatable.

  50. graemeu says:

    ATTP
    Thanks for that link, I take the point that Dave sought to put it into context but doesn’t he go the other way. He also implies that the scenario is unlikely, that it would be a one off event (although a commenter pointed out that it is little more than one blow-out per km2), and that the forcing effect would quickly disappear as the methane degrades. Yes methane is more powerful than CO2 but that methane will all add to atmospheric CO2 so I don’t see why we should not be concerned.
    If Dave’s arguments are right then so are the agricultural pseudo-denialists who object to the Fart Tax.
    My perception is that scientists are generally busy people and most will reserve their censoring of colleagues to the peer review process rather than enter into unwinable arguments of opinion in the public arena. I don’t know if that’s good or bad but I think your post has now been quite well discussed since the comments got back on track and off the kick-fest.

    Andrew

    Absolutely, someone needs to debunk dangerous unsupported claims and pseudo-science, is this your niche? The point I was trying to make, is that a person who wants to cause doubt in peoples minds will exploit weaknesses in the opposing argument. Those who want the public and politicians to ignore climate change don’t need to prove their position, they only have to show error in the claims and methods of the ‘AGW is real’ camp. This is because with AGW no one, least of all a career politician wants to make the changes that are required to end net emissions so doubt is enough. Ooh I wonder if that is part of our western “beyond reasonable doubt” culture?
    People like you and I can take the good work of climate scientists and use that to refute the garbage at whatever level we find comfortable.

  51. Joshua says:

    Steve –

    ==> “There’s rather a lot we do know for sure, Joshua, although some people nonetheless attempt to debate the undebatable.”

    Sure. But keep in mind that there is a huge difference between what is knowable for you and what is knowable for me.

    I think that debating the undebatable is a problem, but also problematic is the practice of avoiding the debate of what is debatable. Meaning, when “skeptics” avoid the debatable questions of risk in the face of uncertainty and skip right from “We don’t doubt that ACO2 is contributing to a warming of the climate, but we only question the amount” to, “mitigation will destroy the world economy and cause millions of poor children to starve.”

    Of course, there are also a lot of “skeptics” who do debate the debatable, and are quite convinced that the climate isn’t warming and/or that ACO2 has no warming effect.

    http://www.culturalcognition.net/storage/ollllllld.png?__SQUARESPACE_CACHEVERSION=1404405022622

    They are probably a larger % of “skeptics” but less vocal in the blogosphere – even though the politically correct “skeptics” in the blogosphere try to claim otherwise.

  52. Joshua says:

    Arrrgh. “Of course, there are also a lot of “skeptics” who do debate the undebatable….

  53. Rachel M says:

    Are you a bit tipsy? 🙂

  54. Are you a bit tipsy?

    I couldn’t possibly say, hic (was it that obvious?)

  55. Rachel M says:

    Damn. I posted to the wrong thread and I haven’t even been drinking. I blame my phone 🙂

  56. I thought that was an intentional diversion 🙂

  57. Rachel M says:

    Why yes, yes it was intentional. And yes, it’s obvious.

  58. anoilman says:

    I HOPE YOU DON’T HAVE A HANGOVER!

  59. Michael 2 says:

    ATTP wrote ” I had considered challenging people who think it’s important to call out…”

    That’s pretty much why I don’t bother with Facebook or Twitter. My teens have shown me its true purpose, calling each other out without the danger (or thrill or general health benefits) of actually going out.

  60. Michael 2 says:

    grameu says: “a person who wants to cause doubt in peoples minds will exploit weaknesses in the opposing argument…. I wonder if that is part of our western ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ culture?”

    Obviously it depends on who you are including in “our”. Assuming it means the United States, then very likely so. The burden of *proof* is on the person making an allegation or assertion. The level (certainty) of proof required relates to the magnitude of your demand, and it isn’t proof if it has holes, or the witnesses have character flaws, and so on, just as in a court of law.

    That’s the problem of scientist activists. They have what they imagine or believe is proof but only another expert in that same exact field can agree.

    To everyone else, it’s just words. I experience the same thing in computer programming or network engineering — or worse. The idiot that takes 8 hours to do a 10 minute job gets more praise because people see him *working* where a skilled technician simply notices the loose wire and tightens it and looks “cocky” as a result. That’s perversity and climate science is filled with it.

  61. Michael 2 says:

    Joshua says: “I think that trust in experts w/r/t climate change is predetermined by ideological proclivity”

    Yes, but it is circular, in other words, what came first? Anyway the trust is in *authority* not just scientists. It is almost a tautology — what do you call people that trust authority? Socialists, which right now means Democrats. A person that *already* trusts authority is likely to trust government and is quite happy to let government govern.

    But other ways of approaching this exist: There’s ignoring government (Libertarians) versus hating government (anarchists) versus split-it-into-little-pieces (Republicans).

    What’s that mean for climate advocacy? The Democrats are in your pocket; for now anyway. Libertarians have to be convinced one at a time. Anarchists are not in your pocket.. Republicans will respond if *local* consensus exists.

    I see a distinction between the expertise of an expert and what he says or writes. He might not be honest with the public but speaking out of expediency. This is a huge factor in my opinion with regard to the way science is funded. How many scientists are perfectly free to reveal exactly what they have learned or discovered, its bounds and limits of confidence? In my opinion, not very many. That’s why such legitimate challenge as exists seems to emanate from emeritus status professors and retired scientists — they are no longer chasing grants.

    After all, what is one of the first thing a warmist does on reading skeptical science? “Koch brothers paid for it”, as if that deprecates the science. Well, in the minds of readers, it does deprecate the science, but only if you are a warmist. If you are a skeptic, the same phenomenon happens if you were funded by government or university (pretty much the same thing). It doesn’t count.

    So if you remove “Koch brothers” funded science from the table because it is contaminated, and “government funded” or “George Soros funded” from the table, what’s left? Not much.

  62. Here’s a pretty robust article about ocean acidification. Doesn’t beat about the bush at all, really.

  63. graemeu says:

    Thanks Michael,
    I definitely meant ‘our’ as in the ethnically european dominated developed countries, including North America, Australia and NZ. I did not mean the people commenting here and should probably retract it to Anglo countries, but it is a question and it is clear to me that culture does influence interpretation of results and especially how the public respond.
    On the radio yesterday, “NZ used to have 60 million sheep, 3 million of which don’t have wool on their backs”
    But otherwise I’d say you’ve expanded nicely on my overall thinking.
    Graeme

  64. anoilman says:

    Michael 2: American scientists are completely free to speak in public. Except for the ones working with Canada, they are gagged by the Canadian far right wing political party. They can only say what the their political minders permit them to speak about.

    So we’re clear Michael 2. If Michael Mann was Canadian, he would need months of paper work on anything he says, and anything he does, each and every time he did it, and if other humans were present when he did it, there would be a pesky ‘minder’ monitoring and recording all that he does. He would be fired if he spoke in public. This level of control goes into Canadian libraries, and of course librarians.

    The first time I heard of ‘Minders’ Michael 2: was Saddam the evil despot, the next time, Canada.

    Some advice from Michael Mann.
    http://desmog.ca/2014/02/21/michael-mann-canadians-should-fight-harper-s-war-science-and-u-s-should-help

    “Professor Andreas Muenchow from the University of Delaware publicly refused to sign a government agreement that threatened to “sign away [his] freedom to speak, publish, educate, learn and share.””

    And if a scientist does find a discrepancy, he will gleefully excitedly publish it. The only way to really get famous is to find something new. Oddities are all around if you’d bother to look, like two articles back;
    https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2014/08/12/the-holocene-conundrum/

    Early days on a new discrepancy…

    As for Koch, he’s required by law to make his company more profitable. He would be bankrupted by lawsuits if he did not do that. So, until the laws change regarding carbon, it is required by Koch to denounce anything that might in any way damage the profit margins of Koch’s businesses. Oh, and his scientists? They signed an NDA as well as an IP agreement, so they are gagged to the hilt. Its just good business Michael 2.

  65. John Mashey says:

    Oops, sorry, above, I wrote: “Fred Singer’s coauthor, Dennis Avery works for Manhattan”, which is wrong, that was done in a hurry, Avery works for Hudson Institute.

    Manhattan Institute does plenty.

  66. Andrew Dodds says:

    Michael 2 –

    There is more to the world than just America and american politics. And if you are going to go around making lazy assertions about what different political persuasions think then you may be asked to back it up.

    There is a further problem fundamental to your argument: Why would politicians actually want global warming to exist? There’s no political mileage in fixing a problem before people notice the worst effects and many of the policies proposed so far seem to involve people making sacrifices, which is also not a popular move. Politicians want to get re-elected; if they were really influencing research then it would be in the direction of inactivism.

    And if it’s control issues.. well, we have the ongoing Terrorist Bogeyman(tm) for that. Far more effective.

  67. anoilman says:

    Andrew Dodds: “Why would politicians actually want global warming to exist?”

    Andrew its a common conspiracy theory in the Global Warming Denial circles. Its the “They made it all up, theory.” Conspiracy thinking with the global warming denial community has been measured and quantified, and it correlates with no moon landing, MI6 killed Diana, HAARP ate my food, oh the list goes on.

  68. AnOilMan says:

    Michael 2: Here’s what’s happening in Canada now, today. Yup… we are required to get our information from Americans.
    http://www.calgaryherald.com/news/Federal+government+puts+polar+briefings/10128511/story.html

    Canadian scientists are censored while Americans can speak their mind.

    9 Layers of byzantine bureaucracy to speak in public.

    “Ministerial services” — the sixth layer — cancelled the briefing, the documents say. And the ice service scientists ended up watching as the Canadian media and public got most of their information from the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), where scientists were quick to give interviews, hold briefings and issue press releases as the ice shattered records as it melted from Baffin Island to the Beaufort Sea.

  69. Pingback: Salby again! | …and Then There's Physics

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