Come on, Matt Ridley, it’s not that difficult

Matt Ridley has a new article in The Times, called Spare me the selfishness of the eco-toffs. I appreciate that Matt Ridley may not have chosen the title, but I suspect I’m not alone in finding an article criticising eco-toffs, written by a Viscount, a little ironic. The Times article is paywalled, but it appears that the full article is here.

I’ve been rather critical of Matt Ridley in the past, so will keep this short. In all honesty, I’d be quite keen if Matt Ridley actually stopped making the kinds of silly mistakes he seems to make. He clearly has a voice and I’d rather that what he said was credible, rather than nonsensical. I guess that may, however, weaken his preferred narrative, and so I probably shouldn’t hold my breath.

In this most recent article Matt Ridley focuses on the newly released IPCC report. I thought I might highlight a couple of aspects of what Matt Ridley has said that seem to indicate a very significant misunderstanding of what the report is really saying. One thing he mentions is

But when you cut through the spin, what the IPCC is actually saying is that there is a range of possibilities, from no net harm at all (scenario RCP2.6) through two middling scenarios to one where gathering harm from mid century culminates in potentially dire consequences by 2100 (scenario RCP8.5).

Let’s make something very clear. The RCP’s are Representative Concentration Pathways. They are simply four possible future anthropogenic greenhouse gas emission pathways. They’re meant to bracket the range of possible emission pathways. We’ll almost certainly not exactly follow one of these particular pathways. They’re also not possible in some kind of probabilistic sense; we’re not going to randomly follow one of these pathways. Ignoring major changes in the carbon cycle, we get to decide which of these pathways we want to follow.

Of course, if we do follow a low emission pathway, the resulting warming will be lower than if we follow a high emission pathway. That’s kind of the point. We’re meant to consider the range of warming associated with each emission pathway and use that to inform policy. Implying that we may, by chance, follow a low emission pathway seems nonsensical. I guess it is possible that something magical will happen in the coming decades, that will allow us to switch easily from fossil fuels to some other energy source. I’d argue, though, that that is more likely if we actual try to do so, than if we simply hope that we’ll do so.

Matt Ridley goes on to say

So let’s focus on the two middle scenarios, known as RCP4.5 and RCP6. In these more realistic projections, if you use the latest and best estimates of the climate’s “sensitivity” to carbon dioxide (somewhat lower than the out-of-date ones still used by the IPCC), the most probable outcome is that world will be respectively just 0.8 and 1.2 degrees Celsius warmer than today by the last two decades of this century.

Firstly, his latest and best estimates of climate sensitivity largely refers to the results from energy budget estimates preferred by Nic Lewis (and some others). Although there is nothing fundamentally wrong with these estimates, there are reasons why they might be regarded as lower limits, rather than somehow more accurate than other methods. Also out-of-date is Matt Ridley’s own construct, not a view held by actual experts.

Matt Ridley is actually correct that if his preferred estimates are correct, then the best estimate from these methods would suggest about 1.2oC by 2100 (relative to today). However, you shouldn’t really consider what Matt Ridley calls the best estimate a particularly likely outcome. Typically it’s the median of the distribution, which means that there is a 50% chance that the actual value will be higher/lower than this best estimate. Therefore, even his preferred method suggest that we could have between 0.9 and 2.9oC of warming, relative to today for RCP6.0 (or, about between 2oC and 4cC relative to pre-industrial times).

So, even using Matt Ridley’s preferred method (which suggests a lower climate sensitivity than other methods) we’re almost guaranteed – if we follow an RCP6.0 emissions pathway – to have more than 2oc of warming by 2100. Maybe Matt Ridley thinks differently to me (I really hope so) but climate policy isn’t some kind of bet; we aren’t gambling on a precise value for climate sensitivity. Climate policy should, in my view, be some kind of risk analysis. How do we balance minimising the risks associated with climate change, with the risks/costs associated with minimising these risks? Choosing to follow an emissions pathway that is almost certain to result in more than 2oC of warming, doesn’t seem particularly sensible.

I must admit, that I’m starting to tire of critiquing things that people like Matt Ridley say. They seem quite comfortable repeating this type of stuff despite people regularly pointing out their errors. If Matt Ridley really thinks that we shouldn’t be too concerned about following an RCP6.0 emissions pathway, maybe he could at least acknowledge that this could lead to much more warming than his articles suggest. If he can’t, or won’t, do this, then I would argue he’s neither rational nor honest.

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149 Responses to Come on, Matt Ridley, it’s not that difficult

  1. jsam says:

    Some of the wealthy will do well out of climate change. Matt is just arguing for his kind.
    http://www.newrepublic.com/article/120124/ipcc-report-climate-change-likely-be-ignored-until-felt-locally

  2. Lars Karlsson says:

    Note that Ridley’s reference to support his claim that “Subsidies for biofuels have raised food prices by diverting food into fuel, tipping millions into malnutrition and killing about 190,000 people a year” is an article in the “Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons”, which is not a proper scientific periodical, but is published by a politically conservative lobbying group, “Association of American Physicians and Surgeons.”

  3. Lars,
    Thanks, I knew there’d be more. Only so much time I can spend wading through Matt Ridley’s polemic.

  4. Paul S says:

    Ridley uses Dave Rutledge’s analysis as support for asserting that RCP8.5 is ‘wildly unrealistic’ but it actually says essentially nothing about the scenario. RCP8.5 explicitly assumes widescale uptake of unconventional fossil fuel recovery, whereas Rutledge assumes only conventional fossil fuel production. It’s like arguing 3+3 can’t possibly equal as much as 6 since 2+2 =4.

    Actually, I’m sure I read an interview with Benny Peiser talking about how unconventional fossil fuel energy production means “peak fossil fuel” worries were misplaced and we had enough to keep burning for centuries. Rutledge’s analysis says we hit peak fossil fuel production in the 2030s, and essentially that the fossil fuel era is already on it’s deathbed.

    Just did a bit of back-reading and it seems Ridley is not fond of nuclear energy, nor renewables. If he believes we’re about to hit peak fossil fuel production and there aren’t any viable alternatives why is he optimistic about the future?

  5. Paul S,

    If he believes we’re about to hit peak fossil fuel production and there aren’t any viable alternatives why is he optimistic about the future?

    Something I’ve wondered myself. If we’ve never successfully developed an economy using something other than fossil fuels and if that is therefore the only viable way to power an economy (as some seem to suggest) then presumably we’re screwed anyway. On the other hand, if it is possible to power economies using something other than fossil fuels, and if fossil fuels potentially have risks (climate change) then sooner, rather than later, may be optimal.

  6. It still seems a reasonable claim that biofuels made from food increase the demand for food and thus food prices and agricultural land use and thus less room for nature.

    I see biofuels as a concession to the conservatives. In this way their farmers benefit from mitigation and to make them less against mitigation.

    Personally, I hope that we will soon have biofuels made from waste materials; they may be worthy of subsidizing in the beginning and as long as we do not have a carbon tax yet.

  7. Willard says:

    > Just did a bit of back-reading and it seems Ridley is not fond of nuclear energy, nor renewables. If he believes we’re about to hit peak fossil fuel production and there aren’t any viable alternatives why is he optimistic about the future?

    Because it’s the rational conclusion if you also believe oil prices will fall:

    Anyhow, the forces that have driven energy prices up in recent years appear to be fading. Consider some of the reasons that oil and gas prices rose in 2011, the year energy companies pushed up prices even more than this year. Japan suffered a terrible tsunami, shut down its nuclear industry and began scouring the world for gas imports to keep its lights on. At about the same time Libya was plunged into civil war, cutting off a key supplier of gas. Add in simmering tension over Iran, Germany’s sudden decision to turn its back on nuclear power, the legacy of a couple of cold winters and the lingering depressive effect on oil and gas exploration of low energy prices from much of the previous decade, and it is little surprise that oil and gas producers pushed up prices.

    Contrast that with today. Several years of high prices have driven a surge of new exploration. Deep offshore technology is advancing rapidly and huge gas fields have been found in the Mediterranean and in the Indian and Atlantic oceans. In the United States, the shale revolution has glutted both gas and oil markets, displacing imports. Iran is coming in from the cold, Libya is back on stream and Australia is preparing to export huge volumes of gas. Should the rest of the world start producing shale gas — China, Argentina, Poland and others are on the brink, even Britain might one day deign to join them — that would further add to supply.

    http://www.rationaloptimist.com/blog/gas-and-oil-prices-may-soon-fall.aspx

    According to that belief, we have so much oil that prices ought to drop. It would not be rational to take into account that the producers might reduce their output on the market for the invisible hands to “adjust” these prices. This has never been seen before.

  8. verytallguy says:

    So…

    If emissions at the low end of projections and
    If sensitivity is at the low end of predictions
    If impacts are at the low end of predictions then
    there is no problem with CO2 emissions.

    Therefore, there is no problem with CO2 emissions.

    A bit like…
    If house prices continue to rise and
    If incomes continue to rise and
    If lending on wholesale markets continues to be easily available then
    a new business model for banks is possible.

    Therefore we shoud adopt a new business model for Northern Rock

    Thing is, that new business model turned out to be me paying later for Matt Ridley and his ilks’s large bonuses.

    Exactly, in fact, what Matt Ridley is proposing again – future generations paying for his carbon footprint today.

    The man is totally shameless.

  9. Paul S says:

    Willard,

    But if we have such an incredible abundance of oil that would mean a stronger emissions scenario than Ridley tries to suggest in his article.

  10. Lars Karlsson says:

    Paul S,
    I was also a bit surprised that Ridley was relying on a peak oil & coal guy like Rutledge.

  11. verytallguy says:

    And yes, I know I’ve bored this blog with this a couple of times before, but Ridley’s background, for someone lecturing experts in their own field on why they’re wrong, is beyond jaw-dropping.

    Ridley gained his position through nepotism and gerrymandering. His social network includes other prominent climate change deniers and right wing politicians. Political conviction rather than facts appear to drive his views on climate change. Despite being disgraced when in a position of power in charge of risk management he continues with amazing chutzpah to lecture others on the greatest risk management issue of our age.

    https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2014/09/09/matt-ridley-you-seem-a-little-too-certain/#comment-31224

  12. Joshua says:

    “:Eco-toff.” Yet another pejorative. I’ll add it to the list of labels – recently culled from Climate Etc.

    Eco-toff. Alarmist. Eco-Nazi. Warmista. AGW-fanatic. Green extremist. Eitist. So-called environmentalist. Marxist.. Neo-McCarthysist. Groveling, terrified coward, proto-eugenicists. Lysenkoist. Lefty global warming drone. green-bigot. Nature worshiper. Propagandist. weasel. narcissist. self-absorbed. brainwashed. Anti-climate. Lunatic. Climate goon.True Believer in the Church of Catastrophic Global Warming. Fascist.

  13. Paul S says:

    Lars Karlsson,

    I suspect he didn’t really understand the implications and just found something which appeared to minimise the problem he wanted to minimise at that moment.

    Ah, here’s him arguing the opposite point: http://online.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702304279904579517862612287156

  14. BBD says:

    I’ve noticed the yes-but-Rutledge argument popping up here and there (JC did a DR guest post a while back). If – and it’s debatable – Rutledge is really right and everybody else is significantly wrong, then his work is a powerful argument for immediate deployment of nuclear and / **or** renewables (please, let’s not have that argument again).

    I think in their near-desperation to throw anything at the problem, the contrarians have picked up the wrong bomb.

  15. Paul S says:

    BBD,

    Rutledge’s guest post at Curry’s was Ridley’s source. It’s a small world after all.

    Rutledge’s analysis is entirely in line with many other projections: if we consider only conventional reserves of fossil fuels, production will peak in the 2030s. The important question, which Rutledge doesn’t address at all, is how far unconventional recovery and production techniques will allow us to tap into the much greater known resources, which currently are not counted as reserves?

  16. austrartsua says:

    I wish Ridley had just used the IPCC estimates of climate sensitivity, because this wasn’t really the point of his article. The main point was that future generations will be wealthier, far wealthier than we are today, and with much better technology. What the greens are arguing for is that current generations make sacrifices for the sake of far richer future generations, which is fundamentally unequal and irrational.

    The point he makes about Biofuels is also one which you (ATTP) should consider. There is real harm being done by this policy and other eco-policy. By subsidizing biofuels, governments are causing less land to be used for growing food crops which drives up the price of food, killing poor people. It also leads to more wilderness areas being destroyed.

    The point he makes about indoor polution and other challenges in the 3rd world is valid. Who cares about potential risks of a few degrees warming 50-100yrs from now when real people are suffering right now? Surely our only priority should be opening up the 3rd world to economic expansion, bring these people out of poverty.

    But the main point he is making is this: enviromentalists are overwhelmingly from the middle/upper classes, well-educated, well-fed and comfortable. Their delusions about renewables are a luxury that can only be afforded by people who live in such circumstances. In the real world, we have real problems to solve. Yes, Ridley is also a toff, but he isn’t an eco-toff thank god.

  17. anoilman says:

    I have an off topic question, and I was hoping someone here could help.

    To determine ENSO activity, a selection of data points are used to detect deviation from norm.

    Are those data points being affected by our now wobbly jet stream, etc? The Jet Stream has become languorous with the decreased temperature differential between the poles and the equator.

  18. bratisla says:

    Paul S, one could argue that unconventional resources and enhanced recovery methods are more expensive, therefore oil prices will go up ; our economy addicted to cheap oil would therefore crumble and therefore the CO2 emissions will go down. Problem solved, Rutlegde is right – with a shattered economy.
    This is the kind of argument developed by “peak oil” economists, who argue that the current crisis are, in fact, manifestations of this problem which trickles through the whole economy. I’m not sure they are right for the latest crisis, I’m not economist.

  19. anoilman says:

    Matt Ridley would find it interesting that Global Warming is already driving up food prices;
    http://www.vancouversun.com/health/California+drought+pushes+local+food+prices+higher+with+video/10278895/story.html

    The California drought has already been tied to Global Warming;
    http://news.stanford.edu/news/2014/september/drought-climate-change-092914.html

    And of course my previously inquired languorous Jet Stream;

  20. WebHubTelescope says:


    anoilman asks:
    To determine ENSO activity, a selection of data points are used to detect deviation from norm.

    Are those data points being affected by our now wobbly jet stream, etc? The Jet Stream has become languorous with the decreased temperature differential between the poles and the equator.

    Yes, ENSO activity is best describes as a transient deviation from the long term average or norm. The best measure no doubt is the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) which is the difference between the atmospheric pressure at two data points, one at Tahiti and one at Darwin. This is a classical dipole of an oscillating system — one area goes down in pressure when the other one goes up, and vice versa.

    What the ENSO depends on more than anything is the forcing caused by the Quasi-Biennial Oscillation (QBO) of the stratospheric winds. These drop in altitude and cause a wind shear that resonates with the characteristic response of the equatorial Pacific waters.

    There are also other forcing factors, which are detailed in a paper that I just finished working on. I have it deposited on ARXIV here: http://arxiv.org/abs/1411.0815

    Too bad for ENSO researchers such as Peter “Webby” Webster, who couldn’t figure this out, even after years of working on it 🙂

  21. Paul S says:

    Web,

    Sometimes I get the feeling this cartoon was made for you:

    🙂

  22. WebHubTelescope says:

    I think that cartoon was intended to describe someone that actually didn’t do the analysis and didn’t crunch the numbers. It’s ridiculing the “posturing” approach that is quite common among net commenters.

  23. Paul S says:

    austrartsua,

    Visible climate change “skeptics” are overwhelmingly from the middle/upper classes, well-educated, well-fed and comfortable. Their delusions about climate change not being a problem are a luxury that can only be afforded by people who live in such circumstances. In the real world, we have real problems to solve.

  24. austrartas,

    I wish Ridley had just used the IPCC estimates of climate sensitivity, because this wasn’t really the point of his article.

    I’d even settle for him accepting that his own preferred method produces a range.

    The main point was that future generations will be wealthier, far wealthier than we are today, and with much better technology.

    Are you sure? Seem very certain. Also, there are some things that not even wealth can help us with.

    The point he makes about Biofuels is also one which you (ATTP) should consider.

    What are you implying by this? That because I think Matt Ridley makes lots of basic mistakes in his articles that I support biofuels? Firstly, I’m a physical scientist so I tend to focus on things that I feel I have the expertise to comment on. I do happen to have issues with biofuels and do think that they may be doing more harm than good.

    However, it’s very easy to find justifiable arguments against something, but that could apply to almost anything (coal, fracking). What’s much harder is to make a balanced argument that considers the pros and cons of various options. Matt Ridley doesn’t even bother trying. His entire articles is a huge cherry-pick in which he selects bits of evidence that supports his narrative and dismisses everything that doesn’t. That he might not be wrong about everything doesn’t suddenly mean I should take him seriously.

    Who cares about potential risks of a few degrees warming 50-100yrs from now when real people are suffering right now? Surely our only priority should be opening up the 3rd world to economic expansion, bring these people out of poverty.

    Do me a favour. Can you point out an article where someone argues that we should tackle climate change instead of addressing poverty in the developing world. It’s only the Ridleys and Lomborgs of this world who think that these things are mutually exclusive. Not only do many think that it’s possible to address both poverty and climate change (and many other things) at the same time, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that the developing world will suffer most from climate change. Not only do I find this “poverty” argument a strawman, it’s also an argument that – if followed – could quite easily do much more harm than good.

    I note that the poverty argument normally involves us not sacrificing anything somehow helping those in poverty in the developing world. I’m not sure how this is meant to work.

    But the main point he is making is this: enviromentalists are overwhelmingly from the middle/upper classes, well-educated, well-fed and comfortable.

    Evidence?

    Yes, Ridley is also a toff, but he isn’t an eco-toff thank god.

    Well, he clearly doesn’t care about the environment.

  25. WebHubTelescope says:

    What actually got me interested in climate science was the question of oil reserves. If Ridley is suggesting that the amount of high-grade crude oil is limited, he is exactly right — and being in the UK, he is obviously sensitive to that, as the UK North Sea oil output is dropping like a rock.

    The big question is whether the elite decide to go into a death-spiral and start to extract hydrocarbons out of low-grade garbage such as oil shale (different than shale oil) and tar sands. Even shale oil is low-quality compared to what we had in the past.

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-10-27/mercedes-drivers-stung-by-shale-boom-s-quirks-at-the-pump.html
    “It’s all the low-octane naphtha in shale oil that makes it more compatible for blending into regular gasoline.”

    And this fracked stuff is not going to last because of the Red Queen. The operational hashtag is #ShaleFAIL

    The future is really with respect to coal and whether we decide to tap the forbidden fruit of the kerogens and bitumens.

    anoilman should pipe in as he is surrounded by the discussion, I would imagine.

  26. Lars Karlsson says:

    But the main point he is making is this: environmentalists are overwhelmingly from the middle/upper classes, well-educated, well-fed and comfortable. Their delusions about renewables are a luxury that can only be afforded by people who live in such circumstances.

    And those from the middle/upper classes, well-educated, well-fed and comfortable, are those who have consumed and keep consuming the most fossil fuels. Those are the people who have most responsibility and most possibility to do something about the climate problem.

  27. John Mashey says:

    Re: the poor, see LOmborg and Playing the Long Game.
    People could *demand* that the poor of the world start with the telegraph, rather than cell phones. Building big coal plants and centralized grids is not what the rural poor of the world need, and rural is where most of the poor are.
    Lomborg raises money with a website showing lots of poor people, but does any money actually go there?

    Biofuels, at least in US: a lot of people seem not to know the relevant history.
    See Earl Butz. and “get big or get out,”
    Put another way, grow as much corn as possible … which then needed markets, which were:
    a) animal feed (humans don’t eat most of the corn directly, it’s field corn, not sweet corn)
    b) High-fructose corn syrup
    c) Ethanol US History

    Add sugar beets to b) and there might be a correlation with health problems.

    Of course, anyone *really* worried about food supplies should demand a worldwide cessation of tobacco-growing, which not only uses good ag land (or cut-=down forests), but often burns wood to cure.
    See statistics. or this, with worldwide hectares.

  28. Robert Way says:

    New volcanic estimate will increase LC2014 estimates as well.

    Issues suggesting higher than Lewis and Curry (2014)
    Coverage – higher temperature change (Quarterly Journal of Royal Meteorological Society)
    OHC – high heat storage (Nature)
    Volcanism – higher volcanism post-2000 (in press Geophysical Research Letters)

  29. John,
    Is that Lomborg post one that you wrote?

    Robert,
    Thanks. I was aware of the first two, but not the third. Everything seems to be pushing the L&C estimates back up again.

  30. BBD says:

    ATTP

    I’m not seeing any of Robert’s links, but for increased volcanism and aerosol loading since ~2000, I’m guessing he means this. Also see Vernier et al. (2011).

  31. anoilman says:

    WebHubTelescope: First denial is not all about oil. Much is still freemarket arguments from libertarians.
    http://www.theguardian.com/science/blog/2014/aug/29/libertarian-ideology-natural-enemy-science

    Desmogblog UK has been running long series on that.
    http://www.desmog.uk/

    My company is looking at going abroad to Russia, Asia, and Africa. For some reason the oil executives are spooked, and libertarians don’t know why. 🙂

    Shale plays are in trouble in North America. Increasingly the wells cost more ($4 million 4 years ago to $8 million now), and decline faster (70% drop in productivity in 1 year). This is a bubble that will end badly.

    Citizens blocking pipelines are starting to send a clear message to the industry. The oil sands of lost some 17 billion to date.

    And yes, Solar/Wind versus coal/natural gas are what its all about. Coal is cheapest only if you use the dirtiest kind, and burn it unfiltered. Natural Gas seems fine, but completions, and pipe leaks can make it worse than coal. Outgoing LNG ports will put natural gas on par with world prices. i.e. 4 times higher. There will be squawking in North America when that happens.

    Solar plants are relatively speaking on par with ‘responsible’ coal, and prices keep dropping. Power companies in North America have been co-opting solar business models, so keep an eye on it. Wind is still pricy, but I noticed that they solved the bird problem with Avian Radar;
    http://www.detect-inc.com/avian.html

  32. John Mashey says:

    ATTP: yes. And jsut for fun:
    1) Lomborg’s website for COpenhagen Consensus Center USA. Watch rotating images.
    Note that Consensus = among people Lomborg invites.
    See this for an image of CCC USA and more info from Graham Readfearn.

    2) However, Lomborg no longer seems to live in Denmark, see Lomborg moves to Prague.

  33. WebHubTelescope says:

    Have you seen the work of Rune Likvern, Dennis Coyne, myself and others on the dynamics of oil fracking depletion?
    http://contextearth.com/2013/10/06/bakken-projections/

    I have been working with Dennis on this analysis quite a bit and he comments over at the http://peakoilbarrel.com blog and occasionally his blog http://oilpeakclimate.blogspot.com

    BTW, all the ENSO discussion is at http://azimuth.mathforge.com. The original plan was to work together to get an El Nino prediction algorithm going, but I branched out into this sloshing idea that I had and kept going with it. We will see how it goes.

    I don’t think you would ever find the Viscount getting involved in a group project any time soon. I would imagine it would be beneath his dignity to engage in that kind of discussion.

  34. Richard Erskine says:

    Aren’t the middle class always the ones who tend to lead revolutions? Why would it be different next time, and why apologise. The toffs tend to end up running from their castles!

    The young, educated middle class who have been left with shattered economies, and now a carbon debt, may well be saying to grandad Ridley and Lawson … ‘So after screwing us over so comprehensively … What would you like us to say in the eulogy we will write for you?’ … They may well be on a March today as we speak.

    Matt ‘the Rational Optimist’ Ridley has built his brand on optimism of a very particular kind; awhistling in the dark kind; a don’t confuse me with facts my mind is made up kind.

    I think of him as Matt ‘the Delusional Opportunist’ Ridley. Hope is not about ignoring the science.

    He should stick to science biographies … His one on Francis Crick was rather good, and thoroughly recommended.

  35. Marlowe Johnson says:

    JM,

    To the usual list of suspects wrt to U.S. biofuels policy I suggest you add:

    1. the founding fathers
    2. the inventors of aspartame and other sugar substitutes
    3. the inventors of oxygen sensors

    The founding fathers, in their wisdom, decided that rural agrarian states should have the same political power in the Senate as more populous urban states. As a result the farm lobby in the U.S. is much more powerful than it is in other countries that don’t have to deal with this particular political arrangement.

    When sugar substitutes came around ADM/Cargill and co needed to find an alternative market for their surplus corn syrup. Happily MTBE was no longer the oxygenate of choice to meet the federal requirements so ethanol made from corn seemed like the perfect solution to their problems.

    Alas, the good times didn’t last as automakers figured out how to reduce CO emissions without having to add ethanol, which mae the federal oxygenate requirement more or less redundant.

    Luckily for them, lawmakers were happy to mandate ethanol and biodiesel under the American Energy Security Act (apparently Environment doesn’t play well with the plebes). It was only later, in the second incarnation of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS2) that lifecycle GHG issues came to the fore and biofuels were framed primarily in terms of the climate rather than security and agricultural benefits.

    In fact, it was the lack of GHG criteria that led California to develop its Low Carbon Fuel Standard in the first place. I guess they took umbrage with having to pay more for the privilege of using corn ethanol from coal-fired facilities. go figure.

    Of course things have become much muddier since those early days, in large part due to the wrench that Searchinger and Fargioni threw in the works with their papers on indirect land use change and carbon debt.

    Now I suspect that most of the denizens here don’t know much about the subject and simply assume that the issue is settled. I would strongly caution against this. If you think that attribution is tricky when it comes to climate change imagine what it’s like when you have to include ‘people’ and ‘economic’ models with satellite observations. Did that tract of forest in Brazil get cut down because the price of soy went up because of the u.s. increased demand for biodiesel and ethanol? Or did it get cut down because Junior and his pals wanted to expand their pasture land to feed the cows destined to be big macs in wholesome american guts?

    Suggest that folks refrain from simplistic, broad brush thinking when it comes to biofuels. It’s a messy, messy area.

    Oh, and Victor biofuels are already being made in very large quantities from waste. A couple examples:

    –Valero/Diamond Green has discovered that for some reason their is a large quantity of used cooking oil in the American South. I wonder why? They hydrotreat this oil along with other types to produce renewable diesel (not biodiesel).

    –Enerkem, bless their hearts, has found a way to turn your ‘garbage’ into ethanol. The wonders of modern chemistry never cease to amaze….

  36. Magma says:

    In all honesty, I’d be quite keen if Matt Ridley actually stopped making the kinds of silly mistakes he seems to make. He clearly has a voice and I’d rather that what he said was credible, rather than nonsensical. — ATTP

    And if pigs had wings they could fly…

    Anyway, a newish tactic being employed by Ridley and other pseudoskeptics is to imply — or state openly — that proponents of reducing global fossil fuel use are callously condemning millions to death by starvation, air pollution-related lung disease, energy poverty, etc. Coal is the answer, apparently. Strangely, for at least some of the commenters I am most familiar with, this (and occasionally GMO crops) is the one and only topic in which they express even the slightest interest in the problems of the developing world.

    I wonder if such commenters will be quite so ready to assume responsibility if the shoe winds up on the other foot and millions die due to climate-induced famine, heat related illnesses, floods and other extreme weather disasters, and so on. (And yes, I realize the evidence for some of these effects is sketchy at the moment, but time will tell.)

  37. John Mashey says:

    MJ: yes, indeed, way more complex, but there was only so much time. One of the challenges is that most people have little clue about agriculture, especially in US, given urbanization, and tiny fraction of population living on farms.

    One ambiguity/nit:
    “The founding fathers, in their wisdom, decided that rural agrarian states should have the same political power in the Senate as more populous urban states” certainly has the effect you note (and is a serious irritation to farmers in CA, who don’t do the midwest crops much), but to be fair to the founders, in 1790 “Total population: 3,929,214
    Farmers made up about 90% of labor force ”
    Most of the country was rural, and given the politics of the politics of the original colonies, they probably needed to do that … but of course, did not anticipate the huge disparities that now exist. AK has .74M people, CA 38.3M, 50+X larger, but each state has 2 Senators.
    If I recall right was done to 80% by 1800, and 40% by 1900, and is now ~2%.

  38. guthrie says:

    Magma – that’s just the same old tactic used for decades against anyone who suggests that some pollution from some modern technological/ engineering manufacturing feat is actually harmful. “But if we stop emitting fluorocarbons/ sulphur the economy will die and people will starve to death!!!!”

  39. Related to the biofuel questions, the somewhat wider issue of LULUCF (Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry) has been one of the most difficult areas in IPCC (and UNFCCC) negotiations because so many national and private interests are affected by the chosen approach.

  40. Marlowe Johnson says:

    Pekka,

    Yep. IMO LULUCF is the prime gordian knot that probably won’t get resolved until COP 150…

    JM,
    Which is why the idea of having a constitution that is so difficult to update is a serious impediment to good governance. Times change. Apparently it’s ok that the Constitution does not. The right to arm bears and all that.

  41. BBD says:

    Which is why the idea of having a constitution that is so difficult to update is a serious impediment to good governance.

    Funnily enough, Marlowe, or perhaps not, Mrs BBD and I have just had the exact same conversation after watching Obama being commendably tactful about the way ahead for constructive policy making after the mid-terms. The great irony is that an impediment to tyranny becomes a tyranny of impediment.

  42. Tom Curtis says:

    “…the most probable outcome is that world will be respectively just 0.8 and 1.2 degrees Celsius warmer than today by the last two decades of this century.”

    As the temperature response in the short to medium term is best approximated using the Transient Climate Response, assuming Lewis and Curry are correct (and we know they underestimate the values, even given their methodological assumptions), the 2080-2100 temperature response to RCP 6 will be 2.02 [1.37 -3.8] C. Ridley’s estimate is well under the 5% lower limit.

    Further, as in all Lewis’s papers, that “best estimate” is the mode. The median value is higher. In other words, with Lewis and Curry’s lower estimate, we have a less than 50% chance of maintaining temperatures below 2 C with RCP 6.

  43. KarSteN says:

    Sorry for being slightly OT, but the new potholer video shouldn’t go unnoticed on this platform given the general theme in most threads. As classic potholer! Well worth the 20 minutes for all who have a soft spot for sophisticated humour 🙂

    How to argue with A**holes:

  44. anoilman says:

    Karsten: Thanks for that. I’ve been needing a fix of Potholer comedy. I have had considerable luck employing Miker613’s techniques against deniers. “I’m just the messenger, talk to the math… I don’t know the math… etc.”

    Willard take note, here’s a point scoring system for Climate Denial arguments;
    https://www.facebook.com/ClimateDenialistTalkingPointGame

    WHuT: Give this a gander.
    http://shalebubble.org/drilling-deeper/

    desmog has an article on it;
    http://www.desmogblog.com/2014/10/27/drilling-deeper-post-carbon-institute-fracking-production-numbers

  45. Raff says:

    Magma, you may well find that those who are so concerned about the fate of the poor in the 3rd world also espouse a dogma along the lines of “all foreign aid is harmful”. I recently posed the question on Bishop Hill of How to spend $1.7 trillion in foreign aid, money spent in the last 20 years on renewables that they claim could have been better spent. Unsurprisignly, nobody offers any ideas.

  46. The amount of research that goes into fossil fuel reserve estimation compared to climate science is miniscule. That’s why you find people like Rutledge (an EE Professor at CalTech) making estimations of coal, and Hughes doing independent analysis as essentially a consultant.

    Based on the paucity of open research (not proprietary), it is very easy to come up with new kinds of analyses on extraction rates and ultimate resources. Initially, I thought climate science was the same deal, but the literature is overwhelming at times. So what I did was try to identify the missing pieces and do my best on those topics.

  47. Rachel M says:

    That potholer video is fantastic, Karsten. Thanks for sharing!

  48. Richard Erskine says:

    Seconded.

  49. Although Potholer’s videos are excellent, I wasn’t so sure about this one. As an example of how to engage with “skeptics” without getting frustrated, it made a lot of sense. The problem I had was that you see “skeptics” making similar claims. That they go to “warmist” sites and challenge them and never get a suitable response. The subtlety, I guess, is that there is a difference between someone asking what they think is a yes/no question that isn’t, and asking someone to explain themselves when they’re unable to actually do so.

  50. Bwana_mkubwa says:

    I read this column on Monday. I was irritated with the way the Ridley slyly slants the column to insinuate that the IPCC are in the same corner as his self-defined Eco-toffs. He also ignores the fact that RCP4.5 and RCP6 imply some immediate action as they assume that increases in CO2 forcings will be stabilized and plateau out through this century.

  51. verytallguy says:

    Bwana

    He also ignores the fact that RCP4.5 and RCP6 imply some immediate action as they assume that increases in CO2 forcings will be stabilized and plateau out through this century.

    Right on the money. He uses scenarios which assume rapid mitigation to argue that there is no need to mitigate! And he has a platform in the Times to peddle this.

    [bangs head on table whilst weeping softly]

  52. It’s a nice video. I didn’t notice anything that I would disagree with, but the real life situations are not that clear cut.

    At the beginning Potholer gave twice the advice: “Don’t tell the a**holes that they are a**holes.”

    That’s a point that has been argued quite extensively on this site. Several people have argued for the opposite. Their argument is that the a**holes are not, what they pretend to be, but a**holes of a different type that must be told so. There’s some merit in that view, but I would often agree with Potholer even, when some others don’t.

    The second issue I have is much more important and actually fundamental to the central message of that video. It’s related to the observation:

    For the “citizen scientists” the conclusion comes first and the evidence after.

    I think that it’s essential to realize, how prevalent that observation is not only concerning those “citizen scientists” but all of us. We meet all the time innumerable issues for which we have readily (intuitively) the conclusion, but don’t know, what evidence the conclusion is based upon. When pushed, we try to rationalize and to figure out appropriate evidence. When that fails, we do not change the conclusion, but think that only our first attempt to find the evidence failed. After all that wasn’t really the area of our expertize, and thus it’s only natural that we couldn’t figure out the correct evidence – but that doesn’t mean that we should change our original conclusion.

    That applies surely to all of us, scientists among us may give a little more weight for the failure in finding evidence, but the difference is perhaps not large outside their own specialty. Politicians and other decision makers couldn’t make many decisions, if they weren’t operating in that mode.

    The trust in the intuitive conclusion over presented evidence may actually be often useful. When issues are complex, it’s possible to find partial evidence for conflicting conclusions. In such cases the original intuition may for many questions have a better success rate than reliance on complex evidence.

    Reliance on the intuitive conclusion is, however, a very poor guide, when the issue is totally unfamiliar to us. If it’s something that has never happened in the recorded history of humankind, and is projected to happen only decades or even centuries in the future, then how could the intuition work?

  53. Richard Erskine says:

    Karsten –

    Thanks for this. Entertaining and wise at the same time.

    It is also worth looking back to how others used to confront fallacies in argument. It is an old discipline.

    The sadly out of print, but once very popular (in British Grammar schools) little book by Thouless, “Straight and Crooked Thinking” ( http://neglectedbooks.com/Straight_and_Crooked_Thinking.pdf ) contains a wealth of crooked ways to argue and how to counter them. I often think it would be a good project to process the articles published by the Lawsons and others and run it passed the Thouless tests, and monitor the scale and types of abuse, but perhaps augmented with a little bit of a Potholer update for the blogosphere.

    Pekka –

    You raise an important point re. Our trust in Intuition. But just as Elizabeth David told us we must learn to cook the perfect soufflé before we can creatively experiment, just so with any discipline – painting, mathematics, experimental physics, … – intuition at its best is a kind of expression of a brain that through some analogy to muscle learning in physical disciplines like tennis and golf, we can guess the answer before we know why. But as I have found learning golf, guessing fails too often! The same with those who believe they do not have to the work to learn the basics. If we could, for example, persuade folk to attend an on-line course on earth science (there seem to be a number of great ones around – such as at Chicago University), then they might appreciate that they cannot trust their intuition on climate change. Even intuition needs to be learned.

  54. BBD says:

    Richard Erskine

    Even intuition needs to be learned.

    Exactly. It’s the same as music: you must have mastered the basics before you can improvise well. Improvisation being essentially a well-informed guess.

    I sometimes find myself recommending textbooks to “sceptics”, but even as I do so I *know* that they will not read them. This is a defining characteristic of the climate pseudo-sceptic. They *do not* seek out information that will challenge their preconceived notions. This is, of course, evidence denial, sometimes shortened to ‘denial’ for convenience.

  55. OPatrick says:

    I think that it’s essential to realize, how prevalent that observation is not only concerning those “citizen scientists” but all of us. We meet all the time innumerable issues for which we have readily (intuitively) the conclusion, but don’t know, what evidence the conclusion is based upon. When pushed, we try to rationalize and to figure out appropriate evidence. When that fails, we do not change the conclusion, but think that only our first attempt to find the evidence failed. After all that wasn’t really the area of our expertize, and thus it’s only natural that we couldn’t figure out the correct evidence – but that doesn’t mean that we should change our original conclusion.

    I found myself nodding along to this as I read it, but on reflection I wonder if it’s true, at least in some ways. I don’t know if it’s really relevant to Pekka’s point but in the on-line debate I’ve found that I’ve had to train myself not to take evidence at face value. Experience has shown that what might superficially look like a convincing argument which would significantly overturn part of my understanding almost inevitably turns out to be misleading in some way. But even so I still find myself doubting that understanding. For example when I read austrartsua’s comment above my initial response was that this was a reasonable aternative view of Ridley’s argument. I had to go and read what Ridley wrote several times (and Anders’ comment helped) to see where it wasn’t reasonable. But then maybe I’m just rationalising to fit what I want to be true….

  56. Bwana Mkubwa says:

    “Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof” Galbraith

  57. Eli Rabett says:

    austrartsua says as a matter of faith that future generations will be far wealthier than we are today. There is some proof of this perhaps? There have been any number of times in human history when the march of progress was arrested, indeed fell.

  58. Willard says:

    Potholer should have generalized to How to Argue with Anybody Online. Implying that only contrarians are ass****s is preposterous, wrong, and irrelevant. Asking questions is what everyone learn in graduate schools. It works for everyone. Asking for citations is also important, but less important than to go check it out.

    His evidence-based portrayal of how people do science is worded as a psycho-pop explanation. As Pekka said, we all do this. When it goes well, it leads to abductive reasoning:

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/abduction/

    The crux of the matter for any scientific endeavor is belief revision:

    “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do?…” Romney proudly told a cheering crowd of supporters, to explain why he has flip-flopped on so many positions over the years.

    (We’re not sure what “facts have changed” about abortion, gay marriage, and other issues that Romney has flip-flopped on, other than that Romney was then governor of a liberal state and is now trying to suck up to the right-wing of his conservative party, but that’s a different issue).

    Anyway, Romney proudly attributed this quote to Winston Churchill.

    http://www.businessinsider.com/keynes-didnt-say-when-the-facts-change-i-change-my-mind-2011-9

    Only Chuck Norris can roundkick facts and make it a Chuck-Norris-Fact. Other dogs of teh Internet need to abide by facts. Or do we?

  59. Rachel M says:

    I thought the Potholer video was really good and I don’t understand some of the complaints about it.

    AndThen says “The problem I had was that you see “skeptics” making similar claims. That they go to “warmist” sites and challenge them and never get a suitable response.”

    I thought the difference was that on one side you have people who accept the mainstream science, whereas on the other are people who choose what theories to accept or reject based on religious or ideological beliefs. The other distinction is that “skeptics” seem unable to admit mistakes which makes it pointless arguing with them. I can’t recall ever seeing a “skeptic” acknowledge and correct a mistake but I have seen you do this a number of times.

    Willard,
    “Implying that only contrarians are ass****s is preposterous, wrong, and irrelevant. ”

    Most of his examples in the video were creationists rather than “skeptics”. It wasn’t specifically about arguing with climate change “skeptics” but he puts them altogether because the techniques they use to argue are similar.

  60. Rachel,

    AndThen says “The problem I had was that you see “skeptics” making similar claims. That they go to “warmist” sites and challenge them and never get a suitable response.”

    It’s not that I think the advice was bad, it’s just that anyone can claim “I asked a question that the other person couldn’t answer and therefore showed that they didn’t know what they were talking about”. How do you establish that the question you asked was relevant and that there was a sensible answer? So, it’s not that I thought the video didn’t make sense, it just came across a little like what I’ve seen elsewhere.

  61. Whatever claim you make, the mitigation skeptics will copy the structure of the argumentation. No matter how silly it sounds from their side.

  62. Rachel M says:

    The difference is that if someone asks you a question you can answer with mainstream science. If you don’t know the answer, you can say, “I don’t know”. You also don’t have to defend some crazy theory.

  63. Rachel,
    Oh, I agree. My comment about the video was just an observation really.

  64. BBD says:

    Eli observes:

    austrartsua says as a matter of faith that future generations will be far wealthier than we are today.

    Which reminds me of the *excellent* point made by Bwana M above:

    He [Ridley] also ignores the fact that RCP4.5 and RCP6 imply some immediate action as they assume that increases in CO2 forcings will be stabilized and plateau out through this century.

    Here’s a pretty picture that makes this abundantly clear. Look at the downturn in CO2 for RCP4.5 and RCP6.0. (Source: SkS).

    For all this future wealth to appear, developing economies must develop which means more CO2 emissions. This will require mitigation (low carbon infrastructure, not ye olde coal bodge) or the result will be more like RCP8.5 than RCP4.5 or RCP6.0.

    Any talk of far wealthier future generations that doesn’t simply exclude the developing economies must acknowledge the absolute requirement for mitigation or the probability of extreme warming.

  65. Willard says:

    Contrarianism is originally (I think) an investment technique: you buy when others sell, and sell when others buy. To me, “contrarian” encompasses climate debates, and apply to any position that is not mainstream. If I want to insist in saying that someone has a contrarian attitude, I would need that he holds many contrarian positions. On that count, anti-GMO is contrarian, just like veganism is. There’s nothing wrong with being a contrarian. It might even have evolutionary benefits, although the usual suspects reproduced way before they are letting their contrarianism show.

    Potholer certainly implies that contrarians are more than wrong, at least when comes the time to discuss parascientific beliefs. The problem with this is that it excludes those who share the same traits but are pro-science (e.g. De Grassie when he bashed philosophers) , and that it begs the very question that is at the core of it all.

    One does not simply argue that one is right because one is right. One argues that one us right because one has the best justifications and the best explanations. That they are true is almost secondary.

    This is where Potholer redeems himself. The ClimateBall tricks he suggests are very good. Ask questions. Ask for citations. Keep your ground and don’t bite food fight baits. Show evidence. Revise your beliefs. Think about the audience. Etc.

    But Potholer goes too far in his rationalization. The scientific standpoint wins because it produces facts. Not only because it’s coherent. One could be all wrong and still be coherent.

  66. The point ATTP made is valid. Many of the comments and to an extent the video are based on the assumption that it’s possible to show objectively and beyond dispute, what science tells.

    People tend to think that, when they are convinced that they are right, the opponent should be able to realize that and to accept the evidence presented to them. That’s, however, highly simplistic. Science has produced a huge number of results, and very many of the conclusions of individual papers turn out to be erroneous. Therefore presenting a paper that presents a result that supports the argument is by itself of little value. Even the fact that the other side cannot present contrary conclusions in some other paper is not sufficient.

    The present scientific understanding is supported by the consensus of the scientific community. In that sense the ideas of measuring the level of the consensus may seem reasonable, but each such measurement applies to very limited set of statements, often very weak ones. Those with sufficient direct contacts to the scientists of a field can learn more about the actual consensus, but it’s really difficult to prove to outsiders that those observations are correct.

    Even if it’s accepted that the IPCC WG1 report presents correctly the state of physical climate science much freedom is left in interpreting, what that really means.

    It should always be remembered that the question in arguments is not, whether you believe that your views are justified, but whether you can justify your views in a way that a (properly) skeptic opponent can conclude to be convincing.

    In general and with few exceptions it’s true that material presented in university textbooks on physical sciences are well established or generally admitted as uncertain, but when we move beyond that it’s more difficult to conclude what’s solid and what’s still highly uncertain.

  67. Joshua says:

    ==> “People tend to think that, when they are convinced that they are right, the opponent should be able to realize that and to accept the evidence presented to them.”

    The video recommends the practice of asking questions to enable people to see that they don’t have evidence to support their views. From what I’ve seen, that is rarely the actual outcome.

    The video also recommends acting like an idiot. I have always found that to be a useful technique – plus it’s something that comes natural to me. 🙂

  68. Willard says:

    > It should always be remembered that the question in arguments is not, whether you believe that your views are justified, but whether you can justify your views in a way that a (properly) skeptic opponent can conclude to be convincing.

    To me, this is false almost by definition, Pekka. Scepticism is the art of remaining unconvinced even after being confronted with the most compelling evidence. It’s a valid exercise, as it forces the opponent to bring his A game. But the point is never to convince a skeptic: it’s always possible to ask for more evidence, more justification, more emails.

    Scepticism is not a position, but a stance. It questions, it disputes, it raises doubt. It can’t lead to a positive contribution. You can’t claim anything because you are doubtful of some thing. For a more constructive input, one must leave scepticism and do science, or in my case conceptual analysis, which is more evidence-based than one might suspect.

  69. Willard says:

    Oh, and I should add, not to be a complete a****hole, that Potholer’s video is great. It’s the bestest I’ve seen so far. I tip my hat to Andrew Adams for showing me the importance of such remarks.

    Language is a social art, after all.

  70. Joshua says:

    ==> “Scepticism is the art of remaining unconvinced even after being confronted with the most compelling evidence. ”

    But a “skeptic” never sees compelling evidence. The assignation of “compelling” is subjective.

    IMO, the point is that you can’t engage in a good faith conversation with someone that isn’t engaging in good faith. Arguing with assholes is a waste of time. Having conversations with people who listen, and who are interested in defining terms, and who are able to distinguish interests from positions so as to find shared shared interests in the face of disagreement about evidence (which is inevitable to the extent that there is uncertainty), is a more productive expenditure of time.

  71. WebHubTelescope says:


    Victor Venema (@VariabilityBlog) says:
    Whatever claim you make, the mitigation skeptics will copy the structure of the argumentation. No matter how silly it sounds from their side.

    Isn’t that the same thing as psychological projection? That approach is well known from American politics, and is also known as Rovian tactics. How is this for silly: John Kerry was a distinguished war veteran, who the opposing side portrayed as a deserter and fabricator of stories. Their side had a druggie who fled from reserve service. Same structure with an inverted emphasis, as a strong offense makes for a good defense.

    Similarly, fabricators such “Reggie” Lewis and “Dell” Curry use the structure of the arguments to try to realign and then low-ball the estimates. A strong offense makes up for a weak defense on their part.

  72. Willard,
    I added the word ‘properly’ to exclude the cases, where people resist actively acknowledging the validity of arguments even, when what they have gathered should be sufficient.

    Most of the “skeptics” that we meet in net argumentation are thus excluded from that argument, but what can we do with them. It’s not always to recognize, when the other is properly skeptic. Even if that’s less likely, it may be more useful to act as if that were the case.

  73. Willard says:

    > But a “skeptic” never sees compelling evidence. The assignation of “compelling” is subjective.

    My characterization works for any kind of evidence whatsoever.

    In fact, I would go so far as to say that if a skeptic becomes convinced in something, he’s doing it wrong.

    ***
    > I added the word ‘properly’ to exclude the cases, where people resist actively acknowledging the validity of arguments even, when what they have gathered should be sufficient.

    Yes, and I dispute that judgment call. Skepticism implies to withhold judgment. It is silly to blame it for what it does best.

    For every other kind of stance, please use contrarianism.

  74. The Potholer video is about how to play ClimateBall, which is just a proxy war (in German: Stellvertreterkrieg). Which is is what I do best and as a scientist I like talking about science. But the real issue is not the science, the real issues are political and apparently mitigation skeptics are not comfortable to talk about them and complain about science as a decoy. If they were really worried about the science, they would make much more effort to understand it or even to improve it.

    There is just a new interview out with Katharin Hayhoe. It talks about the real problem. From question 7 on it becomes interesting

    Deep down they’re really about other things: tribalism, ideology, politics, and even more old-fashioned things, like fear of punitive restrictions or big government solutions.

  75. Rachel M says:

    I think I’m a bit sensitive to being compared to “Skeptics” because I don’t want to turn into my mother 🙂

  76. Joshua says:

    Rachel –

    ==> “I thought the difference was that on one side you have people who accept the mainstream science, whereas on the other are people who choose what theories to accept or reject based on religious or ideological beliefs.”

    IMO, that sets up a non-parallel comparison. Accepting mainstream science and choosing theories to accept or reject on the basis of religious or ideological beliefs are not, by any means, mutually exclusive. Take Kahan’s research on beliefs about evolution – which suggest that people on both “sides” are more or less equal/y ignorant/informed w/r/t the scientific points of disagreement (and more or less equally “scientifically literate). Wouldn’t you agree that people on both sides of any variety of issues accept/reject mainstream science on the basis of religious or ideological beliefs? What else would explain why views on evolution, for example, are not correlated with knowledge about the scientific evidence?

    ==> “The other distinction is that “skeptics” seem unable to admit mistakes which makes it pointless arguing with them.”

    That is a human characteristic. Anecdotally, I don’t really think that it is any more true of “skeptics” as a group than “realists” and I don’t think I’ve seen any scientific evidence to support the contention that there is some broad disparity.

    ==> “I can’t recall ever seeing a “skeptic” acknowledge and correct a mistake…”

    I’ve seen it on rare occasion. For example, sometimes Willis does it with great fanfare and self-promotion (of course, at least as far as I can recall, when he admits error he concludes that his error was either irrelevant to his main thesis or actually strengthens his main thesis).

    ==> ” but I have seen you do this a number of times.”

    I think that this point can’t be stressed enough- how important it is to observe whether people acknowledge and correct errors. And not simply as a disingenuous cover for hiding bias, as I think takes place w/ Willis.

    I agree that among the folks that I’ve watched arguing about stuff in the blogosphere, Anders does have, relatively, a more open and exploratory process.

    IMO, that attribute is a fundamental component of the scientific method and a prerequisite for good-faith engagement.

  77. Willard says:

    > Isn’t [copying one’s argumentation structure] that the same thing as psychological projection?

    No. It’s basic mimicry. That’s how everyone learns. It just works.

    And in our case, it could very be valid. Even a contrarian can ask good questions. Anyone can be JAQing off.

    Projection is as silly as the “mirror, mirror” trick children learn to use. It may work in psychoanalysis. Online, it doesn’t.

  78. Willard says:

    > I’m a bit sensitive to being compared to “Skeptics” […]

    That contrarians succeeded in claiming the skeptic brand shows that evil exists.

  79. Willard says:

    > I can’t recall ever seeing a “skeptic” acknowledge and correct a mistake…

    In the discussion of Potholer’s video, there’s a guy who attests having seen one of the featured contrarian changing his mind on anti-evo crap, I believe.

    If you’re going to sell hope, sell hope.

  80. BBD says:

    The pseudo-sceptical mindset is one of projection. Everything they accuse scientists of doing, they are doing themselves.

  81. WebHubTelescope says:


    BBD says:

    The pseudo-sceptical mindset is one of projection. Everything they accuse scientists of doing, they are doing themselves.

    Talking about the use of psychological projection, the exemplar of that from the ENSO POV is “Wayman” Tisdale. He again has a guest post this morning at WUWT, where his lead sentence is “In this post we can learn from someone’s mistakes. “

    Note the extreme and barely-concealed use of psychological projection. He baldly claims that the opposing side is making mistakes, while he himself is the poster-child for butchering the science.

    So with Tisdale, we have the Rovian tactic of projection, together with the Luntz tactic of “repetition,repetition,repetition”, creating a poor-man’s Faux-News-like propaganda outlet.

  82. Willard says:

    You’re, BDD, but that’s irrelevant. One does not simply provide online diagnosis for your opponent. Leave the mind states alone. But if you want to understand the rationalization process, look for externalization. It is more accurate, and it has a nice economic connotation.

    Also, note that you may be externalizing your frustration regarding your own lack of persuasion power when you are saying that contrarians are projecting.

    Suck it up, play ClimateBall like Potholer recommends, and all should be well. The only way for contrarians to win is to convince the open-minded liberal that he may be losing. It oftentimes works.

  83. Joshua says:

    WHT –

    From Hayhoe:

    In my communication, now, I begin with the values that I share with whomever I am talking to. These values may focus on something as simple as wondering where our water will be coming from in 20 years; worrying about the local economy; caring for our children; or our desire to live out the faith that is central to who we are. I emphasize how important these values are, and what they mean to me personally.

    I would quibble about whether it is best to identify shared values or shared interests. It’s possible to think that someone on the other “side” has sociopathic values, but still believe there are shared interests nothwithstanding. I think it’s impossible to have a good faith convo based on shared values with someone who thinks that my “values” include wanting (or be indifferent to) children starving in Africa – but I might be able to convince that person that we have shared interests .

    But maybe that’s just semantics. My point is that, IMO, establishing common values/interests is how to argue with assholes. And if you can’t, yourself, can’t conceive of common values/interests with your interlocutor, then you have a larger problem.

  84. Joshua says:

    willard –

    ==> “:In fact, I would go so far as to say that if a skeptic becomes convinced in something, he’s doing it wrong.”

    Can I assume that by skeptic, there, you mean “skeptic” – or someone who is “identified” with climate skepticism and engaged in climateball, rather than engaged in good faith interrogation of evidence?

  85. BBD says:

    Willard

    Also, note that you may be externalizing your frustration regarding your own lack of persuasion power when you are saying that contrarians are projecting.

    They are projecting. We can call it externalising and I like the joke, but they are projecting. I get tired of the constant hijack of the language sometimes.

  86. Rachel M says:

    Joshua,

    It’s probably true that some people accept mainstream science for religious or ideological reasons. But they still accept mainstream science. We don’t really know what people’s underlying reasons are unless they tell us. But there’s a difference between the group of people who accept the mainstream science across the board and others who accept it for something like vaccinations, but not for climate change. Don’t you think? Or do you think they’re all the same?

    And yes, I don’t think all “Skeptics” fall into Potholer’s asshole category. Some of them can admit mistakes. Potholer was quite specific about defining this group and I don’t think it was meant to be inclusive of all climate science “Skeptics”.

    I thought the best advice he gave was not to argue with them. He didn’t say don’t engage, just not to argue.

  87. Joshua says:

    From Boehner and McConnell today in the WSJ:

    The skeptics say nothing will be accomplished in the next two years. As elected servants of the people, we will make it our job to prove the skeptics wrong.

    Looks like they’re going to be taking on Inhofe, Ridley, etc. and trying to enact a CO2 tax? 🙂

  88. Willard says:

    Perhaps the best guideline to deal with assholes is to deal with them like we would if they were narcissists. Be very precise in your criticism. Don’t overdo personal blame. Provide an incentive to compromise. There may be a correlation between the two traits.

    This approach works with everyone, actually. We all had to deal with our inadequacies when we were younger. Refusal to admit mistake is one way to deal with the injury, or the scar.

    Projection is related to beliefs, BTW, not facts.

  89. anoilman says:

    I have concerns over the Potholer video. Although I do love it.

    First I’ve noticed that they have a distinct inability to read or comprehend what I’ve typed. I make mistakes all the time and they have never identified them or corrected them. Having you folks correct my little pet meme’s has been helpful for me. …cause you guys read what I said.

    Frequently they show up and ask for evidence, then gish gallop along to the next point if evidence is presented. In fact, in keeping with potholer’s examples, they’ll do this over and over seemingly forgetting the responses. I believe they do this to waste our time as an internet age Sisyphus machine.

    I do evade going down their rabbit holes of conspiracy theory and random internet links. “Prove some random guy on the internet got it wrong, is annoying at best.” That in many respects mirrors our requests for evidence. My usual response is to ask where it was published simply because I don’t want to have to wade through what is likely confusing brain farts.

    With some styles of arguing the objective is to simply state crap over and over, so they’ll actually invent garbage spew it out just to see our blood boil. Current denier favorite, “…if we reduce CO2 30% all life on earth will cease…” Evidence will never be offered, and more often than not they will go away or try to change the subject to even more outrageous crap if pressed.

    Make stuff up when they won’t give a source, or are BSing you? Why not. When faced with something I might have to research and I feel that I’m just getting my buttons pushed, I make up an answer. That’s usually my last resort. Interestingly they drop it and move on as though somehow what I said is true. (Yeah… They do that.)

    I think these guys want us to do their research just to waste our time. Here’s M2 telling us we don’t have models in our hands;
    https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2014/06/15/can-we-trust-climate-models/#comment-23919
    And later on when showed the source code located on page one of a google search… I bet he still hasn’t started looking at. (What with having to learn all the science and stuffs… that would take ages! Best ignore it and make believe its wrong.)
    https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2014/06/15/can-we-trust-climate-models/#comment-24034

  90. Joshua,,

    Also from Hayhoe (on question 11)

    Effective outreach begins with understanding who we can speak to most effectively. Whose values do we share — those of other moms and dads? Hunters and sportsmen? The Rotary Club? Our church? Or the local humanist society? If we are trying to reach people whose values we do not share, who we cannot easily identify with and understand, our own communication will be ineffective and we will just become frustrated with our efforts.

    What to do in that case? Perhaps there’s someone, who shares some of the values of those people, and who also agrees with her (or us) on climate issue. That person might communicate with those Hayhoe cannot reach.

  91. Joshua says:

    Rachel –

    ==> “But there’s a difference between the group of people who accept the mainstream science across the board and others who accept it for something like vaccinations, but not for climate change. Don’t you think?”

    Yes. I do. It could mean that they’re rejecting mainstream science on one issue but not another because of the outcomes of evaluation of the evidence in each issue – but I think that’s clearly often not the case (the vast majority of “skeptics,” like most members of the public who hold opinions on climate change, are not well-informed on the science) and even when people do claim that it’s the case (and probably truly believe that’s the case), the problem is that it’s difficult to really evaluate the veracity of that claim.

    We could accept at face value the oft’ heard claim form “skeptics” that they weren’t “skeptics” until they started evaluating the evidence, and that it’s mostly irrelevant that they overwhelmingly share ideological orientation. Yeah. We could believe that. 🙂

  92. Willard says:

    > Can I assume that by skeptic, there, you mean “skeptic” – or someone who is “identified” with climate skepticism and engaged in climateball, rather than engaged in good faith interrogation of evidence?

    No, I mean skepticism in the grand tradition of Socrates:

    Much of epistemology has arisen either in defense of, or in opposition to, various forms of skepticism. Indeed, one could classify various theories of knowledge by their responses to skepticism. For example, rationalists could be viewed as skeptical about the possibility of empirical knowledge while not being skeptical with regard to a priori knowledge and empiricists could be seen as skeptical about the possibility of a priori knowledge but not so with regard to empirical knowledge. In addition, views about many traditional philosophical problems, e.g., the problem of other minds or the problem of induction, can be seen as restricted forms of skepticism that hold that we cannot have knowledge of any propositions in some particular domain normally thought to be within our ken.

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/skepticism/

    While skepticism is oftentimes about something or other, I had in mind the general form. We could argue that someone who is skeptical regarding P but accepts Q is no true skeptic, but I’d rather say that he’s a skeptic regarding P, and not regarding Q.

    Also note that I reject the idea that ClimateBall ™ implies lack of good faith.

    ClimateBall ™ goes beyond faith.

    ***

    No time for now to read the other comments and reply. Will look later.

  93. Joshua says:

    Pekka –

    ==> “What to do in that case? Perhaps there’s someone, who shares some of the values of those people, and who also agrees with her (or us) on climate issue. That person might communicate with those Hayhoe cannot reach.

    I think that trying to find shared values can certainly help, but consider the situation with Bob Inglis:

    http://energyandenterprise.com/our-leaders/

    http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/495/hot-in-my-backyard?act=2

    I think it is really difficult if you’re trying to ascertain who has what values. IMO, “values” get translated into the common vernacular as “positions.” For example, a libertarian might say to me that they are different from me in that they “value” a government that is only large enough to perform tasks that are necessary – whereas my “value” is to rely on a nanny state to resolve any of our problems. But they’ve misinterpreted my values because they’re reverse engineering from my “position.

    In reality, I think I have the same value as the one they’ve identified for themselves – but I might have a different “position” on, say, whether a black cop that risks his life to protect the safety of a store owner should then have a legal right to not be disallowed to shop in that store on the basis of his race. I’ve recently heard libertarians argue that travel bans for people who have been to ebola-affected countries is consistent with a “value” of limited government – yet I think it would be an authoritarian overreach on the part of government.

    As with Bob Inglis – people will reverse engineer from someone’s position to impose values onto them – which makes trying to find shared values a bit of a Sisyphean task.

  94. Willard says:

    ­> We can call it externalising and I like the joke, but they are projecting.

    My point is not about language, and it’s more than a joke.

    Jung writes that “All projections provoke counter-projection when the object is unconscious of the quality projected upon it by the subject.”[28] Thus what is unconscious in the recipient will be projected back onto the projector, precipitating a form of mutual acting out.

    In a rather different usage, Harry Stack Sullivan saw counter-projection in the therapeutic context as a way of warding off the compulsive re-enactment of a psychological trauma, by emphasising the difference between the current situation and the projected obsession with the perceived perpetrator of the original trauma.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychological_projection#Counter-projection

    That means everyone who says that the otter ClimateBall player is projecting may him or herself be projecting. That follows directly from the description mechanism.

    But then you’ll say: but they are really projecting. How do you know?

    Show me you’re not projecting, BBD.

  95. Joshua says:

    willard –

    ==> “We could argue that someone who is skeptical regarding P but accepts Q is no true skeptic, but I’d rather say that he’s a skeptic regarding P, and not regarding Q.”

    If I understand….

    Climate “skeptics” often claim to hold their beliefs about climate change because of an innate and characteristic quality – because they are a skeptic But often they leave evidence that their view of their innate characteristics is not particularly accurate. I mean who, really, is a skeptic as opposed to conditionally skeptical about any variety of issues? How can an actual skeptic think otherwise?

    So are you saying that someone who is innately skeptical can never become convinced of anything? Reminds me of “I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member.”

    I’d say that someone who self-identifies as some kind of purist “skeptic” is someone who doesn’t practice due skeptical diligence w/r/t their own reasoning processes (which is why I put “skeptic” in quotes).

    But in a less philosophical realm, I think that it is possible that people who are skeptical on an issue – but who don’t misperceive/promote themselves as some kind of purists – can be convinced by evidence on that issue.

    Is that how I can understand this?:

    ==> “:In fact, I would go so far as to say that if a skeptic becomes convinced in something, he’s doing it wrong.”

  96. BBD says:

    I’m not accusing scientists of groupthink, greed, misconduct etc.

  97. Actually, this discussion makes me think there are possibly two red flags in such discussions. One is when one party decides to label the other. The label may be a fair one, but doing so would rather destroy any chance of a reasonable exchange. The other is when one party denies that a label describes them. Doing so would probably indicate that it almost certainly does – a bit like “I’m not a …… but …..”.

  98. BBD says:

    I find this sort of thing irritating. The projection of bad faith onto scientists by those operating in bad faith is too obvious to be worth arguing about. This type of recursive discussion is a waste of time. Worse, it undermines valid use of language based on valid observations. Sometimes a spade is just a fucking spade.

  99. BBD says:

    ATTP

    One is when one party decides to label the other. The label may be a fair one, but doing so would rather destroy any chance of a reasonable exchange.

    We’ve been here before. The labelling occurs *after* the otter has demonstrated that there is no chance of a reasonable exchange. It arises from that very fact.

  100. BBD,
    Ahhh, I should clarify. I wasn’t arguing that labelling shouldn’t happen or that it isn’t justified. I was simply pointing out that doing so would tend to imply that the person doing the labelling is no longer interested in a constructive discussion.

  101. BBD says:

    ATTP

    That would often be true 🙂

  102. Willard says:

    It’s not the labeling inasmuch as the violence implied and, more importantly to me, the utter disrespect for basic ClimateBall strategy.

    For some whining, you play into the hands of those who have nothing better than to relish into the food fights that ensue. Even better, they can start to probe into your own mind, with the same legitimacy that you allow yourself.

    This is pure self-undoing, BBD.

  103. Joshua,

    The interview of Bob Inglis was interesting even if it didn’t ultimately bring out anything surprising. It would have been surprising, if none of the conservative republicans would accept, what climate science tells. What started to feel surprising was the reception Bob Inglis and Katharine Hayhoe got – until it was revealed that the audience was not what was aimed at.

    In spite of all the setbacks, I do think that people like Bob Inglis do make a difference. Ultimately they may influence the outcome more than most of the more liberal promoters of the climate issue, but that takes time.

  104. Steve Bloom says:

    I’m quite able to engage constructively with people I’ve labeled deniers if they manage to say something thoughtful, although they rarely do. If it wasn’t rare I’d have to adjust my standards.

    Thank you for your concerns, Willard.

  105. Steve Bloom says:

    My reply (a few comments farther down) to this from m2 is a fresh example. I could have snarked about his venture into actual climatology but didn’t.

  106. WebHubTelescope says:

    Somebody perhaps wants to change the Wikipedia entry for “Denial” if there are issues with the use of the term projection:

    Denial, in ordinary English usage, is asserting that a statement or allegation is not true.[1] The same word, and also abnegation, is used for a psychological defense mechanism postulated by Sigmund Freud, in which a person is faced with a fact that is too uncomfortable to accept and rejects it instead, insisting that it is not true despite what may be overwhelming evidence.[1][2]

    The subject may use:

    — simple denial: deny the reality of the unpleasant fact altogether
    — minimisation: admit the fact but deny its seriousness (a combination of denial and rationalization)
    — projection: admit both the fact and seriousness but deny responsibility by blaming somebody or something else.

    Note that projection can also occur without admission of facts or seriousness.

    Is “simple denial” the same as delusion?

  107. Joshua says:

    Pekka –

    ==> “In spite of all the setbacks, I do think that people like Bob Inglis do make a difference. Ultimately they may influence the outcome more than most of the more liberal promoters of the climate issue, but that takes time.”

    I dare say that there has been little progress, if any, in the 1.5 years since that program was aired. It would be interesting to find some way to gauge the impact of Inglis or Hayhoe (or relatedly, someone like Tamsin), but I suspect it would be small.

    It’s always a mistake to generalize from the fanatics in the blogosphere, but the reception that Hayhoe gets at Climate Etc, certainly doesn’t give grounds for optimism on a scale relative to the kind of action that would be needed to alter the potential trajectory of ACO2’s impact on the climate.

    More likely, IMO, is that little change occurs – because the approach of expanding outward from shared values is a rather superficial structural change. That effectiveness of that kind of an approach, IMO, only works to the extent that the battle lines are not already set in concrete. Perhaps their approach doesn’t reinforce existing ramparts as much as identity-aggressive tactics like calling someone a “denier,” but neither does it take anyone off their existing path. The fact that Inglis’ audience was comprised primarily of non-conservatives is instructive.

  108. Steve Bloom says:

    Web, what’s at stake here is politeness itself, a value that can never require justification. Because. Anyone saying otherwise is violent, and thus the moral equivalent of ISIS. Or Hitler.

  109. Joshua,

    When any issue has got past the phase, where positions have been formed, further progress is likely to be slow. Under those conditions approaches that continue persistently and consistently even when little progress is visible, have the best change. I hope that people like Inglis can work also in the background out of sight of every day publicity.

  110. guthrie says:

    Talking about communicating with people whose values we do not share, I thought that there were groups of free market advocates and also Christians who were happy to reach out to others of their ilk to get them interested in doing something about climate change. Unfortunately I have no idea how well they have been getting on in the last few years.

  111. John Mashey says:

    guthrie:
    1) Churches seem split between dominion vs stewardship folks, of which the latter might be exemplified by Katharine Hayhoe or INterfaith P{ower & Light, whose leader Sally Bingham spoke at of dedication of memorial bench for Steve Schneider , in a lovely grove people should visit if at Stanford..

    2) After the Heartland billboard episode, the Washington DC branch split off and became R-street, and regardless of other views, argues strongly for reducing the moral hazard of subsidized insurance for building in bad places.

  112. Internationally, the Churches are far from split, there is a clear consensus that fighting global warming is the Christian thing to do. The American Christians will regret it in the after life that they listened to the atheists at WUWT.

  113. Richard Erskine says:

    Maybe I have lost the thread but …

    Skepticism is not a bad thing and it feels that just like fascist in the UK have tried to appropriate the Union Jack, so too have climate warming “contrarians” done the same with the scientist tendency to question received wisdom (important brackets … When the facts indicate that questioning is justified).

    However, it seems that we are awash in blog world with what somebody has termed ‘crank magnetism’, the most outlier example being the bilious Melanie Philips, who through some reason only known to her psychiatrist is attracted to any and every anti science campaign … Be it Darwiniam natural selection, AGW, vaccination, … Anything to annoy the elite her chip on shoulder psychosis deems worthy of attack (she enjoys the fact she is annoying and enjoys the feeling of being a victim .. A classic condition).

    Let’s not give these clinically ill people the merit of being “sceptics” when in fact they are chronic attention seekers.

  114. Richard Erskine, do not worry, the mitigation skeptics have made skeptics into a dirty word in the climate “debate”, but the real skepticism is alive and kicking in the scientific community, just go to conferences and read the articles. (At least if you are a scientist and understand that writing: this has not been shown to be right to complete satisfaction, actually means: this is probably wrong.)

  115. John Hartz says:

    Is this thread the equivalent of Medieval theologians arguing over how many angels fit on the head of pin?

  116. I’m quite able to engage constructively with people I’ve labeled deniers if they manage to say something thoughtful, although they rarely do. If it wasn’t rare I’d have to adjust my standards.

    I sometimes wonder if I should have done things differently. The answer to that is almost certainly yes. There are certainly things I regret and there are things I would have done differently had I known then what I know now. However, from what I have experienced, I doubt there is anything I could have done that would have changed the outcome in any particularly significant way. I don’t think there is any real way to have sensible dialogue. It’s not that I’m happy about this, but I don’t really see a way to achieve it.

  117. John Mashey says:

    Richard E:
    “Let’s not give these clinically ill people the merit of being “sceptics””
    As others here have seen before:

    Pseudoskeptics are not skeptics.

  118. > [A]dmit both the fact and seriousness but deny responsibility by blaming somebody or something else.

    Read back what you said about Bob, Web. Bob’s not blaming somebody else for a mistake he himself admits having made. He’s blaming others for making mistakes he refuses to admit (i.e. allegedly simple denial), about something that may not even be related to the mistakes you presume Bob made.

    You’re using the concept of projection as a more general context than denial:

    Projection is a defense mechanism that involves taking our own unacceptable qualities or feelings and ascribing them to other people. For example, if you have a strong dislike for someone, you might instead believe that he or she does not like you. Projection works by allowing the expression of the desire or impulse, but in a way that the ego cannot recognize, therefore reducing anxiety.

    http://psychology.about.com/od/theoriesofpersonality/ss/defensemech_7.htm

    Qualities. Feelings. Ascribed to others. No “yes, but” there.

    ***

    To say that deniers are projecting may itself be a case of projection. Here’s a quote tailor-made for Joshua:

    To work authentically with other people, avoid projecting your woes onto them. When you see others in a negative light, think: are you projecting? Also understand that when others criticizing you, they may well be criticizing a projection of themselves.

    http://changingminds.org/explanations/behaviors/coping/projection.htm

  119. anoilman says:

    The issue around labeling is intent, which can be harder to identify. When you label someone, do you mean something positive or something negative?

    Being skeptical is viewed in a positive light however being skeptical does not mean refusing all reasonable evidence. As John likes to say, Pseudo Skeptics aren’t Skeptics.
    http://joannenova.com.au/2011/08/we-reclaimed-the-word-skeptic-next-we-reclaim-scientist/

  120. Richard Erskine says:

    JM – thanks for your link – excellent article … desmogblog well and truly book marked … And yes, I loved Martin Gardiner’s books and the Skeptical Inquirer (I used to subscribe pre Internet!) … And need to get back in touch, digitally this time. Thanks.

  121. John Mashey says:

    anoilman: labeling
    Some labels may be simply derogatory epithets, perhaps ethnic or political.

    Others are simply shorthand for someone exhibiting well-defined behaviors, hopefully with some evidence to back up the categorization. Assuming there is evidence, such might include:
    Dunning-Kruger-afflictee (I don’t know a simple noun form.)

    Dismissive (of AGW), as defined by Yale/GMU SIx Americas

    Pseudoskeptic, as per long-time definition.

    Although it keeps getting interrupted, the SalbyStorm offered a nice collection of behavioral evidence on hundreds of dismissives (pseudoskeptics on AGW), of whom most (but not all) were also pseudoskeptics on Salby’s fanciful story. The spreadsheet is large 🙂

    RE: you’re welcome! Welcome back to SI, I hope.


  122. > [A]dmit both the fact and seriousness but deny responsibility by blaming somebody or something else.

    Read back what you said about Bob, Web. Bob’s not blaming somebody else for a mistake he himself admits having made. He’s blaming others for making mistakes he refuses to admit (i.e. allegedly simple denial), about something that may not even be related to the mistakes you presume Bob made.

    Read back what I said, Willard. I stated after quoting the Wikipedia definition “Note that projection can also occur without admission of facts or seriousness.”

    It’s delusional denial mixed with projection. Tisdale barely knows what he is doing, so he proactively states that all his would-be detractors and everyone else in mainstream climate science are making mistakes. That’s what most of the pseudo-skeptics do — e.g. Curry couches it with the euphemism of “uncertainty” to engage in her own variation of hatchet-jobbing.

    I would suggest that the climateball rules that you are describing are akin to playing fantasy football. You are engaging in this battle by proxy. I have my own model of ENSO, and am taking it directly to bottom-feeders like Tisdale, doing it full contact and with no pads. He can come back and attack my model and I have nowhere to hide if it fails. You can do the same if you want. That’s no longer climateball — its called trying to get the science right, and paying the price if you come up short

  123. John Hartz says:

    WebHubTelescope: Well said. Bravo!

  124. Willard says:

    Mistakes are not mental states, Web. It’s quite simple, really.

    Stop projecting.

  125. anoilman says:

    John Mashey: You should update and polish up your post on Bjorn Lomborg Playing the Long Game, and put it up as an article at Desmogblog. Its interesting to see how his work has evolved essentially around what our article says.
    http://thingsbreak.wordpress.com/2009/01/08/lomborg-long-game/

    I’m curious, but have you looked into ‘paid trolls’ at all?

    http://www.desmogblog.com/2013/01/25/mystery-company-posts-job-opportunity-anti-wind-power-protesters

  126. anoilman says:

    Why do people show up who claim to have credentials yet obviously don’t? I don’t think I’m going on a limb when I say a lot of use have had that run in with some guy who claims to be a scientist, yet, have no idea why citations are.

    Why would they lie?

  127. Rachel M says:

    We all lie anoilman, even to ourselves.

  128. Andrew Dodds says:

    Rachel – I don’t.

  129. guthrie says:

    I generally try not to lie to myself, but I am an eccentric.

  130. guthrie says:

    JOhn and Victor – that’s nice to know.

    Also the moral hazard of insurance on floodplains is one of these plain stupidities which lots of people still seem to think is agood idea.

  131. Joshua says:

    Great video, Rachel. Thanks. The implications to the climate wars are interesting.

  132. John Hartz says:

    Only if Ridley’s surnmame were “Ripley” would this “Believe it, or not!” discussion be on topic.

    PS: My genetic makeup does not allow me to lie.

  133. Rachel M says:

    Andrew,
    Liar, liar pants on fire.

  134. > I’m curious, but have you looked into ‘paid trolls’ at all?

    Some allege that Putin’s buying some:

    Russia-watcher Catherine Fitzpatrick, who documents Kremlin disinformation for InterpreterMag.com, says just as Moscow uses vague Internet laws to encourage self-censorship, trolls inhibit informed debate by using crude dialogue to change “the climate of discussion.”

    “If you show up at The Washington Post or New Republic sites, where there’s an article that’s critical of Russia, and you see that there are 200 comments that sound like they were written by 12-year-olds, then you just don’t bother to comment,” she says.

    http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2014/08/the-kremlins-troll-army/375932/2/

  135. Andrew Dodds says:

    But if I admit that I lie to myself then I might be lying in the admission. This presents problems. Which are easily solved by more homebrew, has to be said.

  136. niclewis says:

    Tom Curtis

    “As the temperature response in the short to medium term is best approximated using the Transient Climate Response, assuming Lewis and Curry are correct (and we know they underestimate the values, even given their methodological assumptions), the 2080-2100 temperature response to RCP 6 will be 2.02 [1.37 -3.8] C. Ridley’s estimate is well under the 5% lower limit.

    Further, as in all Lewis’s papers, that “best estimate” is the mode. The median value is higher. In other words, with Lewis and Curry’s lower estimate, we have a less than 50% chance of maintaining temperatures below 2 C with RCP 6.”

    Wrong on both issues.

    Matt Ridley’s figures come from the Lewis/Crok report on climate sensitivity published by the GWPF, which uses virtually the same TCR figure as the Lewis & Curry 2014 best estimate. It looks like Tom Curtis has confused warming from 1850-1900 with warming from today. Either that or he has made some other error.

    The best estimate in Lewis & Curry is the median, as stated in at least tow places, not the mode. It appears Tom Curtis has not read or understood the paper properly, if at all. The estimates given in Lewis (2014) Objective inference for climate parameters… J Climate were likewise medians. Lewis (2013) An objecitve Bayesian improved approach… J Climate gave both medians and modes for its preferred-diagnostic main results.

    Also, on 10 September Tom Curtis wrote at https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2014/09/09/matt-ridley-you-seem-a-little-too-certain/:

    “Otto et al is interesting in that it has multiple estimates, of which the two most important are the estimate from the 2000s of 1.3 C (0.9-2.0 C, considered the headline result) and that for the 1970-2000s of 1.4 C (0.7-2.4 C). The central estimates given are modal values, and the uncertainty is asymmetric so the median value is higher than the central estimate given in both cases.”

    and “The additional constraints consist of Nic Lewis’ “look only under lamp-posts” (ie Jeffrey’s) priors which are unsound and biased low by design.”

    Wrong there as well. Otto et al’s central estimates are medians, not modes. Ask Alex Otto if you don’t beleive me. And its uncertainty distributions correspond to the Jeffreys’ prior, which is not unsound and is not biased low by design. It is designed to be noninformative, with a view to the estimate properly reflecting the data.

  137. Nic,
    I’ll let Tom defend himself if he wishes. If you say it’s the median, not the mode, that’s fine. However, have you any interest in making a substantive comment or are you just stopping by to correct what you regard as an obvious error? I don’t really mind either way as I rather tire of discussions that are likely to be nitpicks, but your correction doesn’t address the main point : selecting a single value from a distribution and suggesting that it is going to be the most likely result (or best estimate) – as Matt Ridley does – is clearly not correct. Based on your claim on Bishop Hill that Mark Maslin saying the temperature rise was 0.85 degrees was a cherry-pick, one might think that you’re a stickler for being as open and honest as possible. I have, however, discovered that such criticism has a habit of being rather one sided. Feel free to illustrate that my cynicism is unfounded.

  138. Maybe climate science is not that difficult after all?

  139. BBD says:

    Paleoclimate behaviour is incompatible with Nic Lewis’s results. Therefore…

  140. niclewis says:

    ATTP

    “have you any interest in making a substantive comment or are you just stopping by to correct what you regard as an obvious error? I don’t really mind either way as I rather tire of discussions that are likely to be nitpicks, but your correction doesn’t address the main point : selecting a single value from a distribution and suggesting that it is going to be the most likely result (or best estimate) – as Matt Ridley does – is clearly not correct.”

    I was mainly commenting to point out that, contrary to Tom Curtis’s assertion, Matt Ridley had taken the correct figures for projected temperatrure rises to 2081-2100; Tom’s erroneous median vs mode assertion was secondary, but it made sense to take the opportunity to refute untrue claims being made about my work.

    In an ideal world one would give an uncertainty distribution or range for any variable that was not known precisely, in addition to a best estimate. But in practice time and space constraints and/or lack of uncertainty quantification may militate against doing so. It is very common, at least outside scientific journals, to see an estimated value given without any uncertainty range or even mention of uncertainty. In the case of climate projections, everyone knows that the climate system involves a huge amount of uncertainty so I doubt any sensible reader would think Matt Ridley’s point warming estimates were expected to be precisely achieved.

    I disagree with you that selecting the median value from a distribution and suggesting it is the best estimate is “clearly not correct”. Giving a single value is not a perfect solution, but if one does so then I think the median is the obvious choice as the best estimate where the distribution is skewed (so that the mode, median and mean differ).

  141. Joshua says:

    ==> “But in practice time and space constraints and/or lack of uncertainty quantification may militate against doing so. ”

    Geebus.

    There is no excuse. If your goal it to discuss uncertainty, then ignoring uncertainty is logically incoherent.

    The explanation for what that takes place is not expediency or space constraints, IMO. The explanation is the tendency to allow ideology to drive how we collect and filter evidence.

    ==> “everyone knows that the climate system involves a huge amount of uncertainty so I doubt any sensible reader would think Matt Ridley’s point warming estimates were expected to be precisely achieved.”

    I know that you read comments in climate-related blogs. As such, I know that you see misrepresentations of the range of uncertainty time after time after time. “Sensible readers” promote arguments that skew the uncertainties quite frequently.

    What a shame that you would offer such a weak response. Anders’ point was substantive.

  142. Nic,

    In an ideal world one would give an uncertainty distribution or range for any variable that was not known precisely, in addition to a best estimate. But in practice time and space constraints and/or lack of uncertainty quantification may militate against doing so. It is very common, at least outside scientific journals, to see an estimated value given without any uncertainty range or even mention of uncertainty. In the case of climate projections, everyone knows that the climate system involves a huge amount of uncertainty so I doubt any sensible reader would think Matt Ridley’s point warming estimates were expected to be precisely achieved.

    Broadly speaking, I agree, and it is a pity that much of the debate involves people nitpicking minor issues in articles and comments. I’d have more sympathy, though, with your general view if it wasn’t for you appearing to do exactly this whenever it is someone else who writes something (Mark Maslin, for example). Having said that, I do think that the way that Matt Ridley presented this was very far from being reasonable. It is hard to see how one can really justify taking a single value, from a small set of studies that happen to produce lower estimates than many other studies, and suggest that this will likely be the outcome. It wouldn’t have been hard to acknowledge that reality could be quite different from this. This is especially true (and I would hope you agree) given that climate policy should be based on assessment of risk, not a gamble on a single outcome.

    I disagree with you that selecting the median value from a distribution and suggesting it is the best estimate is “clearly not correct”. Giving a single value is not a perfect solution, but if one does so then I think the median is the obvious choice as the best estimate where the distribution is skewed (so that the mode, median and mean differ).

    How is it possibly correct? In the skewed distributions from your own work, the median is not even the most likely result (i.e., it would be more likely near the mode than near the median). I have no problem with how you have phrased it in your papers where you define it as being the best estimate because it is the median. My issue is with someone extracting that and arguing that it is actually going to be the most likely outcome, without providing any context. Even if your method does produce a result that is closest to matching reality, statistically, it is much more likely that the actual climate sensitivity will not be the median of your results, than being the median.

    Maybe I can make a suggestion. The next time you’re about to accuse someone else of a cherry-pick, remember this discussion.

  143. Willard says:

    > In an ideal world one would give an uncertainty distribution or range for any variable that was not known precisely, in addition to a best estimate.

    In the actual world, one uses expressions such as:

    Progress since the TAR enables an assessment that climate sensitivity is likely to be in the range of 2 to 4.5°C with a best estimate of about 3°C, and is very unlikely to be less than 1.5°C. V

    http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/syr/en/mains2-3.html

    In the actual world, one can even add caveats:

    Values substantially higher than 4.5°C cannot be excluded, but agreement of models with observations is not as good for those values.

    http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/syr/en/mains2-3.html

    ***

    Nic’s claim that “in practice time and space constraints and/or lack of uncertainty quantification may militate against doing so” is misleading at best.

    For more on the use of “misleading” in practice:

    A significant part of the Met Office Report concerns what it refers to as a recent comprehensive study, being the 2013 Nature Geoscience paper “Energy budget constraints on climate response” (Otto et al). The Report contains several misrepresentations of the findings of the Otto et al study as well as a number of other misleading or erroneous statements.

    http://judithcurry.com/2013/09/14/nic-lewis-on-the-uk-met-office-on-the-pause/

    There’s a small digression on medians in the comment thread:

    [O]nly by changing the colour of Harris et al 2013 and by using medians instead of means can Lewis claim that:

    > A revised version of Figure 1 in the Met Office Report showing the impact of the revisions discussed above, and a better idea of the distribution of probability, is shown in Figure 1.

    http://judithcurry.com/2013/09/14/nic-lewis-on-the-ukt-met-office-on-the-pause/#comment-380903

  144. BBD says:

    Nic Lewis’ best estimate is incompatible with paleoclimate behaviour. Therefore it is an underestimate.

  145. I have written on this before, but I repeat my thoughts here is slightly different way, because Nic referred to Jeffreys’ prior again as misleadingly as before.

    Nic Lewis writes

    And its uncertainty distributions correspond to the Jeffreys’ prior, which is not unsound and is not biased low by design. It is designed to be noninformative, with a view to the estimate properly reflecting the data.

    No prior is genuinely noninformative. Every so called noninformative prior is noninformative only with respect to some set of variables, and often only over a limited range of their values.

    Jeffreys’ prior is noninformative in a specific way with respect to to the values of a set variables used to describing the empirical data used as input, but that happens to make them highly informative on some other variables like the climate sensitivity in this case. More specifically the way Nic Lewis used Jeffreys’ prior in his analysis was highly informative against high values of climate sensitivity and favoring relatively low values. The details of that were dependent on the climate model used in support of the analysis. In addition the choice of variables used to describe the empirical data affected the outcome relative to other variables that had a nonlinear relationship to the variables used.

    There are other arguments that result in roughly similar priors. Such have been discussed by Annan and Hargreaves (and others). My preferences are also similar. Thus I don’t say that the prior used by Nic would be unreasonable, but such priors must be justified by other arguments than by the claimed noninformativeness of Jeffreys’ prior.

  146. Nic Lewis wrote:


    I disagree with you that selecting the median value from a distribution and suggesting it is the best estimate is “clearly not correct”. Giving a single value is not a perfect solution, but if one does so then I think the median is the obvious choice as the best estimate where the distribution is skewed (so that the mode, median and mean differ).

    The ubiquitous damped exponential distribution is a skewed distribution and the basis for much of statistical physics. It is the maximum entropy distribution of choice when only the mean is known; this happens in many phenomenon (just ask me for examples).

    In this case of a skewed distribution, the variance is the square of the mean. No one would ever think about using the median to describe this distribution, and of course the median is less than the mean, precisely ln(2) of the mean, or ~0.693.

    Where the median would come in is if the exponential distribution asymptotically becomes fat-tailed. How this can happen is if the inverse mean (or rate) takes on another damped exponential uncertainty. In this situation a mean no longer exists, and so the median is all one really has to characterize the probability distribution. That median turns out to be the original mean.

    But since this is a fat-tailed distribution, we really have to be careful of the outliers!

    It figures that Curry would fall for this mathematical cherry-picking of Nic Lewis. Very clever Nic, but we don’t fall for that kind of stuff. Bravo to ATTP for calling him on it.

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