Just grow up!

Amelia Sharman and Candice Howarth have a Conversation article about losing the climate debate labels. This is related to discussions we’ve had here and elsewhere.

Fundamentally, I agree with the basic premise: serious dialogue generally requires that you avoid labeling those with whom you wish to have a discussion. Labeling has a tendency to destroy dialogue and so if we wish the dialogue to improve, then labeling will have to be discouraged. However, there are a number things that I think those who are promoting this anti-labeling idea are failing to acknowledge, and I thought I would lay out some thoughts here.

  • The level of scientific agreement: Whether people like it or not, there is a great deal of agreement within the scientific community about the basics of climate science. I think it’s important to acknowledge and recognise this. It doesn’t mean that it’s right and that people shouldn’t question the current understanding, but suggesting that it doesn’t exist – or ignoring its existence – would seem to be ignoring reality. I also don’t really see the point in promoting improved dialogue if that doesn’t also include an acknowledgement of this general level of scientific agreement.
  • Science, policy or both: Many of these attempts to improve dialogue never seem to quite clarify if they mean with respect to the science, with respect to policy, or both. I think this is an important distinction to make. What we as a society might choose to do, given some scientific evidence, is something that we should be deciding democratically. What our climate might do in the presence of increasing anthropogenic forcings is not. The scientific evidence is not going to change, just because the implications are inconvenient. If people want improved dialogue about the science, then I think they should at least recognise that the scientific dissenters (or whatever word you want to use) are small in number. If people want improved dialogue about the policy implications, then it would seem to be worth recognising that people shouldn’t simply choose their preferred evidence.
  • Who benefits? I’m trying to think of how best to put this. If we’re talking about climate science specifically (rather than climate policy) then climate scientists are the experts; they won’t specifically benefit from dialogue, especially if it is with someone who is likely to end up calling them a fraud or a liar. They’re also unlikely to learn anything from those who claim AGW is some kind of massive scam or conspiracy. They can simply go back to their offices and laboratories and keep doing their core job: research. We – the public – would certainly benefit from more climate scientists being involved, but I think we have to be willing to defend those who come under attack from others who find the scientific evidence inconvenient.
  • Balance: A lot of the discussions about labeling has focused on the use of “denier” and, sometimes, “alarmist”. In my opinion, this ignores that some of the most offensive and insulting rhetoric is coming from one “side” more than the other (okay, I am biased). I found it particularly galling to see Andrew Montford say

    Prof David Henderson suggested that “upholders” of the climate consensus and “dissenters” from it, were better, more neutral terms. I think I am the only participant in the climate debate who uses them much though.

    Yes, it seems clear that Andrew is probably one of the only ones who uses these terms. The commenters on his blog prefer terms like liar, fraud, warmist, warmunist, alarmist…..

Okay, I’ve probably said enough. At the end of the day, I’m all in favour of improved dialogue. If I’m rather cynical about this whole idea it’s because I don’t think it’s all that difficult to achieve, if people actually wanted to do so. We’re all adults. We’ve all probably had contentious discussions with others that haven’t degenerated into name calling. Most of us probably stopped doing this when we entered adulthood. My personal view is that much of the dialogue would improve if people simply grew up and started behaving like adults.

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134 Responses to Just grow up!

  1. Do you mean words like this in a discussion at WUWT about William M. Connolley: “Creature, sub-human, “the WC needed cleaning”, “WC flushed”, odious toads, evil, Hitler, Stalin and diseased narcissism.”

    Yes, it would be easy to have a more civilized discussion. The disadvantage for the mitigation sceptics would be that without vitriol and tribalism people are more prone to consider arguments.

  2. Victor,
    Yes, I should probably acknowledge that I may be slightly biased by some of what has been aimed at me on WUWT. Not that I would take what is said on WUWT all that seriously 🙂

  3. In that light, I have a little trouble feeling much compassion for people who were viciously attacked by politically motivated warmunists calling them “denier”. Boo, hoo, hoo.

  4. Appreciate your stance on this ATTP.

  5. Richard,
    I’m not entirely sure you do, but maybe you’re being serious?

  6. Just from personal experience, the words used alone are not the most important factor in, how I react to insults. Very rude words from some people have no effect. Much milder labeling by a community that seems, in my perception, to think that they are morally superior may make me avoid all contact with them.

  7. -1=e^ipi says:

    Wouldn’t it be just as effective if people grew a thicker skin and just ignored these ‘labels’ and ‘insults’. Let the evidence do the talking. If people are so emotionally attached to their cause that someone calling someone else a ‘denier’ or ‘alarmist’ results in that someone else leaving the conversation in tears, then I think there are bigger issues that need to be tackled.

  8. -1,
    Yes, I tend to agree with you and have said similar things in the past. If you think the insult fits and you don’t like it, behave differently. If you think it fits, but you think your behaviour is fine, own it. If it doesn’t fit, then ignore the insulter as they’re probably an idiot.

  9. Lucifer says:

    The problem is, most deniers are compelled by deep emotional motivations.
    Like the lady said, “Efforts to reason with others may remain ineffective.”

  10. I find the whole Conversation piece pretty woolly and even contradictory. For instance…

    “Categorising and grouping people is a fundamental part of the human cognitive process, helping us understand and assimilate the vast amount of information we face each day.”

    Precisely, bear that in mind. The article then goes on…

    “Labels are used in all walks of life, but when it comes to climate change, Susan Lawler’s words could not be truer: “their meaning is opposite to their definitions”. For example, “scepticism” implies seeking the truth…

    Yes, but that does not apply to the words which are the subject of the article, ie ‘denier’ and ‘alarmist’, does it?

    The article then goes on to talk about how labelling creates “the perception of widespread scientific and policy disagreement [,] makes the public less certain climate change is happening and lowers support for climate policies”. I don’t know about others but I certainly never label anyone unless that person has first shown by their words that they clearly deny the science, rather than presenting a reasoned argument based on counter evidence. Frankly to not label them at that point just gives them credibility (see the first quote above). Indeed at that point when you realise your ‘debating’ opponent has dug in their heels, one has to say it, otherwise onlookers will be even more confused about the ‘debate’. At that point any reader can look at what your opponent has said and see why you’ve labelled them. And that is usually, and probably rightly, the logical end of the ‘debate’. To not label them at that point is actually more confusing to other readers.

  11. guthrie says:

    A nice post that sums up some of the issues.
    On the “grow a thick skin” side of things, I know of numerous people who simply avoid the internet and what happens on it because someone has said something abrasive to them. I know forums which I consider to be fairly polite that are avoided by such people because of such communication difficulties.
    In essence, demanding that people grow a thick skin will leave half the populace out of the discussion in the first place. Of course there are many who make such complaint that are happy to say nasty things to other people yet get annoyed when it is paid back to them; such folk should be treated as the pathetic crybabies that they are.
    Nevertheless, I think the point is an important one. In the blogosphere, you can see a gradation of blogs that go from rambunctious no holds barred up to polite, well ordered and policed. This variation in venue permits different people with different personalities to interact with others of like mind and yet hopefully achieve some form of communication in the topics that are under discussion.

  12. guthrie,
    I think I would make a disctinction between a label used to describe a group, and a label used to describe an individual. So, I think that calling someone a denier is much worse than referring to the existence of deniers. I don’t have a huge problem with people using the term “denier” here, but I’d rather people didn’t call someone else who was commenting here a “denier”. In a similar vein, I find it odd when some object to the term “climate science denier” since if it wasn’t aimed at them and it doesn’t apply to them (i.e., they’re not a climate science denier) why are they so offended?

  13. John Russell,

    When you label a person, someone is likely to lose at least a little credibility, the person labeled or you.

  14. You may also like Haim Ginott’s nifty ways to solve that thing:

    Never deny or ignore a child’s feelings.

    Only behavior is treated as unacceptable, not the child.

    Depersonalize negative interactions by mentioning only the problem. “I see a messy room.”

    Attach rules to things, e.g., “Little sisters are not for hitting.”

    Dependence breeds hostility. Let children do for themselves what they can.

    Children need to learn to choose, but within the safety of limits. “Would you like to wear this blue shirt or this red one?”

    Limit criticism to a specific event—don’t say “never”, “always”, as in: “You never listen,” “You always manage to spill things”, etc.

    Refrain from using words that you would not want the child to repeat.

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

  15. Pekka, I agree.

    But for a person to lose credibility, there must be bystanders. And the person who loses the credibility is the one who, in the eyes of those bystanders, has the argument that does not hang together. The important thing is not to label someone until they have clearly demonstrated they have formed an opinion without sensible evidence to back it up.

  16. Joshua says:

    ==> “Many of these attempts to improve dialogue never seem to quite clarify if they mean with respect to the science, with respect to policy, or both.”

    This topic has come up before. IMO, it is difficult to draw hard lines of distinction between science and policy. While discussing the science doesn’t have to drift into policy discussion, it does almost always raise questions about policy implications. Necessarily, discussions about policy drift into a discussion of interpretation of the scientific evidence.

    But anyway, how does clarifying the focus circle back to the discussion of labeling? At some level, there is information conveyed by the prevalence of view among experts. It isn’t dispositive, but it is information, it is relevant information, and just wishing it away won’t make it not so.

    ==> ” especially if it is with someone who is likely to end up calling them a fraud or a liar.”

    Why choose? What’s wrong with fraud and liar? Why not throw in statist, rent-seeker, and Genghis Khan-like as well?

  17. GSR says:

    @Lucifer “The problem is, most deniers are compelled by deep emotional motivations.”

    Lucifer could you please clarify? Lately you have been busy labelling as ‘deniers’ those who want action on AGW

  18. MikeH says:

    I thought it was a pretty poor article. Why have these sort of articles become fashionable all of a sudden? It seems to be a UK thing. In my opinion they are largely apolitical and ahistorical nonsense.

    They decry the “polarisation” of the debate but never explain why and never acknowledge that horse bolted decades ago. The “climate debate” is a proxy for a political debate over climate policy and in a democracy “polarisation” in one sense is how political debates are resolved.

    At one point they quoted favourably this article from Susan Lawler. If you wanted a rebuttal of their hand wringing, then Susan Lawler’s excellent article would do nicely. Quite bizarre.
    https://theconversation.com/belief-and-scepticism-creating-nonsense-by-mislabelling-scientists-and-deniers-6790

    “My personal view is that much of the dialogue would improve if people simply grew up and started behaving like adults.”

    I disagree. People in the debate are behaving in the way adults usually behave in a political fight. That is how democracy sort of works. Look at the political debate over immigration or economic policy for example. Is that any less heated? Look at your history books, when did a major political debate ever get resolved by people having a friendly discussion and agreeing to resolve differences? It is a nice ideal but this debate is happening in the real world.

    This is a boots and all political debate over the need for carbon mitigation. It is not going to end until one side is more or less defeated and isolated. Given that it is unlikely that society will want to return to a era of science obscurantism, I expect that will be the “climate change deniers” to use Susan Lawler’s description of them.

  19. GSR,
    Yes, I was rather confused by Lucifer’s comment.

    Joshua,

    IMO, it is difficult to draw hard lines of distinction between science and policy.

    I broadly agree, but I still think that recognising the level of agreement about the scientific evidence is important.

  20. MikeH,

    People in the debate are behaving in the way adults usually behave in a political fight. That is how democracy sort of works.

    Yes, and I thought of making that point. Labeling is a big part of political debates. So, maybe we should simply accept that a big part of the climate debate is purely policitical and that labeling is here to stay. The more cynical view is that this is well known by those who appear to want the labeling to stop and is they are simply attempting to de-legitimise one label for political gain.

  21. Joshua says:

    jr40 –

    ==> “I don’t know about others but I certainly never label anyone unless that person has first shown by their words that they clearly deny the science, rather than presenting a reasoned argument based on counter evidence. Frankly to not label them at that point just gives them credibility (see the first quote above). ”

    The logic of this escapes me. Mostly, it seems on par with “I wouldn’t call people poopyheads if they weren’t such poopyheads.” Which is one step away from “Everything would be just fine if those poopyheads would stop calling us poopyheads.”

    First – do you mean “denial” in the psychological sense? If so, how do you know if someone is just stating a belief rather than “deny[ing]” the science? How do you get into their head to know that they are in denial? My sense is that often it isn’t much that people are “denying” the science, as it is that they are convinced that their interpretation of the science is correct. Now maybe you understand the science well-enough to know that in this case, having a different interpretation of the evidence is the same thing as denying objective reality. But I can’t understand the science that well, nor can the vast majority of the public.

    One of my personal favorite angles here is when “skeptics” claim that “Sky-dragons” are denying the science even as realists call those same “skeptics”” deniers.

    Second, why do you think that their “credibility” somehow rests with what term you choose to use to describe them? Whose view of their “credibility” is so determined? So someone would think that they are credible if you call them a skeptic but not credible if you call them a “denier?”

    This reminds me of the arguments made by rightwingers that the U.S. engaging in talks with Iran gives Iran some “credibility” and is rewarding “bad behavior.” I just don’t get the logic there either.

    Seems to me that their credibility rests with the perspective of the observer. Someone who identities with a “skeptic” scientist ideologically does not judge that scientist’s credibility on the basis of whether someone else call that scientist a denier.

    Labels can serve two basic purposes, IMO. One is to categorize information in a way that is useful for productive discussion. The other is to strengthen identity-defense through identity-aggression. Although there is some value in categorizing general views w/r/t climate change, the labeling I see in the climate change discussion is almost always in service of the second purpose.

    And so, when I think of your justification for labeling, I think of Anders’ comment from upstairs:

    My personal view is that much of the dialogue would improve if people simply grew up and started behaving like adults.

  22. Mike Pollard says:

    I’d be interested to know just how many active climate scientists get involved in the the blogging and other media wars which seem to me to be the battlegrounds of the labeling wars. The use of such labels in published research is almost certainly very low to non-existent. Most scientists, in any field, tend to avoid such arguments especially once you realize that you are arguing with someone whose mind cannot be changed. Avoiding the issue may not be a good way to go but my last “discussion” on another topic with labels (vaccination) had me give up once the argument got around to the point that “a mother just knows” when vaccination caused her child’s illness.

  23. John,
    If the audience is willing to accept the label you give, most of them have already realized the situation. In most cases at least part of the audience does not reason as you do, and labeling turns against you.

    There have been exceptional cases where I think that everyone must have understood that a commenter does not have a point and the only goal is to get him stop spamming. That may justify labeling and other rude comments. Otherwise I have great doubts of the net positive value of labeling.

  24. Joshua says:

    MikeH –

    ==> “This is a boots and all political debate over the need for carbon mitigation. It is not going to end until one side is more or less defeated and isolated. ”

    IMO, the problem with this scorched-earth, zero sum gain approach to climate change policy development is not likely to result in substantive climate change policies until the point where people see, unambiguously, the impact of climate change in their daily lives. Seems to me that the science pretty much dictates that won’t happen for decades out. One side will only be more ore less defeated and isolated at the point where there is virtually no uncertainty in the science. Seems to me that your view does not overlay very well with risk assessment and cost/benefit analysis for remote risks along a fairly long time-horizon.

  25. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    ==> “Labeling is a big part of political debates. So, maybe we should simply accept that a big part of the climate debate is purely policitical and that labeling is here to stay.”

    It seems to me that the direct influence you have over the extent to which the labeling is here to stay is a direct function of how you use or don’t use labels. Not I think that any of us has a great deal of direct influence one way or the other, of course…. But seems to me that if one is going to accept that the labeling is here to stay, they can still not try to make the argument that the labeling has some beneficial outcome at any level than one junior-high schooler calling another junior-high schooler a poopyhead.

  26. Joshua,
    Yes, I think I agree. I wasn’t suggesting that labeling being here to stay was a good thing. I was simply being pragmatic. I agree that in any serious discussion labeling is detrimental and that if people wanted to engage in dialogue it should be discouraged. I suspect that, really, people don’t want to engage in dialogue and this is all just one giant smokescreen.

  27. Joshua says:

    Anders – agreed.

    It is often a smokescreen. It becomes all that much more obvious when you see that labeling hand-wringers are very often prolific labelers themselves.

    IMO, a principled argument about the destructiveness of labeling becomes a rhetorical ploy in the hands of a labeler.

  28. MikeH says:

    Joshua

    “IMO, the problem with this scorched-earth, zero sum gain approach to climate change policy development is not likely to result in substantive climate change policies until the point where people see, unambiguously, the impact of climate change in their daily lives”

    That is a rather weak parody of my comment. I said the debate will not end until the “deniers” are defeated. They does not mean that we cannot have good, better or even best policy now. In a lot of countries, they are a just a noisy minority. Even in Australia where a hardcore climate science crank was elected Prime Minister, his Environment Minister makes a big deal of accepting the IPCC consensus and having the same mitigation targets as the Labor opposition. By “polarising” the debate, his party is starting to split over the issue.

  29. ATTP (5:20pm): That’s the problem with using irony too often.

    I was being totally serious, and sincere, in thanking you for your stance here.

  30. Just plain old BS to justify their incompetence of claims of global warming.

    Why falsify…er..fiddle with the data?

    You ideological and politically corrupted Big Science folks are shameless and pathetic!

    The Pathological “Science” of the AGW Cult, where blatant falsification leads to their “truth”. Well, what is a desperate cult to do, when reality won’t cooperate with their dogma.

    Just like Stalin said.

    What a crock!

    So one Priest of the Church of Man Caused Climate Change says that another Priest in the same Church has NOT been fiddling around inappropriately.

    The problem with “fiddling” with the numbers is that you can create a trend but you cannot maintain it. Thus, we have “The Pause”. All Ponzi schemes come to an explosive end.

    So Arch Bishop Cowtan simply says that the trend has not been changed … and not surprisingly that is good enough for the indoctrinated.

    And then they complain about the term denier. Or about one person who is fed up after a large number of comments with the extreme nonsense and writes: “The conspiracy theorists are imbeciles” or “Deniers seem to also tar us with the brush of their own character, and assume we all cheat and lie like they do in their own professions, such as finance, business, religion, law, and politics.”

    Still it is better not to use the term denier in a discussion, it helps the deniers to change the topic, whereas staying on the topic and pointing to all the attempts of the deniers to change to topic before coming to a conclusion is an effective way to show they have no clue what they are talking about.

    (The quotes came from the comments below a post of Neville Nicholls on homogenisation published today. You can also compile a list of ugly comments by people in favour of science and/or mitigation, but you will have to search. In case of the mitigation sceptics you just have to go to WUWT and read today’s comments.)

  31. Joseph says:

    The level of scientific agreement: Whether people like it or not, there is a great deal of agreement within the scientific community about the basics of climate science. I think it’s important to acknowledge and recognise this.

    I think if skeptics want to change the “other sides” mind they should explain why there is such a widespread agreement. I use to ask a related question concerning the unanimity of the scientific organization on AGW to “skeptics” a lot and never got a satisfactory answer. I did sometimes get the response that they are doing it for the grant money or they are otherwise corrupt, but nothing I could take seriously. It’s difficult for me to understand why they don’t see this lack of explanation (or the flaws in the conspiracy theories) for this widespread agreement as a problem. I know the consensus doesn’t prove anything, but I think it does deserve an explanation.

  32. Lucifer says:

    Yes, that’s correct.

  33. Lucifer says:

    Sometimes, even denial is not enough…

  34. Richard,

    I was being totally serious, and sincere, in thanking you for your stance here.

    Having seen you comment elsewhere, I thought you might have been (you do appear to try to present reasonable arguments), but it is sometimes hard to tell.

  35. GSR says:

    @Lucifer “Sometimes, even denial is not enough…”

    And then there’s Lucifer’s Denialism: Where too much physics is never enough.

  36. Joshua writes, “The logic of this escapes me. Mostly, it seems on par with “I wouldn’t call people poopyheads if they weren’t such poopyheads.”

    I don’t see the equivalence. ‘Poopyhead’ is just a meaningless insult which suggests to an onlooker that whoever uses it has lost the argument. However, if in the course of a ‘debate’ it seems appropriate to label someone a ‘conspiracy theorist’ or ‘in denial’, then that is descriptive of their behaviour during the period leading up to that point in the argument. It might of course be a wrong description—that’s for others to judge—but I wouldn’t suggest using those labels unless you’re very confident your opponent has very clearly displayed those traits in such a way that impartial onlookers would agree with you. At which point your label adds a sort of reinforcement.

    Let’s turn it round. Let’s say during a debate I make a statement I can back up with scientific evidence and then my opponent calls me an ‘alarmist’. I really don’t mind because any impartial observer will see that as uncalled for: I am clearly not someone who is ‘exaggerating a danger to cause needless worry or panic’ (the dictionary definition of alarmism). So I’m confident that observers will judge that my opponent used that description just as an insult.

    What it comes down to is that there’s no way any ‘fake-skeptic’ is going to be won round by anything we say, and no way that anything they say will win any of us round, so the only people that matter in this debate are the majority: the largely uninformed and undecided onlookers. In convincing that audience, I believe that judicious labelling can be a useful tool.

  37. billzog says:

    ‘Warmunists’? ‘Stalinists’? You missed my personal favourite ‘Khmer vert’! The idea that we’re consciously engaged in bringing about a genocide via the systematic de-industrialization of the hated West – or are the dupes of those that are – is a consistent theme of our critics’ commentary, and yet, it appears, we need only have more regard to the otherwise apparently tender feelings of the self-same, and some progress must surely be made!

    But progress to where, and with whom? Judith Curry? The CEI? The WSJ? Senator Inhofe? The Kochs?

    Could someone point out to me the long discussion threads on the other side where they agonize over their nomenclature transgressions?

    Can I be the only one here who thinks this is all sorta, kinda ridiculous? This is a political conflict, people. Perhaps WWII would have been shorter and less traumatic had we not unthinkingly bandied about terms like ‘fritz’ or ‘kraut’?

    And precisely who’s going to enforce these ‘kinder, gentler’ terminologies? No-one’s struck by the irony that many of those bewailing the cruel horror of unkind labeling and demanding something be done are also professed Libertarians™?

    Again, this is politics. All this ballyhoo about the dreadful, hurtful, just-plain-mean ‘denier’ is a strategy. A very welcome distraction from the main game, and an ever-renewing opportunity to razz up the fans, as, after all, their team ain’t going so well of late.

    And for my part; ‘warmist’ – who cares?, I use it myself. ‘Alarmist’ – so what? ‘Warmunist’ etc. make me laugh, and neatly encapsulate the hysterical crankishness of my opponent while simultaneously sparing me the trouble of lifting a finger to the keyboard…

  38. Joshua says:

    ==> ” ‘Khmer vert’! ”

    Nice!! I think I’ve seen it before but forgot about it. Anyway, I’ll add it to the list.

  39. Joshua says:

    I’m with Iggy Azelea:

    “Just got back from a great vacation, came online and saw apparently it’s shocking and unheard of to be a woman and have cellulite. Lol,” Azalea wrote. “I just want to have peace and relaxation time without a perve [sic] with long distance lense [sic] hiding out taking pictures, everyone deserves peace.”

    Citing the “hatred and pettiness” of some members of the online community, Azalea said she was taking a break from social media and that her staff would manage her accounts from now on.

    After a sign-off thank you to fans, Azalea tweeted, “The Internet is the ugliest reflection of man kind there is.”

  40. Willard says:

    > Can I be the only one here who thinks this is all sorta, kinda ridiculous?

    No, you can’t.

  41. John Mashey says:

    As per Pseudoskeptics Exposed in the SalbyStorm, people made many comments:
    Macquarie U
    academatchiks; bastard; cheap politicking of these intellectual dwarves; climate hysteria indoctrination; Communist; corrupt {-ion}; crime; criminal; Dean of junk science; Deutsche Physik; dogmatic cult psyientists; goons; Hitler; insanity; Jim Jones cult; lawless duplicity; Lacky University; Macabre University; Mao; Mussolini; Nazi including envionazi; not a University any more although it’s too ignorant to realize the fact. It’s a political party with a campus; Pol Pot would be proud; scuttering like roaches from any ray of sunlight; sociopath (-ic); Stalin {-ist}; envirostalinists; thrid rate degree factories such as James Cook, UWA, UEA,Penn State ;

    Then of others:
    enforcers for the Warming dogma have their most outspoken critics publicly drawn and quartered. They mount their heads on pikes; envirostalinist; fascist; freaks; goose stepping, alarmist, fascist, progressives march along; hate group known as the EPA; “liberal” today actually means “selfish,” “callous,” “dishonest”, “control freaky”, “sociopathic”. ” “reactionary” and “fascistic”; Luca Brazi (from The Godfather); squealing warmist weasel (that was NOT Stoat); thug;
    warmista attack dogs;

    That’s a small sample, but there are other categories, see the webpage.

  42. That the opponents use labeling is no proof that you gain anything by the use of labeling (or that they do).

    Labeling the opponent in a discussion adds little if anything to the real arguments. (It adds something to what you tell about yourself.) Using labels against the arguments of the other side may be more useful and add information for wider audience:

    That’s just an old and thoroughly debunked denialist argument, don’t you have anything better?”

    or when a person is named as an authotity:

    He’s a well known denialist and a paid lobbyist of ..

    I would be careful also with this kind of statements and restrict them to the most obvious cases. You should also be able to back such claims up by arguments that are likely to be understood and accepted by people with little prior knowledge on these points (not by just referring to sources the opponent may claim to be highly partisan as well).

    Arguments that are accepted only by those who already agree with you are just preaching to the choir.

  43. Lars Karlsson says:

    Sadly, the kind of comments that Victor quotes above is what one has come to expect to find in many online “discussions” about climate change. They are not exceptions – they are well within the “normal”.

    Another example from the same thread:

    “Someone did look at falsified data before, but the AGW Chicken Littles rather remain ignorant and blind to the truth. Now run along that Kool-Aid isn’t going to drink itself. [link]”

  44. Jim Hunt says:

    John M – As luck would have it I recently opened my own book on a variety of choice epithets aimed in the direction of yours truly (and my assorted alter egos) by utterers of undeleted expletives:

    The Great White Con 2015 “New Einstein” Award

    At this early stage in the race “Steve Goddard” is out in front with his creative use of the W-word. The F-word is currently trailing badly at the back of the pack.

  45. Sou says:

    Isn’t this subject getting a bit old? I mean those of us who aren’t shy about using the term climate science denier are no more likely to stop using it than will deniers stop alleging scientists all around the world have been involved in a giant hoax, scam, fraud, and fakery. Or that they’ll stop using the terms that Victor Venema listed. Deniers have written a lot worse about me than just the label “alarmist” or “warmunista”, incidentally – but … sticks and stones.

    Who cares? Really? Labels like these are a convenience. Far from causing polarisation, in this case they are the outcome of polarisation. (Are we also to stop calling racism “racist” or sexism “sexist”?)

    FWIW, I won’t be making a habit, any time soon, of substituting for the word “denier” – “people who reject mainstream climate science, earth sciences, chemistry, atmospheric physics, marine science, oceanography, glaciology, geology, ecology etc etc” or “people who allege the scientific community worldwide is perpetrating fraud on humankind” or “conspiracy theorists of the climate kind”.

    Denier is shorter, covers a multitude of actions, and everyone knows what I mean.

  46. verytallguy says:

    Pekka,

    sources the opponent may claim to be highly partisan

    one aspect of climate “sceptics” approach is to delegitimise any source as partisan.

    I recall a recent exchange here, paraphrased:

    Me: “models aren;t tuned to 20th century temperature record – see this excerpt from Realclimate”
    ANO “Realclimate can’t be trusted, they’re partisan”
    Me “Hmmm… you do realise that was written by an actual climate modeller?”
    ANO: This paper discussed at climateaudit shows you are wrong
    Me “Here’s the relevant extract from AR5. It discusses that paper”
    ANO: “The IPCC is a political organisation and can’t be trusted”

    Which all boils down to: I will take the source of my information as the most authoritative person I can find who agrees with the conclusion I want. All other sources are, by definiton, biased.

  47. Sou,

    Isn’t this subject getting a bit old?

    Yes, I think it is. I doubt much is going to change.

    VTG,

    Which all boils down to: I will take the source of my information as the most authoritative person I can find who agrees with the conclusion I want. All other sources are, by definiton, biased.

    Of course, implying that their sources are biased is typically responded to with “you should judge what they say, not who they are!”.

  48. Brandon Gates says:

    ATTP,

    The more cynical view is that this is well known by those who appear to want the labeling to stop and is they are simply attempting to de-legitimise one label for political gain.

    My even more cynical view is that complaints about the “d-word” and insisting on being called “skeptics” is just another tactic used to steer the conversation away from the substantive issues. Which is what one must do when one’s position is supported by a hard vacuum. I don’t think it’s ever a bad idea to take the “high road” in a debate, but at some point it does become necesary to call things out for what they are, even though “bullshit” is something one normally refrains from saying in polite company. If we can’t trust the undecided middle to know the difference on balance, then we’re pretty much sunk. In which case all we’re doing is rearranging the deck chairs, leaving me ever less reason to not swear like a sailor.

  49. verytallguy says:

    ATTP,

    some of this comes back to “what’s the point of debating with ‘sceptics’”

    If your aim is to change anyone’s mind you’re doomed. Most if not all blogospheric sceptics have immutable views. Personally I’m hugely sceptical about any influence on “lurkers” too. Climate blogs are really for obsessives only.

    If your aim is to learn something about the subject through researching challenges from ‘sceptics’ then you have some hope of satisfaction.

    If your aim is to study the psychology of denial, you’re on to a winner.

  50. VTG,

    In argumentation what counts is what’s accepted by the audience. The truthfulness of an argument helps, but is not always decisive, In some cases the only significant thing is the immediate effect, but for a long term issue like climate change that’s not the essential thing. Building credibility either on the individual basis or for a community (up to the level of all main stream climate science, or perhaps even science more generally) may count more than the direct outcome of a single argument.

    What has a positive net effect depends on the audience. It’s always important that the audience can make properly the required assessment of the arguments. Truth that goes beyond the limits of their ability to assess does not help. The weaknesses of the opposing arguments must be shown in a way understandable to the audience. As the audience is diverse, some part of that is usually not reached, but you should have an idea of whom you wish to reach.

    That kind of issues were very much in my mind when I argued recently on the work of Marotzke and Forster at CA. I reached what I aimed for. That I couldn’t convince everyone was to be expected.

  51. Pekka,

    That kind of issues were very much in my mind when I argued recently on the work of Marotzke and Forster at CA. I reached what I aimed for. That I couldn’t convince everyone was to be expected.

    Yes, but you seem to have some abilities that I clearly do not have – the ability to keep going without appearing to get bothered by the gish gallop and insults from others. Nick Stokes seems to have a similar ability. I can’t do that. I don’t know why; I just don’t have the patience.

  52. verytallguy says:

    Pekka,

    I don’t disagree with anything you write, but I’d suggest that the main effect of your work on Jochem Marotzke and Piers Forster was not on others, but rather a much improved personal understanding of the issues, ie my

    to learn something about the subject through researching challenges from ‘sceptics’

    That is, in itself, very worthwhile.

    You may, of course, have a different perspective.

  53. vtg,
    Yes, that is true. I learned quite a lot both when I was commenting on it, and when I read Pekka’s comments. However, I think I give up when my gain in understanding is likely to be swamped by my increase in frustration 🙂

  54. VTG,
    I do think that a few of the active participants can really be influenced by repeated discussions of that type. Even if their number is small they may be influential enough to make the effort worthwhile.

    Another point that I had in mind was trying to clarify the nature of scientific papers, a point I have discussed in the thread on Climate Dialog.

    CA (and perhaps Lucia’s, I haven’t followed that enough) may be the best sites for that kind of argumentation. There’s enough audience interested in technical arguments and not so any irrelevant comments that the real discussion gets hidden.

    That approach is dependent of the counterarguments. Without counterarguments it’s difficult to improve own arguments, and even more difficult to get people to read carefully own arguments. A hidden counterargument will not get answered but may be left in the mind of much of the audience affecting their perception.

  55. And yes, getting ideas and motivation for learning more is perhaps my main motivation for participating in net discussion, but I really cannot judge fully my motivations.

  56. GSR says:

    @Sou. In a nutshell Sou.

  57. John says:

    I think we need to improve the dialogue about improving the dialogue. How can we even have a conversation about changing the conversation until we’ve changed the conversation?

  58. matt says:

    @ attp

    You have enough patience. Some (IIRC WMC) say you have too much.

    I’m with Sou. Its 2015 and every year I have watched the online debate (probably only half a decade so I am no veteran) there has been a strong challenge to the temperature record -its being fudged or completely unreliable. Sure there are times where “denier” is not appropriate but there are plenty of times when it is.

    Whether it is helpful?…

    Think a social scientist should work that out. Too much speculation here. Increasing understanding amongst the general public is the goal, not convincing WUWTers.

    Cartoon

  59. verytallguy says:

    Oooh, a cartoon.

    Does that officially make it Friday afternoon and time for amphibian jokes?

    So, a climate scientist is walking down the street with a friend and notices a frog. She bends down to take a closer look and to her surprise the frog speaks:
    “Please kiss me! I’m a billionaire climate sceptic and an evil eco-witch turned me into a frog! One kiss and I’ll return to human form and can pay to make your dreams come true!”
    The climate scientist puts the frog into her handbag and walks on. Her companion is amazed: “Why didn’t you kiss the frog?”
    “Well” replies the scientist, “Billionaire climate sceptics are 10 a penny. But a talking frog – that’s really something!”

    Sorry everyone

  60. matt,

    Think a social scientist should work that out.

    I’m a little reluctant to restart an episode of the science wars 🙂 but I do get the sense that some social scientists who consider the online climate debate either don’t realise, or won’t accept, where the balance of the scientific evidence lies. It would seem to me that what one would conclude if one studied this with an assumption that it is simply two sides who disagree, would be very different to what one might conclude if one studied this with the prior knowledge that there might be two sides, but one – broadly speaking – has the weight of the scientific evidence on their side. This doesn’t make them right, but would seem to at least be relevant.

  61. matt says:

    @ attp,

    Yep (I think I understand you). I tend to mainly see those that take a mainstream view (usually IPCC statements is the default measuring stick) but I am aware of a lot of nonsense in the SocSci. But if we are asking whether we should not use the term denier, then I think an experiment or two by a Kahan or similar would be much more useful than all the comments on the various blogs combined. That is all I was trying to say.

    Well I also wanted to say, where is one detailed internally consistent analysis by the skeptics, hence the cartoon. JC certainly didn’t deliver on her 50-50 argument to name a recent example – lots of words, very few (if any) numbers. For all those who doubt the temperature record, where is their alternative?

    If you want to be called a sceptic, then at least come up with something.

  62. Joseph says:

    I agree with most people here. People are going to engage like climate science is a political issue and use all the tactics that are used in political debates. The problem is that each side is vested in their position and their rationalization for why the other side is wrong This make it’s difficult to accept the other side and admit being wrong. So many of the “skeptics” have decided that the science is flawed, the scientists are corrupted, and governments are pushing a socialist or some other agenda with those on the left just mindlessly tagging along. People on our side trust the science, think there is a problem and generally believe the government should take some action to solve the problem.

    I think ATTP said it before that most people on the “skeptical” side don’t have the technical background to be considered skeptics and “doubt” should be a better term to describe their beliefs. So I don’t think “denier” is good term to describe them when they don’t know enough about the evidence to be in denial. l find some sympathy with that because although I can cite evidence of why I believe the way I do, I don’t really understand it well enough to be certain about it. I think ATTP was right the problem lies more with not trusting the scientists and their work. However flawed their reasoning for this mistrust may be.

  63. Lucifer says:

    [Mod : Sorry, I think your “joke” has run its course.]

  64. Lucifer says:

    Getting thin skinned?

  65. Lucifer,
    No, not really, I just can’t see why you should be continually posting comments referring to “deniers”. You do know that we’re not meant to be using that term anymore 🙂

  66. Mike M. says:

    If you want a reasonable debate, it is a good idea to avoid labels, especially ones that might be offensive. But you should also try to avoid getting distracted by arguments over such things. And it is pointless to argue over which side has more or bigger jerks.

    I would like to address a different issue. Andthentheresphysics wrote: “Whether people like it or not, there is a great deal of agreement within the scientific community about the basics of climate science. I think it’s important to acknowledge and recognise this.” I agree with what this says, but I might not agree with what is meant. Part of the problem with the debate is that people on one side assume that if you agree with ” the basics of climate science” then you must agree that there is no question that warming over some particular period (often undefined) is certainly anthropogenic, that computer models are a reliable way to estimate climate sensitivity, that global warming must be bad, and that we are facing a crisis that requires immediate action. All of that can be reasonably questioned. Yes people must acknowledge what is known, but they must also acknowledge what is not known.

  67. aTTP writes “I do get the sense that some social scientists who consider the online climate debate either don’t realise, or won’t accept, where the balance of the scientific evidence lies”

    You’re not the only one. I get the strong impression that a majority of them don’t understand climate science and just see the problem as two ‘sides’ who disagree strongly to the point of despising each other. But I suspect, in that, those social scientists reflect the belief of the general public: the vast majority of the population. To realise the problems inherent in a warming world you need to understand at the basics of the science; and to understand the basics you need at least an interest in chemistry and physics. Not many people have that interest and, by definition, they are the group from which social scientists are recruited at the sixth form level.

  68. Mike M.,

    I agree with what this says, but I might not agree with what is meant.

    I realise that this is a tricky thing to quantify. I guess what I probably mean is put a large number of climate scientists in a room and see what they argue about. I don’t think it would be about whether or not the 20th century warming is mostly anthropogenic. It’s probably not going to be whether or not feedbacks are positive or negative. I doubt anyone would claim that the Hockey Stick has been debunked, but they might disagree about what millenial reconstructions can tell us about the relative role of external forcings and internal variability. Whether or not it’s going to be bad, good, or somewhere inbetween may well be something they might disagree on (although I suspect few would argue that it’s going to be good). I suspect that, formally, most climate scientists wouldn’t make such a judgement professionally, but I see nothing wrong with them doing so publicly. The value of climate models might also be something about which there is disagreement. There’ll clearly be lots of disagreements, but I suspect it would be more about the details, than the big picture (although even that is hard to define, but you probably get what I mean).

  69. Mike M. says:

    … an Then There’s Physics wrote “I guess what I probably mean is put a large number of climate scientists in a room and see what they argue about. … There’ll clearly be lots of disagreements, but I suspect it would be more about the details, than the big picture”

    I don’t doubt that. But I regard that as part of the problem. Scientists often travel in herds and often get caught up in details within a particular paradigm. It is not unreasonable to challenge the paradigm. You can not expect a reasonable debate if you say that the only things open for discussion are those things that one side sees as important. But doing that will cost you credibility among those who do not accept the paradigm.

  70. MikeM,

    It is not unreasonable to challenge the paradigm.

    Of course not.

    You can not expect a reasonable debate if you say that the only things open for discussion are those things that one side sees as important.

    That’s not what I’m saying. Anything’s open for discussion, but if what you present violates energy conservation or has already been shown to be wrong, you can’t really expect to be taken seriously.

    But doing that will cost you credibility among those who do not accept the paradigm.

    Again, it’s not about losing credibility if you do not accept the paradigm, it’s about trying to challenge the paradigm using arguments that have already been shown to be wrong, or violate some fundamental physical law. Anyone who could present a credible challenge would be lauded. Simply presenting a challenge doesn’t, however, guarantee that it’s credible.

    I’m not arguing against people challenging the paradigm. That would be great. I’m suggesting that discussions with those who challenge it using arguments that are wrong (or almost certainly wrong) is both pointless and frustrating. You seem to think that anyone who challenges the paradigm should be taken seriously. I think only those who do so in a manner that is credible should be taken seriously.

  71. Everything is open for discussion within science. But nonsense is not tolerated, you need good arguments.

    However, it makes no sense that people without much expertise are debating whether the greenhouse exists. That is something so basic and so solid, that if you want to claim it is wrong, you have to make yourself expert and defend your position in the scientific literature and not on a political blog.

  72. Mike M.: Part of the problem with the debate is that people on one side assume that if you agree with ” the basics of climate science” then you must agree that there is no question that warming over some particular period (often undefined) is certainly anthropogenic, that computer models are a reliable way to estimate climate sensitivity, that global warming must be bad, and that we are facing a crisis that requires immediate action.

    That is not true, there is an enormous difference between agreeing that the greenhouse effect exists to taking action. (And this “immediate action” is a task for several generations; it will not be before 2050 before we have energy system that does not emit CO2.)

    Feel free to claim that the impacts will not be so bad. It involves people, thus anything can happen. I have often stated that I do not believe in changes in extreme weather yet because I hold the daily data to be too unreliable to say something about this. The non-climatic changes in extreme weather observations are much more serious than for the mean. No one has every attacked me for saying that. Not even politically motivated people, certainly not scientists. In fact, since I am saying these kind of things, my scientific career took off. The difference to WUWT? I have good arguments.

  73. I don’t think that skeptics that presently don’t accept main stream climate science are a uniform group at all. Some of them are totally out of reach by rational arguments but certainly not all. There are many reasons people have developed some mistrust to what is presented as scientific truth. They are not always that skeptic of science itself, they may equally well think that science is being misrepresented.

    How can those people reached that might switch from skeptical views to accepting main stream science is another problem. Most of them are unlikely to follow climate blogs or any other channel devoted to climate science specifically. Various magazines and main stream media reach them probably better.

    Climate blogs may have some influence through journalists and other people who write articles to magazines and news media. Some of them might follow also blog discussion, but it’s difficult to know the extent of that.

  74. snarkrates says:

    Mike M. says: “Part of the problem with the debate is that people on one side assume that if you agree with ” the basics of climate science” then you must agree that there is no question that warming over some particular period (often undefined) is certainly anthropogenic, that computer models are a reliable way to estimate climate sensitivity, that global warming must be bad, and that we are facing a crisis that requires immediate action.”

    Look. There are some things in a scientific field that are simply known. It isn’t worth debating them unless you come to the table with new evidence that calls them into question, And it had better be compelling evidence or you are going to get laughed at. This really isn’t that hard. Standards of evidence are well defined within a given scientific field. Either find evidence that meets those standards or keep looking or work with the model (you’d say paradigm) that you have.

    If you want to claim that current warming isn’t anthropogenic, you’d better have not just a convincing candidate that can explain the warming, but also a convincing explanation for why CO2 would be a powerful greenhouse gas below, say, 300 ppmv, but not above that level. If your claims have merit, they ought to resolve issues that weren’t understood previously. Then scientists will be receptive–their careers will depend on it. But one thing scientists are exceptionally intolerant of is people wasting their time, and what we’ve seen from the denialospher has wasted 30 years.

  75. Pekka,

    I don’t think that skeptics that presently don’t accept main stream climate science are a uniform group at all.

    Yes, I agree. I find it quite hard to find the right words to describe the different “groups”. I guess, one reason for titling my post as I did (“Just grow up”) is that if people could just try to behave in a more adult/mature way, it might not matter. We could agree about some things and disagree about others without it degenerating into name calling. In a sense that’s why I broadly agree with those who claim it is mainly political. The name calling is probably an indication that it’s more about politics, than science, even if some of the discussions about to be more about science than politics.

  76. rmyers56510 says:

    “Just Grow Up”. That’s what Dana Rohrabacher, the Vice Chairman of the (US) House Science Committee needs to do. Just check his twitter-feed @DanaRohrabacher. He actually tweeted a threat to climate-scientists a few hours ago — https://twitter.com/DanaRohrabacher/status/568684704733511680

    And Rohrabacher isn’t even the worst of the lot.

    That’s what climate-scientists in the USA are up against.

  77. rmyers,
    Yes, I was following some of that on Twitter. Hard to believe it’s serious. Scary when you realise that it probably is.

  78. I’m pretty sure that many people perceive the references to science as appeals to authority. They may accept that the science itself has true authority, but they have no direct contact to the science, their contacts are some individuals, who claim that they report on science. Thus the issue is the authority of these individuals. Organizations like IPCC are no more clear to them.

    The number of people who don’t trust environmental organizations like Greenpeace is large, and they may easily project that to all who argue for the severity of climate change.

    These are just some examples of the impression that I have got observing what’s going on. This kind of observations have made me think that the success in influencing many of these people depends most on two factors:
    – reaching them at all
    – building credibility

    Without those two nothing is achieved. Success in those gives at least a change for having influence. Maintaining credibility may require that the message is built carefully step by step over time.

  79. Steven Mosher says:

    Willard should do a piece on Locke and appeals to authority

    if he hasnt already.. I got no time..

    oh wait

    http://link.springer.com/article/10.1023/A%3A1007756117287

    have you discussed this before willard?

  80. A blast from the past:

    Not all appeals to authority are fallacious. This idea is refuted by the existence of citations. For instance, when the Tall One appeals to Feyerabend, he appeals to an authority, but I don’t think he wishes to imply that he commits a fallacy.

    A fallacy obtains when an arguer goes a bridge too far and claims that something is true because someone says so. The same fallacy does not obtain when an arguer uses a citation to corroborate some hypothesis. A random link on this:

    http://www.jstor.org/stable/3751849

    https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2014/06/27/how-science-really-works/#comment-25478

  81. Mike M. says:

    Pekka Pirila wrote: “I don’t think that skeptics that presently don’t accept main stream climate science are a uniform group at all. Some of them are totally out of reach by rational arguments but certainly not all. There are many reasons people have developed some mistrust to what is presented as scientific truth. ”
    Exactly. There is no point in arguing with people who are out of touch with rational argument. So I assumed this discussion was concerned with rational people who happen to disagree with the IPCC position. But some of the reactions to my post make me wonder if the responders think that anyone who doubts IPCC must be irrational.

    One of the keys to keeping people from doubting scientific truth is to not present doubtful claims as scientific truth. Be willing to admit that we don’t actually know what global T would be absent anthropogenic CO2. Admit that we don’t know how large climate sensitivity actually is. Admit that there are good effects of warming as well as bad. Be willing to say something about the outrageous “scientific” claims that make it into the press (attributions of unusual weather to global warming, claims that half of all birds species will soon go extinct, etc.). Then people might be better able to distinguish what is fact from what is not.

  82. Mike M. says:

    Snarkrates wrote: “If you want to claim that current warming isn’t anthropogenic, you’d better have not just a convincing candidate that can explain the warming”
    The candidate is natural climate change. Can I explain how it works? No. But that does not matter. We know that the climate changes naturally (ice ages, Bond events, little ice age, various atmospheric and oceanic oscillations that appear to be linked). When you can explain those and show that they are not responsible then you can claim that the recent change is not natural. Until then, anthropogenic CO2 as the cause is just a plausible working hypothesis.

    Snarkrates wrote: “but also a convincing explanation for why CO2 would be a powerful greenhouse gas below, say, 300 ppmv, but not above that level.”
    Nonsense. Unless, that is, you have a model that can reproduce the current climate without having to be tuned. Absent that, you don’t really know the feedbacks. And without the feedbacks, the direct effect of CO2 is not so important.

  83. Joshua says:

    Mike M –

    ==> “Admit that we don’t know how large climate sensitivity actually is.”

    There’s that word “admit” again.

    Can you point me to someone, who isn’t a “skeptic,” who doesn’t state CS as a probable range?

    If someone states CS as probable range, are they “admitting” they don’t know how large CS actually is?

  84. MikeM,

    The candidate is natural climate change. Can I explain how it works? No. But that does not matter. We know that the climate changes naturally (ice ages, Bond events, little ice age, various atmospheric and oceanic oscillations that appear to be linked). When you can explain those and show that they are not responsible then you can claim that the recent change is not natural. Until then, anthropogenic CO2 as the cause is just a plausible working hypothesis.

    Oohhh, that’s getting close to being a bit ridiculous. Yes, there are ways in which our climate can change that are natural and not anthropogenic. However, this doesn’t mean “magical”. The physical processes are well understood and are often the same physical process that is driving changes today. Part of the reason we have an understanding of climate change today is because we’ve tried to understand what’s driven climate change in the past. That there are natural causes for climate change does not really provide evidence that changes today could be natural. If anything, it’s the other way around. Most changes in our climate have been externally forced (with some exceptions) and that provides evidence that changes today are forced (us) and not simply some kind of natural variation.

    Snarkrates wrote: “but also a convincing explanation for why CO2 would be a powerful greenhouse gas below, say, 300 ppmv, but not above that level.”

    Nonsense. Unless, that is, you have a model that can reproduce the current climate without having to be tuned. Absent that, you don’t really know the feedbacks. And without the feedbacks, the direct effect of CO2 is not so important.

    Sorry, but describing Snarkrate’s point as nonsense is silly. There is no reason to think that our sensitivity to changes in CO2 is different when CO2 is below 300ppm, than when it is above 300ppm. An argument from ignorance is not particularly convincing.

    I must admit that your comments appear to be heading into Sky Dragon land and I don’t have any real patience for such views.

  85. Mike M. says:

    Joshua,

    I have to admit that I stated that badly. But although a wide range is stated, the conclusions drawn don’t admit the uncertainty. I am thinking here of things such as the claims of 450 ppm as a limit. I have been following this for 30 years as an observer from somewhat outside the field. During that time, the error bars on the climate sensitivity have not changed, but the certainty of the scientists in the field has changed a lot. To me, at least, a clear disconnect. And it seems that observational estimates of sensitivity in the lower part of the range are greeted with skepticism. So I should have said something like “don’t imply that our knowledge of climate sensitivity is better than it really is”.

  86. Mike M. says:

    …and Then There’s Physics wrote: ” Yes, there are ways in which our climate can change that are natural … The physical processes are well understood”.
    Really? We have climate models that can explain the little ice age etc.? Can you provide me with references? Last I heard, people were still arguing about whether Milankovitch cycles cause ice ages and, if so, just how that works.

    “There is no reason to think that our sensitivity to changes in CO2 is different when CO2 is below 300ppm, than when it is above 300ppm.”
    Of course not. I never said such a thing and I don’t believe I ever heard any “denier”, even the really stupid ones, say such a thing.

    …and Then There’s Physics gives a great example of why there is so much skepticism, all in one post. Overstating what is known. Putting words in the mouths of those who disagree, then demolishing the false argument while ignoring the real one. Misstating the facts. Generally acting like anyone who disagrees is not worth listening to.

  87. Steven Mosher says:

    ah yes, it was Walton.

    thanks

  88. andrew adams says:

    Mike M,

    The candidate is natural climate change. Can I explain how it works? No. But that does not matter. We know that the climate changes naturally (ice ages, Bond events, little ice age, various atmospheric and oceanic oscillations that appear to be linked). When you can explain those and show that they are not responsible then you can claim that the recent change is not natural. Until then, anthropogenic CO2 as the cause is just a plausible working hypothesis.

    There are various physical factors which have caused natural climate change in the past, such as volcanoes, changes in the earth’s orbit, solar activity and asteroid collisions. And also changes to the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. So when you say we should work on the assumption that our climate is behaving as it has done in the past in response to natural influences you are correct – in the past changing the level of GHGs in the atmosphere caused the planet to warm or cool, which is one of the reasons we can be pretty sure that it is doing so now. The fact that this change is human driven rather than “natural” is irrelevant for the purposes of this argument.

  89. andrew adams says:

    One other point. The reason we may not have good explanations for historic variations in climate is not because we don’t understand the physical processes which affect climate or limitations of climate models, it’s because we don’t have a time machine to go back and find out exactly which physical factors were in play at any given time. My (unscientific) view is that given the inherent limitations we’ve done a pretty good job of identifying past changes in climate and understanding their likely causes, although as better techniques emerge we will increase our understanding even more.

  90. MikeM,

    Last I heard, people were still arguing about whether Milankovitch cycles cause ice ages and, if so, just how that works.

    There is still disagreement about precisely how Milankovitch cycles are tiggerred, but once triggered, the warming in then driven by increasing CO2 and reducing albedo. The physical process is quite well understood. The LIA is thought to be reduced Solar insolation and increased volcanic activity. References should be easy to find, if you wanted to do so.

    The point I was trying to make is that we can find plausible physical processes that explain these past climate changes. It’s not magic, even if it is natural. That we’ve had such changes in the past doesn’t suddenly suggest that changes today could be natural. None of the known natural factors are sufficient, today, to explain what we’ve undergone. Of course, some fraction of our current warming could be natural, but the current evidence suggests that anthropogenic factors dominate and that – in fact – natural factors may have provided some cooling, rather than warming.

    Putting words in the mouths of those who disagree, then demolishing the false argument while ignoring the real one. Misstating the facts. Generally acting like anyone who disagrees is not worth listening to.

    Apologies if I misunderstood you, but it seemed as though you were heading down the “we can’t know anything, maybe feedbacks are negative” rabbit hole. Calling snarkrates point nonsense, suggested that you were disputing something fairly obvious.

  91. Brigitte says:

    I just looked up the word ‘denier’ on ‘WordNet’ (http://wordnet.princeton.edu/) – why I haven’t done that before I don’t quite know – it makes for an interesting read. Perhaps ‘controversialist’ might be a better term??

    Key: “S:” = Show Synset (semantic) relations, “W:” = Show Word (lexical) relations
    Display options for sense: (gloss) “an example sentence”
    Noun

    S: (n) denier (a unit of measurement for the fineness of silk or nylon or rayon) “with an evening dress one wears 10 denier stockings”
    S: (n) denier (any of various former European coins of different denominations)
    S: (n) denier (one who denies)
    direct hypernym / inherited hypernym / sister term
    S: (n) disputant, controversialist, eristic (a person who disputes; who is good at or enjoys controversy)
    S: (n) contester (someone who contests an outcome (of a race or an election etc.))
    S: (n) accuser (someone who imputes guilt or blame)
    S: (n) debater, arguer (someone who engages in debate)
    S: (n) denier (one who denies)
    S: (n) hairsplitter (a disputant who makes unreasonably fine distinctions)
    S: (n) logomach, logomachist (someone given to disputes over words)
    S: (n) obstructionist, obstructor, obstructer, resister, thwarter (someone who systematically obstructs some action that others want to take)
    S: (n) quarreler, quarreller (a disputant who quarrels)
    S: (n) reformer, reformist, crusader, social reformer, meliorist (a disputant who advocates reform)
    derivationally related form etc etc….

    If you want to explore more: http://tinyurl.com/oo48hlk

  92. Brigitte,
    Interesting. So, no mention of the Holocaust? 🙂

  93. izen says:

    @-Mike M.
    ” We have climate models that can explain the little ice age etc.? Can you provide me with references? Last I heard, people were still arguing about whether Milankovitch cycles cause ice ages and, if so, just how that works.”

    That the Milankovitch cycles trigger the timing of the recent (3Myr) ice-age cycles is obvious from the data, no models or theory required.

    HOW it triggers the transitions, was the driving force behind the development of scientific understanding of the climate from the middle of the last century.

    http://www.aip.org/history/climate/index.htm

    You have the ‘Natural causes’ argument backwards. It was understanding the thermodynamics of the climate well enough to explain past events like the ice-age cycles that informs the current level of knowledge about the anthropogenic influence at present.
    Paleoclimate changes, and the understanding of the forcings that caused them are an important factor in constraining climate sensitivity.
    Just not at the bottom of the range…

  94. Frank says:

    ATTP wrote: “Whether people like it or not, there is a great deal of agreement within the scientific community about the basics of climate science. I think it’s important to acknowledge and recognise this.”

    There is agreement that increasing GHGs will increase GMST via the enhanced greenhouse effect, but no agreement about how much. With a 15-85% confidence interval for ECS of 1.5-4.5 degC, projections of future warming range to at least +/-50% of the central estimate. If we don’t know how much warming will occur, we don’t know how serious the other disasters linked to global warming will be: hurricanes, SLR, intensification of precipitation, etc.

    Observations (most from before 2000) processed through energy balance models now indicate that the lower end of this range is much more likely than the upper end. While climate models can hindcast 20th-century warming, they failed to forecast the modest-to-negligible warming after 2000. Despite these problems, the IPCC continues to use only the output of climate models to advise policymakers on all aspects of climate change.

    If one looks closely, one will find that even climate models don’t agree with each other about WHY climate sensitivity should be high. Check out the paper below, by Manabe (an author of the 1965 paper that first described the convective-radiative equilibrium that controls heat flow in the atmosphere and founder of the GFDL modeling group.) Every year, the GMST (not the anomaly) warms and cools about 3.5 degC, because the NH contains much more land than the SH. For the last two decades CERES and ERBE have been watching how OLR and reflected SWR vary with this annual cycle in surface temperature. Since the amplitude of this cycle is huge and repeats every year, it provides a robust opportunity for studying feedbacks. Unfortunately, it is the net of larger, hemispheric seasonal changes; not global warming, but is a phenomena climate models should be able to reproduce. The models are somewhat consistent and slightly overestimate combined water vapor feedback (the gain in outgoing OLR from clear skies in Figure 3B). The models are all over the map on albedo feedback (the gain in reflected SWR from clear skies mostly due to snow cover changes in the NH, Figure 4B) and worse on cloud feedback in both the OLR and reflected SWR channels (Figure 3C and 4C). Manabe [probably mercifully] did not attach the reported ECS along side the model names.

    http://www.pnas.org/content/110/19/7568.full

  95. Frank,

    Observations (most from before 2000) processed through energy balance models now indicate that the lower end of this range is much more likely than the upper end.

    I disagree. I think this statement of yours is too strong. There are assumptions used in these energy balance models that – if wrong – would likely increase their estimates to be in line with other estimates.

    Despite these problems, the IPCC continues to use only the output of climate models to advise policymakers on all aspects of climate change.

    Rubbish. Seriously, this is nonsense. Have you read the reports? To claim that the IPCC use only the output of climate models to advise policymakers on all aspects of climate change is a completely absurd statement. It’s clearly not true. Maybe you believe it to be true, but it really isn’t.

  96. izen says:

    @-Frank
    ” If we don’t know how much warming will occur, we don’t know how serious the other disasters linked to global warming will be: hurricanes, SLR, intensification of precipitation, etc.”

    This makes the assumption, unstated but implicit, that the seriousness of the disasters linked to global warming are proportional (linear or otherwise) to the amount of global warming.
    Or even that there is a threshold, an amount of warming below which there are no serious effects, or mainly good effects…

    But not knowing the precise decimal expansion of climate sensitivity is not the equivalent of total ignorance.
    WHATEVER the climate sensitivity, even if it is down below 2degC, you get the SLR and climate region shifts already seen and locked in. If the climate sensitivity was provided to the nth decimal place tomorrow it would not change the impact of the drought and floods already seen or the ineluctable rise in sea level over the next century. Whether you categorise such influences on human agriculture and infrastructure as disasters is perhaps a matter of taste.
    Perhaps, given the ongoing changes observed so far, you decided that no action of CO2 emissions need be taken because further change is acceptable.

  97. Willard says:

    > That there are natural causes for climate change does not really provide evidence that changes today could be natural. If anything, it’s the other way around.

    That would deserve unpacking in a post.

  98. Willard says:

    > One of the keys to keeping people from doubting scientific truth is to not present doubtful claims as scientific truth. Be willing to admit that we don’t actually know what global T would be absent anthropogenic CO2. Admit that we don’t know how large climate sensitivity actually is. Admit that there are good effects of warming as well as bad. Be willing to say something about the outrageous “scientific” claims that make it into the press (attributions of unusual weather to global warming, claims that half of all birds species will soon go extinct, etc.). Then people might be better able to distinguish what is fact from what is not.

    You know all this, Mike H, yet here you are with many good old contrarian talking points.

    I see two possibilities. First, you and the people won’t react the same to the information you hold. Second, your claim about people might lack due diligence. Third, ClimateBall.

    We never expect ClimateBall.

  99. dhogaza says:

    MikeM:

    “Be willing to say something about the outrageous “scientific” claims that make it into the press (attributions of unusual weather to global warming, claims that half of all birds species will soon go extinct, etc.).”

    Please point to a press article that makes the unscientific argument that half of all bird species will soon go extinct. You might begin by defining “soon” and also explain why the argument made in the press article you will link to is “unscientific”.

    In other words, document your claim.

    There is observational evidence that many bird species are declining, mostly due to habitat change, some of which is due to global warming, some not. There are scientific arguments that this will worsen by 2100, for instance as described in this press release from Stanford:

    http://news.stanford.edu/news/2008/january9/caganone-010908.html

    regarding a paper which was about to appear in Conservation Biology at the time. It argues that, under the worst case scenario they considered, up to 30% of land birds might go extinct. That’s a far cry from 50% and also a far cry from being unscientific work …

  100. There can be no discussion between people when one side begins with “this discussion must start on the premise that the science is settled and any attempt to have any discussion of that premise means you are either a total idiot and a moron or in the pay of big oil and you should be fired from your job because you are obviously incompetent”. I didn’t make that up. That is what someone said to me. Grow up indeed.

  101. fulltime,

    I didn’t make that up. That is what someone said to me. Grow up indeed.

    Unless it was me (it wasn’t) or someone who regularly comments here (I don’t think it was), I’m not sure what the relevance is. I’ve had numerous unpleasant things said to me by people who regard themselves as “skeptics”. That doesn’t mean that I assume every person who regards themselves as “skeptic” is unpleasant and not worth talking to.

  102. snarkrates says:

    Mike H.: “We know that the climate changes naturally (ice ages, Bond events, little ice age, various atmospheric and oceanic oscillations that appear to be linked). When you can explain those and show that they are not responsible then you can claim that the recent change is not natural. Until then, anthropogenic CO2 as the cause is just a plausible working hypothesis.”

    See, this is what I hate about the ersatz skeptics: They expect to have their opinions respected even though they can’t be arsed to go out, read the literature and find out what the state of our knowledge is. We have a pretty good understanding of most of the “mysteries” he lays out. And we know that current warming is due to anthropogenic CO2 because
    1)we know we are responsible for the rise in CO2 (due to isotopic changes in the atmosphere)
    2)we know CO2 is a greenhouse gas
    3)the stratosphere is cooling as the troposphere warms–the smoking gun for a greenhouse mechanism.

    I wish they would learn a bit more, so that when they project their ignorance on the rest of mankind the species doesn’t come off quite so dimwitted.

  103. Frank says:

    ATTP wrote: There are assumptions used in these energy balance models that – if wrong – would likely increase their estimates to be in line with other estimates.

    Frank replies: What assumptions made in Otto (2013), with 2 IPCC Lead Authors as cow-authors of the paper and quite a few other big names, that were wrong? That all W/m2 are created equal in their ability to warm GMST? Shindell (2014) claims that TCR for aerosol forcing is greater than WMGHG forcing, but look at the uncertainty ranges – which are expressed in standard deviations.

    “All of the available CMIP5 models show greater TCR for historical inhomogeneous forcing than for WMGHG forcing (Fig. 1 and Supplementary Table 1). The TCR for WMGHG is 2.0 ± 0.3 ◦ C (mean and s.d. across model ensembles), whereas it is 2.9 ± 1.0 ◦ C for aerosol + ozone + LU (Method 1) and 3.0 ± 1.1 ◦ C for aerosol + ozone (Method 2).

    Climate models over-estimate the warming trend over the past few decades when aerosol forcing hasn’t changed. (About 0.15 degC/decade observed vs 0.2-0.3 degC/decade projected.) When analyzed by the IPCCs scaling factors and numerous other ways, climate models over-estimate the cooling effects of aerosols. Perhaps future studies will convince me that energy balance models shouldn’t treat all W/m2 equally. Given the limitations of today’s models with respect to aerosols and their inability to reproduce the annual changes in OLR and rSWR (the Manabe paper you ignored), Shindell (2014) hasn’t reduced my confidence in energy balance models – which never was absolute confidence because temperature changes chaotically via unforced variability. And I don’t trust the models low estimates for unforced variability.

    Frank wrote: “Despite these problems, the IPCC continues to use only the output of climate models to advise policymakers on all aspects of climate change.”

    ATTP replied: “Rubbish. Seriously, this is nonsense. Have you read the reports? To claim that the IPCC use only the output of climate models to advise policymakers on all aspects of climate change is a completely absurd statement. It’s clearly not true. Maybe you believe it to be true, but it really isn’t.”

    Frank asks: Can you point to ONE PROJECTION for the end of the century in the SPM of AR5 that is not based solely on the output from climate models? In particular, can you show me one projection that includes the caveat that estimates of climate sensitivity from models are much narrower and warmer than the IPCC’s expert assessment of climate sensitivity?

  104. Frank,

    What assumptions made in Otto (2013), with 2 IPCC Lead Authors as cow-authors of the paper and quite a few other big names, that were wrong?

    Well, I didn’t say that the assumptions were wrong. My point was that such calculations require that you make some assumptions (feedbacks are linear, forcings are homogeneous, polar amplification is negligible, internal variability is negligible) that may all be wrong – probably are. The question is how wrong? Therefore you can’t necessarily use these to claim that these estimates are more likely than other estimates.

    Can you point to ONE PROJECTION for the end of the century in the SPM of AR5 that is not based solely on the output from climate models?

    You said the IPCC continues to use only the output of climate models to advise policymakers on all aspects of climate change. You just need to read the reports to know that this is not true. If, however, you’re referring to what might happen in the coming century, then that will clearly require calculations since we don’t have data for the future. However, even here it is not only GCMs that are used. We can infer much about the future using information about past climate changes and using basic energy balance-type calculations. My point was that your statement is clearly wrong.

  105. Mal Adapted says:

    OP:

    Whether people like it or not, there is a great deal of agreement within the scientific community about the basics of climate science. I think it’s important to acknowledge and recognise this. It doesn’t mean that it’s right and that people shouldn’t question the current understanding, but suggesting that it doesn’t exist – or ignoring its existence – would seem to be ignoring reality. I also don’t really see the point in promoting improved dialogue if that doesn’t also include an acknowledgement of this general level of scientific agreement.

    “The basics of climate science”, as held by a lopsided consensus of climate scientists who publish their research in peer-reviewed venues, are that GMST has increased at a rate of between 0.10 and 0.2.0 degrees C over the last three decades, that the increase is largely if not entirely anthropogenic, and that warming will continue within that range if the anthropogenic causes don’t change. Someone who’s been educated in the natural sciences to the doctoral level knows what a >95% consensus of disciplinary specialists speaking in their professional capacities means. While acknowledging that “it doesn’t mean it’s right”, a self-aware non-specialist would say that it’s right enough for him.

    The few specialists who continue to challenge the consensus, without presenting new evidence or arguments that haven’t long since been analyzed by their peers and found deficient, are most likely fooling themselves for non-scientific reasons. Soi-disant skeptics without a specialist’s command of all the evidence and the entire body of published work, who “question the current understanding”, merely evince the Dunning-Kruger effect. “The candidate is natural climate change. Can I explain how it works? No. But that does not matter.” Yes it does: even if he doesn’t understand why natural causes don’t account for the current warming, a genuine skeptic wouldn’t assume that genuine experts haven’t thought of that. And if he doesn’t trust the IPCC, he needs to explain why he’d trust anyone else.

    Yes, the basics of climate science are settled. There are still legitimate questions about what the costs of AGW will be, and about when and where they will be paid. Regardless, it’s ineluctable that there will be costs, and that someone, somewhere will have to pay them. It’s the transparent fear they’ll be asked to pay, that motivates pseudo-skeptics to go on about “uncertainty” in warming projections. They are demanding a degree of certainty that would satisfy a court of law, but that science will never be able to deliver.

    OP:

    My personal view is that much of the dialogue would improve if people simply grew up and started behaving like adults.

    Yep. Adults wouldn’t argue against the scientific consensus ad consequentiam. Adults would acknowledge the probable range of increase in GMST, and start talking honestly about the probable costs, and what reasonable things we should be doing now to reduce them, even if some investors’ assets get stranded. That, IMHO, is the dialogue we should be having.

  106. Frank

    I don’t think you’re correct in your claim that

    estimates of climate sensitivity from models are much narrower and warmer than the IPCC’s expert assessment of climate sensitivity

    .

    The IPCC’s expert assessment of climate sensitivity is:

    Equilibrium climate sensitivity is likely in the range 1.5°C to 4.5°C (high
    confidence), extremely unlikely less than 1°C (high confidence), and very unlikely greater than 6°C (medium confidence)

    See AR5 WG1 SPM section D2

    The range of equilibrium climate sensitivity from the CMIP6 GCMs is 2.1°C to 4.6°C (see AR5 WG1 Chapter 9 Table 9.5).

    YMMV but I don’t think a 20% smaller range can be fairly described as “much narrower”, and the upper end of 4.6C compared to 4.5C doesn’t really seem like “much warmer” either – especially since the 4.5C is only the upper end of the “likely range” and the (less likely) possibility of higher ECS is still highlighted.

  107. GSR says:

    @ rmyers56510
    @ ATTP
    Predictable. The Benghazification of Stevenson Screens.

  108. izen says:

    @-“Frank asks: Can you point to ONE PROJECTION for the end of the century in the SPM of AR5 that is not based solely on the output from climate models?”

    I have been wondering what other method of determining the most likely future trend in climate might be other than something based on a climate model of some sort.

    Crystal Balls and the interpretation of entrails from animal sacrifice would not seem to be viable alternatives, but perhaps Frank has a model free method of divining the future.

  109. Richard B.,
    Thanks, I didn’t know those specific ranges.

  110. Jim Hunt says:

    Richard B – Thanks for that most pertinent information, and for your time in our conversation after your debate with Kevin Anderson at Exeter University last week.

    I wondered if I might ask a small favour at this juncture. Is there any chance you could persuade one or more of your contacts to publish this “Shock News!” from Jakobshavn?

    http://GreatWhiteCon.info/2015/02/a-letter-to-the-editor-of-the-mail-on-sunday/#Feb20

  111. Frank says:

    Richard Betts: Policymakers and journalist don’t have the slightest idea of what ECS and TCR mean. They are found in a section called “quantification of climate systems responses”. Few non-experts even recognized that these assessed value for ECS and TCR include information and uncertainties that aren’t present in the output from climate models – most noticeably parameter uncertainty. No one is told that TCR and ECS deduced from the output of climate models are narrower than the expert assessment for this reason.

    Projections are found in Section E of the SPM, not Section D. For example:

    “Increase of global mean surface temperatures for 2081–2100 relative to 1986–2005 is projected to likely be in the ranges derived from the concentration-driven CMIP5 model simulations, that is, 0.3°C to 1.7°C (RCP2.6), 1.1°C to 2.6°C (RCP4.5), 1.4°C to 3.1°C (RCP6.0), 2.6°C to 4.8°C (RCP8.5).”

    Thank you for forcing me to re-read this material more carefully. These ranges are actually the 5-95% confidence intervals for the output from models, which have a much narrow range of TCRs and ECSs than experts believe is warranted because of parameter uncertainty and results from energy balance models. (The model output would be even tighter if it weren’t for initialization uncertainty.) AR4 acknowledged that the models they use represent an “ensemble of opportunity” that doesn’t systematically explore the range of possible futures that are compatible with our knowledge of climate physics. The 5-95% confidence interval from an “ensemble of opportunity” is statistically problematic, so the IPCC “expertly assesses” that this same confidence interval should be called the likely range (15-85% interval). So the IPCC’s projections do all appear to come from model output (as I claimed), but the confidence descriptor has been weakened.

    This is the thought process I go through when looking at model output: if you’ve got a +/-50% “likely” confidence interval for climate sensitivity, you’ve also got a +/-50% confidence interval on all long-term projections. Since the central estimates for climate sensitivity from energy balance models are about 25-33% lower than from climate models, both perspectives should be considered. If the central estimate from climate model output were +3.0 degC, a second central estimate of +2.1 degC would reflect the energy balance perspective, and the likely range would be 1.5-4.5 degC.

  112. dhogaza says:

    Frank:

    “These ranges are actually the 5-95% confidence intervals for the output from models, which have a much narrow range of TCRs and ECSs than experts believe is warranted because of parameter uncertainty and results from energy balance models.”

    Which experts? The 2.1C to 4.5C range stated by Richard Betts is in very close alignment with AR4’s 2C-4.5C range. My understanding that the broadening of the range downwards for AR5 to 1.5C is mostly due to Nic Lewis’s work, in which he’s been trying to push down the value for sensitivity. His work is controversial, to say the least. I’m not sure the lowering of the lower bounds is due to “experts believe the model range is narrower than warranted”, rather than the IPCC charter that requires them to consider a wide range of published work when cobbling together their report.

    It’s actually rather difficult to find experts who believe the ECR is really 1.5C.

  113. Frank,

    These ranges are actually the 5-95% confidence intervals for the output from models, which have a much narrow range of TCRs and ECSs than experts believe is warranted because of parameter uncertainty and results from energy balance models

    As dhogaza points out above, your statement that the model range for TCR and ECS is much narrower than is warranted does not appear to be true. Also, when you say “experts” do you mean more than 1 person who might be regarded as an expert, or a large fraction of those who would reasonably be regarded as experts?

    I’m also not quite sure what you’re getting at with your comment. The numbers you quote are the range for different future emission pathways. It is true that if you were to determine these using TCR estimates from energy balance calculations then the median value would be lower than from GCM estimates, but the ranges would not be substantially different. I don’t know about you, but I think a proper risk assessment requires looking at both the range and the distribution, and is not based only on some kind of best estimate.

  114. Willard says:

    The easiest way to prove the suboptimality of Frank’s point would be to show that the IPCC does not recommend anything, but offers options, many of which need not rely on any specific model projection, e.g.:

    http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/syr/en/spms4.html

    It would also be lukewarmingly nice if Frank could tell us what difference in policy recommendations would a lower CS make.

  115. dhogaza says:

    Willard:

    “The easiest way to prove the suboptimality of Frank’s point would be to show that the IPCC does not recommend anything, but offers options, many of which need not rely on any specific model projection”

    Frank used the word “advises” policymakers, not that the IPCC “recommends anything”. The Summary for Policy Makers discusses mitigation approaches to keep AGW below 2C by 2100, which they assume means below 450 ppm CO2.

    As much as I disagree with Frank, I think this fits the notion of “advises” and while not relying on a specific model project, does rely on the “most likely” figure for ECS. Certainly not (say) 1.5C.

  116. Frank,

    So the IPCC’s projections do all appear to come from model output (as I claimed), but the confidence descriptor has been weakened.

    This isn’t what you claimed. Your exact words were the IPCC continues to use only the output of climate models to advise policymakers on all aspects of climate change. This is not true.

  117. But will Frank ever admit it?

  118. Eli Rabett says:

    As Nassim Taleb says skepticism about climate models should lead to more precautionary policies in the presence of ruin. It is incoherent to doubt the mean while reducing the variance.

    http://rabett.blogspot.no/2015/02/black-swans.html

  119. > Frank used the word “advises” policymakers, not that the IPCC “recommends anything”.

    That’s correct, there are at least three different meanings of “to advise”:

    S: (v) rede, advise, counsel (give advice to) “The teacher counsels troubled students”; “The lawyer counselled me when I was accused of tax fraud”
    S: (v) advise, notify, give notice, send word, apprise, apprize (inform (somebody) of something) “I advised him that the rent was due”
    S: (v) propose, suggest, advise (make a proposal, declare a plan for something) “the senator proposed to abolish the sales tax”

    http://wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn?s=advise&sub=Search+WordNet&o2=&o0=1&o8=1&o1=1&o7=&o5=&o9=&o6=&o3=&o4=&h=

    I should also have clarified that IPCC does not recommend anything specific, since my point was that the IPCC doesn’t recommend anything specifc regarding specific model projection alone. Projections help to provide ballpark estimates of risks, but projections aren’t needed to identify the key vulnerabilities. These are inferred from way more evidence than models alone.

    The IPCC’s framework doesn’t stand of fall on model realizations. It would be like saying that all astronomical laws would need to be ditched when we’ll develop more powerful telescopes.

    ***

    There are two interesting sentences from the last page on the SPM. The first shows how the IPCC stays away from the C-word:

    Determining what constitutes “dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system” in relation to Article 2 of the UNFCCC involves value judgements. Science can support informed decisions on this issue, including by providing criteria for judging which vulnerabilities might be labelled ‘key’. {Box ‘Key Vulnerabilities and Article 2 of the UNFCCC’, Topic 5}

    http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/syr/en/spms5.html

    The second one reinforces Very Tall’s favorite argument:

    There is high confidence that neither adaptation nor mitigation alone can avoid all climate change impacts; however, they can complement each other and together can significantly reduce the risks of climate change.

    The whole CAGW and “urgent mitigationism” memes are clearly red squirrels.

  120. I must admit that I have goaded Rohrenbacher a number of times to start investigation into the temperature manipulation.
    I have assumed that an honest investigation would undermine the republican argument of hoax, and a direct Lysenko style witch trial or real science would galvanize the entire scientific community to respond as a direct attack on all of science.

  121. Steven Mosher says:

    “It would also be lukewarmingly nice if Frank could tell us what difference in policy recommendations would a lower CS make.”

    well by some estimates every degree off ECS saves a trillion per year in costs.

    So that would an extra trillion you could use on other problems.

    Simple.

    Say it was 500 B per year.. half that.. That is 500B to spend on disease policy or poverty
    or whatever. Say its 100B..same logic

    A lower ECS will save money. What climate policy difference will it make?
    That depends. What policy are you thinking of?
    Which ever one it is there will be savings. and those savings can be applied anywhere.

  122. Willard says:

    > by some estimates every degree off ECS saves a trillion per year in costs.

    I’ve seen the “but trillions” line before, but never the estimates themselves. I don’t see any time span for these estimates. Is it trillions for ever and ever?

    Also, let’s keep in mind that the lukewarm bet is not defined as being 1 degree under the IPCC’s. It has not really be defined with any precise number either. As long as it’s under and not nearing Skydragon lairs too much, it’s lukewarm.

    Lastly, these trillions per year may not change the policy decision. That the risks are less costly in the shirt run may not change that we ought both mitigate and adapt Whether you play small ball or power poker, in bith cases you decide to bet.

  123. John Hartz says:

    ATTP: Will this be the last OP on this topic for a while? 🙂

  124. Jim Hunt says:

    Steven Mosher – The surface temperature sh1t has hit the f@n again over here in the wet and windy once Great Britain:

    http://GreatWhiteCon.info/2015/02/the-greatest-scandal-in-the-history-of-science/

    Is there any chance you could provide a definitive answer to my previous “Arctic adjustments” query?

    TIA

  125. Everett F Sargent says:

    So, hmm, err, this whole thing going on in the MSM right now about Denier Willie ‘Liar’ Soon?

    I mean, it looks like a 97% consensus, since about 97% of the MSM is currently using Denier (and its direct derivatives) in their writings.

  126. Lucifer says:

    “As Nassim Taleb says skepticism about climate models should lead to more precautionary policies in the presence of ruin. ”

    Great – if one is going to imagine the presence of ruin, one should imagine policy to match.
    At least that’s what I imagine.

  127. Lucifer says:

    “So the IPCC’s projections do all appear to come from model output (as I claimed), but the confidence descriptor has been weakened.”

    Any prediction or projection is a ‘model’ of the future – because there are no observations of the future.

    There are two ways the atmosphere can emit energy which compensates for the obstruction of CO2:
    1. the brute force way of radiating from a higher surface temperature
    2. the increase efficiency of emission,
    which involves motion of thermal energy within the atmosphere

    These are not mutually exclusive and are interdependent, and both require a prediction about the motion of the atmosphere which necessitates the too coarse and mathematically unstable general circulation models.

  128. Eli Rabett says:

    Black swans go right for the kill, no nibbling.

  129. Pekka Pirilä says:


    Arguments that are accepted only by those who already agree with you are just preaching to the choir.

    I don’t think I ever preach to the choir. I can barely get acceptance of simplified climate models that realists should actually rejoice over.

    There is a huge need to simplify the arguments.

  130. Frank says:

    dhogaza and ATTP: IF the scientific experts selected to write IPCC reports thought that the output from twenty climate models spanned the full range of future climate compatible with our understanding of climate physics, they would have chosen their 15-85% confidence interval for TCR and ECS purely from model output. They did not. The problem is that every model contains several dozen parameters describing physics that occurs on a scale too small for grid cells (cloud formation, precipitation, evaporation etc). Science of Doom has a great article discussing the parameter controlling evaporation from the surface of the ocean:

    http://scienceofdoom.com/2014/08/15/latent-heat-and-parameterization

    So we don’t know the optimal value for any of these parameters and one value isn’t correct for all situations. In the IPCC’s models, parameters are tuned one at a time, so that the model matches one aspect of current climate at a time: TOA fluxes, precipitation, speed of jet stream, amount of sea ice, etc. Cloud parameters, for example, are tuned so that albedo is correct. Evaporation is tuned so the right amount of rain falls. You can read a paper about model tuning written by real modelers here:

    http://www.mpimet.mpg.de/fileadmin/staff/klockedaniel/Mauritsen_tuning_6.pdf

    Stainforth et al (2005) created a 1000-member ensemble of simplified models with six parameters randomly chosen from within a plausible range and found that climate sensitivity varied substantially within the ensemble. He also found that parameters interacted in surprising ways that make it unlikely that tuning parameters one-by-one will lead to an optimum set of parameters. Later work showed that no single set parameters or subset of “parameter space” was better at a reproducing eight different aspect of climate at the same time.

    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v433/n7024/full/nature03301.html
    http://grammatikhilfe.com/CATS/Publications/Publications%20PDFs/69_EvaluatingUncertainty_Nature_2005.pdf

    AR4 WG1 Section 10.1 discusses the problem of parameter uncertainty (where “sampling protocol” refers to the choice of parameters):

    “Many of the figures in Chapter 10 are based on the mean and spread of the multi-model ensemble of comprehensive AOGCMs … Since the ensemble is strictly an ‘ensemble of opportunity’, without sampling protocol, the spread of models does not necessarily span the full possible range of uncertainty, and a statistical interpretation of the model spread is therefore problematic.”

    http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg1/en/ch10s10-1.html

    The “ensemble of opportunity” is why the IPCC’s authors use their expert judgment to describe the 5-95% confidence interval from climate model output as the “likely” range (15-85%) for their projections. Perhaps the SPM should say: “If our climate models were correct, GMST will very likely rise by X-Y degC by 2100. Since our models contain uncertainties we can’t quantify, we estimate that GMST will likely rise by X-Y degC by 2100.”

    Other experts who decide the range for climate sensitivity (but not projections) use a different methodology. They compare ranges of TCR and ECS from climate models, energy balance models, and paleoclimate studies. One might think that the correct answer lies at the intersection of these ranges. Unfortunately, if the parameters of one model were changed, that model might have a climate sensitivity of 2.0 or even 1.5 degC; or 5.0 or even 6.0 degC. (Stainforth found one with 11 degC!) So the range of model output doesn’t exclude other possibilities.

    All of the IPCC’s projections must come from climate models – there is no other way to get quantitative projections. (We know the forcing in 2100 for the RCP8.5 scenario, but you can’t get the right temperature for 2100 by multiplying that forcing by TCR or ECS. Forcing equivalent to 2XCO2 in this scenario probably was reached about 2060 (TCR) and equilibrium won’t be reached until something like 2200.) Projections about precipitation and SLR certainly come from climate models. The IPCC authors arbitrarily downgrade the likelihood of model projections to “likely” without making their results consistent with estimates of ECS and TCR developed elsewhere in the report. IMO, if we don’t know ECS more accurately than +/-50% of the central estimate, then we don’t know temperature change for 2100 more accurately than +/-50%.

    ATTP is certainly correct in saying that higher climate sensitivity will cause more damage; something that needs to be taken into account in a cost-benefit analysis. On the other hand, if policymakers were clearly informed that projections are +/-50% with a 30% chance the correct answer lies outside this range, they might conclude that cost-benefit analyses for climate change are meaningless.

  131. Frank,

    On the other hand, if policymakers were clearly informed that projections are +/-50% with a 30% chance the correct answer lies outside this range, they might conclude that cost-benefit analyses for climate change are meaningless.

    Isn’t that kind of the point of the Black Swan theory. If there a chance of a fat tail at high CS, then the chance of a Black Swan event is non-negligible and such events are typically not well represented in a standard cost benefit analysis. Hence why Nassim Taleb says

    evidence = ”barring a tail event”

    All of the IPCC’s projections must come from climate models – there is no other way to get quantitative projections.

    No, I think this is overstating the case. You could make simple projections using paleo estimates for climate sensitivity and basic estimate for the change in forcing given a certain emission pathway. Clearly we can’t say anything about the future without doing some kind of calculation, but arguing that all we “know” of the future is from complex climate models is clearly wrong. Clearly if we want details, then we need to make the calculations more and more complex and eventually you get to a full climate model, but to suggest that it’s all climate models is simplistic and, IMO, wrong.

  132. verytallguy says:

    Frank

    if policymakers were clearly informed that projections are +/-50% with a 30% chance the correct answer lies outside this range, they might conclude that cost-benefit analyses for climate change are meaningless.

    They are meaningless! And yet uncertainty in GCMs is far lower than uncertainty in economic models. IAMS would be a better place to critically look at uncertainty than GCMs

    integrated assessment models (IAMs)…. …have crucial flaws that make them close to useless as tools for policy analysis… …IAM-based analyses of climate policy create a perception of knowledge and precision, but that perception is illusory and misleading.

    my emphasis

    http://www.nber.org/papers/w19244

    There are perhaps four drivers for a policy of strong mitigation:
    (1) Even the low end estimates of sensitivity have high impacts
    (2) We cannot model regional impacts to a degree which allows us to even design let alone implement sensible adaptation policy
    (3) Resource conservation
    (4) Energy security

    None depend on any output from a GCM.

    GCMs are policy irrelevant.

  133. Emma Smith says:

    Any environmentalist or climate change expert will be pleased when humans will stop burning fossil fuels on planet Earth.
    Until they know that we pollute, they will fight every day to remove the fossil energy from our schedule.
    It is sad that even today when we can see that the environment is trully affected by our pollution, and weather conditions are changed if compared with the past, there are people who say that the Sun is producing the global warming, or they say, the planet itslef produces these climate fluctuations not us.

    They are partially true, the planet changes the climate conditions becuase it sees that we cannot stop from polluting the atmosphere.

    http://www.alternative-energies.net/some-people-think-that-extreme-low-temperatures-in-the-u-s-are-a-sign-that-global-warming-is-just-a-joke/

    The Sun can give us clean energy not else, so we better try to be realistic and understand that all bad things produced here on hearth are our responsibility.

  134. John Hartz says:

    Adam Corner’s recent Op-ed posted in the Sustainable Business section of the Guardian speaks directly to the issues raised in the OP of this thread. I highly recommend that everyone take a couple of minutes to read and ponder:

    Most people are neither ‘alarmist’ nor ‘in denial’ about climate changeby Adam Corner, Sustainable Business, The Guardian, Feb 27, 2015

    PS – Corner is the Research Director of the Climate Outreach and Information Network (COIN).

    http://www.climateoutreach.org.uk/

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