Skepticism vs Denial

I’m probably a bit late to this, but I thought I would briefly promote the University of Queensland MOOC on Making sense of climate science denial. It’s essentially being run by the Skeptical Science team, and aims to address how to identify climate science denial, the techniques used, aims to improve basic understanding of climate science, and how to debunk climate science misinformation.

What I thought I would post is a short video featuring a number of experts discussing skepticism vs denial. What they point out – correctly in my view – is that many self-professed skeptics are no such thing. I certainly find this frustrating, because skepticism is a fundamental part of the scientific process, and is not simply distrusting something, or being dubious of some scientific result. Skepticism takes work and effort, and seeing a word – that has a genuinely positive meaning – being coopted by those who are not genuinely skeptical, is irritating and annoying.

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220 Responses to Skepticism vs Denial

  1. harrytwinotter says:

    Skepticism is lacking on Judith Curry’s blog, that is certain.

  2. Joshua says:

    Hmm. FWIW – I find this approach to be disappointing.

    I think that it represents a fairly one-sided approach to the literature on the phenomenon they’re referring to as “science denial.” IMO, this ,kind of video undermines the claim of ownership of authentic skepticism by “realists” just as the claim of skepticism is undermined in posts like the recent one at Judith’s about this course, and the associated comment thread.

    For example, Oreskes simplistic explanation that “skepticism” in the U.S.. is explained by political ideology w/o discussing the broader implications of cultural cognition/motivated reasoning as a symmetrical dynamic that crosses over the great climate change divide.

  3. IMO, this ,kind of video undermines the claim of ownership of authentic skepticism by “realists” just as the claim of skepticism is undermined in posts like the recent one at Judith’s about this course, and the associated comment thread.

    I shall have to listen to it again, but I regarded the basic message as being “skepticism is a fundamental part of the scientific process and not simply being dubious”.

    For example, Oreskes simplistic explanation that “skepticism” in the U.S.. is explained by political ideology w/o discussing the broader implications of cultural cognition/motivated reasoning as a symmetrical dynamic that crosses over the great climate change divide.

    This may be fair. I haven’t quite come to grips with the subtleties associated with poltical ideology vs cultural cognition/motivated reasoning. How different are they?

  4. dikranmarsupial says:

    In my view, the key to genuine skepticism is that it should start with self-skepticism. It is always easier to see the flaws in views with which you disagree than those you actually hold yourself. We therefore need to be *more* skeptical of evidence/arguments that support our position than those which we would seek to overturn. Sadly this tends to be rather lacking in the climate debate, as demonstrated by those who suggest that almost all of the worlds top climatologists have made a fundamental error in the most basic elements of climate science, for instance that the rise in atmospheric CO2 being a natural phenomenon, rather than because of anthropogenic emissions. Some self-skepticism ought to kick in at some point and make people think “which is more likely, that the worlds best scientists are wrong, or that *I* have made a mistake?”. On the particular issue of what caused the rise in atmospheric CO2, there are multiple lines of evidence that very strongly suggest it is anthropogenic emissions, yet this evidence is rejected (often quite rudely).

    However, it is important to bear in mind that we are all only human, and as such are susceptible to these cognitive biases ourselves, and sometimes will fail in our efforts to overcome them. Fortunately science is self-correcting, and the key is being able to accept being corrected every now and again.

  5. Dikran,
    Yes, that’s a good point. This, I particularly agree with

    Fortunately science is self-correcting, and the key is being able to accept being corrected every now and again.

  6. Joshua says:

    ==> “I haven’t quite come to grips with the subtleties associated with poltical ideology vs cultural cognition/motivated reasoning. How different are they?”

    Bearing in mind that I’m far from a scholar on the subject…. but my take on this from what reading that I’ve done is that the connection between ideology and views on climate change mirrors a much broader dynamic where people (in general, not necessarily any individual) filter and react to information in ways that are influenced by their cultural, social, psychological orientation. It’s not a phenomenon that is disproportionately present among climate “skeptics” in comparison to other groups. The dynamics in play with climate “skepticism” are an example of a larger phenomenon. Thus the notion of “science denial” falls flat, IMO, because it fails to address the larger issues in play. The interviewees in the video seem to be arguing that true fascination with ;and curiosity about science is more prevalent on one side of the great climate divide than the other – I don’t think that there’s evidence of such. For example, when I visit “skeptical” sites I see a lot of “skeptics” who seem to me to be very interested in and knowledgeable about science – so such a claim falls flat in my eyes. Of course, that is an outlier group and what I see there isn’t generalizable, but Kahan’s empirical evidence shows that a claim of greater scientific literacy among “realists” than among “skeptics” as broadly constructed groups doesn’t pan out – neither does an argument that greater knowledge of science is more strongly associated with concern about ACO2 emissions.

    The construct of cultural cognition/motivated reasoning would predict that we’d see people identifying biases, such as ideology driving views on climate change, as being disproportionately prevalent on the “other” side of politically polarized issues – even when such disproportionality doesn’t exist. And indeed, that’s exactly what we see. Some “skeptics” identify ideologically-driven bias on the “other” side but dismiss it on their own side. And some “realists” identify ideologically-driven bias on the “other” side but dismiss it on their own.

    Indeed, the scientific method is the reality check. It is a method which is applied by humans and thus it is not foolproof, but it should be the first recourse taken to prevent against one’s own biases (as dikran refers to). As such, if you’re going to talk about the influence of ideology within the context of arguments about climate change, then you need to be very careful about checking any hypotheses related to imbalance in the mechanisms of bias on one side in comparison to the other. These claims need to be checked through empirical study.

  7. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    More directly related to your question. My interpretation is that it isn’t really that political ideology drives views, but that political ideology is a mediator/moderator (I can never remember the difference) on the causal linkage between identity-influenced reasoning and views on climate change. As such, although there is not really much doubt about a strong association of ideology and views on climate (on the U.S. at least), the underlying causal mechanism is symmetrical, and not associated with any particular ideology

  8. Joshua,
    Thanks, I’ll have to think about that. Social science is hard. Doesn’t it have any simple, basic, conservation laws? 🙂

  9. victorpetri says:

    @Joshua
    Makes sense; might I offer a possible explanation. In defending their ideology, they make a (rudimentary) effort to understand the science, in order to be better at defending their ideology.

    e.g. I have had discussions on evolution, where I have had to tackle some pretty advanced arguments against evolution, whereas most people that favor evolution over creation basically take it at face value (aka they put their trust in the scientists to have it correct).

  10. Makes sense; might I offer a possible explanation. In defending their ideology, they make a (rudimentary) effort to understand the science, in order to be better at defending their ideology.

    Hmmm, I’m not sure that’s what Joshua was suggesting, but then I’m slightly confused myself, so maybe Joshua should comment.

    None of this really changes what I regard as the underlying point. Skepticism is a fundamental part of the scientific process and should be – ideally – practiced by everyone. Simply being dubious does not qualify as skepticism – skepticism takes actual effort.

  11. victorpetri says:

    @attp
    Well, I was commenting on the observation that many on skeptical sides seem to be quite knowledgeable.
    Possibly, it is their ideological interest in the matter that drives them to put effort in understanding the science as to be better at ‘attacking’ the consensus.

  12. vp,

    Well, I was commenting on the observation that many on skeptical sides seem to be quite knowledgeable.

    Okay, maybe.

  13. BBD says:

    Joshua

    And indeed, that’s exactly what we see. Some “skeptics” identify ideologically-driven bias on the “other” side but dismiss it on their own side. And some “realists” identify ideologically-driven bias on the “other” side but dismiss it on their own.

    “Realists” – Are you talking here about people who accept the science or the scientists themselves?

    What I’m trying to get at is that there may be no ‘bias’ in accepting the science. Only in denying it. If so, there may be a fundamental problem with your analysis.

  14. victorpetri says:

    @BBD
    Can you be an activist, without an ideology?

  15. dikranmarsupial says:

    @victorpetri you can be interested in climate science and in public understanding of climate science or wanting policy on climate change to be based on good scientific understanding without being an activist. Being self-skeptical helps though.

  16. victorpetri says:

    If you talk on policy, ideology definitely come in play.

  17. Something that strikes me (and this is a limited sample, of course) is the number of times you encounter people who will make a claim about something (for example, what a particular paper might say) and will stick with it even if you point out that the paper does not say what they claim it says. I find that hard to understand, since it’s not difficult to work out that your interpretation is incorrect. Is that basically congnitive bias/motivated reasoning?

  18. Joshua says:

    Victor –

    A lot of Kahan’s evidence is related to the parallels between how beliefs on evolution are associated with ideology and how beliefs on climate change are associated with ideology.

    ==> “In defending their ideology, they make a (rudimentary) effort to understand the science, in order to be better at defending their ideology.”

    I think that is unnecessarily polemical and it reflects an overly simplistic (and probably self-serving) distortion..

    My understanding of the related evidence shows a tendency that as people gain greater expertise on a topic they tend to use more information to confirm their beliefs. Your use of “rudimentary” seems fairly counter to how the larger dynamic plays out. In fact, we could just turn your argument around. Realists often argue that:

    “skeptics” make a (rudimentary) effort to understand the science, in order to be better at defending that ideology.

    Do you think that characterization is true of “skeptics?” If not, then what are the ways in which you distinguish the patterns in play for your “they” from what “skeptics” (as a group) do?

  19. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    “Skepticism is a fundamental part of the scientific process and should be – ideally – practiced by everyone. Simply being dubious does not qualify as skepticism – skepticism takes actual effort.”

    Sure. Which is why I think putting “skeptics” in quotes is appropriate: They often seen to conflate being dubious with being skeptical.

  20. BBD says:

    vp

    Can you be an activist, without an ideology?

    Activist? Where did that come from?

  21. dikranmarsupial says:

    You can talk about policy without being an activist. I would have thought it is possible for policy to be pragmatic rather than ideological, however policy is usually rather outside my conversational comfort zone.

  22. BBD says:

    Joshua

    Where is the ‘bias’ and motivated reasoning in accepting the scientific consensus?

    As opposed to denying it in the face of all the evidence?

  23. Joshua says:

    Victor –

    ==> “Possibly, it is their ideological interest in the matter that drives them to put effort in understanding the science as to be better at ‘attacking’ the consensus.”

    Apologies. It looks like in misinterpreted your earlier statement – I interpreted your “they” to be referring to “realists.”

    I tend to agree with that perspective. Kahan describes people as getting more polarized as their knowledge is increased. I see a subtle difference: I think that it is people who are more inclined towards polarization have a motivation to become more polarized and thus more motivation to develop expertise. I keep raising the question with him as to why he describes the dynamic as he does without longitudinal evidence in support – I haven’t been able to understand his answer as yet.

  24. BBD says:

    Joshua

    I’m missing two things. Your responses to my questions above and the symmetry you assert is present between climate change denial and acceptance of the scientific consensus.

  25. Joshua says:

    BBD –

    ==> ““Realists” – Are you talking here about people who accept the science or the scientists themselves?”

    Usage of terms is so problematic. Mostly, I’m referring to non-scientists. I think it’s a pretty open question as to what extent the scientists themselves are influenced by identity-related biases. Kahan seems to think that the influence on scientists within their domain of expertise is likely small – certainly smaller than in the community of non-experts. I’m kind of dubious about that (note, I’m not saying “skeptical” there – in accepting Anders’ point that skepticism is something that is more evidence-based than being dubious).

    ==> “What I’m trying to get at is that there may be no ‘bias’ in accepting the science. Only in denying it.”

    Why would I accept the science if I don’t understand it, except as the result of a bias on my part?

    There might be good reasons to think that a bias towards the most prevalent view among experts is a useful heuristic, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a bias.

    What’s interesting w/r/t the polarization about climate change is that there are many people on both sides who are quite convinced even though they don’t have the skills, let alone the knowledge, to evaluate the science. To support their beliefs, they filter “expertise” to determine which information can or can’t be trusted. It seems rather implausible to me that choosing to “trust” information that is in line with their identifications would be a coincidence.

    ==> “If so, there may be a fundamental problem with your analysis.”

    Sure. Let me know if that statement above addresses what you’re getting at.

  26. Joshua says:

    BBD –

    ==> “I’m missing two things. Your responses to my questions above and the symmetry you assert is present between climate change denial and acceptance of the scientific consensus.”

    Patience.

  27. BBD says:

    Why would I accept the science if I don’t understand it, except as the result of a bias on my part?

    A ‘bias’ toward rational and objective behaviour such as acceptance of the expert scientific consensus is not symmetrical (in any meaningful sense) with a bias towards irrational rejectionism and suspicion. Where you see a symmetry, I see a false equivalence.

  28. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    ==> “Something that strikes me (and this is a limited sample, of course) is the number of times you encounter people who will make a claim about something (for example, what a particular paper might say) and will stick with it even if you point out that the paper does not say what they claim it says. I find that hard to understand, since it’s not difficult to work out that your interpretation is incorrect. Is that basically congnitive bias/motivated reasoning?s that basically congnitive bias/motivated reasoning?”

    Accepting that it’s always key to control for subjectivity in determining what a paper actually says, sure, I would think so.

  29. Paul S says:

    My understanding of the related evidence shows a tendency that as people gain greater expertise on a topic they tend to use more information to confirm their beliefs.

    I think a relevant point to make here is that those frequenting “skeptic” blogs are a tiny fraction of climate change “skeptics”. The vast majority don’t have a clue about the subject – only that it has something to do with do-gooder liberals/lefties/environmentalists and that they’re supposed to get righteously offended if someone refers to them as a “denier”.

  30. anoilman says:

    Anders, “Something that strikes me (and this is a limited sample, of course) is the number of times you encounter people who will make a claim about something (for example, what a particular paper might say) and will stick with it even if you point out that the paper does not say what they claim it says. I find that hard to understand, since it’s not difficult to work out that your interpretation is incorrect. Is that basically cognitive bias/motivated reasoning?”

    I’ve had a few discussions in which exactly that has occurred. I think you need to look at it on a case by case basis.

    In come cases… trolling (4 years ago, that was all I saw).

    In some cases there is ‘mental illness’, people who believe in conspiracy theories and the like. I tend to avoid those people once I figure that out.

    In many cases there is a distinct inability to understand the materials. I dunno, but I think the majority of folks in the denial circles are not well educated. I’m guessing technicians or arts.

    The most vocal folks who ‘don’t get it’ appear to be what I call paid hacks. I’ve personally run across the head of PR the Friends of Science, and managed to shut her up (she’d never admit she was wrong) every time by quoting her sources. (It was a cathartic joy for me, since the trolls, and hanger ons, would promptly start arguing around the paper… pointing out that they knew what I said, and where poking holes in what she said. … and yes Willard, that would make me the troll.)

  31. Accepting that it’s always key to control for subjectivity in determining what a paper actually says, sure, I would think so.

    I don’t remember if you were involved in the discussion I was having on Climate Etc. about Torcello’s post. What seemed to happen was that when it became clear that his post did not actually say what the other person said it did, it then became a rhetorical argument in which it was possible to interpret it that way. I never quite followed why, but it seemed to be an argument along the lines of “by using that as an example, Torcello is effectively claiming it to be true, and because of that it is dishonest rhetoric”.

  32. Paul S says:

    BBD,

    …acceptance of the expert scientific consensus…

    Trouble is, only about half the public believe there is a scientific consensus.

  33. Steven Mosher says:

    It might help to distinguish between skepticism as a position versus skepticism as a method.

    As a position: the skeptic withholds judgement or suspends belief. doubt
    As a method, the skeptic ( in science) tries to disprove. I might believe that X is the
    case, but I act as if I dont believe. I take action to disprove what I believe

    Denial asserts that something is Not the case. and more importantly denial doesnt take itself
    as an object to question.

    Like so:

    C02 causes warming:

    1. Skeptic: I dont know, prove it to ME. you have the burden
    2. Methodological: skeptic
    a) I dont know, let me try to prove that it doesnt
    b) I think it does, let me try to prove that it doesnt
    c) I think it doesnt, let me try to prove that it does.
    3. Denial : No it doesnt, you cant prove it.

    Hmm. This isn’t entirely accurate Im sure, but its helpful to me.
    science of course is methodological skepticism. doubt used as a method.

    Skeptic #1, has no curiosity about what the truth is.

    #1 and #3 map ROUGHLY to two branches of philosophical skepticsm over knowledge… meh

  34. Steven,
    I can see where you’re coming from. I would agree that many understand the term “skeptic” when describing a position as you suggest. I would argue, though, that isn’t how it is understood in a more formal, scientific setting.

  35. Joshua says:

    BBD –

    ==> “A ‘bias’ toward rational and objective behaviour such as acceptance of the expert scientific consensus is not symmetrical (in any meaningful sense) with a bias towards irrational rejectionism and suspicion. Where you see a symmetry, I see a false equivalence.”

    People who are dubious about the impact of ACO2 emissions don’t think that they are rejecting expert scientific opinion. They think that they are rejecting biased expert opinion and accepting unbiased expert opinion. I might also reject expert opinion on the basis of thinking it is biased – for example, Monckton’s “expert” opinion. I have no way of evaluating the quality of expertise.

    The existence of a prevalence of expertise helps to inform me of probabilities. But I think it would be a mistake for me to reject “expert” opinion flat out as being “pseudo-science” only on the basis of it being a minority opinion.

    There are inherent biases in how we identify “expert” opinion. This has been established with strong empirical evidence, IMO. I think it would be a mistake to simply dismiss the potential for such biases as a background issue to be addressed.

  36. anoilman says:

    victorpetri says:
    April 30, 2015 at 2:31 pm

    “Makes sense; might I offer a possible explanation. In defending their ideology, they make a (rudimentary) effort to understand the science, in order to be better at defending their ideology.”

    I do this in political arguments. I will adopt the language and motivations of the opponent in order to argue. I find that it tends to leave them confused and quiet.

    For instance… Conservative Ideology in Canada is ‘no subsidies’. When they talk about getting oil to our coasts, I point out that tankers are essentially uninsured, we’ll have to pay out of pocket if there is an accident. What’s wrong with an industry that cannot buy insurance? Why do they need these socialist welfare subsidies?

    I find that ideologues don’t know what to make of that primarily because they haven’t really thought about any of it before. I also know that I’ve swayed opinions of those with a more moderate opinion on it all. Greens opposing pipelines, ‘bad’, conservatives subsidizing rich oil companies, ‘worse’. I think even Bjorn Lomborg would be impressed by my antics.

  37. BBD says:

    Joshua

    What’s interesting w/r/t the polarization about climate change is that there are many people on both sides who are quite convinced even though they don’t have the skills, let alone the knowledge, to evaluate the science. To support their beliefs, they filter “expertise” to determine which information can or can’t be trusted. It seems rather implausible to me that choosing to “trust” information that is in line with their identifications would be a coincidence.

    The expert winnowing and filtering of evidence *creates* the scientific consensus. Non-experts place trust in that expert filtering process which is a rational and objective behaviour by non-experts.

    Denying the validity of the scientific consensus and the validity of the expert filtering of evidence from which it arose is simply not symmetrical with accepting the validity of the consensus. Denial here can indeed be seen as a bias toward irrationality.

    All we are left with, if we must argue for a symmetry, is a bias toward rationality and a bias away from it. But I don’t think that is what you are suggesting.

  38. Joshua says:

    Andres –

    ==> “I don’t remember if you were involved in the discussion I was having on Climate Etc. about Torcello’s post. ”

    I’m pretty sure I remember watching that exchange. I couldn’t really evaluate the technical questions involved, but in such cases the background of my own experience with that individual is relevant. If i’m remembering correctly, the individual you were in exchange with is someone who has, on a number of occasions, insisted that I have beliefs that I don’t have. When someone is absolutely convinced of something I absolutely know is false, I use that as information for assessing his approach to skepticism more broadly.

  39. Steven Mosher says:

    Do you have a rational obligation to accept a scientific consensus??
    It would depend upon whether you want to maximize the probability of being right or minimize the probability of being wrong.

  40. Joshua,
    Yes, I think he’s done the same to me. Actually, he appeared to be claiming that Torcello had views that he didn’t explicitly have, so maybe it’s a pattern.

    On the matter of symmetry, what about the symmetry associated with money/cost. It seems to me that it is used much more often in discussions by one side than the other, even when the discussion starts off being explcitly about science. Is that something you’ve noticed?

  41. Joshua says:

    BBD –

    ==> “All we are left with, if we must argue for a symmetry, is a bias toward rationality and a bias away from it. But I don’t think that is what you are suggesting.”

    As someone who can’t evaluate the science, I have to say that I think that the consensus view w/r/t the range of impact of ACO2 emissions on our climate is more probable. (Indeed, since it is stated as a range of what is probable – as opposed to much of what I see on the other side from “skeptics,” which is a combination of misrepresenting statements of probability from climate scientists as being statements that the “science is settled,” and statements that are not probabilistic statements, but certain statements such as “the consensus view only exists because scientists want to get their science funded.”)

    Then, of course, the door opens into policy discussion about what to do with that range of probabilities….

    I’m ok with being “biased’ towards what I think is more probable.

    I’m not inclined, however, to pronounce on what is or isn’t a “rational” or “irrational” view in that regard. For example, I don’t think that it is “irrational” to think that computers could never successfully model something as complex as the climate, and to thus have an inherent distrust of projections thus derived.

    Anyway, gotta run. Thanks for the challenges. Some stuff to think about.

  42. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    Gotta run…but for when I get back…

    ==> “On the matter of symmetry, what about the symmetry associated with money/cost.”

    N

  43. Joshua says:

    Oops. That was supposed to say not sure what you mean there.

  44. BBD says:

    Steven M

    Do you have a rational obligation to accept a scientific consensus??
    It would depend upon whether you want to maximize the probability of being right or minimize the probability of being wrong.

    By acting rationally you would be doing both at once, surely?

  45. BBD says:

    Joshua

    As someone who can’t evaluate the science

    … you would be acting rationally and objectively to accept the scientific consensus rather than rejecting it, as others do.

    I’m not inclined, however, to pronounce on what is or isn’t a “rational” or “irrational” view in that regard. For example, I don’t think that it is “irrational” to think that computers could never successfully model something as complex as the climate, and to thus have an inherent distrust of projections thus derived.

    A strawman, I think. “All models are wrong, but some are useful…”

  46. BBD says:

    Joshua

    You haven’t addressed the core issue so let’s return to it once again.

    The expert winnowing and filtering of evidence *creates* the scientific consensus. Non-experts place trust in that expert filtering process which is a rational and objective behaviour by non-experts.

    Denying the validity of the scientific consensus and the validity of the expert filtering of evidence from which it arose is simply not symmetrical with accepting the validity of the consensus. Denial here can indeed be seen as a bias toward irrationality.

    All we are left with, if we must argue for a symmetry, is a bias toward rationality and a bias away from it.

  47. dikranmarsupial says:

    “Do you have a rational obligation to accept a scientific consensus??”

    No, of course not, indeed Kuhnians would probably argue we have an obligation to try to pick holes in it where we can, and in doing so either improve it (the current paradigm) or overthrow it. This is what scientists (including climatologists) generally do as refining existing science is generally at least an implicit criticism of what is already there. The fact that a broad consensus exists is an indication that it is difficult to pick substantial holes in the science, at least on the basics (such as whether the rise in CO2 is anthropogenic, or second law of thermodynamics, or all IR absorbed at the surface…).

    The real obligation is to be willing to have an honest truth-seeking discussion of the science (preferably rhetoric-free) and at least keep an open mind about anything you can’t unequivocally refute, even if you can’t bring yourself to actually accept it.

  48. Brandon Gates says:

    ATTP,

    Thank you for speaking to the distinction between being dubious and sceptical. I do not see them as one and the same, and very often see sceptical used in cases where I think dubious would be the more appropriate term. That observation of course presumes that my model of what goes on in the other guy’s head is reasonably correct.

    Obviously our friends on the other side of this are trying to figure us out too, well ok, SOME of us, “Why Progressives Believe Global Warming”: http://wmbriggs.com/post/15809/

    I thought the constant battle over framing was one of the more interesting — and infuriating — aspects of that discussion. The win for me there was the one person who got it that when the question is “why do you believe X?” that I must provide my own definition of X and be allowed to work within that definition in defence of my belief.

    Not surprisingly that notion was met early and often with derisive rejection by pretty much everyone else, no better exemplified by the comment, “Well someone has to do your thinking for you.” Which I also saw as a win since rarely is that notion so nakedly voiced by the more authoritarian contingent of the climate contrarian community. Pure (somewhat horrific) delight was watching him kind of attempt to swim away from it … “Thinking FOR you is NOT controlling your thoughts. You head is empty. How can I control what isn’t there?” … but not really.

  49. izen says:

    @-dikranmarsupial
    “You can talk about policy without being an activist. I would have thought it is possible for policy to be pragmatic rather than ideological,”

    That it is possible, or even advantageous, for policy to be pragmatic rather than ideologicaly driven… is an ideological position.

    @-BBD
    “The expert winnowing and filtering of evidence *creates* the scientific consensus. Non-experts place trust in that expert filtering process which is a rational and objective behaviour by non-experts.”

    I expect Joshua would have his own answers, but I find the questions raise interesting… answers?

    The assumption that accepting the scientific consensus is rational and objective behaviour by non-experts is not validated by pointing at the ‘expert filtering process.’ That just shifts the level of trust required to the winnowing being efficient.

    The problem is that the level of knowledge required to understand, or agree, that it is rational behavior to accept the mainstream science because of the epistemological robustness of the scientific method/process/system is much greater than the degree of knowledge required to just understand the physics of AGW. To expect people to grasp that they SHOULD trust the mainstream science without justifying in a generally understandable manner WHY they should accept that authority is unrealistic.

    For many people life is a matter of deciding with authority to accept. Much of that is to do with group membership and shared ideological views, religious and political. For people negotiating between economic, religious and political authorities in their lives, and little exposure to the internal working of ‘SCIENCE’ the claims made by the ‘activists’ on the ‘warmist’ side that THEIR particular autthority must be accepted because it has something the others only claim to have. A direct line to absolute truth. Therefore acceptance is the only rational course.

    If others tell you that you should abandon your belief in the special authority of science to follow THEIR views because they have access to a better and more certain understanding of the world, you might hear them out, but I suspect they would have to have arguments that did not just persuade them, but would persuade you who has no knowledge or insight into the reasoning behind their certainty.

    @-“All we are left with, if we must argue for a symmetry, is a bias toward rationality and a bias away from it.”

    Where you see an asymmetry between rational behavior – follow science (because it uses methodological skepticism?)
    and irrational behavior – follow another group identity or worldview which ignores the rational methods of science for revealed wisdom and the evolutionary development of tested traditions,(for instance) others may just perceive two competing world-view/tribal identities.

    This may apply to the problem of people who when confronted with apparently incontrovertible evidence that the intended meaning of a piece of research is NOT what they claim, seem unable to accept they are ‘wrong’. Most often they do not accept the underlying premise that the paper has a singular meaning or interpretation. Or that any meaning that a reader can ascribe to a text can in any sense be ‘wrong’.
    I think this is a principle in semiotics.
    Otherwise known as the Humpty-Dumpty gambit.

  50. Steven Mosher says:

    BBD

    ‘By acting rationally you would be doing both at once, surely?”

    thats tough to say

    Are there an even or odd number of stars?

    To maximize your probability of being right you can just guess odd or even.
    To minimize your probability of being wrong, you withhold judgement

    the question is how long can you withhold judgement if action is required.

    stars odd or even I can withhold judgement forever because no action is required
    or rather my belief or lack of belief never comes to a practical test

    You can see in this how the issue of delay on the climate comes into play.
    by adopting high standards of certainty ( I only want a 1% chance of being wrong ) you force delay.

    So mathematically it looks like as you maximize the probability of being right you always minimize the probability of being wrong. That’s true, but what I am point at is the value question

    If i tel you a 90% probability is good enough, and you respond I dont want to be wrong 1/10 times you are telling me your fear of being wrong is more important to you that your desire to be right,
    that is the subtle point I probably didnt express clearly enough

  51. BBD says:

    izen

    The assumption that accepting the scientific consensus is rational and objective behaviour by non-experts is not validated by pointing at the ‘expert filtering process.’ That just shifts the level of trust required to the winnowing being efficient.

    Rational behavior requires using the best information available. The internecine strife of science produces the best information available – he scientific consensus arises from that which has not been falsified despite the best efforts of all involved. That will do for me, and for the purpose of this argument.

  52. dikranmarsupial says:

    I think I see the distinction you are making. The *practical* problem here is not to minimize the probability of being right or the probability of being wrong, but of minimizing our expected loss (or some other measure of the desirability of future outcomes). In practice neither “side” is likely to be completely right or completely wrong (which is why the IPCC presents probabilistic statements on particular issues), so any course of action has to be a balance taking into consideration multiple questions. No course of action is therefore right or wrong, but some are likely to have lower losses than others. Deferring the decision though is in itself an action (and hence runs the risk of being suboptimal).

  53. BBD says:

    Where you see an asymmetry between rational behavior – follow science (because it uses methodological skepticism?)
    and irrational behavior – follow another group identity or worldview which ignores the rational methods of science for revealed wisdom and the evolutionary development of tested traditions,(for instance) others may just perceive two competing world-view/tribal identities.

    They may. And that is a false equivalence.

  54. Steven Mosher says:

    Joshua,

    If 85% of the scientific experts told you that that gun control was useless, would you accept the consensus?
    If 65% of the scientific experts told you that that gun control WORKED, would you accept the consensus?

    I would guess that you are like me. you don’t have a fixed number in your head about when to accept and when not to accept a consensus, when to trust authorities and when doubting them is not merely an attempt to maintain your identity.

    People’s willingness to accept authority ( lets say an expert consensus) is as you might argue tightly coupled with their identity and interests. If 60% of experts told me mars had life, I’m like cool, I buy that mars had life. I have no interest nor is my identity tied up in it. A christian who believed the earth was somehow gods unique creation might argue… wait mosher 60% is way too low, he might hold out and demand 99% certainty or more.. One might say because his identity, his other beliefs, will have to re arranged, renormalized. Some wacky Christian might say.. ah the devil planted that evidence and some other may adjust by dropping the special status of the earth belief.

  55. Joshua,

    Oops. That was supposed to say not sure what you mean there.

    What I was getting at was that I’ve had a number of discussions with “skeptics” in which they suddenly bring up a cost, or something policy related, in a discussion that I would regard as about science specifically. That would seem to be a form of motivated reasoning – “I don’t like the policy implications of this, therefore I won’t accept it”. I can’t think of an explicit example of this from the other side. I’ve never seen someone bring up a policy option, or a cost, to justify their view with respect to climate science, if they broadly accept it. If anything, many who accept mainstream climate science seem to accept that addressing it will be difficult and costly. So, I’m struggling to think of some explicit motivation for those who accept mainstream climate science.

    I guess, I was trying to understand what I think you were suggesting; that there is some kind of symmetry when it comes to cognitive bias/motivated reasoning for “skeptics” and “realists” (your terms, I think).

  56. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:

    dikranmarsupial says:

    No course of action is therefore right or wrong, but some are likely to have lower losses than others. Deferring the decision though is in itself an action (and hence runs the risk of being suboptimal).

    Exactly.
    This isn’t a sampling problem.
    It’s not a question of deciding when to stop withholding one’s judgment due to fear of being wrong.
    Being correct “within 3% 19 times out of 20” doesn’t even make sense in this context.

    Lotsa folks are thinking in terms of frequentist probabilties – and disregarding the fact that we will only get to do one run of this little planetary experiment.

    The number of experimental trials will not approach infinity, it will approach unity.

  57. Joshua: “when I visit “skeptical” sites I see a lot of “skeptics” who seem to me to be very interested in and knowledgeable about science

    That is a very worrying statement. There is nearly no science there. They do their best to make it look like science and apparently do so sufficiently well to fool you, although you are seasoned in the climate “debate”.

    Scientific papers are judge by mitigation sceptics on whether it furthers their political aims, not based on the intrinsic value of the arguments. They will have more knowledge than the average citizen. That will on average be true for any participant in the climate “debate”, as Victor Petri already pointed out. Knowledge is, however, not science. Erroneous arguments with sciency sounding words is not science. Quality of reasoning is at the heart of science.

    Kahan only showed a correction between polarisation and education and he had only a few categories. Thus even the best educated people in his highest class cannot be assumed to be well versed with natural science. Correlation is not causation. There are many other variables that could influence both, such as wealth and ethnic background. It would also make sense for more educated people to be more confident on any topic and dare to take more extreme positions, knowing that they have the skills and authority to bullshit themselves out of the situation when challenged.

  58. Joshua says:

    ==> “If 85% of the scientific experts told you that that gun control was useless, would you accept the consensus?
    If 65% of the scientific experts told you that that gun control WORKED, would you accept the consensus?”

    (1) My natural inclination would be to say that there must be a mistake with your first consensus and to look for ways to bolster my tendency towards disbelief. I would be dubious about the expertise of experts who reached such opinions. I’d look for ways to discount their expertise.

    (2) With your second consensus, I’d be likely to accept it more or less on faith. I would be less likely to try to find ways to discount the experts who reached such a consensus.

    One of the issues that Kahan looks at is who hold what opinions about the expert “consensus” on gun control. It wouldn’t be surprising if views people held about there the consensus expert opinion lies on gun control were associated with general ideological perspectives on a broad range of views.

    ==> “I would guess that you are like me. you don’t have a fixed number in your head about when to accept and when not to accept a consensus, when to trust authorities and when doubting them is not merely an attempt to maintain your identity.”

    As a broad phenomenon, trust of “experts” on polarized issues is associated with identity-related perspectives. Such associations are not inevitable, of course, and may or may not be found for particular individuals on particular issues. Further, the existence of an association does not speak to causality for any given individual. But there is empirical evidence that as what I think is probably a fairly generalizable phenomenon, humans have a tendency to filter “trust” in expertise in association with ideological orientation. There is certainly a strong suggestion of causality there. Obviously, proof of causality is complicated. But what is particularly interesting is that many of those who dismiss such a mechanistic causality in their own group accept that causality as explanatory in the “other.” They think the theory makes perfect sense, except if someone tries to apply it to them or to their group. I call that Travisbickleism. – (riffing a bit on one of Kahan’s posts).

  59. izen says:

    @-BBD
    “Rational behavior requires using the best information available. The internecine strife of science produces the best information available –”

    I agree.
    Unfortunately that is not a view that everybody you meet may share.
    And WHY those two claims are correct can involve some rather circular arguments.

    @-“That will do for me, and for the purpose of this argument.”

    Me too, but we may be in a minority, and it is not a view shared by denialists who claim to be skeptics.

    @-Steve
    “If i tel you a 90% probability is good enough, and you respond I dont want to be wrong 1/10 times you are telling me your fear of being wrong is more important to you that your desire to be right,
    that is the subtle point I probably didnt express clearly enough”

    For some engaged with this issue even with high scientific probabilities and the Pope recently pushing the idea that it is 97% certain we are cooking ourselves, the risk that it is a political-ideological ruse to destroy the basis of a free society still negates any degree of institutional authority.

    That fear of the science used as an ideological tool against their interests, or core beliefs, is not usually shared with an insight into the theory and practise of science.
    But for the majority who are expected to ‘take it on trust’ because trusting the mainstream is rational….?

    @-BBD “They may. And that is a false equivalence.”
    Do you have a rational argument to back up that claim?!

  60. BBD says:

    A flat refusal to acknowledge that there should not be scare quotes around “experts” when said experts are climate scientists nor that accepting the expert scientific equivalent is a rational – not a tribal – act.

  61. BBD says:

    izen

    Do you have a rational argument to back up that claim?!

    I’ve provided it twice upthread. In order for this *not* to be false equivalence, scientific expert knowledge must be equated with the ‘sceptical’ discourse.

    Surely this is obvious?

  62. BBD says:

    My 7:03pm was in response to Joshua, btw, not Izen – sorry for not heading it properly.

  63. Joshua says:

    VV –

    ==> ” Erroneous arguments with sciency sounding words is not science. ”

    I can’t distinguish between sciency-sounding arguments and valid scientific arguments. Many of those making arguments that you might call pseudo-science seem to have scientific qualifications. I go to a “skeptic” site and I see a “skeptic” who would disagree with you on a putative scientific basis call dismiss a “sky dragon” for making psuedo-scientific arguments. I see someone like Judith (who obviously has scientific qualifications) get branded a “denier,” or as not very smart, or as merely influenced by her personal interests, even as she appeals to authority by saying that no one worth listening to doubts the basic physics of the GHE. Whose definition of “psuedo-science” should I accept?

    And further, I see her making the exact same kind of argument that assigns biased- and poor-quality reasoning disproportionately on the other side of the great climate divide. I think that her arguments about disproportionallity is fundamentally flawed. It represents a poor understanding of how bias affects reasoning.. So what do I do if I see her making an argument I think is fundamentally flawed and then I see you making the same argument?

    ==> “Quality of reasoning is at the heart of science.””

    So as a matter of personal focus, I try to look for a consistent display of quality reasoning, as a basis for assessing probabilities related to scientific arguments I can’t assess on a technical basis.

    So, then, consider my dilemma. I see someone I think seems to have scientific qualifications making a “sciency” sounding argument, and you tell me that I should just accept, based on your authority, that the “skeptic” is a “denier” who is promoting pseudo-science.

    Should I just take your word for it? Should I take your word for it because your views are in line with the most prevalent views among experts? Maybe Should I take your word for it because you are more in line with my identity-related preferences? Hmmm. That’s problematic.

    But then I think I see you (excuse me if I’m wrong) making an argument that is very unpersuasive to me, based on what I can assess. You say that the arguments that, to the best of my ability seem like real science, are something that I should just dismiss because they are psuedo-science. You say that the person making those arguments is simply “denying” science. But it seems to me that at worst, what they are doing is interpreting information in line with their identity-orientation. That, IMO, does not equate to “denying” science – Judith is a fucking scientist, for God’s sake. – which implies to me a value judgement about her tendency towards bias which I think doesn’t reflect the reality of who she is and also doesn’t reflect the symmetry outlined in the science about how opinion-formation is biased by identity-protective mechanisms.

  64. BBD says:

    Joshua

    So what do I do if I see her making an argument I think is fundamentally flawed and then I see you making the same argument?

    You might question whether you are using the correct logical framework to make your judgements?

  65. BBD says:

    Perhaps comparing VV to Judith is a false equivalence?

  66. Brandon Gates says:

    Joshua,

    So as a matter of personal focus, I try to look for a consistent display of quality reasoning, as a basis for assessing probabilities related to scientific arguments I can’t assess on a technical basis.

    My process in a nutshell as well. Problem is that people who are totally wrong can be completely logical. Worse; everyone is wrong about something. So, quite often, more than I’d like, I use the heuristic of “most experts agree that X is true”. Obviously I don’t use that construction in an argument much. But the awful truth is that it does inform the vast majority of my opinions about things.

  67. Brandon Gates says:

    BBD, well, at least anatomically …

  68. Joshua,

    Judith is a fucking scientist, for God’s sake.

    Sure, but it seemed to take a year for Judith to work out the 50% attribution issue. She seems to be happy to accept that Salby’s work might have merit when I think it is trivially wrong and very obviously so (the Salby ratio graphs are fairly easy to see as flawed). Judith doesn’t seem to be able/willing to explain her oceans cycles ideas. I’ve no idea why, but Judith does seem to accept ideas as possible, when I think many others would regard them as physically implausible,

  69. Should I just take your word for it?

    No, I was not trying to convince you. I was just observing that if even you are not able to see the difference between Curry and Anders, that is a big, big problem. Seems to make it impossible to find a solution for the political conflict in the USA using scientific evidence.

  70. BBD says:

    Brandon G I’m trying for a bit of gravitas here and you are making me snigger, which is spoiling the effect.

  71. Should I take your word for it because your views are in line with the most prevalent views among experts?

    At least for myself, if I have no or little expertise, I do normally orient myself using scientific consensus when it comes to more scientific topic or when it comes to politics I orient myself based on people who seem to have a similar ideology and have shown in the past to have good insight.

    (To come back to an older discussion: people who claim to make pragmatic decision are just not aware of their ideology. A good analogy, we discussed on a previous threat: observations make no sense without models, but some people are unfortunately not aware of the models (ideology) they have in their head.)

  72. Brandon Gates says:

    BBD, I’ve got a case of the giggles now as well. I have Serious Business to share with Victor, so for the moment, I’ll be good.

  73. Joshua says:

    BBD –

    I think I’m approaching a point in our discussion that dissuades me from further engagement, FWIW.

    I’m not sure where to go with this. You seem to be heading in a particular direction with this exchange that doesn’t seem to me to leave much room for discussion (IOW, your 7:03 which lays down the “laws of reality” for me)..

    Anyway, I’ll give it one more shot. If you think my opinion is just flat out ridiculous or just the product of someone with a limited reasoning ability – just move on and spend your time engaging with someone else who better deserves your attention..

    I think that there is solid empirical evidence that speaks to how identity-related biases are associated with how people develop “trust” in “experts.”

    I, personally, tend to think that the “consensus” on climate science helps to frame the probabilities related to the impact of ACO2 emissions. I think I understand why other people develop a different perspective on what “expertise” can and can’t be trusted w/r/t climate change. I look broadly, at the association between ideology and views on climate change and I see something that is not well explained by “science denial.” I see a similar pattern play out as how people define “expert” opinion on other issues – such as the economic impact of taxes (when as near as I can tell, the empirical evidence is fairly ambiguous in some significant ways). I see parallels in the political associations related to how people develop trust in “expertise” in climate science and how they develop trust in “expertise” on a whole host of other issues. So when I see someone explaining “skepticism” about climate change as “science denial,” I see someone who, as near as I can tell, is allowing their identity-orientation to influence their reasoning process. I see someone who isn’t addressing the empirical evidence that is out there relative to how people, in general, define expertise and how identity-related biases influence how people reason in polarized contexts.

    That said, again, thanks for the challenges. You’ve given me some things to think about.

  74. Brandon Gates says:

    Victor,

    Born and raised in the USA, it has been — and still is — a problem for me. For me personally I cite my religious upbringing, as many internal and external observers do of Americans generally. The thing I’ve noticed since formally renouncing my faith (~15 years ago) now that I know where to look is that the thought patterns I learned in my youth show up even among non-religious Americans, including those I know to have been raised by completely secular parents. I don’t like to bash religion — no, that’s not right, I try not to — but I believe it’s a real effect. And I note somewhat with envy that Europeans don’t have the same malaise in general.

    Short story long; what may be immediately apparent to you and Anders about Curry et al. even without your formal educations as a benefit might not be so obvious to many of us across the pond.

  75. Joshua says:

    ==> “I was just observing that if even you are not able to see the difference between Curry and Anders, that is a big, big problem. ”

    Ah. But I do see a big difference there. I don’t see Anders displaying such broadly obvious fundamental flaws in his reasoning as what I see with Judith. In Judith, I see someone who is much more obviously allowing identity-related biases to influence her reasoning. But I don’t make that evaluation so much on their technical arguments. I make that broadly on their approach to how they discuss the non-technical aspects.

    That doesn’t mean that I don’t think that Anders isn’t intrinsically influenced by identity-related biases, just that, IMO, he does a better job of controlling for them.

    It also doesn’t mean that I can go from looking at those two individuals to assuming disproportionality in how identity-related biases affect reasoning more broadly on the two sides of the climate change divide, respectively. I think that the evidence points to proportionality.

  76. I should probably add, that despite my last comment, Judith has an impressive scientific record, so I do find it hard to believe that she get could get such a record of she wasn’t, fundamentally, a good/solid scientist. I’m just constantly amazed by what Judith seems willing to accept or, at least, consider.

  77. Joshua says:

    Brandon G –

    ==> ” Problem is that people who are totally wrong can be completely logical. Worse; everyone is wrong about something. So, quite often, more than I’d like, I use the heuristic of “most experts agree that X is true”. Obviously I don’t use that construction in an argument much. But the awful truth is that it does inform the vast majority of my opinions about things.”

    Sure. I try to do the same. But I am aware that the assessment of “most expert” belief subjectively influenced. I like to think that I am immune from such biases – but I know from my real world interactions with people that I am certainly affected by influences such as confirmation bias. So I try to think of it as a matter of probabillities. But then what do I do when someone who I think is in line with the “probable” weight of scientific evidence making an argument that I think is fundamentally flawed – such as that “science denial” explains climate “skepticism?”

  78. BBD says:

    Joshua

    Well, I’ve tried – and apparently failed – to explain why it is rational for non-experts to trust the scientific consensus and irrational for them to reject it. I don’t think that it is *necessary* to invoke identity-orientation at this level as you do. We can agree to differ, as we usually do at this point.

  79. Joshua says:

    Anders – FYI – I gotta comment in moderation:

    ==> “Sure, but it seemed to take a year for Judith to work out the 50% attribution issue. She seems to be happy to accept that Salby’s work might have merit when I think it is trivially wrong and very obviously so (the Salby ratio graphs are fairly easy to see as flawed). Judith doesn’t seem to be able/willing to explain her oceans cycles ideas. I’ve no idea why, but Judith does seem to accept ideas as possible, when I think many others would regard them as physically implausible,”

    Don’t overestimate my technical abilities. I can’t really even evaluate those issues on their own merits. The best I can do is kind of guess. Yeah, the Salby stuff seems to me to be fairly straight forward – but I can’t really knowingly dismiss him as a “crank.” I can see the association between greater ACO2 emissions and greater atmospheric concentration of CO2 and scratch my head, and I can guess that he’s a “crank,” all that much more because he seems to have been involved in some sketchy activities and because he seems to be pretty sketchy about showing his work. But I can’t know that his “warmer climate explains rise in ACO2” argument is scientifically invalid.

    Then, when I see Judith pronounce Salby’s work as “interesting,” and condescendingly dismiss what you wrote about Salby but not make an actual argument in opposition, and say multiple times that she’s going to address the scientific merits of his work, and despite being asked about it numerous times still not come up with any scientific argument….well….it’s information. But it isn’t information, IMO, that she’s a “science denier.” When I see that as an explanation, I see the kind of argument that I find in the threads over at her site being made by “skeptics.”

  80. ==> “I was just observing that if even you are not able to see the difference between Curry and Anders, that is a big, big problem.”

    I should maybe have written: I was just observing that if even you are not able to see the difference between sciency sounds nonsense and science, that is a big, big problem. Seems to make it impossible to find a solution for the political conflict in the USA using scientific evidence.

    You seem to suggest that while you cannot do this on the level of an individual argument, you are still able to do this for a complete oeuvre. Maybe that is a bit of a way out. I must admit that I also never expect people to change their minds 180° by just one blog post, but it would be soothing if people can at least change their mind based on evidence on the long term.

  81. Joshua,

    But it isn’t information, IMO, that she’s a “science denier.”

    Sure, and I certainly wasn’t suggesting that she was. I was really just pointing out examples of things that I think should be obvious to someone with a science background that appear not to be to Judith. Of course, as you might argue, that it seems obvious to me, doesn’t make me right (although, with regard to Salby, I really don’t think I’m wrong 🙂 ).

  82. Joshua, maybe I should add that I do not really understand how you can make an assessment of the credibility of a person when you are unable to assess the technical arguments. That part of your 7:41 pm comment was unclear to me. It might be important; more people cannot follow the technical arguments.

  83. Joshua says:

    VV –

    ==> “I should maybe have written: I was just observing that if even you are not able to see the difference between sciency sounds nonsense and science, that is a big, big problem. Seems to make it impossible to find a solution for the political conflict in the USA using scientific evidence.”

    I think it probably is. The politics overwhelms the science, IMO.

    ==> “You seem to suggest that while you cannot do this on the level of an individual argument, you are still able to do this for a complete oeuvre. Maybe that is a bit of a way out.”

    I kind of doubt it is a way out Successful or not (more often not), I kind of get a kick out of trying to target controlling for my own biases – as a challenge to myself. I don’t think that’s a very common orientation. I think that any political resolution will be one that targets the politics effectively, which IMO probably means not an approach that further entrenches the camps on either side of the battle lines.

    Magic 8-ball says “Outlook not good.” I don’t see much of any way out until the climate dynamics make a much, much more unambiguous signal – which as much as I do understand the science seems not likely in the near term.

    ==> ” I must admit that I also never expect people to change their minds 180° by just one blog post, but it would be soothing if people can at least change their mind based on evidence on the long term.”

    Making this into a zero sum gain scenario is another tendency, one that is likely counterproductive, IMO

  84. Joseph says:

    The existence of a prevalence of expertise helps to inform me of probabilities. But I think it would be a mistake for me to reject “expert” opinion flat out as being “pseudo-science” only on the basis of it being a minority opinion.

    But in fact you have rejected the general skeptic view to some extent, right? And I am willing to bet the consensus was a factor in rejecting the view. We all have to make decisions and we have to use the best available evidence. And I think a consensus around a scientific issue should be and is an important input especially when used for informing policy.

  85. Joshua says:

    VV –

    As to your 8:11. I see Anders as paying explicit due diligence to uncertainty when he is engaged in non-technical arguments (also, actually, when discussing more technical matters also, such as when he says something like “Well, that’s the way I understand it, although I could be wrong”). Judith, on the other hand, makes overly-certain arguments related to non-technical issues without addressing uncertainties in any explicit manner, IMO. So I see Anders reflecting a healthy skepticism in the sense that dikran described above. Judith, not so much.

    But I don’t think that I’m a particularly instructive example for the larger dynamics in play. By being here, I am an outlier.

    So here’s my two cents, worth exactly what you’re paying for it: More generally, if people can’t follow the technical arguments then making technical arguments won’t be persuasive, IMO. Saying that someone is a “science denier” is, at it’s root, a technical argument. How can I assess who is a “psuedo-scientist” if I can’t evaluate the science?

    What may be a successful strategy, IMO, would be to diffuse the identity-protective influences. So to compound problem of “denier”-messaging by trying to use “information” to combat a problem that isn’t caused by a lack of information, (while I’m dubious that using a term like “deniers” creates or exacerbates identity-related influences), I think that “denier”-meassaging is a very inadequate strategy from a political angle as well.

  86. Joshua says:

    Joseph –

    Last comment for a while. I have neglected important stuff this whole afternoon and I need to stop ;hogging the dance floor…

    ==> “And I think a consensus around a scientific issue should be and is an important input especially when used for informing policy.”

    I agree. I don’t think that anything I’ve said is contradictory to that. Yes, I think that assessing “expertise” is a useful heuristic. Everyone relies on it to some degree (even though some “skeptics” like to claim that they don’t rely on “expertise” – that’s why god invented scare quotes to go around the word skeptic). It is also a flawed heuristic. One, it isn’t dispositive (even a consensus that is based on the available scientific evidence can be invalidated over time) and second, determining “expertise” – at a societal level – is inherently subjective. It just is. We can see that on so many issues. People tend to trust “expertise” in association with their identities. You can’t control for that subjectivity if you don’t acknowledge it as a fundamental influence.

  87. Michael 2 says:

    Steven Mosher at (April 30, 2015 at 3:30 pm)

    2. Methodological: skeptic
    b) I think it does, let me try to prove that it doesnt
    c) I think it doesnt, let me try to prove that it does.

    This closely resembles the problem of inductive logic. One makes an observation and then attempts to discover or determine how it came to be.

    It is easy to guess at a possible causation. It is very difficult to prove that it was indeed that causation and not something else. Induction seems to require to challenge the assumption, and the more alternative theories that are tested and found inadquate the more correct will be the last theory standing; but induction is never proof as I understand it; although it can achieve similar stature to proof (human evolution for instance).

    When many causes are simultaneously existing, demonstrating the actual effect of just one of the causes is all of the above but multiplied in difficulty and uncertainty.

    A skeptic will be exceptionally variable in whether he starts with belief and seeks disproof; or whether he starts NOT believing and requires proof. What is remarkable is the number of people that accept the whole story with scarcely any desire to challenge the theory; no skepticism whatever. You could tell them anything.

  88. izen says:

    @-ATTP
    ” I’ve had a number of discussions with “skeptics” in which they suddenly bring up a cost, or something policy related, in a discussion that I would regard as about science specifically. That would seem to be a form of motivated reasoning – ”

    Or a difference in how each side parse the issue. The distinction between specifically science and policy/cost may not be as clear, or regarded as inherently separable by some.

    @-“If anything, many who accept mainstream climate science seem to accept that addressing it will be difficult and costly. So, I’m struggling to think of some explicit motivation for those who accept mainstream climate science.”

    Well according to one section of vocal opinion on the skeptic/denial ‘side’ it is that those accepting mainstream climate science do so because they WANT expensive big government, international regulation and increased central control of private enterprise and see the ‘threat’ of AGW as difficult, costly and global enough to justify this.

    Or those that accept are unwitting victims of group-think, keen to declare their membership of their identity group.

    Such claims are false equivalence as any rational person can tell….

  89. Steven Mosher says:

    izen

    “For some engaged with this issue even with high scientific probabilities and the Pope recently pushing the idea that it is 97% certain we are cooking ourselves, the risk that it is a political-ideological ruse to destroy the basis of a free society still negates any degree of institutional authority.

    That fear of the science used as an ideological tool against their interests, or core beliefs, is not usually shared with an insight into the theory and practise of science.
    But for the majority who are expected to ‘take it on trust’ because trusting the mainstream is rational….?”

    Huh? I think you are missing the point to say something else.

  90. Steven Mosher says:

    Thanks Joshua.. I think we agree.err

  91. jsam says:

    It’s a bloody good video.

  92. Steven,
    Was that difficult to say? 🙂

  93. Joseph says:

    One, it isn’t dispositive (even a consensus that is based on the available scientific evidence can be invalidated over time) and second, determining “expertise” – at a societal level – is inherently subjective. It just is.

    So you are saying the consensus theory of general relativity or evolution isn’t dispositive and therefore shouldn’t be used when making decisions? Should we expect policy makers to ignore scientific consensus when making policy? That is should they consider every view equally. People shouldn’t form their own opinion because nothing is certain?

  94. BBD says:

    Joseph

    I agree. Subjective judgements can be more or less useful depending on the criteria used to reach them. They are not all equal. This is the old, postmodernist fallacy.

  95. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    Missed this earlier from you:

    ==> “-“If anything, many who accept mainstream climate science seem to accept that addressing it will be difficult and costly. So, I’m struggling to think of some explicit motivation for those who accept mainstream climate science.””

    It can be a misconception to think of “motivated reasoning” in terms of what motivates people. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that people on both sides are motivated by the same goal of bettering the standard of living for as many people as possible – but they differ in their views about which policies will best advance that agenda. People on either side, then, might display “motivated reasoning” w/r/t how they interpret related evidence. “Motivated” is modifying (biasing) reasoning, not the person or their goals.

  96. BBD says:

    It can be a misconception to think of “motivated reasoning” in terms of what motivates people.

    Well that’s a relief.

  97. Joshua says:

    Joseph –

    ==> “So you are saying the consensus theory of general relativity or evolution isn’t dispositive and therefore shouldn’t be used when making decisions?”

    What decisions to be made on the basis of general relativity or evolution are you thinking of?

    I’m not saying that probabilities shouldn’t be evaluated. It seems entirely reasonable to me to evaluate the strength of expert consensus as information to use when making decisions. But it is nonetheless important to recognize the empirical evidence about the influences on how people develop their level of trust in expertise. And I think it is important to realize that the existence of a consensus isn’t dispositive.

    ==> “Should we expect policy makers to ignore scientific consensus when making policy?”

    No. I think I’ve been clear that I’m not making that argument.

    ==> ” That is should they consider every view equally.”

    Nor that.

    ==> “People shouldn’t form their own opinion because nothing is certain?”

    Nor that.

  98. Joshua says:

    ==> “Well that’s a relief.”

    ???

  99. BBD says:

    Joshua

    Let’s assume for the sake of argument that people on both sides are motivated by the same goal of bettering the standard of living for as many people as possible

    That’s quite an assumption.

    People on either side, then, might display “motivated reasoning” w/r/t how they interpret related evidence.

    They might well do so, but this does not make contrarian arguments as valid as those derived from the available evidence.

    “Motivated” is modifying (biasing) reasoning, not the person or their goals.

    Nice gotcha, but some arguments are weak and some are strong irrespective of who makes them or why.

    And then there’s the available evidence.

  100. BBD says:

    Joshua

    ==> “Well that’s a relief.”

    ???

    If you can’t see the ridiculous element in this, then, well…

    It can be a misconception to think of “motivated reasoning” in terms of what motivates people.

  101. Joshua says:

    ==> “If you can’t see the ridiculous element in this, then, well…”

    Yeah. “Skeptics” don’t go along with that either. Mosher doesn’t go along with it either. But I don’t think it’s ridiculous in the least. The “motivated” in “motivated reasoning” is unfortunate terminology because people assume it is a judgement of someone’s motivations, when it isn’t.

    I still don’t understand the ““Well that’s a relief.”” Does it mean that you’re sarcastically expressing “relief” that I am not judging your (or others’) motivations (to ridicule me for thinking I’d be in a position for doing so in the first place)?

  102. Joshua says:

    ==> “That’s quite an assumption.”

    I think that it’s problematic to reverse engineer from someone’s position on climate change or other associated issues to judge their motivations. I’ve met many people who I disagree with strongly on policies but whose basic goals and values I share. I’ve also met many people who wrongly think that they can reverse engineer from my positions on issues to judge my goals and values.

    ==> “They might well do so, but this does not make contrarian arguments as valid as those derived from the available evidence.”

    I agree, and I haven’t argued otherwise.

  103. Kevin ONeill says:

    When it comes to the thinking of pseudosceptics, I’ve found no better explanation than the work of Canadian Robert Altemeyer describing people he calls Right Wing Authoritarians. In his book The Authoritarians he writes (my bold):

    “…why [do] authoritarian followers think in the bizarre and perplexing way they so often do. The key to the puzzle springs from Chapter 2’s observation that, first and foremost, followers have mainly copied the beliefs of the authorities in their lives. They have not developed and thought through their ideas as much as most people have. Thus almost anything can be found in their heads if their authorities put it there, even stuff that contradicts other stuff. A filing cabinet or a computer can store quite inconsistent notions and never lose a minute of sleep over their contradiction. Similarly a high RWA can have all sorts of illogical, self-contradictory, and widely refuted ideas rattling around in various boxes in his brain, and never notice it.

    So can everybody, of course, and my wife loves to catch inconsistencies in my reasoning when we’re having a friendly discussion about one of my personal failures. But research reveals that authoritarian followers drive through life under the influence of impaired thinking a lot more than most people do, exhibiting sloppy reasoning, highly compartmentalized beliefs, double standards, hypocrisy, self-blindness, a profound ethnocentrism, and–to top it all off–a ferocious dogmatism that makes it unlikely anyone could ever change their minds with evidence or logic. These seven deadly shortfalls of authoritarian thinking eminently qualify them to follow a wouldbe dictator. As Hitler is reported to have said,“What good fortune for those in power that people do not think.”

    This is what I see among the commenters at Steve Goddard’s, or WUWT, or Bishop Hill’s. They are followers simply looking at their leaders for a cue whether to accept or reject an idea.

  104. MIchael Hauber says:

    Joshua,

    I think an important factor to consider when we go beyond our personal ability to discern technical right from technical wrong is any track record of prediction. In particular the ‘scientific consensus’ has predicted global warming since the late 70s (this is when I personally think something that the genuine scientific debate ended and consensus emerged). This warming has occurred, and in the ballpark of what was predicted. The strongest case that I’ve seen made against the quality of the predictions is Hansen’s 88 prediction which was maybe 50% or so to high. In contrast opponents have generally either not made any useful predictions, or have made failed predictions of cooling. So when I get to a paper like Spencer’s effort a few years back to find a very low sensitivity, I admit that I cannot fully understand the technical issues, and base my opinion on the fact that credible scientists who support a consensus that has a useful (but not perfect) track record in predicting climate change think that the paper is seriously flawed.

    Skeptical Science have an excellent series of articles on the topic of past predictions.

    http://skepticalscience.com/comparing-global-temperature-predictions.html

  105. Phillip says:

    I see constantly repeated the idea that non-scientists should accept the consensus – but as my background is statistics and most of the models are based on statistics I feel that I can make my own assessment of the evidence.

  106. T-rev says:

    I am going with Bertard Russell’s thinking on this

    “It would appear to be unwise, then, to critique a person’s position by simply saying that they’re relying upon poor grounds”

    ” In other cases, though, this accusation would be more likely to cause a person to grow defensive and even wonder about you a bit.”

    Science can’t refute deniers because denial isn’t skepticism. You’re not dealing with skepticism. Most of those claiming to be sceptics can’t be… because you need to have expertise in the field to be sceptical. To be sceptical you’d need to postulate and alternate theory showing why the mainstream are wrong…. Those Economists etal claiming the skeptical title and latching onto a few outliers eg Curry etal are simply showing they have no interest in the science and have other motivations. As someone with a App. Sci. degree but no expertise in the field, I just go with what the vast majority and the numbers tell me. That is: 15 years to stop emitting to have some chance of staying under 2C
    http://kevinanderson.info/blog/full-global-decarbonisation-of-energy-by-2034-and-probably-before/

    Deniers are “intelligent” enough to think they know more than experts, after all experts once told them one thing and now told them another (in their mind at least). Professor Dunning explains them away as “confident idiots”
    http://www.psmag.com/navigation/health-and-behavior/confident-idiots-92793/
    albeit we’re all guilty of that, knowing more than the doctor etc

    Feynman, Sagan, Asimov etal all mentioned the serious issue in the lack of Science understanding with the general popolus.

    “We’ve arranged a global civilization in which most crucial elements profoundly depend on science and technology. We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster. We might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces.”
    ― Carl Sagan

    I think Sagan was particularly prescient in this respect .. The lack of understanding and distrust of Science is leading us towards a disaster.

    More science simply reinforces to deniers that they’re right and science is wrong
    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/antivaccination-parents-dig-in-heels-even-after-receiving-medical-info/

    Emit less, set an example for friends, family and peers and only vote for politicians with effective mitigation policies Until the minority who understand and accept the science of climate change and the need for mitigation start acting in accordance with that information, we won’t get off this merry go round.

  107. Steven Mosher says:

    “Steven,
    Was that difficult to say?”

    ha, no. Actually, I agree with Joshua with regards to motivated reasoning, I expect that will come to a shock to him, just because I argue with his position doesnt mean I disagree.
    The difference I would expect is that I see nothing inherently irrational about motivated reasoning. But then we’ve never discussed that so maybe that is not a difference.

  108. The problem is that the pseudo-skeptics are just so darn NASTY.

    From Lubos Motl’s latest blog post:


    Needless to say, my training in geophysics ended somewhere at the basic school – in the college, geophysicists were known as the least smart physicists, on par with the meteorologists.

    What a slam, on par with the famous Richard Lindzen slam against his colleagues.

    Yes, we all know that Lubos Motl is smart. Of course he is — to be able to maintain a discussion on string theory is well beyond my capabilities. But why he has to disparage an entire field is also beyond my understanding. This is a deep-seated resentment that we are seeing among the skeptics. Even if they are smart enough to work the problem, they have such a big bug up their butt that instead their arguments become totally counter-productive (see also Cliive Best, another smart particle physicist turned into a “skeptic”).

  109. Joshua says:

    ==> “But then we’ve never discussed that so maybe that is not a difference.”

    It isn’t.

  110. Lars Karlsson says:

    A central part in the “climate skeptic” line of argumentation is that many climate scientists are themselves driven by an ideological (leftie/green/commie/fascist) agenda, and/or are complying with such an agenda in order to advance their careers. And these scientists allegedly engage in dodgy scientific practices (manipulating data and other forms of dishonesty, gate keeping at journals, McCarthyism etc). A recent example of this form of argumentation is the GWPF so-called “review” of the temperature record (a “review” which appears to more about insinuating than investigating), and there are plenty of other examples.

    By arguing in that way, “climate skeptics” can disregard or dismiss any consensus.

  111. Philip,

    but as my background is statistics and most of the models are based on statistics I feel that I can make my own assessment of the evidence.

    What do you mean “most of the models are based on statistics”. I’m sure you’r capable of doing you own assessment of the evidence, but I’ve encountered a good number of skilled statisticians who seem to misunderstand some fundamental aspect of the evidence when doing their assessment. The underlying physics is important.

  112. matt says:

    > Conservative Ideology in Canada is ‘no subsidies’. When they talk about getting oil to our coasts, I point out that tankers are essentially uninsured, we’ll have to pay out of pocket if there is an accident.

    Tankers dont need insurance. It’s very unusual for the front to fall off.

  113. matt says:

    Oops. Ignore last video.

  114. Andrew Dodds says:

    @Kevin

    There is always George Orwell’s 1984..

    Doublethink

    The power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them… To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just as long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies – all this is indispensably necessary. Even in using the word doublethink it is necessary to exercise doublethink. For by using the word one admits that one is tampering with reality; by a fresh act of doublethink one erases this knowledge; and so on indefinitely, with the lie always one leap ahead of the truth.

    CrimeStop

    Crimestop means the faculty of stopping short, as though by instinct, at the threshold of any dangerous thought. It includes the power of not grasping analogies, of failing to perceive logical errors, of misunderstanding the simplest arguments if they are inimical to Ingsoc, and of being bored or repelled by any train of thought which is capable of leading in a heretical direction. Crimestop, in short, means protective stupidity.

  115. ATTP, I read this quote of yours at Judy’s and decided to drop in to respond.

    “The pressures to conform to the consensus are enormous.”

    And your comment

    “Do you ever consider that this is kind of how science is meant to work. Okay, to be clear, I’m not suggesting that conforming is how it is meant to work, but that if you’re going to hold a contrary position, it’s meant to be difficult and challenging to get your work considered. In a sense, the consensus position is the position that is supported by most of the evidence. If you want to illustrate that this position is incorrect/flawed/wrong then the onus is on you to provide the convincing evidence for that alternative, and it’s not meant to be easy.”

    This reminded me of the position taken by CI Pig when I mentioned I had serious doubts about Dark Matter, and felt we needed a better alternative, which he expressed in his “Videogame” post. I like Pig, so I decided to write one of my tongue in cheek responses which I called “Dark Matter”. If you read it you’ll see where I’m coming from when I express doubts about this particular “consensus” solution.

    I’d like to add one issue which makes me distrust a lot of the work I’m seeing is the absence of information on the model performance at medium scale versus actual data. I’m used to reviewing model results and I have been known to request a ton of movies which displayed differences between the model grid and a data reanalysis grid. As you probably know I’m an outsider, my main emphasis is on the insane use of the RCP8.5 and related engineering issues, but the techniques we use are time proven, highly effective, and I don’t see the climate expert community showing these types of analysis. And as long as you fail to do so, I’m afraid I must remain a skeptic regarding the extreme danger or the higher TCR ranges.

    One last comment: I saw the video, it’s Groundhog Day missing the final 15 minutes. I’m not about to change my mind watching Oreskes et Cook do their thing. And your audience doesn’t really count, they are already convinced we are all about to die, or whatever.

  116. Andrew Dodds says:

    @Phillip

    Actually, there is a choice..

    Either accept the consensus, because in most situations, especially in science, consensus views will be at least a reasonable reflection of reality.

    Or do a large amount of research to make sure that you understand what the consensus is and why it is the consensus, and if you have a critique of it then develop that critique based on the evidence. This is fine. There is plenty of space in climatology for improvements, it’s not like it’s some monolithic carved-in-stone block.

    But what you can’t do is just read a couple of web pages and from these decide that a whole scientific field is inherently biased. Hopefully that should be obvious.

  117. Fernando,

    As you probably know I’m an outsider, my main emphasis is on the insane use of the RCP8.5

    Yes, but you do realise that this is only modelled to show what would happen if we choose to follow such a high emission pathway? It’s as if you think we shouldn’t be allowed to consider extreme scenarios, which seems odd to me. We can suggest that we shouldn’t follow this pathway, even if it is unlikely that we can actually do so.

    I’d like to add one issue which makes me distrust a lot of the work I’m seeing is the absence of information on the model performance at medium scale versus actual data.

    I suspect that this is a variant of the “why can’t climate science be more like engineering”, the answer to which is “because it’s not engineering!”.

    And your audience doesn’t really count, they are already convinced we are all about to die

    When you say stupid things like this it makes me lose any interest in what you say. It’s just silly. If you want to appear credible, it would be worth actually properly representing what others say, rather than just making things up. Just a thought mind you; I have no real interest in whether you want to sound silly or not.

  118. verytallguy says:

    Fernando

    …my main emphasis is on the insane use of the RCP8.5…

    Do you consider RCP6.0 to be sane?

    That gives an end of century rise above pre-industrial of 2.1 to 5.8 degC.

    Ref AR5 WG3 table SPM1

  119. vtg,
    Actually, I think that Fernando’s point is that it’s insane to consider RCP8.5 because we can never follow such a pathway. I think we’ve had such discussions here before with others who seem to think that we shouldn’t consider extremes. I don’t follow that argument.

  120. verytallguy says:

    ATTP,

    I’m obviously not being clear, apologies.

    I understood Fernando’s point exactly as you did.

    My point was that other, less extreme scenarios (RCP6 actually requires substantial mitigation) equally produce very significant impacts, so whinging about the extremity of RCP8.5 is a diversion.

    Indeed, impact of the the upper bound of RCP6.0, 5.8 degrees, could be reasonably described as “catastrophic”.

  121. vtg,
    I kind of guessed you had, but thought I would highlight what Fernando’s argument seemed to be again, since it seems particularly unhelpful, IMO. Something being ridiculous because it’s probably impossible, is really not a reason for not showing what might happen if we were stupid enough to actually try.

  122. izen says:

    I must admit to some disappointment with the attitudes expressed in this thread. There is a smug arrogance and assumption that “we” are in the right, a unreflective projection of forms of epistemological error onto others without any apparent insight that the same clique can be applied to our own point of view.

    Perhaps examples from other fields may help explain what I mean.
    Denial masquerading as skepticism is not a unique feature of the climate debate.

    Anyone who has spent time debating with Young Earth Creationists will have found that the assertion that it is rational to accept scientific deductions because they are rational deductions is open to refutation. Philosophical justifications for the authority of science or the superiority of rational methods over other forms of understanding are ossicle, but very much more difficult than understanding the radiative transfer equations or genetic transcription. You will be told in no uncertain terms that you are invoking an ideology of philosophical naturalism, an a priori assumption that intentionally excludes whole areas of human knowledge and derived meaning as useless on the basis of dubious philosophical arguments.

    At present there is a significant change happening in the field of nutrition and health. For several decades as the food industry has expanded sugar production and is now able to deliver 100gm per day to the population, 25% of the daily calorie requirement, the industry has managed to distort the science to the extent that national health advice, and the WHO recommendations have been that the high level of sugar intake is perfectly healthy. Despite abundant evidence to the contrary. Finally with an obesity and diabetes epidemic sweeping the developed nations the WHO has finally, and somewhat grudgingly in the face of opposition recommended that sugar should be less than 5% of the total daily calorie intake.

    Following the mainstream science on health and nutrition over the last few decades would have been accepting a body of knowledge that REALY was distorted by special interests and motivated reasoning. The climate discussions where people claim that rejecting the mainstream consensus view is anti-science looks dubious when in the field of nutrition and health the mainstream consensus view has long been the product of distorted group-think.

    That ‘skeptics’ are engaged in science denial is trivially true. But it is NOT how skeptics parse the issue. Their anti-science is a positive adherence to a different set of criteria for judging the value, worth and utility of the types of knowledge and meaning that emerge from different human enterprises.

    It is slightly depressing to see the climate ‘rationalist’ side exhibit the same myopia about the philosophical position of their opponents as their opponents show, with the common trope of projecting subservience to group-think onto each other while blind to the beam I their own eyes.

  123. verytallguy says:

    I don’t personally have a great understanding of the RCPs.

    The Met office describes RCP8.5 as “BAU”

    The SKS guide quotes various sources which seem to imply it’s a high end scenario, but nothing challenging its credibility per se. http://www.skepticalscience.com/rcp.php?t=1

    I’ve seen papers by Rutledge promoted which argue that coal resources are insufficient, but others seem to have an entirely different view.

    I find no compelling evidence that RCP8.5 is “insane”. Perhaps Fernando will provide some.

  124. I don’t have a problem if you wish to tab RCP8.5 as an extreme outlier. That’s the intent for its creation. My objection is simply the use of RCP8.5 as the basis for a huge amount of follow up work. I searched the IPCC report and was unable to find its designation as “business as usual”. The term emerged in speeches, publicity, and articles. But it became the accepted basis for the bulk of everything that’s written and said in these days. And this incorporates an enormous weakness in your arguments.

    I engage in discussions with “experts” who claim we have an endless fossil fuel supply, but that’s not the case. I presume most of you realize we WILL run out of phosphates, lithium, iron, and just about any non renewable resource. So why are gas, oil, and coal supposed to be an exception? Are you going to claim these molecules are generated at the earth’s core and appear by magic in within sedimentary rocks?

    Let me give you a simple tip so you can research this subject on your own. Look at the EIA crude plus condensate long term outlook, and compare it with the RCP8.5 oil production profile.

  125. BBD says:

    Look at the EIA crude plus condensate long term outlook, and compare it with the RCP8.5 oil production profile.

    Look at RCP 6. Your misdirections are boring, Fernando.

  126. Fernando,

    So why are gas, oil, and coal supposed to be an exception? Are you going to claim these molecules are generated at the earth’s core and appear by magic in within sedimentary rocks?

    No, that’s stupid, why would you think that anyone would think that. In fact, I don’t follow you at all. You seem to be presenting a ridiculous characature of other people’s position. You’re welcome to do that, but I’m not going to take you seriously if you do.

    Also, you need to at least show that you understand the subtleties of this situation, because it’s not clear that you do. In a simple sense, our future warming depends on two things; what emission pathway we follow, and the actual value of climate sensitivity. We only have control over one of those, which is the future emission pathway. We’re not going to follow a particular RCP by chance, we will be deciding to do so. Noone is suggesting that RCP8.5 is just one possible random future pathway, it is simply on one extreme of the range of future pathways. The pathway we actually follow will be determined by what we (human beings on the planet) actually decide to do.

    RCP8.5 is very obviously an extreme scenario, so why would you possibly suggest that people think it is somehow the pathway we will likely follow. It is indeed probably unlikely, but it does give us an indication of what might happen if we were to simply burn everything we can. RCP2.6 is probably also unlikely given that we’ve already overshot that significantly. So, we can use RCP2.6 and RCP8.5 to bracket the range of scenarios.

    Let me give you a simple tip so you can research this subject on your own. Look at the EIA crude plus condensate long term outlook, and compare it with the RCP8.5 oil production profile.

    Any chance of a link? You have heard of coal?

  127. BBD says:

    izen

    That ‘skeptics’ are engaged in science denial is trivially true. But it is NOT how skeptics parse the issue. Their anti-science is a positive adherence to a different set of criteria for judging the value, worth and utility of the types of knowledge and meaning that emerge from different human enterprises.

    Then they cannot meaningfully challenge the scientific consensus.

    I find these endless discussions pointless and irritating in equal measure too.

  128. vtg,

    I find no compelling evidence that RCP8.5 is “insane”. Perhaps Fernando will provide some.

    It might be good if he did. I’ve just looked at this and the main difference between RCP6 and RCP8.5 seems to be coal, not oil or gas. So, if Fernando is suggesting that we don’t have enough oil or gas for RCP8.5, then that would seem to suggest that we don’t have enough for RCP4.5 or RCP6 either.

    To be fair, I have often wondered why we aren’t developing alternatives for reasons other than climate change, since fossil fuels are clearly finite (although I don’t know how finite). What I don’t understand is why all of those who seem to make this kind of argument also seem to feel required to attack climate science. Why?

  129. BBD says:

    ATTP

    Any chance of a link? You have heard of coal?

    Same pea and thimble trick as VP – keep narrowing the focus.

    Here’s an RCP / temperature / comparisions viewer we can all play with.

  130. verytallguy says:

    Fernando,

    Firstly, please respond on RCP6.0.

    Secondly,

    [RCP8.5]…became the accepted basis for the bulk of everything that’s written and said in these days

    is just not at all true. 2 degrees threshold seems to be far and away the accepted basis for negotiations, and all credible emissions scenarios break that.

  131. verytallguy says:

    ATTP,

    I have often wondered why we aren’t developing alternatives for reasons other than climate change, since fossil fuels are clearly finite

    Absolutely.

    1) Energy security
    2) Resource conservation
    3) Climate change

    *All* of these are compelling reasons for mitigation, even individually. Collectively they make an unanswerable case for CO2 emissions reductions.

    [and of course (4) the desire for a one world government to impose socialism and poverty on the world resulting in a genocidal utopia. or something.]

  132. vtg,
    I get the impression that some focus a bit too much on (4) and ignore the other 3.

  133. JWhite says:

    My causal observation regarding climate denialists/skeptics is that they will believe almost anything, except that which makes perfect logical sense.

  134. verytallguy says:

    ATTP,

    the thing that gets me is the disconnect between (2) and (3).

    People claim that we haven’t got enough fossil fuels to hit high concentrations anyway, so we don’t need to worry.

    Whereas actually, if we haven’t got the fuel to burn to hit these concentrations, we have a desperate need to find alternative fuel sources and increase efficiency to avoid an energy crunch.

    [and without energy, we’re destined for the stone age, which is why the green taliban (copyright Matt Ridley) want to deny starving Africans coal thereby causing a genocide and enabling eco-paradise. or something]

  135. vtg,
    Yes, likewise, the disconnect between “there isn’t enough to do damage” and “nothing other than fossil fuels is good enough” gets me too. To be fair, I think Fernando is a big nuclear proponent, so I don’t think this describes his position.

  136. verytallguy11 says:

    ATTP,

    I’ve no idea about Fernando’s position on anything other than RCP8.5 – it wasn’t aimed at him personally.

  137. vtg,
    Sorry, I was implying you were. I was just trying to make it clear that I wasn’t.

  138. BBD says:

    If coal is is such desperately short supply, surely we shouldn’t be encouraging African nations to burn the stuff? The enlightened self-interest that is the soul of capitalism requires that we keep it all for ourselves and leave the developing economies to starve in the dark. Perhaps Mr Ridley is confused.

  139. BBD,
    You should also consider the other possibility that coal is not in short supply and that Matt Ridley is still confused.

  140. Joshua says:

    Somewhat related to the Greens are killing Africans line of thinking…

  141. JCH says:

    How much oil and natural gas and coal is there? Oddly, when you want to burn it all, not much. But in my industry, there always seems to be a bit more than they thought. Imagine 40 million slaves cracking rocks in Colorado.

  142. Joshua says:

    Izen –

    Re: your 9;58. I agree.

  143. Okay, I’ve just read Izen’s comment in more detail and also agree. This is a little unfortunate

    It is slightly depressing to see the climate ‘rationalist’ side exhibit the same myopia about the philosophical position of their opponents as their opponents show, with the common trope of projecting subservience to group-think onto each other while blind to the beam I their own eyes.

  144. Phillip said:


    … most of the models are based on statistics I feel that I can make my own assessment of the evidence.

    I can understand how you can deduce that from the research findings. When the results show ensemble forecasts with a random mix of projections, what else can one conclude that there is some sort of probabilistic/statistical foundation behind the behavior?

    I thought the same thing at one point and actually believed that the natural variability within a process such as ENSO was a red noise phenomenom.

    But I have since been disabused of that notion, and now view ENSO as almost trivially derived from a periodic forcing from other known factors. This transforms the problem from a statistics problem to a physics problem.

    I agree completely with ATTP when he says above “The underlying physics is important.”.

    Let’s get with the program and solve this thing!

  145. Michael 2 says:

    BBD says “The enlightened self-interest that is the soul of capitalism requires that we keep it all for ourselves”

    There would be no capitalism if I kept everything I possess.

    Capitalism requires trade; producers and consumers.

    I find myself astonished that it seems necessary to explain this most basic of economic concepts but I am glad to help once in a while.

  146. Per putting minds together and doing the physics, here is the ongoing discussion on solving ENSO:
    http://forum.azimuthproject.org/discussion/comment/14575/#Comment_14575

    This describes my thoughts on how I transitioned from a stats believer to a physics follower over the course of the last few years.

  147. Michael 2 says:

    Izen says (among other things) “That skeptics are engaged in science denial is trivially true.”

    Ringing the bell of orthodoxy just in case anyone mistakes his membership…

    “But it is NOT how skeptics parse the issue.”

    Excellent observation that goes along with a well-thought-out commentary.

    “Their anti-science is a positive adherence to a different set of criteria for judging the value, worth and utility of the types of knowledge and meaning that emerge from different human enterprises.”

    That is true of some or many. Outright deniers exist. Other skeptics, such as myself, do not deny “science” at all, when in fact it is “science”. Nothing here is science; all we have are words, claims and arguments that sometimes point to science; so the more of this pointing you or I do the more persuasive we can be with regard to people that are actually persuadable.

    Guessing at the future is not science. Observing what exists, measuring it, performing experiments, that is science. Therefore it is trivial for me to believe in an analysis of the Vostok ice core, that at various depths you measured various oxygen isotopes. That all comes from a machine and rather a lot of grueling hard work in nasty places.

    That is science.

    Proposing that New York City will be underwater has been done many times; it isn’t under water and it isn’t science. It is rather likely to someday be under water IF the next glaciation doesn’t get here first. That’s speculation; but it may be “well informed speculation”. Still isn’t science.

  148. Joseph: “So you are saying the consensus theory of general relativity or evolution isn’t dispositive and therefore shouldn’t be used when making decisions?

    General relativity is needed in the Global Positioning System (GPS), a large government investment. GPS is used in safety critical applications and war.

    Less directly, evolution is important for designing good policies against multiple resistant microbes. But the real policies are likely based on experiments.

    izen says: “I must admit to some disappointment with the attitudes expressed in this thread. There is a smug arrogance and assumption that “we” are in the right

    One should clearly distinguish between “we are right” and “they are wrong” or more accurately “that argument is wrong” or “that group typically uses arguments that are wrong”.

    When someone claims that half of the global warming in the last century is due to natural variability because half of the variability in Arctic sea ice over a short period is natural, that argument is simply wrong.

    If people make the claim that most of the long term warming is natural and simultaneously claim that a short term trend over a cherry picked period shows that global warming is a hoax (and thus that it cannot be due to natural variability), that is simply inconsistent.

    Saying something positive about climate change or the Arctic is hard.

    Climate sceptics sometimes cry: how can you be so confident about climate change? We are not, but we are confident that you are talking trash and try to sell it as science.

    izen says: “Philosophical justifications for the authority of science or the superiority of rational methods over other forms of understanding are ossicle, but very much more difficult than understanding the radiative transfer equations or genetic transcription.

    As far as I am concerned they do not have to accept the science of climate change. And even if they do there is no obligation to support political action.

    I would be more than happy when mitigation sceptics would stop claiming that climate science is a hoax based on bad arguments and would stop claiming to be the better scientists.

    If they would simply claim that they are not convinced (without adding spin or lies) or that God made the climate stable, there is nothing I could complain about as scientist.

    As citizen I might ask why God did not make the economy stable against introducing renewable energy. As citizen I might state that for me personally referring to God is not a sufficient basis for public policy.

    izen says: “At present there is a significant change happening in the field of nutrition and health. … Finally with an obesity and diabetes epidemic sweeping the developed nations the WHO has finally, and somewhat grudgingly in the face of opposition recommended that sugar should be less than 5% of the total daily calorie intake.

    I follow a paleo diet, little sugar, no grains, much offal and never felt so healthy. I am happy to recommend everyone to try it for a month. However, I am no expert, I would not claim that there is a hoax in nutritional science, I also have no idea whether the official recommendations fit to the science. Does anyone know of a consensus study for the nutritional sciences?

    Nutritional sciences are also not comparable to natural sciences. Bees and fruit eating animals do not suffer from eating too much sugar. Cows eat grass, which is converted to fat by bacteria. Their high-fat diet does not seem to hurt the cows. Lions eat a high protein diet.

    What is the optimal diet is a purely empirical question, not (well) embedded in our theoretical understanding of bio-chemistry. (Similar to studies on new miracle pills.) And the experiments would have to run over multiple generations, but are typically a few weeks. It is a wonder that people dare to give advice with confidence. This may explain why scientists do not say much, while the industry takes care of the “science” communication.

    For the same reason I do not find a large part of the climate impact studies convincing. They are dealing with humans and societies. That is much too complicated for confident statements. Somehow, mitigation sceptics prefer to claim that the CO2 increase is not man made and similar nonsense, rather than simply doubt the impacts or the costs of adaptation and mitigation.

    izen says: “That ‘skeptics’ are engaged in science denial is trivially true. But it is NOT how skeptics parse the issue.

    Thus it is not an “argument”, but I hope we are still allowed to say how we honestly assess the situation.

  149. John Hartz says:

    ATTP: You obviously learned how to open a can of worms at a vey young age. 🙂

  150. JH,
    Yes, maybe. The resonse to this post has surprised me, but I do think it is good to be reminded that this is a complex topic and that it is easy to fall into the kind of traps that we sometimes criticise others for falling into. Being over-confident and too certain, being one – for example.

  151. dikranmarsupial says:

    Science is can-of-worms opening on a professional basis ;o)

  152. John Hartz says:

    dikranmarsupial:

    I’ve always thought of science as akin to peeling an onion of infinitesimal size.

  153. dikranmarsupial says:

    izen wrote “But it is NOT how skeptics parse the issue. Their anti-science is a positive adherence to a different set of criteria for judging the value, worth and utility of the types of knowledge and meaning that emerge from different human enterprises.”

    I’m not sure that is true, I suspect most skeptics view their position and arguments as being classically scientific in nature and based on the same criteria (e.g. the Feynman maxim “If it doesn’t agree with experiment, it’s wrong.” or Popperian ideas of falsifiability). I doubt that many would agree that they are being “anti-science”. And yet there are some who cannot even accept that the rise in CO2 is anthropogenic, even though that doesn’t agree with the observations. Sadly while science may be self-correcting in the long run, this is only true in the long run and as a body of knowledge, not at the level of individuals.

  154. BBD says:

    ATTP

    You agree with this ??

    It is slightly depressing to see the climate ‘rationalist’ side exhibit the same myopia about the philosophical position of their opponents as their opponents show, with the common trope of projecting subservience to group-think onto each other while blind to the beam I their own eyes.

    I find it risible to hear the scientific consensus described as group-think. This is the sort of false equivalence I was pointing to when this all started up earlier. This simply underscores my point that there is in fact no real similarity between an acceptance of the scientific consensus and a rejection of it by the non-expert.

  155. BBD says:

    M2

    Capitalism requires trade; producers and consumers.

    I find myself astonished that it seems necessary to explain this most basic of economic concepts but I am glad to help once in a while.

    Capitalism requires profit, which will be maximised by trading a (supposedly) scarce resource within developed (wealthy) economies.

    Don’t you start patronising me as well. You aren’t in a position to do so.

  156. Brandon Gates says: “Born and raised in the USA, it has been — and still is — a problem for me. For me personally I cite my religious upbringing, as many internal and external observers do of Americans generally. The thing I’ve noticed since formally renouncing my faith (~15 years ago) now that I know where to look is that the thought patterns I learned in my youth show up even among non-religious Americans, including those I know to have been raised by completely secular parents. I don’t like to bash religion — no, that’s not right, I try not to — but I believe it’s a real effect. And I note somewhat with envy that Europeans don’t have the same malaise in general.

    Maybe there is such a correlation in the USA between a thinking pattern and religious orientation, but I would be surprised if that were a law. Many scientists are Christians, in paticular the ones that laid the foundation for modern science.

    And on a global level, I would argue that Christians are an activist force that want to solve the climate problem. America is somehow exceptional.

    Maybe Katherine Hayhoe can say something wise on the situation in the USA. I did not listen yet, but this just came by on twitter.

  157. In the world of climate-ball, deniers are the ones that try to cheat to win. Skeptics are the ones that score the #OwnGoals — they are sincere but cannot help but knocking the ball in to their own net.
    Science will do that to you, as the cumulative evidence will only point in one direction.

  158. Joseph says:

    General relativity is needed in the Global Positioning System (GPS), a large government investment. GPS is used in safety critical applications and war.

    Less directly, evolution is important for designing good policies against multiple resistant microbes. But the real policies are likely based on experiments.

    Victor, I guess what I am trying to say is that we use consensus science all of the time to guide what we do. The most obvious example is in the practice of medicine, but also in technology. I think in a sense the use of consensus in science has been tool for advancing our civilization

  159. Joseph says:

    Victor, I guess what I am trying to say is that we use consensus science all of the time to guide what we do. The most obvious example is in the practice of medicine, but it is also true in the development of technology. And all though not always perfect, I think it has ben useful in advancing our civilization and science itself.

  160. Joshua says:

    VV –

    ==> “If they would simply claim that they are not convinced (without adding spin or lies) or that God made the climate stable, there is nothing I could complain about as scientist.

    As citizen I might ask why God did not make the economy stable against introducing renewable energy. As citizen I might state that for me personally referring to God is not a sufficient basis for public policy.”

    I see some “skeptics” try to (IMO, inaccurately) downplay the prevalence of god’s-will-based arguments to dismiss concern about climate change, but on the other hand, it should be recognized that not all “skeptics” make such arguments.

    ==> “And the experiments would have to run over multiple generations, but are typically a few weeks. It is a wonder that people dare to give advice with confidence. ”

    There are very few RCTs…it’s a problem with the literature.

    ==> “For the same reason I do not find a large part of the climate impact studies convincing. They are dealing with humans and societies. That is much too complicated for confident statements.”

    Yes, over-confidence in their arguments is frequently found. Which I find ironic since a main theme among many “skeptics” is the importance of acknowledging uncertainty.

    ==> “Somehow, mitigation sceptics prefer to claim that the CO2 increase is not man made and similar nonsense,…”

    Again, I think that not all “skeptics” should be painted with the same brush. Not because I’m concerned about some kind of unfairness – but because I think that doing so will not lead to effective strategies for approaching policy-development.

    ==> “…rather than simply doubt the impacts or the costs of adaptation and mitigation.”

    Not only doubt, but to be absolutely certain about the cost/benefit ratio of mitigation (that it’s costly in balance) and to be absolutely certain about the relative benefits of adaptation (even though many of those same “skeptics” would oppose any centralized or federally funded adaptation initiatives).

    ==> “Thus it is not an “argument”, but I hope we are still allowed to say how we honestly assess the situation.”

    Where does that come from? No one here is suggesting that you not be allowed to honestly assess the situation..

  161. Joshua says:

    Joseph –

    ==> “I think in a sense the use of consensus in science has been tool for advancing our civilization”

    I hope that you realize that I don’t disagree with that.

  162. BBD,

    I find it risible to hear the scientific consensus described as group-think. This is the sort of false equivalence I was pointing to when this all started up earlier.

    I think I interpreted it slightly differently to you. Something I see on skeptic blogs are groups all agreeing with each other, patting each other on the back, and making generalistic comments about those that they see on the other side. So, it wasn’t that I think the consensus is groupthink, I think I just saw it as us having to be careful of falling into the same kind of trap that we see on skeptic blogs. To be fair, I think we do see much more disagreement and challenging of ideas on mainstream blogs than on skeptic blogs, but I do think that maybe this post, in particular, has fallen a bit into that trap.

  163. BBD says:

    ATTP

    Well, this thread is a model of harmonious accord… 🙂

  164. BBD,

    Well, this thread is a model of harmonious accord… 🙂

    Actually, that is a point. It’s not as if we are all simply agreeing and patting each other on the back 🙂

  165. Joseph says:

    Sorry about the duplicate there I was getting a blank screen when I posted..

  166. Judith Curry: “The pressures to conform to the consensus are enormous.

    ATTP: “Do you ever consider that this is kind of how science is meant to work. Okay, to be clear, I’m not suggesting that conforming is how it is meant to work, but that if you’re going to hold a contrary position, it’s meant to be difficult and challenging to get your work considered. In a sense, the consensus position is the position that is supported by most of the evidence. If you want to illustrate that this position is incorrect/flawed/wrong then the onus is on you to provide the convincing evidence for that alternative, and it’s not meant to be easy.

    I do not like taking a discussion from one blog to the next. The context gets lost and the rules are different on every blog.

    Just from this quote, I would say: I disagree, which is probably mainly because the initial question of Judith Curry is wrong.

    There are strong pressures within science not to overstate your case. Fortunately. And there are strong pressures to overturn the consensus. That is how you build a reputation. (And that is why scientists become scientists; it is fun.)

    It is perfectly fine for me to say that I expect that Quantum Mechanics is flawed because I find the concept of an observer extremely ugly. I hope to see the day that someone replaced this observer with something like limited information processing or complex systems.

    As long as I do not overstate my case, like the mitigation sceptics tends to do, there is nothing wrong with critiquing the consensus. I would say, it is our job. I think you would agree and only wanted to mention that with much evidence on the side of the consensus, it will normally not be easy to overturn it.

    A bad article on the side of the consensus will simply be ignored. If you do that too often your reputation suffers. An article against the consensus is by definition more interesting, attracts more attention. Thus if it is bad your reputations suffers more. If it is good your reputation also benefits more. The stakes are higher.

    Bjorn Stevens just did so with his article on historical aerosol levels. A possible resolution of the questions his article offers is a lower climate sensitivity. That is a clear challenge of the consensus opinion on the most likely range of the climate sensitivity. But it is not the only resolution and Stevens did not overstate his case, just presented his evidence so that everyone can now study the consequences.

    The problem with Curry is not the consequences of what she writes, which she likes to claim, it is the quality of the “science” of her blog, parts of which can only be called “science” with scare quotes. It is not even bad science. There are strong pressures within science against this quality level. Unfortunately most of the public apparently is unable to notice the bad technical quality, or prefer to pretend not to notice, which would be the more generous interpretation.

  167. Again, I think that not all “skeptics” should be painted with the same brush.

    Naturally. I am writing comments at a friendly environment where I hope people make an effort to try to understand me, not scientific articles.

  168. Paul S says:

    ATTP,

    I’ve just looked at this and the main difference between RCP6 and RCP8.5 seems to be coal, not oil or gas.

    Are you looking at the energy sources at 2100 graph? Figure 13 just above that shows oil consumption through the century in RCP8.5 is much larger than other scenarios. I’ve looked at the latest EIA projections for crude+condensate production, which suggest a 55% increase in million barrels/day at 2040 against 2000.

    For the various scenarios the 2000-2040 change in oil consumption in energy units is (eyeballing, and assuming that million barrels/day can be directly compared to oil primary energy production):

    RCP2.6 : -15%
    RCP4.5 : +15%
    RCP6.0 : +30%
    RCP8.5 : +100%

    So, somewhat higher than RCP6.0 but also somewhat lower than RCP8.5.

  169. On overconfidence, ATTP on Climate Etc. complained about someone being overconfident and got the reply that he was just expressing his opinion.

    Is it possible that people who grew up in an environment where everything is certain or is presented as completely certain, miss the ability to express the confidence with which they hold a certain position? Are we talking past each other?

    Did someone already write the book: Scientists are from Venus, mitigation sceptics are from Mars.

  170. PaulS,

    Are you looking at the energy sources at 2100 graph? Figure 13 just above that shows oil consumption through the century in RCP8.5 is much larger than other scenarios.

    Yes, I probably am. That would explain it, thanks.

    Vicotr,

    Just from this quote, I would say: I disagree, which is probably mainly because the initial question of Judith Curry is wrong.

    There are strong pressures within science not to overstate your case. Fortunately. And there are strong pressures to overturn the consensus. That is how you build a reputation. (And that is why scientists become scientists; it is fun.)

    I’m not sure which bit you disagree with. What I was trying to get at was simply that over-turning a consensus takes effort, it’s not meant to be easy. If you’re having trouble getting your ideas noticed it is much more likely that the evidence is unconvincing than because there is some attempt to protect the consensus from those who would like to overturn it. As you say, there are pressure to overturn it, but it takes more than just a claim that that is what you’re trying to do.

  171. One trouble with consensus is that it typically has a suffix: ‘Consensus Opinion’.

    We could squeeze out the opinion ( which we might agree is not science ) and replace it with ‘postulate’.

    The Consensus Postulate may well be correct, but not because it is a consensus position,
    but rather because it is verifiable and exhibits repeatable, verifying results when tested.

    A larger problem with respect to ‘climate change’ is that the ‘Consensus Position’ is not a single physical process subject to verification, but rather a grab bag of interdependent processes and impacts which get a single consensus test in response to ‘Do you believe in climate change?’

  172. I would be more comfortable with the formulation that overturning the consensus is not easy, than with “it is not meant to be easy. “

  173. dikranmarsupial says:

    I think the thing that is most often overlooked is that the existence of a concensus is not so much evidence that the consensus position is correct, but as useful information for those not able to judge the science for themselves, for whom it is entirely rational to be guided by expert opinion. For that to work, there needs to be evidence of what expert opinion actually says.

    from back in 2004 (http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2004/12/just-what-is-this-consensus-anyway/):

    “We’ve used the term “consensus” here a bit recently (see our earlier post on the subject), without ever really defining what we mean by it. In normal practice, there is no great need to define it – no science depends on it. But it’s useful to record the core that most scientists agree on, for public presentation.”

    The argument all too often seen that the existence of a consensus is not proof that the science is right is essentially a straw man (although as pointed out earlier in the thread a consensus is perhaps unlikely to form unless the science is basically solid as attacking the current paradigm is a favourite activity of scientists).

  174. Victor,
    Okay, I’ll give you that. That was essentially what I was meaning. I was referring to the whole scientific method (i.e., the method requires a large amount of convincing evidence) rather than people are not meant to give you a chance.

  175. Paul S says:

    I’ve looked at the latest EIA projections for crude+condensate production, which suggest a 55% increase in million barrels/day at 2040 against 2000.

    Looking at previous years’ outlooks it seems that the 2014 projection for 2000-2040 oil production increase is about 50% larger than the 2012 projection. Difficult to see how anyone can justify dismissing the RCP8.5 as insane based on what are clearly highly uncertain projections.

  176. BBD says:

    dikranmarsupial

    I think the thing that is most often overlooked is that the existence of a concensus is not so much evidence that the consensus position is correct, but as useful information for those not able to judge the science for themselves, for whom it is entirely rational to be guided by expert opinion.

    Apparently, we are not allowed to say this.

  177. anoilman says:

    Fernando says: “As you probably know I’m an outsider, my main emphasis is on the insane use of the RCP8.5 and related engineering issues,..”

    In what way is RCP 8.5 wrong? Just so you know, reserves represent the ability to extract resources affordably. By definition it is a lower number than the amount of fossil fuels we actually can tap into. We also don’t know precisely how big that number is.

    It is pointless to think we won’t find more ways to get at fossil fuels. We frack shale now. That wasn’t at all possible 10-20 years ago, and it most certainly wasn’t included in RCP 8.5. Lower RCP paths are only mildly less devastating.

    Since you are pro transforming, might I suggest that you should define what you consider acceptable damages, and share it with people? What death rate do you think is OK? What rate of species extinction is acceptable to you? (We know we can’t reverse it when we push a species to the brink. We know that for sure.) What levels of global warming population migration do you think should be normal? (Its going on in North America now.) What level of financial damage should people consider acceptable?

  178. Joseph says:

    for whom it is entirely rational to be guided by expert opinion.

    But I think that consensus is used by science to discard old ideas. Because fundamentally science is about theories and theories don’t disappear as long as there is some conflict about their validity. So we are no longer hear about Phlogiston theory because the consensus became that it didn’t explain combustion processes. So I would say a consensus evolves from the evidence and is not immune from findings that will weaken that consensus.

  179. Eli Rabett says:

    Oh yeah, for a few more letters use IPCC consensus or WG1 IPCC consensus. The IPCC reports ARE consensus statements.

  180. anoilman says:

    On a happy note, a company has developed a wind turbine without moving parts;
    http://cleantechnica.com/2015/05/01/new-whirlwind-attracting-bladeless-micro-wind-turbine-gets-harvard-cred/

    It costs about half as much is would obviously be more reliable which makes for longer write off times, and therefore way way way cheaper.

  181. Susan Anderson says:

    When I first became aware of these wars (and it is war) I was startled and troubled. I kept chasing down links and trying to find out what was going on. Sometimes I hoped that the unskeptical “skeptics” were wrong, as if they were we would all be in much better shape. However, there simply is no “there” there. I learned this the hard way, over years of never getting a good faith response to anything I say from climate deniers (I’ve returned to the D word, being part of the whole, all that dishonest claim about the holocaust, which has nothing to do with the meaning, just another bad faith argument). While I am often uncertain about terminology in fields beyond my own expertise, I do know and can see what I myself have said and written. Once that has been twisted a few hundred times one stops looking for a cause of this distortion other than bad faith.

    We in this kind of community are accustomed to listening, to setting aside our preconceptions, to learning, to caring about others and assume the same kind of good faith in arrguments. But this is not a good faith argument. Sure, there are a vast number of people (I was tempted to say dupes) unequipped with the ability to choose between two things that look the same, but the reason for this is the infrastructure created in the first instance by people like Fred Singer and Marc Morano. Since big tobacco and their decades of successes, they have studied with some intensity the format of the real world of science and mirrored it to perfection. They have oodles of think tanks, blogs with names that sound good, publications that produce unqualified material, and a long list of talking points that sound convincing. People like Andy Revkin are led by the likes of Roger Pielke Jr. He’s eager to find a middle ground, and a really nice person with strong ideas about building community, and doesn’t think there is as much of a choice to be made as is actually the case.

    Peacemakers and community builders are caught in the middle between an uncompromising solid front that lies without conscience and a group of people who are in the habit of questioning to a fine degree. The manipulators are always on the watch for new ways to state their position, so they mine for quotes that can be twisted.

    If you bring up something new, you may be sure it will appear in twisted form as “equal and opposite” within hours.

    Democrats in the US have a similar problem. They try to meet in the middle, and the goalposts get shifted. Now we don’t have a progressive party any more, just a middle and a far right. And the poor conservatives have nowhere to go, the decent careful ones.

  182. Willard says:

    > One trouble with consensus is that it typically has a suffix: ‘Consensus Opinion’.

    “Consensus opinion” gives me 265k hits.
    “Consensus statement” gives me 753k hits.

    More on consensus statements:

    http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consensus

    (No, there’s no English page.)

    Interestingly, the antonym of “consensus” is “dissensus,” not skepticism.

    ***­

    > The Consensus Postulate may well be correct, but not because it is a consensus position, but rather because it is verifiable and exhibits repeatable, verifying results when tested.

    “Postulate” does not mean what you may think it means, Turbulent One:

    A statement, also known as an axiom, which is taken to be true without proof. Postulates are the basic structure from which lemmas and theorems are derived. The whole of Euclidean geometry, for example, is based on five postulates known as Euclid’s postulates.

    http://mathworld.wolfram.com/Postulate.html

  183. Susan Anderson says:

    Consensus is another word that has been studied and distorted. What there is is an abnormally high agreement about the basics extending over a long period of time across disciplines and worldwide. The basic facts are uncontroversial. So by using the word consensus to indicate suppression of dissent, the conspiracy idea is given currency and gains popularity among those who prefer to be persuaded against the difficult realities we all face.

  184. Yep. Emissions are at the high end, but forcing is at the low end:

  185. John Hartz says:

    Susan Anderson:

    Per usual, your comments resonate with me. Thank you.

  186. BBD says:

    Turbulent Eddie

    Let’s have the caption to Hansen’s Fig 5:

    Figure 5. Five-year mean of the growth rate of climate forcing by well-mixed greenhouse gases, an update of figure 4 of Hansen and Sato (2004). Forcing calculations use equations of Hansen et al (2000). The moderate uncertainties in radiative calculations affect the scenarios and actual greenhouse gas results equally and thus do not alter the conclusion that the actual forcing falls below that of the IPCC scenarios.

    And some text:

    Remarkably, and we will argue importantly, the airborne fraction [of CO2] has declined since 2000 (figure 3) during a period without any large volcanic eruptions. The 7-year running mean of the airborne fraction had remained close to 60% up to 2000, except for the period affected by Pinatubo. The airborne fraction is affected by factors other than the efficiency of carbon sinks, most notably by changes in the rate of fossil fuel emissions (Gloor et al 2010). However, it is the dependence of the airborne fraction on fossil fuel emission rate that makes the post-2000 downturn of the airborne fraction particularly striking. The change of emission rate in 2000 from 1.5% yr-1 to 3.1% yr-1 (figure 1), other things being equal, would have caused a sharp increase of the airborne fraction (the simple reason being that a rapid source increase provides less time for carbon to be moved downward out of the ocean’s upper layers).

    […]

    We suggest that the huge post-2000 increase of uptake by the carbon sinks implied by figure 3 is related to the simultaneous sharp increase in coal use (figure 1). Increased coal use occurred primarily in China and India (Boden et al 2012; BP 2012; see graphs at http://www.columbia.edu/~mhs119/Emissions/Emis_moreFigs/). Satellite radiance measurements for July–December, months when desert dust does not dominate aerosol amount, yield an increase of aerosol optical depth in East Asia of about 4% yr-1 during 2000–2006 (van Donkelaar et al 2008). Associated gaseous and particulate emissions increased rapidly after 2000 in China and India (Lu et al 2011, Tian et al 2010). Some decrease of the sulfur component of emissions occurred in China after 2006 as wide application of flue-gas desulfurization began to be initiated (Lu et al 2010), but this was largely offset by continuing emission increases from India (Lu et al 2011).

    We suggest that the surge of fossil fuel use, mainly coal, since 2000 is a basic cause of the large increase of carbon uptake by the combined terrestrial and ocean carbon sinks. One mechanism by which fossil fuel emissions increase carbon uptake is by fertilizing the biosphere via provision of nutrients essential for tissue building, especially nitrogen, which plays a critical role in controlling net primary productivity and is limited in many ecosystems (Gruber and Galloway 2008). Modeling (e.g., Thornton et al 2009) and field studies (Magnani et al 2007) confirm a major role of nitrogen deposition, working in concert with CO2 fertilization, in causing a large increase in net primary productivity of temperate and boreal forests. Sulfate aerosols from coal burning also might increase carbon uptake by increasing the proportion of diffuse insolation, as noted above for Pinatubo aerosols, even though the total solar radiation reaching the surface is reduced.

    […]

    However, increased CO2 uptake does not necessarily mean that the biosphere is healthier or that the increased carbon uptake will continue indefinitely (Matson et al 2002, Galloway et al 2002, Heimann and Reichstein 2008, Gruber and Galloway 2008). Nor does it change the basic facts about the potential magnitude of the fossil fuel carbon source (figure 6) and the long lifetime of the CO2 in the surface carbon reservoirs (atmosphere, ocean, soil, biosphere) once the fossil fuels are burned (Archer 2005). Fertilization of the biosphere affects the distribution of the fossil fuel carbon among these reservoirs, at least on the short run, but it does not alter the fact that the fossil carbon will remain in these reservoirs for millennia.

    Lukewarmers might also ponder the relationship between a flattening in GHG forcing and a reduction in the rate of surface warming, which suggests that the climate system is fairly sensitive to such forcing changes.

  187. Joshua says:

    ==> “Apparently, we are not allowed to say this.”

    Oh brother.

  188. BBD says:

    @Joshua

    It’s a tribal thing, apparently 😉

  189. Susan Anderson says:

    John Hartz,

    Why thank you! Much appreciated. You make a nice change. In the last week, I’ve been “slime”, “dicktator (accompanied by YouTube of Hitler), and harboring a mutant embryo I’ve named Feynman in my brain (Feynman was part of a group of artists at MIT during his tenure at Thinking Machines in the mid 1980s, and we met regularly).

  190. John Hartz says:

    Susan Anderson: You’re welcome.

  191. Willard says:

    Skepticism is the great tradition that gave us all the tools we needed to get to Grrrrowth.

    With Grrrowth, you can do anything:

    Anything.

    Whoever tells you otherwise denies the power of Grrrowth.

    Thank you.

  192. Steven Mosher says:

    ““We’ve used the term “consensus” here a bit recently (see our earlier post on the subject), without ever really defining what we mean by it. In normal practice, there is no great need to define it – no science depends on it. But it’s useful to record the core that most scientists agree on, for public presentation.”

    agreed 100%.

    my sense is this. If I tell someone who cant evaluate the science to trust expert judgment at a MINIMUM I need to clearly define what that consensus is.

    For me where the consensus starts to get a little nebulous is when we cross over into discussions of sensitivity and attribution and policy. The last one being the most nebulous.

    consequently I am more tolerant of folks who push the boundaries on these issues.
    aka Judith

  193. For me where the consensus starts to get a little nebulous is when we cross over into discussions of sensitivity and attribution and policy.

    Hmmm, I agree, but I think there is a lot of strawmanning about this whole issue. To me, consensus refers to the science only. Okay, that might include attribution, but I do think there are some red herrings with regards to attribution also (do we consider it from a frequentist or a Bayesian perspective). I can’t see how to apply scientific consensus to policy. I can see how we can reach some agreement about policy, and some might call that a consensus, but I think that is not quite what I would mean by a scientific consensus.

  194. BBD says:

    I’ve been wondering if there is a blurring between the meaning of scientific consensus and its less specialised usage.

  195. For me where the consensus starts to get a little nebulous is when we cross over into discussions of sensitivity and attribution and policy.

    Yes, I think that is one issue. I certainly tend to see it as primarily referring to a scientific consensus, rather than just some kind of general agreement, or a compromise position.

  196. BBD says:

    Since you are there, ATTP, I’ve got a comment stuck in moderation.

  197. Should be out now. Missed it for some reaaon.

  198. Gator says:

    @S Mosher
    “For me where the consensus starts to get a little nebulous is when we cross over into discussions of sensitivity and attribution and policy. The last one being the most nebulous.

    consequently I am more tolerant of folks who push the boundaries on these issues.
    aka Judith”

    This would be fair if they kept to policy. However, because the typical policy is simply “don’t tax me bro!” “skeptics” are forced to smear the science and scientists. This is not pushing the boundaries. This is pure anti-science, culture war, anti-civilization selfishness. I have zero interest in people who are part of that. I am fine with a political debate — but keep the science out of it. Keep the scientists out of it.

  199. BBD says:

    (Thanks ATTP)

  200. Steven Mosher says:

    “This would be fair if they kept to policy. However, because the typical policy is simply “don’t tax me bro!” “skeptics” are forced to smear the science and scientists. This is not pushing the boundaries. This is pure anti-science, culture war, anti-civilization selfishness. I have zero interest in people who are part of that. I am fine with a political debate — but keep the science out of it. Keep the scientists out of it.”

    I mentioned Judith , aka Judith, specifically for a reason. I find sentences like “if they kept to policy” to be stupid. who is they? generally speaking I dont think discussing skeptics as a group is very interesting or englightening. I think individual arguments made by individuals are interesting. I think arguments about “anti science” are not very scientific. Same goes for discussions of culture wars.

  201. Steven Mosher says:

    “Hmmm, I agree, but I think there is a lot of strawmanning about this whole issue. To me, consensus refers to the science only.”

    ya I think both extremes use the nebulosity to their advantage to discredit folks.

    For a long time I refused to discus policy A) because Im stupid and B) because I didnt want people to judge my scientific positions based on policy preference.
    I’d rather have them judge the science on my sweet and winning personality

  202. Steven Mosher says:

    crap I’m on page 10 of my GWPF thing and I havent even gotten started,,

  203. John Hartz says:

    ATTP: Given your propensity to open cans of worms, you might want to focus your next OP on the issues raised by David Roberts in his excellent article, College students are making global warming a moral issue. Here’s why that scares people., Vox, Apr 29, 2015

  204. Commitment to a policy agenda can be every bit as corrosive of scientific skepticism as religious belief, and after 40 years of simultaneously paying homage to reason and honing their PR skills in the climate wars , a lot of people are suffering from irony fatigue.

  205. Steven,

    For a long time I refused to discus policy A) because Im stupid and B) because I didnt want people to judge my scientific positions based on policy preference.

    I’ve tried that too, for the same kind of reasons. It’s a hard thing to maintain. It took my a while to realise that the climate debate is primarily political.

  206. izen says:

    @-BBD
    “I find it risible to hear the scientific consensus described as group-think. This is the sort of false equivalence I was pointing to when this all started up earlier.”

    I agree it is a false equivalence, we might disagree about why.

    @-“This simply underscores my point that there is in fact no real similarity between an acceptance of the scientific consensus and a rejection of it by the non-expert.”

    Agreed, there are different criteria used to judge what claims to accept and reject in each case.

    You can certainly use rational thought as a criteria, and claim that because science arrives at results by a rational process it is rational to accept its findings. (with the usual caveats).

    But some ‘skeptics’ will question whether climate science IS a rational process, or like nutritional science, has become a money and ideologically distorted field.
    And some will find the rational argument to be circular, and might ask for a citation that it trumps all other means of gaining knowledge.
    And can be used to dismiss anyone who fails to accept its supremacy.

    AS social animals group-think is an inherent feature of human cognition. It has a tribal element and may be shaped by religious, economic or political forces.
    ATTP…
    Group-think shaped by rational investigation of the material world is called science. Utility tends to be the best justification for favoring that particular ‘group’ over those that rely on religious tradition, New age Woo or political dogma.

  207. BBD says:

    izen

    But some ‘skeptics’ will question whether climate science IS a rational process, or like nutritional science, has become a money and ideologically distorted field.
    And some will find the rational argument to be circular, and might ask for a citation that it trumps all other means of gaining knowledge.
    And can be used to dismiss anyone who fails to accept its supremacy.

    Somewhere upthread I said explicitly that the scientific consensus (on AGW, explicitly) was the best available information and *that* is why it is rational for the non-expert to accept it.

    I deeply dislike the talk here of science “trumping all other forms of knowledge” and of scientific “supremacy”. To me this is polemic and subtly but significantly misrepresents what I have been saying as clearly as I possibly can all down this thread.

    To recap again on what I said earlier, the reason that the scientific consensus is the best available information is that it is the survival of the combat of ideas – it is what has not been torn down and not been falsified despite the best efforts of the scientific endeavour.

    What ‘sceptics’ claim is essentially irrelevant to the *rationality* of non-sceptics in accepting the scientific consensus. This is why I do not accept that there is a symmetry between the behaviour of rationalists and that of ‘sceptics’.

  208. BBD says:

    Sorry, I seem not to have said that I don’t hold the scientific consensus to be perfect and fully understand that it is mutable by its very nature. This is what I mean when I say it is the ‘best available’ information. We rationalist must work with what is on the table.

  209. To recap again on what I said earlier, the reason that the scientific consensus is the best available information is that it is the survival of the combat of ideas – it is what has not been torn down and not been falsified despite the best efforts of the scientific endeavour.

    Yes, I agree and arguments like this – which I do see quite often –

    But some ‘skeptics’ will question whether climate science IS a rational process, or like nutritional science, has become a money and ideologically distorted field.

    are extremely weak and would appear to indicate that those who make these arguments don’t actually have any real evidence that contradicts the basics of AGW.

  210. BBD says:

    izen

    “Group-think” is pejorative. If you use terms like this to describe the product of sustained scientific scepticism and the combat of ideas that is properly known as the scientific consensus then people will take you for a polemicist.

  211. Lars Karlsson says:

    Susan Anderson: “Once that has been twisted a few hundred times one stops looking for a cause of this distortion other than bad faith.”

    I have had the same experience.

  212. izen says:

    @-BBD
    “Group-think” is pejorative. If you use terms like this to describe the product of sustained scientific scepticism and the combat of ideas that is properly known as the scientific consensus then people will take you for a polemicist.”

    Well it was intended to be polemical…
    As was the post I made up thread mentioning smug arrogance (aimed an many, not an individual) for which intemperate rhetoric I apologise.

    I will blame it on an unpleasant episode of Deja vue.
    In another country where they did things differently, (though not much) each side of the issue would sometimes have forum threads where it was earnestly discussed WHY the other side was incapable of seeing the obvious error of their ways and did not instantly capitulate to the correct view of things.

    Sometimes this would degenerate to biologists arguing over the details of genetic transcription, as if an improvement in the clarity or accuracy of the message would be the key to converting all the committed Creationists, or IDers they contended with in forums and threads. While other just said they were all idiots or morons.
    The other side might be engaging in similar soul-searching, a few discussing whether “you will all burn in hell” was really and effective counter-argument and pushing for a softer line – that accepting a deity as our saviour – was more likely to work.

    I like the argument that the scientific consensus represents the best information we have because it is tested and winnowed by time. It has evolved from a competitive environment of theory testing. It seems to me to be a version of the utility argument. It is open to the question of what the selective pressures are on those theories…

    Arguments that climate science is subject to distortion, fraud and hoax as a result of economic and ideological interests are as ATTP states extremely weak. However to understand WHY those arguments are weak in the arena of climate science, but justified in some fields of medical biology requires quite detailed knowledge. Much easier to rationally assume that the consensus is a good evolved optimal understanding.

  213. Joseph says:

    Much easier to rationally assume that the consensus is a good evolved optimal understanding.

    Another aspect of the consensus view is how much research has confirmed/not confirmed the view. And in the case of climate change there thousands of papers that could have poked holes in the view. And when you ask a skeptic to point to actual papers you usually get a blank look or some hand waving about the “pause.” So even with my limited understanding I can see why the mainstream is favored and the skeptic complaints seem to be generally without substance confirming my view rationally.

  214. BBD says:

    izen

    It is open to the question of what the selective pressures are on those theories…

    They must prove durable over time: a combination of enduring compatibility with the evidence as it unfolds and robust methodology.

  215. Eli Rabett says:

    Group think, bunnies want group think

    Ok, think is a bit strong

  216. dikranmarsupial says:

    “For me where the consensus starts to get a little nebulous is when we cross over into discussions of sensitivity and attribution and policy. ”

    well quite, but we are still at the stage that many “skeptics” can’t even agree that the rise in atmospheric CO2 is anthropogenic (it would be good if Prof. Curry could come to a conclusion regarding Prof. Salby’s theory). Personally I think working at agreement on the very basics is probably a better platform for agreement on sensitivity, attribution and policy.

    I think the IPCC WG1 report is a good place to go for expert opinion if you have problem with the idea of consensus. A large chunk of the worlds experts have put a lot of effort into summarising the science, and it is a good place to check out claims.

  217. verytallguy says:

    Denial or scepticism: A simply extraordinary statement from Judith Curry on the anthropogenic nature of the CO2 rise.

    …I am not convinced by simple mass balance attribution arguments based on current observations. I think it unlikely that 100% of the increase in atm CO2 is caused by humans. It is not unreasonable to start from a point of 50-50 (Fred’s conclusion) and see if you can falsify natural variability as large as 50%. It may not be 50%, but I don’t think it is 0%.

    http://judithcurry.com/2015/05/06/quantifying-the-anthropogenic-contribution-to-atmospheric-co2/#comment-700829

    CO2 has been between c 180ppm and 280ppm for a million years through several ice age cycles, and suddenly rose to c 400ppm commensurate with industrialisation, during which time we have emitted about double the CO2 necessary to cause such a rise.

    How is it possible to view JCs statement as anything other than denying proven facts?

    [and that’s without even discussion the many other lines of evidence]

  218. dikranmarsupial says:

    I am deeply disappointed to see that discussion at Prof. Curry’s blog.

  219. verytallguy says:

    Dikran,

    it’s really quite something to behold. Quite beyond my comprehension.

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