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.