A real Hiatus

For reasons I certainly won’t go into here, I intend to take a break from all of this blogging. I don’t know for how long, but for a few weeks at least, and maybe longer. Before I do, though, I thought I might comment on Judith Curry’s recent post about Criticizing with kindness. It’s another attempt to discuss/criticise the tone of the online climate science debate. As much as I agree that the tone is poor, my personal view is that anyone who thinks this, and would like it to be better, can very easily do something about it : improve their own tone.

As far as I’m concerned, if you think discussions should take place in good faith, just make sure you do so yourself. Be prepared to consider the argument being made by the other person. If they tell you that you’ve misunderstood what they’re saying, consider that you have. Be willing to simply disagree. Consider that at least some of what the other person says may have merit. Don’t just nitpick a minor point in order to undermine what they’re saying. It’s not actually all that difficult. I’m sure we all engage in such discussions on a daily basis. Here’s maybe the crucial point : if you think what the other person says is absurd, just stop. There’s no way you can have a good faith discussion with someone who you think is talking nonsense.

So, I think there are certain things that we can regard – given the evidence we have today – as essentially true. For example

  • The rise in atmospheric CO2 since the mid-1800s is virtually all a consequence of anthropogenic emissions. If you want to know why, you can read this.
  • There have been numerous millenial temperature reconstructions using a variety of different proxies and a variety of different techniques. They almost all produce a hockey stick-like shape and indicate that temperatures today are probably higher than they’ve been for more than a thousand years and the rate at which it has risen is faster than for more than a thousand years. You can read more here.
  • The instrumental temperature record has been replicated/reproduced by numerous different groups. All the different records show that we’ve warmed by more than 0.8 degrees since 1880. Homogenization is a crucial part of generating these temperature records and is not an indicator of data tampering, or because scientists want to show that it’s warming faster than it actually is (e.g., here).
  • Our understanding of climate change is not primarily based on global climate models (GCMs). They provide some evidence for how our climate may change if we continue to increase anthropogenic forcings. Also, claiming that climate models have failed because they didn’t specifically predict the so-called “pause” is like suggesting that you can’t be sure the river will flow downhill because you can’t predict the winner at pooh sticks (H/T Richard Betts).
  • We may not know, precisely, the equilibrium climate sensitivity and the transient climate response, but we do have evidence that provides a range for each of these quantities. Claiming that it will probably be on the low side of these ranges, is simply wrong. The probability distribution tells us the likelihood of each portion of these ranges, and deciding that a particular interval is more likely than this probability distribution suggests, is simply ignoring some (or most) of the evidence.

There are probably more, but the point I’m getting at is that it really isn’t possible to have a good faith discussion with anyone who dispute the points above. There are certainly perfectly valid reasons for discussing the above points, but doing so on a blog (or on Twitter) with someone who disputes them would just seem to be a waste of time. Our current understanding is based on a large amount of published, scientific evidence. It’s highly unlikely that a bunch of non-experts on blogs are going to overturn this understanding. Of course, if someone does some actual research, publishes some papers, and convinces the scientific community that some of the points above are wrong, great. Do it. That’s how science works. I just don’t see the point in having blog discussions with people who are arguing against well-established science, or how such discussions could possibly take place in good faith.

Anyway, for what it’s worth, that’s my view. I’m certainly not suggesting that everyone has to agree with the above points; simply that I don’t see the point in arguing with those who don’t. It’s certainly a waste of my time, if not of theirs. Of course, if anyone does disagree with any of the points I’ve made above, they’re welcome to explain why in the comments. However, it will require that they do more than point to a single (or a few) paper that disputes the mainstream view. Similarly, if anyone wants to add to the list, feel free.

As I said at the beginning, I’m going to take a break for a while. I certainly don’t plan to write any posts, but may respond to comments if I get a chance.

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57 Responses to A real Hiatus

  1. anoilman says:

    Have fun dude.

  2. Thanks. I meant to add another point to the post

    Anyone who discusses the possibility of warming being natural/internal variability without indicating that they understand the concept of forcings and feedbacks is probably just wasting everyone else’s time.

  3. Ha, quitter :-). Have a good break.

  4. John Hartz says:

    ATTP:

    In his Bad Astronomy blog post* of yesterday, Phil Plait wrote,

    “I mentioned at the time the idea that global warming may be affecting weather patterns, and of course the denial Noise Machine kicked into gear; I got a lot of comments and tweets mocking the idea.”

    I had not seen the term “Denial Noise Machine” prior to reading Plait’s article. Perhaps its been around for awhile or perhaps its just been coined by Plait.

    Either way, it describes what you have encountered on this blog to a “tee”.

    As you may recall, when I first started posting comments on this blog site, I questioned whether or not the the care and feeding of the site was worth your valuable time and energy. From my perspective, unless one enjoys playing Climateball for the sake of playing Climateball, the benefits of doing so do not outweigh the costs.

    There’s little to be gained in providing a venue for the Denial Noise Machine.

    *Polar Vortex Excursions Linked to Global Warming by Phil Plait, Bad Astronomy, Slate, Sep 15, 2014

  5. Steve Bloom says:

    If this one doesn’t turn out to be another false start, I might even get that guest post together! And yes, have fun, to the extent that fun and beginning of term aren’t mutually exclusive. 🙂

  6. Steve Bloom says:

    John, I’m pretty sure that term isn’t original to Phil.

    Denial is only involved in part of the comments here, and moderation can reduce it adequately. Anders is making good progress in his stance on this, as reflected in the OP.

  7. WebHubTelescope says:

    I don’t know about assuming anything. One should never assume good faith when dealing with politically-charged science.
    I mentioned Goddard’s #OwnGoal with respect to the animated sea-level GIF he created. This motivated me to look at tidal gauge data yesterday and in particular I remembered Jennifer Marohasy saying that Sydney harbor were among the longest time-series available ( another #OwnGoal !)

    So I decided to check if there was a quantifiable correlation between the Sidney gauge height fluctuation and the ENSO measure SOI:
    http://contextearth.com/2014/09/16/using-tidal-gauges-to-estimate-enso/

    Bingo!

    The moral is to watch what they do and learn from it — a scientific form of Jiu-Jitsu that is quite useful, IMO.

  8. chris says:

    I wonder whether when you come back it might help to disengage a bit from the rather more personal aspects of this subject where you attempt to engage with individuals whose interest is clearly in misrepresenting the science.

    I expect it’s worth having gone through this process (you’ve learned lots of stuff both about the science and about the curious motivations of science misrepesentation) but ultimately it’s rather time consuming, and unproductive to consider that you can make much headway against misrepresentation. I went through this process between around 2009-2011ish where I spent lots of time reading the science and attempting to counter misrepresentation – very useful but at some point it becomes unsatisfying since a feeling of progress doesn’t develop…

    It’s quite sad to consider that a small rump of individuals are going to look back at their careers and consider (if they have the capacity for self-reflection) that they spent a considerable part of it acting and communicating in bad faith. But it wouldn’t be a very happy state to consider that one spent more than a short stint attempting to engage productively with bad-faith arguments.

    Maybe being more proactive in relation to published science and other ideas, rather than being reactive to bad-faith nonsense would be more productive…

    Anyway, term starts in a couple of weeks and if you’re anything like me we have to be rather busy, busy for the next few months. Of course my sentiments about you motivations might be misplaced and you may have quite different reasons for taking a break….hope you have a productive hiatus!

  9. Vinny Burgoo says:

    Oooh noooz! Please keep at it!

    But if you don’t, can you recommend a replacement climate blog that provides its readers with plenty of excuses for putting off important tasks without making them too angry? A similarly potent, but not inflammatory, enabler of procrastination?

  10. verytallguy says:

    Best wishes and hope the reasons aren’t too serious.

    VTG

  11. INTEGRITY ™ — You Go First

  12. Thelarch says:

    I’ve very much enjoyed reading your blog.
    It’s been informative and a welcome oasis of sanity and civilisation.

    Thanks ATTP.

  13. BBD says:

    Enjoy the hiatus…

    🙂

  14. JWhite says:

    RC, Open Mind, and now this site goes quiet? I’m thinking intelligent, reasonable people can only bang their heads against a wall for so long…..

    Enjoy.

  15. Lucifer says:

    “Claiming that it[ ECS or TCS ] will probably be on the low side of these ranges, is simply wrong.”

    The greatest 34 year trend observed is 1.9 °C per century.
    The most recent 34 year trend observed is 1.5 °C per century.
    The IPCC4 determined the ‘Best estimate for a “low scenario” is 1.8 °C’ (per century)
    Observations support only low transient sensitivity.

  16. Lucifer,
    I don’t think you understand the definition of the ECS or the TCR.

  17. Spence entertains a kind of hypothesis:

    Oh dear – it seems from that link that I might have broken and then there’s physics. Ah well, probably for the best – he did enter a battle of wits largely unarmed.

    http://judithcurry.com/2014/09/15/how-to-criticize-with-kindness/#comment-629154

    A real milkman in human kindness.

  18. graemeu says:

    It took a while but I worked out that most of the comments weren’t worth bothering with and I did wonder why you bothered with some of it. For the most part the gold is in your post so I’ll keep the feed just in case you pick it up again.
    Cheers
    Graeme

  19. When people don’t know what they don’t know, they fall back on their beliefs. It’s hard to argue with ideologues when they don’t have a clue.
    Keep fighting the good fight, all the best and take care.
    George

  20. Infopath says:

    I’m going to miss my daily ATTP fix!
    Can’t you have some guest posts happening while you’re gone?! VTG, WHT, BBD… C’mon, I’ll even read a post by Willard, even if I can’t understand it…
    Enjoy your hiatus, though you suck.
    (Sorry, you can’t ask an addict to be civil while in withdrawal).
    🙂

  21. Joshua says:

    Clearly, you’re just quitting because you realize you’ve been thrashed by “skeptics” and you’re demoralized. Typical of ‘warmists,” you’re just slinking away rather than manning up and admitting that you were wrong. Nah, you just can’t face reality – that your limp-wristed leftest ideology has left you trapped on a sinking ship of fraudulent science.

    Good riddance I say. Who needs another warmista anyway?*

    * I just thought I’d write that for when you think you are feeling tempted to come back. Just read that comment and double-check with reality in case you start deluding yourself into thinking that if you come back you’ll be able to sustain meaningful exchange with “skeptics” about climate change (or anything else for that matter). In reality, this is the best blog going (that I’ve seen, anyway) for good faith exchange of different viewpoints – so I hope that when ready, you’ll think it’s worth your time to continue with the blog.

  22. uknowispeaksense says:

    pffttt. You want the deniers…oops I mean “sceptics” to find properly referenced peer reviewed papers to support their argument rather than “a single (or a few) paper that disputes the mainstream view.” Don’t you know about pal-review? 😉

  23. Rachel M says:

    If anyone wants to write a guest post they can email it to me at rachelmmartin@gmail.com

  24. Bobby says:

    All the best on the hiatus. I may not comment much, but I always read.

  25. Michael 2 says:

    “I don’t see the point in arguing with those who don’t.”

    I propose that is exactly the kind you must argue with. If you pluck a guitar string, it makes music because the ends are taut and immovable. Your immovable certainty must play against someone else’s immovable but differing certainty. Only then is the debate clear and unmistakable to millions of readers facilitating the existence of, and necessity for, choices.

    If I am *teaching* then of course it is a different story: “It’s hard to fill a cup that is already full”. I am able to teach my teenagers almost nothing for they think they know more than me already.

  26. Martin says:

    Great post, thanks for all the good work!

  27. John Hartz says:

    Speaking of hiati…

    David Roberts is back in the saddle at Grist after a one year Sabbatical. If you have not already done so, I highly recommend that you read his post of Sep 16, i.e.,

    Preventing climate change and adapting to it are not morally equivalent

    I guarantee that Robert’s article will give you pause.

  28. Ohflow says:

    First time poster, just wanted to say that I appreciate your blog. But first Tamino hiatus and now you!? I am gonna go into climate debate withdrawals!

    Thanks for the blog mate!

  29. ATTP,
    Participation in the discussion and nitpicking on the wordings has been the real evidence for my appreciation of your blog. I hope that you’ll return soon, and find the right pace of posts that you can maintain without taking a too large share of your time and resources.
    .

  30. Thanks everyone.

    Chris,
    Yes, my teaching load this coming semester is reasonably high, which is certainly a factor.

    M2,
    The point I’m making is that if one would like discussions to take place in good faith, that is very unlikely – in my experience at least – if the discussion is with someone who disputes one of these points. Of course, if one likes bad faith discussions, carry on. Additionally, the chances of a bunch of blog commenters overturning well-established science is so small that it also makes such discussions rather pointless.

    Pekka,
    I think there is a difference between those who nitpick as an argument technique (i.e., focus on something minor so as to undermine the other person’s point) and pointing out minor errors in what someone else has said. The latter can at least be constructive.

    JohnH,
    Yes, it’s good to see David Roberts back at Grist.

  31. There was another point I was going to make and didn’t but thought I might comment on here. There are some who accept most of the above points but then try to suggest that there are issues related scientific integrity, honesty, or behaviour (Michael Mann’s behaviour, the CRU unit not responding fast enough to requests for data, Marcott et als. press release,….). The problem I have with that argument is that typically it is made by some of the most unpleasant, intolerant people I’ve ever had the misfortune to encounter, and whose modus operandi appears to be to engage in bad faith (not all, but a decent majority). So, it’s a little hard to take seriously lectures about integrity from people who appear to have none (or very little).

  32. Have a refreshing break! and keep reading climate stuff!
    best wishes
    Mark

  33. In addition to posts like this one above, one of the most useful posts you’ve made, for me, is this one:

    https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2014/02/11/antarctic-sea-ice-volume/

    You included this quote:

    “This ice volume increase is an order of magnitude smaller than the Arctic decrease, and about half the size of the increased freshwater supply from the Antarctic Ice Sheet.”

    It is an invaluable service to the public to provide a blog like this one that provides great information like in these posts, with such links or citations. It’s about educating the public not so much by engaging deniers in debate at their sites but by posting at places like here where the public can know it can safely go to find real truth, real popularized science, without having to slog through mountains of science-denying garbage. In my view, the best purpose of such blogs is to be an educational resource for the public.

    Side note: In my view, it really should not be about trying to change the minds of those whose minds really cannot change. I said it before and I say it again: For almost all the deniers, their minds cannot change because they have to deny whatever their political and/or religious ideology requires them to deny. Their minds can change only if they give up said ideology – it will almost never happen. See evolution as an example. And yes, climate science is part of it – (although many already know about this) see “An Evangelical Declaration on Global Warming”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cornwall_Alliance#An_Evangelical_Declaration_on_Global_Warming
    (different than the Cornwall Declaration) that Roy Spencer was unwise enough to sign – I don’t know whether his fellow evangelical Curry believes it but didn’t sign it, but her behavior fits perfectly the hypothesis that she does. To those who think I’m unfairly bashing evangelical Christianity: I was one for a quarter century of my life. I intimately know the mindset. I was one of those “lone wolf” types who always fully accepted all science, including evolution – not that theistic evolution stuff, but the real deal, entirely by natural law, by the mindless forces of natural, no supernatural intervention or guidance via supernatural events required. Because of this I was constantly hounded to renounce my acceptance of this science or else risk burning for eternity. Note: At least here in the US, if you encounter that rare evangelical who tells you they accept evolution, find out whether it’s the real deal I described or whether they believe that some supernatural intervention or guidance via supernatural events was behind it. Chances are it’s the latter. Very few truly accept the real deal because of this belief in so much of that community that one has to profess one’s disbelief in such sciences before one can really become a true Christian. Now transfer all this mind control over its members over to climate science – and not just climate science but progressive economics or politics or progressive anything. Now you know what you’re up against. (Yes, I can see how one could become quite discouraged and think “What’s the point?” if one thinks that one can change the minds of unchangeable minds, if the purpose of what one does is to try to change unchangeable minds rather than to educate the public, to be an educator.)

    Back to my main point: Yes, one way to educate the public is to comment at places like this on what some deniers – including some (former?) climate scientists – say by explaining how what the denier says is false, but another way is to be an outlet for gathering together what climate scientists are finding out as soon as they find them out. The post above was great in this regard. In that way the public can go to blogs like this to get some commentary on new research that one can always read about at Science Daily. The articles at these science news magazines are fine but they really don’t go far (they by far don’t go far enough) in providing commentary to the public as to what the research may have to say in countering what deniers say. This later point on commentary on research in the spirit of the above link is most important, in my view.

    By all the above, please don’t stop entirely as some seem to suggest you should do.

    Another side note: In my view, the public could really use such educational blogs with respect to evolution – at least the public here in the US could use it, since roughly half the population here denies it because of the political and/or religious ideology in question.

  34. guthrie says:

    KeefeandAmanda – actually, there certainly used to be informative entertaining blogs on evolution, I read and commented on many of them a good 7 to 10 years ago. Is the Panda’s thumb still going? Talkorigins? etc.

  35. andrew adams says:

    Have a good break. And repeat to yourself ten times every morning “I will not argue with idiots on Twitter today”.

    Hopefully some of us will step up with the odd guest post to keep the conversation going here.

  36. RoyFOMR says:

    Enjoy your break Anders. Although we rarely agreed on Twitter I always admired your polite and measured response and your courage in going into what must have seemed like a lion’s den to you, BH:)
    Take care and get those batteries recharged.

  37. Eli Rabett says:

    To each his own and Godspeed to all here. . .

  38. dikranmarsupial says:

    don’t be away for too long, the signal to noise ratio in the debate is not improved by reducing the signal!

  39. John Hartz says:

    The beat goes on at SkepticalScience.com.

  40. Joseph says:

    One option might be to reduce the stress and frustration is to post on topics that you find interesting and then minimize your involvement in the comments. Their are plenty of knowledgeable and capable people here who can respond to the misinformation from the “skeptics.” And when things get out of hand you can use your moderation powers to put an end to repetitive pointless nonsense.

  41. Magma says:

    Thank you for your contribution to date, and hopefully for others in the future. Most readers will understand that it can be both time-consuming and tiring to write posts that contain thoughtful insights as well as carefully checked technical content.

    (By that standard Watts can probably knock off three posts before lunch, after getting up late.)

  42. With your eye off the Climateball, maybe Watts will finally reveal your identity. I’m dying to find out who you *really* are!

  43. John Hartz says:

    A variation on Joseph’s option.

    Join the Skeptical Science author team, post articles under you own name, and let other members of the team do the moderating.

  44. nit:

    GCM = General Circulation Model, not Global Climate Model

  45. rust,
    Yes, I did know that, but I thought both were used.

  46. A break well earned. Yours has been a consistently constructive and informative voice in the climate blogosphere IMHO.

    Having decided to step back from blogging and social media interactions myself for similar reasons, you also have my full sympathies… and respect for your indefatigably until now!

    Enjoy the hiatus.

  47. Rob Nicholls says:

    Have a great break ATTP. Thank you for all the hard work you have put into this blog and for teaching me lots and making me think with your posts and your patient responses to my comments.

  48. KR says:

    ATTP – Those raising “issues related scientific integrity, honesty, or behaviour” are IMO engaging in playing the man and not the ball, throwing out ad hominem fallacious attacks on authors and conclusions – rather than engaging the evidence which proves them _wrong_.

    That’s why there’s a distinct lack of ‘skeptic’ paleotemperature reconstructions, of ‘skeptic’ consensus surveys, or of papers describing even remotely plausible natural causes for global warming, or describing supportable reasons to doubt the last 150 years of spectroscopy and climate studies. Reality just doesn’t cooperate with ideological confirmation bias.

    And I agree, I have _no_ patience whatsoever for lectures on integrity from people who are themselves not showing any.

  49. Thanks ATTP for all your work on the blog (and to Rachel for moderating). I’ve learned a bit from your pieces and from the excellent discussion threads with commenters – much appreciated. Hopefully you will come back to it refreshed when you have time. Have a good break, cheers for now!

  50. Eli Rabett says:

    Rust, Global circulation model was the earliest version, as more complex ocean systems were added the term gradually morphed into global climate model, and today the most complex ones are called Earth system models. Progress?

  51. afeman says:

    I like “Earth system model”. It makes it sound like a giant version of Sim City.

  52. How about coming back with your own paper on climate sensitivity? After reading and explaining so many papers on the topic, surely you have some ideas how to do it better.

    And then Kit Carruthers immediately knows your name. 🙂

  53. Victor,
    But if I’ve learned anything in the last year or so, it’s that it’s much easier to criticise what others do than to actually try and do something yourself 🙂

    Maybe Kit already knows my name?

  54. John Hartz says:

    Who is Kit Carruthers?

  55. Pingback: What I think about global warming – Stoat

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